Tastemakers and Trends: Alison Lindland from Movable Ink
The digital marketing landscape changes so quickly, it can difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest trends. In our Tastemakers and Trends series, we chat with seasoned professionals about the most current best practices and the biggest challenges they see in their field right now.
What was your path to email?
Email has actually been a consistent throughline in my career – which is fitting, as it has remained one of the most ubiquitous digital direct marketing channels since it became mainstream in the late 1990s. I started my career at OgilvyInteractive, working on email and display programs for clients like Jaguar and Goldman Sachs. This was when the interactive group was a subset of the direct (Digital Mail) teams because the spend was so disproportionate, but it was really exhilarating to see what we could deliver on those early bets clients were taking with us.
Then I moved to a startup SaaS ticketing and media company focused on Broadway and national live entertainment. Again, the space was in the midst of a big transformation, moving from a focus on print and direct mail to email marketing. Ticketing systems were dominated by the big incumbents with local onsite expensive solutions that were inflexible and slow to evolve.
After business school, I joined American Express and had a phenomenal experience there doing product marketing and business development. In my tour in product, I was the first iPhone app product manager, and email was tantamount to my success. Coming out of the recession we had very little funding for above-the-line marketing for the app, so email was always going to be one of our biggest channels.
I would negotiate with friends from my intern program to give me a spot in their newsletters and, in exchange, I would come present in their team meetings on how mobile was going to impact their card product or vertical. Nothing in our marketing plan came close to replicating the lift in volume we got from those emails!
I joined Movable Ink in 2012 and spent six years in Client Experience – ultimately leading the North American team as VP. This year, I’ve shifted over to leading our newly created client strategy team which is focused on supporting our largest accounts.
Our mandate is to drive strategic initiatives for our biggest clients across every vertical by essentially overlaying on top of the CX account engagement model and leveraging the wide array of tech partners that we now have in our ecosystem. At the end of the day, we are an accelerator for our clients’ success.
Why do you believe in email?
Email remains the most ubiquitous, the most cost-effective, and the most productive channel that marketers have. Smart marketers have done everything they can to extract the most performance from their programs. Usually what we see is that it’s not a lack of ideas or strategies holding teams up, it’s the ability to execute on them with the same (or sometimes fewer) resources than they had the prior quarter.
At the end of the day, without Movable Ink, email is just direct mail delivered electronically…. and that’s the dirty secret of email. What inspires me about the future of email is the ability to fundamentally transform an email program into an always on, truly personalized web service that can elevate the user experience, deliver on a brand promise, and drive business KPIs – not to mention being exponentially easier to execute on. It confounds me how much manual work is done in the service of getting one standard email out the door. And then it all begins again.
What are the biggest challenges you see email marketers facing right now, and how are you helping to solve them?
Email has the most outrageous manual production process for a digital channel. It is basically doing the catalogue production process, and you’re putting in pneumatic tubes that are the internet and delivering it via your inbox.
At Movable Ink, we can completely flip the script for email production teams. These Fortune 500 companies have no lack of great ideas. It’s not that they’re struggling for new concepts; they’re really just completely under water trying to get their emails out of the door and managing the incredibly manual production process that email marketers are stuck with.
What we can enable them to do is automate portions of the email production process so that they’re elevating the customer’s experience in the inbox and the email marketer doesn’t have to touch it day in and day out. It’s transformational.
One client said that we saved 55% of their production time. That’s about six figures worth of cost savings. But what they’re able to do with that cost savings is re-invest in the full-time resources they have and develop innovative programs, build out testing strategies, explore other avenues for innovation and performance enhancement that they would otherwise not be able to do. It ultimately helps the overall impact you can have.
Personalization is a hot topic in marketing right now. What should email marketers know about embracing personalization?
Because of the limits of the production process with traditional email marketing, implementing personalization becomes this epic plate-spinning exercise about defining and managing segments – sometimes dozens if not hundreds of segments. But at the end of the day, this overwhelming unsustainable amount of work still doesn’t realize the promise of true one-to-one real-time personalization to mimic what consumers see on web or mobile. The content may still be outdated, the consumer may have already bought that item, and certainly being one of tens of thousands in a mail plan, is not personalization.
I’m incredibly inspired by how innovative marketers are using Movable Ink throughout their programs to give their customers that true recognition – making the email something that only that individual consumer sees and only at that moment in time.
What are the biggest email marketing trends so far 2018?
Over the past three years, we’ve seen large enterprise marketers invest significantly in personalization and recommendation engines to improve the site experiences, increase basket sizes and ultimately capture more revenue.
Now that these investments are stood up, there is a race to get this data into every channel possible to ensure consistency for the consumer in this onmichannel world. In Q2 alone we had dozens of clients in the US come to us with this need. The good news is that our platform is so malleable that our Data Sources capability allows us to easily ingest those recommendations and seamlessly integrate them into email programs with no involvement of the client’s tech teams (always a bonus).