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Everything You Need To Know to Send an eCard This Year

July 15, 2014

Although the weather is hot and sticky, believe it or not, it’s almost time to start thinking about that venerable tentpole of client outreach: the holiday card! 

Vanessa Schaefer, the President & Creative Director of Clockwork Design Group, has twenty years of experience helping A/E/C and other professional service firms create websites, printed materials, strong corporate brands, and, of course, eCards.

Each year, more clients ask us about “eCards”— especially in the form of electronic animated holiday cards. Below are some of the questions we get asked most often, with (hopefully) easy to understand answers:

1) We’ve always done printed cards. Why should we consider an electronic card?

Animated cards allow for a more meaningful, memorable message. Additionally, most email blasting platforms let you track statistics such as opens, click-throughs etc. Finally, the time and cost for eCards can be significantly less than printed, signed, addressed, and mailed cards.

2) How do we start the eCard process?

We start by brainstorming ideas. Should the tone be serious? Playful? Heartwarming? Funny? Clever? What will the message be? Step one is to define the concept. Once a concept is established, the next step is the “storyboard.”

3) What is a storyboard?

A storyboard is similar to a “flip book” with a series of pages that show the key stages of the animation. For video animation, the storyboard is typically sketches that show general framing and cropping for each scene. For illustrative animations, the storyboard is often created in Adobe Illustrator, and eventually used for the actual animation. All text or voiceover for the eCard is included in the storyboard.

4) How is the animation created?

After the storyboard is finalized, the eCard will be shot (if shooting video) or animated (if it’s an illustrative design). Various applications are used including Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Flash, Adobe After Effects, and others. The eCard is edited and programmed as necessary, and uploaded to a server.

5) How are eCards sent?

We recommend you use an email marketing service like ConstantContact or similar. A static “teaser” graphic is embedded into your outgoing email that entices viewers to “click to watch,” and links to the animation.

6) Why do we need “click to watch?” Why can’t the animation play right in the email?

Email applications don’t tend to support complex animation. At most, some will display very basic animated GIFs. Your eCard will need to be hosted on a server.

7) Who hosts the eCard animation?

It’s best if the animation’s URL is consistent with your firm’s website, for marketing and branding reasons. For video files, we recommend uploading the video to YouTube or Vimeo, and creating a page on your website to display the video. Non-video animations should be hosted on your server.

8) How come some eCards will not play on iPhones?

If the animation was programmed in Flash, an alternate version (typically video) needs to be created for iPhones and iPads that do not support Flash. Special code detects the viewer’s device, and sends them to the appropriate version.

9) How long does it take to make an eCard?

It depends on the complexity of the card, and your firm’s review process. We usually recommend planning for 4-10 weeks.

10) How long should the animation be?

Most people prefer to watch animations that are two minutes or less. After that, people will stop watching. We aim for a minute, and less is really more.

11) How can we personalize the eCards?

We recommend you use your email blasting service to add personalization to the outgoing email message. If specific individuals at your firm want to email to their client list directly, they can do so using Outlook or whatever email application they prefer. Of course, doing so will limit trackability and increase the possibility of duplicates being sent to the same recipient.

12) Can we send printed cards as well as eCards?

Yes! Absolutely! Send the eCard to your entire list, including clients, prospects, friends and vendors. Then create a similarly themed printed card to send to your top contacts, and handwrite a message inside each one. We recommend hand-addressing each envelope and using stamps, rather than a postage meter. Nothing beats a personal note.

And finally, here’s the question we do not get asked, but should:

13) How do we make an eCard that’s really GOOD?

If you can make the viewer laugh, or smile, or say “Awwww,” you’ve succeeded.

Find out more about Vanessa and Clockwork at their website, or continue the conversation on Twitter: @cdgi

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