Your organisation has worked hard to develop a corporate image – Your logos, signage, website, brochures and business cards. Everything you do should say who you are and what you stand for. Emails have become an expected and necessary element of business communications, being one of the most direct forms of contact with your customer. Don’t let your company’s brand suffer through an ignorance of branding those emails!
To clear up a few common misconceptions at first, we must cover the actual concept of “branding”.
- That image you see on the billboard or video on tv is NOT branding, that’s advertising – The actual process of displaying a certain message.
- That sale you see displayed in the shop window for “One Day Only!” is NOT branding, that’s a promotion – Typically a one-time event to acheive a specific purpose or goal.
- That news story you see following a particular company is NOT branding, that’s public relations (PR) – Usually unpaid news sources that report on companies in relation to the community.
Branding acts as an overarching concept for all these points – It is about the intangibles (such as service experience and brand image) as much as it is about the tangibles (such as the ad campaign and packaging). Marketing is value creation for your company and branding is your value creation tool. Everything you do, say, write, print and provide becomes part of your brand… And this is no different for every email that leaves your company.
- 87% of all company communications are via email.
- Having a memorable branding element within your email will make it stand out from a recipient’s full inbox.
- The look and feel of all business correspondence, including emails, should be seamless and consistent across your entire company.
The first part of your email branding to get sorted is your email address. Compuserve was the first company to give personal email addresses to employers such as – ‘cs10457882.32(at)compuserve.com’. Now this email address may be great if it was still 1979 and you were an early-adopting computer geek, but these days I don’t quite think it would make the cut. Nowadays it’s easy to have almost any email address name you would like, along with your own domain name for the company. Don’t send business emails from free accounts such as Hotmail if you want to be respected in return!
Now that you’ve got your email address sorted, it’s time to get branding. I won’t go into any depth as to how you should go about branding as every company has their own concepts, only that for emails you should be looking to include your contact details in a consistent and attractive format. Most businesses that don’t utilise any branding through their email give reasons surrounding the technical difficulty or financial cost of setting it all up. Rick Robertson from Exclaimer offers some general guidelines to email branding, along with advice on setting them up smoothly across your company:
- Keep it simple. By keeping it simple, there is a much greater chance of the recipient seeing what was intended, and much less chance of the message being falsely identified as spam. If a complicated design must be used and it is a sales message, ensure there’s an embedded link allowing the recipient to open the message in a browser in case the email client renders it incorrectly.
- Make sure it looks good in plain text as well as HTML. Send yourself test mailings and view the message in as wide a variety of email clients (applications and Web-based alike) as you can.
- If possible, code the signature by hand. Tools like Dreamweaver and Word can make the code more complicated and bloated than necessary.
- Use inline CSS rather than embedded or linked CSS.
- Avoid scripts as they are almost certain to get blocked by an antivirus program.
- Avoid Flash animations since not everyone installs the Flash player. And, again, Outlook 2007 won’t support them.
These days there are several different software and service providers in the market, making email branding easier and more affordable. Crossware Mail Signature is a product that we are very proud of – Making email compliance and branding for Lotus Notes easy. If you are serious about your email branding, as you should be, check out your options based on your mail server and needs.
Emails are not solely black and white messages on your computer screen. Every email has a say in your company’s branding – They can make or break your corporate image.