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Post originally published March 2016, updated April 2020.

Creating and sending emails is one part of a busy marketer’s tactics to build relationships and stay top of mind with customers.

However, email marketing is so much more to a brand than a simple means of communication. Studies have shown just how powerful a tool email marketing truly is, and, when done right, it can pack a powerful punch.

Take, for instance, the fact that it’s the digital marketing channel that sees the highest return on investment (ROI)—even higher than social media marketing. Why is that? There are several reasons. First, social media ROI is very tricky to calculate, so it’s hard to find an average that everyone can compare to. Meanwhile, email marketing has an astounding ROI of 3800%. That means that, for every $1 spent towards email marketing, brands are seeing an average ROI of $38.

 Email delivers the highest ROI for marketers.

Not only does email marketing provide a higher overall ROI than social media marketing, but it’s also the preferred method of communication by your customers. An email message is 5 times more likely to be seen than a Facebook personal message or message in a newsfeed, and 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content via email, while only 17% prefer to receive it via their social media channels.

Finally, while many brands believe that social media is the best way to acquire new customers, the data doesn’t back that up. According to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than either Twitter or Facebook. What this shows us is that, while social media is an excellent place to build a community and for regular, daily communication opportunities with your supporters, it’s not going to reach the same potentials that are possible with a well-crafted email marketing strategy.

Email beats social by 40 times for customer acquisition.

Now, before you go diving into your email marketing strategy, especially if you’re starting from the ground up, there are several things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure that you’re sending the best email messages you can to your subscriber list.

With this simple email checklist, we’ll navigate an email from end to end with helpful tips and reminders to help ensure every email you send not only looks great, but gets opened, read, and acted on by your subscribers.

Step 1


Have you ever sent out an email with a typo in the subject line? It happens to even the best marketers.

To avoid typos and other errors, follow these tips:

Read your email copy twice. On the first go, read it from top to bottom. The second time around, read it from bottom to top. By reading the words and sentences out of order, you’ll be more apt to catch mistakes.

Ensure you proofread your subject line, your preheader text, and any other copy that might be easily overlooked.

Get a second (or third) set of eyes. When you’re the only one creating your email, you can get too close to it. Recruit a co-worker with a keen sense of attention to detail to proof it for you. This will give you a fresh set of eyes and can help catch any mistakes.

Helpful Tip

Try Grammarly, which is a tool that helps you write mistake-free in Gmail, Facebook, WordPress, LinkedIn, and anywhere else you write on the Web. We even used it when creating this guide.

Grammarly has a handy plugin for Chrome that makes it a breeze to use.

Step 2

The 2 Ws: who and what

Every effective email you send needs to tell the subscriber who it’s from and what it’s about before anything else. Email marketing is about building relationships, and this is your first opportunity to keep it real by following these guidelines:

Every effective email you send needs to tell the subscriber who it’s from and what it’s about before anything else.

From label

Your “from” label should reflect who the subscriber has the relationship with or who they are expecting to hear from to ensure they open the email. Usually, your company name is appropriate.

Email Marketing - Email Subject Line

Subject line

Your subject line should clearly state what your subscriber can expect to read in your email. It should be short, descriptive, and give your subscriber enough context to open your email and read it.

Step 3

Links and CTAs

Once your subscribers know who the email is from and what it’s about, they can dive in and take action. Follow these steps to make your links and CTAs flawless.

CTA example



Links help your reader access more information or bring them to a page on your website or blog.

  • Test each and every link prior to sending your email to ensure it works and that it takes your reader exactly where you want them to go.
  • Use UTM codes to add additional tracking to your links that you can see in Google Analytics.

Call to action (CTA)

Your CTA is what you want your readers to do with your email. It should tell them exactly what action to take. Use these tips to put more action into your calls to action:

  • Minimize distractions by keeping your reader focused on one action or choice. If you need to have multiple calls to action, keep your main CTA in a prominent position in your email.
  • Be bold with your CTA colors by using a color for your button that contrasts with the surrounding elements in your email. Bold CTAs will help draw your reader’s eye in and promote engagement.
Step 4

Check your list

The success of every email campaign begins and ends with the quality of your list, so don’t skip this step! Many email errors have occurred due to a mistake in a list.


Remove duplicate addresses and scrub your email list for any invalid or improperly formatted addresses. To do this, you can utilize a tool like Campaign Monitor, which has an integration with Kickbox that will remove low-quality addresses from your subscriber lists before sending your first campaign.

Include an unsubscribe or opt-out link in every email. Most email service providers do this for you automatically. And grow your list the right way by using a signup form on your website, blog, and on your various social channels.

Don’t be tempted to buy or rent a list. You can use Campaign Monitor’s subscribe button, subscribe form, or Enlist for iPad to grow your list like a pro

Step 5

Test and optimize

A/B test.

You can choose an infinite amount of elements to test in your email, but we recommend keeping it to one element per test so you can understand exactly what your results are.

Go mobile.

Forty-eight percent of email is now opened on a mobile device, according to Litmus. To make sure your emails look great no matter what device they’re read on, use a responsive email template. We offer heaps of mobile-friendly email templates that make it a breeze for everyone to create a great-looking email.

Chapter 6

Wrap up

Each of these steps is intended to help simplify your creation process, allowing you to create email campaigns that look great, get read, and encourage action to your readers.

Need a quick recap? If you haven’t yet, jot down our 5-step process:

  • Always proofread your message
  • Never neglect to include who’s sending the message and an enticing email subject line
  • Include relevant links and CTAs
  • Maintain a healthy email subscriber list
  • Always optimize and test your emails before sending to your entire subscriber list

If you’re looking to start building an email marketing strategy from scratch or considering rehauling your current strategy, then you’ll want to take things up a notch.

Be sure to check out our guide on planning an email marketing strategy. In this short piece, we’ll walk you through everything from goal setting, developing content, to monitoring important key performance indicators for measuring success.

Elevate your small business email strategy with this free course. Our two-week course gives small businesses daily steps to get real results from email marketing. Explore the course
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