Grandmother principle

The grandmother principle: the secret to writing better email copy

Want to learn a cunning trick to help you write better copy? And find out how to apply it to your email marketing and content strategy? Let’s call it the grandmother principle. In this blog we explain exactly what that means, how it works and how you can put it to work for your email copy.

The principle is actually quite simple: Imagine you want to pitch your idea to your target audience. Because you’ll be expecting direct response from them, you will define your specific goals and the way you’ll work towards them clearly.

Let’s say, for instance, that you want to convince your grandmother to hire the assistance of a housekeeper.

For your grandmother, this would mean a big change in her daily life. If you want to convince her, you will have to choose your words wisely and take her way of speaking and thinking into account as well. If you don’t come up with the right arguments, all your attempts will prove to be pointless. Chances are that she’s won’t be too keen on allowing ‘a complete stranger into her house’. You will have to pitch your idea, as if you were writing promotional copy, with exactly the right arguments tailored to her needs. And in this case, you’d have to do that by means of a face-to-face conversation, as mailing — let alone whatsapping — her is not an option.

The path you would follow to convince people in real-life conversations can easily be applied to the written word. We’ll show you how.

6 steps to help you write convincing email copy

Below you’ll find the six steps you would probably take in a face-to-face conversation. Keeping those same steps in mind when you’re working on copy, will result in emails that raise interest, engage and convince.

1. Always keep your eyes on the prize

Before you start writing, you need to know where you’re heading. What is your ultimate goal?

  • Have your target audience subscribe to your newsletter
  • Sell a product
  • Raise awareness for your brand

Finetune your argumentation, knowing that your target group can lose interest any time. Therefore, all details should be in place. You want to convince your grandmother that a housekeeper is exactly what she needs. But when she says ‘no’, it’s ‘no’. And we all know how difficult it is to convince someone with a certain age and clear convictions. Be aware that irrelevant arguments or inappropriate language will only make your attempts harder.

2. Know your target audience

The better you know your target audience, the better you can respond to what appeals to them in your text. What occupies them, what makes them happy and what they’re afraid of. Maybe you’re already using personas, e.g. tailored customer profiles? If you are, don’t hesitate to put them to work. List all triggers and features for your audience, and keep them in mind when you’re writing copy for them.

Basically, you know your grandmother through and through. You know how she acts and the way she thinks. And because you know which words and arguments will land with her, you can choose them carefully and express them in a way that will convince her more easily.

3. Convince with arguments made to measure

Without strong arguments, your readers won’t feel the need to act upon your calls to action. Coming up with irrelevant arguments could even leave your readers feeling awkward. And that applies both to your grandmother and the potential customer who is considering to buy your product. So always make sure you step into the shoes of the one you’re writing copy for.

Regarding your dear old gran, why not try these lines on her?

  • ‘The house will always be clean when the grandkids drop in for a piece of your yummie cherry pie.’
  • ‘That nasty lower back pain of yours won’t keep you out of your sleep anymore.’
  • ‘You’ll have all the time in the world to knit that scarf or have the girls over for afternoon tea.’

You get the picture, right?

4. Anticipate to questions

Don't have an immediate answer to the questions of the one you’re trying to convince? Then chances are that your target audience won’t take your offer. Your gran will undoubtedly use A housekeeper… with my meager old-age pension?’ as a counter-argument. So always ask yourself which obvious questions your target audience could have and try to answer them immediately. Our golden tip: enter your copy’s main topic in Google and see which suggestions pop up.

Those answers are the reason d’être for your content. That’s where you can really make a difference. It’s the very principle of inbound marketing: focus on helping your customers, rather than trying to sell as many products as possible.

5. Use valuable inside information

The inside information you have on your target group is crucial to build a solid argumentation. The better you know at which stage in the customer journey your target audience is, the better you can tailor your copy to them.

Are you bombarding your potential buyers with hyper-technical information, while they haven’t even got a clue which product is best suited for them yet? You’ll scare them off. Are they tech-savvy and determined to buy your product? Then by all means group those tech spex in a comparative matrix and get them to that killer call-to-action asap.

Maybe one of gran’s friends from the bridge club has told her about the advantages of having a housekeeper. Then you can skip the part that informs her there is such a service. She knows. You can now focus on convincing her that the service you found is perfectly suited to her needs (and safe too!). So try to find out what your target group probably already knows and write your arguments accordingly. The clearer you can pinpoint the phase in the reader’s customer journey, the better you can adapt your messages to their needs at that moment in time. 

6. Adopt the right tone-of-voice

In conversation, anything that comes across as forced or unnatural, will distract your readers from the essence. Just that's why it's so important that adopt the language of your target audience. And that applies to all the email communication you’ll ever send out to that target group.

Imagine walking into your your gran’s house and greeting her with ‘Hello, Mrs’. How weird would that be? You’ll see your argument built upon her ‘yummy home-made cherry pie’ go down the drain. Or try convincing her with thehousecleaning solution’ you found for her. It’s not going to work. Always try to speak her language. She will feel you can relate to her situation and will be much more open to your arguments.

Using the appropriate language and wording will win your target group‘s confidence. It’s a subtle way to tell them that you understand them and know what rocks their world.


Of course, the grandmother principle covers a much broader scope than just copywriting for your email campaigns. The above thinking process can easily be applied to each newsletter, subscription form, SEA advertisement or web campaign you create. Use these 6 steps as your guidelines whenever you’re writing copy that should convince people to take action. We promise: the proof will be in the results.

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Posted on
Aug 25, 2020