Email marketer anxiety (or how I learned to stop worrying and just send the emails)

Hi.

I did that thing that happened with my other blog a few years ago. I had one post that got a ton of traction right around the time I started a new job, then got too busy with learning the new job to keep writing my blog with any regularity (or in this case – at all). Then there’s also my personal project –  every summer I try to do something that I call “Unplugged Summer,” where I turn off my computer for the weekend and do crafts, make jam, and cook, and it really cuts into writing time. I’ve been trying to make that more of a year-round thing, and for the past few months, that’s taken the form of an Etsy shop. I spent all of my weekends in September and October gluing glitter and sequins to shoes, and I totally love it.

Anyway, I’m back. I want to keep writing this blog. Really.

So why do I feel the need to unplug like this? Email is REALLY stressful and causes a lot of anxiety for people like me. I know pretty much everyone says their (non-email) job is really stressful. And everyone is probably right. But email is its own special breed. The moment an email goes out can cause a LOT of anxiety. Here’s how and why.

1. Email mistakes. So public.

In most jobs, if you make a small mistake, you can fix it pretty easily with few people knowing about it (unless you’re a politician or a celebrity). Even marketing jobs – tweets can be deleted, print materials can be re-printed. In email marketing – it’s very, very, easy to instantly share your mistake with your entire company – and thousands or millions of other people. And you can’t always fix it. You can’t un-send a mass email. Some ESPs have ways for you to update a broken link on the backend since they use redirects. Some ESPs even have the capability of pausing an email that’s started to send to allow you to edit the email before the full list receives it. (Thank you. You know who you are. <3)

Most marketing emails go through a pretty rigorous approval process. I’ve never sent an email that wasn’t reviewed – and approved – by at least 3 other people. But mistakes can still happen. And it feels SO TERRIBLE. Because at the end of the day, the person pressing send is ultimately responsible for what is being sent. We’re the last set of eyes that grazes that email before hundreds of thousands of other people do. Even if you’re a fantastic proofreader, mistakes still happen, because you’re often extremely rushed with last minute edits, and on a tight deadline, with pressure from management to get the email out quickly so your company can start making money from it.

And when you’re  a person who blogs about email and knows a lot of people in the email industry – there’s always that feeling that your professional peers are watching. I think the people who have this the worst are those who send marketing emails for ESPs and other email vendors. Email marketers can be judgmental about other emails (exhibit A). I’m friends with several of the people who send this kind of email, and I really feel for them every time they hit send. (Even though their emails are always beautiful and interesting).

How to deal with it: The only thing that helps calm down my anxiety about sending emails is to look at the open and click through rates of the email, and then think about how many people actually thoroughly read the entire thing, or actually click on that link. Compared to how many people actually received the email, and it’s really not that bad. Think about how many emails everyone receives on any given day – you should be so lucky to have ANYONE read and click on your entire email. Earlier in my career, I remember being really upset about a typo in the fine print at the bottom of the email. Then I realized that the only people who will read that are those looking for the unsubscribe button, and as long as that button’s working – who cares, right?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don’t mean to be blasé about it, but really – it’s an email. No one is going to die or get hurt because of a typo (probably). Even if people do notice it, chances are they’ll forget about it pretty quickly.

But even when a mistake is fixable or forgettable, it doesn’t stop that thick, pounding feeling I get in my throat a few minutes after an email goes out when my inbox starts filling up with emails with this subject line:

2. FWD: [subject line of the email I just sent]

When I receive an email like this from a co-worker (or worse, one with a FWD:FWD: at the beginning, meaning a customer forwarded it to a co-worker) within a few minutes of my big email going out, my heart starts pounding. There’s a huge lump in my throat and things start to get a little blurry. I have all of the physiological reactions of a panic attack. Multiply this by at least a million if I’ve recently made an email mistake.

There’s a 50/50 chance of what this email is going to say when I open it:

Option 1:

Hey Kristin, 

This email is so beautiful! Nice job! I want to buy all of the products in it! You are so utterly talented and deserve a huge raise and promotion! You are the queen of email.

Option 2:

Kristin.

That’s the wrong image, and the link goes to an old page, and why didn’t you catch that typo? You’re an idiot and I’d fire you immediately if I didn’t desperately need you here to send tomorrow’s emails. And the next day’s. Get your shit together and fix this right now. What are we even paying you to do? You are a disgrace, and every problem our company has and ever will have is directly your fault because of this one tiny mistake. 

Okay, so both of those are very exaggerated versions of what I’ve actually received — and yes, I’ve gotten variations of both, but that is exactly how I hear them in my head, and how I feel when they happen. When it’s Option 2, I usually receive several versions of this email from various people. So that’s fun.

[If you are the co-worker of an email marketer, and you see a mistake in an email that just went out: It’s okay to tell her, but realize it’s likely there’s nothing she can do to correct it. And that 7 other people have already pointed it out. If your friendly local email nerd looks like she’s about to cry a few minutes after the email went out, or she’s suddenly extremely snippy and mean when you try to talk to her when she’s pausing the email and trying to fix the mistake – chances are she knows about the mistake. Please be nice to her and go get her some chamomile tea. Or a shot.]

 

3. Gmail Chains and Final Sends

Gmail is wonderful, but it causes me to have an email-induced panic attack every. single. day. My company uses corporate gmail (YAY!). So did my previous company. For this, I am grateful, because Outlook is just the worst.

Before an email goes out, I’ll have an email chain going around internally with “[TEST] Subject line of the email I’m about to send” as the subject line. In this chain, we’re finalizing content for the email and getting approvals.

Because of Gmail’s conversation view (which I really, truly love), when the actual email goes out, it’s added to that chain because Gmail is smart and knows that even with the “[TEST]” at the beginning of the other one, it’s still the same email. It results in a split second panic attack where the Sender of Emails thinks that the ACTUAL email went out to customers with [TEST] at the beginning of the subject line.

The first time this happened to me was when I worked at Warby Parker. It was an email that had taken a long time to go through edits, and I ended up sending it out much later in the day than I had planned (around 5:30 PM). I was just about to head out to an email nerd meetup when the email arrived in my inbox, making my “TEST” chain bold and up at the top of my “Important and Unread” section. My heart started pounding. I got the huge throat lump. I looked at the header of the email and saw that it had been sent with the correct subject line, sans [TEST], but I still wasn’t convinced. I demanded to see the email on the screens of everyone sitting around me. Even once I was sure the email had gone out correctly, the throat lump and heart pounding remained for another 30 minutes. Luckily, the email meetup I was headed to was over drinks, and I had the right audience to commiserate with.

And even though I know that this will probably happen every day, and I know that I’m not going to send an email with [TEST] in the subject line to my whole list, there’s a split second moment of panic every single time an email goes out. Every day.

 

And yet, despite all this, I still really, really love email marketing.

The latest trend in email marketing

…is leaving your email marketing job. Or even leaving email entirely.

This past year, I’ve read emails and blog posts from a few well-known email marketers who have decided to leave their awesome jobs and take a break from email for a while. I’m currently in the middle of the Email Insiders Summit, and there’s definitely talk of lots of people switching companies or leaving their email jobs.

It’s not totally shocking news. As much as we all love email marketing, it does cause a lot of anxiety. It’s easy to get really burnt out, really quickly.

And that’s why I’m joining the ranks of people taking a break.

While I’ve loved email for my entire career (and still do very much),  it’s time for me to take a step away for a few weeks. At the end of the next week, I’m leaving my job at Food52 to do…something else. TBD.

So, why?

Lots of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with my current job. I never expected to fall into email marketing as a career. I went to college to be a stage manager for theatre. But I graduated in a very difficult job market, and took the first marketing coordinator job I could get. I learned that email marketing 1) existed and 2) was something I really wanted to do. So I did it. The first few years were in B2B, which certainly has its own challenges for email. But I fell madly in love with this new career option that combined copywriting, coding, creativity, psychology, and analytics. Then, after I moved to NYC a little over 4 years ago, I discovered the joy of B2C email marketing. Suddenly I could attach a real dollar amount of value that my work brought to my company, and that was really exciting – at first.

But that came with a cost. I was responsible for making sure that my emails made money. Online retail brands really depend on email for revenue, and I’ve had to send a lot more emails than I’ve ever wanted to send. As a consumer, I actually barely read promotional emails (but as an email marketer, I read ALL OF THEM).  I’d rather get fewer emails that were really, really good, than daily emails that weren’t. As an email marketer, that’s what I want to send. I think that’s what most email marketers want to send. The trouble is, email marketers work with other digital marketers. And product managers. And CMOs and CEOs who don’t understand email and think the “send” button is a magic bullet that prints money, and it can be pressed constantly.

For my last two jobs, I was hired to be the one person running email. While my background and interviews indicated that I was hired to do strategy and day-to-day email operations, in both cases, my role ended up being a very busy hybrid of producing emails, managing ESP transitions, educating co-workers about email, arguing with designers about whether emails should be built as images or hard coded, and figuring out that whole responsive design thing. There was no time for strategy or advancing myself as an email marketer. I couldn’t often leave for conferences (or vacation days…), because someone had to be there to send the emails, and I was the only person who knew how. Working at startups can be exciting, but in both jobs, I found myself in a position where I was both overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my work, and completely bored with it at the same time. Since there was no one who knew more about email than me to challenge me to do more, I wasn’t really growing as much as I wanted to – I was just trying to get everyone to a level where we could work on emails together.

In both jobs, however, I was able to build up email teams. I have taught several junior level people a ton about email, and they’re now self-sufficient email marketers who are capable of running email for high-volume  brands, (gasp!) without my help. I’ve educated a lot of designers about why we can’t just make an email one large image, and I’ve taught front-end developers how coding email is different than coding for the web. And I discovered I really like teaching people about email. In fact, I’m developing an Intro to Email class for General Assembly in NYC, and in January, I’m going to teach more people about email. Anyone who has met me at an email event or conference, or has worked with me in the last few years, or follows me on Twitter, knows that I get really excited when I talk about email.

When I left Warby Parker, the social media team put this up on their daily white board. My geeky ExactTarget fangirl behavior was a running joke in the office, and for good reason.

http://instagram.com/p/p9n1BbwRkB/

Like I mentioned above, there were other factors in my decision. I’ve lived in NYC about four and a half years, and – it’s exhausting. I had wanted to live here my entire life, and I really did love it – at first.  But startups have long hours. I have a long commute. Pair that with smart phones becoming a lot more common in the last few years, and I feel like I’m ALWAYS working (or at least on call).I never have time to actually enjoy living in the city. Many of my co-workers in recent years are exhilarated by this kind of life, and thrive on it. They love having a fast-paced, open office setting. To that, I’m going to have to quote Amy Poehler, “Good for you, not for me.”  In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what kinds of work environments I thrive in, and it turns out, “fast-spaced scrappy start-up” isn’t one of them.

So what’s next?

The solution I came up with was to press “pause” for a little bit, and regroup. I’ve taken VERY little time off over the last few years, and my plan is to spend the next few weeks recharging and planning my next steps. I’m going to enjoy spending the holidays with my family and actually be fully present, without having to worry about whether an email is converting enough, or if the customers received their e-Gift cards. And then I’ll look for something else to do. I don’t want to jump into another startup that leaves me just as burnt out as the others, and find myself frustrated, exhausted, and wanting to leave after a few years or even a few months. I want to work with other people who are as passionate about email as I am, and who are better at email than I am.  I want to help other people become as passionate about email as I am, and I don’t want to resent my workload so much that I feel less passionate about email. For now, I’m going to focus on finding something that balances my passion for email with my need for work/life balance. I’m going to keep my options open. And I can’t wait.

Why Subtweetcat is better at marketing than most brands

It’s time to take a little break from retail emails. I wanted to write about a new newsletter I’ve recently started receiving. It’s so much more than a newsletter – I don’t even know where to begin.

Her name is Subtweetcat. She lives on Twitter. She is a cat who subtweets. She’s surprisingly good at social media – for a cat. My first introduction to Subtweetcat was about a year ago. She started following me on Twitter (THAT’S RIGHT, CAT. YOU FOLLOWED ME FIRST. DEAL WITH IT.), likely because of where I worked at the time. Subtweetcat is a social media genius. She has a very distinct brand voice, and she’s written an ebook about social media. 

Subtweetcat is one of the weirdest Twitter accounts I’ve ever seen. She’ll subtweet people all day long. She has managed to build a very engaged online community via Twitter, which few brands have done successfully. And she’s a CAT.

Here’s why she’s better at marketing than most brands:

1. Strong brand voice: Her voice is funny, and it’s consistent. Lots of CAPS LOCK. Lots of run-on sentences. (She is a cat after all – they don’t allow cats in most American schools). I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she has some kind of formal style guide. She sticks to her “I’m a cat” persona, and even posts selfies (of cats). While her voice obviously wouldn’t work for every brand – it works amazingly well for her.

Her followers know specific things about her: She’s a lesbian. She hates Chipotle. She likes sushi and pizza. She doesn’t like Kale. She loves Warby Parker (more than Just Salad – right, CAT?). She’s a cat. She’s, um, really into 420. She has a questionable relationship with the Poncho app. The thing is – it doesn’t even matter what’s in her brand bible. Her fans know all these things about her. And they actively interact with her about all of her interests. Every post she makes gets tons of faves, retweets, and replies. Every single one. And the really amazing part – her fans just get it. They play along, and even speak to her in her brand voice. And she rewards them with faves and retweets.

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 10.27.17 PM

2. Social Media Engagement: On that note – she has a serious cult following. She’s on Twitter pretty much all day. I honestly don’t even know if she ever does anything else. Her fans tweet things that they think she would like, and she often retweets or faves them within seconds. (At least, that happens with MY tweets, but I’m probably her most important follower.) This makes her fans feel special, and they keep coming back. Or they spend $10 on a 15 page ebook.

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 10.31.34 PM

Ahem. But anyway. 

3. Consistent messaging: An important aspect of marketing is consistent messaging. While Subtweetcat is pretty much on Twitter all day, a few things are certain: At 11:11 AM and PM, she’ll tweet “11:11 HUG A CAT.” At 4:20 PM, there will be a stream of tweets about pot. Sometime around midnight, she’ll tweet “GO TO BED.” Her fans have come to expect all this, and again – they play along. If she misses an 11:11, tons of people tweet at her about it. While 11:11 and 4:20 probably aren’t right for every brand, Subtweetcat’s consistent messaging and timing have given her followers expectations, and they look forward to these times to see what she’s going to do. How many other brands have something like that?

She also does this great thing when other brands mess up on social media. She’ll repeatedly tweet at them “Hire me to do your social media.” (Although, when US Airways had that incident with the pornographic picture on Twitter, she re-posted it so many times that I had to stay off Twitter for the rest of the workday. So thanks for that, CAT). At the end of her ebook, she included a hashtag about hiring her to do your social media, and it kind of became this whole big thing. It doesn’t stop there. She will make photoshopped images of a cat using the brand’s products. Or she’ll tweet the link to her ebook to a brand suggesting that they buy it. And then Subtweetcat’s cult will chime in, most likely amplifying whatever mistake the brand made, and showing their support for their favorite internet cat. But she doesn’t just interact with brands that make mistakes. She’s built relationships with several brands. The smart brands tweet back at her and become her friend.

Last week, she announced that she was going to start sending an email newsletter. So naturally, this tweet had to happen:

hireemailsnarketing

But it turns out – she doesn’t even need me. Her emails are perfectly on brand for her, and an on point extension of her Twitter persona. She encourages her subscribers to submit cat pictures for the newsletter via a hashtag. This gets people to 1) Generate her content for her and 2) Open the newsletter every day to see if their content got in. Brilliant. She’ll also post 5 tweets of the day, so again – everyone’s reading and clicking to see if they made it in the newsletter.

Once you sign up (here. It’s worth it.), this is the confirmation page:

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 10.21.50 PM

She sends them at 11:11 every (weekday) morning, and the content and format are very consistent. And since she already built up an incredibly engaged audience via social media, my guess is that she has extremely high open and click rates.

The overarching lesson here is that good marketing is good marketing, no matter WHAT you’re marketing. If you’re doing it right, you can market just about anything.

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 10.40.07 PM

Subject Line Sunday: July 6

I know I keep going back and forth between Subject Line Saturday and Subject Line Sunday, but it’s honestly just going to be whenever I have time to write. I’ll get on a real schedule someday. But you’ll be happy to know I’ve reviewed every email in my promotions tab, and have a spreadsheet filled with things to write about. But first, some subject lines that caught my attention for all the wrong reasons, one that was really good, and one that is flawless.

 



1. NORDSTROM RACK – 7/3/14

Subject line:  It's On! CLEAR THE RACK is Here

Whoops. Don’t forget to send yourself a test email. And if you’re a retailer, you might want to double-check and make sure your subject line looks right in Gmail.

Speaking of weird characters…

2. MICHAEL KORS – 6/27/14

Subject line: Don’t Miss Out祐hop Our Summer SALE! 

Okay, I’m sure we can all figure out what happened here. According to Google Translate, the character between “Out” and “hop” means “Help.” The subject line was actually a secret cry for help targeted toward MK’s Japanese-speaking subscribers. It’s pretty obvious their subject line writer, who is likely Japanese, was kidnapped by Michael Kors to write subject lines, and this person is trying to escape.

3. GAP – 7/1/14

Subject line: What are you waiting for, ?

Personalization can be extremely effective for open rates. We all know that. But when the personalization doesn’t quite work, well… not so much. I don’t know if this was a mistake for everyone or just me. When I registered for emails using this address, I made my first name “ES,” so I’d at least expect to see that here. I didn’t get this email in my personal email account (and Gap should DEFINITELY know my name there), so I don’t know.  The lesson: If you’re going to personalize a subject line, spot check, scrub your list, and have a default name to use if it makes sense. Another option would be to pull a segment of subscribers who don’t have a first name filled in, and send them a different subject line altogether.

 

4. DILLARD’S – 6/28/14

Subject line: Add’I 30% off clearance today, 6/28/14

I’m just curious why they abbreviated “Add’l” here. The subject line wasn’t terribly long, and a few extra characters wouldn’t make or break anything. Or perhaps they just read this article about the ideal length for any piece of content on the internet according to SCIENCE. (Subject line ideal length: 28 – 39 characters. Dillard’s, you could have left out the date and spelled out “Additional.”)

 

5. STAPLES – 6/27/2014

Subject line: Dollar. Days! Dollar. Days!

I don’t even know what this was. My best guess is that they were trying to make it sound like some kind of chant, possibly tying it in with World Cup excitement. It was just really oddly punctuated. It got my attention though, so there’s that.

 

6.  KATE SPADE SATURDAY – 6/23/14

Subject line: Oops! We shrunk our satchel…

I liked this one. It’s a nice subtle reference to some great 90s kids movies, and it makes it pretty clear what they’re promoting – a smaller version of their satchel bag. And the “Oops!” at the beginning grabbed attention because everyone loves to see someone fail (and if you don’t, why are you reading this blog?), and made people want to see if they had made some mistake. Nice subject line!

And finally…

 

7. BANANA REPUBLIC – 6/29/2014

Subject line: You woke up like this. 

Flawless.

 

 

How to make a 4th of July email in 4 easy steps

Step 1: Timing

As with any holiday, it’s important to begin marketing about 4th of July immediately after the previous holiday. In this case, it’s Father’s Day. Otherwise, how else will everyone know how culturally relevant you are?

Step 2: Subject lines

Since you’re a clever brand that knows what people associate with Independence Day, it’s absolutely crucial that you use any (or all!) of the following words and phrases in your subject lines.

  • Made in the USA

  • ☆, ✰, or ☀
  • Star Spangled Sale
  • Star Spangled Savings
  • Star Spangled Coupon

  • Red, white and blue

  • Red, white and NEW (aren’t you clever?)

Step 3: Images

If you don’t have a gif of fireworks in your email, what are you thinking?!? Everyone loves gifs (pronounced the CORRECT way, with a hard G). Gifs can go in emails. HOW COOL. HOW ORIGINAL. HOW PATRIOTIC.

Americans also love a good artfully curated picnic table covered in red, white and blue items. We like to have cookouts on summer holidays (HECK YEAH WE DO!), and everything on our tables must be color-coordinated to match the holiday we’re celebrating.

Some of us even go so far as to dump out our purses filled with expensive patriotic items all over the table so that everyone else at the cookout can see how much more patriotic we are than everyone else.

  Step 4: Unless you’re Bonobos, just go home and try again next year. ‘Murica.

Happy 4th of July!

Daddy issues: Father’s Day email roundup

I have 105 emails in my “Father’s Day” label right now. I haven’t even opened about half of them – I just lazily did searches for Father’s day and applied the label.  It’s no surprise that certain brands really pushed it hard with the Father’s day emails – Lowe’s, Jack Spade, Bonobos, and Nordstrom Rack – Men’s are sending a lot of emails. (None of these are stores at which I would buy something for my dad, but whatever. Okay, maybe Lowe’s. If I lived near one. Or if I lived near my dad.) I wanted to write about cringe-worthy/bad father’s day emails, but I honestly didn’t get that many. So most of these emails are really good.

Except this first one… It’s for a fondue restaurant chain, The Melting Pot. The email has information about a specific location at the bottom, so I’m not sure if this promotion was national or what.

1. The Melting Pot (Sent 6/6)

Subject Line: Celebrate your H.O.T.T.Y on Father’s Day

Just…. just look at this. I can’t.

hotty1 hotty2

Yeaaaaah. Wow.

 

2. Sephora – (Sent 6/3)

This next email was a bit of a surprise. I enjoy Sephora’s emails a lot, and I think they do a great job with their loyalty program. But it’s not exactly the first place I would think of to purchase a father’s day gift. (Or, perhaps it’s genius. I buy my dad a grooming kit or cologne or whatever, and then get the free gift of the month/points for the loyalty program. Everyone wins.) The email was nicely designed, as usual for Sephora.

Subject line: Our Father’s Day gift guide

sephora1 sephora2 sephora3 sephora4

 

 

3. Spades on Spades (Jack and Kate)

The Spade brands are really on top of their game with emails. Anyone who’s read at least 3 consecutive posts on this blog (any three, doesn’t even matter) could easily see that I’m totally obsessed with Saturday. I thought these brands did a nice job of leveraging each other’s audiences and strengths. Jack Spade obviously has plenty of products geared toward men, and they’re certainly nice enough to be father’s day gifts (and they even steer away from ties and golf stuff!).

I particularly liked this one – it took the angle of wives (or husbands…) shopping for their husband who happens to be a father. I guess that’s totally normal. I’m still coming to terms with the idea that my peers are becoming parents, and this type of email would be just right for my demographic.

Jack Spade  (Sent 6/2)
Subject line: Look What the Stork Just Brought In

jackspade1 jackspade2 jackspade3

 

And Kate Spade smartly directed its subscribers to the Jack Spade site with this simple gif email (the background in the letters looks like it’s running through a field)

Kate Spade (Sent 6/4)

Subject line: hey daddio! the jack spade father’s day gift guide is here

 

katespadefathersday

4. J.Crew

This subject line was great, and I bet it performed really well. The email was really nice, and it definitely made me think of shopping for my dad. (Apologies for the spliced screenshots – the images were staggered weirdly.)

Subject line: Open this or we’ll tell your father

jcrewfd1 jcrewfd2 jcrewfd3 jcrewfd4

 

 

5. Bonobos (Sent 6/2)

This email was just good. The pre-header and content were funny, it had a neat gift with purchase, and they promoted blog content with dad-inspired outfits.

Subject Line: Dress shirts for Dad + a unique gift with purchase

bonobosfd1 bonobosfd2

 

Happy Father’s day!

Subject line Saturday: June 14

Good news – my crazy few weeks of vacations and house guests are finally complete. And my sinus infection is (mostly) cured, so I am actually in a position to sit here, at my computer, and write. All for you. I’ve actually been keeping up with reviewing and categorizing emails, and my “To write about” spreadsheet is getting a little nuts, so this weekend I’m going to try to plow through it. Here we go…

 

1. Banana Republic – 6/4/14

Subject line: Sloan had a little something done.

Oh, that Sloan. Sloan is a style of pants that Banana Republic sells. I’m not sure how many BR customers know that, but I don’t think it even matters, which is why this subject line works so well. For subscribers who were really familiar with that particular style of pants, they had reason to open the email – to see what updates/changes had been made to the pants. For people who had no idea who/what Sloan was, it was simply a really intriguing subject line, and the pre-header clued them in pretty quickly.

sloan

2. Kate Spade – 6/13/14

Subject line: her name was…

Continuing the theme of products named after women, Kate Spade sent this email about the new Lola Avenue Collection of bags. The pre-header text cut to the chase pretty quickly: our new lola avenue collection was designed with everyday adventures in mind.  I love it when brands use song lyrics in subject lines, and I thought this was fun (even if it may have been a little obvious and expected.)

 

lola

 

3. Staples – 5/27/2013

Subject line: Rock, paper, scissors – guess which one is $4

I don’t even need to tell you why this subject line is awesome. I don’t know how this email performed, but I bet they could have made their open rate a teensy bit higher. The pre-header text said, “Paper it is!” so customers who weren’t interested in paper probably didn’t open this email.  The design and content of the email was pretty bland and nothing special, but this subject line was great.

 

4. J. Crew – 6/5/14

Subject Line: Heck yeah, summer: 25% off right now 

If I don’t mention at least one J.Crew subject line, is it even Subject Line Saturday? The sale part of this email wasn’t really anything special – they offer discounts all the time, and usually they’re more than 25%. I just liked the use of “Heck yeah, summer.” Because I think we’re all saying that right now, especially after the winter that we all dealt with.

 

5. Mark and Graham – 6/13/14

Subject line: Black is the new black

Well, it’s obvious that this subject line is pretty topical right now. I don’t mind when brands play off excellent TV shows in their marketing when it’s clever and relevant. The email featured a black tote bag filled with black products. But then the pre-header and header of the email had to go and ruin it all with a “SEE WHAT WE DID THERE?!?!? LOOK HOW CLEVER THIS EMAIL IS!! DO YOU LIKE US YET?!” Oh Mark and Graham – trust us, we got it.

Preheader: Black {not orange} is the new black

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have six episodes of Orange is the New Black to watch (okay, and some more blog posts to write).

And now a break from email to talk about Twitter (and Weezer)

I’ve been on Twitter since election night 2008. I wasn’t the earliest adopter by any means, but it has consistently been my favorite social network. It’s where I get most of my news, and I’ve made some friends on Twitter who became “real-life friends.” In short, I’m a huge fan of Twitter.

When I was in high school, I was pretty awkward and quiet. (Still am.) And not in the way that someone like Taylor Swift says she’s awkward and quiet – I actually was (…am). Especially my junior year. My family had just moved to another state, and I didn’t know anyone at my school. Since I didn’t dare actually approach people who I thought would be interesting, I took a more subtle method of making friends: I wore Weezer shirts almost every day. I had four of them. (On the fifth day of the school week, I alternated between Dashboard Confessional and Emily). It’s a known fact that people who like Weezer (or at least, people who liked Weezer circa 1999-2006) are generally really awesome. Chances are, they’ll like other similar bands, and their common interests expand beyond that into books and TV shows as well. I had been to a few concerts, and had confirmed that these were my people. So my logic was pretty sound for a 17 year old, even though I was that weird kid who only seemed to have 5 shirts (and one pair of beat-up Chuck Taylors with a =W= drawn on the toes). I eventually met the three other people in my school who had good taste in music, and even ended up dating one of them. But that wasn’t enough of an outlet for me. So I turned to the internet.

This was before Facebook, Myspace, and most other social media. We had Livejournal. We had AIM.  And we had forums. I wanted to meet more =W= army members like me, so I found the official Weezer forums. And they were fun. I made anonymous online friends in a way that’s comparable to what happens on Twitter today. We talked about the band, analyzed cryptic lyrics, and compared setlists from shows. But there was another board as part of this forum – AllThingsNotWeezer. Here, people talked about everything. And it proved my theory was right: these people were cool, and I wanted to be friends with them.

Then, the band’s label (or Karl. I don’t know…) changed the format of their forums on their site. In recent years, we’ve all seen how people react when any popular site makes a change that affects usability (hint: they don’t like it). This amazing online place had become something different, something unwanted. There wasn’t a place to talk about what we wanted to talk about. There were new moderators who kept trying to bring the conversation back to the band. The old forums had been hosted by a certain company (I don’t remember which one. It’s not important). We didn’t have anywhere else online to unite against this. We couldn’t complain about it on a Facebook group or with a Twitter hashtag – they didn’t exist.

So something incredible happened. One of the (original) moderators did some digging online and found out the company that had hosted our old forums. Then they found out some other sites that used that same company. With one post on the old (newly-awful) forums, we were given our marching orders, and we were forceful.

We invaded the Vanessa Carlton forums.

(Remember her? She sang that “A Thousand Miles” song that had a lot of piano in it in 2001. Incidentally, her forums were less active than ours, despite her constant radio airplay from 2001-2002.) None of us really liked or disliked Vanessa Carlton. We just wanted her forums. So we all just started and continued our Weezer (and not Weezer) conversations in their space. Her fans didn’t know what hit them. They were (rightfully) totally confused about this sudden massive influx of hundreds of new members, and they didn’t want us there. But there were more of us, and we held our ground. Even though our own social network had failed us, we persevered, and we got what we wanted. There was a fuzzy time for a few years (I don’t remember what we did, but we didn’t stay on the Vanessa boards for more than a year or so). Eventually, a moderator created new boards for us, and that’s where the REAL fans existed. I was involved with Weezer Nation forums well throughout college (yes, even after Facebook started). That was the first time I experienced the true power of online community, of people taking a stand against changes a site made so that they could interact with each other in the way they wanted to.

Today, I went to an email conference. I didn’t have a computer with me, so I was on my phone all day. Tweeting tidbits from speakers (as marketers do…) all day long. I spent a lot of time switching between my personal Twitter handle and @EmailSnarketing handle. On my phone, that meant logging out of the app and then logging back in. A lot. All day long. And if you’ve done this in the past day, I bet you know what I’m about to complain about: Twitter seems to keep forgetting who I am. It’s asking me if I want “More World Cup Excitement?!?!” (nope.)  The “no” option says “No, just get me started on Twitter.”

WHAT?!?!?! I DON’T NEED TO GET STARTED, I NEED TO EFFING TWEET. 

Then it asked me to write my profile (which, you know, is already written). THEN they have the audacity to try to make me automatically follow 20 people who will be tweeting about the World Cup.

NO MEANS NO, TWITTER.

(Whew, there’s a skip  button here. Okay, Click.)

Then it tries to import my contacts from my email/phone. NO. (But oh, hey, my stepsister’s on Twitter now…And so are a bunch of people I already unfollowed 4 years ago because they never tweeted.) SKIP.

THEN it finally gets me into the normal app. I could almost understand it if this happened once for everyone while Twitter tries out a new marketing technique (you know, annoying and confusing people into doing what you want them to do.). But I have a feeling it’ll continue through the entire World Cup. And I have absolutely no idea how long that is. Is it a weekend? A month? Couldn’t tell you. I’m not following the World Cup on Twitter, after all. And if it goes well for Twitter, I’m sure they’ll do this for other things.

And as much as I love Twitter, it makes me want to gather my tribe of followers and people I follow, and find a social network that is the Vanessa Carlton to Twitter’s Weezer.

….See you on Google Plus.

(Also – Happy Birthday, Rivers).

Email automated content fails

Automated emails are a marketer’s dream. I remember in the not so distant past being blown away by the concept of pre-scheduling a send, and then being blown away even more by the even better concept of having daily automated sends. Now, there are even more ways to automate emails so they pretty much write themselves.

Awesome, right? Or not.

Over the weekend, I went to BookCon in NYC. It was a day attached to the end of BEA (a large publishing industry convention) where book lovers could see panels, meet authors, and get a lot of free books. The organizers of the event had an app that participants could download to see schedules, updates, and most interestingly, a newsfeed with comments and photos from other BookCon attendees. It was a cool way for attendees to find people with similar interests, and I’m sure on the marketing side, it was a great way to get real-time feedback about the event and data about the attendees. (Hmm, the 17-22 year old group seemed overwhelmingly interested in all things John Green. Go figure.)

BookCon also sent a few automated emails throughout the day. At other conventions/conferences I’ve been to, that’s a pretty routine thing. Usually there are updates about events and speakers, or perhaps links to recordings from presentations. BookCon decided to pull user-generated content from the app. These are the two emails I received during the day, while I was still at the event. I heard there were about 30,000 attendees. Granted, they probably didn’t all opt in to email, and they probably didn’t all download the app. But of all the comments people were leaving about how cool it was to meet their favorite authors, this is what BookCon sent out to attendees.

1. Subject line: Today at BookCon
Sent at 1:17 PM

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2. Subject line: Today at Bookcon
Sent at 6:10 PM

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(For the record, Evie R. and June H. were pretty accurate. I left with a pile of free books; several of which were autographed. I had a great time, but I also chose not to wait in crazy lines for the really good panels. It got pretty nuts.)

The lesson: If you’re going to send emails with user-generated content, um, read it first.

The next automated email I recently received was from the social media platform everyone loves to hate and hates to love: Google Plus. Poor Google Plus. They tried, but they never really caught on. Maybe it’s because they send me emails like this. (This email went to my old Gmail account under my maiden name):

 

googleplus

(Sorry for the hacky photoshop job. Just wanted to illustrate that they put me in there twice).

Granted, I think I have Google plus accounts through several email addresses, including my work one. So I could see how they might have pulled it in twice. But this isn’t the first email like this I’ve ever received. I don’t even use Google Plus, and this isn’t going to make me start.

The lesson:  Find ways to de-dupe people’s accounts so they don’t get ridiculous emails like this.

Then today, I got this email from the Barack Obama campaign. I think. Well, it was from the Democratic Party, but the from name said “Barack Obama.” I’m sure we all read the article a while back about all the amazing A/B testing the Obama email team did during the elections. (If you didn’t, go read it. It’s more interesting than this post.) They’re pretty impressive with their  subject lines. And today was no exception.

From Name: Barack Obama
Subject line: I need you in [neighborhood I live in. Small part of an outer borough of NYC]

obama email

Now, it’s not even necessarily a bad email. And $3 really isn’t a lot to ask. It’s the “P.S.” that gets me. They already know I live in New York. A flight and hotel in New York City is not really an incentive for me (I live closer to an NYC airport than Manhattan…). Surely they could have pulled in different content for subscribers who lived in New York (I don’t know, maybe a trip to Washington DC or something?).

The lesson: If you’re offering a free trip, make sure it’s relevant to the people you’re offering it to.

Subject Line Sunday: June 1

Here are the most noteworthy subject lines I received last week. Several brands referenced the long weekend for Memorial Day, and others seemed to be very cognizant that people weren’t very focused on work during the week. Here we go…

J.Crew

Over the course of several days, they sent out a few emails that kind of felt like work emails. Subject lines referenced “High Priority,” “Deadline,” and “Check your calendar.” Of course, they were all about a sale. But they sent them starting on a Thursday before a holiday weekend, and continued them throughout the weekend. I like to keep my work and shopping separate, J. Crew. The actual email designs looked like they had memos in them and used a courier font. (You know, because most people still use typewriters to send memos at work these days.)

5/22/2014 – High priority: shopping for summer weekends

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5/24/2014 – Sale deadline approaching…

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5/24/2014 – Check your calendar…

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5/26/2014 – OK, seriously, check your calendar!!

I will say, this last one was a nice way to follow up to the other “Check your calendar” email. I hadn’t engaged with the first one. Many email marketers struggle with how to give certain promotions an extra push when they don’t have extra content to send, I thought this was a fun way to bring urgency to the email.

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This next subject line from Walmart caught my eye for a few reasons. $10.42 is kind of a weird number. I know there are data out there that says specific dollar amounts and percentages that don’t end in 5 or 0 grab more attention, so maybe that was their angle. But $10.42 seems kind of low for a graduation gift…

Walmart – 5/23/2014
Subject: From $10.42! Get gifts grads love.

These next few were about Memorial Day weekend without actually talking about Memorial Day, which I kind of liked. There seemed to be a common theme with these (and the J.Crew series above): We would all rather shop and focus on getting our summers started than be at work.

Express – 5/26/2014
Subject: Day off? It’s time to shop!

Banana Republic – 5/26/2014
Subject: Going back to work tomorrow? – 40% off should make it easier.

New York & Company – 5/27/2014
Subject: We just couldn’t let go of the long weekend…
Pre-header: Extra day to shop the Shorts & Crops Sale, NY Deals and more! Shop NOW

Then we all went back to work on Tuesday, and Kohl’s sent this gem of a subject line (at 5:30 AM. I would have like to see it arrive around 11 given the subject line, since it referenced lunch.) The hamburger ingredients appeared on the sandwich one at a time as a gif. I just loved how silly and fun the subject line and email were. They threw in a Father’s day module at the bottom of the email, because everyone knows that in the marketing world, as soon as one holiday is over, you’re already behind in promoting the next holiday.

Kohl’s – 5/27/2014
Subject: What’s for Lunch? How ‘Bout Extra 20% Off with Cheese

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