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Write or die: Find the time to write or your business will fall behind

Tips for developing your writing & making proposals a thing of the past

We like Blair Enns' unconventional headshot. He looks a little bit like Clark Kent.

It's difficult to convince anyone of your expertise on any given subject today unless you write. We have Google to blame, or laud, for this.

Now, when we want to find the answer to a question, we just type or speak it into the various Google apps on our numerous devices and, voilà, answers! We do the same thing when we want to find a subject matter expert. The power of organic search has made content marketing the number one lead generation strategy for not just creative firms, but businesses of all types. In this manner, Google is also driving the increased pace of the specialization of knowledge-based businesses across the globe. With so many people writing content on so many subjects, to be seen as an expert these days requires one to write prolifically or to pick a subject area that's not already crowded. In this Darwinian manner, Google is forcing the world into specialized niches and is single-handedly increasing global productivity as a result.

It's clear to me that those who cannot write are going to find business development increasingly difficult. This is a relatively new phenomenon, but it's very real. Writing, I believe, is now more important to the success of a design practice than designing. But what if you are among the many who possess the ability to write but just struggle to find the time to do so? Are you destined to the same fate as those who lack the ability? Perhaps I can help you find the time.

In fact, you're probably still spending between 25% and 50% of your time writing. You're just writing the wrong things.

So I'll offer you this pact: I'll free up ten hours a month of wasted writing time for you, and, in return, you re-allocate that time to writing thought leadership. Deal?

Before we get to the source of the misplaced writing, let's cover some basic principles on your new thought leadership writing commitment.

  1. Go over 1,000 words. Most people can fake anything for 400 or 500 words. One of the hidden benefits of writing to a meaningful length, however, is that it forces you to get smarter. You can blog every day for less than 400 words at a time and still not be meaningfully smarter a year later, but once your word count gets up there (1,200 words seems to be the threshold where I can no longer fake it), you cannot help but be smarter afterward. Set a target of one piece of thought leadership per month and try to go over 1,000 words each time. I promise you that one year later you will be twice as smart as you were when you started.
  2. Go narrow and deep. Once you identify your subject — but before you start writing — do a quick search to see what already exists on the topic. Resist the urge to retread tired, old ground (this will eliminate pretty much anything to do with the topics of branding, transparency or authenticity), and go deep into the crevices of your knowledge base. You'll sacrifice reach, but the value of those who find relevance in the topic will be worth the tradeoff.
  3. Use a strong voice. Zillions of pages of new content are created every day, and so much of it is not worth reading. If you don't experience a meaningful amount of fear before you publish, then you've probably played it too safe. Tackle the conventions and the sacred cows in your writing; just remember to be hard on the issues and soft on people.
  4. Predict the future. You don't need to be right in your predictions to be seen as an expert; you just need to be thinking ahead. You're not an expert if you're not predicting the future.

Finding the time to write

Alright, now let's free up some content writing time. The culprit is proposals. Do a rough estimate on the number of hours you spend writing proposals every month (far, far more than 10 is my guess) and ask yourself, how much of that is wasted?

Ahh, but I'm not merely proposing that you somehow eliminate the proposals that don't get accepted; I'm proposing that you consider the idea that the written proposal does not need to exist and you eliminate all of them.

Intrigued? Want to learn more? Visit Win Without Pitching for tips on finding time to write in lieu of writing proposals.

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Blair Enns is a business development advisor to creative firms worldwide and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, published by Rock Bench. Contact him at winwithoutpitching.com.

Join Blair and ReCourses' David C. Baker at the Emma-sponsored ReCourses New Business Summit in Nashville January 25-27, 2012. Learn more here.

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Design showcase: Let’s hear it for holiday spirit

Get a jumpstart on your end-of-year marketing goals with our new Readymade holiday designs

This time of year, it seems that my to-do list grows faster than I can check things off. From holiday shopping to travel plans, crafting parties to gift wrap, there's always something to make, plan or do. Of course, the holidays are particularly busy for Emma's design team, as our customers need top-notch design work for their year-end campaigns. It's a high-volume season, and we know how important it is to rise above the inbox noise.

And so, for the first time, our designers have created dozens of beautiful, handcrafted designs that are ready to go in no time. And each $25 design comes in two formats so you're covered no matter what kind of mailing you'd like to send.

Best yet, the Readymade designs will be available in your account within 3-4 business hours of submitting your request, so even a professional, handmade design can keep up with your holiday to-do list.

Let's take a look at a just a few of our Readymade designs …

Design: Fall Leaves
Designer: Lee Floyd
Design level: Readymade holiday design

Lee may be one of our newer designers here at Emma, but he has already wowed us with his great eye for textures and type, which you can see here in "Fall Leaves" and also on the fancy new holiday page he made. This is one of the few Readymade options with a vertically-oriented postcard, which works beautifully for this particular design because the dimensions give more breathing room to all its rich, varied textures.

Both the postcard and stationery maintain the same design concept, and you'll get both versions with each Readymade you choose. Postcards are designed at a fixed size; they're best suited for quick well wishes, short holiday greetings or brief messages of thanks. Newsletters, surveys and longer marketing pieces, on the other hand, will work best framed by the stationery version, which integrates with Emma layouts and expands vertically to accommodate more content.

Design: Christmas Swirls
Designer: Stef Atkinson
Design level: Readymade holiday design

This beautiful, more traditional Christmas design comes from another of our new designers, Stef, and is a great marriage of delicate, graceful lines and bold pops of red. The end result is certainly formal but still dynamic; the stationery version even has a hand-designed custom frame around the content area for added visual interest.

The postcard version takes up much less vertical space than many of the other postcard designs so your own message gets seen sooner. Like all the Readymade postcards, it includes an editable text box and image box for a personal greeting and branding just below the design. Here, we have a simple year-end message ("From all of us to all of you … Wishing you good times, good cheer and a Happy New Year!") and a sample logo to illustrate how you can add your own touch to the card.

Design: Season's Greetings
Designer: Taylor Schena
Design level: Readymade holiday design

Taylor, one of our senior designers, really wanted to convey the joy of the season with fun gift wrap and interesting textures, but without the traditional red-green color scheme. The content area's cream background adds another complementary but unexpected twist, and it definitely allows the red bow to pop all the more off the screen.

The cream-colored area in the postcard version is textured, and the message is in a specialty font because it's all image-based. The stationery, however, requires websafe fonts and a flat-color background, since textures would have required a background image — and that sort of thing behind live content doesn't work reliably in email. (Websafe fonts are automatically available for selection when you are working on a campaign in Emma in edit mode.)

Design: Shiny New Year
Designer: Stef Atkinson
Design level: Readymade holiday design

Stef's design for New Year's beautifully reflects her signature style; you can tell she has a wonderful sense of color and a photographer's eye for composition. In this design, the light spots and sparkles with hints of bright gold and copper balance well with the simple outer shapes and the classic folded ribbon in a flatter, muted color scheme.

And of course, the beauty of any "Happy New Year" design is that you can send it both before *and* after the holiday itself, such as for New Year's sales that extend through the holiday and into mid-January.

For more tips on seasonal campaigns, be sure to check out Molly's guide to wrangling your own holiday email marketing plan.

Here's to the end of the year, and to stylish, affordable design — we hope this season brings you lots of joy and a schedule full of good work and good times!

Hugs and holiday toasts,
The Emma Design Team

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Ready to create your own holiday campaign? Request one (or more!) of our Readymade designs for $25 each, or take an even more customized approach.

What prompts people to subscribe or unsubscribe from your emails?

Tips for increasing subscription numbers and keeping opt-outs low

We love interacting with our customers and fans on Twitter and Facebook because it gives us the ability to spark a discussion easily — and to learn from a pretty big range of opinions. In a quick poll on Twitter this summer, we asked, What's the most common reason you unsubscribe from an email? Later in the week, we followed up with the question, What's the best incentive for subscribing to a newsletter?

Both topics resonated pretty strongly with our followers — in fact, many of you also asked about these very things in our recent holiday survey — and the answers coincided with a few email best practices that we'd encourage you to implement.

Ready to grab new subscribers and hold on to the ones you already have? Here are five tips:

1. Cater to audience preferences, especially when it comes to frequency.

Not sure if you're sending too much or too little? Asking readers to manage their preferences is a great way to find out how often they're hoping to hear from you.

+ What our followers said about unsubscribing:

  • @ylbesos: I get too many! A biweekly newsletter is quite enough! Everything is NOT a special announcement. >1 a week and it gets nixed

+ Further reading: Marketing Profs lists frequency as the number one reason for opt-outs.

2. Keep content relevant and concise.

With inbox clutter on the rise — especially during the upcoming holiday season — it's as important as ever to say what you mean clearly and quickly.

+ What our followers said about unsubscribing:

  • @kylekutter: I don't find the email's content is relevant to my needs sometimes because there is so much to filter through.
  • @sandies2382: [I unsubscribe if there's] too much content in one email. Keep it simple.

+ What our followers said about signing up:

  • @DolphinTeacher1: [I'm likely to subscribe for] interesting info or tidbits – can't be too long.

+ Further reading: MarketingSherpa shares eight tactics for developing content that's relevant to your readers.

3. Add an element of surprise to your emails and keep the content fresh.

Diversifying your content gives your readers a reason to open — and to be pleasantly surprised with what they find.

+ What our followers said about unsubscribing:

  • @TTCEVENTS: [I opt out] when I realize that the last 5 articles are simply remixes of the first.

+ What our followers said about signing up:

  • @billyadams: [I sign up for] content that makes an impact on me. Not just a re-listing of what's on your site.

+ Further reading: Consider using video as a successful way to re-imagine content that holds your audience's attention. It's better to re-imagine than simply repeat.

4. Set expectations for what your audience will receive, and consider offering some exclusive content or goodies.

Offering rewards is a great way to attract new subscribers. Plus, it's an easy way for you to have fun and infuse your personality in what you do.

+ What our followers said about signing up:

  • @ThreeLakesWI: The best incentive is great content, always.

+ Further reading: One case study shows that offering exclusive content increased email opt-ins by 2,000%.

5. Make signing up quick and simple to do (and never send to folks who didn't subscribe).

Post your signup form where it's easy to find and only collect information that you plan to use later. If you're going to send birthday emails, collect birthdates. If not, leave that field off your form.

+ What our followers said about unsubscribing:

  • @AugustaGolfGirl: #1 [reason to unsubscribe]: Because I never subscribed in the 1st place.

+ Further reading: ClickZ attributes a successful email program to starting with an easy, obvious signup process and goes on to recommend considering a double opt-in to establish a positive relationship with your readers.

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Now it's your turn to weigh in. What prompts you to sign up for new emails, and what has you kicking current ones to the curb?

Contribute to the conversation and follow us on Twitter at @emmaemail.

Behind the scenes of the Atlanta Falcons’ interactive marketing team

We talk email marketing, social media strategy and staying focused during the holidays with Dan Levak, Director of New Media for the NFL's Falcons
Meet the Atlanta Falcons' New Media Group. Dan's on the left.

With the football season in full swing and the holiday season approaching, Dan Levak is a busy man. He directs the Atlanta Falcons' interactive marketing efforts and manages their digital media staff, keeping Falcons fans engaged with their favorite team on a variety of web properties, social mediums and mobile platforms. He took time to share details about the Falcons' email and social media strategy, plus how the team navigates their holiday schedule.

Read on for a glimpse at the Falcons' fine-tuned approach — you'll be as impressed as I was.

How do you use Emma to reach your fans, and how often do you send emails?
We understand that people have more email than they know what to do with so we try to be very disciplined about limiting and consolidating our messaging. We send a weekly e-report that's a digest of significant events, stories and news. We also send a "pre-game" season ticket holder email filled with useful game-specific information relevant to folks attending the game — such as when the tailgate lots open that week, pre-game entertainment options around the Georgia Dome, etc. We also send various one-off emails to fans that opt in for various value propositions: ticket specials, third-party offers, etc. Again, because of the avalanche of email people face today, we are very selective of these third-party offers — there has to be true value to Falcons fans, or we won't send it. On occasion our senior leadership team needs to directly address our fan base, and we use Emma's platform to send out "Letter From…" emails crafted to look like they're on Falcons letterhead. And we also utilize Emma for what we call operational purposes: season ticket renewal information, reminders for deadlines, applications for season-long parking passes, etc. It sounds like a lot – and in the aggregate, it is — but we are very conscious of timing and frequency of our mailings.

Who works on the Falcons' email marketing strategy, and how do you set priorities as a marketing team?
We work under an empowerment philosophy. That's one of the main reasons we're with Emma — the ease of use of the platform. I've used several large enterprise email marketing platforms throughout my time with the Falcons, and many of them require two-day training sessions just to understand how to deploy a single campaign.

Emma's platform was clearly designed with an emphasis on user interface — it's so easy to learn and use. We've been able to empower various departments throughout the organization to deploy their own email campaigns. Our Ticket Office is a prime example. Folks generally aren't experts using HTML or CSS, but we set up very flexible templates that allow them to enter their own content & graphics, schedule their emails, manage their own lists and even monitor their own analytics. It's taken much of the burden off of our digital media group, and it allows them to be much more spontaneous when spur of the moment campaign needs arise.

What's your most popular content, and how do you continue to come up with fresh topics?
We continuously ask the question: "If I were a fan, and I didn't have access to our players, coaches and front office, what would I want to know right now?" It's actually easy when you simply turn it around and always look through the fan prism.

You also use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to reach fans. What's your social media strategy?
The $64,000 question. smile There's so much focus on "social strategy," and yes, we have a very specific one with very tangible strategic goals layered with discreet tactical measures geared toward achieving them.

Without going into too much detail, our social media strategy is centered around two things: be consistent in our interaction and be authentic. We are all bombarded by so much information in our lives. Social media platforms –- especially Facebook & Twitter –- along with the mainstream penetration of smartphones and tablets has created shorter and shorter attention spans among consumers. The mediums are so much more efficient, but this has paradoxically made it more difficult to get your message across. So when someone takes the time out of their busy lives to reach out to us –- via an email, a message board post, a comment on our Facebook page, an at-reply on Twitter –- then we OWE that fan a response. Even a simple acknowledgement that "yes, we heard you" goes a long way. Rewarding someone who invests their valuable and increasingly scarce time with our brand is one of the most important things we do.

And authenticity is paramount. It's not just adhering to the basic customer service tenets of acknowledging your mistakes and not sugar-coating or trying to BS your customers. Authenticity is also about relevance. I created a filter internally that we all use when deciding whether or not to put something in front of our audience on Facebook or Twitter. It's very simple, really. We ask: "Why does this fan care –- what's in it for them?" There MUST be a genuine value proposition, or we're not going to clutter up someone's timeline and risk our users tuning us out on Facebook. For example, if an automotive corporate partner came to us and asked us if we would publish a wall post to our Facebook page announcing their new model year lineup, we would decline. It's not specific enough to our audience, and generic messaging is the bane of effective social media. But if we pushed back and worked with this partner to create a program whereby you visit a local dealership and purchase one of their vehicles in a given month, you get a pair of season tickets for next season –- well, that's different. That's something Falcons fans can embrace and want to know about.

Finally, we look at these social mediums as an extension of our online presence, and we're not focused on our dot-com site's major metrics the way we used to be. Uniques, page views, time-on-site is important, to be sure, but their significance is wrapped in the context of the overall universe — including social. I think making sense of social analytics and being able to derive truly actionable business intelligence from them is a major market opportunity.

This season, you'll play New Orleans the day after Christmas and Tampa Bay on New Year's Day. Any special tricks for maintaining focus around the holidays?
We never have issues maintaining focus. We're all so passionate about our careers and pro football in general — this is what we love to do. What is difficult at times is not being able to spend traditional holidays with your family because the NFL schedule requires you to either play a game or be traveling to a game on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Everyone in this business understands that taking a few vacation days or a full week off around the holidays isn't realistic. It's what we signed up for, and it's one small con in an industry that's filled (literally and figuratively!) with pros.

Do the Falcons have any holiday traditions as a team?
Hopefully we'll look back 10 or 15 years from now and say our holiday tradition each season was getting ready for the playoffs. smile Our owner provides a unique opportunity for all the business units that make up the Blank Family of Businesses to come to Falcons headquarters on a weekday for a mid-December holiday luncheon. It's a great opportunity to meet and visit with folks who share your culture, but not necessarily your day-to-day experience.

We also partner with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for an annual holiday ornament drive. Each year we design a unique ornament, and each one has the number of one of our roster players on it. We manufacture several hundred of each roster number, then the players get together and sign all of the ornaments with their number. Fans can then purchase the autographed ornaments (they're tax-deductible). Because of demand for our highest-profile players, fans don't specify which player's ornament they receive — they're randomly sent out, and it's the luck of the draw. It's a fantastic program that benefits one of the best nonprofit children's hospitals in the nation.

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Connect with the Atlanta Falcons:

+ Sign up for their email newsletter
+ Follow the Falcons' main Twitter feed or any number of staff members, players and cheerleaders , including Dan Levak at @FalconsDLevak
+ Like them on Facebook
+ Check out the team schedule

Emma City Guide: Denver, CO

Tour Denver and get to know some of Emma's mile-high customers

This crisp fall weather is signaling me to spend some time in the great outdoors. And what better place to enjoy autumn's offerings than Denver, Colorado? Home to one of Emma's satellite offices, the mile high city is a fine place to spend a day shopping, eating and soaking up some of its downtown culture, and it's the perfect setting for our next Emma City Guide.

I'm actually headed to Denver next month, so I'm putting together my short list of must-visit local attractions, and I found some noteworthy Emma customers along the way. Here's my rundown of a perfect day in Denver, Emma-style.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science - Emma Email Marketing Blog
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science uses Emma to promote exhibits and special programs and to stay in touch with museum members.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

2001 Colorado Blvd

For me, exploring a new city means visiting a museum or two. It's a chance to feed my brain in a unique setting, chat with a docent and find a proper souvenir in the gift shop. I'll begin my day in Denver with a visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This museum has been a city fixture since 1900 and provides the community with exhibitions and programs that teach visitors about the history of Colorado and beyond. I'll hit up the permanent exhibit of Egyptian mummies first, then wander through the lifelike wildlife dioramas. Oh, and I can't forget the planetarium. There's so much to see, I'm planning on making a morning out of it. And when I get a little peckish, I'll grab a sandwich from the snack bar and head outside for a leisurely lunch in City Park. It's just outside the museum door.

+ See a recent campaign
+ Visit their website

Fleur de Lis - Emma Email Marketing Blog
Fleur de Lis uses Emma to let customers know about upcoming sales and to notify them of changes to their website and blog.

Fleur de Lis
8000 E Belleview Ave, Ste B40
Greenwood Village

After a picnic lunch, I'll scout out a couple local shops. Fleur de Lis (a paperie) will make a delightful first stop, just south of the downtown Denver Tech Center. It's a luxury paper boutique, the kind of place that instantly inspires you to dedicate more time to old fashioned correspondence. But they also stock beautiful gifts and accessories, like picture frames, portfolios, pens and personalized stamps. If you're planning a wedding or special event, this is a one-stop shop for custom save-the-dates, invitations and gifts for the wedding party or guests of honor. Treat yourself to something nice, too.

+ See a recent campaign
+ Visit their website and blog

CLP Jewelry - Emma Email Marketing Blog
CLP Jewelry uses Emma to showcase products and announce trunk shoe events to retail partners and fans.

CLP Jewelry

Carried by multiple retailers

While meandering back to downtown Denver, I'll likely embrace my inner cowgirl and pick up some locally crafted jewelry from Emma customer CLP Jewelry. Christy Lea Payne's designs are decidedly western, made with soft worn leather and natural stones and metals, and they reflect Christy's signature rustic style.

Her pieces are carried in a number of local Denver boutiques, but she does wholesale business with shops all over the country. You can visit the CLP Jewelry website to find a retail location. Yeehaw.

+ See a recent campaign
+ Visit their website

Denver Philharmonic - Emma Email Marketing Blog
The Denver Philharmonic Orchestra uses Emma to share its season schedule and promote ticket sales.

Denver Philharmonic Orchestra

KPOF Hall, 1340 Sherman St

Time to take in the local music scene. I'm going to skip the bars and rock venues and class things up a bit by attending a concert by the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. The Denver Philharmonic is one of the longest standing — and best — community orchestras in the western United States. Now in its 64th season, the DPO is led by conductor Adam Flatt and calls KPOF Hall its home. The DPO's repertoire proves to be a mix of familiar and new-to-my-ears pieces, and the concert will cap off a lovely day in the Front Range.

+ See a recent campaign
+ Visit their website

And there you have Denver in a day. I hope your fall promises a travel adventure or two. Don't forget to check our our previous city guides for Austin and Portland, and happy trails!

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Not an Emma customer yet? Get 60 days free when you join.

Blank page, begone

Part two of our content strategy series gives you a head start on writing key email campaigns

We like to share email strategies that work, so we've written quite a lot about welcome triggers, surveys, and all kinds of other ways to showcase who you are as an organization. We're pretty sure you already know how effective these communication tactics can be, and we know how it feels when you know you really should be doing something that just never makes its way to the top of the to-do list. Sometimes having to stare at a blank page is enough to keep that "send brilliant email to subscribers" item permanently low on your list, actually, so we have two solutions to help you fill up the page.

Solution 1: Call the professionals

We've been talking to a new company called Scripted that employs writers who, well, write stuff. We like them because they're smart and they're nice, but also because they like telling stories. Many of their writers have a screenwriting background, which is a pretty interesting way of looking at email marketing since those campaigns you send are all about telling your company story in just the right way, every time you show up in someone's inbox. Their writers are developing a specialty in email writing, and Scripted likes to pair their freelancers with clients by matching up subject-level expertise, too.

We're launching a test program with them, and we're going to cover the writing fee for the first 15 current Emma customers who post a comment below and want to participate. What you'll get out of the deal: an email campaign written by a professional writer (one rewrite is included if necessary, too). What we'll ask of you: to complete the campaign and send us feedback within 30 days.

Solution 2: Get a head start with our pre-written emails

Our in-house experts created templates you can use for three important ways of communicating with your readers. We highly recommend each of these strategies — we're always astounded by their tendency to engage audiences. (We're also astounded by the cuteness of baby bears playing in the middle of a road, but we're not covering that in-depth here.) Getting started with these email tactics is as simple as downloading our templates and then personalizing them.

We've got content templates for …

+ Setting up a welcome trigger. Sending a welcome email is an ideal way to start your relationship with that special someone who just joined your list. Even just saying "hi" and mentioning how to stay in touch with you on Twitter and Facebook is great. For a gold star, offer a discount to further endear yourself to them. I can't promise you'll receive an actual gold star, but go ahead and imagine one for yourself every time new person signs up and then gets that automatic welcome. See more welcome email trigger examples and analysis.

+ Sending a survey. If someone's on your list, you've succeeded in establishing a relationship with them. That's a big deal, when you think about it. So honor that connection by finding out more about them. You can send a survey to ask what they'd like to hear from you or to find out a few of their preferences so you can personalize your content. And since they're taking time to share with you, consider offering them some kind of prize or other thank-you for the effort. See our previous posts about surveys to read more about how to create effective ones.

+ Getting the right list in place. Marketers are increasingly realizing that it's better to have a smaller list of folks who are actively reading and clicking on email campaigns than a bigger list that's full of people who never bother. As Mary on our community relations team wrote in a post about list hygiene earlier this year, "Members who have never opened a mailing are telling you that they've all but officially unsubscribed. Consider removing these addresses — you'll have more accurate response metrics with an up-to-date audience." Losing folks from your list may feel initially painful, but think of the better response rate you'll have later. See the rest of Mary's insights and tips.

Ready to spring into action?

You can download what you'd like on our content template page. Of course, you'll want to add your own voice so that what you send reflects your particular style. After these templates get you started, let us know what else we can do to help with your content and email marketing plans. We'd like to know what trips you up, and how we can help smooth the way.

And remember, if it's that free email writing offer with Scripted you're after, just post a comment below, and we'll get back in touch with the details for the first 15 Emma customers.

Additional resources
Content strategy basics, part one

5 questions with Melissa Junge of Animatics

B2B email campaigns, keeping content fresh and spending time in Santa Clara
Melissa Junge and Kym Chao, Animatics
Melissa writes content for Animatics, and Kym Chao does graphic design.

Melissa Junge, Sales and Marketing Assistant at Animatics Corporation in Santa Clara, CA, is passionate about her company and their communication strategy. Check out an archive of the "SmartNews" email campaigns she sends using Emma, and read below for her thoughtful answers to five questions.

Describe what your company does and what makes you stand out in your industry.
Animatics manufactures motion control systems including servo motors, table top robots, gear heads, controllers, shunts and power supplies. We are best known for the creation of the SmartMotor, an integrated servo motor that encompasses an encoder, controller, amplifier and drive all in one, and can be programmed directly from any laptop in a million different ways for any industry application. Our products are used in multiple industries including aerospace, food, semiconductor, automotive, entertainment, etc. SmartMotors can pretty much be used in any machine that moves.

How do you use Emma to communicate with your audience? Which features are your favorite?
Our marketing efforts, and the way we use Emma, is dual purpose. One audience is our value-added distributors: independent resellers such as Minarik, Onexia, Bertelkamp Automation and others that sell our products to end customers. We communicate with them, and they pass along whatever gets their attention and will be useful as sales tools. The other audience is our end users: primarily machine builders, design engineers and manufacturing specialists who build our motors into their larger machine designs. We use the email campaigns as the primary B2B marketing channel to both of these groups as it's the quickest and most efficient way to get both groups the information they need.

Favorite features would have to be social media buttons and the tech support. I love the social media share buttons and use the campaigns for most of my Twitter and LinkedIn news. Originally we were using a home-coded mail merge program that didn't have response tracking or social media capabilities, but now we've increased our emails from one every three months to one every two weeks with Emma's help. Emma tech support is also great. Any questions I have are answered immediately, and I have yet to have a problem that hasn't been solved.

You send email campaigns every two weeks. How do you keep your content fresh?
We use the email campaigns for a number of things: product announcements, company news, case studies, new marketing collateral and more. Being able to send out content in multiple categories as well as pushing to always innovate and improve our products usually gives us a lot to talk about.

Let's say your friend from out of town has four hours to spend in Santa Clara. What's on the must-do list?
Come visit our office, first of all! Get the tour of the training rooms, production (where the magic happens) and some of our new "toys" like the mini mill and SmartMotor powered artwork. We are right across the street from California's Great America theme park (close enough to hear people scream from the tops of roller coasters during our lunch) so I would say that's at the top as well. Then, go to a San Jose Sharks game!

What's the last song that was playing on your iPod?
"Ding" or "Music Monks" by Seeed. It's reggae musical sound with German rap lyrics. Sounds ridiculous but after you hear it, it becomes addicting.

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Like this post? Read more customer stories here.

Prepare your email marketing for the holiday season

Yup, it's time to start making your plan

It'll still be a couple months before you're dragging out tangled lights and sipping egg nog, but don't wait that long to start planning your year-end email marketing.

Whether your goals are as simple as a thank-you email greeting or as involved as a tightly scheduled retail strategy, a little planning and strategy now will pay off when the busy holiday season rolls around. On the heels of our recent holiday survey, here are six tips to help you prepare in advance — and give you plenty of time left over for egg nog sippin'.

Craft a storyline | Emma Email Marketing
1. Craft a holiday story line. What's the unique story you'll tell this holiday season? It may not be wildly different from the story you tell all year long, but it should have its own angle or narrative. Spend some time figuring out how your audience will experience your brand in new and festive ways during the holidays. Pick a story line that surprises and delights you, and your audience is likely to feel the same.

+ Need more convincing? Read Susan Blue's post on telling your brand's story effectively.
+ Find inspiration in our video full of festive content ideas.

2. Schedule a list check-up. We say it often around here, but it bears repeating: If your members aren't engaged, your efforts won't be appreciated. Before your holiday email cycle begins, send a re-engagement campaign to get your less active members on board. That might mean a special email to folks who haven't opened or clicked in the last three months or a holiday survey to find out what subscribers would like to hear from you this season.

+ See more details on list hygiene.
+ Read up on the "why" of customer surveys.

Consider frequency | Emma Email Marketing
3. Consider sending frequency and timing. According to Experian, email volume increases 15-20% during the holiday season, and volume is at its highest of the year during August – December. Response behavior, too, shows some interesting trends. Total clicks for Christmas emails peak one week after the holiday, possibly due to interest in post-holiday sales, while transactions peak three weeks prior. Take note of Experian's data as you plan this season's email campaigns. Capitalizing on deal-focused subscribers after the holidays might serve you well, or you may want to plan campaigns during off-peak times.

+ Master the art of the short holiday email.
+ Looking to gain donations? Use our free "donate" buttons.

4. Get social. In the past year, according to Media Post, social networks have surpassed search engines as the most visited batch of websites on the Internet. So make sure your subscribers have an easy way to share your emails with their friends and followers by enabling Social Sharing, and add easy-to-spot links to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages right on your emails. Moreover, think about how you'll adjust your messaging for the various channels — and if you'll run any channel-specific promotions or contests.

+ Do social media platforms have their own DNA? Read Grey Garner's take here.
+ Add an Emma signup screen to your Facebook page.

Design for mobile devices | Emma Email Marketing
5. Design for mobile devices. People stay busy during the holidays so it's your job to find creative ways to reach them on the go. Small screens — and big thumbs — mean you'll want to pay attention to your email's width, its image sizes and the number of links. Include the most important content near the top of the email — even folks who choose not to scroll will see it. And if you're sending coupons or discounts, consider allowing subscribers to use them right from their mobile devices when they're in-store.

+ Want more mobile design tips? Take a look here.
+ Get all of the buttons in your email to look just right.

6. Make it memorable. Best practices aside, it doesn't really matter how you do it, as long as you do it in a way that sticks in your subscribers' minds. Have fun with a Thanksgiving-themed contest. Make a top ten list inspired by Santa's reindeers. Include holiday photos in a standard Emma layout, or work with our graphic designers to come up with a fancy holiday campaign. However you slice it, if you present memorable content, you'll stand out in the inbox.

+ See examples of our designers' custom holiday work.
+ Request a seasonal design

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What about you? How are you preparing your emails for the holidays? What kinds of plans do you have up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments below, and here's to holiday emails that spread cheer!

Illustrations by Emma designer Lee Floyd

Exploring an A/B subject line split test

Setting up a split test is easy -- and about to get easier

If you'd told me back in college that tests would be fun someday, I'd have chucked the nearest Mountain Dew at you. But recently I've developed a whole new appreciation for the scientific method, and I'm here to testify that subject line split testing is the bee's knees.

Emma Agency Insider
Click to view August's Agency Insider.
And it's about to get a lot simpler in Emma. With our upcoming automated split testing feature, you'll be able to easily split a group of subscribers and test different subject lines among them, and then send the version that brings the best results to the remainder of your audience. It'll be just a matter of time until you're increasing open rates and re-energizing your audience base.

Of course, as we anticipate this new feature, it's possible to get ahead of the learning curve and do some manual split tests, too. We recently ran an A/B/C subject line split test in our July Roundup (Delaney wrote all about it here), and last month we tried a simple A/B test in our Agency Insider. Curious how it went down? Read on …

The school of the short subject line vs. the school of the long subject line

We deliver an Agency Insider to Emma's agency partners each month. By comparing mailings over time, we can eyeball every subject line vis à vis that campaign's open rate. We discovered that over the past quarter, three of our campaigns carried detailed subjects, and one bore a short one. And, in fact, the short subject line generated the highest open rate. However, its winning margin of less than one percent elicited the need for an A/B tiebreaker, leading us to our August test. We wanted to know which one our agency partners would respond to more: a quick subject line that grabs attention but doesn't give away much information or a descriptive subject line that could have the last few words hidden in the preview pane?

How we set it up

The process is fairly straightforward. We exported our agency audience, split it in half and imported back to Emma as two groups. Then, we made a copy of the campaign (saved as a new name) and gave each version a subject line:

  • Subject line A > Emma Agency Insider: See our split-test results, get tips for tough client conversations and more
  • Subject line B > Emma Agency Insider: We've got tests — and answers — to share

I hypothesized that we'd get a winner in B. More and more people read email on mobile devices, and having the entire subject line viewable seemed preferable. I was wrong. The longer headline is winning by a 3% margin so far. (Response metrics continue to collect in real-time, and while the vast majority of openings have happened, we expect a few more to occur over the next couple weeks.) It's not a very dramatic result, nor a wide enough margin to completely alter our subject line strategy, but it surprised me nonetheless.

Next time, we may choose to do a long/short test again, or maybe something different, such as removing the "Agency Insider" title from one version. We won't draw too many conclusions until we're able to test a number of variables — and a number of times.

Making tests work for you

Be a mad scientist of your own, and considering trying a few split tests to learn insights now that you can apply to future tests and future content. Even if your emails gain fairly solid open rates, it's worthwhile to mix things up. Added confidence and competence will be your result, even when your hunch is wrong.

And should you discover surprising results along the way, please share them here. I'd love to hear about the performance of your subject lines — or any other tests you do. We'll be sure to share more news about the split testing feature as it gets closer to release.

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Learn more about becoming an Emma agency. Inquire here.