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How To Write E-Mail That’s Sell

55 Comments · Web Copy

Seven Elements of E-Mails That Sell

Element 1: A Compelling Subject Line.
The subject line should be irresistible and must beg to be opened, not because of hype or overly commercial language, but because it is compelling.

What’s more, your subject line must not appear to an advertisement, which, even if it somehow got through the filters, would have the same effect as asking readers to watch a TV commercial.

Remember that each of us is bombarded with an average of 3,500 commercial messages per day-from TV, billboards, radio, the Internet, and practically everywhere we turn.

The last thing we want to see when we open our e-mail (or visit website) is yet another ad. Yes, that applies even when we gave a company permission to send us e-mail.

Here’s a simple exercise that will give you the best education you can get when it comes to writing subject lines that are impossible to ignore.

This exercise puts you smack-dab in your prospects’ shoes or, more precisely, in their frame of mind.

Go to your e-mail box and check your incoming e-mail. You need to actually do this; don’t be tempted to just do it mentally or you’ll defeat the purpose of the exercise. This is positively eye opening.

Once you have your e-mail in-box in front of you, what do you see? You see the sender, subject, date, and size columns.

Where do your eyes go first? Some people glance at the sender column, but if you’re like most people, you’ll tend to scan the subject column to see which e-mail you want to open first right? 

Which subject times are most likely to open first, and why?  All the tests I’ve been involved in show that people are more likely to open those that have the appearance of personal e-mail versus commercial e-mail and those that have a friendly tone rather than a corporate, businesslike tone.

Which of the following e-mails would you open first?

Subject: Online Marketing Gazette
Subject: Avon Spring Specials
Subject: Dinner’s on me …
Subject: 30% Discount on Eyewear!
Subject: Holiday Bonanza
Subject: Save up to 70% off at Overstock, 40% at Amazon, and more!

I’m betting you’ll open the e-mail with the subject line, “Dinner’s on me . . .” first.
It’s obvious which e-mails are personal and which are commercial, and it’s easy to see that if the subject line of your e-mail looks like it’s coming from a friend, it’s more likely to be opened first.

Here are a few more examples of subject lines that give the appearance of personal e-mail; that is, they have a friendly tone rather than a corporate or commercial tone.

Subject: <fname>, this is barely legal …
Subject: This is unpublished . . .
Subject: Wait ’til you hear this …
Subject: Who said this?
Subject: This finally came …
Subject: Not sure if you got this?
Subject: This makes sense …
Subject: About your website, <fname>
Subject: Here’s what I promised .
Subject: Here’s the formula …
Subject: I almost forgot …
Subject: Sorry, I goofed …

When your eyes zero in on the subject line, for instance, they also dart quickly (if not peripherally) to the sender field of the in-box.

Therefore, the subject and the sender must agree with each other. Suppose you craft a subject line like the following in an attempt to trick the recipient into thinking it is a personal e-mail:

Subject: Hey, was that you I saw?

If the name in the sender field is “Internet Profits Weekly,” your otherwise friendly and curiosity-provoking subject line is it negated when your recipient realizes it’s a ploy. Above all, be real.

Some say that this technique is deceptive because the recipient is not really your friend, but rather a prospect, a customer, a subscriber, or just someone who has opted into your list.

The fact is, your e-mail recipient should perceive you as a friend. That’s the heart of relationship marketing.

That’s the reason you ask viewers for their e-mail addresses in the first place-to start a relationship with them so they can get to know you, trust you, and eventually buy from you.

There’s a very thin line between creating a riveting subject line and one that is deceptive. If you use trickery to get recipients to open your enticing message, they may bite once or twice, but when they recognize the pattern, the game’s over.

They’re likely to ignore all future e-mails from you, and they may even ask to be removed from your list altogether.

There are no hard-and-fast rules in e-mail. When you do your own intelligence work, the frame of mind of your audience will become apparent to you, and writing subject lines that are noticed will be a snap.

When you get a feel for the language used in e-mails that get maximum readership (personal e-mails), you’ve won half the battle.

Reading this, you might think that creating a personal sounding e-mail does not seem difficult.

After all, you e-mail your friends all the time. Shouldn’t it be a simple task to write marketing e-mails the same way?

One would think so, but it’s not. Somehow, when we sit down to write marketing e-mail, many of us try to be clever and creative, or we inject a big dose of markets and, as a result, lose our friendly, personal tone, as we subconsciously switch to writing in a commercial or corporate style.

That puts us way off the mark when it comes to e-mail communications.

Element 2: The First Sentence.
The next thing you need is an opening line that identifies who you are and establishes rapport.

Your e-mail must have a real person behind it; it can’t be a faceless piece of communication. 

You can start by saying something that you would say to a friend. I’ve seen an Australian newsletter publisher; for example, start an e-mail by describing the wonderful weather they are having in Australia and briefly describing the idyllic setting where he lives and works.

A famous Internet marketer started an e-mail by saying that he just got back from a successful trip, followed by a short description of that trip.

Brevity is the key; just a couple of ice-breaking sentences should suffice. Some copywriters and marketers skip this seemingly insignificant gesture because they want to get to the point and not waste their audience’s time.

As a result, they miss the opportunity to bond with their readers and gain rapport with them.

Some of the most successful e-mails are the ones that elicit the reaction from people that makes them say, “I feel like I know you!”

This is your opportunity to get your audience to like you, and if they like you they’re more inclined to buy from you.

Element 3: Stay on Point.
This is the gist of your marketing message or the promise of a benefit to come. A good way to do this is by using a journalists’ device called the inverted pyramid (an upside-down triangle with the narrow tip pointing down and the broad base at the top).

The broad base represents the most significant, newsworthy information, and the narrow tip the least important information.

Following this method, you put the most important information at the beginning and the least important information at the end of your e-mail.

As with most journalism, brevity and clarity get high marks, so get right to the point. Your readers are busy, and they don’t want you wasting their time.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake many Internet entrepreneurs make and start your e-mail with a lengthy reminder that the e-mail is not unsolicited, that the recipient has agreed to receive your mailing or newsletter, and then offer instructions on how to opt out.

While this statement acknowledges the permission-based aspect of your relationship, it wastes the first screen of your e-mail, which is the prime area for starting your sales process.

Put instructions for opting out at the end of your message.

Element 4: Just One Message.
Don’t litter your e-mail with a slew of subjects and topics. Stick to a single message so that you can lead your reader down your intended sales path.

When average recipients receive an e-mail, particularly a lengthy one, they don’t read it sequentially.

They scan it looking for things that may interest them. If three or four topics grab their attention, they make a mental note of them and start reading the one that interests them most.

As they read that part of your e-mail, the Zeigarnik effect kicks in, and their brain is unable to pay full attention to what they’re reading.

Various other ideas start competing for attention. This can easily work against you, especially if you are trying to sell something.

Not only will you not have your readers’ full attention, they are not likely to go down your intended sales path or take action of any kind, because the brain is compelling them to read the other things that attracted them.

Multiple messages in a single e-mail, combined with the fact that e-mail readers have short attention spans, makes for an unholy alliance when it comes to e-mail marketing.

Element 5: Provide Value.
Give your e-mail recipients something of value in return for their undivided attention. This could be something free or at a discount, or some useful information or a special offer.

Element 6: The Benefit.
It’s not enough just to tell your readers what your offer is; you must demonstrate how it will benefit them.

An easy way to do this is to state the offer and follow it up with “. .. so that you can [fill in the blank].” A travel website, for instance, can say, “Try our free fare-tracking service so that you can be informed weekly of all the unpublished, hard-to-find bargain fares to Boston-without having to scour the web.”

Element 7: A Call to Action.
Many e-mail marketers go to great lengths to create well-crafted e-mails that make a compelling selling argument about their product or service.

But at the last moment, when the prospect is just about ready to take the next step, they drop the ball by failing to ask the prospect to take action.

The action can be a request to click, sign up, register, or buy, but whatever it is, you must make sure you tell the reader what to do next.

This is true not only for your e-mails but for your website and all marketing communications.

Do you have additional techniques of writing e-mail to (create a dialogue and deepen intimacy with customers) other than the ones mentioned above?

Which one of the suggested elements you would like to argue for or against?

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