Ultimate Guide To Email Marketing For Designers

Email is widely considered the best route for ROI across most businesses. You get the chance to reach an audience directly with updates, sales, product info and corporate announcements. People choose to sign up which leads to a list of trusted contacts via email.

This subject is incredibly detailed and there are many websites dedicated to email marketing. But as a beginner you just need a place to start.

I want to cover a broad intro to email marketing by introducing all the crucial terms, ideas, tools, and skills you’ll want to hone to find success. This doesn’t happen overnight but you can see results quickly if you have something valuable to offer.

Check out the tips in this post and you’ll be well on your way to delivering quality email campaigns that work.

email newsletter laptop

Why Email Marketing?

Many people question why email marketing is such a big deal There are a number of great reasons, but ultimately they boil down to targeted views on content that you deliver to an interested audience.

Emails are powerful because everyone has an email address. And if you offer coupons, deals, sales, and news announcements, it’s easier for people to passively consume that content via email than to actively search online.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Email is ubiquitous and easy to use
  • Desktop, mobile, and even cloud-based email is everywhere
  • Email lists are yours and you have them forever
  • People choose to signup, so it’s likely that your subscribers want your emails

The true value comes in terms of brand awareness and marketing funnels. You can drive people from your mailing list to buy a product, signup for something, or anything that adds real value to the people on your list.

One thing I should mention is that every email list requires a postal address from the list owner. This is required by law and punishable by large fines if you don’t oblige.

If you don’t have a separate office address or a P.O. box then you’d need to use your personal address. If you don’t want to do that, then unfortunately you won’t get far with email marketing. This is something very few people tell you about email marketing so I want to clarify it right off the bat.

Now with that said there is a lot of value to earn from email marketing if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Here are some related posts to get you reading about the real value of email marketing:

Organizing A Strategy

You should always have a strategy when creating a new list. Whether your newsletter is purely informational or meant to earn money, or maybe a mix of both, be confident with your strategy.

There’s a fine line for email marketing between spam and valuable information. If a blog sends nonstop offers to readers with no other info, it’s likely people will unsubscribe. But an eCommerce site may have success with constant deals, offers, and coupons.

Know your audience and plan a strategy ahead of time.

I also like this comment from an email marketing post on Reddit.

The art is in trying to funnel people to your objective no matter what that objective is – signing up for a webinar, purchasing a product etc.

Defined objectives should always be considered before starting email lists. Most professional marketers create multiple email lists for different websites with different objectives. This is a wise idea if you plan to enter multiple markets, or if you have different goals with different lists.

Also look online for content strategy tips before launching a campaign. For example, when designing your subject lines you’ll want to place the key points at the beginning. This draws attention and guides visitors closer to your objective(s).

I even found a post about improving subject lines and there’s a lot more of this stuff online.

Email marketing is a very big industry with so many different styles, techniques, and goals. The best place to start is with one list, one strategy, and a mindset of growth.

Capture Readers

The first step is always building an email list. Without subscribers you have no reason to perform email campaigns.

So you’ll want to sign up with a platform like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Aweber, or anything else from the countless email services available online.

They’ll set you up with HTML code to create signup forms on your website.

mailchimp billboard photo marketing

The best strategy to increase early signups is to offer something for free. Maybe a small freebie pack, or a chapter of a new ebook.

If you don’t have anything to offer, then just outline exactly what subscribers get by adding their email to your list. Give visitors a reason to hand your their contact information.

The signup capture form is a hot topic among marketers looking to increase conversions. You’ll want to read and test many different ideas to see what works best. This includes design, location, copywriting, and value offers.

proko newsletter signup

Proko offers a sample pack of model photos for artists who need photo reference. The pack is completely free once you sign up for the newsletter.

This is naturally a huge incentive to give your email address. Target things that your audience would want or need. Then offer small snippets for free signup, and try selling the rest in your email list.

You really want to incentivize your newsletter signup to draw as many interested readers into your list.

The subject of capturing leads is so large that it could have its own guide. If you get lost along the way just research in Google or post your question to an email community like /r/emailmarketing.

Also check out these related articles for further guidance:

Content & Design

Once you have subscribers you’ll want to send them some emails. However the design of your newsletter plays a big role in how people consume your content.

One nice rule for beginners is to keep email layouts consistent. Obviously change the content, but keep the design similar each time. This gives readers a familiar tone to recognize your brand with each email.

It’s also a good idea to keep images in your design near relevant content. This gives readers a visual cue to connect the content with photos or icons. But images can sometimes be disabled on email readers, so don’t rely on them too much.

If you’re looking for design ideas I highly recommend this gallery of newsletter designs.

lingo app screenshot

Max width of an email should be 600px or 640px, preferably no larger. This fits best for all email readers and keeps content organized. It may seem like a step back compared to HTML5/CSS3 specs. But email never really took steps forward so email design is more about reliability than cutting edge tech.

A big point to note with an email layout is designing with a purpose. Approach email design much like web design: you create a website with a specific purpose or purposes. Emails should be designed the same way to convey information and hopefully encourage visitors to perform some action(visit a blog post, signup for a site, buy something, etc).

Design emails with simple columns and basic content. There’s no need to get too fancy unless you’re a pro at email design.

Here are some more links that discuss properties of great email layouts.

Promote With Class

It’s crucial to organize your promotions in an orderly way. Don’t just send direct pitches without any semblance of design, branding, or credulity.

It’s vital that you actually offer real value with your promotions. These could be sprinkled into weekly newsletters, or they could come as individual e-mails on their own. Truthfully volume and placement don’t matter all that much, so long as you stay consistent.

avocode email newsletter

Your readers should recognize when they’re getting pitches and when to expect them. You know you’ve done a good job when most readers don’t even notice promotions because they either blend so well, or they’re so targeted that readers actually want to check out the products.

But always provide real value in line with your audience. Don’t make your newsletters all about promotion because it’ll become obvious quickly.

According to this post it’s a good rule to split 90% of content as informational with the other 10% as promotional. You don’t need to calculate word count percentages, but just consider this ratio as you design newsletters.

Email Tools & Resources

There are dozens of custom email marketing tools online, and likely thousands of blogs talking about email marketing. It’s tough to know where to start but I think this list is a nice compilation.

First I want to mention Really Good Emails because it’s undeniably the best site to visit for inspiration. Emails are categorized by type and the HTML is even hosted locally on the site.

really good emails designs

So you can check out the design with a fullview screenshot and view the email in your web browser with live HTML/CSS code. The gallery has over 300 different newsletters and it grows larger every day.

But there are many other sites for inspiration and email resources. Here’s a small list of email galleries to check out.

When it comes to actually building an email you use raw HTML and CSS. But the recent release of Foundation for Emails can make your job so much easier.

foundation zurb email open source

Foundation comes with email tools for auto-rendering table layouts with predefined columns. Their new HTML templating language is called Inky and it’ll save you hours of time.

Plus Foundation merges with Gulp, Sass, and other development tools so you can build & test everything on one platform. If you’re brand new to Foundation it’s possible to learn everything you need from the online docs.

Zurb also offers an email master class that teaches you everything about Foundation for Emails and responsive email design.

Once your email is designed and coded you may want to test how it looks across various email clients. The easiest way to do this is with Litmus, the most trusted tool for checking how your email layout renders on various OS’ and email programs.

litmus email testing screenshot

However it can be rather pricey so look into alternatives if you can.

If you’re really concerned about building quality emails then stick with Foundation for Emails. It’s free, open source, and made to ensure the largest compatibility across the board to save you time & money.

Also when it comes to money I recommend toying with this ROI tool for email marketers. Just plug in your numbers and see how they work out. You may be surprised how much you can earn with email when you actually crunch the numbers.

There’s so much to learn and the best way to go is just getting started. But for more email marketing tips & resources check out these related posts:

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