Email Insider Creative Secrets: How to Craft Messages That Connect, Engage and Sell

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This is a live blog post from #OMSummit. Presentation by Karen Talavera @SyncMarketing, Top 100 Women in Ecommerce 2012 by WE Magazine.

Deliverable, Readable, RESPONSIVE, Email Message:

The traditional email: AIDA (quantity over quality approach)

  • Attention – From line, Subject line, What’s visible in preview window
  • Interest – Pre-header text, headlines and subheadlines, Images and especially VIDEO
  • Desire – Subject line, Images, especially VIDEO, body copy
  • Action – Button shape, colour, copy, call to action etc.

An Alternative for Today: IEEO – selling in the way of serving first (quality over quantity approach)

  • Invite
  • Engage
  • Education / Entertain
  • Offer


  • Free trial on a new product intro without asking to buy – let us prove that it’s right for you and you make your own decision.
  • Watch a free demo to help you learn XYZ  to get them engaged
  • What makes RedEnvelope different? – sent request for feedback on service and why customers appreciate them.
  • Content marketing – information / newsletter

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs says “we have to satisfy our more basic needs before attempting to satisfy more sophisticated needs”.

Based on Humanistic Psychogy, as the question, which level of needs does your product /services satisfy from both practical and emotional standpoints?  From most evolved to most essential basic need:

  • Self Actualization
  • Esteem
  • Love / Belonging
  • Safety
  • Physiological

Your product or service should fulfill at least one of these levels of service and address them. A high end resorts could offer a level of safety, belonging and esteem.

Key Take Aways

  • You can’t control a person’s level on the pyramid (but your product or service may be able to influence it)
  • Try to learn the level of your ideal clients (Keep in mind, not all target audience members at same level at the same time, if ever)
  • Pyramid is bi-directional  (Ideally people move upward, but distinct events can cause regression (temporary or permanent – natural disasters, economic crisis, “life events”)
  • Change your messages based on people’s immediate needs and situations. Be mindful and relevant and timely based on the NOW.

Why Resonance? 

  • Because if people can’t connect, they are indifferent. If they are indifferent they won’t respond (hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is)
  • Connections can be emotional or intellectual
  • Connections can be emotionally positive or negative (resonance is a feeling of  alignment, harmony and empathy, but can be in a positive or negative context)

How? Two ways to Connect

Emotionally (Authenticity, Tranparency, Personality, Community)

Intellectual (Facts, Education, Curiosity (Q&A) and Proof)


Emotions are innate and instinctive, existing before the brain, mind and ego develop

IN a reality where we’re faced with hundreds of decisions per day, emotions serve as a sort of built-in “guidance system” that kicks in before intellect has a chance.

For Emails – Here’s what Matters (based on the above info)

Design – Design for both deliverability and proper rendering

Email receiving environments – think both big and small screens.

Message rendering a growing issue

  • Proliferation of hardware, software, and physical place for receiving and viewing email create infinitely different and changing view-ability
  • Image blocking inoign in Google, Outlook, corporate environments
  • No uniform standards across receiving email clients (Some like iOS resize messages, others don’t)
  • Anti-spam

Email Format Choices

  • Text
  • Static HTML
  • Dynamic HTML (with Animation or video)
  • Mobile

50% of all email marketing messages are now being opened on a mobile device.

Email Design Building Blocks

1. Pre-Header

  • Main Offer
  • View as web page
  • Mobile link / text option
  • Whitelist / address book request
  • Social Media connections

2. Headline (or Graphic Header)

  • Large enough to show in preview or mobile
  • Not so large as to dominate usefulness
  • Relates to Offer

3. Body

  • Sub headline(s)
  • Images
  • Copy
  • Links
  • Call To Action buttons, icons, arrows

4. Call to Action

Designing Emails for Visibilty

  • Keep “view as Web Page / mobile” links in pre-hearder
  • Add ALT-tags to images (these tags allow the designer to insert descriptive copy o rinks that views can read in place of blocked images)
  • – Keep ALT-tag copy short and specific (Less than 10 words is good, less than 5 is best)
  • Include “bullet proof buttons” – HTML code the graphic vs inserting a link or image
  • Test all URLs and links to ensure they work and display properly

Top HTML Email Design Solutions

High Impact Designer by TemplateZon –

Responsive Design 

  • An email design approach that uses a media queries to sense the type of device on which email is being used and optimize display for that device (Requires using CSS3 in HTML)
  • The most resource demanding email option, but it’s the direction the industry is going.
  • Pros – consistent viewing across multiple devices, mitigates mobile email viewing frustrations, better subscriber experience, better response rate
  • Cons – Requires strong HTML and CSS coding knowledge, takes longer to code / design, long load times can still cause slow rendering especially on mobile.

Mobile Visibility Matters

  • About 44% of all email now opened on mobile devices as of Dec 2012
  • 90% of smartphone users access the same email account on mobile and desktop
  • 70% of mobile device users delete emails that display improperly
  • If not using responsive design – use designs created on a grid, use single vs multicolumn layout, view designs on smart phone and big screen while designing and viewport meta tag for iOS

Design Key Takeaways

  • Think “architecture” vs “art”
  • Assume partial vs full view
  • Plan layout to stimulate both open and click. Know where response hotspots are and use them to your advantage (upper left? Upper right? Re-header? Bottom?
  • Simplify content organization
  • Design with a “mobile is the mainstream” mindset
  • The confused eye doesn’t buy! Make it as simple and clear.

Subject Line Best Practices 

  • Use your brand or company name
  • Get to the point
  • Do TEST long vs short – even long subject lines have proven effective
  • Do test your subject lines for both response and filter tolerance level
  • Do monitor affiliate subject lines and sending for CAN-SPAM and corporate policy compliance
  • Do relate the subject line to message content
  • Do relate the subject line to your offer
  • Do follow naming or title conventions for newsletters, etc.

Key subject line words that work:

  • Free product offer
  • Discount offer
  • Contains familiar brand name
  • Contains recent pruchase info
  • Free shipping offer
  • Limited time offer
  • Breaking information / news
  • New product announcement

Apply and Align Messaging to the Customer Lifecycle

  • Pre-conversion (Prospects)
  • Conversion (All Customers)
  • Post- Conversion
  • Relationship-Building

Storyboard your email program (some message frequency and sequencing can be planned, but allow for triggered emails. Create a flowchart illustrating message types, timing, etc)