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  • signaltonoise 1:16 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , lead generation,   

    Boost Email Conversion: Design Like it’s 1999 

    When it comes to maximizing conversion on your email campaigns many of you are familiar with some of the the basics:

    • Provide strong, relevant content to your email subscribers
    • Create a compelling call-to-action
    • Manage frequency to avoid list fatigue

    However, while content is king, design also plays a critical role in enhancing your email marketing efforts. This week there were a couple of interesting articles that remind us that design matters a lot. As reported by MarketingVox, a recent survey of the top 100 internet retailers found that horizontal navigation bars, emails with fewer links, HTML coding (vs. images) and special tactics to highlight sales, seasonal specials and featured departments work best in emails.

    One question that comes up quite a bit is how to best design emails. MediaPost’s Email Insider included a great piece yesterday that reminded readers to design for preview panes and don’t forget about your landing page design (it’s kind of critical part of the conversion puzzle).

    Finally, when it comes to design basics, the most important thing to remember is that many email clients are archaic in how they handle HTML. As such, you may want to remind your web designer (who you’ve probably tapped to design your emails) to design like it’s 1999. There are resources all over the web for best practices, but Dennis Deacon at Smatterings offers a few concise tips:

    Layout with Tables

    After several years after migrating to using <divs> and CSS to layout web pages, it was awkward, but necessary to revert back to using tables for layout. This to ensure the greatest compatibility with the many email clients used. You should first use a “body” table at 100% width, especially if you plan to use a background color or image for email. This should be followed by a “container” table that will hold the content of your message. The width should be limited to around 600 pixels. You should think of your email message in terms of sections, with each section hosted within a table, with each table stacked on top of each other. A note on nested tables: you should limit the number of nested tables as much as possible. Some email clients have difficulties in rendering multiple levels of nested tables. In the example below, the green stacked tables are nested 2 levels down.

    Use CSS Sparingly

    Though some email clients can understand CSS instructions, you should limit CSS to simple text formatting. Also, CSS should be implemented in-line, not embedded (within the <head> tag) or from an external style sheet. In fact, at least one email system formats text using the <font> tag, and places in-line CSS as an attribute within the <font> tag. Example:

    <font color=”#000000” face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sansserif” size=”4” style=”FONT-FAMILY: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;FONT-SIZE: 14pt;COLOR: #000000;”>

    Use Tables for Backgrounds Colors & Images

    If your design includes background colors or images, consider using tables to implement. The <body> tag is frequently stripped on attributes by email clients. Also, make sure your design does not require (is only enhanced by) a background image. Many email clients do not support background images.

    Place Your Key Message Prominently

    Many people scan their inbox for messages to read or delete. Each email client handles HTML emails differently, even dependent on the platform. Email applications, such as Outlook, provide a preview pane that can be sized and laid out as the user sees fit. This can produce unwanted results, as the main message of your email is more than 200 pixels down the screen and not seen. To improve on this, place a textual statement that presents the key message of the email at the very top of the page. Example:

    Using this method also benefits users of email services such as GMail, that display the first few textual characters of each email next to the subject:

    Use Alt Text in Images to Repeat Your Message

    Most designed think graphically. Therefore, many designers may be horrified when they discover that most email applications and systems have images turned off by default. You can still get your message out, but you’ll have to leverage the image’s “alt” attribute to repeat the message. This way, the message is isplayed in text and not lost. Example (compare with the screenshot above):

    These are just a few tips to get you started.  But implementing these simple tactics should help you see big improvements in conversion.  Have any other tips you’d like to share?  

     
  • signaltonoise 1:15 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: lead generation,   

    Don’t let your forms come in between you and your prospects 

    As he’s been known to do from time to time, Un-Marketing expert Scott Stratten recently posted a rant about something that annoys him…a lot. In this case, he explains why he has little patience for CAPTCHAs on Web forms.

    CAPTCHAs are used to prevent automated software from performing actions, such as submitting online forms, through verifying that the submission is coming from a human-being. In theory, it’s a great idea: CAPTCHAs minimize the amount of bad information submitted through your forms. But as Stratten illustrates, they can sometimes create unnecessary barriers.

    Now, while CAPTCHAs may still have value in certain situations, one of the points that Stratten is trying to make is that he has little patience for these types of annoyances…and the same goes for your prospects.

    Whether you’re using CAPTCHAs or not, your web forms can either invite users to engage with your organization or turn them off completely. In addition to barriers like CAPTCHAs, organizations often turn off prospects through other types of form faux pas. A few common barriers include:

    1) asking for way too much information up front,

    2) not outlining clearly which information is required vs. optional

    3) making it difficult to determine progress or save information on longer forms

    4) failing to convey to the prospect what will happen upon submitting the form

    In the context of Higher Education, College Web Guy outlined a few other annoyances in a post last year that included:

    Designing effective web forms isn’t easy. For many resons. Making things simple, is hard. It takes work. We need to use intelligent writing and design to make the process intuitive and painless.

    Keys to crafting our new Admissions Application:

    It begins with writing / naming
    Employ simple, direct instructions and labels. Avoid internal / academic jargon. As a general rule, this copy shouldn’t get crafted in IT.

    Easy questions first..
    Starting easy helps build up momentum. The user invests themselves in the process. Get movement going, nd users are more willing to follow through the whole form.

    Separate Related Content
    Chunk things up. Don’t overwhelm prospective students with giant stretches of input fields. Keep it simple. Make the form a long series of little easy steps. Easy wins. Not 2 or 3 big leaps.

    Indicate Progress
    Show the user where they are in the process. Step 3 of 7, etc..

    Provide sufficient information about information requested.
    Probably the number one reason why forms are started but not completed.

    Error Messages must be clear, concise.
    Help/Tips must be clearly available at times.

    Explain Explain Explain
    Tell users why certain information is needed. Tell users how to find uncommon information.

    As form design expert Luke Wroblewski shows in the following presentation, how you collect information can go a long way in terms of getting prospects to engage with your organization.

     

    Best Practices for Form Design

     
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