This online marketer has a little secret… Over the last year, I have given multiple seminars on social media. Several of my last blog posts have been about search engine optimization (SEO.) And I try to Tweet daily (four out of five dentists seem to think it’s a good idea.) But, here’s my little secret: Despite the importance of all of the above, I have gotten more job leads from emails sent to our mailing list than any other lead source. Bearing that in mind, I thought I’d put a post up detailing best practice email blast guidelines, which I will update in the future. Email marketing is great for so many different reasons. Using a permission-based mailing list, email allows you to: Entice your subscribers with topical promotions and specials Keep your clients up to date on changes in services, staff or other elements essential to your brand’s value proposition Inform your readers with either a direct feed from your blog or by pointing to new site-based content Gather real time feedback from your sales prospects and, most importantly Just make sure your brand stays front and center in the eyes of your prospects and customers This article is intended to get you thinking tactically about both strategic and design concerns related to designing an effective email template. First let’s start with some strategic guidelines: Be mindful of best practices and — by the way — there really aren’t any. One thing I really love about the zeitgeist of this search engine-driven world we live in is the tendency blog writers have to neatly package their content into “top ten” or “everything you need to know about… ” sorts of lists. It’s really comforting, I’m sure, for an anxious, deadline-driven junior marketing executive to do a Google search for “How to design an eblast” and get a nifty blog entry floating up to the top of their search string entitled something like “Best Practices for Designing an Eblast.” Unfortunately, any reassurance that “best practices” or “top ten” blog might provide are probably fraudulent. That’s because, like so many things in this complicated world we live-in, one marketer’s “best practice” is another marketer’s “avoid at all costs.” Which brings us to our first strategic point: Strategic Point Number 1: Know your audience. Are you a content provider, “thought leader” or blogger whose clients are paying for your knowledge or expertise? Or are you an online retailer or homebuilder, pitching new products or developments? Different products or services call for different email marketing strategies. In the case of an information-based business, images can play secondary roles. If your clients are paying you for your ideas, it’s probably fair to say that they’re more interested in reading what you have to say then looking at pretty pictures. However, if you’re selling the latest mobile device to hit the market, a sleek, engaging lead-in photo might be just the thing to grab your subscribers’ interests and get them to open your blast. Strategic Point Number 2: Write your subject line with care. A corollary to this point might be “don’t rush the little things.” When we talk about decent “open rates” for eblasts, we usually want to see rates of at least twenty percent. In other words, if one out of five folks out there opens your blast, it’s considered successful email marketing. Let’s think about that for a second. “One out of five.” That means that four out of five people are completely ignoring you. The fact that they’re not even bothering to open your darn mail also tells us that they are making this decision based on your subject line. So, then, the takeaway thought here is to be sure you write something that not only gets your viewers’ attention, but also compels them to open. Once again, though, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules. If you maintain a permission-based list and you’re emailing to your subscribers regularly, you can probably assume a somewhat chummy relationship with your readers. So, for instance, we usually put our name in the subject line, just in case someone didn’t glance at the “From:” field. We figure that, since they’re on our mailing list, they probably want to hear from us from time to time. Besides identifying yourself, it’s also is a good idea to get your “offer” out fast. For instance, “Learn Everything You Need to Know about Mobile Website Design” is probably a good subject line for a typical Splat Productions mailer pushing people to our blog, whereas “Considerations and Musings on the Value of Well-Conceived Mobile Website Design” is — well — not so much. Beyond the message being concise though, there’s a wide range of flexibility about words or techniques to use. For instance, one guide will tell you that using all caps is a no-no but, then again, some retailers (like Overstock.com) use them all the time. Again, these issues all boil down to what the nature of your business is and what your customers are expecting from you. Be true to your brand, use common sense and you’ll be fine. In our next post, we’ll talk about how critical design decisions will affect the success of your email marketing. Stay tuned!