6 common design mistakes

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It usually takes marketers awhile to realize that with emerging communication techniques like e-mail, sizzle and flash for their own sake do not work - something that quality purveyors of direct mail figured out long ago.

So what does work? Which techniques in e-mail should marketers embrace or avoid? Here are six proven tips when developing e-mail campaigns:

Use an honest "From" line to engender trust. Remember when marketers gave phony names to make e-mail recipients think that a communication was coming from an individual (versus a company)? That's dead. If a company is offering a product or service, then that company needs to state its identity. Don't hide it. Studies show that up to 30 percent of e-mails are discarded because recipients do not know whom the e-mails are from. And keep the "From" consistent throughout a campaign.

Keep "Subject" lines short and benefit-driven (and beware spam filters). One of the biggest mistakes online marketers make is the "never-ending subject line." Keep them to 35 characters at most (including spaces) because most people do not maximize their browsers, and many now read these lines on mobile devices.

Also, spam filters often flag heavily promotional lines like "Important Message," "Unlimited Access," "Guaranteed" and even "Hi!" as junk. Avoid ALL CAPS, "$$$" and "!!!" as well.

Never underestimate the value of personalization. Every instance of personalization in an e-mail lifts response. Even if the data only allow greeting the recipient by name (instead of "customer" or "friend"), do it. But if customizing a communication based on the recipient's location, size of business or job title is possible, it may net higher response.

Keep key messages and links "above the fold." Many e-mail recipients read from the preview pane to decide "do I continue?" If critical links or cogent reasons to read on are not visible, it's over. The above-the-fold region (the area visible before being forced to scroll) varies from computer to computer, but it loosely comprises an average 1.5 paragraphs of real estate.

Avoid Flash animation and videos. Many e-mail recipients will be unable to see them. If the e-mail is a launching pad to a landing page, microsite or general Web site, as most are, save those applications until the recipient gets there.

Keep e-mails in the same aesthetic family as the other marketing tactics employed. If an e-mail is part of a wider campaign that includes direct mail and/or other media, ensure that the tactics look similar. Proper brand integration sparks familiarity, which leads to additional short- and long-term response.

Of course, other factors affect success in e-mail marketing: compelling content, effective timing and accurate targeting, to name a few. But paying careful attention to these design basics will have a marketer well on the way to creating

e-mail that delivers positive results.
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