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Insights and inside jokes from Email Insider Summit

“No man ever steps in the same river twice for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” - Heraclitus

While writing this 35,000 feet in the air, I’m thinking back on this quote said during the opening keynote session on the first day of Email Insider Summit, and it couldn’t be more true. This was my first EIS event—hosted by Media Post, to whom I owe a thank-you for a wonderfully run event—and I had no idea what to expect. What I realized after the end of this three-day event is that those in the email industry are some of the closest-knit, snarkiest, and most passionate group of people who could work in an industry. I came out of this event with a lot more knowledge than when I came in.

Pre-Day 1: First impressions are lasting impressions

Landing in the Salt Lake City International Airport was a surreal experience. Coming from New England, I was no stranger to mountains, and large ones at that. But, I wasn’t expecting the mountains in Utah. One minute you’re looking at level land, and the next, without any warning—bam!—it’s a 10,000-foot mountain range looming in your face. It was unexpected and exquisite to behold.

An 8,000-foot change in elevation later, my two colleagues and I arrived at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah. You think you know what ritzy is until you stay at the only Forbes five-star rated ski lodge in the state. Let’s talk about the drive up to the lodge, which was a treat unto itself, let me tell you. With every other pine tree decorated in lights, it felt like I was traipsing around a—I kid you not—fairy land where every day revolved around the holiday festivities. When we arrive at the hotel, we’re greeted by a bronze statue of a skier whose face, while the artist may have gone for a friendly smile, instead is uncannily reminiscent of one who would experience altitude sickness. The blazing 10-foot torch beside him though struck a lasting impression that this was an impressive place with impressive people.

Days 1 and 2: Important keynotes, panels and snark-isms

There were three key themes that emerged:

How can we use the consumer data we collect to create personalized messages?

Personalization will continue to grow in importance the more push notifications entrench themselves in consumers’ day-to-day lives. Knowing that, businesses must compete harder than ever to rise above the noise (that phrase should become an axiom; it’ll never not be the case.)

Therefore, the keys to personalization lie in:

  • Focusing on really making the customer first. Having everything geared towards the customer will always create value for the company.
  • Invest smartly. Don’t get too excited about fads—be thoughtful about where you invest in tools and people.
  • Make personalization a very buildable, scalable approach. When you create processes and invest in tools and people, you must do so thinking about whether those decisions would still make sense two or four years down the road. Ask yourself: “Can I take this and make it actionable? And when I make it actionable, can I scale it?”
  • Identify metrics that matter. Understand your baseline. Develop assumptions and hypotheses upfront and then test. It takes discipline and experience to stop and see what you’re trying to achieve, and then make sense of the data.

How can we connect customer data points across channels to provide a seamless experience?

Creating a seamless experience is unbelievably ambitious. It requires that the organization be data-driven, from the key stakeholders of the data right down to the processes used in interacting with that data.

In order to connect data across channels, organizations must:

  • Find better ways to integrate more fully with their data
  • Be able to aggregate data and make it easy to understand and use
  • Make data immediately actionable
  • Realize that it’s more than just having data, it’s managing data
  • Move data faster, better and more efficiently

How can marketers keep up with the speed at which marketing is changing?

Marketing is changing at an accelerating rate, particularly within the past decade. Marketers have had to account for more innovations in consumer-to-media consumption then they’d probably ever thought, and it’s made connecting with consumers much more difficult.

Channels such as direct mail and television have reached their peak some decades ago; however, just because channels peak doesn’t mean they disappear. So, as long as you’re savvy enough to keep updated on consumer whims, you can still integrate legacy channels with modernized campaigns.

Marketers have also shifted content to target moments that are important to a consumer’s purchasing journey. We are developing more curated, more dynamic content and email’s peculiar resilience to change makes it a great launchpad for businesses to be super flexible in implementing improvements or trying new things.

Email is not dead—let’s get that out of the way. As a speaker so nicely put it during a session, “Email is like the foundation of a house built in the 70’s. It’s not sexy, but it works and you can build on it.” Email dwarfs other channels in terms of send volume, it is a cost effective channel, and is on its way to replacing postal addresses as a unique identifier.

All in all, I found the sessions to be hugely informative and entertaining. While madly typing away notes, I also had one eye trained on the live Twitter feed that dominated one third of the room. Let me tell you something folks, when that many email-obsessed nerds are gathered in one area with access to a live-feed, things get real interesting real fast.

The in-betweens: Snowshoeing, James Jr. the lobster, and the Experian Data Quality cocktail party

In between the learning, networking and tweeting-induced carpel tunnel, Email Insider Summit also gave us the opportunity to go skiing or snowboarding, skeet shooting, snowshoeing, and tubing. At the risk of incurring bodily harm to myself and others, I decided to go with the safest option: snowshoeing. Along with a group of 10 or so other adrenaline junkies, we trekked up and down The Deer Valley Resort, which was everything you would expect a hike in 8,000+ ft. elevation wearing clumsy foot-apparatuses to be. (As a fellow snowshoer eloquently stated, “My lungs were burning.”)

For those not in the know, being a marketer is sometimes akin to being a tourist: One is prone to taking pictures at one’s own risk, there is no moment that can’t not be captured and great pictures can often involve some Cirque du Soleil-type contortion. But, in the name of being a good marketer, I subjected myself to all three of the aforementioned provisions.

Among the swag that we brought for the event, a stuffed lobster was one of the highlights. We affectionately named this one in particular James Jr. after James Straggas, one of our Partner Managers here at EDQ. I was tasked with taking pictures of James Jr. in conventional human settings, you know, for social media purposes, and I will admit that I enjoyed myself more than I should have during this photo shoot—but tell me these pictures aren’t Instagram-worthy.

Experian Data Quality also hosted an after party during the event. Eat, drink and be merry, as they say—and that is indeed what happened. Our highlighted drink of the night was dubbed The Honeypot, a nerdy email nod to the email addresses created and spread across websites to lure and capture spammers.I was thrilled to see a great turnout and even more so at everyone having a good time.

Some feedback I received:

“You know, your hats remind me of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.” Well, you caught us. Go Pats!

“Why the lobster? Why not clams as in New England clam chowder?” Would a stuffed clam be as cute as a stuffed lobster? Would it?

“The Honeypot, huh? I don’t get it.” …Really? You’re an email marketer.

I hadn’t known what to expect for the Email Insider Summit: Who would attend? What would I learn? What connections would I foster? As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. These past three days were filled with learning from the most enthusiastic, brightest bunch of email experts, and while Heraclitus believed life and its facets to be dynamic, I imagine the next Email Insider Summit to stay just as remarkable as it was this year.

Enjoy the gallery of pictures I took during the Email Insider Summit—you’ll feel like you were there!

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