In the ever-evolving world of email marketing “best practices,” mastering some niche know-how can significantly boost the value of your contribution to your email marketing team. Whether you’re the jack-of-all-trades in a barebones operation or a member of a large in-house or agency team, becoming familiar with the following will position you as an expert -- and, more important, enable to you make meaningful contributions to your program.
Be the email coding expert. With subscribers reading email on multiple devices sent through multiple email services providers and opened in multiple Internet browsers, smart coding work is more central than ever to the success of email marketing programs.
Top coders keep themselves informed about the unique -- and inconstant -- challenges presented by each ISP. For example, over just the past several months, Yahoo has made filtering changes, Hotmail has replaced registration, copyright and trademark characters with images, and Outlook has continued to present all kinds of fun new challenges. Make yourself essential to the coding operation by taking time to learn the ins and outs of each ISP and what the differences means for coding. Test emails on each platform from multiple devices. You might discover new ISP demands just through testing, though proactively scouring for posts and articles in the always-helpful blogosphere can help you benefit from others’ expertise.
Many brands are also eager to implement responsive design in their email, and coders play a key role in making this happen. Knowing not just the how-tos of responsive design, but also where and how it works best and when to use it, is a mark of an email coding expert. Campaign Monitor has a great guide to getting started.
Be the email copy expert. For copywriters who write for cross-channel campaigns, becoming an expert means understanding the nuanced copy demands of multiple social channels. Not only can you add expertise by understanding the basics (Twitter word limits, best ways to comment on your brand’s Facebook links), but you can reach more subscribers more effectively by becoming immersed in the conversations happening throughout multiple channels and leveraging your own experience into nuanced tonal shifts for each channel. Understanding the real-person feel of Facebook status updates, the value of tweets that say something in a clear, straightforward way and the minimal copy used by most Pinterest users, for instance, can help you set your brand apart as one who “gets it.”
Another important skill for today’s copywriters is offering value messaging even in full-priced offers. Many subscribers are still feeling the effects of the recession, so having a full toolkit of phrasing that emphasizes the solid investment sense of buying full-priced or high-end products can help drive sales.
There are tons of places to look for direction on crafting compelling copy. Some of my favorites are Copyblogger, The Clear Copywriter and Direct Creative. Copyblogger published a list of great resources, too.
Be the email design expert. Continuing innovation in email for mobile design is top of mind for brands seeking to reach the growing majority of consumers who check email from mobile devices. Staying at the forefront of the principles of user experience design is essential for today’s effective email marketing designer. This means understanding the email channel as a part of the customer’s entire brand experience and considering your subscriber’s environment, mental state and ability to respond to the message you are sending them.
Of course, email design best practices are still relevant. The next wave of email creatives are looking beyond the framework we all know works and pushing design that makes an impact. They understand the rules well enough to break them purposefully. We’re seeing email designers take conventions that work on the mobile web and apply them successfully in email. A great place to learn about user experience and mobile design is the book, “Mobile First” by Luke Wroblewski.
Be the email strategic expert. Becoming a strategic expert means knowing when to optimize sends for particular devices and channels. It usually doesn’t make financial sense to send two versions – a mobile version and desktop version – of the same email, so the question becomes when to optimize for which screen. What makes sense for your brand depends on your subscribers’ reading habits and the goal of each particular email. Know enough about both to make smart recommendations based on insights, rather than opinions.
This brings us back to the importance of cross-channel campaign expertise. As a strategist, understand the types of messages that work on various social platforms and the frequency with which subscribers are willing to hear from you on each (for instance, tweeting a few times a day might be acceptable, while multiple email sends might not), and you’ll have valuable insight for your team members.
There are many places to begin learning about email strategy. A great place to start is looking at your own program’s benchmarks for patterns and trends. A fantastic book on using data to power your business is “Sexy Little Numbers” by Dimitri Maex. Maex’s analytics background mixed with excellent real-world marketing examples give marketers very easy ways to look at very complex data .
What other skills and/or resources have helped make you the go-to email marketer in your group? Please share your insights below.