21 Jun 2017
Who to follow: Jenn Clauss
Who to Follow: Jenn Clauss (@jenn_clauss)
Jenn Clauss is a digital marketing specialist at Insight, a leading provider of technology solutions to organisations of all sizes based in Tempe, Arizona. She provides consulting, strategy and execution for Insight’s brand, healthcare and public sector campaigns. This includes designing and executing email as well as digital ads.
A 4-year veteran of the email marketing game, Jenn (like every other email marketer we’ve ever spoken to) began her magical email journey completely by accident.
Fresh out of college and in the early days of her first full-time job as a marketing specialist, Jenn was given ownership of a content marketing email campaign and took to it like a duck to water. Things went so well, in fact, that Jenn’s next 3 years were spent designing, copywriting and executing that email campaign and she was eventually promoted to the position of email marketing specialist.
During this time, 2 things happened which clarified Jenn’s career path in ways she had never imagined.
- Jenn discovered the #Emailgeeks Twitter and Slack communities
- The sparks flying between Jenn and email blossomed into full blown love
Still in her first year with Insight, Jenn says that she now knows that email is her passion and that it is the direction that she wants for her career.
In her relatively short time in the email field, Jenn has become an active participant in both the Emailgeeks Twitter and Slack communities and has quickly established herself as one of our favourite follows with her self-deprecating and enthusiastic tweets (and pet photos).
Ever get too much self-serve froyo and just eat it anyway because you’ve gone too far and can’t turn back now? Yeah, me neither.
— Jenn Clauss (@jenn_clauss) May 30, 2017
Now that we have heard all the juicy details of Jenn’s torrid love affair with email, let’s see what else she has to say.
Jenn Clauss tale of the tape:
Favourite food: Pizza and doughnuts — asking me to pick a favourite is like asking me to pick a favourite child!
Pets: Three dogs (a Pomeranian, a Maltese/Toy Poodle mix and a magical mystery mutt) and a horse.
Dream job as a child: Believe it or not, I wanted to be a taxidermist at one point because I loved visiting the American Museum of Natural History and looking at all of the dioramas.
Last big purchase: We just finished renovating our shower.
Guilty pleasure: PBS Masterpiece period dramas like Downton Abbey and Poldark — I know they’re basically soap operas, but I love them anyway.
Pet peeve: My current biggest pet peeve is when I click on an ad for a product I’m interested in (especially a Facebook carousel ad), and the link takes me to a product category page instead of the specific product I was interested in.
LinkedIn Address: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferclauss/
An interview with Jenn Clauss
What is Insight, and how does it make life easier for Brands?
Insight is a leading provider of technology solutions to organisations of all sizes. We help our clients manage their IT spend more effectively today so that they can invest, innovate and transform for the future.
What was it about email that made you fall in love with it?
From a marketing perspective, I love how direct email is as a communication channel. Almost everyone has an email address because you really have to have one to create user accounts on websites. At the same time, when someone opts in to receive emails from you, that’s a privilege — they’re giving you a direct line of communication to them, and you have to respect that.
From a coding perspective, I love email because of its limitations as a medium. I started learning HTML and CSS in 1999 as a kid messing around on the internet with my friends. I would build websites for fun using WYSIWYG editors like Geocities, which eventually led to me using pre-made HTML and CSS website layouts as a framework and editing the code to achieve my desired results. I took HTML5 courses on Codecademy and Treehouse as an adult, but my knowledge of HTML and CSS is rooted in HTML4. Coding for email and having to work within its limitations reminds me of being a kid, and it’s also extremely satisfying when I successfully debug my code.
How does designing an email differ from designing a digital ad?
Designing an email is a lot more personal than designing a digital ad for me, at least presently. Email is a direct line of communication. Each email address in your database is associated with an individual person, for whom you likely have other identifying information that allows you to personalise user experience. In the world of digital advertising, while you can target your audience through the use of factors like demographics, geographic location and interests, your audience is largely anonymous, known only by their cookies. However, we are starting to see some really exciting personalisation and dynamic content options for digital ads and account-based marketing.
How far can personalisation go before it gets creepy?
When it’s done well, personalisation is useful. I don’t mind ads or marketing emails that directly relate to my interests. Some of the native ads on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds even blend in so well that I don’t realise they’re ads at first, and I frequently click on them! When personalisation starts to get creepy is when it gets so deeply personal that it breaks the fourth wall, to borrow a theatre term. Personalisation should never be so specific that it jars the audience and makes them feel violated. For example, while pregnant, I started getting samples and direct mail pieces that specifically referenced me being pregnant and/or having a new baby. It was incredibly creepy because I knew that most likely a baby or maternity store that I shopped at had sold my information. Pregnancy isn’t just an interest, it’s part of your health, so it’s deeply personal. I felt really violated by it.
Which identifying information do you look at first when designing a personalised campaign?
The identifying information I tend to look at first and use the most are industry and interests. Since I market to healthcare and public sector (education and state, local and federal government), I want to make sure that my message is always relevant to those audiences. There are a lot of simple, cost-effective ways you can do this through the subject line, content and even stock photo choices. You can use dynamic content and tokens/variables to streamline the process. Michael Barber (@michaeljbarber on Twitter and the person I actually learned about Phrasee from) has a really great case study in his “Make Email Great Again” workshop about how he worked with one of his clients to obtain subscriber interests and dramatically improved their email engagement through simple content customisation.
What is your least favourite thing about working with email?
My least favourite thing about working with email is the lack of standardisation from a development perspective. It can be soul-crushing when we’re limited in our adoption of cool new technology to improve user experience because some email clients don’t support certain types of code. These inconsistencies can also be frustrating to develop around, but I’m incredibly thankful for services like Email on Acid and Litmus that streamline testing.
What part will email play in the digital campaigns of the future?
Email is going to play a crucial role in the digital campaigns of the future. It’s the perfect channel to deliver the right message at the right time because it’s so direct. Our ability to deliver even more personalised, relevant and effective messages to our audiences is only going to increase because of all of the exciting developments we’re witnessing in automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The support of interactivity across more email clients will enable more of the buyer journey to take place inside of email, making email even more impactful.
Final question, for branding’s sake, who is your favourite superhero?
My favourite superhero is Batgirl. I actually collect Batgirl toys and am an avid fan of the New 52 comics written by Gail Simone, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart. She’s a programmer who fights crime — how could you not love her?