Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Time for a facelift? – Newsletters

Wednesday, 29. September 2010 by Gavin Handley

Had the same newsletter template/design for 12 or more months? It is a good time for a facelift. Here are a few reasons why.
- It’s a good opportunity to do some in-depth analysis on what is working and what is not. If a section of your newsletter is not performing, yank it or change it up in the template. If anything, your readers will appreciate a fresh look. 

- It goes without saying from best practices point of view you should always be adapting your emails to contend with image rendering issues etc.

- From a design stand point, try and keep it simple but aesthetically pleasing, and don’t be afraid of white space. It will clearly define your content.

Once you have your new template, now is the time to optimize your newsletter. I think all e-marketers struggle with how much is too much, or too little! Each month I suggest selecting a section of the newsletter and do an A – B test, example, if you have top 10 tips:

1) Version A- Feature 1 tip with a CTA to all 10 tips

2) Version B- Feature 3 tips with a CTA to all 10 tips

This is a great exercise, depending on the content I found anything from a 20% lift in click-through to a 20% decline.

Change is good – here is the header image layout for Gallery Exposure, that was tested well over 4 years:

Welcome Gavin!

Thursday, 26. August 2010 by Anna Billstrom

Just want to welcome Gavin Handley, my former colleague and prize

-winning email marketer. I had the delight to work with him for approximately 3 years at my client, his employer, Kodak Gallery. Gavin’s got a keen awareness of client needs and great creative flair. We were talking yesterday about activity in the email space, and we both realized that it’d be great to open up the discussion on this blog. So I am really excited that he’s able, and interested, to contribute!

Gavin’s started off with his first post, “Engaging Newsletters.” Check it out!

Engaging Newsletters –

Wednesday, 25. August 2010 by Gavin Handley

To me a lot of newsletters are just a big promotional email which defeats the purpose of a newsletter. Reviewing a lot of different (one size fits all) e-newsletters, I think a lot of companies miss an opportunity to talk to a broader member base and drive more engagement.  A lot of sites have great content that is buried and near impossible to navigate to, and this is the tool to leverage that content.

When I created the Gallery Exposure newsletter for some 4 years ago the objective was to have an engaging, inspirational and retention-minded communication. Content was based on user/customer service feedback and monthly polls that featured in Gallery Exposure. We intentionally kept promotional offers to a minimum or not at all in the email with extremely positive feedback, offers do not motivate everyone and the numbers proved it. The message I heard loud and clear “inspire me”.

This award winning newsletter from Olympus is a great example:

5 Common Newbie Mistakes

Tuesday, 23. September 2008 by Anna Billstrom

A couple of businesses I know have sent me their very first email marketing message, usually a newsletter, and I’ve started to notice some trends and common pitfalls.

1. Not labeling their top header graphic appropriately. I received two the other day that were called “top_banner.jpg” in the alt-text, which showed more dominantly than any other writing in their newsletter, in Yahoo & Gmail. The default for Yahoo & Gmail is to not show images from new senders, so unfortunately all of their recipients saw the same thing:

2. No introduction paragraph saying 1) where you got the email 2) who you are 3) why I’m receiving this. For first-time newsletters, a basic introduction is required, and best to put above the fold, and in the beginning of the email so it shows up in the teaser text of the email’s inbox.

3. Not using an approved-of email sender. Nothing screams amateur hour more than trying to send it from Outlook/Yahoo/Gmail (see: Letters this week).

4. Deciding to send a newsletter, instead of a lifecycle, relationship, or more personalized email. Sure, this is sophisticated, but it’s actually a lot easier to do with small lists than large ones. Send a few emails to new joiners, send a link to a give-away for long-time list members. Clean our your list, add a personal note at the top “Hi Mark- good to see you last week!” or anything. This is what the large corporations are striving for, and for little list owners, this is a huge win. People won’t unsubscribe, and they’ll actually read your newsletter.

5. Finally, not allowing for feedback or follow-up. Nobody likes a one-sided conversation. Leave your twitter name, allow RSS subscriptions, have a reply-to that is *real* (I personally hate fake reply-to’s), and if they do write you, respond politely. Put your newsletters up on your blog with a comment thread! There’s a lot of exciting new social media that can dovetail nicely with your email marketing campaigns- as a small business these can be very easy to setup and manage.

Letters From Readers

Monday, 22. September 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Dear Anna,

I would like to send an email newsletter to the mailing list using gmail. I’ve tried in the past and 90% of my sent mails are rejected as SPAM because I am sending to approx. 250 people as BCC.

Love The Good Ole Gmail

Dearl TGOG,

You really don’t want to use common email apps like Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook to send to an email list. Those applications aren’t designed to send bulk (yes that is bulk) and therefore have lots of impediments to doing so. Instead, work with MailChimp,, Emma, or Constant Contact to setup an account and send from there. You need to have various processes set up to differentiate your emails from spam (from the consumer & federal perspective) like a one-click unsubscription method, etc. Also, the flavors of your recipients’ email accounts all have a different way of rending HTML, so companies like those listed above have great templates that handle all of the different renderings. It’s very difficult to do this by hand.



Tuesday, 16. September 2008 by Anna Billstrom

MailChimp has a neat new feature. You write your blog post, and MailChimp’s tool sends it out in email form. That’s great for folks who like to read their blog subscriptions, and for content publishers who don’t want to copy and paste all of their content into different distribution streams. These kind of tools are the new horizon: getting information to your customer base in the ways they prefer. Check it out.

Amping Up Your Newsletter With Social Media

Wednesday, 27. August 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I wrote an article for MarketingProfs: Email Marketing and Social Media, Part 1: Adding Social Media to the Email Newsletter

Email is not dying in the midst of the social-media revolution. As one social-networking company said to me, “accurate delivery of email is a main part of our deliverable.”

Flipping that situation around: How can we, as emailers, best leverage the new social-marketing applications?

Let’s consider the simple email newsletter and expand it to include social marketing.

Read the rest on their site!

Comparison of Two Newsletters: GoodReads & Moo

Thursday, 31. July 2008 by Anna Billstrom

I’m comparing two newsletters from companies that I admire- Moo, based in England, that makes tiny Flickr-based business cards, and GoodReads, a social-networking bookshelf comparison tool. Both companies have upbeat, fun, jaunty styles and a slimmed-down, spare aesthetic.

1. Above the fold
2. The subject line
3. The guts
4. The fine print

1: Above the Fold
Here are both newsletters as I first saw them, above the preview pane. Moo came into Yahoo Mail on the Mac-Leopard and Firefox2, and GoodReads on Gmail same platform. Images suppressed, then images shown.


… and with images on.

Good: They do a great job adding that teaser headine, “In Bed wih James Patterson,” and personalizing the newsletter by inserting my latest activity- saying I was reading Stealing Athena, and giving me an action to review the book and further participate in the community. The simple style and lack of spacer-GIFs means that with images off it’s still a good-looking, provocative email in my inbox.

Bad: They don’t do a lot to drag me into the lengthy newsletter. The table of contents isn’t labeled, and since it’s all in one line it’s a little hard to scan. Also, the alt-text “books” is somewhat confusing. I’d almost just leave it empty, as it’s an unimportant and irrelevant graphic.

There’s also a separation of action: click on the book to review it/ become more engaged with the site, as well as “read on…” I’m not sure what the solution is, and this is somewhat endemic to newsletters- so many launch points, that you don’t keep the reader entrenched in the reading process. One way to break it up is to add a columnar table so that there is more going on above the fold. One client of mine found that people re-read and re-access the newsletter multiple times, so having two calls to action isn’t necessarily an issue, from a user-interface perspective.


… and with images on..

Good: Wow, I love that photo! I also like how the “inside this newsletter” is off to the right and above the welcome message. This is a really dynamic letter and really communicates the fun aspect of their company (who would have known making business cards is fun?) I can’t say enough about the “inside” series- it’s short and easy to scan, and does a great job of bringing me into the newsletter. Also all of these links are internal, which keeps me in the letter and not off into the Internet somewhere. Great focus and design.

Bad: There are a lot of tactical & technical issues, though, with this email. The alt-text flows oddly, which could have been solved with better alt-text and HTML formatting. The “Yipee” doesn’t make sense to me and is misspelled, and graphically creates a balance with the logo, but also overshadows the logo droplet. I’d just take it out. Also, the images-off version is a lot duller than the images-on, and the alt-tet doesn’t entice me to load images. I’d make a funny caption for the two guys and that would have worked, making me load the image. I’d also shorten up the intro paragraph quite a bit- rambling about a party I didn’t go to is kind of off-putting, and takes up valuable space.

2. The subject line

Business Card holders, new MiniCard feature and more! (from: MOO )

Good: it’s short, Bad: it’s boring as hell! I also would suggest that they use their branding in their subject line to further substantiate it, and help the open rate.


July newsletter – James Patterson’s picks, Listopia, chat with David Maraniss, Christina Schwarz and Rob Walker (From:

Good: it’s obvious, bad, it’s a July Newsletter, but from who? The branding is hidden in the domain, so I’d push the GoodReads word somewhere in the subject line, and it’s way too long. Short it up, take newsletter out, and make it funny.

Also- I’m not a fan of no-replies, as I think it doesn’t really fill the consumer with warm squigglies, and generally you should have a reply loop and feedback loop setup. It’s almost just polite, I mean, I write to you, you can write back to me.

3. The guts

I stopped taking screenshots at #5. I’m serious! Here are the first few, then I’ll spare you.

And another screenshot…

The Good: There’s lots of engaging content and you can really sink your teeth into it. Book covers lightens the text-heavy load, and they’re showcasing their insider author knowledge. Also nice design- by using graphics as breaks in content, it nicely divides up the areas of interest.

The Bad: I know email is cheap, and online publishing means you can write and write, but there is something about abusing the poor reader’s attention span- espcially onine in the frenetic world of web2.0 and inboxes. Yes, they have a readerly audience, but a lot of the good content later on is not being read because it’s too in-depth in each area. I’d suggest linking off to the site for more information, and more use of summaries and teasers. Also, the HTML formatting is too roomy, tighten it up more.


And the second screen of Moo guts…

Yep, just 2 screens. Short & sweet, almost too sweet, as Moo tends to take cutesy too far sometimes. One issue I have with this newsletter is actually with its content- Fray doesn’t seem related to Moo at all. That’s one problem with partnerships, if it’s not a relevant connection, it can really detract. “We like nice people…” ??? Part of the over-cuteness, perhaps.

A huge issue with both of these newsletters is that their businesses revolve around social networking and user-generated content, but I am pushed to find any evidence of user-submitted conent in their newsletters. Except for the poem, in the GoodReads, and otherwise they passed up a lot of opportunities to use user-submitted photos, reviews, and writing. As I’ve seen before, these can be powerful messages to the audience: “Learning From Success.”

4. The Fine Print
Moo has a cute little letter at the bottom:

* Yes, we know. Terrible pun, but sometimes they just slip out

PS. We hope you’ve received this newsletter because you signed up for it on If you didn’t sign up or you need to unsubscribe, you can unsubscribe here. We’re sorry to see you go, though.

Cute, fun, and … not CAN-SPAM compliant, as there’s no physical address. Sad, as they’re doing a lot of great things. I also worry about over-twee writing, and Moo seems to verge on on the cusp of that.

First, a long poem that they reprint (because they are artsy!).

With love,

Jessica, Elizabeth and the Goodreads Team

ps. Goodreads is hiring developers!

To unsubscribe from the Goodreads Newsletter, please click here.

This email was sent by request to

They too suffer from lack of CAN-SPAM compliance, which is a pity. Well, what can you say? As we all know it’s a long road to making getting these emails up to snuff!

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