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How Your Audience Could Shift in Web 3 [Executive Insights + Podcast Episode]

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If you work in tech, media, or even marketing, you’ve likely heard a lot of buzz around Web 3.

And, when filtering through all the noise about future versions of the internet, you might find it hard to differentiate all of the predictions from myths and reality. And, more importantly, if you’re likely asking questions like, “How could Web 3 impact my business?”, “Will I fall behind if I don’t get in on Web 3 now?”, and “Is Web 3 just built on hype?”

“When you’re listening to the news, or you’re on Twitter, and people are talking about NFTs and Web 3, it seems really abstract and futuristic and stupid. It’s really easy to naysay all of it. I get that,” says Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot CMO. “A lot of it is going to be crap. And a lot of it’s going to fall away.”

But, Bodnar adds, “In the last version of the internet, your whole job was to make a product or value proposition 10 times better than it was before. In the next generation, the internet, it’s making something somebody thought was impossible possible.”

“And if you can’t pull that magic trick out as a business over the next 10, 20, or 30 years, you’re not going to exist. Because that is the game that’s going to change. Don’t think about the technology, think about the changing customer experience and that move from impossible to possible,” Bodnar says.

In this post, we’ll dive into the questions businesses are starting to ask about Web 3 and how it could impact the changing landscape.

To hear more about Web 3 from our very own CMO Kipp Bodnar, and our SVP of Marketing, Kieran Flanagan, you can also check out this episode of their podcast, Marketing Against the Grain (plus other episodes and interviews coming soon). 

Editor’s Note: This post goes more into detail on the impacts of Web 3. For a foundational post explaining what Web 3 is, check out our first piece on Web 3 here.

A Brief History of the Internet

When explaining the possible impacts of Web 3, it’s helpful to go back and look at how the previous evolutions of the internet impacted consumers and businesses. The graph below highlights just a few high-level characteristics of Web1, Web2, and Web 3 without getting overly technical.

Web 1 (1983 to Early 2000s)

Web 2 (Early 2000s to Today)

Web 3 (The Next Internet Evolution)

Low-Speed

Enabled basic messaging, email, search queries, and PC-based web surfing.

High-Speed

Offers advanced messaging/communication, video calling, streaming, social media, and early AR/VR.

Highest Speed

Decentralized on the blockchain. Could Enable extended reality, user-built platforms, coin/token incentives, and other experiences.

When the internet launched, it was essentially decentralized and many companies that focused on internet services had a slight leg up as many tech firms began to invest in it and learn what it could do. Today, the internet has become drastically centralized with companies like Google and Meta owning many of the platforms we visit each day.

Because consumers want growing control over their experience and are more hyper-connected to technology than ever, some describe Web 3 as “giving the internet back to the people”, as blockchain-built web experiences are often decentralized.

The image below shows how Web 3 infrastructure could compare to that of our current internet. While business owners and marketers that aren’t goaled around Web 3 investments don’t necessarily need to know all the technical lingo in the images below, this graphic essentially shows a more streamlined, centralized path from user to internet access while Web 3 will host a more complex, decentralized path that leverages blockchain technology.

image comparing web 2 and web 3 framework

Source: Coinbase

While we won’t go too deep into the technology behind Web 3, you can find some great resources on the technical side of things with online courses – like this one from Coursera or this content from Reforge.

At this point, it’s still a bit too early to know how many of the predictions we’re seeing will come to light. And, if they do become a reality, they’ll likely require a learning curve and a long adoption lifecycle. Because of this, the move from Web 2 to Web 3 might be much slower and more gradual than some would expect.

But, even though we likely won’t see the entire internet change in one day, week, or year, we’ll still watch some Web 3 concepts, companies, and technology grow in the coming years — which could enable us to adopt it at a quicker pace.

Ultimately, you don’t need to ditch your current business plan to focus on major Web 3 investments just yet. But, there are concepts, consumer behaviors, and tech you might want to keep on your radar so your company can adapt if and when a wide-scale evolution happens.

Web 3 Concepts & Audience Shifts You Could See Soon

Full Web 3 implementation is far off, and we know a lot of SMB marketers don’t have any interest, technical bandwidth, or budget to dive into Web 3 complexities yet. And, that’s okay.

But, if you put overwhelming technical lingo and wild predictions aside, the way consumers have optimistically buzzed-about Web 3’s potential shows just how much they’re ready to see the internet, businesses, and society evolve. And, even if your business plans to stay in the Web 2 world for the foreseeable future, you should still make note of how these shifts and growing web technology could impact your business.

Here are a few business shifts we’ll see soon, in part because of Web 3 development.

1. Consumers will want more say in the online products and platforms they use.

Right now, the platforms we use daily, like Google and Facebook are centralized. When you log on to a platform like Facebook, you’re exchanging web data with its Meta servers.

This means that Meta and its biggest stakeholders ultimately determine how Facebook works, user rules, how it uses your data, and how the UX changes over time. And, if Meta were to pull the plug on Facebook servers, it would disable usage for everyone.

Because of this, just a few key tech companies and big-name investment firms have a solid hold over many of the things we do and see online. And, in certain areas – as with data usage, social media feeds, search engines, or web experience – many users wish they had more say.

But, what if users were treated more like shareholders and could give input on how a platform worked, used their data, or built experiences for them? In a decentralized Web 3 world, some believe this could be possible.

For example, some platforms, like metaverses will allow you to trade crypto, NFTs, non-crypto currency, or other items of value for a plot of land (or a stake in the platform). While large brands and investment firms would still likely own a majority stake in their platforms and serve as decision-makers for terms of use, users could at least personalize their experiences a bit more, or have more control over how the platform works for them.

While not all businesses will lean into decentralized platforms, those who do could put some key developments of their online products into the hands of loyal users or customers.

Giving users the ability to play a role in the evolution of platforms they use not only allows them to feel linked to a brand through a sense of ownership and trust, but it also allows you as a business owner to benefit from the ROI of user experience improvements the users themselves are making.

How Businesses Can Respond

Even if you aren’t ready for Web 3 investments, or never plan to invest in it at all, you can still take steps to make your audiences or customers feel like they have an impact on your business’s evolution. Here are a few smaller-scale ideas.

  • Introducing Product Developers to Customers: Oftentimes, sales and service are the only ones who talk to customers. But, product developers can learn a lot from meeting with a few loyal customers, listening to feedback, and learning about their pain points. In turn, the customer feels like their actionable and constructive feedback has been heard.
  • Customer Feedback Research: If your product development team prefers to look at more quantitative data, consider running a survey about your product and returning that feedback to marketing, sales, service, and product teams.
  • Report on Your Progress: After customers or prospects give you feedback, create a marketing plan highlighting the improvements you’ve made around your product after receiving feedback. This will show customers and prospects that you are acting on their needs and that they have a voice when they’d like to request changing something.
  • Customizable Features: Customization might not make your customers feel like stakeholders, but it does have similar benefits. When users can customize how online products look, feel, and work around their preferences and goals, they might feel more attachment to your product than one that allows no customization. Ask yourself, “Are there ways I can better help my customers make their own great experience with my offerings?”

Internet Users Will be Motivated by Incentives

While incentivization has been around for quite some time, blockchain technology will make it easier for brands to track and incentivize usership and community engagement in Web 3.

Imagine going on a website and being paid to spend time there, or logging into an app and receiving points that you can trade for something of value later – like cryptocurrency or even NFTs. These are the types of tactics that brands could potentially leverage to gain solid growth.

“When you think about the difference between the last generation, the internet and the next generation the internet – understand that it is a massive change in incentives and the ability to incentivize,” says Bodnar.

Kieran Flanagan, HubSpot SVP of Marketing also explains, “In Web 2, for [gaining] leads and things like that, we had a cost per acquisition and freemium. You make the product free, so your cost per acquisition goes down.”

“In Web 3, I think your incentives drastically change that, again, because you have a flywheel effect through your incentives. I don’t know how it changes. … But I do think how you think about acquiring customers and the cost to doing that is greatly changed when you’re using these different incentives or tokens to build your business,” Flanagan adds.

Meanwhile, Bodnar added that incentivization will become more of an economic proposition in Web 3.

“While the cost of the old way of doing [acquisitions] is getting so high that you can take more risks to do the new way (because the old way is becoming untenable). And then, can I take that same amount of money, incentivize my community to drive referrals, and be advocates to spread word of mouth to drive the brand? And can I factor in customer acquisition cost on top of that?” Bodnar says.  

“We’re not going to give up customer acquisition cost,” Bodnar explains. “What we’re saying is, community acquisition cost is going to be the precursor. We’re going to figure out the economics of acquiring people through communities, and that customer acquisition cost is going to be basically an output metric of how effective our community strategy is.”

One example of a startup that’s already using digital incentivization (and is currently used by Flanagan) is STEPN, an app that rewards you in NFTs as you make running accomplishments with the app turned on.

“STEPN is a Web 3 lifestyle app with Social-Fi and Game-Fi elements. Users equipped with NFT Sneakers – walk, jog or run outdoors to earn GST, which can be used to level up and mint new Sneakers,” notes the website, adding that players can “choose to lease or sell their NFT Sneakers on the in-app Marketplace; users’ GST earnings are stored in the in-app Wallet, which has a built-in Swap function.”

While people are earning NFTs by running with the app on, STEPN benefits from data collection agreed upon when first using the app, transaction fees from buying and selling NFT products, and fees consumers pay to lease NFT sneakers.

To learn more about STEPN, check out this demo which STEPN features on its official website.

Ultimately, the business model is simple: Users pay to buy a product to join the app, they are treated to coinage or NFTs for spending time on the app, and the business makes money from the trades, transactions, and purchases made in the app once the user loyalty model has brought them in.

Embracing Incentivization Ahead of Web 3

Want to leverage incentivization without building a Web 3 experience? There are plenty of ways to do this.

One example of a Web2 incentivization is our HubFans platform. With the platform, HubSpot customers and partners can assist HubSpot in some way by completing “Challenges” for rewards and digital badges.

HubFans challenges that help HubSpot, could include a mix of small and larger asks, like promoting our brand, filling our feedback surveys, or meeting with teams looking to chat with customers. As you complete more challenges, you move into higher tiers of HubFans status and can start to access rewards like event invitations, networking sessions, and potentially an invite to join the HubFans council.

Hubfans page highlights benefits of hubfans tiers

While HubFans doesn’t involve Web 3, it is a great example of a digital incentive-based opportunity that can both help a brand gain insights from its partners and customers on various initiatives, build a strong fan-based community, and – most importantly – reward great customers and partners for their loyalty to the brand.

Crypto, NFT, and Blockchain Tech Will Gain More Interest

While you shouldn’t just change your whole business model or payment features to accommodate crypto, the growing interest in this currency is worth keeping on your radar if your business appeals to audiences that have invested in digital coinage.

As interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain-based transactions grows, many brands – including B2B companies have embraced crypto-based payment features on their websites or platforms for quite some time – and not just for NFT purchases. Among them are Overstock.com, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. Additionally, payment platforms – such as PayPal – have adapted to accept crypto-based payments.

If you think it makes sense for your brand to start accepting cryptocurrency pay, it couldn’t hurt to start looking at credible companies that offer website plugins for this, as well as platforms that can help you manage and monitor your company’s cryptocurrency. You’ll also need to read up on any laws and regulations your company or state might have about crypto usage and taxation for businesses.

If you live in the United States, you can find a list of state-based legislation for the United States here. However, you should also keep in mind that regulations might vary when doing transactions with customers in countries outside of the U.S.

Consumers Will Crave Experiences, Not Just Content

Over the past five years or so, experiential marketing and product experiences have gained steam. And when the COVID-19 pandemic kept any of us on lockdown, millions turned to remote experiential content with VR and AR platforms.

In the marketing and sales realm, brands like Walmart and BestBuy are already identifying ways that they can sell products through VR stores (complete with sales reps who are also logged in to a VR metaverse.

Meanwhile, companies like Mercedes already leverage AR with virtual assistant platforms. Through platforms like these, customers can scan an element of their vehicle or product and have its functionality explained to them. They can also ask questions about any problems or faults in its operation. Combined with an AI chatbot, the AR element of the assistant makes it much more user-friendly.

mercedes app allows you to scan parts of your car and learn about it.

Source: PTC

With the connectivity, speed, and advancements of Web 3, interest, and engagement in virtual experiential content could only grow.

How to Prepare for a More Experiential Internet

While most businesses can’t affordably build VR or AR experiences or even physical experiential events just yet, there might be more accessible opportunities to advertise, build communities, talk to your customers, or even offer services in a more experiential environment that arise for you as technology develops.

For example, brands can already work with businesses like Snap, tech agencies, or software companies to have AR/VR experiences created for them.

To learn more about experiential or VR marketing specifically, check out this post and this post, respectively.

Customers Could Yearn For Community Belonging

With Web 1, we still focused on building communities through word of mouth within the limits of the internet. In Web 2, we discovered the impact of community building on major social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, Discord, and Twitter.

Now, many community managers and company leaders are just waiting with bated breath to see how they’ll be able to invest in community building in Web 3.

“The convergence of brand and community is going to be one of the biggest trends in marketing over the next decade,” says Bodnar.

“The reason communities are becoming more important is because going through intermediaries to reach people directly like Google and Facebook is getting way more expensive,” Bodnar explains.

Additionally, with Web 3’s blockchain-based incentivization opportunities, “you can now properly incentivize your community members to share in the success of your business with you in a way that you couldn’t before – through the use of tokens, NFTs, and a whole host of things.”

Building Communities (Even in Web 2)

While you don’t necessarily have to be a Web 3 expert, coder, or developer to win over audiences in the new era, building out an active and effective web community could be a key priority for your brand in the coming years.

If you have a base following and even a few channels now, you can already get started in using tactics like these to build an engaged online community and network that you could carry over into the Web 3 era.

Here are a few quick ways to start developing a sense of community.

  • Meet your targets where they are: Are your audiences, customers, or targets spending time on one social media channel or platform over another? Focus on growing your community and building engagement there first.
  • Create great content: “The core object of most communities is content. It’s some type of story, some type of exchange of ideas. If you’re going to build a remarkable brand through community, you first have to have remarkable content and remarkable stories.  In your community,” says Bodnar.  
  • Don’t be afraid of long-term bets: Communities don’t just appear overnight and take time and energy to build out. “I think these bets are long-term. They’re not for the next six months. They’re for the next 12, 24, 36 months,” Bodnar advises.

Want to learn more about community marketing or building a community that can boost business? Check out this guide.

When to Start Thinking About Web 3

Many tech lovers will often tell you, “the Web 3 era is coming, whether we’re ready or not.”

And while a new iteration of the internet is coming, evolutions take years or even decades before a new era is clear.

Like any new technology, this rollout will be fast for businesses that love to embrace the latest trends, but will happen over a longer period for others.

Do you have incredibly tech-savvy customers that are interested in crypto and blockchain tech? Or, do your offerings already include user-built platforms, token incentivization, blockchain services, metaverse offerings, tech security, or something that’s strongly associated with Web 3? if not, you don’t necessarily need to transform your whole business plan or take other big bets on future predictions.

But, if so, you can check out publications like Trends.co to learn more about how to leverage these technologies to boost your audience’s experience.

In any era, the best thing you can do is think about your customer or target buyer and their experience and identify what you need to do to meet them where they are.

Ultimately, when you’re responding to your customer and creating experiences for them that competitors can’t – you’ll still be ahead of the curve.

To learn more about all the latest emerging trends and how they’ll impact marketing as well as the bigger business, check out Marketing Against the Grain, HubSpot’s newest podcast hosted by Kipp Bodnar and Kieran Flanagan.

Want to learn even more about how your business or team can embrace Web 3. or even get business ideas related to emerging trends like these? Subscribe to Trends.co, a weekly trends update for business professionals with all the info you need to know about leveraging trends in today’s landscape. 

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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!


Get MarTech! Daily. Free. In your inbox.



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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