Do your emails look great on every device? Responsive Email Design is the answer!

Header Image_Responsive Email Design
Tablet, Laptop, Mac
PC or Phone? How are your emails being read?
Without looking over the shoulder of your recipient’s or loading a virus to take over their digital world there’s no way to know until your email is sent and gone.

But . . . using advanced CSS in the HTML code of your emails we can now detect the type of device that is viewing your email and have the email content dynamically displayed so that it’s unique and optimised. PC or Phone, your recipient’s get the best view every time.

Don’t believe us? Click here from your Phone and then PC to check out a recent responsive email we sent to our clients. You’ll notice the difference straight away!

So what is it? It’s Responsive Design!
Those of you that read our blog will know that responsive design is something that we have been talking about for some time now.I can hear someone asking right now “so what’s the big deal?”

Well the big deal is that the vast majority of email is designed to be read on a PC. Yet statistics overwhelmingly tell us more and more people actually read their emails on their phone and their tablets.

Below are some stats on the different email clients people are using to read their emails:

Email Client Pie Graph
Email has left the desktop & gone mobile.
Here is an example of the difference between responsive design and desktop design.
Responsive Design Desktop Design
Responsive Email Design Desktop Email Design
The differences are significant and the user experience vastly superior for the mobile phone user.

If you’re serious about making your emails more successful then you need to
start talking responsive design today!

Tips for sending a successful Email campaign

Email Client Logos
Emails are a critical tool for every online publisher. They should be used both in the sales process and to build loyalty. Therefore if you are finding that a lot of your emails are not being opened or delivered you need to take the time to understand why.

Tips when Designing your Email:

Let’s first look at the design element behind your HTML email. A well designed, easy to read email will always win hands down when compared to a cluttered maze of images, links and content. But what other design elements can you employ to ensure that your recipients are seeing and reading the same high quality email that you are?

Email Creative Size
Your email content and creative should be kept to a maximum of 600px wide. This is so that you can be sure that your email will display well in the myriad of different email applications your recipients may be using ie. Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook 2003/2007/2010. We also encourage you to maximise the content ‘above the fold’ and recommend limiting the length of the email to 800px.

Alt Tags
Ensure that all your images have an alt property that will provide descriptive and meaningful content even when images are not being displayed. With the advent of mobile and tablet email, many recipient are choosing not to download external content and you don’t want them to only see a series of broken images!

Broken Image Example

Declaring Image Heights and Widths
Always specify the width and height of images contained in the email to keep formatting consistent in case images do not load.

Background Images
Support for background images in email is very poor, notably in Outlook 2007. Try to design your email creatives without relying on background images and compensate by specifying a background colour which will appear if the images do not render.

Default Link
The Default link is the main link that you would like the list subscriber to click on when they receive your email. You can have as many links within your email as you like, but the Default link is the most important one so make sure you emphasise it!

Clean & Simple Layout
CSS positioning elements are not supported in most web-based email clients. For this reason we always recommend that you use tables to format your emails.

Inline Styles
Inline Styles are preferable to other style definitions as many email clients strip out all information not contained within the body of the email. Keep styles as simple as possible – many advanced CSS properties are unsupported by email clients.

Image File Sizes
Images should be kept to the lowest file size possible to improve email loading time. Make sure you resize your images before inserting them into your email so that you can be sure you have the smallest file size and aren’t carrying a small image with a large file size in your email

Tips to Avoiding SPAM filters:

The number one reason why emails don’t get delivered is because they are blocked by spam filters. Therefore it’s important that you know why this is and how you can reduce the chance that it happens.

Spam filters are like bingo cards. They have a checklist and if an email ticks enough boxes on the scorecard … bang … the door is slammed in its face.  Unfortunately every spam filter is slightly different.

However if you follow these guidelines your newsletter should slip past the gatekeeper every time.

Image to text ratio
The greater the text to image ratio the better chance you have of avoiding spam filters. i.e. use more text and less images. Most spam has a file size of less than 20k. Therefore newsletters with quite a lot of text are more likely to get through. The ideal file size is 20k – 50k.

Minimise the use of BCC:
If you put dozens of names in your BCC (blind copy) field in your email programme the newsletter could be marked as spam.

Spam filters look for certain words, phrases, layouts and email characteristics.

Length should be less than 50 characters. Ideally your subject should be between 4 – 8 words written in sentence case and refrain from exclamation marks. The best subject lines are descriptive of the content and capture the viewers interest.

The number one cause for spam filters blocking an email is the use of words that commonly appear in spam. Some are obvious like free, Viagra, and get rich, while some are not so obvious like opportunity, amazing and compare. Also make sure to avoid the following words (especially in ALL CAPS): free, offer, 50% off, click here, subscribe, earn, bonus, guaranteed, act now, while supplies last, why pay more, visit our web site, time limited, plus all the obvious pharmaceutical and sexual words.

Body text
Apply the same logic and guidelines to your body text as we have suggested for the Subject. Emphasis on using sentence cases and avoiding ALL CAPS.

Avoid using large font sizes and stick with only one or two different fonts and/or sizes. If you do use color text or color backgrounds in your newsletter be aware that some spam filters will wag their fingers and look for other questionable characteristics and reasons to block you.

Recommend Against:
Please do not use any of the following in your email campaigns:

Java, Javascript, VBScript, form elements, frames, ActiveX, animated GIFs, Flash, or embedded video.

As many email applications do not support these elements.

So You’re Ready To Send, What Next?

You’ve put together the greatest email known to man, following all the right guidelines and you’re sure that your recipients are going to find it both informative and useful; but you’re still worried about it not making it through the spam filters. What else can you do to help your chances?

Spam Checker Tools:
A spam checker tool is a piece of software that will put your email copy through a spam filter and create a report about how it was viewed. This will instantly tell you if you have a problem. Most good commercial email services have a spam filter built in. If yours doesn’t there are some free tools you can look at using:

  • Lyris Content Checker
  • Programmer’s Heaven Spam Checker

A Quick Brightfox Plug
For a professional bulk email and CRM solution, why not take a look at foxMessenger. As one of the most cost effective bulk email clients available, foxMessenger could be exactly what you need to execute your most important bulk email needs. With built in reporting and online support, you can analyse the results of your send and implement ways to improve your receiver response every time you send.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Impeccable Customer Service!

Not long ago we talked about the importance of implementing CRM systems. As a winner in your industry, I hope you critically analysed your own processes and the available products out there and took immediate action.

This week we will be following up on the topic and adding to it, just like a builder will add the walls on top of a solid foundation for a multi-storey building.

 Let’s take two stories as an example:

1. Buying a Luxury Car – When you go to test drive a luxury car, let’s say a Jaguar or something similar, a good salesperson will be asking questions to get to know you; to get an understanding of who you are, what you like and more importantly what you don’t like, so that he / she can utilise this knowledge to persuade you to buy that expensive but lovely car. One sales agent I know of asks the question: What kind of music / artists do you like? When you do purchase the vehicle and return to the dealership to pick-up your new car, a stack of cd’s with all your favorite music is waiting for you!

2. Le Meridien Hotels – one of the well known, luxury hotel chains, has a unique service to ensure their clients always return to their hotels, anywhere they go in the world. So how do they get their clients to be so loyal? When you first go to one of their hotels they ask you a bunch of questions, silly things like what kind of pillows do you and your partner like (feather, downe, etc), how you like your eggs, do you like orange juice or apple juice, how do you take your coffee, etc. Silly questions right? Well, should you choose to stay with Le Meridien again, no matter where in the world you stay, when you walk into your room you will have your favourite pillow on the bed and when you wake up, your breakfast in bed will consist of your eggs prepared the way you like them, alongside your preferred morning drink, etc.!

Now the simple question you may ask, as a fellow salesperson, is how in the world did they know all this information and remember it? I can’t even remember a person’s name, let alone his / her partners name or where they work, let alone their kids’ names!

Well let me tell you that this is where the best salesperson leaves the rest trailing behind.

Just imagine, you maintain as much information about your prospective buyer or seller and even if they don’t do business with you now, you keep in touch with them (via email marketing as discussed in one of our earlier blogs) and when they do come to discuss their options with you in a year or two, you’re able to say:

“Hi Paul & Wendy! How is [insert kids names here]? Are they still at [Name of school]? Etc. And did you get my [Birthday Card /Anniversary of Purchase Letter]? . . .”

If I talked to you like that, would you feel a rapport between us? Would you like to do business with me? I hope you say yes!

How do you achieve this in your business?

Step 1: Build a strong foundation for your business with a good real estate specific CRM system.

Step 2: Capture the Data! You will need a process where you are able to capture the required information while you are on the move. This can be achieved by a paper based form which you fill out as soon as you have spoken to a prospect (buyer or seller). This information can be entered into the CRM by yourself or by your PA so as to maintain the accuracy of your CRM system.

Step 3: Implement the process. Time and again we have seen many agencies implement a fancy CRM program and even design a very good system but do not follow through. This is where your CRM supplier has to play an integral part to coach / consult with you to ensure the implementation is successfully carried out over the first 90 days. As soon as the Agency has been using the system continuously for over 90 days, it becomes second nature and the chances of falling back to the old ways of doing business will be reduced.

A Quick Brightfox Plug!

Brightfox is one of the world’s leading providers of CRM software and online marketing solutions for the property industry. We have a suite of software applications to suit individual agents, small, medium and large agencies, multi-office agencies, property developers, investment networks and retirement village developers and managers. We would welcome the opportunity to show you how we can help your busines, so please do not hesitate to contact us.

Action Plan:

• If you have not finalised a CRM system as yet, please do so. And when you are talking to your supplier, please enquire on whether they provide a consulting / coaching system to ensure successful transformation of your business processes.

• Decide on what kind of information that you would like to obtain from your prospects (buyers / sellers) and put it in a form / CRM • Start collecting information today!

• Put a plan in action for sending cards to your prospects / clients for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

As always, please let us know your feedback on this or any other idea, as your feedback helps us to continuously improve these strategies. And don’t forget to pass these insights on to your friends / colleagues and help share the success!

Real Estate Agents warned against breaching Spam Act in Australia

We have long advocated the use of opt in only databases used for email marketing. You simply can get far too much negative feedback, poor publicity and can even get blacklisted if your email marketing becomes SPAM.

Regardless of how you built your database, you simply must always include the ability to unsubscribe or instructions on how to unsubscribe. This is simply good business practice, and in some countries, a legal requirement. In Australia it has been law for some years now to include the ability to unsubscribe from any bulk marketing email and it is not starting to be rigorously enforced.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to an Australian Real Estate Agency for breaching the Spam Act. Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, breached the Spam Act by sending emails without an unsubscribe facility.

The full press release is provided below:

“Real estate agency breaches the Spam Act

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, following an investigation that found the real estate agency breached the Spam Act 2003 by sending commercial electronic messages without an unsubscribe facility.

‘This is the first enforcement measure taken against a real estate agent since an ACMA awareness campaign about unsolicited communications targeted at the real estate sector,’ said Chris Cheah, acting Chairman of the ACMA.

The campaign was held in response to the ACMA’s concerns about widespread non-compliance with marketing obligations by members of the real estate sector. The ACMA wrote to more than forty head offices of leading real estate franchisors and companies in 2009, informing them of key obligations and providing links to online training and resources to increase awareness of legal obligations and of the consequences of non-compliance.

‘It is disappointing that some real estate agents do not appear to have taken the opportunity to understand the requirements for complying with the Spam Act,’ Mr Cheah said.

The ACMA has a tiered approach to compliance and enforcement. While education is the first step, stronger enforcement action will be used if compliance is not achieved.

‘Real estate agents should consider themselves to be on notice,’ Mr Cheah added. ‘Members of the industry need to understand that, even when they are dealing with potential buyers on a one-to-one basis, these interactions are commercial and they need to comply with spam and telemarketing laws.’

Commercial electronic messages must be sent with the recipient’s consent and include a statement that the recipient can use an electronic address, provided in the message, to send an unsubscribe request. During the course of this investigation, the ACMA identified messages sent by Elders Real Estate Wollongong that did not contain unsubscribe wording to this effect.

The ACMA has taken a wide range of enforcement action against non-compliant ‘spammers’ in the last twelve months, including recent action in the Federal Court which resulted in significant penalties being imposed on both individuals and companies.

Under the Spam Act, potential penalties of up to $1.1 million per day may be imposed by the Federal Court for repeat offenders”

The simple rule is always include the following text or something to this effect:

Important Information: If you are not the intended recipient, please ignore this email. This communication has been prepared by . To unsubscribe from this email please reply with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line.

How to run effective email marketing campaigns?

Email marketing can be such an effective marketing medium, but all to often customers emails end up as SPAM. So what do you need to do to make sure you next email is one of the effective ones, and not one of those marked as SPAM! Below we have a few simple but essential tips on how to make your next email campaign a success.

First of all lets talk about SPAM. There are some pretty scary statistics about the level of SPAM email in the world today. In fact in a report published in mid 2008 by one of the world’s largest anti-spam firms (Sophos) they reported that only 1 in 28 emails are legitimate (the rest are Spam). Given the rate at which email and spam is increasing, we can assume it is even worse by now. Interestingly the worst two countries for spam origination were the US and Russia. Australia, New Zealand and all GCC countries were not in the top ten.

So what are the steps to ensuring your next campaign is not marked as SPAM.

Rule 1. Ensure you email to a targeted list of recipients only.

There are two ways your email can be marked as SPAM. The first occurs automatically. Ant-spam software scans your email and if it thinks it is SPAM, it will either delete it completely or at least mark it as SPAM. The second is that someones receives your email and then reports you and your email to an ISP or Anti-Spam firm, which can also result in not only the single email campaign, but also all email from you domain name being marked as SPAM.

So the first rule is only send your bulk emails to people who have requested it. If you send bulk emails to unsolicited lists, you email will be marked as SPAM and you may even get Blacklisted (all email from your domain name will be marked as SPAM automatically). 

Rule 2. Personalise your email.

If you reach the recipients Inbox, the next key is to ensure that they read it. The best way to do this is to personalise the content of the email. Now you may immediately think that this means addressing the email to them personally. Yes this is valuable, but the single most important thing is to ensure that the content they receive is relevant to them. A personalised email promoting a new car will not be relevant nor appreciated by someone who contact you enquiring about property for sale.

In terms of property, this means sending relevant property content. If someone has enquired on 2 bedroom apartments for investment, don’t send them luxury waterfront villa’s. No matter how you address the email, this is bad for business. It won’t get you enquiries, but it will get you unsubscribes.

Emailing non-relevant content and offers to your database can be one of the fastest ways to kill your valuable database.

We recommend recording prospects buyer matching criteria and sending only relevant information to each prospect. Our two CRM products, foxEnterprise and foxAdvantage, can do both with ease so this shouldn’t be too hard to implement.

Rule 3. Always use a relevant but still catchy Subject Line.

In my view this can be the hardest rule to follow. As we all know, we scan our email often quickly, scanning the subject line and making a decision then and there as to whether to read or delete. That split second is often the determining factor in a successful campaign or otherwise.

The hard part is making your Subject Line cut through all of the other emails your recipients get, but not going over the top so that your email gets marked or is viewed as SPAM.

Here is a small sample of words you should NOT use in your subject line:

  • Free
  • Discount
  • Opportunity
  • Click here
  • Call Now
  • Amazing
  • Make Money
  • Eliminate Debt
  • Winning
  • Credit
  • Loans
  • Order Now
  • Special Offer
  • Cash Offer
  • Going fast
  • etc

Pretty much any derivatives of the above are going to also be highly dubious. Also don’t add in explanation marks, question marks and any punctuation, as this will also affect your SPAM rating.

So what is a good subject line?

As with the email itself, it needs to be relevant. So ideally your subject line will immediately identify to the recipient why your email is relevant to them, and hence why they should open it.

So in the example above where we have a prospect wanting a 2 bedroom apartment for investment. The ideal subject line may be: – New 2 bed apartment ideal for investors.

This hits all of the hot points the prospect needs, namely ‘new’ (something they have not seen and also creates the opportunity to get in first), ‘2 bed apartment’ (the right product – so they are not wasting time looking at non-relevant properties) and ‘investment’ (once again relevant product).

So if your prospect got this email, and providing the email itself was sent to a targeted and relevant list, I would think that you would get a high % of opens (the emails are read).

This is an easy example but unfortunately writing subject lines is pretty hard work. So the best idea if you have time to to run trial campaigns. Come up with 2 or 3 different subject lines and use them to different sample groups and measure their effectiveness. There is no metric better than the number of email responses or phone calls that you get from each one to tel you what is working and what isn’t.

Rule 4. Update your CRM software religiously.

Once your mailing lists are out of date, then your emails will start loosing relevancy and their effectiveness will drop rapidly. If you are serious about email marketing you need to ensure your house in always in order – which in this case means your CRM is always up to date.