Category - Email Development

How Knak Does Email: Using Siftrock to Improve Deliverability

When you launch an email campaign, your job isn’t over after you hit “send.” You’ve also got to manage the responses, and we’re not just talking about the replies that come from an actual person.

Out of Office and “Sorry, I’m no longer with the company” bounce-back messages can be a great source of new leads, so don’t leave potential business on the table.

SiftRock can make those emails work for you. It’s been a game-changer at Knak, and it’s why we’re featuring it in this month’s edition of “How Knak Does Email.”

Our motivation for using SiftRock is two-fold:

  • We’re sticklers for organization, and SiftRock helps keep our list clean and organized.
  • It helps us identify new contacts (and new potential customers) by analyzing those bounce-back replies.

How It Works

Essentially, SiftRock mines data from auto-replies. When Bob Smith tells you he’s out of office, but you can contact Jane Harris if you need anything, SiftRock sends you Jane Harris’ info and job title so you have a new lead within the company.

When Jack tells you he’s no longer with the company, but you can reach out to Megan instead, SiftRock removes Jack from your list and lets you know about Megan. So, instead of losing a contact, you’re immediately replacing it with someone new.

And when Frank replies to your email to ask for a demo, SiftRock routes the email to the right sales rep so your customer isn’t kept waiting while you sort through unrelated responses.

SiftRock also scans auto-replies for key info, like job title, address, and updated phone numbers, and then adds it directly to the contact’s record in your CRM. More data, more for your sales team to work with.

A Clean List = A Happy Sales Team

Data hygiene is critical in terms of our productivity at Knak. If our list is outdated, our sales and customer success team is spending time reaching out to contacts who have changed jobs, left the company, etc.

The first time we tested an email with SiftRock, we were surprised to find that more than 10% of the replies we received were job change notifications. Because the responses were flagged, we were able to make note of those changes, and personally reach out to the new contacts to introduce our team. SiftRock also removed the outdated contacts from our CRM, which means our team won’t call, email, or otherwise waste time trying to contact them.

SiftRock initially told us that databases become outdated at an average rate of 22% per year. With their software helping to clean up our list, we’re able to stay on top of that turnover and maximize our sales team’s time.

A Clean List = Better Deliverability

The more you email dead contacts, the greater the likelihood that your emails will be flagged as spam. SiftRock has helped us avoid this by making sure our list is up to date.

Think back to the example of our first email: those job-change responses would show up as bounces to ISPs. If we can cut down on those by 10% with every email we send, we’ll keep our deliverability high and our content out of the spam folder.

The deliverability component is also key to customer service. When deliverable emails start to be flagged as spam, the customer experience takes a hit.

Basically, SiftRock is making life easier at Knak. It’s helping us work smarter and take advantage of one of our most important resources: time. And since we’re a company that’s dedicated to making Marketers’ lives easier, we’re happy to share the wealth.

Note: SiftRock has some other cool features too, so take a look at their site and find out what they can do for you.

Knak is the first email creation platform built for teams. We help you build beautiful, responsive, world-class emails, no coding required. Get to know us at knak.com.

Recap: MarTech East 2019

Knak Team at MarTech East

Top trends and takeaways from Boston

I look forward to any opportunity to connect with fellow Marketers, and MarTech East, which took place in Boston last month, was no exception. After all, if you truly want to know what’s top-of-mind for your peers, the best way to find out is to spend a few days deep-diving into conversation with them. It’s the most direct (and enriching) way to keep a finger on the pulse of an entire profession.

I’m also a big believer in the value of giving your team the opportunity to attend conferences. They get to meet people they might not otherwise interact with and gain valuable insight into the current state of your industry; you get the benefit of extending your organization’s reach and having a greater impact while you’re there.

For this event, we didn’t pull any punches. Our CEO, COO, Lead Email Developer, and I made the trip and spent three days chatting with Marketers from every type of industry, with every variation of job title.

Here are my key takeaways from the event, and why I left with the reminder that we’re all in this together.

What’s Trending?

I came across quite a few trends at the show, but the two that everyone was talking about were Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Are CDPs the next big thing?

CDPs have been buzz-y for the last few years, so it’s no surprise that I saw an abundance of CDP product offerings at the conference.
Unfortunately, lots of my fellow marketers are asking questions that seem to be motivated more by a fear of missing the bandwagon than by an actual understanding of the pros and cons of CDPs.

The fact of the matter here is that most organizations are already collecting and analyzing various types of customer data with the goal of getting a single view of their customers. So are CDPs the next big MarTech trend? The one that will move the needle and improve the bottom line? Or is the buzz simply being created by a few influential MarTech companies looking to create a market for their latest technology? The answer remains to be seen, but for better or worse, I don’t see the CDP hype dying down anytime soon.

What role will AI / Machine Learning play in the future?

AI was another hot topic, with many companies presenting their take on how to best use AI in a MarTech stack. Based on the number of conversations I had about AI, it’s something most Marketers are considering (in fact, Litmus predicted that AI would be one of the top email design trends for 2019).

The general consensus seems to be that it’s too early to make any big bets on AI, but if I were a betting man, I’d wager that it will dominate MarTech offerings in the coming years. The solutions will be similar to what’s available today, but with AI added to enhance performance. I imagine we’re still a few years away from a huge AI-powered MarTech breakthrough, but I don’t think it’s too far off.

Email Creation is a Universal Hang-Up

It’s always a positive feeling when your peer group reinforces your corporate “why.” It’s like checking your compass and seeing that, yes, you’re still moving in the right direction. So while I’m sorry to hear that the email creation process is still as painful as ever, it’s a good reminder to the Knak team that the work we’re doing is vital.

From the conversations I had, it was abundantly clear that most Marketers — Knak customers not included, of course — tackle email marketing the same way they’ve been doing it for years: develop a concept, wait for a designer to build the email, wait for feedback, wait for design changes, wait for approval, wait, wait, wait.

Knak’s goal has always been to simplify life for Marketers, so if we can eliminate one major headache-inducing activity from their day-to-day by simplifying email creation, we’re hitting our mark.

Face Time for the Win

One of my favorite parts of going on the road is the chance to connect with our customers and prospects in real time. In a world full of video conferencing and email, nothing beats face-to-face conversation, so we took the opportunity to host a VIP dinner get everyone together in the same room.

Knak Customer Dinner (Martech East)Our main intention for the dinner was to build relationships with our fellow marketers, but something else great happened: we got to introduce our prospective clients to existing Knak customers.

I truly appreciated the evening for what it was: a chance to put aside the business agenda and connect with some amazing likeminded people who share our passion for marketing.

It’s the People

In addition to the technical insight and great conversations, I left MarTech East with a renewed appreciation for the commonalities that Marketers share.
No matter what technology we add to our stack or what innovations change the game in the next two or three years, Marketing will continue to be a people-driven field, and I’m grateful to be part of a field — and a team — filled with such dedicated, creative people.

How Knak Does Email: Using GIFs to Improve Click-Thru Rates

Wish you had a better way to show off your brand’s personality? Tired of relying on plain old words to share your story? Animated GIFs are for you!

The good news is that GIFs are still underused in emails (69% of our survey respondents don’t use them), so including GIFs in your emails are a great way to make them stand out in a crowded inbox.

Best Practices for Including GIFs in Email

  • Pay attention to file size – if it doesn’t load quickly, readers will navigate away before they make it through your email. Crop it, remove some frames, rethink the animation, and then use a GIF compressor if you need to reduce it further.  
  • Consider the display – some email clients (namely Outlook) don’t support GIFs, so make sure any CTA included in your GIF is visible in the first frame.
  • Add thoughtfully – be strategic with your GIFs. Keep them surprising and subtle, and make sure they enhance your content rather than distracting from it. 

Animated Gif

Using GIFs in your emails is an awesome way to showcase your brand personality and make your content more engaging. Try adding a GIF to your next Knak email and see how your audience reacts! If you have any questions about adding GIFs into emails, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Intercom.

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.

From Templates to Modules: Why We Made the Switch

Templates to Modules - Why We Made the Switch

Recently, Knak made the decision to sunset our template library. It was a tough call, one that took more than two years to make. These templates were our signature product. The thing that marketers used to build great emails without knowing how to code. The reason referrals came looking for us.

They were at one time one of our main sources of revenue.

But.

As time went on, we realized that our templates were creating as many issues as they solved:

  • Creativity was restricted because even small changes required time-consuming design updates.
  • Templates didn’t provide granular user controls for different team members.
  • Tracking parameters weren’t added automatically to the links in the emails.

The list goes on.

It would have been simple to just keep adjusting the templates to solve each individual problem, but in listening to our customers, we realized the main problem wasn’t a template problem at all. It was a creation problem, and it couldn’t be solved with templates.

To address this, we developed two new products – Builder and Enterprise – that take a modular approach to building emails.

Modules are highly customizable and speed up time-to-market by taking the guesswork out of email creation. Anyone (really anyone) can build a beautiful, on-brand email using Knak, but what we like most is that these tools put the creativity back in the hands of marketers.

No more restrictive templates; no more waiting for a developer to change the template to fit your campaign.

With Builder, emails are built start to finish using a drag-and-drop approach. Modules and layouts can be edited easily, and emails are automatically synced to a marketing automation platform for deployment.

Enterprise is built for larger teams. Custom workflows make it easy to collaborate, and the precision branding controls allow for creativity while still protecting brand identity.

These two new products solved the problems and made it much easier to get emails out the door. Our clients were happy, email bliss was reinstated, and all frustrations evaporated forever.

Except.

Because our customers were so comfortable with the templates, they were … ahem … resistant to change. They were willing to continue using a less efficient, more restrictive process simply because they already knew how to do it.

And we get it! We’re marketers too, so we know the time constraints most marketers are under. Everything needs to be done five minutes ago, and when a new technology is introduced, no matter how incredible it looks, it’s way simpler to stick with the devil we know than it is to devote time and resources to training our team on something new.

So, we broke it down slowly. We worked with our clients a few at a time to introduce them to the new products. We made sure they had the support they needed to use the new products successfully. We even developed a buddy system to help clients train their team to use the new products.

Over time, those clients became champions for Builder and Enterprise at their businesses. And eventually, templates were no longer our major source of revenue.

Change is difficult. That’s why it took a while for our new products to catch on and why it took two years for us to decide to ditch the templates.

But the truth of the matter is, you can tweak things, develop workarounds, and re-code until you’re blue in the face. Sometimes, you just need to look for a better way.

We’d love to show you how we’re redefining email creation. Request a demo today, and see how Knak gives you the freedom to create amazing emails and the tools you need to do it quickly.

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.

What We Learned Making 21,032+ Email + Landing Page Templates

Three and a half years ago I started Knak because we were making hundreds of custom Marketo templates for Revenue Pulse customers and it felt like we were doing a lot of the same things over and over again.

I thought it would be amazing to enable Marketers to create their own templates without even needing to know how to spell HTML.

Turns out – lots of people enjoyed our Template product. We have thousands of users who have collectively made over 20,000 templates saving them decades of time.

So – what have we learned in that time? A lot.

Here are the top 8 things we’ve learned through building over twenty-thousand templates for Marketo and Eloqua customers:

Most people do not know (or care to know) HTML
Whether companies are big or small, they generally don’t have the HTML skillsets on their team or if they do, they don’t want to spend time using those resources to make emails or landing pages.

Responsive is now tablestakes
Three years ago everyone was making a shift to responsive design, now this is pretty much assumed that everything will be responsive. If someone is still not using responsive design they recognize they are way behind and need to update their stuff immediately.

Brand is in a constant state of change
We seem to meet people in 2 different phases. Either they just did a brand overhaul and now have to redesign everything, or, they hate their branding and need to desperately redo it to make it look good.

Companies (especially big ones) want guardrails
There is this constant struggle with Marketers where they want to enable their teams to make their own assets, but at the same time need to control the branding. No one wants Sally from field marketing adding a bright pink background to her event email because it looked cute. But, at the same time Marketers want to enable Sally to be self-sufficient and drive registrations to her event like a boss.

Marketing Automation platforms are not focused on asset creation
There has not been a ton of innovation or development in the areas of asset creation over the past 3.5 years. A couple new editors here and there but that are not addressing the root problems that exist. They are focusing instead on other new features like ABM and AI.

Marketers want flexibility and control
No matter how great the template is, there will always be a desire for some kind of adjustment that requires coding. When you’re coding templates for editors with limited editing capabilities, this is inevitably going to happen once you have pushed them as far as they can possibly go. Designers want granular controls to be able to make things look pixel-perfect and design-led organizations oftentimes push back on conforming to a template.

It’s a collaborative process and Marketing Automation is not really built to be collaborative
For whatever reason Marketing Automation platforms are not designed with collaboration in mind. Collaboration is an afterthought at best (see: Chatter for Salesforce). Even at small companies there are many people who have to come together to get an email or landing page out the door – and they need somewhere to work together to control versions and approvals. This is only magnified by many times over for enterprise organizations.

Change takes courage
For people who are serious about improving asset creation, often times this requires a shift from template-based creation to an email creation platform. This means internal change-management, training, and getting people to do something new, a different way than they are used to. In every industry there are early adopters and laggards, and right now early adopters are seeing that email creation platforms can provide many benefits simply not possible with templates and Marketing Automation platforms.

That’s it everyone. There are a million other things we have learned on this journey so far, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. We’ve only been able to learn this much by working alongside all of our amazing Marketo and Eloqua customers, so thank you for that. If you want to know how we’re using these learnings to improve email creation, checkout Knak Builder and Knak Enterprise.

Thanks for coming along for the ride… we’ve only just begun.