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Patricia O'Loughlin
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Word concubine since 1989.
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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Compelling Email Copy

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Did you know that the average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish? Thanks to the digitalisation of our society, audiences have the freedom to jump from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter to Snapchat in a heartbeat, deviating between articles, posts and apps according to whatever manages to draw their flickering interest.

As a result, the ability to grab and maintain your audience’s attention in the digital realm can be a tough conquest to battle.

Perhaps the most competitive environment of all is the dreaded email inbox. As a marketer, this can be one of the most valuable places to connect with your audiences and get yourself noticed as a brand. In order to accomplish this, however, there are several key elements to keep in mind.

This is your essential guide to constructing the ideal marketing email.

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1. Begin by segmenting your email contact list

When you are aware of the exact audience you are writing for, you are much more likely to generate positive results. In fact, segmented emails have been reported to achieve 50% more click-throughs thanks to the content being targeted towards particular interests. The industry you work within and your specific marketing campaign objectives will essentially determine the criteria for your segmentation process; however, a few good examples are:

  • Demographics
  • Competition participation
  • Interests
  • Source of lead
  • Sales funnel drop-off

2. Address your recipient personally

Segmented email lists mean you can automatically address your recipients by their first name, which shows them that you’re not simply sending out a generic blanket email. Personalised emails give the immediate impression that the message is applicable to the reader. It’s also useful to employ personal language such as first and second person pronouns such as “you”, “me” and “us”.

3. Ensure your copy is aesthetically-pleasing

Good graphics are simply a must in email copy. Digital audiences love sparkly, shiny things – it’s what secures their attention in the first place. Work out the design of your email before you start constructing your copy so that you can ensure your text fits neatly within the graphics. It’s also important to make sure your design correlates with your landing page in order to achieve brand cohesion.

4. Give yourself a word limit to adhere to

Before you even begin writing your copy, you need to set yourself some boundaries to work within. The need to be short, sharp and snappy goes without saying, yet many marketers commonly fall into the trap of creating email spiels that are simply too long. It’s tempting to shove as much info in as possible – we know what it’s like, it all seems equally important – however, big blocks of text will instantly turn your audience off. Outline a word limit to stick to – depending on the topic, around 70-150 words are good parameters to work around.

5. Focus on the consumer benefits

Now is time to construct your copy, and with restricted space to work with, you want to choose your words carefully. Ensure you are utilising words that will attract your reader’s eye: phrases such as “free”, “complementary”, and “customised” are great for helping to maintain your recipient’s attention and increase your conversions. Let’s take an example; say you offer a 30% discount on select products in your store. By simply stating this, you are communicating your feature to your audience, but not the value of it. If it’s 30% off men’s clothing, then state how your brother/boyfriend/father can dress stylishly for summer with discounted quality clothing. Remember, your reader doesn’t know the value of your email just yet, so you need to make it clear to them what they can get out of it.

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6. Format your copy for skimmers

When structuring your actual copy, there are three key things to keep in mind:

  • Headings and subheadings are crucial. They function to separate your content into clear linear sections. Your headings should be structured to communicate the gist of your message, yet to also entice your audience to continue reading.
  • Incorporate bullet points if appropriate. When information is presented this way, it is delivered quickly and concisely, which is what your readers need.
  • Keep your sentences short. Consider television advertisements. The language used is simple yet bold and savvy. Essentially, this is how you want to construct your sentences in email copy. Save the loquacious lingo for longer articles.

7. Employ creative writing techniques

Stylistic tools such as rhyme, humour and alliteration are great for email copy. People love to get around a bit of fun and light-hearted content, as long as these techniques are used sparingly – don’t over-indulge or you may come across as tacky and unprofessional.

8. Conclude with an effective call-to-action

The whole point of email marketing is to urge your readers to take some kind of action, which means a call-to-action is an integral element of your copy. Create something that visually stands out, and label it with actionable language – it helps to get a bit creative beyond the standard “call now”.

9. Give it a good proof-read

So, you’ve slaved over your copy, you’ve tweaked it until you reckon it’s perfect, and in your eyes, it’s now looking pretty schmick. However, proof-reading is a crucial step of the copy process. Read over it yourself and ask yourself: can my reader understand my message in five seconds or less? Better yet, pass it on to someone else to have a read and give you their thoughts.

Once you’ve become well-versed across these nine key steps, you’ll be nailing your email copy and reeling in those conversions in no time!

You might also be interested in the following article:

Top Tips for Optimising Your Email Open Rate

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By Patricia O'Loughlin


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