How to Write Email Copy That Works (Earns Clicks & Brand Followers)

How to Write Email Copy That Resonates, Wins Clicks & Loyal Followers

by | Aug 23, 2017 | Email Marketing

It’s a technology even older than dial-up internet.

Despite its age (it was invented almost half a century ago), email is still going strong.

It’s like that aunt of yours who has seemingly been old for decades, but she keeps on rolling, as energetic as ever. She’s a standby at family gatherings and never seems to wear out.

In much the same way, email marketing has been a cornerstone for all kinds of businesses for years.

The proof is probably within your inbox right now. Most likely, you get inundated with an avalanche of promotional emails daily from various companies.

However, there’s a problem, especially if you want to take advantage of email for your own business.

how to write email copy

What’s the Problem with Email Marketing?

Think about what you do with the emails you receive. Do you open every single one? Do you read all the messages you do open? Narrowing down the pool further, which ones make you want to click-through?

If the answers are “no,” “absolutely not,” and “not many,” in that order, you’re like most people.

With that, we’ve come to the problem.

Via, this survey shows that the most common complaint of mobile email subscribers is that they get way too many messages.

There’s so much inbox competition, standing out is hard.

So, as a marketer, how do you not only make people want to open your emails, but also read them and click your CTAs?

In short, how do you write email copy that wins the day?

The Solution: Learn How to Write Email Copy That’s Outstanding

You have to write exceptional email copy to get results.

What does this copy look like?

To figure it out, think about the emails you love to read. Think about the messages you look forward to opening.

What do they have in common? Probably one or more of these 12 factors, features, and qualities.

First off…

1. Start with a Surprising, Inspiring, Emotion-Tugging, or Eye-Catching Subject Line

In an email message, the subject line is your headline.

It’s how you initially grab a reader and hang on tight. Before any other component, the subject line has to snag their attention if you expect them to actually open it.

This means you need to cultivate intrigue or curiosity. You have to appeal to some emotion that makes your reader want to learn more.

It’s a tall order. To do it, you need to give your subject line the same care and attention you give your email body copy. To accomplish this feat, try these tips:

  • Only promise what you’re going to actually deliver – Don’t lure readers into opening your email with an enticing subject line, then completely fail to deliver. If you promise something or inspire action in your subject, make sure you follow up.
  • Be specific – Don’t be vague in the subject line if you want results. Want proof? Copyblogger tested out two subject lines for the same email. Guess which one was more successful and led to a higher click-through rate? That’s right – the specific one.
  • Use language that encourages action – Don’t hedge, and don’t be shy about your subject lines. Use actionable language that’s urgent and motivating. For instance, instead of saying “Tickets for X Events Are on Sale Now!” say “Grab Your Tickets for X Event Before They Sell Out!”

Here are a few great examples of effective subject lines that do it right. It’s not surprising that all of them use direct, active language that speaks straight to the reader:
Greetabl grabs the eye in a crowded email inbox because they make a bold proclamation: You’re in the squad.
World Market wrote an urgent subject line that cleverly makes you want to act.

Madewell crafted a subject line too tempting and curiosity-inducing to pass up.

And the king of email, Ramit Sethi, intrigues his readers with an offer.

2. Draw Them in with a Warm, Friendly, Engaging Tone

Some businesses think that making their emails personal means inserting the recipient’s name in the copy a few times. Nope.

In fact, if you use the above strategy, it’s overkill. You’ll sound like a robot.

Instead, make your tone personal. Talk to the reader as if they’re a friend. Unsurprisingly, this inspires friendliness reciprocated back toward your brand. This could inspire them to click your CTA, in turn.

This leads us to our next point…

3. Talk to Your Readers, Don’t Address Them

Sure, your email is going out to a faceless group of people. That doesn’t mean you should address them as such, though.

In fact, you shouldn’t address them at all.

Instead, talk to them. Don’t write as if you’re preparing a speech for an audience; write like you’re penning a missive to a good friend.

To this end, make sure you use second person voice. This means you talk to the reader directly through your writing, using the term “you.” Need an example? You’re reading it right now!

For a good example, check out this “thanks for signing up” email from Papa Murphy’s. They talk to the customer directly with brief but effective copy:

4. Err on the Short Side

Nobody has time to read a novel in your marketing emails. Respect the reader and keep it short, yet informative and useful. Edit your email copy rigorously and ruthlessly if you need to whittle it down.
More specifically:

  • Stick to the point – Don’t meander in your marketing emails. This is not the place to share deep thoughts, discussion, or something similar. Stay on topic.
  • Get to the point – For that matter, don’t take forever to get to the point of the email. Get there and give the reader satisfaction.
  • Stay relevant – Keep your email relevant to the reader. It’s about them, not you. Copywriting guru Ann Handley of Marketing Profs goes a step further with this – she says to make it “relentlessly” about the reader. Be empathetic and place yourself in their shoes.
  • Keep the email to one topic – You don’t have time to address multiple topics with multiple calls-to-action. You’ll lose your reader. One topic, max, is all you can reasonably address without boring anybody.

5. Be Yourself (Hint: This Is How to Write Unique Email Copy)

How do you add that human element to your email marketing?
Be you. You’re the human element.
Don’t sanitize your writing. Try to write the way you speak, with your idiosyncrasies, unique turns-of-phrase, and vocabulary.
Are you a sarcastic person? Do you make lame jokes? Are you a punster? Or, do you tell it like it is?
Don’t be afraid to insert your unique personality in your writing. Don’t keep yourself out your email copy. People will respond more positively if they can find you, a human voice, present in the message.

6. Focus on Value (Benefits vs. Features)

Along with your human voice, you also need to focus on the value factor in your email marketing.

This goes along with staying reader-focused. What are the benefits you’re offering that help them in their daily lives?

Don’t just list features – instead, think about what positive outcomes the features bring to the table.

For a good example, look at this promotional email from Sephora. They’re promoting “Flash,” their two-day shipping service, but they stay benefits-focused:

They tell you what you get with this service, but it also says exactly how you’ll benefit. Staying value-focused like this is how you appeal to your readers.
Once you’ve outlined the benefits, it’s time for your CTA.

7. Include a Call-to-Action, But…

Keep it crystal-clear. Your call-to-action at the end of your promotional email should give the reader an exact idea of what they need to do next.
The key word, here, is “need.” Your reader should feel a sense of need or urgency from your call-to-action: They’ve got to do X because they’ll get X as a result.
Make sure they understand the benefit of taking action – the “why” along with the “what.”

8. Get a Second (or Third) Opinion

After you self-edit your copy, but before you hit “send,” you need to pass it along to another set of eyes.
This person should have sharp attention to detail and a sense of what good email copy looks like. They’ll catch silly mistakes you might have missed, including tiny punctuation errors and the like. They’ll also see where you’re too wordy, where your tone is off, or where you’re not clear enough.

9. Test Your Copy’s Effectiveness

It’s often hard to know what will work for your particular audience unless you test it out. The same goes for your promotional emails.
For instance, write two versions of the same email and send them out to different, distinct groups. Then measure the response to each. A slightly different tone of voice or a reworded call-to-action might be the key to more email conversions. You’ll never know unless you test it out.

10. Don’t Keep Using a Formula That Doesn’t Work

If one road map for how to write your email copy isn’t working, you can’t expect to see any difference in results if you keep going in that direction.
To use a cliché, don’t beat a dead horse.
To find success with email campaigns, you can’t be afraid to reinvent, revise, and experiment with your approach. That has to include the way you’re writing to your audience.

11. Focus on Copy First, Design Second

The writing is the foundation of your email marketing. It’s your message. The other stuff, including the layout and design, is just the vehicle.

If your emails don’t work without the fancy graphics and pretty visuals, you need to take a step back.

Your email copy, the content and structure of your message, comes first. If you can’t send it as plain-text and get good results, you’re focusing on the fluff, not the substance. It needs to be the other way around.

Take a look at this promotional email from Boden, a British clothing retailer:

It showcases a sleek, styled image of fashionable people. However, take away that image, and the copy still works by itself. These are classic, beautiful, durable clothes for everyone in your family. The brand got that across, without sounding salesy, in one sentence.

12. Find Ways to Delight Your Readers

One of the purposes of your email marketing is to continue to cultivate trust with your audience.
You managed to give them enough reason to hand over their email addresses – now you need to build on that.
A great way to do it? Delight them.
The great part of this is, if you genuinely want to delight your audience, it will come through in your email copy naturally.
“Delight” can mean a lot of different things, too. It can mean positive surprise, joy, humor, glee, and pleasure. It can come from a simple moment of genuine warmth, a surprise special offer to say “thanks,” or some heart-to-heart talk.
In general, it means getting personal for a moment, stepping off your soapbox, and being real. The best part? It won’t just increase trust – it will also humanize your brand, making you seem more relatable.

For an example, look at this email from Poncho. HubSpot loves this company’s email marketing precisely because it’s so delightful:

From their happy, poncho-wearing cat logo to their humor in the copy, it’s an exercise in all-around delight. In a world of bad news, how refreshing! Now that’s good email.

Learn How to Write Email Copy and Start Resonating with Readers

If your email marketing isn’t resonating with your readers, maybe you need to get your copy in gear.

The words, after all, are the foundation of the whole shebang. Without exceptional email copy, you’re left with nothing but a bunch of fluff. And, let’s face it – fluff never convinced anyone to do anything.

When your emails are just one more needle in the haystack, you need more than fluff to stand out. You need more to convince people to open your messages, actually read them, and click on your CTAs.

Follow our tips for exceptional email copy, and see if they don’t make a difference. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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