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EMAIL

BEST

PRACTICE

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READ/ UNREAD

You know from personal experience that there are emails you mark as junk or delete as soon as they appear. Yet there are others that capture your attention. The difference between the two isn’t a simple matter of one company doing X while the other does Y. In reality, the reason we open some emails and not others depends on a carefully constructed combination of message, relevancy, creativity and technical execution. Yet when you boil all those elements down to their purest essence, the difference

becomes clear and simple: the emails we are most likely to open are the ones where the sender has taken the time and effort to ensure that what they send us matters. That’s what separates the offer you click on from the one you don’t. It’s what makes you read on. It’s what drives results.

This is how you do it.

What’s the difference

between the emails you open

and the ones you don’t?

1. Email Marketing 2. Categorising Email Campaigns 3. Reporting and Optimisation 3.1 Reporting 3.2 Optimisation 4. Be creative 5. Bug-testing and technical considerations

5.1 Bug testing 5.2 Technical considerations 6. About Amaze One Contents

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FIGHT

F O R

T H E

RIGHT

To your customers’ attention

1. Email Marketing

We’re all ruthless when it comes to managing our inboxes. As a result, email marketing has changed. Before your message has a chance to hit home, first it needs to break through the filters of every device and every person.

At the time of their conception in the 70s, emails were lauded as a time saving invention. Today, that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. Inboxes are becoming increasingly cluttered as more companies recognise email as a relatively cheap, highly measurable marketing channel that allows them to communicate directly with their customers.

It’s a competitive landscape, with every email competing with everything else in the inbox to be among the ones that survive the cull, as customers discard and unsubscribe from any that are irrelevant or uninteresting to them. Standing out in the crowd has always demanded a well-crafted marketing strategy. Yet it has never mattered more than now.

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2. Categorising Email Campaigns

What’s the point?

Give your emails a

reason to be

Email marketing done well builds relationships with customers, increasing brand advocacy and spend over time. One size fits all email marketing, where sales messages blitz the same people in the same way, over and over, creates disinterest and will likely render the channel (and potentially the customer database) useless. Ultimately, if you don’t really know the specific reason why you’re sending an email, why should anybody open it?

Emails with a job to do

Each email campaign should have purpose. That purpose helps you create a dedicated set of KPIs that allow you to measure whether your campaigns are satisfying your customers’ needs. It is important to categorise your email campaigns by message type and report on the performance of emails within these categories (more on that in Section 3). Classification of email types vary across case studies – but campaigns tend to mix these four broad categories:

1. Engagement

These emails are used to deepen the relationship between business and customer, typically in the form of newsletters. The objective for these types of emails is for your customers to spend time consuming the content. That content should form part of a rich customer journey where brand reinforcement comes wedded to material that is genuinely engaging.

If, later in the day, your content can elicit the sort of conversation that begins: “I was reading something earlier today that said…” it’s done its job.

4. Surprise and delight

“It’s the small things that count” is a good mind-set to have here – a little extra effort can go a long way with your brand advocacy and these emails will help you stand out from your competitors. By showing your customers that you appreciate them – offering something free, unexpected, or exclusive - you can make your customer feel loved.

The chances are even though this positive engagement has happened through email, the customer will shout about it socially. Adding Facebook and Twitter buttons to the email can help encourage this.

2. Direct response

There’s usually one single-minded objective of a direct response email: to influence customers to act upon a single request e.g purchase as a result of reading it. Emails of this type are a major cause of the cluttered inbox. Companies tend to push offers under the misconception that more emails = more revenue. 9 times out of 10, that’s not what happens and results will be poor. But correct offers + correct timing + correct frequency = a high engagement, high response which ultimately leads to good revenue. Not every email in this category will be product-based. They can also be non-transactional, for example asking your customers to download an app, tell you their birthday or fill out a survey.

3. Hygiene

It’s important to recognise when your customer interacts with you, online or offline, by acknowledging them and thanking them for doing so.

Emails in this category might include sign-up confirmations, purchase receipts, delivery details or event reminders. Usually these emails will be

triggered upon completion of a user action, and form part of customer service. Yet ‘Hygiene’ doesn’t have to mean dull. Paying attention to

even the simplest acknowledgement message can enhance your brand, and your reputation for customer service.

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How to measure campaign performance, and spot whether the information you have is the information you really need. When you understand your campaign mix and the purpose of your emails, you are in a position to construct a process to report on their effectiveness.

Defining goals is a good place to start – what tangible behaviour should your campaign elicit? Should it get your customer to download an app, buy a pair of trousers, or simply read the message?

With behaviour defined, use a key performance indicator to measure the performance of each email in relation to its goals. You can find evidence of campaign performance with these three sources of data:

Offline:

This ‘real world’ data includes measures such as revenue or footfall. The challenge is in accurately establishing the cause and effect of email and sale/order. To do this, include an email-only voucher or offer, or use control cells in each location and measure the uplift following your email against the control.

Email:

The three most commonly used KPIs are open rate, through rate, and click-to-open rate. As headline indicators of performance these KPIs work well, though taking a more granular approach to your metrics will deliver even richer insight.

Online:

Measuring how a customer behaves online in response to your email depends largely on what action you are asking them to take, and where you are asking them to take it.

Simple revenue measures may be the ideal metrics for an eCommerce site, while voucher or brochure downloads may be measured in conversion points. If the actions you are driving involve social media then your metrics should follow suit. And where tracking a journey from email to conversion is difficult, use a control cell to measure uplift, as long as the conversion can be associated with an email address.

Tailor what you measure

to what you do

Dig deeper

Reporting on email metrics alone may not help you substantiate the value of email marketing to your business. Consider the following scenarios:

The emphasis on the different metrics will vary based on the structure of your business model and the purpose of your email marketing and your marketing objectives.

For eCommerce businesses, the defining metric is online sales. Businesses with loyalty cards will look at the influence of email marketing on in-store revenue, tracked via the card at point of sale. Other businesses will develop their own personalised models for measuring effectiveness based against business goals.

3.1 Reporting

Information?

Or Insight?

Business 1

Achieves a 50% click-through rate on an email-only offer with a single “Buy Now” call-to-action button. Yet everyone who clicks through to the landing page leaves immediately because they don’t understand how to buy the product. As the business is only reporting on the effectiveness of its email, the high click-through rate leads it to assume its emails are effective.

Business 2

Achieves a 50% click through rate on an email-only offer with a single “Buy Now” call-to-action button. Yet everyone who clicks through to the landing page leaves immediately because they don’t understand how to buy the product. This business uses website metrics to identify the drop-off in the purchase funnel, and uses the information to change the design of the email and landing page. As a result 25% of customers who click from the email now go on to purchase.

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Will my customers

spend more if I send

more offers?

Improve your open and click through rates, improve campaign performance. Here’s how.

“When is the best day to send an email asking customers to download my app?”

“If I include more details around the delivery process upfront are customers less likely to drop off the purchase funnel?”

These questions can all be answered by testing your emails. The optimisation of email metrics is most commonly achieved through A/B testing: half of your audience receive one version of your email, the other half receive the email with one element changed. Whichever performs best against your KPI wins and you take what you’ve learned from the exercise forward.

As a general rule of thumb, if you can improve email metrics (primarily open and click through rate) you are likely to improve the performance of your campaigns against the business goals you have defined (although see Section 3.1).

Remember that A/B testing applies not only to the contents of an email, but also to its design. Most of the items in Section 4 of this paper can be tested in this way.

The benefit of testing is two-fold – not only will it help you improve the performance of your email marketing, but it will also help other areas of your business – providing you share what you’ve learned.

3.2 Optimisation

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It’s more than WHAT you say!

It’s HOW you say it!

A good email unites beautiful design with a clearly articulated message. 90% of emails

don’t achieve this. Here’s how you can make sure yours do…

The structure of your email should be based upon the hierarchy of its messages, and how you are defining success. This will be different for each campaign, but common points to note across all campaigns include:

The fold

If you have an important call to action button, place it is as high up in the email as possible so you don’t have to scroll down to find it.

Prioritise

Which are the one or two key messages you need to get across in your email? Focus on those, and clearly separate them in the design. People won’t read 30 stories about your business in an email – that’s what landing pages are for – but they will read one or two choice items.

Be concise

Keep the copy to a minimum. If you can’t tell your story or get your message across succinctly then introduce the topic in the email and link to the main article on a landing page. If it helps, try to use iconography, symbols, buttons, bullets which all support concise copy.

Top tip

Ensure clickable areas are an end-of-the-thumb apart – especially when using Call to Action buttons.

Structure and layout

4. Be Creative

Personalisation is how you show your customers that you are willing to invest the time and effort to use information they have provided to improve their experience. Here are some examples of how personalisation adds power to emails:

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If you want to have anything moving in your emails, GIFs remain your best bet. That’s because email clients (Outlook, Gmail etc.) don’t support Javascript and support for embedded HTML5 video isn’t yet ubiquitous – and there’s nothing worse than a big, blank box where your video should be.

Used tastefully, GIFs bring a sense of sparkle to an email design, although take care to avoid overuse, which can lead to immunity to their effect or worse, absurdity.

Subject lines and pre-headers are crucial for ensuring that emails landing in an inbox are opened and read. A/B testing (see 3.2) should be used to optimise them – it requires little additional effort but reaps great rewards.

What’s the difference between a subject line, pre-header and “from” address?

• Subject line – A line of copy written to influence a customer to open your email.

• Pre header – The first line of text within the email, which is shown in the preview pane of many email clients just after the subject line.

• From address – the sender name shown above the subject line.

Do

• Keep subject lines succinct.

• Front-load the message – the most important words should be at the beginning.

• Test!

• Try changing the “From” address with audiences that are not opening your emails.

Don’t

• Use language and punctuation that will trigger spam filters – avoid typing in capitals, £ signs, exclamation marks, and words such as “free”.

• Include “do not reply” in the subject line. Customers don’t expect to reply to automated messages, but dictating that they can’t is worse! It’s also worth monitoring automated inboxes as a valuable channel for customer feedback. • Trick readers into opening emails with a misleading

subject line.

• Use the same copy for the subject line as the pre-header, the latter should lead on from the former.

Animated GIFs

Subject lines, pre-headers and

“from” addresses

In most sectors today, more customers are opening emails on mobile devices than on desktop.* Ensuring emails are mobile-friendly is, therefore, a must. Responsive design means that emails are coded to adapt to the size of screen on which they’re being viewed. The days of pinching to zoom in and out are over for the savvy marketer. Instead, emails alter their appearance from device to device.

Responsive design

*In the UK and US – this varies across country and continent.

Top tip

Ensure clickable areas are an end-of-the-thumb apart – especially when using Call to Action buttons.

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It’s more than WHAT you send…

It’s HOW it’s received

How to ensure your lovingly crafted email stays looking its best across all email clients, browsers and devices.

Email clients (such as Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook) are notoriously difficult to satisfy. Before an email arrives in your inbox they check the code, strip out anything they don’t like, then add their own styling to ensure the emails are safe and easy to read.

Different operating systems and devices also have an impact on the way the code ‘renders’ ( i.e. displays). This creates one mighty challenge: how do you get a single HTML file to render correctly across every email client and device combination when they each treat the code differently?

The answer is to test that the HTML will display properly across each combination before campaign broadcast. Luckily you don’t have to do this manually, by sending an email test to every email client and device, because emulators can send the test messages and show screenshots of the resultant layout for each combination.

Only by investing the time in proper testing can you can be confident that your emails will reach your customers’ inboxes looking as good as they did when they left you.

5.1. Bug Testing

5.2. Technical

6 tech tips for ensuring your email reaches its intended destination – and does its job when it gets there.

All the design flair and powerful messaging in the world won’t help your cause if the emails you send fail to make it past your customers’ spam filters. And even with those hurdles cleared, there’s still plenty to be done to ensure your customers can read what you

send.We could fill a whole guide with technical considerations for coding emails, but here are a few key considerations:

Return to sender?

The email delivery checklist

Email size

Keep the codebase of your emails below 102kb so the bottom of your email aren’t clipped off. Some email clients will allow you to “view remaining message” but others won’t.

Images

With many customers opening emails on mobile phones it’s important to be aware that images will take longer to download in low bandwidth areas. That disrupts the user experience and frustrates users. The emergence of 4G is helping to overcome this, but until it’s used by all customers in all areas try to keep image file sizes as low as possible.

Image to text ratio

In the early days of email, spammers used images to deliver suspicious text (e.g. “tell us your bank details”) as a workaround to increasingly diligent email clients. Ensure no more than 40% of the content in your emails is built as images if you don’t want your emails to go to spam.

Unsubscribe

It’s easier than ever for customers to mark emails as spam. When they do, they tarnish your reputation and affect your emails’ deliverability. Always offer recipients an opportunity to unsubscribe at the bottom of your email, and ensure that email clients recognise the unsubscribe capability in your code. Web view version

Offer customers an opportunity to view your email in a browser if they can’t view it in their inbox.

Alt-text

This copy is shown in place of images that haven’t loaded and serves a dual purpose: it helps convey a message to people who have images turned off and provides accessibility for blind people with screen readers. Take the opportunity to make the most of your alt-text content.

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The emails we open are the ones that matter to us. And the way we make them matter more? By taking the time to say the right things, to the right people, in the right

way at the right time.

Conclusion

Amaze One is a collaboration between digital marketing consultancy Amaze and the data-driven know-how of Occam. Together, we unite forty years of original thinking in digital and data marketing into one powerful approach to CRM.

It’s an approach that creates

communications built on unique insight; communications that stand out by being out of the ordinary.

It’s an approach that drives profit through engagement. And it’s an approach that ensures that when you talk to your customers by email, more of them are ready to listen.

Talk to us about making more of your email campaigns, using the details below: amazeone.com

info@amazeone.com +44 (0) 845 459 6057

About Amaze One

Before you send

your next campaign,

make sure your

email matters.

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amazeone.com

Royalty House 72-74 Dean Street London

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