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10 Tips for Writing Effective Email Copy


No doubt you've heard the truism in online marketing that 'the money is in the list.'

By itself, that truism is about as useful as saying that ‘the fish are in the pond’ without mentioning the fishing pole, the bait, or how to land a fish in a net.

It stands to reason that if you have a list of subscribers the only way to convert them into customers is to send email offers.  However, that is where the many businesses get stuck because they ‘don’t know how to fish’, as it were.

The bad news is that your subscribers don’t crave more email. Their inbox is full with enough email as it is, so your greatest challenge is to get your subscribers’ attention and motivate them to take an action.

The good news is that most email marketers send out pretty lame messages so if you master just a few basic techniques your campaigns will stand out from the rest.

email copy

Here are 10 ways to write effective email copy…


1. Define Your Desired Response: Before you write your email copy, it is essential to define what you want your campaign to achieve. Do you want a sale? Are you promoting an event, like a webinar? Are you referring your subscribers to an affiliate offer? Are you building anticipation for an upcoming product launch?

In effect, when you send an email you are tapping your subscriber on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, I’ve got something that you might be interested in, give me a few minutes of your time.” If you don’t know exactly what you want to tell your subscriber to do, they won’t know what to do either.

So the first step is to define what action you want your subscriber to take and then work backwards from there on what to write in order to elicit that response.  It is best to have a single objective for an email.  If you have a webinar, a weekend special, and an affiliate offer, those should be three separate emails.

2. Define the Call To Action (CTA): In most cases, your call to action (CTA) will be a link that you want your subscriber to click.  Before you write or send your email copy, it’s important to know what your subscriber will see when they click through that link.  Will they see an opt-in page? A video to watch? A blog post? A webinar registration page? Or a sales page?

Click the link yourself and look at what your subscribers will see through their eyes.Besides helping you catch link errors, this exercise will help give you key details to include in your call to action so that your subscriber arrives at the page knowing exactly what you want them to do and what’s in it for them to take action.email_copy

3. What’s the Big Idea: Ask yourself, why should your subscriber care about what you are promoting? What will they miss out on if they don’t bother to click your link and take action? What problem are you solving?  What experience or entertainment are you offering? The clearer you can make the benefit to your subscriber, the more likely they are to take action.

The more unique the opportunity is the better.Is there a limited quantity? Is there a deadline to get a discount? Is there a one-time presentation with a special guest? You want your reader to know what good thing they can expect if they take action, and what bad thing that will happen if they don’t, to put it in the simplest terms.  Some people are more motivated by the prospect of gaining pleasure and some are more motivated by avoiding pain so it is important to address both if possible in your copy.

4. Write a Killer Subject line: Of course, if nobody opens your email, then it won’t matter what the email body copy says, right? The best subject lines tend to use curiosity to entice or offer a strong benefit, or both.  If you have an exercise product that teaches people an ‘insane’ workout to lose 10 pounds in 10 days by flipping a hormonal ‘switch’, then you could hint at that in the subject line.You could say, “Can this hormone help you to lose 10 pounds in 10 days?” This question piques curiosity because the only way to get the answer is to open the email.  Or, you could write “How to Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days”, which promises simply to reveal a benefit.

Generally, curiosity or benefit subject lines are effective if you match them to what your list is interested in. If your list consists of vegans then you’ll do well to avoid promoting the latest pork ribs BBQ tips, but they might like to know how to make tofu taste like ribs as an alternative recipe.

Another way to write a killer subject line is to tap into a controversy or current event.  While you will alienate some of your readers by taking a strong position on a controversial topic, if you avoid ever taking a position you will be boring and please no one.  It’s better to have a loyal list of subscribers who know where you stand than a larger list who don’t think you stand for anything in particular. (For more on keywords, read this article).

5. Be Personal: Even though you are writing an email copy that hundreds or thousands will see, consider writing your emails as if you were sending to just one person.  Because email is a one-to-one medium that is multiplied, each subscriber still experiences the message personally.

This is especially true because people send email to their friends and family and your emails often appear in the same inbox along with those personal messages.  Don’t write as if you are addressing a group. Write to one person, and if appropriate to your market, write in your ‘voice’ using more informal words and syntax.email copy

6. Sell the Sizzle: There are different schools of thought on how to sell in an email.  Some believe it is better to write a short email copy that sells the Call to Action only.  Some believe it is better to persuade and sell the offer in the email copy while you have the subscriber’s attention.

Generally, unless you are a seasoned copywriter, it is going to be easier to write a short message that the reader won’t have to scroll down to read.  People read emails on their phones, tablets, and less and less on desktop computers or even laptops.  With the smaller screens it is harder to read a long email and it makes sense to simply build a compelling case to click through to the offer where you have more room to sell.

It is helpful to think of each part of an email having a specific job to do.  Your subject line’s only job is to get the email opened.  Your opening paragraph must get your subscriber to keep reading.  The email’s purpose is to get your subscriber to take an action, like click the link. Once your reader has clicked the link, for example, the page they go to will have a lot more space to sell, you can use video or audio to enhance the message in ways that are not practical in an email.

7. Reward the Reader:  The most precious thing you can have with your list is a solid level of trust and active engagement.  One of the fastest ways to destroy that is the mistake that too many email marketers make: to trick their subscribers into reading emails.  This deception can take many forms.

Some write ‘Personal’ in the subject line when clearly the email is not personal.  Some send out canned ‘swipe’ email copy for affiliate promotions as if it were their own words.  This is especially common in product launches with multiple affiliates promoting the same offer at the same time.

You should assume that your subscribers are on multiple lists, and when they get multiple copies of the same email from different people, they know they’re being tricked.  Another less obvious deception is to say a given offer ends on a specific date, only when a subscriber clicks the link after the deadline and they find the offer is still there.

The truth is that the ‘money is in the relationship with your list’, so make sure your promotions are congruent and deliver on what you promise.  Once tricked, subscribers tune out and there is little hope of re-engaging them if they feel deceived.

8. Repeat Your Call to Action: Especially in emails that are more than 3 to 5 paragraphs long, it is a good idea to repeat your call to action link two or three times. As your subscriber reads down through your email copy, they may click the first link they see, or keep reading to learn more about what you are offering.  Good copy will stack multiple reasons for clicking the link and hit different ‘hot buttons’ and the one that catches your subscriber’s attention is the one they’ll click on.email_copy

9. Include a P.S: It is a long proven truism of copy that the most read parts of a letter are the headline and the P.S. at the bottom.  This is true of email copy, too. Typically, the P.S. is used to capture readers who skimmed to the end and encourage them to read the main body copy or simply click through the link.

Therefore, the P.S. acts like a second headline and is a perfect place for a call to action.  You can use the P.S. to reaffirm a benefit that you explained in the email.  Such as, “P.S. Remember, this new report reveals how easy it is to lose 10 pounds in just 10 minutes a day. Claim your copy free - only for the next 24 hours”

10. Tease Your Next Email: One clever tactic you can borrow from soap operas and hit T.V. shows is to leave a cliffhanger at the end of your email copy.  You could do this at the end of the body copy or in the P.S.  You may have noticed that at the end of these irresistible shows there is a teaser for what is coming in the next episode.  You can do the same thing.

Either ask a question and promise to tell the answer in the next email, or hint at a benefit they’ll get if they read the next email.  As in, “Stay tuned for my next email because I’ll be revealing a new way to lose 10 pounds in as little as 10 minutes a day.  You’ll be surprised at how easy this is…”  If you do this consistently, you will condition your list to expect your next email messages and look forward to opening them.

email copyIn conclusion, if you stand out with a good subject line that offers curiosity and a benefit and you reward your subscribers for their attention, you’ll have higher email conversions.  The key is to make sure you nurture that relationship and make sure that you are offering real value from your subscriber’s perspective.

For over a decade Heather Seitz used email marketing to build successful companies and had to solve the biggest barrier to consistent profitability: deliverability.  Today she is the Co-Founder and CEO of Email Delivered.

To download your email copy checklist ,  click here https://s3.amazonaws.com/EmailDelivered/Email+Copy+Bonus.pdf Remember to sign up for the FREE Email Delivered Pulse newsletter for articles, tips, and recommended resources for email marketers at http://www.emaildelivered.com.

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November 19, 2014


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