Email marketing: This copywriter’s playbook on getting emails noticed, read and actioned

Tips to avoid the email abyss.

I’ve been writing quite a few email marketing campaigns recently. Campaigns ranging from directly promoting services to reaching out for referral business.

I thought it would be useful to share some of the copywriting techniques I apply to write successful email marketing – and by successful, I mean noticed, opened, read and responded to. These are the tips I’ve found work in my emails I’ve written and read.

I’m letting you see my playbook here but I’m hoping it helps you write better email marketing for your business or your clients. Goodness knows our email inboxes could do with fewer crappy email marketing messages!

It starts with the subject

You’ve probably read more than a few posts about writing email subject lines. If not, you should. I recorded a whole podcast on subject lines for Hot Copy!

A copywriter can often spend more time on a campaign headline than the copy itself and your email subject line needs the same attention.

I like subject lines that are clear and explanatory. I’m all for creating some intrigue but who is going to open an email with a mysterious subject when they could open an email from a customer placing an order. No one.

[Super email tip] Brackets can help your email stand out, especially when you put them around attention-grabbing words.

[Special Offer]

Mailchimp found that time-sensitive words like Urgent, Breaking, Important and Alert also boosted email marketing open rates. Coupled with some brackets, you’ve got yourself a pop-up neon sign that says OPEN ME!

Avoid words like Free, Help, Percent Off, SALE, and Reminder. Using the word “Free” will get your email straight into the spam folder but the others will affect your open rates (in a bad way).

Make the first words count

So your email has been opened. That’s worth a small parade in itself but then you need to get your reader to the end. To do that, you need to make every word matter. Those first few words are critical.

Greet them like a real person

Make sure your greeting is personal. I don’t just mean the rather old-fashioned, “Dear Sarah”. When I write email marketing campaigns I like to use greetings like “Hi” and “Hey” because that’s how I’d start a real conversation.

That’s a really important point so I’ll say it again.

Your email marketing should feel like a real conversation, not a pitch presentation.

Let them know it won’t take long

Using questions in your copywriting can help you draw attention to a frustration you solve and it works for email marketing.

[Super email marketing tip] Start your email with the words, “Quick question:”.

This is a great opener for a few reasons. Most email providers will display the From field, the email Subject line and the first few words of the email. When your reader sees that all you have is a quick question, your email is more likely to be opened and actioned to get it out of the way.

You also get to present a frustration you go on to solve.

Some examples:

Quick question: When was the last time your hot water system was serviced?
Quick question: Do you accept awesome guest posts on your blog?
Quick question: How much money do you waste on channels you never watch?

From a person not a business

Who doesn’t have an email problem? We all get too many emails. We get emails related to our business, we subscribe to interesting blogs, we chat to friends and family, we get notifications from the tools we use and we get spam emails when our names are sold as part of a list.

It’s just too much!

So we create a process of prioritising emails and emails that are obviously marketing messages get moved to the bottom of the email pile.

I always recommend clients put their own name in the email From field – not their business name. Because who do you open emails from first – a friend or a business?

I send email from Belinda Weaver not Copywrite Matters. Another version is Belinda @ Copywrite Matters (if I really want my business name in there).

One way to stop your email marketing being ignored is to be awesome, relevant and valuable but also be personal – putting your name in the From field. It instantly humanises your message.

Draw them back in

Postscripts (PS.) were traditionally used in old-fashioned snail mail, when people actually wrote letters to each other (by hand!) The PS. would follow the signature and allowed people to add some news they’d forgotten to include in the main body.

You might think that adding a PS. to the end of an email doesn’t make sense as you can simply go back and edit the main body before you send. But the old PS. is used as an effective marketing technique in direct mail and can be just as useful in email marketing.

Why? The eye will naturally linger on a PS. so it’s a great place to reinforce your message, create some urgency or offer some extra value.

You can also add a testimonial or simply invite contact – but make sure the last words they read are on brand and memorable.

[Super email marketing tip] Rearrange some of your email marketing copy to include a memorable PS.

PS. Don’t forget this offer ends at midnight on 02/04/2014 so don’t dilly dally!
PS. Did I mention that we’re including a free copy of our book on email marketing cheats with the first 20 orders? Hit Reply now and see if that’s you!
PS. I understand this is a big decision to make so if we can help you with more information or answer questions you have, we’d love to. Just give us a call on 1300 AMAZEBALLS.

Which tricks will you apply?

Once you collect email addresses you need to use them wisely. From a newsletter to a sales campaign, email marketing is THE best way to keep in touch with your customers.

So which of these tips will you include in your next email marketing? Do you have other techniques you always use?

Share them with me in the comments!


14 Responses

  1. Great article as always Belinda. I’m going to follow your tip to change the Sender Name of my newsletter from my business name to my name. Do you think it’s fine just to do it, or should I mention in the newsletter that I’ve made the change?

    1. Hey Mel – thanks 🙂 I don’t think you have to mention it but making something of it to remind readers to look out for your newsletter is a great idea!

      You could also do something like Mel at YourBusinessName, which is a nice combo of the two.

      1. I’m putting together my next newsletter now so popped back to review your article. That’s a fantastic suggestion which I’ll use – thanks again.

    1. Thanks Jenny – not only for reading but for letting me know you found it empowering! I’d love to know if you find any success with these techniques.

      Thanks again for reading.

  2. Belinda, valuable post! Many good points, from the perspective of a marketer and a recipient.

    Headlines/Subject lines: Such an important aspect that, surprisingly, many writers aren’t aware of – and you’re right to say e-mail subject lines are no different.

    My only reservatio regarding MailChimp’s suggestion on target words is that I’ve become somehwat sensitized to Urgent, Breaking News, etc. Maybe if these terms were used less frequently …

    Conversely, P.S. gets me every time. 😉

    Lastly, I periodically receive e-mails from a lovely small business owner who shows up as “info” as sender vs. her name. First few times, it threw me and I thought it was spam. Others may not get past that point, with these messages never opened. So thanks for providing me with a tactful way to explain why she would want to consider an alternative. Plus, she’ll gets the bonus of other great advice to apply to her e-mail marketing strategy.

    1. Thanks Alison. You make a good point about using those ‘buzzwords’ as they can definitely become tired when they are overused.

      Actually, while you want your marketing to have a similar look and feel from a branding point making overusing any one technique/layout/wording will mean that people start to get bored and ignore it. We all like surprises so mixing things up will help keep it fresh and the eyeballs on.

      Thanks for reminding me and for taking the time to comment.

      I hope your contact heeds your advice about changing her From name from “info@”!

  3. Very good information on email marketing copy-writing tips. Sometimes, people aren’t familiar with which words they should be using to generate a satisfactory response. This post will certainly be helpful.

  4. Hello, I hope you are good. Agree with this informative article. Continue like this. But I want to suggest to digital marketers, to keep on growing and to get better results, you need to test the current emails, their content, their thread, their design, the number of visits and their results. After testing and analyzing the current success of email marketing, you can design a better plan for the future.

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