What I Learned From My First Email Send

Working for Litmus, sending email is a big deal. With so many experts around me, the pressure was on for my first email send: Litmus Weekly. We send this newsletter once a week with a roundup of current Litmus blog posts, upcoming events, and our reading list of email-related pieces from around the web. Here's what I learned from the first time I sent a real, honest-to-goodness email on behalf of my company:

1. The Fear Is Real

Me when I was told I was on duty for this email.

Me when I was told I was on duty for this email.

Talking about embracing failure is not the same as living it. Sending my first email, even with the support of my teammates, meant stepping up and taking responsibility for something completely foreign and out of my comfort zone (though from what I hear, it doesn't get any easier.)

In order to truly succeed, we have to face our fears and hit send, whether that's an email to a hiring manager for your dream job or for a weekly newsletter.  Math tests, college acceptance letters, you name it, we've been conditioned to avoid putting ourselves out there. One of my favorite quotes from last year's MA Conference for Women focused on exactly that:

Instead of thinking, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ think, ‘What’s the BEST thing that can happen?’
— Jody Adams

If you're afraid, it's probably a good thing. Even though I reminded myself that I was not the President pressing the big red button, it still felt that way. Palms sweaty, heart racing...full adrenaline spike.

2. Templates Are Lifesavers To Non-Coders

I know, I know, it's on my list: I don't know how to code. Not even a little bit. So I was understandably nervous to log in to our coding editor, since it's a little intimidating—if I messed something up by accident, how would I fix it?

Um, what?

Um, what?

Enter: the template. Litmus has a great selection of free templates you can download, and like most email marketers, we use templates to send our weekly newsletters. Doing so keeps our branding, message, and content consistent and expected. 

Not needing to code everything definitely helped the process along. Even for those who can code, having the design ready to go can significantly streamline the process. That doesn't leave you off the hook—you still have to test—but I was able to draft and test this email in a matter of hours, instead of going through a 5-day coding bootcamp before even touching Litmus Builder.

3. Details, Details, Details

Sending email is overwhelming precisely because of the amount of details you need to know to do it well. Obsessing over the details of an email not only gives a better subscriber experience, but it also makes sure that your message gets across. I had to think about:

  • What content I wanted to include
  • What order to arrange the content—what was most relevant?
  • How I wanted to frame the copy for each piece of content chosen
  • What kind of catchy, action-oriented CTA I would use
  • What the subject line and preheader would say 

And I wasn't even coding anything! 

4. Test. Everything.

Every time I made the tiniest change, something would go wrong. Each new link or copy edit required a brand new test—or at least a brand new generation of previews in Litmus Builder. Everyone makes mistakes, so it's no surprise that testing multiple times helped me catch some typos, links I had missed, and unfortunate coding quirks. 

In my case, we were creating a plain text email to go along with our HTML version. Plain text emails basically strip an email down to its essentials—the text—and take out any fancy formatting or images.

Left: HTML; Right: Plain text (Source: Litmus)

Left: HTML; Right: Plain text (Source: Litmus)

When you create a plain text email, there's some funky formatting things to note. Namely, that you need to strip out code that you would use for ampersands and quotation marks. I had just painstakingly put those into the code version and didn't realize what made one version look great made another look weird. 

Without those tests, I would have sent my email blissfully unaware of any mistakes. At least, until my team/boss/customer pointed it out. No embarrassing moments for me on this send, thank goodness!

Want to see the fruits of my labor? Head on over to the Litmus Weekly page to sign up—you may just get an email designed by yours truly!