Email Marketing Guidelines

These guidelines will help users of Constant Contact or MailChimp at Luther College craft effective marketing emails. Please contact CRM Coordinator, Catherine Dyer (ext. 2992) with questions.

Mobile Optimization

About 50% of Luther’s emails sent through Constant Contact are viewed on a mobile device. Ensure that your email is easy to read on a smartphone or tablet to avoid alienating half your audience. Create emails in a mobile-friendly format to make them easy to read and to encourage readers to click on your links.

A mobile-friendly email will display well on all devices, and look great wherever recipients read it. Consider the following guidelines to create mobile-friendly content:

  • Keep both design and content as concise as possible. Space is valuable on small screens, so keep your design clean and simple, including only the essentials. Focus on your call to action.
  • Put your call to action “above the fold.” Tell your readers what you want them to do and make it really easy to do so by putting it near the top. Leave enough space around your call-to-action button(s) so they are easy to touch on a mobile device.
  • Use a single-column template. Simple layouts are generally best. Multi-column layouts (two columns or more), often force your recipients to zoom or scroll on their smartphone to see everything contained in the email. This can make it harder to navigate your content and call to action. (Constant Contact typically labels which templates are mobile friendly).
  • Avoid tiny fonts. Make sure your text is easy to read. Use a minimum of 11pt font for body text and 22pt for headlines. Sans-serif fonts also tend to be easier to read on smaller screens (Arial, Verdana are good places to start). Also, use colors with strong contrast, like dark text on a light background.

Use fewer images. On some devices images in emails are displayed by default, while others block images or provide prompts to download them. Use only the images that are essential. Do not use your email to display image galleries. Instead, include a link to your website, Libris collection, or Flickr album.

Subject Lines

Your email subject line can make the difference between a subscriber opening your email, scrolling right past it, or deleting it in seconds. It should embody your call to action and make recipients want to know more. Take the time to craft an eye-catching and successful subject line to significantly increase your open rate. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it short. The typical inbox preview pane will cut off your subject line after 60 characters, and that cutoff comes earlier on mobile devices. If possible, aim for 25-40 characters, or 5 to 9 words.
  • Avoid being generic. Subject lines for newsletters usually go something like this: “Luther Newsletter - August 2015.” This subject line is redundant. The address tells the recipient who it is from, so you don’t need to use up the best bit of subject line (the first bit) on “Luther.” They also know what date it is so it is not necessary to waste space again. Finally, “newsletter” is vague and doesn’t provide insight into the email’s content.
  • Ask a question. Like the call to action in your headline, questions are a great way to focus your recipients’ attention and pique their curiosity. Questions also feel incomplete on their own and therefore inspire recipients to open your email in the search of an answer.
    : “Have you seen the video ‘Luther College by Air’?”
  • Give a command. This is especially important when advertising events. Don’t be afraid to let your subject line reflect the direct action you want your recipient to take. Write: “Join us at the Twin Cities NAA Benefit Golf Tournament!”
    Don’t write: “Twin Cities NAA Benefit Golf Tournament - July 6th”
  • Be personal, but not too personal. Never use the person’s name directly in the subject line. Spammers do that. Instead, add words like “you” and “your.” This lets people know there is an actual person sending the email and that they understand your interests as the recipient.

Email Content

  • Body text should always be left-justified.
  • Create a new paragraph by hitting return once. Do not add spacing between paragraphs.
  • Use only one space between sentences. Like this! (This may not be what you learned in typing class, but it’s expected in emails.)
  • Switch From Prose to Segments. When possible and appropriate, switch from writing in prose to segments. Segments are useful for lists, awards, publications, tasks, requirements, and action items. The following are tips for turning prose into segments:
    • Instead of paragraphs, try lists for things like events and tasks.
    • Divide longer emails into sections. You can do this by using well-defined headers.
    • If it gets long, take out explanations and descriptions. This is the perfect opportunity to link to a separate page.


Images in emails do not always download properly, so make sure that you have entered an image description to let recipients know what is there if the picture does not appear.

Avoid emails with all of your content contained in a single image. If your image doesn’t download for the recipient, your information will not be received. Always create your email with a combination of text and images.  

When using images from websites outside of the domain they must 1) be allowed for reuse and 2) follow attribution guidelines set by the original author. When using an external image source such as Google Images, make sure to select only images that have usage rights allowing for reuse.


Use Anchor Text

The most important thing to remember when adding links to your content is to add them to anchor text rather than pasting the URL on the page. It's best to use relevant text for your anchors.

“Read more” Links

Ideally, emails are concise and drive traffic to Using teaser text and a “read more” link that takes recipients to a page on our website is a good way to share information and, by reviewing click rates, monitor recipient engagement. This practice can apply to events, press releases, online articles from the “Luther Alumni Magazine,” blog posts, and more.

Social Media

Email marketing is an opportunity to leverage social media engagement. The simplest way to do this is to always include linked social media icons near the footer of your email. If you are sending an email on behalf of a Luther organization or department that has its own social media sites (i.e. the Luther Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success), you can link to that group’s specific social media site(s). If a specific Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube account (etc.) is not relevant, link to the main Luther College social media sites:

Testing and Final Checks

Prior to scheduling your email to send, always:

  • Edit! Give your email a final read, and always have a second pair of eyes proofread your email. Unlike a web page, an email can’t be edited in hindsight--once it’s sent, it’s out of your hands. Work within your department to designate one-two “email editors,” and always feel free to contact the CRM Coordinator (Catherine Dyer).
  • How compelling is your email? Ask yourself, if it wasn’t my job to read this email, would I bother reading it? If there are parts of your email that get text heavy or start to lose your interest/engagement, chances are your recipients will experience the same thing.
  • Send a test email to yourself. Make sure the format and font display as intended.
  • Click on every link. Make sure you are taken to the appropriate site and that there are no errors with that webpage.