Boost your emails with topical content

In order to achieve the best results, it's good practice to plan your email campaigns in advance. However, one of the many advantages of email marketing is it enables you to quickly react to marketing opportunities when they occur and in particular, it allows you to take advantage of topical news and events to boost your marketing.

If you'd like to give this a go, below are some key things you should consider:

For marketing communications to be effective they need to be relevant to your target audience.  There's little point talking to your recipients about a topic that doesn't have any relevance to them.  For example if there was a change in employment law, a recruitment company could use it as the topic of an email campaign to send to employers, however this wouldn't make sense coming from a travel company to their customers.

While the topic must be relevant, it doesn't necessarily need to be directly linked to your business. As parts of the UK have been brought to a standstill by flooding, we received an email from a well-known online retailer which demonstrated how you can use topical events to boost your email marketing. While the body of the email focused on their normal newsletter content, an up to the minute subject line made it really topical: "Rained in? Shop online for a stylish start to spring!"

While rain is not necessarily related to spring fashion trends, the retailer reacted to the outside circumstances and utilised it within their email campaign to create a relevant, compelling call-to-action in their subject line. This example also demonstrates that you don't need to theme the entire email around the topic, you can make a small section or even just the subject line topical.

When dealing with topical content, timing is key. Your message is likely to be less effective if the content is perceived to be out-dated or yesterday's news. Where possible you should try to prepare your content in advance. For example, at Oscar time a DVD retailer could pre-plan an offer on former Oscar winning movies to coincide with the current awards. However, for unexpected and unforeseen events you should endeavour to react as quickly as possible while the topic is still relevant and current - this is ideal for those wanting to increase marketing share or their ROI.

Avoid the bandwagon
There'll always be times when there's an influx of emails around the same topic, such as Christmas, Easter or Valentines Day. If your recipients receive a lot of emails on the same topic the impact of your campaign may be diluted. You need to ensure what you're communicating has added value for your recipients. For example, the recruitment company emailing employers about changes in employment law could summarise in an easy format what it means for them, rather than just retelling the changes.

While topical content can aid your email marketing, the most important thing to remember is not to force-fit it into your email campaigns. Ultimately your email campaign will only be effective if it's interesting and appealing to your recipients.

Mobile email design and rendering

With the widespread acceptance of smart phones and tablets, proper email rendering in mobile devices has become crucial to the success of your email marketing campaigns but finding a way to deliver an email that renders correctly in all screen sizes is a challenge.

Currently, most marketers create a separate email for mobile users and deliver it based on subscriber preferences or provide a link in their email to open a mobile-friendly version in the device’s web browser. But by taking advantage of some new coding techniques it’s now possible to deliver both desktop and mobile-friendly versions automatically depending on which device the email is viewed on.

Mobile Email Rendering
Similar to webmail rendering, each mobile email client uses a proprietary pre-processor which removes anything that could be dangerous, introduce privacy concerns or cause the email client to behave unexpectedly. The pre-processor doesn't alter the HTML until it arrives to the phone and, once the pre-processing is finished, the HTML is passed to the phone’s browser to render. Each email application on the phone “borrows” WebKit to render the email, even if the email’s not being read in the browser itself.

So, while it’s very likely that emails read on a mobile device will be rendered using WebKit, differences in pre-processors and behaviours between email apps, even on the same device, can result in rendering differences in each one. For example, the Gmail app on Android removes all CSS, including media queries used in responsive designs, while the email app on Android has better support for responsive elements. And while the iPhone scales designs to fit the screen, users with a BlackBerry Z10 will need to scroll and pinch to view their emails.

To make matters more confusing, there are subtle differences between each devices’ implementation of WebKit, so Android, Blackberry and iOS all use a slightly different variation of WebKit to render. For example, each manufacturer may opt for a different style of button, or slightly different font smoothing. Windows Phone also uses a pre-processor before passing HTML to the phone’s browser, but uses Internet Explorer rather than WebKit for rendering.

Media Queries
A media query is a small snippet of code that sits in the head of your email code and turns on a set of layout instructions (cascading style sheets or CSS) when a certain criteria is met. Traditionally, this has been used to target devices such as printers to change the layout of web pages for better printing, but with the increased usage of mobile email, designers are using the media query to target different screen resolutions and change the design depending on the device. This has been termed ‘responsive design’ because the design can respond and adapt depending on the screen it is viewed on.

For example, if a media query is set to look for a screen resolution of 480 pixels or less (your typical smartphone size), the new CSS will be loaded and change layout elements when the screen matches that resolution.

Many elements can be affected, including widths, heights, image paths and sizes, buttons, fonts, colours, etc. It is also possible to hide sections of content with this method, effectively allowing you to deliver a unique message to a user’s inbox depending on the device it is viewed on - automatically.

However, it is worth noting that not all mobile email clients currently support media queries (see below).

Media Query Support in Mobile Devices

*Table care of Anna Yeaman at Style Campaign. This article has been compiled using information and advice from Litmus and BlueHornet.  

Does your subject matter?

In this article we are going to focus on one of the most important yet overlooked parts of your email campaign – the subject line. Along with the' from' name and email address this is the first thing you see when the email arrives in your inbox so it is vital to make sure this is written to show the contents of your email campaign.

The estimation is that you have up to 5 seconds to catch your subscriber’s attention with your subject line. With most people receiving on average 50+ emails per day you really have to make your subject line appealing to your readers and make them want to open and read your email.

How have your recent campaign open rates faired compared to older campaigns? What we recommend is that you look at your previous campaign open rates from the past 6 months and look at the subject line for the highest open rates you have. This will help give you an idea on what is working for your email campaign subject lines and what isn't.

Subject length
Some email clients will cut off or truncate the subject line if it is too long. Anything from 40-55 characters should be OK, just make sure you test this first before sending it out to your subscriber list.

Be honest about the content
The best thing to do is write a subject line that is honest with your subscribers – don’t try to fool them and lie about the content of the email as this could cause more unsubscribes if you try to mislead them. Be honest about the content – if necessary ask colleagues to brainstorm some suggestions for you!

Set a deadline
If you have a time sensitive offer, try to include the remaining time in your email subject. By setting a deadline, as such, you are giving the subscriber a time limit to adhere to, so they know how long they have before the offer runs out.

Your number is up
Add numbers to your subject line to catch the subscriber’s attention. Studies show that the human brain will focus on reading numerical characters over words. So instead of using the subject “Four days left”, use “4 days left” instead.

Don’t neglect the from fields
I know, I know – this blog post is meant to be about the subject line but remember to make sure your from name and from email address are both clear and correct. Check that your email arrives with these set correctly and also make sure the email address they reply to is monitored in case of anyone questions or problems anyone may have.

Test, test, test
As with any email marketing campaign, make sure you test the email to yourself first. Here at NewZapp we always recommend you should send a test to yourself, your colleagues and one or two external addresses like an Outlook or Gmail account of your own. This is so you can see how different email clients deal with your email and check they do not mark the email as spam.

Change the type of subject you write
Ask a question – “Did you know that Exeter opens next week?”
Set a deadline – “Our Sale ends tonight at midnight”
Make a statement – “Our new Exeter store opens next week”
Add numerical characters – “Only 100 tickets left”

Re-sending to non openers
If you want to send your email again, but to your non openers, make sure you change the subject line completely. There must be a reason they didn't open the original email so try a different type of subject line to tempt them to open your email.

Five dating tips you can apply to your email marketing

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching many of you will be gearing up to send as many heartfelt emails to your subscribers as possible, encouraging them to treat their special someone. Unfortunately many of those emails won’t hit the mark and you could see your unsubscribes and spam complaints increasing with every soppy campaign you send.

I believe that email marketers would be a lot more successful this Valentine’s Day (and every other day) if they tried building relationships with their subscribers, much like you would if you were dating someone.

So here are five rules that will help you get lucky with your subscribers and your date this February 14...

1. Listen to your date
Ever been on a date with someone who does all the talking? It’s not fun and the same thing applies to your email subscribers. Listen for all of the data that they’re providing you and create a dialogue rather than a one way flood of messages asking them to “BUY NOW”. These are some of the data points you should be tracking:

  • Email open.
  • Email click.
  • Email reply.
  • Preference centre.
  • Survey.
  • Website search.
  • Basket abandonment.
  • Page browse.
  • Product purchase.

2. Take an interest in your date
Everyone that you date will be a little bit different and you need to take that into account with your topics of conversation, you’re probably not going to be that successful if you can only talk about sports. Take an interest in your date, debate with them, find common interests. Email marketers are great at asking for preferences and gathering data but rarely do anything with it to personalise content or create segments. Remember that you are probably sending to a large number of people and they are all a bit different.

Think about how you could use that data to send more relevant and personalised content. It could be as simple as segmenting based on gender or location.

  • Ask for preferences.
  • Personalise content.
  • Segment.

3. Pay for dinner
According to my thorough research, men should always pay for dinner and reject any attempts by women who offer to help. Whether you agree with this or not, it can’t hurt to give your date a small gift.

The same thing applies to email marketing. First impressions last, so make sure you include something for your new subscribers in your welcome programme. It doesn't necessarily have to be a discount either, free content, tips and advice can also work well.

  • Discounts.
  • Value added information.
  • Inspiration.
  • Tips.

4. Don’t smother your date
Ever heard of the three day rule? It's a rule used by douchebag guys who think that waiting three days after a date to call means that the girl will want them more, when really it just pisses them off. Although the three day rule doesn't really work in practice, you definitely don’t want to smother your date with a text message every two minutes.

Similarly in email marketing, you want to communicate to your subscribers at appropriate intervals. A welcome programme which includes several emails sent over the course of two weeks can be a great way to automatically send relevant emails to new subscribers and make a good first impression.

Segmenting your data based on when subscribers last engaged with you is another good way to communicate with the people who are most likely to respond.

  • Welcome series over the first seven days.
  • Segment based on email behaviour.
  • Life-cycle trigger emails. 
  • Personalisation based on preferences. 

5. End the date amicably
Not everyone you date is going to fall head over heels for you but there’s no reason for ending the date badly if things don’t work out, you could still be friends. Unfortunately many email marketers seem to think that it’s okay to make it hard to unsubscribe, either by hiding the unsubscribe link in the T&Cs and/or making you login to their website.

The fact is that if you don’t make it easy, subscribers are just going to mark you as spam, email marketing’s equivalent to a restraining order. Ideally your unsubscribe process should just involve one click. It’s also fine to offer alternative options such as less frequent mailings and to ask for feedback. So:

  • Make it easy to unsubscribe.
  • Offer other options – less frequent mailings (let’s be friends).
  • Ask for feedback so that you can do better in the future.

So there you have it, five dating tips that could help improve your email marketing. Good luck this Valentine’s Day.

This article was written by Andrew King who is senior strategy consultant at Lyris. It was first published on the Econsultancy website. 

6 ways to avoid the spam trap

Spam filters are designed to keep unwanted mail from clogging up your inbox, but sometimes genuine emails can offend these filters and be marked as junk. Most spam filters work on a scoring system, they will score your email on any bad factors and if the score reaches the threshold (usually 5 points) the email will be marked as spam.

Below we have listed a few of the ways you can avoid being caught in the spam trap.

Don’t be afraid to ask.
Do you have a message asking your subscribers to be added to their contacts or safe sender list? You should. Just by adding this request at the top of your email you will encourage subscribers to add you to their address book or safe senders list. This will make your from address trusted and help avoid the email being junked in the future.

Set-up your SPF Record.
Whenever you send an email, whether it be from Outlook or an email marketing system it will have a from line which will contain a domain. By having an SPF record it will show that you are giving NewZapp, or any other email marketing software, permission to send mail on behalf of your domain, so should any spam filters look this up they will see we have permission to send using your domain. To do this you will need to add "" (minus the quotes) to your SPF record. It is recommended to ask your hosting company or I.T team to handle this for you.

Spammy words and actions.
Certain spammy words or actions can cause your email to be zapped by a spam filter. Here are a few things to avoid;
  • Excessive use of exclamation marks!!!!!!
  • Use of words in red
  • MS Word Coding
  • Embedding a video or form - these have scripts that will most likely be disabled making them useless

On the subject.
If you have a badly chosen subject line this can sometimes cause your email to be marked as spam, depending on how bad the subject is. Some email filters will let the email through if it doesn't score it high, and some will junk the email due to the filter being offended. It is recommended you should avoid the following;
  • Very long subject lines often get you scored higher, also they don't fit in the recipient’s email client
  • Free or money off
  • Special offer
  • Limited time offer - today only!
  • Save 20%
  • Gift certificate discount 

Alt text on images.
By setting the alt text (alternative text) on your images, you will display the text if the email client block the images – most do this by default. By setting the Alt text on your images you will display the description of the image so your subscribers can be see the content of the email, this is your chance to encourage subscribers to download the images and view the email in all its glory!

Send both HTML and Plain Text.
NewZapp will always create a Plain Text version of your campaign and send this out as a Multipart email. A multipart email will be sent out to each subscriber and the email client at the recipients end will decide whether to display the HTML or plain text version, depending on which is settings are set to render. For example, on a very old phone it could choose the plain text version, whereas a Smartphone would opt for the HTML version.

The Johnson box lives on – setting Preview Text in emails

Your emails are being read before they've even been opened.
Ok, hands up, I’m stating the obvious here, as we’ve long known the importance of choosing a solid and reliable ‘from name’ and a tailored subject line that not only sets the tone of your email campaign but makes it one that’s irresistible to open, but are you also making the most of your Preview Text? 

As 2014 shows no sign of slowing down in terms of the popularity of mobile media (as if we thought it would!), I got to thinking about the humble Johnson box and how, with its ability to create preview text, its usefulness has probably never been greater than it is right now.

Preview Text is literally a preview in the Inbox of the first line of real text that appears in an email.
If you’re checking your emails on desktop then the preview text is seen after the subject line in web accounts such as Gmail and Yahoo! (as per my first screen shots) and on iOS mobiles you’ll see it under the subject line in your inbox.

Preview text in my Google and Yahoo! web mail inboxes

Along with other email marketers, we’ve long been advocates of the Johnson box and its benefits.
You’ll no doubt have read past articles on the NewZapp website. If not, here’s a reminder of our excellent guide!

In short, the Johnson box is a term used to describe the area at the very top of an email where an instruction/summary/introduction type of real text message is added.

Thought to be named after the direct marketer Frank Johnson, this area has traditionally most often been used in an advisory role, highlighting the fact that the HTML email below will look at its best if you allow images to display, and how to enable them. On many an email you will have no doubt seen messages such as “This email is best view with images enabled” or “Email not displaying correctly?” both of which set an almost negative and apologetic slant on your email.

Time to move on
Personally I’m of the opinion that this instruction has been out of date for some time. Our audiences have by now grasped the fact that email marketing is html. It’s about a mix of text and images and without images a lot of emails would be fairly dry in content (and not so tempting to click!). Besides which, images are loading automatically for a lot of us when we’re accessing emails (see Gmail’s recent update) or when we’ve already followed the instruction on our menu to “always allow images”. The great thing about this advancement is that we can now deploy the Johnson box for a more positive purpose, to add Preview Text.

Preview text on my iPhone - add a complete statement or a teaser

A quick guide on how to work Preview Text to your advantage:

  • In the same way you ideally want a “one size fits all subject line” consider how much space is available to you, in the email readers/applications that will show your Preview Text.
  • You have about 80 characters (including spaces) to play with on an iPhone, less on a web application if someone’s not using wide screens - we’d suggest going for a happy medium.
  • Space available on a desktop web application will depend not only on the length of your subject line but also on someone’s desktop screen resolution.
  • Preview Text can be either a complete statement or a teaser (the mystery of the ellipsis!...). It should still make sense when the email is open in full.

Although your preview text is not going to be seen by every subscriber until they open your email in full, adapting and evolving your marketing techniques in ways like this are crucial if you’re to get the most out of your resources and grow your mobile ‘opens’.

Raise your revenue with email marketing

It’s easy to put email marketing into a box where it’s just doing one job for you, but there's so much more your emails can achieve.

You probably treat your customers differently. The more they spend with you, the more likely they are to receive better service from you. Use your email marketing to continue those special relationships and to improve your low value customers.

You probably treat prospects differently too. An offer or sales proposition you would use to convert leads to customers, may not be something you would offer an existing customer. Email marketing can be used for more than just acquisition or retention. There are more ways to utilise email marketing than you'd think.

By segmenting your database and targeting your emails, you can improve your relationships with contacts and add to your bottom line.

Retention email marketing

This is a great way to keep your branding in front of your customers. Tell them about industry news, show them you know what’s going on and prove you have your finger on the pulse. Passing this information on to your customers will help keep them in the loop. This will help your customers see you as a useful resource and build longer lasting relationships.

Show them your expertise in your industry by writing interesting and relevant articles. This will help build trust in your business. Trust is important as it helps make decision making easier and quicker. To make a purchase a customer must know, like and trust your business.

Offer advice and support as part of the deal. Be as specific as you can. This will help make your emails valuable to your customer. This is a softer approach to generating more business than acquisition emails. You don’t want to be too aggressive and lose the customer altogether. We would recommend you use between three and five retention emails to one acquisition email.

Acquisition email marketing

Use your emails to make a special impact on warm leads to convert them to sales. Where they have expressed a specific interest, send them an email relating to this area, explaining the benefits of buying from you and working with your business. Use your reporting to follow up those who opened or clicked your email.

Email is a great way of getting your other products and services in front of your customers. Offer those optional extras, up sell and cross sell your products and services. You can do this in stand alone acquisition emails or as part of a retention email, especially if your retention emails are long and in an editorial style. Integrating a sales message into a long editorial email can be highly effective. However, be careful not to dominate your retention email with a sales message.

Events and news alerts

Treat events you are attending and news alerts differently to the more structured campaigns above. This is your opportunity to blow your own trumpet, and let your subscribers know what you’re up to.

If you have an article in the press, let them know and link to it. It’s proving your knowledge and expertise, it’s good PR and it will boost your brand.

If you're attending an event or trade show, let everyone know where you’re going and invite them to meet you there. This offers an opportunity for your contacts to meet you in person, which could be your opportunity to improve your relationships and close sales.

Transactional emails

Say thank you. When someone spends money with you, send a thank you email. It start’s off the marketing conversation with your customer. You can include a marketing message on other related products and services, as well as information on what the subscriber can expect to receive from you in future.

If you let them know you're sending regular emails, keep your promise. You'll be improving their experience of you, building trust, paving the way for future purchases and better relationships.

Above all

Be consistent with your messages and keep your promises. If you let your recipients down, you'll damage their confidence in you and your brand. Avoid getting stuck in an email marketing rut. Target your emails and you'll get a better response.

Email marketing is a great tool in your marketing tool box. It's not be the latest technological fad, but it’s the superglue to hold the rest of your mix together.