Whether you’re sending someone a transactional email that confirms an action they’ve taken, or a promotional message that informs them about a new financial services product or a special offer, you’ll want to consider how the head, body, and footer of your email work together to help deliver the results you want.

That’s important because incoming email servers will perform checks on your email when they arrive, and you’ll have just a few seconds to convince recipients to open your message when it hits their inboxes. That process is not unlike the way people make an assessment of someone when they enter a room, based on the way that person dresses, acts, and talks.

Your Email’s Reputation Will Precede It

Just like a person’s reputation affects how others interact with them, each email you send will be impacted by the cumulative impression made by your previous messages. Sure, you’re not a spammer, but there are still a couple of things you need to keep in mind to ensure that your emails put their best foot forward, so to speak.

Build your sender reputation

When recipients don’t bother to open your messages, your emails bounce back, or people report your honestly legitimate emails as spam, your organization’s sender reputation suffers. That means your messages will have a harder time getting past the gatekeepers at Gmail, Yahoo!, and other email providers.

Keep best practices in mind by:

  • Honoring unsubscribes as quickly as possible
  • Adopting an opt-in policy
  • Pruning dead email addresses
  • Looking closely at bounce codes
  • Making your emails worth people’s effort to open them and click a link or two
  • Creating and executing a warm-up plan before you start sending emails from a new IP address

Create trust in your business

Even if your sender reputation is okay, consumers’ trust in your organization can suffer when they receive malicious phishing emails that seem to be from your company. Implement SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), both of which are authentication standards that help incoming mail servers verify that messages are coming from a legitimate source.

Don’t stop there, though: Top them off with DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance), which unifies SPF and DKIM. It allows you to declare how an email should be handled if it fails an authentication test, so you can stop fraudulent messages from getting through. DMARC also gives you the ability to receive reports that help you troubleshoot authentication issues and identify malicious domains.

Make an Introduction With Your Header

After your email makes it to recipients’ inboxes, you need to make a great introduction and give them a reason to open the message.

Choose personable “from” and “reply-to” addresses

Avoid a generic “[email protected]” address that says it’s from Online Sales or something else equally bland. Your “from” address and name should be friendly and make customers feel like you’re talking to them personally. Make sure you use a “reply-to” address that’s functional and sends the reply somewhere useful, such as the customer’s CRM record.

Get attention with a strong subject line

There’s an art to a great subject line.

  • Keep it short: six words, or about 50 characters, at the most
  • Use more than first name personalization – try referencing their activity, their location, or an account balance
  • Emojis can add some fun, but use them very sparingly and double-check your choices at a site like Emojipedia to ensure they render properly in various email clients
  • Create urgency with a deadline
  • Try a straight-forward approach for transactional emails

Don’t neglect the preheader text

The preheader is the text that email clients, including all mobile ones, display below the subject line. If you don’t specify what it should be, the recipient will often see the first several words of the email, which are usually something like, “To view this email with images, click here.”

Since that’s a poor experience, you’ll want to use the preheader text to help sell the introduction to your email. Don’t simply repeat the subject line – offer complementary messaging, such as the deadline for your special offer or a key feature of the new software someone just installed.

It’s okay to try again

Just like someone can do everything right when walking in a room but not make the connection they desired because of reasons beyond their control, it’s possible for your emails to get lost in the shuffle because something like a major news event was occupying people’s attention.

If your open and click-through rates are poor but you think your content was good, you can always send your email again, but make sure you change the “from” and “reply-to” addresses, the subject line, and the preheader text. No one wants to hear the same introduction twice.

Prompt the Action You Want With the Email Body

Getting someone to open your email is simply the first step in a successful interaction with a customer. Now you need to seal the deal by giving the recipient a reason to click at least one of the links.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure all your emails are mobile responsive, which means they’ll automatically adapt to the devices being used by your recipients, whether they’re phones with small screens or computers with large displays. Everything, including text and image sizes and layout, will adjust on the fly to offer the best possible experience.

You’ll also want to include high-resolution images since HD displays are quickly becoming the norm on most mobile devices.

Examples of successful marketing emails

Both of these emails are simple but effective. They use small blocks of text and employ bullet points as much as possible – big chunks of text are hard to read and can be tedious on a mobile device. These emails also rely on basic layouts and a couple of key images to get their messages across, so they’re easy to digest.

This Wells Fargo marketing email’s goal is to inform customers about a new feature and encourage them to sign into their accounts and give it a try. It even goes out on a limb a little with a fun subject line that plays off the idea of snapping a photo.

This email also doesn’t distract the recipient with multiple calls-to-action and a barrage of information. It has one CTA button and includes a few useful secondary links.


This message from Toyota Financial Services uses Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, as a springboard for promoting the company’s charitable efforts. Like the Wells Fargo email, it focuses on a single call-to-action and makes all the other links secondary. It also ties into a well-known event, which can help increase open rates.

Take Care of Little Details in the Footer

No one wants their customers to walk away, but giving them the ability to do so, as well as offering a way to for them to contact you, is legally required in many places. You also need to include a clear statement that explains who sent the message and why it was sent since sometimes people forget how they ended up on your email list.

When customers say “Don’t email me, I’ll email you”

It doesn’t feel good to know that a few people will click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email, but you don’t want uninterested subscribers on your list. They’ll not only hurt your open rates, but they can harm your sender reputation too.

Make sure the unsubscribe link is on its own line and uses a font size that doesn’t require zooming in to see. No one appreciates it when a company tries to hide its unsubscribe link, and doing so just increases the chance that people will report the email as spam to get off your list.

However, when people click the unsubscribe link, there are a few strategies you can use to keep the relationship going in some fashion.

  • Encourage them to opt down: Offer an email preference center that lets customers choose less frequent emails or different types of mailings. Maybe they’d rather have a monthly product update rather than a weekly sales piece.
  • Give them other channels to stay in touch: Make sure your unsubscribe page includes links to your social media accounts, as well as other places where they can stay in touch in a more informal way, such as a blog.
  • Ask why they’re leaving: Did they sign up by mistake? Are they not interested in what you’re offering? Give unsubscribers a short survey that can help you surface other communication options for them. And even if they still leave, you’ll still get valuable insights to help your marketing strategy.

Keep Your Customers Happy

Even if you do everything right and a customer opens your email but doesn’t take the action you desire, your relationship with them will still be in good standing. They’ll remember that it was a satisfactory experience, and maybe next time you’ll seal the deal.

~ Casey