Every great email is composed of core elements that intentionally drive action for their target reader. This foundational structure is even more critical to follow if you intend to sell products or services.
The Anatomy of a Great Email Design
At its core, the anatomy of a great email design is not so different from a great landing page or advertorial. You’ll want to include the following elements in a structured manner:
- Hook continued (Hero image/statement)
- Call to Action (CTA)
- Social Proof
- Trust emblems
This is the format we use at Magnet Monster when we develop conversion-focused emails, which I will expand upon below. In practice, the framework looks like this:
Many of these features can be built into modular templates that can be used repeatedly for consistency and mental availability in the consumer's mind.
Let’s examine each element more in-depth.
1: The Hook
The hook is the subject line that gets people’s attention. Without a compelling hook, the content inside will count for nothing if the recipient doesn’t open the email.
Great hooks are short, concise, personalised and add urgency where relevant.
Even more important in 2022 is that they’re optimised for mobile devices and under 45 characters (about 6 words) since the majority of consumers will be cut off from longer subject lines.
The preview text should be a continuation of the hook and aim to build upon the desire to consume the email marketing content.
In many ways, effective segmentation is a prerequisite for a great hook, as you need to know how to appeal to your audience, so be sure to start with choosing the audience you’re targeting before crafting your subject line.
NOTE ON SUBJECT LINES: do not write controversial subject lines for the sake of it if you have no intention of delivering upon the headline within the email itself. Gimmicky subject lines erode subscriber trust and brand equity over time. They will not move the needle in any meaningful way as subscribers flock to report your emails as spam and unsubscribe.
2: Hero Image
An excellent hero image should make people stop and think and build upon the initial hook.
Here are some great hero images we’ve designed for our clients:
If it’s relevant, a well-placed CTA on your hero image can also work as well to encourage click-throughs.
Now that you’ve got somebody’s attention, it’s your job to sell a transformational state to the consumer.
This is where the wit of a good copywriter is crucial:
Features are an important part of copywriting, but my advice is to lean in on the benefits first here and features second, as benefits tend to sell the aspirational element more to the consumer and move them towards their desired state.
Another great piece of copywriting advice is simply re-reading what you’ve written and work to eliminate filler. This creates a better user experience and makes you more concise and impactful with your words.
And, if you’re working with modern D2C brands who tend to be quite image-heavy in selling their products, you’ll have to master the art of saying more with less.
4: Call to Action (CTA)
The next stage of the email is to sell the click. This should come through naturally if you’ve done a good job at this point.
The best advice I’ve seen on CTAs is to make them intentional. For example, don’t just say “Shop now”; say “Get $20 off”. This tells the user explicitly what the benefit is to them rather than leaving it generic and ambiguous.
You should, of course, test many variations of CTAs in your emails to figure out what drives more clicks over time.
5: Social Proof
Humans conform to what others do; when there’s a crowd, they usually like to follow.
When you consider stats like 58% of consumers leave eCommerce websites due to no reviews and up to 80%, say it influencers buying decisions, leveraging whenever you’re trying to sell something just makes sense to validate your claims.
I believe the most tactful ways to leverage social proof include focusing on the transformational effect you’re trying to sell to the customer.
Again, look at these examples from our client Duradry on the desired state you’re trying to move the customer towards:
6: Trust Emblems
A permanent feature I like to include in practically all emails are trust emblems that sit within the footer of the email and build mental availability in the consumer's mind.
Here’s an example from Abbott Lyon:
Let’s put it all together
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