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Four Tips for Writing Emails People Actually Want to Read

We’re just going to put it out there:

Most marketers aren’t very good at writing compelling emails.

Think about it…

When was the last time you received an email that actually made you pause and say, hey, this thing they’re promoting is really cool?

And when was the last time you opened an email, glanced at its contents, and moved it to your trash folder in two seconds flat?

Yup – our point exactly.

Plus, consider this:

According to statistics, 269 billion emails are sent and received every day. This means the average person receives 72 emails, every single day.

This makes fine-tuning your email strategy all the more important. The goal is to get your emails to stand out from the crowd!

In this article, we’ve outlined four different tactics that you can use to make your email copy “pop”. Read on to find out more!

1. Write emails for one reader…

…and NOT a large, faceless audience.

Take it from us:

If you’re sending out generic emails that don’t take your audience’s unique wants, needs, and pain points into account, you’re not going to get very far.

People want personalized messages that feel, well, human.

How do you make your emails feel more personal and intimate?

Simple. Go back to the basics, and ditch your pretty email template for a bare bones, stripped-down approach.

To be clear, if you’ve got great click through rates and your readers are responding well to your emails, you don’t have to do this. Just stick with your template!

But if your click through rate is abysmal, and you’re getting stuck in that “Promotions” tab instead of “Primary”, then you should definitely switch it up.

We’re talking no pictures, no HTML, just good ole text. (Ignore the pained expression on your graphic designer’s face!)

Here’s an example of what this might look like:

Design aside, notice how Alex from Groove (the sender!) uses first and second person pronouns such as “me” and “you”.

His tone is conversational and informal, and his email is a far cry from being bland and/or “corporate”.

Last but not least, check out how Alex is focusing on his reader’s needs, instead of simply waxing lyrical about his product.

That’s a great way of building rapport with your readers, and establishing a good relationship with them.

If you want to take a leaf out of Alex’s book, and emulate his email, here’s a quick recap:

  • Ditch your template and HTML, and use a plain text email.
  • Use simple, conversational language. Don’t be afraid to throw in contractions, abbreviations, and colloquial terms.
  • Focus on your reader, instead of making this a one-way conversation about your company or your product.

2. Talk about benefits, not features

Here’s why talking about product features doesn’t work:

First, this makes your email sound more like a sales pitch. And when that’s the case, your readers automatically put their guard up.

On top of that, product features typically aren’t meaningful or relevant to consumers.

Just think about it for a second…

How do you think consumers would have responded if Apple marketed their iPods as having “5GB worth of memory” instead of going with the slogan “1000 songs in your pocket”?

The average person doesn’t know how much 5GB translates to – and they wouldn’t be able to tell if 5GB is more or less than the industry standard.

So, yup, it would definitely have been a flop.

For marketers who want to work on their email copy, and start incorporating more benefits instead of features, here’s what you should do:

First, identify the pain points that your consumers are facing. Then think about how your product or service solves that pain point.

At the same time, talk about the positive outcomes that your consumers can expect when they start using your product or service. This further emphasizes its value.

Here’s a negative example:

Our new salt lamp comes in three sizes, has an automatic three-hour shut off, and is the perfect night light for any bedroom.

And a positive example:

Tired of asthma-related symptoms and poor sleep habits? Our new salt lamp can help you fall asleep faster and more soundly while easing the painful sneezing and itching associated with seasonal allergies.

Got it? Great! Now use this four-step guide to transform your email copy:

  1. Identify your consumers’ pain points, and determine how your product solves them
  2. Translate your product features into benefits that are meaningful and relevant to your consumers
  3. Look through your existing emails, and identify the places where you rattle on about your product features
  4. Edit your email copy to include benefits instead of features

3. Tell a story

When writing email copy, think about creating a mental picture for the reader through storytelling.

Why is this important?

Well, the more context you provide to your reader, the easier it is to demonstrate why they need your products and services.

If you’re wondering how to do this, it’s pretty simple.

Just start off your email with one of these handy one-liners:

  • I’m sure you’ve heard this before…
  • Picture this…
  • Who here has ever ____?
  • We don’t know about you, but we ____.
  • If you’re like most ___, you probably ____.

And continue with your story.

For example, say you’re an eCommerce store selling hair care products, and you’re promoting a new shampoo.

Your email might sound something like this:

Who here has ever looked down at the floor, and immediately started to panic at the amount of hair that you’ve shed in 24 hours? 🙋

Don’t worry… you’re not alone.

[Email continues]

If you find it hard to get into the mindset of your consumer, and craft a story that’s relatable to them, then take some time to do market research.

Survey your customers, find out what they’re Googling, and hang out on the forums and groups that they frequent.

Once you know your customers like the back of your hand, those stories will come naturally!

Now, onto your action plan…

  1. Conduct market research to understand your customers better
  2. Come up with a compelling story that draws your reader in
  3. BONUS: Using your newly crafted story, ask your loyal customers for feedback (and tweak the story if necessary!)
  4. Look through your emails, and flag out every email where you start off talking about your product or company
  5. Rework these emails to have them start with a story

4. Give them something valuable

We’re not talking about promotions and discounts (although these are great, too). Instead, we’re talking about information that adds value to your reader’s life.

Now, if you’re a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, this is basically what he calls his “jab, jab, jab, right hook” method.

Here’s how it works:

First, you jab your consumers a few times by providing them with nuggets of value.

These might be lead magnets such as:

  • Invites to webinars
  • Exclusive video content
  • eBooks and whitepapers
  • Step-by-step tutorials and guides

…that you send via email.

If you just want to keep it simple, you can just incorporate a few tips in your email copy as well.

You can use this strategy with one-off emails if you want, but for best results, we recommend setting it up as an automated email series, or workflow.

Basically, you’re reaching out to your contacts over the course of a few weeks or months, and nurturing them down the funnel.

With every email that you send, you’re providing your readers with more value.

At the end of your campaign, you’ll end off with an irresistible Call To Action asking your readers to take you up on your offer. That’s your “right hook”.

You’ll have built up a great relationship with your readers and demonstrated your expertise by the time you deliver this “right hook”… so chances are that you’ll get more conversions than you would have if you’d just sent across your offer, point-blank.

It’s a win-win, if you ask us!

Here are 6 steps that you can take to give your readers value:

  1. Think about what your reader needs. What would add value to their life?
  2. Come up with content (either tips that you can add to your email copy, or a lead magnet) that deals with your reader’s needs
  3. Determine your offer. This should be attractive and relevant to your consumers!
  4. Structure your content into an email series, and set up your campaign
  5. End your campaign with your CTA (Optional: add a countdown timer to convey urgency).
  6. Take your campaign live!

Emails People Actually Want to Read Have Purpose

What’s one thing all four of these strategies have in common?

They give your email copy purpose – and they prevent you from going down the path of sending mindless, generic messages that get lumped in with the gazillion promotional emails out there.

So choose your favorite strategy from the lot above, and start experimenting. Be sure to monitor your click through rates and conversion rates while you’re at it.

For those of you doing A/B testing, don’t rush into it; remember that you should only change one element at a time. You wouldn’t be able to attribute your results properly otherwise!

So, what emails do you enjoy reading? And what makes them so great?

Leave a comment to let us know!

Kristen Dahlberg

Content Manager at Sendlane
As a member of the Sendlane content marketing team, Kristen focuses on everything from organization to content curation and process improvement. She enjoys variety and the challenge of learning the best way to accomplish each new goal.

Outside of work, Kristen spends as much time as possible at the beach, soaking up the San Diego sunshine!
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