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Writing emails is easy, right?

You just sit down, put in a quick subject line, bang out the body text + hit send. It only takes a few seconds + doesn’t require that much thought.

While that may be true for the email that you’re sending to your best friend about your fantasy football league, that strategy doesn’t work for marketing emails.

Marketing emails with the best response rates are carefully crafted.

A ton of thought has been put into them. The emails are personalized, relevant + get the reader to take action.

Not so easy, right?

It’s even a little intimidating.

  • How can you know what makes for a great subject line + compelling body copy?
  • Should your emails be brief or long?
  • Should the subject line be simple + to the point or more creative?

Discover the most effective principles of email copywriting:

  • How to get inside the mind of your reader
  • How to craft the perfect subject line
  • How to create compelling body copy that gets readers to take action
  • How to personalize your emails
  • + more

The Ultimate Goal of Every Email

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how to write killer emails, we need to first talk about the goal of every email you send.

Ultimately, your goal is to engage the reader.

You want your emails to get the reader to do something, whether that’s reply, click a button, or something else. When it comes to marketing emails, you want the reader to take action.

First, you want the reader to open the email. That’s why you need to work hard on your subject lines.

Then, you want the reader to actually read the email itself. This is why you must work hard to craft the body of your copy.

Finally, you want the reader to take action, which is why you need a strong, compelling call-to-action with every email.

We’ll talk more about each of these in detail, but it’s critical to get these things clear up front.

See, here’s the thing…

Email is a two-way communication tool. Even if you’re emailing a large list, you want your readers to engage with your emails. You want them to feel as if you’re talking to them individually, not just blasting out an email to a large list.

If you can’t get people to open your emails + read them, then ultimately you aren’t engaging your audience.

Step #1: Get Into the Mind of Your Reader

Most people don’t take the time to get inside the mind of the reader. Most people dive right into their email, hoping that if they send out a large volume of emails it’ll generate some sort of response.

This is an ineffective technique.

Remember, there are real people at the end of your emails. When you send an email without considering what your reader is thinking, you risk coming off as spammy.

So how do you get into the mind of your prospect?

First, keep in mind that you’re ultimately trying to convince an individual. A person is reading your email.

Most people make decisions based on emotion, not logic.

When writing your emails, consider the emotional state of your prospects. What are their hopes, dreams, fears + struggles?

Tap into those things. Help them see why working with you alleviates their greatest struggles + fears, as well as helps them achieve their goals.

Second, consider when you send the email.

  • How does your prospect typically work?
  • Do they read email all day or do they only check it a couple of times a day?

While you can’t know this for certain, you should be able to make a fairly good guess about when to send your email.

Consider sending your email either early in the morning, to get their attention first thing in the day, or later in the day, so that they see it before they head home from work.

Step #2: Craft The Perfect Subject Line

The subject line of your email is like the headline in a newspaper. It’s what gets people’s attention. It creates curiosity in them + compels them to read the rest of the email.

A great subject line can result in a very high open rate for your emails, while a mediocre subject line almost always produces mediocre results.

On average, most people get dozens of emails every single day. If you want others to actually read your email, you must get their attention right away.

Megan Marrs says this:

Your subject line is your first (and maybe your last) impression on users. In many ways, your email subject line is more important than your email body. After all, a great newsletter is worthless if it never sees the light of day.

So, avoid skimping on your subject line. If you want people to actually read your emails (which is the whole point), it’s essential to spend a fair amount of time crafting the perfect subject line.

So, what makes for a great subject line?

8 Subject Line Formulas That Work

1. The Question

Questions make for outstanding subject lines because they force the reader to stop + think for a moment. They make the reader ponder the answer to the question.

Question subject lines create a sense of curiosity. They make the reader wonder how you answer the question as well.

For example, consider these subject lines:

  • Can you relate to this?
  • Do you feel like this too?
  • What do you think about this idea?
  • Do you feel exhausted without your morning coffee too?
  • Do you make the same mistake I do?

All these subject lines create what’s called a “pattern interrupt” for the reader.

They interrupt the reader as they mindlessly scroll through their inbox + force them to pay attention to your email.

They also push the reader to click on the email because they want to know how the question gets answered.

2. The How-To

People love to learn new things that are relevant to their lives. This is why DIY videos are so popular on YouTube.

People have questions and they want answers. Using a how-to subject line piques people’s interest, especially if it’s relevant to them.

For example:

  • How to quickly get 1,000 email subscribers
  • How to get that nasty stain out of your shirt
  • How to make 10 sales every single day
  • How to win friends + influence people

Again, these subject lines interrupt the reader as they peruse their inbox.

They cause the reader to think, “Is this something that I want or need to learn?

If it is, they click on the email.

It’s important to note that in order for the how-to email to actually work, you must know your audience. You need to know what your audience wants to know how to do.

You need to be able to get inside the minds of your readers. If you don’t, your emails won’t be relevant.

3. Scarcity

People are always afraid of missing out on something good. There’s even a term for this fear: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

You can capitalize on this fear in your subject lines. If you can create a sense of scarcity with your subject line, there’s a greater chance that people click on your email.

What does scarcity look like in a subject line?

  • Only 2 days left!
  • Almost out of stock! Get yours now!
  • Only three hours left to register
  • This will be gone very soon
  • You’re almost out of time!
  • Only 4 spots left for a consultation

Your goal is to make the reader feel like if they don’t take action, they’re going to miss something. The more you can make your reader feel like things are urgent, the more likely it is they open your email.

4. An Announcement

Announcements trigger something in us. We want to be in the know, up to date + always on top of things.

We don’t want to miss out on any important information.

When you use words like “New” or “Introducing” or “Just Added,” you make people feel like there is important, breaking information that they need to know.

For example:

  • An important update to our app
  • New: a faster way to get paid
  • Introducing the best way to create beautiful photos
  • An invitation just for you

You want people to feel like they must open the email if they’re going to stay up to date on information.

Think about your own life. You don’t want to miss out on critical information. You have a fear of missing out on critical information.

You want to create that same sense of anticipation + even fear in your readers.

5. The Numbered List

It’s no secret that people absolutely love lists. It’s why magazines constantly use headlines like “10 Ways To Get In Shape Fast.” We like it when things are quickly broken down for us to scan.

When things are presented in list format, we can easily get a sense of the entire thing.

You can take advantage of this by using list format subject lines.

What would these subject lines look like?

  • The 4 best email marketing tools you need to use
  • 7 ways to beat anxiety today
  • 15 ways to quickly build your email list
  • 9 methods for getting in shape quickly
  • 6 steps to overcoming the blues

List subject lines also tap into our desire to gain information. We know that because things are presented in a list format, we can quickly get information.

6. The Curiosity Gap

Websites like Buzzfeed constantly create curiosity with their headlines. They write something strange in their headline + then answer it in the body of the article.

For example, they might say something like “You Never Knew This About Santa Claus.”

Of course, this makes you want to know what you never knew about Santa Claus. You then have to read the article to find out what it is that you don’t know.

You can use this same tactic with the subject lines of your emails.

For example:

  • A little-known trick to bust belly fat
  • He asked me a question that I couldn’t answer
  • Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this
  • Most people get this completely wrong
  • I don’t understand why this keeps happening

The subject line should create a question in the reader’s mind.

  • What is the little-known trick to bust belly fat?
  • What exactly weren’t you expecting?
  • What do most people get wrong?

Then, in the email, you actually answer the question. It’s really important that you actually answer the question in the email. Otherwise, your readers could feel like they were duped by the subject line.

7. Surprise

Studies show that when people are surprised (in a good way), it lights up the pleasure center of the brain. We like to be surprised.

If you can surprise your readers with your subject line, there’s a much better chance they open your email.

How can you surprise your readers?

  • Make them laugh.
  • Force them to think about something unexpected.
  • Cite a surprising statistic.

Your goal is to force them to stop scrolling through their inbox + pay attention to what you’re saying.

A surprise subject line could look like this:

  • What Elvis Presley can teach you about email marketing
  • Unexpected lessons learned from a bout with the flu
  • I’m so frustrated!
  • Warning: This email will self-destruct in 5 minutes

When people are surprised, they are also delighted. If you can delight people with your subject line, they’re almost sure to open your email + read the rest of it.

Again, it’s important that the body of your email actually match up to the subject line. You don’t want your readers to feel like you tricked them.

8. Personalized

We all love to hear our own names. In his hugely popular book How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says that there is nothing sweeter to a person than hearing their own name.

You can use this to your advantage in your email subject lines. A recent study on subject lines found that including a person’s name increases the open rate by a whopping 14.68%!

Consider combining using a person’s name with other tactics on this list. For example:

  • Tim, Elvis Presley can teach you about email marketing
  • John, most people get this question wrong
  • I don’t understand why this keeps happening, Mary
  • Have you ever had this happen to you, Melissa?

It’s hard for a person to ignore something with their name on it. When you use a person’s name in the subject line (+ the rest of the email), you compel them to open the email + read it.

Throughout the body of your email, use the person’s name at least once or twice (once in the subject line + once in the body of the email).

Don’t overdo it when using a person’s name, but by including it a couple of times in the email, you make it sound as though you’re talking directly to your reader rather than to a large email list.

Some other ways to personalize the subject line + your email, in general, is to be conversational + to segment your list.

Avoid talking in stiff, industry jargon. Rather, talk as though you were talking to a friend.

If you’re promoting something, promote it in a friendly way rather than an overly salesy way. Think about it as if you are recommending a product or service to a good friend rather than trying to make a sale to a complete stranger.

Campaign Monitor puts it this way:

It might feel silly at first but instead of writing for hundreds, thousands, or millions of people, pretend youre writing the email for one person. Pretend youre talking directly to one friend or one customer. Let them know about the exciting stuff you want to tell them and explain what you want them to do.

Instead of sending every email to every member of your list, consider sending different offers to different segments of your list.

Why should you do this?

Because not every email is going to resonate with every member of your list.

Consider these ways to segment your list:

Where your readers live

  • For example, let’s say you know the locations of your email subscribers. If you sell bathing suits, it wouldn’t make much sense to send an email about discounted bathing suits to those who live in a location where it’s winter. The email is not relevant to them.
  • Or let’s say you’re doing a meetup at a particular location. You could send emails to those who live in that location instead of your entire list.

Demonstrated behaviors

  • For example, you can send offers only to those who have opened your emails in the last month. This ensures that your offers are only going to your hottest prospects.
  • Or you could only send emails to those who have clicked on a particular link. By clicking on a link, they demonstrate an interest in a particular subject.3. Purchase history. For example, if they’ve purchased a particular item or service from you, you could send them emails about related items or services.

Lead magnet

For example, let’s say you have two different lead magnets, one about losing weight and the other about healthy eating. You could send weight-loss-related content to those who downloaded the first lead magnet and healthy eating content to those who downloaded the second lead magnet.

When it comes to segmenting your list, your goal is to make your emails as relevant to the reader as possible.

The more relevant an email is to the reader, the more likely it is that they’ll read it and respond accordingly.

Step #3: Use Your Name In The “From” Section

When setting up the “From” section of your email, be sure to use your name + not the name of your company. You don’t want your email to look like it’s coming from a company.

You want it to look like it’s coming from a person who actually cares about the recipient.

Using your name also adds authenticity to the email. It shows that there is a real person behind the email.

Step #4: A/B Test Your Subject Lines

A/B testing is simply testing one subject line against another to see which one gets the best results. When sending out an email you should always A/B test email subjects against one another.

Most email marketing systems make it simple to A/B test subject lines. Typically, you just enter in two subject lines + the email client sends out the email to a portion of your subscribers. Once a winner between the two headlines is determined, the email is sent to the rest of your subscribers.

Chief Content says that writing captivating subject lines remains one of the most effective ways to make sure your emails survive in the Inbox.

It’s safe to assume email recipients prefer certain words over others, but what those words are is a lot harder to guess.

SendGrid analyzed 5 million unique subject lines in almost 18 million emails.

Here’s what they found:

  • Subject lines with “yesterday” + “tomorrow” have higher engagement rates (20.5% and 22.3%, respectively) than “today” (11.8%). By using tomorrow in your subject line, you can get a 22.3 % higher engagement rate.
  • Subject lines with “soon” have higher engagement rates (21.9%) versus subject lines referring to “now.“
  • Email subject lines that use the word “free” have significantly lower engagement rates (13.1% versus 17.2% for subject lines without “free”).

Step #5: Pay Attention to Your Preview Text

In addition to your subject line, it’s also essential that you pay attention to the “preview” text of your email.

The preview text usually shows up next to (or under) the subject line in the email (depending on the device they are using to read the email). If you don’t manually enter preview text, it will simply show the first line of the email.

Your preview text should pique interest+ give people an additional reason to open your email.

For example, if you ask a question in the subject line, you could ask a follow-up question in the preview text.

Or if you create a curiosity gap in the subject line, you could write, “You won’t believe the answer,” in the preview text.

Step #6: Create Compelling Body Copy

Once you’ve crafted an extremely compelling subject line, it’s time to write the body copy for your email. The body copy has to do what the subject line does: keep people reading.

Each line of the copy should motivate them to read the next line. If your body copy is boring, people won’t make it past the first line. They quickly delete your email + all your hard work goes to waste.

So how do you write compelling body copy? Use these tactics.

Get to the Point Quickly

From the beginning, it should be clear to readers why you’re emailing them. After all, they probably get hundreds of emails every single week. Why should they bother reading your email?

Avoid making the reader scroll through lots of text in order to figure out why you’re emailing them. Get to the point quickly.

If you want your email to be read, it must be relevant to them.

So why should they read your email?

  • Are you releasing an important new product?
  • Do they need to update some information?
  • Are you running a sale?
  • Are you opening up some new consulting slots?
  • Are you making an important change to your existing product?

One way to make your emails relevant to your readers is to begin by asking them a question.

For example, if you’re a business growth consultant, you could open your email by asking, “What if I told you that you could double your revenue over the next year?”

Then you could move into the rest of your email where you announce that you’re opening new consulting slots.

Talk In The Second Person

Writing in the second person means using the pronouns “you”, your”, and “yours”.

Doing this makes the copy about the reader, NOT about you.

If you find yourself using the words, “I” or “We” a lot, there’s a good chance that you’re talking too much about yourself in the email.

You want the email to focus on them, not you.

Talk About Benefits, Not Features

You know why you’re sending your email, but does your reader understand why?

Not off the bat.

You need to give the reader a compelling reason to read your email + take action.

The problem with many emails is that they only focus on features, not benefits.

The emails make an announcement or proclamation, but don’t tell the reader how that announcement benefits them.

For example, let’s say you’re offering 30% off on a product or service. You can tell the reader that you’re offering a discount + that they should take advantage of it. But this doesn’t do much to convince the reader to take action.

Or, you could tell the reader the benefits of your discount.

  • What benefits do they get by purchasing from you?
  • How does it improve their lives?
  • Why should someone invest their money with you + not someone else?

Your goal is to paint a picture of the good life for the reader. You want them to feel like they would be foolish to not take advantage of what you’re offering. Show them just how much purchasing from you can make a difference in their lives.

Be Brief

Let’s be honest: no one likes emails that are overly long.

If a long email appears in our inbox, we almost immediately delete it.


Because it’s too overwhelming to read. This is especially the case if we’re reading on a mobile phone. Long emails take way too much time to read + process.

Keep marketing emails relatively brief. Quickly summarize your main points + then let the reader click to a web page where they can get the full information.

Before you write your email, ask yourself:

  • What is the point of this email?
  • What action do I want the readers to take?
  • What will make this email a success?

If you find yourself sending an email that’s hundreds of words long, you probably haven’t sufficiently answered the above questions. Keep your emails succinct + to the point.

Delight Your Readers

Most emails are incredibly boring, purely informational + can be extremely dry.

If you can convey your message + delight your readers at the same time, there’s a much better chance that you can get them to actually take action.

Email can be a great way to let your brand personality shine through + build a relationship with your readers.

How can you delight your readers?

  • Share a compelling story
  • Use GIFs + photos (which also serve to break up the text + catch the eye)
  • Use humor
  • Reference current events
  • Make fun of yourself (in an appropriate way)
  • Admit when you made a mistake

Add a sense of humanness to your emails. Let people know there is a real person sending the emails, not just a nameless face at an enormous company.

Step #7: Have a Compelling Call to Action

Every email should have a call-to-action (CTA). If your email doesn’t have a CTA, ask yourself why you’re sending it in the first place. After all, your goal should always be to get the reader to take action.

In your CTA, use actionable language. Tell people exactly what to do. If you’re promoting a deal, use language such as, “View the Deal,” or, “Get In On This Deal.”

Make your CTAs very obvious. Make it clear what you want the reader to do. Don’t leave them guessing.

If you want them to click a link or button, make it big + obvious. If you want them to reply to an email, ask them specifically to reply. If you want them to share something with friends, tell them to share.

Spend the necessary time crafting a compelling CTA. This is the point of your entire email – to get the reader to take action.

Step #8: Optimize Your Emails for Mobile

Approximately 60% of all emails are read on mobile devices. This means that your emails need to be easily readable on mobile devices. How can you ensure that they are?

Follow these tips:

  1. Use a bigger font size. This makes the text easier to see on small mobile screens.
  2. Use lots of page breaks + white space. Huge chunks of text are very difficult to read on mobile devices. Break up your text as much as possible so that it’s easy to skim.
  3. Test your emails in multiple email clients. See how they look in GMail versus Apple Mail or Outlook. This helps ensure that your emails look good no matter what platform they’re read on.
  4. Test your emails on different devices. For example, evaluate the look of your emails on Apple devices versus Android. Also, test the emails on tablets as well. You want to ensure that no matter what device is used, your email looks outstanding.

How to Write Marketing Emails to Achieve Greatness

One of the great temptations with email is to do things too fast. To simply bang out your email without giving it much thought. While this certainly allows you to send more emails, it doesn’t allow you to send effective emails.

Effective emails take time, work, thought + creativity.

In your emails, it’s important to:

  • Get inside the head of your readers, so you know what matters to them.
  • Carefully think through your subject line to make it as compelling as possible.
  • Craft compelling body copy so that the reader wants to read the entire email.
  • Personalize your emails so that they’re relevant.

If you don’t do these things, your emails will probably achieve mediocre results.

Your open rates will be low, your click-through rates will be even lower, and your readers won’t be inclined to take action.

If, on the other hand, you thoroughly follow the above steps, you truly can achieve email marketing greatness.

Start crafting emails that get results today!

Benefits of Brand Loyalty + How to Create It

7 Ways to Increase Audience Engagement

How to Identify Target Audience

3 Reasons Audience Engagement Matters

How to Build a Brand Story

How to Use Persuasive Storytelling

6 Key Elements to Create an Effective Brand Story

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