8 top tips for designing emails your contacts will want to engage with

The dos and don'ts of successful email design and communication in professional services.

We are sending more emails than ever. Currently, there are 4.3 billion email accounts and 269 billion emails are sent out daily. This is estimated to reach 320 billion emails per day by 2021. Email has been around a while - when compared with its young, upstart social media rivals – but it is still by far the most effective B2B communications medium. McKinsey has reported that email is 40 times more successful than Facebook or Twitter for acquiring new clients.

Whilst email is a successful selling medium, there is a huge disparity between success and failure when it comes to email marketing. Effective email design has to be impactful and communicate its core message in a matter of seconds – the average person’s attention span is just 8 seconds.

Email by design

Good template design is something that should be self-evident. But firms often overlook the basic principles of good, well-balanced design when they send out emails. The design, look and feel of an email should reflect your company’s core values and brand identity. This makes it immediately recognisable to people you want to target and significantly improves uptake. It should also consider the reader journey and how they are experiencing your email.

Great design and a finely-tuned and highly-targeted message are essential in driving email engagement. We know from first-hand experience.  We recently changed an email design layout using our new drag and drop design tool and saw our view rates increase 64%. Here are our top insights for designing a better email experience that will boost engagement metrics.

#1 Combine Content, Context and Calls to Action

If the recipient is going to invest their time and effort in reading your email, it has to be relevant. Think about your content backwards. Use an inverted pyramid model to hone and distil your key message and then cascade the relevant support information in next order of importance. Decide what you want them to do as a result of your email and present them with a single call to action (CTA) that creates a sense of urgency - usually via a click through button. It should also provide certainty in the recipient’s mind about what their next course of action will be.

#2 Send the Right Message

Target your message at the individual so that they see themselves reflected in the messaging. It helps to have created brand personas for your business. Think about addressing their fears, their egos, their personal challenges at work. Always look for the human aspect in your messaging and look to strike the right emotional chord. We know that campaigns sent to well-segmented lists have higher levels of engagement. This can be taken to a far higher level. With today’s technologies, dynamic content can be drawn from a wide variety of data sources to create highly personalised messaging.

 #3 Less is (a lot) more

Keep your email copy as minimal as possible. Use short sentences balanced with longer ones. And where appropriate for your brand, don’t hesitate to break a few grammar rules along the way to create more impact. Challenge yourself to use less words. If you have six sentences in your copy, how can you try and edit them down to three? Which words can you edit out without changing the meaning or losing the message? Is there another way to say the same thing that sounds more authentic? How would you phrase it if you were telling a friend over coffee?

#4 Create a balanced experience

Organise your email content in such a way so that the reader’s eye travels naturally through it – rather like a journey. Don’t be afraid to make use of white space to keep the email design simple and clear – there’s nothing more disconcerting than a cluttered, difficult to follow email. There is also a pragmatic reason for creating a balance between text and images. Spam filters look at the text to image ratio. If there are too many images or too much text, then the email may end-up in the spam filter.

#5 Get ahead with the header

Once the recipient has decided your subject line is interesting enough to warrant a click to open, the header is where it all starts – and ends. The header sits ‘above the fold’ –– that is, content that you can see immediately on display when you open the email without having to scroll. If the reader is not immediately engaged with headline, then the email will be deleted.? Use images wisely. They should reflect your brand and/or the reader’s business and the context and content of your email. Avoid wasting precious real estate on an image that is too deep. We recommend headers to be 650 pixels wide, and between 150- 240 pixels high. Consider placing the CTA button both ‘above the fold’– and within the body of your email. Keep your corporate logo small and discreetly either above the header or on the header. Think how your header will be seen on different devices. Where will the reader’s eye be drawn?

#6 Go with a Classic

Don’t get too creative with fonts as they might not be supported by your clients’ email. Only use classic and open-source fonts. Ariel, Times New Roman or Helvetica are always a safe bet. Don’t mix different font types in an email, always stick to one and have three font sizes: heading, sub-heading and paragraph. Bold or underlining should be only be used where absolutely critical to emphasise your message and avoid using italics altogether. Keep it clean and keep it simple.

#7 Get a mobile mindset

Email must be accessible and clearly legible no matter what device it is opened on otherwise it is not fit for purpose. Increasingly, people are using their mobile phones to read email. If the email doesn’t work properly or is difficult to read on a mobile device, then it is failing in its basic requirement. You might also want to think about sticking to a single column layout. If you use a two -column layout, be aware of how they will “stack” once viewed on a mobile device. Don’t ignore your desktop recipients though. While our data shows that senior management are more likely to open ‘anytime, anywhere’, there is still a large section of professionals who still only check their emails at work and mostly on a larger display screen. Including images or video with poor resolution will frustrate and alienate them.

#8 Test, test, and (thoroughly) test again.

There’s nothing more frustrating than creating an eye-catching email just to find it won’t load properly in an email client. Test across browsers and on different devices. Remember some embedded images might not be displayed unless the user chooses to load the image. If you are going to have key messages and CTA buttons on an image, remember to repeat these in the body of the email. Use A/B testing to see what resonates best with your audience.

Now that you have the ideas and the thinking behind what makes a great email template,  you need to ensure that you use it consistently throughout the organisation.  That way you will build a stronger, more coherent brand. Why not roll out a new email template now?  Create your own drag and drop email template designs in 3 easy steps.