The world of email marketing is one of constant change. As spammers find ways to circumvent spam filters, the filters become smarter and more sophisticated. And email marketers who want their messages to make it to recipients’ inboxes have to stay up-to-date and make constant adjustments to their email marketing program.

There’s an email in my inbox from a company name I recognize. It makes me wonder if it’s spam since this is the first email I’ve gotten from them. It can be helpful to study email marketing practices of other companies, especially the larger ones, so let’s take a look at the email together.

Here’s the subject line: “Connect 2012 – 5 Reasons to Connect.” Not super enticing, but there’s a smidgeon of interest. It’s from a Fortune 500 company, so I’m inclined to open it. But since I never signed up to receive emails from this sender, there’s hesitation. It’s probably spam. Spammers are smart like that.

Tip: Even though your recipients know who you are, if you send to them without their permission, they may think you’re a spammer.

Out of curiosity, I open it.

ibm_email

Yikes! Maybe it’s spam, after all! There’s a link to view the online version and a bunch of broken images. Should I click to view online? No way. Too risky. I’m not even sure I want to enable images because it looks very much like spam.

Tip: Your message and call to action should be visible even when images are turned off. This is the default setting for most email clients, including those on the web.

I’m going to take a chance (most wouldn’t) and click to display images, anyway.

ibm_email1

Hmmm . . . it appears to be legit. Okay, so it’s nice to look at. Balance and colors look good. But I’m still not sure it’s safe to click, so I Google the headline. It’s the real deal. This must be a genuine email from the genuine company. I wonder how many other recipients have ventured this far . . .

Tip: Visually appealing emails are nice, but good looks don’t motivate recipients to read or click. When it comes to effective email marketing, content is always king.

Notice how the message copy trails off the right side of the screen? That’s how it appears on a desktop. When opened on a mobile device, some parts are missing so you can’t see the entire message. This isn’t good, considering email marketers “are heading rapidly toward a situation where potentially half our subscribers could view at least some of our emails on a mobile device,” according to a recent post from Email Marketing Reports.

Tip: Before sending an email, test to be sure it’s readable on mobile devices, as well as on desktops.

In order to see the entire email, it had to maximized.

ibm_email

Oh, look! There’s a QR code in the corner! How cute. Not only is there no information about where it resolves, but why would someone scan a QR code with their mobile device when they can just click a link from their desktop? And if they are reading the email from a mobile device, what then? There might be times when including a QR code in an email makes sense, but they are most useful in the physical world.

Tip: Don’t use the latest marketing buzz-trends just because they’re considered “hip.” Be sure to consider their functionality before using them in your communications.

By the way, this QR code links to the same landing page as the email image, so it is absolutely useless here. Except to sit there and look cool. Or, in this case, stupid.

Well, that was fun.

I’d love to see examples of emails you’ve received that stood out in your inbox with your thoughts about why they were successes or failures. Any takers out there?

Happy email marketing!