Ditch The Pictures? Could Text-Only Emails Make You More Friends?

The emails we send to friends and colleagues get the best engagement, yet they're just text. Right? You may occasionally send a picture as an attachment, but the vast majority of the the time, what you have to tell them is represented purely in text. It makes you think a little, doesn't it?

Forbes contributor certainly thinks so. The author in question works in marketing for a cancer charity and realised that the person he always looked out for in his inbox was a guy who wrote purely text-based emails. Why? Because they were truly interesting and packed with detailed knowledge that he felt cut through the clutter. 

Like any good email marketer would do when they realise something about how they peruse their own inbox, he copied the style. The results have been very encouraging -- as open rates doubled, from an average of 10% to 18%, to 40% to 60%. Well, that's what he's claiming, although it sounds a little high.

It's worth remembering this was made possible through audience segmentation too -- but the biggest change, the author reveals, was not trying to fill each message with pictures. Just sticking to plain text was the guiding principle.

It has to be said that this is only one example, and it must be added that this is for a charity that will have a lot to say that can be represented in text. But that's pretty impressive stuff, isn't it?

Think about the people whose emails you admire and I bet you there is a brand out there that you actively look out for which only ever sends text-based emails. For me it has to be Naked Wines. Regular readers will know I'm a fan of the brand. The CEO gets the tone just right. The subject lines are usually to the point but are occasionally quirky. You can expect to get plenty of apologies for him selling out of a particular wine with an offer for the replacement he had shipped in to make up for it. There are cheeky messages that portray his team as your pals should you be looking for a top up for the weekend or if you've gone crazy and need stocking up again after entertaining friends.

The thing is that the emails are only ever text. I can't remember them sending out a picture. This is in stark contrast to its social feeds, which show featured wine makers going about their trade with the occasional meme showing the Naked team are thinking about that first glass on a Friday evening, just like you.

Every email reads like a letter from a friend. The tone is very familiar and jocular, and the only thing you read that isn't in solid black text are the bright links you're encouraged to select for this month's offer. 

If it weren't for Naked Wines there would be no way I would even pass on a link to the Forbes' blog from a cancer charity emailer. Not including images just seems so basic and boring, doesn't it? Thing is, I kind of believe the writer because I know it works for me with some brands.

Might it be worth trying at your brand? If you can strike up that direct friendly tone with your customers, it's got to be worth a go, hasn't it? Treat your customers like a pen pal you're sending an update to might make it feel like there a one-on-one relationship developing, and so written messages are not only the right approach -- they are welcomed.

2 comments about "Ditch The Pictures? Could Text-Only Emails Make You More Friends?".
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  1. Peter Rosenwald from Consult Partners, June 12, 2017 at 3:46 p.m.

    A picture isn't automatically worth 1,000 words - only a thousand of the wrong words, boringly strung together.

    Words matter. And the more compelling and engaging the words, the less they need to be supported by a picture unless the picture addsrather than supplimentsthe words. The words 'imagine' or 'dream' are almost always devalued by an accompanying picture because it can't live up to the imagination or the dream.

    Writing words that grab and keep the reader don't come easily and even if they are great, you'll probably have to fight an art director who insists on pictures.

  2. Jeff Sawyer from GH, June 13, 2017 at 9:09 a.m.

    Whenever someone uses the picture/thousand words line, I reply, "Say that without using words." They usualliy wander off and don't speak to me for weeks, which is excellent. 

    An email composed solely of words must employ really good words, and there's the rub. Most every marketing email in your in-box today defaults to calling the product it sells "The perfect XX" followed by more cliches and uninspired, hard-sell language, and where's the fun in that? Tell me a story, talk to me like a friend, make me laugh, use some fresh words like, I don't know, crescendo and frisson and judgy. Now we have something.  

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