Do your emails hit the mark or land in the trash? We break down the anatomy of every good marketing email

Did you know that in 2017, the world sent an average of 269 billion emails per day? That number might be more than you imagined, but despite all that activity, you might not be surprised to hear that the average open rate for marketing emails is less than 25%.

So what’s a marketer to do? What does it really take to craft an outstanding marketing email? To help, we’ve broken down the anatomy of every successful marketing email into 11 simple components — including those recipients can see and those they can’t see. And if you can check the boxes for all of these components, you’ll find yourself with a thriving email marketing program.

7 Tips to Improve What Email Recipients See

First, let’s take a look at the front end of your emails, or what it is your email recipients actually see when your emails land in their inbox. To get this piece of the puzzle right, make sure to:

  1. Obsess over your subject line: Your email subject line might only be 40-50 characters, but it sets the tone for the rest of your email. In fact, the subject line can really make or break your efforts, because if it fails to get people’s attention, nothing else matters. To create a compelling subject line, consider creating a sense of urgency, sparking curiosity and injecting the recipient into the message. Most importantly, remember to keep it simple. For more tips, check out our ideas for the best subject lines to get your emails opened.
  2. Give a sneak peek with pithy preheader text: Preheader text is the preview message that shows up alongside the subject line in the email inbox, and much like the subject line, it carries a lot of weight (according to Litmus, 24% of people look at the preview text when deciding whether to open an email). To make the most of this space, you should use the preheader text to support your subject line in a way that continues to draw in recipients. For example, consider building on your subject line to further preview what people can expect if they open the email, but be sure not to give away the whole farm.
  3. Keep your body copy short and action-oriented: Next we have the meat of the email — the body copy. This space is your opportunity to connect with recipients and, in most cases, compel them to take further action (e.g. read a piece of content, sign up for an event or webinar, set up a meeting, etc.). When developing your body copy, remember to keep things short and action-oriented. Additionally, personalizing the message (either with information about the recipient or by tailoring the content to their past engagements) can go a long way to further connect with your target audience.
  4. Always include a call-to-action: What is the point of your email? The answer to that question should be immediately clear, as every email should feature a CTA that compels recipients to click through to something else, whether it’s a piece of content to read or a landing page promoting an upcoming event. Remember, the goal of a marketing email is to begin a series of engagements with your audience, it should not be the end point itself.
  5. Pay close attention to your email design: A plain text email might work in some cases, but more often than not, you need a well-designed email to ensure you keep people’s attention once they open and get them to continue engaging. When it comes to designing your emails, make sure you keep things simple and on-brand, use web-safe fonts, take advantage of white space and ensure your CTA stands out. You should also optimize for people who read emails through the “preview pane” by putting your most important information, including your CTA, in the top left corner of the email. You can learn more about our best practices for effective email design here.
  6. Approach unsubscribes thoughtfully: By law, marketing emails must have an unsubscribe link (and regardless, having one creates a better customer experience), so including one is a must. That said, you should be thoughtful about how you approach unsubscribes. Instead of offering a blanket unsubscribe option, consider creating an email preference center that allows recipients to unsubscribe from all emails or only certain emails or even choose the cadence at which they want to receive emails. This type of selective opt-out can help lower your unsubscribe rate and provide valuable data on your target audience’s email preferences. Whatever you do, make sure you’re up to date on all of the spam laws.
  7. Think responsive: A 2017 study found that 55% of emails were opened on mobile devices, and the trend toward mobile shows no signs of slowing down. With that in mind, you need to be prepared for people to open your emails on devices of all kinds and sizes, and that makes responsive design a must. There’s nothing worse than designing a beautiful email that’s proven to be effective on full-size screens only to find half of it cut off on mobile devices.

4 Tips to Improve What Email Recipients Don’t See

Now, let’s take a look at what goes on behind the scenes, because there’s a lot that goes into email marketing that your recipients don’t see. And while those behind the scenes activities may not be immediately visible to everyone, they still have a significant impact on the end result of your email marketing efforts. With that in mind, it’s important to:

  1. Keep your database clean: Much like the email subject line, the cleanliness of your email database can make or break your email marketing efforts. That’s because if you’re sending emails to out-of-date or uninterested contacts, your emails are likely to bounce or end up in the trash. Worst of all, it can cause your unsubscribe rate to spike. To avoid these problems and ensure you’re hitting the inboxes of people who are most likely to be interested, be sure to scrub your database on a regular basis.
  2. Regularly segment your lists: Next comes list segmentation, as you certainly don’t want to send everything to everyone. The hallmark of a strong email marketing program is personalization, and that extends beyond simply adding the recipient’s name in the email. You also want to personalize the content of the email based on buyer persona, areas where certain leads have demonstrated interest, content they’ve engaged with previously, events they’ve attended, buyer’s journey stage and the list goes on. To do so, you need to segment your lists to hit a targeted group of people. And this segmentation can go a long way — according to Email on Acid, 28% of marketers that segment their lists see a lower unsubscribe rate and 24% see better email deliverability.
  3. Run A/B tests: You should always look for opportunities to optimize your emails, and the best way to do so is with A/B testing. Proper A/B testing can provide a definitive, data-backed answer to questions like: Which subject line performs better? What’s the best way to format a CTA button? And where is the best place for the CTA button? In fact, we’ve seen A/B testing help increase email open rates by as much as 53%. You can learn how to master A/B testing here.
  4. Closely monitor email analytics: Finally comes the analytics. As with any marketing effort, it’s essential to closely monitor your email analytics so you know how your emails are performing. A dip in performance might indicate that you need to do a database cleanup, review your segmentation efforts or improve different components of your emails themselves through A/B testing. To understand how your emails are performing, we recommend looking at four metrics in particular: Bounce rate, engagement rates (including opens and click-throughs), unsubscribe rates and inbox placement rates.

Set Up Every Marketing Email You Send for Success

If you’re like most B2B marketers, then email is the bread and butter of your engagement, but there’s always room for improvement. So before you hit send on your next email campaign, make sure you’ve checked off the 11 components of every good marketing email.