eNews: Effective Electronic News
Email provides a convenient and effective way to connect with your customers and members.
- Most people now have at least one email account.
- Electronic documents are as easily prepared as printed documents yet don't incur the delivery overhead.
- Email is quick, providing a quick turnaround when urgency requires it.
- Regular reminders help retain customer loyalty.
Email offers a form of focused communication that blogs, websites, social media and other alternatives don't directly provide. These others require the visitor to come to them, often requiring them to log into their social media accounts or via those accounts.
Among these documents are newsletters, invoices, receipts, renewal notices and sale information.
While most people have an email account, the amount of mail has increased significantly, enough that most people now are overwhelmed by the sheer volume.
Unless your messages stand out, you're likely to find that people ignore them.
You can retain the number of messages that are opened by following these suggestions:
- Use clear subject lines that are interesting and compelling.
- Use the email address rather than the subject line to identify the e-newsletter.
- Use opt-in techniques to ensure that your recipients actually want to receive your newsletter.
- Always provide an option to unsubscribe from your list.
- If your messages are frequent, a weekly or monthly “digest” version can retain busy recipients.
This works very well, but you must be aware of the differences between how email programs when you send these documents.
Your e-documents will be read using many programs on different operating systems. If your recipients are having difficulty reading your emailed newsletters, your message will not get out and it is going to reduce your subscriber base.
PDF-based documents have provided the best option for many of these.
Make it Accessible
Not everybody can view enhanced (HTML) email messages or properly view encoded images (although this is pretty much the norm these days). You can offer the option to view the message in a browser, but this is risky for your recipients and is annoying for regular postings.
Many e-newsletters no longer offer a plain-text version that can be read without the extra coding and images. If someone chooses not to view your message in an HTML-capable email program, you may lose a customer.
It is recommended that you test your messages on a variety of email clients and platforms (operating systems) so you can to catch these bugs before they come back to bite you.
Avoid Bandwidth Hogs & Incompatibilities
Don't depend upon images to convey the message content and avoid including images with unrelated names stored on remote servers.
Sure, this saves bandwidth when sending the message, but can create a strain on your ISP's server (and your account bandwidth) if you aren't careful.
Remember, every time someone opens the message, they'll be downloading these images (not just the first time) as will everyone they forward it to.
Both spammers and many legitimate businesses use downloaded images within emails to verify email addresses and logging when the message is opened. While useful for the sender, this tracking invades the user's privacy.
Email clients like The Bat! can prevent images from opening and provide a bit of privacy for the recipient by managing which remote images to display by email address or domain.
Services like ConstantContact and MailChimp provide their clients with information on who opens messages, who they forward them to and more.
This may sound great from a sales point of view, but is kind of creepy. Addons like Ghostery are starting to disable these beacons, allowing the visitor to choose whether to allow the information to be gathered.
Colour and Backgrounds
Be careful when using backgrounds and colour schemes while developing your e-news postings. Some colours may have unexpected emotional or cultural impacts as well as creating issues for those that have various forms of colour-blindness.
The following pages cover this in greater detail:
- Color Vision 1 in 12 people have some sort of color deficiency.
- Colour Meaning—what various colours signify.
- Colour Symbolism.
Backgrounds can also be rendered as page-after-page of nonsense characters if the email program doesn't interpret it correctly or if the message or background information becomes corrupt during transmission or download. It is safest to use no background or to specify a neutral colour.
Outlook Has Issues
If you are sending out an email-based newsletter, it is very important that you either do not use a Microsoft email program, or that you ensure that you've taken care of the winmail.dat problem. Sending your clients large unusable attachments will simply annoy them.
An alternative to self-contained messages is to attach a newsletter to the message.
Since this forces people to open another document, an inconvenience to busy people, many may not bother.
Be careful about your choice in the attachment format as you will want your viewers to be able to view the message.
While Microsoft Word is used by most businesses, not everyone has Word (although they may have LibreOffice or OpenOffice).
Your document may not display as expected if the printer settings are different on the viewing computer.
PDF locks the format into the document and the various PDF readers are free (and already installed on most computers), making it an excellent choice.
While many programs can create PDFs, be sure to ensure that the compression is good enough to provide the smallest document size.
Know Your Audience
You should make your decisions based upon your intended audience. In some cases MS Word may be more attractive to your viewers, and unless the layout is extremely tight, the printer configuration issue may not matter.
Be sure to test your message on other computers with different printers before settling on this solution.
Document Size Issues
If you are composing a newsletter in MS Word, be sure to resize images to fit before inserting them into the document.
Resizing them in the document doesn't reduce the actual file size. This is also true for documents that will later be converted into PDF.
Start here when looking for more information:
- Surviving Inbox Congestion.
- How to Code HTML Newsletters.
- Email Newsletter Usability has a summary or you can download the entire 536 page report for US$497.
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