When it comes to email marketing – it’s only great design if it works

Law firm marketers understand that email marketing is the best channel when it comes to getting a response, but do they always know if they’re executing campaigns effectively? In this blog Jeff Hemming, Tikit’s Product Manager, Marketing Solutions, wonders if too many marketers work hard on design without ever considering if emails display correctly. He argues that before you get too wrapped up in the visuals you should first make sure that what you’re sending actually works on the email platforms that your contacts use.

There’s no question that it matters what your emails look like when you’re email marketing. Design matters – but it’s not merely a question of aesthetics. The first hygiene check when you’re sending out emails shouldn’t be: “How does this look?”, but rather: “Can my recipients read our emails?” If you can’t answer with a resounding yes to that question, it suggests you need to look at ways of testing your emails to confirm that they display properly.

Why might an email not display properly? Well this can happen because there are around

50 different email apps and devices on which your email could land. Never mind that an email might be opened on a laptop, desktop, tablet or phone. Underlying those differing screen sizes you have to additionally contend with different email packages and versions. There are already 16 versions of Outlook (including for Mackintosh and for Phones & Tablets). There are platforms for iOS and Blackberry and very niche applications besides, such as Thunderbird, which is used quite often in Germany.

So if you ever send emails to Germany do you know what they look like in Thunderbird? It’s necessary to understand which email solutions your recipients are using. Fortunately Tikit eMarketing’s standard reporting capabilities can tell you at message or campaign level what is most popular with your contacts.

Hold up your hand

Sometimes it’s a question of how or indeed if an email displays. For example a banner that looks great on a PC might have to compress so much to appear on a phone screen that it distorts too badly to be read or can’t appear at all.

Sometimes it’s a question of how quickly it displays. For instance, if you’re using a custom font, mobile devices have to download the font remotely before the text will render. This means the recipient has to wait which they may not wish to do, so they just delete your message instead.

Remember that a good start-point when designing emails is to hold up your hand: because the palm of your hand is approximately the size of screen that you have to work with on a mobile phone.

Too much of the time people are taking designs from print and transferring them into email design. And actually this doesn’t work because emails are really just bits of electronic ether. It’s wonderful that they are unbound by the constraints of print, and one of the great advantages is they can interact with the recipient environment. The challenge, though, is that the result of the interaction can be hard to predict. A design which looks great to you on a PC in the office simply can’t be trusted to display properly everywhere else.

See before you send

How can you know that what you send will display as you want it to when it’s received? The answer is by testing before you send. And by that I don’t mean sending it to yourself or your colleague.

Fortunately there is software that will do the testing for you. At Tikit we work closely with Litmus. Tikit eMarketing integrates with Litmus so testing just becomes part of the process. (Other testing packages, by the way, include eMail on Acid or Email Reach).

Litmus does three useful things. To start with, it provides data about which packages and platforms are the most common, which helps you assess what your emails are likely to encounter.

More to the point though, Litmus lets you see what your email will look like on all of these platforms so that you can assess if your design is working or not before you press send. Without this information, you’re in the dark as to whether your emails are displaying correctly – that is unless and until someone takes the time to tell you that they aren’t. Which is a little too late.

Finally, Litmus will also put your proposed email design through a series of spam filters to identify if it’s likely to end up in the recipient’s spam folder. Since spam filters vary, Litmus rates how problematic your message is so you can decide whether and what to change. But at least you’re making an informed decision, and not sending out emails right, left and centre, never quite knowing if they’re arriving as you intend.

In conclusion I’ll just say – of course we want to send out emails that make an impact; and yes, sometimes we’re in a hurry. Nevertheless, time spent testing that your emails display correctly is time well spent.

If you would like to find out about how you can optimize your email campaigns with Litmus click here.