Six Steps to Selling By E-Mail

by | Business e-mail | 0 comments

Free. . . Sale. . . New . . . Hot. . . Act now! These words announce yet another e-mail sales message. We’re inundated with e-mail pitches and wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. So, how do you write your e-mail sales messages so customers will open, and most importantly, act on them?

To discover how e-mail sales messages work (or fail) we read hundreds of messages. We easily sorted them into categories:

  • unprofessional–poorly written, poor grammar, a blaze of different fonts and formatting
  • lackluster–messages that left us saying “so what”
  • winners that compelled us to buy a product or service

What traits set the winners apart? Our analysis turned up six traits of e-mails that say “open” and “buy.”

1.  Write A Compelling And Truthful Subject Line

As with all e-mail, the first hurdle is to write a subject line that says “must open.” Great subject lines telegraph the content of the message and promise a product, service, or outcome of real value.

Here’s a subject line we like: “Branding: Learn Why the Future of Your Company Depends Upon It.” It instantly telegraphs its subject (branding), tells what you’ll learn, and hints at what will happen if you don’t learn it.

2.  Deliver A Clear Message Up Front

Your readers are busy–they don’t have time to figure out what you’re offering. They’re impatient, too. They don’t want a tease, a clever anecdote leading up to the main point. Be direct and succinct. Start with a clear statement of what you’re offering.

Here’s an effective opening. Concise and to the point, it grabs the reader with a question then offers a solution: “Are you looking for a unique, inexpensive, and effective way to market your business or site? Try Postcards!”

3.  Deliver One Message

When you’ve gone to great trouble and expense of compiling an e-mail marketing list you may be tempted to get your money’s worth by using the list to tell all potential customers about everything you do: the winter sale, two hot new products, and free mouse pads. Don’t.

E-mail readers have short attention spans–long enough to digest one message, no more. The best strategy for delivering multiple e-mail sales messages is to write a separate message for each product you’re trying to sell.

If you do have lots to tell your readers and would like to communicate with them regularly, consider an e-mail newsletter, a better format for multiple messages.

4.  Provide Value

In return for opening and reading your communication, give readers something of value: useful information or a special offer, and perhaps something free or discounted.

Here’s an example of e-mail sales copy that effectively couples the promise of valuable information with a free offer: “Does your website have the security you need to conduct business online? To learn what’s powering security on all the leading websites, request your FREE copy of ‘Securing Your Website for Business’ from VeriSign.”

5.  Show Readers How They Will Benefit

It’s not enough just to tell readers about what you offer: “Try our free job matching service.” Let them know how your product, service, or offer will benefit them: “Our free job matching service will help you find high-paying gigs. We’ll send you the names of at least two potential clients each week.”

Here’s another e-mail sales message that makes the benefit clear: “Sign- up for the Personal Financial Advisory and you’ll get powerful, objective, personalized advice each week by e-mail on how to invest your money to enable you to reach your personal financial goals.”

6.  Include A Call To Action

Your compelling subject line and customer-oriented lead have done the trick: you’ve gotten the reader to open your message. You’ve offered insider information and showed readers how your product or service will benefit them. Now go the distance and tell your readers exactly what you want them to do.

Don’t just tell them to check out your site. Tell them what action to take. Invite them to sign up for your free newsletter, enter a raffle, buy your product. Here are good examples of a call to action:

  • Enroll in workshops today
  • Enter to win a shopping spree in Paris
  • Download the demo software

We’ll close our discussion of e-mail sales with a final, heartfelt reminder of the importance of brevity in e-mail sales messages. Media critic Barbara Lippert said it eloquently: “Watching 15 seconds of nasal passages unblocking sure beats watching 30 seconds.”


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