Cut Through E-mail Clutter With These Format and Design Tips
In a presentation at the ClickZ Specifics: E-mail Marketing Conference in New York earlier this week, Greg Cangialosi, president of Baltimore-based e-mail service provider Blue Sky Factory Inc., offered practical formats and design tips to help marketers cut through e-mail clutter. They include:
Code your HTML by hand. "This is the most incredible thing you can do for your campaigns, if possible. Poorly formatted HTML can render your message the wrong way, and coding it by hand can actually stop this from happening. ... Fewer than fifty percent of marketers create e-mails that actually render appropriately."
Watch your use of Cascading Style Sheets. "The whole Web-development world is moving toward CSS [a computer language used to describe how an HTML document should be formatted], but the e-mail marketing world is almost moving backwards and away from it in an effort to cater to the lowest common denominator. Some e-mail clients actually strip CSS out. ... It's probably a good idea to use inline style embedding instead."
Keep a good balance of text and images. "Don't use e-mails as one big image. Even with images turned off, the text will still show up in HTML, and a lot of people actually read their e-mail with their images turned off."
Host images on your Web server or your e-mail service provider's Web server. "Generally, this is standard practice. Embedded images can cause filtering."
Keep E-mail messages to 500-by-600 pixels wide. "Wider messages can force the recipient to have to scroll horizontally to see the entire message."
Place your key messages in text at the top or upper left-hand corner. "Some e-mail clients are set by default to have images turned off. So set your key messages in text, and make sure that your key call to actions are at the very top, above the fold."
Don't use rich e-mail/video in e-mails. "Rich media, in short, can be very effective in select uses, but the rich media experience inside the e-mail inbox will likely miss the recipient. There is no standard protocol in rich media e-mail delivery, and as a result, many e-mail service providers and e-mail clients will not display rich media files within the current environment. And security filtering and firewalls can prevent the proper rendering of rich media e-mails."
Cangialosi stresses that rich media is a very powerful component of e-mail marketing and offered this best practice in regard to combining it with e-mail marketing: "What we like to recommend as a best practice is to send an HTML e-mail, but put your rich media in a Web browser environment. For example, in the e-mail message, put a clear call to action in HTML and direct [readers] to your Web site, where you are hosting rich media content. You are going to get a much better bang for your buck this way."