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Eight Tips for Better E-mail Marketing

This news item is the fifth in a 10-part series on public health communication. This installment focuses on how to strengthen your e-mail marketing efforts.

This news item is the fifth in a 10-part series on public health communication. This installment focuses on how to strengthen your e-mail marketing efforts.

June 18, 2013

With the advent of e-mail marketing platforms, like MailChimp and Constant Contact, e-mail-marketing campaigns (or “e-blasts”) are easier and more effective than ever. These platforms allow you to use your own graphics and images or to select from a library of templates to highlight single messages or construct more robust newsletters. But even though this marketing medium is easy to use, it still requires a strategy. Here are some great examples from the Harvard School of Public Health, the American Public Health Association, and the Alzheimer’s Association. As you review them, consider the following e-mail marketing guidelines that will help your public health messages be seen and understood by your audience.

1. Think mobile

As of February 2013, 133.7 million people in the United States owned smart phones (57% market penetration). While these numbers may not reflect your target audience, it’s still a good idea to make your e-mails mobile- and tablet-friendly. Fingers are larger and less accurate than a computer cursor, so graphics and links will need to be as simple and uncluttered as possible. A good rule of thumb is to increase font size to 14 pixels for text and 22 points for headlines.

2. Measure up

E-mail marketing platforms allow users to easily track the success of e-mail campaigns. Open rates tell you the percentage of people who opened your e-mail. Some platforms also allow you to measure how many people clicked on links within your e-mail and compare your results to industry standards. Review these metrics with each campaign to establish successful patterns.

3. Write strong subject lines

The most successful e-mail campaigns feature subject lines that let the recipient know what he or she will get out of reading the message. In 50 characters or fewer, articulate what your e-mail has to offer and include your organization’s name to maintain transparency and clarity.

For example: Western Health District’s 10 Tips for Pool Safety

4. Know the law

Strict laws govern e-mail marketing. For instance, you must offer your recipients the option of opting out of e-mails, and you must honor their request in a timely manner. Most e-mail marketing platforms automatically build these best practices into their step-by-step process, but public organizations can never be too careful. Health marketing is also tightly regulated under HIPAA. Because e-mail addresses are considered personal health information, you can not create mailing lists using medical records. You may only e-mail people who have given written authorization for you to do so.

5. Make it easy to read

As you build your e-mail, keep words to a minimum. Use no more than 400 words per story and put the most important information “above the fold,” or within the preview screen, to keep your key messages front and center. If you plan to share a story on another website, provide a headline and a small blurb about it with a link. Most people scan e-mails and newsletters, so highlight features and key points to catch your readers’ attention. Use images and pictures to illustrate your message and break up text.

6. Connect the dots

Each element of your marketing media should reinforce the other. E-mail campaigns are a great way to introduce your social media platforms and website, so make sure you include links (if possible, in the form of buttons) into your design.

7. Test it out

Every computer, phone, and tablet processes the graphics and codes in your e-mail campaigns differently. To make sure everyone sees what you’ve worked hard to design, send test e-mails to a variety of devices (PCs, Macs, smartphones, etc.).

8. Stick to your brand

As with nearly everything else you do, your e-mail marketing should remain consistent with your established brand. E-mails are a great method for maintaining top-of-mind awareness within your community and for improving visibility among an audience. Don’t miss your chance to make an impression.

If you have questions, NWCPHP can help. Consider our training options to gain further clarity and explore our online toolkit to help with message development.


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