Email illustration

EDMs or Electronic Direct Mail can be one of the most cost-effective ways for small businesses to reach their customers, so it’s well worth learning how to write email copy for all the different tasks you want to achieve. For a copywriter this is a great opportunity. This is very different copy to a brand ad or a Facebook post as it is one of the only times you customer has asked to hear from you.

Direct sales, developing leads, sale funnels and brand loyalty schemes are all serviced by an email list. Find out how much you can achieve with email.

Why do they work so well?

Less waste. With email, you know you’re talking to someone who is interested in your business. After all, they’ve given you their address. From your data you might know what they’ve bought from you, what they’re interested in and even when they like to read your emails. If you know that, they’re more likely to open the email and you can make sure whatever they read is relevant to them. This is a one-to-one conversation, you can make it personal and make them an offer they are more likely to listen to.

What to write about?

EDMs are broadly used in two different ways. You either use them for promotional messages or to strengthen your brand relationship. Use them to send out promotional offers, launch new products, share news about you or your industry or maybe you have a great story to tell that’s going to help your customer. Send automated emails with a welcome message or confirm a purchase, celebrate an anniversary – anything that makes them feel well-looked after, solves a problem or delivers better value.

How to write email copy? Start with a name.

Always personalise your emails if you can. If I’m walking down the street and someone shouts “Hey you!” I might turn around but if someone shouts “Hey Steve,” they’ve got my attentions straight away. Any personalised offers are going to be more persuasive.  If you’re using data from your website you will know what they like, how often they shop and can make recommendations or give discounts on items they have viewed to help convert a sale.

Pick a style

The email is your brand voice. You have to write how your brand is perceived. Is it cheerful or strictly business, liberal or conservative? Whatever it is, be consistent with your tone-of-voice. Now if that is getting out of your writing comfort zone, just try to be you. Imagine you’re talking to a mate, or your mum or dad – record that into your phone and then write it down. Your writing will be much friendlier and feel like a real person is conversing with the customer rather than a machine.

Don't use jargon

It might feel like second nature to you but industry specific terms will sound like a foreign language to your customer. If they don’t understand it, they’ll stop reading. Use plain English and it will be more engaging. Okay, so what kind of emails can your send?

How to generate calls?

How to write emails that generate calls? Dangle a carrot in front of them, something your customer might want. Keep it short and get to the offer as quickly as you can. You need a hook, an incentive because you want them to do something, to take action. So, what will make them pick up the phone? It could be a free quote if you’re offering a service. A free sample or trial or cut-price offer. This is much more effective if your customer feels as though they’ve been singled out, that they are special in some way. Tell them why they’ve been chosen – is it because they’re a loyal customer, or maybe it’s an anniversary, or their birthday? Let them know they are important. Finish with a call to action, “Call now” or “Phone us on 123 123”. If you want to add a sense of urgency, make it time sensitive.

Launch a new product or promotion

The beautiful thing about an email is that you can also add photos and links. Fantastic when you want to show something new. A photo will bring some visual excitement, show your customer what to look for and a link can help you close a sale. The link might be a review or a customer endorsement. It can be a training video or just a short cut to your online shop. You can add links to anywhere on the internet that will help you sell your products. Make sure your link copy prompts the customer to click. “Find out more here” or “Find out what our customers think.

How to entice a customer back?

Your customer loves what you do but they’ve had their head turned by a competitor, or they’ve just wanted to try something different, or they just might have forgotten you exist. It happens. It might just take a little prod to get them back. “Hey, we haven’t heard from you in a while, here’s a coupon with 10% off your next purchase.” Recognise that they’ve been missed and then give them an opportunity to get re-acquainted. That can be an offer or just show things that your company has done or achieved that they might have missed.


Do you leave yourself post-it notes on the fridge, “Remember to buy milk!”? It’s a helpful prompt. You are doing your customer a favour if you know how long, on average, your product lasts and when they last bought it. If they’re just about to run out and get a friendly reminder, they’re going to thank you for it.

Brownie points for your brand

Sharing is caring. Information you can share with your customer that helps them in some way will help your brand appeal. Everyone likes someone who does things without being asked; it’s the same for your brand. This is more a newsletter type email. It could show things that you have done to give inspiration to your customer or a trouble-shooting guide, tips and advice or a case study to show real life examples of your product or service in action. All these are much harder to write, just because they are going to be longer emails and might have to convey a story. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Like everything else, make it as simple as you can. Before you write the email, bullet point what you want to say, it doesn’t matter if you add things when you start to write but it will give you a structure. Knowing how to start and knowing how to finish will make it much easier to complete.

Write a case study - social proof

A good case study builds trust between you and your customers. It’s real, a tangible example of how a product or service you make has helped a real person. It can be very persuasive. They take a bit more effort to write but well worth it.

Within an email, a case study will be more like an overview as it should not be more than two or three paragraphs long. This can be a precis of a longer piece that you have on your website and you can link to that story with a “read more…” link.

Finding the stories is probably the hardest part. Talk to your regular customers or run a competition on your website to find good examples. It is then best to interview the person that used your product or service. This will give you the ammunition you need to write your case study. Ask a lot of questions – what, why, where and when. Find out what was their need. What drove them to pick your company? How was your product used, what was the impact, were there any issues? Did it save them money, make them more productive, more beautiful or more confident? It is the human story that is interesting. Record the interview on your phone, take some pictures and then write it up.

A call to action

Everything you write in the email should have a purpose. Ask yourself, what do you want the customer to do? This will determine what your call to action is at the end of the email. Call now. Find out more. Take a test drive. Get a quote. Book now. Subscribe. Indulge yourself. Buy now.

Writing tips

Keep it short. You may want to put a million things in there but people will not read it. This is especially true for mobile and you want to keep your email copy mobile friendly because about 45% of our emails we read on our phones. But we will only scroll so much. Focus on one or two things to say and say it well.

When you write, picture a person that you want to talk to, it doesn’t have to be a customer but someone you know. Now imagine sitting with them to have a coffee to have a chat about your email. What would you say to them? Write like you talk. This will make your writing much more personal and readable.

Make your sentences short. It will make the copy much easier to read. It will force you to put only one thought into a sentence. This is a good thing as it will make it easier to understand. People skim read, so short sentences work harder. For that reason, you should also break up your paragraphs with subheads. It breaks up huge blocks of copy and lets people see what you want to say in a glance.

Write like you speak

Once you’ve written a draft, read it out loud. You will quickly pick up any grammar mistakes and you’ll know if it is too long or sounds too stiff. Professional copywriters will play with words and try to entertain. But it is much better to be clear first and then entertain afterwards. Use a conversational tone as this is a one-to-one conversation.

Use your spell checker to pick up mistakes but don’t trust it to catch everything. Print it out and check it line by line. I was taught to read my copy from front to back and then back to front. This stops you from reading on automatic. In your head you know what you wanted to say and because you’ve read your document several times you might just skip over mistakes. Reading it backwards, word by word stops you doing that and makes you check the spelling of each word

Your best sales tool

Email is still the best lead generator for your business. This is bread and butter for a professional copywriter but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, don’t be put off. Here is some inspiration, examples of great EDM campaigns.