52 Thoughts I had while Reading “Disrupted”: Part 1

I was really excited when I found out about the book “Disrupted,” by Dan Lyons. I’ve lived in NYC for 6 years, and worked at techy startups for the first 5ish. I’ve been in the digital marketing space in some form or another since I graduated in 2007. I tweeted a few weeks ago about wanting to do some kind of book club about this book. Since the people I’d want to discuss this book with live all over the place – consider this an open invitation to talk about this book with me whenever our paths cross in person(or hey, even on twitter or in the comments here)! I’m going to two email marketing conferences in the next two weeks. Let’s chat.

In late 2014, I left the startup world, and was so burnt out at the time that I had to take three months off from working entirely. At the time, I felt a little bit like a failure, since so many people around me seemed to love working at startups, and find it exciting. And going back and reading that post – I felt like I was burning out on email. A year and a half later, I realize that’s not the case. I still like email. I’m just…not the right fit for most startups. It was exciting at times, but for my slightly-older-than-my-average-coworkers’-age, extremely introverted self, it was mostly just exhausting. I struggled to find the balance of wanting to fit in with everyone, but also wanting to just go home at a reasonable hour instead of staying for another happy hour. So I took casual sips of the Koolaid, but didn’t really like how it tasted, so I switched back to Earl Grey (corporate/nonprofit), which is really a better fit for me.

I’m a little more than halfway through Disrupted now. Here’s what was going through my head for chapters 1-14.

  1. This is going to be great. I am so over startups.
  2. Aw, he’s an older guy at a startup. We had a few of them at the main one I worked at by the time I left. I always wondered how annoyed they must have been at all the 23 year olds. I was a 28 year old at a startup and I was annoyed by the younger people.
  3. Trying to think of where I was in 2011 – at a small, techy startup in NYC that was just hoping to get acquired, then did. Then the whole team was gutted because the company that acquired us just wanted the technology. That was fun. Whatever. I’m over it.
  4. Wait, are we not saying “Silicon Alley” anymore for NYC? Was that ever really a thing, or just briefly in 2011? Can I say I worked in Silicon Valley in NYC??
  5. Oh heyyyyy, a Warby Parker mention! From circa 2011 – slightly before I started working there. At least the mention is about the cool techy nerds wearing the glasses (when really, a lot of comparisons could be made elsewhere in the book).
  6. Story time: A few years ago, (but maybe a year or so after Dan left ReadWrite), a reporter from ReadWrite interviewed me and someone from an org my company was doing a collaboration with. The writer was TERRIBLE and kept getting our business models confused (one was a nonprofit that does crowdfunding for teachers. One was a glasses company). It was my first media interview like that, and I was terrified that the article was going to be terrible and I’d never get to do anything like that again. Afterwards, the person from the nonprofit (who is wonderful and has been a great mentor to me on multiple occasions) said, “Yeah, don’t worry. That article will never get written.” It didn’t.
  7. Commuting from Boston to SF every week sounds miserable.
  8. Oh look, an ~orange culture~.
  9. I’ve had a boss who was younger and wayyyyy less experienced than I am in my field (at a startup..). Even though I like him as a person, it totally sucked and was ultimately a big factor in why I left.
  10. I left the unicorn startup 3 weeks before the first portion of my stock options would have vested. I think about that a lot and wonder if I’ll ever regret that.
  11. Yeah, brogrammers are a real thing. Ugh.
  12. Do they have any women working in tech roles at Hubspot, or do they only hire women to write BS content? That’s kind of offensive.
  13. I may have been brainstorming a very similar book with a friend when I worked at a startup. Decided against it because burning a unicorn bridge is a bad idea, and we were unlikely to get a hit HBO show out of it. We also didn’t hate our company. It’s just weird when you see the media bowing at your company’s feet, but then you’ve seen how the sausage is made, and want to say something, but can’t, you know? But you’ve also kinda sorta been sipping on the koolaid a little bit too? It’s complicated.
  14. Oh yeah, this whole corporate culture thing is eerily familiar. I mean, sure, it’s cool to love your job and all, but geez.
  15. This is bleak.
  16. I would really hate it here.
  17. Spam blasts? SPAM BLASTS???? ::pounds head against wall::
  18. I mean, he’s kind of right though. The emails he’s talking about DO sound spammy. And blasty. Remind me never to give Hubspot any information about myself.
  19. Okay, but the people here are not WRONG about these emails TECHNICALLY not being classified as spam. People did opt in, and it doesn’t sound like they’re violating CAN-SPAM. Just really aggressive marketing.
  20. Oh, I think I was on that record breaking webinar. I remember another Hubspot webinar I listened to years ago, and Dan Zarrella was talking about metrics/email, and telling everyone that Saturday at 6 AM was the best time of day/day of week to send emails (oh, 2010 email thought leadership! Lol.). The hold music was “Umbrella” by Rhianna, and everyone in the comments was typing things like “Webinar by Dan Zarrella…ella…ella…hey…hey..hey…” and now I think about that whenever I hear that song.
  21. But, looking at online marketing from an outsider’s perspective… yeah. Marketing is terrible. WHY DO I DO THIS??? WHY IS THIS MY CAREER? At least I’m not in B2B anymore. I’m usually on the other end of those sales pitches now, and I hate them a LOT. And it sucks, because I’ve become friends/friendly with a lot of the people who are doing the pitches prior to them doing the pitches.
  22. Totally relate to the cult/koolaid concept. It really is alarming how quickly groupthink kicks in at some companies. When I left the last two startups I was at, it was a major culture shock getting back into normal life.
  23. A teddy bear? Um, okay.
  24. Journalists sound really funny and snarky. Maybe I should have actually gone into journalism since I majored in it and all…it seems like their meetings would be my jam.
  25. I definitely know “Mary.” I know she likes dumbed down content, but maybe if she had better content to read, she’d become better at marketing? Just a thought? Also, at WP, some of us were joking about a (now out of business) competitor that marketed quirky colorful (UGLY) glasses to women. We definitely came up with “Mary” as their target customer. She was definitely not our customer.
  26. Oh yeah. Startup employees are definitely encouraged to post the company’s content on their social media. I’m reminded of this all the time in my Facebook “On This Day.” But that being said – I remember being genuinely excited about the things I was posting, and wanting it to go well. There was definitely a sense of wanting everything to succeed. We had screens on the walls with our realtime GA page up, and I loved watching the site views climb up as soon as I sent out an email.
  27. Fearless Friday sounds incredibly obnoxious. Were people in that office actually afraid of submitting stories to Buzzfeed, even though their content was basically the same as Buzzfeed’s? Were they afraid of making bad paintings? Why are those things feared?
  28. As a marketer, I get why customer personas are a thing, and usually based on data, but everywhere I’ve worked that has had them didn’t have one that I fit in, even though I’ve also been a happy customer of the product. And neither did any of my friends who were also happy customers.
  29. I’m really glad I didn’t have to work with salespeople at any of the startups I worked at.
  30. Oh, startup Halloween. That was actually my favorite thing about Warby Parker. We definitely did everything Hubspot did, only we had a huge costume party at night (in addition to wearing costumes and taking pictures all day). I love sewing and spend most of my spare time making things, and I loved having a way to be seen as skilled/creative at work outside of my normal job, where I didn’t really get to be creative. It was great to see that my favorite outlet for creativity was rewarded there.
  31. Fine, this isn’t the culture for you. We get it. But Halloween transcends everything.
  32. Yeah, “Unlimited” vacation time is total BS. Everywhere I’ve worked that had it had a “Get your work done and take the time you need!” policy. Kind of hard to do that when your workload is so high, you CAN’T get your work done, and you’re a one person team. And when the office culture leans toward showing how dedicated you are to a company, it becomes a competition of who can take the least vacation time. Hard pass, no thanks, unsubscribe.
  33. Uh oh…. he’s going to talk about Salesforce/Dreamforce/Benioff. ::grabs popcorn::
  34. I mean, yeah. Hotels are expensive in a city when there are 120k extra people visiting for a few days. Math.
  35. I sat outside and ate noodles, then rode the carousel during the keynote last year at DF.
  36. I generally spend most conference keynotes live tweeting/snarking.
  37. YAHTZEE!!!! ET MENTION! If this book were a movie, this section where he’s talking about ET as a threat to Hubspot would have Bad Blood playing. Loudly. With some kind of glaring standoff between the two orange companies.
  38. Also- dude, Hubspot’s not the only one who didn’t love that acquisition. Trust me. I still don’t know what happened to the 4 stock shares I had in ET.
  39. Hey journalist man, a little fact check: It was ExactTarget Marketing Cloud for a few months, THEN Salesforce Marketing Cloud. But we all still call it ET.
  40. At this point I’m just typing a sentence in here every 3 sentences I read in the book.
  41. “Salesforce.com claims that its [Exacttarget’s] marketing software is better than Hubspot and works seamlessly with Salesforce.com’s core CRM software.”  
  42. ::Nods:: Yep this is exactly how I feel during keynotes at these conferences.
  43. Oh, do they do some ridiculous/awkward themed costume every year during the keynote? I at least appreciate that this one matched the band playing.
  44. A Tesla? They couldn’t get a DeLorean?
  45. YES! I hated it last year when they made a big deal about ~Women in Tech~, then had a panel about women in tech – with just Benioff and Parker. Like, seriously?!? Again, I appreciate the gesture, but herding all of the women to watch panels/speeches about how hard it is to be a woman in tech while the men are all off networking and attending sessions that will advance their careers is hardly a step in the right direction.
  46. I mean, yes, there are problems with tech/marketing as an industry. Absolutely. I don’t think it’s completely evil though. Some of us are just nerds who want to have a chance to interact with people instead of screens. A lot of us are one of just a few people at our companies who do what we do, and it’s nice to have other people to talk shop (and drink) with. Conferences are great for that.
  47. Funny that I’m reading this part about the tower the day after they announce turning the biggest tower in the Indianapolis skyline to a Salesforce tower.
  48. He mentions the Dreamboat from DF2015. He doesn’t mention the party at DF2015 that had the cast of Silicon Valley attending. Hmmm. (My friends and I tried to go to it, but the line was wrapped around a block for several hours).
  49. Is the pool installer guy they keep talking about the same guy that’s in Youtility?
  50. It seems like it’s become pretty normal to just do 1-2 years at a job and leave in this industry. Whew.
  51. Dan’s coworkers suck. Like seriously, if his articles are generating more traffic, putting them in your emails will likely generate more clicks/conversions, making your email metrics better. Math.
  52. I’m glad he got a new boss, and he seems cool. I had three different bosses in my two years at the unicorn I worked at, and…it doesn’t always get better.

I’m still reading the book – more thoughts when I finish it in the next few days!

 

Further Reading…

Hubspot’s reaction to the book

Hubspot’s Culture Code Deck

Blast is to Email as Skit is to Sketch

My husband has spent a lot of time studying comedy and producing video sketches at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. Because of his involvement with UCB, I’ve attended a lot of shows there and heard a lot about what they do. And since I pretty much exclusively only choose to consume funny content – we talk about the comedy world a lot.
One of the areas of comedy he’s studied is sketch writing. A sketch is a short comedic piece, usually written by someone trained in comedy writing structure. There are lots of shows on TV that fall into the “sketch” genre: SNL, Inside Amy Schumer, Mr. Show, Key & Peele, etc. For any of these shows, the whole sketch requires a team of people who are professionally trained to put it together: actors, writers, directors, set designers, costume designers, and prop masters. While they often have to put these sketches together quickly for a weekly show, it’s still a team of trained professionals who have presumably studied their craft for a long time. They know about comedic structure, “game,” and other things that the average person doesn’t. It’s their job. While a given sketch might be written, produced, and performed in a few days, it definitely has years of skill behind it.
And yet – a lot of people call sketches “skits.” A sketch is not a skit. A skit is something fourth graders throw together in an hour for the summer camp talent show, or maybe for their “group presentation” to illustrate a topic for a school research project. Skits are usually poorly scripted, or not scripted at all. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with skits, or improv for that matter, but – for people in the industry, who write comedy for a living, calling a sketch a skit is demeaning, and minimizes their craft.
A while ago, I was telling my husband about how frustrating it is when people I know (and work with…) talk about “e-blasts,” and it struck me that our industries aren’t so different. People use the “skit” and “sketch” interchangeably, and it probably grates on comedy writers as much as eBlast grates on me. People without our skillsets refer to his craft as skits, and mine as blasts (or spam, but that’s a different article…), and it’s incredibly frustrating. I don’t expect the general public to know our preferred terminology for everything. I certainly don’t know every industry’s preferred nomenclature.
But I do expect professionals in our own industry to understand what it sounds like when you call an email a blast. On Twitter, and in various email groups I’m in, whenever this topic comes up, there’s always someone who tries to argue that any non-personalized email that goes to a full list IS a “blast.” So… it’s violent? It’s aggressive? You’re literally bombing your subscribers with content? Or is it some kind of ’80s messaging and imagery involving lasers? Yeah, good luck with that. “Blast” grates on me in an unsettling way, but I’m getting close to a very zen(like) state about it. Rather than be offended, I’m just going to accept it as you giving me information about yourself and your email skill level. Because you know what?

If you’re calling your email a “blast” – it probably is.

It’s Leap Day, so… hi!

I’ve started and not finished quite a few blog posts in the last few months. I have a few drafts in my Notes app that I’ve feverishly typed up on my phone on the subway. But the random surges of writing inspiration kind of fade away as soon as I get home and have time to fully write anything. I’ve had better luck on Twitter, as many of you know. But, yesterday I had to renew my domain for my blog, and since my old debit card had expired, I had to actively go in and update it, because emailsnarketing.com is an amazing domain/twitter handle, and I will NOT let Donald Trump take it and redirect it to his site.

So you’ll just have to imagine what my “Tedc15 Recap” blog post was like. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions on the level of angst in my “Orange Love Letter: One Year Later” post based on my tweets about being on hold with support.  You’ll have to smile at how far we’ve come as an email industry on your own, without reading my “Vintage Emails” post. You’ll have to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat and match it up with my other social media posts to get an idea about “Kristin’s Career in 2015, as Described by Hamilton Lyrics.” You’ll have to prepare some brisket and read through this twitter conversation to find out what #brisketwatch2016 is.

I’m already almost a year into my job at Girl Scouts. And I still love it! (Take THAT, job-hopping track record!) It’s very immersive in email. I’ve now trained almost 200 people on that orange(ish) ESP, with another 50 or so added every few months. It’s really strengthened my knowledge of this particular platform, but even more importantly – I’ve had to re-evaluate and justify every single email ~best practice~ I’ve ever known. Between my day job of helping people with email for their jobs, and my night job of teaching a monthly intro to email class, I’ve had to answer “But… why?” about a million times. Why do I need to use an authenticated from email address? Why do we need pre-header text? Why can’t I make my whole email an image? Why does my email look like that in Outlook? Why do you keep making that face when I say the word “e-blast?” Why do we have “This email was sent to [email address]” in the footer? (Anyone know that last one? It seems like an outdated thing, but everyone still does it…)

Anyway, from all that, I feel like I spend all of my time talking about email. And it’s made me feel less interested in writing about email here. But good news – I am still showing up at email conferences.

I’ll be speaking at the new Only Influencers conference in May in Las Vegas: The Email Innovations Summit. It’ll be a great group of people who are insanely smart, talking about email! I’ve been going to about 3-4 email conferences a year for a while now, and I’m really excited about this one. It’s not going to be a ton of sales pitches like so many other conferences have become – it’s just straight up email nerds being nerdy. I’m going to be talking about the innovations I’ve been working on with Girl Scouts over the last year, and how I’ve handled 50 ESP migrations in a year without going crazy.

Bond_speaker_promo
Anyone who registers with promo code SPKBON will receive 15% off the full conference price. (And even more valuable, you’ll probably get to hang out with me!)

 

Blast your fireworks, not your emails

Happy (pre) Independance Day! USA! USA! Are you ready to BLAST some fireworks and emails?!?! For the latter, I sincerely hope not.

The terms “blast” and “e-blast” grate on me in a really strong way. They’re antiquated terms from a time when email marketing wasn’t very advanced. They refer to the good ol’ “Batch and blast” days of email marketing, when brands would just “blast” an email to their entire list of  subscribers – usually without any segmentation or personalization.

I totally get that there are plenty of brands that still send emails that way today. And for some brands, and some communications, it’s fine. While segmentation, dynamic content, personalization, personalized send time, and ~customer journeys~ are increasing in popularity, in some situations, it makes more sense just to send one version of the email, to everyone. Seriously, that’s cool. Keep doing that. Just call them emails instead please.

But I still maintain that we, as email marketers, should stop calling it a “blast.” “Blast” demeans our industry and makes us look like amateurs. If you refer to an email as a “blast” around me, you lose most of your credibility. It’s like…a code word announcing that you’re bad at marketing. And I know some people reading this are thinking I’m being over dramatic about this. But really, if we don’t care about this – who will?

To me, when someone refers to an email as a blast, what they’re really saying is, “Email marketing is easy, and any idiot with a Constant Contact account can do it. It requires no skills at all, and isn’t a field that people spend years learning and specializing in.” I’m visualizing some really old small business owner with no marketing background sending a horribly designed email that isn’t responsive, has 6 different fonts and has all of the CTAs say “click here.”

I recently hired an email marketer for my team. When I was reviewing resumes, I saw a candidate who seemed to have a lot of email experience, but the word “blast” was all over this person’s resume. Even if that’s the term the person’s company used for emails (and that’s the assumption I tried to make), it doesn’t exactly scream that this person is an experienced email marketer. Based on the resume and interview, the person’s company actually sent reasonably advanced emails, so I really don’t understand why they were calling them blasts. Someone else got the job.

Last year, briefly, I worked with an ESP different than the one I love so much. While it had some exciting capabilities with segmentation and targeted content, there was one (major) piece of the platform that made me hate using it: the send button. It didn’t say “send.” It said “Schedule this blast!” So, every single day, as part of doing my job, I had to click a button that I found seriously offensive. And again, it made that ESP lose credibility with me, which is really a shame since they have a lot of potential.

Don’t call your email a blast. Call it what it is: An email. Or a newsletter, invitation, promotion, campaign, send, message, communication, etc.

Now go blast some fireworks instead.

(If you’re wondering about my font choices in this post – the Comic Sans is just to illustrate what the phrase “email blast” looks like in my head.)

Spring Black Friday is SO FETCH OMG

So, remember how last May, Lowe’s sent a bunch of emails about a Spring Black Friday promotion (which was ridiculous, lasted over several weekends, and made zero sense)?

The Home Depot thought it would be a good idea to rip off that idea and use it for themselves this year:

homedepotblackfriday

Like, can you not? They followed the exact same formula that Lowe’s did last year – they spread it out over a few weeks (April 7-19 in this case). The emails aren’t anything special or different from their normal emails (probably – I don’t ever read them). The legal language in the emails is almost as long as the actual emails. And, oddly, the layout of these emails is really similar to the Lowe’s emails as well.

Last year, Lowe’s sent their campaign in May, so I’m almost wondering if this was Home Depot’s attempt to sabotage the Lowe’s campaign for this year. If so, that’s pretty sketchy (and confusing, since it was a terrible idea to begin with).

Dear Big Box hardware stores,

You don’t need to do this. This is your time of year to shine – it’s spring. It’s warm out in most places. People are spending lots of time outside in their yards and, you know, improving their homes. You don’t need to stoop to this level to create false urgency – this is a really logical time of year for people to shop at your stores. ~Build~ better marketing campaigns, please.

XOXO,

Email Snarketing

Roundup of April Fool’s Day Roundups #lazyblogging #phoningitin

Yesterday I woke up to two funny April fool’s emails – Uber NYC’s “Uber Lions” and Fresh Direct’s “Cheese Cleanse.” For a brief moment, I thought that the day had finally come where I’d go back to writing this blog as I intended – you know, actually writing about email instead of all my recent career choices, and being extra snarky. I was hoping I’d feel inspired as more emails hit my inbox.

It’s not that time yet. It will be soon though. Probably. I just started my new job last week, and I’m already doing some business traveling next week, but when things calm down, I’ll write about email again.

I also didn’t think it made sense for me to do an email roundup since everyone else was also doing them, and they were doing a better job of it than I might. Sadly, I didn’t actually end up receiving as many fun April Fool’s day emails as I would have liked. Brands played it safe (and boring) this year. They’re ~not fooling~. I guess they missed last year’s article from Litmus about how this is the most cliched thing a brand can do for April Fools.

zzz

From what I’ve gathered, people loved the UberLions and Bonobos emails (because who doesn’t love being told cute animals are imminent?), were kind of pissed off about the West Elm email (with a fake shipping confirmation for your “Future” savings – people who had been victims of identity theft really didn’t find that one funny), and giggled over Boden’s “Naked person on a dress recall” email. I’m sure there were more emails that were noteworthy, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Luckily, other people were. Here are a few roundups of brands that actually tried this year, by content publishers who are doing a much better job than I have been at blogging.

Help.com (Shoutout to my friend Kayla who wrote this post!)

Email Marketing Rules

Only Influencers

AlchemyWorx Pinterest April Fools Lookbook

Internet Retailer

Q&A with me about my Intro to Email Marketing Class

Samantha Iodice, another email marketer, interviewed me about my Intro to Email Marketing class for her blog, in which I talk about why I’m teaching the class, why email marketers are a little masochistic, and cookies. Naturally.

One of the greatest things about participating in the Email Marketing community is realizing it’s a small, tight-knit group. What’s wonderful about this aspect is that when you get to know the members of this community, you build friendships, bonds, partnerships, allies, and feel supported, even when the chips may be down. It’s like a digital family that fights like family and makes up at the end of the day too. It’s pretty cool and I’m proud to be a part of this digital family.

As a contributing member, as well as a strong supporter of Email Snarketing’s Kristin Bond, I have some fantastic news to share of her upcoming courses. But, along with the courses, I asked Kristin a few questions on why she was doing the courses and her passion for Email Marketing. First, here’s some details on her course, “Intro to Email Marketing” on Tuesday, March 3rd OR Thursday, April 2nd in NYC.

Keep reading »

On my honor, I will try…

After a very much needed almost 3 month hiatus, I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted a full-time job at Girl Scouts of the USA as their Senior Email Marketing Specialist. I’ll be spending my time helping to standardize their email programs across 112 councils all over the country, writing documentation, educating marketing teams about email best practices, and being their go-to person for my favorite ESP.  While it’s obviously very much still in the email world, it’s taking a step away from mass producing emails every day, and it’s exactly what I want to be doing. I start next month, and I’m extremely excited about it! In all of the years that I’ve worked in marketing in various industries, I’ve learned that I’m much happier when I’m marketing a product or service that I genuinely believe in and care about. While that’s not possible for every job and every company, I’ve found that it’s something I need to be successful and happy in a job. That’s why I’m absolutely positive that this is the perfect fit for me. GS VestsI’ve been involved with Girl Scouts since I was 5. I started Daisies when I was in pre-school, then I continued through Brownies and Juniors over the next 7 years. I remember making a point to sell 350 boxes of cookies one year so that I could go to a 13-day horseback riding camp for free. I loved being a Girl Scout. My mom was our troop leader, and most of my happy memories from when I was that age have to do with Girl Scouts. In the summers when I was a kid, I’d spend hours reading and re-reading my Girl Scout handbook, looking for fun craft projects to do and badges to work on. Twenty years and a bazillion moves later, I still have both of my uniform vests. In the last few years, living in NYC and not knowing any girls here, my involvement had been reduced to buying a lot of cookies (often online, pre-Digital Cookie, from friends in other states who have kids) and liking and sharing social media content. And, of course, being a Girl Scout cookie bakery hipster (according to my brother. I prefer “expert.”). Anyway, I’m really excited that my job is going to be with an organization that’s very near and dear to me. Plus, you know, there will be cookies. If you haven’t heard about it yet, Girl Scouts are making great strides in advancing their programming along with technology. With the recently launched Digital Cookie program, girls can create their own websites to sell cookies, allow customers to pay with a credit card, and sell cookies via an app. After working in techy startups the last few years, and seeing how underrepresented women are in the tech world – I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have the opportunity to contribute to a program that will get girls interested in tech and digital marketing at an early age. troop3508 I’ll start the job in late March. I’ll be spending the next few weeks wrapping up some freelance projects, going on a vacation with good friends, shopping for professional clothes, and trying to teach myself how to organize an Outlook email account at the same level of OCD that I take with my Gmail accounts. (Any tips on that, pretty please? I haven’t used Outlook in a while.) The break that I’ve taken the last few months was an excellent choice for me. I knew I was burnt out and needed to take some time off, but I didn’t know just how badly I needed it until a few weeks in, when I was finally able to stop feeling guilty when I felt like spending an afternoon relaxing instead of trying to figure out my next professional move. But it also helped me realize that I actually really do enjoy working. I get more satisfaction out of doing something productive than watching five seasons of Friends on Netflix (but I’ve also learned to accept that it’s okay to sometimes count finishing a season of a show or clearing out a Tivo queue as “productive”). Re-charging is important and necessary in order to continue to do actual work, and sometimes we all need to take a moment and acknowledge that. I’m so happy that I’ve found a work environment that offers the level of balance that’s been missing from my professional life for a while and projects that I can’t wait to dive into. It’s been fun hibernating this winter, but now I’m refreshed, relaxed, and completely ready to go back to work full-time… in a few weeks.

My history with a certain ESP: A love story

Since Valentine’s day is this week, and I couldn’t bear to dig through all my emails from flower companies and write about them (but if you’re desperate to read about flower emails, you can read my Mother’s day posts here and here), I decided that I’d instead write about the most important relationship every email marketer has: their relationship with their ESP. More specifically, my long-term relationship with a certain ESP.

We first formally met when I was working in a boring corporate job. My office was in the same building as his. I saw him on the elevator, embodied by a different cool person every day, wearing his jeans and texting on his iPhone (in 2008, before everyone had them), while I was in my boring business casual with my Blackberry Pearl, thinking about how to write creatively about the recession for the millionth time that week. He seemed so happy, so bright, so… orange. I was intrigued.

We got to know each other, and started actually working together. He introduced me to a whole new world of careers I didn’t know existed. I went to his big annual party, which turned out to be a toooootal rager, even though I thought it would be a bunch of uncool corporate types. Who actually enjoys spending 3 days talking about nothing but email (apparently, a lot of people)? I was maybe just hoping to have a good reason to get away from the office for a few days. But after a few bright orange cocktails, a grey and black messenger bag filled with swag and autographed books, and tales of a cookie waiting in hotel rooms at the exact moment guests drunkenly arrived back from a free amazing They Might be Giants concert — let’s face it. I was hooked.

I left the corporate job, moved to a big city on the east coast, and our relationship became off-again, on-again. I was wearing my bag from the rager over my shoulder outside of a Starbucks in Manhattan, when a stranger with an alliterative name asked me if I worked there. I told him no, but I would like to someday. I was thrilled that I was passing off as one of them. He actually did work there, and was visiting from an office in another country.

Over the next few years, I spent time with others, but always went back to him, my quirky, strong, bright orange, ESP. He decided to go public, and when I bought a few shares of his stock, people close to me were concerned it might be considered insider trading since I talked about him so much, not realizing that I wasn’t actually with him in that way.

I ended up making major life decisions around when I would get to see him, and be with him. After spending a year at a job that worked with another ESP, I switched jobs as soon as I had the chance to go back to him. My actual wedding and honeymoon were at the same time as his annual week-long rager one year (and the wedding was even in the same city), and for a brief moment, I considered postponing the honeymoon to be with him – but only for a moment. There would be other ragers, after all. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a tear at the airport on Monday morning on my way to my honeymoon, as I saw the orange shuttle bus pull up to take people to the party. If only I had known his days were numbered, and this would be one of the last few.

And sure, when I told people about how much I loved him, and why – there were skeptics. He’s not perfect after all. People I worked with mocked my devotion, and threatened to start seeing other ESPs, but I knew nothing could rock what we had. I’m in it for the long haul. It wasn’t always easy to love him. Nobody’s perfect. And even if he had his flaws, I knew him so well that I didn’t even care, and just worked my way around them. And I only called him up to complain about his flaws to his face a few times. 

But eventually, as what happens with most people and their ESPs, I woke up one morning, and suddenly, everything was different. He had some work done to his appearance, and was running with a new crowd, and going by a different name.  He had changed. I know that even with all these changes, he’s still the same ESP I’ve loved all these years. I know that plenty of others have a crush on him too. That’s okay. I know what we had together, and he has plenty of love to go around. And I don’t think our story is over, even if things are a becoming a little too…cloudy. We can weather this storm, and shine bright orange again someday. 

The care and keeping of your email marketing manager

I’ve been “fun-employed” (by choice, THANKYOUVERYMUCH) for about six weeks now.  And honestly – I don’t hate it. This has been the first time since college that I’ve actually been able to enjoy more than a week off without having to worry about checking work emails and if everything was running smoothly without me. (Okay, full disclosure – I thought about that last part a little at first. But the great thing is, I could remind myself that it wasn’t really my problem anymore, and that things were probably just fine, because my replacements were fully capable and trained really well).

Since my last post, I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me about job opportunities. Normally, on any given week, when I haven’t just made a big announcement that I’m on the market for new opportunities, I get at least 3-4 LinkedIn requests from recruiters about email jobs. But there have been quite a few more lately. Almost all have been for full-time roles, and several are for email marketing manager roles that I “would be perfect for!!!” — because they’re exactly what I’ve been doing for the last few years.

I’ve talked to my email friends who have the same experience level as I do, and this is pretty common. A lot of us have been doing email marketing for about 7-10 years, and we’ve been in email producing roles where we’re the only one in our company working on email. We get very good at it because we have to – there’s no one else to do it, and no one else in our company has any experience with email. Our jobs are very demanding, and come with a very special degree of stress and anxiety. Because of this, we get burnt out really easily, and some of us end up switching jobs every year (or even more frequently than that in some cases). Recruiters lure us away with a cooler startup, more money, or the promise of change. This job will be different – we’re looking for someone who can take our email program to the next level, and you’re perfect for it. We work hard, but we play hard too. We have unlimited vacation as long as you get your work done! (LOL) It’s fun to work for us – we have a ping-pong table! (I’ve heard all of these lines more times than I can count.)

The thing is – we’re really not doing all this job hopping just because we’re entitled millennials. It’s because a lot of these email marketing manager roles are set up for failure from the start, and honestly – we have options. A lot of email marketing managers, especially at startups, are entering roles where they’re the first person to build the email program, and have to deal with not only the workload of building an email program, but also educating the team about IP warming, welcome emails, and why you shouldn’t build that email as one large jpeg. While this can be an exciting challenge, it can be a very exhausting uphill battle.

After I interviewed for (and declined) an email marketing manager job recently, the HR person asked me for feedback about how they should structure the role. I told her that in my experience, especially for companies with high frequency sends, it’s ideal to have at least two people on the email team – one focusing on planning, strategy, reporting, and operations, and one to actually execute and produce the emails. That way, there’s always a back-up person to help out with the crazy weeks, and the strategy side actually happens. The last two email teams I’ve been on started out as just me, and were structured that way by the time I left. Anyone looking to start an email marketing program at your company – PLEASE keep this in mind. If you don’t have the budget to hire two people, please read the next paragraph.

There’s a project management concept that’s illustrated with a triple Venn diagram with three words on it: Fast, Cheap, Good. The idea is that it’s nearly impossible to have all three of those in any given project, so you have to decide which two you want:

I think something similar could be applied to an email marketer’s workload, only replacing Cheap with “A lot of emails.” If you want a lot of emails, and fast – they may not be very good. If you want emails fast and good – you’re probably not sending very many of them. If you want a lot of good emails – it’s going to take some time. I’ve been in a position at several jobs where I’ve been pressured to do all three, and “Good” was always the first one to go. Not a situation I ever want to experience again. If you want all three of these – build a team.

If employers want their email marketing manager to stick around, they need to be realistic about workloads and expectations. Email Marketing is a VERY small world. I don’t know the most tactful way to put this, but – we know that we have a rare, desirable skill set, and it is easy for us to walk away from bad situations. Many of us have recruiters knocking down our doors. We know that our work can generate significant revenue and site traffic. If you want to keep your email marketer – let him or her build a team. Or at least, train other people in the company to help out with email so vacations can actually happen. Email marketers spend a lot of time thinking about how to retain subscribers, and it’s time for their companies to think about retaining email marketers.