Email is a fast and inexpensive medium, and that helps to make it incredibly popular. And, done right, it has potential to be phenomenally successful. At the same time, though, a lot of writers and a lot of companies are making major mistakes that lead to low open rates, low click-through rates, and low success rates.
There are three major mistakes copywriters make when it comes to writing emails. We’re going to go in reverse order on this one, counting down to the #1 most egregious email mistake. (But, really, you should do your best not to make any of these mistakes!)
#3: The “From” Line Fail
The “From” line is the section of the email that shows up in the “From” column of email inboxes and tells people who sent that email. It sounds so simple, and yet, a lot of people are making mistakes that get their emails almost instantly deleted.
Here’s the rule: The From line must quickly and concisely tell the recipient who the email is from without their having to think about it.
Here’s an example of the “From” line of a Filthy Rich Writer email. (Note: screenshot was taken from a Gmail inbox. How From lines, subject lines, and snippets appear in an inbox will vary slightly based on email client.)
Include the Company’s Name in the From Line
A recent trend in email is for companies to send out emails from personal accounts and the From line shows up as just that person’s name. Well, guess what? If the recipient doesn’t know who that person is, or has to spend more than 2 seconds trying to remember, they will delete it because they assume it’s spam!
They’ll never even read your message because they think you’re sending them a virus or a link to naked people or prescription meds. Or all three.
The solution? Simple. Put the company’s name in the From line. If you or your client really insist on it coming from a single person, that’s fine: Just put both the name and the company name in.
Examples of How you Can Structure Your From Line
Jane Smith, Acme Paper
Jane Smith – Acme Paper
Jane Smith for Acme Paper
Or, if the person’s name is very long and, therefore, runs the risk of pushing “Acme Paper” out of the field, you could write it as:
Acme Paper’s Annette Pappadoppulous
Get your From line right and it will immediately help to increase an email’s open rate!
#2: Not Providing a Clear Next Step
This is the single biggest thing that will keep people from taking action from your email.
First, a quick story. Many years ago, when I worked at a heath club, we had a sales trainer come in to discuss how to sell memberships. He asked us to name the number one reason most health club sales representatives weren’t able to sell a membership.
People guess “monthly cost” and “fear that they won’t use it” and even the infamous “I have to check with my spouse,” but all of the answers were wrong. The number one reason that these reps weren’t getting people to sign up is that they were never asking for the sale. That’s it! They simply were never saying “Are you ready to get started?” or “Shall we go ahead and sign the paperwork?” Amazing, but true.
Also amazing but true is that you must “ask for the sale” in your emails. That is, you must give your reader a clear next step to take by way of a clear CTA (Call to Action). If the purpose of your email is to get people to sign up for a class, you must make it very, very, very easy for them to see how to do it and then you must tell them to do it. Just a simple “Sign Up For the Class Now!” will do.
Believe it or not, the rates of people doing what you want the to do is absolutely dismal if you don’t give them a clear next step and tell them to do it. Don’t make these people think! Give them a clear and easy way to do what you want them to do, and there’s a much better chance that they’ll do it.
I’m anticipating a question along the lines of “But what if I don’t have a next step for them to take?” There should always be some next step you want them to take. What’s the point of sending out the email otherwise?
Your next step could be as simple as clicking through to read the rest of the story (<ahem>, please reference your weekly Filthy Rich Writer emails). But there’s no point in even sending out an email if you don’t want the reader to do something. So, make it easy on ’em and give ’em a clear CTA.
#1: A Subject Line No One Wants to Open
The number one mistake copywriters make when it comes to email is writing a subject line that falls flat.
Why, you ask? Well, the subject line is the one sneak peek into the content of your email. If your subject line doesn’t interest the recipient enough to open the email, the rest of the email is wasted. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly you’ve written the copy inside—they’ll never see it.
Bad (or even just slightly sub-par) subject lines = deleted emails.
Benefit-Driven Subject Lines
A big (read: massively huge) mistake many people make with their subject lines is to write them without on focusing either a benefit to consumer or an interest factor.
A benefit to consumer, as you know, is how whatever you’re writing about in the email is going to help the email’s recipient. If you’re writing about a new motor oil, your subject line had better tell them straight off what the information in the email will get them. You’d write a subject line along the lines of “A more efficient engine is easier to get than ever.” (Which, of course, might not appeal to you, but would appeal to the kind of person who’s on a mailing list for motor oil.)
By immediately telling them what they’re going to get out of your email, you spare them having to guess. And most people don’t guess, they just delete. If a subject line, say, for example, “Like Us on Facebook” and has the recipient answering “Um, why?” the subject line has no benefit.
Curiosity-Driven Subject Lines
A second subject line technique is the interest factor or curiosity factor. I mention this here because I want you to have the full information, but I actually recommend that this be used sparingly and only in certain scenarios.
An interest factor subject line piques the interest of the reader by teasing them with just a bit of information you’re sure they’re going to want to know the rest of. Note the italics—interest factor subject lines don’t work if no one cares.
If your subject line is “Why I Prefer 2% Milk,” you’re probably not going to get a great open rate. If your subject line, on the other hand, is something more like “Why I Will Never Drink Tea Again (And What You Need to Know for Your Health)” or “There’s Something I’ve Been Hiding About My New Program…” you’ve got a decent chance of getting people to open it.
But there are 3 important caveats to know when using a curiosity subject line.
1. They Work Best for Small Businesses or Solopreneurs
People tend to trust these a lot less when they come from big corporations—both the use of the first person and (even if you skip first person), the interest-piquing or hinting can seem very disingenuous.
Save these for small business emails or solopreneurs.
2. They Can Easily Cross the Line Into Click Bait
If these subject lines are not written very carefully, they can sound very gimmicky and turn people off. If people constantly get emails that say things like “My Secret to [This]” or “I’ll Never Do [That] Again”, it gets old reeeeal fast.
3. They Require Major Pay Off
If you’re going to pique their interest, you’d better pay it off really well in the body of the email. Don’t get someone all excited with your subject line only to fall flat in the body. Sure, you’ll get great open rates, but your click-through rates will suck and you’ll erode your relationship with the recipient. Suuuuper uncool.
It’s like giving someone a gift and using beautiful wrapping paper and a ribbon with a flower slipped in, but inside is a used notebook.
My personal recommendation is to stick with the benefits-laden subject line as much as possible, but to experiment with interest factor subject lines as you go. They’re both crucial to have in your back pocket.
On episode 27 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate discuss why subject lines are the single most important piece of copy when it comes to writing emails. They share some overused subject line tactics (some may even say gimmicks), and read some examples of effective and ineffective subject lines, breaking down the elements of each one.
Your Turn! What are the biggest email copywriting mistakes you’ve seen? Share in the comments below!
Last Updated on October 6, 2023