big data elephant

“Big Data.” It’s a thing. In fact, it’s become such a thing that the term boasts the capitalization of a proper noun. It’s also been invoked by pundits and marketers so often that it’s become one of those buzzwords that come to mean everything and nothing at once.

If you’re anything like me, it’s tempting as a marketer to be a little blasé. After all, we know how the sausage is made, right?  We’re database people. We track offers, response rates, and calculate ROI. We get the importance of empirical decision-making. So, what’s new about big data, besides a new label?

For sure, databases aren’t new. They’ve been a key component of the business tech toolbox since the dawn of computing. But technology changes (spoiler: the Internet, virtualization in the cloud, and cheap storage) changed the data game completely. A decade ago, technology analyst Doug Laney was studying the use of data in business decision-making and marketing. He saw that the use of data was exploding, and he coined the term “big data” to describe this shift. Laney suggested that the challenges and opportunities around data encompass three key dimensions:

  • Volume. Data is the lifeblood of modern businesses. It doesn’t matter where the data comes from—business transactions, public information, Internet and social media activity, and all manner of automated systems—the bottom line is that there’s a lot of it. Businesses now hoard almost every scrap of information that crosses their wires. To quote an old spaghetti sauce TV commercial, “it’s in there.”
  • Velocity. Business are not just saving lots of data, but they’re generating and capturing it faster than ever before. Proximity and location data, app and web site clickstreams, point of sale systems, sensors and smart meters all generate torrents of data in near-real time.
  • Variety. Data comes in all flavors. Not just the structured records used in traditional databases, big data also includes freeform text documents and email, logfiles, API transactions and webhooks, social media posts, photos and videos, DNA sequences, and more. In short: big data encompasses anything that can be digitized. Today, that means nearly anything that exists in the world.

In the past, the cost of storing all of this data and the difficulty of accessing it meant that businesses needed to be stingy with what was recorded, but cheap storage and new technologies have eased the burden to nearly nothing. In short, the amount of data that’s being created and stored on a global level is almost inconceivable, and it just keeps growing.

But what do businesses actually do with all of this information? The truth is, sometimes nothing. But some companies have figured out how to sip from the data firehose to gain a strategic advantage in their business operations or in their marketing and customer relationships.

Their experiences tell us that the strategic value of big data isn’t how much of it there is, but rather how it’s used. Here are some of the real-world use cases:

  • Monitoring production or logistics, detecting problems and defects in near-real time, and taking action before a problem grows.
  • Personalizing customer service or generating offers in real time that reflect the “perishable moments” that combine external triggers and an individual customer’s habits or value to the business.
  • Making financial decisions, optimizing supply chain futures, or recalculating risk exposure in real-time.
  • Detecting fraudulent behavior or risky patterns before they become a liability.

My colleague Rob Marchi helped explain the impact of big data in his talk at SparkPost’s recent Insight user conference. Rob did a great job talking about what it takes to make big data a reality from a systems perspective. And it got me thinking about what big data means for email marketers.

Nearly any business can collect data. Making sense of it is a lot harder. Specialized tools help find patterns in data, but it actually takes the human expertise of data scientists and business and marketing strategists to figure out unique, competitive leverage—and it takes systems that can act on data to achieve it.

But until we break outside a static, list-based approach to defining offers, generating messages, and measuring performance, big data might as well be a hypothetical future rather than a contemporary reality. Until we think about generating messages on demand, measuring individual customer engagement as it happens, and changing offers or messages in real time, most of the benefits of big data will be inaccessible to us.

So, food for thought: how does a world of big data change what you could do with your own email marketing? And what are the capabilities your email infrastructure would need to get there? Let me know—I’d love to hear what you think about big data and email marketing.

—Brent
@brentsleeper

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Do not go gentle into that new normal

At SparkPost’s recent Insight user conference, Steve Jones, executive director of DMARC.org, didn’t hold back. He began his talk on email authentication by bluntly observing that “spam and phishing are the new normal.” I sucked in my breath. Steve’s comment felt like a punch to the gut. I felt like I wanted to defend the honor of email. Yeah, bad guys—sometimes really bad guys—are out there, I thought to myself, but it’s the exception, not the rule! But I knew he was right. I settled down and nodded my head, knowing that Steve’s perspective squared with the experiences of people who manage the front-lines of defense at ISPs and corporate email hosts, as well as the findings of email industry organizations like M3AAWG.

m3aawg-spamchart
Source: M3AAWG Email Metrics Report

Steve noted that 28 billion spam messages are sent every day. By some estimates, phishing is a $3.7-million annual cost for the average enterprise. And for publicly-traded companies, a disclosure of phishing leads to a loss of stock value of $411 million or more. As Steve put it, costs like these are fraudulent email’s “hit to reputation and brand, made tangible. And there’s no bottom to what bad actors will do to get your money.”

So, spam and phishing really are the new normal. Companies must incorporate a security posture that takes into account email as a major attack vector that’s exploitable through phishing, malware, and socially engineered content designed to defraud recipients of sensitive information and to steal credentials that grant access to systems.

And this new normal is why Steve’s organization does its work. DMARC, or “Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance,” is a technical specification that builds on earlier SPF and DKIM email authentication mechanisms. In his talk at Insight, Steve presented an overview of the current landscape of email authentication, including why DMARC is important, how it works, and recent developments.

ISPs are moving to an authentication-only world. So should you.

authenticate dmarc

The biggest consumer mailbox providers prefer authenticated email. But that preference may be changing to a mandate. In 2015, Yahoo took the plunge and published a “p=Reject” DMARC record. By doing so, Yahoo essentially told receivers, “if you can’t verify an email came from Yahoo, throw it away. No exceptions.” There are reports that Google may take a similar step for Gmail in 2016.

There have been issues with this “strict” posture—in some cases, legitimate email has suffered because of this spam counter-measure. But, I remind you that false positives are nothing new. It’s frankly just a cost of doing business for senders (and a much smaller cost than those that result from successful phishing attacks). Legitimate senders long have been operating in the shadow of compromised hosts, spam, phishing and other abusive digital communications, and incurring short-term inconveniences to stem that tide is worth the effort. Truth be told, what disturbs me more is the fact that everyone hasn’t yet adopted SPF, DKIM and DMARC as a means of combating spam and protecting their own reputations!

It’s time to splice email authentication into corporate DNA.

The watch guards of enterprise security (especially CISOs) often talk about a company’s “security posture,” the plan and cultural shift that a business puts into place to protect its employees, customers, intellectual property, and systems from attack, both cyber and physical. We’re likely all familiar with defenses like firewalls, multi-factor authentication mechanisms, access and password policies, and more.

But what about email? It’s the lifeblood of every company doing business on the internet today. But at too many businesses, email security is limited to spam filters or malware scans. Those are fine front-line tools to help protect against brute force bad guys, but they do little for phishing (and spear-phishing) attacks.

The simple power of email is its ability to connect people and businesses the world over. But the simplicity and ubiquity that makes email the Internet’s “connective tissue” also allows the spread of viruses, fraud, phishing, and compromises to accelerate to pandemic speed as they move from one email box to another.

Every company that works with customer data, financials, or has a broad national or global presence is nothing short of a flame in the night that draws all sorts of malicious attacks. In the digital marketing industry, ESPs, marketing automation companies, anyone who purports to be a marketing system of record… are just some of the inevitable targets for phishing attacks.

Adopting email authentication standards like DMARC (and transport layer encryption standards such as STARTTLS) will go a long, long way to improving your digital messaging security posture. What are you waiting for? Do it.

Learn more.

Ready to learn more about DMARC and email authentication? Here are a few resources to get going.

 

Email Security Cloud Blog Footer

best practices customer onboarding

This is going to sound familiar to many product managers. And founders. And product marketers, developers, and….

You spotted a market opportunity, figured out what your customers need, built your product, did some marketing or other promotion. Or, to put it more bluntly, you spent time, you spent money, and you spent a huge dose of blood, sweat, and tears. And—amazingly—you find that people are downloading your app or signing up for an account.

Woot! What a good feeling. But then you realize they’re trying it once and not coming back. Or your conversion rates are uncomfortably low. Now that feeling’s a sinking one. What’s going on?

It might be all about first impressions. And I don’t mean just the bling. Getting started—effecting change to entrenched habits or processes—often is the hardest part.

The first few interactions a customer has with an app or a cloud service—the onboarding experience—arguably make up the most important chance you have to win a customer’s buy-in and engagement. Onboarding profoundly influences a customer’s views of a service, and it can make or break an entire customer relationship.

The discipline of user experience design (UX) in software is focused on usability, affective and emotional aspects of the product, making certain desired user activities intuitive, and so on. Designing the onboarding experience is a big part of that. In-app cues, incentives such as gamification, and triggered emails are all major drivers of the onboarding flow.

Most of these best practices apply to both B2C and B2B contexts. But what happens when requirements for getting started go beyond a user’s interactions with an app? For B2B services like SparkPost that power real-world business processes or that integrate with other business systems, onboarding encompasses broader considerations than getting through a series of steps in the app.

At SparkPost’s recent Insight user conference, our own Clea Moore was joined by a panel of customers who discussed their experiences with onboarding in the enterprise context. These professionals shared their (sometimes hard-won) advice about how to hit the ground running when moving business processes to a cloud-based platform. The discussion was wide-ranging and delivered a lot of insight into how to make migrating to the cloud a reality.

Here are some of the take-aways:

  • The cloud allows the businesses to focus on their strategic differentiators rather than managing commodity infrastructure. On this, the panelists were whole-heartedly in agreement. Seth Weisfeld of Pinterest observed that “cloud infrastructure is a strategic choice for Pinterest. It allows us to focus on our real value in content and experience.” Jonathan To of fashion retailer Tobi agreed, “To be able to focus on our customers and their engagement rather than infrastructure is just so great and so important to our business.”
  • Scalability and elasticity are big wins from an technical operations perspective. Travis Wetherbee noted, “I don’t have to worry about adding IPs, adding boxes, adding drive space to deal with peak volumes or to store and bounces.” Jonathan To added, “We’re not a huge company. We’re trying to stay lean. The cloud is a major win for time to market.”
  • Specialized expertise—for example, SparkPost’s deliverability services team—makes a huge difference among cloud providers. For mission-critical processes, cloud providers have got to back their technology with hands-on account management and real operational and onboarding expertise. Seth Weisfeld described, “It’s really huge to be able to trust our provider on issues like deliverability. We couldn’t always rely on that in the past.” Travis Wetherbee concurred, “Beyond the pure technology evaluation, services like deliverability expertise was a big criterion in our decision-making.”
  • Planning ahead makes all the difference for minimizing the risks of unexpected impacts or disruption. That includes technical legwork—Travis Wetherbee called out making sure DNS changes and suppression lists were managed systematically—as well managing the transition from a business perspective. Jonathan To added that “Thinking about the data you want to store means looking ahead and making conscious choices—even if you can’t use it today.” Seth Weisfeld described the importance of looking at the migration as a process, not something that can be done in one fell swoop. His advice was to begin with small, less critical mail streams and then gradually ramp up to the most strategic pieces as the system is proved out.

Learning from customers always has been the most rewarding part of my job. And, of course, getting information about how people actually use technology to solve problems in the real world is essential to every software or cloud product marketer. So, I was really thrilled to hear what the professionals on this panel had to say about their experiences moving their email infrastructure to the cloud.

By the way, in the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing the role of implementation and services teams in the onboarding experience. What do you think it takes for successful onboarding in the enterprise? Let me know—I’d love to hear about your own real-world experiences.

—Brent
@brentsleeper

 

Like this post? Check out some other Insight 2015 session recaps:

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the-marketers-journey

Jay Henderson, general manager of IBM’s Marketing Cloud business, was a featured speaker at SparkPost’s annual Insight user conference. In his talk, he delivered a great overview of how marketing is adapting to new technology and business models.

His highlights include:

  • Noisy marketing chatter is cheap. And ineffective. The number of campaigns and emails and messages we encounter has soared. The right content is critical to breaking though the clutter.
  • Mobile technology is ubiquitous. Mobile marketing isn’t a niche—in fact, it’s the most mainstream medium possible. Email and other marketing tools need to be mobile-first, not mobile-maybe.
  • Cross-channel experiences are not optional. See above—customers use mobile all the time. But then, they walk into a store. Or switch to a web site at their desk. Does the experience you offer follow effortlessly, or at all?
  • Marketers must manage their portfolio of marketing technologies—the martech stack—strategically. In a period of innovation, it’s easy to wind up with a jumble of technologies that barely hold together. The balance between streamlining technology investments while still pursuing competitive advantage and differentiation is a perennial challenge for all of us.
  • Successful marketers cultivate a culture that bridges technology and creativity. Better-performing marketing teams collaborate with their technology providers and have the operational resources to make the most of martech.

I’ve included the slides from Jay’s keynote below.

The Marketing Journey: Transforming For Success from SparkPost

 

Jay’s presentation stuck with me in the subsequent weeks, and I kept thinking about the implications of these changes for my profession. What does it mean to be a marketer today?

In most regards, there’s never been a better time to be a marketer. The technology’s awesome and has made all kinds of things possible that we couldn’t do before. The business models of growing businesses, be they cloud-based services or real-world retail, are increasingly dependent upon marketing expertise to understand customer behavior and engagement. The portion of marketing budgets that are considered strategic rather than discretionary is increasing. The amount of “marketing” that we all experience is going up, up, and up.

Yep. Good times.

But why, then, do I sometimes sense some unspoken anxiety from my peers at professional conferences and meetups? Why does it seem that a lot of us are “faking it ’til we make it?” Hey, no shame. I have those feelings from time to time, too. I think a lot of it is just human nature in the midst of change. Some of us welcome it, and some of us fear it, but there’s no denying that the marketing worldview has changed in lots of meaningful ways.

Maybe you’ve heard the comment author William Gibson made at the dawn of the modern Internet era: “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” And perhaps, at first, the different facets of digital and data-driven marketing seemed like specialized skills. But this change has been underway for a long time, and it’s now become so obvious that it’s impossible to miss.

Over the two-plus decades since Gibson made his quip about the future and the web ushered in commercial use of the Internet, several technology stacks have arisen (and sometimes fallen) to enable an ever more intimate (read: data-driven) customer marketing relationship.

So, for marketers, the future indeed already is here. It’s all about the long-term shift in how businesses think about connecting with customers. Conceptually, one of the biggest changes has been an explicit reorientation away from a relatively static notion of marketing—for example, that a customer’s decision to buy is based on a lightning strike of the right combination of the four P’s of product, price, promotion, and place. Instead, most of us today understand that a customer’s experience with a brand or a company really occurs in many steps over time. That experience over time is the “customer journey” that we strive to perfectly fulfill.

But one thing that sometimes gets lost in this acknowledgement of the primacy of the customer journey is that we marketers have been on a journey of our own. Sometimes that journey requires a fresh perspective on our craft. Other times, it means becoming facile with new technologies. And throughout, it depends upon bringing more “science” and empirical decision-making to our creative “art” of communication. But above all, it means not standing still.

By the way, do check out Jay Henderson’s presentation that I embedded at the beginning of this post. His ideas definitely are worth your time.

Do you agree? What are the changes you’ve experienced as a marketer? I’d love to hear from you!

—Brent
@brentsleeper

 

Check out more from Insight 2015:

 

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One of the cool things I was reminded of at Insight, SparkPost’s annual user conference, is just how diverse the community of email pros really is.

One way that diversity is reflected is in the simple fact that email is a global medium. That globalization is remarkable, but it introduces its own set of challenges: understanding the needs of different markets, deciphering the code of international deliverability, and navigating the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern different jurisdictions.

privacy-hairball

We recently shared several best practices for sending email outside of North America in a webinar about international email marketing, but the shifting landscape of global email and data privacy regulations is complicated enough to warrant some extra attention. Lucky for us, an expert panel at Insight 2015 shared updates on several significant international email marketing and data privacy rules in Canada, the European Union, Australia, and Russia. Here are some of the highlights.

First off the blocks was Matthew Vernhout of Inbox Marketer, and an expert on Canadian anti-spam laws (CASL). He highlighted several dramatic enforcements of CASL violations, as well as changes to Canada’s Digital Privacy Act. As Matthew pointed out, CASL enforcements are becoming a significant issue in light of a recent, record CAD 30 million fine against the Avis Budget Group for what was judged to be misleading advertising in an email marketing campaign. One facet of the enforcements worth noting is that the Canadian authorities have been making a distinction between willful violations that warrant substantial administrative monetary penalties (AMP) and the inadvertent violations that fall instead under the lesser category of undertakings.

Next, Dennis Dayman of Return Path discussed the implications of a recent court decision invalidating the long-standing “safe harbor” provisions that govern data collected on European citizens, but stored in U.S. data centers. Although Dennis suggested that the sky may not be falling quite yet, he also was very up-front that the the full impact of this ruling remains to be seen, as it has the potential to upend current practices by many American Internet companies who operate in Europe.

James Koons of dotmailer reviewed the sometimes confusing state of affairs in Russia. Russian Federal Law 242 quite explicitly requires all data collected on citizens of the Russian Federation to be stored on servers within the country’s territory. However, James also noted that current penalties described by the law are so small in monetary terms as to suggest that some businesses may be tempted perform a cost-benefit analysis of compliance and fines. Additionally, he noted that there is some ambiguity about the regulations affecting extraterritorial data transfers, because Russia is a signatory to relevant European regulations that do allow transfer of data, as long as certain conditions are met.

Finally, Dean Maidment of Taguchi Digital Marketing covered updates to Australia’s wide-ranging privacy principles. The long and short of these regulations is that Australian citizens now have a far-reaching right to demand a copy of all data that makes an individual “reasonably identifiable,” and the Australian framework may well be interpreted very broadly. His advice to companies doing business in Australia is to be highly proactive about preparing for enforcement of this regulation—and to be ready for even more sweeping interpretations in the future.

With these ongoing changes to privacy and anti-spam laws around the world, it’s clear international email marketing requires careful planning before clicking the send button. The overview from these experts about key regulations that affect email and data collection programs is a great starting point for getting up to speed.

To learn more, be sure to check out our helpful webinars on international email marketing and CASL. And our friends at the Email Experience Council (EEC) have provided detail on several of these global regulations.

What else would you like to learn about topics like CASL and safe harbor? I’d love to hear from you!

—Brent
@brentsleeper

Email Security Cloud Blog Footer

At one of the most anticipated sessions of our annual Insight user conference, SparkPost CMO Steve Dille was joined by a panel of SparkPost customers—all savvy email marketers—to discuss how they are using big data, transactional and triggered email, and SparkPost to reimagine how email drives the entire lifecycle of individual customer engagement with businesses like Zillow, Etsy, and CareerBuilder. Here are some highlights from the discussion of “A Segment of One.”

A Segment of One

Data-Driven Email Marketing and User Engagement

Right out of the gate, it was clear that these data-driven marketers approach email a little differently than more traditional, campaign-focused organizations might. CareerBuilder’s Scott Burdsall noted that his team thinks about email from the perspective of the customer’s inbox. That point of view is crucial, he said, because customers don’t react to discrete marketing programs in isolation from one another; rather, their experience is the sum of all messages he or she receives. For his business, email is the primary source of user traffic, and it’s driven by job seekers wanting to find the right job, right now. By combining information about job openings, individual user interaction patterns, and third-party economic and other data, the company seeks to get that right message in front of the right customer at the right time.

Zillow’s Tara Clark agreed that email is her most important driver of bringing people back and driving reengagement with the site. And, like CareerBuilder, Zillow relies heavily upon a combination of proprietary and third-party data to trigger messages at key points in the home-buying lifecycle. She also sees significant opportunity in identifying what data indicators reveal when a potential seller is about to become active on the site and to use that information to develop a seller-specific messaging strategy.

At Etsy, email marketer Matt Sperling looks at site and transaction behaviors, email engagement patterns, as well as interactions with mobile app push messages to guide his strategy. One challenge for his business is the global nature of the Etsy marketplace—data signals and contextual cues aren’t necessarily the same in every part of the world.

Personalization or Segmentation?

All of this data-driven email led SparkPost’s Steve Dille to ask if one-to-one personalization was necessary, or if more classic segmentation was enough to be successful. At CareerBuilder, Scott Burdsall noted that one-to-one is the nature of the job-seeking business, but that broader segmentation can be an effective approximation for identifying factors like message frequency and content that might be relevant when a user is no longer an active job seeker, for example. Zillow’s Tara Clark pointed out that the very best email programs have room for all types of content: one-to-one, segmented, and bulk marketing, and Matt Sperling of Etsy observed that using segmentation as a means of testing is also an important building block for true one-to-one personalization.

Do You Need Big Data?

As all three marketers noted: data helps! Big data science can lead to unexpected learnings. But, they also reminded us that even the “small data” of listening to individual customers and knowing your audience can be a very good beginning of that road.

What Metrics Are Important?

Although these three businesses are in very different markets, they each reflect variations on a marketplace business model. That commonality leads to some shared metrics for measuring the success of their email programs: revenue, of course, but also crucially bringing buyers and sellers to the table; by driving buyer/user engagement, they create demand for the seller or professional side of the transaction. As such, key metrics for all three include engagement, frequency, conversion on various steps in the lifecycle, and so on—and which in turn help to tune the email cadence, content, and calls to action. (By the way, that virtuous cycle of data, email, and user engagement is something that stands out in most of the successful data-driven marketing examples we’ve seen repeatedly among our customers.)

Challenges, and Looking Ahead

Etsy’s Matt Sperling observed that getting message frequency right is one of the most challenging things for marketers, and that identifying what signals the right frequency for each member has a very large impact on the lifetime value of that customer. And, as both Zillow’s Tara Clark and CareerBuilder’s Scott Burdsall noted, there can be points in the customer lifecycle where the metrics “go dark.” Getting explicit as well as inferred insight into those moments is a key challenge going forward for their businesses, and data-driven marketers in general.

It’s no wonder the ballroom at the conference hotel was jam-packed for this Insight session. The audience was treated to an eye-opening discussion that showed just how far the state of the art has evolved from old-school, bulk email marketing. Plus, it’s clear that the sophistication and respect for their customers’ needs these experts conveyed set a high bar for marketers in every industry.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be digging deeper into the intersection of data-driven marketing and email. Until then, what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for your business when it comes to data-driven marketing? I’d like to hear from you.

—Brent

@brentsleeper

 

Personalization at Every Digital Touchpoint

One of the great perks of attending Insight, SparkPost’s annual user conference, is sharing best practices and learning from the expertise of the pros who build, manage, and use next-generation email infrastructure on a large scale. No small part of that is the hands-on sessions led by members of our product team and longtime expert customers who know how to make the SparkPost platform sing.

Three of these technical boot camp sessions dug into powerful SparkPost features: finely-grained tracking of user engagement, the rich capabilities of advanced templates, and the intelligent business logic of multi-channel email, SMS messaging, and app push notifications. Though nothing beats being there for the technical deep dives, here’s a chance for the next-best thing: notes from the sessions and the boot camp leaders’ presentations. Dig in, and enjoy!


First off the blocks was “Using the Engagement Tracking and Metrics APIs to Bring Insights to Your Business.” This informative session examined the ways SparkPost allows senders to get the most from the fine-grained information about customer behavior and interactions with messages. Engineer Steve Tuck demonstrated using SparkPost’s web user interface for interactive queries, APIs for pulling data into external systems, and Webhooks for streaming events data in real-time.

Insight User Conference Bootcamp – Use the Engagement Tracking and Metrics APIs to Bring Insights to Your Business from SparkPost

Next up, SparkPost’s Fiona Snoddy and Isaac Kim used “Advanced Templatization” to demonstrate how to use the powerful templating features of our service. SparkPost templates can incorporate substitution data, conditional statements, looping flow controls, and dynamic content pulled from other systems. Together, these features enable a sender to personalize text, optimize offers, or deploy other business logic.

Insight User Conference Bootcamp – Advanced Templatization from SparkPost

One final bootcamp discussed how to incorporate “Multi-Channel Messaging with SparkPost Elite.” Using one platform and set of APIs to generate email, SMS, and push notifications means it’s possible to send a customer the right message at the right place at the right time, whatever the medium. SparkPost’s Ewan Dennis and Bruce Nowjack teamed up to give a really compelling demonstration of building a multi-channel app in real-time.

Insight User Conference Bootcamp – Multi-Channel with SparkPost Elite from SparkPost

If these power features make you want to learn more, it’s easy to get started with SparkPost. And if you’re a developer looking to get your hands in some code, the SparkPost Developer Hub is a great place to begin.

 

—Brent
@brentsleeper

montereybay

Wow—what a week! All of us here at SparkPost are still coming down from the buzz that was Insight 2015. Monterey, California, the venue for this year’s iteration of our annual user conference, was just as lovely as to be expected. The weather really cooperated: warm sun, sea breezes, and all the charm you’d expect from the famous Cannery Row. (By-the-by, a genuine thank you to our hosts at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Restaurant 1833, and Cibo for giving fantastic hospitality to our motley crew of email marketers, developers, and postmasters.)

Our Insight conference is the premier meeting ground for marketers, technologists, ISP insiders—really, anyone involved with email. It featured speakers with deep expertise in running, managing and using next-generation email infrastructure on a large scale. Hands-on sessions featured members of our product team and longtime expert customers helping attendees to get the most out of their SparkPost, Momentum, and PowerMTA infrastructure.

So, yeah, Insight was jam-packed with great content, and we’ll be going into depth on some of the various sessions over the next couple weeks. But I didn’t want to let any more time go by before sharing just a few of the highlights of the week.

insession

A Segment of One. SparkPost CMO Steve Dille talked with a panel of savvy marketers about how they are using big data, transactional and triggered email, and SparkPost to reimagine how email marketing drives the entire lifecycle of individual customer engagement with businesses like Zillow, Etsy, and CareerBuilder. It was an eye-opening discussion that showed just how far the state of the art has evolved from old-school, bulk email marketing. I truly was impressed by the sophistication (and respect for their customers’ needs) that these experts evinced.

ISP Panel. This panel is always an Insight highlight, and this year’s ISP discussion was no exception. Along with our own Len Shneyder as moderator, insiders from AOL, Yahoo, Cox, Comcast, and Rackspace shared their point of view from the eye of the hurricane, the future of email, and threats to inbox security. While we often talk about the importance of understanding how ISPs shape their customers’ inbox experience and affect message deliverability, Insight is a rare opportunity to hear it straight from the horses’ mouths.

insightconvo

Customer Excellence Awards. Seeing what SparkPost customers have done with our service and software was the huge highlight of Insight for me, personally. At the final Insight session, we formally recognized four customers that really have helped our company become the success it is today and that provide clear examples of leadership in the email industry: Capital One, CareerBuilder, Zillow, and Yesmail. These companies have done amazing work with SparkPost and Message Systems. Their use cases and success stories are so compelling that I’ll be going into more detail about their awards in a future post. But for now: kudos!

The SparkPost Lab. Developers and other technically-minded folks had a chance to get hands-on with the SparkPost API and web UI and get advice from our team of developer advocates. Visitors to the SparkPost Lab also had the opportunity to try out mini-hacks like signing up and sending an email, consuming webhooks, and querying our message events endpoints. And did I mention that one lucky lab visitor won a sweet BB-8™ droid? 😉

emailjedi

The Insight Express. While Monterey isn’t all that far from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, you’ve got to admit that riding down in a fully-equipped coach bus makes it a lot easier to squeeze in a last few emails, talk with peers, or enjoy a beverage of one sort or another! So cheers to the riders of the Barry Bus [sic]—it was great to get to chat with you! (And a special thanks to our bus drivers for making the journey safe and comfortable.)

Did you attend Insight 2015? We’d love to hear about your experience. Send us a note or tweet with the hashtag #SendLikeABoss.

 

—Brent
@brentsleeper