In an online world reduced to 140 characters and 2 minute video clips, nobody (allegedly) has time to deal in anything but absolutes.
Yet it’s the nuances…the grey areas…the edges…that contain much insight into what works, what doesn’t and, most importantly, what might work better in the right circumstances.
Here are four email marketing concepts that seem wrong but might be right. Let me know what you think.
1. HTML outperforms text, so use plain text emails
The superiority of HTML email to plain text email for driving response has become an accepted truth in email marketing. And not without justification.
Alchemy Worx, for example, recently demonstrated the power of images: adding a small, relevant icon to an email boosted total clicks by over 50%.
Now that nearly all marketing email is HTML email, might you try the occasional plain text message as an alternative?
First, plain text is now so rare that it could actually stand out more among the plethora of multi-colored HTML missives. Like a blank canvas in a Picasso exhibition.
Second, the success of HTML for one-to-many marketing communications means it’s associated with exactly that: one-to-many marketing communications.
Plain text still says “personal” (all my personal email is plain text) and/or “important” (much transactional email is still text-based).
This might work well where the message itself:
- needs to do something different to stand out…such as in a reactivation campaign (see this Firebox example)
- is specifically “human”…such as a message from the CEO or some other personality (see the Crutchfield email in the middle of this post)
- tackles a serious or emotional issue, such as a charitable cause, politics, or the economic crisis (see this example from the Obama Presidential campaign)
A good compromise for such emails might be a rich text approach, with a subdued HTML masthead (so logos etc. ensure recognition in the preview pane) and then plain text in the main message?
2. Send a sign-up link to people who are already signed up
Now why would we waste valuable email space with a sign-up link, when the people getting our emails (obviously) have already signed up?
Most senders don’t bother: Chad White recently reviewed unsubscribe practices among top retailers and found only 18% included a “subscribe” link in their emails.
There are two main reasons for adding such a link to your email template.
First, people forward and share your emails with others. Others who are not on your list.
Seeing your wonderful offer or content, they want to sign-up themselves. Seize the moment by including an appropriate link in the very email they’re viewing.
Second, people may unsubscribe from your list, then want to resubscribe later when their circumstances or interests change appropriately. They may dig out an old copy of your newsletter to find out where to sign-up.
This is how MarketingSherpa does it:
Now, the skeptical among you will ask why they can’t simply go to your website and find a sign-up form themselves. Well…
1. The more you make people work to find something, the less likely they are to do so.
2. Not every homepage has an obvious sign-up form or link (another issue).
3. Add a prominent unsubscribe link to the top of your email
That’s right: encourage people to unsubscribe by putting a second unsubscribe link up the top of your email. Like I do:
Spam reports are a big contributor to your reputation as a sender of email and thus your ability to get delivered.
The theory is that an unsubscribe link at the top of your email encourages people to use it who might otherwise use the “report spam” button to achieve the same aim.
And it works for some:
- Groupon revealed that adding an extra unsubscribe link like this did in fact reduce spam complaints by 30%.
- ESP StreamSend reported complaint drops of up to 75% for clients using this practice.
- Conversion Voodoo added the link up top and noted, “we’ve seen slightly higher unsubscribe rates, but substantially lower instances of spam complaints”
- The University of Pittsburgh took this step as well and said that “…since moving it, we’ve seen our number of “Mark as Spam” complaints drop significantly.”
Others are less positive. Commenting on Loren’s article, Jason Henderson noted, “I tested putting the unsubscribe link at the very top a few years ago for one company, and it was a nightmare. Many people actually started clicking on it by accident…”
So is it really a good idea?
I believe it works much like a guarantee. But the majority of other commentators take a more circumspect view.
The consensus seems to be that it’s worth doing whenever you stray from the best practice path. For example, when you’ve had a longish break between email sends or your email’s relevancy isn’t as good as it could be.
Of course, if you’re worried about spam complaints, then you need to address the cause. In such cases, the top unsubscribe link just tackles the symptoms of sub-optimal email practices.
4. Think about mobile email design although nobody is using your mobile-friendly link
One approach to the mobile email challenge is to put in a link to a “mobile version” of your email and then see if anybody clicks it.
If nobody does, then there’s no need to make your emails mobile-friendly.
Or is there?
It’s not unusual to get very few clicks on that link. But this doesn’t tell the whole story. For example:
1. I’ve yet to see a “mobile link” format that displays sensibly and is easily clicked in every mobile operating system, device and email client. Your mobile link may simply be unintelligible or unclickable for many mobile users.
2. Many email designs may display “adequately” on mobile devices (particularly on newer smartphones like the iPhone) so there is no pressing need for the user to fall back on the “mobile-friendly” link.
This is especially likely if you have one-column, image-lite emails.
3. Many people use their mobile devices to triage their emails. They are viewing your email on their mobile device, but saving it to view in full later on a desktop when back in the office/home.
As a result, mobile link use can vastly underestimate your mobile readership.
More evidence supporting that statement comes from studies of email client market shares.
The iPhone’s share, for example is reported as 7.3% and 4% by Campaign Monitor and Fingerprint respectively. And Pivotal Veracity found that “…nearly 10% of B2C marketers’ mail was opened on a mobile device”.
Rather than rely on mobile link clicks to estimate your mobile audience, use the tools provided by the above to gain a better idea. Or look at your website analytics to get a handle on the mobile habits of your target audience.
Original article by By Mark Brownlow