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30 Steps for E-Mail Marketing Success

By: Kathleen MacNaugton


This article provides 30 well-described tips for writing effective e-mail copy. When you want to send e-mails or an e-zine that converts casual readers into loyal customers, you need to have strong, compelling copy. Learn these proven techniques.

The response rate for Internet direct mail is typically somewhere between 1 and 20 percent. Your e-mail copy plays a huge role in where your e-marketing message ends up in that range. Here are 30 proven tips for converting the greatest number of e-mail recipients into customers or subscribers.

1. CHOOSE AN EFFECTIVE "FROM" E-MAIL ADDRESS. Some e-marketers think what it says in your "FROM" line is not important. Others think it’s critical. The bottom line is -- EXPERIMENT! If your autoresponder allows you to specify a "FROM" address, try out different ones to see what the effect is on your response rate.

2.USE THE "4 Us" WHEN CREATING YOUR "SUBJECT" LINE. When prospects get your e-mail marketing message, they make a quick decision, usually in a couple of seconds, to open or delete it based largely on the subject line. Strong subject lines are URGENT, UNIQUE, ULTRA-SPECIFIC, & USEFUL. (For more on this topic, send for my f'ree article at It can be a challenge to create a "SUBJECT" line that rates highly in all 4 Us AND that fits in the limited space allowed for display of subject lines in most email programs.But it can be done, if you keep working at it!

3. BE CAREFUL ABOUT USING THE WORD, "FR*EE". It's a proven fact that the word "f^ree" is a powerful response-booster in both traditional direct marketing, and on the Internet. Howevere, many spam filters today eliminate any incoming e-mail messages with F'REE in the subject line.

4. START OFF YOUR E-MAIL MESSAGE COPY WITH A KILLER HEADLINE OR LEAD-IN SENTENCE. You'll want to put a terrific benefit right up front. Use the "4 U's" principle here too.

5. IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, DELIVER A MINI-VERSION OF YOUR COMPLETE MESSAGE. State the offer and provide an immediate response mechanism, such as clicking on a link connected to a Web page. This appeals to Internet prospects with short attention spans.

6. AFTER THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, PRESENT EXPANDED COPY. Your expanded copy should cover the features, benefits, proof, and other information the buyer needs to make a decision. This appeals to the prospect who needs more details than a short paragraph can provide.

7. STATE YOUR OFFER AND PROVIDE A RESPONSE LINK BOTH IN THE BEGINNING AND END OF YOUR MESSAGE.The offer and response link should be repeated in the close of the e-mail too. But when you include them in the very beginning, busy Internet users who don’t have time to read and who give each e-mail only a second or two get the whole story.

8. LIMIT THE NUMBER OF CLICK-THROUGH LINKS IN YOUR E- MAIL TO THREE. 95 percent of click-through responses will come from the first two links. An exception would be an e-newsletter or e-zine that you've broken into five or six short items. In that case, each item is on a different subject, and therefore each has its own link.

9. FORMAT YOUR EMAIL USING A WIDE RIGHT MARGIN. You don't want to have weird word wraps or breaks. Limit yourself to about 55 to 60 characters per line.

10. TAKE IT EASY ON THE ALL-CAPS. You can use words in all caps but do so carefully. They can be a little hard to read -- and in the world of e- mail, all caps give the impression that you're shouting.

11. IN GENERAL, SHORT IS BETTER. E-mail is a unique environment. Readers are quickly sorting through a bunch of messages and aren't disposed to stick with you for a long time. Get to the point as quickly as you can. The key benefits and deal should be communicated in the first screen, or very soon afterward.

12. PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION THROUGH A LINK OR ATTACHMENT. If what you're selling needs longer copy, then write your e-mail as a "pre-sell." Your intent is not to sell with the e- mail. Rather, it is to get your reader to click through to a web page or to download a PDF or Word file with a longer sales pitch that will fully describe the product, its benefits, and your offer.

13. THE TONE IN YOUR WRITING SHOULD BE HELPFUL, FRIENDLY, INFORMATIVE, AND EDUCATIONAL. Avoid promotional or hard-sell copy. Joe Vitale says, "Information is the gold in cyberspace." Trying to sell readers with a traditional hyped-up sales letter won't work. People online want information and lots of it. You'll have to add solid material to make it work online, Refrain from using empty, meaningless phrases. Be specific. And even though information is gold, readers don't want to be bored. They seek, like all of us, excitement. Give it to them.

14. INCLUDE A PROMINENT PRIVACY STATEMENT AND EASY OPT-OUT METHOD TO USE. Doing so can prevent flaming from recipients who feel they have been spammed by stating that your intention is to respect their privacy, and making it easy for them to prevent further promotional e-mails from being sent to them.

15. USE SHORT STATEMENTS THAT TEASE THE READER. Short statements are effective both in your SUBJECT line and in the body copy of your e-mail message. Example: "Advice from Bill Gates" is better than "Bill Gates on Innovation."

16. OFFER A "BRIBE." Offers that contain a "bribe" -- a discount, f*ree gift, buy one and get one fre*e -- work extremely well in e-mail marketing.

17. WEAVE IN A CONTEST OR OFFER OF F^REE MONEY. Fre'e money is a powerful offer and, given the dynamics of online buying and the lifetime value of an Internet customer, it can often be profitable.


19. ENCOURAGE VIRAL MARKETING. Do not make the offer exclusive to the recipient of your e-mail. Encourage the recipient to forward the e-mail -- and the offer -- to as many friends and colleagues as they want.

20. MAKE SURE PEOPLE CAN PURCHASE YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE THROUGH ONLINE METHODS. People on opt-in e-lists overwhelmingly prefer to respond to Internet direct mail online vs. calling a toll- free number or printing out a reply form that has to be faxed or mailed offline. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer those other response options as an alternative. But you should always have a link to a Web-based response form embedded in your e-mail message.

21. MAKE SURE BOTH YOUR E-MAIL AND THE RESPONSE FORM YOU SEND THE READER TO WORK TOGETHER. Most people think of an e-mail marketing campaign as having only one part: the e-mail. But in reality it has two parts: The e-mail the prospect receives, plus the Web-based response form he or she goes to from the link embedded in the message. The headline and copy at the top of the response page should carry the theme of the e-mail and motivate the reader to complete and submit the form.

22. USE YOUR E-MAIL TO GET THE READER TO ACCEPT A F'REE TRIAL. Rather than having to pay a subscription fee up front, hook your reader with an offer of a f^ree trial. This is the "try before you buy" concept, and it can be very powerful. A series of conversion e-mails then gives compelling reasons for the recipient to convert to a paid subscription.

23. PERSONALIZE THE E-MAIL. One way to get your email noticed among all the others in a reader's mailbox is through personalization: adding customized information based on the prospect’s personal data or previous buying habits.

24. MAKE IT EASY TO OPT-OUT OF FUTURE MAILINGS. Always include an opt-out statement that makes it easy for recipients to prevent further promotional e-mails from being sent to them. Example: "We respect your online time and privacy, and pledge not to abuse this medium. If you prefer not to receive further e- mails from us of this type, please reply to this e-mail and type ‘Remove’ in the subject line."

25. LIMIT THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR E-MAILS. When e- mailing to your list, an ideal frequency seems to be twice a month. Make one of these e-mails an informative e-zine (a brief online newsletter); the other can be a special offer or promotion. Space them 2 weeks apart.

26. MAKE SURE YOUR E-ZINE IS MORE INFORMATIONAL THAN PROMOTIONAL. E-zines should be at least 80% news and useful information, with perhaps 20% of the content promotional.

27. ONLY MARKET THROUGH E-MAIL TO PEOPLE WHO "KNOW YOU." This works two ways. First, it's important that you send e-mails only to people who have actually opted in to be on your mailing list. E- mailing to anyone who hasn't opted in is considered spam. Secondly, once you've created an e-mail list, be sure you spend some time just communicating and informing your subscribers before you ever try to blatantly sell them something. Build the trust relationship first, and they'll want to buy from you.

28. GET AND USE TESTIMONIALS FROM SUBSCRIBERS AND THE MEDIA. The best testimonials are specific rather than superlative, and support the key points you are making in your copy.

29. INJECT A LITTLE PERSONALITY INTO ALL OF YOUR E-MAILS. It's a proven fact that people respond more positively to those they like and trust. It's also a fact that e-mail is a rather impersonal communication medium, consisting as it does of mostly words. Still, it IS possible to inject some personality into your copy. Informal -- but not unprofessional or disrespectful -- language will help. Some light humor can disarm defenses. So can sharing your own personal story. Share with your readers how the product you're trying to sell them has helped you personally. Or how you've used the product to build your business.

30. ACCEPT THAT E-MARKETING IS A CONSTANT LEARNING PROCESS. Pay attention to the tips you've read in this article. Incorporate as many as you can in your future e-marketing efforts. But recognize that not every method works in every instance or with every e-mail recipient. You'll find the most success if you pay attention to your response rates, try different things at different times, and embrace the value of trial-and-error. To paraphrase a famous quote, e-mail marketing is a process and a journey, not a destination. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Kathi MacNaughton is a freelance writer and owner of, a web-based tutorial site for new and aspiring web entrepreneurs. Kathi is also the publisher/editor of the Home Biz Reporter, a weekly e-zine filled with proven tips and ideas for succeeding in home business, product reviews, f'ree or inexpensive resources for home-based Internet business people, and more. You can subscribe to Home Biz Reporter by sending a blank e-mail to If you'd like to visit HomeSweetBiz, the URL is ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About the Author

Kathi MacNaughton has been writing for more than two decades, on a wide variety of topics. Currently, she specializes in web content development for her own home Iinternet businesses, as well as for a variety of clients. Check out her flagship home biz tutorial site at Subscribe to the weekly ezine, Home Biz Reporter at





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