I caught an interesting article from Target Marketing the other day on plain text emails.
And I thought I’d take advantage of today’s Web Wednesday issue to take this head-on.
Let’s start at the beginning…
What’s a plain text email?
Well, it’s not quite like the ones you normally get from me. Mine are HTML-based emails, that deliver primarily text content.
Compare this to the ultra-visual HTML emails that are full of graphics on one end of the spectrum…
And on the other end of the spectrum, the emails that are literally just text, with no design, coded links (just URLs), etc.
Well apparently one firm cited in that article had said about email…
“Visual media is 82% more likely to be viewed than plain text.”
Only problem was they were actually mis-citing the stat they were using. Even if this is the angle most “brand” and “image” marketers want you to believe.
Another firm did an interesting bit of research on clicks and graphics…
They sent an HTML email that included a tracking pixel to see who opened it.
A tracking pixel is a tiny, invisible image that’s individually coded back to the recipient’s email address. So when they load this image, the sender knows they did so.
They then compared total clicks of people who showed as “opens” based on the tracking pixel loading, versus total clicks of people who did not show up as opens.
Important point: if someone clicked, they had to have opened the email, just not loaded the tracking pixel — that means they clicked based on text alone.
What did they find?
Between 5% and 25% of clicks were from people who supposedly never opened the email in the first place!
In reaching out to other marketers, they found some reported that “non-opens” were generating 50% as many clicks as “opens.”
Meaning that for every three clicks they were getting, one of those was coming from someone who never loaded the graphic content of the email.
And surely a substantial portion of the people who did load the graphic content of the email clicked based on the words in the email, not the pictures.
What does this all mean?
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I believe copy is the most powerful sales tool you have.
While graphics can and should be used to support and feature your message, they should never be or replace your message.
There’s a reason my emails are primarily text content.
Yes, I like infographics and all that jazz.
But ultimately the most consistently, predictably powerful communication tool we have is words.
And that leads to my recommendation on the use of plain text emails…
Make your message your centerpiece of your emails…
If that means using plain-text, that’s okay. I’m content with letting Aweber auto-generate my plain text message.
If you’re going to “design” your emails, use graphics sparingly. Your words are what matter.
There is certainly an advantage to HTML — it allows you to do things like track opens, make click-able links instead of get gobbledygook URLS, and throw in pictures where relevant.
Think about a personal email…
It’s mostly text.
You may paste a picture in the middle of the message, but it won’t be nicely laid out.
It’s simple, straightforward, obvious.
If you want to reach your customer, remember Halbert’s “A-pile, B-pile” lesson. Things that look personal get attention in ways that things that don’t look personal do not. That’s not just a direct mail concept.
Also, nearly every top direct marketing company who measures response does it this way…
While “because everybody does it that way” is not actual proof of anything, it should be noted that among marketers who measure response, almost every single one of them uses primarily-text emails.
Again, not “plain text” because the use HTML for minor formatting.
But the copy is what’s featured.
That’s another proof point in favor of this approach.
If you’re sending out your marketing emails to get response, use your copy to get that response.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
PS — One more thing that I’ve seen working really well right now. Folks who use mostly text-based emails will throw a graphical “banner” ad into the side of the email. It looks like it’s for something different, but the click destination is the same. It’s a good way to catch folks who respond to graphics without taking away from the impact of the email text.