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HTML vs. Plain Text

When should you send a designer made email, and when should you send a good ol’ fashioned plain text email? This question has aroused a massive debate in forums and blogs all over the ‘net in recent years. I’ll give my personal experiences when dealing with both types…

Use an HTML template with…

  • Auto-Responders: Payment notifications, email verifications, and account confirmations all fall under this category. Branding is very important when sending out these types of emails. This could just mean placing your company logo somewhere in the message, accompanied by a simple graphic to separate the heading from the content. But don’t forget to include a footer bar to separate your content from the can-spam compliance information. I’d recommend always using an HTML email template in your automatic response messages.
  • Product Promotions:  When sending out product announcements, promotions, and sales notifications always use a nicely designed HTML email template. These emails should immediately grab the attention of your recipient, hopefully converting into a sale. When you walk in to Best Buy, you don’t see a bunch of plain text ads hanging from the ceilings and pasted to the walls. You see big text with pictures and bright colors. The same rules apply for email marketing. If you’re still using plain old text emails to sell your products you’re missing the boat, big time.
  • Newsletters: In my experience, a well designed HTML email newsletter can be a very profitible marketing tool. Have you ever read a plain text email newsletter? Probably on your email enabled phone, but with the advent of the iPhone your emails can now look just as great on mobile devices as they do on your computer screen. I can’t stress enough how profitable a carefully crafted newsletter can be to your email marketing campaign.

email marketing templates

Use plain text with…

  • Sensitive Information: This mainly applies to companies dealing with money, and other sensitive information such as banks, and stock traders. Always leave these emails as plain text as there is less of a risk it will be flagged as spam. When I receive my weekly bank statement via email, I’d be discouraged to see bright colors and graphics next to my sensitive account information.
  • Internal Business Communications: If you think that pretty background with colorful text is going to impress your fellow co workers in an important email, well, think again! Always send plain text emails when communicating with co-workers internally via company email. This practice is normally frowned upon, and many companies even have policies on proper email usage and mailbox disk space usage. Play it safe with this one, keep it simple so you can keep your job.
  • External Business Communications: Unless you’re a business to business email marketer, you should not be sending HTML emails to your company’s business partners. This could potentially hinder important business relationships, and make your company look less professional. Again please refer to your specific company policies, and if it is not mentioned in the policies, always play it safe and just send it plain text.

Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas about these, or any category I may have missed via comments.

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