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Design Tips from SXSW Emails

Design Tips from SXSW Emails

Are you heading to SXSW this week? Whether you’ll be on the ground at South by Southwest, or you’re just following the going-on via Twitter, you’re sure to get new tech insights and learn about exciting new technology and startups during the festival. The Austin-based event has become a seedbed for creativity and fresh ideas, from music to tech. There really is something for everyone at SXSW—and our inboxes reflect that. As the 2016 events kick off, email marketers have invited readers to join them in the festivities, live in person. Here’s how some of those brands use email to engage their audiences at SXSW, and what you can learn about promoting your brand at tech conferences in the future.

SXSW shares updates about the festival through it’s own series of emails. Here’s a look at their welcome email.

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Tip #1: Get in the spirit of the event

General Assembly seized the opportunity to bring the creative vibes of SXSW to New York City, where they’re partnering with Alley to host a gathering in the Big Apple. Their email invitation includes this dancing clock GIF:


And tells readers to hop to it!

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Even though the party is hundreds of miles away from the main event, it borrows the same celebratory culture of creativity and cocktails that guests will find at SXSW. And by celebrating in NYC, GA’s creating an opportunity to meet with subscribers in what might be for most a more accessible venue. It’s a great way to leverage the SXSW brand to bring people together.

Tip #2: Use inclusive language

Percolate, the marketing software company, recently invited readers to join them at their SXSW Interactive party. Their subject line reads: “Percolate’s going to SXSW. We’d love to see you there.” And this is the email:

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Between the subject line’s earnestness—”We’d love to see you there”—and the warm language in the email about hosting “some of our dearest (and most creative) friends” for “great cocktails, company, and conversation,” the tone of the email makes us feel like we’ve been invited by our closest buddy. Percolate goes on to tell subscribers “We hope you’ll stop by” and “Hope to see you soon.” Without being hokey, they’ve created a simple, plain-text message that’s inviting and inclusive. They’re positioning themselves as part of the fun—this is a party at a tequila bar, after all—but they’re also making it clear to readers that they should truly feel welcome to come, and that the event will also be about creativity, company, and conversation.

Design-wise, Percolate also does a great job of using the inverted pyramid method, and their communication is concise and well-organized. That bulletproof button could use a little TLC—we’d extend the width so it’s easy to spot and tap on mobile devices, and update the language to match the inviting tone: “Reserve my spot on Saturday.”

Tip #3: Offer an ongoing invitation

Contently’s Daily Digest newsletter has been getting us excited for SXSW for nearly two months now. Beginning January 14, Contently has included a special SXSW invitation in the last module in their newsletter. Here are two of the versions we spotted:

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Contently understands that, as people, seeing something over and over again helps us absorb and act upon the information. They wisely started telling subscribers about their SXSW plans months before the festival. Even if readers didn’t take note at first, or didn’t always open or scroll down on each email, with repetition, the message is likelier to get through. And to make sure not to beat readers over the head with SXSW party talk, the invitation module was placed low in the email, just above the footer, and was kept simple and streamlined: a header line, subheader line, and CTA button (all in a playful tone of voice consistent with SXSW).

Tip #4: Focus on the CTA

An email invitation always includes a call for readers to act: it’s the time-honored RSVP! As a result, effective e-invitations should follow the rules of any other successful marketing email that’s focused, has a clear hierarchy, is simple, and leads readers right along to an obvious, well-placed, well-designed CTA button. eMarketer shows they know the drill in their SXSW email:

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Including the SXSW logo at the top instantly gives reader a visual clue about the message of the email. From there, eMarketer includes a simple header—”Going to SXSW Interactive?—followed by two lines of text with additional detail, followed by a clever content break that looks like an arrow, pointing readers directly to the CTA. The CTA button itself is bulletproof, nearly the full width of the email (easy to spot, easy to tap), and is well-worded (it’s descriptive, inclusive, and doesn’t ask readers to “Click here”). In other words, the email is designed so that all the focus is on the CTA. It’s an effective strategy, perfectly optimized for busy subscribers skimming quickly through emails.

Tip #5: Communicate visually

The OMMA Awards (Online Marketing, Media, and Advertising) honor agencies for exceptional digital advertising, and they’re another brand attending the techy part of SXSW, SXSW Interactive. They recently sent this email invitation to subscribers inviting them to register for their SXSW event:

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While we wouldn’t award this email “Best in Design,” we applaud OMMA for taking such a visual approach. They included a unique header design specifically to communicate about SWSX—a great way to get readers’ attention and to show their commitment to the event—and they included the SXSW logo, an image of last year’s event, and logos from featured speakers and brands. Such a visual email could benefit from a visual CTA, too, like a bulletproof button, but we dig OMMA’s visual-forward thinking. Our brains process visuals elements at rapid speeds—much faster than we can read text—so visual communication is a great way to connect with on-the-go readers.

It’s not too late to connect with readers over SXSW. Even if you won’t be there, take a page from GA’s book and host an event in your own city before or after the event, or send out relevant content this week that’s connected to the festival.

Get started creating responsive, mobile-friendly emails in the BEE editor today!

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