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Email copywriting
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Email Copywriting Tips to Keep Customers Happy

By on September 23rd, 2021 Reading Time: 7 minutes

A good email is a valuable email. And the value of your email depends on the situation. With this blog post, I can give you email marketing tips, tricks, and inspiration, but it’s up to you to decide what your situation is and what value you want to bring to your customer.

While you can’t really measure value, luckily, there are certain email marketing metrics you can use to check if your customers find your content worthwhile. Here’s what you should definitely start with:

  • Click-through rate. This tells you how many people not only got hooked by your email subject line, but also clicked on any of the links in your email copy. A decent average here is 2.5%, but it varies from industry to industry. Monitor your stats to understand your baseline and then increase it step by step. 
  • Conversion rate. This tells you how many emails have led to an action you wanted your customer to complete (signup, download, purchase, etc). 2–5% is considered a good benchmark for email marketing.  
  • Open rate. It’s a good metric to keep an eye on, but with the new Apple update and other changes coming on, don’t rely on it too heavily. Watch out if it falls under 10% though: that might mean your emails are triggering spam filters.

If you see any of these email performance metrics dwindling, first of all, that means you need to check your email database health to see if you’re not mailing too many inactive subscribers. And if you haven’t already, consider setting up double opt-in for your email list, so you get to build a solid list of people who are more likely to engage with your brand.

If your mailing list seems to be in good shape, then it’s time to check in with your audience and surprise their inbox with something new!

So much for the intro, and now let’s move on to those email copywriting best practices, brought to you by the email pros of Printful’s Marketing Team.

Start with targeting

But wait, let’s not start with targeting. Let’s start with my teammate Una’s story, perfectly illustrating the customer side of receiving emails where the target audience is “everyone.” 

Una is a dog mom and just subscribed to a custom canine training program. She had to complete a 10-minute survey and give details about the dog, including its age. Una’s Australian Shepherd, Margo, is no longer a pupper, yet for the past two weeks, Una has been getting emails like the one below, all about puppies and puppy behavior.

For Una, the content is annoying, nowhere near relevant, and unsurprisingly, she has stopped opening their emails. And just like that, they’ve lost this reader’s attention for good.

Customers know by now that you can track their every step, so they expect the emails they get from you to be aligned with what they’ve disclosed. If the emails aren’t targeted, the customer will feel like you don’t care. 

So, proper email copywriting calls for proper targeting. For that, you’ll need an email marketing platform that’ll help you manage your subscriber list and filter your audience according to their behavior, preferences, and any other customer data. 

To give you a taste of how far you can go, here’s a list of the segmentation options Mailchimp has to offer. As you can see, there are plenty of email marketing tools out there to make sure Una gets the right canine content!

Know exactly what makes your email click-worthy

Every email you send can’t be just an “update,” otherwise it’ll start clogging readers’ spam filters as just another “good to know.” 

A good email is a valuable email, remember? 

To make your email good, figure out what exactly makes your email click-worthy and make it the focal point. Is it the jaw-dropping holiday discount? The gorgeous visual? Is it an important policy change for your business? Maybe a product launch you’re psyched about? Or expert tips to help your customers enjoy your products or services even more?

Bottom line, the email has got to bring value to the recipient. No value, no email. 

LatinX Heritage Month email
This is a wonderful email from Levi’s where the value of the product and the campaign is crystal clear.

Work those subject lines

The subject line is the reason for your email to be clicked in the first place, so choose your words wisely. 

As with all copy, the exact wording will depend on your brand voice, the contents of your email, and the target audience, but here are a few general pointers known to boost open rates:

  • Bring out the benefits of your campaign straight away
  • Go for 40–60 characters so the copy doesn’t get chopped off on mobile 
  • Add a preheader (preview) text for extra context and flavor
  • A/B test as much as possible and use a calculator like this one to make sure your results are fact, not coincidence

There’s word around the web that you should avoid certain spam trigger words to lower your risk of tumbling into the spam folder. Turns out, that’s not true anymore—spam filters go way deeper than keywords like “cash,” “free,” and “act now!” and analyze the email as a whole, looking out for wonky links, images, code, and other elements. So don’t go off these words entirely, but don’t go overboard either. 

Patagonia email campaign
For this delightful email campaign from Patagonia, the subject line read “Be a camp-cooking champ.”

Keep the copy short 

What I mean is, as short as it can be.

Because honestly, as long as your customers stay engaged with your email marketing campaigns and keep interacting with your business, your email copy can be as long as you want. 

Whatever the length though, keep the content easily skimmable and digestible. This can be achieved by breaking down your copy into shorter paragraphs, using bullet points, or highlighting the main points in bold or a different color.

To not get too carried away with your words, you can also try these simple email copywriting tips for improved clarity and smoother messaging:

  • Use short and simple words wherever possible (improves readability) 
  • Avoid industry jargon and use only essential terminology (helps avoid confusion)
  • Let verbs and nouns tell the story (adjectives and adverbs take up a lot of space) 
  • If you can cut a word out, cut it out (less is more)

Another point in favor of brevity is the fact that one out of every 3 clicks in an email comes from a mobile device. If your content is too long, it’s going to take forever to scroll on a phone, so always make sure to check out what your email looks like on mobile. 

Farnam Street newsletter
I’m OK with the Farnam Street newsletter (highly recommend!) being on the lengthy side because it tickles my fancy and it’s well written. And, yes, without several rounds of editing, the body copy for this piece could’ve probably been way longer.

Have a clear call-to-action

I’m not talking about just the button at the end.

Having a clear call-to-action means your copy takes the reader through your email scroll by scroll from the subject line they see in their inbox to the coveted click at the end of the email. 

You can boost your body copy with polished visuals, but make sure they add to the message and don’t distract the reader from the goal you want to achieve with your email. Coming back to the button though, it might be helpful to think of it not as a “call to action,” but a “call to value.” Give this mindset a go when drafting your next campaign—it might help you come up with a more interesting or more targeted button than your usual go-tos.

Oscar de la Renta email
From the subject line (“New Arrivals: Sheer Beauty”) to the body copy (“she’s beauty and she’s lace”) to the stunning visual, this email from Oscar de la Renta is all about getting us hooked on tulle.

Check for mistakes 

Your emails, especially the onboarding ones, leave a big impact on the customer. 

Recurring layout mess-ups, factual errors, or spelling mistakes in your email body copy will give the impression that your brand is willing to sacrifice quality for speed and you’re OK with the inevitable sloppiness that comes along with it. 

Don’t make “sloppy” the calling card for your business, and have your email marketing content proofread and double-checked before you send it out. 

MUJI promotional email
Can you imagine a brand like MUJI, known for their clean design and high-quality goods, skimping on proofreading? Inconceivable!

Zoom out for a sec

But before you schedule for sending, go on social media one last time. Is there anything going on that could make your email unsavory for your readers, or, worse, make you appear completely tone deaf?  

We actually dodged a bullet recently when putting together our latest Ecommerce Newsletter. 

Elizabete, one of our writers on the Marketing Team, did a great job creating a tasteful, well-balanced intro for the piece based on weather metaphors—storm metaphors, to be precise. Good thing she refreshed her news feed before our send because she started noticing reports of North America (the home of many of our readers) being hit by tropical storms. 

(Yikes!)

Question the medium of email marketing

Remember that a customer’s inbox gets flooded with emails every day. It’s been said that on average, a person has 200 emails sitting in their inbox

If you can, don’t add more emails to the pile. For your next campaign, if there’s another, equally efficient, or better way to reach readers with your message, go for that instead of the email. 

But how can you tell if your news should be an email or not?

I think the deal-breakers are exclusivity and urgency—the main reasons we stay engaged with brand mailing lists in the first place. So, the less exclusive or urgent your message, the more likely it’ll do just as well as an Instagram Stories post or a banner on your website. 

That’s why, when drafting your email, always ask yourself: “if I were to receive this email from a similar business, would I care?”If the answer is “no,” just might turn out that your exercise in email copywriting is better off as a social media post, on-site notification, or other form of content marketing.

Asos promotional email
Did this need to be an email? Heck yes! The generous discount email is the plain white tee of ecommerce marketing.

A/B test as much as possible

No blog on email copywriting tips is complete without a few words on A/B testing. 

That’s because A/B testing just can’t be beat. The more you test your email marketing content, the more you’ll learn about what your audience is into. 

Most email marketing platforms come with A/B testing tools built in. All you have to do is create two identical versions of the same email campaign, pick an element (e.g., the subject line, call-to-action button, specific words in your copy) and change it in one of the versions.

The two versions are sent to two sample groups of your email segment, and the winning version is sent to the rest of your segment. For the test to be useful, work with one element at a time and make the change just enough for you to be able to pinpoint its success and draw conclusions for future marketing experiments.

Why is email copywriting important?

There are quite a few moving parts when it comes to writing a good email, but to me, it all boils down to a simple truth. 

Your customer entrusted you with their email address. 

Don’t let them down by overwhelming their inbox with mediocre marketing content you wouldn’t read yourself. When your customer sees your name in that email subject line, they need to be happy to hear from you and interested in what’s going on with your brand. The same vibes you might get when connecting with a good friend.

The only way to get that kind of emotional response is to show your customers some hospitality and make them feel welcome (in your marketing emails and beyond).  

Happy writing, and happy sending! And if you, like me, are a believer in the power of words, do check out my blog post on the subject where I try to pick apart common copywriting myths and what it means to write well.

Marianna Zvaigzne is the Head of Brand Language at Printful. With the help of her team, she’s pinning down what it means to “sound like Printful” and keeps Printful copywriters on their toes with animated editing sessions and writing workshops.

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