Roger Steen

Brand journalism | Website content | Email marketing

Break through the marketing noise — or be invisible

Do you ever get so crazy busy you just want to put your fingers in your ears and make humming noises?  Do you find that writing projects — especially marketing-related ones — are a bit of a chore?

I can help.

I’m an independent pro writer who’ll take the stress out of your writing to-do list and let you focus on your highest value activities. Lately I’ve been generating projects that involve marketing and journalism, but my portfolio includes other writing samples too, because — well, I guess I’m still enthusiastic about the work and just want to share it… and I believe that a writer can be competent in many different forms of communication.

I’ve done writing for Microsoft, PBS, and bunches of smaller companies, and I can provide the things you need: high-caliber content, engaged readers, and a little more space on your social calendar.

I’d be flattered if you bookmarked me, but even if you don’t, take a minute and check out my portfolio.

When that big day (for me) comes and you’re ready to make your business more visible, click here to send me an e-mail, or call/text (831) 713-9962.

web copywriting, marketing emails, content marketing

How to write a wildly successful marketing email

Writing a marketing email isn’t all that complicated, right? Well… it depends on how much you want it to accomplish something. It sounds pretty simple to say “Write something that motivates the audience, edit ruthlessly, ask for the order, then press the send button.”

It’s simple to say. To actually do it, you’ll need to slip into the shoes of that ideal customer, uncover their problems and pain points, empathize your brains out, figure out how to affect them emotionally, create a powerful subject line, then wrangle text until it’s likable and convincing.

Sounding more complicated? Well, maybe if we analyze the two successful marketing emails down below—look at the bones—we’ll get a little insight on why they were able to average a 69% open rate and a 19% click-through rate. (MailChimp’s latest open rates are typically around 23% and click-throughs are around 2½ to 3%.)

These particular emails were sent to web designers who might use or recommend my writing services, but the principles can easily apply to other client types. At the time of this writing I’d already heard from 4 designers telling me they’ll be referring clients to me in the future. I’m already doing work for several of them.

First we’ll look at the emails in their entirety, then we’ll talk about individual components and focus on a few details (see the bracketed numbers). Finally, some conclusions and suggestions—the point of this story.


The first email

(Subject line:)   Ever struggle with words, [first name]? [1]

Hi [first name], I looked at your online work and really liked the look of it. [2]

I’m Roger Steen, a writer, and if you don’t mind I’d like to share a sample from my own portfolio: [3]

~Copy for a fleece dog bed~

He’ll never even think about getting on the couch once he’s settled into this very comfy fleece bed. He deserves it, considering all that unconditional love he’s sent your way. This will be his very own place for dozing, and it’s designed in the shape of a dog, so feline passersby will be clear on just whose pad this is. Made of 100% polyfiber pillow filling with man-made fleece on top, plus a cotton outer cover for added durability. Perfect for dreaming about soupbones.

I’m looking to partner with a few talented designers interested in working with a writer/collaborator who “gets” inbound marketing and copywriting fundamentals. Here’s the nutshell version: I’m a quick study, I’m reliable and easy to get along with, and (if it’s okay to say) I know what I’m doing. Check out my portfolio. [4]

Should we connect?


P.S. I’m a location-independent digital nomad who works with clients internationally.

Quit sending these blasted things [5]


Notes about the email above

[1] To get folks to open an email you’ve got to use the subject line to say something they find meaningful and a bit compelling. Do some research, then empathize.

[2] I sent this email only to designers whose I admire, so my praise was sincere.

[3] Putting one of my writing samples in their hands immediately makes this email a bit different.

[4] I’ve included a concise selling proposition providing important info, and to me it feels (and is) genuine.

[5] The required ‘opt-out’ link presented in a way that (if I’m lucky) makes them less likely to click it.


The second email

(Subject line:)  Have all the clients you need, [first name]?

Hey [first name], 

I’m Roger Steen, a writer, and I’m trying to connect with a few web designers who seem to be at the “top-of-their-game.” You’re busy, I know. You don’t have time for frivolous emails, so here’s the short version:  The last email I sent you generated a 69% open rate and a 19% click-through rate. Here are some screenshots that show those percentages.

The result? Four design firms indicated that they’ve added me to their list and they’ll be sending me new writing projects.

If you don’t mind me saying, this is successful copy. According to MailChimp research, less than 23% of all business emails are even opened, and the average click-through rate is between 2.5 and 3%. So conservatively, the click-through rate on my last email campaign was 600% better than average.

Is this a big deal? Only if you want your design projects (the ones that include copy) to jump out in terms of effectiveness — which can easily happen when you pair great design with a copywriter who knows what they’re doing.

If that doesn’t sound like a somewhat bulletproof tactic to bring you new clients, I don’t know what else to say, other than “Could we talk?”


P.S. Here’s my portfolio.

(The opt-out link:)  Quit sending these blasted things.


A few conclusions

When you’re writing email text, be like Michelangelo: use your chisel to eliminate everything that’s not the statue.  What I mean is that you’ll have to write concisely.  Write concisely. Folks want copy that helps them solve a problem or teaches them something about an upcoming purchase, and ideally the tone should make them feel something. Everyone’s busy, so it’s better not to drone on with generalities.

The other side of that same coin is that it’s okay to make copy long rather than short. People will read it if it talks about specifics and details that they want to know when they’re in the ‘research’ phase. Find out your customer’s problems and the questions they’ll want to ask, then provide solutions. To get this info you can ask existing or past customers, and also look at forum comments and social media.

Spend some time to determine what’s genuinely different and better about your business—things your competitors don’t offer or talk about—then tell customers how those things will make their life better in some large or small way.

Let your first draft sit on your desk for a day or two, then go back and edit for conciseness and clarity. Then do that again. Then bounce the subject line and text off a few people whose opinion you respect.

We’re all overwhelmed with information—a marketer’s job is to rise above the noise. To do that your email will need to include:

  • An outstanding subject line (Write at least a dozen; keep editing ’til you have one that will stop them in their tracks—or at least make them hesitate for a second.)
  • A big idea (an offer with power) that’s clearly different than all the marketing noise
  • Convincing reasons to buy (not the ones where you say, “that sounds pretty good,” but rather the ones that truly benefit the audience by addressing their problems)
  • An approachable tone (we buy from people we like)
  • Short paragraphs and modest words, with plenty of white space (don’t make it hard work to read)
  • A call to action (give them a way to move forward)

And speaking of calls to action: Maybe give a little thought to bringing in a pro writer?



Without a powerful title your content may as well not exist

Back in the Mad Men days, adman David Ogilvy (who started in door-to-door sales and retired to a castle in the south of France) created an ad for Rolls Royce headlined At 60 miles per hour the loudest sound in the new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock. The ad wasn’t only clever — it was effective. In his book “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” Ogilvy said that 80% of your print advertising investment was in the headline, because 80% of your readers never read beyond it. There’s a reason Ogilvy and his writers often spent weeks getting the words in a headline just right: they had to fight the indifference of the majority of readers.

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

—David Ogilvy

So where are the great headline writers now? They’re still fighting indifference, but some have chosen to do it in online media and web content. An online publication like Business Insider, which was reportedly sold for $300+ million, employs some of the best writers in the business, and their article titles are likely part of the reason the site has become so successful. Two examples:

9 sneaky psychology tricks companies use to get you to buy stuff

17 science-backed ways men can appear more attractive to women

These kinds of titles can make many people almost feverish to click. Thing is, compelling titles can work the same way for online content, drawing the audience in. It could be that the 80% rule — or some other impressively large percentage — also applies to web content. Once people start reading text, of course, it’s essential that the text be useful — it has to solve a problem or fulfill a consumer desire if the content marketing is to be effective. But your audience may never see that solution if they’re not drawn into the text by a strong title.


  1. Article titles are like best-selling book titles. Writing them is (or should be) a bit of a project.
  2. Since most people won’t read beyond the title, it’s one of the most important parts of your article.

web copywriting, marketing emails, content marketing

© 2018 Roger Steen

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑