The HTML TEXT email compromise

I previously touched upon the dilemma facing email marketers when it comes time to decide whether to send their marketing emails as an HTML email or a TEXT email.  As a solution, many marketers have embraced the idea of asking the recipient which they prefer.  The marketing team usually poses this question at the same time they are soliciting a registration (name, email address, etc) from their website visitors.  And since space on the online registration form is often scarce,  the question is often posted in a barely intelligible way–looking as if a cat briefly danced across the keyboard instead of an actual question:  “HTML? TXT?”

Here’s the problem: Many people either don’t understand that question, or don’t know the answer to it.  Sure, for all of us reading blogs and getting our news from RSS feeds, the idea that someone might not know the answer to this might strike us as silly.  But at Outskirts Press, we can track without fail a statistical fact – the more questions we ask on a registration form, the lower our conversion rate is. Add a “hard” question into the mix, or one that requires the person to make a “choice” and the conversions plummet.  People know their names and email addresses, but beyond that, marketers have to weigh the advantages of knowing more information about the user against the disadvantage of a decreasing conversion ratio.

People simply don’t like being asked questions they don’t know the answers to. Additionally, many people still have an uncertainly about computers that leads them to the conclusion that offering no answer is better than offering an incorrect one.  So guess what the path of least resistance is for a potential new client who doesn’t know the answer?  They leave your website without registering and go somewhere else.

Another solution some marketers embrace is sending a text email which contains nothing more than a link to a website where the “real” content resides in all its glorious HTML beauty.   The email may try to contain a benefit statement or some other brief incentive to motivate the recipient to click on the link, but rarely is enough effort put forth into the email — no surprise — because all the effort has been put into the HTML webpage being linked to.   The problem is, this solution lacks the content of text emails and lacks the beauty of HTML emails.   In other words, ironically, the solution intended to work for everyone works for no one.

There isn’t a 100% effective solution, but there is solution that embraces a compromise and as a result, makes it the best overall tactic to address this email marketing problem, in my opinion. What is it? I’ll talk about that next…