Emma customers are a bright, clever and vocal bunch. When you talk, we listen. And take notes. And then organize those notes in a not-overly-OCD way. Our choice for organization is a tool called Kindling. We add customers' suggestions, feedback and ideas in Kindling for everyone at Emma to see. To date we have over 700 I-really-wish-Emma-woulds and What-if-there-was-a-way-tos. Many of these ideas are in development now, and many more are waiting for their chance at greatness.
It's pretty simple for us to express our support for an idea in Kindling: just click a button to vote it up. More votes means more popularity and traction for an idea.
One of the most popular ideas in Kindling was just unveiled as a new feature in our Featurepalooza. "I'd really love to know when someone signs up for my email list," you said. We heard this from many customers over time, so it's no surprise that this idea rose to the top in Kindling. Now, notifications is a feature that's available in our new system, and coming soon to your account, too.
Finding great ideas hasn't always been so easy, though. Kindling's newest case study recalls the dark ages of idea management at Emma, and how we adopted Kindling as a core part of our customer-focused culture.
If you've ever sent in a wish list, complaint, frustration or random musing loosely related to email marketing, we're watching it in Kindling. If it's popular, the next place you might see it is in your account.
Understanding delivery stats, opens, click-throughs and more
Once you send out an Emma campaign, your response results immediately start building on the main response page. If you're like us, you spend the next few hours obsessively refreshing the page to see how many folks are opening, clicking and sharing your campaign. It's exciting stuff, for email marketing nerds anyway. But it's even more exciting when you've got a solid handling on what you're looking at — and what you should be striving for.
Let's take a closer look at an Emma mailing, one of our Agency Insiders. I'll break down Emma's response page to explain each section and how you can use the data to inform next steps.
The chart at the top of the page gives you an at-a-glance account of the mailing's opens and clicks. Click the upper right links to adjust the view (by default, it displays a 12-hour view), and hover your mouse over data points to see numbers. Read more about our interactive charts here.
What to look for: Scan the time of day that yields the highest open rates for your audience. In many cases, this will be three hours following the mailing's send time; however, you might see different trends if you send your mailing very late at night, for example. Our mailing met expectations, as we saw the most opens in the first hour after its 11:00 am send.
Next steps: If you see open times contrary to what you expect, use this information to determine the timing of your next mailing. Perhaps you expected your audience to be opening your email during work hours, but they're actually opening in the evening. Schedule your next mailing for 6 pm and see what happens.
The Send Off
When you send an email campaign, the response tracking is actually happening at two distinct levels: the server where your recipient's inbox is hosted, and the inbox itself. (For more information on how email delivery works, take a look at this blog post by our delivery specialist, Art.) The numbers under The Send Off all happen at the server level. Emails sent refers to the number of emails we attempted to send (which will match the number of active email addresses in the audience group that you send to). Emails received refers to the number of emails that were successfully received by the servers on the other end. And the bounces include emails that were kicked back as undeliverable by the receiving servers. Read more about bounces here.
What to look for: Emma has an average 98% delivery rate so you should see that about 98% of your sent emails were received at the server level. If you're working with an updated list of addresses, you'll see even better delivery rates. (Our mailing saw a strong 99.4% delivery rate.) Keep in mind, however, that if you're sending to an email list for the very first time, you may see a few more bounces, as Emma helps to weed out addresses that are no longer valid.
Next steps: If more than 3% of your emails bounced, click to take a closer look. If all bounces are from one particular domain, Emma may have had trouble connecting to that domain. Feel free to reach out to our support team to help you uncover any curious bounce patterns. And keep in mind that Emma handles soft and hard bounces a bit differently. Addresses that soft bounce will stay on your list, and we'll mark addresses that hard bounce as "error" so you don't waste time (or money) mailing to them next time.
Here you'll notice response activity at the inbox level. You'll see the percentage (and number) of folks who opened your email in a trackable way (read more about what that means here) and the number of people who clicked at least one link in your campaign. If you have a "send-to-a-friend" envelope icon atop your email stationery, you'll also see how many folks shared your email with friends. (Not to be confused with Social Sharing via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which we'll get to in a moment.) Finally, you'll see how many new subscribers signed up and how many recipients opted out.
What to look for: The open and click-through rates are sort of like your report card grades. Have you met industry averages? That's a solid C. But why settle for average? If open rates are lower than you expected, there's a chance that a phrase or two in your email kept it from arriving in your recipients' inboxes. Proof your content, and make sure to avoid spammy words and phrases. And if you're doing well, think about how you'll maintain momentum. We're pretty pleased with a 37% open rate — and we'll continue offering the sorts of content our audience responds well to — but that doesn't mean we aren't thinking about ways to improve it as well.
Next steps: It's time to move the dial and go beyond proofing your content. Spruce up your subject line, surprise your subscribers with an unexpected format or dream up a contest. And, hey, ask them to share the email with their friends by using the send-to-a-friend feature, and thank those who do by sharing special content or a coupon.
This section shows the total number of clicks across all links, along with a link-by-link breakdown. In our example, we see 401 total clicks across 35 links (HTML and plaintext). Notice how, in the screenshot above this one, we see 255 unique clicks. Why is the number of total clicks (401) greater than the number of unique clicks (255)? Unique clicks refers to the people who clicked. In this case, 255 people clicked a combined 401 times, meaning certain recipients clicked the same link multiple times or clicked multiple links.
What to look for: Clicks tell you more than the sum of their parts. Your audience is communicating their interests to you — and their reading habits. Maybe your audience likes your video content more than your weekly wrap-up. Maybe they respond better to a call to action at the top left of the email versus the bottom. Whatever you see, pay attention and repeat what works. In our case, the marquee story, a guest post by Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor, was the most-clicked link. It was also the story we chose to place at the top of the email.
Next steps: Use the data to guide future newsletters and content, but don't forget that those clicks come from people. Consider following up in a more personal way every now and then. Save all members who clicked on a particular link as a search group, and reach out by email, on Twitter or even by phone.
Let's depart from the Overview tab and focus on Shares. If you enabled Social Sharing in your mailing, you'll be able to track shares to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on this tab. Moreover, you'll be able to see how much traffic was generated from those shares. If you're not sure about Social Sharing, read more here.
What to look for: If you enabled Social Sharing, we do hope some of your recipients shared your mailing! Take a look to see which networks are most-used by your audience, and which recipients are doing the sharing — these folks are likely some of your most enthusiastic brand advocates.
Next steps: If you're not seeing as many social shares as you'd like, take some time to plan next steps. Just because the social buttons are atop your email doesn't mean your recipients know how (or why) to use them. Give them a brief tutorial in your next mailing, or design a fun giveaway or reason for participating. For example, in last year's April newsletter, we challenged our subscribers to share the Earth Day infographic we created. If we reached 100 shares (we did, thanks to our readers!), we'd plant 100 extra trees. That plan worked swimmingly, whereas this mailing didn't see the same kind of success. It's back to the drawing board for some new ideas …
Want some more inspiration? Check out Carolyn's post on making the most of response charts and our customer stories, highlighting a slew of effective email strategies. And let us know if you have any questions about your response rates — we're here to help.
New to Emma? Learn more about our features and service.
Editor's note: Emma sponsored Tom's video project this year, and we were so intrigued by the idea of capturing video content on the go that we asked him to pass along his best tips.
For the last year, I've been managing my video blog Talking with Tom using nothing other than an iPhone. I've been interviewing digital thought leaders and then sharing those video interviews once a week via the site. That's right: shooting video, pictures, writing posts and publishing the entire thing using nothing but the iPhone.
I've learned a whole lot about what an iPhone can and cannot do. Along the way, my iPhone has become one of my favorite blog content creation tools. And today, I want to share seven of the most valuable tools I discovered along the journey.
A picture is worth 1,000 words
Easily the biggest advancement in the iPhone 4 was the camera. With the iPhone 4, you can actually shoot pretty decent photographs and HD video. But if you really want to kick it up a notch you need a few extra toys.
My go-to app for on-phone retouching is Photogene. The app lets you crop, alter colors, reduce the "noise" in a photo and basically take a normal shot and make it look pretty darn cool. So if you're running a food, travel or hotel blog, where pictures really are worth a thousand words, you might want to consider exploring all of the photo retouching apps in the app store.
My second favorite photo app is Big Lens. I'm a big fan of photos that use depth of field to place parts of the photo in focus while other parts are out of focus. The iPhone's camera doesn't give you that ability, but with Big Lens, you can. You can take photos through the app, or just pick photos from your camera roll and select which part of the photo to place in and out of focus. You can even adjust the fStop to increase or decrease the amount of blur. If you're in the food business or restaurant business, this one is a must-have on your iPhone.
Can you hear me now?
The problem with native iPhone audio is the microphone. It's just not that good. The good news is this is easily fixed.
First,to ensure optimum audio, you need an external mic. For basic audio interviews, where your intention is to use the entire iPhone like a microphone and point it at your interviewee while they speak, pick up Brando Mini Directional mic. This little gem is small, lightweight and perfect for conducting one-on-one interviews at conferences and meet-ups.
You'll like this mic because it is small enough to comfortably carry in your pocket and just snap it into to the headphone jack when you're ready to record. Then, just point the mic in the direction of your subject and start recording. What you'll get is audio that is much better in terms of loudness and clarity. But, I also find that it amps up all of the audio. So, while it is directional, you still need a pretty quiet place to record.
To get the best audio, you'll need a professional grade microphone. The problem is, the iPhone can't accept regular microphones that use the standard 3.5mm jack. To solve the iPhone's microphone incompatibility problem, you'll need to buy a KV Connection iPhone Microphone Adapter. It runs about $20, but with it, you can attach any microphone (that has a 3.5mm plug) to the iPhone – this includes wireless lavaliere microphones like the one I use for all of my stuff.
Once you've got this little gem, just find a professional grade microphone that you really like and you're off.
Shooting like Spielberg (sort of)
Probably my favorite use of the iPhone (at least for blog content creation) is its video capabilities. While Apple's built-in video recording tool will give you basic trimming capabilities, you'll have to spend a few bucks to bring the world of video editing to your phone.
For all of my Talking with Tom videos, I've used iMovie. iMovie makes it easy to trim, split and edit clips. You can add a voice-over or soundtrack, even insert title slides (jpegs) or in my case, sponsor slides, and apply titles and transitions – all on the phone. Then you can render and publish directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, CNNiReport (for which they even offer a video template for titles and such) or just send it to your camera roll to be imported to your computer. If you're a big Vimeo user, Vimeo came out with their own editing app, but I've found it a bit buggy thus far. Lastly, if you are shooting in a place where you just can't get good lighting, try picking up the Flare app, which also gives you the ability to zoom while you video (can't do that in the iPhone's native video app) as well as apply HDR effects, etc.
You'll also want to keep that iPhone steady, which can be hard as the iPhone doesn't have a native mount for hooking it up to a tripod. No worries, though: order a Glif. It's a Kickstarter project that resulted in a nice, small, simple way to mount your iPhone on any standard tripod.
Get familiar with a few typographical terms and see your font library in a whole new way
The printer wasn't always a machine that sat in the corner of your office, beeping out cryptic warning messages and accumulating slap-shaped handprints. Even a few decades ago, most people would have thought of a printer as a person — somebody whose work consisted of manually arranging and printing text and images. Professional printers are still plying and improving upon their trade, but thanks to the advent of the personal computer, we've inherited a great many of their tools in digital form. The problem? When those tools arrived, they didn't come with any knowledge of the craft. It's as though every computer owner has been given the keys to a master carpenter's workshop, but hasn't yet been shown how to swing a hammer.
Luckily, you don't have to don a hooded robe and take the Typographer's Oath to get a better handle on the fundamentals of your favorite fonts. In fact, once you've learned a few terms and distinctions, you may find yourself looking at your font options in a whole new way. So if you want to be able to talk typefaces like Leon from sales can talk about wine, pull up a chair.
Today, we'll take a look at one of the most easily distinguished characteristics of fonts: the serif. But first, in order to understand the significance of the serif, it'll be helpful to start off with a tiny bit of history.
Typography: a very condensed history
It's almost impossible to fathom the fact that, for the majority of its history, the written word was exactly that –handwritten (or hand-carved). Many would suggest that the questions typography addresses are as old as the first alphabet. The size, spacing, legibility and uniformity of hieroglyphic characters would have certainly been a worthy concern — after all, if your "owl" looked too much like your "scarab," readers would surely throw down your papyrus in frustration.
In the Western world, medieval scribes fostered a rich tradition of variations in handwritten scripts before the advent of the Gutenberg press in the mid-1400′s. Generally, it's said that this invention, with its reliance on uniform, custom carved letters, heralded the advent of typography as we know it today. The emergence of distinctive sets of letters and characters during this time is also largely responsible for some of typography's more archaic-sounding distinctions: gothic type? Roman type? What century are we living in?
Hundreds of years and thousands of meticulously designed typefaces later, we're awash in a sea of font options. Just opening up the dropdown menu in Word is enough to give the average user an anxiety attack. Web- and email-based tools like Emma make the decision a little easier. Have you ever noticed that your reading experience on the web is fairly uniform, and usually pretty painless? Web designers can't be certain which fonts your device will come equipped with, so they'll often restrict themselves to "web-safe fonts" — fonts that can be read on any device — to ensure that their readers see their content as they intended it. This is also the case with Emma's font selection: instead of the Narnia wardrobe of fonts typically employed in desktop word processing programs, you'll see 15 of the most versatile, popular and readable fonts available. There's a lot of character in these sets of characters, so let's take a look at one way you can distinguish them.
Look at these two N's. Notice a difference? The Times New Roman N on the left has little finishing strokes in all of the places where an individual line terminates; the Helvetica N on the right doesn't. Those are called serifs. Easy, right? If serifs were just called "little taily things," no formal introduction would be required!
For many, the serif conveys an old-fashioned elegance, and that sentiment has roots in typographical history. Serifs are said by some to emulate the initial placement of a flat paintbrush on a surface to shape a letter for a stone engraving — a bit of calligraphic flourish from an era that predates the printed word. In print (and especially in newsprint) serifed fonts are said to have greater readability. Readability actually doesn't refer to whether the individual letters can be easily distinguished — that's legibility. Instead, readability refers to the ease with which a reader can follow along over longer sections of text. Proponents of serifed fonts often contend that the additional finishing strokes help distinguish letter shapes and assist in guiding the eye horizontally across the page.
Times New Roman may be the most commonly used serifed font in the workplace today, thanks largely to its long reign as the default font in Microsoft programs like Word and Excel. As Word goes, so go many word processing programs, including our own. Times New Roman is a taut, functional font, but among typographers, its suitability as serifed fonts' standard bearer is hotly contested. In fact, it's no longer in use by The Times, the London newspaper who commissioned its creation and gave it its namesake back in 1931. For web use, many point to Georgia as a suitable alternative — the lowercase letters are closer in size to the uppercase ones, so even at small point sizes, the individual letters are larger and more easily read. Perhaps this is why the Times that we're better acquainted with here in the States – TheNew York Times — employs Georgia as their main typeface for web headlines and articles. For those seeking a font that evokes an even earlier time in history — say, the Italian Renaissance — you might want to consider Book Antiqua. This serifed font boasts greater calligraphic stylization in its strokes, but its thicker lines and broader letters also make it highly readable.
Now that we've identified our serif, we need only dust off our French textbooks to identify our sans-serif fonts: sans means without. You may have noticed that the text on this page is sans-serif — the lines of the letters terminate without any ornamentation. The same is probably true of the typefaces in your email inbox and on your favorite news sites: in addition to their immense popularity in the material world, sans-serif typefaces enjoy special prominence on the web, where text is likely to be compact and frequently scrolled. In the pioneer days of digital typography, the clear lines of sans-serif fonts proved well-suited to pixel-based screens. Where ornately serifed fonts could dissolve into unwieldy, blocky characters, the cleaner sans-serif fonts could survive the pixelation more or less intact. While modern high-definition screens have all but eliminated pixelation as a serious text issue, the enhanced white space offered by thin, sans-serif characters is also thought to ease the reader's eye when scanning an illuminated screen. This may be especially true of smaller screens — the default typefaces for all major mobile devices are sans-serif.
Consciously or not, this techie association has only strengthened the infatuation with the presumed clean, spare modernism of sans-serif fonts. Although sans-serif fonts aren't a uniquely modern invention (serif-free Greek characters predate the Roman Empire, and their introduction in print dates back to the early 1800s), there's a ring of truth to their association with modernism. This is especially true of Helvetica, popular design's undisputed champion of the last decade. As illuminated in Gary Hustwit's engrossing 2007 documentary, Helvetica, this striking Swiss font has become one of the most ubiquitous emblems of contemporary life. Engineered during the 1950s in accordance with the modernist ideal — abandoning the trappings of classical ornamentation in favor of clean, spare functionality — Helvetica has emerged as the rare font with rockstar status among design lovers. Emma customer service specialist and man of style Miles Price sometimes even wears his Helvetica T-shirt to the office. If Helvetica can be likened to a rock band, though, its closest analogue is probably U2: it's wildly popular, critically laurelled, seemingly timeless and an easy target for ridicule. In fact, a great many trend-setting designers are consciously distancing themselves from Helvetica (and its Microsoft-commissioned, Emma-friendly cousins, Tahoma, Verdana and Arial). Consequently, while the sans-serif font remains a bastion of modernity, the design world has enjoyed a renaissance of ornately serifed fonts, both in print and on the web.
Fortunately for the art form, there are plenty of font choices available beyond serif and sans-serif options. Many typefaces belong to different families entirely. Still, most fonts within your Emma account can be considered either serif or sans-serif, as can most of the text you encounter over the course of your day.
Fascinating stuff, right? Once you know where to look, you'll spot all kinds of places where a change in typeface changes the feeling of an entire message. One of those places may be in your own email campaigns, so if you feel like subtly altering your voice without changing your message, now you've got something other than your intuition to help guide your choice.
Cody's not a Certified Font Specialist, but he found a wealth of typographical information within the Emma design team, as well as in these posts from Co.Design, I Love Typography and Alex Poole.
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Creating a positive subscriber experience before your first email campaign
Sometimes you procure an item that you just know will serve a grand purpose later but, perhaps, the timing of its use isn't quite clear yet. For me, it's an electric sander for all of the furniture re-finishing I plan to do in the rooms of a house I don't own yet (but that's the subject for another post).
For some of the companies I talk to each day, that item is a precious, albeit outdated, list containing the email addresses of all of their closest friends, customers and prospects. You may know what I'm talking about: you've gathered a rather impressive email list over time, but now the dust is beginning to collect, and you realize that you're running the risk of being forgotten by those signups.
You may want to clutch that list in desperation (it's hard-earned!) and send out a blast (ick!) to all of those recipients. Instead, consider fine-tuning your list, and think about making the experience personal — you'll begin the email relationship with your subscribers on the right foot.
Review your list. Your audience isn't just a list of email addresses – it's a collection of people who have shown interest in your product or service over time. But, do you remember what you signed up for a couple years ago? Your audience probably doesn't either, so it's worth your time to review your email list before sending your first mailing. Start by giving Emma's Privacy and Permission Policy a once-over, and narrow your list down to folks who have done business with you or opted in during the last 18 months. Next, segment the remaining subscribers by their relationship to you (friend, client, etc) or by their signup date. Consider sending newer subscribers a welcome email, and reintroduce yourself to people who signed up more than a few months back. Remind them that they've signed up, explain that you're going to start mailing to them and mention the opt-out link in case a few recipients' interests have changed.
Set conservative sending goals. Consistent communication strengthens the relationship with your audience. But crafting great emails takes time and planning. Do you know what kind of information you plan on sharing, how it'll benefit your audience and how often you'll be able to share it? If you establish your content strategy before you start sending, you can spare yourself some major headaches down the road. Next, determine frequency. For many, a monthly newsletter is a sustainable pace to establish. But if you've identified a need for weekly or daily emails, you'll want to set that expectation with your audience.
Design a preference center. If you're developing different types of messages (a regular newsletter plus periodical promotional messages, for example), or different audiences to target (like male versus female shoppers), give your audience as much power of choice as you can. By designing a signup form with options that best reflect your audience segments, you're also setting up a "preference center" for current audience members. This will allow your subscribers to opt down (receive emails less frequently) or opt over (move to a different mailing group) in lieu of unsubscribing altogether. You'll be rewarded with much more responsive audience groups. For instructions on customizing your preference center, head on over to this nifty page in Emma's Help Guide.
There you have it – your three-step plan for rolling out a top-notch email experience for the folks on your list. If you have any questions about getting started, let us know.
Taking a peek at four email campaigns by the Union Square Hospitality Group
If you crafted and sent out your holiday emails on time this year, give yourself a pat on the back. There's a sense of relief that comes with negotiating the busy holiday season and getting your newsletter out before the new year. But make sure you haven't checked the task off your list and forgotten about it. Now's the time to review your holiday response rates and learn from them as you kick off your 2012 email marketing efforts.
Let's take a look at a few email campaigns crafted by Emma agency partner, Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). USHG includes some of New York City's best known restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern and Maialino. These four campaigns carry representative looks and strong response rates — and serve as fitting case studies for welcoming in the new year.
Union Square Hospitality Group
In this snowflake-themed campaign, USHG has fun with a split test of sorts. Can you guess which button earned more clicks? In fact, the gift card button edged out the e-gift certificate button by just 2%.
+ Sent on Wednesday, December 21st at 9:00 am to 69,892 people + Subject line: The Perfect Last Minute Gift + Open rate: 19.58% + Click-through rate: 6.16% + Shares: 23
Why it works: There's a sense of whimsy in the design — and the sentiment. Plus, the two buttons are a source of education for USHG; they'll be able to see who clicked where and follow up with other relevant offers, if they like.
Created on Emma's blank template and utilizing an Advanced 7 layout, this campaign by Union Square Cafe follows the format of a traditional newsletter. A departure from their usual campaigns coded from scratch, the built-in layout allows them to revise each newsletter without pulling in a designer from their team — a definite time-saver.
+ Sent on Thursday, December 15th at 1:03 pm to 19,140 people + Subject line: Union Square Cafe Newsletter – Winter 2011 + Open rate: 27.18% + Click-through rate: 14.96%% + Shares: 5
Why it works: The campaign makes use of space by providing short story blurbs that link to the full scoop elsewhere. Moreover, it plays with content placement. Convention would tell us that the top story in your campaign will earn the highest clicks; in this case, the link to the recipe for Ménage à Pommes is the most popular. Union Square Cafe's audience is an engaged bunch, happy to spend some time with the campaign and comb it for their favorite stories.
Ready to interpret your holiday response rates? Here are some things to look for:
Compare the numbers … Use our campaign compare feature to see how your holiday results stack up against the prior month's mailing — or against your holiday results from last year. Then, see how they compare to industry averages.
… But only the numbers that matter to you. It doesn't make a lot of sense to compare click-throughs to your Facebook page if that wasn't the one of the goals of your holiday campaign. Instead, focus on metrics that correspond to your intended goals. Look for places where you fell short, and adjust the approach of your next mailing.
Plan a follow-up. When people click on links in your campaign, they're telling you that they're interested enough to learn more. Armed with that knowledge, make plans to send a smaller, targeted mailing to the audience members who are most likely to read and engage.
Prepare for the next mailing. Do the response results of your holiday mailing seem interesting but inconclusive? Have a hunch about why your subject line enticed more people to open? Set up a split test in your next mailing to test your theory. Read more about subject line split tests in Cassie's post.
If you have questions along the way, we'd love to help. Comment here, or reach out to our support team.
Tim Frick, founder of Mightybytes, talks about the integrations he's building for his clients
Emma's agencies are always on the lookout for more efficient ways to market themselves and reach their clients. From outsourcing print production jobs to downloading the newest social media management tools, they want to manage their customer and prospect base with smarter tools and fewer clicks.
And we want to help simplify their jobs. As part of our Featurepalooza, we're releasing a slew of new features to Emma accounts, and our new API is at the center of the action. Tim Frick, founder of Mightybytes, jumped at the opportunity to be an early API beta tester.
As a smallish shop with an eye toward design-driven marketing solutions, Mightybytes has many things to manage on top of their client workload. Tim quickly identified some integration possibilities using Emma's API, and we were thrilled to have him share the details with us.
What are your clients looking for when they decide to start doing business with you? We navigate the waters of corporate and nonprofit clients with equal proficiency. A lot of the clients we deal with are cause-driven – we help them prosper, grow and achieve their goals in a measurable way. We work with them on everything from strategic business and digital marketing consulting, which often includes email and social campaigns that build brand awareness, to developing and building online applications for core business function.
Why did you decide to get involved in our API project early on? Tell me about the work you're doing and planning. We've been exploring web-based product development for some time now. We've even prototyped a few things but haven't brought any of our own products to market yet. The release of Emma's API and the company's invite to be part of the beta development program gave us the perfect opportunity to put one of our product ideas — a syncing tool for CRMs (like Highrise, Salesforce, SugarCRM) and email marketing systems — into full swing development.
We are currently working on two projects using Emma's API. The first is an integration app called Swapley, which will manage communication between Highrise and Emma. We're about 50% complete for version 1.0.
The second, which we're mapping out now, will be an Emma module for a content management system (CMS), Drupal. The Drupal module will help us expand our service offerings and give customers better tools to integrate content marketing strategies with easy-to-use tools that support integration of multiple systems.
What are some of your goals for the Swapley and Drupal projects, and how do you see them working for your current clients? Our clients turn to us for online solutions that integrate good marketing, design and content with other core online business functions (like a CRM, donations, content management and so on.) Having the ability to integrate Emma and Highrise features will not only help with our internal prospecting, but will also streamline efficiencies on solutions we build for clients.
Specifically, with our proposed Drupal integration, our clients will be able to easily create Emma-based mailings with branded templates from within a content management system. Also, many of these sites and tools have registered users. We envision the Emma/Drupal module offering would help customers cross-reference those who have registered on their site versus those who are email recipients. Eventually, it would be nice if this information could be easily shared with a CRM as well, so all systems are in sync.
How will this integration affect the way you think about on-boarding new clients and prospects? Having access to the Emma API will definitely increase our productivity and allow us to build tools that make it easy for clients to choose Emma as a preferred ESP alongside other services we offer. Before, as a firm with a reputation for implementing technically challenging yet design-driven web solutions, we often wrestled with how to roll Emma's great email marketing services into our process. The release of Emma's API definitely set off light bulbs above our collective heads. We see huge opportunities to integrate Emma's services directly into the solutions we build for clients via the API and apps we build with it. Mightybytes has already lined up several potential clients for our Highrise integration app and interest seems to be great there. Several other ideas for using the Emma API to build web apps are piquing our interest as well.
Do you have any advice for other Emma agencies that are considering whether to dedicate resources to API integration? The new API documentation and forums should go a long way in helping developers understand the application development process. Using Emma's tools makes it easier for them to bring new integrations to market. You all (Emma's tech team) have been very supportive as we develop our own apps. We appreciate Emma's commitment to good design and excellent usability — these are traits we share. With that in mind, agencies looking to create their own integrations should undergo thorough user testing throughout the entire development process to keep standards high and apps usable.
When you think about your creative content, many factors come to play: your copy, your font choices, the layout and, of course, the images you choose to communicate your message. In short, looks count.
It's no secret – incorporating an image is powerful! It's a fun way to engage and capture attention. What's more, including imagery boosts your campaign's impact and drives traffic to your site. The key is finding the right image to match your message. Here are seven rules and examples that show how to pack the perfect visual punch.
Rule 1: Grab your reader's attention. You only have a few seconds to get your reader's attention, and a sharp image will reel them in fast. Use clever imagery to compel people to read on so that your overall message is delivered from soup to nuts.
Rule 2: Use visual aids to enhance communication. You know that old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" Considering that you don't have a thousand words to interest an email recipient, why not let an image state your case? Choosing unique visuals that tell the story for you is an efficient way to get your point across.
Rule 3: Be bold. Avoid being too literal. Yes, your image will be subjective and influenced by your content to some degree, but consider other angles to make an impression. There are millions upon millions of royalty-free images available to you, so enjoy your image browsing and dare to be different.
Rule 4: Consider images that feature people. People like to look at people. Studies show that one of the reasons Facebook is such a hit is because of our fascination with what other people do. By nature, humans feel a need to relate to others. Using images with a person increases your chance of drawing your audience in.
Rule 5: Stay current. As tastes and styles change, so should your mindset for the way you choose images. While your intention for a certain image may be to show that you're edgy, you wouldn't want to turn anyone off. Get a feel for the lay of the land before you send. What's new politically, socially or stylishly? You can be retro and still be cool, but do keep up with the Joneses.
Rule 6: Know your (image) rights. Get your pictures from a source that specializes in royalty-free stock photography. As tempting as it is to snag a picture from a free source like Google, it's just not legal. Stock photography sites give you peace of mind and creative license. When you have rights to an image, you can modify it and turn it into something that completely embodies what you want to communicate. The avenues for creativity are limitless, and you better believe no one else will have an image like yours if you play it up.
Rule 7: Mind your specs. Aside from selecting an image that suits your concept, pay attention to colors and contrast –- they're part of the "wow" factor, too. The colors in your image should complement the remainder of your content, including font styles and other branding. Resolution, aspect ratios and formats vary, so check out Fotolia's usage guide to help determine what kind of image is the best match for your project.
There you have it. Seven tips to help you pick a fantastic image for whatever your needs may be. Remember, your image should be the butter to your bread. The dynamic sidekick to your content's super hero. Helping fight crime and take the world one villain at a time. Or, wait … What I'm really trying to say is that the right image can help your message resonate with a resounding "POW." So sock it to 'em.
Quick formatting tips for stylish emails in any inbox
Every morning, I get the French press ready and hop on my iPhone to check the barrage of emails I received through the night. More and more of us are doing this (maybe not the French press, but I highly recommend it); we check email on our phones even before we eat breakfast or open our computers. In fact, Litmus says that almost 10% of total email opens come from mobile devices.
When you're building your emails, you may be considering the mail programs in which your audience is reading them (Outlook, Gmail, Mac Mail, etc), but it's an equally good idea to plan for your emails to be read on a mobile device. Inboxes can be tricky, and making your email look good in all locations will take a little time and dedication.
Building an email for mobile readers isn't difficult, though, and it may even mean making your job easier — the best emails utilize fundamental design ideas. Let's talk about what you can do to ensure your mobile readers have the same reading experience as your desktop readers.
Simplify your content. Mobile screen real estate is valuable; keep your design clean and simple. Evaluate your content and remove some of the less-useful information. Think about if that sidebar of upcoming events or staff photos could be removed and used in another email. If you've got a lengthy description around your product, let images and/or links to your website do the talking.
If you have navigation toolbars, these can get squished, thus breaking your layout and making it hard for people to tap those links. Consider paring the links down to important places your reader can easily tap.
Include an easy-to-spot call to action. This is arguably the most important part of your email. It doesn't matter how people are viewing it (mobile or desktop), you want folks to see your offer and click through. Keep your call to action easy-to-spot and above the fold. And consider using your subject line to give the reader a sneak peek inside.
Note: When designing for mobile, make sure the call to action is tappable (at least 44 x 44 pixels, per Apple's Human Interface Guidelines).
Enlarge your fonts. Fonts for emails read on mobile devices should be considerably larger than those in traditional emails. iOS devices resize all fonts smaller than 12 pixels up to 12 pixels, which can break your layout. A good rule of thumb is to keep your headlines around 22 pixels and body text around 12-14 pixels.
Mind your images. Aside from the iPhone/iPad, mobile devices will automatically block your images and prompt the user to "turn images on." Be sure to add alt text to your images. That way, the reader will see a text description of the image before it's displayed.
Be purposeful with your layout. Let's face it: Mobile devices are going to sizably scale down your layout. This makes it more difficult to tap on links and read the content. Try using a layout that has only one or two columns of content. Here are a few layout examples, two that are mobile-friendly and one that would be better-suited for desktop viewing:
Since email for mobile is still a fairly new concept, there aren't any hard and fast rules, but I hope these guidelines will help you design emails that look good in any inbox. For even more tips, read Anna Yeaman's six mobile design tips, and share tips of your own in the comments section.