April 9, 2008, 12:00 AM

Design is critical for creating a successful e-mail message

For a successful e-mail marketing program, online retailers need to create a design that supports the overall direction of the program, ExactTarget says in a new report.

For a successful e-mail marketing program, online retailers need to create a design that supports the overall direction of the program, ExactTarget, an e-mail service provider, says in a new report.

In creating a plan, marketers need to answer what the business purpose of the e-mail communication is, how the communication supports the value offered to subscribers, and whether e-mail is the best medium to communicate the message, ExactTarget says in the report, “Email Marketing Design & Rendering: The New Essentials,” an ExactTarget white paper for e-mail marketers and designers.”

Marketers also need to know their audience, using different design approaches for different audiences. For example, if a majority of subscribers use a specific e-mail client or come from a region with a specific Internet service provider, it’s best to customize messages, the report says. If e-mail campaigns are sent primarily to an internal list, the marketer should optimize the e-mail design for internal clients.

Before designing a campaign, marketers should determine the domain composition of the e-mail list and optimize the e-mail accordingly, maximizing design effectiveness for the majority of subscribers. E-mail service providers can provide reporting tools that breakdown the compositions of subscriber lists, the report says.

Once a design is completed, it should be tested across multiple e-mail clients and ISPs to ensure subscribers see what the marketer expects them to see in both the HTML and text versions. After sending out e-mails, marketers should use a variety of data points to determine the success of the design, including open rates, click-through rates or unsubscribe rates.

Conversion rates also can be combined with web analytics to measure an e-mail campaign’s success, in addition to other statistics such as subscriber retention, sales cycle or downloads, the report says.

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