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Simplicity is the Nature of Great Emails

The modern email inbox is a perpetual promotion machine of colors, styles, and sales pitches all fighting to be seen.

In an attempt to break from the herd, many email marketers ironically adopt a herd mentality of more clutter, more content, more, more, more. This misguided pursuit of increased visibility merely leads to increased invisibility.

Before joining the invisible ranks of the “clutter cult” of email marketers, consider that a huge body of marketing research demonstrates that the human mind is a sucker for simplicity and focus. The eye embraces that which can be easily digested. Less is more.

Unless you’re emailing something of personal relevance or urgency to your client, you have only three and a half seconds to be interesting. Fail, and you’re deleted.

All those hours designing a big, bloated email reminiscent of an advanced web page, only to be tagged as junk. Ouch.

This premature email death may be avoided with a little soul-searching. Before you design your next promotion, ask yourself three questions:

   1. What is your favorite kind of email?
   2. How much time should you spend reading an email that was sent to you along with a zillion other people?
   3. What else is happening on the page when you view a typical email?

Answer to number 1: If you’re like most people, your favorite emails are those few lines of text sent by a friend or someone you were hoping to hear from—text solely aimed at you. If that person sent that mail in a decked-out styles-galore version, it would take longer to read, and you’d think that person needed to get out more.

Answer to number 2: How much time should you spend reading mass emails? Probably none. Think about it. The mass marketer’s not your friend. You can tell by the polished visuals that he’s working overtime to manipulate you. In this lies a vital tip for marketers: Be a friend. Keep it simple. Keep it nice. Make a good subject line that’ll earn those 3.5 seconds you need to get your simple message across.

And question 3: What else is happening on the page? What isn’t happening! Gmail is framed by ads, as are other web-based services like AOL, Hotmail, etc. There’s only one way to stand out from all those ads: look less like an ad. Think simple. I listen to Miles Davis while I compose my email. What music inspires simplicity and conviction in you? Listen while you work.

I receive tons of newsletters. Some of the best are product promotions by 37Signals designed simply. Logo on the top, no sidebars, very sparse image content. A header, some text below, and a consistent, neat color motif.

It’s really the best I’ve seen—and I say this as a client of 37Signals who was hooked by an email for Basecamp.

Simple is almost always best. Once simplicity is embraced, you’re free to converse plainly with your clients—easily and often. Designers, template-selection and deadly cross-service compliance issues fall away. Your readers save time, too, and love you for it. Everybody wins.

Don’t you feel the stress just rolling off your shoulders? Wanna keep it that way? Keep it simple.


About the Author


Mad Mimi is the easiest way to create, send, share and track email newsletters online. Mad Mimi is for people who want email marketing to be simple. Every day, over 40 million emails are sent, shared and tracked using our delightful and powerful service. This article was originally published in Mad Mimi’s blog. Check out the original post here.

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