EP81 - Crafting Your Story - Part 4

Thanks, my friends for joining me.

Writing emails…

Most everyone can do that.

They show up in our inbox with relentless frequency.

Some are good…

and

Some are not.

Those that we enjoy, demonstrate qualities that compel us to keep reading.

And before we know it we are clicking on a link or two.

Why is that?

That is the subject of today’s Podcast.

Though my intentions are good, I promise that no matter how much I share with you there is still more to learn.

With the limitations of a Podcast, I will take you on a mini-journey, but it is up to YOU to continue honing your craft.

With that in mind, let’s continue.

Writing good story-based emails is challenging because you have less space to work with than you do with, say, a blog post, or a web page.

But it’s not impossible.

Many things can be done within an email that could attract someone to you, and your style of writing, and then compel them to keep reading, not just that email, but all of the ones you would send.

There are many elements of crafting emails.

We will limit our discussion to five crucial elements behind a good story-based email.

The more of them you nail, the better off you will be.

Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Showing up with a curiosity-driven subject line
  2. Capture attention in the first sentence
  3. Telling a story
  4. The transitions you use to position your call-to-action
  5. Nailing the Call-to-Action

Let’s look at each in more detail.

1. Showing up with a Curiosity-Driven Subject Line

We’ve talked about it before…

Email subject lines.

A good subject line varies from business to business. But there’s one type of subject line that works particularly well for our emails:

The curiosity-driven subject line.

Does your subject line [other than “Welcome” for the first email in a nurture sequence] attract attention and compel the person to do something, like click?

When your curiosity is piqued, your brain enters a state of increased motivation to learn.

And it is why curiosity-driven subject lines drive more opens. They motivate people to click to enter your email to learn more.

Here’s an example from one of our recent newsletters:

“Here is why I have driven all across Florida, just to tell you…”

It doesn’t reveal much about the content of the email, but it teases enough to make you want to read more.

Be warned, though: you need to be careful when writing curiosity-driven subject lines. Don’t write something that you fail to follow up on it in your email copy.

You will want to keep it short and sweet too.

With approximately 46% of emails being opened on mobile devices, I suggest that you keep your subject lines to 50 characters or less. This way those that have a habit of scanning their email [like me] can read the entire message.

Asking a question can also draw readers in – especially if you’re asking a question you know is relevant to their persona.

Such as…

“Are you making these SEO mistakes?”

or

“Do you know what your website is doing wrong?”

Zillow once sent an email with the subject line, “What Can You Afford?”.

Another thing…

DON’T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!! [people just don’t like to be yelled at.]

Also…

Don’t include a question and exclamation in the same subject line.

“Want a solution fast? Act now! [This can automatically end up in the spam folder.]

2. Capture Attention in the First Sentence

Once people open your email the next challenge starts:

You need something that will hook the reader on your story. And that means capturing their attention in the first sentence.

It’s always the hardest sentence to write in an email because it sets the tone for your entire story.

One practice I like to follow in our emails is to give readers a peek into my life to get to know me better.

That way, I can build a relationship with our audience and increase engagement.

Don’t be afraid to tell your audience about yourself and who you are. It will only increase the authenticity and credibility of your emails.

Also, avoid giving too much away in the first sentence. You want to make sure you capture the reader’s interest and convince them to read on.

Then, it’s time to tell your story.

I am including 10 other opening sentences that you can optimize or adjust for your use.

  1. “Is X a priority for you right now?”
  2. “Did you know [interesting statistic]?”
  3. “What do you think about [event]?”
  4. “What would it mean to you if your business was able to achieve [benefit]?”
  5. “How can I make your life easier?”
  6. “I don’t know how you feel about X, but to me it’s…”
  7. “I help companies like yours solve [pain point] by…”
  8. “I recently helped a company like yours [increase revenue by X amount, save Y hours every month, produce Z percent more product per quarter].”
  9. “Like you, I [love X activity, am interested in Y cause, participate in Z organization].”
  10. “I’ve long been a fan of…”

What tips buyers off that the email they’re reading is a sales pitch?

“Hi, my name is John Doe, and I’m a sales rep at X Company.”

3. Telling a Story

The basic format is:

  1. Tell a story [sub-story]
  2. Make a point
  3. Rinse and repeat for the duration of your message.

Each “sub-story” fits into an “overall story” (ie. the story arc).
Storytelling in emails is different from storytelling in blog posts. For one thing, space is limited, so you need to make your story long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep the reader engaged.

That’s not always an easy thing to do, but it’s doable.

Before I start writing emails, I always decide on the call-to-action (CTA), first.

That way, I can build my story around it and make sure that there’s a thread running throughout the email that ties the story to the CTA.

Once you have your CTA, it’s easier to find a real-life story that relates to your topic.

It doesn’t have to be a big adventure like a skiing trip - it can be something completely ordinary like babysitting your friend’s dog.

Whether it’s a blog post about social proof, or an email announcing a new product line, you can find stories from your life that are relevant to your CTA.

It can take time and it definitely requires out-of-the-box thinking. But putting your mind to work to find that perfect story is a lot of fun.

When you write your emails, you also might like to open small curiosity gaps in the content.

For example:

“And you won’t believe what happened next…”

What happened?

Peppering in curiosity gaps helps keep the reader engaged. And if a reader is engaged, they’re more likely to click through to learn more.

When you write your story, keep your CTA in mind, and don’t go off on a tangent.

4. The Transitions You Use to Position Your Call-to-Action

As your story comes to an end, it’s time to transition into your CTA. Note, this isn’t where you ask people to take action. We’ll get to that in the next step. The transition is all about linking your story to the CTA.

We all have multiple transition tools…

Like comparison, contrast, time, and summary/conclusion.

Let’s start with…

Comparison

To compare multiple thoughts or ideas, consider using the following transitions:

• Similarly
• Just like
• Likewise
• By the same token
• In a similar fashion

Here’s an example of this type of transition in use:

Just like Facebook Instant Articles, which lets users read articles without leaving Facebook’s mobile app, Google will host AMP pages on its own servers and serve up the content directly on its site.”

Contrast

To contrast multiple ideas or thoughts, consider using the following transitions:

• On the other hand
• At the same time
• Although
• Even though
• Even so
• In spite of
• Despite
• That said
• Granted
• Regardless
• Admittedly
• Instead
• But
• However
• Though
• Still
• Yet
• While
• Whereas
• Otherwise

Here’s an example of this type of transition in use:

“As jobs become more specialized in today’s workforce, it seems logical to hone a specific skill set, especially during school. But only learning the skills that match the exact requirements of a job today might not prepare you for your job tomorrow.”

Time

To describe something that happened, happens, or will happen during a certain time frame, consider using the following transitions:

• Previously
• Back then
• Nowadays
• Today
• Sometimes
• Once
• This time
• During
• Immediately
• Next
• Then
• Following
• Soon
• While
• Meanwhile
• Simultaneously

Here’s an example of this type of transition in use:

Nowadays, writing a letter can seem completely archaic. I mean, do people even send mail anymore? Or do they only communicate through email and messaging?”

Summary/Conclusion

To summarize or conclude a paragraph, consider using the following transitions:

• In a nutshell
• In sum
• To put it briefly
• Altogether
• After all
• Ultimately

Here’s an example of this type of transition in use:

“Traveling makes you more open to new experiences, which increases your willingness to try new things in the future. It also increases your brain’s capacity and attentiveness in future situations that are new and challenging. In a nutshell, traveling strengthens your desire and ability to learn new skills.”

5. Nailing Your Call-to-Action

It doesn’t matter if your CTA is a button or a link. Nor does it matter what action you’re asking the reader to take. If you write a clear CTA, your readers will click through.

Tell them exactly what they can expect when they click.

It’s a good idea to repeat your CTA at least twice. After the first CTA, we usually give the reader more information on what they can expect and why they should take action. This also helps convince readers who are on the fence about clicking through.

Remember, keep it simple and tell the reader exactly what you want them to do.

And in Conclusion…

Writing story-based emails is challenging, to begin with, especially if you’ve never done it before.

But once you find your voice, writing becomes a lot more fun and your audience will love you for it.

Don’t be afraid to let your audience get to know you as a person or as a brand, and remember to only write emails you would want to read yourself.

Talk to you all, next week.

James Brown

James "Mastering Story" Brown

P.S. - In the event, you DO find that once an episode has been produced and posted, that YOU really would like more information, just let me know. Use the Podcast Questions link, click on the link here. Or you can just leave a voice message here.

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