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What format should I use for my campaigns: text, HTML or rich media?

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Answer: Today, more e-mail users are able to read HTML messages than ever before. HTML capability has become commonplace and marketers are taking advantage of it. But remember that text, HTML or rich media formats are appropriate for different audiences and serve different purposes.

Rich media grabs attention but adds expense. In some cases, such as a new product introduction, rich media has a great response because it quickly catches the recipient’s attention. In other cases, rich media is an unnecessary expense, slowing delivery and load times for users who just want the facts, not the presentation. Determine what format your audience prefers by testing. If HTML open rates and click-throughs are similar to rich media, save the time and costs associated with creating complex media by sticking to HTML or text.

Unlike text e-mails, HTML makes it possible to track open rates, a critical component to any e-mail marketing strategy. The graphical capabilities also make it easier for marketers to build their brand though e-mail by allowing the use of consistent templates, fonts, colors, images and logos. Past studies have shown that HTML is generally preferred to text, but unless you survey your own audience, you won’t know for sure. For example, techies often prefer plain text messages.

Try different creative formats, but if there is one theme for this year, it is identify each user’s preference. Paying attention to individual requests and purchase histories and communicating those differences through conditional messaging will help all formats to be more effective.

Tricia Robinson is chief marketing officer for Atlanta-based Accucast Inc. (www.accucast.com, formerly Socketware Inc.), a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.
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