I think email marketing copy is a very underutilized skill in your marketing arsenal.

Not enough attention is paid to how to write good copy and why it’s so important to your results.  Many of you may even think that it doesn’t matter what you write, it’s good enough.screen_shot_2013-04-25_at_3-47-27_pm

Truth is, email copy is perhaps the biggest lever you can pull to increase your results.

Here’s a basic primer to help you get organized, develop a new email skill, and get an immediate improvement in your results.

Visualize your audience

Often overlooked are the steps you take before you even write a word. In email copywriting land, the first step is to have a clear picture in your head about WHOM you are writing to.  Start by trying to visualize them. Give them a name and a backstory. What’s their history? What are their worries?  Fears?  Dreams?

Sound goofy?  Not really.  Just get a clear picture who you’re writing to.  Professionals do it all the time.

Pick your purpose

You haven’t written a word yet, but before you do, make sure you know why you’re sending this email.  Is there a particular result you want?  Ideally it’s something you can measure.  In the ecommerce world, sales is a specific result. We’re sending this email to sell stuff.

Not every email is the same, nor should it be.  Just be clear before you write what you’re trying to accomplish.

Make it look like it came from a person

And how does that look?  Read the past few email ads you’ve received.  Now read the past few emails you got from a close friend.  Notice the difference?  Your friend doesn’t give you a lot of fancy (and distracting) graphics to get the way of their message.  They might start out by saying ‘Hey’ or something familiar.

In addition to extra graphics you’re probably trying to sound to formal or corporate.  Instead try to sound more human.  Say it like you mean it!

And a short, simple signature line wouldn’t hurt either.

Write a compelling subject line

An entire report could be written on subject lines. Let me just say, don’t be cute, clever, confusing, funny, or use double meanings.  You can’t trick someone into reading your email. You might be able to trick them into opening it but it stops there.

One critical strategy professional copywriters use is to write out at least a dozen subject lines.  More if it’s an important email.  A good one is usually in there.  Don’t try to twist your brain into writing the magical perfect message to start.  Brainstorm.  Then pick one.

Or better yet.  Test two and see which one wins.

Match it with a powerful first sentence

Most people miss this.  First of all, make sure your email software doesn’t insert useless information into the first part of your message.  Do not let a ‘Can’t read this email…’ message to be what your readers see in the preview pane.  Suprisingly, that language does not make people want to read your message.

You have to control the first sentence (as seen in the preview pane of the reader) so it has more information to support the subject line.  These two thoughts should work together to make your message MORE compelling, not less.

Stick with one idea

And one idea only.  This is easy to say, hard to do.  The human brain is easily confused. If you are presenting a range of concepts, thoughts, and ideas in an email, your reader is most likely to start to drift off (ever so subtly) and move to the next confusing message.

Make your message stand out by being clear. One topic.  One idea.  One offer.

Send two separate emails if you have to.

Focus on one benefit if you can

Tastes great.  Less filling. Costs less. Really, which one is it.  If you try to present value as the best product at the lowest price… you’re doomed.  Can’t be done.  You are either Walmart or you are Nordstums.  You are not both.

If you are attempting to make an impact on your reader (vs the 100’s of other messages they will read today) make it powerful.  Make your idea make sense by focusing on ONE benefit and make it count.

Keep it short

I’ve said this before but it is a KEY concept.  Keep your messages short and to the point.  Shorter messages outperform longer messages every day of the week.

Your best bet is to write everything down in your draft and then go through and ruthlessly pull out all the copy that doesn’t reinforce your one clear message.  Especially copy that sounds like an afterthought or tells too much.

Avoid clichés like the plague

Sorry, I had to throw that out there!  Keep your language simple, clear and don’t allow distracting clichés to sneak in and confuse your reader.

Just don’t.

One matching call to action

The call to action is a very important building block to a successful email.  Try to avoid your natural tendency to include a link for everything you can think of.  If that worked, you could just send an email with a link to everything you offer and let the reader figure it out.

Problem is. They don’t.  You have to lead them there.  Sell them. Persuade them a little bit.  Then take them right where you want them to go.  Use a call to action that leads them there.

Read more >> Get your 20% discount here >> Sign up for this unique event here >>

Click here is not a call to action.

P.S.The P.S. really works

The P.S., located below a signature line has been a very successful tactic of direct response copywriters for years.  Guess what.  It works great for email too.

I suggest you include a one sentence summary of the offer.  One more restatement of the (ONE) benefit.  And another link to your call to action.

Now put it all together.

Take these basic strategies and set them in front of you before you write your next email campaign.  Use them and you’ll be surprised at what happens next.