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Who to follow: Russell Dawson

Who to Follow: Russell “Rut” Dawson (@rutdawson)

Russell “Rut” Dawson is an interesting dude.

Currently Head of UK Email Marketing Operations at Fidelity International – a Boston based global investment management firm with over 2.2 million clients worldwide – this 10 year veteran of the email marketing game has seen it all. Russell has been involved in end-to-end email marketing strategy, development, production and optimisation for a range of sectors and markets from a B2B and B2C perspective in various roles over the course of his extensive email career.

Russell’s passion for all things email, which he says is based firmly in his belief that “email marketing is the essential marketing channel for growth, retention and revenue”, combined with a lively Twitter presence and a penchant for quality GIFs, has made the man known as “Rut” one of our very favourite follows for years beyond counting.

Oh, and he can also be found on Linkedin, where he posts more of the same (minus the GIFS!)


Now that we know that Russell’s Twitters presence is above reproach, let’s see what else he has to say…


Russell Dawson tale of the tape

Favourite food: My wife’s homemade Green Thai Curry, simply sensational, ideally with a cold bottle of Peroni beer.

Pets: Two rescue cats that we adopted – “Cookie” & “Marmite”. I’ve got my fair share of scars from incidents involving Marmite including two broken ribs and a scar from a bone-deep cut in my leg. As a black cat, he’s been anything but lucky for me.

Dream job as a child: Playing music. More a passion, I enjoy writing and playing music with others now as much as I did when I was younger.

Last big purchase: Would be my home. I’m very frugal and always conscious about consumption. Do I really need this? Is this necessary? What’s more important to me is what you can’t purchase: friendship, trust, relationships, compassion, and empathy.

Guilty pleasure: I must admit, I do love going back to my beginnings, building and creating HTML emails themselves. I find the creative aspect very rewarding.

Pet peeve: Manners and respect. Seems everybody is so busy that we forget the basic courtesy of what it means to be a human being these days. Without these, any relationship, whether personal or professional, is impossible. We all have something to learn from others, regardless of status.

An interview with Russell Dawson

For those who might not know, what is Fidelity International?

Fidelity International provides investment management services to private & institutional investors with $411b under management (as of 09/17)

What makes email “THE essential marketing channel for growth”?

Not only is it the cheapest route to market, it drives more conversions than any other channel. It also offers insights that allow us to develop customer relationships and gain an in-depth understanding of customer needs.

When it comes to developing customer relationships and gaining an in-depth understanding of customer needs, what tools and strategies specifically do you think brands should implement in their email strategies?

Segmentation & Automated lifecycle emails are a good place to start with delivering relevant messaging in email marketing. I work on three maturity levels: foundation – intermediate – advanced.

You can’t get your propensity models up and running if you don’t have the data or tech in place, so you have to audit where your organisation is at before you can plan out achievable actions to take.

You should be looking at segmenting content to your audience using the profile data you have about them already and applying their behavioural data to their customer record to widen out the scope of targeting.

Automated programmes such as welcome, win-back, abandoned and transactional, I would say, are the four key campaigns to look at setting up for the biggest insights. So many times, I see transactional emails with immense open rates but no opportunity to cross or upsell or to offer after-sale care.

The journey doesn’t just stop at point of sale.

Which developments and innovations have had the biggest impact on the email game in the past year or two?

Contextual tools – particularly when used for retailers or sports events – have been devastatingly successful.

I expect to see more behaviour product driven emails over the next two years for sure. We’ve been trialling AI-based subject lines with Phrasee this year.

I still see a lot of companies not achieving the basics yet in email marketing – I think value is everywhere, it’s how you apply it that’s the critical point.

One of my favourite phrases is: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. While there have been a lot of innovations in email over the last few years, that’s a key point to remember. If your message isn’t on point, window dressing may catch your subscriber’s attention, but it’s unlikely to lead to conversions.

What innovations and developments do you expect to see change the email game in the next year or two?

You would expect me to say AI here, but to be honest I can’t see that being adopted by the majority within the next 2 years as part of everyone’s marketing “must haves”. Eventually when it becomes clear that there’s big money being left on the table and AI becomes more accessible to everyone, then it’ll swing over (eventually replacing us as email marketers, no doubt).

I think that voice assistants such as Alexa and Echo could play an increasing part in how email evolves. Utilising these tools to include voice-activated responses, how content is consumed, and conversion journeys.

The same way that we look at floppy disks now, our children will wonder why we used something as impractical as a keyboard rather than just simply asking the computer.

Can you say a little more about how you see the interaction between email and voice-activated assistants evolving? What roadblocks are holding the process back?

I think universal adoption needs to happen first. I actually know very few people with an Alexa, Home or Echo in their homes at the moment. However, for future generations, it’ll be a standard part of the technology in their lives.

We’ve come a long way in the last ten years for email in terms of adapting and pushing at the boundaries in terms of functionality, which means it’ll be up to us how quickly we’re able to make it accessible for the average consumer to easily use voice assistants with email marketing.

From a business standpoint, as always, it’s about returns. Once businesses start seeing this as measurable within the marketing mix, we’ll see an increase in focus and application.

What are your favourite/least favourite things about working with email?

Even after ten years, my passion for email marketing has only gotten stronger. That’s because I enjoy nearly all aspects of email, as there’s a lot of variety in email marketing; creative, technical and strategy.

My favourite part is email engagement. I put a lot of consideration and thought into our emails so to have subscribers engaging with them (and in turn generating revenue) feels that the hard work is justified. I’ve lost many hours sitting there, watching the clicks come in post-send. It’s a satisfying feeling when it works. There’s also lots to learn when it doesn’t.

One of my least favourite things about email is how cheaply it’s viewed. Bad email is about the worst type of marketing you can get and makes life harder for the rest of us. It still amazes me how much education needs to happen to ensure email is at the heart of a customer’s needs, even at enterprise level.

Who is your favourite superhero?

Vision – from the Marvel comics / films. A highly skilled tactician and strategist, he’s also on the side of life.

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