We’re at the Creative Freelancer Conference

Are you at the Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago this week? We are. But you knew that from the headline of this post, didn't you? Our own Steve Turney is there, talking with freelance photographers, copywriters and designers about showing off their services with email marketing. If you're there, email Steve and say hello.

[tags]CFC, Creative Freelancer Conference, myemma.com[/tags]

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Emma’s on the Inc. 500 list

Inc. Magazine's profile of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the U.S. hit the stands last week, and we're rather proud to be on this year's list. Specifically, we're #312.

Did you want more numbers? Okay, then. We're officially ranked #24 among advertising & marketing companies, #4 in the greater Nashville area, and #1 among companies who managed to sneak the word 'kickass' into their Inc. profile.

We're thrilled to be named in such a fine roster of companies. We're so thrilled, in fact, that we're ordering a plaque – partially to commemorate the honor, but mostly just to get the word 'kickass' engraved on something.

[tags]emma, Inc 500, Inc Magazine, myemma.com, nashville[/tags]

Is my email campaign any good?

In our latest Ask Emma (that's our email marketing Q&A newsletter, which you can sign up for here), we've published a 5-point checklist that's designed to help you give your email campaigns a quick review before you hit send.

It's *also* designed in 5 different colors, so you can download your favorite, print a copy to pin-up by your desk, then color-coordinate your checklist with your favorite pantsuit. Or jumpsuit. Or windsuit.

Okay, seriously, lose the windsuit already.

What are the things you *always* review before sending our your campaigns? We'd love to hear 'em…

[tags]email marketing, checklist, ask emma, myemma.com[/tags]

Learning from our podcasting friends.

I'm at the New Media Expo in fabulous Las Vegas this week, where hundreds of online content creators – bloggers, podcasters and the like – have gathered in 108-degree weather to talk about ideas, new technologies, best practices, and how friggin' hot it is. Tomorrow, I'll be teaming up with Greg Cangialosi over at Blue Sky Factory to talk about email marketing, but today I sat in on a podcasting basics class given by Scott Whitney at Podworx.

I was struck by the similarities between the process of creating an email newsletter and creating a podcast. For podcasters, you start by identifying yourself and your brand at the outset, much like email's From Name and From Address. You follow that with a short audio teaser about the upcoming podcast designed to entice curious listeners without giving too much away – a subject line of sorts. But I had to stifle a squeal when he flipped to the slide with ideas for episode content. If you're just getting started with email marketing, if it's been awhile since you sent an email because you aren't sure what to send, or if you're looking for new content ideas to help you move beyond an email newsletter, this list is the perfect starting point:

1. Interview an executive.
2. Create a series about your product/service.
3. Write educational, how-to tips and articles.
4. Interview a customer (or member, or fan).
5. Write about an event you're attending, from the event.
6. Share some behind-the-scenes information about your company or product.
7. Promote thought leadership articles.
8. Share company successes and awards.
9. Repurpose content from a seminar.
10. Showcase a partner company or service.
11. Interview an employee.
12. Broadcast news from your industry.

Hope this list gets you to thinking about your next campaign – or heck, your next twelve. If you've got another content type to add, please leave us a comment and let us know what you're up to.

[tags] email campaign ideas, email marketing, NewMediaExpo2008, podcasting, Podworx, Scott Whitney [/tags]

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]

Bay Books brings their customers into the book business.

small-bay-books.jpg
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?