I’ve written about Unroll.me before many times. It’s probably my favorite item in my inbox every day. And it’s the worst item in my inbox every day as well. (What’s even worse is when their servers go down, but that’s extremely infrequent.)
The reason Unroll.me is my favorite/worst item in my inbox is because it collects all of the crap that I don’t want to read every day. It’s the crap that I’ve signed up for because, at some point, I wanted that spammy newsletter or shopping email.
(P.S. If the NSA or CIA or Kremlin is reading this, put spam like this in front of me, tell me that I have to redesign the emails to good design, and I’ll tell you anything.)
In the midst of all of that, a nice little email caught my eye today, and the sender definitely knows a little something about email.
Yes, MailChimp is a modern marvel with email design, but I had to write about this email. This. This is not something we, even as email designers, see every day. This is pushing the envelope, in a very good way.
One of the things I love about the design, is that it’s not completely black-and-white. The beige/creme header stands out against the black/grey motif of the lower half and gives the reader some breathing room to focus on the header – “A few of our favorites.”
And while I didn’t open the email on mobile until I was writing this blog post, the design is definitely mobile-friendly.
Now, I thought to myself, this is a pretty cool email, right? So, I’m in Litmus Scope — which, by the way, if you’re not using, you need to — and I check the text version of the email.
At first glance, I think, “Oh, they expanded the text snippets of the articles for each of their links.” And then I read closer, and realize something else: This is marketing about MailChimp!
The text-version of the email had nothing to do with the actual email. It was marketing.
Now, I would absolutely love to hear the conversations that not only came up with this idea, but pushed it forward. (Author’s Note: I don’t receive many emails from MailChimp, so this could be something they do on regular basis, but I also know that not everyone reads the text version of emails.)
Now, I’ve loaded this email into Litmus Scope, so you can take a look at it in all it’s glory.
A lot to think about
A main reason why I wanted to share this email and my thoughts on the email was that it really got my wheels turning. It’s so unusual! It’s minimalist, but still full. It’s monochrome, but still colorful in a way. It functions across all platforms. And then there’s the text version!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how difficult email marketing can be, and not just for those who do it every day. No, I’m thinking about those marketers who are diving into email marketing for the first time, need to “get it done,” and move on to the next item. Specifically, I’m thinking this in response to the recent Medium post by the women at Clover, and another response by Dan Oshinsky from BuzzFeed as posted on Campaign Monitor.
I’ve written before about the unending need to make the email creation process better. But, these two posts mentioned above have me thinking this issue goes beyond a simple UX refresh or overhaul.
What is the issue?
From my perspective, there seems to be two camps of people in email marketing.
One camp knows how to code, knows about deliverability, and know about design, among many other skills. This camp lives and breathes email marketing every day.
The other camp uses email marketing as a tool in their marketing toolbox. They don’t only do email marketing, but everything else as well. From websites to emails, to print materials or event planning, these marketers don’t necessarily have the time or skill set to do a deep dive into email marketing for every sent email.
I think a majority of marketers fall into the second camp, but only because I believe having a human resource dedicated solely to email marketing is a luxury that few can enjoy.
Why is it important to recognize the two differing camps?
I think it’s important for us to realize the inherent differences in these two camps because their respective needs can be incredibly disparate from each other.
The “Every Day” camp.
From my perspective, the needs of the Every Day camp are the needs of any professional who becomes an expert in their field. The tools get more specialized, and tasks that would take others many hours to finish requires minimal time of this expert. If I look at tools like Dreamweaver, Litmus Builder, and others, these are the specialized tools used by the Every Day camp. Someone from the Many Hats camp would not be using these tools on a daily or regular basis.
The “Many Hats” camp.
The people in the Many Hats camp have to cover a wide range of skills and required tasks in their day-to-day work. Email marketing can be just one more item on their checklist to get done; sending out the latest donor newsletter or update. Email is not the sole focus of this camp. The Many Hats camp requires tools that allow them to get the job done quickly, painlessly, and with a quick or short learning curve – anyone can pick it up if need be. Tools like Constant Contact is probably the prototype of this type of tool.
Why does this even matter?
I believe this matters because the article written by Clover is an article written by members of the Many Hats club, and the main people responding are members of the Every Day camp. The ladies from Clover want a solution to their issue in the short term, and maybe then, they’ll be able or ready to discuss longer term options like retooling their template. I don’t believe we in the Every Day camp did much to help Clover by posting articles about “What is Email Marketing?”
Articles like those written by Dan Oshinsky are for those in the Every Day camp, and it’s important not only for us to realize that an article like that is written for that purpose, but why we have two different camps in the first place.
These Two Camps are NOT Definitive.
There are of course going to be people from both camps who switch over because of a change in roles at work. That’s to be expected. What we, as email marketers, need to realize is what audience we are writing for when composing our missives. So for every #emailgeek that reads your blog, there might be a marketer who uses Constant Contact once a week. Make sure you know who you’re writing for.
With some research (I’ll link some resources at the bottom of the post) and some testing, I was able to create this landing page template:
Here are the steps I took to create our landing page.
Step 1. Find your prototype page.
Find a page on your website that you would like the landing page to look like. I like to think of this as when you’re buying a house – look for a page that has good bones, one that has the header and/or footer you want, one that has the body that you want, etc. I chose our website’s “Terms and Conditions” page because it had the cleanest body to build from.
Action: Copy the URL of your prototype page.
Step 2. Create your layout.
Since we didn’t have an existing landing page template that I liked. I started with the page that had “good bones” and opened that code within Adobe Dreamweaver. In Dreamweaver, I got rid of the Navigation Bar present throughout our main website. I also cleaned up the body of the page so I could place more than text. Next I created two basic columns, one column for the featured or hero image, and the other column for the title, description, and form.
Now, you may be wondering to yourself, “Why didn’t he use the built-in Pardot form instead of an iframe?” There’s a good answer! And, it took me a bit of trial and error to figure it out.
As you may or may not know, Pardot uses “Layout Templates” for both Forms and Landing Pages. So, if you’re in your “Layout Templates,” you’ll notice templates for your forms and landing pages alike.
The problem in the case of our landing page is that we’re trying to incorporate two different Layout Templates within the same page; the template for the form, and the template for the landing page. Pardot only recognizes the template for the “outer-most” asset, in this case the Landing Page.
The solution to this problem, i.e. using a different Layout Template for each the Landing Page and the Form. To create a template so that anyone can change the form, you need to create an editable section where you can paste the iFrame code. For that, you’ll need code similar to this:
Pretty simple step here. Copy all of the HTML code from Dreamweaver, and paste into the HTML section of the Landing Page Layout Template.
Action: Paste HTML code into Pardot template.
You’ve now created your template! Now, you probably want to create a new landing page from your template.
Step 6. Create a new Landing Page.
Navigate to: Marketing > Landing Pages > New Landing Page. Name your Landing Page, choose a folder, and then choose the relevant Campaign.
On the next step, you can click “No form.”
Step 7. Choose your template.
On the “Content Layout” step, choose the template you just made.
Step 8. Edit your content.
Now you can change and insert the content you want on your final page! Change the image, title, and description to what you want.
We’ll do the form in the next step.
Step 9. Get the iFrame code for your Form.
In a separate tab or window, navigate to: Marketing > Forms > Forms. Click on the form you want.
Now, copy the iFrame code:
Step 10. Paste in your iFrame Form code.
Go back to your tab/window with your landing page. Click on the editable section for your form. At first, you won’t see anything. Click on the “Source” button in the top-right to reveal the HTML code for that particular section.
Paste in your iFrame code here. And now you’ll have a complete landing page!
As I promised at the beginning, this post wouldn’t have been possible without the help and assistance of many people.
The first and most helpful resource overall was “How to Turn any Landing Page into a Pardot Layout Template” from Jenna Molby. Jenna’s post walks you through step-by-step in changing an existing landing page into one that works in Pardot. So, a very similar concept to my situation, but we didn’t have any existing templates.
“Using Content Regions” from the Pardot Knowledge Base. This was helpful to figure out how to make the sections I wanted in my template to be editable. Without this, you’re just left with a page you can’t edit!
Pardot B2B Marketing Automation – Salesforce Success Community. A great, great resource for anyone looking to up their Pardot game. I did a search for some of the issues I was having, like the “form vs. landing page template” problem, and found the solution on here. If you’re not a member of this community, you need to join today!
On one side, besieged customers under an onslaught of emails, social media, text messages, and video ads.
On the other side, marketers and executives in corporate high-towers crafting ever more insidious ways to get our message to infect the populous below.
The Man in the Middle
In this world of Customer versus Marketer, David versus Goliath, I, like many of you, teeter on the razor-thin edge between consumer and company. Like you, I allow myself weak moments of failure where I sign up for the newsletter, I “Like” the company Facebook page, and I text to win a contest at a conference.
And also like you, I myself am a Marketer. I sit in that glass enclave figuring out new ways of getting more information from my customer. I’m figuring out ways to get you to text to win, or “Like,” or give your email up for a newsletter in return.
How do we balance the responsibility of creating value at our companies with the responsibility to create valued customers?
Responsibility to Company.
As Marketers, we have a responsibility to our job and to our company. We are there to build awareness, push product, qualify leads, generate leads. Our tools, our marketing automation, our SMS platforms, our social listening, we use these tools to accomplish our given goals and to create value within our companies and our industries.
Responsibility to Community.
As members in our community (local, region, world), we have the responsibility to create a better world, to leave the world in a better place than when we came into the world. While esoteric for marketing, this idea of betterment is important to keeping customers pleased, instead of nonplussed.
How do we please our customers instead of annoying them?
The impetus for this post came from my daily use of the awesome email spam service Unroll.me. This one service reduced my daily influx of sales newsletters by about 150% (completely made up stat – but it’s been a lot.) Unroll.me got me thinking, “There are so many services like this, why do they exist in the first place?”
They exist because we as Marketers are not doing our jobs. Our real job. Yes, we have goals to increase the bottom line of our respective companies. But we cannot do that if we do not value our Customers.
Unroll.me exists because we, Marketers, are failing. Ad blockers exist because we, Marketers, are failing.
While overly simplistic, I wholly believe this to be true.
How do we stop failing the Customer?
I believe that we stop failing our customer when we start seeing the world through their eyes.
As marketers, we have a responsibility to our companies, but we also need to respect our customers. As marketers, we tend to see the world and our customers through the eyes of “marketing,” instead of through the eyes of the customer.
What value do we bring to our customer with our marketing? That is the question we should be asking ourselves. Not asking how we can fit another feature or tech spec on the website or flyer.
I believe that we should be true. And if we do that, if we be true to ourselves, our company, our customers, then we truly can help make the world a better place through marketing.
Be true. Be true to your company. Be true to your customers. Be true.
Hook the attention of your customer with the email subject line. That’s step number one of email marketing, right? One of best ways to do that is to provide something useful or helpful to your customer, and over my years of email marketing I feel that one of the best ways to do this is through a reminder of a free gift, coupon, or sale of an item that you’ve shown interest in. What you don’t want to do, however, is to use misleading and deceptive email subject lines!
Here’s one example of an email subject line gone bad.
I got an email from Snapfish the other day telling me I had “Free Product Credits” waiting, I was all over it! Open that email! Here’s what the email showed when I opened it:
Here’s the misleading part of the subject line
As intended, this email provided the needed incentive to go and create the new photo book I wanted to create, so I clicked on “Create free photo product” to see what I could create.
When the page loaded in the browser, however, I was sorely disappointed in what I found. Not only did the original email never tell me what the free credits were good for, the credits themselves were pretty lackluster.
Free 1-Month Video Subscription Trial
First hi-res photo FREE
Those were the two free credit offers. And mind you, that “hi-res photo” wasn’t a print or any physical product.
Don’t use deceptive subject lines. Period.
Was this a bait and switch? Not to the point where it harmed the customer or tricked me into buying something that I didn’t want, no. What Snapfish did do, however, was that Snapfish set high expectations for a premium reward. The body of the email shows three products, a calendar, a mug, and several photobooks. It’s easily assumed that the free product credits apply to a similar product. When the wool is removed from our eyes, however, we see that the product credits are for a trial and one free download of a photo we probably uploaded in the first place.
While I continue to order products from Snapfish, it’s examples like this that continue to show we have much to learn when it comes to marketing.