Why Ugly Emails Generate Results

Apr 3, 2017 5:00:38 AM

By Cathy Cain-Blank

Late at night, when I’m unwinding from the day, I love to flip through magazines and study well-designed full-page ads. The catchy headlines. Large, striking graphics. A few lines of copy touting the value of the product, service or advertiser. And, of course, the clear call to action.

Creating beautiful, less-is-more print ads is rarely on our to-do list. We specialize in B2B email marketing. It’s a completely different animal in the marketing kingdom.

We’re typically charged with enabling clients to keep in touch with their target audiences. Most of the communications we develop share ideas and useful information and touch on products/services. We also promote events, create automated introductory and follow-up emails, and prepare surveys to help clients uncover areas in need of improvement.

So when a new client says, “I like emails with large graphics and few words,” I quickly raise my hand to call a time out.  In our world, there’s not much of a place for Pretty Emails. If you want to effectively connect with your clients, prospects, referral sources or any other audience, you have to follow the proven best practice of balancing copy and graphics. Here’s why.

Emails comprised of big pictures and few words are fraught with pitfalls. First, they often land in spam folders. Next, recipients who don’t automatically download pictures won’t see your image – they’ll see a big white box. In addition, if the email consists solely of the large image placed in a template, it can only link to one website page. If that page is a landing page designed to generate registrations or download an e-book – or any other activity that’s important to monitor – that’s great. But if you’re looking to learn what interests your audience (e.g., your blog, your resource section, etc.), the one-image email linking to your home page is a waste.

Your audience wants more than a Pretty Email. Today’s email subscribers expect you to solve their challenges. They want you to prove your ability to help generate more business/save money/reduce overhead or whatever your products or services deliver. If you can’t do this through content-rich emails, you will lose them. And once they have opted-out it’s difficult to get them back.

When I’m auditing a prospective client’s email campaigns, I evaluate email settings, subject lines, template design, readability, font colors, use and preparation of images and/or video, links, and content. All of these elements impact overall effectiveness, which includes the open rate, click-thru rate, and the quality of direct responses. The notion of whether an email is Pretty never crosses my mind.

As far as we’re concerned, ugly is in the eye of the beholder. When we create an ordinary-looking email that generates more business, to our client it is downright stunning.

The next time you take a critical look at your email program, think twice if you are leaning toward oversized graphics and pushing products or services. An effective email will rarely look as pretty as its print counterpart. But if ugly emails lead your audience to take the next step, isn’t that all that matters?