May 11, 2024

Email copywriting techniques to captivate and convert

"Copy is not written. Copy is assembled."—Eugene Schwartz.

And when it comes to crafting high-performing emails, assembly is everything.

From attention-grabbing subject lines to persuasive body copy, every element must work together to drive action and convert readers into customers.

This guide will break down the building blocks of email copywriting mastery. You'll discover how to:

  • Nail the fundamentals, like writing with clarity and focusing on outcomes
  • Craft irresistible subject lines that boost open rates
  • Structure your messages for maximum engagement and impact

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, this blueprint will help you assemble emails that don't just get opened—they get acted upon.

Let's dive in.

Foundational principles of email copywriting

Before we go any further, let's lay the groundwork with three core principles that underpin all successful email copy: clarity, personalization, and outcomes.

Clarity and simplicity: The power of plain language

Picture this: Your reader is scrolling through their inbox, sipping their morning coffee, when they come across your email. They're busy, with a mile-long to-do list, and their inbox overflows with messages vying for their attention.

In this scenario, the last thing they want is to decipher complex jargon or wade through walls of text. That's where clarity and simplicity come in:

  • Keep your language crystal clear and your points concise.
  • Assume no prior knowledge and write as if you're explaining your product or service to a friend.
  • Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and plenty of white space to make your email easy to read and digest.

Remember, confusing copy doesn't convert. So, when in doubt, choose clarity over cleverness every time.

Writing to one person: The power of personalization

When you sit down to write an email, sometimes you can't help but think of a faceless crowd receiving your content. But even if you have thousands of people on your newsletter list, each person reads your message individually.

So, write like you're speaking to one specific person—your ideal customer.

Address their unique pain points, desires, and objections. Use "you" and "your" to make your copy feel more conversational and engaging. And don't be afraid to infuse your copy with your brand's distinct voice and personality. It doesn't matter if you're known for witty one-liners or no-nonsense advice. Let that shine in your writing.

Focusing on outcomes: Using benefits-driven copy

Finally, let's talk about the most essential principle: focusing on outcomes.

Here's the harsh truth: your customers don't buy products or services. They buy the results those things will deliver.

They don't care about the fancy features or the sleek design. They care about how your offering will make their lives better or easier.

So, don't just rattle off a list of features and expect your readers to connect the dots. Instead, paint a vivid picture of the outcomes they can expect when they use your product or service.

Will it save them time, boost their revenue, or simplify their workflows? Will it help them impress their boss or streamline their processes?

Make those benefits the star of your copy, and watch your conversions stack up.

Writing compelling subject lines

Now that we've laid the foundation, let's tackle the first hurdle to getting your emails read: the subject line.

Your subject line is the first thing your readers see—and the stakes are high.

How high?

35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

That means if your subject line isn't compelling enough, over a third of your list will never even see your offer. Yikes...

But don't let that stat scare you. Instead, let it motivate you to master the art of the subject line.

The Zeigarnik Effect: Creating open loops

One powerful psychological principle you can use with your subject lines is the Zeigarnik Effect. It states that people are more likely to remember and engage with tasks or stories if they are unfinished.

In email terms, this means creating an 'open loop' in your subject line—hinting at something intriguing or unresolved that can only be satisfied by opening the email.

For example, instead of a generic subject line like "Our New Template Features," you might try something like "You won't believe what our new template can do..."

The ellipsis creates an open loop, sparking curiosity and encouraging the reader to open the email to find out more.

Crafting click-worthy subject Lines

In addition to using psychology, there are many tips for writing subject lines that get clicks:

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Aim for 50 characters or less so your subject line isn't cut off on mobile devices.
  2. Use action-oriented language. Start your subject lines with verbs like "Discover," "Unlock," or "Reveal." They create a sense of excitement and momentum.
  3. Personalize whenever possible. Use merge tags to include the recipient's name or other personal details in the subject line.
  4. Highlight the values and benefits. This hints at the value readers will find inside. It gives them a compelling reason to open.
  5. Create a sense of urgency. Using phrases like "Limited Time" or "Last Chance" can boost open rates by playing on FOMO.

When you write a subject line, put it to the litmus test. Ask: "If you saw this subject line in your inbox, would you open the email?" If the answer is no, keep iterating until you land on a winner.

Persuasive writing techniques

Great—you've made it into the inbox, and your subject line was good enough to get your reader's attention. Now, it's time to persuade them to take action!

Here are four key techniques for crafting copy that converts.

Educate and elevate

Your readers will only buy from you if they understand the value you offer. Use your email copy to educate them about your product or service and how it solves their problems.

For example, if you're selling a productivity tool, don't just list its features. Explain how it helps customers do more in less time. It frees them up to focus on their most important work.

But don't just stop at education. Improve your offering by painting a picture of the change it provides. Show your readers how their lives or businesses will be better after they take action.

Maybe your tool will help them reach Inbox Zero. Or it could give them time to start that passion project they've been putting off. Make that transformation feel real and attainable.

Spark curiosity

Curiosity is a powerful motivator. Use intriguing headlines, provocative questions, and enticing hints to make your readers eager to learn more.

A subject line like "5 Time Management Secrets Your Boss Doesn't Want You to Know" will pique curiosity. Just be sure to satisfy that curiosity in the body of your email. No one likes clickbait that doesn't deliver.

In your email body, you could reveal one of those secrets. Then, tease the others. This will encourage readers to click through to your blog post or product landing page to get the full scoop (and hopefully buy).

Create a sense of urgency

Nothing motivates action like a ticking clock. Use time-sensitive offers and limited quantities, as well as exclusive deals, to encourage readers to act now.

For instance, you could offer a 24-hour flash sale on your productivity course. Or, give the first 50 who sign up access to an exclusive bonus.

Words like "instant," "now," and "today" can also create a sense of immediacy. "Sign up now and start saving time today" feels much more urgent than "Sign up whenever."

Master the art of persuasion (without being pushy)

Persuasive writing is an art but shouldn't feel like a hard sell. To persuade without being pushy:

  • Focus on benefits, not just features. "Save 10 hours a week" is more compelling than "Includes calendar integration."
  • Use social proof to build trust. Share testimonials from happy customers or impressive stats about your product's effectiveness.
  • Offer genuine value, not just sales pitches. Share a productivity tip in your sales email. Or, offer a free trial so readers can see the benefits.
  • Make your call to action clear and compelling but not aggressive. "Get started today" is inviting, but "BUY NOW!!!" is off-putting.

Remember, the goal is to guide your readers toward a decision, not corner them into one.

Your email copywriting playbook

We've explored the core principles and techniques that separate average emails from outstanding ones. From crafting curiosity-inducing subject lines to harnessing the power of persuasion, you now have a proven playbook for writing emails that engage and convert.

But knowing isn't enough—it's time to put these strategies into action.

Choose one technique from this guide and implement it in your next email campaign. Then, analyze your results, tweak your approach, and watch your metrics improve over time.