This post has been updated as of May 2019
Email marketing brings more ROI than all social media sites combined, and many brands now use email newsletters as a cornerstone of their marketing strategies.
But are your email newsletters as effective as they could be?
If you’re not designing your campaigns the right way, then you might not be capturing your audience’s attention and getting your key messages across, and this can result in fewer people clicking through from your campaigns than you’d like.
That’s where the inverted pyramid model comes in.
Use the inverted pyramid model
In this post, we’ll teach you what the inverted pyramid model is and show you how to use it to create more effective and engaging email newsletters.
What is the inverted pyramid model and why does it work?
Research shows that an adult’s attention span is, on average, eight seconds.
With such a short attention span, you can’t assume people will actually read your campaigns word for word. Instead, it’s likely that they’ll quickly scan over them.
Because of this, it’s important to deliberately structure your campaigns so that they draw in these scanning readers and focus their attention on the key elements of your campaign.
How do you write inverted pyramid style?
The inverted pyramid model can help you do exactly that. It’s essentially a framework for structuring the elements of your email campaigns (headers, imagery, buttons, etc.) so that they work together to draw people in, deliver the key messages of your campaign, and get them to click through.
Emails following the model start with a succinct headline that highlights the key message of the campaign (known as the value proposition), before presenting supporting information and imagery to help convince readers of the benefits of clicking through.
Finally, the reader is then presented with a prominent call-to-action button that makes it crystal clear what they should do next.
Why is the inverted pyramid important?
The inverted pyramid is important because it helps direct the reader’s mind and eyes in the direction that you want them to take instead of having them simply skipping around to different areas.
The inverted pyramid model works particularly well for campaigns with a single message and a single call to action, but what about email campaigns that contain multiple messages and calls to action, like a newsletter?
It turns out the inverted pyramid model also works exceptionally well for those types of campaigns too.
What is an email newsletter?
Email campaigns consist of a massive variety of different types of content that’s shared with your list of email subscribers. Traditionally, newsletters were pieces of direct mail that companies sent out for a variety of different reasons.
Businesses can use newsletters to communicate with more than just clients; the newsletters can also be sent out to:
- Community members
It all simply comes down to who your audience is and what it is that you’re offering them. Newsletters are considered a type of journalistic writing because they’re used to update readers—whether it be on products, special occasions, or exclusive deals.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Why are newsletters an essential part of your email marketing?
While receiving newsletters through direct mail is still pretty standard, more and more businesses are transitioning to the use of email to send out newsletters.
With over four billion active email accounts being used worldwide, the use of email is a massive opportunity to not only reach out to current subscribers, but to acquire new leads, create awareness around your brand, and engage with the public.
The benefits of an email newsletter include:
- Connecting you to customers—current and potential
- Allows you to send tailored/personalized messages to your audience
- Helps drive traffic to your website
- Increases sales
- Drives traffic to your social media channels
Source: Campaign Monitor
Brands can send newsletters as frequently or infrequently as they wish—it merely comes down to what type of information is being presented to the audience and how often the subscribers need to be updated. Common newsletter frequencies include:
Why is the inverted pyramid the standard for journalistic writing?
Not only does the inverted pyramid work because of the visual aspect, but it also presents information in a manner that readers want. Think of it this way:
- Readers want to know what the deal is right away: This tells the reader if it’s worth reading on.
- Gets right to the point: Because, again, our attention spans aren’t all that great.
- Gives readers an action to take: The CTA tells the reader what and how to do what you want, and quickly, so you aren’t wasting their valuable time and energy.
Everyone processes news and information in different ways; however, with the inverted pyramid, it takes the “work” out of reading and digesting all the material that your brand may have to offer.
InVision’s weekly email newsletter is an excellent example of how the inverted pyramid works for this style of journalistic writing:
Despite containing multiple pieces of content, the information is broken down into easily consumable sections. The inverted pyramid model is used within each section to draw scanning readers in and drive them to the call-to-action button.
How to integrate the inverted pyramid model into your email newsletter
The inverted pyramid model is a relatively easy concept to understand, as it’s highly visual.
However, your success with the model can vary based on your chosen imagery, your copywriting skills, and a number of other factors.
To help you get the biggest increase in your email click-through rate using the model, follow the four simple steps below.
1. Create a killer value proposition
A value proposition is a short statement that concisely explains the benefits you get from using a particular product or service. A good value proposition explains to the reader what the offer is and why they should care about it.
Take a look at this great example from Rip Curl, whose succinct value proposition “The World’s Fastest Drying Wetsuit” explains clearly what the product is and why their audience should care about it.
There are three key elements of a value proposition that, when combined, can help grab your reader’s attention and deliver your key messages.
A great value proposition clearly explains what the product can do for your readers.
Consider this example found in Peep Laja’s excellent article on value propositions:
Revenue-focused marketing automation & sales effectiveness solutions that unleash collaboration throughout the revenue cycle
From reading this, do you know exactly what this product is and what it can do for you? Not likely.
Compare it to the value proposition seen in the first campaign from Freshbooks:
Turn Unpaid Invoices into Cash
This value proposition makes it very clear to the reader what the product is and what it enables them to do.
Clarity is the single most important aspect of your value proposition, and it’s critical that your chosen value proposition makes it simple to understand what your product or service does for your customers.
People don’t buy your product or service because they love spending money. They buy from you because they want to solve a problem they’re experiencing or receive the benefit your product offers.
So, in order to write a killer value proposition for your email campaign, you need to focus on the benefit a user will get from using your product.
Looking at the Rip Curl example above, the logical thing to put in the headline would’ve been something like:
Introducing the world’s most advanced wetsuit
However, they didn’t. Why? Because people don’t care about the advanced technology inside the wetsuit. They care about the fact that it’s not going to be wet and cold when they put it on.
So, when you’re crafting the value proposition for your next email campaign, make sure to double down on the benefits the product or service you’re offering provides to users rather focusing on how advanced it is or the amazing technology it includes.
Although unfortunate, it’s a reality for all marketers that you’ll have competitors offering similar products and competing for a similar customer base.
So, in order for potential customers to choose you, your value proposition must differentiate your product or service from competitors, outlining why you’re the right choice for them.
Let’s again look at the value proposition from Rip Curl’s campaign:
The world’s fastest drying wetsuit
Rip Curl isn’t the only company in the world producing wetsuits. In fact, it’s a $100 million industry with many competitors.
Because of this, Rip Curl has to differentiate their product from their competitors, and they do so very well by focusing their marketing on the fact that it’s the fastest drying suit on the market.
So, when you’re creating your value proposition for your next campaign, make sure you also consider what differentiates it from the other options available to customers and highlight that in your value proposition.
2. Use amazing imagery
Research shows that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, making them a critical part of the inverted pyramid model.
Take InVision’s campaign as an example. They use well-designed imagery that specifically supports the key message they’re trying to get across in each content section.
If you’re like most marketers who don’t have Photoshop skills and a design background, creating beautiful images like this can seem out of reach.
However, using tools like Campaign Monitor, you can crop, resize, brighten, sharpen, and enhance images to create professional-looking designs in minutes right from within the email builder. You can ever add text and buttons over images and buttons over images to create modern, professional designs and drive more engagement.
- Canva – A simple, online graphic design tool built to help marketers like you create amazing images for your campaigns.
- Unsplash – An online archive of beautiful, free stock photography that you can download and use in your email marketing campaigns.
3. Write succinct copy
In today’s world of increasing distractions and short attention spans, it’s clear that writing long paragraphs of text in your email campaigns isn’t the best approach.
Instead, you need to write short, succinct copy that gets your key messages across in the simplest way.
As an example, take a look at HelpScout’s campaign promoting their latest blog post. They use concise, easy-to-read copy to explain what the post is about and the benefits reading it will bring.
Good copywriting can be challenging, but fortunately, there are a number of copywriting formulas that marketers like you can use to write succinct, compelling copy that gets results. These include:
4. Include a prominent call to action
The final step in creating an effective email using the inverted pyramid model is adding a prominent call to action.
There are a number of ways you can do this, but our own testing shows that using a large button delivers the best results.
In fact, we were able to get a 28% increase in conversions when we tested using a button as opposed to just a text link.
As an example, take a look at Authentic Job’s campaign promoting their latest product feature. They use a prominent call-to-action button at the bottom of the email to make it very clear to readers what the next step is.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you can easily add beautiful buttons that work across all devices by simply dragging and dropping the button wherever you need it.
Alternatively, if you’re not a Campaign Monitor customer you can use our Bulletproof Button Tool to create customized buttons that’ll work across all devices. You select the options you want, enter the text for your button, and then copy and paste the code into whatever email tool you’re using.
Email newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your subscribers on a consistent basis, and leveraging the inverted pyramid model can help you make your newsletters more engaging and effective.
By guiding a subscriber’s eye down the page to your CTA, you’ll encourage them to click through to explore more of what you have to offer, resulting in better brand awareness, more web traffic, and, ultimately, more sales.
The inverted pyramid model has a lot to offer, whether it’s used in newsletters, product emails, or other promotions. It’s up to you to take advantage of the model.
Ready to dive on deeper into why content markets need to know about newsletters? Take a look at our resource on the subject.
This post was originally published in January 2016