You have countless email marketing tools at your disposal and invest in the latest and greatest in email automation and technology.
However, there’s one thing you can’t ignore: Your email copy.
Consider these three elements of your emails that are text only:
- Preheader text
- Subject line
- Call to action
In addition to those three pieces, text-only emails are still a thing.
But you already know writing a marketing email well is important. What it boils down to: if you don’t have persuasive writing, how are you going to convince the recipient to take action?
How do you write a better marketing email?
The way you go about writing an effective marketing email is about the same as writing any kind of marketing piece—with a few exceptions.
Tip #1: Write like you speak
There’s a trap many people fall into when it comes time to write: corporate speak. No one likes reading emails written in “corporate speak” or its cousin ‘generic speak.”
So write like you speak. This way your email will have a friendly, conversational tone that’s more appealing and engaging.
Obviously, you’re going to have some brand guidelines to work within that will dictate to some degree what type of voice and tone you should have. Regardless, even the most formal brand-driven language of a B2B marketer is better off avoiding the dreaded language of corporate speak.
Tip #2: Be specific
Vagueness is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing an email.
For new marketing writers, it can be hard to be direct and ask someone to do something. They are more comfortable beating around the bush. Being direct is not usually polite in real life, but it’s imperative in marketing, especially email marketing.
So be specific. Explain why they are getting the email, why they should care, what they will get and what they should do to take advantage of this offer. Be specific about the offer, not just the details like price, but also the benefits.
To ensure clarity, have someone who knows nothing about the topic of your email, have them read it then summarize it for you. You’ll know from their summary if it was specific and clear — or not.
Tip #3: Revolve around your customer
The most important lesson to learn for writing better emails is: It’s not about you.
It’s not about you, nor your brand, your sales goals, or the pressure you’re getting from your boss to generate ROI.
These emails are about them, the people on the receiving end—the leads and prospects you want to win over as customers. This means your email must be about their desires (i.e. solve their problem), not your desires (i.e. sell more stuff).
Ask yourself: Which of your customer’s problems are you helping to solve with your email?
Your language is a quick surface indicator of how customer-centric you are. Count how many times you use the word “you” or “your” and compare that to the number of times you use “we” or “our.” If you’re using “you” more often, you’re doing a good job of being customer-focused.
3 special considerations when writing marketing emails
Although best practices for writing emails mirror general copywriting best practices as described above, email does differ from other forms of marketing content in that there are a few extra components that must also be carefully crafted or considered.
The preheader text:
The preheader text is what someone sees when they first see your email in their inbox and haven’t opened it yet.
How it appears, in what order and how much of it depends on the email service provider and device. However, the importance of it can’t be overlooked.
Your recipient is probably going to look at the “From” address of your email first when deciding whether or not this email is worth opening. Next, is the subject line. And if neither of those elements has compelled the recipient to open your email, your preheader text is next.
To write a good preheader text, think of it like a tagline to your subject line.
Do not—I repeat, do not—write a standard preheader text. You know the one, the “Having trouble viewing this email?” one.
Use your preheader text to compliment your subject line — It gives a little more detail about what the recipient will find inside.
The subject line:
If ever there were a neglected step child in the world of email marketing, it would be the subject line.This is tragic because 33% of recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone.
Advice on subject line best practices can be found online quite easily, and it’s a good idea to review at least some. But there is only one tried-and-true way to write the most effective subject lines for your email marketing campaigns: testing.
Again and again, real life goes counter to the best practices you’ll find. Best practices say subject lines should be short, but sometimes longer works better. Best practices say not to use certain words, but those words might work with your audience.
To get a feel for what kinds of best practices are out there, read the 17 subject line best practices from HubSpot then test to find your own.
Although there are some guidelines to writing subject lines that should apply across the board. Most importantly, your subject line needs to be truthful and accurately describe the content of your email. Trickery doesn’t work and generic subject lines are a waste of everyone’s time. Test to see what really works, but definitely, try beneficial or action-oriented subject lines.
Look at your own inbox and see which subject lines jump out at you. Ask yourself why and consider emulating the best examples.
When you’re testing, try long vs. short, this word vs. that word, numbers vs. words. Keep tweaking and testing until you get an idea of what works because after all, it’s a universal best practice.
The call to action:
All your hard work has paid off. Your preheader text and subject line got your email opened. Your content got your recipient engaged. Now they are interested enough to take the next step — so don’t blow it!
Remember: Your primary goal with your marketing email is to drive action. What that action is will depend on the goal of the email or campaign. It can be any number of actions and may not even be a click-through. It could simply be a phone call.
Your call to action (or CTA) can be a button or linked text. But what matters most is how the copy reads and where it’s located in the email. Since placement is beyond the scope of this post about writing a marketing email, we will focus on the words.
Like the subject line, your CTA will probably need testing to find out what works best, but specific and action-oriented is recommended. Generic wording such as “click here” tends to flop when compared to something focused such as “get started” or “download the guide” or “show me how to save money.” Your CTA is short but vital to the success of your email.
Much of the time email marketing content is poorly written because marketers are making common mistakes and errors that are easily rectified. Taking a few steps back away from the content to make sure you’re not using corporate speak but you’re being customer-centric will help. Finally, make sure you’re thoughtful to those three email-specific elements that are 100% text-based.