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There are two persistent truths in the world of email marketing. The first is that great campaigns are incredibly effective, generating ROI unmatched by any other promotional approach. The second is that most campaigns aren’t just mediocre — they’re outright terrible. Inboxes everywhere continue to pile up with unopened emails featuring the same played-out subject lines, attempts to spark FOMO, and half-baked efforts at personalisation.

Part of the problem is that businesses — big, medium and small alike — get sold on the first truth and never consider the second. They see it as a box to be ticked: set up email campaign, see results. In the end, they question the value of email marketing. After all, they believe they did everything they were supposed to, yet the much-vaunted ROI never came.

If you’re committed to achieving the kind of success that email marketing is capable of yielding, those awful campaigns will certainly work to your advantage: the more bad emails are around, the more easily good ones can stand out from the crowd.

Don’t build up a false sense of security, though: it’ll take serious work to build a campaign that truly delivers, and the key is getting creative. In this piece, we’re going to run through some tips for how you can be more creative with your next email campaign.

Involve some movement

OK, let’s acknowledge one thing first: as it stands, you can’t really embed videos in your emails — you can only use static images and use them to link out to your videos (typically hosted on third-party sites like YouTube or Vimeo). This is annoying, obviously, but you can still use video effectively if you know how to frame a great thumbnail. Just be sure that the destination of the video link also gets the viewer into your conversion funnel, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll return to the email once they’re done watching.

That doesn’t mean you can’t give you emails a dynamic feel, though, because you can. You just need GIFs — and some creativity. Companies everywhere have started loading up their marketing with generic memes, but they’re like stock images at this point. You can do better by creating your own GIFs. For example, why not turn your product photos into cinemagraphs? The addition of subtle movement grants a great effect: all the clarity of a static image, but with an eye-catching twist.

Focus on eye-catching visuals

If you’ve managed to get your email opened (perhaps using a slightly off-kilter subject line that stands out), then you need the start of your email content to make an impact. There’s nothing stopping the reader from taking a glimpse, thinking “No, this doesn’t interest me” and closing the email without returning any value or building any hype for what you’re offering.

The fact that you have someone’s email address in the first place should mean that they’re aware of what you do, so you don’t need to provide a full sales pitch in the opening paragraph. In fact, you don’t really need to make a written pitch at all — you can try opening with the best imagery you can produce (or source).

Designers at Original Design Studio did this to great effect for RêveBoutique, pairing some great product photos with very minimal text to create a crystal-clear message. It depends on what exactly you’re offering, admittedly, and some things work better in images than others. See what you can do, and A/B test against a text-centric version to see what comes out on top.

Relax and show enthusiasm

One of the most common issues with marketing emails is that they come across as joyless or even dispassionate, and one of the leading causes of this is excessive formality. There should be no hint of “Dear Sir/Madam” anywhere near your emails, and things won’t work out to your benefit if your email copy comes across as something you’d find in a technical manual.

Remember that it isn’t enough to list features or advance a logical case for why someone should buy from you, because we don’t make flawlessly-rational decisions. We’re driven by our emotions and a wide range of pressures, and if we can detect enthusiasm when people talk about a product, it will make us more likely to become similarly enthusiastic about it.

Why not throw some emojis into your subject lines and emails? Phrasee has a good report on their impact that you should check out, but the fact that it uses an emoji in almost every one of its subject lines should give you a solid hint about the results.

To recap, here are my tips: radiate enthusiasm with your copy, catch the eye with your imagery, and add a sense of dynamism to your content overall by featuring small pieces of movement. Creativity is always challenging in business, but if you want to get real results with your email marketing, you need to face that challenge.