Writing Emails That Sell

No matter what people try to tell you when they flog their latest shiny marketing object, email is still far and away the best way to sell stuff.

The money is still in the list.

With that in mind, here are 35 tips to help you earn more from your email marketing…

1. Engagement is all

You know what they say.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

So don’t even try.

Instead, target a specific buying audience that will identify with you and resonate with your message.

2. Ask them what they want

The best emails are a two-way conversation rather than a monologue.

People who engage with you are going to be more loyal to you.

So ask questions, send out surveys and questionnaires.

And listen and act on the feedback you get.

3. From address

What you put in the ‘from’ name can be as important as your subject line.

Especially if you are building your brand.

So use your name, rather than some anonymous business name.

This is about personal communication.

4. Benefit and curiosity

Emails are like mini sales letters.

And the subject line is your headline.

It’s what gets people to open up and read what you have to say.

Just like headlines, great subject lines promise a benefit (what’s in it for them) and create curiosity (so they open the email).

5. Deliver on your subject line

The subject line needs to grab attention and get people to click.

But, once the email is opened, you have to deliver on what you promised.

Otherwise, it’s ‘click bait’ and people will feel tricked.

There goes your credibility.

6. Numbers are good

Just as in headlines, the use of numbers in your subject lines can be very effective.

First, they imply accuracy and, hence, trust.

Second, they usually create curiosity, especially when the number used is either much higher or lower than people would expect.

Of course, the number has to be accurate and relevant or it’s click bait again.

7. Avoid vanity stats

Whilst you may be very pleased with yourself for getting a high open rate and a high click rate on your email links, neither of these stats make you money.

It’s ultimately all about conversions i.e. how many people open, click and then buy.

Sales and income are the only metrics that count in the end.

Some of my emails with the lowest opens and clicks have produced the most profit for me.

8. Unsubscribes are good

When I started email marketing, I took every unsubscribe as a stab in the back.

But the truth is that unsubscribes (in moderation) are good.

If you aren’t getting unsubscribes, you are not pushing hard enough to get those sales.

Again, you are trying to please all the people all of the time and you end up pleasing nobody.

I have almost always found that the more income an email produces, the more unsubscribes I get.

Some people just don’t like being sold too.

Even if you are also delivering great content.


These people were almost certainly never going to buy anything you offer anyway.

9. More is better

The email inbox is a crowded place.

If you only turn up in it once a month, people are going to forget who the heck you are.

So you need to email your list regularly.

Some marketers suggest every day or even several times a day.

I think people just get tired of that level of intrusion and, even if they don’t unsubscribe, switch off from what you have to say.

For me, the happy medium is around 2 or 3 times a week.

10. Be contrarian

Most everybody in the inbox is saying the same sort of stuff.

You can easily stand out if you take the ‘contrarian’ stance.

Challenge the received wisdom.

What are the myths, mistakes and misconceptions that are sabotaging your readers’ results?

Be controversial.

This alone can build you a devoted following from people jaded from the same-old same-old.

(Of course, your stance has to have merit. Don’t just take a contrarian position unless you can support it!)

11. Get personal

People identify with (and buy from) people.

So share your own stories and life lessons.

It could be stories from your childhood, about your family, your pets, or your weekend.

If you can tie the story to something that will help your audience, so much the better.

12. Include your back story

This follows on from above.

Your story shows why you are doing what you are doing.

Your struggle demonstrates that you can empathise with your audience.

All of which makes you a real person that your audience can identify with.

13. Speak in your voice

Be yourself.

Speak as you would with a friend or acquaintance.

Let your personality shine through.

This makes you a real person that other people can relate too.

It also makes you unique, because only you are you.

14. Keep them interested

Your subscribers will lose interest in even the best information if it is presented in a dry, matter of fact, even boring manner.

People have shorter and shorter attention spans and you have to fight to keep them.

Deliver you content with emotion and personality.

Mix in a few stories.

Add a touch of (but not too much) humour.

The aim is to entertain while you educate.

15. Don’t be a wuss

Don’t try to avoid offending anyone anytime.

Good sales content (and that is ultimately what your emails are) works by creating emotional responses.

You simply can’t do that effectively without upsetting some people.

Some people can’t take being offended, but far more actually like it (within reason).

People like to be involved in potential controversy.

It gets the juices flowing.

It also gets you remembered.

And it gets your emails opened.

17. Show your’re human

Are you sitting down, because this may come as a shock…

You’re not perfect.

So don’t try to be.

Most people do not bond well with ‘perfect’ people.

They are intimidated by them.

So share your flaws and failures.

They make you human and someone others can relate to.

18. Don’t give them the whole story

One of the keys to effective selling is the concept of ‘useful but incomplete’.

In other words, your free content delivers real value and helps your subscribers.

However, it does not give them the whole story.

To get that, they have to pay to unlock more content or to get your product.

Another way of looking at it is that you give them the ‘what’ but not the ‘how’.

19. Keep it simple

Less is more.

Use plain text or a very simple HTML design for your emails.

Simple email formats have more of a personal feel to them and help you build rapport.

‘Glossy’ or ‘fussy’ designs can look too professional or too ‘corporate’ and that can alienate some people.

In addition, there is no certainty as to how more elaborate designs will show in the myriad of platforms and devices people will be using to read your emails.

20. Make it quick to digest

Everyone is more and more busy these days and not everyone will have the time (or inclination) to read through masses of content.

Bear this in mind when writing your emails.

Use short, snappy sentences and short, snappy paragraphs that can be digested quickly by the reader.

Summarise what people will learn in the very beginning of the email so they know whether to read it in full or not.

21. Use white space

This follows on from the previous point.

‘White space’ is the spacing between your blocks of text.

Don’t be afraid to use double or treble line spacing to draw attention to key parts of your emails, such as ‘headlines’, key bullet points and links you want people to click.

This also makes your emails look easier to digest and, hence, more inviting to read.

22. Create images in your reader’s minds

Good sales copy paints pictures with words.

It triggers emotional responses in your readers.

And people buy on emotion and later justify the decision with logic.

So talk about feelings.

Use descriptions that will bring your stories to life.

What did you experience? How did it make you feel?

Use metaphors and similes rather than bland descriptions.

23. Don’t over-think

Too many marketers spend ages writing, re-writing and tweaking their emails to make them ‘perfect’.

The result is something that doesn’t appear personal.

You want to come across as a real person.

Real people don’t talk like they are reading from a book.

To make your content appear conversational, write it naturally and quickly.

Yes, proof-read to correct spelling and grammar issues, but avoid the temptation to re-write things.

Write fast.

Proof-read once,

Then hit send.

24. Speak to one person

You want to make your emails read like they were written solely for the person reading them.

Imagine you are sitting down in a coffee shop and having a normal conversation with just one person.

People will relate to you far more if they feel you are talking to them directly.

25. Don’t dally

People will not continue to read your emails if they don’t get hooked right from the start.

So start with a punch.

Make a controversial statement or dive into an intriguing story or make an amazing offer.

Remember that the main purpose of every line in your email is to get people to read the next line.

26. Don’t be afraid to sell

You are in business.

You are promoting a product or service that will bring real value to your subscribers.

(If not, you need to radically re-think your business model.)

So be excited about what you are offering and what it can do for people.

28. Have the result in mind

Never write an email unless you clearly know what end result you want to achieve.

In other words, don’t just write emails because you think you have to ‘stay in touch’ with your list.

If you are providing content, make it valuable content.

If you are selling something, sell it.

Emails without a clear goal in mind will come across as waffle and people don’t like waffle.

29. Use empathy

If you are trying to solve a problem for your subscribers, it will always help if you have experienced (and solved) that same problem yourself.

Show that you understand and shared the pain and struggle your readers are going through.

Even if you haven’t experienced the issue, you can still talk about the problems in terms they will relate to.

If possible, talk about how a friend or family member who suffered the same issues until you helped them with a resolution.

30. Purge unnecessary words

Don’t pad out your emails with words that add nothing to the message your are delivering.

Remember that you want your emails to be punchy and easy to digest.

For example, I find that I use the word ‘actually’ almost as punctuation.

So I go through my first draft and delete pretty much every occurrence of it.

31. Use the ‘you’ word

Everybody is looking for ‘what’s in it for me’.

So, even if you are telling your own story, use every opportunity to involve the reader.

Ask them whether they have experienced the same issues and feelings as you have.

Read through your emails and try to include a ‘you’ for every instance of ‘I’.

This will draw the reader in and make them more responsive to what you are saying.

32. Always test your links

This is so obvious but so many marketers don’t do it.

You can have the best email ever in terms of engagement but it will all be for nothing if the link you send people too doesn’t work.

33. Always have a Call To Action (CTA)

Occasionally, you will write a pure content email that has no purpose other than to engage with your audience and deliver valuable content.

However, you are in the business of making money.

So most of your emails will want people to take some specific action, such as visit your blog or a sales page.

Be very, very clear what it is you want people to do.

If you want them to click on a link, command them to do it… “Click on this link now”.

This is also about ‘training’ your readers to click on your links, so it comes naturally to them.

Consider adding urgency to the CTA by using a deadline or limited quantities. This has a huge effect on sales.

35. Ram it home

Some of your readers will be ‘sold’ on what you have to offer quickly.

Others will take more persuading.

Cater for all of them by having a link near the start or your email, another around the middle and one at the end.

Also, try to match the anchor text of at least one of the links to your subject line.

36. Over-deliver

OK. I said there were 35 tips.

Number 36 is, appropriately, over-deliver.

In other words, always try to give your subscribers and customers more than they were expecting.

For example, if you promised ’35 Tips’, give them 36 or more.

If you promised them a set of bonuses for buying an affiliate product through your link, throw in an extra unannounced one.

Always over-delivering will leave your audience with the perception that you are going that extra mile for them and that builds huge loyalty.

Over to You

I hope you have found these tips useful and that you will start using them in your email campaigns.

Do so and I am sure you will start seeing much improved results.

Moreover, you will be building a sustainable – and very profitable – long-term business.

2 thoughts on “Writing Emails That Sell

  1. I sent you an email a week ago to tell you that you have bad links at the bottom of all your posts and pages. I wanted to make sure you got it because I see the links are still there.

    1. Hello Donna. Sorry, I somehow missed your email. Thanks very much for alerting me to the problem. I have now resolved it (I hope).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.