Top 10 Tips for Better Email Templates

The success of an email campaign depends on a number of variables, chief amongst them the quality of your list and the attractiveness of the offer. But one other element plays a key role even before you write one word of copy: the design template.

The growing adoption of marketing automation systems is empowering B2B marketers to develop, produce, and execute email campaigns more efficiently, and more effectively, than ever before. However, if the creative foundation for those campaigns is suspect, even the best technology simply results in a faster time to failure.

Well-designed templates for HTML emails, landing pages, thank you pages, fulfillment/confirmation emails, and other creative assets can provide a foundation for long-term email marketing success. Here then are some tips to keep in mind when designing templates for your email campaigns:

1. Keep graphics to a minimum. That doesn’t mean you should eliminate them altogether necessarily (see #2 below), but try to minimize vertical height so the image doesn’t push valuable selling copy down the page.

2. Use of images in headers can provide you a modular design, in which you simply swap out images to give each email a slightly different look – useful in the case of ongoing campaigns (e.g. lead nurturing) or when you want to segment emails by product line or target audience.

3. Use sidebars. Sidebars allow you to showcase items (offer images, speaker bios, etc.) that might be awkward if you attempted to place them in the main body copy. Plus they display more information at a glance (i.e. in the preview pane) without forcing the reader to scroll down the page.

4. Include a placeholder for an offer image – a simple cover image for downloadable content like white papers, a screen shot for videos or demos or free trials, or a speaker photo for online events.

5. Design your headline as HTML, never text as image. You’ll have less control over font display, but as HTML, your headline will always be visible, even with images turned off in Outlook.

6. Allow for the primary call to action to be repeated 3 times at minimum: twice in the body copy, once in the sidebar. At least one instance should be a button.

7. Button copy should reflect the call to action: i.e. “Download Now”, “Register Now”, “View Now”. Never use “Submit”.

8. Include a short line of copy at the top of the email that summarizes your key message and includes the call to action. If received on a mobile device, this is a quick and easy way to ensure that your main message will be the first thing the reader sees.

9. Avoid harsh color contrasts. In particular, light type on a colored background can be very hard to read on screen. Use accent colors to highlight the call to action and to help direct the viewer’s eye around the email.

10. Consider carefully what content is “above the fold” – roughly equivalent to what the typical reader will see in his/her preview pane. Ensure that at least one call to action appears near the top of the email so that the reader can see it (and act immediately) without having to scroll.

Marketo users: Download a free set of professionally-designed email and landing page templates, along with complete instructions for how to download into Marketo, now available on the Spear Website.

One thought on “Top 10 Tips for Better Email Templates

  1. Evodio Walle

    Avoid CSS and JavaScript. Most email clients will not interpret it correctly, or will disable it altogether. For added measure, obtain a spam score (usually offered in some marketing automation and mail distribution systems) to make sure your template doesn’t contain elements that will trigger spam filters.


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