All of us are familiar with diy email. Companies like Constant Contact, iContact and Exact Target have made it easy for legions of small businesses to inexpensively market themselves. Many of them, poorly.
Consider your inbox. You can instantly recognize diy mail because it looks like this:
I call this junk mail although it's not technically spam. Providers do a good job of protecting themselves from CAN-SPAM violations. It's bad for business to allow your customers to break the law. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that we want most of the messages we receive or that they are effective for the business sending them.
In 2007, I was part of a startup team that built a white-label CRM platform that included a diy email engine. Initially, we designed the system to send text-only emails. This eliminated the display issues in the email above, but also meant that our customers wouldn't be able to design the email to look like their websites.
We knew this was the right thing to do but our customers balked. I made the mistake of listening to them and added design features to our tool.
It became a huge time sink for customers and our support team, who were suddenly deluged with subjective design questions about color choice and layout. Open rates fell and ROI diminished, but strangely, our customers were happy. It seemed the emotional payoff created by the design process offset the poorer performance of the messages.
I'll be posting later about the next most abused facet of email marketing - the written word.