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Utilizing direct marketing best practices to enhance your email marketing programs

Posted by Justin Herren on November 7, 2013

Every day, customers receive dozens of emails flooding their inbox. Email is an essential touch point with customers. Whether it’s providing brand visibility, product updates or new promotions, email is a fast, effective way to engage an audience. As a designer, you want your email campaign to not only stand out from the crowd but also engage your audience. Incorporating direct marketing best practices into your design can help your email campaign achieve these goals.



There is a common misconception that direct marketing involves only direct mail. In reality, direct marketing is any method of marketing that involves:

  • Marketing directly to a specific customer or audience (target marketing).
  • Driving the customer to a call-to-action.
  • Tracking measurable response to the campaign.


For those of you who have worked with email campaigns, you probably realize that email marketing easily hits all of these criteria. With this in mind, it makes sense to utilize direct marketing methods when designing an email in order to boost your email campaign’s effectiveness.

So which direct marketing best practices can help increase the successfulness of an email campaign? Below are a few tips to consider when designing your email.

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1. Brand it
Consumers are leery of opening any type of mail, whether physical or electronic, when they don’t recognize the sender. Brand recognition enforces legitimacy, which in turn drives response. In direct mail, branding can be incorporated in the outer envelope design to establish legitimacy. With email, the preview pane is your outer envelope. Place the logo in the upper left part of the header for instant recognition. Include fonts, colors and/or buttons that are consistent with what is used on the website or landing page you are driving to. Consumers want to know that your email is authentic, and incorporating brand recognition strategically in your design reinforces that.




jh 22. Get personal
Direct marketing best practices have shown that relevancy drives response. One way to emphasize relevancy is through personalization. Go beyond the standard name greeting. Include personalized information so that customers perceive that you are speaking directly to them. This could include product purchase history, model numbers, account information, how you first engaged them, etc. Personalization allows you to speak more directly to a customer and reinforces the authenticity of the communication. As you design your email, think about where to include this personal information so that it has the most impact and is easily recognizable. While incorporating it into your body copy may seem like the obvious solution, explore other design options that provide added emphasis.




3. Think mobile
In direct marketing, you want your communication to stand out from the crowd. With direct mail, this could be accomplished by designing a piece that is dimensional, oversized, has a reflective decal or some other creative flourish. Designing for mobile optimization is a great solution for getting your email noticed. According to Litmus, more than 40% of customers view email on a mobile device. That number is expected to continually increase over the next 5 years. However, many organizations are still behind the curve when it comes to designing emails for mobile optimization. Designing either a one-column email layout or a multicolumn responsive email can accomplish this. Responsive design allows you to provide a different layout experience depending on the device your audience is using. Both options allow an email to be displayed in a one-column format, which is ideal for mobile devices. However, responsive layouts have the added benefit of allowing a different format for desktop clients, such as 2 or 3 column layouts. When designing responsively, think of how your layout would collapse and stack from a multicolumn grid to a single column.



4. Say it 3 times
Direct marketing best practices have shown that there is power in the number 3. Drive engagement by focusing on one call-to-action at least 3 times throughout your email layout. Different calls-to-action can confuse customers and reduce the amount of engagement for the primary purpose of the email. Focus on one single action and drive attention to it at least 3 times throughout your design.



5. Show me how to respond
Now that you’ve gotten your audience to open your email, you want them to take action. In direct marketing, the successfulness of a campaign is measured by its response. One direct marketing best practice for direct mail is including a response device. In email, the response device is the link to your landing page or website. To drive response, let your audience know where to click. Customers respond well to buttons. They let customers know that an action needs to take place. They promote the call-to-action. Try to include at least one button in your design and make it obvious (color, size, etc.). For mobile-optimized emails, you may want to consider repeating it twice, once toward the beginning and another toward the end of your layout.

Including additional text hyperlinks is also a good practice. Make sure the links have a distinguishable color, underline or both. While as a designer you may not like how hyperlinked text looks in a layout, your audience needs to know where to click. Try placing these links throughout your layout to offer additional opportunities for your audience to engage.



6. Watch your image
While strong imagery can reinforce an email message, too many images can slow an email’s performance. Of course, it would be nice if everyone had the newest devices and stellar data service. The fact is, no one likes waiting for images to download to read an email, especially on a phone. To avoid a drop-off in response, a good rule of thumb is to try to keep images under 40kb to improve download speed.

Remember, you want your email campaign to not only be opened but to engage your audience and drive them to action. Incorporating direct marketing best practices into your email campaign design can give that extra push. Check out our blog article “Have direct mail best practices been influenced by digital media?” to learn more about the links between direct marketing and digital communications.



Topics: Best Practices, Email Marketing

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