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E-mail marketing secrets and lies: Avoiding the red X

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Many e-mail marketers operate under the misconception that e-mail service is the same as the postal service: They expect their e-mails to be delivered intact and the way they were created, said Scott Madlener, exec VP- interactive strategy at interactive marketing agency Performance Communications Group (PCG). Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. “We end up being the bearer of bad news and have to educate our clients, and their e-mail service providers and other technology vendors about the realities of e-mail,” he said.

Madlener and his staff have released a new white paper, “The Big Red X,” to address some of the most common—and little-known—issues when it comes to designing e-mail communications. Here is one secret and one “lie” about e-mail marketing highlighted in PCG’s report.

Secret: It’s not enough to test your newsletter in multiple browsers and e-mail clients.

Yes, testing is important, Madlener said. But marketers often overlook an important step in this process: viewing content in each browser or client with images turned off. “The majority of e-mail services and clients default to an images-off setting,” he said. “Unless you check to see what your message looks like, your readers may miss your call to action and content completely.”

For example, some marketers use tables to organize their content. The tables remain even with images turned off. This often creates white space, causing your text to fall below the fold. Another problem: Marketers use multiple objects to create one image, so what looks great with images turned on appears as multiple red Xs with them turned off. Viewing with images off will help you streamline your messages and provide useful content to all of your readers.

Lie: Putting a “Click Here” link in your message is the best way to disseminate content.

You’ve probably seen e-mails that ask you to “click here” to be taken to content or a landing page. While this is a good strategy to keep your message size small, unless you include the actual URL in the copy, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

“When you use an ESP, most of the time—in order to give you reporting on click-throughs—they will change the actual URL to go through their tracking code and redirect back to you,” Madlener said. “It’s all done in the source code.” You can check this by mousing over the link.

It’s a problem, he said, because those links expire after a few months, so if your customer or prospect goes back to that message after it expires, your link won’t work.

Thefix is simple: Add the exact URL after the words “click here” so readers can copy and paste the URL and see your content no matter when they read your message.

“In the b-to-b world, people hold on to e-mails for years,” he said. “And a lot of people like BlackBerry users can’t click on links anyway, so you’ll want to include the actual link for them, too. Plus, it’s a branding issue. Don’t you want to take every opportunity to show people your Web site and URL?”

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