It’s no secret marketers spend a fair amount of hours in building the perfect email. Lots of thought goes into providing creative direction to your graphics designer. Your developer is tasked with ensuring all landing pages reflect the planned user experience. Countless hours are spent on reviewing content to ensure the tone and messaging is on par with branding and campaign goals. But is that always enough? How many times have you obsessed over one critical component of your email only to miss the mark on another very basic element?
In order to get it right the first time, it’s important to fully understand the purpose behind every element of your e-mail – from the moment it hits your subscribers' inbox to the time the recipient hopefully opens and reads your email communications.
Pre-Email Open Elements
The Friendly From Name
This is the name that appears in a readers inbox in the “From” section. This lets your reader immediately recognize who the sender is. Some marketers will alternate the friendly from name for various email communications. There are several reasons you may or may not want to do this.
Generally speaking, if you’re a retail shop mostly sending one type of communication (most likely a promotional or transactional email), you won’t have a need to change this up. In fact, it is more important for you to stay consistent and true to your branding for immediate recognition.
If you’re an editorial publication, however, you may have different newsletters and subscribers who opt into more than one of your products. For this reason, you’ll want each friendly from name to be directly tied to the product you are subscribed too. If you sign up for emails from Inc magazine for example, you may receive emails from "Inc Today’s Must Read" and "Inc Events". This simple technique allows readers to open whatever email resonates strongest from your brand and will, over time, give you more accurate insights on the value and response your communication brings.
In either example, if you are a business looking to make a big business announcement, like a new product launch or unveiling a new section of your website, you may want this announcement to come in the form of a letter from the company president and thereby use their first and last name as the Friendly From. This approach tends to generate more opens as users relate stronger to a real live person sending them an email and also makes the reader feel a bit extra special.
Your subject line is most often the determining factor of whether or not your email gets opened. Typically your subject line should be short, direct and related to the subject matter of your email.
There are several aspects that may increase the chances of being opened. They include:
- First name personalization i.e. You asked for it, Julie!
- Time sensitive – i.e. 4 hours left to save! - Sparks curiosity or asks a question – i.e. How is your portfolio doing?
- Preys on the emotions of your reader – i.e. You might not hear from us again
Conversely, there are factors that will prevent your subject line from gathering opens:
- an excess of spammy words, capitalization and/or punctuation – Free, Cash, SAVE NOW!!!!!!!
- Exceeding the recommended 40 characters (anything more than this will be truncated on mobile)
- Click bait – though this might get you the initial open, your credibility (and consequently email opens) will decline over time
Pro Tip: Rate your subject lines before hitting send by using subjectline.com
The pre-header text is what appears right below your subject line in the reader’s inbox. This is your chance to reiterate your subject and give the reader another subtle incentive to open and read your email. It’s ideal to tie the two together whenever possible. Leaving this section blank will result in the default “view in web browser” copy (or whatever the first line of your email reads) render in its place. This is a big missed marketing opportunity that can potentially boost your opens!
Some good examples of Subject line & pre-headers include:
Subject: 1 day left to save!
Pre-header: Don’t miss our biggest sale of the year!
Subject: We can’t wait to see you!
Pre-Header: Important information regarding your pass to XYZ show
Post Email Open Elements
“Above the Fold” content
Once your email gets open, you have an incredibly small amount of time before your reader decides to keep reading or delete (typically less than 10 seconds). For this reason, the first glance view becomes incredibly important. Many think “above the fold” is an archaic email myth, but whether your user is on desktop or mobile, first glance view is very important. Here are some highly recommended "above the fold" must haves:
"View Online" or "View in Web Browser" links
This ensures that your reader can see the email for what it is when different working environments make it a challenge to do so. Without the view online link, an email open can be completely meaningless and negatively impact your reporting.
Your company logo should be one of the first things the reader sees. The overall look and feel of your emails should be consistent with your overall branding but leave some room for variation to keep things a bit fun and interesting.
Visually appealing imagery is key to keeping a user engaged. The header image should tie into the subject matter of your email and be your primary call to action. Strong impactful design is often simple design. Including every important detail in the header image (i.e. event dates, venue, speakers, etc) will make it overwhelming and busy. Instead, design for mobile in mind. Keep text in images to a minimum. If fonts are too thin and colors are low contrast, this may also make it challenging to read on a smaller sized screen.
Headlines are an important factor to categorize your content, give structure to an email and allow your reader to quickly skim through for topics that resonate most with them. Use white space to effectively break up content sections and allow headlines to stand out from other text. Increase your font sizes, change the font color or bold the text to give it a stronger feel. Similar to subject lines, headlines should be catchy, spark curiosity, make an emotional appeal or inspire action and not be click bait.
Every section of your email should have some unique call to action. The goal of every email should be to drive traffic to a site for more information rather than overload an email with every detail possible. Email buttons should be a color that stands out from the rest of the creative elements in your email but still lives in your overall color scheme. This will help generate more clicks. You can also build a sense of urgency in the text to persuade readers to click. For example instead of saying “Continue Reading” you can try something like “Get all the details!”
It's in your best interest to templatize the process as much as possible. As an email marketer, there will always be a moment where you have to get something out quick. Having a consistent footer and other static elements built into 3-4 re-useable templates will save you time and allow you to quickly switch out elements like the email header image, copy and call-to-action.