What It Takes to Be a Good E-Mail Copywriter

E-mail advertising is a relatively recent phenomenon. As a result, many very experienced copywriters are inexperienced in crafting email messages. So, I’ve created a little primer (with an ulterior motive (which I’ll reveal below).

Funnel Your Creativity Into the Subject Line

You have about 45 characters in a subject line to work with. Make them count. If your readers are BlackBerry users, you only have 15 characters to grab them. Hopefully, your sender line clearly identifies your company and brand. That way, you don’t have to repeat it in the subject line.

From there, write a list of mandatory subject-line items. For a Webinar, for example, you must include the Webcast’s name and date. That will probably take up most of the characters, so get creative.

Brainstorm a number of subject line ideas. Then, put the first 45 characters in bold type to see what appears in a typical email inbox. Next, put the first 15 characters in italics to see what BlackBerry users will see. Right away, it becomes clear how to front-load a subject line with the most vital and compelling information.

Know Your Template

Most clients have an existing email template. Get it before you write so you can leverage it effectively. Note the information in the banner and menus so you don’t have to bother repeating all that.

Also, look at the Web site to find what landing pages you can link to, again in the interest of not wasting valuable email real estate with repetitious information.

Activate the Impulse to Buy

At I recent conference I attended, I learned two thirds of all purchase are impulse buys. In a recent “New York Times” article, I read many vacation homes are bought on impulse, sometimes without the prospective homeowner even viewing at the house’s interior!

Forget about your business-to-business (B2B) product being a carefully considered purchase. Yes, it may have a lengthy decision-making process, but you can still get your reader to act immediately by taking the next step in that process now.

Imagine your reader is scanning your email with radar. She’s not looking to read a lot of persuasive copy. She’s looking for a blinking red light that says, “Eureka, that’s something I’ve got to have [or do” now.” Highlight that special something at the top in the headline, first line of copy, or first photo, as well as in a hotbox, callout, or starburst, and you’ve won more than half the battle.

It’s highly unlikely once a reader scrolls past your email in her inbox that she’ll revisit it later. Think “now” and “wow” to trigger an immediate response.

Divide and Conquer

Don’t think of writing email copy as filling in a blank page. It’s more like piecing together a puzzle.

Think about the top three or four messages you need to communicate. Place them all at the top of the email screen. It’s easy to telegraph a lot of information upfront if you use your full arsenal of email elements — banners, white space above the banner, sidebars, hotboxes, links, menu bars, and so on.

E-Mail Assignments Are Like Mini Masterpieces

Clients will tell you to “just dash off an email,” as if you could write one as quickly as instant messaging a buddy. If they’d approve that kind of casual finished product, we’d all have an easy job of it. They probably wouldn’t need copywriters in the first place.

In reality, you must approach an email with the same creative intensity you’d apply to any other advertising medium. You must study other successful email messages (take your cues from email campaigns you see running repeatedly), read the trades for email writing techniques, and, of course, test new ideas.

Now, to reveal my ulterior motive. My own copywriting business has expanded, and I’m looking for a few great email copywriters to help out on a freelance basis. You need to know all the tricks of the email trade, have experience in either B2B marketing or healthcare, and be extremely quick (think same- or next-day service), creative, and professional. If you think you fit the bill, email me with a resume and a list of email campaigns you’ve worked on. I’ll then contact you to arrange to view samples of your produced email promotions.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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