10 Commandments of Email Copywriting

1. Thou shalt not direct people to “Learn More.”

“Learn more” is the worst possible call to action. It means absolutely nothing. Be specific, be tangible. What is it that you’re offering exactly?

2. Thou shalt tell people What, Why, and How.

Within the first few sentences of the email (headline and sub-head included), the reader should understand: What the offer is, Why he/she wants it, and How to get it.

3. Thou shalt not require scrolling.

Keep the call to action “above the fold,” preferably within the amount of copy that shows up in the recipient’s preview pane. Don’t make people scroll in order to learn exactly what it is you want them to do.

"I can't use "Free" in a subject line?"

“I can’t use the word “Free” in a subject line?”

4. Thou shalt sell the offer, not the product.

Unless the call to action is “buy now,” focus your copy on the offer: the white paper, the webinar, the free trial, not the product.

5. Thou shalt use benefits, not features.

Marketing 101: features mean nothing without the reader understanding how those features benefit him/her specifically. Don’t mention any product feature without a corresponding benefit.

6. Thou shalt drive action at every opportunity.

Every ounce of email copy should be dedicated to driving action, i.e. getting the reader to respond. Don’t clutter your email with tiresome recitations of facts (“In a down economy, it’s more critical than ever to …”)

7. Thou shalt get to the point.

It’s OK to “set up” the offer by describing the problem or issue that your solution solves. Just don’t spend an entire paragraph telling the reader something that he/she already knows (“As an IT manager, you already know …”)

8. Thou shalt use “you” not “we”.

Write in 2nd person whenever possible – it helps connect you and your brand to the reader. Copy that uses “we” simply sounds like you’re selling something.

9. Thou shalt not serve up multiple calls to action.

Effective email copy has one offer, one key message, and one to call to action. Introduce multiple options (e.g. “If you can’t attend the Webinar, download this white paper”, “If you have questions, contact us”) and you’ll simply detract from the primary offer.

10. Thou shalt repeat the call to action 2-3 times.

Give the reader multiple opportunities to respond. Remember, not all CTAs need be identical. Use buttons AND text links. Use action-oriented text (“Register Now”) and also add hyperlinks to the offer itself (“… an exclusive online event”).

What did I miss? Add your suggestions in the comments below. For more tips on email creative, download a free copy of our white paper: “Top 10 B2B Email Mistakes.”

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