The Unclickables: How to Build a Better Email

August 16, 2019 | 3 minute read
Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager
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Use this marketer’s playbook and checklist of email basics to make sure your email is engaging and effective.

[Bad Email Intro:]

Sprawling messaging, confusing CTAs, and impersonal spam can all make for a bad email, and a bad email can go unopened and unclicked.

You have to remember the basics of building a good email. The tried and true ways to keep your audience opening, reading, and engaging with your messaging all still work. Can you think of a few? Then take this challenge:


Subject Line:

Welcome spring with a storewide clearance sale this Saturday only

Email Copy:

Hi Super Shopper,

Are you ready to save big at Big Ole Bill’s Everything Store?

Well, you’re in luck, because finally, the snow has melted, the crocus are in bloom, and it’s time to break out the patio furniture and have all your friends and family over for a potluck. Oh, you don’t have patio furniture?

Have no fear, our annual storewide clearance sale is this Saturday!

Get 50% OFF everything! Even patio furniture!

That’s 50% OFF men’s, women’s, kid’s, toys, yard and garden, tools, electronics, home décor, including housewares, mattresses, you name it! It’s all on sale! Every department, every purchase is 50% off!

Whether you need new patio furniture or a new comforter, you can stop by Bill’s this Saturday and get everything on clearance! This Saturday only!

We’ll see you there!

Button 1:

Preview the sale

Button 2:

Sign up for coupons

Button 3:

See Big Ole Bill’s Spring Break in Florida


Were you able to pick out the problems? 

Sure, everyone would like to see Big Ole Bill sip margaritas, poolside in a Hawaiian shirt, but that would detract from the real call to action. And honestly, Big Ole Bill would be lucky to have a reader even make it to the end of the email to see that CTA.

So,  what works in email marketing today and what doesn’t?

To get answers, in January 2019, Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC) partnered with Ascend2 to work on an email marketing survey to create Email Marketing from the Enterprise Perspective. The research represents the opinions of today’s marketers from enterprises with over 500 employees taken from that survey.

And the results?

  • 70% of respondents thought increasing engagement was a primary objective of an email marketing strategy.
  • 58% found increasing engagement to be a critical challenge.
  • 74% considered personalization effective for email marketing purposes.

Marketers want to grab the audience, reel them in, and spur them to take action.

You do this by creating personalized content that presents strong solutions to their problems.

What a Good Email Looks Like

You can be clever. Be creative. Be humorous, even, if it hooks your readers. But above all else, emails have to be easy and digestible. Before you start busting out content, answer these questions:

  • Why does someone need it?
  • What should it do?
  • How will it get done?

Consider this [hyperlink:] checklist when writing or reviewing email copy.


Checklist from The Marketer’s Playbook

Subject Line:

  • Is it actionable?
  • Does it elicit a sense of immediacy?
  • Is it relevant to what’s inside?
  • Is it as brief as it can be?


  • Is it unique?
  • Is it personalized?
  • Does it use your brand voice?

Body Copy:

  • Is your offer clear?
  • Does it have a single, clear message?
  • Is it concise, concrete, and specific?
  • Is it relevant to the audience and reflective of the subject line?


  • Is it a clear CTA?
  • Does it drive action?
  • Is it personalized?


  • Is it mobile friendly?
  • Does it stick to the brand?
  • Is it simple and creative?
  • Is it eye-catching? (relevant GIFs and images)


Just because Big Ole Bill’s Everything Store might have everything it doesn’t mean his emails have to. Here’s a better version that can improve open rates, click-thru rates, and even Big Ole Bill’s revenue.


Subject Line: 50% OFF–details inside

Hi Super Shopper [Name of recipient],

Stock up with 50% OFF everything at Big Ole Bill’s Everything Store. Check out the one store that has it all, and it’s all on sale—this Saturday only!

Button: Preview the sale

Secondary CTA Link to Preview Sale

See you there, [Name of recipient]!

Big Ole Bill’s Signature


Download a copy of "The Marketer's Email Checklist" so that you have it handy and can tick off all the boxes when creating an email.

Download the checklist. 







Michael McNichols

Senior Content Manager

Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.

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