How To Write Emails People Actually Respond To
It seems that everyone agrees that email marketing is the safest and most effective form of marketing today and people are trying to grow their email list as large as they can thinking that the more subscribers they have, the more money they’ll make. But what if no one opens your emails? Then the line that you hear from all the gurus about how each email subscriber is worth one dollar per month is completely moot. Why? Because you don’t have a relationship with that group of people. You need to know how to write emails people actually respond to. That’s the key that every ineffective email marketer seems to forget and its the topic of today’s blog post. So with that in mind I scoured the internet looking for the most relevant content on this subject and here’s what I found.
These are tactics to employ and rules to follow which will dramatically increase your open and click thru rates. Add these to your daily routine and you’re sure to improve your bottom line.
- Use shorter sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
- Include 1-3 questions in your email.
- Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words.
- Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone.
- Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones.
- Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words.
- Use a subject line that looks like it is written to a friend.
Occasionally, add an emoji and you’ll get more opened emails. DO NOT use a first name or last name in the subject line. No one gets emails from friends with their name in them, so don’t stick out like a sore thumb! You want to be perceived as a friend’s email. THIS IS what will get your email opened. If the subject line is, “Our best lawnmower now on sale through April 13th.” VS “What cha listening to on that riding mower?” you can see why the second one would get opened more. Another one in this niche might be, “OMG! My grass is so green you’d think it was fake! (but it’s not!) Can’t wait to tell you!” Write subject lines that look like they are from a friend. Even my team can’t tell if I’m sending a sales campaign or a personal email with many of my subject lines. The ones that get them every time are, “Got a minute?” and “I had to tell yoU! :-)” (yes capitalize the U) and “When you’re free I gotta tell you something”. Try these out on your next campaign.
- When you write your next email campaign, think of one person and write it to them.
Some of my students who are learning copy will take a friends photo and put it near their monitor. They’ll look at their friend as they write. Just because 12,390 people are going to get your email sales letter it doesn’t mean you have to sound like you’re writing to 12,000+ people! Conversational copy converts at a higher rate because the reader feels as if they are ‘the only one’. The “whats in it for me” is also very effective when your client feels like you wrote the email just for them. Think about one person as you’re writing and speak conversationally; just like you would across a table having coffee. Or sipping wine. Your open rates will go up and so will your click thrus! When you have a link that you want the person to click through on, don’t say, “CLICK HERE NOW!” Instead be more personal, say something like “Here’s the info I promised” or “Let’s GO!” Small changes like this will make a big difference! (and use CAPS very very sparingly!)
- Use red like lipstick and yellow needs to be used even less!
Internet marketing years ago created a ‘template’ of sorts where people would use red and yellow at the top of every sales page and in all emails, for emphasis. But as social media became a huge part of how we do life everyday, more and more people started getting even more selective as to what emails they would now open and read. As a matter of fact, some Sp*M filters would look for red and yellow and instantly throw it into the junk pile. So we can’t use colors like we used to in email for emphasis. As a matter of fact, unless you are scrubbing and cleaning out your email list every single week, you are going to want use very little graphics and colored text. Make emphasis with BOLD or underlined or italics. Read your email out loud and see where emphasis needs to be made. Then use one of these formatting tools to make that emphasis. But use red and yellow very sparingly, if at all.
- Use Structure
An update should have 3, titled sections: what’s going well, what’s isn’t and specific asks for help. Every detail seems critical, but it’s not. Pull out the key insights that you’d share if you had to read someone in on your business in 30 seconds. What are your recent key wins? What will make or break your company this month/quarter? What 2-3 introductions or answers would get your to your next milestone?
- Keep It Short, Very Short
Your email should take up no more than a single desktop screen, no scrolling. Use bullet points, not paragraphs. Literally highlight the most important items and classify as the TLDR (too long, didn’t read) version. People are visual – make it easy to pick out the key points with just a glance.
- Make It Forwardable
I may not have an answer for you, but I might know someone who does. I may not be interested in investing, but maybe I have a friend who would be. Make it easy for people to pass along within their own networks, and explicitly encourage them to do so.
- Get to know your target prospect.
The most effective fishermen vary their bait depending on the fish they aim to catch. They know that bass, for example, go after earthworms. Carp love corn. Crappie respond well to rubber lures. Fishermen also adjust their technique depending on the time of day, the water conditions, and the season. They soak up as much information as possible about the fish and it’s environment, ultimately using their learnings to attract and, hopefully, hook.
As it happens, marketers operate similarly, learning as much as they can about their target prospects before casting them their message. Doing so makes it easier to highlight irresistible benefits throughout their copy. Benefits that relieve ultra-specific pain points, making the offer all the more compelling to the right audience.
To accurately and efficiently isolate your target prospect’s problems (which will illuminate the benefits most fascinating to them) start by answering a series of questions about their personal background, their company and the position they hold, and their challenges, goals, and shopping preferences. In other words, create a buyer persona. As a result, you’ll amass an abundance of invaluable information that you can then use to attract attention and inspire action.
- Exploit the psychology of exclusivity
If you want more buzz than you can handle, make your prospects feel special. Tell them they’ve been “hand-selected” or “randomly picked” to receive your offer. Isolate them … but in a good way. Make them feel important. People love feeling important.
In fact, self-esteem, or how we view ourselves, is near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That’s how important feeling important is to people. It’s a need marketers have been exploiting for decades …
In an article for Fast Company, Robert Rosenthal points us to this U.S. Marines tagline: “The Few. The Proud.” And this American Express tagline: “Membership has its privileges.”
The folks at Google played the exclusivity card, too, creating a frenzy when they launched a soft beta of Google+ and invited only a select few users to create a profile. Google’s marketing team wasn’t trying to be mean, they were trying to create desire (that compels) out of thin air. And they succeeded. Psychology’s good for that.
- Make it emotional.
When it comes to converting a prospect, the features of your product or service will only get you so far. Why? Because features appeal to your prospect’s logical brain. And purchases aren’t driven by logic. They hinge on emotion, which explains why good commercials make us want to laugh or cry or pick up the phone to call home.
For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign was so powerful and thought provoking that it went viral before such a thing even existed. The campaign has been active for over a decade, resonating with millions of women who were left feeling empowered by its message: you are not defined by your makeup.
That sentiment created countless emotional moments. Those emotions, then, were what drove Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign to its celebrated (and well-deserved) success.
(And when those moments weren’t compelling people to reach for Dove soap, they were driving a new social perspective, which is an entirely separate accomplishment.)
- Draw analogies and metaphors.
A confusing or dull message is rarely compelling, mainly because people don’t pay much attention to what they don’t perceive to be valuable. If you think about it, most things in life boil down to value. It’s a potent human driver. Therefore, as a copywriter, your job is to first and foremost figure out the value in what you’re selling and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words.
The latter is almost always harder to do. And if you’re new to copywriting, it could feel almost impossible, like trying to thread a needle while wearing hockey gloves. That’s where analogies and metaphors can lend a hand. They’re especially effective at putting concepts into perspective.
Here are a few examples of metaphorical taglines from The Houston Chronicle:
- Tropicana: “Your Daily Ray of Sunshine.”
- Werther’s Original Popcorn: “It’s What Comfort Tastes Like.”
- Burger King: “Subservient Chicken.”
See how these brands combine two starkly different concepts to tell a story or create an image? You can do that in your copy, too. As long as your juxtaposition makes sense — as long as it connects the dots and isn’t trite — you’re likely doing your reader a favor by helping them experience your offer in a fresh, descriptive, and interesting way.
- Avoid weasel words.
Weasel words are used by people who want their statements to maintain some plausible deniability. Politicians trying to avoid making any definitive comments, for instance, would use weasel words. Copywriters use them a lot, too, especially if their product’s promise is weak or loose. For example:
- “Viva Hand Cream fights dryness.” (i.e., you might not win.)
- “Reduce hair loss with Thick & Lush!” (i.e., you won’t cure it.)
- “Rent from as little as…” (i.e., you’re probably going to spend more.)
These words are named after weasels because of the way the little guys eat their eggs: puncturing a small hole and sucking out the contents, leaving the egg appearing intact but, nevertheless, very much empty. Ever held an empty egg? It’s fragile and delicate, right? Given the slightest bit of pressure, if feels like it would collapse.
Is that how you want your copy to come across? Weak and listless, like ants floating in a puddle? Of course not. So avoid the weasel words when you can. Your writing will be stronger, more authoritative, and more compelling for it.
- Create urgency.
The more relaxed and comfortable we are physically, the less eager we are to move. Nobody plops down in their favorite La-Z-Boy, puts their feet up, cracks a beer, and thinks, I can’t wait to get up. No. People don’t like moving when they’re in a comfy position.
Same goes for people in a comfortable state of mind. Therefore, if your copy leaves readers with the impression that your offer will always be there, patiently waiting for them to pull the trigger, they may use that as a justification to not convert on your call-to-action. They’ll sleep on it, consider their options, and weigh the pros and cons. And after all that, they may very well do nothing at all because you gave them the chance to talk themselves out of it.
Next time, create some urgency. Set a deadline, using time-sensitive language like “This offer ends tomorrow,” or “Last chance,” or “These savings won’t last forever.” You can also play the scarcity card, reminding them that “There are only a few seats left” or that “Supplies are limited.”
The point is to make your prospects feel uneasy about waiting. Strange as it sounds, the more uncomfortable they are, the more likely it is they’ll be compelled to act.
- Tailor your CTA.
When you want more brown rice at Chipotle, just ask.
When you want a five and five singles back instead of a ten, go ahead and ask.
When you look at them and everything turns to color and you want to spend your life with them, ask. Ask them to take that next step with you, and maybe they’ll smile and say “yes.” Hopefully, they do.
But you gotta ask. Whether you’re at Chipotle, in line at the grocery store, or in love, if you want something, typically, you have to ask for it. Why would copy be any different? That’s why a CTA, or a call-to-action, is one of the most compelling elements your copy can possess — as long as it’s well-executed.
In other words, don’t settle for the standard “Click now” copy every time. Instead, strive to make your CTAs simple and potent; creative and forthright. Most importantly, make sure to play to your audience. For example:
- If you’re going after an experimental SaaS audience,
then give them a “Start your free trial now” CTA.
- If you know your target persona to be curious and discovery-oriented,
then give them a “See how it works” CTA.
Now, are you going to compel everyone?
NO! Not even close. But don’t let that bother you. Copywriting, like any craft, is honed over time. So keep failing. Keep stubbing your toes on the hurdles. That’s natural.
What isn’t natural is writing effective copy that converts. That’s where these tips and techniques can help. Practice them and, over time, you’ll steadily compel more people to take action more often. Until one day, these techniques will become part of you, engrained in your skillset.
And then you’ll be dangerous on cue.