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How to Craft Your Email Copy

July 8, 2011

Writing for your email audience is very different to writing for a printed direct mail piece. There are issues to consider around avoiding spam filters, the use of compelling subject lines to encourage opens and the right design to drive people to your website.
Extravision broadcast hundreds of campaigns a week for our B2B and B2C clients and in this article; we share some useful advice to help you first get your recipients to open your email and then to click through to your website.

To open or not to open

Recognising the sender and a history of previous good information is the most important factor as to whether someone decides to open your email or not. And goes without saying, that if you have nothing of value to say in your email, then just don’t send it! When an email is delivered, you really have to encourage your recipient to open it.

Your name means everything

For your email campaign, you need to consider your “from name” and your “subject line”. Research shows that both play an integral part, although it is crucial not to consider each in isolation, but as part of an ongoing conversation, whilst previous history and sender recognition are also vital. The top 3 factors influencing recipients to open emails are:
  • Know and trust the sender
  • Compelling subject line
  • Previously opened and regarded as valuable

Your “from name” should be recognisable and we would recommend that you consider using:

  • Your brand – for eg: ASOS, Debenhams, Sainsburys
  • Your product – for eg: Debenhams Sale alert
  • Your company – for eg: Sainsburys Manchester

Subject line care

Of course you also need to carefully craft a good subject line, which briefly describes the content of your email. Make sure that it is attention grabbing and if possible, it uses a call to action. And remember to run it through a spam filter check before sending. The length of your subject line is also important and we’d advise to keep it under 49 characters if you can. Return Path research showed that click through rates for subject lines with less than 49 characters were 75% higher than those over 50.
We can’t stress enough the importance of testing and testing again! See which ones get the best response and consider using deadlines for special offers you may have.
It’s really very easy to implement as all you need to do is split your campaign in two and send one idea option to one file and another to the other file and to measure success by your open rates.
Your marketing offer, audience and objectives will all be different, but one idea might be to test a subject line with and without personalisation. Or try using action words for eg: Download Your Report, mention deadlines, or link to a date, or event.

Please also take a look at our article The Power of the Subject Line for more detailed advice. 

Differing preview panes

Research suggests that around 75% of your recipients will read your email in their preview pane, before they decide whether to fully open it and so you have to make the top of your email clear and enticing. If you have an offer, it needs to go here. Your objective is to make them take action on your offer and so use a combination of text and images for mass appeal, but never just use images on their own, as they may be blocked.
All the differing email systems use preview panes as standard, except for Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail and so it is definitely worth analysing your list to establish the proportion of your recipients using webmail systems.

Maintaining interest

Once your recipient has decided to go ahead and open your email, they are indicating an interest in what you have to say. The next step is to make your email easy for them to scan and commit to an action. However, it’s not quite that easy as different email systems display html content in different ways; each one with it’s own nuances!

Think Above the Fold

Other considerations should be made as to what appears “Above the Fold” which is the area on view before scrolling down. Always feature your special offer, or interesting news in this area to get their attention and to give clear instructions as to what they need to do next.

Less is more

Your readers will scan and scroll and so keep it brief as longer emails mean more to scan and digest and your recipients may lose interest. If your design is appealing and your message is clear and concise, then they will take action and click through to your website, which is an action you can easily track.

Formatting techniques

There are some techniques related to layout and formatting, that will work regardless of your audience. Just don’t forget that you know your market better than anyone and clever copy won’t make up for a poorly targeted offer.
You can help with this by first clearly stating what your email is about in the opening paragraph and by keeping in mind that your email is not your website, so you don’t need to squeeze every single thing you do into one campaign!
Keep your paragraphs short for easy scanning, use bold and headings to emphasise your key points and bullets or numbers to space these out. Position your links on separate lines so that they stand out and are clear and bear in mind that blue underlining is the international format for a link. Don’t hide your call to actions within text, make sure they are in separate sections and link directly to a relevant landing page.
Use images to capture attention and re-iterate your key points and format with alt tags and specific size attributes to ensure your emails do not distort if images are blocked.
Please also see our useful Tip of the Month blog article How to make sure your emails degrade gracefully for more help with this.

Keep it personal

Think about the appropriate salutation for your audience. If you have your customer’s name, make sure you use it to let them know you are personally talking to them and remember that you can consider using a default personalisation such as “Sir/Madam” if you don’t have that level of information.
May be stating the obvious, but make sure that, just like a conventional letter, your email has a personal signature if it is predominantly text based.  

Safe senders

You could consider asking your recipients to add you to their safe sender list or address books to ensure your emails don’t filter to spam folders by accident.

Always, always, always

  • Include a link to view your email in a web browser.
  • Encourage your contacts to forward your email on to their colleagues and friends.
  • Include a link to a form which allows new contacts to add themselves to your mailing list and you could also ask them if they prefer html or text versions of your emails.
  • Have an Unsubscribe option on all your emails and you should make it absolutely clear that your recipient doesn’t opt for the “mark as spam” button which may cause you deliverability challenges.
  • State your company name, registration number, place of registration and your registered address if you have one.

Be data sensitive

Recipients are much more sensitive to campaigns using third party data, so if you are renting a third party list, it is good practice to include a footer to state where the recipient’s details were obtained and how they can change their preferences to avoid receiving future communications. 

In conclusion

Keep it short, ensure that your offers really stand it, include a strong, clear call to action and as always, test, test, test to find out exactly what your customers want! 

If you need any further help pulling your email copy together, then please call 0161 817 2929 or email [email protected]. We're here to help.


Posted by Rebecca McCormick

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