Writing and Sending Marketing Emails that Convert | Tory Burch Foundation

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Writing and Sending Marketing Emails that Convert

Advice for writing and sending emails that convert customers.

Despite buzzy new social media networks frequently popping up, email is still one of the most important tools a small business has to communicate with customers. In fact, for every dollar spent on email marketing, companies earn an average of $42. Joanna Wiebe, CEO and founder of Copyhackers, and Ros Hodgkiss, customer experience programs manager at Campaign Monitor, presented at one of our small business webinars to help our community write and send emails that convert.


According to Wiebe, 81% of subscribers will open a company’s welcome email, making it especially important. This first send affects all other sends. First, you have to make sure that email actually makes it to your customers’ inbox, not the spam folder. To that end, Wiebe recommends three key things.

Use your domain. 

She advised that this first email come directly from an email address connected to your business’ domain instead of an automatically generated address created by your email service provider. A pointer is usually indicated with “via” and something related to your service provider’s website (For example via m.convertkit.com) 

Use a name.

Wiebe stresses for all her clients the importance of sending that email from a person’s name and your company’s name to engender trust and show your customers that there’s a real person on the other end. “As small businesses, you can really gain traction by being human, not this big brand,” she explained.

Start a conversation. 

Welcome emails may have different goals, but Wiebe recommends that they all include a reason for the receiver to reply. “Not only does it give you a chance to listen to your customers, it also lets their inbox know that your emails aren’t spam.” Something as simple as a yes or no question is a great way to start engagement that keeps your emails in the inbox.

As small businesses, you can really gain traction by being human.


When it comes to the actual words that need to go into that email, Wiebe recommends digging into voice of customer (VOC) data. “The absolute best way to write anything, including emails is not to sit around thinking, ‘what should I say? How should I say it?’ Just listen and use your customers’ or your prospects’ words.” 

“It actually makes your life so much easier,” she went on. Interview your customers, listen in on sales calls or look through their reviews of your company to see what they’re talking about and how they’re talking about it. 

Wiebe advised that once a founder or marketer has a sense of the words their customers use, they could then plug them into the PAS framework. PAS stands for problem, agitation and solution, and is a convenient, flexible way to approach storytelling in marketing.


Start your email with a problem you know your prospect is facing. You’ll know what that is based on your customer interviews and other listening.


Raise the stakes and make your customer really feel the frustration of this particular problem. “Now this is the part that most people are scared of,” said Wiebe, because they wonder if they’re making their message too emotional. But that isn’t a concern, because emotions are a key part of the customers’ decision-making.


This third part of the PAS framework is your opportunity to share why and how your product or service offers the customer the solution to their problem.

This is a reliable, flexible guide that you can use over and over again, Wiebe explained. Hodgkiss confirmed it works for both service-based and product-based businesses, though there’s a difference in tone. “I think the one thing that we do see is that the services take a much more personal touch, because it is all about the relationship with the individual in a way that most products can’t really achieve,” she explained. 


Your email’s structure has a big effect on whether your reader is able to digest what you’ve written. Hodgkiss recommends clients organize content in sections, “similar to something like a newspaper” so that recipients can scan for content that interests them. Using buttons instead of in-line links is another formatting tip to catch your readers’ attention. They’re also easier for mobile users to tap. As far as the words to put in that button, Hodgkiss said there’s no ultimate call to action that works every time, but short ones with verbs (for example, “read more”) typically perform well.


Your customers will miss your well-crafted message if the subject line doesn’t jump out at them in their inbox. There are two ways they can work. “I like having subject lines that get people super curious,” said Hodgkiss. “But I really appreciate subject lines that give people an idea for what’s actually in the email.” Refrain from a teasing subject line that’s completely unrelated to the content of the message. Hodgkiss also noted that effective subject lines are short (around five words long) and that emojis can increase open rates as well. 


In our highly visual culture, it’s understandable that it might seem images are more important than words when trying to attract customers. Consider the work you want your images to do; do they communicate something that can’t be said with words? Wiebe offered another way to approach the images-over-words conundrum. ”Are you making your prospect do all sorts of reading that they don’t care about, [so they’re] naturally looking for the image because they’re bored by everything else?” Make sure your words create a picture in your readers’ mind so that they start to care about your content. Wiebe also reminded our audience that there’s no magic word count when it comes to your emails. “They want their lives to be easier. Just show them how you make it easier. If it takes 1,000 words and they’re engaging, because you’re in my head like you get me, then I’ll read every word of it. But if you can do it in 100 words, then cool.” Compelling copy does something that images often don’t. “We have to allow our prospects to be able to read our words, imagine things and have our brand become part of their imagination.”

Of course, images have their place, especially for product-based businesses. Hodgkiss shared that content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content either with irrelevant images or no images. 

Ultimately, engagement (as in the number of clicks or replies an email gets) is a big part of converting subscribers to buyers, but it also affects deliverability. The more time that inboxes see people engaging with emails that come from a particular company and their email service provider, the more that those emails will be delivered.