Sell to Win

5 ways to make your emails more persuasive

Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win
Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win

Email marketing can be captivating, persuasive, powerful, and a phenomenal tool for lead generation—if you know what you're doing.

Unfortunately, it's so easy to just slap words together and hit "send" without really thinking about what you're saying. This approach may yield the occasional win. But for the most part, it leads to subpar results, a disconnect with subscribers, and disappointment.

What if you could craft emails that generate a veritable mountain of opens and click-throughs on a regular basis? That would be pretty great, right?

Persuasive writing is one of the keys to email marketing success. In this article, we'll explain the six principles of persuasion, as well as five tips you can use to make your emails more persuasive and enticing to your readers.

The art of persuasion

Before we dive into the meat of this article, we need to make one thing clear: persuasion and manipulation are NOT the same thing. Your emails shouldn't trick readers into making a purchase, they should show them how purchasing is in their best interest.

This is the art of persuasion. When done right, everybody wins.

With that in mind, let's take a look at six principles of persuasion, as outlined by Dr Robert Cialdini, a celebrated psychologist and the author of the NYT bestseller, Influence.

  • Reciprocity: When you give something to someone else, they feel inclined to give something back to you. This is one of the reasons why giving away free, downloadable content in exchange for an email address is a great way to build a subscriber list.

  • Consistency: Most people want to keep their word. If they say they're going to do something, their desire is to follow through and do it. Getting a prospect to take a small step—download an ebook, for example—will encourage them to take bigger steps.

  • Social Proof: The more people use or do a certain thing, the more enticing it becomes. Would you, for instance, rather buy a piece of software that everyone on LinkedIn raves about or some generic tool you found online? This "follow the leader" mentality is why testimonials and reviews are so powerful.

  • Authority: From birth, humans are taught to respect authority. So when we believe a person is an expert on a specific subject, we're automatically more inclined to listen to what they have to say. We might even buy the products they recommend.

  • Liking: It's much easier to persuade someone to do something if they like you. Businesses that present themselves in an attractive way and seek out common ground with their prospects are generally more successful than those that don't.

  • Scarcity: What's your first impulse when you learn that Product X is nearly sold out? If you have any interest in Product X at all, it's probably to smash the buy button as quickly as possible. Scarcity is a powerful persuasion tactic. Just don't over use it!

Now that we know the basic building blocks of persuasion, let's look at five specific ways you can make your emails more enticing to your readers.

Make your emails more persuasive with these 5 tips

You put a lot of time into crafting your email campaigns. Wouldn't it be great if they generated more clicks? Of course it would! These five tips will help you write super persuasive emails:

1. Know your readers

It's really hard (read: almost impossible) to win at marketing if you don't have a solid understanding of your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? 

Before you write another catchy subject line, paragraph of body text, or killer CTA, take time to learn about your readers. What do they like and dislike? What are their goals? Do they have specific daily challenges you can help them overcome?

When you understand the kind of content your audience likes to consume and the problems they want to solve, you can present your company's products as a viable solution. There's nothing more persuasive than the answer to a problem that hasn't been solved.

But how do you get to know your readers? It's simple, really…

  • Ask them questions: Send your subscribers a quick survey to learn about them. Pro tip: offer a small incentive for completing the survey so you get more responses.

  • Dig into your analytics: How do your readers engage with your current messages? What subject lines generate the most opens? What content types boost clicks?

  • Study your target market: General research about your target market can be helpful, too. Read blogs and visit online message boards that cater to your audience.

2. Keep your focus

If you're like most other companies, you only feel comfortable emailing your list a couple of times a month. Because of this, you probably have a lot to say in each message. But the most persuasive emails are those that focus on one thing, and one thing only.

Put yourself in your readers' shoes. How would you feel if a brand asked you to read their blog content, follow them on social media, purchase a product, and donate to an important cause they support in a single email? You'd be so overwhelmed you'd hit "delete" ASAP.

Stay focused, ask your audience to do one thing per email, and watch your results improve.

The good news is, there's a solid chance you can email your subscribers more often than you currently do. 61% of consumers LIKE getting promotional emails on a weekly basis. And 38% of them wouldn't mind if they received these types of messages even more frequently.

In other words, you don't have to cram everything into one email. Just contact your list more often and make sure each message focuses on one thing only.

3. Tell a good story

Fact: we're all obsessed with stories. They're essential to the human experience and always have been. To boost the persuasiveness of your emails, strengthen your storytelling chops.

Don't worry, you don't have to be the second coming of Ernest Hemingway to succeed at this. You just have to follow a few best practices, which we outline below:

  • Main character: Who is your story about? Make sure your readers can relate to this person. Your audience should see a part of themselves when they look at your MC.

  • Fast opening: Don't save the best for last. Start your story with a bang so that you hook readers from the very beginning. This can be done in the subject line. For example, "How I Make Six Figures a Year" is better than "How to Start a Business".

  • Compelling conflict: Wait, you want to create conflict in your emails? Yes, conflict is interesting! When telling a story, make it clear what your main character desires and why. Then describe why they can't have it, i.e. add conflict. Finally, make your product and/or service the solution that finally allows your character to achieve what they want.

  • Authenticity: Always stay true to your brand and/or yourself. Modern consumers can smell insincerity a mile away—and they don't like it. Fortunately, when you present yourself in a real, authentic manner, you'll forge lasting connections with your readers.

You don't have to weave a grand tale in every email you send. But get into the habit of infusing your messages with little stories and it will be much easier to persuade subscribers.

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4. Agitate a problem

We've all got problems. Sometimes it helps to remind readers of their struggles, then present your products and/or services as the logical solution.

This is a great persuasion tactic, especially when dealing with readers who aren't particularly motivated to fix the things that ail them. Change is hard, even change for the better. You may need to stir up a few emotions to convince your subscribers to take action.

Just remember, it never pays to over-exaggerate, or worse, manufacture problems out of nothing. Use this persuasion strategy when you know your readers are faced with a challenge you can help them solve, but they haven't fully embraced the consequences of inaction. 

What does this look like in real life? Here's a quick example:

A sales rep for a B2B software company learns that one of his brand's main competitors just updated their SaaS product. Unfortunately for the competitor, customers are NOT happy. The software is buggy and hard to use. With this knowledge, the sales rep seeks out email addresses for the competitor's customers and shoots them a quick message.

He tells them about how much his customers love his company's products and how they don't suffer from the same problems the competitor's offerings do.

5. Don't get too pushy

Finally, remember that, in general, people don't want to be told what to do. They want to make their own decisions—or at least feel like they're making their own decisions.

For this reason, reminding your list that clicking your email's CTA, whether it leads them to a blog post, one of your social media channels, or a product page, is their choice. You're not forcing them to anything, they're free to act in the way they see fit.

Multiple studies have shown that using a simple phrase like "But the choice is yours" can double the chance a person accepts your suggestion.

Like many of the other persuasion tips in this article, you don't want to overuse the phrase "the choice is yours." Doing so is a good way to lose the respect of your subscribers. We suggest using this tactic when making a big ask, such as purchasing a product or service.

Write more persuasive emails

Persuasive writing is a valuable skill, especially in terms of email marketing. If you can consistently entice your subscribers to open your emails and click on your CTAs, your business will be more successful. Fortunately, the art of persuasion isn't rocket science.

You just need to understand the basic persuasion principles, which we discussed above, and implement the five tips we shared. Do that and your email game will improve.

Thanks to MK Hamilton for the hypnotic cover photo.

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