Open Sez Me

I use MailChimp to send out an e-newsletter to a list of friends, colleagues and family, alerting them to upcoming performances and offering links to reviews and places to purchase recordings and scores. (Click here to see the latest edition, and here to add your name to the mailing list.) I am quite happy with the service, but I wonder about an aspect of the process. I may be naive about this, but I am always surprised at how few people are reported by MailChimp’s statistical reports as opening my messages. The average for my list is about 43% – yet, people in music have told me that is fantastically good, and MailChimp itself says that the going rate for its “music and musicians” category is about 19%. Now, that “who opened” stat is not entirely reliable. I once asked a friend if he had opened my newsletter message, and he said he had, even though he was not listed in my MailChimp report for that edition of my newsletter. Apparently it is necessary for the recipient to view the images in the newsletter for it to register as having been opened. Since not everybody’s e-mail is set to show images automatically, there are probably people opening the message who are not showing up in the stats. But still, the rate of 32.1% for the current newsletter seems low. I very rarely delete composer newsletters without at least giving them a glance – but maybe I am exceptional in this regard.

The other aspect of working with MailChimp is something that also applies to WordPress, the service I am using to write this blog. Why should it be, when crafting a post or a newsletter, that hitting return yields a double space instead of a single space? And who would have thought that holding down the shift key while hitting return gives a single space, something I only discovered that by accident? Why, in WordPress, does the number of returns not always yield a reliable number of line spaces? What do the options in the “styles” menu of font options in MailChimp really mean? Yes, I know these things are probably explained somewhere in the ample help pages these services provide, but the question really is, why don’t these editors act more like Word or Google Docs? I know the answer probably has to do with these editors being built on top of HTML, but it does seem odd that these services, which offer so many elegant and helpful features, don’t seem to be able to provide as user-friendly editing tools as possible.

“If all else fails, add a monkey.”

I’ve given the e-mail marketing service provider MailChimp a try, sending out my first message earlier today. After sending conventional e-mail announcements of upcoming performances for some time, I decided to follow the lead of various colleagues and try using MailChimp. So far, I am loving it. It was surprisingly easy to use their drag-and-drop editor to create the message, though I must quickly add that my needs were modest and I didn’t explore the fine details of design that are available to tweak. MailChimp offers plenty of statistical reports, and I admit to a naive pleasure in studying the lists of who opened my message and who clicked on the various links in it.

If you didn’t receive my announcement, no need to feel left out – just send me a note in the comments to this post and I will make sure you are added to my list. For now, you can see my list of upcoming performances by clicking on the appropriate link above.

My post title comes from an interview with Ben Chestnut, a co-founder of MailChimp, who, when asked about the name, said:

We also had this philosophy when it came to our web design projects: “If all else fails, add a monkey. Clients love monkeys.” So we called it ChimpMail. Then we learned the domain was taken. So we called it MailChimp. One day, a customer asked us for our mascot’s name, so we came up with the most ridiculous one we could think of: Frederick von Chimpenheimer IV (aka “Freddie”).