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Top 10 tips for B2B email design and delivery

In a busy world where we receive high volumes of competing marketing messages every day, it’s vital your marketing stands out. Steve Kemish presents 10 top tips for email design and delivery

1. Know your market

The email marketing audience can be broadly split into two categories: desktop and mobile. Confusingly, a tablet device can sometimes fall into one or other of these pots, or occasionally form a third group. Either way, ensure you start to measure the percentage of recipients in each group. This helps ensure you’re optimising the design for the right audience; in lieu of any email reporting on this, look at your broader website analytics for a view on the percentage of mobile versus desktop traffic.

But before you start to use this insight to form a segment, remember that much of your audience uses multiple devices, so don’t assume an email open on a mobile device will happen every time; an individual may well use their desktop or laptop next time.

2. Go responsive

If you want to solve the conundrum above, you could take a look at responsive design. Re-engineering your email templates to ensure the underlying code will flex to give the best user experience for multiple devices can be a worthwhile investment. While it can be painful and time-consuming, and such templates can sometimes be more restrictive than older non-responsive emails, the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks in no time.

3. Don’t ditch the desktop just yet

Even if you have no primary data to confirm this, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume you have mobile traffic for your emails already and this will only grow. But don’t believe all the hype; there are many benchmarking reports across the wider email marketing industry that show the likes of Microsoft Outlook as lesser-used email clients. This is typically the case when you aggregate B2C and B2B reporting, but be careful – Outlook is still the workhorse of many businesses, so will be a key email client. Make sure your design also supports this audience.

4. Make it easy

The usability guru Steve Krug includes a quote from his wife in his seminal book Don’t Make Me Think, which can be paraphrased:

“If something is easy to use, I use it more often.” This is so important for email marketing in terms of ensuring the primary call-to-action (CTA) of each of your emails is really clear. Fall-off-a-log clear.

Test the location, size and colour of your CTAs – they’re the most vital part of the message, so ensure you work to understand what drives the best click rate.

5. Timing

‘Tuesday afternoon’ has long been the answer I’ve given to the question ‘When’s the best time to send emails?’ – but I’m not sure the reason for it.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet here. No report will give you this insight, and only by looking within will you be able to identify this. Ensure you test different days and times of day – mobile device usage has changed the typical daily pattern of many email recipients, so watch out for this.

Also, ensure you map your sends against your broader business operations. Don’t send when your call centre is closed or about to close – instead, try and understand peak patterns from the telephony logs of your support and sales team, and again look at web analytics for clues around busy times for your website.

6. Images – less is more

One of the biggest reasons that legitimate emails end up in junk, or are treated as spam, is the image-to-text ratio. Images are a great way to get a message across, but sadly email clients will often view these with caution because spammers so regularly over-use them. A simple rule here is to use text where you can – don’t make headlines an image. Ensure you educate your email designers so they know about this challenge.

7. Embrace the small print

A brilliant way to maintain the use of images in your emails is to add further small print to the footer. It’s common to see this area on nearly all emails. Users often simply look for the ‘unsubscribe’ button in this area; rarely is it actually read. So harness this insight and add an extra paragraph of information there – make sure it’s meaningful, but know its primary goal is to help balance the use of images in the rest of that message.

8. Enter the golden triangle

Without an open, the best-looking email in the world is redundant, so it’s vital to spend time testing the area that most affects an email being opened. The three pillars of this are often collectively referred to as the ‘golden triangle’ of email marketing.

The sender name, subject line and preview pane (the part of the message your email client shows you before opening) have the greatest impact on whether you achieve an open or a deletion.

Test different names; aim for one that’s most relevant to each audience and don’t let opinion get in the way of fact. Test all three to gauge the optimum.

9. Don’t forget the landing page

You may have sent the perfect email to the perfect list at the perfect time, but what happens after they click? Rarely is success just the open or the click, so it’s vital you ensure the full journey is mapped out in the best possible way. Your landing page is the next place users will look – is this easy to use? Is it in keeping with the email that went before it in terms of both design and tone? Lavish this page with as much love and attention as the email itself.

10. Keep it real (time)

There’s now a wave of technology providers that help you bring real-time dynamic content to your emails. The likes of Movable Ink, LiveIntent and Liveclicker are among many that allow you to pull in third-party, real-time content (think the latest weather forecast for the area you’re travelling to) to help you differentiate and stand out in their inbox.

No matter how much the landscape changes, email marketing remains the single most effective channel in the B2B marketing mix. Come along to our London-based, one-day training session with Steve Kemish to find out how to deliver ROI from email marketing.