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7 Ways To Improve The Conversion Rate Of Your Funnel

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7 Ways To Improve The Conversion Rate Of Your Funnel

As advertisers, we focus a lot of our energy on ensuring our ad campaigns are performing and converting as best as they possibly can.

But that’s only one part of the equation. 

What happens after the click is just as important (if not more important!)

You can have the most incredible ad campaign set-up, but if the funnel you’re sending traffic to doesn’t convert, it doesn’t matter how great your campaign is – you simply won’t see the results you desire.

And so, in this article, I’m going to share 7 ways you can improve the conversion rate of your funnel, leading to better overall performance and results. 

1. Include the 3 argument types on each page

Whenever someone makes a buying decision, they use two different parts of their brain. 

There’s the emotional part (the limbic brain) and the logical part (the frontal lobe). It’s important to understand this because it plays a big role in how we structure the pages in our funnel.

When humans make a purchasing decision, it’s mainly an emotional reaction. A study by a Harvard School of Business Professor, Gerald Zaltman, concluded that 95% of purchase decisions are made by the limbic system (the emotional part).

We see something, like it and decide we want it. Once we’ve decided we want something, the frontal lobe then helps sway us on whether we actually buy the thing by processing it logically. 

Think about someone buying their dream house. 

They go to view the house and fall in love with it instantly and decide they want to buy it – that’s the limbic brain. It’s only when they get home and start looking at things like the area, electricity bills, neighbourhood and all the other bits that they start thinking about the purchase logically. 

And so, when it comes to our marketing (and our funnel specifically), we need to understand this as it impacts how we should structure the pages.

Regardless of the type of page you’re sending people to (whether it’s a lead gen funnel or e-commerce) you need to be making three types of arguments:

Emotional arguments

Logical arguments

Urgency

And we want to make them in this order too – since that’s the order in which someone makes a purchasing decision. 

Have your emotional arguments at the top of the page, above the fold. What are the emotional reasons someone would purchase your product? It can often be as simple as saving time, stress or money. 

As you move down the page, you can start talking about the logical arguments. These are often features and benefits. What would someone need to know/understand in order to purchase the product or service?

And lastly, for good measure – always include urgency in your messaging to further push those people to take action. There are people out there that simply won’t take action unless you give them a reason to take it now. Some good ways to do this are: Give them a certain timeframe, warn them about limited stock or simply talk about why it’s so important they take action now.

By doing this you’re structuring the pages in a way that flows with how we make purchasing decisions as human beings – setting you up for the best chance of success. 

2. Benefits > Features

There’s a common saying in the copywriting world: “features tell, benefits sell.”

However, when most come to write copy for their product/service, they write about all the features without explaining the benefits. 

Features focus on the product/service itself. Such as what you receive, what it does or how it works. 

Some examples of features are:

  • Storage up to 1TB
  • Access to a free Facebook group
  • Latest waterproof technology

Those things are great, but they don’t tell the end consumer the benefit to them, which makes it less compelling. 

Benefits focus on the outcome of the product/service, telling the customer exactly what the feature will mean for them. Bringing it back to the first point – this is how we start to build emotion into our copy.

By telling people what a feature means to them, they start to visualise themselves using it – which creates the emotional reaction we need.

Luckily for you, I’ve got a super simple way to turn your features into benefits.

The “so that” statement

This is a tactic I use every single time I write copy. 

If you’re like most people and tend to write about the features, simply add the words “so that” to the end of your sentence. This forces you to explain the benefit that’s tied to the feature, making your copy much more hard-hitting.

The formula you can use is: 

If ___ so that you can ___.

Let’s take our examples from above.

  • Storage up to 1TB so that you can save all your files without ever worrying about running out of space.
  • Get access to our free Facebook group so that you can network with like-minded individuals. 
  • The latest waterproof technology so that you can hike out in the rain for longer without getting wet feet.

Review all your copy and ensure every feature is combined with the real benefit. This will make your copy much more emotionally driven and compelling to anyone that’s reading it.

3. Split test all pages

The key to success in any advertising campaign is comprehensive testing. Testing images, copy, creative types and audiences. But the importance of testing doesn’t stop at the advertising campaign – it’s just as important to continuously test the pages in your sales funnel. 

You should test at least 2 variants of every page in your sales funnel. Tests can be big or small, from having completely different designs to changing the colours of a button. It doesn’t matter what you test so much. The most important thing is just that you are testing… because that allows you to learn what works and what doesn’t. 

And like all great marketers do: do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t. 

Things you can test at each stage of the sales funnel

  • Headline/subtitle – this is arguably the most important thing to test because it’s the first thing people see and read when they land on a page. Little changes in a headline can have a huge impact on conversion rates. The headline is where you want your biggest emotional argument on the page.
  • Main image/video – most funnel pages will have imagery or videos on them. This is another key thing to test out. Try different styles of images and videos to see which ones perform better, such as professionally designed images vs iPhone shot photos.
  • Sales copy – try testing different features and benefits. Even testing the order in which you share the features can make a difference. If you’re listing benefits in bullet point format, the first and last bullets are the most important.
  • Call to action – the copy you use on the button can make a huge impact on performance. Try ditching the boring “Learn more” and try something more unique such as “Get Started – See How 97% Lose Weight In Just 30 Days”

Upsells/Cross-sells – test different offers throughout your funnel to see which products/offerings people find more compelling.

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4. Improve average order value with offers

The success of a campaign isn’t always just based on the conversion rate of the campaigns and funnels. Sometimes it can come down to how much money people are spending on your funnel.

You can have a funnel that converts, but if the money being made isn’t providing good levels of profit on top of ad spend, you have a problem. 

We recently worked with an e-commerce store that sold home gifts. We managed to optimise the campaigns so successfully that we were able to get our cost per sale down to less than £5. However, because the average order value of the site was only £15, the ROAS wasn’t sustainable. 

In order for us to make the campaigns successful overall, we had to improve the conversion rate of the site – specifically focussing on increasing the Average Order Value (how much someone spends per transaction, on averageGavin Bel). 

To do this, we added in what is called order bumps and one-time offers.

An order bump is an offer made at the checkout, right before someone hits the pay button. A common order bump might be to “supersize” the order for a reduced rate or to get another product at a low price. These convert extremely well.

A one-time offer is what it says on the tin.

Once someone has made a purchase, another offer appears on the screen inviting them to purchase a related product at a discounted price.

Adding both of these increased the AOV of our client’s site by 20%, vastly improving the campaign’s overall effectiveness. Even if AOV isn’t a problem for you, look at adding these two tactics to improve it.

By not doing it, you’re essentially leaving money on the table!

5. Improve the quality of traffic on the page

If your funnel isn’t converting, it might simply be because you’re attracting the wrong people in the first place.

You can have the best funnel and offer in the world, but if the people visiting it aren’t relevant, it’ll never convert. This is why it’s so important to ensure you’re performing lots of campaign tests – testing which audiences work and which ones don’t. 

With all of the advertising platforms, it’s very easy to see which audiences are bringing in the best returns. And like I mentioned earlier, simply do more of what’s working and turn off what’s not.

There is one fool-proof way of ensuring you’re only getting the highest quality people to your sales funnel: content creation.

Creating content is one of the most effective ways to attract an audience of people who definitely have an interest in what you offer and it’s something we advise every single client to do – either in written or video format. 

The biggest objection we face is “but I don’t know what to write about?!”

And so if that’s you, I’ve got you covered. 

The simplest way to start creating effective content is to simply answer the questions, objections and queries your customers have. 

Here’s how to approach it:

  1. Create a list of all the questions you’re asked as a business (get your team involved in this)
  2. Turn those questions into eye-catching headlines
  3. Sit down in front of a camera and record the answers (or write them up)

This is so effective for two reasons:

  1. Only people who are genuinely interested in what you do will consume the content
  2. When you promote the content through advertising, it’s super cheap because you’re not selling anything, you’re providing value. 

Pretty quickly,  you start to build a large audience of people who have an interest in your offering.

Let’s say you’re a physiotherapist. You could film a 60s video titled “5 reasons you have back pain”. You could then set up a basic ad campaign targeting people in your local area (that fit your basic customer avatar).

Who’s going to watch that video? 

People in the local area who have back pain!

Which, for a physiotherapist, is the perfect audience. What’s better is, these people are qualified AND educated. They know who the physiotherapist is already (building trust) and making them much more likely to take action and convert.

And to supercharge this strategy, you could run retargeting ads to the people who watched the video, pushing them to your sales funnel.

6. Increase or decrease form friction

When it comes to lead generation funnels, there’s a fine line between lead quantity and lead quality.

It’s not hard to generate lots of leads at a low cost, but it is difficult to generate lots of QUALIFIED leads at a low cost. 

It’s a constant balancing act, ensuring that you have both quality and quantity. 

The best way to strike the balance is to simply increase or decrease the fields you have in the form. 

This increases or decreases the friction that someone has to go through in order to convert. The more questions/fields, the higher the friction. The fewer fields, the lower the friction. 

If you’re struggling with lead quality, try and add some more fields to the form, specifically around the main reason your quality is low. For example, if you find the people you speak to aren’t motivated, add a “how motivated are you?” question. 

If you’re not getting enough leads, try reducing the number of questions in the form and monitor what impact that has. 

Whenever we’re starting a new campaign, we will always start with fewer fields to make sure we generate as many leads as possible. And then if we feel like we need to improve the quality of the leads, we’ll start slowly adding more fields to the form.

7. Include social proof throughout

If there’s one thing that stops people from converting in a funnel, it’s a lack of trust. 

A lack of trust in the people behind the funnel, the offer itself or the promise the funnel is making. 

So, how do you build trust with people? How do you show them that your offer is legitimate and will have an impact on their lives?

Show the results that other people have achieved. 

Everyone in the world has problems. And they have desired results. 

Your job as a marketer is to show people how your product/service is a bridge from their problems to their desired results.

And the most effective way to do that is by showing the stories of others who have successfully achieved that with your product/service.

Social proof can take the form of: case studies, testimonials and even quotes from previous customers and people who have already converted through the funnel. The more you can share, the better. 

Even better – if you can have your social proof cover the main objections you know people have when converting, your social proof will do some of the selling for you!

Wrapping up…

Improving the funnel conversion rate can have a drastic effect on the performance of your overall campaigns and business. If you’re able to get your funnel and ad campaigns to a point where they are profitable, you can scale your spend quickly. 

Start implementing some of these strategies and I guarantee that you’ll see improvements in your overall results.

Let me know – have you tried any of these? Which was the most effective for you?


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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

Up until now, any “promotion” your customers have done has been passive. But in the promotion stage, your customers actively spread the word about your brands, products, and services. They tell stories, make recommendations, and share your offers because they truly believe in them.

Active promotion may be an affiliate or commission relationship—or just a free offer for sending some new customers your way. The point is, it’s a win-win for both of you.

One thing worth mentioning before we dive in; Happy customers don’t promote, SUCCESSFUL customers do. 

Our biggest question in the Promote stage is: How are you going to turn your BEST customers into your marketing partners? 

If you don’t have a referral program, an affiliate program, or a valued reseller program … who is willing to drive your message to the organization you need to build out these programs? This is word of mouth marketing, and it is very important so start thinking about how you want to build this. 

Look to your most successful customers, they’re going to be the people who actively promote for you. But then, let’s think about our customers who already have our prospects but are offering a different product or service. 

At DigitalMarketer we are a training and certification company, we are not a services based company. What that means is we don’t compete with agencies or consultants. This also means that there is an opportunity for us to work with agencies and consultants. 

When we realized this we decided to launch our Certified Partner Program, which you can learn more about at DigitalMarketer.Com/Partner. This program lets us work with the largest segments of our customer base, who have customers that we want but they’re providing a solution that we’re not providing. 

When we train our customers, they are able to use our company frameworks to work with their clients. If their clients want to learn to do their marketing themselves? We’re the first education company they see.

So who is that for you? Remember, it’s not the happy clients that refer, it’s the successful clients. If you want to create more promoters, make sure that you’re doing everything that you can as a marketer to ensure that you’re marketing great products so you can see great results. 

How can our example companies accomplish this?

For Hazel & Hems, they can add an ambassador program to grow their instagram following and increase credibility with viral posts. 

Ambassadors can earn affiliate commissions, additional boutique reward points, and get the chance to build a greater following by leveraging the Hazel & Hems brand.

For Cyrus & Clark, they can offer discounted rates to their existing clients if those clients are willing to refer them to their strategic partners. 

For construction companies, this could be a home builder recommending Cyrus & Clark services to the landscapers, real estate developers, and interior designers that they work with to serve their customers.



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11 Email Marketing Design Tips to Drive More Revenue

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11 Email Marketing Design Tips to Drive More Revenue

When you think about what factors and processes are needed to get the most out of your email marketing campaigns, you might consider these first: more sophisticated personalization, leveraging first-party data more effectively, or more precise targeting and timing. 

While those are all important, there’s another more fundamental aspect of email marketing that’s just as critical to success: email design. 

With more than 333 billion emails sent and received every day, and adults logging more screen time than ever before, it’s never been more crucial to have well-designed emails that can quickly cut through the overflowing inbox clutter, capture recipients’ attention and compel them to take the desired action. 

Whether you’re looking to supercharge your email newsletter or inject new life into your lifecycle email campaign strategy, here are 11 email design tips and examples that can drive site traffic, purchase intent, conversions and revenue.

“All aspects of email design – including accessibility, readability, layout and responsiveness – have a huge impact on open rates and conversions. In reality, email marketing design is the gatekeeper to campaign success.”

Samantha McGrady, Tinuiti Strategist, Lifecycle Marketing

 

Essential Elements of an Email

 
You might not consider all these quote-unquote “design” components, but they all play a central role in how an email is perceived and consumed. 

  • Subject line
  • Pre-header text
  • Header/headline
  • Logo
  • Color scheme
  • Images
  • Body copy
  • CTA(s)
  • Signature and footer
  • Unsubscribe button

 

The Eleven Keys to Effective Email Design

 
All elements of an email come together to create an overall design. Whether that design is cohesive or advances the objectives of the email depends on how well the individual elements are executed. Here are 11 tips for making email design work for you.
 

1. Responsive Designs Pay Off

 
Mobile-friendly email design is a must. While the exact percentage of emails opened on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets vary by source, it’s estimated that over half of all emails are accessed on mobile. That means ensuring an email displays correctly and can be read easily across devices, screens and resolutions are essential. If an email displays poorly, it’s likely to be deleted in under three seconds

Utilizing a responsive email template will automatically adjust your email to fit the screen it’s being viewed on, whether that’s a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Most drag-and-drop email builders feature built-in responsive design templates, but you’ll also want to keep mobile formatting in mind when considering image size and the length of copy blocks within the email.  
 

2. Keep Accessibility Top-of-Mind

 
One key aspect of email design that goes hand-in-hand with responsiveness is accessibility. Accessibility refers to an email’s ability to be received and understood by persons with disabilities or using assistive devices. So just as responsive design ensures that emails can be accessed across device formats, good accessibility practices preserve an email’s usability regardless of the recipient’s circumstances.

An accessible email will have a logical flow and high readability in terms of descriptive subject lines, links and headers, and larger and well-spaced typefaces. It will also use high color contrast and utilize alt-text liberally. Perhaps most importantly, an accessible email will not lean too heavily on visuals or hide information in images, as adaptive tools like screen readers can struggle to convert them.  

Keeping accessibility top-of-mind is important for reaching the maximum percentage of your subscribers or target audiences and contributes to good overall email marketing usability.
 

3. Customize Your Pre-Header Text

 
Pre-header text used to be an afterthought, and many marketers defaulted to the first few words of email body copy. Now, because of the way emails are displayed in mobile and desktop inboxes, pre-headers are widely recognized as the second-most important text element after the subject line. Pre-header text indicates to the reader what the email is about; it’s essentially a visible meta-description of the email. 

As such, the pre-header text should complement the subject line and reinforce the critical call-to-action within the email. It should, like the subject line, entice the recipient to open the email and keep reading while also reading while offering an informative preview of the email itself. And it needs to accomplish all of this concisely in an abbreviated space. 

Crafting a compelling subject and pre-header pair can feel like writing poetry, but getting it right can significantly impact open rates and conversions. 
 

4. Use an Effective Layout

 
The layout is the most recognizable aspect of email design and likely what most people think of first when considering the design elements of an email. Layout determines the flow of your content and the order in which your readers consume information. The most basic principles of email layout are maintaining organization and logical consistency, capturing attention through aesthetics, and manipulating the recipient’s eye where you want it to go.

  • Organization: In essence, this means establishing a clear visual hierarchy. Try to display the most important information and convey essential details early on (higher) in the email.
  • Aesthetics: incorporate white space to give your content breathing room and lend a more elevated look. Clutter and “walls” of text are difficult to read and lead to email abandonment. Instead, utilize negative space to accentuate key points and keep the recipient reading. 
  • Guiding the eye: Use directional cues to draw attention to the most essential part of your email. Effective layout templates leverage natural reading and eye movement patterns to focus the recipient on desired email elements. 

 
Many email templates use the following common layout patterns, each of which guides the reader’s attention in specific ways:

  • Z-pattern layouts place a zig-zag of content within the reader’s typical sight line, starting at the upper left corner. 
  • F-pattern layouts emphasize the left side of the email, inviting readers to return their eyes to that side for most information. 
  • Inverted pyramid layouts, perhaps the most familiar layout, load critical information at the top and create a visual funnel toward a CTA at the bottom.

 
These principles are laid out in the following two wireframe examples of common email layouts. Notice how both lean on the reading path of the human eye while maintaining a recognizable hierarchy and putting vital information up top:

two examples of email design template wireframes

Remember to rotate your design layout to avoid using the same framework repeatedly – otherwise, your emails will be perceived as stale by your subscribers.

 

5. Choose Colors Strategically

 
Color scheme is an essential element in any design, and emails are no exception. The right combination of colors – or the strategic limitation of a color palette – can elicit emotion, direct attention to important content, reinforce brand image or distinguish a single email from a series or campaign. 

There is plenty of room for experimentation with color in email marketing. Still, good general rules of thumb are to avoid clashing colors or using too wide a variety of colors, use bright colors sparingly, and stay consistent with color usage across branded marketing assets. And as with accessibility and responsiveness, it’s also important to consider how an email is being viewed; for example, if being read on a mobile device in “dark” mode, pure black text can appear illegible. 

It’s important to remember that color isn’t limited to graphical elements or iconography in the email; the text color used and dominant color in embedded images or photographs should also be considered. These colors should work in harmony to support your content, brand and the purpose of the email.
 

6. Use Clean and Clear Text

 
An organized layout and strategic use of color will go a long way toward making an email readable and effective. Ultimately, though, the information you want to communicate stems from the email copy itself. One hard and fast rule for text in an email is to be clear and concise

Remember the 333 billion emails sent and received last year? Your target audience received some of those, and they almost certainly didn’t read every word of every email they received. So many of those emails were probably never opened, thanks to poor subject lines.

Emails should draw the eye with an attractive design but be easy to skim. Get to the point quickly, or risk ending up in the trash.

 

example of clear and concise email marketing design from Hyperikon

 

When in doubt, follow these guidelines:

  • Maintain a good text-to-image ratio
  • Keep the headline to two lines or less
  • Keep text on a simple background so that it’s easy to read
  • Bold or highlight keywords or phrases

 

“Reduce the cognitive load. We really want to create our emails to be clean and concise.”

Sammi Nutsongtat, Klaviyo Design Specialist

Portrait of Sammi Nutsongtat
 

7. Treat Email as a Brand Opportunity

 
Of all the potential touchpoints a recipient might have with your brand, the email you just sent them is unlikely to be their first. That makes it very important to keep email design consistent with your overall brand design. 

Incorporating strong branding – not just a logo or a tagline, but brand-specific colors, imagery, typography and content tone – helps email recipients identify the message’s source and provides a more cohesive experience from the inbox to the landing page. That can reduce your bounce rate as users interact with your brand across different channels.

A good branding evaluation question to ask: If I removed our logo from these email designs, would our subscribers identify our company?

 

example of good branding in email design from Bryan Anthonys and Diff

 

Your brand’s identity tells your story, so it’s important to be conscious of your email branding. Branding should remain consistent across all channels, whether email-to-email or email-to-website. 
 

8. Your Typography Style Matters

 
Using a consistent typeface in email design can reinforce your brand image and identity, though, like color, there is some opportunity for experimentation. The most important thing to remember about typography is that it should be easy to read at a skimming pace and shouldn’t detract or add confusion to the message.

Emails can also contain more than one kind of typeface, for example, one font that looks better at a larger size for headers and another that looks cleaner for entire sentences of body copy. That said, too many different fonts in an email can make it hard to read. A limit of three fonts per email is a good common-sense rule. Again, a drag-and-drop email builder usually has several typeface options and suggestions for specific email elements or sections. 
 

9. Personalize Elements of Your Emails

 
Personalization is one of the dominant themes across the marketing and advertising industries right now, as technological advancements and the rise in importance of zero- and first-party customer data have made true one-to-one, brand-to-customer engagement possible. Email marketing, which was perhaps the first marketing vector to make widespread use of basic personalization (think mail merge and auto-filled salutation lines), can also incorporate more sophisticated personalization techniques – and should. 

The goal of personalization should be to make an email meaningful and valuable to the recipient. That means incorporating bespoke, custom content blocks based on customer data, including insights like purchase history or position in the customer lifecycle or buying journey. Narrow segmentation can help target specific customers, and personal touches like incorporating profile information or preferences can help humanize your brand and create stronger relationships.

In short, you should seize every opportunity to include more personalized elements in your emails.
 

10. Always Use a CTA

 
This might seem like email marketing 101, but no list of email marketing optimization tips would be complete without addressing calls to action or CTAs. Usually rendered graphically as a button, a good CTA should concisely describe the exact action the email reader can expect upon clicking and be placed at a point in the layout where the next step is logically implied. 

Effective CTAs typically appear at the bottom of a section in a contrasting color to the email’s overall color scheme. Multiple CTAs can be used – some research suggests that having more than one CTA increases click-through rates – but only where the natural progression of the content suggests they appear. As with many of the design tips presented here, CTAs should be used in a cohesive, consistent manner. 
 

11. Avoid Abrupt Design Changes

 
Consistency isn’t just important within an email; it’s also important across campaigns. Design shock, or suddenly presenting drastically different creative to an existing audience like your subscriber base, can impact the success of an individual email or an entire campaign.

When updating your email designs, consider rolling out the changes in an iterative fashion or testing the new creative out on a small group of subscribers before rolling it out to your entire audience.

 

example of avoiding email design shock from Ritual

 

As the example above illustrates, gradually transitioning to a new layout while keeping many other design elements consistent helps minimize the effect of design shock. Keep this in mind as you embark on new email campaigns or make universal changes to your email marketing approach.
 

How to Use A/B Testing to Improve Your Email Design

 
 You can put as much thought and preparation into email design as possible, and the email might still fall short of performance expectations. The only way to ensure a successful campaign and maximize conversions is to engage in A/B testing by sending slightly different versions of an email to distinct segments of your audience. It’s a straightforward process that many email platforms support, but sadly, nearly  42.9% of marketers don’t know what to test.

When assessing an email design’s impact on an audience, there are various things you can test to help drive higher clicks, conversions, or overall performance. These include:

  • Call to action button styling
  • Overall layout
  • Number of products featured
  • Lifestyle vs. product imagery
  • Cheeky vs. simple copy
  • Animation vs. static

 

Once you know what to test for and have identified what you’re trying to prove, run a few test emails to sample groups, isolating one variable at a time over a series of weeks. Evaluate which works best for reaching, resonating with, and converting the most recipients, and you’ll gradually improve your conversion rates.
 

Resources & Tools to Improve Your Email Design Game

 
There is no shortage of email design tools available to help you get the most out of your email marketing strategy. Some are full-service email-building platforms, while others are helpful stock image sites or graphics libraries. Here are a few of our favorites:
 

Klaviyo 

 
Klayvio is a well-established, full-service email marketing platform optimized for ecommerce and featuring sophisticated personalization tools. Klaviyo’s robust library of customizable, responsive templates, support for A/B testing, and dynamic content capabilities can help users of all levels put email design optimization tips into action.
 

Tinuiti Performance Creative 

 
Need a more comprehensive and data-driven approach to email and lifecycle marketing? Our own Performance Creative offering is based on moments that matter and features integration with multiple channels and touchpoints throughout the customer journey.
 

Adobe Stock

 
It’s perhaps unsurprising that one of the biggest names in design software also has one of the most robust stock image catalogs available. Adobe Stock allows users to search for specific image types or browse by category, ensuring you’ll find the perfect photos or images for your email campaign.
 

Figma

 
Any design process – including email design – can be collaborative. Figma provides a platform to facilitate that collaboration that includes several email-specific features, including a library of visual assets teams can build themselves.
 

Final Thoughts

 
Design is a central aspect of email marketing performance, and getting it right can be the difference between a positive ROI campaign and a forgettable brand encounter. You can probably think of several marketing emails in your inbox that slapped a basic template together with uninspiring (and uninspired!) copy and called it a day. Or maybe not, because you deleted them without getting past the subject line. 

Your email campaigns can help solidify customer relationships and prospects through accessible designs that embrace solid layout principles, on-brand typography and images, a concise and catchy subject and pre-header, logical CTAs and compelling copy.  You’ll ultimately generate more opens, leads, conversions and revenue for your company, too.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Greg Swan in August 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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