7 Rules to Share When Your Colleagues Stink at Email Design

7 Rules to Share When Your Colleagues Stink at Email Design

I have the pleasure of working with some truly talented people. But just because you’re good at designing crisp logos or iconic product packaging or gorgeous posters doesn’t mean you know a thing about designing for direct marketing. It’s completely different. And lately, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of having to tell some of my most talented colleagues that they stink at email design.

Designing direct marketing emails as if they are magazine inserts will give you lovely emails that depress response by 45% or more. At least, that was one of my more dramatic test results, your experience may be different. Before you fall into a pit of despair upon seeing the latest glossy-but-useless design, here are 7 rules to share with your colleagues.

The Rules for Driving Email Results

1. The offer must be clear and visible, above the fold.

You’re selling something, so you need to be blatant about what you’re selling, and maybe pushy too. Brand voice is important, but shy brands don’t drive revenue. So use your voice and make sure that offer is loud and crystal clear.

2. The sense of urgency must be clear and visible

If you don’t tell folks that catastrophe lurks, waiting to pounce if they don’t click the button right now, then your audience will be rather slow to respond. While “catastrophe” may be a strong word, think about the challenge a copywriter can take on by trying to imbue a sense of urgency into the usual sale, all in 5-10 words that appear close to the call to action button. That’s a great challenge to embrace!

3. The CTA (call to action) must be active and obvious

You may want to give your colleague a starting point for the CTA. Remember, these include action verbs and clearly articulate the next step, asking for a commitment while respecting the need for your audience to take steps towards purchase. “Buy now” may be right, or perhaps you need a gentler “Add to cart”. Above the fold goes without saying as well.

4. The copy must be crisp, assumptive and pushy

I recently had a great team (well, extremely talented at website design and branding) suggest we use the copy, “Take a moment for yourself” as the headline for an abandon cart email, with a follow up of “We want to make sure you’re not running out” and an offer without an actual CTA. That’s a lovely sentiment. It was hardly crisp, didn’t assume a thing, and ran in the opposite direction of pushy. In the interest of driving revenue, we decided to run with “You’ve left something soothing in your cart” and “Don’t forget to finish your order”. After all, we’re here to sell stuff. Keep your copy assumptive and pushy and you’ll get better results.

5. The benefits must be clear and believable, not vague or hyperbolic

Believability is certainly in the eye of the customer, but if you’re looking at what is being said about your brand on social media you can definitely get a sense of where the line is between believable and hyperbolic. While we all love the flowery language that helps paint a beautiful picture of our products or services, it’s important to keep a tight rein on your team on this one so people don’t lose confidence in your product when they think you’ve gone too far.

6. Brand is secondary to results

Years ago, I worked with a team that had designed the copy and visuals for a loyalty program that was much loved by the client and their customers. It was amazing work. But when it came time to translate it to direct marketing materials, they just couldn’t let go of the imagery even though it was fighting for attention with the headline, sense of urgency, and CTA. The direct marketing failed as a result, and while I believe wholeheartedly in the value of the brand, this was a great lesson to learn. Brand is secondary to results in direct marketing, and when you try to make it primary you suppress your results.

7. Results rule

The reality is, results rule. And all of these rules have been broken – successfully – at least once. So if you cannot convince your colleagues to put their direct marketing hats on and take off their brand hats completely, offer them this option: design one your way and one their way. Test to see which one wins.

What other rules have you shared with direct marketing-impaired (yet talented) colleagues? Have you ever had an email test fail miserably because the designer didn’t know how to design for email direct marketing? Please share!

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