6 Tips for Writing a Persuasive Email

I attended a conference last year where a speaker sharing productivity tips recommended blocking off time in our calendar to dedicate to our inboxes. “Your whole job isn’t to send emails,” she reasoned, “so you shouldn’t spend your whole day doing it.”

So much of our jobs in marketing or sales, though, is sending emails.

I didn’t start blocking off dedicated email time after the conference, but I did start paying attention to how effective I was while I was in my inbox answering or sending emails. It made me realize that so many of the emails I wrote or received weren’t compelling or didn’t prompt an action. And now, when we’re all receiving so many emails on a daily basis, it’s important to stand out with well-written, persuasive emails.

That’s why today I’m sharing six tips for writing better, more persuasive emails:

  1. Start with the subject line
  2. Leverage the curiosity gap
  3. Stick to your purpose
  4. Speak to your target audience
  5. Avoid mistakes with templates
  6. Use persuasive language

Here we go.

1. Start with the Subject Line

Your subject line is always the most important opportunity to persuade your audience in email marketing—you need the recipient to open the message in order to persuade them any further. So start by making your subject line engaging.

Consider these subject lines from my own inbox:

The subject lines from Old Navy and Shutterfly contain lots of good information about the value of the email, but the length and the dull language makes them easy to skim over. They look so similar to all the other sales emails that I receive.

The subject lines from MiniLuxe and Crate and Barrel, on the other hand, stand out. The MiniLuxe subject line is eye-catching with the use of emoji and, then, with the rhyme. I have no idea what the glow could be—or, honestly, if I’d pay for it—but I’m intrigued. Crate and Barrel’s subject line is more straightforward, and this is what stands out. The simple “ENDS TONIGHT” evokes urgency, and, again, I want to know what’s on sale.

It might not be a coincidence that the best subject lines here are short. When researching effective subject lines, Marketo found that subject lines that are four to seven words long performed best.

So stick to a low word count and start persuading your audience with some intrigue in your email subject line.

2. Leverage the Curiosity Gap

Both of those subject lines were successful in part because they leveraged the curiosity gap, and you can use this for more persuasive email copy, too.

The curiosity gap is the difference between what we know and what we want to know, and we’re naturally motivated to resolve that difference when we learn that new information is available. To leverage this effectively in your copy, you need to let your audience know that new information is available.

One way to do this is to pose questions that you’ll answer in your offer, whether it’s a webinar, a content download, or a product demo. Here’s an example from HubSpot:

The email presents a problem, choosing a sales system, and then poses a question, “So, how can you grow without creating confusion?” The audience will want an answer to this, which motivates them to convert and sign up for the webinar offer.

3. Stick to your Purpose

Each of your emails should have a specific purpose. In order to persuade someone, you need to know what you want them to do and why. One way to better understand your audience is by creating a customer or buyer persona.

If we consider your email as a rhetorical situation, we can look at the breakdown of key components: the sender (writer), the context, the message, the purpose, and the audience. We’ll talk more about the audience and the messaging in the next few tips. For now, let’s talk about defining the purpose of your email.

To define your purpose, think about what you want to accomplish in your email. Promote a webinar. Offer a content download. Announce a product release. Share your first blog post. These are all great options for the purpose of a marketing email. Once you determine the purpose, you need to stick to that to write a specific, persuasive email.

4. Speak to your Target Audience

In order to persuade anyone, you need to know who you’re talking to. This is key in most marketing, and it’s especially important in email. Even though you’re often marketing one-to-many, email still offers the opportunity for more personalization and more one-to-one messaging than other marketing channels.

Here are a few ways you can speak directly to your target audience for more persuasive emails:

  • Use buyer personas. If you have good personas, you can speak to your audience’s motivations and frustrations. This helps make the email copy more personalized, and more compelling.
  • Segment your lists. Getting specific in your segmentation lets you speak more directly to your audience. If you can focus on a single business type or one area at a time, try doing that and monitoring your results.
  • Personalize your email copy. This can be as simple as using a first name, but even simple can be effective.

Above all, though, make sure the focus is on your audience rather than you or your business—that will help keep your email engaging rather than informational.

5. Avoid Mistakes with Templates

I’ve said it before: editing is important. Clean, error-free copy establishes your authority as a resource. Plus, when a reader notices typos or mistakes, they stop reading. Even if it’s just for a moment, it’s still a break in that connection. And when you’re trying to persuade someone over email, you can’t afford that break.

At the same time, when you’re sending lots of emails all day long, proofreading every single message can be tedious and time-consuming. That’s where templates can help you.

If your emails are anything like mine, there are a few standard types that you send over and over again with some slight variations. Instead of writing these from scratch and then proofreading every single email, you can use a tool like Right Inbox to set up email templates.

Just be sure you proofread your templates and make sure there are no mistakes in there.

6. Use persuasive language

Now, the messaging of your email. If you’re looking to excite your audience, use exciting language. If you’re looking to engage your audience, use engaging language. See where I’m going here? If you’re looking to persuade your audience, you need to use persuasive language.

Persuasive language often appeals to emotion, emphasizes urgency, and stresses value. Words like “new,” “instantly,” and “free” make lists of persuasive words for marketing. These not only create a sense of urgency but also address objections like wait time and cost.

I saved this email below from Privy because I loved the playful tone and the persuasive language.

This email uses references to Netflix to introduce ecommerce course material, and the playful tone continues throughout with phrases like “bring the heat” and “super tactical.” Plus, it ends with a final persuasive reminder in bold: the resources are completely free.

In Summary

With billions of emails sent each day, it’s important to make your emails as efficient and effective as possible. In most cases, that means writing persuasive emails that encourage clear, direct actions from your audience—so that you can spend more time getting work done and less time in your inbox.

****This is a guest post from Ceillie Clark-Keane. Ceillie runs content at Unstack, a CMS platform designed to help businesses build, measure, and scale digital presence without code, developers, or headaches.****


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