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Emma’s email marketing and social media reading list

The best sites and blogs that we're reading now

A few weeks ago, I tweeted the following question to our Twitter followers: What's your must-read article, blog or book on email and social media this year?

Now, I'm slightly embarrassed to report that this tweet turned up not a single response and nary a retweet. Rather than feeling defeated — which I'm wont to do when any tweet or Facebook update looks like a, um, failure — I decided to use this ne'er-do-well tweet as fodder for a blog post.

It could be that followers weren't paying attention to their Twitter feeds at the moment I tweeted (in case you're curious, it was Feb 9th at 11:39 am CST), though this isn't very likely since the 11 am – 1 pm time slot is one of our most engaged. It could be that followers just weren't interested in the question (likelier than hypothesis #1), but we have some enthusiastic followers who unabashedly geek out on email stats, social media best practices and marketing strategies. Or, it could be that folks haven't found many must-read articles, blogs or books, at least not ones that they ultimately find shareable.

Come to think of it, I originally tweeted the question because I want to shake up my own reading list. So, I decided to take to the streets. Or, as the case may be, the hallways of the Emma office. I asked a few coworkers — folks who identify as Big-Time Readers — which sites, blogs and books are on their radar. Some of them stuck strictly to the email/social media theme, and others diverted just a bit.

Here's what we're reading at the Emma shop, including a few explanatory sentences from each reader:

Agency Relations lead Heather Dixon's favorite sites include:

  • ClickZ. "I get the email newsletter and stats newsletter daily. They cover a wide range of topics including email marketing strategy, social media, current industry buzz words and taking care of clients."
  • Email Stat Center. "This is my go-to for email statistics. I like how the site is organized; I choose a category like 'Non-profit' or 'Segmentation' and then scroll through one-sentence clips complete with statistics and sources. It's easy to find what I need there."

Geoff Alday, of our UX team, is partial to the following:

  • LukeW. "I started reading everything Luke writes after seeing him speak at a conference. Besides covering all the topics I'm interested in like product strategy, UX/UI design and mobile, he's incredibly detailed. I've never been disappointed by anything he's written."
  • Little Big Details. "A relatively new blog that focuses on fun little UX/UI details. These really show how far designers will go to create great experiences."
  • Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox. "Some love him. Others hate him. It really doesn't matter which side you're on; when he publishes a new article, everyone reads it."

Elizabeth Williams, a member of our design team, reads:

  • 99%. "This is by far my favorite blog. It is a veritable smorgasbord of amazing advice/ideas (business, workflow, freelance, productivity, inspiration, etc) for creative people."
  • Design Work Life. "I love this blog as well. It's probably my favorite blog for design inspiration and staying up-to-date with what is going on in the print world."
  • Cool Hunting. "I get their daily email that shows their features of the day. It is something I always check because of the varied products, services, causes, books, ideas, basically anything and everything they determine 'cool.'"
  • Veerle's Blog. "Veerle is an amazing designer and web designer. She gives great tips and always has great work to look at. She's very respected in the design/web community."

Agency Relations member, Carolyn Kopprasch, favors:

  • MediaPost. "I like this email-centric blog because it keeps things interesting (using tone and writing style), while offering interesting perspectives on best practices, without harping on the obvious."
  • Email Marketing Reports. "Mark Brownlow goes above and beyond the obvious best practices and offers real insight into the relationship and also the technical aspects for email marketing. He supports his claims with stats. Also, this is a great jumping-off point for almost any topic; he links out to other blogs and articles quite a bit."
  • Email Institute. "This site has a wonderful and free gallery of sample emails for any topic."
  • MarketingProfs. "I subscribe to their email newsletter, 'Get to the Po!nt,' because it's a fast and relevant read. It doesn't feel overwhelming in the inbox and still offers good info."
  • Econsultancy. "This site offers data about email's relevancy and connections to other marketing channels."

Looking for books? I recommend these: MarketingSherpa's benchmark guides, Return on Engagement (this one's written by Emma customer, Tim Frick), The Zen of Social Media Marketing and The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World.

I hope you find this list helpful, and if we've jogged your memory, please share your favorite email-, social media- or marketing-related blogs and books in the comments below. (Come on, don't be shy.)

With Emma, you're in good company. Meet our Customers.

Helping the city of Portland turn it up to 11

PDX11 logo
At Emma, we work hard, play hard and passionately support causes that change our communities for the better. Company-wide, we give 5% of our annual revenue to fund things we believe in, like Kiva, Donor's Choose, our annual Emma 25 and various causes that our staffers support.

Sometimes, though, we can make more impact with a time investment than a financial one. Out here in Portland, that means stepping outside of the proverbial work week and lending time and energy to projects that focus on creating the community we live in.

A compelling movement is brewing in Portland right now called PDX11 that hits all the right notes for us — so, naturally, we got involved. Fueled by Mayor Adam's office and the Portland Development Commission (PDC), PDX11 aims to put Portland on the map as the go-to place for software talent and investment opportunities. To accomplish this, a community of software industry professionals, local government leaders and interested citizens emerged to make this a reality.

Emma has been supporting PDX11 since the inaugural meeting in December 2010, and we're currently in the final planning stages for the PDX11 Unconference and Hackathon slated for April 1-2. It's a two-day opportunity to bring everyone together to share the progress we've made, craft strategy for the future and celebrate the diverse and vibrant contributions of everyone involved.

In conjunction with the Unconference, we're also hosting a Hackathon for assembled developers to work on some key software that supports PDX11, like Calagator,, CivicApps inspired projects like PDXAPI, and open source Trimet data processing applications. Another group of developers will pair up and hack code like Ruby, Python, PHP and Javascript.

All and all, it's going to be a great weekend. If you're in Portland, consider this an invitation to join the revolution. After all, who doesn't want to turn it up to 11?

What do Smart Labels mean for your inbox?

Last time I posted here, I talked about Gmail's Priority Inbox, its potential effect on your readership and how to combat that by engaging (or re-engaging) your audience. Well, now we've got to talk about Gmail's new Smart Labels, a Gmail Labs tool that automatically marks emails as "bulk," "notifications" or "forum" in order to better equip you to get through the onslaught of emails you receive each day.

There was a time pretty recently that I wouldn't have turned on this feature (that's right, it's not automatic and actually requires you to search it by name) because my inbox's organization — or lack of — didn't bother me. Lately though, things have gotten a little more hectic in there, so I decided I would donate my personal email life to science and see how I liked Smart Labels.

And the results, you might ask? Well, I do wish they'd warned me ahead of time that Smart Labels removes any emails marked as notification, bulk or forum from your inbox. I don't think that the majority of email users are going to like that once they realize that even emails they *want* to read are getting filtered out. Luckily, this option is easily turned off, and once it was, Smart Labels did help me take inventory of the emails I've received.

It's important to realize that this isn't a tool meant to do the work that your spam filter failed to do. It's a tool to help people who don't have an internal human email filter, or who don't have time, to get through their emails efficiently so they can get on with life.

As an email marketer using a service like Emma (or any other ESP), your messages will be marked as "bulk." How this will affect open and click-through rates is still up in the air, since we don't know who's really even using this feature yet or how they're assimilating it into their normal email-opening routine. What we do know is that the mere presence of something like Smart Labels reinforces the importance of engaging your readership in ways that make your emails more valuable than their "bulk" status might suggest.

  • Your subject line has to pop off the screen and immediately show recipients the value of your email.
  • Create content that, over time, makes each email more valuable than the last. Build trust in your readership that you have something to say — and that it's good.
  • Reward people who read the most. In your quest to stay relevant in your audience's inboxes, make sure they know they're relevant to you, too.

The best practices for email marketing may be evolving and assimilating new ideas, but they're not changing completely. Ultimately, it's all about giving people what they want and packaging it in a way that makes the decision to open, click and interact with your messages an easy one. As we're faced with new obstacles to reaching our audience — and we can only assume that more changes are ahead — our focus on those best practices will be the key to staying relevant.

Your email results are in. Now what?

Part one of four to building an effective engagement strategy
The Response
Use Emma's response metrics to see how many folks opened, clicked through, signed up and more.

Sometimes after you've worked so hard building your campaign's content, it feels as if your work should be done. You created, proofed, tested and sent your email. So what more could there be? Well, analyzing the response data from your send-off is an important piece of your marketing strategy. Over the next few weeks, we're going to explore the what, why and how of following up after your results come in. Reaching out to your least and most engaged audience members is an important first step.

You're getting engaged! Or, um, they are.

What: When we talk about engagement, we're not talking about you single folks looking for marriage. We're talking about attracting and holding the attention of your audience. We're talking about utilizing loyalty programs, triggers, content and social media to get your subscribers involved in your cause. After all, you're hoping for more than just a ring opens, aren't you?

Why: Analyzing audience engagement allows you to make decisions to target particular segments of your audience. Your least engaged recipients are the members rarely opening your campaigns. Have you done an Emma search to find those members lately? You can start by asking those recipients to update their information by clicking the manage preferences link at the bottom of your email. If you have subscribers that aren't clicking, let alone rarely opening, allowing them this opportunity — to change the email address where they're receiving mail — gives you a fresh chance to get your campaigns back in front of them.

You may also consider surveying these folks. The survey tool enables you to learn more about your audience's preferences, what topics they care about and how often they'd like to hear from you.

But it's also a good idea to make sure you aren't giving all of the oil to the squeaky, least engaged wheels, er, recipients. Your active readers deserve some attention too. Have you thought about creating a loyalty program? MarketingProfs recently presented a study showing that loyalty mailings boost email open and click rates:

  • Open rates for mailings sent to loyalty program members were a whopping 40% higher than bulk mailings that were sent to the same clients: 27.4% vs. 19.6%.
  • Click rates for the loyalty mailings were 22% higher: 4.0% vs. 3.2%.

If you're thinking that loyalty programs don't quite fit your organization, you can achieve similar results by sending targeted campaigns based on website or email analytics. Targeting audience members that show an interest in a specific event or feature gives those members further reason to open an email from you. You're offering something personal and informative about a topic they've expressed interest in. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Marketing Sherpa reports that specific, analytic-driven campaigns like these bring in impressive response rates:

  • The open rate for the targeted campaign in their study was 48%.
  • The unique click rate was 43%.

These numbers are well above the Email Stat Center's industry average open rate of 22.5% open and click-through of 5%.

How: After thinking about what engagement really is and why following up with your most and least engaged members is a good idea, you may be wondering how to get started. First, make your content clickable. When you provide links in your campaign, you'll be able to track which audience members are actively participating. And Emma allows you to target these engaged, active subscribers in an easy, automated way: Set up triggers emails based on click-through behavior. If you provided a link for members to learn more about an event, set up a targeted trigger campaign that provides more detailed event info.

Trigger Event
Send an auto-responder to recipients who clicked on a link in a prior campaign.

Additionally, give your members the option to share your campaign with our Social Sharing feature. Enabling the share option puts your content in front of a brand new pool of people — and even potential subscribers.

Between purposefully targeting and speaking to your most and least engaged audience members, you'll be on track to a long and happy engagement. Congratulations!

Be sure to join me for the next part of this series, which will cover how to manage bounces and non-opens.

Notes from Austin: This year’s SXSW Interactive

This year, the conference was all about improving customer experiences.

South by Southwest Interactive is the Super Bowl, or maybe the Olympics, of the web-based tech world. Each year, thousands descend on Austin for a chance to hang out, learn from industry thought leaders and discover the next big thing in tech. Or at least that's the promise of SXSW. But like all things, the conference is evolving, and over the last decade we've seen a gradual, but steady, move away from the bleeding-edge early adopter and toward the general tech enthusiast, social media marketer and corporate advertiser.

As someone who's seen the conference evolve over the last several years, it's clear to me that it's no longer simply a technology conference aimed at generating buzz for new tools. It's now a people-centered event, where the value of these new tools isn't measured solely on technical merit, but also by the extent to which they make our human connections and web experiences more meaningful. Is it still the greatest event for showcasing the best and brightest new technical innovations? No. But there's still plenty to appreciate.

These three themes from the conference show how the industry is becoming more customer-focused, improving our experiences on the web and beyond.

The tools themselves

New applications and web-based services are still the technical foundation of SXSW, but this year the currency is less about technical innovation and more about providing clear value to a community — from hyper-local to global.

  • Group texting – The pre-conference buzz was all about which of these services would emerge as the leader of the pack. And while there's no clear-cut winner, the underlying theme is clear — in a noisy, busy world, we need tools that help us connect and communicate easily with close-knit social groups.
  • Localmind – Last year, location-based services got our attention by introducing a game layer on top of real-world locations. This year, Localmind took it a step further by allowing people to ask questions about specific places and get answers by people who are actually there. As we see services like Gowalla and Foursquare struggle to gain mainstream traction, a service that offers a value in the form of real-time recommendations may be the tipping point that brings location services to the masses.

Giving back as a business unit

Giving back is quickly moving from something that businesses and individuals do as a side project, afterthought or only during holidays to a dedicated and sustained effort in making the world a better place. This year's SXSW saw everything from individuals pledging relief money to Japan via Twitter, to a keynote address that told the story of how an entire business was built by their giving initiative.

  • HelpAttack – This service allows you to pledge a dollar amount for each of your status updates. They facilitate the transaction at the end of the month and work with you to determine a per-update rate that fits the amount you want to give in a month.
  • Thank-you economy – Gary Vaynerchuk gave a rousing speech dedicated to the idea that saying "thank you" to your clients, in whatever way you can, is the key to building meaningful relationships in business. In a world with ever-growing marketing noise, it will take a vocal community of evangelical fans to make your brand stand out.
  • TOMS Shoes – At the extreme is TOMS. Blake Mycoskie has built his entire business around the story of "one-for-one." You buy a pair of Tom's shoes, and they donate a pair to a needy child. Blake explains that without the story, TOMS would never have grown to become the organization it is today. His word-of-mouth marketing by people who bought his product has been his most valuable business asset. And even though he didn't set out do to do something philanthropically great as a marketing strategy, the results speak for themselves in the continued success of the business.

The customer voice is stronger than ever

Even the way we build applications is changing. How? By inserting the voice of the customer in the build-and-release process. From methodologies to best practices to applications, the voice of the customer has a larger role than ever before in shaping the tools that help businesses grow.

  • The Lean Startup – The Lean Startup movement has taken the startup world by storm and even had a day-long track at SXSW this year. The key principals are building products and services as efficiently as possible by involving the customer at the earliest possible stage, and then building to the market using your audience as the rudder for features, value and price. These ideas mirror the conference direction as a whole by emphasizing concepts like feedback and value over simply building the newest shiny object.
  • User-centered design – From websites to applications to registration processes, user-centered design is the future of the way we conceive, prototype and build new features and applications. The very definition of design is evolving from something that needs to look great, then perform, to something that has to meet the needs of users intuitively, then be styled to make that experience fun and visually engaging.
  • Get Satisfaction – This year's winner at the conference for best business app, Get Satisfaction facilitates user feedback by embedding a friendly link and interface into websites, allowing users to post comments and suggestions on-the-fly as they use a product.

What made SXSW especially fun this year is that the trends we saw there are very similar to how we work here at Emma. We preach engagement and relevance, segmentation and availability. Also, giving back is important to us, and we make it a part of our day-to-day operations.

I know lots of you are thinking about the same things. So how are you making your product or service more meaningful? What ways are you finding to engage people in a personal way? Please let us know in the comments. After all, we don't have to wait for another SXSW to roll along – there's plenty to talk about all year long.

Customer service: Why don’t we just ask them what they think?

If you've called our support line lately, you may have answered a couple of questions for us.

One of our main goals here at Emma is to take care of our customers — we want to make them happy with everything we do. From the features we build to our online help resources to the way we answer the phone, we want working with Emma to be a great experience. In fact, we go so far as to say we want to have the happiest, most loyal customer community on the planet. Pretty big idea, huh?

So we asked ourselves how we thought things were going on a recent chilly Nashville afternoon. It probably went something like this, actually, "Hey, how are we doing on that happy, loyal customer thing?"

Our Community support team, answering (and asking) questions.

And then we thought, what better way to find out than ask our customers. So that's just what we did. Our Community team began to ask every customer on the phone, "What's a great Emma experience you've had? And what's one that's not so great, so we can improve?" We had some fantastic conversations and got some interesting answers.

A bit of what we've learned so far:

  • We heard that we need to get better at offering resources for our more savvy users. And that the billing process could be easier. We said, "Can do."
  • We heard that sometimes it's harder to get us on the phone than it should be. We said, "Good to know. We're on it." Then we updated our phone system.
  • We heard that you can dream up things aesthetically that you just can't do with our campaign editor. We responded, "We agree, and that's huge. We're putting our best heads and everything we've got at that one."

One of the best answers to the question of what we can improve, though, was "none." Ahh, what a beautiful four-letter word. In fact, 21% of customers said "none."

As for the great experience part, folks had a lot to say about the friendly way we take care of their problems, the overall ease-of-use of the application and the fantastic custom designs we've done for them. That was nice to hear because these are all things that we work hard on every single day.

What about you? Do you have a positive Emma experience to share? Or a negative one we could chat about and hopefully fix? Let us know in the comments or give me a call personally at 615.296.0818.

SXSW Interactive comes to Emma

SXSW Interactive
Emma streamed talks by Felicia Day and Blake Mycoskie.

2011 marked the first time SXSW Interactive keynotes and speakers were streamed live from the festival in Austin. This allowed us the pleasure of bringing some of the most interesting presenters at SXSW into the Emma house. We settled in with chips, salsa and Shiner Bock to get down Austin-style.

On Monday, we were wowed by Felicia Day's talk about creating a buzz-worthy social media strategy and following through with a passionate, authentic and personal approach. Felicia is the creator, writer and star of the web series, The Guild, which has more than 100 million views web-wide. Felicia utilized social media and her online presence to acquire 1.7 million followers on Twitter. Seriously, 1.7 million. She discussed how she's turned down paid offers for product placement in the Twittersphere and merged her personal opinion of delicious breakfast hot spots and cupcake love with business-related content to create a dynamic presence and personality online. We came away from this impressed and totally smitten. That Felicia Day is good. We're tossing our cowboy hats off to her.

Tuesday offered up the entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit of Blake Mycoskie, creator of the wildly popular TOMS shoes. Blake's found profound success utilizing what he's dubbed the "one for one" model. For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, he donates a pair to a child in need. (We've spotted more than a few TOMS shoes around the Emma office, by the way.) He attributes his success to the giving back model and plans to expand outside the shoe world this summer. Blake has us all eagerly awaiting June 7th when he'll reveal the next TOMS product.

We're so pleased that we got to experience a piece of SXSW from the comfort of our Nashville offices. And, coming next week, we'll have an update from my colleagues who were in Austin for the conference.

Design showcase: Music in Our Schools Month

Here at Emma HQ, we're lucky enough to be nestled in the heart of Music City, just a few minutes from the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium and RCA Studio B (where, incidentally, Elvis recorded "It's Now or Never" — quite possibly our *most* favorite operatic pop hit from 1960).

Folks in Nashville quite simply have music in their DNA, so it seems only natural to share the love and spread the word about Music in Our Schools Month, a nationwide initiative to save music programs in public schools. And so, this month's stationery showcase is dedicated to some of our favorite music-themed designs; songs tell a story, after all, and we like to think our stationery can do much the same. Join me as we check out a few beautiful designs created for some talented singers and storytellers.

Client: Jayme Stone

Jayme Stone stationery
Emma Designer: Elizabeth Williams
Design Level: Concierge Design

What a delight to come across an amazing banjo player so far away from the Bluegrass State! When he isn't teaching music classes, Jayme Stone composes and plays music inspired by folk dances from around the world. With the arrival of a new record, Room of Wonders, Jayme wisely chose to update his stationery to reflect the whimsical new site design, replete with illustration and hand lettering.

Armed with good direction and a strong sense of the Jayme's branding, Elizabeth's challenge was to bring that story into the world of email with a design that would shine in the inbox environment. She seized opportunities to tie in key details, such as the illustrated dancers and customized social sharing buttons. He also requested a customized "send to a friend" button that tied in nicely with the overall design. The result is a stationery that is a unique piece of his marketing narrative, but one that still fits into the story.

Client: Bonepony

Emma Designer: Jennifer Kasdorf
Design Level: Concierge Design

As long-time members of the Nashville roots rock community, Bonepony knew they needed to stay true to the rustic look of their branding without losing a professional, semi-polished look. They requested a stationery *inspired* by their website but not an exact duplication, so Jennifer got creative with existing pieces from the bounty of great materials Kenny provided.

Jennifer was able to maintain the rougher texture present in the website by applying it to the entire background of the stationery header, but she combined it with a new, sleek color palette of black, white and sliver. The result is a perfect, brand-consistent balance of edge and sophistication.

Client: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Drew Holcomb
Emma Designer: Taylor Schena
Design Level: Concierge Design

Our friends Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors are Nashville-based independents that have been with Emma for three years now. Drew and Ellie have enjoyed an exciting year of music, including the release of a new album produced, in part, by the group's own fans.

Thanks to a company called Kickstarter, fans were able to donate funds to see the album come to fruition. Staying in close touch with fans became even more imperative with such an endeavor. The new stationery needed to reflect their updated look, but Taylor knew she would need to retain a good level of recognizability for their long-time fans. She gave prominent placement to the photo and tied in a subtle swirl texture in the background for a little extra visual interest. The final aesthetic is contemporary, understated and relaxed. Best wishes on the road, Drew and Ellie…

Client: W.O. Smith Music School

W. O. Smith
Emma Designer: Elizabeth Williams
Design Level: Concierge Design

The W.O. Smith Music School has transformed the lives of an entire community of children in greater Nashville, and we could not be prouder to be affiliated with this fabulous non-profit. W.O. Smith is a music school whose volunteer staff is made up of musicians who donate their time and efforts so that underprivileged children can get world-class musical instruction for just 50¢ per lesson.

They requested a clean and simple design, so Elizabeth took their carefully branded logo and drew the prominent red and black colors from the website. The minimalism of the design strikes a good balance with the boldness of their brand colors and also allows the content area to shine on its own. Here's to many more years of shaping lives through the power of music education!

If you would like to request your own Concierge Design stationery, head over to our online form. Not yet an Emma customer? Come say hi!

Until next time … love, hugs and treble clefs from your Emma design team.

Mark your calendars for Something on a Stick Day

Or, how to create better emails for mobile devices.

Poster design by Matthew Labutte.

Where I'm from (the Ozarks), food just ain't food unless you can stick it on a stick. A remarkable amount of human ingenuity has been applied to the challenge of taking food that typically requires these pesky things called utensils and transforming it, via stick, into something portable.

Meatballs? On a stick.

Fried pickle? On a stick.

Hot bologna? Not nearly as bad as it sounds, and also, on a stick.

So why not make plans now to honor this completely non-made-up holiday called Something on a Stick Day, coming up on March 28? It's a chance to celebrate food's portability. So sure, it's a fine excuse to have six fudge pops for dinner. It's a good occasion to make sure your emails are portable, too, and to take a look at email marketing on mobile devices.

Email on the go is popular, folks. Checking email is the number one thing people do on their mobile phones, according to the comScore Mobile Year in Review for 2010. Research from Knotice tells us that for every 100 people who open your email, 13 of them will see it on their smartphone. And of those 13, five of them will be eating a delicious chicken satay. It's true.

With that in mind, here's some advice for creating a better email experience for your mobile readers, no matter how much or how little you know about it.

Level Corn Dog: basic mobile advice anyone can use

+ Mobile readers are busy readers, so keep your emails focused. Consider sending shorter, more frequent email campaigns with a single story or call to action.

+ Obsess over your subject line. Mobile users may check your email on the go but also save it for more thorough perusing on their laptop a little later. A thoughtfully written subject line will do wonders to grab their attention. (Molly's holiday subject line tips are good year-round.)

Level Pork Medley Kabob: slightly meatier tips for the mobile-minded

+ Pretty up your plaintext. While more and more smartphones display HTML, some mobile devices show the back-up version of your email that's in plaintext. Use special characters, capital letters and tasteful line spacing to highlight your headlines and set off your links.

+ Ask a smartphone user in your office to join your email's test group. Just seeing how your last campaign looks on an iPhone will make you more mindful of mobile when you plan your next one.

Level Deep-Fried Twinkie on a Stick with Chocolate Glaze: more involved ideas for decadently mobile-friendly emails

+ Smartphones typically show the first few lines of an email that readers scan before opening (or, alas, deleting). Create a line at the top of each campaign that succinctly conveys the point of your message — what the special offer is, what's in this issue, when the party's happening, what food-on-a-stick will be served at said party, etc.

+ Consider creating two versions of your email — standard and mobile. Ask your subscribers which version they'd prefer to receive, then segment and send accordingly.

+ If you're serious about mobile email rendering, invest in a service like Litmus or Email on Acid to preview your email on a variety of smartphones (and other email clients, too).


What about you? What emails grab your attention on the go? Have any of these ideas worked or not worked for your email marketing? Do you have any special plans for celebrating Something on a Stick day? Can I come?

(Oh, and for more skewered food entertainment, see what portable food the always-fun folks at Neatorama found last year.)

Photo credit and poster design: Matthew Labutte

Things we love: Great subject lines

Before joining the Emma team, I spent ten years working in the music business in Nashville, and you'd be surprised of the many similarities between country songs and email. Strangely enough, a few writing rules hold true for either one. For instance:

  1. Be concise.
  2. Make sure you feature the most important information.
  3. Don't make it too long.
  4. Always leave room for a fiddle solo.

OK, maybe that last one only applies to country songs, but at least one more rule works for both: Always have a catchy title.

This is especially important with your email campaigns because your subject line is the only part of your email that your recipients are guaranteed to see when the email reaches their inboxes. A boring subject line is a sure path to a low open rate, while a great subject line can be the difference between a successful effort and a mediocre one. We love to see great subject lines, and, in my opinion, no one does it better than Tyler Tervooren at Advanced Riskology.

Advanced Riskology

Tyler's site is all about the benefit of taking risks, and he's chronicling all of the risks he takes in his own life, while inspiring others to do the same. You can read his mission statement here. I enjoy most all of his posts, but I really love his catchy subject lines. Check out these recent ones:

All of these subject lines are vastly different, but they have a couple of things in common. First, they immediately identify the sender by using the "{AR}" designation. That's a creative way for Tyler to ensure that his readers can easily identify his emails by the subject without having to type "Advanced Riskology" in there, which takes up valuable real estate in a subject line. Second, regardless of how different all of these subject lines are, they all make it virtually impossible to NOT open these emails. Personally, I would never claim to be a person that's interested in five miserable ways to die, but when that subject line appeared in my inbox, I had to read the email.

And that is really the point here. Just like anything else, I find Tyler's articles to be of varying interest to me, but I always open his emails to see what's there. That's the important lesson of subject lines. Not every email you send to your readers will appeal to all of them, but by crafting a great subject line, you give your content a chance to be seen. Whether you're writing country songs or email campaigns, that's always the first step toward reaching your audience.