BY REGINA BRADY
Email Marketing: The Art of Email
Effective email design is important to the success of your program. A consistent template
should resonate with your customers, help them easily move through your message and
provide them with a customized experience. If your program has been in place for some time,
you may want a new look.
Your design template should prominently feature your logo. This reinforces your brand. And
once you have developed a flexible template use it for all your communications. Over time
recipients will be familiar with your format and this should increase response rates.
A two-column format enhances readability and usability. Reading on a computer screen is a
different experience from reading offline. So, a two-column format can provide easy access to
your content. Many marketers use a variation on this format. The featured item or content
for the email may appear in a one-column format as the lead and then the balance of the
email changes to the two-column display.
Graphics add interest, but make sure you optimize all visual elements. It’s important to keep
your file size under 30K, although 15 to 20K is even better.
Make sure your footer has all the necessary notices and functionality. This would include your
unsubscribe link, your postal address to be in compliance with CAN-SPAM, a link to your
One particularly useful element in a footer is to provide recipients with the ability to change or
update their information. I recently decided to change the email address that I use to receive
most of my promotions and emails. What a chore! Less than half of my favorite marketers
and publishers made this easy to accomplish. For the rest I had to guess what to do. With
some I could click on the unsubscribe link and was brought to a form where I could modify my
preferences. And, with many I had to unsubscribe and then re-subscribe.
Now, let’s move beyond the basics. Readers of this magazine come from a variety of direct
marketing disciplines and good email design will vary based upon the mission of your
company. Let’s look at best practices tailored to different marketing purposes.
Retailers and Catalogers
Design your emails so they function as a mini-portal to your web site. Many best-of-breed
marketers mirror the navigation functionality of their site in the header or top of their
messages. The company logo placement is echoed in all emails and merchandise departments
are prominently displayed.
One great benefit of this layout is that it serves to remind the recipient of the breadth of
online offerings. Even if the featured items in the email are not of interest, headers that
incorporate this design feature can spur an immediate click to the web site so the customer
can shop for other items.
You can use either a single or double navigation bar. For example, you might show your
various departments and also include “shop by occasion,” “shop by price” and “shop by
interest”. And, one of my favorite design elements is the inclusion of a “search” box that
allows the customer to immediately find the particular item they are looking for. What could
be better in providing a good experience!
Content Publishers and Business-to-Business
If the purpose of your e-newsletter is to provide features, articles and value-added content the
most critical design feature can be the Table of Contents. This allows the reader to quickly
scan for items of interest. A good Table of Contents allows the reader to click on a headline
and go directly to the article in the newsletter.
Many publishers use a standard listing format but you can also use other organization to the
same end. Your Table of Contents might highlight a “feature,” a “top stories of interest,” and
a “more” graphic. These style elements should be customized to best reflect your content.
This magazine uses a similar approach for the Target Marketing Tipline e-newsletter. A recent
table of contents listing had several articles organized into the following categories: Target
Tips to Test, Target News, Target Practice and Target Calendar.
Publishers who accept ad banners have integrated placement into their overall design. The
ads provide a natural break between sections of the newsletter. These banners can also add
to overall format appeal since they often contain images.
The two-column format can be used effectively to make it easier to read articles because the
width is not full-screen. And a narrow first column can be used to provide links to sections of
your site, to highlight specific events or other content, to include a poll or survey, to promote
subscriptions to other e-newsletters you may offer, and to present ads.
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Don’t overlook the opportunity to include
graphics in a content-heavy e-newsletter. This could be images that illustrate or support the
main point of and article, content separators, and boxes highlighting tips or events or offers.
Take a look at your current design. Is it time for a makeover? If you do decide to re-evaluate
your presentation, make sure to share the new version with people outside your company who
are not familiar with your products or services. This can be the acid test to make sure your
emails are easy to read and use.
Regina Brady is president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, a direct and e-mail
marketing consultancy. She can be reached at (203) 838-8138 or