Mobilize Mail > Step 4: Create Professional Looking Content for Your Business Emails

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Step 4: Create Professional Looking Content for Your Business Emails

Continuing with the series on Email Marketing Best Practices Mobilize Mail has provided hints and tips on the presentation of the content for your commercial emails such as newsletters and promotional emails.

Now that we have covered your Why Do It?, the frequency of emailing your subscribers and tips on the content lets take a look at how to style and present your content to the subscriber.

Have you ever visited a businesses premises and seen the staff looking tired and poorly dressed? Did this affect how you perceive the business?

Having shoddy looking staff would mean that they provide a shoddy service – right?

Sending emails to your subscribers that contains shoddy email content has the same effect.

Subscribers today expect and do get very professional looking email content from businesses. The bar has been raised very high for professional looking emails due to the ability for email applications to present all manner of styles and formatting.

Your commercial emails represent you and your business so its vital that you present your business in a professional manner through your email content.

How do you achieve a professional looking email?

Below are some hints and tips for creating professional looking emails.

Email Width

Try and keep the width of your email template to about 500-600 pixels. Most subscribers will look at your email through their “preview pane” which is usually a small potion of their available computer screen (see image below).

Simple Layouts and Tables Work Best

You wouldn’t believe it (but its true) that every email application in existence will present your email content differently!

What is even more amazing is that an email application can present your email content differently between versions! For example Outlook 2003 has far better support for CSS that Outlook 2007! In fact Outlook 2007 broke many a fancy email template that looked beautiful in Outlook 2003.

Our advice is to keep the layout real simple by using HTML tables to position your content.

CSS in HTML Email

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a beautiful thing for web sites, but don’t put too much faith in it with HTML email. For instance, don’t expect DIVs to work, and forget CSS positioning. Always use Inline CSS for formatting.

What about Flash, JavaScript, ActiveX, movies and other fancy stuff?

Basically forget it.

Most email applications will not run these and most will be blocked by your subscriber’s anti-virus software applications even before the subscribers email application has a chance to reject it.

Fonts and Colours

Try and avoid at all costs USING CAPS and excessive punctuation with loads of different colours and fonts.

Unless you want to have your email content look like a children’s colouring-in book then avoid using excessive use of different colours. It looks unprofessional and spammy. Try and stick with 2-3 different colours within your content and use the colours to represent section/article headings or important information.

In regards to font styles and font sizes most email applications only support a limited amount of fonts. We recommend sticking with Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif and verdana and keep the font size between 8pts and 14pts.

Using Images within Email

Below are some interesting facts about using images within your email. The end result is to not rely anymore on the bulk of your subscribers viewing the images within your email content.

“Study Finds Emails of 23% of Retailers Are Completely Unintelligible When Images Are Blocked” Source

“A recent survey we ran to over 2,000 of our 300,000 strong customer base revealed 59% of regular e-newsletter readers had images blocked by default in their email program. A further 9% didn’t know whether they had them blocked or not.” Source

Make sure when you are creating your email content that the subscriber will be able to fully understand your message without images being displayed.

And a final tip of images is use “alt” text for all images and always includes the width and height so blank placeholder images don’t throw your design out when images are disabled.

Below is an image of an email application that has blocked images from being viewed. Notice the text in place of where the image should be – that’s the ALT text.

Some people are quite creative with their ALT text – for example:

“So you don’t want to see our great deal we have for you?”

Now for some people that might be enough reason to view the images!

Below is the same email content with image blocking turned off.

Amount of Content

Watch how much content you have within your email. Providing too much content can turn your subscribers off. It may remind them of the boring long-winded textbooks they had at school.

We recommend no more than an A4 page of content within your emails. If you have more content then use landing pages (see section below on landing pages for more information) or link to a web page on your web site that provides the full content.

You should only provide the first 1-2 paragraphs of each topic within your email content then provide a link to either a landing page, web page or a downloadable file that contains the whole content.

There are a few benefits to this approach:

  1. The email content is compact and doesn’t scare the subscribers off from reading it.
  2. All the “read more” links are tracked by our system so you can see what your subscribers are interested in via the email campaigns click statistics. This allows you to concentrate on providing content that is read by your subscribers.
  3. If the entire content is provided on your web site then you have already moved them from the email to your web site where you can offer them more options and content.

Whats Next?

Next week we will continue with Part 4 of Email Marketing Best Practices. We will cover the science of email subject lines, sender address and personalisation.

Mobilize Mail provides email marketing services to New Zealand businesses including promotional landing pages, surveys, integration with third party applications, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to name a few. If you like the idea of having a professional New Zealand based team that you can ring and talk to then check out their web site here:

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