Here are 7 copywriting principles and a sales email template for each. Use these to test and improve your outreach.
The typical business professional receives an average of 81 emails per day, according to data gathered by Lead Genius’s William Wickey.
“Email is still the preferred communication channel of professionals, but grabbing decision makers’ attention is an increasingly difficult task,” he argues. “That is, of course, assuming you have already identified who the decision makers are in your industry.”
If you’re a salesperson who relies on cold email to make connections with prospective customers, maximizing the impact of each email you send increases the effectiveness of your outreach. Maximizing the impact of each email you send increases the effectiveness of your outreach Click To Tweet
That’s why it’s critical that you understand copywriting principles, as well as how to leverage them in your cold sales email campaigns.
Here are seven principles and frameworks to get you started. Learn them, love them, and watch your open and response rates soar.
1. Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA)
What It Is: Chances are you’ve heard of the AIDA model before, likely in the context of advertising or direct mail campaigns. It’s hardly a new construction; The Balance’s Paul Suggett attributes it to the work of E. St. Elmo Louis back in 1899.
To see how it works, let Alec Baldwin’s classic scene in Glengarry Glen Ross fill you in. Otherwise, this copywriting classic can be broken down into four steps:
- Attention: Get your reader’s attention quickly
- Interest: Explain why you think your offering will interest your prospect
- Desire: Grow their desire for your offering
- Action: Show them how to take advantage of it
Why It Works: The AIDA model follows a logical pattern. You can’t get someone to take advantage of an offer until they understand why they should be interested — and you can’t get their interest until you have their attention.
When it comes to cold sales emails, there are plenty of different ways you can fulfill each element. But until you have each piece of the puzzle in place, your cold email won’t be effective.
AIDA Sales Email Template:
2. Before-After-Bridge (BAB)
What It Is: As described by Buffer, the before-after-bridge copywriting format will help you get prospects envisioning exactly how your solution will make their lives better.
This is done in three steps:
- Before: Describe what your reader’s life is like now
- After: Help them picture how your solution makes it better
- Bridge: Show them how you’ll take them from before to after
Why It Works: There’s a classic Tony Robbins quote that reads, “People will do more to avoid pain than they will do to gain pleasure.” The key to the BAB template is getting prospects to connect with the pain of their current situation — then showing them how to overcome it (and how you’re uniquely qualified to do so).
BAB Sales Email Template:
3. Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS)
What It Is: The problem-agitate-solve model doubles down on the desire for pain avoidance that makes the BAB structure so effective.
Typically, this is done in three stages:
- Problem: Describe the current problem your prospect is facing
- Agitate: Emphasize the pain of the problem
- Solve: Share how you’ll help them solve it
Why It Works: The PAS structure is, essentially, the pessimistic version of the BAB template. Here, prospects aren’t given the relief of a possible solution. Instead, messages using this structure hammer home the pain being faced, while allowing for a brief glimpse of optimism at the thought that you — the sender — might be able to take it away.
PAS Sales Email Template:
4. Praise-Picture-Push (PPP)
What It Is: This three-part copywriting structure builds de facto personalization into compelling copy that’s grounded in flattery.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Praise: Compliment recipients on a recent achievement or milestone
- Picture: Paint a picture of how your solution will help the prospect achieve even more
- Push: Encourage them to take action on your ask
Why It Works: On the one hand, congratulating the recipient on a recent achievement immediately makes your message personalized, which Woodpecker.io’s Mary Siewierska suggests can double your reply rates.
But even more importantly, flattery just feels good. We want to do business with those who make us feel good, making this a useful copywriting template to try — especially on those who don’t respond well to pain-oriented copy.
PPP Sales Email Template:
5. Share a Helpful Resource
What It Is: Rather than follow a particular format, this cold email approach simply involves passing on helpful resources to the prospects that’ll benefit from them.
Why It Works: Besides immediately minimizing the friction of the standard cold email ask, taking this approach offers a number of benefits:
- If the information is carefully chosen, it may help move prospects further down the sales funnel.
- It positions you as an expert source, making it more likely prospects will turn to you — rather than a competitor — if they have questions in their buyer journey.
- It engages the “principle of reciprocity,” by which people feel compelled to return favors to those who have granted them.
Resource Sales Email Template:
6. Challenge the Current State
What It Is: This copywriting structure piques recipients’ curiosity, opening up their interest in seeking out better alternatives — even if they weren’t looking in the first place.
Why It Works: Few people are fully content. For the most part, we’re all on the lookout for the “latest and greatest” solution. Using this structure engages the part of the brain that’s always seeking out novel experiences, while positioning you and your offering as the ideal solution to this need.
Challenge Sales Email Template:
7. My 3-Sentence Format
What It Is: I don’t have a cheesy name for this one, but it’s proven successful for me over and over. Basically, in my experience, the ideal cold sales email should have three sentences:
- An introduction
- A description of what you’re selling
- Your ask
Getting down to three sentences is tough, especially if your company is relatively unknown or your product is complex. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself to remove every word or piece of information that’s unnecessary to the effective operation of your cold sales email.
Why It Works: The reality is that we’re all busy. Nobody wants to read your manifesto or slog through a novel-length email to figure out what you want. Make taking the next step as easy as possible by removing unnecessary information and getting to the point as quickly as possible.
3-Sentence Sales Email Template:
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Choosing Your Cold Email Approach
After reading about these different structures, naturally the next question to ask is, “Which one should I start with?”
And the answer — as frustrating as it may be to hear — is, “That depends.”
Just as no company or product is alike, no prospect will respond the same way to every cold sales copywriting structure. Asking yourself the following questions, though, may help you hone in on the right template for your prospects’ needs:
- Is my company established in my industry, or am I a disruptor? If you’re relatively unknown, you may need to build trust first by sending helpful resources or drive interest by challenging the current state.
- Are my prospects generally happy with their existing solutions, or do they still have significant pain points? If the latter, you may get better results making use of the BAB and PAS templates than in other cases.
- How much do I know about my prospects? If you’re bulk emailing a massive list, my 3-sentence approach may be best. If you’ve done individual research, however, look for opportunities to use the PPP template.
Don’t overthink this decision. Pick the template that makes the most sense for your prospects, and remember that you can always switch to a different structure in the future if you’re seeing low open and response rates. Ongoing testing is the only real secret to cold emailing success.
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