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Emma Email Marketing Review

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Emma Email Marketing Review

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Date Established
2005
Location
Nashville, TN

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Good customer service
  • Well-designed UI
  • Numerous templates

Cons

  • High monthly cost
  • Limited feature set

Overview

We all know a girl like Emma: quiet, organized, meticulous, prone to wearing hipster glasses. What we may not know is how Emma functions as an email service provider (ESP).

In 2005, Emma was founded far from America’s traditional tech centers by Clint Smith, in Nashville, TN. While it maintains its Southern roots and headquarters, the company now employs over 150 people, with additional offices in New York City, Portland, OR, and Melbourne, Australia, having acquired other digital service providers like Boomerang along the way.

At the center of Emma’s ascendancy is the company’s email marketing service and somewhat atypical approach to design and customer service. You’ll find a product that is easy and pleasant to use, and a service staff eager to guide you through the process. This experience comes with some literal and abstract costs, however, that may make Emma a sub-optimal ESP choice for many businesses.

Pricing

Emma takes a tiered approach to its pricing and features. All plans are based on the size of your contact list, but you’ll pay extra for more advanced features. You can save a bit off your monthly bill by signing up for a year (note that they are the prices Emma displays in the largest font), but you can also buy the service on a month-to-month basis. Emma no longer offers a free trial but will set you up with a demo if you request one.

Pro

  • Starts at $89/month
  • Maximum 10,000 contacts
  • A/B Content Testing
  • “Dynamic Content”
  • Template Library
  • Emma 101 Onboarding
  • Phone and email support

Plus

  • Starts at $369/month
  • Maximum 25,000 contacts
  • Unlimited workflows
  • 10 user accounts
  • Custom onboarding
  • Salesforce integration

Enterprise

  • Starts at $729/month
  • Maximum 75,000 contacts
  • Private branding
  • Unlimited manager accounts
  • Asset + Template sharing

If you have more than 75,000 contacts, you can contact Emma (800.595.4401) to set up a custom deal.

Ease Of Use

Though the two programs bear little resemblance to each other beyond their naming conventions and bespectacled female avatars, I can’t help but think of Emma as Mad Mimi‘s serious, overachieving, OCD sister.

Emma’s design is clean and modern, strategically using color against a bright white background. There are a limited number of tabs to deal with: Home, Audience, Campaigns, Response, and Automation.

While it’s not as colorful, madcap, or streamlined as Mimi, it does share one major design philosophy: Emma loves feedback. When you float over buttons, they’ll pop. When the site is loading, it will tell you that it’s getting things ready. Emma feels very interactive and gives users a sense of empowerment.

Emma does a good job of holding your hand through the learning process. Your account manager will send you a link to training videos, but even if you skip those, the program will provide guideposts to get you started.

Managing Contacts

One of the first things you’ll notice about Emma is that it tries to automate processes where possible, which aligns nicely with its target demographic (medium-and-larger business customers). As you can with many ESPs, you can import your contact list as a .csv or Excel file.

Emma will attempt to assign the information in your file to its default headings based on the headings in your file. Using a simple series of pull-down options, you can have Emma ignore or organize other headings. If you have a heading Emma doesn’t recognize, you can create your own. Those tags can be used to segment your lists.

Emma has a pretty robust sign-up form designer, which you can integrate into your website if you wish. It lets you customize the data you want to capture, the design of the form, and the conditions under which it will appear to visitors to your site. The actual integration might take beginners outside of their comfort zone, but the video tutorial should be enough to get most users over the hump.

Creating The Email Campaign

Sometimes user feedback is extraneous but pleasing; other times it’s extremely practical. While it’s not groundbreaking, I really like Emma’s WYSIWYG editor for one major reason: it clearly and unerringly marks the places on your template to which you can drag a new element. It takes a lot of the guesswork and frustration out of adding an element.

Otherwise, the editor is layered in a manner that makes creating a simple design easy while giving more artistic types the option of customizing elements with a fairly high degree of precision. Images can be fully modified within the editor, from resizing to special effects. It’s not exactly Photoshop, but it’s more than is offered by most ESPs.

The campaign preview is pretty awesome, morphing your design in real-time to fit desktop, mobile, tablet, and even custom aspect ratios. The effect isn’t really necessary, but it’s yet another example of Emma’s excellent feedback. I found myself twiddling with it just for fun.

You get around 100 mobile-optimized templates, and a number of them give you the option of selecting from a number of variations on the main theme. The big head-scratcher here is the locking of the HTML editor/import behind the Plus and Premium plans, so if you prefer to build your emails from scratch, be aware that Emma considers that to be premium business.

Sending The Campaign

Emma automatically scans your campaign for elements that may trigger a spam filter response. When your campaign is ready to go, you’ll be prompted to add a real-world address in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.

After that, you’ll be taken to a final screen, where you can toggle your campaign between HTML and plain text versions, enter headers, enable Google Analytics, and split-test your subject heading if you so desire. You can choose to send your campaign to individuals, groups, or list segments.

This is probably the first area I found a little disappointing. As a fairly high-priced, premium service ostensibly aimed at medium-and-larger businesses, I expected Emma to offer a more fully developed split-testing system.

On the other hand, Emma’s automation system finds a nice balance between versatile and easy-to-use. Depending on your plan, you can set up a number of conditions under which preset emails will be sent to contacts. The bad news is that this feature is fairly limited on the basic Pro level, so you’ll need to spend a fair amount of cash to create some serious email AI.

Email Campaign Reporting

Like the rest of this SaaS, Emma’s reporting tools are both slick and simple. You’ll get the standard array of metrics: opens, clicks, share, opt-outs, etc. Emma goes a bit farther than that, though, and provides visual feedback about which parts of the email the recipient interacted with. There are also some colorful graphs to help you visualize the data.

After 24 hours, Emma will rate your campaign with a mail score, giving you an idea of how your campaign stacks up against those of other marketers. It’s a humbling feature, but a good one for helping you grow as a campaigner.

Reports can be exported to .pdf or spreadsheet.

Customer Service

The sign-up process will force you to interact with customer service, but luckily the reps at Emma prove to be more helpful than pushy, getting your account set-up in short order. From the very beginning, you’re assigned a rep, which adds a personal touch to an industry that is usually kind of faceless.

Support is available through:

  • Email: You’ll be given an email contact when you sign up for Emma.
  • Phone: You’ll also be given a phone number to your Emma representative.
  • The Emma Community: A forum doubling as an online help center
  • Video Tutorials: Emma offers a series of video tutorials to get you started
  • Facebook: Emma updates its Facebook page with links marketing articles and resources.
  • Twitter: The Twitter feed is updated a bit more often and features similar content
  • Blog: You’ll find links to many of the blog posts on social media, but you can go right to the source and find information on email campaign tricks, as well as

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Emma seems to be pretty well liked by most users and doesn’t yet have a record with the BBB. Criticisms of the program mostly revolve around:

  • Editing Issues: There seem to be some formatting errors if you copy-paste your email into Emma’s editor, resulting in entire sections of email needing to be deleted
  • No Template Editing: Some users complained about both the limited amount of and inability to edit templates.
  • Drag-and-Drop Woes: The most frequent criticism I came across was that the drag-and-drop editor–one of the most basic parts of Emma’s service–is difficult to use precisely. Apparently, changing color, dragging blocks of text around, and other basic functions can have unintended consequences that result in frustrating attempts to fix everything.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

People seem to like Emma for the most part. The program scores 4 out of 5 stars on G2Crowd. Users liked:

  • The Website Design: Users found it easy to navigate and pleasant to use.
  • Customer Service: Users found Emma’s customer service reps to be highly engaged and helpful.
  • Easy To Use: While it’s not the most streamlined ESP out there, users appreciated how easy it is to pick-up.

Features

Here are a few or Emma’s best features:

  • Marketing Automation: Emma integrates with your website, tracking user activity and sending emails automatically as people navigate your content. Emma also follows which users open your emails in the first place, using that information as a guide for how to follow up later. Part of me says this kind of thing is creepy, but enough ESP’s are doing similar things that Emma’s use of automation is not really out of the ordinary.
  • GDPR Compliant: With the European Union’s recent implementation of new privacy regulations, any email marketing that reaches a European audience must comply. With Emma’s new features that ensure your subscribers are fully aware of the data collects from them, you can rest assured you are following the new regulations. These features include consent toggles on signup forms and permanent delete functions that allow customers to permanently unsubscribe and take all their data with them.
  • Dynamic Content: Emma’s email editor makes it possible to create several versions of one email and release these versions to different users in a targeted way. Use different color schemes, photographs, and text blocks to make different user demographics feel at home, all based on the data you collect from your users.
  • A/B Testing: One of the most basic email marketing features, A/B testing allows you to create two versions of the same email with a couple differences, then track the performance of the two versions. This will help you best determine what your contacts like and don’t like in terms of their email content.

  • Landing Pages: Emma provides the capability to create web pages based on the emails you send out. So if, for example, you are campaigning for subscribers to take the cooking class you offer and you create a beautiful email to encourage them to do so, you can create a similarly branded landing page for your website that is dedicated specifically to that campaign.
  • Analytics: Emma’s analytics show you how many contacts open your emails, give you a “mailing score” based on previous campaigns (both from yourself and other similar companies), and also provide a click map so you can see where your contacts most often clicked.

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Integrations

Emma integrates with a number of popular programs, though some (Salesforce, for example) can only be integrated if you have access to the API. The API is available at Plus level and above.

  • Admailr
  • Ah So Designs
  • Alignable
  • Bloom
  • Booker
  • Bookly
  • BriteVerify
  • Cloud Giants
  • Contactually
  • CRM Culture
  • Dasheroo
  • DataValidation
  • Digioh
  • Email on Acid
  • Eventbrite
  • Formstack
  • Front Desk
  • Gleam
  • Granulis
  • Gravity Forms
  • Influence & Co.
  • Infusionsoft
  • Join by Text
  • Justuno
  • Kindful
  • Klick Push
  • LeadPages
  • Opt-Intelligence
  • Salesforce
  • Shopify
  • WordPress
  • Zapier

Security

Emma adheres to the data privacy principles of the Safe Harbor program, designed to provide U.S. companies with guidance on providing adequate protection for personal data from Europe (as required by the European Union’s Directive on Data Protection). Emma is listed in the United States Department of Commerce’s Safe Harbor directory of self-certifying companies.

The only time Emma will ever share any information related to your Emma account with an outside organization is if (a) the outside organization is processing your payment for the Emma Service and requires certain information necessary for the transaction, (b) the outside organization is the federal government or other agency empowered to require us to divulge your personal or account information, (c) Emma is highlighting examples of your templates, campaigns or case studies and have obtained your permission prior to the divulging of such information, or (d) Emma is reporting on its overall customer base and activity, in which case they will only divulge general, aggregate (non-personally identifiable) information.

Anti-Spam Policy

As mentioned above, you’ll be required to be in compliance with the CAN-Spam Act before you can send out a campaign. All contact lists are required to be opt-in.

Final Verdict

Emma is an attractive, easy-to-use ESP platform that offers an above-average user experience and a nice selection of campaign templates.

Emma kind of puts itself into a bind, however, with regard to its target audience. It’s pricey enough to strain the wallets of small businesses, but not quite robust enough to handle the complex marketing campaigns that large businesses generally need to run. There’s probably an optimal window here for medium-sized businesses, but it’s a fairly narrow one. On the upside, you do get some great, personalized service for the price, so if you’re someone who likes establishing relationships with your software providers, add another star to my rating.

In summary, it’s a slick, high-priced product with some notable limitations. The company’s heart seems to be in the right place, though, and with time and iteration, I wouldn’t be surprised if Emma eventually hits ESP heavyweight status.

Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Finance Writer at Merchant Maverick
Chris Motola is a writer, programmer, game designer, and product of NY. These days he's mostly writing about financial products, but in a past life he wrote about health care and business. He's a graduate of the University of Central Florida.
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1 Comment

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    stephanie

    Organization Name: NICORA JOHNS

    Emma was so amazing in the set-up phase. But unfortunately, they had several software issues that made our integration (with Shopify) problematic. They refused to take responsibility for the integration errors and once you sign a contract, you are no longer able to protect your company against their programming issues. The contract even has a section that in layman’s language says, “if our software does not work on your site, too bad.” I Wish I would have read the forums before signing, its apparently not just our account.

    1
    • Organization Name: NICORA JOHNS

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

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