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The Art of Email Copywriting (& Why Email Marketing Fails)

There’s a lot of talk these days about email copywriting. Almost as if marketers have just woken up to what it can do (if done correctly) and are looking for a list of do’s and dont’s that’ll make their emails pop.

Yet there are always nay-sayers. An entrepreneur recently told me that email marketing is dying and will be nonexistent in a couple of years.

Wow. If that’s not the opposite of the truth, I don’t know what is.

There is a definite art to writing good email copy, copy that makes your prospects legitimately amped for your products and makes them excited about giving you their money.

While there are certainly checklists, best practices, and mistakes to avoid that will help you get more bang for your (email) buck, the most important (and, perhaps, overlooked) part of writing great email copy is something deeper than “do this but not that.”

In this article I’m going to share my personal system for turning massive lists of subscribers into hungry leads and responsive prospects… so you can actually unlock the cash in your list.

But before we start, let me first set the stage by explaining why most email marketing systems fail and how you can win big by doing it differently.

(Obviously, this article assumes that you’re actually building an email list correctly. If you’re not, well, you’re seriously missing out.)

Revealed: The “Real” Reason Email Marketing Fails

Stop Doing What Doesn't work on a cork notice board

Recently I read an article that touted email marketing as a “dying” form of marketing. To an extent, I agree.

If you’re making loads of these email errors, like these, and otherwise don’t know how to create fresh, engaging emails, then sure, it might be “dying” – for you.

In order to properly set the stage for the “main event” of this article, let’s first cover some basic “brass tacts” that you should be know to write great email copy…

There is, essentially, only one goal when writing great emails, and that is to generate (and then steward) trust.

Imagine your potential customers as giant scales that weigh and measure things. On one side, is every time they’ve ever been burned, abused, lied to, stolen from, taken advantage of and ripped off at the hands of other businesses and marketers.

Quite the heavy load, wouldn’t you say?

On the other side is the amount of trust they have in you, your product, your service, and your brand.

Your one job as a marketer is to – first – balance out these scales and – eventually – add so much trust to your side of the scale that it overpowers all of the objections on the other… this is called, “tilting the scales.”

The moment this happens, assuming you have a great product or service that is actually helpful and valuable, your prospects will buy. Therefore, the goal of email marketing, is to pile up trust onto your side of the scale. Here are a few ways to do this.

1. Be consistent

You cannot just show up randomly, coming in and out of people’s lives on a whim, and expect them to actually trust you. How many friends do you have who routinely disappear on you, and only show up when they “need” something?

My guess is, not many, because when this happens they don’t remain your friends for long.

It’s the same way with your email subscribers. They obviously want to hear from you (if they don’t they’ll unsubscribe), and showing up consistently is a key in what I call “trust stewardship.” While everybody else is being flaky, you’ve got to be consistent.

2.  Be concise

One of the biggest mistakes you can make, if you actually want to make money with your emails, is to overwhelm your readers with too many options.

When your emails have too many calls to action, people tend to be unsure of what they should do first. So they end up doing… nothing.

Likewise, when there’s not definitive instruction on what to do next, people have no “next step.” The golden zone is when there’s just one place to go next, one desired action, one next step.

I’ll show you more on this later…

3.  Be captivating

This ties in with the main point of this article (which we’re about to get to), but in its simplest form it means this: people are busy, overwhelmed and exhausted from constant information being thrown at them…

You have to show up differently. One of my favorite mentors, Ken McCarthy, explains it this way in recent interview:

“Imagine your prospects are running for their lives from a pack of wild wolves… and they have these big, tasty pork chops tied around their necks and they know the wolves want them and will never stop chasing them.

They run by a sign with your copy on it, and your copy has to be so compelling, so completely intoxicating and exciting that they stop running, forget about the wolves, and read every word…”

Wow! All of this, in a word, means captivating.

Write your email copy to be so compelling people have to stop what they’re doing and read every word.

Your subject lines is the first stop, it’s gotta pack the punch that “jolts” the reader out of their day and gets them in the zone of your email… think of every line in your email like this:

The one goal is to get them to read the next line because they’re so captivated they just can’t stop.

Now let’s talk about how you can significantly boost your sales, your reputation, and your engagement through emails.

How To Fascinate Your Audience

Opening Business Concept

Here’s what you need to remember: People do not buy because they are interested in you. They buy because they are undeniably, irrevocably, and totally fascinated with what your product or service can do for them.

Fascinated, according to Webster, means to be irresistibly drawn to something.

It means that even if your prospects are full-out sprinting away from wild wolves, your copy (your offer, your persona, your story) cannot be resisted.

Creating fascination with your business is likely the most important marketing role you will ever fill, because the more fascination you can create, the more customers, the more referrals, and the more revenue you will generate.

You see this principle at work all the time, particularly in movies and other entertainment. Think of the last time you stood in line to see a new blockbuster as soon as it hit the theaters.

Why did you do it?


It’s only when your leads and prospects become fascinated with the results you can provide for them, that they are willing to fork over money for what you are offering.

Here are three ways that work exceptionally well for creating massive fascination. These work well in any medium, but I have seen tremendous results using email.

1) “ABFP” – always be future pacing

You always want to be talking & writing about how awesome and incredible life will be when your prospects experience the results you can give them.

Even if you’re selling something “boring” (like a book), you can make it fascinating by talking about the results your book is helping readers create. Or by offering bonuses that they’ll get when they buy the book (check how how Ryan Levesque is making his new book so irresistibly fascinating you can’t help but want it).

Again, this is all about how you make your prospects “feel” when they read your email, your copy, and your offers… they should feel like the person they want to be and could be is only one decision, one action away (future pacing).

Another way to future pace is by sharing case studies and stories of clients & customers. This implies that if the prospect were to become a client or customer then they, too, could experience these results.

2) Spend a lot of time crafting your open loops

When writing email copy for clients, I spend roughly 50% of my time figuring out how I’m going to “link” into the next email. This makes it to where at the end of my emails I’m saying something like:

“Oh yea, by the way there’s one thing that if you don’t do correctly, you’ll completely ruin this process I just showed you… in fact, it can be so destructive that you might even ruin ‘blah blah blah.’

I’ll tell you what that one mistake is… tomorrow.”


“By the way, have you heard of the ‘X,Y,Z Pickup Formula’? It’s kind of freaky how good it works, and we all thought it was a fluke at first – but it’s not. I’m telling you it works every time.

If you want to pick up dates in a way they can’t refuse (I know it sounds crazy but last night I used this and took home 3 hotties no questions asked) then you’ve gotta try this… I’ll give you the entire formula tomorrow.”

By the time people read that far in your email, they’re left on the edge and can’t wait to see your name in their inbox the next day. Another way to say this:

They’re fascinated! And can’t wait to read more.

3) Master the basics

I know this isn’t what most people want to hear, but it’s one of the most powerful truths in good marketing. There’s a story about the late (great) Gary Halbert, largely recognized as the “Prince of Print” and greatest copywriter who ever lived.

Word has it, Halbert would go to all the marketing events and attended the “beginner” sessions. Finally, a guy asked him,

“You have 40+ years experience in marketing – why are you going to to the beginner’s sessions?”

To which Gary replied:

“If I’m missing anything – or screwing anything up – it’s almost always something basic I’ve forgotten or neglected. I need to constantly refresh my knowledge of the basics.”

Here’s the truth:

Masters of marketing, copywriting, and advertising, are ruthlessly committed to their mastery of the basics.

If you want to create fascination in your emails, your landing pages, sales letters, and marketing pieces, go no further than the basics. People ask me all the time how I got started in marketing.

The answer? The basics.

Study the Gary Halbert Letters, buy Joe Sugarman’s books, Claude Hopkin’s “Scientific Advertising,”  Victor Schwab’s “How To Write A Good Advertisement” and go get on the lists of the “modern greats” like Ben Settle, Andre Chaperon, and Kevin Rogers.

I promise if you get good at the basics, the advanced stuff will come… and, you’ll likely find what I did:

The advanced stuff doesn’t matter nearly as much as nailing the basics when it comes to making your copy sing!

When you start creating curiosity and fascination in your emails, you will see drastic increases in your ROE (return on email).

I hope this article has been helpful for you, and please post your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

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