Email Copywriting: A Simple Guide

Neville Medhora, famed copywriter & teacher, describes copywriting like so: “Re-arranging words to sell things better.” And he’s right. All you’re doing is writing an effective letter in order to sell your item more effectively.

Neville Medhora, famed copywriter & teacher, describes copywriting like so: “Re-arranging words to sell things better.”

And he’s right. All you’re doing is writing an effective letter in order to sell your item more effectively.

Let’s take a look at this email from the incredible subscription box site, HuntAKiller.com

That’s it, that is the whole of the email.

So, what did they get right? And perhaps, more importantly, what did they do wrong?

STRENGTHS:

Personability:

The personability of the copy is very strong. HuntAKiller.com is a subscription box murder mystery game that requires you to solve a murder through Mindhunter-esque correspondence with a fake serial killer. Killer concept (pun definitely intended), right?

Right.

But they knew their brand needed a voice, so they took on what feels like a cold, collected tone that befits the game.

Lesson?

Find your voice and weave it into the copy.

Vertical Writing:

Yes, it may “lengthen” your email, but a copy trick in copywriting is vertical writing.

Notice how they don’t save a line for more than a sentence at a time?

And it kept you reading line after line?

That’s the trick.

At times, it’s short.

Other times, they find ways to make it long, because variety is intoxicating to the eye.

Lesson?

Vertical writing keeps the eyes moving.

Vary the length, make it tall, get the conversion.

Emphasis:

I know, I probably use too many bolds in this here lesson, but that’s okay, because this is essentially a robust article with video. When it comes to email, however, save your emphasis for when it matters.

In this email, they saved emphasis for two key things:

COUPON CODE & CTA.

With the coupon code, it’s important to make sure it stands out in any email.

Why?

I used to work in customer service. Too, too often did the company I work for forget to emphasize or make clear coupon codes.

Then customers call and complain that they couldn’t find the code or what they thought was the code did not work.

Then they start opening your emails less. Even worse, they could complain to their ISP (Gmail, Yahoo, whatever) and boom, your brand is blacklisted from Gmail. Then no one gets your emails. Then your company fails. Then you die.

Okay, that last part is overkill, but possible.

As for the Call-to-Action (or, CTA):

We will go over CTAs soon, but to touch on it for a second here, I just want to say that they were smart in saving the link for the end. The call to action is a clear link that entices you with urgency and fear of missing out.

“Click here to use it, while it lasts.”

It tells you to click, builds in an end time the email already alluded to, and it’s not overdone — it’s only in there once!

This CTA is Copywriting 101: Clear. Enticing.

Lesson?

Save your emphasis for when it counts! Don’t blow your wad on a billion bolded words and 6 links. You need to aim for specificity here. Speaking of which, this email also excels at…

Specificity:

Too often, too-big-to-fail companies like Walmart and Target will send mass email blasts that are general and sale-oriented.

Guess what? They don’t care because they don’t have to, they are Walmart! They are Target.

But you need to care, because you’re the David to the Goliath and your slingshot is email.

So, how do you defeat them?

Not on a grand scale, no, but battle by battle.

By being specific.

We’ll touch on “Segmentation” in “DELIVER” but specific emails aimed at specific people is key.

In the HuntAKiller.com email, it has a very specific and small, but effective aim, it is a retargeted email because I gave them my email and had yet to actually buy their service.

This isn’t a big ol’ promotion for the entire site, it’s just one for me because I’m in a segment of potential customers yet to convert.

That kind of specificity can drive your conversion rates sky high.

Lesson?

Simple. Be specific.

WEAKNESSES:

The email is not defined by weakness as much as its abundant potential.

This email could have used…

Images.

We’ll go over this soon, but a simple image would have helped.

Better yet, a company like this could leverage its marketing department to get a video made, potentially by a shadowy serial killer who wants to say something to you.

If they then put up a screenshot of the video with a fake play button over it with the CTA to “Watch this killer’s message to you,” that would probably drive conversions way, way up. Video player images are HUGE converters.

In general, images used responsibly are great. Some emails don’t need any more than one, like this.

Button

I know, I said the CTA they had was “Copywriting 101” but I, personally, like an HTML button.

Again, we’ll touch on this later, but an HTML button is a real eye catcher.

Therefore, it could have gone more like:

Click below to use it, while it lasts…

BEGIN >

It’s not much, but a clickable HTML button goes a long, long way.

More on Copywriting:

I didn’t read Joseph Sugarman’s AdWeek Copywriting Handbook for nothing.

Because of that, I know there is no one better to describe the tenets of copywriting than Joseph Sugarman himself.

While, for email marketing, I don’t necessarily agree with his personal philosophy that the headline is there to merely get the reader to the next part, regardless of the relation to the content.

That being said, the following “17 Axioms of Copywriting” stand apart from any personal philosophy and instead provide clear, concise tenets for copywriting.

Without further adieu, Joseph Sugarman’s 17 Axioms of Copywriting, courtesy of Fat Atom:

Copywriting is a mental process, the successful execution of which reflects the sum total of all your experiences, your specific knowledge and your ability to mentally process that information and transfer it onto a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service.

Copywriting defined. Take everything you’ve ever learned about your subject and turn it into a well-formatted story with the aim to converse with the reader and sell.

All the elements in an advertisement are primarily designed to do one thing only: get you to read the first sentence of the copy.

In my eyes, you want it to all be cohesive, but that’s neither here nor there. The main point here is, entice them with your subject line to get them to read your first line…

The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read a second sentence.

Your ad layout and the first few paragraphs must create the buying environment most conducive to the sale of your product or service.

Get the reader to say yes and harmonize with your accurate and truthful statements while reading your copy.

Your readers should be so compelled to read your copy that they cannot stop reading until they read all of it as if sliding down a slippery slide.

When trying to solve problems, don’t assume constraints that aren’t really there.

Keep the copy interesting and the reader interested through the power of curiosity.

Never sell a product or service. Always sell a concept.

The incubation process is the power of your subconscious mind to use all your knowledge and experiences to solve a specific problem, and its efficiency is dictated by time, creative orientation, environment and ego.

Copy should be long enough to cause the reader to take the action you request.

Every communication should be a personal one, from the writer to the recipient, regardless of the medium used.

The ideas presented in your copy should flow in a logical fashion (Down), anticipating your prospects questions and answering them as if the questions were asked face to face.

In the editing process, you refine your copy to express exactly what you want to express with the fewest words.

Why use 10 words when you can use 4: Be clear and concise.

The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion successfully, the more positive, enjoyable or stimulating the experience.

Selling a cure is a lot easier than selling a preventative unless the preventative is perceived as a cure or the curative aspects of the preventative are emphasized.

Telling a story can effectively sell your product, create the environment or get the reader well into your copy as you create an emotional bonding with your prospect.

That’s it for copywriting. Any longer and my fingers may fall off.

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