Lyvly is a community platform that helps landlords and renters find and manage shared living accommodation in London. If you’ve looked for a flat in London before, you know how precious this service can be.
Having a small marketing team, Lyvly hired me as a freelancer to get things started until they could hire more people. I designed email templates, wrote copy for automated emails and managed newsletters for a few months.
Email Design Process
Defining the Audience
The emails Lyvly needed would reach two different audiences. So we knew we needed two content plans:
- Existing tenants: various community events & meetups.
- Prospective tenants: available properties, community’s shared values and other incentives to get them to sign up.
Designing Email Templates
I like my clients to feel in control of the situation, so I usually give them a few design options to choose from. Because on top of the strategic UX decisions, there are also personal preferences to consider. So I made two templates that would work for their strategy while respecting their brand guidelines. They chose this one:
UX Design for Emails
Email design is not rocket science but it’s sciencey anyway. Certain things are placed in certain spots because that’s what gets the most attention, opening and most importantly, it gets people to click. There are a few more rules that can’t really be bypassed. Top of mind:
- Make your logo clickable in case we want to visit your site (you never know).
- Use a date at the top so that we know this isn’t from 1972 and the events promoted are still relevant for this century.
- Have a clear design hierarchy so that we can scan your email without having to read everything and be so exhausted by this email we end up opting out.
- Speaking of, don’t hide the unsubscribe link. It never made someone find your emails more relevant anyway.
- Use *first name* in your subject line to increase openings. It feels more personal and people somehow feel flattered (or called out).
- By *first name*, I mean my real first name that I gave you. Not *first name* as this is probably the worst thing you can do.
- Don’t forget to add alt-text for images. Some (annoying) email clients require us to accept image download. Also, it’s nicer for accessibility reasons as screen readers try to read alt-text.
- Show your social media accounts links. Some of us will go there first to see if you can tweet or if you still rely on carrier pigeons.
Anticipating the Client’s Needs
I like to anticipate my clients’ needs. Or maybe, I’m a control freak who can’t stand to see my designs ruined by someone trying to copy the style later on.
On top of a newsletter template, I had to consider the automated emails which needed their own design template: onboarding emails, acquisition emails and re-engagement ones. Yes, the ones you get when adding something to a basket and “forgetting” to pay for.
It’s important for me to think ahead of the current needs. I don’t want to leave my client with one email format only. Otherwise, what happens in six months when they need to implement new communications? I want them to leave with a cool package and remain autonomous as long as possible.
Email Copy & Proofreading
Automated Email Copy
Automated emails are dull. I won’t lie. So making them “not bad” is art. If my emails get a smile from you, I’ve won the lottery. I can’t really expect more when there are so many other emails out there.
The trick is to be personal, helpful and friendly — but not rude, which French people tend to struggle with. Yes, I’ve been using this as an excuse. A lot. Anyway, a few tips:
- Get to the point quickly. You’re not delivering Shakespeare.
- Think about the user journey. How is this person going to get this email?
- Are you saying something new? If someone hasn’t reacted before, it’s probably because they weren’t interested. So make sure you highlight new incentives.
- Don’t send more than 1–2 emails per week. Across all your departments.
- Make sure your CTA is clear. If I don’t know what you want me to do, I won’t bother.
- Check your CTA links. If the link’s broken, I won’t bother asking you where to find it.
Newsletter Content Plan
For Lyvly’s newsletters, my client decided on the content each week. We kept records of the content plan in a simple Google sheet so we could easily remember what was promoted. I designed the emails, wrote the copy and asked for sign-off before sending. No email should ever leave without proofreading. From someone else, ideally. It’s not even a question of “is this person a native speaker or not”. It’s more about the fact you’ve worked for so long on this you can’t even spell your own name right anymore. I would know.
Make sure you’ve checked the most basic grammatical rules with Grammarly, Hemingway or even Gramara (made for non-native speakers). And because there’s nothing I hate more than incorrect title capitalization, I recommend Capitalize My Title.
Copywriting is a combination of storytelling, UX writing and marketing strategy. As a freelancer, it’s challenging because you’ve just “met” the client and you can’t always get their branding under your skin in two seconds. It takes efforts from both sides to make sure the tone is right.
Monitoring open rates is important to measure your audience’s interest in your brand. But it doesn’t say much about your email performance per se. So when your open rate isn’t consistent, try A/B testing with different subject lines to see what performs best. And don’t jump too conclusions too quickly. Give yourself a few weeks before you make definitive changes.
To increase open rates, you can use first names in your subject lines (if that’s relevant). That makes it more personal and it stands out in an inbox.
CTR (or click-throughs) is the real measure I focus on. This number measures two things: your audience engagement level and your content relevance.
Based on these numbers, I was able to draw conclusions after a few weeks time to suggest changes to Lyvly or give them reassurance when we were headed in the right direction.
Outcomes & Lessons
For many reasons, Lyvly was a great client. They had clear, documented brand guidelines. They were already set up on HubSpot. They had defined clear deadlines & deliverables in advance and were happy to work with me remotely. They even paid me on time. Do you know what that’s worth in the life of a freelancer? Jackpot.