By Daisy Quaker

This post is part of a series that will get published every Wednesday on E-mail marketing or social media, subscribe to this blog to receive your copy of how to and helpful small business online marketing guidance.

Email Marketing Formatting HTML vs. Plain textIs your e-mail campaign overwhelming?

A few years ago, the novel way of spreading messages was through well formatted structured, edited e-mail, “See how beautiful it looks! Such fun images! So many useful sidebar links!”

It was a welcome change from the bland messages. It allowed marketers to put more information in their direct marketing message in a pretty way so if readers did not like one topic they had other options to choose from. It was also a break from the chunks of texts that had been popular before.

Flash-forward its 2012, inboxes are full, everyone has gotten pretty used to those pretty, structured, content packed e-mails, its nothing new. In fact, it has become overwhelming.  Why, you ask? Read on.

Increasing use of smartphones to read e-mail

Smartphones have grown in popularity and so has their use as a tool for opening e-mails.

If you have a heavily linked images, graphic monster e-mail it will either not display correctly on a smartphone or it will overwhelm the small screen. If subscribers  they really like your content they might save it for later, but if they aren’t that loyal they’ll delete it (I do this a lot).

Too many e-mails

Everyone’s inbox is full of messages to attend to, even personal e-mail take a while to get to because of how many other things going on. So if getting the content is too much work, and I can’t read it while I’m waiting for an appointment or have some down time, why bother?

The Return to a Simpler Time

Why we should all appreciate plain text e-mails

The biggest argument for plain text is that it looks more like a personal message than a heavily edited flyer being delivered to your e-mail inbox. Another reason is that it will display the same no matter what e-mail program you use.
But on the flip side, plain text sucks the fun out of things. You can’t use colors or graphics, and you can’t embed hyperlinks, you must type them out e.g. Istead of saying “Click here” you have to type out” which comes off as…. well, ugly.

But it’s important to have a plain text version of your e-mail nonetheless incase some subscribers have automatically set their e-mails to open as plain text.

Why HTML E-mails still rock

HTML allows you so much freedom, with images, embedding links, and putting the content into tables. It allows you to separate sections, put text borders and changing background formats. It also allows you to check how many people opened your e-mail, what links were clicked on, and even call to action buttons.

But this freedom can be abused to create monster e-mails that have too many links, images, background colours sidebars, and textboxes. Which  comes off as structured and edited but also highly distracting and impersonal.

So what’s the best way to go about it?

The jury is out on whether to go HTML or Text e-mail route.

But the argument here is to make it simple for your readers to get what you are saying not harder.

The Right Balance to your E-mail Campaign

“Here is Spot. See Spot Run.”

The best e-mails tell one story, and have a few links to other stories that relate to or enhance the message. The monster e-mails try to tell 15 different stories in one e-mail hoping that readers will see it as delivering valuable content. Sometimes they do, but from a customer stand-point, anytime something is too much work to wade through my interest goes down.

My argument is that you should use a lightly edited HTML e-mail campaign:

  • Great message/content
  • Good formatting
  • Minimal use of pictures
  • Minimal use of colours
  • Minimal use of links

It’s the body and meat of your e-mail that matters more to me than how many things you can pile on it. Graphic should enhance the message not distract from it. All that extra stuff the sidebar, the clever links, the “what you missed” starts seeming as distractions, gives a reader a feeling of being overwhelmed and not enough time to go through it all.

A well worded message will outshine any fancy poorly worded message. But a well worded and lightly formatted message is better. So opt for a well-written and lightly formatted message that can be  opened anywhere from smartphones, to desktops.

Note some of the e-mails you respond well to and keep a folder of their layout saved on your computer, that way you can have examples to model your message into.

Simple, easy to read, minimal distractions. Want more? Check out this in-depth and helpful guide by Campaign Monitor on how to design compelling e-mails.

You’re welcome!

Image Credit: Flickr-jonwatson

About: Daisy Quaker is a freelance internet marketing consultant,  specializing in basic web development, social media strategy, content marketing, e-mail marketing and branding strategy, find her on Twitter and tell her what strategies work for your business.

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