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Should I include forms in my e-mail?

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Answer: Customers ask about this with some regularity, wanting to know the best practices concerning the use of forms. The real answer isn’t a simple formula for success. Finding forms’ sweet spot for marketers lies somewhere in an analysis of your e-mail communications, your success metrics with those campaigns and the makeup of your list.

Let’s look at the facts about forms first. Forms for the most part just don’t translate to e-mail. Many ISPs strip out some of the code that is necessary for your form to function properly. This can lead to forms that, in some e-mail clients, appear broken. In others, forms appear to be normal but the “submit” function doesn’t actually pass along any data. Some e-mail clients may signal a warning to the user that data could be maliciously passed. All these factors can lead to a very frustrating experience for your customers.

Those are a lot of negatives to using forms in your e-mail messages, but let’s look at the positive side. There is perhaps no better way to get specific information returned back to you than submitting data in a form. Web users are conditioned to use forms for everything from airfare searches to finding that new song from the radio to good old-fashioned searches. This familiarity means that a form targeted to specific information most likely has a high click rate. For most marketers that use relevant forms, those forms are the most clicked element in the communication.

When deciding whether to use forms, the first thing to do is to understand the top domains in your list. You should then test the form in top e-mail clients. Will your form work in a majority of those clients? If so, it may make sense to include it. There are also other options to discuss. You can always send forms only to those domains where they function properly. The bottom line: Forms can be great tools, but make sure testing validates that your audience will benefit before you use them.

Kevin Senne is global director of deliverability and product services for e-marketing solutions at Premiere Global Services (www.premiereglobal.com).

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