I {heart} New York. I also {heart} trees.

There were 382 new customers who joined in November. Emma plants five trees for each new customer. If you just did the math in your head, and you came up with 1,910 trees, you're right. And you're pretty good at math.

Those trees are headed to New York State, thanks to the votes received last month on this blog. Our tree-planting partner, Plant-It 2020, will plant half of November's trees in the Empire State; the other half will go in an equatorial region of Plant-It 2020′s choice.

When we started this tree-planting thing this year, we hoped to be able to plant 10,000 trees, and we've doubled that (20,015) and there's still a month to go. Plant-It 2020 only lists 12 states where it plants trees, and only four have yet to be chosen by voters on this blog. One of them is getting December's trees. Tell us where.

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The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

5 ways to bundle holiday cheer into your emails

Daylight Savings Time gets me *every* year. Seriously. I go from having evenings filled with activities, to feeling like I should be in bed by 8:15 pm. But the cool thing about this year of early evenings is it's given me more time to delve into the bounty of holiday emails starting to roll in.

So, in the spirit of giving, I thought I'd share a couple points that have stood out in my season-laden inbox.

* Make it easy to forward. Whether it's to pass on an invitation or drop a subtle gift hint, make sure subscribers have an easy option to move the information along.

* Keep the holiday related information at the top. You've heard us preach about the 'above the fold' importance before, but it bears repeating. Turn the top 1/3 of your email into a virtual hub of reader engagement. Which…I'm not so sure is a real thing. But you understand, right?

* Get personal. People have fairly full inboxes in general. When the holiday season hits, they get even fuller. So take a moment and find three ways to get a little more intimate with your readers. I know I've been more apt to click through emails that are tailored for, well, me.

* Balance those images. I've received more emails with one large image this month than I have any other month. While I know rich images are tempting, be careful. Find a nice balance of images and text, and be sure to make the most of your alt tags.

* Be thankful. Let your readers know they're important to you. Whether it be a white paper, discount, or even a separate campaign, don't miss the opportunity to let your subscribers know what they've done to help you out over the past year.

So, happy holiday season, Emma blog readers. I hope you've latched onto a few ideas that will take your communication efforts to infinity. And beyond. Which is not a hint that I want anything Toy Story related this year. Or is it?

We’re making Washington even *more* evergreen

For every new customer that joins Emma, we plant 5 trees and let you decide where. For October, you told us to plant them in Washington and I thought, well, how appropriate. After all, it's autumn, and when I think of Washington and autumn I think of apples (naturally), and when I think of apples I think of applewood-smoked bacon (not so naturally).

I also think of trees, apple trees, sure, but also evergreen trees because Washington is the Evergreen State. Thanks to the 411 customers who joined the Emma community in October, our tree-planting partner, Plant-It 2020, will have 2,055 new trees to plant. Half of the new trees will be planted in Washington; the other half in an equatorial region of Plant-It 2020′s choice.

Emma customers who've joined us this year have planted 18,105 trees so far. But we're not done yet. Let us know where we should plant November's trees. Thanks.

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Yet another way to use the alt tag - ask your readers to load the images

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Part five in a multi-part series on alt tags (read parts one, two and three and four)

I kind of thought four posts on alt tags was approaching overkill, but when this email came in, I knew number five needed to happen. I realized that sometimes the images aren't just part of the message, they are the message. Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? If so, this post is for you.

For NerdyShirts, no branding, styling or calling to action in the alt tag would quite do the trick. People only buy t-shirts after they've seen them (of course!), so they've dedicated the alt tag to encouraging just that – 'Enable Images to View Pictures!', it says.

I think they could take it to the next level, too. Something like, 'NerdyShirts is having a sale! Enable images to see the featured t-shirts.' Take a look at the before and after screenshots….

Pushing alt tags to the max

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Part four of a five part series on alt tags (read parts one, two and three)

For those who cringe at drab, electric blue alt tags, this post is for you. The alt tag doesn't have to interrupt the brand experience you've worked so hard to create. In fact, with some html knowledge, your backup plan can actually reinforce it – color scheme, font and all.

Take a look at this example from the March of Dimes. The header space is shared between the March of Dimes and Shutterfly, and each logo has an alt tag that is styled – the font face, the color and the size. All done to match the feel of the email once the images load. If you haven't turned images off in your inbox lately, give it a try for a few days and I think you'll share my appreciation. This email stands out in a big way because it doesn't have that 'I'm looking at code under the hood until I click to view images' feel. Know what I mean?

PS If you're uploading your own html and want to tweak your own alt tags, drop me an email. I have a screenshot of the code behind the March of Dimes email you can use as a guide.

Making the most of your alt tags

Part three of a five part series on alt tags (read parts one and two)

In part two, I pointed out that the alt tag is a great place to brand your message. It communicates who you are and connects with the recipient, even without the help of images or your logo.

Levi's has taken the next step and added the offer* to their alt tag. It's a link, too, so the image loading is really just icing on the cake for them. The message comes through, regardless. Nice work, Levi's.

How about your own campaigns? Has the alt tag topic made it to your marketing meetings? Did you make a change that made a difference in your response numbers?

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*I also like how they've added the offer in text above the email. Even Outlook's unique image blocking message can't slow this email down!

Show some love to your email subscribers

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It's an honor to receive a new email address, isn't it? Each new address represents someone who knows and trusts you, and wants to stay in touch. In light of that, we can all take a cue from the PETCO marketing team and offer something unique to our email subscribers to say thanks. For them, it's 15% off with no minimum order. What would make your audience feel appreciated?

I'm curious, have you ever sent out an email-only offer? What was it? Did you get good results?

Ain’t no stoppin’ us now…

Thanks to our growing customer base, we've successfully planted 16,050 trees since January. I'll spell that out, just so the significance of that number really soaks in: Sixteen thousand fifty trees. Some may call that a friggin' forest. And I'd agree.

So let's keep the proverbial ball rolling, shall we? Take a moment to vote where the trees from our new October customers will be planted.

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September hit the bullseye in the Buckeye state. With 397 new accounts coming on board, we planted 1,985 trees in Ohio. If you'd like to get your state on our tree planting list, reach out to the sweet folks at Plant-It 2020 and let them know. How 'bout a goal of getting all fifty states up there by 2010? Who's with me now?!

Best in Show…Email Style.

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you're a bit of an email marketer. Probably a stylish one, at that. So, to reward you for your email savvy (and your blog subscribing prowess), I thought you might be interested in MarketingSherpa's 2009 Email Marketing Awards competition.

Dig through your archived campaigns to grab your best examples – perhaps you had a record number of sign-ups for a promotional campaign, or an engaging newsletter that boosted web traffic. Whatever the email, this is your opportunity to receive those accolades of praise you've deserved all along.

Click here for the entry form and information, and good luck!

What do your latest email subscribers think of your latest email campaign?

This summer, I unexpectedly found myself planning a cruise. Not a bad gig, I know. As always, I was handing out my email address when I inquired about trips, curious to see the email campaigns of another segment of the email marketing world.

That was early July.

Now, it's nearly October, and I'm just now getting the first email campaign from one of the cruise brokers. Three months ago, I would have loved to have seen the specials. Today, I opted out.

How can you make sure the same thing doesn't happen to your brand? Here are 3 quick ideas.

-> Send a welcome email note. People are most interested in your newsletter right when they sign up for them. Sending an automatic welcome note (through your email service provider's trigger email or autoresponder feature) matches the timing of your message with your subscriber's interest.

-> Send regularly. The ideal email frequency varies for each sender, in unique industries, based on individual goals. But letting three months go between email campaigns can cause once-interested subscribers to forget why they wanted your updates to begin with. If you're not sure where to start with email frequency, try sending every three weeks and adjust accordingly.

-> Think about new subscribers every time you send an email campaign. It's easy to think of your upcoming email campaign as the next in long line of emails you've sent, but remember that it's also the *first* campaign that some folks will see. Look at your email from the perspective of a first-time reader, and see how that mindset shapes your content.

What are you doing to shape your a subscriber's experience in the first few weeks of joining your email list?