20 min read
On average, people receive around 2.5 times more emails each day than they send.
That means every time someone deletes an email, a few more pop up in its place. It’s easy to see why many people feel overwhelmed from staying on top of their email organization.
As our inboxes become inundated with promotional emails and long conversational threads, it’s more important than ever to make sure you know how to write an email that is actionable, easy to consume, and enjoyable to read.
That way, when your email subscriber sees your brand name pop up, they immediately know your email is well worth opening and reading.
All of that sounds well and good, but what about those “writer’s block” moments when you can’t seem to come up with new email content ideas? Do you freeze at the thought of sending a conversion-focused email?
We want to help you build confidence to send value-packed emails to improve your email content creation. In this article, we will walk you step-by-step through the process of writing an effective email.
Before you start creating email content, it’s important to know what goes into a well-written email. While the content you write for an educational email may be different than what you write for a hard-sell email inside your email marketing funnel, each email type will need these five core elements.
Your subject line is the first thing your subscriber will see when they open their inbox. Many subscribers will make a decision on whether or not they want to open your email solely based on your subject line. (Actually, one study found that 35% of marketing emails are opened based on email subject lines alone.)
Be careful not to create subject lines that are enticing but don’t have any relevance to the content that is found inside your email. This is often referred to as “clickbait,” and while it may help you increase your email open rates in the short term, it will harm your engagement, click rates, and overall levels of trust in the long term.
The ideal length for subject lines is around 41 characters or less, largely due to the 34% increase in emails opened on mobile devices in the past few years. Shorter subject lines allow your subscriber to skim your subject line on any device and quickly decide if it’s worth opening.
You can also play with stylistic choices depending on your brand voice, which we will discuss below. You may notice that some brands use emojis in their email subject lines to attract their ideal readers while others put some words in all caps.
Whether you are a personal brand or a part of a larger organization, you can decide what formatting feels like the best fit for your email marketing strategy.
Have you noticed that before you click on an email in your inbox, it will often show a small snippet of the incoming email message? This is called your preview text, and it’s one of the most overlooked aspects of writing effective emails.
You can strategically use the preview text to entice your subscribers to open your email. The preview text is typically pulled from the first few lines of your email content.
For example, if we were reading through an inbox full of emails, which of these five preview texts would jump out at you most?
We love that Grammarly Insights includes a personalized statistic in the preview text to further illustrate the point they are making in the subject line while also giving an added touch of relevance.
We also like how Shanna Skidmore uses the common email copywriting practice of creating urgency and authority by using strong language that makes you feel like there’s more inside the email that you might want to learn.
Even with these examples in mind, you’ll want to test different preview text snippets to see what performs best with your audience. People respond to email content differently, so keep on experimenting and record your results.
Your preview text and subject line work together to ensure your email is opened, but what happens next depends on the body copy of your email. This is where the “meat” of your email is found.
You can use your body copy to tell a personal story, educate your audience on a niche topic, share a behind-the-scenes look into one of your recent freelance projects, or even create a sales pitch for a new project you are launching. The sky’s the limit!
Inside your body copy, you will want to have a central call-to-action (CTA). Your CTA will quickly tell your audience what you want them to do after reading your email. When your CTA is clear, it will help you increase email conversions.
We recommend switching up your calls-to-action so your email content feels fresh each time your subscriber opens an email. If you only ever point to your digital products, your emails will feel more like a never-ending sales pitch than a conversation with your audience.
Your educational emails will have a different call-to-action than your hard-pitch or soft-pitch emails. This is a good thing since it allows you to add variety and continue to build trust that will turn into more sales.
Once you’ve crafted educational, entertaining, or story-driven body copy to go inside your email, it’s time for your signature sign-off. What you choose as a signature to end your emails is entirely up to you as an email content creator.
Some brands choose to end with a simple sign-off like “Best, [your name here]” or “See you next time, [your name here]”. Others follow up with their title or even a link to their website with a bio. No matter what you choose, you can make it work for you by assessing your brand personality.
Now that you know the crucial elements inside every effective email, we can shift gears and talk about how to prepare for the writing stage of your email content creation process. When done right, email marketing can be one of the most influential marketing channels you have.
In order to make a lasting impression with your emails, you need to keep your larger marketing strategy in mind. How you teach, share stories, and sell inside your emails should be similar to the way you market inside other marketing platforms like social media.
As you prepare to write your email marketing content, let’s look at your overall email marketing strategy and the role it plays in your business. These tips will help you strengthen not only your email marketing but every digital marketing effort in the future.
Have you ever taken a moment to intentionally think about the words you use and how you use them? One of the first things your readers and subscribers will notice is the tone and style of your brand voice.
Your spelling, grammar, slang, and text formatting have a lot to say about your brand and the type of content you produce.
Your brand voice will be most successful when it stays consistent on every marketing channel, but it’s hard to reach that consistency if you aren’t sure what your brand voice sounds like now or should sound like.
We recommend starting the brand voice process by creating a brand voice style guide with your ideal client or customer in mind. The brand voice style guide is a valuable resource that defines and summarizes the most important elements of your brand voice and brand story.
It’s common for a brand voice style guide to include:
You can also share this brand voice style guide with any collaborators, contractors, or employees so everyone is writing in the same brand voice.
Just make sure to always keep your ideal audience top-of-mind whenever you make edits to enhance your brand voice. If it fits your brand personality and fits their interests or needs, you’re in the clear.
We know the quote “failing to plan is planning to fail” is a little cheesy, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Without a content marketing plan, you will find yourself running out of email content ideas a few weeks in.
Instead, it’s better to start with an email content marketing strategy in mind. It doesn’t have to take your whole day, either.
You can start by asking yourself: “What are the most important things to tell my audience in the next week, month, or quarter?” This question gives you the opportunity to jot down a few answers, which you can then turn into email content ideas.
From there, you can brainstorm a few more email content ideas based on your overall content themes. If you are just kickstarting your content strategy, you can begin by choosing monthly themes so you can easily come up with niche topics within each larger subject.
Once you have a list of email content ideas you’re excited about (and know your audience will be excited to read, too!), you can create an email content calendar.
You’ll want to make sure you’re not overwhelming your audience by sending too many emails, but you don’t want to send too few either.
Your sweet spot will be sending frequently enough so your audience sees you regularly pop into their inbox but not so often that they want to hit the unsubscribe button. We recommend writing a weekly cadence of emails as you ramp up your email marketing strategy, but remember that you can also take advantage of automated email sequences that will run on their own.
So far, we’ve mostly talked about email content creation, but how does content writing differ from conversion copywriting? The main difference is that content writing is primarily done to educate or entertain your audience while conversion copywriting is meant to convert your subscribers into buyers.
When you write an educational email, you won’t be utilizing many conversion copywriting tactics because you aren’t focused on selling in that email. Instead, you want to provide a lot of upfront value. When you are ready to create a soft-sell or hard-sell email, conversion copywriting techniques become really important in order to make the sale.
The main thing to understand before you start writing for conversions is what the goal is for your email and why that goal is important to the reader.
Email copywriting is more about your reader than it is about you, so it must keep their unique needs and pain points in mind. Once you answer those questions, you can also ask yourself how the reader can achieve the goal with your help.
Conversion copywriting is meant to create a sense of urgency while you focus on relating to your ideal audience member. This connection helps you form a trustworthy bond that will increase the likelihood of them taking action on your offer. The more often your ideal audience members take action, the stronger your conversion copywriting is.
To learn more about conversion copywriting, we recommend looking into in-depth resources like Copy Hackers, Copyblogger, and StoryBrand to get started. They offer tutorials, courses, and trainings that will help you learn more about the difference between content writing and copywriting.
If learning by video is more your style, join us for an Email Writing Pep Talk so you can turn your subscribers into raving fans and customers with next-level email copywriting techniques. You can click here to register at any time.
Now that you’re ready to turn your email content ideas into actual email content, you’ll benefit by keeping these conversion copywriting practices in mind.
It doesn’t matter if you are writing to 100 people or 10,000 people. Write your email marketing content as if you are writing to one person.
Why should you only keep one person in mind when you are reaching far more people with your email list? When you have a clear picture of who your exact ideal customer or client is, it is much easier to write directly to them. Chances are that if your writing connects with them, it will connect with other like-minded buyers on your email list.
If you feel like you are writing to appease the masses, you may find it hard to consistently write content that connects with everyone. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, choose your niche and take time to uncover who your ideal customer is so you can write more personal, friendly, and relatable emails.
If it helps, you can even choose someone who is currently on your email list or someone you know who perfectly fits your ideal customer profile to keep in mind as you write. Doing this feels more like writing a letter to a friend which helps with eliminating writer’s block.
Think about the last time you wrote a letter to a friend or family member. You probably referenced them as “you” in your note. You’ll want to do the same thing inside your email. This is a simple tip, but it can make a world of a difference.
It will also help you avoid sounding too salesy. Instead, your language will be more focused on creating a stronger bond with your reader. Your tone will be more conversational and personal this way.
You can also personalize your emails with the subscriber’s name. Who doesn’t love to open up mail that has their name on it? Including a name can help your emails feel even more personal. You can easily collect your subscriber’s names along with their email addresses by using ConvertKit forms.
One of the biggest mistakes new copywriters make is focusing too much on the features when they should be highlighting the benefits.
For example, if you are writing an email to gauge interest in your new group life coaching program, you’ll want to focus on benefits like the confidence your clients will gain after your sessions and how it will improve their most important relationships rather than the number of worksheet exercises you’ll give them.
Benefits are often more successful in making the sale because they create more of an emotional tie to your ideal customers.
In the same example, if you lead with the features of your coaching program, like how many sessions are included inside the program and that you offer a Facebook group community, you’ll miss the opportunity to create a more personal connection with your subscriber.
The features are still important to include in your conversion copywriting, but they aren’t as crucial as the benefits. Always lead with the benefits of anything you are selling and follow up emotion-driven information with attractive features that help you seal the deal.
You can still craft a relatable, personal story as you write copy for conversions. If you make it all about the sale, your email will just feel like a long, drawn-out pitch. Instead, you can add stories from your own experiences or stories from past clients or students. These can be turned into case studies, testimonials, and more.
As you tell a story within your email, your goal is to make your reader feel something. That emotion will often translate into more trust because your audience member will feel heard, seen, or understood. Storytelling is a great way to do that within your email marketing strategy.
Remember, not every story needs to have a sales goal attached to it. Some stories can be shared simply for the goal of creating more of a bond with your ideal audience members. This trust will go a long way when you are ready to start marketing new products and services.
When you create a blog post, you are probably already keeping line breaks and other types of text formatting in mind. Your ultimate goal is to guide your readers easily through your content as they consume it on any device.
It’s even better if your formatting can also be optimized for people who want to skim your emails. This could mean putting your main points in bold headers or underlining key phrases. You can also organize your content in different ways with bullet points, block quotes, and short paragraphs.
When you are diving into conversion copywriting, understanding sales psychology will be important. Knowing the “why” behind someone pressing your buy button is crucial. And the more you know about how your ideal client or customer’s brain works, the more you can optimize your conversion copywriting.
Implement the sales psychology tips you learn into your overall sales strategy. This will help you map out sales goals, determine KPIs, and create an action plan that will help you increase your conversion rates long term for better lifetime customer values.
When you are ready to implement your sales psychology knowledge and sales strategy, you can start by including one clear call-to-action in each email. As mentioned above, you don’t need to include the same call-to-action in each email in order to be successful. Instead, tailor the specific call-to-action to the email content.
Forgetting to edit your emails could produce embarrassing facepalm moments if your grammar is incorrect or you accidentally misspelled a word in your email. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important to keep mistakes to a minimum inside your brand marketing.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated editor for your content, you can use tools that will help you edit your work beyond the normal Word or Google Doc grammar and spell check tools.
Hemingway App is one of our favorite editing tools because of its ability to go beyond correcting your spelling and grammar. It also counts how many adverbs you’re using and how many sentences are hard to read and locates when you are speaking in a passive voice. We also like that you don’t have to download any tools or extensions to use it. Hemingway App will also give you a readability score so you know what reading level your content is written in.
Another editing tool is a Grammarly, a free Google Chrome extension that will check your grammar. The tool calls itself your “writing assistant,” which seems to fit its capabilities perfectly. It will help you fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
Using the tips we’ve shared above, it’s time to create your first email marketing content calendar.
Let’s start by creating a chart with four squares for each week in your month-long content calendar. (You can create more squares if you plan to email more than once a week, but this is a good starting point.)
Inside each square, you can put the niche topic you’ll be writing about. You can use some of the email content ideas you had earlier as we were walking through the importance of having a content marketing strategy.
For each email content idea, try to focus on creating multiple epic subject lines. Subject lines will often determine how many subscribers open your emails, so it is important to create several so you can A/B test them.
We recommend writing 15-20 subject line versions for each topic and narrowing it down to two that you can begin testing with. It may sound like a lot at first, but it will give you great practice in writing subject lines your audience can’t wait to open.
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