I'd like to start a semi-regular series, "eNewsletter Winners and Losers." Email is the original Web 1.0 killer app having been around almost a decade (that's from the advent of HTML emails, not just plain text). Some companies really focus on communicating to their consumers. Yet other people and companies still make horrendous mistakes when it comes to communicating online. And like I tend to say, online marketing is easy - especially considering how badly some folks screw it up. The first winner: Moosejaw
Moosejaw sells camping gear and clothes. I loathe camping, so why do I subscribe? Let me count the ways:
- Consistency - I can count on the email arriving every single day. That implies some damn good efficiency.
- Personality - The author "Trapper" has a distinct voice and allows us into his world.
- Simplicity - Total time reading takes out of my day: less than a minute.
- Humor - Have you read many eNewsletters that have made you laugh out loud? Really? Name one.
- Reason to return - One trivia question each day with the answer given the following day. Nerd heroin.
- Branding - eNewsletters flow right into the website.
- Smart design - Header image is narrow enough where you can still see text above the fold with your images turned off. Short, simple, to the point.
- Inclusion - Recipients feel like they're on the inside track of the company through special offers, sales, advanced notice, etc.
- Knows their audience - Hot guys and girls show off their goods and they have MySpace and Facebook sites.
I'm hesitant to give any advice since Moosejaw sets a gold standard of sorts. The hard-line marketer in me wants them to discuss their products more (hell, you don't need to be a marketer to come up with that). But, then I wonder if that would mess up their vibe. They also lack a cohesive story, though that's not always a requirement (and Trapper's day-to-day trials with "the Girl" may fill this need). Also, their eNewsletter sign up is as good as invisible in the upper-right of their homepage. But seriously, sign up.
The first loser: CoolHunting
Wow, where to begin? Actually, it's not that difficult since there isn't a lot in here. I know the picture to the side is small, but you'll get the gist. At first, I thought CoolHunting was some sort of shopping site, but I can't figure out why products are listed - they're neither ground-breaking nor on sale (though that may say more about how I shop online). But there's also a bunch of other crap on there as well. I can't figure out the pattern of why they post what they do.
Update: After grabbing my magnifying glass and scrolling to the bottom of the page, I was able to find an "About Us" link. They only feature "stuff they like" (hey, that's their prerogative) and feature products at the intersection of art, design, culture and technology. Wow. Well, let's talk a little about your design and technology.
- In their November 4 eNewsletter, I counted 26 links along the left-hand side. No explanation is given as to what these things actually are, neither in the name of the link or otherwise. They're sorted by day which I don't care about in the least (I'm shopping - what do I care about the day you put it on your site?).
- You may be looking at the screenshot I posted to the right and thinking "why is there all that white space on the right side of the image?" You'd be smart to ask. If images are disabled, a full two-thirds of their eNewsletter is blank. Specializing in design and technology, eh?
- There are three links across the top: Contact Us, Unsubscribe, and Advertisement - Click here! The contact bit is good, but do you really want to advertise the unsubscribe bit at the very top-center? Why use up your prime real estate for rejection? And "Advertisement - Click here!" is priceless. Your marketers should know that putting "click here" anywhere in an email is an invitation to be listed as spam. Maybe your alt-tag should be something like the advertiser's name so, you know, I kinda feel like checking it out. Just a thought.
I'm trying to imagine the meeting at CoolHunting where they discussed what their priorities were for the eNewsletter. Or maybe they just threw the task to the intern because who really cares about emails? I can't even fathom the reasons behind the decisions they made, much less the lack of actual testing. I hate to be 100% negative, so I will say that their website is nice-looking, at least. Pretty slick, offers video, and engages visitors with "reader finds."
Round-up: Moosejaw knocks it out of the park. I'm not saying I'm the best in the biz, but I can write a mean eNewsletter. But I read Moosejaw in awe. CoolHunting, on the other hand, isn't using the basic best practices or testing from the looks of it. What a wasted opportunity.