Aug 3, 2010

Creating great “We Miss You” emails

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve bought anything from Photojojo, because they recently sent me this "we miss you" email from them. It’s plain-text, and I love it. Shows how powerful good writing can be. It starts with:

Hey Ben,

Look, there’s no easy way to say this, but we miss you. We miss your smile, we miss the way you smell, we even miss the dumb jokes you used to tell.

That put a big smile on my face, and made me read on…

We know it’s only been a few months… but to us it feels more like a few years.

We’ve got tons of new photo goodies you’d love. Stuff you always dreamed of. Wanna check it out? (No pressure!) Here’s a $5 GIFT CODE for your next order. (Good today and tomorrow only, NO MINIMUM ORDER!)

Gift code: _______

Hope to see you soon!

Your pals at The Photojojo Store

p.s. The gift code’s only good today and tomorrow, but feel free to pass it on to a friend if you can’t use it!

p.p.s.  If you don’t want to receive emails like this anymore, please visit _____

Just because you can make an HTML email, it doesn’t mean you always should.

Once you’ve mastered the ancient and mysterious art of HTML email, it’s tempting to add images and links and bells and whistles to every email you send. But as photojojo demonstrated, simplicity can be powerful.

Getting the best of both worlds

Still, I often encourage people to consider crafting an email that looks like it’s plain-text, but that uses HTML (with only the most essential formatting). That way, you get the best of both worlds. A plain-text email can often look and feel a lot less "salesy" and more personal than a traditional HTML email with lots of photos. But coding your plain-text email in HTML gives you some basic open tracking and ROI tracking. And if it’s okay for people to share the coupon code with friends, you might even insert a Like button or social share link.

In MailChimp, there’s an an email template option called "Rich-Text" that we built precisely for this occasion.

When you build a campaign, and it’s time to choose a template, select "Start from Scratch"


Then select "Rich Text"


Note: I’m the guy who designed that template, so my apologies in advance. It’s extremely rough. I used "courier" as the default font, to make it really "texty." You can change all the default fonts for titles and default text to something less harsh, like Times, or Arial. Also note that the template does allow you to insert a header graphic. You’re probably thinking that sorta defeats the purpose of "plain text" but I think that if you insert a very tiny, minimal graphic, it can make your email feel a little more "official."

So, if I may be so bold, here’s how I’d re-design the email above in MailChimp:

  • The merge tag with TITLE basically converts FNAME to title case (more on that here). It’s handy in case your customers entered their information into your database in all lowercase, or all uppercase.
  • The logo is small, and aligned right (it’s out of the way, but still there in case people want some reassurance that this is "official photojojo letterhead"
  • I’ve also added the Facebook Like button to the bottom of the email. Photojojo tracks Facebook "Likes" for every single product in their store, and with MailChimp, they could track Likes for their email campaigns.

I did something a little different with the header logo, that not a lot of people know they can do.

Your first inclination might be to click the "use image" button in the header:


Which would open up our easy header-image uploader. It’s great for people who aren’t super-savvy with Photoshop, because it has a picnik integration button:


and it walks you through the steps of adding a link, alt-text, etc.

But I didn’t do that. Instead, I clicked the "use text" button:


Which brings up the normal MailChimp WYSIWYG interface. And instead of just typing the text "photojojo" I can actually upload a graphic:


I know that seems odd. The reason I’d do this is to have a little more control over how the header area is coded. Specifically, I want to give the logo graphic some special "id" code:


so that it shows up as a thumbnail whenever shared in Facebook. Otherwise, Facebook might select another graphic from your email, seemingly at random. Adding "campaign-icon" to tell Facebook exactly what image to use is a trick we detailed here: Coding HTML emails for Facebook

Researching Subject Lines

If this is a template that I plan to re-use often, or maybe plan to set as an autoresponder, I’d also spend some time with MailChimp’s built-in Subject Line Suggester tool:


The subject line of the original email was "A present from Photojojo!" and it worked for me. I definitely opened, though it’s mostly because I’ve come to expect great, relevant content from these guys anyway.

But still, I’d look at alternative keywords to see how they performed for other MailChimp users. We have over 400,000 users on our system, who send more than 20 million emails a day. The Subject Line Suggester is a tremendously helpful data set to learn from. And, of course, before setting this as any kind of permanent template, I’d run my subject lines through our automated A/B testing tool.

Whew. I know that’s a lot of work for such a simple plain-text email. But if you’re designing an email template that drives sales for your company (or your client), I just wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to use some of the "power tools" in MailChimp. Writing great content, however, is a talent you’ll need to master on your own.