All About Email - The Last Word in Email Publishing

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't open sesame

We hear more and more about crowded inboxes, competition for attention, and how email recipients have so little time to read what we send them.
I am no different; I too receive a very high volume of email, and today I caught myself doing something that I suspect may be very common behaviour.

I cleared my weekend inbox. In amongst the mass of messages were some newsletters that I read avidly. Today I read them avidly, but I did so in the preview pane. I thought about this and tried to remember the last time I actually opened an email. Some time ago, was my initial response. I racked my brains and reached the conclusion that it was in fact some considerable time ago, like a year or two.

If I am right, and if more and more people are behaving in this way, what does it mean for email publishers?

Well, quite a lot. Opening rate metrics become irrelevant. Brevity, preview pane impact, and low image levels become vital. Use of preview pane real estate become even more important.

I know the golden rule of email analysis is never assume your behaviour is typical, but I am willing to bet that just this once this is a growing trend; one that probably will not, and cannot be reversed.

Next up, based on this assumption, I am going to reflect further on the design of an email in a world where readers only ever use the preview pane.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spoiling the broth

I watch Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Most weeks, Gordon gives great advice that gets ignored by the owners of failing restaurants, usually because they are bad businessmen. Gordon finds this quite a frustrating experience.

I know how he feels. Last year a publishing company asked me to take a look at one of their email newsletters. They did not want to pay for my advice, but suggested that if I gave some for free, then there could be quite a bit of business in it for me. How tempting.

I duly gave the advice, and it was duly ignored. Today, I received the same email newsletter. In the opening paragraph, it had 3 spelling mistakes (including the word magazione, which I presume meant magazine), numerous grammatical errors, no alt text for all of the pictures which blocked the preview pane, and, well, at this point I got bored of counting basic errors and unsubscribed.

The newsletter is about rugby, a subject close to my heart. But as a reader, I felt pretty disenfranchised. They hadn’t even bothered to spellcheck it. Shows how much they care about their email readers.

If the same errors had appeared in print, then the editor would now be looking, probably with some difficulty, for a new job.

I know that the publishing industry has been one of the slowest to fully embrace online opportunities, but even the most moronic publisher surely appreciates that the basic tenets of print publishing apply to online?

A good email newsletter acting as a prompt and alert can really enhance the appeal and commercial success of a magazine. Or not, in this case. Like Gordon, I just walked away and left them to their own devices.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Compelling Sign-up Strategies

All email databases contract; unreported change of address, relocation, loss of interest etc all contribute to a process of natural wastage which is inevitable. So in order to stand still, let alone go forward, it is crucial to have a simple and compelling sign up process to attract new audience.
What contributes to the success of your sign up strategy?

Visibility, simplicity of process, and maximisation of opportunity are three key factors.
If using email to engage and market to customers is a core strategy, then signing up for your emails must be highly visible – it should be a focal point of every page on your website, and prominently displayed on non electronic media. It should form part of the standard text of every email message you send.

How many people track readers to their sign-up pages and then compare numbers with actual sign-ups? It makes fascinating reading, and percentages vary wildly from 5% to 95%. In every case, simplicity, and not requesting superfluous information is a key factor in sites with the higher percentages. Initial sign up is not the time for requesting too much personal information.
When someone is signing up to receive email from you, you have a wonderful opportunity to begin the process of engagement. Maybe even two or three opportunities – sign up page, thank you page and welcome email. Use them wisely.

Database wastage will only grow as email gets busier. Smart marketers will recognise this, and already be implementing strategies to marginalise its impact.