A look at custom email templates that direct readers to more than just the homepage
Navbars, nav links, navigation menus — no matter what you call them, they're part of almost any website that you visit. They're usually a series of buttons or text links like Home, About Us or Order a Platypus, and they provide the most direct way to move about a website's various pages (especially if you're like me and are always looking for the shortest route to a platypus bargain).
What you may not know, though, is that they can also be a very helpful addition to your email template. Let's take a look at some of Emma's custom designs that include navigation links, and some of the benefits of including them.
Client: University Settlement Designer: Kelly McClain Design Level: Concierge Design
University Settlement is a fantastic organization that provides a range of social services and support for immigrant families in New York City. Their colorful tab navigation is eye-catching and easily recognizable to anyone who has visited their home page.
Kelly's inclusion of those tabs in her design creates strong brand recognition due to the visual consistency between their website and email stationery. That kind of familiarity really helps when subscribers are deciding whether they should read your painstakingly-crafted campaign, and it also keeps their experience of your online presence as seamless as possible.
Client: UCSD Track & Field / Lex Gillette Designer: Kelly McClain Design Level: Concierge Design
An inspiring paralympic athlete and motivational speaker, Lex Gillette has a content-packed website and a lengthy navigation menu to match. Much of what makes his site so visually memorable, though, is his striking portrait in conjunction with the spare color palette. Knowing the best approach would be consistency here, Kelly chose to echo the look and feel of the website to reinforce his singular branding, as she did with the University Settlement design featured above.
The big difference here is that University Settlement's five colorful tabs are a primary feature of their stationery header; Lex Gillette's has twice that number of links, so the header would look cluttered if the navigation were more prominent. Kelly's challenge, then, was to include the links as unobtrusively as possible without making them too inconspicuous — a goal she accomplished quite tidily.
And while ten navigation links is a lot to include in a stationery design, there's definitely a benefit: on Emma's response page, the client will be able to track click-throughs to each linked page. That way, he'll be able to gauge each campaign's ability to generate interest in specific areas of his site.
Client: HomeWorks Designer: Taylor Schena Design Level: Concierge Design
HomeWorks, a company that not only contracts home improvements but offers do-it-yourself coaching and educational services to homeowners, has a distinctively hand-drawn, tactile look and feel to their website. Their main page contains ten navigation links — like the Lex Gillette site mentioned above — and Taylor's design is an excellent example of a different way to handle that many links.
In this case, instead of trying to cram all of those whimsically-penciled navigation icons from their site into the smaller confines of an email stationery header, Taylor helped the client narrow down the links to what they considered to be the four most essential. This is a helpful reminder that you don't have to include all your nav links; in fact, limiting links will aid in driving traffic to particular pages of your site that you'd most like to feature.
Of course, your design doesn't have to look like your website in order to include a navigation menu. Anna Mae's Southern Bread Co., a bakery that crafts slow-risen, artisan sourdough rolls, loved the look of their site but preferred that their stationery resemble their delightful product packaging.
Cody recreated the look of their packaging by using the distinctive border decoration, block print graphics and background texture, and he was also able to cleverly incorporate their four nav links into the design. Their inclusion doesn't take away from the feel of what the client wanted, while still offering the advantage of direct page links in their header.
If you're ready to get yourself a fancy new stationery with navigation links ("Order Platypus" button optional), you can get started by filling out our design request form and we'll take it from there.
Until next time, much navigational love from your Emma Design Team!
How to make the most of videos in your email campaigns
A while back, I decided to revisit a craft I'd always wanted to hone: video editing. And, wouldn't you know it, ever since upgrading to my fancy new software, I'm seeing the potential to make videos all over the place. It's like my Dad always said: "Give a man a hammer, and every problem looks like a nail."
But how can you be sure that video is the right medium for your message? It doesn't matter how exquisitely crafted your hammer is: If you use it to change a light bulb, you're going to make quite a mess. So let's take a look at some ways to make the most of videos. With these in mind, your video content is sure to get great results.
Video provides education
GQ Magazine knows that some things must be demonstrated to sink in.
When I decided to change the oil in my car for the first time, I immediately set out in search of instructions on the web. It quickly became clear that reading instructions wasn't enough: I needed to see it done. A few training videos later, I changed my oil without a hitch. (Sure, it still wasn't a pretty process, but it could've been a lot worse.)
Sometimes, words and images alone aren't the best way to teach others. GQ Magazine routinely employs crisp, stylish instructional videos in their email campaigns. In their quest to teach guys like me a thing or two about scarves, video content does the trick.
Video connects us
Global Giving invites donors to share in their victories.
People love watching and, maybe more importantly, sharing videos. Even those that only last seven seconds. What other medium could prompt the shared experience of millions of people worldwide so quickly?
That's why I love this video in a recent Global Giving email. In just three minutes, they illustrate the value of donor contributions and the heart of their mission. By pairing this video with a personal email message, Global Giving shows appreciation for their donors in a way that's more memorable than text and images alone.
What can video do that words simply can't? Sing and dance. Sometimes it's okay for a video to be pure entertainment. In the case of artist promos, that's often the whole point. Indie record label Jagjaguwar — home to Bon Iver and other coffee house favorites — uses video in email to promote their roster and engage in a little online community building, too. By featuring an artist-created music video (shot by the song's performer, Lia Ices), and inviting readers to submit their own video for this song, they build buzz for an emerging artist while tapping into a lively online videography community.
In a demographically ideal pairing, the winning video played on IFC.com, a prime destination for all aspiring filmmakers. It was the perfect marriage of old-fashioned promotion and user-generated content sharing.
Just remember: Every video click is a time commitment for your readers, and they watch the seconds go by on their screen. So show them that you value their time by keeping your videos as tight and informative as you can. And if you need any help sharing your video in your email campaigns, don't hesitate to get in touch.
Want to revise your email stationery or request a brand new template? Use Emma's design form to tell us what you'd like.
Tour NYC this Valentine's Day and meet some of our favorite Big Apple customers
I'm back for another stop in our tour of Emma cities, and today I'm highlighting some of our New York City customers. And since it's Valentine's Day, I've added a bit of a romantic twist to my lineup of Big Apple destinations. February 14th means different things to different people — that is, not everyone expects to meet their soulmate at the top of the Empire State Building today — but the magical thing about New York City is that there's enough romance for everyone.
219 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
Were you that kid in 2nd grade who distributed handmade Valentines while your classmates settled for assembling the boxed variety? Do you gravitate toward great design, appreciate a well-curated shop and just love love? Then you'll want to pop into Catbird this month to get in on the Valentine goodies. Or if you're admiring NYC from afar, visit their website and ogle collections of jewelry, stationery and treasures for the home. Oh, and while you're there, sign up for their emails to get a heads-up about free shipping offers, new products and maybe even a little special surprise on your birthday.
If you've moved past conversation hearts and Bee Mine cards (buzz), New York City has got you covered. After all, it's home to Kiki de Montparnasse, which boasts a luxury lingerie line sure to make your Valentine's Day special. Every product in their flagship boutique is ensconced in romance, and their online shop lets you get in on the fun even if a trip to SoHo isn't on your agenda. Kiki de Montparnasse uses Emma to promote new products and invite subscribers to exclusive events.
For some, Valentine's Day is all about candlelight, good wine and just about the best meal you could possibly imagine. Look no further than the restaurants of renowned Chef Daniel Boulud. Whether you're catching a quick pre-theater meal at DBGB Kitchen and Bar (try the burger!) or spending the whole evening lingering over a four-course prix fixe menu at Boulud Sud, it'll be a night to remember. Subscribers to Boulud's emails were recently enticed with a sneak peek of the Valentine's Day menus and a link to online reservations. They had me at Chocolate Macadamia Almond Cream Cake …
The Brooklyn Public Library is an unexpected Valentine's Day destination, but it's a lovely place to spend an afternoon with someone you love. With an impressive permanent collection highlighting Brooklyn's rich history and ever-changing events calendar, BPL sends the highlights to more than 100,000 subscribers so they'll know to check out cool exhibits like Building Stories. Go yourself, and you won't only get to be cute and couply with your Valentine, but you'll learn about city architecture and start seeing your surroundings in new ways.
Rather than go out for a Valentine's Day meal with all the other couples, surprise your sweetie with a cooking class at Whole Foods Market. The Bowery Culinary Center is offering up a menu of intriguing classes this February — who wouldn't be delighted to attend Beer & Southeast Asian Cuisine or The Winter Herbal Kitchen? The Culinary Center uses smartly placed signup forms to keep website visitors in the know, and their campaigns contain clear calls to action with class registration links.
Maybe you're not in a romantic relationship right now. Maybe you're still going to have the best-ever Valentine's Day, thanks to your best-ever friends. If you're looking for ideas to gather the gals for an outing, consider a group fitness class at Physique 57. In one hour, you'll stretch, strengthen and tone by performing a variety of exercises to energizing music that's always changing to keep things fresh. You might even catch their Love Songs playlist in an upcoming class, which was cleverly promoted in a recent email campaign. It's the kind of exercise experience that always puts a smile on my face and makes me feel a little less guilty about indulging in a Valentine's Day pastry later in the day.
Perhaps a night on the town is in order, too. Why not meet up at Canal Room, a music and event venue that has some pretty irresistible shows on its February calendar. Make plans to dance the night away to your favorite guilty pleasures, courtesy of 80s cover band Rubix Kube. The Back to the Eighties show runs Saturdays in February and March, and it's guaranteed to be one of those dance-in-a-circle-you've-tossed-your-purses-in-the-center-of kind of nights. Canal Room fans learn about upcoming events through regular email updates, and since the email stationery matches the look of the Canal Room website, it's a seamless experience to hop from one to the other.
How to use advanced tools and strategy to nurture your growing audience
Yesterday, I offered tips for turning your email readers into buyers , but those tactics may not do you a ton of good until you've really engaged your audience. Today, we'll look at a few strategies for nurturing your growing audience.
Make time to nurture your growing email list.
So, take a walk with me down memory lane. When your email marketing strategy was young, you created signup forms to help it grow. As your strategy blossomed, you promoted your email newsletter through social channels and enabled Social Sharing . You kept it in line with a straightforward privacy and permission policy . You even developed a birthday club and segmented your audience by demographics.
Your list is all grown up. What now?
At this stage, I imagine that your email marketing goals are more advanced. You're keen to keep your original fans while attracting a larger crowd, but as you do so, you want to maintain strong delivery rates and engagement. Now's the time to pair your goal of growth with additional measures like effective messaging, relationship building and higher delivery rates.
Here are a few ways to do just that:
+ Segment beyond demographics . Your audience list likely falls into more relevant categories than male/female and north/south. For example, a brand new subscriber may respond better to being treated like a very special newbie than simply receiving a particular demographic's message. To kick off that relationship, develop a series of welcome emails for new subscribers that introduces them to your content and messaging. Retool a particularly successful past campaign or build a new one from scratch, or both. (For more ideas, Cody gives tips galore on segmenting your subscribers based on their relationship with you .) Alternatively, if you have a longer purchase cycle than traditional retail, you may want to segment based on your recipients' place in that process. Read my perspective on segmenting based on customer lifecycle .
+ Elicit audience actions to help your emails succeed in filtered inboxes . Most popular webmail clients (like Gmail and Hotmail) do some automatic filtering for their users. Unloved email senders start to get filtered to the "unimportant" category — and sometimes right out of the inbox. To combat this, encourage your readers to perform the actions that say "this email is valuable" to the inboxes that use these algorithms.
A reply is one of the most powerful indicators to the inbox filter that your email is wanted. Ask your subscribers to reply to your email, vote in a poll or ask questions. Subscriber clicks are also powerful boosts for your reputation; craft situations where readers click, even if they're not shopping or reading more. For example, let subscribers provide feedback by clicking on links right from your email. Keep in mind that every non-open hurts your reputation with all recipients at that domain, so send and segment wisely.
Email expert Mark Brownlow encourages subscribers to reply directly to him.
+ Measure past the click to learn what speaks to your audience. Your Emma response page shows you which links in your newsletter were the most popular. For an even deeper look into your audience's preferences, tag your links using an analytics tool like Google Analytics to learn where your subscribers are ultimately landing. For a tutorial, read Cassie's guide to implementing Google Analytics .
+ Develop a plan for non-engaged subscribers . Disengaged subscribers hurt your sender reputation. Periodic pruning of your list is a good idea. First, define what "inactive" means for your brand. Is it someone who hasn't opened, clicked or engaged through any channels in three months? Six months? A year?
Next, create your plan of attack. Will you send a few emails asking folks to opt back in and then remove those who don't? Is opening the reactivation email enough to be considered active? Give your plan a try, and then move those lifeless email addresses out of your regular sending list. You may decide to remove them completely or send less frequently for a while before saying goodbye. Just don't be alarmed if your reactivation campaign doesn't win the majority of folks back. With email address turnover these days, many of them may not be salvageable.
Moving beyond "one size fits all" messaging and saying goodbye to your non-openers isn't always an easy transition, but your response rates will reflect the additional effort. Before you know it, those folks who stick around will be engaging with you in ways you may not have expected — and helping spread the word about you to new, attentive subscribers.
This is part three in our blog series on audience growth. Read parts one and two .
A peek at the New York Giants' email marketing strategy
This Sunday, millions of people will gather to watch the Super Bowl. For some, it's all about the commercials. For others, it's about critiquing Madonna's half-time performance. And for the sports fans among us, it's about the matchup of two football teams who had very different, and equally exciting, seasons. Regardless of which side you're rooting for, Emma is proud to power the emails of this year's NFC Champions, the New York Giants. The folks that handle the Giants' premium ticket holder relations have knocked their email strategy out of the park, er, into the end zone. Take a look at a few of the ways Rachel Wohl and her team tackle email marketing.
The right message to the right people
The Giants' marketing team understands the art of audience segmentation. With various levels of ticket holder, messaging has to be specific. By segmenting smaller groups based on ticketing level, the Giants ensure the relevancy of every message that hits the inbox. In turn, recipients trust that their time is not being wasted with unnecessary information. The Giants average open rate is a whopping 55% — that's more than twice the industry average!
In short: While the Giants have built-in segments to work with, any business can find ways to get more focused with messaging. If you're a nonprofit, consider creating unique audience groups for donors versus volunteers. Retail shops and restaurants can group by recipient preferences. And businesses with multiple locations can use zip codes to divide their database. Find what groupings make sense for your business and industry, and use Emma's search and segment feature to make it happen. Then, test to see if segment-specific messages make a difference in your response rates.
Having fun with the brand
With a legacy that goes back to 1925, the Giants have established themselves as one of the most recognizable brands in the NFL. The block-style "NY" logo is as instantly familiar as their blue and red uniforms. In keeping with that tradition, the Giants' email stationery boldly conveys the brand. And once you've got brand recognition, it's easy to loosen up and have a little fun. The Giants call on Emma's design team to occasionally adjust their existing stationery by adding subtle nods to various seasons. From hints of pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month to leaves for fall and snowflakes for winter, the stationery stays true to the brand while delivering a little surprise and delight along the way.
In short: If you're getting bored of your newsletter's look, chances are your audience is a little bored too. Why not get creative? Adding holiday elements for an end-of -year push is an obvious place to start, but any season or special event in your business or industry can inform a slight variation on your existing template. Send a design request to our team, and we'll walk through the details with you.
Keeping the party going
The Super Bowl is a time to party, and that's especially true for the Giants and their fans this year. As a special thank you for continued support, the Giants planned a party for their premium ticket holders. They worked with our design team to create a custom email that has the feel of an exclusive invitation, while incorporating brand familiarity. To manage the response, the Giants linked the invitation to an Emma-powered survey, which acts as an RSVP form. When recipients fill out the survey, all the information goes right into the response section in the Giants' account, making it easy to track and follow up.
In short: Consider managing your next event right within your Emma account. Create an email invitation, link it to a survey that collects all of your RSVP details, and then set up triggered emails to remind attendees about the event in advance. You could even create a follow-up survey after the event to gather feedback. Need help geting started? Our support team would be happy to show you how it all works together.
As you watch on Sunday and get swept up in the gameday antics, take a moment to marvel at all the behind-the-scenes work that boosts fan engagement and participation. We're thrilled to be partnered with the Giants, and we're excited to see how their marketing team continues to smartly reach their fans.
Ready to freshen up your email stationery? Request revisions from Emma's design team.
Emma customers are a bright, clever and vocal bunch. When you talk, we listen. And take notes. And then organize those notes in a not-overly-OCD way. Our choice for organization is a tool called Kindling. We add customers' suggestions, feedback and ideas in Kindling for everyone at Emma to see. To date we have over 700 I-really-wish-Emma-woulds and What-if-there-was-a-way-tos. Many of these ideas are in development now, and many more are waiting for their chance at greatness.
It's pretty simple for us to express our support for an idea in Kindling: just click a button to vote it up. More votes means more popularity and traction for an idea.
One of the most popular ideas in Kindling was just unveiled as a new feature in our Featurepalooza. "I'd really love to know when someone signs up for my email list," you said. We heard this from many customers over time, so it's no surprise that this idea rose to the top in Kindling. Now, notifications is a feature that's available in our new system, and coming soon to your account, too.
Finding great ideas hasn't always been so easy, though. Kindling's newest case study recalls the dark ages of idea management at Emma, and how we adopted Kindling as a core part of our customer-focused culture.
If you've ever sent in a wish list, complaint, frustration or random musing loosely related to email marketing, we're watching it in Kindling. If it's popular, the next place you might see it is in your account.
Understanding delivery stats, opens, click-throughs and more
Once you send out an Emma campaign, your response results immediately start building on the main response page. If you're like us, you spend the next few hours obsessively refreshing the page to see how many folks are opening, clicking and sharing your campaign. It's exciting stuff, for email marketing nerds anyway. But it's even more exciting when you've got a solid handling on what you're looking at — and what you should be striving for.
Let's take a closer look at an Emma mailing, one of our Agency Insiders. I'll break down Emma's response page to explain each section and how you can use the data to inform next steps.
The chart at the top of the page gives you an at-a-glance account of the mailing's opens and clicks. Click the upper right links to adjust the view (by default, it displays a 12-hour view), and hover your mouse over data points to see numbers. Read more about our interactive charts here.
What to look for: Scan the time of day that yields the highest open rates for your audience. In many cases, this will be three hours following the mailing's send time; however, you might see different trends if you send your mailing very late at night, for example. Our mailing met expectations, as we saw the most opens in the first hour after its 11:00 am send.
Next steps: If you see open times contrary to what you expect, use this information to determine the timing of your next mailing. Perhaps you expected your audience to be opening your email during work hours, but they're actually opening in the evening. Schedule your next mailing for 6 pm and see what happens.
The Send Off
When you send an email campaign, the response tracking is actually happening at two distinct levels: the server where your recipient's inbox is hosted, and the inbox itself. (For more information on how email delivery works, take a look at this blog post by our delivery specialist, Art.) The numbers under The Send Off all happen at the server level. Emails sent refers to the number of emails we attempted to send (which will match the number of active email addresses in the audience group that you send to). Emails received refers to the number of emails that were successfully received by the servers on the other end. And the bounces include emails that were kicked back as undeliverable by the receiving servers. Read more about bounces here.
What to look for: Emma has an average 98% delivery rate so you should see that about 98% of your sent emails were received at the server level. If you're working with an updated list of addresses, you'll see even better delivery rates. (Our mailing saw a strong 99.4% delivery rate.) Keep in mind, however, that if you're sending to an email list for the very first time, you may see a few more bounces, as Emma helps to weed out addresses that are no longer valid.
Next steps: If more than 3% of your emails bounced, click to take a closer look. If all bounces are from one particular domain, Emma may have had trouble connecting to that domain. Feel free to reach out to our support team to help you uncover any curious bounce patterns. And keep in mind that Emma handles soft and hard bounces a bit differently. Addresses that soft bounce will stay on your list, and we'll mark addresses that hard bounce as "error" so you don't waste time (or money) mailing to them next time.
Here you'll notice response activity at the inbox level. You'll see the percentage (and number) of folks who opened your email in a trackable way (read more about what that means here) and the number of people who clicked at least one link in your campaign. If you have a "send-to-a-friend" envelope icon atop your email stationery, you'll also see how many folks shared your email with friends. (Not to be confused with Social Sharing via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which we'll get to in a moment.) Finally, you'll see how many new subscribers signed up and how many recipients opted out.
What to look for: The open and click-through rates are sort of like your report card grades. Have you met industry averages? That's a solid C. But why settle for average? If open rates are lower than you expected, there's a chance that a phrase or two in your email kept it from arriving in your recipients' inboxes. Proof your content, and make sure to avoid spammy words and phrases. And if you're doing well, think about how you'll maintain momentum. We're pretty pleased with a 37% open rate — and we'll continue offering the sorts of content our audience responds well to — but that doesn't mean we aren't thinking about ways to improve it as well.
Next steps: It's time to move the dial and go beyond proofing your content. Spruce up your subject line, surprise your subscribers with an unexpected format or dream up a contest. And, hey, ask them to share the email with their friends by using the send-to-a-friend feature, and thank those who do by sharing special content or a coupon.
This section shows the total number of clicks across all links, along with a link-by-link breakdown. In our example, we see 401 total clicks across 35 links (HTML and plaintext). Notice how, in the screenshot above this one, we see 255 unique clicks. Why is the number of total clicks (401) greater than the number of unique clicks (255)? Unique clicks refers to the people who clicked. In this case, 255 people clicked a combined 401 times, meaning certain recipients clicked the same link multiple times or clicked multiple links.
What to look for: Clicks tell you more than the sum of their parts. Your audience is communicating their interests to you — and their reading habits. Maybe your audience likes your video content more than your weekly wrap-up. Maybe they respond better to a call to action at the top left of the email versus the bottom. Whatever you see, pay attention and repeat what works. In our case, the marquee story, a guest post by Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor, was the most-clicked link. It was also the story we chose to place at the top of the email.
Next steps: Use the data to guide future newsletters and content, but don't forget that those clicks come from people. Consider following up in a more personal way every now and then. Save all members who clicked on a particular link as a search group, and reach out by email, on Twitter or even by phone.
Let's depart from the Overview tab and focus on Shares. If you enabled Social Sharing in your mailing, you'll be able to track shares to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on this tab. Moreover, you'll be able to see how much traffic was generated from those shares. If you're not sure about Social Sharing, read more here.
What to look for: If you enabled Social Sharing, we do hope some of your recipients shared your mailing! Take a look to see which networks are most-used by your audience, and which recipients are doing the sharing — these folks are likely some of your most enthusiastic brand advocates.
Next steps: If you're not seeing as many social shares as you'd like, take some time to plan next steps. Just because the social buttons are atop your email doesn't mean your recipients know how (or why) to use them. Give them a brief tutorial in your next mailing, or design a fun giveaway or reason for participating. For example, in last year's April newsletter, we challenged our subscribers to share the Earth Day infographic we created. If we reached 100 shares (we did, thanks to our readers!), we'd plant 100 extra trees. That plan worked swimmingly, whereas this mailing didn't see the same kind of success. It's back to the drawing board for some new ideas …
Want some more inspiration? Check out Carolyn's post on making the most of response charts and our customer stories, highlighting a slew of effective email strategies. And let us know if you have any questions about your response rates — we're here to help.
New to Emma? Learn more about our features and service.
Editor's note: Emma sponsored Tom's video project this year, and we were so intrigued by the idea of capturing video content on the go that we asked him to pass along his best tips.
For the last year, I've been managing my video blog Talking with Tom using nothing other than an iPhone. I've been interviewing digital thought leaders and then sharing those video interviews once a week via the site. That's right: shooting video, pictures, writing posts and publishing the entire thing using nothing but the iPhone.
I've learned a whole lot about what an iPhone can and cannot do. Along the way, my iPhone has become one of my favorite blog content creation tools. And today, I want to share seven of the most valuable tools I discovered along the journey.
A picture is worth 1,000 words
Easily the biggest advancement in the iPhone 4 was the camera. With the iPhone 4, you can actually shoot pretty decent photographs and HD video. But if you really want to kick it up a notch you need a few extra toys.
My go-to app for on-phone retouching is Photogene. The app lets you crop, alter colors, reduce the "noise" in a photo and basically take a normal shot and make it look pretty darn cool. So if you're running a food, travel or hotel blog, where pictures really are worth a thousand words, you might want to consider exploring all of the photo retouching apps in the app store.
My second favorite photo app is Big Lens. I'm a big fan of photos that use depth of field to place parts of the photo in focus while other parts are out of focus. The iPhone's camera doesn't give you that ability, but with Big Lens, you can. You can take photos through the app, or just pick photos from your camera roll and select which part of the photo to place in and out of focus. You can even adjust the fStop to increase or decrease the amount of blur. If you're in the food business or restaurant business, this one is a must-have on your iPhone.
Can you hear me now?
The problem with native iPhone audio is the microphone. It's just not that good. The good news is this is easily fixed.
First,to ensure optimum audio, you need an external mic. For basic audio interviews, where your intention is to use the entire iPhone like a microphone and point it at your interviewee while they speak, pick up Brando Mini Directional mic. This little gem is small, lightweight and perfect for conducting one-on-one interviews at conferences and meet-ups.
You'll like this mic because it is small enough to comfortably carry in your pocket and just snap it into to the headphone jack when you're ready to record. Then, just point the mic in the direction of your subject and start recording. What you'll get is audio that is much better in terms of loudness and clarity. But, I also find that it amps up all of the audio. So, while it is directional, you still need a pretty quiet place to record.
To get the best audio, you'll need a professional grade microphone. The problem is, the iPhone can't accept regular microphones that use the standard 3.5mm jack. To solve the iPhone's microphone incompatibility problem, you'll need to buy a KV Connection iPhone Microphone Adapter. It runs about $20, but with it, you can attach any microphone (that has a 3.5mm plug) to the iPhone – this includes wireless lavaliere microphones like the one I use for all of my stuff.
Once you've got this little gem, just find a professional grade microphone that you really like and you're off.
Shooting like Spielberg (sort of)
Probably my favorite use of the iPhone (at least for blog content creation) is its video capabilities. While Apple's built-in video recording tool will give you basic trimming capabilities, you'll have to spend a few bucks to bring the world of video editing to your phone.
For all of my Talking with Tom videos, I've used iMovie. iMovie makes it easy to trim, split and edit clips. You can add a voice-over or soundtrack, even insert title slides (jpegs) or in my case, sponsor slides, and apply titles and transitions – all on the phone. Then you can render and publish directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, CNNiReport (for which they even offer a video template for titles and such) or just send it to your camera roll to be imported to your computer. If you're a big Vimeo user, Vimeo came out with their own editing app, but I've found it a bit buggy thus far. Lastly, if you are shooting in a place where you just can't get good lighting, try picking up the Flare app, which also gives you the ability to zoom while you video (can't do that in the iPhone's native video app) as well as apply HDR effects, etc.
You'll also want to keep that iPhone steady, which can be hard as the iPhone doesn't have a native mount for hooking it up to a tripod. No worries, though: order a Glif. It's a Kickstarter project that resulted in a nice, small, simple way to mount your iPhone on any standard tripod.
Get familiar with a few typographical terms and see your font library in a whole new way
The printer wasn't always a machine that sat in the corner of your office, beeping out cryptic warning messages and accumulating slap-shaped handprints. Even a few decades ago, most people would have thought of a printer as a person — somebody whose work consisted of manually arranging and printing text and images. Professional printers are still plying and improving upon their trade, but thanks to the advent of the personal computer, we've inherited a great many of their tools in digital form. The problem? When those tools arrived, they didn't come with any knowledge of the craft. It's as though every computer owner has been given the keys to a master carpenter's workshop, but hasn't yet been shown how to swing a hammer.
Luckily, you don't have to don a hooded robe and take the Typographer's Oath to get a better handle on the fundamentals of your favorite fonts. In fact, once you've learned a few terms and distinctions, you may find yourself looking at your font options in a whole new way. So if you want to be able to talk typefaces like Leon from sales can talk about wine, pull up a chair.
Today, we'll take a look at one of the most easily distinguished characteristics of fonts: the serif. But first, in order to understand the significance of the serif, it'll be helpful to start off with a tiny bit of history.
Typography: a very condensed history
It's almost impossible to fathom the fact that, for the majority of its history, the written word was exactly that –handwritten (or hand-carved). Many would suggest that the questions typography addresses are as old as the first alphabet. The size, spacing, legibility and uniformity of hieroglyphic characters would have certainly been a worthy concern — after all, if your "owl" looked too much like your "scarab," readers would surely throw down your papyrus in frustration.
In the Western world, medieval scribes fostered a rich tradition of variations in handwritten scripts before the advent of the Gutenberg press in the mid-1400′s. Generally, it's said that this invention, with its reliance on uniform, custom carved letters, heralded the advent of typography as we know it today. The emergence of distinctive sets of letters and characters during this time is also largely responsible for some of typography's more archaic-sounding distinctions: gothic type? Roman type? What century are we living in?
Hundreds of years and thousands of meticulously designed typefaces later, we're awash in a sea of font options. Just opening up the dropdown menu in Word is enough to give the average user an anxiety attack. Web- and email-based tools like Emma make the decision a little easier. Have you ever noticed that your reading experience on the web is fairly uniform, and usually pretty painless? Web designers can't be certain which fonts your device will come equipped with, so they'll often restrict themselves to "web-safe fonts" — fonts that can be read on any device — to ensure that their readers see their content as they intended it. This is also the case with Emma's font selection: instead of the Narnia wardrobe of fonts typically employed in desktop word processing programs, you'll see 15 of the most versatile, popular and readable fonts available. There's a lot of character in these sets of characters, so let's take a look at one way you can distinguish them.
Look at these two N's. Notice a difference? The Times New Roman N on the left has little finishing strokes in all of the places where an individual line terminates; the Helvetica N on the right doesn't. Those are called serifs. Easy, right? If serifs were just called "little taily things," no formal introduction would be required!
For many, the serif conveys an old-fashioned elegance, and that sentiment has roots in typographical history. Serifs are said by some to emulate the initial placement of a flat paintbrush on a surface to shape a letter for a stone engraving — a bit of calligraphic flourish from an era that predates the printed word. In print (and especially in newsprint) serifed fonts are said to have greater readability. Readability actually doesn't refer to whether the individual letters can be easily distinguished — that's legibility. Instead, readability refers to the ease with which a reader can follow along over longer sections of text. Proponents of serifed fonts often contend that the additional finishing strokes help distinguish letter shapes and assist in guiding the eye horizontally across the page.
Times New Roman may be the most commonly used serifed font in the workplace today, thanks largely to its long reign as the default font in Microsoft programs like Word and Excel. As Word goes, so go many word processing programs, including our own. Times New Roman is a taut, functional font, but among typographers, its suitability as serifed fonts' standard bearer is hotly contested. In fact, it's no longer in use by The Times, the London newspaper who commissioned its creation and gave it its namesake back in 1931. For web use, many point to Georgia as a suitable alternative — the lowercase letters are closer in size to the uppercase ones, so even at small point sizes, the individual letters are larger and more easily read. Perhaps this is why the Times that we're better acquainted with here in the States – TheNew York Times — employs Georgia as their main typeface for web headlines and articles. For those seeking a font that evokes an even earlier time in history — say, the Italian Renaissance — you might want to consider Book Antiqua. This serifed font boasts greater calligraphic stylization in its strokes, but its thicker lines and broader letters also make it highly readable.
Now that we've identified our serif, we need only dust off our French textbooks to identify our sans-serif fonts: sans means without. You may have noticed that the text on this page is sans-serif — the lines of the letters terminate without any ornamentation. The same is probably true of the typefaces in your email inbox and on your favorite news sites: in addition to their immense popularity in the material world, sans-serif typefaces enjoy special prominence on the web, where text is likely to be compact and frequently scrolled. In the pioneer days of digital typography, the clear lines of sans-serif fonts proved well-suited to pixel-based screens. Where ornately serifed fonts could dissolve into unwieldy, blocky characters, the cleaner sans-serif fonts could survive the pixelation more or less intact. While modern high-definition screens have all but eliminated pixelation as a serious text issue, the enhanced white space offered by thin, sans-serif characters is also thought to ease the reader's eye when scanning an illuminated screen. This may be especially true of smaller screens — the default typefaces for all major mobile devices are sans-serif.
Consciously or not, this techie association has only strengthened the infatuation with the presumed clean, spare modernism of sans-serif fonts. Although sans-serif fonts aren't a uniquely modern invention (serif-free Greek characters predate the Roman Empire, and their introduction in print dates back to the early 1800s), there's a ring of truth to their association with modernism. This is especially true of Helvetica, popular design's undisputed champion of the last decade. As illuminated in Gary Hustwit's engrossing 2007 documentary, Helvetica, this striking Swiss font has become one of the most ubiquitous emblems of contemporary life. Engineered during the 1950s in accordance with the modernist ideal — abandoning the trappings of classical ornamentation in favor of clean, spare functionality — Helvetica has emerged as the rare font with rockstar status among design lovers. Emma customer service specialist and man of style Miles Price sometimes even wears his Helvetica T-shirt to the office. If Helvetica can be likened to a rock band, though, its closest analogue is probably U2: it's wildly popular, critically laurelled, seemingly timeless and an easy target for ridicule. In fact, a great many trend-setting designers are consciously distancing themselves from Helvetica (and its Microsoft-commissioned, Emma-friendly cousins, Tahoma, Verdana and Arial). Consequently, while the sans-serif font remains a bastion of modernity, the design world has enjoyed a renaissance of ornately serifed fonts, both in print and on the web.
Fortunately for the art form, there are plenty of font choices available beyond serif and sans-serif options. Many typefaces belong to different families entirely. Still, most fonts within your Emma account can be considered either serif or sans-serif, as can most of the text you encounter over the course of your day.
Fascinating stuff, right? Once you know where to look, you'll spot all kinds of places where a change in typeface changes the feeling of an entire message. One of those places may be in your own email campaigns, so if you feel like subtly altering your voice without changing your message, now you've got something other than your intuition to help guide your choice.
Cody's not a Certified Font Specialist, but he found a wealth of typographical information within the Emma design team, as well as in these posts from Co.Design, I Love Typography and Alex Poole.
Get email tips & tricks in your inbox. Sign up for Emma's newsletters.
Creating a positive subscriber experience before your first email campaign
Sometimes you procure an item that you just know will serve a grand purpose later but, perhaps, the timing of its use isn't quite clear yet. For me, it's an electric sander for all of the furniture re-finishing I plan to do in the rooms of a house I don't own yet (but that's the subject for another post).
For some of the companies I talk to each day, that item is a precious, albeit outdated, list containing the email addresses of all of their closest friends, customers and prospects. You may know what I'm talking about: you've gathered a rather impressive email list over time, but now the dust is beginning to collect, and you realize that you're running the risk of being forgotten by those signups.
You may want to clutch that list in desperation (it's hard-earned!) and send out a blast (ick!) to all of those recipients. Instead, consider fine-tuning your list, and think about making the experience personal — you'll begin the email relationship with your subscribers on the right foot.
Review your list. Your audience isn't just a list of email addresses – it's a collection of people who have shown interest in your product or service over time. But, do you remember what you signed up for a couple years ago? Your audience probably doesn't either, so it's worth your time to review your email list before sending your first mailing. Start by giving Emma's Privacy and Permission Policy a once-over, and narrow your list down to folks who have done business with you or opted in during the last 18 months. Next, segment the remaining subscribers by their relationship to you (friend, client, etc) or by their signup date. Consider sending newer subscribers a welcome email, and reintroduce yourself to people who signed up more than a few months back. Remind them that they've signed up, explain that you're going to start mailing to them and mention the opt-out link in case a few recipients' interests have changed.
Set conservative sending goals. Consistent communication strengthens the relationship with your audience. But crafting great emails takes time and planning. Do you know what kind of information you plan on sharing, how it'll benefit your audience and how often you'll be able to share it? If you establish your content strategy before you start sending, you can spare yourself some major headaches down the road. Next, determine frequency. For many, a monthly newsletter is a sustainable pace to establish. But if you've identified a need for weekly or daily emails, you'll want to set that expectation with your audience.
Design a preference center. If you're developing different types of messages (a regular newsletter plus periodical promotional messages, for example), or different audiences to target (like male versus female shoppers), give your audience as much power of choice as you can. By designing a signup form with options that best reflect your audience segments, you're also setting up a "preference center" for current audience members. This will allow your subscribers to opt down (receive emails less frequently) or opt over (move to a different mailing group) in lieu of unsubscribing altogether. You'll be rewarded with much more responsive audience groups. For instructions on customizing your preference center, head on over to this nifty page in Emma's Help Guide.
There you have it – your three-step plan for rolling out a top-notch email experience for the folks on your list. If you have any questions about getting started, let us know.