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Email Design Basics

email design basics

Email eats up our Monday mornings as we delete them en masse from our flooded inbox. We may stop to skim a few subject lines and might even open one or two. But aside from our Monday-morning attitude toward email, it’s still a highly effective marketing tool. Campaign Monitor’s recent industry report states that 59 percent of marketers say email continues to generate the most return on investment (ROI) for their organizations. That puts it well above any other digital strategy – at least when done right.

With effective messaging, interesting visuals and targeted subscriber lists, email can do a lot of the heavy lifting for your campaigns. Here are some simple design and usability tips to help you get the most out of your email content.

Interesting Visuals

interesting visuals for email design

I’m a designer, so of course I want to start with visuals. Make it look pretty. Well-crafted visuals lend credibility to your story and evoke an emotional response. Visuals help you tell a story. Plus, photos, videos and graphics break up chunks of text, making it easier to read by adding visual relief.

Good Balance

Visuals are important, but an email also needs text. Don’t create one giant image that includes your visuals, headlines and copy. These types of emails might not render in an inbox with high security settings. Sometimes, your single-image email will be marked as spam and won’t even make it to your intended recipient.

Clear Calls to Action

use a clear call to action

Create clickable CTAs and place them where they’re easily found. Buttons are the most effective format. Adding a hyperlink to text isn’t as strong and might get overlooked on mobile. Put the most important links at the top of the email, so they aren’t missed. Less important information can follow.

You have three to five seconds to attract the attention of skimmers running through their Monday morning inbox, so make it count.

Mobile Matters

According to Fluent, Inc., 75 percent of users say they check their email using a smartphone. That number is likely to grow each year, so it’s surprising how many emails aren’t programmed with mobile in mind.

mobile email design basics need to be finger friendly

Friendly for Fingers

It’s a lot harder to click hyperlinked text than it is to click a button. Buttons offer a better visual way to communicate a link, and they have a larger clickable area, which makes it much easier to activate with touch.

Easy to Read

Make sure mobile text is readable. Sounds simple, right? This is probably the biggest turn off when viewing email on a smartphone. If users can’t read your message because the text is too small, you’ve just wasted your budget and time – and created a bad user experience. Campaign Monitor reports that as many as 15 percent of users will even unsubscribe, instead of just delete the email, due to poor formatting.

email design should be easy to readMobile Image Sizes

Just like text, your images need to scale correctly in the mobile space. If an image doesn’t scale down to smaller screens, all email formatting will break, causing your email to side scroll as the text and image bleed off the edge.

The Power of Testing

There’s only one way to make sure your email works properly. Test it. Send tests to different-sized smartphones, different operating systems and different email programs. This is the same for desktop – and even for email templates. Testing across devices will help you troubleshoot formatting issues. Double check your font, button sizes, images and overall email length.

test your email design

A great way to determine the effectiveness of your email is through A/B testing. Even though it’s fairly easy to do, only around 50 percent of marketers take advantage of it. A/B testing allows you to see which of two variations of the same email campaign perform better. There are endless things you can test, but some of the most common are subject lines, call-to-action messaging or placement, image options and headlines. Depending on what you are testing – conversions, clicks or opens – one small change could dramatically improve the success of your email. Acting upon A/B test results helps avoid pitfalls in future emails and ensure campaigns perform well.

Good Luck

These email design tips ought to help you make your campaigns the results-generating, relationship-building tools you want them to be. Goodbye pesky issues. Especially those that crop up after you’ve emailed 600 subscribers.

This column originally ran in the November 15, 2018, issue of BlueSky News.

Women Unite and Advance at Ignite ICT Women’s Conference

I’ve been thinking about women lately, thanks in large part to the Wichita Business Journal. I was among the roughly 200 women – of all ages and careers levels – that attended its inaugural Ignite ICT Women’s Conference last Thursday. It was billed as a way to get inspired, get connected and get empowered. And it achieved that trifecta.

High-level women shared their journeys and examples of shattering the glass ceiling. Wichita Community Foundation CEO Shelly Prichard challenged each of us to find a success coach, a cause and a champion. Right on. How else can we ensure the future is female? Panelist Jamie Harrison, Meritrust Credit Union senior vice president thinks we need to do this together, saying, “Behind every woman there should be 100 women cheering her on.”

ignite ict women's conference 2018
Roughly 200 women attended the Ignite ICT Women’s Conference last Thursday. It was billed as a way to get inspired, get connected and get empowered.

Stand Up and Be Counted

Panelists talked about issues facing women in the workforce – from gaining a seat at the table to achieving (at least a semblance of) work-life balance. They are problems we must solve. “Your organization will only know what you show them,” counseled Kriya Shortt, Textron Aviation senior vice president of customer service.

Change Your EQ If You Need To

I must be the only person in Wichita who has never heard Dotty Harpool give a presentation. I quickly saw what I have missed. This woman is phenomenal. Harpool’s been teaching at Wichita State University for more than 30 years, so she knows how to command a room. As Barton School Director of Student and Community Initiatives she also knows how to make connections. I loved her advice to ask for feedback, encourage other women and realize that you can lead at any level. “Misery loves company,” she said. “Success also loves company.”

Harpool asked attendees to take an assessment to determine our emotional intelligence (EQ), i.e. our ability to understand and manage our own emotions and those of others. Of course, she clarified that we can’t change anyone but ourselves, but we can change how we respond to others’ actions. A no answer to all six means you have a high EQ. A yes to all means you have a low EQ.

“Listening is a choice,” she said. “Hearing is a sense.” She encouraged us to choose to listen as a way to increase our social awareness and EQ. Unlike IQ, which we’re stuck with from about age 2, we can change our EQ – and our behaviors. She urged us to find our happy places. One way she gets through challenges: “I still like to enjoy myself a Twinkie,” she said.

Lots of Good Advice

Dress for Success Executive Director Portia Portugal suggested that we create our own personal board of directors, to surround ourselves with people we respect, to seek their counsel, and, whenever possible, to act upon it. Leah Sakr Lavender, a talent specialist for the Greater Wichita Partnership, emphasized the need to build people up and show them a career path. She also spoke about modeling kind behaviors to ourselves, too, including changing our self-language if it’s not as encouraging as it should be.

My longtime friend Sarah Hampton had the day’s longest title, I believe: 6 Meridian wealth advisor, partner and first vice president. It probably takes that many to contain her awesomeness. Her advice to compliment rather than compete against other women is good. I think it’s good to complement them, too. Help when you can.

Hampton hasn’t gotten where she has by not having a plan. “Set goals and don’t let your position or gender slow you down,” she said. “Life comes in seasons. Know your priority during that season and act on it.”

Learn from the Best

My boss, Sonia Greteman spoke on the entrepreneurship panel alongside other trailblazing business owners. Sonia’s inspired me since we first worked together almost 20 years ago. I was at Dallas-based Flexjet and a client of Greteman Group. That relationship gave me a unique vantage point to see a professional business woman in action. I saw firsthand how a woman could be accommodating, yet strong; creative, but also driven by the desired ROI. I learned how you could build a true friendship while still maintaining the unique boundaries of a client-agency relationship.

As a creative director, you expect Sonia to be an idea machine, which she is. But what not everyone may know is how professional she always is. Arriving on time. Giving a firm handshake. Being prepared. Her panel comments included really thinking about the competition and ways to move the needle for your business – before you ever walk into that meeting with senior leadership. Don’t wing it.

She shared a life lesson that a mentor gave her many years ago: “If you’re invited to a party, it’s not what the party can bring to you, it’s what you can bring to the party.” Sonia took that to heart.

Sonia communicated softer, but vital, lessons learned since launching her agency almost 30 years ago. “Take care of yourself. Take time to be around your friends and family. Find ways to learn and grow. Become part of the community. You’re better at work when you have a full, rounded life.” Fellow panelist Regina Miller, who runs a consulting firm of the same name, echoed that thought, saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

ignite ict women's conference entrepreneurship panel
Michelle Becker, Profit Builders; Mary Billings, Love of Character; Jennifer McDonald, Jenny Dawn Cellars; Sonia Greteman, Greteman Group; and Regina Miller, R Miller Consulting sat on Ignite ICT’s EntrepreneuHERship Panel November 8.

Sonia also said it pays to be yourself and to make yourself standout. Early in her career she worked at Boeing Wichita. When she left, a colleague gave Sonia a compliment: “You are fuchsia silk in a gray-flannel world.”

I don’t mean to brag, but it was super cool throughout the day when I would introduce myself to people and they would follow with, “Is Sonia your boss? She seems like a great person to work with!” And of course, I could sincerely reply with, “Yes she is.”

Pull Up the Next Generation

One of the most standout parts of the day was when a Millennial attendee ran up to Sonia in order to get their photo together. Both she and her friend were really chatting Sonia up. I got the biggest kick out of watching these young women meeting someone they so obviously admired. This truly was one of the best parts of the conference, giving young professionals an open forum to connect with local women like Sonia who have paved the path. I would add that all the women at this panel seemed to have what it takes. Let’s watch and see. And help where we can.

March to Your Own Drum

As a mother of a toddler, I especially connected to the advice and example offered by other working mamas, such as my friend Mary Billings, who opened her fantastic Love of Character shop at the corner of Hillside and Douglas almost four years ago. I’ve seen the heart and soul she’s poured into her business and the tenacity she’s shown in fostering and growing it.

ignite ict women's conference attendees with ashley bowen cook
Mary Billings, Love of Character; Ashley Bowen Cook, Greteman Group; and Angela Green, Wichita Moms Blog attended last week’s Ignite ICT Women’s Conference.

The WBJ’s Bryan Horwath reported that in 1960, mothers with kids still at home were the primary or sole earners in 11 percent of U.S. households. That number has jumped to almost 40 percent today. Ernst & Young Partner Ginger Farney said her firm hires around 60 percent women, but lose them as they advance up the ladder. In spite of efforts to mentor women, she said, they’ve found there are simply times in a woman’s life when she wants and needs to spend more time with her family.

As a result, the firm is looking at how both women and men can scale back when they need to, then return full force when situations change. I know men who are stay-at-home dads, and I bet you do, too. Farney said, “We’re in an interesting time and place because the dynamics are changing so much.”

Yes, they are. And isn’t that great?

Design Your Own Plane Game Brings Awareness to WSU STEM Initiatives

Greteman Group looks forward to celebrating the holidays with an always-creative outreach to its clients and the community. This year, the agency’s spreading joy with AirFlair, an online, paint-a-plane game and competition.

As is the agency’s tradition, Greteman Group will also make a contribution to a worthy nonprofit. Over the years it has supported everything from foodbanks and literacy programs to Habitat for Humanity and the Boys & Girls Club. Inspired by Dreams Soar Founder Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo in a single-engine aircraft, after her presentation to the Wichita Aero Club in September, Greteman Group selected WSU Tech’s STEM aviation initiatives for the 2018 holiday gift.

“Integrating science, technology, engineering and math into real-world applications helps us all fly higher,” says Sonia Greteman, agency president and creative director. “Developing AirFlair has been as fun for us as we hope it will be for everyone who plays along. Can’t wait to see the entries and to do our part for STEM.”

“WSU Tech is Wichita’s key aviation workforce education and training institute,” says Gayle Goetz, director for Community Advancement at the National Center for Aviation Training. “Awareness for our STEM initiatives through Greteman Group’s AirFlair competition lets us reach out in a fun way during the holiday. Plus, our staff and students love it.”

What’s the Game?

Participants can design their own plane with this free online tool. Choose from a menu of four components – a fuselage, wings, engine and tail – plus a background. Pick from a multitude of colors, patterns and textures –which can create almost a quarter-million possible combinations (248,832 to be exact). Deck out a plane then share the livery on social media.

A random drawing will determine who snags the prize – a three-dimensional aircraft model, customized with the winning paint scheme. The drawing will be held on December 18 and the winner’s painted aircraft model will ship by the end of January 2019.

Paint your plane at

Connecting the Dots Between Marketing and Sales

base marketing tactics on goals and benchmarksOver the last several months in conversation with clients and prospects alike, this is a common statement: “I just need someone to help connect the dots.” What dots exactly? Marketing tactics. An online presence that includes a website, social media, online advertising, video, email and content marketing. Offline tactics, including brochures, direct mail and tradeshows. The phones are ringing, and you might have a bot chatting away.

But not just the marketing tactics. It’s also a question of connecting those tactics to your overall marketing strategy and the resulting return on investment. You can implement tactics until the world ends, but are any of them really working? It used to be that if you looked at your sales numbers and they were on the positive side, that was good enough. But now in an increasingly global society where you constantly have a competitor at your cyber doorstep, you have to be able to show your CEO what tactics are generating the best ROI and how you’re responding to quickly changing market realities.

marketing tactics should refer to tangible goalsThese are the dots looking for connection. Here’s how to get started.

Create Tangible Goals

Don’t just say that you need more leads or that you need to increase profit. Exactly how many new leads do you need to hit your profit goal? What does the right lead look like? Don’t go for volume, go for the right fit. Once you have that tangible goal, ask yourself: “How do we get there? What is the customer’s journey to purchase from us?” Set benchmarks for each stage of that buying process.

measure goals against marketing tacticsMeasure Your Tactics

If you’re not measuring anything, it’s a perfect time to start. Use tracking links. Monitor user behavior. Ask for information from your prospects. Once you start measuring your marketing tactics, you can truly evaluate where your marketing energy is best spent. Rather than simply chopping things off your marketing-tactic list because you don’t think social media or a blog ever amounted to a lead, measurement offers data that should guide your decision making.

perform market research to fine tune marketing tacticsPerform Market Research

More often than not we tend to think that we know our target market inside and out. It’s because we talk to our customers. We ask them questions. And those insights are invaluable. What about the people that you don’t have as a customer? Making decisions based on the “focus-group-of-one” model has never worked for anyone. Ask your marketing team what your potential customers are searching for. Where are they hanging out online and offline? Conduct an industry survey. Ask your partners and vendors for demographic data. The world is full of information, you just need to start asking for it.

put the pieces together marketing tactics and sales goalsPut It All Together

Take those insights you’ve learned to refine your creative and messaging. Does your audience watch a lot of video? Shoot more video. Is your audience highly mobile? Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Are your prospects actively searching for ways to make their business more efficient? Show them how you can help. Create content that reaches across each stage of the purchase journey and target appropriately. Match your benchmarks to each of these areas.

how to measure marketing tacticsCool. So How Do I Do All of This?

A recent Dunn & Bradstreet survey found that 80 percent of B2B marketers use web analytics and their content management system (CMS) to help report tactics. Both offer great places to start, but they just scrape the surface. If there’s one thing you could do to better your business data, it would be to start activating your customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Don’t have one? Get one. You’ll find lots of options, from legacy CRMs like Salesforce and Hubspot or newer ones like Zoho and Sales i. The CRM is the tool that matches marketing impact against your tangible goals.

After activating your CRM, it’s all about creating focused landing pages and points of engagement that serve as triggers within your buying process. These triggers are logged against prospects, leads and opportunities and, voilà, six months down the road, you’ll start to see some valuable insights.

I’ll admit that this is a simplified version of how it all works. The point is that you’re completely capable of doing this. The one thing you might be missing, though, is a data-driven individual to make sense of everything. In fact, 30 percent of B2B marketers say that they lack the data expertise to unite tactics with results. They need someone to help with that.

The Time is Now

It’s November. It’s time to start connecting the dots and aligning your marketing and sales data. Yes, these two worlds really can form a beautiful relationship. Use your end-of-year planning to start integrating your systems. Companies that implement a data-first approach to create a more tailored purchase journey see the difference in their bottom line. The investment is worth it. And if you are looking for that data-driven team to help you make sense of it all, give us a ring. We love to make connections.

This column originally appeared in the Nov. 1, 2018 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.