Archive for the ‘Email Marketing Best Practices’ Category

Understanding Email Design

Posted by Shannon Gomez on October 14th, 2015

Mobile Quick ReferencesTo understand email design, you need to understand the end user’s viewing experience. Many designers think that web pages and emails are built the same way because they both rely on HTML and CSS, but current web standards don’t work in the world of email. Email applications, or clients, do not use the same standards as web browsers. They provide limited support for HTML and CSS in outdated and inconsistent ways. Semantic elements — like section, header, footer, headings and paragraph tags — and external CSS don’t exist in email. Everything must be built in tables nested within other tables and styles are applied inline.

Web pages are usually viewed in about 10 common browsers, which share similar modern standards for supporting HTML and CSS. Email is viewed in a wider number of clients, which use a rendering engine to display the content of the message. Control over how your email is viewed by every client on every device can sometimes be tricky. For example, the SubscriberMail® Inbox Experience displays more than 40 different ways your recipient might view the email you send.

Also, not all declarations work across all browsers. A background-image will not work in Yahoo® Mail, Gmail™ and AOL®, and rarely will it display in any Outlook® program or Lotus Notes®. Outlook holds a large percentage of market-share with email recipients, but has little support for CSS properties like display, float, width, height, margin and padding.

Responsive design is an elegant way to display web content across devices. Unfortunately, the code that makes this possible is not universally supported across all email clients. Responsive design relies on CSS media queries to conditionally change table, font or image sizes or even hide content from one device to another, but Gmail is known for stripping out the head section of an email and all the media queries within it.

The current trend is mobile-friendly or scalable design. This type of design works well across desktop and mobile devices by using a method called mobile-first. No media queries are used to adjust the design or elements between devices. Mobile-friendly designs are generally one column, less than 600 pixels wide, use larger fonts for better legibility on a small screen and include extra space around buttons and links for easier clickability.

You can also use the tried and true fixed-width or static design. This type of design will simply shrink itself to fit the screen on which it is being viewed. This means that images set to 600 pixels wide will be viewed at about 50 percent on a mobile phone and all fonts and images will reduce size proportionately as well.

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Provide Information on Your Opt-in Form … Don’t Just Collect It

Posted by Nic Winters on September 3rd, 2015

IntegrationWhen potential new subscribers are visiting your opt-in form, it is important to remember to not just collect information … but also provide it. Providing information at this pivotal juncture can help set the tone for your future email relationship with new subscribers.

For example, if you can commit to a general frequency that subscribers will be receiving emails, it is always recommended to include this information. However, if you are not certain that you will be following that model and may be emailing them less frequently – or more importantly, more frequently – we would suggest refraining from including an expected frequency on your opt-in form to avoid the possibility of annoying your subscribers down the road.

Perhaps the most important thing you can provide on your opt-in form is examples of the content subscribers will be receiving. Often the best opt-in forms include images of past newsletters. You could also link to an archive of past messages. Here is an old blog post I wrote regarding pulling historic hosted copies of your past newsletters for this very purpose.

As you review your opt-in form, put yourself in your future subscribers’ shoes and remember that they don’t know the details of your email marketing strategy and, in some instances, it can be beneficial to spell out what they can anticipate going forward.

If you need any assistance creating or revising your opt-in form, please feel free to contact our support team at support@hcdigital.com – we would love to help!

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Don’t Forget About Suppression Lists

Posted by Deanna Cruzan on August 13th, 2015

List Suppression SegmentationI have noticed that when it comes to deploying emails, many financial institutions do not consider ALL of their list options… meaning while it is critical to target your emails by getting the right promotion or message to the right person, it is equally important to identify segments that shouldn’t receive all your deployments and suppress them from future mailings.

Working with financial institutions, I have noticed that many are under utilizing this tactic, which may have negative results on deliverability as well as click-through rates, opens and renders, etc. Here are a few suggestions on the types of list suppressions you should create and implement into your best practices:

 1. Suppressing account holders who are younger than 18 years of age.

Although I am not an attorney, I would suggest reviewing this website for additional information on communicating with children online. And just to be safe, consider suppressing anyone younger than 16 even if they fall within the guidelines of COPPA.

 2. Suppressing account holders who are in default on loans.

It is most definitely not a best practice to send promotional emails to anyone who is in default of paying a loan, consistently misses payments or has declared bankruptcy. The sale that you make can actually cost you more money later on especially if they have a poor financial history.

 3. Suppressing screaming deletes

Screaming deletes are those customers who do not want your email communications no matter what. In fact, when you find a customer that is so disgruntled by your communications, check your file for any additional email addresses that you might have for them. Add ALL of the email addresses to the ‘screaming deletes’ file. This will save you some headaches down the road.

 4. Create a file for long term disengaged account holders

I recommend putting older email addresses with zero activity in at least 12 months or more into their own list. Not only will it be helpful to see the results from customers with current activity versus those without, but also you can identify older email addresses that may have become part of a spam trap. This will help keep your deliverability at its highest standards.

Although sending out emails is less expensive than sending out direct mail pieces, the same rules should still be considered and applied… just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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Boost Engagement Rates with Inactive Resends

Posted by Alex Wolski on July 30th, 2015

CreativityLike many of us, I sign up for and receive a lot of commercial email. Thanks to the nearly unlimited amount of storage offered by the free webmail providers, I have something like 15,000 emails across all of my personal inboxes. I don’t think I am alone in this.

Every now and then, I’ll find a past unopened message offering a great deal that has since expired. It’s not that I consciously decided not to read it; I just didn’t have time. Maybe it caught my eye but my phone rang, or the oven timer went off, and I had to deal with something else. By the time I get back to my inbox, which might even be the next day, I may have forgotten about that intriguing email. Now, it’s buried under a pile of other messages.

Looking at this from an email sender point-of-view, distracted customers can represent a largely untapped opportunity. We may assume each recipient is making a conscious decision to open or not open our email, but through testing done by Harland Clarke Digital™  focusing on various clients in a variety of industries, we have found that this is often just not the case. Resending the message can actually provide a lift in render and click rates… and this lift can be significant.

According to Bill Leming, VP Strategic Services at Harland Clarke Digital, “We’ve seen instances where it doubled the render rate and click through rates and instances where it increased responses by about 40 percent”.

These statistics will naturally vary by sender, offer and list segment. Like any other technique, it’s something that you need to test in order to see if it makes sense for you. Here are some additional considerations to take into account:

  • The easiest way to do this in SubscriberMail® is to create a Dynamic List Filter that will identify anyone who has opened or clicked on the original send. Then, you can copy your original message out of Sent Messages and redeploy it to the original list, making sure to suppress this list filter;
  • This technique will work best with your cleanest, most engaged list segments. If the list you are resending to has a high percentage of disengaged subscribers and/or spam trap addresses, it can actually work against your deliverability;
  • Thus, it makes sense to test with a small group first and, if there are no adverse effects, expand the testing group;
  • While you are testing, you need to watch your unsubscribe rate carefully to make sure the resend doesn’t cause a spike in unsubscribes.
  • You should also use the TOS Complaint Summary report to see if the resend has a higher “user marked as spam” rate than the original email;
  • You can use the Compare Message Summary report to see how the render/click rates of the resend compare to the original send and discover what sort of boost you are getting, or use the Combine Message Summary report to get the aggregate statistics of both deployments combined.
  • Not every email is a good candidate for an inactive resend. You may not see a benefit from resending a largely informational email;
  • While inactive resends can provide a boost to campaigns that didn’t do as well as you wanted the first time around, they can also work on campaigns that did spectacularly the first time around. If you get a 50 percent unique confirmed open rate and a 20 percent click through rate on a particular message, it clearly resonated with your subscribers. Why not resend this message?
  • While it is not necessary to change anything about the message, you might consider escalating the urgency of the subject line in resends. For example, “Time is Running Out…”, “Last Chance…”, etc.. This may urge distracted customers to pay more attention this time around.

Harland Clarke Digital’s SubscriberMail platform includes tools that make it easy to test inactive resend techniques and measure the effect of these techniques on your campaigns. Contact us for a demo today.

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6 Tips For Troubleshooting Email HTML Code

Posted by Lauren Beltramelli on February 26th, 2015

An important aspect of creating a great email is testing it within a variety of email providers to ensure the layout looks the way you envisioned it would look. Are your images rendering correctly? Does your font look the way you coded it? Are the tables stacking up correctly? These are typical questions you might be asking yourself. Oftentimes, the mistakes that are occurring can be fixed by checking some specific areas to ensure the code is correct. We have identified some simple fixes that you can use to remedy some common problems before you feel like you have to bring a developer into the mix.

1. Blue Borders Around Images.
Blue borders will appear around images that include a link.
To remove the blue border, but keep the image linked, add this CSS code to an image:
<img src=“THIS IS YOUR IMAGE” style=“border-style: none;”>

2. Gaps Under Images.
In some emails, it may be necessary to stack images on top of each other in a table design in order to make a singular image fit into a designated space, and you don’t want a large gap of white space breaking up an image.
Stacked TN Stacked TN
To keep these images from having gaps add this inline CSS to each of the troublesome images:
<img src=“THIS IS YOUR IMAGE LINK” style=“display: block;”>

3. Set your column width the same width and height as the image it contains.
By coding your images to be the same width and height as the column, you will prevent problems on how images will render from one email service provider to the next. If your image is 600px wide and 80px high, your code should look like this:
<td width=”600″ height=”80″>
<img src=”THIS IS YOUR IMAGE” width=”600″ height=”80″ />
</td>

4.Removing hyperlinks from dates and telephone numbers.
While this only makes addresses, telephone numbers and dates blend in more and not totally disappear, it is a quick fix especially for those of your clients who read their emails on smart phones.
Add this inline CSS to the link:
style=”color: #XXXX; text-decoration: none;
NOTE: In order for this to work, you must know the color of your font based on the style sheet.
123-123-1234 123-123-1234

5. Your font isn’t displaying the way you intended.
I always suggest that you use popular fonts such as Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman to avoid running into a situation where a specified font isn’t available on a computer. But, if the font-type is designated in the CSS rules in the <header> of your email, Gmail® will strip that out. The best way to avoid any missteps in font-type, font-size or font-color is to put the styling inline.
Add this inline CSS to the text: style=”font-family:XXX; font-size:XXXpx; color:#XXXX;”
For example, I want to make a line of text: 20 point, Arial font in green.
ENTER YOUR TEXT

6. Zero out your table settings.
Some email providers utilize default settings, because they think they know what looks best in their platform. Include “0” values for cell-spacing, cell-padding and table borders to override the default settings and avoid headaches.
Add this inline CSS to your tables:
 <table cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”0″ border=”0″>

So, why is it important that you test your communication in all email providers? If the email is sloppy or looks like it was hastily put together, readers may not take your messages seriously, which might increase your unsubscribe rate or in worst case scenarios, your deliverability. Also, being aware of common HTML issues can help avoid headaches within your development team and eliminate team frustrations.
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