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January 23, 2024 - Articles

Email Peeps 34: Rob Gaer

โ€œRob

What attracted you to email marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?

It’s a stereotype, but I didn’t intentionally set out to focus my career on email marketing. Way, way, (way) long ago I started out as a graphic designer mostly working in print and some web design.ย 

My first experience with email wasn’t until 2006. It was a simpler time … ExactTarget was still ExactTarget. All image emails were totally normal and accepted. Mobile wasn’t a thing and email marketing wasn’t even a term yet I think.ย 

Anyway, in 2006 I started a new job, designing, developing, and deploying weekly marketing emails. I didn’t know much about this whole electronic mail thing, but luckily the company I joined was quite advanced (by 2006 standards) at data-driven messaging and had an enthusiastic, engaged audience.ย 

It was a great environment for learning how to blend data and design while also learning to target the audience segment most likely to care about that data and design. It was a lot of fun, and frankly kind of addicting, so I was hooked.

Time passed …ย 


Whatโ€™s your favorite email code hack?

Tough question, but I suppose my favorite at the moment is more of an email design system hack rather than a specific code hack.ย 

Height doesn’t matter … at least with foreground images (background is another story entirely). Email clients will display the correct image height without setting the value – even on Outlook desktop.ย 

As an example, the only difference in the two IMG tags below is the SRC itself. However, email clients will display each with the correct aspect ratio:

<img src=”https://placekitten.com/600/100″ hspace=”0″ vspace=”0″ border=”0″ style=”display:block; width:600px; max-width:600px;” width=”600″ alt=”kittehs”>

<img src=”https://placekitten.com/600/600″ hspace=”0″ vspace=”0″ border=”0″ style=”display:block; width:600px; max-width:600px;” width=”600″ alt=”kittehs”>

In our EDS, image width is defined, but height is not. This allows our designer, Seva, the freedom to alter graphic height as needed to achieve whatever design he’s aiming for.


What could most SaaS companies improve when it comes to email marketing?

There are a lot of SaaS companies doing outstanding work, but since you asked โ€ฆ

Embracing the medium – listen … I like working in email. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this (thanks, by the way ๐Ÿ˜Š) you have at least some passing interest in email marketing. It’s a powerful communication tool that delivers astonishing ROI.

Yet most recipients have limited time and won’t read through your emails (or tbh, even open them) and won’t hesitate to delete them right out of their inbox. It’s key to respect your readers’ time, deliver value, and have realistic expectations of user behavior. A good question to always ask is whether an email is serving the customer or serving the business.

Build better emails at scale using an email design system (EDS) – like it or not, your emails are a reflection of your brand. Designing a library of pre-tested design components will help your team to create emails quickly, while still ensuring consistency and quality. Companies with beautiful branding deserve to have beautiful emails.

Fun fact: Transactional emails can be beautiful too, FYI.

Email might be older technology, but it’s still technology – one of the most beautiful aspects of email is its ability to convert user data into personalized experiences. Utilizing your ESP scripting capabilities to target different segments of your audience within a single template will help streamline the production process.

Build for experimentation – develop the infrastructure and processes around experimentation and then experiment religiously. Move fast, test everything, measure, iterate, and optimize.

Don’t forget the fun – when appropriate, delight your audience with nice design aesthetics and cheeky humor. I mean, why not?


Whatโ€™s in your email marketing toolbox?

Hardware:ย 

  • 16โ€ Macbook Pro
  • 27โ€ LG Monitor
  • Magic Trackpad (total game-changer)
  • An assortment of different headphones
  • An electric blanket for when itโ€™s chilly
  • Desk toys and other baubles of interest
  • 2 lap cat brothers (not shown)

Software:

  • Sublime Text (RIP Atom)
  • Taxi for Email
  • Litmus
  • Miro
  • Figma
  • Google Suite
  • GitHub
  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Split.io
  • Spotify
Rob's Desk

Whatโ€™s your favorite email campaign of all time? Why?

2016 Spotify Wrapped. Why? Because it was an amazing blend of design and personalized data that was incredibly engaging and downright gorgeous. Absolute trendsetter.


What are some simple ways that marketers can enhance their email UX?

Use a content hierarchy to organize information and keep your most important topics at the top where they belong. Inverted pyramid, people.ย 

Write short, scannable copy that can be read in less than 9 seconds. Per Litmus’ 2022 report on average email read time, the majority of recipients don’t read but actually scan text. If you can’t digest the point of your email in that amount of time, just assume neither will your readers.

Important note from Seva the designer: donโ€™t forget to use titles to create separation and flow in your text. This will also help with scannability.

Following best practices is great as a starting point, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works everywhere. Experimentation through A/B testing will help you measure what works best for YOUR audience.

Lastly, be passionate about delivering the best possible experience to your readers. Design, development, and A/B testing – these are all just facets that impact user experience, but the drive to delight & engage your users should be at every step of the creation process.


How do you manage work/life balance?

It’s a challenge, especially when working from home, but in true email development spirit, I found a hack: Schedule things in the evenings after work … and then do those things.

Against my introverted impulses and desire to be a homebody, my wife and I started taking music lessons and language classes in the evenings. Given that missing classes and/or lessons involves real-world costs, it’s enough motivation for me to actively manage my schedule so I don’t miss them and incur fees I would prefer to not pay.

So, I suppose the key is that you need to find what works best to manage your own work/life balance – nobody will do it for you.

Much love,
Andy

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @emaillove

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