The Innovative Marketer's Blog

Writing Emails That Convert is Easier Than You Think

Posted by Matthew Cook


An upcoming HubSpot broadcast promises to transform your email marketing based on “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Do you really have to understand complicated psychological theories to create good inbound marketing emails?


Granted, I don’t know anything about Maslow and his hierarchy, but I don’t think it takes a Ph.D. to understand what your prospective customers want. Here is what they want:

  • They want to solve a problem.
  • They want their lives or jobs to be easier.
  • They want to save money.
  • They want to be better at what they do.

Your prospects only care about your emails inasmuch as they will help them achieve these things. That’s it.

When HubSpot or anyone else talks about “adding value” to an email, this is what they’re talking about. Prospects value content that helps them achieve their goals.

Sure, there are companies that are so captivating that people will read what they have to say purely out of curiosity. But the odds are, yours isn’t.

How to Write Emails That Convert

In inbound marketing, the role of most emails is to get readers to do something; most often, that’s accessing a piece of content, but it can also include completing a “contact us” form, registering for a webinar, possibly even making a purchase. This is your offer.

So here’s what your email needs to do: convince your prospects of the value of your offer. The value of your offer is how it helps them solve a problem, makes their job easier, saves them money, and/or makes them better. That’s it.

There’s two steps to this:

  1. Identify the problem readers are having.
  2. Offer a solution.

(My colleague, Larry, has pointed out that this formula is pretty similar to the classic “problem-agitation-solution” school of copywriting, and it is. The only difference is, “agitation” is really just “problem, but more in depth,” so I think we can simplify the formula even more to “problem-solution.”)

Start with the problem and start in the subject line. Don’t start with the solution. No one will care about your solution until they feel it’s a solution for their specific problem.

Here’s an example. Suppose you, like my agency, were trying to market inbound marketing services.

Bad subject line: “Why inbound marketing is so great.”

Your prospects are thinking: “What’s inbound marketing? I don’t know what that is. I don’t care about that. This email isn’t for me. Delete.”

Better subject line: “Struggling to generate leads online? There’s a better way.”

Your prospects are thinking: “Why yes, I am struggling to generate leads online. And I am looking for a better way! This email writer really understands my problems. I’m going to open it.”

Let’s take a look at a (very simplified) example of body text, as well.

Bad body text: “Do you need inbound marketing? At IMR, we’re experts on inbound marketing. Contact us and we’ll put together an inbound marketing plan for you.”

Your prospects are thinking: “No, I don’t need inbound marketing because I don’t even know what that is. This email is not helping me solve any problems, make my life easier, or save me money. Delete.”

Better body text: “You spent a million dollars on a beautiful new website and the leads just aren’t coming. Now the boss is mad. We’ll show you how to use that new website to generate leads and save your job. Contact us and we’ll fill you in.”

Your prospects are thinking: “Yes, I desperately need that! I don’t want to get fired. This email writer really understands me. I think I’ll get in touch.”

Obviously, there can be more to it than that, and I will introduce some more advanced email writing tactics in future articles, but, at base, if you can identify a problem and then offer a solution, you’re well on your way to writing more effective inbound marketing emails, no Ph.D. required.

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