To hell with web development or “How I went head-first into emails”

    My name is Arthur Koch and I can’t see my life without online mailing. Many readers of Habr know me from a long series of publications on the topic of HTML HTML emails, but that’s not all I do. I have been working with great interest in email marketing for more than a year, and during this time a lot of interesting observations have accumulated both on the Russian market and beyond, which I would like to talk about. It will be great if all of the below does not cause a holivar typical for this topic on the topic “email newsletters are not needed, burn in hell”. In some places it will be chaotic, subjective, but most likely, interesting.


    At the beginning of the 2000s (and maybe a little later), I, like many computer owners, became interested in web development. This was a typical mix of pop at that time technology stack: html, js, php. These were long years of useless self-education with periodic covens in various forums and talk about normal earnings, of course, was not. One day I was tired of it and I moved from the province to beautiful St. Petersburg, where, thanks to my basic skills, I got a job as an intern in a typical site conveyor. Within a few years I perfectly pumped up the layout skill, I realized that server and client programming is not for me, and the question arose of a more promising place to work. Luckily, I entered Veeam Software, where this side of the Internet, namely the newsletter, was opened to me.

    This was something new and unknown to me. I was given a layout checklist, which the letters should correspond to and introduced to very good people who were currently leading this direction. I quickly tasted all the joy of this work, because it does not compare with the classic layout for sites. Still would! We have such a small number of browsers that the layout for them does not seem so complicated. And the developers were able to more or less agree among themselves, having come to certain standards. In the case of email clients, things are much more interesting to this day. This is a zoo of randomly working parsers and interfaces.

    Time passed, the layouts were surrendered one after another, new interesting bugs were opened, new interesting solutions were found for them. This is damn interesting and fascinating, if only because you just can’t go to the forum and ask how it typeset, because in RuNet at the time of 2010, you really didn’t know how to make up letters. And if they knew how, then they were in no hurry to share this knowledge publicly. Although I won’t be cunning by this moment, there were already a couple of topics on the topic, but basically they covered the gradually obsolete problems of mail webmords. It just so happened that I left the company a few months later.


    I had a few good connections and I again took up the riveting of sites, simultaneously reading a habr. And then I was visited by the thought: why not write your first topic? And I tried. Over the evening, I sketched an article. Then he copied and threw it into the sandbox. A week later, silence. He sat down and rewrote again, sent. A day passed, and the cherished invite was waiting for me in the inbox of my box. Indescribably pleasant feeling. Like any newbie, I believed that "elite" is sitting on the hub. Despite numerous stinging discussions on this subject, I still think that there are a lot of talented and interesting people here. My first topic (link) was warmly received. Lively conversation in the comments, many private messages. Someone thanked, someone clarified the nuances of the layout. Well, of course, not without orders. Since then I’ve been making up letters, to this day discovering new bugs and their solutions. Many complain about the “hell” of the layout of letters, but in my case it only fuels sports interest. In the following years I worked with various domestic and foreign services of completely different profiles on outsourcing. This is where the fun begins.

    About types of letters

    For people who are not very far from the topic, this paragraph will not be very interesting. Previously, the idea of ​​mailing was simple: well, letters and letters, why is it so tricky? But cooperation with various projects drew the following breakdown of letters by category

    Transactional (they are also official) letters:

    Everything is simple here. Confirmations of registrations on the site, placing orders, all kinds of notifications that make it easier for you to work with the site / service or just make you go there.

    Trigger mailings:

    These are letters, the receipt of which you, as a user, provoke yourself. Register on the site? Receive a welcome email from a “caring” robot manager. Have you bought anything in the online store? Get a set of recommendations for a repeat purchase, and stuff like that.

    Regular marketing mailings:

    The purpose of such letters is to make you buy / use the author's product. Sometimes they do it stupidly, sometimes annoyingly, and sometimes, masterly. These letters are more like a storefront of an online store than the rest.

    Image letters:

    My favorite type of newsletter. The task of such letters is to make you feel good about the service / brand / product without unnecessary marketing pieces. You are given interesting content that at least indirectly concerns the author of the newsletter, in return receiving your location. This is very similar to the mailing list of the “old” runet, which died with the advent of the blogosphere. But this is my verdict. In fact, they still exist, of course. Like services like


    I think no questions. They send you shit without asking you to buy it.

    Lead Generation:

    Not the most “clean” way to expand the customer base, however, it works. The bottom line is that they will send you anything, just get your data: name, city, age, phone, occupation, and most importantly - email. The goal is simple: you can be spammed in the future. The most sophisticated lead generators even offer you money for leaving your data. If you are faced with this, then it is worthwhile to understand that you (as a lead) are worth much more. Large companies are willing to pay big money for quality leads.

    About those who send out

    In the west, mailing lists have been working for a long time and only hunchback is not involved in them. The answer to the question “why?” terribly simple. It brings great money, above all, increasing sales. For the same Americans, this is set at such a high level that when they have to work with them, they don’t need any advice. But the resources of layout designers are needed by everyone. The main requirement of Western customers is adequate graceful degradation and support for mobile platforms.

    And now about the Russian companies with which we mainly have to work. I divide them into several types, which I will discuss in more detail below.

    First type. “And so it will do”

    Companies in this category have heard something about mailing lists, but they don’t give a damn about them. Yes, they send confirmation of registration and placing an order, but no more. Even read statistics are not kept for these letters.

    The second type. “Let’s outsource.”

    These are, as a rule, large online stores that shift all work regarding letters to a separate company of the contractor. The range of services of such artists is often not limited to email marketing, so the quality of their final work can be estimated as average. No matter how everyone shouted about an individual approach, in such offices everything is stamped quite stereotyped. But all is not so bad. In Russia, there are several wonderful studios that work only with letters and do their job just fine. Of the coolest, I will cite Outofcloud.

    Of the distributors in this category, I would mention marketers from Euroset. Working with these guys is a pleasure. They make interesting offers, on the basis of which we jointly prepared cool adaptive email templates. I also had great pleasure from working with the Allo online store.

    The third type. Small / medium companies and startups.

    My favorite category. As a rule, young and ambitious perfectionists who seriously approach even the most unimportant details work in such projects. Most often, they already have a cool designer who will lick out mailing list layouts from and to, draw both a desktop and a mobile version, and will try the craziest hipster ideas. Their marketers masturbate on A / B mailing tests and techies make up perfect adaptive layouts. But in the case when their own resources do not allow achieving such results, they smoothly flow into the previous type of message senders.

    The fourth type. Big companies.

    If a large company did not outsource the work with mailing lists, then I often see the following picture: the manager is trying to work out his plan according to a hackneyed scenario, without particularly bothering with the result. Mobile phone support? What for? Does the letter look normal in Outlook? Okay, that’s fine. Designers - as one - are fossils. No, they heard about the modular grid, but preparing graphics for retina displays and removing jpeg artifacts from the layout is for wimps. We follow the brand book, the rest is not important. An idea of ​​the features of email clients and mobile screens is also often absent. Layout - almost always - outsourcing.

    A distinctive feature of such companies is aggressive marketing in the form of “buy-buy!”. Image mailings are carried out, but in most cases it comes down to “Look, we are doing charity work”.

    Of all the rules, there are always exceptions. Let's take Mosigra, notorious on a habr. As far as I know, Milfgard personally handles mailings . And it makes it very cool. We tried to jointly make a “marketing letter” for Mosigra, but in all respects it lost to the “bare text”.

    Avito is an interesting specimen. Nowhere else have I seen such an interest of managers in the quality of their work. These are endless joint tests, close communication with designers, and just incredibly pleasant cooperation. It’s nice to know that there are such people in the company.

    A separate topic is Badoo. I personally did not cooperate with them, but this is not required to assess the quality of their work. They periodically publish interesting materials here on the hub, make presentations at conferences and just do their job very cool ...

    About those who help send out

    Undoubtedly it is worth talking about mailing list services and their options. Further, everything is the same in groups.

    1. Western mailing services

    Cool interfaces, chic support, in some places - biting prices. The main plus is the ability to use the server API for mailings from your service. Cool ready-made letter templates. Locally misplaced. Huge competition, companies are shaking to win customers. As they say - to taste and color, but my choice (in order of coolness): sendgrid, mailchimp, campaignmonitor.

    Campaignmonitor - a separate plus for maintaining a cool blog and user support in the form of a quality forum.

    2. Domestic services
    Interfaces from terrible to mediocre. Support from none to medium. The price range is huge. Very weird pricing policy. The API for your own newsletters may already have appeared, but I'm not in the know. The most worthy in my opinion: Unisender, Pechkin.

    About layout

    Very few people can make up letters in Russia. It costs 90% of inbox to drive through the tests - a lot of bugs on the face. There are practically no adaptive letters in RuNet.

    What I can recommend to those who typeset letters:
    - Read my topics on a hub
    - Read Badoo's corporate blog.
    - Finish campaignmonitor forums .
    - Visit the website .
    - Well, finally, get a tool for testing letters.

    About testing

    Some mailing services provide tools for testing layouts in various email clients, but I prefer The monthly license is $ 79. Within a couple of minutes after starting the test, you get screenshots of almost all email clients and webmords. There are no Russian mailers. We test them with “pens”.

    What is now and plans for the future

    I know about the nuances of typesetting letters, if not all, then more than any other person I know personally. Today, I am no longer just a freelancer. We have a small team of people in love with their cause from all over the world. We come up with scripts, draw, typeset, discover more and more new nuances and techniques, write texts, test and analyze. And we like to do it.

    The plans, finally, to launch your own website and start working not only with regular customers and casual customers, but to put this business on a higher level. And maybe in the mailboxes will be a little less than guan.

    Still have questions? Let's chat in the comments.

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