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Open rates, simplified

Practical advice for boosting your email opens, just in time for the holidays

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "How can I improve my open rate?" I'd probably have all my holiday shopping done by now (okay, that's wishful thinking). But it's a question on all of our minds as we put valuable time and resources toward creating and sending email campaigns. And while many variables play into the open rate of an email (time of day, time of year, even the weather), I've got some practical tips for boosting opens you can apply to your own email strategy today.

Emma Open Rates
A 40% open rate? Not too shabby.


Brand your from name, from email address and your subject line
These are the first things that folks see when they receive your emails, so your "from name" and email address should be instantly recognizable and branded. Unless you're Mark Zuckerburg, it might make sense for you to send emails from a more brand-specific email address like, with your company's name listed as the "from name." Not sure if changing your sending details will help or hurt your brand? This Mark Brownlow article will walk you through a little self-analysis.

Next, let's talk subject lines. Here's a simple subject line axiom: They should be concise and feature your most important or most interesting information. Don't forget to add your brand voice and personality in there, either. Oh, and by all means, steer clear of the ever-so-boring "December Newsletter," and be sure to check out Molly's post on holiday subject lines that work.

Segment your audience and send relevant information to the right people.
The art of segmenting and sending targeted messages will determine the fate of your open rate. While the old "batch and blast" approach may work for some companies, segmenting is key to getting the most out of your email marketing. Here are two ways to try segmenting.

1. By demographic data

  • Location. If you're collecting postal code during signup, you can find members who are closest to your brick and mortar location. Send these folks a campaign that highlights an in-store event or promotion.
  • Age. If you're collecting the birthdays for your new audience members, you can easily segment them by age and target a specific age range with your new product.
  • Gender. If you have separate product lines for men and women, have new subscribers choose their gender on your signup form. Send targeted messages by dividing those guys and gals into separate groups.
  • Customer status. The types of messages you send prospects should be different from those you send to established customers. Track where audience members are in the customer lifecycle as a custom member field so you can send prospects more promotional messages and send existing customers a feedback survey or event invitation.

2. By response information
Divide your subscribers along activity lines. Audience activity is a good representation of how engaged your subscribers are, and you can treat your most engaged subscribers a bit differently. Since engagement is monitored in the response section through opens and clicks, you can create segments based on those numbers.

The benefit of response-based segmenting is that you can connect with your more engaged groups more regularly, or with special VIP offers. It also highlights which audience members are less engaged, and you can decide whether it's time to drop them from your regular mailings or attempt a re-engagement campaign to get them back in your good graces.

Keep in mind that each year up to one-third of email addresses become inactive or turn over due to job changes and deleted email accounts. Emfluence Insights has some handy tips for reconnecting with subscribers who hard bounce, but try not to take it too personally if audience members don't re-engage. You're better off reserving your marketing efforts for those who already care about who you are and what you're doing. Check out Mary's series on engagement for more advice.

Want to share your own secret to great open rates? Comment here and let us know your success story.

This is part two in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. To see part one, click here.


Request a holiday design from Emma's design team before December 12th to avoid the rush.

With Emma, you're in good company. Meet our Customers.

Drive traffic to your site with free seasonal buttons

Add these downloadable buttons to your campaign for a stylish call to action just in time for the holidays

With Halloween behind us, it's suddenly time to start digging in and really preparing for this year's holiday season. If you've read Molly's post, you've already learned some handy tips for crafting your holiday email strategy. But what about spicing up your copy with some visual content?


Free Seasonal Buttons | Emma Email Marketing
In the spirt of holiday giving, we've created 12 free buttons that you can download right here to use in your own mailings. These buttons will work as a fabulous call to action for your readers, attracting more attention than a simple text link – and therefore driving more traffic to your site.


And so, if you're planning on treating customers to a holiday special to drive your end-of-year sales (and really, why wouldn't you?), try replacing your normal call to action with one of these. We've created a number of styles from vintage to modern that work with a variety of designs and fit with multiple holidays.

Are you promoting a sale that will span from Thanksgiving to New Year's? Just use one of the holiday-neutral buttons to cover the full spectrum. Advertising a December-only special? Try one with a more season-specific color scheme or wintry design to play up the immediacy of your promotion.

To access the buttons, download the zipped package and simply decide which design(s) you'd like to use. From there, upload the PNG file for your chosen button to your Emma mailing, then link the image to your website and you're set! And of course, these are saved with transparent backgrounds — so don't worry if your content area has a background color other than white.

You don't have to stop there, though. Check out this year's holiday design offerings to request a special seasonal design that will go perfectly with that shiny new button. And if you find yourself staring at a blank page when you sit down to write your message, take a look at our content templates for key email campaigns to give you a jumpstart.

With these tools, I hope that your holiday email plans will go smoothly, and that your holiday stress will be limited to detangling icicle lights. (Have you heard of pre-lit trees, my friend?)


Want to help your favorite nonprofit this holiday season? Check out last year's free buttons specifically for charities!

The results of Emma’s holiday survey

How you responded & what we've got in store. Plus, we announce the winner!

Last month, we asked you to take our holiday survey and tell us a bit about your email marketing goals, habits and interests — especially as they relate to your holiday marketing plans. We were thrilled to receive so many thoughtful responses, and I'd like to share the results with you. Some of the answers really surprised us, and the experience highlights just how important it is to eliminate assumptions and ask your audience.

Take a look at how you answered below, and hear what we've got in store this season to assist you. Plus, find out a few tips for creating your own surveys and the winner of our survey prize!

1. Choose 3 things from the list below that you'd like to learn more about.


Emma_Response _ Survey Overview


Since we asked you to pick three answers, we knew there'd be a healthy split among them. And we're already thinking of ways to provide quick tips and to make your holiday emails look as fresh and festive as possible. Take a look at Mary's five tips for retaining and attracting subscribers. Then, head on over to Emma's 2011 Holiday Design Spectacular, and check out the holiday templates we've designed for your seasonal invitations, promos and greetings.

2. What article types on the Emma blog are most beneficial to you? Choose all that apply.


Emma_Survey Overview_Question_2


We're glad to know that you continue to find value in our posts with email best practices and tips, and that you like our design showcases as much as we do. Throughout the holiday season, we'll provide even more, including this recent holiday design showcase.

3. Where do you most often read your emails?


Emma_Survey Overview_Question_3


There's lots of talk about designing emails for mobile these days, and with good reason — nearly 31% of mobile users in the U.S. access email on their phones. But, it's also important to remember that the vast majority of subscribers haven't booted email activity on their computers in favor of their phones. If we're ever in a pickle where we must decide between how an email looks on a desktop computer versus a mobile device, we can make a case for designing for our desktop readers.

4. How many email inboxes do you manage? (Choose closest answer.)


Emma_Survey Overview_Question_4


This response surprised us more than any other. Boy, you guys are busy! Three inboxes is a lot to manage, and 14% of you manage even more than that. Your responses encourage us to keep our Emma Roundups packed with solid offerings each month — we want to make sure ours is an email worth opening.

5. How many emails do you send out from Emma on a monthly basis?


Emma_Survey Overview_Question_5


These results are a fairly close match to the sending behaviors of our entire customer base; in fact, more than 60% of our customers send 5,000 emails or less each month. In an industry where it's easy to get hung up on list size, remember that it's the quality of your list, not its size, that matters.

6. Which social network do you use most frequently?


Emma_Survey Overview_Question_6


Another surprising answer. We expected Facebook to lead the pack, but we didn't expect it to lead by such an overwhelming margin. Perhaps it's a false consensus bias of mine: I use Twitter so frequently that I wrongly assumed that more of you did, too. This becomes a question that could launch a separate survey. We'd love to know more about why you use Facebook most frequently, if you manage a personal or business account and, if you use multiple social networks, how you differentiate your usage. And do say hi to Emma on Facebook, too!

7. What sites, blogs and resources do you use to improve your email marketing?

We had two motives when asking this question: to find out which sites you find most useful and to add some new sites to our everyday reads. We received too many great answers to list them all, but here are some of the sites that came up again and again (go ahead, add 'em to your Google Reader): Mashable, HubSpot, Email Experience Council, iMedia Connection, MarketingProfs, Marketo, Inc., Fast Company, ClickZ, CMO, Which Test Won, American Marketing Association, Sender Score, Open Forum, Marketing Sherpa, Seth Godin's blog and eMarketer.

8. Fill in the blank. When it comes to my holiday emails this year, I'm most concerned about ______.


Emma_Survey Overview_Question_8


Based on your response to this question, we're excited to be planning some style-specific articles for your holiday email campaigns. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, check out these articles:

9. Say that Santa has a magical elf who only answers North Pole mail dealing with email marketing questions. What would you ask him?

This was a fun one! We received so many excellent questions — some serious, some a bit silly — and we'll be featuring the most common in a series of Q&A posts this season.


Want to send a survey to your customers? Here are five tips:

  1. Provide some intro text to explain the purpose of the survey, how long it'll take to complete and what respondents should expect to get out of it. If you neglect to provide this information, why should anyone respond? You've got to know your purpose first, then design and promote the survey.
  2. Start with a few fun, engaging questions. This helps to hook respondents and set momentum right off the bat.
  3. Design questions that get at what you really want to know. When I first designed our survey, question #6 asked, "Which social network is your favorite?" A colleague pointed out that it'd be a difficult question for respondents to answer — Favorite right now? Favorite of all time? A network I like the most but maybe don't use a lot? — and that it wouldn't provide information we'd be able to draw reliable conclusions from. So, instead, I changed the question to "Which social network do you use most frequently?" This more clearly gets at what I want to know — where folks spend most of their time.
  4. Save demographic questions for the end — and make them optional. Putting your demographic questions at the beginning is boring at best and alienating at worst. Leave them for the end, and give folks the freedom to answer some or none of them.
  5. Keep it short. Appreciate that your customers are busy, and they're probably not inclined to take a survey that requires more than five minutes of their time. You can still collect very valuable information in 10 questions or less. Giving yourself a limit also forces you to cut out the fluff and make each question matter.


Who won the survey prize, you ask? We used to pick a winner at random, and the winner is … Lauri Young of Quantum Bank. She's won a month's worth of free emails on us. Congrats, Lauri!


Get into the holiday spirit. Request a Readymade design from Emma's design team.


Emma Agencies weigh in on Facebook’s new metrics

With the recent changes to Facebook's Insights, our agency partners are learning more about their audience

In the past few years, Facebook has embraced marketers more than ever. And, recently, they rolled out several changes to the data available to page administrators. It provides an even deeper look into your audience. In fact, you may be able to extrapolate and learn a bit about your market in other channels, too.

We asked a few of our agency partners to weigh in on what these changes mean for marketers and their clients. Let's take a look at the updates, and then we'll see what our agencies have to say.

What's new

As a page administrator, you have access to a tab called Insights. This has always been the destination to find, well, insights into the success of your page. Take a stroll over to that area now, and we'll walk through the new data:

Facebook Metrics
Facebook now shows Total Likes, Friends of Fans, People Talking About This and Weekly Total Reach

Total Likes: Likes are a familiar stat that's been here before. Also referred to as fans, likes is the cumulative number of Facebook users who have ever clicked "Like" on your page.

Friends of Fans: This is a sum of your fans and all of their friends, a significant number because it represents the potential reach that your page could have if each fan talked about you.

People Talking About This: We consider this to be the page's meat and potatoes (or its tofu and quinoa, if that's your style). In the past, you've been able to watch your Likes and comments to get an anecdotal sense of how many folks were interacting with your page. Now, you can see the exact number of people talking about you, which Facebook explains as "the number of unique people who have created a story about your page in the last seven days." More specifically, it includes folks who have liked your page or one of your posts, those who have checked into your Place and folks who have mentioned your page in a post or tagged it in a photo.

Notice that this metric is also a public number. Now, when someone visits your fan page, he will see both Total Likes and People Talking About This. This introduces a brand new success metric to report to your clients and to show potential fans.

Weekly Total Reach: With this update, you can find the number of Facebookers who have seen any content associated with your page. This includes fans who read posts by your brand and people who are not fans but saw someone on their newsfeed "talking" about you. It also includes people who saw your purchased ads. Naturally, as your talking metric rises and falls, your weekly total reach follows suit.

Post by Post: As you move beyond the large sweeping numbers, you can see more granular information too. Sorted by date, you'll see how each individual post affected your audience.

  • Reach tells you how many people were exposed to the post.
  • Engaged Users counts everyone who clicked anywhere on your post, ranging from liking the post itself to clicking on a commenter's profile.
  • Talking About This tallies anyone who commented, liked or otherwise interacted with that post.
  • Virality gives you the percentage of people who talked about your post compared to the number who saw it. This number allows you to compare your posts to each other to determine what type of content creates the most engagement.

Demographic Data: After you get a handle on the aggregate data, check out the Fans, Reach and Talking About This tabs. From there, you'll see a breakdown of those people by gender, age range and location.

Facebook reports your fans by gender and age range
Facebook reports your fans by gender and age range, giving you more details about your audience

What these changes mean for marketers

Buzz data

As with any tool that marketers use these days, more data is better as long as it informs a greater strategy. While these changes may not upend your efforts, you'll be able to track engagement and brand buzz at a much higher level.

People Talking About This provides both a new insight into the virality of your posts and a new metric by which others will judge your page. Craig Dunn, Vice President of Client Services at Music City Networks, one of Emma's agency partners, weighs in on the sudden combination of Likes and this new metric:

People Talking About This may carry even more weight than Likes in some ways, but you have to look at them together. They point to success of different strategies and goals. Sometimes we're trying to build an artist's fans on Facebook, but sometimes we'd rather have people click to the website. People Talking About This will help us measure what's generating real conversations and real sharing. Before, we could throw stuff out there and not really know what was compelling and what wasn't. This metric extends Facebook's numbers to be more like email, where you can actually see the direct results and drill down to what gets people excited.

Craig makes some great points. In fact, consider using the new data to inform your social media strategy in these ways ways:

  • Better engage current fans by taking note of the types of posts that elicit the most response.
  • Increase the reach of your page by encouraging discussion on topics that generate the most interest. (Compare your actual reach against your total potential, found in Friends of Fans. Then, use what you learned in the individual posts section and tailor your conversation starters to your audience.)

Giving your fans more of the content they love and react to is the obvious way to accomplish both. To get started, David Baser, a Product Manager at Facebook, recommends adding more photos and video in your posts, because those rich content categories are often more engaging. (Read the entire ClickZ interview with David Baser here.)

Polly Bibb, Social Media Strategist at JLB Works, one of Emma's agencies, agrees that it's vital to use the metrics to plan content:

You have to think about what's going to stand out. You always want something catchy, but of course it depends on the company. This new tool is fabulous for knowing what works and what doesn't. It definitely will encourage people to get more savvy with their status updates.

Demographic data

Beyond the buzz data, you'll also be able to use the demographic details to watch as new segments of your audience pick up the conversation. Polly explains:

It's going to help everyone in the online media world keep their game faces on because you'll be able to see if you're successfully targeting, or even if you're bringing in a new audience you weren't even aware of. It helps you assess and change your strategy a lot earlier than you otherwise could have.

Speaking of changing your strategy, keep the following in mind:

  • Embrace new segments who are talking about your brand by including them in your messaging. They may become your best evangelists, and the Insights tab will help you pick up on that.
  • Re-engage your core demographic if you are seeing a low response rate from them. Tune in to what makes them tick, or consider asking them what types of content they'd like to see. Brand updates, office pictures and videos, polls, events and questions offer a variety of ways to start a conversation with that group.


Ultimately, Facebook is still in the early years of its relationship with marketers, and we are going to see that relationship grow. Clients increasingly expect agencies to be experts on social media, and because these developments allow you to measure success a lot more easily, they will only enhance your expertise.

Julian Bibb, Principal and CEO of JLB Works notes:

Facebook is the rising tide that lifts all ships. It introduces the concept of social media and makes people more aware of all other social networks, like Twitter and YouTube. In years past, we were explaining to our clients what social was and why it was important. In 2011, they are coming to us with some of that knowledge. Facebook has become part of our clients' public consciousness a lot more than it was in years past, and as time goes on, they will become increasingly aware.

We've heard from a few of our agency partners, and we want to hear from you! Let us know how Facebook's changes are affecting your social media strategy, and how you're using the new metrics to inform your clients. Comment here, or reach out to Emma's Agency Relations team.

Want more details about Facebook's changes? Download their Product Guide for Page Owners [PDF].


Learn more about becoming an Emma Agency.

From the forest to the classroom: Emma’s new giving back initiative

We're supporting DonorsChoose as folks join the Emma community

If you follow Emma's giving back efforts on our blog, you've likely noticed that Emma has a thing for trees — and making sure the world stays leafy and green. Since 2007, we've planted five trees for every new client we bring on board, and that's added up to well over 80,000 trees.

After all that leafy goodness, we're switching up how we give back on behalf of customers. Starting this month, we're supporting with $5 for each new client who joins Emma. That money goes directly to classroom projects posted by teachers and funds materials that otherwise fall outside of tight public school budgets.

In the past, when we've given to DonorsChoose, I've spearheaded the classroom selection process. Now, the Emma staff will collectively choose the projects, and, this month, we narrowed the list by choosing classrooms in the cities Emma calls home. We're helping to bring sculpting supplies to an art teacher in Nashville, chairs to a music class in NYC, books to students in Austin, science supplies to an elementary school in Denver and a classroom computer to a Portland middle school.

This is the beginning of a really cool new chapter in Emma's giving back story, largely because it casts such a wide net. It's about you, our Emma community, giving us the chance to make a difference in classrooms across the country. Thank you for joining Emma and doing some good in the world.


Want to follow along with this project? Visit our DonorsChoose giving back page.

Trick-or-treat, email marketing style

With Halloween around the corner, here are a few sweet moves to try & a few sticky situations to avoid

With Halloween just three days away, the holiday season is officially upon us, and we're kicking things off with an email-friendly set of tricks and treats. As you prepare your fall- and winter-themed campaigns, consider implementing the three treats below — and avoiding the three tricks. Your campaigns will bewitch your subscribers (in a good way).

And, remember, if you're looking for some design inspiration, you can request a $25 Readymade holiday design from our design team all season long.

TREAT: Birthday triggers that turn a profit

If you're capturing your subscribers' birth dates, consider sending birthday coupons by way of an email trigger — it'll increase engagement and profits, especially in the months leading up to Christmas. And it may have unexpected bonuses. Take this, for example: I recently received a birthday email with a coupon for a free breakfast sandwich from Star Bagel, a bagel shop here in Nashville. It's one of my favorite places so I was thrilled about the email. While I was busy running a few holiday errands (I'm starting early this year!), I redeemed my birthday coupon, and then I ended up purchasing more. (Nice work, Star Bagel.)

Read more from Clickz about birthday triggers bringing in the business.

TRICK: Not taking advantage of social media

Are you interacting with fans and followers on social media sites? If not, you could be missing out on an opportunity to boost customer loyalty and increase customer spending by 20%- 40%. Starting conversations on Facebook and Twitter is likely to increase the engagement of folks who may not engage with you in other ways (on the phone, for example), and as the become more engaged, they're likelier to turn to you for your expertise. (Engaged customers also spend more. See that bit about me and the bagel shop.)

Check out a solid 12-step social media plan by MarketingProfs here. And if you need a hand getting your email and social media working together, stop by to ask us on Twitter and Facebook, or send a note to our friendly support team.

TREAT: Using video to mix things up a bit

We recently posted a video blog, and we recorded and produced the whole thing with just a laptop and iMovie. Have your own computer camera or smartphone handy? Give video a try. It's a great way to add a human touch to your posts. And there are lots of helpful how-to's out there. Our friend, Tom Martin, shares 8 tips over on Social Fresh for creating a video with an iPhone alone.

Read how one online floral retailer boosted response metrics and conversions just by adding video to email campaigns.

TRICK: Forgetting your images' alt text or creating image-only campaigns

I recently got an email in my inbox with the enticing subject line "Get Dressed." I clicked to open, and to my surprise, I landed on a blank white page. If your campaigns are filled with images, make sure to include some alt text. (If you fill out all of the fields when adding your image to an Emma layout, alt text will be automatically generated.) Alt text ensures that you're providing some context to readers who don't have images displayed by default. It's much better for them to see "Click here to view our gallery of outfits," than nothing at all.

And make sure you're designing your campaigns to render beautifully without relying solely on images. Marketing Sherpa found that click-throughs increased over 83% when tables were used to add color and design to emails that had images blocked.

TREAT: Enable Social Sharing to grow your audience list

This might just be the easiest treat of all. With a simple click of the Add Social Sharing button atop your email campaign (in edit mode), you can add the ability for your subscribers to share your email on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Oh, and in doing so, you could be increasing your campaign's click-through rate by 30-55%. Not too shabby.

Want a refresher on how to enable your subscribers to share the love? Grab our Social Sharing how-to here.

TRICK: Sending your campaign to your audience without testing

Giving your campaign the once over and clicking a link here or there in preview mode might seem like sufficient testing when you're pressed for time, but it's not enough if you want to ensure a solid delivery. Your emails will render a bit differently in the major email programs, and it's a good idea to test all links from the inbox. Plus, getting another set of eyes on your email's content and formatting will help you spot typos and formatting inconsistencies. Emma makes comprehensive testing easy by way of your free Test Group. Store up to 10 addresses there — try to represent a mix of different email programs — and send unlimited campaigns without affecting your monthly sending total.

If you need a hand getting your Test Group set up, visit our Help Guide.


I hope these treats and tricks have sparked a few ideas of your own. Please share your tips with our community in the comments here. And if you'd like to show off your holiday-themed campaign, share the link, too. We're ready to see the spooky and the spectacular. We may just feature yours in an upcoming post!

Liven up your email with animated GIFs

The '90s web animation staple isn't just for dancing babies - it’s perfect for spicing up your email campaigns
Haters Gonna Hate
There's nothing stopping you from featuring this jaunty fellow in your email campaigns. Click on the image to view the animation.

If you ever want to get a little perspective on how far web design has come since the '90s, pay a visit to Internet Archive's Wayback Machine and pull up Best Buy's home page from December of 1996. Yikes, right? Was there really a time when a well-heeled electronics megastore used an animation of a turtleneck-wearing, gift-giving pig on its homepage during the holiday season?

The Wayback Machine doesn't lie; back when the Internet was undergoing its awkward adolescence and everyone was infatuated with moving pictures, the animated GIF was king. It was a time of dancing babies, twinkling lights and bouncing smiley faces, all playing on endless loops. Not coincidentally, it was also a time of web-induced headaches. As the technology and language of Internet styling evolved, the bulky, simplistic animated GIF gave way to more sophisticated Flash- and Shockwave-based animations. Like the 8-track and the VHS tape, the once-revolutionary animated GIF became the butt of jokes (like this one, sneakily tucked away on our site).

Still, every format has its champions. Just as some filmmakers find inspiration in VHS camcorders and some diehard music geeks still make mixtapes, there are artists and designers who welcome the challenge presented by the animated GIF's endless animation loop, limited color palette and potentially restrictive file size. When the stunning GIF-based artwork of collaborators Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg caught my eye earlier this year, I began to wonder if the email marketing world was due for a GIF animation revolution. If it is, it's hard to imagine a better medium.

The Internet has evolved a great deal since the age of the four-frame animated firework. However, as our own Taylor Schena outlined in an earlier blog post, the countless display variations between email clients has kept email design frozen in a time before Javascript, Flash or CSS. Fortunately, animated GIFs' early web prominence means that, unlike Flash and most other animation styles, they're almost universally recognized (and correctly rendered) in the inbox.

If you've been wondering how to jolt a little life into your email campaigns, a moving element may be just the thing. But before you lay your newest email campaign on the slab for re-animation, there are a few things you should be aware of.

Not everyone will see your animations. When I say that GIFs are almost universally recognized, I mean that they're recognized by every major email client except for Outlook 2007. Holding true to its reputation as the bane of every HTML designer's existence, Outlook 2007 will only display the first frame of an animated GIF. While this is hardly a deal breaker, it does mean that the first frame of your animation should communicate your intended message clearly for Outlook users. So if you were planning a fancy reveal in the animation's final frames, you may want to think through your animation carefully to make sure the takeaway isn't lost on Outlook users.

Your animated GIF should be more Popeye than Pixar. Since every frame in an animated GIF can introduce a new or altered image, these files can get very large, very fast. If your image file size is too large, it could affect both your email's deliverability and the quality of the display, especially on mobile devices (only a couple of Beck and Burg's designs would be truly email-friendly). Limit your color palette and stick to basic movements with a limited frame rate, and your GIF will travel and present itself well.

Be bold, but don't go crazy. Hipster clothier Urban Outfitters has a long history of incorporating animated GIFs into their campaigns in a way that's both sophisticated and, sometimes, charmingly retro. When the design comes together well, like this spring campaign spotlighted by Email Marketing Voodoo, it makes for a fun, eye-catching email, and it's an excellent use of the format's limitations. When it goes too far, as many think this divisive psychedelic campaign did back in 2009, readers' first reaction may be to get away from it any way that they can.

Make your animated GIF updates before you upload your files to Emma. Emma email campaigns will treat your animated GIFs like any other image file, with one exception: you'll need to have your GIF file ready exactly as you'd like it to appear before you upload it to your account. Once it's in your Emma account, you won't be able to resize the image or rename the file.

If you're ready to experiment with animation in your email, but aren't quite sure where to start, Style Campaign has a terrific guide to creating animated GIFs in Photoshop.

Have you had any interesting adventures (or misadventures) with animation in the inbox? Share your story in the comments section.

It’s Emma 25 time, folks

We're giving away 25 Emma accounts to small, local nonprofits. Encourage your favorite cause to apply today!

Emma 25 is here, awarding email marketing service to deserving nonprofits

Fall is in the air, and that means it's finally socially acceptable to eat candy corn and dress like Snooki, which is not really something you can pull off in, say, April unless you're actually Snooki.

More importantly, fall marks the launch of our annual Emma 25 initiative. For seven years and counting, we've been awarding a lifetime of free Emma service to small, deserving nonprofits and hoping that our email marketing tools help these causes do even more good work in their communities.

Here's how it works. Nonprofits can apply at from today through Monday, November 21. We welcome any 501c3 nonprofit with 10 or fewer employees, including current Emma customers. Emma staffers pore over the applications to select 25 (it's unbelievably tough), and we announce the honorees in early December.

Of course, we rely on you to spread the word. Encourage the nonprofits in your community to apply, whether it's a group you support, volunteer with or that's made a difference in your life. And share the news and application page with your social networks, too, if you're so inclined.

And thanks for teaming up with us to do some good!

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.


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

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