Email data and oops pancakes with LB Blair of Platonic Ideal
Email’s Not Dead: Season 4, Episode 3
Email data and oops pancakes with LB Blair of Platonic Ideal
Email's Not Dead
About this episode:
In our latest episode, we’re talking to LB Blair, the founder of Platonic Ideal. LB has been in the industry for years, and she combines her love of data and her passion for email together in her work. LB has some hot takes on why data needs to be utilized in your email program and how to correctly use it, so sit back and learn with us. Listen to the episode now! Email’s Not Dead is a podcast about how we communicate with each other and the broader world through modern technologies. Email isn’t dead, but it could be if we don’t change how we think about it. Hosts Jonathan Torres and Eric Trinidad dive into the email underworld and come back out with a distinctive look at the way developers and marketers send email.
Meet your presenters
Manager of the TAM team at Sinch Mailgun
Technical Account Manager II at Sinch Mailgun
Founder at Platonic Ideal
Email’s Not Dead - S4, Ep. 3: Oops pancakes with LB Blair of Platonic Ideal
Eric Trinidad: Welcome to Emails Not Dead. My name is Eric and this is Jonathan.
Jonathan Torres: Hello!
Eric Trinidad: Hello. We're your email geeks here to talk to you about all things email. What to do, what not to do and everything in between. We have a very special guest today. Founder L.B. Blair from Platonic Ideal.
LB Blair: I'm doing great today. It's really a pleasure to be here. I've had the pleasure of working with you, Eric and JT I've worked with several members of your team. They're all fantastic. So happy to be here today and geek out with you all about some email stuff.
Jonathan Torres: Heck Yes.
Eric Trinidad: So Platonic I deal if you want to give us some kind of background. Where did you come from? Where did you go?
LB Blair: My name is not Cotton Eye Joe.
Eric Trinidad: Good.
Eric Trinidad: Yeah. How did this all come to be? If you can give us some background.
LB Blair: Yeah, totally. I'll give yall the Reader's Digest rundown. Basically late in 2015, I decided it was time for a change of careers after I almost got shot at my previous job. That's a story for another time. Or if we have time at the end, we'll all go over that. Ultimately everything is fine. But I was like, perhaps I need to find a new industry. And then I ended up over at IBM Marketing Cloud, worked with absolutely fantastic team there for about a year. Then I moved, I got picked up by a company called Click Dimensions. I got promoted to deliverability and I really noticed that nobody out there wanted to handle DNS entries, kind of specifically SPF records. And after writing an hour long maybe plus training on SPF records that dealt all the way down into the sitter math of IP's that was deemed unerrorable by my boss because it was just way too much. I ended up starting a company because they allowed for the side hustle at the time, and I started a company and just like, "Hey, I'll fill in this gap, you know, nobody wants to touch your SPF record or your DMARC record or, you know, help you set up DKIM or anything like that. I'll do that. And then I just got pulled, you know, because I had the deliverability expertise as well on the more strategic side and the advisory side as far as pruning your segments, remediating issues, block lists and mailbox providers. But I found that Platonic Ideal with my two business partners in 2018 and you know, it ended up being a little off and on. I ended up leaving my full-time job to work there full-time at about four months later. Inestimable Matt Vernhout over at 250 OK at the time you know hit me up and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I joined the team so I set Plantonic Ideal aside for a little bit. And then I stayed there for quite a while through the Validity acquisition, stayed with the Validity team, great crew of people over there. But I decided it was time to, you know, kind of spread my wings and strike back out on my own. So I spun that back up in April 2021 and here I am today, still doing it.
Eric Trinidad: Right on. Yeah. Matt Vernhout, definitely friend of the show. We'll definitely have to have you all on together sometime in the future.
LB Blair: They don't make file sizes big enough for how long we'll talk.
Eric Trinidad: That's awesome. Well, I think, you know, you're in a great spot here because we had Chad White earlier this season. He's telling us what to do on how to do good deliverability. We had, you know, Matt from Spamhaus come out and talk to us, tell us what not to do. And here you are telling us, well how to do it, what to look at, where to go.
LB Blair: Absolutely. Although, yeah going after, you know, Chad White. No pressure.
Jonathan Torres: You have the guy who wrote the book. It's always hard to do.
LB Blair: Yeah.
Jonathan Torres: He should have been the season finale. Yeah you're right.
Jonathan Torres: It's just a good way to set the tone, right? Like set the pace of, like, what it is, you know, because I think we all of us recognize, you know, if you've been in the industry for a little bit, you start looking at like, hey, look, these are the things that I got to pay attention to. And I know there's people that don't. That just have no clue. They're just like sending email blind and then those are the people that tend to get in trouble. So it's a matter of like, Hey, what are we focus in and what do we do? What do we look at? And I just think we've had some good conversations of that. So that's I know that's kind of where we're leading to. I just can't get over the fact. I know and I know we already said this going to be a story for another time, but the whole like almost getting shot thing like.
LB Blair: You guys got to tune in next season to find out.
Jonathan Torres: I love it.
Eric Trinidad: To be continued for sure.
Jonathan Torres: But then also like it's a thing where I feel like so many people are like email's life and death. Like if you don't get emails out, if you're not delivering, like it's not the worst thing. It's okay. We can make some corrections. You know, getting shot may not be the easiest thing to recover from. That's going to be a lot worse.
LB Blair: So I was a data analyst on the purchasing team at a large single box family owned firearms retailer, but it was a fairly large company. We had about a hundred employees at our store and they owned a couple other local ones as well, and also had probably 20,000 firearms on site at any given time, you know, processing a firearms transaction and signing your name on the dotted line. So, you know, hand it over to someone from the store. I mean, if you messed that up bad enough, you could go to jail, federal penitentiary for ten years. So I really appreciate being in a career where that's not a likelihood on the daily. I certainly learned lots of interesting things at that job and got to use my data analytics skills, which was a lot of fun, but ultimately I'm glad to be an email.
Eric Trinidad: Well, yeah. Well, you mentioned you're a data analyst. Like what was the data you were gathering? How did you analyze it? And how did that make you excited to like look at email income that way? Or did you choose email or did email choose you?
LB Blair: I mean I think honestly, a bit of both like email kind of found me and I just found that I really had an affinity for it, that I really liked it. I'll say this email is very instant gratification. Like it just keeps, you know, for my ADHD brain, it just keeps the dopamine flowing. Like one of my favorite clients has been an e-commerce conglomerate operating like eight stores. And I mean, it's just crazy push send and then you see the money start coming in. Like you can see the spike. You know, you go into your Google Analytics and you can see the spike in orders like it's nuts. I used to say as a data analyst that I had like 99 problems and formatting was about data formatting and normalization was about 98 of them. To be honest, I did a lot of gross, gross stuff barfing data back and forth between Excel and Open Base, which is the OpenOffice implementation of SQL, which like if you work in different SQL applications, they all have their own kind of special implementation of SQL. So some of the syntax is a little bit different. A lot of what I did is like a gross web scraping of data, because one of the things is for some particular brands and items that we were looking to purchase, there were a variety of vendors we could use. So I started the company on scraping the catalogs for, you know, particular manufacturers from the various different resellers we could buy from. And comparing who had the best price on the total set of what we were trying to buy for that manufacturer, whether it was best to get it direct from the manufacturer or whether it was best to get it from one of these resellers. Because typically and also I used to work for a comic shop, I did a bunch of random crap. You know what? Here's the challenge I'll issue to the email community. I bet I got the best hollandaise sauce game in the email community because I used to work as a chef. I actually briefly attended Chef School, though I did drop out because I already had a bachelor's degree and like one of the chef instructors was just like, Why are you here? He was like, I have no idea why you're here. You already have a degree. Like, just go get a job in a kitchen and you're going to learn as much as you would learn here. I've done a bunch of random things. I also used to work for a comic books company, so comic books and firearms are interesting because they're both kind of hobby industries. And the way the deals from the manufacturers work for those a lot of times is you get extras. It's like if you commit to buying 100, like of some whatever comic book issue was coming out, you would get like one special variant cover or you know, if you bought like a 1000, you get like five special variants and one super rare va riant cover. Firearms kind of would work the same. Like if you bought, like if you committed to X amount, you would get Y additional products added or whatever. Putting those things together and standardizing the data so that the data from all sources looked could be compared apples to apples to each other.
Jonathan Torres: And in comparison, I'm sure that there isn't an equivalent to exactly that incentive on the email side, because I'm sure if you send out, you know, 3000 emails, you're not going to get that one bonus email.
LB Blair: But well, I think there's a little bit of a corollary though, in the idea of the point of diminishing returns, because I also have an accounting degree and I have a Spanish degree as well. I'm still kind of fluent in Spanish, you know, I did all right in Spain at a inbox expo back in last December. So I was able to make my way around pretty good and order food and converse with, you know, anybody I needed to. So that was that was a good time. But yeah, there's this point, this idea of the point of diminishing return, which is, I think with email, especially with send volume, you know, sending more email is going to make you more money up until a certain point. And really, this is something you have to look at over a large period of time. Well, large I say about six months. One of the things that we've been working on, a Platonic Ideal is a software product to incorporate data science into email marketing analytics. Just because I feel, you know, email marketing generates just a metric ton of data. And I think a lot of people don't do nearly enough with it. There's so many ways to slice and dice it that can give you actionable insights on what you need to do, i.e. send more email, send less email. What is going to correlate with higher total revenue for your business is the important thing to figure out and find, you know, find that point of diminishing return and just take one little step inside of it. You know?
Jonathan Torres: Thats a great point. Yes. Agreed that when it comes to email, there's so much information. I mean, most people are tracking things within the email itself and that, you know, as far as the send, when you do a campaign, how many emails you sent out, how many people are clicking on the messages, how many people are opening the messages? How many people are, you know, actually getting those messages? And like, what is the complaint rate, the unsubscribe rate, the bounce rate? Like there's already a ton of data points within that. And I think that's one of the conversations we've been having a lot more recently. And I know, you know, we kind of discussed this a little bit in our work up to the episode when we're looking at the data for it and we're looking at the information like it shouldn't be this contained piece within just email itself. Like we need to really start looking at the outside of that. Like, what is the full customer profile that you should be looking at, whether you have a website, whether you're selling a product, whether you're doing anything else, where does that person appear in multiple spots, but then connecting it all together and using that like I think within those contained spaces, right? Like if the point of diminishing returns, like how many emails did you send out on a particular campaign? And then what is the reaction that happened all the way through your line of where that customer profile is, of all the customer profiles you have, which is a lot that can be a lot of data. I know that's intimidating to some people, but I think nowadays you have to like you really, really have to do that.
LB Blair: So my big soapbox, I'll say with the Apple Mail Privacy Protection thing is open rates should be taken directionally. Like what matters is how are they trending? That's one of the things I would say about deliverability is it's always about how is your reputation trending as a sender? Is it trending up? Is it trending down? And it's all about throttling your aggression in a lot of cases. You know, I got to say, as a deliverability professional, you're very frequently advising people to send less email. We actually tested this in a lot of cases, sending more email correlates to higher revenue. And whether that's, you know, what you have to kind of figure out inside of that, and we're still working on is, okay does sending more email to the same people make you know, sending multiple emails more email per period of time per week per month or whatever to the same segment or cohort. Does that make you more email or just hitting a wider cohort, you know, expanding your engagement criteria? Those are the things you work your way into through testing. And I would say also like my kind of scientific testing brain really loves email for the fact that you do have so much data to play with, especially, you know, with like larger senders. Like I've worked with numerous billion plus a month senders. And their biggest advantage that I see a lot of them not taking is the ability to test with a relatively small segment, maybe like 10,000 recipients per variant or per variable that you're trying to test, right? Well, more per variant of the variable you're trying to test. But, you know, like, I don't know, should this button be red or blue or purple, you know, things like that. I mean, I think there's just a crazy amount of things that you can actually use email for to get valuable feedback data into your business. I mean, whereas, you know, we've got all these companies out here that will send like Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey that will send surveys on your behalf where, you know, the interesting thing is there's a concept from like quantum physics that's like if you observe it, the behavior will change. Right. And, you know, especially if you tell somebody you're testing them, you may get different results than if you're able to test them without letting them know they're being observed and tested. Right and I think email can kind of serve as that opportunity. Now obviously, we want to be ethical with that. But, you know, you could send an email with maybe competing links almost like side by side and see, you know, which one do people click and what does that tell you about them? I think there's just a huge opportunity for that in email that a lot of people aren't taking to get that feedback data into their business.
Eric Trinidad: Are you seeing more and more of people being more open to do that now, or is just the opportunity to do that now is now available compared to like when you first started?
LB Blair: I definitely think there's some things like AMP for email is helping make that more viable, although granted you can also do this without AMP. I do think of it in part, you know, email as a discipline or email as a channel is one of the older marketing channels, push marketing channels that we have because email marketing kind of came first and then you had the rise. We have some SMS marketing and social media marketing and we've got, you know, mobile app push, browser push, things like that. But you know, email I would say is kind of the most mature channels. Been around the longest, thus the most complicated. So I think there's so many programs out there that are just trying to keep the train on the rails that they don't have, like they don't have the resources to engage in the more sophisticated testing and the kind of segmentation you have to do and random sampling and things like that you know. Yeah here's my argument. Every email team should have a data analyst or at least, you know, every email program of a suspicious size if you're cranking like a billion emails a month and email is one of your primary revenue drivers, like, you know, I worked for, you know, purely online, you know, storefront. That email was about a third of their revenue most days. You know, if it's that massively important to you, you got to invest in it and you got to invest in that testing and that data analytics to know what direction you need to keep going.
Jonathan Torres: My sentiment is that more people want to. More people are just like or there are people who are intimidated, I think, by it, by how much they would have to like dig through and look at. And, you know, and I know that's kind of like one of the things that your company's focused in really digging in through those metrics, digging into that information and kind of pulling that out. And I feel like that's opened up a whole other industry. I think overall, like just because, you know, before it was like cool, like I'll pay attention to the numbers that I have in front of me or what my ESP is providing me and I'll, you know, plug away at some of those or just look at the logs that they have. But I think now it has to go so much deeper, like where people are having to create legitimate databases to look at that information. So it's nice. It's nice to see like that gap is being filled by companies like Platonic Ideal that can really sort of look at that like it's I think that is so valuable. Like as far as a sender, as far as what you can do in sending, as far as what you can pay attention to, it just helps open up a whole bunch of doors on how to perceive the data that you have. You know, you're not just sending email like at the end of it. It's like we're all almost mini scientists, right? And some of us are better than others. And some of us, you know, can use a lot of help and really start to dig into it. Because I think once we get into those metrics, like it can just really improve things.
LB Blair: This would kind of be my argument for email teams need to be cross-disciplinary because like, you know, for example, if you've got ten me's on your team, not a single one of us is going to be able to design their way, graphic design their way out of a paper bag. You're going to have like black and white emails with like links. And it's like, you know what? It's black and white. You can read it. I don't know what else you need.
Jonathan Torres: Alright purple ones, I'll never say no to a purple button. Yeah, I think you need cross-disciplinary teams. And honestly, I'll say this, I think it's largely a matter of, you know, staffing resources and brain space and time to think about these things. Because I've personally never met an email marketer that didn't have at least like 50 things screaming for their attention. And at least five of them are like dumpster fire priorities. You know, like the building's about to catch on fire because the dumpster outside is on fire. You know.
Jonathan Torres: That's a great way to look at it.
Eric Trinidad: But what are the things yall are working on currently?
LB Blair: Yeah, so we're ultimately what we're working our way towards. Yeah. Is incorporating a more scientific approach to email marketing and leveraging the data that clients have to help them make better decisions that are backed by, you know, statistical evidence, such as, you know, for example, we have an application that like we can analyze like the past six months or more of your email marketing history. And as long as you have the okay, this was my total send volume on this date and this was my total revenue on this date from email or even just total shop revenue because it's just identifying a correlation between activity, you know, column A and column B. Is it a positive correlation or a negative correlation? You graph it out and find the line of best fit. Some data science magic happens that I am not qualified to explain. I found the algorithm, but I wasn't the one to implement it and I was like, this sounds right enough. I'm going to let somebody smarter than me on this vector take a look at it. You know, it pretty well works. We can also look at things like, okay, if we compare your open volume to your revenues, does driving more opens actually correlate to more revenue? And if it doesn't, that can indicate, okay, maybe something's going wrong with your subject lines like this brings me to the best subject line I ever had an email client send was just "oops and the pancake emoji" and it got a ridiculous open rate. It was like a newsletter and they got a ridiculous open rate because oops is like just about the best subject line you can send. But does it entice your core buyers? Does it just drive interest? And if it drives interest, does that interest translate to things that affect your bottom line? And that's what we're trying to figure out. And the same with clicks, right? Like if we look at your click volume versus your revenue volume and then we find that, well, more clicks don't necessarily correlate to higher revenue for you, that could indicate you have a site experience problem. So the email team is doing their job, they're getting the opens, they're driving the clicks, people are getting to the page and they're crashing out because potentially there's something wrong with the site experience on, you know, for them. You know, it's really looking at the data and then talking about what conclusions we can draw from that. I almost think of it as like putting the data in a kaleidoscope and then just turning it and seeing all the different ways that you can view it. And some of them are useful and some of them are not. So, you know, we kind of spend our time trying to filter out the useless ones for you and just serve you up with useful ones. I would say, you know, other things that are really important to us, you know DMARC as well, like helping clients secure their infrastructure. Cybersecurity is a huge hobby interest of mine and I've actually had the opportunity to stop, I think at least like three hacking attempts involved with email. One was at a company I was working for, one of our web forums started getting list bombed from IP's in China, pushing through a bunch of qq mail and you know 136 or 139.com email addresses. Our poor SDR's we're just like, you know, crying because they have like 50,000 emails in their inbox. And what people don't realize is that this is part of a hacking strategy to essentially flood the inboxes so that those mailboxes fill up until they start producing mailbox full bounces. And then they can hack that account tied, you know, whatever account accesses they have that might be tied to financial accounts, they can hack those accounts and the recipient never gets the "Hey, did you log in from halfway across the world? Hey, did you mean to, like, you know, transfer all of your money from your bank account to the Cayman Islands", stuff like that? You never get those notifications because your mailbox is full. You know, if you don't have your email intake infrastructure secured, that can impair your deliverability because there are just web crawlers out there constantly looking for vulnerable forms. If you, you know, gosh, here's my rant of the day, you know, at least put reCAPTCHA on your site. I think version three is the current one, a couple of the other two have been cracked. So don't do that. You know, the latest version of reCAPTCHA and it doesn't even impact the site experience for people. It just helps, you know, detect it's obviously not as stringent as the, you know, pick out all the images with bicycles in them. But it's, you know, really I'm kind of fond of cybersecurity. It's mostly about not being the easiest prey around. You know, it's the old adage of, I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun at least one other person.
Eric Trinidad: Yeah.
LB Blair: And so, yeah, list bombing. And then also I've had, you know, I had another client, their web hosting platform got cracked. I was literally about to deliver their audit and they got cracked and things went absolutely off the rails. The hacker used, uploaded their own list, started sending it not from the client's ESP, but from whatever mail app that, you know, comes with a lot of, you know, bailout plug into the website and was sending it from the A record IP address, which is really bad because that means that, you know, if you get your A record IP on Chrome, on Spamhaus, then Chrome is going to like throw crazy warnings whenever you try to visit. Anybody even tries to visit that page. Yeah, it was ultimately the solution was just enable two-factor authentication. One of the employees had a keylogger on their computer, so every time they reset the password, hacker got right back in. This poor client ended up even when sending from a different platform, their ISP, but using that domain they ended up hard blocked from Gmail for four months over that well, largely because I was not involved with stopping the hacker first and they told me it was fixed. So I reached out to Gmail for them for remediation and said, Hey, we fixed the hack, it's all good. Now can you let us through? And it worked for a minute until the hacker got back in. And then, you know, finally we kind of figured it out and I said, Hey, you know what? Just put 2FA on it, because if they get access to your phone, you got all kinds of problems. Probably. You got problems beyond email if they've cracked your phone. So if this doesn't work, I don't know what there is to help you, but thankfully it worked.
Jonathan Torres: Yeah. And that's kind of where I was kind of heading with things is, is, you know, like we've definitely talked a lot about security and stuff like that and make sure like on the user level or the person interacting with the platform. I think we've covered a whole lot of that. Maybe it's a future episode topic where we can get a lot more in depth, but I'm very one of the other subjects that we haven't really talked about is the result of that. Like what does it look like after the fact? Whenever you start looking at the data of what happened before, where people were at, like with all the things they were building up and then, you know, post something like that, like how does that, what does that landscape look like? If you had the experience, if, you know, have you ever been part of that where somebody's been, you know, side A and side B of where that is? Like how did that result in? Like, what is it? You know, what do you see? Like whenever you start looking at that data as it comes through.
LB Blair: It definitely depends on a lot of factors. I've seen it at its worst and I've seen it once it's repaired again, and I've been there throughout the process for at least a couple of clients. One of them, like I said, was the compromised web host. The other was the email intake form with no captcha on it, firing off a welcome email. In both cases, it really hurt their Gmail reputation because the way that the email ecosystem really works is, you know, the mailbox providers. Yeah, I would say almost the way they look at it is, you know, they're doing you a favor by accepting your that whatever you try to send them, because ultimately it costs them some nominal amount to store your emails on their server and it costs less to put them in the spam folder than it does the inbox because typically the spam folder deletes after 10 to 30 days and it costs even less for them to just look at the incoming IP address or domain to go. I don't like that bounce. Because they waste minimal processing cycles on it. You know, it's kind of like always follow the money. Where are the costs and where are the revenues? If you develop a reputation for poor security, I would say mailbox providers feel it is incumbent upon senders to. Provide the security of their web infrastructure, their sending infrastructure, all of that. If you don't show mailbox providers that you're serious about security, they may start blocking your traffic for security reasons, or they may deprioritize it. Moving from the inbox to the spam folder and then kind of test you there and see how it goes. But yeah, in both cases it took a little bit of time to get the sender back out of that. You had Google Postmaster Tool set up the reputation. Absolutely. Just tanked it to the point then that the client was getting hard blocked in at least one of the cases. You know, like I said, in that case, it took four months to get them back out of it because we had kind of a couple of false starts, like we said, Oh, all right, it's fixed and it wasn't. And then we kind of had to come back to the Google postmaster team with our tail between our legs, like, hey, we said it was fixed last time, but I promise, I promise, promise promises fixed this time. And I guess I would say that would be a little piece of advice I have for people. You know, I found when reaching out to postmasters like, you know, Hotmail or Outlook.com and Gmail and Yahoo, all of that, write them a little bit of a novel. Tell them what the issue was, and then tell them, you know, how you're owning it and what you're doing to fix it or what you have done to fix it and how you're going to prevent it from occurring in the future. And I think that's the same advice for block lists as well. Like if you get on a block list, you know, approach the block list with a bit of contrition instead of be angry, like, "Oh, why did you put my IP or my domain on a blocklist and now I can't get anywhere. And this is all your fault. Why do you hate me?" That's like, you know, they're going based on data, like, we don't hate you. The data says that you got a problem. You know, security is important. And I think that's why emails so complicated because there are so many players in the ecosystem, there are the mailbox providers and there's a host of those. And then there are spam filters that can either be integrated into those mailbox providers or sit in front of them. And then there are, you know, those spam filters can be customized, you know, in the B2. B landscape. You know, you may be dealing with customized spam filters. And then, you know, there's also the blocklists that feed information into the spam filters. And then there are spam trap aggregators that feed information into the blacklists. Like there's, you know, there's a whole ecosystem, this anti spam community that really does not want spam and cold email to exist. And they also are trying to protect the security of all of the users, you know, all the people in their channel, you know, because if somebody has a bad experience with Gmail, then they might abandon their Gmail inbox and go somewhere else. And Google ultimately doesn't want people doing that. So, you know, they want to maintain their subscriber base. And part of how they do that is by providing for their security, by blocking traffic that they feel may be insecure for whatever reason. So you've got to make sure, you know, you got TLS encryption on any emails that you're sending. 1.3, please, not the older versions because at least 1.0 and maybe 1.1 have been deprecated. Yeah. You got to make sure all of your secure. There's so many things email that you have to make sure are firing on all cylinders you know your authentication is set up properly, your email intake infrastructure is secured. All of those things like they're just, you know, so many things you really have to take care of to do email right. And definitely the higher a scale you send out, the more scrutiny you're under.
Jonathan Torres: Yeah, it definitely is one of those things where like, if you're going to put yourself out there as a large sender like you're going to be out there, you're going to be exposed to a lot of that stuff. And I mean, and granted, like that's exactly what they need to be doing because that's just more risk for them the more people are sending out. So it makes sense. I like that you mentioned it because we just talked to Matthew Stith, not too long ago about, you know, like he's the liason for Spamhaus. And yes, there's a lot of algorithms and there's a lot of machine learning and there's a lot of things that are going in automation. But behind it, there's humans too. And it's good to hear from them, it's good to talk to them and let them know what's going on. So, you know, being able to tell that story about what happened and how you're addressing is like super important. I know, for him and their team. And, you know, everybody who's doing that kind of work is just you need to know. You can't just blanketly trust everybody in the world because that's going to come back to bite you. So you do have to do it with a little bit of scrutiny.
LB Blair: And I would say it even comes down to the people that you hire. I mean, a story I heard numerous times that I've seen in action at like B2B companies, you know, they'll get a new sales rep. That sales rep might just have their own list, but they maintain they're like, all right, I'm going to upload it to my company's ESP and I'm going to blast my list. This is like, you know, people Bob maybe has talked to once ever or just found in a garbage can somewhere and starts. And you know, depending on the size of the list and the amount of traffic, you know, the proportional amount of traffic it represents for you can absolutely adversely impact your reputation. You know, if you're on a shared IPs, you get blocklisted. Somebody from the ESP reaching out to slap your hand or, you know, suspend your account, whatever. Having a successful email marketing program is I mean, a little bit like, you know, Elon Musk trying to get a rocket to Mars with people on it. Like there's a lot that can go wrong there. Lots and lots of point of failure between you and lots of involved parties between you and your recipient and convincing them to take whatever the call to action is, whether that's to convert, whether that's to donate, you know, whether it's just to consume some content, you know, buy an article of clothing, whatever.
Jonathan Torres: It's kind of like I think the last point I know we're kind of getting close to time on here, but keeping that in mind, I guess you're looking at the data as you're looking to what you're trying to analyze within your emails. Like I guess it's nice to have X, right? I mean, for so long it's been like, Oh, you've got to have the opens. And that's kind of like the centerpiece to focus on. But now it's a matter of like, what? What is that? Emails intent, like, what are you trying to do with that message? And then is that result happening when you look at the data as it's coming back to you? Because yeah, opens are great like it's what drove the industry for so long. But now it's like, you know, what am I asking people to do? And then what is actually happening as a result when I start looking at all the information? And then how does that compare from the last email you sent to the one before that and the one before that and the one before that? So it's constant adjusting, constant paying attention, but it's kind of the world that we live in, especially, you know, it's trying to get email out and try to getting email out the right way. So here we are.
LB Blair: Yeah, it's all about analyzing the data that you're getting back and setting up meaningful tests that can tell you something about your consumer base and how they behave in the email channel. And definitely one of the reasons I would say that analyzing the data is super important and I found this in like warmings and migrations as well, an opportunity to drop one of my favorite quotes of all time from the great Mike Tyson. "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." And I feel that, as someone that's broken their nose twice. Very relevant. You can have all kind of plans until you get punched in the face, but warming's will do that to you. Like warmings will do that. You'll be sunny. You'll be like going along, you know, day one, day two, day three. But I don't know, day five. Microsoft might decide to start putting you in spam. And you've got to be looking at the data and you've got to adjust the plan because the longer you let mail go in to spam and this is why I believe that, you know, monitoring your deliverability and paying attention to these metrics and looking at the data the right way and slicing and dicing it a few different ways, such as, you know, all right, what is my open rate by? What's my open rate by recipient domain? You know, what's my open rate, Gmail versus Hotmail versus Yahoo! versus AOL versus, you know, Comcast, whatever. What's my open rate at each of these different mailbox providers? And is there a substantial deviation between any of them from the aggregate, you know, from the average that could indicate that you have a problem there or it could indicate that you have an outlier for success. I had a client once that was older women's fashion brand, and we found that AOL subscribers performed from a revenue perspective, revenue per recipient perspective, way better than any of the other ones. And I was like, hey! You know, I looked into it. Can you buy ad space with AOL still? Yeah, absolutely can. And for this brand, it makes sense. And that might sound like it was absolutely crazy pants advice in 2020, but for this brand, it made sense. And that's you know, the big thing I would say is always compare yourself to yourself. People are always asking me and other deliverability professionals, I'm sure you all heard this a thousand times, what's a good open rate? What's a good click rate? What's a good click to open rate? What's a good bounce rate? Things like that. All of it. You know, the best thing comparing yourself against yourself. I mean, yes, industry benchmarks are important to know. You know, am I above or below the average? But you also need to look at your own performance and always be striving for incremental growth. And data will tell you, you know, how to prioritize that and where you can find it.
Jonathan Torres: Really good advice. I like it. It's a great point to end on.
Jonathan Torres: Well, L.B., we really do appreciate you coming out and hanging with us today. If people want to learn more or see what you got going on, where can they find you and find more information about you?
LB Blair: Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. L.B. Blair. You can find me at platonicideal.com. Find me on email geeks. I think I still have Loribeth Blair there, so that works too. Very active on LinkedIn. Probably one of the better places to hit me up. And I'm always happy to talk shop, answer questions, you know, help people with their SPF records, all that good stuff. Because I think one of my favorite things about the email community is like, you know, we've always got each other's backs, you know, like, it's not a super cutthroat like industry. Like I've had, you know, people who are nominal competitors be like, Hey, come on out to dinner with me, you know, and my clients and hang out with us and stuff. Whereas I don't feel like you see that in a lot of other industries, but I just feel like the email marketing community is so good. I don't have it on today, but I've still got one of my favorite t-shirts. Email is not dead. Nice red T-shirt with the white letters. It's great. Those are awesome. It was awesome to see yall at EEC, walking around with the whole crew decked out in them.
Eric Trinidad: Well, hopefully you'll be able to see us more out there, out in the field. But if you want to learn more about our show as well and listen to more podcasts, Thomas can you tell the fine folks where they can find us as well.
Thomas Knierien: Yeah, folks, you can find us over at mailgun.com/resources/podcast, and you can hear some more from our two host, Jonathan Torres and Eric Trinidad, and more upcoming guests coming down the line. I guess the phrase of the week yall. Compare yourself to yourself. I love that so I'm going to keep that for myself to keep going.
Eric Trinidad: And oops pancakes. Well right on LB, thank you so much again. Appreciate you and your time. Enjoy the rest of your day, everybody. Until next time.
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