Effective HTML Email Tip #1: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple)

Twitter has been instrumental in teaching me to cut the fat/filler from my writing. I still have a ways to go, but compared to how I used to write, the difference is amazing.

Some of the projects I work on involve designing templates for HTML emails. I am given text to get a sense of how much space is needed, but inadvertently I end up reading the content and asking myself:

1) What’s the main idea?

2) Why should I care?

3) What do you want me to do?

More often than not, I am given too much information—most of it not useful. So I bring out my proverbial red pen and cut like crazy. In this case, I copy and paste only the text that relate to the questions and discard the rest.

Let’s face it. As harsh as it sounds, people don’t want or care to read your finely crafted prose/witticisms. They may, however, be willing to tolerate some of your meanderings and musings if they’re related to you by blood or have significant ties to your past/present. Most likely not. People don’t read as much anymore.

Things to keep in mind:

1) Grab your reader’s attention with a subject heading that actually says something. Or, if you’re opting not to use a headline in the body, make sure the image/layout is intriguing enough to get the recipient to look beyond the 2 seconds (assuming that they’ve opened the email.)

2) Use bite-sized sentences, phrases, bullets, chunks of information. HTML emails are like super-short tables of content. Every single word must mean something or be significant to the whole. Another way to look at this—imagine you’re getting this message on a smart phone and your scrolling/page down mechanism is broken. Whatever goes beyond the first view will not be read at all.

3) Make sure the call to action is clear. The call to action is usually to sign-up for something, visit a link, download, order something, or call/email company. Whatever it is, make sure it’s prominent enough so that the reader doesn’t have to guess or fish for it.

4) If you’re planning to send an HTML email, make sure it’s relevant and something the recipient would want to receive. Don’t abuse the privilege of having your contact’s email address. Put yourself in your recipient’s position and make sure what you send is truly something you know you’d like to receive. Yes, the Golden Rule applies for HTML email marketing, too.

Although emails cost much less than traditional direct mail and might tempt a marketer to throw all kinds to sh*t to see what sticks, please do us all a favor and K.I.S.S. and be relevant.

Thank you.

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