KWSM Mentorship Program: Email Marketing Design Improved User Retention

Aug 2022

I had the pleasure of joining KWSM’s Mentorship Program once again this year. As a Digital Marketing Strategist, my biggest passion is email marketing and I was excited to work on a project related to email. I was paired with Web Designer/Developer Shane Hiller to teach him about email marketing. I learned a lot from Shane during this experience too, as he brought his design eye to our work together. I was meant to be the mentor in this pairing, however, our mentor/mentee relationship turned out to be more collaborative.

A Collaborative Partnership

I asked Shane to tell me everything he knows about email marketing and it turned out that he did email marketing in his last position. I have experience with several clients in sending emails and monitoring their performance and I would consider myself seasoned, but my expertise in email design had room for improvement. Thankfully, Shane and my skillsets were complementary and we were both able to learn something new. We worked collaboratively, and this gave us the chance to learn even more together. You can read about this project from Shane’s point of view in his email marketing mentorship blog!

Related Article: Improve Your Email Open Rates in 3 Easy Steps

Shane and I decided to meet monthly over the 90-day mentorship. We picked a current email client to work on because we wanted to produce real results for a real client.

Project Goal & Details

Our goal was to work to improve the client’s email marketing efforts. We worked on a monthly newsletter that engages the audience with a special offer, industry news, and blogs. We analyzed the client’s previous emails and found opportunities that led us to consider the following:  implementing consistent branding and simpler UX (user experience) within the email and to the website, and testing different open rate improvement tactics.

Related Article: How to Nurture Online Leads with Email Drips

The Implementation Process

Shane and I decided that I should take the helm to create the new newsletter template and then meet up to discuss changes together. This offered me the chance to show the extent of my skill and learn from him. He then pointed out areas that we could improve. He suggested removing the colored border, adding graphics with copy inside the image, and selecting brand colors to integrate within the email. These changes instantly cleaned up and simplified the email template, making it easier for email subscribers to identify clickable elements such as the monthly offer and featured blogs.

After some design tweaks, we sent the newsletter off for the month of July. On top of a new look, we wanted to change our open rate strategy. We A/B tested subject lines with and without the special offer. We also decided to export any unopened contacts after two weeks into a new list and resend the email again with “REMINDER” in the subject line.

Mentorship Project Results

At the end of the month, we collected the data to dissect what worked and what didn’t. The A/B test showed that the subject lines had nearly the same opens and clicks and did not increase compared to the June newsletter. However, when comparing the Google Analytics data, we noticed that retention on the website improved from users coming through email. The resend to unopened emails showed that the second wave of users clicked on links more than the initial batch.

Overall, the A/B test and the resend to unopened emails tactic worked well for our audience list. Although we didn’t significantly improve open rates, we did improve email user retention on the website and that is a win!

Mentorship & Email Marketing Takeaways

My takeaways for email marketing are to try to integrate copy into graphics to save space and give a polished look to email templates. I also found that consistent branding is important to help users with a seamless experience from email to web, and to use white space because not every inch of an email needs to contain content. A natural break is just as important as the message you’re delivering.

My biggest learning from this round of the KWSM Mentorship Program is that it’s important to utilize the strengths of your partners. They may know more than you think and it starts with a conversation! Everyone has a different approach and those differences can bring new perspectives or additional expertise.


77% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months.

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