If you made your way here, you already know the power of email marketing.

Email is the weapon of choice for successful people everywhere.

We use email to start businesses, expand our network, finally get that dream job and, most notably, we use email to…

Drive more revenue for business than
any other marketing channel. (Yes, any.)

This 2016 report from Emarsys shows that for ~80% of small and medium businesses, email is the primary channel for both acquisition & retention.

Not just the primary acquisition channel. Not just the primary retention channel.

But email marketing is the primary channel for both.

Sure. Social media platforms like TikTok are drawing large audiences and beckoning marketers to head on over there, but email campaigns continue to be where sales happen.

According to a McKinsey study, email is 40x more effective than Facebook & Twitter at making the sale. Oh. And the order average for email purchases is 17% higher too.

Ask any of your favorite, successful online business owners and you’ll hear the same thing:

Email is how you convert your audience into loyal, eager customers.

It’s a powerful medium.

And all you need to unlock its power is…

…dominion over the craft of email copywriting.

Not unlike Khaleesi and her power over dragons.

Or… maybe… very unlike that. Much less of the “burn them all” stuff and much more of the “sell with style” thing. 

When you can hit the “Send” button on that email with confidence – knowing you’ll have multiplied your bank balance by the end of the day – you won’t just feel powerful. You’ll know that, with this brand spankin’ new skill set, you’ll be able to sell consistently without creeping your audience out. 

And this guide is your key.

The ultimate email marketing power-up for freelancers, marketers, small biz-owners and entrepreneurs who want to tap into the raw power of email 

This guide has everything you need to start writing emails that persuade (and sell) like a pro – all in one neat package. And yes – I mean everything

Ready to close new deals – or slay it with your latest product launch – with persuading emails by getting into the heads and hearts of your customers? We’ve got ya covered. 

Need to use cold email to get clients, grow a business or convince one of your heroes to share an insight for the killer blog post you’re working on? We’ll show you how. 

Eager to write emails that convince your colleagues to finally send you that report you asked for three times? Yup. We’ll tackle that too.

If you write email, this guide is for you.

We’ll cover everything you could ever want to know about email copywriting.

Bookmark it now.

Every time you sit down to write an email – to a friend, a colleague, a client, or your entire customer list – open this guide in another tab to help you get the outcome you’re after.

And use it as your career’s secret weapon for years to come.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. The Quick-Start Guide to Email Copywriting (aka Everything You Need to Get Started)
  2. Advanced Email Copywriting: Increase Opens & Clicks
  3. Let’s See It In Action: Email Copywriting for Every Kind of Email
  4. Optimize Your Email Copywriting with Hard Numbers

The Quick-Start Guide to Email Copywriting (aka Everything You Need to Get Started)

How to Use Conversion Copywriting to Become an Email Copywriting Expert in No Time

Meet conversion copywriting: the secret weapon of seasoned & newbie copywriters alike. It’s what will help you create powerful emails → instead of the stuff all your least-favorite marketers send ya. 

The number one thing that separates conversion-focused copy from the rest is research. It’s how you figure out what to say so that the person reading your email thinks “Whoa. You get me.” instead of unsubscribing from your email list. 

In this section, I’m going to show you how to write conversion copy. The kind that gets crazy results. 

This data-driven approach is the secret behind why some copywriters consistently win in email a/b testing and others miss the mark.

Let’s jump-start your conversion copywriting skills right now and give you everything you need to make your copy convert better…

Even if you have zero copywriting experience.

Researching like a pro

Conversion copywriters don’t sip oat milk lattes at a Brooklyn cafe until The Muse brings a vision of the perfect words.

We use the customer’s own words to convince them. Think about it → No one knows you better than you know yourself. So, aren’t you the person best qualified to convince yourself to take an action that will get you closer to your goals? 

That’s essentially what the research-centric approach popularized by Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) & UX Design does. It’s what the Copyhackers team does to get crazy results for clients every day. Like when Keep & Share engaged Copyhackers to a/b test their home page headline. The team tested 3 versions:

  1. the control
  2. the copywriter-crafted headline
  3. the voice of customer data-swiped headline

Can you guess which one won?

Control
Version A: Copywriter-crafted
Variation B: Swiped from VOC data

*Ding ding ding*

You’re correct. 

It’s #3. 

In fact, that variation brought in a whopping 103% lift over the Control.

And it was swiped directly from a customer testimonial: Worried if what you’re Swiping might be considered steeling, then check out this Video to clear up any confusion.

Michael wasn’t trying to sell. He wasn’t using fancy tactics to convince you to do something that would benefit him. He was simply remembering why he bought. His goal wasn’t to be “clever” and “persuasive”. He simply recalled his experience – and that’s why it’s so effective.

Using voice of customer data in your email copy works wonders too… Like when Copyhackers rewrote Wistia’s onboarding emails and tripled paid conversions.

You can get these kinds of results in your email copywriting by following these two steps. 

Step 1: Instead of starting with a blank page, start with this 

Meet “review mining.” This quick-n-dirty research technique is perfect for when you’re short on time or when you need to supplement the data you’ve already got. 

Here’s how it works. You’re going to go through reviews your ideal customers have left online. These reviews can be for your own product, your competitor’s product or for products that solve the same problem you do but aren’t competing with you (i.e. A book that tackles the same issue as your SaaS product.)

Thanks to the internet, there is a treasure trove of easy-access voice of customer data out there for you to swipe from your emails. 

Some tried-and-true places that anyone can use to get started:

  1. Searching Amazon for books related to your product
  2. Going to Reddit, Facebook groups, and other online forums frequented by your customers
  3. Reviewing comments on a blog post related to your industry
  4. Reviewing comments on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook by people who follow you and your competitors
  5. Reading online reviews of both your product and your competitors’
  6. Getting transcripts from sales calls
  7. Getting transcripts from customer service logs

As you read through the reviews, copy and paste any phrases that address the problems you’re trying to solve in a spreadsheet, a Google Doc, your Notion board or whatever works for ya. Getting the VOC you need simply requires going through a list like this until you have enough data to uncover patterns that illuminate what your audience cares about most, and sticky messages you can use to write your copy.

And then you’re ready to really dial-in your research data, and do the things that pro copywriters get paid the big bucks for.

What if I can’t find ANY data online because my industry just doesn’t do reviews?

Sometimes, you’ll need data for such a niche product that reviews just won’t give you the kind of depth you need. 

No worries. Here’s an advanced email research technique you can try.  

When I launched my own micro-agency I wanted to understand what ecommerce clients in the $1M – $10M annual revenue range were struggling with when it comes to email marketing…

Yeah. Talk about specific.

There’s no forum where I can sort by revenue range and find out what CEOs of mid-size ecommerce companies think about email marketing…

So I went rogue instead.

In an online forum for ecommerce stores, I offered free copy reviews to any ecommerce store’s website. 

By doing that, I weeded out the 99% of people who didn’t have an actual ecommerce store yet. And the resulting 5-min copy reviews were mostly for my ideal clients.

Then, after I sent them their review, the store owner was so pleased with me, it was easy to ask them for a favor in the form of a 30-min phone interview where I asked about their email marketing struggles.

The moral of that story?

There’s always a way to find voice of customer data.

And once you start seeing the impact VOC data has on your business, you’ll become just as scrappy in your search for it.

Step 2. Use proven frameworks to eliminate guesswork

With your VOC data collected & ready to use, it’s time to engineer it into the perfect persuasive argument by using a proven persuasion framework.

You might be familiar with these if you’ve ever seen the Copyhackers’ complete list of copywriting formulas.

As of this article’s publish date, there are 137 formulas in there.

Talk about options.

But as that HUGE number of options is enough to give anyone analysis paralysis (the same reason I always end up deleting Tinder within days of re-downloading it)…

Then let me help by showing you the 2 formulas I (almost) always use when I write email copy:

Persuasion formula #1: AIDA

Along with espresso-spiked cups of coffee, the AIDA model is a staple of the copywriter diet. It’s been around for over a century because it just plain works.

(Especially when you need email copy that’s succinct.)

From a cold sales email to a dream prospect…

To a newsletter to your list of subscribers…

To an email to your passive-aggressive colleague who always cuts you off in client meetings…

AIDA makes sure each sentence in your copy is driving your reader closer to your desired action.

In this Wistia email, Jo:

  • grabbed their attention by personalizing the headline with their first name
  • built their interest by asking questions they’re curious to know the answer to
  • ignited their desire by defining multiple, relevant benefits with specificity
  • made action the easy choice with benefit-focused language

If you’re ever struggling, AIDA technique is your swiss army knife.

Always in your back pocket. Always there to make life easier.

Persuasion formula #2: PASOP

Ready to write a persuasive series of sales emails promoting your latest product?

Then you need PASOP formula: the must-use formula for weaving VOC data into any email sequence.

PASOP is stunningly simple and it will help you hook your readers and keep ‘em reading. 

It starts with your customer’s pain point.

This is where many start their customer journey. (Aware of their pain, but not yet fully aware of the potential solutions and your particular product.)

…And ends by introducing a new pain.

So readers are left wanting more, chomping at the bit, ready for the next email in your sequence.

It’s a formula perfectly suited to writing with VOC data & crafting an email sequence. Which is why it’s a stand-by.

In Amy Porterfield’s welcome sequence, she gets people to sign up for her webinar by:

  • accurately describing the problem her subscribers are having with putting off the creation of their own online course
  • agitating that problem with how it would manifest in their daily lives
  • presenting the solution to that problem
  • depicting the outcome of her solution so the pain of their problem feels like it’s in the past
  • reminding them of the problem that will be solved in the next step (in this case, the next step is Amy’s webinar, but in a continuing email sequence, this would be in the next email)

The 5 Most Common Conversion Copywriting Mistakes That Kill Your Email Performance 

Armed with the basics of writing persuasive emails, you’re now ready to craft some yourself.

But – before you go off and start writing – I want to point out the 5 common mistakes to avoid in your emails. 

Watch out for these mistakes, and you’ll blow past the problems that hold many back.

Mistake #1: Asking your friends’ opinions

This includes your friend who majored in English. (Especially that friend.)

Good writing and good copywriting are two totally different things.

The only measure of email conversion copywriting is NOT your friends’ praise. It’s your audience’s conversion rate. Your audience – not your friends – are the ones whose opinions will matter.

Lucky for you, you can find out what your audience thinks by validating your message through testing. 

A/b testing is the gold standard of testing. But if you have lower traffic, or you want to collect feedback on your email’s message before you get the split testing stage…

Tools like UserTesting and UsabilityHub were specifically built for this, and are a conversion copywriter’s best friend.

You can also try testing messages in a Facebook ad… before you commit to hard coding it onto your website.

Mistake #2: Focusing on length instead of effectiveness

This is a myth that won’t go away. You’ll find a canon of articles dedicated to how the modern attention span is shorter than that of a malnourished goldfish. And they aren’t wrong.

I won’t pretend we all spend our weekends leisurely reading War & Peace, calmly ignoring the notification buzzes from our phones.

But here’s the thing when it comes to copy: buyers read.

They devour copy. 

Look at any sales page heatmap.

You’ll see a segment of people who skip to the bottom, a segment who bounce right away, and a segment who carefully scrolls through the page soaking in every word…

…Before clicking the buy button.

These are the people you’re targeting with your copy. The ones who haven’t yet made up their minds. The ones who need to know more, need to know why. The ones who need to see themselves reflected on the page to feel safe enough to purchase.

You’re writing for the buyers who are on the fence until they read your email copy.

Mistake #3: Writing like a wordsmith (instead of a sales expert)

There’s an old legend about a direct response copywriter’s process for writing world-class copy. He’d go down to his local pub after he’d written a sales letter and read his letter out loud.

If his bar mates listened and said…

“Wow. What an incredible letter. You’re a great writer.” 

He’d sigh. Go home. And start over.

But if, when he finished reading his letter, they said…

“Are you serious? I had no idea about that product! How can I buy one?”

That’s how he knew he was finished.

Copywriting is about sales. About tapping into the emotions your prospect needs to feel to say yes to your product. That’s why research is essential. And that’s why sales are the KPIs you need to use to measure the success of your emails. 

Mistake #4: Making it all about YOU 

When you’re writing your copy, imagine your reader is looking at your email and asking themselves…

“Why should I care?”

And if your email is about you, your company, and how great you are… she won’t.

But if it’s about how HER life can get better, she’ll sit up in her chair.

If you struggle with this, try starting your copy simply by typing the word, “you”.

It just might trick you into the right mindset. Then, let your VOC & persuasion framework guide you from there.

Mistake #5: Trying to use email copy to resuscitate a dead offer

You need to nail your offer AND build your email list… before you can really get mileage out of investing in your copy.

Selling is like building a campfire.

To start your fire, you need kindling and matches. The kindling is your email list and the matches are your offer. You need those two ingredients to get a fire started.

With your fire going, now you’re in business. (Literally.)

Then, and only then, can you use lighter fluid to make that thing grow.

Lighter fluid… THAT’S copy.

But copy without the right list & offer? All you’ve got is a smelly, muddy puddle on the ground.

Gross.

…And with all that email conversion copy wisdom under your belt, you’ve now got everything you need to start writing your own.

Now, we’re going to apply your new skills to email and cover the keys to email marketing success: list growth, increasing open rates, and increasing click-through rates.

But refer back to these fundamentals anytime you need a refresher on the underlying mechanics. (You may also want to check out breakthrough-or-bust emails to see how to stand out in a crowded inbox.)

Copywriting to GROW Your Email List (…so every email brings in more $$$)

Remember our campfire analogy for how copy works with your list and offer?

Your list and offer are pre-reqs for getting mileage out of optimizing your copy.

That’s why this section is all about growing your email list.

Because with more people who want what you’re selling on your list, you stand to gain more revenue with every email sent. And the more your hard work writing optimized email copy pays off every time you hit send.

To optimize your website for list growth, you need to exchange value for someone’s email address. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Give away a value-add lead magnet, or
  2. Create a branded email newsletter with a value proposition

Let’s figure out which is right for your business and audience.

Um… So should I create a Lead Magnet or Branded Newsletter?

A lead magnet is something you give away in exchange for someone’s email address. It can be a limited time coupon, a quiz, an ebook, a checklist…

A coupon lead magnet.
A lead magnet via gated access to the product.

A branded newsletter, on the other hand, offers a compelling reason for prospects to want your regularly-scheduled emails. (Not something you get instantly upon signing up.)

A newsletter like the Daily Skimm sends you a daily news digest.
Nat Eliason has branded his newsletter “The Monday Medley”.

With those definitions in mind, let’s help you decide which is right for you.

The “Find Your Perfect Opt-In” Decision Tree

Answer each question for yourself, and you’ll see which of the 3 options is best for you:

1. Do you have the resources in place to commit to publishing regularly?

“Resources” can look very different depending on your business. If you’re a solo guy/gal, then we’re looking at time on your calendar. If you’ve got a team, then it might be delegating or contracting out the work.

But if you are still figuring things out, avoid sending a “Weekly Newsletter” … that won’t actually be weekly.

2. What is most important to you: quick sales or long-term community building?

This isn’t a philosophical question about what you value. It’s just a question of business goals.

Right now, what’s most important for your business? Do you need cash and sales stat, or do you have the breathing room to think more long-term? Either answer works.

3. Can you dedicate 1-2 days to building a lead magnet right now?

If you’ve got other priorities, I understand. But remember those stats from earlier about how important email marketing is to your business? Make sure you’re prioritizing the right thing – whether that’s what’s already on your plate, or an important investment in your email marketing.

You can also delegate the actual making of your lead magnet, once you’ve got the strategy nailed down.

Once you’ve figured out which option best suits you, we can get on to what goes into creating your choice.

The Branded Newsletter

Purchasing a new product is exhilarating.

A meditation app can build a new habit. Running shoes can prove you’re serious about your new year’s resolution. Even a new sweater reveals your desire to look more presentable.

Products are frequently the first step in making a change. A new commitment.

And email marketing can be that regular reminder to your customers to make sure they’re getting the most out of their new purchase.

Depending on what change your products elicit, a branded newsletter with helpful content is exactly how you turn a “customer base” into a community.

And their continuing relationship with you will keep them coming back to purchase from you time and again.

When creating your branded newsletter, ask yourself: what regular email content would help them bring about the change they’re trying to achieve with my product?

The Lead Magnet & Branded Newsletter

If you’re ready to build out your full email content strategy, then dive right in.

You’ll want your lead magnet and branded newsletter to tie-in to who your customers are and the benefit they get from using your product.

It’s also critical to be relevant to where the lead magnet will live – key to getting the attention you need it to receive.

Think of your email marketing as a free extension of what they get from being a customer of yours. The lead magnet being instant value that leads to the eventual purchase of your product, and your branded newsletter as being the continuing engagement that helps them continue to benefit from using your product.

Intelligent Change

The (Quick & Dirty) Lead Magnet

This lead magnet gives your website visitors a compelling reason to subscribe to your emails now. It’s great because you don’t need to have your entire email marketing strategy mapped out.

Just find the most compelling opt-in – one that ties into your product line-up – and give your reader a powerful reason to subscribe. 

That powerful reason is often a discount, but you can also put together a short, but valuable opt-in.

Nerd Marketing gives you the option to download the
podcast episode’s transcript if you enter your email address.

Once you’ve chosen which kind of lead magnet is right for you, then you need to sort out the offer you’re actually going to use.

All of these options can work well. Choose one that makes sense for your biz right now and add it to your website.

How to persuade your people to actually give you their email? (When everyone else is asking for it too…)

Now that you’ve settled on the kind of lead magnet you’re going to use, you need to craft it. 

Uber Effective Lead Magnet #1: Gated Video Content

If you’re a business that’s already leveraging content marketing, look into using Gated Video Content as part of your strategy.

And tools like Wistia allow you to gate your video content at a certain timestamp.

Brian Balfour’s blog

Like a YouTube ad you need to watch to get to the next part of the video (because you’re already heavily invested), this tactic can be very effective.

In fact, having your opt-in mid-way through the video, or “Mid Roll” as the pros at Wistia call it, has an incredibly high conversion rate of 22.17%.

Uber Effective Lead Magnet #2: A giveaway

Giveaways are another under-used, but highly effective tactic.

AppSumo used the power of giveaways to grow rapidly from 0 to 150,000 email subscribers.

(To run a giveaway like this one, try a tool like Kickoff Labs.)

In ecommerce, a popular way to run a giveaway is to give out free product every month like Baron Fig:

And another popular tactic I’ve seen is JustUno’s Spin-to-Win feature:

You can see from JustUno how effective running a giveaway like this one is compared to more typical forms of lead magnets:

Now that you’ve got your offer for new subscribers sorted, let’s get into the copy that will help it convert.

Crafting the perfect email opt-in

What makes a high-converting email opt-in for growing your email list?

Beyond an irresistible offer, there are 4 elements of the opt-in itself that determine whether your opt-in will be a high-converting magnet supporting your business…

Or a tedious request that your website’s visitors ignore.

Let’s break down how to build an opt-in that turns your carefully crafted opt-in offer into a roaring fire instead of a lackluster sizzle.

#1: The Headline

Here’s your rule:

Your headline needs to get straight to the offer.

Remember, your prospects are asking themselves “Why should I care?” And they won’t wait around to find out. Tell them before you lose them forever.

And while branded language like “Hey hot stuff” can work (it is attention-grabbing)… I’ve found that putting the offer in the headline outperforms fun greetings.

One headline you definitely want to avoid is one I see all over the internet:

“Welcome” isn’t novel. And there’s no benefit to the reader.

So… there’s no reason for people to look at your opt-in.

And in worlds already littered with pop-ups… prospects aren’t going to wait around to find out why they should look at your pop-up before they click the tiny little “x” in the top riAs in, something more than No Thanks. As in the opportunity cost of them not saying “yes” to your offer.ght corner.

So put your offer front & center, and paint it in the most benefit-driven way that you can – while ensuring that it’s clear and obvious.

#2: A seductive Call to Action

Don’t stop your copy optimization at the headline. Continue making the value clear straight through to the call-to-action.

And the more instant the value – the better.

See exactly what we mean in this Tutorial Tuesday.

Combining a powerful headline with an equally powerful CTA can have a far greater impact on conversion rate. Compared to just optimizing the headline alone.

Copyhackers has the case studies to prove it.

When testing new headline and button copy for Dressipi.com, Joanna crafted 3 variations.

With just the new headline, they couldn’t get statistical significance in their split test. But with new headline and new button copy

They saw a 123.9% lift in clicks.

So let’s go beyond the vague, yawn-inducing verbiage of “Sign Up” and get crystal clear with the value our subscribers will get:

(Quick bonus tip: please also skip the “We won’t spam you, promise” tactic below your call-to-action. It’s likely doing you more harm than good.)

#3: Give them Door #2

To give an extra boost to your already strong call-to-action, show them what’s behind Door #2.

As in, something more than No Thanks. As in the opportunity cost of them not saying “yes” to your offer.

To make your opt-in offer’s benefit excruciatingly clear… show the consequence of not opting-in.

Like an anti-benefit.

That’s how I positioned it for my opt-in:

It’s not in your face HUGE, and it’s not obnoxious language like having to click “Clearly, I’m an idiot”. You’re just making them choose “I don’t want to send better emails” so they are confronted with the choice they are making.

Adding this “opt-out” button to Copyhackers’ own opt-in produced a spike in conversions:

Of course, this tactic is reserved for pop-ups. (Another great reason to reconsider adding a pop-up to your site if you’ve resisted until now.)

#4: Design (aka A Pop-Up You Can Be Proud Of)

With your offer & copy in place, we’re ready to tackle design. Thankfully, the key to opt-in design is keeping it simple.

You want your copy to be attention-grabbing & noticeable.

And here comes the simple part: cut (almost) everything else.

Maybe include an attention-grabbing image, and/or a testimonial for your opt-in offer, but eliminate everything else. The rest is distracting fluff.

And if you’re still considering not having a pop-up because pop-ups make you picture something like this:

Let me ask you: what is so annoying about those pop-ups?

If it had an offer you were interested in, and a design you found non-offensive, would it be as annoying?

There is a clear difference in design between pop-ups that feel like obnoxious interruptions or others that are a welcome call-out.

Thanks for the offer, Peep!
Yikes. This is heinous and I can’t see why I’d opt-in. 😉

Differences in pop-up quality brings to mind the difference between a commercial that makes you want to unplug your television, and a meaningful commercial that makes you rethink your worldview.

Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial.

So now that you know how to build an email list of hot, interested leads, you’re ready to advance – young grasshopper – to the next level of mastering email conversion copywriting: getting more of those hot leads to open and click.

Read Part II of IV: Advanced Email Copywriting: Increase Opens & Clicks right here.