How To Write Emails that Sell (and that People Love to Read)

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The vast majority of email marketers make one of two mistakes:

  1. They give away too much content without doing enough selling
  2. They do too much selling without giving away enough content

And it’s costing them a lot of money.

But there’s also a third way that hardly anyone uses.

A way that satisfies your audience’s desire for content while also persuading them to buy. In a way that is fun for you to write, and for your subscribers to read. In fact, even if you are blatantly selling, people often don’t care and actually welcome your pitches.

Believe it or not, I blatantly pitch almost every week day using this method. In some cases, I pitch my product on the weekends, too.

Since I started using this method almost 4 years ago, my sales have never been higher.

And even though I’m always pitching and selling my products, I get few (if any) spam complaints. Hate mail about my daily email frequency is non-existent. And it’s a cold day in Hades when I teach anything found in my paid products.

Customers have never been happier, and my list has never been more satisfied.

So what’s this big email secret? And, how can you use it?

It’s called “infotainment.”

This is just as it sounds — merging information with entertainment. The best infotainment description is from Alan Alda (who played “Hawkeye” in the hit TV show “M.A.S.H”). He was being interviewed about his friend Don Hewitt — founder of the show “60 Minutes” — who had recently died, and he was asked why the show was so popular.

Alan Alda said (paraphrased):

What they do is give viewers a great-tasting hot dog but that nourishes them like broccoli.

This is exactly what infotainment does.

In other words, your content is presented in a way that’s fun to consume, but still delivers real value at the same time. This one approach has allowed me to dominate in virtually all the markets I’ve written emails for — even when using a weak sales letter to a small list. And while I now use dozens (well over 50) ways to use infotainment in my emails, the following 3 ways alone can get the job done no matter what kind of product or service you sell.

Work them in to your emails (starting today) and watch what happens:

Infotainment secret #1: inject your personality into every email

Just being yourself (warts and all) in emails can bring you more long-term response than any other email tip, tactic or “technique” combined.

Even if you have the highest prices and don’t have the best product, the fact you’re “for real” creates a bond of trust that makes people want to buy from you and only you.

So go ahead, crack a joke.

Have an opinion that’s not popular.

And let your unique personality shine through in every word.

Show customers the real you … and they’ll cheerfully open their wallets.

Infotainment secret #2: tell stories

Stories are a great way to sell in emails.

I don’t care what the product or service is. If you can work in a story, your chances of making the sale go up dramatically.

For one thing, stories are naturally entertaining.

Think back a few thousand years. Stories were the only real entertainment people had. They didn’t have TV or radio or the Internet, just stories — which are a great form of entertainment.

It’s very easy to process information from stories, too.

We’re “hard wired” to learn from and communicate through them.

And, in many cases, it’s the most persuasive way to get someone to do what you want. Whether it’s persuading someone to buy your product or persuading a child to be careful of talking to strangers — stories inspire and motivate people to take action.

Many times sales are made just from the story!

Just look at the hit 80’s movie “Top Gun”.

That movie “sold” thousands of young whippersnappers on joining the Navy, even though it never once pitches anyone on it. (The Navy even put recruiters in movie theaters where it was playing.)

As the old adage says:

The more you tell the more you sell. And this is especially true if you’re telling stories.

Infotainment secret #3: pop culture references

Finally, one of my favorite ways to be infotaining is “piggy backing” off of pop culture.

I’m a big fan of doing this not only from a personal point of view, but because as the late (great) copywriter Eugene Schwartz said: That’s your market. Those are the words, the feelings, and the hot buttons that motivate them.

What I like to do is work pop culture analogies, references, jokes and even quotes into my emails. If nothing else, it keeps your emails fun, loose and interesting (all of which combine to make emails more readable and “buyer-friendly”).

So always be asking … what’s popular?

What are the most-watched TV shows?

What movies are people raving about?

What magazines, radio shows, books or websites are hot with your market?

Then dip into those wells over and over. Reference them in your emails. Turn them into analogies, lessons or stories. It’ll be fun for your market to read (and buy from) as well as fun for you to write.

And that’s all there is to it.

The above are just three ways to be infotaining in your emails.

There are dozens more, but if you only work these three into your emails, I believe your sales will go up, with your subscribers and customers looking forward to hearing from you — while making your competition irrelevant.

About the Author: Ben Settle is a direct response copywriter and email marketing strategist. Although Ben no longer accepts clients, he gives away over 700 pages of his bestselling ideas and insights free at BenSettle.com.

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Comments

  1. If the email doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t matter what is inside. So it’s worthwhile spending time on the subject line. Maybe create the title after you finish with the body so it is relevant to what is contained inside. It’s good to use phrases that leave the reader wanting to know more such as teaser statements or unanswered questions that compel them to click on the message to find out more.

    Very relavent and useful tips. Thanks.

    • True enough, and subject lines matter, but an even more important factor to get the open is *who’s sending the mail*. It’s a circle — if you send stuff people want to read, they’ll open the next one. The best subject lines on earth won’t work if readers learn that the message isn’t worth reading once they open it.

      • Shamelle, Sonia,

        I agree Subject Lines are useful as they give the reader a quick summary of the content and From Address help with credibility as to who is sending the email.

        I took-away the point of the article being that content of your emails are the most important component. Looking at a single email or an acquisition blast, I could buy the argument that Subject Lines and From Address determine if the email gets read. But as most of us know, email marketing is more effective at continuing the conversation and building a relationship with our customers.

        If that is indeed the purpose, then unless this is the first email ever sent, the reader has already received an email from us and decided whether it had value or not. If we write the best subject line or the worst, they will remember the last email we sent and that will determine if they read the next one.

        This article shows just how important it is to engage with them in every email and put your best foot forward with personality, stories, and relevance. Leverage your analytics which look at click thru rate and conversion rate to determine if you’re hitting your email marketing goals. Open rates are important but like subject lines, they just scratch the surface.

        Great article and comments!
        – Cody

  2. What a way to do the email marketing. This article and your system of emails looks very good.

    I like that you are adding some culture into your emails, and that’s what separates you from all of the other many boring emails.

  3. Ben,

    Thanks for a fantastic article… This is my first time reading your work so I’m definitely headed over to your site after this comment.

    From my own personal experience I’ve found that anytime you can interject comedy into an article you’ll see some very good results as well.

    Thanks again,

    Ryan H.

  4. ‘If nothing else, it keeps your emails fun, loose and interesting (all of which combine to make emails more readable and “buyer-friendly”).”

    I think that’s a great idea. If you’re strapped for a witty line, pull a fan favorite from a hot comedy! It shows you don’t take yourself too seriously.

  5. Ben!

    Welcome to Copyblogger! Anyone reading this article needs to know that Ben knows exactly what he’s talking about. I’ve been on his list for years, used his methods for years, and the power of infotainment is exactly what works in ALL media to keep people coming back. I know, because I use the same principles that he teaches for my own list.

    This is why you can stay glued to the TV for a marathon of Storage Wars.
    This is why you can’t wait for another issue of your favorite YouTube show.

    Ben’s strength is that he uses his daily life and random stories and keeps you coming back for more. Glad to see he made it over here.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  6. Ben,

    Just when I was going to mention that Ben Settle does all of these things, I see that you wrote this post….Go figure! :-D

  7. I read Ben everyday he writes something… his stories are amazing…If you are looking for the best selling strategy just study his stuff… plus the truth is that he is so fun to read it is additive.

  8. Love how you make it sound so easy. Well, it’s easier than doing a looooong email without any personality. But hey, to each his own style. Glad this one worked for you. Maybe I ought to try it out in my next email blasts.

    Thanks Ben

    • Simple, not necessarily easy. :)

      But everything is easier when you focus on the right things — and for a lot of content producers, lightening things up a little does make it easier, or at least more fun.

  9. I am being introduced to Ben by this post. Great, great stuff! I’m on my way over to his site now to learn more :)

  10. If any of you are subscribed to Ben’s list you know he practices exactly what he preaches.

    Sean, he does make it look easy and I really believe it is easy for him. From what he has shared he doesn’t spend tons of time crafting copy, split testing or worrying. He just naturally writes and sends often. In fact, he sends daily.

    I believe this is a style that relieves the pain of email marketing.

  11. Two thumbs up Ben. From a guy who use to be a “nothing but the facts” writer, your tips will triple the effectiveness of any boring info post.

  12. To anyone reading Ben’s work for the first time, I cannot encourage you enough to sign up for his daily email list.

    Stop what you’re doing right now, go to BenSettle.com (do not pass Go) and sign up! Whether you’re into marketing (be it email, online or otherwise), learning how to write with your own voice, or just want to be entertained by a very astute, savvy and shrewd wit – Ben is your man! He is The Man! And his work is Awesome!

    Hey Ben – congrats on yet another Copyblogger appearance – clearly one more home run to pad your stats!

    • You just convinced me to subscribe. I know nothing about Ben but the post was great and I did go to the signup page.

      But since I am very cautious about newsletters, I decided to subscribe later. Going to read his blog now. :)

  13. Ben,
    What a fantastic article, I believe that making more money does require more interesting content especially via email. Taking the time to be sincere and honest while simultaneously informing of your product will definitely let people know more about you and the product you are selling. I think that when buying any product people want to feel connected somehow to whatever it is that they are buying. by being more of a “human”, instead of a “product” helps people to identify with you and not some object that is being pushed down their throats. Great post Ben!

  14. Great article, but I’d like to play the devil’s advocate for a moment. Personally, I receive emails every day, once or twice or week, or even on the weekends from professionals who are trying to sell me something or giving me a free teleseminar or webinar. I may open the emails or hit delete/spam. Do you constantly want to bombard people with emails when they’re probably received more than they want? What’s considered overkill?

    • I think you missed the point… Provide infoTAINMENT. The key part “tainment” as in entertainment.

      I guarantee.. guarantee… that many people on your email list, listen to the same morning radio show EVERY morning. Will watch the same news program every night. Tune into watch the same TV show every week.

      If you tell people that you are doing to send a daily email, and they sign up for a daily email, why would sending a daily email be “overkill”?

  15. Great post and I think the concept of infotainment is brilliant.

    I always try to be real and inject my own personality when sending emails, so I’m glad I have the going for me. I haven’t really telling “stories” in my emails, but I’m definitely going to give it a shot.

    By the way, I’m pretty curious to read about those “well over 50″ ways to infotainment in emails. Any chance we can get more of those? ;)

  16. You’re absolutely right Ben. Finding the right balance between content and selling is what makes or breaks an e-mail marketer, but when we use the skills unique to each of us, therein lies the opportunity to build a fantastic connection with our readers that make them want to buy even if they don’t want to.

    I was a total blog virgin 2 months ago. If you would have asked me then what an e-mail marketer was, I would have told it’s that guy that wants to sell you the pills that will make your ……… Well, you get the picture.

    Flash forward to today and my Inbox is filled with ALL kinds of e-mail marketing offers for a free ebook, webinar, or course. But you know which ones I look forward to opening? It’s the one that has no sales pitch, just an incredibly hilarious story that makes me laugh to the point of peeing my pants. It’s also what keeps me wanting to open each and every single e-mail after that. It’s refreshing to be treated like a plain ‘ol human being and not a highly researched buyer persona.

  17. Top class article.

    I’m really gonna use those tips. I was going to go down the pure info route, which when I now look at, seems boring.

  18. The subject line is obviously important but they are all pretty similar so I would say the content is key. If the email has a bit of a different twist to it the reader will definitely take note of what is being said esepcially if you put some of your personality in there so the reader can relate to you.

  19. Hi Ben,

    Certainly great tips to get your email interesting and get the intentions by the readers and I think on internet people wants some real things and if they get that they’ll love reading and also gives you the benefits. Thanks for sharing great tips :-)

  20. Greeting Ben,

    I need to thank you million times for this great post which will be seriously useful for most of the newcomers into the world of Internet Marketing and List Building. Thanks again for sharing such post..:)

  21. Ben, My target market is Baby Boomers and their parents. It is my understanding that many of them use search engines to look up information on the internet, which explains the posts on my blogs. Almost all of them know how to use email. I like your idea of referencing pop-culture. My question is if I should reference today’s pop-culture to Baby Boomers or the stuff that was popular when we were kids. Sonia, a few months back you suggested building a “course” for autoresponders. I wanted to let you know that I am about half-way through with a course for Insurance Retirement Planning. Although each lesson has practical ideas of what people can do with insurance, at the end of each lesson I direct them to a place where they can buy my ebooks. I’m trusting that your concept of giving away free education will result in sales. I have seen the model work before. My concern is over what to do after the course is prepared to get people to subscribe. If it has no subscribers, it will not be read and will be a lot of work for nothing.

    • On Father’s Day this last week, my fiance and I got her father a board game called “5 Second Rule”.

      You draw a card that asks you to name 3 things. The trick of the game is name 3 things in “5 Seconds.

      What I noticed in the game… the answers we gave all had us reverting back to our youth. Teens and early 20’s.

      I’d also point out what are they reading, paying attent to know. AARP magazine, etc.

  22. I couldn’t have read this at a far, better time. Just when I am thinking about creating my email list and planning on the things that I’ll be sending as soon as I start, your blog came out. Very helpful tips indeed. Cheers!

  23. Thanks for this article, Ben! Even I myself would like to admit that sometimes, when emails don’t sound interesting, we don’t read them at all. Aside from a catchy phrase/title, we should also try to sound “human” to our readers, and rapport starts there. Stop sounding like a robot, to avoid getting mistaken as spam.

    Keep sharing more tips!

  24. Hi,
    Your articles are very impresseve and attractive, this is my first time I came across you blog, it is so good to read, keep writing.

  25. Thanks Ben.
    Sadly, in my startup website http://www.nepaladz.com we dont’ capture user emails :-(
    Doing so has helped us, as well as harmed us in some ways. We take classified ad without having the user to login, and later validate their post through sms (they need to send one). People find it easier to do than register, login and remember password for eternity. So in a way, our userbase has grown substantially. But the problem is, we don’t have user emails to communicate with them later. What would you suggest me in this case? Sending sms to their numbers periodically is costly. Currently, we’re on Facebook and Twitter as well, and that has helped a lot as well.

    On Facebook, we offer a lot of infotainment though :) And that has helped. I think using facebook to engage users is the best option in our case. And ya, as you mentioned, storytelling as well!

  26. Useful information! Thanks!

  27. Great post! I get a ton of sales emails, and generally ignore almost all of them. Here’s what makes me actually respond: http://matchist.com/blog/how-to-write-a-cold-sales-email/