If you follow either one of our blogs, you know we have a penchant for all things geeky. This Wednesday, we opened up our office to host Lunch 2.0, a monthly meeting and networking event for the tech community. A phenomenon born in Silicon Valley in 2006, Portland imported the concept in 2007, and it was an immediate hit.
The concept is simple. A host company — that would be us for the sake of this story — offers a meeting space and brings in lunch for the attendees. Like-minded people network and mingle over noshes, hashing through shared issues and solutions: how to prioritize features, finding the right hire, nurturing a happy and productive work environment, dealing with growth and so on. It's a fun and productive event, with free lunch to boot.
We always enjoy having people in our space, so we were very excited to host Lunch 2.0. Currently, Emma occupies the 5th floor of the beautiful bside6 building on E Burnside and recently decided to expand our operation to the 6th floor. To celebrate the good news, we decided to have lunch on the unfinished sixth floor and take advantage of the collective brainpower in the room. We lined a wall with butcher's paper and asked attendees what they thought we should do with the space. The suggestions we received were impressive. Acoustic ceiling tiles? Yes, please. Practice mad science? We're all for it. Goomba hackerspace? Bring on that open sourcery. Indoor track/roller rink? Now we're talking!
Speaking of the 6th floor, you may be wondering what our plans for it might entail. Emma's growing, in case you haven't heard. In Portland, the plan is to grow quite a bit. We're currently in the position to hire multiple software developers, so if you've got super-fly skills and talk of things like Python and PostgreSQL makes you happy, check out our job page here.
Thanks to everyone (nearly 100 all said and done) who came out for Lunch 2.0 this week. We enjoyed having you in our space and look forward to ongoing sponsorships within the tech community. Also, a big shout out goes to Lovejoy Food for creating a Mediterranean feast that everyone enjoyed. We're still enjoying those vegan-friendly orange cardamom cookies. This morning, we discovered, paired with coffee, they really do make a breakfast of champions
If you're in Portland, be sure to drop by Small Society, a rocking iOS development shop, on April 6th for the next installment of Lunch 2.0. Not in a Lunch 2.0 town? Consider initiating the movement where you live. It's a great way to get involved and support the geekery in your community. Plus, it's a legitimate reason for a mid-day party. Need we say more?
In January 2008, Emma sent a member of our sales team out to Denver to start our first satellite office. Gina dug her roots in the Rocky Mountain soil and began to spread the good word about Emma across the West. Two years later, she was joined by yours truly, and today, the two of us make up our small-but-mighty Denver branch. (For some context, Emma also put a stake in Portland in March of '08, in Austin in July of '09 and in New York City this past fall.)
Over the last few years, the Denver office has existed in various spaces, from a single cubicle in a basement to a corner of an interior design firm to a modern loft north of downtown. But arising from a desire to be more involved in the community, beginning on March 1, we took the Denver office completely mobile.
In this day and age, working remotely is becoming more and more popular, especially for those working in the field of technology. In addition to lots of coffee shops that offer Wi-Fi signals, coworking spaces are cropping up. Gina and I will be taking advantage of both options, and on any given day, you might find us working away at St. Mark's Coffeehouse, joining a conference call from Stella's or interacting with the folks at Boulder Digital Arts, where we rent a desk.
It's an exciting time for us Denverados, and an intriguing experiment for Emma as a whole. If you're in the Front Range area and interested in meeting up, let us know — we're out and about, and we love meeting our neighbors.
How about getting to know some of our Denver clients? Gina shares a list of some favorites:
Our friends at YouthBiz: This fantastic nonprofit and Emma client of nearly three years has helped more than 2,500 youth become successful scholars, businesspeople, community leaders and entrepreneurs through after-school programs.
The good people of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science keep us entertained and up-to-date on museum exhibits through their emails. And the DMNS is one of our favorite ways to spend a Saturday in Denver.
One of Emma's newest clients, the Downtown Denver Partnership informs residents about what's going on in the community. We love seeing the Daily News Highlights in our inboxes each morning.
The most valuable workshop I've ever attended was with Emma client and program extraordinaire, Boulder Digital Works at CU. If you want to be enlightened and challenged by the creative geniuses of CP+B, their workshops are a must-do.
We love catching up with our friends at Emma agency partner, Cahoots Communications. Helping local and national nonprofits with their brand and marketing strategy, they bring good causes to life. And they are great for a visit over a morning cup of joe.
Emma's Austin outpost is here to help you keep it weird while you're in town. The answer? Head to South Lamar.
The blogosphere is chock full of great tips for enjoying Austin during SXSW. Most of them cover the quintessential items such as where to find the best BBQ, breakfast taco and Mexican martini around town. But sadly, one of the coolest drags in Austin is often left out of the mix. Just a few blocks west of South Congress Avenue and south of downtown, South Lamar is home to a mix of historic spots (like Broken Spoke, Kerbey Lane and Saxon Pub), mingled in with an infusion of newer shops, restaurants and bars (like the best sushi spot in town, Uchi, and a Bon Appetit 2009 Top 10 New Restaurant of the Year winner, Olivia).
Since Emma's Austin satellite office is squarely planted in the heart of South Lamar Boulevard, we decided to make our own list of suggestions built around one of the quirkiest boulevards keepin' it weird in town.
In a city known for its food trucks, you can find one of the better cups of joe not from a trailer but a full-sized, repurposed, 20-foot shipping container called La Boite. Pair your coffee with a freshly made almond croissant or macaroon, and your visit to South Austin just got off to a five-star start. Breakfast time brings breakfast tacos all over Austin. Hit one of S. Lamar's local shops Casita Taco. Or for a true South Austin experience, drop by Maria's Taco Express — as much for the South Austin vibe as the guisada, el pastor or breakfast tacos served all day.
South Lamar covers a wide variety of boutique shopping options, too, so if you're ready to grab a break from SXSW sessions and blogging, enjoy a stop into So La, right next door to Emma Austin. Or try one of the street's more unique stores like Marigold – Gateway to India. If you enjoy two-wheeled transportation, Jack and Adam's and Bicycle Sport Shop both boast friendly, knowledgeable staffs and some cool gear. If you've got bicycle in tow, they'd also be happy to recommend a ride or two in town. (Meet you on Loop 360, early Saturday morning?)
If you've had your fill of brisket and tacos by evening, you can hide out on the patio at Red's Porch, which boasts a great view of the greenbelt, a solid lineup of local brews on tap and bacon gravy. (Let me say that again: Bacon. Gravy.)
Of course, what would a lineup of must-visit spots in Austin be without mentioning at least one or two food trailers? Odd Duck Farm to Trailer features a farm-to-trailer menu that changes frequently. Take note, this popular spot is only open for dinner. And a trip to South Lamar without at least sniffing Gourdough's would be a crime. To call this place a donut trailer is an understatement, as many a fan will testify. Just know that after a Flying Pig, you may skip a meal or two the next day.
Cap off your trip with a cold beverage and a round of karaoke, a coaster step or 10 frames at The Highball (opened by the owner's of Alamo Drafthouse in 2010) — or one of Austin's best outdoor patios at Paggi House, which is just a block off South Lamar at Lee Barton Drive.
The Emma Austin office will be dark during SXSWi but if you're in the area, give us a shout on Twitter at @J_Gesinger, @gpgarner and @studio865. We'll go halves with you at Gourdoughs.
How one savvy non-profit uses Emma to make the arts sustainable.
In Portland, creativity runs deep. It flows in the rivers and crosses all the bridges. One of our clients, the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), works tirelessly to keep those creative opportunities flowing for the entire city. They're currently chipping away at a gutsy initiative to establish a sustainable public fund to ensure a thriving arts ecology for all Portland residents.
An Emma client since 2009, they were also a recipient of a free lifetime account courtesy of Emma 25 in 2010. Recently, we sat down with CAN's assistant director, Emily Brod, to chat about how Emma helps drive their marketing strategy and where she finds inspiration in the Portland community.
To kick things off, will you tell us about some cool initiatives at CAN and how you're using email marketing to support them? CAN is leading the charge for a new dedicated stream of public funding for the arts. Our mission is simple — increase our region's investment every year to bring arts and cultural experiences to life. We are here because we know that the arts inspire and educate our kids, revitalize our neighborhoods and fuel our economy. We also know that without public funding, many of our residents would no longer have access to the innumerable benefits of arts and culture.
CAN relies heavily on email as our main vehicle for communicating our goals, recruiting supporters and donors and celebrating our successes. When the City of Portland and the Regional Arts & Culture Council renewed their support for CAN in July 2010 with an investment of $100,000, they challenged us to build the movement. And build it, we did. We raised $50,000 in private donations. We also recruited 1,000 new supporters in just four months, signed on over 200 messengers to spread the word and exceeded our goal for memberships with new arts organizations.
What Emma feature do you love the most and why does it rock your world? I really love the response module. Being able to see how and when people open our emails and what they click on is so helpful for us. With that data, we're able to better focus our email campaigns to reach and engage the greatest number of people possible in the most effective way. Our smarter campaigns are really working. Over the past few months, we've seen an upward trend in both opens and clicks, which means more people are getting involved in all the great work we do.
Okay, now that we've talked shop for a bit, let's switch gears. We're both lucky enough to live and work in Portland. Describe your perfect Portland day. I could happily spend the whole day at the Saturday Farmer's Market. I love trying all the delicious samples, people-watching, listening to the music, finding fantastic food to cook for dinner, picking out a big bouquet of flowers, running into friends and strolling around on a warm, summer day with my family.
And, to get my art fix on, I use the brand new Public Art PDX iPhone app to take a walking tour of all of Portland's amazing public art.
Portland's got one of the most vibrant food scenes in the country and among the hotly debated titles in town is which place is serving the best burger. Whose got your vote? I love the burgers at Little Big Burger. I love everything about them – the size, the juiciness, the flavor. Topped with chevre and paired with a side order of their awesome truffle fries, I've got one word for you: Mmmm.
What are three Portland non-profits that inspire you? I'm on the board of directors for the Newspace Center for Photography, a fantastic non-profit that serves as a multidimensional photography resource center and community hub. Newspace has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, adding more programming, while growing their audience size and physical footprint. They've also stayed true to their mission of providing a space and a community for photo enthusiasts regards of skill level or income.
Another great non-profit is Girls, Inc. Their mission is to inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold. After volunteering with them at a local elementary school, I think I was inspired just as much as the girls!
And Friends of Trees is always one of my favorites. This winter, they planted their 400,000th tree in Portland and have almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the city. Seriously. When my family planted a tree in front of our home this January, we learned that a PSU professor attributed Portland's expanding tree canopy (one of few in the country) to the "Friends of Trees effect." I love that I can raise my daughter in a city where a non-profit organization has such a huge impact on the environment, our health and the beauty of our community!
In Portland and want to get more involved in CAN's efforts to champion the arts for every man, woman and child?
Head over to their site and check out all the ways you can help, and don't forget to sign up for their emails while you're there.
Free free to join CAN at the Regional Arts & Culture Council's annual State of the Arts report at Portland City Hall on March 9 at 9:30 am to show your support.
Also, drop by Disjecta gallery (one of our favorite clients as well) and check out the legendary CAN Van immortalized in the Portland Paper Project. It promises to be the most amazing paper replica of Portland that you've ever seen.
In honor of Valentine's Day this year, some of us at Emma returned to our elementary school roots and created mailboxes out of brown paper bags — and, yes, decorated them with glitter and stickers — so that we could share handmade cards and candy with one another. You could definitely say we got swept up in the nostalgia and excitement of rustling paper bags and candy wrappers.
Much to no marketer's surprise, on Valentine's Day and the days preceding it, my inbox was packed with heart-filled promotions, and, as I rifled through those offers, I came to this special greeting from one of Emma's agency partners, Red Toad Media.
Red Toad's message was short and sweet, and it linked to a downloadable PDF of vintage-inspired Valentine's. (Click here to see the PDF, or view the thumbnail images below.) Upon downloading, you could print out, sign and deliver your very own Valentine's greetings.
I love that Red Toad took a unique approach to their Valentine's email by showcasing their design skills and letting their subscribers in on the fun.
Of course, it's never a bad idea to offer your customers coupons or discounts on holidays, especially if you're trying to increase your revenue, but, for the next one, consider creatively highlighting one of the things that makes your brand unique. I bet it'll really make you stand out in your customers' inboxes, too.
Introducing a brand new help section for HTML designers
Sending an email is much like making a first impression. It's an opportunity to show off your brand, familiarize your subscribers with what sets you apart and entice them to stick around to hear what you have to say. That's why we want to help you create fetching and effective emails, no matter where you fall on the design chops continuum.
What might that continuum include, exactly? It includes the customer who's juggling 45 other tasks during the day and wants to log into Emma to send a quick-and-easy campaign. (That customer is best suited for a custom stationery and custom layout, by the way, because that means he's only responsible for typing in the content. No extra styling necessary.) It also includes the customer who'd like to spend a little extra time laying out copy and images, all within a custom stationery frame. (That customer might work with an Emma designer to get a Concierge Design, or even a Studio Design.) And it includes the customer who's an HTML wizard and wants free rein to design her own HTML email from top to bottom.
That last customer type — Is it you? Hello, our HTML-savvy friend! — is the one we're talking to today. (Not sure where you fall on the continuum? Take a look at all of the design options that Emma offers.)
If you're a web designer who's been tasked with creating code for your company's HTML emails, we want to help you build rock-solid HTML that's suitable for an email environment. You may have caught Taylor's post about the differences between HTML for email and HTML for the web, and the distinction is only becoming more true.
I know what you're thinking: Now I have to design HTML that not only works in all the browsers out there, but also works in all of the mail clients? This sucks.
But it doesn't have to suck. It's actually fairly simple — and even a bit fun — once you get the hang of it. Just ask Emma designer, Dean Shortland, a self-taught HTML expert and one of those guys who likes solving tricky problems. (Case in point: He recently sent around an email to our staff, inviting us to join a "Campaign Rendering Issues" collaboration group. Fun times.) Lucky for HTML designers building their own HTML emails in Emma, Dean's developed a brand new section of our Help Guide: HTML for Email.
In this section, you'll learn all about properly coding HTML for an email environment, including such topics as:
Nesting your content in tables and working with <div> tags
Using CSS style sheets and inline styles
Image specifications and image placement in your campaign
Troubleshooting common HTML issues
If you're an Emma customer who's already building campaigns using an "Upload Your Own HTML" template, make sure to check out the new HTML for Email help section, and spot-check your code to ensure it'll work in all email clients. If you're not using an "Upload Your Own HTML" template yet, let us know and we can easily add one to your account. Happy coding!
A few best practices and design ideas for the beginning email marketer, including how to talk to your designer.
Jimmy Thorn is a man of few words, but he's saved some of them just for you. And though he just moved to Emma's User Experience team, Jimmy's work has been an integral part of Emma Design for the last three years. We'll certainly miss our man JimJam, but we'll always remember these words of wisdom.
1. Keep your content brief. Your audience's attention span is much shorter than you think. Pique interest with teaser paragraphs, and link to the full story elsewhere.
2. Don't use too many fonts in one email. Call attention with different font sizes, not different fonts.
3. Using a lot of crazy, bright colors might sound like a great way to get attention — but in reality, it's a turn-off for your audience and a big turn-on for SPAM filters.
4. Comic Sans, Papyrus and other non-traditional fonts are suitable for a very narrow range of purposes. Generally speaking, they have no place in the majority of professional marketing materials.
5. Giant images do not tell the story well; they can actually get your emails flagged as SPAM. Live text is a much more efficient way of getting your message across.
6. The more information you can give your designer, the better your design will be. Despite our best efforts, we are not mind readers — so it's a safe bet that we are not going to design exactly what you had in mind.
7. If you say "clean" and "modern," we will take you at your word — and you will probably get a design with more white space than you actually want.
8. When providing art direction to a designer, descriptive words or tangible ideas will yield better results than "jazz it up" or "make it pop."
9. Designers are used to hearing the word "no." Don't feel like you will hurt our feelings if you do not like the design. Just give us some good, solid direction, and we'll move on and get it right.
10. Make sure your design reflects your company accurately and conveys its true story. Giant flames, for example, might be great if you own a motorcycle shop — not an investment firm.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Jimmy's Design Tips, which will offer Jimmy's famously sage insight for the more advanced email marketer.
Back in November, we published a blog post letting the world know we were looking for the right someone to lead our business development efforts in Portland. In a magical ask and they shall come moment, we met Lisa Creamer and liked her so much, we immediately wanted to put a ring on it. Recently, we sat down with our newest Portland member to chat about her new role and her plan for friendly Emma domination in the city of roses.
You're been with Emma for six weeks now. What excites you the most about your new role? I think it's the opportunity that excites me the most. Portland is a hot bed of creativity. People feel a sense of freedom to bring forth new ideas, knowing that the town will embrace them and engage in their growth. Emma just seems like a logical fit. We fit the Portland personality. Sure, we're quirky and fun-loving, but we also provide the perfect venue to help people grow and flourish. Emma has the unique ability to help people communicate their ideas with simplicity and style without breaking the bank.
We're intrigued. Can you tell us a little bit about your grand plans for bringing the Emma brand to the Portland community? In a perfect world, I would have local indie darlings, The Decemberists, compose a love ballad to Portland from Emma. While we wait to hear back from Colin Meloy on that, I'm really looking forward to getting the Emma brand in front of the Portland community, to let everyone know we are right on E Burnside in the heart of the central Eastside neighborhood. We moved to Portland three years ago because we wanted to join and support this vibrant community.
One of the things I love about Emma is the giving back initiatives. It just fits organically into the lifestyle out here. At Emma, we do what we do very well. Outside of being an email marketing service, we pride ourselves on building relationships with our customers, making their experience as personable as possible while delivering an awesome product. You pair that up with giving back campaigns, like planting 5 trees for each new customer who joins, and it seems very Portland to me.
Okay, now that we've got the business stuff out of the way, let's have some fun. What's your take on IFC's break-out hit Portlandia? I think most of it is pretty spot on. Let's be honest. People are a little weird here. It's part of what we all love about Portland. And I gotta say that the "Put a bird on it" skit really has us pegged. We do love birds. On everything.
Portland's food cart scene is leading a conversation on a national level. What's your favorite cart in town? My favorite cart is Potato Champion. There's nothing more satisfying than a heaping cone of perfectly cooked fries after a bicycle pub crawl. My six-year-old son, Enzo, prefers PFE, a cart downtown that serves sushi and Chinese food. Whatever you're craving, there's a food cart dishing it out.
What are three Portland companies you would love to introduce to Emma? One company that is near and dear to my heart is Looptworks. Looptworks is dedicated to upcycling, repurposing abandoned materials into clothing and gear. It really addresses the issue of using what's already available and sparks an invitation for people to think about what they buy, where it came from and what natural resources it required to produce it. Plus, their product line is super cute.
Another brand that I love is New Deal Distillery. Add a little Hot Monkey Vodka to a Caipirinha, and I'm a happy camper. Portland's riding a distillery boom right now. Thanks to the DIY culture, it's always been a great place for beer, coffee and tea, and it's nice to see a notable number of quality handcrafted, locally distilled spirits join the scene. It's also worth noting that our office is just blocks from what's known as Distillery Row.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Powell's Books. Outside of being the world's largest new and used bookstore, Powell's is a Portland institution. I'd love to get Emma on their radar and find a way to unite two companies that bring quality service to the community.
There are few things I like more than birthdays and surprises, which is why a recent "Happy 1/2 Birthday" message from Ben and Jerry's literally had me applauding at my desk.
I've been a member of the company's mailing list long enough to know that a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream will make its way to my inbox right around July 23 (go ahead, mark it on your calendar), but this is the first time I've received acknowledgment of my half birthday.
And this wish was accompanied by a coupon for a buy one, get one free discount coupon, nonetheless.
I love that the folks behind ChunkMail have taken the notion of a date-related trigger beyond the typical birthday and anniversary email campaigns and worked it to their advantage in a super fun, entirely unexpected way.
How a few of our Portland customers build community with emails.
I love the city of Portland, and it's not just because I live here. Beyond its most salient attention-getters (the weather, the food carts, the breweries and bridges), there's a small-business spirit that's decidedly friendly and buttoned-down. To see some of that Portland spirit in action, take a look at these three Emma customers. They all send emails that are accessible and chock-full of content that goes beyond your average promotion or announcement.
PedX and Manifesto owners Maggie Yuan and Laura Donovan know a thing or two about stylish shoes and smart accessories. And we were tickled to discover they also know a thing or two about using email to create a community of fans and fellow shoe lovers in Portland.
Sally Mulligan leads their newsletter and social networking efforts. In this November campaign, she promotes pedX's winter trunk shoe. What's better than discounts on shoes? Discounts accompanied by hot beverages, treats and a raffle. The campaign also features the winners of pedX's Fan Photo Contest: Two customers win gift certificates to the store after sending in photos featuring shoes from pedX.
Their campaigns go above and beyond to engage subscribers in new sales, events and contests, and the store integrates email marketing with efforts on their blog and Facebook fan page.
In short: Use monthly emails to build buzz around a sale or special event. Encourage your recipients to share your emails on their social networks, or offer an incentive for recipients who forward to a friend.
The send-off, at a glance. Sent on Thursday, Nov 4 at 4:02 pm Open rate: 34% Subject line: Who Has Your Back in Sweet November? Created using Emma's simple 8 layout
Bitch Media, publisher of Bitch Magazine, has been creating community in Portland since 2007 (and in San Francisco for 11 years before that). The nonprofit publishes articles and interviews that are, according to the folks at Bitch, "fairly wordy," and their emails sometimes follow suit. (Take a look at January's newsletter.) Wordiness, in this case, fits the bill because the team — which includes the executive director, new media intern, web developers, the development director, the art director and more — knows that their subscribers care about in-depth analysis. And that they like a good read.
Bitch Media sends email updates with book club information, book recommendations, and in January's installment, the inaugural Bitch High 5, a staff and reader poll of their favorite things in a designated category.
In short: Connect with your readers through common interests, pop culture and play. Make use of a fun facts section, reader poll or staff profile.
The send-off, at a glance. Sent on Tuesday, Jan 18 to 16,398 people 52% of opens happened in the first three hours Most popular link: coffee mugs Subject line: Here's to a B*tchin' New Year
Modern Domestic is new to the local scene, and it's amazing to see how quickly they've built a strong community of followers in Northeast Portland. Their subscriber list has grown from just more than 250 folks to nearly 1,250 in nine months, and their response numbers are some of the highest we've seen this year.
They offer sewing classes and open sew hours, and they sell a range of sewing machines. Their email campaigns are a treasure trove of helpful tips and links. (Check out a recent campaign here.)
In short: Include relevant links in your newsletters, and then follow up with folks who click — either personally or using a link-based trigger.