Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

How to Write a Compelling Email

Email marketing is a funny old thing. We live in this snazzy graphic age. We can do wonders with what you see on a screen. Yet, in amidst this what’s still incredibly powerful? A simple plain text email. Indeed the ROI on emails is a whopping 32 times what you spend. So if you’re not relying on all singing all dancing graphics, what are you left with? Words. Plain simple words. With everything hinging on them alone, you need to know how to write a compelling email.

Even if you decide you just can’t help but pop in some of those fancy graphics, your written content still needs to be incredible. Get it wrong and your subscribers will quickly stop bothering. They start deleting. They start unsubscribing.

So, how do you write a fantastic marketing email?

How to write an email subject line

Yes, we’re starting at the beginning. It doesn’t matter how incredible that inner content is if your reader doesn’t even get there.

You need to spend a whole heap of time and effort nailing that subject line.

Think of your subject line as the market trader enticing you to their stall. Yet unlike that geezer you’ve got just a few words in which to grab attention and you can’t just keep shouting it ever louder.

You need to pique curiosity. You need to inspire action.

In practice this means:

·         Use actionable words: Verbs are your friend here. Remember that from primary school? These are your ‘doing’ words. So whether you use ‘buy’, ‘call’, ‘take’, ‘save’, ‘download’ or whatever else, it needs to be a word which evokes an imperative action. You aren’t asking them, pretty please, to consider buying something. You’re saying ‘buy’. It’s active. It’s compelling.


This starts to make it very clear what the email is about. Your reader knows exactly what they should do.


·         Make it personal: This is a marketer’s super trick. People (and I’m particularly looking at you Miss Millennial) love personalisation. They like being an individual. You whack in some personalisation to the subject line and they are 22% more likely to be opened.


There are all sorts of marketing software platforms that will enable you to do this if you don’t have the manpower, or are sending out so many emails it would be unrealistic. However, don’t get sucked in to these without using a professional email copywriter to write the content.


These email marketing programmes are great for segmenting and getting it all to look good. They won’t help you with the actual meat of your message.


You also need to get clever with the personalisation. Unfortunately, simple name-dropping is now passé. Readers know that’s just tech doing the work for you. What they need is gentle personalisation which shows you know them. So it may be something about picking out their unique location, or their preferred price range, fashion style or whatever.


·         Be clear: It’s oh-so-tempting (particularly as a writer) to prioritise awesome words over clarity. Subject lines aren’t the place for this. You have just a few words. It needs to be clear first, catchy second. If you happen to be able to nail both together then fabulous. If not then clarity should always be given priority.


The easiest way to do this is to think about your one over-riding message. Write this down in just a handful of words. Now play with it. If it doesn’t lend itself to whimsical then simply stick with the message alone.

So that’s your subject line. Make sure that it absolutely points to what is in the content within. You’re going to need to deliver on your promises. This is because the opening rate is just the beginning. If you don’t deliver on the subject line’s promise then you’ll fail to secure the click through.

How to write an email

Now we’re moving in to the meat. You’ve got your emailed open and your audience is sitting up and paying attention. Now you need to make sure you don’t drop the ball.

·         Be relevant: So stick to the message in the subject line. Be relevant to the individual. In that very first line you need to confirm that the reader made the right decision to click through. Make it super clear why you are emailing them.


Of course, this means you need to be clear why you are emailing them. Not just doing it because it’s the second Tuesday in the month when you send out emails. It needs to be relevant and pertinent RIGHT NOW.


·         Be personal: Yup, we’re back here. This basically means that you need to write in the second person. Back to English Language 101 this means using ‘you’. So how this article is written. For example: “You need to order your summer wardrobe now”.


However, this can be where many green writers start wobbling. There’s a big difference between writing in the second person and slipping over in to the first. (English Language 101, that’s ‘me’ and ‘I’). This email isn’t about me. It’s about you. Stick to that distinction.


This is actually quite tricky to achieve, and it’s not necessary to get it 100% spot on. However, it needs to be the dominant approach. A good way of doing this, if you’re struggling, is to write what you want to say in the first person. Then switch it around and ask yourself how you can change this so that it’s about the other party.


For example, instead of saying: “Alibaba’s Boutique sells scarves online”, you could say “As an Alibaba Boutique customer you benefit from…”


·         Be benefit led: Which brings us nicely on to the next point. Marketing emails should be all about the benefits your customer will get if they act. The benefit of reading this particular email needs to be super-clear.


So work out how you are benefiting the customer then weave that in to the central message of your email. This is another area where some email writers fall off track. They think the benefit to the customer is that fabulous 50% off voucher they are offering, which in some ways it is. But no, the main benefit may be that your store has the coolest summer fabrics, or why Alibaba’s scarfs are better than the rest.


·         Be brief: Emails get scanned. They aren’t deep-dives. So you need to get that message across in a relatively succinct bunch of words. Just a handful if you can. Don’t panic though. Get your message across in the email but direct them to your website where they can find more information.

Here you need to focus on essential details only. More meat can be given following the click through.

There’s another benefit to brief copy. You are absolutely forced to stay on point. No wandering words here.

·         Be branded: Your brand is your personality. So if you’re lovable and adorable, be that. If you’re whimsical and cheeky, be that. Professional and courteous etc. etc.


This is because despite your overriding message and purpose of this email, you always need to have one eye on the long term view of the customer relationship. Each touchpoint needs to be brand focused in terms of personality and style in order to feed that relationship with a trustworthy and consistent approach.


Chances are your subscribers signed up precisely because they love your brand. They are attracted to that personality. Don’t let them down by being something they don’t expect.


·         Be bold: Lastly comes your call to action. This is where you really need to get bold. In fact, your email marketing software may help you out here by making it in to a glorious button.


Your call to action needs to stand out from the rest of the email and state exactly what the reader needs to do. When it comes to the call to action, try using the lessons you learned above about writing great email subject lines.


So there you have it: the recipe for writing compelling emails. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a fair bit of practice and diligence.

Feeling daunted about writing your own emails? There’s no need to be. Have your emails written for you.


Chrissie Brown is a freelance copywriter who loves helping clients achieve their marketing goals. She writes powerful and compelling emails which inspire action.


Thanks for the image:


Leave a comment