The Role of Email Marketing in 2017 : A Conversation with the CMO of MailChimp
The Role of Email Marketing in 2017 : A Conversation with the CMO of MailChimp
The Role of Email Marketing in 2017 : A Conversation with the CMO of MailChimp

Email is somewhat of an enigma as far as marketing goes. Email easily tops the list among the communication channels that have emerged with the advent of the Internet, but in many ways its functionality hasn’t evolved much—except when it comes to email marketing.

Any marketer knows that getting email right, let alone understanding the mechanics behind it, is one of the most difficult parts of the job. That said, email works. If you’re unsure about that, take Tom Klein’s word for it. He’s the CMO of MailChimp after all. It walks and talks when it comes to email marketing, having sent 36 million of its own marketing emails in June alone. To understand more about this sticky subject, open the following insights from Mr. Klein in your mental inbox and file under “important.”

Who’s “Doing” Email

Big or small, email marketing benefits almost every company whose target is digitally connected.

“Email has always been a great way to communicate directly with consumers in an economical way,”

says Mr. Klein. Most of MailChimp’s customers are companies with 200 employees, he says, which speaks to the positive ROI of email for growing enterprises. Who isn’t taking advantage of email marketing, but should, in Mr. Klein’s view? Large packaged food companies.

“I have friends who work in marketing for…brands that have over a billion-dollar budget–and they don’t know who their customers are,” he says. “If one of these companies wanted to communicate with 5 million people, we have customer lists of that size.”

However, he says, their dollars are going elsewhere.

“I think doing that is an important first step, and next would be optimization.”

Doing Email Better

While any company can send an email to its customers, successful execution involves extensive

“testing and learning. It sounds really boring, but it’s very straightforward and valuable.”

says Mr. Klein, MailChimp offers A/B testing in its free products, but Pro users can take advantage of three styles of multivariate testing to find the best mix of content for audiences.

“One method, for example, allows you to take a list and divide it into a few different subsets,” says Mr. Klein. “For a list of 10,000, you could do five different emails and send them to 2,000 people.”

His team runs its own tests, in fact, and says that they’re relatively easy to set up.Given that MailChimp customers are largely creative companies, the multivariate testing caters to their inherent curiosity and hands-on inclinations.

“We also want our customers to feel liberated from a creative perspective,” says Mr. Klein. “Using the multivariate tool, you can test many options to find the winner.”

Not only does this kind of testing keep MailChimp’s clientele happy, but it also provides results. “That’s probably the most straightforward thing that we would love to get our customers doing,” he says, “because we know it works.”

What Role Does Social Media Play?

If you’ve ever been asked to jump from email to social media or vice versa, you know that it often makes for an awkward user experience, usually involving a series of apps or browser windows. When it comes to integrating social within email campaigns, Mr. Klein concedes that it’s an evolving art.

“Email is a kind of beast, from a technical perspective,” he says.

Ideally, the email client could act as a browser window, but unfortunately the technology simply isn’t there yet. Despite the limitations, Mr. Klein says that MailChimp has developed an integration with Facebook that allows companies to post their emails to the platform.

“Customers can also use their email subscriber list as a way to take these subscribers and generate an ad based on them,”

he says. Barring any major changes, however, Mr. Klein and team will be maintaining a simple relationship between email and social.

“So if you’re our customer, we tend to keep your email relatively straightforward,” he says.

Expanding the Email Empire

As in nearly every area of marketing, Mr. Klein says that there’s plenty of potential for progress in email and in his own department.

“We’re growing and hiring,” he says, “so we’re really looking to improve all aspects of the company.”

He also nods to the fact that many of MailChimp’s customers are indeed marketing agencies and hopes that his team can better support those clients moving forward. Finally, while the company is based in Atlanta, Mr. Klein says that MailChimp does in fact have global reach—and global ambitions.

“We also want to get better at engaging with our customers around the world.”

May his (and your) messages go far.

About the Author

Amy Nielsen
Amy is a Copywriter at Renegade. In addition to covering clever marketing and eradicating typos from the planet, she sometimes puts her music business master's degree to use by interviewing bands and writing reviews for Bandsintown and Virgin. She can also teach a cat to high-five. Ask her how on Twitter.
  • Caroline Brown

    Great insight, both from Amy and Tom Klein. As a marketer who is guilty of deleting tons of emails daily without even opening them, I wonder what is being done to combat issues like that. I also wonder how other ESP’s would respond…like the CMO of Constant Contact for instance. Great article!


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