VerticalResponse Blog

Writing Email Marketing Copy That SellsWriting your email marketing campaigns can make anyone want to pull their hair out, especially if you’re trying to sell a product/service, or ask for a donation, either as part of your newsletter or the sole purpose of your email. You want to make sure you hit all of the highlights and make sure people SEE your offer.

I’ve put together some ideas you can think about and put to work when writing copy that sells in your campaigns.

Benefits – I’ve written about this before, but I can’t stress how important it is for you to answer your recipient’s question, “What’s it going to do for me?” “How is it going to make my life easier?” They don’t necessarily care about all of the nifty features you’ll offer without getting to the heart of why they need it first. Many businesses get caught up in focusing on themselves rather than their recipients. Recipients should always be the focus of the copy.

Use Subheads – Getting the attention of your readers using subheads is always a great idea. It breaks up your thoughts and gets to the heart of what you’re selling quickly while letting them do the skimming.

Write in Small Chunks – You need to get to your point fast in small succinct paragraphs. When was the last time you read an entire press release in an email? It’s difficult to do, no one has the time, they need you to tell your story briefly. If they want more detailed information, link off to a page where they can find it.

Use Bullets – Bullets break up points or benefits so that your readers can get your information quickly by scanning. This is a very popular copywriting tactic for email and the web in general.

Get Customer Testimonials – Nothing sells your product better than your customers, but getting the testimonial right is essential. “I love this product!” is not good enough. You need to get to the heart of why they love your product or your cause. “I love this product because it saved me $500 in fees per year!” tells a much better story. Make sure you put your customer’s real name and city or company they come from. It adds credibility to the quote.

Get the Subject Line Right – Make sure you think about the subject line first, it’s the most important item in your email. In just 40-50 characters get across what they’ll get for opening your email.

Write Like You Speak – If you’re talking to a prospect or customer you don’t speak in long boring sentences. You are probably concise and conversational. So should your email marketing copy be.

Ask For The Order – I’ve spent a lot of time on calls-to-action lately and it’s because they’re important. Your call-to-action is your “Buy Now” link or your “Call 1-800..” copy. It’s essentially what you want your recipients to do. You should definitely display your call-to-action above the fold so that your recipients don’t have to scroll down to find your offer links. Don’t be afraid to get in your recipient’s face either. If that’s what you told them you’d be sending them, they expect it and probably want it. Use expiration dates and bold colors, and make sure to link from everywhere you can in your email to get your recipients to act now!

I hope you find this helpful, if you’ve got any great copywriting tactics to get more sales, comment!

© 2009 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.


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  • Anna K

    Very helpful pice of work! Many thanks!

  • Chad Crandall

    Good advice. I especially agree that email language should be the same as you speak. Otherwise it comes across as “salesy”, fake, and ends up not being read at all.

  • Rob


    Great post: I think the call to action is an underused aspect of most emails, and is pointed out well in this post. If you leave the reader wondering what to do, they’ll likely just hit “delete”!

  • A Twitter User

    I totally agree with you that selling is a art form and all the pieces of the puzzle have to be in the right places in order to seal the deal. There is no way your going to get sales unless your on the top of your game. Write Like You Speak is just half of it. Write like your selling used cars on a commercial or your promoting a monster truck show and you got yourself a winner.

  • ciaran

    i once read a great tip about special offers. often we discount to make products more attractive. if you can explain the reason why your discounting ( ie we over ordered this item and need to free up space in our warehouse before next friday and thats why we can offer such a great deal to you) its supposed to ha e a positive effect. now i do believe that to sell you must always keep your integrity intact. but i just wondered if anyone had any experience of this tip being true. i guess sometimes offers can seem too good to be true and this tactic ( if genuine ) could cut through that.

  • Kim


    I’d like to comment on the “Write like you speak”.
    I’ve see so much bad copy because people confuse writing conversational copy with just writing anything that comes to mind. Good email marketing copy CAN be conversational, but it must also adhere to good grammar and correct sentence structure.

  • Mauro from Cattolica – Italy

    In my humble opinion, I don’t believe anymore in customer testimonials or too many awards. Perhaps, here in Italy, we often suppose they’re not real. A real comunication does not exist anymore in Italy. News are more and more like commercial spot.
    However I believe in the power of DEM and newsletter…this is the reason why I’ve subscribed your feed rss.

  • Julie O’Malley

    Hey Bill,
    The fact is, old-school sales and marketing hasn’t changed much, just the medium. Human nature is human nature. And this article is a good review of how to change your mindset from what worked on the printed page to what works on-screen.
    Nowhere in this article did I see any reference to “blasting your contact list with blatantly commercial messages.” That would indeed be stupid.
    But if you’re sending requested information to a clean list, then go ahead and give them what they opted-in for!

  • Dina G

    “A lot of this is old school thinking about sales and marketing.”
    I don’t believe that to be true.
    To me, overly commercial, “junk” type of communication typically does NOT follow the advice above. It’s usually one-sided and unprofessional.
    I think that the above advice is appropriate, and would never be outdated — it’s completely relevant on any day. Since when did good communication skills become “old school”?
    It simply makes sense to 1) tell them what’s in it for them 2) get to the point in an easy-to-read manner, and 3) tell them HOW to respond if they’re interested.
    It’s courteous and respectful to the recipient to do those things. I say this both as a marketer and a consumer.
    There’s nothing junky about professional communication standards.
    I like this article, and I think the writer does a good job of following their own advice as well. Nice job!

  • Adam S.

    It’s amazing how such simple concepts are so easily forgotten. Great Post!

  • Tia Dobi

    Which volumes of books in particular are summed up in this one post?
    Also, this post doesn’t make good on the promise of its headline:
    “Writing Email Marketing Copy That Sells” because there’s not one iota of how to do that.
    This is a possible list of elements to include in your copy.
    But if your copy isn’t written in ways taught by the great copywriters like John Caples and way too many to mention here- it won’t sell even if you have all these elements.
    Professional copywriters write up to 100 headlines, subheads and email subject lines before choosing one to use.
    Now go tell your readers that and they’ll get an inkling of what it’s like to write copy that sells.
    (Using the words “Marketing” and “that sells” is superflous.)

  • Janine Popick

    For Bill
    – I think it’s a bit rude to assume that we “seed” our blog with comments. These comments are ALL from readers of the blog.

  • Jamal

    Well quite brief and easy post. I also need to put in that spelling and correct English is also very important many people send out newsletters with wrong grammar.
    Secondly a lot of people will send the newsletter as an attachment which is also wrong email sent should be short and easy to read.

  • Paul Stein

    Good points! We all need to keep in mind that call-to-actions also apply to marketing blogs when giving tips. As a consultant for Fortune 200 companies and non-profits, I would add: 1) Determine your primary audience, 2) Target your offer to that audience, and 3) Close forward (meaning, a p.s. that intro’s the next issue and/or a reminder of the benefits to the reader if they respond to the calls to action! Bottom line, say it clear – say it again – close strong.

  • Jane Reddin

    Our customers always comment that they LOVE our product photographs in our emails, with enticing sub-titles. We’re lucky that we have an awesome photographer on staff.
    Jane Reddin
    Practical Art
    Phoenix, AZ

  • Bill Alpert

    A lot of this is old school thinking about sales and marketing. Blasting your contact list with blatantly commercial messages for the most part creates the opposite effect you’re looking for. It’s just a poor man’s version of junk mail.
    BTW, it appears you’re seeding the post with your own comments. Or is that my imagination running wild?

  • brooke

    This is good, but as a nonprofit that doesn’t offer products, our biggest way to ‘sell’ is with the hero tactic.
    I’d be curious about other ways to write ‘Because of your support’…

  • Doug Boisvert

    Beautifully done Janine! Volumes of books worth of reading summarized in this one post…
    Thank You!

  • Jay White

    Excellent post! I make my living writing email and autoresponder copy, and these tips hit the nail right on the head. Follow these guidelines and you’re virtually guaranteed to improve both your open and click-thru rates.
    Well done!
    Jay White


    Think about a Post Scriptum. It’s always read.

  • Mark McClure

    Great post. Really lays out what the essence of email copy.
    If I had to pick my top 3 from the items you described:
    1: Get The Subject Line right (else ‘game over’)
    2: Write in Small chunks (the novelty of receiving email wore off years ago…)
    3: Ask For The Order
    (Every email should have a call to action. Sometimes this is for the reader to go order.)
    In my client universe it’s often to get the click to the waiting Sales page i.e the email itself is not the sales vehicle, merely the outside attraction to the show waiting within.)
    Everything else is just detail.

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