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Email is a great tool for keeping your customers informed and interested. If properly produced, mass emails can deliver increased sales and higher customer satisfaction.
If mistakes are made, those same emails can cost business or damage your brand. By avoiding common pitfalls in three key areas, you can greatly improve the effectiveness of your email marketing.
HTML In Email
Many marketing emails use HTML to help capture customer attention. Some of them get noticed for all the wrong reasons. Badly formed HTML in email can cause your message to be flagged as spam, or appear as unreadable nonsense to potential buyers.
If an HTML message contains overly small text, or huge words, it may be marked as junk. The same goes for excessively large words. Avoid using giant font sizes in headlines, and super tiny text for un-subscribe links or legal details.
You will also want to take care to with tool you use to create your message. Many “WYSYWIG” (what you see is what you get) html editors add their own proprietary tags or attributes the HTML code. These non-standard elements can reduce your chances of making it through spam check points.
Lastly, you should consider that some email clients lack HTML support entirely. It is extremely important to include a plain text alternative version of your HTML message. Most mass mailing programs make this easy to do.
Images In Email
Technically, this area could fall under HTML. Images in email however, are so common (and so commonly misused) that they warrant some special attention.
Firstly, you must remember that your images need to properly linked in order to be visible. Images you intend to include in your email should be hosted on your servers and properly linked within the email. The link syntax you need may differ from what you use in your web pages.
With pages on your website, you can often use relative such as: “/images/my_cat_fluffy.jpg”. This will not work in email. A proper image link for email needs to be a complete path such as: “http://www.example.com/images/my_cat_fluffy.jpg” or similar.
Even properly linking an image is not a guarantee that it will show up in the final message. In order to enhance security and reduce spam, many email clients turn off images by default and only show them at the user’s request.
This makes it essential that you craft your message to be readable and presentable without images. Excessive use of images without enough text is also another red flag for spam filters.
Consider The Sender
The popularity of mass marketing through email has not escaped the notice of programmers. There are hundreds if not thousands of programs available to send mass missives for various purposes. Choosing the wrong one can anger your Internet Service Provider, compromise your customer’s privacy or get you blacklisted as a spammer.
When choosing a program to send your emails, make sure that it can be configured to send the emails individually to users. Some programs will simply blind carbon copy all recipients, or in extreme cases, carbon copy everyone (revealing all customer email addresses to everyone on the list).
Sending individual messages makes it possible to throttle the sending as well. Many Internet Service Providers have extremely strict policies on the use of their mail services. If you start flooding their email server with thousands of messages, you will almost certainly violate their policy. You might even clog or crash the server. A good mass mailer will send in small batches with short breaks between mailings. If in doubt, contact your hosting company to clarify their policy.
It is also important to know that you are at least partially tying your reputation to that of the sending program you choose. Email sending programs “stamp” the message with information that identifies what program sent the message. If that stamp indicates you are using a program favored by junk vendors, you could end up blacklisted.
Regardless of the care you take crafting your message, and choosing a sender, there is no substitute for testing. You should always use your chosen program to mail the message to yourself and check the results in multiple email clients – including several web based email services.
Your customers will certainly appreciate all your work, but they might not be the only ones. Instead of angry customers complaining about the “junk” sent, your customer service staff will spend more time talking to informed customers ready to place an order.