The internet is swarming with tips, tricks, and suggestions about how to design beautiful emails. And while a lot of marketers seem to understand the basics -- personalize the copy, make the call-to-action pop, segment your list, etc. -- many still overlook an important component of effective email marketing: emails also need to have visual appeal.
Oftentimes, marketers do give a lot of thought to email design when it comes time to launch a campaign. It makes perfect sense: You have an awesome new announcement or event, and you want to kick off the campaign right with a darn good looking email.
But what about the follow-up email? Or any email that may be included in an automated email workflow? It's time to stop focusing on the design of just your biggest sends, and spend some time spiffing up all those other emails you're sending.
For a quick list of email campaigns selected by experts, check out our video compilation.
Need some inspiration? Check out the email examples below.
12 Types of Email That Marketers Can Send
Informational emails are one-to-many emails you can send to folks to bring them up to speed in regards to your latest content, product announcements, and more. Note: You should only send them to people who have opted in to receive emails from you.
1) New Content Announcement Email
This is one you probably already know and love. You know, the one where you announce your next sale, ebook, webinar, coupon, free trial ... and the list goes on. This email is used to describe and promote a particular marketing offer -- one single offer -- with a call-to-action that links to a targeted landing page made for that specific offer.
When it comes to designing an email for a specific offer, the main component to keep in mind is the offer itself. You want the copy to be brief but descriptive enough to convey the offer's value. In addition, make sure your email's call-to-action (CTA) link is large, clear, and uses actionable language. You can also include a large CTA image/button underneath to make the action you want email readers to take crystal clear.
Product emails are tricky. People generally don't want to receive these often, and they're typically not as interesting or engaging as something like an offer email. That said, it's important to keep these emails simple and straightforward.
Many companies choose to send weekly or monthly product digests to keep their customers or fan base up-to-date with the latest features and functionalities. And no matter how much a customer loves your business, it's still work for them to learn how to use new features or learn why a new product is worth their investment.
Rather than inundating your contacts with a slew of emails about each individual product update, consider sending a sort of roundup of new updates or products periodically. For each update you list, include a large, clear headline, a brief description, and an image that showcases the product or feature. It's also worth linking to a custom page for each feature to make it easy for recipients to learn more about it.
Do you maintain a business blog for your company? Are you a magazine or media outlet? No matter which of these categories you fall into, many companies choose to send a roundup of stories or articles published weekly or monthly. And if you truly want people to read these email roundups, it's critical that you share them in a visually appealing way.
Within these roundup emails, it's a good idea to use an image paired with a headline, a brief summary or introduction, and a CTA for recipients to read more. This simple format will allow you to use visuals to attract the reader to each article while still giving you the ability to feature multiple articles -- without sending a super lengthy email.
Email can be a great vehicle for promoting an upcoming event you're hosting. But if you want to invite your contacts to an event and motivate them to register, it's extremely important to clearly showcase why that event is worth their attendance.
A great way to do so is through visuals. A lot of events cost money to attend, and most cost a pretty penny. So if you want to attract registrants, cut down on the copy and show potential registrants why the event will be awesome.
Every now and then, you may want to send a dedicated email to a certain group of people. For example, if you're hosting a conference or event, you might want to send a dedicated email just to event registrants to alert them of any new event updates they should be aware of (like in the screenshot above). Or if your business is community based, it might be a good idea to send a monthly email to welcome all your new members.
Co-marketing is when two or more complementary companies partner together for some mutually beneficial task, event, or other promotion. The main draw of co-marketing is to leverage the audience of another company to increase your reach.
Sometimes the relationship results in a strategic announcement; other times it's as simple as a joint webinar. Let's use the latter for an example of how co-marketing emails work, and why they're so beneficial: Let's say you and another company decide to do a webinar together on a particular subject. As a result, that webinar will likely (pending your arrangements) be promoted to the email lists of both of your companies. This exposure to a list that is not your own is one of the key benefits of co-marketing partnerships.
When it comes to the email your business sends, make it clear that this offer or event is the result of a partnership with company X -- especially if your co-marketing partner is particularly popular or impressive. To do this, you can adjust the company logo in your email to also include the other business' logo. Furthermore, make sure your copy mentions both businesses, and create a custom graphic or image to visualize the offer or event.
Wait ... what does social media have to do with email? Well, if you're making good use of LinkedIn Groups or Google+ Events, email has everything to do with social media.
As the administrator of LinkedIn Group, when you send a LinkedIn Announcement, you're directly reaching a LinkedIn user's inbox. And when you create a Google+ event, sending the invite directly sends you into users' email boxes as well. Without having to create lists or collect email addresses, you automatically have access to users' email, but be sure to tap into these resources with care.
When it comes to these social media emails, you don't have the option of using email software that allows you to customize the layout or add images. You're at the mercy of copy alone. This is where leveraging white space is very important. Keep your paragraphs short, your sentences brief, and your thoughts clear. Optimize these emails for the scanning reader, and use bullets or numbers to deliver your main points.
Don't neglect a very important audience for your company: your employees. Many companies, especially if they're on the larger side, choose to send internal updates or newsletters to their employees to keep them in the know about the latest company information -- whether it be new product updates, marketing offers, or events.
With these emails, it's less about the beauty, and more about the clarity. The most important formatting tip for these types of emails is to arrange the information in a simple and helpful way. Once you've nailed your formatting, it's simply a matter of highlighting the most critical information associated with each offer or update so its messaging is crystal clear to everyone.
How frustrating is it to book a flight or register for an event and not receive an automatic confirmation email? I know that personally, every time I make an online transaction, I wait impatiently to see that my transaction was complete. After all, nobody wants to worry that they're first payment wasn't processed, only to click the payment button again and get charged twice.
What bothers me most about so many businesses' confirmation emails are two things: when the subject lines are vague, and when the information I actually want to confirm isn't immediately evident when I open the email. Confirmation emails should be just that -- confirmation emails.
To avoid any confusion, keep these emails simple, with just a brief summary of the information your recipients would want you to confirm. Try not to fuss with the design, as they simply want to know that the action they took was completed so they can save the information, have peace of mind, and move on.
Whenever a prospect, lead, or customer fills out a form on one of your landing pages, a kickback email should automatically get triggered after their submission. Depending on the form, these kickback emails are often referred to as thank-you emails. These emails are mainly for the sake of fulfilling your promise to the user, and storing the information you promised them safely in their inbox.
How frustrating would it be if you downloaded an ebook, and then forgot where you stored the link to the PDF? Kickback emails solve that problem.
These automatic emails should make the CTA big and clear. Keep in mind that the CTA should link to the direct offer -- NOT to the form. In these emails, simply thank the reader for their form submission, and give them what you promised, whether it be a link to the PDF of an ebook, instructions on how to activate their free trial, or the coupon they requested. Furthermore, don't overcomplicate the appearance of these emails. The reader isn't looking for additional information, but rather the offer or content they already know they redeemed.
Another type of transactional email, the welcome email is the perfect option for thanking and providing more information to people who have signed up for your newsletter, product trial, or other offer.
The elements you include in a welcome email will depend on the specifics of what you're offering. But in general, you can use the email to showcase your brand's personality and to highlight the value that recipients can expect to receive. If you're welcoming new users to a product or service, the welcome email is a great place to explain how everything works and what users need to do in order to get started.
Depending on the specific action a persona takes, you may want to enroll them in a lead nurturing campaign. Lead nurturing emails consist of a tightly connected series of emails containing useful, targeted content.
As their name suggests, these emails are used to nurture leads through the marketing funnel into a position of sales readiness. For example, let's say you sent your list a marketing offer email. You might then set up a lead nurturing workflow that triggers another email about a complementary offer or piece of content to everyone who converted on that initial offer. The logic is simple: By identifying a particular group of contacts that you already know are interested in a specific topic, you and can follow up with more relevant and targeted content that makes them more likely to continue their relationship with you.
In your lead nurturing emails, it's important to call out why recipients are receiving the email. For example, you could say something like, "We noticed you're into [topic x] since you downloaded our [Topic X] ebook, and we thought you might want to learn more about [topic x] ..." Once you've addressed why recipients are getting email from you, you can format your lead nurturing emails similar to the way you'd set up your general marketing offer emails.
Other very important considerations to make when crafting your lead nurturing campaigns are the planning, setup, segmentation, and timing of your nurturing emails.
At the end of the day, your emails should not only be visually appealing, but they should also be valuable. Focus on sharing the key information in the most appropriate format depending on the type of email you're sending -- and the audience you're sending it to.
After all, what's the use of a crazy-beautiful email if it doesn't provide any true value to the reader?
Know of any other types of email that should be on this list? Share them in the comments section below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 5, 2016 8:00:00 AM, updated October 14 2021