For any business with a digital presence, marketing emails are often like paintings—they have the ability to deliver powerful, engaging, and inspiring messages, but without a clean canvas, a solid frame, and proper lighting, they’ll fall flat in the dark.
While many marketers are used to crafting compelling content for their emails, finding the right formatting and structure is more often the focus of web developers and graphic designers—but that doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Presentation can make all the difference in how an audience receives a message and whether or not they choose to engage.
In fact, the framework alone can bury a CTA too far down, fail to leverage images in the right place, make perfect copy look awkward or lopsided, and even simply skew the perception of what’s being delivered.
Fortunately, there are plenty of premade email templates and drag-and-drop email builders to help the less technically savvy achieve what was almost entirely previously reserved for those with HTML experience: structural and aesthetic bliss for every email function.
To help guide you through the rigors of choosing the best options for your next campaign, we’ve assembled this post of 7 emails that you can use to kickstart your creativity and build your own.
7 Newsletters to Take Inspiration From
For most businesses, newsletters are the bread and butter of regular information delivery. Routinely getting it right means rewarding your customers with helpful, valuable, and engaging content and the kinds of open and click rates you can hang your hat on. Routinely getting it wrong means missed opportunities, poor performance, and even a disenfranchised audience or worse yet, lost customers.
“The inbox is a sacred space. It’s a direct line into the lives of your audience and potential customers—so whatever you send should be of the highest quality.” - Kaleigh Moore, Content Expert.
1. Keep it Simple: Airbnb
While we’ve seen plenty of well-executed newsletters that are truly admirable in terms of the complexity of design and color, there’s something incredibly powerful about keeping it simple, as it leaves no room for distraction—and this newsletter from Airbnb is the perfect example.
Even just in terms of marketing best practices, they’ve made the most of their three main elements: image, copy, and CTA. While it doesn’t show in the example image, this same pattern repeats itself several times, so there’s plenty of cohesion, and minimal distraction.
•Nothing lost: The clean, simple design ensures every recipient will get the message. Even if the images don’t load, the audience will still get everything it needs to.
•Everything shines: With black text over a white background, the copy is clear and easy to read, allowing the images to stand out with a splash of color.
•Modular build: Even though the newsletter contains three iterations of the simple header, copy, and CTA format, it would work just as well with one, providing the sender plenty of options when assembling content in the future.
2. Simple, Elaborated: REI
Adding a bit more complexity to your layout and design doesn’t mean you have to pack your newsletter full of super colorful imagery, write tons of copy, or fill every space to deliver value. In fact, if you’re looking for a step above, many of the same concepts can be modified to add some intrigue.
REI Co-op’s newsletter is an excellent example of how to take the three core elements to the next level without making things too busy. Although there are compelling visuals and several segments of copy, it’s still clear and digestible.
“While the information you’re presenting to your audience is important, it’s equally vital that you display it in a way that is easy to parse and navigate,” says Content Pro Phil Grossman. “When designing your newsletter, be sure to use a newsletter layout that displays your content in a clear, hierarchical structure so that your subscribers can easily tell what the most pertinent and important information is.”
•Balance: Given the use of white space, the audience can appreciate gorgeous imagery without being overwhelmed, allowing the layout to accommodate more text to contextualize the messaging below.
•Brand identity: Just like their audience explores the outdoors, REI’s choice of imagery, layout, and copy reinforces the idea of exploring their website the same way.
•Recyclable layout: While they likely won’t need to talk about having a new website for a while, the combination of the computer screen, background image, and copy blocks can be recycled plenty of ways, especially since REI often blurs the line between digital/natural engagement.
3. Going All In: Discoverycreative
Depending on your audience, some newsletters can be packed to the gills with images and content and still have great appeal. It takes a bit more effort to place each element thoughtfully, but when executed well, the results can be truly impressive.
Take for example this almost newsletter from Discoverycreative. It’s certainly busy, but segmenting the content and maintaining balance with large words and photos still allows this to be easily digestible and even scannable.
“Newspapers have different sections and recurring columns and TV networks have regularly scheduled programming,” say the experts at Campaign Monitor. “Organizing content in a formal way lets people know what to expect and makes it easier for them to navigate your content based on their own interests—the way one might scan the headlines but settle in to read the Travel section.”
•Reduce, reuse, recycle: By creating a template that keeps similar subject matter in the same defined areas with every send, it’s incredibly easy for whoever is fleshing it out to quickly replace old information and images with something new without having to completely reorganize the layout.
•The spice of life: Even though the layout might remain the same with each iteration, this type of layout can satisfy a wide variety of readers since they can simply stick to the sections they’re most interested in if they don’t prefer to read everything. And if they do, they’ll get plenty of variety in terms of content.
•Looped in or linked out: While this example mostly contains text, it could still work to direct readers elsewhere, like to your website or other helpful content. That means you can find the perfect balance of delivering insight directly in the newsletter itself, or provide external links to deliver additional value.
4. The Double Down: EarthHero
While best practice generally says not to include all of your CTAs and copy inside the image to prevent the risk of rendering failures, there are plenty of ways to work around it, and this EarthHero survey email is a great example. By giving recipients quick, easy access to the CTA up high, then contextualizing the ask, providing incentive, and asking again, the audience gets a two-fold opportunity—and reason—to complete the survey.
“When you're deciding how to write the "ask", it's best to consider what motivation the customer might have for taking the survey and then appeal to that motivation.” - Jerome Collomb, Head of Marketing at MyFeelBack.
Whether part of a nurturing campaign or merely a tool for feedback, surveys are an important tool for plenty of businesses. Unfortunately, while plenty of surveys are short and easy, that doesn’t mean people are motivated to fill them out. After all, they’ve already received their product or may simply not have enough experience to feel compelled to weigh in.
However, an inviting, well-designed, and well-purposed survey email can make all the difference in generating engagement and receiving valuable insights on how your products and services are working for your audience.
“Getting the survey invitation email right is vital to ensuring good response rates. A poor invitation email can lead to poor survey participation jeopardizing your ability to do any meaningful analysis of the survey data.” - Brenda Stoltz, Marketing Manager at Rybbon.
•Two-fold: Keeping one CTA above the fold and providing one below the copy—and contextualization—ensures that readers will know what’s being asked of them and why.
•Reinforcements have arrived: The imagery in the hero image is a quick visual reminder of why they’re being contacted, while the badges just above the signature reinforce the copy and the bigger meaning of getting feedback.
•Options: Within the context of being asked what they think, recipients also have direct access to other products on the site two-thirds of the way down this email. So whether they fill out the survey or not, liking the products could lead to either good feedback, more sales, or both.
5. Keep It Easy: Tentree
Surveys are a great way to garner invaluable feedback and insights directly from your audience, but if you ask too much of them, you might end up with nothing at all. If you’re not getting good response rates on more complex surveys or simply want to get a better idea of who your promoters are and why, keeping them right into their inbox is sometimes the best way to go.
This survey request from Tentree is a great example because it not only asks one simple question they can click to answer, but only asks for one written response—and that one response, although easy, is extremely valuable to understanding what a customer likes and dislikes and why.
“Surprisingly too many companies forget to ask text feedback from their customers by focusing on a score. Understanding why a customer gives you a particular score is vital for sustainable customer experience management.” - Anna Pogrebniak, Digital Marketing Enthusiast.
•Simplicity: One answer to click. One written to provide context. It keeps recipients in their inbox and still provides a high-value response for the marketing team.
•Survey protection: Although likely not common, depending on the email client, the form might have issues with submission or rendering entirely. Whether a recipient has completed it and can’t submit or can’t see it at all, there’s an easy text-based link below so no potential participant is missed.
•Order backup: Since surveys are often designed to be sent out based on the time the order was placed or shipped, any delays with delivery could have this awkwardly arriving ahead of the product itself. To ensure no love is lost, there’s an easy link below to check on the status of the order, showing the audience the company is looking to ensure a pleasant experience.
6. Immediate Value: Marvel
There are plenty of ways you can invite folks who are new to your brand into the fold, from simply saying thanks to helping them dive into your offering. If you happen to have a product or service that takes a bit of first-hand experience to fully leverage, you can provide your audience immediate value by giving them ground-level opportunities to explore it easily.
“Marvel’s welcome email combines illustrations with short, informative video tutorials and simple, personalized copy to drive you towards useful resources. This welcome email keeps you focused with a minimalistic and clean design.” - Kasia Perzynska, Content Strategist.
Regardless of what type of business you run, welcome emails are one of the most common forms of marketing communication users generally expect to receive. They’re essentially the email equivalent of a first impression—which means they’re not only important, but vital to forming a good relationship with your readers. If you turn your audience off with a welcome email, rest assured the following efforts will be received with skepticism. Therefore, it’s crucial to use this as a method of setting expectations moving forward.
“When someone is new to your brand, this information is critical. It helps establish trust by being transparent and puts both parties on the same page for a healthier interaction moving forward.” - Ramona Sukhraj, Head of Editorial Content at Impact.
•Direct and indirect options: Not only does Marvel provide three key, easy digestible videos to address specific topics in a nice clean layout, but their CTA provides a similar, yet broader invite to create a first project.
•The right content: This welcome email has everything it needs. It has beautiful yet simple and on-brand imagery, well-written copy, easy links/video, and a straight-forward CTA, all of which sets expectations for continued engagement.
7. Bigger purpose: Parks Project
Regardless of what kind of business you have, your welcome email should focus on your audience’s primary reasons for engaging with your brand. When it comes to retail, that can be limited, but Parks Project does a great job showcasing that they really understand their customers’ mindsets by welcoming them to the community and making them feel like their engagement is worth more than the potential to make sales.
“Reciprocity is a powerful tool for creating a strong relationship. Think about it – a consumer gives you an email address or a client gives you their business. In return, you offer something above and beyond that elevates your interaction above a mere transaction.” Katie Lundin, Marketing Specialist.
•Two-pronged approach: Not only does Parks Project acknowledge the desire of their customers to do good, support the parks, and be a part of a like-minded community, but also offers them a simple discount right off the bat so they can support the cause that much faster and easier.
•Immediate impact: Right under the CTA section, Parks Project showcases the impact they’ve already had on their cause, encouraging their audience to get involved without an ask, but with simple and compelling evidence.
Since every business and audience is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all template that will suit everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get significant inspiration from others’ examples if you understand how the elements are employed in context. After all, the beauty of email template builders and drag-and-drop email builders is that they’re fast and modular, making it easy to employ others’ techniques and recreate your favorite layouts in your own reusable templates.