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HTML vs. Plain Text Emails – Which is Best for Your Marketing?

HTML vs. Plain Text Emails – Which is Best for Your Marketing?

It’s hard to know the best course of action for your marketing efforts, especially when it comes to deciding whether you should send a text-based or HTML email to your customers and prospects.

Will you have more success sending a text-based email with no images or a colorful HTML email with buttons and pictures? The short answer seems to be: it depends.

Email marketing isn’t an exact science and the success of your efforts really depends on the audience you’re marketing to and the goal you’re trying to achieve.

So let’s compare the pros and cons of HTML emails versus text-based emails to determine which type is the best choice for your marketing efforts.

Text-Based Email

We’ll begin with the good ol’ text-based email. Though some might call it antiquated, text-based emails continue to hang on as an effective approach in the email marketing realm.

The Pros:

  • More Personal
    Text-based emails are the epitome of a personal approach when it comes to email. All of the emails you send to your colleagues are text-based and reaching out to a prospect or customer in the same way shows that you took the extra step to connect with them on a personal level. This can be especially beneficial if you’re actually just sending a mass email template through Salesforce or your Email Service Provider (ESP).
  • More Likely to be Opened
    HubSpot recently posted the results of their own A/B tests which showed that HTML-based emails resulted in significantly less opens than their text-based counterparts. HubSpot concluded that this was due to advanced email filters working to redirect HTML-based “junk email” to other folders. It’s possible that your text-based email will be more likely to get through these filters and delivered right to your recipient’s main inbox.

The Cons:

  • Lower Click Rates
    If your goal is to get people to click on the links in your emails (to visit your web page or download an eBook) then text-based may not be for you. AWeber found that their HTML-based newsletter generated more clicks than their text-based version. In a text-based email everything looks the same, so your call to action (CTA) is more likely to become lost in all the text. This is especially important to consider if your marketing success metrics rely on people visiting your website to download an asset or subscribe to your blog.

  • Writing Will Make or Break Your Email
    Because your CTAs aren’t immediately noticeable, your text-based emails will have to be written in a way that immediately grabs your reader’s attention and convinces them to take action. It’s a lot harder than it sounds and can result in common mistakes that could sabotage your marketing efforts. Luckily you can check out these tips on avoiding the most common mistakes before writing your emails.

HTML Email

If text-based emails were a car they’d be something like a Buick - tried and true, but no pizzazz. HTML emails, on the other hand, would be like a Corvette and who doesn’t love a good sports car?

The Pros:

  • Higher Click Rates
    With a variety of formatting options, HTML emails can help you get your point across immediately. Your recipients will most likely skim your email for something that stands out, and the right combination of font, color and image options can make your CTA instantly noticeable. Kissmetrics has some great tips on how to get the best click rates out of your HTML emails.

  • More Professional
    It takes time, training and talent to create beautifully formatted HTML emails, which means not just anybody is going to send them. Using HTML that mirrors your company brand with the appropriate fonts, colors and imagery ensures that your recipient understands this message comes directly from your company and that you mean business.

The Cons:

  • Easily flagged as “Spam”
    You know who else loves HTML? Spammers. Email filters have gotten very good at identifying spam emails, but it’s very possible that your HTML emails could get caught up in spam filters as well. This happens pretty frequently, which is why we wrote a post on three ways you can avoid ending up in the junk mail box.

  • Can Quickly Become “Gimmicky”
    Just because you’re trying to get your reader’s attention, doesn’t mean the bright yellow flashing button that says “BUY NOW” is going to do the trick. Instead of focusing on formatting as your main attention-grabber, make sure the content of the email is very specific to your reader’s interests. Use the HTML formatting as a way to enhance your message, not shove it in their face.

Conclusion

So after considering the pros and cons of text-based emails vs. HTML emails, which one should you use?

Once again, it depends.

In many cases, using both types of emails in your marketing efforts will help you make the most impact with your audiences, depending on what you’re looking to achieve. Our hope is that you now have a better understanding of when to use a text-based email and when to use HTML to help you get the most out of your email marketing efforts.

Cindy Koller

About Cindy Koller

Cindy is the Marketing Campaigns Specialist for Broadview Networks, now part of Windstream where she enjoys developing compelling campaigns and digital marketing strategies that drive engagement. 

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