Digital takes time #1 – Email. A lot more than design and send.

Digital takes time #1 – Email. A lot more than design and send.

e-mail letter_it's testing

This is the first in my series of ‘why digital can take so much bloody time’ blogs.  Let’s start with email.  How hard can it be?  Most of us send and receive e-mail every day. But with our very precious customer base at the end of that send button the devil is most certainly in the detail and like any other digital marketing  project (and that’s what it is – a project) it can be complex, resource intensive and time hungry.

To illustrate this point here are some things to consider and key questions to ask yourself.  I’ve left out the initial heavy weight task of deciding on which e-mail platform to use and developing an appropriate communications programme …  jumping straight into the design and build.

What’s it going to look like & how are you going to build it?

Early on, factor in time to agree and specify the e-mail design, content requirement and the functionality … not vaguely but in detail. Draw a sketch, think about word counts and  image orientation.

Yes content is king, but not only that, it’s an unpopular, time consuming, resource draining white elephant. Content research, asset collation and copywriting all take a disproportional amount of time and effort. Anyone who’s ever built a website, written a blog or sent an e-mail can vouch for that.

Allow time to ensure the entire subscription process is in place. Will the user get a ‘Thank You’ page,  a confirmation e-mail, a welcome e-mail, the ability to unsubscribe easily, a unsubscribe confirmation page or even a final goodbye e-mail. Is the ‘sign up’ form capturing the right data? Does the opt-in mechanism comply with data protection best practice?

There are many more questions. Is the email a newsletter, a specific communication or an incentive based e-voucher? Should it include additional functionality such as ‘Send to friend’? Can you cope with an ‘off the shelf’ template or do you need a custom template designed? Where will those receiving the email see the email as being sent from?

Testing and sending the final version

Check, check and double check the content of the email, the links and think hard about the subject line. Is the subject line relevant & intriguing – will it support open rates?  Will it get blocked by spam filters? Avoid long subject lines and spammy words like  free, cheap and offer.

Send a test e-mail, then send another test e-mail and another and another. Send the e-mail to yourself, your colleagues and your test accounts. Do this more than you think necessary.

There’s lots than can go wrong and having a checklist to go through each time will help minimise the chances of things going astray. Some of the problems you encounter  can take a significant amount of time to unravel and fix.  Make sure you build in enough time to allow for troubleshooting.

There are many things to go on the checklist.  Has the copy been spell checked?  Are all heading and sub-headings a consistent colour and size?  Are all the links working and behaving consistently throughout the email?  Are all your images and logos working links?  Is the unsubscribe function working?  Is it working across the full range of email platforms that your customers are using?  If you are personalising the email is that working properly?

How did it perform and what can you learn to make the next one better?

You have  hit the send button and almost immediately it is time to start looking at the results.  First thing you are likely to be interested in is deliverability – how many emails actually reached their desired destination and if not why not.  Beyond that you are going to be interested in things like how many emails were opened, how many unsubscribes you had, what links were clicked on and what they did when they actually arrived at your site.   The results will develop over the few days following you sending the email and should ultimately help improve what you do next time.

So, back to the beginning … there is a lot to do and a lot of things that can go wrong if things are not planned and executed properly.  In my experience, like most things digital, it is good planning, project management and, especially for email, appropriate use of checklists that are going to help deliver good quality email marketing and the right results.