Initially I was going to write yet another article on how to get people to open that email you sent they don’t want. So I did some research on the topic and a surprising thing happened. The more I read, the more it sounded like advice I would give copywriters on writing effective copy for ads.

Be human. Don’t be boring. Write conversationally. Don’t write Gone with the Wind. Keep it short.

Email subject lines should be written like, you guessed it, headlines. And for those who haven’t made a career of writing headlines, let it suffice that it is often not a five minute job. Sometimes they just roll off the tip of your tongue. Other times you mull them over for days. That we rarely have days to come up with headlines these days explains why there are so many dreadful ones sitting in your inbox for emails you won’t open.

Numbers often work. “Five ways to make potato dumplings exciting” might get read by some foodies. It was David Ogilvy who mastered that school of advertising. “Five ways to…” “How to…” “Why your potato dumplings are uninspiring.” They do work. The problem is they have been so over used that their credibility comes into question as does the question “Says who?”

In one article on writing effective emails, the author pointed out the power of the word ‘you’. Just like in advertising. Write conversationally. Just like in advertising. Don’t be clever. Be smart. Just like in advertising. Pique someone’s interest. Just like in advertising. An email can easily get ignored. Guess what? So can ads. All you have to do is turn the page. Or channel. Don’t automate your email greeting. See my article “Dear Valued Customer” for more on that.

Here’s some good advice on writing effective emails. Don’t sell the product. Sell the benefit. That insight dates back to the dawn of selling. It’s just part of human nature: “What’s in it for me?” Every advertising strategy has a question to be answered: “What is the benefit?” This is not new to email marketing.

The rules and guides to marketing apply across all media. The delivery mechanism is what differs.

The barrier to common sense selling on the internet was driven by the lack of sophistication of search engines. There was a time when we had to write to satisfy the search engine’s capabilities. This often meant putting your key words in your headline, your first line of body copy and copious times after that. The result? Abysmal writing. But thankfully, search engines have become far more sophisticated and elegant to use a computer term. They are getting better and better at analyzing writing the way we humans speak. Even better, they are punishing writers who try to game the system by flooding keywords in every nook and cranny of their unreadable copy.

No matter whether you are creating advertising in traditional media, digital media or both, a simple rule should help you. Don’t talk at me. Talk to me.

It’s great to be human again. Even if we are little digitized.

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