Ultimate Guide To Email Marketing For Designers

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Email is widely considered the best route for ROI across most businesses. If you want to spend marketing dollars wisely, invest in email marketing. 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.

If you’re starting or growing an email list, we highly recommend AWeber. They provide a reliable service with all of the features you need, outstanding customer service, and they even have a free plan to get started at no cost.

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 any time you want.

Emails are powerful because everyone has an email address. 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

When it comes to online business, you need visitors in order to succeed. Strategies like search engine optimization and social media marketing obviously have a place in your digital marketing plan, but you’re highly dependent on Google, Facebook, and other social platforms.

As we’ve seen in the past, these companies can change their algorithms or business model and negatively impact your business. Facebook owns their platform, so if they want to force you to pay for ads in order to get traffic from their users, they can do that. However, you own your email list, so you’re not dependent on Google, Facebook, or anyone else in order to make money with it.

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.

Organizing A Strategy

You should always have a strategy when creating a new email 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.

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).

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 AWeber, or one of their competitors (see our list of the top mailing list managers and best options for free email marketing).


They’ll set you up with HTML code to create signup forms on your website, which makes it easy for your visitors to subscribe.

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

For example, Shutter Pulse offers a free pack of Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets for anyone who subscribes to their email list. This collection is a free sample from the larger packs and bundles that they sell to photographers.

ShutterPulse Free Bonus

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.

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.

You really want to incentivize your newsletter signup to draw as many interested readers into your list as possible. The faster your list grows, the more valuable it will be.

The subject of capturing leads is so large that it could have its own guide, like our list of ways to grow your email list faster.

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.

When you’re designing emails, it’s important to remember that most people are checking email on their phone these days. It’s critical that your emails are mobile-friendly.

One of the reasons why we love AWeber is because of their outstanding collection of more than 700 email templates. Simply choose a template that suits your needs and insert your own content. In no time, you’ll have a beautiful email newsletter that is mobile optimized.

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.

Related: Beautiful Email Newsletter Templates

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.

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.

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

So you can check out the design with a full view 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.

When it comes to actually building an email, you use raw HTML and CSS, but an easier option is to use the drag-and-drop builder that AWeber provides. You can test your emails right from the AWeber dashboard to see how they look on different devices.

If you’re coding with HTML and CSS, 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.

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. You can sign up for AWeber’s free plan when you’re ready to get started. It’s not a time-limited free trial. It’s a completely free plan that allows you to manage up to 500 subscribers at no cost.

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