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Following on from yesterday’s post about the relative popularity of RSS and email, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has released a study on internet use by Australians. The report, Telecommunications Today Report 6: Internet Activity and Content, examines consumer adoption of the internet and the impact this is having on the growth of the digital economy in Australia. With 73 per cent of Australian households now having access to the internet, the report found that, overall, household internet users are accessing the internet more frequently, with an increasing number recording ‘heavy’ use (8 or more times per week) There is plenty of interesting information to be gleaned from the report. Most obvious is how dominant email is as the primary internet activity. Source: Nielsen Online (2008) The Australian Internet and Technology Report, February 98% of people in the study used email in the last 4 weeks, beating out all other activities by a big margin. Compare that to ‘reading blogs’ which was way down at 16%. Email newsletters look like a pretty good option for reaching Australians (at least the over 16 population). As well as general usage, 36% of people had subscribed to a newsletter in the last month. Add that to your arsenal of reasons that your clients should consider sending an email newsletter! Check out the full list of 6 communication services reports for more details. p.s. Did you notice the amusing gender difference chart? More men than women use the internet for maps and directions… is that easier to handle than asking a person?
For web designers and developers, email can seem a dreadfully old fashioned way to spread information. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who tell me that RSS is going to take over and email will be dead soon. There is no doubt that for some types of information, an RSS feed is a much better way to keep up to date. It’s also obvious that lots of people are struggling with too much email. However, outside of the techy world, RSS has a very long way to go. Via Steve Rubel we came across a Forrester research paper on the state of RSS. Nearly half of interactive marketers use RSS, but consumer adoption has only reached 11%. Of the consumers who haven’t adopted RSS, most don’t understand how RSS is relevant to their lives and the way they seek information. If marketers expect to reach a critical mass of consumers by using content syndication, then they must take on the burden of education. Why does this matter to you? This really is important to remember. While you and your immediate circle keep up with your favourite topics, products and companies via RSS, the great mass of people are not doing that. In fact, even most Campaign Monitor customers do not subscribe to the RSS feed, and we always see a huge boost in traffic to the blog after our newsletters go out. So when you next design a blog for a client, take some time to explain this to them. Clients are rightfully concerned about how to keep people coming back to their site. An RSS feed is simple and useful, but it won’t reach most of their audience. Email newsletters, on the other hand, appeal to a much greater potential audience. You can offer a well designed newsletter layout to your clients, and help them get that attention. It’s a nice additional source of income for your business as well as for your client’s business. Email may be old, but it’s got plenty of years left in it still!
I LOVE Campaign Monitor. I think your web site is top notch, the features are extraordinary, the pay-as-you-go pricing plan is a work of genius, and the free templates are incredibly useful. No kidding. Sam McMillan, Wordstrong
One of the spam filters in our design and spam testing tool is Postini. This filter is now owned by Google, and is notoriously difficult to get past. Postini is like a bouncer at a nightclub who not only won’t let you in, but won’t even tell you if it is because of your shoes, or because you don’t have enough women in your group (not that it ever happened to us of course). Recently a Campaign Monitor customer, Dave Green, ran into this problem with his campaign, and was able to do some testing to find out why Postini was blocking his email. His results in the end were useful, but surprising: What I have found (8 tests later) is that I had to chop up the larger images into a much smaller sizes both in dimensions and also in byte size . The largest kb is 14.3 and found I had to chop files into physically smaller dimensions for Postini to pass it. Basically it boiled down to trial and error, chopping images up trying to optimise them without causing major loss of image quality and re-testing. Spam filters (understandably) don’t reveal exactly how they work, but it seems clear that Postini is placing a lot of importance on the balance between images and text (or HTML) in an email. Dave also pointed out that our simian friends at MailChimp have made the same finding. Given how prevalent image blocking is in email clients, it makes sense not to rely on big images in your emails, but this is one more reason to be cautious. We can add image dimensions and image file size to our list of factors impacting spam filtering. Here’s a reminder of some other things to watch out for: Avoid repeatedly sending messages to full or invalid mailboxes. You can do this by tweaking your bounce handling settings for each subscriber list. Minimize the use of these words and phrases in the subject line, message body, sender address, and reply-to address: Use of the word Free (although “free” tends to have more leeway than most other trigger words), $$, XXX, sex or !!! (any excessive punctuation) Subject contains “Double Your”, “?”, “For Only” or “Free Instant”. TOO MANY CAPS IN THE SUBJECT LINE Email contains at least 70 percent blank lines The from field appears to not contain a real name, ends in numbers or contains the word friend. The email claims not to be spam Monitor new subscribers in your lists. Set suspicious “spamflag” addresses such as “abuse@” or “spam@” as Inactive subscribers unless you know the subscriber is legitimate. There are no shortcuts or certain ways to avoid spam filtering, but these guidelines can help reduce the risk factors. Filter providers are less and less likely to provide helpful information about their products, so we will be relying on trial and error even more. Thanks to Dave for his great work in this case! More important than any of these tip, tricks and tests is understanding that spam filters are not the biggest issue. The key to modern email marketing is understanding that relevance beats permission. Even if your email is being delivered into the inbox, you can still get spam complaints if you are not ensuring relevance.
A lot of people use Campaign Monitor to send emails out to their customers for special sales, to organise conferences, parties and events. We often get asked whether Campaign Monitor has some kind of system to record whether people will attend or not. While Campaign Monitor is not an events management application, it is actually pretty easy to set up your list so you can keep track of people who RSVP to your invitations. Here’s what you will need: An email that contains your RSVP “Yes” and “No” links A landing page for the yes / no links to click through to Two segments, for the ‘yes’ clickers and the ‘no’ clickers All very straightforward. Just setup somewhere on your website a ‘thanks for RSVPing’ page. If you want to have separate messages for people who say yes, and people who decline, you could have two different URLs. So your email would contain links like: <a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/rsvp/yes-please.html">Yes, I can come</a> With some simple server side PHP or other code, you could just have one page with a parameter to detect yes and no clicks. <a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/rsvp.php?answer=yes">Yes, I can come</a> Then when you send your email, Campaign Monitor will consider the ‘answer=yes’ and ‘answer=no’ portions to make those two separate URLs, and track the separately, which is what makes the whole thing possible. Your recipients click on whichever link they choose, and then you can separate them into yes and no groups using segments. Just create rules of type Campaign was opened – specific link clicked, select your campaign, and choose the appropriate links. Now you have your two lists of responses. You can export the segment as a list of addresses to use in some other system, and you can send different follow up emails to just the people who have said yes or no. Easy RSVP tracking with Campaign Monitor!
Four years ago this week was the official launch of Campaign Monitor, the email marketing web application aimed specifically at web designers. Today we wanted to look back at the beginnings of Campaign Monitor and some of the highlights of the last 4 years. We also want to give huge thanks to everyone who has used Campaign Monitor, given us suggestions, built extensions and plugins and mentioned us to their friends, clients and colleagues. Campaign Monitor: Origins The need for Campaign Monitor to be built came out of frustration with existing email marketing tools that were restrictive on design, or added ‘branding’ into the footer, or was just painful to use. Originally built as an internal tool for a web design agency, it was soon clear that plenty of other web designers had the same problems. In October of 2004, Campaign Monitor was released to the public. Focusing on the web design market was clearly shown to be the right choice, since we understood the needs of designers and could target features towards them. Soon there were some high profile fans helping to spread the word. Since that time, the Freshview team has grown from 3 people up to 14, and the number of Campaign Monitor customers has skyrocketed into the tens of thousands all over the world. Faster, stronger, better The Campaign Monitor of 2004 was intentionally clean, simple and minimalistic in approach. The simplicity of use has been the most commonly mentioned part of the Campaign Monitor experience for all the customers we’ve talked to, and the team has worked hard to maintain that while adding a host of new features. Some Campaign Monitor statistics The email marketing business is all about numbers: Open rates, clicks, unsubscribes, bounces, replies…here are a few numbers relating to the usage of Campaign Monitor itself. 1 paid email campaign sent October 1st, 2004 1213 paid email campaigns sent yesterday 3780 campaigns sent by just one long time Campaign Monitor user 513 comments on the infamous ‘Outlook 2007’ post (and counting) 1 month to reach our first 100 customers 1 day (typically) to add 100 new customers 98% highest open rate of any campaign to 100 or more people Behind all those fantastically designed email newsletters has been a lot of hard work from our team. We’ve gone back through our archives and calculated some ‘behind the scenes’ numbers to give you an idea what we’ve been up to. 689 bugs squashed 756 updates and improvements pushed live 624 blog posts 1213 staff posts in the forum The future So what’s going to happen over the next four years? We don’t release roadmaps at Freshview, we prefer to maintain our flexibility so we can do what needs doing as it turns up. However, over the next few months we’ve got some big improvements coming (if you were at Web Directions you might have had a sneak peek), so keep reading the blog for the latest news. Happy Birthday, Campaign Monitor!
Thanks to the work of long time friend and Campaign Monitor user Grant Young, there is now an implementation of the most common Campaign Monitor API methods in Python. Subscriber.Add Subscriber.AddWithCustomFields Subscriber.AddAndResubscribe Subscriber.AddAndResubscribeWithCustomFields Subscriber.Unsubscribe Subscribers.GetIsSubscribed Visit the campaign-monitor-api-python page on Google Code to download it and get started. Also check out the quick sample code for help. We’re starting to build up a great collection of API implementations, extensions, plugins and modules for Campaign Monitor, and if you have one you’d like us to mention, or a request for a module you’d like to see, just let us know.
The second day of Web Directions began (for the Freshview team at least) at a more reasonable hour. The opening speaker Jeffrey Veen drew plenty of applause we heard loudly from outside in the expo hall. During the breaks, we spoke to tons of existing customers, interested newcomers and the occasional person yet to work out they were in the wrong part of the convention centre. During day 2 attendees also had their last chances to grab a code word to win the sweet MacBook Air we were giving away, and there was a rush of entries after the talks by Jina Bolton (shown below) and Laurel Papworth. The entry bucket was soon stuffed to overflowing. Before the closing talk, the draw took place on the main stage, revealing University of Technology, Sydney lead designer Andrew Francois to be the lucky winner. Andrew taunted the rest of the crowd briefly, before realising his peril and coming down to to collect his prize! From an exhibitor’s point of view, Web Directions was again an excellent use of our time. We met face to face with some of you guys and girls, and we got some great live feedback about our upcoming improvements to Campaign Monitor and MailBuild. So a big ‘well done’ to the Web Directions team of John and Maxine, and thanks to everyone who came up and said hello. Finally, a extra special congratulations to our friends and Campaign Monitor customers Propeller Global for taking out the McFarlane Prize against strong competition.
Over on Signal vs. Noise, Jamie Dihiansan has written about his approach in evolving the email marketing and triggered messaging design for 37signals’ products. Often the job of designing emails is seen as a one-off task- build it once and it is triggered off and sent for ever more. Taking this approach can mean you miss out on a great opportunity to improve the way your company and products are seen by your customers. After the signup process, triggered emails like signup confirmations and welcome messages can be the ‘last chance to make a first impression’. So it makes sense to revisit them regularly to look for ways to improve them. In the case of the Basecamp Max welcome message, the 37signals team thought they could make the messages less confusing, and ultimately split the emails content into two separate messages for clarity. Here at Freshview, we’ve gone through a similar process with our request for feedback emails, and the changes we made improved our results dramatically. Here are a few areas you might like to look at in your messaging and newsletters: Is the content still up to date? It is common to make changes to features in your application, but forget to update your welcome message to accurately reflect the change. Are the important parts obvious enough? You might want to mention all the cool stuff people can do with their accounts, but what do they really need to know to get started? Do those things stand out at a glance? Are you using the right format? Would using some HTML let the important content stand out better? Or, might you be scaring people off with an over designed email, and do you need to simplify? Don’t let your recurring emails stagnate while your website is continually refreshed. Although they might be out of your mind, for your customers, email is just the opposite. It’s an ongoing reminder of what your company does and how it does it. Personally, I loved receiving the Moo order confirmation email. Have you received a great ‘triggered’ email?
More ExpressionEngine related news today, thanks to the talented Stephen Lewis. Stephen has released the SL FreshView Subscribe extension which lets you automatically add new users who register on your EE site to any Campaign Monitor or MailBuild list. You plugin your API key and ListID and that’s as complicated as it gets. Nice work Stephen! You can grab the SL FreshView Subscribe extension in the ExpressionEngine forums right now.
Here at Campaign Monitor we’re all big RSS users. Personally I love NetNewsWire and have a ton of feeds I review on different schedules, depending on their content. Web designers and techies in general have really taken hold of the idea of RSS, even though so far it has not spread much into the general public. Still, I’m not 100% RSS only, there is still some information I prefer to get via email. The canonical example for me is Threadless, who pump out a newsletter every week, sometimes more. Seeing the new shirts in my inbox is a thrill, and it’s one email I always open. There are other emails I have stuck with too: tidbits and Catch of the Day are two favourites. I’m interested to know whether you also have a few core favourites that you stick with. It seems clear that a lot of what is currently filling up inboxes actually belong in a different medium, like RSS, or even SMS alerts. When those things get out of our way, there will be more space for the truly valuable, the really funny, the most worthwhile emails. I’d love to hear from you all on this topic: What makes an email newsletter worth subscribing to in 2008? Answer purely from your own perspective, or think about the content your clients are sending. Will the best newsletters be the really personal ones? Short, to the point value? Content not available anywhere else? We’ve got Campaign Monitor t-shirts to give away for the three best comments, so have a think and leave us your thoughts.
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