Are You Choosing the Wrong Format For Your Emails?
By Amanda Gagnon October 12, 2010
When you first started your campaign, did you have a preset notion of what a marketing email looks like? If you did, that notion may have become your initial layout. And that’s good – it gave you a place to start. But if you’ve stuck with the same layout ever since, we have good news for you. There are several types of email layouts to choose from. Some are a natural fit for that next email you’re planning. (And some aren’t.) Have you already chosen the best format for each message? Or would one of these be a better option?
When you first started your campaign, did you have a preset notion of what a marketing email looks like? If you did, that notion may have become your initial layout.
And that’s good – it gave you a place to start. But if you’ve stuck with the same layout ever since, we have good news for you.
There are several types of email layouts to choose from. Some are a natural fit for that next email you’re planning. (And some aren’t.)
Have you already chosen the best format for each message? Or would one of these be a better option?
Newsletters are like a picture made up of several puzzle pieces. These pieces can be articles, suggestions, requests, offers or advertisements.
Their jigsaw nature means newsletters can be both informative and promotional, as long as the pieces fit together well.
Mequoda Group, a content marketing site, recommends a 60-40 ratio of helpful content-to-promotions. The helpful content should, however, have enough solid value to stand by itself in case readers aren’t interested in the offer.
Newsletters can be done in either HTML or plain text. HTML can be easier to read, though, since items can be separated with different colors or columns for easy scanning.
Letters are ideal for sending messages on a single subject with a friendly feel.
These can be either plain text or HTML. Plain text delivers a more authentic I-wrote-this-just-for-you vibe – it’s what an email from your mom would look like.
On the other hand, HTML lets you add an edge of glossiness – a logo, a background color, a signature – which can strengthen your branding.
One large image with a bit of text is all postcards require. They’re simple to create and a quick, easy read.
A tip: don’t put your text directly into your image. Instead, put your words into a table and layer it over a background image. This lets your text display even if the inbox has images turned off.
Catalogs are purely promotional. They’re made up of a list of your products, usually represented by small pictures, a name and a few details such as price.
Like postcards, their content relies heavily on images being turned on, so make sure your text elements provide enough information to catch readers’ attention without them.
News alerts are brief. They’re a tip, a quote, a bit of exciting news that answers the question, “What’s going on?”
Promotional content doesn’t fit in here. Instead, alerts are meant to really keep subscribers up-to-date with initiatives they’re interested in. They’re simple to create, so subscribers can get the news almost as soon as it happens.
Keep your readers in the loop, and they’ll appreciate it – and may even pay you back with purchases.
Sent to subscribers on a regular basis, a digest is like your campaign’s Sunday New York Times.
It’s a mega-newsletter that lists everything subscribers might want to know and links to all of your recent articles, blog posts and other activity.
With so much information presented, chances are good that something is going to catch each reader’s eye.
Which Should You Be Using?
Keep in mind, you’re likely to end up with different pegs for different emails. So each time you’re designing a new message, ask yourself:
- What is my focus here? Is it thought leadership, selling a product, building relationships?
- How much content do I want to send? Would pictures, links or paragraphs get my ideas across best?
- What action am I calling subscribers to here, and how can I best highlight it?
- Is this a regularly scheduled update that should always have the same format?
- How much time have I scheduled to put this email together?
What Do You Think?
What formats have you been using for your emails?
Do they work well with your content? Do they help you accomplish your goals?
Can you suggest any other formats for marketers to choose from?