What elements make an email really effective? In email marketing it is all about the interaction of elements. We walk you through the anatomy of effective email marketing messages from head(er) to toe.

A recipient of an email marketing message goes through a number of steps beginning with the descision to open that email (or not).

Elements of an effective email marketing message

Normally you would look at the overall e-mail message, but it is even better to also look at the individual elements and the recipient steps they influence.

This allows you to optimize those email elements based on fuction and at the same time understand the interaction between them. Let’s look at the anatomy of an effective email marketing message.

From name and from address

The recipient will want to know who is sending him that email. There are two elements to that. The ‘ friendly’ from name that displays a name as used in normal world (e.g. John Doe or Company X) and the from address (e.g [email protected]). These elements can both be configured when sending you are sending a marketing email.

The subject line

The subject line gives some indication on what the email message is about. The subjectline is displayed next to the From name and is the second thing the recipient sees. No wonder the subject line has a huge influence when it comes to opening an email or not and therefore one of the most tested elements of commercial emailings.

The pre-header or snippet

The pre-header is the first text found in the email message. This pre-header is shown after the subject line in for instance Gmail and inboxes on mobile phones. It acts as an extension to the subject line. If no specific preheader text is used, the first part of the email may right be “click here to see the online version” or the url of an image. Not very stimulating for people to open that email.

The envelope

The sum of from name, subject line and pre-header can be seen as the envelope of an email marketing message. Make sure the envelope is attractive enough and your email has a bigger chance to get opened , read and acted upon.

The Header

The top part of the email is typically called the header. Extra care should be taken to include recognizable elements like a Logo and the color scheme of the sender, because the header is the first thing a reader will see in the body of the actual email newsletter template. The header is also displayed in the preview pane, making it extra important to make it both recognizable and enticing.

Navigation bar

A navigation bar can be included at the top of an email marketing newsletter. This email navigation bar can include links to the most important parts of the senders’ website, but doesn’t necessarily be a duplicate of the website navigation.


Especially long and multi-topic newsletters benefit from including an index of “topics in this newsletter”. An index gives a quick overview of the items in that newsletter and click through on the most interesting items. The index can link to the items inside the newsletter itself (automatically scrolling to them) or directly link to a webpage of the topic behind it.

Email Body

The body is “the meat” of the email marketing message. In newsletters it can include multiple articles. In sales or long copy newsletters it might just include a single topic. The body is where the magic should happen. Taking the reader from initial interest to reading and action.


Each sales driven email should contain one or more offers. Your product, service, content or other desired action (like filling a questionnaire) presented in such a way it gets the blood pumping. An offer can be spiced up when including a deal or special discount. The fit and attractiveness of the offer have a huge impact on the results of your email marketing message.

Hero shot and Images

Images are used to strengthen or even convey the main message of the email. Especially in industries that are very visually orientated like fashion and retail, images (of products) play a big role. Many email clients however, do not display images by default. Making smart email marketers craft their messages to also render well when images are off.

How to optimize images in email

Call to Action (CTA)

No email is complete without a compelling Call to Action. The call to Action tells the recipient what action is expected to do. The CTA is often a text link or button that stimulates to “read more”, “click here” or “buy now”. More descriptive Call to Actions often tend to trump those simple CTAs in number of clickthroughs they generate. A good Call to Action stands out from the message with enough contrast.


The footer is the bottom part of the email. It typically includes the unsubscribe link, liks to a preference center and a disclaimer text. But a well thought through footer can do so much more and actually help realize to your companies’ sales or communication goals.

Social media links and call outs

If your business is active on social networks, links to your social media pages could be a part of the anatomy of your most effective email newsletter. There a different kinds of social links. You could use a button or icon to link directly to your company social media pages.

The anatomy of an effective email marketing message

Never forget, an email is more than the sum of its elements. But if you get them right one by one, surely your results will increase.