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Showcase: Studio BenBen

Thm_studiobenben Ever come across one of those design websites, where they've got so many cool little icons and doohickies that you could just sit there all day long and click on stuff? Ben Schlitter's website is one of those sites. It's fun, addictive, and the attention to detail is amazing. And it's just a personal portfolio site! What's really cool is he sells his work in little sketch books and posters.

Anyways, Ben used MailChimp to send his first email newsletter, and we thought we'd showcase it here for everyone to see.

August 31, 2006 in Email Design | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Travelocity's CEO Stays In Touch

You probably send email newsletters out to all your customers, but what about "internal" newsletters, such as for your employees? Here are some tips from Travelocity's CEO on staying in touch and "being available" for your team.

"In addition, Peluso sends weekly e-mail newsletters to her entire staff that show how well the company is delivering against their guarantee to customers. She also uses the newsletters as a platform to single out and praise employees who reflect the company's core values."

"Internal" emails can be really useful. We've seen some examples on MailChimp, such as:

  • Letters from the president
  • Company updates to franchise owners (like big PR announcements and upcoming sales promotions)
  • Non-profit fund raising goals and event updates to volunteers

Here are some quick tips from the best ones we've seen:

  • Keep 'em personal and simple. 1st person good. 3rd person bad.
  • Highlight employees or volunteers. Make 'em feel special. Add photos.
  • If you want them to keep opening your emails, find a way to make each issue fun.

August 30, 2006 in Emarketing, Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How The Gap uses alt text in their HTML emails

If you code HTML emails long enough, you get tired of all the different email applications out there (I'm talking about you, Lotus Notes) mangling your code and making your emails look crappy.

After a while, you learn to just keep things super-simple, and not take anymore risks. You learn that one or two big graphics is safer than 50 tiny little graphics.

But I noticed some HTML emails from The Gap using lots of sliced out graphics to their advantage.

See, when you send HTML emails with graphics in them, almost every modern email application turns those images off by default. If the recipient trusts the sender, she can click a button to turn images on. If she really trusts the sender, she can set her email program to always turn on images from that sender.

But 9 times out of 10, when you send an HTML email, your images are gonna be turned off. That sucks if you really want users to see your pictures. It also sucks if you're tracking your open rate, because that can only be done with images turned on.

One thing you can do is use "Alt text" for all graphics in your HTML code. That basically inserts some descriptive text wherever an image would normally be. Sometimes, this can "entice" a recipient to turn images on.

Anyways, it's normal to see an HTML email with its logo graphic, and maybe one or two product photos turned off. You'd see some alt text like, "Company Logo" up at the top. But look at what The Gap did. They sliced their email into a whole bunch of separate pieces, and put tons of alt text in for each graphic file.

How The Gap's email looks w/images turned off...


In Mozilla Thunderbird (click to zoom):

Gapimagesoff_1

In Gmail (click to zoom):

Gapimagesoffgmail

If you make your images clickable, then their alt text will look like hyperlinks. Look at all the little links and descriptions everywhere. You could almost read this email without any images whatsoever!

Here's how it looks when you click "Show Images" (click to zoom):

Gapimageson


If you're new to HTML emails, play around with how you code your alt text for images. There are other pros and cons to consider:

Of course, keep in mind that some email applications (like Microsoft Outlook 2003) don't display your alt text when images are turned off. All you'd see are big, gigantic "broken image" placeholders.

August 29, 2006 in Tips, Tricks, Best Practices | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Your Email Address Says About Your Business

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing (excellent small-biz marketing tips here, by the way) writes about using free or personal email addresses for your business.

There's no nice way of saying this. If you run a small business, and you're still using "@aol.com" or "@hotmail.com" for your company email address, it's just not professional. It's a little like using scissors to cut "business cards" out of scrap notebook paper. I don't care how steady your hand is---it won't look right.

At MailChimp, we don't even let companies signup for free trials if they're using their Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc. email accounts. There's too much potential for abuse by spammers, or inexperienced users who just aren't ready for email marketing.

We learned a long time ago that when "Bob the mechanic" or "Jane the real estate agent" signs up for an account with their @aol.com address, the following is most likely true:

  1. They don't have a website yet
  2. No website means no valid opt-in collection process
  3. They've probably purchased a list from a local organization or via some spam they got
  4. They're not interested in permission or "relationship" marketing yet. They want to "jumpstart" business by "blasting" a million people with email offers.

So we quit allowing those kinds of email addresses on our free trial signup form. They're too risky.

The downside, of course, is that we lose potential customers who just want to use their anonymous email address during the free trial evaluation (I sign up to stuff with my Gmail account all the time, so it's understandable). We actually had a lot of complaints and questions about this, until we got Truste and BBB certified. Interestingly, all the live chats and support tickets about "why can't I use my gmail address?!?!?" stopped after those two little logos got placed on our free trial page.

As Mr. Jantsch points out, even AOL recognizes the need for small businesses to have a more professional look, so they're now offering a service to help its users setup their own domain names.

Are you still using an "AOL" or "Hotmail" account for your business? Go to godaddy.com, and buy your domain name. It's so cheap ($10 a year, or something like that). They even throw in super cheap (sometimes free) email accounts. And if you just can't part with your Hotmail address, don't worry. You can setup that new business email address to simply "forward" all messages to Hotmail (or wherever). It's easier than getting your business cards printed at Kinko's!

August 28, 2006 in Emarketing, Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Technology professionals say email marketing is spam

This just in: techies don't like marketing. Shocking, huh?

According to this BtoB article, a bunch of "Technology Professionals" were surveyed by CNet and MarketingSherpa, and they all said they didn't like getting emails too often (does anybody enjoy getting emails "too often?"). I wonder if they got the survey via email. That woulda been funny.

Okay, turning off the smart ass now. We thought we'd post some tips on marketing to techies...

Tips for sending email marketing campaigns to techies

1. Don't send too often.
If your list is composed of a lot of "Technology Professionals" (when did we stop calling them nerds?) you should know better than to send them email campaigns more than, say, twice a month.

2. Keep them "lite."
You should also consider keeping your emails "plain-text" (or at least make them look like plain-text) because a lot of geeks also think HTML email is the work of the devil. Take out the superfluous graphics and photos (unless the photos include: monkeys or spaceships).

3. Easy scan-a-bility.
Keep your content easy to scan. Bulletpoints are key. They get tons of emails, so they skim and scan.

4. Clear subject lines.
Mark, our own beloved uber-nerd, gets 5,000 pieces of spam a day. Spam filters? Ha. They barely scratch the surface. Nerds select huge blocks of emails in their inboxes and just click "delete." If they accidentally delete one legit email? Hey, that's collateral damage. If it's important, the person will call or write again. Want your email to survive? Take this tip from Mark: "Just make the main point of your email the subject line."  [Also see our subject line comparison study]

5. Don't pretend to be friends
Techies know a lot about databases and automation. So don't try to act like their friend, by starting off every email with "Dear FNAME." Mark says, "Merging my name doesn't bother me, so long as I know they actually got it from me. But it's so obviously fake when my name is spelled in ALL CAPS or all lower-case."

6. Don't be a bandwidth hog.
There's no better way to anger IT people than with big, bulky emails with ginormous graphics that take forever to download. Keep in mind the technology professional that you're emailing is probably the same person managing their company's email server. They don't appreciate emails that slow things down. Be sure to optimize your images before sending HTML email. Quick guideline: photos should be saved as JPGs, and line art (simple logos and stuff) should be saved as GIFs. Stock art of people shaking hands should be deleted altogether.

7. Nothing to say? Don't send (yet).
Finally, keep your emails incredibly useful (and funny, if possible). Guess that applies to all your recipients, not just nerds. Don't feel like you have to send a campaign every single week or month. You can skip an issue, if you don't have any content yet. Don't rush something out the door, just to stay on schedule with your marketing calendar. If you can't think of anything, include some research. Techies like whitepapers, research, facts, tips, how-tos, etc. You know, nerdy stuff. Or, walk down the hall and ask the office nerd to rant about something, so you can share it with "all our technology customers." They'll have something to say for sure.

August 22, 2006 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MailChimp's 5 years old

Birthdaychimpthinkseedcom_1 We've had our heads buried in code for so long now, we just realized that yesterday was MailChimp's birthday! Hooray, MailChimp's five years old. If my math is correct, that's 48 in ape years.

Funny thing is, yesterday we officially launched another product (PunchyTime - but more on that later), so now we've got 2 birthdays to celebrate on the same day. Weird kinda coincidence.

Just like last year, we're doing a little birthday giveaway. The first MailChimp user to send us an HTML email birthday card will get a free monkey related gift of some sort. We haven't decided what it'll be yet, but it'll be monkey related, and that's always cool.

We'll also send a monkey-related gift plus 2,000 email credits for the best designed HTML email card.  Best is subjective, but anything that makes our judges shoot coffee out their noses is up there.

But now that we've got two critter brands under our roof, this card must include the following to qualify: a monkey, a glass of beer, and an angry kangaroo.

10 extra points if the kangaroo (or the monkey---your choice) is wearing boxing gloves.
100 extra points if you can somehow work Mr.T into the picture.

We'll post the results here on the blog, of course. C'mon you Photoshoppers. Take a break from work and start Googling "kangaroos and beer"! Judging ends September 8th.

August 21, 2006 in MailChimp News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MailChimp v2.4.2 Enhancements

We made some quick updates to MailChimp last weekend, moving us to Version 2.4.2. The changes are minor tweaks, but they make things more convenient in a major way...   

Search Your Member List
Before, if you had a very large list, finding one member was like finding a needle in a haystack (you pretty much had to download the Excel file and search there). Now, you can type a member's email address in, and bam---we'll take you to their profile:

Just look for the new search box at the top of the Members page, under the "Lists" tab. Yep, we'll be providing more search options soon (like search by name, or any other field in your database).


Edit Member Profile
Ever had a member call you up and ask you to change their email address? Now you can search for their "member profile" in your list, and then make edits to their information:


List Upload: Better Errors and Reports
When you import your list, MailChimp automatically cleans any dupes, syntax errors, or previously unsubscribed recipients. Problem was, he didn't tell you who got cleaned from your list. Well, we fixed that. Now, whenever MailChimp cleans members during the import process, he'll provide a link to a popup window, with a full list of every recipient that couldn't be imported (and why). This way, you can maybe fix any obvious syntax errors, like john.doe@aol.cmo.


Behind the scenes tweak: Better Deliverability
A few concerned users wrote in to tell us that Spam Assassin was flagging their MailChimp campaigns, because the "Message ID" assigned by our email delivery engine wasn't properly formatted (or completely missing). We never had any issues with that before. Hmm. Anyways, we've fixed that problem, so your deliverability should be slightly improved now. Thanks so much to the people who took the time to send us their email headers and Spam Assassin scores.


Behind the scenes tweak: Weird Bouncebacks
Some email servers out there are setup really weird. You send them an email, and they bounce it back to you 50 times in a row. Used to be, all those bounces would show up in your MailChimp stats (this was very rare, but it resulted in some really weird campaign reports, where total bounces would be larger than some lists). Well, there's nothing we can do about those shoddy email servers, but now we no longer actually save their multiple bounces in your account.

Hope you find these enhancements useful. We're already hard at work on the next round of improvements.   

August 18, 2006 in MailChimp News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

United Online (Juno, NetZero) Spam Complaints

We're pleased to announce that we've been accepted into United Online's feedback loop (they run NetZero, Juno, Classmates.com, and more). So now, if a recipient on their network reports one of your campaigns as spam, that recipient will be automatically removed from your list (we also automatically clean recipients who complain from AOL and Hotmail).

MailChimp shows you how many abuse complaints you got for every single campaign you send (screenshot)

FYI, this isn't just a "shut 'em up & move on" tactic. Our whole team gets a copy of every single one of those ISP feedback complaints. Personally. So if complaints ever exceed a certain reasonable threshold, we'll investigate accounts for abuse pretty fast.

This is just one of many different ways we try to keep our system spam-free and clean for all our users.

August 16, 2006 in MailChimp News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is it cool to "cold call" with email?

Everyone dreads cold-calling by telephone. Email makes things so much easier, and less nerve-wrecking. But where does it cross the line and become spam?

  • If you open up your email application, and send a personal, relevant, brief note to one prospect, you're not spamming them. That's just a one-to-one email.
     
  • Send that same person a ginormous HTML email newsletter out of the blue (because you think he'll be dazzled by your professional looking logo and branding), and he'll probably report you for spamming, plus start blocking all future email from you.
     
  • Taking it one step further, if you use an email marketing service to "blast out" 500 "cold call" emails to a list of addresses you scraped from websites, or purchased somewhere, then yes---you're spamming those people. Even if those people are members of the same local group you're in. Even if you got 'em from the local chamber of commerce. Even if you've painstakingly researched all the trade journals and newspapers, and assembled that list of prospects "by hand." Even if you use "mail merge" fields to "personalize" the messages.

Use email marketing to build and nurture relationships with customers. Not cold calling.

For cold calling, use your own email program. And send to one prospect at a time. And make each message uniquely relevant. It'll be more personal that way, and you're not as likely to get spam filtered.

For more tips (and an example) on proper email cold calling, check out this article by Jill Konrath at RainToday:

Does Email Cold Calling Work?

August 16, 2006 in MailChimp News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Do your recipients "shiver in delight" when they get your emails?

You can always count on good content from Bill Nussey at SilverPOP. Here's a quote I enjoyed from his latest article:

Your goal should be that customers get a little shiver of delight when they see your company or brand name in the "from" field.

Read the rest at: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/6437.asp

August 15, 2006 in Emarketing, Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 
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