I hear FAR too many business owners state that they don’t know what to say when composing an email to customers.

Let me ask you something: have you ever had a one-on-one conversation with a good friend over a cup of coffee/tea at Starbuck’s or your favorite cafe?

Email is the new coffee talk. Talk to your customers in a up-close-and-personal, conversational way — the same way you do any time your friend asks you for advice.

Make them laugh, ask a thought-provoking question, answer a common question honestly, stir their feelings and, above all, leave them with a sense of hope. Speak with your reader, not at or to your reader.

Email is not nameless, faceless communication. To get the “clicks” and the cash, you must write as though there is a real person behind the writing, not a robot. There must be emotion behind it. And it must be genuine.

Furthermore, email is not a one-night stand. If you attempt to connect with your audience only once, don’t expect them to open up their wallets. Email marketing is a long-term relationship that, like any relationship, needs to be nurtured on a regular basis for the greatest possible results.

In the new online economy where relationships rule, a website is simply not enough. You can’t talk to people one on one through a website. Email is your biggest supporting player in the marketing race and sales conversion chase. It’s one of the best ways to:

  • Show your customers that you care;
  • Prove your value in the marketplace;
  • Engender trust;
  • Get your audience to like you;
  • Demonstrate your credibility; and
  • Build long-term, dedicated customer relationships that make sales and referrals pitifully easy.

Once that vital customer relationship is established and secured, regular email communication is like butane for your business, fueling repeat sales in the future and creating infinite lifetime customer value. 

Anatomy of an Irresistible Email

Your audience looks for emails that are either 1) personal or 2) business-related. They avoid boring. They also avoid emails that look like ads, commercial content, spam or “stranger danger.”

How do you appeal to your recipients in a way that is both compelling and conversational? It starts with these 5 components:

1 – Subject line

Whether your email is clicked on and read hinges on this high priority component. There are many different ways to write a subject line that entices the reader. Check out the following examples:

  • Got a minute?
  • Did you like what you saw?
  • Are you still on board?
  • Ready to make your move?
  • Your job search strategy is missing this…
  • I’ve never done this before, but…
  • Will you be next?
  • Here’s what we discussed…
  • Can we talk?
  • Want to join us?

Questions work because they provoke the brain to answer them. Also, ellipsis points are a DO! It leaves the reader hanging. Your brain won’t feel at ease until it gets a sense of completion. To incite curiosity, use trigger words like “this”, “here” and “about your.” The bottom line? Your email needs to appear as if it’s coming from a friend, not another random advertiser.

Here’s an easy exercise: look at your inbox. Which subject lines stand out? Which subject lines entice you to click on them and read further? Create an “Email Swipe File” folder. In it, place all of the emails containing compelling examples of headlines to spark your inspiration.

2 – The greeting

Keep it simple and informal. You don’t use formal language when talking with a friend, so there’s no need for formal language when you’re talking to your customers. Your greeting can be what you would say to a friend, upon first seeing them: Hi, hey, hello or good morning! No “dear” or “to whom it may concern.” Banks don’t even use that anymore in their email communication! Every enterprise is shifting towards natural, conversational, informal language because it works.

Also, say their first name. Many email programs will allow you to import the customer’s first name from your database. If not, keep the greeting casual, yet friendly:

  • Good morning
  • Morning!
  • Hi
  • Hey there
  • Hi there
  • Hi friend

3 – Body copy

The opener: identify who you are and establish rapport. I love starting with a positive statement that asks the reader how they’re enjoying the season. But, know your audience first. If you’re talking to an international audience, you would want to keep your opener more generic, so it appeals to a wider customer base. Two sentences should suffice. Don’t miss this opportunity to bond with your reader.

  • I hope you’re loving this fall color — and football season is finally here! What more could you ask for? Life is good! (For a US audience)
  • I just got back from lovely Ireland and couldn’t wait to tell you about my trip! (For a more general/international audience)

Be sure to keep it clean.You’re still in the tenuous early stages of this relationship, so you don’t want to risk offending anybody. And if you want to be seen as a professional in the marketplace, keep your tone and words professional. Speak their language. Even if you’re writing to HR or the CEO, you don’t want to use stuffy boardroom talk or corporate speak. Speak to their intelligence level and comprehension ability.

Don’t try to be creative, imaginative or formal. Be yourself. To build trust, credibility & convert, they need to see a reflection of themselves in you.

The best emails elicit the reaction, “Don’t I know you!?” or “I’d like to get to know this person more! He/she speaks my language!”

Keep your sentences short and to the point, focusing on one topic and one message. Get right to the point, placing important information first. The beginning is prime real estate for initiating the all-important sales cycle.

  • Provide value. Opt-in offer, discount, invitation, recipe or a link to a helpful how-to video.
  • Express the benefit: “Check out the video that will teach you how to …, so you can…”
  • Deliver on your promise. If the purpose of the email is to provide them a free opt-in offer that the reader signed up for, then give it to them. Now is not the time to abuse your reader’s trust and ask for the sale, but to establish critical rapport. This is your first impression, so leave behind a positive one.

4 – The Nitty-Gritty

  • Always, always end the email conversation by inviting the reader back to your “house.” On which platform do you spend the most time? Where do you provide helpful tips and tricks related to your niche? This could be Facebook, your blog or wherever you spend the majority of your time “hanging out.”
  • Use the P.S. to encourage email forwarding to colleagues, friends and peers.
  • Give readers a way to opt-out, if they so choose to. Include an unsubscribe link in the footer.

5 – Don’t hit send — yet

Here’s the golden rule. After writing your email, send it to yourself first. Doing so may give you an entirely new perspective on the content you just wrote. It will definitely give you the chance to view things from the perspective of your audience. You might even notice some areas for improvement. For every sentence, ask yourself “Is that what I’d say to a close friend?” The rough spots will stand out.

Whatever you do, don’t stick your head in the sand

Don’t avoid email because you can’t ‘figure’ it out or you think it will take too long to see results. Some of the best writers out there are everyday business owners who write from the heart and learn the desires, needs and language of their audience members. Be unique, be real, be the one email that your audience looks forward to receiving. In today’s online economy, having genuine relationships with customers is a very real aspect of a successful, enduring and profitable business. Email is a powerful way to keep those relationships deep and alive.