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do plain-text emails sell more than designed emails?

A few weeks ago, I saw a “green” copywriter on Twitter ask if plain-text emails sell more than designed ones.

He was genuinely shocked, and it seemed as if he’d never heard of this idea before.

And I found it interesting for a couple o’ reasons:

1. Many people replied saying something along the lines of these work well when it’s a “personal” note from the founder. Agreed. Well, with a catch.

First, the catch:

While plain-text emails from the founders do work well, a lot of the advice he received was misguided.

One of the screenshots of one of these emails someone sent him went along the lines of…



Yooo, how’re you?

I’ll keep this short because I went out last night and got pretty lit lol.

But today’s 2-22-22 which is a bit mad so I put on a Buy 2 Get 2 free deal for anything in our store for the next 2 days.

Add 4+ pieces to your cart and your 2 will be free.

Shop now.


I’m sure this email worked like gangbusters. It’s personal, adds a touch of humor, and comes with a great offer (buy 2 get 2 free). And it’s a breath of fresh hair for many customers on any type of ecommerce list.

But it’s far from the best email I ever did see.

Which brings me to the catch I mentioned earlier:

Yes, plain-text emails give you a more personal communication lane to persuade your list to buy your stuff. But this one relies on the strength of its deal — Buy 2 Get 2 free. Nobody’s gonna buy something because “you got a bit lit last night.” Unless, of course, you slang a post-hangover recovery mix, and you tie getting drunk into how amazing you feel today because of this mix.

Seems like the paraphrased email above sold something in the accessory space — chains, rings, etc. So, if you’re cool with running non-stop discounts, something like this could work like crazy.

It’s also a perfect example of “entering the conversation people already have in their mind” that Robert Collier taught about. 2-22-22 was all anyone saw or thought about that day.

So don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not “hating” on the clever email.

But what if you couldn’t rely on the strength of your offer as your main selling point? i.e. the Buy 2 Get 2 free deal?

A more persuasive angle could’ve said:

* Your chick will love these XYZ rings so much she’ll make you food every day and sweet love every night

* Can’t snag a girl when you go out? The men who get girls lining up to talk to them know how to accessorize. It’s a simple thing that makes you sexier, more powerful, and seem cooler. Like these rings here.

Wrap those up in a story, and methinks you could slang a lot of accessories without relying on discounting.

Again, nothing wrong with the original paraphrased email, per se. But the email lacked benefits and persuasion elements, which could get someone to jump off the fence and make a purchase.


2. This bloke on Twitter has never heard of plain-text emails before, which is one of the more shocking things I discovered that week.

Notice how I came up with two quick angles for the email, in an industry I’ve never written for?

This is how it goes for most ecommerce businesses. They either create beautiful designed emails and have never even heard of plain-text emails. Or they send a lil “personal message from the founder” type emails in a large sea of designed HTML emails.

Meaning, there’s a massive opportunity for persuasion.

Email design isn’t persuasive.

Images can be persuasive (h/t to the great Shane Hunter for changing my mind on this recently).

But email design isn’t. It’s just a way to waste a bunch of time at the altar of your ego. (“This email design is sick, bruh!”)

And this fools many brands I talk to.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an “inside” look at several company’s Klaviyo accounts.

All of them went with the heavy design approach — at the expense of sales.

They couldn’t figure out why their emails weren’t making more sales. But it was like their emails were allergic to persuasion.

Look, you need more than a pretty email template to make sales.

A good offer helps, like with the example above.

But what helps even more than a good offer?

Setting up the problem your audience has, telling a persuasive story where they can put themselves in the main character’s shoes, and making them an offer.

These types of emails work especially well in industries where heavily designed emails dominate. (Which is most industries.) Because email design ain’t persuasive.

To answer the question…

Do plain-text emails sell more than designed emails?

Yes, yes they do.

They seem more personal (because they are).

They give you more “wiggle room” to persuade.

They’re more likely to land in the primary inbox folder.

And they take a whole lot less time to create. (I’ve heard told many a story about design-heavy emails taking up to 8 hours to create. With a plain-text email, you can write and send something in as little as 10 minutes.)

I’m not a designer so take this with a big, fat, biased chunk of black pepper… but plain-text emails are a lot more fun too.

Anyway, if you want to slang more of your products and services with plain-text emails like this one here, book a call here. If you have a proven offer, I’ll help drizzle kerosene and flick a lit cigarette on it.

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