Wednesday, 4 May 2011

10 @ Tips for Boosting Opens, Clicks and ROI

At its best, an email blends multiple elements into a seamless, engaging whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. By creating aesthetically pleasing messages in which design, layout and creative elements complement the text, you’ll engage customers and prospects more strongly, resulting in increased opens, click-throughs and conversions. 

Here are 10 tips to help you tap your email creative genius and build messages that connect with subscribers and drive revenue:

Review click heat maps. 
Regardless of relative importance, every link in an email is essentially a call to action. To help you “trim the fat” and make your messages more effective, use click heat maps to analyze prior nurture campaigns and email programs and learn where people’s eyes go within your messages and the call to action they take. Then, remove all nonessential links and distractions and place the primary call to action in the most prominent position based on your review.

2 Build structure with strong borders, color accents and white space.
With multitasking subscribers already bombarded by screen clutter, keeping recipient eyes focused on your message is a challenge. Use strong borders and color accents to provide a visual structure that can survive images being blocked. Also, avoid the urge to pack as much content as possible into your messages and instead allow room for white space, which provides a safety net if text renders unexpectedly, increases readability and forces you to focus on quality over quantity. Remember: In the cluttered inbox, less is more.

3 Keep mobile top of mind.
Whether you market to consumers or businesses, more people are checking email on their mobile phones than ever. So, ensure a positive subscriber experience by using alt tags, making sure emails are typically less than 600 pixels wide, and including key messaging in the top-left corner. Also, an emerging practice to consider is to use style sheets that will adjust size of images and text to be optimized for screen size.

4 Design for touch.
With the explosion of touch-screen tablet devices and smart phones, a new challenge has emerged for email marketers—designing for the fingertip as a mouse. Email marketers need to rethink the placement of hyperlinks, avoiding putting them too close to each other, which causes great frustration for users. Incorporating clickable content blocks that are at least a fingertip’s width apart is an emerging best practice design approach.

5 Take advantage of pre-header text.
Is “View as Web page” the first words you want Smart Phone users (and some email client recipients) to see? Hopefully not. Instead, use this space to briefly promote or state the main call-to-action link so that someone using a mobile phone can quickly see what you’re offering. By using this text to complement your subject line, you’ll entice more subscribers to open.

6 Get the text-to-image ratio right.
A message with a low text-to-image ratio is more likely to be flagged as spam and render poorly and less likely to be delivered or get its point across. But how can you tell if your message ratio is on target? Some marketing platforms will give you a flag in your spam score if the text-to-image mix is not properly balanced. If you discover or suspect that the balance is off, you can copy all the text in your message into a text file, save the document, and then check the file size. Compare that to the total file size of all the images in your message. In general, to optimize for deliverability you should have at least 3,200 bytes of text and a text/image ratio of 30:70. To help achieve this ratio, make sure you optimize all images so they are the smallest file size possible.

Use video wisely.
Consumers are increasingly watching video online, and today there are more ways to highlight video content, such as product demos and tutorials, thanks to the advent of video gifs. But since active video is often blocked by email clients, consider a player image that links to a browser-based video and test extensively to see if readers are interacting with your video content and whether using video as a call to action is effective for you. By only including relevant video and combining it with social links, you can maximize viral impact and recipient engagement.

Enhance the social-sharing experience.
It seems like everyone’s slapping social icons in emails these days, but if you have shareworthy content and want to ensure a rewarding user experience, it’s best to design the whole message around the sharing concept. To do so, build a short, focused email centered on a single subject and include icons to join social networks in your messages (“Like us”) and encourage recipients to share content (“Share to Facebook”). Remember to use both graphical icons and text in your social calls to action. And keep in mind that a Silverpop study showed that there is no “correct” number of social-sharing links to include in your emails, and found no conclusive evidence that placing social network links at the top, bottom or middle of an email increased sharing more than another. Whichever approach you take, test and test again, and make sure that the social network pages you send them to align with your other marketing channels.

Make it easy to unsubscribe.
Using tricks to make it difficult to opt out will backfire with a decrease in trust and an increase in spam complaints. Instead, label your unsubscribe link clearly, and use a text link so readers can see it even with images disabled. Locate the link in the same place in every message, preferably in an email administrative footer, unless you’re having deliverability issues, in which case you might also consider placing the link near the top of your message. Finally, make sure to include “Change Email Address” and “Update Preferences” links, which will help you minimize list churn and retain subscribers who just want to change an aspect of their relationship with you.

10 Include user-generated content.
Today’s consumers are increasingly basing their purchase decisions on the opinions of peers rather than on the adjectives in your marketing emails. Add credibility and impact to your messaging—and potentially draw email recipients into your social media conversations—by populating your messages with testimonials and ratings from product/service reviews, events, promotions and more. By including content such as customer ratings, quotes from social forums, featured member recipes, member profile modules, polls and feedback, you’ll transform your email into a hotbed of “sideways marketing” in which your subscribers help sell, educate and promote your products and services to each other in your messages. © 2011 Copyright Silverpop. All rights reserved. The Silverpop logo is a registered trademark of Silverpop Systems Inc.

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