Only Influencers: Email Marketing’s Exclusive Club

I’m proud to say I’m a member of a rather exclusive online club known as “Only Influencers.” This list/site/community focuses on email marketing, but also discusses other channels such as social and further expansion is planned. Over the past year I’ve been a member, it has repeatedly provided me with great information and insight marketing leaders and visionaries.

I wanted to share this great resource with you and so I emailed Bill McCloskey, the founder, and asked him a few questions.

 

 

Can you give us a quick history of Only Influencers?

Bill: Back around 2001 I started a small listserv for people in the digital marketing community called the One Hundred Club. It was really a who’s who of digital marketing at the time. When I founded and launched Email Data Source (now eDataSource), it made sense to create a separate list that focused on email marketing, so in 2005 I started The Inbox Insiders, which was an invitation only list, again, for the who’s who of email marketing.

I’ve always been interested in the idea of community and The Inbox Insiders really became the go to community for professionals in the email marketing industry. For instance, the EEC (Email Experience Council now run by the DMA) had its origins on the Inbox Insiders via member Jeanniey Mullin.

In August of 2010, I was itchy to start a new venture and I wanted to explore some of the ideas I had on community building and I decided to launch Only Influencers, a private invitation only network for digital marketers. I started building the site in the fall of 2010 and by February 2011 I was ready to flick the switch and OI became a full time membership funded organization. It was important to me that, as part of the business model, I NOT take any advertising or sponsorship money, which I feel eventually corrupts any type of trade organization. OI is 100% membership funded. The members pay a small fee (currently $20 a month or $200 a year) to participate. I work full time on behalf of the members and their needs.

Can you give us a snapshot of your members?

Bill: Well, I think the best way to answer that question is to direct you to our testimonials page where you can see that snapshot and read what the members think. You’ll find member testimonials here.

What’s in it for paying members? What kind of features and information will they get out of it?

Bill: When we evolved from The Inbox Insiders to Only Influencers, I added multiple lists so besides the dedicated Only Email list, we have lists that act as an early warning system for systemic ISP outages (Only Delivery), lists with a social media focus (Only Social), meetup lists for all the major industry trade shows (Only EEC, etc), and we have a website were we archive the last 6 years of discussions, archive white papers, reports, case studies. I’ve started something called The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing that I’m using as an organizing construct for all the discussions that have happened and the things the Insiders and now The Influencers are interested in on a daily basis.

We also run a job placement service (at no cost to the employer or employee) and we post new jobs each Monday in a newsletter (Jobs Monday). And every Tuesday and Thursday I send out a newsletter called The 411 which is a listing of all the articles written that week that are worth reading, along with a summary of each article and my personal rating on whether it is a “must read”, “worthwhile”, or for newbies only. In addition we provide a salary guide that is drawn from polls of the Influencers themselves.

We are about to launch local chapters around the world for monthly meetings and meetups focused on education and networking. We’ll shortly be announcing chapters in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Boulder, and San Diego.

Is it suited for beginners or strictly for seasoned vets of the marketing industry?

Bill: It was important to me that, in launching Only Influencers, it not become a list for just the people who are currently Influencers in the industry, but for those who want to be Influencers and are just starting out. I wanted it to be a place to educate the next generation of digital marketers and provide a safe haven and a mentoring environment for those coming up. Besides the superstars who are part of the list, we have many people who have come from other disciplines and are suddenly thrust into email and social media responsibilities and need to get up to speed fast. They can ask their questions, behind closed doors, to the largest brain trust of email marketers ever assembled.

Does it focus primarily on email marketing? Do you cover content marketing in general and social marketing?

Bill: Coming off the Inbox Insiders, there is a decidedly email focus currently, but that will change as we expand. I’m a big believer in the crossing the chasm idea of creating value for a select niche before expanding elsewhere, so I wanted to make sure that the email marketers were taken care of first and that OI worked for them. But we are expanding into social media more directly and mobile, both of which are strongly connected to email marketing.

What sets Only Influencers apart from free groups on sites such as LinkedIn or Yahoo for example?

Bill: The free groups are great and serve a good function. But I’m a big believer that people treasure the things they pay for. OI is a “curated” list in the sense that every member has to be approved by me and that I’m 100% focused on the membership. The members also know and trust me to only bring on the right people to the list: those that are serious about the future of digital marketing and making it better.  There is a lot of behind the scenes work done to help each member succeed in their careers and I spend a good part of my time helping individual members with whatever they need: finding a new job, questions about their careers, or just a sympathetic ear to listen to. And I think the proof is in the pudding; people talk about issues they would not talk about in more public forums. And they talk a lot: 60-70 posts a day are not uncommon when there is a hot topic to discuss like the recent data breaches that occurred. It is a very active community.

Is membership limited only to North America? Will European marketers get value from being members?

Bill: We currently have members from around the world: England, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Poland, and Sweden. Europeans are a big part of the OI mix and provide unique insights into worldwide digital marketing. This benefits both North American professionals who are expanding into Europe, and Europeans who want to be more connected to a worldwide community of peers. I have one member in very remote part of the world and OI is his main connection with the industry since he does not have a strong network locally.

Can you tell us about any future plans you have for Only Influencers?

Bill: The big areas of growth are expansion into related industries (social and mobile) and development of local chapters around the world for peers to meet each other, share ideas, and drive the digital marketing profession forward.

Where can people sign up?

Bill: You can apply for membership at www.onlyinfluencers.com. Each application is reviewed personally by me. Almost 90% of all new members are referred and nominated by current members, but if someone wants to join and doesn’t have a recommendation they can reach out to me directly at bill@onlyinfluencers.com. I will review your application and research your background. Once accepted, you can join the various lists available and start searching the website. As I mentioned, no salespeople are allowed, but those with a sincere desire to contribute to the digital marketing industry and its growth are welcome to join.

Dela Quist on Email Frequency: Send More Email

Dela-quist_sending-more-e-mail-frequency This post tackles Dela Quist’s views on email frequency. Seemingly a rather innocent topic but if you advice marketers to send more email in a world with an increasing volume of marketing channels and messages, like Dela does, you get attention. Before scratching your head, read Dela’s arguments and then make up your mind!

JP: You’ve been doing some testing regarding branding and email marketing recently. What was the reasoning behind this?

Dela: It’s not so much testing as analysis of data on behalf of our clients. My agency, Alchemy Worx, has been doing consulting and marketing and outsourcing production and design — the whole email marketing process for clients for ten years now.

For a big part of that time the conversations have always been about being more relevant and effective, sending fewer emails etc. The thing that surprised me was that the marketers were ignoring their experts. My feeling is that if the experts were saying to send less yet more segmented and relevant emails and the marketing people at all the conferences ignore them, it must mean that the marketers are stupid or the experts are wrong or missing something obvious. And it seems to me that the marketers must be achieving success, otherwise they’d all be fired.

Over the years one of the things I noticed was – and it’s very simple stuff – that if you have a customer who receives 20 emails from you, that customer will spend more than one who gets five. I’ve never heard anyone disagree with me.

Here’s another example, if I said to you, I have a customer with a list of 200,000 people and they sell a product and they currently send one email a month. Which will make them more money? Segmenting that list so that each person (on the list) gets a different email with different content or just sending everyone two emails?

JP: I would say option number one.

Dela: No. That’s what everyone says, but actually it’s not true. You will get more money by sending everyone the same email twice in a month than by staying on a frequency of one and segmenting it.

The desire to be clever is overriding common sense

JP: Even if you segment and adapt the content so it’s different for the individuals?

Dela: You’ll get a lift, but not as much as just sending everyone the same message twice. That’s why marketers don’t listen and we’ve made them embarrassed to say that they dont. We’ve made marketers feel stupid because they send two emails instead of doing any segmentation. No one tells of their success, they’re embarrassed.

So, what I found is that even my customers, when I show them this say: “Yeah, yeah, but I want you to do something clever!” The desire to be clever, the desire to use the software that’s available is overriding common sense.

JP: Common sense and data say it’s better to send twice, the same mail to everyone than to send one which is perfectly segmented and targeted?

Dela: That’s right. Now, let me qualify this straight away. There is a limit, it’s not true all the time. Let me give you two examples. One person does no segmentation and sends two emails. Another person does segmentation and sends two emails. Then the segmentation will be the difference.

JP: But the email frequency…

Dela: Is the most important factor — frequency and reach. The more people you have on the list and the more emails you send, the more money you will make. And because of that, one of the weirdest things about email is how little people spend in trying to acquire email addresses.

JP: Because all the money goes to segmentation etc…

Dela: Absolutely and it’s just missing the obvious thing! If I have a list of one million and you have a list of one hundred thousand, you can’t beat me. Reach and frequency are what works in advertising – it has always worked. So, the more people who see your commercial and the more times they see it, the more will buy your product.

JP: So, this is where the branding aspect came in?

Dela: Yes!

Conversion doesn’t require people to open your emails

JP: You mentioned when we spoke previously about how some people who don’t even open the email will still go to a shop and buy something?

Dela: Yes. Unfortunately not enough clients look at all revenue from all sources around email activity. So, we worry about people not being engaged. They’re not opening my emails, let me take them off the list. But they don’t ask if this person is buying in the store every week or are they calling me or perhaps searching Google or are they doing something else to reach me. And we don’t put those together. So, what we did was look at one of our clients who was able to supply us with revenue data from all sources including in-store. And we looked at the people who were not on their list and their purchase behaviour.

We plotted a line not by hour, but by every three to six hours or so for people not on the list and we plotted purchases by people who were on the list, but didn’t open the email and in the two days after the email went in to the inbox, there was a big spike in sales from people who received the email, but didn’t open it.

JP: You could clearly make a link between the sending of the email and the shopping?

Dela: Yes, because within a few days of the email going out, the line for the people getting the email diverges in a positive way from the line of the people who didn’t get the email. Before the email was sent, the lines were in the same pattern, the email is sent and then there’s a spike in sales from the people who received the email and then after that three days, the lines go back to following each other again.

JP: So, can I conclude that you are saying that even though I don’t open every email, if your email is in the inbox, I process it even if it is just at a subconscious level and I find myself heading out to shop in your store?

Dela: That’s correct. In fact, I would go one further than that. The word “inundated’ is something only those in the industry use. My mother isn’t inundated with emails. Most people, my wife, my home email are not inundated. When I say not inundated, I mean not by marketing messages. My wife is involved with our school and she gets emails from 20 or so different people all hitting “reply all”. But she only gets maybe three or four emails from commercial organizations, brand marketers, all of which she has signed up for. So, I always dislike the word inundate (consumers are overwhelmed with email) because it implies a consumer is too stupid to tell the difference between an email from their mother, an email from their boss, an email saying you’ve won the lottery, an email saying buy Viagara, an email from a Gap or other source they believe in and we just think, oh my God all these emails are killing me! No, no, no, that’s not true.

Your work emails may be killing you, but your friend’s emails are not and most people don’t get that many commercial emails. But we talk as if all emails are the same and every consumer thinks that every email is exactly the same thing and that’s not true. We are completely generalizing. About 99% of all emails are spam. Nobody in our audience is a spammer right? We’re all legal and we’re all trying our best to market to our customer base. Also, the spam filters on most emails services are very, very good now. The only reason you would be getting a lot of spam is if you’re either signed up for some or gone to some very “dodgy” sites — or you have an email system which is not protected and not as good as Gmail or Hotmail or something like that.

We (email marketers) are completely not normal

JP: Or you are in the industry and you are constantly in communication with a lot of people because it’s your job.

Dela: Absolutely! That’s absolutely correct. Let’s use our common sense. We (email marketers) are not normal, we are completely not normal. We look at things in a different way and we think: “Oh my God, that person didn’t get permission from me! I know that!” My mother doesn’t know whether there was permission or not, it doesn’t matter to her. She’ll either respond to the email or not respond to the email.

An email could be from your boss stating that if you don’t reply by five o’clock you’re fired or it could be from your mother saying your aunt is very sick in hospital so, call your cousin or it could be that winning lottery phishing scam. It could be all kinds of things. You triage your inbox just like an emergency nurse. That’s a serious decision which we don’t make lightly. The same kind of processing goes on in the inbox too. It may be a split second decision, but you are using your highest cognitive functions and that is why the branding is so powerful.

If people are affected by Twitter which is 140 characters, than a subject line should also have that impact. One of the things we try to advise clients on is understanding whether they are trying to get people into the store or to buy via email. For example, if you know your busiest day in the store is a Saturday and you send an email on a Friday and the subject line says: “Great Offers in Store this Weekend”, you don’t have to open that email.

You have told the whole audience that you have great offers in your store. They don’t need to open the email to see what that offer is because they know your brand, they know what you sell, they have a relationship with you and they go there regularly.

That’s it, folks. Your thoughts?