Amy Doyle Ellwood Talks Data-Driven Email Marketing

September 22, 2022

Amy Doyle Ellwood is the Director of Client Services at Campaigner and SMTP, two of the email brands that sit under Ziff Davis’ Moz Group portfolio. With over four years in the email marketing space and more than ten years of experience in customer service leadership, Amy is an expert in developing teams with a focus on enhanced retention, engagement, and growth skill sets. 

Always a self-starter, she is known by her peers to never walk away from a challenge, and she faces those challenges head-on, leaning on her data-driven approach and bridges of communication she loves to build across departments to find a customer-first resolution. 

Doyle Ellwood joined forces with Kevin Vaudry, the Director of Product and Marketing at Campaigner, on Sept. 20 to talk about all things related to data-driven marketing for a MailCon Webinar. 

Read on for an insightful Q&A with Doyle Ellwood, followed by a webinar recap of her MailCon session with Vaudry. 

Tell us about your background. How did you end up in marketing and email marketing?

Having come first in my class and achieving my Degree in Business & Marketing at Dublin City University in my hometown, I worked in the corporate events and marketing department of Enterprise Ireland — a government agency in Ireland responsible for supporting Irish businesses. Then I relocated to Manhattan in New York City.

It was in New York that I got my first internship at Y&R, and my introduction to the world of marketing started from there. Being in New York, there was always something going on, and events advertised the need for part-time staff. I took all the opportunities I could get. I was fortunate to work alongside the CFDA at New York Fashion Week and play a role in the promotions teams of the New York City Marathon and New York City Street Fairs.

My introduction to the world of email came when I once again relocated to the United Kingdom, where my skill sets in project, time, and vendor management allowed me to take on the role of an Account Manager at Campaigner. Four years and a pandemic later, I am lucky enough to have the role of Director of Client Services at Campaigner, our all-in-one marketing automation software, and at SMTP, our premium email delivery and email relay solution.

What has your experience been like in email marketing? What’s the best part of working in such an ever-changing environment?

Email marketing is the most stable form of marketing and the most evolving, in my opinion. I started my career in the year of GDPR, and from then, it is fair to say that there have never been two years that have looked the same.

I have seen the transition from subject line personalization to entirely dynamic email content; witnessed the style of long-form content being exchanged for some quick bullets and a GIF. We have gone from being able to predict optimal open times for email to email opens occurring at all hours of the day as the world shifted from commuting routines to remote working and staggered hours. 

I love that, just as I believe I know it all, some socio-economic factor or new data protection regulation will come along and put me firmly back on the learning curve. Having always been an extremely curious person, it suits me to work in an industry that requires a regular re-evaluation of facts to see if the data still holds those facts as accurate. 

What fascinates you about email marketing? Where does data come into play?

We are living in a world of hyper-personalization, and with the Internet of Things and almost every home containing some sort of smart device, it is important that email marketing practices evolve to keep up with the level of sophistication that consumers have grown accustomed to. What fascinates me about email marketing is that, despite its age and tenure as a marketing channel, it can evolve with the use of data points already known to the marketer.

Using purchase data, demographics, content, and design preferences, among other things, allows marketers to deliver a truly personalized experience that can easily be automated.

For example, one Campaigner customer sends weekly emails to approximately 900,000 customers. These utility emails contain the recipient’s first and last name, home address, sign-up date, billing date, electricity usage, and electricity cost.

This particular email campaign automatically sends once per week to their customer base, and in that one automated campaign, 6.3 million variations of the email are received by subscribers. By just inputting the customer’s data into their data warehouse, this client can create one campaign, delivering a high level of personalized, accurate, and actionable information to someone’s inbox. 

The level of sophistication you can achieve with email with minimal effort is what fascinates me about email marketing.

What can we, as marketers, do to make data-driven decisions an integral part of our day-to-day operations?

For marketers, I would always say that any decision should be 85% data-driven, saving 15% for gut feelings around the best next step to take. 

There are some pretty simple steps I would recommend starting with:

  • Understand where your data lies and gather it to form a single view. The easier it is to access your data, the more likely you are to view it on a daily or hourly basis.
  • Define what the meaningful metrics are. There are so many different angles you can take with the data available to you. Confirm with senior leadership what metrics make an impact on the bottom line.
  • Differentiate between your primary (such as conversions and average revenue received per email) and secondary/vanity metrics (opens, repeat opens, time on page, etc.).
  • Ensure your team has objectives that are focused on or connected to the primary metrics in some way. For example, if your primary goal is to drive more revenue per email sent, the team goal could be focused on increasing clicks each quarter or optimizing the landing page to reduce the number of barriers to conversion.
  • Unequivocally decide that if the work your team is doing is not related to these primary or secondary metrics, it should be backlogged for another time. Empowering your team to focus only on those metrics you have defined as imperative to the business’s success will not only ensure focus, it will instill data-driven action across all teams and departments of the organization. 

What role does data play in campaign organization?

The first and most important role – it’s where every marketer should start and end. Objectives need to be formed around the Knowns, the Unknowns, and the Known Unknowns. Once there is a clear consensus of what data needs to be discovered and analyzed (the Known Unknowns), campaign planning can commence. 

There will always be Unknown situations that occur during a marketing campaign, like the unavoidable events that result in the need to pivot or adjust the strategy. However, suppose a campaign has been organized with as many known data points as possible and with as much of an understanding of your target audience as you can garner. In that case, marketers can be sure to form a winning, data-driven campaign strategy.

Where can someone new to email marketing find data to create data-driven strategies? 

The first place I would start is with your contact list. What information do you have for your contacts? Is it as simple as a name and email address, or do you have some demographic or conversion information available? 

The key questions I recommend everyone ask about their customers include:

  • Where do they find out about your company?
  • What would make them interested in the product or service you offer?
  • What is the minimal commitment of data exchange you can ask of your customers? Is it an exchange of their email address for a whitepaper, for example? Is it to sign up for SMS alerts in exchange for 20% off their first purchase? 
    • Determining your minimal commitment allows you to gather more information about your prospects and plot out the various points of data exchange that will allow you to build a complete picture of your target audience. 
  • What is valuable to them? Is it content, discounts, or free use of service?
  • Who is the ideal decision maker? Is it a marketing manager or a sales representative? Understanding the persona you are trying to speak to can determine your messaging and brand positioning.
  • What does your website traffic tell you about your customers? What pages are they spending the most time on? What does their browsing journey look like? What page is most likely to lead them to exchange information with us?

The answers to these questions allow you to target future and current customers with data-driven insights.

What about SMS? Does it work interchangeably with email? Or do they have separate roles in marketing?

As digital channels result in one-on-one consumer engagement, email and SMS are natural allies in the marketing channel mix. They can be used to support complementary KPIs and drive incremental revenue from existing and new customers. When we look at the effectiveness of campaigns that include both email and SMS, businesses can experience an impact of up to 15% more than campaigns that just include email. 

While SMS and email marketing can hold their own individually, when our customers at Campaigner combine them as a multi-channel strategy, the best results are experienced.

What are the most essential pieces of data and KPIs email marketers need to keep their eyes on?

Email marketers should focus on click rate, conversions (an online purchase or downloading a piece of content), delivery, and audience engagement. Who is your most active cohort of subscribers? If they are actively engaged, it might be an excellent opportunity to test new content concepts on them to determine any change in behavior and metrics.

 For those less engaged or poorly-engaged subscribers, the content should be focused on winning back their attention. Optimizing subject lines, content length, layout, type, and send frequency are great ways to monitor engagement improvements.

Understanding these KPIs gives marketers the power to control their testing strategy without sacrificing performance.

Given your position (Director of Client Services), what common challenges do you see your clients dealing with? How does Campaigner/SMTP solve those challenges?

Often our clients are challenged with needing to deliver optimal results with limited time. Our email products have been developed for those that are poor in time but eager to deliver more from their campaigns.

At SMTP, that might look like using our “List Verification” tool to simply update contact lists to ensure enhanced deliverability in one simple click. At Campaigner, marketers may use “Reputation Defender” to collect and monitor contact engagement profiles, taking the heavy lift of engagement analysis off their to-do list. They may also use our “Workflows” to combine email and SMS campaigns to deliver their campaign across two channels in a couple of clicks. 

SMTP and Campaigner do best for our customers by reducing the time required to make an impact on marketing performance.

Where does Campaigner sit in a marketing tech stack? What pain points does it provide solutions to?

Campaigner offers advanced email and SMS marketing automation features focused on providing businesses with the tools they need to execute powerful, ROI-driven marketing campaigns at scale. 

Campaigner provides all the advanced marketing features marketers need to execute engaging and high-performing marketing campaigns, including workflows, autoresponders, personalization, segmentation, e-commerce integrations, and easy-to-use email design tools.

We are committed to our mission of helping marketers do more with email.

What are some new and trendy email strategies deployed by marketers today?

Combining email and SMS strategies to truly develop a multi-channel approach is a trend we are seeing and encouraging. By using email as the primary channel and including SMS as a complementary tool, marketers gain the ability to deliver an easy-lift, short-term response for their business. While SMS can be less effective in generating brand responses, it can undoubtedly deliver revenue growth. 

While not a new strategy, we are seeing an increase in the “set-and-forget” mindset amongst email marketers. At Campaigner, our clients are increasingly capitalizing on their ability to use merge fields and dynamic content rules to deliver personalized content into an automated workflow. They aim to achieve low effort, high impact marketing results, and using our automation tools is how they see the benefit.

Are there any additional tips, tricks, or insights you’d like to share with the MailCon audience?

It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing performance. Consider your industry when creating campaign benchmarks and KPIs, and always be curious about your approach. 

Question why you are doing what you are doing, look for ways to incorporate additional data to deliver a truly personalized experience, and never be afraid to start all over again. Creating a winning email and SMS formula is a marathon, not a sprint. Focusing on the longevity of your marketing effectiveness will keep you on the right track.

Data-Driven Email Marketing Webinar: A Brief Overview

During their joint webinar, Doyle Ellwood and Vaudry dove into their topic by covering a set of data challenges for email marketers with the philosophy of “what got you here won’t get you there.” 

Let’s take a look at what was discussed: 

Some of the most immense challenges and roadblocks for email marketers stem from corporate and government initiatives to further regulate or block consumer data collection. Some of those include: 

  • Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection
  • The impending demise of 3rd party cookies
  • Current and proposed legislation

The solution? Adapting and altering marketing strategies to focus on metrics tied to tangible outcomes and conversions. 

Other data challenges include: 

  • The abundance of available data can be confusing to maintain and process
  • The vast pool of data sources can drag on a marketer’s ability to experiment and iterate new strategies rapidly
  • Data biases instilled in marketers

How to stay on track? Have a clear set of defined KPIs and know their importance to your business model and strategy. 

Concerns and Opportunities in Data Collection 

When consumers opt-in to share their data, it can indicate they are interested in a deeper level of engagement with a business, and businesses shouldn’t miss these opportunities to engage.

And the good news here is that email remains a highly-effective marketing tool and channel for many business models. As a matter of fact, whenever used with SMS, email tends to yield a 15% lift in effectiveness. 

So, why is it essential to adopt a data-driven approach? 

Simply put, data helps marketers make educated decisions about their outreach campaigns. While managing new campaigns, it’s helpful to keep in mind the following: 

  • Every subscriber will respond to your email campaigns in different ways
    • This is why we create segments, use dynamic content, and employ personalization as a best practice
  • You can always start with what you know, then narrow it down and iterate as you go.
  • When adhered to as an ongoing best practice, the improvements in campaign performance should follow

3 Steps to Delivering a Data-driven Strategy that Increases Subscriber Engagement 

1. Understand the Subscriber Journey 

Ask yourself the following questions when trying to get on the same wavelength around the customer journey: 

  • What is the difference between a transactional versus a marketing email? 
    • Transactional emails have an average of an 80% open rate
    • Marketing emails have about a 20% open rate
    • Transactional emails receive about 43% more clicks than marketing emails.

Then when planning for the launch of a new campaign, follow these thought processes: 

  • What is your current/optimal email communication timeline?
    • Consider timing, audience, and cadence
  • What type of communications are they?
    • Separating transactional from marketing to optimize delivery & build trust
  • How do we give context to the communication?
  • Which processes can be automated?

Once you understand the journey, you can focus on the use of and exchange of data.

2. Conduct Data Exchange and Generate Feedback

Develop a full picture view of your email audience to generate better feedback on your audiences: 

  • Zero party data: includes product interests, email preferences
  • First-party data: includes email engagement, previous purchases
  • Second-party data: includes customer surveys and website activity
  • Third-party data: includes demographics, cookie-based browsing activity

Once established, find out what data you have and what data you’re missing to better target your audience. Once data is collected, you will be ready to approach campaign measurement with a data-driven approach. 

3. Know the Characteristics of a Data-driven Measurement Strategy

To ensure data-driven marketing decisions, you need to create a singular view of your campaigns and choose the metrics you want and need to be following. Some of those important metrics include: 

  • Deliverability
  • Click rates
  • Average Order Value (AOV)
  • Bounce rates
  • Conversions 
  • Revenue Per Subscriber (RPS)

Then, you can go ahead and set your benchmarks using historical performance data. Following that, watch and interpret the behavior changes of your customer base. Then extract the data from these trends and use it in future campaigns. 

All in all, the data collection cycle should follow this sequence: Analyze →  Plan →  Execute → Collect → Repeat. 

Stay tuned and connected for future announcements and details on MailCon’s next webinar and the upcoming in-person conference.

About the author

MailCon
MailCon

Owned and operated by Phonexa, MailCon is a global community that connects marketing professionals with the latest technology, trends, and strategies in email marketing, lead generation, marketing automation, and mobile and omnichannel marketing. Our fantastic team of content writers contribute to this blog with inspiration from the incredible community of marketers we are privileged to host.

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