Jillian Wohlfarth, Senior Manager of Content at SendGrid, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share her insight on the intersection of sales, marketing, and technology. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explore a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.
She sat down to discuss major email marketing trends and challenges, including deliverability, spam reporting, choosing the right content, and using data as a compass for running an effective email campaign.
Below are a few highlights from our conversation:
TechnologyAdvice: With a lot of email providers, it comes down to your sends. If you’re paying for messages to go out and they aren’t getting through— that’s a big problem.
Jillian Wohlfarth: Our co-founder, Tim Jenkins, used to say if a company like eBay would lose one percent of their email, they would lose 14 million in revenue a year — an outstanding number. No matter if you’re a startup coming out of the gate or an enterprise-level company, you feel the pain of those lost messages.
SendGrid was really built upon the philosophy of helping our customers get those wanted emails to the inbox. We provide the infrastructure to make that happen as well as a suite of tools, features, APIs, and analytics to support it. We also have a big team of email experts who help our customers really shape their email marketing program and make sure they’re creating wanted content to get to the inbox. It’s a nice marriage of both people and technology.
TA: So you help companies of any size? The enterprise piece is just as important as any other size company.
Wohlfarth: One thing we pride ourselves on is a very reliable and scalable infrastructure. We’re able to provide that email platform for the large enterprise-level customers who are sending hundreds of thousands of emails per month. And we want to be able to help current startups grow to the size of enterprise-level companies—fortunately, our infrastructure will allow you to do that. We have the most high volume senders of anyone in the market.
TA: Are there any other trends or challenges SendGrid helps businesses and marketers overcome?
Wohlfarth: We actually have this motto at SendGrid that’s about helping our customers send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency. It’s sort of how we coach all of our senders. But we also include it in all of our content, which is what our team is in charge of. So we’re working to provide the best thought leadership and content when it comes to email deliverability and the best marketing automation practices.
At SendGrid, we have about 30 or so deliverability and compliance/technical account managers who will work with senders of any size (in addition to our support team which is about 20-30 people as well) to make sure people really understand the content they’re sending. I think one big, ongoing obstacle is senders sending email just for the sake of sending it. This happens a lot with marketers, because we all have high quotas and we want to get as many impressions as possible.
It’s a backwards way of thinking because there are so many spam filters and obstacles on the way to the inbox that those messages you’re blasting out aren’t going to make it to the inbox. So the people who don’t want to receive your messages might not get them, and the people who do want to receive them also won’t.
The first thing when talking about our motto is making sure you have a good strong email list. A lot of email marketers come to us and ask “How do I make my subscriber list bigger?” Unfortunately, a lot of people end up buying, renting, or sharing lists. That’s a bad way to start off your relationship with your subscribers and with the email industry in general.
We want to make sure people are building their subscriber list the right way. You do that by making sure your recipients explicitly opt into your list. Anywhere you’re asking people to opt-in, make sure you’re setting the expectations from the get go. The best and most transparent way to do this is to include an example of what your emails look like on your opt-in page. Your subscribers need to know what kind of information they’ll be receiving and at what frequency. It’s really about building trust right from the beginning.
It takes awhile, but in the long run it’s really going to pay off for your program. If you’re being charged for each email sent, then you don’t want to send email to people who don’t want to be receiving it. You want to send to people who are really engaged; those are the people you want to focus on and spend your money on.
Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.