How to find the right stock images to support your marketing message
No matter how often you speak to customers through regular emails, selecting a template that succinctly conveys the message of your brand is a must.
To really entice someone to click through from their email to your website, you'll need a format and layout that not only engages customers, but makes them want to see more. Many businesses leave space for a big image either at the top or in the middle of their emails to break up text and keep people happy.
But choosing just the right image for your newsletter, depending on both the context and the content, can be difficult. Here are three tips to keep in mind the next time you're looking to add imagery to your email marketing:
1. Reinforce the message
The most important thing to remember is that everything in your emails must ultimately come back to the purpose of the email. Images that don't directly serve or illustrate that purpose will be perceived as out of place and distracting.
No matter what message you're trying to communicate – whether offering an update, promoting a deal, or doing a survey – the images you use should support it. For instance, if you're trying to get word out about a limited-time promotion, make sure that the pictures accompanying it deliver a sense of urgency.
Perform a sample test on yourself or your colleagues when picking your photo and think about the particular call to action. What are the emotions behind it, and what type of picture would push you in that direction? Then trust in yourself as a sample subscriber.
2. Keep things cool
One mistake businesses sometimes make is giving the image too much attention. Treat images as if they're in a supporting role, appealing to the more photo-oriented minds in your community, but within reason.
If you use bold colors, it says something, likely more than you intend. Keep it subtle and attractive. At times you may want to include photos of recognizable objects that draw the eye, but in other cases a pattern might do just the trick.
It's something to look at, but it doesn't pull you away from the key message at hand. You want people to walk away more informed or excited about an opportunity. If the image speaks too loudly, you won't reach the viewer where it matters most.
3. Be subtle
With so many images available, it can be difficult to select just one. The best advice when making your picks is to err of the conservative side; don't take any chances or else you might rub someone the wrong way. Give them something familiar, but also dynamic.
Suppose, for example, your company is launching a new feature and you want to invite your community to come check it out. You might want to include a general business photo to appear in the middle of the announcement.
By selecting an image that represents the opportunity for growth, progress, and success, you'll pull everything together and leave a good impression.
And to start brainstorming on the types of images you'd like to use, check out Shutterstock and Bigstock's image trend report!
Today's guest post is written by Danny Groner, manager of blogger partnerships & outreach for Shutterstock and Bigstock.
Emma customers get 5 stock images on us through March 31. Not yet a customer? Try Emma free.
This week, we're inviting the Emma community to check out our latest collection of free readymade templates, designed for creating email invitations.
They're great for inviting email subscribers to parties, speaker events, conferences and shows.
After all, invitations are powerful. They make us feel included. They make us feel special. They're personal, and they're exclusive. And the best part? You don't even need an event to send one. With a little creativity, you'll find all kinds of ways to engage your audience just by framing your message as invitation. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Invite subscribers to like you on Facebook.
Tie together your email and social efforts with a little self-promotion. Your email audience is by far your most engaged customers and fans, so why not mobilize them to boost your social profile? Studies show that asking for likes on Facebook yields three times more likes than not asking at all, and if you ask politely and in a stylish way (by using a fresh invitation template design, perhaps?), you're bound to get a good response.
Invite readers to take your survey.
Want to know what kind of products your customers would like you to carry? Or how often your readers like to hear from you? Use an invitation template to ask your subscribers to take a survey. You can create one survey right in your Emma account, or use a service like SurveyMonkey to craft your burning questions.
Invite customers to an online event.
You don't need to break out the place cards and flower arrangements to host an event. Move products faster by launching an exclusive online sale. Provide expertise and training in an online webinar. Host a focus group on Google Hangout.
Log in now to find 15 invitation designs in your account, and let us know how you're using this new collection to engage your readers.
Not yet a customer? Peruse the new invitation templates on our website, and try Emma for free.
Around the Emma offices we like to work hard, and we've been known to play pretty hard, too. This week we set up streaming capabilities in our bistro so we can get our March Madness on with the best of them. I'm pulling for Gonzaga – but mostly because it sounds like "gorgonzola" and I love cheese. No matter which team you're rooting for, we've listed this week's slam dunks from the web.
And lastly, a favorite find from our own Twitter feed
Even if basketball isn't your thing, you can get into bracket-mania with Garden & Gun's southern food bracket. We're rooting for Cheerwine. No, wait. We want MoonPie... Er, how are we supposed to choose one winner?! Leave us a comment and let us know who you're rooting for. (It's Texas Pete, isn't it?)
Emma’s a strategic gal. When the time is right to release a new product, there’s much thought that goes into what the story is that we want to tell our customers. That story – ranging from the latest Zadie Smith to Are You My Mother? – is inspired by our own habits as well as what we’re gleaning from you.
Toward the end of last year, Mashable called 2013 "the year of responsive design." Their article speaks largely about web design, but if you’re anything like us, you wear glasses while consuming emails on a variety of platforms, too: smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
That’s why it’s important to optimize your email campaigns so that they look their best and brightest, no matter the stage.
What responsive design means at Emma
Our product developers and designers have been thinking about mobile-optimizedemaildesign for a while now. And with the release of our new drag & drop editor and new template language to go along with it, Emma is poised for responsive design in the inbox. Wherever that inbox may be.
So, how do we go from being poised for responsive design to actually achieving responsive design? We experiment with our own email newsletter, of course.
Emma UX designer Cale Mooth – who’s done the actual template work, coding, CSS, HTML retrofitting, whozywhatsit to optimize our own email and some of the templates in our readymade design collections – said adaptive emails improve your recipients’ experience.
“Looking at something on a small device versus a desktop or laptop, it’s a totally different experience,” he said. “So if you can cater to those specific devices, I think it’s just one more chance for users to identify with the content you’re putting out there, react with it, interact with it.”
So what is mobile optimization, and should you be scared? It means that your email design responds and adapts to the device your recipients are using to experience it. And yes, of course you should be scared: Haven’t you noticed the uptick in zombie TV shows and movies?
According to eMarketer, the average American adult spent almost an hour and a half a day last year on their mobile busy with non-phone activity – That’s twice what it was in 2010 and a 50 percent increase from 2011.
“There’s been a big trend just in overall website design, not so much apps, just as far as conveying messaging to let that content be optimized,” said David Wright, a senior product owner at Emma who has researched trends in the market. “With the trend of more and more email being read and interacted with on a mobile phone, you’re not tethered to a computer anymore or tethered to a big screen.”
Are you ready to optimize your emails for mobile?
Emma customers can access mobile-ready templates in our collection of free readymade email templates. Our design team is working on optimizing each free design, but for now you can spot the mobile-ready ones at a glance.
Stay tuned for next week's conclusion of Emma's Responsive Email Design: Zombie Slayer.
For some, it takes years. For others, it might just take a few days. Well, as long as you have the necessities: a team of bright, curious people, a common goal, and lots of snacks. We're talking Corn Nuts here, people.
Such is the way on the StartupBus, which kicks off a journey to South by Southwest from a city like San Francisco or New York, pitching business ideas at stops along the way and picking up new "buspreneurs" to join on the fun.
When the bus stopped at Emma's Nashville office a couple weeks ago, Alex Ezell, director of technology, hopped aboard. And now he's back from his StartupBus journey, telling his tale of life on the road (and one creepy night in an orphange-turned-hostel) on his personal blog.
The Ides of March are upon us, folks. The biggest thing you should beware? Our BigStock giveaway expiring before you get your five images (yep, we're footing the bill). You've got about two weeks left for the freebie! Before you go fretting about which baby panda photo to purchase (you'll probably want to get 'em all anyway), relax and take a look back at all the wonderful things the world wide web had to offer you this past week:
And lastly, a favorite find from our own Twitter feed
To retailers, March Madness is all about sales. To die-hard fans – brackets. To the IT folks, it's about throttling your streaming capabilities. Cheers to you, IT peeps. Or as we like to call you: purveyors of productivity.
The attention span of the average online consumer seems to be getting shorter every second. Unless you can do or say (or link to) something awesome ... and do it quickly ... you'll likely lose your readers' attention. In fact, I would bet that many folks already stopped reading this blog post. Another portion clicked on that link (above) and are now going down the rabbit hole that is YouTube.
For those who are still reading, please understand that ADOS (Attention Deficit. Oh, Shiny!*) syndrome also applies to email marketing messages. With very few exceptions (read: killer content from a very trusted source), when it comes to email marketing, shorter is better. Humans are busy. We are looking for that instant gratification -- the email that (quickly) saves us time, saves us money, makes us smarter, and/or entertains us.
If your email marketing message cannot do one (or more!) of those four things, and do it quickly, chances are your content will not get read/clicked/shared/acted upon. So, how do you design an email for this ADOS crowd? Here are four ways:
1. Create a subject line that is compelling. If an email landed in your inbox with the subject line, "Burn after reading ..." would you open it? My wife did. Check out this email from Red Envelope. Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that "boring" subject lines can't also work, but if you are finding that your open rates are on the decline, try something different!
2. Test various from names. Every so often, mix up your from/sender name. Do you always send using your company or brand name? Try using a person's name. Do you normally use a person's name? Try sending from the company or brand. And, if you really want to get crazy (creative), try sending from someone like Don Draper. That's exactly what MarketingProfs did last year in an email promoting its B2B Forum. Be sure to read Part II and Part III of that blog post series too.
3. Keep the content of your emails short. On January 1st of this year, a friend of mine received an email from Meetup.com. The entire email copy consisted of one sentence, six words -- "Resolutions are meant to be broken." There was a custom header that read "New Year's UNRESOLUTIONS" as well as a button that read "TRY THESE INSTEAD." That's all!
4. Provide something of value. This one is usually the easiest one to do (in theory), yet toughest to actually execute on. After all, how does one define value? In many cases, value is different for each person. In some cases, there is monetary value -- an email that saves a subscriber money (discount, free, etc). In other instances, value is defined as saving someone time (a "hack") or making them smarter (a "tip"). However, that's why email marketing is so awesome. All of this can be tested. You don't have to guess what call to action provides more value. Test it.
If you are still reading this (and not off looking at some shiny object), take a moment to leave your thoughts below in the comments. Do you agree? Do you think I'm crazy? Have you seen (or sent) an email marketing campaign recently that is perfect for the ADOS crowd? If so, we want to see it! Please share below.
Today's guest post is written by DJ Waldow, an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that creates opportunities for social engagement and community development through a fresh approach to email marketing. DJ has spent nearly 8 years in the email, social, and community-building world, advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns and--on occasion--break some of the “best practice” rules. DJ can be found on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.” DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan (Go Blue), a knowledge craver, a sponge, & a lover of beer, coffee & people.
When we wrote our Brainiac Guide to Images, we did a lot of reading and research about the psychology of images. I mean, you really can't throw around the word "brainiac" without researching, you know, the brain.
Along the way, one of our UX designers, Geoff Alday, introduced me to The W Blog. It's a wealth of information for applying neuroscience to design and marketing, including some fascinating research on how humans process images.
How can you turn all that research into better email marketing? Read our favorite insights from The W Blog, and then check out a few examples to get inspired and try 'em yourself.
Researchers have discovered a part of the brain called the "fusiform face area," and its job is just to process images of faces. Interestingly, it's located right next to the part of the brain that processes emotion.
For email marketers, the takeaway here is to use images of people in your email campaigns, and to use images that evoke the emotion you want your subscribers to feel, too.
To share their most popular blog content, CORE uses an image of the author, looking straight at the camera. It creates an instant personal connection and sense of trust -- two crucial things for thought leadership.
This image shows a woman relaxed and at ease in her style. It's the same attitude Francesca's wants you to associate with wearing (and buying) their clothes.
A four-month-old baby prefers pictures of people to pictures of other objects or even animals. We're hard-wired to pay attention to pictures of people. Leverage that attention to point people toward the most important part of your email.
The gaze of the man in focus directs your gaze to the headline and call to action. Imagine if this email's designer had put the image on the left side and the copy on the right. It'd look goofy, right?
Here, all the action of the image -- a dad mid-stride, pulling his daughter in the snow -- flows right toward the call to action.
We have three brains -- one for critical thinking, one for emotion, and one for survival. Some call that last one the "primitive brain," and its job is to pay attention to food, sex or danger -- all things that are crucial to our species' survival.
Images that tap into that primitive brain's attention can be powerful. They can also tacky and tasteless, so apply this idea in moderation. Make sure any provocative images you use are meaningful and relevant to your content.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
It's hard not to look a little longer at an image like this, especially with such beautiful lighting and gorgeous colors. It elevates ice cream to art form -- and the small little melting drip is the perfect mouthwatering detail.
Here's a well-done example of using a little skin to grab attention. It's swimsuit season, after all. The scale is nice -- it's not a close-up -- and the poolside setting makes it relevant.
Have you tried any of these image tricks in your emails? How did it go?
We kicked off this past week at Emma with a visit from the Startup Bus. An extremely talented group of entrepreneurs pitched their startup ideas to some Emma staffers. At the end of the visit, they grabbed our Director of Technology, Alex Ezell, and pulled him aboard the bus to finish out the trip before finally arriving at SXSW.
Don't worry, you don't have to hop a bus and develop a startup in 72 hours to be hip to the happenings this past week. We've rounded up the best links just for you: