Better practices for emails
Across Intuit, we rely on email for marketing, product communications, and help. Here are some tips for doing it better.
Why do we need these guidelines?
- To send emails that people will open, and write emails that people will read (or at least skim)
- To bring a unified experience to how we communicate with our customers
- To champion our brand voice within our emails
- To stay current with design and technology trends and bring customers along with the changes
How to write an 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 matter to your audience
Subject lines with about 50 characters (5 to 7 words) are the most common, but on average, subject lines with 65 characters see the highest open rates.
For preheaders, the optimal length is 40–70 characters.
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).
Avoid content that can get our emails marked as spam: excessive punctuation, all caps, and language like free or buy now.
Use delight (minimally).
Use urgency (when appropriate and sparingly).
In most salutations, use a comma after the greeting (Hello, Tom). If the salutation is just “hi,” don’t use a comma (Hi Tom).
Don’t write a dash or hyphen after the person’s name.
When we deal with our customers’ money or sensitive issues, addressing them by name reassures them that we know them, support them, and are here to help.
When it’s a generic message about a feature, it’s OK not to use their name.
Use clear headlines that state the benefit for the customer.
- Continue the story that your headline started.
- The body buys more time and awareness. Keep the user interested.
- Trim content wherever possible. If you deleted a sentence or information, would the email fall apart or become more focused?
Use bullet points, dividers, white space, and other visuals to improve legibility.
Information hierarchy is crucial. It helps your reader:
- Know where to look
- Scan the email quickly
- Stay focused
Be deliberate. The shape of your content and images visually guide your reader. Both should almost always lead them down the page toward a call to action.
Calls to action
- Primary: Focus on a single, clear action (if you have more to say, continue the story on the page you’re driving them to)
- Secondary: Try to avoid when possible, as it competes with the primary CTA
- General links: If you add these, use design to downplay them, and make sure they’re accessible
When you sign off, don’t mention a 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 Mint Team
- The TurboTax Team
Some email templates don’t include a sign-off and instead end with a call to action.
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.
How to measure email success
To measure subject and preheader success, we look at these numbers:
- Total opens: Number of people who opened your email.
- Open rate: Total opens vs. the total number of emails sent.
According to Mailchimp, the average software industry open rate is 19.81%. The average for all industries is 20.81%. If your email open rate is low, check your subject lines and preheaders. They do some heavy lifting and should never be an afterthought.
To measure customer interaction, we look at these:
- Average opens per person: Number of emails a person has opened vs. the total number of emails they’ve received.
- Click rate or click-through rate: Percentage of people who clicked on a link in the email.
According to Mailchimp, the average is 2.43% for all industries.
To measure a particular user action, we look at these:
- Conversion rate: Percentage of people who clicked on a link and completed 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 measures the total business cost that goes into a campaign.)