Today’s guest blogger runs Sales & Operations at Sendwithus – read on to learn some welcome email strategies and best practices. Enjoy! 

Welcome Email Strategies that Work

The welcome email is the first direct line of communication you have with your user. Additionally, it will be your first chance to showcase immediate—and hopefully lasting—value. Consequently, users interact with these emails more than sales outreach or marketing emails, with transactional rates for welcome emails being 9 times higher than those of automated marketing emails. The whole purpose of a welcome email is to kick-off a consistent subscriber-focused experience. Allow us to elaborate…

Don’t Bait and Switch

Setting expectations about email delivery frequency establishes trust amongst your subscribers and minimizes the chances of SPAM complaints. There is nothing worse than signing up for an awesome new service, only to get bombarded with irrelevant emails. Setting this expectation allows you to build a good rapport with users, and by mapping out the subscriber’s onboarding journey you will be well-positioned to place strategically advanced messaging, thereby alleviating relevant pain points and developing a long-term understanding.

See It From Their Perspective

With the rise of mobile media and skyrocketing use of smart mobile devices, email has become a more powerful tool than ever in connecting brands with customers. Umm hello, it’s 2017! While we’re sure this isn’t revelatory news to you, we would like to point out that 50% of users view emails on their mobile phones. Make the consistent creation of responsive emails, (i.e. emails that adapt nicely on every email client), a strict priority or risk getting lost in the fray. Furthermore, craft your copy, subject line, and call-to-action to reflect this mobile-first attitude, because chances are your users aren’t reading email on their desktops.

Need help with your templates? Sendwithus collaborates with industry partners to provide a free, open sourced and community driven template gallery.

Adopt a Customer Support Attitude

If you send from a “no-reply” email address, you’re sabotaging the success of your email campaigns by leaving recipients stranded. Customers could help debug your product, provide valuable feedback or voice concerns. At the very least, your readers can help you optimize their onboarding journey. Why would you throw away this chance to connect with users that want to help you succeed? It’s imperative that users can reach someone who is focused on customer support—it’s a win-win for everyone.

You Have Lots of Data and You’re Not Using It

Welcome emails are the equivalent of a first glance at a blind date; get an instant advantage by stunning your users with thoughtfulness and catering to their natural behaviors and desires. It’s more than likely that your users are suffering from information overload at most points in their day. Cut through the noise and give them exactly what they want, when they want it. This not only improves user experience but also increases ROI.

Your organization collects a lot of valuable data about your users whether you inherently realize it or not. Beyond basic demographic data, you can track saved searches, social engagements, product usage, retargeted ad clicks, the list goes on. Based on this data, send your customers personalized incentives to complete actions such as account activations, repeat purchases, or app downloads. Studies have found that personalizing emails can boost transaction rates up to 6x, illustrating that personalization substantially increases engagement.

There are numerous factors to consider in planning a successful onboarding campaign, and though the science behind effective email marketing is a complex beast, just breathe easy and begin by mastering the few steadfast principles and welcome email strategies we have discussed here. By implementing these tried-and-true techniques, we are sure you’ll enjoy a quick turn around in email marketing campaign results.

About the Author: 

Monpreet Gil

Mon is the Sales & Operations Manager at Sendwithus, where she spends her days behind spreadsheets, playing with new technologies or planning marketing campaigns to help businesses send awesome emails. Follow her on Twitter or read more posts here.

ps: We’d love to hear more about your welcome email strategies, drop us a line below or on Twitter.

Saving Time with Substitution Data and Templates

If you’ve been around systems development for any amount of time, you know there’s a lot of inertia when it comes to how transactional email or other messages are generated by business systems. Even today, many companies that use services like SparkPost or any email service provider (ESP) as a “pipe” (be it dumb or smart), build the full email in one of their back-end applications then connect to the ESP via SMTP in order to send the email. If the email is something like an invoice, password reset, shipping information or abandoned cart, the email is personalized to that user. If the communication is more akin to an advertisement of products it may or may not be personalized to leverage the user’s search or purchasing patterns. Either way, these emails are typically built by homegrown systems that construct the full email content into a single SMTP call to the ESP. As discussed earlier, this connection between code and the content creation makes it very difficult to make changes.

Over the last few years, ESPs have started to provide REST APIs that allow companies the ability to create content structures, or templates, via the ESP’s UI (or submitted via another REST API). Following the creation of these templates the application sends data to the ESP, identifying which template to inject the data into.

The Old Way [Well, Current Painful Way for Many]
Development or IT builds and maintains email creative and personalization content


Any changes to the email must go through the change request process, development process, QA process, and fight all other development projects!

The new way is to separate out the creation/updates of the creative and obtaining the data for personalizing the content.


The high level changes that need to take place from a development perspective are:

  1. Gather the data to be sent and format appropriately for the ESP. For SparkPost, this would be a json structure (see example below).
  2. Add supporting information:
    a. Which template to use and/or campaign name
    b. Turn on/off options like click or open tracking
    c. Optional metadata and tags that can be used to help understand user email behavior
  3. Send json formatted substitution data via REST API

One of the cool options that you can do with many of these REST APIs is that you can send more than one email at a time. For instance, SparkPost allows you to send the request for thousands of emails all at the same time, as long as they use the same template. This allows the developer to batch emails in groups instead of making a REST API connection for every email.

SparkPost also supports the concepts of metadata and tags into the system. Tags are high level identifiers that describe the overall email campaign; for example, Newsletter, Invoice or Welcome would be good tags. On the other hand, metadata is a key-value pair of data that is often used to describe that individual email. For example, if you wish to track what category of products are in the email being sent to this user you may have a key value pair of “category” : “electronics” (see example below). When the user opens the email or clicks on a link, the metadata (and tags) are added to the information logged for that email which then in turn can be sent to your back end databases via webhooks which are small chunks of data that is sent/pushed from the mail system to your applications via HTTPS for processing. SparkPost has about 19 different webhooks that handle everything from email injection, creation, bounces, feedback, opens and clicks. Our developer hub has more information about SparkPost’s webhooks support.

Hint: Metadata fields can also be a multi-level array AND they can be used in your email as substitution fields.

So how does the HTML template (email) actually use the data being sent by your applications? Great question. Many template systems, including SparkPost, use a familiar handlebars-style syntax. Start and end markers are defined as double curly braces; for example, {{billing_zip}} will replace the user’s actual zip code that was sent as substitution data via the REST API into the HTML (or text) email before sending out. Of course more complex replacements can take place if there are arrays of data which would be common for emails that might list a set of features within a list of products but that description will come in a later blog post. Right now, if you want more info, please refer to our substitutions reference documentation.

A real example of using substitutions within an HTML email with the data below might look like:

With this new approach, marketing can take charge of the creative and let development focus on pulling the data together.  When legal or marketing need to make a change to the wording, it’s all up to them now and not development.  That sounds like a win-win to me!  To further simplify a development team’s life, a good practice is to overload the JSON entry with lots of information about the user and not worry about matching the exact information that the template is looking to use.  If the template doesn’t use the data, so what?  This simplifies the coding for development tremendously.  I wouldn’t go crazy with sending every stitch of info you have on a user, but adding extra info in order to minimize a bunch of code branches won’t hurt anyone.

Sample Json for a single email recipient

Sample web hook event for a bounce event on the mail system

So that is the introduction into leveraging substitution data and templates to separate the work of obtaining data for personalized emails and the creative for those emails.

In the next blog, I’m going to talk about ways to use substitution fields at a global level which can be used to change colors for branding or white labeling, as well as to simplify management of headers, footers, and multi-language issues.

Happy Sending

Jeff Goldstein
Senior Messaging Engineer

Questions on using substitution data and templates in email personalization? Give us a shout on twitter or comment below.

Top 10 Blogs: Our Year in Review

We’re finishing out the year with a roundup of our top 10 blogs from 2016. The Mandrill announcement in April impacted our community, and as a result our blog, in a big way. We’re recapping that along with other top posts on deliverability tips and email marketing best practices down below. As always, our ears are open, so if there’s a certain topic you’d like to see on the blog, leave us a comment, tweet us, or ping us in slack.

Without further ado, we give you the top 10 blogs of 2016:

#1 Mandrill Alternatives

It’s no surprise that our Mandrill alternative blogs dominated our top 10 list (5 out of our top 10). We responded in real-time to the Mandrill crisis and told you why we could offer 100K emails/month for free. Our CEO even weighed in and made you a promise he intends to stick by for the long haul. The Mandrill incident also inspired us to create SendGrid and Mailgun migration guides, check them out when you have a chance.

Mandrill Template Migration top 10 blogs

#2 PHP

But beyond Mandrill, we also had some other top posts. Coming in second was using SparkPost in PHP. Believe it or not, many of you use PHP through our WordPress plugin.

PHP in SparkPost

#3 Advanced Email Templates

For developers who want to get the most out of SparkPost templating capabilities, this post was meant for you! In this straight-forward post, Chris Wilson makes sending email easy and gives you some pro tips along the way.


advanced email templates


#4 What Recruiters Look for in a Dev Candidate

Everyone wants to know how to interview well. In this post we told you about what four tech recruiters look for when hiring developer and engineering candidates.

Recruiter for Dev Candidate

#5 Webhooks!

One of the most useful elements of SparkPost are our webhooks and in this post, Ewan Dennis walks you through the basics and beyond. Knowing what to expect functionally beyond the raw API spec is half the battle when consuming new data sources like SparkPost webhooks.

webhooks: beyond the basics

#6 Outlook and Hotmail Email Deliverability

The Outlook inbox is one of the major destinations for most email senders, especially those with large numbers of consumer subscribers. It also has a reputation for being somewhat tricky to get into. In this post, one of our deliverability experts, Tonya Gordon, shares what senders need to know in order to get the best Hotmail/Outlook deliverability and ensure their messages reach the inbox.

#7 Announcing Subaccounts!

Thanks to your feedback, the Mandrill event helped us expedite our release of subaccounts ahead of schedule. Our VP of Product told you about how we process your feedback and what’s available with subaccounts.

SparkPost #WeLoveDevelopers

#8 Are You an Email Rookie?

Sometimes you need to go beyond a top 10 list and in this case we did — 17 tips on how not to be labeled an email rookie. In this post we put together a list of common mistakes, with a heavy dose of snark, on how to avoid being labeled an email marketing rookie.

Email Marketing Rookie Kid Missing Steering Wheel

#9 Retail Marketing Stats You Need to Know

Do you know what the lowest e-commerce order generators are? In this post, we give you five tips and stats for mastering retail marketing. From social media, to mobile and beacon triggered emails.

Retail Marketing statistics mobile 2016

#10 Setting Up SparkPost as your SMTP Relay

You know you need to send email, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time or effort on it — you just want something that works out of the box. It’s not too much to ask! Many frameworks, languages, and tools come with SMTP support, but the last step is the most important – an SMTP server. In this post, we walk you through how to set up SparkPost as your SMTP Relay.

And that rounds out our Top 10 Blogs for 2016! Any industry trends or topics you think were under-represented? Leave us a comment below, or tweet us!


Time-sensitive email

What Is Time-Sensitive Email?

Whether you’re sending promotional or transactional email (or both), email senders often don’t think to consider what it means to say email is “time-sensitive,” except to expect that it should arrive without delay. After all, we often think of all email as being time-sensitive. The immediacy of the medium encourages the notion that every email is as timely as any other, and that they all are time-sensitive in the same way.

But the truth is that the optimum timing of email messages can vary significantly, depending upon the type of message. Getting that timing right is increasingly critical in a digital universe full of distractions and crowded with competition. In fact, when it comes to delivering a relevant message, hitting the inbox at just the right time can be as important as optimizing a subject line or tailoring message content.

This means “time-sensitive” is not just a euphemism for “very important!” When we’re talking “time-sensitive email,” we mean any email where delivery at a specific point in time is directly influences the value of the message.

Why Time-Sensitive Email Works

The big advantage of getting email timing right is that it ensures your message reaches the recipient when they are most receptive to its content. Remember the classic “four P’s” of marketing? Product, Price, and Promotion all transfer directly to email content. When we add in receiving email at just the right time, we now have Place, too.

So, by getting timing right, time-sensitive email…

  • Allows you to reach a recipient at the moment when they’re most receptive, especially if data-driven insights from past interactions drive the email.
  • Fosters feelings of timeliness, appropriateness, and relevance—not spam.
  • Creates a sense of urgency that drives response to promotions or pre-event buzz-building.
  • Demonstrates that you are engaged, communicative, and understand your customers’ needs.

Examples of Time-Sensitive Email

Unsurprisingly, many time-sensitive messages are forms of triggered emails. Typical examples include:

  • One obvious example of time-sensitive email are messages sent immediately after a trigger event or another cue, and are anticipated by the recipient. Examples? Welcome and confirmation emails, password resets, security alerts, and the like. The more immediate the delivery, the more likely the message reinforces trust and drives necessary next steps.
  • Conversely, the optimum time for delivery sometimes is offset or delayed from the original action. These emails send after a certain amount of time, ranging from minutes to days, even months and years. Examples include follow-up emails and reminder emails, such as cart abandonment reminders, deadline and past-due notices, or re-subscription promotions to former customers.
  • Date-based emails align with key dates on either the consumer’s calendar, and are sent before or after a date, too. Birthday and anniversary emails, time-based reminders, holiday promotions, and expiring membership or discount alerts are just a few examples.
  • Limited offer emails are a classic promotion that give the recipient a limited time or other constraint (“while supplies last!”) within which to act. Examples can be anything from a flash sale alert to a sweepstakes promotion. For messages like these to work, however, they need to arrive within narrow window that drives urgency but still allows sufficient time for the recipient to take action. It’s also important to use this active judiciously; we’ve all seen examples of marketers who overuse limited-time offers and inure us to time-sensitive messages.
  • Event-based emails are usually relevant only within the finite timeframe of a relevant event. This type of message often is used for sports or entertainment events, webinars or business conferences, and the like. Depending upon the message content, these emails have limited windows to arrive before, during, or after the event. Examples include a session reminder while at a convention, or coupons to the stadium gift shop at a sporting event.
  • A final sort of time-sensitive email isn’t necessarily triggered by a consumer action or fixed calendar dates, but instead respond to external developments that have a limited shelf life once invoked. Reporting breaking news is a classic example. Other examples are regulatory notices like shareholder notifications or employee alerts requiring delivery within a given period.

Take the Next Step with Time-Sensitive Email

I hope you’ve seen why it’s important to plan and implement your email programs to ensure that the timing and cadence of message delivery reflects a strategic and purposeful intent, not simply “whenever it arrives.”

Of course, the asynchronous nature of email and the heterogeneous networks it travels means some factors simply will be out of your control. However, the right strategy, combined with an email delivery service like SparkPost that boasts great deliverability and that has the elasticity to scale on demand, help to ensure that your time-sensitive messages reach the inbox at just the right time.


P.S. Want to dig deeper into time-sensitive email? Be sure to check out our “7 Best Practices for Time-Sensitive Email” Guide.

time sensitive email guide banner stopwatch

two hands email bcc pitfalls

Thou Shalt Not BCC

What’s that saying? Everything old is new again. Recently, someone asked why BCC wasn’t a valid work around for those just getting started in email marketing. Truthfully, we had to pause and think about it.

It never occurred that someone might contemplate foregoing the many competitively priced email marketing options out there. So why doesn’t BCC work as a viable alternative to other well established forms of email marketing?

BCC Pitfalls: Tracking and personalization break

The power of email marketing stems from the ability to measure success. The most fundamental type of measurement, for those getting started in email marketing, is an open. Did the recipient open the email? If yes, then assume a level of engagement. If you don’t have an open, then work on your content until you get one. The open and tracking pixel isn’t 100% reliable. Email clients that turn off images and links by default allow someone to read the text in the message without triggering the tracking pixel. Hence, this is a major source of frustration for email marketers everywhere.

How does BCC break this?

If you BCC a list of people and include the tracking pixel, you get but 1 unique open. This is the case because tracking pixels are personalized on a per recipient basis through the clicked link. You might see the link triggered over and over again, but you wouldn’t be able to discern it on a per user basis. Modern marketing applications allow you to generate an email per user and personalize all of the links and underlying redirects. The result of hitting these redirects is captured and aggregated by the sending system which results into granular reporting for the marketer. BCC would render all of that beautiful reporting absolutely useless.

Similarly to how your open tracking would break, link tracking would also render useless using BCC vs. standard unique message generation on a per recipient basis. Modern emails have highly personalized links and redirects that allow marketers to measure the efficacy of their calls to action, their primary, secondary and tertiary offers. Tracking activity by links is crucial to understanding if the content is engaging, if the offers are compelling, and if the marketer is achieving his or her goals.

In addition to measuring efficacy, link tracking is a good way to measure the user friendliness of an email template. Consider a template as a repeating construct with containers to plug in content and links. Then from there, understanding which links get the most clicks helps you refine your template. Less is more. Dropping unnecessary links from email templates, refining designs and cutting to the chase with calls to action is a marketer’s recipe for success.

What about deliverability?

In truth, using BCC doesn’t directly affect deliverability – it sounds crazy but it shouldn’t affect it at all. When you consider that someone using BCC is probably using an application not purposefully built for email, you can assume that they probably aren’t familiar with best practices. They may not be using email authentication, signing with SPF or DKIM or coding their messages properly. There are a lot of problems with using applications that aren’t designed to send email according to best practices and ISP terms of service. BCC as a delivery mechanism isn’t bad. However, it’s not the best way to accomplish the kind of engagement you want when sending email.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

pokemon go "go poke around" virgin america email

Many years ago I wrote a blog post titled ‘What I Learned From Nigerian Spammers.’ I received a 419 scam to my inbox that was infinitely more entertaining and interesting than the typical email that promised millions for a small up-front fee to transfer millions in hidden treasure from the deceased ruler of some obscure kingdom. The authors of this particular rag were smart enough to use details that were relevant to the current news cycle; frankly, it made the whole thing a little more nefarious and compelling at the same time.

Socially engineering success

Today I received an email that like the 419 scam of yore based its content in current news, or in this case, individual behaviors. Pokemon Go has taken the Internet by storm, at least for the foreseeable 5 to 10 minutes. People are trespassing, bumping into things, and occasionally causing accidents as they inhale an augmented reality; the experience is immersive and addictive which makes it the perfect catalyst for email content.

What I really want to call this is social engineering, but contemporizing is close enough–email has to connect with people individually. Using content that’s regionally pertinent, like selling galoshes during a storm vs. sandals, or connecting a local sports team’s win to your brand, makes sense as a content strategy for email. Remember, you’re competing for shortening attention spans with a subject line as the point of entry for an email. Content is not just the rage, it’s the most important thing you can focus on to improve engagement in the inbox.

Hitching your brand to someone else’s

Virgin America sent out a brilliant email a few days ago that is contemporary and socially engineered for Pokemon Go addicts while preserving the brand and presenting a fabulous call to action. Just to be clear, they’re not 419 scammers, they’re just smart marketers that saw an opportunity to use the hot Pokemon Go trend to pump up their own brand and move the needle.

The marketing team at Virgin America knew exactly what they were doing. Everything from the subject line: Go poke around with seriously low fares to how they made a ‘ball/sphere’ of the image imitate Pokemon Go without fully committing to another brand. The hand with the mobile phone taking a picture of the panda character isn’t unlike the hordes of players roaming the streets looking to catch Pokemon and entomb them, Ghostbusters style (notice how I did that 😉 ) in a small ball for points. The implication seems clear: go on vacation and continue to enjoy your augmented reality, just make sure your ticket was purchased through Virgin America.

Keep it real (and mobile)

A few things to keep in mind as you wade into augmented realms and consider how the success of one brand can benefit your content and brand:

  • The mobile revolution taught us that less is more: instead of clicking we press and tap, pinch and squeeze; these behaviors have changed how we code and send emails.
  • Small screen sizes require that our messages are shorter and more direct, again, less is more.
  • Primary and secondary offers are about as much as you want to pack into an email.
  • Look for trends, fads, news, weather and other current topics, they will help keep you on the minds of your recipients, but be careful, make sure you always exercise good taste and judgement when you do this. It’s easy to harm your brand by connecting something totally unrelated or even in poor taste to your brand.
  • Make it as personal as possible without it being creepy. Not all fads will work for all recipients. Test age and other demographic segments to understand impact and efficacy.
  • Have fun. No seriously, have a little fun with it (and if it makes sense for your brand). If you can make someone smile they’re more likely to convert and hopefully share the content.

10 Tips to Turbocharge Email Roi

Most successful emails hang on the skeleton of workhorse email templates that meet a few key criteria. These elements give a message its structure, and like a skeleton, it features a head, body, and feet. This infographic explains the vital pieces that give you the structure for communicating and that make it easy for your recipient to engage with your message.

Anatomy of an Email Infographic

10 Tips to Turbocharge Email Roi

Email Industry Organizations

The Email Industry Organizations You Need To Know

M3AAWG, ESPC, APWG, EEC, DMA, OTA, OI, EIS, IAPP, Sherpa — Acronyms got you down? Are you starting to strain your eyes as if you’re at an optometrist’s office being fitted for a new pair of glasses? Fear not, in this post we’ll break down the various organizations and what you need to know if you want to get involved in the industry as a whole. Part of my job at SparkPost is to work with these email industry organizations and ensure that we stay abreast of changes in policy, industry accepted best practices and contribute to the work of keeping the internet a safer place. If you’ve ever wanted to give back, or learn more about the various corners of the messaging industry let this serve as your cheat sheet.

Technical Orgs

  • M3AAWG (Messaging Malware Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group) is probably the best known anti-abuse collective out there. M3AAWG started as coalition of ISP postmasters, anti-abuse experts and other concerned parties and has evolved to include policy experts, law enforcement, researchers and senders committed to curbing abuse messaging abuse in all of its various forms. The 3 in M3AAWG refers to the three verticals that the organization focuses on as part of their ongoing mission to make the inbox, the mobile phone and Internet overall a safer place for everyone. Discussions at M3AAWG meetings run the gamut from very technical to policy driven and legal sounding in nature. Organizations and attendees need to apply for membership and be accepted by the board before attending a meeting. Guest passes are given out on a case by case basis, but an application is still required.
  • APWG (Anti-Phishing Working Group) The APWG, as their title implies, focuses on phishing and other forms of cyber crime, not just messaging abuse. They work with policy makers, governments and other organizations including businesses to educate  & hone the response to an incident of cyber crime. Data breaches have been in the news quite a bit lately and many of these breaches have started as phishing or spear phishing attacks targeting executives and key personnel at a company. As an organization you have to understand the nature of these attacks and what to do if you detect a data breach.
  • OTA (Online Trust Alliance) focuses on advancing policies and initiatives to protect user rights, privacy and data. They have a specific focus on the growing ‘Internet of Things’ which could explode the amount and types of data exploitable by hackers.

Policy Orgs

  • ESPC (Email Sender & Provider Coalition) is a focused organization made of deliverability and privacy experts that meet twice a year. The ESPC is very much oriented toward privacy policy, legal frameworks, and ongoing challenges such as Safe Harbor, Privacy Shield etc. Deliverability is a regular hot topic among the members of the organization and represents an area of expertise and active discussion.
  • IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals) is an information data management body that runs certification programs for data privacy. If you or your company are concerned about how to protect your data, what the laws are that govern the storage, transmission or processing of data, then you should become a member of this organization or familiarize yourself with their resources.

Marketing Orgs (and conferences)

  • DMA (Direct Marketing Association of America) is the largest direct marketing association in the United States. They are a place that advances the agenda of marketers through advocacy and congressional lobbies. The DMA hosts numerous events each year and also has an annual conference known as &Then which brings together organizations from every corner of the marketing universe.
  • EEC (Email Experience Council) is sometimes referred to as the digital arm of the DMA. The EEC is focused on email and all things digital, from data, to social, mobile etc. are ripe topics of discussion at the annual Email Evolution Conference. The EEC is owned by the DMA but operates fairly independent of the DMA and promotes their own agenda. Marketers flock to the annual event to hear luminaries from across the industry present on the latest approaches to email marketing, data driven marketing techniques, emerging channels and more. The EEC has taken on work to publish best practice guides like the Global Compliance Guide that documents the nuances and differences between data laws around the globe.
  • EIS (Email Insider Summits) This is less of an organization and more of a bi-annual conference put on by the media outlet MediaPost. MediaPost’s content is part of the overall knowledge share of the email marketing world and good to take stock of. The event brings together senior marketers for 3 days of talks and networking in exotic locales. Consequently, email isn’t the only thing MediaPost hosts as an event, they have expanded into TV insider summits, Publishing insider summits, Search Summits etc. As a hub for thought leadership they have expanded their events to include other distinct Martech verticals and technologies.
  • OI (Only Influencers) started as an “invite only” list of email experts and thought leaders and has since evolved into a blog, community, and earlier this year, first ever conference.  This, like EIS, is a networking-centric event.
  • Marketing Sherpa (MecLabs) This is also more or less an annual event hosted by Meclabs and focuses on everything from email copywriting to testing and content optimization. Like the 2 aforementioned bodies/events, this one tends to be more networking focused. 

PS. Are there email industry organizations that you think we missed? Comment below and we’ll take a look.

sell more with email webinar banner

My email industry colleagues Dennis Dayman, Ryan Phelan, and I recently wrapped up the DMA Email Experience Council’s annual EEC Email Evolution Conference. Over 500 people came to New Orleans for three days of boot camps, presentations, panels, and a series of amazing keynotes—a confab that represents the state of the art in email marketing. It was fantastic. Still, as anyone who’s organized a big event will understand, when it was all done, first came a feeling of relief, followed by elation, that every single speaker showed up and that we had no major catastrophes. Then finally came reflection. That’s the part I’d like to share with you: some of what I learned at this year’s EEC.


As the program chair for Email Evolution, I had a simple mission for choosing keynote speakers: I wanted throught provoking speakers, regardless of their industry or focus. My goal was to put someone on stage that would challenge not only our marketing brains, but also the part of us that resonates with stories of the human condition and our place in a world filled with living beings.

Kara Swisher with Tom Benton, CEO of the DMA
Kara Swisher with Tom Benton, CEO of the DMA

Kara Swisher of Re/Code started us out on the right foot: she gave us a sense of what’s coming down the technology with 10 trends including these gems captured on Twitter (hashtag #EEC16)…

Email Experience @theeec
“Cars are really the original mobile device.” @karaswisher #eec16

Hannah Patterson @HansMcCain
It will be about what you are Wearabling! #trends #clothesthatspeaktoyou #stepitupAppleWatch #needanewfitbit😁 #EEC16 @julie Graham #Blue…

Shauna Plesmid @ShShauna
@karaswisher “your brand needs to be genuine. There’s tons of info on Internet, you don’t want any questions as to who you are” #EEC16

Len Shneyder @LenShneyder
Brand are the new social status. We are obsessed with brands says @karaswisher #EEC16

Email Experience @theeec
On deep learning: “Computers will be more accurate at diagnosing your illness than a human being will.” @karaswisher #EEC16

Bradford Johnson @BHJnow
Kara Swisher says marketers should get and understand AMZN Echo #EEC16

Email Experience @theeec
On Millennials: “Even though they pretend they can’t stand brands, they love brands.” @karaswisher #eec16

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Closing out the first day was Patrick Scissions, Chief Creative Officer at Grey Canada. Patrick’s keynote highlighted creative approaches to difficult subjects ranging from abducted children to gun control. Grey Canada has taken on extremely difficult projects, sometimes pro-bono, because they believe advertising can change the world. They’ve produced iconic content such as the famous Guns With History video by opening a faux gun store in NYC and filming people’s reactions when they learned the history of the weapon in their hands.


Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 3.35.34 PMFor the final keynote, I wanted to switch gears by moving away from the familiar and diving headlong into unfamiliar territory—even throwing away the map altogether. So, I was thrilled that Kelly McEvers, co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, could speak. Kelly previously was mideast correspondent for NPR News and the network’s Beirut bureau chief. She has seen the face of war, ridden in the back of a jeep with rebels in and out of Syria, to help us understand what’s happening beyond our local and regional borders. Kelly’s talk was focused on what happens when the checklist goes out the window. What do you do when your carefully laid plan, that checklist of things you bring, or do, or expect goes up in smoke? What then? We’ve all had this happen, but in the case of a war correspondent, when a check list goes out the window it could mean the difference between life and death.

I’m not sure anyone really knew what to expect from this talk; I knew that Kelly would deliver it with a mixture of humor, seriousness, and deep compassion. For 45 minutes we were able to hear a much bigger picture than our marketing world, only to return with more empathy and a touch more humanity in our corner.

Jake Strang @JackStrangeNYC
“All those 20 yr old [activists] are 25 now. They have better technology and they are going to use it.” @kellymcevers #eec16

Ryan Phelan @ryanpphelan
Thanks soooo much to @kellymcevers for the opening keynote at #eec16. Inspirational message and wonderful person!

Alessandra Souers @asouers
Regarding her professional habits: “Some would say it’s a problem; I say it’s a pattern.” Stealing this from @kellymcevers. #EEC16

Alyssa Wright @abwright620
“If you’re curious about something, go for it.” – @kellymcevers #EEC16 #girlboss #inspiringwomen #womenimpactingtheworld #morningmotivation

Nancy Calaway @NancyCalaway
‘Sometimes you have to make something out of nothing’ @kellymcevers at #EEC16 thnx for the inspiration

Jessica Best @bestofjess
How do you keep going into situations that would make normal people curl up in a ball of fear?
“Because of the people who fight.” #EEC16

Alex Krylov @akrylov
Powerful, brilliant. Kelly McEvers on what happens when your work “checklist” goes to hell. #eec16

Similarly, at the 2015 DMA &Then conference, singer John Legend delivered a stirring keynote about equality; he highlighted his own experiences growing up as African-American citizen and the hurdles of racism he encountered on the road to his own personal success. He’s an activist and gives back to his community. Although he’s as far from a marketer as you can possibly get, he, like the rest of us, is part of this thing called the human race. To me a keynote’s main job is to inspire and challenge, and to be perfectly frank, it doesn’t matter if that challenge and inspiration has anything to do with your industry. We all read, tweet, meet and spend hours of time focused on our jobs. For the lucky ones, our vocation is also something of an avocation, or at least you have passion for what you do. To be challenged by people that have done remarkable things in fields completely removed from our everyday lives makes us work harder; we have to find and draw the connective tissues between their experiences and our own. Challenge and inspiration from beyond the pale is the start of a conversation that will hopefully lead to our own personal and professional success and hopefully we have the opportunity to give something back.

In the next article I’ll talk a bit about the EEC Email Evolution Conference 2016 content and how you can get involved with the email evolution conference…