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The Truth behind the Outlook 2007 Change and What You Can Do about It

When I posted about Microsoft’s decision to use Word instead of Internet Explorer to render HTML emails in Outlook 2007, I certainly didn’t expect the storm of controversy and (sometimes) constructive discussion that eventuated. The post has already breached 300 comments and made the front page of Digg, Del.icio.us and Techmeme within a few hours. Heck, we even managed to land the number five spot on Alexa’s fasting moving sites on the web. This is clearly a topic many of you are passionate about. So why did Microsoft make this change? In my post, I chanced a guess at Microsoft’s motivations for this change: By default Outlook uses the Word engine to create HTML emails, which it’s done for years now. Perhaps Microsoft figured that in order to keep the look and feel of emails consistent between Outlook users they’d display emails using the same engine that created them. As diplomatically explained by Molly Holzschlag, it turns out that this is exactly why Microsoft made the change. It has nothing to do with security or the remnants of an anti-trust decision. I’m not going to harp on about what I think about this decision – I can certainly understand Microsoft’s motivation for making the change. It’s been made, and the best thing for us to do now is deal with it and use our frustration to constructively encourage Microsoft to resolve the existing issues with the Word rendering engine. What can you do? Molly is currently working closely with Microsoft as part of the Microsoft/WaSP Task Force and points out this refreshing fact – Microsoft is prepared to listen. Please comment as to your experiences and include any links to problem cases. I promise to make sure the top priorities and concerns get in front of the right eyes. Microsoft was very clear in letting me know that if we want a feature and need it and get an organized list to them, those issues will be addressed and prioritized as the new engine develops in response to developer needs, too. As email designers, all we have to do is provide examples of our older CSS based designs that are now breaking in Outlook 2007. The obvious challenge there is that most of us don’t have a copy yet (it’s being released publicly next month), so these reports may take some time to trickle through. At any rate, I encourage anyone who has noticed any discrepancies in their email designs using a pre-release version of Outlook 2007 to chime in on Molly’s post with the URL of your email and a short explanation of what’s breaking. If you don’t have a copy yet, you can also test Outlook 2007 support using SiteVista, which we reviewed recently.

Blog Post

The Email Design Gallery Grows Up

Every few days for the last 2 years we’ve been showcasing the amazing email designs you guys have been producing and sending through Campaign Monitor. This gallery has now grown to well over 100 entries and was really starting to outgrow the current blog format. Because of this, we’ve been hard at work on a brand new email design gallery that’s much easier to browse and really does justice to the quality of work you guys are pumping out. We’ve gone back and tagged every design we’ve featured to date making it much easier to find just the designs you’re looking for. Want to just see 1 column email designs? How about all the newsletter style emails we’ve featured? No problem. On top of this, we’ve now got a dedicated RSS feed so you can get an update every time we feature a new design. We’ll be rolling out a few more features in the coming days that will let you browse the gallery by popularity. To top it off, we’ve got a backlog of some awesome new designs that we’ll be featuring over the next few days and weeks. Enjoy.

Blog Post

SiteVista Launches a Cool Email Testing Service

If you read Mark Wyner’s recent email testing opus you may have despaired at how time consuming and complex it all seemed. Even though you know it is sensible and necessary, it seems like a lot of work. Fortunately for all of us without Mark’s commitment to excellence, SiteVista have today released the first version of their email testing service. SiteVista’s web page testing service has had great reviews, and this new service looks set to match it. So what is an email testing service anyway? Basically, it’s a quick, simple and efficient way to find out how your carefully crafted HTML email is going to be variously displayed or mangled by different email clients. You put your email in, and you get back a bunch of screenshots, just like a web page testing service. Right now you get screenshots from: Outlook 2000 / XP / 2003 / 2007 Outlook Express Hotmail Gmail Apparently more will be added soon, including Apple Mail, AOL, Yahoo! Mail, Entourage and Eudora. For each client you get one screenshot of your email in the inbox / preview pane, and one of the email as it appears when opened. So within minutes you can find out how Hotmail users will see your email, whether your header fits into the Outlook preview pane and what kind of ads Google is likely to run next to it! If you’ve ever had subscribers emailing you saying they couldn’t see that photo, or your text was unreadable, you know why this is a vital service. How does it work? SiteVista have made this incredibly simple. The signup process is quick and painless, and literally within one minute I was testing my first email. To start a new test, you are given a specific email address to send your email to. You fire off your html email to that address, let SiteVista know, and you are immediately taken to the results page. Over the next few moments (from seconds to a minute or two) all the spots in the grid are filled as the screenshots appear. You can click on each one for a full size view, and it is worth noting that you can see the full email, not just a screenful. SiteVista rather grandly call this ‘FullPage technology’. Any problems are easy to spot, and you can then go away and make whatever corrections are needed before running another test. Your account contains a record of all your previous tests, so you can go back and check your results at any time. It’s all fantastically straightforward and logical. How much does it cost? If you are a freelancer, you can have up to 50 tests a month for USD$49, which is great value. Even better, if you sign up by this Friday the 12th, you can lock in your account at USD$39/month for the life of your account. Businesses can have unlimited access for up to 10 people for USD$149/month. For the full details, including annual rates at a discount, check out the pricing page. So you like it then? Yes, we all think it is a great service. There’s a couple of questions I’d like to see the SiteVista site cover, like what screen sizes and resolutions the email clients are at. I also would like to know if the email clients have been left with their default settings or not. Other than that, SiteVista’s email testing service looks like a really useful tool that can save you a lot of wasted time and money testing and sending emails. If you want to make sure you are giving your email campaigns the best chance of success, you need to test them. SiteVista have given us a simple and cost effective way to do that. What do you think? Do you do any cross-client testing for your emails now? Would you give SiteVista’s service a try?

Blog Post

The Best Christmas Emails of 2006 – Winners Announced

Check out this years crop of amazing holiday emails.

Blog Post

Getting Opt-In Permission Offline

Professional trade show presenter Heidi Miller based a recent episode of her “Diary of a Shameless Self Promoter” podcast around the concept of email newsletters and spam. Heidi, who collects a lot of business cards through her work, had mentioned previously that she was considering taking email addresses from those cards and signing them up to her newsletter. Several callers to her show suggested (correctly) that without explicit permission from those contacts, subscribing them to her list could be considered spamming. One of the callers described a great method to handle this specific situation. When she meets people, she specifically asks them if they would like to receive her email newsletter. If they say yes, she has them write ‘Yes to Newsletter’ on the back of their business card. Conversely, if they say no, she notes that on the card instead. That way, when she processes the new contacts after a convention or show, she has a clear indication of who has opted-in and who has not. Nobody is accidentally subscribed and she always has the original permission to refer to. If you deal with a lot of offline permission situations, you might consider adapting this to your situation and put it into use. When you add new subscribers to Campaign Monitor, our anti-spam policy requires that you have clearly explained that you will be contacting them by email. This technique could be part of a good permission management process. Do you have any experience dealing with getting permission offline? What’s your process?

Blog Post

Inside the New .Mac Webmail Client

Apple has introduced a new webmail client for their .Mac customers. It’s a truly phenomenal webmail client, functioning nearly parallel to that of their desktop client, Mail. For a brief moment I became disoriented, because while in my browser I was experiencing what I do every day in Mail. Whoa. Of course my first thoughts were concerns for how they may now be handling HTML emails. As I noted in a previous article, .Mac’s previous webmail client had amazing support for CSS and standards-based markup. The two major oddities were easily remedied, and we were on our way. So how does the new .Mac perform? I ran some tests and the results are in: the plane has crashed into the mountain! (A reference for the Lebowski fans out there.) Testing: Round One My first tests lead me to believe that .Mac’s support for CSS completely disappeared. (And that consequently produced a brief daydream wherein I was Tony Soprano chasing down the .Mac developers for some revenge.) Quickly realizing there were roughly 10,000 lines of AJAX markup (have I mentioned how cool the interface is?) in the .Mac interface, I turned to the amazing Web Developer extension for Firefox to help me locate the markup for my rendered test-message. Once I was in, it didn’t take long to locate the problem. The new .Mac takes an approach similar to that of Yahoo, whereby a message ID is applied to a new all-encompassing container DIV and every style is prefixed with the respective ID to create child selectors… Original HTML: <div id="BodyImposter"> <h1>Headline h1</h1> <p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…</p> </div> Original CSS: #BodyImposter { [properties] } #BodyImposter h1 { [properties] } Modified HTML: <div id="messageCanvas_070C9153"> <div id="BodyImposter"> <h1>Headline h1</h1> <p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…</p> </div> </div> Modified CSS: #messageCanvas_070C9153 > #BodyImposter { [properties] } #messageCanvas_070C9153 > #BodyImposter h1 { [properties] } This process is obviously aimed at foiling any modifications to the .Mac GUI caused by the use of type selectors. And if properly executed it would not impact the appearance of the source email. However, .Mac adds a gratuitous DIV just inside the new #messageCanvas DIV, consequently rendering all CSS useless… .Mac-rendered HTML: <div id="messageCanvas_070C9153"> <div> <div id="BodyImposter"> <h1>Headline h1</h1> <p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…</p> </div> </div> </div> In order for the .Mac styles to work, #messageCanvas_070C9153 > #BodyImposter would need to become #messageCanvas_070C9153 > div > #BodyImposter. Such a seemingly harmless little DIV topples the entire email. The .Mac developers obviously didn’t thoroughly test this process. Testing: Round Two I ran a second test to see if I could overcome this problem, but came up short. I added my own child-selector system in the CSS, but did not add it to the HTML… My HTML: <div id="BodyImposter"> <h1>Headline h1</h1> <p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…</p> </div> My CSS: div > #BodyImposter { [properties] } div > #BodyImposter h1 { [properties] } This would account for the gratuitous DIV that .Mac tosses into the mix because I didn’t actually add the new DIV to my HTML. Sure enough it worked like a charm, and .Mac’s support for the CSS in my test email was flawless. But using this process would render the CSS useless in every other email client because the new DIV would only appear in .Mac. Oh, the conundrum. Grim Conclusion So the result is that we’re at an impasse with .Mac: either we support other clients or we support .Mac. The former is the obvious choice, leaving us with .Mac emails looking like those rendered in Gmail and Hotmail. Bummer. I contacted Apple about this bug, but since they do not communicate directly with their customers we can only hope my message is routed/attended to by their .Mac developers. Until then, we just have to live with it. Unless someone out there has a creative solution up their sleeve? UPDATE: David/Rumble’s recommendation works wonders I ran a couple tests using this remedy, and all is well with .Mac. The downside is this solution requires a significant increase in markup because every selector must be declared twice. So for anyone considering this technique to preserve formatting in .Mac, I recommend first assessing how many .Mac addresses are on the subscription list.

Blog Post

Tips on Effective Segmenting

As many of you know, Campaign Monitor makes it easy to create segments of subscribers within a larger subscriber list. This makes it much easier to target specific types of subscribers based on their demographics, preferences, etc. While creating a segment is easy, choosing the right segments and executing on a good segmentation strategy is much more challenging. Stephanie Miller recently put together a whole swag of tips on the best approach to list segmentation, specifically focusing on capturing the right data during the initial subscribe process. Well worth a read if you’re currently segmenting, or looking for a good place to start.

Blog Post

Look for the Positives in Your Unhappy Subscribers

As you know, Campaign Monitor is directly integrated into the feedback loop for a number of large ISP’s like AOL, Hotmail, MSN, Juno, Netzero and a few others. This means that when any of your subscribers at these ISP’s mark your campaign as junk, we automatically remove them from your list and give you a detailed report about who made the complaint and when. Derek Harding recently put together an overview of how feedback loops actually work and there are two points we think he covered really well. The first is an explanation of why even the most well maintained lists can still see a few complaints. It’s important to understand that though your list may be 100 percent opt-in, it may still receive a substantial number of complaints. For years, end users have been told not to trust email unsubscribe links, so many users hit the spam button as a way of unsubscribing. While we do take action when a customer receives a significant number of spam complaints, we certainly realize that many of your recipients are just taking the easy way out or might not trust your unsubscribe link. Then there was this beauty. Too many marketers dismiss complainants as troublemakers and malcontents. The reality is there’s a wealth of data in who complains and what they complain about. Regardless of whether you believe the complaints are unfounded, if they complained they were dissatisfied. Smart marketers aim to avoid dissatisfied customers (or prospective customers). In my experience, the majority of complaints are caused by a failure to meet expectations. A common case is high complaint rates among new subscribers. This can be caused by subscribers not realizing what they signed up for, subscribers not getting what they thought they signed up for, or a long delay between sign-up and the first mailing. Just like the recent tips on getting the most out of your unsubscribes, there’s plenty we can learn from those marking our legitimate emails as junk. If you’re receiving complaints for any of your campaigns, it might be time to review your subscribe process and make sure you’re meeting and exceeding the expectations of your subscribers.

Blog Post

Hardware Upgrade Problems

A few hours ago we flicked the switch on a big server upgrade including a significant hardware boost and a brand new database server. Unfortunately the process hasn’t gone as smoothly as we had hoped and something that should have taken 5 minutes is going to take much longer. At this stage, it’s very unlikely that we’ll have Campaign Monitor up and running before 6pm (CDT) this afternoon. We can’t apologize enough for this, and please rest assured that we’re doing everything in our power to get things running smoothly again. We’ll post updates here the moment we’re back online and you can access your account. UPDATE – 12.45pm (CDT) All sent campaigns should be displaying and working fine now. Link tracking is currently disabled but we’ll switch that on soon. In the mean time though, your recipients won’t notice a thing. We’re now working on your subscribe forms and will post here as soon as they’re back online. UPDATE – 1.25pm (CDT) OK, subscribe forms are back online now. This means your campaign recipients and any subscribers are no longer affected by this outage. Link tracking is also back online and we’re now hard at work getting the application itself available UPDATE – 4.45pm (CDT) We’re making plenty of progress bringing the application back online, but it looks like we won’t make our self imposed deadline of 6pm (CDT). As it’s coming to the end of the business day for many of you, we recommend waiting until tomorrow to get any campaigns out. A hardware problem managed to corrupt some recent data, so we’re treading carefully to restore this problem before we open the application up again. It’s tough to give accurate estimates on when this will be complete but we don’t want to promise any less than 6 more hours (12am CDT). As usual, we’ll be posting here the moment you can access your account and thanks again for your patience. UPDATE – 2.00am (CDT) Right now it looks like we’re less than 2 hours away from bringing the application back online. All of our hardware issues have now been resolved and we’re tying up loose ends before flicking the switch back on. Thanks for all the kind words we’ve been receiving too, your understanding is very much appreciated. More news to follow real soon… UPDATE – 6.40am (CDT) WE’RE BACK! Access to all accounts has been re-enabled and all the queued campaigns are getting delivered as I type this. We’ll be closely monitoring everything, but please feel free to access your account. We can’t thank you guys enough for the kind words of support and patience as we got to the bottom of this issue. We’ve seriously got the best customers in the world. UPDATE – 8.20am (CDT) While the application is back online and fully operational, the hardware failure did mean that a portion of our customers data needed to be restored from a very recent backup. Unfortunately this meant that anything added to those accounts during this window was lost. We’ll also be restoring some data to these accounts to fill in some of these gaps over the next 12-24 hours.

Blog Post

Making the Most of Your Unsubscribes

Yesterday we highlighted some great tips for welcoming new subscribers to your list, so today we thought we’d look at the flipside. Stefan Pollard just put together some great suggestions for getting the most out of anyone leaving your subscriber list. As you know, Campaign Monitor requires a single-click unsubscribe link to be included in every email you send. On top of this, we also let you set up a confirmation page to redirect the unsubscriber to, and this is where Stefan’s tips shine. He writes… Instead of letting unsubscribers go with just a thank-you note, give them the opportunity to tell you why they’re leaving. You can use that information to sharpen the focus of your e-mail program, redo your template or send schedule, improve personalization, or find other ways to become more valuable to subscribers or customers. We especially liked these 2 suggestions: Include a form giving that gives them an opportunity to let you know why they unsubscribed, such as no longer interested, was sent too frequently, etc. If you have other newsletters on different topics or sent less often, give them the opportunity to subscribe to them instead. Out of any subscribers in your list, it’s the people who are leaving that can offer the best advice on what needs improving.

Blog Post

9 Steps to Better Welcome Emails for New Subscribers

Mark Brownlow recently put together 9 common sense suggestions on ways we can all improve our automated welcome emails we send to new subscribers. As Mark explains… Somebody just felt interested and enthused enough about your products, services or publications to request regular emails from you. This is one of those precious marketing moments. You’ve got the prospect’s attention. You’ve got their interest. You’ve got their permission to send them email. And how do you communicate with them in this glorious, elusive moment? Unfortunately for many of us this is usually a pretty generic and boring confirmation email. Mark’s recommendations range from reminding them how often they’ll hear from you, giving an immediate feedback option and using conversational language. All great ideas. We’ve just updated the suggested text for the welcome emails in Campaign Monitor that embrace most of Mark’s suggestions. There are a few in there that you’ll need to add yourself though, like reminding them of the benefits of subscribing and rewarding them with some kind of treat. Check out the article and make the few simple changes to your welcome emails today.

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