Email Life Can Be Hard -- Make it Easy For Subscribers

We talk a lot about how email is the one marketing medium that comes closest to a one-to-one conversation with our customers/subscribers, but we spend more time making sure readers see the message we want them to see and not enough designing the email so that it's just as easy to navigate.

After all, subscribers don't always read your messages just to see your sales offer or newsletter copy. They might want to unsubscribe or change their preferences, comment on something you wrote or ask a question. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to do what they want to do with your email, not just read the content or take the action you want them to.

If your email message design merely replicates your Web site or landing page, this crucial information probably isn't placed anyplace where readers can find it quickly. An email's purpose differs from your Web pages. So, you must design your messages with navigation specifically for the email user.

Look at the last commercial message you sent out. How easily can you find your way through the navigation and message body for things other than the core content? Or, will subscribers just about have to Mapquest your email address or Web link to find them?

One of the best ways you can help your reader find crucial information is to package it together in an administration center and to place it in a convenient location that stays the same one issue to the next. However, if you run this standing information at the end of your message, the reader who skims your message in the preview pane might not see it.

So, you need to add a link at or near the message top to your admin center within your message, wherever you place it.

Think about all the ways subscribers can interact with you via email, and then review your messages to see how easy or hard it is to accomplish those in your standard email design. Following are some of the more common functions your email should be providing in addition to your core content:

  • Unsubscribe link

  • Link to email preferences/update profile page

  • Ask about a purchase, company policy or content in the message

  • Comment on a story/provide feedback

  • Listing of your email address to be added to subscribers' safe senders list

  • Link to back issues or other offers, as appropriate

  • Link to Web version

  • Phone, email or mail contact information for newsletter staff or relate departments, such as ad sales or customer service

  • Privacy policy or link to it

  • Forward to a friend instructions

  • Link to related information or offers, products or services at your Web site

  • Description or link to shipping and return policies

    Usability should be woven throughout your entire email program, from before the opt-in, into message design and managing the subscription, all the way through the unsubscribe process. But message design is a good place to start if you're not in a position to overhaul your entire program.

    Want to rate your email message's usability? Try this free test.

    We need to do all we can to keep the email conversation going with our customer-subscribers. We can foster more interaction by making our email messages as much about their needs as our own - which helps keep the conversation going.

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