How to create an award-winning e-mail campaign

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The Email Experience Council (EEC) will soon begin judging for its Second Annual People’s Choice Awards, which recognize excellence in e-mail marketing campaigns and programs (the deadline for applications is tomorrow). Last year, there was plenty of competition from companies that created strong e-mail campaigns based on segmentation and integrated creative. This year, said Jeanniey Mullen, the Email Experience Council’s founder and chairperson, the focus has shifted.

While creative and segmentation are still important, marketers are now more focused on ‘permissioning’ because of the increase in spam complaints over the past 12 months, she said. Mullen offers the following tips for companies looking to create award-caliber e-mail campaigns, based on her experience judging the EEC awards.

1) Get them coming back. Last year, many of the EEC’s entries were one-off campaign e-mails. This year, the best campaigns focus on getting people to respond on an ongoing basis. “You’re seeing a lot of e-mail series that, over time, look to get people to take action,” she said. “This year we are hearing from people, ‘This is a series of four e-mails that got people to do this.”

2) Give them a mobile option. The best campaigns take into account the ever-growing number of people who access their e-mail via mobile devices, Mullen said. “It’s still so underutilized: the ‘Click on this to view on your mobile device’ link,” she said. “Just adding a few sentences of text to the HTML allows you to make sure your e-mail is readable on any device.” Providing a separate link will also give you a better idea of what percentage of your subscribers are reading e-mails on the fly, which may help you better allocate your marketing dollars. “If you know 50% of all your subscribers never see your beautiful creative, you might not spend as much on that creative for the next campaign.”

3) Protect your reputation. Sure, your reputation might be crystal clear, but how about those companies and content owners to which you link? This is something that marketers should be thinking about but often forget, she said. “Deliverability is still the No. 1 challenge for e-mailers,” Mullen said. “You have to be careful with any links inside your e-mail that go to a third-party. Your recipients might feel good going to your site, but how about the sites that you’re linking to?” If any of those content providers have been flagged for spamming, you’re automatically guilty by association, which means your mail goes right into the spam folder—if it gets delivered at all.

4) Go social. Many of the entries coming in this year are integrated with other marketing channels, Mullen said, especially social media. “E-mails that come from social networks are read more quickly because they are coming from an entity that the person knows and trusts,” she said. Messages that make use of social networks must have a different look and feel than traditional e-mail marketing. “They shouldn’t look sales-y. They need to present information in a way that’s relevant, personal, and yet respects personal space.”

5) Plan for video. Next year will be the year that video e-mail makes a comeback, Mullen said. To prepare, marketers should be thinking about how their video assets can be integrated into their e-mail campaigns, she said.

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