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March 19, 2012
Three Rules for Business Emails
When writing emails, either as a series or as auto responders, if you’re not an experienced direct response copywriter — because you’re the boss, an IT person, or an unpaid summer intern — and have to write them anyway, because you can’t afford to hire a professional, experienced marketing and sales copywriter (ahem!)…
You probably don’t know how to persuade your list to respond positively to your offer(s) more often than not.
Nor do you know how to compel the loyalty of your “converted” reader, so that their lifetime value ($) is infinitely more than the cost of their acquisition.
So first I’m going to tell you the five things you should never, never do, and then I’ll tell you the three things you must absolutely do when writing emails — if you want to sleep well at night, vacation monthly on tropical white sand beaches, and enjoy the endless love, adulation and affection of your customers, coworkers, and significant other(s)...
1. Do Not write “fake advocacy” emails. In other words, do not pretend to be your recipient’s best friend and advocate.
Fake advocacy emails are generally 2–3 paragraphs in length, contain 2–3 sentences designed to convey a worthy sentiment, such as: Hey, I’ve got your back. Don’t you worry; I’m gonna take good care of you.
But instead say: Look, I’m not getting paid by the hour to show you how much I care about you, so hurry up and buy the damn thing.
And the rest of the email then goes on to prove, in effect, exactly that.
2. Do Not write three months worth of emails, all entirely the same length, all containing basically the same content, though here and there “cleverly” reworded.
Formula writing, religiously adhered to will, like many a Sunday sermon, lulls the recipient to sleep…if you’re lucky. More than likely, though, because your emails are similar to gnats buzzing around your recipient’s head on a hot summer’s night, he or she will, in desperation and despair, reach for the email fly swatter, aka, the “Report Spam” button.
3. Do Not send an email every, or every other day, for three months — for the same gnat-related reasons — unless you’re delivering a newsletter and the recipient understands, and has explicitly requested (double opt-in) to receive it.
4. Do Not write how all the recipient’s problems will be solved, their dreams will become reality, and they’ll live and love happily ever after — or basically that they’ll become instantly rich. and everything else I wrote in Do Not #2 above.
That was the job of the sales letter that got them to sign up for the email series. Of course, if each email in the series is 3–5 pages or more, written in impeccable advertorial style… well then, you might be on to something (possibly a huge income).
5. Finally, above all, Do Not believe that no one reads long emails. The truth is far more reasonable. No one reads long, poorly written emails, which may be one and the same.
If you’ve successfully attracted the attention and increased the interest and desire of your list, yada, yada (the AIDA formula), your readers will read every word you wrote and wish you wrote more, because…
You are writing about something near and dear to their heart or wallet — and they just can’t get enough of what you can tell them about how what they’re interested in purchasing is exactly what the need for all the reasons you can possible list, which pretty much confirms what they already know or suspected.
Now, for the…
3 Things You Must Do When Writing Emails
1. Do be sincere and personal, not smart and smarmy. Write to an individual, not a list. Visualize who that person is — in all regards. Know their fears and phobias, their wants and needs, their objections and their hot buttons.
The corollary, of course, is that your emails must be written to one person, not to a list. A list does not read your emails. There is no jostling crowd looking over shoulders reading a computer screen or BlackBerry. As far as your recipients are concerned, as far as the effect you want to have on them — he or she is the only one receiving your email; he or she is the only one in the room with you; he or she is the only one you’re endeavoring to build a long-lasting relationship with (and don’t worry about ending a sentence with a preposition or a dangling participle).
2. Do use the Pareto principal (the 80/20 rule). Your emails should contain approximately 80% valuable content and 20% pitch. And if you're sending out daily autoresponders for three months (for whatever ill-conceived reason), 20% of your emails should have no pitch at all — allowing your reader to believe, based on the valuable and actionable content therein, you truly are their friend and advocate; that you're not just interested in their money, but rather their overall well-being.
3. Do write as much as you can and need to (whether it’s one page or ten), to convince, persuade, and compel your reader to accept your argument and do exactly what you explicitly tell them to do next (click submit) — for all the dimensionalized reasons (benefits) you have listed.
This, of course, is the opposite of Do Not #5 above.
And don’t worry if the actionable and valuable content you share is well-known, as known wisdom can serve to confirm the reader's already held beliefs or knowledge base, which, in turn, provides you with credibility and authority — something that 2–3 paragraphs rushing to make a sale will be hard pressed to provide.
And now, for an unexpected bonus, here is Do #4
Always write with personality. Be unpredictable. Be controversial. Be engaging. Be fascinating. Make your list want to receive your emails rather than suffer them.
And, finally, know this:
The purpose of your email series, and your autoresponders, is not to make a sale, per se, but rather to compel your reader to click that oft-repeated (generally, three times per email), blue, underlined link that takes them to your landing page.
That’s where your real sales letter lies.

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Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter at Writing With Personality. To read more of his articles and irreverent musings, and download a FREE copy of his NEW eBook, containing 21 of his most outrageous rants, visit his blog: Marketing Wit & Wisdom!
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