The next time someone tells you email marketing is on the way out, remind them that people said the same thing about avocado toast and bacon-wrapped everything, and my breakfast plans haven’t changed one bit. Email copywriting may not be the newest niche on the block, but there’s a reason the practice is still thriving, evolving and winning over new and existing customers alike. And, there’s a reason that skilled freelance copywriters continue to be in high demand.
For every dollar the average brand spends on email, they get a whopping $38 in return. That translates into a 3,800% ROI — can your client’s direct mailers and PPC banners do that?
Email is not only here to stay, it’s a platform for exciting new ideas and twists on tried-and-true content marketing strategies that could help launch your business to the next level. Here’s what you need to know about email copywriting and a few tips to help you master best practices, write effective emails and become the very best email copywriter you can be. Avocado toast sold separately.
Types of Email Copy
Email marketing is so much more than those rambling missives from brand ambassadors and social media interns that land in your inbox on their way to the trash pile. Personal messages can be an important part of your brand story, but there’s a way to go about that so you can keep your audience’s attention and still get your point across. But more on that later.
For now, it’s crucial you understand how diverse email copywriting can be and the many use cases that turn a simple electronic letter into a marketing powerhouse.
- Announce New Content. If a new blog post goes up but no one’s scrolling your blog to see it, the content almost doesn’t count. Yes, there’s SEO to help attract interest, but letting your warm leads (those on your email list) know there’s something new to read or otherwise act on is a smart move. Sound the virtual trumpets whenever your client launches an ebook, has a sale, conducts a webinar or has a few case studies that serve as a lead magnet.
- Newsletters. Almost every brand can benefit from a newsletter-style email that helps potential and current customers understand your brand relevancy and how you’re different from your competitors. Use it to highlight important news from across your industry, curate interesting and relevant content from a variety of sources, emphasize the people and processes behind a product or do some combination of all the above.
- Product Updates: Let subscribers know when an app is upgraded or a site has new functionality. A monthly digest is better if there are a lot of little updates unworthy of separate emails, but occasional revamps should be shared to remind customers the service is available and there’s even more value on tap.
- Prospecting Campaigns: When a company wants to get their product or service in front of a new buyer persona, they often start with a large list of contacts they can make the first contact with by sending emails. This prospecting campaign relies on smart, strategic content that speaks to common pain points and challenges that buyer persona often experiences. Content has to have wide appeal to the different types of contacts under the buyer persona, but still be engaging, empowering and compelling, with a strong call-to-action to respond.
- Onboarding Sequences: These email series help usher engaged users — subscribers, for instance — into paying customers. The idea is to build suspense and authority over several emails, delivering value and driving interest before eventually encouraging readers to take action.
- Post-Purchase Drips: Once somebody buys a product or service, it’s time to follow up with emails that welcome them on board, tell them how to make the most of their purchase, offer optional add-ons and otherwise nurture the relationship. This is a great tool to help nudge new customers into the advocacy stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Cart Abandonment Campaigns: As of 2018, cart abandonment rates sit at 79.17%. That’s a lot of consumers adding things to their virtual basket and then leaving without an actual buy. Cart abandonment campaigns can remind shoppers of what they left behind and make it easy to return and complete their purchase.
- Promotional Campaigns: This type of email marketing series builds with each successive message, provoking emotion, stoking curiosity and building suspense before announcing an offer and using imagery and other hooks to direct readers to a well-written landing page and cements a sale.
This is far from a comprehensive list — everything from form submission confirmations to event invitations could also conceivably be included — but it gives you an idea of how diverse and powerful email marketing campaigns can be.
Tips for Writing Emails That Connect and Convert
Know Your Audience — and Capitalize on that Knowledge
Every piece of content you send should have a purpose, and that purpose is to create a connection with the recipient. The emails you write need to resonate with your audience and be relevant not only to their lives and interests but also to where they’re at in their buyer journey. Consumers have different needs during the awareness stage than they do when they’re about to make a decision; tailor your words to match the timing and you’ll be far more persuasive.
To create content for your audience, you have to get to know them. Buyer personas, face-to-face conversations, competitor research, social studies, monitoring online activity and sending out surveys are all legitimate ways to form an accurate, detailed picture of your consumer base. Then it’s time to put that data to work.
Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal Digital Marketing, brings it all together: “The trick to successful email marketing is delivering engaging content, relevant to your audience. The easiest way to ensure your content is relevant is to segment your email campaigns based on your target markets and audiences.”
“I was recently working with a client who wanted to feature a blog post in an upcoming e-newsletter that was geared to a Business-to-Consumer market. However, we determined that the target market and email list was for a Business-to-Business market. Therefore, the content didn’t make sense for the audience, and strategically the decision was made to change the focus of the email to a more relevant topic.”
Focus More on the Reader Than On Yourself
It’s amazing how hard it is to break away from marketing emails that lead with “I” or “we”. Yes, you’re advertising a business, but you should be advertising subtly and crafting consumer-centric content that doesn’t feel so self-centered and single-minded.
“This may seem like a basic statement, but many B2B-marketers (and B2C-marketers) still focus their content around telling people about how good they are,” says Operation Manager Ola Rask of Match2One. “The simple truth is this; people care a lot more about themselves than they do about you. In fact, they probably don’t care about you at all — so try to personalize your content and make them feel special.”
Tweak Your Writing
Spruce up your content and create copy that sells using a feature-benefit structure that helps consumers understand not only what you’re selling but why they should want it. Instead of boasting that a food processor has five speeds and a safety button, say it has five speeds to help you do everything from dicing to pureeing and a safety button to prevent accidents. If a customer reads a brand boast in your email and says, “So what?”, you haven’t clearly outlined the benefit.
Action words are helpful tools, too, in that action drives action. If you want your audience to get excited, use words that have power, such as:
Aim For an Emotional Response
Famous examples of advertising such as soda companies showing people having fun and being sociable highlight an important (albeit sometimes misused) marketing principle – if you can help your audience connect emotionally with your brand and offering, they’re more likely to convert.
What they’re doing is in effect visually telling a story. You can also focus on storytelling in your email copy to elicit an emotional response. This could come in many forms including:
- Fear of missing out
- Warmth toward your brand or offering
- Desire to associate with successful people
- Curiosity to learn more
What emotional appeal you target will depend on the purpose of your communication and the target audience, but keep in mind choosing the right emotional appeal can drastically increase your success rates.
Stick to One Clear Call to Action
The average open rate across all industries is just under 17%. The average click-through rate is 7.43%. That means 17% of the people on the average email list will even bother to open your emails and about 7.5 out of every 100 will click your CTA to see what’s on the other side. There are lots of reasons that number is on the low side, but asking too much of your email subscribers is a great way tank conversions.
Riah Solomon, Content Marketing Manager at SaaSOptics, feels strongly about the power of a solitary CTA. “Every email should have one main goal with a clear purpose, which means you should only have one main call to action. Write everything to point toward that call to action, and you’ll see click-through rates jump. Your readers need clarity and direction. When you give it to them, they will follow your lead.”
Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Great Email Subject Line
People are scanners by nature, and if your subject line doesn’t make them sit up and take notice, there won’t be anybody reading your email. To get more clicks, Charles Floate, Owner of DFY Links, offers these six expert suggestions:
- Put the offer/information upfront – the further back in the subject line your offer is, the less chance it has of being read
- Keep your subject line short – people have short attention spans
- Give it a sense of urgency – give them a reason to open it now
- Make it personal – make them think they know you
- Triple-check your spelling and grammar – no need for explanation here
- Bonus tip: Be clever – bland and grey never see the light of day
Be consistent, too. Whatever you promise in your subject line should actually exist in the body of your email. Nothing ruins a customer’s trust in a brand faster than feeling tricked. Bait-and-switch marketing may get clicks, but it’s a lot harder to increase conversions when inconsistency, whether intentional or accidental, is putting a dent into your authenticity and authority.
Find Ways to Personalize Every Message
The power of personalization is big to warrant a more in-depth look. Personalized subject lines boost email open rates by 26%, but that’s just the beginning. You can also personalize by targeting emails using information from customer surveys, recommendation purchases based on past buying behavior, highlighting mutual connections (referencing an industry-leading decision-maker, for instance) or simply making an email feel personal by addressing common consumer hurdles or including praise. Specifics are paramount, so use all the information at your disposal to zero in on personal factors that will help your message resonate.
Need help with your email marketing? We can help.
Before You Hit Send…
One of the most important things you can do as a marketer to drive conversions is to A/B test the heck out of your emails to understand exactly what will drive conversions the highest. Digital marketing guru Neil Patel gives some great advice on what you should test and how you should do it.
Although everything from the colors and imagery to the body text and personalization are game for testing, there are a few key things that you must get right to ensure a high conversion rate:
- Subject line (“Free Shipping Ends Tonight” vs “Enjoy Free Shipping”)
- Call to action (“See What’s Inside” vs “Learn Insider Secrets”)
- The offer itself (“Deep Discounts” vs “BOGO”)
Think about what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re seeing dismal open rates, then begin by testing your subject line. To get your conversion rates up, start by testing your calls to action.
Those who use MailChimp or another similar email marketing platforms may find built-in testing tools to help get the job done. If you’re looking for another solution, Hubspot has a great list of A/B testing tools to try. No matter what tool you use, keep in mind that email marketing without testing first is about as effective as throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping something sticks.
When you set up your tests, keep things as subjective as possible. Patel says that you should always use the same list for a test, and if you can’t run the test on the whole list, any subset should be chosen randomly. It’s also imperative that you shouldn’t stagger your test, as you may run up against time-based factors that impact the results.
If you’ve never done any A/B or split testing before, you might want to consider hiring a pro to do it for you if you have the budget. But whatever you do — include testing in your project plan.
Wrapping it Up
At its very heart, a good email boosts results and conversions by addressing your target audience’s pain points and connecting with them. Do that and you’ll achieve the success you crave. I call that a solid day’s work.