Learning to write great copy is a crucial skill for marketers of all sorts to master. Having great email skills will allow you to stay in touch with people in your audience, make long term sales and increase your average visitor value.
Email copywriting differs from regular copywriting in several important ways. First, you’re competing against dozens of other emails for attention. Second, you’re getting people who’re often doing other things – Working, checking Facebook, etc. Third, there are technical matters to consider, such as deliverability and spam compliance.
Here are ten copywriting tips to help you get the maximum clickthroughs and maximum sales possible in the long run.
Tip #1: Use a Swipe File
Don’t try to come up with all your copywriting ideas yourself. This is not just difficult but nearly impossible. Even the best copywriters in the world regularly take ideas from other copywriters. You are no exception.
Create an email account specifically for collecting marketing messages. Go around the sites in your industry and sign up for all their mailing lists.
Next time you need ideas on copywriting, just pop into your swipe file account. Browse the headlines and the copy for ideas. Don’t steal sentences, but take other people’s ideas and shape them into your own.
Tip #2: Write 10 Subject Lines
When a world class copywriter writes a direct mail piece, they often write between 50 and 100 headlines before choosing the one that they run with. It’s the most important sentence of the whole mail piece and the effort more than pays off.
The same is true with the subject line in email marketing. If your subject line isn’t compelling, you email isn’t going to get opened.
Of course, writing 100 subject lines for every email simply isn’t realistic. Instead, write at least 10 different subject lines for every email you send. Pick the best one from the bunch and refine it.
Tip #3: Use Plain Text if Possible
Sending HTML email can be a bit risky. Different email clients can display your HTML messages differently across different clients. Some clients won’t display your HTML message right. Others will block images and make your email look unprofessional.
Direct response email marketers generally agree that plain text messages are a surer bet than HTML messages.
Use plain text if possible in your email marketing.
Tip #4: Focus on the First Sentence
When people open an email, the first thing they do is read the first sentence. They may also briefly scan the entirety of the email to see what the email is about.
If your first sentence isn’t attention catching, people will quickly delete your email and move on to the next email. The time you have to catch someone’s attention via email is even shorter than the time you have on a web page.
The old adage that people “sort their mail over their trash can” definitely holds true with the internet. Remember that people read your emails with one finger over the trash or archive button.
Your job is to catch their attention and get them to stop in their tracks and read the rest of what you have to say. Your first sentence has to do that.
Focus on the first sentence. Make sure it has emotional benefit. Make sure it conveys a benefit. Make sure someone in your target market who reads that sentence would be drawn into reading more.
Tip #5: Be Controversial
If you’re just agreeing with what everyone else is saying, or worse yet regurgitating what other people re saying, people are going to stop listening to you pretty quickly.
On the other hand, if you’re regularly coming out with your own opinions, sharing what you really think and going against the grain, people are going to keep coming back.
Be controversial. Be especially controversial when you’re writing subject lines and first lines. Those lines need to catch attention more than any other parts of the email.
Tip #6: Sell the Click, Not the Product
One of the biggest and most common mistakes email marketers make is trying to sell a product all through email.
Email is not the place to try and sell a product. It’s not the place to get someone to buy something either.
What you’re trying to sell is the click. No more and no less. The job of the email is to get people to click on over to another page. If you’re selling a product, that page is what does the selling. The email just gets them there.
Your goal with an email is to get as high a CTR as possible. Let your salesletters do the selling.
Tip #7: Proof and Social Proof
Proof and social poof still make a big difference, even over email. People want to know that other people are clicking and other people about buying.
The key with email is to weave the proof into the fabric of the email itself. Make it part of your content. Talk about some of the successes of your past customers and use it to draw lessons. Or pick questions that users send in that have social proof inside the question itself.
If you just put a pile of testimonials at the top or bottom of your emails, chances are they won’t get read. But if you weave in the testimonials and social proof with the content of your email, people will read it and subconsciously come to trust you more and more.
Tip #8: Send it at the Right Time of Day
The time of day that you send your message makes a big difference. It could as much as double or halve your open rates.
The day of the week that you send your messages matters as well. Some days are better for getting high open rates, while other days are better for making sales.
Each market is slightly different. For times, people generally find early in the morning or after work works best. For days of the week, people find that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to work well.
However, these can vary widely based on markets and demographics. Test it out for yourself to see which days and which times work.
Tip #9: Add Urgency
Always add urgency to your emails. Urgency is even more important in email marketing than in other kinds of direct response marketing. You’re competing with other emails, as well as social media, RSS feeds that pop up and anything else that can grab your reader’s attention.
If you have a special offer or a limited time offer, don’t just put that on your sales page. Put it in you email as well.
Whenever you’re writing emails to sell, try to include some sort of urgency factor in there as well. For content emails this isn’t important, but if there’s an action you want people to take, be sure to add an urgency factor
Tip #10: Split Test
You should almost never just send out one broadcast to your entire list. Instead, you should always be running a split test – Even if that split test is just of two slightly different headlines.
Split testing allows you to learn what your audience responds to. It allows you to figure out which headlines tend to get click throughs and opens and which ones don’t.
You might not be able to use what you learn right away. For example, if you only have a list of 3,000 people, you’ll only be able to run one A/B split test. So you’ll take what you learn and use it to craft better emails in the future.
If you have a list of 30,000 however, you could split test two different emails among the first 10,000, then send the winner to the remaining 20,000.
Writing great copy online is a combination of using all the old direct mail principles that apply, as well as new technologies to help make sure you get the highest opens, click throughs and sales possible.