The Complete Checklist for Creating Compelling Calls-to-Action

Lots of times, when marketers want to make a big impact on their marketing, they focus on going after a big project: big email campaigns, big website redesigns, big social media plans, big everything.

But while big projects can have big payoffs, you don’t have all the time in the world to execute them. You’ve got lots of other things on your plate — the only free time you have left in your day is the 43 minutes on Wednesday between scarfing down your bagged lunch and your weekly 1:00 p.m. client call. 

Yeah … not a lot of time for those big campaigns, huh? 

The good news is you don’t need them to make a big impact on your marketing — often, a smaller tweak can work wonders. And one of the smallest changes you can implement with the biggest splash is call-to-action (CTA) revamps. On our own CTAs, we’ve seen small changes yield 30% increase in conversion … which is no chump change. 

So if you only have a few minutes in your week to optimize your conversion rates, souping up your out-of-date and gnarly looking calls-to-action is the way to go. To be sure you aren’t forgetting any crucial components of CTAs, be sure to follow along with the checklist below. 

11 Essential Elements of an Effective Call-to-Action

To help demonstrate the anatomy of a well-crafted CTA, we’re going to pick apart the primary CTA we recently featured in a blog post about the biggest problem in your PR

1) Use actionable language. 

HubSpot’s CTA tool helps you create click-worthy CTAs.

In grade school, you were probably told that writing in the second person (writing to “you”) wasn’t ideal. 

Forget that lesson immediately. 

When you’re designing CTAs, effective copy all boils down to using action-oriented, second-person verbs. Use verbs like “discover, unearth, find” instead of ones like “be smarter.” In the CTA below, notice how we began sentences with “Learn” and “Download.” Besides empowering your readers a tad to click on your CTA, you’re also shortening your copy — which all boils down to a more effective and concise call-to-action. 

According to AJ Beltis, Senior Content Marketing Manager for HubSpot’s Acquisition team, succinctness pays off for CTA copy. “I’ve found that direct CTA copy tends to perform better than lengthier CTA copy. Succinctly pitching the value of what you’re linking out to on a page with an abundance of copy and visual distractions can act as an unambiguous directive on what readers should do once on the page.” Create authoritative and click-worthy CTAs with HubSpot’s CTA tool

2) Align CTA copy with landing page copy.

When you’re creating CTA copy, you also want to make sure your CTA copy and your landing page copy align. The name of the thing you are promoting — whether it’s a free ebook, whitepaper, template, guide, crash course, or presentation — should align with the name of it on the landing page.

You should also be calling the offer the same thing on both the CTA and the landing page. For example, if you mention that people can download a crash course on Facebook advertising on the CTA, you shouldn’t call it an ebook on the landing page. It may seem like small potatoes, but those details matter. 

On the landing page that goes with the CTA above, we did both of these things — notice how the title of the offer and how we position it is the exact same as the CTA. This way, when people get to the landing page, they aren’t confused about what we’re offering and click away. 

3) Include a clear value proposition.

Each call-to-action you create is unique to your business — it’s your offer, service, or product you’re trying to promote. But that’s not how users perceive it. When they come in contact with your CTAs, they wonder why they should download that very offer from you at this specific moment. They might wonder if they’ve already downloaded something similar from your competitor. Or maybe they are just confused about value you’re going to bring to them in exchange for their email. 

Either way, you’ve got to quell these suspicions by making the benefit of clicking on the CTA super clear. On your CTA, give a quick description of what happens when they click on it — will they magically become better at their job? Will they save time? Will they end up saving humanity from a pack of zombies? Regardless of what you want them to do, it should be very what is going to happen when people click.

On our CTA below, you can see this principle in action. In both the headline and the description, we describe what people will get when they click and how they will be able to use it — which helps readers trust us and differentiate us from other companies’ offers. 

4) Play up its time-sensitivity.

People are busy online. While they are browsing your website, blog, or social media accounts, they’re also probably fielding emails, taking a client call, and maybe drafting a tweet of their own. With all of these potential distractions, you want to keep your readers focused on clicking your CTA. 

The best way to do that is to tap into the element of urgency and tell people to do something right now. One way to do that is to add words like “now” or “today” to your CTA button (that’s what we did in the example below). Just reminding people to do something now can increase the chance of them actually doing it now. 

5) Make it big. 

In the land of calls-to-action, the motto is go big or go home. You can’t make a tiny little button that appears at the bottom of the page and hope that people will click on it — chances are, people are going to miss it when they’re glossing over your site in an F-shaped pattern.

To make sure that people notice your CTA, you’ve got to have it large and in charge on your site. For example, the CTA we’re talking about here is the full width of the blog post body column — about 650 pixels wide. That way, there’s no way in hell you’re going to gloss over it. That being said, there’s no industry standard for the smallest size a CTA can be, so you’ve got to test how the size affects conversions on your own.

6) Create a highly contrasting design.

Another way to attract your visitors’ attention is through the actual design of your button. You can forget another lesson here: calls-to-action shouldn’t blend in with the rest of your website design. Yes, you can use similar styling — fonts and colors can still match your style guide — but the way you combine these elements should make the design pop from the rest of the page. 

Check out our CTA to see what I mean. We use our brand colors (orange, slate grey, white, and blue) and our font family (Proxima Nova) to make the CTA look like it’s part of the HubSpot family … but the way we put the CTA together makes it pop. The blue CTA background contrasts nicely against a white blog post background, and the grey button with white text and outline on top of it all grabs your attention even more. These contrasting elements were strategically chosen to help our readers notice this CTA.

7) Make the button look clickable.

Most things you can click online look like they can be clicked. Usually, they have some sort of shading or contouring that makes them look like a button you could press in real life. So if you want your CTAs to be clicked, it makes sense to make it look like something people are already familiar with clicking … right? Use your design program to add shadows and borders to not only give your CTA an extra design finish — but also make it look functional. 

We did that in our CTA in the “Download Ebook + Template Now” button. Notice how the button looks almost 3D? That’s because of a nifty little tool in PowerPoint that adds depth to 2D objects. Definitely experiment with which “clickable designs” work best for your CTAs — they could drastically improve your conversion rate.

8) Add alt text.

Despite the web becoming more and more reliant on visuals to communicate, lots of people still have problems displaying images in their browsers. Sometimes, they just have errors loading your images in your browser, while other times, they may purposefully block them from appearing — and in either instance, you need to have a backup plan. Alt text allows you to display text whenever a CTA doesn’t appear properly in a website or email. (Bonus: Because alt text is, you know … text, search engines can actually read it — spelling additional SEO juice for you.)

In our CTA below, we’ve included the alt text “inbound pr cta” to help direct those who can’t view images. Granted, it’s probably not the most engaging alt text, but it does give people and search engines an indication of what should have appeared in that image’s place. 

9) Place your CTA prominently on your website.

Once you’ve finished all the copy and design, it’s time to start putting that baby to work on your website. Whether you’re placing it above the fold (where it generally will get more clicks and conversions) or below the fold (where you can get higher quality of leads converting), you want your CTA to be noticed. So put it where it can get noticed — heck, draw even more eyeballs to it by adding directional cues so you get more clicks and conversions.

In the example we’ve been using, our primary call-to-action is featured at the bottom of every blog post. Notice how the size and design go hand-in-hand with placement — because it’s placed at the bottom of the post, we really need to ramp up the size and eye-catching design components. See how much more prominent it is compared to the paragraphs above it?

Beltis adds that the CTA should not be buried. “If the CTA is hidden too far below-the-fold or blends in with the rest of a page’s contents, it’s likely the CTA may be overlooked. That’s why in some situations it’s appropriate to have multiple CTAs,” he said. “The key here is to find the right balance of CTA placements to ensure an optimal conversion rate without coming off as spammy, hurting your brand, or detracting from the user experience.”

10) A/B test multiple CTAs to find the best performer.

Once you’ve got one CTA set, don’t stop. Chances are, you have even more opportunities to convert leads and customers through your CTAs — even if you’ve optimized them using the tips in this blog post. So keep tweaking copy, design, sizing, placement, etc. until you find a CTA that performs above the rest

To be honest, we didn’t A/B test this specific CTA because we were focusing on optimizing it per the next action item, but we frequently A/B test new CTAs on the blog and in emails. Let’s say we did A/B test it though — below is an example of a test we could run.

Version A:

Version B:

11) Personalize CTAs for different segments of your audience.

Besides A/B testing, you can also tailor CTAs to only appear to select audiences. For example, your visitors can see one thing, your leads can see another, and your customers can see something else altogether. To be honest, you’ll need the right software to do this (HubSpot customers: You’ve covered on this point if you’re a Pro or Enterprise account) but if you have the software, you’re golden. 

We do this all the time on our blog — if you look at the CTA below, you might see a CTA for creating CTA templates (meta, I know) or a CTA for demoing HubSpot’s landing pages. So the example CTA we’ve been using is no different. 

What leads see:

What everyone else sees:

Ultimately, by testing and optimizing and testing again, you’ll figure out which CTA best practices work for you — and which don’t — all in the sliver of time you have free each week.

What have you learned while optimizing CTAs on your own website? Share your insights with us in the comments!

Image credit: D+J+

The Ultimate Collection of 200+ Best Free Content Marketing Templates

Whether it’s writing a blog post, designing an infographic, or creating an ebook, starting a new piece of content from scratch can be a challenge, especially if you’ve never done it before. 

Luckily, content marketing templates can make things easier. These templates can help with design and inspire you as you develop various processes to reach potential and existing customers.

Instead of trying to master how to create every type of content in existence, cut down on stress and inefficiency. Get inspired by our collection of free, customizable content creation templates. Below is a list of each type of content marketing template represented.

Content Marketing Plan Templates
Website Content Templates
Content Writing Templates
Design Content Templates
Social Media Content Templates
Email Content Templates
Video Content Templates

Content Marketing Plan Templates

Content marketing involves delivering valuable information to your target audience. Templates make creating consistent content easier and provide a visually appealing package for the relevant information you’re providing to customers.

Below, you’ll find several helpful templates to jumpstart your content marketing strategy.

1. Content Marketing Planning Template

Download the content mapping template here.

You’re aware that you need a content marketing strategy in place to support the success of your inbound marketing and sales organizations. But how do you get started? We’ve created a content mapping template so you can create targeted content for each stage of your target audience’s buyer’s journey.

This template helps you identify buyer personas, outline their challenges and needs, and brainstorm content that provides solutions. You’ll have plenty of targeted blog post ideas to attract your audience to your site and convert them into leads.

2. Buyer Persona Template

Download the buyer persona content template here.

Marketing to specific buyer personas results in more effective marketing decisions. This buyer persona template will help you easily organize your research to create your very own buyer personas. Use it to create beautiful, well-formatted buyer personas you can share with your entire company while learning best practices for personal research along the way.

3. Blog Editorial Calendar Templates

Download the blog editorial calendar templates here.

Having an editorial calendar for your marketing content will save you a whole lot of time — not to mention sanity — as you plan your content release timeline. We realize there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so we’ve created three editorial calendar templates to use at your leisure: one for Google Calendar, one for Excel, and one for Google Sheets. (Read this blog post for a step-by-step guide for using the Google Calendar template.)

Website Content Templates

Selecting the right template sets the foundation for intriguing designs and functionality. This enticing duo can lead to more newsletter subscribers and first-time visitors purchasing from your website.

4. On-Page SEO Template

Download the on-page SEO template here.

The more content you publish to your website, the more traffic sources you’ll want to prioritize. One of those sources is organic traffic. To make on-page SEO easier, we’ve rolled out a handy website content planning template to help you create a website structure. It organizes each webpage and its purpose, and helps you outline how long it should be and how to optimize the metadata associated with each new page you publish. These on-page SEO templates will make your site more appealing to Google and help you rank better.

5. Website Optimization Checklist Template

Download the website optimization checklist here.

A properly optimized website results in better search engine rankings and an improved user experience. This checklist focuses on website optimization, SEO, site performance, mobile optimization, and security. This, paired with a website content writing template, makes sites more likely to reach (and keep) ideal customers.

6. Search Insights Report Template

Download the search insights report template here.

Keyword research helps you determine how meaningful your content is to your audience. With this search insight report template, you can track how effective your SEO strategy is over time and measure the effectiveness of your writing.

Content Writing Templates

Here’s the thing with blogging: There isn’t one, easy template you can fill in to produce a quality content offering. You need to spend some time researching, brainstorming a title, outlining core content, and so on. Use the following templates to help you along the way.

7. Blog Post Templates

Download the blog post templates here.

Our content writing templates will walk you through the critical steps for creating the following six blog post types:

How-To Post
List-Based Post
Pillar Post
Infographic Post
Newsjacking Post
“What is?” Post

We’ve seen these formats crush it on our blogs, and we know you can use them to hit your own goals.

8. Ebook Templates

Download the ebook templates here.

Year after year, marketers cite lead generation as one of their top content marketing goals for the year. To succeed at lead gen, you need content offers — like ebooks — to help you get there. Our internal creative design team went to work building a kit of beautiful ebook templates — for use in either InDesign, PowerPoint, or Google Slides — for you to download, customize, and publish.

9. Free Memo Templates

Download the memo templates here.

Memos are essential content for effective internal communication. While they might not be customer-facing, they can ensure better, more aligned content is created by everybody on your team.

10. Call-to-Action Templates

Download the call-to-action templates here.

To help you design clickable calls-to-action (CTAs), we’ve built 28 pre-designed CTAs for you. These CTAs are super easy to customize, so you don’t need to know any fancy design programs — just PowerPoint or Google Slides.

Bonus: There’s also a handy free tool in there that lets you track your CTA clicks in real-time so you can see the exact number of clicks that your designs are reeling in.

11. A Press Release Template

Download the press release template here.

Press releases can be effective when used correctly. Our press release template considers this and provides an inbound-optimized version. This means the template can help you script press releases and do so in a format optimized for sharing on your company blog. You can easily adapt and customize as needed for your PR needs.

Design Content Templates

Searching for design ideas can be as easy as making a note of what’s eye-catching while scrolling online. Many creators upload their themes, swatches, mood boards, and more to display their creativity, helping inspire various designs. The flexibility of templates, such as Pinterest templates for business, can also attract consumers toward your brand by posting content as informative as it is visual.

12. Pinterest Templates for Business

Download the Pinterest templates here.

With millions of monthly active users, Pinterest continues to bring businesses tremendous value. Whether you’re bringing leads to your website, sharing infographic content, or promoting a blog post, Pinterest is a great platform to leverage for content marketing. Download these 12 Pinterest business templates you can tailor to your product or service offering.

13. 150+ Content Creation Templates

Download the content creation templates here.

Not a designer? Not a problem. We created over 150 visual marketing templates that are easy to use, work for any industry (finance, dentistry, agriculture, law — we’ve got ’em all), and are completely free. Some of the templates in this list are already included in this bundle. The templates include:

Infographics templates
Facebook ad templates
Facebook post templates
Twitter post templates
Email header templates
Blog title templates
Facebook cover photo templates
Twitter header templates
LinkedIn cover photos templates

14. Infographic Templates

Download the infographic templates here.

Skip the frustrations and start creating the graphics right away. We’ve created several pre-designed infographic templates that you can customize in PowerPoint or Adobe Illustrator. Within each template, you’ll get guides to teach you how to use the templates effectively.

Social Media Content Templates

Every day, your potential customers actively and passively consume so much content. Exploring ways to quickly capture their attention can be fun and profitable. It’s all about packaging content in a way that feels innovative yet purposeful in its delivery. Check out the following social media templates to help you do just that.

15. 50 Social Media Graphics Templates

Download the social media graphics templates here.

People remember visual information more than written or audio. But we know well enough that creating visual content takes more time and resources — which is why we’ve created these 50 customizable templates for you. These templates are in Google Slides, so they’re very easy to edit — no Photoshop skills required. Simply customize the text on an image, save it, and post it to social media. These social media templates will help you give variety to your content.

16. 11 Facebook Cover Photo Templates for Businesses

Download the Facebook cover photo templates here.

With how frequently businesses change and improve their Facebook pages today, you must have new material in the pipeline. Double down on your Facebook designs with these 11 templates dedicated to your Facebook cover photo. Get these designs by clicking on the link or image above.

17. Social Media Content Calendar Template

Download the social media content calendar templates here.

With so many different social networks to manage, a social media manager’s life becomes a lot easier when they can plan which content to share on each account — and when. This easy-to-use social media content calendar for Microsoft Excel lets you organize your social media activities far in advance. Use it to plan your updates and learn how to properly format your content for the four most popular social networks used for business: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Email Content Templates

Communication with potential and current customers is how relationships remain valuable. Creating “one-size-fits-all” messages come across as inauthentic and lead to people unsubscribing to newsletters or not reading the emails from your company. Download the templates below to ensure you’re delivering timely, actionable messages to your subscriber base.

18. 15 Email Templates for Marketing and Sales

Download the email templates for marketing and sales here.

If you’re like most marketers, you probably spend way more time than you’d like to admit reading and responding to emails. There are many ways you can streamline your inbox to save time, but you ultimately will still have to create and send emails. That’s where these content templates come in. We’ve written the copy for 15 email templates that marketers and sales representatives are likely to send repeatedly to save you time and get you results.

19. Email Marketing Planning Template

Download the email marketing planning template here.

Set goals for your email marketing planning with this free template. Available via Excel and Google Sheets, this template can help your marketing team plan an effective email marketing campaign with only half the work.

Video Content Templates

Creating videos that tell compelling stories can offer fresh perspectives about products or services. Setting up the lights and camera demonstrates why consumers should purchase from your company and can reach people all across the world in a matter of seconds.

20. 18 YouTube Templates for Business

Download the YouTube templates for Business here.

Depending on your role as a content creator, you may also be responsible for video content. A striking thumbnail and banner are a couple of the factors viewers rely on to determine what videos to watch. However, you don’t need to spend hours creating the perfect channel art for each video. These YouTube video content templates make this task simple so you can focus on more important things, like filming, editing, and promoting your videos.

Content Marketing Made Simple

Content marketers are expert storytellers, but designing visual guides and tinkering with Excel spreadsheets may not be your favorite part of the job. With hundreds of templates included in this blog post, you can spend more of your precious time doing the work you love.

So, there you have it, content marketers: hundreds of templates to help you start creating content easily and quickly and further your inbound success.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.


Email Marketing: The Ultimate Guide (+ Expert Tips)

Done correctly, email marketing can be as powerful as any other tactic today. Research has repeatedly found that the ROI for email is consistently high. In 2022, Litmus found that the return could be as high as $36 for every dollar invested.

With that in mind, let’s review the best ways to leverage email marketing. We’ll also cover benefits and statistics that show the importance of email, just in case you need extra convincing. Let’s dig in.

What is email marketing?

Getting Started with Email Marketing

How to Send Marketing Emails

Email Regulations You Should Know

Email Marketing Tips

Marketers have been using email as a channel for almost as long as they’ve been using the internet. The first marketing email was sent in 1978, resulting in $13 million in sales.

Email has been one of the most highly used marketing channels ever since.

This is because email is a flexible yet cost-effective way to reach many people relatively quickly. You can also personalize your message to target specific audiences and generate leads.

Email marketing can take many different forms. These campaigns can include a single email announcing new content, an ongoing newsletter delivered regularly, or contacting customers about product updates.

Email isn’t as shiny as newer channels, like messaging and social. However, email is an effective way to build an audience that gets results.

“One of my favorite parts about email marketing is its intimacy,” says Rob Litterst, head of strategy and operations for HubSpot’s Newsletter Network.

“Access to someone’s inbox is sacred, and for a person to welcome you in, there’s already a certain level of trust that you just can’t achieve with other platforms,” he says.

Master the fundamentals of email marketing with a free online course.

When to Use Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a powerful tactic to:

Build relationships. Build connections through personalized engagement.
Boost brand awareness. Keep your company and your services top-of-mind for the moment when your prospects are ready to engage.
Promote your content. Use email to share relevant blog content or valuable assets with your prospects.
Generate leads. Entice subscribers to provide their personal information in exchange for an asset that they’d find valuable.
Market your products. Promote your products and services.
Nurture leads. Delight your customers with content that can help them succeed in their goals.

Email Marketing Benefits

There are over 4.3 billion email users worldwide, so if you’re looking for a way to reach your customers, email is the perfect place to find them.
As of 2022, email generates $36 for every dollar spent.
51% of marketers say email marketing is the most effective marketing channel, according to our Marketing Trends survey. 
53% of marketers are continuing to invest in email marketing in 2023.
33% are increasing their investment in email marketing in 2023.
33% of marketers send weekly emails, and 26% send emails multiple times monthly.

Beyond just the statistics, perhaps the best reason to use email marketing is that you own the channel. Outside of compliance regulations, no external entity can impact how, when, or why you reach out to your subscribers.

Time and time again, email proves to be an unsung hero in marketing.

While it’s the third most-used marketing channel (beat by social media and websites), a whopping 95% of email marketers call it practical,” says Pamela Bump, head of content growth at HubSpot.

“For HubSpot — and our blog team — we’ve deeply leveraged email and even catered blog posts to our very subscribers,” she says. “Over the years, this has driven high ROI, millions of page views, countless conversions, and even customers.”

Email Marketing Stats by Industry

Email marketing rules change based on your industry and who you’re marketing to. Below are some email marketing trends for B2B, B2C, e-commerce, and real estate companies that can inform your email marketing strategy.

Email Marketing Stats for B2B

Email is the third-highest owned-media platform B2B marketers used to distribute content in the last 12 months.
44% of B2B marketers say email marketing is the most effective marketing channel.
B2B marketers say email engagement is the fourth most insightful metric when evaluating performance over the past year, more than social media, search rankings, and lead quality.

Email Marketing Stats for B2C

50% of B2C marketers say growing their email list is one of the biggest challenges in their role.
37% of B2C marketers send daily marketing emails to their subscribers.

Email Marketing Stats for Ecommerce

57.2% of marketers say the e-commerce brands they manage have 1,000 to 10,000 contacts on their email lists.
85.7% of e-commerce marketers say the primary business objective of their email strategy is increasing brand awareness.
Roughly 72% of e-commerce marketers say the biggest challenge they face with email is low open rates.

Getting Started with Email Marketing

Before you get overwhelmed with the vast possibilities of email marketing, let’s break down a few key steps to get you started building a solid email campaign that will delight your customers.

You can think of these steps as creating a successful email marketing strategy.

1. Create an Email Marketing Strategy

You can learn how to build an effective email strategy and send emails that people actually want to read. It just takes a plan (one that can be broken down into a few key steps).

Think of the following five steps as an outline for your email strategy. We’ll dive deeper into some of these in a moment.

Featured Resource

Email Marketing Planning Template

1. Define your audience.

Effective emails, whether a campaign or a one-off, start with understanding your audience.

Like everything else in marketing, start with your buyer persona, understand what pain points they’re dealing with, and tailor your email campaign to your audience’s needs.

2. Establish your goals.

Before you come up with your campaign goals, gather some context.

You’ll want to know the average email stats for your industry and use them as benchmarks for your goals.

As you can see, these benchmarks vary greatly. Using this guide will help you create realistic goals for your team.

3. Build your email list.

You need people to email, right? An email list (we’ll cover how to build your email list in the next section) is a group of users who have permitted you to send them relevant content.

To build that list, you need several ways for prospects to opt-in to receive your emails which we’ll cover in another section in just a moment.

Don’t be discouraged if you only have a few people on your list. It can take some time to build. In the meantime, treat every subscriber and lead like gold, and you’ll start seeing your email list grow organically.

4. Choose an email campaign type.

Email campaigns vary, and trying to decide between them can be overwhelming. Do you send a weekly newsletter? Should you send out new product announcements? Which blog posts are worth sharing?

The answer is subjective.

You can start by learning about the types of email campaigns, then decide which is best for your audience.

You should also set up different lists for different types of emails, so customers and prospects can sign up for only the emails that are relevant to them.

5. Make a schedule.

Decide how often you plan to contact your list and inform your audience upfront.

This way, they’ll know exactly what to expect ahead of time. Forgetting this can lead to high unsubscribe lists and even get you in their spam.

In addition, once you set a schedule, be consistent. It will build trust and ensure you stay top of mind for your audience.

6. Measure your results.

This should come as no surprise. As marketers, we measure everything. Being meticulous about every key metric will help you make small changes to your emails, yielding large results.

We’re going to touch on the exact KPIs to monitor in a bit (or you can jump ahead).

Now that you understand the steps to creating an email marketing strategy, we’ll look at what’s involved in building your email list.

2. Choose an email marketing platform.

An email marketing provider (ESP) is an excellent resource if you’re looking any support while fine-tuning your email marketing efforts.

For example, HubSpot’s Email Marketing tool allows you to efficiently create, personalize, and optimize marketing emails that feel and look professional without designers or IT.

There are a variety of features to help you create the best email marketing campaigns and support all of your email marketing goals.

Additionally, you can analyze the success of your email marketing so you can share the data that matters most to your business with your team. The best part? You can use HubSpot’s Email Marketing service for free.

Here are examples of features services like HubSpot offer to consider when choosing an email service provider:

CRM platform with segmentation capabilities
Good standing with Internet Service Providers
A positive reputation as an email service provider (ESP)
Easy-to-build forms, landing pages, and CTAs
Simple ways to comply with email regulations
Ability to split test your emails
Built-in analytics
Downloadable reports

3. Build Your Email List

Now to the fun part: filling your email list with eager prospects excited to hear from you.

There are many creative ways to build your email list (and, no, purchasing emails ain’t one).

Tactically speaking, list building comes down to two key elements that work cohesively to grow your subscriber numbers: lead magnets and opt-in forms.

Featured Resources

The Email Newsletter Lookbook
How to Create Email Newsletters That Don’t Suck

Here’s how to get started building and growing your email list.

3. Use lead magnets.

Your lead magnet is exactly as it sounds: It attracts prospects to your email list, usually as a free offer.

The offer can take many formats, should be valuable to your prospects, and is given away for free in exchange for an email address.

There’s just one problem: People have become hyper-protective of their personal information. You can’t expect to receive an email address without exchanging it for something valuable.

Think about a lead magnet that is relevant, useful, and makes your prospects’ lives easier.

Here are a few types of lead magnets you could create:

Reports or studies.
Webinars or courses.

If you’re short on resources, you can even repurpour existing content to create lead magnets.

4. Create an enticing opt-in form.

Your opt-in form is how you get a prospect’s information to add them to your list. It’s the gate between your future leads and the incredible asset you created with them in mind.

Here are some tips for creating an enticing opt-in form:

Create an attractive design and attention-grabbing header.

Your form should be branded, stand out from the page, and entice people to sign up. You want to excite readers with the offer.

Make the copy relevant to the offer.

While your goal is to get people to enter their information, it isn’t to deceive them. Any information on your form should be a truthful representation of the offer.

Keep the form simple.

This could be one of your first interactions with your prospect. Don’t scare them away with a long long-form several fields.

Ask for only the most essential information: first name and email is a good place to start.

Set your opt-in form for double confirmation.

It may seem counterproductive to ask your subscribers to opt into your emails twice, but some research on open rates suggests that customers may prefer a confirmed opt-in (COI) email more than a welcome email.

Ensure that the flow works.

Take yourself through the user experience before you go live. Double-check that the form works as intended, the thank you page is live, and your offer is delivered as promised.

This is one of your first impressions of your new lead — make it a professional and positive one.

Next, let’s take a moment to cover some universally-accepted email marketing best practices regarding how to send marketing emails.

List snippet

If all goes well, you’ll have built a robust list of subscribers and leads waiting to hear from you. But you can’t start emailing just yet unless you want to end up in a spam folder, or worse, a blocked list.

Here are a few important things to remember before you start emailing your list.

1. Implement email segmentation.

Once you’ve added people to your list, you must break them down into different segments.

That way, instead of having a monolithic email list of everybody, you’ll have easier-to-manage subcategories that pertain to your subscribers’ unique characteristics, interests, and preferences.

Our subscribers are humans, after all, and we should do our best to treat them as such. That means not sending generic email blasts.

Why should you segment your email list?

Each person who signs up to receive your emails is at a different level of readiness to convert into a customer (which is the ultimate goal of all this).

If you send a discount coupon for your product to subscribers that don’t even know how to diagnose their problem, you’ll probably lose them. That’s because you’re skipping the part where you build trust and develop the relationship.

Every email you send should treat your subscribers like humans you want to connect with, as opposed to a herd of leads you’re trying to corral into a one-size-fits-all box.

The more you segment your list, the more trust you build with your leads, and the easier it’ll be to convert them later.

How to Segment Email Lists

The first step in segmentation is creating separate lead magnets and opt-in forms for each part of the buyer’s journey. That way, your contacts are automatically divided into separate lists.

Beyond that, email marketing platforms allow you to segment your email list by contact data and behavior to help you send the right emails to the right people.

Here are some ways you could break up your list:

Geographical location.
Lifecycle stage.
Awareness, consideration, and decision stage.
Previous engagement with your brand.
Job Title.

In reality, you can segment your list any way that you want. Just make sure to be as exclusive as possible when sending emails to each subgroup.

2. A/B test your marketing emails.

Not all email lists are created equal. Some audiences prefer personalization, and others will think it’s spammy. Some audiences will like bright, eye-catching CTA buttons. Others will prefer a more subtle call-to-action.

You’ll never know what type of people make up your email list until you test the variables. That’s where A/B testing comes in handy.

“If you’re considering making any structural or content alterations to your email marketing, A/B testing is an excellent way to determine if the changes will be successful or worthwhile before they’re implemented on a larger scale,” says Madison Zoey Vettorino, marketing manager and SEO content writer for HubSpot’s Website Blog.

Surprisingly, not many brands leverage it. A 2021 Litmus study found that 44% of marketers rarely A/B or multivariate test their emails. Only 19% do it often or always.

A/B testing, or split testing, is a way to see what type of email performs best with your audience by analyzing the results of email A against email B. This can be especially helpful when working with templates.

“Since emails often have the same template, A/B testing is smart because you can usually control variables outside of the test and get a solid signal on what performs better,” HubSpot’s Litterst says.

Here’s the step-by-step process for A/B testing your emails:

Select one variable to test at a time, e.g., subject line, CTA, images.
Create two versions of the email: one with and one without the variable.
Allow your emails to be sent out simultaneously for a period of time.
Analyze your results and keep only the version that performed better.
Test a new variable and repeat the process.

Most email service providers will have A/B testing built into their software, which will make it easy for you to compare email results without much manual work.

When conducting an A/B test, consider these tips:

Test one element at a time.

“For example, try the same email with a different subject line. Or the same email and same subject line with a different CTA,” says Curtis del Principe, a user acquisition program lead and content strategist at HubSpot.

“It might be tempting to make several changes at once, but that makes it harder to pinpoint the true cause of your wins or losses,” he says.

Don’t try to “eyeball” an A/B test.

A/B test should be run with intention. Making quick changes and approaching results unscientifically can lead to incorrect conclusions.

“You might be tempted to run an informal A/B test by making a change and then casually paying attention to the responses that you get. This unscientific method can easily be skewed by factors outside your control (like seasonality or deliverability),” says del Principe. “It also leaves out a ton of valuable data, like open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, or sharing/forwarding rate.”

Instead, use an email marketing tool, like Marketing Hub or BuzzStream, to help you get a broader and more accurate understanding of your email performance.

Featured Resource

The Complete Guide to A/B Testing

3. Analyze your email marketing performance.

Once you’ve got your first few campaigns, it’s time to see how they’re performing.

By diving into your email marketing analytics, you’ll be able to make better decisions that will help your business’s bottom line, resonate with your subscribers, readers, and customers, and justify your work to the rest of your company.

Here are the best ways to analyze the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.

4. Set email marketing KPIs.

There are four key metrics to pay attention to when evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign.

Deliverability measures the rate at which emails reach your intended subscribers’ inboxes.
Open rate is the percentage of people that open your email once it reaches their inbox.
Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the percentage of people that click on your CTAs.
Unsubscribes measures the number of people who opt out of your email list once they receive your email.

5. Adjust email components to improve results.

Many factors impact your KPIs, and it will take some experimentation and guesswork to figure out which tweaks to your emails will yield the biggest significance.

If you aren’t getting the desired numbers, try playing with these variables to improve your email results.


Ensure that you’re following best practices regarding spam filters.
Remove inactive people from your email list to keep only engaged subscribers.
Check which emails have bounced and remove those email addresses from your list.

Open Rate

Play with the language in your subject line to entice people to click on your email.
Adjust the time and day that you send your email to see what works best.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

Evaluate your offer to ensure that it provides value to your segmented list.
Rewrite your copy to make sure that it’s clear what you want the reader to do.
Try different CTAs, e.g., graphic versus Inline copy, bold versus subtle.


First, consider if this is a blessing in disguise, as uninterested parties are removing themselves from your list.
Regularly send an email to inactive subscribers on your list asking if they still want to be a part of it
Evaluate whether the email you sent is aligned with your brand.
Ensure you haven’t performed a bait-and-switch by promising one thing and delivering another.
Make sure your emails are providing value to your audience before trying to upsell.

6. Use an email marketing report template.

Once you’ve got some campaigns under your belt, it’s time to look at how they performed. Your data does no good if you can’t report it in an organized fashion.

An email marketing report is a spreadsheet where you can record your results in one place to help you make inferences from your KPIs and take action to improve them.

Here’s how you should organize your report.


Total number of emails sent
Number of emails delivered
Deliverability Rate
Bounce Rate
Open Rate
Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
Click-to-open Rate (CTOR)
Unsubscribe Rate


Subject line
Length of the email body
CTA (inline or graphic)
List segment(s)

Questions To Ask:

Was your deliverability rate high in comparison to previous periods?
How did your CTR compare to your open rate?
Were your unsubscribe numbers consistent with other emails?
Did a certain subject line perform better than others?
Does the length of the email make a difference in CTR?
Could another style of CTA perform better?
Was the offer appropriate for the list segment?

Email Regulations You Should Know

Email regulations are important to follow as they regulate and protect consumers’ desires to know how and why their information is being used.

If there’s anything we care about, it’s complying with what our customers—or potential customers—want.

There are a few key ones that you should understand:

1. CAN-SPAM Compliance

Technically, CAN-SPAM is an acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (because sometimes the two go together).

In practice, it’s a way to protect your subscribers’ right to only receive emails that they’ve requested.

The law was passed in 2003 and applies to any commercial emails used for business purposes.

Here are the ways to ensure that your emails are CAN-SPAM compliant:

Include your company name and address in every email.
Place visible unsubscribe links within your emails.
Use real email addresses in the “From” and “Reply to” fields.
Write subject lines that indicate the contents of the email.

Please note: This is not to be confused with legal advice. See the FTC’s site for more specific legal information regarding CAN-SPAM laws.

2. GDPR Compliance

While some may view these newly implemented email regulations as burdensome and unnecessary, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) moves us closer to building long-lasting, trusting customer relationships.

GDPR is about giving your customers the right to choose. They choose your emails. They decide to hear from you. They choose your products. And that is exactly what inbound marketing is about.

It is important to note that GDPR only applies to businesses operating in the European Union and businesses that market to EU citizens.

Noncompliance will result in significant fees that aren’t worth the risk, so make sure to read the GDPR guidelines entirely.

Here’s an overview of how you can comply with GDPR laws:

Use precise language when requesting consent to store personal information.
Only collect contact data that is necessary for and relevant to your business.
Store contact data securely and only use it for the agreed-upon purpose.
Retain data for justifiable business purposes only.
Delete contact data on request.
Make it easy for contacts to unsubscribe from your list or update their preferences.
Comply promptly with a contact’s request for access to their data.
Keep company records to prove GDPR compliance.

These regulations will be taken seriously (as they should), so it’s a good idea to create a GDPR strategy for your business before sending emails.

3. Avoid Spam Filters

You spend time creating the perfect email and adhering to regulations, so the last thing you want is to end up in a spam folder.

You’ll want to avoid the spam folder because:

It hurts your deliverability rates across the board.
Your contacts will likely miss all of your emails.
You won’t be able to measure your email marketing effectiveness accurately.
Your analytics will be skewed.

You can avoid being deduced to spam with the following.

Get whitelisted.

A whitelist is a list of approved senders that can reach the subscriber’s inbox. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have your new subscriber add your email address to their address book.

Include directions on how to do this in your welcome email.

Mind your copy.

Avoid using all caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as spam trigger words, like “opt-in,” “click below,” and “order,” that are easily detected and marked down by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Use a reliable email service provider.

Your email service provider’s reputation affects your deliverability, so stick to established, well-known companies.

Implement a double opt-in.

Once someone opts in to your email list, send an email asking them to confirm. This ensures that your new subscriber is genuinely interested in your emails and will likely be more engaged.

(Check out more ways you can avoid the spam filter.)

And last but certainly not least, you need to consistently measure the success of your email marketing efforts. There are a number of options you can choose from when it comes to your business’s email marketing analytics.

Email Marketing Tips

While you probably don’t think twice about the formatting or subject line of an email you send to a friend, email marketing requires a lot more consideration.

Everything from the time you send your email to the devices on which your email could be opened matters.

Your goal with every email is to generate more leads, which makes crafting a marketing email a more involved process than other emails you’ve written.

Let’s touch on the components of a successful marketing email:

Copy: The copy in the body of your email should be consistent with your voice and stick to only one topic.

Images: Choose images that are optimized for all devices, eye-catching, and relevant.

CTA: Your call-to-action should lead to a relevant offer and stand out from the rest of the email.

Timing: Based on a study that observed response rates of 20 million emails, Tuesday at 11 AM ET is the best day and time to send your email.

Responsiveness: 55% of emails are opened on mobile. Your email should, therefore, be optimized for this as well as all other devices.

Personalization: Write every email like you’re sending it to a friend. Be personable and address your reader in a familiar tone.

Subject Line: Use clear, actionable, enticing language that is personalized and aligned with the body of the email.

Featured Resource

100 Email Subject Lines We Actually Clicked

Personalize your email marketing.

“Personalization isn’t just about adding a contact’s name to the subject line anymore but is all about creating personalized experiences that demonstrate you understand them and have insider knowledge about how they can use your products to succeed,” Aleia Walker, growth marketing manager at HubSpot.

Now that you know who you’re emailing and what’s important to them, sending emails with personalized touches will be much easier.

Sure, you’re speaking to 100+ people at one time, but your leads don’t need to know it.

A 2021 report by Litmus revealed that 80% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

To really drive this point home, consider this: Personalized emails have higher open rates. In addition, 83% of customers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience.

You’ve gathered all this unique data. Your email marketing software allows for personalization tokens. You have no excuse for sending generic emails that don’t make your leads feel special.

“It’s more impactful to base email personalization on two or three factors instead of just what a contact is engaging with on your side,” Walker says.

Walker suggests, “Consider personalizing emails based on what you know about your contact, such as their location, industry, employee size, etc., alongside how they engage with your content.”

Here are a few ways to personalize your emails:

Add a first name field in your subject line and/or greeting.
Include region-specific information when appropriate.
Send content that is relevant to your lead’s lifecycle stage.
Only send emails that pertain to the last engagement a lead has had with your brand.
Write about relevant and/or personal events, like region-specific holidays or birthdays.
End your emails with a personal signature from a human (not your company).
Use a relevant call-to-action to an offer that the reader will find useful.

6. Use email marketing templates.

Email marketing templates — like these ones from HubSpot — are another great resource to help you with your email marketing.

Unless you’re a designer and developer, on top of being a skilled marketer, templates will save you a ton of time — they take the design, coding, and UX-definition work out of crafting your emails.

Just one caveat: when making your selection, choose email templates that are proven to be effective.

The highest-quality templates come from the most reputable ESPs that have tested them against thousands of alternatives. So, stick with the professionals.

If you’re struggling with the above tips, HubSpot offers e-mail marketing tools to help personalize your marketing emails, optimize your emails with A/B testing, and create aesthetically pleasing emails using templates.  

Furthermore, HubSpot’s Campaign Assistant uses AI technology to generate copy for marketing emails.

Beginning Email Marketing

While there are many rules to sending a marketing email, the most important is this: Treat the reader on the other end like you’re writing to a friend.

You can achieve all of your email marketing goals if you keep this golden rule top of mind in every autoresponder, lead magnet, and subject line.

And remember, the more you help your subscribers, the more they will want to hear from you and look forward to opening emails that you send.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.