Let's Take This to the Inbox
Sign up for our news, resources and updates. The inbox is our favorite place after all. We’ll make sure it’s worth it. (You can unsubscribe at any time, but you probably already knew that.)
2014 has been an incredible year so far at Trendline. We are growing as an agency, and I am growing
as an email marketer. While I’ve learned many things this year, I wanted to share with you the top 5
things (that I can discuss publicly) that have made me a better agency owner and a better email
It’s easy to get distracted by a shiny new trend or product — or in this case, the sexy beta version
of Gmail’s grid view. Certainly it makes for well-attended webcasts and frequently read blog posts,
particularly for frazzled marketers fearful of being left behind or left out of the inbox.
When confronted with these new trends, consider the bigger picture. For instance, Gmail grid view is
a beta test. Secondly, it might only be used by <1% of the Gmail-verse (most of whom, I would bet,
are marketers themselves). So, spending all your time optimizing for grid view, when the majority of
your subscribers don’t even know it exists, means it can be a costly distraction. You risk derailing
your established trajectory and strategy to gain little to nothing from the commotion.
So, when you are confronted by one of these distractions, corral the troops, discuss potential
solutions, and then pocket them for later if/when the issue reaches critical mass. In the meantime,
put your time and attention where it will have the largest impact, such as the subscriber experience
or optimizing revenue streams.
Though I’ve just advised you not to get distracted by a shiny new trend, that doesn’t mean you
should discount the importance of paying attention to the larger universe in which email lives. When
you ignore changes in the digital ecosystem, you may find yourself unaware or unprepared for
critical changes that directly impact your programs.
In this case, Gmail and Yahoo filters. Recent filtering changes from Gmail and Yahoo have led to a
lot of legitimate senders landing in the bulk folder, proving that we need to maintain our
Examine your programs to identify any positive or negative changes in performance. When something
changes without warning, rely on your historical data to confirm (or deny) a need for a heightened
state of awareness and action. Don’t panic, but analyze the data and let the data drive your next
steps instead of your gut.
As best you can, stay abreast of the changes happening around you, especially those changes that
directly impact your campaigns. Then optimize based on your data, and not on hype.
Often we overlook ingenuity in the name of best practices. With subject lines, for instance,
conventional wisdom says to stay under 50 characters and either include/exclude keywords like ‘free’
or ‘offer’. However, sometimes we need to venture outside of convention to test things radical
enough to influence our program.
Sometimes you need to try something different and sometimes you need to spice up your testing
strategy. Though your findings may not be sustainable or successful in all situations, some rewards
merit the risk. In our case, it certainly did.
This may be a given, but it’s something I relearn every year. As a marketer, you will make mistakes.
Some will fly under the radar, while others will cost you and your client/company money. How one
reacts in this situation is what distinguishes good marketers from great marketers.
Great marketers will remain calm under pressure and apply what they’ve learned. Whether it’s a
monumental mistake or a small problem blown out of proportion, they will consider the mistake as a
data point in the larger historical context of the program. Often, an error may lead to a larger
insight that benefits the program down the road.
For example, a common mistake in email marketing is incorrect or botched personalization. That
personalization could be F_Name, or something slightly more complicated such as segmentation data
around an inactive send to active users. Whatever scale of mistake it is, make sure you can attach
a revenue number to it. Email marketers love to blog about mistakes when they see it at its
surface, but are often not armed with enough information to truly understand its impact. Forget the
critics and focus on what is important: revenue and experience.
Eventually, great marketers learn how to avoid mistakes, though they will never be without
unforeseen obstacles. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and when you do just deposit it in your
experience bank and cash it later.
Much of what distinguishes good marketers from great marketers also distinguishes good hires from
great. As an agency, we’re continually looking for raw email talent. Sometimes the most experienced
and talented recruits may not impact your business the way you want. As I’ve taken over the role of
Chief Recruiting Officer, my philosophy has been to look beyond experience. Instead, I look at the
human aspect, particularly the passion. Even if one candidate has less experience, I’m unlikely to
bypass them if they demonstrate greater passion and willingness to learn than another, more seasoned
The way I see it, no one you hire will work on an island. It doesn’t matter whether the position is
internally or externally facing; when you’re building a team, every employee impacts the overall
culture of the company. You want to hire people who are passionate about the success of everyone:
the success of the client, the success of their team members, and the success of the overall
An employee who understands that everyone succeeds together and fails together will bolster the team
in ways sheer skills cannot. It takes a long time to find these people, and when you do, you need to
invest in them and nurture them. You will see it pay off when your team continually does great
things for great clients.