13 Steps to Writing High-Converting Promotional Emails

13 Steps to Writing High-Converting Promotional Emails

If you’re marketing via email, you have two problems … and they’re serious.

  • SPAM Overload
  • Sheer Volume

Smart marketers use the same direct response copywriting skills used to write sales pages to write promotional emails.
Because direct response copy works in promotional email.  Apply the key principles and you can solve your email problems.
Today… you’ll get access to my 13-step system for writing promotional emails that…

  • Get opened
  • Engage the reader
  • Drive conversion

Here are the 13 steps…

Step 1 – Choose a format

My first advice is to experiment and try different types of email. The sheer variety of email formats strikes me as remarkable.
Notice the vast differences between each of the examples below.
Here’s one from US Airways…

Formats For Promotional Email

For the record, I clicked through and it was a great offer.
Here’s an email from copywriter Bob Bly. No images. All copy.

Example Promotional Email With No Images

And here’s one from Revolution Golf.

Example Promotional Email With Video

So … you’re seeing three very different formats:

  • Big image with a few bullets
  • Copy only
  • Copy plus video

Choose a primary format but don’t be afraid to test new formats.

Step 2 – Choose a length

Digital Marketer emails vary from the short but copy heavy …

Example Promotional Email with Short Copy

… to emails with more moving parts …

Example Promotional Email with Long Copy

On occasion, I see emails with upwards of 2,000 words of copy in the format and style of a long-form sales letter.
There’s no one length that’s right or wrong. Through testing, you’ll discover the type of email that resonates with your clients and potential customers.

Step 3 – Get Prepared

There’s no need to spend hours on research but be sure to answer the following questions …

  • What is the goal of the email?
  • Who is on the list?
  • What is the offer?
  • What has worked before?

Step 4 – Write the subject line

Take your subject line seriously … this is a vital step.
For subject lines, I use classic direct response headlines, starting with the “How to …” headline. News-y headlines can also work.
You can get access to Digital Marketer’s best 101 email subject lines here.

Step 5 – Choose the Image

Choose an arresting image.
Some emails rely solely on copy, which is fine if that works. But the right image can improve response.
Notice how the images used in this email from Survival Life stop you dead in your tracks…
Example Email with A High Converting Image
Try using an image of a video with the “Play” button clearly visible if you have a video on the landing page… this just flat out works.
The video player in this example from Revolution Golf is just an image of the video player…

Example Promotional Email With Video

 When the “Play” button is clicked it sends the reader to the landing page containing the video.

Step 6 – Write the Headline

Headline or no headline? Personally, I like to use a proper headline … just like I would on a full-bore sales page. You could likely increase your response by using a headline. Try it.
Here’s a Motley Fool email … with a headline.

Example Promotional Email with a Headline

And here’s a new email format (with a headline) that Digital Marketer is testing with their content emails…
Example Email with a Headline


Step 7 – Create an arresting introduction

The introduction must appeal directly to the people I want to reach … and only them.
Notice how Ryan Deiss appeals to the self-interest and curiosity of the target market in the opening of this email…
How to Write an Introduction to a Promotional Email

Step 8 – Appeal to the core desire

Follow the fundamentals. Yes … an email may be short but it must appeal to the reader’s core desires:

  • Greed
  • Beauty
  • Sex
  • Eternal youth
  • Eternal health
  • Work less

When I write golf copy, the core desire is usually: SMASH THE BALL!
Or I must solve a problem… or hint at solving one. PLUS the email must present an irresistible offer … or tell the reader they’re going to get a huge offer … when they “click here now.”
Notice how Joe Polish’s team at Pirahna Marketing repeatedly bring this email back to the core desire…

Example Promotional Email with Core Desire

Step 9 – Write the Call-To-Action

Make the call to action crystal clear. I regularly get emails – even from serious marketers – without clear direction. TELL the reader what to do!
Notice how the folks over at Lead Pages don’t leave it up to your imagination to decide what to do next…
Example Email with Strong Call To Action

Step 10 – Provide proof

I always like to provide proof in the copy, buttressed with specific numbers.
Notice how specific the numbers are in the P.S. in this email from Ryan Deiss…
Email Using Specific Copy

Step 11 – Write the P.S.

Include a clear P.S. in the email … this should restate the offer and may also be used to communicate any reason the reader should act now.
See how this email from Survival Life restates the offer and communicates scarcity…
How to write the P.S. in a Promotional Email

Step 12 – Insert links

Mandatory … you must have a link to the next step above the fold. Then plenty of links in the body of the email. Plus one or two near the P.S.
In this email from Ryan Deiss there are 279 words and 6 links — all to the same landing page…

How many links should I put in a promotional email?

Step 13 – Align the message

The subject line must remain congruent with the body of the email and the body of the email must align with the landing page. It drives me crazy when email content differs dramatically from the subject line and the offer.
For more information about this, check out this article about maintaining marketing “scent.”

Last… but not least

Finally, make sure your email answers the ultimate question the reader is asking, “what’s in it for me?”
Email is a powerful weapon now and, despite competition from social media, it’s going to remain powerful … but ONLY if you apply the classic principles of direct response copywriting.
In direct marketing, we’re fortunate to have so many outstanding email platforms. I’m sure you have your favorite. Most of these platforms give you the ability to test.

Test these email elements like crazy…

  • Subject lines …
  • Placement of links
  • Images
  • Length of copy
  • Headlines

Study the emails you receive and you will quickly get hundreds of ideas to test.
Here’s the final and perhaps most important step when it comes to promotional email: embrace failure.
I sometimes write email copy that fails to create a solid response… it happens. I learn from what happened and never make the same mistake.
Yes – we’re all getting bombarding with email clutter and spam … but you can break through… and increase conversion, revenue, and profit.
And, if you want to download this checklist in Excel Format — click here.

Scott Martin

Scott Martin

Scott Martin is a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He writes for the health, financial, biz-op, golf and info-marketing worlds. He has also written a book about Caddyshack. Which is nice.

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