What Makes an Email Great

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From someone who collects and shares great emails as a hobby.

Min Kim, web art director at publishing company Bobit Business Media, launched Email-Gallery.com in August 2009 as something of a passion project. As the name implies, the site collection of well executed and designed email marketing messages. Kim curates the site himself, and updates it regularly. He has amassed hundreds of emails from dozens of brands across multiple industries.

Naturally, given that we’re in the throes of Email Week here at DMN, a gallery of emails curated by an individual passionate enough to create said gallery caught our attention. We reached out to Kim, and conducted an email Q&A about the site, what drove him to consume and collect so much email marketing, what makes for a well designed email, and what brands should consider when crafting email messages.

Perry: Can you give me a little bit of background on yourself and your experiences with email?

Kim: I’ve been working as a web designer and front-end developer since 2002, and currently, I am working as a Web Art Director at B2B Media company Bobit Business Media. As a designer, I’ve been designing banners, websites, apps, and emails. At Bobit Business Media, we have multiple brands and emails, and we send over a million emails annually.

P: What drove you to create Email-Gallery.com

K: Email-Gallery was my personal side project. At the time, I was learning back-end programming called ASP classic and wanted to build something based on that language. There were many web design showcase sites, but nothing related to email designs, so I decided to start the project hoping that it will inspire email designers and to adapt the latest trend of emails for myself.

P: What factors are at play in well designed emails that are absent from poorly designed ones?

K: Whether it’s an e-promo or a regular newsletter, a well designed email should have a clear message which will lead users to accomplish the goal that generates leads or conversions. Clear message and solid content, good images, responsive, clean code.

P: What exactly makes an email design “bad?”

K: I mentioned it in the previous answer, but the ones that can’t achieve the goal is a bad email. Aesthetically, the look of the email might be beautiful, but if it’s not serving the purpose, it’s not a well-designed email. Emails that are not responsive in design. Mobile viewers are increasing every day and providers should give users great experience on any device. Email that breaks. No call to action button or a link.Broken images, broken links, [words] misspelled, cluttered content, etc. It’s an email. [In] 2015, the number of emails sent and received per day totalled over 205 billion, and the figure is expected to grow. Don’t waste your subscriber’s time with unclear, cluttered email. Be nice to them, they are the ones interested in your product.

P: What are some of your email pet peeves?

K: The emails that don’t link their logo to their page, and emails that have multiple text links in one paragraph.

P: What brands do you find produce the most consistently great emails?

K: There are many, but to name a few. For email marketers, I would say Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, and Litmus. They create beautiful emails with very interesting topics. For e-commerce stores, I like Warby Parker and Stumptown Coffee. They both have the unique and bold design.

For content, I enjoy reading news from Need2Know, and learn from goHighbrow.

P: What four or five pieces of advice would you offer to email marketers?

K:

  • One: have a clear goal for your campaign. Once you have the goal, it’s easy to make design decisions, and you can measure the success of the campaign to improve.

  • Two: segmented email campaigns. Do not batch and blast. The topic of the email might not be relevant to certain users. Segment your users and send targeted campaigns. http://gohighbrow.com/ does a great job with segmented emails.

  • Three: email is not a website. You don’t need to have a navigation on your email because users won’t and can’t browse your email. Don’t try to cram in all of your content in the hopes that the user will click on one of your stories.

  • Four: responsive email. Can’t say enough. Mobile users are growing rapidly every day. From my experience, more than 50% of receivers are viewing it on their mobile devices.

  • Five: landing page is so important. Often times, emails are used as a gateway to generate leads or conversion. When you entice users via email, the next step is to provide details on the landing page, but I see many emails that will just link to their homepage and lose the users.

P: What would you say to consumers who completely ignore emails?

K: It’s the consumer’s choice to acknowledge or ignore emails, but companies shouldn’t ignore emails. There are many channels that companies can communicate through and reach out to their users, and email is one of the most powerful tools. I believe engagement is much higher than any other channels.

P: Any final thoughts?

K: Your subscribers are valuable customers who took their time to show interest in your products and company. Try to communicate with users and gain their trusts first before you try to promote your product.

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