Step into the fast-paced world of ‘Real Marketing Real Fast’ with me, Doug Morneau. Each episode is a power-packed journey through the twists and turns of digital marketing and website acquisition. Expect unfiltered insights, expert interviews, and a healthy dose of sarcasm. This isn’t just another marketing podcast; it’s your front-row seat to the strategies shaping the digital landscape.


Jeanne Jennings Tips…

  • Scientific Email Testing Improves ROI
  • Make your email look like it’s related to your landing page
  • Take the time to split test your email. The ROI can be huge!
  • If you’ve got automated programs, make sure you’re checking them at least once every three months if not every month to make sure they’re working as intended

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Doug: Well, welcome back, listeners. Today I’ve got a special guest joining me in the studio. Her name is Jeanne Jennings. She is a recognized expert in the field of email marketing with more than 20 years experience in online marketing and the product development realm. She is the founder and chief strategist of Email Optimization Shop, a consulting agency that helps medium-to-enterprise-size organizations make their email marketing more effective and more profitable. Three things that set Email Optimization Shop apart is her and her team develops strategies but they also stay on with their clients to help them with the tactics and the implementation.

They take a direct response approach with a focus on metrics like ROI. They utilize scientific methods and A/B split testing to ensure that they’re consistently boosting the bottom line performance for their clients. In addition to consulting, Jean is a prolific writer, sought-after speaker on various email marketing topics. You can catch her and her presentations at eTail West, Email Evolution Conference, and the Email Innovation Summit, among other places in the first half of 2018.

She is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University School of Continuing Education, teaching digital marketing to students earning their master’s degree in integrated marketing communications. She is also on the board of the Email Experience Councils membership advisory board, and as we are speaking before she came on the show, she’s also a huge hockey fan. And in her spare time, you can find her cheering on the beloved Washington Capitals. So welcome to the podcast.

Jeanne Jennings: Hey. Thank you, Doug. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Doug: So is there anything that you wanted to add aside from your love for hockey, which we talked about, that I might have missed in your introduction or bio?

Jeanne Jennings: Oh, gosh, no. I think just that it’s hard. I love the Capitals, but I love email too. There’s so much to love about email. So I’m excited to talk to you about it, and I think that in general most organizations are probably not leveraging email as much as they could, and so I’m hoping to help get the word out about that. Hopefully, some of your listeners will hear us speak today and then go back into their office and say, “You know what? We’re going to do more with email.”

Doug: No. Fair enough. A huge fan email. Love email marketing. It’s made millions of dollars for us and for our clients. Do you want to share with us maybe a breakthrough, or a major success, or something you’ve had with a specific marketing tactic, or maybe it’s a specific client that you’re working with?

Jeanne Jennings: Sure. So we had some sun last month. I’m working with a client who is a major publisher, a major newspaper. The goal here is to drive, of all things, new print subscriptions, which is an unusual thing to be doing with email, but we’re using one of your favorite things, which is the third-party rental list, a very legitimate one, and what we did is we did some playing around with the creative. So we’ve done a number of tests for them, but the latest one was kind of exciting because we actually increased revenue generated by 97%. So we brought in almost twice as much revenue.

And all we did is we actually looked at the email they were sending, their control, as we say. And what we noticed is that a lot of the copy in there was in an image format, which meant that it couldn’t be read if images were blocked. Yes. So if you’re not familiar with this, this was a big deal a long time ago, but about two years ago, Litmus actually came out with a study that said about 48 percent of people were actually still reading emails with images blocked.

So we did a little test. The only thing that we made rich text, meaning it is not an image, it can be seen if images are blocked, was really the offer. And the call to action was already a bulletproof button. So just by making the offer rich text, we got this 97% boost in revenue. We nearly doubled sales. So it was super exciting. And the reason that all the text was in image format was they have this proprietary font they really like. But I think we’re at the point now to convince them that, you know what, maybe we should care less about that proprietary font and turn more of the copy in this email into rich text so it can be read.

And we’re hoping to test that probably right after the first of the year because it’s December, late December now. And hopefully we’ll be able to see an even larger increase, so kind of exciting when that stuff happens. I like making money for my clients.

Doug: Absolutely. That’s really cool. We did some work years ago with the Wall Street Journal. They had rented a list from us, and that’s exactly what our task was, was to help them to generate print and online subscriptions. Now, do you think that they appeal to the more rich text has anything to do with the fact that most people are viewing email on their mobile device?

Jeanne Jennings: Interestingly enough, mobile, image blocking is a little bit less of an issue. Here’s why: You probably know this. So iPhone, in the States at least, probably has the biggest market share. IOS is the only email client that shows images by default. All the other mobile clients, most of the … Pretty much every desktop client blocks images by default. So interestingly enough, on an iPhone, the whole image blocking thing is just sort of a moot point. But with other mobile devices and with desktop devices, it really matters. So I think it has less to do with mobile. I think it has to do with kind of these other devices, actually.

Doug: Okay. Hey, that’s fair enough. I was just asking. I’m looking at mobile numbers, and I’m still trying to convince clients why it’s important to have their sites to be mobile friendly.

Jeanne Jennings: And, you know, the worst is when someone … when you create an email and you’ve used show and hide, and you’ve used? … You’ve used these advanced techniques to make an email that is going to look great no matter what screen size it is. And then a person clicks, you click through on it when you’re testing, and you realize that the website you’re sending them to isn’t optimized for mobile. And that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of companies making now. You’ve got to have the whole experience optimized for mobile.

Doug: Well, I think it comes down to people need to feel that they’re in the same place. So your email in terms of your branding and your flow needs to look the same. So when you say, “Hey, this is me,” and I start following your trail, it should all look like it’s the same company.

Jeanne Jennings: Totally agree. I totally agree. That’s one of those things if the landing page already exists and you’re going to be sending people to it, then you’ve got to make the email look like it’s related to that landing page. You can’t go off in a completely different direction.

Doug: So with the testing that you’ve done there, I’m a huge fan of testing. I always take a percentage of every budget we have and use it for testing. What do you think that holds people back from doing this? What are the biggest myths around testing? Like, you’ve tested something. I don’t mean to simplify what you’ve done, but you’ve just tested text versus images.

Jeanne Jennings: It’s just simple.

Doug: So you haven’t changed the copy that created the offer.

Jeanne Jennings: Nope.

Doug: But it’s proved to be hugely responsive with 97% more revenue.

Jeanne Jennings: Yeah. The biggest obstacle I see, the people testing, is it’s kind of like that old commercial for Dunkin Donuts, “Time to make the donuts.” Whenever I start with a new client, we go in. We talk to the folks, and inevitably what I hear is, “You know, I’m too busy for this, Jeanne. I don’t have time to test. You don’t understand. I have to get one email out a week, or I have to get three emails out a week, or I need to do two emails a month, Jeanne. There’s no way.”

What they don’t understand is that if you’re not testing, the value of every send is so much less. I’ve had times when I said to clients, “You know what? Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re telling me you don’t have time to test because you’re sending out two emails a week. We’re going to knock back our send to once a week. And then we’re going to test with ever send.”

And often times things like that, not that I’m recommending that you cut back on your number of sends, but if you don’t have time to test, there’s something wrong with this process. You need to find time to test. There are ways to do it, and, like I said, sometimes what we’ll do is we’ll scale back for a short period of time and start testing. Then once we get up to speed and everyone is kind of comfortable with it, we’ll ramp back up again, the number of sends. But it’s just so critical, and this idea that I don’t have time, what is in that email matters so much more than whether or not you get it out when it’s supposed to go.

Doug: That is so refreshing to hear. I mean, that’s like, that would be like somebody running a race but running in the wrong direction. And they don’t have time to look at the map because they’re busy running. So you’re blasting your list with a message that’s not responsive. So it’s affecting your reputation, your sender score. It’s affecting your revenue, but it seems like they’re measuring the wrong thing. They’re measuring their marketing by how many times have we talked to our customers opposed to how many times we get our customers to engage with us.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. And sometimes I used the example of activity versus productivity. You could be moving. You could be busy eight hours a day at your desk. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. It just means you’re being active. So the idea is the figure out how to get everyone on your team working smarter, not necessarily working harder. And I think that’s what testing does. Testing helps you work smarter.

Doug: Well, I think it takes our survey of one out of the equation. We’ve done multi-variant testing. I mean, obviously everybody likes to feel that their ideas are valuable, and more importantly, a lot, so often with the ego in the way, it’s like, “I want to be right.” And as soon as we use technology for multi-variant testing, or like you’re saying, it doesn’t matter who’s right at the end of the day; the company wins, and what you’re doing is getting the best result for the company, and you’re serving … I think you’re serving your audience best by being respectful to them and communicating to them effectively.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. And that’s what I always say to people: “It doesn’t matter what you think or what I think. What matters is what the people we’re sending the email to think.”

Doug: That’s right.

Jeanne Jennings: And so I’ve had people say, “Well, I don’t like this email. It’s not as pretty as the other one.” And I say, “You know what? It made twice as much money as the other one. So somebody likes it.”

Doug: That’s right.

Jeanne Jennings: And if the people who are sending money like it better, I don’t care how ugly it is. I want to go with the one that makes the most money even if it’s not necessarily my personal preference.

Doug: So aside from people being busy or having this idea that their goal is to send to their list, what other assumptions do you think are holding people back from testing?

Jeanne Jennings: The other big thing that I find is that people have never really been taught how to use scientific method for testing. And so scientific method is so critical to making every test you do effective and to giving you ideas for what to test next. You get into people who are like, “Well …” I’ll say, “So why are you testing a green banner versus a red one?” “Well, I was told I had to test something.” So that’s not a hypothesis. There’s nothing behind that.

Years ago I remember I was doing some testing, and I was testing a red banner versus a green one, and my boss said to me, “Why are you testing color? Who cares?” And I said, “Oh, no. Hear me out. Red is the color of stop signs. When you pull up on a stop light and it’s red, you stop. Green is the color of go on a stop light. We also, we’re selling a financial product. Green is the color of money. If you’re in the red financially, that’s a bad thing.”

Doug: Yeah, that’s right.

Jeanne Jennings: So I went through my whole theory of why I thought green was going to work better than red, and she went, “Oh, yeah. That’s worth testing.” So I think that’s the other thing. Once understand scientific method, which is all based on hypothesis and theories, testing gets really exciting. And it also gets more useful. I think that’s where a lot of people, once they understand how to do that, they get very excited about testing. But people haven’t really been schooled in it, so they go, “Testing, that’s stupid. Okay. Let’s test red versus green and just see. Let’s test this versus …”

The idea is if you get grounded in hypothesis and use the scientific method, that’s when you’re really going to see the results, and that’s, I think, the other reason people don’t … They don’t understand how to do it that way. And if you don’t understand that, it makes your testing a lot less valuable.

Doug: Well, and I think testing and people may confuse testing with serving your market, I was at an event. I think it was MarketingSherpa put on San Francisco, and we were talking about email and testing. The case sample they gave was with Siemens, the guys who make all the medical imaging equipment. And they went out and they did a focus group.

And they asked users, “What kind of images, and how do you want the email landing pages to look? Which would you convert?” And they got a certain result. And there was a clear winner. Then they went and they did the email test to their audience, and it was completely opposite of what their focus group had said. So people sat there thinking of what the logical answer was to respond, and then people obviously are emotional. And when they did the testing, it was clearly completely opposite of what the focus group had said.

Jeanne Jennings: Totally, and it’s that difference between reported versus observed behavior. You asked me, “Well, Jeanne, what’s your diet like?” “Oh, I eat a lot of salads. I eat a lot of chicken. I’m pretty healthy.” If you watched me over the last couple days, there was a lot of candy involved. And so that’s kind of the difference. Right?

Doug: Sure.

Jeanne Jennings: There’s what we report on and then observe. And so asking people in a focus group is they’re going to report back to you. But sending them out and maybe split test and seeing how they actually interact, that’s where you get the observed, and the observed tend to be more reliable.

Doug: Yeah, I just interviewed a guest in the podcast, and he was talking about testing email copy. I can’t remember who he referred to. It might have been Dan Kennedy or one of the big copywriters. And he talked about writing numbers in your email. If the number is important, he said spell it out. And if the number is insignificant, then use the numeral value. They tested … They were doing an affiliate program, and they were going to give 20 extra entries to this draw. And when they wrote the word out, “twenty,” longhand, versus the number 20, they saw a significant bump in conversions.

Jeanne Jennings: Awesome. I love stuff like that.

Doug: So just like you said.

Jeanne Jennings: So it’s simple, but it makes more money. But it’s so simple.

Doug: Right. But they tracked it. They had a reason for testing it, because they wanted to amplify it. So it was just really a form of being creative in the copy, and it wasn’t a very big change. And it made a ton more money.

Jeanne Jennings: You know, I think that’s another thing that holds people back. I work with clients, and I’ll come back, and I’ll say, “You know, I’ve looked at your control. Here’s what I’m envisioning,” because what we do at Email Optimization Shop is we typically take someone’s control, and then we re-envision it, re-envision it as something based on scientific method and hypothesis that will generate more revenue.

And I walk them through what we want to change. I’ll explain the hypothesis behind each. And what is so funny sometimes, people go, “That’s it? That’s all? I wanted something big.” I’m like, “Well, I think if we do this, I think it might be big.” And you know like what we talked about with the publisher, they were like, “This is it? This is all?” And I said, “I think this could have an impact.” I do tend to go conservative. I’ll be like, “I think could get a 25% increase with this.” And they’re like, “Well, that’s not so much.” And I’m like, “Oh, no.”

Doug: That’s huge.

Jeanne Jennings: You do that-

Doug: You could sign me up every day to give me 25% more. I’d be happy with that.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. You do that four times, you’ve doubled. So they were willing to test it. Then we had a 97% increase. So it’s interesting how the smallest things, but they have to be well-thought-out things, can actually deliver big returns. You don’t have to do something that’s mind-blowing or that’s never been done before.

Doug: Yeah, and I think the thing that people may forget is that what you’re talking about is what you’re building is legacy for them. So that’s for their existing database. So if they have an existing database of several hundred thousand names, 25% is a big bump. But they’re likely spending money everyday marketing and putting new people on their list. So as they’re marketing creates their list, that 25% goes on forever moving forward.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. The other important thing to think about that I talk to clients about is you’re going to get more bang for your buck if you do tests that you’re going to be able to leverage the results of over and over and over again. So things like a wireframe test, things like moving things around in the email wireframe in the template, if you can find that putting the image smaller and putting the headline above it generates 25% more revenue, that’s something that you can use on every email like that that you send in the future.

So that’s not just a one-time 25% boost; that’s an ongoing every time you send. So that’s another thing we really try to do. We try to do things that are long-term. We try to do things that are going to step up. So the idea is to make a change that you’re going to be able to continue to get the benefit of. Make another change on top of it. And, again, that’s a way to really maximize your return from your testing.

I had a client once, and they were testing subject lines around the presidential election, which isn’t a bad thing. But you have to think this through: Once that election’s over, you’re not going to be able to leverage those subject lines anymore. You’re going to have to wait another four years or three years, whatever. So that’s another thing to think about. Rather than try to really fine tune for what’s the very best way to talk about this election in regards to your product, I mean, that may be good, but you’re going to have to put that on the shelf for three years after the election. So that might not be the place to spend a whole lot of your time if that makes sense.

Doug: No. Fair enough. And it’s probably a little bit tough to test that, especially when you’ve got something that’s so topical and so in the news. It’s like looking at cryptocurrency and bitcoin and blockchain now. Everybody is talking about it now. So you may get some value by adding that to your content now. But, like you said, in six months if this blows over and something new is there, that was a, while it worked, it’s a throw-away headline.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. It’s gone. It’s like optimizing for Christmas. That’s awesome. But once it’s Christmas is over, you’ve got to shelf it for, what, 11 months?

Doug: Yeah. That’s right.

Jeanne Jennings: I think [crosstalk 00:19:19] out again, but yeah, so you want to think about things you’re going to be able to continue to use. The other thing that I love to do with testing is I love to look at formulas. For instance, what works best for a headline? Should we use a dollar off? Or should we use a percent off? Should we mention a product? Should we reference … So the idea of coming up with a formula to create your subject lines, and that way you can use that formula even if it’s a different product or a different offer in the email as things change. So formulas are another great thing I like to do because formulas are really like … Subject line formulas are like templates for words.

Doug: Sure. That makes sense. I just want to ask you a bit about technology. So we’ve talked about some of the reasons why people might be resistant to doing this. And I think the information you’ve shared is super valuable in terms of testing and formulas and being scientific. Is technology an issue for most companies that are wanting to implement this type of testing and have accurate measurement results?

Jeanne Jennings: You know what’s really fun? Just in the last I’d say year, year and a half, a lot of the email service providers and marketing automation systems that serve small to medium businesses have really added as far … what they’re allowing those folks to do in the way of automation and testing and all sorts of bells and whistles that you used to have to pay a lot to get.

So technology has really come a long way as far a becoming more affordable for most organizations in the last year to year and a half. So it’s definitely something that you want to look at. And there’s some great technologies out there. I try to be agnostic. I don’t play favorites partially because I pretty much know people at every company at this point because I’ve been here so long but also because different parts or different fits for different companies. It’s kind of like asking what’s the best car.

Doug: Fair enough. I totally agree.

Jeanne Jennings: There’s a lot of good stuff out there. So if you’ve got a system that you’re happy with, call your rep, or call the 800 number and say, “Hey, can you talk me through what you’ve added in the last six months? What should I be using? What will we be adding? What’s on your roadmap for the coming six months? What should I be looking forward to?” because most the companies would be thrilled to show you all of their new bells and whistles and then help you find a way to use them.

Doug: That’s great advice. That’s the business they’re in. And if they don’t have what you need but there’s demand there that’s maybe something that they’ve already got on the agenda to roll out.

Jeanne Jennings: Definitely. And if there’s something that you’ve seen that you want, call them. Say, “Hey, I saw this demo at a conference. I don’t necessarily want to switch to that company because I like you very much, but I’m wondering if this is on your roadmap because I want this. I want this technology. And if you tell me it’s on the roadmap in six months, you’re going to have a happy customer. By the way, could I beta test it for you?” because they’re always looking for-

Doug: Yeah, there you go.

Jeanne Jennings: … stuff like that.

Doug: Yeah. I love that approach. I love to be in the beta test because I think whenever I get a chance to get an inside view of what the company or technology is doing, it just opens up a ton of new opportunities for myself to pass on to my clients.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. And as a company, you can get out ahead of your competition if you’re in a beta program.

Doug: Well, I’ve even found that by being involved in like some of the organizations that you’re involved in, by being involved in the leading marketing organization. Just attending and participating in their events, I’ve found that often we’re a year, maybe two years ahead of what I’m going to see in the marketplace.

Jeanne Jennings: Definitely. Yeah, just by talking to people and going to events, I think that for me, the email marketing community is kind of like a second family. Hopefully, that doesn’t sound too odd, but I’ve been working in the online world since 1989. So back then we used to call it the bleeding edge. It wasn’t the cutting edge. It was the bleeding edge because they were trying to figure it out. But email marketers in my experience, which has been a long time, they’re happy to talk about what they’re doing. They’re happy to share ideas. They want to hear what you’re doing.

They may not be willing to tell you that their revenue, their ROI went from $6 to $8, but they may be willing to say to you, “We got a significant increase,” or, “We got a 30% increase, and here’s what we did.” I think that a lot of us feel like, and I’m sure you feel this way, I often joke with my friends because I have friends who do exactly what I do in the industry, “There’s enough bad email marking out there to keep us all busy.”

I’m always happy to speak and write and help people make their email marketing better, because it pains me when I get something in my inbox and I go, “Oh man, with just a little more effort, this email could’ve been so much more effective.” But they didn’t have the time, or they didn’t know. So that’s one of the reasons that I like to write about email because I blog on my about email marketing and the work I do. I like to speak at conferences. Whenever I get asked, I do my best to try to be there and speak to kind of share the wealth and the knowledge because it really helps us all of the email marketing that everyone is doing gets better.

Doug: Yeah, I totally agree, and I think you’re right. There is this huge disconnect from what the marketplace thinks of when you say email and what we as professionals in the industry do. So I’m going to ask you a question that wasn’t … I didn’t submit to you on the list just because I got a book over the holidays. It’s an easy question. I got the Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss, and he-

Jeanne Jennings: Oh, okay. I like Tim Ferriss.

Doug: There you go. So it’ll be-

Jeanne Jennings: Well, [crosstalk 00:25:01]. Right?

Doug: Absolutely. It wrecked me for like, but in a good way. So one of the questions he’s been asking these 100 people he interviewed, and I had never thought of it this way before, but you kind of led me into it is what are the bad recommendations that you hear in our profession? So think of clients who are seeking advice from you or from me. What’s kind of the bad stuff they get? Everyone talks about, “Well, what would you recommend they do?” Well, of course, we’d recommend they follow us and our advice and do all the best practices.

Jeanne Jennings: Right. [crosstalk 00:25:34].

Doug: But I’m not asking you to name names. I don’t want to know who’s giving it. I’m just saying, what is some of the bad things that you … that the wrong advice. So for listeners who are listening by email, they’re going to listen to this and go, “This is really good stuff.” And then they’re going to go talk to their neighbor. They’re going to go talk to someone else in the marketing department. They’re going to say, “Well, I think you should do this.” So what’s the bad stuff they’re likely to hear that’s going to take them down the wrong path?

Jeanne Jennings: Oh my gosh. So there was someone who I know, a nice person, and he used to speak at a lot of the conferences I would speak at. There’s a bunch of us. Like I said, we’re all a community of friends, but his rallying cry was, “Send more email.” And every time he said this, we would all cringe because there are caveats around that.

Doug:    True.

Jeanne Jennings: If you’re testing, and you’re adding relevance, and you’re doing all these things. Then you probably can send more email. But if your email program is horrible, just sending more email alone is really not the answer. In fact, it could hurt you because if it’s irrelevant, it’s not well done, you’re just going to cause people to unsubscribe. But even worse, it’s going to cause people to make you bacn. I don’t know if you’ve heard the term bacn.

Doug: No, I have not.

Jeanne Jennings: Bacon is sort of related to spam. Bacon is email they signed up for, but then they started emailing it and they realized they really didn’t like it very much. So they don’t care enough to unsubscribe. That takes some work. They’re just going to ignore you, or they’re going to automatically forward your emails to their junk mail. So that’s when you’re bacon. And bacon is bad because you don’t know. I mean, you should be looking and seeing if people are opening and clicking on your emails. You should be trying to reengage people that aren’t.

But a lot of people with the email programs, they don’t pay attention to that. So I’ve had clients where we get in there. We start looking at what they’re doing. I do an analysis of the list, and I find out that 50% of the list hasn’t opened or clicked on anything in the last two years. You’re bacon to those people. And at this point, good luck. Good luck becoming relevant to them again. So that’s the other problem-

Doug: Now, what I’m normally-

Jeanne Jennings: … with sending too much is you can easily become bacn.

Doug: I think that I don’t have a problem sending more email as long as I’m providing value to what they signed up for. So they’ve signed up, and I add value to their life. If I’m in their inner circle of 8 to 10 emails that they like to get because they like the content, then that’s fine. But if I’m just sending them advertising saying, “Buy my stuff. Buy my stuff. Buy my stuff,” you’re not relevant, and I’m not interested. I’m no opening. I may unsubscribe. But like you, I move most of those people to the promo file because I’m just simply too lazy to go through the unsubscribe process, and just I just let them go away.

Jeanne Jennings: Right. Exactly. So I think that’s one thing that for … It’s going away now, but for a couple of years, it was just all over the place. You were like, “No.” So that’s one thing. I think the other thing I hear a lot of people say to me are things like, “Well, you can’t use “free” in the subject line because you’ll automatically be flagged with spam. I’m like, “Okay, so that’s a myth.” So that’s another thing. There’s all this conventional wisdom out there that’s actually wrong, which is kind of sad.

Doug: Absolutely. And back to your bacn comment is I’m assuming that the smart guys are segmenting. We segment and our biggest fight with our clients are, “Okay, they haven’t opened in two years. Let’s take them out of your database, and let’s maybe put them into another vendor. And let’s try a re-engagement process. But let’s get them out of your primary list so you don’t affect your deliverability.”

Jeanne Jennings: Yes. No. Exactly, because that’s it. That dead wood on your list is driving down your stated open and your stated click-through rates. So it’s not that moving them to a separate file actually makes more people open. It’s just you get a cleaner read on what’s actually happening. You can see the little ticks up and the little ticks down that are hidden if half your list just isn’t doing anything at all.

Doug: Yep, that’s great advice.

Jeanne Jennings: [crosstalk 00:29:37]. Yeah, no, totally.

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Doug: So what’s the one thing that you’re most exacted about today in the space that you’re in, say, in the next 6 or 12 months?

Jeanne Jennings: Wow. I would have to say that automation. And I know that automation has been around a long time. Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s not like a new technology. But the way that we’re starting to use automation and the things that I’m developing for my clients, basically the way I see the future of automation is that the majority of the emails that a brand sends, the majority being, say, 90% or more or driven by automation. So they’re driven by an action that the recipient takes. Or they’re driven by the recipient not taking an action. Or they’re driven by a company saying, rather than every time, “Oh my God, revenue is down. Let’s have a sale,” rather than that, say, do what smart retailers have done for years. We have Victoria’s Secret for years, they have two sales a year: this time of year, that time of year–that was it. Once you get something like that, you can automate that.

So the idea that 90% or more of the emails you send are going to be automated. They’re going to be based on something the person did or didn’t do, which makes them highly relevant, are going to be based on the fact that you’ve got sales planned in advance or you have webinars planned in advance. So that stuff is going to just sort of go and happen, right, said it and forget it, which is going to free up time for the people working for your company to do a lot of A/B split testing on those series, those automated series or automated emails.

It also frees up time for when you do have an ad hoc email outside that series for your team to do a really good, smart job at it. It also frees up time for people to be looking at the numbers, which I find a lot of marketers are missing, looking at the numbers, analyzing the numbers, figuring out how to optimize. Again, that big circle of looking at the numbers, looking at performance, coming up with hypotheses, and then doing tests.

So I think that’s what excites me. I really think … I know it’s a little bit … It’s funny because I scoped it out for one of my clients about two years ago, and we’re in the process of building it now. It’s almost like in the ’80s. In the ’80s, my summer job … I am so old. In the ’80s my summer job was working for AT&T, and we were creating–you’re going to love this, Doug–a paperless office-

Doug: Oh, wow.

Jeanne Jennings: … in the ’80s, right? So we were keying in things. And the idea was to get rid of paper. I don’t think … I know they didn’t get there. And so we’re never going to get to the point where every email you send is automated. We’re never going to get there. But the more you can automate, the more time that frees up for the real high-end strategic smart stuff. And that’s what excites me.

Doug:    That’s really cool. Yeah, I love it, and I don’t think … Like you said, automation has been around for a long time, but just because it’s been around for a long time doesn’t mean that people are using it.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. Or using it to the extent that they can use it. I think a lot of people are doing sort of baby automation. You opt-in for their list, and you get an automated, “Hey, welcome to the list.” That’s good, but that’s kind of baby automation. We’re talking about taking that to like the nth degree, which is so exciting to me.

Doug: I don’t know if you remember a company years ago called Email Labs.

Jeanne Jennings: Oh, sure. I knew people that worked there.

Doug: So Lauren worked there. We were a user of their technology. And I remember trying to share with a client using the if/and to put in the unique content. And they just couldn’t get it. And they’re going, “Well, why would we want to address everybody as if they live in the same place and have the same interests? We know all this information about them. Why don’t we customize it?” They just … So that was a few years ago. That was, what, probably-

Jeanne Jennings: [crosstalk 00:33:31]. Oh yeah.

Doug: … in the ’80s or the early ’90s. Yeah. So that automation has been there, but do you still get emails in your inbox where they don’t put your name on it?

Jeanne Jennings: Or my favorite is, oh my gosh, so years ago the Wall Street Journal, every time I stopped my print publication when I traveled, which was a lot, I would get a notification confirming that they were stopping it for the period I asked, but it always said, “Dear [unk].” I’m sure that stood for “unknown.” But when you talk about feeling … because I remember it always used to make me feel sort of not loved by the Wall Street Journal. You’re like, “I’m paying you a lot of money.”

Doug: At least use my name.

Jeanne Jennings: At least use my name or don’t use “unk.” “Dear unk.”

Doug: That’s right.

Jeanne Jennings: [crosstalk 00:34:22].

Doug: I still get some that say “insert field” or “insert name here.” So somebody obviously has made a mistake with the tags that they put in their email, but I made that mistake myself by putting the wrong tag in.

Jeanne Jennings: I’ll tell you, though, that brings up another thing that I wrote about a few months ago. I believe it was IBM. I opted in for something from IBM, and I got the same exact message over and over and over again every day for like a month. So finally I reached out to a friend who works at IBM, and I said, “Hey, I don’t really want to unsubscribe because I think you guys probably have stuff that I want, but this is the only thing I’m getting, and it’s the same message every day.” I said … I started opening it. I started clicking on it because I thought if I did that it would stop. I said, “Is this really like what you intend? What should I …”

Doug: That’s funny.

Jeanne Jennings: They were horrified. And it turns out so the moral of this story there is if you’ve got automated programs, make sure you’re checking them at least once every three months if not every month to make sure they’re working as intended, to make sure that the personalization is still working, to make sure that the images are still being pulled in because stuff doesn’t happen. I think that’s the one downside to set it and forget it. You can’t really forget it. You’ve got to check it.

Doug: Absolutely. I don’t understand why people don’t do that or don’t have seed lists where they’re subscribed to their own program so they can actually experience the email like their prospects would experience them.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. That’s really important too. If there’s any way that you can seed list it, and even if you have an intern and you have them go do all your automated stuff once a month or get those emails. I know it’s kind of a hassle and kind of silly for some of us, but if you’ve got a junior person, it’s really important. It’s super important.

Doug: So wrap up our conversation here today. I just want to thank you for the value that you shared. I’m going to ask you a couple more questions. We’ll let you go. One is, who is one guest that you think I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Jeanne Jennings: Oh, wow. Shoot. This is the one you gave me in advance, and I was like, “Who should I … So alright.

Doug: It stumps everybody, so you’re not alone.

Jeanne Jennings: So one of my favorite people, but he also happens to be brilliant about email, is Ryan [Feelin 00:36:34] from [Modestra 00:36:35]. Have you spoken to him yet?

Doug: I have not. I follow him on social media. I read a lot of his stuff, and I see him also in the influencers-only group.

Jeanne Jennings: In addition to talking of that email, you have to ask him about steak night because every Sunday night no matter where he is, it’s steak night. And he’s actually hosted it at my house here in D.C. I remember when I was kind of looking. I’m like, “Well, I guess I can get steak. I guess I can figure that out.” He goes, “Oh, no. I’m going to cook. We just need your house.” I’m like, “I’m in.”

Doug:    I like him already. Steak night–that sounds good, steak and hockey.

Jeanne Jennings: Steak and hockey, yeah, steak night every Sunday night, so definitely Ryan [Feelin 00:37:12], and ask him about steak night. And then on the deliverability and privacy stuff, another one of my good friends who also happens to be brilliant is Dennis [Damon 00:37:21], who is with Return Path. I don’t know if you’ve spoken to him, but he’s actually really tuned in. It’s a little different angle from the marketing stuff that Ryan and I do. Yet it ties in and it’s super important, deliverability and then also this privacy stuff, especially with what’s happening now over in the UK. In addition to GDPR, which I’ve been talking about and Ryan has been talking about there’s a lot stuff going in place around the privacy provisions over and above GDPR. But he’s very smart on it, whether it’s the US or the UK. So Dennis Damon is another one I would recommend. Then another good friend of mine is Karen Talavera, who you’ve actually already spoken with on the show. So she’s always interesting.

Doug: Guess what? See, that was easy. You just nailed it. You just … Those are the people that came to mind first, so obviously the right people.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. So, yeah, so call Ryan. Call Dennis. Tell them I recommended them. And I’m sure they’ll be happy to join you.

Doug: I will do that. So what is the best way for people to connect with you and find you?

Jeanne Jennings: Probably ground zero for me is my blog, which is at emailoptshop.com. You can also type in the full emailoptimizationshop.com. That actually redirects there as well. And I blog there. I try to write at least once a week. And then also there on the site, you’ll see my Twitter feed. And so you can sign up to follow me on Twitter. My handle is jeajen. Then also on Twitter, whenever I write for another publication because I write a lot for only influencers, I write for the EEC blog. I write for some other places.

I always make sure I do a full-court press on social, including Twitter. So if I write for someplace else, you can find that on Twitter as well. Then I also publish a weekly email newsletter. I have actually a great person, Janet on my team who takes the lead on that. And you can sign up for that on the website. If I’ve written anything, that’ll be included in this week’s newsletter, but there’s always eight articles at least, and so I feature things that I’ve found from other experts in the field that are really interesting.

I would say that it’s 80% email but often times we go into other digital marketing topics, which I think we’re going to be doing more and more. I’m actually just about to start as an adjunct professor at Georgetown, and the course is digital marketing, which will be really fun. I’ve always been focused on email for a long time now, about 17 years, but with the class, and I’ve always loved all digital. I think probably the newsletter is going to take a more universal approach. In addition, it’ll probably still be 50% email, knowing me, knowing us, but yeah.

Doug: That’s really cool and makes sense because email plays nice with all the other digital. This happens to be one of the I think the cornerstone. But everything connects to it.

Jeanne Jennings: Exactly. So, yes, I would say start at the website, at the blog. And there’s an email address there for us, hello@emailoptshop. So feel free to reach out. I always love talking to people about email and, like I said, I feel like anyone we can help make their email marketing better, I think that helps all of us.

Doug: I’ve really enjoyed your content. I mean, there’s a lot of thought and there’s a lot of information to what you post in social and hat you post on your blog. So I’ve enjoyed your content. So there you have it, listeners. My question to you is, are you ready for a business breakthrough, or are you just going to settle for more of the same?

So I want to thank my guest today for being an awesome guest and bringing a lot of information and a lot of value, and some point for you to think about for how you can improve your ROI through testing, proper testing, scientific testing. I will make sure that in the show notes, as always, all the information will be transcribed. I’ll have Jeanne’s information, her links to her website, her blogs, her social media. And I would encourage you to correct with her. If you’re not subscribed, subscribe to iTunes. If you feel up to it, leave us a review. And until the next episode, thanks again so much for taking your time and taking time out of your day to share with our listeners.

Jeanne Jennings: Thanks so much, Doug. It’s been a pleasure.

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Jeanne’s email: hello@emailoptshop

Website: emailoptimizationshop.com

Jennings: The Blueprint for Better Email Performance Testing

Related podcast: Email Analytics From A Holistic Point Of View

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"Innovation isn't just thinking outside the box; it's about setting the box on fire and building something extraordinary from the ashes."

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