Be they online or offline, there are few marketing tools more rich with potential than email marketing. After all, each email begins as an empty canvas upon which you may paint a masterpiece: no character limits, no fixed set of viable image aspect ratios, and no restrictions on where, when and how you might deploy a CTA.
That said, there are similarly few tools that are misused so consistently. Businesses in the digital sphere regularly engage in email marketing without coming close to fulfilling its remarkable potential — and one of the main reasons is the quality (or lack thereof) of the copywriting.
The language you use and the way you present your arguments mustn’t be overlooked. Even if your readers don’t consciously notice the difference between amateur scrawlings and finely-crafted prose, they’ll detect it on some level. This can be hugely impactful, particularly when you’re trying to sell products and there are direct profits riding on the results.
So if you’re running an ecommerce brand and eager to do more with your email marketing, you’ll find that shaping up your copywriting will produce significant improvement. Here are five core copywriting tips to help you sell more through your emails:
In the grand pantheon of email copywriting essentials, this is the most divinely vital, and failing to adhere to it is akin to repeatedly shooting yourself in both feet before tumbling off a cliff into a craggy ravine. In other words, it’s a big deal. Here’s why:
It’s hard to stand out in an email inbox. You need to choose your subject line very carefully to give your contribution the best possible chance of getting attention ahead of the hundreds of other emails surrounding it — and if you manage to win that all-important click, the clicker will be expecting more of whatever you used to draw them in.
For instance, if you mention an unbelievable bargain in your subject line, you’d better deliver a bargain they struggle to believe, and quickly. Even getting to it in the second paragraph might not be enough. The reader might glance at the top line, wonder “Where’s this unbelievable bargain?”, and back out of the email.
So ensure a message match by writing the email content to seamlessly follow the subject line. Otherwise, all the high-quality product copy in the world might go to waste.
If you run an ecommerce brand, or at least work for one, then you should already know the basics of selling: in particular, the importance of selling potential buyers on how their life would change if they decided to purchase from you.
The point of this is to evoke emotion, whether it’s a sense of elation at the idea of a happier future or a feeling of fury at how frustrating life without your product has been. When we get emotional, we make irrational decisions — we buy what we don’t really need, and spend more money than we would sensibly prefer to. Both good things for sellers.
But people are better than you (or they) might think at detecting tonal disconnects. Suppose that you’re trying to market a luxury shower gel, eager to have the reader get excited about using it, yet your copy feels dry, cold, and uninterested. If you apparently don’t care about something you’re telling readers to get hyped about, why should they?
The key, then, is to write in a way that reflects the emotion you want to inspire. If you want the possible buyer to get excited, then show excitement. Use stylised text, exclamation marks, reaction GIFs (within reason…), and words with potent connotations.
Should you say that a luxury shower gel is “a powerful cleaner” or “a sumptuous sensory cocktail”? Which one better gets across the vision of a heavenly showering experience?
“Look at all the space I have!”, you might think as you look over your blank email canvas. “I can include as much text as I want!”. But don’t let that power go to your head — that you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. There’s a reason why spacing things out is one of the overriding principles of web design in general.
Think about how a reader might be making their way through your email. At a desktop computer with no distractions and ten minutes set aside to focus on your content? Hardly a realistic notion! Perhaps at a laptop with one eye on the screen and another on a TV, or in a store with a spare few seconds to scan through their inbox.
But doesn’t that mean that it’s more important to get to points quickly? Wouldn’t it be suitable to lump them together right away so they can’t be missed? Well, put succinctly, no, it wouldn’t. When you clump two big points together, they both lose visibility — they might be on the screen, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be read and understood.
This calls for a steady determination to trim any unnecessary content and surround any notable point in enough space that it can actually be noticed. Check out a product page from any big brand and you’ll see that the initial content is sparse (potentially expanding to more substantial content down the page). Don’t make your points fight for attention.
Sending out droves of generic emails is a dated tactic that doesn’t belong in this age of email automation and personalization. Through segmentation, templates, and complex triggering, emails can be pushed out to specific audiences with hyper-relevant content — and this is something you need to factor into your copy.
Consider how different one customer relationship may be from another. Any given email recipient may have purchased from you once, or several times, or many times. They may or may not have used your referral scheme. They might have expressed interest in particular products, or have refused any customization options. Relevancy is essential for transactional emails, and relevancy is contextual.
Now consider how the same piece of copy might have a different effect depending on the context. A pointedly warm and friendly tone might feel justified when directed at a long-time customer, but seem out of place (and even presumptuous) when aimed at a new customer. “Why are they acting like they know me?”, the latter might think.
You should also factor in the types of product purchased, and the clues they provide about levels of disposable income. Should you be pitching expensive high-end products at someone who has only ever ordered budget items from you? Obviously not — at best, it would be confusing, and at worst it would come across as insulting.
How do you achieve this practically? It’s simple enough if you use Campaign Monitor’s dynamic content sections: simply create content for every important scenario and select the segments that should be able to see each part. Conveniently, Campaign Monitor will readily integrate with almost every mainstream ecommerce CMS, with the only current exception being Shopify — and that’s solely because the app is being refreshed (and improved).
One-sided as they may technically be, it helps to imagine what it would be like if your email pitches were halves of conversations. This is mainly because your content will inevitably give rise to questions — thought, not said — and it’s incumbent upon you to answer them to whatever extent you can.
For example, suppose that you start a marketing email by claiming that your new jacket line is made from the strongest fabric in the world. It would be entirely reasonable for someone who reads that to mentally ask various questions, such as “What evidence do they have to support that claim?”, “What makes it the strongest?”, and “What are the main competitors?”.
You can’t know about these questions when they arise, but you can anticipate them and answer them immediately. You’ll never be able to see every possible question coming, but you can cover the primary ground easily enough. That way, when someone reads your email and has most of their questions answered in a hasty fashion, they’ll feel more confident in the quality of the product and the reliability of your brand.
A useful trick for this is to directly state the questions in your copy. That way, even if someone has other questions that you didn’t anticipate, you can guide them back to the ones you did, and perhaps even leave them feeling that those questions were the ones they wanted answers to.
Is this really effective? Won’t people recognize what’s happening and recoil from it? I don’t think so. When you ask questions, as I did just then, the reader gets attached to them. We just can’t help it — it’s somewhat alike trying to stop yourself thinking about something, only to find yourself thinking about it even more.
There are plenty more copywriting tips out there — so many that you’ll never perfect the process, no matter how hard you try or how diligently you study — but the tips we’ve covered are the basic essentials. They should be applied to every type of ecommerce marketing email, no matter the product or situation.
Why not give them a try? Implement them when you run your next email marketing campaign to see for yourself how well they work.