The “ding” from my phone that tells me I’ve received an email is the 21st century’s version of Pavlov’s bell. Yet 80% of the time, once I see the subject line of a given email, I navigate away without even opening the message. And I’d venture to bet you often do the same.

But as a brand, your list of email addresses is marketing gold. You need a way to get your products, events, and ideas in front of your customers, and email marketing is still the best way to do it. I have a standing weekly appointment with myself to sift through emails, and, even if I ultimately delete most of the messages, they still warrant a few seconds of my attention. And in those few seconds, you have the opportunity to capture the recipient’s attention.


Email design by; check out the contest here

So how can you do it? There are seven hallmarks of email marketing that will get the job done and positively impact your bottom line.

Catchy Subject Line The best subject line should be clear, concise and informative. I’m unlikely to click on an email if I can’t tell what it’s about, so make sure not to get so poetic that you mask the message’s intent. I like to run headlines and email subjects through this headline analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute to get a sense of whether I’m on the right track. If you have a reason to use one, numbered lists are great, too. They pique curiosity and are eminently clickable.

Recognizable Brand You undoubtedly have a logo and probably a color scheme for your business. You may even have a set of fonts that you use across your website or blog. Make sure those are reflected in your email. It’s great to open an email and feel like I am on the company’s website, especially if it is a brand I trust or have a special relationship with. This is extremely easy to do with templates if you use an email service like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Think about the little things; you can customize all the way down to what color an unclicked link is! Check out the Email Design category here on 99designs for some inspiration. Here are a few examples that really nail it:

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Winning design by foxxx; check out the contest here

Anyone who’s familiar with baseball at all would recognize the color scheme and font in this winning design for an email from the Red Sox Foundation.


Design by The Thinking Hats; check out the contest here

This email design does a great job of reflecting the look and feel of the blog that’s hosting the newsletter. It picks up on the same colors and even has a similar layout to the recipes on the website. Don’t worry if you’re not a designer! Especially if you have an established brand identity, you can pull a few simple elements into your emails that will really pack a punch.

Reputable Sender People are warier than ever of phishing schemes and spam email. If your email comes from an automated account, try to make the address something human-readable, even if it’s an @no-reply address. Better yet, send it from a name people will recognize.

Personalized Greeting Is your company a “hey” sort of place, or are you more of a “hi?” Maybe you sell cowboy boots, and a “howdy” would resonate. Make sure you use a service that will grab the recipient’s name and fill it in for you. My vet’s office has this down. They have my cat’s name on file, and most emails I get from them auto-fill her name into the subject. Recently I opened one with the subject “A Special Club Just for Kira!” I wasn’t in the market for anything from them, but how could I resist investigating? A little personalization can go a long way.

Snappy Writing Get to the point. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Use bulleted lists where you can. Highlight important phrases by bolding or underlining them. You can run your messages through the Hemingway App for help making your writing clear. Specifically, give some thought to the beginning of the message, which will likely show up as a snippet in the recipient’s email client. You want that to be as eye-catching as the subject.

Call to Action What are you hoping to achieve with your email? Make sure you communicate that to your readers (and don’t bother to email if you’re not sure yourself). Do you want them to share a Facebook post? Purchase a ticket to an event? Call their congressman? Whatever it is, say it several times, and in several different ways throughout your email. You can say it in a paragraph of text and also provide a brightly colored button below that leads to the same action. Make the boldest ask at the end of the message, with simple directions to complete the task.


Design by Marta Ch.; check out the contest here

EMC places clear Calls to Action throughout their email, making it clear to the consumer what they are to click on.

Just-in-time Delivery Maybe you’re a night owl and you’ve drafted an email at 1:30AM. But do you think that’s when your email will get the most traction? Give a little bit of thought to when you click send. The hours of 8-10am and 3-4pm are canonically top engagement times for email, but that may be different for your organization. Many email services will help analyze the best time to send a given email. Go ahead and trust it, unless you have specific analytics that lead you to think otherwise.

It sounds like a lot to think about, but once you have a solid template for emails, the other steps will fall into place. The most important thing is just to start. Send that first email, and then iterate on the steps you take for the next one. Focus on these seven areas and you’ll see your engagement levels rise. Good luck!

In need of an effective email template? Launch an email design contest today!