Your ultimate guide to email marketing

email marketing

If you want your business to succeed, you need to find marketing strategies that not only allow you to get your message across but also help you to connect with your customers on a deeper level.

And one of the best strategies for both furthering your brand’s agenda and building relationships? Email marketing. Email marketing is one of the most effective (and affordable) strategies out there to connect with your customers, build your brand, and drive results.

But you can’t just draft a quick email, hit send, and expect your sales to go through the roof. Email marketing is a science, and if you want to create a successful email marketing strategy, you need to understand what makes it tick.

Let’s take a deep dive into all things email marketing:what it is, why it works, how to set up your own email marketing campaigns and how to use email marketing to take your business to the next level.

What is email marketing?

What is email marketing? Image via Pixabay.

Before we jump into how to use email marketing to grow your business, let’s quickly cover what, exactly, email marketing is.

The definition of email marketing

Email marketing is the practice of using emails to achieve three core goals

  • Communicate with your prospects and customers
  • Build relationships
  • Drive sales

Technically speaking, any email you send to your audience can be considered email marketing, but most marketing emails have a defined, measurable goal (and it’s important that you set this goal prior to sending out a series of emails).

Not only is email marketing an effective strategy, but it’s also an efficient one. With email marketing, you don’t have to email every person on your list individually (can you imagine how long that would take?!)—instead, you can use an email marketing tool to automate the process, personalize your emails(opens in a new tab or window), and send them out all at once.

If you’re new to email marketing, there’s no need to start from scratch. An email newsletter template, like the Light Green Fashion Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window) or the Teal and Grey Laptop Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window), can be the perfect foundation for designing visually impactful emails—with minimal work required.

Why is email marketing effective?

Why is email marketing effective? Image by LadyBB via Pixabay.

Now that you know what email marketing is, let’s talk about why it’s so effective.

The ROI is high

Whenever you invest money into a marketing strategy, you want to make sure it delivers a solid return. With email marketing, the return on investment you’ll get is more than solid.

Research suggests that for every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can expect to generate a $38 return.

Your customers are constantly checking their email

One of the golden rules to marketing is to connect with people where they already are. And, as it stands, where people are? It’s their email.

People check their email—a lot. Research suggests that 99% of personal consumers check their emails every day(opens in a new tab or window) and a whopping 50% check their personal email more than 10 times per day(opens in a new tab or window). That’s a ton of email checking. Translation:There is plenty of opportunities for you to get your marketing message in front of your customers.

And the best part? Your customers actually want to see your emails in their inbox. The majority of consumers want companies to reach out via email, especially the sought-after millennial market (73% of millennials prefer communications from brands to come via email(opens in a new tab or window)).

It’s the gift that keeps on giving

One of the main reasons email marketing is so effective? Longevity.

Once you have someone’s email address, you can essentially market to them forever. You can send them marketing emails when you launch a new product, when you have a big announcement about your brand, or when you need to drive sales.

And the more you learn about your customers through their interactions with your brand, the more personalized you can make your email marketing strategy; for example, you can send emails based on purchase history, birthdays, or previously viewed products.

You won’t find many marketing strategies as effective as email marketing, and well-designed emails are a surefire way to increase the effectiveness of this already effective strategy. Get started with designing powerful emails with Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the Pink and Light Blue Bordered Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue and Yellow Modern Camera Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

How to do email marketing

Image by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay.

We’ve covered the what and the why of email marketing. Now let’s cover the how.

Email marketing tools

Email marketing tools. Image by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay.

Before you get started with email marketing, you need the right tools.

There are many email marketing tools out there (some free, some paid) with a plethora of features to help you automate the email marketing process.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing an email marketing tool. Instead, think about what you want and need from your email marketing campaigns and then work backward until you find an email marketing tool that delivers.

For example, do you need to track how many people open an email announcing your new product launch as well as how many of those people click on the link within the email to learn more? If so, you’ll want to scope out an email marketing tool with a robust analytics dashboard so you can have access to all your data.

Do you have a variety of different customer avatars and want to send specific messaging to each? Then you’ll definitely want to look for an email marketing tool that allows you to segment your audience and send customized emails.

The point is, there are a ton of different email marketing tools and each of those tools offers a wide variety of features. Before you decide which is right for you, determine what you need out of your email marketing—and then choose the tool that best aligns with those goals.

Not sure where to start? Here are just a few of the more popular email marketing tools (many with different features and capabilities) you might want to check out:

You need the right email marketing tool to find success with your email marketing strategy—and you need the right template to design marketing emails that make an impact. Get started with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the Black and White Vintage Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window) or the Yellow and Pink Simple Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

How to write email subject lines

Image by Raw Pixel via Pixabay.

One of the most important elements of any email marketing campaign is, without a doubt, the subject line. Without the right subject line, people aren’t going to open your emails and all of your time, effort, and investment will be lost.

But what, exactly, goes into writing subject lines that break through the clutter of your customers’ inboxes?

Create a hook that plays to your audience’s curiosity

As mentioned, the entire purpose of a subject line is to get people to open your email. And the best way to do that? Give them a hook they can’t refuse by engaging their curious nature.

Subject lines that pique your customers’ curiosity are immediately attention-grabbing—and if make your customers curious enough, they’re going to open your email in order to satisfy that curiosity.

So, how can you create a hook that makes your customers so curious, they have to click and open your email?

  • Use a question. Posing a question in your subject line will make your customers curious about the answer. And the only way to get that answer? Opening your email, of course! Questions can be a great way to pique your customers' curiosity and increase your open rates.
  • Use an unfinished thought. You can start a thought in your subject line and trail off with an ellipsis (...) then finish off the thought inside the email. For example:“We scoured the earth for the world’s best coffee bean, and you won’t believe what we found…”
  • Create a sense of urgency. Subject lines that endorse an offer only valued for a limited time will not only make your customers curious, but it will also create a sense of urgency. This is a type of Loss Aversion Marketing(opens in a new tab or window) strategy that marketers often use.

Personalize your subject line

You can personalize your email subject lines by using friendly language (nothing too formal!) and starting your subject line with your customer’s name (which is a personalization feature you’ll find in most every email marketing tool).

Use an emoji

People love their emojis and including an emoji in your subject line can increase open rates by 56%(opens in a new tab or window). Add emojis to photos(opens in a new tab or window) to spruce up your visual content. Just make sure your emoji helps provide the reader with more context. If you’re sending an email to market an upcoming music festival, the beer and headphones emojis could make sense. The mermaid and birthday cake emojis? Not so much.

Subject lines are the hooks that get people to open your email. Once they open your email, headers are the hooks that get them to keep reading. Keep your customers scrolling with one of Canva’s email header templates, like the Green Grapes Newsletter Email Header(opens in a new tab or window) or the Victorian-Inspired Thank You Email Header(opens in a new tab or window).

How to write email CTAs

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.

No matter what kind of email you send, you want your readers to do something—whether that’s clicking a link, signing up for a webinar, or checking out a new product. But the only way people are going to do what you want them to do is if you tell them. That’s where CTAs come in.

CTA stands for call-to-action, and it’s exactly what it sounds like:It’s a call asking your readers to take a specific action.

Your CTA will depend on what exactly you want your audience to do, but here are a few best practices to keep in mind when writing your CTAs:

  • Stick to a single CTA... The more you ask your audience to do, the less likely they’ll be to do it. Sticking to a single, clear CTA is the best way to drive results. (To be clear, you can include the same CTA in multiple places in the email, just don’t confuse people with too many requests.
  • ...or make sure your CTAs work together. Sometimes, including more than one CTA in an email makes sense. For example, let’s say you own a lifestyle brand and were sending a marketing email to promote your best content. You might want to include a CTA for people to check out your recipes, another to read your top blog posts, and another to head over to your YouTube channel to scope your videos. Even though all the CTAs are technically different, they all work together towards a single goal. The point is, you can use multiple CTAs in your email marketing but only if they work together to help achieve a common goal.
  • Use emotive language. When it comes to CTAs, “click here” isn’t going to cut it. This is because it’s a vague request that doesn’t quite tell the reader what the value is, or even where they’re going.If you want to drive real results, you need to play to people’s emotions. Using persuasive, emotive words and phrases (like “free,” “limited time offer,” “get x% off,” or “Sign me up, ASAP”) can help maximize conversions and drive more results from your email marketing campaigns.
  • Make it easy to see. If your CTA is buried in a mountain of text, your customers aren’t going to be able to find it and, as a result, they’re not going to be able to take action. If you want to drive conversions, make sure your CTA is prominent and easy for your customers to see (colored buttons are a great way to help CTAs stand out!).

If you want people to take action, you need to focus on your CTA—so why not include it from the start? Including your CTA in your email header can be a great way to cut to the chase and immediately let your audience know what you’re asking for. Get started with one of Canva’s email header templates, like the Wooden Trail Email Header(opens in a new tab or window) or the Blue with Photo Birthday Email Header(opens in a new tab or window).

Email marketing design

The way your emails look is just as important as what they say, which is why email marketing design is so important.

Obviously, your email marketing design is going to depend on a number of factors (for example, your branding and the type of email you’re sending). But here are a few email marketing design best practices to keep in mind as you’re designing your emails:

Choose the right layout

Pick the right layout for your email campaign. Image by Paul Gernale for Canva.

You can’t just throw all of your design elements into an email and hope for the best. If you want your email marketing campaigns to drive results, you need to be thoughtful in your layout.

Your layout should create a sense of visual hierarchy(opens in a new tab or window) that directs your readers to your most important design elements, like your CTA or to the product. When choosing your layout (including which elements to include, what size to make each element, and where to place them), think about what kind of results you want to drive from your email—and then choose a layout that helps to deliver those results.

No matter which layout (or layouts!) you choose for your email marketing campaigns, you’re going to need a visually impactful header. Make sure your emails start off on the right foot with one of Canva’s email header templates, like the Clean Typographic Promotional Email Header(opens in a new tab or window) or the Grayscale Bicycle Email Header(opens in a new tab or window).

Choose the right dimensions

Picking the right dimensions for campaign's images ensures that it will come out looking great. Image created on Canva.

You want your email to look good no matter where or how your customers are viewing it, whether that’s through Gmail on their desktop, Outlook on their smartphone, or Yahoo on their iPad. And the best way to ensure a consistent experience between email clients and devices? Choosing the right dimensions for your email designs(opens in a new tab or window).

If you want to play it safe and make sure your emails to look right in every email client, stick to the industry width standard of 600 pixels (in terms of length, anything goes!) and if you want your emails to look right across every device, make sure the email marketing tool offers responsive design.

Pack a visual punch

Image via The Stylish City.

On average, most people receive 121 emails per day(opens in a new tab or window). That’s a lot of emails!

As mentioned earlier, you need the right subject line to get people to open your email, but if you want that email to convert after it’s opened, it needs to pack a visual punch.

Things like pops of color(opens in a new tab or window), high-quality images, animations, or interesting typographic elements(opens in a new tab or window) can help your email stand out from the hundreds of other brand communications.

Another element to consider is incorporating your brand logo, colors and font into every email you send in order to create a cohesive brand experience for the reader.

If you want your emails to make an impression on your audience (and, more importantly, convert), you need them to pack a visual punch. Get started with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the Brown Breakfast Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window) or the Black and White Fashion Youth Modern Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

Email marketing examples (and how to get the look with marketing email templates)

Alright, so now that we’ve covered some of the basics of email marketing (including what it is, why it’s effective, and how to do it), let’s take a look at some emails in action, shall we?

Here are five strong examples of marketing emails:


Sample email newsletter from Missguided. Image via MailBakery.

Sometimes, when it comes to email marketing, simple is best. This email from women’s online clothing retailer Missguided(opens in a new tab or window) doesn’t have too many bells or whistles.

However, the sheer simplicity of this email is also its biggest strength. Because there isn’t a huge variety of design elements within the email, the ones that are featured have maximum impact.

From a design perspective, the bold black text creates a strong visual contrast to the pink background. The spacing lets each line of text and emoji-inspired graphic (which all work together to form a fun, punchy marketing message) have its own moment in the spotlight. The simple, single column layout draws the reader’s attention to the CTA at the bottom of the email (driving conversions in the process). Bottom line? Sometimes, simple is better—and, in this email design, that’s definitely the case.

Like the simple, straightforward design of this email? Capture the look with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the Pink, Grey, and White Minimalist Modern Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

South by Southwest (SXSW)

SXSW email marketing campaign. Image via Campaign Monitor.

Media and music festival South by Southwest (SXSW)(opens in a new tab or window) gets straight to the point in their email design, including their “Register Now” CTA directly in the header of the email. When paired with pops of color, visually impactful graphics, and another CTA towards the bottom of the email (along with a hefty discount), this email is sure to drive conversions and ensure that a solid chunk of their email list actually registers for the event.

Want your CTA to be the first thing your customers see when they open your email? Then include it in your header! Capture the look with one of Canva’s email header templates, like the Tinted City Scene Email Header(opens in a new tab or window).


Image via metacake.

Havenly(opens in a new tab or window) knows that people are signing up for their email list because they’re interested in interior design and more specifically, in having a room in their home redesigned. The design company wisely lets a photo of one of their redesigned spaces (which basically acts as an email-sized billboard for their design-on-demand service) take center stage, followed by a sincere message from their CEO and a CTA to book their own designer and get the design process started for themselves.

If you have a photo that showcases a key product or service, it can be a great focal point for effective email marketing. Let your photos take center stage with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the Beige Minimalist Fashion Photo Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).


Image via Hubspot

If you want to showcase a variety of products in your email marketing, you need to present them in a way that feels streamlined, organized, and doesn’t visually overwhelm your reader. Apple(opens in a new tab or window) nailed the concept in a recent holiday marketing email, which created a visual sense of separation between their iPhone cases, Apple Watch iBands, iPad covers, and Mac accessories by alternating the direction of each row of products and including an individual “Shop Now” CTA for each product line.

And to top things off? A neutral background and generous use of white space keep the entire design from feeling too cluttered.

Need to organize multiple products in a single email marketing campaign? Capture the look with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the Brown Minimalist Fashion Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).


Image via MailBakery.

Layout is one of the most important parts of any email marketing design. Salad giant sweetgreen(opens in a new tab or window) cleverly dresses up a simple grid layout by following a zig-zag pattern, alternating product images and typographic elements (which, in this case, are recipe titles and descriptions). And to drive results? They bookend the email design with CTAs at both top and bottom—a solid move for driving conversions.

Like the zig-zag layout design of this marketing email? Capture the look with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the White and Black Minimalist Tropical Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

Want to read more about email marketing that can help you step up your game? Check out 10 easy email marketing tips to try(opens in a new tab or window).

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