From what I have seen, the studies and testimony that promote the efficacy of plain text emails are usually from email blasters, not inbound marketers. Of course, plain text emails are going to outperform HTML emails when sent to an unqualified list- the HTML version of the email will have information missing because the recipient needs to click “display images” for the message to reach its potential.
In contrast, when the email or follow-up sequence is sent to an opt-in list or group of contacts that know and trust you, leveraging visual language, which can only be done through an HTML email, increases comprehension and retention. This is because people you know and trust will enable images for all of your email messages. Using HTML allows you to format the email using eye-leading formatting (header, bulletpoints, call-outs, columns, pictures, etc.) so the recipient can scan the message quicker than if it were in plain text.
Granted, there is a small band of infomarketers that leverage plain text emails, but only the elites do so successfully. Plus, I firmly believe the elites would make more money if they sent HTML emails to specific segments of their community.
Thoughts to consider
- People gravitate towards visual language – information that gives them more substance in less time. Plain text simply cannot compete with HTML for this purpose.
- Organized knowledge is also becoming a major factor in the evolution of communication, the knowledge worker’s role, and the transference of knowledge.
At present, I have not discovered anyone who has made the connection between organized knowledge as applied to marketing. By organized knowledge, I don’t mean simply creating an eBook or course- everyone and their uncle is doing that… I mean creating a tailored communication based on a persons psycho-demographic and behavioral profile to increase their engagement, improve their comprehension and retention, and ultimately increase conversions. DISC, “a behavioral profiling system,” is the closest expert advice relating to this subject that I have found. In actuality, I must admit the majority of the pieces exist, but they have not been combined into a system of organized knowledge that can be readily understood and applied. Currently, the largest portion of the knowledge exists within teams inside large corporations and the speakers that educate them (e.g. Jim Cecil, founder of NurtureMarketing).
To be clear, I am not talking about creating emails one by one
These tailored emails can be created in advance to build follow-up sequences. You can automate the delivery of the emails by using systems like Infusionsoft and Eloqua. Plus, you can adapt the system automatically based on predetermined actions they take on your site and in your emails. The theorist inside of me wishes I were a professor and had some interns (and the backing) to prove my theory so I could benefit email recipients everywhere and educate marketers.
To me, everything in business is about conversions, even emails to customers. The conversion goal could be to increase customer satisfaction, help them understand the software better, build goodwill, etc… but nevertheless, a clear goal is held in mind and constantly tracked.
The really question it always boils down to for me is ROI
“How much time can I afford to invest to build out this communication in relation to the goal, or the expected communications impact on my goal?”