Melissa Sargeant
November 20, 2020

Litmus Testing Your B2B Email Marketing Strategy

Guest: Melissa Sargeant - CMO, Litmus

This September, Litmus released the results of its latest state of email survey: 77% of marketers say email is one of their most effective channels, and 78% suggest that it’s been vital to their overall success. This should come as no surprise, especially given that Litmus surveys have also found email has a staggeringly high return on investment: $42 ROI for every $1 spent.

The survey came out with the launch of Litmus’ first-ever Litmus Live Everywhere, a free, virtual event to replace their in-person one (which typically costs ~$1500, by the way), as well as a new product and certification program. Needless to say, Litmus has been busy.

In this episode, CMO Melissa Sargeant joins Drew to discuss all things email marketing, like how Litmus markets to marketers, common mistakes, and why batch and blast is dead. This episode is jam-packed with insights from the CMO of one of the leading email marketing tools of today. Don’t miss it!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How email marketing can inform your marketing mix
  • How Litmus markets to marketers
  • Common email marketing mistakes 

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 215 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:27] Deep Diving into Email Marketing with Litmus
  • [6:43] Empowering your Marketing Mix with Email
  • [11:53] Why Email Needs to Be Personalized
  • [17:32] Driving SQLs When Marketing to Marketers
  • [20:56] Adapting Litmus Live in 2020
  • [28:48] Common Email Marketing Mistakes
  • [35:16] Optimizing Email Data Insights to Inform Your Marketing Mix

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Melissa Sargeant

[0:27] Deep Diving into Email Marketing with Litmus

“It's fantastic because I come to work today every day and I get to work with 180 marketing nerds.” @mhsargeant @litmusapp #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Hello Renegade Thinkers! Email: Friend or enemy? I don’t know about you, but I have given up trying to zero out my inbox at the end of the day. Now, I will apologize to my friend who I actually met, David Allen, who wrote the book Getting Things Done. It’s a really useful book and he offers this foolproof way of sorting through your daily avalanche of emails and other stuff. He tells you all these things you can do, like, if you can complete a task right away in two minutes, you should. You can delegate as much as you can, and you put the emails in a place that requires more thought. That’s where I get messed up. If it takes more than two minutes and I put it in a folder, I never look at it again, so I have given up. Sorry, David. I just can’t deal with all my emails.

If you’re marketing to me, whether it’s pitching a CMO for this podcast or as a service for my agency, chances are you’re going to have to email me more than once. Then you have to start and think, “Well, what’s the optimal frequency? Is there a point at which I’m going to get PO’ed and just hit unsubscribe? Is there a time of day where I’m more likely to respond to your pitch? Is there a topic that may be of more interest to me today than it was a week ago? Is there an irresistible headline? There are all these things that you, who are marketing to me or marketing your customer, can be thinking about. And then there’s this mix of channels. Like if I see an ad in a social feed, and then I get an email on a new product variation, is that the moment that’s going to convert me? And I’m talking about you Allbirds cause you’re killing it that way.

So yes, on this episode, we’re going to do a deep dive into email. It’s not a sexy, sexy topic and it doesn’t feel like a Renegade Thinker, but I happened to come upon a recent study by Litmus, which found that 77% of marketers say email is one of their two most effective marketing channels. Additionally, 78% of marketing executives indicate email marketing as vital to their overall success, and that’s an increase over last year. To do that, finally, my guest today is Melissa Sergeant the CMO of Litmus, a leader in email marketing. Melissa, welcome to the show.

Melissa Sargeant: Thank you very much, Drew. I’m very, very excited to be here.

Drew Neisser: First question, do you clear out your inbox? Are you one of these people who have a clean inbox at the end of the day?

Melissa Sargeant: I do not have a clean inbox, but I do have a maximum number of emails so that I know that when I get more than 100, I’ve got to go in there and do some tidying up and start moving things around into folders, but I have never achieved the zero inbox goal in Getting Things Done.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. It just seems Sisyphean, just it’s not going to happen. By the way, happy Friday. Because of the pandemic, I like to ask, where are you right now?

Melissa Sargeant: I am in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Drew Neisser: Ah, yes, I know it well, indeed. Before we dive into email, what do you love doing that you haven’t been able to do during the pandemic?

Melissa Sargeant: I think it’s just seeing my friends in person. There’s only so many Zooms you can handle and so much texting, but just the ability to go and sit down with them, that I haven’t been able to hug my friends and spend that quality time than I’m used to over this period of time. I don’t know that I could foresee that it was going to go on this long and how much ever long it’s going to go. It has been wearing on me lately. I miss that interaction.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. The hugs. It’s just so hard, and I think that’s what’s sort of wearing people down. And one of the reasons why it’s surging is because you miss that human contact. On the flip side of this, is there anything you’ve been able to do because of the pandemic that has been a source of comfort, if not joy?

Melissa Sargeant: Before the pandemic, my entire career I have spent on the road, so I would typically do 150,000 to 200,000 air miles a year. That’s been my entire life and I didn’t really realize how much of life I was missing out by spending it on planes and in hotels. For me on a personal level, it’s been very healthy in that I’ve eaten more meals with my husband than I have in the last decade and that I get to go on walks with my dogs every day, I’m getting proper sleep, proper nutrition. I’m an avid Peloton rider. I’ve ridden my bike every single day during the pandemic, so from that perspective, it’s been quite healthy for me, and it’s really changing what I’m thinking about post-COVID. I’m not going to go back to doing 150,000 air miles after there’s a vaccine.

Drew Neisser: You bring to mind so many thoughts and I’m with you on all aspects of healthy and walking the dog and eating more with my wife and eating healthier. The one thing is we have drunk more. We have definitely…

Melissa Sargeant: I see the libations behind you. [Laughter]

Drew Neisser: Well, on another show, on Renegade Thinkers Live, we actually have featured a gin tasting. Just to cross both the properties here, I am a gin fan.

[6:43] Empowering Your Marketing Mix with Email

“We see from our surveys that email has a return on investment of $42 to every $1 spent.” @mhsargeant @litmusapp #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: You’ve had a really interesting career trajectory with stops at big companies like CA, mid-sized smaller ones like SugarCRM and ChannelAdvisor, and at least one startup. What was it that attracted you to Litmus as a challenge?

Melissa Sargeant: Yes, I was at Sugar for just about a year and things were going really, really well there. I wasn’t actually looking for a new opportunity, but when our CEO Eric Nierenberg called me, I knew Litmus because Litmus has always been in my MarTech stack for forever. Of all the different companies that I’ve done marketing for—I’ve done everything from security management to network and systems operation management, I was at Avalara doing sales and use tax automation—all of these technologies, and for the first time, I had an opportunity to market and help people who are in my job.

I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity and it’s fantastic because I come to work today every day and I get to work with 180 marketing nerds. We talk about marketing all day long, and you just don’t do that in companies that are marketing or operations management. That’s not a part of your day. For me, that was just a once in a lifetime opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up

Drew Neisser: Market to marketers. Well, we’ll talk about that. It’s interesting cause they’re both fascinating—I love marketers—and they’re challenging in so many ways to engage. One thing I was confused about that you helped clarify when we had our prep call is what exactly Litmus does and how it’s different from a MailChimp and ConstantContact. Can you just clarify that, so the audience knows what we’re talking about here?

Melissa Sargeant: Yep. Litmus really helps companies get more from their entire marketing mix by putting their most dependable channel, which is email, first. And the way we do that is we help them in the pre, post, and performance of those emails, so being able to test every email and know that it’s going to get to the inbox well. Look at the post-analytics from it, so how did that email perform? You were talking in your intro about what time of day, how much time did you spend reading that email? Those analytics are actually very, very powerful in terms of informing your entire marketing mix. So if something’s working in email, you can apply it to your paid channels. If there’s a certain topic or certain asset or content that’s working well, you can actually harvest those analytics to empower your entire marketing mix.

We see from our surveys that email has a return on investment of $42 to every $1 spent, so when you think about that in the context of taking that to the next level of harvesting those insights to power your entire mix, you can drive even more ROI. We are actually a tool and platform that works with MailChimp. They’re one of our partners and so we help their customers test their emails. What we allow companies to do is, because we’ve integrated with their email service providers, whether it’s a MailChimp or a Marketo or an Eloqua, they can do their work and in Litmus, automatically sync it to their ESP for their send of that email, and help streamline that entire workflow to make sure every email goes out the door perfectly.

Drew Neisser: I got it. This is just better email, and we know that email works, so we’ve got to do it better. There are all sorts of learnings that you can apply to all sorts of other areas, which I think is quite fascinating.

[11:53] Why Email Needs to be Personalized

“A lot of companies will see their open and click through rates more than double when they personalize those communications.” @mhsargeant @Litmustapp #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ve been talking about email, which I know sounds boring, but it’s not. It’s exciting. Let’s first talk about how good are you at using email to market to marketers?

Melissa Sargeant: It’s obviously a big part of our mix. If you’re going to be in the email business, you have to be darn good at email. What we see—primarily we have two parts of our business. We are a B2B company. People can come to our website. There are smaller organizations online, and we also sell in a regular direct sales type motion. Email is a critical part of that because as people come to their website and they engage with our content, what we find is that buyers are very discerning. Marketing buyers are even more discerning, I think, than other buyers that I’ve sold to. They typically will want to engage with us six to eight times before they even speak to a salesperson.

They’re doing their homework, they’re reading the blog, they’re going and looking at customer success stories, and what our email marketing program does is actually help nurture them along that journey so that we can say, “Hey, I saw that you read this blog, you might be interested this eBook on that topic.” And then when we see that they’ve engaged with that, to continue to nurture them and help them do that self-qualification in the background, which is how they typically like to do it before they raise their hands.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. It’s funny—as you’re talking about that, I’m just thinking about how sophisticated this is all getting and going to get. Does any part of your process include machine learning or artificial intelligence to help folks accelerate this process of, as you talked about, nurturing leads?

Melissa Sargeant: There’s definitely—I would say, this coming year in 2021, we’re going to see a lot in the areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence, particularly around the issue of personalization. So there’s been this evolution in email marketing where we started, one, it was, you know, one to many. Now we’re in the one to some. And what customers and prospects are telling us is that “I want you to know me. You need to be able to talk to me.”

So those communications are getting human-to-human, so that takes us to the one-to-one, which as you said, makes things very, very complex. And that’s where I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation in the next 18 months, because personalization is something that prospects and customers 100% want, done in a responsible way, in a non-creepy way, but the biggest enablers to that will be things like machine learning and artificial intelligence to help us be able to truly personalize those communications in a way that’s highly relevant to that individual.

Drew Neisser: Right. I keep thinking—and I had this conversation the other day with a couple of conversational AI CMOs—so much, so many of us have very public footprints from a social standpoint in the content that we shared and a smart program that read all of that.

One example is, there’s a company out there called xiQ, and they have the ability to take your personal profile that’s out there and create a persona that a salesperson could sell against. Well, the same thing could happen with email and marketing, right? So that, you know, well, Drew writes about B2B, so I shouldn’t pitch him B2C. I shouldn’t waste my time. Well, a machine will find that right away, so I would think that we’re going to see—and in the process, as you said—smarter and more personalized doesn’t have to mean creepy. It can mean helpful. In fact, it could solve my problem of all the crap that’s in my inbox that is not relevant. Go ahead.

Melissa Sargeant: I was going to say that you just nailed it. Relevancy is key. That’s what people want. They are happy to receive those communications from your organization if you’re sending them highly relevant information that helps them either make a decision or teaches them something that they didn’t know about to help nurture them along that journey. Finding that relevancy, whether it’s through an email, through dynamic content, or content recommendations, or product recommendations that come into your email program so that you can highly personalize those communications, you’re going to see much better performance from those. A lot of companies will see their open and click-through rates more than double when they personalize those communications.

But up to this point, it’s been some challenging for some organizations because they’re just trying to get the first and last name right, and depending on how clean their data is, that’s not actually necessarily an easy thing for them to do. But to take that to the next level—whether you’re personalizing subject lines, we know that that drives higher engagement with your email, and then the actual content and what you learn from their experience with that email that you take and apply to the next email. Batch and blast days are gone. It’s about engaging with them, learning, and then applying those learnings to the next stage of your email marketing program.

Drew Neisser: All right. You heard it here first. Batch and blast are dead.

[17:32] Driving SQLs When Marketing to Marketers

“Our strategy is to really get people to engage with the site, engage with our content, help them self-qualify, help them learn more, and then raise their hand when they're ready.” @mhsargeant @Litmustapp #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: So, you’re marketing Litmus to marketers—what do you think have been a couple of things that have really been particularly effective for you to drive, we’ll just call them your share of SQLs?

Melissa Sargeant: I think it’s really in the marketing community. Education is something that people are very, very passionate about, and consistently upgrading their skills. Litmus is blessed with a very broad community of more than 600,000 users who are very passionate about the product. One of the things that they will consistently tell us that they like about working with Litmus is the quality of the content on our blog. We have very practical information that’s not linked to our solutions. It’s giving you the latest on spam testing or the latest on dark mode and what you need to think about. It’s very, very practical so it really helps them be more effective in their jobs. I would say one of the other areas related to that, really, content is what fuels all of this stuff anyway.

You can have a great paid program, but if you don’t have content behind that to engage people, you don’t have much there. You just have some pretty ads. The other areas really are content marketing, so you were talking about our state of email survey. We publish a number of those surveys and things that are eBooks and contents, again, are very targeted to practical things that help marketers be more effective in their work. That is really beneficial because they’re able to go and learn something and then it positions us as thought leaders in this space and we gain their trust in terms of them wanting to work with us. That helps us on the MQL and SQL front—and we have a consistent drumbeat. It’s usually, you know, again, no more batch and blast. You can’t really hang your hat on one asset for the entire year. We have a consistent cadence of reports and eBooks that come out throughout the year that they are able to engage with.

Drew Neisser: What percentage of your leads, if you will, are inbound versus outbound?

Melissa Sargeant: We’re probably pretty close to 50/50 there. We have a lot of engagement with our website and we have the benefit of being in this business for 15 years, so we are well known in the community. Typically, when people think of email testing and an email testing platform, we’re most of the time going to make it into somebody’s top three lists even though there’s not like a Gartner magic quadrant or anything like that. We do get great engagement on our site, and we have a true multichannel strategy. Our strategy is to really get people to engage with the site, engage with our content, help them self-qualify, help them learn more, and then raise their hand when they’re ready. It’s really all of those channels working to drive to that purpose.

[20:56] Adapting Litmus Live in 2020

“Instead of getting 1500 people in person, we reached over 5,000 people this year with our #LitmusLiveEverywhere events.” @mhsargeant @Litmustapp #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: One of the reasons, I’m guessing, that you used to travel as much as you did is that the marketing industry likes to get aggregate. We have hundreds of events a year, and many marketers to marketers depend on those events as a way of generating new leads, as a way of entertaining customers, as a way of bringing customers and prospects together to help close the sale. So how did you make up for that this year?

Melissa Sargeant: The biggest thing for us was we have this conference called Litmus Live, and Litmus Live is a paid-for conference that email marketers love to come to. It’s three days of intensive email training and workshops, and we wanted to make sure that we were able to democratize that this year and bring it to more people. We made it a free webinar series that is still going on.

We started in the second quarter with a monthly cadence of, basically, Litmus Live days. And then in September, we had Litmus Live week, which is when we released the state of email survey results. We had also had a new product release at that time. We had our big week and that’s been incredible because instead of getting 1500 people in person, we reached over 5,000 people this year with our Litmus Live Everywhere events.

We also launched a new certification program so that people could get Litmus-certified and we just graduated our first class after Litmus Live week. That’s been incredibly valuable. We see people sharing it on social, but I think the big learning for us is, this change is changing our entire strategy for events next year. I’m very hopeful that we can come together physically in some location for a Litmus Live event next year, but the online portion of it is going to stick for forever and I don’t know that we would have thought about it that way had we not been forced to look at our programs very differently.

Drew Neisser: We’ve been talking about this massive shift that almost every marketer, whether you’re marketing to marketers or everybody else, has had to go from physical to virtual. You mentioned the webinars—one thing that I’ve heard a lot from CMOs particularly in our huddles has been that there’s webinar fatigue, that it was working really well in April, May, June, and that it’s starting to fade out a little bit. Things like micro-events are working better, particularly when you’re trying to get executives there. Have you seen that same thing?

Melissa Sargeant: We really thought we would see that. I was nervous about Litmus Live week for that very reason. I thought, “Oh, at this point, people, the last thing they’re going to want to do is hang out with us for five straight days.” And the way we set it up, it actually, people, they hung with us. I think that’s a testament to the quality of the content.

Our team did a great job of bringing in some entertainment things in more engaging ways. We had Slack channels that you could have conversations around. There were lots of different tracks that were highly targeted to certain personas and things that were relevant, so people who came could toggle in and out as things piqued their interest, knowing that they would have access to the entire library at the end of it. In that case, I’m really proud to say that we didn’t really feel it that week, and we were certainly expecting that to happen.

Drew Neisser: Right. You also mentioned certification. Are you charging for that? Or are you giving that away?

Melissa Sargeant: We are charging for it. It’s just a few hundred dollars.

Drew Neisser: It’s interesting cause I know Demandbase, for a period of time, made their certification free. That’s an interesting one to think about. While it’s a tremendous value, when adding a price makes it perceived value…Right now, with lots of people having maybe more time on their hands, getting them certified, those are the seeds that you’re planting for later. I am curious on that decision; did you debate it at all?

Melissa Sargeant: Since we made Litmus Live free, which is typically around $1,500, it’s an investment. It’s funny—when I said that I was coming to Litmus, every email marketer who ever worked at any one of my teams said, “Can you get me a free Litmus Live ticket?” At which I said, “Absolutely not. You’re going to pay.” [Laughter] But by making that free, we felt like we had done that because we were really opening it up to people who I know always wanted to be able to come to Litmus Live. They couldn’t travel and so we wanted to make that available to as many people as possible.

We also introduced some new tracks. Historically we’ve been very focused on email practitioners, but as we apply this pre, post, and performance strategy about applying your email across your entire marketing mix, we’ve been selling into higher personas in the marketing organization: the marketing manager, the marketing director, and in some organizations, even the marketing VP. What the virtual format did is it earned us credibility because I think if we had charged people to try to come in person without proving that we could deliver content that was relevant to them and helpful to them in a way that they could easily consume it, we might not have been as successful as we were online and I think it really sets us up for that success in 2021.

Drew Neisser: Now that thinking about it—one of the things that a lot of successful marketers to marketers are really good at is content, and whether it’s HubSpot or Marketo or Eloqua, I mean, they’re just really good at creating. It’s just interesting, the pattern there.

[28:48] Common Email Marketing Mistakes

Solutions to common #EmailMarketing mistakes from @mhsargeant CMO @Litmustapp: Test every email, focus on metrics that matter, and use email to inform your marketing mix. #RTU #podcast #CMOinsights Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: As I think about what you’ve done and the things you said, I’m just going to make a list now. There’s a consistency to what you’re doing. There’s original research that supports this; you’re just not regurgitating things. There’s a real effort to obviously make this content relevant, and helpful.

I think that, you know, one of the things from a marketing perspective, if you are just thinking about your market for the first time, the way I always look at it is: What could I do today that would be helpful for a customer? What would be helpful for a customer, and then whatever’s helpful for a customer is going to be helpful for a prospect. So speaking of helpful, let’s do this. What are three things that you think most marketers are getting wrong with email right now?

Melissa Sargeant: I think they’re neglecting to test every email every single time. This is problematic in that there are 90 different combinations. When you look at devices, clients, you know, the combination of how people read their email, on what device they read at, what client they’re reading it on, is mind-blowing. And then when you add onto that that changes are made to those, updates are made to those every two days usually on average, it becomes an incredible math problem that you couldn’t try to solve on your own.

You can’t say, “Drew, can you look at this on your iPhone, and Sally, I’m going to send it to you on your desktop, and we’re all gonna try to do that.” It’s humanly impossible for you to do that, so they must test every email every single time. Even if they’re the transactional emails, don’t leave anything to chance because the last time you sent that exact same transactional email, something may have changed that you’re not aware of. You want to make sure that every email hits the inbox and it’s perfect every single time because that is a representation of your brand and your brand promise.

Drew Neisser: Testing. Love that. We’re talking about a lot of different types of testing on every email. Okay. That’s one mistake. What’s another common mistake that marketers are making right now with their email?

Melissa Sargeant: As marketers, we focus on metrics that ultimately don’t matter that much to the business. Opens and click-throughs are important. Every email marketer, every marketer knows they have to look at that, but you really should be thinking about it and taking it a step further. What time of day did that person open that email? Where were they? Were they viewing it in dark mode? How much time did they spend on it? What did they do after they read the email? Did they forward it to someone? That information, those insights, when you move beyond batch and blast to this nurture approach to email, that information is going to make your next email better and the email after that better and the email after that better. And that’s how you drive continuous improvement in your email marketing program.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. I suspect that those are the easy metrics that you described as the wrong ones. It’s just so true and it’s amazing to me, and I think it’s true across a lot of different types of marketing because people think of email as direct marketing. You could look at direct response advertising and they often look at click-throughs and so forth. Just in case my dad is listening, what is dark mode?

Melissa Sargeant: Dark mode is a way that a lot of people are viewing even their entire desktops now and it’s designed for people who may have some vision issues. The background is dark and the words are light, so it’s kind of the inverse of what you have today. It’s a very big thing in email marketing right now because it creates some very specific technical challenges for how your emails render for people who are reading in dark mode. At Litmus, we did a survey and really looked at our email analytics for between September and October within our customer base. We saw that 37% of the folks were viewing their emails in dark mode.

Drew Neisser: Oh, wow.

Melissa Sargeant: It’s really growing in importance and definitely has some very specific things that you need to take into consideration when you’re building and testing your emails. You don’t want to miss out on that because if that email shows up in the inbox and it’s not readable, then you’ve missed an opportunity to engage with that prospect or customer.

Drew Neisser: Okay. So, two is wrong metrics. What’s a third? One more really juicy tip that marketers are just missing out on right now.

Melissa Sargeant: I think we tend to think of email as just email, and email is an important channel that supercharges your entire marketing mix. Too often, people will say, “Hey, this blog did well. Let’s send an email promoting the blog.” The inverse of that is actually true. This email performed well, why don’t we try to apply that in search? Why don’t we optimize SEO for that? Why don’t we drive this in our next display ad? It can help drive efficiency and effectiveness across your entire marketing mix. At a time when a lot of marketers are looking at flat or decreasing budgets, you want to be able to squeeze every piece of value you possibly can to drive your entire mix, and email is a great part of that channel.

Drew Neisser: The challenge we all have in marketing is we have lots of channels and we tend to look at them in isolation and they really do work better together. And you can learn things. I mean, social listening can inform so many other things and similarly, email listening, if you will.

[35:16] Optimizing Email Data Insights to Inform Your Marketing Mix

“There are changes every single day that we deal with in our business, and we have that credibility to know that we're going to be with them for the long haul.” @mhsargeant @Litmustapp #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Now, I actually spent at least six weeks at Wunderman in my career and at least three months at a direct marketing division of JWT in a rotation. I learned this much: at the time, the accuracy of the data was 60%, the offer was 30%, and then the creative was actually 10% in terms of—this was just a broad rule of thumb and this was a hundred years ago. I am curious, as you look at it today—I mean, I’ve got to believe that data, the cleanliness of the data is still, first and foremost, the consideration for what will work and what won’t.

Melissa Sargeant: Totally agree. 15 years ago, as marketers, we were saying we didn’t have enough data. The complete opposite of that is true today. It’s, “We have more data than we know what to do with. It’s the insights from that data that help us make better decisions.” So I would probably change those percentages to like 80% on the data side, because marketing is such a science-led discipline right now, particularly with digital and the advances that we’re seeing there, and that that’s how prospects want to engage with us. That is definitely our number one priority when we think about this.

Drew Neisser: You might see a little tear coming down my eye as you say that. I’ve always believed the science is important, but I’m also a big fan of big ideas and so forth. When you start to get 80% data, that leaves 10% for offer and 10% or maybe 2% for creative. I’m imagining machine-driven headline testing where the machine is writing the headlines and testing it and doing the various configurations and poof! People are out of the picture.

Melissa Sargeant: I don’t think we’ll get to that part because I’m a marketer, I love great creative and a good CTA and a great offer. All of it is important together. I think what the data piece is, and again, I don’t think of this in terms of a one-time thing, like one display ad. I think about the advertising program that comes with this and that using that data, not just from the lens of what are we doing today, but what are we doing tomorrow, what are we doing the day after that, and how is it helping us get better? I think that’s why it becomes so paramount in terms of the entire program. I’ll reduce it to 70% if that makes you feel better.

Drew Neisser: Okay. A little, really not that much. It’s okay. I mean, one of the things that we also talked about with the metrics and so forth, the problem is, if you look at these things in isolation, you’re going to optimize in isolation. And the truth is, you talked about how there were eight different touchpoints that they needed, even before they engaged with you, and then how many more after that. We have to put value on every one of those things and one of the values that matters is consistency.

Melissa Sargeant: Yes.

Drew Neisser: And likeability. And trustworthy. Do I believe this company? And all those things are built through both repetition as well as, I’m going to call it brand purpose, and brand. Just the essence of brand. So you can optimize for open rate, but that’s just like, you know, put a bright, shiny object in there and you can optimize it. There are so many things involved here I think that if you overemphasize the data, there is a risk that you will, let’s just put it this way—If you are not looking at it big picture, you will optimize on a little basis and that’s problematic. How do you, in your world, deal with that combination of big brand, micro data?

Melissa Sargeant: I think what I hear you really talking about and which is a big trend this year and will be for forever is really experiences. Because what we’re talking about is customer experience or brand experience, and that doesn’t happen in one email. It doesn’t happen in one visit to your website. It happens with the first time that that person interacts with your brand all the way through that journey, whether they upgrade and buy more from you, whether they renew from you, do they ultimately become an advocate for your brand?

Having that consistent experience with your brand throughout a bazillion different touchpoints, because it’s not just what we’re doing in marketing. It’s when they call to log a support ticket, how their account manager, that interaction, happens with them across their entire journey and their entire life cycle, and driving that experience in a consistent, relevant way that provides brand love that keeps them coming back for more is really what we’re all trying to do.

Drew Neisser: It’s funny—we used to say in the ad business that anybody can get attention. You just put a gorilla in a jockstrap, put him on the corner and you can do it. You can get attention, right? But that might not necessarily be the best thing unless you’re selling either jockstraps or gorilla suits. I mean, I got your attention, but so what?

In email, it’s a similar thing. If I put the word “free” in a headline, if I put, “Hey, Drew, blah, blah, blah,” I’m going to get your attention. There is this problem opportunity for brands, which is, yeah, I need to get on the radar, so I need to do something that’s disruptive, but over time—and this goes back to your strategy, which is, I’m trying to be helpful. I’m starting from a position of helpfulness. If that is your North Star, I think, then, you’re going to optimize in a slightly different way than you might if…”I just want leads. I just want leads. I just want leads. Just give me names. Just put them in the pipeline and let me hand them to sales, get those SQLs.”

Melissa Sargeant: You’re spot on again. Marketers, I think, are more discerning buyers because the stuff that we’re marketing to them is the stuff that they do all day long, so they will cut through the clutter and the brand speak faster than I think a lot of buyers will do. We lean in with practicality, helpfulness, enabling them, empowering them to do their best work, whether they end up being a Litmus customer or not, and helping them be more effective in their job. And that builds us a ton of credibility, trust, referenceability, and they look to us to help them address whatever challenges they’re having today. But it also really sets us up—this industry, as I said, there are changes every single day that we deal with in our business, and we have that credibility to know that we’re going to be with them for the long haul. And that’s really important for marketers.

Drew Neisser: It’s funny—in 2000, I don’t know, it was 2006 or 2008. Right about there, we coined a phrase called “marketing as service” and the idea was that marketing could actually be a value to your customers and prospects. I still believe that that was an anchor position. Jay Baer wrote a book called Youtility, the same idea. It’s fascinating to hear this, that email still has an opportunity to deliver value in a lot of different ways. It connects the value chain of all of these other things that you’re doing, your research studies, and so forth. And so, to the extent that this episode was about how can your marketing be of service to your customers, then I think we were really successful. Melissa, thank you so much for being on the show.

Melissa Sargeant: Thank you. I had a blast.

Drew Neisser: All right. If you enjoyed this episode, send me an email. You can find my email address at renegade.com. If you really enjoyed this episode, write a five-star review on your favorite podcast channel.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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