Engaging, effective emails are all about structure. That is what copywriting is about at its very heart. There is a proven formula that moves your reader’s eyes quickly from the eye-catching headline, through the subheadlines, and body, and finally to your call to action.   Your goal is to develop each of these individual areas to create the maximum engagement and create an overwhelming desire to continue reading and clicking along the way.

By using the following email structures and accompanying tips properly, you can instantly improve your open rates, your conversions, and your sales.

Important Email Structures to Watch

  • Your “From” Name
  • Subject Line
  • Pre-header
  • Body
  • Close
  • Signature
  • P.S.

Each of these structures requires careful consideration. Use the following tips to maximize the potential of each of your structures in your email with these copywriting techniques proven to increase conversions and sales.

Your “From” Name

One of the first things people do when checking their email is to check who sent it. An email from a known sender is more likely to be opened that from an unknown sender.  When you combine the “from” name with the subject line, your recipient has made up his mind in less than a second or two whether to open that email or hit the delete button.

In other words, your “from” name and address is extremely important in your emails.

Research continually shows that people prefer to receive email from an individual rather than a business. Think about your own experiences. Which email will you open quicker, one from John Robinson or one from ABC Corporation? Remember this when you configure your email provider or autoresponder settings.

The same is true with your email address. JohnSmith@XYZCorporation.com looks more friendly than VicePresidentofOperations@XYZ Corporation.com. This seemingly insignificant structural change can single-handedly improve your open rates.

Subject Line

How important is your headline or subject line when you communicate a marketing message? Marketing genius and multimillionaire David Ogilvy is known as The Father of Advertising. Here is what he had to say about headlines.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent $.80 out of your advertising dollar.”

Your subject line is your second step in creating a successful email, but it’s probably the most important. Its power and importance cannot be understated.

You’ll want to keep your subject line short.  Subject lines of 50 characters or fewer have been shown to get better open rates than longer subject lines. However, if you need more characters to get your point across, definitely use them. Just don’t ramble on needlessly.

Today, in 2017, more people access the internet through a mobile device rather than a conventional computer. Why is this important? It is significant because you need to make every one of your emails be mobile friendly. The name of the sender, your subject line and the first few words of text in your email all show up in most mobile email applications.

Access your own email account from your smartphone or tablet. Count how many characters appear in the subject line of your incoming emails. This is a best practice that can ensure the most important part of your subject line is noticed when someone accesses their email from a mobile device.

Don’t forget to make your subject line the most important part of your email. It absolutely must draw attention, generate interest, or appeal to some strong emotion.

For a great book on writing the ultimate headlines, see Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. This book provides the fundamentals that can be applied to writing headlines, offers, call-to-action copy, and much, much more.

Pre-Header

Your pre-header is called the ‘lede’ in the copywriting world. It can also be the first line of your email.  This snippet can be considered the lost relative in the world of copywriting. Along with the ‘from’ name and address, it is routinely ignored. However, your pre-header is extremely powerful. As was noted above, your pre-header will appear after your ‘from’ name and subject line in most email applications and software. If you do not include a pre-header, the first few words of your email opening will be used.

Your lede sets the tone for the email and it’s probably the most important series of words because it either entices the readers into reading further or bores them into deleting your email.

In its small business blog, Go Daddy says this about your lede:

“Simply put, a “lede” is the opening sentence of a news story. It’s the most important series of words in any article because it entices readers into reading the entire piece. Failing to mention the important, interesting, or attention grabbing elements of a story in the first few sentences is called “burying the lede.” Your lede sets the tone for the entire email. Since it’s your first impression, don’t rush it. Carefully craft your first sentence; linger over each word. Then re read, revise, and rework it….   The lead sentence in your marketing email is just as important as a “lede” in a news story. You may write the catchiest, cleverest email in marketing history, but if your lede doesn’t hold your reader’s attention, the rest of your email won’t be read.”

Depending on how long your subject line is, this could mean 8 to 10 or more words to further improve your chances of your email being opened. If your email subject line is only 25 or 30 characters, you could have as many as 50 or 60 characters of your pre-header showing up in your subscriber’s email summary.

Your lede is a powerful opportunity. Don’t waste it. Your emails are generally competing with dozens or even hundreds of other emails to grab your reader’s attention. Make your lede strong, and open with your biggest benefit or reason people should read. With a smartly configured “from name,” as well as a compelling subject line, a good pre-header greatly improves the odds that your email is getting opened.

This means if you open your email with, “Hi, Today I would like to talk to you about …,” you are throwing away a golden opportunity at getting your email opened, read and clicked through.

The Body

Here is another great chance for you. The only way your main email body gets read is if you already got your reader to open your email. That means you have their attention. They are ready for you to discuss whatever was in your subject line.

Remember that the promise in your subject line must be delivered in your email body. Don’t try a ‘bait and switch’ just to get your email opened. In other words, don’t promise one thing in the headline and talk about something unrelated in the body.

Your body is the meat and potatoes of your email. This is your 200-to-300 word chance to get your reader to take a specific course of action. In some cases, as with a transactional email, the body of your email may simply be a receipt or verification of a product being shipped. However, you should never miss an opportunity to engage your reader and build on your relationship.

In a broadcast or autoresponder email, remember to apply the AIDA principal.

  • A – Attention
  • I – Interest
  • D – Desire
  • A - Action

You have already grabbed your reader’s attention with your subject line. You piqued attention with your pre-header. Now you need to build on that attention and interest, and create some desire.

One simple way to do that is to open the body of your email by stating a big problem that your reader has. You then agitate or aggravate that problem. Explain a worst-case scenario if that problem is not solved. You explain how your product or service is the solution to that problem, and offer supporting social proof in the form of testimonials, statistics or case studies. This is known as the PAS copywriting formula. When the PAS formula is used in your email body copy, inside your AIDA structure, you have 2 psychologically powerful components on your side.

This flow sets up your copy perfectly for the next structural piece of your email, your closing call to action.

Close

This is your call to action. Take command here. Tell the reader exactly what to do. Be bold but not domineering. Remind your reader of the problem your product or service solves, and the perfect-case scenario he or she will enjoy with your solution. We will delve a little deeper into how to create a compelling call to action at the end of this module.

Signature

This is self-explanatory. Just remember to use your name in your signature. You are sending your email from John Smith, not from Vice President of Operations. Adding your title and any bona fides after your name is fine. A JPEG or image of your handwritten signature in cursive is a good touch here, as is a headshot of yourself so your reader can see that you’re a real person.

P.S.

An argument can be made that a P.S. does not need to be included in every email. That is true. From time to time different structures and different approaches will be used. You never want to become stale, always delivering the exact same predictable email experience to your subscribers.

Having said that, the P.S. after your call to action almost always gets read. Many times your subject line, the first couple of sentences of your email, and your P.S. is all that your subscribers read! Restate your call to action, once again alluding to a future where your reader’s problem has been solved by your product.

Points of Note:

  • Sometimes long subject lines are better. They do tend to drive down open rates, but they also narrow down your audience. This often leads to a better click-through rate, since someone who opens an email with a long subject line is a more qualified reader.
  • Always stick to one topic and only one call to action in each email. You confuse your reader and decrease your conversions and sales when you talk about several different topics.
  • You should use the above structure as much as possible. However, it will not apply in all cases. You should also use your own voice. Infuse it with your own unique personality and way of communicating with the successful email structure we just covered and you will write winning emails consistently.


Writing Great Subject Lines

As mentioned before, it is extremely important for you to write a subject line that encourages readers to open your email. Here are a few tips to help you do exactly that.

  • Keep these words and phrases out of your subject line– free, help, % off, reminder, deal, sale ending soon, perfect, and wonderful tend to lower your open rates.
  • Steer clear of Internet slang– bae, dat, derp, cray-cray, yort, and btw lead to poor open rates, and make you look unprofessional.
  • Use numbers – “7” works better than “seven” for engagement. Use the numeral, don’t spell it out.
  • Never write in all capital letters – this is the Internet’s way of shouting.
  • Keep them short – 50 or fewer characters is best.
  • Don’t use these symbols– !, *, $, %, #, @ and other symbols can trigger a spam filter.
  • Grab attention– your email doesn’t get read if your subject line does not grab your reader’s attention.
  • Localize your subject line– if you can include your reader’s city name you improve the chance of having your email read.
  • Change frequently– don’t use the same subject line repetitively, as this drops your readership over time.
  • Never make a false promise– your subject line must relate to your email body.
  • Be shocking or controversial – just don’t overdo it.
  • Test, test, test –sometimes simple is best. Humor works occasionally. Long subject lines sometimes perform better than short ones. Constantly split-test your subject lines. There is free and paid split testing software available, sometimes offered by your autoresponder service provider.

Here are 5 examples of attention-getting email subject lines:

  • “Quick question …”
  • “Best of the Best: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”
  • “Panic”
  • “3 Ways to Lose Weight Today”
  • “The Winners of the Contest Are…”

Tips for a High-Converting, Compelling Call to Action

If your email reader has made it all the way to your call of action (CTA), congratulations. Your subject line did its job. Your opening worked perfectly. Your body copy was interesting and engaging. You delivered on the promise made in your subject line, and your reader is now processing your call to action.

Will they do what you want them to do? That depends.

Use the following best practices for writing a successful call to action, and you improve the odds of getting your reader to click through to your desired landing page.

  • Say “get” or “enroll” instead of “order” or “buy”
  • Match your CTA with the copy of your landing page.
  • Use a time-sensitive message.
  • Include scarcity if at all possible.
  • Be clear. Tell them exactly what to do.
  • Continually test different calls to action.
  • Repeat the “big message” in your subject line and email body.
  • Keep it short, take out the fluff.
  • Use just 1 call to action per email.

Here are 5 examples of calls to action that are hard to resist:

  • “Discover the exciting world of outside. Subscribe today.” – Outside Magazine
  • “Get Free Card Reader” – Square (payment processing company)
  • “Sign up” – Evernote
  • “Start for free” – Oyster (ebook provider)
  • “Free Trial” – multiple companies; who doesn’t like something for free?

Email Structure Tips for Improving Readability and Driving Engagement

  • The email structure just discussed will help the success of your email marketing campaigns. Inside that structure, there are other things you can do to make your content readable and engaging. The following techniques and strategies keep your subscribers reading, rather than sending your email to the trash bin.
  • Make your copy quickly scannable– this means bulleted lists, subheaders, and different fonts, as well as italicized, bold, and underlined text (if using HTML)
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs– no one enjoys reading huge blocks of uninterrupted text.
  • Use transitions– transitions are structural phrases or sentences that connect 2 paragraphs together. “Astonishing, isn’t it?” and “But what if you could….?” are two excellent one sentence transitions which keep your copy flowing.
  • Keep your emails 400 to 600 pixels wide– this make your emails easier to read. It also provides a better experience on mobile devices.
  • Use fonts proven to boost readership and conversions – Legible fonts are Arial, Verdana, Georgia, and Helvetica. Here’s one other caveat to remember. Reader preferences change over time. As people get used to one type of over-used subject line or call to action, they’ll stop opening those emails. Then you’ll need to rethink your wording. Keep track of your open rates for different emails over time so that you know when to make changes.

There are so many aspects of creating a great email campaign.  If you’d like to learn more about creating an income through your mailing list with email campaigns, consider our Email Marketing Mastery course which is a part of our Million Dollar Marketer program.

Margery Hinman, Ph.D., is founder of Million Dollar Marketer, a membership program combining a collection of online tutorial, resources, and strategies for the rising online entrepreneur. Our Email Marketing Mastery course is just one of 20 different digital marketing courses that can help you achieve your online goals for 2017 and help you on your way to a great income in your own online business.


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