I have posted before about how to write powerful calls-to-action on webpages. In that post, I explained how with every call-to-action I write, I make sure they are: specific, use action words and make it hard for the reader to say ‘no.’ While all that applies to email copywriting, the art of email is so much like direct mail copywriting that we can really learn a thing or two from the masters of direct.

Here are some of the classic call-to-action techniques that will help your email copywriting.

Choose the right words

Bob Stone showed us in his renowned book Successful Direct Marketing Methods how using the right words makes an offer seem more valuable to the audience.

The example he gives put three offers out and measured the response: Half price, buy one get one free, 50% off.

The buy-one-get-one-free offer pulled 40% better than the others because it seems more valuable to the audience. Can you find a way to use this call-to-action for your product or service?

  • Get one room painted and we’ll paint a second room for free
  • Book a room night today and stay a second night on us

Create urgency by playing with time

This is an oldie but a goodie. Rather than demanding your reader ‘do xyz NOW,’ create a sense of risk within the reader’s mind that the longer they wait the more expensive the deal will get – or the longer they wait, the fewer choices they will have; perhaps even missing out altogether.

Here are a few examples:

  • Sign up today for 99p (introductory price)
    • This one makes them think that at some future time, it’s going to cost more.
  • Book early or you might miss out
    • You’ll see this on hotel rooms, airfares, event tickets and such.
  • Buy before 31 October for early bird prices
    • A variation on the ‘more expensive in the future’ idea. Set out the dates so that your reader knows when the current offer expires.

Give it all away

This is online and we’re often dealing with people who have little attention span and a million other things they’d rather be doing than filling out our form or clicking our email links.

Make it easy for them to say ‘yes’ and take action:

  • Tell them what to do
  • How long it will take to sign up
  • How big the commitment is (download size, steps)
  • Remind them how good the offer is

Your customers are also weary of getting burned (again) by doing anything online. By lowering the barriers to action and making the offer so ridiculously easy to take action on, you make it effortless for your customers to get over their anxiety.

  • Sign up today (it’s free!)
  • Register now (it only takes 32 seconds)
  • Start your free trial

Testing and making mistakes

If you’re really into making your email copywriting better, you need to test your calls-to-action. But not just once. You need to figure out what works best for each email list you work on.

It’s okay for one email to perform less well than a previous one because that tells you something.

Mistakes allow you to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

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