Best Practices for Email Marketing? Don’t Let Creative Rule

best practices for email marketing
Best Practices for Email Marketing? Don’t Make Your Email a Maze

Based on my morning, I say let’s add this to best practices for email marketing: Don’t let creative rule.

Roughly 20% of the success of your email marketing campaign comes from the creative. So why do so many email marketing departments let creative drive the emails?

As part of our job here in teaching best practices for email marketing, I just reviewed two client emails to make suggested improvements. One needed primarily email copywriting changes. The other needed a complete design overhaul before copywriting could even be considered. In fact, the poor design contributed to the copywriting problems!

I think the main problem this email design faced was an identity crisis. It was treated, by the email design team, as a promotional email, heavy on visual impact, with a narrow width and huge photograph right in the middle that took up far too much valuable real estate. But in reality, it was supposed to be an informative, email newsletter type email.

The narrow width put the table of contents at the top, taking up that precious real estate we know as the Preview Pane.

The huge photo spread across the entire width of the template, plus it was square so that made it tall as well, and was such a usability problem that the designer felt compelled to use the words “Read more below” to let the email recipient know there was more to the email than only what appeared above the photo!

The narrow width also made a lot of scrolling necessary, and pretty much guaranteed that the information and links at the end of the email would probably never see the light of day.

In short, we’re looking at all kinds of best practices for email marketing ignored.

My advice? Widen the template and treat the email design like a newsletter. Put the table of contents in the upper left corner where people are used to seeing it. Drastically reduce the size of the photo (and, by the way, make the photo relevant to the content and audience, not just pretty). Then take out the extraneous text that was added to try and help the recipient through the maze of an email. Finally, take all the buried info and add it to the left sidebar.

Only after those changes take place can the content itself be reviewed.

And if all that has to happen for an email marketing expert to make sense of the content, just think how the recipient will struggle with that email design! Oh, wait. He won’t. He’ll take one quick look, get confused, and click delete.

Definitely not the result we want, and definitely a reason for implementing some best practices for email marketing!

And, of course, you always want to test, test, test any changes you make, because in the end, what you want is what works.