You have undoubtedly written thousands of emails in your life. You probably regularly send email to and receive email from friends, family, coworkers and even complete strangers on a regular basis for any number of reasons. While writing an email to any one person is a straight forward proposition, sending an email to a large group of people is an entirely different skillset. You need to be able to craft a message that attracts the attention of a diverse group of individuals, clearly communicates a single objective and inspires them to take a desired action. If that doesn’t sound hard enough, you have to do this without the use of video, audio, images (sometimes) and other dynamic content. You also have to deal with the technical peculiarities of email, avoid spam filters and maintain compliance with your country’s anti-spam laws. Writing effective email is both an art and a science. This chapter will show you how to write email copy that engages users and convinces them to take action.
Understanding Your Audience
In order to be able to effectively write to your audience, you first have to understand who they are. How old are your typical subscribers? What do they do for a living? What gender are they? Are they married? Where do they live? What are their interests? What problems do they face? Why did they sign-up for your mailing list? If you don’t know these things, conduct a survey and ask people to share information about themselves so that you have a better idea of who is actually receiving your email.
I recommend creating a fictional character that epitomizes your typical customer, known as an avatar. The character that you create should have a name, an age, a gender, a job, a hometown, personal interests and problems that they face on a daily basis. The avatar that I created for MarketBeat is named Bill. He is about fifty years old. He’s married, is a homeowner and has some money to invest in the stock market. He likes to pick his own stocks, but isn’t sure who’s advice he should listen to. He can live just about anywhere in the United States or Canada and loves to keep up with the day-to-day news in the stock market. By creating an avatar, you will have a better idea of who you are marketing to and in many ways, can get inside the mind of your subscribers.
When you write an email to your mailing list, write as if you are writing a personal message to your avatar. Ask yourself what your avatar would need to hear in order for them to take action based on your email. What kind of hopes do they have that you can encourage? What kind of fears do they have that you can assuage? If you write as if you are writing to your avatar and use lots of “you” language, subscribers will subconsciously think that your email was written to them specifically and will be more likely to engage with your message. Keep the focus on your subscribers as much as possible. Make your emails about them, not about you.
Here’s an example of an email that uses personal language:
Subject line: Crazy market volatility
Hi [Name] –
Did you see what happened in the market with TSLA today? It was down by 2.3% this morning. When I checked my computer after lunch, it was up by 1.8%.
I don’t know what you think, but it seems like there has been a lot more volatility in the stock market for the last few months. You’ve probably seen stocks that go up in the morning, down in the afternoon and go back up after hours. It’s crazy.
Would you like to be able to identify the most volatile stocks in the S&P 500 so that you don’t have to feel like you’re riding an emotional roller coaster every day?
Here’s a free report (just for you) which shows which stocks are most likely to see volatility in the weeks and months to come.
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Parts of an Email
When getting ready to put together an email, it would be easy to think that the only thing you have to write is the actual message body. There are actually several different components that will go into every message that you send to your list. You need to put as much thought and effort into the other parts of your email as you would the main message body.
Here are the key components of an email:
- Subject Line – This is the subject of your message. It is the first thing your subscribers will see and will determine whether or not they open your message.
- Pre-Header – The pre-header is the preview text included after the subject line in some email services, such as Gmail. The pre-header can serve as a second subject line that will further encourage users to open your email. If you don’t intentionally add a pre-header, most email services will use the first sentence or two of your email as a pre-header.
- From Name – This is the name of the person sending the email. Use your personal name in lieu of the name of your company because email users are more likely to open an email from an actual person.
- Message Body – This is the main text of your email.
- Call-to-Action – This a hyperlink at the bottom of your message body that attempts users to take a specific action, such as clicking on a hyperlink.
- Signature – Keep your email signature simple. Long email signatures can be a distraction to the main content of your email. I personally just use my name on one line and the name of my company on the following line.
- Post Script – Consider periodically using a “P.S.” below your email signature to serve as a secondary sales tool after your main email. For example, you could include something like “P.S. Remember that our service comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with our service within the first 30 days, just let us know and we’ll provide you a full refund.”
- Footer – Your footer usually contains your unsubscribe link and other information that you need to include to stay compliant with anti-spam laws, such as your mailing address and the name of your company. Your footer will likely be the same for every email that you send to your list.
Types of Messages
Every email that you send to your mailing list will be sent for a specific purpose. You might have an announcement to make or want your subscribers to read a piece of content that you just made. You may want them to checkout one of your company’s products or keep them engaged by sending them helpful information.
Here are some of the main reasons that you will email your list:
- Announcements – Whenever you have something big to announce, you should announce it to your email subscribers so that they know that they are valued members of your community.
- Sales and Marketing – You will periodically want to send sales and marketing emails to your subscribers about your company’s products and services. Make sure to only email subscribers about a product or a sale that haven’t already purchased the product.
- Affiliate Marketing – In order to generate additional revenue, you can promote other company’s products and services as an affiliate. Read the monetization chapter of this book for more information about how to do this.
- Weekly Newsletter – Consider creating a weekly newsletter for your subscribes that contains useful and interesting content. Your weekly newsletter will help keep users interested and engaged with your content.
- User Engagement – You will want to regularly send your subscribers tips, resources and other helpful information that will provide your subscribers value in order to keep them engaged with your mailing list.
- Feedback – Whenever you need feedback about an idea, email your audience and ask them for feedback. Ask two or three questions and ask them to respond with their feedback by replying to your messages.
- List Management – You may need to periodically send messages to users relating to the status of their subscription. You might need to reconfirm their subscription if they haven’t opened an email from you in a while or you might want them to identify specific interests as part of a segmentation campaign.
Give, Give, Give, Ask.
While you will email your audience for many different reasons, you need to keep a healthy balance between sending emails that provide value to your audience and emails that take value from your audience. Emails that contain information that help your readers at no cost to them, such as tips, educational content, resources and training videos provide value to your audience. Emails that ask your audience to purchase a product or take another action that benefits you more than it benefits them take value from your audience. I recommend sending at least two emails that provide value to your audience for every one email that takes value from your audience. Ideally, you will provide so much value to your audience that they respond to your sales and marketing emails out of sheer gratefulness for the value that you have already provided them. This principle is outlined in detailed by Gary Vaynerchuck in his book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.
Writing Great Subject Lines
Your subject lines are the most important words that you will write as part of your email marketing strategy. If you write a subject line that is uninspired and doesn’t grab the attention of your subscribers, they probably aren’t going to open your message. If you write a great subject line, you’ll receive higher open rates, which will lead to more click-throughs and more sales. A well-written subject line can often receive double the open rates of a poorly-written subject line, which will in-turn double click-throughs and double the sales generated by an email.
Here are some examples of a few different types of subject lines that you can use:
- Confrontation: Quit Wasting Your Time with Options Trading
- Curiosity: Strange Question…?
- How to: How to Double Your Revenue with one Little Known Email Marketing Technique
- Humor: Forget Black Friday – Enjoy Wine Weekend
- Numbers: What 83% of Golfers Screw-Up on the Course
- Reply-To: RE: Your Subscription to MarketBeat Daily Premium
- Shocking: How I lost 48 pounds in ONE WEEK
- Testimonial: “MarketBeat made me $12,384.32 in one trade”
- Time Sensitive: Tonight’s Deadline (Last Chance!)
- Tips: 3 Ways to Double Your Facebook Following
- Warning: Don’t Miss Out!
Here are some of the subject lines that have received the highest open-rates in the history of MarketBeat:
- An important reminder… (40.8% open rate)
- RE: Clean Water Project (27.6% open rate)
- I’m Sorry :\ (27.1% open rate)
- Bad News (25% open rate)
- Good News! 🙂 (24% open rate)
- Clearing up some confusion (24.6% open rate)
- Important (please read) (23.9% open rate)
- Black Friday…in June? (21.9% open rate)
- Weird Question? (21.4% open rate)
There are also a number of techniques that can modify subject lines to emphasize words and to make unsaid promises about the content of your message. If you are going to use any of the variation techniques, switch them up from email to email and don’t use any one technique more than twice each month. Subscribers will notice these patterns if used too often which will cause them to lose their effectiveness.
Here are the techniques:
- Make an Email Appear Personal – Make your entire subject line lower case to imply that the message is personal in nature because individuals don’t always put the same effort into writing an error-free and correctly-capitalized subject line. For example, “how I beat the stock market” sounds a lot more personal than “How I Beat the Stock Market.”
- Imply Strong Emotion and Importance – You can uppercase your subject line to imply strong emotion or importance to your email. For example, “I BEAT THE STOCK MARKET,” implies urgency and importance.
- Specific Numbers – You can use specific numbers, like 23.6 or 29%, to imply accuracy of your data. People are naturally wired to think that numbers are less likely to be made up if they are more specific or have a decimal point. For example, “How I Beat the Market by 7.8% in 2015” would imply that there’s more math that shows exactly how I beat the stock market by that number.
- Emphasize – You can emphasize a particular word by uppercasing only that word or by surrounding that word with asterisk. For example, “How I BEAT the Stock Market by 7.8% When Others Failed” draws attention to the word beat.
- More Information Inside – You can add ellipses (three periods) at the end of your subject line to imply that there’s much more for users inside of your email. For example, “How I beat the stock market…” implies that I will share details about how I beat the stock market in the body of the email.
- Communicate Two Things at Once. Use brackets when you need to communicate two different things about an email. For example, “How I Beat the Stock Market [Free Video]” implies that users will both learn how to beat the stock market and get a free video in their in box.
Don’t believe that you have to write every email subject line from scratch. Feel free to use the subject lines listed in this chapter. You can get good ideas for subject lines by searching for “subject line ideas” in your search engine of choice. I also recommend signing up for the mailing lists of well-known internet marketers like Frank Kern, Eben Pagan and Ryan Deiss so that you can see for entrepreneurs that make millions of dollars each year perform their craft.
AIDA: The Four Parts of Every Effective Sales and Marketing Email
In order to write an effective sales and marketing email, you need to take your subscribers through a series of steps to get them to take a desired action, such as purchasing a product or service. You first have to grab their attention, create interest in your product or service, instill a personal desire for your offer using your subscribers’ hopes and fears and convince them to take action. These four steps make up the acronym AIDA, which was first penned by advertising pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1903. While the concept AIDA was developed in the print era, it continues to work well as a framework for email copywriting.
The first step is to grab the attention of your readers. In the world of email marketing, this means getting your subscribers to see and open your email. Your subscribers may receive as many as one hundred emails every day. They probably do not read most of the email that they receive and may only open five to ten messages on any given day. This is why some of the most engaged email lists in the world only have open rates of 30-40%. In order to actually get you emails opened, you need to stand apart from the crowd by writing a compelling subject line and using a personal from name. After someone has opened your email, you need to keep their attention by telling an interesting story, fact, joke or anything else that someone won’t be able to help but read.
After getting a subscriber’s attention, you will need to smoothly transition to the actual purpose of your email so that you can generate interest for the product or service you’re promoting. You can often do this through an analogy that ties the content of your email back into the introduction that you used to grab their attention. After the transition, you will extoll the features and benefits of whatever you are trying to sell your audience and show them how it can solve a particular problem for them or make their lives easier.
The next step is to create an emotional desire in your subscribers. Try to get your users to think about the emotions they feel whenever they face the particular problem that your product or service can solve. Also, paint a picture of a desired future state that subscribers can achieve when they purchase your product or service. By helping them remember the negative emotions caused by the problem that you solve and showing them what their life can be like if they purchase your product or service, you will help your customers become emotionally ready to purchase.
The final step is to call your subscribers to take a specific action, which is usually purchasing your product or service. Tell your subscribers exactly what they need to do to purchase your product and finish your email by reminding users of the picture that you painted of a desired future state.
Here’s an example of a marketing email that was sent out by USGolfTV that uses AIDA:
Subject line: I’m bored out of my mind.
I don’t know about you, but in my house over the holidays, there’s just not a whole lot to do beyond stuffing our faces full of food and hearing my grandma share the same story year after year. There’s rarely anything good on TV besides the occasional football game. There’s nothing for the serious golf fan to watch and enjoy. That is, until now.
If you want to start off with a better golf game that you had in the fall, I’d encourage you to take the time to start watching The Prairie Secret video training series in your free time during the holidays. You’ll avoid the usual round of holiday boredom and get some great ideas to improve your golf game.
When next Spring comes around, your golfing buddies will be out of practice and will be finishing their games several strokes higher than they finished last fall. You on the other hand? You lost three strokes over the winter by doing the drills outlined in The Prairie Secret.
Want to get your copy of The Prairie Secret? Click the link below to get your copy today.
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Best Practices to Follow with Your Email
There are several other best practices that you should follow when sending email to your list:
- Don’t Rely on Images – Between 10% and 30% of your users will never click “enable images” on your emails. Never rely on images to convey key points in your copy. Use clear and descriptive ALT text on any images that you do include. You can also consider using CSS styling to make your ALT text larger and more visible to subscribers that do not enable images.
- Avoid Grammar and Spelling Errors – Poor grammar, capitalization and spelling can be a huge turn off for many of your email subscribers. If you want to speak with expert authority to your audience, you need to use proper grammar and spelling. No one will believe you are an authority on anything if you can’t write a complete sentence. Double-check every email you write for grammar and spelling mistakes and consider having another person check over your messages before they are sent out to your subscribers.
- Include Multiple Hyperlinks – If you have a specific link that you want users to click on, add a total of three hyperlinks to each email. Hyperlink your main call-to-action at the bottom of your message body and just above your email signature. Also hyperlink a few relevant words in the first paragraph of your email to the page you want users to go to. Finally, include a second call-to-action below your email signature and any “P.S.” that you include with your email.
- Avoid Design-Heavy Email Templates – Subscribers are more likely to actually read email that comes from an individual person than a faceless company or non-profit. While companies frequently use templates in their email, people almost never do. If possible, avoid using a design-heavy template so that your emails appear more personal to your subscribers.
- Limit Each Email to One Call-to-Action – Don’t try to get your subscribers to do multiple things as a result of any one email. Each email that you send should have exactly a single purpose and a single call-to-action that you want them to take. Users are less likely to respond when they have to consider which, if any, of your calls-to-action that they want to take.
- Have a Clear Unsubscribe Link – Don’t try to hide or obscure your unsubscribe link. Have a clear unsubscribe link that says “Click Here to Unsubscribe” in a normal font size. If you try to obscure your unsubscribe link, your subscribers may report your messages as spam which can put you in jeopardy with your email service provider if your account generates too many spam complains.
Should I hire a professional copywriter?
There are many professional email copywriters that you can pay to create email marketing campaigns on your behalf. You probably should not hire a professional copywriter to write email for you, especially if you are just getting started. Learning to become an effective copywriter takes experience. When someone else is writing copy for you, you won’t have the opportunity to practice copywriting and won’t learn how to write your copy for yourself. Good copywriters can be very expensive to hire, which will make it much more difficult to run a profitable email marketing campaign.
There are two instances where it might be appropriate to hire a professional copywriter to write email for you. If your business is already generating more than six figures per year when you start email marketing, it may be more cost effective for you to hire a copywriter. At $200,000 per year, your time is worth about $150.00 per hour. If it takes you three hours to write an email and a copywriter can do a better job than you can at $150.00 per message, go ahead and write a check to the copywriter. The other instance that it might make sense to hire a copywriter is for your auto-responder series, but only if you don’t have much experience writing email and you can easily afford the fees. By having a professional copywriter create your auto-responder series, you’ll have relevant email copy that you can repurpose as broadcast emails down the line.
In this chapter, I’ve put together a basic overview of email copywriting and a list of best practices to follow when writing email to your subscribers. Copywriting is a skill that will take a lot of time and practice to master. Most of the email that you send for the first several months won’t be very good and that’s okay. Continue learning and practicing email copywriting by following experts like John McIntyre (www.themcmethod.com/), reading marketing email sent out by your competitors and consuming educational content about copywriting from places like Copyblogger (http://www.copyblogger.com/blog/). Over time, your copywriting skills will improve and mature and you too will become America’s next great email copywriter.
- Create an avatar that epitomizes a typical subscriber.
- Practice writing a sales and marketing using AIDA
- Know the eight parts of every email and the seven reasons to email your list.
- Identify additional copywriting resources that you can learn from and rely on in the future.