We talk a lot about email marketing here at Wonderful Machine, with good reason: email marketing is one of the most effective ways to share your brand. Whether it’s updating people in your network on recent news or making new connections with prospective clients, an email is a great way to get yourself in front of clients, without physically having to get yourself in front of clients.
There are several facets to any email campaign, including creating an overall strategy, building a prospect list, and choosing an email service, but this article will talk specifically about the design of your emailer.
Design is all about visual impact. Since you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention, you have to make sure the structure, image selection, fonts, colors, and text are all working to support you.
Excellent email design is subjective, but there are a few practices we can recommend to increase your memorability and chances of success.
There are two main types of emailers: a newsletter style and a promo style.
Some photographers like a newsletter format that allows them to summarize what they’ve been up to, and it has room for several photos. Others prefer a simple promo emailer, which features one or two photos along with minimal text.
I usually recommend photographers use the promo type of emailer. The promo style is a great way to introduce new clients to you and your work, while also keeping existing clients afloat of your recent activities. If done right, you can showcase a few photos with some concise info.
Use branding elements that are consistent with your website and print portfolio. Your emailer doesn’t need to duplicate your website exactly (and it shouldn’t), but to build familiarity, you’ll want to use fonts and colors that correspond with the rest of your brand. Similarly, the header of your email should include your company name or logo since this is where it appears on your website. These fonts, colors, and logos should be consistent across all of your marketing materials.
If you’re interested in reading more about branding, check out our article on the subject here.
Be sure to choose images that are appropriate for the audience to whom you’re sending the emailer. While you’ll want to maintain consistent structure and branding in your emailers, you should use new images each time you send something out, so it doesn’t grow stale.
Start by selecting a series of images that you can use as a style guide. These images should all have adequate stand-alone value and work well together in a sequence. Then, when the time comes to send out a new emailer, pick recent work that fits with that style, and those which the client hasn’t already seen. You always want someone to feel intrigued—people will click to check out new work. The pictures you’re sending should show that you’re consistently busy creating fresh, exciting photographs.
When deciding which particular images to use, it’s usually a good idea to have someone help you with an edit. Photographers are sometimes too close to their pictures to make the best decisions. Your selections should exemplify your best work and match up with the recipient’s needs. This doesn’t mean you need to create individualized emailers for all your different clients — you can create a couple of lists (at most) where you alter your content and approach slightly based on the demographic.
For the most part, you’ll want your target audience to be narrow enough so that one email is relevant to everyone you’re marketing toward.
You will have a tiny window of opportunity to get your viewer’s attention, so you have to choose a meaningful and concise subject line.
One approach is to write your name, specialty, and location, so the recipient has an idea of what they’re going to see when they open your email. (e.g., “Latest from Chicago lifestyle photographer John Smith”). This formatting also makes it easy for creatives to search and find your promos again later. Others take a unique approach to subject lines. For example, if you’re a food photographer, you might try, “These habanero peppers are hot!” or another tagline that showcases a sense of humor.
Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit to see what gets people to open your emails. With most email service providers, you can even do A/B Testing with your emails, which allows you to test multiple subject lines and see how your recipients respond through measurable open and click rates.
Be sure to track patterns to find out which subject lines are the most successful, so you can capitalize on them and optimize on future emails!
Keep the body text short and sweet. Very few people will have time to read lengthy passages. Any words you use should support, not overshadow, your photographs. And even if you’re using a newsletter format, you should leave the viewer wanting more—which they’ll find when they click through to your site.
Be sure that the writing reflects your brand. You don’t want to have fun or inspiring images accompanied by stuffy, lifeless text. You should allow your personality to shine through! On the flip side, you need to remain professional—that means no typos, grammar mistakes, or inappropriate phrases. After all, this is still a professional relationship you’re trying to build.
Remember to include a clear call-to-action. Whether you are hoping for click-throughs to your website, social media, or a meeting, be sure to ask for what you want. You can’t assume that someone is going to visit your site simply because of an eye-catching image.
Make sure it all supports each other. Everything about your email promo needs to have a clear purpose. Your subject line should entice people to look at the body of your email, then the body of your email should draw them to go to your site. Your site should, in turn, clearly communicate what sort of photographer you are and what types of projects you’re interested in and are best suited.
Formatting your email should be pretty simple with ESPs like MailChimp and Constant Contact that are designed specifically for email marketing. These programs will tell you when an image is too wide for inboxes and will automatically adjust for mobile delivery.
For the most part, it’s good to have your promo between 550 and 700 pixels wide, with 600 being the sweet spot. As for the vertical, an average email display screen will show between 300 and 500 pixels in height. So, consider how much of your email and which part of it will show in the display when someone opens it up. You want to have relevant and catchy content right off the bat, so they are inclined to scroll down and even click to see more.
Any of the standard email marketing services will allow you to view what your email will look like on desktop and mobile screens before sending it, so try to work in a variety of positionings for your images before sending the emailer. A mix of vertical and horizontal photographs, as well as background shapes and colors, could help to spice it up as well.
While it may be tempting to have some new motion work or behind-the-scenes video of a recent trip, but video clips won’t work with many email clients. Instead, add a link to the video on Vimeo, YouTube, or your website. You could also create animated gifs in Photoshop. File sizes can get large if you have lots of frames to animate (over 1mb), but even then, it will have a better chance of being seen than a video.
Be sure to have an opt-out linkin the email. Most email marketing services come with an opt-out feature, but it’s always good to double-check. Spam laws require that you offer an easy, immediate button for clients to opt-out of your emails. The email also needs to contain a legitimate physical address in the footer that people can respond to in compliance with spam laws.
And finally, hire a professional designer to create a custom, updatable template. A custom design will make your promo look unique, and it is so worth it to get a good-looking, well-functioning emailer in place that you can be proud to share with clients. After your emailer is designed and has a great look and functionality, you will be able to update it quickly and send it out as part of an integrated marketing strategy.
Here are a couple of emailers our designers have come up with:
To showcase his portraits and lifestyle work, we created this sleek newsletter-style emailer for D.W. Johnson.
We went for an elegantly simple promo-style emailer for Michelle Gibson.
If you’re looking for help creating an emailer or updating your current one, don’t hesitate to email us or give a ring at 1 610 260 0200!