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How to write great email copy

June 1, 2014

Writing copy for email marketing campaigns is significantly different from writing for any other medium – and getting it right is crucial if you want that carefully planned campaign to succeed. Building a list of customers, getting their permission and thinking up a campaign will all come to no avail if what you say, and how you say it, isn’t written with due care and attention. Replicating copy from brochures or direct mail campaigns is a definite no-no, even if they have been successful off-line - email works very differently. At extravision we have years of experience of writing creative campaigns for our clients. Over that time we’ve learnt a few lessons about how to write great emails that get a good response – here’s a few tricks of our trade.

What’s it all about…

In many ways the subject line is the most important part of your email. You have about 3 seconds in which time your recipient will decide whether to read or trash your message. The subject line needs to be short, to the point – and give them a reason to open the mail rather than hit the delete button. The secret is to write a headline that grabs their attention without sounding too gimmicky, beware of sounding like a spammer. The subject line should make it clear what the email is about. Think about your offer, your target audience and what few words might entice them. And we do mean a few words – subject lines should be no more than 30-40 characters so you have between 5-8 words in total. Make them count.

Get to the point…

The same brevity should be applied throughout the email itself. Readers of email won’t hang around for long and are usually task-driven. They will want to know what’s in it for them very soon after opening the email, or again it will quickly be consigned to the trash. The first couple of lines are crucial – you need to let your recipient know what the email is about, what’s on offer and why it’s for them. Generally emails are scanned for interest before they are read – make sure that the message is not only relevant to them but that its relevance is obvious. Short, simple sentences and clarity of message is vital. Remember your email will undoubtedly be competing with many others for attention – long wordy copy will simply make them move onto the next message in their inbox.

Use your website…

It stands to reason that it will be tricky to say everything that you want to in a short email. Don’t try and shoehorn every benefit into a few paragraphs but use the message to lead your customers back to your website for more information and give them the opportunity to be able to contact you for more information. A simple landing page will not only give you an extra opportunity to convince them that your call to action is worth a click – it also provides a starting point for tracking their response and thereby assessing the effectiveness of your offer. Above all don’t try and make the sale in one email – think of it as the start of a process and you are much more likely to get the response you want in the long term.

Happy talk…

The tone of email copy is really more akin to the spoken word; even business emails tend to be conversational in style. The easiest way to make sure that your email sounds chatty rather than formal is to read it aloud. Anything that sounds clumsy to the ear probably won’t work. Remember – every email, even if you are sending the same message to hundreds of people, must sound as if it is a one to one. Email inboxes are very personal, private spaces and give you the unique opportunity to talk to your customer as a friend rather than a faceless sale or marketing department. Targeting emails addresses and then personalising the message accordingly needn’t be as time- consuming as it sounds and is well worth the effort when it comes to response rates.

Testing, testing…

Even though emails are more chatty in tone that does not mean that you can be sloppy about spelling or grammar. Proof reading your message is essential. Bad grammar and spelling will only divert attention away from the message and will make your company look unprofessional. Testing is also important in terms of measuring potential response rates. We’ve already established that you only have a small window of opportunity to get it right. Pilot testing a few variations on a small sample of people is possible with email campaigns in a way that it is not with other marketing mediums. Use this to your advantage and test out a few versions, check the responses – this way you can be reassured that your message is the best it can be.

In summary

Writing effective emails isn’t easy but get it right and the response rate should be high. Focus on your objective, find out what makes your audience tick, talk to them in their own language and you could have the makings of a beautiful friendship. If you would like more information please email us at [email protected] or call +44 (0)161 817 2929

Posted by Jenni Malley
Writing copy

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