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The Rule of One: Powerful Email Copy

5 min

If your emails aren’t seeing the conversion power they’re rumored to have, chances are you’re not following this rule for your email copy. When you use this rule, you’ll see immediate results in your emails. Plus, facing the blinking cursor is much easier. Let me show you how.

The rule of one

Dear reader, meet your new best friend for email copy: The Rule of One.

Each email you write has one goal, every element of your email has one job, and every email is written as to one person. What does that mean? Great question. I’ll break it down.

One goal

Give your email one goal. This goal defines your email’s success.

To create a great email, know why you’re sending an email. Your goal should be more business-driven than a click rate or an open rate.

So, what does a goal in an email look like?

Your goal is your email’s call to action or the link your reader clicks.

Sometimes you’re sending an email just to move a reader from one stage of awareness to the next. In that case, your email still has one goal: to get your reader into the next stage and set them up for your next email.

As Neil Patel says:

“What good is copywriting without a logical endpoint a goal, a focus, a point? Its useless.”

Write your call to action (or goal) before writing anything else in your email. Start at the top of your email and write only what your reader needs, so they can complete your call to action.

Here’s a great example from 17Hats:

rule of one example 1
Their goal? For me to click and buy their service. Before their sale ends.

Or check out this non-sales email example from Michael Hyatt:

rule of one example 2
His goal = for me to click through to his blog post. If I click = success for his email.

Keep in mind: your email can have multiple call to actions, but they should all lead to the same destination. Having more options doesn’t lead to an increase in sales as research has shown. It leads to a dramatic decrease in sales.

Give your email one goal and streamline your reader’s path to that goal.

One job

Every element and line of copy in your email is responsible for its own job.

“Like on an assembly line,” says Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers and Airstory. “Every element in your email and in your funnell has 1 job to do to keep a conversion moving forward.”

What does that mean exactly?

Here’s the job of each element for your email:

  • The from name’s job is to get your reader to look at the subject line.
  • A subject line’s job is to get your reader to open — with the intent to read — your email.
  • Your email’s first line is responsible for your reader reading your email’s body copy.
  • Thebody copy’s job is to get your reader to desire your offering.
  • And your call to action’s job is to get your reader to click.

Check out how your eyes can’t stop reading this email from Ramit Sethi:

rule of one example 3
Want to read the rest of this email? Me too.

Keep in mind: When you assign one job to each element of your email, it’s easy to hunt down and fix non-converting parts.

For example, if your open rates are rock-bottom, check your from name and then your subject line. Fix and test new versions.

Or if your click through rate is embarrassingly low, pick apart your email’s body copy and then your call to action. Fix one and test it. If no improvements are seen, fix the other.

One reader

“Find one person in the crowd and deliver your speech to them.”

If you’ve ever done public speaking, you’ll recognize that advice. Instead of looking into a sea of strange faces, pick one friendly face and act like you’re talking just to them.

Instantly, you’re friendly and likeable. And your speech is memorable.

This trick works beautifully in email copywriting.

Write to one specific reader that you know, like, and respect.

Suddenly, you’re writing to one person instead of a faceless crowd. You know exactly what to say, what jokes to trot out, if they’ll understand the sarcasm in paragraph 3, and what call to action motivates them.

In short, writing to one reader makes your job in writing the email so much easier.

Here’s a fantastic example from Jessica Mehring:

rule of one example 4
I underlined all the spots where she knows her one reader. Lots of underlines.

She knows exactly who she’s writing to. Someone who works from a home office, who used to work in a corporate setting, an introvert, and who had to learn how to handle new distractions.

Knowing her one reader dictates her story and how she tells it.

She knows what points to highlight and which feelings to touch on. It makes her email powerfully specific.
Being specific brings conversions, which is why 92% of B2B enterprise marketers tailor their content in at least one way, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

How to write to your one reader:

  • Be specific in your examples
  • Use testimonials from people like them
  • Tell stories of real-life outcomes they can relate to
  • Use a tone and voice in your email that they appreciate & understand

Suddenly, your reader sees themselves on the page. It feels like you’re in their head. Like you understand them, making them desire what you’re offering.

How to get to know your one reader:

  • Customer surveys
  • Onsite surveys
  • Compare results from both of those surveys to find overlaps and common themes
  • Ask your newest customers who referred them
  • Send a one-question email to your customers, asking to rate you on a scale of 1-5 stars

One goal, one job, one reader

The Rule of One is simple, powerful, and easy to remember. You’ll find yourself pulling it out of your email copywriting toolbox with every email you write – like I do.

And, when you use it, I promise that you’ll find it easier to tackle the blank page… and find the words to motivate your one reader to take action.

How will you use the Rule of One in your next email?