There’s a lot that goes into an effective email campaign, and it can be hard to know what you really need to do to make your emails convert.

You can try making sure it’s structured for scanners, ensuring your copy is compelling or making sure your call to actions buttons are awesome, but ultimately what you really need is a structure that helps you understand the fundamentals of high-converting campaigns and how to optimize your own emails before sending.

In this post, you’ll learn the 3 principles of high-converting email campaigns and see actionable tactics you can use to increase your conversion rates.

The 3 fundamentals of high converting email marketing campaigns

In our recent guide on How to get Better Marketing Results with Beautiful Design, we laid out the 3 principles of beautiful, high-converting design.

Placed in the context of optimising your email campaigns, these 3 principles are:

  1. Your campaign should motivate a person to take action – Through the design and copy of your campaign, you should be giving the reader sufficient motivation to click-through and take your conversion action.
  2. Your campaign should reduce anxiety towards taking the action – Through the design and copy of your campaign, you should be reducing any anxiety the reader may have towards clicking-through and taking your conversion action.
  3. Your campaign should make it easy to convert – Through the design of your campaign, you should make it shockingly easy for readers to click-through and take your conversion action.

These three principles form the basis of any successful email marketing campaign, and it is by applying them to the design and development of your campaigns that you’ll see great conversions rates.

But how do you do put these principles into practice? Let’s take a look at some examples of how others have done it before.

How to apply the 3 fundamentals to your own campaigns

1. Your campaign should motivate a person to take action

In order to get someone to take your chosen conversion action, you must first create desire for your product within them.

According to consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier, desire is made up of two key elements – individual incentive and social norms.

Individual incentive is the idea that people are motivated to undertake a certain behavior either for one of two reasons: to gain pleasure or to avoid pain. In marketing terms, desire to convert is created when people can see how your product or service can help them to either gain pleasure or avoid some sort of pain they have been experiencing.

That said, humans are sophisticated beings and will not simply seek out whatever creates pleasure or avoids pain with no thought to the consequences. We are inherently social, and are driven to act in a way we believe would be considered “normal” in society. So when deciding whether or not to conduct a behavior (such as taking your conversion action), we also consider things like how we will look if we perform this behavior, what the social norms are around this behavior and whether people we consider influential are undertaking the behavior.

So in order to create desire for your product, you actually need to satisfy both the individual incentive and social norm elements at the same time. You need to show people how your product will reduce pain or increase pleasure, and you need to reassure them that using your product is a perfectly acceptable behaviour to undertake.

There are a number of ways you can achieve this, including:

Use beautiful imagery

Using beautiful imagery in your email campaigns increases a person’s motivation to convert by increasing their individual incentive to own your product.

This is particularly important in visually-driven businesses like food and fashion, and Campaign Monitor customer The Restaurant understands this all too well.

In their email campaign for the launch of their winter menu, they use high-quality images of the food to stir people’s appetite, creating desire to eat at the venue and ultimately driving people to convert.

Takeaway: When using images or screenshots of your product in your marketing content, use beautiful photography to increase individual incentive and drive people to convert.

Write benefit-focused copy

Focusing your copy on the benefits of your product — rather than its features and options — helps people understand how your product can make their lives better and increases their individual incentive to convert.

This is commonly-touted advice, however when you’re strapped for time it’s easy to start writing about features and forget to write about how they actually meet the wants and needs of your audience.

To help keep you on track, there are a number of copywriting formulas that you can use. These formulas provide a structure that can help you stay focused on presenting the benefits your product offers to customers.

Our two favourites are the PAS formula and the BAB formula, and you can see the latter in action in this campaign for our recent post on the subject.

Takeaway: Focus your copy on highlighting the benefits of your product and how it helps customers gain pleasure or reduce pain. If you need some help with this, try using the BAB formula or the PAS formula to give yourself a framework to work with.

2. Your campaign should reduce anxiety towards taking action

In order to get someone to take your desired conversion action, you must also reduce any anxiety they have towards taking the action.

In marketing, anxiety is essentially any feelings of discomfort or unease towards making a conversion.

It can be caused by any number of things, including:

  • Concern that your offer isn’t worth their time and/or money,
  • Worry that your product or service isn’t the right choice for them,
  • Doubt that your product or service is reliable or can deliver what you claim it can,
  • Fear that purchasing your product is unsecure.

So in order to reduce anxiety around your desired conversion action, you must first walk a mile in your customers shoes and understand what the points of anxiety may be, and then take steps to reduce those anxieties.

Here are a few ideas of ways to reduce people’s anxiety in your email campaigns:

Show testimonials

Featuring testimonials from happy customers in your campaigns is a great way to reduce any anxiety people may have towards your product and drive more of them to convert.

However, it’s not enough to just include a small snippet from a customer about how great your product is. People don’t trust these are genuine. Instead, you need to include the customer’s name and image to increase the credibility of the testimonial and make it more effective at reducing people’s anxiety towards your product.

Campaign Monitor customer Freshbooks do a great job of this in their campaign for their ZenPayRoll integration, leveraging a testimonial from a happy customer to help reduce anxiety around the new feature.

Takeaway: Using testimonials in your email campaigns can help reduce any anxiety people may have towards your product and help drive more conversions. Just make sure your testimonial is trustworthy and includes the person’s name and image to enhance credibility.

Showcase customer numbers

Showcasing customer numbers in your campaigns can also help to reduce any anxiety people may have towards your product and drive more of them to convert.

These numbers help reassure people that your product is secure and reliable, and can be depended on to do the task people need it to do.

InVision does a great job of leveraging this in their email marketing campaigns. By including the number of other designers using InVision they create a sense of safety and security in the product that gives people the confidence to sign up and start using it.

Takeaway: If you have some impressive customer numbers, incorporate them into the design of your email campaigns to address people’s concerns that your product might not be the right choice for them. However, avoid showcasing customer numbers if you don’t yet have an impressive number. Few people like to be the first to try something and this form of negative social proof could actually increase people’s anxiety.

3. Your campaign should make it easy to convert

In order to get someone to take your desired conversion action, you must make it as simple as possible for them to take that action.

In fact, according to consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier increasing ease is one of the most effective ways to increase people’s likelihood of taking your desired conversion action.

He cites a study where researchers compared how many chocolates a person consumed when they were placed on their desk, as opposed to when they were placed a mere 2 metres away. They found that when placed on the desk, people ate an astounding 5x more chocolates than when they were just a few metres away.

This study highlights the importance of ease in getting people to convert. Even though people’s desire and anxiety surrounding eating the chocolates was exactly the same in both instances, making them easy to access increased consumption by 5x.

So how can you make it shockingly simple for your subscribers to convert? Here are a few ideas you can apply to your next campaign:

Use buttons that stand out

Using a highly-visible call to action button is one of the quickest and most effective ways to make it easy for people to convert.

When we tested replacing a call to action links with a large call to action button, we got a 22% increase in click-throughs.

Rip Curl do this well in their email campaign for the new GPS watch. The big ‘Shop Now’ call to action button leverages size and contrast to stand out from the rest of the email and ensure readers know exactly what the next step is.

Takeaway: Use a call to action button in your email marketing campaigns as opposed to just a text link, and make it stand out by choosing a colour that contrasts against the background of your email. Before you send, try using the infamous squint test to see whether you’ve made the button prominent enough or whether you need to go back to the drawing board.

Remove distracting elements

Sometimes, making it easier to convert isn’t about adding new elements like buttons and images. Instead, it can be about taking things away.

Campaign Monitor customer SitePoint make it easy for subscribers of their newsletter to convert by using a simplified design with no extraneous images or design elements.

This lack of other design elements focuses the reader’s attention on the news stories in the email, driving them to read the snippets and in turn piquing their interest to click-through to read more of the article.

Takeaway: Try removing extraneous elements from your campaigns to focus people’s attention on your key conversion actions. The added simplicity can make your calls to action stand out from the rest of the content and help funnel people into clicking them and converting.

In conclusion

By focusing on increasing a person’s motivation to convert, reducing their anxiety towards conversion and making it as simple as possible to convert, you can ensure each campaign you send will get results.

The key to putting this into action is to use the 3 principles as a lens through which you assess your campaigns. When doing so, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  • Have I done enough to create desire and motivate the reader to take action?
  • Have I done enough to reduce the anxieties my reader’s might have towards taking the conversion action?
  • Have I made it as easy as possible for my readers to convert?

If you can honestly answer “Yes” to every one of those questions, then you’re ready to send your email. However, if one of your answers is “No”, then it may be time to go back and potential implement some of the tactics mentioned in this post to ensure you are sending an email campaign that converts.

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  • Jaina

    Testimonials are a brilliant way of adding reassurance for the customer in your product but I’ve seen it done so poorly in so many emails. A lot of people seem to think it’s good enough to just put a star rating or a comment. Having the reviewer/customer’s name in there, along with a review/rating is all that’s needed to give that social proof more weight.

    Am a fan of Sitepoint’s emails. They’re pretty much perfect for their target audience and so easy to read, find what you’re looking for (if anything) and action on it.

    Incentives would help in the motivation for a customer to convert. Sure, they’re cheap tactics. But I think you need that extra push when you’re maybe a new brand and need something extra to nudge the customer.

  • ChesterSherer96

    I got this web page from my buddy who informed me regarding this site and at the moment this time I am browsing this web site and reading very informative posts here.

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