At a recent TED conference, best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert stated, “we have completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked.” She goes on to further frame “the utter, maddening, capriciousness of the creative process” by suggesting that we pull from something greater than ourselves. Maybe Gilbert was thinking of the late Carl Jung who once said, “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.”?
When it comes to email marketing, designing for your objectives can be a little maddening. If you do pull from something greater than yourself, and then translate that perfect vision to strategy and paper, you may find that your creative team is not realizing it. So, back and forth you go until there is no time left. A deadline is a deadline. But there is no doubt that the battle for the inbox – and your customer’s attention – requires engaging, actionable designs. What can you do to minimize your suffering and help aid that creative process along?
Know Your Audience
Through personalization, you no doubt consider who you’re addressing with every send. But who really is your audience, and what are they expecting from you? If you have a sizeable database with varying preferences, this is where you can not only practice segmentation, but also employ different designs and messages for each segment. What a great way to make your audience feel like you are personally interested in their needs and goals. Not to mention leveraging different designs for newsletters, promotions, events, and important notifications, as many businesses do.
Get Your Rendering Right
There is nothing worse than a well-designed email that just doesn’t render right. Ask yourself whether your recipients are primarily businesses or consumers? This will determine if the majority is using say, Microsoft Outlook vs. Gmail or Hotmail, or perhaps even receiving their emails on a mobile device – keep in mind that 30% of B-to-B recipients are receiving emails on their mobile devices. Regardless, it is impossible to get an email design, or the content offer itself, to render perfectly in all email clients, so you want to shoot for the top 2 or 3 and then make sure you test – test – test before you launch.
Avoid Graphical Overload
Remember less can be more. It’s especially important not to overuse graphics in an email to the point that images constitute the entire message. It is that much easier to delete an email message if nothing at all captures the consumer’s attention before they have opted to download images. Ask yourself, what are recipients going to see above the fold? Does it stand out? Does it speak to their needs? Call upon Maslow’s hierarchy of needs if you need some help with this.
Content is King
Great designs fall flat without good content. No amount of slick design skilz are going to carry your customer over the line if the message doesn’t add value to the recipient’s life. Subject lines, headlines, offers and calls to action are all crucial to a successful campaign. With one quick glance of these elements a recipient will understand what the value is immediately upon viewing the email. Easier said than done, but if you solidify the messaging first, establishing a strong supporting design can be made much easier.
The Beauty is in the Data
Don’t be afraid to test a few different designs early on in the game. Many email marketers get their template and design down to a point where everyone internally is pleased with the outcome. But no one has any idea what the customer really thinks! Each time a client has pursued A/B testing, it was completely obvious which email design performed the best. Also, don’t be afraid to test offers and subject lines. As you achieve greater relevance it will have a direct result on your clickthrough rates. Yes, you may have to invest more time in creating additional versions at the outset, but the payoff will be greater conversions with the final send.
Break the Rules
The email marketing industry loves to apply various rules and best practices by which we should guide our “online lives”. While it’s great to have a foundation to work from, don’t let best practices become a burden either. At the end of the day, your job is to move the needle more than you did the last time, so don’t be afraid to experiment with the experiential and maybe even defy conventional wisdom.
Considering these factors during the early stages of an email marketing campaign will lessen the suffering and assist you in finding the drive to make email a more effective instrument.