Every day, customers are inundated with dozens of emails flooding their inbox. Email is an essential touch point with customers. Whether its providing awareness, product updates, or new promotions, email is a fast, effective way to engage an audience. As a designer, you want to break through the inbox email barrier. That's why it's important to consider incorporating direct marketing techniques into your design.

Why use direct marketing methods in email? Aren't a good list and creative graphics enough?

True, a list is one of the key components to an effective campaign. However, it doesn't guarantee engagement. Strong visuals also help reinforce the message of an email, but they can't do all of the heavy lifting.

So how can direct marketing best practices be incorporated to help you break through the email barrier?

Brand it
Make sure your brand is recognized the moment your email is previewed. Place the logo in the header for instant recognition. Include fonts and buttons that are consistent with what is used on your website. Consumers want to know that your email is legitimate and brand recognition reinforces that.

Get personal
Customers like to know that you know who they are. Go beyond the standard name greeting. Include personalized information so that the customer knows your speaking directly to them. This could include product purchase history, model numbers, account information, how you first engaged them, etc. Personalization allows you to speak more directly to a customer and reinforces the authenticity of the communication.

Mobile optimization
According to Litmus, over 40% of customers view email on a mobile device. To keep consumers engaged, make sure your email is mobile ready. This can be accomplished by either designing a one column email layout, or a multi-column responsive email. Responsive design allows you to provide a different layout experience depending on device. Both options allow an email to be displayed in a one column format which is ideal for mobile devices. Responsive layouts have the added benefit of allowing a different format for desktop clients. For more on responsive email design, click here.

The power of three
Drive engagement with customers by focusing on one call-to-action at least three times. Multiple calls to action can confuse consumers. Focus on one single action and drive attention to it at least three times.

Button, button who's got the button?
Customers respond well to buttons. They let us know that an action needs to take place. They promote the call-to-action. Try to include at least one button in your design and make it obvious (color, size, etc.). For mobile optimized emails, you may want to consider repeating it twice, once toward the beginning and another towards the end.

Image isn't everything
While strong imagery can reinforce an email messaging, too many images can slow an emails performance. Of course it would be nice if everyone had the newest devices and stellar data service. The fact is, no one likes waiting for images to download to read an email, especially on their phone. Best rule of thumb is to try to keep images under 40k, to improve download speed.

Remember you want your email to not only be read, but to engage viewers. These tips can help drive engagement and break through the inbox email barrier. Check out this email template for Nokia that helped increase response with Nissan customers.