WRE interview with Kristian Moon, an expert in data-driven email marketing

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Everyone is doing it. Probably. But are you? And do you find it hard to get started on your email marketing journey? We sat down with Kristian Moon, who’s a Danish email marketeer to talk about what to do about it.

The interview was conducted by Line Thamawat.

WRE: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to work with data-driven email marketing?

I’ve been with all aspects of advertising and media for the last 20 years and that includes regular print media and any kind of digital media, and the last 10 years I have been focusing on email marketing, omnichannel marketing, marketing automation, data-driven marketing and those kinds of things. So my professional career has been within that area.

WRE: What does it mean that you’re data-driven?

Well, I would prefer to go back to about 10 years ago when I got into email marketing. At that time everyone said that ‘email marketing is dead’. And if you would have continued the same track as you did back then, then email marketing would have been dead. 

But then this data-driven kind of marketing occurred, and it means that instead of just blasting out emails to everybody with the same message and the same frequency you use the data that you gather on the recipients and you customise the message and the frequency to them. That’s what data-driven means.

WRE: Is there one campaign you’re very proud of and would like to tell us about?

Generally, I am never really happy with the campaigns that I do. All of them are non-satisfactory or complete failures, and that has something to do with my own expectations, my own ambitions about this media. I never meet my own expectations, so that’s something I should work with. 

But my biggest success, it’s also my biggest failure… It’s a long story, but I will try to rush through it. I was working with a start-up, and we were gathering a lot of email addresses preparing for the big bang, the launch of this new product. We set up this whole launch flow consisting of one week in advance we send out [a message] to start to get ready for this launch, four days before launch we send out another little teaser, then two days before, and one day before, and then on the final day. 

The idea was that we should distribute the emails so that we wouldn’t have all 20.000 recipients entering the site at the same time. We would split it up, so that over ten hours, we would send it out to everybody. But then something went wrong. Instead of sending it out to 10% during the day, we sent it out to 100% nine times before we got it stopped. 

It was a huge failure and I take 100% responsibility for it. But at the same time, it was a huge success. We had calculated that we would have a 20% conversion rate on the whole launch of the campaign, but we got over 50% conversion on day one. 

You know, it’s said that you have to be in the inbox seven or eight times before you get noticed, and we managed to do that on the same day. So a huge failure, and a huge success. It’s definitely not something I would recommend doing on purpose, but thinking out of the box, doing something a bit bold and a bit creative – that’s something I’d recommend.

WRE: Is email marketing for everybody or does it only make sense for big businesses?

Email marketing is for everybody. The thing about email marketing though is that even though the first email was sent out in 1967 or 1971, there’s a small dispute about it, but still, we’re talking about a 50-year-old media, it’s still the channel with the highest ROI of all. 

So, of course, you should use email marketing, but you can’t just send out these blast emails to everyone. Even with a considerably small list, say 100 emails, it doesn’t make sense to send out blast emails. So you will have to put some effort into it and try to make it personal and relevant. 

WRE: How do you make emails personal and relevant?

Now we are getting back to the data-driven part. It is about using the data that you have. Even if you’re just starting and all the data you have is just the email address and the name. Make sure you use the name, you have it so why not use it? And then when you start sending out emails you’ll have more data, you know what kind of emails they open, what they’re interested in, you know which links they click. 

This is what being data-driven is about, and this is also why you can’t just use your Outlook or Gmail to send these emails, you have to have a system that can register all the opens, the clicks, the bounces, and all these standard metrics.  

WRE: Would you recommend to start with MailChimp?

I have huge respect for MailChimp because they are what they are. They have built this platform that is the biggest in the world based on number of users. And when you talk to someone who’s just starting up on digital marketing, one of the first questions they ask is: “do we need MailChimp?” They don’t ask if they should use email marketing, or which system they should use. They ask me about MailChimp specifically, and this is due to the huge branding effort that they have done. 

I feel that MailChimp is very good for very small and not so ambitious companies. But you very quickly grow out of it, because if you want to be data-driven you want to work with a system that supports that. It’s possible to do in MailChimp but it’s quite hard to do. 

WRE: How does one make an effective email marketing strategy?

I couldn’t give any general advice on this, because it’s all about your company – it’s about who you are and who you’re trying to communicate with. So if you don’t know your audience it doesn’t make sense to take advice from someone who also doesn’t know your audience. You have to know who you’re talking to. 

But I can tell you a little anecdote. Back when I was a young kid in a small city in Denmark I was working as a DJ. And when we came out to a party the first couple of hours it was about playing different kinds of music and seeing how people would react. And once the party started rolling, people became happier and started dancing, then we knew what would make them move. 

And it’s actually the same with email marketing. You try out different things, you see this doesn’t work, let’s try something else, ok we got a lot of reactions to that – and so you get to know your audience. 

WRE: And getting to know your audience is that for example by using split testing?

Well, it is, but another thing is that it when you talk about split testing then you need a large audience, a large list, for split testing to be efficient. If you have 100 people on your list, split testing won’t work and it won’t show you anything. If you have 1000 people or more, then you can start using split testing. 

WRE: How do you handle reporting?

In most cases, I would say, the reporting built into the system is sufficient. But if you really want to dig into data, and you really want to do comparisons between different campaigns, themes, audiences, then you have to take the data out and put it into another system. That could be any kind of dashboard like for example Google Data Suite, which is free and quite good but still pretty advanced. And there are a lot of free dashboards available. 

WRE: How do you go about building your list if you haven’t defined your audience or service yet?

You have to start building your list, and you have to send out regularly in order to be noticed. You can’t just build up a list and then wait until you have 5000 subscribers. You have to use it and always show your presence. 

A way to do this is by setting up a simple welcome campaign so that the minute someone signs up they get a welcome email telling them what they can expect being a subscriber. So if from the start you set the expectation that right now you will only get an email per month then that’s good. It could also be “we don’t know when we will send something out but we will keep you updated when anything happens”, and that will also be fine. The important thing is that you don’t leave people in this limbo where they sign up and then they never hear from you. 

WRE: How do you do that? With automation flow?

Sending out these welcome emails could be part of an automation flow, but it depends a lot on your company, your product, and what it is you want to communicate. It also depends a lot on your audience. 

If you are a service provider, it makes sense to make an automation flow that will slowly guide your subscriber to your product. For a webshop that sells whatever FMCG a long welcome flow doesn’t make sense, in that case, you just want to start promoting your product. Again we come back to this general advice; there is no general advice. You have to know who you are, who your audience is, and what you want to communicate.

WRE: Any final tips or advice?

Like I said before; know who you are, who you’re talking to, and what you want to communicate. So basic communication strategy.

WRE: Great. Thank you for your time and expertise.

Thank you for having me.


Connect with Kristian Moon here on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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