Email. I once wrote about it sticking around much longer than anyone would guess, and I stand by that today. It was once believed that text messaging, mobile devices and social media would make email obsolete. Instead, email is as important as ever. Social updates rely on it, text is limited in reach and scope, and as for mobile, well, there’s a reason smartphones offer so many email apps.
That’s not to say that email has not evolved. Today, email senders design for mobile devices, social sharing tools are frequently included in messages, email drives the transactional experience, and email marketers work harder than ever not just to raise open rates and clickthroughs, but to get delivered in the first place.
It’s the flexibility of email practices that has allowed it to succeed against strong headwinds.
The biggest limiting factors for email have always been message size and security limitations, and this is even more important today because of the sheer volume of email being sent around. Rich content like video remains locked out of using email to reach an audience. This is not video’s fault. It’s because email clients, browsers, and ISP email limits are set to protect servers and prevent viruses, which use the same kind of scripts and objects used by embedded video.
Without these protections, many types of rich content, which can certainly be compressed small enough to be sent as attachments, could be played within browsers and most email clients. But that’s not the world we live in. That’s why, to see a video, you have to go to the source.
So you shouldn’t send embedded video in email, but you can send highly compelling images that link to your video. Here are 5 steps you should take to make email and rich content work great together:
1. Make Rich Content the Star
Your rich content should be front and center, whether hosted on a media sharing site like YouTube, a social network, your own blog, landing pages and website (preferably all of the above). The goal is to bring as many people as possible to it. It drives its own search engine results through tagging, and you augment organic traffic with every other platform you can get your hands on. That includes email.
2. Give Email a Supporting Role
We’ve come to think of email as a piece of content in itself, whether it is a periodical newsletter or a feature item. The truth is, email is meant to drive traffic elsewhere, away from the email. That means links. And nothing gets clicks quite like an enticing image that looks just like a video. Videos are known to raise clickthrough rates by 2 to 3 times over text links.
3. Give Your Rich Content a Brand
Just like a pop star, your videos should adhere to a brand. That means every time viewers find your videos, they see similar environments, graphic styles, personalities, and performances. The subject matter may change drastically, and the level of finish on the videos will be very different (the higher the tech, the lower the fidelity, but you knew that already), but the overall identity of the video should let viewers know they’re still in your brand space.
4. Take Names
Once viewers are done with your video, what happens? Is there a call to action? An invitation to watch more videos? A contact form? A link to your materials? Anything goes, really. It depends on the goal of your page, your company’s relationship with viewers and your brand’s behavior. But what doesn’t fly is doing nothing. If the point of your email was to get people to watch your rich content, the point of the rich content is to extend the relationship.
5. Go Deep
Ultimately, whether or not your viewers become customers, you should want them to keep enjoying your emails and videos. That means using some well-known email best practices to get into their inboxes more reliably. That enticing video screenshot you painstakingly crafted for your email template doesn’t even get seen by a lot of your readers, because of their application’s security settings. You should ask to be part of your reader’s trusted senders list, to help ensure that your email doesn’t go into the junk folder. This tactic may even help your images to display automatically. In any case, it never hurts to ask.
Email is still a very powerful tool for driving traffic to your site, but what people find when they click there has the potential to make or break the success of your campaign. That’s why, if you see a serious decline in your email open and click rates, email itself might not be the problem. It’s what you’re linking to that matters. Email engagement can be greatly improved when you make sure that the content people see when they click is worth the time they took to do so.
So give your rich content top billing, and start filling the seats.
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