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Improve Your Email Subject Lines

Your email subject line is the first thing your subscriber sees in their inbox, and that can be the moment they decide to open it, ignore it or delete it. There is a risk that as designers we can spend all our time battling with rendering problems in Outlook or css in Gmail, and not even consider the subject line. So we’ve dug up this little collection of links to help you and your clients craft more effective subject lines. Next time you send a campaign, spend a little more time working with your client on that subject line, and compare your open rates with previous attempts. Friday links: Improve your subject lines Writing Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines for the Web – by Jakob Nielsen The Art of the Subject Line – by Brad Berens Getting the Subject Line Right – by Gail Goodman We’ve left the best for last – over at CopyBlogger, Brian Clark is taking headlines and rewriting them to be more effective. It’s not specific to email subject lines, but Brian explains his process, and you can learn a lot from his approach. If you have written a really successful subject line (or a spectacularly unsuccessful one!) , leave us a comment below.

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Extreme Email Makeover, Vol. 1: Teenie Tiny Tots

Welcome to the first episode of our Extreme Email Makeover series with Dr. Mark Wyner. We’ll be running a series of email makeovers to help illustrate best practices for email design, layout, and construction. Dr. Wyner will assess an existing email newsletter for ailments which can easily be cured with treatments in modern “medicine.” A patient’s vitals will be provided (email intent, target audience, etc.) and a diagnosis will be revealed. Finally, a cure will be outlined, complete with a brand new email template designed and built by Dr. Wyner. The Patient Teenie Tiny Tots is an online retailer offering “unique gifts and keepsakes for infants, toddlers and kids.” Customers who have registered on their website receive an email newsletter with information about featured products and offerings. With a child-focused product line the target audience is parents and extended family members. Email Clients With a B2C list comprising primarily home-based subscribers, it can be assumed that recipients are employing the following email clients: Apple Mail Thunderbird Outlook Express Entourage AOL Yahoo Mail/Yahoo Mail Beta Gmail Hotmail The Diagnosis Exploratory surgery revealed some detrimental ailments. While no life-threatening conditions were discovered, it was clear that future health would be contingent upon proper treatment. Design Ailments The design of this email was a fair representation of the patient’s website design. However, there was room for a stronger relationship between the two without compromising best practices or adding gratuitous weight to the overall file size. Dr. Wyner addressed the following afflictions as part of his treatment: [fig. 1] Excessively large masthead, likely to ensure clearly-legible text. Omission of the gradient background from the website (a key ingredient to the website’s overall design). Font family used for category titles differed from that of the website. Bulky product shots (unfavorable in the email environment). Gratuitous tag lines (consume valuable real estate). Lack of clear segmentation of products (decelerates scanning and reading). Small, graphic add-to-cart buttons rendered unreadable/unusable with image blocking. Inflexible grid layout for product positioning, restricting each email to an even number of products. Missed opportunity to extend the website brand (uniquely colored boxes) to the email. Special offer of significant value placed at the bottom of the message. Absence of interactivity for “forward to a friend” call-to-action. Poor placement of “view in browser” link (if someone was having problems viewing the email, they likely wouldn’t reach the end of the message). Missing physical-address (non-compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act). Ambiguous subject line (“Gimme a Break! FREE SHIPPING!”) complete with excessive use of exclamation points and capital letters, both of which are commonly flagged by spam filters Markup Ailments The markup in this email was riddled with syntax errors, half-finished properties and incorrectly structured elements. The results of these types of errors range from minor variances to illegibility. One specific concern was regarding the use of type selectors such as img { border: 0; } which can inadvertently result in modifications of webmail client’s chrome. Another concern was the lack of descriptive ALT text. For example, the ALT text for the a photograph of a baby modeling an eating set is “Infants 0–18 months.” Email Vital Signs Standards-based markup: no CAN-SPAM Act compliance: good File size: 194KB The Cure The necessary treatment was very clear. Some simple design evolutions would strengthen the brand, improve information design and ensure a clear read for recipients. And reconstructive surgery with clean, well-formatted markup would help this overweight email slim down to a healthy size. Treatment Masthead reconstruction: the overall masthead was reduced to a suitable size, important text was created with HTML (rather than as images) and migrated to the upper-left corner. This yielded a reduction in file size, prepared for image blocking and ensured important information would be available in both horizontal and vertical preview panes. Brand conditioning: the union between the company’s website and the email was strengthened with the integration of relevant graphics and font families and consistent colors. Layout/readibility enhancements: gratuitous information was removed, products were clearly segmented and made extensible, add-to-cart links were converted to HTML text and important messages and offers were relocated to appropriate locations. Spam filter buffering: a sensible subject line was written, content-to-code ratios were reduced with standards-compliant markup and use of images was limited. CAN-SPAM Act compliance: physical address was added. Augmented value: anchor links were added to expedite content scanning, product descriptions were added for context, secondary content introduced the value of the company into their email messages and a forwarding utility was established and linked to. Email Vital Signs Standards-based markup: yes CAN-SPAM Act compliance: perfect File size: 28KB (14% of the original size) Before and After Let’s review some screen shots illustrating some key benefits of this surgery. Outlook 2003: horizontal preview-pane, images disabled [fig. 2.1: before (top), after (bottom)] Looking at the original template (fig. 2.1, top) we can see that little information can be gleaned about the contents of the email and the potential value of further reading. The following quirks are especially unfavorable: The logo, tag line and description have been reduced to ALT text of the logo and have lost all visual impact. An overview of the email is unavailable for a quick scan. ALT text for the product photos offers no additional value considering how much real estate they consume. Note how the new template (fig. 2.1, bottom) addresses these issues: It is immediately obvious who sent this email, why the recipient is receiving it and how s/he can unsubscribe. Even with images disabled, the integrity of the company name and tag line have not been compromised. An overview of the email is provided complete with links to respective content. Yahoo Mail Beta: images disabled [fig. 2.2: before (left), after (right)] Looking at the original template (fig. 2.2, left) we can see that almost no information about the product is available, specifically the following: The product photo lacks appropriate ALT text. Incorrect CSS syntax renders the product name nearly illegible and partially cloaks the price. The “add to cart” button is unreadable, obstructing sales. Note how the new template (fig. 2.2, right) addresses these issues: Appropriate ALT text is used to ensure a clear message in lieu of images. Proper CSS ensures all text is legible. Use of HTML text for the “add to cart” button ensures readability and usefulness of an important call-to-action. Mozilla Thunderbird: plain-text view [fig. 2.3: before (left), after (right)] It is challenging to extract a message from the original template (fig. 2.3, left); doing so would be labor intensive. The primary reasons for this are as follows: Overuse of images results in an array of image paths (use to replace the images). Lack of proper, semantic markup inhibits a plain-text engine to decipher headlines and paragraphs from one another, forcing an engine to clump all information together into a single block of text. ALT text is given to visual separation from regular content and thus seeps into the general content flow. Note how the new template (fig. 2.3, right) addresses these issues: Limiting images to contextually relevant content reduces presence of image paths and ALT text. Use of semantic markup creates appropriate visual separation of block-level elements (headlines, paragraphs, etc.), rendering content scannable and intelligible. ALT text is given bracket bookends and prefixed with the word “photo” to help differentiate it from general content. Summary Teenie Tiny Tots had a great foundation for a successful email, and simply needed a push to maximize its potential. It is apparent that during the design/development of their original email many decisions were made with consideration for the email environment and for specific email clients. With the help of Dr. Wyner, Teenie Tiny Tots is back on track for optimum health. Check out more handy work from Dr Mark Don’t miss the other makeovers in the series: Vol. 2: Tangent Communications Vol. 3: EIU Alumni Association Vol. 4: Miroballi Shoes

Blog Post

Oh My God, You Guys Rock!

Oh my god, you guys rock! I just moved here from one of the big email providers and I’m never looking back. I can’t believe how lovely this system is in comparison. Thanks thanks thanks! Ben Parzybok, Ideacog

Blog Post

The “Define Campaign” Screen Just Got Smarter

Each time you send a campaign, it’s important to keep the from name and sending email address consistent for each issue. This helps receivers recognize you and also reduces any filtering/image blocking issues if you’re in their address book. To make this process easier from now on, we just pushed a nice little update to the first step in the Create/Send process live. Here’s the new layout, followed by an explanation of each change. So what’s new? The “Choose your client…” option has been moved up to it’s logical home at the top of the screen. As soon as you select a client, we automatically display the last subject you used for that client. This is especially helpful if you’re sending a series of emails or use a consistent subject for most campaigns. e.g. ABC Widgets November Newsletter. We realize many of you mix up your subjects for each issue, so instead of pre-populating the field, we just display the previous subject above it. As well as pulling out the last used subject, we also pre-populate the last from name, from email address and reply-to address you last used for that client. No more guess work required. This update wasn’t so much based on customer requests as more of a common sense decision. From personal experience sending the Campaign Monitor and MailBuild newsletters, I always used the “Edit and Resend” feature to ensure I used the same sender details for each campaign. This update wipes out that step and encourages those already not taking this approach to stick to best practice.

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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?

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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?

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

The All New Billing System for MailBuild

We refrain as much possible from discussing other product news in the Campaign Monitor blog, but this one was just too juicy to resist. Late last week we pushed out a big update to MailBuild that allows your clients pay for campaign delivery with their own credit cards. Not only that, but you can even set your own marked-up rates for each client and that’s what we’ll charge them. We’ll then take our cut, put your profit aside and send it to you each month via PayPal. Here’s a quick screenshot to give you the idea. This new update makes it so much easier to manage how your clients use their account and is also a great way to create a new revenue stream without lifting a finger. If you’ve got any clients that would like to send their own emails based on templates you design, now’s a better time than ever to create your own MailBuild account.

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