Know Your Speakers: Mike Heimowitz and Jason Meeker

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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.

Today, we’re chatting with Mike Heimowitz of Atlassian and Jason Meeker of RootedELM. Mike will be talking about  A/B testing and Jason will be presenting the strategy behind Hyde Park Jewelers’ revamped email program at the conference.

You can catch both talks on Wednesday, August 20th at The Email Design Conference.

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Mike Heimowitz

Mike Heimowitz works as an Online Marketing Manager for the software company Atlassian, where he builds, sends, and tests all major emails, as well as manages Atlassian’s social media channels. Before Atlassian, Mike worked in the marketing department for his lifelong favorite sports team, the San Francisco Giants, where he wrote and produced content for the in-game entertainment. He has also worked on various TV shows including “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Sarah Silverman Program.”

How did you first get started in email?

I started off solely doing social media for the company I work for, Atlassian, but then we all felt like it would be a natural fit to combine my position of managing our social media accounts along with email marketing. It really made sense since much of the communication aligns between both channels. Since starting with email, I absolutely love it and am amazed at not only the staying power of email, but the advancements that have been made in the space.

Why is email important to you?

Email continues to be one of the best ways to reach the masses. Unlike social media, email provides a much more captive audience and much easier way to track ROI. I also love the creativity that email provides with the limitless possibilities of design, content, and whatever else I can fit into the usual 600px wide space to work.

What’s your favorite part of working with email?

I love some of the challenges that email brings. Outlook, while crazy, is still fun to tackle. Gmail on mobile, while also crazy but with extremely different challenges than Outlook, is still very fun to tackle.

As anyone in email knows, the fragmentation in designing for different clients can be a beastly task, and is downright puzzling to see, but there is something extremely satisfying about designing an email, testing it in every single client, and getting the final product to look exactly as planned throughout each experience.

What can we expect from your talk at TEDC14?

A/B testing is fun. Really, really fun. I’m amazed at some of the results of tests that I’ve run to see the differences in behavior from the various email audiences. I hope that my talk reflects that and provides inspiration for everyone to improve their own email program by doing more meaningful variations of what they think works best.

It is so common to get comfortable with a template that has been used for awhile, only to not realize that it can still be better optimized.

I also want to stress that contrary to what people might think, testing doesn’t require any kind of math or statistics background, and really is fairly easy to do.

All marketers can run tests and even at the very basic level get meaningful enough metrics to improve their future sends.

What was your first email address?

The first email address I remember is my AOL account, which I’m proud/embarrassed to say I still use. I think I created it sometime around 8th grade, and combined my nickname (Heimy) with the #25 (shoutout to my favorite baseball player Barry Bonds) to create the ultra hybrid handle, heimy25@aol.com. It is still in use because all of the “Free AOL” CDs I used to receive have yet to expire. Should be good for at least another 10 years…

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Jason Meeker

After ten years as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives and public affairs director for the Ohio Attorney General, Jason Meeker started out on his own to take what had been a hobby and a turn it into his livelihood. He founded meeker omnimedia and focused on offering creative and web services to political entities and the business community. Through this venture Jason happened to take on a project for several email templates and jumped head first into the world of email design, which has since become his passion. He currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, where he oversees the creative and technological portions of RootedELM as strategic partner.

How did you first get started in email?

Eschewing almost a decade of political and state government work, in 2010 I decided to shift directions and start my own business. My idea was to do web and creative work, focusing on nonprofits and political entities.

To ensure I had money coming in every month, I did some sub-contractor work for an agency and my first project was an email template. My day to day life very quickly became enveloped by email design. After about six months I parted ways with the agency – and my original ideas for what my future held – to help start RootedELM. I haven’t looked back since.

At RootedELM we focus almost exclusively on email and we’ve been lucky to have clients that give us great liberty with their marketing programs. It seems like years but – thanks in large part to my RootedELM family and our awesome clients – I’ve gone from trying to hack around Outlook to trying to find ways I can push the limits of email design.

What’s your favorite part of working with email?

It’s funny that this is one of your questions, as I just had a conversation with some friends – none of whom are close to being tech savvy – about this very subject.

My favorite part is that at the end of the week I have something to show for my work.

In my previous life, far too often I ended up feeling like I was spinning my wheels. With email design I still get to work through sometimes complicated concepts but I know it’s going somewhere and there’s a definitive end point.

Who do you think is crushing it with email?

Moo.com might be a company focused on printing, but they have really taken advantage of their email communications with their customers. I especially like their sales offers as they tend to be more modern designs that utilize animated GIFs in a way you might not have envisioned. Their transactional emails are also great from order to ship.

REI also knows their customers very well and are making great use of email. All their sales emails are responsive and their transactional emails are also designed so that when viewed on a mobile device you can easily read them. Their sales emails, in particular, are usually really good and convey the brand well.

I really like the emails that ßetabrand has been sending out. ßetabrand knows their audience and every email shows it. While they tend to make heavy use of animated GIFs, it fits. Most of their emails also look great regardless of the device you’re viewing them on.

Nordstrom is one of a few luxury brands that are keenly aware that their clientele are opening emails on mobile devices. Most – if not all – of their emails utilize a mix of fluid design and highly legible imagery to ensure that they are easily viewed on a phone.

Last but not least, I think Kevin, Matt and the rest of the crew at Litmus are making some really great emails. Not only do they push the envelope on what email can do but they keep a consistant brand image while doing it. They’ve been getting really good at exemplifying what email can and should be.

What email client could you live without?

I think most people would answer Outlook here but I’m going to go with any iteration of the Gmail App. Outlook is horrible, but at least it’s a known quantity – people will be viewing the emails in a desktop environment – that gives you some room to work around. With the Gmail App you have a mobile environment that you know is predominantly being viewed on a phone sized screen but doesn’t honor media queries like iOS or the native android mail app.

With so many opens happening on phones and tablets, it gets frustrating that a Google app can be described as the Outlook of the mobile world. My only hope is now that Google seems to be taking a page out of Apple’s book with regards to human interface guidelines that they’ll also borrow Apple’s mindset on email clients.

What was your first email address?

jmeeker@zoomnet.net

Zoomnet was a dialup ISP that was based out of Portsmouth, OH and covered most of Southeastern Ohio, North Eastern Kentucky and Huntington, WV. We started at 28.8K and thought things were fast when they upgraded their modem banks to handle 56K calls – I guess I showed my age there a bit.

What’s your hidden talent?

Not an answer, but no you will not see me rapping Waterfalls or any other TLC song at this year’s conference – we’ll leave that to Matt Byrd.

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