The COVID-19 pandemic has affected countless industries across the world, but if there’s one that’s been thriving this year, it’s email marketing. There’s been a spike in both sending volumes and engagement since March – and most likely, brands will continue to rely on email just as much in 2021.
How can they be successful?
Tom Wozniak, Executive Director of Marketing at OPTIZMO, answers this question – and more – in this exclusive interview. We talk about:
- how marketing has changed in 2020,
- the most effective PR and marketing tactics he’s used,
- what OPTIZMO does for you,
- how he sees email evolving,
- and some of the most common email marketing mistakes.
Bonus: he gives us three things we can all do to improve our email performance fast. Enjoy the interview!
Tom, what does a typical day look like for an Executive Director of Marketing?
Since I head up marketing, PR and communications for OPTIZMO, I typically work on a lot of projects simultaneously, so every day can bring something different.
I love that kind of variety, where new opportunities and challenges present themselves regularly. It keeps me on my toes and really engaged every day.
But, some typical projects for me would include writing some thought leadership content around email or SMS compliance, working with a partner on a joint-marketing project, promoting a new video interview release, and working closely with our sales team on growing the business.
Do you work from home now?
OPTIZMO was actually built using a distributed company model, where employees could work pretty much anywhere. Even in early 2020, we had team members across five states and in two countries. So, for me, working from home has been my daily routine ever since joining OPTIZMO back in 2017.
Do you like it?
I love working from home, but I know it’s been a real challenge for folks who were used to working in an office setting.
What’s the most important thing the pandemic has changed about marketing?
For us, the lack of real-world events has been the biggest impact on our marketing and sales process.
We typically attend 6-10 industry events every year and those become key drivers of new business, as well as opportunities to network with our current clients and partners. We also exhibit, sponsor, and present at several of those events each year, so that has all been impacted in 2020.
We’ve adapted to it well, but there really is no virtual substitute to the networking and face-to-face interaction that takes place at one of these events.
On a more global scale, it has obviously had a huge impact on traditional, offline marketing. Companies that rely on physical, real-world marketing, perhaps at a brick and mortar store location have had to make some major adaptations to their routine marketing programs. This has led many of them to shift focus and budgets online.
So, digital marketing has actually seen quite a bit of growth from companies making this adjustment.
Email is a great example, where we’ve seen even more email marketing activity in 2020, as companies take advantage of the channel to augment their marketing and sales programs.
What have been some of the most effective marketing and PR tactics you’ve used at OPTIZMO along the years?
We believe strongly in the value of thought leadership in a tech space like email marketing and compliance. That can take all kinds of forms, like writing articles for industry publications, giving presentations at events, releasing original research or white paper style content, and even just keeping our blog up to date with useful tips and other content.
The goal is to consistently deliver great content and insight to the industry, which naturally leads to being recognized as thought leaders in the space. That recognition and authority is valuable on so many levels, across sales, account management, marketing, etc.
This year, we’ve also focused a great deal on video marketing, making it a real priority. We’ve received a ton of great feedback from clients, partners, and even companies we’ve never met before.
It’s been a very novel marketing channel for us, since it isn’t used regularly by many companies in the industry.
Tell us a bit about OPTIZMO – what do you do and why is it important?
OPTIZMO is the recognized industry leader in the email and online marketing space for email suppression list management, email campaign management, data management, and risk mitigation services relative to email compliance.
Email marketing can be a powerful marketing tool, often producing the highest ROI of any marketing channel, but marketers need to comply with various laws and regulations in order to leverage it successfully.
Maintaining compliance with laws like the CAN-SPAM Act can be very challenging, especially as a company’s email marketing program grows in complexity.
Our platform (SUPPRESS) empowers our clients to more effectively manage their overall email compliance programs.
SUPPRESS automates the collection, processing, storage and distribution of email suppression file data to an entire ecosystem of marketing and mailing partners, ensuring accountability through the entire process. The platform also enables a wide variety of advanced audience targeting capabilities through the strategic use of suppression file data.
Several years ago, we enhanced our platform to deliver similar capabilities to the SMS marketing industry, where the needs for suppression file management and legal compliance are every bit as vital and even more complex than in the email arena.
What stands out to you as a novel trend in email marketing this year? How do you see it evolving?
Email marketing has certainly evolved tremendously over the past 40+ years. From the look and feel of the email itself changing from just text to graphic-intensive and even interactive content, to the technology behind the channel that was once very manual to today’s marketing automation, dynamic content, generation and advanced audience targeting.
At the same time, email is still largely recognizable as the same medium, just with more capabilities and more easily accessed on a range of devices.
I’m not sure if ‘novel’ is the right word, but what I’ve seen this year is many companies turning more of their attention to email marketing. Previously, it might have been an important part of their overall strategy, but one they simply relied on to perform, without much innovation.
With advertisers taking a longer look at the channel, many have ramped up their email marketing programs and taken advantage of its power to drive not only conversions, but also engagement.
We’ve seen an upswing in overall email marketing activity this year as a company, and I have certainly noticed it myself as a consumer.
The question is whether this focus on email will last into the future, once in-person and real-world marketing begins to make a comeback.
That’s hard to predict, but I do think that plenty of businesses have been reminded of just how powerful email marketing can be for them.
Those that are results-focused are likely to continue focusing on email, even when offline channels start gaining traction again.
What’s the biggest mistake you see email marketers making?
One of the biggest benefits of email marketing is its cost-effectiveness. But, the relatively low incremental cost of sending a larger volume of email in every mailing led to many early email marketers taking a spray-and-pray approach to email campaigns.
Today, we know that more targeted marketing campaigns are far more likely to deliver stronger results both in the immediate campaign and over the long-term by not sending irrelevant offers to your audience.
While we don’t really see it among our clients and partners, there are certainly still email marketers who still take a ‘more is better’ approach to their email campaigns.
Of course, it would be a huge mistake for any company to run a non-compliant email marketing program, but fortunately all of our clients and partners are very focused on compliance.
No company that wants to run a successful and sustainable email marketing program would run the risk of non-compliance.
Please share with us three simple things anyone can do today to improve their email marketing performance.
I’ll assume the fact that an effective compliance program is already part of the foundation of any good email marketing program. But, adding on to that:
Practice good list hygiene. The benefits of cleansing your email lists regularly are well established – improved delivery rates, better sender reputation, etc. It’s an essential part of a successful email program.
Develop an effective targeting strategy. This will help match up relevant offers with the right recipients, which will naturally drive improved performance.
Test, test, and test some more. Successful marketers know that a key to driving performance over time is constantly testing and optimizing your campaigns. Those small incremental gains add up over time, as you really dial in your timing, targeting, messaging, design, and every other element of your email marketing program.
What would you tell digital marketers struggling to create effective campaigns right now?
Remember that while technology and the devices and channels through which we connect with our audiences may change, marketing itself is still very much about identifying your audience and connecting with them.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of digital marketing and forget the basics.
So, when your digital campaigns aren’t performing, it can be helpful to take a step back and look at the bigger marketing picture.
Make sure your strategy and tactics are built on a solid foundation of basic marketing and communications principles. It’s hard to create a successful marketing campaign that doesn’t start from a strong basis of marketing best practices.
How OPTIZMO helps with your email marketing
OPTIZMO was launched in 2009 by co-founders Khris Thayer and Grant Fern. From its inception, the company has focused on delivering email compliance solutions and support to advertisers, networks, performance agencies, and email marketers.
Hundreds of companies across a wide range of B2C and B2B industries count on OPTIZMO for:
- email suppression list management,
- email campaign management,
- data management, and
- risk mitigation services relative to email compliance.
Perhaps the only truly independent suppression list management system, OPTIZMO is entirely neutral and unaffiliated with any mailer, network, or other technology platform. This allows them to focus on delivering their robust email compliance solutions with no potential conflicts of interest.
Whether you have a need to move data throughout an entire ecosystem of channel partners or simply for internal, cross-departmental sharing of suppression lists and customer files, OPTIZMO saves you time, money and lets you rest assured your data is safe and secure.
The company has team members in locations around the world, including Austin TX, Charleston SC, Denver CO, Philadelphia PA, and Brisbane, Australia.