Making Online Video Demos
I've gotten a lot of calls from people who just want to know how we made our online MailChimp demo.
I used Adobe Captivate. It's $599, and requires no Flash or programming experience whatsoever. That's a lot cheaper than what a good Flash developer would charge for a demo. A complete idiot (like me) can use it. This is like Snagit on steroids.
It's got loads of features (I spent most of my time learning how to turn them all off). You can even record voiceovers and set background music.
All you do is turn it on, set it to record, and start clicking in your browser. Then you go back and edit your movie. You can even edit each screenshot in the movie, such as to disguise login names, etc.
Basically, the "screen" you see in Captivate is a background image. The mouse movements and dialog boxes are on separate layers. So I just open the screen images in Fireworks, tweak the slide as necessary, and copy-paste back into Captivate.
If you've ever wanted to do an online demo, I highly recommend Captivate. The MailChimp demo took me one full day to complete. About 1 hour of actual recording, 8 hours of planning and editing, 2 hours of goofing off at the local coffee shop, 2 hours of losing all my files and going back and starting over, and 1 hour of getting the movie uploaded to our website.
MailChimp Launches Built-in Templates, Design tool, forward-to-friend, affiliate program
We launched MailChimp v2.5 last weekend. Click the link to see all the new features and changes. This was our most challenging upgrade ever. It's exciting and scary all at the same time...
We joke around that if anybody in his right mind were to sit down and plan an email marketing service today, they'd list 3 really important features:
- built-in email templates (because not everybody can design)
- a WYSIWYG editor (because not everybody can code HTML)
- double opt-in list management (because not everybody can manage their own database)
But when we launched MailChimp in 2001, we had none of those features (somehow we still grew to over 7,000 users, so go figure).
Back then, we were web designers, and we built MailChimp for other web designers like us, and web designers can code their own HTML emails, and manage their own email lists. All MailChimp did was deliver.
Things started to change in 2003. We were seeing more and more "non web designers" sign up for MailChimp. And who can blame them? Our little chimp logo is so adorable, and just screams "I'm easy to use! Use me! Eep eep!" As you can imagine, the needs of "non web designers" (I should probably start referring to them as "regular people now") are very different from the needs of web designers. In fact, 2003 was a horrible year for MailChimp. Our growth went backwards.
We saw the writing on the wall, and we launched "MailChimp v2" and then managed lists, then infinitely managed lists. Since then, we've been growing like crazy. Every month seems to set a new record for us. We also have more managed lists on our system than users.
So to that end, we're super excited about the new built-in template functionality. Because now, anybody can use MailChimp. Not just web designers (but web designers will love it, too!).
The scary part of all this? Growth. We launched on Saturday. The next Sunday (which is usually an extremely slow day for us) we saw roughly 3 times the normal amount of free trial signups. Yikes. On average, we've seen about 50% more free trials than normal since launching v2.5. Don't get me wrong. We think this is a good thing. And our technology is super-scalable and powerful. We're ready. But we're in a totally different league now. We're not in some ultra-niche, long-tail, blue-ocean secret fishing hole anymore. We're up against some really stiff competition now.
So how will we manage? We're going to do what we've always done best: keep it useful, simple, efficient---and most of all---lovable.
Thanks to all our customers for your business! And to all our new customers: welcome to MailChimp! Eep eep!
Email Turns 35
The very first email was sent 35 years ago.
Ray Tomlinson sent that first email message, and it was sent from one computer, across the ARPANET, to another computer---sitting right next to the first one. What was the message? Something like Alexander Graham Bell's "Watson, come here. I need you"? Perhaps some geeky-er version of "one giant leap for mankind"? Nope. According to Mr. Tomlinson,
"The test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them. Most likely the first message was QUERTYIOP or something similar."
Today, something like 60 billion emails are sent every day (more stats). Here's a funny list of the most (in)famous emails ever sent.
Yesmail Sued for CAN-SPAM Violations
Yesmail was recently sued by the FTC for violating the CAN-SPAM act. Specifically, for not honoring an unsubscribe request within ten business days. Apparently, they used a "reply to this email and we'll remove you" kind of link. One of their recipients replied, but their message was accidentally spam-filtered by Yesmail's email server. Something to consider for marketers who don't use a one-click unsubscribe link in their campaigns. They settled with the FTC for about $50,000.
MailChimp Downtime this weekend
UPDATE: MailChimp v2.5 launched a little early. Everything's back up and running now.
Starting November 18, Saturday morning at 12AM ET, MailChimp will be down for a big upgrade (so you won't be able to log in at all). If all goes as planned, we'll be back online Monday morning at 9am ET.
We're going to be launching v2.5, which has got a bunch of (free) improvements we think you're going to like:
- Built-in email templates and design tool: You won't have to code HTML to use MailChimp anymore (unless you really want to).
- Forward-to-friend functionality: Let your recipients share your campaign with their friends. We'll track total forwards and opens.
- Affiliate program: Share some monkey love with someone you know. Place a trackable MailChimp badge in your email footers or website. If you refer a customer, we'll give you both 500 email credits.
We'll post more details when everything's live. For a sneak-peek at the built-in templates, here's a video demo.
Truste's Guide To Preventing Spam Complaints
Even if you setup a perfect double opt-in, permission-based list, follow all the anti-spam laws and email marketing best practices, and keep your database totally clean, you'll get spam complaints. Sometimes it's a mistake, sometimes it's a prank, sometimes it's a spambot, and sometimes the recipient just isn't very bright. Spam complaints are inevitable. Luckily, there are ways you can minimize them.
Truste has published this guide that explains how spam complaints happen, what the repurcussions are to businesses, and simple things you can do to your opt-in process to keep complaints to a minimum.
By the way, MailChimp is on feedback loops with major ISPs so that we can automatically unsubscribe any members on your list who report your email as spam (Learn more about feedback loops at Clickz).