Better practices for developing and sending HTML mailers

by oneafrikan on March 24, 2006

I’m busy writing something for .Net magazine and thought that I’d post the longer version (I often have to strip down content to make it fit) as I’ve been having conversations on this topic with a few folk recently. It’s not rocket science, but easy to screw up if you don’t join all the dots:

The most important thing that you can do is to study and know your audience intimately as it will affect how you visually design your HTML mailers. You should know what age group, location, sex, and if possible what income bracket they fit into. Of course this applies to e-commerce mailings where you have permission and you can ask sign-up questions.

The next most important is to know and segment your audience according to the email client that they are using as this will affect how you develop the emailer itself. This applies generally to people using free service providers like Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, Gmail. For the rest, develop your emailer code by hand, and use tables with inline styling as a general rule!

Once you’ve designed specifically for your audience, and you’ve segmented your audience to cater for differing mail clients, you need to get your recipients to actually open the email. Try sending on different days to get a feel for open rates, but generally speaking sending Monday nights / Tuesday mornings seems to work well

Everyone is so bombarded with information and demands on our attention these days that you really have to stand out to get noticed. Make sure you send your emails with a friendly, real subject line that makes sense in a few words, using a real “From” email address that people will identify as friendly.

Generally speaking, if email content is short and sweet (like announcements), stick to plaintext emailers that are easy to read and spaced in short paragraphs. If you’re talking about a brand, or have a lot of information to present then a well formatted HTML emailer is probably better. Remember, less is more.

People scan emails looking for the juicy stuff relevant to them. Use headlines to grab attention with short paragraphs underneath designed to get the reader to click a link and visit a page on a website. Always have an unsubscribe option (it’s the law!), contact details, a link to change the recipients email address or edit account information and a link to view the complete mailer on the web.

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