Presentation is everything, or so they say. With this old adage in mind, we’ve compiled our best tips for anyone who wants to send emails that subscribers click into a handy email design guide. We cover each facet of design: content, templates, identity, color, images, layout, fonts, and calls to action. Design is as much science as it is art, and we take the guesswork out of what can seem like the most challenging part of sending good emails.
If you’re not already segmenting, this is a great place to start. CPC is a strategy-based customer segmentation tool focused on profile descriptor fields. For B2C retailers, this would include age, sex and geography. For B2B companies, this will consist of the size of the company, job role and the industry sector or application they operate in. This example shows a female and male creative with the products that are included in the content changing based on the gender.
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That isn’t to say that sales-y promotions couldn’t ever create results—as marketing “gurus” have proved. The results just aren’t as good as they could be. Take the biggest gurus’ results—the ones they boast about—and calculate their conversion rates. Often their marketing is comparatively ineffective. They just have massive volume, so the sales numbers are impressive.
If you're inviting readers to download an ebook, for example, and you have a picture of the ebook included in the email, don't just hyperlink the text next to the image telling people to "download it here." Hyperlink the ebook's picture, too. People are drawn to images much more commonly than text, and you want to give your email subscribers as many options to get your ebook as you can.
Think about mobile. If a campaign doesn't show up on mobile devices, it's not going to perform very well. Everything you send should be mobile-friendly. Check out ReturnPath's "Email in Motion" infographic for some data that might affect the way you design your emails. One of the highlights: According to the study, 63 percent of Americans and 41 percent of Europeans would either close or delete an email that's not optimized for mobile. Might be time to start using a responsive template.
What does your current email marketing performance look like? Analyse the performance of key metrics such as Open Rate, Click-through-Rate (CTR), Deliverability Rate, Unsubscribe Rate, ROI. What is working well and what isn’t. This can also be internally focused – for example, maybe it is taking a long time to create email content, or the creation process is inefficient.
What does your current email marketing performance look like? Analyse the performance of key metrics such as Open Rate, Click-through-Rate (CTR), Deliverability Rate, Unsubscribe Rate, ROI. What is working well and what isn’t. This can also be internally focused – for example, maybe it is taking a long time to create email content, or the creation process is inefficient.

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The downside of just making offers is that they’re not useful on their own. People on your list won’t receive any value from you unless they buy what you’re promoting, so they have little reason to stay subscribed. That’s why this email marketing strategy doesn’t work alone. And it’s why many e-commerce sites struggle to keep people interested. There are a few exceptions (e.g., Groupon) that rely entirely on making offers—but then the reason people joined the list was specifically to receive those offers.
You split your email subscriber list into “cold” vs. “warm” leads so you can compare similar groups of customers in this test. You prepare two versions of your email—one with the normal subject line, and one with a much shorter, punchier subject line. You send half of your cold leads the normal subject line and half of your cold leads get the new, exciting subject line. You also send half of your warm leads the normal subject line, and the other half get the new subject line.
Email marketing can be tough at times -- I'm right there with you. But by sending compelling offers to the right target segments and paying attention to the little details that go into an email, you can increase the opens clicks in your emails and generate more leads. (And learn more about which email marketing metrics to track -- and how -- here.)
S • Segment. Market research and data analysis heavily inform this first step. You can also use marketing personas and the like to help. Your primary aim with this step is to identify differing customer needs according to relevant markers (e.g. demographic, behaviour, occupation, interests...). You then divide your market into ‘segments’ according to these needs.
Purchase (formerly the bottom): This phase should drive the sale, such as a free trial or discount offer. These messages can be much more direct and sales-oriented since these customers have indicated they are closer to a purchase than others. In this phase, it’s important to keep your emails focused on the primary call to action (CTA) and make sure the transaction is as easy as possible. Some companies opt to offer post-purchase set-up assistance or support to help customers move from engagement to purchase.
Interests: This is a big one, and Amazon is a prime example of the impact it can have. Recommendations are made based on purchase history, which offers a more personalized message that is more likely to drive engagement and, ultimately, a purchase. What are the bottom-line interests in B2B marketing? How your product or service saves time, money, and resources.
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