Marketing Chat With Chad White
Written by Franco Varriano.
We’re really excited to have Chad White in our Marketing Chat series. Chad is the author of Email Marketing Rules: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Practices that Power Email Marketing Success, and Research Director at Litmus, a user-friendly email testing and tracking software that provides instant email previews, comprehensive checklists, and advanced analytics to help you optimize your email campaigns for every subscriber. This week’s topic is Email of the Future.
2. The Interview
Ned: Thank you very much for joining our Marketing Chat series. Before we dive into the topic, can you introduce yourself and explain how you got into email marketing?
Chad: Thanks for having me. I was a journalist before I got into email marketing. I worked at Dow Jones and Condé Nast covering technology in the retail industry and I signed up for lots of retailers’ email programs as a way of getting leads for stories, since they often announce new programs to their subscribers.
When the publication I was working on folded and I moved to a non-retail publication, I founded the Retail Email Blog, which provided daily coverage of the promotional emails that retailers were sending and trends. That blog got me on the radar on Jeanniey Mullen, who had just founded the Email Experience Council (EEC). She hired me as employee #3 at the EEC and I’ve been in email marketing ever since, working at the Direct Marketing Association, Smith-Harmon, Responsys, ExactTarget, Salesforce, and now Litmus.
Ned: Many email marketing articles describe the email of the future as a data-driven email that appears in your inbox with the right message and at the right time. Why can’t we have that today?
Chad: We can totally have that today in the form of triggered emails. At some brands, triggered emails already drive the majority of their email marketing revenue—a benchmark I believe separates great email marketers from the merely good. That said, technology improvements are making it much easier to collect and analyze customer information and behavior and then use that to send personalized, segmented, and automated emails.
Ned: With the rise of bots, messaging apps, and artificial intelligence, is email marketing dying?
Not even a little.
In fact, all of those are more likely to strengthen email marketing than disrupt it. Social media, mobile, and even RSS were all supposed to kill email—and not only did none of them hurt email, social media companies have become huge, leading-edge users of email marketing and mobile has transformed email into an anywhere, real-time channel. Of the three things you mentioned, artificial intelligence is likely to be next transformative force that takes email marketing to the next level.
Email’s enduring popularity is rooted in the fact that it’s an open platform that’s not controlled by a single entity. That makes it widely available, keeps costs low, and makes email environments fairly stable. Email stands in sharp contrast to social media, messaging apps, and other closed platforms, which have smaller user bases, higher costs, lower ROIs, and less stability. Plus, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to receive commercial messages from brands via email, which I think is even a bigger advantage than email’s high ROI.
Ned: You are one of the most influential voices in the email marketing sphere. Can you give us an email marketing 101 that everybody can use today to send better emails?
Chad: Boiled down, email marketing is about sending emails that are (1) respectful, (2) functional, (3) valuable, and (4) at least occasionally remarkable. I call this the Hierarchy of Subscriber Needs. Fulfill these needs, and you’ll be a successful email marketer.
Of course, achieving that is an increasingly daunting task. Subscriber expectations are always rising and new technologies are constantly presenting both additional challenges and opportunities. That requires marketers to be in a mode of constant improvement.
Ned: When it comes to email design, Litmus is in a league of its own. How are you guys able to pack so much information in one beautiful template? Is it a science or an art?
Chad: We’ve got a great email marketing team here at Litmus. Erin King runs it and has really stepped up our use of segmentation, dynamic content, and automation, as well as our A/B testing efforts. And Kevin Mandeville is responsible for the amazing one-off emails we’ve done—like when we used gamification to reveal this year’s new city for The Email Design Conference and when we put a live Twitter feed in an email.
A lot of effort goes into our emails. We make some educated guesses (which is the art) and then back that up with analytics and A/B testing (which is the science). We also take some risks, which have led to some failures. But we try to learn from those failures and bounce back with some grace. Interestingly, some of the most memorable and successful Litmus emails involved a degree of failure. I personally feel there’s a lesson there—we’re too risk-averse as an industry.
Ned: What are the top 3 things you learned about email marketing leading the research team at Litmus?
Chad: As a former journalist, I love how dynamic our industry is. There are constantly new things to explore. While I learn something new every day, some of the big things I’ve learned about at Litmus have been about…
The Future! Who isn’t fascinated by the future? We invited 20 experts to make predictions about what email marketing will be like in the year 2020 and they had some really smart predictions. Some of the predictions have the potential to seriously disrupt the status quo.
I have a proudly mixed record as a prognosticator. I feel strongly that we should always be leaning forward. My colleagues will tell you that I’m a planner, that my blogging and research content calendars often stretch a year into the future. Of course, I’m constantly revising that calendar, moving things around, dropping items and adding others. That’s how marketers should be with their email programs: Have a long-term plan, but make it flexible.
Email Virality. Social sharing is easy to see, while email sharing is all but invisible. Using Litmus’ Email Analytics, which is able to track most forwards, I looked at more than 400,000 email campaigns and analyzed the most viral 1% to uncover the characteristics of highly forwarded emails. Litmus was the only place I could have done this one-of-a-kind research.
Email Production Processes. My strength has always been email strategy. Before joining Litmus, I didn’t know a lot about the nitty-gritty of coding and producing emails. Working with my colleagues and the fantastic Litmus community, we created the first extensive look at how emails are planned, built, approved, and sent. It included looking at the adoption rate of tools like Emmet, task runners, and static site generators—honestly, none of which I’d even heard about before doing this research.
Ned: In a world where Litmus achieves its mission, how is email marketing better for designers, marketers, and customers?
Chad: Litmus’ mission is to help brands send better email. Achieving this mission would mean that it’s much easier to create emails, avoidable mistakes are avoided, emails make it to the inbox, and marketers fully understand how their emails are performing. Email marketing is complex and we want to make it simpler for designers and marketers so they can deliver better subscriber experiences for their customers and prospects.
3. Great, Now What?
Rare.io’s Customer Success team is now working with this store to help optimize the emails they’re sending. Specifically, as we highlighted in the teardown above, we’re going to help the company focus on:
- Create an A/B test: The best way to improve something is to A/B test it and learn from a small test each iteration.
- Creating a sequence of emails: Currently this campaign only sends one email – which isn’t the most effective way to get everyone’s attention.
- Experiment with More Engagement: Can we eliminate “Idle Customers” altogether? Maybe not, but we can certainly reduce it. By examining data inside Rare.io, we can identify certain customer behaviors and better plan specific repeat purchase campaigns to ensure that most customers are buying more products every 3-6 months – before they fall into the idle bucket!
We’ll be back in 3 months with an update on their progress!
If you’re an ecommerce merchant and don’t have automated email marketing campaigns setup for your store, you’re losing money. Right now.
Rare.io makes it easy to start using automated email campaigns for common challenges like: Welcome Series, Abandoned Carts, Order Follow-up emails and more! You can learn more about our powerful email marketing automation features here or go ahead and get started right away by using Rare.io for FREE.
And if you’re one of the thousands of merchants who are already using Rare’s Smart Email Marketing software and want to see how our Customer Success Team can work with your brand to grow your revenue – feel free to book a call at your convenience here.