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The Best Christmas Emails of 2006 – Winners Announced

Check out this years crop of amazing holiday emails.

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Getting Opt-In Permission Offline

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

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Inside the New .Mac Webmail Client

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

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Update: Improved Multilingual Support in the Subject Line

In a continued push to support as many languages as possible, we’ve just pushed a small update live that improves our support for foreign characters in your campaign subject line. This update ensures all Asian character sets like Chinese, Japanese and Korean are fully supported. As usual, we’re using UTF-8 encoding for both the subject and campaign content. As you can imagine, it can be difficult to test all the different language variations out there, so if you ever spot a discrepancy, please let us know and we’ll continue making tweaks and improvements to make sure everyone’s covered.

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Designer Interviews: Catch Design

Welcome to the first in a series of mini interviews we plan on publishing in the blog over the coming weeks. Over time we’ll be bringing you more of these casual chats with the aim of giving you an insight into how others use Campaign Monitor, pitch email marketing to their clients and even charge for their services. Today we’re talking to Hamish Stevenson, Managing Director of Catch Design, an innovative New Zealand based design firm who we’ve featured on more than one occasion in our email design gallery. We couldn’t think of a better customer to get the ball rolling on our designer interviews and asked Hamish a few questions about how he and his clients use Campaign Monitor, how he got into email marketing and even how he goes about charging for his services. How did you find out about Campaign Monitor? It was a good friend of mine who’s a usability guru here in Wellington. But he’s more than that, his focus is more than usability, he loves promoting the idea that websites and web-based initiatives should be a pleasurable and good experience, as opposed to a hassle and frustration. So when he suggested I check out Campaign Monitor, I never hesitated. Were you using any email marketing tools before us? If so, how do we compare? Was it hard to move across to Campaign Monitor? “This was our first foray into email marketing. Campaign Monitor made the experience stress free, informative and fun!” Campaign Monitor was our first foray into email marketing. We were very much (and still are to a large degree!) a boutique web design company and I was a little reluctant to get into it really. But I have to say, the ease in which Campaign Monitor guides you through the process was extraordinary. The depth and quantity of useful information and advice goes beyond what you’d expect for free. For someone who was purely dipping my toes at first, Campaign Monitor made the experience of diving in so stress free, informative and fun! What would you say is your favorite Campaign Monitor feature? Mmmm, this is hard. So many: ease of use, personalization, the reporting and list management… but probably the thing I love the most is what I touched on above, the fact that Campaign Monitor is so incredibly fast and time saving is what makes this my favourite web application ever. How do you pitch your email marketing services to your clients? The best pitch we ever did was by sending all our clients a Christmas email newsletter towards the end of 2005. We had almost all our clients come back and say, “Wow, we want to do that!” Beyond that, I just listen to what my clients’ are spending their time on and where they could improve. One of the biggest reasons any company should build a website and/or email newsletter is because these solutions have the ability to reduce the load on staff. A good example is, a well designed and built site, along with thought through and intelligent copywriting, should decrease the amount of incoming phone calls asking repetitive questions that could be answered easily on a website and/or newsletter. When you explain that in a coherent way to clients, almost all of them have seen the benefits of a customized email marketing campaign. “The best pitch we ever did was by sending all our clients a Christmas email newsletter towards the end of 2005. We had almost all our clients come back and say, ‘Wow, we want to do that!'” Aside from that, we’ve had clients who literally spend hours and hours sending out email newsletters to mailing lists of 2,000+ from Outlook!! One client recently told me she used to spend one whole day just sitting there clicking ‘Send and Receive’! This has to be one of the biggest selling points for Campaign Monitor, the fact that you can send an email to thousands of recipients in a matter of minutes is just sensational. It saves my clients time, it heavily reduces the load on their office IT set-up (The same client often had to send their newsletters out after 5pm because sending it during the day simply crashed the entire office network! Hence, she never left the office till midnight.) and within a matter of minutes, they can see how effective their campaign was. How do you charge your clients for your email marketing services? There’s an initial design and build fee. Then, depending on how involved we are in each campaign, we charge for anytime spent designing and updating the email design(s), and then we charge for the set-up and delivery costs. Has Campaign Monitor impacted the way you design your emails? Yes and no. Mainly no. Campaign Monitor is so customizable that I can’t see any design we’d come up with not work within your software. Campaign Monitor is so flexible that there’s no need to be restricted to any style or layout. In saying that, Campaign Monitor has been brilliant in offering regular ideas and thoughts on best practice for design and build of newsletters. So in that respect, yes it has certainly impacted! :) Do you use Client Report Access? If so, what has your clients feedback been? Sure do. Yeah in general, we’ve had brilliant feedback. You always manage to find a client who can’t work things out (but they’re the clients who also struggle to use the right click on their mouse), but after a little explaining, they’re fine. Majority of our clients love the “big brother” excitement of seeing their campaigns report back in real-time. Thanks for your time Hamish No worries. Thanks again for such a great product guys! From the Catch Design portfolio… We’ve featured a number of Catch Design concepts in our email design gallery. Here’s a quick sample from their Campaign Monitor portfolio.

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“A Dream Come True for Agencies”

Campaign Monitor has been described as “A dream come true for agencies.” Here’s why.

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Tips on Effective Segmenting

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

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New Feature: Keep Track of Your Unconfirmed Subscribers

If you’re using double opt-in for your subscriber list (which we recommend), you’ve now got the option of seeing which subscribers have completed your subscribe form, but haven’t actually clicked the verification link. Unlike single opt in, double opt in requires your subscribers to validate their email address before being added to your subscriber list. When a new subscriber completes the subscribe form on a web site, an email is immediately sent to the supplied address containing a verification link. To complete their subscription, that person must click the verification link. From today, you can quickly see if any potential subscribers have failed to take that final step and click their verification link. This is handy for spotting potential form entry errors like a mis-typed email address. This feature also helps to identify any potential delivery issues with your confirmation email. We allow you guys to specify your own from name, from address and email content for the verification email. Make sure you always use valid from details and avoid potentially spammy words in your email content.

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Look for the Positives in Your Unhappy Subscribers

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

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Hardware Upgrade Problems

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

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Making the Most of Your Unsubscribes

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

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