How to Write Stronger Email Content Using the AIDA Model

By Alana Domingo, July 18, 2018

According to a HubSpot survey, when asked what types of content they’d like to see from brands, 63% of consumers over age 45 said they want more emails, compared to only 31% of Millennials. Why does this matter? Well, people still see emails as valuable sources of information, but they don’t want to be bogged down by a constant deluge of irrelevant messages.

To match this growing sentiment, modern email marketing is quickly adopting the “quality over quantity” approach. More marketers are choosing to send fewer emails that are better tailored to each recipient, depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. And one tool in particular is helping marketers write better email content along the way: the AIDA model.

What’s the AIDA Model?

Back in 1898, American advertiser Elias St. Elmo Lewis created the original AIDA funnel to demonstrate how salespeople should guide customers through a purchase decision. Since then, marketers have adopted the model to describe the logical four-step process of consumer involvement with a marketing message.

Related Post: The Communication Process: Getting Your Messages Heard

What the heck does that mean? Let’s break it down. The AIDA acronym stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. In theory, marketers first need to attract attention to a particular message and make it enticing enough to hold consumers’ interest. Then, based on the benefits of what’s been presented to them, consumers develop a desire for the product or service being offered. Finally, consumers take action, whether that’s buying a product, subscribing to a service, or any other end goal.

aida model

The AIDA model may be 120 years old, but it’s definitely not outdated. When it comes to creating effective email copy, the AIDA formula works well as a writing template. Each of the four steps matches a different email element, as we’ll explore below.

Attention

What’s the first thing people notice when they see an email? The subject line, of course! This little bit of text plays probably the biggest role in gauging your email campaign’s success, especially since 47% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.

That’s why nailing the subject line is so important, because really, what’s the point in sending emails if people don’t even open them? To grab attention and spark engagement, consider using one of these psychological pulls within your subject lines:

  • Urgency. FOMO is real. People hate missing out on anything, whether that’s a sale, event, or product. Words like “urgent,” “breaking,” “important,” and “alert” are great choices if you’re looking to boost open rates.
  • Relevance. Make sure your subject line actually promotes something relevant to the recipient. Cater your copy to your audience’s interests, whether that’s their industry, geographic location, current events, or shopping habits.
  • Personalization. Research from Statista found that the open rate for emails with a personalized message was 17.6%, compared to 11.4% without personalization. If possible, drop a personalization token into you subject line and see how it performs.
  • Curiosity. Tease your email recipients with a quirky question or allude to an intriguing story within your subject line. People will naturally want to read more.
  • Offers. Contrary to popular belief, subject lines that have flashy keywords like “free” or “promo” won’t automatically trigger spam filters. Don’t be afraid to highlight your offers right off the bat.

No matter which psychological strategy you use, be sure to keep your subject lines concise. Most email carriers give you only 50 characters to work with, so make them count.

Interest

Once you’ve captured attention with your subject line, you need to hook readers on your body content by drafting an engaging opening paragraph. If you’re trying to give people a real reason to care about your message, one of these methods may do the trick:

  • Tell Stories. Storytelling works because it plays heavily on people’s emotions. If people find relatable moments within a good story, they’re more likely to pay attention to the whole message.
  • Address Pain Points. People are always looking for answers to their problems, so it’s never a bad idea to tap into that emotional bind. Touch on your recipients’ common woes, tell them that you understand how they feel, and suggest you have a solution.
  • Use Humor. Many studies show that people are more likely to remember messages when comedy’s involved. In addition, content that makes people smile quickly breaks the ice and builds brand trust in one fell swoop.
  • Include Facts. Leading with an impressive statistic or thought-provoking quote is a tried-and-true way to introduce an email and establish your authority.

Of course, it isn’t enough to simply get people interested in what you have to offer. You need to funnel their emotions through the next piece of the AIDA model: desire.

Desire

Here’s where things get persuasive. The desire stage is all about empowering your email recipients to act on your offer, not by preaching about what you’ve got. You want to tell your readers what’s in it for them. In other words, sell the benefits, not the features.

Related Post: Benefits vs. Features: Sell the Hole, Not the Drill

A quick scenario: you need to promote an upcoming webinar on content marketing best practices. Instead of saying something generic like, “This webinar will show you how to write blog posts,” get a little more specific. More convincing copy may say, “Are you worried about filling your content calendar? Learn how to save time by recycling your blog content in our upcoming webinar.”

See how the phrasing focuses less on the webinar itself and more on solving the reader’s pain points? That’s how you’ll create desire for your offers.

Action

Not surprisingly, the action stage of AIDA lines up with the most obvious email element: the call-to-action button. These little guys give your email readers clear instructions on where to click next.

When creating your CTA button, it’s best to keep things simple, so it’ll render correctly in every email client. Good buttons are visually appealing and almost always use a contrasting color scheme to make it pop from the email body.

Your CTA copy should be brief, no more than five words. Switch out the boring “click here” text for something more action-oriented, like “start your trial,” “learn about our services,” or “join our webinar.” Having more precise language tells people exactly what to expect when they click through your button.

Related Post: A/B vs Multivariate Testing: How to Choose the Right One

Like any other marketing element, you should test out different variations of your CTA to see which versions perform the best. Experimenting with colors, copy, and placement can yield some interesting results.

Putting It All Together

Let’s check out a real-life example of the AIDA model in action. A while ago, Vimeo sent me this email asking me to become a beta tester for a new site feature:

 AIDA email layout

As you can see, even though this email is short, it still uses all four parts of the AIDA model in a really effective way.

  • Attention: The subject line hints at an exciting offer— an invitation to a “super-secret beta test”— that definitely caught my eye and got a click.
  • Interest: The first paragraph makes it clear what’s being offered (a first look into a major site update) and why it’s relevant to me as a valued Vimeo user.
  • Desire: Vimeo doubles down on the exclusivity of this offer (“being the first to see this new thing”) and emphasizes that they truly value my opinion.
  • Action: A simple, brightly-colored CTA button shows me exactly where to go if I want to sign up for the test.

So, there you have it. If you ever hit a writer’s block when drafting your email copy, try using the AIDA model as a guide. With this formula, you too can craft stronger email campaigns that convert.

Alana Domingo

Alana Domingo

Alana Domingo is the Junior Content Writer for Anura. Born in Philadelphia but raised in Delaware, she attended Temple University and earned a BA in Communication Studies, concentrating on contemporary media environments. When she's not working, you can usually find her playing The Sims, reading comic books, and taking care of her three pet frogs. More Articles by Alana Domingo