As a B2B marketer, I create a lot of marketing emails, and I receive a lot too. So I’ve pretty much seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly of email marketing.
A few common mistakes seem to show up over and over again in my inbox. Do any of these sound familiar to you?*Disclaimer – all the examples shown below are actual emails I received, from companies I have subscribed to. I am not affiliated with any of these companies in any way, and my including them in this blog post is in no way an endorsement or disapproval of their products or services.
1. All images and no text, or important text inside the images
How many times have you seen emails like this one in your inbox? I’ve seen it all too many times, and from companies large enough to know better!
This email suffers from image-itis, or an over-dependence on images. The email designer is really depending on graphics to convey the message. However, when most email software these days automatically blocks images until you give the ok to display them, the majority of people who receive your email will see this instead of what you actually want them to see.
Depending on the recipient to allow your images to download is a little like planning on winning the lottery as your retirement plan; it could happen but it would probably be best to have a back-up plan just in case.
Once I gave the ok for Outlook to download the images, this is what I saw, mostly text with a logo on the left. There is no reason why the email designer couldn’t use a standard font for the text, making it easy to include in the email.
Here’s another example, and in this case the ENTIRE email was one giant image, no text at all. Not very informative, to say the least. And this illustrates another problem with relying too much on images – if important information is in the graphic and no where else in the email, there’s a good chance the reader won’t even see it.
So what’s an email designer to do?
First, start by taking a critical look at your email content, and minimize the use of images as much as possible. For example, if a fancy font isn’t really needed, don’t create an image just so you can use it. Choose a web-friendly font and create some visual interest with size and color.
Second, don’t use graphics to convey really important information like the date and time of an event. If the reader doesn’t download the images, they’ll completely miss the point of the email.
Always remember, any critical information or messages in your email must be in included in the text. It’s ok to repeat some things in the images as well, but don’t rely on graphics alone.
2. Nothing substantial above the fold
In the newspaper industry (remember newspapers?) the term “above the fold” refers to the part of the front page that is visible when the newspaper is folded and sitting on display. Translated into email terms, “above the fold” means the part of the email that is visible in the preview screen when a reader looks at their email.
Most of us are inundated with email, at work and at home. When most people receive an email, especially if they don’t consider it to be a critical one, they do a quick scan in the preview pane to see if we want to spend any time actually reading it.
If your readers don’t see anything to grab their attention right away, like the email below, unless they are really motivated they are likely just going to delete the email. In this example, after I allowed images to download, this was all I saw in my preview pane. Most of the “above the fold” area was taken up with a large logo, and there wasn’t a lot to entice me to actually open the email and read it.
Another challenge that complicates this issue is that people may have different sizes set on their preview pane, so there is no standard measurement that can be applied.
When you’re designing your email, take a critical look at the top section. Have you included something that gives your reader a reason to keep reading, like the example below? When I looked at this email, I knew right away there were statistics included that I would likely find interesting. The header only takes up a small percentage of the top section of the email and then it gets right to the attention grabber, guaranteed to keep me reading!
The top third (or less) of your email may be all that a reader sees. Make sure important, attention-grabbing information is right at the top to keep them reading.
3. Not considering what it looks like on mobile devices
According to MovableInk’s US Consumer Device Preference Q1 2015 Report, 67% of emails are opened on a mobile device first. For email marketers, that means emails need to be designed to look great on all screen sizes, because two out of every three emails we send will be read on a smart phone or tablet.
If you forget to design and test for mobile devices, chances are you’ll end up sending emails that look something like the example below. There’s nothing wrong with it specifically, but the double column design definitely makes it hard to read without zooming in, an extra step your readers may not be motivated enough to take.
A well designed email looks great on mobile as well as desktop screens, like the example shown below. Most (if not all) email design services (such as MailChimp) automatically configure your emails for mobile, and allow you to preview what your emails will look like on a desktop and on a mobile device. Don’t miss the important step of previewing and testing your email before you send it out.
If you don’t use an online email service, or your service doesn’t include that option, a quick work-around is to send a test email to yourself, then simply view it on your own mobile device to see how it displays.
Always remember to test your email on mobile devices (phones and tablets) as well as desktop, to ensure every reader is seeing your email in its best light.
Email marketing, when done well, can be an extremely effective way to communicate with customers and prospects. Taking the time to research and educate yourself on the best approach to your email marketing is an investment that will definitely pay off in the long run.