Tis the Season for Holiday E-Cards
If you're a creative agency, 'tis the season for sending fun, interactive email cards to all your clients. Some old business fogies say "e-cards aren't as good as hand-written cards." Nonsense. We think e-cards can be waaaay better. It's easy to sign your name on an old fashioned "offline" card, or write some boring, handwritten letter (yaaawn). But nothing says, "I really care" like spending hours and hours crafting your own e-card masterpiece. "Animation, tweening and sound files" are the new "Elmer's glue, crayons, and glitter." They love this stuff! Just remember to use the safety scissors, kids.
Innersync Studios sent us a great holiday e-card, and we just had to post it for all to see. It's cute and interactive (I just love the way they drew the eyeballs), and it made me chuckle. They used Flash to give it interactivity and sound. And instead of embedding the flash movie right in the message (something you can technically do with HTML email, but most anti-virus applications will block it), they just placed a simple "You've received an Innersync e-card" link in the message, which takes you to a landing page with the flash movie. Click here to see the e-card (turn up your volume)...
And it's not too late to send an e-card, either. Here at The Rocket Science Group (the nerds behind MailChimp) we typically schedule ours to send on New Year's Day. Remember, we're just a bunch of geeks, so don't laugh when you see this old example. Happy holidays, everybody!
MailChimp Holiday Availability
We're going to be closing down our office for the holidays on Friday, the 23rd, then re-opening on Monday, January 2nd.
Over the holidays, we'll be available by email (and occasionally via Live Chat) if you need help with your email campaigns. We may be a little slower to respond than usual (we tend to get that way when we're full of eggnog) but we'll be online to help. Thanks for a great year everyone, and happy holidays!
Double Opt-in Example from Snagit
Thanks to Megan for sending this screenshot of Snagit's (get it? screenshot? Snagit?) double opt-in confirmation email. Some things we liked about their double opt-in confirmation:
- It's not over designed. It's what some call "stationery" or "letterhead" email.
- They included their product logo (Snagit) and their company logo (TechSmith) to make it official
- They made the "click here" link very easy to spot in the middle of all that text
- Their "we won't share your address---period" statement is direct and simple, and it's signed by the president. Nice.
New Name for the MailChimp Blog: MonkeyBrains
Oh, you may have noticed. We gave our blog a new name. Figured this blog is all about sharing knowledge, tips, and advice. Design ideas. Email marketing news. Best practices. You know, stuff that's on MailChimp's mind. MonkeyBrains is food for thought. Meanwhile, The MonkeyWrench is our monthly (or so) email newsletter with tips for the "code monkeys" and the hard core tweakers who want advanced tips.
2005 Customer Survey Results, iPod Nano Winner
A big "THANK YOU!" to everyone who spent time filling out our 2005 Annual MailChimp Customer Survey. Wow. 3 times as many people took part in this survey as last year's (we think it might have something to do with the fact that we actually had an incentive this year---an iPod Nano). Speaking of the Nano, one of our neighbors from the north won the random drawing. Congratulations to Kirsten, from Victoria, British Columbia! It goes in the mail today, Kirsten. We'll try to get it to you before the holidays, and before Steve Jobs invents an even smaller iPod.
We think of our Annual Customer Survey as an "employee performance review." Only we're the employee (yours), and unlike the crappy kind of review that your boss makes you sit through every year, we actually can't wait to hear ours. The constructive feedback we get is priceless, and because so many creatives use MailChimp, some of the comments are hilarious (click the link). We learned a lot from this year's survey, and we're already working on improvements and new features based on your feedback...
We learned there were certain things that our customers really, really liked about the chimp, and there were other areas where we had some room for improvement...
What You Said You Liked
Here are some of the positive comments and insight we received about MailChimp...
- Our customer service: Lots of people said they loved our response time, live chat, and knowledge base. Dan, our head of customer service, is really happy about this (but please don't let it get to his head).
- Extreme customization: You can customize the design of absolutely everything in our list management tool, and make it all seamless to your site visitors. The tweakers really love this. However, if you're not a coder, it's a little difficult to grasp. We'll make that process smoother for everyone soon.
- We stay out of your way: You have full control over every aspect of your email designs (no ugly templates or logos in your footer), and our "design-it-yourselfers" really like that. But some example template code wouldn't hurt.
- Someone commented that our help docs and knowledge base articles are nice, because they're actually useful, and they "don't assume that we're all complete idiots."
- Infinite Personalization is Great: Lots of customers use their own opt-in list from their customer database, and "merge" infinitely many fields (see how) to personalize their messages. We'll be sure not to muck that up.
- Just plain easy: News flash---people hate complexity. So the "easy to use" thing is a big plus for MailChimp.
But There's Room for Improvement
On the flip side, here's what you told us we need to work on...
- Pricing options: While MailChimp is extremely affordable for "getting started," some of you are long past that stage, and want more options. We're working on that. In the meantime, inquire about non-profit discounts, and special agency pricing here.
- Our extreme list management customization is---well, extreme: It's nice to customize list management's form, page, and email notification design. Real nice. But it takes a while to get it all done. And if you're not a hard core designer, it's hard to grasp. We'll fix that soon.
- List Management Options: We built MailChimp for web designers and programmers (but that was way back in 2001) who already had databases of their own. So we were just a simple delivery tool, with no built-in list managament system. But recently, we were starting to see more "small business" customers using the chimp, so we added a really simple list management tool for them. Many of you like it, because it's so simple. But lots of you want way, way more segmenting options built in. We're already on it. In the meantime, you technically can do some powerful segmenting with our list management tool. Dan will post a knowledge base "how to" article soon.
Our customers are a creative bunch, so some off-the-wall comments are to be expected. Here's some of the funnier feedback we got this year...
"What's our biggest weakness?"
- "Not enough monkeys"
- "The yellow is too bright - but then, it wouldn't be MailChimp if it weren't yellow."
- "Not enough monkey metaphors."
- "The monkey fetish"
- "Not enough contests"
- "Cost, but that's because I'm cheap."
- "It kinda emits this weird smell when you click the radio buttons."
- "We actually have to do some of the work?"
- "You don't send me free beer"
"What are we NOT doing well to help your business?"
- "Did i say, free beer?" (Note: last year, it was tea. Now, everyone wants beer. Our customers are definitely getting smarter)
- Do monkeys like bagels? Because that's what you get here. A big, round, toasted poppy seed bagel. With banana cream cheese. Your system rocks.
- I don't see you over here sweeping. I don't see you at any of our staff meetings, or client pitches. IN FACT, that gives me an idea. You should go out with a chimp on a leash and visit companies at staff meetings and give out bananas that have your URL printed on them, and run little demos of how easy it is to chimp people. Train the monkey, and make the laptop like a hurdy-gurdy. YOU could be the Hurdy Gurdy man. Just like Donovan sung it. http://www.donovan.ie/don_home.htm
- Donating large amounts of cash
Hmm, is there a business model in roaming around the country with a dancing monkey, while handing out free bagels, bananas and beer?
Monkeys Smarter than Children
NYT essay on a scientific experiment pitting kids against chimps. Yep, you know the chimps won. Thanks to Steve for sending it along.
Email Marketing to Women
Speaking of how women shop online, thanks to Megan for sending us this great WSJ article: Subject: Email Ads Grow Up (subscription required). It's about how women hate spam, but subscribe to dozens and dozens of email newsletters from retailers, and use them "like a quick shopping trip" everyday at work. According to the article, the "Big Sale!" ones get trashed pretty quick. What they're really looking for is "what's new, what's fabulous, and what the must-have items are." The main takeaway for me was that email marketing's a great "browsing" kind of tool with women shoppers. Work on content beyond sales and promos (but don't drop the promos altogether, of course). Perhaps more trends, tips and news?
How Women Shop (Online)
Interesting Yahoo! Research via the Learned on Women Blog. If you run an e-commerce site and you're addicted to watching your traffic logs, don't be so concerned about quick exit rates, or a lack of instant conversions.
According to the research, only 21% of visitors actually make a purchase within 24 hours of visiting a site. The remaining 79%, they say, come back up to 2 months later.
They call this "Latent Conversion" and the Learned blog has an interesting take on how this relates to the way women shop online.
According to Learned, when women shop online (and this is going to be a huge shock for any men who have ever spent a day at the mall with their wives), they don't just jump right in and buy. They visit, browse, and think. Then they leave. Then they ask friends what they think. Then they visit and think. Then they leave. Then they come back again. Then they finally buy. In other words, when it comes to shopping (for anything significant, at least) they don't just make impulse buys (like us stupid men). They're much more deliberate.
So in addition to designing your website for super-quick, easy conversions, you should invest some time into coming up with ways to keep women interested while they're away from your website (hey---like email marketing!). Sorry, had to throw that in---I'm shameless.
If you think, "Okay, that's waaaay too much trouble. There's no way I'm going to design my site for women!" keep in mind that women control or influence most purchases (up to 80%, according to this post on Learned). So even if you sell only to men, you have to factor women into the equation. According to the research (and my wife), they control everything.
MailChimp Joins ESPC
We recently joined ESPC (The Email Sender and Provider Coalition). They're a group of responsible marketers, ISPs, ESPs, mail transfer agents, and deliverability vendors who formed to "fight spam while protecting the delivery of legitimate email." We're really excited about this, because the ESPC has made great strides recently in pushing for authentication and responsible practices, and now we get to be a part of their discussions.
And if you're an email marketing sender (or you're in the email marketing business in any way), you might think about joining as well. They recently changed their name from "Email Service Provider Coalition" in order to reflect their broadened focus.
Monkey Ninja Technique (for marketers only!)
I've blogged in the past about how the programmers here are always threatening to round-house kick me in the face if I "talk too much" (something I call "marketing") about our upcoming features.
So my good friend Josh sent me this super deadly ninja move to defend myself: Monkey Steals Peach.
If you know any other marketers out there who are constantly opressed by their technology team, tell them to practice the art of "chi-kung" which directs energy up the "ch'ueng mo" (via Tiger Claw) to bring any geek to his knees in pain. You will have your programmers coding interactive banner ads and landing pages for you all day.