The Nielsen research findings on e-mail effectiveness lines up with many of the best practices I learned at Constant Contact's Boot Camp last September.
I remember the biggest Homer Simpson dope slap moment of the training was the exercise where we considered at how e-mails appear in the Inbox. I have to admit, before the Boot Camp I often gave that part of my e-mail little thought.
When I think about myself as a recipient of e-mail, the subject line weighs heavily in how I wade through my Inbox. So crafting a subject line that's effective is just as important as the content of your e-mail.
Another best practice from the Boot Camp that is echoed in the Nielsen research is how to best use the real estate in your e-mail. The preview pane of many e-mail programs makes it easy for readers to quickly scan the first quarter of your e-mail - so put your most important information there.
That's all the more reason to keep any graphics headers to a minimum. Since most e-mail programs don't load images unless prompted - a large header graphic could result in the preview pane showing only this:
That combined with a slap dash subject line will send your e-mail to the trash bin in no time!
The latest research from Jakob Nielsen reports that e-mail newsletters remain a Web communicator's best way to supplement a Web site and that the two communication forms are complimentary.
In the study, Nielsen notes that even though the amount of new or unread mail is 300% higher than it was just 4 years ago, e-mail newsletters have moved into the mainstream with consumers.
- With this increase in mail comes an increase in the importance of a good subject line.
- The prevalence of preview windows in mail readers makes it even more important to have your most important information in the first paragraph of your newsletter.
- Nielsen reports that people use social networks to keep in touch with friends; corporate content often is not a good match for this mindset. "In our latest study, we asked users to "receive updates" from companies. Only 10% elected to do so through Facebook, while 90% opted for a newsletter."
You can read the full summary at Nielsen's Alertbox.
If you're interested in having an e-mail workshop where I can share some of these tips - shoot me an e-mail. Even if you're not using Constant Contact - I've learned some best practices that would apply to anyone doing e-mail communications. If enough people are interested I'll pull something together.
In last week's post, as well as at the Statewide Meeting a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was using an e-mail marketing service. I've gotten so many questions that it seemed a post on the topic might be useful.
Since March, I've been using an e-mail marketing service to send e-mail notices to our online catalog customers about monthly specials and new products. I'm using using Constant Contact, and I've been very happy with them, but there are several other companies that offer this service as well.
What does an e-mail marketing service do?
- An e-mail marketing service allows you to create an HTML e-mail that can be rich in graphics using WYSIWYG templates.
- They provide automated list management services such as unsubscribes, bounce management, and flagging of permanently fatal addresses. You can import existing contact files. Once imported, you manage your contacts from within the service's interface.
- You can also include a forwarding link on your e-mail and you can tell who forwarded the e-mail.
- Most provide a widget of HTML code that you can add to your Web site that allows visitors to add themselves to your e-mail list. You can also set up list segments so visitors can select an interest area.
- The most important feature these services offer is the tracking. You can not only tell open and click-through rates on specific e-mails, you can also tell who opened each link that was included in your e-mail and when. For data collection and measuring effectiveness - it's invaluable.
- The service I use has a "Spam Check" feature so you can check your e-mail before it's sent to see if it has the potential to be flagged as Spam.
Marin UCCE is also using a service. They sent an e-mail announcing their Web-only Annual Report. Using a service allowed them to see who open the e-mail and who clicked on the link to the online report.
This is not a "Web Action Team" product, it's an outside service. If you want to use a service you need to set up your own account. Monthly billing is based on the size of your list, sometimes in combination with the number of mailings sent per month. Some offer discounts for paying in advance, some offer a discount to non-profit organizations (like ours).
When doing my research, I found this site that reviews the top 10 services.