Writing Compelling Copy – Part I

Ask just about any salesperson what components are essential to closing a sale, and he or she is bound to tell you that one of the most important is the ability to establish rapport. A very basic premise, to be sure… and one that can (and should) be applied to the email channel.

Let’s take a look at an offline, person-to-person example for a moment. Pretend you’ve just walked into a computer store: Two salespeople approach you to offer up their services. Salesperson A (let’s call him “Sid”) comes barreling down the aisle, shouting, “I’ve got hardware and software galore – what can I sell you today?” Salesperson B, on the other hand, greets you warmly and says, “Welcome… It’s chilly out today, isn’t it? Do you mind if I show you around a bit just to get you started?” Who are you more likely to go with?

Okay. Obvious answer to an obvious question. Yet, there are still salespeople out there like good old Sid. Not to mention the fact there are plenty of marketers who simply don’t have a clue how to “speak” to prospects online.

Here’s a clip from an email promotion I recently received which demonstrates that fact…

“[Company” is pleased to announce the availability of its E-commerce tools. Useful for developers and surfers alike, these tools are available at our website. A partial listing of our features includes…”


There’s nary a greeting nor a salutation in sight. In the world of sales, one of the most basic tenets for rapport building is to greet the prospect by name. At the very least, say hello. Begin the dance that will help develop that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Another problem I have with the example above is that it’s all about THEM – feature after feature after feature. Where are the benefits? And where do I fit in?

If the email had demonstrated how those features could positively affect MY world, it would not only have held my attention longer, but would also have helped me better relate to the advertiser. And the ability to relate is yet another element to establishing rapport.

Lastly, because the wording in this promotion is both impersonal and non-conversational, it would have been better sent to the masses rather than the qualified list that ended up receiving it. Plus it’s obviously been written to make a sale. Sure, the name of the game is to sell; but you don’t want that objective to be so overt that it turns people off. Turned-off people don’t make great customers. Turned-off people walk out the door. Or they simply hit “delete.”

Time to take a look at the other side of the coin – a promotion that “gets it.” See the difference for yourself:

“Hello Kim,

The holidays are coming! That means chestnuts, Jack Frost and mistletoe. That’s right… and now’s the time to pick up Calcium, Sam-E, Glucosamine and thousands of other great vitamins and minerals to keep you happy and healthy throughout the holidays…”

Much better. Granted – not everyone’s going to relate to mistletoe (or vitamins, for that matter), but that’s kinda the point. This has been written to appeal to a certain audience. So it’s more personal which, in turn, makes it more inviting. It also addresses me by name and the language is friendly, casual and downright conversational. And the benefits are made clear from the very first paragraph.

Of course, if you’re selling high-tech thingamajigs to Fortune 500 CEOs, the style of your message will be altogether different. Suffice it to say you must understand your audience and speak to them in the phrasing and terminology they know. That fact is nothing new to seasoned copywriters.

Just remember: The message becomes your salesperson. Give it the appropriate “personality” and make it work for you. If it sounds like something that can be shouted from the rooftops for all the world to hear, something’s probably wrong. But if it reads as though you’re right across the table, you’re no doubt on the right track. This is only part of the equation, though…

Join me next week when we’ll get into the nuts and bolts, the real “nitty-gritty” of writing for the email landscape… from tips on punctuation to formatting to subject line “teasers.” Good fun. So stay tuned for Part II.

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