Author: Rebecca Swayze

Images Disabled? No Problem!

By Rebecca Swayze

We’ve all experienced it at some point or another. That moment when we casually open our inbox, click on an interesting subject line, then poof – there’s nothing there but some illegible text and tiny outlines of where shiny pictures should be.

Set Expectations With an Email Routine

By Rebecca Swayze

Subscribers and email marketers alike are creatures of habit. We find comfort in the ordinary and expected daily course of action.

Most of us probably even follow similar morning routines. We wake up, drink our coffee and get a move on with our day – squeezing in a few minutes to check our email either before or after we reach the office.

Believe it or not, those self-imposed procedures that we follow repetitiously have a lot to do with how we respond to the email marketing efforts of the companies we follow.

Some companies understand this and set proper expectations for their readers, while others aren’t quite there yet. Keep reading to see who gets it right, and how you can do the same with your own email marketing campaign!

Why Set Expectations?

It’s important that subscribers recognize your messages and form an attachment to the times and formats that you send them in. You want readers to expect certain things in your emails because when they do they tend to open, click and share the emails with others.

Long after you send your first autoresponder to your subscribers, you continue to create expectations whether you try to or not. Before a subscriber signs up, you create expectations by offering samples of your newsletter or explaining exactly what a subscriber will receive on the thank you page.

A few months later, your subscribers aren’t going to remember what you promised to send them. Most likely they won’t bother to return to your website to find out, either. So, what should you do?

Keep It Consistent

Recognition is a huge component of successful email marketing. Everything from the subject line and from line to the template that you use is important when setting expectations. You want your readers to identify your emails when they see them in their inbox.

Jay, who runs our webinars, gets emails from Tiger Direct on a regular basis. He loves gadgets, and loves getting them at affordable prices even more. Normally, Tiger Direct sends heavily styled messages that show glossy laptops and TVs like this one:

The other day, however, this plain text message landed in Jay’s inbox:

He happened to click on it, but really had no idea who the message was coming from or what it was regarding. It was even signed by the company’s president, Carl Fiorentino, but since none of the other messages mention his name, Jay was clueless.

While plain text messages certainly have many helpful benefits, when they show up out of the blue they can still be overlooked and ineffective. Make sure that your emails are consistent. Whether they are plain text or HTML, the appearance of your messages will become a trademark that your readers will recognize.

Set a Routine

We talk about the importance of sticking to the schedule a lot, yet this is an approach I’ve never encountered before. Daily Worth, a site dedicated to helping women manage their finances responsibly, keeps their schedule crystal clear for readers and email subscribers.

In each message that they send, they include an image at the top of the email to indicate the subject matter of the message. The content is the same every week on the specified day, making it easy for subscribers to identify the message and decide whether or not they want to continue reading.

You can easily do something similar with your own campaign, creating an image that mirrors your content schedule. Just be sure to include the day, the content and what they can expect to receive the next day.

How Do You Set Expectations?

Do you set expectations at sign up with your web form? Carry that through to your newsletters?

We’d love to hear how you keep subscribers informed and ready for your next messages! Let us know in the comments below.

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AWesome Emails: Rita’s Water Ice

By Rebecca Swayze

They say the fastest way to a man’s heart is his stomach, but around AWeber it’s more like the fastest way to make friends with one of the many ladies in the office. Our love of food has helped us stumble upon excellent email marketing campaigns. This time the awesome emails come from Rita’s water ice. Read on to see how exclusivity, charitable causes and involvement in social media sets Rita’s apart from other water ice chains, and how you can do the same with your campaign.

Email Marketing Observations From a Shopaholic

By Rebecca Swayze

It’s amazing just how similar a good email marketing campaign is to a visit to a well-run boutique. There are several key factors that contribute to the success of both. See how your messages stack up to some of my favorite stores.

What to Send When You Track Sales

By Rebecca Swayze

In a recent survey of 80,000 email marketers, over 80 percent of respondents told AWeber that it is “very valuable” to them to know which subscribers purchase their products. With sales tracking, you can easily see how many sales your email marketing campaigns generate, as well as how many dollars that campaign brings in. Let’s look at how you can use your campaign sales tracking results.

3 Surefire Reasons to Use Animated GIFs In Your Email Marketing

By Rebecca Swayze

Chad White from the Retail Email Blog has posted a lot in the past about animated GIF usage. He recently tweeted that he hasn’t seen many animated GIFs lately, and as I dug through my inbox looking for examples I started to wonder why.

Since they are virtually compatible with all major email clients except for Outlook, animated GIFs are a genius way to infuse some personality into an email marketing campaign. Even subscribers viewing a message in Outlook can still see the first frame of a GIF shown as a static image, so you can still illustrate important details in the first frame.

Animated GIFs sound too tricky for you? They aren’t so bad, I promise. By the end of this post, you’ll know everything you ever wanted (or needed!) to know about the image format. Plus, you’ll see 3 different ways you can use them to create animated messages for your own email campaign.

First Things First. An Animated What?

A GIF is an image filetype made specifically for the web. The majority of people use them because of their small file size, but another great use is for animation in emails.

Animated GIFs simulate video so that you can see scrolling features, products in different colors or blinking calls to action without having to leave your inbox to visit a website. You can think of an animated GIF just like an old flip book movie. Your eye perceives a fluid motion when presented with several images in succession.

With an Animated GIF, You Can:

1. Highlight Different Products

Email marketing is one of the best ways to promote your business and expose prospective customers to your products. But with limited space and limited attention spans, sometimes the best emails go unnoticed mixed in among a slew of similar catalog-style messages.

An animated message can help you appeal to lots of different people without bothering with segmenting and using advanced email analytics. (This is especially good if you’re just starting out and don’t quite know exactly what subscribers want to see yet.)

Pottery Barn often uses animation in their emails to depict several products at once. It’s a double-duty move: it grabs readers’ attention and gets a variety of products face-time that wouldn’t be possible in a static email.

You can do the same thing with your messages, too! Sites like gickr, gifninja and Make a GIF take the hard work out of the process. All you have to do is upload your product images, then they instantly animate them for you – making an animated GIF for your email campaign in mere seconds that you’d upload to your email like any other image.

2. Simulate Product Demonstrations

Some products are more complex than others and take a little bit of explaining before you can really appreciate their benefits. That’s why informercials for products like ShamWow and Bumpits remain popular to this day – they provide demonstrations and explain the features and benefits that accompany them.

Williams-Sonoma does an excellent job of using animated GIFs to do just that. They created three simple images to explain exactly how their Breville Pie Maker takes the hard work out of pie making.

It’s not as hard as you’d think to do the same thing. Essentially, you just need to snap 3 or 4 photos to illustrate the most important steps for using your product, then use text to explain the rest of the details. Add them to one of the sites above, and ta-da! Instant animated GIF for your message.

3. Draw Attention to Your Call to Action

Even if your messages do a splendid job of displaying everything your company has to offer, they can sometimes fall short when inspiring readers to click-through to your site.

While actionable phrases like ‘shop new products,’ ‘see limited-time offers’ and ‘get 50% off’ are strong in their own merit, adding a little pizzaz with animation will surely catch your subscribers’ attention.

Fred Flare uses simple animation to bring attention to their call to action. You can animate action words and link them to the desired pages on your site, too, using a site like Text Anim 2.0 to generate your text. You can pick the font and color, type in your text and save it as an animated GIF.

Your To-Do List for Animating Your Emails

  1. If creating an animated loop of images, visit a site like gickr, gifninja or Make a GIF. Upload your product images, then they’ll turn them into an animated GIF. They’ll give you the URL for the image, so make sure you copy and paste it to someplace safe.
  2. If making an animated call to action, use a site like Text Anim 2.0, where you can easily animate as many words as you want using different fonts and patterns. They’ll also give you the URL for the image, so keep it safe.
  3. Insert the image in your email, then send yourself a test copy to see the animation in action!

Think You Will Give Animated GIFs a Try?

Not only can animated GIFs make your messages more creative, appealing and unique, but they can also help you earn more money, too.

When online retailer Bluefly tested their animated GIF usage, they found that animated shoppers who clicked through generated a 12% increase in dollars spent compared with non-animated shoppers.

Let us know if you decide to give them a try – we’d love to hear how they work for your campaign!

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Zen and the Art of Email Marketing

By Rebecca Swayze

There will always be an overwhelming amount of information swirling around the email marketing universe. New tactics, practices and services will constantly vie for your attention, even when your newsletter content was due to go out yesterday and your sign up form could desperately use a redesign.

From time to time, you probably wonder, “How can I possibly be responsible for deploying an email campaign when I can barely keep up with the constant chatter about what’s new and fresh?”

Never fear! Email marketing doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it might sometimes seem. If you take a Zen approach – one that focuses on making the process simple – you’ll find that you actually look forward to working on your campaign, if only for a few moments of peace!

Have a Purpose

Are you dipping a toe in the email marketing waters simply because everyone else is? Because your boss heard from a friend that it can do great things for your business? In other marketing mediums that would not be an acceptable reason for participation.

You wouldn’t spend millions on a Super Bowl commercial because someone told you to. You shouldn’t invest time and money into email if you’re not sure why you’re using it in the first place, either, even if it is the most cost-effective marketing method out there.

Decide why you’re emailing and set a goal for realistic goal for your campaign. Maybe you want to inspire brand recognition or build your prospect list. Perhaps you’re looking to increase profit, or give away a free report to website visitors. Whatever it is, establish your purpose and stick to it.

Focus on the Present

There’s no time like the present to make your campaign shine. Forget about making your newsletter look like the one Target sent last week. You’re only one person, and you only have a limited amount of time to make your message happen.

The quest for “perfection” often debilitates individual emailers. If you’re easily discouraged because your message isn’t highly styled or doesn’t include lots of pictures, don’t beat yourself up. It’s ok!

Do what you can with the time that you have. Only have twenty minutes? Focus on the meat of your message: the points that you have to make and the offers you must to extend to your readers no matter what.

Eliminate Clutter

Take a good look at how new subscribers are added to your list. Start by going to your website and walking through the sign up process as though you’ve never seen the page before in your life, or by watching a friend search around for your form.

Is it hard to find, or hidden by lots of text and links? Do you inadvertently drive visitors from signing up to receive your newsletter because it’s simply too difficult to do?

Never let that happen again! Remove any and all obstacles from sign up. De-clutter your website. It’s one of the easiest ways to ensure that new visitors will see your form and sign up to receive your information.

Practice Discipline

As with anything important in life, email marketing requires a certain stick-to-itiveness. You can’t expect it to do great things for your business if you aren’t willing to give it proper attention.

Sending a message here and there is really not an indication of a serious campaign. If you want your company to be seen as an authority in your field, you need to put in the effort to create a timely, relative newsletter.

Make a plan. Create a newsletter schedule and stick to it. If you inform subscribers of your message frequency when they subscribe, consider it a contract. You have to honor the commitment so that you aren’t coming up short of their expectations.

Be Grateful

While it’s always important to grow your list and increase your business’ following, at the end of the day, always remember to be grateful for the things you already have.

Think about the subscribers who are already on your list, the clicks you’ve already tracked and the content plans you’re making for your next newsletter.

Take a look at what other email marketers are thankful for – they’ve kindly shared their blessings with us!

Are You Feeling Zen Yet?

With all of the hustle and bustle of running an email campaign, we know how tiring it can be to keep producing high quality work.

Remember to keep these principles in mind the next time you’re feeling stressed – they should soothe your marketing nerves!

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Email Advice…From Lady Gaga?

By Rebecca Swayze

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places. On my way to work today, Lada Gaga radio on Pandora was straight killing it. As I seat-danced my way into the office, I started thinking about what an awesome businesswoman Gaga is.

In the interesting way that my brain sometimes works early in the morning, I exclaimed at a red light, “Lady Gaga is the perfect email marketing advisor!” to no one in particular.

I know what you’re thinking. She’s totally brilliant, but what could Lady Gaga possibly have to do with email marketing? Stick with me for a few, I promise the similarities are there.

Sure, she’s a world famous pop star and all, but Lady Gaga’s work ethic and business techniques apply to so many industries besides music. Quirky and one of a kind, the girl can do no wrong. Follow this advice and you can have a #1 hit too: your email campaign!

+ Take Risks: Don’t be Afraid to Change

Early in her career, Gaga (known then as Stefani) was just your average brunette. There was nothing earth-shatteringly eccentric about the New York City native. She wore clothes from Abercrombie and generally fit in with the crowd until realizing that being average wasn’t enough to get noticed.

Just because you’ve had the same web form on your sign up page for 2 years and your plain text email has a consistent open rate doesn’t mean that you should always stick to what you know.

What if changing to HTML causes a significant boost in loyal readers? What if asking for less information on your web form causes more people to sign up to your newsletter? Give it a try – switch things up! Then split test and find out what truly works for you. Don’t know what to test? Here are a few split test ideas to get you started.

+ Set Yourself Apart From the Crowd

In a musical sense, Lady Gaga set herself apart from the crowd from the get-go. Amidst a sea of cookie cutter pop princesses, Gaga made a name for herself by being daring, unique and multi-talented. Did you know that she writes all of her own music and is a classically trained pianist?

In order to make an impact with email marketing, you have to be different. If you set out to be like everyone else in your industry that sends email, you won’t have the greatest results.

What are your talents? What is it that your business is especially good at that other companies cannot come close to? Focus on your strengths – they are the core of a successful campaign, and they’re different for everyone.

+ Embrace Your Fans

Lady Gaga is quite humble when it comes to the influence her fans have on her success. She credits them, her self-dubbed “little monsters,” with much of her mainstream popularity. She even went so far as to tattoo “Little Monsters” on her arm!

While you don’t have to be as zealous as Gaga (explaining a tattoo of your list name to your grandkids could prove to be a tad difficult), remember that your list would be nowhere if it weren’t for your subscribers.

If you’ve been sending email for a while, or even if you’re just starting out, you have a group of people rooting for you – your very own “little email monsters!” Show them your appreciation for your by offering a giveaway or hosting a contest only open to people on your email list.

+ Learn From Other Stars

Like many creative performers, Lady Gaga turns to the bands she has always loved when she’s looking for inspiration. (Powerhouse artists like David Bowie, Queen, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Elton John are her biggest influences.) Looking to the past and observing what other heavy-hitters are up to is a good idea no matter what industry you’re in.

In order to easily monitor what other email marketers are sending and how often they’re sending it, create a free email account with a service like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Sign up for newsletters from similar companies and brands that you admire, then make note of the things that you’re particularly impressed with. Next time you’re sending an email, you can include them too!

+ How Does Your Campaign Fare?

Is your relationship with your email campaign more a Love Game or a Bad Romance? (Couldn’t help it…just had to make the reference eventually!)

Let us know how you shake things up and set yourself apart from the crowd in the spirit of all things Gaga. We’d love to hear from you!

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Awesome Emails: California Tortilla

By Rebecca Swayze

Every week, a group of hungry AWeber workers pile into cars at precisely 12:02 on Tuesday afternoon. We quickly buckle up and head to the nearest California Tortilla for what has become a weekly lunchtime tradition: Taco Tuesday


It all started on a whim, really. Our web designer Bob had a hankering for a burrito and his partner-in-crime Eric suggested California Tortilla. Soon enough, developers and CS members caught on and began to tag along


One day, as sometimes happens when you work for an email marketing company, the lunchtime conversation turned to the topic of email. “Dude, California Tortilla sends me awesome emails,” Eric stated mid-bite.

Dude, awesome? After such a bold claim, I had to see these “awesome” emails. Skeptical, I asked Eric to forward them to me when we got back to the office so that I could see for myself. He was right! Their emails are pretty awesome and they include easy things that you can do so that your email marketing campaigns are awesome, too.

Send an Informative Welcome Email

When you dine at California Tortilla as much as we do, it’s beneficial to become what they call a Burrito Elito, or a card carrying member of their loyalty reward program. From the moment you sign up, they shake up your inbox with fun and informative emails about your account.

Their welcome message is particularly engaging, because it does a few important things that every email campaign should do. It clearly explains:

  • What they will receive: The first email summarizes exactly what members will receive as Burrito Elitos.
  • How they will receive it: The message explains how members can redeem their reward points in the restaurant of their choice.
  • When they will get further messages: They explain that subscribers can expect to receive further emails from California Tortilla on a monthly basis.

Offer Free Stuff

Part of the reason that we go back to California Tortilla every Tuesday is their rewards program. After a few trips, each of us earns enough points to enjoy a lunch for free.

When we’re close to receiving a free burrito, Cali Tort sends us a reminder via email to let us know that we have free goodies coming our way. Giving freebies via email is a great way to build a loyal subscriber base. If it’s something you’re interested in doing, you should always:

  • Make sure the giveaway is relevant to your list: If you sell men’s shoes and you’re giving away a pair of high heels, chances our your subscribers will stop taking your messages seriously.
  • Write up a quick guide to your industry or offer a free sample: As long as your free gift is relevant to the content of your newsletter, it’s the perfect incentive for prospects who might be on the fence about signing up.

Send Birthday Messages

While lots of businesses send birthday emails, California Tortilla’s message is extra sweet. On your birthday, you get a free burrito! In our office, this is a big deal and grants the birthday girl or boy bragging rights for the day.

Sending a special message to your subscribers at the beginning of their birthday month, you can really catch them by surprise with a personal touch by:

  • Offering an exclusive coupon or discount: When sending a Birthday gift, remember to send something that’s actually of value to your subscribers. Something that really says thank you for being a subscriber, please come back!
  • Boosting return business throughout the year: Perhaps your subscribers visited your store or restaurant earlier in the year and signed up for your email list, yet haven’t been back since. Birthday emails get them back in the door and encourage return business throughout the year.

Why Do California Tortilla’s Emails Work?

As you can see, their emails aren’t intricately designed. In fact, each one contains only an image or two and some text. Their content is what makes their series a success – they infuse personality into each message.

California Tortilla has fun with their subscribers and the playful atmosphere of their restaurants carries over to their emails. After all, subscribers don’t want to read emails that sound too corporate or too impersonal. They want to know that companies are human, too.

Do your emails set the tone? Are they playful and welcoming? We’d love to know! Tell us more in the comments below.

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Are Your Emails Top Priority?

By Rebecca Swayze

Back in August, Gmail introduced the Priority Inbox – a new tool that filters emails into “Important and unread,” “Starred” and “Everything else” sections of your inbox automatically.

After taking some time to experiment with it, it’s true that the Priority Inbox really can help Gmail users separate your emails from those less relevant ones out there based on their interaction with all of the messages they receive.

You know how important it is for your email marketing messages to be valuable, so let’s make sure you’re doing everything you can to make subscribers aware of the value of your emails. Keep reading to find out how!

Gmail’s Priority Inbox

As we’ve discussed before, Gmail’s Priority Inbox figures out which senders’ emails are important based on how a user interacts with their emails.

While some of your subscribers might understand how the Priority Inbox pertains to their daily email use, I’m willing to bet that many don’t fully grasp the concept just yet.

New technological advances can be intimidating – even in instances like this when your email provider provides adequate information about the changes taking place. Instead of learning about them, lots of users will simply ignore them, preferring to use their accounts as they always have.

This means two things for your email marketing campaign:

  1. With the Priority Inbox activated, some users aren’t even aware that they are no longer seeing your messages. They could be buried below the “priority fold.”
  2. If your emails go to the Priority Inbox and other marketers’ don’t, now you have a relative advantage in the competition for subscribers’ attention.
Priority Inbox in Practice

Just the other day, I happened to receive an email from Trianon Palace at Versailles letting me know that I could upgrade to a suite for a limited amount of time. (You know me, I always weekend in France, dahling.)

What was even more intriguing than the upgrade deal was the preheader of this particular message:

It contains the prerequisite “If you cannot read this e-mail, please click here” line, but then it also includes more specific instructions for Gmail users:

Making Your Own Priority Preheader

After examining the message from Trianon Palace, you can see that it’s easy to include a preheader in every message. The only trick? Including an image of the Priority Button. Don’t worry, we’ve made that step a little easier for you.

To use the button, simply save this image to your computer, then upload it to your website and use it in the first line of text at the top of your of your next email.

Because this preheader only pertains to Gmail users, if you were going to try this in a broadcast you might want to segment out your subscribers and email them separately.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you think this is the best use of preheader space? Since this tactic would really only make sense to Gmail users, how else can you make your messages stand out in the inbox for non-Gmail users?

We’d love to hear your opinion! Share in the comments below.

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