December 3, 2019

Email on Tap Episode 16, with Lacy Surber, Marketing Cloud Customer Success, Senior Manager, Salesforce


We couldn’t keep Anthony Chiulli, our director of product marketing, away from making these awesome Email on Tap videos for too long, and thus… Season 2 is officially on tap.

To kick off the next season, Anthony met with Lacy Surber during the 250ok and MailerQ Global Sender Summit in Amsterdam. Lacy is a Marketing Cloud customer success senior manager at Salesforce, and they discussed her journey through email, including a move across the globe!

Without further ado, here’s the next episode of Email on Tap.

(Keep scrolling for key timestamps and even a full transcript. Plus, find links to our podcast version!)

Total Run Time: 14 minutes
0:32 – Lacy’s journey from the US to Amsterdam
1:35 – Tactics and core values putting brands on the cutting edge of digital marketing
3:02 – Email’s versatility in light of other emerging messaging channels
4:45 – Email’s unique benefit in serving as an easily searchable digital archive
5:38 – Importance of user experience in driving customer success
7:10 – GDPR’s impact on the way brands approach digital marketing strategy
7:01 – Why email is still king of digital marketing
10:12 – Cultural differences in work/life balance between the US and Europe
12:25 – Next biggest technology to disrupt digital marketing


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Transcript

Anthony Chiulli
Hi, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Email on Tap. I’m your host, Anthony Chiulli, and today I’m joined by Lacy Surber. She is the Salesforce Marketing Cloud customer success manager. And we’re here in Amsterdam and I’m super excited to interview you. How are you, Lacy?

Lacy Surber
I’m so good. I’m so glad that you’re here. You made the big trip.

AC
I know. My first time in Europe, I was a little bit nervous. But what a beautiful city. Thanks for having us.

LS
So glad you guys are here.

AC
So tell me a little bit about your backstory because you actually recently moved to Amsterdam with your family and originally an expat from the DC area and Virginia. What was that journey like?

LS
Insane. Yeah. So it was a decision that my husband and I made together. We thought, “Let’s make 2017 our year of adventure.” And we initially thought we’d quit our jobs and travel with our son, and then started thinking about it and doing some talking with some mentors. And they said, “Well, why don’t you consider taking a new job within Salesforce?” That’s who I work for, and so I did. We came to visit Amsterdam to see some friends. My husband’s best friend lives here and got back from that trip. Two weeks later I had an interview for a role here and that was in June. By October we were on a plane, house sold, car sold, the whole thing, and here we are two years later.

AC
Wow.

LS
Yeah. Yeah.

AC
What an exciting story.

LS
It’s really been a wild ride, but we love it here. It’s been great.

AC
So in your role, you work with many notable global brands driving digital transformation. In your opinion, what separates out kind of the best-of-breed brands and their core values and tactics that make them kind of on the edge of digital transformation?

LS
Yeah. That’s an awesome question because it’s something I think even in the role that I am in and the brands I work with, they range from local EU-type of brands to global brands, right? So they may be focused here, but then have reach much broader. And really those customers, whether they’re small or large, that are doing really great things are putting the customer first and thinking about that experience, not just continuing to send batch and blast emails. They’re actually thinking about the channels that they’re engaging with customers on. They’re thinking about personalization and content. And they’re really stopping to do that planning and that thinking and thinking about it from the customer point of view, as opposed to those brands that are just constantly going with what they’ve always done. The brands that I’m working with that I think are really doing cool things and are making an impact in their programs whether it’s the ROI on their investments, whether it’s sales, they’re really thinking about the customer and really taking into consideration how they’re engaging, where they’re engaging, what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and doing a lot of planning up front.

AC
So on that point, there’s certainly been a lot of changes in the digital marketing landscape with the emergence of SMS and social and other channels. What are you finding in your seat of kind of the validity of email as a workhorse and a channel?

LS
Yeah. So it’s a great question because I think for a number of years people said, “Oh, email’s dead,” when SMS came into play. They said it again when app push notifications came into play. But there’s a lot of research out there that says that email engagement is up 21% in the last two years. And what I’m seeing from the customers I work with, and even in my own personal experience, is that those channels on your mobile are great, right? We’re all always on our phones, let’s face it. I think the number’s like 50 plus percent of emails are opened on phones. But the reality is that when we are sending a message to our customers in email that’s relevant and valuable, people are engaging more with that than they are a push notification because, like I’m sure you do, I get hundreds a day on my phone whether it’s news, text messages from my mom, push notifications from the daycare apps, all of those, and they get lost. But people are literally living in their inboxes, whether it’s at the office or at home, to do a little bit of everything and I think that’s where it’s really important to continue to focus. And the brands I’m working with that are putting email sort of as that linchpin or that key channel and then augmenting and adding additional value across the other platforms, I’m really seeing a lot more engagement and success from their investments.

AC
One of the unique things about the email channel when you talk about how it compares in user experience versus social or SMSs, some of those channels are more disruptive, right? So push notifications and SMS are very disruptive forms of marketing. Email is a little bit unique in that it kind of acts as a repository or archive so that if you get a marketing offer or something that is compelling, you can preview it very quickly but then come back to it when you’re ready.

LS
That’s a great point.

AC
Social is one of those channels where it’s a feed. And so if you find an offer or find something compelling, you have to go back and scroll, and it’s very complicated to find marketing through social. In my experience, that’s one of the benefits of email that’s certainly helped its versatility as a channel, is being able to kind of act in the repository or archive manner.

LS
You’re absolutely right. Absolutely.

AC
Let’s talk about your work in customer success. You work with a lot of brands in trying to optimize customer success, excuse me. How important is the customer experience or user experience in driving customer success?

LS
Yeah. I think, like I was saying before, the brands that are doing well from an engagement perspective with their customers and with their products and seeing increase of sales and market share, they’re doing the hard work up front to put that first in line, right? And it’s interesting. I was talking to a financial brand a couple weeks back and they said, “Tell us about other financial brands doing great things with customer-centricity.” And I said, “Yeah. We can talk about that. But you need to look at the broader landscape. Think about Amazon. Think about the Googles. You are literally competing from a brand experience perspective with all of these giants, not just your customers’ life insurance—other life insurance brands or other annuity companies. You really need to be considering the entire landscape of how you’re trying to communicate with your customer because you’re competing for their time against these other brands that genuinely are integrated every single day into their lives.” And so I think that taking a broader view, it makes our jobs as email marketers and digital marketers in general much more complex and different than it ever was before. But it’s so, so important.

AC
So being based here in Amsterdam now for almost two years—

LS
Little over two years.

AC
Little over two years, you have a very unique perspective as it relates to GDPR. You were living in the States leading up to the enforcement date last year—

LS
I was.

AC
And now have spent two years here in Europe. How has GDPR and that data privacy legislation going into effect kind of changed the mentality or strategy for the brands that you work with?

LS
Yeah. So I will say that GDPR, leading up to it there was a lot of sort of information out there, a lot of guidance from legal departments within the brands that I work with, right? So we always defer to the legal teams to help guide them. But the reality is that I think that the steps that brands have taken to be GDPR-compliant, excuse me, in the years leading up to that have really created an olive branch of trust among their customers, right? When you go to a brand’s webpage in the EU, regardless of where you are, the first thing that pops up is cookie and acceptance, and you don’t get that in the US, right? So you know what’s happening to your data, and some of the brands I work with go so far as to not just have a, “Yes, I accept the cookies,” which every website I go to is automatically yes because I want to be able to access all of the content, right? But some of the brands are doing—there are profile and preferences baked into that acceptance of the cookies which is amazing. And you’re able to better tailor the experience for the customer on the website but also through the additional channels once you have that sort of profile and acceptance set up.

AC
Yeah. I think it certainly has set a standard in the industry for increased trust, as you mentioned, and security. And it’s certainly impacting other areas of legislation including in the States with CCPA, and other countries. So as much as it was kind of a pivotal time of year for brands to fall into compliance and rush, and a lot of them procrastinated as well–

LS
They did. Yeah. They did.

AC
I think it’s a step in the right direction in our ecosystem for increased trust.

LS
Yeah. And I will say as an American expat here, it makes me very sad when I try to go to my beloved US sites from the EU and I can’t because they aren’t GDPR compliant. And one, it’s sad because I miss home and those products, selfishly, but it’s also that those brands are missing out on a market opportunity and the opportunity to reach a wider audience. And we’re talking big national brands in the US that could have a broader footprint. So I think that’s something everybody should be considering and thinking about.

AC
That’s a great point.

LS
Because our legislation in the States just isn’t as strict and isn’t as transparent. And I think it’s really important that the brands here and the EU legislation values the trust of consumers, and that’s huge.

AC
As a successful woman in tech and a mom of two–

LS
Thank you. Yes.

AC
I’m interested in what you believe the cultural differences are kind of between the work-life balance between working here in Europe and your time back in the States.

LS
Yeah. I can give a perspective on the Netherlands because it really is quite a unique experience. I currently work four days a week. It’s super common in my office that mothers and fathers have what’s called a mama or papadag, which means your day off. It’s part of legislation here that if you have children, you have a certain number of hours allocated to use until the child is eight. It is unpaid time, but you can take that time off to be with your kids. And people don’t bat an eye when you walk out the door at 4:00. They don’t bat an eye to say—schools in the Netherlands, they get out on Wednesdays at 12:30 so that children can go to sports activities. And it’s not uncommon to be in a meeting at 11:30 and folks say, “I’m really sorry, but I’m coaching soccer,” they call it football, “I’m coaching football at 1:00. I need to go.” And that’s really widely accepted and family first is really the way it is here. I think there are some numbers around working women and I think it’s something like 32% work 32 hours to, I think, 24 hours a week. So that abbreviated schedule’s really welcomed. And leadership has sort of worked with me to say, “Look, the workload for someone working full time would be X, but you were at 80%. So let’s talk about what that means in making sure that family is first,” and it’s huge.

AC
Yeah. It makes a big difference in your life.

LS
It makes such a difference. Yeah. I mean, I have to say having two kids, if I didn’t have that flexibility having just come back from maternity leave in August, I don’t know that I would be staying in the workforce if I didn’t have a really support both from a legislation perspective, company and culture perspective to stay in the workplace because it’s a really hard balance. I mean, you know with two kids. It is a full-time job on top of a full-time job on top of another full-time job, so yeah.

AC
To wrap things up, a forward-thinking question: What do you think is the most disruptive next big thing in digital marketing whether it’s tech or strategy?

LS
I think we’re going to see—I think we’re going to see AI being even bigger, right? I know we’ve talked a lot about bot-scraping and things like that to do panel data before. That’s been a big conversation in deliverability. But I think when we think about targeting the right message to the right people at the right time, AI’s going to be really crucial in that. And we’re starting to see some of that launching with send-time optimizations. But I think marketers have got to get a little bit more on board with it, right? I think there are some numbers that two years ago, like 40% of marketers were thinking about AI and today, it’s like 66% are thinking about it. And don’t quote me on the exact number, but it’s grown exponentially. And I think we’re going to have to get really comfortable with AI being an even bigger part of our lives and as our roles as digital marketers and really embracing that, so yeah.

AC
Yeah. I would agree. It’s been a hot topic and a trend as of late, and I think it’s going to continue to grow.

LS
I think it is, too, and I think the technology’s only getting better. I think the algorithms are only getting smarter. And we can use that for positive, really, and to make our lives and jobs a little bit easier and to connect better with our consumers, so.

AC
Lacy, thank you so much for sitting with me. This has been great.

LS
Sure. Thank you. I’m so glad that you’re here. I’m really, really glad. I’m excited to show you the city and yeah, happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

AC
I look forward to it and thanks, everyone, for tuning in. We hope to see you on another episode of Email on Tap.

Author: Nicky Copland

Nicky is the senior marketing manager at 250ok. Before joining the team, she spent the majority of her time crafting and implementing communications strategies for the association industry. She was never a brain surgeon, but she played one on the internet.

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