WhatCounts White Paper - Top 10 Best Practices

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Top 10 Best Practices for Crafting an Effective and Reusable Email Template

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WhatCounts White Paper - Top 10 Best Practices

  1. 1. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESFor Crafting an Effective and Reusable Email Template
  2. 2. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESTHE PROBLEM: THE ENDLESS CYCLE OFCREATIVE PRODUCTIONOne of the biggest challenges facing email marketers today is the endless cycle ofcreative production. By the time one campaign is out the door, you are already behindon the next one. Though many email marketers use some form of templates, often thesetemplates are designed in a way that prevents the necessary flexibility to adapt to newbusiness requirements or strategic advances, and so need extensive rework. Often, it issimply faster to start over and create yet another new template.Unfortunately, under this scenario, one often has barely enough time to work on thenext campaign, much less think strategically and plan for the long- term. There are anumber of possible contributing factors that prevent email marketers from breaking thiscycle including: • Limited Resources mean that you have to focus on your immediate needs versus working on long-term strategic programs • Lack of Flexibility within your current templates usually result in you having to rework or start over in order to support a specific campaign objective • Inability to Personalize or incorporate dynamic content prevents you from taking advantage of the best way to send relevant and targeted emails • Errors most often occur when time is tight and corners are cut • Costs and Inefficiency are immediate by-products when constantly creating new assets to support your current email campaignsCopyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 2All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  3. 3. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESTHE SOLUTION: FLEXIBLE AND EFFICIENTTEMPLATESOne of the most important steps any marketer can take to shift the focus from the never-ending cycle of creative production to long-term strategic planning is to utilize flexibleand efficient templates.By creating a library of reusable templates to meet your long-term marketing needs, youwill be taking the first critical step necessary to have more time to build new programs,test and analyze in order to maximize the potential of the email channel.There are ten key recommendations to keep in mind when crafting a template solutiondesigned to meet your long-term marketing needs.YOU HAVE TO CHANGE BAD BEHAVIORS!The first four recommendations are closely related, but are in many ways, the mostimportant ones that must be embraced before jumping into the strategic and designphases of creating a new template. 1 GIVE YOURSELF TIME 2 ANALYZE YOUR PAIN POINTS 3 CONSIDER THE BIG PICTURE 4 THINK MULTI-PURPOSECopyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 3All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  4. 4. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICES To do this right, you have to give yourself enough “Having a library of reusable time to identify your needs; ensure all appropriate templates will allow you to contributors are able to identify their needs and spend more time testing and provide feedback; and are looking at your long-term building new programs to needs — not just the next quarter. It is also helpful maximize the full potential of that you review where there are issues whether in the the email channel.” production process or in the templates themselves so they can be addressed accordingly.Email marketers often work with very tight timelines, but it is important you treat thisas a long-term investment and set the appropriate expectations. You should plan on theprocess to take at least six weeks, if not more, start to finish. 5 FOLLOW BEST PRACTICESOne of the first mistakes many marketers (or their creative partners) make is not fullyembracing the reality that the email channel is different than the web and printchannels.The email channel is very unique with its own standards and limitations. Therefore, it isimportant that everyone working on a new template understands and applies currentemail best practices appropriately.LEARN YOUR ABCS! • Acknowledge the current creative limitations of the email channel • Believe best practices are best practices for a reason — implement, test, repeat • Customize to meet your brand’s objectives, testing results and production realitiesCopyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 4All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  5. 5. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESCAN’T LOSE CLASSICS • Email width set between 550 - 600 pixels • Quick links in header for immediate engagement • Mixture of system text links and graphic calls to action throughout email • Social media push — forward to a friend, social media outlets, SWYN, progressive profiling, surveys 6 USE FLEXIBLE MODULESThe use of flexible modules, also known as a modular template, is a template innovationdesigned to provide maximum flexibility whether creating different layouts for yourpromotional campaigns or supporting multiple lifecycle marketing programs.A modular template is a series of pre-designed and formatted HTML content modulesthat can be: • Removed • Rearranged • RepeatedWith a modular template, instead of creating series of different templates, you createone master template that takes into account all your content and program needs.Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 5All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  6. 6. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICES THE RECOMMENDED MODULES INCLUDE: • Pre-header • Header • Main Navigation • Primary Navigation • Secondary Navigation • Tertiary Message • Banner • Alternate Navigation Bar • Recovery Zone • Footer The number of modules will vary according to your needs. The best way to identify and layout all the possible configurations is to use wireframes that can be used later as a blueprint in the design process. This will help facilitate the design process and reduce the overall time required.Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 6All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  7. 7. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICES 7 DESIGN FOR ABOVE THE FOLDThere are multiple challenges to overcome to help ensure a campaign’s success asidefrom deliverability and inbox competition including image blocking, preview panelimitations, and mobile device rendering. By designing for the above the fold range,which is 300-500 pixels from the top left corner both vertically and horizontally, youwill help ensure your emails are read and acted upon.One quick test for every email is whether a recipient can quickly answer the following: • Who are you? • What do you want? • Why should I do that?Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 7All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  8. 8. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESThe use of a system-text pre-header is the easiest and most effective tool to help answerthese questions and overcome the challenges noted above.A great pre-header should include: • Engaging teaser system text statement with an underlined system text CTA (Call To Action) • View online & view mobile version prompts • Safe sender prompt for welcome messages Ideally, the pre-header is placed at the very top of the “It takes only a few seconds for email and aligned to the left so it is above any email recipients to decide if the blocked image and not cut-off by the right side of a email is worth taking a closer vertical preview pane. Also, make sure it is not white look - and over 50% decide not or other light colored system text. Otherwise, you risk to scroll.” the pre-header not being legible should the background color be removed by the email client.Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 8All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  9. 9. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESSeveral additional considerations to keep in mind when reviewing design layoutsinclude: • Email recipients take a few seconds to decide if email is worth taking a closer look, over 50% of the recipients decide not to scroll • People generally read left to right, top to bottom • Readers click all over the place including non-clickable areas (so make sure all non-structural template graphics including supporting imagery, icons and especially your logo are clickable) • The first paragraph is usually the most read so make sure this always focuses on your primary message and call to action • Recipients don’t usually read entire sentences or headlines so use bullets when possible 8 DESIGN FOR THE Z-CURVEGreat email design not only looks aesthetically pleasing while incorporating current bestpractices, but works on a subconscious level to guide readers to critical content and callsto action. This is accomplished by designing the template and laying out the content in away that naturally flows with the reader’s eye movement (left to right and back) usingthe “Z curve”.It is essential to include visual cues to clearly indicate your calls to action andincorporate interrupters to draw the reader’s eye to important content and offers.Always remember, if a recipient has read through your email, but has not taken anaction, assume he or she is interested, but has not found anything to click on yet.Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 9All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  10. 10. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICES 9 INCORPORATE A RECOVERY ZONEThough a well-designed above-the-fold area can make a critical difference, there isanother worthwhile opportunity at the often-neglected bottom of any email right abovethe footer content. The inclusion of a recovery zone is a great way to engage recipientsthat otherwise might be missed!The benefits of a recovery zone An effective and thoughtfulinclude: recovery zone should include: • Showcase more up-sells • Navigation links • Promote other marketing • Customer service details channels • Social media options • Highlight customer service • Promotional content resources • Logo • Promote other brands, partnerships or associations • Reinforce the brandRECOVERY ZONE EXAMPLE “The inclusion of a recovery zone is a great way to engage recipients that otherwise might have been missed.”Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 10All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  11. 11. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICES 10 CODE FOR EMAILA very common error that can have serious rendering and deliverability consequences iscoding an email template according to current web standards such as XHTML. Utilizingthe older coding standard HTML 4 is your safest bet and is likely to work with almost allemail clients.Another trick is to use the current limitations of Outlook 2007 as your guide. If it worksin Outlook 2007, chances are it is going to work almost everywhere else! • No Flash or other plug-ins (a red “X” shows where the Flash would display) • No background images (HTML and CSS) • No HTML form submissions • No JavaScript event, such as mouse-down • No CSS floats and positioning • With the exception of color, CCS background properties are not supported — this includes background-attachment, background-position, background-repeat, and background-image • No replacing bullets with images or unordered lists • No animated GIFs (only first frame displays)Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 11All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  12. 12. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESSUMMARYYou have to give yourself time to get it right versus just getting it done. By analyzingyour long-term campaign and program needs, you can then craft a best practicetemplate solution that will make a positive impact on your bottom-line. Improvedresults and less time in the creative production process will mean more time to bestrategic or even give yourself a break!ABOUT SHAW + SCOTTAs a WhatCounts services partner, Shaw + Scott is a digital communications agencywith an award winning team of strategists, designers, copywriters and technologistsdedicated to the interactive web, social and email channels. We offer a full suite ofstrategic, creative and technical solutions to help manage your digital campaigns andprograms. Our award-winning team offers a rare blend of creative excellence, strategicvision, technical knowhow and business sense that seamlessly comes together to deliverhighly customized, targeted solutions tailored to your brand, marketing objectives andproduction realities.Copyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 12All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com
  13. 13. TOP 10 BEST PRACTICESABOUT US WhatCounts, a private Atlanta-based company founded in 2000, is a leading email technology innovator offering a fully integrated lifecycle marketing platform supporting dynamic and targeted content delivery, robust segmentation, API and transactional capabilities as well as integrated video and social media tools. WhatCounts offers deliverability management, strategic coaching, best practices benchmarking, CRM integration and advanced analytics facilitating ROI maximization. The robust WhatCounts platform is delivered as a hosted Web-based SaaS application and as part of the unique Broadcaster on-premise appliance line. WHATCOUNTS, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Telephone: 404.995.8600 Suite 900 Toll Free: 866.804.0076 Atlanta, GA 30326 Fax: 404.995.8611 www.whatcounts.com Email: sales@whatcounts.com ATLANTA • BALTIMORE • CHICAGO • SEATTLE • SYDNEY • WASHINGTON DCCopyright © 2012 WhatCounts, Inc. 3630 Peachtree Rd. Toll Free: 1.866.804.0076 13All Rights Reserved. Suite 900 Email: sales@whatcounts.com Atlanta, GA 30326 Website: www.whatcounts.com

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