All About Email - The Last Word in Email Publishing

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Images and the Design Compromise

The need to render properly in different browsers; image blocking; image to text ratios; file size limitations; font and colour protocols - these are all factors in successful email design.

Pretty pictures do not work - unless they form no more than about 20 percent of an email, alongside plain and rich text.

Designers must learn to compromise on aesthetic appeal in order to increase functionality - deliverability, preview pane impact, and image blocked impact.

Image blocking is on the increase; it is estimated that 40% of NZ recipients have images blocked, so if your email is one big Jpeg, or has a large screenwidth banner image, then it will not render well in the preview pane. Browsers such as Gmail allow users to permanently enable images from trusted senders, but first you must become a trusted sender.

So if you want to communicate with 100% of your audience rather than 60%, then cut back on the headline banners - share the top spot with text headlines and semi screen width banners.

Alt text is important, although this may change with some latest browsers disabling this as well. Alt text sits behind an image in email - if the image is blocked, the Alt Text appears, so give careful thought to what you put there.

Why not drop images altogether? Just send plain text emails? Because you would be catering for the minority. 60% will still see your images, and they do increase impact, and reinforce branding.

So remember, email is a unique medium with it's own set of rules. It is not web design, and unless you recognise that, your audience will suffer.

Keep your images small and relevant - complementing text in the body of the message.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More haste, less speed

It's one of those old sayings that does not appear to make sense, but it means slow down, plan, and you'll get where you want quicker.

Email is like that. It's so easy to send an email, that you want to just do it. You have an audience database, you have a message to send to them, and you have access to a broadcast email programme, so why not go ahead and send it?

There are many reasons; email is a conversation, and future conversations will be based upon past ones. If you plan to use email regularly to communicate with an audience, then each message must ensure that they want to read your next one.

So take a step back, ask yourself some pertinent questions, and then plan a communications strategy.

As I have said before, email is a noisy marketplace. Lots of people are competing for your audience's attention. Your aim is to get, and keep, that attention. So your strategy must be formulated around the principle of saying what you want to say, when you want to say it, in such a way that it is delivered as what they want to read, when they want to read it.

To be a successful deliverer of information, you must first understand the perspective of the recipient.

What is interesting to you may not be to them. What you perceive as regular communication may be seen as over-frequent.

The most commonly made mistake in broadcast email is thinking your audience will read and absorb your email because it is from you.

You as the publisher have to ensure, on each occasion, that your email is worthy of attention - of opening, reading and, if it demands it, of reacting.

An email strategy is not set in stone, but provides you with an outline plan of what you plan to say, how you plan to present it, what reactions you intend to achieve, and how you will use each message to tee up anticipation of the next.

Only when that strategy is in place, should you begin to communicate. If you lose audience attention when communicating by email, it is very hard to win it back.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Wild West

In New Zealand, email marketing and publishing is a fledgling market. Because of low barriers to entry, the market is now growing fast.

The volume of email newsletters and marketing emails is far outstripping the knowledge and experience required to ensure high deliverability, good impact, audience enaggement and retention, and important aspects of email best practice.

Low cost is also a negative factor. Many would-be email marketers take the view that low delivery costs offer an opportunity to test a marketing medium - they see it as a roll of the dice.
Experience dictates that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing properly.

In the crowded, noisy marketplace that is email received by consumers, poorly prepared marketing emails will disappear without trace.

Email newsletters which are written with the publisher, rather than the recipient in mind, will quickly slip off the "must read" list.

If marketers and publishers in New Zealand want to utilise the undoubted benefits of email to become an important, sustainable medium of communication between them and their audiences, then they need to take a step back.

Email has very quickly become a mature medium, and even though it is evolving on a daily basis, it already requires a level of knowledge and experience which can only reside with experts.

Next time I will start to look at the first step - planning an email strategy.