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We receive a number of e-mails everyday requesting further information on our prices and service.

I used to answer with a "plain text" message and some PDF attachments with a graphical showcase of our products and prices.

After that, I built a MailChimp HTML e-mail with all the information and several photos and other images embedded in the main message, sent myself the test-email and used that as a sort of template that I would re-send using Mac Mail and changing some key parts such as "Dear John", service date, etc. However, I realized that many of my recipients were not receiving the message in the way it was intended. In particular, Hotmail users were getting a completely messed up e-mail.

So I went back to a simple text message with the attachments and out signature, but I'd really like to reply to inquiring customers with something more elaborate and graphical, in a newsletter style.

Is there any tool or site where I can design an inquiry response e-mail template that I can customize with the customer's name and other data, and send directly from the site, and that will work across all e-mail platforms? (Think MailChimp/ConstantContact, but not for newsletters; instead for individual customized e-mails that share a graphical theme/template).

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This should be migrated to here: stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/html-email –  John Oct 8 '13 at 14:13

2 Answers 2

Unfortunately, email templates are terribly buggy, because they are based on a 'special' kind of HTML (Outlook considered their clients liked copy-pasting documents from Microsoft Word too much, and made email looks good only when that's the case).

MailChimp templates are supposed to render nicely on most email services, but... well, sometimes they don't.

I'd recommend you write the HTML for your email. My advice:

  • Keep it very simple
  • Take your coding skills back a good decade. Would it work in 1993? If the answer is yes, you are in the right track.
  • From the previous point, this usually means using tables and inline CSS. There are other things you have to keep in mind (especially backgrounds and images), but if you use nested tables everything will behave in a better way.
  • Test, test, test.

This guide is quite useful: Rock Solid HTML Emails.

For the type of email you are describing, I'd use something like:

|-----------------------------------|
|     HEADER (td) with image        |
|-----------------------------------|
|                                   |
|               Text                |
|                                   |
|-----------------------------------|
|        FOOTER (bkgr color)        |
|-----------------------------------|

For the testing part, apart from sending emails to accounts you have access to yourself, you could use an online service. Most of them charge or offer you to send you renderings to your email account, but you can also try them for free (for example, this one).

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ESP's like Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp and Constant Contact all have the ability to customize the recipients name based on the custom fields you collect when they subscribe. However, you are right in that they are intended for mass campaigns more than one off emails triggered by a user action (other than subscribing).

You may want to look into a 'transactional email' service. Mailchimp's is called Mandrill, there are others such as SendGrid and MailJet that come to mind. Good news is that they are much cheaper, bad news is they are much harder to set up. You'd need someone with coding experience to help, as it is mostly API stuff. SendGrid is probably a good balance with a strong API and also a user friendly interface, so I'd suggest you take a look at that first.

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