Corporate email lists – Forgetting how to communicate

If you own or run an online business you probably understand, if only on a basic level, how important it is to communicate with your current and potential customer base. If you don't, you really need to spend some time boning up on your basic eMarketing principals.

What a lot of companies seem to forget though, is how to communicate effectively with people who have signed up to an email list. Every week I get hundreds of emails, a lot of which are from some company wanting me to buy from them. While most of these are direct sales, a few of the good ones are indirect sales, and the really good ones are inserting their product/s into my lifestyle to make the experience and products relative to my day-to-day existence. Almost all of them, however, have one thing in common; they fail to communicate with me effectively. What do I mean? Quite often I receive an email with no text. None. Just a big fat empty page with an opt out and a link to a privacy policy. Why? Because I have images turned off by default, so I have to specifically request to see the images. One could argue that this is my fault, but it isn't, and I'll tell you why.

The sender has no idea how I will be viewing the email so they assume that I will happily download and digest the images, being bathed in their commercial propaganda. So what if I am on a mobile device with limited connectivity? What if (God forbid) I am only on dial-up? Why should I be forced to have to wait and view the images? Most the time they aren't even all that compelling, so by not considering this detail, they get the door slammed in their face.

This can happen for a lot of reasons. People tend to get too caught up in the new catch phrases. I mean, I think if I hear another word about making content relevant I am gonna hurl. Of course it has to be relevant to the recipient, otherwise it wouldn't be much different than SPAM (not Spam). It could be through lack of experience, the use of a poorly developed email tool, or simply because they are too concerned with getting something out the door that what si going out the door becomes secondary to actually hitting the send button.

The real kicker here is that it's pretty simple to create an email that has been designed and coded to accommodate both viewing options, by adding some inline styles to the text, and cutting out the headlines and essential message copy to be placed as actual text, not images. Rather than take the extra time on the front-end, they are losing customers before they even get to their site. The same rules and standards apply to email development as to website development, and it's pretty easy to code an email.

  • don't use ID tags
  • don't include CSS files, use inline styles instead.
  • don't embed images in the email, link to a public web server where the images will be hosted.
  • add ALT text to all of your images
  • format the page so that it will still be easily readable if you have to use a large number of images
  • don't use 1 big image for the email.
  • as a general rule don't use images for text, especially body copy. Using images for header text is okay, just be sure that the ALT text is the same as what is in the image.

You won't be able to cover all your bases all the time, but having a well drafted email presented to the recipient regardless of whether or not they want to see the images is a must.