Continuing the series of posts in which I take a close look at one specific email — putting a positive spin on “copy teardowns”
About these Email Clinics
Copy “tear-downs” are having a bit of moment on the internet. For years, I’ve resisted the urge to take part in this movement — even though I LOVE looking at specific copy examples in detail and suggesting improvement ideas.
Thing is, I don’t like criticising brands behind their backs.
So I’ve developed Clinics as my own version of these “teardowns”. For a limited time only, members of the #Ethicalhour network had the chance to get an in-depth video assessment of their email copy, free of charge: what it looks like, how it reads, what’s working really well, and what could be improved.
This series of articles presents a summary of each assessment, so we can all learn from these emails together. You may also want to sign up to these newsletters just to see what changes were made based on the clinics!
About Boho Homes London
Boho Homes is a London-based social enterprise bringing ethically-made artisan decor from India to European homes. A multi-country project launched with strong belief in fair trade, they believe that trade can empower lives. Boho Homes London works with social enterprises, small scale artisans and other Fairtrade suppliers to showcase products that are beautiful, practical and unique.
Where required, they provide needs-based support to enable the production. This allows them to empower artisans and other marginalised small producers to gain skills and confidence, leading to economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their local community.
Signing Up for the Boho Homes London Newsletter: First Impressions
Tip: Design your pop-ups as friendly invitations. Don’t block access to your page. Don’t ask for sign-ups too soon. #MindsetOverMatter.
A few seconds after my arrival on the Boho Homes website, I get two popups:
A still from my video review showing the 3 pop-ups in action.
- My browser tells me that Boho Homes wants to show notifications
- The newsletter sign-up box that promises 10% off my first purchase
- If I add the cookie banner, that number even rises to 3.
It’s important to balance the business need to grow your list with creating a pleasant user experience. If people don’t enjoy their visit, they won’t stick around on the website to buy, and they’re far less likely to come back.
So it makes sense to take things slow and limit the amount of pop-ups used. Make sure each pop-up adds as much value as possible.
Your visitor will have no idea what kinds of browser notifications would be beneficial for them while using your website. Many people even block them by default. They don’t want to be distracted when they’re surfing online.
If you decide to ask for permission to show browser notifications, explicitly state what’s in it for the visitor. Otherwise people will think you just want to get their attention. And a growing number of people want to be the owners of their attention.
Looking at the sign-up form, this pop-up needs to be bigger because the font is tricky to read at this size.
Avoid GDPR Surprises
Fast forward to the Welcome email, which says “you’ll be the first to know about sales, new arrivals and special subscribers-only offers”.
While that’s a great benefit of signing up, it’s not mentioned by the sign-up form.
In fact, the form is a little unclear about what people are signing up for. Is it just the 10% discount? there’s no mention of marketing emails, how frequently they’re sent, and how I can unsubscribe.
The 3 key points to bear in mind when designing a GDPR compliant signup form:
- Tell people clearly what it is they’re signing up for
- Tell them how to unsubscribe / that they can unsubscribe at any time
The problem with discount codes
People will probably only sign up via this pop-up if they already know that they’re more than 50% likely to make a purchase here.
Because a 10% discount isn’t worth anything to people who aren’t going to buy. To put it bluntly, if I don’t buy from you, I’ll have saved 100%.
What’s more, the pop up came so fast that it didn’t give anyone enough time to understand what Boho Homes is all about. And here we are, already faced with a discount code for a shop that we haven’t even had a chance to browse yet.
Yes, discount codes work.
And it can yield disappointing long-term results when it comes to subscriber engagement and profit margins. A 2019 study conducted in the US found that “over 80% of participants reported signing up for email offers specifically to receive discounts.” This means 80% of participants aren’t prepared to pay full price.
While that may not sound that surprising, it’s bad news for the fair & sustainable sector. Transparent, humane supply chains already lead to higher production costs. The profit margin is often reinvested into the business, with a big chunk supporting beneficiaries around the world.
If we train our subscribers to expect deals from day one, we’re limiting our ability to make an impact. We’re not helping them to fully understand & embrace the value of our way of doing business. And we’re feeding into the cycle of mindless consumerism instead of encouraging sufficiency.
So when you’re creating your sign-up experience, ask yourself:
- Is there something we can offer that’s in tune with our philosophy and our mission?
- What would add value whether or not this person is ready to buy from us today?
- What psychological needs can we tap into that make this offer fun & compelling enough for people to give up their email addresses?
- How can we encourage the mindset shifts needed to bring us closer to achieving the SDGs?
Choosing More Sustainable Lead Magnets
This is a good opportunity to look at what I’ve called #MindsetOverMatter — my “Three Word Rebellion”:
- We need to shift people’s mindsets first & foremost — and THEN shift stuff that helps them to live in tune with that new mindset (products, services, in other words: matter)
- Because we need to sell more ethical stuff to people — instead of selling ethical people more stuff
- Because the person who wants your ethical offer is not the same as the uninitiated person who’s just heard of you for the first time
- Because nobody’s going to buy your offer if they haven’t bought into your ideas first
- Because we need culture change to beat climate change
- Because we need to speed up The Great Transformation — and we need a Great Mindshift to do so
- Because marketing got us to the brink of the climate catastrophe — and marketing also has the power to Make Sustainability Sexy
MindsetOverMatter is about getting people to buy the idea that you stand for, and the lifestyle that you promote, before offering a paid product or service.
And Boho Homes London is an ideal example of what that could mean.
- A more sustainable lead magnet option could help visitors create a “boho home”.
- For example, a guide to different kinds of decorative styles that are all represented in the Boho Homes online shop, but that speak to different people in different ways.
- Or a quiz — such as, “what kind of home decorating style are you?” — where people can find out whether they’re Scandinavian minimalists or boho chic folks or whether they’re a better fit for the country style or for shabby chic.
People are probably going to be curious enough to give up their email addresses to find out more about themselves, and it helps them make a more considered purchase. You could then link these types to the different products available in your online shop and offer a discount code at a later stage.
You’ll probably get more engaged subscribers if you set up a story that is about mindset from the beginning, instead of going in with the “matter” — the actual paid purchase — straightaway.
The Welcome Email
Tip: Match the message of your Welcome email to your sign-up form
Welcome to the Conscious Shopping Revolution!
This is a brilliant email subject. It sounds great and adds meaning to the sign-up.
For Boho Homes, this means new subscribers are likely to expect an email that says something about a 10% discount. They don’t really expect anything about a conscious shopping revolution, because the company hasn’t told them anything about that revolution in the sign-up form.
So in order to stick with the theme of the revolution and emphasise the conscious shopping mindset, we need to make the sign-up form about the conscious shopping revolution, too.
On the other hand, if you wanted to keep the sign-up focused on the 10% discount code, I would recommend adjusting the subject line so people understand this is where to find their discount code.
This is a preview email — so there’s no actual discount code inside.
About Open Rates
The Welcome email has a 53% open rate. That’s almost three times the average email open rate of UK businesses!
If you’re a small company, I would encourage you to aim higher, though. Your Welcome email can achieve open rates between 70 and 80% if you target the right audience, choose the right lead magnet and write a compelling subject line.
If you have only 53% of new subscribers keen to open the email with the discount code, then that tells you that only 53% of the people going to your website were ready to buy something that day.
The Relationship Between Subject Lines, Images, Logos and Copy
The email starts off with two big logos and a picture:
- The “Certified Social Enterprise” logo from Social Enterprise UK
- The Boho Homes logo and website address
- A picture of somebody printing something (I think)
This is followed by some copy thanking the reader for signing up and promising they’ll be the first to know about sales, new arrivals and special subscribers-only offers. These are fab benefits. They’d develop even more power if they were linked directly to the business mission so the reader understands how these emails will benefit the conscious shopping revolution.
As it is, the elements of this email are quite separate and disconnected from each other. There’s a great story to be told about Boho Homes, and the ingredients are there — not it’s all about combining them to a coherent whole.
For example, the Social Enterprise logo alludes to the conscious shopping revolution, but it’s not made explicit. Not everyone will pay close attention to what the logo says (we’ve all been trained to ignore certain types of graphics), so there needs to be a stronger link between the business philosophy and the subject line.
This is not to say that the subject line needs to summarise the email. By all means, make subscribers curious!
But you should use a subject line that will be a recurring theme, or that at least will come up again very prominently in the email itself.
If you use a picture, tell a story about it:
- Why are you showing me this?
- What’s the relationship between the picture and the business?
- What is this person doing, and why does that matter?
- Who’s the person in that picture?
As a new subscriber who arrived on the website via Search, I might think this is the owner of the business (he’s not).
Make It Personal
Thanking subscribers for signing up adds a nice touch to the Welcome email. To make it feel even more authentic, I recommend thanking people personally.
If your signup form asks for their first name, use it. That way, your gratitude feels more genuine and a little less cut and paste.
Taking the Relationship Beyond the Discount
The 10% discount code is beneficial to a potential customer.
But with so much competition in the British homeware market, people also want to know what else is in it for them.
Why should they buy from you, versus some other social enterprise?
Why should I buy from you versus the Pound Store down the road, which might also carry items that look faintly “boho”?
It’s important to make the case for
- the feel-good aspect of buying from a certified social enterprise
- the superior quality of the assortment
- the authenticity and the heritage of the goods on offer
“Selling” the Conscious Shopping Revolution
One of the most common pitfalls in the social enterprise world is that we talk a lot about our beneficiaries.
And we don’t really think or talk enough about how our offers and our way of doing business benefits customers.
How is a subscriber’s life going to be better if they become part of the conscious shopping revolution?
Getting clear on this question will help set up the sale.
Making an offer will feel less pushy, and the call to action will appear like the logical next step.
“Redeem Now” vs. “Shop Now”
If you’re adding a redemption button next to your discount code, there’s no need for an additional “shop now” button.
Two similar-but-different calls to action next to each other can confuse people. They might think that they do different things. Often they do, but sometimes they don’t. And a confused person never buys.
There’s a risk that some people will click the “shop now” button, and then the discount code isn’t automatically inserted in their shopping cart. And they start off the first purchase with disappointment because they expected 10% to be taken off their order, and they realise too late that it didn’t happen because they hadn’t clicked the right button.
Connect your sign-up form and Welcome email to your business mission & philosophy
To sum up, Boho Homes has lots going for it in this sign-up experience.
The key is to tie up all the loose ends:
- Match subscribers’ expectations
- Rewrite the email to match the messaging of the sign-up form, or vice versa
- Personalise the email by using people’s names and coming out from behind the brand
- Tell them what’s in it for them
- Consider re-focusing on the mindset shifts related to the conscious shopping revolution
- Remove the “shop now” button
The Follow-Up Email
Tip: Give each email one job, and one job only
The email going out after the Welcome email has a lower open rate of just 34%, and a higher unsubscribe rate as well.
So let’s have a quick look at what’s going on here.
This email is a bit longer (but length is usually not the reason why people unsubscribe):
A preview of the second email going out to new subscribers
“You Have One Job”: Choosing a Great Subject Line
Seeing this subject line pop up in my inbox felt a bit like Groundhog Day because it’s so similar to the previous one:
Email 1: Welcome to the conscious shopping revolution
Email 2: Welcome to Boho Homes London
I could imagine that some of the people who don’t open this believe that they’ve received the Welcome email twice.
Here’s the thing with email subject lines: Their job is to get your email opened.
A lot of people offer tricks and “magical secrets” to writing “the right” subject lines. None of that’s really necessary though.
Instead, put yourself into the shoes of your subscribers.
- What will they find interesting?
- How can you signal value to them?
- How can you add depth and meaning to their sign-up?
- Write down at least 10 subject line ideas and pick your favourite.
- Play around with the subject line until you’ve got the open rate you’re striving for.
Using Email to Tell Your Story
The content of this email matches the subject line really well: it’s all about getting to know the brand. It offers an opportunity to engage with the story of Boho Homes, which is great.
With storytelling as the central theme, it’s even more important to add captions to all pictures.
(Did you know that captions are some of the most-read bits of copy?)
Remember the Rule of One
The Rule of One is the most important copywriting rule you may never have heard about.
This rule says that each piece of content
- speaks to 1 (type of) reader
- presents 1 big idea
- evokes 1 big promise
- makes 1 offer (which means you’ll have one call to action)
In this email, there’s no personalisation, and the big idea and big promise aren’t fully developed yet.
That’s related to the fact that we have 3 competing calls to action:
- “Read More”, leading people to the company story
- “Check out the range”, linking to hand-painted wooden décor
- “We love these”, taking the reader to Fairtrade textiles
We’re jumping through different topics and never get the chance to fully engage with any one of them because it’s not clear how this email will make a positive difference for readers.
This will hurt your click-through rates, too.
People will probably choose one button to click. If there are three, that choice gets a little more difficult. The underlying phenomenon, decision fatigue / analysis paralysis, has been studied for a long time.
While that’s a good reason to limit calls to action to one per email, it also makes sense to think about the reader’s journey.
Once they’ve clicked a button, how likely are they to come back to the email?
They may never find their way back, and the other two calls to action will be lost.
But not to worry! It’s easily fixed.
Allow yourself the space to expand on the one big idea that you’ve chosen for the email: the story of the brand.
You can take the entire email to tell at least part of your story, get your reader hooked and wanting to learn more.
And then you can put a button that leads them to the rest of your story on the website.
Depending on the reader and their needs, the big promise could be any of these:
- Boho Homes is 100% transparent
- Our goods are the incredibly authentic
- You can find out about who makes each piece
- You can support artisans and make sure these crafts live on
- This story will be entertaining
- You can take away some wisdom for your own life if you read this story
- … or something completely different, as long as it’s one specific promise that the story can keep
Map Out Your Entire Email Sequence in Minutes with the Rule of One
Here’s a nice side effect of applying the Rule of One to an email like this:
There’s a lot that will need to be cut — and each of those bits is the seed for a standalone email in your nurture or sales sequence.
If email 2 is about the story of Boho Homes, the following 5 big ideas emerge for future emails:
- An email about fair trade and fairly paid wages
- An email about sustainability
- An email about the beauty of boho homes
- How the hand-painted wooden décor is made
- Sustainably grown mango trees — what that looks like in real life
Each of those stories can then focus on a single call to action, linking to a selection of products that fit the big idea.
Design the reader’s journey with patience and intent
This second email holds the seeds to a successful email campaign.
To improve engagement, I’d recommend the following edits:
- Choose a more distinct subject line
- Focus the email on one of the ideas (the story or the wooden décor or the Fairtrade textiles) and offer a single call to action
- Personalise the email. Think about what your readers feel like in that moment and what they need in order to continue their relationship with you. Bonus points for setting up a special version for people who’ve not yet used their discount code.
Get Your Own (Private) Email Audit
Would you like an in-depth assessment of 3, 5 or 7 emails? Check out our Email Conversion Copy Audits.
We won’t blog about your emails (the audit is completely private).
Plus we’ll write swipe-worthy copy for you and answer all your questions on a 30-minute Q&A call.