What does the Future hold for Email Marketing? – Interview with Tim Watson


Email marketing – a digital tactic that remains an important channel in any organisations digital marketing mix has come under some negative “flak” with many digital “strategists” claiming that email marketing is deadCertainly Email marketing has has to re-define it’s purpose and the more savvy digital companies have embraced this channel to help position the channel as a key tactic to support both it’s acquistion and retention strategies

To help shed some more light on the story of email marketing, it’s maturity and new opportunities to embrace this channel, I caught up with Tim Watson, founder of email marketing consultancy Zettasphere who provides a fascinating insights into optimising your email channel for success, extracting actionable data from your email campaign and the opportunities mobile provides for email marketing











Tell us a little about Tim?

Well here’s a little known secret about my past. My first email campaign was to promote some shareware and it was what many people would classify as spam. It was way back in the day before the UK regulation of electronic communications, so it was all legal. Just what you might not consider best practice today.

I found a bit of free bulk email software (hey, ESP? What’s that?) and list of data that was highly relevant to the offer. The data was about 3,000 emails addresses that an industry body had published, though I doubt with understanding of how it might be used. So it was hardly spam in volume terms but it was on opt-out basis to third party data.

No surprise, it worked. First sale came in with comment ‘how come I didn’t know about this solution earlier’. It launched the shareware and it’s still selling today.


You run your own digital email consultancy – Zettasphere – can you tell us about the agency, the services provided and skill-sets?

Mainly I deliver email strategy consulting. Brands contact me who believe they could get more from their email activity but don’t want to spend time and money going in the wrong direction whilst they work out exactly what they should do.

There is so much advice and must do best practice that is mostly correct in generic sense, but what I add is the context. The advice that is right for each brand is different. I help by giving focus to the best opportunities and bringing to the table possibilities the brand won’t be aware of.








You’ve specialised your digital marketing niche in email marketing – how is this channel performing as a digital tactic when compared to other tactics in the digital mix?

Just fine thanks, as witnessed by the revenue I see being delivered every day. Time after time in industry surveys of marketers the best two channels are stated as search and email.



The noise surrounding digital tactics broadcasting messages to existing customers and prospect has accelerated as social media has matured as a channel – has this had a detrimental impact on the return on investment to what email can provide?

The surprising thing is no. The email channel is alive and very strong; I believe smartphones have helped email hugely as it makes email a 24-7 always on channel with users checking emails multiple times per hour. This has supported the levels of email we see today.

Just recently Instagram turned to email to drive user engagement back to their social network, adding a ‘highlights’ email. Facebook send more email worldwide than any other single brand. I get loads of email from Twitter and LinkedIn about their services. Anyone see the irony?

When the social networks turn to email to drive their business you must believe it’s strong. BTW I’m not suggesting social networks don’t have their place too.


What are the key metrics you advise organisations to monitor and measure when it comes to their own email marketing strategy?

I always say measure as close to your business objective as possible. For eCommerce that means revenue and that is easily done for online business. Add to this careful attention to list growth and measurement of list data sources, to ensure quality list growth.


Due Diligence in ensuring your email list being “cleaned” and providing the best opportunities for email marketers to generate the best ROI is essential – do you have any tips in ensuring your email list is in the best possible state?

The best thing is to build good quality data, which is organic data. Use upfront, permission based transparent data collection practices. It’s hard work but it really is the route to a highly valuable asset.

If you get data collection right the rest is easy. Just ensure you are removing bounces, complaints and unsubscribes.


Getting actionable insights from the data you are reporting from email marketing is a challenge for organisations – what process would you recommend to organizations of all sizes to follow?

I found different process metrics (as opposed to business metrics) to be important in decision making for different brands. You really need an enquiring and challenging mind. Believe nothing and question everything. That’s the short version; the long version probably needs a book.


How is it best to optimise and use email as a channel with the growth in mobile usage?

Simple, check your emails work on the email clients and devices your customers are likely to be using. In particular can the email be read without scrolling in two directions, is the copy easy to read and are links far enough apart so they can be touched?

The trend is towards cleaner, simpler, shorter and focused designed, in keeping with info snacking habits of mobile consumers.

A lot has been said that emails must be designed specifically for mobile and that doing so will give huge benefit. This is true if your email is badly broken on mobile, but for many brands the email is not badly broken.

Mobile screen sizes and resolutions have increased drastically in recent years, so its become easier to use non mobile optimised email on mobile too.

But if you are working on your template you’d be crazy not to factor in how well it works on mobile.


What do you see as the key traits to develop if you’re looking to develop a successful digital marketing career?

Digital marketing is such a wide topic area already and set to get wider, that you have to consider in which areas you wish to specialise. It is around channels, design, optimisation, analytics, data, insight?

In terms of key traits; willingness to learn and then learn it all again when it changes, seek facts as much as opinion, be comfortable with data. Digital marketing is much more than just creative concepts.


What’s on your reading list? 

Glad you asked. I do read a lot, almost continuously in fact. I think study and reading is under rated, as you never know everything. I read not just industry news and blogs but good old fashioned paper books. They are incredible value, but buying them is no good, you must read and think about the contents too.

The topic of books I read include marketing psychology and persuasion, general marketing texts, data science and analysis, business strategy, books on specific technologies such Google Analytics and fun left field thinking books such as Freakonomics.


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