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Should I send an audio file in an e-mail campaign?

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Answer: The short answer is that it’s not recommended for technical reasons and user experience issues.

The easiest way to include an audio file is to use Flash, which is not recommended according to Responsys’ e-mail best practices. Flash requires the use of either the “object” tag (Internet Explorer) or the “embed” tag (Mozilla). Both tags are parsed from Web-based e-mail programs because of potential security risks.

Microsoft Outlook 2007 doesn’t support Flash, also because of security concerns. In fact, Microsoft Outlook 2003 and AppleMail are the only major e-mail clients that render Flash correctly. So depending on your list make-up, it is highly unlikely that recipients will hear anything if you take a Flash-based approach.

The other option is to use an audio file attachment, which dramatically increases the likelihood that the e-mail will be routed to a junk folder. It is also very poor e-mail marketing practice to include an attachment that was not requested.

From a user perspective, a company introducing audio files needs to make sure that recipients can control the experience by either turning off the volume or setting future preferences. People are often unhappy with loud sound effects that can be overheard by co-workers.

Bottom-line: Some recipients may hear it and react positively, but overall, I believe it is more trouble than it is worth and recommend saving the “bells and whistles” for a controlled and more user-friendly environment, such as a landing page or Web site.

Always remember, e-mail in itself is never the destination; it’s just a jumping point to a Web page. The more marketers focus on creating engaging and timely e-mail messages that foster personalized relationship and relevancy—and not on tricks that may or may not work—the better results will be across the board.

Julian Scott is creative director at e-mail and marketing automation company Responsys (www.responsys.com).

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