Open me! Writing more compelling emails

email marketing Nov 16, 2017

Email marketing has gone through lots of different phases – one moment it was the cool new kid on the block and before we knew it, we had to endure an onslaught of ‘is email marketing dead?’ articles. Remember them?

Well thankfully, everyone’s come to their senses again and we can agree that email marketing campaigns should still play a massive part in your digital strategy, simply because they get results. Campaign Monitor’s data shows that across the campaigns they analysed, emails generated 4400% ROI and $44 for every $1 spent.

The tough part is grabbing your reader’s attention. Quick! With 53% of emails being opened on mobile devices, your emails need to be compelling, snappy and intelligently designed. With more functionality than ever before, the need for good copywriting best practices shouldn’t be overlooked.

So, let’s take a look at how you can launch an email campaign with content principles in place that can maximize their potential:

1. From who?

First of all, a really simple copy tip that can influence your audience’s decision to open an email before they’ve even read anything is the ‘From name’ you’re using in your campaign. This is the most important driver of email open rates.

This will land in your readers’ inbox and it’ll help them to quickly identify who you are. People are going to make a quick decision about whether they want to open your email, so you need to match your audience’s expectations.


The email above is from a specific individual, Stephen Bush, who is employed by a bigger brand, The NewStatesman. He’s a journalist with his own perspectives and as a user; you can actively subscribe to hear more from him.

You’re not choosing to receive an overarching set of stories from The New Statesman through email – this is based on a decision to be notified when Stephen writes new stories.

So, people might be peeved if you send them something from ‘the brand’, instead of the individual they’re personally invested in.

The next email is from Squarespace and it’s an example of a brand sending more general, expansive updates. If you subscribed to Squarespace, as a user, you’d expect to receive emails from the brand and not specific people in the organisation. If you get an email from a random person you’ve never heard of, it can feel invasive.

Both of these emails show that it’s important to match your users’ expectations – if the from name doesn’t make sense then they’ll be less likely to read your email.

2. Nailing that Email Subject Line

Your email’s subject line is like the headline of your story. Mess it up and people won’t open your carefully crafted email and sample the delights inside. Basically, all your hard work with nothing to show for it.

Here are some best-practice subject line tips:

  • Use actionable language. Try to avoid lofty, mysterious language that doesn’t give your readers a clue about what’s inside. Something like ‘Treat your Mom to dinner this Mother’s Day’ is much more direct and benefit-driven than ‘It’s time to give back to your Mom’ – the second email line doesn’t really make it clear what you’re implying, what the email wants you to do or any time-sensitive details. Like, have you stolen something from your Mom and someone’s found out, who knows.
  • ·Automation makes it possible for you to personalize your emails. And I don’t just mean by inserting their first-name into a subject line. Analyze your data and segment your users. For example, you’re a Dog Re-homing Charity (I know, amazing right?) – and you’re looking for experienced dog owners, who like small dogs that aren’t suitable for a home with kids. If you’ve got the data, you can make sure you only send updates about dogs that interest your clients and their needs – ‘Gorgeous, 5-year-old Yorkshire Terrier needs your Love, Care and Experience today!’
  • Clear, concise and catchy email subject lines are a must. Being funny or goofy has to come second. You might have written an amazing pun, but if people are scratching their heads too much then it’s pointless. That’s not to say that if they scratch their head at all then they won’t read your email, sometimes some intrigue can work wonders. Imagine you’re an Optician, who has a millennial base and wants to promote an exclusive discount ‘Four-eyes only’ could work really well. It’s a play on words, it’s funny and it shows you’re about to tell them something secretive.
  • Urgency is effective in subject lines too. With time-sensitive language you can make announcements, promote discounts and let people know when they can grab a deal ‘Tick-tock! Don’t miss out – your theatre discount expires tomorrow’.

And people respond positively to urgency. Look at this Mailchimp data below:


3. Pre-header Text gives you more detail

If you’ve decided to go for a tongue-in-cheek subject line or something that is a bit more whimsical then your pre-header text gives you that extra chance to give a bit more clarification about what’s in your email.

Optimize your pre-header, so it makes sense with your subject line and continues the story.


4. Your Body Copy needs to Make Sense

So, hopefully you’ve done a good job of getting people to actually open your email. Now, the proof is in the pudding – your email body needs to deliver. It’s the same premise behind having a call-to-action that aligns with the landing page it points to. Your content must be relevant.

Whatever grand gestures and promises you’ve made in your subject lines need to be followed-through in your actual email.

  • Personalize your email and insert your user’s name in the text to build rapport and directness.
  • Make your email copy clear and easy to understand. Don’t confuse readers with unnecessary jargon.
  • Clearly communicate your offering to readers and push the benefits.
  • Write in the second-person, so use direct language like ‘you’, ‘yours’ and ‘your’. It draws a reader in and grabs their attention. Hey you! Focus on the reader not the ‘we’ and ‘we’re’ of your brand.
  • Don’t spend all of your time on the features of your service/product, if you’re not going to talk about the benefits. People need to know how you’re going to positively impact their life.
  • Your audience doesn’t have all day to read your emails. Keep them concise and interesting. Look at the design of your email too and play around with layouts – make it easy for your audience to scroll through your story and find key elements. Say your hellos and get straight to the point with a call-to-action, then you can elaborate more but always keep your messaging on point.
  • Don’t over-complicate and go crazy with HTML and images. Plain-text emails actually perform best of all.
  • Maybe you haven’t got mountains of time to play with, but you can still write lovingly crafted, personable copy. Make your words musical – use a range of sentence lengths and structures to create rhythm.  It’s these types of devices that can help show off your brand’s personality. Always think about user experience.
  • Use clear, noticeable call-to-actions. You can design buttons and experiment with colour and copy to make sure there isn’t any confusion about what you want your audience to do. Try words like ‘get’, ‘learn’ ‘find’.

Final Thoughts

With more and more people opening and reading emails on their smartphones in their busy, busy lives – the battle to get people to notice and read your emails continues.

Concentrate on killer subject lines and aligned, relevant and clear body copy. Explain the benefits of your product in a concise way and use strong calls-to-action to convince your audience to do something. Writing compelling copy is the cheapest marketing tool in your arsenal.