Eric Gordon
Author: Eric Gordon  |  

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues.

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Everyone does email marketing nowadays, but does it still have the capability to engage subscribers with so many newsletters arriving in everyone’s inboxes? Does it still have the potential to convert subscribers to customers?

According to Forbes, email marketing continues to be a great vehicle for lead generation, inspite of the popularity of social media platforms and all the marketing methods that have been designed to help generate more leads and sales from them.

Why Email Marketing Still Works

Recent statistics also point to the fact that email marketing is still effective mainly because people still check their emails before referencing any other source of information, be it online or offline.

Most people, 58% to be exact, check their emails before watching the news, using a search engine, or opening their social media accounts.

Source: OptinMonster

In other words, email is a great way to reach and engage an audience before they start to engage with other online platforms, news outlets, or entertainment channels.

Your email message has a good chance of being the first message to greet your prospects upon awakening and so setting the tone for their day!

Once a prospect has already signed up to your list, you already know they are at least somewhat interested in your product or service, which makes the sales process that much easier. Combine that with an early touch point, and you have got a recipe for engagement and possible conversions.

The fact that you own your email list and are not limited by the policies and restrictions of other online marketing vehicles like Google and Facebook makes email marketing all the more worth it.

If email marketing is so great does that mean it is infallible?

The short answer: No.

In order for it to produce the results you want and need for your business, you must strategically design your overall email marketing strategy. It should suit the needs and wants of your subscribers.

To design an effective email marketing strategy, you should be effective at email copywriting - how to engage and convert your subscribers and how not to upset them so that they unsubscribe.

This guide is intended to shed some light on some of the major email marketing mistakes you should avoid as well as 5 email copywriting tips to employ to keep your list engaged so that they continue to stay on your list and continue to purchase what you have to offer for years to come.

Write Your Emails with a Purpose in Mind

Before getting into the specific do’s and don'ts of email copywriting, you should first understand the cardinal rule of email copywriting:

Write with a purpose!

  1. Are you trying to get your subscribers to buy through your email copy?
  2. Are you crafting up an informative newsletter to add value to their lives?
  3. Are you going “off list” and trying to write an email to an influencer or blogger for a guest post or a “shout-out”?

Each of these emails will require a very different approach and style. In other words, don’t craft generic emails to suit all purposes.

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When to Write a Sales Copy

If you already have a list of highly-targeted and interested subscribers, you are going to want to sell to them at some point.

Maybe you already have tried selling to them through your autoresponder sequence or several email “blasts” but have not seen the conversion rates you desire. If that is the case, then you need to include the essentials within your email sales copy.

A good sales copy contains the benefits, a good CTA, and a story.

First, show them the benefits. Your subscribers are already on your list because you have added some sort of value to their lives. Why not continue to add value by offering them products and services that will further benefit them?

Listing product or service benefits helps to increase sales as it elicits an emotional response, which is how 95% of purchases are made in the first place.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Follow up with a call-to-action. CTA for short is a part of a piece of content strategically crafted and located to get an audience to take a specific action.

You mostly see CTA’s in the form of a button on a lead gen form or sprinkled throughout a sales page but they can also be used effectively in an email campaign.

A CTA usually comes at the end of the email, right after you have given your benefit-laden “spiel”. The reader should be able to click on it and be redirected to the offer.

The following is a list of high-converting CTA’s that can be used within a broad range of content formats:

  1. Sign Up
  2. Subscribe
  3. Try for Free
  4. Get Started
  5. Learn More
  6. Join Us
  7. Buy Now

Finally, entertain your subscribers with stories. Even a sales piece can be entertaining! In fact, it should be entertaining.

People like to buy but no one likes to be sold to.

Now, this does not mean that you shouldn’t sell, just do it in an entertaining way. There are two mistakes man marketers and businesses make when it comes to selling to their list: they are either selling too much or not selling enough.

Some marketers give their list tons of informative and useful content but do not ask for the sale.

Others are always bombarding their list with offers but not engaging them in an informative and entertaining way.

The best approach is to sell without selling. This can be done through storytelling.

There are several reasons why telling stories through your email copy can increase your sales rates:

  1. Stories are entertaining and so people do not feel like they are being sold, just told something of interest.
  2. Information is easily processed through a story - human beings are actually hardwired to process information in this way. Basically, everything a person needs to know about a product or service they can gather from a good-old-fashioned story without having to bore them with facts, figures, and features.
  3. Stories help to persuade a person to buy more than many other forms of marketing communication methods. Take for example the movie “Top Gun”. This movie was able to convince a lot of young men to join the Navy even though it never even mentioned doing so once during the entire film.

When to Write a Newsletter

Aren’t email newsletters a bit outdated? Newsletters are the most popular form of emails sent by businesses today, so the answer to that question would be, NO!

There are four main reasons that explain their popularity:

  1. They help to build a strong relationship between a brand and its subscribers.
  2. They keep readers up-to-date and informed of company trends, news, and updates.
  3. They help establish and reinforce a company’s story & reputation.
  4. They help popularize and increase the visibility of a company’s products and services. Of course, all these benefits that newsletters offer are contingent on how well the newsletter is written and how often as well.

To this end, there are a few pointers that all newsletter marketers should follow to get the most out of them:

  1. Design newsletter content specifically tailored to your subscribers: offer solutions to their problems, show them how they can reach their goals, and help to ease their fears and doubts about specific problems and worries they may be facing.
  2. Do not write too much as newsletter readers are more of “skimmers” than readers. Try to get to the point as fast as possible. It’s also a good idea to turn to professionals like those at Trust My Paper to write laconic newsletter texts for the success of your campaign.
  3. Create a sense of exclusivity about your newsletter where subscribers actually feel like they have been specifically chosen to be a part of something grand. You can offer exclusive deals and offers or even specialized content to them just for subscribing (being chosen) to be a part of your list.
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When to Write for Outreach

Email marketing is not limited to your subscribers. You can use your email copywriting knowledge to design engaging and high-converting outreach campaigns as well.

Trying to promote your content, get more backlinks to your site, or get an influencer to give your product an honest review on their site or social media account is what outreach marketing is all about.

The problem, however, is usually how marketers perform their outreach.

Most outreach efforts begin with a generic email template which is already being used by a bunch of other marketers. If the blog or site owner is truly influential and has a large reader base, then they get the same “canned” email requests in their inbox every day, which will most likely end up in their email trash bin.

A screenshot of generic outreach email
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Instead, an outreach email, or series of emails, should be unique and original to attract attention and increase the likelihood of getting acceptance for a guest post, product review, or a shout-out.

Here is how to do just that:

  1. Include the name of the recipient, preferably within your subject line, as
    personalization will get you a higher open-rate.
  2. First, help before you pitch. Offer something in return before you ask them for their help. Giving value goes a long way in getting an honest consideration. You can offer them something as simple as sharing their most recent post with your subscribers before asking them to let you share yours with theirs. This should be done within the first two paragraphs or so.
  3. Your call-to-action should be clear and beneficial for both of you. It can tie in nicely with your offer to help, such as the example listed above where you offer a shared post for a shared post. You could also write about how your guest posts have helped out readers of other sites you guest wrote for and provide them with examples of such.
  4. Create trust by using your personal signature email at the end of your copy. Your signature should include your name, website URL, and social media profiles.

How to Detect and Avoid Common Email Marketing Pitfalls

Even the best copy in the world will do you no good if you can’t avoid the pitfalls, so here’s a little reminder on the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

1) Never write for everyone!

Founder of Copyhackers, Joanna Wiebe, says that email blasts that go out to everyone as well as sending emails that sound like they are intended for everyone are two of the biggest mistakes an email marketer can commit.

She even goes so far as to say to tailor specific emails to different segments of your list and send them separately so that it feels that you are writing specifically for them.

This involves extra work but in her experience - she has produced 100% email open rates and increased order value by 20% for her clients - it produces higher conversions than any other copywriting tactic she employs.

2) Ditch Cliches & Sales Talk

Do you like to be sold to or do you like to buy? Of course, everyone prefers buying as no one likes a pushy salesperson, or for that matter, a pushy sales message. "Salesy" is synonymous with "cheesy", so do not include any cliches or overused expressions within your subject line or body of your email copy.

How can you tell what cliches and sales talk not to use? Just look at your inbox or in your spam folder and skim the subject lines to see which ones make you nauseous.

This is a good way to identify great copy as well, as any headlines that grab your attention and entice you to read on have probably been crafted by an expert email marketer or master copywriter.

The following 5 cliche subject lines will almost always end up in the trash bin, so it is best to avoid them or anything resembling them. Here’s a good list of them and the reasons why they are bad:

A screenshot of a cell phone

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So, if those are some of the most common subject lines to avoid what are some subject lines to incorporate - which ones offer subscribers some value and get clicks?

The following guide offers over 295 high-performing subject lines so you will never run out of ideas for your email headlines. Just don’t forget that the best results will come if you’re authentic and do some good old A/B testing to see what works better.

3) Compelling Email Copywriting Tips

You know that email is still a viable and effective marketing medium.
You know the different ways in which you can use email to market your products and services.
You know the most common mistakes to avoid when it comes to writing email copy.

Now, all that is left is to gain some insight into how to write and market your emails so that they engage and convert.

Some tips have already been given above but the remainder of this guide will give you some more in-depth and specific email copywriting tips you can apply across most of your email marketing campaigns including lead-capture campaigns and one-time email sends.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

Without further ado, here are the 5 email copywriting guidelines that will help make your emails stand out and keep your subscribers and recipients interested and engaged:

1) Actionable & Value-Based Subject Lines

The importance of grabbing a recipient’s attention through subject lines was already touched upon above. The main point was to grab their attention so that they would open the email and read on.

One of the best ways to grab attention through a subject line is with verbs or other actionable phrases and language.

  • Treat Yourself to a Nice Lunch.
  • Don’t Miss Eddie Murphy.
  • Download Microsoft Windows 10 Today.

What are the commonalities in the above 3 email subject lines? Well, for one thing, they all give the recipient a clear indication of what is to be gained if they open the email - value is established first in their minds.

While the first subject line and the third one rely heavily on specific verbs to signify an action to take, the third one is more indirect in its approach as it uses a clever play on words that promotes a specific action.

Actionable subject lines do not necessarily need to use verbs to entice an action but it should contain a series of words that indicate one. Here are some of the actionable subject lines that you can refer to grab the recipient's attention.

2) Subject & Body Alignment

Why should the body of your email deliver on what the subject line promised? Because it builds trust and increases open rates.

Building trust with your email list is important if you want to be able to sell t them in the long run. If you continually make a promise in your subject line that is not congruent with what the body of your email copy supplies, this trust between you and your list will be broken and your unsubscribe rate will go up and your open rate will go down.

Building trust also gets your subscribers to open more of your emails as they know that what they are opening is going to give them more information on what was alluded to in the subject line.

High open rates do not necessarily reflect high sales unless those open rates are backed by email copy that delivers on what was promised.

Hubspot, an inbound marketing service & software company, found that when they delivered more accurate subject lines their open rates increased by over 15%.

3) Second Person Copy

The second person is a point of view, where the author talks to the audience and uses words like you, your, and you’re.

Why is this important?

Any good advertising copy is oriented towards the reader and pronouns like “you” and “your” confirms that the marketing message is all about them.

Second person copy helps keep the message and value stay focused on the reader and not the brand so that the message itself does not seem like a sales pitch but rather a helpful email that has the reader's best interests at heart.

4) Benefits over Features

What do you think is more valuable to your reader, what your product or service does or what it offers them? If you chose the latter, you are correct!

Your copy is all about the reader and not you, your product, or even your brand.

When crafting up a sales email, you can still list your product’s features, and so you should, but not before giving the reader a taste of what it can do for them.

A screenshot of a social media post

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Think of benefits as emotions and features as logic. Do you want to trigger an emotional response before you speak to the logical aspect of a reader’s mind?

People buy on emotions and justify their purchase with logic afterward. Therefore, it makes sense to appeal to their emotional nature first within your email copy before listing out what your product or service actually does.

5) Brevity Above All

No one wants to read an entire story in an email!

Emails are designed to get a certain point across in the most concise way possible, so if you are sending your subscribers or other email recipients emails with hundreds or even thousands of words of copy, you run the risk of boring them to death, thus making them less responsive to future emails.

Only offer enough content to further expand upon the subject line and if more information is required, you can direct them to another page - your website, for instance - where they can take a closer look at what you have to offer.

A good example of this is the following email provided by Postmates, an on-demand delivery company.

Notice how they immediately tell their readers about their free “on-demand lattes” right after a short introduction. They then offer a few more brief pieces of information before concluding with a clear call-to-action.

In order to ensure that you are keeping your copy as brief and to the point as possible, use the following guidelines before crafting any email:

  1. Focus on one main point you want to get across in your email.
  2. Define one action which you want your readers to take.
  3. Offer only one call-to-action at the end of your copy.
  4. Impose a word limit before writing (75 to 100 words seems to get the best response rates).
  5. Keep small talk to a bare minimum and only include it at the beginning of your email.
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Bonus Material: Email Templates

The above tips and guidelines should be enough to get you started on the road to becoming a better email copywriter but if you would like some more examples of what good email copy should look, sound, and feel like, you can reference the following free responsive email template guide:

1500 Plus Responsive Email Templates for 2019

Here you will find the largest compiled list of tested email templates that are proven to work in the following areas:

  • Generic Emails
  • Newsletters
  • Product Announcements
  • Deal Announcements
  • Product Launches
  • E-commerce Emails
  • Marketing Emails
  • Promotional Emails
  • Welcome Emails
  • Upsells
  • Announcements
  • Special Events

…..and a whole lot more!

Just be sure to apply the tips provided above no matter which email template you choose to model to ensure that your recipients open your emails, stay engaged, and convert into paying customers.

If you apply all the resources that have been given to you within this guide, you can begin your next email campaign as an email copywriter instead of just another email advertiser who relies on cheap tricks to get opens but who only ends up with disappointed subscribers and very little sales.

The image used in the blog header is taken from