8 ways to write better emails
1. Promise value in the subject line and deliver exactly what you promised in the email body.
A typical internet user gets around 30-50 emails per day. Only a handful of these emails will actually be read, and most will go to the trash. An email’s subject line is the first, and can possibly be the last, point of contact you will have with the recipient. Subject lines determine open rates. So make sure you put a lot of effort in the subject line and craft it in such a way that it promises value. Then in the rest of your email, deliver exactly what that promise is. It’s already a huge privilege for a recipient to be able to read more than your email’s subject line. Don’t waste the chance by delivering on the promise that initially caught his/her attention. Refer to Kalzumeus and Copy Hackers for more guidance in crafting better subject lines for your emails.
2. Aim your messaging at a target market, not at everyone.
If you try to make everyone happy with your email, you end up saying nothing compelling enough for anyone to do something your email wants. I got this from Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers.com, applying her advice on website messaging to emails. Each market has values and needs that only a few messages can reach. Write for those people that will most likely reward you for your service, whether it’s by buying your product or by referring you to people who carry problems that your product can solve. Write for a lesser number of people who have an authentic need for your product, instead of a bigger group who were just merely interested or just passing by. Furthermore, tell customers honestly if they are not the right customer for your product and use the trust that this generates for them to successfully find people seeking your solution.
3. Start fast and get to the point.
The part that will most probably be read in any message is the first sentence. Most readers don’t make it past the first one or two sentences, so make it count. Make your introduction as short as possible (or if it can safely be omitted, do so) and start telling the recipient what your email is all about. Make them feel right from the start that reading your message won’t be a waste of their time. Doing this is also beneficial for email clients such as Gmail or Outlook that preview the first few lines of every email.
4. Write content that can be consumed in less than 5 minutes
Be as brief as possible and keep your message to 3 paragraphs or less. Upon first glance, people can instantly determine whether the content and length of your email can easily be consumed or requires more of their time than necessary. Make their email reading experience a breeze.
5. Features do not sell products, benefits do.
Explain in your email how their lives will improve by reading its contents and, ultimately, by buying your product. Find their pain points and use these to write about how your product or service can solve their pains.
6. Prove yourself whenever you can.
Most probably, your email recipients haven’t heard of you and will never bother to find out if you’re credible or not. You must avoid them from thinking that you’re not just pulling stuff out of some magic hat. In order for them to gain confidence in what you have to say in your email, back them up with proof. These are usually presented as existing data or by referring to what the experts are saying.
7. Personalize, be human.
Make your email sound like it really came from a human instead of some automated emailing system. Don’t make your message sound too sales-y, spammy, or corporate. Also, write as you speak. Reading the email should sound like you were actually speaking to the recipient. In some cases, put your phone number to gain their trust and to show that you’re serious, just like what David Marcus, CEO of Paypal, did in his response to Andy McMillan (after generating a huge buzz on the internet when Paypal withheld 40k British Pounds from him).
8. Experiment, experiment, experiment!
Even with all the ways written above, we can never be sure how effective an email is without experimenting with different messages. Use split tests to determine which version of your email is getting more open rates or click-throughs. I recommend using Collabspot for this. It lets you create different email templates as well as providing tracking and analytics (coming soon!) to determine which of your emails convert better than others.
A lot of the advice written above are indebted to Patrick McKenzie (popularly known as patio11) and Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers. Here are references to training courses, articles, and books that provide valuable information in writing better emails:
- Patrick McKenzie’s course on hacking lifecycle emails is a treasure trove of information for optimization of emails, newsletters, and landing pages.
- The Kalzumeus Greatest Hits, which not only contains some of the best practical advice for writing emails but also for all aspects in growing a startup.
- The Copy Hackers copywriting ebooks which also offers advice in web writing and landing page messaging, among the many other useful content.
- Copy Hackers free worksheets and their weekly newsletter offering free copywriting strategies.
- The Customer.io blog which contains articles about user engagement in emails.