Tips for a Bigger, Better Email List

Everyone knows that the bigger their email list, the better, but when it comes to email marketing, the quality of that list is just as important. What do we mean by quality? Engagement. The best mailing lists are filled with subscribers that open and act on the emails that they receive. Our friends at Return Path recently compiled a list of tips for building a larger, more engaged email list. You can check out the entire guide here, but we’ve highlighted some of our favorite tips below.

Before we begin, don’t forget that Direct Mail makes managing your email list sign-up process easy! You can create a subscribe form in Direct Mail, connect it to your website or Facebook page, and even integrate it into the other services and apps your company already uses.

Experience Your Customer’s Point of View

Take a step back and view your mailing list sign-up process through the eyes of your customers. For example:

  • Is your email list sign-up form easy to find locate on your website?
  • What about on a mobile device?
  • Have you clearly spelled out the benefits to signing up for your list?
  • Have you set the right expectations for how frequently you will email them?
  • Have you removed as much friction from the process as possible? For example, if you have a lot of required fields on your subscribe form, consider making some of them optional.

Get Your Relationship Started on the Right Foot

What do your subscribers see after they’ve signed up for your list? Creating a custom “thanks for subscribing” page or a welcome email can help get the relationship started off on the right foot. See this help article for how to configure Direct Mail to send a welcome email to your new subscribers. Or click here to learn how to set up a custom web page that new subscribers will see after they sign up.

Also, it’s great to entice new subscribers with promises of special discounts, exclusive content, early access, etc.—just be sure you follow through. Be sure that your email newsletter delivers on any promises you may have made during the sign-up process.

Promote Your List

Don’t be satisfied to let your sign-up form hide away in the footer of your website. There are lots of places you can promote your mailing list:

  • Make signing up for your list part of your online store. You can use our Zapier integration to connect Direct Mail to Shopify, Magento, Gumroad, and other online stores. Check our API for building custom integrations.
  • Do you send out email receipts or other transactional email? Consider including a link to your email list sign-up form in those emails, too!
  • Include an email sign-up form on your Facebook page. Direct Mail makes it easy.
  • If you have a physical retail location, use our iOS app to turn any iPad into a email list sign-up kiosk.

Leverage Social Media

You can give your email list a boost by promoting it from other social media channels that you may already operate. For example:

  • On occasion, promote the benefits of your email list to your followers on Facebook or Twitter and include a link to sign up
  • Purchase a “promoted tweet” that advertises the benefits of your email list and includes a sign-up call-to-action button
  • Annotate your YouTube videos so that viewers can click-through to your website or email list sign-up form
  • Purchase a sponsored post on Instagram that entices your followers to sign up

Here We Grow!

If you found some of the above tips useful, we encourage you to check out Return Path’s full guide of 50+ tips at this link. These suggestions can help you grow the size of your email list and improve subscriber engagement, building the foundation for a powerful email marketing channel. If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch and tell us what you think. We love to hear from you!

Smarter Mail-Merge Tags

Using mail-merge tags is an easy way to personalize your message for each recipient. You can personalize your emails with information like the recipient’s name, company name, or up to 15 other fields of your choosing. However, long-time and first-time users of Direct Mail may not be aware of some of the more powerful mail-merge features that were added in Direct Mail 3. In this blog post, we’ll talk about two ways to make your emails more dynamic and more personal.

Fallback Values

Let’s start with a simple example. Here’s a mail-merge tag being used in the greeting of a message:

The "[first name]" mail-merge tag being used in a greeting
The “[first name]” mail-merge tag being used in a greeting.

But what if your mailing list doesn’t contain a first name for every recipient? That would mean that some people would see “Hello” and then just blank space where the name was supposed to go. We can use fallback values to remedy this situation. Try this instead:

Use the "fallback" feature of a mail-merge tag to provide default values when merging.
Use the “fallback” feature of a mail-merge tag to provide default values when merging.


Now regardless of whether or not you have first name data for all the recipients in your list, the results will look great. Your recipients will either see “Hello Jonathan” (if that’s what you had listed as their first name in your mailing list) or “Hello Friend” (if you didn’t have their first name in your mailing list).

This technique works with all the mail-merge tags available in Direct Mail. We recommend using the Preview window to see ahead of time what your final, merged message will look like for each recipient in your list.


Conditionals take mail-merge tags one step further. They allow you to use if-else logic to create messages whose content changes depending on the recipient. For example, let’s imagine that I am sending out a reminder for an upcoming event where lunch will be served. I have already collected meal preferences for everyone on my mailing list and stored them in my mailing list under the column Custom 1. Here’s how I could use conditionals to include a special paragraph in my email for only those folks that prefer vegetarian meals:

We use conditional mail-merge tags to include a paragraph only for our vegetarian subscribers.
We use conditional mail-merge tags to include a paragraph only for our vegetarian subscribers.


Now only the recipients that have the word “Vegetarian” in the Custom 1 column in your mailing list will see the paragraph about the vegetarian meals. If you need even more advanced logic, you can use if/else-if logic as well as other equality operators (=, !=, >=, <=, >, and <). Please see our support article for more information.

Conditional mail-merge tags are available under the “Conditionals” section of the mail-merge tag menu. As with fallback values, we recommend using the Preview window to see what the results of your mail-merge will look like for each recipient in your list.


We hope the above examples have been helpful in understanding how mail-merge tag fallback values and conditionals can improve your emails. We have found that email campaigns that are personalized to the recipient tend to have far better open and click rates. For more information, please see the following two support articles:

How do I personalize my message with mail-merge tags?

How do I personalize my message with if/else logic?

Year in Review

One of things that I look forward to every December is the parade of year-in-review specials that pop up on TV. It’s always fun to see where we have been and to look forward to where are going. In that spirit, here’s a brief look at some of the 2012 highlights for us here at e3 Software.

Direct Mail 3

Beautiful Templates

January was an exciting month for us as we launched our all-new Direct Mail version 3. The result of nearly a year’s worth of intense development, it packed over 100 new enhancements, including a beautiful template editor, in-depth email campaign reports, and blazing-fast performance. Even better, we launched all-new pricing plans to deliver great value for all types of senders. We said goodbye to our old website and launched a fresh, usable, and fast redesign. To help keep our awesome customers in the loop, we started this blog and brought back our monthly newsletter.


Our next milestone was the launch of our iPhone application, Stamps, in May! Stamps makes it easy to keep tabs on your email campaign reports while you are away from your Mac. We had a blast putting together our first mobile application and have continued to improve the app in response to your feedback!

Design Testing

Thumbnail view gives you an easy way to preview your message in over 30 of the most popular email clients, including mobile, web, and Windows clients.

July saw the release of a great update to Direct Mail. We introduced retina-quality graphics to make sure Direct Mail looked stunning on the new MacBook Pro that Apple had just unveiled one month prior (and now the new 13-inch model). We also unveiled a new Design Testing feature for viewing full-size screenshots of your email in over 30 different email clients. This has become a most-loved feature, with thousands of design tests processed thus far.

Social Sharing, Notifications, and More!

We welcomed fall with round of updates to Direct Mail and Stamps in September that brought some awesome new features:

  • Live mobile previews of your email pushed to your iPhone
  • One-click publishing of your subscribe form to your Facebook page
  • Email campaign sharing on Facebook and Twitter
  • Delivery status notifications on your iPhone and Mac
  • An ever-expanding template library

Stamps Comes to iPad!

Stamps comes to iPad

We didn’t want to coast into the end of the year (plus we were having so much fun delivering great new features), so we pushed hard to finish 2012 with a bang. November brought our iOS app, Stamps, to the iPad. While we were at it, we added support for a handy subscribe form kiosk mode on the iPad, making it easy to collect new signups for your mailing lists on the go.

Finishing Strong

We finished up this year by introducing fantastic new integration with Marketcircle’s Daylite 4 application. We were very happy to deliver this feature, as it had become one of our most-requested enhancements. We also introduced a new web-based API that opens the door for Direct Mail integration with a host of other web-based products. Lastly, we shipped a Forward to a Friend feature that is the easiest-to-use and best-looking feature of its kind that I’ve ever seen.

Thank You!

It’s been a tremendous year for us and we owe it all to our amazing customers. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. We are very grateful for your support and look forward to surprising and delighting you with a series of new improvements in 2013!

Smart Email Marketing for the Holiday Season

With the back-to-school rush behind us, the email marketer’s attention now turns to the fast-approaching holiday season. We consulted Responsys’ yearly Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season for some great suggestions on how to maximize your email marketing efforts as we head into prime retailing months. In this blog post, we’ll share some of the highlights that apply to businesses both large and small.

Start Early

Consumers start their holiday shopping early. According to the National Retail Federation, 40% of consumers begin gift shopping before Halloween (October 31), another 40% begin in November, and the remaining 20% in December. As a result, many of the top retailers start their email campaigns early to capitalize on these shoppers.

Black Friday is often recognized as the “official” start of the holiday shopping season, but data from Responsys shows that increasing numbers of retailers are kicking off the season on Thanksgiving Day itself:

This move to Thanksgiving Day is driven, in part, by the rise of mobile email.

Focus on Mobile

Ubiquitous mobile devices (smartphones, iPads, etc.) mean that more people are checking their email more often. The holiday season affords mobile device users plenty of opportunities to kill time checking email. For example:

  • Airport-related or other delays while traveling on the day before Thanksgiving (the busiest travel day of the year)
  • Watching a football game on Thanksgiving with the remote control in one hand and phone in the other
  • Standing in line at the register on Black Friday

Since odds are your email will be read on a mobile device, take the time to make sure it looks good on the small screen. Email templates that come with Direct Mail are designed to look great no matter what device they are read on, but take advantage of our Design Test and Send to iPhone features to make sure your content (and subject lines) work great on mobile.

Pre-Holiday Messaging

Getting an early start to holiday marketing does not mean barraging your customers with calls to buy right away. Since we’re still on the leading edge of the holiday season, use this time to send email campaigns that will set you up for success during peak buying time. Here are some ideas:

  • Offer loyalty or other incentive programs that will increase the chance of repeat sales later. Consider something as simple as offering discounts to fans of your Facebook page.
  • Request reviews of your products. Large numbers of positive reviews for your product will drive later sales.
  • Survey customers in order to gather valuable data for targeted campaigns later on.
  • Encourage opt-ins for other marketing channels like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Messaging the same customers over multiple channels can help drive sales.
  • Announce a website relaunch or a new feature.

Use the above mentioned ideas during this preseason time to set up a successful buying season down the road.


Responsys’ 2012 Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season is full of great information and suggestions for email marketers. Smart retailers are learning to match consumers move to shopping earlier in the year with early email campaigns. The exponential growth of iPhone, Android, and other mobile devices is signaling to email marketers the importance of making sure their designs look great on a small screen. Lastly, appropriate messaging during the holiday preseason can pay off big during the final two months of the year. Take advantage of this knowledge, these tips, and Direct Mail to make the most of your email marketing this holiday season!

Top Template Tips to Try!

Great-looking email designs help your business project a professional, polished image and can win you the confidence of your subscribers. With its intuitive editor and great selection of templates, Direct Mail can help you get up and running with a great looking email in no time. In this blog post, we want to share a few tips to help you get your designs looking just the way you want.

Adding, Moving, and Deleting Sections

Many of our templates come with sections that you can duplicate, move, or remove. Use this flexibility to lengthen or shorten the newsletter to fit your content—instead of forcing your content to fit the newsletter. You can identify these flexible sections by hovering your mouse over various sections of the template and looking for the following toolbar to appear:

Here’s what each of those icons mean, from left-to-right:

  • Delete. Deletes the section
  • Duplicate. Makes a copy of the section
  • Move Up. Moves the section up one slot
  • Move Down. Moves the section down one slot

In the following example, I’ve taken the “Sidebar (Right)” template and duplicated the Headline One section to make a Headline Two section:

Use the “Duplicate” button to expand your template.

Use these flexible sections to adjust the template to fit your content. You might also be interested in these helpful tips to keep your email content fresh.

Working With Images

Text Descriptions

Nowadays, nearly all email clients default to not loading images contained in the message body. The recipient can choose to load them if they want, but most do not. That being the case, it’s important to make sure your email looks good (and is understandable) even when the images aren’t loaded. One great way to do that is to make sure that you provide text descriptions for any image you add. For example, here’s a newsletter with an image of a car at the race track:

To add a text description, just click it and fill out the field labeled “Description”:

That’s it! Now when your message is sent, the recipients will see a helpful text description instead of a big, blank box:

As a bonus, text descriptions are a huge help to sight-impaired readers, as most computers and smartphones can read those descriptions aloud.

Composite Images

As you already know, it’s easy to add images to your email. Just drag and drop them into the message body (or copy and paste). Some templates, however, provide special placeholders called composite images. Composite images automatically apply great looking effects like drop shadows, borders, and overlays to any photo or image you drop on them. You can identify composite images by hovering your mouse over them and watching as the image darkens, like this image from the Air Mail template:

To add your own image, just drop a photo into the placeholder position, like this photo of a company outing:

Looks good, but we can’t see anyone’s face! Click the image to pop up an editing panel. Drag the Size slider to the right to zoom in the photo. Drag the image itself to get the faces centered just right (the cursor will turn to a hand icon to let you know you can pan the image). Much better:

Use the zoom and pan controls to get your photos looking just right!

Composite images are an easy way to add a professional touch to your messages. Use the zoom and pan controls to get your photos looking just right!


A great-looking email design will help boost your open and click numbers, as well as project a professional image to your readers. Try using Direct Mail’s streamlined templates, flexible sections, and image tools to get your emails looking just the way you want, and stay tuned to our blog for more great tips. Thanks for reading!

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