15 Email Creative Tips

An effective email is so much more than just finding some pretty images and filling the copy with superlatives and hype words, in the hope that someone will be motivated into action by this. Based on a recent breakfast seminar I’ve pulled together 15 of the best tips for better emails.

Pick images that speak

We’ve all been told an image speaks a thousand words but the skill is picking an image that speaks the right 1000 words!

  • Show your products. An attractive woman or handsome man might make the email look beautiful but if you are selling products, a high quality product image is the better choice. It’s an absolute must in fashion and many retail verticals. Depending on your product showing it in use or context can help too. It helps customer imagine themselves using the product.
  • Use the top-left. Eye-tracking heat maps illustrate that users frequently read email content in an F-shaped pattern and read from top left, so make sure the top left image and copy is engaging, as that part of the email has a big impact on what happens next.
  • Control movement. Images grab attention briefly before copy is read and how the reader move through the email is influenced by the image. For images showing people the readers eyes will follow the direction of gaze of the person in the image. Or if there is obvious motion the readers eye will move in the direction of that motion. Place your key copy relative to the image to ensure its the next point of focus.
  • Images carry emotion. Whilst copy is good at clarity images are good at creating a feeling and emotion. Consider what emotion the image might give and how that fits with the email copy.
  • Be irregular. Standard regular shapes are more easily ignored than irregular shapes, to grab attention and standout use irregular shapes.

Motivating email copy

Your email is not only about images. Copy is needed to explain your message and offer. Answer the questions the reader is likely to have before they are happy to click and address possible objections.

  • Add a pre-header. The very first bit of text shows up in the inbox next to the subject line in some email clients. Don’t waste this space with phrases like “If your email doesn’t display correctly”, etc. Rather use it to expand the thought in the subject line. Make sure when both subject and pre-header are read together they work as a pair.
  • Write dark on light. Avoid white text on a black background, or any light font on a dark background. They are harder to read and tend to be ignored. The traditional black font, white background is often the best choice and in all cases ensure high contrast. Think too about smartphones in bright sunlight, high contrast will make it easier for your customers.
  • The first few words are key. The first two sentences of the email and the first two words of every paragraph are those that encourage (or don’t) recipients to read your email further and engage with its content. Keep sentences and paragraphs short, front loading the key words to the start of the sentence.
  • Keep the email text simple. Pick the simplest and the most relevant content for your email marketing campaign. Your customer will not get excited about the numerous colours and fonts you have squeezed into your email.
  • Make best use of space. Especially on mobile designs space it limited, so consider carefully what’s most important. As an example, social sharing buttons get very few clicks. Are they really the best use of space? Don’t use the space at the top for such low value content.

Carefully consider your email layout

What about an effective email layout? In order to create exceptional email content, you need a structure to your copy to take the reader through a thought process and into action.

  • Allow for your email to be scanned. Plan your layout in a way that will enable subscribers to easily scan your email according to headings, pictures, bullets, calls to action and other important elements.
  • Capture their attention. In addition to eye-catching images and user size to grab attention, hit with the main benefit first. Don’t hide away the benefit until the end
  • Convince your customer. After you have gained the customer’s attention, make sure they understand why it is important to engage. Highlight benefits using bullets and short explanations.
  • Click to close. The emails should sell the click. Always include a call to action at the end of your email, so any readers who scroll to the end have a call to action of what to do next. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also include calls to action sooner. Some people will be ready for action faster than others. So repeat the main call to action in different ways and positions throughout the email.
  • Selling multiple products. When you’ve several products, or different items being promoted, each needs its own attention grabber, convincer and call to action.

Thanks to Mailigen who invited me to explain effective email design and copy at a breakfast seminar at their offices in Riga. The above tips are based on the lively discussion during the seminar.

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