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TL; DR

Quick question: When it comes to email marketing, should you use Plain text Vs HTML emails? What should you use, and why?

Answer: Mostly plain text. Sometimes HTML (always optional).

I no longer have the time or the patience to convince clients when they come asking as to whether or not they should use email marketing.

Seriously, I’d rather spend my limited time, keystrokes, and energy on somewhat more evolved questions than that.

The onus is on you to figure out why Email Marketing is a breadwinner for your business.

As for whether you should plain text emails or HTML emails? That’s a long answer and I’d be more than happy to give my 2 cents.

Every marketing forum I am a part of and almost every single client I’ve worked with has had this singular question asked.

I can almost see the tension between the “need to be simple” and the “tendency to complicate things”. The former is hard to achieve. The latter is almost too easy and natural for us to ignore.

The result is that most businesses and marketers end up using HTML emails for their email marketing.

I can’t tell you if it’s good or bad.

However, what you need to understand is this:

Plain Text emails

* We are humans and we connect with humans better. Sending an email that almost looks like it was sent by a friend to another friend is the most natural thing ever. That’s where email marketing automation software like Drip and Convertkit win hands down.
* Plain Text emails need no designers. There’s nothing fancy here. You could create an email faster than you’d take to read this blog post.
* Plain Text emails are automatically easy to read across devices — regardless of whether your subscribers are on the desktop, mobile, or tablets.

HTML Emails

If you had to use HTML emails, you’d really need expert email designers. At least, you’d need good design skills to use professional tools such as Adobe Photoshop and create what works.
* For the non-designers, busy marketers, agencies, and business owners, there are tools such as Postcards from DesignModo that you could use to whip up stunning email campaigns.
* As if it wasn’t enough that you could actually suffer from the “no list syndrome”, low open rates, negligent click rates with your email marketing, don’t assume that you are going to have it any better with your expectations that your subscribers will actually have to click on “display images” or to “whitelist” your domain.

It’s already getting harder to win with email marketing, despite the availability of some truly fantastic email service providers such as Drip and Mailchimp.

So, what should you do? Should you go for plain text emails or HTML emails?

Stick to plain text emails as much as possible. Your regular RSS-to-email campaigns, autoresponders, transactional emails, and regular broadcasts can all be plain text emails.

Use HTML only when such mails do justice. For instance, you’d want to use HTML emails when you are an e-commerce retail store. Or when your products require visuals to make that much more impact, or when you have to use a call to action that’d do so much better with an image or a video.

When visuals truly matter, go for HTML emails. Use a tool like Postcards to create stunning emails fast and efficiently without the need for designers.

If it’s just a regular email, keep it “regular” and use plain text.

If you use Drip email marketing software, you get plain text email campaigns as default (while Drip did launch a Visual Email Builder recently).

Using MailChimp? Start with a plain text email (instead of defaulting to HTML DIY builder) and only use the actual email builder features from MailChimp when you need HTML emails.

What kind of emails do you use?

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