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How to embed images in your marketing emails

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How to embed images in your marketing emails


Email marketing has long been a moving target — from the evolving landscape of email service providers to constant changes in infrastructure and security. Despite this, visual imagery remains one of the key elements of successful email marketing campaigns, even though it poses one of the biggest challenges to email marketers.

Many marketers are skeptical when it comes to embedding images in email marketing messages. This is due to the results of email campaigns, the actions of inbox providers, and the unfortunate consequence of bad actors spamming email recipients.

A fundamental challenge for email marketers is making sure their audience will be able to view the images embedded in an email. Some providers allow users to selectively download the images by clicking on them, while others completely block the content.

Because some inbox providers don’t support images, engagement drops, and deliverability can be negatively impacted, along with your sender reputation.

Images in emails render differently depending on the devices the recipients use. According to data from Constant Contact, roughly 60% of emails are opened and read on mobile devices. Each of these images needs to be optimized to ensure mobile and tablet users are seeing the proper version of it. Without responsive design, images of different sizes could skew the email — potentially making it unreadable.

Using alt text (alternative text) can help improve user experience when images are broken. The alt attribute is used in HTML and XHTML documents to specify alternative text that is to be shown when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered. When an image does not render, alt text is the text that the recipient will see in place of the image. Consider using an SEO-driven CTA in your alt text to drive engagement.

However, marketers would be wise to ensure their email images display correctly so they don’t have to rely solely on these attributes.


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Choosing the right format

Many email marketing platforms allow users to build their email campaigns using responsive design elements so images render properly on any device. Proper file formatting is recommended for images — JPEG and PNG files tend to be standards for static images, although GIFs are becoming increasingly popular in email marketing as well.

There are dozens of use cases for GIFs in email. From directing attention to a specific call-to-action, highlighting specific products to demonstrating emotions, GIFs have found their place in the email marketing space — and they are a hit with consumers.

GIFs can even be used as a “how-to” mechanism in the body of an email and are a popular alternative to including a full-length video. GIFs can help humanize your brand and be shared across many social platforms in addition to email campaigns.


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Methods for embedding images in your emails

There are three primary methods for embedding an image into an email: Linking the image, inline embedding, and Content-ID (CID). All three methodologies have pros and cons and require a certain level of expertise to implement, but all are valuable techniques.

Linked images

Linking an image is probably the easiest way to include an image in your email. Linking an image requires you to upload the image from your computer to the email service provider and allows you to insert the image in the appropriate space. This method also decreases the size of your email.

If your email images are stored in a digital asset manager (DAM), the image can be downloaded and uploaded into the email service provider or can be inserted directly if the two systems are integrated.

For marketers who are emailing audiences compiled of thousands of recipients, the linked image must be hosted on a content delivery network. Emails with linked images will call for the CDN’s hosted image through an embedded HTML tag.

The major downside of linking images is the potential for latency issues when the image is being downloaded from an external server.

Inline embedding

Inline embedding is another popular method for embedding images into emails. Inline embedding requires a specific type of coding scheme called “Base64 string” for the image. The encoded string allows you to embed your image using a standard HTML tag.

One of the issues with this method is that Microsoft Outlook blocks the embedded email images. Depending on your business, Outlook users could be a large portion of your recipients.

Content-ID

Content-ID (CID) is one of the oldest practices for embedding images into marketing emails.
CIDs involve attaching the image to the email and referencing it with HTML tags in the email’s template, which embeds the image when the email is opened. While it may be one of the oldest tactics, it’s one of the most technically advanced methods and requires a certain level of expertise.

However, using CID images in your email marketing can hurt your deliverability. CIDs tend to make emails very large, causing latency issues when opening a CID embedded email.

Email CID images also have issues rendering across different types of inbox providers and notoriously do not work well in web-based email applications.

Choose the embed method that works for your brand

Weighing factors such as how email images are impacting your brand’s deliverability and sender reputation should be the primary objective. Remember the goals and KPIs of the email campaign and how — or if — images should be included in a particular campaign.

If you are a part of a B2B or B2C organization, it is important to understand how your audience interacts with the images in your email marketing campaigns. This knowledge empowers email marketers by providing insights into how recipients are engaging with the content and should influence the decisions made around imagery in marketing emails.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jennifer Videtta Cannon serves as Third Door Media’s Senior Editor, covering topics from email marketing and analytics to CRM and project management. With over a decade of organizational digital marketing experience, she has overseen digital marketing operations for NHL franchises and held roles at tech companies including Salesforce, advising enterprise marketers on maximizing their martech capabilities. Jennifer formerly organized the Inbound Marketing Summit and holds a certificate in Digital Marketing Analytics from MIT Sloan School of Management.



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


Om författaren

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

Up until now, any “promotion” your customers have done has been passive. But in the promotion stage, your customers actively spread the word about your brands, products, and services. They tell stories, make recommendations, and share your offers because they truly believe in them.

Active promotion may be an affiliate or commission relationship—or just a free offer for sending some new customers your way. The point is, it’s a win-win for both of you.

One thing worth mentioning before we dive in; Happy customers don’t promote, SUCCESSFUL customers do. 

Our biggest question in the Promote stage is: How are you going to turn your BEST customers into your marketing partners? 

If you don’t have a referral program, an affiliate program, or a valued reseller program … who is willing to drive your message to the organization you need to build out these programs? This is word of mouth marketing, and it is very important so start thinking about how you want to build this. 

Look to your most successful customers, they’re going to be the people who actively promote for you. But then, let’s think about our customers who already have our prospects but are offering a different product or service. 

At DigitalMarketer we are a training and certification company, we are not a services based company. What that means is we don’t compete with agencies or consultants. This also means that there is an opportunity for us to work with agencies and consultants. 

When we realized this we decided to launch our Certified Partner Program, which you can learn more about at DigitalMarketer.Com/Partner. This program lets us work with the largest segments of our customer base, who have customers that we want but they’re providing a solution that we’re not providing. 

When we train our customers, they are able to use our company frameworks to work with their clients. If their clients want to learn to do their marketing themselves? We’re the first education company they see.

So who is that for you? Remember, it’s not the happy clients that refer, it’s the successful clients. If you want to create more promoters, make sure that you’re doing everything that you can as a marketer to ensure that you’re marketing great products so you can see great results. 

How can our example companies accomplish this?

For Hazel & Hems, they can add an ambassador program to grow their instagram following and increase credibility with viral posts. 

Ambassadors can earn affiliate commissions, additional boutique reward points, and get the chance to build a greater following by leveraging the Hazel & Hems brand.

For Cyrus & Clark, they can offer discounted rates to their existing clients if those clients are willing to refer them to their strategic partners. 

For construction companies, this could be a home builder recommending Cyrus & Clark services to the landscapers, real estate developers, and interior designers that they work with to serve their customers.



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