Essential e-mail 'how to' basics to keep in mind

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Undoubtedly, e-mail remains a great way to build brand recognition. But how does a new e-mailer capitalize on all the benefits that the channel has to offer? This dilemma comes up fairly often. As a result, I find myself giving a crash course in E-mail 101 to many a bewildered client. They don't know how or where to start. They ask questions such as “Do I need to track the results on my end?” or “Do I need to have a landing page?” I assure them that they will learn all they need, and I begin my overview.

Here's a short list of e-mail “how to” basics that I have developed over the years.

Develop your creative in an HTML format

Don't sell the product/ service in the creative. You want to give them a taste. Keep copy to a minimum. You want a clear call to action and a strong enticement so the recipient will click through to your landing page. Once they're there, it's up to you to close them.

From and subject lines should get you noticed

The From line must not be misleading.

The subject line shouldn't be more then 45 to 50 characters, so use this space wisely. You want the subject line to be like catnip to the reader. Tempting as it might be, try to refrain from using the word “free.” Do remember to use spell check!

Include unique tracking codes

You will know with these which list a responder came from. Without this valuable information, you won't know which list worked. It also will help you compare the tracking reports provided by the e-mail provider with the activity from your Web site.

Be flexible

E-mail urban legend No. 1: There is no best day to deploy your campaign. It really depends on your offer. For example, if you target work-at-home moms with school-age children, consider sending your message during the school day.

Understand CAN-SPAM law

I can't stress enough the importance of this step. You must have a postal address (physical) for the mailer and an active opt-out link for the recipient to use. I recommend putting it in the footer of the e-mail. It must remain active for at least 30 days after the broadcast. If the recipient uses the link to opt out, you must remove them within 10 days of their action.

By now, my e-mail neophytes have absorbed all they can from their first lesson. Soon, they will be ready to move onto E-mail 202, the deployment. But that's a lesson for another day.

Michele Volpe is VP of sales and marketing at Media Source Solutions. Reach her at


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