The Anatomy of a Perfect Email

The success of your Email Marketing Campaign depends on the strength of the emails you send out. It’s right there in the name. The better the emails you send out are, the better the results you get will be.

But what does a better email look like? Or let’s go one step further and ask the question, what does the perfect email look like? Is there a formula to it? Can we break it down, step-by-step, so that we can get a look into the anatomy of the perfect email?

In this guide, we will break down the essence of what makes the perfect email and look into how you can ensure that the emails you send out as part of your campaign are the best they can possibly be.

Of course, if you search the internet for “email templates”, you will find thousands upon thousands of ideas. Some paid, many free – and they all mostly fall under the category “not half bad”. They look nice, they are mostly optimized for mobile layouts, and they are customizable enough for you to make it fit your brand’s needs. However, there is more to an email than just looking pretty.

Let’s first attempt to answer the question: what makes a perfect email? Unfortunately, this is not something we can give a definitive answer to. Email marketing is a complex thing, with many factors deciding the look and feel of the emails they send out. The nature of your business, the specific services or products you provide, your company’s design scheme, your customers’ needs – there are a lot factors that go into deciding what the emails you send out should look like.

However, all high-quality emails will still have the same underlying structure that you can add bits and bobs to as needed. This structure, or the skeleton of our emails, has the following parts:

  1. The Header
  2. The Body
  3. The Footer

Now, let’s break it down further.

The Header

Obviously, we start with the header. Not only does it come first, it also contains the parts of your email that you recipient will see at a glance. In the overall scheme of things, the header is a relatively small part of your whole email. However, it can be the deciding factor in whether your intended recipient actually opens your email or not – if the header doesn’t live up to a certain standard, no matter how good your actual content is, your emails may be doomed.

The Header can be further broken down into four parts:

  1. The Subject Line
  2. The Pre-Header
  3. The From Name and Address
  4. The Reply-to Address

Each of the four parts should be utilized in a manner that maximizes their efficiency, so that you can get the best you can out of the header as a whole.

The Subject Line

Your subject line needs to be several things. It needs to be compelling enough to know make your subscribers want to open the email, personalized so that it addresses your subscriber and it has to be within a certain word/character limit so that it is optimized for display across all devices. Studies show that 7 words/41 characters is the sweet spot that guarantees the most opens. If you stick to these general rules, you will have a good subject line and a good start on ensuring your email as a whole is a thing of beauty.

The Pre-Header

If the subject line is your email’s title, the pre-header – sometimes called a ‘snippet’ – is your subtitle. Many stock email templates will just have something bland like “View this message in your email browser.” That is not good for you. There is room for about 10 words/80 characters in the pre-header that you can utilize to further improve your email. Use this space to provide a preview of the content of your email with a clear and compelling line.

The From Name and Address

The field where the From Name and Address should display a recognizable name and address. There are companies that use the default “noreply@company.com” or “do-not-reply@company.com” as their email address – that is a terrible idea. Have a recognizable email address and even more importantly, have either your brand name or your given name as part of it. People tend to ignore or worse, delete emails that they don’t recognize and you don’t want that to happen to you.

The Reply-to Address

In addition to having an email address that is more than the stock “noreply” or “do-not-reply”, it is also important that the address can handle and process actual replies sent to it. Unlike personal emails, where any replies sent land directly to our inbox, the high volume of email marketing means that the process is much more complex. This could lead to instances where your subscribers can’t contact you by directly replying to your email. Make sure the reply-to address can process the replies – it can be sent to customer service, sales, you CEO maybe or you could even program to have several endpoints for each of your many customers who reply to you.

The Body

After you’ve taken all measures to ensure that your header is perfect, then comes the body of your email. You’ve hooked your subscribers with your attention grabbing header, and now they’ve opened your email. Here’s your chance to dazzle them further with the actual meat of your email marketing campaign.

Unfortunately, we can’t break down the Body into several parts because what is included or what isn’t included all depends on the needs of your campaign. However, we can still discuss how to get the best out of the body depending on your needs.

Have a Simple Template

To start with, a good email usually has a template that is visually simple. No clutter, just a single-column layout with a responsive design. This allows for your email to be easily optimized for both desktop and mobile email. Further, being generous in terms of space between elements brings a visual clarity and focus which will further highlight the important parts of your email, like the images or the calls to action.

Speak to Your Subscribers

Then of course, building on the personalization philosophy we started on the subject line, the body of your email should also address your subscribers directly. There are studies that show that personalized emails increase your click-through rates and conversion rates, both metrics which drive your campaign to further success. You email marketing client should have tags to allow for personalization, so make sure you take advantage of that.

Strategic Use of Pictures

The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is more truer than ever. The right picture, strategically placed will boost your email’s effectiveness. However, don’t take it too far and overload it with images, as it will serve in the opposite direction. Choose the right picture or two, place them in spots that make sense with the overall message. Also, however good your logo is, use it minimally. Once at the top of the message and once in the footer is more than enough and if you can use it just once? Even better.

Call to Action

Ultimately, the focus of your email– the whole point of your email marketing campaign, actually, is a call to action. You want your subscribers to do something that benefits you, like visiting your website, your e-shop, downloading an app – there is something you want them to do and your email should assist in that goal. Make your call to action the key part of your email, make them clear, easy to click on and follow through and fit them into the overall message in an organic manner.

Keep it Concise

As a final point, your subscriber’s time is valuable. Also, they obviously aren’t going to sit down and spend a good five minutes reading a detailed email that tells a story with a beginning, middle, and a climactic end. Keep it concise, which will not only respect your subscriber’s time, but also allow the email to be easily optimized for display on both mobile and desktop.

The Footer

After you’re done with the header and the body of your email, you will find yourself looking at the last part of your email’s skeleton: the footer. While it is easy to dismiss the footer as something that is of no consequence, the truth is, the footer is home to certain elements which will ensure that you don’t experience customer complaints, blocks, hits to your deliverability and in worst case scenarios, even legal action against you.

The footer can be divided into clear subsections:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Reminder of Subscription
  3. Unsubscribe Links

Each of these elements plays a vital role and only by actually having them in your footer will you achieve that elusive ‘perfect email’ status.

Contact Information

This should go without saying. Your emails should all have your contact details, and the footer is the perfect place for it. A phone number, email, address and more can all neatly go here. This lets your subscriber’s know that they can contact you at any time and it will also serve as a form of transparency that will build trust. It is also a legal requirement in most places, so really, there is no reason to avoid having your contact details.

Reminder of Subscription

This might sound confusing, but the reality is that most people often forget that they ever subscribed to anything, much less your email marketing campaign. Include a statement in your footer that details who has sent them the email, why they received it and maybe even exactly where they subscribed. This statement will solve serve to remind your subscribers that they chose to interact with your brand and sign on for the emails, and additionally, reinforce a positive relationship.

Your email needs to have links which your subscribers can use to unsubscribe, if they want to. This might sound counter to your purpose, but the truth is, sometimes people don’t want to continue receiving emails. Best case scenario, you keep sending emails anyway and it hurts your open rates or worst case scenario, they complain and your sender reputation takes a hit. In either case, big mistake. Have clear, easy-to-find unsubscribe links and messaging preference links. The latter will allow your subscribers to pick what kind of emails they want to receive, how often and etc and so, will allow you to keep your subscribers and the engagement. Also, once again, it is a legal requirement in the United States and most other countries. Include unsubscribe links.

Like we said in the beginning, the elements that go into your email marketing content will definitely vary depending on a multitude of factors. However, having a reliable framework that you can start with and add pieces as necessary will prove to be very helpful.

Make sure that your email has a clear header, a quality body and a useful footer. These will allow you to focus on the most important part of your email marketing campaign: communicating the ideas of your brand to your customers and boosting their engagement with your brand.