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HTML vs. Text Emails

How you design an email marketing campaign to look depends on the content it will contain and its intent. In the discussion of HTML vs. text emails, we know that HTML email messages are not automatically more successful than text-only versions. Yet, it’s likely both will prove useful in your marketing schedule. Looks don’t always matter when it comes to your email campaign. It’s about the response you receive–that’s the end goal. You want to gain a response from your subscribers and just need to make the determination if HTML vs. text emails is best.

Let’s look at the difference between the two, their benefits, and how each can be used in an email marketing campaign.

See the difference:

HTML Emails
What is it?
HTML email campaigns have more image-intensive designs. You’re likely to see company logos, product photos, background colors and call-to-action links are in the form of button images.

What’s the benefit of HTML email campaigns? People like visual stories. Not many people want to read paragraphs of text in an email. They want more “show” vs. “tell.” HTML gives marketers the ability to make a more visual impact.

When should it be used? HTML messages are especially useful for product email promotions. Customers want to see what you’re selling. You could use it in product case studies showing customers how others used the product and benefited from your product. It’s also useful for product testimonials.

Plain Text Emails
What is it? 
No fancy stuff here. Plain text doesn’t support any text formatting, therefore, you can’t apply bold, italics, or underlined styles. You can’t control the font styles. You can’t just say, “click here,” and hide the link behind those words, because it would expose the URL.

What’s the benefit of sending a plain text email message? A plain text email message is easier for you, the marketer, to put together. With no images or formatting to consider, you won’t have to worry about how the message renders across different email platforms. One of the biggest benefits from plain text emails messages is if their personalized they can set casual personal tones that resonate with people. They’re attracted to those messages because they look like personal one-to-one messages versus mass email campaigns.

When should you use a it? Plain text is best used with your current customer base–communicating with people already familiar with you and your brand. For example, if you send daily alerts, confirmations, or frequent notices needing to be quickly scanned, plain text works great. Yet, because this format is pretty “blah” in appearance, we recommend extreme brevity. Again, this is just plain text–there’s no formatting and bold fonts to break up sections, so endless paragraphs of nothing but plain text is unlikely to be read in its entirety.

But, beyond HTML vs. text emails, there’s also this middle ground we refer to as “lite HTML.”

This is a common design style which blends both email formats. It’s kind of the “gray” area between HTML and plain text. These email messages contain fewer images, but still allow you to format copy, control font styles and throw in a splash of color.

Lite HTML delivers enough visual interest to keep readers engaged, but is still copy-focused enough to make your message more personal. Lite HTML, especially if the message is designed in a one-column format, is also mobile-friendly.

Even with the HTML messages we design for our customers, they will request we develop a mobile version of their email messages so they can link to their HTML messages. Frequently, the mobile version of the message is lite HTML.

Bottom line: The goal of your email should drive the format you use for your email marketing. And, remember, each style has its benefits.

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Beth is our VP of Digital Marketing Strategy who, besides drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee, helps clients generate more business. Whether they’ve partnered with Proximity Marketing for a decade or just joined the family, Beth helps clients achieve success and achieve measurable results.

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