Good design gives your message a fighting chance.
If it feels as if e-mail marketing has become a battlefield, perhaps that’s because it has. Your messages must duck blacklists while staying in the good graces of whitelists. They must shimmy through spam filters, and then hope—even with opt-in e-mail—that when they finally arrive where you’ve sent them, recipients are still at the addresses.
Given all that your e-mail messages must go through to reach their intended targets, it would be kind of sad if you hadn’t equipped them to present your offer in the most effective way possible.
Once your message has made it to a recipient’s inbox, you’ve got to get it opened. With e-mail, first impressions are made in the “from” and “subject” fields. As spammers take a see-what-sticks approach to these fields, it’s important to be as up front as possible. A recognizable brand name helps here.
“The ‘from’ line is becoming more and more critical,” says e-mail strategy consultant Jeanne Jennings. “If [our clients] have a recognized brand name, that’s what we tend to be using.”
Along with making yourself recognizable in these fields, you need to include copy in the subject line that will get the message opened.
“We like to use the word ‘you’ or ‘your,’—something that speaks to that person,” says Jennings.
If you’re wondering about the use of personalization, direct marketing conventional wisdom might not apply here. Personalization, so powerful in other direct marketing media, might be losing cachet with e-mail.
“So many spammers are using [personalization] now that people are moving away from it,” says Jennings. “You should always test personalization, but my feeling is that it lumps you in the wrong crowd.”
The Sneak Peek
There was a time when ‘from’ and ‘subject’ was all you got. But attentive e-mailers know that something called “the preview pane” has become more or less standard on most e-mail programs, such as Outlook, Eudora or QuickMail. Designing for the preview pane—a window in which a user can see an inch or two of a message, format and all, before actually opening it—has become a strategic necessity in e-mail marketing.