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Writing Effective Email Copy

ROS HODGEKISS - NOV 16, 2009

When you’re elbows-deep in applying visual tweaks to your HTML email design, it’s very easy to forget how important writing quality, punchy copy can be. Tailoring email copy to your audience is not a matter of ensuring your message is readable even with images turned off, but presenting it in a style that your readers will respond to. In this post we’ll highlight some considerations when writing effective email copy, including tone, personality, keeping it concise, offering value to the reader and testing.

Start the conversation

You don’t have to be an expert copywriter to engage audiences, simply someone who understands the objectives of your campaign and can adapt their language to suit. We do this in everyday life – how you talk to a new client will, in most cases, be very different from how you address your partner or friends. And just like real life, being authentic and conversational is key to creating dialogue, regardless of whether you’re selling fashion to teens or life insurance to retirees.

With this in mind, consider the unique voice of your email communications and keep it consistent. Will your campaign convey the personality of a marketing team, senior management, a product user, or a friend? Each of these roles (and many more) will use their language differently and have a different kind relationship with the reader. Flipping from one persona to the next simply doesn’t work.

Get to the point

The Internet has many times over been blamed for turning us into lazy, keyword-seeing readers. Whether or not this is a result of mental shortcutting or backlit screens, keep your copy clear and concise. The majority of readers will not read the entirety of your email, let alone large blocks of text. So, highlight key points in your copy, use visual devices like colour and space and ensure that the message is immediately tangible – after all, you only have a few initial seconds before your reader decides to discard your email… Or read on.

Inspire action

At this point, it’s worth considering the importance of a strong call-to-action – what’s in it for the reader, anyway? Sell with value – outline the benefits of your product and the useful ways in which it can be used. Identify common pain-points and how you can overcome them. As many clients look towards fostering a level of engagement that goes much deeper than simply counting click-throughs to a landing page, compel recipients to explore your site, request more information, try new things and return for more.

Test, learn and improve

Finally, test and refine your email campaigns. Proofread, run your email copy past another set of eyes, ask for opinions. Progressively refine your copy using A/B testing, by comparing subject lines, differing calls to action and body content, all while delivering the most attractive email to your subscribers.

The quality of copy is critical to the success of a campaign, yet with the visual attraction of HTML email, often gets simply relegated to a design afterthought. Remember your objectives and ultimately, how you’re going to measure the success of the campaign – you can define your brand’s relationship with the reader, inspire action and learn more about your audience, simply by giving your copy some consideration and seeing it from recipient’s point of view.

Have a tip to add? These are only a few hints as how you can improve your copy and ensure more responsive subscribers, so please add your own tips and suggestions below.

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