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The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Building company community across time zones

How Emma staffers stay connected while working remotely

Emma's Jonathan Gesinger works from co-working space, Perch, in Austin.

At Emma, we're big on community among our staffers. Our main office in Nashville includes ongoing events around the house like the standard Friday Beer:30 (kegerator included) and weekly Wednesday catered lunch. We also participate in unique activities throughout the year like Juneteenth, Jack and Back and Ellie's Run for Africa. Activities like this improve our working relationships and get us more motivated to conquer the world of email (in a friendly, stylish way, of course).

Our Nashville office is about 100 folks strong — and growing — while our Portland office has over 10 people. In Denver, we have two folks, plus two more in New York City. And in Austin, I'm an office of one.

So, how do you participate in community when you're in an office of one or two?

How we stay connected

Those of us in remote offices fly in for some of the bigger events in Nashville, like Emma's holiday party and talent night, but it's also up to us to navigate what community means for Emma in Denver, New York and Austin.

On a daily basis, we have an ongoing flow of IMs and phone and video conferences that allow us to keep up-to-date with Emma projects and teams but also enable us to say hello and ask if Cars 2 was as good as Cars (it isn't), and if the green chili queso fries at Alamo Drafthouse are as amazing as they sound (they are).

On collaborative projects, we stay on task with online tools like Jive, Basecamp and Dropbox; they provide an archive of tasks and conversations and also allow us to interact on projects across multiple departments.

We're an email company, so as you can imagine, email is in heavy use but it's also done smartly by using group aliases so we can connect with particular groups of staffers, in addition to individuals. We even have a few unique, not-quite-work aliases for the latest viral video or the epic "Phil Collins vs. Peter Gabriel: Which former Genesis member had the better career?" debate.

Not just working, co-working

We've joined the co-working trend this past year, too, coming in to a communal workspace every day with other local freelancers and entrepreneurs. The chance to plug into our community is better than working alone from home or in a single office. Plus, it gives us a chance to learn about similar business challenges and share our experiences with fellow "coworkers" who just happen to work for other businesses.

As a business developer, I find co-working spaces particularly motivating because I have an opportunity to share local resources, make connections and learn about the marketplace we're all working in together.

By the way, if you happen to be reading this in Denver, New York or Austin, please stop by and say hi. We'd enjoy an afternoon chat or AM coffee at Green Spaces, New Work City or Perch.

You're part of our community, too. What can we learn from you?

How about you? If you're a remote employee, how do you collaborate? Does your company have a unique way of developing corporate community? We'd love to hear your experiences. Please leave a comment below or drop us a line on Twitter.

The marketer’s link digest

Recommended articles about time management, professional development and more

As an avid reader, I often stumble upon good articles on all kinds of subjects relevant to my work life, even if not directly related to email. Instead of focusing on email marketing this month, I'm sharing some non-industry link love. I hope the following articles will intrigue and enlighten you. And, well, maybe you've also always wondered about those ridges on quarters.

Getting more hours out of the day, doing your best work and finding inspiration: The Professional's Section

Understanding your changing role, creating a villain to market against and using your time and technology wisely: The Marketer's Section

  • A hammer is not a house: Jay Baer points out a critical difference between the metrics we need to measure and the tools we use to measure them.

Creating the perfect playlist, discovering what's beyond happiness and why there are ridges on a quarter: The Trivia Buff's section

Love these articles? Have others to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Surveys (and leaps) we like to take

Using Emma's free feature to request customer feedback and take your business to new heights

I love a good challenge, so when I saw the opportunity to go skydiving *and* meet some Emma customers in person, I couldn't resist. Located in rural Chester, South Carolina, they are the Carolinas' premier drop zone and consistently draw adrenaline junkies from far and wide (even design consultants from Nashville, Tennessee!). I recently caught up with James LaBarrie, the general manager of Skydive Carolina, to discuss the experience I had using their service and an Emma feature he has found quite beneficial.

Skydive Carolina | Emma Email Marketing Blog
Kelley en route to earth. Also pictured: just another day at the office for her tandem, Chuck, from Skydive Carolina.

James certainly knows a thing or two about customer service. He once worked in athletics at Queens University of Charlotte, a long-time Emma client that formally introduced him to the service, and he quickly became a loyal user. So loyal, in fact, that he took Emma along for the ride when he left for Skydive Carolina. (She is so flattered.)

Skydive Carolina regularly uses the Emma survey feature that's free with every account because it's a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of their customers. James is passionate about the company's commitment to building relationships with clients and providing superior customer service.

"We aren't only hoping to please our customers," he says. "We are hoping to amaze them. But when we fail, I see it as an opportunity to create a raving fan."

Of course, an important element of the service experience is the customer's ability to easily provide feedback and the company's willingness to listen. With a role that is mostly behind the scenes, James does not get the opportunity to interact with each customer who visits. For him, it is often the survey alone that provides the valuable feedback they need.

"The survey is a great way to know when we're falling short and when all is well," he adds. And in those rare instances that a customer does not have the best experience possible, James has been known to follow up with them personally.

The Skydive Carolina survey inquires about everything from how easy it was to find the location to how much the client liked the photo taken during the jump; each bit of information helps James make educated decisions about the business. But it's not just about asking the right questions — James is also very intentional about asking at the right time as well. Jumpers receive a trigger email the day immediately following their dive, when the experience is still fresh enough to recall details.

Kelley at Skydive Carolina | Emma Email Marketing
Survey says: Everyone's gotta try this.

From personal experience, I must say that I could hardly wait to tell *everyone* about my epic leap to earth — in fact, I'm fairly sure I even told the person ringing me up the grocery store. Most notably, I was eager to share my thoughts with the company that made it all possible. After all, they asked for my opinion … and I'm in good company, as quite a number of their guests have also chimed in with specific feedback about their adventure, and it's certainly information that James is eager to receive and use.

It's amazing how much information is available if you simply request it. When thinking about your own business, consider the difference that customer feedback could make for you and follow Skydive Carolina's lead. Heck, you may also like to follow their lead right out of a plane — you definitely wouldn't regret it!

Here's to surveyed customers, empowered email marketing and thrilling jumps.

5 questions with Hamilton Wallace

A small business marketing consultant, Hamilton Wallace helps business owners who think they've hit a wall and aren't moving as fast as they'd like. His team's goal is to increase sales for their clients by realigning the client's message with what's currently going on with their industry. We chatted about everything from his favorite brands to how email has helped his clients succeed.

Describe your role in six words.
If you can believe it, I can narrow it down to five: Story finder and story teller.

Tell me about a success or two you've had using email to engage your clients' customers.
Even though it might not seem "sexy," one of our recent Emma successes is with a client that sells software, and they sell a relatively inexpensive piece of software to a small niche of customers.

When they first hired me, I took a look at how many customers they had. They ended up having over 250,000 registered users, but they never talked to them, and didn't give them opportunities to talk back. On Google Analytics, it was clear that a big chunk of their conversions were coming from people who were typing their domain name into a search, which indicated that a current customer had referred this new customer to them.

We helped them use Emma by sending 70,000 emails to current customers every month. The first time we sent, the president of the company got an irate email back from one of his customers that said, "You guys have got to be kidding me! You don't offer a Mac version of this product? You should be embarrassed. You all are the industry leaders. What's going on here?" The president forwarded the email on to the lead developer. Then, the developer took a weekend to figure out how to make it happen.

Before this, they'd come to the conclusion that creating a Mac version of their software would be this gargantuan, expensive and time-consuming thing. But, because the company sent an email through Emma — giving the customers a channel to speak up — the developer came back to the president after that weekend to say that they could do it. And the happy ending to the story is that four months after the customer spoke up, the company is going to have a Mac-friendly version of their software available. It's one of the biggest, most positive things that could happen to them.

Another client I have does training for business writing. He was hesitant to communicate with his contacts at first because he isn't a "sales guy." So, we decided to take his two-day business writing seminar and break it into 52 parts, sending an email a week for the year. Our goal wasn't to try and sell anything, but to help people learn about business writing. He's been sending an email a week for almost six months now, and has never included a price, talked about a seminar or tried to sell a DVD.

About a month ago, a government agency — that had inquired two years ago and never followed through after inquiring — responded to one of his emails letting him know they were now ready to take advantage of his training. They signed a contract, and this new customer will account for about a third of his business in 2011.

How has email helped you grow your business?
I don't know that I can point to a client and say that "because of email, they're a client." I just think that the entrepreneur of today, who is my primary client, needs to be able to carry on an engaged conversation with their customers. This means they need to be able to attract traffic to their website and convert that traffic into leads or sales.

I'm probably as much of an emailer as I am an email coach. I believe that email is now and will grow more and more to be one of the fundamental skills that a business owner needs.

I've tried the approach of letting my clients choose which email service they want to use, and when the client chooses an email service other than Emma, they never send one email. And, when a client chooses Emma, they send emails. That, to me, is gigantic. I can't say that there is one reason why, though. It's like saying, "Why do people buy iPods?" It's not one thing — it's everything about the iPod. It's everything about Emma: You can talk to a human being. You guys do good design. Your interface is simple. There are times that I wish I could do more in Emma, but I think that you all do a good job at keeping it simple.

How do you stay on-top of trends and be that go-to resource for your clients? Where do you draw inspiration?
I'll answer you in two ways. One thing I try to do is follow people who, in my opinion, are smarter than I am and are doing similar things to what I do. I follow them on FriendFeed, Twitter and I subscribe to their blogs.

I also push myself to push my clients forward — to always test and continue testing. It's a constant battle to be courageous and continue to move forward. But, when my client and I stop being afraid for a moment, we come out knowing a lot more than we did before.

I have always considered myself a direct response marketer who generates leads and sales. The internet is the biggest direct response platform ever imagined. A fundamental part of direct response is testing. The wonderful thing about the internet is that you can test one thing this week, but completely change it the next, which is completely different from how you would have to test not too long ago.

Who is your brand crush?
Looking at someone who is generally in the same business as I am, I'd have to say Seth Godin. Everything he does is so focused on others, so genuine with zero manipulation, and that's his ethic. There's so much to aspire to there.

Company-wise, it's a tie between IKEA and Google. A lot of folks can relate to IKEA, and the reason they're my brand crush is that when you walk into a store, their ethic of "simple, practical and intelligent" is everywhere, from how you put the furniture together to how they communicate the products in the store, to, literally, how you put your dirty dishes and trays away in the cafeteria. Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about what we want people to do on our websites, and when you walk into an IKEA — they want you to go up an escalator, or drop your kid into a play area, and those really are your only two choices. It's very rare when you see a company that has such congruency in everything they do.

I have to say Google, too, because they are a "listening company." I would bet that their next quarter plan is the same as their five-year plan, and that is to intently listen and watch what people are doing, and give them a platform to support those things. They push products out into beta and watch. They kill the things that don't catch on and amplify things that do. I think this is what every company needs to do.

I want to relate that right back to email. Send regular emails to your customers, even if they have nothing to do with selling a product. It's just about communicating with them and getting that conversation going. Because if you do that, every once in a while you might just a get that customer who tells you how it is, that tells you what's wrong with your product – and they're right! Email is the best way to listen like that, and it's the communication of choice for most people.

Okay, let's switch gears. Which baseball team are you rooting for this year?
Ha! As close as I could get to answering you is to say the San Jose Sharks, which is a hockey team. I have to say, I don't really follow baseball.

Well, it looks like I struck out with that question, didn't I?

Make the most of Google+

A new way to segment your audience and send targeted messages

Google+ (Google Plus) may be brand new, but with the large early adoption rate and great features, it's only a matter of time before this social sharing platform is adopted by brands and businesses. As a brand builder and marketer, the Circles feature in Google+ suddenly becomes very attractive. With Circles it's not only super easy to categorize your followers (or audience), you now have a great way to target specific segments of your audience with custom messages.

Just like your custom email groups in Emma, Google Circles lets you apply the same logic to your followers.

For example, if you're an online retailer and you have some data on who is following you, consider breaking up your followers by location, customer type, size or "age" (that is, when they became a customer).

Now, if sales are lagging in the Southeast, hit that Circle up with a coupon that's only visible to them. Want to keep your largest customers happy? Send their Circle a quick note of thanks. Maybe you have a Circle of customers that only purchase a specific type of widget. You can send them industry news that the rest of your followers may not care much about.

The advantages here are pretty clear. There's less worry about bombarding your entire list of followers with information that may only be applicable to 10% of them. Your messages will be more relevant because you know exactly who your target audience is.

While Google admits that they still have some work to do for businesses to have a presence on Google+, what we've seen so far is promising. Word on the internet says other services like Google Analytics will be hooked up soon, as well.

The future is bright for audience segmentation and relevancy. Sign up for Google+ if you haven't already, and explore what it has to offer. And let us know the unique ways you're using it.

What sets Emma apart?

From opening your account to building your email strategy, we want your Emma experience to be fantastic

Is Emma really that different from other email service providers out there? I'm glad you asked. As a member of our direct sales team, my job is to help folks from all walks of life — and with different marketing goals and tasks — learn how Emma will make their jobs easier. Sometimes, Emma is a perfect fit for them, and other times, they might need to go another route – and that's OK. Either way, the Emma sales team is here to make sure we get everyone started on the right track with their email marketing plans.

So, you find out a bit about Emma and like what you see. What happens next? Sending out beautiful, professional email newsletters to your recipients isn't rocket science, but we believe it's a lot better when you've got a network of experts who have your back.

Let's take a look at what it's like to join forces with the bespectacled first lady of email marketing …

When you initially give us a call or inquire online, a member of our sales team is here to help you get started. A few of the details we'll share with you include:

  • Emma's pricing is all-inclusive, and we don't charge for add-ons like surveys, image storage or access to an online archive of your sent messages.
  • We offer a menu of fantastic design options so the design works for you, not the other way around. Your email stationery will be uniquely yours and look nothing like the law firm across the street that's (gasp!) using Template #203 from another service.
  • Our support team of real-live Emma experts is here Monday through Friday to help with questions via email, LiveChat or by phone.

You've decided to sign on with Emma (good choice). We'll set up your new account and login details, and send you a personal, informative welcome note so you know how to access your account and get started. You'll submit your design form based on the design option you've selected (usually Concierge Design or Studio Design), and then you'll wait a few business days before winning the design lottery.

How do you win that lottery? By getting a hand-crafted custom design by one of our lovely designers, like Taylor Schena or Jennifer Kasdorf. Once you submit your design form, they may want to chat more with you, to make sure they know exactly how to meet your design needs. But, they also want to get to know you better. Perhaps you'll find out you're both from Pennsylvania or maybe you'll swap vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcake recipes. In a few days, your design is ready. You can start sending emails right away, or request some revisions if you'd like.

Since you chatted with me or another sales team member, you know it's in your best interest to send your monthly newsletters on a, well, monthly basis. So it's time to add your contact list into Emma, build and send your first email. Not quite sure how to do this? Visit our handy Help Guide or chat with a member of our support team, like Casey Correll or Cortney Rockhill. They'd be happy to walk you through your first audience import and answer any other questions you have.

You're all set! You've created your first campaign, sent it to your audience and collected real-time response data. Good work. And the best part is, this isn't just some red carpet we roll out for first-time customers. Have a question about billing? Call us (800-595-4401). Have a question about your response numbers? Email us. Curious how to get started with surveys? Stop by LiveChat. Want to know where Emma gets her name? Well, it's really not a big mystery, but we'd love to tell you. We're happy to have you on board.


Get started with an Emma account. Inquire here.

What’s in a name?

How Gmail's recent changes affect your Emma emails

Gmail recently made one more change in what seems to be a constant stream of upgrades to their email service. Now, Gmail displays additional information about the sender of each email, revealing something to recipients that they might have missed before — that you're using a 3rd party service (Emma) to send them email. This information has the potential to be a bit confusing at first, but it's all part of Gmail's attempts to ensure the right emails reach your recipients' inboxes — and the junk gets filtered out.

Most email services have sophisticated email security measures in place, and they're good at filtering out almost all of the bad emails sent to you every day. However, there's still a relatively small amount of malicious content that makes its way to your inbox. These emails don't readily announce themselves as spam. It's easy to recognize spam for enhancement pills and Nigerian prince scams, but what about an attempt to collect your personal information (bank account number, passwords or SSN) masquerading as a password change notice from Facebook or a Google + invitation? That could be trickier.

To combat these attempts (which are generally called phishing attacks), Gmail now displays more information about where emails are coming from. For customers of ESPs like Emma, this means that our server information will show up alongside your RSVP address:

Now, if you get a message from a service saying you need to change your password, and you're confused, it should be easier to make a decision about the trustworthiness of that email. You should see a from address, which is regularly displayed, and the *via* part should have a domain that matches that from address. If it doesn't, there may be reason to investigate a bit.

For emails sent using Emma, the text via will be displayed. Some recipients may have questions at first, though a history of good communication and an engaged readership will outweigh that confusion. If you're concerned that this change could negatively affect your campaigns, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Encourage people to add you to their address book. This won't remove the *via* notice, but being in a recipient's address book does have delivery benefits and will, at the least, give them confidence in the origin of your message.
  2. Avoid using a free-mail email address as your RSVP. This will almost certainly cause authentication issues. Seeing ** via is one thing, but imagine ** via Your recipients' lack of knowledge about how your domain is hosted works in your favor, but because is a pretty well-known domain, people will rightly assume that emails from should only be *via*.
  3. Authenticate using Sender Policy Framework (SPF). SPF is a standard email authentication method and is really easy to set up. Check out our SPF setup page for more details.

As always, we're here to answer any questions you have, or to chat about this change to Gmail and how it affects your campaigns.

Coming soon: A brand new API

Web developers, sign up to get a sneak peek of Emma's API

For the past few months, our developers have been hard at work rebuilding our API to make it more flexible and easier to use. An API, or application programming interface, gives Emma the ability to "talk" to other applications and integrate with them much more easily than in the past. It's going to make possible a lot of new things in Emma with some fairly simple development work. If you're a web developer who'd like to better customize the Emma experience for yourself or a client, here's a short list of things the API will allow you to do:

  • Sync your Emma audience with your own internal customer database
  • Pull response results from Emma and store them with your internal customer data to sort and segment any way you'd like
  • Create audience groups, add member fields, edit member data and create searches from outside of Emma
  • Create triggers from within your own website or platform

We're very excited about the avenues this will open up for both our customers and for the Emma application as a whole. The API isn't quite ready for its full release, but we'd love to invite a group of web developers to test it in beta. If you're interested in being a part of that group, sign up here.

If all of this API talk sounds like a lecture from Charlie Brown's teacher, don't worry. For now, this enhancement is big news for folks with web programming chops, but it's also paving the way for some changes for our entire customer base.

In the process of building the new API, we'll be able to make some exciting improvements to Emma in general, including international character support, multiple test groups and faster mailing sends. Those improvements will be released when the API goes live this fall. We're also developing some innovative features, and we'll be discussing that in further detail here on the blog soon. Stay tuned!


Read more about our engineering team's work on Emma Tech.

Now in your Emma account: A simplified send page

Sending email campaigns is easier & quicker with a new one-page sending process

One-page sending process | Emma Email Marketing
See all delivery settings on one page.

Last month, we released a simplified sending process in Emma Preview, our beta environment. Lots of customers logged in to give it a try, and to offer thoughts and suggestions. Your feedback was terrific, and we're happy to announce that we've released the enhancement across the board for all Emma accounts. Our new one-page sending process allows you to:

  • Manage all delivery settings — like from name and address, delivery style, scheduled sending time and more — on one page.
  • Change delivery settings at any time without hitting the back button.
  • Set up mailings to groups or searches, or based on a triggered event, simply and quickly.
  • Confirm delivery settings at-a-glance in the Mailing summary sidebar.

We hope you'll log into your account and give the new sending process a try. If you notice any trouble, make sure to clear your browser's cache or hard-refresh the page before continuing. And if you need help along the way, visit our Help Guide or don't hesitate to get in touch with our support team.