Creating a HTML Email Marketing Campaign

HTML Email Marketing

An email marketing campaign is an excellent way to reach more customers, or remind existing ones that you exist. Before you begin though, it really helps to be clear about the purpose of your email (e.g. to sell a product, promote a service, to provide information etc.), and this in turn should help determine who you would like to send it to. For this you will need to develop a targeted email distribution list.

Email Distribution Lists

If you’ve been busy collecting emails from your customers with their permission you have a good start. It’s certainly best if your email distribution list is permission based – that is a list of subscribers who have already giving their permission for you to contact them by email (e.g. by subscribing through your website or other sources). It’s worth putting in some effort to develop and maintain this list so do not miss opportunities to get people to subscribe to your emails.

If you do not have a good list of subscribers, you might be tempted to send out speculative emails. This can be quite contentious and for a good reason – to prevent spam. There are legal pointers to bear in mind (the US has quite stringent rules). However, in the UK and Europe at least, if you are marketing to other businesses (B2B marketing) then you should be OK. Email marketing company, Extravision, gives the following advice (see Legislation to consider when embarking on marketing via email for full article):

‘The good news for you if you are selling and marketing to other businesses is that you can continue to work on an ‘opt out’ basis. This means that you can contact those names you have on your database without needing to gain their permission first.

The legislation allows the member states to choose whether or not to include business emails in the ‘opt in’ rule. The UK government decided that common sense dictates that you shouldn’t need advance permission to contact a business. It also felt that corporations were well placed to protect their systems from unwanted emails.’

You should also make sure that you do not conceal your identity in your emails and provide a free of charge ability to opt out of future emails.

Note that email marketing to individuals, which for legal purposes, includes sole traders and partnerships, should be permission-based i.e. on an opt-in basis. Therefore if you want to market to personal email addresses the recipients must have opted in to receiving your emails.

Designing your HTML Email

I’m not going to going into a huge amount of detail about designing your HTML email (see the links below). If you are competent in HTML and CSS, you should be OK, except to say that:

  • You are designing for a variety of email clients that have a variety of standards
  • You need to forget how to code properly, or go back in time, as CSS layout just doesn’t work with Emails. See the Ultimate Guide to CSS Support in Email.
  • Instead, you need to use tables for layout (like in the old days)
  • The maximum width for the email should be 600 pixels
  • Avoid relying on images may not display automatically in many email clients, and many users do not enable images.
  • The best strategy is to keep it simple – good clear minimal design.

For more information on coding, Campaign Monitor’s Handy Field Guides on Designing for the Inbox and Coding Your Email provide a wealth of tips and techniques, as does MailChimp’s Email Marketing Field Guide.

You can also save a lot of work by using Campaign Monitor’s Free Template Builder which helps you create a responsive HTML email template which you can then download. Alternatively, sign up to a service like MailChimp and use their template builder. The template below is being designed using MailChimp’s template options.

NSCRC Email Template

Sending your Emails

If you are just sending a small number of emails to targeted local businesses for example, you might be able to use Outlook or your regular email package (to design and send a HTML email with Yahoo, Google Mail etc, see this article). It’s not a good idea to send hundreds of emails using the copy to field as this looks unprofessional , lacks a personal touch and any form of feedback facility.

For a larger more concerted campaign you may wish to use a good mass mail client such as Campaign Monitor or MailChimp. This will help manage your lists, design your emails, and view stats on bounce rates, opens and click-throughs. Both offer a number of pricing plans but with MailChimp, if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month for free. MailChimp also has plenty of integration options with WordPress sites (e.g. sign-up plugins) and Facebook, and has very clear guides. YourMailingListProvider also provides a free plan whilst Bravemailer is completely free.

You are of course best advised to try to create an email with compelling content targeted to your audience, but no matter how compelling your email is, don’t expect a huge response – typical response rates vary from 2-15%. After all, how many marketing emails do you respond to?

Further resources and help

A couple of Campaign Monitor’s Handy Field Guides for web designers have already been mentioned – others in the series include Planning your Campaign and Responsive Email Design. For a bolder look at developing responsive HTML emails, take a look at Responsive HTML Emails: A Different Strategy.

1stWebDesigner’s Ultimate Guide to HTML Emails – Basics, Tips, Tutorials and Resources though a little dated now still provides some excellent links. There’s a whole host of good and clear general advice and resources on MailChimp’s website too.


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