A lot of focus gets put into the Email Subject Lines.

After all, if no one opens your email based on what it says, then no one is going to take action or buy from you, and that is guaranteed to stop people from reading your emails

However once they’ve opened it, if they then don’t read it or they scan it and just close it without properly reading; it’s the same end result. No action and no sales.

And surprisingly, making your emails readable is something even marketing experts regularly mess up – as you’ll see shortly.

However let’s start with some really important statistics. This chart from Litmus shows us which devices are used to open emails.

mobile opens

It shows that back in November 2013, that the amount of opens on mobile devices (as opposed to desktop email software or webmail) went past 50%. The number one email client is the Apple iPhone at 26%, followed by Outlook at 14%, with Android and Apple iPad both at 12%.

So put simply – your email will be opened in some form of mobile device – smartphone, tablet.

So if you want your emails to get read today, they must be easily readable on mobile devices.

Unfortunately, many marketing experts – who should know better send emails that are useless and cannot be read easily on a mobile device.

Big Images “mess up” Mobile Email

Here’s an example. I’ve blurred out the face and logo of the marketer so we focus on the email, and won’t embarrass the individual ;)

big imageUsing an image of a video is a good idea. Previous testing has shown I get more clicks through to a video if I show a picture of it rather than just a bare link.

But because the image of the video is too big for my Phone’s screen, the mail client has shrunk the whole email to fit the image in.

And that means the text has shrunk so much it’s become unreadable.

What happens if we can’t easily read an email on our phone?

We close it and move on to the next one.

We might make a mental note to look at it when we get back to our desktop. But usually we’re so overloaded with email that we never do. The chance has gone.

To make things worse, if your email systems are synced across platforms with something like IMAP, the email gets marked as read on our desktop system too. So we don’t even realise we haven’t read it.

Am I being too picky about small text?

I don’t think so. Have you ever tried zooming in on an email, then scrolling it left and right to read?

It’s infuriating. And if you’re using one hand like most of us do when reading email on a mobile, it’s pretty close to impossible.

And also you should bear this in mind:

The chances are that most senior decision makers, are most likely to be older. And that means their eyesight is going to be worse.

I simply can’t read emails in small fonts. My friends laugh at me when they see my Super Sized fonts on my phone, saying things like I can only get two words on the screen at a time!

Lots of people in their 40s and over are in the same position. Older = more likely to be in a senior role in business. Exactly the people you do want opening your emails. So you don’t want to lose them because you’ve compressed the text due to big images.

Some email marketing systems like GetResponse and Mailchimp have tools that allow you to specify that the image should be full width on a mobile device. They create the necessary styling that grows or shrinks the images to size and preserves the size of the text.

But many email marketing systems don’t.

If you’re going to use images in your emails, figure out how to make them “responsive” on your email system – so they auto size, or keep them to a maximum of about 300 pixels wide. That way they’ll display fine on an iPhone screen.

Make Your Emails Look Accessible

Here’s a problem you get frequently on desktops emails too, but it’s so much worse on mobiles:

too much text

Does this look like the sort of email you’d want to read?

Not really.

It’s just huge block of text. it looks like it would make your brain hurt just to read one page of it. And it goes on for many pages more.

If you want people to read your emails on either desktop or mobile they’ve got to look easy to read.

So use plenty of white space: short sentences and paragraphs.

Break things up. Some longer sections, some shorter ones.

Add some bolding, italics or underline.

Use sub headings occasionally.

Make it look accessible.

Even in this relatively long article I’ve tried to break up the formatting of the text to make it feel easier. You need to do the same with your emails.

Ensure it doesn’t Look Like a Sales Pitch

When your readers open your emails, the first thing on their mind is “what’s in it for me?”.

Most of the time they won’t be opening your email ready to buy something from you. They’re going to see if your email will give them something useful and informative.

They might have been enticed by your fabulous subject line, but if they don’t know you well already then they’ll be sceptical. So they need to see something that immediately tells them they’ll get value from your email.

What they don’t want to see is an email that looks like it might have been sent by Amazon or Groupon that’s enticing you to buy a snorkelling mask – or other random product/service from them.

pitchyTake this email for instance.

It’s actually quite good and got some very useful content about presenting to tough audiences.

But my initial impression, because of the big pictures of what look like products for sale, it feels like the email is going to be one big sales pitch.

At best, it means I’m going to read the email with my “shields up”, assuming anything in there has been designed to make me buy.

Even worse case, I’m probably just going to close it.

As it happens, if you click on those images you get taken to the guy’s home page rather than a sales page for those products. So why have the images of them there in the first place?

Keeping it Simple

Those three mistakes are fairly obvious ones. Yet they are made over and over again. Each of the emails I’ve used as examples comes from a very experienced marketer.

Sometimes we get lulled into these mistakes. We see emails from big corporates and assume ours should have the same fancy images in them. But we’re not big corporates. People don’t buy from us because we’re cool like Apple or we have great offers like Amazon. they hire us because they trust us and they believe we can do a great job for them.

Simple emails usually work best.

Emails formatted to look like they come from business colleagues and friends are the type.

When MarketingExperiments.com ran a test a couple of years ago. They discovered that:

  • Emails that use lots of graphics and formatting got 34% fewer clicks than plain text emails.
  • Emails that had a little bit of formatting: the occasional underline or bold text and highlighted links got 55% more clicks than plain text.

By the way, don’t assume that because people (who receive them) tell you they prefer images in an email that it’s a good idea to use them.

In Hubspot’s Science of Email 2014 report they show that although two thirds of respondents in their survey said they preferred mostly image based emails, when they measured the impact of images they saw a consistent drop in click-through rates every time images were added to emails.

In summary the more images in an email, the fewer clicks.

So – just to make it clear. Use simple emails with lots of white space between the sentences or paragraphs that look easy to read.

If you use an image like a video thumbnail, make sure it displays on mobile devices.

And make sure your emails don’t look like they’re pitching something.

Call or email if you get stuck