Brett Welch | BC

Email Marketing - HTML or Text?

We often get asked about whether customers should send their email campaigns out in HTML or text.
This is a tricky question! But the first thing I always respond with is this question:

"What's the purpose of the campaign? Is it a general newsletter or marketing piece, or is it an important announcement?"

Think about this for a second.

Here's some basic facts.
Text email campaigns can't be tracked. We can't tell you who saw what or who clicked where - only HTML emails allow you to collect extensive analytics on your campaigns.

HTML emails have considerably higher impact. That means customers are more likely to react to HTML emails - they have engaging visuals are are often more eye-grabbing.

Text email campaigns have a higher chance of arriving at your customers inbox. HTML email campaigns are more likely to be flagged as spam, put in the junk mail folder and in some cases not delivered at all.

Now of course you should take care to write your emails well. Get your friends and colleagues to proof-read your copy and avoid that "spammy" feeling as much as possible. Don't SHOUT BY WRITING ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Don't use the word free too much, don't mention any type of medicines that your grandfather might use, and so on. You've read some of those spam emails before - don't make it sound like one of those.

But coming back to my question in the first place, what are you trying to achieve? 

If it's an important announcement, consider using text - it's more likely to arrive, and that's what is most important. You aren't trying to drive a sale or a initiate action.

If it's sales or marketing, it's important to capture attention and drive action. So use HTML for best results.

In the end, the decision is entirely up to you. Run some reports - check your open rates, your bounced emails and have a look at how your hyperlinks performed. Overall, look at the data and consider your priorities to make sure you can make the right decision about your email campaigns.

After all, analysing your reports and testing your results is the key to successful email marketing!

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Brett Welch | BC

A Shiny New Toy!

Recently we launched a beta version of our new reporting framework, and so far customers are loving it! It's new, shiny and greatly improved over the previous version in terms of speed and accuracy. Under the bonnet it's an entirely new beast too. We've improved the way the reporting works for you!
  • Greater Accuracy. Visitors are counted more accurately and don't include automated visitors (such as search engine spiders)
  • Longer timeframes on reporting. the new system equips you with the ability to view stats over significatnly longer time-periods than before
  • Faster reports. You might not notice, but the development team cheers when they manage to shave a few seconds of the running time of a report!
  • Greater usability. The graphs here now use Flash, which makes the graphs more interactive and flexible.
  • More Information. We've got more reports than ever to give you better oversight of your online business.
Here's a screenshot of the new reporting from one of our sites (who shall remain anonymous!) 

BC web analytics

As the feature is still in beta, please try it out and let us know what you think, or leave a comment on this post!
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Brett Welch | BC

Welcoming A New Friend

Call me crazy, but sometimes I really feel as if we (you, me, our customers and partners) are like one big family. Barry and I are there to help you through your most frustrasting moments, and we also enjoy sharing your triumphs. And while many people deride support jobs, and try to figure out a way to outsource support to another country, I think it's an important and often gratifying position to be in.

Now, recently we hired a new guy. He's already begun some pretty awesome work here and it's time for him to start helping out with support.

But I thought  I should introduce him to the family first!

So starting from tomorrow or so, you might start getting support responses from our newest team member, Shane. We'll be working with him to train him up over the next few weeks, but in the meantime just imagine he's wearing one of those "Trainee" badges :)

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Brett Welch | BC

Lost Password? Oh no!

I think we all hate losing things. Especially important things like wallets, mobile phones and passports - all of which have recently been lost by my circle of friends or myself! These items are important, yet people still manage to lose them. So it's no coincidence that you customers might forget or lose their passwords as well - and then be unable to log in to your secure zone.

So you need to help them get your password back.

Luckily, BC has a lost password module for secure zones.

All you need to do is go to the Module Manager and then scroll down to "Secure Zones". You'll see "Lost Password" there. Insert that on your page and there you go! Your customers can retrieve their password if they lose it - they fill in their email address and the details will be emailed to them.

You can do the same using our Dreamweaver Extension, Triangle, via the "Modules" tab.

Now, where'd I leave my keys....

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Brett Welch | BC

Generating More Traffic With Affiliate Programs

Affiliate programs are a great way to help generate traffic to your online business. Here's how they work:

  1. You give your affiliates a special link that they then place on their website or their email campaigns
  2. Your affiliate's customers click on that link and come to your site
  3. That customer's actions are recorded taking note of the affiliate that referred them
  4. You can then reward your affiliate based on the actions that customer takes

Affiliate programs are a great win/win way to grow your traffic - and with BC, working with Affiliates is easy!

If you haven't already, create an Affiliate program in your system. You can do this by going to Content->Tools->Affiliate Programs. Click Add New and then give your program a name, and specify a landing page. The landing page is the page that customers land on when they follow a link on an affiliate's site or email.

Now you need to add your clients to your affiliate program. If they are not in your customer database already you should add them first via Customers->New Contact.

If they are in your database already, simply go to Customers->Search and then search for their customer record using their email address or name. When you find the right client, click on the record. Now click the Subscriptions tab. Under Affiliate Program Subscriptions click Edit.

Tick the check box next to the affiliate program you want them to be a part of, and click Save and Finish.

Next to the Program you just subscribed them to, click View Info.

A pre-made email will pop up for you to send to your newly minted affiliate, as well as some information on how to take the next steps.

And you've begun Affiliate Marketing - Huzzah!

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Brett Welch | BC

Creating A Searchable Article Database

It's quite common for businesses to want to publish a set of articles on their website. These articles are a great way to build credibility online, while adding high value content to your site for Google bait.
So why not build a searchable article database? It's easy to do using Web Apps. In fact it's probably THE most simple Web App around :)

So here's how:
1. Go to Content->Web Apps-> Create your own Web App.
2. Give your Web App a name like "Marketing Articles" or "Fishing Articles" depending on what your articles are about.
3. Click Save. And then - "Move on, nothing to see here..."

Yep, Believe it or not, that's it. Skip the "Fields" tab entirely, you don't need anything else but what's in a default Web App.

Now you've got your article database. Go to Content->Web Apps->Fishing Articles. Or whatever you called the Web App.
1. Click Add New, give your article a name, and select a template.
2. Click Save.
3. Go to the "Editor" tab, and enter in your article's content in the editor.
4. Click Save.

Now you've added an article. Sweet.

But wait.. there's more. I did promise to make these articles searchable.

Firstly, adding these to a page (as a list) is done via the Module Manager. Simply click on Content->Web Pages. Select your page and load up the editor, then click on the Module Manager. Under "Web Apps" you can see  "Web Apps" -  this will allow you to add a list of articles. But there's also "Web Apps Search Box". Select that, choose your articles app and insert it into the page. Once in the page you can customize the search form's look and feel.

And we're done -  a searchable database of valuable articles for your business, in less than an hour. Next time you see a coder, challenge them to create the same web app for you in the same amount of time :)

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Brett Welch | BC

How to Get Help with BC

We're always thinking of how to help our customers get the most out of BC. And we're always open to suggestions - if after reading this post you've got some ideas or comments on how we can help you better, tell us!

So here's a breakdown of all the resources around to help you use Business Catalyst.

  1. The Training Manual. Complete, comprehensive and ready for consumption chapter-by-chapter. Find it in the admin interface, top right corner: Have Questions? Get Answers!
  2. Training Videos. Watch and learn! Find them in the same place: admin interface, top right corner: Have Questions? Get Answers! You can also find them under the Support tab of this website.
  3. Knowledge Articles. Articles about DNS, FTP and more. Find them under the Support tab of this web  site.
  4. FAQs. Frequently asked questions! Search through them under the Support tab of this web site.
  5. Forums, where you can ask questions and get answers from us and our community. Find them in the administration interface, top right corner: Have Questions? Get Answers! You can also find them under the Support tab of this website.

And best of all
Freeeeeee online training sessions every Tuesday (AM) and Thursday (PM), with one of our trainers (they know stuff, and they're nice *wink* ). These Q&A sessions allow customers and partners to dial in and ask questions, while seeing the answer performed on the screen using screen-sharing meeting technology. It's a great way to learn, and you can attend as many times as you like. Bookings are essential: Book yourself in online, now.

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Brett Welch | BC

Slam The Web Form Spam

Don't you love how web forms on your site integrate directly into your customer database? And that you can get SMSes and Email notifications when customers enquire? It's so important to have your finger on the pulse of your online business, and BC makes that easy to do!

BUT nothing is more frustrating than Spam Web Form Enquiries. Blagh, yuck, ick.

So since in my last post I was talking about email spam and our anti-spam measures, so I thought it was appropriate to talk about another type of spam - Form Spam. You get Form Spam when computer programs known as bots or spiders come to your site and start looking for forms to fill in. They then automatically fill in those forms and submit them!

This then populates your customer database with bogus spammy entries that are of no value to your business.

Thankfully you can easily avoid this happening, using a Captcha. Captchas are simply an image that contain some letters and numbers and asks the person submitting the web form to identify the letters and numbers. This task is easy for a human, and really really hard for a computer program. Here's what a BC Captcha might look like:

Below this image would be a text box for the user to type in the letters and number they see.

To use a Captcha on your BC forms, go to Content->Web Forms and click on the web form you want to protect from spam. Click on the Forms tab and check the Image Verification check box. Click Save and then re-insert the web form onto your page via the usual methods (your choice of 1-Click Insert, Triangle or the Module Manager).

Now your form is spam-proof!

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Brett Welch | BC

A Note on Lists, Subscribers and Unsubscriptions

Spam is nasty! That's why BC takes our Anti-Spam measures very, very seriously. I wanted to provide a little understanding about how unsubscriptions work in the system to give you and your customers some peace of mind.

A customer in the system can belong to many lists, but the record is never duplicated. So a Subscriber is always the same customer in the system, even if they are subscribed to many lists.

Now, customers do not unsubscribe from lists but your campaigns. Your list is simply a set of your customers that you use to send an email newsletter to. However if a customer does not like your email newsletter and opts to unsubscribe then the system will record that they unsubscribed from a specific campaign and will mark them disabled from all future campaigns.

So, the customer will remain in this list(since the list is nothing more than a set of your customers that you have grouped together). But, for this customer to receive future emails newsletters from you, you will need to request permission from them to do so. You can do this in the subscriptions tab when viewing the customer record.

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Brett Welch | BC

Improving Customer Experience with Notes and Tasks

Did you know that you can record notes and tasks against customer records, orders and cases? It's a neat feature can often come in handy.

In dealings with customers, at times you may want to leave notes or create tasks for yourself. To do this, simply click on the Tasks button. The tasks button is viewable on any tab when viewing a customer record, and you  add a Note or a Task/Call/Meeting by simply clicking on it (Calls and Meetings are simply specialized Tasks).

You can also add reminders for Tasks, Calls and Meetings. Simply check the "Add Reminder?" checkbox and select the date and time to be reminded- An email will be sent to you at the time specified to remind you!

Finally, for a birds eye view of all of your tasks, you can view all tasks and retrieve tasks for a time period under Home->Tasks.

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