Email Marketing in a Handheld World


mailbox1.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — It used to be email was simple — it was just text. The recipient merely had to be literate to get the message. Then came HTML and, well, since then making sure a message gets through to the user just keeps getting more and more whacky.

The latest hoop to jump through, of course, is sending emails to mobile devices — be they Blackberry, iPhone or other smartphones. That means, once again, we email marketers must reevaluate (and rework) how we develop and deliver email messages.

According to a recent Marketing Sherpa report, nearly two-thirds of key decision makers view their email on mobile devices. While the design of the email is crucial to getting these high-value users to respond, an equal or even larger issue is what happens when these people do what we want them to — click a link in the email.

Let’s imagine a scenario that, if you people are doing your jobs, haunts you:

A smart and creative email is sent to your corporate email address — but you’re in a meeting. No worries, your handy smartphone will let you view it. Wait, though — unless you’re an iPhone user or you have a newer device, the email you are viewing is either a TEXT version or the HTML is probably not looking too slick. Still, no worries. Your handy smartphone does its best to render the email and you see an interesting link about a timely topic. So you click the link (hey, the meeting is boring, right?). And voila — after waiting an excruciating two minutes for an unreadable Web page to load, you jump to your feet in the middle of the meeting and start screaming wildly at the company that sent you the email.

Congratulations. You’ve not only alienated a prime potential customer, you also helped get them reassigned to the snail mailroom.

Sorry. I know how much that little scenario hurt. I don’t even want to admit how often I wake up at night with those kinds of scenes freight-training through my head.

But we can prevent this career-killing situation from happening. In three simple steps, you too can be a mobile device-ready email marketer.

1. Evaluate the best type of email delivery for your content. If you’re sending a simple alert or update, it may be best to send TEXT only — sure it’s old school, but when you can do simple, I say do simple. But if you’re sending something with high design value, a newsletter for instance, then Multipart HTML is probably what you need (this ensures your message gets through no matter what — it’ll look good if the mobile device can render it, yet the basic message will get through even if the device is so old and gray it can barely rasp out a few ASCII characters). Resorting to HTML only is forevermore unacceptable! If your email service provider can’t do Multipart HTML, then get a new ESP.

2. Place a “sniffer” on your pages to check if a user is coming to your site through a mobile device. There are a handful of ways to do this — check with your favorite Web developer to see what best suits your needs.

3. When your sniffer detects a mobile user, redirect them to content that is specifically set up to be readable on their device. There are third-party tools that can do this for you (Google,, MoFuse). But if your development team is worth its salt, it should be able to do this sans a third party.

Even this isn’t enough, however. There’s still one more basic step you should take — and that is get yourself a smartphone so you can check out your own email messages. There’s still no better quality-control test than a real-world check.

Because email marketing is a proven sales-driving tool and the technology that it lives on is constantly changing, we as professional marketers must adapt appropriately and quickly to make sure our messages get through no matter what. Just think of it as a way to keep our best potential customers from going out of their minds when all they’re asking is for us to help them get through another boring meeting.

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