Words matter. Imagery matters, too. But, the purpose of graphic creative in direct marketing is not to please or entertain—the purpose of graphics in direct marketing is to get your audience to read the accompanying words!
The art of crafting compelling words for email is known as email copywriting—it’s really an art and a science. Artful in the way a writer puts the words together, and scientific because the results can be measured. Metrics of all types can measure the effectiveness of online and email copywriting, including sales and revenue, new leads, and even engagement metrics such as open and click-through rates.
And while copywriting has been around for a long time, the days of creating copy for print newspaper or magazine advertisements and direct-mail packages are waning—today, it’s all about how to write killer copy for online purposes like email copywriting.
Now, email copywriting isn’t totally different from writing copy for print mediums—but, there are some differences. For example, you don’t need to motivate people to put a check in an envelope and mail it back!
And at Mequoda, online and email copywriting is all about accomplishing one of four goals related to the core Mequoda Method principles of running a successful online publishing operation.
Because with any online copywriting, you must have goals—this isn’t Creative Writing 101! You need a goal when writing online copy, such as: Attract new website visitors. Capture email addresses of new site visitors. Engage with customers and prospects. Monetize your customer relationships. ACEM is the acronym we use to describe the four pillars of the Mequoda Method of profitable online publishing ventures.
And online and email copywriting with the Mequoda Method always means focusing on one of the four ACEM goals.
For attracting new website visitors, online copywriting on your website for the search engines—and that mostly means for Google—is called SEO, Search Engine Optimization. And SEO copywriting is a discipline entirely unto itself. Read all about this specialty online copywriting in our article Nail SEO Copywriting and Prove Keywords Are Still Relevant.
But to get started with successful email copywriting, you should know the nine secrets for avoiding drab copy—keep these nine concepts top-of-mind when crafting copy for your email efforts:
- Know your audience. If you were writing a letter to your mother, the message would be quite differently delivered than writing that same message to your boss. Before writing a single word, you first have to know who will be reading what you write. Put yourself in the shoes of your readers and know what pains, motivates, inspires, and even frightens your readers.
- Talk the talk. Your email copywriting should convey that you know what you’re talking about. Establishing credibility as a writer of your topic is key to gaining the confidence of your readers. If you were reading a piece about the benefits and wonder of Heaven, and the writer was the Devil, you’d probably stop reading it—let alone trust a single word!
- Use words that connect, inspire, and motivate. Email copywriting should connect you to your readers, inspire them, and motivate your readers to act. Using this basic framework to craft your messages will help you stay focused on eventually getting readers to do what you want them to do. Find out what types of words motivate your audience and liberally use them in your copy.
- Avoid confusing jargon. Clarity and directness are always preferred with email copywriting. When you use obscure jargon or unknown words, your audience will be confused and will abandon reading your copy. And that means you’ve wasted their time—better for you to be clear and concise with your messaging. Readers will appreciate it.
- Short is good, but long can be great too. The “short vs. long” copy debate is an age-old one in the copywriting world. And there is no easy answer for you. Brevity can be very effective with email copywriting, but longer copy can also work. Just remember Strunk & White’s rule in The Elements of Style—“omit needless words.” You can always test long vs. short copy with your online efforts.
- Tell a story when you can. Storytelling is a good way to engage readers, but the stories must be relevant, compelling, and eventually motivate readers to act. With email copywriting, telling a story doesn’t have to be long either—using a real-life example to illustrate your point can literally be a paragraph. Or, for some online efforts, telling a long story is appropriate. Just remember to always be relevant and compelling.
- Sell benefits and describe features. Many copywriters wrongly only write about benefits. And likewise, copy that only describes the features of your product or service is bad. Your copy should focus on benefits, because you want to help your readers with benefits that matter. But you also shouldn’t forget to describe the features of your product or services—readers need to know exactly what they will be receiving if they accept your offer.
- Always remember to ask your readers to act. Don’t overlook making the ask. In fundraising, the “ask” is paramount—and with email copywriting, you also need to ask readers to act. Hint: Ask readers to do what you want, tell them exactly how to act, then ask the again. For example, “Order your half-price subscription today by clicking here, and act today before this limited-time offer expires tonight at midnight.”
- Test, test, test—then test again. As with anything involving science—and email copywriting and direct marketing are part science—you must test new ideas and concepts against your hard-working control copy to discover what works best and to keep on the continuous-improvement path. And never stop testing, because things can quickly change online, and your copy can fatigue faster than you think.
BONUS: The Oxford English Dictionary contains more than 171,000 currently used words in the English language—plus, more than 47,000 obsolete words—but here are three powerful, everlasting words that should regularly fill your killer copywriting efforts:
- You (and your)—this is the most important, #1 word you can use in your online copywriting. Figure out ways to get “you” in your headline, in your email subject line, and in the beginning of your copy. Copywriting is about establishing a relationship with your readers, and speaking directly in a one-on-one way is best accomplished by calling your reader “you.”
- Free—Free is still as powerful as ever in online and email copywriting. As in the old days of print marketing, “free” is just as effective with online copywriting. But two notes of caution about using the word “free”: 1) With online copywriting, instant gratification is often a key motivator for your readers, so it’s best to make your free offering something that can be instantly accessed or downloaded; and 2) Your “free” offering has to be believable—if you offered a “free pot of gold,” you’re likely to lose readers, perhaps forever.
- New—Who doesn’t want the newest thing? “New” is cool, “new” is pioneering, “new” is exclusive. You certainly wouldn’t want to market like this: “Buy our five-year-old widget today—it’s just gathering dust in our warehouse.” Even if this widget were half-price, you’d have trouble finding buyers.
Successful online and email copywriting doesn’t have to be difficult, but it’s a discipline that many online publishers and marketers overlook. Don’t be caught losing out to your competition because your online copywriting is drab and ineffective—make a commitment to investing in powerful online copywriting, and you’ll instantly see the benefits.