Hi there friend,
The baseball season is coming to a close, with the World Series about to kick off featuring the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
In last week’s newsletter I told you how we’re using the email analysis tool we’re building to better understand the good, bad, and ugly of the emails major league baseball (MLB) teams are sending their massive audiences.
There are lots of valuable lessons you can learn from these emails. They’re being sent by expert designers and writers from organizations that have huge fanbases (the MLB YouTube channel has over 4,720,000 subscribers and more than 4 BILLION views).
This is part 2 of a now 3 part series. (Last week we thought it would only be 2 parts, but we keep learning more interesting things!)
Last week: we looked at the subject lines from MLB teams.
This week: we’re breaking down the actual email content.
MLB teams are making great use of their email programs. Teams are sending a wide variety of email content that breaks down into these
- Promoting Postseason Games: Many emails focus on promoting the sales of postseason tickets and sharing game details like the times, dates, and where to watch games on tv and streaming.
- Promoting Merchandise: There's a consistent theme of teams promoting their merchandise, which ranges from general team merchandise to postseason-specific gear.
- Team Updates: These emails provide fans with information about the current standing of the team, player achievements, nominations, and other news.
- Partner Promotions: Teams sent several emails promoting Mastercard and SeatGeek partnerships offering cardholders exclusive experiences or ticket purchasing opportunities.
- Thank You Messages: Teams frequently sent appreciation messages
to their fans, thanking them for their support throughout the season after being eliminated from the postseason.
All Teams: Set Up
DKIM, SPF, and DMARC
It's importance of setting up DKIM to prevent spoofing and phishing and increase deliverability. All of the emails from MLB teams pass DKIM, SPF, and DMARC authentication checks.
All Teams: Awesome Looking Images that Communicate the Energy of the Experience
Almost every email from every team contains images that communicate that baseball is a fun experience
and these MLB teams do it better than anyone else.
These images look great, but they point to a problem with some of these emails. Many emails are only images. That can cause some serious problems for readers. More on that later in this email.
Individual Team highlights
Rapid Recap: Clutch Casty clinches NLDS
The rapid recap email is exactly what I want as a fan. I want to wake up to an overview of the great
stuff from the previous game, and notes about what comes next.
This email has links to highlights of key moments in the game so I can relive the hype or catch up on things I missed.
The Phillies are also the only team including links to social posts where I can join the conversation with other fans.
Spencer Strider starts game 1 of the NLDS today at 6:07 p.m. ET
This is a fantastic looking email that has links to all sorts of things that I'm probably looking for as a fan: merch, tickets, broadcast timing and channel
info, and more.
One of my favorite parts of the email is the animated video thumbnail pointing me to a hype video to get my stoked about game 1.
Astros to host Twins in ALDS
The Astros sent a fantastic email to prep and connect fans for game 1 of the divisional series with links to events and watch parties.
A great touch in this email is a clever dynamic element that shows pitching stats and live scores.
Opportunities for Improvement
I mentioned that these teams are doing a lot of things right with the emails they send; but there are some clear things the teams could do to make these emails even better and more accessible to their fans.
Don’t Send All-image Emails
I mentioned that many of the emails MLB teams are sending look great at first blush, but the big downside is that many of these emails are just big images.
There are several reasons you should avoid sending all-image emails.
- Not all email clients automatically load images: If a recipient has image loading turned off, they might see a blank email or just alt text, missing the entire content. Here's an example of what that would look like:
- Hard to Read on Phones: An image that looks good on a desktop are often not easily readable when they’re scaled down on a phone or tablet.
- Reduced Personalization: Content personalization, where specific parts of the email content change based on the recipient's behavior or attributes, isn’t supported with images unless you use specialized software like NiftyImages.
- Increased Load Time: High-resolution images can be large in size, leading to longer email load times. This can be especially problematic for recipients with slower internet connections or limited data plans.
- Limited Engagement Metrics: With text-based emails, you can see which
links are clicked, allowing you to gauge engagement with specific content. In an all-image email, unless different parts of the image are mapped to different URLs, it's impossible to get granular engagement data.
Make Sure Image Alt Text Provides Value
Screen readers, used by visually impaired individuals, read out the text in emails. These tools can't read the content within the images, making the email inaccessible to this group unless properly tagged with descriptive alt text.
This isn’t a huge problem if you’re setting good alt text on your images. But as you can see, many of these emails had missing alt text or text that didn’t do a good job of describing the
purpose or value of the image.
Some of the great things I called out in the highlights section, like the Phillies inclusion of social
posts, and the Astros (and other team’s) inclusion of live scores were both handled through images that unfortunately did not include good alt text - so readers with visual impairments or who had images disabled lose all of the benefits of those images.
Don’t Get Clipped in Gmail
Gmail “clips” content beyond a certain file size (102KB). That means that it’s hidden from readers who have to click a "View entire message" link to see the rest of the email.
This is a real shame, because some of the most interesting emails that are full of interesting stories and content are getting clipped, often because the email templates could be built more efficiently.
Make Sure that Images are Optimized
Many of the images in these emails look beautiful, but are very large file sizes. This can be an issue for readers for a number of reasons:
- Large image files can slow down the loading time of your email.
- Not everyone has unlimited data plans. Sending emails with large images can
consume a significant portion of the recipient's data allowance.
- Large emails can quickly eat up your reader’s storage space with their inbox provider, especially if the user doesn't regularly clean their inbox.
AWeber automatically creates optimized versions of any images you add to your messages for you to use; but if you use another tool you can manually optimize your images using something like TinyPNG or Squoosh.
Treat Me Like a Fan (Because I Am!)
This is the
most subjective piece of feedback I have, but the one I feel most strongly. Many of the emails I got were essentially beautiful looking flyers for upcoming games. This is a good start, but as a fan I was consistently left wanting more.
I love my team (the Phillies), and after a great win I want to get hyped up, relive the game, and learn why I should be excited for the next one. After a tough loss, I want to relive what went well and read things that will get me re-hyped up for the next one.
These teams do a good job hyping fans up on their social profiles, but the newsletters come across a little sterile by comparison.
A few ways that teams could make their emails feel more alive:
- Gifs and Video Thumbnails: In previous editions of the newsletter we’ve talked about how motion and video thumbnails in email can lead to more engagement. Some teams are already doing this, but
motion is such a huge part of the game that I think more emails could benefit from this.
- Player Profiles & Stories: Offering in-depth profiles of players, their journey, and any interesting anecdotes would help fans connect on a more personal level with the players and the team.
- Behind-the-scenes Content: Giving fans a look into training sessions, team strategy meetings, or other behind-the-scenes moments could be
- Historical Recaps: Reminding fans of iconic moments from previous seasons or the team's history to build nostalgia and excitement.
- Fan Spotlight: Sharing stories or moments of dedicated fans, their experiences, and their connection to the team.
Like I said way back at the beginning, you can apply lessons from both what is going right and what could be improved to your own email programs.
Here’s a quick checklist to make your emails the MVP (Most Valuable Piece-of-email).
Email contains actually interesting information that speaks to the goals and needs of my readers.
DKIM authentication is set up for my domain (AWeber makes it simple to set up DKIM).
Images have descriptive alt text set (AWeber makes it simple to set alt text).
Image file-sizes are optimized (AWeber creates optimized versions of your images).
Email is not just one big image. Text is “live text” that can be read by screen readers, copied, and shared.
Your email is not clipped in gmail (AWeber has tons of great templates that are efficiently optimized to keep file sizes down).
Email contains links to articles, videos, products, etc. that relates to my content so readers aren’t left with dead ends (AWeber automatically makes sure the links in your email aren’t broken).
Email is personalized to people where appropriate based on their attributes or past behavior (AWeber gives you a bunch of handy personalization variables to use).
Would you be Interested in having your email graded?
Marketing is constantly evolving, and it can be hard to stay on top of the best practices and requirements to send great email.
All of the data in this email came from an email grading tool we use that highlights all sorts of ways to improve your email marketing. If you’re interested in using this tool for your own emails, let me know.
Holiday Marketing Tip:
Post-sale emails, sent after a customer has made a purchase, play an important role in customer satisfaction, building loyalty, and increasing the likelihood of repeat business.
Send a post-sale email expressing gratitude for the purchase, offering useful tips or guides related to the product bought, and suggesting complementary items.
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As always, thanks for reading!
- Chris V. and the rest of the