Making Your Emails Look Like a Microsite

Making Your Emails Look Like a Microsite

The friendlier the voice is, the lower entry barrier and higher buying chances. Subconsciously, we all want cool friends, right? What if the brands that we like are our friends as well?


At mailfloss we’re focused on helping email marketers get the most from their email marketing campaigns. We do this in a few different ways. First, we help email marketers improve their deliverability through the use of our email verification tool. Secondly, we work hard to educate email marketers on the various topics relating to running a successful email marketing campaign.

Today, mailfloss had the opportunity to chat with Dave Simeonov from MailBakery about his involvement in the email design and email marketing space.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview.

The Interview

Hello and thank you for joining us today Dave. We really appreciate you taking the time to chat with our blog readers today about your 10 years of experience in the email design/marketing space. Let’s kick off the interview by having you tell us what attracted you towards email in the first place? What draws you in about email marketing and design more than other marketing and design channels like content, social, or paid?

Hey, thanks for having me on your blog! I’m excited to do this interview so let’s get the ball rolling. My career started as a front-end developer back in 2008 when I was developing websites for two-three years until MailBakery came to life and needed more hands to code emails. I was curious why emails are mainly built with tables and how to make them work across the email clients. Back in the days, we did 5-6 screenshots by hand on most used email clients, while now we have an automated process which gets screenshots on 40 email clients in a few seconds. It always has been, and probably will be, all about testing, tinkering, and trying new stuff from mobile-responsive to interactive/kinetic emails.

You have an interesting blog post where you talk about trends to expect in 2020. You touched briefly on the intersection where user-generated content and email marketing meet. How have you seen user-generated content successfully integrated into an email campaign? Any leaders in this space we should be aware of?

Yeah, user-generated content (UGC) in emails is something that has been talked about for a while ago now. We’ve seen more and more companies adopt that strategy to enforce their brand loyalty and trust.

Including UGC in your emails increases the confidence and chances of your subscribers making a purchase. After all who doesn’t want to buy something that has been proven by other subscribers?

One of a few examples for UGC is having top-selling products in your email. After all, these product recommendations are generated on previous customer purchases.

Another example for UGC is having testimonials in your emails. Showcasing your prospective customers what it is like to have your products, is a great way to help prospects gain more courage to make a purchase.

In the age of social media, being on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is a way to drive more sales. Your website alone, as a point of sale, is not enough.

Let’s take Instagram for example. Many big brands use brand ambassadors or paid “influencers” on Instagram to use, showcase, or rate their products.

How do we use that in email? If you’re a brand that uses Instagram, look for followers that have tagged your product or service on the social platform. Then, use the images to create a visually appealing email campaign to showcase how some of your customers have used your brand.

You offer a wide range of email marketing services, but let’s jump in and talk about some nitty gritty email campaign design details. You obviously believe in the importance of using email to create a first great brand impression. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you use email to create those great first impressions? From a design standpoint, what have you seen work? What have you seen fail?

Well, usually when we start to work with a client their emails are very plain and basic. They usually just place in their logo, add their brand colors, and use a very basic template from their ESP. And this is pretty normal because our clients are not developers – they are usually marketers or business owners. So they started from somewhere, with some very basic templates and at some point, they want to upgrade their game and make an impression with their emails.

What we do is we look deeply into our clients’ branding and review what they have done in the past in terms of email marketing. There’s usually a lot of room for improvement in terms of design.

For example, nowadays, websites are full-width. We see sections having background colors or images taking the whole width of our monitors. Old emails are usually boxed within a 600px container and are pretty boring. So we first look if their websites are using any modern design techniques and try to mimic them in the email. Also, does their website use icons or other graphic shapes that we can incorporate? Last but not least – do they use any custom fonts on their websites? Can we use that font in the emails (even on the small number of email clients that would support them)? These are all things we need to think about.

In the end, their emails kinda look like microsites, just shrunk down to the most relevant information needed for an effective email marketing campaign.

You mention on your blog that understanding mobile is increasingly important for email marketers. Why is this?

Absolutely. I can’t stress enough how important it is for your emails to work properly on mobile devices and to be easily clickable and readable.

With more than 40% of emails being opened on mobile devices, it’s a must-have for brands to have mobile-optimized emails.

If not, it is very likely their email marketing efforts will fail (or underperform) due to undelivered, marked as spam, blocked, or unsubscribed emails.

With today’s user attention span, we have no more than 2-3 seconds to impress the subscriber and stand out from the rest of the emails in their inbox. If your emails don’t look right, you’re definitely looking at lower success rates.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the intersection where design and mobile intersect? What are some of the biggest mistakes you see email marketers make when it comes to mobile delivery? What can marketers do to avoid making those mistakes?

I think one of the biggest mistakes marketers still continue to make is having the desktop layout of their email not optimized for mobile. Or, to put it in other words – no mobile layout. A four-column layout on a 600px email shrank down to 320px for a mobile device will never look good. Nobody wants to pinch and zoom-in on emails anymore. They will just close, delete or worst – unsubscribe from your emails.

We are often in a situation where we have to educate our customers about email design best practices. This is like our unofficial mission at MailBakery, not only to design and code emails but to educate our customers on how their emails can look and work better.

You mention on a blog post that “we must resist the temptation to bombard them (subscribers) with emails at every turn. Emails should be limited to weekly touches, maybe two if you have something really compelling to share.” Why is email sending frequency such an important aspect of email marketing?

It’s very simple. If you flood subscribers’ inbox it’s very likely that you’ll get the opposite result of what you’re looking for.

I experienced this inbox bombardment myself a few years ago and I hated it so much. With my busy schedule, I rarely have time to look at all my emails and I had left them to fill my inbox until one weekend I went to check what’s going on.

One of my hobbies is electronic music production and I had stumbled on a site that offered a free e-book on a topic that was interesting to me. However, after downloading the content my inbox started to flood with their emails. I thought it would be just 2-3 emails after they realized I’m not interested, but I continued to receive 3-4 emails/week from them for many months.

My advice to email marketers is very simple – empathy. The inbox is personal and sensitive. Try imaging what it is being on the receiving end of the email. What’s their persona? Also, emails are more and more personalized; don’t send general emails like you receive brochures from the local markets.

In your experience, what are the three biggest mistakes businesses make with their email marketing campaigns?

  1. Not having a strategy.
  2. Not testing their emails.
  3. Not analyzing the performance of their emails and applying improvements.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of changes with how companies approach the “voice” or “tone” of their emails. There seems to be a trend towards a more conversational tone. Do you notice this as well? What companies do you believe are doing a great job in terms of the voice they use in their email marketing campaigns?

Yeah, absolutely. The friendlier the voice is the lower entry barrier and higher buying chances. Subconsciously, we all want cool friends, right? What if the brands that we like are our friends as well?

I think that with easy access to the Internet nowadays, companies are trying to be closer to their customers – starting from the social networks and going to being the cool guys in the emails.

There’s probably a lot more brands, but three pop up in my head immediately when you mention “voice” and “tone”. These would be Mailchimp, Really Good Emails, and Morning Brew.

To give you an example of how cool the RGE team was, you can see what they did with their terms of use page on their previous website version – it was called “Legal Mumbo Jumbo”. When was the last time you read the TOS of a website? It’s usually pretty boring and too official. Well, RGE really breaks the ice and makes you smile and laugh. Instead of quoting stuff from their legal mumbo jumbo page, I’ll let you enjoy it yourself. And if you don’t smile or laugh at least once I’ll buy you a drink.

In your opinion how important is personalization within the world of email marketing? What are the most important parts of the email to personalize (i.e name, content, interest, etc)?

I think it is as equally important as having the emails optimized for mobile devices.

There’s a minimum level of personalization where you could just include your subscriber’s name in the intro of your email and subject line.

You can then take it to the next level by offering personalized content based on your subscriber’s interest.

Take Netflix and HBO’s emails – they always include your name, and the content of the email is specific to your interest. If you’ve watched “Finding Nemo” they would suggest you go and watch “Finding Dori” but not “Bad Boys or ”Lord of the rings”.

Another example is including products your subscribers have seen on your website but didn’t take any action on.

Let’s say I saw some jeans and t-shirts on a website and I’m their client. I purchase the jeans but not the tee. In a follow-up email (which can be completely automated) I can be reminded about the tee. This offers a great opportunity for upselling and reminding customers about the products they have shown interest in.

Lastly, what email marketing strategies, technologies or trends do you see on the horizon that excite you the most?

Given the nature of my background, I’m more into the technical stuff. I’d love to see how the upcoming Dark Mode will get adopted and supported. Currently, like almost everything else in the email industry, it’s barely supported. Only a handful of email clients can switch to Dark Mode and like half of them can allow you to adjust your code so you can optimize the colors. Fingers crossed more email clients will start showing dark mode emails, and of course, the most important part will allow us, the developers, to fine-tune the dark side experience.

Thank you greatly for taking the time to chat with the mailfloss email marketing blog readers today Dave. We really appreciate you taking the time. To our audience, if you’d like to learn more about Dave and the work he does over at MailBakery, you can follow him on Twitter or head over to his website here.