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AIDA: The 4-Step Copywriting Formula for More Persuasive Emails

How would you like to write persuasive emails that hit it out of the ballpark each and every time?

You’ll increase your chances of success if you follow a century-old formula that marketers and salespeople have been using since the 1900s. I learned it in university 20+ years ago, and it’s still being taught and applied today. It’s been used for various selling situations, from face-to-face sales presentations to printed sales letters, and now, social media.

That’s how good it is.

In this post, I’m going to show you what this formula is, and how to apply it when writing persuasive emails.

The AIDA Copywriting Formula

AIDA stands for:





These words show the natural progression of an encounter with a prospect that would lead to a sale.

how to write persuasive emails

In the case of email marketing, this is the progression from the time your subscribers see your email to the time they click on the link in your email:


Nothing will happen unless you first catch your subscribers’ attention.

Emails that don’t catch attention are deleted without being read. Two parts of your email can catch your subscribers’ attention. The first is the sender’s name. A generic sender, such as “Info,” “Support” or, worse, “No Reply,” won’t get attention. The email may even be perceived as spam.

However, a friendly sender, such as a specific person’s name, is more likely to get attention. Unless you are a household name and have an excellent reputation — like Amazon, Zappos or Apple — indicating a specific person as the sender is a good idea.

Another way to have an attention-getting sender name is to use special characters. For example:

~ Chris from Vero ~

Don’t go crazy with the special characters, though, or your email will look like it came from a tweener.

The other part of your email that should get the readers’ attention is, of course, the email subject line.

As we’ve discussed in detail in a previous post, effective subject lines:

  • Contain trigger words like “free delivery,” “sale” and “news”
  • Personalize by using the recipients’ names
  • Are either very short or very long
  • Connect with the readers’ internal issues, or an external event

However, this is not the only job of your subject line. Aside from grabbing attention, the subject line also needs to pique . . .


The second step in writing persuasive emails is “interest.” In a sales presentation, after getting the attention of the prospect, you need to get him or her to listen to you.

Similarly, in an email, it’s not enough to get attention. Just because you have your subscribers’ attention doesn’t mean they will actually read your email. You have to interest them enough to get them to open your email and read it.

In an email, this is the job of your subject line and the email’s lead or first few paragraphs.

Here are three ways to write persuasive emails:

  • Talk about a problem your readers care about. Write about something that keeps them up at night, a problem they desperately want a solution for, and they’ll be interested in what you have to say.
  • Tell a story. Humans are hardwired to listen to stories. We’re interested in what happens to other people, and we tend to identify with characters in stories. We may even have the same emotional responses. Stories are powerful.
  • Make a big promise. Another way to make your readers look and read is to make a big, bold statement. Doing this makes them lean in and mentally ask, “Really? How?” Of course, your promise needs to be big enough to be interesting but believable enough to be taken seriously.


Now your subscribers are reading your email. Your next task is to build a burning desire for your offer, whether it’s free information or a product for sale. Without this desire, your readers will discontinue reading, or read without clicking, and then delete or ignore your email.

Sometimes you have to fight apathy. Your readers may recognize a problem and want a solution for it, but not enough to actually do something about it. They’re too lazy or busy or preoccupied.

So in the main body of your persuasive email, you have to make your readers want your offer badly enough to overcome those obstacles.

How do you do this? You have several options:

  • Show the features and the benefits. Did you know that people make buying decisions based on emotion but need to rationalize those decisions with facts? So give your reader emotion and facts to make them feel good about wanting your offer.Give them the facts — the objective, observable characteristics of your offer.But arouse their emotions by going beyond features and pointing out the benefits. These refer to changes in your readers’ condition that occur as a result of consuming your offer. For example, a free report may give them the information to do something with confidence, earn the admiration of their colleagues and feel smart.The best way to identify the benefit of a feature or a set of features is to ask, “So what?” So you have a free report about email best practices – so what? Keep asking until you’ve uncovered the deepest results your readers want.
  • Prove it. If you made a big, bold promise or statement, then you have to prove it. Before-and-after photos are powerful proof elements. You can also cite specific results from customers or promise to show a video demonstration. You could also paint a vivid picture of life with your product to whet your readers’ appetite.
  • Use social proof. No matter how independent-minded we think we are, we all tend to do what others are doing. This is called “social proof.” An example of social proof is telling readers that 13,489 people have already downloaded your free report. Testimonials are another form of social proof. Make sure the individuals giving the testimonials are as similar to your readers as possible.
  • Make it scarce. The fear of missing out on something increases our desire for it. On the other hand, when something is plentiful and readily available, we tend to take it for granted. This is the basis for using scarcity in sales and marketing. To add scarcity to your offer, make it available for a limited time only. Or, if it’s for a physical product, say that the number of items is limited. Whatever you do, don’t manufacture scarcity. Always tell the truth.

Now your reader rabidly wants your offer. Your job isn’t done. Many readers get to this point and then delete the email. Don’t let this happen with your readers!


The copywriting formula culminates with you telling your readers what to do next. This step is also known as the “call to action,” or CTA. In an email, your call to action can be in the form of words, a button, or both.

The ultimate goal of your email is to get the click, so tell your readers to do just that: Tell them to click! Don’t assume they know this or will figure it out. Spell it out for them.

As this post explains, there are four research-backed ways to make effective email CTAs:

  • Lower the cost of clicking. Make a high-value offer while keeping the cost of clicking to a minimum.
  • Place your call to action at the bottom of your email. The next best location is on the left side of the email.
  • Use arrows and graphic elements to emphasize your call-to-action button.
  • Consider putting multiple CTAs throughout your email. The P.S. of your email, for example, is another good place to have your CTA.

It’s important to think of the formula as a series of steps because if you try to circumvent the process, you will most likely fail.

On the other hand, if you gently lead your readers along, step by step, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

Next time you sit down to write an email, think “AIDA.” Soon, it will become second nature, and you’ll be able to write persuasive emails well.

Further reading: Discover how to use persuasion in welcome emails.


Image credit: kennymatic

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