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Video: Quick tips with Emily

3 reasons to test your email campaigns

Hello, fearless email marketer. It's been a while, but I'm back with another video of quick tips to help your improve your email marketing efforts and make the most of your Emma account. In this edition, I'd like to share a few reasons why testing your emails before send-off is so important.

Your Emma account comes with a Test Group that allows you to store up to 10 email addresses, and sending to that group is always free. Play the video above to hear why I think the test group is a super helpful account feature, or read my reasons here.

Top three reasons to test your email campaigns:

  1. Testing ensures you've got a small group of people clicking on your links first — before they go out to your whole audience. These folks can confirm the links are pointing to the right websites. It's what keeps you from linking your whole audience to instead of
  2. Testing gives you the opportunity to see how your email will look on a mobile device. You can make sure the message is clear, even on that teeny tiny screen, and that the campaign is easy to navigate on a smart phone.
  3. Testing lets you get early feedback on subject lines, headlines, and of course, how it all looks together. That'll ensure you have time to make any final changes to add some style before your audience receives the mailing.

So, go ahead, send to the test group included in your account, and test your mailings as much as you'd like. And tell us what other reasons you've found to make a good case for sending test emails. Comment here to share tips and stories.

See Emily's first quick tips video here.


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What’s in an email subject line?

Ten tips for effective and memorable subject lines

As is the case with many puzzlers, coming up with a winning subject line is a hit and miss operation. Thoughtful experimentation will help you hone in on what works for you and your audience. And while there are no hard and fast rules about subject lines, a little know-how goes a long way. I've compiled ten of my favorite subject line tips and included links to some further reading, if you're so inclined.

  1. Plan ahead. Don't make writing the subject line the last thing on your list. As you're dreaming up your next campaign, why not start with the subject line? After all, it's the only part of your email some recipients will see. Moreover, crafting a descriptive subject line from the get-go will bring your overall campaign to a focus. When you're waffling about word choice, check Google to see what terms trend highest.
  2. Mention your brand. Studies show branded subject lines really work, so if you aren't including your business name, website or publication in the subject line, start now. Branding your emails will result in increased familiarity with your organization and remind recipients why your email is in their inbox.
  3. Stay relevant to the campaign's goal. Make sure your subject lines express the overarching theme and purpose of your message. Decide what you want the recipient to do as a result of reading your email, and begin drawing them toward that action in the subject line (think verbs!). There isn't a one-size-fits-all formula, but descriptive subject lines that match the tone of the content inside will be most effective. For a content-rich newsletter, informative subject lines work best. Similarly, event invites need to say what's special about the occasion and provide a registration deadline. And if you're sending a purely promotional campaign, be upfront about the value inside to convey a sense of urgency, like "Fairytale Books: Celebrate Dr. Seuss; 40% Off Today Only."
  4. Pay attention to your audience. Writing subject lines people love may seem like magic, but unless your audience is made up of Muppets, "a la peanut butter and jelly sandwiches" won't cut it. Nevertheless, put yourself in the Amazing Mumford's shoes for a minute and think about why everyone remembers that line. Jim Henson knew a thing or two about childhood appetites, and you're likely to have the inside track on what your audience likes, too. So have a little fun and design a subject line that puts your audience's interests first.
  5. Be enticing without being pushy. Avoid subject lines that read like something Mr. Radio Announcer Guy would squawk over the airwaves louder than your toddler in the back seat. Email recipients can spot a hard sell a mile away, so anything that sounds like it belongs in the Sunday circular should be rewritten. If you're struggling to figure out which email subject lines are most likely to convert, try running a few pay-per-click ads with various subject lines to see which one has the highest click-through rate.
  6. Avoid spammy words and slogans. Including the word "free" may seem like a good way to get customers in the door, but since spammers throw "free" around like cheap lipstick, your email could wind up in the trash if you combine it with other frequent spam offenders like gratuitous exclamation points, typing in ALL CAPS or terms like "blowout" and "cheap."
  7. Be clever, but don't get too kooky. When getting attention is the name of the game, it's tempting to write a Page Six worthy subject line. But since subtlety is lost in the inbox, your reader may pass over your line before taking a moment to get the joke. Check out Matt's tips for more advice on creating a catchy hook.
  8. Test, measure and repeat. Testing variables such as branding, length and punctuation can demonstrate what subject lines carry the most weight with your audience. Coming soon, Emma's Split Testing feature will give you the ability to send up to three subject lines to a portion of your audience and automatically distribute the winning subject line to the rest. Read more about Emma customers who split test, and learn about Emma's split testing feature (and a whole slew of other cool enhancements coming your way).
  9. Review past results. Emma lets you compare the results of up to five mailings at a time so you can see at a glance just which campaigns — and subject lines — performed the best. Use this information to craft your next subject line, and keep an eye on how it stacks up.
  10. Steer clear of industry clichés. One surefire way to stand out from the crowd is to find an original way to state the obvious. Think about it: If a person has signed up for your emails, they probably have emails from similar brands in their inbox. To make sure yours is the email they read, find out what the competition is saying and do something different – tell your audience something they don't know.

Ultimately, though, a winning subject line can't stand alone. A successful campaign depends upon the audience's level of engagement with your brand, the relevance of your previous campaigns and at least a dozen other factors ranging from time of day and general busyness to the blood sugar level of the recipient. The subject line and "from" name, however, are the two main factors in encouraging recipients to open or delete. Sure, there's no secret formula that will work for everyone, but these ten principles are what great subject lines are made of. Next time you're grasping at straws, put one of these tips to the test, and don't forget to report back — we'd love to hear what's worked for you.

This is part six in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. Visit part five here.


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Visually appealing emails win every time

How to make your email pop in the inbox

We're big fans of style, particularly when it comes to making your email stand out in your subscribers' inboxes. Your brand is unique, and as you're crafting the perfect email, pay mind to carrying over the look and feel of that branding you've worked so hard to achieve.

Let's focus on some ways you can improve the look of your campaign without breaking a sweat. Implement these, and your subscribers can't help but pick up what you're putting down.

Emma Seasonal Design
Emma's mailings provide variation while capturing our signature style.
It all starts with a branded stationery design. A custom stationery will add polish to your marketing message. And whether you have a keen eye for HTML or don't have a clue about design, we have options to make sure your brand stands out in the ocean of emails an average person receives each day.

  • Make use of Emma's world-class design team. One of our designers will work with you to create a design that reflects your brand's personality. A custom, recognizable stationery establishes your campaigns in the mind of your customers, so they'll take the extra moment to pay attention. Request your own custom branded design today. Oh, and do you already have a stationery design, but want to freshen things up? It's a good idea. Read about one customer's email makeover.
  • Make your own stationery header, DIY-style. Even if you're not a Photoshop pro, you can use a tool like to create your own stationery header, which can be uploaded into a blank stationery. If you're particularly fond of your design, our design team can also turn it into a permanent stationery option (removing the need to upload it each time). Submit your design through our online request form and we'll get to work.

Consistency is key. When your campaigns have a consistent look, both throughout your email and also from one campaign to the next, your readers will become familiar with your style and appreciate it. Find a format that works for your brand to make your campaigns more readable. If recipients recognize and grow to trust you, the odds are in your favor that they'll take the time to read what you've got to say.

  • Format your text to work for you, not against you. You may be a fan of bright, bold multicolors, but they don't always work in an email — at least not when it comes to its main text. Leave the rainbows behind and create a consistent look to your campaigns with a nice, readable font type, color and size throughout the email, perhaps with an accent color thrown in to draw attention to links or important bits of information. Your judiciousness will make your email easy on the eyes and also keep the attention of your readers.
  • Consider putting a little work into your images on the front end. A consistent look and size of images will create a campaign that is pleasing (and easy!) to read. Our image editor offers the option to resize images to small (120 x 120 pixels), medium (240 x 240 pixels), large (360 x 360 pixels) and x-large (480 x 480 pixels). If these sizes don't work for you, or if you need to crop the images, we recommend, an easy-to-use online image editor where you can upload, resize and save your images (and also add fun filters, text and borders), and then upload them to your campaign.

Your email is good enough to eat — so make it easy for your readers to digest. We're busy. We're bombarded with emails, social networks, phone calls, texts, you name it, all day long. If you have a lot of information that needs to be sent in an email, you can help out your readers by using a table of contents and landing pages to get them to the good stuff a little faster.

  • Use a table of contents to help your readers get to the articles they're interested in right away. A table of contents at the top of an email can easily direct a person to exactly what they want to look at without needing to scroll through everything. You can use Emma's jump link feature to easily add a table of contents to your campaign.
  • Use landing pages to tell the rest of your story. It's an email, not a novel. Landing pages and "read more" links are used to shorten the email that's sent to a person's inbox while still giving them the option to click to view all of your content. It's also a great way to measure the popularity of your content with Emma's click-through reporting. Read about how to create a quick landing page using Emma.

Of course, there's always a little wiggle room for you to add your own stylish flair to your email campaigns, but if you keep these tips on your radar, your emails will be runway-ready in no time. And if you've got some more tips for creating visually appealing emails, please share in the comments here.

This is part five in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. Visit part four here.


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Emma’s named a best employer and technology leader

Nashville Post names Emma a 2011 “Best Employer” and member of the “Tech 25”

We were delighted to find out last week that Nashville Post magazine named Emma one of Middle Tennessee's 10 Best Employers for 2011.

We've always thought that working for Emma is pretty fantastic, and we're honored to be recognized with nine other top-notch businesses, all of which are pros in what they do.

The other companies named Best Employers for 2011 were Aegis Sciences Corp., Centerre Healthcare Corp., Document Solutions Inc., Education Networks of America, iostudio, Medi-Copy Services Inc., Meridian Surgical Partners, Pinnacle Financial Partners and Vaco.

We were doubly delighted to find out that the Post included Emma as part of its inaugural Tech 25, a listing of Middle Tennessee's most influential technology companies.

It's almost like they knew that we've got big news to share on the product side of things at Emma in the next couple months. Stay tuned for a slew of new features that will help you communicate more stylishly, simply and quickly through more channels.

We would have been triply delighted to find out that we'd made their list of Top Companies Who Just Won a Year's Supply of Funyuns, but hey, two outta three ain't bad.


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Keeping it real(tor)

How real estate agents are using email marketing in a tough economy

If there's one thing realtors are good at, it's staying positive in the face of unexpected challenges. They greet screwy inspections, needy clients and delayed closings with a smile and a can-do attitude. The past few years have presented plenty of opportunities to push agents to get creative, especially in marketing their own services.

With restrictive lending regulations, higher foreclosure rates and fewer Americans making the jump into home ownership, an agent's precious advertising dollars need to make a lasting impact. Savvy realtors are developing cost-effective email strategies — turning these challenges into new opportunities.

Are you a real estate agent and not sure where to start? Check out examples from three realtors who sold me right away …

Cindy Kelly Newsletter
Keeps clients in-the-know.

Cindy Kelly | A monthly newsletter

The monthly newsletter is a real estate staple, as important as freshly baked cookies at your Open House. Your newsletter should be branded, relevant and, most importantly, packed with helpful information. I love this example from Cindy Kelly in Bellevue, WA. Cindy continues to service her clients after the sale by offering them information on home care. Each article provides information about preventive maintenance, and Cindy provides a referral to a local expert. In doing so, she's also reminding them that she is a housing professional. Going the extra mile no doubt earns Cindy the recommendation of her clients.

+ See a recent newsletter
+ Follow @Cindylive on Twitter
+ Visit Cindy'sblog

Stephanie Lawrence Listings

Stephanie Lawrence | Current listings feature

Your monthly email is a great place to share your current listings, link each to your website and track which recipients show interest (via click-throughs). That's exactly what Stephanie Lawrence of Zeitlin & Co. is doing. Each listing gets an image and a short blurb that links back to her blog and the embedded MLS information. With one click, a buyer can get more information or even schedule a showing. The best part is every click is tracked so Stephanie can keep up with her subscribers. For example, let's say there's a price reduction on a home. Stephanie can log into her Emma account, see who clicked to view that home, then email a follow-up with the new pricing info to those folks only. The buyer is excited to receive the news, Stephanie closes the deal, and the home seller is wowed by the quick sale. (That's the plan, anyway.) Win, win and win.

+ See a recent newsletter
+ Follow @agentsteph on Twitter
+ Visit Stephanie's website

Agent 06 Listing
Hit the highlights of one property.

Angela Barnshaw | Specific property details

As a real estate professional you come into contact with lots of other agents, home inspectors and lenders. Ask them to join your email list and you'll not only build a strong, permissions-based list, you'll also create professional relationships that will return more sales. Angela Barnshaw (aka Agent 06) does a splendid job of creating an email specific to each property and sending the campaign to her industry contacts. Each email provides all the information an agent needs to match the home to a potential buyer, and recipients can share the information with their social networks. It's a powerful marketing tool to add to her arsenal.

+ See a recent campaign
+ Follow @GetAgent06 on Twitter
+ Visit the Agent 06 website


Want more examples? Take a look at the slideshow below.



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Email click-throughs aren’t as elusive as you may think

Small changes in your campaigns can increase your click-through rates

Getting clicks on your newsletter is one of the elusive goals that requires a combination of the right information at the right time to the right recipient. No sweat, right? Well, it makes sense that the percentage of people who click is usually in the single digits. According to the Email Stat Center, the average click-through rate is 5.9%. You aren't going to be able to meet everyone's need in the right stage of the purchase cycle. However, there are a few things that you can do to encourage those on the fence to go ahead and learn more.

Right off the bat, you need to know that you have very little time to engage the person who has just opened your email. Think about that person for a moment; she has just deleted 12 other emails, she's drinking her morning coffee and she is checking her day's schedule. Or maybe your recipient is wrapping up before lunch (because at least one time zone always seems to be at lunch). He is seeing your email amongst social media notifications, YouTube videos from his sister, and all he can think about is that club sandwich in his future.

All that is to say, after you spend the time perfecting the content of your email, consider that you only have two seconds to capture the attention of your subscribers. That means that you must share what you're offering in a clear, swift and appealing manner.

Here's a good test: Hand your email to a colleague who has not helped design or write it in any way, preferably one who's unfamiliar with your campaign. To be generous, give him 5 or 6 seconds with it. At the end of that time, he should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. What are you offering me?
  2. How can I get it?

You don't have to be offering a coupon for this test to be relevant. If you are offering your expertise on choosing a wine to pair with dinner, that's valuable. It just has to be clear.

The "How do I get it?" question is where you really figure out if your message is effective and actionable. Here are some tips (and some of our favorite click-related articles) for optimizing your emails.

The small changes go a long way, so give one or two a try and report back — we'd love to know which strategies work best for you.

This is part four in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. To see part one, click here. Visit part two here and part three here.


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Does the arrangement of your email’s content matter?

Simple steps for more compelling emails
Season's Greetings | Emma, Inc.

This isn't really news, but it's worth stating: Come holiday time, anyone with an email address is bombarded with marketing messages from retail, nonprofits and services. As an email marketer, it's extra important that the emails you create and send are arranged in such a way that they grab hold of the recipient's attention and hang on to it.

Sure, the style of your emails is key, but consider also how you package and display the information you're wanting to convey. It's the holiday season after all, and the presentation of the gift is half the fun, right?

  • Determine the main point of your message and create a call to action. Think about the emails you currently subscribe to and what it is about them that keeps you reading. Something special stands out about them, right? Similarly, your email should tell a memorable story. And make sure to include a call to action that'll pop. If you're a local boutique, entice customers with a special holiday sale. If you're a nonprofit putting the word out about an upcoming fundraiser, give your recipients a way to donate online. Adding buttons to your campaign to *go shopping* or *donate now* is a simple and stylish way to present a call to action. Take a look at the seasonal buttons recently put together by the Emma design team for inspiration.
  • Maintain a healthy balance. We recommend an even ratio of text and images. A text-heavy campaign may be overwhelming to the reader, and an image-heavy campaign can affect the delivery of your campaign. Some servers look for that balance between text and images before deciding to accept the message and deliver it to the recipient's inbox.
  • Place the important content "above the fold" — but encourage scrolling too. Many recipients see their emails in a preview pane first so they're catching the top of your message before anything else. Include important info at the top to catch recipients' interest, but don't stop there. Encourage scrolling by including teasers, a table of contents or animation. StyleCampaign recently shared a few tips, like incorporating vertical lines or arrows to guide the reader down the page, and Cody wrote a post here on the Emma blog about adding animated gifs to email campaigns.
  • Make your campaign mobile-friendly. Most mobile devices now operate on touch, rather than the scroll and click of a keypad button. Fonts come across small, and it's easy to fumble your thumbs when moving around the email and clicking links. Avoid stacking links at the top of the email, and use a larger font size for the intro line. And while more folks are using smart phones, it's still a good idea to pay attention to the plaintext version of your campaign. Older smart phone and Blackberry users might not have the ability to load images, so make sure that plaintext version is user-friendly, too.
  • Have a backup plan if images don't load. Not all users will have their email settings configured to display images by default. If you send an email campaign with several images or perhaps your message is just one big image, your readers are going to end up opening a blank email. As backup, you can add alternative text to the images you upload into your Emma campaign. Alt text guarantees that something will display when the campaign is opened, even if the images don't. What text should you use, you ask? If the image you're loading has text on it, you may want to use that as your alt text descriptor. Or you can create your own description of an image.

Beyond these tips, have a little fun with your campaign! Try alternating images from left to right or pick a layout with a sidebar so you can incorporate images down the side with corresponding stories alongside them. Just remember to consider your own habits when reading marketing messages, and apply that self-awareness to your own emails. The rest will fall into place.

This is part three in our holiday series where we answer email marketing questions provided by our customers. To see part one, click here. And visit part two here.


Send a stylish holiday greeting this season. Order a holiday design from Emma's design team.