You must write and design emails that people want to read if you want them to read them. However, with thousands of businesses composing and sending emails every day, you must make yours stand out.
Although email writing and design are an art more than a science, this article provides a few pointers to help you develop your copywriting and email design abilities so that your messages stand out.
1. Harvesting proven email copy
Check your personal email account for the last 10 mails you opened. Examine the copy and the design. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the headline grab your attention?
- What hooks and leads did the copywriter use?
- What benefits of the product or service are mentioned?
- What proof or stories grabbed your attention?
- What was the call to action?
When you’ve read the emails that grabbed your attention, see whether you can use them as templates for emails that meet your own business goals. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if it’s already been invented for you.
2. Answering four questions
To write great email copy, you have to figure out why a customer would engage with the promotion. Answer these four questions:
- Why now? Consider whether the promotion you have should offer new or on-sale items. Also, consider whether it’s seasonal or timely; that is, whether it’s something that customers want or need now more than at another time.
- Who cares? Decide who in your target audience is most affected by having (or not having) what you’re selling.
- Why should they care? You need to let customers know how their lives will be different if they have your product or service.
- Can you prove it? Provide case studies, testimonials, or news stories to prove that your customers’ lives will be changed if they engage with your product or service.
Great email copy answers these questions in the body of the email in a way that clearly demonstrates to the customer the value of your promotion.
3. Knowing why people buy
People always buy things for a reason. By considering the reasons why people make purchases as you write email copy, you can hone in on what makes a customer click Buy. People generally buy things for four reasons:
- Personal gain: A product or service will help them reach personal goals or desires.
- Logic and research: Customers have done their research, and this product seems like a logical fit to meet a particular need.
- Social proof or third-party influence: Customers’ friends have told them that the product or service is great, and they want to be part of it, or they see a large number of people doing something and want to do it, too. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.
- Fear of missing out: People have a genuine fear of missing an opportunity or of being the only person not to have something important.
Consider which of these motivations you think will drive your customers and then address that reason in your email copy.
4. Writing effective email subject lines
Because most people spend only three to four seconds deciding whether to open an email, the subject line is the most important piece of email copy you can write. A good subject line piques interest and entices a customer to open the email. Then your email body copy can do the rest to drive engagement.
Subject lines can be tough nuts to crack. One company has its marketing team write 25 subject lines for each email and then choose a favorite to use in the email campaign. This operation may be time-consuming, but the company continually receives higher-than-average open rates for its industry and higher-than-average email engagement. You may not have the resources to write 25 full subject lines for each email, but it’s a good idea to consider several options for each send, especially triggered sends that you’ll use over time.
You can use three types of subject lines to give people different reasons to open an email. We discuss these types in the following sections.
Curiosity subject lines
Curiosity subject lines pique the interest of subscribers and encourage them to click to find out more. For example, Kate Spade, a clothing retailer, sent an email to its subscriber list with the subject line, Ready for your close up? That email contained an offer for Kate Spade’s jewelry products and used a curious subject line to increase the number of people opening the email.
Benefit subject lines
Benefit subject lines clearly state the reason why subscribers should open the email and the benefits they receive for doing so. For example, OfficeVibe, a Software as a Service (Saas) company that helps managers measure the engagement and satisfaction of their employees, sent an email to their subscribers with the subject line, 38 Employee Engagement Ideas, which clearly states the benefit the subscriber will get by opening the email. The opposite of a benefit subject line is a warning subject line. For example, OfficeVibe also sent an email to its subscribers with the subject line, 11 Statistics That Will Scare Every Manager. This subject line type should be used sparingly, but, when appropriate, it can be very effective.
Scarcity subject lines
Scarcity subject lines cause subscribers to feel that they may miss out on something important if they don’t open the email and engage with it. For example, Home Depot sent an email to its subscribers with the subject line, Hurry! Labor Day Savings End Tonight to encourage subscribers to take advantage of its Labor Day sale before it was over.
5. Writing body copy
Copywriting isn’t a formula, but an art. It’s also true that through some formulaic chunking, you can create email copy quickly and effectively.
This chunking method is based on the answers to the questions that we list in “Answering four questions,” earlier in this chapter. By breaking your copy into four major chunks and allowing each chunk to answer one of the questions, you can ensure that your copy addresses the major points you’re trying to cover.
Each chunk of copy should have one link. That way, by the time customers read the entire email, they’ve had all their questions answered and have been given multiple opportunities to find out more by clicking a link.
Here’s how we recommend that you chunk your email:
- Introduction: In this section, answer the question “Who cares?” by showing customers that they should care about this promotion and why.
- Body: Next, help your reader to answer the question “Why should they care?” by explaining the proven benefits or results of the product or service.
- Close: The close of your email is a great time to answer the question “Why now?” Tell customers, if it applies, that they have a limited time to engage with the promotion.
- P.S.: A postscript is a fantastic place to answer the question “Can you prove it?” by sharing social proof such as a testimonial, positive review, or story of a customer whose life has been changed by the product or service.
Include a link to a relevant place on your website in each chunk of the email. It’s okay if multiple links go to the same location. Just make sure that customers are given ample opportunity to engage further.
6. Cuing the Click
You’ve written a killer subject line. You’ve chunked up your copy beautifully, and each chunk contains a relevant link. You have a product or service that you believe in. You’re 99.4 percent of the way to your goal. But you still have one more thing to do: You have to cue the click by asking people very clearly to perform the action of clicking.
Here are a few methods that may be effective for you:
- Pose a benefit-driven question. Example: “Would you like to learn to grow tomatoes indoors? Click <link> to find out.”
- Connect proof with product. Example: “Our customers are able to grow 20% more winter tomatoes using our Indoor Tomato Trellis! See how it works here: <link>”
- Show the “After.” Example: “When you have the Indoor Tomato Trellis, you’ll enjoy ripe tomatoes picked from the vine even in the coldest winter months. Get the Indoor Tomato Trellis here: <link>”
- Present a takeaway. Example: “This is your last chance to get the Indoor Tomato Trellis at 35% off: <link>”