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Email Snob Interview: Luke Glasner

If there’s one great thing I’m enjoying about the Email Snob Interview Series, it’s the feeling of “We’re all in this together” that I’m getting from the different interviews. Today’s subject is no different.

In this installment, I have the awesome opportunity to talk email with Luke Glasner of Glasner Consulting and a veteran of the Publishing industry. Get ready, folks, he’s got a lot of opinions (and I love it!).

LukeGlasnerScottWritesEverything.com: Luke, thanks for joining me. Let’s begin where I start every interview–your background. How did you get your start in email marketing?

Luke Glasner: In a real way, I had a sort of roundabout introduction to email. In 1996, I registered a couple of domain names with InterNIC (anyone remember that?) and filed an application for an online business. In those days, you had to be approved to run an online business; I was the 1,138th business to be approved on the net.

Anyway, the first two sites/businesses I started were Glasner.com and Private-ISP.net. Private-ISP.net (the ISP where your privacy is more than a policy!) was a dial-up ISP reseller that provided dial-up services, hosting, email accounts, etc.

At the time, cyberspace was the last frontier to be settled… in a way it really felt like the Land Rush of 1889 and I was out to stake my claim and make my mark–I was so optimistic. Unfortunately, the Internet wasn’t ready for me yet and Private-ISP.net didn’t go anywhere. So I graduated from UMass and turned my focus toward other things.

At the end of 2004, I began working for a publishing company that wanted to develop an online presence and generate revenues from online advertising. I launched their email marketing program–this is when I really became an email marketer. I had come full circle, but along the way I learned many valuable business lessons and found my passion in life: marketing.

SWE: That’s really interesting; thanks for sharing. Let’s talk about that passion a bit. What’s your favorite thing about email marketing?

LG: I love that email marketing provides the chance to really connect with people at an individual level and make an impact. No other medium allows the targeting, the measurement aspects, and the chance to be creative like email does.

It is this blending of science and the art of marketing that makes it so fascinating for me. The fact that it’s an ever-changing environment is what keeps me hooked.

SWE: How has your work with email marketing affected your personal use of email?

LG: I am a lot less tolerant of poorly designed emails than I used to be. I mentally critique emails that other marketers send me–and on occasion I even send comments back to them. Some are things like “Wow, I loved how you did X in this email…” – Others are more like “Hey, it’s called data validation. Look it up.”

I can’t help it. All my life, I critiqued TV commercials–and would have loved to be able to offer commentary, but unless you were in my living room, you’d never be around to hear it.

Email marketing is different. There is a way to offer feedback. For that very reason, email marketers need to market responsibly. Of course, since as soon as you hit the send button, you can’t take it back, I need to be responsible for my commentary as well. You really need to poorly execute for me to send an “onion letter.”

Overall, I try to give praise when deserved so as to promote better marketing. Otherwise, I keep my mouth shut. I don’t always succeed, but I try. That’s what having passion is all about, and yes, I suppose that makes me an Email Snob.

Oh, and another big thing I do is download images a lot more. I want that open to count for you, my fellow email marketers!

SWE: Who is your biggest influence in the email marketing industry? Why?

LG: I have had a lot of influences in this industry. But if I had to pick my biggest influences, I would say Stephanie Miller and John Caldwell. Their help, support, and friendship are more valuable to me than a list of all the email addresses in the world. I owe them.

Chad White’s work in the industry inspires me as well. I looked at what Chad did and he made it look so easy. It made me feel like I could do it, too.

But I would be remiss if I did not also mention Reggie Brady. A few years back, I took a course on email marketing at NYU taught by Reggie. Based on her course, I launched an incredibly successful email marketing program.

More importantly, taking Reggie’s class gave me the confidence to pursue a certificate and now a Master’s degree at NYU. Going to NYU has been a dream of mine since I was 8 years old when I rode the subway with my grandmother who said, “Look, those people over there go to NYU–maybe one day, you will, too.” Today, I am a proud NYU student AND a proud email marketer.

Always remember where you came from and the people that got you to where you are today. Thank them, since it is only through the help of others that we can ever hope to succeed.

SWE: Great words of advice there. Let’s stay in that realm–if you could say one (other) thing to someone who wants to get into the email marketing industry, what would it be?

LG: Read… a lot. Not just books; everything. The one thing I learned in the 15 years I’ve been on the net is that the Internet always changes. You need to keep up with those changes by observing industry trends and staying on top of the latest research. You’ll need to read a lot of blogs, whitepapers, trade publications, and the like.

If you want to be in this industry, you’ll have to accept that you will always have to be learning as the world of email marketing changes fast. Things that were “best practice” a few years ago are not even considerations today.

I also find participating in industry organizations like the Email Experience Council to be worth it.

SWE: If you could name one book every email marketer should read, what is it?

LG: Actually I have read very few email marketing books. I tend to read articles, newsletters, and blogs on email. But if I had to name one, try “Sign Me Up! A Marketer’s Guide to Email Newsletters That Build Relationships and Boost Sales.”

SWE: What about a blog? (Not your own)

LG: Oh, there are so many. I would not mention mine even if I could. Read something like the Retail Email Blog or Mine That Data. They give real insights and post regularly.

For research, I like eMarketer and a lot of the “Chart of the Day Emails” like MarketingSherpa and SAI. I also like MediaPost’s Email Insider.

And not for nothing, but I would recommend Scott Writes Everything as well. Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re already reading one from my list.

SWE: Thanks for the shout-out! Let’s talk technology a bit. What do you think about the iPad?

LG: I think people make too much of the iPad. It won’t be the game changer the iPhone was. The iPhone really changed the game in email on mobile. They proved you could make an email client render correctly on a mobile device. That raised the bar for many email-enabled phone, something the iPad won’t be able to match.

SWE: What about mobile?

LG: I think Mobile will have an impact on email, but honestly, I think it’s a big mistake that many email marketers make is when they think of themselves as “email marketers.” In reality, we’re all doing marketing, regardless of the type of marketing media you are using.

I think the basics, like respect for customer, cuts across mediums. “Provide value” and “know your customer” are two things that work in every medium, be it email, social, mobile, or even good old-fashioned traditional marketing. It’s all marketing messaging; it’s all communication. I think people need to focus more on what they are saying and less on the medium they are saying it in… but that doesn’t really answer your question… haha.

I think Mobile will work synergistically with email. I want time-sensitive stuff on my mobile, like a text alert from my credit card company so I don’t forget to pay my bill on time. I think it will do a lot for customer service type things. I could also see a lot of transaction emails moving to mobile.

As for full-fledged email style marketing, I don’t know that you can convince me to buy something in under 160 characters, so I think marketers will need to do both.

SWE: So based on that, you would agree with my post on the dangers of silo thinking with email marketing. While we’re talking about the industry, tell me: if there was one thing you could tell either a client or ESPs–a frustration, advice, or praise–what would it be?

LG: One thing that really annoys me in email is the phrase “above the fold.” I hate that phrase! It’s a BS standard. The fold is a different place on every device in every email client. When that phrase came out, it was applied to newspapers, which have a relatively standard physical size.

Today in the digital world with so many devices, screen sizes and other considerations, it’s just not realistic. If you made a good ad, it doesn’t matter where it is on the page–okay, it does, but regardless, genius always shines through.

Actually, one of the best banner ads I ever saw was by Return Path for the Email First Aid Kit in an email newsletter. It was the second-to-last item in the newsletter (way below the fold on page 3 if you were to print it out). The ad resonated with me, and I clicked it.

Normally everyone wants to be at the top of the page or email, but it is the people that read all the way to the bottom that are truly engaged. Plus, if I am reading an email or webpage, I am going to finish what I’m doing before I respond to your ad. So put it at the bottom of the page, so when I get there, I’ll be ready to consider and pay attention to your ad.

Wow… that was really a hate-fest on “Above the Fold.” Let me say something nice as well:

Attention Email Marketers: take a good look at your open numbers. You see those 100, 1000, 10,000, or 100,000 people that opened your email? They care about what you have to say. They want to hear from you. And being wanted usually feels pretty good.

SWE: As a consultant, what’s your greatest challenge as an email marketer and as an adviser to your clients?

LG: Getting them to respect the subscriber and respect permission. Ask them (the subscribers) if they want that email. Those that want your message will actually read it. Those that don’t? Well, at best they just delete your message, but many (probably more than we want to admit) just hit the spam button to make the emails stop. That hurts your program and your brand.

Also, kill off the “deadwood.” They just mess up your reporting, distracting you from the people that are engaging with your program. Focus on them and dump the others. It’s not the size that matters–it’s how you use it.

SWE: Haha, true. I have enjoyed your very detailed opinions, but let me ask you one more question. What’s your “elevator speech” for email marketing?

LG: Email is one of the most (perhaps the most) effective marketing medium today. According to the DMA, it produces the highest ROI of any other form of marketing, beating its nearest competitor almost 2 to 1.

Email is highly scalable, so it perfectly fits any market’s size. It is the most targetable form of marketing and nothing seems to be able to beat it as a retention vehicle. With a host of benefits to offer businesses and a very low cost, why aren’t you looking at email?

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About Luke Glasner

Co-Chair of the Direct Marketing Association/Email Experience Council’s Measurement Accuracy Roundtable since 2008, and member of the List Growth & Engagement Roundtable since 2006, Luke Glasner is a regular speaker at industry events and contributor to several industry publications.  An outspoken advocate for the email channel, Luke has played a lead role in creating the first industry standard for measuring email metrics and how the calculations behind those metrics are applied by Email Service Providers. Luke has also played an active role in the email industry involved in projects that include determining the value of an email address, and the development of email lifetime value and list value calculators.

A veteran of the Publishing Industry, Luke has worked in publishing since 2001 in Business to Consumer, Business to Business and Scientific/Technical Publishing environments.  The driving force of the email channel at Rodman Publishing for five years, Luke developed and advanced over a dozen online publications that created a significant revenue stream and major profit center for the organization.

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