Sex with Data? An Email Marketer’s Tale

  |  October 17, 2013   |  Comments

Email marketers have very legitimate concerns about best practices, mobile and more. Know what they're not too worried about? Sex with data.

kissIf you came to this story for the headline you may be disappointed. Especially since it is about email marketer's focus on emerging trends (or lack thereof). So this isn't about email marketers gone wild you may ask? Nah, maybe next year.

I had the great privilege and honor to be one of the keynote speakers at the Blue Hornet Lifecycle Messaging Conference (check out the tweet highlights) here in sunny San Diego last week.

While I talked about the relatively boring trends and future of The New Inbox and how to deal with email's massive changes thanks to mobile, Mitch Joel closed his talk with many areas to focus on in the future--including "sex with data." Of course, he was encouraging marketers to use this data, big and small. Use it in a passionate and transforming way. Or something like that.

As I spoke with attendees, one thing was evident: email marketers prefer clarity on the little things. Now, they all love the possibilities of a well-integrated and executed campaign, but they sweat the details.

Some may dream about a well-crafted mobile email or escaping deliverability issues, but most email marketers want to talk about the following - now more than ever:

  • How do I measure my campaigns in the most effective way? Some even seem to be on board with me to only speak in business terms with the C-suite and leave the open and click talk in the break room. 
  • What do I do to adapt to the rising tide of mobile usage? The biggest game changer in digital history seems to have frozen many email marketers in fear (or is it confusion?). I talked to many email marketers who are standing pat, despite knowing their emails look bad on mobile. The atomic reminders from Blue Hornet and Forrester: 88 percent of consumers will delete or unsubscribe your email if a mobile email doesn't look good and 75 percent will have a slight or strongly negative perception of your brand if the email looks bad. That's a wake-up call if I have ever seen one.
  • The mechanics of every campaign are on the forefront of every thought. While big picture strategy is nice and appreciated, email practitioners would much rather gets tips on pre-headers and subject lines.
  • A new ISP subscriber feature like Gmail Tabs will always get the email marketers' attention, far more than any bells and whistles an email service provider may offer. In fact, Gmail Tabs may be causing more heartburn than anything since RSS almost killed email (I am joking; however, this guy wasn't).
  • Frequency is and always will be one of the top 5 email conversation starters.

Most email marketers seem to be seeking the magic bullet. They want to be told how often they should send to their subscriber base, rather than test optimal rates and experiment on both sides of the meter.

Now back to the sex with data part. See what email marketers really care about, above? You don't see much about the cloud, big data (in either a sexual and non-sexual way), or really much of anything that doesn't impact their day to day email marketing routine.

This isn't to knock email marketers or make them seem short-sighted or narrow minded. I love email marketers more than anyone (if you don't believe me, read In Appreciation of Email Rock Stars).

I just want to address the reality of the situation. As I said in my talk, email marketers that suck still make their company money. The good email marketers of the world want to do better and make their company a ton of money.

Let's get back to addressing their real needs. Let's avoid skipping over the harsh and consistently present challenges of the email industry in favor of sexy analogies, shall we?


Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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