Client Showcase: elucient & DSE
The actual HTML email code is super simple, but that photograph makes a huge impact (imagine being greeted by that face in your inbox!). Nice, attention-grabbing photo at the top, a clean overall layout, and thorough, well-written unsubscribe copy make this a great email campaign. This is just one of a series. We'll be posting the rest as they become available. Can't wait to see what's next!
HTML Email for the Visually Impaired
Here's an interesting article that explains the pros and cons of plain-text vs. HTML email, but from the perspective of a visually impaired recipient, who has the email read to him using JAWS (Job Action With Speech). From now on, I'll make an extra effort to put ALT and TITLE attributes into images and hyperlinks (for HTML Email), and to not use so many of those ASCII characters to divide sections of my plain-text emails.
For those of you who aren't HTML gurus, we'll explain a little bit about ALT and TITLE attributes...
Generally speaking, you always want to include an "ALT" attribute in all your image <IMG> tags when you code a web page. It's a "required" element for proper HTML coding.
<IMG SRC="http://www.mysite.com/images/monkey-image-here.gif" ALT="Picture of a cool monkey!">
That way, if someone should happen to visit your web page with his browser set to "Images turned off," a text description will be displayed where the image would normally go. This is really helpful for people on slow connections, who keep images off. It's also really helpful for the visually impaired, because their software can't explain pictures to them---they can only read the ALT TEXT out loud. You can see why ALT TEXT would be critical if your website navigation was composed of images, instead of regular text links.
TITLE attributes are optional, but very handy. You can put TITLES on lots of things, like images, links, tables, form text fields, and more. When you hover over an object on a web page with a TITLE attribute on it, you'll see a little popup tool-tip to explain what the object is.
Example of the TITLE attribute:
<A HREF="http://www.mailchimp.com" TITLE="This link takes you to the MailChimp website">Click here!</A>
You can use the ALT text attribute on an image, then place a hyperlink with a TITLE around the image. If the image is off, its ALT text will show. If you hover over the image, your TITLE will popup as a tooltip.
Extra helpful info in this article:
http://www.netmechanic.com/news/vol6/html_no1.htm, in case you want to read up on it more.
Using ALT/TITLE attributes in HTML Email
ALT TEXT and TITLES behave slightly differently depending on the email application (no surprise there). I ran some quick tests, using an HTML email message that contained lots of images, links, ALT text, and TITLES. I sent it via MailChimp to a Mac OSX (10.4) and a couple of Windows XP test machines. Here's what I found...
- Lotus Notes 6.5.3 would not display ALT text on images, nor TITLES on links.
- If you code an image that also links to a web page, some email apps (Outlook2000 and Apple Mail) override both the ALT and TITLE, and show the URL of the link instead. They do this for security, so you see where the link takes you before you click.
- AOL9, Yahoo!Mail, Hotmail, and Gmail all behaved pretty much as expected. ALT text worked on images, and TITLES worked on links. TITLES also override ALT text when you hover over images. ALT text and TITLE tags were never replaced by URLs like Outlook did.
- ALT TEXT seemed to work in Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 (when images are turned off), but TITLES do not (on images or links).
- Apple's Entourage did not display ALT text or TITLES, for images or links. Weird.
- Eudora 126.96.36.199 was probably the nicest of all. For images, it displayed ALT text, even if the image hyperlinked. But they still displayed the hyperlink down in the status bar of the window, for paranoid clickers like me. Hover over an image, and it displayed the TITLE as a tooltip (instead of the ALT text). Hover over links, and the TITLE appeared as a tooltip.
Bottom line? Put ALT text on all your images to describe what they are. Optionally, put TITLES on all your images, to give more detailed descriptions. Put TITLES on all your hyperlinks
11 Ways to Improve Your Landing Pages
Some have argued (maybe it was on grokdotcom?) that your website should probably be re-thunk as nothing but a series of "landing pages" built solely for conversion. Everything else is just fluff. Interesting, huh? I gave the concept a try myself (to a very limited extent), and our conversion rates went up noticeably. It's definitely a different sort of web design "paradigm," but it's worth considering.
Offline Email Collection
The Vortex Bar & Grill is a great burger joint here in Atlanta. The personality of the place is straight-up, in-your-face, borderline rude. If you're stupid, you will be insulted mercilessly by the staff. There always seem to be a bunch of Hell's Angels bikers out front, and your waitress will most likely have multiple piercings, chains, and tattoos---on her face. And that's what's so fun about the place.
We recently went there for lunch, and loved this "Subscribe to our email newsletter" form they gave us with the bill. We brought it back and scanned it in to share with everyone. Click here to zoom in on the details.
DoubleClick Email Trend Report Released
DoubleClick's released their 2005 Q1 Email Trend Report. It's got some nice stats per industry (retail, financial, business products, etc) on open rates, clicks, conversions, purchase size, and more.
Most of the press is focusing on the overall drop of average open rates from about 38% to 30%, but this is something we reported last quarter, and is most likely caused by all the image-blocking software in email applications. Open measurements are nice to judge your general level of interest, but are definitely not an exact science. We usually see companies send their very first email newsletter and get super-high stats, like 50-60% opens, but then after the 2nd and 3rd newsletters, numbers stabilize to about 20-30% opens. Just watch your overall trends, not the exact numbers.
Use Emarketing to Create an "Emotional Bond"
I love Whole Foods. Even though there was that one time I scooped a bag of cherries, and the cashier told me it was $18 (note-to-self: always check the per-pound cost at Whole Foods). I never did buy those cherries, but I still shop there all the time. Something about that place makes it feel 'better' than the other grocery stores in town.
Here's a nice article about how Whole Foods really doesn't spend a large proportion of their time or money on traditional marketing and advertising.
Instead of newspaper ads, coupons, and discount cards, they focus most of their time on the "customer experience." Kind of like how Starbucks isn't so much about great coffee as it is a nice place to hang out (the caffeine-addiction part helps, too).
Walter Robb, Whole Foods' co-president, says, "Most of our success has been because we deliver an emotional bond." Isn't that always the case, with brands you love? How can we use email marketing to form an emotional bond?
The ability to form an "emotional bond" with your customers is one of the great things about email marketing. But somewhere along the way, marketers forgot the "R" in CRM, and got really caught up in the numbers and stats.
Instead of focusing so much on opens, clicks and conversions, let's spend a little more time on the relationship. Here are some quick ideas for your email campaigns:
- Don't make them too "corporate" and stodgy. Save all that for your website, or print ads. Be funny. Be a smart ass. Be goofy sometimes. Let your personality shine. Show your readers that a real-life human being is writing those emails. Don't be afraid to make people smile or laugh---that's how viral marketing starts.
- Don't have that much to say? Don't say anything. If you can't think of things to say every week, make it a quarterly. At least it'll be more interesting to people when they get it.
- Make it helpful. Include some tips, how-tos, recipes, case studies, etc. When your recipients can actually learn from your newsletter, you're going to get some great response.
- Get personal. Share a little about yourself, or your company. Show some pictures of your staff, let them talk about what they do, how they help customers, etc. We liked this picture from Velocity Kickboxing's eletter.
- Keep the look and feel "fresh" and new. Sure, you should keep the same template, but swap out the header graphic with something fun and relevant for each issue.
Upcoming v2.2 Enhancements
Work continues on MailChimp v2.2 enhancements. We recently got the knowledge base and live chat working, and so far so good. People seem to like the immediacy of chat support, but I must say it hurts our feelings when we help someone super quick, then they just close the window while we're still typing our "goodbye, thanks for using MailChimp" message (wiping away the tears).
There's other cool stuff in the works, too.
The next item we're wrapping up for v2.2 is List Management. We built Mailchimp almost 4 years ago for geeky people like us: web developers who could manage their own databases on their own servers, but wanted to outsource delivery and tracking (you know, stuff a monkey should be doing for you).
So "List Management" isn't that exciting to our power users, but all the small businesses, creatives, and non-profit groups who use MailChimp are going to love it. It's going to let you upload your recipient list, automatically handle unsubscribes, clean the list of bounces, build and tweak your opt-in and opt-out landing pages, send double-opt-in confirmations, and all the other usual stuff you see included in those tools built for non-technical do-it-yourselfers. Of course, we'll be adding some MailChimp niceties, and our interface won't make you want to rip your hair out and kick your neighbor's dog.
We can't give any specifics, but we're in early testing right now, and will be launching sometime in August (if all goes well).
Client Showcase: L'amyx tea Bar
Here's a really nice e-newsletter design by the EngineSF guys for L'Amyx Tea Bar (and we're not just saying that because there's a monkey drinking tea in their logo---which is really, really cool by the way).
What we really like about the email is that they don't just push a bunch of promos or special offers (recipients get so tired of those).
This newsletter goes the extra mile and really hits a personal note by including an employee profile, a customer profile (listing favorite tea, of course), a tea recipe, and even a little bit of tea history. They "wrap" all this fun stuff around the usual promos, letter-from-the-editor, monthly-club teaser, etc. Really nice work.
Live Chat Support Available
We love hearing from our users. Any questions, compliments, rants or raves---we wanna hear 'em. So much so, that we've just implemented live chat, and placed links to it throughout the website (when you're logged in). We're still kind of getting the hang of it though, so we apologize in advance if we all head to lunch and forget to click the "away" button. :-)
Client Showcase: Torani Recipes
They send recipes to their customers every month, and each campaign follows a different theme. This month's theme is "chocolate" and it features recipes like, "Torani Oompa-Loompa " and "Torani Scrumptious Fudgemocha Delight" (I'm drooling).
Nice touch how each recipe points you to a different flavored syrup you can purchase online.
Here's another campaign example, for Iced Tea.