If 12,345 trees are wrong, we don’t want to be right

We here at Emma like trees. They remove carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and give songbirds a home. And so, to show them how much we appreciate them, we've been planting five trees each time a new customer joins Emma.

This year, with five months to go, we're up to 12,345 trees.

When 366 customers joined Emma in July, that meant 1,830 new trees would be planted. Half goes to the equatorial region of Plant-It 2020's choice (they're our fabulous partner in all this tree planting business). The rest is up to you, fair blog reader, as long as it's on Plant-It 2020′s list of pre-approved non-harvest sites.

For July, you chose Florida. For many, that's the land of sun, sand and sea. For you college sports fanatics, it's the home of Gators, Hurricanes and Seminoles. Very soon, the Sunshine State also will be home to hundreds of new trees, thanks to Emma's new customers.

Consider a city block, or a rural road, or a suburban park. Count the trees. Now think about this: 1,830 brand new trees. Now think about this: 12,345 brand new trees.

Did you plant any trees this year? If you joined Emma this year, thank you for joining and welcome aboard. We're glad you're here. Planet earth says thanks, too, by the way.

Let us know where on earth you think August's trees should go…

[poll=8]

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Bay Books brings their customers into the book business.

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I love to really get involved with a company or product. If there's an opportunity to let a company know what I think, or take part in a test group, I'm there. Which means I fill out comment cards, surveys, even write reviews on iTunes as often as possible. So imagine the heaven I stumbled upon whilst meandering the streets of Coronado Island, California.

Bay Books is a small bookshop on Orange Avenue that has their own way of getting people involved. They give anyone the chance to write a review, then slide the review right below the book. It's incredible. I found myself picking up books I normally wouldn't have touched just because of strangers' takes on them. If I lived in Southern California, I guarantee I'd make the trip to Bay Books as often as time (and money) would allow.

What Bay Books is doing is something that really draws me in, and makes me feel like I can be a part of their shop. And this goes for any company or organization, online *or* offline. Emma tries to do this by giving all of you reading this (yes, you, in front of your computer right now. Nice shirt, by the way.) the chance to choose where we're going to plant trees every month. Through a partnership with the reforestation non-profit, Plant-It 2020, we plant 5 trees for every new Emma account. So, since you're here, won't you take a moment to get involved with Emma and tell us where we should plant our July trees?

What makes an email personal, anyway?

We toss the word "personalization" around a fair amount in email marketing, and most people associate it with "Dear Bob" personalization — that technological parlor trick of dropping a first name placeholder into the greeting of an email. But the people getting the best results are the ones going beyond first name personalization and customizing emails based on geography, loyalty, purchase history and more.

How do I know this? I've read the Aberdeen's report on email marketing, which Emma helped to sponsor. They identified the companies with high open, click and conversion rates in their campaigns, and they found the patterns of how those companies have set up their member databases, copywriting strategy and internal processes to create truly personalized emails.

My favorite part: They acknowledged that the best campaigns don't stop at personalizing the *content* of emails — they also personalize the *delivery,* using trigger emails to send campaigns based on recipients' schedules and actions. I was thrilled to read that 33% of those top-performing companies were putting triggers to work in their overall email strategy, basing the timing of their campaigns on a customer's behavior (buying a product, clicking a link, subscribing to the newsletter). By comparison, only 10% of the lowest-rated companies used trigger emails, which indicates that a triggers play some role in overall email marketing success. Of course they do. A feature that lets you send emails even while napping *has* to be great.

Even if you lack/can't afford/fear the technology behind personalizing emails, it's still easy to make sure your emails are written and designed with people in mind — friendly, conversational, human. Nobody wants to read an email that sounds like it was written for robots. With the possible exception of actual robots. For more inspiration on relating to your subscribers as *people,* read Mark Brownlow's excellent post on the matter here.

The hotel is historic, but the email program is fresh.

Last week a few of the Emma staffers spent some time in America's Finest City, San Diego, California. We stayed at The Sofia, a recently renovated hotel with history that dates back to 1926. The service was friendly, the rooms were comfy, the sinks were chic and the dark chocolates, well, they were a special gift from my sweet wife. She knows my addiction all too well, and the folks at The Sofia were ready to accommodate.

The email program caught my attention, too. (Of course!) Their in-room comment card doubled as a signup form and had a question that piqued my interest. It asked, 'Are there any dates you would like us to help you remember?' (Here's the online version of the form.) Immediately, I thought of my anniversary and gave them the date. It started a whole chain of thoughts, too. How will we celebrate this year? Where will we go? Would Lauren enjoy San Diego? My hunch is that I'll get an email a month or two in advance of my anniversary and all of these thoughts will come flooding back into my head. Just in time to make my travel plans!

There are two things I love about this little strategy. First, it's easy on the marketing team at The Sofia. One email campaign can be waiting in the wings and automatically be sent out in advance of every special day in their list. Once it's in motion, not much maintenance is required. Second, it makes for a great subscriber experience. An invitation to celebrate a day that's special to me is so much better than a randomly timed 20% discount offer or an update about a new amenity, for example.

What about you and your list building strategy? Are there other questions you should be asking? Questions that set the direction of your email program in ways that improve the subscriber experience and strengthen your customer relationships at the same time? If so, go ahead and change things up. And by all means, please let us know how it goes.

Knock Back a Cold Can of Altruism

Emma's always been concerned about giving back to the community in which we live and work. We've been lucky enough to stumble into some success and as my grandmother always says, "A rising tide floats all boats." Picture Emma as that tide, minus any sort of weird flood phobias you might have.

We have a good relationship with many of the non-profits who use our service. Email communication is cost-effective and timely for these non-profits who typically have little of either money or time. We know that they are constantly under the burden of tightening budgets and we're always looking for some way to help out.

That's where our Office Coordinator, Anne Rochford, comes in. She's always listening patiently to our gripes about the kitchen being out of Cokes (or sodas for the Ohioans that work here). She had the great idea that we could slake our thirst and at the same time raise a little money to help out our community.

For the last several months, we've all been dutifully paying 25 cents for each Coke we drink. (Well, between you and me, Matt seems to think that Mondays are 2 for 1.) All of the money raised each month is given to charity. To add a little more spiciness, the charities are chosen by an Emma staffer each month. Money that would otherwise end up in a jar somewhere is given to those who need it and Emma staffers get a chance to help out their favorite charities. Picture that tide again and some beautiful sailboats, maybe just off the cost of some Mediterranean island. Now, wake up.

We're in our fourth month of what I'm calling (without consultation) the Drink Back Campaign. These are the charities we've donated to so far:
1st month – Magdalene House
2nd month – Book 'Em
3rd month – Sexual Assault Center
Current month – Nashville Humane Association

A little trivia about our efforts:
Emma staffers' favorite drink: Diet Dr. Pepper
Emma staffers' least favorite drink: Sprite (lack of caffeine?)
Average # cases consumed in a month: 10
Average # hours Emma intern "Lojack" spends rolling the change: 3
Total amount of money donated: almost $400

Does your company have an interesting way of giving back to the community?

Using video in your next email campaign

Last week, the MSPMentor blog showcased the video email marketing work of Emma client masterIT, one of their top ranked MSPs (that's managed service providers, for those of us who haven't brushed up on our tech acronyms lately). We've talked about video and email before, but we thought you might like to see the post – including the fabulous results they got by using their email to link folks to a video on their site.

How are you using video and email together?

How do I get new subscribers to join my email list?

email subscriber list at mambu
It's a question we hear often 'round these parts, particularly from folks who are just getting started with their email marketing efforts. And there are some pretty standard answers – add a signup form to your website, have your salespeople ask for email addresses on the phone, or add a fishbowl at the retail counter for business cards. And of course, in our best practices talks and Ask Emmas, we always encourage folks to think about what's unique at their organizations and consider some creative options ways for asking people to join their lists.

Today, I witnessed one such creative option.

I was at a Nashville-area restaurant for lunch (the stylish Mambu, for you local types), and when I went to freshen up in the ladies room, this is what I saw in the bathroom. Specifically, ahem, in the bathroom *stall.*

It's funny, a) because bathrooms make things funnier and b) because it works for the same reason those other more traditional, "sanitary" methods do – you ask people when they're already at your store or your site, when they're likely to say yes, and where their choices are limited to do anything else *but* subscribe. Props to Mambu for capitalizing on the ultimate captive audience.

What creative ways do you ask people to join your list?

The best bowls in Denver.

Tokyo Joe’s :: Emma Email Marketing
Recently, we've started featuring pictures and stories of Emma customers in our ads that run in various cities around the countries, showing how they use Emma's email marketing services to grow their brand in style. Now that I've been working at Emma's satellite office in Denver for 6 months, we wanted to show off an Emma customer that's particularly well known and loved in the Mile High City. Tokyo Joe's, a local favorite to many Coloradans, came to mind right away. In my lunches with Linden Mundekis, Joe's director of digital marketing, I learned that they've long been courted to be franchised and shared with the rest of the fast-food loving, Japanese-style, sushi-eating world. Vowing to keep it local and not stretch beyond Colorado's borders, Joe's appreciates those returning customers – "addicts," in Joe's language – who show almost fanaticism towards the lifestyle and culture this 17-location restaurant establishment creates and encourages. Having gone through 3 Addicts cards myself, I think I safely qualify.

Anyway, here's the ad that's started running in the Westword. If you're in Denver, be sure and take a look, and stop by Joe's for a bowl! The Yakatori bowl is fabulous, and after ordering it 36 times, I should know.

Bookmark Magic from Emma’s Developers

Those of us on the development team here at Emma spend a lot of time online. Many of us have been using the Internet in some form since the days of dial-up BBSes and acoustic couplers.

We like to think we have seen a lot of the web and that we are familiar with the best of the best. To that end, we invite you to agree or disagree with what each of us thinks is one great website. Some are work-related, if only tangentially, some are simply cool applications which we admire from a technology point of view, and some are just great ways to explore the things that interest us away from the computer. Yes, we are occasionally allowed to step away from building new features.

Hernan gets great ideas and advice from Jakob Nielsen's UseIt.
"About 10 years ago, I attended a presentation given by Jakob where he discussed the importance of information architecture and website usability long before anybody really cared about those things. He provided some great tips on building websites that will attract users by making it simple for them to find the information they want, instead of just foisting a whole bunch of press releases and unnecessary graphics upon them. His website has an archive of all his posts since 1995 (under "All Alertbox columns") and is a great resource for anybody looking to publish a web page or that will actually be read by the intended audience."

Keeping up to date with the fast-changing programming world is made easy for Matt with the Reddit – Programming feed.
"It used to be that we had a 'yellowpages' for the internet that was a directory of every webpage on the planet, in one book. However, as this internet fad has continued more and more sites have blossomed, it has become hard to find new resources to see what is happening in the tech world. That's why one of the sites that I use most is the reddit programming feed. It's a good look into what's new and what's going on in the technology/programming world."

Kim, our uber-productive Director of Product Development, keeps everything on track with tips from the Lifehacker Blog.
"Lifehacker's dedication to finding efficient, innovative, or sometimes just plain strange ways of getting things done and optimizing work-flow is a great source of ideas and inspiration. Hearing about great extensions and utilities to streamline what techies have to keep up with during the day has been super helpful, and hey – who doesn't want to know how to rehab old speakers into a media cabinet? And speaking of utilities that help keep mundane tasks fun and engaging, I'll give a shout out to flickr and picnik, who managed to make something as simple as reordering photos or quick photo editing a pleasure rather than something I'd rather rip my nails off than do."

According to Chris, content rules at RUKind.org.
"One website that is not tech-related but has an awesome wealth of info on it is www.rukind.org. It's hippie stuff to the bone but the link to other related sites, as well as the amount of updated, cool info you can get there is incredible. It looks really old school, but if the old adage of 'content over prettiness' still holds, I'd take this one any day."

When it comes to keeping in sync, I use DropBox.
Dropbox provides a dead-simple way to sync files (images, word documents, anything) across several machines, access these files online (in a secure way), and even share these files with friends via a simple web link. It's a combination of a downloadable application and a website, but what makes Dropbox's offering really compelling is how simple it is to use. You just don't have to do much to it to sync files, and getting a link to a file for a friend is two or three clicks away. It's a great example of how technology helps make complicated tasks easy and accessible. It might be great way for a small office to make sure everyone can access the latest vacation calendar or get to those image assets for the next email campaign.

This is just a small sample of the websites that keep us working, learning, and exploring. What sites help you make it through your day?

Picture this: a great service for prepping your email campaign’s images

Adding photos to your stylish emails can now be a walk in the park with the help of Picnik, a free online service that allows you to edit, crop, & re-size your photos.

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Services like Picnik can add a lot to the look and feel of your email newsletter design. Do you have any large or oddly-sized photos lying around that you'd like to include in an email campaign? With Picnik, you can easily pull those photos from your desktop, scale or crop them to the perfect size and save the new and improved image. Having a consistent image size throughout your campaign will improve the overall aesthetic and increase the readability of the content, not to mention all the positive feedback you'll receive from your audience members! For an example, check out Ad Age's email.

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Still not convinced? Here's another good reason to give this site a try. For those of you who simply want to pull the header from your website and resize it for use in emails, Picnik's got you covered. In addition to editing photos from your desktop, Picnik enables you to edit them directly from any website (including sites like Photobucket or Facebook ). Type in the URL to your personal or business website and, like magic, all of the images hosted there will appear on Picnik. Just choose the header image & scale it down! We recommend keeping the width of your email header between 600 and 650 pixels.

After using a tool as fabulous as Picnik, you'll be able to create visually stunning emails in no time. You might even have time for a real picnic…