Creating compelling email marketing campaigns under a deadline requires a balance of strategy and execution. But striking that sweet spot isn’t just a guessing game, and there’s a lot within your control to put your best email forward.

This guide covers each step required to create a successful email marketing campaign including:

  • Goal-setting and stakeholder alignment (consider this your pre-work)
  • Setting up simple and easy-to-edit email designs
  • Writing, editing, and formatting email copy
  • Ensuring you’ve set up unsubscribe groups
  • Deciding the optimal send time for your email program
  • Measuring recipient engagement and other important metrics

Although that might seem like a lot of steps to remember, once you get more comfortable with your email marketing campaign process and workflow, each of your next campaigns will come more naturally.

Step 1: Think about the why, set goals, and let others know

Consider the big picture of your email marketing program as what you want to accomplish with each specific email campaign. Do you want your emails to drive sales, or are you looking to improve your email engagement? You may also want to experiment with sending re-engagement emails so you can clean up your email marketing list.

Once you’ve nailed down the “why” behind your email marketing campaign, set up (and document) your goals. A few simple and easy-to-measure example goals might include:

  • Increase your open rate by 25% in 6 months
  • Expand your email list by 15% each quarter
  • Drive conversion rates by measuring who signs up for your product or service via your email campaign
  • Implement a new A/B test with each campaign that incorporated winning elements

No matter what your goal is, ensure that it’s clear, simple, and measurable. Documenting your goals holds your program accountable, but also provides a framework for you to see how the campaigns are improving over time.

If you’re not sure what constitutes a high performance or what good benchmarks are to work off of, check out SendGrid’s 2018 Email Benchmark Report that breaks down email metric averages across multiple industries.

Finally, before you start creating email marketing campaigns, reach out to anybody who will either be regularly or tangentially involved with the email marketing campaign process. Determine some points of ownership so that there no surprises down the road.

The following questions are a good place to start and answer before creating your email marketing campaign:

  • Who gathers the content?
  • Who writes the copy?
  • Will you be working with a designer for custom images or where will you get art and creative assets for your emails?
  • Who reviews the test emails?

Putting in extra time upfront to address answers to these questions now rather than later saves a lot of time and potential backpedaling further down the email campaign creation process.

Step 2: Finalize email template designs

The next step in creating a successful email marketing campaign is to decide if you will build each campaign from scratch or leverage pre-made and customizable email templates. The latter option provides a consistent version of your email campaigns in a short amount of time.

Unless you have time and resources to build an email campaign, consider the email template as a go-to email design. You can buy, access free ones here, or work with an email designer and developer, but gaining access to a template will make your life as an email marketer much easier.

The email templates don’t need to be fancy or complicated. The more complicated you make the designs, the more you risk confusing your recipient and not allowing the important pieces of your email to have their own space.

A couple of design elements to consider during the design phase are the header/footer and your use of white space throughout the email template.

Email header and footer
The header and footer are places to reinforce your brand and provide a consistent experience for your recipient. The header may be something as simple as your logo. And the footer should include the links to your social channels, your unsubscribe link, as well as your physical company address.

Whitespace clarifies your email designs. It’s almost always better to lean on too much white space over too little as email designs can quickly become cluttered with too many elements.

Modular templates allow anyone to drag and drop content pieces as well as move them around based on the needs of the particular email.

For more best practices on email design, check out a Q&A with our Sr. Design Technologist/Designer where he answers more questions you may have about email design.

Step 3: Write your email copy

Email copywriting requires dedicated time, energy, and focus. Consider tackling each email copy component individually to make the entire task seem less overwhelming. The following content pieces appear before a recipient opens your email:

From Name, Subject Line, Preview Text

Convincing a recipient to open your email requires engaging subject lines, preview texts, and from names. Here are a couple of pointers for each component to help you optimize each and increase the chances of an open:

From name – Stop using a no-reply in your emails! Doing so creates a generic and unfriendly experience and will likely discourage your recipients from opening. Try using your brand name so there is no question who your emails are from or check out some other “friendly from” tests to try here.

Subject line – The first touchpoint you can make with your recipient is the subject line, so it pays to give it special attention!

Describe what is in your email, but you don’t (nor do you have space) to cover everything. Choose one thing to highlight. Shorter is generally better (check out more subject line data here).

Preview text – If you weren’t able to fit everything you wanted to say in your subject line, the preview text is a great opportunity to expand on the thoughts you still want to get across before the actual open. If you don’t set the preview text, most ESPs will pull from your email copy, so make sure you are taking advantage of this real estate.

For more best practice tips on ensuring a high open rate on your email campaigns, check out How to Get Subscribers to Actually Open Your Emails.

Headlines, Body Copy, and CTAs

Once your recipient decides that your email is worthy of an open, the next pieces of content they see are the headlines, body copy, and call to action (CTA).

Try writing your body copy first, followed by your headline, and then your CTA. With the exception of grammar and style guides, there aren’t any hard and fast rules for copywriting since it’s the most artistic part of the email marketing campaign process. But every piece of successful copy shares a couple of themes:

  • High-quality email copy is conversational, not generic. This art undoubtedly takes consistent practice to master. The more you write, the more comfortable you will be with this step.
  • Building the right emotional connections comes from a deep understanding of the audience/readers.
  • Focus on the benefit for the recipient—what’s in it for them and why is it worth their time?

For more on email copywriting best practices, our Awesome Email Copy: A How-To explores every last detail about how to break up your writing, how to set up a smooth editing process, and how to feel more confident with email copywriting.

Extra Credit: Images
The images within an email marketing campaign deepen and provide an enhanced visceral experience to email campaigns. Often the images are thought of as an afterthought or not used at all. But having a strategy behind selecting the images for your email campaigns (or any content asset) enhances the experience your recipient has with your email.

A couple of great online photo galleries that provide free versions are Unsplash and Death To Stock. And if you have the resources for a paid version of images, check out iStock.

When choosing images for your email marketing campaigns, consider those that represent concepts or interpretations of the topics included in your email marketing campaign. Look for simple, but bold images that draw attention but aren’t too distracting for your recipient. It may take a little longer than expected, but spending extra time on image selection helps your email campaign pop!

Step 4: Implement an unsubscribe setting

Even though you’re creating beautiful and engaging email campaigns, some recipients will want to unsubscribe. Although setting up an unsubscribe group or option might be considered a minor step, failing to ensure a way for your recipients to unsubscribe from your email marketing campaigns can cause disastrous consequences for deliverability and your sender reputation if ignored.

If you’re using SendGrid to send email marketing campaigns, you can set up an unsubscribe group within the app. This simply means that if someone unsubscribes from your emails, they will automatically be removed from your active list (although they will still be in your database).

Simply having a big email marketing list won’t guarantee your success and if your list is full of unengaged recipients, it might be doing more harm than good! For more on growing your email list the right way, check out SendGrid’s How To Grow Your Email Marketing List.

Step 5: Ready, schedule, send

Compiling and using a pre-send email checklist minimizes your chance of sending email campaigns with mistakes. Checking for spelling/copy, links, and browser variations are all important items to review before sending off an email marketing campaign.

At the very least, make sure you’re sending a test email to at least one other person so they can review and edit the copy, check links, and review the overall formatting of your email marketing campaign.

Once your email has been thoroughly reviewed, it’s time to either send or schedule your campaigns. Should you send now or schedule for a future time? This decision will rely heavily on where most of your recipients reside and whether or not you see higher engagement at certain days or certain times of the day.

A/B testing is great way to figure this out!

Avoid sending email at the top of the hour. Sending at “off hour” times such as 8 or 22 minutes past the hour reduces the chance of your emails becoming delayed if ISPs, such as Gmail or Yahoo, need to process an overload of emails.

For more on figuring out the perfect time to send an email marketing campaign, check out Send Time: When Should I Send My Email?

Step 6: Measure your results

Once you’ve scheduled or sent your email marketing campaign, you’re likely feeling a wave of relief. And a lot of your work is over (at least until your next send!). But don’t forget that you should be spending as much time measuring your email campaigns as building them.

Fortunately, email marketing campaigns produce mounds of data that indicate the health of your email program. Some important metrics to note include:

  • Unique opens
  • Click-through rates
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Spam complaints

You don’t have to measure every last metric available to you, but make sure you’re continuously monitoring the same 5 or 6 metrics for each campaign so you can capture a complete picture of how your email marketing campaigns are performing.


Building email marketing campaigns that not only reach the inbox, but entice and engage your recipients requires incorporating many unique elements and following best practices. Although it might feel overwhelming at first, breaking down each component and following the steps above position your email marketing campaigns to achieve just that.

The more experience you gain building email marketing campaigns, the more efficient you’ll become and the more insight you’ll gain into what works best for your email program.

If you’re still wanting some inspiration, check out Examples of the Best Email Marketing Campaigns of 2018 that highlights and celebrates some of the best emails that the SendGrid marketing team have seen this year.

And if you’re curious how your email program compares to others in your industry read  SendGrid’s 2018 Global Email Benchmark which provides industry-specific email benchmarks covering metrics such as average monthly sends, open rates, and more. Check it out to round your measurement efforts!

Send With Confidence

Partner with the email service trusted by developers and marketers for time-savings, scalability, and delivery expertise.

See Plans and Pricing
SendGrid uses cookies to enhance your experience. We use these for advertising and analytics purposes. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Newsletter Subscription

Sign up for our newsletter to get The Scoop on product and email news.

Please enter a valid email address.

We respect your privacy. Learn more here.