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Break out of your email mold with a seasonal design

See how three Emma customers used our free Valentine's Day email templates

One of the things I love about our seasonal readymade templates is how they inspire our customers to break out of their email mold and try something different. And our Valentine's Day collection is no exception.

Check out how these Emma customers are using free Valentine's Day template in addition to regular, branded emails.

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Starting fresh in the New Year

5 tips for a better 2013, or as I like to call it, next week

Whether you pledge to change your email marketing strategy or just spend less time in your desk chair, tis the season for envisioning a better you. I’ve come up with five tips for starting fresh in the New Year. These are as much for myself as for you, so hold me accountable.

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Sending a holiday email? Tis the season…

Custom holiday templates are on sale. But only until December 12!

It's beginning to look at a lot like Christmas at the Emma shop. We're feeling generous, too. In fact, here's a little gift for you, from Emma: Now through December 12, Emma customers get $150 off a custom holiday email template.

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How to create a great-looking email campaign this fall

Our email subscribers get a peek behind the scenes at how we use Emma. Are you one of them?

Just today, we sent our email subscribers an announcement about free fall email templates, which are now available inside every Emma account. Since I create our own email newsletters and announcements, I recorded a short screencast of how this email came together.

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A roundup of successful holiday campaigns

Taking a peek at four email campaigns by the Union Square Hospitality Group

If you crafted and sent out your holiday emails on time this year, give yourself a pat on the back. There's a sense of relief that comes with negotiating the busy holiday season and getting your newsletter out before the new year. But make sure you haven't checked the task off your list and forgotten about it. Now's the time to review your holiday response rates and learn from them as you kick off your 2012 email marketing efforts.

Let's take a look at a few email campaigns crafted by Emma agency partner, Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). USHG includes some of New York City's best known restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern and Maialino. These four campaigns carry representative looks and strong response rates — and serve as fitting case studies for welcoming in the new year.

The Perfect Last Minute Gift

Union Square Hospitality Group

In this snowflake-themed campaign, USHG has fun with a split test of sorts. Can you guess which button earned more clicks? In fact, the gift card button edged out the e-gift certificate button by just 2%.

+ Sent on Wednesday, December 21st at 9:00 am to 69,892 people
+ Subject line: The Perfect Last Minute Gift
+ Open rate: 19.58%
+ Click-through rate: 6.16%
+ Shares: 23

Why it works: There's a sense of whimsy in the design — and the sentiment. Plus, the two buttons are a source of education for USHG; they'll be able to see who clicked where and follow up with other relevant offers, if they like.

View the full campaign

Winter News from The Modern

The Modern

This festive winter campaign, created on an Upload Your Own HTML template, captures the sophistication of The Modern and shares, among other things, details of its New Year's Eve line-up.

+ Sent on Tuesday, December 20th at 11:17 am to 10,497 people
+ Subject line: Winter News from The Modern
+ Open rate: 31.33%
+ Click-through rate: 1.92%
+ Shares: 6

Why it works: The email provides a consistent brand experience with The Modern's website, and with a mix of compelling content, it's an easy email to navigate.

View the full campaign

Happy Holidays from Gramercy Tavern

Gramercy Tavern

Gramercy Tavern's holiday email is short 'n' sweet. It's also personal, featuring a "season's eatings" photo of the tavern's employees (after the click).

+ Sent on Tuesday, December 20th at 9:00 am to 7,949 people
+ Subject line: Happy Holidays from Gramercy Tavern!
+ Open rate: 31.41%
+ Click-through rate: 47.39%
+ Shares: 4

Why it works: Talk about piquing curiosity. Nearly half of email openers clicked through to view the photo. When average click-throughs hover around 6%, a spike like this is a coup.

View the full campaign

Union Square Cafe Newsletter - Winter 2011

Union Square Cafe

Created on Emma's blank template and utilizing an Advanced 7 layout, this campaign by Union Square Cafe follows the format of a traditional newsletter. A departure from their usual campaigns coded from scratch, the built-in layout allows them to revise each newsletter without pulling in a designer from their team — a definite time-saver.

+ Sent on Thursday, December 15th at 1:03 pm to 19,140 people
+ Subject line: Union Square Cafe Newsletter – Winter 2011
+ Open rate: 27.18%
+ Click-through rate: 14.96%%
+ Shares: 5

Why it works: The campaign makes use of space by providing short story blurbs that link to the full scoop elsewhere. Moreover, it plays with content placement. Convention would tell us that the top story in your campaign will earn the highest clicks; in this case, the link to the recipe for Ménage à Pommes is the most popular. Union Square Cafe's audience is an engaged bunch, happy to spend some time with the campaign and comb it for their favorite stories.

View the full campaign

Ready to interpret your holiday response rates? Here are some things to look for:

  • Compare the numbers … Use our campaign compare feature to see how your holiday results stack up against the prior month's mailing — or against your holiday results from last year. Then, see how they compare to industry averages.
  • … But only the numbers that matter to you. It doesn't make a lot of sense to compare click-throughs to your Facebook page if that wasn't the one of the goals of your holiday campaign. Instead, focus on metrics that correspond to your intended goals. Look for places where you fell short, and adjust the approach of your next mailing.
  • Plan a follow-up. When people click on links in your campaign, they're telling you that they're interested enough to learn more. Armed with that knowledge, make plans to send a smaller, targeted mailing to the audience members who are most likely to read and engage.
  • Prepare for the next mailing. Do the response results of your holiday mailing seem interesting but inconclusive? Have a hunch about why your subject line enticed more people to open? Set up a split test in your next mailing to test your theory. Read more about subject line split tests in Cassie's post.

If you have questions along the way, we'd love to help. Comment here, or reach out to our support team.


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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.


Order your holiday design today to avoid the rush.

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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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.

Open rates, simplified

Practical advice for boosting your email opens, just in time for the holidays

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "How can I improve my open rate?" I'd probably have all my holiday shopping done by now (okay, that's wishful thinking). But it's a question on all of our minds as we put valuable time and resources toward creating and sending email campaigns. And while many variables play into the open rate of an email (time of day, time of year, even the weather), I've got some practical tips for boosting opens you can apply to your own email strategy today.

Emma Open Rates
A 40% open rate? Not too shabby.


Brand your from name, from email address and your subject line
These are the first things that folks see when they receive your emails, so your "from name" and email address should be instantly recognizable and branded. Unless you're Mark Zuckerburg, it might make sense for you to send emails from a more brand-specific email address like, with your company's name listed as the "from name." Not sure if changing your sending details will help or hurt your brand? This Mark Brownlow article will walk you through a little self-analysis.

Next, let's talk subject lines. Here's a simple subject line axiom: They should be concise and feature your most important or most interesting information. Don't forget to add your brand voice and personality in there, either. Oh, and by all means, steer clear of the ever-so-boring "December Newsletter," and be sure to check out Molly's post on holiday subject lines that work.

Segment your audience and send relevant information to the right people.
The art of segmenting and sending targeted messages will determine the fate of your open rate. While the old "batch and blast" approach may work for some companies, segmenting is key to getting the most out of your email marketing. Here are two ways to try segmenting.

1. By demographic data

  • Location. If you're collecting postal code during signup, you can find members who are closest to your brick and mortar location. Send these folks a campaign that highlights an in-store event or promotion.
  • Age. If you're collecting the birthdays for your new audience members, you can easily segment them by age and target a specific age range with your new product.
  • Gender. If you have separate product lines for men and women, have new subscribers choose their gender on your signup form. Send targeted messages by dividing those guys and gals into separate groups.
  • Customer status. The types of messages you send prospects should be different from those you send to established customers. Track where audience members are in the customer lifecycle as a custom member field so you can send prospects more promotional messages and send existing customers a feedback survey or event invitation.

2. By response information
Divide your subscribers along activity lines. Audience activity is a good representation of how engaged your subscribers are, and you can treat your most engaged subscribers a bit differently. Since engagement is monitored in the response section through opens and clicks, you can create segments based on those numbers.

The benefit of response-based segmenting is that you can connect with your more engaged groups more regularly, or with special VIP offers. It also highlights which audience members are less engaged, and you can decide whether it's time to drop them from your regular mailings or attempt a re-engagement campaign to get them back in your good graces.

Keep in mind that each year up to one-third of email addresses become inactive or turn over due to job changes and deleted email accounts. Emfluence Insights has some handy tips for reconnecting with subscribers who hard bounce, but try not to take it too personally if audience members don't re-engage. You're better off reserving your marketing efforts for those who already care about who you are and what you're doing. Check out Mary's series on engagement for more advice.

Want to share your own secret to great open rates? Comment here and let us know your success story.

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


Request a holiday design from Emma's design team before December 12th to avoid the rush.