Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Interview: Eric Stockton

I’m blogging here from the MarketingSherpa Email Summit and got the opportunity to scour the speakers’ list and choose some folks to interview. Check out other coverage of the summit on the Information & Coverage microsite. This is the third in a series of interviews for the Email Summit.

Third up is Eric Stockton, president of MarketingSherpa. Eric was the head of research at MarketingExperiments, an on-the-ground running experiments lab, and when MEC acquired both companies, he rose to become president. Unlike the other interviews I actually talked to him in person, so it’s less inline responses and more my freeform version.

First, we talked about surfing. Turns out MarketingSherpa in Jacksonville Beach has a door right out to the surf. That is very, very nice. “It brings us down to earth” Eric said. When we finally got off the topic of Pacific surfing vs. Atlantic surfing, I asked him about the reason behind having a certification course. He responded that it “fills the need” for the community, which is having something more tangible than best practices. They started with online testing, paid search, then landing page optimization. “It helps IT and marketing speak the same language,” and he told me about a company that literally had such contentious IT and marketing staffs that the executives brought both groups into certification. Surprisingly having the same way of talking about the systems, efficacy, and process was the solution to getting the groups to work together.

I asked him if he sees any trends over the last year, from the Benchmark Guide, or talking to CEOs and Presidents of companies. I gave him a laundry list of things I thought had come up in the last year- mobile becoming more important suddenly, subject lines, spam decreasing, user content and web 2.0, SEO- and he surprised me by answering quickly, “What I hear is, ‘email is dead.’ We see it in dropping open rates, the metrics/stats, customers getting smarter.” I’d written about it in June, here, commenting on a Fast Company article with same title, but I was still surprised that this was an issue. He backed it up saying that he’d heard it from a bunch of folks- as well as metrics, but generally – and that the reality is that email is actually “… diversifying into multi-platform & media, data phones, RSS. You can’t ‘blast’ any more, it’s communicating now, user generated content is a perfect example.”

He liked my next question- how he sees MarketingSherpa Benchmark Guides in the corporate structure. How do customers use them, what role do they play, and where he sees their place in general. “We find that customers think they’re great for planning for budgets, strategic planning, using in a boardroom meeting- the data points, charts, etc., and other benchmark guides too, not just email marketing, but ecommerce.” My first encounter with MarketingSherpa was when a graphic artist I know bought it for the user testing results, as a guide to email-specific design elements.

I asked him what the sexiest bit of the BenchMark Guide was- the element that he always hears about, that stands out among customers and the membership community. He didn’t even wait a beat: “Eyetracking.” Ha ha, that’s what I’d say too.

Of the many surprising answers he gave me, this perhaps tops the charts: I asked him if there were any anxieties or fears in the companies that he talks to. I feel like Eric has a great line onto the heads of corporations and their marketing executives, who may speak freely to him about concerns. Turns out that one of the top things coming up for MarketingSherpa, and this lines up with my question about anxieties, is that companies are asking how much their customer lists are worth, for mergers and acquisitions. I experienced this at WebVan, as they had acquired HomeGrocer, and in the merger one of the top things they did was integrate the customer marketing databases. Eric said, “The question I get from CEOs, or mainly CFOs, is ‘Did I buy this 5M list and now it’s not worth anything?’ And we can look at our studies and metrics and help them determine that, and we’ve finally gotten to a mature place where we can tell them that.’

He made an offhand comment that MarketingSherpa had some room for improvement, and I prodded him as to what he would do to improve it if given millions and millions (billions?) of dollars. He said that he essentially got that opportunity with the acquisition by MEC, and that their first goal was to “Help support the community of marketers, provide training, be place that has the data points, the structure, charts that help the presentations, good ideas, inspirations,” and he mentioned the new membership program, and the ‘Ask a Sherpa’ program (which is not consulting) but taps into the community of experts for one-off questions.

All in all it was a great conversation, and I had renewed respect for the MarketingSherpa think tank.

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Written on Sunday, 24. February 2008 at 14:58 In the category EmailSummit, interviews, metrics, other_blogs, technology, transactional emails. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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