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Every picture tells a story

How stock photos add visual appeal to your emails
Jessica Hughes : Fotolia
Jessica enjoys a ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver. (We're jealous.)


Today's guest post is written by Jessica Hughes, social media and public relations specialist at Fotolia . Learn more on the Fotolia blog , or follow Fotolia on Twitter .


When you think about your creative content, many factors come to play: your copy, your font choices, the layout and, of course, the images you choose to communicate your message. In short, looks count.

It's no secret – incorporating an image is powerful! It's a fun way to engage and capture attention. What's more, including imagery boosts your campaign's impact and drives traffic to your site. The key is finding the right image to match your message. Here are seven rules and examples that show how to pack the perfect visual punch.

Rule 1: Grab your reader's attention. You only have a few seconds to get your reader's attention, and a sharp image will reel them in fast. Use clever imagery to compel people to read on so that your overall message is delivered from soup to nuts.



Rule 2: Use visual aids to enhance communication. You know that old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" Considering that you don't have a thousand words to interest an email recipient, why not let an image state your case? Choosing unique visuals that tell the story for you is an efficient way to get your point across.



Rule 3: Be bold. Avoid being too literal. Yes, your image will be subjective and influenced by your content to some degree, but consider other angles to make an impression. There are millions upon millions of royalty-free images available to you, so enjoy your image browsing and dare to be different.



Rule 4: Consider images that feature people. People like to look at people. Studies show that one of the reasons Facebook is such a hit is because of our fascination with what other people do. By nature, humans feel a need to relate to others. Using images with a person increases your chance of drawing your audience in.



Rule 5: Stay current. As tastes and styles change, so should your mindset for the way you choose images. While your intention for a certain image may be to show that you're edgy, you wouldn't want to turn anyone off. Get a feel for the lay of the land before you send. What's new politically, socially or stylishly? You can be retro and still be cool, but do keep up with the Joneses.



Rule 6: Know your (image) rights. Get your pictures from a source that specializes in royalty-free stock photography. As tempting as it is to snag a picture from a free source like Google, it's just not legal. Stock photography sites give you peace of mind and creative license. When you have rights to an image, you can modify it and turn it into something that completely embodies what you want to communicate. The avenues for creativity are limitless, and you better believe no one else will have an image like yours if you play it up.



Rule 7: Mind your specs. Aside from selecting an image that suits your concept, pay attention to colors and contrast –- they're part of the "wow" factor, too. The colors in your image should complement the remainder of your content, including font styles and other branding. Resolution, aspect ratios and formats vary, so check out Fotolia's usage guide to help determine what kind of image is the best match for your project.



There you have it. Seven tips to help you pick a fantastic image for whatever your needs may be. Remember, your image should be the butter to your bread. The dynamic sidekick to your content's super hero. Helping fight crime and take the world one villain at a time. Or, wait … What I'm really trying to say is that the right image can help your message resonate with a resounding "POW." So sock it to 'em.

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

Lifecycle mailings help you reach your audience at the right time

Email examples for different stages of the subscriber relationship

If you plan on catching up on your Sophocles over the holidays and you'd like to avoid spoilers, you might want to skip these next few lines: they give away the answer to the Riddle of the Sphinx. Ready? What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs in the evening? The answer: a man, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult and uses a cane in old age.

Consider this: there's a morning, noon and evening (of sorts) to your email subscriber's relationship with you, too. And, just like our riddle's subject, your subscribers will benefit from a little extra help in the different phases of it. That's where lifecycle emails come in.

Lifecycle mailings are your opportunity to customize your readers' experience from the very beginning — and to tailor consequent messages to the different stages of your relationship with them. For example, you might send a welcome email early on to offer new subscribers help getting started. Or, you might offer a unique deal or extra appreciation to active subscribers (those that regularly open, click or share your email). On the flip slide, you might want to give special attention to subscribers who have lapsed into inactivity. Lifecycle emails are a great way to show subscribers that you're aware of the connections you're building with them. Best of all, they really work. As MarketingSherpa reports, targeted mailings increase open rates by as much as 30% over non-targeted ones.

Emma's trigger mailings and audience search capabilities make it easy to set up an automated lifecycle mailing program that meets your audience members wherever they are in their customer relationship. Looking for a little inspiration? Here are a few examples from companies that make lifecycle messaging a central part of their email strategy.

Welcome message series


Ebay welcomes new members in a series of emails.

You've got to crawl before you can walk, right? Your new subscribers are a special group: they've just joined your audience, they're eager to learn more and they won't know what to expect from your mailings. They're also among your most engaged readers. A 2010 report from Experian Marketing Services indicated that the average open rate for welcome messages is as much as four times higher than the normal mailing.

Your welcome message is your first opportunity to tell new subscribers what they should know about you. As Molly demonstrates in this blog post, crafting great welcome emails is something of an art form. And sometimes, one welcome message may not be enough. I received a welcome email from Ebay on the day I opened my account. Then, two days later, I received a follow-up message with additional tips on getting started. There's a lot to learn about how to use Ebay — so much so that it can be a little daunting for the uninitiated, and I appreciated the extra messaging.

Think about creating a series of welcome emails. They'll help your new subscribers learn to navigate your service and offerings over time.

Anniversary messages


Redbox sends a note on your customer anniversary.

They grow up so fast, don't they? After the first few months, your new subscribers aren't so new anymore. If your messages are relevant and you're targeting the right people, your subscribers mature into readers who don't need as much handholding in their messages. And after their peak activity as early subscribers, your regular readers' activity tends to level out as they make their own decisions about which messages and offers hold the most appeal to them. But even though they're standing on their own feet now, they'll still appreciate a specialized message every so often. In this eye-catching anniversary message, Redbox rewards their subscribers with a free rental. For your audience, it may be a free cup of coffee or just a follow-up check-in, but recognizing milestones in the relationship is a great way to let your readers know that you value them.

Re-engagement campaigns


Chico's lets you know that you've been missed.

Even if you have the most engaged of email audiences, it's normal to have a batch of inactive subscribers, too. In fact, you may see 20 to 30 percent of an email audience lost to bounced emails and unsubscribes over the course of a year. Since a 2007 Return Path study indicated that only 22% of business professionals actually unsubscribed from emails they no longer wished to receive, that means that, at any given moment, your audience is likely to contain recipients who have moved past their prime as responsive audience members.

What to do? A targeted mailing to the unresponsive section of your audience is a great way to reconnect with lapsed subscribers. A simple audience search in Emma can help you target everyone in your audience who hasn't opened a mailing in a set period of time (a year is a safe place to start).

This re-engagement campaign from Chico is an example of solid messaging for inactive subscribers. It acknowledges that the reader hasn't been active in a while without sounding creepy, and it gives a strong incentive to re-engage with the brand. If you're planning a re-engagement campaign for your own audience, remember that tone is everything — keep it sincere and conversational. "We haven't heard from you in a while" is a much better way to connect with a lapsed subscriber than "It looks like you haven't opened an email campaign in 12 months." You want your audience to feel that you're listening to them, not that you're watching them like a hawk.

Re-engagement campaigns will win back some audience members who would otherwise have wandered off into the sunset, but it's important to keep realistic expectations: if they haven't responded up until this point, many of your audience members may have reached the end of their day. After giving these members a few opportunities to come back into the fold, it may be time to remove them from your list.

And, don't despair — as one section of your audience is going gently into that good night, there's a whole other section whose day is just beginning. Catch folks — and speak to them — where they're at, and you'll be on your way to a solid list of engaged subscribers.

The Emma 25 honorees are here!

Meet the 25 incredible small charities that just got free Emma service for life

Emma 25 is here, awarding email marketing service to deserving nonprofits
One of our favorite holiday traditions at the Emma shop is our Emma 25 program, in which we award a lifetime of free Emma email marketing service to 25 small nonprofits who've applied for it.

This year, we were once again astounded by the quantity and quality of nonprofits that applied, each one as deserving as the next.

The missions of this year's honorees vary — helping kids with disabilities ride bikes, fighting human trafficking around the world, supporting design that elevates social issues — but each one spoke to us in a unique way.

We've posted the full list of honorees here. Help us honor these organizations by getting to know them, and keep them in mind as you consider your year-end giving, too.

Oh, and thanks for being a part of the Emma Community. After all, it's your support that powers our giving, and we couldn't do it without you. Cheers!

Growing your email audience

A primer to start building your email list easily and effectively


Signup Form
Taco Mamacita wisely mixes required and optional fields in their signup form.
When I was a kid, I was cursed with the summer birthday blues. When my July birthday hit, I'd be ready to celebrate, but since I didn't have a classroom to share the news (or the cupcakes) with, I didn't get any of the attention that's lavished on those lucky enough to be born during the school-year months.


It's a frustrating feeling to have a great announcement to make, but no audience to hear it — just ask any business owner who's just beginning to build their email audience list. Your news may be more about software updates or new product lines than cupcakes, but the challenge remains: If the classroom doesn't come to you, how do you find the right folks to share in your celebration?

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find the right audience members and play well with Emma's permission policy, too. With a little advance planning, you'll set yourself up to share your brand with the right folks — and engage them from the start.

If you're new to email marketing and not sure how to attract subscribers, follow these tips to get your program up and running:

  1. Create a strong signup form. Your signup form is the perfect place to gather all the subscriber information you need to know. Make a clear distinction between what you must have (mark it as required) and what can be shared at your subscribers' discretion. You might need to know their zip codes to send them accurate info about a store in their area, but you don't need to send birthday coupons to everyone — just the folks who choose to fill in their date of birth. Remember, subscribers may abandon your form if they feel that the process is too long or intrusive. Also, let your subscribers know what to expect as a new member of your list. Will you be sending daily, weekly, monthly or on some other schedule? Will they see promotions along with newsletters? Can they pick and choose the news types they want to receive?
  2. Identify all of your customer touch-points, and get used to asking folks to join your email list. Think beyond your website for a moment. Does your company send transactional emails? Do you tweet? Have a Facebook page? You'll reach the biggest audience by making your email signup forms as visible as possible in as many places as possible, so identify your points of contact. And think beyond your online presence. Put a fishbowl near your store's register so customers can sign up by dropping in their business cards. Encourage your sales team to bring up your newsletter in their daily calls or demo classes. Even include a link to your signup form in your own email signature. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship.
  3. Create a welcome trigger. Catch your subscribers when their curiosity is piqued: right when they sign up. Your automatic welcome emails can net four times the normal open rate and five times the normal click-through rate. A welcome email is the perfect time to reinforce the benefits of your newsletter, give subscribers a discount on their next purchase or simply thank them for signing up.
  4. Ask subscribers to share your emails with their networks. Then, provide unique and entertaining content so they can't help but do so. Incentivize the share, too. Reward those who share with a special coupon or unique content from your brand. That's a built-in loyalty program!

Give a little thought (and a lot more action) to these four tips, and you'll be growing your email list in no time.

This is part one in our blog series on audience growth. In our next installment, we'll talk about more ways to maintain a healthy, engaged list.


Want to read more?

Calling all business developers in Austin!

Emma's hiring in our satellite city

Emma's hiring a Business Development Specialist to join our office in Austin, TX, and that means we're looking for someone who will be deeply involved in the local community of businesses, nonprofits and agencies in Austin, and who is ready to help bring Emma to Dallas and Houston, too.

So what does a Business Development Specialist do, you ask? I think it's best described as part marketing, part networking and part selling key accounts. You'll also spend time building solid relationships with some existing local accounts. However you describe it, it means this person has his or her finger on the pulse of what's happening in each of those business communities.

Emma staffers
Come work with us. We'll photo-bomb all of your best holiday pictures.
You may spend an afternoon interacting with great local brands like Tomlinson's Pet Store, Alamo Drafthouse, Sweet Leaf Tea, City of Austin, REDROC Advertising, Caritas Austin and dozens more. You'll also develop partnerships with associations such as Greenlights, the Austin Chapter of AMA, Austin Young Chamber and Ad Fed Austin. And work with our marketing team to develop marketing sponsorships with great local events like SXSWi and Innotech Austin.

Sweet gig, right? A day in the life of an Emma Business Developer is fast-paced, and it's challenging, rewarding and engaging. Since Emma brings a stylish, branded solution to customers who understand and value that approach to email marketing, the position lends itself to working with some of the coolest companies around the country.

While based in Austin and focused on our own community, you'll begin efforts to introduce Emma to Houston and Dallas, and will spend time on the road in each of those markets monthly. You'll be on a team with other business developers around the country in cities like Nashville, Portland, New York and Chicago.

You'll need to bring experience from past sales, marketing or business development roles — but it's a learn-as-you-go environment, where you'll be part of Emma's entrepreneurial culture. You'll be able to test the waters on marketing and business development programs and ideas that you dream up. You'll be measured on success both as an individual and as part of a team.

Ready? For more details on the Austin Business Development Specialist role, and to apply, click here.

Video: Quick tips with Emily

3 reasons to test your email campaigns

Hello, fearless email marketer. It's been a while, but I'm back with another video of quick tips to help your improve your email marketing efforts and make the most of your Emma account. In this edition, I'd like to share a few reasons why testing your emails before send-off is so important.

Your Emma account comes with a Test Group that allows you to store up to 10 email addresses, and sending to that group is always free. Play the video above to hear why I think the test group is a super helpful account feature, or read my reasons here.

Top three reasons to test your email campaigns:

  1. Testing ensures you've got a small group of people clicking on your links first — before they go out to your whole audience. These folks can confirm the links are pointing to the right websites. It's what keeps you from linking your whole audience to instead of
  2. Testing gives you the opportunity to see how your email will look on a mobile device. You can make sure the message is clear, even on that teeny tiny screen, and that the campaign is easy to navigate on a smart phone.
  3. Testing lets you get early feedback on subject lines, headlines, and of course, how it all looks together. That'll ensure you have time to make any final changes to add some style before your audience receives the mailing.

So, go ahead, send to the test group included in your account, and test your mailings as much as you'd like. And tell us what other reasons you've found to make a good case for sending test emails. Comment here to share tips and stories.

See Emily's first quick tips video here.


Not yet a customer? Learn about Emma.

What’s in an email subject line?

Ten tips for effective and memorable subject lines

As is the case with many puzzlers, coming up with a winning subject line is a hit and miss operation. Thoughtful experimentation will help you hone in on what works for you and your audience. And while there are no hard and fast rules about subject lines, a little know-how goes a long way. I've compiled ten of my favorite subject line tips and included links to some further reading, if you're so inclined.

  1. Plan ahead. Don't make writing the subject line the last thing on your list. As you're dreaming up your next campaign, why not start with the subject line? After all, it's the only part of your email some recipients will see. Moreover, crafting a descriptive subject line from the get-go will bring your overall campaign to a focus. When you're waffling about word choice, check Google to see what terms trend highest.
  2. Mention your brand. Studies show branded subject lines really work, so if you aren't including your business name, website or publication in the subject line, start now. Branding your emails will result in increased familiarity with your organization and remind recipients why your email is in their inbox.
  3. Stay relevant to the campaign's goal. Make sure your subject lines express the overarching theme and purpose of your message. Decide what you want the recipient to do as a result of reading your email, and begin drawing them toward that action in the subject line (think verbs!). There isn't a one-size-fits-all formula, but descriptive subject lines that match the tone of the content inside will be most effective. For a content-rich newsletter, informative subject lines work best. Similarly, event invites need to say what's special about the occasion and provide a registration deadline. And if you're sending a purely promotional campaign, be upfront about the value inside to convey a sense of urgency, like "Fairytale Books: Celebrate Dr. Seuss; 40% Off Today Only."
  4. Pay attention to your audience. Writing subject lines people love may seem like magic, but unless your audience is made up of Muppets, "a la peanut butter and jelly sandwiches" won't cut it. Nevertheless, put yourself in the Amazing Mumford's shoes for a minute and think about why everyone remembers that line. Jim Henson knew a thing or two about childhood appetites, and you're likely to have the inside track on what your audience likes, too. So have a little fun and design a subject line that puts your audience's interests first.
  5. Be enticing without being pushy. Avoid subject lines that read like something Mr. Radio Announcer Guy would squawk over the airwaves louder than your toddler in the back seat. Email recipients can spot a hard sell a mile away, so anything that sounds like it belongs in the Sunday circular should be rewritten. If you're struggling to figure out which email subject lines are most likely to convert, try running a few pay-per-click ads with various subject lines to see which one has the highest click-through rate.
  6. Avoid spammy words and slogans. Including the word "free" may seem like a good way to get customers in the door, but since spammers throw "free" around like cheap lipstick, your email could wind up in the trash if you combine it with other frequent spam offenders like gratuitous exclamation points, typing in ALL CAPS or terms like "blowout" and "cheap."
  7. Be clever, but don't get too kooky. When getting attention is the name of the game, it's tempting to write a Page Six worthy subject line. But since subtlety is lost in the inbox, your reader may pass over your line before taking a moment to get the joke. Check out Matt's tips for more advice on creating a catchy hook.
  8. Test, measure and repeat. Testing variables such as branding, length and punctuation can demonstrate what subject lines carry the most weight with your audience. Coming soon, Emma's Split Testing feature will give you the ability to send up to three subject lines to a portion of your audience and automatically distribute the winning subject line to the rest. Read more about Emma customers who split test, and learn about Emma's split testing feature (and a whole slew of other cool enhancements coming your way).
  9. Review past results. Emma lets you compare the results of up to five mailings at a time so you can see at a glance just which campaigns — and subject lines — performed the best. Use this information to craft your next subject line, and keep an eye on how it stacks up.
  10. Steer clear of industry clichés. One surefire way to stand out from the crowd is to find an original way to state the obvious. Think about it: If a person has signed up for your emails, they probably have emails from similar brands in their inbox. To make sure yours is the email they read, find out what the competition is saying and do something different – tell your audience something they don't know.

Ultimately, though, a winning subject line can't stand alone. A successful campaign depends upon the audience's level of engagement with your brand, the relevance of your previous campaigns and at least a dozen other factors ranging from time of day and general busyness to the blood sugar level of the recipient. The subject line and "from" name, however, are the two main factors in encouraging recipients to open or delete. Sure, there's no secret formula that will work for everyone, but these ten principles are what great subject lines are made of. Next time you're grasping at straws, put one of these tips to the test, and don't forget to report back — we'd love to hear what's worked for you.

This is part six in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. Visit part five here.


Order your holiday design today to avoid the rush.

Visually appealing emails win every time

How to make your email pop in the inbox

We're big fans of style, particularly when it comes to making your email stand out in your subscribers' inboxes. Your brand is unique, and as you're crafting the perfect email, pay mind to carrying over the look and feel of that branding you've worked so hard to achieve.

Let's focus on some ways you can improve the look of your campaign without breaking a sweat. Implement these, and your subscribers can't help but pick up what you're putting down.

Emma Seasonal Design
Emma's mailings provide variation while capturing our signature style.
It all starts with a branded stationery design. A custom stationery will add polish to your marketing message. And whether you have a keen eye for HTML or don't have a clue about design, we have options to make sure your brand stands out in the ocean of emails an average person receives each day.

  • Make use of Emma's world-class design team. One of our designers will work with you to create a design that reflects your brand's personality. A custom, recognizable stationery establishes your campaigns in the mind of your customers, so they'll take the extra moment to pay attention. Request your own custom branded design today. Oh, and do you already have a stationery design, but want to freshen things up? It's a good idea. Read about one customer's email makeover.
  • Make your own stationery header, DIY-style. Even if you're not a Photoshop pro, you can use a tool like to create your own stationery header, which can be uploaded into a blank stationery. If you're particularly fond of your design, our design team can also turn it into a permanent stationery option (removing the need to upload it each time). Submit your design through our online request form and we'll get to work.

Consistency is key. When your campaigns have a consistent look, both throughout your email and also from one campaign to the next, your readers will become familiar with your style and appreciate it. Find a format that works for your brand to make your campaigns more readable. If recipients recognize and grow to trust you, the odds are in your favor that they'll take the time to read what you've got to say.

  • Format your text to work for you, not against you. You may be a fan of bright, bold multicolors, but they don't always work in an email — at least not when it comes to its main text. Leave the rainbows behind and create a consistent look to your campaigns with a nice, readable font type, color and size throughout the email, perhaps with an accent color thrown in to draw attention to links or important bits of information. Your judiciousness will make your email easy on the eyes and also keep the attention of your readers.
  • Consider putting a little work into your images on the front end. A consistent look and size of images will create a campaign that is pleasing (and easy!) to read. Our image editor offers the option to resize images to small (120 x 120 pixels), medium (240 x 240 pixels), large (360 x 360 pixels) and x-large (480 x 480 pixels). If these sizes don't work for you, or if you need to crop the images, we recommend, an easy-to-use online image editor where you can upload, resize and save your images (and also add fun filters, text and borders), and then upload them to your campaign.

Your email is good enough to eat — so make it easy for your readers to digest. We're busy. We're bombarded with emails, social networks, phone calls, texts, you name it, all day long. If you have a lot of information that needs to be sent in an email, you can help out your readers by using a table of contents and landing pages to get them to the good stuff a little faster.

  • Use a table of contents to help your readers get to the articles they're interested in right away. A table of contents at the top of an email can easily direct a person to exactly what they want to look at without needing to scroll through everything. You can use Emma's jump link feature to easily add a table of contents to your campaign.
  • Use landing pages to tell the rest of your story. It's an email, not a novel. Landing pages and "read more" links are used to shorten the email that's sent to a person's inbox while still giving them the option to click to view all of your content. It's also a great way to measure the popularity of your content with Emma's click-through reporting. Read about how to create a quick landing page using Emma.

Of course, there's always a little wiggle room for you to add your own stylish flair to your email campaigns, but if you keep these tips on your radar, your emails will be runway-ready in no time. And if you've got some more tips for creating visually appealing emails, please share in the comments here.

This is part five in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. Visit part four here.


Just discovered Emma? We want to help you make email and social work together.

Emma’s named a best employer and technology leader

Nashville Post names Emma a 2011 “Best Employer” and member of the “Tech 25”

We were delighted to find out last week that Nashville Post magazine named Emma one of Middle Tennessee's 10 Best Employers for 2011.

We've always thought that working for Emma is pretty fantastic, and we're honored to be recognized with nine other top-notch businesses, all of which are pros in what they do.

The other companies named Best Employers for 2011 were Aegis Sciences Corp., Centerre Healthcare Corp., Document Solutions Inc., Education Networks of America, iostudio, Medi-Copy Services Inc., Meridian Surgical Partners, Pinnacle Financial Partners and Vaco.

We were doubly delighted to find out that the Post included Emma as part of its inaugural Tech 25, a listing of Middle Tennessee's most influential technology companies.

It's almost like they knew that we've got big news to share on the product side of things at Emma in the next couple months. Stay tuned for a slew of new features that will help you communicate more stylishly, simply and quickly through more channels.

We would have been triply delighted to find out that we'd made their list of Top Companies Who Just Won a Year's Supply of Funyuns, but hey, two outta three ain't bad.


We're hiring! View current openings.