F for fail! Worst Email Practices

 
 

As editors of email marketing software, we read a lot of documents entitled "Best Practices", or "Guildelines on Good Emails" whether online or at conferences. Despite these, we are prone to make mistakes at one point or another; we are human afterall. We should not focus on the past mistakes, but rather learn from them in order not to repeat them in the future. 

One of the speakers at the Litmus Email Design Conference (#TEDC14) was Cori Hemmah from Xamarin. She recounted her "whoopsie" moments from the past. Have you ever misspelled your company's name in one of your emails? Or maybe sent out an all-Japanese email to your entire database, except to the actual Japanese customers? Well she did! 

From one marketer to another, let's stop tap dancing around the subject. Let's learn from our email bad email habits so we shall never repeat them again. 

Unresponsive landing page

Screen sizes vary while the number of device are multiplying. LG, Motorola and Samsung have recently announced their new line of wearable devices with integrated Android technology. Although we are a few years away from emails that could be visual on the size of a watch. Perhaps more of a hologram à la Star Wars beam from the watch. I digress. It is important to remember that the one size fits all attitude is gone.

Don't have an responsive email if your landing page is not responsive. It is very unprofessional. If you send your client a promo to their smartphone, make your landing page responsive too. This means that during the designing of your landing page that you make wire frames of how your landing page will look on the 3 benchmark platforms of 2014: desktop, tablet and mobile.

If you cover the 3 bases, the risk of a high bounce rate will decrease.

Fishing for Call to Action CTA Selligent Omnichannel Audience Engagement

Fishing for that CTA

There is nothing worse than opening an email offering the chance to win those 2 One Direction concert tickets (for all you die-hard 1D fans out there). It is addressed to you, the content is relevant, the excitement is at its zenith but where is that CTA? Where is "Click to Win" CTA, the "Participate" button. In the end, your subscriber gives up and deletes your email.

So much for your 1D promo. However, it was there but buried between the top of Harry's quiff and a line about the terms and conditions.

Tell your readers exactly what they want - give them the next action. If you have a 1D concert promo to win tickets: make it clear! It is better to have a small email with a clear CTA that people will click than a long email with a CTA that people won't click. The purpose of the CTA is to get people to go to the landing page: nothing more, nothing less. If you want to sell something, it should be your landing page that does the offer not the CTA. Your readers do not want to go fishing and in the end, they will think that you are some scammer, give up and block you. 

Ignoring the subheader

Space is premium in your emails and therefore it is important to use all space to maximum effect in your campaign. This includes the preheader. The what? Subheader, preheader, sub-header - call it what you wish, it is the one thing that marketers often overlook when they design their emails.

A lot of email developers start their email with a link to the web version, automatically resulting in preheaders along the lines of "click here to view in your browser" or "having trouble reading this email?" Such preheaders don't add any value to your work. You can easily fix this by making sure that your link to the web version isn't the first line of text in your email, by simply adding a meaningful text in the beginning.

Your subscribers spend less than 3 to 4 seconds deciding whether or not to open your email. (Litmus September 2012) Adding an appropriate preheader can help increase your open rate significantly.

Go native and get creative with your preheader! You can use in a variety of ways to increase that open rate and drive traffic to your website for those all important leads: a call-to-action perhaps or a special offer for those designer shoes or classic Queen LP.  

Email bombing everyone

Blitz krieging your audience with a ton of emails is so 1990s; back when emails were in their early stages and companies were only sending them out to hundreds of clients.

We have now the knowledge and tools to target our audience better by sending out our emails in a more organized manner. When planning marketing campaigns, segment your audience to ensure that your clients receive content that is relevant for to their personal needs and interests. If we were to continue to send out emails in an unorganized manner, you will find that the open rates of your emails will plummet. Even worse, customers might divert our email straight to the trash or even mark them as spam. Wees voorzichtig as we say in Dutch!

Missing alt tags

We as marketers all love beautiful emails, you might always view emails with images. However, there is every chance that a number in your subscriber list are using an email client which automatically turns off visual content. A study published this year by the guys at Litmus revealed that 43% of Gmail users read their emails without images. ( Litmus May 2014)

These subscribers will never get to see those beautiful promos on which you've spent so much time working. For the email to still make sense, you need to make sure you always add an appropriate ALT tag to your images.

You cannot force your audience to turn on visuel content however you can try to persuade them. Inject a little fun into those ALT tags. "Hey you! You're missing out on a lot of great content. Turn your images on!" It is simple to give your subscribers all the rich color and texture of your visual content by including an alt tag which tells people what they are missing.

Theater of Salvador Dalí

Theater of Salvador Dalí, Figueres, Spain

Nasty Hands

One last bad practice Cori shared with us, was the use of nasty side hands - outdated design and images. For all of you wondering what she meant by that, take a look at this tweet from Matt Byrd at #TEDC14. Now, you might disagree with her on this specific topic, but what I personally take away from this is that we should always continue to innovate our design. Things that looked great 5 years ago might not look so great anymore today. (Well exceptions being Jennifer Lopez or the work of Dalí.) Certain images or design principles can be over used that sometimes it is better to go for a new, bold design to freshen things up. 

Everyday our inboxes are over loaded by emails from clients, colleagues, third parties and partners. These are no ground breaking ideas; just things to keep in mind when you are designing your next email campaign. 

Mistakes are easily made so avoid them and keep the above ideas in mind when you are creating your next email campaign. Your priority is to have your email arrive and read in order to gain the trust and influence of your audience to add to the already brilliant reputation of you and of the company where you work. 

For more technical advice on how to build an email campaign, download Selligent's Email Guidelines here

Have you made mistakes in your email campaigns in the past? Share them with us, we would love to hear from you.