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5 Tips for Effective Email Copywriting

Posted on Nov 6th, 2009
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    Writing Effective Email CopyThe quality of email content is one of the core factors in determining whether an email marketing campaign succeeds or fails. But successful email copywriting is an art — rather than a science — making it different from most other forms of business writing. To start out on the right path, consider these 5 tips for effective email copywriting:

    1. Focus on the subject line. The subject line may be the shortest piece of content to write, but it’s one your campaign’s most critical elements. The challenge is to create excitement for a special offer, provide enough information to be clear about purpose and convey a brand’s essence – all in 50 characters or less.

    When writing your subject lines:

    • Create a sense of urgency. Include timely information to encourage subscribers to open the email.
    • Include the most important information first. It’s essential that subject lines don’t exceed the character limits of email servers. But prioritizing the vital information first will ensure that, in case the subject line does run over, the primary message will be conveyed.
    • Look to others for inspiration. Read newspaper and magazine headlines for ideas. Consider the email campaigns that you receive. Which ones were you intrigued enough to open and what can you deduce from those subject lines?
    • Go with what works. Look to your own past successful email campaigns and replicate the subject lines that produced the highest open rates. Also, test out different subject lines within the same campaign to discover what generates the best response.

    2. Include a mix of promotional copy with informational copy. Even if the goal of a campaign is to promote a new product, announce company news or introduce a special offer, complement that information with non-corporate information. For example:

    • Supplement a new product announcement with a thought leader interview from a supporting industry.
    • If a seasonal offer is being promoted, include tips or a checklist pertaining to that particular season.

    3. Involve your readers. Consider the success of blogs, forums and social networks. Those interactive channels are effective because users feel involved and engaged. Build off that premise with email copywriting by keeping subscribers engaged and making them a part of the content. Consider including:

    • Reader polls
    • Reader case studies
    • Q&As with customers
    • User-generated content

    4. Make the call to action crystal clear. With too many calls to action, email marketers run the risk of confusing or overwhelming subscribers. When customers are presented too many options, they may be less likely to purchase. Instead, focus your calls to action and limit the effort it takes to act. Consider these quick tips:

    • Rely on size and placement position to emphasize the call to action.
    • Write call to action copy that tells subscribers exactly what they can expect.
    • Use copy that reinforces to subscribers that taking action will be quick and easy.

    5. Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes. When it all boils down, an email campaign will only be successful if it addresses subscribers’ needs. Email marketers should look at their campaigns from subscribers’ perspectives. What’s important to them? In a ClickZ blog post on email copywriting, Pat Friesen talks about the importance of understanding an audience:

    • Visualize subscribers, whether they are mothers of young children or a corporate executive.
    • Picture where subscribers are reading the email copy, whether it’s on a computer at work, on a laptop at home or on-the-go from a mobile device.
    • Imagine the distractions subscribers face when reading email copy.

    Beyond simply visualizing subscribers, study their open and click-through patterns, and consider their demographic information. If you’re still unsure of what subscribers want, use a reader survey to ask them.

    What other tips do you have for effective email copywriting?