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1 successful marketing design At Bigfork we are saddened to see so many marketing s with poor content and design. These things ruin click-through rates and bore most folk into unsubscribing. This month we re looking at how to create successful marketing content. Our step by step guide will help you avoid common pitfalls and produce more effective s that ll have your customers crying out for more. Have a plan Before you do anything else, develop a strategy for your marketing campaign. You should plan at least three s ahead and your strategy should include what type of content you will be producing, when you will be sending the s and how often. Will your s be information or product led? Perhaps your products or services are seasonal so you need to work around this. Are you going to send s weekly, monthly or quarterly? Think about your key messages, what do you want to achieve with your campaign and what calls to action will you use to do this? Your content should definitely integrate with your website but also think how it may benefit by linking to content on other websites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Aim to please This is vital to your strategy success. People tune out from the hard sell, after all you are asking them to give up their time to read your so reward their investment with content that is interesting and informative, even fun. Get creative and think of new ways of presenting information about your products, company and industry. Write unique and useful content, offer prizes to complete surveys or promote website offers all of these things are of benefit to the reader and help earn your place in their inbox. 1

2 successful marketing design Make it snappy Include too many items and you decrease the chances of them being read, the same goes for overly long articles. Instead have a few teasers that link to the full content elsewhere, such as on your website news page. The added bonus with this approach is that you can monitor click-throughs to help you gauge which articles people are interested in. Get personal If your mailing list includes data such as the recipients name then personalising each can be very effective for increasing open rates and click-throughs. If you do not have this data, consider revising your list building strategy pronto! Having trouble building your list? Why not just ask people if they want to join it? Telephone calls, social media, website based signup forms all of these are quick and easy ways to get people subscribed. If in doubt offer incentives, don t be too proud to wave bribes around! Identify yourself However familiar (or not) your recipients may be with you, your branding needs to be prominent and consistent with all of your other marketing. Remember: people increasingly view s with images disabled by default, so don t just rely on your logo showing up at the top. Make sure your is clear, well laid out and tested in different clients. It might look great in Yahoo but what will Outlook make of it? Making a bad first impression is the fastest route to the bin and all your hard work will have been for nothing. 2

3 successful marketing design Keep it simple silly Your layout should be clear and easy to follow. If it s cluttered, broken or too long then people won t bother making an effort with your mess. Each message, headline and call to action needs to be clear and bold. Test your layout on unsuspecting family members and co-workers for quick and easy feedback. Ask them what they think the is about, what the most important content appears to be and what they would click on first? If their answers are not what you d expect then it may mean a reshuffle. Stay above board Under UK law, every campaign you send out must have an unsubscribe option and your company s contact details. However, as the internet continues to shrink borders we advise playing it safe and following EU law which also states that you must have been granted specific permission to someone. Even though UK law allows cold ing to businesses, if you are reported for spam or your bounce rates is are too high, many marketing software providers will cut you off unless you can prove that you were given permission to use the affected addresses. This last point is really important. You can t just add every customer you ve ever worked with, everyone you ve exchanged an with since the dawn of time, or use an address because it was once copied in on an to you. As a rule, you should have explicit permission to add someone to your mailing list and that permission should have been given within the last year. Ideally you can back this permission up in case of spam complaints. 3

4 successful marketing design Watch your image Images are often disabled until the recipient chooses to view them, therefore your should still work even when images are not displayed. Two quick tips for safe image usage in s: Avoid using images for headers, even if that means you can t use your font of choice, it s better to use regular text to make sure it shows up. Where you do use images, make sure they have alt text so that a description shows up when the image is hidden. Of course there are always exceptions, but if your absolutely relies on a graphic make sure the subject and introduction are so tempting that people can t resist viewing the images. If you don t handle your own design and build then make sure whoever does has thought about this. Looking great is time and money wasted if nobody reads it. Trial and improve Try out different content to see what gets the clicks. Segmenting your list into different customer groups means you can test content variations on different customers. Try out different subject lines to see how it affects open rates but be wary of spammy headlines ask yourself this: would this subject line look out of place in my junk folder? If the answer isn t definitely yes then have a rethink. 4

5 How to put it all this into practise though? That all depends on your business but here s a case study with some ideas for a fictional company, Krocodile Photography. Krocodile Photography are a photographic agency that specialise in commercial photography. Their list is made up of existing customers, potential customers who have expressed an interest in receiving updates and also people who have signed up for newsletters through a form on Krocodile s website. After a few s with low open rates and disappointing responses, Krocodile concluded that they needed to step up their marketing campaigns. BAD! 5

6 Getting started After some feedback from others they concluded the problem was they weren t putting enough effort into their purely sales oriented s and it showed. They were not very interesting to read and only relevant to someone who wanted to buy a specific service right then and there. Armed with this information they decided on a different strategy and thought the best way to improve things was to harness their in-depth knowledge and experience of photography to interest and educate their recipients. The plan behind this was that it would keep people opening their s and therefore keep their name and services in peoples minds. Article idea: The best way to lay out a room in preparation for photographs. This would be useful to estate agents and marketers, of interest to curious people and at the same time reminds people that Krocodile do property photography. Krocodile s simple content strategy: Produce a single, high quality piece of informative content every month for their website. Every three months, produce some useful reference material or piece of research and publish it on their website. By making the content available on the website, they could promote also it from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They also budgeted for a graphic designer to produce the three-monthly content as they really wanted it to stand out as something worthwhile. 6

7 Executing the plan Every month, Krocodile planned to send the with the following structure: Introduction Who Krocodile are, what this is about Feature article Using a teaser introduction, eye-catching graphic and link to the full content which is published on their website Secondary article Showing just teaser content with no image, this would be the featured article from the previous month. Krocodile made the assumption that most people would skim their s so by reusing content it gets at least two airings and also reduces the amount of work required to stick to the monthly schedule. Featured work This would be decided on a per- basis. It could be a particularly interesting project or something to reinforce the feature article. Krocodile thought this would be a good way of including an extra visual element as well as demonstrate the sort of work they do. Testing Krocodile tested a few designs to a sample list of employees, friends and family and settled on a single column layout because: a) It worked best on mobile phones (with some tweaks) b) In user testing, people found it easier to digest the content more quickly Krocodile knew that a lot of people would check their on the move, so having the optimised for mobile was a very important consideration for them. 7

8 And more testing For the first few s they tested subject lines, depending on your software of choice there are different methods available. Krocodile Photography devised two subject lines: a) Descriptive Latest updates from Krocodile b) Creative Snap up these Krocodile updates The was sent to 20% of the mailing list with half the recipients getting the descriptive subject line and the other half getting the creative subject line. After a day, the descriptive subject line had the highest click-rate so was chosen as the best subject line for the remaining s. Click-rate refers to the number of items clicked compared to number of s opened, they decided it was a better metric than just how many were opened as this wouldn t account for bounces, people on holiday and non-trackable opens. Adding a personal touch Krocodile also personalised the s so they started with something like Hi Fred!. Fortunately this was easy to do with their marketing software and they had been wise enough to keep names alongside addresses in their carefully sourced list. Mixing it up To keep things interesting, Krocodile decided that once a year they would completely break away from the standard format and send out an designed purely to be fun. Why send an that generates no leads, sells no products or doesn t even drive useful traffic? Simple! To keep people interested in opening their s. It also had an unexpected side-effect. Many people on the mailing lists had appeared to never have opened their Krocodile s, but were more receptive to the different content and clicked some of the links, allowing them to be tracked. This proved that they were receiving communications and the s weren t just drifting into the void! 8

9 After four s their open rates had risen by nearly 10% and click-through rates had doubled. The s had already generated two sales enquiries that would more than cover all of their marketing expenses for a whole year and were contributing to 20% of their website traffic, another 15% came from promoting the content that was also available on the website. Here s the format that bought them success. But remember, the content makes it work: Web-view link, in case of display problems Clear branding Introduction who, what, why? Feature article Click-through for full story Secondary article Showing off! Contact details 9 Subscription info and unsubscribe link

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