Email Peeps #11: Anne Tomlin
Meet Anne, an email developer and mastermind behind Emails Y’all. With a passion for coding emails, Anne has collaborated with a diverse range of brands to create stunning email campaigns. Her top-notch advice for aspiring email developers is to connect with the #emailgeek community, share your personalized insights through presentations, and champion for email accessibility. Anne’s go-to email marketing tool? Parcel. Although she admits that finding a healthy work-life balance can be challenging, Anne has recently implemented transformative changes in her routine to prioritize rest.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
I got into email in 2010. I was a web developer and was asked to code an email. I loved it immediately and decided right then that I wanted to work on email exclusively. And I have! I worked on brand and agency sides, then started freelancing full-time in 2017 when I created my company, Emails Y’all. I’ve been lucky enough to work with brands like Cameo, Expedia, Discovery +, and NPR. I’m very active in the #emailgeek community, especially on Twitter, as well as Slack. I’ve given several talks and participated in many webinars about topics like email trends, dark mode, and accessibility.
My north star is that everyone deserves the best-rendered email possible, and if that means I’ve gotta use a specific technique or try something new, then dammit, I’m gonna do what’s necessary. We have to meet people where they are in the current email-client climate. It’s never an imposition to me to code things the hard way if it ensures a better experience for subscribers.
What’s your favorite email marketing hack, tip, or trick?
My #1 tip is about live text and accessibility in email. Coding email with live text is the best way to ensure your message reaches everyone, including those using a screen reader. Screen readers rely on live text to read your email out loud. When you put text in an image, it “hides” that part of your message from screen readers. Alt-text is, by definition, for the “look and feel” of the image and should not be used to restate text that is inside an image. Background images are possible everywhere, including Outlook, so the design you want can likely be achieved with live text.
Now, that having been said, I want to acknowledge that not every email marketer has the same tools available to them, so putting text inside an image may be the only option for some brands, and that’s okay. Best practices are great, but they’re “best” practices, not “mandatory” practices. Advocating for increased accessibility in your emails is a great place to start implementing accessibility best practices.
What is your advice for email peeps entering the workforce in 2023?
Just like Niven, Megan, Jay, and others have said — join the #emailgeek community. Email in general, but coding specifically, is a community-taught skill.
“We all learn from each other and we’re each other’s best resources.
Another bit of advice is to try to push yourself to give presentations and participate in talks. These could be anything from short presentations to your team all the way up to international conferences. You have a unique perspective, and the way you explain something could be someone else’s lightbulb moment!
Giving talks can have major positive impacts on your career as well. Companies like hiring people who can communicate effectively about the small and complex field of email. Plus, you’re more likely to be contacted about interesting projects and possibilities when you’re in the spotlight for 30 minutes.
What’s in your email marketing toolbox?
- MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2021), Apple M1 Max, 64 GB
- Sony headphones wh 1000xm4
- Orange Furinno laptop desk
- Ashley furniture – The Man-Den Triple Power Reclining Sofa
- iPhone 11 Max
- And.co (now known as Fiver Workspace)
- Adobe Photoshop
- Apple Mail
- 16 different ESPs
- Google Suite
- Calculator – I multiply fractions every. single. day
What’s your favorite email campaign of all time? Why?
The one I’ll never forget was the faux-parallax Taco Bell email done by eROI. It was so innovative when it came out that emailgeeks all over the world still refer to it.
My favorite campaign that I worked on was the recruitment emails I created for Pine Cove. I had to use all my AMPscript knowledge plus general coding techniques to make as many as nine sets of dynamic content, using logic from three different data extensions in one email to render the correct info for every applicant, no matter where they were in the process. It was a really nice sense of accomplishment when those launched. They increased the number of people who applied to be counselors and lessened the burden on admin staff, so I call that a win.
What’s your favorite email marketing tool, and why?
Parcel. It’s a coding environment built specifically for email development. The Parcel team keeps making improvements and frequently releases new features. They also build code-related tools that are extremely helpful. Just one example is the “Can I send this image/font?” tool, which has helped me so many times when dealing with custom fonts hosted on clients’ websites. And that’s not even the coolest free feature!
How do you manage work-life balance?
Not very well until recently. When I started freelancing full-time, I felt like my clients (current or potential) NEEDED me — like their emails wouldn’t get done unless I took the job. I took almost every job I was offered, working seven days a week and holidays. Unsurprisingly, this led to burnout. I didn’t address it until this year when I took off the entire month of February. Since then, I’ve gotten serious about scheduling work and sticking to that schedule, saying no to overly tight deadlines, and referring potential clients to other devs when I already have a project scheduled.
It’s exactly what I needed to do. I haven’t worked a weekend in 2023 yet, and I’m committed to making that the case this entire year. I’ve also instituted a rule of no coding past 7pm so that I have more time to spend with my husband, our cats, and our friends. Taking my mental health seriously has really changed my life for the better. There’s no doubt about it: Work-life balance involves mental health and it should be treated as such.
Continue to follow Anne’s journey on Twitter –> @pompeii79