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The ABCs Of Email Copywriting: Encourage Opens And Drive Clicks (Part 2)

By Beth HendersonComments

The ABCs Of Email Copywriting: Encourage Opens and Drive Clicks (Part 2)

Part two came around quicker than expected...

I recently shared some tops tips and advice to writing captivating email copy that will ensure your next marketing campaign delivers valuable results - The ABCs Of Email Copywriting: Encourage Opens And Drive Clicks (Part 1).

But with so much to say, I didn't want to drown your brains all in one go. So I divided my post into two parts, and here's the second.


Email Design

It’s true that without well-written copy, a beautiful design is null and void. But the same can be said for captivating content that’s supported by a poor, non user-friendly design.

The moral of this story - both are important!

For the best results, make sure your email templates and design work in harmony with the rest of your campaign. If you’re sending people to a landing page, the journey between the two should be seamless.

This all comes down to your branding. Just like tone of voice, your brand should be consistent across everything you do.

Creating a loud and bright email template that sends people to a subtle and luxurious landing page won’t make sense and might even turn people away from converting. But this is all comes back to the basic understanding of branding and design.


For email design specifically, there are a couple of things you need to remember:

First of all, whitespace is your friend.

Pretty self-explanatory, but this is the space left untouched. The gaps between your copy and images. And we love it! It helps break up the content so it’s easily digestible.

I’m not talking about adding more whitespace than text, just add flourishes.

There are 40 different email clients, you need to design for them all.

Email clients can be quite strict with what they do and don’t let through their gates. But you can work the system…

  • Create and provide a link to an online version.
  • Keep emails within 600 pixels wide.
  • Table-structured positioning is much more forgiving than HTML/CSS.
  • Add alt-text to your images. (If your images don’t render, contacts will see the alt-text instead. Ensure it makes sense and maintains the natural flow of the email.)
  • Use absolute links rather than .png files for your images.

Your contacts are using different devices, keep this in mind.

Take a look at your past emails and determine what devices people have been using.

“Email open rates on mobile devices have doubled in the last five years” - B2B Marketing (Click to tweet)

... but considering most people are using mobile to open emails now, all of your emails really should be mobile-friendly. After all, just because something looks good on desktop doesn’t mean it’s going to look good on mobile.

So think, ‘less is more’.

“Be ruthless with your content and aesthetic… get to the point faster” - Tom Boates, RunKeeper

  • Use a mobile-friendly template.
  • Keep your CTA above the fold.
  • Add whitespace.

Less is more email marketing

Calls to Action

The majority of your marketing emails will want to drive a specific action - download an eBook, read a blog post, subscribe to a newsletter, like a Facebook page, register for an event, I could go on…

In which case, you’re going to need a call to action.

In short, a CTA guides readers onto the next step you want them to take.

A call to action will encourage readers to enter your all-important sales funnel. You have them hooked. Now you can really start to nurture the relationship and prove your worth” - Blog, Sweat and Tears. (Click to Tweet)

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For more on CTAs in general, check out my post How to close the deal with remarkable calls to action.

When it comes to adding CTAs to your marketing emails, there are some dos and don’ts you oughta know.

DO make them easy to identify

We know people scan their emails, so it’s up to you to highlight and draw attention to the key pieces of information you want recipients to consume. Most of the time, this is going to be your CTA.

Create a visual CTA or button that stands out, without clashing with the rest of the email design.

DON’T ignore the copy

Apply the rules you used for email body copywriting to your CTAs.

You don’t have a lot of space, so keep the messaging clear, concise and persuasive.

  • Use verbs: actionable language with verbs like ‘download’, ‘buy’, ‘subscribe’ makes it clear as day what they should do.
  • Use persuasion tactics: here’s a little something we wrote on the psychology of B2B marketing to improve how well you influence your contacts.
  • Keep it relevant: from your subject line and preview text to your body copy and CTAs, it all needs to make sense and work together to deliver your marketing message. If your email is about a new blog post you’ve written, make sure the CTA is at least related to that post or your blog!

DO add alt text to your visual CTAs

You can’t rely on your visual CTA showing up for every recipient.

Whether it’s because of their email client or their own preferences, sometimes your images won’t display. Get yourself a back-up plan…

In these cases, the email will pull through the alt text of the image. So make sure you edit the alt text of every visual CTA to reflect the message you are communicating.

DON’T forget to optimise for plain-text emails

Alt text is a big part of optimising for plain-text emails, but there’s more you can do.

Consider linking anchor text to your desired location e.g. a landing page. As with all the other important aspects of your copy, make sure it stands out by bolding or changing font colour. Underlining this text will also ensure contacts recognise it is a link and can be clicked.  

DO focus one primary goal

One email, one purpose.

Go ahead and flourish your email with different styles of CTAs, depending on what suits your brand and the design, but make sure they all drive traffic to one specific goal.

If you’re thinking ‘I want them to download my eBook, and buy the product, and subscribe to our newsletter and…’ - stop.

You’re talking about different end goals and, potentially, different emails.

Remember, each email has a purpose; what action are you trying to drive?

Your answer to this question is your primary goal.


Whatever it is, it should be your prominent CTA - your visual button, the one that catches the eye and attracts the most attention. This is what the body of your email is trying to promote.

“When it comes to giving choices to customers, less is always more. More choices often cause fewer conversions. This applies to email CTAs too.” - Kissmetrics

But there is such a thing as a secondary CTA too. Implemented strategically, secondary CTAs won’t draw away from the primary goal of the email. Instead, they become a way to further engage contacts who just aren’t interested in your primary CTA.

Think about it, you might be sending an email to your marketing captured leads, offering them a piece of content that will convert them into marketing qualified leads… Maybe they haven’t finished their research. Maybe, they are just looking to receive more educational content...

This is where secondary CTAs shine; they can be a really effective way to drive ‘reconversion’. And that is never a bad thing:

“Even if that reconversion isn't elevating the status of your lead, it doesn't mean it's not valuable... that lead is still engaging with your content, and when you use marketing software technology like smart fields and progressive profiling, each and every conversion enables you to gather even more information and intelligence about that lead that you can use to craft more personalized lead nurturing campaigns for them as a result.” - HubSpot

Just be sure to position them as linked anchor text so contacts recognise them as secondary.

DON’T forget about mobile.

If your contacts are reading their emails on mobile, then you’ll need to optimise your CTA for their screen.

If you want to make clicks as easy as possible (and you do), make sure your CTAs appear big enough for a thumb. This is around about 44 by 44 pixels.

DO review and optimise.

We all develop habits - some good, some bad. But you can’t let this happen when approaching your marketing campaigns.

It’s so important that you review, optimise, measure and tweak everything you do. It’s the only way you can improve what you do and the results you achieve. For email CTAs, this includes:

  • Colour
  • Button size
  • Button shape
  • Language and tone
  • Position in the email

Clickmaps are a really good way to visualise where your recipients are clicking - what they liked and what they didn’t like.

Make a mark with your marketing emails

You’ve made it!

I’m going to keep this bit short and sweet…

Email marketing is deceptively challenging. It’s so much more than writing some copy and sending it out in a blast to everyone. It needs a clear goal, a strategy to achieve it and a number of high quality assets to bring it all together.

With these ABCs, you’ll be well on your way to creating valuable marketing emails that drive your desired action.

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