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How to write high-converting sales emails in just 4 steps (+ Templates)

Low open and click-through rates have you down? Start writing better sales emails today with this four-step guide (+ templates).

You’ve been working hard to build an email list, scouring the internet for experts and tools to help you turn copy into your top salesperson.

Each day your subscriber count goes up by one, two, three -- and it makes you so excited. Your hard work is starting to pay off.

But not a lot of subscribers are opening your emails, clicking the links within them, or generally taking action after reading them.

It’s a problem, but not an unfixable one. You just need to revamp your email writing.

And no, that doesn’t mean you need to start spamming your subscribers with pushy sales pitches.

Instead, you want to send more nurture emails and use email as a trust-building and informational platform for communicating with your customers. We’ll show you how today.

First, let’s define what a nurture email is and why they belong in every creator’s email marketing toolkit.

What is a nurture email?

Nurture emails are emails sent to subscribers based on their past actions and aim to convert subscribers into leads and then into customers.

However, nurture emails also aim to offer subscribers helpful information at the right stage in their buyer’s journey and build trust in brands by using personalization.

As an example of trust-building, consider this email from Airbnb sent to a subscriber who was visiting Portugal the next day.

It’s an excellent example of a nurture email not only because it was based on the subscriber’s action -- most likely booking accommodations in Portugal and browsing things to do -- but also because it offers genuinely useful, personalized recommendations.

Nurture emails like Airbnb’s could be classified as triggered emails, or emails sent based on a subscriber’s actions, such as visiting a sales page, abandoning a cart, or indicating a content preference in a previous email.

And considering that triggered emails have a 46.53% open rate -- compared to just 20.92% for email newsletters and an overall open rate of 16.74% for businesses across industries -- they’re definitely worth adding to your email marketing efforts.

At this point, you may be thinking that nurture emails sound awfully like drip emails, where a brand sends helpful information to a new subscriber to gently guide them towards making a purchase.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

Drip emails and nurture emails share a similar goal -- to guide a subscriber toward becoming a happy customer.

However, you could think of nurture emails as targeted drip emails sent to “warmer” leads who are closer to making a purchase.

For example, abandoned cart emails like this one from Zumiez are guiding leads to complete their purchase.

This would be considered a nurture email since it’s “nurturing warm leads” --people who are about to make a purchase -- towards completing their action.

Drip emails, on the other hand, are typically sent to subscribers who don’t know much about your brand or what you can do for them.

As a result, drip emails need to gently guide those subscribers towards making a purchase by gradually sharing information about your industry, brand, and services.

Let’s take a look at a few more examples.

This email from computer eyeglass provider, Felix Gray, encouraged its subscribers to use their FSA money by the end of the year by making a purchase.

This is a stand-out example of a nurturing email because it could only be sent to a subscriber who had indicated that they were not only interested in making a purchase, but were planning on using FSA money to do so.

Compare the personalization in Felix Gray’s email with this onboarding email from Lululemon, which merely introduces subscribers to their new offers but doesn’t offer personalized recommendations or calls-to-action.

This is a great example of a drip email trying to raise awareness of their brand’s offerings for their customers, but not necessarily trying to convert those who are interested in making a purchase to making one.

However, that doesn’t mean you should never send a drip email like Lululemon’s. Rather, just remember that drip emails are better sent to leads who aren’t close to making a purchase, or are at the top of the sales funnel.

Conversely, if a segment of your list is extremely interested in and close to making a purchase at the bottom of the funnel, then targeted nurture emails are a better choice.

Still, both types of email have value in a sales funnel, and regardless of which you’re sending, both can be improved with the right approach to writing.

Here’s how.

How to write a great sales email

To write a great sales email, follow these four steps:

  1. Segment and analyze your list

  2. Write an eye-catching subject line

  3. Pack your email with helpful information

  4. Include a distinct offer in your CTA

We’ll delve into the segmenting and analyzing your list first.

Step #1: Segment and analyze your list

Maybe the reason why your sales emails aren’t performing well is that they’re being sent to the wrong people, or to people whose values and interests don’t align with your emails.

The solve is segmenting your list.

Segmenting your list simply means taking all of your email subscribers and separating them into categories based on their behaviors or backgrounds.

Segmentation can be time-consuming, but likewise can have a big payoff -- segmented campaigns have 14.31% more opens than non-segmented campaigns, according to Mailchimp.

That means you may see more email opens and conversions just by sending more targeted emails to different segments.

The great thing about segmentation is that there are multiple ways to segment your list.

You can segment your email list based on your subscribers’ purchase history, stage in the buyer’s journey, or customers who’ve referred you to others, to name a few.

This allows you to have a better understanding of what content your subscribers want to see in their emails so you can send more personalized emails.

As an example of how important it is to send relevant content, consider this: 71.7% of consumers have said that content was irrelevant because it was too general and 24.7% said unuseful content was basic, general, or vague.

So by segmenting your list, you can send more relevant and personalized content to your audience, thus boosting your open and click-through rates.

Consider this email from online banking provider, Simple.

With references to student loans and Lisa Frank school supplies, Simple’s audience for this email was probably people under 30 who were either in school or who had recently graduated.

While they could have easily sent this to other members of their list who had graduated several years ago or who were older than 30, it’s possible their marketing message wouldn’t have resonated with those groups, thus resulting in fewer clicks and conversions.

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But aside putting your subscribers into sublists, make sure to prune subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in a while, as well -- this can lower your email marketing costs if your email service provider charges by your subscriber count.

It can also increase your open and click-through rates since they will be measured against fewer inactive subscribers.  

Segmentation doesn’t end and begin at your email service provider, however. To make the most out of segmentation, you need to check on how your landing pages are performing, too.

If you see that a landing page gets many views but few signups, consider changing which lead magnets you offer. This list of the top 3 lead magnets to launch your email list should help. Alternatively, if you need a total overhaul, check out this guide to create your own landing page.

Otherwise, just keep in mind that while giving away free content is a reliable way to grow your list, if there’s a discrepancy between your content and what you talk about in your emails, subscribers may soon lose interest in them.

To go for extra credit with segmenting your list, there’s one more route you can pursue in this step: customer research.

Conducting customer research can seem daunting, but merely having a conversation with some of your happiest customers is enough to reveal what you can do to make them happier.  

To carry out customer research, you could directly ask your customers want they want to learn more about, as HubSpot did with their “Pick Your Own Adventure” tactic, or ask through polls and surveys.

For truly comprehensive insight, however, interviews are best, whether they’re over Google Hangouts or another platform, so you can have more in-depth conversations.

To recap:

The first step in writing better sales email is to analyze your subscriber base to see if you could segment them further and send them more targeted emails.

Next, consider changing up your landing pages and lead magnets to attract more qualified leads, and interview your top subscribers to get more insight into what they want in an email.

After you’ve done that, the fun can begin: actually writing your emails.

Naturally, you need to start at the top -- your subject line.

Step #2: Write an eye-catching subject line

“[Product name] now 25% off! Act now while supplies last.”

“Here’s your 10% off coupon.”


"We’re launching [product name] today!!!!! 🥰”

These aren’t the most intriguing subject lines, but they’re easy to find from brands large and small.

It’s not a bad model to follow -- what’s popular earns its popularity for a reason -- but if you want to stand out, there are better strategies to use with email subject lines.

Personalization, social proof, curiosity, and humor are just a few ways to write a headline that breaks through the email marketing noise, with personalized subject lines alone getting 50% more opens than non-personalized ones.

For example, Sumo used a sense of curiosity to earn a 69% open rate with the subject line “I was right - and that’s not good for you.”

If you aren’t sure what kind of subject line you should use first, check out these 10 subject line formulas or consider testing them on social media.

Content creation platform Ceros, for example, tested their subject lines on social media and saw a 35.4% open rate and a 10.3% click-through rate for that subject line as a result.

If you’re looking for extra verification for your subject lines, test them using CoSchedule’s Email Subject Line Tester.

However much you test subject lines, they can only get you so far -- they’re just the metaphorical cookie crumbs that lead your subscribers towards the main draw: your email copy and CTA.

That’s where the third step comes in.

Step #3: Write email copy that draws readers in immediately

A good email conveys its message clearly and concisely.

A great email pulls readers in from the first letter with can’t-wait-to-read-more copy...while still staying clear and concise.

To write the latter email, you’ll need three key components:

  1. An attention-grabbing opening line

  2. Short but compelling body copy

  3. Clear and immediate value from accepting your offer or taking action

Let’s break these down one by one.

Your first line should be something that jars your reader (in a good way).

It should be something unexpected that simultaneously gets them thinking but also curious to read more of your email so they can figure out what you meant in your first line.

Take a look at this email from Stack.

Their opening line -- “Does Santa look worried?” is excellent.

First of all, it’s a sentence you would probably never see or hear in real-life and makes you want to read the email to figure out why they’re even asking about Santa’s appearance.

Plus, it grabs their subscribers’ attention during the holiday season, when it’s arguably the most scarce and at the highest price.

But that’s not the only notable thing about Stack’s email -- it’s also packed with action words that entice the reader to action --  “go to our Christmas page, choose the free magazine you want to send, . . . ” -- and makes their offer proposition (getting a magazine) clear as crystal.

They then wrap up their directive by assuring their subscribers that picking their magazine is “ideal for any last-minute gift giving”, introducing not just the problem, but the solution.

Let’s take a peek at another great email.

Outdoor clothing company REI’s email is a superb example of copy that draws in their readers by speaking to their customers’ desires and urges.

From the opening line, “we need dirt”, to copy describing their subscribers’ thoughts and desires about the outdoors, REI’s email continues to pull their readers in like a moth to light.

But REI’s body copy is far from its only excellent feature-- it also has a cleverly written CTA.

After whirring up desires to be in the great outdoors, the CTA subtly guides them to REI’s site where they can buy the goods they need to be in nature.

If these examples demonstrate nothing else, it’s that email copy should, above all, be about your subscribers: their problems, their feelings, their lifestyles, and naturally, their solutions.

And, as we touched on earlier, it should be about all of those things without turning into a novel. Email copy needs to be concise and readable with short sentences and few long words.

Concision is more vital than it might seem. 50.2% of emails are 300 words or less, with the average email wordcount being 434.48 words.

That’s assuming your subscribers actually read your emails and don’t just skim them.

Which most people do -- I’m certainly guilty of it from time-to-time.

So even if you keep your emails short, don’t save your offer for the very end of the email. Most users focus on the content on the top of a page, so it’s generally a good idea to keep your key information towards the top.

Now, the final step for optimizing your emails is the cherry on the cake, so to speak.

Step #4: Include a call-to-action (CTA)

Most emails CTAs are guilty of being a little vanilla.

“Shop now.”

“Buy now.”

“I want a 10% coupon.”

That’s okay -- not every CTA is going to be amazing.

But as a general rule, you want to make your CTA stand out so your subscribers can clearly see what action you want them to take and act on it.

First of all, you’ll want to make your CTA a vibrant color or at least something that sticks out from your email’s color palette.

Mint’s orange CTA, for example, contrasts from its light pastel color scheme.

Another way to make your CTA stand out is by using strong verbs and an original CTA.

“Shop now” or “read more” are overdone.

_Cook’s Illustrated’_s “let’s get cooking”, on the other hand, is unique and tailored to the offer.  

Alternatively, if there are multiple products you want subscribers to consider, you could follow Purple’s example.

This email from Purple uses common CTAs like “shop now”, but also more original options such as “rest your head” and “sheet ya” for its pillow and sheet products.

Additionally, when it comes to CTAs, you want to ensure you’re only asking your subscribers to take one action after reading the email.

For example, if you’re sending an email promoting your product launch, don’t include a CTA asking them to go to the sales page and then another CTA to check out your latest blog post.

Including too many CTAs can confuse your readers as to which action the should follow through on -- if any at all.

That being said, it’s still acceptable to repeat your CTA multiple times and in different formats, such as a button and hyperlinked text.

Backcountry’s email, for example, has one main CTA (to check out their products) but offers three distinct versions based on the type of backpack readers might prefer.

One final way to make your CTAs distinct is by personalizing them based on the information you know about your subscribers or segment, as personalized CTAs perform 202% better than non-personalized ones.

(Starting to notice a theme?)

However you choose to customize your CTA -- making it a vibrant color, using action-oriented language, or personalizing it-- just remember to make it something distinct.

With a brand as unique as yours, you don’t want to fall to the wayside because of a run-of-the-mill CTA.

4 sales email templates to help up your email marketing game

By now, you’re probably overflowing with nurture email ideas.

To help you put all of those great ideas into action, we’ve put together four email templates to use to start building your next nurture emails.

Since nurture emails are a more advanced email marketing tactic, you should use them with an email marketing tool such as MailChimp or ConvertKit which has more sophisticated email automation and analytics features to get the most out of them.

Each of these templates is under 100 words (remember how important we said concision is?), but feel free to expand upon them. These templates cover four common scenarios: a new subscriber, follow-ups, inactive students or members, and inactive subscribers.

Type #1: New subscriber

Best for: New subscribers so that they can be properly segmented

Welcome to [your brand/community], [subscriber name]!

We’re so excited to have you here.

You’ll be getting an onboarding email from us in a few minutes laying out all of the cool things you can do as a student in this course/member of this community.

In the meanwhile, we wanted to give you a little gift for signing up.

And the best part? You get to pick which gift you want. Simply click one of the three downloads below to receive the ebook of your choice.

  • [Download #1]
  • [Download #2]
  • [Download #3]

[Sign off]
[Your name]

Type #2: Follow-up

Best for: New subscribers who indicated which download they wanted and what kind of information they’re looking to receive

Hey [subscriber name],

A few days ago, you downloaded [ebook title] as your new subscriber gift.

How are you liking it so far? Are there any questions I can answer for you?

I know that [ebook title] covers a lot of territories, so here are some helpful blog posts/videos that other students have found useful in understanding the material.

  • [Link #1]
  • [Link #2]
  • [Link#3]

Hoping to hear from you soon.

[Sign off]

[Your name]

Type #3: Inactive student or member

Best for: Students who haven’t completed their course/course assignments or participated in their membership program.

Hey there, [subscriber name],

For a course: I noticed you haven’t logged into/completed assignments/watched any course videos in a while.

For a membership: I noticed you haven’t participated in the membership community for a little while.

Were there any questions you had about the material/assignments/community?

Is there anything I can do to help you out?

Feel free to reach out to me via email using this address [your email address] and I would be glad to help you out.

[Sign off]

[Your name]

Type #4: Inactive subscriber

Best for: A subscriber who hasn’t opened the past 3-4 emails

Hey there, [subscriber name],

We noticed that you haven’t opened our emails in a while. Is there anything we could do to make these emails more interesting and relevant to you?

Do you want to change how often you get emails from us or what kind of content you see from us? If so, you can change your subscription preferences at the bottom of this email.

If you have a question or concern, please reach out using this email address [your email address], and we’d be happy to help.

[Sign off]

[Your name]

Write sales email your subscribers can’t wait to open

As contradictory as it may seem, writing better sales emails doesn’t mean being more sales-y and promotional.

Instead, it means putting your subscribers’ needs front and center and sharing the information they need to solve whatever problems they’re having.

To revamp your sales emails, there are four steps you can take, including:

  • Segmenting your list so you can send more targeted messages and redesigning your landing pages and lead magnets to reflect these different groups.

  • Writing a subject line that differs from what your competitors are writing and entices your subscribers to read further, whether that’s by making your subject line more personalized, controversial, or based on trending topics.

  • Crafting email copy that shows empathy for your subscribers’ concerns and desires and offers solutions to them.

  • A CTA with an offer that prompts your subscribers to act immediately

Whether you’re just starting to grow your email list or have a list numbering in the thousands, writing better sales emails can do wonders for your open and conversion rates and overall customer-brand relationships.

Use the four templates we’ve provided today to start writing the emails your subscribers have been longing for -- it’ll be a wise and easy investment.

About the author

Taylor Barbieri is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive. Taylor enjoys learning foreign languages, fiction writing, and pugs in no particular order.