Know Your Speakers: Cori Hemmah

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The Email Design Conference is right around the corner and it’s packed with great talks from a bunch of amazing speakers. The email community is a tight-knit group, but we can always get a bit closer, right?

With that in mind, we asked the speakers a few questions to get to know them better. We’ll be posting their responses over the course of the next few weeks leading up to the conference.

First up is Cori Hemmah. A veteran email marketer, Cori used to manage Zendesk’s worldwide email communications before joining Xamarin in September 2013. She now heads up Demand Generation and spends her days thinking about lead generation, marketing automation and, naturally, email. You can catch her on Tuesday, August 19th talking about email tools and layout best practices at The Email Design Conference.

How long have you been in email marketing?

I’m coming up on six years now. I absolutely love it now but it took me a while to get here, and I think it’s because initially I didn’t have the best experience.

The first email I ever sent on behalf of a company was an event invitation, and marketing automation software wasn’t very popular yet. I had to send the invites out through my corporate Outlook account to about 2000 people, and all of their contact info resided in an Excel doc. We had an image created for us that included all of the event information, and I copied and pasted that into the email body (most definitely without an image alt tag), retyped the subject line, and then sent the email out to 30 addresses at a time so my account wouldn’t get blacklisted. It took me about six hours. It was literally the opposite of marketing automation, and it was horrible.

What’s your favorite part of working with email?

I love knowing that my work is going to seen by a huge amount of people; it makes me want to put the time and effort into making my emails beautiful, relevant, and engaging.

Before I start a new project I like to think about how my audience is going to react when they open the email, and I try to think about that moment as much as possible throughout the design process. If at any point I look at what I’m working on and the images aren’t that great or the CTA isn’t clear or my design isn’t clean and delicious, I take a step back and think about what I can do to make the email better. I will spend two hours making sure margins around a button are perfect across all devices so that anyone opening my email has the best experience possible.

It might sound crazy, but if somebody is (hopefully) going to take a minute or two out of their busy day to look at what I sent them, then I should do everything I can to make opening the email worth their time.

Who do you think is crushing it with email?

IFTTT: This is by far one of the most gorgeous newsletters in the tech industry. They use big, beautiful images, tons of white space, and minimal text to get their point across. I really look forward to opening their newsletter every month.

Pinterest: There’s this line of copy at the end of the first Pinterest for Business onboarding email telling recipients that they’re going to receive five emails over the next five days, and the email includes a short, one-line summary of what those emails are about. I bet their unsubscribe rates from those emails are super low since their audience knows in advance that they’ll be receiving more emails and they also know what content those emails will contain–it’s brilliant.

Squarespace: Their welcome email is fantastic. Clean layout, copy that’s easy to understand, and the picture of their Customer Care team at the bottom is such a nice, personal touch.

What can we expect from your talk at TEDC14?

I’m planning on covering my favorite template tools for designing, building, and testing emails, talking about several email layout “worst practices” and how to avoid them, and discussing easy-to-implement design ideas that will make emails stand out and look amazing.

My goal is to give everybody who attends ideas and resources they can put into place immediately.

I’m also really excited for the Q&A section at the end. I like learning about the things people are having trouble with and listening to others’ opinions on ideas I covered in my talk, and people always seem to ask questions about topics I haven’t necessarily thought about too much before. It’s pretty great.

When you’re not knee deep in Outlook issues, what do you like to do?

Travel! I think I’ve been to 25ish countries and I’m heading to Morocco and Mallorca in a couple weeks. I like to pick one thing to accomplish on a trip (for example, in Morocco it’s “ride a camel”) and then just wing the rest of it. My life goal is to visit all seven continents and I’m about to hit five, so I’m really excited about that!

I really love to cook. I just got the KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday and it is such a magical tool. I bought the pasta attachments and can now make ravioli and fettucini from scratch, and I do commentary while I’m cooking like I’m on the Food Network (“And now, we’re going to add a little bit of flour to the dough…oops, to the floor. Shoot.”). It’s pretty fun.

I’m also a big fan of Jeopardy. I’m not that great at it, but it’s an awesome way to relax after work. Plus, Alex Trebek still looks fantastic. My mom thinks it’s weird that I feel that way, and that’s confusing to me, so I just tell her, “You better check yourself before you Trebek yourself, mom.” She loves it.

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