The Email Copywriting Process You Need to Get More Conversions
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You’ve probably heard email marketing gets 4,000% ROI.
It might not be exact, but it gets repeated to drive home a very real point.
Email converts at an extremely high rate.
But, what if your own email efforts aren’t generating that kind of return?
You might be wondering what you’re doing wrong. Or, whether the talk around email is all hype and no substance.
Either way, you need to do something. Fast. Your business literally depends on it.
Sharpening your email copywriting skills is part of solving that equation.
Writing high-converting emails that get clicked is an art and a craft. Even if you’re decent at it, there’s always room to improve.
And without well-written copy, you’ll struggle to keep your list engaged, and convince them to switch from passively consuming content, to becoming loyal paid customers.
Fortunately, that means you wield a lot of power as a marketing email writer. What matters next, though, is how well you can execute consistently to convert leads into cash.
First, Get Organized With Free Email Copywriting + Calendar Templates …
Email copywriting is challenging. But, doing your best work becomes easier when you’re organized. So, plan ahead and keep copy projects straight with:
- A free email calendar template (Excel). Map out every email send ahead of time.
- An email newsletter template (Word). Need to write copy for a designer or developer to turn into a finished newsletter? Give them all the info they need to get it right.
- A call to action template (PDF). Get good at converting customers with the power of words.
Download all three for free, and then follow this process to sharpen your copy skills.
… Or Organize Email Marketing With CoSchedule
CoSchedule has long been an industry-leading marketing management platform for planning and executing marketing projects with teams.
And now, it integrates with your favorite email marketing platforms, too. With Email Marketing from CoSchedule, you can:
- Seamlessly integrate with your *favorite* email marketing platform. CoSchedule integrates with MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, and Active Campaign.
- Write click-worthy email subject lines...every time. With Email Marketing, you can use CoSchedule’s *exclusive* Email Subject Line Tester to optimize and perfect every subject line to drive more opens, more clicks, and more conversions.
- Get full visibility into your ENTIRE marketing strategy. Manage your entire email copywriting workflow in one place (along with all your other marketing projects and campaigns).
And when it’s this easy to manage + optimize your already-powerful email marketing strategy…
… you can spend less time getting organized, and more time crafting creative copy.
Why is Email Copywriting Important?
If you’re here, you know email marketing matters.
Or, at the very least, you’ve been tasked with writing email copy.
Why exactly is it important, though? Start by taking a look at these statistics:
What Does Good Email Copywriting Look Like?
It’s easier to emulate success when you have good examples to follow. Here are some samples of effective and well-written emails to inspire your own.
Here’s a simple example from a snippet of an email newsletter from MarketingProfs:
In the top content block, the headline establishes a clear benefit (ranking first in Google) even if you’re facing a problem (you don’t own the top spot for a given keyword). Not only does this promise to teach you something valuable, but it creates intrigue. How exactly can one rank first … if you don’t have the top search result?
It then leads the reader to the answer: “featured snippets.” (This is legitimately great advice, too).
Best of all, if you click to read the article, you’ll learn exactly what featured snippets are, and how you can earn more of them to help your company’s site rank. It also manages to inform the reader of all these things using an efficient number of words.
Now, quality copywriting doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. This simple offer email from Bitdefender opens with a strong benefit (keeping all devices safe, everywhere), then piles on more clear benefits. It all leads toward a single CTA, and a compelling offer to buy now before the offer expires.
This is simple stuff, but it works.
This example from custom clothing brand Threadless creatively connects its subhead to an actual interior decorating challenge: making the most of limited space.
Notice that it never once references a product or an offer. Instead, it uses the image to show off a well-decorated space (incidentally, with products they sell). Then, they promise to show you how to improve your home decor, even if you don’t have much room to work with.
Similarly, this example from Adobe highlights a common problem, and promises to deliver a solution. Simple, and to the point.
Joanna Wiebe / Copyhackers
When it comes to copywriting, Joanna Wiebe is one of the best in the business. Get on the Copyhackers email list now and enjoy a steady stream of excellent examples in your inbox.
Here’s one well-written plain text email.
Here’s what this email does well:
- It starts with a stance (all writing is copy).
- Acknowledges potential for disagreement.
- Leads the reader through a detailed and compelling explanation with relatable examples.
- Lists things the reader could be doing better (writing all different types of copy).
- Then, promises to show the reader how to improve.
This email also maintains a conversational tone all the way through, which is extra important for plain text emails (especially is your name is synonymous with your brand—people want to feel like they’re reading something written by a human, not a company, in such a case).
Copywriting 101: Give It Some Feeling
So, like Joanna implies in the previous example, copywriting is copywriting.
Sure, the mechanics of how you write for different channels may change. Email is certainly no exception there (or else this post wouldn’t be written). But, many of the fundamentals of writing copy remain consistent, no matter the medium.
With that in mind, let’s cover some of the basics. Following these simple tips will get you far.
Know Your Audience
Make zero assumptions about who you’re writing for.
Even if you, as an individual, are similar to your target market, it’s best to lean on research and learn as much about your audience as possible.
Some basic things you should know:
- Age range.
- Gender mix.
- Geographic location.
- Job title.
- Hobbies and interests.
- Pain points.
Know Your Product
If you’re not an expert on the product you’re selling outside of work (say, you’re selling musical instruments, but you don’t play one), then learn as much as you can. Here’s how:
- Read what your audience reads. Whether that means blogs, magazines, research reports, or whatever, read it all. Learn how your target audience talks, thinks, and sounds.
- Talk to someone internally who knows your products. That could mean an engineer, product designer, head of marketing, whoever in your organization knows the history and value of your products the most.
- Try using your own products. This might be tough depending on your situation. But, let’s say you sell musical instruments, but can’t hold a tune to save your life. At the very least you could try holding some instruments, make some noise, and see what they actually look and feel like. That’ll help immensely when it comes to writing email copy about them.
Identify Pain Points
Customers buy stuff to fix problems.
Your job, intrepid email copywriter, is to know those pain points, and offer a solution.
Some common pain points might include:
- Difficulty doing a task because existing solutions are sub-par.
- Inability to get something done because the customer doesn’t own any product or solution at all (yet).
- Outdated or worn out products are holding them back.
- They need to do something, but don’t know how.
So, those are generic examples. To really know specifically what your audience is struggling with, you’ll need to do some research.
- Interviewing subject matter experts. Does someone in your company know a lot about your target audience (ideally through first-hand experience)? Talk to them.
- Survey your audience. Twitter polls and survey tools like SurveyMonkey make this relatively simple.
- Read industry publications. And make note of which topics they cover. You can learn a lot about what a particular audience considers to be a problem this way.
Sell Benefits, Not Features
Did you know the iPhone X uses an A11 bionic chip with 64-bit architecture?
Probably not, because no one cares.
You’re probably more that it:
- Takes awesome photos.
- Looks cool.
- Works better than your screen-shattered iPhone 5s.
So, if you were writing an email to promote the newest iPhone (bear with us), what would you focus on: a dry list of features detailing technical specs, or the fact that people can turn their face into a cartoon animal?
It turns out people really want to turn their face into a fox.
You might double down on why that matters to customers, too:
- No other phone offers animoji. That’d be playing up the fear of missing out.
- It’s a status symbol. Apple products are well-made and attractively designed.
- It’s faster than an older iPhone. And that means doing literally anything with it will be easier.
Features are important, but benefits are what sell. Show your audience why their life will be better with your product, and leave dry details to spec sheets and other supporting content.
Keep It Clear and Concise
How long is perfect copy?
As long as it needs to be. Most often, that’s not long at all.
Now, there’s a real debate to be made over whether short or long copy sounds best.
But, everyone can agree that excess verbiage helps nothing.
Take a moment to reexamine the examples listed earlier in this post. One thing they have in common? Tight, punchy sentences.
Aim for no more than 20 words per sentence, and three to four sentences per paragraph.
Use Words That Increase Open Rates …
Words matter. Especially when you have limited space.
Check out this cheat sheet for terms proven to increase opens:
Stick to One Clear Call-to-Action
Ultimately, the goal of your email is to drive one specific action.
If you try to direct your audience in too many directions, they’re more likely to get confused, or end up somewhere other than the one place you want them to visit most.
Stay focused here.
Keep This Infographic Around For Reference
This infographic from GrammarCheck is worth keeping handy:
Step 1. Know Your Goal
This can be broken down into two parts:
- What is your email about?
- What does your email need to achieve?
The first question should be simple enough. Some things your email might cover include:
- Promoting a piece of content.
- Getting the word out about an event.
- Advertising a sale.
- Informing customers about new products.
Second, understand what needs to happen as a result of sending your email:
- Increasing referral traffic to your site or blog.
- Driving event registrants.
- Selling more products.
This is all standard stuff. But, it all informs how you write your email.
Step 2: Knock Out Your Subject Line
Your initial success hinges on your subject line.
It’s the first thing your recipient will see in their inbox. If it isn’t compelling, all your hard work writing and designing your email will be for nothing.
No pressure or anything.
So, make sure you get it right. This will require some trial and error, but having the right knowledge on your side will tilt the odds of success in your favor.
Keep ‘Em Short
Data shows that brief subject lines tend to perform best.
Sure, this is based on averages of accumulated data, and doesn’t necessarily apply in all circumstances. But, generally speaking, it’s best to get to the point quickly here.
According to CoSchedule’s Head of Demand Generation, Nathan Ellering, the best-performing subject lines are just 17-24 characters long.
That’s super short. It also places incredible weight on the value of each character and word you include. With that few characters, you probably won’t have more than three to five words to work with. Nathan’s research corroborates this:
So, why does his research appear to show shorter = better? One plausible theory is because email clients on mobile phones only display a limited number of characters. In fact, iPhone users see 35-38 characters, while Samsung Galaxy owners see about 33 characters.
It makes sense, then. If the most important or compelling part of your email is cut off, fewer people will click.
So, keep your subject lines brief, and keep them action-oriented.
Write ‘Em in Title Case
Writing email subject lines in sentence case, or even all in lowercase, might look and sound more conversational.
And, as we’re often told, great copy should be conversational.
That advice is timeless, and it isn’t wrong.
But, when it comes to subject lines, data shows title case works best.
- Title Case Example: Do Small Dogs Bark Loudest?
- Sentence Case Example: Do small dogs bark loudest?
- Lower Case Example: do smaller dogs bark loudest?
The difference isn’t extreme. But, a 4.2% gap over sentence-case, and 6.7% over all-lowercase, is significant. It could be that title case appears more professional, or at least, more in line with what people expect to see from a brand (versus friends or family).
Writing in sentence or lowercase isn’t bound to kill your success rates. When in doubt, though, lean toward title case.
Use Action-Driven Language
You’re writing an email because you want people to do something. So, nudge readers to action right away.
Try following this sentence structure:
“Use [VERB] to [PERFORM ACTION] to [ACHIEVE BENEFIT].”
Here’s what this might look like in practice:
“Use CoSchedule to manage your marketing team and get organized.”
That’s a basic example, but it forms the generic structure of a lot of sales writing. The key is to connect your product with an action and a benefit using an appropriate action verb.
Incorporate Words Shown to Increase Opens
Using these words won’t guarantee success. You’ll still have to, you know, write a good subject line. But, they’ll help:
Use the Email Subject Line Tester
Finally, how can marketers have some assurance their subject lines are strong?
Use the Email Subject Line Tester.
Start by entering your subject line:
Then, get your score:
Following that, you’ll see which words you’ve used that increase (and decrease) opens:
Get an analysis of your case and number usage (stats and numbers help):
Get tips on how to optimize your word and character count:
And finally, see how your subject line might appear in an inbox:
This tool is available both as a free webpage, and is built directly into CoSchedule.
Writing Your Body Copy
Now, finally, it’s time to buckle down on writing some actual email copy.
Keep It Concise
The general best practice for web writing is to keep sentences under 20 words, and paragraphs under three sentences. Those guidelines are good enough to pay attention to for email.
Use Conversational Language
Leave jargon to technical user manuals. Copywriting is all about creating a conversation with your customer. So, use language they’ll understand.
Here’s a bad example:
“The iPhone X uses a 5.8 in. Super Retina AMOLED display and a dual 12MP camera.”
Both points are factually accurate and contribute to the phone’s quality. But, if we were going to push this in an email, it’d be better to use plain English to convey benefits first.
Here’s a better example:
“Make photos bigger, brighter, and better with the industry’s best smartphone camera.”
Hear the difference? The first one is dry and factual. The second one conveys a clear benefit and appeals to the reader’s emotional need to have the best product possible (both for functional needs and status).
Understand Message Match
Whatever benefit or hook exists in your subject line, had better be blatantly clear in your body copy.
There’s not much to understanding this. Just be sure that if your subject line tells people you’re going to offer them Benefit A, don’t switch it up with copy that pushes Benefit B instead.
This post won’t offer examples outing anyone guilty of this, but it happens more often than you’d think.
Writing Your Call to Action
The success of your copy hinges on the call to action.
It serves one purpose: to get people to do what you want.
That could mean clicking through to reading content on your blog. Or registering for a course. Or directly buying a product.
Whatever your goal may be, if your body copy serves up a pitch, the CTA hits it out of the park.
A typical CTA will have two elements:
- A line of body copy. This is the text that directs people to the next step.
- A button or linked text. This is what people actually click to take the next step.
Both are important and work in conjunction with one another. To write them well, keep the following in mind:
- Write short. A CTA should be punchy and brief.
- Use action verbs. If you want people to take an action, use words that imply action.
The body communicates a benefit. The button informs action. Put both those items together, and you’ve got yourself a CTA.
If this were a plain text email, linked text might replace using a button. Here are some hypothetical examples:
- Pre-order your iPhone X here.
- Find out where to get an iPhone X in your city.
- Get the iPhone X first.
In this case, the functions of the body text and button may need to be rolled into one line.
To get started, experiment with the words on this list:
Putting It All Together: Writing Actual Email Copy
You’ve seen plenty of examples, and you’ve got some basic copywriting advice. Now, let’s try putting it all together to write a hypothetical marketing email.
For demonstration purposes, this next section will walk through writing an email for a fictional company called Mia’s Seed Supply. They’re promoting a seminar at their store to help farmers and growers improve their yields.
Acknowledging the Problem
The first thing to do is identify the problem. Why would someone want to go to this seminar, anyway?
Here’s a few reasons:
- They’re struggling to get their plants to grow because their region is notorious for poor-quality soil.
- Unpredictable weather patterns make watering appropriately difficult.
- Some people are beginners and need help getting started.
Start With the Subject Line
For the purposes of writing this email, the next step is writing a subject line. Come up with at least two you can A/B test, and up to five if you’re writing for a client, and want to give them choices.
If you're a CoSchedule user, you can do this directly in-app on any piece of email content you create:
Remember, the subject line should be:
- Short. Three to five words, ideally.
- Get to the point. How much of the story can be told in under five words?
- Incorporate a number if possible. Stats and numbers help increase opens.
Knowing this, here are some options Mia could go with:
- Get 300% Better Seed Growth (ESLT Score: 63 out of 100)
- Grow Plants 300% Easier (ESLT Score: 61 out of 100)
- Learn what to do about tough soil. (ESLT Score: 68 out of 100)
Lead With a Problem or Relatable Situation
Now, once you start writing your body copy, be sure to connect your intro to your subject line. Readers want to know that they didn’t get duped into a bait-and-switch.
Here’s a basic opener:
Planting seeds around here is, well, stressful.
The soil conditions aren’t ideal. In fact, they’re awful.
And this spring weather doesn’t do you any favors, either.
If you’re just starting out, it’s enough to make you wonder, “Maybe gardening isn’t for me.”
This ties into real problems Mia’s customers face. Plus, it empathizes with how they’re feeling (frustrated).
Then Offer a Solution
With the pain point identified and agitated, it’s time to roll out the solution:
Fortunately, you’re not the first gardener to feel that way (whew!)
Even better, success is within your reach.
Join us on April 30th at Mia’s Seed Supply for “How to Successful Grow Seeds in Tough Soil With No Experience.”
You’ll learn exactly how to:
- Pick the best seeds for your garden conditions.
- Plan a smart watering schedule around unpredictable weather patterns.
- Make your growing season successful no matter your skill level.
Plus, we’ll have free coffee and snacks (and you gotta get your coffee anyway, right?)
In this section, Mia has now addressed her customer’s core concerns, communicated clear benefits, and even threw in an added bonus (free coffee is a powerful motivator).
Add a Call to Action
Finally, time for the closer. The call-to-action:
BODY: Get your most growth this spring!
BUTTON: Register Now
There’s a benefit, and an action. That’s all there is to it!
Managing Email Marketing Workflows With CoSchedule
If you’re writing marketing emails, you’ll need to have a workflow.
And you’ll need a platform to manage that workflow.
Think about all the steps involved:
- Ideation and research
- Writing copy
- Handing off for coding and design
- Scheduling email delivery
Plus, email is usually integrated with broader campaigns. So, what’s the best way to make sure workflow snafus don’t derail your creative copy’s success?
Start by getting organized and managing email alongside every other piece of every other campaign.
As an all-in-one marketing management platform, that’s something CoSchedule is built for.
Then, choose your ESP. Currently, CoSchedule integrates with MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Active Campaign, and Constant Contact (with more services to be added in the future):
Then, apply a Task Template (a reusable and fully customizable workflow checklist):
Here’s a hypothetical checklist an email copywriter could use:
- Write five subject lines.
- Craft email copy.
- Proof email copy.
- Hand off email for design.
- Stage email in ESP.
- Schedule delivery date and time.
Then, as you’re working through your email, use Discussion Threads to manage communication with designers (if you’ll need graphics created for your email, or work with another team member to proof your copy):
All through the process, your team will see the email on your marketing calendar (alongside every other project the team is responsible for):
That’s the short version. If you’re looking for a free alternative to plan email in advance and manage your team, use the free email marketing calendar (Excel) included in this post. It’ll get you started in proactively planning, getting organized, and executing copy more effectively.
Get Out There and Convert More Customers
You’ve just absorbed a lot of info. So, here’s a recap:
- You understand the value of stressing benefits over features. People buy better versions of themselves, not features on a spec sheet.
- You can craft complete narratives efficiently. You don’t always have a lot of space to write in marketing emails. But, you now know how to fit everything you need, in logical order, into the space you have available.
- You understand the mechanics of email copywriting. From nailing your subject lines, to writing persuasive body copy, to crafting calls to action that convert, you have it all under your belt.
Plus, you’ve got plenty of examples to help you emulate success, and all the tools you need to get organized and execute email copy projects.
From here, it’s up to you to succeed. Practice makes perfect, and remember, like with all things related to email marketing, test everything. If your first effort fails, keep refining until results improve.
May 9, 2018