Poor “Jane” is getting a bad rap when it comes to all-text email marketing. After all, it’s up to us to format our plain text emails so they’re really attractive, easy to read, and interesting, right? Too often we’re blaming less-than-thrilling results on the plain text format, when it could be our lack of content design that caused the “yawn heard round the world”.
So let’s go back to the basics for one blog and address the problem of “content” mapping or formatting, and why it matters to those of us who send all-text emails from time to time.
I’ve collaborated with a couple of online writers to come up with these suggestions, so we hope you find them useful. After the first few practice runs, it should only take a few minutes to incorporate these tips – and vastly improve your email marketing results.
Now, here’s the theme we want to hammer home about plain-text emails. More than any other format, it’s critical to create a CONVERSATION with all text – not a lecture, product brief, or mini-brochure. So let’s think about that…how do we “converse”?
That’s right, in short exchanges, often punctuated with questions, exclamations, and “agreement” phrases (“right?”). Now you’re probably saying ‘sure, easy for a professional writer to do!’ Listen, if you can carry on an intelligent conversation for 2-3 minutes, YOU CAN DO THIS! No excuses! So…
1. Chunking: Our writer calls content mapping “chunking” so let’s go with that. It means separating your paragraphs into no more than 2-3 sentences (forget the 5-sentence rule) of interesting, related content. What does that look like? Is it more than 5 lines?
2. Line Length: Now format the content so that each line is @ 70 characters long. Less is even better if you have a large mobile audience. Gmail is going to cut it off @ 130 characters anyway, so keeping it short means less ungainly wrapping and MUCH faster and easier scanning. The goal is to create small chunks of no more than 3-4 lines.
3. Headers and Subheads: Use the same care and creativity you put into your titles and subject lines to break up your content “chunks’. Leave breathing space between each section, and space after each header/subhead. Accent with symbols, icons, shapes, etc. to catch the scanning eye. Let your readers choose if, and what, they want to read.
4. Content Design Review: Look at your completed email message. Is it too long overall? Focus more on design “stopping power”, readability, and ease of scanning. Can each “chunk” stand on its own? Are the sections in the right order for maximum impact? Do my eyes strain anywhere to find content or separate topics? Good, you’re done!
So keep these “chunking” and content design practices in mind when you’re creating your all–text email messages and be amazed at the power of “Plain Jane”!!!