Expert Interview Series: Andrea Bridges-Smith of PostUp On Data-Driven Email Marketing

Andrea Bridges-Smith is the Product Marketing Manager at PostUp where she oversees the company's marketing programs.

PostUp specializes in email marketing solutions. With so many different marketing techniques available, why are you so passionate about email marketing?

Unlike some other channels, the data is in on email marketing, and it's very successful. It's the clear winner in terms of ROI, and in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, it's the best way to build an ongoing, direct relationship with your audience.

Proving ROI is always a challenge for digital marketers. Email marketing has been proven to have the highest ROI, at a staggering 3800% return rate. Why is email marketing so effective at returning on investment?

The key to email marketing is first-party data. With other channels like social, you're getting a sliver of the data available to you through email marketing. If you don't have the data, you can't use it to make better decisions, you can't monetize it, you can't act on it. It's no coincidence that email gives you both the best data and the best ROI.

On that note, what are some different techniques a marketing team can use to showcase their ROI to business owners and investors?

One of the first things we do when we're talking to a prospective client is an ROI Analysis. There are a lot of factors that go into that - your open and click-through rates of course, along with your ad revenue, how many emails you're sending and to how many people, etc. It's a simple calculation, and we're actually offering a free analysis right now to anyone who's interested in getting the jump on their 2017 planning!

Despite the fact that email marketing is so powerful and popular, it doesn't get the same amount of attention as things like social media, influencer, or inbound marketing. What are some methods a marketer could use to get useful data from their email marketing campaigns?

We always tell people that the data is of no use if you can't hear what it's telling you. The best way to make your data useful is to invest in good data visualization software. Tableau is one of the best in the industry, and we've integrated their technology into our platform. When you can see the spikes and the hotspots in your data, it's a real "aha moment" - it shows you right away where you need to be focusing your attention without having to slog through thousands of rows in a spreadsheet.

What are some unusual metrics that can be ascertained via email marketing that marketers might not think of?

An interesting one that we measure is engagement level over time. By analyzing this, you can see when your subscriber engagement starts to cool off because new subscribers are much more engaged than existing subscribers. By tracking the engagement decay cycle, you can start to figure out when to introduce re-engagement campaigns or scrub subscribers from your list. We can also track engagement over time based on when the subscriber joined or what their signup source was, which is a great way to figure out where to allocate resources in the future.

Email automation revenue increased 60% in 2014, vs. 50% in 2013. Why is email marketing automation so important? How can data-driven marketing be used in conjunction with email automation to make the best marketing campaign imaginable?

Automation is important because every time you send an email, you create a monetization opportunity. The more you send, the more money you can make; it's that simple. Automation is the key to being able to send more emails to more people with better content. And when you combine the two, the results are really powerful. In the example about subscriber engagement that I mentioned, if you have both the data and the automation set up properly, you can say "stop sending our regular email to anyone who hasn't engaged in the past two months and enroll them in the re-engagement campaign," and with just a few clicks, you can make that condition true going forward.

Obviously, finances are just one asset that can be gained from a successful marketing campaign. Data-driven marketing can be effective at reducing the time it takes for a company to respond to customer's questions or concerns, for example. What are some other areas that can benefit from data-driven email marketing?

The big one is the overall customer relationship. Appearing in your customer's inbox on a regular basis with valuable content makes them feel good about your brand. These people will be the first to sign up to receive more content, the first to jump on special offers, the first to forgive you if you screw up (and apologize, of course), and the first to evangelize on your behalf.

One difficulty facing email marketers today is the effectiveness of Spam Filters, with 1 in 5 real messages getting lost in the fray. What are some methods a marketer can use to make sure their email marketing messages get seen?

You can actually send out a seed test before you send to see how well you're projected to do in terms of inbox placement. If you're triggering too many spam filters, it's best to find that out before you send so you have time to make corrections. If there are problems, you may want to try throttling a large send or sending out in smaller batches. It's also good to check things like your "friendly from" or your subject line to make sure they're not too spammy. An overall evaluation of your sender score may be in order if it's happening frequently. Ideally, you should be landing in the inbox at least 95% of the time; any lower than that, and it's time to do some digging.

With so much advertising coming from all over, how can having customers sign up for an email list actually benefit a marketer in the long run?

It's the most direct way to reach that customer. You don't have to wait for them to see your social media post, you don't have to hope they saw your ad - you can reach out to them directly when YOU want to.

Finally, can you offer any advice on how to synchronize the data from email marketing, social media, and other channels into one source, for the most detailed data insights possible? What are some things a marketer could do with this rich, actionable data?

We've actually been doing a lot of this with our PowerAnalytics solution. We build dashboards that incorporate not just email data but things like Google Analytics as well. This enables you to track a user across all channels and find out exactly when they converted and what contributed to it, information that is extremely powerful. We have one customer who knows EXACTLY how much money they make off of every single email - not total revenue divided by amount sent, but the EXACT amount per email. How much easier would your financial planning be if you had that information? With all the data available to email marketers, it's a really exciting time to be emailing right now.

Want to walk into your 2017 planning meeting prepared? We'll tell you how your email program is doing and where to focus next in our free, no obligation Email Checkup session. Schedule yours now!

Want to learn how useful your data could be? Get a free data assessment today!

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