How usability testing and private beta are inspiring changes that you'll love
How do you improve the campaign editing process that 30,000 customers use daily?
That’s why we’ve built in usability testing sessions and a private beta period before Emma’s new content editor is ready for prime time.
In the winter, we invited customers to try the first prototype in usability sessions at Emma. We looked for insights into how to make the editor easier to use and nip any confusing points in the bud. Geoff’s already written a great blog post detailing how we do usability sessions at Emma, so I’ll jump right into the new editor features and what we learned from watching customers use it.
Ch- ch- changes
Flexibility is the mantra for designing the new campaign editor. You want three images in your newsletter, no more and no less? No problem. You can just drag another one in. Need to bump your first article down a few slots? Drag the whole article where you want it and drop it. Get the picture? You’re going to have drag and drop control, ladies and gentlemen.
Oh, wait, you weren't expecting that?
In our test sessions, however, we saw that folks weren’t dragging and dropping! It just wasn’t obvious on their first use, so we knew right away that there was an opportunity to improve that first time experience.
This isn’t surprising at all when you consider how easy it is to miss something when you’re not looking for it. Have you seen the awareness test that asks you to count passes on a basketball team? If not, watch this one-minute clip from a cyclist-awareness advertising campaign, then come on back. I’ll wait.
About half of folks who watch that video “fail” the awareness test. In our case, drag and drop was practically moonwalking across the screen for our design team, but our first time users were looking for something else.
Changes that you'll love
Based on how we saw customers interacting with the campaign editing prototype, we made a few tweaks. Now we have clear signs that get you started on the right foot quickly (and get out of your way once you’ve got the hang of it).
What else are you going to love?
Editing and previewing on the same screen, without having to click back and forth to save
Arranding images in a column, row or grid, without having to switch layouts
Adding background colors and borders to individual sections
The same Emma style and simplicity you signed up for.
We appreciated the insights from our customers in the usability testing sessions so much that we opened up the editor to a private beta period. We’re asking early testers to tell us the good, the bad and the buggy — and we’re using their feedback to put finishing touches on the editor.
New to Emma? Learn about sending stylish email marketing campaigns.
I’m going to be writing from time to time to help you create better content that will gain the attention of the people you’re hoping to reach. If there are specific questions that you’d like to see answered, drop me an e-mail and I’ll try to address them in future posts here.
Now, lets get to the heart of the matter.
Every single one of us has an inbox that is overflowing. The dreams of reaching inbox zero are as much a reality as a unicorn walking across your lawn being ridden by a kitten.
To get your content noticed, I’d suggest you use one of our content rules and Do something unexpected!
Now, I have to remind you that unexpected does not mean inappropriate. What it means is something that will surprise the reader enough to get their attention. This could be as simple as a catchy subject line or a fun graphic as soon as they open the message.
Dunkin’ Donuts has the budget to not have to be creative, but instead they are constantly trying new things. They’ve recently dove into using Pinterest with a variety of funny sayings, photos from the mothership and playful bits of inspiration.
Each of these uses a different form of content with an unexpected slant to get attention.
Think about what you, your competitors and your audience expects. Look at what you’ve been creating over the last year. I’m betting that it looks, feels and reads pretty much the same.
Take some time today to brainstorm ideas that would pop out of this and grab your customers’ attention. What could you do that would be unexpected enough to break through everything else going on in their world?
Have you done something unexpected with great results? Share it in the comments so that everyone can celebrate your success and learn from it.
C.C. Chapman is the co-author (with Ann Handley) of Content Rules, a book that explains how companies can create remarkable blogs, podcasts, webinars, ebooks and more. C.C. is a leader in the online and social media marketing space; he speaks about building passionate consumer communities, and the strategic values of content-based marketing. C.C. can be reached by email at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter (@cc_chapman).
Confession time: I don't read most of the emails in my inbox. I open them and scan them, but if the email is too lengthy or the content isn't organized well, I'm likely to move on to the next unread item.
Short paragraphs or teasers are most likely to catch my eye, and they often end with some linked text inviting me to "read more." Without even thinking too hard about it, I click the link and am transported to more engaging content on a landing page, which contains just the topic or article I'm interested in. The experience feels customized and personal, even though I'm controlling my path.
Think about your own habits in the inbox. I'm not the only email scanner out there, right? Take note of what compels you to read an email and click through to read more, and apply those practices in your own campaigns. And if you've never created a landing page before, here's a quick overview of the basics.
So what exactly is a landing page?
Put simply, a landing page is just the place where readers land when they click on a link in your email. The purpose of a landing page may vary:
Promotions may link to a product page on a retailer's website.
Invitations may link to a registration form.
Newsletters may link to articles too lengthy to include in the body of the email.
How do I create a landing page quickly?
Sometimes you know you're going to use landing pages (usually on your website) before you even start creating your campaign. But what if you want to create landing pages on the fly to shorten the length of your overall campaign, and you aren't able to move the additional content to your website? You can use your Emma account to create a quick landing page on your branded stationery.
Create a separate campaign for each "read more" link you plan to include in your email. Each campaign will contain the full article or additional material that doesn't fit in the email you plan to deliver to your readers' inboxes.
Send each one of those campaigns to yourself. Doing so creates a link to an online version on your Emma response page, and you'll need that URL for your "read more" links.
Access the online version by opening the response for each campaign you just sent to yourself. Just click the "Online Version" link on the left side of the screen when you're viewing your response overview. Your campaign will open in a new tab. Copy the URL at the top of your browser and keep it handy. This is your landing page link.
Create the email campaign you plan to send to your subscribers. Add teasers in your content, each with a compelling reason to read on, and use Emma's editor to link the teaser text to the online versions of your landing pages.
How do I make sure my landing pages are effective?
Smart marketers know how to take advantage of every online interaction, and landing pages are no exception. Here are some easy tips to ensure your landing pages are effective:
Highlight your brand. If you're using your custom Emma stationery, you've already got a branded framework for your landing page. The key is creating a consistent brand experience across all of your online channels.
Include something the email didn't provide. You want to reward your reader for clicking to read on, yes? Don't repeat what they just read in your email; give them further details — it's your opportunity to really engage them.
Create landing pages for your landing pages. This isn't as complicated as it sounds. Just make sure your landing pages link readers back to your website, blog or Facebook page rather than making it a dead end.
Pay attention to what readers are clicking on. A great perk of using Emma to create landing pages is that you can easily spot which links get the most traction in your response results. Use that knowledge to better understand what your audience finds compelling.
Want to talk more about landing pages? Let us know how these tips and how-tos work for you, or if you've got a few tips of your own to share.
Elizabeth shares tips for customizing your email's format and making your content stand out
Around the Emma office, designer Elizabeth William is better known by her nickname, Lizard. You've seen her work in your inbox if you receive Emma's Roundups and all over the Emma website (like the imagery in our homepage video). Get to know her a bit better today, as she shares email design wisdom that'll help your messages stand out.
You've designed custom email templates for Emma customers. Templates frame content nicely, but what do you recommend for arranging the body of an email (its text and image fields)?
Great question. It's best to have your content strategy determined before you get to design. Establishing a content hierarchy is so important when making complementary visual hierarchy decisions. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the content that will help to inform the design:
1. How often do you want to send?
Sending often might mean sharing just one or two stories per email. Sending a newsletter-style monthly or quarterly email requires you to give a bit more thought to how all the stories will come together — and how your design elements will support the story.
2. What do your subscribers respond to?
Do they tend to click more on image-based links or text-based links? Do they click on stories at the top of your email, or are their clicks dispersed throughout the email? Are they mostly mobile users? The answers to these questions will determine how you should lay out your content.
3. Is the amount of content you've chosen easily replicable?
For example, if you have four articles each month and you want an image to go with each, do you have access to great imagery that will support each article every time you mail? If not, you may need to rethink what you want to do there, or think about having an in-house designer create images that you can re-use. Or, ask the Emma design team. We love making designs that work for the resources you have access to!
4. How does your brand use imagery, and how can that imagery best support your story via email? Could you utilize custom image-based headings?
Image-based headings really add pop and personality to an email.
5. What's your message hierarchy?
Do you have a featured article each time? Do you have a big image up top that spans the width of your stationery? This will help you determine if you'd like to use a similar story layout each time, or if you'd like to switch it up each month, based on the news at your company.
Other questions to consider: Can you reduce the amount of copy and let some images do the talking? Or better yet, can you create teaser copy that links to the full stories elsewhere? Can you use a sidebar for quick links, ad space or smaller supporting elements (as opposed to primary/secondary items in the content hierarchy)?
I find headlines, subheadings and body text hard to balance visually. When you design a stationery that's meant to employ consistent headline and body copy (like Emma's Agency Insider), how do you find the perfect balance?
A good headline is powerful. It needs to entice the reader, and it should be very distinguishable from the body copy. There aren't really set-in-stone rules for this type of thing since there are many ways to achieve a good balance between headline, subhead and body copy. Here's one test you can do: after you style your copy, scoot back from your computer and make sure the first thing you see in the text is are the headlines. If those are somewhat distinguishable from a distance, you're on the right track. Typically, playing with bold, italics, text-based divider lines (using dashes, forward slashes or Emma's horizontal rule tool) and color will all help to create the right balance, but always remember to self-edit.
Choose two or three styles to make each section distinct and stick with them. Don't oversaturate your text with styling. If you use much more than two fonts, two colors (even accent colors), more than two or three font sizes, it'll look cluttered. And just because I have your attention — no comic sans, please.
I've noticed that most folks stick to a clean sans-serif font, like Helvetica or Verdana. The Uppercase email (below) is a nice exception. Mixing font choices can be tricky, though. What holds this campaign together even though it employs a number of different typeface styles and colors? There's no shame in making daring font selections (well, daring in the realm of web-safe fonts). But you've got to have the design reasoning to back it up. In Uppercase's email (I just love Uppercase, by the way!), they clearly want you to read the text in the serif font [the main article section] first. So they set it apart using a different style of font than the rest of the mailing — and they also bumped up the size a few points to create an obvious hierarchy.
Also, since that particular copy is in letter format, the serif font gives it a more classic, formal feel which is in contrast to their use of a sans-serif in the sidebar for more ad-like copy; they want to get straight to business there. Within that serif text in the main well, they've highlighted what they consider the most important piece of information by changing the color of the type and using bold and italics when appropriate.
I like mixing sans-serif and serif fonts in headline and subhead copy. I typically prefer the headline to be in the serif font and the subhead in a sans (Georgia and Tahoma provide a nice mix), with a very obvious font size difference. Using that mixture lends a classic sophistication to any campaign, but always have your brand top of mind when making that decision.
Oh, one last thought — using a serif font within your sans text for a pull quote is also a cool way to use the mixture and give it a more editorial feel.
In last year's New Year's Resolution design, you chose a striking purple color to highlight several areas, including some of the header text. I'm guessing it's not a coincidence that this is also the shade of Claire's lipstick in the design. But which came first? Did you isolate that color from the photograph? Or did you plan the color scheme, then adjust the photo? Oh, interesting question. The color scheme for the campaign was decided before our photo shoot. I actually played off of our Emma green and used magenta as an accent color to give it a fresh feel since it was all about New Year's Resolutions. We edited the photos accordingly, and then enhanced her lipstick with that purply-pink text color to tie it all together. Photoshop is fun.
Pulling a highlight color from a logo or photograph is a great way to bring the email together visually. But, at least initially, it sounds a little daunting to those of us without design chops. What sorts of tips and tools do you recommend?
Since Emma's email tools are simply an extension of your brand, I think the most daunting part is making the foundational commitment to your brand. That is, choosing brand colors, denoting the primary, secondary and accent usage cases for each, the font styles you want to use, etc. Get together with your team to build a brand style guide, then find the specific color codes for the colors you've selected.
If you're working with an Emma designer, we'd love to help with color selections, and we can provide the proper color codes to input when using Emma's text editor. If you need a free, on-the-fly "color picker" check out Eye Drop for Chrome, or Colorzilla for Firefox. You can identify the HEX code for your color, then input it in the Emma text editor.
I also like free photo editing tools like Skitch, Gimp and Pixlr. With a little practice, they become pretty easy to use.
What is the Emma design team up to now?
We're really busy — and really excited — to be working on a new template gallery for Emma customers. They'll be able to choose from hundreds (literally, hundreds) of free readymade templates, then customize the look of their campaigns with their logo and brand colors. It's a lot of work, and we can't wait to unveil the designs soon.
Emma powers the emails of more than 30,000 businesses, nonprofits and agencies. Get 60 days free when you join today.
How each new Emma customer helps us support DonorsChoose.org
Since we give $5 to DonorsChoose for every new customer that signs up, Emma employees have a lot of fun directing upwards of $2,000 each month to deserving classrooms. A rotating cast of our staffers hand-pick where the money goes each time, and it's such a joy to make personal connections and help underfunded teachers and projects.
Let's take a look at some recent projects we've helped fund …
Comic books bring Shakespeare to life
Cody De Vos, a member of our agency relations team, directed and co-wrote Terminator the Second, a re-imagination of Terminator II using dialogue culled directly from Shakespeare's works. It's no stretch to say he's a film geek.
So with that production fresh on their minds, a few staffers quickly fell in love with Mrs. C's request for comic book versions of Romeo and Juliet. We hope this project inspired her high school students to embrace the works of Shakespeare — and become life-long readers.
Books in bags for better readers
Jerry Morrison keeps IT operations running smoothly around the office, and he's also the father of a young son who's enthusiastic about reading. When choosing this project as one for Emma to fund, he knew that purchasing books for a low-income, second-grade classroom was a no-brainer.
"I know how much my kiddo loves reading and getting cool books to bring home from school," he said. "I think it would be neat to help give these kids the same excitement."
Smile for the yearbook
Mrs. H. sponsors an after-school art club and supervises the yearbook, but she'd always taken the pictures herself or recruited parents' help. This year, though, she wanted to give her students digital cameras so they could capture memories through their own eyes.
David Weintraub, a senior sales associate at Emma and professional photographer, spotted the project. "It's great to support young photography students," he said. "I love that we helped them get the tools they need to learn."
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Thanks for joining Emma, and helping us do some good in classrooms around the country. Think you'd like to get more involved? It's completely possible that your ability to help spark a love of reading, passion for graphic design or enthusiasm for football is only a click away. Visit DonorsChoose.org to find projects that fit your own interests, and tell us what you find.
From a sunroom in Atlanta to rainmaking in Africa: How Margaret Gearing connects with her audience
The garage claims pride of place in many great beginnings. Storied men from Walt Disney to Steve Jobs launched their companies with little more than a bucket of dreams and a bench.
So I find it fitting that EOS Marketing & Communications originated in an Atlanta sunroom. Named for the Greek goddess of the dawn and founded in 2005 by ad mavens Margaret Gearing and Susan Frost, EOS started with bright ideas aplenty (and even a coffee table). Seven years later, EOS' accoutrements are more lavish: their office boasts a "Collaboration Center" with a 25 foot writing wall, and their full-service roster of goddesses (and a guy) cover everything from cause marketing to design to media coaching. No matter if the space is great or small, EOS' motto, "new day, fresh perspective" abides.
They're all about connecting and inspiring their audience to take action. In my chat with EOS' President, Margaret Gearing, we covered EOS' approach to email marketing, nonprofits with global impact and more. It's an interesting agency succes story, and it's my pleasure to share it with you.
From desktops to iPads to QR, it seems we'll be communicating on an area the size of a contact lens any minute. So about that 25 foot writing wall — how does all that brainstorming fit in the incredibly shrinking ad space?
The board is a collaborative means to an end. Having so much white space allows us to explore every facet of an idea, and everyone gets to contribute. The belief is: everything is possible, let's just write it down. We identify the big idea much more quickly this way versus tomes and reams of data that distract from edgy thinking.
How do you maintain a brand's voice across the marketing mix while tailoring it to the audience and medium you're targeting?
We start our strategic program by trying to come up with the big idea — the compelling proposition that will engage people. We try to keep it at its simplest level possible; even if you were sitting down to explain this to your mom, you'd be able to easily describe it. The last thing we ever think about is the medium in which these things will appear. We base it on whom we're trying to reach, customizing the tactical tools that best reach them.
I'll give you an example of what we're doing for MillBridge, a real estate development in North Carolina, and how we're building Emma into it. For this project, we've taken a new approach. Instead of writing for MillBridge, we're having the people who live there tell MillBridge's story in their own voice. We're looking at Gen X'ers, Millennials and empty nesters. The common denominator amongst all three is the same: people want a sense of community. They want a sense of authenticity.
We've done video interviews with everyone, including the elementary school principal. The voice in that kind of message comes across honestly, and it's better than anything I can write. You hear an empty nester saying, "This is the home I've always dreamed about. Jim and I started out life in a little Corvair, and everything we owned fit in it. Today we live here in this beautiful home." The viewer is right there in her living room, listening to her say this. If I wrote that, you're just going to dismiss it as some marketing person making stuff up. With the testimonials, you really get a sense of who's living there today — funny things people say, and the personality of the place.
What we've done with MillBridge is an example of taking a traditional, single family home community and turning it a little bit on its head. This Christmas we had a Lighting of the Bridge event that tapped into the iconic, romantic nature of the bridge that runs through the community. It resonates with prospects who want to be a part of it. Our message is, "We happen to have a lighting of the bridge." We don't add, "… on a special night in December with sparkling lights that glitter through the sky." No. We don't do that. We just let people talk, and they bring it to life.
My intuition about the market today is that most people want one thing: respect. That you think their time is important enough for you to tell the tale well, and that you would humbly appreciate them being a part of whatever it is you're doing. Respect and humility go hand in hand.
People have choices so you have to walk in their shoes to recognize what's important to them. Which is why you have to keep a lot of tools in your toolkit. Different things resonate with different types of people. If you're pregnant, you want to be near great schools. Seeing a school principal in a MillBridge video makes you feel good about the community.
Once we have that little gem of an idea like, "The things that bridge us together," that's what flourishes and moves out into social, e-blasts, etc. Email will play a bigger role in our efforts for this North Carolina community because we will have prospects. And we will want to talk with them on a regular basis.
How does a real estate developer go about finding and connecting with new prospects?
Everything we're doing is driving people to the website to sign up. Period. The number one objective of our traditional media is to reinforce the brand statement on the website. It's not to do the sale. It's about allowing people to find the content they want, and view testimonials from others. Our belief is that we're going to have an easier time getting people to sign up or register once they are able to do this.
When I look at Emma and email marketing for MillBridge, I look at them as a link to getting the audience into a bigger experience which is the website, and ultimately into allowing us to have their name and letting us talk to them — not marketing to them, but talking to them.
EOS has a passion for giving back. Can you tell us a little about the work you've done, and share a tip for other nonprofits that are trying to inspire their audience to act?
We work with the Replenish Africa Initiative from The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (RAIN). The promise of RAIN is clean water. Africa is so huge as a continent that no one company can take on this challenge; it takes the efforts of many. Consequently, when we started that campaign, they wanted a donation mechanism built in. So we had to look at this from a different point of view: what's the simple, big idea that will make that happen?
The idea was to start a social water movement, supported by people called RAIN Makers. We developed a tagline to engage and excite our audience: "Drops of hope, waves of change." An emotional positioning immediately engages people.
We're trying to reach socially responsible people who care about the planet. And that happens to be the younger generation. There's a global consumer movement afoot, insisting that companies are cognizant of the natural resources they're using, and consequently do something meaningful to minimize their footprint and give back.
Email will play a part in this, but it will probably be small at first. We're starting the rollout in South Africa, and we know the penetration of internet across the continent is pretty low. So we're going to have to leapfrog and do things like mobile marketing. In the U.S., we can go out through email and blogs and other areas. Emma is built into our database now on The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation's website. Our ultimate goal is creating email followers in order to maintain close contact.
As you can see in our Daybreak email campaign celebrating the first decade of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the photos are compelling, the stories are short and sweet, and you have a link to see the timeline on the website so it gives you a sense of what the bigger picture is.
My one tip for nonprofits is to get people to believe they make a difference. A lot of nonprofits ask for donations like it's a one-shot deal. The challenge is making people feel like they're part of a bigger movement, pushing that rock up a hill. A lot of it has to do with language — being completely transparent with a certain level of humility, and not asking for too much. Just whatever people can do. I read Wendy Smith's book, Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World, before we started working on RAIN to understand how to help people find simple ways to make a contribution.
The other huge thing I've learned through RAIN is to show success and progress, and provide attribution to those who did it. The names make it real and bring it to life. Our map talks about who we're helping and how we're helping. Sharing results shows that the mission is happening now; it's real.
It took a lot of moxie for you to strike out on your own and launch EOS. What was your theme song when the going got tough?
Okay, I had two theme songs. First, Eminem's, "Lose Yourself." Its chorus goes like this: "Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip? You can do anything you set your mind to." The other is the classic Sting anthem, "Brand New Day."
Lots of business owners have been turning to daily deal email campaigns to attract new customers lately, and many more are wondering if it's worth a try. To help cut through the hubbub, the Bradford Group teamed with Emma to create a guide of best practices, case studies and strategies for daily deals.
Along the way, we discovered some interesting facts. Here are five things we didn't know about daily deals:
1. Your industry matters
Are you a restaurateur? An interior designer? A ballroom dance instructor? When it comes to daily deals, your industry greatly influences the odds of a successful campaign. A Rice University study found that health services and special events were the most profitable deals for business owners, with 70% of businesses claiming profitability. Restaurants and spas were the least profitable, with 44% of businesses claiming profitability. Ironically, restaurants are also the most highly purchased deal. Go figure.
2. Expect spurts and lulls
The largest surge of daily deal customers typically occurs at the beginning and end of a promotion. A Yipit study found that approximately 25% of coupons are redeemed in both the first and last months of the deal. When determining how long your deal should last, factor these spurts and lulls into your foot traffic estimations. In most cases, a deal with an expiration of three or six months should suffice. A year is too long.
3. 85 is the new 100
Historically, 15-20% of buyers never redeem their coupons, but businesses still receive profits off these sales. So if your business sells 100 deals, look for 80 to 85 to be cashed in. A ForeSee poll found that 62% of these shoppers are potential new, or infrequent customers. With 100 deals sold, your business can expect about 50 new customers walking through the doors.
4. No two deal providers are alike
To differentiate themselves, daily deal providers take either the super store or boutique approach, driving business through either the quantity and reach of their email subscribers or via the importance of location and business niche to their subscribers. Partner with a daily deal site whose business goals are most in line with your own. For example, if your company has a philanthropic vein, you could find a deal provider that will donate a portion of its profits to a non-profit in your company's name. You can also find vertical-focused sites, like Daily Gourmet for foodies.
5. Timing can be tricky
Most daily deal providers have a waiting list — some as long as nine months. On the one hand, this gives you plenty of time to plan your deal; on the other, if you've been putting off running a daily deal until a special event or your next slow time, you might want to consider reaching out to a provider to get a little more information and a realistic timeline.
Ready to plan your first, or next, promotion and looking for more tips? Download our Seize the Daily Deal and get a crash course on planning, launching and profiting from deal-a-day promotions.
Have some daily deal advice of your own? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.