Email Copywriting: The Dos and Don'ts Explained
Tips and tricks on the path to conversion
Tips and tricks on the path to conversion
Published : May 14, 2023
Copywriting for emails is an art, like the stroke of a brush, the angle of a pencil, and the contemplation that goes into a script.
It begins with forming a subject line that arouses curiosity and piques interest to finishing a landing page that provides relevant information to convert potential customers into paying customers.
The email world is a spiral in which you have to target new customers, retarget existing customers, and provide those further along the buyer's journey with helpful content.
The process is continuous. But, there is very little time to make an impact.
Digitaldoughnut mentions that you have three seconds to catch a reader’s attention in an email - and that’s only when you are lucky, otherwise, it may be even less.
Hypothetical sirens are constantly blaring, signalling that you may never be able to do it again if you don’t catch the target audience's attention now!
Therefore, you need to be very particular about email copywriting. Before you begin to write any email marketing copy, let's go over some of the basics that set the stage for success.
The first thing that is important when writing marketing emails, is to perfectly understand who you are talking to. You need to properly assess exactly who your potential customer is. At the same time, you must remember, "Everyone is not your customer."
Your product/service/solution is not targeted at everyone. It isn't suitable for everyone. Therefore, you need to be particular about who you are talking to and how.
Your email marketing campaigns should be specifically targeted at your buyer persona. Your buyer is a real person with likes, dislikes, interests, a profession, and a history with your company.
In this blog, we aren't talking about how to write a particular type of email, and talking about email copywriting in general.
Therefore, to understand how to convince an audience email copywriters need to delve deeper into what they need to know about their audience, according to the purpose of their email.
If you are writing cold emails, you need to know something about the background of the prospect. You need to know their pain point and what they can get from your company.
If you are writing welcome emails, you need to know why the prospect signed up to use your service and what the next steps are for them.
If you are writing promotional emails, you need information on why your product/service would attract your buyer persona and what you can offer them to attract them further.
Many marketers don't put as much emphasis on studying their target persona and this is where their email marketing copy fails. It does not resonate with their audience.
For example, I would feel completely lost if someone sent me an email talking about heavy metal music and using words that were not part of my vocabulary.
Here are a few areas to look into about your target audience:
Review them as a person - interests, likes, dislikes, education, profession, family, etc.
Review their current needs
Review their history with your company
The most important aspect you need to pay attention to in email copywriting is the target audience's pain points. What is their problem? What value can you provide to solve their problem? What are they looking for in your product or service?
Now, you can't know everything about everyone in your audience. So, how do you handle this dilemma? Here is a wise quote by Pooja Agnihotri, author of Market Research Like a Pro.
"As it's not feasible to research everyone in your target audience, you focus on a group of people that can represent most of the others in your market. For this, you wisely identify and obtain a sample and make sure that no group from your target market is left unrepresented."
Your email marketing copy should focus on a sample of your target audience - a portion that you feel truly represents the remainder of your audience.
Now let's move on to the next most important component to understand: your brand voice.
Email copywriting requires you to construct a brand voice. Your brand's voice is beyond your company name, the product or service you offer, and what you would like to convey to your email subscribers or cold email recipients.
It is the way you want to say what you need to say.
Sprout Social defines brand voice as follows, "Brand voice is the distinct personality a brand takes on in its communications."
To create a brand voice, imagine that your brand is a person. Write down all the personality traits that your brand (person) has. Your email copywriting should be like this person talking directly to your audience.
To construct a brand voice, you need to understand your brand's values. Your brand values are what your brand believes in - what the brand is all about. For example, a person's values may include peace, kindness, determination, and hard work.
In the same manner, a brand's values may include transparency, integrity, and reliable customer support.
Reflecting these values in your brand's voice and messaging is important for building trust and for reinforcing brand identity.
Also, remember to keep the tone and brand voice consistent across all channels. The way you speak to prospects on social media is the way you should also be speaking to them via email.
In order to establish your brand voice, you may want to use certain words that are specific to your brand - buzzwords. For example, Nike's brand language is centered around determination, perseverance, high-energy, and inspiration. Their logo "Just Do It" has become an integral part of their brand language and is associated with the brand worldwide.
Their advertising messages also repeat the brand's values and the email marketing campaign continues to use those words to invite people to the brand.
For example, Nike's welcome email below includes words such as "You are now in the game", "one goal", and "push the limits" and also includes the ever-popular slogan "Just Do It" which is synonymous with the company name.
The brand ensures that it remains consistent. The same brand voice is also used in a pop-up where visitors are asked to sign up for emails.
You can also enhance branded language by using visual cues which will then be associated with your company name. For example, BMW has very distinct visual elements that make the brand stand out amongst others with its circular form and white and blue colors.
Going back to Nike, the swoosh is a symbol used in its outbound sales campaigns, content marketing, and it's email marketing.
In your email design, add visual cues to support your email marketing copy. This enhances brand recall and recognition.
Now, let's talk about the purpose of your email.
When writing your email copy, it is important to keep linking it back to the purpose of the email.
Why are you writing to the audience? Is this a sales email in which you want to get more revenue? Is it a survey that you want high open and response rates for or is it an automated email that simply needs to impart some information?
The three main questions are:
Who are you writing this email to?
Why are you writing to your target audience?
What do you have to offer to this audience to cater to their pain points?
Once you have answered these questions, think about this question: What should this email achieve if the email marketing copy is effective? What is the call-to-action (CTA) and what do I want to tell my subscribers to get them to the landing page or to the next step?
Email marketing copywriting involves know-how of email marketing strategy, consumer psychology, and digital marketing practices. A successful email copywriter uses all of these disciplines to understand the audience's needs and their way of thinking.
That doesn't mean you have to go crazy trying to get high email performance. It isn't that hard, but it isn't always a walk in the ballpark.
Combine the best practices, test and re-test your emails, and then you'll probably be good to go.
Remember not to try to achieve everything in the same email.
Break it down and have one purpose per email. One thing that you want your email subscribers or cold email recipients to do. That can be to:
Click on a calendar URL to book a meeting
Read a blog post
Go to a landing page that describes your products, services, or your current offer
Whatever your purpose is, make sure to link your writing back to the purpose of your email and make sure you are using the short time you have your audience's attention to your advantage.
Ah, the popular yet hated subject line.
The email subject line is where the whole journey begins. Your whole email marketing strategy is completely useless if you haven't mastered your subject lines because otherwise no one will ever open and read your emails.
However, since you hardly have much legroom in the subject line, you need to be oh-so-precise, on-the-dot accurate, and amazingly creative at the same time. That's probably why most email copywriters hate the subject line.
Before we begin talking about how to create a great email subject line, let's go over what you absolutely must NOT do.
False promises: hyperbole and clickbait are a complete no-go
Use spam trigger words: Free, % OFF, Discount, and similar words sound salesy and it seems like you are sending a bulk sales email. Email service providers do not appreciate this. Therefore, make sure your subject line does not have these words or you might find yourself (or your email, to be more precise) in the spam folder.
Use all caps: If you use all capital letters, it may seem like you are shouting at your reader or it may just generally be off-putting.
Use too many exclamation marks: No matter how excited you are as an email copywriter, your excitement must not all be unloaded on the subject line. Do not use more than one exclamation mark.
Be too generic: If you are sending the reader a blog post, you may just want to include the blog title in the subject line for the email campaign. However, if your campaign has a particular purpose besides sharing content, make sure you pinpoint the VALUE the email provides.
Write a long subject line: Short subject lines are best because they can fit on mobile devices as well. Make sure your subject line is not more than 5-6 words.
Now, we are going to talk about how to create a great email subject line. Subject lines need to impart VALUE to the reader. They are a bite-sized image of what the actual email entails and this is your opportunity to tell the recipient why they should open your email.
Have you heard of the popular marketing idea that says
People don't buy products, they buy experiences
Don't sell logic, Sell emotions
Instead of saying "Buy these headphones", say "Enjoy 24 hours of uninterrupted music". Instead of saying "Our cakes are sugar-free", say "Show mom you care with our sugar-free cakes".
Your aim is to tell your audience what experience they will get after they have bought your product or service. You need to specify the emotions associated with your product or service, rather than just the features it offers.
For example, people don't use an iPhone only for its features, but for its design, its sleekness, its hi-tech image, and because they associate feelings of prestige and power with the iPhone.
You are welcome to use humor in your subject line but you need to make sure the joke is relevant to your email campaign and brand. For example, here is a subject line from the Dollar Shave Club:
"We couldn't think of a holiday to make up, so we are just giving you 20% off."
They adopt a jolly tone and take a jab at the never-ending list of fake holidays that come up such as Cyber Monday, Singles' Day, etc.
With humor, you can also personalize the subject line - add the company name or recipient's name to the subject. You can also pose the subject line as a question.
For example, look at this subject line from our best friend, Grammarly:
"You are a grammar genius, [Name], or are you?"
This is a great example of a subject line that piques curiosity, uses personalization, and also uses a little subtle humor. The recipient gets complimented in the beginning, but then the subject takes an inquisitive tone, making the recipient want to know whether they actually are a copy genius.
It is also a good idea to use numbers in your subject line. Numbers can help you specify your point and elaborate on the value that you are about to provide in your email copy. For example, Headspace has used this subject line in the past,
"10 days of meditation can save your life. Try it now!"
It specifies how many days it takes to be in a better place mentally. It is a good idea to numerically describe benefits: 2 times more, a 30% increase, 3 weeks to a better....
Quantifiable information is more easily understood by the recipient.
What else can you do? You can use power words in your subject line. Words that enhance emotion and make a prospect feel something or words that have an impact. Here is a list of power words that describe emotions:
You can also use this list of power words in your subject lines:
Also, subject lines that create a sense of exclusivity also tend to perform well. Make the prospect feel like he/she is the only one you are talking to. Use words such as "exclusive", "VIP", and "limited edition".
If you incorporate these email copywriting tips in your subject lines, you are ready to move on to the email copy.
However, as a last note, always write your subject line last. Write it after you have written your email copy. Since it is the first thing that the recipient sees, we have mentioned it here before the email copy.
Now, our email tips are moving on to the body copy. First things first, the email should not be too long, especially if it is a cold email. You are going to have to impart your message in such a way, that it barely takes a few seconds and you are also able to make an impression in your recipient's mind.
Before you begin writing the email, think about this:
What is the purpose of the email marketing campaign?
If I only had 3 seconds to tell the prospect about my product/service what would I tell them to keep them hooked to the email?
What do I want my prospect to do after they finish reading the email?
Once you have these three ideas in place, you are ready to start writing the email copy. Let's look at different frameworks that can help you write effective email copy.
With this framework, you can begin with a hook. The hook may be a question, stat, or a statement that grabs the attention of the reader.
Next, you go on to describe your product/service or the reason you are reaching out. This is how you build interest. You then elaborate on what makes your product/service better than others, what value it provides, or what problem it solves (remember prospect pain points). Then, you specify the action that you want the prospect to take.
Here is an example of an email from Hubspot that follows AIDA:
Attention: Free Ebook Download Inside!"
Interest: "Learn the secrets to driving traffic, leads, and sales with our comprehensive guide to inbound marketing."
Desire: "Download the ebook now and discover how you can transform your marketing strategy and grow your business."
Action: "Download the free ebook now"
This framework gives you a three-step formula to effectively persuade your audience to take action.
First, you state the problem that the target audience is experiencing. In this step, you as a company, should empathize with your prospect and make it evident that you understand their needs.
The next step is agitation. This sounds a bit controversial and is a little controversial, to be honest. Here, you create tension. In your email body copy, you clearly tell your audience the consequences of not solving their problem. You tell them how important it is to solve their problem and the repercussions of not being able to do so on time.
Your job here is to create a state of urgency.
The final step is presenting your prospect with a solution. Tadaaa - here we are and this is how we solve your problem! Tell your prospect the value your product provides, not only what it does. For example, a cutting knife is not only sharp and sturdy but "It provides excellent precision for an easy and faster cooking experience."
Here is an example of an email that follows PAS:
Problem: "Are you tired of feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your workload?"
Agitation: "If you're like many professionals, you may find that your workload is only getting heavier, with more responsibilities, tighter deadlines, and less time to get everything done. This can leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, and uncertain about how to keep up."
Solution: "Our time management course can help you take control of your workload and achieve more in less time. With our proven strategies and techniques, you can learn how to prioritize your tasks, optimize your workflow, and stay focused on what matters most. Whether you're a busy executive, an entrepreneur, or a student, our course can help you achieve your goals and reduce your stress levels."
Action: "Enroll in our time management course today and start achieving more in less time!"
There are also 4 Ps in marketing but we have an email copywriting version that gives you an outline to use in your email body copy.
Begin with creating a visual picture in the reader's mind. Thoroughly describe your product/service and the experience it provides. Create a picture in the recipients' mind.
Using a storytelling approach would be convenient here.
Then, promise them that your product/service can add value to their lives and tell them how. Next, provide proof that you have the ability to deliver on your promise.
This can be in the form of social proof or a statement telling prospects how many people you have solved the problem for before. In the last part of the email, you push your prospect to take action. You tell them what you want them to do and why.
This email copywriting framework lets you build a bridge for the prospect outlining what things are like now and how they will be different after using the product/service - the Before/After effect.
You can adopt a storytelling approach or use descriptive language to make the picture clear and to illustrate your point. Use numbers, actionable language, proof, emotions, and logic combined to create a message that your prospects will resonate with.
You can use one of these frameworks to craft most of your marketing messages.
Now, that you have an idea of how to create an email, here are a few essential Dos and Dont's.
Let's do a quick recap of some of the points we have mentioned above and add others to summarize what you should and shouldn't do when writing copy for emails.
Pay attention to your subject line. This is what gets your email opened, so you need to master this. Make sure it’s attention-grabbing and gives a good summary of what to expect in your email.
Be precise. The ideal email is no more than 150 words. You may have a lot to say but it is best to lead your audience to another page with more information instead of writing 1000 words in your email. That is too much and there is a very high chance that your recipient will not read all of it.
Use simple language. Your reader shouldn’t have to Google words in your email to understand them. You are talking to a normal person so industry jargon or university vocabulary should be left out. Simple and easily understandable is the key.
A/B test emails to see which one is working better. CampaignMonitor says that companies that do split testing have an edge over those that do not as their campaigns will run at optimum level. Data speaks volumes and it’s important to base email marketing decisions on what is working and what is not.
Put too many themes in your email. The reader should be able to follow what you are saying and asking them to do, without getting lost in your email. They should be able to retain the information you provide.
Add a video that plays automatically in your email. No one wants to hear audio without prompting it first. That’s one of the quickest ways to trigger spam filters.
Add any click-bait links or subject lines. Do not trick your readers into clicking on something - that just makes you lose trust and credibility in their eyes and they won’t be interested in reading any of your content in the future.
Use hyperbole and spammy words. Avoid words such as free, astonishing offer, you will never get something like this again, etc. No one buys into that anymore. It’s better to focus on the value that your product/service provides rather than exaggerating how excellent or deprived someone’s life will be if they do not avail of it now.
Let’s dive into some extra tips for making emails more persuasive and effective.
Always personalize your email. Pretend that you are talking to one person and direct your conversation to them. Ensure you include tags for their first name and other details about them. This enhances engagement and increases the relevance of the message for your audience.
Focus on the reader, not on your business. Use words such as you and your instead of we and us. For example, don’t write, We provide accounting services for businesses but write, You need to ensure your books are accurate and your accounts balance - XYZ can fulfill this need with affordable accounting services.
Write about the value you provide. Avoid using hyperbole and saying stuff like, “We are excellent and unbeatable” etc. Clearly speak about the value you provide. An example would be, “After 20 years in business, we have helped over 5000 people lose weight and achieve their ideal body. We do this by empathizing with the client’s situation and devising a plan that is conducive to their lifestyle.”
Always talk about benefits, not features: Your audience may not understand your features but they can understand your benefits. For example, 60 hours of talktime isn't the best way to tell your audience what they will get if they use your product. Instead, you can say, Talk to your friends and loved ones for over 60 hours without having to recharge!
Use an F pattern: Users skim content at an F angle, so it is important for you to include headings, subheadings, and white space. Your content needs to be dispersed properly so recipients can take in the essential elements of your email.
Write short, punchy sentences. Try to limit your sentences to seven to eight words max. Short, punchy sentences are more effective rather than long, winding sentences that the reader cannot follow.
Give examples and tell a story. It is a good idea to give examples and write in a storytelling style so that readers get immersed in your content and you can illustrate a point for them. Remember to add relevant stats, expert quotes, and maybe even a few infographics.
Minimalist writing is best. Remember the saying “less is more”? Try to focus on it in your writing. This might sound counterintuitive, especially in line with the last point. However, this means that you shouldn’t over-describe something or use too many words to say something.
Cut out irrelevant words or replace them with a better word.
Include a clear call-to-action and tell the reader why they need to click. Include a call-to-action and tell the reader what the next steps are or what you want them to do.
However, you also need to tell them exactly what they will get by performing the action. For example, Subscribe Now isn’t as clear as Equip me with marketing advice (on a button).
Try the Zeigarnik effect. The Zeigarnik effect is the belief that people tend to remember incomplete tasks and ideas more than they remember complete information. This involves leaving stories or information incomplete, adding cliffhangers, cutting off testimonials, giving some information and telling the reader more information will be given in the next email. Try this email tip and see if it increases engagement for your email marketing campaign.
Avoid hard-selling. This may not be applicable to all products/services and this is a personal preference. However, I feel that hard selling is not effective and is annoying. Don’t make the reader feel pressured or compelled to buy or respond at that moment. Make them feel like their business is valuable to you at any time.
Ai has a huge impact on email marketing now and as an email copywriter, you may be wondering how to differentiate yourself from ChatGPT or any other AI email copywriter. While AI can help you significantly, here is how you can add to your copywriting to make it better than anything directly produced by AI.
Add personal experiences and examples to your copy
Mention the pain points of your target audience and elaborate how your product/service provides the solution - use a story or case study
Personalize the email by adding specific information related to the prospect's lifestyle, something they just posted, etc.
It's always a good idea to use AI to make your life easier, but you do need to add to it to make it better-performing copy.
You can combine all of the email marketing best practices to come up with a fabulous campaign that will help spike up your revenue and get you excited for what's up ahead. That's all we need in life, right?
As an email marketer, there is one other thing that you will need - a reliable email marketing service with features that you won't be able to find elsewhere.
Pribox provides a combination of an AI email writer, email verification tool, email warmup service, and other email marketing features that can help your campaigns reach the pinnacle of success.
Sign up today to start sending high conversion email campaigns.
Reach more customers with your cold emails
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