Email campaigns can, will and should look vastly different between companies, between purposes and between audiences. So how do you decide what makes a good email?

There’s more to an email than just… the email. But first, we’ll look at the email itself.

The Building Blocks

Every email should have all three of the below:

  • Personalization and Imagery

It’s all about being relevant. If you’re constantly sending generic newsletters with one-size-fits-all messages, you might get a bite here or there if your subscribers’ needs happen to line up exactly with what you sent.

But, if you’re sending your customers targeted campaigns centred on their interests, and addressed directly to them, you’re going to see a much higher engagement rate. Your customer wants to feel that they’re more than just an email address on a spreadsheet, so get personal!

Subscribers also don’t want to read an email that simply gives them a wall of text. Visuals help your recipients quickly understand what the point of the email is.

  • Responsive Design

Effective email marketing campaigns are designed for all devices on which subscribers can read their emails – desktop, tablet, and smartphone. Email campaigns that are designed for mobile devices are especially important — a quality known as “responsive design.” In fact, 67% of emails today are read on either a smartphone or tablet. If you’re not designing for mobile, you might as well not design at all.

  • An Appropriate Call-to-Action

Above all, exceptional marketing emails must contain a meaningful call-to-action (CTA). After all, if brands are taking up subscribers’ time — and inbox space — with another email, every message must have a point to it. Your subscribers get loads of emails every day – why should they care about yours? Give them something to do with what you’ve sent.


What About Design?

What works and what doesn’t is going to vary wildly across industries and audiences. Personally, what’s more important to me than design is what the newsletter is going to say about the sender.

There was a study done on users’ reading behaviour, and the average time that a user gave a newsletter after opening it was a scant 51 seconds. Do you think that’s enough time for a subscriber to even read a few paragraphs, let alone absorb all of your content? Of course not! This is where your newsletter design comes in.

You might underestimate it, but newsletter design is a vital aspect of email communications. Are you using your images to reinforce your message in a visual medium, or are you just using them as pretty decorations?

Designs must be

  • relevant
  • consistent
  • meaningful

Relevant: To the audience, to the subject matter, to the message, to you as a company.

Consistent: across branding, website, social media, keep the brand recognisable

Meaningful: what does it say and are you representing yourself in the best possible light?

What About Copy?

Personality goes a long way to connecting with an audience. If you’re on a first name basis with a subscriber, they should be on a first name basis with you. Be a human on the other end of the email, not a faceless corporation.

However, you don’t want to be like your one uncle that you always avoid at family gatherings because he waffles on and on about whatever comes to mind. Nah, your subscribers ain’t got time for that. Keep it short and to the point, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it cold.

Know your audience, know who you are talking to and know what you can (and can’t) say to them. Balance that with your brand’s personality and you’ll have email newsletters that your subscribers can’t wait to read.

There’s more than that in a good email, it’s also about:

Regular sending

Communication and trust are fostered with reliability. Sticking to a schedule so subscribers know what to expect is paramount. If you are an irregular sender and only communicate once every couple of months, your subscribers are going to forget about you. Not only will this mean your marketing is less effective, but it also means you might get flagged as spam. Put aside time to communicate regularly and be reliable, it gives a better impression.


Brands need to be trusted before subscribers will even sign up. But, once they’re on the list, don’t think you can forget about them. Queries after an email campaign must be responded to with haste. After all, you started the conversation with the customer, so you need to be quick to respond. The inbox that receives the replies must be monitored – never send an email from a no-reply email address.

Brand consistency

We’ve already mentioned design should remain consistent across channels, as email marketing is one of several channels that work in harmony together. But this extends to how the brand communicates as well. Say something on twitter that contradicts your last email campaign? You dun goofed. Keep your tone, your message and your brand consistent, otherwise you risk one channel becoming more popular than others and subscribers leaving your email list in droves.

Rules and Laws

Email marketing has rules – and we are a stickler for rules. If we didn’t have them, our sending reputation would tank and without our sending reputation, we don’t exist as a company. The GDPR, POPIA, ECTA and CAN-SPAM act all cover various aspects of email marketing (with some overlap) and we are compliant with all of them. This includes: only emailing opt-in lists, including the opt-out in every campaign, adding company details to the footer and so on.

Considering everything so far, what makes a good email?

The email connects visual design with a good simple message.

The content serves the customer more than the company.

There is consistency across branding, website and app experience. (The website and email look, feel and sound the same)

The campaign utilizes best-in-class technology (Brands should be pushing the envelope and trying new things in the inbox. That’s what is interesting to us and what we want to share with our audience).

It’s enjoyable because it surprises and delights (Take the extra step. Even a boring transactional email can be fun to receive).

The email is likely to perform well (Based on what we know about email marketing).

It balances live text and imagery (All image emails are no no’s).

It is accessible across devices and screens (Looks good on everything. and can be used by everyone).

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