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When it comes to email marketing best practices, you could say the SendGrid marketing team is a rather opinionated bunch. And although we’re happy to talk about email marketing best practices, we wanted to let some of SendGrid’s favorite brands do (most) of the talking for this guide.
The hand-picked email marketing examples below illustrate some of the best things happening in email right now. The list covers all aspects of email best practices, including personalization, testing, subject lines, and more. Learn how you can take their ideas and execute them in your email marketing program.
The Hustle is a daily email newsletter that curates some of the day’s most important headlines in business, tech, and culture. They send a healthy dose of news that I don’t necessarily get reading the BBC that keeps me opening every day.
The Hustle constantly tests subject lines, which always tie back to their first story of the day, and are often creative and funny. Take the example I’m using from March 5th—their first story was about new technology trying to bring Internet access to remote areas using satellites.
Their tone is casual, and their writing is witty without dumbing down the content.
Ellie Johnson, Marketing Operations Associate
Airbnb is an online marketplace for short-term lodging and vacation rentals. Airbnb acts as the broker throughout the transactions and provides this connection between for a fee. Self-described as " A Community Built on Trust," they have built up a strong reputation which supports that.
The following email I received from Airbnb stood out to me as a great email example for various reasons, but right off the bat, what stood out to me was the use of personalization.
This email does a great job of using data in a simple and logical way to create a personalized experience.
Austin Whiting, Email Marketing Associate
Medium(.com) is an online publishing platform featuring articles ranging from personal finance, to sports, to humor, and much, much more. It also serves as a blog hosting service, allowing users to create accounts featuring content of their own. Rather than focusing on unique visitors to their website, the company optimizes its business around time spent reading the site; a testament to the quality of the content provided.
Medium’s “Daily Digest” is a top email example because of the excellent personalization behind their email. (Disclaimer: I don’t work for Medium, so the following contains assumptions about the inner-workings of their personalization!)
Upon signing up for a free account, your first task is to select subject matter that most interests you. Those interests are then plugged into their magical personalization engine, which goes towards generating your “Daily Digest” email.
As your consumption of Medium content continues, the personalization in the digest sharpens, making it the epitome of my “wanted mail” every morning.
What better way to engage with recipients than by giving them all of the content they explicitly asked for?
Matt Rushing, Manager of Conversion Marketing
I’ve used the travel company Bookit.com to book multiple vacations to Cancun. Since those trips, I routinely find emails on current deals at resorts throughout Mexico and various Caribbean destinations in my inbox.
I often find myself perusing their deals and desperately fighting the urge to plan another impulse vacation. “What? An all-inclusive resort in Cancun for less than $100 per night? Tell me more.”
Take this recent email’s subject line that provides a time-based incentive, along with a low-friction commitment:
Once I opened the email I see a beautiful beach photo, but what stands out to me is the branded search box at the top. Even though you are not able to enter your destination, check in and check out dates, the email is branded the same as on the website:
It becomes apparent that Bookit is also testing various templates and elements in their email campaigns. In one variation, they are testing the impact that larger pictures have on CTRs (click-thru-rates). In the other, they are testing the concept of “social proof” through customer quotes:
Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a tropical resort I need to look into.
Mike Pace, Director of Demand Generation
There are two things that almost always catch my attention: creative, witty alliteration and savory, delectable desserts. Yelp, a leading customer review site, managed to incorporate both in one of the many themed newsletters they recently sent me.
Yelp’s weekly newsletter titled, “Bangin’ Beignets!” tempted, and ultimately, persuaded me to try the powdered sugar delights at a few of my local restaurants.
Don’t get too carried away with images, because it may raise a red flag to spam filters if you haven’t provided enough text.
Dustin Hovey, Sr. SEM Manager
This example of stellar email design comes from one of my guilty pleasures, Birchbox, a service that sends personalized beauty product samples to your door every month. This email is telling me about options to customize my April box by choosing some specific samples—and giving me a little shopping break in the middle of my day!
Everything about this email is eye-catching and engaging. Plus, I got to shop!
Jill Guest, Sr. Marketing Manager - Customer Growth
Mint is a leading personal finance app from Intuit. Offering easy budgeting, bill tracking and payments, free credit scores, and personalized advice for money management, Mint makes it simple to stay on top of your finances.
I love this email because it unselfishly delivers value and reminds the reader of why they created a Mint account in the first place.
Jessy Sweet, Associate Product Marketing Manager
Time is a precious commodity. But what’s an email marketer to do about recipients who say they want their communication (by expressly opting in) but then go dark?
Hit them with a re-engagement email! Autopilot produces killer content, and I initially signed up for their email anticipating that I would devour every asset they sent my way...but, apparently, it’s been a while since I opened or clicked. (My bad, Autopilot! Hope we’re still cool.)
They put thought into the recipients’ experience and crafted the message with the end goal in mind—to get their sleepy subscribers to wake up or get off their list.
Kate Schmeisser, Creative Content Manager
Artifact Uprising is a premium quality, custom photo print company that is very intentional about every aspect of their business, from the initial photo capture to the materials they use for printing. Their marketing emails don’t falter in intention either, as their style is a condensed replication of their site.
Successful branding doesn’t always require a big, bold logo.
Lauren Parsell, Associate Media Buyer
Many elements go into creating a knockout email marketing campaign. But don’t let that overwhelm you. Focus on providing simple and friction-free experiences for your recipients and tailor your ideas, experiments, and optimizations around this single notion.
If you’re starting out with email marketing, consider focusing on one element such as design, testing, or copy and add a focus area with each campaign.
And if you’re already creating emails, but are looking for ways to improve, start trying to get more in depth with additional testing strategies or enhanced branding and design.
When in doubt, take another look through the examples above for new ideas to try in your email campaigns.
Carly BrantzDecember 13, 2017 • 4 min read
Warren DuffMay 10, 2017 • 4 min read
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