There are only two marketing channels that emulate the communications normal people send to each other.
Letters. And emails.
Maybe that’s why direct mail works so well.
But something’s amiss with much email copywriting.
It doesn’t work anything like as well as direct mail letters.
I have a feeling I know why.
It’s not very good.
Well, it looks good. The limitless possibilities of HTML mean nobody need send out a dull-looking email promotion.
Which is excellent new for email marketeers. Who hate sending out dull-looking emails.
But look at the emails they receive. You receive. I receive.
Which ones do you love opening?
I’m going to stick my neck out here and guess it’s emails written by friends, family and a few colleagues.
And which emails do you feel compelled to open, whether you love getting them or not?
Would I be right in thinking they’re from your boss, the company chief and maybe the HR or finance director?
OK. So how do they look, these emails you love/feel compelled to open?
Are they decorated with banners, images and designer typography?
Or are they as plain as a pikestaff?
Totally lacking in visual appeal?
Well, it’s ‘no’, ‘yes’ and a big fat ‘yes’ to the first three questions, but a resounding ‘no’ to the fourth.
Why is this? Why do our most important emails work so well?
Why don’t we delete them because they look dull?
It’s because they are from people we care about.
They are personal.
They are relevant.
They contain stuff we find interesting.
They are couched in everyday language.
They are friendly in tone.
Now, there’s not much you can do about the first quality if you’re writing a promotional email. (Unless you’re writing to customers, of course.)
But the other things you can do something about.
So here are my seven simple tips for email copywriting that works.
Tip #1 Renounce design – maybe a branded header is OK but leave it at that. Focus on the copy instead. Design advertises the fact you’re selling. Copy can disguise it.
Tip #2 Avoid beginning with a fact about your customer’s industry. The European bond market is in turmoil will neither be news nor sufficiently arresting to a bond trader to avoid the trash.
Tip #3 Instead, open with a question or a sentence beginning with ‘I’ or ‘You’. All three approaches will engage the reader’s attention whether they like it or not.
Tip #4 Try to write in Plain English. As a guide, sentences of under 12 words. No or very few words of three or more syllables. No jargon. No marketing speak, like ‘bandwidth’, ‘synergy’ or ‘traction’.
Tip #5 Keep it friendly. Resist the temptation to lecture your reader by listing points. Stay in narrative mode ie complete sentences and paragraphs (which, incidentally, you should keep to no more than four or five lines).
Tip #6 Never create the impression you are writing as part of a group, or to a group. Avoid words and phrases like ‘we’, ‘here at Watkins Widgets of Wolverhampton’, ‘our new product’, ‘some of you’, ‘lots of you’ or ‘those of you’.
Tip #7 Never, ever, sign off an email The XYZ Team. Use your name or that of a colleague.
As my wife always reminds me when I start drooling over some car or other, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The same goes for email marketing.
Track it, yes. Test it, definitely. Measure it, of course. Design it? Well, would your BFF design theirs?