Email Step 4: Compose

Create the Email

Choose a Layout to Start With -- You first need to choose which layout the email will use; just click the image to select it. Once chosen you will be unable to switch between the different layouts so make sure you choose the one you want to use.

Once you've made your choice, click the "Next: Composer" button the the lower right-hand corner.  You'll be taken to the Compose Your Email page.

If you're comfortable editing HTML, you can choose the "Custom HTML" layout. Please use this functionality at your own risk.

Compose Your Email

The Compose page is where the bulk of your work is done to create your email. This is where you enter your content, select & edit images, add links, and adjust many other custom elements.

As you can see in the image above, all the basics of an email are present towards the top of this page: The From Name, From Email, Reply to Email, and the Subject Line.  Your default system settings should populate these fields for you.  You can manage your default outgoing email settings by clicking the tools icon in the upper right-hand corner of your account, then selecting Email Defaults from the "Switch To..." menu, and filling out the appropriate fields.

NOTE: The button at the end of the Subject Line that looks like a silhouette is called the "Insert a Personalized Field" button.  This will be discussed in detail in the Visual Editor section below.

A/B Split Testing

The tab with the "+" sign towards the top left of the "Compose your Email" page allows you to create multiple iterations of your message for the purposes of deciding which version is more successful. 

The basic steps to creating your test emails are as follows:

  1. Fill in your Subject Line.
  2. Create your email blast.
  3. Select the "+" sign to generate up to five different copies of your email.
  4. Make slight alterations to your various copies, which will be addressed in greater detail further down.
  5. Move on to the final steps, select your percentages that you'll send to, and send your blasts.

To make an effective test, you may wish to follow a few of these guidelines:

  1. Isolate one variable per test -- Subject, salutation, From name... keep the change confined to a simple, easily identifiable factor.
  2. Consider statistical significance -- If you send your test to 100% of your list, you'll really only learn what works for some future email blast, and not really be able to do anything with the information for the current blast.  Picking a smaller percentage of your list to send to means a bigger portion will get the optimized email.  The trick here is to get enough responses to each version that you can gather useful enough information to determine which email "won".  Obviously, if your entire list is very small, your sample size my be statistically insignificant.  If you have a fairly large list of people -- in the thousands or even tens of thousands -- you can begin to get good data out of smaller subsets of your list.  Salsa recommends sending the test to 25-30% of your total list.
  3. Re-test the things you know work -- It's an ever-changing world out there, and what works for this year's gala can fall flat the next.  If you're invested in testing for the purposes of optimizing your emailing effectiveness, then don't forget to revisit old tests you've run!

More will be covered about the steps that follow split test email composition here.  Next, we'll cover the Visual Editor, which is the primary tool used to build the body of your email blast.

 

The Visual Editor

Scrolling down the page, you’ll reach a visual editor.  Constructing the body of your message is very similar to how you create forms in Activities, as the Visual Editor contains many similar tools across Salsa.  You can learn about commonly used parts of The Visual Editor here. 

 

Choosing the Right Fonts for Your Email

We know that typography is a key part of every email, and we want yours to look great! Unfortunately, because most email browsers are unable to render fancy fonts like "Lobster" or "Roboto," it's best to keep to the safe and compatible ones.

In Engage, we've provided the safest options around.

If you're looking for safe Sans-Serif fonts (which are fonts that don't have small projecting features called "serifs"), we offer the following:

  • Arial
  • Comic Sans MS
  • Lucinda Sans
  • Tahoma
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana

We also include Serif fonts:

  • Georgia
  • Times New Roman

Or, if you're feeling a bit "old school" and want a Monospaced, typewriter look, you can use:

  • Courier New

We wish we could offer you the latest and greatest fonts, but at this time it's best to keep things consistent and cross-browser compatible. That way, you can predict the look, feel, and emotion attached to your messaging.

 

Views

There are three different views that will help you construct your email:

  1. EDIT -- By default, you will start off by seeing the "Edit" view of your email.  Most of your work will be done from here, as this is where most of your elements are added, edited, or removed.
  2. OUTLINE -- You also have the "Outline" tab, which will allow make broader adjustments to the layout of your email, by clicking and dragging content:
  3. PREVIEW -- This tab allows you to not only see a "WYSIWYG" view of your email in any given desktop browser, but to also see how it looks on popular mobile devices, as well.  

NOTE: Keep in mind that this will give you a rough idea of the email's overall look in most common email clients.  Services such as Litmus or Email on Acid may still be valuable to you, as you can see what the email will look like in various clients.  Sending test emails will be covered further down the page.

Editor Controls

On the right-hand side of the same menu bar where you've seen the View Buttons (Outline, Edit, and Preview), you'll see some means by which you can add elements such as Headers and Footers, Image and Text fields, and even alter design basics, such as a custom background for your page.  Those buttons look like this:

Let's preview some of the specifics of each of these buttons:

1. STRUCTURE -- This button brings up a menu of drag-and-drop elements that include the obviously labeled Header and Footer, but also multi-column cells and sidebars.  Choices made here may overlap with choices from the Elements tab, too. For example:

2. ELEMENTS -- Here are the design choices that you'll use to fill in the cells you created in your Structure tab.  As before, click and drag any element you'd like to use to your page:

3. DESIGN -- Selecting this button brings up a separate window of options called "Update Design Basics".  This window allows you to make changes to this specific email that may deviate from the default choices you've made to your account:

Select the Save Setting button whenever you're done.

The Finer Points

For each type of design element you place into your page, there's a separate set of finer controls which allow you to further edit and design your form or email. 

1. ROW MOVEMENT OPTIONS -- In the upper-left of each window choice is a small, orange rectangle with white dots.  Clicking this rectangle brings up a menu that allows you to move the cell either by one position, or the entire length of the page:

 

2. EDIT PENCIL -- Since most of the options revealed by clicking this icon are covered in our document, The Visual Editor, we'll only cover the tools and elements specific to email.  For all other edit options provided by other elements, go to the Visual Editor page.

A.  The Text Box --  When you click the Edit Pencil icon in the Form field, you'll see the "Edit Text" window:

Although you'll find the Text Box used extensively elsewhere, one key option that is available to your email composition that isn't seen anywhere else is the "Insert a Personalized Field" button.  This is the same button available to you at the end of your Subject Line field above.  This button brings up a window that allows you to personalize your message with a merge field (or fields) of your choosing.

Say, for instance, you wanted to send someone a birthday message and really make it stand out in ALL CAPS.  Well, here's your chance!  Scroll down to find Date of Birth, or use the Search field to quickly locate it among the other choices.  Select your ALL CAPS radio button, and then decide if you want any messaging to be placed in lieu of missing data on the supporter's record.

Once you're done, click the "Save Content" button.

B.  Org. Info. --  If you want to add one or two places where you can insert your organization's contact data.  You'll notice these are all merge fields.  Remove any you don't want, or click and drag to reorder them to your liking.

There's no need to overwrite your contact information; these merge fields will pull your info. automatically as it's sending the blast. 

If you find you need to update your organization's contact info., you can do so by going to your Settings, which is the tools icon in the upper right-hand corner. 

The first tab you'll see upon arriving on the Settings page is the "Set Org Details" tab.  Here's where you can edit your address, phone, and email.  You can click the "Save It!" button in the lower right-hand corner when you've made your edits.

 

Spam Checker: What's Your Score? 

At the bottom of the page, you'll see a button called "Request Your Score" which is situated under a field that will at first read "Not yet scored".

Clicking the "Request Your Score" button will result in an evaluation of your email's content: it's links, images, and verbiage.  Certain phrases, keywords, link types, and other components of your message may trigger spam traps on the receiving end, so we try and provide you with a little data to help clean that up if needed.  Salsa uses SpamAssassin for it's spam scoring.  We've tried to make the spam messages more friendly to actual humans, as the actual codes that SpamAssassin produces are decidedly cryptic.  If you do have email content that's considered spam-ish, Salsa will try to give you some guidance on what needs to be changed.  You'll see a message similar to this rather extreme example:

Of course, you'll more often than not pass with a simple Good score, which means you're safe to proceed. 

NOTE:  A general rule of thumb is to note that a cumulative score of 5.0 or higher means you'll more than likely hit spam traps.  A lower score doesn't mean you won't hit certain email clients' spam triggers, but the odds are less that they'll be routed into junk folders.  No score means you're sitting at a relatively comfortable 0.0.

Once you're done making your choices, you can either hit the "Save" button in the lower right-hand corner of the window, or click "Back: Choose This Email's Audience", or move forward in the process by clicking "Next: Final Steps".

Of course, you can also choose to delete the email entirely by selecting Delete from the cogwheel icon in the lower left-hand corner of the window.

Step 5: Send the email

 

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