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7 Steps to Writing and Designing Emails That Convert

MICHELENA HOWL

Dec 15, 2023

A blank email canvas can be an exciting project, but also potentially an intimidating place to start. Your resources to conceptualize, strategize, write, design and deliver your campaigns can greatly impact your ability to succeed efficiently and understand the effectiveness of your program.


But email messaging is an important tactic to get right, given the impact it has on building customer relationships. According to our 2023 Consumer Trends Index, email remains the No. 1 format for driving sales, with 52% of consumers reporting making a purchase directly from an email. What's more, email outperformed banner ads and SMS by 108%. With that said, email is a proven channel that shouldn't be overlooked in any effective relationship marketing campaign.


So, it's important to dig into email stats beyond campaign performance to see which subject lines, email copy, design and CTAs performed well … and understand why. There are a few key strategies every smart marketer should employ, based on the psychology behind what grabs readers' attention — and the factors leading up to it.


Here are the dos and don'ts of email design and copywriting:

Do — Make branding a priority


It's easy to overlook one of the most critical elements of design — your branding. Whether you're a startup, a small business or a rapidly growing company, brand consistency is vital. If you don't yet have formal brand guidelines, including key branding areas like colors, fonts, logos and tone-of-voice aligned with your brand, it's time to make some.


Aligning and maintaining brand consistency in your email strategy alongside other media channels is important for readers to be able to easily identify your brand at first glance.


Don't — Forget about good copywriting


Some people will try to tell you no one reads anymore, and with poorly written copy, that could be the case. The best marketing campaigns have clear and concise copy that grabs the attention of the reader and ignites a desire to take the action you have framed up.


If you fall into copywriting pitfalls like using passive voice in place of active, or compounding wordy sentences, you can create a disconnect between what you're talking about and what you're offering. Focus on the problem you're solving for your audience and maintain your brand tone of voice in email marketing.


Do — Leverage psychology to influence action


Our subconscious mind is deeply involved in information processing and affects everything we think, say and do. Tapping into the subconscious mind with your email and marketing campaigns can have a big impact on your conversion rates.


Leveraging psychology to increase conversions and nudge your audience in a specific direction can pay off in a big way. A few impactful examples are:


  • Fear of missing out: Including offers that expire can motivate someone to do something immediately. For example, saying something like, "You only have 30 days!" makes the reader feel like they might miss out. However, communicating the same 30-day deadline as "You still have 30 days," makes the expiration date seem further away.

  • Color theory: The right color contrast plays an important role in attracting attention — as long as it maintains readability. Make sure the colors in your email campaigns reflect your brand and drive urgency, but consider the accessibility of different color combinations when making choices.

  • Emotional imagery: Select pictures that tell a story. Imagery helps crystalize concepts for customers. Email banners, icons and product images can positively reinforce your stories and break up blocks of text.


Don't — Bury the lede


When you bury the lede, or, the most newsworthy part of the story, your reader misses critical information. As a result, they can easily lose interest completely. If you have something important to say or an action you want someone to take, don't leave it for the end of your email.


Surface the most important information at the beginning of your email. Echo it in the subject line, the heading and introductory text. This doesn't mean you need to build a big CTA button underneath your first sentence, however. Find a way to strike a nice balance between calling out the most important information, in a reasonable and appealing way for your readers.


Do — Use email templates to your advantage


The layout of your email should be easy on the eyes and optimized for desktops, mobile phones and tablets — which can be easier said than done if you're a small team with limited resources.


A great first step is creating a set of email templates specific to your brand. These templates should be designed with the conversion you want to happen in mind. Sometimes the simplest design can be the most impactful. A one-or-two-column email that contains a branded graphic, copy sections that break up the content and a clear CTA button typically render well on any device.


Do — Practice dynamic personalization


Raise your hand if you've ever seen an email personalization go wrong. Maybe it was the classic personalization tag error where the intended first name displays as "{first name}" or a beautifully tailored email offer sent to the completely wrong person.


When incorrect, personalization can have the opposite effect of what you intended. A good email marketing platform will enable you to extend personalization beyond the typical mail merge fields we all grew to love 15 years ago. Dynamic personalization allows you to use data and insights to send the right message to the right person at the right time.


Don't — Use typography the wrong way


There is an actual art and science to typography. Good typography enhances the experience, draws attention to the information you want to highlight and entices the consumer to learn more. Bad typography gives people headaches.


You don't need to be a trained graphic designer to apply some typography strategies to your email designs. Make sure you stick with your brand fonts. A good rule of thumb is two, maybe three, fonts per email, in a font size that follows accessibility guidelines.


The best email marketing campaigns communicate offers clearly, with a consistent brand look and feel, and a snappy call to action draws readers in. As marketers, we want to make sure our outreach is accessible, relevant and created efficiently. Employing these key strategies will ensure your email marketing campaigns help convert readers to customers and will help you better understand the right levers to pull, and when.

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