The Ultimate Guide to Email Copywriting: 11 Tips to Instantly Boost Your Email Results

In order to sell to your audience you need to know how to speak to them.

But marketers often struggle to write great copy that gets their emails opened and persuades the reader to take action.

Why?

Because people get tired of reading phony, generic sales pitches or those self-important newsletters. Corporate jargon and brash sales announcements are easy to write, but seldom resonate on an authentically human level.

As humans we are hardwired to buy from people we like and trust. We need to feel understood, we need to feel a connection with the person on the other side of the screen.

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, says 95% of our decision making process takes place in the subconscious mind, which is driven by our intuition and deep seated desires.  This is where we intuitively decide if we trust someone enough to do business with them.  

It’s time to start writing less like a robot, and more like a human. 

So how do you write copy that actually resonates with your audience and ultimately encourages them to make a purchase?

We’ve put together a list of copywriting tips and tricks to help you take your email marketing strategy to the next level and write emails that make sales!

11 Writing Tips to Instantly Boost Your Email Results

1. Think of Your List as a Friend

When you write for 1,000 people, your email can sound stilted and generic, like an instruction manual.

You write things like:

For those of you still looking for the perfect Christmas gift, you’ll love our new range of jewelry, and so will your wife, daughter, mother or any other lucky lady who receives our bangles, earrings and necklaces.

Doesn’t this sound better:

Your wife is going to squeal with joy when she unwraps her sterling silver bangle with heart clasp. And imagine her delight if you include the matching earrings and pendant!      

Writing to everyone on your list stifles your natural voice. Instead, focus on one ideal reader and write directly to them. Make your email reach out a virtual hand and say Howdy, friend.  Boy, have I got good news for you.

Picture them opening your email, nodding in anticipation as they click through to your offer, and reaching for their credit card to place an order.

Give them a name… Jack.

Find a picture in a magazine that looks like Jack and pin it up above your computer. Next time you write an email, forget every other subscriber and direct everything you say to Jack.

Sounds weird, but it works. Writing to Jack will make your emails more personal and relevant, and if you’re targeting the right audience, all your subscribers will think you’re writing for them.

2. Show Your Readers You Share the Same Values

Think about the people you like and respect. The friends you turn to for advice. The work colleague who supports the same football team.

Those relationships are built on shared values and it’s no different for your business.

What are your values? Do you believe in helping children in need, one pair of shoes at a time like TOMS?

Email Copywriting - Toms Email

Or are your values more aligned with the tongue-in-cheek humor of Chubbies Shorts?

Email Copywriting - Chubbies Email

When your values genuinely influence the way you do business and help your customers get exactly what they want you can’t help but connect on an authentic, human level.

What authentic values can you share in your next email campaign?

3. Become An Empathetic Mind Reader

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to establish a lasting, emotional connection with your customers and prospects. To do that you have to show you understand their pain and frustrations.

It’s called empathy.

When you write with empathy, it should appear as though you’ve crawled inside someone else’s head like a masterful mind reader. Because the more you can convince your subscribers you feel their pain, the more they’ll believe you are the person who can solve their problem.

This is how Jon Morrow, from Smart Blogger uses empathy in an email to sell a $1,000 blogging course:

Do you ever wish you had a clear roadmap for making money from your blog?

Something that told you exactly what to do step-by-step. 

So you didn’t have to waste time sorting through all the conflicting advice out there. Fighting the urge to bang your head against the desk because you don’t know what to do or how the pieces fit together.  

If you want to make $1,000/month blogging on the side without all that confusion, you’re going to love this.  

When you empathize with your readers as effectively as this, you immediately sound more human. You use phases like:

  • If I were in your position, I’d feel just the same.
  • Thank you for taking the time. I know you’re busy.
  • I hear you!
  • I’ve been there.
  • Just imagine…
  • Wouldn’t you love to…
  • So, you want to be (insert desire). Who wouldn’t!
  • What if I told you there was a new way to (insert problem).

So, next time you compose an email to your list, know what’s inside their head, empathize with their pain and then show them how your business can solve their problem.

4. Be Brave Enough to Express Vulnerability

Most of us hold back a little of ourselves when we write. It’s a natural stiffness born from fear of rejection or being ridiculed.  But powerful email marketing connects on a personal level when the writer isn’t scared of sharing some of their failures or fears.

Take this email by Jeff Bullas:

You don’t have to lay bare your deepest, darkest secrets.

It may simply be a fear of heights or recounting an embarrassing moment. The point is, when we present ourselves in a less than perfect light, we’re showing our readers we’re just another person, with the same fears and vulnerabilities as them.

Be brave in your writing and let your guard down from time to time. It doesn’t make you any less professional, just more human.

5. Pack Your Writing With Personality and Color

There’s nothing more forgettable than dull writing. But when your words pop from your emails in glorious Technicolor, they pack a memorable punch and you reader will be drawn in by your personality.

For example, if you sell umbrellas, don’t write about the extra layer of waterproofing. Talk about how your umbrellas shield your loved ones from the pitter patter of the lightest rain to the explosive splats of a thunderous downpour.

Doesn’t that sound more human than sharing the technical specifications of an easy-grip handle?

Make your readers see, hear and feel your words. Breathe life and color into your writing, like this description from the very human Innocent drinks people:

Like the kids’ smoothie version of a walk through a meadow on a sunny day, this velvety smooth blend of 100% pure fruit and veg will have you dreaming of picnics and playing in the park. With a seriously scrumptious combination of strawberries, apples and a dash of beetroot, don’t be surprised to hear happy glugging followed by a contented “mmmmm” coming from your little ones.

If you want to capture your readers’ imagination and write truly engaging copy, think about how to fire up their senses and bring your brand’s personality to life through your words.

6. Avoid Jargon and Corporate-Speak

No-one falls in love with corporate jargon. Here’s a doozy we came across recently: an elevator manufacturer described itself as ‘providing end-to-end vertical transportation device solutions.

Say what?

Corporate speak makes people roll their eyes and hit delete. But if you stick to clear, well-defined language, you can’t go wrong.

Here are our top ten worst offenders of corporate-speak.  And a few alternatives to inspire you:

 

Corporate-Speak Better Alternatives
Core competencies What we’re really good at
Innovative Fresh thinking
Customer-focused We’d like to know more about you
Bring to the table This is how we can solve your problem
Competitive advantage This is what makes us different
We give 110% We love to surprise and delight you
Human resources Our team, or our people
Second to none We make the best [insert product] in town
We add value Our [product] will make your life better because [benefit]
State of the art Latest model, or new release

 

7. Make ‘em Laugh

Everyone loves to laugh.

It connects us as humans and makes your emails more memorable. You don’t have to be the next Robin Williams, but the odd giggle never goes astray when you are trying to bond with your readers.

The important thing to remember about humor in email marketing is to use it sparingly and strategically. You don’t want to come across as a wannabe comedian, but you do want to be funny if it’s going to help grab the reader’s attention and make a point creatively.

You can use absurd exaggeration (my house is so small. . .my cat is so lazy. . .), or ironic observation (“I like self-deprecating humor, although I really suck at it.”)

Or the the ‘K Rule’.

Bizarre as it may sound, in the world of comedy words with the ‘k’ sound are deemed funnier than others. Playwright. Neil Simon, wrote in his 1972 play The Sunshine Boys:

Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. Alka Seltzer is funny. You say ‘Alka Seltzer’ you get a laugh … Words with ‘k’ in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that’s a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny.

Try sprinkling a few ‘K’s in your next email to see if it tickles a funny bone or two.

8. Find the Passion in Your Business and Let it Shine Through Your Emails

Don’t you love people who throw themselves into things with such passion it’s contagious? Their enthusiasm can light up a room, and make you want to join the party.

Be that person. It makes you more human.

Find the spark in your business, and let it shine through your emails, like the founders of Method cleaning products. This is just one small extract from their ‘About’ page:

Meet Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan, proud brainparents of Method and the very first people against dirty®. Despite founding one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, and single-handedly turning the consumer-packaged-goods industry on its head, these two former roommates are quick to tell you that they’re no heroes. and that’s true. They’re super-heroes. . . .Eric knew people wanted cleaning products they didn’t have to hide under their sinks. and Adam knew how to make them without any dirty ingredients. Their powers combined, they set out to save the world and create an entire line of home care products that were more powerful than a bottle of sodium hypochlorite, gentler than a thousand puppy licks, able to detox tall homes in a single afternoon.

Wow!  Where do I buy those products! That’s what genuine passion can do.

When you talk with passion your eyes sparkle and your energy explodes.

People lean in to hear your words and your message becomes compelling.

9. Create Some Storytelling Magic

Storytelling has been around for ages. It’s an inherently human trait.

Your list is unlikely to remember the last email you sent them, but they may remember a story you told.

In its simplest form, a great story in an email might be the way one of your customers uses your product. Look back at all the feedback and testimonials you’ve received. These are obvious stories to start with and perfect for giving you credibility and showing how your product solves problems.

Or is there a story in the way you deliver your product, the building you occupy, or the history of your business?

Did you have a dream to change the world, or a vision of a better life?

Take a look at this About page for Fraser Doherty and his Super Jam.  His story is so compelling and sweet, you can taste it. I fell in love with Fraser, I want to hug his Gran, and I am definitely going to buy his jam. That’s what great storytelling does.

But an email story doesn’t have to be this complete or in-depth. It can be found in the 21% sale you are having to celebrate your son’s 21st birthday, or the 12 special deals for the 12 days of Christmas.

The important thing to remember is to tell your story truthfully and well. Be candid and entertaining, build tension (your reader’s problems) and provide resolutions (your product).

And remember, every story needs a hero, which could be you, your product, or even your customer.

10. Write Conversationally

If you want to sound more human in your emails, think about how you would talk with a customer. The key word here is ‘with’.  In person, you wouldn’t talk ‘at’ him, so you need to avoid that tone in your writing.

Here are a few tricks.

Imagine a customer walking in to your shop. You’d say ‘Hi, how are today? How can I help?’  You’d ask lots of questions to find out what they’re looking for and what problem they have.

Sprinkle your emails with questions.  It will make your reader pause to think about the answer and start paying attention to your ideas.

Use ‘you’ more than ‘I’ or ‘us’.  It’s more inclusive and engaging.

Use the same language as your readers. If you sell personal finance services think about the words rattling around your readers’ heads at 2am.  Are they saying to themselves I need to determine my retirement needs?

Probably not.

They’re probably saying what will happen to me if I outlive my savings? or who’s going to look after me when I’m past it?

That’s the language you need to use in your emails.

The marketers at AppSumo are geniuses at mastering these techniques in their emails. Take this example where they plant suggestive thoughts, address the reader directly and talk their lingo:

Tell me if this sounds familiar: every time you open your inbox, you’re instantly flooded with a ton of emails asking you to do a million different things.

And while you should be focusing your energy on the important emails, you wind up focusing on the latest email.

This is how tasks slip through the cracks.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could turn your inbox into a project management tool?

11. Ignore Everything Your English Teacher Drummed into You at School

Grammatically, there is nothing wrong with the passive voice.

There are plenty of ideas for Mother’s Day gifts in our new catalogue would have been perfectly acceptable in your 7th Grade English class.

But doesn’t this sound better: Our new catalogue is bursting with ideas for Mother’s Day gifts.

That’s the active voice. Less words. Greater clarity.

When we talk, we say things like Hi Bob, I missed you at lunch today.  We don’t say Hi Bob, you were missed by me at lunch today.

So, using the active voice in emails will generally make our message more conversational and easier to understand.

And while we’re at it, it’s no longer a criminal offense to sprinkle your writing with contractions, and use words like ‘and’ and ‘but’ at the beginning of sentences.  Sometimes, emphasis and rhythm is more important that grammatical correctness.

Email Copywriting Wrap Up

Remember that you have to continuously prove your value to your readers.

So ask them questions, offer a helping hand and get to know them.

No matter what you’re selling, find the passion in your business, and think about the conversation your reader wants to have about their problems and burning desires.

The more time and effort you put into understanding your audience and building a connection with them, the more likely you are to get the results you’ve been wanting from your email marketing!

Caitlin Haines

Caitlin Haines

Social Media & Content Manager at Sendlane
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative marketing content and is primarily responsible for overseeing development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels. After putting in years of work experience in the marketing world of luxury real estate, Caitlin decided it was time for a change and that’s when she found her “home” at Sendlane! She has enjoyed being a part of a powerhouse team where she has had the opportunity to wear a variety of hats and take her knowledge and creativity to the next level. When not focusing on increasing Sendlane's online presence you'll find Caitlin playing music or spending time with her Fiancé.
Caitlin Haines
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