Fast and easy creative best practices for e-mail

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E-mail marketers, consider this: on a good day your e-mail might be opened by 40 percent of recipients, and maybe 5 percent might take action. To make matters worse, readers decide whether or not to view your e-mail in less than a second. You must grab their attention immediately and subtly guide them to the desired action.

The good news is you can make a significant and immediate improvement in your e-mail campaign results by applying a few creative best practices. By implementing a few fundamental tips, you can start boosting e-mail conversion rates right away.

First off, you need to get the look-and-feel of your e-mail right. For most e-mail clients, the ideal above-the-fold mark is 300-500 pixels from the top of the view pane. This is your prime opportunity to grab the viewer's attention. Make the most of it.

And make sure to place your dominant call-to-action, such as "All Bags 20% Off" or "Free Shipping on Shoes" above the fold at least once. If represented by a button, make sure a text link option is present as well, since not everyone can see graphics with their e-mail client.

But it's not just the above-the-fold space that matters. One of the biggest missed opportunities is the absence of a call-to-action at the end of each content section. Don't make the mistake of getting them to read your content, but giving them nowhere to go afterwards.

More often than not, they will not scroll back up to find the call-to-action. And repeat these calls-to-action as many times as possible throughout the e-mail using buttons and text links. Be sure to make all graphic images clickable as well. Remember, the primary purpose of e-mail is to guide the viewer to take an action.

Every person who opens your e-mail has a different profile, so give your viewers options. The primary message may not interest certain people even with the best of segmentation strategies. One viewer might be interested in free shipping, while another one would like to find out which shoes are the hottest sellers for fall. Make these and other calls-to-action available in the e-mail, whether using a basic footer navigation or links to related topics.

Graphics are great, but not everyone can view them. Be sure to balance out graphic content with system text to ensure there is readable content and calls-to-action through the e-mail, especially if images are blocked. But make sure that text is as creatively thought-out as your graphic images. That means avoiding abstract and/or excessive copy.

Be direct and brief. Use bullet points wherever possible for quick scanning. Don't assume your message is so interesting or important that everyone will take extra time to read it. They won't.

Don't be afraid to use color and accents to make your e-mails more visually appealing. Add some graphic animations, which can be a powerful tool to add visual appeal and spark interest.

But there is a fine line between "just right" and "way too much." Often the best animations are the most subtle. And make sure all your great graphics, animations, and creative text fit on the page. The ideal width for an e-mail from the left edge of a view pane is 575-600 pixels, anything wider risks "running off" the page.

You may have spent countless hours creating a compelling e-mail campaign, but it will only work if you can get viewers to open your e-mail. Make sure the subject line highlights your brand and offers a direct and compelling offer.

By simply featuring your brand name in the subject line, open rates increase by at least 5 percent. But you'll get even more people to open an e-mail with a specific offer in the subject line. "Your Brand - 40 percent Off Housewares -- Sale Ends 10/31" is much better than "A Special Offer".

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