For years, copywriters have used psychological research as inspiration. After all, knowing how to connect with readers on a deeper emotional level through language is key to effective marketing copy. The same techniques can be applied to email marketing.
You don’t have to be an experienced copywriter to create more compelling emails; simply gaining a few insights from psychology is a great starting point. With this in mind, here are seven techniques to help you write more engaging, persuasive email copy.
Vary your word choice
The proportion of unique words in a text in relation to the total number of words is called lexical diversity. Research by Lawrence Hosman suggested that “high lexical diversity has a positive affect on the persuasion process.” ¹
Simply put, using a greater variety of words makes your messages more interesting, credible, and persuasive. This doesn’t mean you should use complicated language; simply use synonyms for words that occur more than once.
Use sensory words
Produce an emotional response in readers by inserting sensory words into your copy. Research from Emory University showed that words associated with the senses activate different areas of the brain and are more likely to be memorable and impactful ².
Examples of sensory words:
- Sight: gloomy, sparkling, and hazy.
- Sound: cheering, roaring, and fizzing.
- Touch: hot, silky, and bumpy.
- Taste: stale, bland, and juicy.
- Smell: rancid, rank, and fresh.
- Motion: soaring, choppy, and glide.
These types of words help readers form mental images and will add vibrancy to your email subject lines, headlines, and product descriptions.
Use the word “because”
Most people have heard of the 1978 “Copy Machine” study. In summary, when a researcher asked: “May I use the Xerox machine?” only 60 percent of people let them cut in line. When the researcher asked: “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” 93 percent of people let them cut in line ³. When you give people a reason, they’re more likely to be receptive to your message.
For example, “We help small businesses reach more customers online” is a vague statement that is hard to believe. Now look at what happens when you add a reason: “We help small businesses reach more customers online, because our staff have 15 years experience in online marketing and ecommerce website design.” The word “because” and additional information helps to justify the opening statement, making it more believable.
Ask problem-focused questions in subject lines
Psychologically, people want closure after reading a question by finding out the answer. When the question features a recognizable problem, it’s even more powerful. For this reason, try experimenting with problem-focused questions in subject lines. Crucially, the question should play to the fears of your audience. A few examples:
- Are you struggling to find customers online?
- Is your social media strategy damaging your reputation?
- Is your small business ill-prepared for the new Google update?
Once you’ve grabbed their attention, make sure you provide some suitable answers.
Emphasize the problem before anything else
This is related to the previous point, but it’s more about the order of your messaging within emails. Humans instinctively try to avoid pain, so when you remind people of a problem, they’re more likely to seek out the solution. However, to make your message more persuasive, you need to mention the problem early on in your copy, before you show how to resolve it. This builds tension and ultimately makes your content more engaging.
Using second person pronouns also helps readers empathize with your message. So use the words “you” and “your” to make readers imagine themselves in whatever situation you’re describing.
Be ambiguous then promise to clarify soon
Build intrigue by making an ambiguous statement and then promise to elaborate later on in your copy. The ambiguity heightens the need for closure.
For example: “Using a simple online marketing technique, I helped one small business increase its sales by 13 percent last month. Later on in this email, I’ll explain how.” The first sentence sparks curiosity, and the second sentence motivates the reader to continue reading to find out the solution.
Use urgent language next to call-to-action (CTA) buttons
There are various words and phrases you can use to inject a sense of urgency into email copy and tap into people’s FOMO (fear of missing out). For example: “Limited offer,” “Act now,” “Last chance,” or “Soon to expire.” When you place these words next to CTA buttons, it makes CTAs even more seductive. Experiment with your own urgent-sounding messages to encourage subscribers to take action.
Regardless of your type of business, you can use a combination of these copywriting techniques to connect with your audience on a deeper level. If you simply pay more attention to the words you use and the order of your messaging, you can transform a mediocre email into something that is significantly more memorable and persuasive. Next time you’re creating email copy, take advantage of these simple techniques to engage more readers, increase conversions, and support the growth of your business.