Video can be key to conversions and sales, a recent study confirms. For email marketers, using video should be a no-brainer, but the email-video combo still feels like a rare pairing. Only 25% of marketers surveyed last year reported that they used video in their marketing, and a quick look at my own inbox supports that statistic.

But the emails with video are the ones that I (and many others) find most memorable, so why aren't more marketers using them?

If you've been at this marketing thing for a while, you know that video and email were tough to combine: You had to find a place to host the video, and you had to create a custom thumbnail to include in your email. But with the accessibility of YouTube, the dawn of HTML5, and the rise of mobile email opens, all of that is changing.

It's now much easier for email marketers to show off their brand and provide a ton of value with video content.

Here are four ways to make video plus email a winning combination.

1. Teach your audience

Most of us are visual learners. That may be why Mario Batali incorporates video in email to teach subscribers different cooking techniques. It's simply more engaging and effective than a step-by-step list of instructions.

Batali's brand is all about making delicious food accessible to home cooks, inspiring people to try something new in the kitchen. In the above-depicted email, the video about making pici is a mere 46 seconds long, and it's got an energy to it—the music, the way the chef salts the hand-rolled pasta—that keeps viewers engaged all the way through.

The presentation of the video in the email is hitting all the right notes, too. Who wouldn't want to watch a video (or take a bite) of that pile of pici?

2. Tell a story

In an email that showcases the power of its cleaning products, Method linked to a 30-second video featuring those products in action:

In the video, Charles has dropped the chicken on the floor moments before the couple's parents arrive for dinner. In half a minute, we're presented with a problem and a solution, with a healthy dose of silly suspense in between. Method stays true to its brand with the color scheme depicted in the video and the quirkiness of the characters.

In the email itself, the video thumbnail shows the doll-like characters breaking out of the container of the image, which is a subtle nod to the way Method does marketing (and product development) differently from the rest of the pack.

3. Speak directly to your customers

On their own, welcome emails typically have four times the open rate and five times the click rate of other bulk mailings. Videos can boost email clicks by as much as 300%. So including a video in a welcome email is basically an engagement powerhouse!

Mapco created a series of welcome emails for its MY Rewards program members, and the first email in the series links to a video with a welcome message

The video adds a personal touch to the new relationship and sets the right expectations for future emails.

By making the video the focus of this automated email, Mapco sets itself up for a lot of clicks—which means most of the MY Rewards members hear everything Mapco wants them to hear, at just the right moment.

4. Pull back the curtain

People want to feel like insiders, so give your email subscribers a peek inside your business. When Emma (where I work) sent an email to announce its tenth annual Emma 25 program, we included a video about how Emma started helping small nonprofits:

Emma relies heavily on subscribers to help spread the word about the initiative, so we created a video appeal starring our own staffers. The video pulled double duty: It explained a new goal of getting eligible nonprofits in all 50 states to apply for free email marketing for life, and it also showed off the culture at Emma by inviting our email subscribers to "hang out" at our office for a couple of minutes.

We chose to design the thumbnail with an off-center play button so readers could see our teammate Christy's expression, which clearly caught her mid-sentence. We wanted potential clickers to ask themselves, "I wonder what she's saying?"

Ttips for optimizing your video for the inbox

1. Thumbnail design matters

Don't let YouTube determine what your thumbnail should be. Video-hosting platform (and expert video marketer) Wistia recommends being more thoughtful about what thumbnail to display in an email. The most successful thumbnails are those that raise a question. Using people in your images can also invite more clicks in your email, so you might want to freeze the frame on a friendly face.

2. Ask yourself, 'What happens next?'

Unless you're using HTML5 to pull off the one-two punch of video plus email, your readers will likely click away from your email to view your video. What else is on that landing page?

Maybe it's your YouTube channel, and it's packed with more videos about your brand. Or maybe it's a carefully crafted landing page that invites visitors to fill out a form to get more valuable content. Or maybe the video is hosted on your blog, where viewers can easily discover more about you.

Asking "what's next?" forces you to create that path and line it up with your overall marketing goals.

3. Put videos in mobile-optimized emails

These days, when over half of all email gets opened on a mobile device, using a responsive email template ensures you're creating a great experience for small screens But even if you're not, you can make design decisions that appeal to your mobile audience, and it can pay off.

Use a single-column layout and size video thumbnails to at least 46 pixels so it's easy for thumbs to click and play. Some 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others, the Interactive Advertising Bureau report, so if you can get the click, you're well on your way to reaching more people with your brand message.

* * *

No matter how you decide to bring video and email together, make sure you're watching your results and testing along the way. Every audience is different, and making small changes to thumbnail design or video length can help you get one step closer to digital marketing greatness.

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Mixing Video With Email Marketing: Four Inspiring Examples and Three Quick Tips

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image of Emily Konouchi

Emily Konouchi is director of content and communications at Emma, an email marketing software and services provider that helps organizations of all sizes get more from their marketing. She is also the director Emma’s communal dishwasher-emptying efforts, but only when she has writer’s block.

Twitter: @emikonouchi

Google+: Emily Konouchi