I work with a team who sent out hundreds of thousands of newsletters, promotional emails, all kinds of email. We have written thousands of articles, created social media ads and so on.
And even now, every time before we send out a new email to our list, we show the copy to each other and are a bit nervous, because we can never know what is going to work.
“Is it too much?” for example is a question I hear daily in the office. And mostly from the most experienced and confident direct response copywriter I have ever met.
Copywriting is in no way an exact science, and you will have to gather experience and hopefully some expert colleagues until you become confident in your skills.
In the meantime however, I will now give you some templates and examples for the most common types of email, you can start writing right away.
Most examples are going to come from my own inbox our from some of my clients. The templates are all tested ones. Don’t procrastinate: start using these right away, so you can see what really works for you.
This article is the last piece in our email copywriting series for now. You can revisit previous article using the links below.
Subject line templates
Writing a good subject line is no easy task, and writing a perfect one is out-right impossible. Which is nice – I have a job because of this.
That being said, by now you must have read the very first article in this series, so you know my method for writing the best headlines.
Now I will also give you some very specific examples and templates that you can swipe for your own emails.
When you send out a lead magnet, an infographic or promote your content, use brackets like this: [Content type] Why is it good
Describe the value they get by opening. Below when you read this subject line it subtly implies that you will not be one of those who fail – if you take up on their offer:
Use humor, be unique and personal. Don’t be afraid to be a bit more personal sometimes (if it fits your brand communication). It will surprise your subscribers in a good way – and if the unsubscribe rate is a bit higher than before, well, those people likely wouldn’t have liked your style anyway.
Personalize (smartly). Don’t use the name in every email, in every subject line, but use it when you feel it may sit natural.
Use scarcity, urgency. We have talked about this, I recommend going back to my article about influencing emotions if you don’t remember.
Use quotation marks. This gives the impression that the subject line is something someone said, part of a bigger story and also makes it personal. It can make the recipient curious: under what circumstances could this have been said?
What is in the email? Be specific, tell them what they can expect after opening your email:
Direct their attention. Square brackets, for example, are great tools for this – and also provide you the only suitable time to ever use caps in your subject line.
Positive messages always prevail. If you don’t want to use FOMO or scarcity, you can still tell your recipients about a deal they might be missing out on in a good way, like PetFlow does.
How to start email body copy?
A fellow copywriter from the US told me that the best simple advice he can give to anyone about email copywriting is this: don’t start with a greeting, start your story right away.
On any platform where part of the email body copy is displayed, you don’t want to waste valuable characters on “Hi Christian”, you want to start to talk right away about why they should read on.
Start like “I know this is going to sound crazy. When I was [dealing with the same problem]…”
It is perfectly OK to properly introduce yourself one or two paragraphs in. What matters is to engage your reader with your story.
This is not the best solution for every type and audience, but in a lot of cases you should keep in mind that your recipients don’t really care about formalities or who you are. Just what you have for them.
Welcome email copywriting formulas
The moment immediately after subscription is probably the best time for you to start building a relationship with your subscriber. You can get the highest engagement rates in the first 48 hours.
According to Ometria, 74.4% of people actually expect to receive a welcome email from you. And according to Experian, you can get open rates four times higher and CTR five times higher than bulk promotions.
The Ometria article above has some outstanding examples and quite a few best practices, but I have my own favorites. This one for example:
It has everything and it is still so simple. It welcomes you, tells you what you can expect in the future, gives you a one-time small discount, has a CTA and also gives you a chance to start following them on other channels.
Do you want something more simple than that? Look at what Twitter sends out after registration:
Basically a complete guide about everything you need to know to use the service which you just registered for to its full potential.
Whatever you do, do not forget to send out a welcome email.
Confirmation & order status email copywriting formulas
Similar in nature to a welcome email. You send out the first one immediately after a conversion, a purchase happens, and than, if needed, additional ones when something significant occurs.
Include all important information:
- ordered products
- total value
- personal information
- order date and time
- expected date of delivery
- contact information etc.
If you send more than one email, you can build the sequence like this:
- Confirmation: telling your customer that you have received the order and everything is all right.
- The courier has the package or it is posted in the mail, date when the customer can expect to receive it.
- The package is being delivered today, be at home at a certain time etc.
Reorder email copywriting formulas
One of my all-time favorite examples of direct marketing was a letter one of my American colleagues received some time last year.
A decade ago he and his wife bought an expensive mattress for their bed from a retailer. It served them well, but it was a decade ago – they just started to think about getting a new one when they received that letter. It was from the retailer, telling them it has been 10 years and it may be time to get a new mattress. Also, the retailer had the exact same type except it is upgraded now, and with this letter they could get a 10% discount for it.
What I liked about this is that the retailer not only precisely knew the life cycle they were selling, they also kept records so they could reach out to past customers even after a whole decade.
That is exactly what you should do in email.
Determine the life cycle of your product and keep precise records about your customers.
Send a reminder a few days or weeks before that cycle ends, and your customers will be glad you reminded them in time.
I have a Nespresso coffee machine at home and I have to tell you they do a great job with email marketing. I get the usual newsletters about new products of course, but after I register in their system I can also allow them to send me reminders. They know how many and how frequent I order, so they can figure out when I will run out – and I don’t have to realize it myself when I can’t drink coffee one morning.
In a reminder email you should be brief and to the point. Just be nice, personalize and make a hyper-relevant offer.
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Emails with special offers
If you have a special offer you want to sell, the length of you copy will be determined by the complexity of the offer – we have talked about this earlier.
However, it may be wise not to include a small novel in the email even if your offer is complex. In this case, most of the convincing should take place on your landing page. In the email focus on the greatest benefit.
A focused copy is what you want when you have an email with a single offer – like this by the New York Times:
They have everything in there:
- A deadline.
- Fear of missing out.
- The specific offer, with numbers.
- A simple CTA.
- What I get if I take the offer.
- And even some options.
And the whole thing is less than 60 words.
Holiday offers, birthday emails and anniversaries
On these occasions, everyone sends out emails. So the question is, how can you be special? How can you stand out when there are two dozen Christmas-themed emails in the inbox of any given recipient daily?
First: don’t send holiday emails on holidays, but long before them.
Keep in mind that if you are trying to sell something, it is too late on Christmas day. Two or three weeks in advance is your time to get to your customers.
Think about what they want to accomplish: they want to make others happy with gifts and give a good impression about themselves. They also want to avoid stress, crowds and rushing in panic for presents at the last minute.
- “What present should I give to a colleague?”
- “How much should I spend on a gift for my boss?”
- “How can I avoid being stomped to death at the store?”
- “How can I be the best host?”
- “How can avoid getting out of the house and still get all the presents?”
These are the questions they are asking themselves – and the ones you should answer.
The above email simply shows you what they can offer, and I feel it is a bit incomplete – I don’t really get the feeling that they truly can relate to my problem. I love the headline however, because it certainly grabs the problem:
Gifts for 9-5 Friends
As for birthdays: also send out your emails way in advance and offer something that would make their birthday better. Are you selling clothes? Offer them the chance to wear a brand new outfit for their birthday party and be the best looking one there!
Educational email copywriting formulas
Most importantly: educate, don’t lecture. Lend a helping hand and tell your recipients how they can solve a problem better or in an alternative way. Tell them about certain practices or send them case studies.
I love this funny letter by Bonobos disguised as an internal memo:
What you should focus on in an educational email:
- How can they leverage your service better?
- How can they use the product better?
- What features are there they might not know about?
- How can they solve a relevant problem in alternate ways?
- How can they improve their life with some relevant knowledge?
Be sure to include links to resources you have where they can read on. Do no sell them anything here, stick with being helpful instead.
Reengagement email copywriting formulas
Are there a lot of inactive subscribers on your list?
Then it is time to ask something from them.
One of Cialdini’s basic principles of persuasion is reciprocity. This states that in most social situations we instinctively want to give something back if we receive something from others.
So first, think about what can you give to inactive subscribers. A free lead magnet, like an ebook maybe? I have personally tried this and got 51% open rate and over 20% CTR. But you can also give a small gift they can apply for, or a discount… Anything that might have value for them.
The next step is asking them for a small favor in return – which they will feel the need to complete because of reciprocity.
Ask them a few (2-3) questions about why they are inactive. What don’t they like about your brand communication? What would it take for them to be active again?
Some of them will be reactivated just by answering the questions: that is already a discussion. Some of them won’t be, but they will still give you very valuable answers.
Start like “Hi, I’ve noticed something is wrong” or “Can I ask you very small a favor?” Present your gift briefly and move on to the CTA.
Cart abandonment email copywriting formulas
I could write whole essays about cart abandonment emails. Wait, I actually have. But in this article I will stick to a few specific examples about how you can word them to be more effective.
You goal is to remind your customer that they have something in their cart. Something that is already theirs – of course, they will have to pay for it, but you should focus on what they have already done.
Leverage the IKEA effect and remind them how long they searched for the product, how they put together their list.
Peter, have you forgot about your [product]?
Your [product] is still waiting for you
Not “a” product, your product.
Let them feel you have something that is theirs.
Do you want me to send you your [product]
Use scarcity, tell them they still have a chance to purchase, but for a limited time.
We will preserve your cart for another # days
I saved that [product] for you for # days
You can also be a little negative.
Don’t go, we will miss you
Are you going to you let your cart/[product] go?
Make your offer exclusive.
[Product] is still available only for you
If you buy [product] now, I will give you #% off
Also, try to use emotions, words which will make the product even more attractive an irresistible – on this, read my previous article about how to leverage emotions in email copy.
Asking for testimonials, ratings, votes etc.
I was once asked by a friend who worked for a dentist to write an email for their absolutely and completely cold list. I normally wouldn’t do this as a favor, just give some advice, but it presented a very interesting challenge for me.
Because I not only had to get some leads – that would have been easy.
I had to get votes from them. For a competition the dentist participated in online.
I sat on the copy for 2 days until finally handing it over. They sent out the email to 1900 addresses.
- 41.4% open rate
- 13.3% CTR
- and 67% conversion rate after those clicks.
Given this was a cold list, these are extremely good numbers, so let me tell you how I did it.
First, I clarified this was not a spam: I included the name of the dentist in the subject line so they would recognize it.
I also included right there that I had a little favor to ask – see what I wrote about reciprocity earlier.
We also offered a little reward: a chance to win a small prize in exchange for their help.
In the body I first detailed why this challenge was important personally to invoke some sympathy toward the dentist. I gave it a human voice.
Then I wrote down what they had to do to vote. I gave all the details: how many clicks are needed, where they have to click, what will happen after each step and how much time will this take.
This is extremely important, because this way they can see exactly what I am asking for and they can be sure that it really is a small favor and not some scam.
How to use these templates?
Swipe them. In marketing it is absolutely free to steal ideas – you only become a thief if you don’t enrich the idea you took with some added value.
Make these relevant for your own business. Include your personal voice and story, make it emotional, use all the techniques I gave you in the last 10 articles.
In about 25 000 words I gave you almost everything I know about email copywriting – and not to brag, but I am pretty good at it. And I also want you to be, so if you have to, print these out, read them in your free time, give them to your colleagues.
Because I am tired of all the very, very bad spam in my inbox – if you guys are going to spam me, at least make an effort and make it good. You will make more money and I will lose less hair before I turn 30.
And be sure to share the results these techniques got you, because I love to just look at success stories. Best of luck!
Our following articles will deal with email design best practices and many other email marketing related topics, that our early-testers are interested in.
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