Litmus Blog Litmus Company Blog Fri, 02 Oct 2015 14:39:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Email Marketing Confessions: How Our Live Twitter Feed Email Imploded Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:46:47 +0000 You may have heard the triumphant story of how we embedded a live dynamic Twitter feed in our “Save the Date” email for The Email Design Conference (TEDC), but what you haven’t heard is the story about how it all went wrong when we pressed “send” the first time.

Kevin Mandeville, Kevin Thompson, and the rest of the marketing team spent weeks designing the email and putting safeguards and fallbacks in place. Any tweet with the #TEDC15 hashtag would appear in the email anytime it was opened or refreshed—except those tweets that contained images and ones with certain profane keywords. And if the feed got too unruly and off-brand, then we had a nuclear option in place where only tweets we’d favorited would appear in the email.

When the day came, we were ready—but we were also more than a little excited and tense and anxious, as you can see by the discussion in our marketing channel in Slack:

Layer 0

But the celebration was short-lived. Within 5 minutes of pressing “send,” it became clear that the email wasn’t working as planned.

Litmus Slack 2

The “everybody” was our email subscribers on Twitter, so the mistake was already more than a little public. Screenshots of the malfunctioning email, like these ones, were starting to slowly circulate.

While mortifying, it gave us valuable feedback. It quickly became clear that our email service provider had somehow altered the code of our email. So 11 minutes after initiating the send, the decision was made to halt it.

Litmus Slack 3

Further investigation revealed that we’d stumbled upon a “quirk” that changed our email code in a way that was fatal to our live Twitter feed.

Litmus Slack 4

Kristen Luongo, who is now our events manager, just happened to be in the office interviewing for the job on this day. So Justine Jordan, our marketing director and fearless leader, was juggling that interview on top of this marketing crisis. (Full disclosure: We did not make Kristen resend the email.)

Ultimately, roughly an hour after pausing the campaign, we started it back up. We sent the unborked version with a brief apology message out to the 53,000 who got the broken version, and then emailed the rest of our subscribers.

The rest of the story you mostly know. We breathed a huge collective sigh of relief and spent the rest of the day watching everyone on Twitter have (mostly good-natured) fun with the email.

5 Email Crisis Learnings

Email marketing mistakes are not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Email is too dynamic, too complex, and too quick of a medium to avoid mistakes completely. The best you can hope for is to keep mistakes small and infrequent—and when you’re not able to do that, you hope to manage them quickly and recover with a degree of grace. I think we did that in this instance.

Here are a few things that you can learn from our mistake:

1. Recognize that your ESP is potentially an active player in how your emails render. In my book, Email Marketing Rules, I talk about how email rendering is affected by a number of factors, including the subscriber’s operating system, email client, web browser (if webmail), and device/screen size, and whether they’ve blocked images or not. Well, this episode makes it clear that your ESP can also affect email function and rendering. Try to discover if your ESP ever alters your email code and then make adjustments as needed.

2. Monitor other channels after sending an email. Comments and feedback from our Twitter followers were extremely helpful in both recognizing that we had a problem and identifying what the problem was.

3. If you can recognize a serious mistake quickly, pause the campaign. Email is not instantaneous, not when you’re sending a message to tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers or more. That means there’s a window for you to halt a campaign send before it completes. Take advantage of this window to minimize the damage from a poor subscriber experience when you can identify it in time.

4. Once you have a fix, double- and triple-check it. Once we thought we’d figured out what had gone wrong, we retested the email in Litmus and sent multiple rounds of test emails from our ESP, which was key in this particular case.

Years ago I received a blank promo email from a retailer, which shortly thereafter sent a “corrected” email that was also blank. While you want to get corrections out quickly, be absolutely sure you’re not following up a mistake with yet another mistake.

5. When a mistake seriously impacts conversions, brand image, or the subscriber experience, resend the email with a brief apology at the top. Keep in mind that many of your subscribers will not have seen the initial email with the error, so avoid over-explaining the mistake and distracting from the message of the email.

Do You Have an Email Marketing Confession?

We hope that you learned something from our mistake, and we invite you to share your own email marketing mistakes and learnings as part of our latest Community Contest. As the 18th century poet Alexander Pope once famously said: “To err is human; to share that email marketing mistake so others can learn from it is divine.”

Share Your Story→

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Creating Memorable, Shareworthy Email Experiences [Infographic] Mon, 28 Sep 2015 15:01:58 +0000 All marketers want to create relevant experiences for their email subscribers, but unfortunately the vast majority are not succeeding on a regular basis, according to joint research by Litmus and Fluent. We asked US consumers if they’d received a memorable promotional email in the past 2 months from any of the brands they subscribed to and only 21% said that they had.

This stands in fairly sharp contrast to how memorable marketers think their emails are. Earlier this month, we asked visitors to the Litmus blog: “What percentage of your subscribers would say they received a memorable promotional email from your brand in the past two months?”


A slim majority of marketers had a pretty honest assessment of their emails, saying that 20% or fewer of their subscribers would say they’d received a memorable email from them. However, more than a fifth of marketers think the majority of their subscribers are receiving memorable emails from them, which seems highly unlikely.

While how memorable a brand’s emails are seems like a rather academic question, the answer correlated strongly with whether consumers had forwarded the emails to others and had shared the email content via social media. These are high-value actions that all marketers want to foster and encourage.

In the infographic below, we share the full results of our consumer survey and identify specific tactics that marketers can use to create more memorable, shareworthy emails, drawing upon our recent research into mobile-friendly email and landing page trends and into viral email behavior.



The Viral Email Report

This exclusive research provides benchmarks for forward-to-open rates, discusses tactics for spurring forwards, and shares real-world examples of viral emails.

Download Now


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Gmail’s New ‘Block’ Option: Pros and Cons for Marketers Wed, 23 Sep 2015 15:48:29 +0000 Gmail rolled out new “block” functionality to all Gmail webmail users yesterday, giving consumers yet another option to rid their inboxes of email they don’t want. On the surface, that might not sound like a great thing for marketers, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Many Shades of ‘I Don’t Want This’

Gmail’s world view on email has been consistently about not losing sight of the trees for the forest. Commercial emails are not the same as personal emails—and more than that, there are different kinds of commercial emails, including social notifications, promotions, and so on. There are many shades of email.

Similarly, Gmail recognizes that there are many shades of “I don’t want this email.” With the latest addition, Gmail users can now—in increasing order of severity—decide to…

  1. “Delete” the message
  2. “Unsubscribe” from the sender’s emails through Gmail’s native “unsubscribe” link, when available, which conveys the opt-out request to the sender
  3. “Block” the sender so that, in Gmail’s words, you “never see messages from this person again”
  4. “Report spam” from the sender, which directs future messages from the sender to your “spam” folder and potentially makes it more difficult for the sender to get email delivered to other Gmail users
  5. “Report phishing” by the sender

Gmail said that Android users on the Gmail app will have the ability to block next week, and that the option to unsubscribe will also be added soon, so functionality in the app will match that of the webmail client.

Local vs. Global Blocking

In giving users another way to stop receiving emails they don’t want, Gmail appears to be trying to fine-tune its local blocking of senders. The problem largely stems from the fact that the “report spam” button is used liberally by email users. While it is used to vanquish malicious and unsolicited messages, it’s also used much more casually as a convenient, never-fail unsubscribe button.

Since spam complaints are a major factor in ISPs’ decisions to either globally block all of a sender’s emails or locally block just the ones being sent to particular users, this ambiguity muddies the waters. For instance, at least one ISP has said publicly that they don’t count spam complaints against senders when the subscriber was previously engaged with the emails.


The option to “block” appears to be an attempt to give users a new, more accurate way to express their displeasure with a brand, one that doesn’t rely on the brand to honor an opt-out but doesn’t tarnish the brand’s sender reputation.

Better Than the Alternative

I’ve said that an unsubscribe is always better than a spam complaint, because opt-outs don’t hurt your sender reputation. It’s unclear exactly how Gmail will be using blocks, but it seems safe to say also that a block is always better than a spam complaint, because a local block is far less harmful than a global block by an ISP.

For marketers, the upside is that the new “block” option should reduce spam complaints because some subscribers who would have previously clicked “report spam” will now click “block” instead. The downside is that the “block” button may have created a new lower bar for ISP intervention, so some subscribers who might have previously clicked “unsubscribe” will now click “block” instead.

There are 4 ways to minimize the downside of this new development:

1. Make your unsubscribe link prominent in your emails. If subscribers can’t easily find your opt-out link, some will simply block or complain to save themselves time. So if your unsubscribe link is buried in a bunch of small grey type, it’s time to break it out on a line by itself with larger, easier-to-read type, perhaps with a brightly colored link. Consider including both an HTML text opt-out link as well as a graphical or bulletproof opt-out button.

Also consider an additional unsubscribe link at the top of your emails in situations where blocks and complaints are more likely. Emails sent to inactive subscribers are good candidates for this treatment, as are welcome emails since new subscribers may suddenly regret signing up or may not have realized they were subscribing.

2. Surface your preference center more often, if you have one. Often times, a subscriber would be happy to continue receiving emails if only they could receive messages less often or on different topics. Many opt-out processes are now managed in preference centers, but as more subscribers rely on ISP-provided opt-out methods, marketers can’t use their preference centers as a last resort anymore.

Be proactive with your preference centers. Key moments in the subscriber lifecycle to target include the onboarding process and as a response to inactivity.

3. Make use of Gmail’s auto-unsubscribe feature. Add the “list-unsubscribe” header and Gmail will, in certain circumstances, place an “Unsubscribe” link after your sender name and sender email address (as seen in the Pinterest email example above). While this link allows subscribers to circumvent your opt-out process—including preference center, if you use one—it’s still preferable to getting a block or spam complaint.

4. Send more relevant messages. The arrival of the “block” button should be yet another reminder that marketers need to send more messages that are contextually aware, making use of segmentation, personalization, dynamic content, triggered messaging, and other tools and techniques to create better subscriber experiences.

Doing those 4 things should help blunt the negative effects of the new “block” option, but in general I’m expecting this to have positive benefits for marketers since Gmail users now have a less punitive way to stop getting messages from senders. It remains to be seen if Gmail will share block data via its feedback loop, but it’s recommended that marketers keep an eye on the spam rate that Gmail reports over the coming weeks and months as consumers become acquainted with this new option.


The ‘Block’ Option Isn’t the Only Recent Gmail Update…

Our ebook covers Gmail’s latest changes + plenty of recommendations.

Get your copy!


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3 Revealing Truths That Question Everything You Know About Email Mon, 21 Sep 2015 15:40:52 +0000 Like most people starting new jobs, I’ve spent the majority of the past two months or so feeling pretty uncomfortable.

And it’s been great.

Comfort is a relative term, and so for me, it means complacent.

So for the past 60 days or so, I’ve been the one asking questions rather than answering them. And it’s been illuminating.

I learned pretty early on to embrace the gaps in my knowledge. Ones I didn’t even know existed.

Coming from the agency world, email was simply part of the toolkit. We sent email, just like we wrote blog posts and posted to social media. Of course we valued our subscribers, but generally speaking, no marketing activity was any more important than another.

To measure success, I did like any other marketer; I analyzed dashboards and created spreadsheets. When it came to email, success meant opens, clicks, and obviously, revenue generated.

I’ve had lengthy discussions with people like Justine Jordan, Lauren Smith, Kevin Mandeville, and Chad White, just to name a few. Each time, the veil that had been cast over my eyes as a marketer misled by the dashboard fell a bit more.

Because here’s the thing about dashboards: they measure everything but the heartbeat of the user.

Below are the three biggest takeaways that have forever changed my view, not only on dashboards, but on the way we measure and view email in general.

Opens and clicks are worthless…without context

Traditional marketers tend to have a myopic view on success.

We identify a desired set of outcomes, and campaigns either succeed or fail. Technology, and more specifically the software industry, has made measuring these outcomes much easier.

Problem is, depending on the platform or software you’re using, your measurements are restricted to said platform’s capabilities. As a result, we tend to determine success only by the capabilities we do have.

It’s a highly subjective approach.

Opens and clicks, for example, are measured in every software imaginable. And while this data can be handy, it doesn’t suggest success—or failure—in and of itself. Yet this is how many—if not most—email campaigns are measured on in regards to success.

Opens and clicks are more a measure of strong brand equity—“An email from Litmus. I love that company”—but not necessarily a measure of success.

Opens can also be skewed with images being automatically turned on in certain clients.

iPhone, for instance, turns on images in your email automatically. Images turned on equals email marked as open. Therefore, if your open rates are higher on iOS than in Outlook (which doesn’t display images by default), you may be drawing false conclusions.

With so many moving parts and inconsistencies, asking for the open and click rate for any given email campaign is the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking…

Who’s forwarding your email?

Says my colleague Chad White in our Viral Email Report: “Forwards expand the reach of your messages and generate additional conversions, but they have significant meaning beyond that. Forwards are a powerful indication of the overall health of your email program, because they are a sign that you’re fulfilling your subscribers’ needs at the highest level.”

Who’s printing it? (Yes, people actually still do print emails!)

Printing is not only a sign of virality, it’s also a sign of utility. If subscribers need your message posted somewhere, or even placed on their boss’ desk, you’re also fulfilling your subscribers’ needs at a high level.

Who’s actually reading your emails instead of deleting them?

If you really want to measure subscriber engagement, you have to measure the gaps between opens and clicks. How long did people spend in your email? Did they read it or delete it? Insight like this not only clarifies success as it relates to your email campaigns, it also informs your entire content strategy going forward, as you’ll notice trends regarding which types of content resonate more.

Gmail (and other client) open data can be misleading

If you’re anything like me, there’s a really good chance that you’ll open the same email several times, each time on a different device.

The reasons for this vary, and while they may seem trivial to us, this is invaluable information for marketers.

Knowing where your subscribers are viewing your email is critical. It informs design decisions, as well marketing decisions. But it’s not always accurate.

In December 2013, Google introduced a series of updates to the way Gmail loads images in email.

Gmail started to cache images for emails opened in a web browser or a Gmail mobile app.

Email tracking relies on a unique image being included in a campaign and that image being downloaded and displayed within the email. Every time the image is downloaded from the server, the tracking software marks that as an email open.

When an image is cached, it is downloaded from the original server and stored on that server. Any subsequent opens will be associated with the proxy server, rather than the original server.

With its updates, when Gmail caches images, those images—including open tracker pixels, like the ones used with Email Analytics—are stored on Gmail’s servers. Gmail then loads the same images from the same servers for everyone—regardless of whether they open using Gmail in a web browser or a Gmail Android or iPhone/iPad app.

This means that an email opened in Gmail with a web browser will be indistinguishable from an email opened in a Gmail mobile app.

Open and click data has been a source of frustration for marketers for as long as email has been sent, as each email service provider (ESP) has its own characterizations of “opened” and “clicked.”

Image caching has thrown another wrench in this reporting since Gmail’s opens are now not accurately represented.

Email is Easy

Email suffers from what I like to call the “Ease of Use Paradox,” in that the easier an action is to perform, the easier the action appears to be.

In reality, email is quite complex.

For example, if your ESP has a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor—which allows you to see how your email will look as you’re creating it—it may alter your design or insert unsupported code. This significantly affects how your email renders in the inbox.

Or maybe a decent percentage of your audience is using Microsoft Outlook 2003. Since Outlook automatically blocks images, your email could wind up looking something like this…


Image blocking in Outlook

In these cases, ALT text is a must to ensure a good subscriber experience.

Email is so complex, that I’m not even going to try and explain all of its intricacies. This infographic will do so much more succinctly than I possibly could.

Are you making email better?

This is a call to action to all marketers: we need to be doing more to make email better. We need to stop using clicks and opens as the main determinant of success. We need to stop sending email to people who don’t need it.

Forget whatever conjecture you’ve heard about “email is dead.”

Email is only as dead as your strategy.

Email is the primary form of communication, retention, and the most direct way to drive revenue for companies. With a typical return of 45:1 on every dollar invested, email is the best ROI for digital marketers.

How are you measuring it?


See All The Data You’re Not Getting from your Email Software with Email Analytics

Try it Free


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In Regards to the Rumors about Litmus… Mon, 14 Sep 2015 14:53:53 +0000 On Friday, we told you something big is coming from Litmus. But instead of telling you what it is or even giving you a slightest hint, we asked you to guess “What’s next for Litmus?” and invited you to start a rumor with the #MakeEmailBetter hashtag. And start rumors you did!

Hundreds of you played along, giving us inspired advice for the future direction of our company. Here are some of our favorite rumors:

Thanks for all the great ideas, several of which we’ve added to our roadmap. As a reward for reading all the way to the end of this post, I’m happy to confirm that, Yes, Robo-ceej was just the beginning! Stay tuned for big news by the end of the month.

Be the first to know

Have we piqued your interest enough? Subscribe to our newsletter to get notified when we reveal the big changes.

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27 Tweetable Takeaways from The Email Design Conference 2015 Fri, 04 Sep 2015 17:46:23 +0000 The Email Design Conference brought together over 500 of the most passionate minds in email for two full days of geekery in Boston.

It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by so many passionate email designers, marketers, and strategists in one space—all eager to share their knowledge and soak in all of the information possible.

Seemingly countless tips and advice were shared throughout the conference—and on Twitter.

While there were thousands of amazing tweets, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite takeaways below.

Want even more takeaways?

Some attendees wrote blog posts about their experience and lessons learned at the event. Check ‘em out:

  • After attending the conference for three years in a row (that’s some serious email geek dedication!), Jim MacLeod put together a great slideshow of his favorite takeaways from this year’s festivities.
  • From web font support in email to templates to big data, Pierce Ujjainwalla compiled his favorite tips from day one and day two of the conference.
  • Alongside an amazing video, Dan Denney published a post about the emphasis on community and quality of presentations.
  • Chris Sietsema travelled across the country to attend The Email Design Conference in Boston—and wrote about the nine lessons he learned during his journey.
  • Joining us at the conference for the second time (this time as a speaker!), Ted Goas recapped the conference, the people, and the main theme of the event.
  • “#TEDC15 Was Delightful and Diverse and I Can’t Wait to Go Back” by Alex Mohr—we don’t think that title needs any further explaining!
  • Despite suffering from self-diagnosed “post-conference depression,” Karina Tovar put together a very detailed post of lessons she learned at the conference (and even included some fun animated GIFs along the way).

Get it all: Slides & recordings of the sessions

Recordings and slides of all of the sessions will be ready soon. Subscribe to receive updates about when they’ll be available.

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Introducing John, Growth Director Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:28:18 +0000 Oh, hello there! Fancy seeing you here.

Thanks for popping in, I’m excited to finally get to meet you all.

(Err…does “meeting” still count even though it’s over the interwebs? …I think so!)

My name is John, Growth Director here at Litmus.

Who the Heck is John?


Well, for starters I grew up in suburban Connecticut, which I guess is a bit of an oxymoron, as the whole state is essentially a suburb. But it’s where I’m from, and where I still call home.

I originally went to school with aspirations of becoming a journalist, but after seeing how technology was transforming that industry, I saw marketing as an obvious extension and something I was passionate about.

However, that journalist DNA really never leaves you, and is why I’ve always been most focused on communicating a great and accurate story to the people who need it most. Whether it’s an email, blog post, or overall brand message, I like to say I’m a writer who does marketing, not the other way around.

My Role At Litmus

As Growth Director, I have the privilege of helping to spread the Litmus message to even more people who need our help.

(There are over 4 billion email accounts worldwide, so there are plenty!)

This means I’ll be working with others to think of new ways to reach people, helping to grow not only our footing in the email industry, but you as well.

It’s so easy to get behind a company with the vision of Make Email Better.

It’s simple, short, and a worthy cause considering that email is the holy grail of online communication.

The best part is joining such a brilliant group of people in carrying that message out.

Outside of Litmus

When I unplug, I tend to go very analog.

I’m a huge book nerd, and still to this day do not own a Kindle or anything of the like. I still love the feel and smell of books. (Yup, nerd.)

I also love playing music. I’ve been playing guitar for a little over 10 years, and when I plug in I tend to go heavy on 60s era blues.

Lastly, I’m a huge Yankee fan working for a company based out of Boston. Wish me luck!

Join me on the Litmus team!

Between catered lunches, top notch equipment, 28 vacation days, and so much more, Litmus is a great place to work. And, guess what? We’re hiring!

Check out our open positions →

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6 Alternatives to Spending Thousands on an Email List Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:35:07 +0000 Email has the highest ROI across digital channels—and revenue from email has increased 28% in 2014. It’s no wonder that marketers are on the look out to grow their email lists quickly (and, hopefully, inexpensively).

Purchasing a list of email addresses may seem like a great solution, but it’s not.

While you get a list of leads instantaneously, there are some major drawbacks. It not only costs thousands of dollars, but purchasing a list can negatively affect your deliverability and sender reputation.

Under anti-spam laws, like the Canadian Anti-Spam Law, you cannot mail to those that did not opt-in to receive emails from you or partake in a business transaction with you. In addition, many Email Service Providers (ESPs) won’t let you send to a purchased list and, if you do, it can lead to an immediate termination of your account.

But, building a subscriber base is hard and without a good list, all of your hard email marketing work could be undervalued.

So what do you do? How do you grow your list with only opt-in subscribers?

Luckily, there are alternatives to building your lists—alternatives that are cost-effective and not detrimental to your sender reputation.

Optimize your signup forms

Signup forms should be easily accessible throughout your website.

Whether it’s a signup form on your blog to subscribe to new posts, or a form on one of your product pages to subscribe to product updates, forms should be prevalent throughout your site.

Potential subscribers should never have to search for a way to subscribe.

Your potential prospects are busy and don’t want to spend time filling out forms. For that reason, less is more when it comes to fields in signup forms—they should be ruthlessly stripped down to their minimum. Be strategic in the fields that you include (and A/B test to find the right mix of information).

Clearly indicate the value of what your subscribers will receive by signing up. They are giving you their email address—what are they getting in return?

Let them know about the valuable content they’ll receive, or a discount, or free swag. Make the benefit clear.


The Ultimate Guide to Email Signup Forms

Grow your subscriber list by optimizing your signup forms and overall conversion path. Download the report to find out how.

Download Now


Provide multiple subscription options

As inboxes become more crowded, subscribers expect messages tailored to them. When it comes to email, the more relevant it is, the more successful it will be.

One way to provide subscribers with relevant content—and encourage potential subscribers to sign up for your emails—is by providing several subscription options. If someone only wants to subscribe to blog articles or a niche-specific newsletter, give them that option.

For example, you can subscribe specifically to our Email Design Monthly newsletter. It doesn’t opt subscribers in for other communications, so they are only receiving the content that they are interested in.


By providing different subscription options, potential subscribers will feel more in control of the emails they’ll be receiving and therefore more likely to sign up.

Host or participate in a webinar or event

Attending or hosting a virtual or in-person event enables you to reach new audiences—and collect new email signups. Requiring registration for the event—even if it’s not paid—is a great way to build your list.

Promote your event to your current subscribers and social media followers and encourage them to share it with others. We found that emails about an event were 3.2 times more likely to be shared, than those that were not. Include social sharing and “share with a friend” links to make it easy!

Participating in an event with a partner is another way to build lists by reaching new audiences.

If both parties promote the event to their respective audiences and offer opt-ins during the signup process, the potential to quickly add new subscribers is massive. Explicitly add a checkbox that indicates which company potential subscribers will be receiving emails from.

Offer opt-in incentives

One of the easiest ways to grow your list is by requiring visitors to provide their email addresses in order to view a piece of content.

You already have the content ready—so why not require visitors to fill out a form to download it? It’s a swap—you get their email address, they get a valuable piece of content.

While we definitely don’t recommend gating every piece of content; ebooks, reports, whitepapers, Slideshare presentations, and videos are all lead generation opportunities.

Collect email addresses on social media

Promoting your newsletter on social media is a great way to collect new signups with ease.

Share past emails so your followers have an idea of what type of content they would be receiving—and link to your subscription center.

Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards allow you to attach a form to your tweet so that subscribers can send you their contact information with a single click. (They don’t have to fill out any forms!)

These cards sync with the majority of ESPs so any signups go directly into your database. In addition, you can create them for free and promote them to your followers, or pay to target them to a larger audience. MailChimp grew one of their lists by 12% through this method!


With Facebook’s call-to-action button, you can add a newsletter signup directly on your page. Or, you can create a tab for email signups within your account.

Potential subscribers don’t have to go to your site to sign up for your emails—they can do it directly on your social media page.

Campaign Monitor uses this technique.

Campaign Monitor

Send emails that gets shared

Your current subscribers are a great avenue to reach new subscribers. By encouraging your subscribers to forward and share your email, you’re expanding the reach of your messages and increasing the possibility of additional conversions.

You explicitly ask your subscribers to “download” an ebook or “signup” for a free trial, so why not ask them to share your email?

We found that emails with “share with your network” calls-to-action were 13 times more likely to be shared that the typical email.

In addition, emails that were personalized, or focused on events, helpful content, or transactional updates were more likely to be shared.

For more tips on sending emails that get shared, download The Viral Email Report.

Subscribe to get more helpful tips

We couldn’t write a post about growing your subscriber list without including a signup form, could we? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to get the latest email tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox a few times a month.

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6 Steps to Creating a Successful Welcome Email Experience Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:00:04 +0000 You’ve honed your email signup appeal language to entice people to subscribe. You’ve created a signup form that minimizes friction. You’ve placed that form on your website, in your mobile app, on your Facebook page, and in other places where your customers and potential customers will see them. And—success—people are subscribing. Now what?

Sending a welcome email is that next crucial step. Here are six tips to ensure that your welcome email creates a great subscriber experience:

1. Send a welcome email immediately!

Don’t settle for overnight batched welcome email sending. It has to be sent immediately after someone signs up.

The reason is that the new subscriber is engaged with your brand at that very moment. They’re on your website, in your app, or wherever they signed up from. They were not only engaged, but interested in hearing more. They’ve started a conversation. Don’t let the moment slip away. Send your welcome immediately and continue the conversation.

Another reason is that it lets the person know that their signup was successful. They asked for you to send them emails and you’ve already started fulfilling that promise. That creates a good brand impression by itself.

2. Generate value right away.

What did you promise people in your email signup appeal? Was it to send them helpful information? Great deals? Perhaps you promised a signup incentive? Whatever it was, your welcome email should at least start to fulfill that promise.

This is one of the big reasons why signup confirmation emails like this one from MASS MoCA are pointless—and have fallen almost completely out of favor. Why send an email that simply confirms a subscription and then makes subscribers wait to receive an email with something good in it when you can send a welcome email with valuable content instead? A welcome email can easily—and warmly—confirm a subscription and then quickly pivot to delivering value.

0113 MASS MoCA

To get to the value generation quickly, some brands will skip the welcome email all together and just start sending promotional emails. We don’t recommend this approach as it can be jarring—as if you’ve skipped all the niceties of conversation etiquette—and may make new subscribers think that they missed out on a welcome email.

3. Put subscriber-provided data to use.

Hopefully you asked new subscribers for as little information as possible during signup—perhaps only their email address—knowing that you’d be able to collect more information from a happy subscriber or customer later. However, if you did ask for additional key pieces of information, try to put those to use immediately in the welcome email.

For instance, if you asked for their name, include a personalized greeting. If you asked for their zip code, include some local store information, for example.


The Ultimate Guide to Email Signup Forms

Grow your subscriber list by optimizing your signup forms and overall conversion path. Download the report to find out how.

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4. Use context to tailor your welcome message.

A non-customer who signs up for emails on your homepage is a different subscriber than an existing customer who signs up during your checkout process, as is a non-customer who signed up via a sweepstakes.

The email acquisition source can tell you a lot about a new subscriber—how familiar they’re likely to be with your brand, what their expectations are, etc. If you track new subscriber by acquisition source, you can analyze their subscriber behavior—their tendency to purchase, engage, and complain, for instance—and formulate messaging strategies based on that.

Use that context to tailor your messaging so that it really resonates with those subscribers. For instance, that customer who opted in during checkout on your website, pitch them on downloading your mobile app, if that’s a high-value action that’s going to increase interactions and revenue for your brand. Whereas the best strategy for that non-customer who signed up on your homepage is probably to incentivize them to make their first purchase, so deliver a generous offer that will turn that prospect into a customer.

5. Don’t try to do too much in one email.

Especially in the age of mobile when screens are small and attention spans are short, there’s only so much that one welcome email can do. So don’t limit yourself to one welcome email. Send a series.

Keep that first email in the series focused on the most high-value action—the one that’s the most predictive of continued engagement and of generating the most subscriber lifetime value. Then use subsequent welcome emails to further educate subscribers on the value of engaging with your brand and with your emails.

A few of our personal favorites include:

Sending a chain of welcome emails allows them to emphasize different aspects of their businesses, and even to reiterate key calls-to-actions.

6. Ensure that you’re making a great first impression.

Your welcome email will be the first email that your new subscribers get from you. Will it get them excited about receiving more email or will it make them regret signing up. Part of that equation is messaging, but part of it is design and ensuring that your welcome email looks great and functions properly.

Chances are this Tide welcome email didn’t create much excitement. Besides the vague promises of emails to come, the broken logo image sends the message that they’re not taking the most care with their messages. No brand wants to give subscribers that impression.

0113 Tide

Keep in mind that just because your welcome email looks perfect on day one doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. ISPs are constantly changing HTML and CSS support and new and updated email clients and web browsers can affect how your emails render. No email is “set it and forget it,” so create a schedule for periodically reviewing all your triggered emails, including your welcomes.

Follow those 6 steps and you’ll be well on your way to having a high-performance welcome email program.

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9 Tips to Optimize Your Subscriber Journey Thu, 13 Aug 2015 13:39:33 +0000 Of all the communication channels available, 72% of consumers prefer companies to interact with them via email. Email marketing also happens to have the highest return on investment across channels, and companies have attributed nearly 23% of their total sales to email. Consumers want to receive email and data shows that it’s worth the investment—are you getting the most out of email that you can?

Using email to its full advantage is all about providing your customers with best possible experience. If they’re happy with the emails they’re receiving, then you’ll reap the benefits (which hopefully includes lots of sales). From the email signup, to the email itself, to the landing page—and everything in between—optimizing for every step of the subscriber experience is key to email marketing success.

The Signup

Email marketing starts before you actually send an email—it begins with your signup process. The difference between a well-designed signup process and a sub-optimized one can be the difference between a growing list and one that’s shrinking due to unsubscribes.

For starters, your subscribers should be obtained by filling out a form of some type—registering for a conference, downloading a report, or signing up for your tools or services. Never purchase an email list—everyone that you send to should have explicitly agreed to receive emails from you. You run the risk of being unsubscribed from, marked as spam, or even fined under some anti-spam laws, like the Canadian Anti-Spam Law, if you send unsolicited emails.

Your forms are the first step in the subscriber journey so it’s crucial you get them right. With optimized signup forms you can acquire more organic subscribers—the ones likely to exhibit the strongest engagement and stick with you the longest. While The Ultimate Guide to Email Signup Forms outlines many tips for getting your forms right, here are a few pointers:

  • Strip form fields down to their minimum: Adding form fields can decrease conversion rates, so only include fields that are crucial. A/B test to see what works for you, or consider using progressive profiling to build your subscriber’s profile over several interactions.
  • Provide valuable content: Include a clear value proposition about why subscribers should give you their email. Are they going to receive helpful content? Get a free t-shirt?
  • Test your forms: Ensure that your forms work and that each signup is going to the right list in your email service provider (ESP).
  • Allow all email domains: It’s a mistake to try and prevent certain email domains from signing up using your forms—don’t create any additional friction.

Once your subscribers give you their email address, be sure to send a welcome email. Whether it’s welcoming them to a newsletter, or a free trial, thank your subscribers for signing up. You’re top of mind at this point, so they will be expecting an immediate email from you.


The Ultimate Guide to Email Signup Forms

Grow your subscriber list by optimizing your signup forms and overall conversion path. Download the report to find out how.

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The Inbox

You’ve accomplished your goal of growing your email lists. Now what? Don’t blow it by sending emails that don’t get opened. With an increasingly crowded inbox—and ever-decreasing attention spans—getting your subscribers to open your emails is a challenge. You only have seconds to grab your readers’ attention and interest them enough to open and read your email—you’ve got to get it right.

Use a recognizable from name

Is your from name recognizable and trustworthy to external audiences? Since this is the field that appears first in most email clients, and likely the first thing your subscribers see, the answer to that question should be yes.

Typically, you’ll find the names of companies, brands, or individuals here. However, if your subscriber doesn’t know who an email is from, the likelihood they’ll open diminishes. Subscribers may even mark an email from an unknown source as spam.

Carefully consider the relationship between the subscriber and your brand—are they more likely to recognize the name of your brand/product, or the name of an individual at your company? A/B testing over time can reveal the right approach for you—it may be a mix.

Include an optimized subject line

There is no set formula for creating the perfect subject line. What works for one brand may not work for yours; it all depends on your audience. This is another aspect of your email that is ideal to A/B test.

Since you only have about 50 characters standing between you and your email’s success, optimizing this portion of your email is crucial. There are lots of tips on how to write the perfect subject line, but generally you want to:

  • Be useful and specific
  • Use timely topics and urgency
  • Avoid using promotional or spammy language

In addition, many email clients will truncate subject lines after they reach a certain limit—cutting off a portion of your subject line. Preview your subject lines across mobile, desktop, and webmail inboxes to verify it’s displaying as you intended.

Take advantage of preview text

In many inboxes, there is an extra line or two—or even three—of text that can work with your subject line to encourage the open. Preview text is a snippet of copy pulled in from the body of your email and typically displayed underneath the from name and subject line in a subscriber’s inbox. It is alternatively referred to as snippet text or a preheader.


Like everything in email, support for preview text varies. Even when preview text is supported, no two inboxes look the same—both placement and character count vary.

While there are lots of tips and tricks for optimizing your preview text, here are a few bits of advice:

  • Think of it as a second subject line: Use similar testing strategies like you would for subject line testing. Do your subscribers respond better to urgency, humor, or symbols?
  • Front load keywords: Since some clients only supported a few characters of preview text, pack the beginning of your preview text with keywords and phrases that perform. However, make sure it’s long enough to fill the space in iOS and Apple Mail inboxes.
  • Avoid repetition: Don’t just copy the subject line or headline! Try personalization, including a call-to-action (CTA), or even try mentioning an article that’s located further down in the email to encourage scrolling.

The best part is that changing or testing preview text is easy—there’s no HTML or design required. It’s pulled from the first few lines of text found within an email and can either be displayed or hidden in the body of your campaign. If you’ve planned for the headline or first few lines of text in the body of your message to play off the subject line, adding separate preview text isn’t necessary.

Oftentimes preview text contains social sharing links or instructions to “View this email in web browser,” “Forward to a friend,” or “Having trouble viewing this email?, as it’s pulled from the logo or hero image in an email. Since text like this doesn’t encourage your subscribers to open your email, use a little HTML and CSS to hide or define your preheader text.

The Email

You’ve convinced your subscribers to open your campaign. Now it’s time to get the email right. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Optimize for viewing across environments

Discovering where your audience is opening your emails can help you focus your design and testing efforts. While responsive design is great tactic for ensuring compatibility across all environments, it’s not supported everywhere. Consider using these mobile-friendly elements as a backup for when media queries aren’t supported:

Simplify content and design

Your subscribers are distracted—so keep your content and design simple, allowing them to scan your email quickly. Only include information that is relevant and needed to convince your subscribers to take an action. Nix all of the extra content and consider putting that on a landing page.

If your design is two or more columns, chances are it’ll look crowded on the small screen of a mobile device. Consider using a one-column design for increased legibility, allowing your subscribers to easily read and interact with your email.

Make text bigger

Your subscribers shouldn’t have to zoom in to read your message, so use large fonts. We recommend using a minimum size of 14px for body copy and 22px for headlines. Keeping text at least 14px will avoid broken navigation bars and other layout elements on iOS, which automatically resizes small copy to a minimum of 13px.

Use clear, touch-friendly CTAs

Once someone opens your email, they should almost immediately be able to identify what the CTA(s) are in your email. The content should clearly point to the action that the subscriber is supposed to take.

In addition, the CTA(s) should be extremely easy for the subscriber to take action upon. Ensure that your links and buttons are touch-friendly. Don’t include back-to-back links or lots of text near CTAs. You’ll want to surround each one with plenty of white space so they are easily clickable—and touchable. If you’re using buttons, we recommend using at least a 44x44px minimum button size.

Don’t forget the text version

Unless you’re sending a plain text email, multi-part MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) should be part of every email campaign. Multi-part MIME bundles together a simplified plain text version of your email along with the HTML version of your email.


Here are some reasons why sending in multi-part MIME is a necessity:

  • Spam filters like to see a plain text alternative
  • Some email clients and apps can’t handle HTML (we’re looking at you, Apple Watch)
  • Some people simply prefer it and opt to only receive the plain text version

While we have plenty of detailed tips for optimizing plain text emails, here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Define headers and CTAs: Try using capslock or symbols to create hierarchy, differentiating headlines and CTAs from body text.
  • Include whitespace: Use line breaks between different content sections, headlines, and CTAs for increased legibility.
  • Use bulleted lists: While bullet points aren’t supported, you can use other characters, like -, *, or +, to assist with creating hierarchy.

Design defensively

While images will be displayed in many desktop, mobile, and webmail inboxes, in many they will be disabled.


With so many email clients blocking images by default, email designers have to be prepared. Luckily, there are a number of strategies to help combat image blocking:

  • Include ALT text: When images in email are turned off or disabled, ALT text (which is short for alternative text) often renders in place of the image. Use ALT text to provide some context for subscribers when images are disabled.
  • Use bulletproof buttons: CTAs should be viewable—and actionable—regardless of whether images are present or not. While text links will display in an image-off environment, typical image-based buttons will not. Add a little HTML and inline styles and rest-assured that your CTA buttons will display even when images are blocked.
  • Balance imagery and text: Ditch the solely image-based email and opt for a balance of live text and imagery. It ensures that your emails are accessible, eliminates the HTML-to-text ratio spam issue, and allows for the email to be legible and easy to interact with regardless of whether images are present or not.
  • Add in background colors: Adding background colors throughout your email, particularly behind images, allows for hierarchy and, to an extent, design to be present in an images-off environment.
  • A/B test and preview your designs

    We’re big advocates of testing—whether it be A/B testing or QA testing. Both are great tactics to ensure you’re providing your subscribers with the best email experience possible.

    Use A/B testing to compare the results of one version of an email against another version of an email. It can give marketers concrete evidence of which tactics work on their audiences and which don’t. There are countless things to test, including headlines, preheader text, from names, and images. It’s one of the most effective and easiest ways to make measurable improvements to your campaigns.

    There are seemingly countless ways that email clients can break your designs. What looks great in one inbox, could look completely mangled and broken in another. Preview your campaigns across mobile, desktop, and webmail clients before sending. You’ve convinced your subscribers to open your email—don’t ruin it with a broken design.

    Preview your campaigns across 40+ real email clients with Litmus. Try us free for 7 days!

    The Landing Page

    Your subscriber’s experience doesn’t end with your email—it continues onto the landing page, or website. Similar to the email, keep the content streamlined and include a clear CTA. Also, if your email is mobile-friendly, your website should be, too. You wouldn’t want your subscriber to get all the way to the landing page only to be turned off by an inaccessible experience.

    PS. Elements on the landing page are great to A/B test, too!


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