Let's say your small business doesn't have the resources to hire a professional copywriter for email campaigns. That means you—or someone on your overtaxed team—is trying to create effective messages without a solid knowledge of what works and what doesn't.

So, what must you know?

In a post at his blog, pro copywriter Barry A. Densa distills his advice on effective email copywriting into five don'ts and three do's. Here are a few key takeaways to take to heart:

Write to a single person. You might be sending a message to thousands of subscribers, but they're not reading it en masse. So write copy that makes a reader feel as if you are speaking directly to him or her. "Visualize who that person is—in all regards," Densa advises. Know his or her fears and phobias, wants and needs, objections, and hot buttons.

Don't come on too strong. You wouldn't waste your time on an email message that was nothing but pitch, pitch, pitch—and neither will your readers. Densa recommends a formula that allots 80% of your copy to information that benefits the recipient, and the remaining 20% to your actual pitch.

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