You proof read it (eight times). Your colleagues read it. You tweak, adjust and rewrite again until it’s absolutely brilliant. Who wouldn’t read this profound work of literary promotional art?
Well, as it turns out – no one. You see, a day or two after you’ve pressed ‘send’, you check the stats only to discover that both the open rate and engagement stats are hovering nervously above the zero percent line.
What went wrong?
Unfortunately – and this will be difficult to take given how impressed you were with the email – it simply wasn’t written as perfectly as you might have thought.
Thankfully, writing email copy shouldn’t be hard, and it shouldn’t take so many proofreads, edits and rewrites to get right.
Here’s our definitive guide to writing great email content.
Write as fast as you can
For that first draft, just write. No, really – pick up your digital pen and bash away as quickly as possible.
Free writing has long been a brilliant way to get ideas out of your head quickly before they dissipate. Polishing can come later.
Focus on the benefits – for the reader
The recipients of your email marketing campaign have one thing on their minds: themselves.
That doesn’t make them selfish or single-minded – it just means they’re customers ready and waiting to be converted.
With that in mind, you need to make sure all of your email copy talks about the benefits of your product, service or offer for the reader; not for you, their mate or someone they might meet one day. Writing about yourself doesn’t make for great email content.
Make the deadline clear
Email marketing is at its best when it builds a sense of urgency. The more time bound the offer or news, the more likely people are to take the bait.
Format dates in bold and italicise sentences that really ram home the fact the recipient needs to act quickly if they’re not to miss out.
There’s just one thing a deadline can’t live without…
Show the reader what they’ll miss
That’s right – it’s all well and good setting a deadline for the reader to do or buy something, but what’s going to happen if they don’t?
Why should they listen? You’re making them rush to do something, so explain exactly what happens if they don’t act.
You’re not going to go all Jack Reacher on them, obviously, but there is a significant downside to them not taking you up on your offer, and it should relate again to the benefits on offer. They won’t last forever, after all! Your great email content will make them consider their choices more urgently.
Don’t immediately flick the ‘sell’ switch
In order for people to buy something on receipt of an email, they need to feel some form of connection with the brand; they need to trust it and expect that they won’t be let down.
To foster that relationship, you need to gently build a bond between your brand and its email audience.
Nurture that connection by only flicking the ‘sell’ switch when the prospect is ready. Be nice with the words you write and talk to them like a potential customer rather than one you’re absolutely sure is going to buy from you.
Don’t copy the competition’s great email content
If you’ve seen an email marketing campaign sent by the competition that you wish you’d sent yourself, avoid the urge to create a carbon copy.
They may well have got it bang-on, but by copying it, you’re offering your subscribers nothing different. Chances are, they’ll have received the same email from your competitor, which will make their buying decision likely related to who got there first, or who used the best images.
Use the word ‘you’ – a lot
The word ‘you’ is powerful in email marketing. And the reason is simple: it’s one of the most persuasive words we have at our disposal in the English language. Writing the customer into your email will urge them to envisage using your product or service.
Keep it as short as possible
The lovely thing about email marketing is that you don’t have to work to any strict guidelines when it comes to length.
Web pages genuinely benefit from depth of content and considered placement of keywords, but email marketing has one job, which is to engage the reader.
It’s vital you keep writing your copy as short as possible. The more you ramble on, the less likely people are to read.
Think about it! If you’re presented with one email that’s nothing more than a great big glob of text and another that’s just two or three short sentences, which would you bother reading?
Put some personality into it
Have the last few emails you’ve sent out stuck religiously to the brand guidelines?
If your brand guidelines are full of personality and spark – great! If they’re intended more for press releases and inner pages of your website that are rarely front-and-centre for the brand – not so great.
Great email copy needs to be bouncy, playful and, above all, human. Put your own personality into each email (within reason). Turn it from dull business talk into something far more engaging.
As Sharon Hurley Hall pointedly articulates: “Let your readers get to know you“.
Start by asking questions
A great way to immediately grab the attention of a reader is to ask them a question.
“When was the last time you received a lead from your website?” is far more thought provoking than “We can help you get more leads from your website”.
When writing the copy for your email, think of it as you would a face-to-face conversation with them. If you met someone in a room, you’d ask them questions, so why not do the same digitally?
Don’t pay too much attention to subject line length
One of the most important elements of email writing lies in the subject line, but there’s a huge number of differing opinions about how long (or short) they should be.
The answer is actually pretty simple: make your subject line is as long or short as it needs to be. Within reason, of course.
There’s no such thing as an average reader or length of subject line they find acceptable. If yours is on point and promises an answer to something that’s on their mind, it stands a high chance of encouraging them to open the email.
If you were expecting some kind of magical email writing formula in this blog, you’ll have been sorely disappointed – or, more accurately, relieved.
There isn’t one, because just like every form of marketing, the key to creating great email content that engages and inspires people to act is simplicity and good, old-fashioned common sense.