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Text email must be in ASCII format, and preferably 65 characters per line. This means no bold, no underline, etc. For formatting itís very restrictive, but with some imagination you can create a layout thatís easy to scan and read.
URLs within a text email must be on their own line for them to work properly as a hotlink. Donít forget to include full URL with "http", e.g.: http://www.abccompany.com/landing_page to make sure all email programs will display your URLs as a clickable hotlink.
What you need to know about HTML
Depending on your audience, 50-90% of subscribers today can read HTML. Consumers are more likely than business customers to be able to read html, due to corporate measures to lower bandwidth requirements and exposure to viruses.
HTML can increase response rates by up to 50%. HTML for Business-to-Business has gone in and out of favour, but is generally now preferred. The only way to know is to either offer your subscribers a choice of formats or test it.
Not everyone can read HTML, so if you are sending HTML you also want to create a text message. Most email marketing software programs can send a multi-part message with a bit of code that Ďsniffsí what email program they are using and delivers appropriate version, either text or HTML.
Message size should be kept low, preferably under 35k to ensure quick loading speed. Graphics are actually stored on marketerís server, so delivered message only includes HTML code. But extensive use of colour, formatting and graphics all add code which increase message size. Some corporations will block messages over a certain size.
In some situations, customers prefer text, even if they can read html. Itís nice to offer choice if possible.
Creative Elements of a Promotional Email Campaign
The following elements are all part of design email for your campaign and should be considered during planning and creative production.
Your subject line not only drives or depresses response rates, but can be used to set tone of your email to solicit a desired action. For example, a simple relationship-building message from an online retailer saying thank you to customers before holiday buying season had same content, but 2 subject lines. They each generated similar clickthrough numbers, but look at difference in conversion rate:
"Thanks, June" - virtually no sales
"June, weíre open if you are" - double sales
Why? The first created a passive environment where recipient didnít need to do anything, whereas second implied an invitation to visit store, encouraging "the shopper within" to come and browse.
The actual email address from which your campaign is sent. If you are using a third party email marketing service provider (also called an ASP-application service provider) and have not set up a sub domain for them to use, you will see their domain name.
For example, if you are using an agency or service provider, Sender and From address displays as:
ABC Company [ABCCompany@agency.provider.com]
If your budget permits, set up your own domain to enforce brand and trust it generates, eg:
ABC Company [email@example.com]
"From" display address
In your email program, this is whom recipient sees email is from. You can select to display a formal name, eg. ABC Company Inc. Or just email address. Best to use a name that is trustworthy and relevant to recipient, such as your company name, which continues your brand enforcement: e.g. ABC Spring Deals. Or test using a real personís name. Be careful with From name, so you arenít confused with spammers.
"Reply" address - similar to your from address above. Itís best to have an internal address to send replies to. For tracking purposes you might want to set up a separate address, but have response go to your Customer Service department.
With print you can spend some time in your letter talking about features and benefits before getting to pitch. For e-mail promotions you need to have your main feature/benefit points, offer and call-to-action, and URL within first 10 lines or 2 paragraphs of your email. You want clickable links to appear above fold - i.e. in preview pane - of your recipientís email program. This means you only have a couple seconds with email to grab readerís attention.
All emails need to include unsubscribe information. This is standard practice, which customers expect from a reputable company. It reminds them that you respect their privacy and reinforces their feeling of control over email they receive. As marketers we want that reinforcement to be sure they read our mail!
Customers should be able to unsubscribe easily and on their own, but remember there will always be some who reply to email instead, so make sure you have someone in place to handle replies.
Long or short copy?
There is debate among email marketers, many claiming short is best, but both have proven effective, depending on audience and offer. My own tests have shown that longer copy can generate higher average sales, but also lower response rates.
If longer copy is needed to sell product, then use it. The more you can complete selling process in email, better your conversion rate. The advantage of email is that you can test your copy before rolling out to your whole list.
Links to your landing page
For promotional email, include one link above "fold"; 50% of responders click on this first link. Be sure to repeat link at end of your message, 25% of responders click on last link. The rest click on middle links.
You should build a separate landing page whenever possible to guide your user through whatever action you want them to take. There is nothing worse than have a call to action in your email and then providing a link to your website home page.
Why? Itís confusing to user; they had one message in email, then on your home page are suddenly confronted with a different message. They will get distracted from what you wanted them to do.
If you are selling one product, have links in your email take them to a page with only that product. Continue same design and copy tone from your email to your landing page. Repeat key elements of offer, but donít make them wade through whole spiel again. Think of email to web as one seamless process.
For more information please see http://www.unilabplus.com
Director of Unilabplus Ltd, a London-based online business management software house.