[HOW TO] The Anatomy of an Effective EMAIL

Written By Danielle Fauteaux

Marketers, myself included, are really good at giving business owners a list of things to do to improve their marketing performance, grow their business, and increase sales.

Then you make the time to get started, sit down at your computer, and get paralyzed because you don’t know HOW to make that engaging video, write that killer blog post, or craft an email that will stand out. So allow me to share my brain with you and give you true ways to get started based on what I’ve seen work best during my time in the trenches.

I’m an advocate of launching, analyzing, optimizing, and continuing that process through learning what works and what doesn’t. It’s doesn’t have to be perfect to hit “publish” as long as it provides value; you can (and should) go back and see what performed best and how to make it better in iterations.

So that’s why I want to share these tips with you in a series of articles. I’m going to start by breaking down the anatomy of different types of effective emails so you have a starting point to launch, analyze, and optimize from with your own email marketing strategy!

But first, I wouldn’t be doing you a favor if I’m just telling you things to do without telling you WHY. The WHY drives the method, and since the method may change over time, it’s important to stay focused on the WHY, because usually that is steady.

Why Email Marketing?

The first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971 – five decades ago – and by 1976 Queen Elizabeth II had sent an email. If the Queen of England could use it, marketers were sold. It didn’t take long for marketers to realize this new medium could be an effective tool in their arsenal and by 1978 the first eBlast, an email send to a list of multiple people at once, was sent and generated $13 million dollars in sales from those 400 recipients. (More on the history of emails.)

Why did it work? I suggest for several reasons:

  1. It was novel, new, and surprising.
  2. It was convenient for the user.
  3. It gave the buyer the power to choose without the pressure of a sales person.

After decades of email marketing, many business have opted to devote their marketing resources on other methods because the space has become pretty crowded. While this may be true, email marketing has proven itself year over over to be an effective lead nurturing tool that keeps businesses top of mind and increases lead to sales close rates as well as re-sale rates. Here’s an example of an email nurturing campaign that yielded two home sales from 46 leads in one month’s time. (View Case Study) Email marketing is still critical because at the end of the day it is the only audience that you actually own. All other platforms allow you to rent their audience, but they calls the shots. Facebook determines who sees your posts and Google determines whose content is most visible. YOU determine who in your email list sees what content.

How to Craft an Effective Email

Alright – enough jabbering. Let’s get to work. I’m going to walk you through three types of emails and why they work.

  1. Company Newsletter
  2. Content Spotlight
  3. Follow Up Email

Formatting an Effective Company Newsletter

Whether it be sent quarterly, monthly, or on some other cadence of time, most businesses opt to send a company newsletter to keep their audience up to date on industry, company, and product news. This is not the most effective kind of email in my experience, but it is a traditional use of email marketing and can be useful especially for partner communication or even an internal employee monthly newsletter.

Using your logo at the top and then a mobile friendly two column, one column alternating format has worked well. Keep the contents between 2-4 sections max, covering 2-4 pieces of news or content from your business like a new blog, employee spotlight or other “marketing moments.”

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We have found these to be most effective when the focus is on imagery with a little bit of text, and of course the coveted CTA (call-to-action) button – shown in orange.

Color blocking is something I recommend to help user experience but at this time I have no quantifiable results proving or disproving that method. It’s just a suggestion.

There should always be a next step for your readers to take in each section, so be sure to link to a relevant “next step” using CTAs linked to your website or wherever your content is located.

Your footer usually includes the option to unsubscribe and links to your social media profiles, website, and phone number, but you always have the option to mix it up and try something new. (But legally the unsubscribe link MUST be in the email somewhere).

Formatting an Effective Content Spotlight

New blog posts, updated blog posts, your latest podcast or video, a project spotlight or case study and beyond…..for these types of content email works best when the content, and the content alone is in the spotlight. It’s conducive to higher click rates because there’s only one option for the reader – to click the link or not to click the link. Giving one choice means there’s less friction in the decision making process and decreases the response to take the path of least resistance by clicking no option at all.

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It’s not as visually appealing to just have text and and hyperlink and users like to be drawn in by imagery. I recommend starting your email with a full width image to draw the reader in. Then, keep the message short and sweet with 50-100 words, or about 2-3 sentences, introducing the content you’re sharing. Then comes the most important piece – the CTA button which links to the content. If it’s written content, we have tested variations of wording and found that the simplest, “Read More” works the best. And hey – that’s one less thing you for you try and be creative about. Include your link via the CTA, but you should also link the image(s).

Formatting an Effective Automated Marketing/Sales Follow Up Email

Sometimes automated follow up emails are coined “lead nurturing” emails. I would argue that all kinds of emails are technically supposed to be nurturing leads, so for the sake of semantics let’s consider these to be follow up emails. It’s important to follow up on content downloads and form submissions but make your life easier by automating it if you can.

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Even though it’s automated you can strive to make it look like you just wrote it and hit send. To do this, make it a simple text email and include the information you would normally include in a typical email like your signature. I often use hyperlinked text to the content being downloaded or any next step as the CTA in follow up emails because it looks more like an original email. I would also recommend including a small head shot in your signature to start building the trust gap.

There’s lots of other articles written about subject line tips and tricks to improve open rate as well as what good email open rates and click through rates are by industry, so I’ll direct you to those (for now.)

Danielle Fauteaux

Hi! I’m Danielle. I’m passionate about helping creatives recognize their value and place in this world, passionate about helping leaders regain control over their responsibilities, passionate about encouraging others to live more meaningful lives; and passionate about doing more with less. I guide creative firms through the Momentum Framework to achieve their revenue and profit goals while falling back in love with the mission they originally set out with.