Trees, meet New York. New York, trees.

As a part of our continuing efforts to plant a whole lotta trees in 2008, we've just asked our friends at Plant-It 2020 to send 1,920 indigenous saplings in honor of the 383 folks who joined Emma in April (like who?). Those trees are heading to the state of New York, where you voted to plant April's trees. Where May's trees go is up to you, as always:

[poll=5]

Oh, and thanks to all the lovely people who joined us in April. By signing up with Emma for their email marketing, they're not only planting *new* trees – they're also doing something nice for *all* trees by sending paperless email newsletters and campaigns.

[tags]environment, myemma.com, new york, plant-it 2020, trees[/tags]

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

What candidates are on your From Name list?

From Address sample
Back in August, I spent a quick thirty minutes surrendering my email address to a handful of presidential hopefuls. I wasn't picking sides, mind you – just hoping to learn something about email's place in our political process.

Today's observation happens to focus on Barack Obama's email strategy with From Names. Over the last eight months, his emails have appeared in my inbox with several different names in the From Line. Here are seven unique ones worth mentioning and some quick notes on why Obama's marketing team chose to use 'em instead of the standard 'Barack Obama.'

Sen. Ted Kennedy - An endorsement from a member of one of the most prominent political families of all time.

Michelle Obama - A personal message from a family member.

John Kerry – An endorsement from a Senator and well known presidential candidate of recent years.

Jennifer Buck Wallace, Tennessee State Coordinator – A quick primer on early voting in *my* state.

Bob Tuke - A locally known name for folks in Tennessee (Former Chairman of my state's Democratic Party) with a message that encouraged voting in the Tennessee primary.

David Plouffe, Campaign Manager – An insider's message about the campaign.

Chelsea Kammerer, Ohio Field Director – A message about Obama's status in a key primary state.

Even though many of these names are brands in their own right, there may be an application for your own From Name strategy. Take a few minutes to make sure yours is making the strongest connection possible with your audience. Would changing the From Name better suit the message or grab the attention of the particular audience you're aiming to reach? For example, your emails to stockholders might come from the CEO while your newsletter sticks with the standard company name in the From line.

Of course, on the other hand, there's a real benefit to keeping a consistent From Name,* and it's possible that some readers overlooked emails from the Obama campaign because they lacked instant name recognition. Why not divide up your audience and do a little experimenting? Put your trusty default to the challenge by mixing it up. If you do, please let us know how it goes…

*In case you're curious, the *From Email* was pretty consistent throughout the eight months. A few messages were from state-specific email addresses like tennessee@barackobama.com, for example. Our recommendation for you, though, is to stick with one address, since your audience may already have it stored in their address books.

A tale of two APBs, part deux*

A couple of weeks ago, we sent an Emma APB to our customers letting them know about a new feature in their account that gives them more control over their monthly email sending plans. Just for fun, we sent two version of that campaign – one with a screenshot showing the new feature in action and one without it. At the bottom of each version, we let everybody know there were two versions of the campaign, adding a link to a blog post that featured both side by side.

We were curious to see what impact a screenshot had on people's involvement with the campaign, and most of us figured that the campaign with the screenshot would boast higher clickthrough rates than its image-less counterpart. After all, a lot of email marketing research and best practices will tell you that images help to grab your readers' attention and draw 'em into what you have to say.

To our surprise, though, the overall campaign results for open rates and clickthrough rates were statistically identical between the two versions, almost to the decimal point. At a glance, it looked like our campaign would have been just as well off without that beautiful screenshot. But we also took an in-depth look at the link-by-link breakdown, and that's where we learned something interesting about what people responded to.

There were two places in the campaign where you could click to log into your account to see the changes in action – one near the top and another in the very last sentence. In the version without the screenshot, the clicks were divided fairly equally between the two, with 55% of clickers opting for the top mention and the remaining 45% preferring the bottom mention.

With a screenshot, though, those numbers changed dramatically. In that case, 80% of people who logged in did so through the top link while 20% used the lower option. It's not that the screenshot had no effect it all. It's that it galvanized people to click sooner, having already seen the feature, rather than bother to read through the whole campaign to understand how that feature might work. It didn't help us get *more* clicks, really, but it did help us encourage people to click sooner.

It's so important to read all the best practices out there – to see what other organizations have found to be effective for their email campaigns and to learn what your fellow email marketers are talking about. But if you want to answer those burning questions like when to send your campaign, or how many images to use in it, or how long that subject line should be, why not just try two options and see how it goes? If our tale of two APBs has a moral, it's that the best research you read may be your own.

[tags]email marketing, a/b test, a/b split, myemma.com, emma apb[/tags]

*This is all the French I know.

Another month, another forest.

The world is getting a little leafier, thanks to the new customers who've joined Emma since December of 2007. Over the past four months, we've planted 6,130 trees – one for each new client who has chosen Emma to power their (paper-free) email newsletters – in the states of Oregon, Georgia, California and Tennessee.

Our partner in all this planting, Plant-It 2020, has suggested that we devote a portion of each month's trees to an equatorial region that they expertly select. Why? Trees planted there grow more quickly, what with all the sunshine and moisture, and as a result produce more greenhouse-gas-fighting goodness. Where the other half goes, as always, is up to you.

[poll=4]

Oh, and the 1,790 trees that our March customers helped us plant will be finding a home in Tennessee soon. Thanks for voting!

[tags]tree planting, environment, email newsletters, myemma.com, plant-it 2020[/tags]

If I use the phrase ‘animated GIF,’ will you keep reading?

Or will you assume that this is actually a blog post from 1996 that was somehow mistakenly sent to the future? As great as the mid-90s were, you can't think about web development in that era without also reminiscing about frames, guestbooks and, yes, animated gifs. Lots and lots of animated gifs.

Those of us in the email marketing industry appreciate mid-90s web development techniques, since a lot of what was in vogue then is really what's best suited for email now. We still, ahem, know how to use tables. We still code our styles inline. We wouldn't think of using rollovers. Thanks to Outlook 2007, we don't even get to use background images. Oh, and adding Flash will get our content blocked and our messages filtered, so if we want animation in an email, it's gotta happen with the animated gif.

But much like those of the 90s, a lot of the animated gifs I see in email today don't seem to do much to enhance the content of the email itself. That's why I was pleasantly surprised to see this great-looking email from the retailer Lands' End. They used an animated GIF to show off their new bathing suit top, which can be cinched up or tugged down, depending on whether you're in a cinching or tugging mood.

Cinched:

Lands’ End animated gif - frame 1

Tugged:

Lands’ End animated gif - frame 2

Using an animated GIF here was intentional – it actually helped to actually illustrate how the product worked, with each frame alternating between the two adjustable options. I think it's a great example of intentional email design, a principle to which animated gifs are not immune. If you're thinking of using animated GIFs in your next campaign, here are a few ideas and suggestions:

1. Keep your animation simple. If you can say the same thing in 4 frames that you can in 8, opt for the shorter sequence.
2. Make sure your animation reinforces a major point of your campaign. If it's just for show, it's, well, just for show.
3. Consider combining animated GIFs with Flash. If you've got a compelling Flash presentation on your website, put together a simpler version as an animated GIF. Include the GIF in your email, but link it to the fancy Flash page.
4. Try a simple test. If you're not sure whether animation will help you make your point, try sending an animated version to half your audience, and send a regular image to the other half.
5. Watch your file size. We recommend keeping your entire email's size to under 40K, so it's easily managed by servers and inboxes. Plan your animated gif accordingly, and opt for simpler colors and graphics in your frames to keep the gif's file size in check.

[tags]email design, lands end, email best practices, animated gifs[/tags]

A tale of two APBs

Emma APB version 1
Emma APB version 2

Earlier today, we announced a new feature to the Emma community, letting our customers know they now have a bit more flexibility when they upgrade and downgrade their monthly email sending plans. As a part of the release, we wanted to include a screenshot of the new feature in action (people *love* action, right?). But to actually quantify the screenshot's impact, we decided to create two versions of the campaign – one with the image, and one without it – and divide our audience list randomly between the two versions.

The twist: at the bottom of each email, we let people know that they were receiving one of two versions of the campaign, with a link to compare the two (it points to this blog post). So take a look at the two campaigns, let us know what your predictions are, and check back in a few days for the exciting conclusion.

Update: the RESULTS are in, and they surprised us. Read all about it, won't you?

Version 1, without the screenshot (click the image to see the full campaign):

Version 2, with the screenshot (click the image to see the full campaign):

You’re so vain. You probably think this email is about you.

You might imagine, since I work in the email marketing industry, that I would have a little compassion on the retailers whose emails fill up my inbox every morning. But most days, I'm just a typical consumer, rolling through about ten emails from Barnes and Noble, Circuit City, etc. in under two minutes.

Included in that batch this morning was the first edition I've received of the Priority Rewards Club newsletter from the IC Hotels Group. It, too, got the ol' delete button after a momentary glance, but something I noticed in that momentary glance made me drag the message out of the trash and take a closer look:

priority club email newsletter

That something I noticed was just my name. So vain, I know. And sure, we all understand it's nothing fancy with databases these days to drop in a first name or other personal information. In fact, so many emails contain the "Dear Bob" style of personalization that it can be easy to overlook. But this newsletter gives the whole idea of personalization a bit of a fresh twist – first, by making it more of an "account profile" style of personalization, and second, by devoting some prime real estate of the newsletter to it. The fact that my name was strategically placed in the upper left hand corner is probably why it's the only thing I saw in my momentary glance. It's certainly something to consider if you use email as a loyalty-building and retention tool – it clearly worked on me today.

Now if I can just get the Carly Simon song out of my head.

[tags]email newsletter, email marketing tips, personalization, myemma.com, IC Hotels[/tags]

Ode to the Emma SXSW lanyard

Today, we got the funniest note from one of our customers, Michelle Riggen-Ransom at Batch Blue Software. She was one of 5,000 people who descended upon Austin last week for South by Southwest Interactive and had the pleasure of sporting an Emma-sponsored lanyard for the five days of the festival. Here's how Michelle described it, in her funny, cheeky way:

"Hello Emmateers-

I just wanted to say thank you for providing such a durable and attractive lanyard from which to hang our South by Southwest badges. As a new Emma customer, I was pleasantly surprised to see Emma's name and sexy/geeky girl logo gracing the necks of thousands of sexy/geeky conference attendees. Then I thought, of course! Emma is the perfect company to be usefully, tastefully embracing the SXSW masses.

I'm pleased to report that the lanyard held up very well. Its bright green color looked so smart with conference attendees' spring wardrobes in a way that was both fresh and modern. And what craftsmanship! Even in a sudden downpour, the lanyard steadfastly displayed my badge, serving the all-important job of providing me access to conference panels, parties, unlimited events and opportunities. The magnetic release clasp was like a love letter from home – if you get in trouble dears, it seemed to say, I will sacrifice myself so that you may be safe.

It was very bittersweet when, on the last day of SXSWi, the cheery green Emma lanyards began to be overtaken in number by the gothy, navel-gazing black of the music lanyards. I took a look around, packed my badge and Emma lanyard in a special spot in my suitcase and cleared out.

SXSWi2008 may be over, but thanks to the lanyard, I will always have my memories. Thanks again for being part of the magic."

Thanks for the note, Michelle, and for coining the term "Emmateers." Like a well constructed lanyard, it's a keeper.

[tags]sxsw, sxswi, sxsw2008, batch blue software, myemma.com[/tags]

Send some email, plant some (more) trees.

Every month, we plant 5 trees for each new customer who chooses Emma for their email marketing efforts. Last month, you voted to plant 1,685 trees in beautiful Georgia, and now it's time to decide where to put March's little forest. And not to worry – we partner with Plant-It 2020 for our planting efforts, so these are indigenous trees – planted in non-harvest locations – which are cared for and protected their whole lives. All that's left to do now is decide where they go, and that's your job, compadre:

[poll=3]

Will we see you at SXSW?

Emma is a proud sponsor of SXSW this year
South By Southwest kicks off this Friday with the Interactive portion of the festival. For geeks like us, little gets us more excited than to sit in a room full of other geeks talking tech (yeah, we need to get out more). But don't be fooled. SXSW began (and remains) high on the cool chart, because it all started as a music festival. What's cooler than a music festival, right? Over the years the conference has expanded to include three categories: Interactive, Film and Music. All categories are now considered equally cool. Even though The Sadies aren't playing at the Interactive portion. Whatever.

Anyhoo, we're proud to be a sponsor of SXSW this year. You won't miss us if you're attending the Interactive portion because we'll be wrapped around your neck, um, literally, as this year's lanyard sponsor. Have a closer look at the lanyard and you'll see a special project we're working on with Plant-It 2020. You can help us plant 1,000 trees if you're attending, and more information is available here.

If you're planning to be at SXSW Interactive, we would love to meet you in person. Whether you're an Emma client, a fan or just interested in learning more about what Emma does, perhaps we could find time to grab a beverage, or a snack, or even a meal.

To get in touch:
Email Dave Delaney, New Media Specialist or find Dave on Twitter.
Email Erik Jones, Emma Database Architect or find Erik on Twitter.

We hope to see you there!

[tags] sxsw interactive, sxsw, myemma.com, Emma[/tags]