Forget closets and baseboards, now is a great time to refocus on the basics of email: content, design, lists, testing, subject line and metrics. We’ve put together a few tips we think you might find handy, a quick overview of the most important things to know about these email basics. (Hey, we’re kind of like your very own virtual cleaning lady!)
Whether you’re sending an
e-newsletter, a New Media Release or a simple evite, the content and messaging of your email is the most important tool in your bucket. Above all, always keep your audience in mind and make sure every email you send has something that’s likely to be of value to your recipients. Relevance, always and forever!
Here are some more tips on email content:
- Get creative with your content—email is a multi-media, three-dimensional medium so consider adding embedded video, layered content, social components or just including links to useful resources. (If your email looks and works like a print piece, you’re not doing it right.)
- Make sure your call to action, if you have one, is clean and uncluttered.
- If you send newsletters, monthly tips or other regular emails stick with a consistent schedule and be on time.
- Some type of content should be included in every email: a web friendly link, PDA friendly link, forward to friend link and opt-out link (and, in many cases, social media footprints, bookmarks and subscribe links as well).
- Finally, email is a relationship-building tool so keep your writing accessible, concise and free of spin and jargon. Talk to them like you know them (because really…you do)!
If you know nothing else about email design, know this: every email should be designed so that it looks good through a preview pane with images blocked. The truth is, that’s how most people will see it, especially if you’re in the B-to-B space. You have seconds to make a good impression and convince recipients your email is worth their time. A big blank box just won’t do. Design your email so that key content is visible and your email looks professional even viewed through the preview pane.
To see these images
enlarged, click here.
Form is fabulous, but not at the expense of function so keep your design appropriate to the medium. Here are some more design tips…
- Use plain text links rather than web buttons.
- Avoid excessive capitalization (it triggers spam filters and firewalls).
- Stay away from unusual fonts (they won’t render well).
- Pay attention to the image-to-text ratio: too many images will render poorly and decrease your chances of getting to the inbox.
- Never put important content into an image (most recipients won’t see it there).
- Make sure your branding stands out, makes a good impression, and matches your brand’s branding initiatives. And always brand yourself, not your sender.
Think of your list as a big group of friends you want to get to know better, so treat them well. Above all, only send emails when you have something useful to say and never send emails that are irrelevant to your audience (it’s simply bad form).
A few other key things to keep in mind regarding your list…
- Growing your permission-based list is key to success so invite people to join your list on your website, your Facebook page, your e-newsletter, your email sig line, at events, and anywhere else your brand has a presence.
- People should be expecting what you send so make clear your distribution plans at the time of opt-in. Once you’ve clarified what you’ll send, stick with it—no surprises.
- Another way to treat your list well is to follow all CAN-SPAM compliance rules. It’s simply good manners to make it easy for recipients to opt-out (and we also suggest opt-in links for newsletters, monthly tips or other on-going projects).
- Finally, purchased e-marketing lists are pretty tricky and can’t compare to well-grown and properly managed in-house lists. So if someone tells you they have 10 million totally relevant permission-based email addresses of people who really want to buy your product...well, you know what they say about things that are too good to be true!
Make sure you test, test, test every email before you hit that send button. Test the language, design and functionality:
- Spam testing can flag words or phrases that will trigger firewalls before your email goes out, helping you tweak pre-send for better delivery.
- Link testing before you send ensures your email is functioning well and sending recipients to the right landing pages.
- Browser testing in advance can help you trouble shoot rendering problems so that your email it will look good to all your recipients.
And if you’re struggling with issues like send times, appropriate subject lines or best design, consider using an A/B split test to deliver different content to different people on your list so you can test what seems to work best and tweak accordingly for future sends.
Email will render differently across different systems. Make sure yours looks good wherever it lands! To view larger screenshot, click here.
This little piece of advice will be short, pertinent, honest and to the point: keep your subject lines short, pertinent, honest and to the point.
Really, “salesy” and clever subject lines don’t test nearly as well as subject lines that are clear, often even boring, and, well, just describe the subject of your email! (Tell it, don’t sell it.)
Pay attention to your metrics. Although email metrics aren't perfect (open rates only track people who view images, for example), they are still a very useful way to gauge how your relationship with your recipients is developing over time. Look for trends. Above all, note whether you’re tracking up or down. If you see a big shift, it’s time to adjust.
If you’re losing your audience, the most likely causes are:
- wrong send times (it’s best to send when your target audience is likely to be on-line),
- blocked images creating a bad impression through the preview pane,
- ineffective subject line,
- list fatigue,
- poor quality list,
- inappropriate or irrelevant content, or
- delivery issues.
But if you’re metrics are trending up, congrats! You’re doing something right so keep up the good work.
Keeping your email tactics spic-and-span can be a challenge but it’s definitely worth the elbow grease! A consistent and considerate email campaign can earn you friends and fans, grow your brand’s influence, and deliver excellent ROI. We don’t mind admitting that we’re big email geeks around here and happy to chat about list scrubbing, content integration, segmentation, or any other e-mail related topic—large or small—anytime so get in touch to chat. We’re always happy to hear from you.