Email Marketing: How to Write Emails that Get Results

At the heart of your email marketing is the email copy. You can have a strong marketing strategy and compelling subject lines but in order to get click-throughs and convert readers into buyers, your emails need to be persuasive and engaging.

If you missed the previous posts in this email marketing series about email strategy and subject lines, take a moment to check them out.

Here’s the bottom line:

Good emails get opened, read (or at least skimmed) and may even get the reader to act on the email’s offer.

Bad emails get ignored, deleted, or worse – annoy the reader and cause them to unsubscribe, reducing your chance of converting them through your email marketing to ZERO.

So what makes a good email?

How to Write Emails that Get Results (2)

First, let’s look at the structure of an email:

  1. Subject Line

  2. Headline

  3. Body Copy

  4. Call-to-Action

Each part of your email should encourage the recipient to read on to the next part.

Let’s break it down.

Subject Line

Your subject line, which we covered in last week’s post, should communicate a clear value to the recipient for opening the email. What’s in it for them?


Congratulations, you got the recipient to open your email! Now your headline needs to get them to read (or at least skim the rest of the email. Your headline – if you chose to use one – should be clear, persuasive and, if possible, create a sense of urgency. In other words, why should they read your email now instead of later?

Body Copy

Most of us get bombarded with dozens of marketing emails every single day – yours needs to stand out above the noise. When writing the body of your email, keep it conversational in tone while still being persuasive.

I recently unsubscribed from an email newsletter that initially sounded like it would provide valuable information that would help me grow my business. It didn’t take me long to discover that these emails were nothing more than repeated and blatant attempts at selling me on a service with no valuable information to be had – only attempts to get my money. After two and a half weeks of almost daily emails  – I was exhausted and annoyed! It’s safe to say that business will never get my money. Readers will ignore or delete emails that are sales-y or sound like spam.

The body of your email should be persuasive, not pushy. Avoid hype and exaggeration to instead focus on the benefit to the recipient.

Keep your writing crisp, conversational, and concise and your subscribers will keep coming back for more.


The call-to-action is the piece of your email that gets the reader to act on your offer. This could be a link to download a white paper, sign up for a seminar or buy your product. In order to be effective, the call-to-action needs to be motivating.

There are two common problems with the call-to-action in email marketing:

  1. The call-to-action is so buried in the copy, it’s easy to miss. Don’t make this mistake!
  2. There are too many calls-to-action for different things. Competing offers can ultimately confuse the reader or make them decide to opt-out altogether.

Make sure your link or call-to-action is clear and visible to make it simple for the reader to find, click and buy.

Before you hit send, here are some other things to consider when putting together your marketing emails:

Are your emails well-formatted?

Long paragraphs may appear daunting to the recipient and stop them before they even start reading.

Consider the reader on the receiving end of your email. How likely are they to be reading your email on a mobile device? Don’t underestimate the importance of paragraphs breaks and large, easy-t0-read fonts.

Structure your emails so that they are easy on the eyes to encourage readers to jump right in and start reading.

Are they interesting and informative?

This seems like a no-brainer, but if your messages don’t have practical or useful content, recipients will eventually unsubscribe. Staying in touch is important, but sending emails just for the sake of it isn’t an effective way to build relationships with your customers.


The benefits of email marketing are endless. Consistent, quality marketing emails are a great way to stay in touch with your clients to build lasting relationships and boost sales.


We hope you have enjoyed this series of posts about email marketing. If you’re ready to get results from your emails, contact me today to get started!


Email Marketing: Characteristics of Effective Subject Lines

If you read last week’s post, you know the importance of email marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy. But how do you write emails that will get opened?

A great subject line is the first step to grabbing your subscribers’ interest and getting your email opened. Subject lines are the number one determinant of email open rates.

When dozens of messages flood your inbox every day, there just isn’t enough time in the day to read them all. If you’re like me, a quick scan is all it takes to decide whether each email will be opened or ignored.

Today, we’re going to look at characteristics of effective subject lines.

Characteristics of Effective Subject Lines

Strong subject lines are:


It is tempting to cram a ton of information and key words into the subject line of your email. Resist the urge to ramble on and instead, keep it short and sweet.

If your subject lines are 10 or 15 words long your open rates will plummet. They’ll not only cause the recipient to lose interest, your words may get cut off!

A quick look in my own inbox shows me a perfect example of a subject line that’s too long:

Clearance & Closeout. Up to 50% off. These deals set the bar high + your 20% off is…

That’s almost a paragraph!

Which brings us to the next characteristics of strong subject lines…


Another problem with the example above is that it is trying to accomplish too much. Remember that old adage that when you highlight everything you’ve highlighted nothing? The same rule applies here.

Don’t try to squeeze three or four benefits or messages into a single subject line. Stick to one message in your subject line. The body of your email may promote an upcoming event and also mention a free download that’s available – your subject line should concentrate only on the initiative at hand, not every offer your company currently has available.


Give your subscribers an incentive to open the email. Emails that will help the reader solve a problem or achieve a goal, or that contain a great offer too good to pass up are great motivators to get the email opened – your subject line will set the tone.

A few quick tips for writing motivating subject lines:

  • Avoid subject lines that are vague. Generic gets stale quickly. Weekly  Update from X Company. There’s nothing about that sentence that makes me want to read further.
  • Be motivating, not pushy. Subject lines that sound like they just want money are a quick way to get your message disregarded altogether.
  • Include a trigger event or deadline. Create a sense of urgency.

Here’s a quick test to test the effectiveness of your subject line: Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes – would you open it if you were them? If the answer is no, you haven’t found the best subject line yet.


There is a perception that good writing needs to be clever in order to generate interest. The truth is, if you’re trying too hard to be mysterious or cute, you may ultimately end up confusing your subscribers rather than generating curiosity.

A clear, well-written subject line is more likely to get opened. Why bother to open an email when it isn’t even clear what the email is about? The recipient is probably just going to move on.

TIP: The best subject lines have an originality about them. In other words, they’re not the same boring subject lines you see in every other email. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative while keeping your message clear and focused.

How should you get started writing strong subject lines for your emails? When crafting your subject line, don’t just  go with the first one that comes to mind. Brainstorm a long list of ideas – fill up a whole page. Then narrow them down by measuring them against these key characteristics.


What strategies work for you when crafting subject lines?

Next week, we’ll get to the meat of your email marketing – the body. Check back next week for tips on writing persuasive marketing emails.

If you need strong subject lines to improve your email open rates, contact me today to see how I can help!

Email Marketing: Get started sending effective emails

There’s more to email marketing than blasting out messages to your list and hoping for the best. Like any marketing effort, your emails should have a strategy.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some best practices you can implement in your email marketing.

If you’re a business owner looking to generate sales, an author promoting a book, or a marketing director trying to cultivate customer relationships, read on to learn how to get started using email marketing effectively.

If you’ve already started a campaign, keep reading. These strategies will help you at any point in your email marketing and may help to uncover why you aren’t getting the results you had hoped for.

First, why send emails? There’s no denying that email marketing is a powerful tool.

Email marketing is a great way to:

  1. Generate and follow up on leads
  2. Build relationships with prospective buyers
  3. Build customer/reader loyalty
  4. Upsell and cross-sell existing customers
  5. Generate direct sales

But your emails won’t generate any sales or leads if they aren’t being read.

Get started using Email Marketing (1)


Here are a few things to consider before beginning a campaign:

Where does email fit into your marketing strategy?

Email marketing does not work in isolation – it should be part of an overall plan or campaign. Just as with any other marketing communications, your emails should be tied to your current initiatives.

First, determine where the emails fall in the sales process – before the sale, follow up to the sale? Then consider, how does this email marketing piece move the prospective buyer to the next step in the sales process, and how are we following-up?

Integrate your messages as part of your overall marketing strategy so that it works with your other marketing efforts and you’ll see better results.

How often will emails be sent?

Too often and you could be annoying your readers. Not often enough and you aren’t maintaining their interest from one email to the next.

There’s no hard and fast rule that dictates exactly how often emails should be sent. Simply increasing the send frequency won’t necessarily boost engagement. It depends on the audience – your subscribers might not mind hearing from your more often if the emails they are receiving from you are valuable. Get to know your subscribers and know what works for them.

Determine how frequently your emails will be sent and stay consistent so that your subscribers can expect how often they’ll hear from you.

How strong is your email list?

The quality of your emails is hardly relevant if you’re sending them to a poorly targeted list. If your subscriber list is old and outdated or has a high bounce rate, your messages may be falling on deaf ears.

A good list is permission-based and organic. In other words, you want your messages to be received by people who want to hear from you. Work toward building your list organically rather than purchasing giant lists of emails.


Now that you’ve analyzed your overall email marketing strategy, the frequency of emails and you’re working toward building a quality list, it’s time to concentrate on getting your emails opened…

Next week’s post will focus solely on solid subject lines. Subscribe now so you don’t miss out!

If your email marketing isn’t getting you results, contact me to discuss your email strategy.

Every new writer’s fear: Reading to an empty room

I don’t know anyone who loves public speaking. Just thinking about standing in front of a crowd to speak is enough to make my  palms sweat, let alone the thought of reading from my own work!

As a fiction writer, I have daydreamed about the day I get a book published. I have pictured seeing it on store shelves, and  I’ve imagined picking up my book and seeing my name on the cover. What a feeling! It’s every writer’s dream.

With a book deal, of course, comes promotion and promotion usually means readings. That’s right, reading, out loud, in public!

Which leads us to every new writer’s fear: reading to an empty room when no one shows for your event.

mic and audience

I’ve been to several author readings some which have been well attended and some that were, well, not.

At one reading, my friend and I were among four or five people in attendance in the basement of a local bookstore. I remember, not only feeling a little bad for the author but fearing the same thing could happen to me one day.

I recently read an absorbing article in which an author described his experience when no one showed for a reading for his recently published book.

He describes his moment of panic just as the event is supposed to begin, where he considers his options which include drowning himself in the bathroom toilets or fleeing.

The author does neither and instead, reads to the small crowd in the bookstore and even signs a book for one remaining audience member.


The truth of it is, this could happen to any of us, writers, speakers, presenters, comedians, performers.

The author of this article admits that he didn’t tell anyone about the reading beforehand: “I’d posted something about it on Facebook, but that was about the equivalent of shouting the date and time of my reading out my open car window on I-95 in a rainstorm.”

Of course, in retrospect, he could have done more to promote the reading. He could have personally invited friends and co-workers since the reading took place in his hometown. He could have made calls, sent emails and even contacted local media.

But there are also a few things he could have done that night. He could have worked the store and introduced himself to the casual book browsers. He could have taken a slightly more assertive approach and put his book in people’s hands and invited them to sit and listen.

So what is a writer/presenter/performer to do when no one shows up for their reading/presentation/show?

Do what the author of this story did – make the most of it.

He read his book anyway. He caught the attention of students in the cafe and employees of the bookstore. This may not have gotten him any more sales, but it did get him one Twitter follower.

You can read his story here.


Writers, what would you do if no one showed up for your reading? Has this happened to you? How did you handle it?



5 Reasons to Hire a Freelance Writer

If you own or manage a business, chances are, you wear many hats. Marketing is an important part of generating and maintaining business that can fall by the wayside when things get busy and other projects take priority.

Even if your company has an in-house marketing person or team, your staff may be juggling multiple projects while managing their emails, attending meetings and other day-to-day tasks.

As a freelance writer, I offer my services to businesses large and small, creating content for their blogs, email campaigns, and other marketing materials.

Why hire a freelance writer?

There are many advantages to outsourcing your writing projects. Here are a few reasons why partnering with a freelancer is a smart business decision.

5 Reasons WhyHiring a Freelance WriterIs ASmart Business Decision

  1. Affordability – As your business grows, you may need help taking on tasks. One of the biggest benefits of working with a writer on a freelance basis is, you only pay for the services you need when you need them. If you don’t have the budget for an in-house writer, working with a freelancer is a cost-effective option.
  2. Flexibility –  A freelancer can help out on a single project or on an ongoing basis, acting as an extended member of your marketing/communications team without the commitment of a full-time salary and benefits.
  3. Time Savings  – Time is something that many businesses owners and busy marketing directors may not have much of to spare. If you need to market your business but don’t have the time to dedicate to quality writing, a freelancer can  handle projects for you, freeing you and your team members up to focus on other tasks.
  4. Quality and Creativity – Anyone can write, right? Not so. Good writing is about more than just sounding good. A good writer is an expert at crafting effective messages that also get results for you. Marketing writing requires creativity and strategic thinking, which a professional writer can provide.
  5. Fresh Perspective – An “outsider” may approach a project with a fresh perspective compared to in-house staff. A freelancer brings diverse experience that they can draw on, offering new insights into your marketing plan.

A freelance writer can help your business by offering their expertise to make your company and your brand look good.


Is your business in need of a reliable freelance writer to help with marketing projects? Visit my website to find out how I can help! 

You Have to Jump

I recently saw this motivational video from Steve Harvey about “jumping.”

In it, he says that in order to truly live rather than just exist, at some point, you have to “jump.” We have to make that leap of faith by jumping off the cliff and pursuing the life we’ve always dreamed of. We can spend our whole lives standing on the edge of that cliff and playing it safe but we’ll never know what life has in store for us.

Well, I’m jumping.

Writing has always been my passion – I felt it was high time I did something for a living that I truly excelled at and enjoyed. With that in mind, I’m excited about a new direction I’m taking.

I’m pursuing a full-time career as a freelance writer. After more than five years writing feature stories for magazines and newspapers, I’m expanding my freelance writing endeavors into “commercial” writing. What is commercial writing, you ask? It includes pretty much anything a company would have to create in the course of doing business: blogs, marketing brochures,  newsletters, email campaigns, website content, press releases, case studies, and a lot more.

I’m ready to make a living doing what I love and what I’m good at – meeting people and telling stories, whether that be through feature stories in magazines, company newsletters, marketing brochures or blogs.


It may not be easy, but I’ll never know until I go for it.


Let’s hear from you!  Tell us about a time that you “jumped.” What happened? What obstacles did you overcome along the way? And what advice do you have for other “jumpers,” who are taking that leap?


Beginning, Middle, and End

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most of us were taught this basic principle back in our early school years when we first began reading and writing. This concept carried over to middle and high school where every essay had an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

This straightforward idea can occasionally turn out to be more of a challenge than we initially imagine. The early stages of crafting a story typically start with brainstorming and research. We read background materials, gather facts and data. We may do an interview or several interviews with different people. Somewhere in that process, an angle (or in academia, a thesis) is formed. Then the work of constructing the story begins.

But what happens when the starting point of the story isn’t clear? Once we’ve gathered all of the information, where do we begin? The first struggle is often determining where to begin to tell the story we’re trying to share. Do we tell it chronologically? Do we start with an interesting tidbit to grab the reader’s attention and branch off from there? And then, what’s next? How do we wrap this story up in a logical and interesting place?

I had this challenge recently when writing a feature article. I had done my research and the interview, and gathered my notes. But I wasn’t sure where to begin. I knew what I wanted to say I just didn’t know how to say it.

I had the whole story written and yet it wasn’t finished. It was like having a bunch of puzzle pieces – they’re all part of one big picture. It’s about discovering which ones fit together. There are many different approaches and finding the right one isn’t always easy.

I tried cutting and pasting, reordering paragraphs and just couldn’t find a sequence that felt right. Finally, I had to take the story off the Word document and onto a different format where I could work it out.

This is what my living room floor looked like.


I created a 3×5 index card to correspond with each paragraph of my story by jotting down a few words about each paragraph on a card and laid them all out in front of me. I moved the cards around, playing with the pieces of the puzzle. After reordering them a few times, I changed my typed-up document to reflect the new sequence. When that didn’t work, I tried it again.

Until finally, I found the right fit. This exercise helped me see the story in a different way.

There isn’t any one “right” way of putting a story together. There’s something to be said for laying a story out in another visual format besides one long document on a screen. It helped me see it in another way and find a beginning, a middle, and an end that worked.


Have you ever had this problem when trying to tell a story? What technique helped you?

Understanding Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month and while most of us know about autism or have heard many of us aren’t very clear about what the phrase “on the spectrum” really means.

I recently took on the task of writing a feature article in honor of Autism Awareness Month for the April edition of my local neighborhood magazine.

As a writer, I’m sometimes assigned to write a story on a topic I know next to nothing about. While it can be intimidating to tackle an unfamiliar subject, I enjoy the research and discovery process. The real task is putting together the information I have gathered in an interesting way that will educate readers.

I knew very little about autism when I took on this story. I began conducting research and interviewed the Marketing and Development Director of a non-profit in Rochester, NY called AutismUp that offers support for families dealing with an autism diagnosis.


I learned that autism is as a complex disorder of brain development that affects the way an individual perceives the world. It usually involves communication challenges that make social interaction difficult and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. Symptons can can range from social challenges to delay in motor skills and unusual responses to sensory input. Because the symptoms and severity of autism vary widely, each individual with autism has different challenges, strengths and needs.

As the symptoms of autism vary, so do the paths for treatment, which is often tailored to address the needs of each individual. I learned that nearly all children and adults with autism benefit from therapies that can reduce their symptoms and increase their skills and abilities.

The real discovery I made and what I hope readers will take away is that a “cure” for autism isn’t what is needed. What is essential is understanding and acceptance.

No matter the subject, I always write with the intention to inform, engage and perhaps even inspire readers. I was glad to write this story, and I hope it helps others in the community to better understand autism.

Feel free to check out an online portfolio of my stories, here.

Books for Writers: Writing Down the Bones

Whenever I face a writing roadblock, I turn to my bookshelf for help. Most recently, in an attempt to overcome my self-doubt, I went to my bookshelf and pulled down Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. There are a lot of things I can share about this book, but I will focus on the things that were most helpful for me.

Goldberg emphasizes writing as a practice, one that we should live out daily. She attunes daily writing to a runner who warms up before a race: just as a runner must stretch and warm the muscles, the writer must stretch and warm up the voice. It’s part of what Goldberg calls “composting.”

“Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories.”

Writing down our observations, thoughts and memories is what leads us to our poems, our short stories, our settings, our characters. Not all of what we write will be good or usable but that’s why it is practice. Write about everything, write whatever moves you to put pen to paper. This is one bit of inspiration I am trying to incorporate into my writing life.

Another great takeaway from Writing Down the Bones is the importance of detail. Details breathe life into our stories. Goldberg says to be specific: “Give things the dignity of their names.” Details bring us into the present, into the moment. Plus, she adds, “Tossing in the color of the sky at the right moment lets the piece breathe a little more.” She goes on to say, “It is important to say the names of who we are, the places we have lived, and to write the details of our lives. …We have lived; our moments are important. This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history, to care about the orange booths in the coffee shop in Owatonna.”
The short chapters in Writing Down the Bones can be read sequentially or not, as they all stand alone so that you can open to any chapter and read it if you wish.

If you are feeling stuck, unsure of yourself or uninspired, open to any chapter that is of interest to you. You are sure to find inspiration within this book’s pages.


My all-time favorite book on writing is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. You can read my post about it here.

Writers, what books have been most helpful to you?

Author Visit: Sonja Livingston

In my home city of Rochester, New York, we are fortunate to have an amazing literary non-profit called Writers and Books. Just the name of it sounds magical to a fiction writer and bookworm like me!

In addition to offering writing classes and workshops to kids and adults, the center hosts readings and talks by visiting and regional authors. Amazing, right? One of the programs they offer is called, If All of Rochester Reads the Same Book. Each year, Writers and Books selects a book for the Rochester Reads program, then hosts a series of events around that book. I’m in favor of any program that gets an entire community excited about reading!

This year’s pick for Rochester Reads was Sonja Livingston’s collection of personal essays, Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses. I became a fan of Sonja Livingston after reading her first book, Ghostbread in which she shares stories of living in poverty as one of seven children with nearly as many fathers. She writes in honest but not overly flowery language in a way that doesn’t seek pity, it merely asks to be heard and understood.

When I learned that the Rochester native was going to be in town, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity to meet her.

There were several events held around town leading up to her visit and multiple readings during her stay in Rochester. I attended a reading at the local library and found myself in awe of how down-to-earth this talented writer was as she stood at a podium in front of a room full of people talking about her life and her work.

Sonja Livingston

One of my favorite moments came during the Q&A portion of the evening when Sonja was asked about her writing process. The part of the question that interested me most was, “How do you know when you’re done?”

As a writer, this is something I often struggle with – at what point do the revisions end? I was eager to hear Sonja’s answer. She responded that, even as she read to us from her published collection of essays, she still found spots that she would like to edit.

She went on to say that she gets each piece to a point that she feels good about it. It was reassuring to hear that even a published writer doesn’t always get to the point where they feel their work is perfect. Later in the evening, she talked about how she might do as many as fifteen complete revisions on one single essay – but that she loves it.

I was fortunate enough to have my book signed and to talk briefly with Sonja. It is such a privilege to meet a writer whose work I so admire.  I’m excited to add Ghostbread to my collection of signed books on my shelf.

Livingston just released another collection, Ladies Night at the Dreamland. I look forward to reading this collection as well.

Have you attended an author talk? What was your experience like?