Email campaigns are one of the easiest ways you can promote your business. That also makes them one of the most popular forms of digital marketing, and as any marketer can attest, it’s tough to stand out in a crowd. With average open rates of just 22.71% and clickthrough rates even lower, it’s more important than ever that email promotions are clear, targeted, and well-timed.

Below are a few general tips on how to make email promotions work for you, plus 9 examples of stellar emails that stood out from the crowd.

Send with a purpose

 When someone gets your email in their inbox, you want them to open it and read it. But then what? Is your goal to get your customers interested in a new product? Convert leads? Make a purchase? Knowing what your end goal is will help you be strategic about what the content should look like, and who to send it to.

For example, if you’re trying to turn new leads into paying customers, you might decide to offer a short free trial of a product or service that’s popular with your existing customers. In that case, you’d send the email only to new leads.

If your goal is to generate leads by word of mouth, you might decide instead to share useful tips or information that your current customers will want to share. In that case, you might send the email to your current customers, with a call to action linking to your social media feed.

Know how you’ll measure success

Keeping track of your marketing emails is just as important as creating them. Without metrics to gauge your success, you won’t know which campaigns to try again and which ones to scrap. These metrics are commonly known as KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators.

Some of the more common KPIs for email marketing are:

  • Open rate: how many people opened your email once it reached their inbox. If your open rate is low, you may want to consider using more captivating subject lines; however, on its own this metric doesn’t mean if your customers aren’t reading your emails too.
  • Click-through rate: how many of the people that opened your email clicked on a link in the body text. This generally indicates more engagement with the email, so a high click-through rate is a good sign that customers are reading and engaging with the text.
  • Conversion rate: how many of your users took the action you wanted them to take—for example, users that clicked a scheduling link and booked services with you.
  • Email ROI: ROI, or return on investment, is one of the more telling analytics for promotional emails, especially if the direct goal of the email is sales. It can be hard to measure though, particularly since some customers may see your email and decide to make their purchase later, either in person or by going to your website from their browser.

Although there’s no one KPI that will give you a clear picture, the ones that are the most important will depend on your marketing campaign.

Make it personal

It’s no secret that people don’t always make decisions based on pure logic. Emotions and logic each play a part in the decision making process, and sometimes people make decisions on feelings (or anticipated feelings) alone. Using emotional cues in your promotional emails like pictures of faces, moody colour palettes, and a specific tone for your copywriting to add feeling to your email. Use testimonials to build trust via social proof, instead of relying on hard facts to convince your customers to take action.

It’s also a good idea to personalize your emails, both by adding your customer’s name and tailoring your emails to fit their interests and customer status. This helps them feel acknowledged as individuals, rather than just a sales target. Other personalization techniques can be a happy birthday greeting, an exclusive offer based on their previous purchase, or emails that mention how long they’ve been away.

Automate your email marketing

 Tracking KPIs, inserting client names, and segmenting your customers based on their interests is a lot of work if you’re doing it manually. Automate your email promotions with software like vcita to help you streamline the process. You can easily add a call to action button, and the software will track your KPIs automatically.

Instead of personalizing each email manually, the software will update the name for you on every email. If the client data in your CRM system is integrated with your email marketing campaigns, it’s also a lot easier to create targeted campaigns based on data like their last purchase, their total purchase amount, their demographics, and categories you assign to them. Sending your customers different emails that tap into their interests is a lot more effective than sending one generic email to all of your contacts.

9 great email promotions that get clicks

1. Discount email from Avocado

 Discount emails offer a special discount on a product or service, like this one from Avocode. While most other discount emails say “25% off” or “special offer,” Avocode subverts that expectation right off the bat by framing the discount as a negative percentage. By putting the discount text in black text at the top, the discount percentage itself is highlighted, only to be followed later by what the discount is for.

Avocode promotion emailThe simple, bold colours align with Avocode’s trendy brand identity, appealing to their target market (designers). They’ve included a testimonial from a creative director in the second half of the email, adding social proof to the incentive to sign up. These are great emails to send to both new and returning customers, and tracking KPIs like your ROI or conversion rate can go a long way in letting you know how effective the discount strategy was.

2. Thank you email from C:S

 When your customers make a purchase, make sure to send them a thank you email! Track open and clickthrough rates on these emails to measure their effectiveness. It doesn’t have to be a simple text email—this example from C:S shows how a thank you email can reinforce brand identity and build trust with great customer service.

C-S promotion email

The “Thank You” text is much larger than all other text, signifying that the expression of gratitude is the main sentiment of the email. This contextualizes the information about when the kit will be shipped, tips for trying on the frames, and several links to customer service help. Although less is usually more, the extra information in this email underscores the company’s appreciation for their customers, making sure everything is just right.

3. Abandoned cart email from Bonobos

 Abandoned cart emails remind customers that there’s something in their shopping cart on your site, prompting them to take another look. It’s a good strategy for both new and returning customers, although sometimes it’s advisable to tailor the email depending on which type of customer you’re targeting. This email from Bonobos not only identifies the number of items in large font at the top of the email, but identifies the buyer as a new customer and sends them a discount offer code.

Bonobos email

Although the trendy, greyscale graphic is a sharp reflection of their high-fashion brand, it would risk being too bland if it weren’t for the casual copy and personalized approach. The overall effect is a stellar branded email that sets the perfect tone for their crisp but casual fashion.

4. Survey email from Headspace

 Sometimes, the best way to gather information from your customer base is just by asking them for it! This is a good strategy to let existing customers tell you how you can improve; track conversion rates on these emails to gauge how effective your campaign is in getting them to complete the survey. Headspace does this spectacularly well with a cute graphic matching the branded illustrations on their app. The call to action button is clear and direct, and is repeated in a link within the longer explanation below.

Curology Email promotion

The header text identifies a common frustration associated with taking a survey—that it will be boring—and assuages this worry directly instead of offering compensation in the form of a discount or prize draw. In doing so, they build trust with their straightforwardness and the claim that the survey won’t be boring is a lot more convincing as a result.

5. Product launch from Harry’s

 Whenever you add a new product or service, send a product launch email to your contact list. Tracking KPIs like the open rate and return on investment can give you an idea of the relative interest in the new product among your existing customers and leads. This product launch email from Harry’s makes it clear exactly what the email is about and what the product is right away.

Harry's Email promotion

What makes this campaign particularly effective is the colour choice and graphics—the entire email is a variation on the green and blue tones of the product set, except for the “Shop Now” call to action button, set in a complementary orange. The paper beneath the box subtly suggests that the item could be a gift, introducing a visual cue that’s not overtly repeated in the text, but offers an alternate reason to buy.

6. Seasonal email from Hulu

 Seasonal emails are a great opportunity to offer a promotion, for both new and returning customers. Christmas gets all the attention when it comes to seasonal marketing, but this Valentine’s Day email from Hulu proves that other holidays are just as good for creating a promotional campaign.

Hulu Email promotion

The “love” theme in both the graphic and streaming recommendations keeps with the spirit of Valentine’s Day, but the message stands out because the green and black colour scheme runs counter to the red and pink that consumers normally associate with the holiday. This small difference helps the message stand out among other marketing messages that its readers are being bombarded with, drawing attention to its content.

7. Invitation email from AdWeek

Events are a great reason to send your customers an email; after all, who doesn’t like being invited to something? This is a good strategy for both customers and new leads that need a little more information in order to convert. Leave it to Adweek to create an irresistible invitation to a webinar. The copy at the top lets its audience know right away what type of event it is, the topic, and the date and time.

Adweek email

Instead of a bland title, the webinar is framed with a provocative question that flies in the face of common marketing knowledge. The copy between the two red calls to action articulates the problem, provoking a curiosity about the solution that can only be satisfied by attending the webinar. The register CTA is repeated a third time within the text as a red hyperlink, using repetition to inspire action.

8. Referral email from Allset

 Referral promotions are a great motivator for your current customers to take action, and this bright email from Allset notifying the customer about the reward is no exception. The lime green background and bold exclamation create a fun, celebratory feeling. Even though Allset is a dining app, no images of food appear. Instead, a pattern of multicoloured slinky toys illustrates the fun of the referral promotion itself: the feeling of getting a $10 reward when friends use your personalized referral code.

Allset Email

The calls to action highlighted below encourage the reader to share their code on social media for even more deals—the “order now” button is small and secondary, since the main purpose of the email is referral generation. Referral emails work best for existing clients, particularly regulars. For referral emails, open and share KPIs are good indicators of their success.

9. Happy Birthday email from Curology

 If you have birthdate data on hand for your customers, why not send a happy birthday email? Birthday emails are an easy way to acknowledge a customer, and check to see which of your customers are opening their emails. This email from Curology doesn’t ask its recipient to take action or offer any freebies. Instead, it offers a sentiment of well wishes and thanks on the customer’s birthday.

Curology Email promotion

This email works well precisely because it doesn’t do anything other than wish a happy birthday—and in doing so, Curology strengthens its brand presence in the reader’s mind. A funny, slightly awkward photo with colours reminiscent of Curology’s brand palette and a wish for “glowing skin” are subtle reminders of the brand, linking it with the feeling of receiving personalized greeting on your birthday.

Get more clicks with the right message

Promotional emails sometimes get lost in the shuffle, which is too bad, since they can be masterful when they’re done right! Know your purpose and your customer, track your KPIs, and send them regularly. The more you do it, the better your emails will get!