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Optimizing The Look Of E-mail Marketing

_This is the last of our *5 Days To Optimize Your E-mail Messages*. You can catch up with “part one”:, “part two”:, “part three”:, and “part four”:­_
When I set out writing an initial post about optimizing the look of email I didn’t want to make this about creative and design. My focus was based more on testing and the technical aspects of how marketing email looks when viewed by recipients.
To wrap up this series here is a list of my personal recommendations and tips to optimize the look of your e-mail marketing messages:

*Test, test, test* – Email marketing allows for simple, quick and cost-effective testing. Make sure testing is part of your strategy. Test a lot in the beginning. Make sure you know – and see – what your email looks like to different people. Test different things. When you think you have it all “perfect” keep testing on a regular basis. Just like spam filters change daily (I hear Hotmail tweaks their systems every single day) there are new versions of software and hardware that may affect what’s going on. Also test different “optimizations” of your email just like you would test different offer copy. What works best for click-throughs and conversions?
*Write your own manual* – Build your own “best practices” guide to what works for your organization and your marketing objectives. Share this with everyone that is involved in your email marketing, from the strategists through to the designers and those people that actually build and deploy your email. Once you have started optimizing your email programs for different email clients, the preview panes and portable devices, make sure everyone involved in your email marketing is aware of the “best practices” that work for you. Ensure these are known by the designers, programmers and everyone else that works on the look and deployment of your e-mail campaigns.
*Pick an email partner that is based on “best practices”* – Whether you deploy your marketing email on your own in-house software, use an on-demand ASP solution, or an agency, make sure your partner understands what email marketing best practices are and that they will adhere to them. A good partner will be able to educate you and work with you to understand what the issues are, helping you test and develop your own best practices “handbook”.
*Optimize the text versions of all your email* – We used to ask if someone wanted text or HTML email. With multi-part email that became less of an issue and many people would optimize the HTML versions and let their email platform automatically “create” a text version for those not able to receive HTML. But this is not optimization. Review what each email looks like in text and edit it so it becomes an effective part of your campaigns, not something that drags down click-through and response rates.
*Be “above the fold”* – Whether your email is opened in a full screen, in a reduced window, in a preview pane or on a portable device, make sure the recipient can decipher who your email is from, what it is about and even why they should read it. Don’t let a valuable recipient delete your relevant email because it was all code or URLs.
*Consider using third-party tools or companies for testing* – Just like measuring deliverability to the inbox is best done using a third-party solution, testing how your email looks in 15 or more clients may also be best done using an external solution.
*Ask for preferences* – Optimize your email programs by understanding where and how recipients read your email. Consider letting them request “text only” email, especially if they tend to read your messages on portable devices or using clients that are non-graphical or that block graphics.
One last tip:
*Keep testing.* I know I’m repeating part of my first tip but it is so important to make this type of testing a regular part of your email marketing strategy. In this industry things change often and quickly. That means best practice also changes.
Optimizing how your marketing email looks to recipients can make a big difference in the success (or failure) of your campaigns. A small amount of upfront work and testing can generate a lot of ROI and can be a competitive difference as you fight to cut through the clutter of the inbox.
Please “let me know”: about any issues or tips you can share.

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