How To Write a Mass Email Your People Will Devour

October 23, 2015 Posted by Shannon Winning
Shannon Winning

how to write an email people can't wait to readI write a LOT of emails. I know you’re thinking, Who doesn’t? But on top of my own emails to clients, colleagues and kids' teachers, I ghost write and send emails on behalf of clients every day.

If I didn’t think it would crush my writer’s soul, I’d change my business card to read Shannon Winning – Email Writer.

Crushing of creative souls aside, I love the surprised and delighted feedback I get from clients after I send out a batch.

“They think I’m talking directly to them,” is my favorite response.

Sometimes clients forward to me the responses they receive. The replies say things like,
“Thanks Marc. Appreciate you keeping us in the loop.” “This sounds great! I’d love to attend.”

My clients are always kind of astounded for two reasons:

One, their contacts responded personally to something distributed en masse.
Two, they didn’t write it and yet to their contacts it appeared as if they did.

How did I achieve such email wizardry? Today I’m going to tell you how I help my clients write mass emails people actually want to read. You’ll be shocked at how easy it is.


Make sure people actually want and expect to hear from you.

If you bought a list, or are using a list of contacts from your previous company or organization, people are not expecting to hear from you. Let me tell you a few things that could happen, all of which are bad, ranging from undesirable to muy mal.

Your unsolicited email will cause your contacts to see your email and do one of the following:

  1. Nothing (it went right to the junk folder or promotions graveyard)
  2. Not open it
  3. Unsubscribe (not always a bad thing)
  4. Mark it as spam
  5. Mark you as spam in their heart because you have deeply annoyed them
  6. Begin replying with bitchy responses asking to be removed from your list and start harassing you on social media.

Ok, so that last one is my response to the NJ State Department of Community Affairs and a PR agency from Washington State, both of which continue to spam me relentlessly and break all the best practices laid out in this blog.

Lesson: Don’t be the DCA or that agency from the West Coast. Always include an unsubscribe feature. Not only does it stop you from annoying them further, it helps you disqualify a prospect you shouldn’t spend any more time on.


Segment your giant contact list into smaller targeted lists.

The trick to writing a mass email is to NOT write a mass email whenever possible. Separate out your lists by persona. One for clients. One for prospects. One for the kids in the back you haven’t heard from in a while. Now write three slightly different messages for each list. Sound like too much work? A study of marketers found that, 39% of email marketers that practice list segmentation see better open rates; 28% see lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates; and 24% see better email deliverability, increased sales leads, and greater revenue. Totally worth the work.


Email from real people only

Is info@yourcompany the one nurturing your clients and prospects via email? Let me tell you, info@yourcompany is a BORE and I would not want to be trapped with him at a cocktail party. I want to hear from Carrie@yourcompany. She’s a real human whom I’ve met. People open emails that are from other human beings. I don’t have a stat for that, I can just tell you that this is some gospel truth right here. Change your email settings to send from a member of your team who is the most recognizable name or the face of your company, and watch the replies come in. “Thanks Carrie! Love reading your newsletter.” Better yet, segment your lists by company rep – one for the VP of sales, one for the director of PR, with each sending out his or her own email to his or her own people. If you have a professional marketer running your email (like moi) she can send out all these emails from one dashboard as though she were those company reps.


Craft a short, snappy subject line (bonus points for alliteration)

You have exactly 50 characters to grab your reader before your subject line is truncated by most email clients. This is what a 50 character subject line allows. Actually that’s 49 characters, because I am that good. Or because I used this tool, which counts for you. Handy if your email program doesn’t provide that feature. If you have email marketing software like Constant Contact, or a full-service marketing automation software like HubSpot, it will give you the character count and enable you to autopopulate your contacts first name: Hi Ben, This is your subject line now.

Does that seem like I’m tricking my reader into thinking I’m actually talking directly to him? The truth is, if I had the time and the carpal tunnel stamina to individually craft 697 personal emails, I would. Naturally, I’m pulling in Ben’s first name automatically, just like in actual life when we ran into each other at Booskerdoo yesterday.


Keep it short and zingy

Kelly Ripa once said famously to all engaged couples out there, “No one wants to come to your wedding.” Truth. Less famously her marketing assistant said, “No one wants to read your email.” You may have missed that part as Kelly was flipping her hair, however it’s no less true. Email is the WORST. A relentless beast under the stairs we have to beat back every day. You have the opportunity to be the bright spot in your readers’ inboxes by keeping it engaging and to the point. Be ruthless with your own writing. Slash and dash all the extra words. Write like you talk, not like an animatronic business robot.

Here’s an example. Look how I break out points from this blog into bullets so you pay attention to important stuff. And look how I eliminate long or unnecessary words:

  • Grab your reader with a strong compelling intro distilling your purpose
  • Use bold for important key phrases
  • Break out important points into bullets
  • Finish with a clear call to action: Click here, reply with, register here...

Check out this example from one of our recent emails about Jen’s PR Newswire Webinar (which went very well, btw).




The copy is engaging, right? Her intro is strong and as the reader I feel she is talking directly to me. I know her point immediately – She’s starring in a webinar about big data and I am invited.

I know what I’ll get out of watching it:

  • More attention from the media
  • Better engagement from social followers
  • Better bottom line results

I know what to do next, click here to sign up.

All without being bored or annoyed.

The subject line was pretty boss too: Shannon, Let's talk PR after lunch

She had me at first name. (Though I ghost wrote the whole thing.)

Let’s recap: Keep accurate up-to-date contact lists and segment your news to your lists with targeted content. Make your messages clear and brief, your copy zingy and your subject lines clickable.

Email can be your business’ BFF if you use it as it was intended, for communication with people who truly want to hear from you. It can nurture relationships, develop marketing qualified leads and even generate revenue - but only if your recipients open it.

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Topics: Insider, digital marketing, Email marketing