Saturday, July 05, 2014

HTML Email Design & Deployment - Part 3

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Email service providers

The design and development tools already covered in this post are also applicable to the design and development of HTML email. However, the method in which those emails are published is different.

The absolute best way to send bulk email is through an email service provider, or ESP. You may have heard of some common ESPs, like Constant Contact, or even used one yourself. These companies help us manage our address book (also called a recipient list), store and send the actual messages, and track the open and click-through rates.

Note: Many people ask why they can’t just send bulk messages from a personal email account through a tool like Outlook. The immediate answer is: to avoid having all of your messages marked as spam; sending bulk mail from your regular email account makes it highly likely your account will be flagged as a potential spammer. Once that happens, all email you send – even personal ones – will likely end up in the spam or
trash bucket. For this reason we cannot suggest using anything other than an ESP for bulk email.

There are perhaps thousands of ESPs out there, and you’ll have to do a bit of research to determine which one best suits your needs. In doing so, consider these questions:

• Do they also offer design services and/or templates if you need help in that area?
• How easy to use are the tools to track open and click-through rates?
• Do they offer space to store the images contained in your emails?
• How much support is available?
• Do they offer adequate methods to manage your subscriber or recipient list?
• Are email-testing tools included?
• How easy is it to build an email in their tool?


After you sign up with an ESP you’ll receive access to a personalized web site, from which you can manage all your email campaigns. Above shows how one ESP (Vertical Response) organizes recent emails and reports on that personalized site.

Above shows that the message sent May 23 was opened by 48% of recipients, and almost the same % of click-throughs. However, the message sent on May 9 was only opened by 30%, and clicked by none. The ESP provides a tool to analyze the possible reasons behind the variations in these numbers.

Clicking on the message name reveals additional reports and details, such as the top performing links and Facebook shares, as well as a view of the original message. In this case, the reason that message was opened by so few people – and clicked by none – was it didn’t need to be opened or clicked to be understood. The sender is a local elementary school, and the subject line reads: Early Dismissal 5/11/2012.

Any parent who is already aware of the early dismissal will disregard the message. Those who need reminding will open it to check the details, but with no links to click no additional user interaction is necessary. Feedback like this helps email marketers understand what works and doesn’t work.

Here are our top ten ESPs:
• Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com)
• Campaign Monitor (http://www.campaignmonitor.com)
• MailChimp (http://www.mailchimp.com)
• iContact (http://www.icontact.com)
• Vertical Response (http://www.verticalresponse.com
• Campaigner (http://www.campaigner.com)
• YMLP (http://www.ymlp.com/)
• E Shot (http://www.e-shot.net/)
• Dot Mailer (http://www.dotmailer.co.uk/)
• Little Green Plane (http://www.littlegreenplane.com/)

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