Surviving Conferences as an Introvert

I just spent an amazing week at Salesforce Connections. I’ve been to (and spoken at) Connections several times over the years, in addition to many other conferences. This one was a little different. Salesforce asked me to be interviewed about Women of Email during the keynote, and they presented me with the Trailblazer Golden Hoodie while I was onstage. If you didn’t know…. this is A. Thing.


People who only know me from Twitter and seeing me onstage probably think I’m more outgoing than I actually am. But the truth is – while I love and thrive on being surrounded by other #emailgeeks, it doesn’t change the fact that I find crowds, noise and small talk incredibly overwhelming. I do much better in small groups of people I have something in common with. That’s one of the things I like about meeting people at email events – we can skip right past the “what’s email marketing?” part of the conversation and get straight to the good stuff.

There’s a certain rush to being on stage and talking about something you’re passionate about. I’ve been fortunate to get to do it a lot. But for the hour or two after I get off stage (and after I’ve answered questions to the inevitable line of people who run up to me after the session ends), I usually need to go hide in the speakers lounge, and catch up on any tweets that came through while I was on stage, get my heart rate down, drink some tea, and just breathe. It’s an adrenaline rush, but I can’t keep it up all day. I need time to get back to normal. So if you see me beelining in the direction of the speakers lounge–or bathroom– after I’m on stage, please let me go. You can find me later, or connect on Twitter. I’m much more fun to talk to when I’ve had a chance to recharge, I promise.

Since I’ve been to so many conferences as a speaker and as an attendee (and introvert), I’ve developed some survival skills I think might be helpful for other people like me, whether you’re attending to learn about email or being featured on the keynote.

  1. Take it all in, but focus your time on the things that are important to you

Look at the schedule in advance and pick/register for sessions you want to go to. At the larger events, they may fill up fast. When I’m attending a conference, I gravitate toward the more hands-on sessions that’ll help me use technology I need for my job. I also really like seeing case studies of people doing interesting things that I want to do.

Conferences are about networking, and sometimes it’s more beneficial to spend an hour talking to someone who has a job similar to yours than it is to attend every session. Email jobs are weird, and at times it can feel like you’re the only one who knows what you’re going through. But not at email conferences. You meet other people who have done the same work, and may have found solutions to technical problems you never would have thought of. And many of them are more than willing to talk about it. Find those people. It may mean talking to a lot of people to find the one, which can be hard as an introvert. You also sometimes run the risk of getting stuck in a boring conversation. If you’re bored or just want to end a conversation, it’s always okay to say, “It’s been so great talking to you, but I’ve got to run to [a meeting, a session, a work call, whatever]. Let’s connect on Linkedin. Here’s my card.” You don’t have to sit there and pretend to listen to a sales pitch you’re not interested in. It’s better for everyone involved if you don’t, because then the other person can move on to other people who might actually be interested.

2. There are lots of different ways to connect with people.

Are you overwhelmed with requests to meet up? Get creative! You don’t have to go for a drink or a meal with everyone, and you don’t need to book up every single night for socializing and networking (but if that’s your thing – go for it). It’s also okay to decline meeting with people if you don’t want to or don’t have time. Everyone knows that conferences get busy. They’ll understand.

I’ve had conferences where there were a lot of people I knew who wanted to meet and catch up, but I was booked solid. So I got creative – one time I had 45 minutes between sessions, and really wanted to get Starbucks, but that was the only window of time I could catch up with a friend. The Starbucks line was extremely long and would’ve taken most of the 45 minutes. So the friend and I caught up while we were waiting in line, then just brought our lattes to our next sessions.

Another way to spend time with people you want to see is to plan to attend sessions together. There’s usually some downtime waiting in line or waiting for the session to start once you sit down. That’s a great time to catch up with someone. And then as a bonus – after the session, you have something new to talk about with them. Another benefit of that is that there are clear starting and ending points to the time, so you’re less likely to have someone monopolize your entire day.

3. Self care is important.

Conferences can be tough. You’re traveling, walking a lot more than you normally might, and you might be in a totally different time zone. I struggle with anything on the west coast because I wake up at 4 AM and have trouble sleeping. And while in many cases, you’ll be fed well with fancy dinners and cocktail parties and free boxed lunches, the overindulgence can leave you feeling terrible physically.

My advice there is: do what you need to do to take care of yourself. For me, that means making sure that I’m eating fruit and yogurt at breakfast instead of sugary pastries (even if they look amazing), and I try to pick the salad option for lunch if I can. Carry a water bottle and refill it constantly. If working out makes you feel normal and happy – work out at your hotel gym, or sign up for a boutique class where you are.

This next one is a personal choice that I’ve made, and I recognize that it might not work for everyone – but I don’t drink at conferences, events, or much at all in general. I don’t actually enjoy alcohol, and my body usually reacts badly when alcohol is paired with sleep deprivation, fancy meals, and exhaustion. At events, I’m usually sipping a seltzer with lime or maybe a ginger ale or a water. When I stopped drinking at events, I thought I would need an excuse or explanation about it, but it turns out — I don’t. Hopefully, most people will be understanding and not try to pressure you into drinking if you don’t want to, especially in professional situations. There are a million reasons why someone would choose not to drink, and people should respect that. The few times people have given me a hard time about it or offered me drinks multiple times, I’ve demurred with a simple “I’m speaking tomorrow morning and don’t want to be hungover,” “Medical reasons,” or an even simpler “No thank you.” Anyone who keeps pushing after that is being a jerk.

Another form of self care at conferences is knowing yourself and choosing to spend your evenings how you want to. Depending on your role, there may be some unavoidable dinners or meetings, but it’s completely okay to decline parties. I do it all the time, and make plans (even if the plans are only with myself) to do something else I’d rather do. I know that after a long day of walking around and talking all day, I might not feel up to going to a party (where the main activity is…drinking) or a concert (where I likely don’t even know the band). If you would prefer to spend the evening in your hotel room Skyping with your family and ordering room service – do that. A few years ago I started packing a Sephora sheet mask and a Lush bath bomb when I go on work trips, and treating myself to a relaxing evening after a long day. If you are open to doing something – it doesn’t have to be the official events. Meet up with a friend who lives in town, go see a local museum or theatre production, or get some retail therapy if you want. I bought a Hamilton ticket for this week and got to spend three hours quietly enjoying one of the best musicals of all time instead of yelling over loud music. That worked perfectly for me.

4. My last piece of advice? Do it again every chance you get.

Conferences are a valuable tool for your career. I would not be where I am professionally without them. I’ve met people, learned about email technology and strategy, gained confidence as a speaker, and traveled to cities I probably never would have otherwise. It can be stressful and exhausting, but it’s usually worth it.


My history with a certain ESP: A love story

Since Valentine’s day is this week, and I couldn’t bear to dig through all my emails from flower companies and write about them (but if you’re desperate to read about flower emails, you can read my Mother’s day posts here and here), I decided that I’d instead write about the most important relationship every email marketer has: their relationship with their ESP. More specifically, my long-term relationship with a certain ESP.

We first formally met when I was working in a boring corporate job. My office was in the same building as his. I saw him on the elevator, embodied by a different cool person every day, wearing his jeans and texting on his iPhone (in 2008, before everyone had them), while I was in my boring business casual with my Blackberry Pearl, thinking about how to write creatively about the recession for the millionth time that week. He seemed so happy, so bright, so… orange. I was intrigued.

We got to know each other, and started actually working together. He introduced me to a whole new world of careers I didn’t know existed. I went to his big annual party, which turned out to be a toooootal rager, even though I thought it would be a bunch of uncool corporate types. Who actually enjoys spending 3 days talking about nothing but email (apparently, a lot of people)? I was maybe just hoping to have a good reason to get away from the office for a few days. But after a few bright orange cocktails, a grey and black messenger bag filled with swag and autographed books, and tales of a cookie waiting in hotel rooms at the exact moment guests drunkenly arrived back from a free amazing They Might be Giants concert — let’s face it. I was hooked.

I left the corporate job, moved to a big city on the east coast, and our relationship became off-again, on-again. I was wearing my bag from the rager over my shoulder outside of a Starbucks in Manhattan, when a stranger with an alliterative name asked me if I worked there. I told him no, but I would like to someday. I was thrilled that I was passing off as one of them. He actually did work there, and was visiting from an office in another country.

Over the next few years, I spent time with others, but always went back to him, my quirky, strong, bright orange, ESP. He decided to go public, and when I bought a few shares of his stock, people close to me were concerned it might be considered insider trading since I talked about him so much, not realizing that I wasn’t actually with him in that way.

I ended up making major life decisions around when I would get to see him, and be with him. After spending a year at a job that worked with another ESP, I switched jobs as soon as I had the chance to go back to him. My actual wedding and honeymoon were at the same time as his annual week-long rager one year (and the wedding was even in the same city), and for a brief moment, I considered postponing the honeymoon to be with him – but only for a moment. There would be other ragers, after all. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a tear at the airport on Monday morning on my way to my honeymoon, as I saw the orange shuttle bus pull up to take people to the party. If only I had known his days were numbered, and this would be one of the last few.

And sure, when I told people about how much I loved him, and why – there were skeptics. He’s not perfect after all. People I worked with mocked my devotion, and threatened to start seeing other ESPs, but I knew nothing could rock what we had. I’m in it for the long haul. It wasn’t always easy to love him. Nobody’s perfect. And even if he had his flaws, I knew him so well that I didn’t even care, and just worked my way around them. And I only called him up to complain about his flaws to his face a few times. 

But eventually, as what happens with most people and their ESPs, I woke up one morning, and suddenly, everything was different. He had some work done to his appearance, and was running with a new crowd, and going by a different name.  He had changed. I know that even with all these changes, he’s still the same ESP I’ve loved all these years. I know that plenty of others have a crush on him too. That’s okay. I know what we had together, and he has plenty of love to go around. And I don’t think our story is over, even if things are a becoming a little too…cloudy. We can weather this storm, and shine bright orange again someday. 

The care and keeping of your email marketing manager

I’ve been “fun-employed” (by choice, THANKYOUVERYMUCH) for about six weeks now.  And honestly – I don’t hate it. This has been the first time since college that I’ve actually been able to enjoy more than a week off without having to worry about checking work emails and if everything was running smoothly without me. (Okay, full disclosure – I thought about that last part a little at first. But the great thing is, I could remind myself that it wasn’t really my problem anymore, and that things were probably just fine, because my replacements were fully capable and trained really well).

Since my last post, I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me about job opportunities. Normally, on any given week, when I haven’t just made a big announcement that I’m on the market for new opportunities, I get at least 3-4 LinkedIn requests from recruiters about email jobs. But there have been quite a few more lately. Almost all have been for full-time roles, and several are for email marketing manager roles that I “would be perfect for!!!” — because they’re exactly what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

I’ve talked to my email friends who have the same experience level as I do, and this is pretty common. A lot of us have been doing email marketing for about 7-10 years, and we’ve been in email producing roles where we’re the only one in our company working on email. We get very good at it because we have to – there’s no one else to do it, and no one else in our company has any experience with email. Our jobs are very demanding, and come with a very special degree of stress and anxiety. Because of this, we get burnt out really easily, and some of us end up switching jobs every year (or even more frequently than that in some cases). Recruiters lure us away with a cooler startup, more money, or the promise of change. This job will be different – we’re looking for someone who can take our email program to the next level, and you’re perfect for it. We work hard, but we play hard too. We have unlimited vacation as long as you get your work done! (LOL) It’s fun to work for us – we have a ping-pong table! (I’ve heard all of these lines more times than I can count.)

The thing is – we’re really not doing all this job hopping just because we’re entitled millennials. It’s because a lot of these email marketing manager roles are set up for failure from the start, and honestly – we have options. A lot of email marketing managers, especially at startups, are entering roles where they’re the first person to build the email program, and have to deal with not only the workload of building an email program, but also educating the team about IP warming, welcome emails, and why you shouldn’t build that email as one large jpeg. While this can be an exciting challenge, it can be a very exhausting uphill battle.

After I interviewed for (and declined) an email marketing manager job recently, the HR person asked me for feedback about how they should structure the role. I told her that in my experience, especially for companies with high frequency sends, it’s ideal to have at least two people on the email team – one focusing on planning, strategy, reporting, and operations, and one to actually execute and produce the emails. That way, there’s always a back-up person to help out with the crazy weeks, and the strategy side actually happens. The last two email teams I’ve been on started out as just me, and were structured that way by the time I left. Anyone looking to start an email marketing program at your company – PLEASE keep this in mind. If you don’t have the budget to hire two people, please read the next paragraph.

There’s a project management concept that’s illustrated with a triple Venn diagram with three words on it: Fast, Cheap, Good. The idea is that it’s nearly impossible to have all three of those in any given project, so you have to decide which two you want:

I think something similar could be applied to an email marketer’s workload, only replacing Cheap with “A lot of emails.” If you want a lot of emails, and fast – they may not be very good. If you want emails fast and good – you’re probably not sending very many of them. If you want a lot of good emails – it’s going to take some time. I’ve been in a position at several jobs where I’ve been pressured to do all three, and “Good” was always the first one to go. Not a situation I ever want to experience again. If you want all three of these – build a team.

If employers want their email marketing manager to stick around, they need to be realistic about workloads and expectations. Email Marketing is a VERY small world. I don’t know the most tactful way to put this, but – we know that we have a rare, desirable skill set, and it is easy for us to walk away from bad situations. Many of us have recruiters knocking down our doors. We know that our work can generate significant revenue and site traffic. If you want to keep your email marketer – let him or her build a team. Or at least, train other people in the company to help out with email so vacations can actually happen. Email marketers spend a lot of time thinking about how to retain subscribers, and it’s time for their companies to think about retaining email marketers.

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


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:


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.

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.

Of course an #emailnerd might actually also be a Star Wars nerd

A long time ago (well, a few years), in a galaxy (state) far, far, away (Indiana. And Texas)…

I was really into Star Wars growing up. I have an older brother, who is also really into Star Wars (and his 9-year-old daughter, my niece, has loved Star Wars since she was an infant). I was in junior high when they released the special edition movies, and I watched them… a lot. And I watched our VHS of the originals… a lot. Years later, when the new ones came out, I went to Celebration III. And I camped out all night in the rain to ensure that I got in to see George Lucas speak on a panel.

These days, I appreciate Star Wars like any other normal modern nerd (or human. Please.). I’m not going to go around saying, “May the fourth be with you!” today, but I was excited to see that a few brands sent emails about it.

First up – Pottery Barn Kids. They sent this email on April 30, and I had honestly forgotten about “May the Fourth be with you.”  I just opened the email and thought it was nice, and it made me feel nostalgic. But what I really loved about it was that it was almost totally gender neutral. It just showed a very nicely designed bedroom for the Star Wars-obsessed child. (It had a kid wearing a Star Wars backpack at the bottom, and the kid looked like a boy, but it was from the back, so definitely subtle in terms of “This is only for boys.”) I’m VERY against assigning genders to toys when it’s really not necessary, and I know there are plenty of little girls who like Star Wars.

This room looks adorable and cozy and I kind of want it. I love that it fits the Star Wars theme without having obnoxious branding and logos everywhere. I also love that in my commentary for this email, I’m thinking about the products featured more than the email design. Well done, Pottery Barn Kids!

Subject line: Just for your Jedi! 20% off our Star Wars Collection – 5 days only

pottery barn star wars1pottery barn star wars 2


* The “Find a Store” button didn’t really wrap to a second line like that – I had to resize it in my browser to get that whole section in one screenshot, and since this email was coded properly (YAY!), the text adjusted to the screen size.

Next up is a brand that would obviously market anything Star Wars related – ThinkGeek. They have a ton of Star Wars products, and they used this opportunity to show them off. And they did it beautifully. I love that they were able to use more Star Wars references than other brands might because – well, this audience would get it.

They even featured some user content at the bottom – they have an “Action Shot Winner” which shows an adorable baby reading a Star Wars book cuddled up with a Chewbacca toy. Under that, they have a user-submitted haiku about Star Wars.

Subject line: Use the 4th, Humanoid

thinkgeeksw1Athinkgeeksw2 thinkgeeksw3 thinkgeeksw4 thinkgeeksw5


Last up, we have Best Buy, who honestly kind of phoned it in compared to these other two. Best Buy sends a daily deals email that I usually just archive without even opening it, because it’s exactly the same every day, and it’s boring. But like Obi-Wan Kenobi, the subject line (at least, the first part of it) gave me hope.

Subject Line: May the Fourth Be With You: Save On Select Star Wars Movies, Digital Cameras, Air Conditioner and Digital Photo Frame, Today Only

best buy star wars

That was pretty much it for the Star Wars content in this email. The rest of it was their normal content. It’s pretty much the same format as this – image on the left, price, short description, ‘Get the deal’ button on the right. And while I normally wouldn’t write about these daily emails at all since they’re so unremarkable, I will say this: changing up a subject line even a little bit, to make it very timely and call out something universally loved like Star Wars can be really effective. I think it’s reasonable for Best Buy to assume that many of their subscribers might be interested in buying Star Wars dvds (but maybe not ThinkGeek – I bet they can safely assume that their subscribers already have them). I think that can be a lesson for marketers trying to spice up a daily email.

(Now I’m off to get a mani-pedi, because I look like a scruffy-looking nerf-herder.)


A madness to my method

Whenever I’m in a meeting discussing email send times, someone asks me when I usually look at marketing emails. I’ll tell them on Saturday mornings, especially if I just got paid (and just paid all my bills), when I’m thinking about shopping and want to see what’s on sale. But that’s me as a consumer with obsessive Gmail labels who subscribes to a lot of emails across several email accounts. I’ve got my filters on lockdown to a point where marketing emails don’t even go to my phone (except tests of the ones that I’m sending, so I can do QA on them). There are a lot of brands whose emails I open and love, but they will never get a conversion from me because I’m not a guy or don’t own a home or don’t have a kid. I just like their emails. There are also a few brands who don’t really even need to send me emails because I’ll go to their site a few times a week anyway. But I still get and sometimes even open their emails. I’m not exactly the “every(wo)man” when it comes to email. Far from it. “But I’m not the typical email consumer,” I stress when anyone asks, “I send emails for a living.” 

Last week, I taught two sessions of a Gmail organization class at my office for some entry-level co-workers. My company uses corporate Gmail. My presentation showed how and why to use labels and filters, and the difference between Primary inbox and Tabs, why you would use one or the other, and how to set them up. People seemed pretty into it. But at the end of the second class, someone raised her hand and asked, “So, does Yahoo have anything similar to this? I use it for my personal and junk mail.” My reply was that I hadn’t used Yahoo since 1997, so I had no idea. Then a few others chimed in saying that they used their Hotmail or AOL account for their “junk” mail, and had a Gmail account for their personal mail. I asked if they ever check their junk mail accounts, and some of them did, but rarely. They used them when they had to give out an email address but didn’t really want to. It kind of surprised me that any of them even had anything other than Gmail – they would have been young teenagers when Gmail started, so Gmail’s been around for most of their email-having lives. (But at the same time, I was fascinated and wanted to do an impromptu focus group about their email behavior, but it was 6:00 and time for everyone to go home.)

Gmail labelsI’ve had a lot of email accounts over the years (AOL, Juno, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, and few work Outlook and -ugh- LotusNotes). I don’t want to maintain any more inboxes than I have to. My three main ones, all Gmail – Work, Personal, Blog – are plenty, even with my crazy label/filter systems.

But the blog account is getting out of hand. I’m getting about 60 emails a day, and don’t always have time to go through them, and they’ve been piling up all week. I created a ton of labels for very specific things, but it seems like each time I get a new kind of email, I end up creating a label in case I get other emails like it and want to do a post about it. The problem with this system is that I have so many labels, it’s hard to keep track of them, and there are a lot of emails that need a LOT of labels.  Then there’s the filter problem – I can’t exactly filter for “Bad design,” “Weird pre-header text,” “Cart abandonment issues,” and “WTFromname.” The screenshot on the right was taken over a week ago, and I’ve added more labels since then. So I have to actually open adn read every email, THEN label and filter it, then remember that it exists, then actually write about it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this project was a bigger undertaking than I thought it would be, especially on top of my day job and the gorgeous weather we’ve been having  that makes me want to be as far away from a computer as possible. So, I haven’t been writing the 3-4 posts a week that I had initially envisioned. But I will. Probably. Once I get this inbox under control and dig through all these emails.