What e-mail design challenges do b-to-b marketers need to consider?

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E-mail design should be a concern for all marketers because e-mail is the one channel that can completely undo all the creative work you’ve done.

What do I mean by that? Well, you could have an amazing creative concept but, when directly applied to e-mail, it may not necessarily translate for a number of reasons. Here are the three most important design factors for b-to-b marketers to consider:

  • Image suppression: B-to-b e-mail is most frequently rendered in a corporate e-mail environment, such as Outlook or Lotus Notes, and depending on the e-mail client of your recipient, it may mean that images are suppressed by default. If that is the case, all the pretty imagery you’ve included is absolutely lost on the recipient unless he or she actively opts to render the images (or has added you to their safe-sender list).
  • Code rendering: Outlook and Lotus Notes present a number of HTML coding challenges. Unfortunately, those solutions have not been standardized from one software release to the next; so what may fix the issue in Outlook 2000 may completely break rendering in Outlook 2007. The other challenge is that you have no idea what your recipient is running, so you can’t know what they are seeing. This is remedied by coding in the most basic HTML, using no CSS and standard (read, basic) font tags.
  • Branding: Be sure to keep your branding succinct and transparent to your end recipient. If you market to both the b-to-b and b-to-c sectors, ensure that you don’t vary the branding so vastly that it is unrecognizable. Remember, your b-to-b recipients are also consumers
You should think of e-mail design the same way you would think about what to wear for an important meeting. Sure, you could show up in khakis and a polo, and blend in with the other e-mail denizens of the world. But when you dress smart, your messages have a better chance of being read and have more impact.

Kara Trivunovic is the founder and principal of e-mail consultancy the Email Advisor (

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