How To Design An Effective Email Campaign
There are certain components that contribute to writing and designing effective emails. Here we will explore six main components of effective emails: the audience, subject line, copy, design, call to action and imagery.
1. Audience: Before writing your email copy, it is important to know who your audience is so you can align your email message to the right recipients.
2. Subject line: This is the deciding factor on whether the recipient will open your email. It should be clear, personalized, relevant to the recipient and aligned to the email copy.
3. Email Copy: This is the meat of your email marketing. It should offer a message that is relevant to the recipient and should provide value. The tone of your email comes into play here. You should write in the second person; more of ‘you’ and less of ‘we’. It should be engaging but brief and succinct. Readers should be able to skim and scan through the email and still get the general gist of your message.
4. Design: Design is not just the look and feels of an email but how it works. It helps to decide whether or not to include imagery and where to place a call to action button. The style and layout of your email copy can have an impact on how recipients receive your message and the font style, volume of text and how the text is justified in an email can all contribute to how your message resonates with your recipient. Striking a balance between email copy and design can help to drive conversions to retain customers, build relationships and inspire evangelists.
5. Call to Actions (CTA): When creating an email, ask yourself ‘ What do I want the recipient to do?’. The language in your CTAs should be actionable, as you want the recipient to take some kind of action. The CTA should be clear, concise, obvious and easy to identify. A strong CTA should create a sense of urgency and prompt the reader into action.
6. Imagery: Using images in an email is a colourful and engaging way to appeal to your recipient’s visual nature. Images give recipients an idea of what you are offering, whether it is a product or service. Images should be used effectively and complement the text in your email rather than detract from it.
We will now look at each component in more detail.
Before writing, designing and sending an email copy, it is important to know who your audience is and ensure you are sending the right message to the right person. The buyer’s journey is the research a buyer goes through before purchasing. There are multiple stages the buyer goes through before and after purchase:
- Awareness and Interest Stage: The buyer becomes aware of their need for a product or service and begins to look for solutions that will fulfil it.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer has researched solutions and is considering their options. They have developed a certain view on the products available on the market and are aware of their personal preferences.
- Conversion Stage: The buyer has selected the product they want and has made a decision to buy.
- Retention Stage: Buyer and brand build a strong relationship. The customer receives valuable information that turns a satisfied customer into a true fan of your brand.
So what does the buyer’s journey have to do with email and your audience? Identifying the stage that your recipients are at in the buyer’s journey will help you to align the type of email you use and the message you send to the recipient.
For a new customer at the awareness or interest stages, you may send a welcome email within the first 24 hours of them subscribing to your list thanking them for signing up, letting them know what they should expect to receive from you and how frequently they should expect to receive them.
You may send regular email newsletters to existing customers to ensure that they stay engaged with your brand. Sending holiday and seasonal emails will build a relationship with your customers that doesn’t circulate around driving them to make a sale. Inviting them to events, such as product launches or a store opening, offers them an experience, further building a trust and connection with you and your brand.
For your evangelist, they are not just on board with your brand, but are advocates for it and believe in your message. You will want to send them emails with contents they can share or resources they can download. When your evangelists get to the retention stage of the buyer’s journey it does not necessarily mean they stop there, you can bring them back to the top of the funnel, making them aware of new products or services through targeted content.
As we have just seen, identifying where your recipients are at in the buyer’s journey can help to align your emails effectively. In the slide above we see an example of a 32-year-old woman, named Claire. What we know about Claire is that she is career-driven, has an interest in fashion and is searching for a new outfit for work. She has already come across your clothing website online, has selected a few outfits and entered her details to sign up before paying for the products. However, she has left your website before completing the purchase. How do you use email to encourage Claire not just to come back to purchase, but to re-engage with your brand? And how does recognizing what stage she is at in the buyer’s journey help to send her the right email?
First of all, if we look at where Claire is the buyer’s journey, we will see that she is a potential new customer at the interest stage, edging on the consideration stage. You could send her a welcome email, thanking her for signing up to your email list when she entered her details before leaving the purchase, offer her an option to confirm whether she would like to opt-in to get regular newsletters and offers and then remind her of the items she has left in the online cart.
After this, the next step would be to help Claire move from the Consideration stage to Conversion. You want her to buy the new outfit from your company and not your competitors. Here, emails with product information and sale offers would perform well with the goal of getting Claire to buy.
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so it is important to start off on the right foot. The subject line of an email is the first thing a subscriber sees to determine if they want to open your email or not. If the subject line isn’t compelling the user will simply ignore your email.
By adding a sense of urgency to the subject line, you can draw the user in by prompting them to open the email to find out more. Always ensure the body of the email aligns with the subject line. If it’s not related, the user may no longer open your emails or unsubscribe altogether.
Be engaging and relevant to the recipient. Know who is opening your emails and how the subject line may affect this. Shorter subject lines are more impactful for B2C opens, while longer and descriptive subject lines often yield higher open rates for B2B. As always, be sure to test your audience and find out what works best for them.
There are various themes you can apply when creating a subject line for your email. The subject line will set the tone for the email and let the recipient know what to expect.
Here are some of the themes you can apply to your subject line and we will take a deeper look at each in the next few slides:
- Social Proof
Let’s take a look at the first four subject line email tones here and some points on how you can craft your subject to match that tone.
- Self Interest: This speaks directly to the user and shows what benefit the customer will gain by opening the email. They also provide a clue to the reader about what’s in the email.
- Curiosity: Without giving too much away you draw the user in prompting them to open the email and read further. Be careful when using this tone as if the subject line provides no information at all, the user might ignore the email completely.
- Offer: If you are giving something away or having a sale, mention it in the subject line. Everyone loves free stuff and it’s a great way to convince the user to open!
- Urgency: This tells the reader they must act now or they will miss out. It’s a very powerful subject line tone but only use when there truly is a deadline or expiration.
Now let’s take a look at the other four email subject line tones, and how you can craft one for your email.
- Humanity: By adding a human appeal for attention or telling a story you are letting the reader know there is a person behind your product or service.
- News: Providing the latest news about your company or the newest features to your product always performs well and drives open rates. These subject lines often work well with the curiosity tone.
- Social Proof: Share success stories and inform users about how many other people are using your product or service. Humans will always look at the behaviour of others when making decisions.
- Story: Tell the user a story or the beginning of one can draw the user into the email to read more.
Here we will take a some at some example subject lines that all relate to a certain tone.
- Offer: ‘10-week live training and certification’. You let the reader know what you are providing and if this is something they are interested in, they will open the email.
- Self-Interest: ‘28 ways to increase organic social traffic’. This subject line is direct and clear. If the user wants to see how they can increase their organic social traffic, they will open to find out more.
- Urgency: ‘Are you In or Out?’. Simple and direct with the sense of urgency, the user believes they might miss something if they do not open.
- News: ‘ANNOUNCING: Marketing Mastery Class’. This lets the user know this is something new and draws them in to read more about the class.
Here are a few more example subject lines that all relate to a certain tone.
- Humanity: ‘Why I (kinda) HATE surveys… ’. The use of ‘I’ here lets the reader know there is a real person behind the email.
- Social Proof: ‘[Case Study] $25,865/mo in recurring revenue’. The use of a case study lets the reader know how something was achieved and how they can do it.
- Story: ‘I got Botox—& THIS is what it looked like’. This draws the reader in with the start of a story. If they want to see what happened, they will open the email.
- Curiosity: ‘Pokemon GO: 3 Marketing Mistakes, Millions of Users Lost!’. The use of curiosity makes the reader wonder what three mistakes were made.
Here are some statistics around email subject lines and what you can do to increase your open and click rate:
- Emails that have a personalized subject line have a 26% better open rate. Personalize your subject line by including the users first name or username.
- Segmented emails see an increase of 14% opens and 100% clicks. Segment your audience by grouping similar users together and sending them a relevant message.
- 80% of users say spelling errors are an unacceptable mistake. Always QA your emails before sending and have teammates proofread the copy. This will help eliminate spelling errors.
Let’s take a look at the email copy, which is the text the recipient reads. This includes the from the name, subject line, and body copy of an email.
- The copy in both the subject line and the body of an email should grab the users attention and draw them in, build anticipation about what the email offers and call the reader to action.
- No matter how fancy the email looks, if the email does not have well-written content your subscribers will stop reading and eventually ignore your emails.
- Whether they are a new customer, existing customer, or brand evangelist the message will differ and should cater to individual users needs.
If the user found your subject line compelling they will open the email. It’s here you must follow up on what you promised and make it easy for the user to take action. Here are some guidelines that will help you to create a good experience for your users:
- Simple & Strong: The email should capture the readers’ attention and keep them interested.
- Scannable: Users only spend a couple of seconds scanning your email to see if it’s relevant. The main message should be clear. Using bullet points can help get the main points across.
- Less “We” and more “You”: The message in the email should focus on the readers’ needs and how the email can help solve their problems.
- Benefits versus Features: The reader wants to know what’s in it for them. What benefit will they get from reading your email?
Here are a few more guidelines for the copy in your email. It’s important to try to incorporate all the guidelines into your email. This will lead to better performing campaigns.
- Align with the subject line: If the content of the email doesn’t relate to the subject line, the user is less likely to take action.
- Know your target market: Recognize what your audience wants and send them relevant content. For example, for a newsletter, if a user has set their preference to receive the emails weekly ensure you don’t send to them daily or monthly.
- Singular goal: The email should have one goal such as clicking through to a landing page. If the email contains too many links which all go to different web pages then the marketing strategy won’t be successful.
- Sense of urgency: By adding a sense of urgency to the email, the user is encouraged to take action immediately. This can help with the goal of the email campaign.
The last piece to creating an email is a legal requirement that all emails have to contain an unsubscribe link and a postal address so that the user can opt-out from receiving the emails. It’s best practice to include the unsubscribe link and postal address in the footer of the email.
The email design is not just the look and feel of an email but how it works and flows for the reader. Before jumping into how best to design your email, we need to answer the question, why is email design so important? The following are some of the main reasons why an effective and appealing design is important to implement throughout your email campaigns:
- User experience: Having a good email design will add to the users’ experience. If the email looks and flows well, the user is more likely to continue reading your email and click through.
- Consistent experience: If you send a regular newsletter, having the same design/layout in each will help the reader recognize your email and become familiar with its content. If the design regularly changes, this will only confuse the reader and reduce click through rates.
- Conveys your message in style: Nobody wants to read a wall of text. By splitting your content up into bite-size chunks with clear headers, the user is more likely to read and more importantly engage with your email.
- Direct imagery and graphics: Images are a great way to showcase your product or service. In the example above, iPhone uses an image of their new phone allowing the reader to become familiar with the product.
- Placement of CTAs: Clicking the CTA is often the main objective of an email. Having a clear CTA at the top and bottom of the email will make it easier for the reader and help them click through to the landing page.
- Drives conversions: If the email is well designed and contains relevant information the user is more likely to take action and convert.
The first steps when creating a compelling email design are to identify who you are and to choose the colour palette.
It is best practice to include your companies logo at the top of your email and also use your brands’ colour palette for CTAs, headers etc. These will allow a reader to easily recognize your emails and become more familiar with your brand.
In the above example from the Digital Marketing Institute, the head of the email includes the companies logo so all readers can easily recognize the email, and the email also makes use of the colour blue which is part of the companies colour palette. The logo and colours are used in all of their emails as well as their website, leading to a consistent experience for the user.
Another key component for designing effective emails is the layout. The layout controls the flow of the email and makes it easier for the reader to look at.
- Organize for quick reading: Bold and colour the headers in your email to help the reader scan the email to find relevant information.
- Make room: When designing the layout of your email, don’t be afraid to space out your content making it easier to read when there are multiple sections.
- Align your content: Use the same width, font-size, and colour for similar sections of the email. If one paragraph is 500 pixels wide and is left-aligned, make sure all other paragraphs are too.
- Define your sections: If your email has multiple sections (e.g. Blog articles) make sure they are defined. You can use a different background colour or a dividing line to show where each section starts and ends.
- Above the fold: Depending on the reader’s device screen size only a small portion of the email will be in view before they have to scroll. Place your most important piece of information and CTA in the top portion of the email.
- 600 pixels width: Keep your email less than 600px in width to ensure it displays well in all email clients and browsers.
The next key component when designing an email is the font you use. The font in your email should be consistent throughout. Use the same font-style, font-size, and font-colour for all sections that are similar.
Also, avoid using a small font-size as many readers will be viewing on mobile devices. Your company may specify what the brand font-style is that is used on your company website, this font should be kept consistent in all emails also.
Here we can see two marketing emails, the email from Macy’s on the left-hand side is quite busy, predominantly image-based and offers multiple ways to respond, but no clear and obvious CTA. The subject line advertises Father’s Day gift ideas, but then the first link is for women’s products and there’s also a link for handbags. The font sizes vary within the same sections, making the advertisement look inconsistent and off-putting. Also, Macy’s brand identity is quite unclear without a logo displayed or mention of the shop in the email.
The email on the right is an example of one of Virgin’s welcome emails to a new customer. The message of the email is clear; Virgin has reached out to talk about what they do as a business. There is a good use of white space, making the images, copy and offer clearer. The recipient is prompted to ‘explore more’ with a clear call to action. The identity is clearly represented by the colours used and the logo standing out in the header. The font sizes are consistent within different sections of the email, making it easier to scan and skim.
I know you might agree with some of the points that I have raised in this article. You might not agree with some of the issues raised. Let me know your views about the topic discussed. We will appreciate it if you can drop your comment. Thanks in anticipation.
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