5 Reasons Why Email Copywriting Is Harder than You Think—and Why It Matters

Many marketers assume email copywriting is easy. Or they assume it’s like writing any other kind of marketing copy. But they’re wrong. Writing marketing emails is hard, and it’s not like other copywriting.

Why?

Email copywriting differs from other marketing content for these five reasons:

Reason 1: Because you are showing up in someone’s email inbox.
Showing up in their inbox or on their phone is much more personal and direct than other types of marketing, including paid search, social media, direct mail, print advertising or TV commercials. And it therefore puts the burden on you to make the most of this direct connection—through amazing content.

Reason 2: Because they’ve given you permission to reach out to them.
They’ve raised their hand to say “yes, email me.” That means they’ve expressed some kind of interest in what you’re selling. That’s how they got on your email list in the first place, right? They subscribed or signed up. Again, that is not like other forms of marketing, and again, you must make the most of their willingness to be on your email list. You got the permission to email them. Now you must respect them and prove you’re trustworthy by sending excellent content to their inboxes. You owe them that.

Reason 3: Because you face so much competition in the inbox.
Consider the crowded and cluttered inbox: You’re not only competing for attention against your competitors, but against all those other emails going to that one person you’re trying to reach: emails from their co-workers, newsletters they’ve signed up for, emails from their favorite brands, social media notifications, spam, transactional emails for purchases they’ve made, emails from their mom, etc. It’s a crowded inbox and your emails are easily ignored. That’s why your email copywriting has to stand out!

Reason 4: Because people decide in a split second whether or not to bother with your email
…and once it’s gone, it’s gone. They’re walking around looking at their smart phones swiping emails into the Trash folder without really thinking. We call it triaging the inbox for a reason. When your email copywriting engages, you have a stronger chance of staying in the inbox long enough to get noticed, not swiped left.

Reason 5: Because you can’t measure the impression made—if any.
You’ll know if someone opened your email or clicked on a link in it, but what if they didn’t do anything other than see your email in their inbox and then delete it? Did you still make some kind of positive or negative impression with your subject line or preheader text? You don’t know, but you must assume that you did and write your emails accordingly, especially your subject lines and preheader text.

In Fact, Everything About Email Marketing Is Hard
It’s not just the email copywriting part that’s harder than writing other types of blogs, or marketing content. Everything about email marketing is hard if you’re doing it right. Before you get to the copywriting, you have to build a quality list of subscribers and customers who want to hear from you. You have to overcome hurdles and get your emails delivered. Then you have to get them opened.

Once you’ve overcome all of those challenges, you need to get your emails read and acted upon. And that’s where the email copywriting comes in. Because you work really, really hard to get people to that point, and you want them to do something once you get them that far, to make your hard work worthwhile.

Only a Fraction Will Open Your Email So Make the Most of that Fraction
Think about it: No one has a 100% open rate. No one has a 100% click-through rate. We are all of us working with fractions instead. Despite the work it takes to build a quality email list, we will still interest only a fraction of our subscribers in any given email.

Email open rates average around 21%, according to Hubspot (although I’ve seen lower numbers elsewhere). That means all that work you’re doing is just so you can get about one-fifth of the people on your list to open your email. And that’s just the open rate!

To get people to click on a link is yet another challenge for you. Let’s go with Hubspot’s numbers again and say the average click-through rate is 6.82%. Keep in mind that’s 6.82% of the 21% open rate. If you had a list of 10,000 email addresses and a 96% deliverability rate and you got the average open and click-through rates, your results would look like this:

Sent 10,000
Delivered 9,600
Opens 2,016
Click throughs 137.5

Assuming your rates are average, you’d get around 137 of the 10,000 people on your email list to click through. And even then, that’s not a guaranteed sale or conversion, only a click.

That’s why your email copywriting has to be amazing, so you can increase the likelihood of generating results from that handful of people who actually open your emails!

Plus there is another big benefit to excellent email copywriting: People will like getting your emails and will watch for them and be more likely to continue opening them. Create truly engaging emails that are shareworthy and people will forward your emails too.

The fact is, the quality of your email copywriting matters as much as it does because you have to maximize the results you get from your list.

So, how’s your email copywriting? Are you treating it like any other kind of marketing content? Or taking into account the five reasons why it’s so different? Are you making every effort to maximize the revenue possible from the handful of people who will open your email by striving for engaging copy? If not, why not?

Because it could be that taking your email copywriting to the next level will raise your email ROI to the next level too.

(This blog post content is drawn from Intermediate Email Copywriting, Lesson 1.)