We've been sending emails to our customers for a long, long time, but we've been doing it for so long that we started to suffer from too many cooks in the kitchen. Moreover, our customer emails were something that we seldom used ourselves, so we never had the chance to eat our own cooking. As it were.

When we appraised our communication channels at HubSpot, we noticed we had some gems, like the HubSpot Academy emails, and some sore spots, like the Weekly HubFeed. We wanted to start fresh with a vision driven by quality and usefulness:

"Inform and engage our customers with actionable information that will help them make effective, timely marketing decisions, both on- and off-product."

That was the vision we started with, and we hope to continue to deliver that through all the ways we do messaging.

Our First Email

From the perspective of a developer, the HubSpot marketing team spends an insane amount of time each each month building PowerPoint presentations for each other. That's partly because at HubSpot, every decision needs to be supported by data, and every month there's a big meeting to show the results of those choices.

We think this is a great way to do marketing, but it's also very time consuming. So for our first email, we set out to make this available to everyone and make it as simple and automated as possible. Our hope was that every marketer could simply open this email on Monday morning, download the PowerPoint and head straight to their monthly meeting, confident and well-equipped.

The original design for this email was something I first conceived while at Performable. I wanted a short, daily summary that could be quickly scanned and understood. To do that, I leveraged three specific design patterns:

  1. Emphasize the big picture.
  2. Use color coding to tell the story quickly.
  3. Create a strong visual heirarchy to communicate importance.

To acheive this, we made the conversion funnel the star of the email. There is little that tells your marketing story more succinctly than the funnel. We accented the percentages with either red or green to show whether things had improved or declined compared to the month before.

For rest of the email, we emphasized one big number and grouped things by category to make scaning much easier. The email was intentionally monochromatic so that the percentage changes stuck out even more.

We did all we could to make all the links as obvious as possible. Even the big numbers are all clickable, with generous click regions for tablets and mobile devices. After all, our goal was to deliver "actionable information," not just something useful and pretty.

Here's the most recent version:

Monthly Marketing Summary

The feedback on the email has so far been very positive. Our first release of the email even satisfied our dream scenario: one of our customers wrote us a glowing review, saying how the PowerPoint saved his skin when he had to rush to a meeting he was unprepared for.

We've kept the pressure on by releasing two other emails: the Daily Prospects Digest and the Weekly Progress Report (below). We approached both of these emails with the same vision that drove the monthly email, and they've turned out to be big hits with our customers.

Daily Prospects Digest Weekly Progress Report

What We've Learned

Know your metrics. We went into this with very clear goals, and we used those metrics to drive our design decisions very strictly. While this sounds limiting, it was actually very helpful.

Test before you send. There are a lot of quirks in email design, so it's important to test for them as best as you can. Between the three emails, we easily looked at a couple thousand screenshots of our emails in different email clients throughout the entire design process.

Reuse what you've learned. To maintain the quality of future emails, we've created a basic framework and done as much as we can to set the principles for HubSpot emails. When you see an email notificaion, summary, etc. from HubSpot, you can expect to see a very similar interface and the same design patterns at work.

If you have any feedback about the emails (don't worry, you won't hurt our feelings :]), please share it in the comments below!


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