Ready for video email? Read these tips and get rolling

Web video is hotter now than ever. YouTube gets 4 billion videos streamed every single day. Social media users share video on Facebook and other channels. Video is also an integral part of many B2B and B2C websites. This popularity and its power makes video a natural for giving email marketing an advantage too.

Why does video get so much attention? In part, video as a marketing channel is a passive alternative to written content which the user must actively read. When you or I watch a video, that’s all we do: watch.

Video can also tell our story faster and more effectively, because we engage the viewer with visual and audio content both. Just like we take in a movie differently than a book, video offers us another way to communicate our marketing message to the audience. Video also works well on mobile devices as a marketing method, because people are used to watching videos on their smartphones.

Before you dive into the director’s seat, here are 10 video email best practices for you to consider, followed by the three most common options for implementing video email.

10 Video Email Best Practices
1. Make sure video is right for your organization: right on brand, right on message, right on quality.

2. Make sure the video is relevant and customer-centric, just like any other good marketing should be. The video is there to market and compel the recipient to take action, just like a regular text-based email would do.

3. Keep the video the focus of the email. Rather than crowd other messages around it, stay focused on the video itself. That said, give it context too. We have seen emails that included the video only, without any context around who, what, why we should care, and most importantly why we should watch.

4. Tell the recipient it’s a video in the subject line. This could help your open rate, because people in general tend to like video. It will also help with image blocking.

5. Yes, you are still up against image blocking. If your recipient has images suppressed, they won’t see the static image or the gif (see below). Most email clients have images blocked by default, remember, which is another reason to be sure your subject line says it’s a video. It’s also another reason to use compelling alt text and to give the video some context, so the recipient is intrigued enough to display images in your email. Adding a text link to the video is helpful, too.

6. Be sure your video loads fast and runs well. This is crucial, especially for mobile devices.

7. Make sure you include a call to action so it’s not just video for video’s sake. Once they’ve watched it, what do you want them to do next?

8. Test. Test to see how your list reacts to video email, but also test for types of email. For example, is casual and quirky going to generate better results or will stiff and straightforward appeal more? You can test video length as well, and even compare engagement between an embedded video vs. video on a landing page.

9. Before starting on a video email project, talk to your email service provider to discover the capabilities they offer and to make sure you’re aware of any potential limitations or issues.

10. Finally, make sure you first put together a timeline. Just like with any publishing or marketing project, scheduling out into the future is imperative. You wouldn’t want to do one video, then forget all about it, right? Don’t be a “one-vid wonder.” Think of your video email marketing as something to schedule out in the same way you do your email marketing or newsletter.

Once you’ve decided video is right for your business and you have the above best practices under control, decide on the best way for you to present the video. Here are the three most common options:

Include a screen shot in the email, and the video opens in a new window.
When you use a screenshot from the video with a Play arrow on it, the recipient knows it’s a video and knows to click the Play arrow to start it. The video will open in a new window. This keeps your email size small, which is particularly important if your recipient is checking email on a smartphone or other mobile device. The static image option is by far the safest option, whether you’re a B2C or a B2B marketer. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best option. You’ll need to explore all three.

Insert the video in the email.
By including the video tag in the HTML, you enable viewing the video in the email or providing a static image for those who can’t play the video in their email. This option lets your recipients watch your video straightaway, without opening a new window, or at least get the screenshot of the video (like they would with the static image option described above). However, this is risky because it increases the size of the email. Also some email service providers will remove the video tag from the code before sending the email, giving you one more reason to sit down with your ESP to learn what your options are.

Use an animated gif in the email.
You can also do your email as an animated gif. Like the video tag option, you’re more likely to run up against support issues. If that’s a concern, note the gif option has much broader support than does the HTML option. Animated gif is also more likely to run on smartphones. However, they can only be short videos due to file size. Also, animated gif won’t run in certain versions of Outlook, so take that into account if you’re a B2B marketer.

For more on video email marketing, see this 2010 PowerPoint by Silverpop on video email best practices. You’ll find questions to ask to determine if you’re able to do video email, and detailed information about which email clients support which video options. For a more recent article on the topic, see this post on video email best practices. Although the charts aren’t as easy to read as those in the Silverpop presentation, the information is more current (2012).

Ready? Get rolling. Go make the most of that medium!


Published On: January 2nd, 2013Categories: Email marketing best practicesTags:

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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