By Justin Hipps
Vice President, Email and Digital Strategy
Today’s marketing landscape is a competitive fight for attention, whether in person or on tiny smartphone screens. However, as HealthLink Dimensions’ Annual Healthcare Professional Communication Report 2018 discovered, email remains the most essential tool for marketers hoping to reach medical professionals.
With approximately 73 percent of survey respondents saying they prefer to be contacted through email, it’s vital for modern marketers to ensure their email marketing campaigns are hitting the mark. Fortunately, by understanding the technical components of successful email marketing and implementing them effectively, marketers can do just that.
73% of survey respondents said they prefer to be contacted through email
LESS IS MORE
When it comes to life science marketing, minimalism should always be the goal. First, consider the fact that people today expect messages to be short and to the point. Whether it’s the proliferation of text messages over traditional phone calls or Twitter’s original 140-character limit, the unspoken rule of modern communication is: Keep it short and sweet. Instead of overwhelming potential customers with information, email marketing should be simple, clear and concise.
While some organizations rely on daily emails, strategic companies understand quality succeeds over quantity. Marketers should forgo constant emails in favor of targeted messages based on audience location, market segmentation and similar factors. By better understanding specific audiences, marketers can select valuable, relevant information to include in their messaging.
Words are not the only thing to keep in mind, however. A 60:40 text-to-image ratio for all emails containing less than 500 characters is recommended. It’s important to remember that while visuals are an integral component of successful email marketing campaigns, not all recipients are calibrated for excessive amounts of visual media. Additionally, taking a minimalistic approach with graphics and videos is equally important.
Optimization also requires careful attention. First, we recommend you use inline Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Email clients typically only support a subset of valid HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and do not provide full support for CSS.
In fact, some email clients will strip <HEAD> and <BODY> tags from incoming email. Using inline CSS keeps things simple and specfic to the email itself. Meanwhile, media queries must reside in the <head> tags of emails and cannot be inlined.
Some email clients will strip <HEAD> and <BODY> tags from incoming mail.
Additionally, with major email clients not supporting responsive design, marketers may need to turn to a hybrid approach, like that developed by user experience designer Fabio Carneiro, to ensure messages are optimized regardless of what device they’re read on. As outlined by Litmus, the fundamental principles of hybrid emails include:
- Fluid tables and elements by default.
- Max-width CSS to constrain widths on desktop.
- Microsoft Office conditional comments to constrain widths in Outlook.
Other important optimization factors to consider include:
- Utilizing alt and title text to ensure there is copy even if images fail to load.
- Designing in a single column for better visual presentation across different applications.
- Keeping headers clean and placing navigation in footers to ensure recipients see primary information after the first scroll.
- Leading with the most important content, using keywords in subheads and placing bolded words on the left side of the screen to break up text for maximized readability.
INTRICACIES OF ENGAGEMENT
Internet service providers (ISP) define engagement as the breakdown of who is opening emails and how they are interacting with them.
In short, who’s clicking and are they being converted into sales? However, negative interactions also constitute engagement.
Technically, an email recipient reporting a message as spam qualifies as a user interaction, albeit a negative one. Spam complaints, along with bounces, ISP complaints and unsubscribes, directly influence a marketer’s sender reputation, which is an indication of their internet protocol (IP) address trustworthiness. This is what makes data hygiene and email list maintenance so vital to marketers.
Keeping data clean and accurate makes it easier for emails to reach intended recipients.
Meanwhile, through the power of segmentation, marketers can target specific audiences with more pertinent, impactful information.
These strategies enhance how emails are ultimately received by recipients, reducing the chances of spam complaints or unsubscribes. In turn, this improves sender reputation and makes it easier for marketers to reach inboxes and stay away from spam folders.
A PRAGMATIC APPROACH TO CONVERSION
Where conversion is concerned, marketers should focus on pre-header text and calls to action (CTA).
Pre-headers, which you can think of as preview text, are the snippets of copy pulled from the body of an email and displayed underneath the subject line in a recipient’s inbox. Since this is the first copy recipients will read before they even open the email, pre-header text should work in tandem with the subject line to grab attention and encourage a click-through. Following the less-is-more approach, pre- headers should be 70 characters or less.
Marketers should focus on pre-header text and calls to action (CTA).
Meanwhile, when it comes to CTAs, marketers should invest in buttons over links. As the experts at MailChimp pointed out, buttons simply perform better than links, making them the preferred option for conversion actions. As far as how CTAs are worded, brevity, action and incentive are all equally important.
For instance, take this example: “Download our white paper.” The CTA is only four words, but prescribes a specific action for the reader to take. It also provides an incentive to do so, in this case, by offering access to a white paper.
Life science marketers must keep in mind that some healthcare organizations block images in emails for security reasons.
For this reason, CTAs should never be embedded in an image.
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TO DELIVERABILITY
Data quality is the most important factor for maximizing deliverability of emails. The question is: How do you maintain data quality when email contact information changes so often?
Strategies to accomplish this include:
- Developing a data standardization, deduping and hygiene process for master data files.
- Creating master suppression lists for unsubscribes, hard bounces and other invalid status emails.
- Establishing strategic scoring logic for email databases utilizing statistical weighted data attributes.
- Mining historical platform engagement data and implementing all opens and clicks into weighted scoring.
- Building a dynamic ISP threshold/domain throttling process for application across all segmented campaigns.
Meanwhile, email headers are also important to consider. Headers, which are comprised of the routing information of the message, as well as the sender, recipient, and date, can become a liability if they lead to emails ending up in spam folders. Modern anti-spam systems examine numerous data points from both the header and body of an email to determine whether it should be blocked or filtered. If marketers find their emails are not reaching their intended destinations, a header analysis is in order. By utilizing pre-deployment testing, marketers can uncover areas that may require attention, ensuring deliverability and ultimately improving sender reputation.
Before testing, however, marketers must ensure each email possesses the following components:
- A functioning unsubscribe mechanism.
- A subject line and pre-header that reflect the content of the email.
- A visible physical address in the footer of the email.
Anti-spam systems examine numerous data points from both the header and body of an email to determine whether it should be blocked or filtered.
Marketers must also ensure ISP feedback loops are in place and up to date. They should employ pre-send render testing to evaluate how emails render across mobile and desktop screens. Finally, they should make sure a domain-based message authentication, reporting, & conformance policy is in place. This policy should not only indicate that emails are protected by the sender policy framework and/or Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), but it should also tell the recipient what to do if neither of these authentication methods pass.
Every smart marketer should be asking him or herself on a regular basis: “Are my efforts hitting the mark? If not, why?”
By taking a less-is-more approach to email messaging, fully understanding how engagement works, optimizing emails for conversions, and removing obstacles to deliverability, marketers can ensure their campaigns are truly impactful.
Justin Hipps brings over 10 years of experience in healthcare IT and financial performance analytics to his current role as Vice President, Email and Digital Strategy at HealthLink Dimensions. He specializes in client data management, database analytics, email marketing, report building, and business development/marketing support. Justin employs his BI expertise in providing internal and external customers with visual analytics to communicate stories and trends within the data.
Justin earned his B.S. in Psychology from Campbell University, and his MBA in Healthcare Systems Management from Keller University. He is a coffee fanatic and ‘closet-marketer’ with an exceptional talent for social media management and email marketing.