an email that sells

The 5 Elements of an Email that Sells13 min read

An email that sells is just about the most valuable commodity a marketer can have today. Short of turning up at your customer’s door, it’s the most personable way of reaching out and communicating directly with your target audience.

Think about it. People check their emails constantly. In fact, a staggering 99% of consumers say they check their emails every single day. It’s here they communicate with work colleagues or friends, get news from people or businesses they like, offers from companies they’re loyal to…

By giving you their email address, a potential customer is already showing they have a degree of trust in you and your business. This means that a well-placed and well-crafted email can be an incredibly effective tool for the marketer.

Provided you get it right, email marketing can be your most lucrative revenue stream. More than 59% of marketers claim email to be their biggest source of ROI.

But there are some key elements to an email that sells. An email that actually gets people to open, read and buy from you. And as people get more and more inundated by spam, it’s ever more vital to know these elements, so that you don’t end up chucked unceremoniously in the junk folder.

In this blog, we’ll outline the 5 key elements of an email that sells, so that by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to tap into this highly effective form of marketing.

1.    A Tempting Subject Line

person using laptop

The big one. They say that a first impression lasts a lifetime, and whilst this might be a questionable and damaging notion in real life, it’s certainly applicable to your emails.

If your audience don’t have their attention arrested, their interest piqued, or their curiosity sparked, your subject line isn’t doing its job. This is your one and only opportunity to get your potential customer to click through to your email.

Obviously, this is a pretty vital step. If they don’t click through, there’s no way you can sell to them. If they don’t click through, you can’t get your message across.

So, your subject line needs to stand out in an inbox. The only job it has is to get the customer to click. Once that’s done, it’s served its purpose perfectly.

But how do you achieve this? How do you tempt your audience to take a peek at your email?

There are a few different routes you can go down here. You could go for the hard sell. To do this, making use of offers is a great way to get people clicking through.

Including things like ‘25% OFF’ or something like ‘½ PRICE’ can be really tempting for any hot-blooded capitalist consumer. And the numbers also help your copy for your subject just stand out a bit, our eyes are naturally drawn to them.

But there’s one element you can include that is even more effective at drawing in your customer: the word ‘free’.

free offer

By including the word free, you increase the odds of your audience clicking through immensely. The customer has literally no reason to not see what you’re offering. People can’t resist the lure of something for nothing, so provided that you actually have something free to offer, let your audience know in your subject line.

Using automation tools to include your audience’s name can also be really useful. If you’re scanning through your inbox and see your own name, it can grab your attention and encourage the click.

Make the benefits of clicking through clear. What might someone get out of reading your email? Why would they bother? If you are offering a great bit of content, then tell them what they’ll get out of it. If you have a great product, explain what solution it will provide for them.

You should also consider using emojis in your subject lines. Why? If this seems a little strange, then consider the fact that 56% of brands actually found that their subject lines with emojis in had a higher open rate than those without.


Of course, keep your brand voice in mind. If you’re serious and corporate, then perhaps emojis aren’t the best way to go. An email from an investment bank with a string of laughing face emojis wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Finally, although we mentioned that the only purpose of the subject line is to get the click, to create an email that sells, you can’t make false promises. Don’t offer a free membership in your subject line and then say in your email that you’ll be charging them. Don’t claim that you’re giving away a product for free before dropping the fact that, actually, it’s £25,000.

Clearly, a potential customer expecting something for free isn’t going to buy from you when they learn they need to pay. In fact, all you’re going to do is end up alienating and annoying any potential customers. So just make sure you follow through on whatever it is you outline with your subject.

If you promise the world on a plate in your subject line and provide relatively little in your email, you’ll only get people unsubscribing from your email marketing.

2.    Engaging Copy

person sitting by a window working on a laptop

The real meat in your email. A big old element, and the one that will really create an email that sells. Your copy is what needs to compel your customer to action. But how? How can you simply write something that turns a merely interested purveyor into a stone-cold buyer?

Start by getting personal. You should have done your research, you should have a buyer persona, write your email to your buyer persona.

Address your audience directly with auto naming tools, and then write as if you were addressing as single person. No one wants to read an email that looks as if it was written for thousands. And yes, we know it was written for thousands, but you need to hide that fact.

We’re doing it right now. Little asides, the use of the word ‘you’, informalities and interjections. Look, we know that you know this blog wasn’t written specifically for you. But hopefully it feels personal, direct, addressed to you.

Make sure this is clear in your emails. The word ‘you’ is extremely important. As you know your buyer persona, address them. What are their pain points? What would they want to hear from you?

If it’s a product you’re selling, think about the problems your buyer persona faces in everyday life. How will your product address them? If you are providing content or a service, how will it solve a problem? How will it entertain?

Always bring it back to your buyer persona and the solution you can provide to their problem, whether they’re aware of that problem or not.

Generally, look to avoid industry specific terms or jargon. It usually only acts as a turn-off for your customers and takes away from the personal aspect of your email.

Try to keep it short and simple. People are busy, they don’t particularly want to spend an hour reading your essay on the theory of relativity. They want to know what you have to offer, and why they need it. Don’t get carried away.

Another useful addition? Testimonials. Find some positive reviews – hopefully you’ve got some – and display them on your email as a bit of infinitely useful social proof. This just inspires that extra bit of trust in the reader, and can really help encourage them to take that next step.

3.    Eye-Catching Banners and CTAs

sign giving direction

Your ad banners and your CTA are a vital part of crafting an email that sells. Sure, you’ve got your potential customer to open your email, they’ve enjoyed your copy and now, oh joy of joys, they want to buy from you.

But you’ve not given them a CTA. There’s no tempting, aesthetically pleasing banner ad. The customer is left asking – what do I do now? Where do I go? How do I buy your amazing product/service that will completely fill the void in my life that I didn’t even realise existed?

You need to make sure you have a simple, single CTA or ‘call-to-action’. This is generally a button linked to a page on your website. Let’s say you’re in retail and you’re undertaking a campaign aiming to sell your summer range of shirts.

You might include in your email the absolute classic of CTA: ‘Shop Now’. This gives the customer a clear instruction of what to do when they’ve been deviously lured on to your email and they’ve been entranced by all the wonders your shirts provide.

They want to go ahead and buy six of your shirts, and they can clearly see that by clicking on the ‘Shop Now’ button, they’ll be granted the opportunity to do just that. But don’t just stick some text with a link on your email and make that the extent of your CTA.

Make it look appealing. Satisfy the consumer desire for that technical marketing term – ‘things that look nice’. If you’re going to make an email that sells, you’ve got to look professional and capture some attention.

That’s where your banner ads come in. You should go and create an eye-catching, pleasing design on a tool like Canva or Photoshop, although email marketing tools like Mailchimp can help you create banner ads on-platform.

Go with brand colors, or even display your products to give your reader a sneaky peak of the quality you provide. You can also use your banner ad just to break up your text a bit and make your email a little less like an academic paper.

4.    Intelligent Scheduling

clock changing time

It’s absolutely key, if you’re going to build an email that sells, that you don’t end up annoying your customers. Your email that sells might be perfect in every way, but if it’s the 134th in a series of emails that have arrived every hour for the last week, it’s probably safe to say that they aren’t going to be buying off you any time soon.

Constantly popping up in the inbox of your audience is going to seriously frustrate people, as you drown out valuable or personal messages that users really need to see. If you go down this road, there’s only one place your emails will have a permanent home – in the junk folder.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should email once in a blue moon. If you don’t send out enough emails, people will just… forget about you. You and your business will be nothing more than a fleeting memory, leaving no lasting impression on your painstakingly accumulated group of subscribers.

All this leads you to the same question that is left hanging on the lips of every email marketer:

‘How often should I send emails to my customers?’

Well, here at Adversent we’ve found that one email a week (as a general rule) is a good frequency rate. People recognise your emails, they’re just about infrequent enough to inspire some curiosity in what you have to say, but they are regular enough to keep you in the minds of your potential customers.

Take note when we say, ‘as a general rule’, because although this is a solid formula, the real answer to ‘how often should I send emails to my customers?’ relies greatly upon the goals you’ve set for a specific email campaign.

Let’s say you’ve set up a campaign to promote your new line of door hooks. Now, exciting as these door hooks may be on their own, you’ve decided to offer a discount for a limited time, to really whip the public into a frenzy.

long queue outside a store

Perhaps you would start by sending one email per week offering a 50% discount, letting your audience know that the irresistible deal will only last one month. As deadline day creeps closer and closer, and some people have still, inexplicably, not bought your door hooks, you may decide to up the frequency of your emails.

An email to warn them that they’re one week from missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one five days in advance, then perhaps a couple of emails with three and then one days remaining could be a good idea. Doing this injects a sense of urgency into your campaign, and helps remind your potential customers that this deal isn’t going to stick around forever.

Consider your goals carefully before settling on a schedule that suits them. This is where you need to carefully think about your buyer persona.

How will they feel about your approach? Would you tap into the ‘fear of missing out’, continuously reminding them that their time is running out to grab a deal? Or would you rather take a ‘softly-softly’ approach, avoiding inundating your customer with emails whilst providing them with sporadic, but high-quality content?

Whatever your choice, just remember not to swing too far in either direction. Keep yourself relevant and memorable, but for the right reasons.

5.    Landing Page

landing page

And a quick one to finish, make sure your landing page is top-quality. Yes, you’re right, and no, your landing page isn’t actually part of your email, but it’s an essential element in making emails that sell.

If you’ve managed to get your user to click on your email, read your copy and make the desired action, your email still won’t sell if you have a landing page that confuses, or completely turns off, that user.

Your landing page, for anyone that needs to know, is the page your user lands on when they click a link on your email. Intuitive.

You need to make sure that your quality user experience continues once the email has been clicked. Make your landing page neat, clear, and ensure you provide everything on it that you have promised in your email.

Final Thoughts

Selling with emails is an art, and one that takes a little while to master. However, with these five tips you are in a much stronger position for taking full advantage of what is a seriously lucrative marketing method.

Follow these like the letter of the law, make sure you’ve got these five elements down in your emails, and your door hooks will soon be flying off the shelf.