March 2, 2017

Should you include images in your emails?

There are a handful of email marketing conversations I get terribly, chronically bored of. One is the outdated argument over HTML vs plain text emails.

There are a core of direct marketing folks who still swear by sending plain text emails. A plain text email excludes the possibility of any formatting, including images. Historically, plain text emails have had marginally better delivery rates. But for me, the exclusion of images is an issue.

I was thinking about this the other day on my walk into town. Unlike the HTML vs plain text argument, I never, ever get bored of the view.

Walk to town

I was thinking – how would I explain that in words? ‘With difficulty’, is the answer. And certainly not in as little space.

Sometimes a well-placed picture can illustrate your point more efficiently and more effectively than any number of words. Yes, some people won’t see the image, or have to click a ‘download images’ button. Those people however are a minority.

The key point is that any images you include should illustrate your point. Graphics, cartoons and illustrations can also help to convey understanding. Cartoons work because they make your reader’s brain work a little harder than a regular photo. They encourage the reader to form their own understanding, rather than giving it to them on a plate.

What I’m dead-set against are ‘branding’ images. Logos, banners and so on. If you absolutely must include your logo, stick it at the bottom of your email, not at the top.

Most modern email platforms will send HTML emails as a two-part MIME format, meaning both a HTML and a plain text version get sent. If the HTML version is rejected, the plain text version will sometimes be accepted by the recipient’s email server instead.

All of this is besides the point. If you’re sending plain text emails because of delivery rates, you’re probably emailing too many people who don’t know you, or don’t have any relationship with you. The answer is to increase the number of people who open and engage with your emails, not faff about with the technology.

So yes, use images where it helps. But not beyond that.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.