November 18

Episode 115 – Critical Elements of an Effective Email

In this episode, we’ll take a look at what are all the key elements that go into creating an effective email, along with some tips to improve your campaigns

Ken Tucker: Hey everybody. Welcome to this episode of The Small Businesses, The Marketing Guides For Small business podcast, I am Ken Tucker, whether you believe that or not, whether I can say my name or not.

Today I’m joined by Paul, Jen and Ian. Welcome guys. Thank you. I have to give a shout out to Paul and Ian because Paul didn’t answer the question that Ian asked him last week that he wanted him to answer, and it gave me a great topic that I think we’re gonna be able to explore in this week.

And, that is what are the critical elements of an effective email? Now I’m talking about email in the context of email marketing, not a transactional email that you might send to a client just on a project update or something like that. This, these are marketing emails, so we’re gonna look at each of the elements and kind of share with you some of the ideas, best tips, tricks, maybe things to avoid.

Before we do that though, I want to just reemphasize how important email marketing is. And really unpack that a little bit. You can use email marketing in so many different ways. Acquisition, branding, traffic engagement, direct sales, referrals, reactivations and retentions. I’m gonna state this again. Email marketing on average has a 4,400% return on investment. I can’t think of anything that’s got a better return on investment than email marketing, but that’s predicated on the fact that you gotta be doing it. So that’s what we’re gonna help you with today. With that, Jen, I’m gonna get started. Email subject line is really critical. What should you consider in creating an effective email subject line? 

Jen Kelly: Yeah, good point. There’s lots of things to consider. It’s the first thing that someone’s gonna see when they’re looking at their inbox. The subject line as well, who it’s from. But I think you covered that later in the episode. But the subject line.

In no particular order, it has to achieve a few different things. First of all, it has to break through that list of unread emails that we all have. As you’re scanning that, what’s gonna make you go, Oh, I gotta open that, and not just on the desktop. It’s got to be short enough. And we talk about keeping the email subject line to 50 characters or less because if folks are looking at it on their mobile, which is more than likely the case.

It’s gotta be clearly read within the smaller screen. You need to tell the reader exactly what they’re gonna get when they open the email. No bait and switch. Nothing sarcastic or funny. I guess the only caveat on that is if that is your brand voice, and whatnot. Your customers are used to that kind of thing, but you really wanna let them know what they’re going to get, what they’re gonna learn, what they’re gonna discover once they open that email.

An important thing too, and this can be really tricky, is to avoid words that are going to be what we call spam triggers. I think we’ll link to this in the show notes because I found it really useful. Ken sent all of us something called the Ultimate List 394 email spam words and it’s broken out into different industries.

So whether you’re in financial or whether you’re in personal services. It’s funny, Ken, cuz when I was looking through this, like some of these are really legit, but you still have to avoid them. So let’s go through some of those. Be your own boss, double your income, earn money, earn extra cash. I think we can all agree that those are very much spam trigger words.

I was looking down here in financial things like beneficiary, you’re talking about insurance. That’s one of the actual terms that is legitimately used in insurance. Just be aware of these words that even if you’re using them in a legitimate way, they can trigger a spam warning. That leads into being sure that you give your subject line enough thought.

And we know it’s only one sentence, like we said, 50 characters. It’s oftentimes harder to write something short than it is something long, which would give away to really thinking about hiring a content writer and specifically someone that is used to writing for email marketing. Because they’re gonna be used to that.

Taking the big idea in your email and being able to put it down as something very pithy, that’s gonna get your audience’s attention and gonna get through those spam filters. Those are some tips and that list is great. Thank you for sending that, Ken.

Ken Tucker: I gotta give a shout out to the folks at HubSpot because they pulled it together.

And again, I want to emphasize we’re not talking about cold email. That is not email marketing, and that’s a completely different animal. And the reason that these spam trigger words are worth considering, if you legitimately need to use the word beneficiary in a subject line, realize that it might be seen as a spam trigger, but you can also test it to see if it actually works.

And if you have a history of sending quality emails, you might have a little bit more success anyway. But the reason those words are triggers is because there are people who send a lot of spam email. So unfortunately we have to figure out a way around that. Paul, let’s go to you next businesses sending an email.

I would think that branding’s gotta be important, right? So what are some of the considerations for including your branding and your email? 

Paul Barthel: Branding is important. You touched on something about we’re not talking about cold email and the effectiveness of email marketing. That kind of depends on having a list, which brings up the importance of having a system to capture email addresses. You have to have that in place first. I just wanted to bring that up. When you’re sending emails, you don’t send them from an actual person. A lot of businesses have email addresses, like info a or support app, not necessarily bad, or sales app. You should send them from an actual person because that’ll increase open and click through rates and it creates a personal connection because people want to deal with people. The truth is that most people want to deal with real people. And you send an email from sales app in your email newsletter that’s gonna turn people off. You could include a picture in the email. You could put your company name in there. You should put your company name in there. You should probably, you should have your logo in the email signature so that you reinforce your overall company brand because you want to build, and I know everyone has done this, I’ve done this, where you recognize a logo. You might not remember the name of a company, but you recognize their logo, and that builds consistent branding. It makes people comfortable. Keep in mind, the reason I say you should include your brand name in there as well as your logo, is that a lot of email clients, an email client is like Outlook on your computer, okay? That’s what I mean by an email client. They’ll prevent images from down.Yes, you should include your logo, but include the brand name in case someone has a system in place that prevents images from display. 

Jen Kelly: You make a good point there, Paul. If you just think of your own email inbox if someone has a sale, so it comes in as sales or customer service, and then your subject line doesn’t mention the brand, doesn’t mention the company name. It’s really easy to not even open it and mistakenly think that it must be spam because there’s nothing recognizable in those two points of information that make you wanna click on the email. So having it from John @ whatever company it is. Really key. It’s a good point. 

Paul Barthel: What I like to do in the from, you have the from email address, but you have the from name as well as person. And then I like to use the pipe symbol. You can use a hyphen, but person and then pipe symbol, a company name, 

Ken Tucker: Pipe symbol’s, a vertical line. 

Paul Barthel: Right, separator. And if I can add one more thing it, this is totally relevant. Okay. I’m gonna add one more thing I think is really relevant. I’m just from a branding perspective, is not to use free email addresses as you’re from email. I see this all the time. Especially from marketers. If it still gets through my spam folder, I’m just gonna delete it. Cuz if you don’t even have a branded email, you’re not standing behind your company name. To me, that’s a quick no go. And usually they end up in the spam folder, right? Cause they are legitimately spam. They’re just spamming me. So I don’t know if you guys find that as well. 

Ken Tucker: Yeah, no, absolutely. 

Paul Barthel: Yeah, I do too. Because if you’re trying to get my business and you can’t even pay for, the cost of a branded email not even that. And you can’t pay for that then you’re not legitimate.

Ian Cantle: And one of the things I find is that I have some clients where we have branded emails for them, but because their team, for whatever reason, has gravitated towards using an internal Gmail account that’s unbranded, it’s just a Gmail account.

They’ve actually asked me at times to replace their branded email on their website with their Gmail account , but no, you’re going in the wrong direction here because people don’t trust the Gmail account as much as they would your branded email. So just a caution for people. Make sure you’re keeping that brand out there.

Ken Tucker: Yeah, absolutely. And the other thing, Paul, I don’t know that you’ve really mentioned this either, but that’s okay. Using an email template design, something that has your brand colors, your font styles, your logo, all of that stuff so that every time they get an email, there’s a consistent look and feel from the company.
You did talk about this element where sometimes people don’t necessarily remember a name, but sometimes the visual triggers a memory and they’re like, Oh yeah, I know who that is. So you definitely wanna be doing those kinds of things. 

Paul Barthel: Yeah, definitely. And going back to what Jen was talking about, the spam words, Google’s gotten very good recently about letting the pornographic emails through and blocking legitimate ones.
Study the people that wanna send you naked pictures, emails, cuz they’re somehow getting through the spam workers. So take a look at them, see what they’re doing. 

Ian Cantle: That might not be our subject for next week. 

Paul Barthel: Over the last week it seems. Google has been blocking legitimate emails and letting spam come through. It’s, I don’t know. I don’t know what Google’s doing lately. 

Ken Tucker: And also keep in mind, if your client works in a corporation where they have very robust firewalls and security measures in place, that makes it even harder to get your emails through those systems. Jen, I know you do a lot of business to business and you should be using a quality email marketing system. You should be paying attention to email deliverability. So many other things. I’m gonna really get into those today because that, again, that’s probably subjects for another topic. But again, Ian lets move on to you. What are your thoughts about targeting email campaigns? Do you just take a list and send an email everybody, or what do you do?

Ian Cantle: Yeah, I think you just leave it as generic as possible. You hope for the best, and make sure there’s no calls to action in that email and the subject line is bad and yeah. 

Ken Tucker: Yeah. Cause one of the great things about email is you can send a bunch of them out, right? 

Ian Cantle: And no. So I’m just being silly with that. But there’s so much you can do in order to make your emails work better, resonate more. Remember, we always talk about this on our podcast. Remember, it’s a relationship you’re building. An email is just the conduit with that other person. So you wanna make sure that, just like when you meet somebody in person and you’re re-engaging with them, you would say their name, you would probably even shake their hand again. You would create a personal connection, and in the same way with email, you want to create a personal connection. You don’t want it to be generic, even though a lot of your email can be somewhat generic or similar for other people because you might be talking about a common topic. Certainly, you want the salutation to be personalized. You want the subject line to be personalized if you can, because that improves open rates and then personalizing your email. I’ll explain this a little bit more, but personalizing your email inside in the body copy and the calls to action and the topic and the content improves clickthrough rates, right? So if you want it to be successful, personalization, targeting is really important. So at the very minimum, personalize your subject line, personalize your opening salutation. That helps. But there’s a lot bigger personalization and targeting that you can do. There’s opportunities for you as a business. List segmentation, so if you have a list of prospects and customers, first of all, prospects can be one list, customers can be another list, right? But even in there, you can group them into buckets or what I call buckets, but other segments by their interests, by their buying history, by their geography, by their demographics. Do they live in big houses, small house, whatever it is. It depends on your business, right? Do they have tile roofs? Do they have shingle roofs? Whatever business you’re in, it would have different things, but you can segment it by their behaviors. Whether that’s actual buying behaviors, download behaviors on your website, pages they visit on your website, products they’ve purchased, whatever it is. And if you’re in a physical sales environment, you can even track that. You just have to make sure that your team understands that be what behavior you need to track so that it can be put into your CRM system, your customer relationship management software, but buying stage. Where are they in their buyer’s journey, in their marketing hourglass? Are they just in the know phase, the like phase, the trust phase, the tri phase, the buy phase, the repeat, the refer, right? Because you can segment by all of that. And again, you can customize the message according to that. You can segment your database by personas. So again, this is another way we’ve talked about personas in the past, but it’s another way to take the large data of your customers and try to group them in common characteristics about them that allow you to communicate in a more relevant way for them. And that’s really powerful. And when you continue the conversation with a prospect or a client in the way that they’re thinking, in the interest that they’re showing, in the stage of their buying journey, it’s just proven to increase results. But I should be very clear with people. This takes work. It takes behavioral change in your business because you need to make sure you’re tracking the appropriate things. It takes the systems and the tools that are able to do this, cuz not every email system can do this kind of stuff. Not every CRM can do this. And it takes dedication, it takes tracking, it takes the right information, takes a central tool gathering tool like a CRM. You can track online, offline activities, but you have to create that behavioral change in the business. Then you can personalize and I should also be clear, you never want to personalize in a contrived way or an apparent, contrived way. We’ve all gotten emails where they was supposed to be personalized. And it comes across as something stupid, and then they have to send out an email the next day saying, Oh, we’re so sorry about that. So testing is an important thing when you’re getting into personalization, merge fields and all of that kind of stuff. I don’t know if that’s the direction you wanted that to go in, Ken? 

Jen Kelly: But was gonna say testing for sometimes do you mean throwing in some of the examples we’ve gone through, you think the field is picking up the first name, it’s picking up the last name, those kind of things.

Ian Cantle: Yeah, absolutely. I didn’t mention this, but when we talk about personalization, the easiest thing you think about is words. But in some of these systems, you can drop in a different image or a product or service. Like it can be very dynamic and very powerful. But yeah, for the problems it’s usually a breakage. They meant to drop in a certain field. The field wasn’t dropped in. Or where we’ve seen it happen is if your database is not clean. Again, I talk about behavioral change a lot because if you have garbage in, you have garbage out. I’ve seen it where clients put notes in the patient or the customer’s last name or, sometimes even in their first name. I’ve seen it very common where there’s an Asian or a Chinese name and then they put in brackets Jimmy or something like that. Like a more North Americanized name. Or daughter of this person. And of course the system can’t determine that shouldn’t be there in the first name so data hygiene or cleanliness is really important when you start to get into merging and that kind of stuff. 

Ken Tucker: Especially first names. For your name. and then your email address, they don’t separate out first name, last name. So also if you’re, if you take that data in that way, it’s gonna look weird to say, Hey, Ken Tucker in the personalization. Then I’m like, What? That’s kinda odd too. 

I’ve even seen where they’ve put notes, like not a customer anymore or something next to the first name. If they don’t tag it as unsubscribed in the tool, your marketing, people won’t know when they go to send it, that it’s gonna now say Bob no longer a customer, or, Hey Bob, no longer a customer, we’re so glad to talk to you again this month. 

Jen Kelly: Yeah, watch the notes you put it in your database . 

Ian Cantle: Cause it also depends on your internal culture. If you have a very hardened, crass internal culture where people enjoy swearing and they don’t mind putting those kind of notes in there, watch out. You could be burning some major bridges there. 

Ken Tucker: Yeah, definitely. 

Ian Cantle: You could be a cautionary tale on a marketing podcast one day.

Ken Tucker: Nobody wants that. So Jen, we talked about the subject line. How about you tackle, what does it take to write good body copy? For the actual contents inside the email. What are your thoughts there? 

Jen Kelly: Yeah let’s pretend we got the name right. Basically, you gotta get right to it. There’ll be something I’ll digress to here. If it’s the first time you’re starting up your email list, or the first time you’re mailing this campaign to a list, you wanna make sure, and depending on what country you’re in, you don’t know in the world. There’s different email laws now. So a good practice could be the first paragraph or the first couple sentences, here’s why we’re mailing you. But we’re gonna mail you once a month, once a week, if you want to unsubscribe, please do. If it’s the first time you’re going out and speaking to this customer, you really gotta give them some kind of context about why they’re hearing from you for the very first time.

Having said that, let’s say your email list is up and running, and this is not the first time you’ve emailed them you still need to be respectful with their time. So you’ve gotten through a couple of barriers, right? They’ve let you’ve come into a very full inbox. They’ve decided to open your email, get right to the point. So it’s really gotta address what the offer is. And it’s really got to, here’s not the place for any kind of bait and switch, whatever the subject line said that there was the promise of the information. The deal, the whatever it is, you gotta get right to the point as soon as that email gets opened. So let them know what they’re gonna get. Is there an offer at the end of the email? Is there information? Is there statistics? What is it that they’re going to get out of reading this email? When going through the email, the formatting will matter. Some people will scan the email. Other people are readers, so you wanna have a mix of bullet points in there for the scanners, and you wanna have a mix of paragraphs in there for the people that like to read and want to get a bit more information before they make any kind of decision. Visual elements are important as well, so not just images in your email, but if you want someone to take a next action, the click here button, learn more button, download here button, contact us button, make it a button. Make it an on brand color, but make it easy for someone to click and get to the next stage if they’re ready to make that next with you. We want to make sure that we talked about this last time during the podcast or maybe a couple of podcasts ago, that while not everyone comes in contact with your company is ready to buy today, there is that 3% that is ready to buy today. And there is that additional 15% that if controls, if given a little bit more information, they would be ready to buy today as well. So you wanna make sure that you have the ability for those people to buy today and take the next action. So you wanna have the multiple links throughout the email. If they’re scanners, they can go and click. If they’ve just caught the first paragraph, they’re ready to go. They can click through as well. Here’s another point why this may seem like you know a lot of work. And to be fair, it really is, and again, this is perhaps where you want to engage a good content writer who is well versed in email marketing writing because this kind of cadence, making sure that your brand voice is integrated into the message, making sure it’s pithy enough that folks can get through, yet still delivers the message. It’s one of those things that when you read through, it just seems so simple cuz it just flows, but it takes a lot of work to get there and it will be worth it. As you go to sign off from the email, provide another call to action, provide a way for the reader to get in touch with either you, if you’re having a person, send out the email, a way to get in touch with the company for more information or other things beyond the offer in your email. You’ll be pretty good to go with that. 

Paul Barthel: I love it that you worked in the word pithy. 

Ken Tucker: Paul, speaking of pithy, do you wanna be pithy with your call to action or what other good, best practice should you think about in terms of building calls to action? Jen talked a little bit about it, but could you elaborate on it and share your thoughts on that? 

Paul Barthel: Last week we talked about your emails should have one purpose. Don’t try to do three different things in one email, so it should have one conversion goal. Also, think about where they are in the buyer journey. If it’s someone that just signed up for a newsletter, you’re called to action probably shouldn’t be buy now, which probably be learned more, something like that. Because if they just signed up for a newsletter, if they’re at the top of that funnel that we always talk about, they’re probably not ready to buy yet. So your email segmentation or list segmentation, your emails to those people will have a different call to action. You want that to be at the top of the email above the fold as we call it. 

Ken Tucker: Hey Paul, what does above the fold mean? 

You don’t have to scroll down. You want at the top of the email. You can have your call to action spaced throughout there, but you definitely want it at one or near the top. Some people don’t scroll through emails. Yeah, they’ll, they may just scan the first paragraph to see if they’re interested in reading it any further. 

Ian Cantle: Just a quick question. I don’t think we talk about this later in the podcast, but when you create an email, should you be creating it with the multiple devices in mind, like a mobile device above the fold on a mobile device and above the fold on a desktop as well?

Paul Barthel: Yeah, you should definitely look at it. But test it on various devices. 

Ken Tucker: Yeah, you definitely wanna check it. 

Paul Barthel: Yeah, send a test email to yourself and look at it on your phone. Look at it on your desktop. You can look at it on a tablet if you have one, but when I look at analytics, nobody does anything on a tablet. 1% or one half or 1%, but definitely look at it on your phone and on your desktop and make sure that there’s nothing weird going on. And Jen mentioned this, the button itself, it should be distinct. It should use your brand colors, put a little shadow on it, it should definitely be visually distinct and stand out. Keep the button copy less than 150 characters. I think even 150 characters is pushing it. Call now. Learn more. How many characters do you need in the body? Now if you’re asking, register for the webinar now. Okay, that’s a little bit longer one, but I’d like to keep it short and simple. Don’t complicate things. You’ll confuse people. 

Ian Cantle: You could personalize it, right? Hey, Ian, if you’re interested in this webinar, click on this button. 

Paul Barthel: Yeah, you could. You probably shouldn’t, but you tell people what you want them to do. Click here, register for the webinar, learn more, but whatever that is. 

Ken Tucker: But the call to action does need to be action oriented. And the more direct it is, the better. You learn more as a soft conversion. And it may be appropriate, but think through this stuff. If you’re wanting people to register for a webinar, say, register now. Don’t have a button that says learn more. 

Paul Barthel: Put those to where they are in that sales cycle. 

Ken Tucker: Yeah. Yeah, Absolutely. 

Paul Barthel: One thing I think we, we alluded to it, Jen, you said if you’re dealing with business to business and they have these strict spam filters and things like that. This has nothing to, with the question you asked me right here, but you probably don’t want to put an attachment in that email. You can put a link to something, but a lot of  times companies that have a real IT department and they have these spam filters, they’ll flag an attachment and immediately, sometimes it won’t even make it to the spam folder, it will just be discarded. So it’s something to think about who your audience is, who you’re sending these emails to.

Ian Cantle: Which is very troubling when you work in those businesses and you’re expecting an attachment.

Ken Tucker: Ian, Paul mentioned having email be single purpose, and I think we have to step back a little bit. There are different types of marketing emails. An email newsletter, probably the purpose of that is more educational, but it may have multiple links. And which, and a link is a mini call to action, but what are your thoughts about having like a secondary call to action in an email? Does that make sense? Or are you just seconding off conversions for what your email really was supposed to be about in the first place? 

Ian Cantle: I think you can totally have secondary calls to action within your emails, and you probably should. Let’s set aside e-newsletters because those are very informational based. You almost have a smorgasbord. A smorgasbord of options, right? Where you’re trying to share just a lot of information with people, and really you are hoping that you will increase engagement and continue to nurture that relationship. So let me share. I know I’ve shared this several times in this podcast, but not this particular one. But in other ones, especially with dental clients where it’s, they’re gonna come back as long as they like you, they’re gonna come back and we do monthly newsletters for all of our dental clients. I am always amazed as soon as we send out that e-newsletter, because the primary call to action is always book your appointment. There’s a really great letter that talks about something timely, we have that key call to action, which for the dentist, that’s the primary call to action. That’s the gold standard of what we want people to do. But then below that, we’re sharing all the blog posts that have been written that month. We’re sharing some social posts. We often share a featured service of the month for that dentist. There’s all these secondary calls to action, but truly that primary call to action is book an appointment, and I’m always amazed at how many immediate responses we get from patients. Yep, book me in. Or, hey, I have a toothache, or I broke my tooth. And it’s just that they trust you. They’ve invited you into their world because they’re a patient of yours and they’re actually happy to see that because you are solving a problem for them. So that’s the eNewsletter side. On other emails with kind of a primary purpose, I think you can have a secondary call to action, but you never want it to directly compete with your primary call to action. Usually the way we do it is we make it much more subtle. A very common place to put a secondary call to action is in your post script, and this is often more of just like on a landing page, you would have a primary call to action where it’s basically transaction or it’s like a big thing that you want them to do. But if they’re not ready to do that primary call to action. This works for every business, but using the dental one again, as an example, we have a landing page. We’re inviting them to book an initial consultation or appointment. But then down there, this is for prospects. Down later on the page, we’re inviting them to download a how did a lead magnet, how to choose a dentist, and it’s a guide. In order to get that, they need to give their name and their email address. Just like that in an email you can do the same thing in the PS and say, we have this other thing across sell and upsell. Something you might be interested in. And again, if you can personalize it to where you know their interests lie again, using roofing, if you know who your tile customers are, tile roofs versus your shingle or metal roof, you can start to segment those and personalize them. I always like to think of it as like a micro decision. Your primary call to action is usually a bigger decision. Your secondary could be a micro decision just to move them through the sales funnel or the their buying journey or their marketing hour glasses we like to use. Just make sure you’re not competing. That’s the key thing to me is don’t compete with your primary call to action. 

Ken Tucker: Cool. Jen, we haven’t talked about social media yet. Does social media and email, can they coexist or do they work together? Do they fight against each other? I think there’s a lot of perceptions that people feel like you should do one channel or the other, but probably not both. What are your thoughts on that? 

Jen Kelly: Yeah, I think you should absolutely do both, but here’s the thing. Just like how you communicate and email, you communicate in social media differently. You communicate in person differently. That’s one of the things that seems to get lost, right? People wanna create content once and just blast it out through all the channels in the same way without making sure it’s tailored for that right channel. So how does this work in your email marketing? At the bottom of your email, you could have your social media icons and the calls to action could be, follow us and keep in touch on social media with your different social media channels there. Folks will pretty naturally self-select the social media channels that they enjoy or they like interacting with. As for your newsletter, most all email newsletter or email marketing software systems allow you to send your email newsletter out to your list, as well as a social media post on the various different channels, if you have that set up. So that could be another way where you have, you’re mailing to your list, but you’re also mailing, if you will to, to all of your followers on social media in the hopes that they would see that issue as valuable and sign up for your newsletter. Also, when you have the social media icons in your in your emails, folks can share it themselves. So if they found a lot of great information or if there’s a deal that they wanna share with others, they can easily share right there to their social media followers. They are different systems. They are different audiences. There’s a whole different strategy for both. But yes, they can coexist and they should coexist and they should play off each other. Just like I explained. 

Ken Tucker: We’ve talked a lot about Omnichannel marketing in this podcast, and I think I’m gonna use the word Ian, force multiplier. If you do what Jen just said, you’re gonna get that amplification of the force multiplier from your email channel and from social media where they’re gonna feed and help you grow both. 

Paul Barthel: There’s nothing pithy about the force multiplying multiplication process that can happen, right guys? 

Ken Tucker: Especially when you amplify it. Another one of my favorite words. Paul, putting images in emails. What are your thoughts about that? Should every email have an image or what about using a video in an email? Can you do that? And how does that work?

Paul Barthel: Images are tricky. The short answer is yes, because I think the email shouldn’t have your logo in it. But back to what we talked about earlier, sometimes images are blocked, so you want to have your business name in there as well as your logo. I think it’s something you have to test, and like I said if you’re primarily business to business you may not want to include images or include a lot of images. People like images, spam filters, and email clients, don’t. So there’s that kind of inherent conflict there. If you’re gonna do it, make sure that the image is relevant to the content of the email. That’s important, and it seems obvious, you’d be surprised how many times you get a new email with an image that has absolutely nothing to do with the email itself. Happens all the time. You can’t really add a video, but you can have a thumbnail that links to a video. Again, I think it’s something you have to test and keep your clients in mind. If you’re business to customer, you’re probably a lot safer putting images in email. If you’re business to business you’re gonna have to test it and see if your emails with images tend to be blocked more than emails without images. 

Ken Tucker: A lot of times the email clients, if the corporate structure firewalls and whatnot that they might put in place. So if they allow that email to get through their email, clients still frequently ask you, Do you wanna load the [00:33:00] images or not? Not everyone does. Google Workspace does and Outlook will give you the option to show the images or prevent them from displaying. Why is that, Paul? Why are images so problematic?

Paul Barthel: Because you can hide things in it. You can hide malicious code in an image, and if someone clicks on it, it can launch a spam bomb on their computer. Or you put malicious code in there. Was it the Bit Locker? Is that what it was? That was going around a while back. That they did that they would send an image and you click on it and it would lock up your computer and ransomware, it does that a lot. So what has happened is a lot of email clients like Outlook, let’s say you just set up Outlook on your computer. You’re not using 365 online. It’s Outlook that you actually download and put in your computer and it’ll ask you one time, do you want to load images? And if you say No from that point forward, it blocks all of them. It doesn’t ask you anymore. You have to go back into your settings and find out where that is and turn that off. If someone white labels your email address, then you’re probably okay. But it’s just, and again, like I said, business to customer you’re probably safe for sending images, but it’s something you have to test it. Images can be tricky. People like images, spam filters and email clients tend to not like ’em so much. 

Ian Cantle: One of the things I came across in just preparing for this call, but I should have shared it with Paul ahead of time, there’s actually a HubSpot article where they did testing because some of these platforms are really great and HubSpots one of them where they thousands and thousands of clients, and they’re able to pull aggregate data based on what’s happening across all these different clients. So it’s very much kind of a, an averaged out thing. But HubSpot shared something. In this particular case, they were just looking at their own emails, so these were email blasts going out to their own contact list. And with them, they found an interesting thing is that when they actually found that their email open rates dropped 25% when they compared plain text to more designed type emails, which was fascinating. It doesn’t mean it’ll work the same for your business, but one thing they attributed it to was that we’re so used to getting just simple emails from people we know where they’re not lengthy, they don’t have images. And that’s what they were attributing it to, was it came across as more authentic, less contrived, less marketing ish. So I just thought that was an interesting thing to put it as an AB test. It would be interesting when we’re preparing our emails to offer up both options and see which one performs better for our own businesses as well as our clients.

Ken Tucker: So Ian, you’re saying that the winner was, the text based.

Ian Cantle: Less was more in HubSpot’s case. 

Paul Barthel: I read something a while back. Along those lines, plain text emails had better open rates, but their theory was that they have better open rates because plain text emails have better deliverability rates. They’re less likely to wind up in spam or being blocked. 

Ian Cantle: What’s interesting too is this article didn’t share clickthrough rates. You would hope if you’re attracting more people, you would get more clickthroughs, but it didn’t go into that. So that would be the other side of the coin, because if you’re getting more opens, but you’re reducing the actual action you want people to do, that’s not a winner in my books.

Ken Tucker: Yeah. Interesting. HubSpot sells software to businesses, so I’m not overly surprised that their internal statistics would be that text works really well. But again, it comes down to relationships and understanding who your ideal clients are and who is on your email list. Ian, I’ve got a question for you, and that is there are some important links that should be included in every email, typically in the footer. What are those, and do you have any recommendations or best practices for that?

Ian Cantle: Yeah, and first of all, I need to thank you, Ken for saving this sexy topic for me. Everybody loves the email footer. That’s what we’re getting through the emails to get to is the footer. I’ll talk about a couple things. The first one is the unsubscribe link. You absolutely must have an unsubscribed link in your footer or you’re breaking the rules of CAN-SPAM and Castle. If you wanna make sure that you’re complying, then you have to do that. What that means is that you’re providing a clear method to allow people to opt out of those emails. That’s as simple as it gets. And you’d always rather, nobody likes unsubscribes. It’s a horrible metric. None of us as marketers, none of us as business owners want to see unsubscribes. It makes us very sad when somebody unsubscribes from our list. Little tears falls down our cheek. But you would always, always rather have somebody unsubscribe from your list than click on that your spam, because if you get clicked on that your spam, and it’s more than one in a thousand emails that gets that spam designation, then it’s gonna affect your deliverability and you never want. That means people won’t even see your emails in their inbox. It’ll never make it there. So the first thing is that unsubscribe, it doesn’t have to be like a big button. It’s not your primary call to action. It can be very subtle. A privacy policy link, that’s another really good thing to have. And it would just link to your website where your privacy policy is, and it would talk about how you collect data, what you do with that data, that kind of stuff. They’ve already subscribed or they should have already opted in when they get the email. But this is just a way to support that. The last thing I think that’s really important, it’s not necessarily a link, but vital to have, again, for compliance for CAN-SPAM and Castle, is you have to provide who the email is from, your business information, your business name, your postal address, your phone number or email address that they can contact you with. Any legitimate business, when you send out an email, you should be telling people who it’s from, and this is just a way again, you set it up once in your email software and it’s done. You never have to do it again, so it makes it worthwhile to comply. Jen talked about social shares. Some people include those in their footer just because it’s a common element that they want across everything they do, and a website link and that kind of stuff.

Ken Tucker: All right. I knew you would enjoy that topic. 

Ian Cantle: So exciting. I love footers. 

Ken Tucker: Actually it was the topic that triggered the thought for this podcast last week. That’s why I saved it for you, Ian. Panel, any of the thoughts on like bad practices or spam type issues? How costly is spam? Or Jen, I know you mentioned the spam trigger words. Any other ones that any of you guys want to talk about that you thought was interesting or just sharing things to avoid that people should not be doing in their emails? 

Paul Barthel: One thing you shouldn’t do is just go out and buy a list and start sending emails out. That’s always bad because getting marked as spam, like Ian mentioned, if it’s more than one in a thousand, it can get your domain or your IP address, blacklisted, we’ve talked about that before. That will stop your emails from being delivered, and it can be a long process to get that fixed, if you can. If you can’t send out emails because you’ve been blacklisted you have a problem as a business. Because it’s not just marketing emails that may be blocked, it’s your transactional emails, which means if you send emails or invoices through emails, they’re not gonna get their invoice.

Ken Tucker: And it’s not like you’re typically notified that you’ve been blacklisted either, is it? 

Paul Barthel: Oh, no, you’re not. You won’t know that unless everybody starts saying, Hey, I didn’t get your email. There’s tools online you can use to see if you’ve been blacklisted. But yeah, Spamhaus isn’t gonna send you an email saying, Hey, by the way, we just wanna let you know you’re blacklisted. That’s not gonna happen.

Ken Tucker: So you might be sitting there thinking, Hey, it’s all good. I’m sending out these emails, blah, blah, blah. Kind of monitoring your open rates and saying, well not many people are opening any of these, but people keep telling me that email marketing is good. So you do need to follow some best practices and not just set it and forget it, even though each email may require a little bit of work on your part to craft the email. But once you start sending things out in a rhythm, it still doesn’t necessarily mean things are all good. Jen, do you have any other thoughts? 

Jen Kelly: This is basically a bit of a softer thing, but you don’t want your company and your reputation to be that you guys are spamming or mailing too much. It’s a black mark on your brand reputation and as well the idea that the email can come into someone’s inbox. You’ve got all that permission. And then to not hold that potential relationship with care, you wouldn’t operate that way in the real world. So you gotta think that just because you’re from behind a screen you have to hold up the same classy way that you interact, has to be with the email and all of this stuff is extra work, and it’s just important to do for sure. 

Ken Tucker: Ian, I’ll give you the last word. 

Ian Cantle: Awesome. I love that. It’s like a footer in an email. I just wanted to clarify, cuz I think there are legitimate purposes where you might wanna buy a list very carefully and use that list very wisely, but you don’t want to send from your main email system. There’s strategies. Publicly in different fields, of course, whether it’s business to business or business to customer. There’s different rules that govern you, but you can legitimately do that in a very specific way. But you really do need the help of a professional in order to avoid the mine fields that could either tarnish your brand, tarnish your domain. There’s stuff that you need to do to be very careful. But yeah, as a general rule, you have to absolutely be careful. Just like Paul was saying, buying list can be a dangerous thing because not all lists are created equal. Not all sources are created equal. So you have to be super careful that way. The other thing I thought I’d mention cuz we didn’t really talk about it too much, but choose your email system carefully. At the beginning, we talked a little bit about CRMs and automation, a little bit about that, but you wanna do a needs analysis of where you are today, where you might be in the next year or two, and choose the system wisely. Because that will help govern what your capabilities are as far as personalization and also deliverability because you wanna choose a well qualified, legit service. There’s some kind of borderline email delivery services out there who spammers tend to gravitate towards. And that just means everybody using those systems gets tarnished a little bit and deliverability drops, right? So you wanna make sure you’re choosing wisely. But do it. Send out emails. 

Ken Tucker: Yep. Absolutely. Thanks as always. A lot of information shared. I love email related topics because I don’t know, I just feel like email is a channel that I think a lot of people just think doesn’t work very well, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. With that in mind, please, if you like this podcast, share it. Write a review for us, subscribe to it so that you catch every episode. I want to thank Jen, Ian and Paul and we will catch you next week. Thanks everybody. 


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