Frustrated by Ineffective Emails? Use These 10 Tips to Improve Your Email Copywriting

10 email copywriting tips to avoid frustrationWhen Stefano Pistillo, ClickMail’s Sales Engineer, shared a Mashable post with me on writing better emails at work, I was struck by how well this advice applies to email marketing messages too. Perhaps that’s because the best email marketing messages aren’t written in a generic, corporate way, but in a personal, one-to-one manner.

Although the original article, titled “10 Ways to Write Better Emails” by Alexandra Franzen for The Muse, focused on being a better, more appreciated communicator at work by adopting these techniques, all 10 apply equally well in the email marketing space, as you’ll soon see:

Tip 1: Get to the point
We are all busy, and so is everyone on the receiving end of our emails. Getting right to the point benefits every kind of recipient, from a colleague in the office down the hall to the subscriber new to your list. Getting to the point in a marketing message also ensures your message will be seen in the preview pane or on a mobile device. Not so if you bury it under some fuzzy warm-up text.

Tip 2: Include one big idea
Sometimes email marketers have a tendency to say too much, to make too many points and offers, in an effort to cover several bases and appeal to a wide variety of interests. This only results in a confusing message. As much as one big idea in a one-to-one email helps the recipient scan the email, get the message and move on, a marketer benefits from the same principle. Assume your subscriber will spend minimal time with your email. Then decide what that one big message will be. (And if your email communication is of the informative type that requires more than a glance, such as a newsletter, be sure the one big idea of that issue is clear so your subscriber can decide whether or not to save it to read later.)

You’ll also find it easier to focus on one big idea when you segment your lists, and you’re sending targeted messages to smaller groups rather than cluttered messages to big ones.

Tip 3: Use statements rather than open-ended questions
Open-ended questions can be vague and therefore remain unanswered. Asking, “What do you think?” of your colleague might not get the kind of specific answer you’re hoping for—or no answer at all. The same is true in email marketing. You don’t want your marketing message to be vague or wishy washy because then you’re not marketing at all, just sending some words out into cyberspace.

Tip 4: Be generous
With this tip, the author is essentially saying “be kind.” From an email marketing perspective, it really does pay to be generous. Send emails that aren’t only self serving. Sometimes send an email simply because it’s useful information. Or set up an automated campaign to send emails on birthdays or anniversaries. If only some—not all—of your email messages are selling, they’ll be more welcome in the inbox.

Tip 5: Be respectful and specific
The author is talking about criticism here, and let’s hope no marketers are sending out criticizing emails! Being respectful and specific, however, is relevant to marketing messages. Part of that respect comes from being mindful of frequency. Either refrain from bombarding subscribers with too many emails, or offer a preference center where they can control the numbers of emails they receive from you. Being specific ties back to tips 1, 2 and 3. Email copywriting that’s focused, specific and to the point (one point) is more likely to be scanned. And in truth, that kind of email copywriting is respectful too, because it takes into account your subscribers’ busy schedules.

Tip 6: Show your humanity
I think the author’s point is to be willing to step outside of work communications to be real. Showing humanity can pay huge dividends in email marketing messages too. People buy from people. They will respond better to email copywriting that sounds like it’s from one person to one person, and that kind of messaging only happens when you’re willing to be real.

Tip 7: Tell them what you need and when
Do the wishy washy, vague emails show up in your work inbox too? Then you know how tempting it is to ignore them. The same is true of the wishy washy marketing messages. It’s okay to be specific with a subscriber or customer and tell them what you need…and when. Email copywriting can include explicit calls to action and deadlines. In fact, it can be more effective that way, because no one has to wonder or think about your offer. It’s crystal clear and immediate.

Tip 8: Occasionally compliment
For us marketers and email copywriters, this tip ties back to tips 4 and 6. I’m not sure that you can actually compliment a subscriber in a specific way (but that would be some impressive one-to-one marketing!), but you can reassure them that they’re smart to be a subscriber by occasionally reminding them why they subscribed and were smart to do so. Emails that offer something but ask nothing of the subscriber are also appreciated (see tip 4).

Tip 9: Every once in a while, forget the CTA
OK, so that’s not the author’s tip. Her tip is to sometimes tell someone they don’t have to do anything (“no action required”). That’s still good advice for the marketer, however, because it ties in with the earlier advice to sometimes email just to be useful, helpful or kind. Perhaps add to your campaign the occasional CTA-less message, as a reminder that not every email should ask for something.

Tip 10: Be brief
Good grief, be brief! Yes! Being brief takes into account the short attention span and overly long task list of your email recipient. It shows you respect them and their time (tip 5), and it increases the chance of your email being noticed. If your subscribers learn that your emails are typically short and sweet and to the point—and occasionally helpful—they will begin to look for them in the inbox.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to rethink my own approach to writing work emails to see why Stefano sent me the link in the first place!