Lotus Notes and HTML Email Problems
Special thanks to Marshall Cohen from MarsDesign.com for sending us this great troubleshooting article on Lotus Notes and HTML email:
Covers all those familiar problems with Lotus Notes: image borders, CSS, tables, etc.
If you have lots of corporate customers on your list, chances are a good percentage of them use Lotus Notes. You can download Lotus free at the IBM website, if you want to test email designs yourself:
Download Lotus Notes: http://www-306.ibm.com/software/lotus/
Staying Top of Mind with Email Newsletters to Clients
If you're in the services business, you should subscribe to the Wellesley Hills Group newsletter. In their most recent article about "Staying Top of Mind" with clients, they found that most service companies are scared of "pestering" their clients with things like newsletters and personal notes. On the contrary, most clients appreciate hearing from their vendors every once in a while (just don't overdo it, and keep the sleazy-sales tactics to a minimum).
Here's the article: http://www.whillsgroup.com/pages/25_john_doerr_principal.cfm
The big takeaway? Stay in touch, by occasionally telling clients what kind of projects you're working on, or recently completed. They usually react with, "Oh cool, I never knew they did that too." And you should mix it up---send hand-written notes, articles, personal emails, and email newsletters (ahem, we recommend MailChimp for that last one).
If you don't keep in touch with your customers, they forget you exist, and hand their business to another vendor.
"Pane-ful" Email Newsletter Design Issues with Outlook 2003
If you haven't seen it by now, Outlook 2003 displays your inbox in 3 vertical panes (by default), instead of the old horizontal format.
Here's a screenshot of what I mean: Outlook 2003 vertical-pane screenshot
As a user, I really enjoy this change in layout---it just makes it easier to scan all my email.
But as an email marketer, it means I have to design my emails a little differently...
Keep your subject lines short and sweet.
As you can see from the screenshot, you only have about 30-40 characters for your subject line to prove that your email's worth opening. Keep your subject lines short, compelling, and relevant.
You still need to keep your emails between 500 and 600 pixels wide.
Even though big monitors and video cards are getting cheaper, and standard resolutions are much higher these days, you still need to keep your emails about 500-600 pixels wide. If you don't, Outlook's vertical 3-pane layout will force your users to scroll sideways, or maximize each message.
This is why our cute little MailChimp preview monkey is so handy---it's preset to 500 pixels, so you can check every email design before sending.
On a side note, look at how Outlook virtually grays out the
subject line. Subject lines just aren't as important as they used to be
(what with all the spammers out there mucking them up so much). The
"sender" is what really counts these days, which is why MailChimp also makes it really easy
for you to specify the "from name" for each campaign you send.
Georgia Passes Anti-Spam Law
Georgia just passed a nice anti-spam law that includes some tough fines and jail time:
Quoted from this article:
"Sending spam to Georgians will be punishable as a felony where spammers:
- Send a high volume of spam, such as more than 10,000 messages in any 24 hour time period.
- Generate more than $1,000 in revenue from a single spam message or more than $50,000 from all spam transmitted to any single Internet Service Provider.
- Where the defendant knowingly uses a minor to assist in the transmission of spam.
Deceptive e-mails without these factors will be punished as a misdemeanor. Criminal penalties for a felony include a fine of not more than $50,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both. For a misdemeanor, penalties include a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than 12 months, or both."
Earthlink seemed to have a hand in getting this law written and passed, so many thanks to them for helping get this done.
How not to do bullets in HTML Email
You probably already know that Microsoft Outlook 2003 (like most email apps these days) automatically hides all images in HTML email. Instead of images, you see generic placeholders where every graphic should be, whose "alt text" says something like, "to help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented the download of these images...blah blah"
But you might not have known that if you don't specify width and height dimensions for your images, Outlook will insert a GIGANTIC placeholder instead of your image. And if you're not careful, this giant placeholder can get in the way of your content.
Read on for examples...
I got an email newsletter from Expedia.com, with travel offers highlighted by little gold bulletpoint graphics. But since they didn't specify width and height tags, the email looked like this when I first opened it:
Looks broken and sloppy, doesn't it? I got a couple of these and threw them away, because I thought they simply screwed up my offers. What I didn't realize was that the offers were all the way to the right, off my screen!
It wasn't until a couple more of these came when I finally clicked on "View Images" and saw what it was supposed to look like:
So why does any of this matter? Some recipients (like me) don't always turn images on instantly. I actually like to briefly skim the content to decide whether or not the email is "friend or foe" before I click "View Images." And if the content isn't there to evaluate in the blink of an eye, it gets deleted. To their credit, it looks like they fixed the issue after about 3 or 4 sends.
So be sure to always specify width and height tags in HTML email.
Oh, and make sure your image ALT TEXT tags are appropriate for Mozilla Thunderbird, too.
Open Tracking on MailChimp
Now that tracking opens and clicks is free in MailChimp V2, more and more people are using it to measure their campaign performance. We're especially proud of how easy we made it. There's no coding required! Just check a box and we handle the rest.
We were curious about how many of our users actually used the new feature, and how their campaigns did. We ran a query over the last few days, and measured performance of over 700,000 emails sent through the chimp. Here's what we found:
Average total open rate: 28.11%
Average unique open rate: 16.43%
If you haven't given it a try, measure your open rate! It's easy and free!
Survey Tool for Email Newsletters
Ever wanted to place a survey in your html email newsletters?
We've been using a nifty product called SurveyMonkey lately (no relation to MailChimp), and so far it's been great. It lets you quickly and easily create a survey, then generate a link that you can place in your MailChimp campaign (linking to a survey is the best way to do it, since you don't really want to embed forms in your HTML email).
They give you all kinds of color templates to choose from for building the survey. The reports are great---you can read them online, or export to HTML, Excel, etc(example report). Plus, it's extremely affordable, and it's monkey related, so you know it's got to be good. Give it a shot: www.surveymonkey.com
Local pub gets better response with double opt-in
We're helping a local chain of pubs (several locations around Atlanta) with their email newsletters. They've been collecting email addresses from their patrons for years (from an opt-in registration form on their website, and offline, from their various pubs). One problem they were having is list churn. They had thousands of people on their list, but almost half were hard-bouncing! Plus, their open rates were dismal.
The first thing we did was switch them to double opt-in...
For those of you who aren't familiar with double (or confirmed) opt-in, it's a process where someone signs up on your website, then you send them an email asking them to "confirm" their registration by clicking a link first. Only after they click the link are they added as a subscriber. There are lots of benefits to this, such as:
- Nobody can sign someone else up, without their permission (anybody with a "friend" that signed them up for daily fart jokes will appreciate this precautionary measure)
- No chance of typos, and erroneous registrations (here's a famous example)
- When someone clicks "confirm" you can track their IP address, date, and time of opt-in, and use those records as proof that they registered (in case your competition maliciously reports you for spamming, and your ISP threatens to boot you for it)
- If they "go through the trouble" of confirming, they must really want to hear from you, so your response rate will be higher
In spite of all the benefits, a lot of marketers are hesitant to implement double opt-in. They're afraid that there's too much of a chance that people won't "go through the trouble of confirming," so their lists won't grow as fast.
But proponents of double opt-in are quick to argue that those people who actually confirm their registrations are much more likely to respond to your emails, and less likely to opt-out or to report you for spamming (which 13% of recipients do, even if they opted in).
Which is the better route? Quantity or Quality? With the client's permission, we did a little experimenting...
- The client wanted to send a 20% off coupon for a Thursday night event at one of their pubs.
- We segmented the list to only those patrons that expressed interest in that particular pub
- Next, we divided that list into those that double-opted-in (the "clean list" as we called it) and those that didn't (this "dirty list" consisted of single-opt-ins and addresses collected offline)
- The "dirty list" was over 3 times larger than the "clean list" so we were a bit worried at first
- We sent the e-coupon on a Monday, to give people plenty of time to prepare for the Thursday event
Results from the "Dirty List":
- Total 16.23% bounce rate, with 2.65% of them hard bounces (undeliverables)
- 18.54% unique open rate
Results from the "Clean List":
- Total 1.23% bounce rate, with no undeliverables
- 45.68% unique open rate
What about actual coupon downloads? What's really interesting is that even though the "clean list" is 3 times smaller than the dirty list, it got the same number of coupon downloads.
So the "clean list" is cheaper to send to because it's smaller, it gets a higher open rate, and generated the same number of coupon downloads as the dirty list. If you use another vendor besides MailChimp (shame on you), you probably pay a monthly fee based on your list size (blech), in which case double opt-in can actually save you money just on list management costs.
Most popular day? Thursday.
We were curious to see what day most people send their MailChimp campaigns. We analyzed just under 3 million of the most recently sent emails (see below for breakdown). Interesting how it all starts to drop off around Wednesday. There seems to be some renewed interest growing in sending campaigns on weekends (to at-home users), so we think the graph might change soon.
- Thursday: 29%
- Tuesday: 23%
- Monday: 22%
- Wednesday: 15%
- Friday: 6%
- Saturday: 2%
- Sunday: 3%
Funny MailChimp Survey Results
A little while ago, we posted a survey to get an understanding of what our
users really wanted out of MailChimp. The feedback, ideas, and
testimonials we got were extremely helpful for getting MailChimp V2 live.
Just to highlight how creative our users are, we're posting some of the more humorous comments we received...
- "I love how simple MailChimp is. Other sites I visited made my head hurt and were so "business speak" I wanted to puke." We might list this on our Features page: "Won't make you puke, like the competition." Imagine the monkey graphic for that one! We're glad someone out there hates the business mumbo jumbo as much as we do.
- Someone suggested we add "An online newspaper and one of those tea making machines with an alarm clock that brews tea for you when you wake up." Hmm, we'll definitely put that on the list of possible enhancements for v2.1. Coffee though, not tea. :-)
- "I like orange" was one reason someone chose to use MailChimp. To think, we almost went with HEX VALUE #0000FF!
We also asked, "What would you change about MailChimp?" and got some of these gems:
- Less talk, more monkey
- More monkeys
- Please keep it simple and usable! (The chimp can stay too.)
- More monkey stuff
Okay, okay the monkey stays. We even made him 7.3% larger than the monkey in V1.
And as promised, we randomly selected a winner of our ginormous MailChimp coffee mug. It's Kevin, over at Pivot+Levy. Thanks for taking the survey Kevin, and when you get the mug, be sure to strut around the office and really rub it in to your coworkers that your mug's bigger than theirs.
The winner of the GourmetStation.com dinner is Stephen from Olive Media. You'll be receiving a gift certificate shortly, Stephen. We suggest you invite a loved one over for dinner, but hide the boxes and act like you cooked it all yourself. Not that we've done that, or anything (but trust me, they'll never know).
Anyways, thank you all for your feedback. V2 just launched today, and it's just the beginning. We've got a huge list of features to add for v2.1, v2.2, and so on. Please keep the comments coming.