Steve Jobs wore the same uniform every day.

In fact, he owned 100 identical black mock turtlenecks. The uniform simplified his life and gave him one less thing to think about each morning.

Meanwhile, most of us stand in front of an overflowing closet and wonder what to wear. We may try on a shirt that doesn't fit and then put on a different top—only to find a stain that we didn't notice the last time we wore it. Soon, we have a pile of clothes on the floor and nothing to wear.

Steve Jobs knew that too many choices lead to decision paralysis.

Less Is More (When You're Selling)

You've likely heard of the famous jam study conducted by Columbia University.

Professor Sheena Iyengar and her students set up a tasting table a gourmet market. Throughout the day, they alternated between offering 6 and 24 types of jam. Customers who visited their table tasted an average of two flavors—regardless of the variety available. Iyengar's team also gave every taster a coupon for $1 off a full-sized jar.

Who bought the jam?

About 30% of the customers who chose from the small assortment purchased jam. Meanwhile, just 3% of the tasters who sampled from the large selection bought a jar.

Having too many choices resulted in most customers' not buying.

The Four Essential Parts of a High-Converting Email

Decision paralysis also applies to your email marketing: If you give your subscribers too many options, they won't know what you want them to do or where they should click.

Instead, focus on the Rule of One.

Veteran copywriter Mark Ford created the Rule of One after comparing successful and unsuccessful promotions.

According to Ford, "The Rule of One is the driving force behind great copy." The rule essentially states that every promotion must contain the following:

  1. One powerful idea
  2. One core emotion
  3. One single, desirable benefit
  4. One inevitable response

Let's see how that applies to your email copy.

1. One Powerful Idea

Each email should focus on one key message, and that message must speak to your readers' top challenge.

If you address too many pain points or include multiple ideas, readers may lose interest. You'll also bloat your email with details that don't matter at this stage because—the point of an email is to get readers to take the next small step. You don't need to convince them of everything all at once.

What is the No. 1 thing that readers must know so that they will click the link in your email?

2. One Core Emotion

When we think of emotional advertising, we often think of consumer-focused ads. (Years later, Sarah McLachlan's ASPCA commercial still makes me reach for the tissues!)

But emotion matters also in B2B.

For example, professionals are under pressure to get things done faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. Those pressures can lead to feelings of frustration, of being overwhelmed.

B2B buyers also fear making the wrong decision, and so they are risk-averse. They don't want to make the wrong purchasing decision and then have to deal with the consequences if things don't work out. A study on emotion in B2B buying found that 48% of B2B customers have wanted to buy a new solution but haven't spoken up because they were afraid of the risks.

The next time you send out an email, pick an emotion to address. It can be an emotion related to your readers' top pain point, goal, or objection.

3. One Single, Desirable Benefit

What is the most important benefit that subscribers will achieve when they take your next step?

If you want readers to sign up for a free trial of your software, you can likely promote a range of benefits. But listing too many benefits can muddy your message. Pick a single, powerful benefit that will motivate readers to click the link in your email.

4. One Inevitable Response

You want to write an email that directs subscribers to your latest blog post.

But wait... there's more.

You've also just uploaded a new video case study to your blog.

And your boss is pushing you to ask subscribers to demo your software.

Soon, your email is cluttered with different calls to action. Maybe you'll put the video case study at the top of the email and demo information at the bottom. Perhaps you even include a sidebar (yikes!) hat links to the latest posts on your blog.

But all of these calls to action distract readers from the No. 1 thing you want them to do: check out that blog post.

To improve your clickthrough and conversion rates, focus on one call to action per email. In this example, it means linking to the blog post and saving the case study and demo for separate emails.

It's OK to include multiple links in your email: Doing so can improve clickthrough rates. But make sure that they all link to the same page.

A Bonus Tip That Will Boost Your Conversions and Help You Drive Revenue

I would add a corollary to the Rule of One: Write for one audience.

Targeting your emails to one specific audience will boost your ROI. Open rates for segmented emails are 14.32% higher than nonsegmented emails, according to research from MailChimp, which also found that clickthrough rates are 100.95% higher in segmented emails.

And, if that's not enough, the Direct Marketing Association found that 58% of all revenue comes from segmented and targeted emails.

* * *

Take a look at the last few emails you sent to your audience. How many ideas, emotions, benefits, and responses did you include in each message? Do you have any opportunities to use the Rule of One to engage readers and improve your clickthrough rates?

Essentially, the simpler you keep your emails, the better your response rates are likely to be.

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The No. 1 Rule and Four Essential Parts of High-Converting B2B Emails

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image of Rachel Foster

Rachel Foster is a B2B copywriter who helps technology marketers improve their response rates, clearly communicate complex messages, and generate high-quality leads. Check out her B2B marketing blog.

LinkedIn: Rachel Foster

Twitter: @CopywriterTO