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Rise to the Top of the Inbox with Responsive Email Messages

Let’s face it– email is a key tool for nonprofit communications. And a growing percentage of giving is happening on mobile devices, too. In fact, according to this report, over 16% of donors give from an email on a mobile device, and a high percentage of event registrants sign up from emails on a mobile device too.

What does this mean? Your organization needs to make sure your email messages look good on mobile devices.  And there’s more to it than looking at your mobile device to see how the message looks before you hit send.

So how do you know if your emails are earning a passing grade? Here’s a few tips to help your emails rise to the top of the class (and inbox).

Get the right person to build your message.

Most folks think of this as the last step before sending, but it’s important to tackle at the start.  Do you have a person on the team who knows how to work in code, especially HTML code specific to email messages?  If not, it is time to study that source code for an HTML message. Here’s why – the more familiar someone is with the style of coding needed for responsive email, the more likely they’ll be to handle any complex message content you might throw at them throughout the year.

Keep the design super simple.

The best rule of thumb as you move into the design phase for your message? Keep it simple. We’re serious.  For example, a one column message will look good on all email clients, even the notoriously difficult-to –code-for Gmail app.  And a ‘just for mobile’ design will look different than one that’s designed to be viewed on desktop. Once your design is close to being finalized, connect with your developer to understand how the different content and images can stack.  It’s critical to get an idea of how things will change on a narrow screen compared to a normal width message – BEFORE your design or message is finalized.

Another note on design.

Oh yeah – don’t forget about the text only elements, which can mean the difference in your open rates.  Make sure to include preview text at the top of your message. This might be hidden in the actual design of a message (we often use white text on a white background for this preview text), but it will still be available for email clients to display.  Sneaky, huh?  This intro text is visible to your users to as see and serves as a teaser/enticement to open your amazing email message.

Nail the content.

In today’s mobile world, compelling content is the most important part of why someone will read (or not read) the messages you send.  Two columns, one column, call-to-action buttons above the fold–all of this is secondary to what you say and how you say it (through images and words). In order to help focus your communications team on producing the best possible content for your supporters, I recommend checking out the newly released Email Planning Workbook from Litmus.  This resource will guide you through the process of creating high-performing email messages.

Do some testing – 4 times a year at minimum.

David Bowie said it best – Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes in email clients and devices happen all the time.  Okay, maybe he didn’t say that actual phrase but he should have.  Make sure to test your email templates every few months to ensure that your messages still look good. You might need to refresh the design elements and content layout every so often throughout the year.   Take that opportunity to make sure that the code is still functioning as it did when you first launched the message.

Got questions about responsive email?  Raise your hand and post a comment below!

Need a bit more info about mobile and responsive email messages – check out this post and this post!

We want to build YOUR new email templates (and train you to use them).  Take a look at some of our high-performing templates and get in touch.

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