Author - Jack Steele

I Attended Litmus Live in London. Here’s What I Learned.

I went to Litmus Live London. Heres What I Learned.

Recently, I had the chance to work remotely from the UK. I’m always glad to be back in my homeland, and I was happy to see that the email community across the pond is thriving. I attended Litmus Live London while I was there, and I have to say that it was great to reconnect with my fellow English #emailgeeks.

The event was packed into a full day of talks, networking, and live email optimization. The talks fell into two categories:

  • Marketing
  • Design & Development

I primarily focused on the Design & Development side of things, and since the event, I’ve been reflecting on some interesting and inspiring trends that I observed. Here are my key takeaways and the things I’m excited to bring back to Knak.

Big, Bold Design Trends

Lily Worth’s talk on Visual Design Techniques to Ignite the Inbox showcased some of 2019’s best-looking email campaigns. The pieces she picked were great examples, and they really inspired me to reconsider the things that make companies stand out from the crowd.

She also shared some excellent examples from SaaS companies, including Helpscout, which uses custom illustrations and bold typography to great effect, and Asana, whose animated GIFs put educational animation for new product releases directly in the inbox.

As tech leaders, I think it’s crucial for SaaS companies to be at the forefront of email design innovation, and that’s what we’re working towards with the recently launched Knak newsletter. We need to find that perfect balance between useful product information, beautiful design, and email development innovation.

Accessibility

The web version of W3C has been around for a while, but since the mysterious art of email development still has many caveats, it’s been more difficult to establish best practices for accessibility.

Fortunately, accessibility was a key theme in this year’s Litmus Live talks. Paul Airy shared some particularly inspiring insight into how an accessible design system can be built into the email workflow (check out the accessibility switcher in this email for an example).

I’ve subscribed to his “Type E” newsletter for a number of years now, so I knew he would share some excellent, innovative ideas on email development, and his talk did not disappoint. We’re always trying to make Knak’s email code as accessible as possible, but I love the idea of empowering both users and senders alike to make emails accessible. Recipients should be able to interpret the content of your emails no matter what, and building a workflow and design system around this idea seems like a no-brainer for anyone sending out email on a large scale.

Workflow

Working towards email evangelism isn’t necessarily a linear process. Teams can be organized in various formats, so the email workflow should be built around the people involved and develop as necessary.

Mark Robbins covered this well in his talk on fostering innovation, neatly summarizing some necessary steps:

  • Understand what works best for you.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Write your own rules.
  • If it’s not working, change it.
  • Learn how to learn.

He also noted that avoiding stagnation and working towards innovation is key for everyone: individuals, teams, and the email community as a whole.

Miles Depaul continued the conversation by giving some interesting insight into how SCRUM can be used for email teams to work toward development style stories or goals in sprints. The Knak product team already uses the SCRUM methodology, and we’ve started implementing it on the marketing side as well to help us define and align our goals as we grow.

Miles suggested that SCRUM is important for email teams where a number of different roles and individuals are involved in the process.

In the coming year, I believe that software tools designed to streamline both individual and team workflow management will become increasingly important in our space.

All in all, I’m glad I had the chance to reconnect with the Litmus Live London crew. I’m grateful for another year of email inspiration, connection with my fellow #emailgeeks, and a solid variety of colorful socks.

My Takeaways From Litmus Live: Email Trends You Need Now

Better emails, better results

Last month, I attended Litmus Live in San Francisco. Knak has been a Litmus customer for quite some time, and as Knak’s lead email developer, I was excited to spend a few days talking about one of my favorite subjects with a thousand fellow email geeks (yes, I’m nerdy and I know it…).

I walked away with some great new ideas, so here are the top takeaways from my two days in email Disneyland, as well as some trends that I can see revolutionizing the email game in 2019.

Key(ping) it Real: Key Takeaways that Boost Success

 

Ensure that teams and channels are aligned on the email process

Lauren Kremer, Senior Marketing Specialist, talked about email marketing being the hub of an omnichannel marketing process largely because of the reporting that comes from it. It’s easier to track results from email marketing than almost any other channel, so it makes sense to transition your thinking to incorporate this. Picture your email marketing as the center of the wheel, and align your other channels — social media, trade shows, etc — around that center.
Team alignment is key to making this happen, so if that’s a challenge at your organization, work towards unifying your strategy among teams and channels, making sure to let the channel experts be experts in order to maintain a clear voice.

Work to streamline the approval process

Working with Knak clients has shown me that the one of the biggest email marketing challenges large enterprises face is the approval process, a challenge that was discussed at length during Litmus Live. Getting approval is the longest (and often most frustrating) part of the email process, especially at the enterprise level. Watching good emails languish between departments is a marketer’s nightmare, and getting them out on time can be a huge hurdle to overcome.

We actively solicit our client’s feedback to refine the approval process within our Enterprise product, which aims to streamline the email process from creation to approval.

Quality Assurance is job #1

Nathan Stack, Director of QA at Rapp, provided some great insight into his QA process, and it encouraged me to consider how approvals can be broken down into stages.
Currently, Knak Enterprise admin users can set module rules that define quality that must be matched in order for the emails to go out. As we move forward, we’ll be looking to incorporate some additional checkpoints, such as testing for link functionality and accessibility compliance.

Say goodbye to Frankenstein

It’s time to stop piecing your workflow together. I’ve been using grunt.js to automate my email workflow for a while, but Jeffrey Hoffman’s talk on Modular Design was really helpful. He broke down the use of Helpers, Variables, Partials, and Conditionals with terrific clarity. The overarching message of his talk was that while your workflow may be comprised of many different elements, they should work together to contribute to one fluid process.

Marketo 2.0 editor encourages building with this method and provides the interface needed for editing. Knak Builder does this also, but with an additional layer of flexibility. We have helpers in content blocks, partials in the form of modules, and variables at the brand-to-theme level that give our users a more efficient workflow without requiring them to write any code.

The future, and how we fit in

 

Flagship email can be huge to a product’s success

A weekly or monthly product email is a great way to drive engagement and keep the product at the forefront of a customer’s mind. One key example of this is the weekly report Grammarly sends to its users. It breaks down their productivity and progress (and, let’s be real: it makes sure to underscore how smart the user is), and it’s been truly embraced by Grammarly’s customers.

Moving from editorial to automated allows for improvement over time

Seth Weisfeld, Product Manager, Growth Traffic at Pinterest, talked about how the company has transitioned from human-curated to individualized, automated emails. Pinterest personalizes every detail of their emails according to the recipient’s needs, including the subject line, copywriting, and even the send frequency.

Nick Goldsberry, Senior Solutions Architect at Levementum, underscored this in his talk, enthusiastically outlining the benefits of email scripting and complex dynamic emails. It’s not hard to see why he’s excited: the changes have resulted in click-through rate increases of 102% at Levementum, quarter after quarter.

AMPscript

This is another area Seth Weisfeld covered extensively. He introduced some terrific examples of AMPscripting for interactive email, which allows users to render content on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis. It delivers an incredibly advanced level of email and landing page personalization, and it’s changing the game at Pinterest.

It’s new territory, but it’s one we’re excited to explore down the line at knak.

Continuing the Magic

I realize not everyone gets super excited to spend two days at an email conference (though if you do, you should join us next year!) For me though, Litmus Live was a great opportunity to connect with other email developers and find out what the future of email looks like.

As we head into 2019, I’m looking forward to implementing some of these new ideas and working with our customers to take their emails to the next level.

How to Create an On-Point Email Signature

Take advantage of a highly visible, low-cost branding opportunity

Every single email you send has its own branding opportunity: your email signature. But when it comes to your marketing plan, many times the email signature is an afterthought.

We were in this boat at Knak, as the classic shoe-makers children example goes: we did not have the best kicks on the block. Our email signature was plain text, and nearly every employee had a slightly different version.

We wanted to create a consistent, unified look that properly represented our brand, so we set out to develop an email signature generator that would deliver the goods … the Air Jordans of the email signature game if you will.

Our Former Email Signature: Plain and (way too) simple

 

Knak - Old Email Signature

Our old signature was fairly uninspired. The basic signature was created and shared manually, and it wasn’t consistent across Knak and Revenue Pulse, our two brands. We emphasize the importance of consistent branding to our clients, so we wanted to demonstrate that we’re practicing what we preach.

We also wanted to give each of our employees a clear and simple method for uploading their own signature within brand guidelines, while giving them the freedom to decide which contact fields to include.

Design & Refine

 

Email Signature Generator

To get started, our graphic designer developed a few mockups using Sketch. We used InVision, an app that allows team members to collaborate and leave feedback on designs, to share the ideas before moving forward to development. Once we narrowed it down to a few top choices, we solidified the fields we wanted to include, and built the user interface around those fields. We included a variety of fields, like LinkedIn, Calendly, and Twitter, but we made most of them optional so our employees can include only what they want to share.

We then used Knak Builder to turn the HTML into a template that could be used in our signature builder app and developed the signature builder using Vue.js. As the employee fills out the form, the values populate the corresponding variable field in the signature, and column width automatically adjusts based on the number of characters in the field.

Once we had a solid prototype in place, we started testing. We hosted the app on AWS so our team could try it out internally across a variety of email clients. As it turns out, Apple Mail makes it difficult to add a signature, so we adjusted the instructions to fit their specifications. Once the app worked smoothly with Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, etc, we rolled it out to our entire team.

 

Final Product: A Consistent Brand

 

Now, our signatures are consistent and professional across our entire brand. Signatures are set up during the onboarding process, and any updates to our branding are easily shared with the whole team through the app – no individual updates required.

The app can also be repurposed for any of our clients as a custom build and we are considering adding it as a standalone product in Knak. Now that we’ve refined the process, designing a custom signature can be done in a flash.

Your email signature is probably one of your most visible branding opportunities. Take a look at yours. Does it properly represent who you are? If not, perhaps it’s time to give it a makeover.