This event was attended by Louise Penman, these are her notes:

Best practice/ new ideas – design:

  • Hamburger menus (asos); tabbed menus (works in iOS not gmail)
  • ‘Basket in an email’ – ‘bleeding edge’ design by Mark Robbins
  • Most new designs use html5 so not in Outlook/ gmail etc but work on mobile
  • When appropriate to use?
  • Test! – avoid being clever for the sake of it
  • How many manual interactions to achieve goal? Fewer clicks = better
  • Future trends: smart watches; voice email (siri reading)
  • Place content depending on audience – need to nurture, grow engagement, not just push
  • Note opps/threats with clients:
  • Gmail – can block sender w/o unsubscribing (so still on your list but never see your emails)

Best practice/ new ideas – Targeting:

  • eBay – beyond dynamic content. Autotrader –give tips for driving in your weather based on open location. Finish Line – items based on geo-location of open
  • Email automation – behaviour-based. Logic models. Reach via multiple channels – eg target fb ads by email address (unsubscribers; ppl who haven’t engaged for a while)
  • Basics haven’t changed: right person, right message, right time.
  • Strategy (plan of action)
  • Reach more people
  • More often – more you communicate to someone (w/o annoying them!) more you can do with them. Specific to audience and content – helpful content that promotes brand. Opt out rate – won’t change but number will. 0.2% good optout rate. It’s easy to send fewer emails but this will decrease engagement
  • Another suggested approach – use ‘keep in touch’ frequency of once/month for ppl not clicking, but more engagement = more frequency.
  • More effectively (targeted). Better content, design, subject lines.
  • Open rate not necessarily useful metric – what do you want ppl to do?
  • Drive to website – conversions.
  • Need to understand and map customer journey and measure accordingly with smart goals.
  • Example of smart goals – Create popup to collect more emails addresses – site traffic 25000/ month – list growth via website currently x per month – popup to capture 0.75% traffic – extra 87.5 addresses/month.
  • 80/20 strategy – 80% doing what works – 20% trying new/ leftfield things.
  • Focus! Know your priority
  • Segmentation & targeting
  • Example – florist – change headline based on past purchase (roses in subject line if prev bought) = +200% increase in open/CT rates

4 most common segmentation methods:

  • Demographic
  • Relatively simple to implement but HARD to get retrospectively. Need to know what to ask and why:
  • Age, gender, home location
  • Job role, industry, company size
  • Explicit preferences (ask at signup). But can get stale; not updated. Ppl don’t act like they say!
  • Product type – interests/ locations etc. Eg for odeon – genre prefs
  • Communication preferences – type or channel/ frequency
  • Less useful? People don’t know how often they want to hear from you
  • Behaviour
  • Very effective & doesn’t require users to update themselves; easier to get retrospectively
  • Opened; clicked; watched content; downloaded resources etc
  • Re-target ppl who, eg opened but didn’t click, or clicked but didn’t purchase
  • Customer value
  • Total spend
  • Lifecycle objectives
  • Prospect – educate about brand – engage, signup
  • One time purchaser – move to regular engagement – link to user journey
  • Regular purchaser – keep engaged. Spread word – introduce friends
  • Lapsing – re-engage –> personal emails, ask for feedback
  • Lapsed – incentive to come back; other channels; change message

Triggers and automation:

  • Types of emails: Auto-responders; triggered; and automated
  • Example – Zapier – people sign up for free trial, triggers automated emails on days 0 – welcome, 3 – suggestions/ides; 4 – webinar invite; 8 trial half way reminder & suggestions; 12 – push sign-up, trial end
  • Less than half of orgs have implemented automation
  • Automated emails can be 4x as effective as broadcast
  • BUT myth that it saves time & resource – need to factor in time to create, define etc
  • Time is upfront rather than spread
  • Not to replace broadcast email – add on top (helps you communicate more often too!)
  • Some possible triggers: email signup; birthday; order materials; download resources; update details; did X action 6 months/ one year ago; uses tool on website/ watches video; site visit or login after long absence
  • Best triggers for automation = actions that happen a lot and are close to desired outcome
  • Automation steps:
  • Decide on best behavioural events
  • Check can get data needed in useable format
  • Map automation sequences
  • Objective or purpose of each communication
  • Focus on timing, cadence & flow logic – don’t wait too long to follow up
  • Creatives
  • Design + copy for each email
  • Remember to reuse content! Just cos you’ve seen it before doesn’t mean audience have – or that they’ve remembered it if they have seen it.

Layout and design:

  • Eye tracking – generally ppl look in an inverted L –> first 2 lines/ first 2 words
  • Eye guiding ‘toolkit’ – use combination to guide people to see what you want and create visual paths through emails:
  • Size – can be as simple as using a big font!
  • Shape – unusual ones eg starbursts – standouts – arrows to point things out
  • Colour and contrast – make sure what you want to be seen stands out
  • White font on coloured background is hard to read – white background much easier (in testing ppl skip over white text on dark back entirely)
  • Position – top, left
  • Images of ppl – have them looking toward text (eg position on left)and readers will too

Three Cs of layout:

  • Capture – top 20% email – grab attention
  • Convince – ~60- 80%% of email ¬– explain a bit more
  • Click – Close at bottom
  • Always end on a CTA but sprinkle it throughout email too – can use different copy and text links as well as buttons.
  • Use above as simple layout for single issue emails. If you need to promote several things repeat the design stacked or in columns.


  • Need to earn their keep! Emails aren’t a work of art – images need to back up your message, don’t just put them in for the sake of it or because they look nice
  • Tell a story with your image. Examples: macbook shown in envelope – didn’t need to talk about how thin it was. Dell great use of gif to showcase flippable screen. Freeagent nice illustration of before and after desk
  • Videos are difficult to use. Could make a gif out of part of it then click through to full video. Again, don’t focus on media but on objectives of campaign – is this the right, engaging media to meet them and for your audience? If in doubt test! (test anyway!)
  • Pre header text – use this to make sure what shows up in preview is useful & relevant
  • Using preheader text = 30% uplift in open rate vs none
  • Making small changes to copy/ content will only lead to small changes in rates. Split test big changes!
  • Images vs text – testing suggests plainer can be more effective. Why? Too many images looks like marketing rather than communication, can turn people off. Try a mix of graphical and none graphical?
  • Image blocking – less of a concern as more clients let images through. But really important that key points and cta are in copy and readable. Never use an image as the entire email or put important text as image onlyl! (and you need 500+ characters of text to avoid being classed as spam). Make buttons out of html so they are still visible even if images are blocked.
  • Responsive design – to make readable on mobile. Eg change font size; change width; resize images; stack column modules into rows


  • Only purpose of email body is to generate clicks
  • Make easy to scan – use lots of white space, bold, italics for emphasis
  • Duplicate CTAs throughout email
  • Fulfil promise of subject line
  • Links should emphasise value (not ‘read more’)
  • Images only if adding value
  • Content should make sense even if images are disabled
  • Paragraphs in 2 or 3 lines (short!)


  • 4 key questions every email must answer:
  • Who is this from? – read things from people we know/trust (boss; partner etc prioritised!)
  • What’s it about?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Answer these as quickly as possible!

Motivators (wiifm) for reading and acting:

  • Be popular
  • Look good in front of peers
  • Gain knowledge/ satisfy curiosity
  • Pleasure and enjoyment
  • Feel fulfilled and good about oneself
  • From address – including name gives slight uplift. Person + brand.
  • Definitely include or even use just name if person is known. Consider personas as well – gives continuity and testing shows certain names more popular ‘if audience likely to have friend with that name’.
  • Subject lines – if you have a tactic that works and you keep using it… It will stop working! Mix it up! Changes engage people, they get turned off by seeing same things over again. HOWEVER you can cycle tactics – find ~12 things that work well and repeat them
  • What key words work well? Saying something is free if you’d expect it to be anyway has no real effect
  • Different subject lines can have massive effect on CT rates in part because people self-select so they are segmenting before opening.
  • Note on AB testing – need a difference of about 50 at least to be statistically significant – be wary of split testing with lists smaller than 50,000 people, otherwise you’re basing campaigns on one extra person opening an email! Think about timing too – don’t just measure opens/ clicks after 2 hours; leave for at least 48 – longer if you’re measuring conversions
  • Urgency good tactic to mix in to strategy. What is urgency? ‘48 hours left…’ suggests you can ignore it for 47! Use ‘not much time left’ ‘last chance’ etc. Within 24 hours using time works – or put specific date – order before Wednesday!
  • Scarcity drives response too – ‘3 places left’ (and gives social proof of popularity)
  • Inactive audiences are more sensitive to subject line. Really need to avoid sounding spammy. Transparency is good, as is directness – ‘We miss you, [firstname]’ ‘are we still welcome in your inbox? Reply by 30th to let us know’
  • If you need something specific, tell people what you need – ‘please confirm your email address’ gave 61% increase over ‘email confirmation’ – think about it from your audience’s perspective!
  • Use your audience’s language. (don’t make people work to decode your meaning)
  • Ask questions people can’t answer without reading the email

Five evaluation criteria for subject lines:

  • Appeal – emotion; benefit
  • Relevance
  • Curiosity
  • Exclusivity and urgency
  • Clarity

Subject line summary:

  • Job is to get the right ppl to open it and click – focus on right ppl not everyone
  • Consistent to content – don’t trick people. Might open but won’t click!
  • Key benefit words at start
  • Shorter often better but not always – clarity, ability to engage just as important
  • Variation is key
  • Find a dozen styles that work and repeat cyclically
  • Avoid using same terminology – find new words

Calls to Action:

  • Read more/ visit our site are bad CTA – unclear! What’s the benefit? Say what it does
  • E.g. Instead of ‘visit our website’ use ‘click here to see online demo’
  • Social sharing icons – no one clicks on them! Don’t hurt but do they add anything?
  • If you want people to socially share treat it like any other CTA – bring into copy, put in eyeline etc
  • Need more thought to be properly effective

Summary – CTAs:

  • Don’t ask too much
  • Focus on value of clicking as much as the action
  • Include multiple times – above fold, in body, PS

Body copy:

  • Talk like a human!
    Always tendency to write too much – cut it in half. At least. Break up long paragraphs
  • Use bullets
  • Echo customers’ tone and voice.
  • Copywriting tips:
  • Take out ‘will’ – you will benefit from = you benefit from
  • Add because – people need reasons
  • Begin with a verb – find out; discover; prevent
  • Keep it simple, avoid puns