Better practices for emails

Across Intuit, we rely on email for marketing, product communications, and help. Here are some tips for doing it better.

Our goals

Why do we need these guidelines? Here are some of the most important reasons.

  • To send emails that are opened and to write emails that are read, or at least skimmed
  • To bring a uniform, unified experience to how we communicate with our customers
  • To champion our brand voice within the confines of the email space
  • To stay on top of design and technology trends and bring customers along with the changes

How to write email

Subject lines and preheaders

  • Who: A relevant user — segmentation is your friend
  • What: Keep it simple and say what’s in the email
  • Why: Focus on the benefit that matters to your audience
  • Use personalization (not just their names — company name or industry can be used to feel like we’re having a one-on-one conversation with them)
  • Use delight (very sparingly)
  • Use urgency (when appropriate and sparingly)
  • Subject lines with about 50 characters (5 to 7 words) are the most common while subject lines with 65 characters see the highest open rates on average (Campaign Monitor 2017).
  • For preheaders, optimal length is 40-70 characters.
  • Avoid content that can get our emails marked as spam: excessive punctuation, all caps, and language like “free” or “buy now.”

Salutations

Use a comma after the greeting in most salutations. Example: Hello, Tom
But if the salutations is a simple “hi,” omit the comma. Example: Hi Tom

Don’t write a dash or hyphen after the person’s name.

Personalization

When dealing with our customers money or sensitive issues, addressing them by name reassures them that we know them, we stand behind them, and we’re here to help them.

When it’s a generic message about a feature, it’s OK not to use one.

Headlines

Use clear headlines that state the benefit for the customer.

Body

  • Continue the story that your headline started
  • The body buys more time & awareness, keep the user interested
  • Trim content wherever possible (in other words, if you were to delete a sentence or piece of information, would the email fall apart or become even more focused?)

Layout

  • Use bullet points, dividers, white space, and other visuals to improve legibility
    Information hierarchy is crucial—help your reader:

    Know where to look
    Scan the email quickly
    Stay focused

  • Be deliberate—the shape of your content alongside images guides your reader visually—this should almost always lead them down the page toward a call to action.

Calls to action

  • Primary: Focus your readers on a single, clear action (if you have more to say, use the page you are driving them to to continue the story)
  • Secondary: Try to avoid when possible as it competes with the primary CTA
  • General links: If you use these, leverage the design to downplay them

Signing off

When you sign off, don’t mention a specific department name (like QuickBooks Payment Team). That detracts from the overall brand and puts too much focus on us instead of the customer.

Here are some acceptable sign-offs:

  • The QuickBooks Team
  • The Turbo Team
  • The TurboTax Team

Some email templates don’t include a sign-off and instead conclude with a call to action.

Footer

Make sure the template you’re using includes a footer. For most emails, we’re legally required to give users the ability to manage their email preferences or unsubscribe.

Email success metrics

Do you want to test the effectiveness of different subject lines? Are you measuring engagement over a longer campaign? Are you trying to get people to opt-in to something? All of these goals require you to use different metrics to find out how well you did.

Awareness

To measure subject and preheader effectiveness, we look at these numbers:

  • Total opens: Total number of people who opened your email.
  • Open rate: Total opens compared to to the total number of emails sent.

According to Mailchimp, the average is 19.81% for the software industry and 20.81% for all industries. If the number for your email is low, look to your subject lines and preheaders. These do a lot of heavy lifting and should never be afterthoughts.

Engagement

To measure customer interaction, we look at these:

  • Average opens per person: Number of emails a particular person has opened compared to the total number of emails they have received
  • Click rate or click-through rate: Percentage of people who clicked on a link or links within the email

According to Mailchimp, the average is 2.43% for all industries.

Conversion

To measure a particular user action, we look at these:

  • Conversion rate: Percentage of people who clicked on a link and complete a desired action
  • Total email revenue: Total dollar amount in sales driven by an email marketing campaign
  • Revenue per email: Total email revenue divided by the number of email addresses successfully sent. (Note: This is different than ROI which would measure the total business cost that goes into a campaign.)