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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Jun 8, 2015

Enews Options (for a small budget)...

Not Just Nonprofits

I'm in the midst of researching an upcoming presentation and thought it best to share what I've learned.

In the half(+) decade since I began working with the various email marketing service providers and cloud hosted tools, little has changed in the realm of e-news. However, access to tools and resources is better. In 2009, we used MagnetMail, in 2011 we used Constant Contact, and today I swear by MailChimp.

I'm all for a free alternative, versus reinventing the wheel.

This week I'll meet with an on-campus client who is hell-bent on making an HTML e-newsletter that is distributed monthly. Their original design tool was MS Publishser. The finished HTML content was embedded into the body of an Outlook message. This, however presented a new problem with each email blast;  usually the content was transformed into a single image that went to the first URL on the page, without exception. 

This client has become convinced that they need to learnAdobe InDesign in order to create less worrisome e-newsletters and they want me to conduct these in-depth trainings in under 8 hours. Maybe there was an article on Wikipedia that explained how this is possible. 

In researching the conversion using InDesign (ID), I learned a few interesting facts:
  1. InDesign does not do this easily.
  2. The individual using ID should have some prior (and advanced) knowledge of HTML/CSS in order to make it work. 
  3. The thing about ID that makes it the ideal tool for graphic designers, total control over placement of content, makes it a terrible resource for the novice. Success relies on the skill and knowledge of the user. So, someone with no coding ability will not learn how to effectively create an enewsletter in ID...not in 8 hours anyway.
  4. Lastly, even after all of the boxes are ticked, and the syntax is correct, the user must then alter the CSS further to create a workable finished product.
This is my challenge. I love teaching ID and HTML. It takes my undergrad students half a semester to get a handle on either. Today and tomorrow I'm streamlining my course presentations and turning some of my hands on activities into 'homework'. 

Enter MailChimp

I've worked with this free tool off and on for 5+ years. Users don't need to worry about HTML/CSS or responsive design if they don't want to. WHEW!

However, the free option means limitations. Campaigns can only go to a mailing list of 2K, and the users of this service can only send 12,000 emails per year. That's a tough sell for my clients who are convinced that they will go over  the freebie amounts. In addition to the crash course I'm planning there will also be  20 minutes dedicated to an in-depth MailChimp hard sell!

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