April 2nd, 2020

Copywriting for Emails: A Helpful Guide

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Written by Copycat Staff

You open your inbox and you see two subject lines:

Your Horoscope for March

How to Survive Mercury in Retrograde

Which do you open?

Okay, if you aren’t into astrology, you might send both to your spam folder right away. But the second heading must have you at least a little curious. Maybe you’ve heard that it’s bad news when Mercury falls into retrograde even if you don’t know exactly why. If you know nothing at all about the planet that rules messages and communication, you may still be interested in advice on survival!

There’s no way around it: most of us have more emails in our inboxes than we can manage. When you’re marketing to customers who may open their email to see “Inbox (987,485)” at the top of the page, you want to make sure you’re providing content that grabs your audience’s attention and keeps it. Otherwise, it won’t be long before they hit “unsubscribe.”

Below is your guide on How to Write Emails that Evade the Trash Can.

The Perils and Rewards of Email Marketing

With the rise of new digital marketing methods from influencer posts to TikTok videos, email marketing might seem like a thing of the past. But don’t be fooled by shiny new advertising methods: according to eMarketer, companies still see their largest ROI on email marketing campaigns. Email marketing can help you reach customers through:

  • Promotions – traditional advertisements for new products and services, sales, and other incentives.
  • Newsletters – weekly, monthly, or occasional updates related to your company’s goods and services, including everything from industry-specific news to interviews to link roundups.
  • Updates, thank yous, and reminder emails – Notifications of shipment, reminders that deals are expiring soon, and how-to guides for purchased products can all fall under this board category.
  • Triggered emails – Emails sent only if a customer takes a specific action. Send different emails to customers who opened the last email, clicked a link in it, and ignored it completely.
  • Retargeting emails – Did a customer leave something in their cart? Send a reminder.

As you can see, some of these emails will go to your entire list, while others will go to a segment of your audience, and still others will be further personalized to a specific user’s experience. There’s a broad array of possible emails to send.

But while email marketing has a great ROI, oversaturating your customers’ inboxes will lead them to delete, delete, delete. Even if you’re an astrology enthusiast, you may not want daily updates about the planetary influences for your sign. And even if you do, you probably don’t want marketing emails for birth chart readings, scented candles, and crystals every day, too.

Before we get into managing segments, let’s talk about some broad principles that can help strike the balance between quality and quantity so that every campaign contributes to your success.

Put the Customer First

Understanding copywriting for email marketing means understanding your customer. What do they want to read? Business Insider states three foundations to effective email marketing. A successful email campaign is:

  • Helpful – provides content that is meaningful and engaging to the reader
  • Customer-focused – concentrates on solving your customer’s pain points rather than promoting your product
  • Personalized – for successful conversions, make your emails contain a clear CTA, based on your customer’s interests and past behaviors

In both B2B and B2C marketing, successful email marketing requires a delicate balance: you need to prioritize the customer even though the goal is to promote your solutions. Of course, you already know what your goals are, which means you’ll need to spend your creative energy stepping into the customer’s point-of-view. But you don’t want your email to feel like it’s created after a market test: it has to be rooted in your perspective.

To Help Your Customer (and Yourself), Hone Your Voice

Before you can begin to optimize your email subject lines or write the perfect sign-off, it’s important to tackle a bigger question: what is unique about your brand and your solutions? Whether you’re running promotions, writing retargeting ads, or starting a dedicated weekly newsletter, it’s important to have a sense of what makes your voice yours.

You may already have a clear, consistent voice in your copywriting—from web content to social media captions. At the same time, email is an opportunity to build on that voice to write content that is helpful and engaging. Questions to ask include:

  • What is your brand’s strength? Consider how you fit into your market, and how your approach compares to competitors. Is your main asset technical expertise, or humor? Quality of your work and product, or speed of its delivery?
  • How can email marketing build on that strength? For example, if you provide an innovative solution based on research, your email marketing might share that research. However, if your strength is your fun, fresh image, you’ll want to make sure your emails continue to deliver exciting visual content.

Knowing your voice helps you figure out the right tone and format for the body of your emails. You have to know yourself before you know your customer. From there, to meet Business Insider’s second marketing principle, writing customer-focused email, you can ask another question:

  • What does the customer want, and how can you deliver it in a way that’s true to your voice? Understanding your customer’s pain points and frustrations allows you to shape the body of your email.

Once you’ve figured out how to stay true to your voice while meeting the customer's needs, it’s time to think about personalization.

  • How can you make the customer feel like they’re being directly addressed? Without actually hiring someone to personally write each and every email, how can you make each visitor feel like you’re speaking to them?

There’s no way around it: personalization is one of the hardest parts of email marketing. So how do you do it? Throughout this blog post, you’re being asked to identify with a “you.” Breaking the fourth wall, if I as the copywriter have done my job, you can actually step into those shoes.

Let’s think back to our astrology example from the beginning. When you read a horoscope —Cancer, have you been feeling stressed this week? Have you tried to hide it underneath your protective shell?—it succeeds by writing something that’s broad enough for just about anyone to relate to it. At the same time, it’s not completely generic; any Cancer has grown up knowing they’re supposed to be emotional and guarded, so they may identify even more strongly with the horoscope that follows.

Segmenting to Personalize

You may not segment your audience by astrological sign, but the more you get to know them, the more able you are to write email copy that’s broad enough to address many customers, but specific enough to make each feel like it was written just for them. Use marketing segments to your advantage. Segments could include users who have:

  • Bought a specific product in the past
  • Clicked links in your last campaign
  • Never engaged

Each of these segments might require a different strategy when it comes to the subject and body so that the email feels true to their experience.

The Parts of a Perfect Email

Once you’ve made some decisions about your overall voice and messaging, you’re ready to start working on the specific components of an email that will make its receiver eager to open, read, and actually click on something inside. Below are the central components of effective email marketing copywriting.

The Subject Line

Your subject line should entice the reader to open the email. Email copywriting tips include:

  • Be clear about what’s inside: an offer, tips and tricks, a blog post, answers to FAQs—don’t leave them guessing.
  • Offer an incentive for opening: let readers know if they should “hurry” or “take advantage” of an offer, or if they’ll “find out,” or “learn more” about a subject that matters to them.
  • Match it to your brand voice: if wit, humor, or ample emojis are part of your brand, the subject line should reflect that. If they’re decidedly not…it should not.

The Greeting

There’s nothing worse than opening an email to find it’s addressed to “Dear FIRSTNAME LASTNAME.” Make sure you’re using marketing segmenting to address personalized emails only to customers whose information you actually have. If you don’t have the right information, consider a greeting like “Dear X community” (where X is your brand name), or come up with a clever nickname for your users that’s in line with your brand voice.

The Body

Sometimes, your goal is to get a user to purchase an item in your cart. Sometimes, it’s to get them to read the latest installment of your company newsletter. Perhaps it goes without saying that these two emails should be different lengths. But what’s the sweet spot?

  • Most marketing emails are under 500 words
  • Even shorter emails—less than 200 words—may be ideal for sales
  • When in doubt, keep it short
  • Use pull quotes and differentiated text size to highlight central messages

Have more to say? Preview a blog post in your email, and let the user click through to your site.

The Call to Action

If you know anything about copywriting for marketing, it’s that you have to sprinkle it with clear CTAs. For each email you write or schedule, make sure you know what specific action you want your user to take. A CTA could include:

  • A click-through to your site
  • A purchase
  • Follows on social media
  • Views on YouTube or Facebook Video
  • A response to a survey

Make sure the CTA appears before your user has to scroll (on the web or on mobile). We’ve already talked about bolding and using pull-quotes. This marketing strategy is especially helpful with CTAs.

The Unsubscribe Button

There’s nothing worse than sending an email and finding out that it caused a significant portion of your subscriber base to hit “unsubscribe.” But at the same time, you don’t want customers to become actively angry as your emails continue appearing in their inbox, turning them off of your brand for good.

Be sure it’s easy for users to unsubscribe, and use your unsubscribe page as another opportunity to showcase your brand’s voice. Make them think twice before confirming. When users do hit the button, reevaluate your email campaign.

Adjusting Your Approach

Your email campaigns are a conversation with your customers—even if they don’t reply. As you look at your marketing data, information about opens, clicks, and unsubscribes gives you all the information you need to know what’s working and what’s not. As you send emails and gather this data, adjust your approach by shifting one component of your email at a time.

  • Does an email have a low open rate? Try resending the same email to customers who didn’t open with a new subject line.
  • Is an email failing to get clicks? Try resending the same email to customers who didn’t open with a shorter body and clearer CTA.
  • Are users unsubscribing in response to a campaign? Look at their responses from your “why are you unsubscribing?” survey to glean insights.

The more you learn from these kinds of experiments, the better you can adjust your email copy from subject to footer.

Call in the Professionals: Copycat Copywriters

Copywriting for emails is complex. With so many components to each email, and so many segments in your subscriber base, hitting the right tone and word count in each missive can feel like a tall order. Whether you’re an Aries who’s more excited about your brand’s big picture or a Virgo who’d rather focus on other details, partnering with a professional copywriter can help solve your company’s email puzzle.

At Copycat Copywriting, our team is made up of creative writers with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. We provide copywriting services in many different areas, such as SEO copywriting, web copywriting, and much, much more.

Looking to create a research-based newsletter? We do that. Trying to snazz up your email subject lines? We do that too. Get in touch today for a piece of free copy tailored to your brand’s needs.


Aweber. 2019 Email Marketing Statistics: We Analyzed 1,000 Emails from Today’s Top Experts. https://blog.aweber.com/email-marketing/2019-email-marketing-statistics.htm

Business Insider. New Research Links Email Engagement to Customer-Experience Email Marketing. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/new-research-links-email-engagement-to-customer-experience-email-marketing-1027565512

eMarketer. Email Marketing 2019. https://www.emarketer.com/content/email-marketing-2019

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