Email Marketing Basics for Beginners

Tara Dagostino
Dec 15, 2017 · 5 min read
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Email Marketing Campaigns are one of the most effective ways to reach your audience.

Ah, the Inbox: that sacred space where you can browse through conversations and updates without the added noise of news-feeds, likes, or comments. For email marketers, it’s also a one-on-one opportunity where you can talk directly to your audience on a personal level. Whether your business is in the seed-funding startup phase or is a Fortune 500 company, an effective email marketing design strategy is crucial to standing out among your competitors (and avoiding the spam folder).

Seasoned marketing professionals know that Email Marketing Campaigns are one of the surest ways of grabbing the attention of clients and customers. After all, email marketing continues to outperform all social media boosts with an average ROI of about $44 for every $1 spent. McKinsey & Company agrees; they found emails to be 40 times more successful at acquiring new clients than Facebook or Twitter combined. However, not all emails are designed or created equally. To help you get started, we’ve outlined the fundamentals of email design best-practices to help you stand out from the competition.

Keep it Clean

In the email world, less is truly more. Cluttered emails filled with too much copy, information, and call to actions, are quite frankly overwhelming. As the latest EmailLabs study shows, the time devoted to reading each individual email is about 15 seconds. That’s why pairing down the amount of text in your email campaigns is the most effective way to quickly transmit information to your target audience. Easy to read, scan-able content is what you should aim for. Big, clickable call to actions, simple layouts, concise text, and beautiful graphics all contribute to a great email layout. And all of these should be integrated into a consistent template and directly relevant to the message you are conveying for each email.

Here’s a great example from Twitter, with optimal use of negative space that compliments their graphics and messaging:

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To get you started, Canva is a great resource for novice designers. They have various different templates, layouts, and icons for creating graphics and designs to help you communicate effectively. One of my favorite go-to websites for design inspiration is Each week a list of examples from their top email marketing designs are sent out in their own brilliantly crafted e-newsletter.

Stay On Brand

When designing your email, keep in mind your brand’s colors, fonts, and persona. Consistency is important; it reminds your readers who you are and what you represent. Most importantly: you become recognizable. Is your brand light and funny? Or does it embody a more serious, minimalist tone? All aspects of your email design should reflect this. Once you’ve solidified your identity and personality in your emails, you build trust amongst your viewers, allowing them to connect with you more readily.

Keep in mind that staying light hearted, creative, and unique to your brand personality makes people remember your email. Integrating logos and colors from your brand into unexpected aspects of the email will have your audience remembering that fun little quirky aspect of the email that they liked, and will prompt them to open the next email you send out rather than immediately deleting it.

Starbucks demonstrates a nicely balanced brand-centric integration strategy. With consistent logo placement and color and font matching, they convey a familiar persona to their readers:

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Use your Branding Preview Pane as an “Elevator Pitch”

The top third of your email is the first part that your readers will see upon opening your email. This small space should do most of the work for you by combining that familiar branding identity with the succinct message that the email is conveying. This is a powerful space, so utilize it to your advantage with compelling copy and images that are eye catching and memorable, as well as a simple call-to-action that tells your readers what to do next.

Birch Box uses playful imagery to enhance the “Let’s Play” call to action button, with minimal text:

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Get Personal

The degree of personalization can vary in an email. From simply including your client’s name to more advanced techniques like sending out content based on gender, location, and preferences, you can have a big impact on how you connect with your readers. Personalization is important because you are feeding them relevant content and information based on their needs, and it can also have a large impact on ROI: about a 26% higher open rate to be exact.

A simple way to personalize an email is to include content based on your readers’ browsing or shopping habits. Email automation based on these actions sent out in a timely and personalized manor flows users through the buying process, leading you to higher ROI per campaign. For example, let’s say Alex has been browsing through your catalog of items, saw something she liked, and dropped it into her shopping cart. But, for whatever reason, she left her cart full and closed her browser. This is a perfect opportunity to send out a reminder message about those items. Adding content that is similar or related to her browsing history will prompt her to continue through to the final buying stage, ultimately landing you an additional sale for the day, all with one simple email.

Here, MCM uses the abandoned-cart email strategy to remind the client about the items they left in their shopping bag while simultaneously offering suggestions for items they may be interested in:

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To learn more about the different levels of personalization you can include in an email, check out Campaign Monitor’s handy guide. They offer a variety of examples and ideas that you can start using right away, no matter your level of experience.

So, the next time you create an email marketing campaign, remember to stay true to your brand and keep your messaging relevant, while also respecting that “sacred space” of your clients’ inbox. Doing so will increase your engagement with customers and enhance your solid marketing strategy.

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