Many companies are focused on growing their e-mail list, and rightfully so. But if you could improve the return on investment of your e-mail marketing program by pruning your list, would you?
This isn’t a political post, rather to show you how not to keep your “customers” up-to-date. After hearing today that the bill the US Senate passed last night included hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for manufacturers of wooden arrows for children, Puerto Rican rum manufacturers and American Samoa. Wanting to read the bill myself (all 400+ pages, I hear), I went to senate.gov.
The fact of the matter is that you, the American citizen — the “customer” — won’t find any mention of the bill on the Senate’s homepage. Matter of fact, I spent 20 minutes searching for it, and think I found it, but I’m still not sure because half of the bill isn’t about the economy. I turned to a news site that offered a clear link to the legislation, and I found:
Sec. 308. Increase in limit on cover over of rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Sec. 309. Extension of economic development credit for American Samoa.
Sec. 314. Indian employment credit.
Sec. 502. Provisions related to film and television productions.
Sec. 503. Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.
…and the list goes on.
Why do the American people detest Congress? Perhaps it’s because Washington doesn’t provide us adequate usable access to the legislation that crosses the floor. Here’s a link to the bill, and if you’re for or against it, call your Senator or Representative, but good luck trying to find their contact information on their web sites.
If you build e-mail marketing campaigns to send to customers, this resource is essential to show you how to code campaigns in a way that all e-mail clients will render properly. Just like any good web developer tests their web site in multiple browsers, you should test your e-mail campaigns in multiple clients. Knowing how to develop to comply with the rendering of each e-mail client will help you build an e-mail campaign that can be seen properly by everyone.
As we’ve discussed before, it’s still best practice to build your e-mails with a table-based layout, using CSS sparingly to format text. CSS should always be used inline in the HTML code, never declared in the <head> of a document and never by referencing an external file.
There’s a new blog post over at Campaign Monitor that discusses what’s changed in e-mail marketing design in 2008. I found this article helpful as it is an updated list of best practices for the industry. These include the following topics:
- Don’t waste your readers’ time
Inboxes are full — give them something useful.
- Permission matters
Remind customers why they are getting the e-mail.
- Relevance trumps permission
You need permission, but a relevant message generates action.
- Make unsubscribing easy
Why pay to send to customers that aren’t interested?
- Image blocking is common
View your design without images to see if the message still comes across.
- Bring back tables
E-mail clients are not standards-compliant and your table-less CSS layouts will be totally trashed.
- Add inline styles
Gmail will strip out all other stylesheets.
- Don’t forget your plain text version
Make it readable and encourage scanning.
- Meet your legal obligations
Brush up on CAN-SPAM regulations.
- Test, test, test
Want to get more action from your e-mail? Test new versions to see what works.
With the economy in its current state and gas prices through the roof, many shoppers are leaving the car keys in the drawer and shopping online (Source: Harris Interactive — “one-third (33%) of online US adults say they are more likely to shop online rather than at a store because of high gas prices“).
Relevant, timely e-mail campaigns are a great way to drum up online business, and following the guidelines from Campaign Monitor will help you manage a better campaign.
Web designers, take note! The folks at Campaign Monitor are undertaking the valiant effort of trying to establish baseline standards that e-mail clients should meet, and they need your input.
Campaign Monitor is asking designers to contribute ideas for what should be supported in baseline cascading style sheet standards. Go leave your comment now.
Notes for the non-technical: If you aren’t a web designer, designing and coding an e-mail is a difficult process that often involves using antiquated coding techniques because e-mail clients (i.e. Outlook, Gmail, etc.) don’t support the same types of code. Establishing standards would not only make it easier to code HTML e-mail campaigns, it would ensure proper rendering in all e-mail clients so your e-mails look as intended.
The folks at Campaign Monitor recently posted 30 free HTML e-mail newsletter templates on their web site. These newsletter templates, while generic from a branding perspective, have been tested in a variety of common e-mail programs (and web-based e-mail apps like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail) so you can rest assured that your e-mail newsletter will render properly and consistently.
Because you’ll also want to include a text-only version when you send out your e-mail newsletter, Campaign Monitor has also provided three well-formatted text-only newsletter templates.
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