How to Apply 3 Copywriting Secrets to Your Email Campaigns

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Never underestimate the power of the written word.

Copywriting is an absolutely crucial skill to anyone in the marketing world; however, email marketing in particular demands strong attention to detail when it comes to the craft of writing. How so?

  • Email marketing requires us to adopt a “less is more” approach to our copy. Email subject lines often below 90 characters and body copy exceeding no more than a few dozen words, we must choose our words carefully
  • Strong copy is all about grabbing the attention of our readership: from crafting compelling subject lines to click-worthy CTAs, our copy is often the element that gives our readers the “push” they need to convert
  • The more emails you send, the more you need the creative juices to flow: email campaigns aren’t a “one-and-done” affair as businesses should constantly strive to grow their lists and roll out new messages
David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert and Joseph Sugarman became millionaires in the era of direct mail

Thankfully, learning the essential principles of copywriting isn’t rocket science. Copywriting legends such as David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert and Joseph Sugarman became millionaires in the era of direct mail through their tried-and-tested direct response techniques. Likewise, their tactics can be applied to just about any email marketing campaign, regardless of your niche or industry.

Whether you’re looking to get your feet wet with direct response copy or simply want to give your marketing messages more pizazz, consider the following classic “secrets” of copywriting that you can apply to your next campaign.

Copywriting Secret #1 – Headlines Are Everything, So Don’t Waste Your Words

While we understand the importance of subject lines when it comes to making sure that our emails get opened, the classic principles of powerful print headlines simply cannot be ignored.

In Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy divulges his secrets to headlines that made millions for companies such as Rolls-Royce and Shell which are detailed below. Ogilvy also notes that headlines are without a doubt the most important element in any form of advertisement, describing them as “the telegram which decides the reader whether to read the copy.”

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to your headlines or marketing emails, keep the following tips in the back of your mind as you brainstorm:

  • Headlines should be centered around the reader’s self-interest, promising some sort of value or benefit. (“How Women Over 35 Can Look Younger” or “How SMBs Can Slash Their Budgets in 30 Seconds”)
  • Create a sense of urgency and curiosity, if possible. Leverage action words and phrases such as “free,” “new,” how to,” “quick,” “easy,” “truth about”. (“The Hard Truth About Content Marketing” or “The Easy Way to Your First $1,000,000”)
  • Strive to establish a sense of value or an emotional connection versus a sales pitch. (think: how is this email going to benefit your readers at a glance?)
  • Avoid puns, allusions and “silly” headlines if you want to be taken seriously. Oftentimes, it doesn’t pay to be clever

Combined with the traditional elements of what makes a successful subject line in terms of character length and piquing curiosity, the aforementioned principles can take your existing marketing messages to the next level. Likewise, Oglivy adamantly believed in the “always be testing” mantra that dominates today’s marketing world.

Copywriting Secret #2 – Every Message Should Tell a Story

Comparing marketing copy to fiction writing may seem like apples and oranges; however, the importance of storytelling in your copy is crucial to getting your readers from Point A to Point B.

Joseph Sugarman’s Advertising Secrets of the Written Word outlines the importance of emotion. Especially when making a sale or inspiring a reader to take action. Just as we get emotionally invested in our favorite books, films and television shows, readers can get emotionally invested in your email copy if you can tug at their heartstrings.

clickfunnels email

If you’re trying to encourage readers to take advantage of an offer or discount. Then don’t just throw it in their faces. Instead, choose your words carefully and consider that every word associated with your copy can potentially tell a story. For example, words such as “don’t” may trigger uncertainty or fear; meanwhile, “you” strives to give your emails a sense of personalization. There’s a huge difference between telling users to “Buy Now!” versus “Don’t Let This Mistake Hold Your Business Back.”

Sure, an offer for 20% off your product may seem like a sweet deal, but where’s the story? Emphasizing how that 20% off can help grow one’s business to provide a better life for their family is a much, much more compelling story versus money saved.

Sugarman notes that copywriters should “sell on emotion, but justify their purchases with logic.”

Tell your story. Talk about your struggles. Give your readers a reason to care about you and your brand. Instead of perceive you as just another business trying to sell them something. Establishing that emotional connection may be the difference between new customers and the spam folder.

These seemingly small touches may be the differences between your readers clicking through and reading on, and can be applied to subject lines and body copy alike.

Copywriting Secret #3 – Keep It Simple

As noted earlier, “less is more” is often the name of the game in the copywriting word. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow simplify the millions of moving pieces to any given marketing campaign?

Thankfully, you can.

sendlane email

Gary Halbert, regarded in the industry as one of the greatest copywriters of all time. He was adamant in his teachings that writers should stick to the “AIDA” principle in regard to their copy. Leave out all of the fluff. The AIDA acronym is outlined as follows:

Attention – Grab the attention of your reader
Inform – Inform the reader (of a problem)
Direct Benefit – Provide the reader with a specific, direct benefit of your message or deal that will satisfy them
Action – Give readers some sort of action to take after taking your message in

In the case of email marketing, an AIDA approach may look something like this:

  • Craft a compelling subject line that piques your readers’ interest. (“This is Why Your Business is Losing Money”)
  • Frame the problem for your reader based on your product or service. (“77% of businesses aren’t seeing a positive ROI for their content strategies, and here’s why…”)
  • Explain the benefit for your product or service. (“Our clients save an average of $2,500 annually with our service and grow their traffic by 150%…)
  • Provide a CTA and link back to your service’s site. (“Check out this case study we did for a local client…”)

Keeping your messages simple and straightforward will improve their likelihood that they actually get read and that nothing gets lost in translation.

Bringing It All Together

Regardless of your messages, the aforementioned elements of copywriting can be used to potentially transform the way that your business sends emails. Above all, any of the three masters of copywriters would have undoubtedly agreed that the top priority of any business should be making sure that their messages get delivered and read. Therefore, it’s crucial that you have a powerful email automation solution. Sendlane will make those deliveries happen.

Start a free trial today and test out our email automation tools.

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Dave Bender

Dave Bender

Project Manager at Sendlane
Dave is Sendlane's Project Manager. Raised in sunny San Diego, he has worked in all aspects of Internet Marketing for the last 12 years. He has acquired a deep understanding and knowledge that covers SEO, PPC, Social Media, and Digital Marketing.
Dave Bender