Of all of the copy that you produce for your business, writing email copy can seem the scariest.
You’ve worked so hard to build your contact list, created the perfect, attention-grabbing subject, and — you hope — have earned a click open.
If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve jumped your biggest hurdles. But it’s not over yet.
You want that click open, but what you don’t want is for them to quickly turn and close the email without clicking again and accepting you call to action, whether it’s a discount on a product or a link to an article on your website.
So, what do people want to see when they open up a promotional email? Well, they don’t want an ad. But that’s exactly what a promotional email is.
The key, then, is to create emails that sell without being too salesy. It can be done.
If you know how to write good email copy, you can write a good ad.
This might sound daunting: don’t people get paid thousands to write a good ad? Yes, they do, but if you know how to produce productive copy, you can do it yourself.
Most people who aren’t in advertising fail to produce productive copy because they ignore at least one of these essential rules:
Keep it Simple
This, by far, is the most important rule. Ask anyone who does copywriting or graphic design, and they’ll tell you the biggest point of contention between them and clients is fear of empty space.
Clean designs get muddled with too many words and graphics, each one decreasing the productivity value of the ad.
If you’re working for a client who insists on a busy ad, there’s not much you can do. But if you’re in business for yourself, you answer to no one — so you’d better get it right.
Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean sparse, obvious, or rustic. It does mean it should be succinct and to the point. Think of all the two and three word slogans that get under people’s skin:
- “Just Do It”
- “Got Milk?”
- “The Real Thing”
- “Think Different”
- “I’m Lovin’ It”
- “life. well spent.”
- “Stronger than dirt”
- “Do more”
- “Pizza Pizza”
- “That was easy”
- “See you tomorrow”
Some of these are more easily associated with their brands than others, but all share a simplicity that makes them effective slogans.
Of course, we’re talking about emails and advertising, not slogans. But think of two to three word slogans, and apply that efficiency to every part of your sales copy.
Always try to put as much as you can the fewest number of words, with the most simple graphics.
For example, Redbubble wants you to buy gifts in its webstore. It tells you they have “Gifts for the perfectly imperfect family” in the subject, and pretty much stop talking once you click.
Instead, they show you four examples with clean graphics and buttons to take you to different departments.
They don’t tell you their products make great gifts, they let the products speak for themselves.
Cook’s Garden had a 6-hour sale where all seeds were 25% off. Which is all they really had to say, in both the subject and the body, with the exact times and a link added inside.
Open this email promising 20% off, and that’s just what you get — a digital coupon with a link to the store.
Microsoft makes it easy to impulse buy a new Surface Pro 4 if you have a spare $900 (and if not, it lets you know you can cut the price with a trade-in). You didn’t even know you were shopping for a new tablet.
Now, an example of a less effective layout: Writer’s Digest can get away with having a lot of tiny text in its emails. You can not. If you want to link to an article, give it a compelling one-line title and add a link.
Keep it Clear
Just as important as simplicity is clarity. These might seem like two sides of the same coin, but even a very simple ad can mislead your customers.
Think about your call to action and what, exactly, you want the email recipient to do. Say you want to boost the sales of your new widget, so you’re offering it at a 25% discount for a limited time.
Your email ad should be clear about the discount percentage, whether the discount is applied automatically or if a coupon code is required, and when the offer expires.
It’s also a good idea to note that the deal doesn’t include shipping costs (unless, of course, it does).
If your ad lacks clarity, you will not only lose sales, you may lose customers if they feel misled by your offer, and you’ll probably lose time by having to answer customer questions that should have been answered in the ad, too.
You’ll notice that none of the email examples above are plain text emails. There’s a reason for that. Plain text is boring to look at.
When someone opens your email, they shouldn’t feel like they’re reading something, they should feel like they’re being given a great deal or opportunity.
The text style and imagery you choose should reflect your brand, whether it’s a simple graphic in your company colors or a high-quality product photo.
The eye should be drawn to a link to your page. A good way to do this is with a button.
Adding a button to a graphic might sound complicated, but really all you have to do is create a rectangle around the words “Buy Now,” “Shop Now,” or the department name.
Make the entire image clickable — no one cares whether they have to click on the actual button or not.
Keep it Consistent
Part of your branding is knowing your brand’s voice. Your voice doesn’t have to be like nothing anyone has seen before — in fact, it shouldn’t be.
It should be familiar, comfortable, and reflective of your company.
Often, that means a conversational voice that’s easy to read. But whatever voice you choose, make sure to use it consistently in your copy across the board.
Don’t say, “Hey guys! Check out our awesome new widget!” in one email, and “Widgetco, a subsidiary of Widgetcorp, announces a new product” in another.
(And, by the way, your ideal voice is most likely somewhere between the two).
When your copy relays your brand’s personality consistently, customers will relate to it as if your brand is someone they know — or even, if you’re really good, a friend.
Do you write your own email and ad copy? Share your own advice in the comments!
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