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E-mail marketing on a budget

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E-mail marketing is constantly evolving, which means the best practices you take for granted today could easily change tomorrow. Plus, e-mail remains a relatively small piece of the overall marketing pie, meaning that e-mail marketers are often doing their job on a limited budget. These two facts are the main reasons that e-mail marketing firm Cypra Media, based in Montreal, this past Tuesday staged a webinar: “The 10 Secrets of Professional E-mail Marketing on a DIY Budget.”

While the webinar is targeted at a variety of marketers, including those who are just getting started with e-mail, there was plenty for more seasoned marketers as well. Mark Berger, the company's director of marketing, provided these three take-aways specifically for the more educated—and experienced—marketer.

  1. Think about pre-headers. Pre-headers are the short text messages that appear above graphics or body copy. Typical pre-header content includes, “Click here to add us to your address book” and “Click here to view this e-mail in your browser.” But e-mail marketers don't have to keep their pre-headers in the plain vanilla category, Berger said: “You should use the space in a creative way. This is a great place to tell people why they might want to open your e-mail.” You can include your call to action, such as “Download our latest white paper” or “Click for our latest offer,” he said. “You can use the space to create a quick, 50-character message to increase your open and click-through rate,” Berger said.
  2. Massage the text-only version. It's a given that all e-mails should go out with a text-only option because, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), about 20% of all recipients view their e-mail on smartphones or other handheld devices. Yet many marketers don't even bother to look at their text-only e-mail to make sure it is formatted properly. The bottom line: It's not enough to simply clean up the HTML and dump your copy into text-only format, Berger said. “You have to massage the text so you can call out subjects and heads and links,” he said, “and you need to organize the chunks so it's easier for someone to read in a mobile device.”
  3. Don't just hand off your coding. Placing code—either links or formatted content—into an e-mail is typically left to a technical person, Berger said. “Marketers don't want to worry about it or think about it, instead concentrating only on the subject line and offer,” he said. “Before you just hand over your code, consider this: While Web browsers might be tolerant of mistakes, e-mail servers and clients are not.” The biggest problem, he said, is that poorly coded e-mail is usually flagged as spam, which means it never gets into the inbox. Yes, it's OK to hand off the technical details of your e-mail campaign, but make sure you're outsourcing to or hiring someone who has significant e-mail experience.
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