Despite the incredible rise of social media and video, email marketing is still one of the key components of an effective online marketing strategy. No matter how you slice and dice it, a well-written email can go the extra mile when you’re building your audience. Here, I’ve outlined a step-by-step strategy which you can use to start writing compelling emails that engage people and get them to act.

Get That Subject Line Perfect

Your subject line is the most important piece of copy in your whole email. This one line can make or break your campaign. It’s pretty much the biggest obstacle that you’re going to have to overcome when crafting your email.

If it’s not a good line, nobody will open your email, which means that nobody will read it. Think about it; what makes you open any email in the first place?

Your goal here is to make that subject line drip with temptation, making it easy for them to click. Strong, actionable language is best here, with punchy verbs that let people know exactly what to expect when they open up your email.

You’ll also want to let people know what to expect inside the email and the value that it offers them. This needs to be crystal clear.

A good way to approach email subject headers is to write down the simple subject header, then create some variations focusing on different angles. Remember, whatever you write needs to focus on what’s inside the email too: people don’t like opening an email that promises one thing – only to get another, completely different thing.

Once you’ve got a bunch of variations, you’ll also be able to see which ones work better. It’s a brainstorming process, so don’t worry if you get some crappy ideas (we all do!). Discard them, and choose the best iteration.

Many writers save this step for last after they’ve written the actual email content. This makes writing a powerful subject header that communicates the value of what’s inside much easier while reducing the chance of a terrible misrepresentation that could damage your trust relationship with customers.

You might feel more comfortable doing the same – there’s no specific ‘better’ method, so see which works best for you.

Focus on Building Your Body

The body of your email is where you’re going to keep all the juicy details – and just like going down to the gym, you need to get your words pumping some serious iron to deliver your message effectively.

Your amazing subject header has successfully enticed your reader to open it – and now you need to back it up with a full message that delivers on its promise.

Your first line should be related to the subject header as much as possible. At the same time, you want to avoid using ‘I’ or ‘we’ too much, keeping it focused on them by using the magic words ‘you’ and ‘yours.’

Communicate the value that this email has to offer, and keep it brief. The easiest way to convince people to read on is to make it look like an easy read, while also delivering engaging, human writing.

This is easy enough to check: look back at what you’re writing. Does it feel natural and conversational, or does it feel robotic and flat?

Nobody wants to read robotic, flat emails. Not even you – and certainly not me! We’re all humans, and fundamentally, we’re all looking for connections and real human beings, especially in the semi-automated online virtual world.

A simple way to do this is to tell a story. It doesn’t have to be an epic story. It could be a simple conversation that you had which launched this product or service, or a funny little event that led to…

Just end that story, and tie it into what the email’s all about – there’s no need for cliffhangers!

Create a Great Call to Action

The whole point of email marketing is to get readers to do something – and the Call to Action (CTA) is the final step that brings all your hard work together.

Remember: a great CTA is effective if highlighted and has good placement in your email.

Most people aren’t going to read everything you write – but they will skim, and an obvious CTA is what will get their attention, especially if they’re busy and just want to jump straight to the meat of your offer without all the preamble.

Your CTA needs to establish your intent, how it will benefit readers, and tell people what to do next. This should be mirrored in your subject header and explained in your body already – but now’s the time to make it crystal clear so that people do the one thing that all this hard work has been for!

Analyze Your Results

This step is often overlooked and neglected, but don’t just send an email out and forget all about it! Effective email marketing is a process of constant improvement, and that means looking at the numbers.

How can you improve if you don’t realize that your CTAs are bad, or that your subject headers are turning everyone off?

Looking at the data reveals so much about the effectiveness of your writing that it’s pretty much insane not to check it out and tweak your emails in future.

That’s a huge subject worthy of its own blog post – so I’ll write about that another time. In the meantime, these basic tips will give you a strong start when it comes to writing your next email.