In my previous life as an email campaign manager, we had a client who insisted on receiving individual RSVPs to events via a personal email account. Our email invitations would include a line similar to:

“If you’re keen to attend our event, email to register.”

Upon clicking the mailto link, a reply composed in your default email client would pop up, complete with instructions as to what had to be filled in (give the above example a try).

If this had been all, then we would have happily gone home and played Halo while the results came rolling in. But soon enough, the client wanted the clicks on this mailto link to be tracked.

Now, I’m sure this scenario is probably pretty common, especially if you have a clients who are short on time, or don’t want to spend money on fancy landing pages. However, there are a couple of solid reasons why it’s certainly preferable to link to a contact form, over adding mailto links to your email campaigns:

  • Links to contact forms are trackable, mailto’s are not. As mailto links simply open a new email message in the recipient’s email client (and not a new page), these clicks can’t be tracked in your campaign reports. Using a contact form is a far more elegant way to measure responses, non-completes and more.
  • You can reliably collect responses with a contact form. In the above example, we included a mailto link that populated the body of the new email to collect information such as the recipient’s name and contact number. Unfortunately, this technique doesn’t fly so well in Gmail (which ignores any subject and body offered), Yahoo! Mail (no subject) and Windows Live Hotmail (which ignores line breaks in the body). By linking to a contact form, you can potentially pre-populate form fields, use other input types like checkboxes and radio buttons and look professional while you’re at it.
  • Coding a mailto that includes a subject and body is a pain. Yes really, it is. Here’s the code we used for the simple example above:
<a href="mailto:'d%20like%20to%20attend%20the%20event&Body=Name:%0D%0APhone%20Number:%0D%0ABlah%20blah"></a>
  • Really. Who wants to code like that.
  • Responses can be used to trigger autoresponders and encourage further engagement. So, say someone has registered to your event. You might want to automatically send a ‘thank you’ note, venue details or even a link to a Google Calendar event. You can do this with autoresponders, whereas with mailto links, the buck stops there.

The truth is, contact forms are super-easy to set up and monitor, especially if you use a service like Wufoo. Unfortunately, counting and recording individual emails in a personal inbox is not.

Secondly, if you’re handling simple Yes/No RSVPs, check out Mat’s earlier blog post on using segments to track responses in Campaign Monitor. It’s elegant and it works.

Many thanks to Jared at @CTDigital for inspiring this post and being all-round awesome. Hopefully next time a client is asking to add a ‘trackable’ mailto link to their email, you’ll have a couple of solid reasons to suggest using a contact form instead.

  • SV

    Interestingly enough, Gmail will work with that mailto tag if you use lowercase url attribute names for subject and body. Simply change this:… Subject&Body=A Body

    to:… Subject&body=A Body

    and it should work in Gmail. (I’d agree with you however that contact forms are preferable to mailto links — but there are times when you just want a mailto link.)

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