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Launch Your Online Business in Just 7 Days

By 2023, nearly 348 billion emails will be sent every day.


You need to make sure your emails stand out from crowded inboxes if you want them to be an effective part of your digital marketing toolkit.


In this post, we’ll take you through how you can use email design to rise above the masses, and we’ll give you specific strategies to help you reach your audience.


Let’s get started!

1. Email design explained

Email design explained

Email design refers to the process of creating and crafting your message in a way that engages your audience.


This process includes the choices you make regarding the following elements:

  • Headings, sub-headings, and sign-offs
  • Colors and fonts
  • Images and videos
  • Written content
  • Branding
  • And more

Your email’s design needs to be attractive enough to make your leads open it but simple enough to communicate your message and sell your offer to them.


To achieve this goal, here are some top-tips and easy-to-implement strategies that will have you building compliant and creative messages to send to your audience.

2. Email design best practices

2.1. Trustworthy sender names

Trustworthy sender names

Your leads are more likely to open an email from an account they know and trust — you can’t be sneaky about this because it’s the first thing they’ll see!


Your sender name should mention your business, department, or a specific employee identity.


Trustworthy sender names might look a little like this:

  • The systeme.io team — The small group behind a business
  • Aurelian from systeme.io — The founder of the business
  • Systeme.io newsletter — The business and the email topic
  • Help@systeme.io — The department of the business

There are loads of different combinations that make for a more trustworthy sender name.


Research your audience, and choose what suits each customer type, and each campaign, best.


Another handy tip to ensure your email sender name is trusted is to get your leads to add you to their trusted contacts list.


Do this as soon as they opt-in to your lead magnet, subscription, or offer — make it part of your welcome email, and drive home the value that your leads don’t want to miss out on.

2.2. Showboat subject lines

The second element that’s likely to get your emails opened is your subject linewhat your email is about is second only to where it’s come from.


Remember, your subject line needs to interest your leads enough that they won’t move on to the next email.


If your subject line is too long, you may lose readers before they’ve even seen your content, so always keep it short and sweet.


Here are some subject line tricks you can use to get your email open rate ahead of your competitors:

  • Personalization — Include your recipient’s name to make them feel special and important
  • Benefit first — Lead with the value that this email contains and that your business will add
  • Be funny — Inject humor into your subject lines with idioms and puns if you have an audience that it appeals to
  • Numbers — Add facts and figures to prove the value you’re adding
  • Be honest — Tell your contacts exactly what’s in the email because deception will land you in the spam folder

Remember, using “FW:”, “RE:”, or spammy words to trick people into thinking your email is a personal one violates the CAN-SPAM Act, and you could get yourself stuck on an email blacklist.

2.3. Powerful preheader text

Powerful preheader text

These are pretty much the same as a meta-description — but for email.


You could just leave this to reflect the first line of your email, but why not make it more enticing?


Use preheader text to extend and expand on your subject line by:

  • Emphasizing the benefit you’re offering your subscribers
  • Adding more detail to the promised value of your offer
  • Including something else that might interest your leads

With preheader text, shorter is better, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.


Why not include a relevant emoji and build on the persona attached to your brand and communication?


However, you do need to be mindful that your contacts will view emails across devices, so make sure whatever you include is optimized for that too.

2.4. Masterful layout

Masterful layout

User experience (UX) is the be-all and end-all of your business’ success.


If your subscribers find your emails cluttered and difficult to navigate, you’ll lose their trust and interest.


These are some email layout best practices that you cannot do without:

  • Create an inverted triangle — Use larger shapes and images that gradually form a point to lead the eye through the email
  • Write shorter paragraphs — Shorter paragraphs are easier to read and force you to communicate your ideas effectively
  • Use white space — Break up big chunks of text with white space to make your emails easier to digest
  • Stick to one idea — Only include one offer or one idea in each email so that your leads are never confused
  • Headlines and bullets — Larger headings and bulleted lists keep content simple and easy to consume

Your brand’s voice should be reflected in the layout of your content, so make sure your structure includes appropriate branding too.

2.5. Strategic imagery and video

Strategic imagery and video

While some emails are text-heavy and have a basic structure, others let the pictures do the talking.


If your email is a long one, you might want to consider including some images and buttons to separate your information and emphasize what you’re saying.


You can use several different kinds of imagery in your emails including stock photos, custom graphics, videos, GIFs, etc.


However, there are some considerations to take into account when including graphics in your emails:

  • Size — How much space will your graphic elements take up in your email, and will they slow the load time?
  • Format — Will you use .rgb, .jpeg, or .png formatted images to increase your image quality?
  • Source — Are stock images exclusive enough, or will you splurge on custom photographs and designs?
  • Videos — Would you include video clips or short GIFs to further enhance your content?

Remember, images and videos make it harder for your emails to be delivered because they significantly increase the file size.


Whatever you decide, remember that certain phones do have email image downloads automatically disabled — it’s a common data-saving trend.


One way to ensure that no image is wasted is to add meaningful ALT text so that they’re still supporting the rest of your content.

2.6. People-pleasing personalization

Creating a personalized experience for your leads goes beyond including their name in the subject line.


72% of customers say that they’ll only engage with emails that make use of tailored and personalized messaging.


Push the personalized envelope by using the following tactics:

  • Tag your audience — Use their actions and behavior to help you subscribe them to email sequences and content they’ll love
  • Use dynamic content — Change large pieces of your content to suit different contacts’ preferences
  • Create contextual content — Specific to the subscriber and may include a personal report of their activity and progress

When you tailor your communication like this, you’ll build a relationship with your leads and be far more likely to convert them into customers.


Powerful digital marketing platforms, like systeme.io, use automation rules and workflows that can be set up in advance to automatically send these highly personalized messages at the right times.

2.7. Stand-out CTAs

Google CTAs

Source: Medium.com

To increase your click-through rate, you’ll need to use calls to action (CTAs).


In each email you send, you should have at least one main CTA, toward the beginning of your email — to catch skimmers who don’t read below the fold.


Then, add several secondary CTAs. Try to strive for balance so that they don’t steal your main CTA’s attention.


You can make your CTAs stand out in your emails by:

  • Using colors that are bright or contrasting
  • Make your CTA big enough to be clicked on by a thumb
  • Provide lots of white space around your CTA so that clicking through is easy-to-do
  • Try out a more descriptive and specific CTA than just “Buy Now!” like “Yes, I want to solve my problem in 6 weeks”
  • Create and use an embedded CTA button that appears even if image downloads have been disabled

Run split or A/B tests on a few email designs that include these strategies, and see which ones work best for you and your audience.


Remember, your niche audience won’t respond the same way as every other business.

2.8. Mobile responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness

While more than half of global web traffic is generated by mobile devices, nearly 20% of emails aren’t optimized for mobile devices — a shocking marketing oversight.


You can make your emails more mobile-friendly by implementing the following techniques:

  • Increase your content’s font size to at least 15pt and 22pt for headings
  • Increase your line spacing, and make sure it fits with the font size you decide on
  • Make your CTAs clear and clickable, with enough space around them to keep from clumsy click-throughs
  • Use supported fonts that are simple and easy-to-read
  • Test your email template across devices to ensure it looks good on cell phones, desktops, tablets, etc.
  • Hide or remove sections that mobile users can’t see or anything that won’t add to their experience
  • Optimize your image names and add ALT text so that even if they don’t download, your leads know what’s meant to be there
  • Repeat your CTA toward the end of the message if you’re using longer form emails and newsletters
  • Don’t forget dark mode — Ensure you use transparent images and add a white glow around any black icons

It’s also important to make sure that your landing page (or wherever your CTAs take your contacts) is also mobile optimized.


There’s nothing worse than having a high CTR but then losing out on conversions because the second step isn’t optimized too.

2.9. Clever and compliant footers

Compliant email marketers are clever email marketers, so don’t forget to add an unsubscribe button.


Unfortunately, not all of your subscribers will love your content, so you need to give them a way to say goodbye to your business on a positive note.


Here are some other elements you must include in your footers:

  • The name of the company sending the email
  • Any terms and conditions associated with your offer or business
  • Links to follow your business on social media platforms
  • A link to download your app if you have one
  • Somewhere to send any feedback or comments
  • A referral or affiliate link to promote your offer

Remember, governments around the world require you to include at least your company name and a way to unsubscribe in your footer.


Check out the CAN-SPAM Act to see what elements of your business’ email are affected by these laws and if they’re compliant.

3. Email design tools

The design process is an extensive one, but luckily there are tons of tools out there to help you along the way.


Choosing a tool that works for your business can be tough — don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!


Keep reading to see our mini-review on 3 of the most all-inclusive email marketing platforms around.

3.1. Systeme.io

Systeme.io logo

systeme.io's logo

The first, and best, email design and marketing platform out there is systeme.io.


It really is the only tool you need to build, grow, and scale your online business.


At systeme.io, you’ll get access to the following email marketing features:

  • Unlimited emails
  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Mobile responsive designs
  • Automated email sequences and campaigns
  • Loads of email and newsletter templates
  • Contact tagging and segmentation
  • Email and contact analytics and statistics
  • Fully integrated with the rest of your digital marketing suite

On top of these powerful email marketing tools, you’ll also get the ability to build sales funnels, create websites, construct online courses, sell your products, and automate your business.


Did we mention that you can sign up for our Freemium plan without entering any credit card details?


That’s right, you join for free, and it can stay free, forever.


We recommend systeme.io if . . .

  • You’re a beginner — Our platform doesn’t require a huge financial investment upfront
  • You’re not tech-savvy — Systeme.io is super easy-to-use with a beginner-friendly user interface (UI)
  • You want to try out a new platform — Our Freemium plan never expires, so take us for a strings-free test
  • You want to avoid clumsy integrations — We’re fully integrated, no need to run multiple tools for simple tasks
  • You want to scale and streamline your business — Our payment plans are fully scaled to suit your business, every step of the way

Already got an email list? Opt for one of our annual payment plans, and we’ll even migrate your contact lists for you, for free!


Seriously, what are you waiting for?

3.2. HubSpot

HubSpot logo

HubSpot's logo

HubSpot is a software as a service (SaaS) platform that provides customers with email marketing tools and customer relationship management (CRM) services.


This platform promises to unite your sales and marketing to get your content in front of people and start converting them.


HubSpot enables the following email marketing and design functionalities:

  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Mobile responsive designs
  • Personalized email element suggestions
  • Emails powered by customer data and CRM
  • Automated email sequences and campaigns
  • Goal-oriented email templates
  • Split testing and analytics

While their email marketing suite is technically free, to access more advanced features you’ll have to pay for one of their pricey plans.


These plans begin at $45/month for the Starter plan, and it includes just 1,000 contacts.


Got more contacts? You’ll have to scale at an extra $45/month for each top-up of 100 contacts.


We recommend HubSpot if . . .

  • You want to focus on your customers — The powerful CRM uses customer data to inform all other processes
  • You have an established business — These powerful tools come with a hefty price tag that’s difficult for small businesses to cover
  • You have a big sales and marketing team — Assign up to 5 extra team members per team on the platform
  • You don’t want to sell products — You’ll need to use their integration with Shopify and pay for that service
  • You can afford website hosting — It’s only included in the Pro ($300/month) and Enterprise ($600/month) plans

There’s no denying that HubSpot has some powerful features, and their CRM makes email personalization a breeze.


However, these features come at a price that would be better spent reinvesting in your actual business.

3.3. Mailchimp

Mailchimp logo

Mailchimp's logo

Mailchimp is an old name in the email marketing game that’s recently made the shift to being more all-inclusive.


The pricing plans on the Mailchimp platform are complicated — you’ll need to decide whether your focus is email marketing or ecommerce from the start, as they’re seen as separate business goals.


Mailchimp’s free marketing plan includes the following email marketing features:

  • 10 - 15 emails per contact (plan dependent)
  • Emails informed by CRM
  • Creative email assistant and subject line helper
  • Limited and basic email templates
  • Single-step automation
  • Drag-and-drop email editor
  • Email analytics

Transactional emails form a separate part of Mailchimp’s pricing plans and are sold in 500,000 email blocks, starting at $20/block.


While the platform includes most of what you need to support your business, the complicated pricing plans mean that you’ll end up paying more than you bargained for to actually run your business.


We recommend Mailchimp if . . .

  • You have a very small email list — Once it grows past 500 contacts, it quickly gets expensive
  • You only need email marketing — Their plans are focused to cater to very specific business needs
  • You don’t need advanced analytics — Customers noted that this feature is pretty basic and not integrated across their business
  • You don’t want to use affiliate marketing — It’s banned on this platform and will see your account blocked
  • You’re an email marketing expert — Templates are limited, and design functionality is difficult to navigate

Overall, Mailchimp is a useful tool if the only thing you need is email marketing.


The digital marketing space is moving toward more all-in-one solutions, and purpose-built platforms might leave stalwarts like Mailchimp in the dust.

4. Email design examples

We checked out some super successful email designs to show you what works and to get you inspired!

Email design examples

Source: Foundr.com

A simple and elegant plain-text email for Foundr’s newsletter, proving that images aren’t necessary to tell your story.


This email could be improved with clearer CTAs, but it’s for already subscribed fans, so we’ll let it slide.

Clever use of color, branding, and an inverted triangle layout make this email from Tock stand out in any inbox.


Staying on-brand across your marketing is important for customer retention.

A humorous GIF in a funky color palette makes this deal announcement email a top pick for us.


It’s a perfect example of how to integrate video into your email in a small but effective manner.

 content in promotional emails

Source: Nike.com

An example of dynamic content in promotional emails sent by leading athletics apparel brand, Nike.


It targets male and female customers differently, to optimize conversions with personalized content.


There are tons of examples of excellent emails out there, but often they’re built by design teams with serious budgets.


If you’re just starting, why not check out the mobile-responsive email templates on systeme.io?


They’re tried and tested to boost conversion rates.

5. Conclusion

Email marketing

Email marketing has the highest return on investment (ROI) compared to any other channel of digital marketing — a whopping $42 for every $1 spent.


Excellent email design combined with a capable email marketing tool, like systeme.io, will help you cash in on those returns.


No matter the size of your business, or the niche you’re in, systeme.io has a plan and solution tailored to your needs.


Sign up for a Freemium account today, and get to sending — the possibilities, and emails, are limitless!

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