Refreshing an Ongoing Email Campaign

by Gabe Rand, Vice President of Account Services, WhatCounts*

As marketers we are often responsible for multiple channels over a variety of medium, we are focused on creating and delivering  content across these mediums to subscribers who are ever becoming more and more demanding for personalization and original content.  We rely on analytics and engagement metrics to define our success and measure progress made.  Often in this process we focus so much on the ongoing demands of the content and substance of our messages that we neglect to refresh complimentary components, such as design and user experience.

While we have all heard the term ‘Content is King’, when discussing email marketing it is wise to keep a close eye on other major components of your mailings.  Subject lines, calls to action, template design and usability all play major roles in user engagement for the email channel.

Subject lines:

Subject lines are an important component of any email marketing campaign.  It is your first and possibly only opportunity to entice a subscriber to interact with your message.  Subject lines need to be focused on what the intent of the message is or on what action you are looking to be taken within the message.  A good subject line is short enough to be read quickly and not be truncated by the email provider (usually around 50 characters maximum length).

Subject line testing:

Marketers should be performing subject line testing within their subscriber lists by testing a representative portion of their list (10-15% of random subscribers throughout your list).  Make sure that you choose 2-3 subject lines that are varied based on content, urgency of message call to action or any other criteria which you think could affect the users decisions to take action.  Varying the tests from one another is important, as it allows you to better differentiate what contributed to the altered action by the subscriber.

Design, User Experience & Call to Action:

When a subscriber has decided to open an email, in most messages you are still looking for them to take an action, whether it be to click through to read more on your website, visit a product page to complete a purchase or countless other options.  In order to entice this action design, user experience and the call(s) to action are incredibly important.

User experience:

Many subscribers do not add senders as safe senders which causes email to be rendered with images disabled.  This scenario puts an even greater emphasis on following design and user experience best practices.  By keeping to industry standards users can still interact with your message and decide whether they would like to add your brand to their safe sender list moving forward.  For brands who are sending messages which do not conform to these standards users may see only an ‘X’ where images should appear.   This is not a positive experience with the message or the brand for the user and many time is a missed opportunity for the brand.


Email is similar to other digital medium in that often you are faced with the decision of brand vs. usability.  Whether it be on the web when making decisions around content for SEO and having to use web-based fonts vs. using Flash or imagery where can employ the corporate font.  You have a similar decision in email, in order for the message to render correctly you must use fonts which are approved for the web, this means that you have a choice to either plop a giant image using your brand font into the email or to follow best practices, compromise on the font and provide your subscribers with a better in email marketing experience.  Of course, this is not the only design decision which can have an impact on your subscribers, we will discuss further consideration points in future posts.

Call(s) to Action:

As with your subject line it is important to focus calls to action, making sure they are relevant to the content.  Also, by following design best practices you can ensure calls to action are viewable with images disabled and are consistent across email browsers.  Always keep in mind the users experience once they have taken action, consistency of experience and message is critical when looking to maximize conversion rates post click.

* Allen Nance, President & Founder of WhatCounts will speak at the DMA Luncheon on June 16th, 2011. Click here for more information.


Explore posts in the same categories: Campaign, Email, Marketing Campaign Effectiveness

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