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By Christina Crawley.

Email is as important as ever. While it’s not part of the latest generation of shiny digital marketing tools, it is still very much one of the most effective. Ahead of any social media handle, the email inbox remains the most coveted digital possession, being checked and refreshed at all hours of the day.

From cold business solicitations to newsletter subscriptions, I see many companies and organizations – especially those in the social good sector – that miss conversion opportunities by not following basic email design norms. To ensure that the emails you are sending to your target audience are effective – i.e., they are noticed, opened, read and acted upon – design must take a front seat. No, this isn’t about fancy, shiny templates. It’s about following structural design best practices so that your email grabs people’s attention, even before they’ve opened it.

To improve open rates, click-through rates and, ultimately, increased engagement with your brand, the following items need your attention as you build your email marketing content.

Strong Email Subject Lines

Just as we all sift out the junk and flyers in our paper mailboxes, email subject lines determine in large part whether a message is even worth the time it takes to open. Be compelling, but also be clear. Focus on your value proposition and show your readers what to expect when they open your email – whether that’s a discount toward their next purchase or to learn about your organization’s latest research findings.

Relevant Preview Text

This is probably my biggest pet peeve, mainly because it’s easy to do well but is often overlooked. Preview text is content from within the email that you can see before you have opened it. It appears both on desktop and on mobile and is the next clue (after the subject line) for someone to know whether they should open your email or not. Don’t waste that space with automatic text such as, “This email may include images. To view in your browser, click here.” Jump on the opportunity to take another stab at grabbing their attention and relaying the objective of your ask.

Well-Structured Content

If you’ve gotten as far as getting your email opened, that’s great. It’s now more important than ever to keep your audience’s attention and interest. Avoid long, text-heavy emails that require so much scrolling that people forget what they were hoping to get out of them. As a follow-up from your subject line, clearly state your message, and be as brief as possible. You only have a couple seconds of their time. Long emails with lots and lots of text are not an effective way to communicate your message or inspire your readers to act.

Clear Calls To Action

Once you’ve mastered the art of catching someone’s attention and getting them to take those ten to fifteen seconds to read your email, make that next step as easy and obvious as possible: Use a clear call to action (CTA). Your email should ideally have only one of these. Too many emails try to do it all in one, e.g., wanting someone to register for an event and also read an interesting white paper. Once they’ve clicked out of your email, the chances are very small that they will come back for that second CTA. So focus on one, and make it easy for them to complete with a reasonably sized button. When in doubt, take the Goldilocks approach on the size question: Not too big (you’ll just annoy people), not too small (you don’t want them to miss it), but just right so they see it, understand it and click through.

The above items make up the fundamental pieces of your email. As a next step, A/B testing will help you optimize your approach – from testing the placement of your CTA buttons to the callouts you use to lure your audience in – as will your email analytics. No matter what, make sure you are covering your bases. From there you can then focus on optimizing your content to reach even more people.

By Christina Crawley

Director of marketing at Forum One, leading global marketing and outreach to the world’s most influential nonprofits and foundations.

Sourced from Forbes