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email marketing

Design Your Emails Like It’s 1999

By Dwight Sholes

Forrester Research calls email “the workhorse” of interactive marketing. In a recent report, “U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011 to 2016,” they see email spending growing by a mere 10 percent, but believe marketers will significantly increase spending on analytics to better focus their campaigns. 

Whether it’s a client newsletter, holiday e-card or monthly missive to firm alumni, for years lawyers have been using services like Constant Contact and Graphic Mail to create, distribute and track marketing and educational email campaigns—with mixed results. We think it’s time to improve your odds of success and learn from the experts, so we asked Dwight Sholes to give us some straight advice for email marketing lawyers.

Email Marketing Best Practices for 2012

Online marketers all too often fall victim to the magpie syndrome, chasing after the latest hot technology trend without thinking through its applicability to their business. The problem is particularly acute with email marketing, with program managers often so focused on the next shiny thing that they neglect the fundamentals of creating messages that get read, engage subscribers and generate ROI.

As we gear up for 2012, successful email marketing requires us to be more like Janus—the Roman god who looks to the future and the past simultaneously. While being a magpie may be more fun, email marketers who maintain traditional direct marketing discipline while embracing technology innovations are more likely to thrive, especially in a challenging economy.

Nowhere is this truer than with email design. For years experienced coders have known that simpler HTML is most likely to display properly in the widest range of email programs. As use of mobile devices to access email grows at a blistering rate, the need to simplify designs so they render on small and big screens equally well is becoming even more acute.

Keep these Five things in mind.
  1. Keep your branding consistent. Develop a standard visual vocabulary for your email marketing that integrates with your website and other marketing materials. For example, if you create different sizes and versions of logos, icons and buttons to accommodate different uses, but maintain a consistent look and feel.
  2. Keep it simple! Design email templates that are lean, light on formatting, and that can be used for multiple types of messages. Do you really need all of the templates you have been using?
  3. Grab their attention. Make sure you capture readers’ attention in the split seconds they spend deciding whether to engage with your message. Ensure that the top half of your messages include compelling content and calls to action.
  4. Design for mobile devices. Create narrower, single-column formats that display well on small screens. Code your messages to ensure that font sizes scale up for mobile users. Include bigger buttons surrounded by white space to be more touchscreen, thumb-friendly.
  5. Measure and test frequently. Look to combine small incremental improvements to get a bigger bump in performance.

Focus on these basics, and chances are this time next year you’ll be farther ahead than all those magpies.

Dwight Sholes is an independent digital direct marketing consultant with more than 20 years of experience. He helps clients develop and execute targeted online marketing campaigns that build brands and drive ROI. Dwight is a member of the invitation-only email organization Only Influencers and co-chair of the DMA’s Email Experience Council Cross-Channel Marketing Roundtable. 

Illustration ©ImageZoo.

Categories: Communications Skills, Daily Dispatch
Originally published December 20, 2011
Last updated February 18, 2019
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Dwight Sholes

Dwight Sholes is an independent digital direct marketing consultant. Sholes LLC helps clients develop and execute targeted online marketing campaigns that build brands and drive ROI, with particular focus on email marketing for the travel industry. He is a member of the invitation-only email organization Only Influencers and co-chair of the DMA’s Email Experience Council Cross-Channel Marketing Roundtable. Dwight is a frequent speaker at industry conferences in the United States and abroad, and recently conducted an email marketing workshop for online travel companies in Mumbai, India.

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