Some Things Go Better Together

As a digital marketer, you want to provide a seamless digital experience to your audience. Integrating your digital channels to support one another, as well as supporting all of your marketing efforts, allows for a more holistic approach. Today, more and more marketers are taking a multi-channel approach to leverage and optimize their ROI. According to DMA’s 2016 Response Rate Report, marketers continue to claim email as the number one channel, earning 122 percent ROI, with social coming in next-highest, at 28 percent ROI.

Yet, many brands continue to struggle with integrating email and social media effectively, not because it’s hard, but because the right hand isn’t talking to the left hand, and vice versa. This is why the first step is to get them talking with one another. Assess where you are and what you hope to achieve by working together. What’s great is there is absolute overlap between both email and social for them to coexist harmoniously.

Here are (7) seven ways to integrate social media and email activities to support one another:

1.   Add social media icons to your emails to follow your brand on social media channels

  • Most email programs offer this standard in their templates these days, but it’s just as easy to add the social icons and links manually to your template.

2.  Create ‘click to tweet’ or ‘one-click share’ options for other social networks in your emails so your audience can easily share on the network of their choice. This will expand your reach of your content.

  • This is also a great tactic when trying to enable internal employees to share your content. At SparkPost we have a Marketo template that we send out weekly that allows employees to share to whatever platform they prefer. This is a nice alternative to asking employees to log into a social marketing automation platform such as HootSuite Amplify, Oktopost, or GaggleAmp. Because instead, this gets fed to them weekly in a format they already log into every day and consume. Plus with one-click buttons, it makes it super easy to share.

3.  Use Full Contact or ClearBit to identify the social networks that your constituents are on.

  • By doing so you can then send a targeted email to those constituents on a particular network and tell them why they should follow or engage with your brand on that network.

4.  Promote email opt-ins by using a Twitter card to have folks sign up for your email list with the click of a button or by adding a ‘subscribe’ tab to your Facebook page.

  • By comprising a tweet or post that tells folks what they’re missing out on in your email campaigns, you give them a compelling reason to sign up. Plus they never have to leave the social network they’re on to subscribe.

5.  Upload your subscriber lists to social networks to create tailored, custom, or lookalike audience ads.

  • If you’re not doing this then you are missing out on a golden opportunity for brand awareness, affinity, and recall. Getting in front of your prospects/customers in a place where they already consume content keeps you top of mind for when they need your product/service. Or better yet, when someone asks them about your industry.

6.  Drive people to your website via email or social and then retarget them via social or online ads.

  • As we all know, it takes on average 7-12 touches to convert, so by giving folks a call-to-action to your website or blog so you can retarget them for a second chance at conversion is genius.

7.  Re-engage your constituents by sending them back to your website or landing page for a specific purpose or campaign.

  • Since society is so bogged down by content these days, in order to cut through the noise on social media you need to spend a lot of money on advertising. But if your budget is constricted, a gentle reminder via email that a specific campaign is going on, is sometimes the best tactic to alert people about it. Why? Because everybody who is on social media has email.

With the ubiquitousness of email and the ever-changing landscape of social media, there are constantly new opportunities emerging for these platforms to play off one another to optimize your digital strategy and marketing ROI. Don’t wait for the next big thing, evangelize your current assets and you’ll be amazed at your results.

Tracy Sestili

This article was originally published in the Social Tools Summit Magazine.

aws marketplace sparkpost blog footer

We’re officially one week out from the Labor Day Holiday, the bittersweet end to the long summer months. While critics might say it’s far too late to start planning a holiday email campaign, the forever optimists over here at SparkPost beg to differ. Today’s blog is a short and sweet list of ideas to help you pull off an effective labor day email marketing campaign with time to spare.

Use an Attractive Template

Whether you have an in-house design team or an outside agency, great email design makes a HUGE difference in how your brand is perceived by subscribers.  For many customers, emails are the initial impression your brand or business makes, so take full advantage and make sure your templates are up to par. If you design your own or dabble in coding them yourself, check out these tips to designing your own retail templates.

Think Time-Sensitive

Use the Labor Day holiday to host a limited time offer. Keep your offer brief and simple, and make your subscribers feel that this particular offer is special, unique and relevant to the holiday. An offer with a time limit that recipients can only take advantage of during the holiday creates a sense of urgency and compels recipients to act quickly.

Make it Social

Take advantage of your database’s reach by including a social share button in your emails. You can either provide a click to tweet link where subscribers share a purchase they made, information about an upcoming event, or other snippets of info about your company. You’d be surprised how willing people are to click share — especially if there’s a tiny incentive in it for them! The potential amplification effect this could have on your brand extends to all of your subscribers’ social networks and their friends’ social networks, etc — it’s truly a ripple effect.

Work on Those Subject Lines!

Think outside the (in)box. Take your time to be creative with your subject line. Writing a great subject line is truly an art, and one that only gets better with practice. Bounce a few ideas off of colleagues before you settle on one — better yet, A/B test a few and see what works best. The subject line acts as the first impression to your subscribers, so you want to make it catchy yet to the point.

Data, Data, Data

Sure, data isn’t the most glamorous thing to talk about. But guess what? It’s an email marketing workhorse. Adding just a few customer data points can make the difference in a “click” or “delete” which directly impacts your bottom line. Consider using purchase data, geographic location or segmented lists to further personalize your emails and drive engagement.

 

If you don’t have time to execute an email campaign for Labor Day this year, you can always send a simple note for a safe and happy holiday – it’s a way to mark the day and stay top of mind to your subscribers.

Have you seen any great Labor Day email campaigns this year? Share them with us by commenting below or on Twitter, we’d love to see them.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Beyond the click blog footer 600x150 unsubscribers

Preparing For Take Off..

When an email marketing campaign is done correctly, it can show huge positive impact on a business’ bottom line. I like to look at the preparation for them similar to the process of a space shuttle launch, like a ticking countdown clock until you press “send”.

When it comes to sending an email to thousands of customers or subscribers, I think anyone would skip a heartbeat at the process. We had our Email Marketing Manager, Jenna let us know the stress-inducing tasks she experiences daily. There are so many things to review before fully completing your email campaign so I’ve put together a handy email campaign checklist you can use before pressing send on your next campaign.

T-43 Hours and Counting

Email Lists

  • Are you using the right list for your email campaign? Sending to the wrong email list could result in many unhappy customers. Once you’ve got that in check, review your list to ensure that it’s segmented correctly. This way you can focus on personalization to increase engagement. Use the customer data that you already have to dig deep into your customer’s interests as if you were emailing them individually.
  • AVOID Spamming: As of July 1 2017, important CASL changes came into effect. If you aren’t familiar with the CASL changes and deadline, you can review the details here. Aside from that, make sure that your unsubscribe button is clearly visible. Don’t be afraid of unsubscribes, they aren’t all bad.

Content

  •  Subject Lines: Subject lines set the tone and personality of a particular email. Posing a question? Providing valuable or relevant how-to information? Or making a big announcement? Whichever the option, make sure your subject line reflects the intent and tone of the overall email.
  • Email Copy: You want to create email copy that is relevant and to the point. Keep your subscribers curious and eager to read more. Ask yourself, is this email copy aligned with my goal for this specific email campaign?
  • Metrics/Data: How are you going to measure the success of the email campaign? Consider these 2 points:
    1. Deliverability: We know a thing or two about email deliverability. It can be confusing, and we get a lot of questions on the topic. The bottom line is that you need to ensure that not only is your email being sent, but that it is also making it to the inbox. Check out our 10 Steps to Better Email Deliverability guide for more help on this.
    2. Click through rates/open rates: Do you have an effective call-to-action? Is there a sense of urgency to open your email? You should set a goal based on the size of your company, and how many email campaigns you send per month. Check out this benchmark report from HubSpot to see how your emails should be performing.

T-9 Minutes and Counting

You’re time is running out but you still have a couple more things to review. DON’T be tempted by the send button just yet.

Proofread To Perfection

  • Time/Date: I know what you’re thinking, the most obvious thing on the list? Well, it’s important to consider the broad calendar of email blasts, and double check that there’s no overlap in email campaigns. Have you forgotten some important national or world day that is taking place at the same time? Is this showing up in international inboxes at a weird time?
  • Spelling and Grammar: More than anything else, you’ve probably looked at this email for several hours prior to scheduling it. Step away from your computer, and go back and review your spelling and grammar with a fresh set of eyes. It’s not a bad idea to ask a coworker (or two) to review the copy as well.

Booster Ignition and Liftoff (T-0)

And…. you’re ready to go! We have a ton of other tips on how to keep your email campaigns in tip top shape for launch. So don’t be afraid of pressing “send” on that email campaign, just use this checklist as a reference whenever you get stuck.

email campaign checklist

Holly
What tips did we miss? Feel free add your own tips to our email campaign checklist in a comment below, or Tweet us.

 

10 Steps Great Deliverability Blog Footer

As an email marketing manager, there are three different thoughts I wake up with in the morning (actually, the appropriate term should be “anxiety-ridden, stress-induced worries”) — but you get the point:

  • Did my email go out correctly, at the right time?
  • How successful was the email’s call-to-action?
  • Are there any issues with the email? And if so, what happened?

Okay, those are technically 4 thoughts, but they all carry equal weight in my mind.

Since emails provide a direct line of communication with our customers and prospects, they can be highly effective when things work as planned. However, if they don’t work out as planned, it’s a highly visible uh-oh that’s on display for the entire world to see. Needless to say, the above concerns are expected, but it’s also expected that an email marketer is fiercely meticulous and detail-oriented.

While this role may seem like a stressful job that most people would shy away from, it also offers a unique opportunity to be both creative and analytical at the same time, which can appeal to almost anyone.

A Typical Day

How, you ask? Allow me to walk you through my day and explain:

[7:30 – 8:00am]

I get into the office and check Marketo. Contrary to how mostly everyone else’s day goes where they check their inbox first, as an email marketer, I check Marketo to verify the first thought in my head.

Typical thought:

“Okay, so let’s check and make sure things didn’t go horribly awry. It didn’t? Awesome.”

99% of the time, this is the same repetitive reaction to any email I’ve set-up to go out. Since email marketing is very much driven by process, once you have a process down, it becomes clockwork, and my first worry of the day subsides.

[8:00am]

After I verify that my email indeed made it out of Marketo successfully, I check to see how the call-to-action for that particular email performed. If it’s a content download or a registration for a webinar, I want to see how many people are clicking through the CTA to fill out the form:

Typical thought:

“How come we don’t have that many downloads right now? Let me check to see what’s going on.”

[9:00am]

Since I thought we had a really compelling piece of content that I thought our carefully segmented audience would be interested in, I’m curious why it’s not performing as well as intended.

The first thing I would check is the email itself to make sure the links are working properly. Clearly, this should have been verified during the review and approval process before the email even was sent out, but sometimes there could be errors with the URL, the website could be down, some coding could have broken on the landing page or the form, and you wouldn’t know this until you checked.

Typical thought:

“I checked this link 10x last night — there’s no way it’s not working today. Should I have checked it an 11th time?!”

Sure enough, the link is still working and the form is still submitting properly. It must be something else going on.

[10:30am]

The next thing I check are the metrics, more specifically, the click-through (CTR) and unsubscribe rate. If it’s a high CTR and high amounts of unsubscribes, that tells me that maybe the content wasn’t as relevant to our audience as expected. We might want to consider changing out that piece of content or finding a different audience if we still want to promote that asset.

But if it’s a high CTR with a low unsubscribe rate, maybe there’s something on the landing page that doesn’t quite resonate, and they don’t want to proceed to fill out the form. Many times this just has to do with the fact that our content is gated, and filling out a form can seem like an extra chore.

Typical thought:

“Maybe we should ungate this asset –”

[12:00pm]

This type of investigation and research can take up a good chunk of my day without me even realizing it. Before I know it, it’s lunchtime, and I’m thinking about enjoying a hearty meal to reinvigorate my brain for the second part of my day. But before I do that, I check my inbox, and I see two separate emails. This first one 1) an email request that needs to go out ASAP and the second one 2) a little note that something isn’t working properly between Marketo and SFDC.

Typical thought:

“Welp, looks like I’m eating at my desk again today.”

[12:30pm]

As mentioned before, once you do these enough times, an email request isn’t so daunting, even when the timeline is ASAP. I check the request to make sure all of the required assets are supplied, and then I get to work.

The amount of freedom you have as an email marketer to be creative with any email request can be vast or limited, depending on how your templates are built. While I still have to follow a certain process, my creativity can be leveraged when thinking about how to set-up a drip campaign or nurture, or even how to pull the correct smart list.

I knock off the request I know I can complete the quickest, and send off for review and approval as quickly as I can.

Typical thought:

“For the Smart List, is it an ‘AND’ statement or an ‘OR’ statement? Or is it both?”

[2:00pm]

When you work with highly complex systems like Marketo and SFDC and utilize them the way we do here at SparkPost, there are bound to be issues. However, if you’re like me, you can view these problems as not only challenging, but also fun to work through and figure out.

Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, often times trying to solve what’s going haywire starts with analyzing the activity log in Marketo for some records that might be affected, going through some global lead scoring campaigns to make sure leads are passing through properly, or even something as simple as making sure the correct form is on the right landing page. This part of my day involves coming up with many different hypotheses, and then trying to find out if they’re true or not.

Typical thought:

“Is the sync just slow, and do I need to be more patient? Probably.”

[4:00 – 4:30pm]

As I approach the end of my day, it’s time to make sure I answered my initial morning thoughts:

  • Did my email go out correctly? Yes.
  • How successful was the email call-to-action? Not as successful as originally thought, but going to make some changes so hopefully it does better for the next send.
  • Are there any issues with the email? And if so, what happened?

Wait — I didn’t even address the third question throughout my day. Maybe it’s because there weren’t any issues brought up, and that’s a good thing. No issues about spam or broken links or unsubscribes in emails is always a good thing. It means I did 90% of my job correctly.

Days like this one can be what a typical day looks like for an email marketer. This day would be considered a win to an email marketer like myself, and with a new email in review waiting to go out the next day, here’s hoping it’s another day just like this.

 

— Jenna Quilalang
Email Marketing Manager

Beyond the click blog footer 600x150 unsubscribers

Have you got all your summer email campaigns planned out? Worried it’s too late to get started? Or are you confused at how to reach your customers effectively? In this blog, I’ll look at how to grab your subscriber’s attention with these top five things we like to see in our inboxes during the summer.

Sun’s Out, Puns Out!

Sifting through the inbox is no laughing matter. Most people will enjoy a good pun. Jazz up your emails with a funny subject line or slip it in your content of the email. BloomThat uses the clever pun “The Hue’s Hue Of Summer” which is not only witty, but also incorporating a popular summer flower.

bloomthat summer email campaign

No one can be deny the allure of cheesy jokes, but it’s best to use puns in moderation 😉 If it’s the right tone for your business, you can mess around with the wordplay to increase engagement with your followers.

Ryanair has the right idea here “Louvre to see Paris”. A sense a humor will always stand out over other email campaigns, you want to make your subscribers laugh – it makes them feel engaged and more likely to remember your brand.. And hey, they’ll always give your email that second look.

 

ryanair summer email campaign

Give Them The Travel Bug!

Summer is typically associated with vacation time. Take advantage of this and remind subscribers why your product is useful or relevant in the summer. You can see this in the example with Moleskine – “Record your summer journeys”.

moleskine summer email campaign

 

Similarly with Aveda, their summer email is targeting travelers with their “aveda minis on summer vacation”. It’s no surprise that summer can often be a slower season for sales, so this works as a very low-cost tactic to drive additional sales, bonus points if the products are summer related.

 

aveda summer email campaign

 

Then again, if you’re pushing an off-season product or selling something unrelated to summer deals, simply using bright, colorful seasonal imagery to liven up your emails can also do the trick. Check out this example from Greyhound:

greyhound summer email campaign

Holidays

Whether it’s 4th of July, Memorial Day, or Labor Day, these summer holidays are a prime opportunity to connect with your subscribers in a meaningful way. Email campaigns don’t always have to be about promoting a sale, a simple “hello”, “thank you to our troops” or acknowledgement of a marked holiday builds trust with your subscribers and keeps your brand top of mind. Take this SuperShuttle example below. Leading up to Memorial Day, their newsletter contained an offer to book rides over Memorial Day Weekend for a discount, while a portion of the proceeds goes straight to the United States Military.

 

greyhound memorial day summer email campaign

 

There’s no need for an extravagant campaign, as mentioned above, you can also just mark the day with relevant imagery, festive colors and appropriate wording.

greyhound july 4th summer email campaigns

Emojis Are The Future

As you know, at SparkPost we’re a big fan of emojis, especially when we can use them in email marketing. We even gave an honorary blog to World Emoji Day just last week. If there’s anything that will brighten up your subscribers’ inbox, it’s emojis. Liftopia’s email campaigns come with a burst of all types of emojis suitable for the season. (the image below doesn’t do justice for the total amount of their emails with emojis)

liftopia subject lines summer email campaigns

Emojis, when done tastefully and not to excess, are a great way to stand out in the email inbox — bonus points if they’re summer-related.

sephora email subject line summer email campaigns

old navy email subject line summer email campaigns

athleta email subject line summer email campaigns

Lastly, one thing to watch out for when playing around with emojis in your email campaigns is that email clients display emojis in different ways. Be sure to test any emoji in your email subject lines before sending to avoid this dreaded symbol ☐.

Keep Calm & Don’t GIF Up

Bring your emails to life this summer with animated GIFS. Not only are they engaging and lively, they add personality and playfulness to your email campaigns. Loft and Banana Republic have their emails down to a tee.

 

4th july loft gif summer email campaigns

 

banana republic gif summer email campaigns

Done correctly, GIFs can simultaneously portray the sentiment of an email (celebratory, last chance offer, etc) while also showcasing the actual products or items on offer.

GIFs are more straightforward than people believe. Try them out for yourself in your next email campaign and let us know how they work!

 

So, take some of these ideas and get creative! Unleash your inner comedian and start drafting a stellar email campaign to send before it’s back to school season. You still have time!

 

— Holly☀️⛱️😎👙✉️
@hols

We want to hear about your favorite summer email campaigns. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

Big Rewards Blog Footer

Make Every Message Count with Multi-Touch Campaigns

People are receiving more email now than ever before. Personally, some days I can receive upwards of a hundred (or more) emails, and that’s just in my work inbox. And I’m sure I’m not alone. As a marketer, I know the value of email – but I also know there is no quicker way to turn off a customer or a prospect than by sending them too much email or email that is not relevant to them.

While some maintain that email is a ‘dead’ channel, the truth is that email is a critical component for any company’s demand generation strategy. But as important as email is, the answer is not to send more email, but to send ‘smarter’ email. Enhanced targeting and personalization are great ways to ensure you are getting more bang for your email buck. However, when it comes to communicating to your customers and prospects, can you do even more?

In today’s market, we are no longer limited to strictly using email to reach our audience – our communications channels now include dynamic content websites, social posts, SMS and more.

The key to maximizing the reach to your audience is not choosing one channel over the other, but to combine channels and create a truly integrated, multi-touch campaign.

Join Us

Please join us on July 25th for “Make Every Message Count: The Art of Blending Email, Push and SMS”.  We will discuss how you can create an automated, personalized approach to your marketing with our partner, Mautic. For those new to multi-touch campaigns, we’ll cover the basics. For more advanced marketers, you’ll walk away with tips to maximize the effectiveness of your existing programs and strategy.

You won’t want to miss this! Get the Recording for Make Every Message Count: The Art of Blending Email, Push and SMS.

-Stacey Goff Johnson
Senior Manager, Demand Generation

Make every message count

Today’s guest blogger runs Sales & Operations at Sendwithus – read on to learn some welcome email strategies and best practices. Enjoy! 

Welcome Email Strategies that Work

The welcome email is the first direct line of communication you have with your user. Additionally, it will be your first chance to showcase immediate—and hopefully lasting—value. Consequently, users interact with these emails more than sales outreach or marketing emails, with transactional rates for welcome emails being 9 times higher than those of automated marketing emails. The whole purpose of a welcome email is to kick-off a consistent subscriber-focused experience. Allow us to elaborate…

Don’t Bait and Switch

Setting expectations about email delivery frequency establishes trust amongst your subscribers and minimizes the chances of SPAM complaints. There is nothing worse than signing up for an awesome new service, only to get bombarded with irrelevant emails. Setting this expectation allows you to build a good rapport with users, and by mapping out the subscriber’s onboarding journey you will be well-positioned to place strategically advanced messaging, thereby alleviating relevant pain points and developing a long-term understanding.

See It From Their Perspective

With the rise of mobile media and skyrocketing use of smart mobile devices, email has become a more powerful tool than ever in connecting brands with customers. Umm hello, it’s 2017! While we’re sure this isn’t revelatory news to you, we would like to point out that 50% of users view emails on their mobile phones. Make the consistent creation of responsive emails, (i.e. emails that adapt nicely on every email client), a strict priority or risk getting lost in the fray. Furthermore, craft your copy, subject line, and call-to-action to reflect this mobile-first attitude, because chances are your users aren’t reading email on their desktops.

Need help with your templates? Sendwithus collaborates with industry partners to provide a free, open sourced and community driven template gallery.

Adopt a Customer Support Attitude

If you send from a “no-reply” email address, you’re sabotaging the success of your email campaigns by leaving recipients stranded. Customers could help debug your product, provide valuable feedback or voice concerns. At the very least, your readers can help you optimize their onboarding journey. Why would you throw away this chance to connect with users that want to help you succeed? It’s imperative that users can reach someone who is focused on customer support—it’s a win-win for everyone.

You Have Lots of Data and You’re Not Using It

Welcome emails are the equivalent of a first glance at a blind date; get an instant advantage by stunning your users with thoughtfulness and catering to their natural behaviors and desires. It’s more than likely that your users are suffering from information overload at most points in their day. Cut through the noise and give them exactly what they want, when they want it. This not only improves user experience but also increases ROI.

Your organization collects a lot of valuable data about your users whether you inherently realize it or not. Beyond basic demographic data, you can track saved searches, social engagements, product usage, retargeted ad clicks, the list goes on. Based on this data, send your customers personalized incentives to complete actions such as account activations, repeat purchases, or app downloads. Studies have found that personalizing emails can boost transaction rates up to 6x, illustrating that personalization substantially increases engagement.

There are numerous factors to consider in planning a successful onboarding campaign, and though the science behind effective email marketing is a complex beast, just breathe easy and begin by mastering the few steadfast principles and welcome email strategies we have discussed here. By implementing these tried-and-true techniques, we are sure you’ll enjoy a quick turn around in email marketing campaign results.

About the Author: 

Monpreet Gil

Mon is the Sales & Operations Manager at Sendwithus, where she spends her days behind spreadsheets, playing with new technologies or planning marketing campaigns to help businesses send awesome emails. Follow her on Twitter or read more posts here.

ps: We’d love to hear more about your welcome email strategies, drop us a line below or on Twitter.

Saving Time with Substitution Data and Templates

If you’ve been around systems development for any amount of time, you know there’s a lot of inertia when it comes to how transactional email or other messages are generated by business systems. Even today, many companies that use services like SparkPost or any email service provider (ESP) as a “pipe” (be it dumb or smart), build the full email in one of their back-end applications then connect to the ESP via SMTP in order to send the email. If the email is something like an invoice, password reset, shipping information or abandoned cart, the email is personalized to that user. If the communication is more akin to an advertisement of products it may or may not be personalized to leverage the user’s search or purchasing patterns. Either way, these emails are typically built by homegrown systems that construct the full email content into a single SMTP call to the ESP. As discussed earlier, this connection between code and the content creation makes it very difficult to make changes.

Over the last few years, ESPs have started to provide REST APIs that allow companies the ability to create content structures, or templates, via the ESP’s UI (or submitted via another REST API). Following the creation of these templates the application sends data to the ESP, identifying which template to inject the data into.

The Old Way [Well, Current Painful Way for Many]
Development or IT builds and maintains email creative and personalization content

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-2-59-57-pm

Any changes to the email must go through the change request process, development process, QA process, and fight all other development projects!

The new way is to separate out the creation/updates of the creative and obtaining the data for personalizing the content.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-00-40-pm

The high level changes that need to take place from a development perspective are:

  1. Gather the data to be sent and format appropriately for the ESP. For SparkPost, this would be a json structure (see example below).
  2. Add supporting information:
    a. Which template to use and/or campaign name
    b. Turn on/off options like click or open tracking
    c. Optional metadata and tags that can be used to help understand user email behavior
  3. Send json formatted substitution data via REST API

One of the cool options that you can do with many of these REST APIs is that you can send more than one email at a time. For instance, SparkPost allows you to send the request for thousands of emails all at the same time, as long as they use the same template. This allows the developer to batch emails in groups instead of making a REST API connection for every email.

SparkPost also supports the concepts of metadata and tags into the system. Tags are high level identifiers that describe the overall email campaign; for example, Newsletter, Invoice or Welcome would be good tags. On the other hand, metadata is a key-value pair of data that is often used to describe that individual email. For example, if you wish to track what category of products are in the email being sent to this user you may have a key value pair of “category” : “electronics” (see example below). When the user opens the email or clicks on a link, the metadata (and tags) are added to the information logged for that email which then in turn can be sent to your back end databases via webhooks which are small chunks of data that is sent/pushed from the mail system to your applications via HTTPS for processing. SparkPost has about 19 different webhooks that handle everything from email injection, creation, bounces, feedback, opens and clicks. Our developer hub has more information about SparkPost’s webhooks support.

Hint: Metadata fields can also be a multi-level array AND they can be used in your email as substitution fields.

So how does the HTML template (email) actually use the data being sent by your applications? Great question. Many template systems, including SparkPost, use a familiar handlebars-style syntax. Start and end markers are defined as double curly braces; for example, {{billing_zip}} will replace the user’s actual zip code that was sent as substitution data via the REST API into the HTML (or text) email before sending out. Of course more complex replacements can take place if there are arrays of data which would be common for emails that might list a set of features within a list of products but that description will come in a later blog post. Right now, if you want more info, please refer to our substitutions reference documentation.

A real example of using substitutions within an HTML email with the data below might look like:

With this new approach, marketing can take charge of the creative and let development focus on pulling the data together.  When legal or marketing need to make a change to the wording, it’s all up to them now and not development.  That sounds like a win-win to me!  To further simplify a development team’s life, a good practice is to overload the JSON entry with lots of information about the user and not worry about matching the exact information that the template is looking to use.  If the template doesn’t use the data, so what?  This simplifies the coding for development tremendously.  I wouldn’t go crazy with sending every stitch of info you have on a user, but adding extra info in order to minimize a bunch of code branches won’t hurt anyone.

Sample Json for a single email recipient

Sample web hook event for a bounce event on the mail system

So that is the introduction into leveraging substitution data and templates to separate the work of obtaining data for personalized emails and the creative for those emails.

In the next blog, I’m going to talk about ways to use substitution fields at a global level which can be used to change colors for branding or white labeling, as well as to simplify management of headers, footers, and multi-language issues.

Happy Sending

Jeff Goldstein
Senior Messaging Engineer

Questions on using substitution data and templates in email personalization? Give us a shout on twitter or comment below.

Zillions Guide Blog Footer

Top 10 Blogs: Our Year in Review

We’re finishing out the year with a roundup of our top 10 blogs from 2016. The Mandrill announcement in April impacted our community, and as a result our blog, in a big way. We’re recapping that along with other top posts on deliverability tips and email marketing best practices down below. As always, our ears are open, so if there’s a certain topic you’d like to see on the blog, leave us a comment, tweet us, or ping us in slack.

Without further ado, we give you the top 10 blogs of 2016:

#1 Mandrill Alternatives

It’s no surprise that our Mandrill alternative blogs dominated our top 10 list (5 out of our top 10). We responded in real-time to the Mandrill crisis, and our CEO even weighed in and made you a promise he intends to stick by for the long haul. The Mandrill incident also inspired us to create SendGrid and Mailgun migration guides, check them out when you have a chance.

Mandrill Template Migration top 10 blogs

#2 PHP

But beyond Mandrill, we also had some other top posts. Coming in second was using SparkPost in PHP. Believe it or not, many of you use PHP through our WordPress plugin.

PHP in SparkPost

#3 Advanced Email Templates

For developers who want to get the most out of SparkPost templating capabilities, this post was meant for you! In this straight-forward post, Chris Wilson makes sending email easy and gives you some pro tips along the way.

 

advanced email templates

 

#4 What Recruiters Look for in a Dev Candidate

Everyone wants to know how to interview well. In this post we told you about what four tech recruiters look for when hiring developer and engineering candidates.

Recruiter for Dev Candidate

#5 Webhooks!

One of the most useful elements of SparkPost are our webhooks and in this post, Ewan Dennis walks you through the basics and beyond. Knowing what to expect functionally beyond the raw API spec is half the battle when consuming new data sources like SparkPost webhooks.

webhooks: beyond the basics

#6 Outlook and Hotmail Email Deliverability

The Outlook inbox is one of the major destinations for most email senders, especially those with large numbers of consumer subscribers. It also has a reputation for being somewhat tricky to get into. In this post, one of our deliverability experts, Tonya Gordon, shares what senders need to know in order to get the best Hotmail/Outlook deliverability and ensure their messages reach the inbox.

#7 Announcing Subaccounts!

Thanks to your feedback, the Mandrill event helped us expedite our release of subaccounts ahead of schedule. Our VP of Product told you about how we process your feedback and what’s available with subaccounts.

SparkPost #WeLoveDevelopers

#8 Are You an Email Rookie?

Sometimes you need to go beyond a top 10 list and in this case we did — 17 tips on how not to be labeled an email rookie. In this post we put together a list of common mistakes, with a heavy dose of snark, on how to avoid being labeled an email marketing rookie.

Email Marketing Rookie Kid Missing Steering Wheel

#9 Retail Marketing Stats You Need to Know

Do you know what the lowest e-commerce order generators are? In this post, we give you five tips and stats for mastering retail marketing. From social media, to mobile and beacon triggered emails.

Retail Marketing statistics mobile 2016

#10 Setting Up SparkPost as your SMTP Relay

You know you need to send email, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time or effort on it — you just want something that works out of the box. It’s not too much to ask! Many frameworks, languages, and tools come with SMTP support, but the last step is the most important – an SMTP server. In this post, we walk you through how to set up SparkPost as your SMTP Relay.

And that rounds out our Top 10 Blogs for 2016! Any industry trends or topics you think were under-represented? Leave us a comment below, or tweet us!

-Tracy