Old Fashioned Marketing With New Fashioned Technology

It seems we’ve come full circle when it comes to communicating with our prospects and clients. I noticed recently that I’ve been paying a lot less attention to online newsletters and those pretty HTML announcements that arrive in my in-box every day. There are a few exceptions of course. But for the most part I’m interested in the CONTENT of what is being delivered, not the design or graphics. When given the choice I no longer ask for the HTML version of anything – instead I choose the text-only version.

There was a time when it was unusual to receive anything but plain text into your email box. Then we moved to designing branded newsletters and “postcard-like” invitations that would capture the attention of our readers. Now, thanks to ever-improving SPAM filters a lot of those fancy invitations, announcements and emails aren’t even making it to our desktop. And for those that do get through the fire-wall, we’ve become jaded and tired of looking at all those designs. We just want the information – short, sweet and simple.

Playing on this hunch we recently experimented with a client that has been holding a series of seminars. As is typical, invitations had been sent out using HTML and branded design. But registrations were down and we were looking for a way to drive attendance. So we sent out another announcement about the event, except this was a simple text email. In the “from” section we had real person’s name. In the “subject” line we inserted the name of the seminar. In the body of the email was a sentence inviting the recipient to attend the seminar. We had about 3 key “what you’ll get” bullets and the basic description of the 2 hour session.

Within 24 hours of sending out the text email we received an additional 10 registrants for the event. Since the event was capped at 25 attendees, this was almost 50% of our audience! We thought we might be on to something, so we did again for another client event. And again, the results were similar. The plain text email out performed the HTML invitation by over 50%. Why? I think our brains are just a little tired. You can compare this to walking down the Las Vegas strip at night. At first the lights are beautiful and everything captures your attention. But walk the strip every night for months and months and after a while those pretty flashing lights aren’t going to capture your attention any longer. You are going to simply focus on arriving at your destination.

Because of this, I believe that we’re coming full circle back to a more old-fashioned way of communicating. I don’t have time to read my online newsletters as often as I would like. But I notice that on Sunday afternoon I sit down and read several print journals I get in the mail each month. The “cold-call” email blasts never capture my attention but last week I got a very clever direct mail piece that gave me pause and actually got me to call the service provider. And I recently signed up for a webinar on advanced search engine marketing techniques that I learned about from a plain text email that was delivered to me from the owner of the interactive consultancy.

Am I advocating that we do away with HTML newsletters and announcements completely? Of course not. Those have a place in our marketing mix as does everything else. I am suggesting that you consider alternating HTML with plain text and that you experiment with both. If you’re holding an event, why not alternate each notice — the first in HTML, the second in plain text, etc. And the day before the event — send out a plain text reminder. And let me know if your response rates start increasing with this “old-fashioned” approach to email marketing.

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