How to create creative email campaigns that get results

Email marketing has the potential for amazing return on investment (ROI): $38 for every $1 spent.

But not every marketer sees these kinds of results. Why might that be?

Ask yourself — do you know your audience? Is your “from” name recognizable? Are your subject lines outstanding? If you answered “no” to any of those questions, that’s why your ROI is low.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Below, we’ll give you everything you need to know to create successful email campaigns and make 2020 your marketing year.

8 steps to creating successful email campaigns in 2020

When it comes to planning campaigns, you need to take a moment and chart each segment of a successful email. That means breaking your campaign down into individual messages and focusing on each segment. 

Not sure where to start? Check out these eight steps to creating successful email campaigns. 

1. Know your audience

You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: Know your target audience. If you haven't already, stop and get to work on finding that out. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What value do I provide?

  • Who would most benefit from what I offer?

Once you do that, you'll be able to start building on your email list. If you've already built up a sizable list, you'll want to take the time to properly segment it into different categories. These categories hold many different factors, including:

  • Demographic data

  • Position in the sales funnel

  • Engagement or behavior patterns 

Not sure how to segment your lists? Maybe you don't know how to gather the necessary data to create highly targeted segments. 

Why not consider letting your subscribers tell you themselves? 

Allow your subscribers to fill out an email preference center. This can help you learn quite a bit about them.

Spotify email preference center

Source: Really Good Emails

2. Send with an easily recognizable "from" name

Once you know your audience and have segmented them into highly targeted categories, it's time to revisit your branding. 

We aren’t talking about your design or logo. We’re talking about making sure your email send information is not only reliable, but familiar to those on your list. 

Think about it: If you sign up for emails from BuzzFeed, you expect to see Buzzfeed in the "from" name. 

example of easily recognizable "From" name

Source: Campaign Monitor

Imagine getting an email from a sender by the name of Jonah Peretti. If you aren't familiar with the top staff at BuzzFeed, you'd have no way of knowing that Jonah Peretti is co-founder and CEO. 

Chances are you would have no problem putting that message in the trash, or even the spam folder. So, make sure you’re sending from a name and address that your subscribers recognize. 

3. Write compelling subject lines and preheader text

Now, it's time to think about the content of your email. Here, you should begin with your email subject line and preheader text. 

example of BirchBox preheader text

Source: Campaign Monitor

Your email subject line is the first thing your subscribers see in their inbox. That’s why it’s the most crucial part of your email campaign. Nearly half of email recipients will open a message solely on its subject line. 

Graphs on reasons for users opening email

Source: SuperOffice

The preheader text, also referred to as the preview text, comes in at the second-most important piece of content. This is because, like your subject line, it's the first bit of information your readers will see. This is your chance at a good first impression.

All successful campaigns include enticing subject lines and preheader text. The idea is to give your readers a reason to click your message. 

A great example that recently came across our inbox was from the brand Shoe Carnival. 

Subject Line: ⭐A surprise inside⭐

Preheader Text: Save up to $50 + Free Shipping!

With incentives like that, plus a "surprise inside," we were intrigued enough to open the message.  

4. Design your email for readers

The next step is designing your emails for your readers. Some things to keep in mind as you design:

  • Follow email best practices

  • Create copy with easy readability (especially for skimmers)

  • Keep accessibility in mind

Email accessibility means designing your emails for those who suffer from an impairment that affects their ability to consume content. 

Not sure how to design for accessibility? Then write this down:

  • Maintain a logical reading order (that means a pattern that moves left to right and top to bottom)

  • Include contrast between the background and text colors 

  • Include alternative text for every image or video 

  • Feature meaningful link text that tells readers exactly what they'll get by clicking the link

5. Balance your copy and imagery

One increasingly popular design choice among email marketers is the use of single-image emails, also known as image-only emails. 

These are exactly what they sound like: A message made up of one image and no body text. Instead, all the body is included in the image. 

If you can’t picture it yet, think of a saved PDF file. These are documents saved as an image. You can't alter anything once it’s saved and exported. 

While these seem attractive, they need to be avoided. Why? Because they’re more trouble than they’re worth — especially if you aren't including alternative text. Should the image not render correctly for your subscriber, they'll have no way of knowing what content you tried to send. 

Instead, include a careful balance of copy and imagery. Create a meaningful email that piques interest and keeps readers engaged and interacting. 

example of Playstation engaging email

Source: Really Good Emails

6. Utilize simple, yet compelling calls to action (CTAs)

When it comes to creating the perfectly clickable CTA, you want to keep a few things in mind, including:

  • Avoiding hyperlinked text. Instead, create a button.

  • Keeping your CTA short and sweet. An ideal CTA should be no more than four to five words.

  • Using action words. Drive action with "join us" or "learn more."

  • Personalizing. Replace any instances of “your” with “my.” 

7. Don't neglect your unsubscribe option

While you don’t want to encourage subscribers to opt out of your emails, not being able to find the unsubscribe option is one of the top reasons consumers get frustrated.

It’s in your best interest to include a link somewhere, and to make sure it’s noticeable. Most brands choose to include it at the bottom of their emails and hyperlink it so it stands out. 

Walgreens made it super simple to unsubscribe. The link is in an aesthetically pleasing place so it blends in, but is still clear. 

Walgreens example of easy unsubscribe option

Source: Walgreens 

8. Always A/B test beforehand

Finally, once you've added the finishing touches to your email campaign, you need to determine whether it's worth sending. 

How do you do this? Run it through an A/B test. This allows you to test various pieces of your message to see which variation your reader will respond best to. 

Wrap up

Creating successful email campaigns for 2020 and beyond isn't nearly as challenging as you might think. This is especially true if you've been actively practicing email best practices. 

Need a helpful reminder? Keep these eight steps in mind:

  • Segment your list

  • Send from a recognizable "from" name

  • Use compelling email subject lines and preheader text

  • Design for your readers

  • Use a balance of text and imagery

  • Include simple, actionable CTAs

  • Add an unsubscribe option

Test, test, and test again

About the Author

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our

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