Welcome to a new webinar series presented by Josh Rehr of ECommerce Partners!
The Email Marketing Done Right webinar series will cover a range of email strategies for marketing managers and business owners alike who suspect they’re not making the most of this valuable marketing channel. The series kicks off with Episode 1 “Avoiding Email Blasting Shame.” Rehr outlines a complete checklist for quality assurance before sending an email. Watch or review the transcript below.
Hello, I’m Josh Rehr, a Marketing Manager at ECommerce Partners. Today, I’m here to talk to you about avoiding email blasting shame.
WHAT IS EMAIL BLASTING SHAME?
Making a mistake in an email that is going out to thousands of your subscribers and customers. Over the years, we at ECommerce Partners have learned a thing or two about how to make sure to send a near-perfect email out to that giant list of subscribers. Email, in many ways, has become the face of ecommerce businesses to most of their loyal followers. For this reason, it is important to communicate with these followers properly in order to continue to mature a trusting relationship.
WHY QUALITY ASSURANCE?
Email is one of the most important marketing channels and has become extremely dynamic and complex as a way to reach out to your customers. A mistake in an email can give off a negative impression of your brand, which might create anxiety in a customer’s decision whether they should trust your business as a place to spend their money. Mistakes can happen because, as we go through the process of creating an email, a lot of people are involved. Besides the client, the process involves: >> Strategy team >> Design team >> Development team >> Account Manager The Account Manager can be either the marketing manager of your business or the person who’s working for an agency—such as ECommerce Partners—to manage your email marketing. If you’re using an agency, then you, the client, have your own input on an email. Each person listed above has a variety of responsibilities, not limited to helping put out this email; therefore, he/she may be focused on his/her particular task and not necessarily the big picture. That’s why it’s important for someone to step up and do quality assurance—to avoid the shame.
TOPICS TO REVIEW
A few important topic’s we’ll discuss in today’s webinar: >> CAN-SPAM – The CAN-SPAM Act, government compliance and making sure that our emails include a few key items:
- Cross Platform Adaptation & Responsive Design – Very important as email marketing and overall online marketing in general progresses
- Coupon Codes – A large part of our marketing efforts
- Subject Lines & Preheaders – I’ll discuss a bit more what those are …
- Image & Text Links – Making sure they work
- Testing & Sending – Testing, testing, testing before you send!
First, the CAN-SPAM Act. This is an act developed by the government about a decade ago, and it’s governed by the FTC in order to regulate emails that commercial businesses send. It outlines a number of pieces that are required by businesses in order to be compliant, and as email platforms have adapted to it, following the guidelines of the act help prevent you from ending up in the Spam box. First, it’s important to have a “from” and “reply to” address that is related to your business. Next, of course, you must have an unsubscribe link somewhere in the email messages. Most businesses tend to put this in the footer. Following that, it’s very important to have a physical address—not only to tell your customers where you are located so they can reach you—because many email platforms have adopted these rules and without having the physical address, your email may wind up being labeled as Spam.
TIP: Have a physical address as text versus putting it as an image. Having it as HTML text rather than HTML image will prevent you from ending up in Spam boxes. Finally, it’s always important to—if you’re working with partners or other organizations that might be sending on your behalf—know what you’re sending and guarantee that they’re compliant as well. You risk being on the line for potential penalty if these rules are not followed.
There are dozens of viewing platforms that an email can be read on. Just to name a few, we have multiple types of iPhones. Depending what software they’re on, depending what screen size they have … There’s the Gmail app, both for iPhone and Android … You have Windows phone, and then you have traditional desktop Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and many more. It’s important to take into account all of these when putting together an email.
TIP: We generally specify for 3 sizes. >> Desktop >> Tablet >> Mobile Today, over 50% of emails are being read on a mobile device, so it is recommended to have a responsive design, or at the very least, a design that can be easily read on a smaller mobile device. Another important piece to keep in mind: Not all email platforms support CSS, so it’s important to test. Test on a variety of platforms. We’ll talk more about testing a little later in the presentation.
Continuing on cross-platform adaptation, it’s important to design your template with a certain pixel width so that it appears well on multiple devices. Generally for desktop, this size is 600, but mobile and tablets tend to be a bit smaller. To compensate for this, it’s recommended to design responsively wherever possible. As you can see here, we always try to optimize for desktop, mobile and tablet, and in the iPhone’s case above, you can see the header shrinks down and the borders go away to compensate for the fact that the screen is a bit smaller.
TIP: When you’re doing this as well, if you can be responsive, that’s always a best practice so that people have the optimal viewing experience.
SUBJECT / PREHEADER
Next, moving onto the subject line and preheader: It’s important to make sure that there are no spelling mistakes. It seems obvious, but being in the email business, we see this far too often when we’re sitting around comparing notes and emails, and looking at what other businesses are doing. Another thing to keep in mind is the preheader. This might be your alt text, or it’s a first line of text at the top of the email. This, in many email platforms (the example above is from Gmail) shows up after the subject line and tends to be a little bit faded out. It is one of the most important pieces in getting someone to open your email, so you want to make sure it appears correctly. You also want to make sure that if you’re using alt text, that you’ve used the appropriate alt text and not something from a different email that was left in a template (if you’re using a template over and over again).
EMAIL QA CHECKLIST
Next, the QA checklist … We developed this after some time, when we realized the pieces that our clients need to be checked off in order to feel satisfied before sending out an email. So what we do every time we sent out an email, is we go through these steps to make sure everything is correct. >> Are all the links working? >> Does the image match the product feature? When you go the website, is it the corect product? >> Is the subject line and preheader correct, as we discussed before? >> Is the footer CAN-SPAM compliant? >> Litmus test! We’re going to get into this a bit later, but it’s an email testing software. Does your email display correctly in multiple platforms? >> Are there tracking codes? This is very important for us as ecommerce managers; we want to make sure we show results on the work that we’re doing. >> Is the product in stock? >> Are we sending the email at the correct time? >> Does it work well on all platforms? >> Finally, if there’s a coupon code, does it work? Does it work for the correct product(s)? If there’s an expiration date, have we stated that clearly in the email? If we go through this checklist, and we can make sure these items are all there, we feel comfortable in blasting the email.
EMAIL PLATFORM TESTING SOFTWARE
Litmus is a software that we subscribe to; it helps us test our emails in multiple platforms. We can see a checklist above on the left showing some of the different device options: iPhones, iPads, AOL Mail, Internet Explorer, and the list goes on and on. Then on the right, you see in both the case of iPhones and Outlook that the email is appearing as it should on each platform.
TIP: Litmus is an important way to test, but it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all. We recommend if you have it at your disposal, test your email on you iPhone and/or Android phone. Test it on your desktop and, in addition to just your own email address, have a test email address in Yahoo, Outlook, etc. to see how it looks there.
IMAGE, LINKS, AND TEXT
Moving along to the content of your email: the image, the link, the text. We mentioned spelling before. It’s just as important her to make sure that spelling correctly. Especially when your programmer may be copying it over as an image or text on a Photoshop template into HTML. We want to make sure everything’s spelled correctly, so several rounds of QA are crucial.
TIP: Use HTML and Google-approved fonts that will work well in multiple browsers. Further, we want to make sure all images appear in multiple browsers, or if there’s no image, hopefully we have some alt text or something on the template —for example, a call-to-action—if the person is using a browser that might not support images. Finally, the links … If it’s just one hero image, is that image linking to the correct landing page on the site? If we’re featuring multiple products, does each product go where it should be going?
It’s very important to have the coupon code as text. This way, the person shopping can copy and paste it. It’s important also that it not be above an image, as text above an image in certain email platforms can create problems. Save yourself a bunch of email headaches! You want to make sure the coupon’s active, too. Go to the site; check it. If it’s based on a minimum purchase, test it out of the cart also. Finally, make sure the customer or subscriber, when they’re receiving the email, knows how long the coupon is good for and exactly what the promotion is ; this way, it will avoid unnecessary calls or emails to your customer service department and keep customers happy.
Lastly, we get to schedule an email! We’re not talking about when people just send out emails. In ecommerce cases, we’re sending out a lot of emails, whether it’s weekly, daily, or (for some businesses) multiple times a day. We want to get them scheduled and make sure it’s going out in the appropriate time zone. We want to make sure it’s going to the correct segment of our list, too. So when your schedule it, double-check all of these items.
TIP: Spread out the send-time of your emails. Sometimes websites can only support a certain amount of traffic, so it’s important to keep that in mind as well. Don’t overload the website and slow that down, which can then impact the effectiveness of the email message sending out. I want to thank you for listening to me today. This is the first of the series, so in the future we’ll be doing email acquisition technique, segmentation ideas (and best practices to go along with that), responsive templates, and more! We also have other whitepaper and case studies on our website, www.ecommercepartners.net/services/email-marketing.
I’m Josh Rehr, Marketing Manager at ECP, and thank you very much for your time today.