With the economy in trouble, more and more marketers are shifting their advertising dollars online. According to a recent report by Forrester Research (New York Times, May 5, 2009), many merchants think that online businesses can withstand the downturn better than bricks and mortar retailers. In fact, 90% said that e-mail marketing was a top priority.
Since email is relatively inexpensive, and can be produced quickly, it’s an attractive way to sell your products. But, how do you do it correctly?
Here are 15 tips for writing emails that make money:
1. Start with the “From” Line. This, obviously, shows people who the email comes from. Use a real person’s name or the name of your product/store (Jodi Kaplan, The Gap). If it looks legitimate or familiar, people are more likely to open it.
2. Writing great “Subject Lines”
Subject lines are essentially headlines; they have to:
- Get readers’ attention
- Not be too long (under 45 characters) so it doesn’t get cut off in the email window
- Arouse interest so that people will open the email instead of trashing it
3. Lead off with a great headline. You have to keep their attention, or they’ll stop reading. Get them interested, and deliver a mini-version of your message. List what you’re offering, the benefits it delivers, and provide a way to respond (a link to a Web page, a phone number).
4. Give expanded information that covers benefits, information needed to make a decision, features, in greater detail. List what they will gain and build up the desire to get it.
5. Use a conversational tone of voice. Talk to your audience in plain English (use the mom test — if your mom can understand it, your readers will too). Don’t use lots of jargon, or sound hard sell or overly promotional. Talk or write as if you are talking to a friend.
6. Be specific about why they should buy your product or service Don’t say your quality is the “highest” or you take care of your customers. It’s meaningless. Be specific about why your quality is so good or the lengths you’ll go to help your customers. If you sell shoes, describe how your shoes are handmade by Italian craftsman, that it takes 25 hours to make each pair, that they’re custom-fit to each customer’s foot. And, you offer a no-questions asked, money-back guarantee (good at any time).
7. Engage your readers’ emotions. The six best ones to use: greed, fear, guilt, exclusivity, anger, and deliverance (from problems).
- Greed: humans are greedy, we nearly always want more, which is why getting something for free works so well (especially if we think it’s valuable)
- Fear: we’re afraid of things, such as losing our jobs, or not having enough money to retire
- Guilt: we’re worried about working too hard, and not spending enough time with our families
- Exclusivity: we like to have things that other people don’t have
- Anger: seeing something we think is wrong makes us mad; fire people up about something that they don’t like. My taxes are how high? The politician did what and got away with it?
- Deliverance: solutions to problems, no matter how large or small, are welcome. We want fixes – whether it’s losing weight, saving money, or organizing our closets
8. Repeat what people will get and how to get it, more than once. Put one link at the beginning, after that opening mini-paragraph, and another at the end. 95% of the clicks come from the first two links, so don’t use more than three.
9. Sign off with a real person’s name. Include your mail address and an opt-out statement with a link so that it is easy for people to remove themselves from your list if they want to.
10. Include a forward to a friend link to pass on your message to other people. And specifically ask your readers to share it.
11. Add a P.S. after the closing. Offer more information, repeat a benefit, or just offer to answer any questions. Give a real contact (rather than customer service). This is an old snail mail trick that still works online.
12. Don’t use caps or bold or other formatting, in a plain text email. It won’t show. Instead put asterisks around headlines, and use dashes for bullet points.
13. Keep the lines short. Long sentences will get cut off or run too far down the page on a smart phone or tablet. Keep the lines at about 60 characters to avoid strange line breaks.
14. Write your email in Notepad or a plain text editor, rather than Word. Copying and pasting from Word into your email client can lead to strange text breaks, uneven alignment and odd formatting. I forgot this once, and spent an hour cleaning it up!
15. Keep it short. Your readers are buried under an avalanche of email every day, and attention spans are limited. Keep it under two pages of text.