6 Vital Questions Email Marketers Forget to Ask Before Clicking Send

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of decades, you know that email is an incredibly effective strategy to communicate with existing and prospective customers. Perhaps even more exciting, is that it’s also one of the most cost effective methods!

Over the years, I’ve written a ton of emails for my own businesses as well as my clients’ businesses. Today, I’m going to go over the six most popular questions I get asked about email copywriting so you’ll have a baseline to test all your sales and autoresponder emails against.

So, if the question is not, “do I need to be using emails in my sales funnels,” then the questions certainly must be, “how do I write them and, do I need professional help?” I know what you’re thinking, you know your business better than anyone and, isn’t it a simple task to scribble out a short email about what you offer?

Here’s the problem. Yes, you’re the subject matter expert on your business, there’s no debating that, but demonstrating that in an easy to understand format to your audience is another matter entirely. The goal of copywriting is to present your value, message and offer strategically and effectively to the reader so that they take action. Knowledge may be considered power but, translating that knowledge to the audience is key.

And this becomes exponentially more important if you’re spending money on paid traffic, sending hundreds or even thousands of visitors to your funnel. To ensure you’re at least breaking even on your client acquisition, you need to ensure the communications they receive will help them convert the way you want.

But, here’s the good news. You can absolutely communicate amazing concepts and messages using simple, short, but powerful emails. Just remember, it’s not what the email says, it’s how the message is presented and, of course, received, that ensures your reader takes interest. Follow these six suggestions and you’ll develop a rock solid foundation for your emails. Will each of them be exact? No, of course not, we’d all sound exactly the same. But, this foundation will allow you to keep your readers attention while making tweaks to improve conversions.

Finally, there’s one thing that successful copywriters and business owners do every single time. Test. Test. Test. Monitor your results and make changes, A/B test, segment your list and test there, follow the analytics and continually try to improve your results. There’s plenty of time, your copywriting, just like your business, is an evolutionary process.

Let’s just jump right into it and then we’ll circle back and wrap things up at the end.

Question 1: How long should my e-mail be?

This is one of those polarizing questions that brings experts out of the woodwork, all with their own claims and arguments. Quite honestly, if any of these “experts” have experience and results to back them up, they’re probably right, even if their views are opposing. How can that be true? Well, there have been arguments and discussions about sales copy, long versus short, for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen great results both ways and I’ve seen poor results both ways. And, the problem is that each argument is asking the length of the copy, and not the intended audience, message, and copywriter’s skill to determine the response.

I know that doesn’t necessarily help you so, I’ve developed a simple format that I know works, and has worked for me for years, to get you started:

Testing is vital here, but when you’re writing autoresponder emails, you should be aiming for the 600 to 700 word mark. If you can get your emails in that range, you’re in a great spot to maintain interest, deliver a message and get out without losing your reader.

Now, to be clear, I’ve written emails that are shorter and longer which have worked gangbusters but to get maximum impact without wearing out your reader, I’ve found the 600 to 700 word range is the sweet spot. Your audience loves a good story, but, they’re busy (and easily distracted) so they need you to get to the point quickly.

Question 2: How wide should my e-mail be?

I know, right? Width of email, are you kidding me? Sadly no, I’m not, this is a legitimate consideration for keeping your audience’s interest and relates to how fatiguing it can be to read the entire width of the screen. Even worse, don’t ever make your reader scroll sideways to accommodate badly formatted text or images.

You know what that is? That’s work, and people don’t want to work to read an e-mail.

By the same token, you can’t just write a series of short lines for the entire email and end up with the vertical column of one-line text blocks. Sure, you don’t have to scroll side to side but, you’re still creating fatigue by making their eyes jump down every line. I hear you, “now, I have to worry about eye fatigue?” Yes, you do. Because if you aren’t, one or more of your competition are and, if you make your reader work unnecessarily, they’ll move on and, they may not even know why.

So, what’s the best email width I’ve found?

Are you ready for this? Fifty-five characters is your baseline. And that’s including punctuation, letters, spaces, the whole shebang. Just set up your text editor to limit your line length to fifty-five characters and you’ll be golden.

You’re asking, “why,” right? This format creates something that’s very familiar. When we read a paperback, it’s a certain size for a reason; because it’s easily handled, it’s lightweight, and each page has a certain number of characters.

I’m not even sure what the character limit is for paperbacks, I’m sure they change based on physical format but, the point is they’re very familiar to us. When your brain sees an email formatted similarly, it understands that it’s going to be a familiar experience and, therefore, not hard to read. The ease of consumption is what we’re trying to achieve here. It shouldn’t take any work at all to read your emails and, if you format them on this baseline, it won’t.

Question 3: How many e-mails should I put in a series?

There are so many responses to this question and, yes, they relate to the audience, offer, copywriter, level of interest, position in the funnel and a whole slew of other things.

Often, I see just one email for things like specials, clearances and such and people have success sending these sporadically.

A great rule of thumb for your newsletter list, depending on your business, is a minimum of once per week.

For autoresponders, however, we’re following-up with a prospect or a buyer based on a specific decision that they’ve made. In these cases, we like to aim for between five and ten emails in a follow-up series. This means we’re often not hammering them every day, but we can continue to offer them the opportunity to click on a link and further explore what we’re really trying to sell them.

So, for example, you could set up a series of seven to ten over three weeks and they’d be receiving around one every three days. If you’re promoting a timely offer and trying to build momentum, you might structure these closer together as you approach the end of the sale or the promotion. In some markets, we’ve sent out a couple a day for things like a launch sequence. It’s been proven time and again, that certain niches will let us send one in the morning and one in the evening and still get a great response.

So, five to ten is a good place to start but, test it and see how it works.

Question 4: How often should I send the e-mails out?

I began to answer this in the previous question but, it’s very important so, let’s give it a little more input.

To start off with your testing, I would recommend sending them every three days. Here’s why: if you send an email every day, you can be a little bit too much in their face. But, if you spread them to the point where you’re only email once every couple of weeks or even monthly, they’ll forget who you are. Remember, we’re talking about buyers or prospects who have expressed an interest in something you offered them so, they want information. So give it to them. Probably not a good ida to whack ‘em in the face with it a couple of times daily, but certainly avoid spacing it out so much that they lose interest.

If you start with a two or three day cushion, you’ll ensure they have enough time to breathe and assimilate what you’re offering without getting bored or losing interest, but you also won’t be in their face every day.

I know I’m labouring the point here but, testing shows different things for different people. If you’re just trying to communicate and develop a relationship with your reader so they click on a link to another place, about every three days should be your starting point.

Question 5: Plain text or HTML?

There was a time when I would have definitely yelled, “plain text” here. It used to be an absolute nightmare trying to get email clients to format an email the way it was designed but, technology has advanced and those are almost problems of the past.

There is, however, a process I like to follow where I write the email in a text editor and transfer it to a HTML template for sending. I have enough experience with autoresponder software that I can write with the shortcodes intact but, even without knowing the specific software requirements, I find a text editor allows my copy to flow a little more smoothly. This is purely preference so, try both and see what you prefer. (Note: Never use Microsoft Word and paste it into an autoresponder system because you’ll end up with hundreds of invisible characters that Microsoft feels they have to have inside their documents. When your autoresponder tries to understand them, they’ll turn into question marks and asterisks and slashes and colons and all this other stuff that looks ridiculous in your e-mails.)

Now, as far as what format to send your emails, this gets a little more tricky and there is an argument for each side.

As HTML e-mail has evolved and developed, it’s a lot easier to put email templates together with, or without graphics or even video. There are dozens of things you can do to an HTML e-mail and make them look really great. Even more exciting, since HTML has started becoming mainstream, we have access to something a lot of text e-mails can’t offer, and that is a tracking system that helps to reveal who opens an e-mail and who doesn’t. So, you can monitor your open rate, which you’ll absolutely need to know for your testing purposes.

But, here’s the potential problem with a formatted HTML email. People usually have their email client software set up so that when they open an e-mail, it either loads everything — graphics, characters — no matter what it is, OR they’ll set it up so they are warned that their incoming email is attempting to display something, and are they okay with that.

In the second scenario, they get presented with a warning and generally they either click yes (to allow images to load), or they click on the X and basically delete the email.

Obviously, deleting the email is the last thing we want to happen but, even if they don’t, you’re asking them to take an extra step to consume your content. I believe, if I make my reader jump through a hoop just to get to my e-mail, there’s a good chance that they’re going to say, “You know what, forget it, I’ve got sixty more here that I want to read.”

So, what’s the solution? I always suggest using software like ActiveCampaign or Mail Chimp so you can paste that text into an HTML template and that will go out to your readers looking exactly like a text message.

Question 6: How do I get more of my emails delivered?

Nothing we can do will stop the spammers from finding new and interesting ways to get around spam filters, so the best thing you can do before clicking send is check to make sure there is nothing inside your emails that can get you flagged by spam filters. I’m not saying we need to water down our copy or subvert the system, we’re just trying to eliminate things in our emails that would be typically indicated as spam.

There are a bunch of free spam checker sites around and, even more so, any good autoresponder software will have a spam check built in. You really just need to educate yourself on what’s problematic for your market — there are certain phrases that will get flagged for spam more than others.

I can’t stress enough the importance of this, because you don’t want to put all this work into your email copy and have it dumped in everybody’s junk mail. Or worse, you don’t want your readers screaming, “why are you spamming me?” Usually it’s just a single word or a short sentence, which can be tweaked and you’ll be good to go. It only takes a few minutes, but it will get your emails seen much more than the alternative.

So, that’s the first part of avoiding spam. The second way is to ask your readers to whitelist your email address up front. In your indoctrination email series, you should include instructions on how (and why) to whitelist your email address in the most popular email clients. Ask your readers — I don’t know how many of them will do it but, at least put it out there.

BONUS TIP: Sell the click!

Know what you’re trying to achieve with each email and, understand that it’s never going to be “get the sale!” Your email will always be supported with an external sales message, which means there’s always going to be a link in your emails to take your reader to a sales letter or a blog, a website, lead magnet, etc.

Therefore, your goal for every e-mail is to SELL THE CLICK. That’s it, stop trying to sell your product in the email, you’re selling the click! And, if your email doesn’t have a link, it’s pointless, no mater how nice it may have been to read. People don’t want nice to read. They want, “give me what I want and give it to me right now, I’ve got 150 other emails to go through, too.” Sell the click.

That’s it.

Those are the six most popular questions that I get about writing high-converting autoresponder copy. There are always more, of course so, if you have anything that you want to ask, throw it in the comments below. I want to thank you for reading this because this is all based on what I’ve learned along the way and, it’s definitely my passion. If you want to talk to me about writing your funnel copy, or even just having a chat about what works and what doesn’t, come and see me at TheMissingMessage.com, I’d love to see how we can improve your results by working on your messaging!

Bruce White

Bruce White is the founding partner of Whiterock | Reid Strategic Branding and a funnel strategist and copywriter at TheMissingMessage.com. Bruce writes brand-based conversion copy for entrepreneurs with attitude. Follow Bruce on Twitter @themissingmsg and find out how focusing your funnel copy through your brand message can improve your conversions today.