Don’t Forward This To A Friend! – Email Marketing Best Practice

Forward to a Friend Email I recently read a DMNews article published a while ago that had comments from two marketers about forward-to-a-friend links.  One marketing expert supported the use of a forward-to-a friend link, saying ‘pass along readership’ helped share the message and that personal endorsements are powerful.  The other marketing expert said that forward-to-a-friend was a ‘gimmick’ that failed and at most causes people to hit their forward button that’s already built into their email software.  While I agree that seeing the words forward-to-a-friend may remind a reader to forward a message to someone (and I love referrals), I have seen that it can also hurt your email marketing success.

The forward-to-a-friend link is typically placed at the top of the email, which is considered prime space in an email.  According to MarketingSherpa, the average email reader only spends 15-20 seconds looking at your email (if it is opened). So you should want to make sure that 3 of those seconds aren’t lost reading the words “forward-to-a-friend” in the beginning of your email.

Since these links are typically at the top of an email, readers who are viewing the email on their mobile device, and only skim the content, may never actually get to the meat of your email because they are stuck scrolling through the links in the forward-to-a-friend portion at the top of the email.    In a MarketingSherpa survey, 64% of decision-makers said they regularly view emails using a mobile device, making the success of your current email program highly reliant on its ability to be viewed on a mobile phone.

These links often just forward an email along to a new recommended address with a canned standard introduction.  This may seem impersonal to the recipient, not allowing your email to get the best possible referral.   A better bet would be for the recipient to forward the email with a personal note.

Finally, why encourage just this one email referral?  Instead, why not have the offer of your email shared in social media?  For this, you can simply create links in your email to share the content of your offer on a landing page on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  It’s easy, and also a great way to drive more traffic to your content.  Quickly learn how with this post on creating custom social media links for your landing pages and emails.

At Marketo we have seen time after time that good content will be shared by email recipients without using Forward-to-a-Friend links.  Focus on creating great content and then make sure emails are clear and render well on mobile devices.  For tips on improving how your emails appear on mobile phones check out Marketo’s guide on Mobile Email Marketing.