The Only Influencers Blog

The top thought leaders in email marketing share their insights and thoughts.


Personalization is under attack. Not the act of personalizing messages to be more relevant and valuable – just the word itself. A recent Buzzfeed article reports that brands like Walmart, Macys and Gap are eschewing the term "personalization" in favor of "relevancy." Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, with the amount of contextually relevant data now available to marketers, the term personalization seems dated, limited and even "invasive and robotic," according to the article. Second, brands are very aware of not crossing the line between relevant and creepy. 

Deep down, consumers likely suspect that brands have a lot of their personal information and are using it to market to them, but they don't want to be reminded of it through overly obvious ploys. Even the word "personalize" leads consumers to think of "personal data," which they've been trained to guard closely to avoid being the victims of identity theft. As a result, most marketers today are more likely to talk about relevance than personalization. And it's not just because "personalization" has become tainted.

Relevance Replaces Personalization

The idea behind relevance is that it goes beyond simple personalization. For many marketers, personalization is linked to the largely static data found in CRM systems, which is often used without careful regard of whether the data provides value to the recipient. Recent research referenced in "The Forrester Wave: Email Marketing Vendors, Q3 2014" shows that 85% of marketers are using personalization, but more contextually relevant tactics like open-time personalization and microsegment targeting still have limited adoption.


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In 2006, I raised over $1 Million with the New York Angels

At that time that was the largest amount ever raised through the New York Angels group, and as far as I know, it still is the record. In this post, I'll be exploring the process of raising funds through an institution like the New York Angels. 

The Idea:

When I read various entrepreneurial forums, one of the big questions is "How do you get an idea for a business?" In my case, the idea was literally given to me by one of my clients. They needed a competitive intelligence tool for email. At the time, back in 2003, no such technology existed, and so I decided to develop it myself. 

I called the company Email Data Source (now, which began life in my garage as the first competitive intelligence tool for email marketers. By 2005, we were an 8 member team, profitable, with offices in Manhattan and with about 70 brands as clients. 

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Tagged in: The Marketing Life

Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to help build out an entirely new attrition program. An attrition program tries to get customers who have left your product or service to come back – and it goes by a different name in every organization I’ve ever worked with.

Attrition programs are hard to build, just like any other program, and our fabulous team has had our fair share of stumbling blocks. List fails, organizational oddities, you name it, we’ve dealt with it. Along the way, I realized our approach would help build just about any program.

Here are 6 steps to success, no matter the obstacles, when you need to build a new marketing program:

1. Set goals

Goals are pretty important, mostly because you can’t tell everyone how well you did without a goal to hold up against your results. You definitely can’t turn your spectacular fails into hard-won learning opportunities if you don’t have a goal to point to. So it’s a good idea to have a goal.

Pick a metric that is easy to agree on and which you know you can measure. Then set a target that you know you can hit. Businesses are more impressed by teams that can blow away low targets than they are by teams that barely miss (or make) a tough target. Set the bar low. This is probably the last time you’ll be able to do that. Set it as low as you can, the better to exceed it by a wide margin.

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Tagged in: The Marketing Life

Posted by on in Email Design

Did you know that sometimes your users will open email on a mobile device? I know, it was a shock to me too. But here we are in 2015, and after at least 5 “the year(s) of mobile email”, we’ve mostly got past the idea that we have to at least do something to consider this.

There’s plenty of stats and reasons why mobile is important – we won’t focus on those here (though, for the record, it’s around 55% opening on mobile for the average audience). However I have seen a bit of misinformation and confusion around mobile email design lately, so I thought it’d be useful to look at the three main approaches to improve the experience for mobile users.

Spoiler alert: the best approach is to adopt all three.

Mobile Friendly

As a base level, it’s a great idea to incorporate basic mobile friendliness into your design.

What we’re trying to achieve here is essentially a ‘desktop’ email, but one that looks ok and is still usable if appears zoomed out on a mobile device.

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In 2012, after 6 years in strategic planning at various digital agencies, I switched coasts (East to West) and became a client-side digital marketer. 

Lately, I have been reflecting on the transition - and what other consultants and strategists could take away from that perspective to make clients (like me) more successful.

On landing, I initially tried to operate like a consultant, looking to identify and (helpfully) skewer inefficient and ineffective practices to turn them into best-in-class strategies.  What I found, was that the painstaking deliberation and validation of recommendations was out the window.  Also out the window: perfecting a creative brief, my army of copywriters, producers, and other support team members. If something was going to happen, I’d be the one to do it (or borrow the resources to do so), but I wouldn’t have time to write a 20-slide deck or a detailed SOW.

This was liberating and exhilarating – I stopped waiting for client approval and went and slayed dragons.  I formed deeper relationships with some publishers, entered into beta programs, and tried to use our media budget as leverage.  I learned over time to combine ideation, and execution/measurement into as compact a process as possible.  Here’s a great idea, please buy it, now I’ll go do it, and tell you how it went. Then the deck gets written - after the project wraps up.

Over time, I’ve seen myself fall into the same patterns that used to terrify me as a consultant.  The last-minute rescheduling’s, email sent at odd hours, the requests for impossibly precise case studies and benchmarks. I also pride myself on being as good a partner to my agencies and vendors as I wanted my former clients to be: transparent, open with metrics and strategies, constructively critical.

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