5 questions for Premise

Patti Faulker | Founder of Premise Advertising
Patti founded Premise in 2003.

Patti Faulkner is the founder and owner of Colorado-based Premise Advertising and Premise E-Connect, the agency's email marketing division. She was kind enough to take some time out of a busy Monday to answer five questions.

Tell me a little bit about your shop, Patti.
I'm a really small shop. I have one other full-time employee and one part-time employee. And I have anywhere from two to eight freelancers working for me at any given time. Our size has given me a lot of flexibility with scale. In addition to running Premise Advertising, I'm also a mom of three, which makes my business the perfect size. It's small enough that I get to work with every one of my clients and not have to solely worry about running the business side of things.

We're a full branding firm, so for most of our clients, we've developed their entire brand. From their logo to their website, to their on-site marketing materials, like brochures — we have them covered. We work on their online presence through email, online advertisements and SEO because it really is one of the most cost-effective ways that you can get out there.

What Emma feature could you or your clients not live without? Which feature has had the biggest effect on your bottom line?
It's a very simple and basic tool, but it's the ease of creating a group and being able to copy people from one group to another. Being able to easily select members that are in multiple categories and groups, then sending them very, very specific emails — that's phenomenal. Honestly, that's the one thing that pulls people over to my solution time and time again. I set up their email systems a little like a CRM, so that no matter who your client is — if it's a restaurant and you're looking at your lunch crowd, or if it's real estate and it's people who are looking for a two bedroom — we can drill right down and send very targeted messages.

We typically get anywhere between a 28% and 36% open rate because we are very specific and targeted when sending our emails. That has to do with groups. I also do a lot of work on the backend to make sure I have a lot of detailed information about my clients' members, so I can find those segments. That's my number one, most-used tool in Emma.

I know that sounds very simple, but I don't think that people really think about how intentional and targeted you can be by using groups and searches. At any given moment, my clients will know how many people are in their lunch crowd, how many people signed up on a certain campaign and how many people are from their Facebook account. It's nice because people care when they think that you know who they are.

What's your "niche?" Why is it that new clients decide to come on board with you?
My biggest advantage is that I have both corporate and design backgrounds. So I really think very strategically about each client and how they can position themselves most effectively.

Who is your brand crush and why?
Southwest Airlines. They have done an amazing job at branding themselves with their "We Love You" campaign. From their online presence to when you get on a plane, you know that everyone that works there supports that motto. They've definitely personalized the enormous airline industry that's, otherwise, so impersonal.

Who's the one person or band you'd like to see live that you haven't seen yet?
Well, I'm originally from Seattle, so music is huge there. I've pretty much trucked and seen a lot of my favorites. So, it's hard for me to think of someone I haven't seen. I just saw one of my coveted favorites, Eddy Vedder from Pearl Jam perform acoustically at a private concert. Before that, I would have said "to see Pearl Jam play again." I'm still waiting on the Pearl Jam come-back tour, though.

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Emma at a Glance

Not a customer yet? Interested in seeing more about the features Emma offers? Take a look at Emma at a Glance — it's a meeting-ready PDF that highlights Emma's email marketing features and pricing.

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Comparing email results across several mailings

Part four of four to building an effective engagement strategy

And the winner is…

If you've taken our lead and done some testing recently, you may be ready to find out how different mailings stacked up against one another. We wouldn't send you on your way without providing some guidance as to what to do when the mailings are complete. Our compare mailings feature is the perfect way to find out what practices you want to keep and what should be left behind. You may discover things about your audience you never knew. Get ready to compare mailings, and find out which test is the winner. (Time to settle up on those bets, eh?)

Compare mailings

Compare your mailings to see how they performed.

What is the compare mailings feature?

The compare mailings feature, found in the response section of your account, allows you to compare up to five mailings at a time. You can see an overall summary of the mailings as well as compare the opens and clicks among the five. This is the perfect way to see which subject line your audience members preferred or perhaps which types of links got more clicks (image links vs. text links, for example). You aren't obligated to choose five mailings to compare; if you'd rather just compare a simple A/B subject test, choose the appropriate two mailings to compare.

Why compare your mailings?

Comparing your results not only allows you to see which of your tests proved more successful, but if a mailing's response rates seem particularly low, you can do some sleuthing to find out why. Maybe you're in the practice of sending on the first of every month. If the first happened to fall on a Friday and subsequently suffered particularly low results, you may realize you should always send on the first Wednesday of the month instead. It may sound simple, but the purpose of comparing results is to be proactive; use what your response rates are telling you to guide future strategy.

How to compare mailings in Emma

Emma makes comparing your mailings super simple. You are just a few clicks away from determining the winners of all the testing work you've done over the past few weeks. Click on the Compare Mailings button in the top right of your main response screen. On the next screen, check (up to five) campaigns from the list and click Compare Mailings. Or, after you've selected to view a particular campaign, you can click the Compare Mailings button to compare that particular campaign to others. The Excel spreadsheet will show you a breakdown of the campaigns you selected and a summary of all the numbers combined. Once you see the winner of the tests, you'll be able to choose which strategies to keep and what to leave behind.

Wrapping up the series on engagement

From part one of this blog series, where I wrote about triggers, to parts two and three, where I gave tips on list hygiene and new strategies for more personalized campaigns, we've covered a lot of ground.

I'd love to hear how you're thinking about engagement. What tests are you running, and how are you gauging the success of your mailings? Have you compared mailings recently, and what has it revealed? Or do you have a different set of metrics in mind that I haven't mentioned to validate your mailing success?

If you're using triggers, personalization or other strategies to boost your response, let me know in the comments below.

Segmenting your audience list

How to differentiate your email audience based upon the customer life cycle

If you have more than one, you're off to a good start, but don't stop there. Dividing your audience into unique segments allows you to send targeted, relevant messages to those groups. You can find plenty of examples of segmentation helping conversion rates, but it's also just logical — if you only send messages that are likely to interest each group of recipients, you'll do better as a marketer.

How, though, do you define what is "likely to interest" any particular customer or group of customers? Dividing your audience among demographic lines is one way to do it, but a certain age, gender or location can still return quite an array of people — and some of those people aren't going to connect with your messaging.

Where do your email recipients fit into the customer life cycle?

A brand new customer has different needs than a long-standing customer; a prospect who's just collecting information has an entirely different set of needs. When you present subscribers with information that meets them where they are in the customer life cycle, it reduces the "noise" they have to wade through and makes it easier for them to purchase. That, in turn, improves your bottom line.

Econsultancy describes the five stages of the email life cycle and then dives into the specifics of each. Prospect, welcome, single buyer, multi-buyer and dormant are all categories that your recipients may fall into, and you may have others, depending upon your business. Are you initiating your new customers and reactivating your old ones, without confusing overlap?

search and segment
Use our search and segment feature to target your list.

Keep in mind that your list can turn over as much as one-third every year, so growing your list and activating the new members should be a priority. That means welcoming these folks more intentionally than just adding them to your usual stream of sends.

Take a look at the five major email life cycle stages, and think through how you can use email to reach them. Triggers are a good way to welcome new subscribers, and our search and segment feature can help you find those dormant readers. (If you're an Emma agency, share this trigger documentation and this search and segment documentation with your clients.*)

For a bit more reading on this topic, tactics for effective B2B email segmentation can provide additional details on how to properly classify your readers. Tell us how it goes, and let us know if we can help along the way.

* Are you an Emma agency? Share the links from our Agency Help Guide with your clients to support their email marketing efforts. This Help Guide is geared toward accounts within the agency structure, which have their own unique settings and offerings.

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Emma at a Glance

Not a customer yet? Interested in seeing more about the features Emma offers? Take a look at Emma at a Glance — it's a meeting-ready PDF that highlights Emma's email marketing features and pricing.

Want to work at Emma? Our design team is hiring.

If photo filters, inline styles and masterful pop ballads are your jam, you just might need to join the Emma design team.

Emma's Nashville office is looking to expand our design team, composed of quite possibly the very finest graphic designers in the universe (seriously!). If you have powerhouse design skills and like the idea of working with creative (and creatively nicknamed) folks such as "Lizard," "Crigsy" and "Lojo," you could be just what we're looking for.

The right candidate, of course, would be more than just a wizard at design. Excellent customer service is one of Emma's highest priorities, and, as a member of our team, you would be interacting directly with clients throughout the day to help them achieve their most stylish of email goals. Because of that, you would need to have superb communication skills – both written and verbal – to ensure that your designs are backed up by an overall experience that is nothing short of awesome.

What else do we want? Innovation, collaboration and *maybe* occasional participation in impromptu dance parties, sing-alongs or cake-eating circles. We do like our cake.

If it sounds like we're speaking your language, we'd love to hear from you. Learn more about the position or apply here.

5 questions for Gussy Sews

Gussy
Gussy is as enthusiastic about her craft as she is about her customers.

Meet Gussy, the girl behind the ruffles. This self-taught seamstress creates colorful, one-of-a-kind totes, headbands, laptop bags and more, all finished off with the signature Gussy Sews ruffle.

As someone who loves sewing and all things ruffled, I was thrilled Gussy took the time to answer a few of my questions.

What Emma feature do you love the most and how are you using it?
I love that the Gussy Sews community can sign up for my newsletter and receive a welcome email within minutes. I know it's a simple feature, but it's just what they need. It works well for my business because it's automatic — I don't have to do anything for it to be sent. Psst: I include a discount code in there.

Have you used Emma's Social Sharing feature? How do you integrate your email strategy with social media?
Yes, I have! I think it's a really great feature and have noticed some of my subscribers using it, which is fab. I like to include at least one social media link and prompt in each newsletter. Sometimes I link to a recent blog post; other times I encourage subscribers to follow our updates on Twitter or Facebook. Both social media sites have been helpful in growing the business.

I'm always excited to see a new Gussy item. Where do you draw inspiration for new products?
I love that my items are not only practical but very versatile! I use them constantly and so my inspiration is drawn from personal experience. I am totally an organizer. I love to have a smaller Gussy items inside a larger bag, but also be able to grab that small item and run into the store quickly. I *love* to keep our products fun, bright and fresh in fabric design.

Any tips for sewing beginners?
Visit the library and take advantage of their craft collection. If you're starting a new type of craft, like sewing, you may not know what your learning style is. Borrowing books is a really inexpensive way to test out the style of many different successful crafters. I share this from personal experience. When I was learning how to sew, I checked out 30 library books and watched many tutorials on YouTube. My technique is a combination of various crafters, plus a dash of my own (learned) technique.

Gussy Sews
One of Gussy's signature items

I've read that you're all about organizing and *not* about multi-tasking – can you share more about that?
This is a new discovery for me. Writing a blog daily and running an online shop is so much work, and lately I've felt like not enough was getting checked off my to-do list. I've written down my priorities — what's important to me as a person and business owner, along with what I want my day-to-day to be like. It became pretty clear that not multi-tasking would allow me to complete a task quickly and accurately. And organizing, do you really want me to go there? wink Every day we walk the house before bed and put things away. My studio is always cleaned up before the lights are shut off. These two things are so helpful, especially since I work from home and have two assistants that work for me. I think it eliminates a lot of chaos, too.

Want to know more about Gussy? Check out the Gussy Sews collection, and visit her blog. Better yet, sign up to receive the Gussy Sews newsletter.

A roundup of articles in our Ask Emma series

A roundup of articles in our Ask Emma email series

Ask Emma
In our Ask Emma email Q&A series, we take a frequently asked question from the Emma community and do our best to supply a helpful, concise answer. We're often asked if "Sheepish in Charlotte" or "Blanking Out in Santa Fe" are real customers.

While they're our fictitious spin on the Q&A series, their questions draw from the curiosities of real email Emma customers.

Ask Emma Has Email Marketing Answers

If you've not had a chance to read the Ask Emma series, start by checking out the newest article of the bunch:

And here are a few other "Ask Emma" popular articles:

Does Your Q Need an A?  Ask Emma!
Do you have a burning Q that needs an A? Let us know in the comments below. (Bonus points if you give yourself a nickname like "Inquisitive in Iowa.")

We're looking forward to hearing from you!

Split testing your emails

A few Emma customers illustrate different ways of testing

I like to remind Emma customers to send their campaigns to their Emma test group before sending to their entire audience, but I'm not sure I stress enough the importance of split testing. To find out what really works for your unique audience, create two versions of the same campaign and see what kind of effect a particular variable has on your open rates.

What kinds of variables? Glad you asked. Let's take a closer look at three customers and three different variables.

Peru Mission
Emma agency: Outbox Design + Marketing
Their client: Peru Mission
Split test: Subject line

Peru Mission, a client of Emma agency Outbox Design + Marketing, sends monthly email campaigns to their audience of over 3,000 recipients. They split their audience in half in February and sent a campaign with two different subject lines: A) February News from Peru Mission vs. B) University Students Explore Christianity, Women's Group Forms, Parish Furniture Evolves, and Trujillo Homecomings.

Let's break down some assumptions about subject lines before we dive into the results. Many marketers will tell you that a shorter subject line is better than a longer one; in this case, subject line A wins the battle for length, coming in at 31 characters, while subject line B contains 113 characters. And then there's the issue of uniqueness. We've told you that a generic subject line is no good, and that you're better off giving a teaser of the content to come. In that case, subject line B edges out subject line A.

So, what happened in Peru Mission's test? The results may surprise you, as they did Heidi MacDonald, who manages their monthly emails. The campaign with subject line A received a whopping 45.18% open rate, and subject line B came in with a strong — but much lower — 22.55% open rate. Shall Heidi chalk it up to her subscribers recognizing and preferring the shorter subject line? She could, but she's smarter than that.

She was skeptical of the results and took a closer look. Heidi says, "I began to suspect that the way we split the list [alphabetically] was not fair. After a little more investigation, we discovered that though the lists were split alphabetically, the second list (the one who received the long subject line) was full of email addresses without recipient names. Any email address we had that we didn't have more information for (i.e. first and last name) went to that second list. And probably, the less information we have for somebody, the less likely they are to be interested in the Mission and the less likely they are to open the email."

Heidi went a step further to prove her theory right. In March, she split the list randomly, and sent their March campaign with two subject lines — one short and generic, the other long and specific. And the open rates turned out evenly (32.44% and 32.11%). As Heidi has discovered, "The people who read the emails are generally going to read no matter what the subject line is because they are interested in what we have to say."

What I love about Heidi's split test is that it revealed something completely different than what she initially set out to discover. She may not need to closely focus on subject line strategy going forward, but now she can spend some time figuring out how to better engage the audience members for whom she knows little about. She could send a survey to find out more about them, or send a targeted campaign asking them to manage their email preferences.

Halogen
Emma agency: Halogen
Split test: RSVP address

Wes Bentley of Halogen was game to test two RSVP addresses, the email address that your email appears to be from when it lands in your recipients' inboxes. He sent two identical campaigns in March — one sent from hello@halogen-design.com, the other sent from his personal email address at the company.

Both addresses are valid email addresses and both provide brand awareness (they have the @halogen-design.com domain in common) so the question here was whether or not recipients would respond differently to receiving an email from an alias versus an individual.

You might expect an email from an individual to perform better than one sent from a company alias. It's seems more personal, right? However, for some audiences, it's actually more important that your RSVP address remain consistent. For one thing, subscribers may grow accustomed to looking out for emails from that address. Secondly, it's likely the address that they've already added to their safe sender list or address book.

In Wes' case, hello@halogen-design.com is the address he typically sends from, and it's the one that performed slightly better — a 20.4% open rate versus a 17.1% open rate for the personal address. Still, there's not much of a spread here, and it may be worthwhile to to run a few more tests in the future.

The Ark
Emma customer: The Ark Church Split test: Time of day

Kyle Kutter manages The Ark Church's media and communications and sends emails to an audience of more than 7,000 subscribers. In February, he split the audience and tested two send-times: 9:00 am and 3:00 pm. Kyle says that he typically sends between 9 and 11 in the morning, so trying an afternoon send was something different. And different can be good. If you don't try something new, you don't have anything to compare to.

Kyle's open rates were very similar — 18.06% for the 9:00 am send and 17.17% for the 3:00 pm send — and as he explained to me over the phone, he was surprised the afternoon send provided nearly the same open rate. It could be that, like Heidi of Peru Mission discovered, Kyle's most engaged readers will open no matter what time they receive the email. (And keep in mind that no matter what time you send, the times folks receive the email will depend upon how quickly their servers accept it.) In fact, most of his audience members are people who've filled out a signup form right in The Ark Church building. They have a direct connection to The Ark Church, and as a result, Kyle sees very low opt-out rates.

Still, if an afternoon versus a morning send-time doesn't make a huge difference, Kyle says he'd like to strategize ways to increase his open rates. He mentioned doing a content shake-up, such as changing the visual format of his campaigns or moving the social share buttons. And he'd like to segment the regular openers into their own group and send specifically to them.

If these three split tests didn't reveal different results, what's the point?
Maybe it's tempting to look at these results and return to the same ol' way (and when and how) you're sending emails. But you'd be missing out on the silver lining here. Whether or not these split tests revealed drastic differences in open rates, they did reveal subtler — and more significant — steps these customers can take to segment and better engage their audience.

And since you've got your own unique audience members with their own habits and behaviors, your split tests might reveal something else entirely. If you're ready to test a few variables, give these a try:

  • Subject line
  • RSVP from name or address
  • Send time based on time of day
  • Send time based on day of week (maybe a weekday versus a Saturday or Sunday)

And try these variables for testing click-throughs:

  • Placement of the the key story in the campaign
  • Copy of a call-to-action button
  • Personalization variations (such as opening with a personal salutation versus none)

We'd love to hear how your testing goes. And if you have a compelling test to share and would like to be featured in a blog post, let us know!

Variety is the spice of email

Part three of four to building an effective engagement strategy

It's time to think just a bit more about effectively targeting your most and least engaged readers. If you missed parts one and two of this series, give them a read here and here. And today, we'll talk about new things you can try to reach a level of response you'll want to write home about.

Trying something different can be a bit unnerving, require a few rounds of testing and even a little research. Why would you want to take on something that sounds like, well, a lot of work? The answer is simple. Just like your mother always taught you, "Variety is the spice of life." The same goes for email. Mixing things up may reveal new strategies that work better than the old, as well as new things about your audience's behaviors and preferences.

Creating personalized emails

Creating personalized emails means much more than merging a name into the body of your emails. While it's nice to call someone by name, why not go a step further and get specific with the content as well? Targeting members based on location, interests and even something as simple as the weather in their region is a way to connect with them on a personal level. (Check out some of Emma's advanced personalization options here.) Marketing Sherpa reports that 64% of people they surveyed were willing to share personal preferences in return for a more personalized online shopping experience. The email addresses in your audience aren't just addresses. They're real people. You wouldn't carry on the exact same conversation with every person in your audience face-to-face, so why do it in email?

rainy day campaign
Special offers brighten up a rainy day.

Experimenting with subject lines

Another variable to test with your audience members is the length of your subject line. Return Path shows that click-through rates can be 75% higher in emails that have subject lines with 49 or fewer characters versus subject lines with 50 or more. Do you have better luck with super short subject lines? Have you done some testing with vague, quirky subject lines compared to content-specific lines? Picking two distinctly different subject lines to test may provide you with surprising answers for what your audience prefers. Feel free to test your intuition regarding subject lines here.

subject comparison
Test different subject lines to find out what works for your audience.

Determining sending frequency

Your sending frequency is another great variable to test. Email Stat Center reports that 54% of people who unsubscribe from permission-based emails do so because they're receiving emails too frequently. We've also mentioned how sending too infrequently can cause problems with bounces and keeping your list current. To determine how often your audience wants to receive your campaigns, you could ask in a survey format, allow them to choose during the signup process or do some testing. Experiment with sending frequency, and compare opens, clicks and opt-out rates to gauge your audience's engagement.

What works for one person's audience may not be the same thing that gets your list actively engaged. Don't be afraid to spice it up and see how your audience responds. There is no need to settle for mediocre response rates when a spiffed-up subject line or more personalized content is all that's standing in the way of stellar response rates.

Tell us what works for you, and join me for the final installment of the series, where I'll discuss comparing mailings and checking out how your results stack up.

5 questions for LUXE Design Group

Heather Shelby
Meet Heather Shelby.

Heather Shelby runs online marketing agency LUXE Design Group out of Saint Joseph, Michigan. As the owner, principal and sole full-time employee, she relies on a handful of freelancers to help build and maintain websites for her clients. She's been an Emma client for six years and is next in line for our 5 questions.

Tell me about LUXE Design Group and what sets you apart from your competition.
We're an online marketing agency. My degree is in graphic design, so when that's combined with programming talent, the website has the right look and functionality. We're very strong with the visual part.

You found using Emma to be particularly helpful in driving online sales for a winery in your area. Tell me more about that.
We set up an e-commerce site for Round Barn Winery and doubled their online revenue in the first nine months. We used Emma to send a survey to customers and found out that people didn't know you could make purchases on the site. We sent emails to let people know, and we regularly email the winery's customer base, with Christmas and Thanksgiving having very successful online sales due to email marketing. Any time they don't hit an online sales goal, it's because we didn't send an email.

What's your secret for staying up-to-date on design trends and industry news?
I read and subscribe to a lot of email newsletters. I've got a folder called "examples" where I file them all away and look to them for inspiration. I loved a recent Qdoba email that promoted a Valentine's Day special; they always do great work. I also look to other agencies for expertise, like Oneupweb.

As an agency owner, who do you turn to for advice on running your business?
I read the Entrepreneur newsletter and follow the work of David Baker and Blair Enns to help me run my business. I recommend David's book, The Financial Management of a Marketing Firm. I was two chapters in and couldn't help wishing I had had this book when I started my business eight years ago.

Tell me about your current brand crush.
I love Dave Ramsey. Everybody at that company is so in line with his philosophy. It's an amazing company and what they do for people is amazing.

Also, Jeep. I am a Jeep Girl through and through. I have a Wrangler Sahara, and my husband has a Grand Cherokee. We even have Jeep power wheels for the kids! Jeep really gets to know their audience and actually talk to them. We went to Camp Jeep in the Poconos one year, and they have engineers there talking to owners about what they like, don't like, want, etc. The Rubicon was actually created from talking to owners. It's a very fun brand.