Meet the Influencers: Loren McDonald

Editors Note: Today we start a new series of blog posts to introduce and interview the amazing members of Only Influencers. We  start with Loren McDonald, someone I've known for as long as I've been in the industry.

1. How Did you Get Started in Email Marketing

I was first exposed to email marketing back in 1999 when I was working in the Audience Development practice of USWeb/CKS, where the email marketing practice reported to me. While I had little direct involvement with email at that time, I could see its future potential.

In 2001 as CMO of NetStruxr, a commercial real estate marketplace, I really got my feet wet in email marketing. I used my first ESP, the GotMarketing platform, and I quickly fell in love with the immediacy and measurability of email marketing. What then really hooked me on the potential of email is when my scheduled 15-minute meeting with one of our VCs went about an hour as I blew his mind with the detailed reporting and results from our email marketing program. I knew then when I saw how excited that VC was, that email marketing was my future.

After Netstruxr failed (not because of email), I started my own email and search consultancy where I worked with a variety of clients, from retailers to banks implementing email programs, including a lot of list rental campaigns. During this period I worked with a few different ESPs and in early 2003 joined EmailLabs as VP of Marketing, where my role as an industry "evangelist" began to take off.

2. Tell Us a bit about your Current Role and what a typical Day is Like.

My current role is VP, Industry Relations which translated means I am a marketing evangelist. My role is to promote Silverpop's (now an IBM Company) vision, products and services to the market - including clients, prospects, partners, influencers and fellow employees. But to do it through education - the sharing of best practices, ideas, case studies, tips and research - what I've always called "thought leadership," but we now call "content marketing." Besides all of the speaking and writing, I'll meet with several clients (and some prospects) each year reviewing their email programs and providing recommendations to take their program up a notch.

A typical day of course starts with checking email - work and personal accounts and of course to see what conversation has already started on Only Influencers. After that my day might include:

  • Responding to a request from a sales rep or relationship manager for slides or ideas to help with a new business opportunity or questions from an existing client.
  • Most days involve something with Powerpoint - usually working on slides for an upcoming Webinar or presentation; or tweaking some slides for a co-worker to use in one of their presentations.
  • And if I'm not working on a presentation, I might actually be presenting one on a Webinar or at an event or client meeting. I deliver about 40 presentations each year.
  • Unless I'm completely slammed, I'll try to post content to social networks and Only Influencers and engage in some conversations.
  • I always have at least 2-3 articles, blogs, white papers and tips sheets in progress - so I'll likely either be editing or drafting something - or jotting down notes and ideas for a new post in Evernote.
  • I'll have a call with my writer mapping out the details of an upcoming blog, article or white paper.
  • I'll post content and answer questions on Salesforce Chatter, our internal community.
  • There is a real good chance that I'll write up a description for a Webinar or speaker proposal that has a pending deadline.
  • Provide feedback to folks in our product teams on an upcoming new feature or proposed revision.
  • Have a call with a technology partner or client or participate in an industry association conference call.
  • Because of all the travel I do, there is a good chance I'll have to book a flight and hotel and do some travel expenses.
  • And because I work from home, I'll try to head down to my local Peet's Coffee shop when I can, put on my headphones and try to knock off some dreaded tasks without interruption. 

3. What do you see as the Future of Email Marketing?

Firstly, I think the future of email marketing will continue to shine brightly. While mobile is the latest hot channel, email marketing continues to be the channel that provides both great value to customers and subscribers and tremendous ROI for brands.

For me, we already are seeing the future of email marketing and that is a combination of data, especially behavioral data, marketing automation and real-time delivery. Broadcast email will never go away, it provides an efficient and effective means of reaching your entire database. But the future of the channel, and where most marketers I work with are heading is to leverage behavioral data and predictive analytics to better target individuals with the right product, right offer at the right time. This sounds trite and something we've been saying for the last decade, but the difference now is that the marketing automation and data management technology has now become affordable to almost all marketers.

So the future challenge for brands to adopting more sophisticated programs is not the cost of technology, but rather processes and change management. This switch to more automation-based programs requires a different mindset, skills and internal processes. Manual, broadcast programs are based on a calendar and the products and services you want to sell on any given day or week. When you combine behavioral data and marketing automation, each individual customer's actions and inactions determine their "individual calendar." This change will also require that many marketing teams will need to reinvent themselves to be more data-driven, analytical and process, rather than production oriented.

Finally, email will increasingly not be thought of as a silo channel, but one that actually helps drive the success of other channels - increasing usage of mobile apps, driving people into stores, increasing social advocacy, reducing calls to call centers and beyond. Email will remain the glue that binds a lot of successful marketing programs together.

4. Why Should Anyone Choose Email Marketing as a Career?

First, you should choose a career in email marketing because it is where all the cool cats are at! But seriously, email marketing touches so many facets of marketing from database/CRM, data segmentation and analysis, customer acquisition, testing, creative, coding, integrations with multiple technologies and other channels, working with multiple vendors, reporting and ROI analysis and more. This breath of functional areas and skills gives you a great opportunity to explore which areas of marketing most interest you and where you excel - and this enables you to then choose either a focused path in email marketing or on to a broader role in marketing. Lastly, while email marketing used to be referred to as a "boring old workhouse" - we know now that regardless of what hot new channels emerge, email marketing seems to become more, not less, relevant.