Writing email marketing messages that get better results requires an understanding of the fundamental rules and best practices of effective copywriting. Without a knowledge of how to write persuasive copy, your subject lines won’t drive opens, and the content of your messages won’t drive clicks. Without opens and clicks, you won’t get conversions or meet your goals.
But that’s not the only reason why good copywriting is essential to email marketing success. Poor copywriting could actually hurt your future email marketing campaigns because Email Service Providers (ESPs – i.e., mailbox providers), like Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, Apple Mail, and so on, notice when people aren’t engaging with your messages.
A lack of engagement (or negative engagement like marking messages as spam) tells ESPs you’re sending messages people don’t want, and they’ll punish you for it by sending more of your messages to the spam folder in the future.
Bottom-line, to get the best email marketing results and to stay out of the spam folder, you need to write email marketing messages that are relevant to each niche audience and motivate them to take action.
Hyper-targeted list segmentation and great copywriting is the way to do it.
With that said, let’s dive into the three most important copywriting principles you need to understand in order to write email marketing messages that get better results.
1. Features vs. Benefits
The most important thing to understand about copywriting is the difference between features and benefits.
Features are the “parts” of a product or service. They’re the things built into a product or service and serve a specific purpose. Typically, features allow a user to accomplish something. On the other hand, benefits are the added value people get when they use a product or service and the features it offers.
For example, a point-of-sale (POS) software product may have a feature that allows dispensaries to send automated texts to customers 10 days after their last purchase with a special discount encouraging them to come back and buy again.
Thinking about that feature – automated texts post-purchase – what are the benefits to dispensaries who buy the POS software and use that feature? Some benefits for the dispensary may be saving time (that could be used on other revenue-generating activities) and increasing repeat purchases (and revenue). Both of these benefits add value to the dispensary that is derived from a specific feature of the product.
When you’re writing email marketing messages, don’t just list the features of your product or services. First, they’re probably similar to what every other competitor offers and won’t help your brand stand out, and second, email recipients are unlikely to make the connection between a feature and the value they’ll get from it.
A fundamental rule of copywriting is to never assume consumers can connect the dots. You need to explain the benefits of your products and services to them! Features are interesting but benefits elicit emotions and drive action.
With that said, create a list of the features of your product or service. With your list in hand, create a list of benefits for each feature. Be sure to personalize the list based on your buyer personas because different benefits will matter to different niche audiences. It’s critical that you speak directly to each buyer persona by segmenting your email marketing lists and sending highly relevant messages that hype the benefits which matter most for each audience.
2. “You” Not “We”
Pronouns matter a lot in copywriting. In fact, a basic rule of copywriting is to talk more about your customers and their needs than your company, brand, or product in marketing communications.
The reason is simple. No one truly cares about your company, brand, or products. Instead, they care about how your company, brand, or products can help them by making their jobs easier, their customers happier, their companies more profitable, and so on. In other words, they care about how they can benefit from what you’re selling.
Therefore, always use more “you” language in your email marketing messages than “we” language.
Using “you” language means your message is primarily written in the second person (e.g., “You can save up to an hour a day” or “You’ll reduce your risk”) and is about the recipients’ needs, problems, pain points, and so on. Using “we” language means your message is primarily written in the first person (e.g., “We offer” or “Our system”) and is about your company, brand, or products.
After you write an email marketing message, read through it and make sure it includes more copy about the recipient than your company or products. If not, you need to make some changes so recipients instantly see the value in the message and want to read it.
Every marketing communication, including email marketing messages, should answer the target audience’s question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM?). This is another fundamental rule of copywriting. If the email message you plan to send doesn’t tell recipients what’s in it for them if they take the time to open and read it, then you need to make some changes to the message.
Each target audience is likely to have different problems, pain points, and needs that your products or services can help them with. Ideally, your email messages will give them something of value (answering WIIFM) that clearly shows them how your company can help them.
From the message subject line all the way through the body of the message, you need to keep answering that WIIFM question so recipients stay engaged and follow your call-to-action (CTA). You can’t just hook them once and expect them to stick around for your entire message. Ideally, every part of your message should tell them WIIFM.
You can answer the WIIFM question in each of your email marketing messages using benefits-oriented language relevant to the audience you’re sending to and by using more “you” copy than “we” copy.
Key Takeaways about Email Marketing Copywriting to Get Better Results
By understanding the basics of copywriting and writing messages that speak effectively to each buyer persona, your results will improve.
Focus on hyping the benefits of your products or services that matter to each target audience, writing more about your customers than your business and products, and making it clear to recipients that they’ll get something of value by opening, reading, and clicking on the links in your messages. If you do those three things, you should see an increase in engagement.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.