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It’s true: Today’s inboxes are more crowded than ever. But with an eye toward smart design and strategy, marketers from brands big and small can create hugely successful email campaigns and become the heroes of their office. In this guide, we show off 12 of our favorite customer emails from 2017, break down what makes them so good, and introduce you to a few of the talented folks behind them.

Back Yard Burgers

One mouth-watering welcome email

An automated welcome message is an absolute must in the email marketing game these days... but that doesn’t mean you can just mail it in and expect it to work. Add in a delicious surprise like this one to stand out from the crowd and give subscribers a nice, warm-and-fuzzy impression of your brand from the start.

Heal the Bay

Reel them in with a win-back campaign

It’s natural for subscribers to tune you out every now and again, but thankfully, it shouldn’t take a grand gesture to reclaim their love. Instead, simply send them a re-engagement email! This lighthearted copy provides the perfect way for Heal the Bay to clean up their list, improve deliverability, and show subscribers they’re paying attention.

Build in regular touch points for structured and open-ended feedback, and make sure your organization is listening and pivoting your long-term marketing strategy based on this critical user data.

Talia Walsh Associate Director of Marketing

Vanderbilt Athletics

Bold design that’s made for mobile

This email from Vanderbilt Athletics follows the playbook on how to share a bunch of content in a digestible way. Breaking up the design into clearly defined buckets with compelling headlines means fans have easy access to all the info they need to know, plus it makes it easy to scan on a mobile phone (say, at a tailgate or while travelling to an away game).

Create genuine content that your audience wants to see. It’s important to keep the reader engaged in the product and wanting to come back for more.

Brynne Kelly Director of Marketing

Southern Proper

Tease subscribers with a compelling GIF

When you have multiple products to show off, an animated GIF can be a great way to display them all without cluttering up your email design. In this campaign, Southern Proper creates an element of interest with an animated hero image but keeps things focused with plenty of white space and a clear CTA.

Hook your subscribers with cool products, but reel them in with a great story!

Emilie Cisco Ecommerce Growth Manager

GoldieBlox

The power of a little gratitude

This email from GoldieBlox hits all the right notes: sincere appreciation, a personal message from their founder, and a special offer just for their most loyal customers. Best of all? It utilizes video content – one of the most shareable, engaging, and effective content formats currently available to marketers.

Buchi Kombucha

Ask and you shall receive
(the right data)

If you want to reach the right subscribers with the right message, you first need to gather some key details about your audience. One of the best ways to do that? Simply ask them what they want! Most people are willing to part with personal info if they know it will mean receiving content that’s actually relevant to their needs and interests.

Create content that is meaningful, relevant, and speaks to the 'why’ of your brand.

Zane Adams Partner. Marketing and Enterprise Partnerships

Tennessee Titans

Find ways to connect beyond the inbox

Email, social media, and apps are effective marketing tools by their own rights – but when they come together, that power increases tenfold. Maximize audience touch points by using email to promote any other digital channels you might want to use to reach your subscribers, like in this email from the Titans.

Take the time to get to know your audience. Ultimately this will allow you to deliver specialized content that interests each unique user.

Ralph Ockenfels VP of Marketing and Broadcast & Digital Rights

State Fair of Texas

The power of “surprise and delight”

Remember: marketers need not be intimidated by automation. In fact, it’s incredibly easy to automate date-based emails to fire off beyond your initial welcome – for instance, on their birthday or signup anniversary. Continually let subscribers know you’re thinking of them to help build brand loyalty over time.

Make engagement with your brand fun. You’d be surprised: a simple birthday email or just a ‘hi’ to your audience really stands out to consumers.

Jason Hays Creative Director

Philadelphia Zoo

Don’t forget your most
important audience

Far too many marketers ignore their base of members, donors, or fans while chasing down new prospects, but don’t fall victim to that mindset. Current customers are one of the biggest untapped resources in marketing today, especially when the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% (versus 5-20% for new prospects).

Make your customers feel as though they are truly a part of a community – and a valued member at that – and they will be loyal to your brand.

Jeff Paolini Digital Strategist

Consider the Wldflwrs

Let content do the heavy lifting

Balance out promotional emails with campaigns that offer pure value – in this case, a PDF guide to buying an engagement ring. The best email marketing should be 30% sales, 70% customer service, so make sure you’re always finding ways to make your subscribers’ lives easier if you want to build a lasting relationship.

Don't be afraid of trial and error to find out what works best for your audience. When something doesn't work, just add it to your list of what not to do and move forward.

Emily Rupe Graphic Specialist

JOSÉ ANDRÉS THINKFOODGROUP

Get to the point as quickly as possible

You only have 8 seconds to capture your subscribers’ interest before they move on to the next thing. If you’re promoting an event, put the spotlight on the most important details (without getting bogged down in the rest) so recipients can quickly hone in on whether or not they want to learn more.

You never know what is going to encourage a customer to act. Always test and leverage your data to determine key elements that drive results.

Brittany Latney Senior Digital Marketing Manager

Aaptiv

Design for the small screen first

According to Qualcomm, 29% of people say their mobile phone is the first and last thing they look at each day. We’re all addicted to our devices, so it’s important to have a solid mobile strategy if you want to succeed in the inbox. This grid of icons stacks beautifully into a single column on mobile, ensuring every recipient has a great user experience regardless of what device they use to open.

Keep it short, clean, and always have mobile on your mind.

Meela Imperato Senior Manager of Digital Marketing

Sources: Blueshift1 Litmus2 Nielsen3 Marketing Sherpa4 eMarketer5 Vidyard6 The Lenskold Group7 DMA8 DemandMetric9 Salesforce10 WordStream11 Salesforce12 Chadwick Martin Baile13

Top 12 Emails of 2017

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