I’m hooked on InVision App emails. As a visual designer here at Ontraport, I get these emails several times a week, and I open every single one. To me, they are catchy, relevant and oddly whimsical. They focus on topics that I find extremely interesting and use clever CTAs that make me want to click just because they are entertaining (but honestly, who wouldn’t want to click “How to Order Pizza” on an article about Amazon’s Alexa?).

InVision App has me wrapped around its finger. It knows its audience and their interests. This recent obsession with a company’s weekly newsletter shows that it’s possible to fully capture the attention of your reader via email, and the key isn’t just good design or great inbox placement — though those two things definitely do help.

To this day, despite the endless “email is dead” claims, email still remains one of the best channels for consistently reaching customers. While some may say that social media is the better way to go, the numbers say otherwise: According to Optimonster, 60% of consumers prefer email over social media for personal and permission-based promotional messages. Additionally, 60% of customers stated that they have made a purchase as a result of a marketing message they received by email.

So, email is pretty important. It’s more effective than social media, and it provides a greater chance of gaining a sale.

The big question isn’t “Why email?” It’s “How do I get my email read?” By the end of 2019, the number of emails sent daily averaged 246 billion. With so many emails flooding inboxes, it’s reasonable to wonder if our emails are as effective as they can be and if they are even read at all.

What’s the key to hooking your reader’s attention? The key is language. According to expert copywriter Liston Witherill, “Copy can boost your sales by almost 20 times on the same offer.”

In this article, we explore the basic principles of powerful copywriting, including how to write from your customers’ perspective, build trust, and craft a strong call to action. Here are our top five do’s and don’ts of email copywriting strategies to make sure your emails get opened and clicked on:

Do: Make it about them

Writing great copy really isn’t about talking about yourself, your product or your business. Copywriting is about figuring out what matters to your customers and bridging the gap between their frustrations or interests and the solution/benefit your product provides.

In the case of InVision App, they know their audience is techy and design-orientated, so they build trust by providing helpful tips in those departments and then follow through with demonstrating their product. You can do this too, and the steps are pretty simple.

Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes

First, identify your customers’ potential pain points or problems, and try to look at the world from their perspective. What might they be struggling with? What solutions could your business offer to alleviate some of the burdens they might face? What could they improve on? What is keeping them up at night?

Give Them the Perfect Solution

Once you have a sense of your customers’ problems, concerns and interests, bridge the gap. Connect your product or service to them as the solution they’ve been looking for. Be specific and personalize your solutions to each customer’s unique problem. Show them exactly how you can help. Don’t, however, just rattle off a long list of your features and expect them to understand.

Don’t: Brag

Have you ever been in an extremely one-sided conversation? Where it almost feels like a monologue, and you can barely get at word in? These conversations are awkward and boring, and the same applies to email content.

Remember, connecting with your customers on an emotional level is much more effective in achieving customer loyalty. Instead of just listing off your features, tell them about the benefits your product or service provides and how those benefits will positively impact them day-to-day.

Here are some of the values of emotionally connected customers:

  1. They spend more: Companies that provide an emotional connection with customers outperform the sales growth of their competitors by 85%.
  2. They have trust in their favorite brand (you!): Research shows that 76% of customers say they have stayed with a brand for four years or more because of the trust they have in it, and 83% voted trustworthiness as the most important factor in brand favorability.
  3. They will promote their favorite brand: 94% of customers said they would highly recommend a brand they were emotionally engaged with.

How can your product or service benefit your customer? Why would your customer want to use your product specifically? Keep it a two-way conversation.

Do: Attract and keep their attention (also, be concise)

You’ve got all this amazing copy. You’ve written out your product benefits to a tee. Vague? Never. You’re as transparent as possible. There’s no way anyone could ever doubt your value to them.

What happens? Your customers take one look at the mountain of text and leave you in the dust. Or worse, they glance at your super descriptive and long subject line and don’t even bother opening it.

Keep Your Message Brief

It’s been proven that a typical reader only scans the first and last three words of a message — in other words, everything in between is pretty much white noise. This is huge. Don’t expect to hold onto your readers’ attention for very long. Be as concise as possible, and don’t make your email longer than it needs to be.

Punch Up Your Subject Line (and Preheader)

David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” was a legend for good reason. According to Ogilvy, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

While copywriting practices might have changed since his time, the importance of a good headline has not. So, how do you catch your customer’s eye?

Be helpful: Show the readers how they will benefit from reading your email.

  1. A Gift for Dad, a Bonus for You – Birchbox
  2. Three Simple Steps to Striking Design – Canva

Utilize FOMO: Encourage action! Create a sense of urgency around your message.

  1. Stay Current! Tap into 2018’s First Visual Trend – Adobe Stock
  2. Eeeek — something you like is almost sold out!  – ModCloth

Use your personal voice: Be intriguing, not boring.

  1. For hustlers only – AppSumo
  2. Proofread like a Boss – Grammarly

Other tips:

Use numbers. Think about Buzzfeed. How many “15 Adorable Puppies for Your Monday” articles have you scrolled through? There’s a reason these articles are catchy. Even better, try it with odd numbers to spark your subscribers’ interest.

Use merge fields. Who doesn’t like seeing their own name in a subject line, or even better, the name of their pet? My two huskies are more than just my dogs; they’re my children. You can bet I’ll always click on something if I see their names.

Use trigger words. These words are based on psychological principles that target the natural emotions and tendencies of humans. Here are some examples: 

  • Fear of missing out: “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring”
  • Curiosity: “Don’t open this email”
  • Pain points: “Get more kitchen space with these easy fixes”
  • Retargeting: “Hey, forgot something? Here’s 20% off” 

When crafting your subject line, also be cautious of which trigger words you use. If they aren’t used in the right context, they might get flagged as spam and your email may not make it to the inbox. Here’s a list of spam trigger words to avoid.

Don’t: Be generic and salesy

Just because one big marketer had successful open rates with “EARN BIG $$ WHILE YOU SLEEP!” as their subject line doesn’t mean you should copy and paste that as your own.

While it’s easy to focus on clickbait headlines, the long-term quality of leads you gain from those clicks will not be great. Keep in mind, a lot of email marketing tips and tricks weren’t written for entrepreneurs and small business owners. You don’t want to come off as spammy and cheap. Your clients will lose trust and, just like any relationship, trust once lost is hard to get back.

Some tips for staying out of the spam folder:

  1. Avoid words like Sale, Warning, Free, $$$, Advertisement.
  2. All caps is a no-go.
  3. Cut out excessive punctuation.
  4. Emojis are cute, but don’t overuse them.

Your clients want to hear your voice, not a generic headline and message. Don’t be afraid to let your personality show through.

Do: Close with intent

What is the purpose of your email? Remember the reason you’re writing email copy is to get your readers to take action. Are you trying to earn a purchase? Do you want to capture lead information? Are you trying to get people to attend a webinar or get more sign-ups for your education course?

Whatever the purpose of your email is, it’s important to have a single, clear call to action (CTA) and repeat it throughout your email. Spell it out in black and white, and tell them exactly what will happen once they take the action.

Here are some great examples:

Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders. Additionally, email marketing systems are achieving $44 in ROI for every $1 spent. Yeah, you read that right — that’s 4,400%!

Don’t lose your customers because you can’t hook their attention. By focusing on your audience, keeping it concise, maintaining your voice and giving your readers actionable solutions, you’ll be able to write email messages that capture your readers’ attention every time.

About Jadyn Chen
Jadyn graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus on Animation and concept art. She moved to Santa Barbara in 2012 with a goal of eventually working in the Los Angeles film industry, but quickly fell in love with graphic design instead. Outside of work, Jadyn spends her time traveling with her two huskies, toying around in other creative outlets, and sampling as much food and wine as humanly possible.