Anatomy of an effective marketing email: 10 parts you should consider

Email marketing is a known powerful tool that can deliver on your investment if done right.

The median ROI (return on investment) is 122 percent, which is four times higher than any other digital marketing channel.

Let’s break down the key components of an effective email so that you can up your emailing game.

“From” field

This field identifies who your message is from. This is probably common sense, but remember that you never want to leave it blank (so that the sending address is what shows).

You also have the opportunity to be more specific, depending on the purpose of the email. Occasionally using the name of your CEO when sending a message from him or her is an option, for example.

People will more likely open messages from people of organizations they trust. So, stay consistent and make it clear who is sending the email.

Subject line

The right subject line can entice your recipients to open your email at a higher rate, which is definitely the goal.

Remember who your audience is, the point and goal of your message and what urgency you can build upfront.

Clear, concise language with action words without being too long is ideal.

For more, check out our 12 tips for writing a better subject line.

Preview text

This field is shown as part of an email preview. For instance, think of Gmail. When you get an email notification, you’ll see who the message is from, the subject line and your preview text.

When blank, the first part of your body copy could show as the preview text by default, which could definitely be less effective when your “View this email as a webpage” line, for example, is what the recipient sees.

Preview text should generally be between 35 and 90 characters. Some email providers may show up to 140 characters, but there also are email clients that don’t display any preview text.

Nonetheless, it’s a best practice not only to fill out the preview text field, but use it as an opportunity to convince your recipient to open your email.

Altogether, the “From,” subject line and preview text combine to create a package for the recipient. You want all three to complement each other and tie together to convey a need to open your message.

The header

This is the top part of your email. Typically, it should feature recognizable elements like your logo and brand colors.

Using your logo and colors consistently helps build trust with your audience.

The body

This is commonly considered “the meat” of the email message and for good reason.

This is your space to make the “conversion magic” happen, to engage your email recipient. It’s the primary space for your messaging.

How the body looks has infinite possibilities, but remember your goal.

A newsletter, for instance, is going to be designed differently than a product-release announcement.

If a longer email, you want to visually break up the text enough to keep the reader going. If a shorter email, perhaps visuals can tell your story.

The call-to-action

This is largely part of your body (but could expand to your subject line and/or preview text, depending). What do you want the recipient to do?

The call-to-action (or CTA) is a needed component for any medium of marketing, not just emails.

Just like with your subject line, you want to be clear, concise and direct.

Visuals (if they display)

There’s almost nothing worse than when designers realize that images might not automatically render correctly (or at all) for all recipients.

Whether it’s a preferred user setting to block image downloads in emails (a security measure) or some email clients (like Microsoft Outlook) rendering images and designs a little differently, it’s important to craft your email body in such a way that still makes sense even if the images are off.

Optional body elements

Know that you have the option of adding a navigation bar and/or an index to the body of your email.

A navigation bar includes links to the key parts of your website that are helpful for your recipients to have at their fingertips.

An index lists the topics covered in the copy below. This is particularly helpful for longer newsletter-style emails.

Social media and other links

It’s a missed opportunity not to include the links to your social media accounts in your email.

Use social media logos as links because of their recognition factor.

Other links could include downloading your app from the Apple or Google Play stores, for example. 

These links are traditionally located toward the bottom of the message, below the bulk of the body.

The footer

This area typically includes the unsubscribe link (with an additional “change email preferences” link if applicable), as well as additional contact options (like a mailing address and/or phone number). Any disclaimer text can go here as well.

But the footer can do even more than that. You could have a footer image to convey one last element of your marketing message, for example.

Conclusion

Always view every part of an email as an opportunity, and be sure to measure your performance. What performed well? What didn’t? Can A/B testing be used to gather further actionable insights?

For inspiration, check out some of these examples from Really Good Emails.