Q&A with Christopher Marriott, President and Founder at Email Connect LLC

Media 7 | February 9, 2021

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Christopher Marriott, President and Founder at Email Connect LLC, is a recognized expert in the process of connecting leading brands with the right marketing technology partners and platforms. Before founding Email Connect as a consultancy focused exclusively on the ESP/CRM/CDP vendor selection process, Chris served as a tenured executive at Acxiom, leading and building its Global Digital and Email Agency Services team into one of the industry’s top services providers. He is also a regular columnist on email marketing and the RFP process and is an adviser to several emerging marketing technology companies including AudiencePoint and Shotzr.

Content marketing isn’t King- it’s King, Kingdom and Cathedral!



MEDIA 7: How did you come up with the idea of Email Connect LLC?
CHRISTOPHER MARRIOTT:
I spent over 6 years running the global agency services team at Acxiom when it was still a leading ESP (they sold that part of their business to Zeta Global a couple of years ago).  During that time, we probably participated in over ESP 100 RFPs, and I saw how over the years how the decision process was becoming much more complex.  In 2006, ESPs competed primarily on price, and that drove the selection process at the brands.  By 2010, the differences in the platforms were significantly greater than mere price, yet most brands were ill-equipped to sort through those differences.

That’s where I came up with the idea of starting my consultancy designed to help brands in the RFP/vendor selection process, specifically focused on ESPs.  Fortunately, I was correct, brands did need and, more importantly, want help!  Over the years we have averaged between 18-20 billion emails out to bid annually. We’ve worked with some of the biggest names in travel & hospitality, retail, e-commerce, and publishing. All those names you would recognize.

M7: What tools do you use for email marketing and which ones serve as the most effective, given your target customers?
CM: 
Given that we are a B2B company, the majority of our marketing and sales are direct.  I often speak at conferences, and even when I am not a speaker, I attend the major email marketing events.  We do use email to keep in touch with past customers and prospects.  As far as platforms go, I’ve had my eye on Delivra marketing automation and would like to deploy it sooner rather than later. We won’t need to do our RFP!


When you are a small company with big ideas, contributing thought leadership to other industry sites is a great way to expand brand recognition.



M7: What role does content play for email marketing? Which content format performs the best according to you and why?
CM:
For us, content marketing is absolutely critical! I contribute a lot of articles to sites like Email Vendor Selection and the Only Influencers blog, and use these to drive traffic to our web site.  We also provide links to them in our own email campaigns. When you are a small company with big ideas, contributing thought leadership to other industry sites is a great way to expand brand recognition.

I am also the co-host of “Email Geeks at Home Drinking Coffee” (www.emailgeekspodcast.com), a weekly podcast I started with Paul Shriner of AudiencePoint back in April of 2020.  For my purposes, content marketing isn’t King- it’s King, Kingdom and Cathedral!

M7: What do you believe are the top three product marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
CM:
I believe we are going to be seeing a seismic shift in how consumers shop even after the lockdowns end across the globe. I call this emerging phenomenon the “Store to Door Theory of Marketing.” It goes like this:
“Once consumers have learned how easy it can be to order a much wider variety of goods and services online for delivery to their door, they will be unlikely to go all the way back to shopping at brick & mortar stores absent a compelling reason to do so.”

If my theory is correct, the implications for retail are enormous. Before COVID-19, most consumers had developed a pattern of behavior where certain items were regularly purchased online for delivery, whereas others were purchased in-store and brought home by the consumer himself. That all changed in the blink of an eye. Stores were ordered closed. People were directed to shelter in place (at home). But people didn’t stop needing things. So lots of things that people were used to buying at the store, everything from coffee filters to shoes to tools, were now ordered online and delivered to the front door, or picked up at curbside. Even houses and condos were not immune from this change. I sold a condo before the buyer had ever set foot in it (not that I delivered it to the front door)!

While implications of this change in buying behavior are huge for retailers and DTC brands, they are also extraordinarily important for email marketing and email marketers. Consumers won't necessarily go back to the same mix of shopping online and offline depending on the item. Habits have been broken, and new ones established. As the old retail experience of shopping in a store morphs into one, that is more of a logistics experience—did you get my order, when will it arrive, is it on the way—the ability to provide timely and ongoing email updates on delivery status will become critical in separating winners and losers. And providing truly relevant “people who bought this also bought this” recommendations in emails might save consumers from the frustration of not having everything he or she needs to use the item originally purchased (a simple example being an HDMI cable to connect a new piece of electronics).


What’s truly effective in generating leads is providing something of value in the email itself to the prospect who is receiving it.



M7: What is your marketing mantra to stand out in an overly saturated MarTech space?
CM:
So many Martech vendors are faceless entities. I think the best move to make is to have a person who is the face of the company, and who contributes to the MarTech community through various forums, as well as speaking at conferences.  This is why content marketing is so important in the MarTech world!  Brands often use emotional shortcuts when determining which vendors to look at, and one of the most frequently used shortcuts is “do I know anyone at that vendor?”.  Knowing the sales team isn’t enough.  It needs to be something that can be considered a thought leader if at all possible.

M7: Your tips on effectively generating leads through email marketing?
CM:
 I am so tired of people saying to be relevant.  That’s been going on for years. Of course, an email pitch needs to be relevant, but it needs to get opened in order to demonstrate its relevancy. What’s truly effective in generating leads is providing something of value in the email itself to the prospect who is receiving it.  And if that thing of value can be communicated in the subject line, you’re much more likely to get opened. 

Now I’ve written that as if it’s an easy thing to do. It’s not.  But, if you can’t come up with a good reason why someone should open your email, then you shouldn’t be surprised when it doesn’t get opened.

Once you get it opened, then communicating your value proposition in as few words as possible is the most effective way to generate leads.  Don’t force your prospect to think!

ABOUT EMAIL CONNECT

Email Connect is the world’s leading authority on the vendor selection process (RFPs) for email and database marketing platforms (ESPs and CDPs).   Clients include Fortune 500 companies in the retail, publishing, insurance and travel & hospitality industries. Representing 18-20 billion emails out to bid every year, Email Connect has unparalleled insight into the pricing models and service quality of the leading enterprise email and multichannel service providers.

Our scorecard-driven methodology ensures an objective and efficient evaluation RFP process where every client stakeholder can participate; every stakeholder can influence the outcome; every stakeholder has a voice. Our services include contract negotiation, platform migration oversight, and ongoing email program optimization with an eye towards maximizing the selected platform’s feature and functionalities.