Article first published September 2014, updated June 2019.
So you’ve got a great new product or feature that you’re about to launch. You sit down to write copy for the email campaign and you start drawing blanks. What am I supposed to write? How do I make this new product or feature appealing to my audience?
It can be difficult to write great email copy, and in those times good copywriting can feel like a mysterious art.
However, the key to writing great email copy isn’t a big secret known only to the experts. The key to writing great email copy is simplicity.
By presenting the benefit of your product in a clear and concise manner, you’ll make it much more appealing to your audience and ultimately drive more conversions.
So how do you put that into practice? Here’s 5 tips we’ve learnt over the years that will help you write simple email copy that sells.
1. Focus on a single audience
It would be great to be able to make your product or feature appeal to every possible customer.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that if you try to write email copy that appeals to everybody, you end up writing copy that appeals to nobody.
So when writing copy for your email campaign, focus on a single view of your reader and think about what would appeal to them. Write headlines that speak to benefits they would want, include images that appeal specifically to them and write body copy that uses language they use.
Let’s say you own an online flower store and have just started stocking roses.
Instead of sending an email campaign simply stating that you now sell roses, try segmenting your list and sending a campaign focused on a specific audience, such as your male subscribers. Use headlines that talk about the benefits of buying roses for their partners, use some beautiful stock photos of smiling and happy couples, and use language they use in your body copy.
By focusing on a single audience, you’ll be able to write email copy that speaks directly to the benefits those people want from your product or feature, and you’ll increase desire for your offer and drive more conversions.
2. Work towards one goal
We know readers are only skimming your email content, so it’s important to make it very clear to them what the next step is.
The best way to simplify your email copy in this area is to set one clear conversion goal for your campaign before you start writing.
By setting the goal upfront, you’ll know exactly what action you are trying to push people towards and you’ll naturally start to focus your copy on that single goal.
Take a look at this email campaign from InVision announcing their new Photoshop plugin. They clearly set the goal of getting people to click through to their website, and as a result they’ve written simple copy that sells the benefits to the reader and makes it clear what the next step is.
Decide on the goal of your email campaign before you start writing. Are you trying to get them to signup for your new product straight away? Or just register for a demo? By setting your goal upfront, you’ll know exactly what conversion action to push people towards and your email copy will naturally become more focused and clear.
3. Make it conversational
When we talk with friends, we naturally simplify our language.
If your best friend asked what your product does, would you ever reply with ‘Our product is the world’s leading, device-agnostic message delivery platform’?
Probably not, but you might say ‘We make software that lets you send email marketing campaigns’
So when crafting email copy for your new product or feature announcement, focus on making it conversational and ensure it’s something you’d be happy to say to your friends. This little ‘filter’ will help keep out the jargon and make sure you write copy that is simple and easy for the reader to understand.
Take a look at Medium’s customer email and notice the conversational tone. It’s written as if it were a letter from one friend to another.
By writing your email copy in a conversational tone, you’ll naturally filter out the jargon and end up writing simple copy that is easy for your audience to comprehend.
4. Get someone else to read it
Once you’ve created a first draft of your email copy, go back and edit it to remove the unnecessary words that detract from clarity.
Then, once you’ve edited it down yourself, send it over to someone else to have a read as well.
Most marketers suffer the curse of knowledge when it comes to their products. They forget their audience doesn’t have the expertise they do and end up writing copy that others struggle to understand.
By showing your copy to someone who isn’t as close to the product as you are, you’ll see the areas of your copy where others might struggle and be able to edit it down.
Compare these two value propositions that you might find in an email marketing campaign announcing the launch of new online video product.
- Our platform makes it easy to create your own cross-platform video website.
- Our platform makes it easy to create your own video website that works across all devices.
The only difference in these two value propositions is the use of the word ‘cross-platform’.
To a marketer familar with online video and web design, the term ‘cross-platform’ is a short and concise way of saying that their video sites work across all devices.
However, to the end user not so familar with the industry, the term is meaningless and fails to convey what is a great feature.
By getting someone else to read your email copy before sending, you can spot buzzwords and jargon that make it difficult for your audience to understand the key messages you are trying to convey.
5. Test different versions
The only way to truly know which version of your email copy works best is to test, and fortunately setting up A/B tests of your email marketing campaigns is really easy.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you simply select the A/B test option from the “Create New Campaign” screen and write two versions of your email instead of one. The software monitors the results of both versions over the set time period then automatically sends the highest converting email to the rest of your list.
Not only does this make your campaign more effective, but you also start to get some insight into what works best for your audience.
Here at Campaign Monitor, we’re big fans of testing our email copy to improve conversions. In fact, when we ran an A/B test comparing the call to action in one our campaigns, we got a 51% increase in click-throughs!
While all the tips above are great for helping you write simpler email copy, the only way to really know what works for your audience is to test. Considering how easy it is to do, we’d definitely recommend testing different version of your email copy to see what works best.
6. Keep your message short and sweet
There’s a tendency among some people who do advertisement writing—whether it’s blog, article, or email writing—to lay it on thick with vocabulary. The thought process behind it is understandable. They want to show off their lexis, and usually do so as a method of trying to impress the reader.
However, this isn’t always the best idea. Why? People who read content want it to be easy to digest. If the sentences are so wordy that they need to read them a couple times for the information to sink in, or if the reader needs a second tab open with a link to the dictionary, they may choose not to bother.
What’s the alternative? Short, punchy sentences. Knowing how to write copy that sells is about saying less with more. This falls under email marketing tips and best practices for the general advertising copywriter. Great copy in content marketing is about getting to the point and not going overboard with the verbiage.
If you want to see an ad get to the point, just look at this one from Harry’s.
Take the above image. Imagine if the copy read: “Are you looking to subscribe to a new shaving plan? Consider trying us. We’ll deliver the product to your door. Even better, our blades cost less than $2 each. We’ll start you off with a trial set, and even throw in free shipping for your convenience.” You can already see the difference.
Obviously, Harry’s knows that less is more. Their concise approach lends itself better to image ads like the one above, and you can see how their word choices are much more focused than the text we wrote below it. Concise copy makes for more effective emails and advertisement writing, in general.
7. Use strong verbs in active voice
Knowing how to write copy that sells is about using active voice.
More than that, it’s about using strong verbs in active voice. Active voice is when the subject performs the action—the action is more powerful and it can call a person into action more effectively.
Here’s an example of active voice. Notice the relationship between the subject and verb.
Consider that over something like “the hamburgers are being eaten.” Notice how the subject is now being acted upon, rather than performing? The same could be said about the sentence, “Mailing is being done by Marilyn.”
Knowing how to write copy that sells is about calling people to action. Active voice and the use of strong verbs denote a higher performance. They’re a cornerstone of content marketing and great copy. When you can call readers to action, you can make sales.
Passive voice is boring. You want your writing to be exciting and enthralling. Strong language works to get peoples’ attention and keep it, no matter what type of content you’re creating.
The key to writing great email copy is simplicity. If the copy of your next campaign is jargon-free, targeted at a single audience, and focused on a single goal, then you’ve successfully written email copy that sells.
So try some of these tactics on your next email campaign and see how it changes your email’s performance.
Just remember: Keep it simple. Learn how sales and marketing can be aligned and accomplished using email and these effective copywriting tips.
Your turn: What rules would you add to this list to help others write simple email copy that sells?
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