How to Prevent an Email Campaign Epic Fail
If you want to meet people at a fancy cocktail party, you don't come wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and flip-flops. People will either ignore you or have you physically removed. Email marketing campaigns without best practices risk the same sorry result, and become a marketing disaster. You dress your email up in a Panama hat, send it to the crowd you thought might work, and realize too late that it crashed the wrong party. Now that's embarrassing.
Here are the five best practices you should employ to make your email campaign turn heads—in a good way.
Plan your campaign first. That way, you figure out how to provide real value to your customers (vs. that Panama hat disaster). What's its budget and scope? How many people are you sending it to?
Define your audience. Decide on which demographic and psychographic you want, as well as geographic location(s). Think about the intended outcome of your campaign. Are you trying to sell a product? Are you trying to brand something new, or just get your name out there? Your answers will affect the content and design of your creative. Finally, decide how often you want to communicate and what kinds of content—press releases, product announcements, newsletters, etc.—you want to send.
Once you've planned your campaign, you need to create content that addresses the classic question of "What's in it for me?" The "me," of course, is your target audience. Once you've decided that, make it the foundation of your written content, from subject line to the call to action. Here are some other things to keep in mind:
- Write a subject line that describes what's inside your message. Avoid spammy-sounding subject lines.
- Make your hook—your first sentence—compelling.
- Keep your message to the point.
- Use an active voice to keep readers' attention.
- Create a simple, clear call to action.
- Avoid spammy content (like an excessive use of exclamation points, all caps or bright red font).
- Check your grammar and spelling.
Once you have your message, make it shine with good design. Take what you know about your audience and create a branded theme around that. If you have a cocktail party audience … do we really need to make this point again? Put another way, if your branding is all about blues and greens and yellows, work around that color scheme. Then nuance your theme by what you know about the audience. For a female audience, for example, you might use softer edges.
Follow other basic rules, like keeping your call to action close to the top. Balance your images with your text content. Use white space as needed. Don't go too wild on design, otherwise your email risks looking cluttered. Simple design is beautiful design.
Once you have your email design, make sure that it is usable in email. Design for a maximum width of 600 pixels (px) for a general audience. However if you know your target audience is using an email client that can accommodate wider emails, you may design up to 750px safely.
When you code your design, remember that, when it comes to email, basic HTML is your best friend. For some Web-based email services, CSS is not in the dress code, and will be disabled when your email hits the inbox. Make sure you use tables as your framework and nest appropriately when padding and margin are needed. Not every email client can handle inline styles to allow for margin or padding. You can add CSS and do things that allow email clients like Apple Mail to render a beautiful email, but don't punish Outlook users.
Not every email client is the same. But you still want your design to make it into every possible inbox—legibly. Adapt accordingly. For example, if you need a background image, know that it probably won't show up in some email clients. Design for fallback elements of design, such as solid colors rendered by HTML.
Here are some additional tips:
- Create a plain-text version of your HTML email by sending it in Multipart/Alternative MIME format.
- Images should be hosted on your publicly accessible Web server.
- Use valid, clean HTML. Nobody likes dirty laundry at a party.
Be sure to run your campaign through its paces before it hits the open air. If you don't have one already, create a checklist that includes, in order, the tests you need to do before releasing a campaign.
Here are some things to check:
- Appearance: Do all your images and links work? Does your email look good on different email platforms and clients, including mobile? Above all, does it look and feel the way your client wants it to?
- Content: How does you subject line look when rendered in an inbox? (Check against as many of the email clients as you can.) Does your call to action stand out and is it easy to understand?
- What's your spam score? Test against the most common spam filters and see how your campaign rates.
- Do you have your address and unsubscribe information clearly stated in the footer (or header) of your email?
Now that your email is ready to go, it's time to send it to the party. With the best practices above, you can feel confident that your email will garner views and generate the returns you want. Grab a drink and relish the fact that, when using best practices, your email campaigns won't get kicked to the curb anymore.