Five Creative Tips For Permission-Based E-Mail

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Marketers have been using e-mail as a marketing tool for more than a decade. Yet it's surprising that so many marketers, drawn to this relatively inexpensive and highly effective means of communicating with customers, still misuse it.

The most common mistake that many marketers make is that they apply the same concepts that worked so well for them in print to e-mail, assuming that what worked perfectly for one will be ideally suited to the other. But the two media are distinctly different and each requires a unique approach.

Here are key creative tips for using e-mail:

Forget the fold. Marketers still discuss e-mail design in terms of what content appears above or below "the fold," as if equating its real estate to a newspaper. Keep in mind that there are more than 40 different e-mail providers and systems, and each will render your e-mail message in a different way.

Instead, think of the preview pane. Design your e-mail creative so that the key messaging elements - company logo, headline, product image, response mechanism or calls-to-action - appear as high in the layout as possible to ensure visibility.

Simplify the message. Because e-mail marketing is such a cost-effective channel, it's tempting to load your e-mails with multiple messages and offers. Instead, keep it simple.

Elevate your main message so that it becomes the thrust of your communication, and construct a clear message hierarchy that leads the reader through any supporting information. Make sure your communication is clear, concise, and easily noticed by readers who scan - not read - their e-mails.

Consider the user experience. Your customers don't interact with e-mail in the same way they do with print ads, television commercials or Web pages. And they don't print their marketing e-mails; they view them in segments on their screens.

Design your e-mail so that pertinent information, particularly calls to action and hyperlinks to landing pages, are likely to appear in the segments readers see as they scroll down and interact with your message.

And remember that many major Internet service providers and e-mail clients block your images. Always include important information, such as a headline or call to action, in HTML text so that the primary element of the communication won't be lost if images do not appear.

Aim for deliverability. Big, sexy images do make an impact. But they won't bring results if they set off spam filters that deliver them to bulk e-mail folders. Run your e-mail sends through test spam filters so you know they rate an acceptable spam score and will make it to the inbox.

Respect the customer relationship. Remember, your customers have given you permission to communicate with them via e-mail. Don't abuse that privilege. Be considerate in terms of frequency of your messaging. And whenever possible, give your customers the opportunity to select the type of content they'd like to receive and how often.

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