Effective Email Strategies for the HEOR Audience – Part 2 of 3

March 21, 2013

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on Effective Email Strategies for the HEOR Audience:  Lessons from HealthEconomics.Com, which will be provided through our blog tHEORetically Speaking.  Once these 3 blogs are posted, I will make the entire series available for a PDF download.  Part 1 of this series focused on SPAM triggers, Subject Lines, and provided data on relevant metrics (Open Rates, Click-Through Rates, and other ways to measure success).  This 2nd part will focus on Graphics and Email Design.

Continued from Part 1.

4.  Graphics: Simple, Small, Sparse!

This is probably the area for which we get the most questions from our clients, after Subject Line. Remember these tips:

  • Do NOT send image-only emails. Don’t take text content and put it into an image.  If it’s text, leave it as free text (you can hyperlink).  Many of you create 1 or more large images as the entire copy for your email blast.  It’s a bad idea. What if the recipient doesn’t download images?  Then your email is useless.
  • Have 3x as much text as images (use an image:text ratio).  This results in lower SPAM ratings.  Ask your IT/Email Development Group to run an analysis on your email.
  • “Pretty” doesn’t really matter to HEOR professionals: text-only emails are pretty successful!  We have one partner who uses only text-only emails, and open and click-through rates are consistently high.
  • Be sure to <Alt Tag> your images, using descriptive alt text (HTML text that displays when images don’t render).  If images aren’t downloaded or are blocked by the email provider, then the recipient sees what’s supposed to be there in text.
  • Image mapping is OK, but some email clients remove mapping attributes and your links will not work.  Then, you’ve got a useless email.
  • Animated GIF files in the email lead to problems.  Some email clients will only show the first part of the animation.  HealthEconomics.Com won’t accept animated GIFs for emails (but we will for the website).
  • Pictures of people – thumbs up!  Particularly if you are promoting a webinar or a presentation, use a picture of the presenter.  It personalizes it.

5.  Should I create a text-only email version?

HealthEconomics.Com can send both the HTML and the text version (but you must format and submit two versions of your email to allow for this).  According to DMD Email Best Practices,  most emails are sent as a multipart MIME message.  If SPAM blockers see these messages, they will look for a text version as well.  If they do not see the text version, they may mark your email as SPAM.

6.  Email Design:  Design for Preview Pane and Mobile Device.

Remember the Rule of Three:  3 seconds, 3 inches, 3:1 text to image ratio.  Three seconds to grab attention, 3 inches in preview pane, and 3:1 ratio of text to images. (Adapted from DMD Email Best Practices).

Other tips include:

  • Design for above the fold, and top left quadrant:  The top left quadrant of your email lay-out is the “money spot” for your email; your key information should be here.  And the first 2-3 inches are extremely important.   Why?  Most of us view emails in preview pane in our email client.  Therefore, the top left and/or the first 2-3 inches of your email should contain your Call to Action and Main Message.  You can repeat call to action a few times throughout email.
  • Keep images below the fold (below the preview pane).  Most of us don’t pay attention to this Preview Pane rule, to our detriment.  It’s very common to put a large logo/masthead image in the top of the email.  Consider moving this to the bottom of the email, or right upper top.  Some of you are saying, “But I want the recipients to know who I am?”  We do too….but if they don’t open the email or click-through, they don’t care.  Get their attention first.  Then, tell them who you are.
  • Design for mobile.  Is mobile relevant?  Of course it is.  Disappointingly, our email distribution provider (Constant Contact) does not provide these metrics on email blasts.  However, we know that 12.5% of visits to the HealthEconomics.Com website are via mobile devices.  We suspect email access via mobile is higher than that.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to design for mobile.
    • DMD Marketing noted that 48% of email, globally, is opened on a mobile device and within healthcare, 95% use an Apple device.  This means that you should format your emails for the Apple platform.
  • Design for skimmers.  Write copy that is easily scanned, with simple headlines & copy, short sentences (10 words!), white space, and bullet points. Use this metaphor:  Your email is a window into your store, not the whole store & storeroom too!
  • Key information in HTML text:  your organization, who’s sending it, call-to-action, report/article names, product names, contact information, URLs.
  • Do:
    • Be provocative.  And direct.  Yes, you can be both, even at the same time.  Here’s an example of a good Subject Line:  CER:  Should You Care?
      • This means you can be witty, challenging, inspirational, questioning, deadly serious.  You can’t be dull.  Really.  Don’t be dull.
      • Select words that are Crisp.  Colorful.  Carry a punch.  Cause emotion.
      • Coordinate Subject Line, Pre-Header, and Headline.  These 3 elements should work together, and use different – but related – words.
        • What’s a Pre-Header, you say?  A Pre-Header is the short summary text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox tipping you  off on what the email contains, before you open it. Here are two links to what these words mean:  here and here.
        • Express Features & Benefits as sub-heads.  (Remember the old marketing analogy on features/benefits:  A table is not a table.  It’s a smooth writing surface.)  A feature is a characteristic.  A benefit is the advantage.
        • Get to your Call to Action stat!
        • Outline your Call to Action box.  I mean, literally outline it (colored box, outline tool, etc.):
        • Use active voice.  Don’t say “have developed…”.  Instead, say “We develop..”
        • Use the word “You”.  Personalize it.
        • Include a variety of links in your email.  Have multiple Call to Actions and multiple places to click back to your website.
        • Consider the time-to-load.  This is how long it takes for the email to render images.  If it’s too long, kiss your recipient bye-bye.
        • Code emails as a single web page with basic <HTML>, <HEAD>, <TITLE>, and <BODY> tags.  This prevents excess coding in the body of the email.
        • Use fixed-width tables, ensuring that email won’t expand with blocked images.  Specify table image, height and width.  Do NOT use cascading style sheets (CSS); these are stripped by some email clients.
        • Use UTF-8 character set for coding, which may cause unknown characters to appear.
    • Don’t:
      • Summarize (i.e., repeat what you’ve said). Don’t use transitions.  Instead, use a Call to Action.
        • Delete these words: therefore, as a result, in summary, and so…
        • Use long-tracking URLs at top of email (this is all you see on mobile)
        • Design email in irregular shapes.  Width should be <600 pixels (max 650 pixels).  This eliminates horizontal scrolling, and reduces risk of ad overlay onto email content.

In Part 3 of this 3-part series, we will address Call to Actions and best Day/Time to send emails to maximize response.

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