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.

Our Email Marketing For Beginner’s Guide covers everything you need to know to get started with email marketing, including:

  • Aligning with stakeholders on goals for your email marketing campaigns
  • 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 marketing campaigns
  • Measuring recipient engagement and other important metrics

Learning how to create successful email marketing campaigns might seem like a lot of steps to remember, however, once you get more comfortable with the process and workflow, each of your next email marketing campaigns will come more naturally.

Step 1: Set measurable goals

Consider the big picture of your email marketing program to be 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. How do you compare?

Align with your stakeholders on goals and responsibilities

Reach out to anybody who will either be regularly or tangentially involved with your email marketing campaign process. Determine some points of ownership so that there no surprises down the road.

Try to answer the following questions 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: Choose an email template or build one from scratch

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 each time, 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. Whatever you choose, gaining access to a template will make your life as an email marketer much easier!

And don’t stress—your email templates don’t need to be fancy or complicated. The more complicated you make the designs, the more you risk confusing your recipients 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 your 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 enticing 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:

  • It’s conversational, not generic. This art undoubtedly takes consistent practice to master. The more you write, the more comfortable you will be with this step.
  • It’s written with a deep understanding of the audience/reader in order to build the right emotional connections.
  • Its focused on the benefit for the reader—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.


The images within an email marketing campaign provide an enhanced visual experience. Images are often 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. For more resources on free image libraries, check out our own compilation. 

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: Comply with email regulations to stay out of the spam folder

Even though you’re creating beautiful and engaging email campaigns, some recipients may still want to unsubscribe—the inbox is a noisy place! 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 you ignore them.

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).

Remove unengaged subscribers from your email list

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! Since growing your email list the right way is a hot topic, check out SendGrid’s How To Grow Your Email Marketing List for more detailed tips.

Step 5: Review, test, and send your email marketing campaign

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 emails 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?

Using email automation is a great way to put the findings of your A/B testing to use. Learn more about SendGrid’s email marketing automation beta and sign up here to be added to our early access waitlist! 

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.


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. Although it might feel overwhelming at first, following the steps outlined above in our Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing position your campaigns to achieve just that.

If you’re still wanting some inspiration, check out our 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 about 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.

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