E-Marketing campaigns have increasingly become a vehicle of choice for following up with prospects, announcing special offers on inventory homes, inviting them to grand opening of communities, or simply for increasing the week-end traffic at the sales centers. When well executed, monitored, and in accordance with spam laws, an E-Marketing campaign can be very effective in all these typical situations and ultimately help you sell more homes and with higher profits.

We are often asked by our clients to help them create their emails because they don’t know what to do with the PDF files or a JPEG image they got from their graphics designer or ad agency. This is an all too common situation, and a very legitimate problem because these types of documents, first and foremost, are not designed to be used as an email and also because making them into an email requires some technical skills.

Let’s look at Outlook…so to speak. When you check your emails, Outlook first downloads your emails from your service provider or company server. Then, Outlook interprets the HTML content of each email and renders what it understands, text, color, links, images and even animated graphics.

To protect users from spam and unsafe contents, Outlook is now set up by default to block the downloading of images and to inactivate all links included in emails. This is a set up that you can change but it is why when you will look at an email you will see some sort of frame with a red x meaning, that the image is not available.

We are now faced with a fundamental problem. If the HTML email in your inbox is just this big image, blocked by Outlook, sometimes without even an alternate text being displayed, there is simply nothing being displayed in your preview pane other than the great Outlook message: “Right-click to download pictures. To protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the internet.”!

Very attractive, don’t you think? It really gives me the desire to right-click on the image in order to see what it is all about.

Here’s what you need to do. You need to make sure right from the start that your document is designed for e-marketing purposes and delivered in an HTML format that you can use immediately, as-is. It implies that you need to communicate to your design agency some specifications and ensure that your agency can deliver such a document.

Therefore, you need to make sure that your agency also has web design skills within their staff that will be able to deliver emails according to your specifications.

Here are my recommendations for designing emails that your recipients will be able to see.

  1. Output format. By now you know that you need an HTML, not a PDF or an image. If your designers do not have these skills, find one that either can create directly the file you need or will be able to recreate an HTML from the PDF. It might cost more but you will get your money back easily.
  2. Use text as much as possible, not images of …text as I see very often. Text is always displayed, text is fast to display by opposition to big images that can take a long time to download. Yes, it is true that “pictures are worth a 1,000 words”, however, use images only when you need to and try to reach a good balance between text and images.
  3. Whenever possible, store your images on a server that you control and link to them in your HTML. This provides you with a greater flexibility and a better control. If you already have access to a particular folder on your website, use it to store images that you will be able to use in your emails.
  4. Require a width of 600 pixels, not more. Why? Because it guarantees that your entire content will be displayed in most of your recipients’ Outlook preview pane and that they will not have to scroll in order to read your message.
  5. Give priority to content versus look-and-feel. The simpler your email is, the easier it will be to modify, and the faster it will download in your recipient’s Outlook. You can convey the same branding in a postcard and an email but the email can be much simpler and right to the point.
  6. You have a few seconds to attract your recipient’s attention. This is fundamental. Think about how You browse through your inbox every morning, how You focus only on the important emails and why You spend time reading emails from people or organizations that You do not know. Your own experience and behavior is no different that your recipient’s.

The From address, the subject line, the top part of the email and/or the few first lines of text (here we go again, text, text…) should immediately catch the recipient’s attention and give him or her desire to read more and take action.

I have learned by experience that these simple principles work very well and it is my hope that they will help you communicate more efficiently with your design agencies to create more effective e-marketing campaigns.

Jean “John” Cartoux
COO & CTO – Be Home Wise Inc.