If you follow this 10-step process, you’ll avoid the email mistakes that other marketers are making.

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The following excerpt is from Susan Gunelius’ book Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound

Before you write an email message, you should understand some copywriting basics. Following are 10 steps that you should keep in mind as you write your email messages:

Step 1: Exploit your product’s (or service’s) benefits

If you’re writing an email message with a call to action that motivates people to take an action, then you need to exploit the benefits of the item you’re offering. Whether that item is one of the products or services you sell or it’s a free ebook, if you want people to act, you need to clearly explain the benefits they’ll get when they complete the action. Don’t just talk about the features of what you’re offering — clearly explain what people will get when they act. What problems will be solved or pain points addressed after that action is taken? How will acting make their lives better, easier or happier? Determine the benefits of your offer and promote them in your message.

Step 2: Exploit your competition’s weaknesses

Depending on your desired call to action, it could make sense to include copy in your message that shows why taking an alternate action is a bad idea and won’t deliver the same benefits as taking your desired action. Can recipients save more money if they take your action instead of a competitor’s? If you can show that your offer benefits people more than other offers, then include copy in your message that draws attention to those differences. Never assume people know what your key benefits are or how your offer is better than competitors’. Tell them in your copy!

Step 3: Know your audience

Writing any email marketing message begins by understanding the audience who’ll receive it. You need to know your target audience and what’s most important to them. This includes not only the benefits and features of your offer that are most important to them but also the language they’ll best relate to. Unless yours is a highly technical or regulated industry where very specific language is expected, your email marketing messages should be personable and conversational. Write in a language using style and words the target audience best responds to. Your message should sound like a conversation.

Step 4: Communicate WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)

No one cares about your business, products or services. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. All people care about is how your product, service, or offer can help them, make their lives better or make them happier. Don’t fill your messages with information about how great your company is and how wonderful your product or service is. Instead, write copy that clearly and repeatedly answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” Expand on the benefits of your offer so recipients understand how it will affect their lives in positive ways.  

Step 5: Focus on “you” not “we”

Messages that focus on your business, products or services will be less effective than messages that focus on the audience. So think about how you can word the features, benefits, and differentiators of your product, service, or offer so they talk to consumers and not about your business. An essential part of focusing on “you” rather than “we” in copywriting is to write messages in the second person. For example, rather than writing a message that says, “Download our free ebook to learn our five Facebook advertising tips,” a marketing company could use copy that says, “Download your free ebook and learn five tips to boost your Facebook ad conversions.”

Step 6: Know your medium

To write effective email marketing messages, you need to understand the nuances of email communications that affect your copy. For example, email marketing messages should be structured with a main heading and subheadings as well as bulleted lists, so it’s easy for recipients to quickly scan your messages and evaluate their relevancy. Email copy should be written in short paragraphs so there are no long blocks of text. It’s also important to ensure your copy layout is easily readable on all devices. Furthermore, white space is important to allow readers’ eyes to rest.

Step 7: Avoid TMI (too much information)

What information is important to your audience? All copy should speak to the audience’s wants and needs. Clutter is an email message killer, so include only essential information and keep your copy is as tight as possible. Your overall email marketing results will improve when your messages are focused and devoid of extraneous information.

Step 8: Include a call to action

Your call to action is arguably the second most important part of your email marketing message after the subject line. Therefore, you need to make it extremely obvious what people should do after they read your message. Write a call to action that creates a sense of urgency and taps into your audience’s emotions.

Step 9: CYA (cover your ass)

Before you send an email message, analyze it to determine if any of the copy could get you into trouble legally or ethically. Be sure to include any disclaimers or proof to back up your claims so your messages and offers are as clear as possible. This could be as simple as including an expiration date and time (including time zone) for a coupon or a disclaimer clarifying that a free trial lasts only a certain number of days. The key is to leave no room for confusion, so when in doubt, consult with an attorney.

Step 10: Proofread

If you write your copy, design and proofread your own messages, you’re practically guaranteed to miss simple typographical and grammatical errors because you’re too close to the content to see all the mistakes. Use the spellcheck and grammar-checking tools in your word-processing software or even third-party grammar and spelling tools, but don’t rely on them entirely. Even tools miss errors or provide recommended edits that aren’t always the best choices for your copy, so ask another person to proofread your messages for you.

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