Increasingly, e-mail marketing is mobile marketing. Nearly 100 million consumers are now using the mobile web. Small business owners in some spaces are racing to keep pace, especially when it comes to crafting a compelling and truly effective mobile e-mail marketing campaign.
Some of the old rules of the road from those purely PC days still apply. But the nature of mobile consumption presents unique strengths and weaknesses that entrepreneurs have to consider. Sure, some e-mail marketing tenets will always apply, no matter the technology. But there are some new wrinkles that savvy business owners have come to embrace.
1. Design for Chaos
It’s tough to engage consumers and convert customers when they can’t read the message. Readability is crucial when it comes to mobile, but there isn’t uniformity with devices. The key is making sure your message is readable from anywhere, on anything.
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You can simply opt for a plain text e-mail and forget the potential headaches that come with HTML messages. There are also more barren, stripped-down HTML messages that can be read nearly universally by mobile devices.
Be sure that HTML e-mails are reviewed thoroughly in a phone screen simulator before blast off. Different phones size screen messages differently, so make sure you’ve got a solid idea of the potential outcomes and design accordingly.
2. Provide Crystal Clear Links and Calls to Action
You’re sending messages aimed at mobile consumers. Mobile isn’t just an adjective—it’s a state of being for a lot of people. That incoming mobile e-mail might be the latest distraction in a sea of distractions for consumers on the go.
It’s a challenging backdrop that puts a premium on succinct and well-honed calls to action. Make sure they’re clear, unmistakable and compelling. Consumers shouldn’t have to hunt and peck for a call to action on a smart phone screen.
The same is true for quality links. Don’t crowd mobile messages with tons of hyperlinks, and be sure to consider how they’re spaced. Stacking links or running them together can prove nightmarish for users who are trying to zoom in on a key URL caught in a list.
3. Write Tight and Compelling Copy
Access and technology don’t change the need for sparse, active, and compelling content. From engaging subject lines to crisp body copy, mobile messages should embody the same spirit of succinctness as their traditional counterparts.
Choose words carefully, ensuring each has a specific purpose. Be precise and be short. Look to trim every sentence you write by at least 20 percent. Ruthlessly edit your marketing copy with a focus on readability, action, and brevity. This isn’t a news roundup—it’s an engagement and conversion tool.
4. Be Yourself
It’s easy to feel like you need a gimmick or ploy to stand out in a crowded field. But don’t sacrifice professionalism and credibility in an attempt to be cute or coy. That rarely pays dividends for entrepreneurs in the long haul.
You don’t need to create an animated squirrel or some other bizarre character to spread your mobile message. Clarity and authority are refreshing, especially in a user’s inbox.
5. Build or Buy Your Own URL Shortener
The latter is becoming more and more popular among e-mail marketing aficionados. URL shorteners allow marketers to save space and better track usage and consumption data. These are all over the social media space. The problem is that there’s no guarantee the URL shortening service you use today will be operational next week, which can spell major trouble for your links floating out in cyberspace.
Business owners can essentially build their own URL shortening service for under $100. Lifehacker has a great explainer with easy-to-follow instructions.
6. Integrate E-mail and Social Media
Social media and e-mail marketing continue to become intertwined and self-referential. And that’s a good thing. Entrepreneurs should strongly consider linking to their social media channels in mobile e-mail messages.
There’s definitely the potential for a feedback loop of sorts. Mobile messages linking to social channels draw in consumers. At the same time, users who access those channels directly should be able to easily tap into the mobile e-mail stream through a mailing list or update offer.
“Small businesses should promote their Facebook page, their Twitter feed, their YouTube channel, and other social media outlets whenever possible,” said Brandon Laughridge, president of social-media-optimization.com. “This is a two-way street that can help maximize conversions and generate new e-mail marketing targets. Social and e-mail marketing go hand-in-hand when we talk about creating engagement and a conversation that ends with a customer, not just a user.”
Chris Birk is director of content and communications for VA Mortgage Center.com, the nation's No. 1 dedicated VA lender. A recovering journalist, he also teaches at a private Midwestern university. Follow him @cjbirk.