Email Design Podcast #50: Interview with Email Marketer Becs Rivett-Kemm

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In the 50th episode of The Email Design Podcast, hosts Kevin Mandeville and Jason Rodriguez sit down with email marketer Becs Rivett-Kemm to discuss how she got into email marketing, her email process at Conversio, and how she handles email freelancing. Be sure to follow along and join in the discussion on Twitter using #EmailDesignPodcast.

Watch the full video above or listen to the audio-only version below.

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In this episode:

  • (0:49) How did you get started learning HTML and CSS? Becs started learning HTML and CSS at sixth form college. She went on to study e-business and built more complex e-commerce shops.
  • (2:43) What were some of your first development jobs? Becs did a placement year at university in a marketing executive role, where she was responsible for developing email newsletters. After that, she got a job as a junior developer focused in C# and she realized she much preferred working on the front-end of email instead.
  • (3:55) What is Conversio? What does your current role at Conversio consist of? Conversio helps e-commerce stores optimize their business with receipt emails, abandoned cart emails, follow-up emails, and more. Becs develops the email templates that their product provides to end users as well as manages all of the email campaigns for Conversio itself.
  • (5:12) What challenges do you have building templates for end users? Becs says it’s difficult because they have to support even the edge case email clients, taking a more defensive design approach to layout structure. Becs prefers using Fabio Carneiro‘s spongy technique for all of their email structure as it provides the most solid fallback. She is happy she didn’t convert to the Fab Four technique since Gmail updated its rendering engine.
  • (9:14) What is your workflow for email design and development? What tools do you use? Becs describes her setup as “simplistic,” using a combination of Sublime Text and Atom, which is easier to manage Git with from her perspective. She uses image minifiers such as JPEGmini, TinyPNG, and Ezgif. She uses a snippet library and inlines CSS by hand.
  • (15:40) Has your approach changed at all since the Gmail rendering update? Nothing has changed for Becs or Conversio, since they try to support the lowest common denominator for rendering. Over time, she hopes to move toward more progressively enhanced styles and to an automated inlining workflow to save time.
  • (16:12) How do you test your emails? Becs uses Litmus, virtual machines for old Outlooks, and a mobile device lab including older Androids and a Sony Experian. She uses PutsMail to send tests to her local email accounts. Her testing process is largely reactive to customer requests as opposed to being proactive in order to save time. To educate customers, she refers them to Email Client Market Share over popular usage and where customers should be concerned over email rendering.
  • (20:25) What challenges did you have over your recent Conversio preference center makeover? Conversio is using Intercom to improve their communication with users, including their email feature. Becs is actually bypassing Intercom’s native unsubscribe feature by hiding it and built their own preference center that interacted with the Intercom API. They have an externally-facing preference center that doesn’t require a login, but it can be configured inside an account as well. Conversio has improved from 17% to 6% unsubscribe rate with the preference center overhaul.
  • (29:40) How do you handle freelancing for email marketing? Freelancing has helped Becs get every email job she’s ever had with the diversity of experience it’s provided. She offers design, development, strategy and consulting, and on-site training for services. The majority of her work is short-term, one-off projects such as simple email builds. She does not typically work with contracts but with quotes and charges hourly. Becs really enjoys it as a side hustle and finds she balances it well on top of her regular full-time job. She works remotely from home for all of her work so it provides great flexibility for her freelancing work. However, Becs does not like publicizing that she’s a part-time freelancer as she believes it hinders clients’ perception of her work—she has even lost clients over this before.
  • (36:52) How do you handle the client review process? Becs typically sends them Litmus tests, raw HTML files, and if she has access to their ESP, she will upload the email into their platform as well. Since most of her freelance work is smaller projects, she manages her communication over phone and email.
  • (38:45) How do you find new freelance work for email? Becs doesn’t do a lot of marketing to find new work, she generates most of her business through word of mouth. She attributes her past clients, networking, her website, and Twitter as the primary sources for generating leads.
  • (40:12) You mention there’s a moral aspect to freelancing – are there jobs you won’t do? Becs feels strongly about not sending to cold lists. She also won’t do work for any company whose cause she doesn’t support. She wants to help break the stigma that all email marketers are “spammers.”
  • (43:54) You have stated that you “are not sold” on interactive email? Why so and what has your personal experience with it? Though she admires the innovation, Becs isn’t quite sure about the ROI for interactive emails given the amount of development time and resources required for it compared to traditional email sends. Becs recently added some product review functionality into Conversio emails and had to re-do them as soon as she finished once Gmail dropped interactive email support with its rendering engine update. In her eyes, one of the hardest parts is the lack of tools to help test interactivity in emails.
  • (50:28) You said there are a lack of resources provided by companies for email market – why do you think that is and what can we do as a community to help address that? Becs feels the decision makers in companies don’t believe in email as its own marketing channel that generates ROI like other channels do. Junior roles are the ones mostly handed most email work. As a community, Becs believes we need to nurture younger talent.
  • (53:58) Where do you want to see email go next? Becs would like to see improvements in legal infrastructure to combat the “spamminess” of email. She would also like to see improved web font support, flexbox support, and tools to generate data visualization in email.

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