Writing effective email marketing copy is difficult. I know this because I’ve been writing email copy since the inception of email marketing. I’ve also been the recipient of incalculable thousands of email solicitations that I tend to read regardless of my level of interest. They’re very instructive.
How Important Is Quality?
One thing you may have noticed about email copywriting is that results don’t always match up with writing quality. That has certainly been true for me. Sloppy copy I was embarrassed to claim has produced terrific click-throughs and conversions. Near perfect copy has bombed.
Why is this the case? First, many factors beyond copywriting play into an email campaign’s success — the quality of the list, the subject line, the design, the timing and, most important of all, the offer. If the offer is lousy, expect lousy results no matter what. If the offer is superb, you have an excellent chance of achieving superb results even if the email copy is run-of-the-mill.
Get to Know the Customer
Effective email copy comes from understanding its reader. Many copywriters think they understand the reader, but they really don’t. For example, copywriters will often tell you how important originality is. They think this because in the marketing business, creativity is highly regarded. But the average customer doesn’t care about creativity or originality. The average customer cares about whether you can solve his problem or otherwise improve his quality of life.
That being the case, creativity can be a hindrance rather than a help in getting that message across. Why? Because now customers have to slow down and figure out something they’ve never seen before — and they may not have the time or patience to do that. You never want the style of your message to interrupt or interfere with the message.
Good email copy is straightforward and clear. It conveys useful information. It has a valuable offer and a crystal-clear call to action. If the email campaign has a muddled strategy and a mediocre offer, improve them before revising and re-revising the copy; otherwise, you’re just putting punctuation on a pig.
To understand the reader, talk to customers or at least read lots and lots of online reviews of your company, client and companies in the same field. That’s how you find out what customers like, what they don’t like and how they communicate.
Get to Know Yourself
Another excellent way to get your copy on the customer’s wavelength is to reflect on your reaction to email solicitations in your own inbox. As I mentioned earlier, this exercise is very instructive. I have found:
- I really dislike emails written as though the sender knows me, or even worse, already has a professional relationship with me.
- I really dislike emails that encourage me to act because the sender needs something, such as to fill in an appointment for a given time slot.
- I really dislike emails that berate or belittle me for being too stupid to have not taken action on the previous email or five emails.
- I really dislike emails that ask for any sort of live, phone, or virtual meeting. These things are too intrusive and too time-consuming.
- I can’t remember whether I’ve received previous emails from a sender, or even whether I already know who most senders are.
- I much prefer a lack of personalization to phony personalization.
Get to Know the Basics
Once you’ve got a feel for the reader, the substance, style and tone of your copy should strike the right chords. But checking the basics is always important:
- Short sentences and paragraphs
- Minimal use of bold, italics and other formatting complications
These basics make your copy readable and maximize your credibility. True, many readers will not notice a spelling error — but how many new customers do you want to let slip through the cracks because you didn’t take the time to edit your copy? Customer acquisition is hard enough as it is without making it harder with poor proofreading.
Test Your Assumptions
Email marketing facilitates effective testing. You think personalization is the way to go? Everybody seems to agree, so why not test that assumption. Perhaps, in a world where everybody is personalizing, an impersonal email just might stand out. Does conventional wisdom in your business say short copy sells? To me, that’s an invitation to go long. When you do a bold test, you’ve got nothing to lose and a big competitive edge to gain.