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Eight Often Overlooked E-mail Best Practices

Last month, I wrote about the value of e-mail marketing – regardless of the size or type of your business or organization. I hope it enticed many of you to consider moving forward with an e-mail marketing campaign.

This month, we’ll continue our discussion by moving to e-mail design and content.  There are many best practices that exist in this arena. However, in this entry, I’d like to address eight e-mail best practices that are often overlooked.

1. First things first.
Visually prioritize your e-mail.   Your company logo and name are the most important aspects of your e-mail and should always be in the upper left-hand corner, where readers look first.  Yes, you want to convey your message, but your message won’t matter if readers don’t associate it with your business.   Some of the funniest commercials aired during the Super Bowl are the least effective – because the message of the commercial took priority over the actual branding of the company.

2. Watch your width!
Unfortunately, when it comes to layout, e-mails are a horse of an entirely different color than websites.  While websites tend to be anywhere from 800-1,000 pixels wide, e-mails need to stay just 500-650 pixels wide for optimal viewing.  That way,  readers don’t have to scroll back and forth horizontally for each line they read.

3. Use images sparingly.
Images increase the amount of time it takes for an e-mail to load. Also, keep in mind that load time is dramatically increased for the many people who still use a dial-up Internet connection. Not only do images increase load speed, but they are also initially blocked as a security measure by popular e-mail clients such as AOL, Hotmail, and Gmail.  Make sure the most important messages in your e-mail are conveyed via text, and that one or two images simply enhance your message.

4. Keep your e-mails short and to the point.
In other words, e-mail is not the place to write your first epic novel. In today’s world of sound bites and text messages, it’s rare for someone to read a lengthy e-mail or e-newsletter.  A better option is to use e-mail to convey one essential message. In the case of e-newsletters, avoid including entire articles in your e-newsletter.  Instead, post the full-length articles on your website, and simply include brief teasers of the articles in the e-newsletter, with links to the full content.

5. Subject lines: Keep ‘em short and snappy.
A good rule of thumb is to write subject lines of less than 60 characters in length, so that the entire subject line appears in most inboxes. Studies have also shown that consistently using your company or organization name in the subject line helps to increase the open rate.

6. Consistency is key.
When you send e-mails regularly, create one great e-mail design, and use it consistently.  That way you can build your brand image, while only updating the content.  Just as with any part of your business, keeping a consistent appearance to your e-mail campaign helps brand your company overall.

7. Help readers build personal ties.
While it’s tempting to continually promote your products or services through e-mail marketing, it’s helpful to use e-mail as a way to be a resource for your readers. One of my favorite e-newsletters is from Kraft Foods, which sends weekly recipe and menu ideas. Their e-newsletters serve as a great resource, while subtly promoting their products.

8. Remember your call to action!
The purpose of your e-mail marketing campaign should be to cause your readers to take action. You can provide an effective call to action by 1) Using verbiage to outline what you’d like readers to do. For example, “Call our team at (319) 363-2002 to learn more about how we can effectively build your e-mail marketing campaign!” or 2) Provide active links such as “Learn more about the Metro Studios Web department”.

Whew! Effective e-mail content and design may seem overwhelming at first, but there are plenty of great resources both on the web and here at Metro Studios to help get your e-mail marketing campaign off to a great start!

Next month, I’ll conclude our series on e-mail marketing by addressing perhaps the biggest Kahuna of them all – effectively ensuring e-mail deliverability.

Lindsay Talsness
Web Content Developer

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