Depending on who you talk to in the marketing world you’ll get different answers to the question, what should I use in my email marketing ad, text or html format, and to be honest with you there really is no clear cut answer. One thing that is for sure is you have to look at not only what’s in your ad, but you have to look at who your ad is targeting. If your targeting a consumer, html often is preferred over text, but that’s not really a clear cut rule either, it really depends on what type of consumer you are targeting; are you selling online games to a target of 18 to 29 year olds, or are you selling Medicaid supplement insurance to seniors 60 years plus? These are two very different markets, so one could argue that for the former you would probably want to use html because you want to dazzle them, you want to impress them because they’re young, they are looking for an application (game) to be used online, so you want to give them all the bells and whistles. With the latter target, you have to consider that this target is not as technologically savvy as the younger target and they really are looking for simple, non complicated, and text delivers that, it gives them what they want, it delivers clear cut information without all the bells and whistles, it allows them to quickly read the message, to decipher exactly what it is that is being offered to them. So I think you have the possibility of risking losing some of the people in this age group if you are using a message that is too flashy.
Another aspect that you have to consider is if your target is B2B. This target usually wants quick and easy, they just want the information because they are busy, at work, and don’t have a lot of time, so it’s a just cut all the crap mentality, tell them what you want and make it an easy to read message. I personally can relate to this, I don’t need all the colors, I don’t need all the flash, just tell me what you have to say and do it quickly, because I’m busy.
Again, you really have to look at who your target is, and what you’re selling. But even taking all of that into consideration there really is no absolute rule when it comes to the type of format that you are going to use. I always make the recommendation to clients that they shouldn’t guess which works better, html or text, test it and know for sure. Do a small sampling using both formats and see which one gives you the better results and then go ahead full speed ahead with the format that gave you the best results. It’s a pretty easy solution, granted it is going to cost you a little extra to do that test, and you may have paid a graphic artists to create an ad that you may end up not using, but that’s okay, it’s better that you spend a few dollars on an ad that’s not going to be used, than doing an entire marketing campaign and getting poor results.
At the end of the day my advice is and always has been to my clients, test your market using both formats so that you know for sure which one works better so that you’re not guessing, and you should do this for every type of product you market. In any type of marketing there should always be a test phase, don’t just jump into the water, stick your toe in first and test the water, go slow at first, understand your target, understand the parameters of the campaign and judge which works better, what’s going to give you the better results. It’s a little time consuming in the beginning but worth every second in the long run if it gives you a successful email marketing campaign. This has been the advice of marketers over the years for all types of media and is a common sense marketing principle that should be used in any type of marketing and most certainly applies to Email Marketing.