001 Email: Chad S White author of ‘Email Marketing Rules’

by April Buencamino-dy

Chad S. White is an email marketing expert and author of the best selling book: “Email Marketing Rules: Checklists, Frameworks, and 150 Best Practices for Business Success”  which is currently in its third edition. By day, Chad is the head of research at Oracle’s CX Marketing Consulting. In 2018, Chad was named the Email Marketing Thought Leader of the Year by The Email Experience Council. 

chad s white email marketing rules podcast

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About Chad

Chad jokes that like all email marketers, he fell into the profession entirely by mistake. Before becoming an email marketing guru, Chad was a journalist working for several large publications including Dow Jones and Conde-Nast. At the time, he was covering retail and technology for and had subscribed to all the retailers email marketing campaigns as a way to get leads for his stories. When his brother started a blog (before it was popular), he jumped on the bandwagon and decided to write a blog called “The Retail Email Blog” about what retailers were doing in their business.

He kept at it for six and a half years during which time he wrote more than 3,000 posts on the subject of email marketing. It was during this transformation of interest that he was hired into the email marketing field. First at the Email Experience Council in their early days, followed by a stint at the Direct Marketing Association.

He later pivoted to the agency side where he worked for Responses, which was eventually acquired by Oracle. Chad points out that he himself is not an actual email marketer, but someone who has been observing the industry for 15+ years. Even though email marketers don’t get into the business on purpose most of the time, they usually stay. Understanding the quirks and nuances of email marketing makes the profession and professionals in it very valuable. The skills that email marketers have also give them room to easily move into higher positions like VP of marketing and more. 

The Email Marketing Rules Book

Chad’s book, “Email Marketing Rules: Checklists, Frameworks, and 150 Best Practices for Business Success” is considered a cornerstone in email marketing and is a valuable asset for anyone interested in the subject.

The overriding principle of the book is that there are indeed best practices for email marketing. These best practices exist at the industry level as a sort of crowd wisdom. While Chad points out that having best practices doesn’t mean that rules can’t be broken, he is also firm in his belief that best practices are a useful starting point.

He noticed people were really ignoring best practices in email marketing and made it a point to write a book that essentially defined and defended best practices. The book provides a solid, safe place for setting up shop and building a successful, sustainable email business.

Chad points out that he draws some hard lines about rules that CAN’T be broken including permissions and legality. 

The Rules that Separate Good Marketers from Great Marketers

Metrics, Goals and Analytics

The most critical,  foundational place to start is understanding what goals an email marketing campaign has and how those goals are going to be measured.  Goals that come from the top down are often tied to revenue and Chad points out that with email, you can have an incredible success rate that isn’t easily tied to a revenue increase in an obvious way. As such, it’s important to link what you want to achieve with metrics. Sometimes it’s easy to get people to open an email by being vague in the subject line, but it doesn’t drive conversion. Relationship building, progressive programming and content may not yield conversion but offer great subscriber lifetime value. 

Letting Go of Benchmarking 

In our Benchmark obsessed culture, people tend to focus obsessively on benchmarks, something that Chad believes  is to our detriment. Every company is different and everyone manages their email marketing differently. When it comes to comparing your business to someone else’s, it’s just too easy for numbers to be manipulated based on how the campaign is being managed. Since you really can’t know how people are arriving at their numbers, it’s usually a waste to compare yourself to them. 

Managing Inactives

Chad says that the US is far worse than Europe at managing their own inactives and most businesses will wait until someone withdraws themselves from the list to stop sending them emails. Silence speaks volumes though and usually people are kept on the list for no good reason. It is far more important to maintain a productive email list than a big one. While there aren’t any laws requiring people to stop contacting inactive subscribers in the US, email providers are getting much better at filtering incoming emails based on engagement. By emailing more people who aren’t interested, you might actually hurt your business because it can cause more serious deliverability issues. Frequency and overall volume are both factors for determining how long you might want to consider pursuing a contact who has gone inactive, but it’s a business by business decision. 

Subscriber Acquisition

The best subscriber acquisition sources are those closest to your fulfillment operations. Getting people to sign up for your newsletter at the point of sale, whether its in store or online is the very best place to do it.  The further you stray from those places, the dicier things get. List rental is regularly done poorly and often completely wrong. Getting people to sign up for your brand from a list that you’ve purchased requires a lot more education and a different approach. Deliverability problems typically come from poor management of inactives or they’ve been using an acquisition list from some source outside of their own business

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with Email Marketing – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

Understanding email goals and metrics is so foundational that Chad says it is always the best place to start. Ensuring you can connect your goals with your metrics is really important. 

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve email marketing performance?

A/B testing is so simple, but it is a tried and true method for testing. Chad says it can be really simple—try subject lines, CTA buttons, color, hero images and more. There are opportunities to test tiny tweaks, but also space for getting perspective on radical new ideas. Chad also emphasizes the importance of testing trigger campaigns! Tweaking them can have really incredible results. Automation doesn’t mean set it and forget it— automated campaigns are still a living communication and need nurturing to be most effective.

It’s impossible to improve our marketing unless we’re monitoring the performance – but the list of stuff we could monitor can be overwhelming. So what, for you is the number one email marketing KPI?

In a perfect world, a subscriber lifetime value would be the best thing for everyone to have nailed down. This, however is not always the easiest information to get and more practically, Chad recommends going down the funnel as far as possible. Look for clicks and conversions over opens. Revenue per subscribers or revenue per campaign can be useful for eCommerce, but clicks will be a lot more useful for someone who sells in a less direct manner. 

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in email marketing?

Even though the world seems to be topsy turvy right now, email is still a safe bet for connecting with your customers. Chad recommends paying attention to how you can become more nimble. Pay attention to analytics, segmented by geography and customer typology. With everyone in such a different situation,  it’s more important than ever to get to know your customer. In terms of being nimble, Chad recommends optimizing the workflow and checking out a modular email model to save time on production. 

Interview Links

Chad on Social media:

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