GMail

The Problem with Trying to Do Your Own Email Marketing

Web designers always bemoan online website creators like Wix and Squarespace for making it too easy to build a website and undercutting their own trade (and pricing). We’ve certainly battled with that at Harrelson Co over the years, especially given that our main client base is made of nonprofits, churches, small businesses, and generally those with very limited budgets.

However, I’ve realized over the years that the clients who complain about invoice costs and threaten to “move to Squarespace” are the types of clients I don’t enjoy working with in the first place, so it’s better to say “no” upfront and let them pursue those seemingly cheaper options (which never turn out to be cheaper).

This has become especially true with email marketing. Email is super hot right now in the online marketing world. There’s a reason every politician, church, business, NASCAR sponsor, and fast food company wants you to subscribe to their newsletter… it’s insanely profitable to have a highly engaged core group of people on an email list. Tools such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact and even SendGrid have come along to help ease the friction of setting up, desigining, and sending email newsletters to the point where it’s perceptibly “not that hard” to do it yourself.

But that’s not the whole story. Like having a poorly designed and optimized site using a “free” or “cheap” website builder, using these tools on your own or “in-house” takes not only a number of unplanned for resources, but also a level of expertise that most business owners or nonprofit directors simply aren’t aware of… and it will “cost” you much more in the long term if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Here’s a great post from the ZeroBounce team on some of the nuances of setting up and sending email newsletters… it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking “free tools = easy” … but do your homework.

The very first condition of great marketing is to make sure your message actually reaches your audience. We know that many companies struggle to land their emails in their customers’ inboxes. If you’re one of them, you will find this guide to be a lifesaver. We used our knowledge and experience to create a complete set of guidelines to help you achieve a better email deliverability and maintain a healthier sending reputation.

Source: Email Deliverability – Complete Guide | ZeroBounce

Creepy GMail Ads In Your Inbox

Well, this is really creepy (but an easy fix):

New Gmail Inbox Features Ads That Look Like Emails, Above Promotional Email Subscriptions | MarketingLand: “If you’ve converted to the new Gmail inbox, you may have noticed in-line ads that resemble regular emails at the top of  your Promotions tab. These new native-style ads function as paid-for-placement email messages, and essentially circumvent standard email marketing practices. The ads do have a shaded background and ad symbol to differentiate them from the other promotional emails and newsletters users have to actually opt-in to (theoretically, at least).”

I hadn’t noticed these new ads since I don’t have the “new inbox” enabled, but it’s super creepy. GMail is just a business and I know they have to make money somehow, but there’s better ways to do it than placing CPC ads directly in your users’ inboxes. It’s basically spam.

Good for advertisers though… Wonder what kind of click-through rate they’re getting though (I presume a lot of people overlook the “Ad” sticker on them a few times)?

Strange days indeed.

Great Review of @Posterous

Years of building and maintaining my WordPress blog have resulted in my learning a lot about WordPress and getting a lot of grease under my fingernails. Weeks of using Posterous has resulted in a media-rich blog with several posts per week. Tell me which service is more powerful.

via suntimes.com

I started using Posterous primarily as a photo-blog back in September of ’08.

However, it’s transitioned into my full time personal blog as I’ve changed up the samharrelson.com domain into a static landing (pointer) page.

Posterous solves so many problems for me.

Thanks to Andy Ihnatko for the great review affirming my love and thanks to the Posterous team for a fantastic product that has renewed my love of posting.

FriendFeed Catchup in GMail

I absolutely love FriendFeed's GMail IM integration. It's how I consume most of my FriendFeed content as well as lots from my favorite folks on Twitter that I have piped into FF via the Imaginary Friends (now Rooms) feature.

So, if I miss a few hours and want to catch up on what is going on in the Valley or from the folks I follow (and left GMail open on my Macbook), I can just open up the "Chat with FF" message waiting on me in my GMail FriendFeed label and scan. Plus, I can go back and search topics or people I'm interested in after a few days.

Not completely practical for everyone, but I love the feature (and greatly miss the good old days when Twitter had the same IM integration with Track).

AOL Mail Team Blows It Bigtime

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AOL is, on the whole, doing things right by its users and the web in general these days.

However, the mail team blew it with this bone-headed post complaining about GMail and written on the level of a jealous 14 year old girl that didn’t make the cheerleading squad but wore the same outfit as the prom queen last Tuesday at the basketball game.

Come on, AOL. You’re better than this. Don’t you have a pretty strict PR dept??

Make sure to read the comment thread for readers’ reactions.

AOL Mail Blog: “An Open Letter to Gmail: Happy Halloween! We love your costume!”

Google Gears and Delicious Now Support Firefox 3

Thanks to Content Robot‘s @danarockel for the tip that Google Gears now works with Firefox 3.

If you’re a big user of Google Docs, Google Reader, Zoho or RememberTheMilk, the Gears integration allows you to work in these apps while offline. Hopefully, we’ll see GMail and Google Calendar integrated with Gears very soon. When that happens, I’m basically 100% in the cloud since I still rely on a few desktop apps for getting work done while on a plane.

If you’re using Firefox 3 (and you should be since it’s much speedier and less of a resource hog), head over to the Google Gears page to grab the update.

If you use Delicious for bookmarks, they’ve also updated their browser plugin to work with Firefox 3. I just installed the new plugin and it’s got a pretty nifty new network feature so that you can see activity from your Delicious contacts and network.

So, if you’re using Delicious, feel free to add me to your network so that we can share bookmarks.

Cloud Computing IS the Future (Not the Web OS)

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I talk a good deal about cloud computing. If you listen to the GeekCast podcast, you might here me arguing with Shawn Collins over our cloud-based future and how it will be a reality as soon as variables, such as ubiquitous highspeed internet connections are available and accessible here in the US as well as the continued maturation of “cloud” based web apps such as GMail or Google Docs, are made more reliable.

I also talked with Andrew Wee about the cloud computing issue on his latest Friday Podcast and how I thought cloud computing was not only the future here in the West but also presented an amazing opportunity for more “developing” societies to leverage and improve increasingly complex web apps using cheaper and thinner computer machinery.

In other words, I’m a major proponent of cloud computing and see our futures there. However, I have to disagree strongly with this new post from Mashable…

The Web OS. It’s Coming, Just Not Too Soon.: “I’ll offer up my own prediction here that cloud-based operating systems will advance and grow to become popular, mainstream options for computer users in less than a decade’s time. Yes, 10 years from now, I imagine a portion of both the corporate and consumer populace will be logging on straight to the World Wide Web, without need for Windows Vista or Windows 7 or whathaveyou. If wireless broadband is to become a far-reaching utility and relatively inexpensive commodity – which I think it very well might, if telecoms really know what’s good for them – then there really will be no need for much of the public to continue to straddle the offline-online divide. The paradigm will shift. It is already doing so to large degree.”

My basic argument with this premise that we’ll be operating on a “Web OS” is that there’s no need for such a platform or system. In a decade’s time, the web will be omnipresent on our mobile devices, our HDTV’s, our AppleTV’s/DVR’s/TiVO’s/PS5’s as well as our more traditional web terminals that we have traditionally associated with desktops. However, we won’t need a web OS.

Web apps that work on our mobile devices, entertainment devices and more traditional computing machines will be OS agnostic and the browser will slowly but surely be the main “program” needed on a “computer.” Welcome to the fracturing.

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