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HTML Email Marketing

Although seen as a nuisance (spam) most of the time, HTML email marketing can be a wonderful (opt-in) marketing opportunity.

According to the latest report from TrendWatch Graphic Arts:

Response rates for direct mail hover around 1%, while for opt-in email marketing, response tends to range from 6%-8%, rising to 75% for highly targeted campaigns. According to DoubleClick, more than half (57%) of marketers expect to increase their spending on email in 2003, yet only 2% of graphic arts firms see “bulk email services for our clients” as a top sales opportunity. In addition, only 12% of Internet Design & Development firms cited “email sales campaign management” as a top opportunity for their businesses, though 25% view “email campaigns” as one of the most important Internet changes in the next two years.

What do you think? Creative as direct mail? Cross-media campaigns having success? Have you had experience with HTML email marketing campaigns? Is it easy to do? Any creative and technical resources for beginners?

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.07.2003 BY Kiran Max Weber
Darrel’s comment is:

if BODY contains "" send to SPAM folder

HTML belongs in a web browser. ;o)

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:17 PM
armin’s comment is:

I rarely pay any attention to this sort of marketing. If I see it's and HTML email with some sort of "buy" subject I immediately delete it.

One of my main concerns and reservations in doing HTML emails is the lack of control. How many times have you received one of these and everything is out of place and looking like your baby girl put it together? The same applies to anything delivered via the web, where one can not control how the end user receives the final product (monitor resolution, oily fingerprints on monitor, lighting, bandwidth capabilities, etc.)

We have looked in a little bit into the high response of E-mail marketing and it is undoubtedly higher. I still think it's spam, and I think it's even worse than the spam mail in the printed world, those you can just chug away in the trash the minute you pull them out of your mailbox, but a damn HTML email can weigh as much as 150-200 Kb and bugs down your email program.

I would hate to have to design one of these things. I would put it like this: I'd rather do banner ads than HTML emails. Not sure why, I just despise them.

Actually no... banner ads are the excrement of the web. I would rather do an HTML email.

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:20 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Oh...to answer your questions...:

> Creative as direct mail?

HTML, itself, doesn't make it creative. I've seen very creative ascci email...and much prefer.

There are times when HTML email is nice, and it can be used to good effect in those cases. The key variable is to explicitly ask people if they want the HTML formatted emails. If you don't, most of it will end up in people's spam folders.

> Is it easy to do?

No. Not reliably. Email clients were never designed to handle HTML email. Some do OK at it, many do poorly, and several don't do anything with HTML formatted email. There are tools out there that claim to get the message into a majority of clients in a viewable manner. The one most oftened recommended to me is Mail Chimp.

If you want to compose and send your own HTML email, then it's a matter of trial and error. A few key points to remember:

1) Keep it simple. Use only inline CSS if you want CSS. Don't use Javascript. Expect fancy table or CSS layouts to break in a lot of email clients.

2) DON'T EVER attach the images. Make sure they are on your server. Make sure the links are absolute and correct. Make sure you have proper alt tags (as many of us don't bother to display images in our email clients).

3) Make sure you use an email client that can properly send HTML email. If you're on a Mac, your pickings are slim.

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:22 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Aw crap. My little filter line didn't come out right. It should have been:

if BODY contains "<html> " send to SPAM folder

Sigh. So much for being clever.

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:23 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

>HTML email is nice, and it can be used to good effect in those cases. The key variable is to explicitly ask people if they want the HTML formatted emails.

This is what I meant of course, one should only get emails (HTML or not) if one signed up to receive them or if you gave the person your address.

I actually like getting the HTML emails that I signed up for, like Taschen's and Apple's. It's like a little magazine or something. But I do like Mail's junk feature...

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:32 PM
Max’s comment is:

I see them as spam also, but at my company, we see a tremendous response from the ones we send out, which are customized to the users preference (say, text only, RTF, or HTML), and the user only receives it if they've signed up for it. We don't spam. Its basically a newsletter informing people of specials and offers, but they also market different emails for different demographics.

However, UGH, they a pain to make look good! I recently started here and the email campaigns are on my list to get looking nicer, right after everything else! I've tried a couple inline CSS experiments, but they've not been as successful as I'd hoped (I expected degradation, but not that much), and I haven't had time or sufficient resources to troubleshoot...

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:34 PM
damien’s comment is:

one of the problems with email spam that contains HTML is that it also can contain cookies and applications like Entourage/Outlook enable network acccess to these cookies to the collect information it can. It can encourage more spam by accepting unsolicitied email, if your email address is tracked/or retained in some way. I'm not entirely sure on the exact technicalities of this. But its evil. Okay - bad.

Opt-in email is fine - but a lot of times people don't realise they have done so and thus open the floodgates to amazing amounts of pap.

I personally use a text-only email client and no longer see the benefit of rich HTML email marketing. I get to simply see the words instead. I never felt much benefit from crapped out HTML emails anyway.

I think it can be necessary to keep a consistent look and feel in some email marketing a firm or service might provide - but that can also be obtained by consistency in voice and language - thus not necessarily needing HTML emails.

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:43 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

>However, UGH, they a pain to make look good!

I've heard the same, either it's so easy or incredibly hard.

I have to post AIGA's, that one is nice too.

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:44 PM
anthony’s comment is:

I agree with Kiran, I like getting Apple's and Macromedia's HTML emails, the rest just go into spam blocker and I guess I don't see many, they are not all that catchy anymore, since they are somewhat the norm for spam and more often that not all it does is let me know it is not an important email.

Just today infact I have a client asking for Video in an email campaign, and I had to shutter, they seemd to think it is real easy to implement a nice looking flash video of them talking to people's inboxes, and it just sounds painful... for everyone involved. They only decent video emails I can think of are from Nintendo, and then are even heavy and only work half the time.

On Apr.07.2003 at 10:45 PM
Nick Finck’s comment is:

I don't know about the rest of you but I use an email client that doesn't parce HTML. To me, sending email in the form of HTML clearly demonstraits that the sender has no clue of how technology works. Not everyone uses Outlook, and even Outlook users don't read HTML email. Email, according to standards, is suppose to be nothing more than ASCII text, so if you are sending something in some format you expect the reader to parce, you should consider that. Be considerate of your readership, send them something everyone can read and use if you are going to send anything at all. My 2 cents.

On Apr.08.2003 at 03:51 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

> To me, sending email in the form of HTML

> clearly demonstraits that the sender has

> no clue of how technology works.

Yep. No argument there. ;o)

On Apr.08.2003 at 05:10 PM
Su’s comment is:

Email clients were never designed to handle HTML email.

Uh, no. Let's not be revisionist here. When mail clients were originally created, there was no such thing as HTML, sure, your statement was true then. Just about every modern client I've come across, unless its goal was specifically to be bare-bones, does support HTML. There are now several mail clients that are built on or embed a web browser.


Some e-mail clients don't handle HTML e-mail, period. That's a closed issue.

Some other clients don't do it well. This is the fault of the programmers, not the marketroids, for writing crap software, and from your perspective, is not functionally different from having to write weird HTML for multi-browser support.

The issue of whether you should be getting HTML e-mail at all, based upon your personal preferences or limitations in your software, is, obviously, a preference, and as such the marketer should give you the ability to say so. Ideally, this will happen when you sign up to avoid the issue altogether, and it should be available as a link in every message sent, in case you change your mind.

"True" spam doesn't enter into this discussion, since you obviously didn't have the choice, and don't want the messages anyway.

On Apr.08.2003 at 07:12 PM
bob’s comment is:

I just sent out a html email yesterday to promote my website www.boboconnor.net to a small group of art directors and photo editors. (I'm a photographer). Out of the 17 that received the email 4 looked at the site in less than an hour. 7 people have viewed the site so far. One photo editor even took the time to email me to tell me that she liked the site and to keep sending email promos. And no one from the list requested to be removed from future emails.

The whole process was simple and immediate. I used www.mailchimp.com to send it. You paste your html code into their program and they make it work with whatever program the email is viewed in. It worked in every email program I tried on both Mac and Windows machines.

When sent to a specific, targeted group html email won't always be viewed as spam. It has become a valuable and very affordable tool to supplement my other marketing efforts like offset printed direct mail pieces or portfolio drops. (Both which take a lot more time and money to produce). It just makes sense for me to advertise in as many different forms as possible.

On Apr.09.2003 at 03:12 PM
andrea ’s comment is:

If I had a marketer working for my design studio, I would hope he/she would create a html newsletter for my studio's business development. I think it is a great marketing tool! Unfortunately, this effort along with many other marketing efforts falls under the category, "I will get to it if I have time!"

On Apr.16.2003 at 03:47 PM