Checklist: Is Your Email Copy Helping or Hurting Conversion Rates? 1

 You probably have measurable conversion goals for your marketing emails. For example: download a white paper, register for a webinar, watch a video, complete a survey, enter to win a contest, and so on.

While email design, graphics, and sending date/time all influence conversion rates, the single most important factor determining success is copy. Your copy carries your message, tone, personality, and style. It announces your call to action. It broadcasts your benefits. Strong copy will increase your conversation rate; weak copy will hurt it. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Here are five ways your copy could be helping your email conversion rates—and five ways it could be hurting them.

Helping
1. Appeal to the interests of your audience.
The first rule of copywriting: Know what your audience wants and give it to them. If you are writing to engineers, focus your copy on their concerns. They are trying to solve problems, improve designs, increase efficiency, find the right components. If you’re writing to executives, you might focus your copy on economic messages and return on investment.

2. Create a sense of urgency.
There’s nothing like the sense of time running out to get people to take action. Phrases such as: Only one week left to register for the webinar; the first 50 respondents get a free sample; the trial period ends in 30 days. You get the idea. It’s easy to put off taking action, unless you give your audience a reason to make a decision quickly.

3. Vary your calls to action.
Even within a single email, you should write your call to action in different ways, whether the words appear on a button or in plain text. That’s because people respond differently to different language suggestions. What works for some may not work for others. For example, here are three different ways to word the call to action for the same offer: Download your complimentary copy; Click here for your white paper; Get the report today. Notice that each of them includes an action verb: download; click; get.

4. Keep your copy short and to the point.
While you don’t want to sacrifice meaning, and of course you’re a great writer, you do want to keep your copy concise and on point. Technical professionals are busy; they will scan your email to pick up important, relevant information. The great mystery writer Elmore Leonard had this advice to writers: leave out the boring parts. You should too.

5. Make the email come from someone.
This tip refers to two things. It’s better to use an individual’s name than a company name in the ‘from’ line of the email, or even something like ‘Brian Jones at Company Name’. But also consider writing the body copy as if it were coming from this individual. This helps you write more personally and conversationally, and helps develop rapport and trust with your audience. Don’t forget a signature at the end.

Hurting
1. Insider language loaded with jargon.
Every industry has its own terms that professionals understand, but you should perform an audience analysis to make sure your reader knows what you’re talking about. Stay away from terms that you use only internally, keep industry jargon to a minimum, and spell out any acronyms you use. An email your reader doesn’t understand is an email quickly headed for the recycling bin.

2. Long blocks of copy.
If any paragraph is more than three or four lines, it’s too long. If any sentence is longer than three lines, it’s too long. Long sentences and paragraphs are visually intimidating and difficult to read. Revise copy into shorter chunks. Use bulleted lists. Add sub-headlines.

3. Sales-oriented copy.
Your audience is looking for useful, educational information that will help them do their jobs better, not a hard sell. If your copy is too sales-oriented and pushes your customers to make a buying decision before they’re ready, you may lose conversions. It’s fine to sell your offer of a white paper or webinar, but do so by promoting benefits. Marketing emails that try to aggressively sell products in the B2B space typically fail.

4. When it’s about you.
“Our company is the first . . . We offer the only . . . Our products are better than . . . We are the market leader in . . .” Guess what? Your audience doesn’t care. Don’t write copy about your company and products. Write copy about how you understand your audience’s needs and can help fulfill them.

5. Mistakes.
Grammar police here. We’re watching and we care. Grammatical and usage errors, misspellings, typos and factual errors not only hurt your conversion rates, they do harm to your company’s reputation. If I can’t trust a company to write clean, mistake-free copy, can I trust them enough to give them my business? Seemingly small errors can have large consequences. Have someone proofread all email copy before you hit the send button.

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