Delivering Episode 10: One Down, Two to Go

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In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez looks at Litmus Live London highlights, the changing email industry, and what we should all be focusing on in our work.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus.

Litmus is the only platform that helps you send email with confidence, every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’ tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster.

Head over to litmus.com to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to Delivering, a podcast about email marketing, design, development, and the email industry. I’m your host, Jason Rodriguez.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform that helps you send email with confidence, every time. Litmus is used by over 600,000 email professionals to build, test, and analyze better campaigns, faster. Head over to litmus.com to start your free, 7-day trial and start sending better emails today.

About two weeks ago, I was in London for Litmus Live, our annual conference for email professionals everywhere. Along with organizing the event and chatting with attendees, I was tasked with kicking things off on stage—welcoming everyone, going through logistics, and (attempting to) get everyone in the audience pumped up and inspired for a day of practical, educational talks from some of the smartest people in the industry.

While I’m usually very comfortable getting up in front of others—especially at Litmus Live—this year felt a bit different. I found it harder to come up with something to say to attendees. I could have defaulted to platitudes about email’s ROI and growing a community, but it felt inauthentic. We’ve done it before and, while the format of the conference has largely been the same the last few years, it felt like something had changed.

After a while, I realized that it wasn’t just the conference that changed, it was the industry that the conference tracks that has been changing. What’s changed at the conference is a direct result of what’s changed in all of our work and priorities.

A little bit of history…

Litmus Live started in 2013 as The Email Design Conference. With a name like that, you can guess what was represented on stage. The first few years of the conference had a *very* heavy focus on design and development—the code that powers email marketing campaigns. After all, that’s where Litmus specialized—helping email designers build and test better campaigns. Throughout the years, the conference has helped lead the charge for email design, with talks from leading experts on everything from responsive and interactive email to accessibility, dynamic content, and design systems.

But, over the years, we’ve embraced other topics. We split the conference into multiple tracks to help educate not only email designers and developers, but anyone that focuses on an email campaign, from email marketing managers and CMOs to copywriters, strategists, and more. In 2017, we reflected that shift by moving from The Email Design Conference to Litmus Live.

Now, in its seventh year, that shift felt more palpable than ever. For a long time, Litmus Live was about assembling the troops in email marketing. Bringing people that felt forgotten or alone together to commiserate about our shared challenges. But this year—at least to me—it felt like we had all found each other, so it was less about bringing people together. It also felt like a lot of coding challenges had been solved, so it was less about the nuts and bolts of email design.

It felt like, now that we were all here, now that we had proven the value of email and the value of our own work, it was time to set aside the call to arms and actually get down to work.

So, when I walked up on stage—after going through all the conference logistics—I talked about that trend away from years past and what it means for the future.

Litmus will never walk away from the people in the weeds—the email designers and developers knee-deep in code and the copywriters and strategists trying to make more relevant, personalized campaigns for subscribers.

But it feels like some of the problems from years past are starting to be solved. The level of maturity in email marketing has risen and we’re now starting to focus on potentially more important—but harder—problems. Problems like working with one another, making emails more accessible to everyone, and better understanding your email program’s performance and value overall, not just on a campaign-by-campaign basis.

I think this was reflected in a lot of the conference sessions.

Kait Creamer opened up the day not with a talk about email marketing tactics, but about emotional intelligence. As more of us get the tactics down, we need to figure out ways to work better together, to understand one another, and be more empathetic to our subscribers.

Instead of talking about the mechanics of interactive email, Mark Robbins discussed his process for thinking about and fostering innovation in email design. The mechanics have been covered, but the philosophy behind innovation? Not so much.

Almost across the board it felt like less of a focus on implementation and more of a focus on motives, overall strategy, and collaboration across larger, more sophisticated teams. That’s not to say that there weren’t sessions on practical techniques (that’s essentially a requirement for speakers), but everything felt weightier, more grown up, and more vital.

One of Litmus’ own, Lily Worth, had a session on email design trends called, “Big, Bold, and Trending: Visual Design Techniques to Ignite the Inbox.” It was a wonderful—and beautifully designed—talk about some of the trends she’s tracked across the industry, from the use of gradients and off-grid designs to animation, custom illustrations, and bold typography. One of the important takeaways for me was that it wasn’t about implementing all of those trends.

Lily focused on what the trends were, how they showed up across different brands, and, most importantly, whether or not you should embrace those trends. She turned a critical eye to all of those trends and implored email designers in the room to really think about what their subscribers need before embracing a visual design trend just for the sake of keeping up with everyone else in the inbox.

In the marketing track, Skip Fidura worked along the same lines. He addressed the issue of attributing value to email marketing (or any other marketing channel) in order to get budget and resources to invest in email. He looked at all of the old and current models of attribution and walked through the problems of each before giving email marketers a better, more future-friendly model to work from. It was about throwing away the old and embracing the new by thinking critically about the work we do every single day instead of just doing things the way we always have.

Elliot Ross packed the room by tempting people with the answer to the question, “How do we make awesome email in 2019?” Spoiler alert: It’s not about following the trends and getting fancy in the inbox. It’s about the fundamentals and thinking deeply about your email program, your goals, and what subscribers *actually* need from an email.

The change I sensed when making up slides before the conference even began rippled throughout the talks. We’re at a point where we all need to focus less on the shiny new thing or unconventional techniques and more on critical thinking about email’s role in the world and the lives of subscribers, along with how we all work together to evolve the industry and our own work.

Not to sound trite, but it feels like this year is a tipping point for Litmus Live and the broader email industry. We’ve grown up, we’ve made it. We’ve proven our worth, we’ve figured out the nuts and bolts of email marketing, and now we have to iterate and mature.

That’s not to say that every session from here on out will be about philosophy, but even the ones about design, code, tactics, and implementation will likely have that critical, thoughtful bent that’s so important to evolve our industry.

We’re never walking away from the people on the ground floor of email. Instead, we’re aiming to help lead them to a better, more matured email industry. And happier subscribers, too.

While Litmus Live London is over, we still have two more events to go for the year. I’m excited to see how Boston and San Francisco compare to London this year, and learn more from both speakers and attendees. We’ll see if all my rambling holds up.

You can still join us at Litmus Live in Boston on October 9th through 11th and San Francisco on November 14th and 15th. If you really want to take your skills to the next level, be sure to grab tickets to our exclusive workshops on email development fundamentals, interactive email, onboarding and lifecycle campaigns, and how to scale your email team. Tickets are limited and going fast, so head over to litmus.com/conference today to get yours before they’re sold out.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus.

Litmus is the only platform that helps you send email with confidence, every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus’ tools to build, test, and analyze better email campaigns faster.

Head over to litmus.com to start your free 7-day trial of Litmus, and start sending better emails today.

Be sure to subscribe to Delivering on iTunes or Spotify to listen to future episodes and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DeliveringPodcast.