E-mail Marketing Handbook, Part 3 (Graphical E-mails vs. Text-Only E-mails: Which is better?)

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graphics versus text-onlyWelcome to the final installment of my E-mail Marketing Handbook series! If you missed the first two, be sure to check them out: Part One & Part Two.

If you’ve been using e-mail marketing for any length of time, you’ve probably come across this conundrum before: “Should I send visually-rich e-mails with lots of graphics, or is it better to send text-only e-mails?

And like all conundrums, there are lots of variables to consider. Like, graphics don’t always load automatically (so you have to rely on the recipient to click “Display Images” in their e-mail client). On the flip side, a long text-only e-mail can easily become boring and monotonous to your readers.

The good news is, you don’t have to use one format or the other exclusively. There are different scenarios when graphics-rich e-mails would perform best, and other times when it makes sense to go text-only:

Jazzing it up with graphics VS. Keeping it simple with text alone

Graphic-Rich E-mails Are Best For…

  • Content-rich e-mails, such as e-newsletters, inbox magazines, and the like. Any e-mail where you’ll be sharing multiple things, will appear neater and make more sense to the person who is reading it, when you incorporate graphics. For example, if you want to share a tip of the month, links to several related articles, and your how-to-implement-the-tip video – give your message a clear graphical structure so the reader can easily spot which item s/he wants to check out.
  • Regular communications, like your weekly or monthly message. Put an identifying graphic like your business logo, e-mail header, or your photo, at the top of the e-mail to remind your subscribers who the e-mail is from + why they want to read it (“Oh yeah, I signed up because I love his YouTube videos – can’t wait to see what he has for me this week!”)
  • Super-long e-mails, where the reader could become bored and listless halfway through. In this case, just adding a few relevant graphics or photos throughout the message, can keep your readers interested, and help them digest that lengthy text.
  • Scenarios or topics where text alone just wouldn’t do it justice. Say you want to tell your followers about the awesome conference you attended last weekend – and including a photo of you at the conference would be the perfect way to bring your story to life for your readers.

Text-Only E-mails Are Best For…

  • TIP: colorful text

    TIP: Jazz up text-only e-mails with colorful text on sub-headings and on whatever else you want to emphasize.

    Short, succinct messages that focus on a single point. Such as, to announce to your subscribers that your brand new book is coming out today. Or, when you want to tell them about a discount you’re offering on your signature product. Or, maybe you need to tell them that there are only three spots left in your live teleclass, and they’d better jump on it quick if they want one.
  • Simple communications, like sending out a short note with a link to your newest blog article (without any accompanying extras, promos, news, or other stuff).
  • Any other scenarios when graphics are not necessary, and the point you want to make is short-n-sweet.

Next time you’re poised to send a message to your e-mail subscribers, ask yourself whether graphics would be helpful to get your point across and/or help the reader navigate your e-mail and understand the message.

Remember, you don’t have to conform strictly to one format or the other. You can send a graphic-rich e-mail for one purpose, and the next day, shoot out a simple text-only e-mail for a different purpose.

PHOTO CREDIT: Rainbow water photo by familymwr via Flickr (CC).

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About Barbara Austin

As the graphic designer & founder of Sweet Dreamz Design, Barbara loves working with women entrepreneurs to brand their businesses. She shares a variety of small business advice and anecdotes here on the blog. Check back every week for new tips, inspirations, and how-to articles, or subscribe to get regular updates in your inbox each week!

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