Message purpose is the most important key in determining your chosen format. When you send a message to confirm receipt or make corrections to a previous communication, you can use plain text formatting. However, if you send an advertisement or newsletter, you’re better off formatting it in HTML.
When you’re not sure which format is appropriate, consider the email: if it’s more like a letter, use text and if it is a catalog or promotional mailer, use HTML. You also need to consider what type of device the email will be received. If most recipients are receiving the email on a mobile device, HTML graphics and images won’t appear as originally intended.
The Benefits of HTML Messaging
If your message is promotional or informative, we recommend designing it in HTML. This format offers greater control over formatting, layout, color, fonts, graphics, branding and interactive functionality within each email.
When creating an HTML email, developers should keep best practice strategies in mind:
- Properly Embed Graphics: When graphics or logos are imbedded improperly, recipients will see a small red X and an empty graphic box where your image should have been displayed. This reflects poorly on your company and it frustrates your viewers.
- Guard Against Image Blocking: Several email clients and services, including the popular Microsoft Outlook and Hotmail, Google Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and AOL versions 8.0 and 9.0, block image files from incoming emails by default. Since images are not viewed, senders cannot detect if an email has been opened or not, so marketers might want to focus less on open rates and more on click-through and conversion rates.
To minimize deliverability issues caused by image blocking:
- Use an email marketing service, like Cactus Sky Communications, that works diligently to stay on major ISP whitelists.
- Include a text link on the top of your message so recipients can view your message on the Web.
- Include alt tags along with each image.
- Test your message’s visual integrity in the preview pane.
- Use text-based instead of image-based banner ads.
- Give subscribers the option to receive text or HTML emails.
Use Color and Graphics to Enhance, Not Overwhelm: A common mistake occurs when designers use overpowering colors and graphics in their message. When creating email campaigns, just as with print advertisements, less is always more. Large text, bold colors and overwhelming graphics not only distract your readers from your content but can reduce your campaign ROI and flag spam filters.
Be Aware of Changes in Outlook 2007: Microsoft Outlook 2007 gives you the ability to both render and edit messages, which may cause your HTML email campaigns to show up improperly in Outlook 2007.
Incompatibility, graphics and layout complications can damage your business reputation. Keep in mind emails can easily and instantly be forwarded to hundreds or thousands of other people, spreading an unstoppable domino effect.
In addition, mistakes can destroy your bottom line if recipients fail to click through to your website. The cost of losing one lead, or one customer, is quite significant in itself.
Avoid these problems and protect your reputation with these best practice strategies:
- Test, test, test. HTML is not a truly universal format; it varies across browsers and email clients. We recommend establishing an account on various web email services and testing your campaign within multiple email clients.
- Survey your subscribers to learn which delivery method they prefer.
- If you deliver your message in plain text, take time to proof your copy and ensure the layout is attractive.
Email marketing is an extremely effective marketing technique when used professionally. Look to Cactus Sky Communications for the tools you need to simplify campaign design, execution, testing and sending.