Saturday, January 25, 2014

time to clean up your email marketing house

the holidays are finally over, we're all tied to our desks for the next few weeks without a holiday, so now is the time to look at your email marketing efforts and put your house in order. in addition to planning out the next quarter, six months or year, we should also look at what we've done in the past and how to improve on those results.

here's what I mean

  • look at the types of campaigns.  really look at them. you should consider purpose, content, deployment, and kpi's.
    1. what kind of emails are you sending - commercial, transactional, newsletters, general messaging, compliance issues. think about what the desired outcome is - drive a purchase, drive conversions, drive traffic to a blog, administrative communication of policy and so forth. the type of message can tell you a lot about what to expect/what you need to work on.
    2. does the content need to be refreshed? can you develop a set of messages that can be managed through marketing automation?
    3. when is the best time to send your emails - the most asked question when it come to email marketing? figure this out by doing a/b testing.
    4. are you using the right email service provider (esp)?
    5. are you using the right kpi's to measure your success? if you are looking at open rates alone, or open rates and click-thru rate (ctr), i would argue probably not - but that depends on the type of campaign. think outside the box for kpi's...look at unsubs, bounce rates, and how sends impact server reputation and delivery.
  • know your audience. this phrase applies to just about everything in life - from how you talk to your parents, how you make presentations, and how you communicate to your subscribers. i'm not talking about physical look either, look at the following:
    1. what is the make up of your lists? what percentage is gmail, yahoo, aol, comcast, verizon, and then the others... what can you infer from the others, do you have a big group of business .com's, or more random unheard of isp's?
    2. correlate inference to facts you feel comfortable with...we "know" that major isp's most likely means a web-based client, but another safe assumption is that business .com's are most likely using microsoft outlook. use these correlated inferred facts to design and code to the lowest design denominator...if 30% of your lists are web-based mail, and 50% of them are business .com's, guess what...your stuck coding to and designer for outlook. don't waste time and resources on things that are going to deliver a subpar user experience in the majority of your reader's inboxes.
    3. use a service like returnpath or litmus to do the dirty work for you. they will monitor inbox placement rates, rendering, server reputation, and if you're really fancy you can make them tell you what platforms people are using to read your emails.
  • email optimization. not just quick short concise messages, but optimized for experience. think about the type of message and how you'd like to see the message in your inbox. do they need to be mobile friendly or mobile adaptive...and the resources that you have on hand to accomplish this. one of these is obviously easier to accomplish than the other, but here is my argument on mobile-friendly versus mobile adaptive -- know your audience.

    if you have used a service like returnpath or litmus to identify your audience, then you can get a good feeling of what mobile devices they are reading your email with. if the majority of mobile readers are using apple devices, then your strategy is to go mobile friendly... if you have a lot of android users, then you're strategy is to go mobile adaptive.
    1. mobile friendly is the joy of an email marketers life, it only requires a few changes to what you're probably doing now.
      1. move away from the wide emails...scale them back to 640px wide. the device is going to auto-scale the 640px down to 320px.
      2. use font sizes that are at least 13px. apple devices are going to use the minimum font size the device will display for email, which is 13px. smaller fonts are going to be changed, and this could throw off the layout and look of your email.
      3. use a single colum to present your message. a single column is just the most effective use of space.
      4. small screens mean eye-fatigue. let your readers eyes rest, provide white space and natural breaks to let the reader focus. don't worry about length on mobile devices, readers are used to scrolling, and if they find the information you present engaging they'll scroll through the communication.
    2. mobile-adaptive is a pain in the butt, but the results can be amazing. it takes more time to get mobile-adaptive or what the web-designer world calls mobile responsive-design right.

      let me explain something, I call it adaptive-design because i as the marketing person am responding to my audience. their make up is what is driving the design not the device. the two terms really are the same thing, but the "marketing mind trick" to figure out when to devote resources to this type of experience is need to know your audience, you need to know what the most important message is and how to deliver it, and the time it takes to get it right.

      think about it this way, a web-designer is tasked with presenting a website to the broadest audience possible, thus they develop for individual browser requirements, platforms, and devices. they don't know their audience -  mobile responsive design.

      as a marketing professional, i know my subscribers, i know what devices they are using, i know how they engage with my email. these criteria compel me to develop a communication that will share my message with them, where they are at that moment - mobile-adaptive design.
  • talk with your designers. make sure that they understand what your decision is for a campaign, mobile-friendly or mobile adaptive. tell them the reason why. if they code in addition to design make sure you share resources with them about trends, best-practices and point them design resources and industry leaders to follow on twitter and facebook. share with them any knowledge you get from conferences or webinars that you might attend. conduct an inservice with your design team about the anatomy of an email. reinforce that you're locked into webfonts, and that coding email is like building a website in 1996.
these are just a few things that we as marketers should be thinking about as we finalize plans for 2014. i am sure that you can think of more or even elaborate on some of the ones i have outlined here for you, feel free to share.


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