Engage the audience: Key points in email design and campaign management
There can be little doubt that email remains an effective method of communicating with clients. If run correctly, return on investment can be colossal. Even run badly, savings on traditional forms of marketing can still make email an attractive option. Some of the best-run email campaigns are naturally emerging from the larger organisations. This doesn’t mean they all score well. In fact some larger concerns are still rather backward in their approach, but on the whole there are some great examples to learn from.
With the advent of broadband, in the same way web sites have suddenly become more adventurous, so can email. Now it's possible to attempt to captivate the reader with embedded animation, video or even games for instance. So long as Microsoft doesn’t apply any more restraints through new versions of Outlook, email can really begin to reach its full potential. While visual impact is undoubtedly of prime importance, there are of course several other important aspects that should be considered.
1) Get the design right. Recipients will not generally spend much time considering the virtues of your email. It either engages and generates a click-through or completely misses and therefore becomes consigned to the deleted items folder.
2) Repeat your message. Not quite the stuck record approach, but the message needs to be deviously repeated several times. After all, you wouldn't want someone to take the time to actually open your email but completely miss the point of it.
3) The call to action. Make it clear and obvious what you want the recipient to do. If you are aiming to get people to follow a link through to your web site, make certain the link isn't lost among a glut of text. As with the general message, it may be worth repeating the hyperlink more than once. Most people are conditioned to look for a button image.
4) Don't get too flashy. Keep in mind the fact that overly clever flash and graphics etc. can be chopped out by some modern email applications. While advocating the need to be attention grabbing it's perhaps worth remembering that similar rules apply to regular web page design. If the animation is not totally necessary it's perhaps best to play it safe and leave it out altogether.
5) Build in analytical capabilities. It's important the action of recipients are tracked and monitored. This should include not only the delivery, open and click-though rates but also be extended to include beyond email statistics provided from web site statistics such as conversion tracking, post click and post view. Post click illustrates the actions of web site visitors after clicking through from an email, whereas post view provides details of people who visited the web site at a later date.
6) Clean mailing lists. Keeping mailing lists up to date can create a fair bit of behind the scenes work, but it's worth the effort in order to keep response rates to an optimum. It's also well worth trying to profile your recipients. From details gathered from web site forms or through past buying history, clients should be cleverly categorised through their preferences with regards to products, services and average spend etc.
7) Technical considerations. It's worth ascertaining where recipients might struggle to view your email properly because of peculiarities with their email service…..ie hotmail, AOL and Yahoo. Good practice is still to offer the choice of HTML or plain text when signing people up, although pushing HTML will allow you to better engage recipients if they are able to view this format. As a failsafe a plain text version will at least allow you to communicate something to those with antiquated systems. An alternative is to give people the option to view a copy of the email as a web page online.
8) Be open, offer an opt-out. Regardless of current legislation it's always best to give people the option to opt out from your mailing. On the whole however, very few will bother, but it does show that you are respecting their rights and acting professionally.
9) Subject line and opening text. Remember most emails are scan read…if they are read at all that is. Keep in mind the fact that emails are often simply previewed using something similar to Outlook's auto-preview, making the subject line critical. While the preview pane can still display graphics etc, often only a small section at the top of the email will show. Therefore some catchy imagery, branding or text will help lure people in.
10) Check your web site. If the main aim is to get people to click through to a web site, and 9 times out of 10 it is, make certain everything is set up to cope. There's nothing worse than successfully winning a mass of traffic, only to find that the web site regularly falls over at times of high demand. If this is a particular problem it could be worth trickling emails out over a longer period to avoid a bulk responses. Moving graphics to an external host will also lessen the strain on the web server.
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