The 9 Best Email Copywriting Tips (+ Examples)
- Willy Wood
Entrepreneurs and business owners spend a lot of time obsessing about the “big” things—their branding, their websites, product development, content marketing, etc.
And of course, those are all important.
But many of these same business owners spend far less time focusing on another crucial aspect of their businesses—communicating with their email lists.
Your subscribers are your most loyal fans and biggest brand evangelists. They’ve trusted you with their contact information and expect you to give value in return.
And if you give them value, they’ll reward you by becoming buyers—often repeat buyers.
In fact, according to one recent study, the average ROI for email marketing is $42 for every $1 spent! That beats just about any other strategy you can use for growing your business. So, it pays (literally) to do a good job of communicating your offers to your subscribers.
And the vehicle you use for that communication is email copywriting.
What is Email Copywriting?
Email copywriting is the process of writing the words (copy) in your business emails with the goal of creating a conversion of some type.
A conversion doesn’t have to be a sale. It could be to visit and read your newest blog post, to opt-in to your email list, or to sign-up for a free trial of your service.
Of course, not every email you write in your business fits the definition of email copywriting.
- Sending out an email to schedule a meeting in your business? Not email copywriting.
- Communicating with an existing vendor about the terms of your service? Not email copywriting.
- Emailing your accountant to ask about withholding percentages from your revenues? Not email copywriting.
But any email that you send out with the intent of getting a prospect to become a customer or a customer to become a repeat buyer would be considered email copywriting.
And email copywriting includes all parts of the email, from the subject line to the preview text to the body copy, to the call to action. When it comes to writing emails to get conversions, every word counts!
9 Tips for Improving Your Email Copywriting
OK, now that you know how important email copywriting is to the success of your business and what email copywriting is, it’s time to dig into the details.
There’s a lot to know about writing email copy in order to do it well, and whole books could be (and have been) written on the topic, but the following nine tips will give you a solid foundation upon which to build your email copywriting expertise.
Email Copywriting Tip #1: Write with Clear Goals in Mind
The first step in any email copywriting campaign should always be to establish your goals. After all, how do you know if your email worked if you haven’t defined what success means?
The reason we say “goals” (plural) is that every transactional email you send should have two goals.
1. The first goal of your email is to get the click, NOT to get the sale.
Because space in an email is always limited, all you’re trying to do is to get the reader to take the step that will set them up for the ultimate conversion. And that step is to respond to your call to action by clicking a link or button in your email.
So your first goal is always to get a high click-through rate, which, depending on the industry, is between two and five percent.
2. Then, in addition to getting your readers to click the link in your email, you’ll also have a second, more specific conversion goal.
And by specific, we mean not just “a lot of social media comments,” or “a bunch of content downloads,” or “more sales calls booked than last month.” But rather, “50 comments on the new social media post,” or “25 downloads of the new PDF by the end of the promotion,” or “5 more sales calls booked than last month.”
For example, let’s say you want readers to take you up on a free one-month trial of your software.
The two goals for your promotion, then, are:
- To get them curious enough or excited enough about your offer that 4% (or whatever click-through rate goal you select) click the link in the email that takes them to the landing (sales) page for the free trial.
- That a certain percentage (that you identify) are then converted by the sales page into trial sign-ups.
So, to repeat: the job of the landing page—where you have much more room to pull out all the persuasive stops—is to get the sale. The goal of the email is just to get the click that gets them to the sales page.
Email Copywriting Tip #2: Know Your Audience
When you write an email with the goal of getting the reader to take action, how do you know what will be persuasive for that reader?
Well, the only way you’ll know the answer to that question is to know your audience. And by “knowing” your audience, I mean having a deep understanding of their problems, the solutions they’re looking for, and the transformation they want to achieve in their lives.
Most businesses gather this kind of information in a variety of ways—customer surveys, social media analytics, customer service data, and even 1-on-1 live or virtual interviews.
This data is then used to create what’s called an ideal customer avatar—a fictional person who’s representative of the business’s customers, or some segment of the business’s customers.
Speaking of segmentation, if your business has multiple sub-groups of customers whose problems are different enough from each other, you need to treat these groups as different audiences and create different ideal customer avatars for each segment of your overall list.
How does this impact your email copywriting efforts? Massively!
If you have multiple list segments, you’ll rarely send an email to everyone on the entire list. Usually, an offer is only a good match for one or two segments of your list. And targeting only the segments who need to hear the message contained in the email allows you to speak to those people more persuasively.
Email Copywriting Tip #3: Perfect Your Subject Line
Your subject line is arguably the most important element of your email copywriting.
Why? It’s simple…
If they don’t open the email in the first place, there’s no opportunity for them to see and respond to your call to action.
No open, no conversion. No bueno.
Think of your email subject lines like the headline for a long-form sales letter. Most people look at a headline and, within a split second, decide whether the rest of the sales letter is worth reading or not. If they aren’t intrigued or inspired by the headline, they leave.
This is why veteran copywriters often say they spend as much time working on their headlines as they do on the entire body of the sales letter.
And if your email subject line doesn’t hook the email recipient right away, you’ll never even get your foot in the door to make your pitch. It’s that important.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when writing your subject lines:
- Length: It’s a good idea to keep your subject lines short. If your subject line is too long, it can be cut off in the recipient’s inbox. And since more and more people are opening their email on their mobile devices, space is even more at a premium. Shoot for subject lines shorter than 10 words. And if you can come up with a compelling subject line that’s five words or less, even better!
- Word Choice: The best words for your subject line are directly tied to your goal for the email. If you’re pitching a sale, by all means, use phrases that highlight the value or urgency of the offer (“Act Now for 50% Off”). If, on the other hand, you’re pitching an informational piece of content in your email, you might want to go with words that elicit a sense of curiosity (“The 5 Most Important Words for Diabetics,” “Will You Miss Out on the Next Stock Boom?”). One warning, though: make sure that you deliver in the body of your email whatever you promise or hint at in your subject line. If you don’t, people will feel tricked and will be less likely to open your emails in the future.
- Personalization: We’ll talk more about personalization below, but when it comes to subject lines, there are two ways you can use personalization to increase open rates: (1) you can use merge fields to include the recipient’s name in your subject line (“Hey Gary, Did You See This?”) and/or (2) you can make sure that the “from” field is populated by a real person’s name, not some anonymous company moniker. People like to communicate with people, not vague corporate entities.
Here are a few subject lines from two marketers who do a great job of writing subject lines that grab the recipient’s attention, create curiosity, and almost beg to be opened.
From Ray Brehm, an entrepreneur and business coach:
- My Shirt Was on Inside Out, and the Audience Didn’t Seem to Notice
- My Dad’s Whack-a-Mole Approach to Fixing His Computer
- The Hidden Upside to Shiny Object Syndrome
- The Answer Was Simple…Plumber’s Putty
- About that Illegal Scuba Training in Cancun
From Perry Belcher, a legendary digital marketer and highly successful entrepreneur:
- Naughty A.I. Print on Demand Secrets
- This is Going to Get Me in Even More Trouble
- From the Bathtub of Perry Belcher
- You Can Lead a Horse to Water…
- Perry Belcher Goes Topless on Webinar
Wouldn’t you open emails with those subject lines?
Email Copywriting Tip #4: Optimize Your Preview Text
While your subject lines are super important in convincing your audience to open your emails, you also need to remember that the people receiving your emails can usually see a little more than just your subject line in their inboxes without opening the email.
In addition to the subject line itself, they will be able to see the very first part of the body of your email (between 35 and 140 characters). This is called the “preview text,” and it’s a good idea to make sure this snippet of copy is also working in your favor.
Treat your preview text as an extension of your subject line and use it to get a little more explicit about the promise in your subject line…
Or begin to give an answer to a question you ask in your subject line…
Or simply begin to expand on the thought that your subject line begins.
And if you didn’t use a merge field to include the recipient’s first name in the subject line to personalize it, you could do so in the greeting of the email body itself, which means it will show up in your preview text.
For example, the subject line in the following email says, “The best way to teach math and English.” Not one of the best ways. THE best way. That’s a bold statement that’s likely to hook any math or English teacher and get them to open the email.
Then, in the preview text, we see, “Plus, anti-dopamine parenting…” This tells us that the email will have multiple subjects, one of which is contained in the subject line. Then, the preview text gives the reader another topic and another hook to get them to open the email (what the heck IS “anti-dopamine parenting” anyway?).
The email subject line in the next example is compelling because, for anyone who’s ever tried to create an online course, getting people to sign up can be a challenge. This email promises that you can learn how to fill your course in only 90 minutes.
And then the preview text takes it a step further… Get my course filled in 90 minutes and have fun doing it? Yes, please!
Also, note the personalization in the preview text.
And finally, the example below asks an intriguing question. “What,” you might think to yourself, “is a magic padlock?” Then, the preview text clarifies things by saying “Lock down your site today.” So now you know that all you have to do is open this email to learn how to get better security for your website.
As you can see, there are all kinds of creative ways to use preview text to add more reasons for your email recipients to open your emails, so pay attention to this little snippet of text when you write your emails.
Email Copywriting Tip #5: Keep Your Email Copy Relevant and On Brand
Your brand isn’t just your website, landing pages, and other marketing materials. Sure, those things are all major components of your brand, and you want the look, feel, and voice of all of these elements to be consistent.
But your emails can also contribute (or not) to your brand. To the person on the other end of your emails, your brand should be just as recognizable in your emails as it is in every other element of your marketing.
And since your emails are usually less about visuals and more about the words, the most important brand element to be aware of in your email copywriting is your company’s brand voice. If your brand is professional and authoritative, your emails should use professional and authoritative language. If your brand is playful and snarky, your emails should be, as well.
In addition to getting the brand voice right, though, you also need to make sure that the content of your emails is relevant to the reader.
There are two main questions you need to ask yourself here:
- Is all the content in the email relevant to the stated goal of the email? Anything that doesn’t contribute to this goal shouldn’t be in the email.
- Is the content in the email relevant to the customer avatar(s) you’re writing to? If you have a detailed understanding of the audience you’re writing for, this understanding should guide your writing.
Making sure that you get your brand voice right and that you keep your audience (avatar) in mind when writing will make your reader much more likely to respond to your call to action because (1) the voice is recognizable and trusted and (2) the message is clearly tailored just for them.
Email Copywriting Tip #6: Personalize as Much as Possible
Email can come across as personal, as in the email you send to a friend or family member. Or email can come across as soulless and corporate, as in the emails you probably get from some of the companies whose content you’ve subscribed to.
Which kind of email are you more likely to open—the one that’s personal, or the one that’s soulless?
The personal one, of course!
And the data backs that up. In fact, according to a recent study, personalized email copy generates 32.7% more responses than generic email copy.
But here’s the rub…
If you run a business, how do you write emails that come across as personal when the business is, in fact, sending the same pitch to hundreds or even thousands of people at once?
The answer is personalization—which is the process of creating emails that, while they’re going to be blasted out in large batches, nevertheless come across as feeling personal when they land in a recipient’s inbox.
Here’s how you do it…
- Write your email as if you’re writing to a single person. And that person is, of course, the ideal recipient for the email—the customer avatar we discussed in tip #2.
- Keep it conversational. Sure, what you write will need to match the brand voice of the company. But within those parameters, try to write as if you were talking with someone across a two-top in your favorite coffee shop. This creates the sense that your reader is having a private, personal chat with you about the topic of the email.
- Address your reader in second person. In other words, speak to them by using the words “you” and “your” instead of using aloof third-person language. This signals that your email really is all about the reader, not about you.
- Focus on benefits instead of features. Don’t talk so much about what the product does; instead, focus more on how it will change the reader’s life. How will their life be better after using the product? How will they feel differently?
Email Copywriting Tip #7: Avoid Spam Trigger Words
Think about this…
What if you wrote the world’s greatest email?
- One that tells an engaging story that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings and brings a tear to their eye.
- One that paints a vivid picture of how the reader’s life will be better after taking you up on your offer.
- One that includes a call to action that’s so powerful that the reader clicks the call to action button almost reflexively as soon as they see it.
And now, what if that email lands in the recipient’s spam folder instead of her inbox?
Epic fail, right?
No matter how good your email is, if it’s flagged as spam, it’s worthless!
And that’s exactly what can happen if you use one or more “spam trigger words” in your emails (especially in your subject lines) that have become associated with scams or high-pressure sales tactics.
For example, if you use words such as “Act Now,” “Last Chance,” or “Once in a Lifetime,” you’re cranking up the urgency to 11, and since so many spammers have used false urgency to over-hype their offers, the recipient’s spam filter is liable to be triggered.
If you use words like “Best Price Ever!” or “Big Bucks” or “Meet Singles,” you may be making false promises. These kinds of phrases are used regularly by scammers trying to get you to click a malicious link and again, are likely to trigger a spam alert.
And if you use symbols such as “$$$” or “100% Satisfaction” or “0% Risk,” you’ll come across sounding like a con artist. Most people have been burned by such claims often enough to shy away from such language, and most spam filters will be triggered by this kind of wording.
If you’d like to see more examples of words that are considered spam words, you can find lists of such words (such as this one, with over 200 words listed) with a simple Google search. But that’s not really necessary. There’s a much quicker and easier way to determine whether a certain word is “spammy”: the “gut test.”
When you start to write something that you think might come across as a little shady, simply ask yourself, “If I received this in my inbox, how would I respond to this wording?” Then just go with your gut. Your reader is likely to have the same reaction as you do.
So, let your gut be your guide. And if your gut says, “sounds spammy,” find another way to get your message across.
Email Copywriting Tip #8: Create a Compelling Call to Action
Every part of your email is important. Without a compelling subject line and preview text, it doesn’t get opened in the first place. And without engaging body copy, readers won’t continue reading long enough to hear your pitch.
But you could make the argument that your call to action is the most important part of your emails. After all, what does it matter if they open your email and read it, if they don’t get over that final hurdle and click on the button or link? If they don’t do that, your goal for your email copywriting won’t be achieved.
To make sure that your call to action (CTA) is compelling, follow these tips:
- Have One Single Call to Action: It can be tempting to try to achieve more than one goal in a single email. If you’re pitching one product or service, there’s almost always something closely related that you could throw into the mix. Don’t do it. Research has shown that, if you give readers more than one option, they’re less likely to click on any of them. So don’t distract the reader. Make one pitch and make it as persuasively as you can.
- One CTA Doesn’t Necessarily Mean One Button or Link: While you’re only asking the reader to do one thing, this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them more than once to do that thing. Unless the email is very short, you may include two links or buttons—or even three. A good rule of thumb is, once they reach the first CTA, there should always be a visible CTA as they read through the rest of the email. This simply makes it easy for the reader to click at any time the spirit moves them.
- Be Clear: It should be crystal clear to the reader why it would be beneficial for them to take you up on your offer. And it should also be crystal clear what happens next if they click on the link.
- Be Specific: Don’t use generic, meh language like “learn more” for your link or button text. Instead, use language tied to the specific offer you’re making, like “Grab Your 25% Discount” or “Start Your Free Trial.”
- Stay On Brand: If you’ve been careful to use the same brand voice in your email that you use on your website and in your other marketing materials, make sure to project that same brand personality and voice in your CTA, as well.
Email Copywriting Tip #9: Use A/B Testing to Perfect Your Email Copy
Think you’re done with an email once you’ve written it and sent it out?
Sorry, Charlie; you’re not done yet. As with any kind of marketing copy, your emails are an opportunity to learn more about what works and what doesn’t for your audience and make adjustments that allow you to be more effective with your messaging going forward.
The best tool to ensure that your copy is steadily getting stronger is A/B testing.
Start by testing two subject lines against each other. Once you’ve found a winner, test a couple of different calls to action. Once you’ve found which CTA works best, split test your preview copy.
As long as you’re using that email, keep testing and tweaking until you have your best messaging. This work will pay off handsomely in your conversions.
Email Copywriting Examples
We hope that the nine tips above have been helpful. But we thought it might allow you to solidify what you’ve learned if we shared a few examples so you can see the tips in action.
The following two emails were sent out by Danny Iny, the CEO here at Mirasee. Both are about creating online courses (our main area of expertise at Mirasee), though each is from a different promotion.
Email Copy Example #1
Our first example is what’s usually referred to as an “objection” email. The following email addresses someone who feels they might not be enough of an expert to create and run an online course and shares with them why that’s not the case.
The promotion is for a 5-Day Challenge, during which attendees learn how to select a topic for their course, set a price, identify their ideal students, and outline the structure of the course—all in five days.
Subject Line: Are You Expert Enough to Create a Course?
One of the biggest concerns I hear from people who want to create an online course is that they’re not “expert enough.” They think they need more experience, more education, or some kind of certification before they can teach others.
I get it. It can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there like that.
But if you’re worried about your level of (or lack of) expertise, here’s what I always tell people:
How much you know about the subject isn’t anywhere near as important as how much you know about your audience.
To be able to speak, teach, or consult on a specific topic requires *some* knowledge, of course…
…but if your audience isn’t filled with high-level experts in your topic, then you don’t need to be one either!
All you need is to know a little more than they do, and how they think about the topic, so you can share your knowledge in a way that’s easy for them to understand. (That’s why the best teacher is often someone who’s only one or two steps beyond the student – so you can relate to them more accurately.)
So, your expertise? Not a big deal.
The key is to find a specific topic where you *are* expert enough and build your course around that.
And I’d love to walk you through exactly how to do that during a 5-day challenge I’m hosting next week, from Monday-Friday, June 19-23.
In addition to choosing a topic for your course, you’ll also…
- Select a price for your course that optimizes enrollments and profit…
- Identify the ideal student to target when marketing your course…
- …and plan the structure of your course for the most effective learning experience.
And this isn’t just a series of presentation videos or lessons. It’s a challenge, where you’ll receive clear actionable steps you can follow to plan your course. So by the end of the week, you’ll be ready to start building it!
It’s only $7 to join, and all the proceeds are going to a wonderful charity called Pencils of Promise.
So if you’re ready to get started, click here to register for Your Personalized Map to a Premium Priced Online Course.
I hope to see you there. 🙂
Founder/CEO at Mirasee
As you can see, the subject line addresses the audience’s main objection right away: “Are You Expert Enough to Create a Course?” Since a large percentage of Mirasee’s target audience worries about this topic, this subject line should resonate with many of them. Also note the personalization in the greeting (“Hey Willy”), which also shows up in the preview text.
The main goal of the email is, of course, to get readers to click through to the 5-Day Challenge landing page. The ultimate goal, then, is to get them to convert by signing up for the Challenge (but that’s the landing page’s job).
The call to action, “Click Here to Register for your Personalized Map to a Premium Priced Online Course” is clear and specific to the promotion.
Email Copy Example #2
Our second example is an email in the launch sequence for Mirasee’s signature product, Hybrid Course University, which teaches people how to create their entire course from the ground up. The following email is an example of a “case study” email, where it tells the story of someone who had been trying to create a course for a long time and was finally able to do so through Hybrid Course University.
Subject Line: After Ten Years of Trying to Launch His Course, This Finally Made It Click
I often talk about the benefits of getting expert help, versus going it alone.
That’s true in most areas of life, and building an online course is no exception.
And a really good example of this is Wib Newton.
Wib wanted to offer an online course so he could help more people. Specifically, he helps men improve their romantic relationships with their partners, so they can be better husbands and have happier marriages.
But while he was great at doing this 1-on-1, his online course was a flop.
“In fact, if I were to be honest with myself,” says Wib, “I’ve been trying to develop a course that provides this kind of training for about 10 years. And I just really couldn’t get enough traction.”
So when Hybrid Course University came along last year, Wib signed up. He was ready for a proven plan and a coach to finally build the kind of online course he’d been trying to build.
His pilot launch was a success.
“I had 10 guys that showed up, and I charged $497,” he said. “And so it’s really nice to have [made] about $5,000…!”
And while he was delivering that course, he found a way to tweak it to make it an even better experience for his students.
“I was dependent upon [my students] to go and watch the [skill training] videos as soon as they could …” he says. “I realized that I needed to actually include that skill training [when we met each] Saturday … and then they could practice it throughout the week.”
So not only did Wib help his students get a better result… he also set himself up for greater success the next time he launches.
And that’s just the start of what you’ll do inside Hybrid Course University.
With Hybrid Course University, you’ll launch your first pilot online course in just a few months… fill your course with paying students… and build your course in a way that lets you scale it up later on, so you can grow it as big as you want.
That includes discovering how to…
- Make it easy for your prospective students to say “YES!” by seeding your market with desire, so that prospects are primed and eager even before you launch…
- Run a smooth launch by setting up your tech, planning your communication, and getting emotionally and mentally pumped to deliver your pilot course…
- Create long-term income, freedom, and impact by evaluating your pilot’s results and picking the right path forward…
- Attract a steady flow of prospective students with a compelling lead magnet: you’ll create it, set it up, and watch your audience grow…
- Create “magnetic” content, so your audience is drawn to you, trusts you, falls a little in love with you, and invites others into your world…
- Expand your visibility and accelerate your audience growth with 3 warm traffic strategies…
- Discover the insider secrets to creating professional-looking course videos: we’ll walk you through it, step by step…
- Ensure your course is profitable from the get-go – once you know the formula, you’ll feel excited about your price and confident when sharing it with prospective students…
- Get more of your prospective students to actually enroll in your course, so you can leverage your growing traffic and boost your revenue…
- Excite that “I want more!” feeling in your students, so they’ll practically be begging for your higher-value offers…
- …and much more!
We’ll even show you how to use time-saving tools like ChatGPT (like for creating first drafts of your lessons, scripts, and lead magnet), so you can get your course to your students much faster.
And how to stay ahead of the generic, entirely bot-generated courses now flooding the online course market, so that your course is the obvious choice.
So Willy, if you’re on a mission to help more people change their lives and achieve their dreams…
…and you’d like to make that happen in the next few months (not years!)…
Click here to get the details about Hybrid Course University and to save your seat.
No more waiting… let’s make this happen for you this year.
Founder/CEO at Mirasee
The subject line for this email is a bit longer than our guideline, but it is certainly an attention-grabber for people who have been unsuccessfully trying to launch an online course for a long time. The personalization (“Hey Willy”) still shows up in the preview text as well as later in the email.
The primary goal of the email is to get readers to click through to the landing page. The second (ultimate) goal is to get them to sign up for the course. One reason this email is longer than the previous one is that the program offered here is much more expensive. So, while the landing page will do the heavy lifting as far as selling the program, the email takes the time to do a bit more “pre-selling” than usual.
Note that the tone of the brand voice is very consistent between the two emails. Mirasee’s brand voice is professional, while also being conversational and free of jargon.
Also note that the audience in both emails is entrepreneurs and business owners looking to create an online course. Finally, you can see that both emails stay away from hype that could trigger spam filters.
Yes, You CAN Do Your Own Email Copywriting!
We know that most entrepreneurs and business owners aren’t professional copywriters. In fact, many business owners don’t see themselves as writers at all.
On the other hand, we also know that many of these same business owners don’t have the budget to hire freelance copywriters to write their emails for them. So, they’re caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
If so, don’t stress about it. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to write email copy that converts.
In this article, we’ve given you a solid foundation for your email copywriting.
Just follow the nine tips we’ve shared here each time you write an email (you could even turn the tips into a checklist to keep by your computer to jog your memory).
With time and practice, email copywriting does get easier. Before long, it will become second nature.
You can do this!