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Practicing what you preach in the Inbox (and beyond)




Join evangelists of email Justine Jordan (VP of Marketing, Litmus) and our own VP of Sales Christopher Lester as they dive into the latest marketing trends hitting today’s inboxes and how a top-notch email program can set your brand up for success in every channel.

Jamie: All right. Hey guys. Thank you so much for joining us today for our presentation, “Real Talk with Justine and Christopher.” “So who are these people and what are we talking about?” you may be asking. You may already have an idea. Well, anyway. First of all, who are they? Christopher is the vice president of sales at Emma where he leads teams responsible for outbound and inbound sales efforts, strategic growth in new markets, and inbound business development. He has extensive experience in sales and marketing and it makes him the perfect ally for businesses trying to engage customers with e-mail. He’s also just super fun to be around. I’m excited that he’s here today. And Justine, oh man, probably more excited, no offense, Christopher, that she’s here.

Christopher: None taken. I’m really excited about Justine as well.

Jamie: Justine Jordan is the VP of marketing at Litmus where she leads content marketing, customer education, and research initiatives. And she is strangely passionate about this e-mail marketing thing. She hates being called a spammer, so do we, and still gets nervous when it’s time to hit the send button. And who am I? I am Jamie. I’m your humble host and I’m on the marketing team here at Emma, so I am excited to host these folks.

A little housekeeping before we get started, we will send an extra special bonus version of today’s webinar out to all of you lucky folks today. So if you need to hop off or want to share this content with a friend, we got you covered. Also, if you have a question throughout, you can type that into your chat modal. Also, you can Tweet at us @EmmaEmail using the hashtag, #RealTalkInbox, and we’ll be looking at that too and checking it.

Okay. Oh, yes. Justine was doing a cool hashtag symbol, and I appreciate it. So before I unleash the hounds of e-mail, that’s you guys, I wanna level set a little bit about why we’re here today talking about e-mail in the first place. There we are. There’s all of us. Well, first of all, we’re all of the mind that e-mail is a big deal. Emma is an email marketing service provider and Litmus is a platform that tests and tracks your email campaigns so you can always put your best design forward. And when our forces combine, we have a common goal of making sure brands everywhere make a great impression in the inbox.

But e-mail is not just a big deal because the three of us say so, though we do. It turns out e-mail is actually the number one activity on the entire internet, which might sound surprising, honestly. But we as people are checking our e-mail more than we are doing anything else, and that includes, by the way, using a search engine. This study was by Google, by the way. That comes in at number two at 82%, so we’re doing it. Also, it’s not just popular, it’s doing stuff. It gets results. So we see these numbers come out every year from the Direct Marketing Association, and this dollar amount, they’re gonna fluctuate. This is probably higher or a little bit lower today than it was when we made this slide.

But the fact of the matter is e-mail is and has been for as long as we can remember, the ROI has been more than double that of any other digital channel. And that’s saying something, and that’s what we’re dig into today. It’s also likely because, why that’s happening, is e-mail is portable. We are glued to our inboxes, and our phones are now basically little mobile inboxes with a phone app, as Christopher likes to say. This comes from Litmus, “More than half of all e-mails open first on a mobile device.” So e-mail is the belle of the marketing ball. E-mail gets results and mobile in no way killed e-mail.

So now what? Why is that? What do successful and not so successful e-mails look like out in the wild? And so that is what Justine and Christopher are gonna real talk about today. They’re gonna tell us the ins and outs of getting the best results. So the first one, since we talked about mobile, I’m gonna hand it on over to Justine as we look at some of the best and brightest mobile plus e-mail examples out there. But first, she has some awesome supporting stats. So, Justine.

Justine: Hi. Thank you for that wonderful intro, Jamie. You should be less humble because you’re pretty awesome yourself there.

Jamie: Oh stop it. I love this webinar already.

Justine: Yeah. So one of the many things we do here at Litmus is we track how e-mail is going out in the mobile universe. So we have a platform called E-mail Analytics. We track about a billion, that’s one billion with a B, opens per month. That’s a lot of e-mail, and we’ve been doing it since 2011. So if you look to the very far left side of that graph, you actually see that mobile opens were happening about 8% of the time back in January 2011, which was really not very often. But back then, I thought it was a big deal. And if I wasn’t convinced then, then I definitely am convinced as of late. I actually filmed a new video talking about the latest and greatest stats over 2015 yesterday, and that number is actually up to 54% now. So you’re getting a sneak peak.

Christopher: We’re getting the early reveal.

Justine: Yes. Yes, indeed. So I love how you guys made that line the darkest blue on the chart there because I think it really helps it stand out, because you can see just how far…I think it’s a 570% or maybe even 580% increase over the last couple years. So in a sense, it’s a big deal and it’s something that we really need to pay attention to.

Jamie: Absolutely. So let’s look at some of these good ones. Oh, this guy, Joshua, “Scrolling is easier than clicking. A small observation with huge implications.” Let’s take a look at what that looks like. Here we go.

Justine: Yeah. Joshua actually was the UX designer at HubSpot, and he Tweeted that out, probably like a year ago now. And it immediately caught my attention because I could not agree more, like this e-mail from Cotton Bureau of embracing that behavior that everybody does now. Everybody knows how to scroll. It’s not a thing that we have to convince people to do. It’s a thing that we do when we’re bored. If you think about when you’re standing, waiting in line at something, what do you do? You grab your phone and you’re checking Twitter, you’re checking Facebook, you’re checking e-mail, and you’re scrolling.

Christopher: We’re conditioned to scroll at this point. It’s odd sometimes if you don’t have to scroll. You go ahead and start scrolling before you even consume the content sometimes.

Justine: Yeah. Have you seen those videos of babies on the internet that try to swipe…

Christopher: Swipe the magazines.

Justine: ...the magazines because they think that…Right? So even two-year-olds, like toddlers, have learned this behavior. Everybody knows swiping, scrolling. It makes sense. And so I think we’ve taken advantage of that in some ways, the tendency for people to want to scroll. In that e-mail in particular, there’s really no friction. There’s no call to action. But in the next example, you can see how Timbuktu, it has this nice cohesive, creative that encourages you to scroll, but then there’s also these CTAs that appear midway throughout the e-mail that encourage you to stop scrolling and maybe do something else, which is click.

The next example, I think is a great one too. It kinda breaks the e-mail up and it shows you a CTA at the very top, some more great content to keep you scrolling, and then more CTAs kinda strategically placed throughout so that you create these scrolling breaks, almost, in your e-mail when you’re looking at it on mobile.

Christopher: I love those in e-mails too because they’re reminiscent of the Buzzfeed or the kind of format where you’ll scroll, you’ll see a line, it’s like some image will grab your attention, and it causes just enough friction for you to pause, maybe consume something that you would miss. That’s a really good…

Justine: I mean, Christopher, I know that people talk about friction as this bad thing on the internet, like we wanna relieve friction, we wanna reduce it. But I think too much reduction of friction and no one does anything anymore, so there’s gotta be a balance there.

Christopher: Yeah. I totally agree.

Jamie: So let’s look at this next one. So we talk a lot here at Emma about…Obviously, you guys just said a lot of great things about calls to action in the e-mail and the friction, but let’s say you do have a great e-mail with a great call to action. These examples that we’re looking at here, Christopher, if you wanna dig into what we’re looking at?

Christopher: Yeah. So this is where if I make a jump from the mailing and I land on where you ultimately were driving me too, right, you got me to click and land somewhere, and I land on a broken site or something that’s not mobile or optimized. And for me, it’s always interesting because really big brands and small brands, brands all across the spectrum have this problem. And it makes me instantly think that the marketing teams are siloed, like the people in the e-mail world are not talking to the people who are responsible for landing pages, who are responsible for promotions.

And so then I start to make some assumptions about the company because they’re not even thinking about their customer experience. And so you go me to jump from a mailing and I land here. What am I supposed to do? And some them, you can’t do anything, right? But what are you supposed to do? And so just really thinking about this holistically, the continuity of the experience and that that’s the most important thing because this is where the action really is, and you’re just asked a big ask from the e-mail and the e-mail creative, and then you land here, and there’s no payoff for it, right?

Jamie: Right, exactly.

Justine: And not only no payoff but a frustrating, like flash player, guess what, I can’t download that on an iPhone, or I get this message. Or that Victoria Secret at the end, that example, that happened to me. I had some items in my cart I wanted to go check out and that modal popped up. And it was one of those situations where I kept pinching to zoom to hit the little x in the corner,

Christopher: To close out. Yeah.

Justine: And it kept going off the side of my screen and I couldn’t hit it all. So frustrating.

Christopher: A side point to that is the idea of thinking about as we create marketing pieces, or mailings, or e-mails, the idea of the finger has to be able to do what it want you to do, and this pinch and squeeze, whereas natural is the scroll and that kind of motion. And the tap feels, pinching and squeezing, that feels like a lot of friction to have to figure that out. And most of the time, you’re doing something else, right, like that was just in the way of you making a jump that they wanted you to make, but you were also doing other things while you were doing that.

Justine: Right. I just love that it was a popup and it’s most frustrating…They’re like, “I’m gonna interject into your life, but you can’t do anything.”

Christopher: You can’t buy that thing that’s in your cart because you need this makeup kit.

Jamie: All right. So Christopher, if you wanna talk briefly, this is an example I know that you like of just what a good mobile experience looks like in the inbox beyond just sorta translating from that desktop version to the mobile version.

Christopher: Yeah. I like this example because there’s a lot of thought that’s going into it, right? And again, it’s about the brand experience. It’s all about just the experience you’re creating for me, but I can also just see kinda the processing that goes on. So a couple of highlights that we hit, right, the font size is a good size. It’s really easy for me to consume on a mobile device. The size of the places for me to tap, like the navigation tools at the top, they configure into a really good header. I actually get really frustrated when someone who will put an e-mail…First of all, we can argue how much the e-mail should replicate a website or those kinds of things. That’s a whole other discussion, but a lot of navigation tools at the top of an e-mail, I’m just not likely to make that jump.

And so these are a good size, but also, it drops all of that side image down and starts to just stack. And this goes back to the idea of…it’s clear that the folks here are aware of what their main purpose in, and the call to action, and the hierarchy of the information that they’re providing. Because I don’t think you have to make an e-mail have one complete thought process, but what you do have to understand is the hierarchy of it, and that’s what they’ve done visually here is they’ve made very clear, stacked it, it’s clean, there’s lots of white space.

Jamie: Absolutely. Good analysis here. Oh, let’s talk about this one.

Christopher: This is a good e-mail.

Justine: Uh-oh.

Christopher: The aesthetics alone.

Jamie: Whoever sent this beautiful e-mail, Christopher?

Christopher: Oh, that was a serious question.

Jamie: This is from Litmus. It’s from Litmus.

Christopher: I was like, “It’s from Litmus, girl.”

Justine: Yeah. This e-mail, we sent it. I actually have a funny story coming up about it later, but going back to that whole mobile and scrolling thing, this is for our annual e-mail design conference. You can see there that the e-mail scales really well to fit both of those environments. But at the bottom of the e-mail, and there’s actually a continuation, part two of this story later in the webinar so that you’re interested to stick around and hear what the part two really is.

[crosstalk 00:12:52]

Christopher: Spoiler.

Justine: But there is a live Twitter feed embedded in the e-mail. So not only was that a great example of how you can get people to scroll, the people that do scroll, so we teased. We said, I think, in the [inaudible 00:13:09] text of this e-mail, “Tweet 10C15 and you’ll see yourself in this e-mail. And so people, when they scroll down to the bottom of the e-mail, you could see that live Twitter feed. And I think on the next slide is an example of the Twitter feed was auto-advancing, so it was like this scroll within a scroll, so meta.

Jamie: So many scrolls.

Justine: So we were encouraging you to scroll down to the e-mail and see this scrolling Twitter feed, and then tweeted and saw yourself inside the e-mail. So it was a really cool experience that got off to a bit of a rough start, but we’ll talk about that later.

Jamie: Stay tuned. All right. So now, we’re gonna kinda talk about another aspect of e-mail marketing. We sorta just touched on the design and getting people to maybe take an action and how design can play into that. But now, we’re gonna talk about the actual content of the e-mail and what it means, I guess, as a recipient to experience the e-mail and feel like it came exactly to you.

Christopher: Which is what we’re all striving for, right?

Jamie: Right. It’s what we’re all striving for. It’s something that we here at Emma speak to a lot, the experience isn’t just physically the experience you’re having with your e-mail, but actually sort of emotionally the experience, or cognitively…

Christopher: The visceral experiences.

Jamie: ...yeah, that we’re having. So we kick it off with another Justine example that is just for her.

Justine: Yeah. We talked about surprising and delighting customers and creating that ultimate relevant experience. So ignore the fact that this e-mail does have my first name in it because we’re kind of beyond, or at least we should be beyond, first name personalization at this point. The personalization that really impresses me these days is data-based personalization or behavioral-based personalization.

And so in this case, I had had a trial Hulu account at some point in the past and had canceled it, and the subject line of this e-mail was, “Thanks for canceling.” And at first, I had a little bit of this panic moment. I was like, “Wait. I canceled ages ago. Am I getting resubscribed or what is happening here?” But it turns out that that was their unique of doing some segmentation and some personalization by targeting people that had canceled plans in the past, tell them about the new non-commercial plan on Hulu. Maybe when I had canceled, I might have even ticked the thing that said “too many commercials,” and that’s why they were sending me that e-mail. So really clever, you can’t fault the animated GIF too.

Jamie: No.

Justine: Which by the way, we haven’t discussed yet, you guys. Are you team “GIF” or team “JIF?”

Christopher: You know, I kinda read the crowd. I have my own stance on it, but I kind of read the crowd typically because there are people who are adamant about those things.

Jamie: Yeah. He’s fluid.

Christopher: I usually say GIF, is my preference.

Justine: So do I. A lifetime of calling it GIF. I can’t switch.

Christopher: Yes. It’s just what I know. I wanna say too, I love the idea of you’re talking about database and behavior personalization, that we’ve literally made the jump that we now talk about first name or last name subject personalization as superficial personalization, right? You are basically just saying, “I’m gonna scratch the surface and try to make this feel like it’s for you,” versus there was a time where it was like, “If you don’t personalize,” right, this is what personalization was. It was getting a first name into the “Dear” line. And now, it’s like, yeah, that’s not what this is about. It’s bigger than that, which I love.

Jamie: Exactly. So let’s look at the next one here. Oh. This is [crosstalk 00:16:42].

Christopher: Yeah. So this is kinda that same idea, right, and stretch your brain just a little bit about what personalization really means. It’s about creating and providing relevant information based on things you know about me. So this is an example of basically a map being fed into the footer of an e-mail to the closest location. And I love this feature because I think it’s what’s helped a lot of people make the jump of being freaked out about the amount of data that we know about folks because when you start to surface back that behavioral or the data that you know about me, and if you feed it back in a creepy, I’m watching through the window kinda way, people still aren’t good with that. No one’s made that jump. Well, most people haven’t made that jump.

Jamie: Some have. Yeah.

Christopher: But if you’re doing a thing where it’s like, “Hey, look. We just are providing you some value here, right? What we’re trying to do is come from a place of contribution. We know you’re shopping here or whatever. This is the closest store to you.” As someone who travels, I appreciate this feature from all brands, like commercial brands, that do this because I often will need to run to Banana Republic or somewhere, and it makes it easy. So I think that there’s just something about this that we’ve made a jump where we’re not freaked out about that there’s data on us and people are using it. And if they use it in a helpful way, it becomes a value add.

Jamie: Be useful, not creepy. You heard it here first.

Christopher: Yeah, yeah. Don’t creep through the window.

Jamie: Yes. Oh, I love this one.

Justine: And this actually a great example of that. So Jamie, you put these examples in a perfect order. So this is a great, great, great, what is probably my favorite example of being personal and relevant and even helpful with that kind of data. So you can be absolutely creepy with that data. You could say like, “Oh, I see that you’re sitting in your living room in wherever Georgia. Here’s your nearest store nearby.” Or this e-mail, I swear Karma didn’t pay me to say this, but Karma WiFi is one of my new favorite things. It’s a WiFi hotspot. You can take internet with you wherever. It’s a lifesaver when you travel, you’re on the road, what have you. And the very first day I got it, I was like, “This is the coolest thing ever. I had no idea how long the battery lasted or how long I could use it. My husband and I went and worked from a park bench outside, which like, “What? Who can do that, right?”

Christopher: Okay. Now, you’re really selling it.

Jamie: Choose Karma today.

Justine: I know. So I used it for five hours that day, tucked it in my bag, and frankly, forgot about it. And the battery was darn near dead. And so they sent me this e-mail, and they said, “Hey. Your Karma WiFi battery is dying. Charge me up.” Again, super cool animated GIF, so you can’t get more relevant than this e-mail that got sent to me at the right time, it’s helpful, it’s personalized to the context of my situation.

Again, it has my first name in it. Big deal. We can ignore that part. It’s not the cool part. The cool part was it was helpful, it was sent at the right time, it had data about me and my situation that pertained to my context. So contextual marketing I think is the big opportunity here with personalization and dynamic content in e-mail these days is tailoring the e-mail experience to the context of the user. So yeah. One of my favorite e-mails.

Christopher: That’s great.

Jamie: Perfect. Oh, here we go. More data.

Christopher: Yeah. So this is a great example of Nike using gender identification to dictate the image, right? And so when we talked about sharing this example, a couple of points here. One, this is a space, again, that can get creepy if you try to take and you’re using data that might not be really good data or you also might be doing some big jumps. This is pretty simple. Unless you see these side by side, I don’t experience the other piece being sent out, so it doesn’t feel weird to me. I think the other point of this of wanting to share this today is that it’s super important as we think about really honing in and putting the data in front of people and using that as a good tool, that we have to think about how that time box is in the year as well.

So this kinda as we go into the Christmas holidays, I know I buy a ton of stuff and none of it’s for me. And it was really interesting to me at the end of the holiday season last year, the beginning of 2015, how much some brands allowed that to skew what they started to send me because what they were doing was just purely looking at my purchase history and what I’d bought. And none of it was for me. And I joke with Jamie all the time, like that three-foot ceramic bunny was not in my kitchen. It’s at my mom’s. And she only needs so many ceramic bunnies that are…

Jamie: He’s a liar.

Christopher: ...three feet tall.

Jamie: Yeah. I’m lying. It’s in my kitchen. It’s not.

Justine: You only buy a refrigerator hopefully once every eight years or something, so if I buy a refrigerator once, stop sending me e-mails about refrigerators.

Christopher: Because I should not have to buy it again if your product is good. We have a really good example in here later too, Justine, of when you miss that window, right, that some things are about in this moment of purchase. Yeah. So I’m anxious to share that too.

Jamie: Yeah. Absolutely. Oh, another wonderful e-mail design conference.

Christopher: Who did that one, Jamie?

Jamie: I don’t know.

Justine: It’s subliminal messaging about…

Jamie: They’re having a conference, guys.

Justine: Yeah. We tend to use it as fertile experimental ground. This one was for the conference three years ago, gosh. We haven’t done the conference for a long time now. We had conferences in London, Boston, and San Francisco. So rather than just sending everybody the e-mail about all three cities, we looked at where you were the last time you opened an e-mail from us, so we geo-targeted the location of your last open, and then we segmented our list. So anyone on the West Coast got the San Francisco e-mail. Anyone on the East Coast got the Boston e-mail. And anyone in Europe or the U.K. got the London e-mail. Everyone else got the general e-mail. And the city-specific e-mails had a 209% higher open rate.

Christopher: Relevancy. You know what I love in that story too, it’s a great experience. You’re getting more benefit on the end of it, and what you’re doing on the front-end of that is not impossible, right? It’s not some crazy unpacking of information. It’s a pretty simple approach to what turns out to be a really great experience for the end user, but also very beneficial to you guys on open rates, and clicks, and interest, right? Just that little bit of time on the front-end of being diligent and thinking that out.

Jamie: Oh, sorry.

Christopher: No, no. You’re good. I’ll just throw this in one more time because I think that everyone thinks that there’s these huge challenges to doing this well. And while for some stuff there is, right, and again, you guys are unpacking and experimenting a lot and I don’t know the boldness in your soul to be able to send out all of this weight to an e-mail because everyone’s eyes are on you, but at the end of the day, the mechanics to a lot of the things that craft these experiences we’re talking about are not really difficult, right? It’s about thoughtfulness.

Justine: There is always low-hanging fruit. You just have to look for it and then pick it.

Christopher: Yeah. I think that’s the key takeaway, no matter what we’re talking about today, to empower people as they go into the next year. There are things you can implement right now that will win.

Jamie: Let’s look at an e-mail from Clout that maybe died on the vine, to make a fruit analogy. I’m not sure. No. But it’s just a good example of personalization not quite hitting the mark or falling flat, honestly.

Christopher: Do you wanna talk to this one, Justine?

Justine: I like to Google or search on Twitter for e-mail fail. That’s actually a pro tip for anyone listening is Google your brand’s name and the word e-mail or the hashtag e-mail fail, or love, or hate on Twitter and you might be really surprised with what you find. So I find tons of examples like this. I have a whole gallery of first name personalization fails. So it’s just another one of those reminders that you can go so far beyond first name personalization. But when you do do it, make sure that it doesn’t die on the vine.

Christopher: That it works.

Jamie: Exactly. Here’s another…So I feel bad. This is like the hall of shame. These are all great brands.

Christopher: They’re all great.

Jamie: They’ve just made some missteps.

Christopher: I love this too because this is literally to Jamie. And I’m lucky enough to know Jamie really well, so this story feels really relevant to just what I know about her as a person. But she had a battery die and had called AAA, and this e-mail came literally a month later, right, like five weeks later about, “Hey. Get a new battery.” And it just seemed so obvious, intuitive, the first thing she did when they jumped her battery was go buy a battery, right?

Jamie: On the road to the battery store.

Christopher: You had one chance to get the battery fixed. And that same thing is we joke about if this was a tire, it’s a little bit different because you might plug a tire and need tires. As you think about the product or the messaging that you’re sending, there is sometimes a timestamp or a boxed off amount of time that that still seems relevant and doesn’t end up dying on the vine.

Jamie: Okay. And this is, I think, one…

Christopher: Oh, this is my favorite. Yeah. We’re kinda going into the pits of just pointing out some flaws here, but bear with us. I think they’re all valuable because they’re easy to miss.

Jamie: This is “Real Talk.” We’re getting real here.

Christopher: Yeah. We’re just being honest. So this e-mail actually came to me and my first name is JC Penny Rewards Member. And I also have to say that when I got this e-mail, I opened it because I was thinking, “When was the last time I had been to JC Penney’s?” I don’t even know where one is here in Nashville. So I don’t know how I ended up on the list. I started looking at it and I was like, “Oh, this is not so good.” And the first thing I did was slack over to Jamie and be like, “Get over here right now. I’ve gotta show you this,” because it’s similar to what you were saying Justine. We just kinda collect these because of course they’re fun. It’s also really good just to process through even really large brands stumble sometimes, right?

The best part of this mailing though is I scrolled to bottom because I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna get off of this e-mail list somehow I’ve gotten onto.” And the last sentence is, “Do not reply to this e-mail,” and there’s basically a phone number. The opt-out process for JC Penney’s currently is to call them. And literally got on the phone, it was about an eight-and-a-half minute phone call through the corporate phone tree to get to someone who then got me to the rewards department. Then there’s a special department in the rewards department to get off of the e-mail list. And if it wasn’t such an interesting study, I probably would’ve been very frustrated, right? It was the best eight-and-a-half minutes of the week that particular week. But on any other given day, I probably would not have spent eight-and-a-half minutes to get off of this list.

Justine: And then soon enough you’d be marking those e-mails as spam.

Christopher: Yeah, right.

Justine: Like I said, we all make mistakes. There’s an example of a mistake we made here shortly. But it’s all, if you don’t make the process easy for the user to stop hearing from you, then your brand is gonna pay for it in other ways, like if your e-mails get marked as spam and you can’t send e-mail anymore. So I think that’s the important thing here is that if you make the user jump through hoops…

Christopher: Yeah. And that might be be affecting the people who do wanna get the mailing, right, the inbox placement and kind of components of stuff. So me, someone not wanting to get them is hindering that brand from getting to the folks who really do love the mailings for the brand or interact with them.

Jamie: Exactly. Good stuff you guys. All right, so we have one last fail here, and I’ll let Justine take this one.

Justine: Yeah. So this was actually spotted by our engineer, Brendon. We’d been working on this e-mail marketing mistakes report and this example was sent to him. So our engineer, Brendon, received an e-mail that went to, “Dear Kate.” And obviously, Brendon’s name is not Kate. And it’s just one of those times where personalization sometimes does fail. And the question always I think to brands is, “Well, what should we do about it? Should we apologize? Should we send another e-mail?” And so that brings us to a whole other section.

Jamie: My bad. The art of oops. What does one do? Again, just to state also, these are not bad brands, but everybody stumbles.

Christopher: Yeah. We’re all in this space together, right?

Justine: E-mail is hard.

Christopher: It’s hard.

Jamie: E-mail is hard [crosstalk 00:29:21]. So we’re gonna look now at a section that’s dedicated to, “What do you do when you make a mistake?” because there’s a right way. It’s probably not eight minutes in a phone tree.

Christopher: But it’s also interesting because it’s hard but all eyes are on it, so when you make a mistake, it’s so easy for everyone to share that mistake or to send that around because it is so portable.

Jamie: Yeah. And those mistakes are weighted in different ways, so we’re gonna work our way through it. So first of all, “Dear Kate,” what do we do?

Justine: Yeah. So I’m gonna sneeze maybe.

Jamie: Oh, I know. It’s that season. It’s the sneezing season.

Justine: Wow. It passed.

Christopher: It’s the spring weather.

Justine: It really passed. I didn’t sneeze. I spared you all. So Kate, Brendon was not Kate. Kate ended up being Magic Beans’ e-mail marketing manager. And so I think we’ve all been there. If we’re in charge of building or pressing send on e-mails where you put first name utilization in an e-mail, somebody had some copy changes, you copied and pasted the e-mail that got sent to you that had your first name in it, and then you went and made some changes. I call them copy and paste oopsies. And they happen all the time. And so in this case, we have this decision tree about whether or not you should respond to a mistake that you’ve made. And generally speaking, we say like, “If you’ve included something like a first name personalization fail, it’s probably fine. I wouldn’t waste your goodwill or another e-mail send by addressing it again.”

But in this case, I think the founder of Magic Beans did address it and did so in a really, really positive brand-building, brand-affirming way. So he got the first name personalization right this time. The e-mail went to Brendon like it was supposed to. And the e-mail had gone out right before Thanksgiving, and he actually gave thanks for their marketing whiz, Kate. And so often I think you hear these stories in Buzzfeed about when the social media person messes up and accidentally tweets from the company account and how that person is gonna get fired. People make mistakes, so I really just like how this brand handled it. If you’re gonna address it, this is the way to address it.

Jamie: Great. Oh, this Is a classic. This is a fave, so I’ll let you kinda take the lead, Justine, but Christopher probably has some thoughts.

Justine: So I love e-mail marketing and I love cats, in case you didn’t know already. So this is the kind of mistake that I can actually really get on board with. But I actually received this e-mail, I wanna say it was on a Saturday. And the subject line was, “Test: PM Tracking Test.” And when you open the e-mail, it had nothing but this picture of a cat, and that was it.

Jamie: And he’s super cute.

Justine: It’s super cute. I assumed they were using something like place kitten and they were doing some internal testing, so applause for having fun placeholder images, but quite obviously not intended to actually go out that way. So there’s actually some speculation in the industry that it was an intentional mistake, like a planted mistake.

Christopher: Yeah. That’s what I’ve heard too. Yeah.

Justine: So that’s the other bad thing about oops e-mails is that I think brands have seen how well, that if you send a second e-mail with a deal or a coupon that everyone opens it. And if you say, “I messed up,” everyone’s a lawyer. Everyone wants to see how somebody else messed up or did something wrong. So I have goodness in my heart and I think that it was a honest mistake.

Jamie: I hope so.

Justine: But what they did with the follow-up is just so great. So they really embraced the mistake, or maybe planned it all along depending on who you ask. But the e-mail that they sent as a follow-up was full of these ridiculous cat-related puns.

Christopher: Which is why folks think it’s not a mistake because the follow-up email here, it’s a 10. It’s so good and highly designed and just well orchestrated.

Justine: Yeah. So it says, “It was purely a mistake, so please accept our apologies for littering your inbox.” I had tweeted at them about this, and the designer who did this e-mail replied back and said, “Oh yeah. It was a weekend fire drill,” so that’s why I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. But anyway, a really cool way to recover, embrace it. If your brand allows for that kind of playfulness and flexibility, a great way to handle it.

Christopher: What’s interesting about both of those examples, right, so Fab, this fits them so well. So when you get this, right, I think more than anything, it’s a mistake. But this is so crafted. Everything for them is so well done that way. The example before was so human, right? I mean, his signature is like, “Founder/Dad,” and he’s taking the time…Kate probably wasn’t about to have the best of Thanksgivings, right? And not only did he tell her it’s okay, he told everyone who received that in the world like, “Look, this happens, right? Kate’s human too and she has probably had her plate full.”

So both of these follow-up oops things, I think what’s really cool about them is that they owned the mistake, but they owned them in a brand-relevant way so that it feels sincere, like the, “I’m sorry,” has gotten so discounted just for us all that it doesn’t have the value it does. But it does when it’s weighted in this honest brand feeling or impression, I think.

Jamie: We had a lot of examples, and I know we have some questions rolling in, so we’re gonna go.

Christopher: I’ll be quiet.

Jamie: Justine is gotta tell this story because this is…

Justine: Jamie’s really nice way of telling us to hurry up.

Jamie: I know, I know. I have to do it.

Justine: So a really quick one on this one, so I alluded to the fact earlier that we had this Twitter feed in an e-mail and a mistake happened. Well, we sent it and immediately on Twitter, people were saying, “This is broken.” So it turns out that despite all the testing in the universe, we sent a broken e-mail where the Twitter feed did not work, and that was the whole point of the e-mail. So we were actually able to pause the send, fix it, and then we sent out…everyone that received the broken version, received this.

So rather than sending a separate apology e-mail, we appended the subject line and we put “Take Two” in front of it and then we put this black banner at the top. And it said, “Looks like or ESP stripped out the magic. Let’s try this again.” So it was our way of acknowledging that, “Here’s why you got two e-mails,” without going to extra great lengths to make a big out of apologizing.

Jamie: Yeah, absolutely.

Christopher: Yeah. Take two is great.

Jamie: Oh, and this one. This is rounding out this section, but we talked about Fab and Magic Bean, and those are sort of fun examples of saying you’re sorry, and then obviously the Litmus example, it wasn’t a huge mistake, so you sort of weight your apology with that.

Christopher: It’s about fixing the functionality, right? It’s just about getting it right.

Jamie: Right, exactly. And not grovelling for a very minor inconvenience. But let’s talk about what happens on the opposite side of that when there is sort of a grievous error, so I’ll let you tell you tell the story, Justine.

Justine: Yeah. So Shutterfly sent out a poorly, mistargeted e-mail that congratulated a lot of people on an addition to their family, having recently given birth. But this email went to men. It went to couples that were experiencing infertility challenges. It really went to a lot of people that hadn’t recently experienced a birth in their family and might’ve felt a little sensitive to receiving that type of message.

So there were headlines about this. It was in major news publications and people were tweeting about it, and it almost turned into a PR crisis for Shutterfly. So in this case, someone very important in the organization went to take the blame, in this case their CMO. They were on Twitter apologizing and discussing the problem. And again, they really owned up to it, but it’s a whole different level of response than maybe a first name personalization fail detail.

Jamie: Exactly. And so that kinda leads us in, and I am gonna shamelessly plug this because it’s a fantastic resource, Litmus recently put out…and we will be sending this to everyone in the audience in the coming days…but actually put together a little infographic that’s basically a flowchart that helps you prioritize how big is this mistake and how much does it affect the response that my team needs to have to it from the minor putting “null” in subject line all the way to something that actually be a bit of a PR disaster? So we will be sending that out to you guys. It is fantastic. So stay tuned for that. But yeah. It’s not an exact science, but a very elegant art of the oops.

Justine and Christopher, as we’ve stated, we’re all really geeky about e-mail at our respective companies, so we of course have favorites. And so we’re just gonna round out today just talking about some really great examples and why they like them. So we’ll let Justine kick it off with one of hers.

Justine: I just got this e-mail last week. It’s from Virgin America, and it’s the typical fare sale, whatever, like traveling e-mail. But I loved the animated GIF. There’s this friendly volcano that explodes, and then it’s kinda happy about exploding and it winks at you. And it’s just so unbrand, and it gives what is really just an overtly promotional e-mail, which we get so many of these days, a little bit something fun straight in my inbox. So it was one of those moments where I felt surprised and delighted as a subscriber, rather than just being sold to.

Christopher: Yeah. There’s a neat subliminal thing too of blowing off steam and how happy the volcano is afterwards, like, “You need to travel.”

Justine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Christopher: “You’re stressed out.” Yeah. It’s good.

Jamie: “Come to Hawaii and see me.”

Christopher: “Come to Hawaii.”

Jamie: Yep. Love it. Oh, another Justine pick here.

Justine: Yeah. I think so often B2B brands think that they can’t have fun with their e-mail, and Litmus will be the first people to raise our hands and say we have tons of fun with e-mail. But in this case, Sprout Social, which is like a social media management media app that we use at Litmus, again, no plug intended, but they had this new smart inbox.

And so rather to describe the value or tell you about how it worked, they just showed you. They literally put a product demo as an animated GIF inside of an e-mail. And I’ve seen this as almost a trend in more forward-thinking B2B companies where they’re putting product demos as animated GIFs in e-mail. And it’s just such an easy, clear, immediate way to communicate value. I’m a huge, huge fan.

Jamie: Love it. All right. Oh, another one.

Justine: You just front-loaded the whole section full of Justine. Yeah. I love it.

Jamie: Christopher, you’ll get yours.

Christopher: I have no favorites.

Justine: So this one is from SaneBox, which is another service that I love. This is just like, “Services that Justine loves and uses and hopes that you use too.” Can we just rename the webinar at this point? It helps me keep my inbox sane, and if you’re familiar with NPS, Net Promoter Score, it’s a way that customer success teams and marketing teams can gauge, basically, the value of the product if you’d recommend it to your friends and colleagues. And so we think of e-mail as this dead interactive, unsexy, uncool thing because there’s not a lot of stuff that you can do in terms of interactivity in the inbox. But there’s lots of ways that you can hack it.

And so all those are are table cells that have numbers in them. Each of those numbers have a link that goes to a landing page. So there’s no special form or scale or any fancy technically going on here. It’s really just formatting and clever thinking. So you click on any one of those numbers, it takes you to a landing page. Then in your click stats, you can see how many people click on each of those numbers. So it’s like a poor man’s surveying tool that works really, really well in e-mail.

Jamie: Yep. All right, Christopher. You’re up. Same idea.

Christopher: Same idea, right? It’s really simplified. It’s basically a smiley face, right? This is from Expedia. It came after a trip, but it’s really kinda cool too. I think this is a fun thing as we talk about quick interaction and the idea that folks are on the move and the likelihood of making this really easy for me to pick how I feel, the way that my brain instantly recognizes those two images. And I know exactly what you want me to do even without giving me a lot of information about it. And it’s kind of witty, right? It’s just really lighthearted, they’re not asking for too much from me, so I can give them some valuable information back without being imposed upon.

Jamie: Yep. Love it. Oh, here we go.

Justine: So this is just another one of those crazy, “Look at what you can do in e-mail,” e-mails, one of favorites. Action Rocket is an agency based in London and they do all kinds of crazy, experimental things with e-mail. In this case, they literally put a fold-in e-mail, so it was an e-mail that unfolded. But it only worked on Apple and iOS devices, so on the iPhone. But just again, one of those cool if you’re a total e-mail geek like the audience is, it’s super relevant, pushing the envelope, really trying to show that e-mail can be innovative. I love it.

Christopher: Yeah. Super smart folks.

Jamie: Oh, here we go. Yeah. This is you.

Christopher: Well, first of all, it’s food, so I’m instantly enticed. It’s basically like a light box or popup form, right? But it’s hidden inside of a really great graphic. And I know what to do with, but again, it’s that thing that my interaction with it, it’s playing with my primal brain, and at this point of the day, making me thinking of s’mores, doesn’t sound like too bad of a thing to do after this.

Justine: It’s lunchtime, isn’t it? Yeah. I could go for a s’more.

Christopher: I could totally do a s’more.

Jamie: Yeah. Well, and it’s outside the e-mail. It’s like that whole experience, enjoy your list in a great way. Yeah.

Christopher: Well, and the thing of that too, right, so I have a very good indication of how fun being on this list is gonna be. So there’s a sense of foreshadowing what a great experience it’s gonna be to interact with them in my inbox just because from the very beginning, they set themselves apart as, “This is gonna be whimsical, fun, and you’re gonna enjoy it.” So why wouldn’t you put your name in?

Oh, this is another one that I love. Mine all have food in them. I think that’s all my examples are food. I like this because it proposes a question. First of all, I don’t know what could be sweeter than that caramel apple. It’s graphically and aesthetically beautiful. I think the J Crew folks just kill it. But it’s just that idea of can you pose just enough…I think this is that idea of the right amount of friction, right? Like I have to click to go find out what it is, but if it’s provocative enough or if there’s that sense of interest that you can tweak in the beginning, that is a really healthy amount of friction for me to go.

And then if you look at up at the top in the pre-header and subject line, basically they’re alluding, I’m gonna get some money. There’s some value on the other side of that click. I just don’t know how much it is yet, right? And I’d be really interested to see how that little bit of just state something, and then pose a question is a really interesting way to get people to interact.

Justine: And it’s that weird dichotomy between you’re not really coming right out and showing a promotion or really…It’s pretty intriguing in the body copy, but the pre-header text does a lot to get you to understand what the other part of that message is.

Christopher: That’s right.

Justine: So it’s kind of like a dual-pronged approach.

Christopher: On a side note to this, I also think it’s funny because it’s a caramel apple, which is not probably best thing for you to be eating as you’re thinking about buying clothes, right? But I’m gonna want to be able to fit into the jeans that you buy from them.

Justine: And not drip caramel all of them.

Christopher: Not drip caramel all over that beautiful white sweater. Yeah.

Jamie: Okay. Here’s another one, another Christopher one.

Christopher: Ah. Yeah. I like this too. This is funny. I think this is about some stuff we talked about earlier with the brands gone bad is like, if you know your brand identity and you’re really sending it to a target group, you can actually be a little bit self-deprecating with the people that love you, right? So this is not sent to everyone, but it’s basically owning…I mean, the whole idea that the original website was designed on Mario Paint during the summer of ‘93, it’s funny. It’s brand relevant, and it’s also just the right amount of self-deprecation that you do among your friends when you feel like you’re pretty tight and you can afford to look a little silly. And they just do it on a mass scale here. I love that the signature is heart emojis written out, right? It’s just funny.

Jamie: It’s great. Oh, here we go.

Christopher: Here we go with animated GIF, right? And again, know the audience. So this is a little bit farther into the Catbird experience. The do a really good job at, again, putting something out there and then luring you farther down the channel with it. And this is a good way to do mass personalization, right? We talked about the first name, but they do “Dear Kitten” in the majority of the e-mails, right? And this idea of, again, you’re among friends. You’re apart of this group, so it feels like I’m in something. This isn’t me who gets this e-mail, but I get them not because I’m a kitten or I shop there, right? But it’s the idea of you’re apart of this club and this group, and yeah. I think it’s cool.

Jamie: Yep. Okay. I think this might round out or section.

Justine: So you have to watch this e-mail very carefully because the header is changing colors…

Christopher: This is crazy.

Justine: ...very subtly. So the subject line of this e-mail is, “What colour is this e-mail?” And again, because Action Rocket is based in the U.K. it was spelled C-O-L-O-U-R, which is amazing.

Jamie: Oh, fancy.

Justine: But they, again, are always doing these silly, crazy, innovative experiments with their e-mails. They are the same ones that did the unfolding e-mail. And in this case, it was right after the, “What color is the dress?” debacle where everyone was arguing about whether the dress was blue or gold. And so they made this color-changing header that rotated between blue and gold and some other colors too. But it was just again, a super cool experience. Very subtle, but one of those ways that you can surprise and delight your audience and kinda play off of what’s happening in the rest of the world, if it makes sense for your brand.

Jamie: All right. Perfect timing. We’ve got 10 whole minutes left. I know I’m being the timekeeper here, but we did get a ton of really great questions. I could look at e-mails all day and just talk about them, but we must answer some questions. Let’s take a look here. So to kick things off, we have a question from Stephanie, and she’s asking, “We’re changing up our e-mail strategy for 2016 and we’re looking for ideas to be more engaging with our content.” And I think you guys covered a lot of really fantastic ideas, but are there any trends coming up in 2016 that you guys see, or what would be your advice of your top three takeaways for how to get more engaging with your content in 2016?

Christopher: Do you want me to start?

Justine: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:49:17].

Christopher: Yeah. A couple of things, like I’m gonna shrink it down really small. As we talked earlier, sometimes the path to success and a great experience isn’t that difficult. So one, being aware of how people are currently engaging with the content What killed it for you in 2015? Or what is the type of content that your audience is after? I’d also make it even simpler than that. I’m a huge fan of asking people what they want or what they love. And then as we think about the segmenting and the personalization and personalizing the experience, I doubt that everyone in that marketing and e-mail program wants the same things, so finding a way to scale that, but also just looking at the things that are the most valuable to them now and what they really are interested in and getting in the future and then think about that as you think about part of your mailing schedule.

Justine: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I always come back to the idea of creating content is overwhelming for so many people because creating content is hard. Sending great e-mail is hard and creating great content is hard, and when you wanna put great content in e-mail, you have these two hard things that kind of combine and make marketing really, really hard. And so to make it easier, I totally stole this from Marcus Sheridan, who is known as the Sales Lion on Twitter, but he always come back to, like, if you’re having a hard time creating content that people want, answer their questions.

So go to your support team. Google the same kinds of questions that your customers are googling. Look at your Google Analytics and see how people are finding your website. What kind of keywords are they using? So there are so many ways that you can find content that has evidence base that your audience wants to hear. So just answer their questions. Make sure that you’re providing them value and that you’re creating stuff that’s actually gonna be useful to them. I think that’s how you end up ultimately really engaging your audience is providing value and usefulness.

Christopher: And it’s just keeping them at the center of the content, right, because then content is not something outside of what you’re already thinking about and the audience is already thinking about.

Justine: Yeah. Promotion is not content. Content doesn’t serve you, the brand. Content serves your audience.

Christopher: That’s great.

Jamie: Good answers. All right. So we’ve got another question from Sarita [SP], and she’s asking, “How to strategize the e-mail content and how the flow and how the flow and the hierarchy of the information in the structure of the e-mail?” So let me put that into a…I think I deleted some words when I copied that over. But basically, you talked earlier about thing stacking, for instance. And I think that’s kind of what she might be getting at. So how do you determine the hierarchy, both from a design standpoint and then also just an engagement standpoint, getting people to actually take action and engage with the content that you’re sending out? What are the top tips for that beyond just maybe the design?

Justine: I’ll take a stab on that one first, Christopher.

Christopher: That sounds good.

Justine: Yeah. So I always say that you need to have a content hierarchy. You need to have a content plan. So rather than just chucking stuff in an e-mail, or accepting submissions, or I’ve heard some crazy stories about how content comes from different organizations and falls on one person’s plate. So you need to play bad cop and say like, “This is too much content,” or, “It’s not enough,” or, “The content is poorly themed,” and make sure that you are in control of that content hierarchy. And then you need to determine what’s the most important thing about this e-mail and what is the goal?

So it’s okay to have a goal to be opens or clicks or conversions. Those are all business goals, but we need to balance those goals with goals like, communicating and brand building and just being a nice steward of this e-mail world. So your content hierarchy should follow those goals. The other thing I would say is test long e-mails and test short e-mails. And going back to whole scrolling thing, you can see if people are scrolling if you have a really long e-mail and if they’re clicking at the links at the bottom of the e-mail. Some e-mail service providers, I don’t if Emma does it, you guys will have to let me know, will show you a visual of the e-mail…

Jamie: Yes.

Justine: ...and actually show you where on that e-mail…

Christopher: Yeah.

Justine: ...people are clicking most often. Such…

Jamie: Indeed, we do.

Justine: ...a great tool. So get in your Emma account and use that and look to see where people are clicking. And so you can arrange your content hierarchy along with the patterns that you know that people are following in your e-mails. So if people are scrolling, you can send maybe more shorter e-mails, or if people aren’t, the opposite, so lots of things you can do there.

Christopher: Yeah. I think all that’s really, really, really good. And I’ll just tie it back really quickly to the idea that you said earlier that content is about serving the audience. So I think one of the things that gets missed and where people struggle with the hierarchy of the e-mail is that it’s disparate and there’s lots of different things that’s just been Frankensteined together. And when I go through it, my experience is really Frankensteined because again, are all the teams talking to each other? Is there a plan? What is the ultimate message of this mailing, right? What is the thing that we’re trying to…how are we trying to serve up that information in a cohesive way? And that helps set the hierarchical organization of the e-mail really quickly.

Justine: We actually have a workbook that we put together at Litmus, and it’s called, “An E-mail Plan.” It’s an e-mail workbook, and we write it all in a Google Doc. I think it’s actually [inaudible 00:54:58] /e-mail-plan if you wanna go download it, but it’s the best thing. We use it here, and that’s we’ve decided to make it as a resource that anybody can download. Just write it down. Get everybody that’s involved in all those different parts and don’t create a Frankenstein monster. Put it all in a Word doc.

Jamie: I love it. So this is a really good question hinting at…we get this one a ton. So Jason is asking, “I’m sure it varies by business and what your goals are, but are there some rules of thumb when it comes to frequency?” We talked a ton about the content but the actual timing, as we saw with some of those hits and misses, the content’s fine, but when hits, it misses the mark. So do you guys have any thoughts there just on timing, frequency?

Christopher: I think there’s a lot of things that could play into this. And we could go into about six directions here. I think the one that my brain instantly went to is how in this specific time of the year that we’re sitting in, it’s like they forget about frequency and they abandon the plan that I’ve been conditioned to the rest of the year and they just hit send constantly. And the inbox fatigue for me for just about everybody I interact with from a brand standpoint gets a little bit testy.

I think the idea here is about being consistent, and again, having an overarching plan of what your e-mail program is because, to tie that back in, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet to it as much as what is the overall plan for the whole e-mail marketing program and each mailing has to reach a certain level of acceptability to help move that water north, right? So if this e-mail does not move us in that direction or move our audience in the direction that we’re trying to as a program, then I really question, no matter if it comes two months after the last one, or two days, or two hours. So frequency shouldn’t be the leading question, right? The frequency is the check back of are we consistently moving the audience forward?

Justine: Yeah. I think that’s great advice. And like you said, you could take this in so many different directions. I would say that it’s all about expectation setting, so if you tell someone that they’re gonna hear from you once a month, and then you send them a daily deal, you’re gonna get unsubscribed from or marked as spam faster than you can…So set expectations, like frequency up front as something that you can manage as a subscriber. Yeah.

Jamie: It looks like we are out of time, guys. And that makes me sad because I feel like…

Christopher: What a fast hour.

Justine: It went by so fast.

Christopher: So fast.

Jamie: So thank you to everyone that joined us today. Huge, huge thanks to Justine for joining us.

Christopher: Awesome.

Jamie: I know. Thank you to Christopher for walking over here. And no.

Christopher: Gonna go get a s’more.

Jamie: But like I said, we’ll send out a recording, an extra special one in a couple of days. And we’ll also be following up with some great content from both Litmus and Emma that supplements all the awesome stuff you guys heard today. So thanks again, and yeah, we hope to see you around here another time.

Justine: It’s like “Inception” in here. It’s like I’m filming you guys. I’m the blue jeans on my computer with the…

Jamie: Wait, Cody.

Justine: Say, “Hi,” guys.

Jamie: There’s Cody.

Justine: That’s so funny. Where’s Cody? There’s Cody.

Christopher: Oh, it just got real.

Cody: So many levels.

Christopher: Oh yeah?

Cody: Oh yeah.

Jamie: I just evaporate. I turn into a fine mist.

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