Using Science and Structure for Email Marketing

7 min read

Email marketing is undoubtedly on the rise. Sign up forms and e-newsletters have never been more popular. If you're here, chances are you want to get in on some of that email marketing action. You've got your images, your topic, and your mail out tools ready and raring to go. Then comes the stage where you need to write the email.

But... what to write? And how to write it? Suddenly the prospect becomes quite daunting, and the dreaded writer's block may well set in.

So what are the basics of putting together an email campaign? How can you make sure it's as persuasive as it can be?

Persuasion is an important element here - you don't just want to drop them a friendly line, you want them to act! Whether that is buying a product from a certain line or from a range that is on sale, interacting with your brand over social media, or even to fill in a survey to help your market research efforts. So what do you need to consider to nudge the reader in the right direction?

Size Isn't Everything

Before we get on to the all-important question of persuasion, the first question that usually comes to mind when putting together an email campaign is "how long should the text in the email be?" The answer is quite elusive. Though some say that you need to keep your email a set length, others say that you are free to run wild. Both of these points raise the prospect of a happy medium between the two: people tend to lose interest if the email is longer than 300 words, but at the same time it is important to include everything you want to say. So put simply, say everything you need to say as briefly as possible.

But how do you write in a way that persuades and entices people - using science? Don't worry, no lab coats or pipettes are required.

Appeal to the Inner Gecko

Now comes a brief lesson in marketing psychology. You may have heard terms like "neuromarketing," "the triune brain" and the "reptilian complex" in relation to marketing. This is because successful marketing is more of a scientific discipline than you might think.

This might start to make more sense when you learn that the triune or reptilian brain is responsible for making snap decisions. Many of our fundamental processes go on there, including the very fundamentals of emotion and decision making.

It is now that the first key lesson of copywriting comes into play: sell on benefits, not features. For example, people don't buy a shampoo because it has aloe vera in it; they buy it because it makes their hair soft and smell nice. Play on the emotional strengths of using the product or service, rather than a cold list of facts and figures.

A great example of this can be found in TV ads for perfume and cologne; they can't pump the smell out at you, and even if they could, they can't guarantee you'd like it. So what do they do? They create a short film about how they think you'll want to feel when you wear it. It's always over the top, yes; but it works. It taps into the viewer's want to be desirable and confident. A message that is far more compelling than "we made this water smell like cinnamon and vanilla."

What's AIDA?

This is a well-known copywriting principle, and it stands for:

Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

Attention comes first, because before anything else, you need to grab their attention, whilst also letting the reader know if it is something that is relevant to their needs. Here comes the hardest part - thinking of a subject line. Don't rush this, because this is the first thing they'll see in order to make the decision whether to click through or to delete. Take your time to make the subject line appropriate and worthy of attention, but don't use cheap tactics such as purporting to be something else in order to get clicks. This is a one-way to get unsubscribed.

Next up is interest. Once you have got their attention and they know your proposition is relevant to their needs, you need to continue to draw them in by sparking their interest. This is the part of the formula where storytelling works really well. You may want to tell the story of a client who was having a problem which was totally solved by your products or services, or how Product X solved Problem Y for however many percent of Audience Z.

Then we have the crucial part - desire. This is the part where you need to really expound the benefits, and persuade your socks off! You need to position the product in such a way that it is truly desirable. This is where the reptilian, emotional selling comes in. Think of what problems your product or service will solve, how will working with your organization make the client feel? For example: if you are selling an external hard drive, it's good to know that it can store 1 terabyte of data, but it's great to know that using it to back up all of your important files can provide incredible peace of mind. It's nice to know that it has a tough outer case; but it's better to know that if you drop it, it won't break and your data will still be safe, regardless of the thrills and spills of modern life.

And lastly, there's action - the part where you make your contact details clear, and telegraph what you want the reader to do next. Don't fall at the final hurdle and just dump the phone number and web link at the end unannounced. Politely request that people give you a call, or visit your site for more information, but make sure the info stands out from the rest of the email by making the text bold or a different colour. It also helps to have all of the info in a footer, like you would with any professional email.

With this newly found insight into AIDA, you can now see how it is used in most of the marketing around us. Going back to the example of TV marketing for a moment, AIDA is widely used. First they first grab your interest with a question or statement to notify you of the topic, for the sake of example, let's use the now infamous "Have you had an accident in the past 3 years that wasn't your fault?" They then move on to talk about other people in the same position, and how their firm helped them (that's interest). They then talk about how good it feels to see justice be done, how they are "no win - no fee," and how the cash rewarded can help with medical costs (desire, right there). Next up is the "Don't delay, call today!" Accompanying the phone number and website address - the action they want the viewer to take.

However, it is important to know that AIDA is not the only copywriting formula out there, it is just the most well-known. It is a good one to learn as you start your email copywriting journey, because it covers all of the main psychological triggers, and is tried and tested. These formulas are becoming more and more numerous, and you may find that some suit your writing style or audience more than others.

So don't be afraid to do your research, and remember that if your first email isn't a masterpiece, it isn't the end of the world. You have future opportunities to redeem yourself, and with time, research and effort, your writing skills will blossom. You'll have an avid following before you know it.

Michael King says...

"I can’t think of a time where a client has requested something that we weren’t able to do with FiveCRM. Unlike most systems, it has a lot of flexibility."

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Managing Director, Senior Response


“Each client, and each of their campaigns, has its own unique specifications. We essentially needed to set up mini CRMs on one platform to meet those requirements.”

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Operations Director, Team Telemarketing

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