1. Less is more: clear and concise subject lines
The subject line is the most important part of your email message. If your audience doesn’t open your email, all the work that went into designing the email body will have gone to waste. Try to keep your email lines short, intriguing, and to the point. Avoid using vague words and subjects that trick your reader (they might open only to unsubscribe). A/B test these lines and aim for a 20% improvement to start. Look out for specific combinations of words, topics, and lengths that optimize opens.
2. Design with mobile in mind
Emails viewed on a mobile device surpassed 30% of all views in 2011 and is growing at a tremendous pace. When creating an email, it’s important to think about how it will look and feel on a mobile device. According to EDialog, 80% of users find viewing an email to be harder on their mobile device. Top complaints were having to scroll across a page, too much text, images not rendering properly, and content not downloading. When developing emails, keep the width and height of mobile devices in mind (it’s best to approach 480w if possible), use smaller file sizes for images, limit the amount of copy, and always test attachments/links.
3. Get to the point without images
Many email clients disable images by default. Be sure readers know what the point of your email is without having to load images. Chances are, most readers will discard/move on from your message if they don’t understand immediately what you’re attempting to communicate. Images should enhance the experience and aesthetic of your email, but they shouldn’t be used to solely convey the main message and call to actions.
4. Mix up content and calls to action
More often than not, I’ll delete an email if it is one gigantic block of text, even if it is on an interesting topic. Big chunks of content work for some industries, but make sure you mix up the content types (video links, images, charts) and calls to action (buttons, graphics) in your emails to keep it interesting and give your audience’s eyes a break. No one likes an “email essay.”
5. Know your target audience
What does your target audience like? Where are they in the buying cycle? If your buying cycle is short (average of 1 or 2 touches), you’ll probably want to beef up the special offers and promos. 48% of people name special promotions as their favorite type of email to read on a mobile device. If your buying cycle is long, you’ll want to mix in reminders of products they’ve browsed recently, and perhaps increase repeat customers by suggesting further buys on a delivery tracking update email (tied for 2nd most-liked type of email).
6. Test your emails on the most popular clients
Let’s face it, there are just too many types of clients out there – there is no way to test your email on all of them. So how do you decide which ones to prioritize? Query your own database and find out which are the most common domains to the specific segment you’re sending to (for each email if you can). Chances are, you’ll see a good mixture of web clients (Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail) and corporate addresses. If your database has a significant amount of corporate addresses, I would add the top PC desktop clients as well as the top Mac clients onto the test list. Litmus and Campaign Monitor are a couple of tools we like that allows you to test multiple clients at the same time.