Five Basics for Better Email Creative

Posted on by Richard H. Levey

Despite increasing focus on more glamorous social media channels such as Instagram and Pinterest, email has remained a major workhorse of online marketing. Particularly in the B2B sector, a well-planned email campaign can return better results than any social or Web 2.0 channel.

Overflowing inboxes and the dreaded spam folder mean that email remains a complex tool for marketers. However, there are some email marketing essentials that ring true across every industry.

1. Perfect the Content
Content should be the primary area on which marketers focus their time and energy. The message needs to foster easy consumption, with a compelling subject line, one central idea, and a clear call to action. If the email platform allows for it, variable substitution can add a personal touch to emails by serving up custom content. When experimenting with content, marketers should test personalized headlines, simple text versus HTML, image placement, call-to-action language, and the offer (white paper versus discount, for example).

2. First Impressions Matter
As much as we'd love to believe a witty headline will make the audience devour the rest of the email, the words lose effect if they are buried in dense paragraphs of text. Many marketing services make it easy to create attractive HTML emails using pre-formatted templates, and render previews so marketers know exactly how the message will appear in recipients’ inboxes. With so many tools available, there is no excuse for broadcasting mis-formatted emails or emails that are not optimized for multiple email clients. Also, marketers must ensure they have a default value in place for any dynamic personalization, such as a name. Records that have missing data could end up with the dreaded “Dear [blank].”

3. Test Deliverability
There are a number of widely available tools that increase the likelihood of a successful delivery into an inbox. These programs will provide a visual preview of emails and can help identify words, terms and even symbols that could trigger a red flag across various popular spam filtering platforms. They can also provide guidance on other factors spam filters look for, such as text-to-image ratio.

4. Segment Your Audience
The more personalized the email, the more receptive the audience is to the content within it. There are a number of ways to segment targets, including by location, behavior or purchasing power. Segmenting by location allows marketers to insert local flavor into the email, which can give the audience the feeling that the marketer relates to them or their situation. Segmenting based on behavior and how a recipient interacts with email can help gauge a recipient’s place in the buying cycle and provide relevant content accordingly.

5. Track, Adjust, Repeat
The fewer variables a marketer optimizes, the easier it is to see their impact and make adjustments for future campaigns. Organizations conducting tests should evaluate just one item in each message. If the list is large enough, it can be split so marketers can measure different tactics during a single campaign. The optimal mix of the four tactics above will differ across industries, products and approaches. Tracking the number of conversions generated by each email campaign will help determine the right strategy.

Adam Blitzer is co-founder and COO of Pardot.

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