Why I Never Use ‘Pretty’ HTML Templates In Email Marketing

“Uh, are you sure about this? This isn't the kind of email we usually send out. I'm not sure how this is going to work…”

The response made me chuckle—exactly what I'd expected.

“Heh heh, trust me,” I thought, “this is gonna work juuuust fine.”

The reluctant guy I was corresponding with was the owner of a big email newsletter for Java programmers, and I'd just sent over the copy for an email ad that I wanted to send out to his list.

What he was used to getting from sponsors was pretty, “designed” HTML emails—the inbox equivalent of a brochure or highway billboard.

And these ads always hawked the sponsor's latest product, offering some kind of discount or free trial.

My email did none of that.

And the differences started right from the subject line.

Instead of “BugMonkey Tracker Reduces Support Requests By 50%. Free Trial!”

Mine read: “Rant from a frustrated Java developer”

Then when you opened the email, there were no graphics of any kind, just plain text and a simple message written like one software developer talking to a fellow software developer.

The email didn't pimp a product, instead it told a story about a guy who'd been studying the Java programming language for 3 years and STILL felt lost and overwhelmed.

And there wasn't even anything for sale—just a single link at the end of the email that the reader could click to sign up for a free email course.

All this really threw the newsletter guy for a loop.

And it was all very intentional on my part.

See, email is an intensely *personal* way to communicate.

But most email marketers don't think about that at all. They just view it as a cheap way to blast out commercials.

And that's why their open rates drop lower and lower every time they blast their subscribers with these lame e-flyers.

If you want to build a relationship with your email list, make your emails look like a welcome note from a trusted friend.

And write your emails like you're writing to a single person—not shotgunning the same message to a faceless crowd of thousands.

So back to my nervous friend with the Java newsletter…

Once I confirmed that, yes, I did indeed want to go forward with this insanity, he agreed to give it a shot.

The email went out, and he was pleasantly surprised by the way his list responded.

The opens and clicks were both much higher than he was used to seeing.

And within about a week we'd earned back all the money we'd spent on the ad—and turned a nice profit to boot.

Bottom line:

Email is personal.

And the more personal your emails look and sound, the more your readers will come to know like and trust you.