10 email copywriting tips that work
Does writing emails feel like a chore to you? Even if you have little email copywriting experience, there are plenty of proven tips and inspiring examples you can use to become a better email copywriter. And – more importantly – to delight your audience with emails they actually want to open, read, and click.
Wanna know what they are? Let’s see why it matters, first.
Why is email copywriting important?
Writing emails is a skill every marketer should master. And it’s kind of a no-brainer. Because a well-written email is your tool to get more people to click on that offer you’re promoting, read that blog post, click through to that landing page, etc.
But to do any of these, you have to:
- First, get your email opened. And anyone who sends email marketing campaigns and tracks email performance knows it’s not a given.
- Then, get it read (or at least scanned and scrolled down to the CTA button.)
- Get your reader to click that CTA button, curious/interested/excited enough to also eventually click the “Buy” button on the page you’re taking them to.
And the latter is probably the most important in the long run (though it can’t happen without the previous ones, so I guess they all are.)
Because you’re not making the sale in your email. But you also kind of are – or at least, you’re laying the groundwork for it to happen. Right there, in your email copy. Making it an essential element of your email marketing strategy.
And that’s precisely why email copywriting is so important. Because yes, you can have cool images and a nice layout in your promotional emails, but it’s the words that’ll build interest or excitement for your reader.
And that’s true whether you’re an ecommerce brand, a B2B company, or anywhere in between.
So, let’s take a look at a few email copywriting tips that can help you do just that.
10 tips to write better emails (with email copywriting examples)
Start with the email subject line
Yes, email copywriting generally starts with the email subject line. There’s no sale happening anywhere in the process if your email subscribers don’t even open your emails. And there are plenty of scenarios in which that might be the case, for example:
- They don’t even notice your emails in their crowded inbox.
- And if they do, they’re left unimpressed at best – and confused or suspicious at worst (because maybe you used certain words that triggered a spam alert in their heads.)
To avoid this, use some common-sense tactics like:
- Address your recipient directly and sound like a human, not another snake oil salesperson.
- Avoid title case (This Is Title Case, By The Way.) It has “Buy Now” written all over it.
- Hint at the value they find inside the email (and be specific about it.) If you have a discount or a limited-time promotion, make it super clear in your subject line.
- Keep it short so the subject line doesn’t get cut off. (But don’t trade length for vagueness – that’s not a great deal.)
- Use emojis (that fit your brand voice and the message, and in moderation.) It’ll make it easier for your reader to spot your email among all the other promotional emails they’re getting.
- Making your reader feel something – whether that’s making them curious, intrigued, excited, etc. Below’s a great example:
IBM making their readers feel something with their subject line
If you’re not sure about your subject line, A/B test it and see what actually works for your audience.
Writing a catchy subject line can easily be the most challenging and the most important task us, email copywriters, have to face daily. AI to the rescue! With tools like GetResponse’s AI Email Generator you can save time and have AI do the hard work for you! Take charge of the creative direction, not manual operations!
Don’t forget about the preheader a.k.a. preview text
The preheader or preview text supports your subject line, making it more punchy, more informative, funnier, or whatever else you need it to be.
Preview text is that snippet of text shown in email clients after the subject line that email marketers sometimes, unfortunately, forget about, making it a lost opportunity.
While it’s actually your chance to make your readers more excited to read the rest of your email copy, for example, by:
- Answering the question you ask in the subject line.
- Adding specific information to an inspiring and creative subject line that lacks it.
- Adding a joke or a hint.
Here’s a great example of how the preview text builds on a pretty clear but plain subject line, making it much more powerful.
Get your hook right
In copywriting in general, and of course, in email copywriting, too, a hook is what grabs your reader’s attention at the very beginning – once they open your email. (Though, you can also already hook them with your subject line.)
The hook is your way of making sure your potential customer wants to read on. And there’s no great story without it.
Here’s an example from the queen of email copywriting, Laura Belgray, using a simple statement in quotes that somehow turns out to be the exact thought you (a.k.a. her email subscriber) had when you saw that email.
And by the way, your customer’s own words make great hooks and other elements of email copy.
Write to your reader, not at them
What’s in it for your reader? That’s one of the key questions you should ask yourself before you sit down to write your email (and really, any marketing copy.)
You can’t just write about yourself and expect people to get excited (for example, by how great your product or service is. And yeah, I know you’re excited.)
- Make it about your reader and the value they can get.
- Write more in the second person than the first.
- Turn your product features into customer benefits.
- Share helpful content instead of corporate buzzwords.
Like in the example below from WeTransfer. Even though this particular email is one of those year-in-review emails some companies like to send, they still made it about their customers, which certainly stands out.
Try email copywriting formulas
Experienced copywriters know that using formulas can make their lives easier AND make the copy they write more effective. But of course, you don’t need to be an email copywriter to use them. They’re there to make email copywriting easier for any email marketer out there.
My word limit definitely won’t let me get into the full list, but just to give you an idea, here are the two most popular ones:
AIDA stands for attention-interest-desire-action. And it goes something like this:
- First, you grab the reader’s attention with the subject line.
- Then you build on the subject line in the email intro, making people interested, perhaps by talking about a specific problem they can relate to.
- Then you talk about something they desire – like a solution to that problem.
- And then, you move them to the call to action (CTA.)
By the way, this is not just an email copywriting formula – it’s a general formula for creating any kind of copy for landing pages, websites, ads, etc., across your marketing channels.
PAS stands for problem-agitation-solution. And it’s just what it sounds:
- You start with the reader’s problem, a.k.a. pain point (which also means you write in the second person and don’t lead with your product or service.)
- Then you agitate it – which essentially means you make it more specific. You can write about how that problem affects your customers in real life. And for this part, getting the voice of customer data is essential to know what really bothers them and what exact words they use to describe it.
- And only then do you present the solution to that problem – which is (what a coincidence!) your product or service.
Here’s a great example:
Just remember not to overdo the agitation part (though you might be tempted – and email copywriters will know what I’m talking about.) Especially with things like a sense of urgency or other email copywriting tactics that are meant to be persuasive but can also border on inducing anxiety (which is probably the worst marketing strategy you can adopt, especially in the times we all live in, if you know what I mean.)
Here’s a list of proven copywriting formulas you can use for email copywriting and other types of copy, too.
Personalize within reason
There’s an ongoing debate about whether email personalization today does more harm than good. Because, though it used to work great, just as any tactic played by email marketers over and over again like a broken record, it’s gotten people tired and wary of it.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t use it in your email copywriting. But think of it in a broader context than just adding the first name in your email subject lines:
- Segment your audience and personalize the content based on other things like their purchase history.
- Adjust the send time, offer, discounts, etc. According to our Email Benchmarks Report, personalization is much more effective in the email body copy than the subject line, with better results across the board, including higher click-through rates.
- And, in general, get to know your audience better and send them more relevant content instead of just using their first name (more on relevance later on.)
Plus, make the copy feel personal. Even an automated email like the welcome email below can feel personal if it’s based on the voice of customer research and reflects the actual experience your customers may be going through.
Could you be more specific?
And I mean everywhere: in your subject lines, your body copy, and your CTAs. And not just in your email copywriting.
Here are some ways to get more specific in your email copy:
- Use the voice of customer data, a.k.a. your customer’s own words. And not just as social proof like quotes and reviews. Incorporate it into your email copy to resonate with your target audience and what they really think.
- Drill down on your customer’s specific problem. Use specific nouns and adjectives to talk about what your potential customers are likely to be dealing with in real life.
- Avoid buzzwords and overused general phrases (like my favorite, “take something to the next level.” I mean, there’s gotta be a better way to tie it to your customer’s actual situation.)
- Steer clear of false promises (apart from the obvious fact of not being honest, these can also land your email in the spam folder.)
Here’s an email copywriting example of how you can still keep it short and be really, really specific. I mean, the “baking soda volcanoes”? Come on!
And here’s another example of specific email copywriting from The Hustle:
Ask for what you want
You can think of your CTA as the way to achieve the goal of your email campaign (and, more generally, your marketing goals.) So, make sure you know what that goal is first. 😉
And here are a few tips on using CTAs in your email copywriting:
- Make it super clear what happens after people click the CTA. (Hint: “Learn more” is not it.)
- Use actionable language to inspire, well, action.
- Try not to distract your readers with too many CTAs to click. Ideally, make it one thing, as per the rule of one.
- You can repeat your CTA across the email, though. For example, at the top and bottom of the email, to make it more likely for the reader to click without having to scroll all the way up.
- You can also have a primary and secondary CTA – but be strategic about their placement in the body content. Here’s an example:
Also, it’s always a good idea to A/B test your CTAs and base them on actual data from your audience.
Don’t repeat what you say on the landing page
Some marketers like to make their lives easier by copying and pasting the contents of their landing pages into their emails (and vice versa.)
And I’m here to tell you, don’t do it.
Instead, make your target audience ready and excited for what’s on the page you’re taking them to without giving it all away in the email campaign.
Remember how I said that the sale happens on the landing page? If you repeat the copy on the page or confuse the reader with landing pages they can’t make sense of (because the contents of the page and the email campaign are not aligned), you’re actually making it way less probable for that sale to ever happen.
Your email copy doesn’t have to be short. But it has to be relevant
Whether you’re sending welcome emails, an entire email marketing campaign, or a single follow up email, there’s this common belief that marketing emails have to be short. But the problem with that is that many marketers (and their bosses) make brevity a goal in its own right, forgetting about some of the other critical elements of the message, like specificity and relevance.
And which email copywriter has never heard the phrase “make it shorter,” right?
Often resulting in bland copy that’s completely devoid of brand personality and just doesn’t hit home.
For example, I could think of a few ways to make this email shorter. But would it read as good as it does now?
- Don’t be afraid to edit your own work and take some words out – that’s something email copywriters need to get used to. (But when you do that, try not to lose the personality you’ve worked so hard to infuse the copy with.)
- Don’t be afraid of punchy one-sentence paragraphs and one-liners.
- Be short when you can, but pack as much specific meaning and relevant information inside as you can.
- Whenever you want to get creative, check if you’re being clear first (especially with things like call-to-action buttons, etc.) Clarity should always win.
- Use formatting that helps people scan your body copy, like headings and bulleted lists.
Start driving more engagement with your email marketing campaigns
Email marketing can be a really effective tool for your business – but I guess if you follow this blog, you already know that. And if you stick to some basic rules and best practices of email copywriting, you can get some fantastic results. (Sorry for being blunt, but anyone saying “Email marketing doesn’t work” or worse, “Email is dead,” probably sucks at email copywriting. 🤷)
And if you really absolutely can’t make yourself write email copy (I know, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea or whatever it is you prefer drinking) and can’t afford to hire a freelance copywriter just yet, there’s one more thing you can do besides drawing inspiration from successful email copywriting examples.
Try GetResponse’s email templates and AI writing assistant to help you with your subject lines and email copywriting in general. And see how that improves your workflow – and your email marketing results.
And I’ll just hang around here, keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂