Your own email inbox is probably filled with both plain text messages and HTML emails with fully designed graphics, images, color, and display fonts. Before you fall in love with designed emails, recognize that all the visual bells and whistles won’t make up for poorly written copy or content that isn’t relevant to the recipient. A well-written plain text email can be very effective at generating click-throughs and customer action. Either way, you’ll want to apply copywriting best practices to both your subject line and your email body. If you can’t produce good copy in-house, hire a talented copywriter. It will be money well spent.
Of course, your emails must be formatted properly for the device on which they’re viewed. The growth of mobile devices all running on different operating systems makes it hard to keep up with the technical requirements for making your emails display beautifully across iOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry smartphones, plus tablets. But your well-written messaging will be lost if your reader can’t decipher it on their device of choice.
Nailing The Subject Line
The subject line is the gatekeeper of your email. It’s the first thing a recipient reads and it will determine if your email gets opened, ignored, or trashed.
The mail experts at MailChimp suggest avoiding a few trigger words in your subject lines. The word “Free” might get your email caught in spam filters. Three other words that were found to negatively affect open rates are, “Help,” “Percent Off,” and “Reminder.” Also, don’t use all caps or multiple exclamation points. In the online world, all caps suggests shouting and lots of exclamation points look juvenile at best, and scammy at worst.
On the positive side, here are a few things you should consider when crafting subject lines:
- Use action verbs, such as take, buy, download, or win.
- Tell the recipient what they’ll be able to do with the email information or what they might miss if they don’t read it.
- Make it personalized to the audience by speaking directly to a need.
- Be clear and concise. Clever word play generally takes a back seat to straightforward, benefit-based language.
- Tie it to the body copy. If you promise something in the subject, be sure to follow through in the email.
- Keep it short. The general rule of thumb is to keep subject lines to 50 characters or less. If you’re sending to highly targeted audiences, then you can get away with longer subject lines that provide more value-added information.
Crafting The Main Message
Some of the same rules for subject lines apply to the body copy of your emails, plus a few more:
- Use action language to engage and motivate the reader.
- Tell them right up front who you are, why you’re writing to them, and what you’re offering that’s of value to them.
- Segment your markets so you can target your message and make it relevant to your audience.
- Write in the second person and use personal pronouns like “you” and “your” so the reader feels you are speaking directly to him or her. You can use “we” and “our” when speaking about your company but do that less often. Make it about the reader.
- Focus on explaining benefits rather than listing features. Keep your message centered on “what’s in it for me.”
- Keep it short and concise. The proliferation of media channels is eroding the public’s collective attention span, so you’ve got just a few seconds to make an impression before your reader clicks away to the next email in the queue. Use bold heads and subheads, along with callouts and captions to make it easier to skim the email and get the gist of the message in less than 10 seconds.
- Include a clear call to action and use motivational language to spur action. A large, clickable button that says “Learn More,” or “View Deal” encourages action. If you’re using plain text, make your call to action a clickable hyperlink so it stands out in a different color and is easy to locate and click.