E-mail Marketing Copy for Dummies

I’m possibly not the right person to be writing e-mail marketing copy tutorials, but here goes:

1) Your promotional e-mail is an intrusion into someone else’s day. All other rules proceed from this one.

2) You get the subject line for free. Make it a summary, like a newspaper headline. If you resort to a clever trick to get someone to open your message AND THERE IS NO PAYOFF, they will resent you and not bother to open anything else from you, ever.

3) Yes, they actually clicked, but that doesn’t give you free reign. You now get MAYBE THREE TERSELY-WRITTEN PARAGRAPHS to get your point across. People are busy, mouse already hovering over the close box. If your point is below the scroll point — and many people are on phones and netbooks these days — consider it missed. If you have more to say, consider your e-mail an article abstract and link to the rest of your message elsewhere.

4) Marketing lingo and managerial buzzwords officially offend. Like bad breath or body odor. Just don’t. If you waste half a sentence with a meaningless phrase that is supposed to raise excitement and positive associations and contains no meaning, you have not only wasted time and space but goodwill from your reader. This communication technology is as dead as punched cards and paper tape. WRITE IN CLEAR, PLAIN ENGLISH.

5) Spurious font changes stop people’s brains from being able to interpret text. Seriously. It turns a stream of text into meaningless shapes. Pick a readable font, a readable color, and stick with it. Bold and italics are awesome if used sparingly. If you’ve used more than three fonts in a page’s worth of text, please shoot yourself so that someone effective can have your job. Also please stop using Comic Sans. Comic Sans gives the impression that anything written in it was actually a supposed joke that was faxed from office to office back in the seventies by automatons for whom ketchup is exciting.

6) Stop it with the inline graphics and attachments. You have no control over how your recipient’s e-mail client is going to handle them and you’re just making your message slow to load. And probably it will look crappy. And shove the meat of your message off the screen. If you must have an attachment, make sure it is small and NECESSARY. If you must present a graphical message, make it a web page and provide a link. If you must have a HUGE attachment, host it on a web site and let people download it at their leisure. The mail client on my phone will TRY ITS BEST to download your attached 23MB Powerpoint presentation with embedded video, but it will fail, and I will hate you.

7) Please include a signature block. For every piece of promotional copy, there should be a HUMAN BEING who is willing to take responsibility for having written and distributed it. More than four lines of contact info is obnoxious, so make it count.

8) MY BIGGEST POINTS WERE MADE IN ITEMS 1-3 because by now you have certainly stopped reading. Get it?


February 25, 2010 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


2 Responses to “E-mail Marketing Copy for Dummies”

  1. Mary on October 9th, 2011 2:06 am

    I sure hope I’m not the only one who has read this. We had one moron in the office that would try to send a ginormous spreedsheed filled with god knows what and it would literaly bring the system down due to lack of band width. Was this planned? Probably.

  2. xalieri on October 9th, 2011 8:51 am

    It was always my job in most of the places I’ve worked to unclog the drains when that sort of thing happened. It also was sometimes my job to write little instructional documents to help people figure out why I kept a bottle of scotch on my desk.

    The most amusing part of the scotch bottle was the array of fine-point Sharpie marks down one side, with dates….


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