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Create an email campaign

Emails are a powerful way to communicate your campaign message – and give readers more detailed information at the same time. However, like all marketing, before you get to that point, you need to do some planning.

You need to know your audience and campaign objectives. What information do you want to get across? What age are your audience? How many people do you want to reach and why?

You might plan to target different audience groups or "segments" with different campaign messages, as there may not be one simple answer to these questions. By doing this you could get better results.

Content is king

Once you are clear about your campaign objectives, think about your message. Whatever you are saying, write your information in an interesting, engaging and worthwhile way. When writing emails here are some standard elements to consider:

  • Subject line – should be short, engaging and summarise what your email is about.
  • Preview line – appears below the subject line in the recipient's email box. These are the first words they will see – so make them interesting and concise.
  • Body copy – whether it's short or long copy, think about what tone of voice you want, and write simple paragraphs and sentences to increase readability. Use descriptive headlines to help people quickly get the information they need, and to encourage click-throughs.
  • Call to action (CTA) – make it clear what you want people to do after reading your email. The fewer words the better. And ensure at least 1 CTA is near the top of the email so users can see it without needing to scroll down the page.
  • Timing – what day or time of day would get your email the best response? Is early morning better than evening? Is Friday better for your audience than Monday? Perhaps you can incorporate the time of day or week into your subject line or copy for a more personal approach.

Testing, testing

One of the benefits of an email campaign is that you can easily measure what gets the most click-throughs. Subject lines are the most popular because it's simple to change the tone, length and phrasing. You can also test the effectiveness of long copy against short copy. And don't ignore the timing of your email, as this can be quickly tested, too. Whatever you do, only test 1 element at a time so you can see which variant gives the greatest success. And ensure your groups are small, as it will be easier to manage but large enough to determine a clear winner.

Email design tips

A good design should make it easier to scan your email and increase readability. Here are some design points to consider:

  • Layout – is how your email is presented on your screen (desktop or mobile). So consider what will make your email engaging. Mostly images with click-throughs or mostly text? A good idea is to separate text with images and white space as this increases readability and can help define content sections.
  • Images – pictures should actively support your message, so make them eye-catching and meaningful. Sometimes images are blocked in emails, so ensure your message comes across without them. Some of our campaigns have images or image banks, or you may choose to use other third-parties, such as image libraries.
  • Links – where possible, build links into your email images so that when they're clicked on they go straight to a website. On mobiles, it's easier to tap images than text links. Plus you're increasing your CTA areas, too.
  • Email signatures – are offered for some of our campaigns, which have the same colours, graphics, tone and strapline. Use these to give your marketing a consistent look and feel.

Be mindful of mobile

Many people now use mobiles to check emails, so when creating your email campaign be mindful of the device. Emails for mobiles are usually narrower than desktop versions so you might consider doing a different layout. If so, here are a few tips to help you:

  • Keep content to 1 simple topic or theme rather than a long newsletter-style email.
  • Use a single column, avoiding sidebars and panel.
  • Ensure images have enough resolution so that they don't use too much data yet still look good.
  • Don't use lots of small images, which may be difficult to view.
  • Make the layout finger-friendly, with large easy-to-click buttons.

Creative sign-off

This should be a fairly simple process compared to other media. However, if you are using images from a third party, ensure you have the correct usage rights from them beforehand. And always triple check that any links to websites are up-to-date and spelling is accurate before anything gets sent out.

Evaluating success

There are a number of different metrics you can use to measure the effectiveness of your email campaign. Some will be more appropriate for your activity than others so look back to your key performance indicators, which you should have set at the start of your campaign. With these to hand and the following list of metrics, you can choose what to measure and work out what the return on investment is from your campaign.

Click-through rate

This is the percentage of people clicking on links in your email and is the most commonly used email metric. To calculate it, take the number of clicks and divide by the total number of emails sent. It allows you to assess performance on individual emails, track performance over time and get a direct insight into how people are engaging in your content.

Conversion rate

If you're interested in the bigger picture, then a conversion rate measures success in terms of sales, sign-up, downloads – or whatever your call-to action is. To measure it, you need to create unique tracking URLs for your email links then calculate the number of people who completed your desired action and divide by the total number of emails sent.

Open rate

This is calculated by taking the total number of emails opened and dividing by the total number of emails sent out. The resulting percentage is a good indicator of how well your subject line is working and how your brand is being received. However, it does not offer the whole picture as just opening an email does not mean people are taking action in any other way.

Unsubscribe rate

By looking at the percentage of people who unsubscribed from your email list as a result of your campaign, you can also measure effectiveness. Generally, if it's less than 2 per cent you are within industry norms (2 per cent would mean 2 unsubscribers in every 100 people).

Spam complaint rate

These are reports made by people who've received emails that they consider to be unsolicited. They can be a useful measure of how well your campaign and brand are generally doing. A large number of complaints is over 0.5 per cent and would warrant a close look at your activity.

Bounce rate

Is the percentage of email addresses in your subscriber list that didn't receive your message. This could happen because the email address no longer exists, or the recipient’s email provider marked your address as spam. A average bounce rate of less than 40 per cent is healthy but this depends on content. Any more and you need to look into any issues with your email list.

Time on site rate

This is the amount of time people spend on your site after directly clicking through from your email. It's a worthwhile measure of how interesting your content is and is usually calculated in minutes per visit.

List growth rate

This is the rate at which your email list is growing. You should be aiming to grow your list of subscribers to expand your audience and reach. By keeping tabs on your list growth and loss (expect this to naturally be about 22 per cent a year) you can keep your subscriber list to a healthy size.

Further help

Your email provider or an email marketing analyst can help you work through all or just some of these metrics. Plus, it's also important to look at the performance of past similar campaigns as a guide.

Last updated: 25 July 2022