8-Step Guide to Writing Emails (That Convert)

Jasmine Toh

How many unread messages do you have in your inbox?

That look familiar?

Okay, maybe I exaggerated (but even if you do have 95,490 open emails, I’m not judging.)

Most of us have our inboxes spammed with emails from work, social media, other companies trying to sell you stuff… the list goes on. More specifically, over 144 billion emails are sent every day.

It’s no surprise that most of us tend to leave the seemingly useless or boring ones unread, andddd… it piles up to become something like 95,490 unread emails.

To make your emails stand out from the 95,940, I have compiled an eight-step guide that features tried-and-tested email strategies that will entice your reader to clickity click away.

Email is still the reigning king

Before you read on, you need to know why you should focus your time and energy into email marketing.

A SocialTwist study showed that email is the more powerful tool when converting new customers compared to Facebook and Twitter.

Email converted 50.8% of 300,000 to new customers, while Twitter and Facebook converted 26.8% and 22% respectively.

I would say that email totally kicked Twitter and Facebook’s ass.

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This goes to show that even though social media is a trending buzzword, email is still king.

And now, the moment you have been waiting for, I present to you…

*drum roll*

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Step 1: Write captivating subject lines

This is the first thing that you should learn to master. After all, your subject line determines whether your subscriber opens your email or not.

Though it is not exhaustive, here are some of my favourite tips when it comes to writing subject lines. 

a. Be personal (but don’t be creepy!)

Write in a tone where your email sounds like you are writing only to them.

For e.g.

  • Happy birthday Mary – surprise inside!
  • Quick favour?

Take care to not sound like a creepy stalker and scare your reader though.

I prefer to not type all my words in uppercase because it makes it soon more personal. You might get differing views about this, but generally “sentence case” gets more favour than “title case”.

Sentence case: How to create great content that drives traffic
Title case: How to Create Great Content That Drives Traffic


b. Ask questions

Questions are great for evoking curiosity.

To do that though, you need to make the effort to understand your target audience and ask specific questions they are curious about.

For an SME owner interested in digital marketing, questions such as “Are you making these SEO mistakes?” or “Do you know what your website is doing wrong?” would be effective.

What I love about asking questions is that it allows me to have conversations with the subscribers, and help me understand them better.

Not all of them will reply, but when some do, it signals to the email software that your emails are important and not spam.

Now that’s a priority pass to the heart of your subscriber. 😉

c. Long or short subject lines?

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Short subject lines that contain 4-15 characters have the highest open rates, but subject lines that contain 28-39 characters have the highest click rate.

Ultimately, you should conduct your own tests to see what works best for you.

d. Send as a person, not a company

HubSpot found that emails sent from “Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot” performed better in terms of opens and click-through rate than emails sent from just “HubSpot.”

If you are one of our newsletter subscribers, you would have noticed that we always send them as “Jackie from clickTRUE”. Now you know why.

Here are some of my favourite online resources for writing subject lines which you might find helpful,

Step 2: Writing the content of your email

a. Write as you would to a friend (meaning, drop the corporate speak!)

You are looking to subscribe to a gym membership and you receive emails from two different gyms.

  • “We are passionate in helping our customers achieve their fitness goals. Our gyms boast of only top quality equipment and certified personal trainers to help you get fit. Sign up now to waive your first-month subscription fee.”
  • “It’s that time of the year again. The time where we struggle to lose our post-CNY fats. I feel you. If you are looking for some extra motivation, our personal trainers and gym equipment are here to whip you into shape. Oh, did I mention that you can waive your first month subscription fee if you sign up by 10 March?”

You already know which you prefer, don’t you?

b. Use your newsletter as a way to further your relationship, not pitch about your product

Your newsletter is a great way to consistently keep in touch with your readers. A good newsletter is one that adds value to its readers so that they would stay subscribed to you.

Depending on your business, some ideas you can incorporate in your newsletter would be blog posts, insights, product updates, videos and whitepapers.

c. Weave in stories

Everybody loves a good story. It helps your email to break away from the boring ol’ corporate style of writing and adds a personal touch to it.

No one would remember every single point in your email after 10min, but they will remember a good story.

Types of stories you can use include:

  • An origin story (of your company/ promotion/ blog post etc.)
  • A vision story (what you want to change in your industry)
  • Client case studies
  • Shared experiences (to make your readers go, “I feel you!”)

You will need to craft the narrative such that you can link your reader back to your product/service, which is your call to action.

For example, if you want to use client case studies as your story, talk about the initial struggles and doubts of your clients. Thereafter, share the breakthroughs and final results. At the end, connect the benefits they experienced back to your offer.  

d. My personal tip: weave in Singlish

This one is my secret ingredient, other places confirm won’t have one.

Singlish adds local flavour and a tinge of humour to the mix. It creates a sense of connection with Singaporean readers, who will appreciate that you took the effort to speak the language they are most comfortable with.

I also feel that it helps to differentiate my blogs from others. I mean come on la, where got ang moh blog site use Singlish one?

e. Use “P.S.”, “P.P.S.”, “P.P.P.S.”…

Do not underestimate this commonly forgotten section. It is a very powerful tool to reinforce your message, create urgency and generate value.

I personally love how it effortlessly adds another layer of personal touch to your entire email.

Here are some examples of the usage of P.S.,

Reinforce message P.S. As a reminder, this product/service will not only save you money, but it will save you time, something almost as valuable. (Insert the URL to the landing page here.)
Create urgency P.S. Did I mention that if you are the first of 30 people to contact us for this offer, you will get an additional 20% off? Find out now if you’re one of the lucky ones. (Insert the URL to the landing page in this last sentence.)
Give them a bonus P.S. If you act now, I’ll give you an additional gift (valued at $35) when you make your purchase. But hurry. I have a limited number of these gifts, and I want to make sure you get one. (Insert the URL to the landing page here.)
Personal touch P.S. I understand that making a decision on this is not easy, but just so you and I are clear, there is no commitment on your end if you go the next step and try our introductory offer. (Embed the URL to the landing page in the phrase ‘try our introductory offer.’)


f. Check for spam filtering

Spam filters assign points to “spam” words found in your subject line and email body. If you exceed a certain threshold, it would be sent to the spam folder.

Common triggers are the use of CAPS, the word “FREE” and “!”. You can use one or two of them as long as you don’t exceed the threshold,

It is a good habit to always check your email for spam prior to sending them out.

Step 3: When to send?

a. Send regularly

Chances are, you don’t have new product launches or promotions every single week, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to send any emails that week.

Use an email autoresponder to schedule your content to be delivered on a consistent basis over the course of several months.

This ensures that when you do have a new product or promotion, you would have already built a solid relationship with your readers and be less likely see you as salesy!

b. Prime time to send your emails?

It has been tested that the best open and click-through rates come from emails that are sent on weekends, 8 pm to midnight.

However, the optimal mailing time largely depends on customer behaviour, inbox crowding and competitors.

Ideally, you want to send your email at times where few others do, to increase your chances of getting noticed. This probably explains why 8 pm-12 midnight has shown to do well on the test.

I suggest you do your own testing to understand your customer’s behaviour and find your own optimal mailing time for your business.

Step 4: Mobile Optimise your emails

According to email marketing firm Litmus, mobile opens accounted for 47% of all email opens. This indicates that you need to optimise your emails for the mobile reader.

Here are some mobile design tips for you:

  • Write your email in one column
  • Increase readability with larger fonts, short paragraphs, large line spacing and the use of italic and bold.
  • Have a clear call to action, make sure your reader can tap on it easily.
  • Keep important tappable elements in the middle of the screen (taking into consideration finger ergonomics.)
  • Follow the IOS guidelines by making sure buttons are at least 44 pixels wide by 44 pixels tall

Step 5: Build your subscriber list

Everybody loves free stuff, arguably more so for Singaporeans. A quick, sure-fire way to build your subscriber list is to offer free e-books, webinars, product samples and so on.

Having a weekly newsletter is also a good way to lure subscribers who are interested in your company.

However, when you ask for an email address, your reader is going to have doubts.

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You need to resolve most of these doubts in order to successfully gain a new subscriber. To do that you need to have a clear call to action.

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If you are reading this blog on your laptop/desktop, you might have seen that popping up on the bottom right of your screen. (Bingo, it’s clickTRUE’s call to action!)

It’s a good example because it states clearly that the frequency of emails (twice a month) and the content of the emails (improve online marketing). It also reduces fear of spam by reassuring that the reader can unsubscribe anytime.

Step 6: Your first follow up email

Your first follow up email is the one you send to new subscribers. A good first follow up email will have instructions on how get whitelisted and sets the reader’s expectations.

a. Instructions on how to get whitelisted

To ensure that your emails get the light of the day, you need your reader to help it escape the horrific spam and promotion box!

In other words, get them to whitelist you. You can read this blog to learn how to get whitelisted.

whitelist

For Gmail users, teach them on how to move you from the promotion to primary box. Like so!

b. Set reader’s expectations

Have a quick introduction of yourself. (Hint: this is a time to share your origin story!)

Let your reader know what you plan on doing with their email address and how often you will be sending them emails.

I find it’s usually better to be long-winded and detailed than it is to be quick and boring. Of course, if you can find a way to condense everything in a concise format, then power to you.

You will find that doing so will reduce your unsubscriptions.

Step 7: The breakup email

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You might notice that there are readers who don’t seem to be responding to your emails even after numerous follow-ups. This would be a good time to send them the breakup email and flip the situation around by making them do the chasing instead.

(Fun fact: When you take a good thing away from a person, they will want it more.)

Here are the elements you want to include in your breakup email:

  • I’ve repeatedly tried to do something good for you
  • You’ve never even replied (maybe because you’re too busy, you’re not interested or you’ve moved on to something else)
  • Thus, this is the last email you’ll ever get from me
  • If at any time you ever want to [insert desired outcome, e.g. see how I can help optimise your sales process], I’d be more than happy to speak with you
  • Here’s my contact details [phone number, etc.]

Be careful to not sound accusatory or disappointed. Otherwise, you will be seen as the overly-attached girl/boyfriend who can’t let go!

Your overall tone should be neutral or positive. No blame, criticism or disappointment.

If the breakup email doesn’t work, it means that they are simply not interested in your product/service and nothing you do will work.

Step 8: Email analytics

There are three main metrics are open rate, click-through rate and unsubscription rate.

Low open rate indicates that the relationship with your reader is not strong enough. To increase it, you need to focus on how to build value. You can also revisit your subject lines and think of how to make them more compelling.

Low click-through rate indicates that your message is not targeted enough. This signals that you should improve your copy, so revisit step 2!

High unsubscription rate should raise a red flag for you. You need to find out why people are leaving and work on those leaks.

  • If they’re leaving after a certain autoresponder email, then review the copywriting.
  • If they’re leaving after marketing messages, then re-work the way you present offers.
  • If they’re leaving early on in your funnel, then fix your original call to action so that it is in line with the content of your email.

Learned well you have, young email warrior…

With the 8 steps in your hands, you are well on track to improving your open and click-through rates.

You don’t have to understand or implement all 8 steps, just make the effort to understand one or two. Try it, drop the boring ol’ corporate speak. I am confident you will see results.

A warning though, do not expect to see immediate results. The increase will only come after a few emails when your readers start to gain interest.

Leave a comment if you want more email marketing tips! Let me know what specific area you want to focus on next. (Subject lines 101? Email segmentation?)

Or if you are bored of emails already and want to learn something else, drop it in the comments as well!

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