Adam T. Sutton

Email Design: 3 critical factors of ‘lucky’ campaigns

March 13th, 2012

A successful email campaign is not the result of a single tactic or dumb luck. There are dozens of factors — everything from your list, to your timing. Knowing which factors matter most can greatly improve your “luck.”

Three factors are critical to successful email campaigns, says John Murphy, President, ReachMail:

Factor #1. Offer

Factor #2. Audience

Factor #3. Design

Murphy mentioned this in an interview for our latest article on email design. His comment got me thinking about how email marketers can improve in these areas.

Make me an offer — a good one

Every marketing email should have a call-to-action. You’re always trying to get the audience to browse your website, buy a product, sign up for a webinar, or take some other action — even if you’re sending a transactional email.

Some companies overlook this. Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus, says she often gets trade show follow-up emails from B2B companies that thank her for visiting a booth (I also interviewed Jordan for the article on email design that appeared in today’s MarketingSherpa Email Marketing newsletter). Not all of the emails give her another step to take.

“I am happy that I visited your booth, but what do you want me to do with this email?” she says. “There needs to be a call-to-action. Tell me to go do something.”

The relevance of your offer to readers’ interests will also have a big impact on results, even if the offer is only for free content. But before your offer can be relevant, it needs to exist, so always include one.


The audience needs to care

You can create the best offer in the world, make it extremely relevant, and still have your campaign fall flat. This happens when you have an unresponsive audience that ignores your emails.

If your list has been beat down by years of batch-and-blast campaigns, then thousands of subscribers have likely given up on you. They are so disinterested that they won’t even bother to unsubscribe (or they might not be able to find the link).

This can really hurt performance. You can try to win back inactive subscribers, make it easier for them to get off your list, or even ask everyone to opt in again. Sooner or later, you will have to stop mailing them if they refuse to respond (otherwise, you risk pushing results even lower).

A great way to avoid this whole mess is to build a good list from the outset and send relevant, valuable content on a consistent basis.


Stop and think sometimes

I also interviewed Kristina Huffman, Senior Design Consultant, ExactTarget, for the article on email design. She had plenty of tactical advice to offer, even for getting your team to stop worrying about its next campaign and start thinking about how it emails.

“It’s okay to set up time to think about email design,” she says. “Set an hour aside and just talk about your email. Have it be a very open and positive conversation. There are no bad ideas when it comes to brainstorming. Throw in all the ideas of how to make your program better.”

You probably have meetings every month about your email marketing. Is it that much of a stretch to devote 30 minutes to email design? I hope not — because it’s one of the most important factors in the success of your program.


Related Resources:

Email Design How-to: 5 insights to improve open and clickthrough rates

Email Marketing: Improve deliverability by deleting subscribers?

Marketing Research Chart: Top email campaign elements routinely tested to optimize performance – Part 1 of 2

Email Summit 2012: Top 5 takeaways from the industry’s largest research-based event

Messaging: How your peers craft emails for conversion

Take the Hint from Unresponsive Subscribers

Adam T. Sutton

About Adam T. Sutton

Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa
Adam generates content for MarketingSherpa's Email and Inbound Marketing newsletters. His years of experience in interviewing marketers and conveying their insights has spanned topics such as search marketing, social media marketing, ecommerce, email and more. Adam previously powered the content behind MarketingSherpa's Search and Consumer-marketing newsletters and carries that experience into his new role. Today, in addition to writing articles, he contributes content to the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa blogs, as well as MECLABS webinars, workshops and summits.

Prior to joining MarketingSherpa, Adam was the Managing Editor at the Mequoda group. There he created content and promotions for the company's daily email newsletter and managed its schedule.

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: , , , ,

  1. April 4th, 2012 at 10:25 | #1

    Great article Adam, as usual, but I am not in full agreement (sorry…)

    Email design is, to my mind, factor #4. Factor #3 is timeliness. An old direct marketing ethos is Right Message (your #1 offer), Right Audience (your #2 audience) and Right time.

    Email design doesn’t count for diddly in an email message delivered at the wrong time, eg after a consumer has made there purchase somewhere else.

  2. April 4th, 2012 at 12:35 | #2

    Hi Matthew — thank you for your comment. And please, don’t be sorry. Additional insights are always welcome.

    Timeliness is critical, but it is not among the three factors emphasized by the expert (in this case, John Murphy). That said, there are dozens of factors — everything from your list, to your timing — as the piece notes.

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