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Ask the Expert: Interview with founder of Dotmailer

With so many innovative new ways to reach customers, many marketers wonder, is it still worth sending an email? The short answer: yes. Email marketing is alive and kicking, and if you’re not using it, you’re missing out. We caught up with Tink Taylor, Founder of email marketing platform dotMailer to discuss why email marketing is still as important as ever.


How did you get into direct marketing/email marketing?

When we first started the business we were a web design and development agency that built many different websites and intranets. At the time, one of our major clients was the BBC and we were working on websites for all of their brands, including Top Gear and Radio Times. It was out of those activities we actually captured a lot of email addresses, and the BBC came to us and said they were struggling with their email system. They asked if we could build anything that could handle email sales, so that’s how we got into it. The BBC gave us a kick-start!


What do you think makes an effective email marketing campaign?

Relevancy is the key. Relevancy equals results. You can make it effective through your data segmentation – selecting the right people and sending the right content at the right time. It’s very easy to do all of that with email. If your leads have been obtained via downloadable content then you will also have access to demographic information and order details, which help build up what you know about the individual.


Has the use of email marketing changed with the rise of targeted online advertising?

If I had a pound for every time somebody said email marketing is dead I would be an incredibly rich man, and they have always been proven wrong! Email is your key – not having an email address is equivalent to being digitally homeless; you just can’t exist online if you can’t sign into your social media, online banking or to buy anything.

When it comes to things like re-marketing, you are using an email address – or a version of your email address – to pass the knowledge around the internet. Of course, the challenge is data legislation and what marketers can do with your email address. In the coming years we’ll see how moves like GDPR impact the email world, and probably see even more coming out of e-privacy.

Email is the most successful digital channel for ROI. Using an email address means you can link online and offline marketing – it’s so valuable that despite the challenges it’s still a massive opportunity.


How do you get potential customers to hit that all important ‘sign up to receive emails’ button?

If it is something as simple as “sign up to our newsletter”, writing legally-required ‘opt-in statements’ often puts people off. I would always encourage people to write in natural language and in the tone that a brand would normally communicate to their recipients – just explain the benefits of signing up – ie. “you will get VIP access” or “you will be the first to hear news”.

But I think we are only interested in asking for email addresses when users are actually on the website. It annoys me when I go and check in on an airplane, and I’m doing my booking, and they don’t ever ask for my email address – it’s crazy!

There are more opportunities offline than people think. Try not to just take a shortcut and buy data because it leads you into some trouble in terms of regulation. You’ll always end up with deliverability issues as well, because the same data is being sold and resold so many times over the years.


What steps can be taken to stop emails being filtered as spam?


The quality of data is huge, so as I said: don’t buy data. If you think, ‘what are we trying not to do when we are being filtered by spam?’ The answer is – to not act like a spammer. You have to start thinking, ‘What does a spammer do? Where do they get their data from?’

We have a fantastic deliverability team here with years of experience between them in the field of direct relationships with clients, and we’re always honest.

I kind of describe it like when you are going to the emergency room on a Saturday night. The doctor will ask you how much have you had to drink or if you’ve taken drugs – simply because they want to know how to treat you.

So if someone says: I have got this list, but it is quite old I don’t know how old it is or where it came from, we then know how best to prescribe the right solution for them to move forward. So keep your complaints down and keep your data quality high and look at your engagement rates.


How do you effectively calculate the ROI of an email marketing campaign in a way that stakeholders will appreciate?

Emails are the easiest thing to measure; you click on a link and we can track that link and that purchase and we can give you that absolute exact number of how much money that email made.

What I don’t think people do a particularly good job on is tracking the “halo” effect, as I call it. How many people went in store to and bought something because of an email they received? Or how many people later researched the item through a Google search? We actually see a lot of people typing in search words they remembered from a subject line they received in the email. Attribution is still a challenge.

An email is like an impression – similar to a banner ad – but no one actually tracks them or monetises that. I think it generates significantly more than its given credit for, even though it is solicited as the highest ROI.


What would you say are the four key elements for running a successful business?

People, product and passion is probably the verse we have. It comes down to an incredibly good team. It’s the team that makes a difference – it’s the team that makes the product. I think you have got to provide an environment where they have a passion for that, because not only do they enjoy their daily life and working environment, they enjoy the challenge they have been set and the product they are working on.

I’ve done quite a lot of advisory work for other businesses and it’s staggering how many people aren’t aware of some of the key metrics for business, like sales and profit numbers. Understanding your key metrics should be consistent across all businesses.


What’s been the most revolutionary update to the dotmailer system?

The thing that I really like at the moment is what we call our extension centre – so within our automation tool you can map out customer journeys and send automated emails. You also have the ability to link it into any other channel.

It makes our products truly multichannel and is really bucking the trend of all of the top tier technology companies. In a very short period of time you can get set up with a channel – in less than a day – and link up to the actions that are important to you and your business.


If you had a chance to start your career over again, would you do anything differently?

The short answer to that is no, obviously! We have had a fantastic time and been very successful. If I had the ability of hindsight for decisions we made as a business over those 18 years I am bound to change some, in terms of what we could have done bigger and quicker.

But what we have always done – and what any business should do – is always make quick decisions and not labour over a decision, just monitor results. Not making a decision is worse than making a bad decision.


For advice on how to create enticing email content, get in touch today.