What good email marketing looks like

Feb 19th, 2016

Every day, we make snap judgements about which emails we open and perhaps even quicker decisions about which hold our attention for long enough to prompt us to take action.  I took a closer look at my personal inbox to identify the most engaging messages and pick out the qualities that made them good examples of email marketing

If you thought email marketing was dead, get your eyes around these stats:

  • The DMA UK (formerly the Direct Marketing Association) found that email marketing has an ROI of 3800% – that’s a return of £38 for every £1 spent
  • 4.24% of visitors from email marketing buy something as compared to 2.49% of visitors from search engines and 0.59% from social media, according to eCommerce firm, Monetate
  • Chief Marketer reported that email’s ROI was 28.5%, compared to 7% for direct mail
  • Emails with personalised subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, according tp Campaign Monitor


The humour in the subject line and high impact visuals make this a strong piece of email marketing. It’s also a good example of retargeting as I’d recently been browsing coats on the website, but left without purchasing anything.

boohoo email image 4

boohoo image 3


The layout of this Christmas email  allows Asos to fit in a lot of content  – and showcase a lot of products – without looking cluttered, while the copy is original and engaging.

asos email 1

asos email 2


The conversational subject line is appealing and friendly in tone, which is appropriate for the purpose of the email: to pique your interest in browsing, rather than trying to make a sale. It almost goes without saying that a platform specialising in showcasing imagery features well-chosen, mouth-watering photography, which is introduced with just the right amount of captivating copy.

pinterest curry image 2

Great follow-up emails

The Debenhams email is personalised with a list of items I recently purchased (with imagery to jog my memory), with a prominent call to action button next to each one. It’s simple, clean and makes it easy for me to take action. Additionally, the title (which was also the subject line) is clever and more attention-grabbing than something more  prosaic like ‘Review our products’ would’ve been.

debenhams youve got great taste email

This email from Inbound.org is a great example of a brand not only willing to admit to a mistake, but also turn it into a great piece of email marketing: honest, funny and even interactive.

inbound.org email - testing, testing, punish Mike


Everything about this email is done well, as you’d expect from a company specialising in digital analytics Kissmetrics. It’s well laid out and concisely covers all the need-to-know info (what it’s about, why it’s relevant to me, how to get involved). What’s particularly refreshing is the message ‘If you have a question about anything, just reply to this email’, rather the dreaded ‘do not reply to this email address’ which some marketers still use: there’s no quicker way to signal to your customers that a) they’re being mass-marketed to, and b) you have no interest whatsoever in their feedback, questions or in building a relationship with them.

kissmetrics email

…and a not-so-good example

The subject line below is rubbish. What are the posts about? What blog? Why should anyone be interested? The only reason I opened it instead of deleting it was because I knew I was writing this blog post.

email with uninspiring subject line

The characteristics of a great marketing email

  • Snappy subject line that grabs attention
  • Targeting/personalisation
  • Content: relevant and straight to the point
  • Readable layout & format
  • Strong call to action (including an ‘unsubscribe’ option, which is a legal requirement in most countries)
  • Eye-catching visuals
  • A little bit extra  – such as a discount code or special offer
  • Timing – According to Kissmetrics, the optimal email sending frequency is generally 1 to 4 emails a month, but you should be guided by your own data analysis.

Don’t forget landing pages: they should have the same message, look and feel as the email marketing that drove the visit, as well as a prominent call to action.

Read our other resources on basic good practice for email marketing and optimising emails for mobile devices.

Interested in how inbound marketing could prove a cost effective way of growing your business and increasing your profits? Get in touch today for a chat.

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