When a client wants to send mass e-mail, whether a newsletter, announcement or promotion, there are a number of things to consider. I’ll try to cover them here.
- What’s the goal of the e-mail? A promotion has a pretty obvious goal. A newsletter’s goal is less straightforward (there may be multiple goals), but there should still be a conversion path. As always, ROI ROI ROI.
- How was the list compiled? Make sure the client has a good list – opt in or double opt in. If we send out the e-mail, we could be liable for it.
- From where will the e-mail be sent? If the client already has something set up, that’s fine, but be careful – there may be additional complexities (i.e., Constant Contact). If they don’t have anything set up, I recommend Campaign Monitor. It’s the best service I’ve found. Generally speaking, it’s not good to use the hosting server for mass e-mail. E-mail is very resource-intensive, and you don’t wan to mix the two.
- Text or HTML e-mail? For whatever reason, clients seem to love HTML e-mail. Maybe it is better for marketing, I don’t know. There’s surely research out there. I personally prefer text e-mail. If something absolutely positively needs to get through – a password reset or something, send it as text and you’re far more likely to get through spam filters. If it’s going to members of a website, or some other thing where people can control their accounts, give them an option to choose between HTML or text e-mail.
There are a ton of techniques to make e-mails perform better. Google it. Here are some basics:
- Make sure call to action buttons are clicky and compelling.
- Make the message clear. If it’s a newsletter, provide clear links to the website.
- Make sure the subject line is clear and the From is also clear. Duh.
- Personalized e-mails perform better than non-personalized e-mails. If you can work in the recipient’s name or something, swell.
- Always have an unsubscribe link. Most e-mail services won’t let you send e-mail out without it, but design one in.
- Design both the HTML and plain text e-mails – often text e-mails are an afterthought. They shouldn’t be.
- Double check the HTML design for pixel perfection before sending over to production. Are lines lined up? Are curves consistent? These are obvious mistakes that I see all the time.
Programming and Production
- While you’re building the HTML e-mail portion, you may come across a mistake from design (i.e., a line is a pixel off). If there are any inconsistencies, check with the designers! (This is not e-mail specific, of course.)
- Don’t use modern techniques to create HTML e-mails. Use tables and inline styles and images () for the best results. Avoid using CSS unless necessary. Don’t get fancy! Many e-mail clients use older HTML browsers and aren’t up to speed. Even Outlook 2007 is bad.
- Test in Outlook 2003, 2007, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Entourage, Apple Mail and anything else you can get your hands on. E-mail clients are notoriously fickle and bad. Beware! We use Litmus.
- Make sure analytics is working properly. You want to know how many people clicked on each link, how many people opened it and how many received it. Some of these numbers are only available with an HTML e-mail.
- My understanding is that Wednesday morning is the best for sending e-mail. But that surely changes depending on the market.