The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Pre-Fab Email Templates Suck! Here's Why

If you're a marketing manager for a mid-sized company and insist that your email service provider offer you a bunch a pre-fab templates you're lazy and should be fired! Pre-fab templates were great back in the day when email marketing was novel and a limited number of marketing mavericks experimented with the medium however the day of pre-fab templates for real marketers has come and gone.

Just think about it, email service providers that push pre-fab templates such as Constant Contact or iContact cater to hundreds of thousands of tiny companies sending to millions email recipients. Since there is only a finite number of templates that these email service providers offer, this means that a large number of companies have the same look and feel to their email marketing efforts without any differentiation to cut through the clutter. If you're a marketing manager at a mid sized company do you really want your email marketing to look like Joe's Bicycle Shop down the street? What if your boss subscribes to Joe's Bicycle Shop email and you unknowingly use the same template? Do you think you'll have your job for long?

I know lifting and plagiarism are common practices among marketers but for G-d sakes don't copy something that's sub-par and meant for people lacking creative abilities. And if you are a small company that's serious about its email marketing it doesn't take much these days to create a professional looking custom template. Any graphic design student at your local community college can create something far better then what an email service provider will give you. Remember, benchmark the best not crap!

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Email Marketing: Facing the Challenges, Embracing the Power

E-mail marketing is an effective way to market your products and services to targeted audiences with personalized messages at a low cost. Similar to marketing trends of the past (direct mail, blast fax, etc), e-mail marketers are faced with new challenges to overcome as the popularity of this convenient communication and marketing vehicle increases.

During a one-year period from 2001 – 2002, DoubleClick reported that the volume of e-mail consumers received increased 60 percent. That number is expected to triple by the end of 2005. In addition to the sheer volume of e-mail messages, marketers also encounter two other main problems: (1) Spam blockers that can prevent legitimate e-mails from getting through to the consumer and an overall drop in the readership of messages (even for services the consumer has voluntarily opted-in to receive).

Marketers have a limited opportunity to catch the recipient’s attention as they peruse through an already saturated inbox. Remembering the following basic tips when crafting your message will help you more effectively market your product or service.

1. Provide value. Spam technology often includes a “trusted sources” option that allows consumers to create a list of sources whose messages can pass through the blocker. Therefore, marketers are tasked with distributing messages that provide valuable information about their product/service.

- Focus your message on what the end user will receive and how they benefit from the service. Do not write copy that highlights what the organization has done (i.e. “you” vs. “we”) but on how it helps the consumer.

- Build a profile page that allows the consumer to more directly target their preferences. Saving the consumer even one unwanted message builds trust.

- Educate consumers on the best way to use your product/service. Offer specific information on how to solve a problem for the consumer with your message.

2. Do not include hyperlinks, do include URLs. If hyperlinks do not work consumers are left without options for responding to the action item included in the message. Consider creating an online version of your message or typing out the URL in full so consumers can cut and paste it into their browser.

3. Design for the preview pane. The preview pane is approximately 374 pixels (about five inches) in an Outlook window. Employing a “postcard” design helps organize the message so action items are easily identifiable and strategically located within the text. Eliminating the extra step of opening the e-mail to read its contents may gain another reader.

4. Don’t use rich media. E-mail, though widely used, is still a generally low-tech medium. More than 65 percent of personal e-mail accounts do not display rich media (including Java script, Flash, streaming video, etc) correctly. Consider creating an online version of your message or using HTML only to increase readership.

5. Carefully craft your sender and subject line. Subject lines should be short and direct and should not exceed five words or 45 characters. Your subject line should provide specific, detailed information that avoids use of Spam tip-off words such as, “free,” “new” or “special offer.”

During the span of a day, consumers are bombarded with marketing messages not only through e-mail but also through radio, television, magazines and newspapers. Like the modern broadcasters, marketers should plan messages in terms of a sound byte—a short period to catch the attention of the audience and give them the information they need to contact you and learn more.

Danielle Ashery is VP, Client Services at Gold Lasso, Inc. She can be reached by telephone at 301-990-9857 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Email Marketing Best Practices

Did you know that 93 percent of U.S. Internet users count email as their top online activity? *At a time when many people seem concerned about the volume of email reaching their inboxes, legitimate marketers are relying more and more on email communications to reach their target audience.

Does this make sense? The answer is a resounding YES. Email is a fast, inexpensive and extremely effective way to target and address disparate audiences. Does this mean you should just go ahead and email to your hearts delight? The answer is a resounding NO. We have compiled a list of some email marketing best practices both from our own experiences, and those of other industry experts to help you make the most of your in-house email marketing strategy.

Grow your opt in list
When it comes to lists, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Targeted, permission-based lists will serve you best in the long run. There are many ways to build a permission-based list. You can gather email addresses from your website, trade show booths, customer service departments, sales representatives, event registrations, and sweepstakes. Show your customers and prospects the value of what they are signing up for by offering them samples of your newsletter, white papers and other communications. Offer targeted subscriptions by tailoring your opt-outs by category of communication. By doing this, you offer your subscribers a choice of communications that most interests them.

Test, test, test
You don’t want to display a ‘less-than-professional’ image by sending email messages that display with broken code or missing graphics. You can avoid this by testing. Remember, your layout may look great displayed on your computer, but not so perfect on another email client. You may choose to set up several free email accounts to view your message on various readers.

Smart marketers understand that everything from delivery date, time, call to action, pricing and content may effect response rates. So, don’t stop your testing at format. Test all aspects of your message from your offer, subject line, and content to the delivery dates/times. Email campaigns (unlike their snail mail counterparts), with their automatic reporting capabilities, provide the perfect vehicle for trying different offers, in order to best optimize response rates.

HTML/Text
HTML emails are more interesting to read. The graphics, images, colors and format, when done correctly, increase the reader’s ability to process the content of the message, and make a better brand impression. However, if not executed properly, too much visual stimulation can backfire, and obscure the reader’s ability to process the content of the message. In addition, some corporate email servers withhold graphics, and many people on their home computers still have dial up connections which could make the load times on large HTML messages frustrating. The answer is to keep your messages simple and relevant. And, when creating your messages, create a text only and HTML version, and give your audience the choice of which they would rather receive.

Relevancy
Getting rid of ‘unwanted’ postal mail requires you to expend some energy – a trip to the mailbox, opening the communication, walking to the trash can, and finally, discarding the envelope and it’s contents. Discarding unwanted email, on the other hand, requires almost no effort. At the click of a button, someone can unsubscribe from your communications. The trick is to make your communications so valuable, that they won’t want to. Try to personalize your communication, whenever possible. Use your Web site’s registration page, or include a subscription management link in your email communications to ask subscribers what they want to see. Also, track which links are clicked to determine what interests your readers, and target your future communications accordingly.

Frequency
Sometimes too much is enough to make someone unsubscribe. How often have you signed up for a newsletter or special store promotion by email, only to be inundated by offers from that vendor on a daily basis. It’s difficult to answer the question, ‘how often should I communicate with my customers and prospects’. It varies by industry and type of offer. A newsletter should come on a regular basis. But, keep in mind that a special offer is no longer ‘special’ if you’re offering it constantly. As you build your email communications program, ask your subscribers how often they would like to hear from you, and then listen to what they have to say.

Technology and the Internet have opened new doors for direct marketers, allowing for cost effective communication, targeting and information gathering on customers and prospects. By following some simple, commonsense rules, you can reap the benefits that email marketing technology has to offer.

* Source: Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia Corporation.

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The Email Monetization Playbook
Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!

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Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!