How to Get More People to Engage with Your Email Marketing Campaigns


When I’m reading a good book, I’m susceptible to getting so engrossed in the story I lose track of time. But If I’m reading an article on a computer, tablet or phone, my attention span is that of a … wait, what were we talking about again?

But I know I’m in good company. With so much media to take in each day, who has time to read every word?

That’s why you should compose your email newsletters and promotions with short attention spans in mind. Grab the attention of your email subscribers and encourage them to engage with your content with a secret weapon: images.

Images bring your message to life, and heck, they’re what keep drawing me back Pinterest most of the time, so use them in your email campaigns. And next time you do, ask yourself these seven questions for the best results:

1. Do they combat scroll-fatigue?

In other words, are you designing for a preview pane? Putting the most important information above the fold? This email marketing tip – in its various forms – has been around for ages, but it’s ubiquitous for a reason: Inboxes are crowded, and we’re all guilty of breezing past emails in preview panes or neglecting to scroll. email-marketing-2

Images have the power to entice the scroll, though, like this example from J.Crew Factory. They account for the narrowest of preview panes by adding a corner banner that conveys urgency, and on my 13″ MacBook, I get just a peek of the product and an overlaid discount offer. It’s enough to make me scroll down, click-through, and even consider braving the mall this weekend.

2. Do they account for inbox blocks?

It’s always, always worth the extra time to add alt text to your images. These are clues that appear for those readers who haven’t downloaded your images — which is probably most people opening your email in Gmail or Microsoft Outlook or almost any popular web client. Be descriptive and pay attention to the details — A misspelled word in alt text stands out in such a sparse view.

3. Do they evoke emotion?

We’ve already established that email marketing should appeal to the inbox scanner, and that using images to tell your story is the most effective way to get your point across quickly, but images of people have the added effect of conveying emotion. email-marketing-3

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by using pictures of people, like this example from Sseko Designs. Any reader can immediately understand the connection between mother and child and sense the joy on their faces.

4. Do they draw the eye to the right places?

Let’s stick with this example from Sseko Designs. In addition to evoking emotion, the mother’s gaze and the daughter’s head draw the reader’s eye to the right, where the product is. Once you learn this trick, you’ll see it in play everywhere, but it’s a great way to get the focus of your readers in the right place.

5. Do they invite the click?

Make all your images clickable, and where possible, add captions to your images and link some of the text to the same place. At Emma, where I work, we link images and caption text to the same URL, and the caption link always gets more clicks than the image itself, even if the image is a video player.

And it’s not just us — In his book, Cashvertising, Drew Eric Whitman writes that image captions are some of the most read online copy, so it’s a natural place to include a link to more content. Garden & Gun does a great job of adding linked captions below clickable images. email-marketing-4

While you’re linking images, make sure they’re sized for fingertip clicks. Forty-three percent of all email is read on a mobile device these days, and that number will only continue to rise. Size buttons and clickable images to at least 45 pixels and give them plenty of white space to allow for mobile readers to engage with your content (and not accidentally click in the wrong spot).

6. Do they relate to each other?

Unified images — those of the same size, in the same frames or of the same color scheme — are often the difference between a professional-looking email and one that looks haphazard. The designers at method home do a great job of tying together their graphic elements and photos with similar hues, like this email full of oranges, blues and yellows. email-marketing-5

Luckily, there’s an abundance of tools out there that can make your images feel related without a lot of fuss (or design know-how). Emma has a built-in image editor powered by Aviary, and websites like and offer similar tools and an easy-to-use interface.

7. Do they tell my story?

Since now you know that images get lots of attention from email readers, choose them wisely. Images should reflect your brand, support the message you’re conveying, and ultimately further the bigger story of your organization. Before you hit send on your next email, run each image through a short set of check backs that you’ve defined.

Are you a design firm? Make sure the images evoke the right aesthetic for your prospects. Is your business or nonprofit all about people? Then your email should have some faces in it. Are you selling a product? Take a look with fresh eyes and confirm the photo presents your product in the most compelling way possible.

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