Help your direct mail recipients get the (email) picture

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but only if it can be seen by the recipients of your email offer.

Ziff Davis Media points out that many email clients are now set by default to ignore any graphic image links in HTML email messages. Most computer users stick with the default settings, and as a result they see only the text portions of your email message. (Where images should appear, they get white space or generic icons.)

The past few years have seen the increasing popularity of “webmail” applications (such as Google’s Gmail and Yahoo Mail) that make it simpler for users to find the settings that allow them to display images. On the other hand, an increasing number of users now read email on small-screen PDAs, and turn off images to save screen space and download times.

There’s no way to control the email clients your recipients use, but you can design your email messages to be highly effective even without relying upon graphics. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure the text of the email can stand alone, and that it communicates your complete marketing message. Unfortunately, the interplay of image and words that can work so powerfully in print can’t yet be relied upon for email.
  • Test your HTML emails to make sure that text blocks are readable (not garbled) when opened in an email client that has graphics disabled. The most popular email client to test in is Microsoft Outlook for Windows, but depending on your audience, you may also want to test with clients such as Eudora, Microsoft Outlook for Mac, and Mac OS X Mail.
  • Include in your email message a link to an online version of the email with full graphics. (While email clients are often set by default to suppress images, web browsers are usually set by default to display them.) This link could appear in smaller, highlighted text, at the top of your email message. Typical wording: “Click here to view on web-based version of this message.”

The bottom line: Direct marketers must continue to rely on powerful, comprehensive copy to maximize the effectiveness of email offers and take into account users that may not persuadable by graphics and layout.

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