5 Essential Elements to Creating Killer Email

5 Essential Elements to Creating Killer EmailYou might have the most rocking, awesome, value-packed email ever to hit mail servers. You can slave over content, image placement, and call to action.

But what does it matter if no one opens it?

When your email lands in your recipient’s inbox you have just a few seconds before they chooses to open it or hit delete. Your potential reader sees none of the hard work you poured into the body of the email. Instead, they base their decision to open based on bits and pieces of information.

To improve your chances of getting that all-important open, take a step back from the email content and consider what your message looks like in an inbox.

From Name

The From Name must clearly and quickly identify who you are:

  • Don’t use abbreviations and acronyms
  • Send from a real person – use Fred Crowley, CPA rather than Rocky Mountain Tax Associates.
  • Send from a real person even if you are a big company, just include the company name and department too – Anne Thompson, Acme Claims Department.
  • Don’t send from a URL like Acme.com

People prefer to communicate with people and they open emails from real people. Personalizing the from name is easy if you are a small service provider — your customers are used to working with you personally. They will recognize and even expect emails to look like they were sent from Outlook even if it is a broadcast message from your autoresponder.

Larger organizations should build consistency across departments. Decide on a standard format at stick to it. Even if you are sending generic information to a large audience, the personalizing the from name speaks volumes about your company’s dedication to one-on-one attention.

Subject line

Your subject line is really a headline. Just like in newspapers and magazines, your email headline is designed to capture attention and pull it into the next line of text.

This is easier said than done – that’s why composing the subject line should be your first step when creating emails. Taking the time to tweak, refine, edit, massage and rework your subject line will pay off in your open rate.

Consider integrating one or two of these elements into the subject line:

  • Highlight benefits instead of features
  • Generate curiosity by introducing elements of intrigue
  • Use questions or leave off with ellipses
  • Use powerful, descriptive language
  • Play on emotions
  • Avoid anything that could be tricky, confusing or remotely resembling spam

Finally, consider length. There is so much variety in how email clients display the subject line that there is no way to tell how much will be displayed. Conventional wisdom suggests keeping subject lines to 35 characters, but some settings may not even display that much.

Design subject lines with the most important words first. Then check to make sure there are no awkward cutoff points in your subject line – look for truncation that may change the meaning or tone of your message.

Preview Text

Some recipients see the first line or two of the email displayed under the subject line. This is the perfect chance to get your call to action in front of your recipient and encourage them to dive further into the email

Many e-mail service providers (ESPs) use this prime real estate to display the “Having trouble reading this email? View it in a browser” message. Or worse, an unsubscribe link. If this is the case on your emails, look for an option to edit the message text. You can also turn off the “view message in a browser” option, but that could lead to some readers not being able to read your email at all.

Since solutions vary by ESP, you should talk with their customer service agents.

Images Off

Subscribers using an email application like Outlook are likely to have images turned off by default. That’s why it is important to use a mixture of text and graphics. The email should still be able to deliver its message and call to action without any images showing.

Ask yourself:

  • How does your email look before the images are downloaded?
  • If your company logo will not display – is your company name in the text?
  • Is your call to action visible?
  • Do you have your main link embedded in text as well as an image button?

Also be sure to follow web-best practices and include descriptions of your images. Use your ESP’s built-in function that allows you to type in the description when inserting images into your email. Some email clients will display the text in place of the graphic, adding an extra layer of information before the recipient downloads the pictures.

Preview Pane

If someone downloads the images and views the email from the preview pane – they are likely to see the top third of your message. Unless you have a graphic that pulls the eye another direction, most attention will focus on the left hand column, under the header. Put your call to action in this spot. Create a hierarchy for the remaining information and place it throughout the remainder of the message according to importance.


Remember — when you are in the trenches creating an email, it’s easy to get hung up on the overall impact of the email. Try to step back and see the trees within the forest by viewing the email through the recipient’s eyes just as it would appear in their inbox.

Taking the time to focus on each element individually will boost your open rate and ultimately your ROI — making all the time slaving over content and images totally worth it.

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