The Only Influencers Blog

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

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On this day before Thanksgiving, I am reminded just how thankful I am for the email marketing industry that has been the center of my life for the last 15 years. I was extremely fortunate to be involved early in the industry and I was able to play a significant role in the creation of the Email Intelligence Industry. And it all started in my garage. 

Back in 2003, my company at the time, Emerging Interest LLC, was a matchmaker between advertisers/agencies and the technology vendors who wanted to reach them. One day one of my clients asked me to find them a specific vendor. Someone who could provide competitive intelligence and monitor their competitors email marketing campaigns. After researching all the traditional competitive intelligence companies, I discovered no one was covering the email space. There were companies that could supply your competitors print campaigns, TV ads, Radio spots, direct mailings and even banner ads, but no one supplied emails. Why, I thought? 

And that is when I decided to do it myself. The problem, I decided, was that there was no easy way to automate the process of collecting the data. My big idea? Why not sign up for every email list out there. In fact, why not create a "virtual panel" of fake people, each with a specific demographic, and then sign up multiple times to the same list with different demographic information. And that is what I did. 

Soon I had another problem. How to organize and archive all these emails I was collecting. 

I decided to organize them by category and brand. Every night I would process all the days emails and every day I would be on the phones selling the tool. We relaunched the company as Email Data Source and I became the first company in the email intelligence space. 

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Tagged in: Email Intelligence

Posted by on in Insights from the Influencers

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at an Atlanta Interactive Marketing (AiMA) event on must-have marketing automation tools. Marketing is about getting the attention ofthe people who matter most to your business, and what makes it possible to reach these people is the data we have about them. No matter how you compile it, the data you have about customers is what drives your automation. What I wanted to share at this event was that, regardless of which automation platform you use and which processes you have in place, your automation efforts will never be as effective as they could be if you’re not automating the data that drives these processes. Marketing automation isn’t complete without data automation.

The idea behind marketing automation is that you can use technology to effectively generate, nurture and maintain leads through multiple channels. Marketers use automation tools in combination with their data to automate a majority of communications. Based on this data, tasks and processes are automatically put in place so that every lead is targeted in a personalized, yet efficient way, hopefully reducing human error and making order out of chaos. Automation is defined as ‘the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically, without human interaction’. Automation systems rely on data to effectively send communications and keep processes in order. The problem here, is that at a certain point automation becomes less effective due to a natural trend to disorder. As data ages, it becomes less accurate and more prone to error. What marketing automation doesn’t take into consideration is the entropy of your email data.

It’s often said that entropy is an expression of disorder, or randomness in a system. With disorder comes the inevitable: things will eventually fall apart, and the email you send is not immune to that. The data on your list doesn’t start out in bad condition, but over time its quality starts to diminish. This is only natural and if left unkept, your data starts to degrade due to the silent killers on your list - like bounces, complainers, the unengaged, and spam traps. Maintenance is the only way to fight disorder, and when the emails in your database are dying, you end up with a list full of zombies. The deteriorating data on your list is making automation less sufficient by affecting deliverability, sender reputation, and your overall marketing results.

When marketers focus solely on automation and ignore data entropy, its assumed that the entire marketing process is on autopilot, requiring no human interception. Automation tools make decisions and assumptions about your customers based on this data, so why is it being left to rot? Tasks and processes are being automated, but no one is focused on automating deliverability and compliance maintenance. If a fourth of your email data is lingering around like zombies, you can assume that the email stats you track regularly are skewed by that amount too. Why are marketers putting so much time and effort into automating tasks, if there’s no focus on maintaining data that drives decisions and actions made by these tools?

Your data deserves as much attention and maintenance as your daily tasks do. The zombies on your list are silent killers, and they will eventually start to take over - making it harder to gain control of data that’s still thriving. The data on your email list has the potential to change on a daily basis, but maintaining it doesn’t require killing off zombies one-by-one. Instead, the process of weeding out deteriorating individuals can be automated too. You should be automating the ability to reach customers, as well as the ability to market to them. What marketers have done in the past is rely on the email service provider to remove bounced emails, get problematic lists cleaned up (if required), and ignore the inevitable entropy that’s slowing killing the quality of their data.

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Tagged in: Automation

Posted by on in Insights from the Influencers

Whenever possible, one should focus on removing fragilizing interdependencies** rather than imposing additional structure and activity that will only increase the fragility of the system as a whole.


--Nassim Taleb, Rupert Read and Yaneer Bar-yam; from the paper, ‘Precautionary Principle’


It is undeniable that we live in a complex environment. Our tools have not made life simpler and actually have made us far more fragile. By tools I mean everything from computerized cars to smart phones. My wife bought an alarm clock and you practically needed a PhD in engineering to set the darn thing. A friend of mine has a 12-year-old son who cannot tell time with a regular clock face…he prefers digital of course.

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Tagged in: General Marketing

“You are all the same”, the words uttered by brands to ESPs, the words that ESPs don’t like to hear.

But is it true?

So here’s some advice for brands to answer this.

I know the situation from both sides, from working within an ESP and over the last four years on the other side of the fence. As an independent email consultant I’ve used a dozen of the top ESP solutions in the course of my work.

At first sight the ESPs do indeed look similar. They all offer content setup and editing, data management, segmentation, split testing, reporting, triggers, auto-responders or automation features.

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Tagged in: ESPs

Posted by on in Meet The Influencers


Dela Quist is the Founder of Alchemy Worx

1. How did you get started in Email Marketing?

Before becoming involved in the digital world my background was in publishing and advertising. In other words, using content to provide marketers with an opportunity to showcase their products and services to our readers. As I saw it the content on the pages of the magazine or newspaper acted as the interface between the readers and the advertisers. So when I first became aware of the internet I was immediately struck by the realization that, the main driver of success in the world of publishing both on and off line was and still is the size and quality of the readership or subscriber base and those are predominantly determined by the quality of the content – does that sound familiar? Added to that was the fact the interface between marketer and customer was interactive so I was tremendously excited by the possibilities of this new world.

Soon after that an opportunity came up to join Excite, heading up their sales efforts in Europe and I jumped at the chance. During my time there I began and was heavily involved with an initiative in collaboration with a UK Government agency to provide each UK school child with a free, web-based email address for life and the rest as they say is history.

2. Tell us about your current role and what a typical day is like.

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Tagged in: Dela Quist Interviews