Sending emails with embedded forms – yay or nay?

So as I sit here typing away on my laptop and hoping that our hosting provider will grant me the right permissions to properly read a PHP script on a webpage and process it correctly, I thought I’d leave a quick blog here about some of the latest challenges that I’ve come across with respect to e-mail marketing.

What I’ve found here at work is a lot of business-to-business e-mails instead of traditional consumer e-mail marketing that people would be prone to. Being in the marketing department means that you’re the go-to department when you want to send your message out and invite your clients, businesses, partners, or prospectives to an event coming up. But then the whole event management point comes into play and who is the one responsible for it? Well that’s for another time, but the whole point of this entry is to talk about how to force people to respond and register for your events.

Sure, there are a lot of different event management sites out there, like EventBrite, Cvent, Informz, etc. with their own e-mail marketing capabilities, but for some businesses out there, they may think it’s the brightest thing in the world to embed a form onto their e-mails and allow people to register that way. But why? I think that would require a lot of work to do and what you’re dealing with is a high degree of unpredictability, wouldn’t you agree? First of all, e-mail marketing isn’t necessarily an exact science and you’ll need to be aware that all your audience members won’t react the same. Here are some simple observations no matter how you phrase your copy or how you design your e-mail:

  • Chances are that your audience won’t necessarily enable images on their browsers to view the whole thing. So make sure your e-mail is nice and clean and assume that it’ll only display text.
  • Assume that your customers don’t follow instructions. If you have a link labeled “register here” and further below an e-mail address FOR QUESTIONS, I bet you nearly half the time people will RSVP through the e-mail address and not through the event management tool you’re using, rendering it useless.
  • People want you to create things on the fly. Instant gratification. If your method of collecting data fails, people will be on the warpath and send out e-mails seeking redress of these past atrocities.

So what’s the best way to balance usability & convenience with best practices and creative appeal? Sure, everyone wants to partake in the whole new technology paradigm, but is the most technologically advance system the BEST to use? Could it be that the best way to get a response is often the most low-tech?

Take, for example, the dilemma I have today with the PHP script. It’s quite bemusing. In several of our events since I’ve started here, I’ve used this low-tech PHP bandaged script that was done by my predecessor and then migrated to using Cvent. Now Cvent is a good system to use, but we’ve received complaints or comments that it’s not the most user-friendly. But does that mean we should throw in the towel and try and create something that none of us in the office have the skills to address? No…but should we resort to the most grundgy of ways just to make sure we collect the information knowing full well that the book of best practices has just been tossed away like Britney Spears’ kids and career (yes, I went there)?

There HAS to be a fine line to this situation, but at the same time realizing that you can’t appease the masses no matter which way you do your event management with e-mail marketing. You just can’t seem to win at this game, but you probably could do a little better with each effort. Small victories…

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