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5 golden rules for email communication

Digital creativity blog by Flow Bohl, 24.2.2011

Writing and designing emails for commercial purposes follows coherent objectives and adheres to technical principles. The objectives have an impact on how you approach the task.

Is the email a reminder to do something familiar, is it informing about something familiar or new or is it persuading someone to interact or buy something. Each objective has a different approach and is measured differently. For reminder emails open-rates are enough but for promotional emails, click-though rates and conversion rates are equally important to sales. For best practice in email communication, there are the 5 golden rules I always keep in mind:

1. Subject line

email marketingThe subject line has the biggest potential to drive engagement, increasing the open rate. Most effective lines are short and punchy with a clear benefit or offer for the customer. Personalising the subject line also uplifts the open rate, e.g. Gary, 2011 economic trends for your business.

2. Copy

Email marketing is only successful when the content is of high value and relevant to the reader. Anything else will be regarded as spam. Good content makes an immediate impression. The layout should be scan-able, legible and engaging supported by images, punchy headlines and clear calls to action. Anything important should be visible above the fold to stimulate a reader's interest.

Headlines have a very short time to convey why the content is relevant and valuable to the reader. The copy ideally reflects the email's subject line and should be specific, tailored and offer recipients a unique benefit. This can be achieved by segmenting the recipients list, depending on the quality of the data.

3. Imagery

HTML emails enable the recipient to see images and allows for a rich design. Over-designed emails however, can often look too much like ads, many people tend to avoid anything that looks like an ad. Also big images can take long time to download, too long for some users to wait. The design is meant to support the email's copy and should reflect the overall brand image of landing pages and other forms of communication such as leaflets or posters.

A text version of the HTML can be broadcast simultaneously. It ensures that email clients which block HTML are still able to receive the email.

4. Personalisation

Personalisation helps to nurture the sense of care and attention. Even though reader's are mostly aware of the automated processes of email marketing, recipients do appreciate the extra effort. Data shows that personalized emails have a higher click-through rate. Not only introductions (such as 'Dear Adam'), but even content can be personalized, populated with different elements of content depending on the recipient's preferences. These processes can be fully automated for the sender and yet have a big impact on the email's success.

5. Call to action

Any call to action should carefully reflect the communication's objective and should be clear and stand out, both, visually and verbally. It helps to repeat them above and below the fold. Using a direct call to action (such as 'call now') may deter a recipient from engaging further. Most links in emails are clicked only once. Therefore not more than one objective should be pursued.

Good article on technical details in email marketing

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