When I started using email marketing for my business, I struggled with writing emails. They always seemed too salesy. Too vague. No clarity.
Then I started learning how to write emails.
From what I learned, here are the 11 tips for writing better emails that I use today.
What is email copywriting?
If you want to have any chance of your readers engaging with your email copy, it needs to be something that they want to read.
The subject line plays the most important role in encouraging your recipients to open your email. Even if they know you, the subject lines determines whether they read now or wait until later. This could reduce the chances they’ll open it if they do wait.
Just as the headline in a news article, blog post or website landing page draws the reader in, a well-crafted subject line is he bait that entices the subscriber to open the email. Nothing happens until the email is opened.
Writing good emails does take time and practice.
The three questions you should be asking yourself before starting to write your email are:
- How do I get the recipient to open this email?
- How do I get them to do what I want them to do?
- Did they even notice that there’s an email from me in their inbox?
If you’re not seeing the results you wanted, then following some basic tips can give you increased engagement which in turn, generates higher conversion rates.
Here are a few best practices you can start using in your email copy right away
11 tips for writing better emails
1. Define the goal of the email
Are you sending out an email blast to your entire list because someone told you to?
Or are you using email strategically to build your business?
This tip is number 1 for a reason. If you want to be writing better emails, you must be doing this.
Before you start creating your email, you need to decide on the goal. Is it to send the reader to a sales page? Is it to nurture them by telling them more about your and your business?
If you don’t set a goal, how can you measure its success?
Here’s some examples of email marketing goals.
- Spreading the word
- Encouraging conversions
- Upsells and cross sells
- Appointment reminders
- Product tracking emails
- User reviews
- Sharing vital information (of the non-sales type)
- Getting people to follow you on social media
- Announcing a new product or service
- Inviting recipients to events
- Preventing cart abandonment
- Raising funds
- Simply checking in with customers
2. Identify “who” and “what” before you start writing the email
For your email to be as effective as it possibly can be, you need to decide “Who” are you writing to. Not just the list or segment, but the person who will be reading your email.
The best way to do this is to create buyer personas.
Once you understand who will be reading your email, write it to that person.
In your email, you need to be clear about what it is you want them to do after they read your email. This is where newsletters can fail. If there are multiple calls to action, the reader my not click anything.
Your emails should have one clear, concise call to action.
If you don’t understand who you are speaking to, and what you want them to do, should you even be sending an email?
Once you have a clear understanding of ‘who’ and ‘what’, make sure every part of the email is focused on engaging with that person and persuading them to do what you want them to do.
If any part of the message isn’t targeted to them and your goal, delete it.
3. Write a Killer Subject Line
In email marketing, the subject line is your headline. And headlines have always been the foundation of good copy. Without a good subject line, you’ve got nothing.
When you’re crafting your subject line, think about:
Personalisation: When you personalise a subject line, you can increase open rates by 50%. The start of personalising could be including the recipient’s first name. But don’t leave it at that. You could personalise based on a product category they recently purchased. Personalisation makes the recipient feel like the email is for them.
Curiosity: Humans are curious creatures. We like to peek inside. Think of the big red button that says DO NOT PRESS. What’s the first thing we ask ourselves? What happens if I do? If you received an email with the subject line “Do not open until tomorrow!”. The chances are pretty good that you’ll open it know.
Scarcity: People don’t like missing out. Especially if it’s directly related to them or it’s a good deal.
Shane! Offer ends tomorrow. Don’t miss out.
Promoting limited time or quantity items can create a sense of urgency around your email that piques interest and drives conversions.
If you need more help figuring out a home-run subject line, here are 6 subject line formulas that will improve your open rates.
4. Don’t forget the preview text
When it comes to writing emails, preview text is your best friend. Especially for people who read their email on mobile devices, preview text is the added incentive that helps them decide whether the email is worth opening.
Here’s how this looks on a typical mobile device on iPhone, featuring some snippets from a few top-level marketers including Talia Wolf, a leading conversion expert:
The subject line is the teaser. The preview text expands on the teaser.
Remember, short and brief is better.
5. Keep it short
Just because you see people scrolling the mobile devices doesn’t mean they want to scroll our email to read the content.
Remember, focus on the goal of the email. No long explanations. Get to the point. Quickly.
Let your reader know what’s up, how you can help them, and what they need to do next.
Short concise paragraphs made up of short concise sentences. Don’t be afraid of the grammar police. Use single sentence paragraphs if it makes your content easy to read.
Make sure there’s plenty of white space.
Summarise points with a bulleted list.
6. Sound like a human being. Talk like a friend.
Think about how you talk to your best friend. When we send an email to our subscribers, it need to be just like that. Conversational. Personal.
Use everyday language, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
Your email content should read like you’re there speaking to your reader. It should be easy to read and easy to scan. Don’t use big words. You’ll just come of as trying to be smart.
So how do you know if you’re writing conversationally?
So, how can you put this into action?
It might feel silly but pretend you’re writing the email for one person. Write as if you’re talking directly to one of your friends or one of your customers. Afterall, they are people. Not subscribers.
Let them know about the exciting stuff you want to tell them and explain what you want them to do.
And lastly, read your email out loud.
7. Avoid Jargon, Buzzwords, and Acronyms
When I read an email which includes jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms, I’m not sure whether the sender is oblivious to it or that they are deliberately trying to show off.
Photographers who use the word ‘Shoot’ when they’re talking about a photography session. Software companies who use the word coding when they mean writing software.
Financial advisors are one industry where technical language is overused.
The assumption is that the reader will know what industry words and acronyms mean. If they don’t, they’ll feel like you don’t understand their needs.
Instead of using technical terms or abbreviations, use simple, easy-to-understand language and to spell out terms before you use them in acronym form. Assume your reader doesn’t know what these terms mean.
Instead, focus on pain points. How can your brand or your products help customers overcome an obstacle or save money and time?
8. Be relevant
Imaging that you’ve just learned about the latest widget that the local department store is selling. Would you call or message everyone you know to tell them about it? Probably not. But you are likely to let people you know who care about widgets.
It’s the same with your readers. You shouldn’t be sending the same message to everyone. Generic emails targeted at no-one in particular won’t impress your subscribers and the chances of anyone converting is significantly reduced. In fact, if you’re still sending the same, generic email to all your subscribers I’ll guarantee that you’re seeing your metrics drop, except for unsubscribes of course.
You need to be segmenting your subscribers. Segmenting isn’t hard but doing it well does depend on a number of factors unique to each business. One place to start is identify where a subscriber is on their buyer’s journey. Are they only just aware of your business? Ready to buy from someone? Ready to buy from you?
This is part of what it takes to be relevant to your readers.
9. Tell stories
Selling is not about being salesy. Think of not being the stereo typical used car or insurance salesperson.
Today’s subscriber is, mostly, sophisticated enough to recognise out of date “salesy” tactics. Doing it rarely and in a fun way can work but continuing along this page will see the number of readers decrease.
So, if you can’t be salesy, what can you do?
That’s easy: Tell stories instead.
Storytelling is the opposite of being salesy. Telling stories is less work than being salesy. You don’t have to think up new (or not so new) tricks and hacks. You simply communicate in a way that’s clear and interesting.
People love stories. It’s how we learn. It’s how our brains have evolved. Stories trigger emotions. When you use stories, you’re taking advantage of millions of years of evolution.
10. Choose your words carefully
Word are powerful. You know what’s even more powerful? Using the right words.
Your emails should be about your reader. With this in mind, use lots of ‘you’ words.
When you use ‘you’ words, you’re letting the reader know it’s all about them.
When you use ‘me’ words, such a I, me, we, you put the focus on you and your business. You them sparingly.
Continuing this theme, your email should talk about how your product or service can help your reader. Focus on the benefits. Not the features. When you talk about features, you’re talking about yourself. Not the reader.
11. Include a single and simple call-to-action
Think back to the goal of your email. What is the one thing you want the reader to do?
When you read an email with multiple buttons or links, what you’re saying is that you hope at least one reader clicks one of the calls to action.
If we’re overwhelmed by choice, the default action is to now choose anything for fear of making the wrong choice. It’s built into us. If you give your readers too many links and buttons to click, they probably won’t click any of them.
While not directly related to email marketing, the jam study shows the impact of too many choices.
Your email message should be short and simple. It should have only one Call to action that clearly states what you want your readers to do.
And it’s not Submit, Click here. Use phrases such as Get your freebie now. Sign me up.
There’s nothing wrong with repeating your call to action in different places in your email. Use a text link. Use a button. Just make sure what they’re doing is the same thing regardless of how they do it.
If you want to include something else, use the P.S. tactic of including a subtle call to action in the text below your signature block.
Remember, just tell them what to do.
The key to writing effective emails is understanding your readers and how you can help them.
And by using all these tips, you to will be writing better emails.
Once you work that out, speak to them as you would a friend or colleague.
At the end of the day, email is personal. Treat it as such. Your readers are people and that’s how you need to talk to them.