Since joining Envision in 2008, I’ve been witness to an email revolution. The days of dull, text-based emails have given way to rich, comprehensive campaigns, powered by email marketing services like MailChimp, that not only make it easy to send great looking emails, but are also fun too.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two about optimizing campaigns for both viewability and deliverability. Here are some basic tips that anyone can use, from a total newbie to a seasoned designer.
1) Setting Up Your Email List
Too often I’ve been witness to the dreaded mass email dump. This is a list of collected emails gathered over years and years, used as an initial starter list for an email marketing service. The problem is, most of these users have not opted-in to receive emails and can be from any number of outdated sources – Outlook contacts, customer databases, etc. Almost always, this will lead to issues with compliance and will generate massive unsubscribe and bounce rates. Anti-spam laws have been steadily tightening and approved email marketers like MailChimp monitor this stuff extremely seriously.
So what can you do? Well, in an ideal scenario you’d be starting the list from scratch, but in most cases you will have an existing list of clients or customers that you want to reach out to. Taking the time to review and edit your existing list and ensure it follows best-practices will go a long way to getting your account started on a solid-footing with your email provider. Here’s some handy information to get started. For email addresses you’re not sure about, you’ll want to send them an invitation through your personal or business email account asking them to join your email marketing list, rather than just importing their emails directly. Be sure to include a link to the subscribe form with your email newsletter provider!
2) Making Sign-Up Simple
So you’ve got an account set up with your chosen email provider and have your initial list created, now you’re asking yourself, how do new users join? Fortunately, most of the big providers like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. offer easy embed forms that can be placed on your website and allow your users to join. Keep it simple and only ask for required/important information, as users find lengthy forms daunting and this will decrease your sign-up rates. It’s also important to provide a compelling reason for users to join, such as access to insider deals or promotions. For more information on sign-up box best practices, click here.
3) Designing Your Campaign
If you’re interested in a custom email newsletter design to best reflect your brand and achieve a specific objective, it’s best to talk to the professionals. At Envision, we can create a custom email newsletter look to best reflect your corporate brand. If however, you’re interested in a more DIY approach, MailChimp and others offer flexible, easy to use templates available from within their systems to get you started.
4) Test, Test and Test Some More…
Email testing cannot be overstated. While browsers are getting better at displaying web pages consistently, the same cannot be same for the wide array of webmail and email clients and how the message renders for the end user. It’s important to take a look at how your message appears in all of the top platforms to ensure consistency. If you’re using a built-in template, you should be okay, since the provider has already spent time checking these out, but it’s still a good idea to have a look. Here’s some helpful tips:
Sign-up for free email accounts with Outlook.com, Gmail and Yahoo for testing (these are the most popular Webmail services).
Test with Outlook! This is by far the most problematic in terms of display issues, so make sure you view your message using that tool. If you don’t have it installed, MailChimp offers a built-in Inbox Inspection service and there are online tools such as Litmus that allow for comprehensive testing.
For Designers: Here’s a guide to supported CSS declarations in various email clients.
Email campaigns definitely have come a long way, and there’s so many creative things being done to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Take a look at some of the great looking emails people are sending.
To sum things up, these are just some basic tips I’ve learned through my own experience. There are a myriad of resources available online that delve into the subject in greater detail. Please feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments below, I’d love to hear things others are doing with email campaigns.