Error getting theme layout

Email 2.0

Posted @ 11:20 pm by Joshua Booth | Category: Email | 0 Comments

Social marketing is getting a lot of focus nowadays — new social media sites are springing up like very lucrative weeds, ever-growing numbers of companies are maintaining presences in networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and community-based advertising has exploded in size. With all of the hype this new realm of marketing has built up, it’s easy to forget that older approaches are still very successful — in some cases, even more so than the cutting-edge alternatives. In a recent study, email was found to still have a 40:1 ROI; for every dollar a company spends on email marketing, they get back on average $40.

With such a powerful presence, one might expect just as much development and progress in the e-mail system, and indeed many advances have been made in email since it began. Unfortunately, many of these innovations remain unused by companies utilizing e-mail for communicative purposes; the average e-mail you receive might make you think it’s still no more than, as the name might suggest, an electronic alternative to sending plain-text messages! The past decade has seen a revolution in the approach to the web, taking it from a chaotic jumble of flashing text and linkless URLs to a clean, intuitive, slick interface for sending and receiving information. It’s time to do the same for email.

To demonstrate how the average corporate email can be improved, we will be using the example of a personal conference invite sent by Cisco WebEx, one of the industry’s leading  video- and audio-conference providers. Their emails are integrated into Outlook’s reminder system and their system has millions of users — all of whom use email to organize these meetings. Let’s take a look at their message, and see what we can improve.

THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE

[Inviter] invites you to join this Personal Conference meeting.

———————————————————————————————–
To join the audio portion of the Personal Conference meeting
———————————————————————————————–
Call-in toll-free number (US/Canada): 1-877-668-4493
Call-in toll number (US/Canada): +1-408-600-3600
Call-in toll number (US/Canada)*: +1-571-918-6008
Global call-in numbers: https://solutionset.webex.com/solutionset/globalcallin.php?serviceType=MC&ED=182948322&tollFree=1
Toll-free dialing restrictions: http://www.webex.com/pdf/tollfree_restrictions.pdf

Attendee access code: 230 512 43

* Call-in toll number (US/Canada) should only be used if the primary number does not work.

———————————————————————————————–
To join the online portion of the Personal Conference meeting
———————————————————————————————–
1. Go to https://solutionset.webex.com/solutionset/j.php?J=803125040&PW=NYWZlZDU1NmEw
2. If a password is required, enter the Meeting Password: 23051243

http://www.webex.com

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This WebEx service includes a feature that allows audio and any documents and other materials exchanged or viewed during the session to be recorded. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to the recording, discuss your concerns with the meeting host prior to the start of the recording or do not join the session. Please note that any such recordings may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation.

There are clearly quite a few things to be improved here.

SIMPLIFY

Before the fancy layouts and graphics begin, the message itself must be of sufficient quality. Just as has become the standard in web-pages, the email should be as simple as possible and the important elements should immediately leap out of the rest. The average corporate user receives over a hundred emails a day. The only way to avoid getting lost in the e-haystack is to be concise, clear, and noticeable.

The problems here begin before we’ve even opened the message, right at the subject line. When a user sends an invite to a conference, they name the conference — in our example, it’s just ‘Test Conference’, but an actual meeting is more likely to be called something along the lines of ‘Client Feedback’. That means that when checking their inbox, the recipient isn’t going to see anything about a conference scheduled in the near future that they should attend — just a single line saying ‘Client Feedback’. That’s not going to flag the message as particularly important in their mind; they’ll make a mental note of it, then move on down the list to open up messages that seem more urgent.  And even if you do open up the message, you still won’t know how urgent it is — because it doesn’t list the time the meeting will take place! The user is left abandoned.

Here we reach the first Commandment of Email 2.0: Tell them everything they need to know in the subject line. In many ways, the subject of the email is more important than the email itself — it determines when they open the email, what they’re thinking going into it, and what they’ll take away from it. Don’t treat it like the title to a movie — treat it like the tagline. For our example, the subject should be something like ‘Videoconference at 12:45 8/15 — Client Feedback’. Now, the moment they check their inbox, the user knows when the conference is, that it will be conducted electronically rather than in person, and what the topic of the meeting will be. If it’s the first of August, well, maybe they’ll finish up what they’re working on and then check it out later. If it’s 12:40 on August 15th, on the other hand, they’re going to skip everything else and click it immediately, maybe even skipping over the rest of the email to find the Join link.

This brings us to our second problem: the conciseness of the message itself. Put simply, if they want to skip to the Join link, they are going to have to do a lot of skipping. First, there is a lot of junk filling up the email — there are multiple lines devoted only to dashes! This is going to clutter up the email and make it more difficult to access the parts that are important. Second,  the information is not organized intuitively; the most important parts are scattered across the message rather than placed solidly at the beginning. Oh, and by the way? This is the twenty-first century. No one is going to type your ridiculously long and difficult-to-remember URL manually into their address bar. On the other hand, users might well be browsing from a phone — so those telephone numbers should be clickable.

Join online, or call +1-877-668-4493 to join the audio portion toll-free.

[Inviter] invites you to join a personal conference at [Time]: [Subject].Meeting Password/Attendee Access Code: 23051243

If the toll-free number does not work, call our toll number +1-408-600-3600 or  +1-571-918-6008.

If you are outside the US and Canada, use a global call-in number.

For a list of our toll-free dialing restrictions, click here.

http://www.webex.com

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This WebEx service includes a feature that allows audio and any documents and other materials exchanged or viewed during the session to be recorded. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to the recording, discuss your concerns with the meeting host prior to the start of the recording or do not join the session. Please note that any such recordings may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation.

The first thing you notice is that the link to join online has been moved to the beginning, before the call-number. This is an obvious decision, as most people browsing their email are likely to have faster access to a web-browser than a telephone; many may already be in one. Both the online and the phone link, however, are in the very first line of the message, along with the inviter, the time that the meeting will be held, and the subject of the meeting. All of the whitespace and dashes have been removed, the meeting password and attendee access code (which are always the same number) have been combined, and the rest of the data has been neatly collapsed into neat, concise, and visible lines. This is already a vast improvement, and in many cases the only step.

ORGANIZE

But not for us! We can still make this email more intuitive. To do this, we’re going to completely shift our approach to the format of the message. Email began as a faster way to send text, and nothing more. Today, however, almost all email clients use a light variant of HTML for their messages, which gives us a new way to lay out our message. For our example, we’ll use that most ancient and beloved of all HTML elements: the table.

[Inviter] invites you to join a personal conference at [Time]: [Subject].

JOIN ONLINE

JOIN BY PHONE

https://solutionset.webex.com/solutionset/j.php?J=803125040&PW=NYWZlZDU1NmEw

Meeting Password: 23051243

+1-877-668-4493

Access Number: 23051243

Toll Numbers
+1-408-600-3600
+1-571-918-6008

Global Call-In Numbers

Toll-Free Dialing Restrictions

http://www.webex.com

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This WebEx service includes a feature that allows audio and any documents and other materials exchanged or viewed during the session to be recorded. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to the recording, discuss your concerns with the meeting host prior to the start of the recording or do not join the session. Please note that any such recordings may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation.

Now, as should be readily apparent, Graphic Design is hardly my forte. This is no artistic masterpiece. It does, however, present all of the data in a simple and recognizable layout. The information has been organized and prevented from running into itself, and a single glance at this message immediately gives you everything you need to know. We’ve come quite a ways since that confusing dash-laden monstrosity, and we’ve accomplished what we wanted to.

GRAPHICALIZE

Okay, I’ll admit it. That’s not a real word. Sorry. If you have any recommendations for real words to replace it, feel free to leave a comment! In the meantime, let’s graphicalize. Now, you should be very careful with images in email. Images greatly increase the time it will take to download your message, and many browsers prevent them from being displayed inline. We’re just going to add two — icons for each pane to speed up recognition of the division. It looks like this:

[Inviter] invites you to join a personal conference at [Time]: [Subject].

  JOIN ONLINE

   JOIN BY PHONE

https://solutionset.webex.com/solutionset/j.php?J=803125040&PW=NYWZlZDU1NmEw

Meeting Password: 23051243

+1-877-668-4493

Access Number: 23051243

Toll Numbers
+1-408-600-3600
+1-571-918-6008

Global Call-In Numbers

Toll-Free Dialing Restrictions

http://www.webex.com

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This WebEx service includes a feature that allows audio and any documents and other materials exchanged or viewed during the session to be recorded. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to the recording, discuss your concerns with the meeting host prior to the start of the recording or do not join the session. Please note that any such recordings may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation.

And we’re done. Once again, I apologize for both the awful design and spuriously inventing words. I hope you enjoyed this little diatribe against widely-accepted email practices, or at the very least learned something from it!

Leave a reply

Error getting theme layout