Designing Emails That Work

Not all email marketing strategies are equal, and not all strategies should be applied to the same kind of business or the same type of audience. As with most things in business, “it depends” is usually the answer. Test your marketing strategy and adapt to what your market wants. Over the years, marketing professionals have learned what works. With trillions of emails sent every year, data backs up some fundamentals that can help you get started.

Understanding good design principles

Email design has a few universal rules:

Keep it simple stupid.

The old KISS rule holds true with email. People don’t want to read a lot when they’re on a computer or mobile device. They want the information to be relevant and short, not long-winded and hard to understand. Like with most writing your audience determines the reading level, but usually 6th to 8th grade works best.

If you’re writing email content for technical recipients, you may write at a higher level, but be cognizant that email has a shorter attention span than blogs or whitepapers. Email recipients generally are trying to get through their inboxes and tend to scan, rather than read for deep comprehension.

Use a one-column layout.

Traditional print marketing is usually wider, with folds and multiple columns, because the eye has more “real estate” to scan.

Unfortunately, email has less real estate. With over 60 percent of emails being read on a mobile device, assume your message recipients scan a single column. A good rule is to design for 600 pixels width at most. If you must have two columns, the left column comes first so put the most relevant information there.

Use responsive design.

Email should adjust for the size of the reader’s screen.

Well over half the emails you send are read on a mobile device. It’s critical that you design your emails to respond to a smaller screen while still making your message easy to read.

Responsive design can be tricky, so test your design on as many platforms as you can. Check that your ESP makes email within its system responsive, too.

Keep articles short with links to more information and video content.

Don’t try to cram everything into your email. Get your point across and provide a link for more. Your message is short and you also determine which contacts are interested in learning more about something. This click data is very useful for salespeople and for sending further targeted messages.

Communicating Effectively with Email

Make your calls to action clear.
If the point of an email is to drive the contact to take an action, make sure the button or link to accomplish that task is clear.
Use images and links to video to make your emails more attractive.
Encourage recipients to click to load images, so you can track when they read their emails. People respond more emotionally to imagery, so use that whenever you can.
Educate your recipients. People don’t open emails so they can be sold to.
They want to read about something interesting or educational. Help them do something, teach them something, and make them feel glad they are on your list. Most ESPs have templates you can choose from. Start there and make them your own. You may also want to hire someone to design your email for you. Good email templates should be available to you for a few hundred dollars.
Connecting calls to action to campaigns
When you design an email, your primary objective is to either educate or encourage the recipient to respond to a call to action, or both. If you’re driving your contacts to that action, think through the entire process of what you want the person to do a positive response should initiate a buyer journey – and if the call to action is to click through to a website, the response should be automated with a CRM workflow – potentially triggering more emails to be sent, an update in the CRM, or more. Be sure the webpage the contact goes to matches what she expects.