28 Jun 2017
Who to follow: Andy Thorpe
Who to follow: Andy Thorpe (@CaptainInbox)
Andy Thorpe is an interesting guy.
Because he rarely tweets his own thoughts these days, preferring instead to retweet and share any quality email/digital marketing content he comes across each day, Andy has languished in the “someday” section of Phrasee’s long list of email marketing mavericks yet to be interviewed for quite some time.
But we always knew we’d get to him eventually.
And today is that day!
Andy Thorpe is a Product Owner at Pure360, a marketing automation suite and email service provider based in Brighton,UK.
A self-described “Email Marketician & Deliverabilitist”, Andy has made a name for himself as one of the UK’s premiere email deliverability experts, known to many in the industry simply as “Captain Inbox”.
But it wasn’t always this way…
After quitting a “morally challenging” sales career at the age of 22, Andy made the tough decision to enrol in University, eventually graduating with a Higher National Diploma in Web Programming and a BSC in Business Software Development in 2006.
Stuck for ideas on exactly what to do next, Andy took a 3-month probationary account management position with a startup company with every intention of jumping ship as soon as his 3 months were up. That startup? Pure360.
Now on his 6th (or 7th?) job title in his 11 years with Pure360, Andy’s marriage to email has proven to be a happy and entertaining one. As the organisational tip of the email knowledge spear at Pure360, Andy became known around the office as “Captain Inbox”. His arch enemy? “Captain Jack Spammer”. Now that’s an email man if ever we’ve met one.
Now that we know he can get an email delivered and rock a tri-corner hat at the same time, let’s see what else this email maverick has to say…
Andy Thorpe tale of the tape:
Favourite food: Roasted Pork Belly. Slow cooked & v.crispy on top.
Pets: Hamster. Named by my 3-year-old. She initially thought it was a bunny, we informed her it was ‘not a bunny’ and asked her name him, she said “Mr Boney”. Awesome logic.
Dream job as a child: Carpenter.
Last big purchase: Ms Surface Pro4.
Guilty pleasure: Nandos.
Pet peeve: I’m gluten free and I’m saddened by the amount of sugar and non-sustainable palm oil in gluten free products.
An interview with Andy Thorpe
What is Pure 360, and how does it make life easier for marketers?
Pure360’ is a marketing automation provider based in the UK. Pure360’s software is a SAAS marketing automation suite, centralising from Email & SMS Marketing, into aggregated single customer view data stores and back to automation and optimised targeting through personalised content and data targeting.
Pure360 customers enjoy a very large, UK based, customer support team from 1st line support through to dedicated account managers.
As a partner and provider, our customers are supported through our Email Maturity Model and Best Practice framework to improve and maintain their marketing results and revenue with the least amount of effort. I’ve had the privilege to work with some awesome brands over the years, our website mentions a fair few of them.
Did that fantastic hat come with the title of “Captain Inbox”?
Hahaha! Not quite.
When I first earned the nickname, shortly afterwards I was bought a Captain Scarlet action figure with a drawstring to make him speak. A year or so later we held a hat party above a local pub and I popped into the North Laine at the last minute and grabbed a pirate hat. The real Captain Inbox was born and I was informed my arch enemy is “Captain Jack Spammer”.
I did a talk in London for “Completely Email” a few years ago, called “Shexzy Email” (that’s another story), without the hat, so I’d seem a respectable expert. I put it on for the QA at the end and there was an audible “Ohhh, that’s who he is”. Someone even took a selfie with it on.
I did the same thing for a similar talk at “Pure Progression” (a customer event) and that hat wasn’t quite as humorously accepted. It doesn’t feature much lately, it’s a bit ‘attention seeky’ but I do tend to have it on me in case requested at a meetup, which has happened on occasion.
How has email kept your interest for so long?
Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s email, Pure360, or the combination. When I started at Pure it was small, I’m employee no.18 and now there are over a 100 of us “Purites”.
At the time we were a tight and proud team of underdogs and much of that togetherness has maintained itself, especially within our sub-teams. We hire lovely, dedicated people who have found it easy to believe in our brand and its origins & vision. Credit also has to be given to management’s encouragement of our community mentality, empowering staff wherever the opportunity and supporting many of the community values Brighton & Hove is known for.
Email itself is something I seemed to have picked up very quickly. The complexity of email and its underdog status as a “victim of its own success”- often being under appreciated due being a universal medium without being a brand, unlike SEO & Google and individual social streams also being a brand (Facebook, Twitter etc). Also walking the line where email marketing relies on the many ISPs, mailhosts and postmasters to accept and sometimes tolerate varying levels of behaviour in which brands choose to conduct themselves.
I love the complex dynamic between revenue, branding, compliance & best practice. I’m constantly kept on my toes by the wave of trends coming and going as everything evolves: from devices and inboxes to the technology and standards of the web, the law and of course the people at the other end.
I’ve met many people who have been overwhelmed by the complexity of these dynamics. Some have run for the hills, others have become contemptuous in their overwhelmedness but some have dived right in and had a great time with it.
There are good days and bad days but a healthy mix and never a quiet day. The industry is full of many awesome people who enjoy it too, many of which I count as friends (some of whom even work at Phrasee!).
Which trends are “keeping you on your toes” at the minute?
Right now the most action is in GDPR and non-human email interactions.
What part do your social media accounts play in your current role at Pure360?
Mainly content, in both sharing and consuming.
There’s not a lot of conversation on social right now, but not none.
I’m personally just busy doing my actual job. Nowadays much of the email marketing community has its own forums: Only Influencers & Litmus arguably being the top two of note for very different reasons, and of course Slack with Emailgeeks being mentionable.
I, of course, have my own community of colleagues and customers which I put a lot of time into.
Can you expand a little on “the complex dynamic between revenue, branding, compliance & best practice”?
I’m not sure there’s a ‘little’ way but I’ll give it a go…
Revenue (and attribution) that’s obvious- it’s the reason you do digital marketing. Branding is strategies and presentation etc. Compliance is the laws & deliverability by region, ISP, MAAWG and Blacklists. Best Practice is generally the fence to the park, I’ve found that if one “knows where the fence to the park is, they can play freely and safely within it”. And “the more compliant you are with data, the freer you are with content”.
It’s a very normalised list, easy to be pedantic about, but you get the idea. Lots of brands want to do cool, fun, novel and new things but are scared to in case they do it wrong and their recipients rebel or inbox placement plummets losing revenue.
A brand shouldn’t need to know what I know about deliverability & compliance to do very well with email, as long as there is a safe foundation to their strategy and most importantly data collection. My experience tends to earn me harder jobs in deliverability & compliance, but I have been fortunate enough to work ‘well within the park’(with some greats brands & people too). My work has ranged widely from content optimisation & testing to profiling, segmentation & targeting and from HTML & CSS coding to server side coding & SQL. And of course, always lots and lots of data. All of it is good fun though.
Which brands are doing “cool, fun, novel, and new things” currently, in your opinion?
To be honest, I’m so deep into the troubled end of email at the moment that I’m only reading a select few marketing emails from mainly email industry and politically related organisations.
At the risk of sounding biased, I’m a fan of the copy and tone of the Phrasee emails and branding. You guys certainly know how to get to the point in a no-nonsense way whilst being funny (but not crossing the line). It’s a really good balance for branding communications and resonates with me well.
I also love what ActionRocket are doing with their creatives at the moment. That generation of email designers/coding marketers are really leading the charge and it’s great that it’s coming out of the UK.
I get and partake in a lot of the charity and cause petition brands: saving the bees, fighting the big brands trying to buy politics etc. and of course UK politics is rather busy at the moment. Many political sites, like 38Degrees and Change.org have developed well-seasoned journeys and over the years I’ve observed their chopping and changing as they try and test different things to optimise sharing and experiment with tolerance levels of asking for money.
Final question, for branding’s sake, who is your favourite superhero?
Tough to pick just one: as a kid, it was Spider-Man, as a young teen is was Spawn & Wolverine, that probably says a lot about me as a teen ;-). Nowadays, as I’m faced with more adult & society related challenges, it’s definitely my Dad.
If you want a one-word answer that’s a traditional comic superhero, print Wolverine.