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9 Tips for E-mail Marketing Design

In today's visual world, good design is a must. Here's what you need to create e-mails that look great and get results.

The good news about e-mail marketing is you don't have to be a design expert to create great-looking campaigns. Most e-mail marketing service providers offer pre-designed templates you can choose from (that are created by professional designers). But even with templates, you still have some design decisions to make: what colors and fonts to use, what size to make the fonts, and how much text you should include, to name a few. Follow these nine tips and you'll create e-mails that not only look great, but also get great results.

Tip 1: Include your logo in the same location each time.
Build your brand with every marketing e-mail you send. One way to do this is to include your logo in all of your e-mail communications. The best practice is to include it in the same location each time you send out an e-mail. It may be in the header or somewhere else in the e-mail (preferably above the point where a reader would have to scroll down to see it, but don't take up the whole preview screen).

Tip 2: Keep the preview pane in mind.
A recent study by Marketing Sherpa found that 70 percent of recipients that have the capability to read e-mail through a preview pane do. What this means is your subscribers may only see a portion of your e-mail before deciding to open it and look at it in its entirety. Make sure your logo, as well as some enticing information about the e-mail contents can be seen in the preview pane.

Tip 3: Use color for emphasis
While it might be tempting to use a lot of colors in your e-mail campaigns, resist. When deciding which colors to use, start with your company's colors. All of your e-mails should represent your visual brand, and a key component of that is using your colors consistently.

Colors outside your brand should be saved for emphasis. Use it to call attention to something that is important in the e-mail--to make it really stand out to the reader.

One of our designers here at Constant Contact likes to use a cooking metaphor when he talks about using color. He makes the point that just because you have every spice on your rack doesn't mean you use each one. You use a little bit here and there to add a little flavor. It's similar with design; you want to use colors to add flavor.

Tip 4: Limit the number of fonts you use.
A good rule of thumb is to use a max of two fonts in your marketing e-mails. You may use one for the body and another for the headlines and subtitles. Use standard fonts like Arial, Times New Roman or Verdana for the greatest readability. If you use a less common font that not all the people on your list have, their computer will make a substitution that can change the format of your e-mail.

Tip 5: Make your point clearly and quickly.
When it comes to writing the copy for your e-mail, get to the point quickly. The reality is that most people scan. They don't give you much longer than a second to capture their attention. If it takes much longer than that for them to engage, you may lose them. With every moment, a reader is determining if he or she will keep reading or abandon your e-mail.

In the case of newsletters, your copy will be longer than with a promotional e-mail, but the concept of getting to the point still applies. I've found that most first drafts of articles can be chopped down to as much as half their original word count while still conveying the article's message.

Tip 6: Pick photos that support your message.
Including images in an e-mail campaign can make it more attractive and help you communicate your message. (A picture is worth a thousand words.) But this isn't true of any image. If there is too much going on in your photo or if it's poor quality, it can distract the reader and reflect poorly on your business.

When choosing an image for your campaign, look for something that is simple and easy to focus on and relates directly to your content. You don't want readers to look at an image and question what it has to do with your message. If the image doesn't support your message, it will only take away from what you're trying to communicate.

Tip 7: Don't embed your text in an image.
Many of the programs people use to receive and read e-mail have images turned off by default. To ensure that people with this default setting get your message, include text in your e-mail that is not embedded in an image.

Tip 8: Remember that white space is your friend.
What is white space? It's a resting place for the reader's eyes. Without it, your reader will not know where to look. Make sure that you have plenty of room between headlines, articles and any other content you've included in your e-mail.

Tip 9: Keep it simple.
In design, less is more. E-mails that are uncluttered visually and have a clear message get a better response. The goal of your e-mail is to get your readers to take some kind of action. You want them to visit your website, buy now, get more information, etc. A well-designed e-mail will get your readers to pay attention and make it easy for them to take the action you desire.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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