The Dreaded E-Mail Blast!

(This is the only post to rescued from the never-really-launched LiveJournal FRS blog. But wanted to give you people some content. )

This comes up from time to time with both clients, and friends who are trying to do an “email Blast”… i.e. send an email message to a list of folks. And this is more than a simple matter of clicking “Send All:” – which is fraught with it’s own peril. But when you try to create a lovely composed message, with graphics, fonts and formatting, it becomes another matter entirely…

For instance, I got this note with a invitation to a Gallery Show from a client:

“I wanted to send you (and several others) an invitation to the Exhibit that’s opening at the Westwood Gallery (and will be up for a month in case you can’t make the opening. )

The mystery is, that for some of the people I’ve sent it to (both on Mac and Windows Platforms) it opens right in the body of the email, for others, it comes as an attachment that they have to click on to open it. The only think I can guess is that it has to do with the email program – it seems to open in the body in hotmail and yahoo, but not Outlook Express…and who knows how many other email programs.

Is there a way around this that you know of – so that it opens in the email without having to then click on an attachment?”

This absolutely has to do with all the various email methods, clients, applications and platforms out there behaving differently. And in addition, how individual users have set up their email clients.

What she wanted to do is called HTML email, or… wait for it, Multipart/Alternative MIME format, and its a frakkin’ tech BEAR.

MailChimp – One of the Email Marketing Services I am exploring offers this explanation – their sage advice for do-it-yourselfers… [mild tech alert] :

“So how do you properly send an HTML email along with a plain-text alternative version? Simple. You send it in “Multipart/Alternative MIME” format. If you’re a programmer, this is where the gears in your brain start spinning. So go ahead and bookmark this web page, so you can come back to it later. Now, go on and Google “multipart alternative” and figure out how to send them from your own server. You may find some PHP or Coldfusion or ASP scripts out there. You may even find a way to rig Outlook or Thunderbird to send multipart messages. Go ahead and get it out of your system now. Then, when your ISP shuts you down for sending too many emails from your account and hogging up all their bandwidth, or when you realize that properly cleaning bounces and unsubscribes and tracking opens and clicks is a lot of work, or when you get blacklisted because your server wasn’t reputably configured, come back to this page.” More Cool stuff here:

But in a word, YIKES. And I do some of this stuff for a living.

So if you are considering doing something like this on a moderately regular basis, you should very seriously want to consider using an Email Marketing Service to send to your list. What a service does is send out the messages in well composed and platform-agnostic HTML email format which is FAR superior to Rich Text you can compose in Outlook or using the Word Send to email feature.

I have been experimenting with MailChimp, and they seem to have their stuff rather together. Check out the demo web vids.

Another Major Player is Constant Contact If you’ve go an email account, you’ve probably seen their logo tagging some piece of small business, retail, or institutonal promo or another.

Email Marketing – a job for the pros. And frankly Scarlet, I’d rather design. My side of things would be be to design the HTML and graphics and prep them for the mails, then let the wireheads deal with the backend IT part.

Till next time! Banzai!

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