Sunday, June 25, 2006

Email Marketing: design tips to improve your open rates.

by Chris Price

Many email marketers frequently fail to realize that their subscriber's email application preview pane is the first opportunity their content has to attract the attention they require. And unfortunately those that don't allow for a snapshot preview in their content design fall victim to lower than expected open rates as their subscribers are less likely to open the message in full. Here are four simple steps you can to take to ensure your next email message preview pane design gets all the attention it should:

First, be aware that prior to Outlook 2003, the preview your subscriber sees runs horizontally along the foot of their screen. In Outlook 2003, this view is a vertical slice showing the left hand side of your content. As a tip take a blank sheet of paper and then reveal the top third of your next message and then the left third. Does what you see in both instances seem interesting enough to entice your subscribers to click on?

Second, by allowing for the thinnest of newsletter mastheads, you should cram into these viewable snippets as much content as you can. Plus, if this content tells your subscriber exactly what your message contains, then the chances of them opening it increase even further.

Third, don't have too many images cluttering the preview space. By default, my version of Outlook 2003 suppresses all images sent to me in HTML messages. All I see is a sea of red crosses, which tells me nothing about the message. (I tend to leave these messages until later, which CAN become NEVER! Your subscribers may well do the same.)

And finally the smart newsletter designers use images sparingly in this top part. Even better, they build their masthead using not images, but HTML text and colour to effectively get across their message. As a consumer, I'm far more tempted to break my train of thought and dig down deeper into that juicy piece of content I can see. Thus, by treating the preview pane of your newsletter as a quick-peek mini-summary for your subscribers, you are on the right track to grab a new client! It's simple really--the quicker your readers are intrigued by the very first lines of your email, the more they will read them.

Chris Price is the founder of Permission NZ Ltd - He has over 8 years experience in online marketing. You can learn more about this business by visiting the company web site or his blog at

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Open Source Email Marketing Software

by T.C. Watts

If you're anything like me, you're probably constantly looking for the best deal out there. Whether its shopping for a new car, home or just groceries, I'm always drawn to the freebies! I guess its the same with Email Marketing. Especially when you've first started and "getting your feet wet", you might not be prepared to spend too much on your tools yet.

Although there's some really great tools out there, like Aweber and Send Studio, I'm going to be talking about a few Open Source (read free) alternatives that you can start with. Now, these software are not for the faint-hearted or technologically challenged. Although most of them are quite simple to install, you still need to have some grasp of the technical jargon involved. You'll find that popular hosting panels like cPanel and Fantastico might have them pre-installed.

1. DadaMail - Dada Mail has been around for awhile. Its written in Perl and can be set to use a flat file or a database like MySQL or PostgreSQL. The installation can be a bit daunting, but worth the effort. Once installed you can use it to generate your subscription form and cut and paste that into your website easily. Read our Dada Mail review here.

2. PhpList - The description on their website reads: "PHPlist is a double opt-in newsletter manager. It is written in PHP and uses an SQL database for storing the information. PHPlist is software that runs on a server." The install is also quite simple but I found the interface less friendly than Dada Mail's. However it has some nice prebuilt features like Open and Click Tracking, plus a nice ability to pickup from the last email in case the sending fails midway.

3. Infinite Responder - Unlike the 2 above, this is an Sequential Autoresponder developed with PHP that allows you to time your messages. It has an opt-in feature plus allows for Unlimited Autoresponders. A nice piece of software with an active forum to ask for help when you need it.

That's an intro to some of the more popular Open Source Email Marketing tools you can use. I've left out Mailman and Majordomo as its far too complicated for this purpose. If there's more that you'd like to see added, please contact me. But tools aside, its how you use them creatively that matters, but use them you must! A website without a mailing list is leaving a lot of money on the table as you would not have any means of contacting your prospects!

What I also like about using tools like these is that the information is in MySQL and that's easy to integrate into other membership registration forms and systems. You can even program your order form to automatically capture buyer's email addresses into the same database but use these email marketing tools to contact them.

If you don't know where to start or find installing scripts like this daunting, then head on over to Scriptlance or Elance and you get someone to do it for you affordably. Or perhaps if you ask nicely, some tech support at your hosting company might do it for you.

That rounds up my quick tour of Open Source Email Marketing tools. Remember that free is not always bad as these tools are often developed with collaboration from many brilliant programmers, ensuring you stable and reliable software.
About the Author

T.C. Watts operates, a website filled with tips, articles, reviews and how-tos dedicated to Email Marketing Software.

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