How to craft email content people care about

When you meet someone new, do you talk about yourself the whole time? When you have an important meeting, do you throw together a random tank top and ripped jeans?

For most of us, our reputation is important. We take the time to present ourselves in a way that builds credibility and trust. Your email content works exactly the same way!

Every email you send says something about you. If you talk about yourself all the time, people will unsubscribe. If your content looks like it was put together last minute — full of typos or broken links — your reputation will suffer.

The best email marketing content is:

  • Single-minded with one goal 
  • Relevant to its audience 
  • Visually easy to read
  • Defines what the reader needs to do next

The 4 fundamentals of effective email content

You can use email marketing to communicate almost anything. The creative possibilities are endless, but there are some core foundational elements that all great content shares.

Before you even start creating the content, make sure you've thought through these four content best practices.

1. Set one content goal

What are you trying to accomplish with this email? If you don't have a clear end goal, your email content is likely to drift all over the place, leaving your readers overwhelmed, confused or uninterested. 

Whether your goal is to drive traffic, improve customer retention or increase sales, it's important to define it and craft the content to achieve that goal in the most efficient way. 

You can't measure success without establishing a goal ahead of time.

Remember, your audience has to filter through hundreds of emails every day. Keeping your content to one goal with one message will help them digest the main point and act quickly.

2. Define your audience and their needs

The secret to effective content is relevance. But what does that really mean? 

It starts with understanding what your subscribers want and then delivering content that meets their needs. In the same way that your email should have one goal and one message, make sure it's targeted to one distinct audience.

If you have not created audience personas or segmented your subscribers into smaller groups, your email content will not be very effective.

Creating content for smaller groups will increase the relevancy and improve campaign performance.

When you have a single-minded message that resonates with one particular audience, you don't have to worry about being the best copywriter on the planet. You simply need to communicate the value that you are offering.

Learn how to segment your audience into smaller groups.
What is Email List Segmentation and Why You Need it

3. Make it visually appealing

Your message is much easier to read when it’s visually pleasing. Can your readers scan the content quickly to get the overall message?

If a reader opens your email and sees dense paragraphs, they will head for the hills. Try breaking up your text with subheads or using lists.

The goal is for the reader to scan your email to see if it's worth diving deeper. This is even more important for mobile devices where the text is compressed.

Using imagery is also an important element. Not only does it break up your text, but images are powerful ways to communicate. 

When considering images, use visuals that add to or complement the main message.

You’ve probably heard the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. Imagery can quickly tell a story, which is important when people are scanning your content.

4. Tell your readers what to do

The best way to ensure you achieve your goal is to tell your readers exactly what you want them to do. Use direct language and always end your email with a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Make sure the CTA is easy to find, especially for people who scan. CTAs are so important to your email marketing that we dedicated an entire chapter to developing awesome CTAs.

When you build your content around one message, one target audience, and make it easy to read with a clear call-to-action, you are on your way to creating a successful campaign.

Beyond these fundamentals, you still need to write content in a way that engages the reader. Let's take a closer look at some email writing best practices.

How to write content people want to read

When you have something exciting to share, think about how it benefits your subscribers' lives first and write from that perspective.

One trick is to write in the second person, using pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “yours." This instantly puts the focus on your reader. Even if all the content is all about your company, using the second person brings your audience into the story.

When you talk about your product or service, go beyond the features. Focus on the benefits. You need to make it crystal clear what is in it for the reader.

Your value is not in what you offer, but what's in it for your readers.

For example, it's great that mobile phones come with high-end video cameras. But instead of focusing on the type lens or zoom features, share some of the amazing video possibilities that they can experience themselves.

What are you really giving your audience that will enhance their lives?

Be human

Email is personal, yet a lot of email marketing comes across as impersonal and even generic. Craft your emails like you are writing to a friend in a normal, human voice. 

The value and benefits you offer attract people to subscribe, but it's your personality and brand that keeps people coming back. Avoid using business jargon. People read your emails because they like YOU! 

When you be yourself and focus on the relationship, sales will come. If you try to sell before you establish the right rapport, you will fail.

Many people follow the 70/30 rule — 70% of emails should give value and build rapport while 30% can sell. While this could be a good starting point, every audience and brand is different.

Test and optimize based on the performance of your emails. When in doubt, spend more time giving love and be patient with sales.

Keep testing

The hardest part about content is that there is no perfect formula. An approach that worked last week might fall flat in the future. Or you can make a minor tweak and have increase engagement dramatically.

At the end of the day, you need to keep evolving your content to surprise and delight your readers in new ways.

Testing your content is a smart way to optimize the messaging before you send it out to your entire list. 

Try these content hacks to improve engagement

We would be lying if we said there weren't some tricks you can try to improve engagement. Here are our favorite content hacks:

Create a feedback loop.

Asking questions within your content is a good way to get your readers thinking. But an even better hack is to allow them to respond. There are two easy ways to pull this off: ask them to respond directly to your email or provide a survey link.

Heighten the urgency.

Encourage your readers to take an action right away by offering something of value with an expiration date. One fun idea is to add a countdown timer and create a series of emails that lead up to the final deadline.

Use the P.S. line.

When you send an email to a friend, your P.S. line is often the most important point you want them to take away. Your readers' eyes will naturally scan right to a bold P.S. line, so make it a powerful line of copy that achieves your goal.

Avoid the Spam Folder!

Spam filters are always scanning your content. Don't give them a reason to send your emails to the dark void of spam. Avoid using colorful text, exclamation points and spammy phrases like 'This is not spam!” Here's an entire article on avoiding spam filters to reach inboxes.

There are lots of other tricks you can try to improve engagement, just remember to avoid gimmicks that feel like spam. 

A good way to check yourself is to ask: "Would I send this email to a friend?”

You would never send someone you love a spammy email, so it's a great way to keep your marketing content honest.

Content is more than the message

So far we've focused mostly on the text of your content, but that is only one part of crafting killer content. You still need to design it!

Most people will look at your email design and within one second decide to skip it or read it. That's a lot of pressure!

Luckily, we spend the next chapter going through email design tips and examples that will help enhance your message and increase engagement.