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5 Ideas You Can Use When Pitching Email Marketing to Your Clients

Once you’ve added email marketing as part of your business services, you can start encouraging your current and potential clients to make use of it. Here are our top 5 ways to encourage your clients to get started with, or refocus on email marketing 1. Show them that it works! The biggest selling point for email marketing is simply that it works! We covered this in reason 4 of why web designers should offer email marketing as a service – email marketing gets results, and gets them for less cost than other marketing methods. Explain to your clients some of these highlights: Emails are a great way to get in closer contact with customers. It doesn’t rely on your customer remembering to visit your site, or seeing a print advertisement. You can personalize emails to suit the particular interests of that customer, instead of sending a generic brochure. You only pay for people you are actually sending to, instead of shot-gunning out to the world at large. Email marketing is predicted to return an incredible $48.29 for every dollar spent in 2007. That’s a fantastic ratio. 2. Show them how they can measure it working One of the frustrations with many marketing activities is that it can be very hard to tell what is working, and what is just costing money. When you conduct email marketing with a tool like Campaign Monitor, you can see very quickly what is working, and what is not. Show your clients some of the reports they could get with Campaign Monitor. Feel free to re-use any of the screenshots we provide on your site and other marketing materials. You might even go further, setup a sample account, and let them click around and see some real reporting. If something isn’t working, they’ll find out and be able to tweak it immediately, at low cost. This is a potentially huge saver of time and money. 3. Explain that it’s easy to manage If your client has tried email marketing in the past, they may have been overwhelmed by unsubscribe requests, or bounces coming back to them. Or they might have tried a system that was just not fun to use. You can offer something better – automated processes that handle all the tedious subscribing, makes sure people can get off the list when they want to, and keeps track of emails that bounce. Ask them how much time they used to spend doing those things. 4. Emphasize its flexibility Take some time to think of a few ways your specific client could use email marketing. Could they feature a different product each week, and offer special prices to frequent buyers? Maybe they can have case studies of customers using their service, and can segment their lists to send them to other potential customers in similar industries. Could they email customers who have been out of touch for a little while, and ask if they have any suggestions? You want to get your clients excited about the possibilities! If you put some effort in first to start them off, they may come up with some even better ideas on their own. 5. Show them a working example One final thing you might try would be to include a sample email design with your web designs. Seeing their brand in action as an email could be much more convincing than words and graphs. Why not send a sample email to your client, with their own branding on it? It’s free to do through Campaign Monitor, and should not take you much time at all. We’d love to hear any comments on other techniques that have worked for you or you plan on trying. Any pitching ideas we’ve missed?

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Campaign Monitor in Your Ears

There are a few web design podcasts around these days, but one of the oldest and most popular is Boagworld. In this weeks episode, Tagtastic, we’ve contributed a segment on the basics of planning and running an email marketing campaign. If you’re a veteran Campaign Monitor user, there won’t be too much new for you, but it might be a nice overview to help you explain to your clients what it is all about. It quickly covers the whole process from planning through design, sending and tweaking for improvement. The whole podcast is definitely worth a listen, as it is aimed at people managing, designing and developing websites on a daily basis. We’d love to hear about any other podcasts in this area that you listen to – leave us a comment with your favorites.

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The Secrets behind a 70% Open Rate

I just came across a great post by Campaign Monitor customer Craig Killick from The Escape on the recent tactics they employed to get an impressive 70% open rate and the sale of 60% of their inventory for the product being marketed. Craig goes on to explain the 4 main reasons behind this success and also some recommendations of what not to do. Here was the standout for me and is a great example of how to use our segments feature: When they subscribed, they were given the choice to check a box against specific selections: In this case it was artists that they are specifically interested in buying pieces of work from. This specific e-mail was personalised and about something (a specific artist) that they have a great interest in, from someone they know and trust. Therefore, the penetration is that much more effective. Definitely a great read for those that need reminding of how crucial it is to ensure your creative is as relevant as possible to your subscribers.

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How to Charge Your Clients for Email Marketing

Like most services a web designer can offer their clients, there are many different ways to approach charging your clients for email marketing. At Campaign Monitor, we’re in a unique position in that we speak with designers charging their clients for email marketing all day every day. Over the years I’ve seen a huge range of billing approaches taken, some which make sense and others that seem plain crazy. We occasionally get asked by customers how they should charge their clients for their services. The truth is, there’s no one approach that works for everyone (you knew I was going to say that, right?). Having said that, out of the different models I’ve seen over the years, there are a few that make the most sense. The purpose of this post is to present you with some of these options and let you work out which approach suits you and your client’s budget best. The popular areas to charge for Over the course of pitching to your clients, designing them a template, getting it delivered and then measuring the results, there are a number of points where you have the opportunity to charge for your services. Of course, most designers won’t charge for all of these areas (though some do), these are just examples of what can be deemed billable work. 1. Template Design (flat fee or hourly rate) This one’s pretty straightforward, just like designing a single page site or a landing page, you charge your client for putting the concept (or concepts) together, then coding the approved design and finally testing that design in the most popular email environments. 2. Delivery (usually dependant on the number of recipients) This is where the range of billing approaches starts to surface. Here are a few of the more popular billing approaches for covering delivery fees: Charge your client a flat monthly fee that covers any campaigns delivered that month Charge them based on a pricing bracket for the number of subscribers being sent to. For example, 2,000 to 5,000 recipients is $150. Charge them a set per/recipient fee. For example, 4 cents/recipient with a flat delivery fee on top, such as $10. 3. Reviewing the results (flat fee or hourly rate) Once the campaign has been delivered, the designer reviews the reports and makes recommendations to the client to improve or maintain results for subsequent issues. For example, you might have tried a different design approach for the newsletter’s “featured product” which yielded a 17% better click-through rate. This is explained to the client and further recommendations might be made. 4. Subsequent changes to the creative (flat fee or hourly rate) Obviously each campaign you send for the client will include new content. These changes can be made much more cost effectively than the original template design. If the client approves any recommendations you made after reviewing the results of a sent campaign, these may also be included in any updates you make. Because of this, 3 and 4 or often billed as a single item. 5. Other services we’ve seen designers charge for While the 4 areas above are the most commonly billable areas of email marketing, I’ve seen designers also charge for the following separately: Testing the design in popular email environments. Cleaning and importing the client’s subscriber list into their account. Adding list subscribe forms to the client’s web site. Processing bounces and unsubscribe requests for the client (even though we do this automatically). Giving the client access to web-based reports on the results or sending them a print-based version of the reports (usually a set monthly fee). List and image hosting fees (even though we offer this for free). The email marketing billing cycle Just like most web sites, an email marketing program is an organic thing that changes over time. Each issue needs to include new content or a new offer, there might be a design tweak you need to make or a new email client to test in. As well as improving your clients relationship with their customers or driving sales, an email marketing program can also provide a great cashflow injection each month. Here’s a quick example of how you might charge a client for your email marketing services on an ongoing basis. Campaign Monitor’s pricing structure was a very deliberate decision on our part. We wanted a system that meant you only had to pay when you got paid, and you weren’t left short if you had a quiet month. Because of this, the “Charge them a set per/recipient fee” approach from the delivery options above usually makes the most sense for our customers. Try and keep it simple From my own experience charging clients for email marketing and also the feedback we get from our customers, it seems that simple is almost always better than complex. Splitting the costs into template design, delivery costs and making subsequent charges is about as granular as most of our customers get and that model seems to work best for most. Hitting your clients with fees for every little detail in the process can certainly be a profitable way to offer email marketing, but you’re also running the risk of confusing some customers. Worse still, you may end up alienating some customers by giving the impression you’re trying to milk them for everything they’ve got (even if you’re not). Finally, email marketing is often sold to clients as part of a wider package that might include a web site or some paid search advertising. Billing for the range of these services can get complicated pretty quickly, so the simpler you keep your email marketing component the better. I’d love to hear how you guys go about charging for your email marketing services. Do you use the approaches I mentioned here or take a different approach to billing your clients?

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Some Hard Numbers on Preview Panes and Image Blocking in Consumer Emails

As a nice follow up to Mark’s research into the current state of image blocking in email last week, I just came across an interesting study from MarketingSherpa via Tamara’s blog. They surveyed 1,323 consumers over 18 to find out their email viewing preferences in regards to image blocking and preview panes. We already know preview panes are extremely popular in the B2B market because of the popularity of Outlook, but it’s important to note this survey was targeted specifically at the consumer market. A full 38% of online consumers now use preview pane ‘capable’ email clients and 64% of people who are offered preview panes start using them as their default… Can you imagine if people judged your print ads by just a corner of the creative? Or your TV ads by just a few frames? That’s what’s increasingly happening with email. Consistent with our recommendations back in November 2005, this great comparison really drives home the importance of ensuring the best bits of your email are at least visible in a preview pane. To get an idea of exactly which corner many subscribers will be seeing, they also asked the type of preview pane being used. Turns out that just like business email users, home email users also favour the horizontal preview pane, which makes sense considering that’s the most popular default in those email clients that offer one. Because of this, it’s safe to assume that the most important content in your email should be at the top of your email, and preferably top-left to get the best of both types of preview panes. Another interesting find was that between 35-50% of consumers have images off by default in their email clients. Of course, a percentage of those surveyed would enable images for safe senders and images would still be displayed automatically if you were in their address book. Check out the rest of the survey for the nitty gritty.

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Image Blocking in Email Clients: Current Conditions and Best Practices

For the most current results on image blocking in email clients, view our updated post. Many people, either by email client defaults or personal preference, are blocking images in the HTML-formatted messages they are accepting. And then there are a small number of people who block HTML entirely. As David Greiner points out, according to a study by Epsilon Interactive 30% of your recipients don’t even know that images are disabled. In any case, it’s logical for recipients to block images and good practice for us to prepare for this scenario. So what happens to our emails when images are blocked? What are the best practices for ensuring accessibility and optimizing presentation therein? What are default settings across the board? Let’s get down to answering these questions. Default Settings in Popular Email Clients Every client has its own default settings regarding displaying/hiding images. And while most email clients have a setting to turn images on or off, some offer conditional settings which are contingent upon known senders or other factors. The following table outlines the default settings of popular desktop- and webmail clients. (Note that I’m reporting the settings of my personal versions of each client and that settings may differ from one version to another.). I have included contextually-relevant references to ALT text as part of this article. For a more in-depth look at how ALT text renders in popular email clients, you may want to read a more comprehensive article I wrote about ALT text. Image Blocking in Webmail Clients Client Default Img Display Trusted-Sender Img Display Renders ALT Text Yahoo Mail on No No Yahoo Mail Beta on Yes Yes Windows Live Mail off Yes No Gmail off Yes sometimes .Mac on No sometimes Hotmail on Yes No AOL on Yes Yes   Image Blocking in Desktop Clients Client Default Img Display Trusted-Sender Img Display Renders ALT Text Apple Mail on No No Thunderbird on Yes Yes Outlook 2007 off Yes sort of Outlook 2003 off Yes Yes Outlook Express on No Yes Lotus Notes on Yes Yes Eudora on No sort of Entourage on No Yes AOL off Yes No So now that we’ve covered the settings in popular email clients, let’s outline how we can help our emails survive image blocking. Recommendations for Successful Deployment From my perspective, an email is successful when it meets the following goals: Retains visual integrity in the most commonly used email clients with images enabled. Retains readability in the most commonly used email clients with images disabled. Is readable to people with visual disabilities and navigable to people with mobility disabilities. Is low in weight for recipients using mobile devices and dial-up connections. Is deployed to a permission-based list of subscribers. Meets CAN-SPAM Act requirements. Legitimately passes common tests employed by spam filters. Looking at this list it becomes clear just how important it is to consider image blocking when designing/developing an email. Dependency on images can lead to failures on many different levels. Preparing for a scenario in which images are disabled puts us at an advantage to oblige the settings/preferences of a broader range of recipients. Become a “Known Sender” Nearly every email client in my test suite enables people to automatically display images when a message is from a “known sender” (senders appearing in white lists, contact lists or address books). Because our subscribers have requested to receive emails from us, they will naturally want to ensure they receive the messages. Spam filters can disrupt legitimate communication when subscribers are unaware of how they function. With a couple, simple notifications we can increase our chances of success: Ask a subscriber to add the email-list address to their address book (right on the subscribe form) and briefly explain why. Enable a double opt-in subscription process, and send a plain-text confirmation which includes a request to add the email-list address to a recipient’s address book. And, again, briefly explain why. Informing a subscriber about this simple step will increase our chances of images being enabled and will help us legitimately pass through spam filters. Prepare for Disabled Images So we’ve created a structurally-sound template, we’re preparing to send our email to a permission-based list of subscribers and we’ve taken steps to see our list email-address into the address books of the said subscribers. There are still a number of people on our lists who will intentionally block images, and therefore we should account for that scenario. I wrote an article outlining a technique for this very purpose. With the releases of Yahoo Mail Beta and Windows Live Mail we lose the ability to integrate the aforementioned technique. However, Ryan Kennedy from the Yahoo Mail team has pointed out that they are looking into potential resolutions for this obstacle. Positioning aside, there are some things we can do to retain the integrity of our emails when images are disabled: Begin an email with HTML text or logical ALT text. We can decide what a reader sees in a preview pane or small message-window. If we’re prepared, we can optimize the experience of scanning messages. Moreover, some applications offer the ability to preview the first few lines of text before an email is loaded/viewed. Use ALT text. This seems so obvious I’m almost embarrassed mentioning it. However, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the email newsletters I receive sans ALT text, so there it is. Use captions for contextually-important images. In lieu of proper support for ALT text across the board, we can add captions to images which are vitally important to the content of an email. Avoid Image-Based Emails Again, this is something which should seem obvious. But image-based emails are often practiced as a simple, easy method of delivering a pretty design irrespective of the rendering circus among the array of common email-clients. When we ponder image blocking as part of the rendering equation, it’s easy to see how an image-based email could be completely destroyed with a single preference. Furthermore, this doesn’t take into consideration file sizes for mobile/dial-up recipients, accessibility for those visually impaired or the HTML-to-text ratio that popular spam filters apply with their algorithms. In summary, we should be giving serious consideration to image-blocking and what we can do about it. It’s natural and reasonable why people disable them, but with the right approach we can improve the experience for our subscribers.

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Creating and Using Segments

Something you may not have used in your Campaign Monitor account is segments. A segment is a subset of one of your existing subscriber lists. For example, instead of emailing to everyone on your ‘Alpaca owners’ list, you might just want to send an email to the Huacaya Alpaca owners. That’s a perfect job for a segment. Instead of paying to send your email to everyone on the list, send it to just the people who are most interested in your particular topic this week. You save money, and you can make your email much more specific, hopefully leading to better response rates. Creating a segment To get started with segments, jump into your account. Hit the ‘Manage Subscribers’ tab, and then pick the list you want to work with. You’ll find the segments link at the bottom of the right column. Now you can hit the big green button to create a new segment. You’ll need to give it a sensible name that describes the segment so you can use it later. So, in my example, ‘Huacaya owners’. Create the segment, and you are ready to add some rules. Using rules with segments Rules are what you use to select the addresses you want. For every list, you can create rules that are based on Name, Email address and date subscribed. If you have custom fields in your list, you can make rules based on those too. In my case, I want to create a segment of subscribers who have an ‘Alpaca Type’ of ‘Huacaya’. So I drop down the select box and choose ‘Alpaca Type’, and hit Go. Now I can create my Alpaca Type rule. I would select ‘Alpaca Type equals Huacaya’. (It’s not case sensitive) The full list of possible rule types is: Value: Equals Does not equal Is provided Is not provided Number: Is greater than Is less than Email address: Contains Does not contain Date subscribed: Is before Is after Campaigns: Campaign was opened Campaign was opened – Any link clicked Campaign was opened – Specific link clicked Campaign was opened – No link clicked Campaign was not opened You can combine any number of rules to split your segment as far as you like. Not all of them are available for every field or list. You can also add multiple rules for the same field. For example “Email contains hotmail or Email contains gmail” Each time you save your segment, the count at the top right will show you how many people you are selecting with all the rules applied. You can also hit the link there to see who is in your segment. Segments are smart! Once you’ve finished tweaking your rules, you’ll have a set of subscribers. Every time you come back to check out your segment, and every time you send a campaign to your segment, the rules will be re-applied to your list, and the segment will be updated. So now you when you create a new campaign and select some recipients, your new segment will show up as an option. Huacayas owners will rejoice with their own individual email! More ideas for using segments As well as picking your favorite Alpaca owners, segments can be used in lots of different ways to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Send a special thank you offer to your old school members, who signed up before a certain date. A second chance offer to people who did not click through on your last campaign Target campaigns to certain geographical areas Offer special prices to frequent purchasers Send emails to people interested in certain topics FAQs about segments Is sending to a segment charged like a normal campaign? Yes, each time you send to a segment of your list, you will pay the normal rates (USD$5 delivery fee and 1 cent per recipient). Do I have to update them manually? No – segments are automatically updated before you send to them, and each time you view the segment details. They don’t update ‘live’ because of the amount of processing that would require. Can I do a ‘contains’ rule for custom fields? Sorry, no. At the moment, you can only use ‘Contains’ and ‘Does not contain’ rules for the email address.

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How ALT Text Renders in Popular Email Clients

We’ve got an updated blog post on ALT text display in email clients – read it here. So off I went to test how ALT text displays in common email clients, only to find that many of them don’t display any ALT text whatsoever. Unbelievable. And to top it off a couple clients replace the author-defined ALT text with their own idea of ALT text should be (tsk tsk). But before we look at the “how,” let’s look at the “why” in ALT text. Why ALT Text? Any web designer attentive to accessibility understands the benefits of ALT text. It’s cardinal purpose, of course, being that it briefly describes an image to someone who is visually impaired via a screen reader. Screen readers read all of the text on a page, denoting lists, links, headlines and ALT text in images. For example, when loading markwyner.com a screen reader would read something similar to the following: Webpage: Mark Wyner Design, Web Design Studio—Portland, Oregon. Link 1: Navigate directly to content. Page headline, link 2: Mark Wyner Design. Sensible design. Accessible content. Usable interface. Global navigation. Home. Link 3: About. Link 4: Services. Link 5: Portfolio. LInk 6: Contact. […] Note how the screen reader announces the page headline and all links, referencing the latter with numbers. Image ALT text is also read aloud, prefaced with the announcement that the forthcoming text is a text alternative to an image. So the following image: <img src="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/file.jpg" width="528" height="405" alt="[photo: bowler picking up a Greek Church]" /> May be read as: Image: Bowler picking up a Greek Church A secondary purpose, however, is to describe an image to someone who can not or chooses not to view images in their browsing device or email client. Sadly, the latter doesn’t always work out because many browsers/clients either do not render ALT text when images are disabled or render their own variations thereof. In this article I’ll outline how common email clients display (or don’t display) ALT text. Clients Used in Tests Webmail Yahoo Mail Yahoo Mail Beta Windows Live Mail Gmail .Mac Hotmail Desktop Apple Mail Thunderbird Outlook 2007 Outlook 2003 Outlook Express Eudora Lotus Notes Results A trait shared among all email clients—webmail and desktop—is the ability to disable or enable images by default. And nearly every client in my test suite enabled me to load images directly from the message if they were disabled by default. The exception is Windows Live Mail in which images are loaded for known senders and disabled for unknown senders, the latter scenario exhibiting a link to enable them on the fly. These preferences may be more robust/flexible, but I just tested the basics. ALT Text Display in Common Email Clients Client Renders ALT Text Comments Yahoo Mail N/A Yahoo Mail Beta Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text Windows Live Mail N/A Gmail Sometimes Contingent upon text length .Mac Sometimes Contingent upon text length Hotmail N/A Apple Mail Replaces ALT text with question-mark icon Thunderbird Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text Outlook 2007 Sort of Replaces ALT text with security message Outlook 2003 Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text Outlook Express Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text Eudora Sort of Replaces ALT text with URL to image Yahoo Mail Displays ALT text: no Yahoo Mail Beta Displays ALT text: yes The interesting thing about Yahoo Mail Beta is that applies contextually relevant CSS to the ALT text itself. So although it displays ALT text, the potential problem is that large font sizes can push the information beyond the visible border of the image box, rendering it unreadable. But this is, of course, a naturally occurring problem across the board, especially with smaller images and larger descriptions. Windows Live Mail Displays ALT text: no Gmail Displays ALT text: sometimes Initially, Gmail only displayed some of my ALT text and I couldn’t figure out why. Further testing yielded the conclusion that text length was the deciding factor. Whereas most clients display what text they can within the boundaries of a box, Gmail decides that if the text extends beyond the said border it will display nothing. Nice. .Mac Displays ALT text: sometimes .Mac suffers parallel to Gmail when rendering ALT text, in that it reserves text-length contingencies. Hotmail Displays ALT text: no Apple Mail Displays ALT text: no The clients which do not display ALT text typically display gray boxes in place of the images. Apple Mail, however, displays open space and adds a little question-mark icon. I’m an emphatic fan of Apple products and have been using them for roughly 15 years now. Their products are always very usable and beautifully aesthetic. But I must admit that for obvious reasons it was an ill decision to replace images with a question-mark icon. While this isn’t perilous, it is something to note nonetheless. Thunderbird Displays ALT text: yes As with Yahoo Mail Beta, Thunderbird applies contextually relevant CSS to ALT text. Again, there are no paramount consequences of this result, but it’s noteworthy all the same. Outlook 2007 Displays ALT text: sort of I’ll bite my tongue and stick to the facts on this one. Outlook 2007 prefaces all ALT text with its long-winded explanation of why an image was omitted from a message: “Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the internet.” This falls down in two very specific ways. First, this is the kind of message which should merely introduce someone to a feature. To repeat it for every image in every email indefinitely is a plethora of information. Second, it pretty much wipes out any ALT text which follows it, given the length of the preface and the average image size in an email. Outlook 2003 Displays ALT text: yes While Yahoo Mail Beta and Thunderbird apply CSS font-size and color properties to ALT text, Outlook 2003 only applies color. I can’t think of a scenario wherein this would have a negative impact, but I feel it’s still relevant to my findings. Outlook 2003 is also the origin of the security-message-replacement woes of Outlook 2007. Outlook Express Displays ALT text: yes Outlook Express is parallel to Outlook 2003 regarding CSS font-properties. Eudora Displays ALT text: sort of Eudora replaces ALT text with an absolute URL to the location of a respective image. I assume this informs a reader where the image can be found, if they feel so inclined to view the image in their browser. But given that the path to the images is truncated, I’m left pondering the value of this system. Lotus Notes Displays ALT text: ? I attempted to get results for Lotus Notes but was unsuccessful in disabling images for the test. I found settings to disable images, but the setting yielded no changes in how images were displayed. I even sent a test to one of my clients who I know uses Lotus Notes at work every day. He, too, could not disable images. If someone can share this information, I’ll update the article to include Lotus Notes results and accompanying screen shot.

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How Windows Live Mail and Yahoo Mail Beta Shake Out with CSS

Moving past my angst at recent events, I have tested CSS support in two new webmail clients: Yahoo Mail Beta (YMB) and Windows Live Mail (WLM). The results are a nice blend of excellence and incompetence. Surprised? Didn’t think so. Before I dive in, however, I’d like to preface this article with a particular point of interest. With the release of Outlook 2007 looming it feels oh so very awkward to report on how CSS is handled in other new clients. One might even give in to despair with the realization that irrespective of how a standards-based email renders across the board, it simply won’t fare well in a client used in many offices around the globe. But from my perspective, it’s clear that we need to overcome this obstacle like other web standards of the past: we push the web community (browser/client developers and web designers alike) to embrace web standards in avoidance of regression. It’s a long road, but well worth the efforts. If we backed down from the parallel challenge with standards support in browsers, today’s web would be a very different place. I also want to shed some light on the dark caverns of rendered markup in these new webmail clients. There is a current trend in webmail clients which employs a dizzying level of AJAX to make webmail look more like a desktop application. It’s pretty amazing what these developers have accomplished. Anyway, getting to the actual code of a message for viewing rendered markup was quite labor intensive. I owe my gratitude to Chris Pederick who put together the essential Web Developer extension for Firefox which enabled me to get to the source of my test messages. Yahoo Mail Beta Yahoo is a company dedicating itself to progress in web standards. I continue to see advances with CSS and accessibility on redesigned pages on their site and within their new products. (Go, Yahoo team, go!) The new YMB client is no exception. My tests revealed a webmail client with serious support for CSS. In fact, it’s the best webmail client I’ve tested. They prove that you can support CSS in a webmail client while maintaining security, speed and top features. Take a peek at its beautiful rendition of my test email: However, there is one highly unfortunate CSS property that Yahoo still considers to be problematic: position. In previous articles I outlined how Yahoo Mail replaced all instances of position with xposition, thus rendering them inoperable. Now, however, Yahoo takes this approach to a new level. Instead of making the aforementioned modification, it strips the email of all instances of position. And not just in YMB, but in the original Yahoo Mail as well. So with Yahoo Mail and YMB, all positioning is out the window. Hello float. All said, I think this is pretty minor in the scheme of things. Thanks, Yahoo. Yahoo Mail Beta’s score: “excellence.” Windows Live Mail Where do I begin? I must give the WLM team credit for their advances in support for CSS, succeeding Hotmail by great strides. Not surprisingly, however, they have failed to offer support for many core CSS properties. In some ways this is worse because Hotmail’s handling of CSS-formatted emails yielded an acceptable email, comparable to a rich-text document. With a half-hearted attempt at CSS support, the result is problematic. Let’s take a look at where WLM falls down. Margin Good bye margin. Yep, it’s gone. Every instance. The most significant problems arise when we need to trim default margin to elements like blockquote and need to add to the default margin of elements such as a div: After WLM eradicates my margin declarations, my blockquote encroaches on the sidebar. And note how all of the text is pushed to the left edge of the window because the margin I applied to my paragraphs and headers has been axed. Albeit we still have padding, this creates its own complexities when working with even a moderate level of design. Image Caching Okay, email service providers, get ready to scream. Ready? When WLM opens an email it grabs linked images and downloads them to a local application-directory. So those tracking images you use to report how many times and email has been opened? You only get one hit irrespective of how many times a message is opened. Okay, let it out. Scream! This is how it works: src="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/logo.gif" Becomes: src="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/logo.gif" Why does WLM do this? Presumably to cache them for speed. Of course I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here. (Don’t get comfortable, WLM team—I’m not finished with you.) Personally, I think it’s a nice uppercut to all of us. But I’ll let you folks decide how detrimental this is to what we do. Conversion of Quotes This one is rich. I hope you only want to use fonts with single names such as Helvetica or Georgia. CSS requires that when declaring a value for font-family, two-word names must be enveloped in quotes. So Trebuchet MS must be declared as follows: font-family: "Trebuchet MS", sans-serif; WLM says “no” to quotes in values, so the aforementioned sample becomes: font-family: &quot;Trebuchet MS&quot;, sans-serif; This renders the declaration inoperable, rendering fonts to the browser default. So if our design employs Lucida Grande or Trebuchet MS, per se, we must either accept WLM’s presentation as is and proceed with our two-name fonts or compromise our design with a single-name font. Background WLM strips all instances of background. Good bye background images. While this is problematic for our pretty designs, it poses a threat to a more significant issue: accessibility. WLM strips the entire background declaration, which includes any colors therein. So if you have white text atop a colored background, you’re left with invisible content when WLM is finished beating you up. There is hope, however, in that we can exchange shorthand for longhand when declaring background properties. So: background: #c1d7ed url("https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/bqTop.gif") no-repeat; Becomes: background: url("https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/bqTop.gif") no-repeat; background-color: #c1d7ed; This enables us to retain background colors amid WLM’s background-image cleansing. The result, while less than satisfying, is more or less acceptable. Let’s compare. My test as seen in Yahoo Mail Beta: The same test as seen in WLM: Headers By default, headers (h1–h6) inherit font properties as previously defined in a style sheet. But with WLM, nothing is inherited. So it is important to redefine font properties as necessary. Fortunately the named value inherit does function within WLM. So font-family: inherit; works as intended. Phew. ID Replacement This is by far the worst of the lot, and is reminiscent of the .Mac problem I noted in a previous article. Webmail clients have evolved to ensure that type selectors do not override CSS declarations for the client itself (a problem for which I have illustrated a considerate solution). The common solution on part of webmail-client developers is to add an all-encompassing div to an HTML email, give it an ID or class, then prefix all class- and id-selectors (from the email) with the ID or class from the new div. So the CSS/HTML pair: #Content { } <div id="Content"></div> Becomes: #EC_Content { } <div id="EC_Content"></div> A reasonable solution if it were properly implemented. WLM and .Mac both have their faults in that they fail to appropriately match new parent div elements. Where WLM falls down is that it only applies its prefix in the CSS to the first ID/class selector in an element, leaving child ID/class selectors behind. So the CSS for: #Content #Primary {} Becomes: #EC_Content #Primary {} But in the HTML: <div id="Content"><div id="Primary"></div></div> Becomes: <div id="EC_Content"><div id="EC_Primary"></div></div> Obviously this renders all child ID/class selectors inoperable. The good news is that WLM does not prefix type-selectors in either the CSS or the HTML. So: #Content h1 { } <div id="Content"><h1></h1></div> Becomes: #EC_Content h1 { } <div id="Content"><h1></h1></div> I think we dodged a bullet on that one. Why webmail-client developers can’t get this right is beyond my comprehension. It is vitally important and is an obvious oversight which is now becoming commonplace. Windows Live Mail’s score: “incompetence.” In Summary It comes down to this: Yahoo is leading the way with their support of CSS and web standards, while Microsoft has once again proven they are falling behind. I would gladly stand up and applaud Microsoft for development of a product which offers a high level of support for web standards. But with Windows Live Mail, this is a big “no can do.” As for the Yahoo team, allow me to celebrate your efforts. The first round is on me next time you’re in Portland.

Blog Post

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

All about Email Open Rates

Our customers often ask us what ‘open rate’ means, and whether the open rate they are getting is any good or not. We’ve put together the following guide to open rates, which you will now also find in the help section of your account. What is an open rate? Open rate is a measure of how many people on an email list open (or view) a particular email campaign. The open rate is normally expressed as a percentage, and at Campaign Monitor we calculate it as follows: So a 20% open rate would mean that of every 10 emails delivered to the inbox, 2 were actually opened. How do you measure an open? When each email is sent out, we automatically add a piece of code that requests a tiny, invisible image from our web servers. So when a reader opens the email, the image is downloaded, and we can record that download as an open for that specific email. It is important to understand that the open rate is not a 100% accurate measure. Recording an ‘open’ can only happen if the readers email client is capable of displaying html with images, and that option is turned on. So if you are sending text-only emails, there is no way to record open rates (the exception is if they actually click a link). Similarly, people reading your html email without images showing will not be recorded as opens. Another issue is that your readers may have a preview pane in their email client. That preview pane might be displaying your email automatically (and therefore downloading the images) without the reader ever having to click on it or read it. So you should never take your open rate as a hard and fast number, because you can never know the true figure. It is much better used as general guide, and as a way of measuring the trends on your email campaigns. What is a typical open rate? Really, there is no typical open rate. The rate obtained for any list, or group of lists will depend on how it was measured, when it was sent, the size of the list and a zillion other potential variables. There is no shortage of benchmark numbers out there, but even between benchmark figures you will find big variation in the reported open rates. So instead of giving a specific percentage, we’ve come up with the following chart. There are certainly some broad trends in open rates. As list size goes up, the open rate tends to fall; possibly because smaller companies are more likely to have personal relationships with their list subscribers. Companies and organizations that are focusing on enthusiasts and supporters, like churches, sport teams and non profits see higher open rates More specific niche topics, like some manufacturing areas also typically have higher open rates than emails on broader topics Why don’t you just give me a number! So what if you or your clients just have no idea of what is a reasonable open rate? Based on everything we have seen here at Campaign Monitor, and on the other research out there, the bottom line is this: If you are getting an open rate between 20% and 40%, you are probably somewhere around average. Very few lists of reasonable size are getting much above 50% open rates from normal campaigns. Your list may have some specific factors that give you higher rates; if so, well done. However, don’t expect to be getting 80% open rates. People are too busy, inboxes are too full and the measurements are technically limited. If, after all that, you are still interested in seeing specific figures, see the footer for some references you can browse through. How can I increase my open rate? There are a ton of elements you can vary to try to entice more of your subscribers to open up your emails. Here are just a few things you could try: Experiment with your subject lines: Try including details about the content of the email right in the subject line, instead of using your standard subject. Send on a different day: Are your subscribers too busy on a Wednesday morning to read your email, leaving it languishing down the inbox? Maybe a Friday afternoon email would be welcomed. Get the important content up the top: Remember that many people will see a preview of your email before deciding to open it or ignore it. Make sure your email is recognizable, and that your key points are in the top third. References: The typical open rates in the chart above were derived from Campaign Monitor’s own figures, in conjunction with numbers published by Mailchimp, Bronto and Mailer Mailer.

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