As millions of people prepare to indulge in their annual Thanksgiving meals, let’s give thanks for the bountiful feast that triggered, transactional, and promotional emails offer your company and thousands of businesses like yours. In fact, customers who make website purchases via email links spend on average 138% more than other people, according to Campaign Monitor, making email a key ingredient in your marketing meals.

Since we’re feeling a bit peckish, let’s imagine that your email marketing strategy is the main course in your Thanksgiving meal – it’s a perfectly cooked turkey that feeds a table full of guests and still provides leftovers for the three-day weekend that follows. And we’ll assume the elements of your emails are among the side dishes that round out the feast and leave everyone satisfied and happy.

The gravy: Your sender reputation

This is the part of the meal that makes everything taste a bit better. It may not be the first thing people notice, and they may not enthuse about it afterward, but they’ll appreciate that it was there.

That’s your sender reputation, which dictates whether the gatekeepers at Gmail, Yahoo!, and other providers deliver your emails to inboxes, relegate them to the promotions tab, or dump them in a spam trap. A sender reputation that leaves a poor aftertaste will quickly ruin the perfect email meal.

Keep your sender reputation fresh by:

  • Quickly honoring unsubscribes
  • Adopting an opt-in policy
  • Pruning dead email addresses
  • Looking closely at bounce codes and acting on them
  • Giving people reasons to open your emails and click a link or two
  • Creating and executing a warm-up plan before you start sending emails from a new IP address

The stuffing: Your header

 Everybody appreciates a good stuffing, especially one that’s created from scratch and is baked for the right amount of time. It will complement the main course, and that’s exactly what your “from” and “reply-to” addresses, your subject line, and your preheader text should do.

This promotional email from The Criterion Channel serves up a tasty serving of intrigue with a subject line that simply says “Somebody’s watching you.” The preheader text elaborates on that rich idea: “Paranoia reigns in a series of Hollywood thrillers and art-house classics that…” – the rest cut off on an iPhone 8 Plus, which gives you an idea of how much space you have on a larger smartphone screen.

While that subject line would be creepy coming from another source, subscribers to The Criterion Channel are likely aware that it’s packed with classic movies, so their marketing team can get away with it. While you may not want to go that far out on a limb with your subject line, we encourage you to be creative and try text that will get people’s attention without making them feel like you sent them click-bait.

The “from” and “reply-to” names and email addresses used here are straight-forward, which helps the recipient know that the message is from a trusted source, not a spammer trying to trick them. While reply-to addresses aren’t as important in promotional emails, it’s useful to have ones for triggered and transactional messages that are functional and send a reply somewhere useful, such as a customer’s CRM record.

The mashed potatoes: Your email body

Good mashed potatoes are inextricably linked to the rest of the meal. If you’re like us, you give them a good dollop of gravy and add them to the turkey, stuffing, and other parts of your plate. That’s also the body of your email, which binds together all the elements of your marketing strategy – if it’s not made well, everything else tastes flat.

Before you begin creating the body of your email, make sure you’re using a responsive template, which means your messages will automatically adapt to your recipients’ devices. They should have the same experience whether they’re using a computer with a huge screen or a several-generations-old smartphone with a tiny display, and responsive email design enables you to deliver that.

This triggered email from NerdWallet, which is sent weekly, is a status update that they cleverly call “Your Nerd’s eye view,” complete with a simple illustration of a bird singing dollar signs. They lead with something a lot of people like to stay on top of – their credit score – and let this user know that they have two key features they can still unlock and start using.

A useful “Did you know…” item links to a page on their site, and they close with a pitch for their mobile app. The chosen photo, as well as the subject matter in the “Did you know…” part, makes it clear that they’ve done some audience segmenting and are targeting a younger audience with this weekly update.

The cranberry sauce: Your footer

Cranberry sauce seems to be a Thanksgiving meal staple, even if not everyone is a fan. That’s kind of like your email footer, which needs to be there and contain some basic information, even if it’s not the most exciting part of the email. To be fair, though, we’ve had some great cranberry sauce, and there’s no reason why your email footer can’t give your email strategy the right amount of zing.

The footer is where you’ll want to include:

  • A logo and/or a motto: It doesn’t hurt to do a little branding here and inject some business personality to close your message, if it makes sense.
  • Social media links: It’s always useful to let people know where they can keep in touch with you online, especially when many of them would rather send a direct message on social media than make a phone call.
  • Contact information: A phone number and/or a mailing address are always useful for people who prefer getting in touch that way. They also help legitimize new and relatively unknown businesses.
  • An unsubscribe link: Make sure it’s easy to see: hiding the link will just annoy people and greatly increase the chance that some of them will report your email as spam to get off your list, which will harm your sender reputation.
  • Legal disclosures: This is crucial, especially if you’re running a contest or offering a special deal that has terms and conditions. They’re also typically required for financial services emails. Check the applicable laws to see what you need to include here.

Depending on your business vertical, you can have a little fun with the footer, such as leading with, “Hey, thanks for reading to the end. Here’s some stuff you should know.” It’s kind of like cranberry sauce from a can versus the made-from-scratch variety, but sometimes you need to take a basic approach, such as in the financial services world.

This email footer from Simple is a good example of a no-frills approach that checks the right boxes.



If you’re looking for an example of an email footer that uses a more unique recipe, check out this one from online retailer Moosejaw, who like to have fun with their messages. Coincidentally, it was sent around Thanksgiving, so it includes a pumpkin pie tip as an Easter egg.

Pumpkin pie: What happens when they click

If you’re not a pumpkin pie fan, imagine your choice of dessert here. This is where you top off the experience with something sweet and delightful that ensures your guests will want to return next year or click-through in your next email.

Make sure the destination matches customers’ expectations. For example, if your call-to-action (CTA) button in your email is “Shop Now,” they should be taken to your online store, or a sub-section of it, if that was the focus of your email. Or if it’s “Apply Now,” they should see a webpage with a form.

You can use click tracking to see how much traffic came from the email versus other sources, such as social media posts or organic searches. Doing so involves adding unique information to each click-through URL. There are many third-party services for that.

And if people weren’t satisfied with what you served them and want to unsubscribe, you can try a few strategies on the unsubscribe page to keep the relationship going in some fashion.

  • Try an opt down: Let them choose less frequent emails or different types of mailings.
  • Offer other channels: Include links to your social media accounts, your blog, and anywhere else you like to communicate with customers. At least you know they’ll still hear from you somehow.
  • Find out why they unsubscribed: Offer a short survey to help you find out why they’re opting out. You can also use it to surface the other channels mentioned in the previous bullet point.

If it turns out they can’t devote a few hours at your place but would rather swing by for some post-meal dessert and coffee, there’s nothing wrong with that. Let your customers define their relationships with your company.

~ Casey