Top 10 Email Promotion Questions Before You Start Writing

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Anyone can write email promotions that sell. Most people think writing is an art and when you're talking about poems and books, that's true. When you're talking about email marketing it’s 95% FALSE! Writing a great email promotion is actually 95% rules and formulas - and 5% creativity.

Knowing what motivates your customers is the key to writing emails they'll open and act upon. The top three reasons people open and respond to emails are:

  1. They have an established relationship with the sender. If email recipients know who their emails are from, they're more likely to open them, with 65% of recipients citing the "from" line as the most compelling reason for them to open their opt-in emails, according to research. And 74% of recipients said that if the email was from "a brand I know and trust" they were more likely to respond to it.
  1. The offer is relevant to their needs. You need to know your target audience and tailor the content of your emails to meet their needs. A survey found that the email element that worked best in generating a response was "a product I wanted at the time" (83%).
  1. The email offers a good price on something they want. Price is important in most online transactions, and when it comes to emails, the same survey showed that offers of free shipping and discounted prices in the subject lines of emails were more likely to compel recipients to open them.

So I’m going to reveal exactly how you can harness these motivations to write compelling ad copy. And I’m going to do this by explaining some of my most closely guarded email copywriting secrets. (If you are just starting out in copywriting and persuasive marketing see our copyright primer)

In fact, I’m literally going to show you a formula you can follow step by step to create magnetic copy that will grab your readers' attention, win them over with compelling benefits that speak directly to their biggest wants, and then motivate them to act on your call to action - be it to click through to your web site and buy your products, to subscribe to your newsletter, to request more information about your product, or whatever else it is that you're trying to convince them to do.

It DOESN'T take a gifted writer to produce killer email copy; in fact, we've seen plenty of good writers create absolutely horrific copy. It takes knowing what information to communicate to your readers in what order.

As I said, it's a formula. Keep reading, and I'll explain how it works.

The 10 vital questions you must answer BEFORE you write a word

Before you begin writing any email promotion, it's important that you sit down and clearly map out your offer. Even the most seasoned copywriters pull-out an old-fashioned pen and paper to scribble down extensive notes before they write a single word, so do NOT skip this critical step.

You want to make sure that you have all the details of your offer sitting in front of you BEFORE you start writing, because you're literally going to be plugging this information into a formula. And if you want it to flow together nicely, you need be focused on the "big picture" - the overall structure and layout - when you're writing ... not scrounging up the details as you go. You'll need to prepare answers to the following 10 questions in advance:

  1. What action do you want your reader to take? Subscribe to your newsletter? Purchase a product? Sign up for a service? Promotions that focus on a single offer will pull MUCH better results than promotions that include several offers, so it's important that you clearly define your focus right away. We've tested this time and time again; the more choices you give the reader, the lower your response will be. You want to ask the reader to do only ONE thing.
  1. How will readers benefit from responding to your call to action? If they subscribe to your newsletter, how will they benefit? If they purchase your product, how will they benefit? Benefits are an extremely important component of your email promotions, because it's the benefits that push the reader to follow through on your call to action. You need to use benefits to create enough value and excitement in your offer that readers will act without hesitation when presented with your call to action.
  1. How will you create urgency in your offer? Are your supplies limited? Will the promotion be available only for the next 48 hours or the next three days? Can you afford to offer free delivery only to the first 250 customers? Urgency is critical because it's what compels your readers to act TODAY rather than put it off with the intention of "coming back another time."
  1. Does your offer include NUMEROUS compelling benefits, or just one? If you need to communicate multiple benefits, you may want to write copy that includes bullet points, which allows you to cover information quickly in a small space and keep the text ‘scannable’ by maintaining lots of white space.

And if you’re writing a letter that includes numerous bullet points, you may also want to write a letter in HTML instead of text format, as our testing has shown that HTML tends to generate a better response when teamed up with promotions that include bullet points.

On the other hand, if your email promotion focuses on ONE strong benefit, you may want to try writing a really personal letter in text format, as this frequently generates a better result for this type of promotion.

  1. How long should your copy be? Once you've decided how many benefits your letter will include, and which format you'll be presenting it in, you'll be able to decide on letter length.

My testing has shown that HTML letters with bullets generate the highest response when they're NO LONGER than one to one-and-a-half pages.

As I mentioned, text letters with bullets usually don't pull as well as their HTML counterparts, but if you decide to test it yourself, be sure the letter is no longer than one-and-a-half pages, formatted in plain text, in Courier font, with no more than 60 to 63 characters per line. For really personal letters with no bullet points, keep the length to three-quarters of a page in both text and HTML formats.

  1. What links will be included and where should they appear? If you're including a link to your web site, you need to make sure that it doesn't appear too early in the letter. Your call to action (i.e., "Click here now" or "Visit my site” with your link should appear AFTER you've presented your benefits and created urgency - NOT BEFORE!

The only case where you might consider presenting the link to your web site EARLY in your email promotion is when you're offering something FREE. With free offers, you can sometimes get away with a link that appears after the second paragraph of your letter ... but this is something we recommend that you test!

  1. Who is the audience you're targeting? Newsletter subscribers? All of your customers? Only customers who own a particular product? It's really important that you decide this in advance, because the more personal you can make your letter, the more sales it's going to generate. Plus, the first sentence of any promotion you write should ideally include a reference to the relationship you have with the reader, because this immediately establishes your credibility and lets them know your letter is NOT spam (increasing the probability that they'll actually read it!) For example: "Eddie, thanks for coming to my seminar”
  1. Who is the email coming from? This should be an easy decision - you should ensure that all of your email promotions come from the SAME person within your business. Remember that people identify with people - so trying to write your promotion from a big corporate "we" usually isn't a good idea (especially if you really ARE a "one-person" operation). Decide who the "I" in your email will be, and then keep this voice consistent throughout all of your promotions.
  1. What contact information will you provide? The last paragraph of any email you send should include a contact email address and phone number for anyone with questions. Don't forget to include this information, because this is your credibility! Always remind your readers that you're a real person; let them know that you are just an email or phone call away if they have problems or questions, and they'll be far more comfortable checking out your offer.

To avoid spamming, you must also include a postal address in all of your emails.

  1. What "extra" benefit will you include in your P.S? As we'll discuss shortly, the first line and the last line of any promotion you send will be the most read - people naturally skim the first line, then scroll to the bottom to scan the last line, before deciding whether or not they'll read your entire email.

So it's a good idea to include an effective P.S. that either restates the biggest benefit of your offer or includes a "bonus" grabber benefit that isn't mentioned in the body of the email. And of course, your P.S. should also end by restating your call to action.