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Email Design Inspiration Time

The collection of great gallery entries continues to grow! If you’re having design block, consider browsing through the gallery for ideas and inspiration. Subscribe to the email design gallery’s RSS feed to see them all.

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New Feature: Send Campaigns via the API

This is an update that has been requested quite a lot since we first introduced the Campaign Monitor API, and it is finally here: The ability to both create and send campaigns completely through the API. That means that if you have the development skills available, you can completely integrate Campaign Monitor into your existing applications, and have no need to login to the Campaign Monitor website to send emails. We’ve added two new methods: Campaign.Create and Campaign.Send, which are both now included in the API documentation. All you need to do is make sure that your account has a payment card setup, or sufficient credits, and the campaign will be sent. After that, it will appear in your reports just like your other campaigns. We’re also working with some Campaign Monitor customers on creating an all new PHP wrapper for the API, to make it even easier to get started. Watch out for some news on this over the next few weeks. Check out the existing API samples in the mean time. Again, thanks to everybody who has variously suggested, requested, demanded and pleaded for this feature!

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New Feature: Let Your Subscribers Manage Their Own Email Preferences

Have you ever had one of your subscribers change their email address, and ask you to update it for them? In the past, they either had to get you to do it, or unsubscribe themselves and resubscribe. Or have you had subscribers who are happy to hear about your toy store’s new soft toy range, but are not at all interested in your BMX bikes? You don’t want them to have to unsubscribe totally, right? That’s why we’ve launched a new feature for all Campaign Monitor users today, which we call the Subscriber Preference Center. The idea is to give your subscribers more fine grained control over the information you store about them, including their name, email address, and custom field values. By adding a simple tag to your HTML and plain text, you can create a link to a preference page pre-filled with the subscribers existing details. They can change their details, add or remove subscriptions or unsubscribe completely, all without contacting you. Here’s an example we’ve created, just for demonstration purposes. Imagine that Twitter offered a variety of different newsletters – their preference center could look like this: Giving your subscribers this kind of control doesn’t only mean less work for you; it can reduce the amount of subscribers who completely unsubscribe, by letting them opt out of just a part of your emails. They might also feel more confident knowing they can check exactly what they are subscribed to at any time. How to get started with a Subscriber Preference Center It’s easy – all you need to include a link in your campaigns to the preference center is a simple tag: <preferences>this will be a link</preferences> and [preferences] for plain text That’s it. You can also jump into your ‘Manage Clients’ section and on each client’s page you’ll see the “Preference Center customization” link. That’s where you can change the background color, text colors and add a logo. There’s plenty you can do to make good use of preference centers, and for more ideas and details check out the help topic. Thanks to everyone who has requested this feature, we hope you find it helpful!

Blog Post

Campaign Monitor Drupal Module

A completely open source content management platform, Drupal is a popular choice for large scale, flexible websites. A key feature of Drupal is the ability to add on modules, plug in code that extends the core functionality to do any number of different things. Sydney based Campaign Monitor user Stephanie Sherriff has written a cool Drupal module to integrate Campaign Monitor newsletter signups with your Drupal website. Stephanie describes it in this way: a fairly simple module that just adds the ability to subscribe and unsubscribe from a newsletter using the API. It also creates a page that displays prior campaigns Here is how the module’s configuration page looks in Drupal: Once the module is up and running on your site, you can place the newsletter signup easily, creating something like the form shown here. If your site visitors are logged in, then the form will even be pre-filled for them using the details from their user account on your website. This could be an excellent way to grow your list, and also something to implement on websites you are building for your clients. Stephanie is still planning some further improvements to the module, and we look forward to seeing those too. Visit the Campaign Monitor Drupal Module page to find out more, and to download it.

Blog Post

Quick Tip: Choosing Google Analytics Tags

Now that you can automatically add Google Analytics tags to your emails, we wanted to remind you how you can easily edit the tags used for each campaign. Once you have setup Google Analytics integration (see the help topic) you will have an extra option when importing your HTML for a campaign. You can change the tag used for the source of traffic, and for this specific campaign. If you are using Analytics for yourself, you might use “Campaign Monitor” as the source, so you can tell which people came from your Campaign Monitor emails. However, if you plan to show the Analytics reports to your clients, it would be best to choose something more generic like ‘Newsletter’, or the name you use when rebranding the software. When you login to your Google Analytics account and browse by traffic source, you’ll see the name you set when sending the campaign: We recommend keeping the source the same for each campaign you send so you can easily see an aggregate for all Campaign Monitor campaigns in your Analytics account. Of course, you can also tweak the campaign name tag to make things easier to recognize too – for example, to remind you this was the campaign where you changed the subject line, or sent later in the day. That can make it easier to understand the impact changing different elements has on your eventual results. Let us know if you have any of your own Google Analytics tips and tricks for use with Campaign Monitor.

Blog Post

How Do You Bill Your Customers?

We often get asked by Campaign Monitor users how they should charge their clients when they send campaigns for them. The Campaign Monitor model is simple – we charge you based on our simple pricing model, and leave charging your clients up to you. Here is a few of the ways that other Campaign Monitor customers charge: Per campaign charges passed on to your client – the simplest way to go, you just add some fixed or variable to the price you pay us for each campaign, and charge your client that. A pseudo monthly fee – if you have clients who send roughly the same amount of emails every month, you can calculate a monthly charge that will give you pretty consistent income. Frontload a charge for template design – Some customers will charge a large amount for the template design and then just charge at cost price for the actual sending. A retainer model – If you do other consulting for your clients, you might build their email costs into your normal consulting charges, rather than splitting it out. You might have a different model for each client, if it makes sense, or for simplicity handle each client the same way. I’m sure that there is a lot of other interesting ways to handle pricing, so leave a comment with your ideas!

Blog Post

Video in Your Emails?

<!––> The growth of services like YouTube and Vimeo, and the availability of cheap video cameras and editing software has created an explosion in the use of online video. Your clients will start asking you soon if they can put their video into your emails, if they have not already. So can it be done? The answer is “no, not really”. Technically, videos just don’t work in email – most of the video players use Flash, which won’t play in your email client. That’s probably a good thing in reality, because email inboxes are already very crowded and busy, so adding even a genuinely fascinating video is not going to be welcome. However, email can be an excellent way to encourage people to visit your website and watch a video. Instead of trying to embed it right in the email, just take a static screenshot, and link that to your video page. This really works – in the recent Email Standards Project newsletter, we did exactly that for our Gmail Appeal video (see the image above). We linked the screen grab, as well as providing a text link in a couple of other prominent places. In our reporting, we can see that the screen grab was clicked on more than 5 times as often as the text link. People love to click on images, particularly images that look like they do something. This is a really simple technique, but it can be a great way to convince your clients not to keep trying to embed the videos directly.

Blog Post

Why Are All My Apostrophes Missing?

Have you ever seen an HTML page or email where everything looks fine, except instead of apostrophes there are odd question marks, or square blocks? You might also see other characters replaced similarly. Most commonly, this occurs when importing HTML that has been created by Microsoft Word. For generating HTML, Word uses a specific character set called “Windows Latin 1” that has special characters like ‘smart quotes’ and trademark symbols. When you view the email on your own machine, those characters will show up, but then when imported into Campaign Monitor they might disappear or be converted into incorrect characters. Character encoding makes the difference The reason is that Campaign Monitor sends in UTF-8 encoding (which covers a wide number of languages), and the special characters are not in the same location in UTF-8 as they are in Windows Latin 1. So what to do about it? Well the first (and most thorough) option is to just not use MS Word to generate HTML. Word tends not only to cause character problems, but also adds vast amounts of unnecessary HTML to even simple pages. If you view the source you will see rampaging hordes of span tags and CSS with oddly named classes everywhere. It can also tend to break tags that Campaign Monitor uses like <unsubscribe></unsubscribe> by inserting other tags inside them. There are much better options for simple HTML creation out there, even at little or no cost — look at tools like NVU, Coffee Cup (free and paid) and First Page. Of course, you can go right up to tools like Dreamweaver if you have the need. Another alternative is to do some ‘find and replace’ work in notepad or similar to remove Word’s smart characters and replace them with the correct unicode characters. Some common ones to look out for are: For “ Left double quotes: Use “ For ” Left double quotes: Use ” For ’ Apostrophe: Use ’ That way you can have the typographically correct characters show up in your email. Character encoding can be a tricky area, and you have to keep an eye on it in your HTML, in your subscribe form pages and in the subscriber lists your import. Always keep in mind that Campaign Monitor will send in UTF-8 no matter what, so you want to import everything in UTF-8 to begin with, so no conversion occurs. For more information on HTML and character encoding, read The Definitive Guide to Web Character Encoding at SitePoint.

Blog Post

Some Pepper with Your Email List?

Recently we mentioned our Google Analytics integration, which is excellent for keeping up to date with what your subscribers do after they read your emails. How about knowing when people signup to your lists though? You can already grab the new subscribers RSS feed (find it at the bottom of each list’s details page in your account), but today we’ve spotted a great way to keep an eye on your lists, while watching the rest of your sites vital statistics. Campaign Monitor customer Mark J Reeves has developed a plugin for Shaun Inman’s popular Mint software. Mint is a tool for seeing recent page visits, referrals, searches and all kinds of statistics about your website right now. We use it ourselves on all our sites. With Mark’s plugin (called ‘Peppers’ in Mint terminology), you can see a list of people subscribing to a specific list in the last 24 hours. All you need to do is plugin your API key and ListID to get started. Checkout the Campaign Monitor subscribers Pepper to download it. Thanks go to Mark for his development, it looks like he has plans to do more in the future.

Blog Post

Email Standards Project: Gmail Appeal

If you’ve been keeping up with the Email Standards Project you will know about our Project Gmail Grimace, where we asked designers to send us photos of themselves experiencing the frustration of designing for Gmail. We gathered them all together, and created a short, fun little video to try and get the attention of the Gmail team. That video has been posted today, and we’d love for you all to go and check it out. If you would like to help spread the message of the Email Standards Project, this is something you might blog about very easily, or send your designer friends too, it all helps. Watch the 2008 Gmail Appeal video.

Blog Post

Where Should Your Unsubscribe Link Go?

Having reviewed many, many thousands of email campaigns sent through Campaign Monitor and MailBuild, we’ve noticed that a lot of designers like to try and hide the unsubscribe link away, to make it like a little game of ‘find the link’ for their subscribers. We’ve always encouraged people to do the opposite, make it easier for people who don’t want your emails to unsubscribe than it is to hit the ‘spam’ button and cause you trouble. The always helpful Mark Brownlow agrees with us in his post “Time to move the unsubscribe link? recently. If it’s there in the preview pane, then more people are likely to use it instead of reporting you as spam. Less spam reports means a better sender reputation and less chance of ending up on a blacklist The best way to find out of course is to measure it – does having the link at the top actually lead to a significant increase in unsubscribes? A reduction in spam complaints? If more people do unsubscribe, does that leave you with a more responsive and passionate subscriber base? We’ve posted before about working with your subject lines, and you can also experiment with positioning your ‘key action’ links, use of images in your newsletter and the ‘introductory’ text above your headers. There’s no end to the possible layouts, all it needs is some creativity and a willingness to make small changes. We’d love to hear about any changes you have found useful, so leave us a comment.

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