Article first published October 2014, updated June 2019.
As a marketer, you probably write a lot of copy. However, it can often be difficult to know what to say, and how to say it, in order to appeal to your audience and get them to click-through.
But imagine if you could write email copy that was so compelling people just couldn’t resist clicking your emails and taking you up on your offers?
In this post, you’ll learn a copywriting technique known as the BAB formula that you can use to write better email copy and improve your email click-through rate.
What is the BAB formula?
BAB is an acronym for “Before – After – Bridge” and the formula is a framework you can use to structure the copy in your email marketing campaigns. It is a conversion-oriented formula designed to make a particular offer (like a product, event or content piece) appeal to the wants and needs of your reader.
The formula has three parts to it. When followed correctly, it makes it easy to write great copy that compels your readers to take action.
1. Show the readers their world before your solution.
You start by painting a picture of the reader’s world before your solution. The key to this part of the formula is to get your readers to identify themselves in the picture and to realize the problem you are presenting is happening to them.
With so many other emails competing for attention in the inbox, it can be incredibly difficult to get your readers to open and click-through on your email marketing campaigns.
2. Show your readers what the world would be like after your solution.
Next, you need to show readers how the world would be different after using your solution. The key to this part of the formula is focusing on a benefit the reader really cares about, such as attaining customers or increasing revenue.
But imagine if you could leverage a simple formula that gets people to click-through from your emails and become paying customers, increasing sales and driving new revenue for your business.
3. Bridge the two worlds together with your solution.
Now that you’ve made the reader realize the problem and shown them how good life would be if the problem were solved, it’s time to present your solution as a bridge between the two worlds.
You can use the BAB formula in your next email campaign to show people exactly how your solution will benefit them and convert them into paying, loyal customers that drive revenue for your business.
Why does the BAB formula work?
According to behavioural psychologist Adam Ferrier, humans are motivated to take action by two things: pleasure and pain. We either chase pleasure or we avoid pain. Sigmund Freud also called this the Pleasure Principle.
The formula works because it prevents you from focusing your copy on things like features and tools, and instead forces you to present your product in the context of how it will help improve your readers’ lives.
Other tips for better writing
Email open rates are dependent upon many factors. However, if you want a higher open rate and a better email click-through rate, you should constantly be honing your copywriting. Here are a few more copywriting tips you can use for email, or for any other type of content you’re using for marketing purposes.
1. Write copy that looks good
At a glance, this may seem like obvious advice, but many copywriters fall victim to the dreaded text block.
It’s easy to get so caught up in a product description or a heartfelt thanks to a subscriber that you write too much. Being detailed isn’t bad; it only becomes a problem when your copy begins to have seven-to-ten-sentence paragraphs.
Big text blocks can easily turn off the reader, as it makes the copy look a little too overwhelming to read. Try breaking your copy up into short snippets—1-3 sentences work well. Especially in email copywriting, you can get better engagement if your copy looks more inviting when the reader first sees it.
2. Build anticipation, then deliver
We’ve previously mentioned copywriting tips like nailing the subject line and preview text. Even more than writing well, you need to know how to build anticipation. Give your reader something that interests them and entices them to click through.
You may be asking: what about the problem of clickbait? As long as your headlines, preview text, and calls to action deliver on what they promise, there’s no need to worry about it.
Check out this example of a headline and preview snippet that builds interest.
It has everything you could ask for in copywriting. There’s strong, emotional language. There’s enough information provided to give the reader context and a hook that leaves you curious about clicking through.
Good copywriting doesn’t just tell you something. It makes you want to know, and, in doing so, it can make you want to click through. With anticipation-building techniques like this, you can blast past the average email open rate.
3. Empower the reader by trusting them
This one may seem a little bit at odds with previous advice that’s been used in some copywriting circles. Especially in sales and marketing copy, we’re always told to be specific. Tell the reader exactly how the product will benefit them and how they should follow through with a call to action.
However, you can sometimes go a little further if you provide specifics but let the reader draw the conclusion themselves. Take the following example:
The copy doesn’t have to spell it out for the reader. Instead, it suggests the message of the copy by painting lending services as a slow fix, rather than an instant solution. When readers get the gist of what you’re saying, they’ll feel more confident about moving forward.
The key to success with the BAB formula is truly understanding the pleasures your customers strive for and the pains they wish to alleviate.
If you know that, then you can use the BAB formula in your next email marketing campaign to ditch the product-focused copy and start writing benefit-focused copy that converts.