October 1, 2018

How to write better emails without the use of magic and wizardry.


Hello. Are you here to learn how to write more engaging, more successful emails? That’s wonderful, I’m really happy you’re here. But I have good news and bad news.

I’ll start with the bad news. What makes your emails better is something I can’t really teach you, and good copy doesn’t guarantee an impact on your deliverability. What it can do, though, is increase reader engagement, boost open and click rates, and make your campaigns more successful overall.

Now for the good news. There are a few tips you can keep in mind to create emails that spur more engagement. Add a healthy dose of your know-how to these tips and you’ve got the recipe for good email.

Be smart.

There are some key practices you probably don’t want to use frequently in your emails. You know them because when you see them in your own inbox, you either mark as spam or delete immediately. Cool it on caps locks, tone down your exclamation points, and don’t use spammy phrases. HubSpot compiled a great list of those. You can also test your emails before sending to avoid using copy that triggers filters.

Be concise.

Ain’t nobody got time for long marketing emails. You need to stay short and sweet, without taking too many winding roads to get to your point. Make clear your purpose for sending this email up front in the subject line, move on to large, eye-catching short text confirming the point, and wrap it up quickly with a call-to-action. This brings me to my next point:

Be direct.

You want your reader to do something, so make sure they know what that is. Tell them to click, to buy, to spin in a circle…whatever it is you want them to do, clearly express that early and often.

Short, sweet, and oh so funky.

Be consistent.

Similar to both points above, you’ve got your reader’s attention for what basically amounts to a nanosecond. If you’re telling them something in the subject line, make sure the call-to-action is relevant and accurate. Don’t tease a 50% off sale in the subject line and then ask your customers to visit your site for free shipping. Make sure your message is clear and does not waver or cause confusion. You don’t want to erode brand trust by being sloppy.

Be personable.

People don’t trust brands who don’t care about them. Can a brand care about you if they don’t know you? Remind your readers you know they’re real people, not just potential sales. Include their first name in the subject line or opening, if you are just looking to dip your toe in the water of personalization. If you know your customer’s birthdate, send a birthday greeting on the day of, with or without an offer. It’s just a nice touch. If you know about your recipients’ likes or interests via purchase history, try to tailor your email to those traits. Create a “persona” of hikers, or kayakers, and group them into content-specific emails that actually speak to who they are. Amazon does a great job of curating emails with products you might like based on previous browsing or purchase history. While Amazon is a rare unicorn of personalization, try even a small touch, because it can go a long way.

Don’t threaten me with a good time.

Be authentic.

This is the part that I can’t teach you. Who is your brand? What voice does your brand use, what values does your brand hold? If you could envision your brand as a person, who would that person be? When you write your emails, make sure that brand identity comes across, and your emails don’t just read like advertising garbage. Because that’s exactly what general salesy messaging comes across as: Garbage. Don’t give your customers disingenuous trash and they’ll thank you for it with a click.

My final point is probably not something anyone would ever include in a best practices or tips list, but because I don’t like to play by the rules (that’s a lie, I love rules), I’ll say it:

Trust your gut.

If you’re writing an email you’d likely delete if you got it in your inbox, delete the copy and try again. How does the copy feel to you? Do you believe it’s strong, or convincing, or at the bare minimum, will catch someone’s eye enough to get opened? If you can’t say yes to any of those questions, it’s bad copy. It’s ok to write bad copy if you recognize it and kill it with fire before you send it to your mailing list.

Writing is not easy, even though virtually everyone needs to know how to do it. Not everyone is a writer, and that’s ok. Try different styles, do some testing, learn what your audience wants to hear and how they want to hear it, and improve your copy over time.

Hope you enjoyed your time looking at pieces of the consumer-facing email puzzle with me. It’s important to remember engagement does play a part in your deliverability because no one trusts a sender who sends email no one wants, right? Trust your gut, keep it simple, and watch those open rates!

Author: Nicky Copland

Nicky is the senior marketing manager at 250ok. Before joining the team, she spent the majority of her time crafting and implementing communications strategies for the association industry. She was never a brain surgeon, but she played one on the internet.

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