Email copywriting: a recipe for success

email marketingAn effective email – one that engages users – is a happy balance of 4 key elements: incentive, benefit, anxiety, and friction. Two need to be maximised, two need to be minimised – and each can be addressed in the form of a question your reader might ask…

Incentive: What’s in it for me?
The key question to address for a recipient looking at your email is: So what? The user wants to know what they’ll get in exchange for devoting some of their precious time to your message (and staying on your list for that matter). What are you offering them in exchange? If you have a concrete incentive – “download a free white paper, enter our prize draw for the chance to win an iPad, free P&P on deliveries over £50” – that is always the most powerful element to lead on, in your subject line, opening paragraph and calls to action.

Motivation: Why should I care?
Sometimes it’s not possible to offer an incentive. Most mail-order companies simply couldn’t afford to offer free P&P with every sales email, for example – and if they did, the offer would soon lose its impact, as subscribers would just come to expect it as standard every time.

This is where motivational benefits come in. These focus on more intangible but still very user-centred reasons to care about the content of an email. Benefits are another way of answering the So what? question, and should always be present. Here are some examples:

  • Boost your career prospects in 2013 (recruitment newsletter)
  • Keep on top of the funding debate (email promoting a local government conference)
  • Keep your little ones safe and stylish (children’s fashionretailer)
  • Control business costs (business software)

Anxiety: What’s the catch?
Effective email copywriting needs to head off any objections and suspicions that the recipient may have about your offer. This might include: concerns about data protection; hidden strings; your ability to fulfil an order on time; the quality of the offer or service; or, your reputation as a brand.

Think carefully about which anxieties are most likely be in play, and what you can do to pre-empt them. Different concerns require different solutions – these might include: clear information about your privacy policy or data-handling processes; evidence that you take ecommerce security seriously; client testimonials; and even effective brand messages. Recent studies have shown that mistrust is the biggest factor why email marketing sometimes doesn’t work.

Friction: What do I have to do?
In copy optimisation terms, frictions are the bumps in the road – things that hold people up as they’re trying to get to where you’re encouraging them to go. An unscannable layout is an obvious friction – it makes it hard for scan-readers to pick out key bits of information, and can lead to your message getting lost. This is what email copywriting workshops warn against.

Often in an email, too, we’re asking people to complete a process. That process needs to be both clear and straightforward and be equally user-friendly in reality too. For example, if you’re offering a chance to win a book token for recommending a friend, what’s the actual process? Can it be summarised in 3 or 4 easy-to-follow steps? Do you have a prepared email message that subscribers can send on to their friends? Is there, in short, a clear message and process that flows logically from the subject line to the call-to-action to the landing page or follow-up email?

Guest Author Bio: JonJon Yeung is an inbound marketer/blogger/writer and has passion on Social Media, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Business and lives a tech-savvy lifestyle.

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