The 8 essential components of a successful email

What makes an email successful? Do you think there’s one thing you’re missing, or a formula you need to follow?

To help answer your questions, we need to go back to the basics and review the crucial components of email. We know this can feel tedious, but it’s the perfect way to pinpoint the essentials (and spot the things you may be missing). 

Let’s get into the important elements of an email and what it takes to write an effective message.

What do you need to start sending successful emails?

Before we go much further, you should know: An email’s success doesn’t depend on one thing. 

But, of course, you’ll want to make sure to include the essentials. Here’s behind-the-scenes preparation every email marketer should do:

  • Use a reliable email service provider: Even if you’re a lone wolf, you’ll benefit from high-quality tools and features. The right email service provider should offer email marketing and bulk sending functionalities. Remember to check for user-friendliness and a comfortable price point, too.

  • Send marketing emails from a verified domain: Reputable email service providers should know how to authenticate a sending domain. Once done, your subscribers’ email servers will think of your messages as safe—which makes your emails less likely to go straight to spam.

  • Set triggers for automated marketing emails: Create and support customer journeys through your emails. Triggered emails, particularly the transactional or personalized kind, are the most useful for subscribers.

It pays to prioritize automating certain campaigns. The welcome email is a great example of a typically high-performing triggered message. Automated campaigns already enjoy 52% higher click rates—and welcome emails have 50% higher open rates. 

What are the components of successful emails?

Let’s explore best practices and go over how every part of an email relies on, and plays off of, each other. 

1. A “from” name that inspires trust and recognition

Taking the time to cultivate a good “from” name helps increase email deliverability and is in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act

Something to complement the advice above: Include a functioning reply-to email in your header and your company’s physical address in the footer. 

When done right, all of this should make the email feel professional and personable. Some brands use their company name, while some add the name of a company founder or employee—like John Smith at Brand A. 

Trello email example

Source: Really Good Emails

The message above was sent by Taco from Trello. Taco was Trello co-founder Joel Spolsky’s dog. Although the Siberian Husky passed away in 2017, he lives on as Trello’s beloved cartoon mascot. 

Taco is an integral part of the company’s branding. The care put into creating this character shows subscribers the hardworking people behind Trello’s email campaigns.

2. A powerful subject line

If the “from” name is the face of your email, think of the strategic subject line as a foot propping open a door. 

Go through your inbox. Observe how you choose which emails to open and which to ignore—you’re likely basing these decisions on “from” labels and email titles.

Subject lines are what entice subscribers to read your message. If they’re boring, there’s a good chance your email will remain unread—even if you’re offering a great deal inside.

The Uber email below is a great example: “Enjoy 20% off, Smiles Davis, just for you.”

The Uber email below is a great example: “Enjoy 20% off, Smiles Davis, just for you.”

Source: Really Good Emails

In this subject line, we see a special offer and the subscriber’s name. Personalized subject lines—specifically those including names—can improve email open rates by more than 25%.

3. An information-filled preheader

Preheader text—sometimes referred to as a “Johnson Box”—follows your subject line in email inbox views. When used correctly, it should contain a brief summary of what’s inside your email.

Think of the email preheader as the subject line’s sidekick. This component of email is sometimes overlooked but very useful for maintaining healthy open rates.

Think of the email preheader as the subject line’s sidekick.

Source: Pinterest

A preheader keeps subscribers reading, which is what you want. Capture attention using a subject line, then reel in your subscribers with relevant details in the introductory text of your email.

Follow typical character counts—about 100 characters or less—when you write your preheaders. Like email titles, they should be short and sweet.

4. Engaging content in brilliant email copy

Did you know that the average email is only scanned for 51 seconds?

The usual rules of writing apply: Fact-check, spell check, and grammar check everything. But brevity is desirable. Don’t include more than what’s necessary—and don’t stray from your main point.

This Wistia email relies on a consistent theme and imagery to highlight the simplicity of the copy. 

Wistia email example

Source: Really Good Emails

Relevant content also depends on your target audience. You should consider segmenting your email list for added personalization.

5. Points of visual interest

When people open emails, they often don’t expect to read much. Instead, they scan text and focus on email images.

Imagery can include a profile photo, product images, custom artwork, and more. Follow email width best practices to avoid a cluttered look and to reduce unnecessary load times. It also makes sense to add hyperlinks and alt text in case a subscriber has disabled image loading.

The Casper email below features a clever custom image. It reaffirms the occasion—the anniversary of the company’s launch—and reminds subscribers of the brand’s main product: Mattresses.

Casper email example

Source: Really Good Emails

Formatting messages for mobile helps with emails attractiveness. A great email service provider will offer a drag-and-drop editor to accomplish this optimization quickly through responsive templates (and other mobile-ready solutions).

In modern marketing, mobile-friendliness is normal. Did you know about 60% of email campaigns reach people on their smart devices first? If your email doesn’t display correctly within seconds, your subscriber will probably delete it. The holdup may even cause people to unsubscribe completely.

6. A solid call-to-action

Every marketing email needs a call-to-action (CTA). It’s the heart of your message, and it encourages people to subscribe, purchase, enter a raffle, answer a survey, download a lead magnet, and more.

Using a clickable button is one of the most celebrated ways of inserting a CTA into an email—it’s more effective than using simple hyperlinks. CTA buttons can bring a click-through rate increase of over 25%. 

Peloton email example

Source: Really Good Emails

In the above email, Peloton keeps their CTA compact and classy. The text on the CTA mirrors the first few words of the email headline, heightening its impact.

7. Social links, buttons, or icons

Many of the email examples above display social buttons in their footers. This is a great way to build social follower stats. 

Also, make it easy to share parts of your email. This strategy can augment a referral program, or simply encourage multi-channel marketing.

For example, this Shuka Design Bureau email has a “Share it on Facebook” hyperlink.

For example, this Shuka Design Bureau email has a “Share it on Facebook” hyperlink.

Source: Really Good Emails

This tactic may improve your click-through rate by over 150%. 

8. A required unsubscribe link

An obvious unsubscribe option at the end of your email is a requirement. People shouldn’t find it difficult to leave your email list.

Along with a way to unsubscribe, it’s good practice to include a link to a preference center. This helps your subscribers customize their email experience, and helps you collect customer data.

Blue Apron unsubscribe example

Source: Really Good Emails

Blue Apron combines unsubscribe and preference management options in one collective hyperlink.

Wrap up 

To send successful emails, you’ll need to depend on a good email service provider that takes care of domain verifications. The provider you choose should also offer segmentation and automation features to complement standard bulk sending and email marketing tools.

Here are components of email messages that perform well:

  • A “from” name that inspires trust and recognition

  • A powerful subject line

  • An information-filled preheader

  • Engaging content in brilliant email copy

  • Points of visual interest

  • A solid call-to-action

  • Social links, buttons, or icons

  • A required unsubscribe link

Take particular note of the tips and best practices for each part of an email. Put these elements together and start executing successful campaigns today. 

How effective are your marketing emails—really? Run them through this preflight checklist and make your campaigns great.

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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