11 Oct 2016
Who to follow: Elliot Ross
Who to Follow: Elliot Ross (@)
Elliot Ross is the founder and managing director of Action Rocket, a cutting-edge creative studio product for email design. He also recently co-founded Taxi For Email, an online tool for assisting email marketers with their production workflow.
A 10-year veteran of the email marketing field, Elliot struck out on his own as a freelance email marketer in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Within 9 months of starting his freelance career, Elliot had founded Action Rocket, a company that now employs a team of 14. In spite of his success, Elliot says that he has hung on to his “scrappy freelancer mentality”, something that drives the approaches of both Action Rocket and Taxi For Email today, allowing both companies to remain “lean and nimble”.
Elliot’s companies have worked with national broadcasters, big social networks, and international e-commerce brands, plus a load of lesser-known brands with really interesting challenges to solve.
As a successful entrepreneur, Elliot enjoys the rare social media freedom to post about whatever the heck he wants, a freedom he embraces fully.
His tweets range from the relevant and topical to the irrelevant and irreverent, traits that have made him one of our phavourite phollows for quite some time. Even if the subtle wonders of salted caramel are lost on him.
To each his own, we suppose…
I don’t want to be all OG hipster, but I preferred caramel before it was salted
— Elliot Ross (@iamelliot) August 29, 2016
Now that we know his opinions on caramel, and that he knows when to pull a Simpsons gif out of the vault, let’s see what else he has to say…
An interview with Elliot Ross
What was the impetus for the creation of Taxi For Email?
The idea came out of this problem that I’ve seen time and time again, both working at agencies and with ActionRocket – the problem that marketers have is that they get an agency to make them a great email template, and that’s cool but they then have to make email campaigns with it every week. So they either have to spend time working out HTML, which isn’t what they should be doing because their value is in being a great marketer, or they have to pay an agency to make emails for them. That kind of work is a bit of a pain for both parties, because the brand is paying lots of money for fairly un-innovative work, and at the agency side you’re paying designers to do stuff but you’re not getting great value out of them.
So Taxi bridges that gap. It means that agencies and designers can make really intelligent templates, really get into things like brand details and decide what can be changed and what can’t. Then marketers can go and run with that template when they need to make an actual email campaign. They can focus on making great content, manipulate the layout as they need, do things like managing segmentation and link tracking, all without needing to touch the HTML. Then when they’re done, they can connect to their sending platform and go from there.
It turns out that workflow solves a whole load of other challenges too, like managing multiple language campaigns, or being able to be really reactive to news and competitors. I’m really excited to see where Taxi goes, because the clients that use it really love it. It transforms how they do email.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that email marketers face in the current climate of the industry?
Attention! That is by far the biggest challenge for email (and therefore email marketers). Not only getting attention from the user in a busier inbox, but also getting users to look at email at all. The phone is now the inbox (think I might trademark that actually), so we’re not only trying to get attention versus other emails, but also from social updates, the news, and whatever childhood videogame has been rehashed this week. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – people spending more time with their phones tends to mean they check their email more, but it’s something we need to adapt to.
Also if you’re not sending mobile email yet, we can sort that easily. Email me.
What are some of the most exciting developments you have seen in the field over the past year?
The stuff that’s going on with rendering is really exciting from a developer perspective. It looks like Gmail, which has long been problematic when it comes to decent email design, is going to leapfrog their way to being one of the best email experiences.
Elsewhere the email community has really grown, and it’s been great to see a new wave of speakers and email geeks becoming more known. It’s really interesting hearing what they have to say and has pushed the conversation forward massively.
What do you see as the intersection between email marketing and social media?
I think these days, a lot of the best emails are heavily influenced by social media. If not in design then in content structure. It’s done email a huge favour, because previously people tended to take design and strategy cues from direct mail, which is a universally terrible channel.
How does social media (specifically your Twitter account) serve you personally in your career and email marketing efforts?
I’ve done quite well out of Twitter, but mostly accidentally! Talking about email and ranting about mild annoyances has let me work with amazing people and talk all over the world. I’m saving my social media secrets for my airport business self help book though.
What key changes/advancements/developments do you anticipate will affect email marketing in 2017?
Something interesting happened recently with the release of iOS10, which I think is symptomatic of a change of direction in email. This new unsubscribe bar that appears at the top of the message. It’s quite subtle, and it’s easy to get rid of, but we’re seeing a bump in unsubscribes because of it. I think this on it’s own is a minor thing – and a short-term rise in unsubs is really just some readjustment. But what it represents is a huge change -– the shift towards the user having control.
I find this fascinating because a lot of the perceived email strategy is one way. Things like noreply@ send addresses, all the way through to this attitude, that because someone is legally subscribed, that means it’s ok to do whatever we want. The smart marketers, of course, have known for years that you’re only as good as your last email, and trust that takes years to build up takes seconds to destroy. Traditionally, this kind of thinking has manifested itself as uber-relevant, right person right time right place type stuff, but I think it’s more subtle than that.
The idea that we should care about the user’s experience, not just of an individual email but of the overall email programme, will become really important. I’m excited about this, because experience isn’t just down to measurable things, so it makes designing email not only more important, but much more interesting a challenge.
What makes a twitter account worth following?
Looking at who I follow… I’m not really sure! I think your Twitter feed has to be genuine, which kind of means being interesting, actually getting involved with discussions, and probably being wrong occasionally. It’s painfully clear when someone’s Twitter presence is just there for them. So if it’s obvious that people go out and help people, and post interesting ideas, then that’s worth following. An unsubscribe and an unfollow aren’t really that different, so typically the things that make email great also apply to social.
Is email here to stay?
Ha! Yeah it’s around for a while, in one form or another. It’s in for a massive change, because it has a huge attention challenge, but I’ll rant about that another time. But FWIW, the “you need email to sign up for Snapchat so email is fine” argument is BS.
Final question, for branding’s sake, who is your favourite superhero?