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Everything I Know About Email

Planted 02020-04-17

From code to vision.

CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business

During my role as a Communications Consultant for ABB, I was responsible for the preparation and disbursement of communications that involved various media such as radio, television, and publications, and also preparing brochures and presentation materials for presentation to clients. I was responsible for conducting marketing research, planning and developing communications directed at increasing sales and improving services. I recommended and implemented marketing strategies designed to maximize profit margins and ensure customer satisfaction.

Driving Interest

Email is used to drive consumer interest and inquiry into the products and services of a company. To engage with customers you need two things:

  1. Their contact information
  2. Their permission

You have to earn permission to follow up, earn enrollment to teach — to organize and lead — to build confidence in writing the future. Together. When you get enrollment — people who are there because they want to be, eager to move forward with what you have to offer — you’re able to do work that matters for people who care. Not working to flatter or coax but instead to provide experiences that transform.

It’s your job to create the doors for those events to occur — and once you get them it’s up to you to fulfill your part of the promise. Building an email list is a powerful driver of awareness for any business. It allows you to show up regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years.

These lists are created from simple forms and incentives such as:

  • Website subscribe forms
  • Online gated document downloads (case study, cheat sheet, toolkit)
  • In-person
  • Social media —> linked to landing pages
  • Ads —> linked to landing pages

Remember it’s your job to create the doors for those events to occur. So you need a few things:

  1. Content for people to find and share.
  2. People to find and share your content.
  3. A way to follow up with people who want to write the future, together.

Your job is a cycle of:

  1. Brand creation
  2. Content creation
  3. Content reach

Brand and content are tied closely together — remember you have to earn permission to follow up, earn enrollment to teach — to organize and lead — to build confidence in writing the future. Together. And that comes down to trust and making good on your promises.

Your goal is to build a connection to serve as a foundation and grow from there. We primarily discover things through digital interaction, coming across content by searching Google or browsing platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.​

To have a business, people need to be aware of your business. So you need your name to reach them through content created by your business and you need people talking about your business.​

To do this right you need to understand what your ideal customers want. I say ideal customers because the type and style of the content you create affects the type and style of the customers you attract.​

To add value to your audience, you need to answer questions like:​

  • What does your audience want?​
  • How can you best convey your message to them?​
  • Do they understand what you’re selling?​
  • Are they on board with your vision?​
  • How can you speak to them personally?​

Keep in mind, that unless the people you are targeting have a previous connection to you, they don’t care about you, your dreams, or your company. Even if you have the right solution and you’re excited to share it, people don’t want your solution. People want any solution that works for them.

This would be easy if every prospect and customer thought the way you do. So begin by understanding why people don’t choose you and what you have to offer them. Until you can be honest about why you’re going to waste time and money (of your business and your customers). ​

Often companies struggle because people don’t trust the organization or the promises it makes. But instead of working on building trust, they do the opposite — coming up with scammy ways to get noticed by more people. They don’t have an awareness problem, they have a trust problem, and all the effort they put into getting noticed instead hurts their need to be trusted.​

Before you spend your time and your money on “marketing,” dig a little deeper and figure out what marketing problem you’re trying to solve.​

It helps to use data and analytics to see what your current customers are spending their time on or engaging the most with. Identify a specific customer that you seek to change. Then answer this:​

  • What does this person believe that you don’t believe?​
  • What do they see that you don’t see?​
  • What do they want that you don’t want?​
  • What do they care about that you don’t care about?​

Understanding who you serve means treating people less like defaults and instead more like people with real lives.

People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.​” — Zig Ziglar

Never focus on talking about how you’re “better than the competition.” Get clear on the story you tell. It’s about helping someone see how you can fill a hole in their lives, and relating this to things they already understand. It’s about connecting the dots for someone, using the dots they know. ​

Your goal is to keep moving closer to the foundational need. When the promise you make and the story you tell resonate with one of our core beliefs, they’ll have a larger impact.

When your customers hear what you do, some of them will say “that’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for, tell me more about it.” ​

We tell stories. We make connections. We create experiences. Your business, your brand, your campaign, your project, will benefit from what’s happening now, which is marketing, not advertising, which is connection, not interruption.​

Email Marketing

Over the past decade, email marketing has proven to be significantly more prosperous than social media marketing. A McKinsey study found that it is more than 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. It’s permission based and revolves around regular contact that builds trust.

Email marketing is a tool that allows your to communicate with your audience through targeted, relatable, and humanized content. It’s not about sending as many promotional emails as you can, instead, use email marketing as a tool for building relationships with your audience. This makes an email marketing list a valuable asset for any business because it provides a direct line of communication with customers.

The best way to get people to join a list is to offer an incentive. For example, you’ll often see a free ebook or an industry report. There are three common types of incentives:

  1. Case Study: a story about people and brands in a particular niche.
  2. Cheat Sheet: highlights and shares valuable data and shortcuts.
  3. Toolkit: a package of useful resources such as cheat sheets, checklists, videos, or ebooks.

When it comes to collecting emails, there are a few common ways to ask people to join an email list:

  1. Online sign-up form
  2. In person
  3. Social media/ landing pages

You’ll want to get explicit permission to send marketing messages. Explicit permission is when someone fills out an online form to join an email list and confirms that they want to receive further updates—this is the industry standard and the recommended level of permission. You’ll also see double-opt in confirmation to ensure that people really meant to join your list.

The most common types of email campaigns are:

  1. Welcome Series
  2. Promotions
  3. Newsletter
  4. Triggered Email Series

It’s worth pausing to think about your goals and what you really want to achieve with email. Only when you have a goal in mind can you properly select the type of campaigns you send, the content you include, who you target, and how you measure success. Do you want to grow subscribers? Generate new leads for sales? Convert existing leads into customers? More attendees for an event? Make sure you’re aware of what marketing problem you’re trying to solve.​ Once you’ve created your emails, the next step is to measure the performance of your campaigns and track how people respond to your messages.

The most common email tracking metrics are:

  • CTR (Clickthrough rate): percentage of people who clicked on at least one link.
  • Conversion: percentage of people who became a lead.
  • Bounce Rates: “Soft bounces” are temporary problems like a server issue, “Hard bounces” are invalid email address.

If you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody. That’s why people segment their audience and tailor their content towards specific groups. This is why people collect as much information about customers as possible—so they can better segment them. There are two main types of segmentation:

  1. Demographic
  2. Behavioral

Demographic data is often collected when making a purchase—recording customers credit card information, address, state, and postal code to allow geo-targeted email lists. For demographic data you should at the very least collect their name, country, and state.

Behavioral segmentation is often segmented by four behaviors:

  1. People who have made a purchase
  2. People who started the purchase process, requested a demo, contacted a salesperson, or added a product to their cart.
  3. People who opened an email.
  4. People who have clicked on an email.

Using this data we can create automated emails to subscribers based on a specific action. The two standard automations are:

  • Autoresponder: a single email triggered by a specific event or action. For example, when a subscriber joins an email list sending them an email.
  • Sequence: multiple emails triggered by a specific event or action. For example, when a new subscriber joins an email list, send them a welcome email, a follow-up email the next day, and an email containing useful resources after that.

Coding Emails

Coding emails uses HTML and CSS.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser.​

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language like HTML.​

Not teaching HTML or CSS here.

Basic table HTML format:


Basic table HTML and inline CSS format:

<table align="center" bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" style="background:#ebebeb" width="100%">
      <td width="600" align="center">
        <table align="center" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="devicewidth" height="48" width="100%">

That’s a lot to take in. Let’s explain why there are so many HTML tags:

<table> defines a table. <tr> defines a row in the table. <td> defines a cell in the row.

The first <table> sets the background color for the email section.

The empty <td></td> with no content allows the center to format properly by creating cells to fill in the sides of your content.

The <td style=“width=“600”> provides a fluid width that acts as a max-width for your content while still allowing the text to wrap on smaller screens.

By designing with fluid design in mind we allow content to adjust automatically based on the user’s set up.

If you’re working with enterprise clients, Outlook for Windows is most likely the primary email client. Outlook accounts for around 10% of the global email client market share. Unfortunately Outlook for Windows is also one of the worst supported email clients. With the majority (around 80%) of HTML and CSS features not supported on Outlook for Windows and the majority (around 30-50%) of our recipients using Outlook for Windows, we’re left to work within those 20% of features available to create our emails.

This makes things hard as looking up solutions online often results in solutions that are ignored by Outlook.

A few things to take note of when designing for Outlook for Windows:

  • Margin and padding are ignored and removed on images and text.
  • Padding is only supported on <td> elements.
  • There’s no way to control spacing between list bullets.
  • Margin is not supported on <span> and <body> elements.
  • Background-color style is included inside the margin.
  • Declared width and height are pretty much ignored on non-table elements.
  • Text doesn’t wrap by default.
  • Table cells have borders by default.
  • Line height needs constant fixing.
  • <td> defaults to minimum 17px height.
  • To define a visited link color you can either style it individually by wrapping it in <strong style=“color:#ff000f;”>Link text here </strong> tags or define it across the email by declaring <body vlink="#ff000f"> for the body tag.

A few more tips

Preview Text: <div>[Preview Text]</div> To write custom preview text, place hidden text in the top of the email in a <div> element.

Responsive images: <img width="600" style="width: 100%;"> Most email clients (i.e. not Outlook) will follow style="100%" and keep it fluid while outlook will use width="600" — sadly this means that there is no such thing as fluid images in Outlook.

Note: Images should be double the pixel size of their container (the container is 600 pixels in this case) in order to maintain a crisp quality.

Buttons: Don’t. Buttons like to break often and solutions I found were not Pardot friendly. You’re better off copying some template styling or using Campaign Monitors button tool.

Plain Text Emails: Although most email clients use HTML messages some clients and devices can’t display HTML or in rare cases people block HTML emails. To help email deliverability we send a text-only version along with the HTML version. You can use the built in Pardot tool to generate the plain text version or another tool like the converter from Mailchimp. Either way make sure to review the plain text version and fix the formatting before sending it out.

Sending emails from within Outlook:

There are two main ways to send HTML emails from Outlook.

Method 01: Copy and Paste

  1. Open saved HTML document in a browser
  2. CTRL + A to select everything on the page
  3. CTRL + C to copy
  4. Create a new email in Outlook
  5. CTRL + V to paste email into Outlook
  6. Edit text as normal

This is the simplest method. However, if your HTML is not written with Outlook in mind this will break some things. As Outlook is converting the HTML to be editable with Outlook styles.

Method 02: Insert as Text

  1. Using Outlook for Windows customize the Quick Access Toolbar by clicking the utmost top left down-arrow.
  2. Select “More Commands…”
  3. Then Choose Commands from “Compose Tools | Message Tab”
  4. Find the “Attach File” function without an arrow.
  5. Create a new email in Outlook
  6. Click the new Attach File button in the Quick Access TOolbar (located in the utmost top left)
  7. Select the HTML file and insert it as text
  8. Edit text as normal

Email for People

Always remember your goal. All the elements visible upon loading should be designed to do one thing and one thing only: get people to read the first sentence. The sole purpose of the first sentence is to get people to read the second sentence.

A few things to keep in mind when writing:

  • The email layout and first content blocks have to create an environment most conductive to your goal.
  • Always keep the copy interesting and the reader curious.
  • Never sell products or services — sell a concept and the benefits it brings.
  • Content is never too long or too short, you want enough to cause the reader to take the action you request. Don’t be afraid of long — be afraid of boring.
  • Every act of communication should be personal.
  • Content should flow logically, anticipating readers questions and answering them as if they were asked face-to-face.
  • Every word has an associated emotion and tells a story.
  • Remember we do things because of emotions and back it up with logic. The two most powerful tools of persuasion is the ability to validate and fascinate.

Always consider the following:

  1. Subject
  2. Preview Text
  3. Headline
  4. Subheadline
  5. First sentence
  6. Second sentence
  7. Photo or illustration
  8. Caption
  9. Product explanation
  10. New features
  11. Technical explanation
  12. Anticipate objections
  13. Resolve objections
  14. Rhythm (pattern breaks)
  15. Service
  16. Physical facts
  17. Testimonials
  18. Price
  19. Summary of offer
  20. Saying too much
  21. Ease of more
  22. Ask for an order

Everything matters. Now let’s find the others.

Thanks for reading!

Note: Experience in Pardot and Salesforce has been excluded.