Let's Talk Email Marketing: Content and Design Time

If you read our post last week, you know all about what email marketing is and why you should be using it to promote yourself. This week, we’re talking how to setup a great campaign. Following best practices ups the odds that your emails will be opened and that people will engage with them. From visuals to the subject line, no detail is too small.

Subject Lines

The subject line is the first thing people see after you send your campaign -- and with only seconds to capture someone’s attention, a single word can make or break your open rate.

The basic idea is that you want your subject line to be concise, accurate and informative. It should set an accurate expectation for the content of the email - without getting too cutesy.  For example, subject lines like “Website news - Issue 3” and “[COMPANYNAME] May 2005 News Bulletin!” are shown to do better than things like “Last Minute Gift - We Have The Answer” and “You Asked For More…” (source). Readers want to know what they’re about  to read, and they aren’t likely to read what they perceive as junk mail.

Need more? Here’s a couple of can’t-fail subject line tips:

  • Localization + Personalization. Personalizing your subject line with a reader's first and/or last name, or even the city name, often results in higher open rates.
  • Use different subject lines. Keep it fresh! Even if you only send out a regular feature (like a monthly industry update) be sure to change up your wording every time you send out an email. Highlight the lead story or a feature piece of content to keep things timely... and readers interested.
  • Don’t cry wolf. Only mark truly important emails as urgent -- no one likes to be faked out. Subject lines with the words ‘urgent,’ ‘breaking,’ ‘important,’ and alert show higher open rates -- but only when used appropriately and sparingly (source).
  • Keep the subject line short. Like we mentioned before, keep it short. Most readers scan through their emails so keeping the line 50 characters or fewer is best.

Choosing Templates

Creating a template that attracts your readers is one of the most effective ways to get your readers engaged. You’ll want to create a template, or set of templates, that you can use across all of your email campaigns. Creating a consistent look that matches the feel of your brand and blends with the rest of your internet presence is key.

Design inspiration  h  ere  and  here .

Design inspiration here and here.

Almost every platform allows you to start with a pre-made template or design your own from scratch. Depending on your design IQ, we recommend starting with a pre-made template and customizing from there.

Be sure to insert your logo, tweak all the elements to match your brand colors, and pick fonts that fit the feel of your brand. Then, save this template so you can use it time and time again. Not only is this less work for you, but it creates consistency for your customers!

We recommend:

  • Sticking to one or two colors to create a clean design and keep readers focused on the content of the email.
  • Using different colors to differentiate the headers and footers of your email.
  • Using borders to provide visual cues to readers where one article starts and another begins.
  • Keeping alignment constant. If you’re utilizing large amounts of text, be sure to left align so that it’s easy for people to read.  
  • Lots of white space makes for a modern look -- don’t stuff content so close together that you overwhelm readers.


No one wants to receive a wall of text in their email. Email marketing should be fun and eye-catching... but also informative. Balancing text and images is the best way to create a visually interesting email and encourage people to read through everything. 

  • Organize your content by importance. Important + timely content should always be front-and-center at the top of your email to catch the eye of people who are skimming.
  • Use different font sizes and weights to create interest and organization. You want to utilize headlines, body text, quotes and buttons to create interest and give visual cues to the reader.
  • If your message is long (and can’t be simplified any more) send those who care to your site to learn more.
  • Shake up the size/layout of your images. Test out different sizes and orientations within your email to create interest.

Other Tips

Design isn’t everything -- now that you have a visually appealing email, let’s get down to a few nitty gritty details to consider when you’re done designing your campaign.

  • Make sure to test. Now that your email is looking great and ready to go you need to test it out. Send a test in your email marketing system, or consider using a tool like Inbox Preview. Inbox Preview allows you to see what your email will look like to different people on different platforms, and it’s one of the best way to ensure the look of your email stays consistent.
  • Don’t harass people. The frequency you will want to email people varies by business -- but consider 2-3 emails a month to be a good jumping off point. After 6 months of consistently emailing people 2-3 times a month, you can analyze people’s reactions and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Never SPAM people. If there’s one cardinal rule of email marketing, it’s to never email people who haven’t given you explicit permission. Most likely they’ll immediately unsubscribe, and even if they don’t, chances are they won’t be likely to engage.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of social media. Integrate social media into your campaign, and be sure to push the sign-up option on both your website and social channels.
  • Don’t waste time sending the wrong email. Once you’re feeling really advanced, you can test things out using A/B testing. It’s perfect when you’re not sure which image or headline to use.

Feel like you’re far from being a pro? No need to worry -- after sending a few campaigns, it’ll be as easy as riding a bike. But, if you don’t find that to be the case, we’re always here to help!

Soooo.... Ready, set, create!