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The ABCs Of Email Copywriting: Encourage Opens And Drive Clicks (Part 1)

By Beth HendersonComments

The ABCs Of Email Copywriting: Encourage Opens and Drive Clicks (Part 1)

I recently wrote a little blog on email deliverability. And when I say little, I mean huge. 3,000 words in fact.

But there’s more to email than meets the eye.

So here I go again…

Armed with my top tips and advice on how to make it into your contacts’ inboxes, now it’s time to focus on generating more leads for your business.

It’s all well and good knowing what you need to do to get into the inbox, but how do you encourage opens, clicks, and conversions once you’re there?

It all comes down to email content.

Our inboxes are already overcrowded with automated emails, monthly newsletters and news of yet another 48 hour sale. The only way to cut through the noise and get noticed is to invest time and effort into your copywriting.

From striking subject lines to convincing calls to action (CTAs), here’s a quick guide to writing valuable marketing emails.

Sender, subject lines and preview text

You’ve made it into the inbox. *applause*

You’re not out of the woods yet though. While Email Service Providers and anti-spam servers do a pretty good job at keeping all the crap out of inboxes, sometimes one or two dodgy messages manage to slip through the net. Luckily, we’re all pretty good at identifying which emails are worth our time and which can go straight into junk...

...by looking at who sent it, the subject line and the preview text.

They all sit in the same place, and they’re the very first things your recipients are going to see when checking their inbox.

Make them count.

Depending on the device they are using, the weight of each of these might differ. For example, the sender’s name tends to have precedence when reading emails on a mobile. And typically, mobile cuts off subject lines before desktops would.

Email marketing is a confusing world as it is, so here’s some best practice when it comes to sender, subject line and preview text:


You can’t really go wrong when optimising your sender, just as long as your recipient recognises the name.

At the very least, I would expect that your contacts are going to know your company name so start there.

If your contacts are interacting with particular sales reps, consultants or account managers on a day to day basis, consider segmenting your lists by sender and personalising this for each list. This only works if your contacts have a relationship with that person and, most importantly, recognise their name...

Here’s an example of an email I opened because I recognised the sender:


I’d had several treatments with Leena by this point; I knew who she was and where I knew her from. So of course, I opened the email.

Tom on the other hand...


I’ve never met or spoken with Tom. I’ve also never bought anything from TRIBE so honestly, I’m not that interested to see what Tom has to say. (Brutal, I know. I’m sure he’s a great guy really.)

Tip: When deciding who you’re going to put as ‘sender’, refer to the contact’s current lifecycle stage. Best practice suggests:

  • Subscribers, Marketing Captured Leads and Marketing Qualified Leads probably won’t know anyone in your business. In this instance, use your company name.
  • Sales Qualified Leads, Customers and Evangelists will likely have a dedicated contact, so use that person’s name.

Sender is especially important if your recipients are reading their emails on their mobile…


With sender being so prominent on mobile, give it some thought! Especially as 55% of emails are now read on mobile devices.

Oh, and if you’re thinking ‘I’ll just use an email address’...


...they’re ugly, they’re in your face, and they sure ain’t personal.

Subject Line

Email marketing is an art; crafting captivating subject lines is a skill of its own. And that’s why there is soooooooo much content out there already, offering up practical tips and advice when it comes to writing something compelling.

“Crafting an effective email subject line is both a skill and an art form.” - David Moth, Econsultancy.

For me, the trick is to keep it simple. Don’t try and be too clever, stick with your brand and tone of voice, and keep it below 50 characters.

HubSpot’s Ginny Mineo outlines the anatomy of a 5-star subject line, suggesting there are 9 essential elements to consider:

  1. Write subject lines tailored to your contact. Whether this is based on what you know about your buyer persona’s needs or what lifecycle stage they’re at.
  2. Talk to them with subtle flourishes of personalisation.
  3. Inspire action with verbs - be careful not to be too aggressive.
  4. Encourage immediate action by making your content timely.
  5. Spell it out so they know what they’re getting, or missing out on if they ignore your email.
  6. Don’t try too hard; being understood is more important than being funny.
  7. Keep it concise so contacts can scan their inbox.
  8. Be truthful, be consistent. Don’t offer an amazing discount in your subject line and then withdraw it in your email copy.
  9. Avoid spam words.

“The dominant strategy is to try out a bunch of stuff, try out a few more things and then do it again.” - Parry Malm, Adestra.

Preview Text

Preview text is typically pulled from your email copy, but a good software programme will allow you to write this yourself. HALLELUJAH!

Here’s an email I didn’t open… because you said the same thing twice Mr Wicks!


Writing it yourself is worth it - especially when it comes to mobile as (similar to the sender) preview text makes up a lot of what the contact sees.

Take the time to craft something that compliments your subject line, and is equally as persuasive. Use it as a way to tease them some more as to what lies within and seduce them into opening your email…

  • Continue the flow from subject line to preview text.
  • Offer a call-to-action.
  • Add personalisation.

Email Copywriting

Writing content for your marketing emails really is no different than writing content for any other marketing activity.

A blog, an eBook, a guide, an infographic… when stripped back, they’re all created the same way.

They’re written to meet a goal, to drive a specific action.


So when it comes to writing engaging email copy, apply the same rules as you would to any other type of content creation.

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Here’s a neat little summary of six, sink or swim rules to content creation:

  1. Content is valuable, informed guidance for real people, looking for real solutions to their problems. Don’t use it as an advertising ploy.
  2. Go above and beyond the call of duty to understand what your audience want and need, and deliver it to them.
  3. Answer the questions your audience is asking and close a gap with content that inspires, informs and energises readers.
  4. Keep it on point, concise, articulate and ramble-free. And don’t allow for any spelling or grammatical errors.
  5. Align everything to your business objectives.
  6. Don’t come across as biased; back everything you say up with proof!

Engaging email copy isn’t a complete mystery. Start here and you’ll be on your way to making something pretty special.

“Write with clarity, purpose, and your primary goal in mind. The copy should make it ABUNDANTLY clear why someone received this email.” - HubSpot

Write emails with clarity - HubSpot

Just remember, size does matter *wink emoji*.

There’s so little space when it comes to email, compared to 35-page long eBooks and 3,000 word blogs. Whatever words make the cut, they have to count.

Time for some top tips and tricks to drive clicks and generate leads with your email content…


Now, I know you’re going to know a little something about your recipients before blasting an email over to them.

“74% of marketers say targeted personalisation increases customer engagement” - eConsultancy

At the very least you should know a little something about your buyer personas and how they approach their decision-making process. This is part of the 5 Rings of Buying Insight. Use this insight to cater your language and messaging to drive your desired action.

Ideally, though, your database will be rich with information on each individual contact, that you can harness and use in your email copy:

  • First name  
  • Job title
  • Job role
  • Location
  • Latest interactions e.g. blogs they have read, service pages they have visited
  • Forms they have submitted i.e. content they have downloaded

Use this information where appropriate

For example:

Hi [Beth],

Thanks again for making our [store opening launch] - we hope you enjoyed it!

It was a great evening and we’re so pleased you could make it along. To thank you, we wanted to send you a 10% discount code to use when you spend £50 or more online: [Beth10]

Happy shopping!

… this (made up) email uses just the right amount of personalisation. It demonstrates that they know who I am (my name), they know how I’ve been interacting with the business (recently attended a launch event), and they’ve weaved in an incentive (personalised discount code).

“Personalised email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.” - Aberdeen

And then there’s just using it to be out right creepy…

Hi [Beth Henderson],

We’re sorry you couldn’t make our talk on inbound marketing last week - I’m sure it would have really helped you deliver [email marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing, outreach], for your clients.

But we don’t want you to miss out! [Download your free guide to inbound marketing here].

We hope it serves you well!

… this (made up) email is a bit weird and doesn’t make sense:

  • Full naming is too much.
  • It has referenced my job roles, but this doesn’t really make sense and isn’t needed. I will have likely provided this information via a form on a landing page - I wouldn’t have cared whether it made too much sense when inputting it.
  • As an inbound marketer, why would I need a guide to inbound marketing? Unless it’s a guide to something I don’t know - in which case, outline it in the email!


It’s all about achieving the perfect balance; create a personal email that feels like a conversation between you and the recipient, but don’t invade their personal space for the sake of it!

“53% of marketers say ongoing, personalised communication with existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact.” - DemandGen (Click to tweet)

Tone and language

When it comes to tone and language, there are two key aspects to consider:

  1. Your tone of voice
  2. Your buyer personas

Your business should have a defined tone of voice that is consistent across everything you do. It’s the secret ingredient to every successful piece of content.

I highlighted the importance of this in my blog post all about effective tone of voice documents...

(I’m about to quote myself here... is that even a thing?)

“To really execute an intelligent content strategy, your brand voice should be able to stand alone and accurately define who you are.”  (Click to tweet)

Ultimately a consistent tone of voice across your brand helps deliver a seamless customer experience, whether you’re crafting a marketing email, posting something on Facebook, or making a sales call.

Consistent Tone Of Voice

And you should also consider your buyer personas. They should be at the heart of what you do, especially if you want to create something both compelling and engaging.

“Before you send an email, always ask: Will this resonate with the persona I am trying to reach?” - HubSpot

Get to know what your personas do and don’t respond well to, using all the data you have collected from previous emails and form submissions.

For the emails and forms that have performed well, ask why? Do the same for emails and forms that haven’t performed well.

  • Are there certain words that drive downloads?
  • Is there a tone that seduces clicks?
  • Have you used language that crucified email opens?
  • Are there sentence structures that increase landing page bounce rates?

Scannable content

The world has changed over the last few years.

The rise of technology means brands can engage with prospects whilst they are on the move. And the increase of inbound marketing has made people intolerant to age-old marketing tactics that do their best to interrupt with irrelevant insights.

It’s no surprise then, that creating scannable content is more important than ever.

Help your contacts read your content by writing it in a way that suits their lifestyle. If you have records of your last email sends, look at the devices people have used and time spent on the email…

Email Marketing Device

Time Spent Viewing Email

Look at trends and cater your email copy to what you discover.

If your emails are only getting glanced at, why? Are they optimised for the most popular device your recipients are using? If your open-to-click conversions are particularly low, why? Are you making it clear and easy for people to digest the right information and take the right action?

Make sure you do the leg work when formatting your email, so your readers don’t have to.

For superior scannability, consider the following:

  • Keep paragraphs short and concise.
  • Add headings to break content up into key areas.
  • Use bolding and bullet points to highlight key information.
  • Create standout CTAs with clear messaging.

Remember, everyone scans. Keep up and adapt, or be prepared to fall short.

It’s not over yet...

… I was toying with the idea of giving you another f**k-off 3,000+ word blog post to sink your teeth into. With so much to digest, I decided to split this into two parts.

Keep your eyes peeled for part two *Update* Part two is now live here - but make sure you subscribe down below for updates on any new juicy content!

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