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Effective email marketing design

We’re on a real roll with email-related posts–see our tips here and here from the past two monthly columns–and since good things happen in threes, we thought we’d cap the series with some email tips related to design.

Mobile matters most

As I said in October, your analytics may not tell the whole story when it comes to mobile. You undoubtedly have a significant portion of your audience who, even if they open your email on their desktop, will have done triage on a mobile device.

They may not engage fully with any non-essential email on their mobile device, but they’ll prune anything they can while they’re waiting in line at the pharmacy, the deli, or the doctor’s office.

The key is to not give them any excuse to lop you out of their inbox. You want to survive to the desktop where engagement for an email newsletter is more likely.

That means testing on mobile devices to ensure your email lays out nicely on mobile devices and lays out in a way that makes it clear what value the message contains. As I said in October, relevance is likely to be the deciding factor between survival and deletion.

Stick to a single column

This might seem like it belongs above in the mobile section, but even on desktops, many email programs have so many other panes open that the inbox itself is pretty narrow. Make it easy for folks to scroll through your messages in one direction. And make it easy (or easier, at least) for your coding team to make the emails work as well as possible on all devices and email programs. The more complicated your coding gets, the less consistently it will display properly across all devices.

Design is in the details

The desire to keep your coding simple likely means you’ll want to keep your design simple. That doesn’t mean it has to look like a page from Craigslist. It does mean you should place a premium on great typography and design details that aren’t as intricate as you might have on your website.

Go big or go home

Home as in your website. (Though probably not to your home page.)

That is, you should think of email newsletter as either a digest that includes highlights from that week’s (or month’s) content, or as an opportunity to dive deep into one topic.

If you go deep, you’re giving your audience everything they need right there in their inboxes and you’ll want to think about a call to action that goes beyond the information you’ve presented.

If your approach is to create a digest, you’ll need to stick to executive summaries for each topic, and Read More links back to the full articles on your website. For most marketers, those articles should also have calls to action (CTAs) that go beyond the article’s content, but those CTAs are likely to be different than the CTAs you use in your emails.

(Your decision between digest and deep-dive should be based on the A/B testing you’re doing. You are A/B testing, right?)

Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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