Should I change the design of my e-newsletter so people can read it on their handheld device?

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Answer: E-mail-enabled devices such as the BlackBerry and the Treo have become useful tools for busy people to screen e-mail for later action and to make use of downtime by cleaning up their in-boxes. In other words, they have become editing tools, and it is your job as an e-mail marketer to make the cut by engaging this rapidly growing audience.

How do you convince your mobile audience not to delete e-mails, and instead to save them until they can follow up on them later? Follow these simple rules:

  • Add an ALT Tag. Without an alternative text tag (ALT tag), the PDA will default to HTML and will show image codes and programming strings. ALT tags will enable your PDA to render the e-mail in a simple, readable format without affecting how the e-mail will look on your computer.
  • Don’t use multipart MIME. Most PDAs think they can display HTML but often nothing shows up. Test your HTML on a handheld before you deliver.
  • Get to the point. Put text copy as close to the top of your e-mail as possible. You have to get to the point quickly in text format.
  • Do not top load with ads. If you make subscribers scroll through long links of ads, they will hit “delete.” Pull the ads lower or put some interesting copy above all the HTML and links.
  • Ask readers to hang in there. Put a text line above the ads and header telling readers their attention to the e-mail will be worthwhile. This might go unnoticed in the full rendering of the desktop view but will stand out strongly in the handheld view.
  •  Stop asking to be added to the address book. This message takes up the entire content area on a handheld. Once a subscriber has added you to her address book, stop asking. This data should become an attribute and marketers should use dynamic content to send that note only to those who have not already clicked.

Chris Baggott is co-founder of e-mail marketing software provider ExactTarget (

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