Hi Christopher, you have a remarkable professional journey! Please take us through it and the story behind founding Email Connect LLC.
I went to work for one of the first ESPs, a company called Digital Impact, in 2004 to run its New York office. A couple of months later it was bought by Acxiom—known then as the largest company no one had ever heard of! Within a couple of years, I was running Acxiom’s global agency services for its email marketing. It was great experience as I was able to build up a true global network, buying an email agency in Australia, expanding our office in Singapore, and growing our European based operations. After leaving Acxiom in 2011, I was wondering what to do next. It was then that I realized that the vendor selection process of companies looking for a new ESP had grown increasingly complex, and there might be an opportunity to help leading brands through it. I first built a practice focused on that in a leading email consulting company. In 2015 I went out on my own and launched Email Connect. The vendor landscape has grown so complex in the last several years, there are plenty of brands looking for expert advice and guidance when choosing the right partner!
Prior to Covid-19, most consumers had developed a pattern of behaviours where certain items were regularly purchased online for delivery, whereas others were purchased in-store and brought home by the consumer himself. That all changed in the blink of an eye. Stores were ordered closed. But people didn’t stop needing things. So, everything from coffee filters to shoes to tools from the hardware store, which consumers used to drive to a store to buy, were now ordered online and delivered to the front door, or picked up at curb side.
While implications of this change in buying behaviour are huge for retailers and DTC brands they are also extraordinarily important for email marketing and email marketers. Consumers aren’t going to necessarily go back to the same mix of shopping online and offline. Habits have been broken, and new ones established. So, more brands and more retailers have come to rely on email as a primary way to sell, to service, and to stay connected with their customers.
Money, money, and money. Seriously, depending on your type of business, the reasons to use email marketing are going to differ. But one thing remains constant, email marketing has the highest ROI of any marketing channel so companies that aren’t using it are leaving money on the table. For publishers, it’s a way to drive more traffic to their websites, and increasing advertising revenue. For retailers, it’s a way to stay top of mind with your customers and encourage repeat purchases. Your subscribers have literally given you permission to market to them, and if you respect that privilege, it’s a win/win for everyone.
We were lucky as we’ve always operated remotely. I’m in Chicago, and I have folks in Philadelphia and New York, for example. We are rarely in the same place at the same time. I will say that we’ve become much more comfortable holding video conferences that we were before the lock down!
This type of advice hasn’t changed in 15 years—be relevant, be customer-centric, personalize the message. And its good advice, but it also gets so boring at times. You know what a really effective email is? One that makes that subscriber purchase something they didn’t even know they wanted. It’s easy to sell people things they know they want, but if you are really going to grow your business you have to predict what they might want before they even know it. And offer it to them in an email.
Which, if you think about it, is NOT being customer-centric, it’s being product centric. People didn’t know they preferred streaming video until Netflix introduced it. Blockbuster went down the tubes because it kept offering what people THOUGHT they wanted—videotape rentals to watch at home.
I handle the platforms myself. I do have some great editors who work with me on articles featured on Only Influencers and Email Vendor Selection. I always listen to my editors—they have great input!
I wrote music for and played in bands up until a few years ago, so you could definitely say I have stayed active in music! I won’t say I will never play in another band, but going on stage at 10 PM and then tearing down and loading up al the equipment at 1 or 2 in the morning got a little old after so many years! I still play piano at home, and probably have a few more original songs in me waiting to get written. As for history, I still read a lot of books, both actual history books and historical fiction. I try to mix it up between the two. Sometimes I’ll read an historical fiction novel and think to myself, “I don’t know enough about that period of time or event” so I will then follow it up with a history book!