26 Sep 2016
Who to follow: Andrea Bridges-Smith
Who to follow: Andrea Bridges-Smith (@)
Andrea Bridges Smith is the Product Marketing Manager at PostUp, a digital marketing firm based in Austin, Texas. She runs PostUp’s marketing team and oversees its content and email marketing strategies, as well as aligning PostUp’s content strategy and product roadmap.
An 8-year veteran of the marketing and advertising field, Andrea got her start in email marketing 3 years ago as a response to the many voices in the marketing field which echoed the sentiment that email is hands down among the most effective channels available to any marketer.
Andrea is a proud member of the Women of Email community, and also produces PostUp’s podcast, the infamous Email Marketing’s Grave.
Andrea is active on social media, and is an inclusive, friendly and interesting member of email marketing’s online community. She curates and shares useful email and digital marketing content, and is even known to share a joke or two.
— Andrea Bridges-Smith (@abridgessmith) April 20, 2016
I’m down to 10 emails in my work inbox, and I’ve never felt so ALIIIIVE!!!
— Andrea Bridges-Smith (@abridgessmith) July 5, 2016
Now that we know how well she tweets, let’s see what happens when we pick this digital dynamo’s brain.
An interview with Andrea Bridges-Smith
For those who may not know, can you explain what you mean by “aligning our content strategy with our product roadmap”?
Right, so we’ve got our products and services, and we’re making decisions about what to build/offer based on the needs we’re seeing in the market. And then, when it’s time to announce those things to the world, you can’t just say “Hey we have a new thing!” Because the audience won’t care. That’s a statement about us, not about them. So we need to talk about the why of it, the need in the market that we saw, the pain points we see our customers dealing with, and we talk about THAT in our content because that’s the part they’ll relate to, that’s what speaks to them.
I’ll give you an example: our audience is mostly comprised of publishing and media companies. And in case you’ve missed any of the news of the last couple of years, it’s hard out there for a publisher right now. You’ve got ad blockers taking a chunk out of ad revenue, you’ve got Facebook and Google tweaking algorithms that reduce traffic to your site which also affects ad revenue. You’re trying to figure out native advertising and which blend of freemium is the right balance. You’ve got all kinds of threats to your revenue to watch out for because the technology and the landscape is just changing so fast. So we heard that, and we came up with an end-to-end monetisation solution for our customers that makes it really easy for them to open up a revenue stream via their email program. Now obviously this requires a well-developed email program, so we have a solution for growing that email program as well. But the first thing we need to do when we announce these solutions is to talk about the why. So our content strategy is all about talking about why we did what we did first before we talk about what we did. Otherwise, we’re just banging a loud drum in a one-person parade.
And where does email marketing fit in?
Email is one of the many channels that we use to spread the message to our audience, and the same goes for our clients. It’s not the only channel for any of us, but it’s the most effective in terms of building a long-term relationship. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants – an audience that comes back again and again, a fan club, a bevy of evangelists (bevangelists? No, sorry, that’s terrible). Through email, you have a direct way to reach out to your audience and tell them about the new thing, to explain that you understand the frustrations they’re feeling, to ask them questions, to have a dialogue, all in a way that’s more reliable than social and more scalable than in-person events.
Can you tell us a bit about “Email Marketing’s Grave” and the inspiration for its creation?
So like many of us in the email marketing industry, I got tired of hearing about how email is dead. I remember when I was leaving my old job to come to PostUp, I got asked where I was going, and when I said I was going to an ESP, the immediate response I got was “But email is dead.” It was so quick, so reflexive. You know how if you hear something enough times it just kind of becomes part of the narrative? I feel like that’s the case with email marketing’s whole death perception. It’s a perception that has absolutely no basis in reality – check your inbox! How many messages are in there? How many newsletters do you get on a regular basis? I don’t think there are very many people who can say zero. Plus, there are about a bajillion ESPs* out there right now, each with their own special sauce (ours is publishing & media expertise). Would we have an entire industry of ESPs and email marketing conferences and inboxes stuffed to the brim if this were a dead medium? Obviously not. That’s like going to a sold-out game at Fenway and declaring that the Red Sox Nation is dead. Not only is it alive and well, but you’re sitting right in the middle of it.
So instead of protesting that “no, email is not dead,” I wanted to lean into the idea. Fine, you want to call email dead? Then let’s throw it a funeral. Let’s play depressing organ music. Let’s go all Tim Burton on it. So that’s where the idea for the name of the podcast came from.
As far as the purpose of the podcast, I hope that people get drawn in by the fun, campy aspects of it (I try really hard to make it fun) but also walk away going, “Huh, I learned something new/I never thought about it that way before.” It’s meant to be fun and educational (funducational? No, see, I’m doing it again).
And finally, I just love podcasts. I listen to them all the time, and this is the 3rd one I’ve hosted. One of the coolest things about doing this is seeing the effect that technology is having on our lives. So I just did an episode with Jaina Mistry, a beloved email marketer and an absolute delight to talk to. Jaina was in Bahrain, I was here in Texas, we had a conversation, and now that conversation is being listened to in Spain, Australia, Thailand, Serbia, Norway – all over the world! When I was growing up, do you know how hard it was to even talk to someone in Bahrain? It was both difficult and expensive! But now, technology makes not only this conversation easy, but it makes it easy to share that conversation with a huge group of people. Our current geopoltical sh*t show notwithstanding, this is a pretty cool time to be alive.
*No one else is allowed to start an ESP. Stop it. We have plenty.
Which developments in the industry in the past 2-3 years do you think have done the most to kill the “email is dead” narrative?
It’s really hard to say email is dead when we’re so clearly in the midst of an email renaissance (Emailnaissance? OK, I officially have a problem). And one of the reasons I think we’re having this renaissance right now is because there are these operations sprouting up where all they do is an email newsletter. And they’re wildly successful! The Skimm, Lenny, and The Hustle are three examples that we’ve talked about on the show. All outrageously popular, all with terrific content, and their whole business model is built around an email newsletter. How interesting is that! It’s 2016, and sure we’re Snapchatting and we’re Instagramming and we’re WhatsApping (whatever that is), and in the midst of all that, here comes the humble email newsletter, resurrected from the depths of history, and it’s kicking ass! You can’t call email dead if you can create an entire business around a newsletter! (Well, you can, and people do, frequently, but they’re just wrong!)
What advantages does email marketing have over competing channels that have driven this “renaissance”? Where did the email marketing renaissance come from?
I think the what makes email marketing so attractive right now over something like social is that it’s direct and it’s controllable. On social, you’re talking to your audience through someone else’s platform and algorithms, and you have to hope that your audience logs in at the right time to see your posts and that the social platform lets them. With email, you’re going straight to your audience’s inbox whenever you want, you aren’t limited by what you can say or how much content you can include, and — more importantly than ANYTHING else — you’re collecting first-party data that you can then use to optimise their experience, target them better, or sell to other advertisers. Email gives the sender power; social media takes it away. Businesses who have been chasing social to the exclusion of email are getting hard questions about why social isn’t the magical wonderland we were promised in terms of revenue. But there’s reliable ol’ email, still there, still ready to deliver revenue for anyone who cares enough to do it and do it right.
What does “doing it right” in email marketing look like?
Doing it right means first and foremost beginning with the end in mind. If you’re slapping together an email campaign in order to get it out the door ASAP, you’re missing so many opportunities. Start by deciding what the goal is – is it to drive traffic to your website? Is it to build a better relationship with your customer? Is it to get the audience to sign up for a special offer? Great, now go back to step 1 and do everything according to that – who you target, how you design, what you say, your CTAs, all of it. It all needs to be pointing towards that North Star.
During your time in your current position with PostUp, what have been some of your biggest takeaways?
I think perhaps the biggest is the power of collaboration. Whether it’s within the company or partnering with other companies, whether its with organisations like Women of Email (that I am a very proud member of) or Only Influencers, this industry is all about collaborating, about giving knowledge to others, helping each other solve problems. You can say “Help! My email looks weird!” in several different forums, and the entire industry will turn towards that like you just shined the Bat-signal into the sky, and they will take time out of their day to help you. Because they can. Because they’re nice. I love that. To the email marketing industry: I feel your love, and I return your love. Namaste, y’all. (I’m from Texas, so I get to say y’all.)
Final question, for branding’s sake, who is your favourite superhero?
Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill. She gets a LOT of terrible shit thrown at her, and she keeps forging ahead with dogged determination. And at the end of the movie, she’s sobbing on the bathroom floor, because OF COURSE she is, and then she gets up and goes and takes care of her kid. As a fellow mother/badass/someone who knows some Japanese, I can relate to that!