Spam Resource Spotlight: Carmi Jones

Carmi, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today! Is it accurate to say that your email career started at Return Path? How did you end up there, and did you realize then what a huge industry email is and what you were getting yourself into?

Hi Al! Thanks so much for inviting me to this party! Its an honor. It's absolutely true that my email career path began at Return Path (lucky me!) It was a swell ride. I spent 9 years there and I learned so much and made forever friends.

My prior experience was offline database and direct marketing when I met Heather Goff at Return Path. She convinced me that I would be a great deliverability consultant when I couldn't even spell DNS. It was such an interesting role because I'm a marketer at heart, and lots of brands who I'd worked with offline were building their online brand; email was becoming an integral part of their strategy. 

I had no idea what I was in for. It was a career shift that changed me in innumerable ways. And it's the collaboration and community that have made all the difference.

You've worked both as an outside consultant (third party, not representing a sending platform) and as a consultant (or manager of consultants) for a number ESP/CRM platforms. What are some of the challenges that you'd highlight when it comes to deliverability consulting “inside versus outside”? And would you ever say that one is better than the other?

I think the biggest challenge working for a consultancy is access to platform data. Working for an ESP/MA/CRM platform can be really rewarding because we have ready access to all the data we need to piece together the puzzle, and we can supplement with other third party data. In my early days, we had only a piece of the equation and were reliant on our customers to bring us logs and share response data to get a full picture. I LOVE having all the signals and data at my fingertips. I'd say there's definitely more challenge on the third party consultant to get to the heart of the matter, so if you're really into unraveling a mystery, that's a sweet gig.

There's been a fair amount of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) out there about the new Gmail and Yahoo Mail Sender Requirements. What's your take? Are you worried that the updated requirements are going to be a different challenge for marketing senders to overcome?

So here's the thing, I've been around these parts for nearly 20 years, so I've seen my fair share of FUD about allllll the things that have changed/evolved/disappeared. I think this is the direction we've been headed for years. The largest brands have teams of bright people who will button this up with just a little effort.

Where there's an opportunity to be really helpful is to the SMB senders of the world, who are just making their mark. For some SMBs, managing these changes is going to feel really hard. The good news is there are plenty of smart people across the industry offering up their insights, tools and experience to solve for the part of the market that likely will need the most support. And those platforms who cater to this niche are working hard to make tools and wizards to simplify what can be overwhelming.

Not just an email nerd, your Linkedin profile also mentions that you're a margarita enthusiast. What makes the best margarita? Is it more a question of frozen versus rocks, salt versus nothing on the rim, or do you get fancy when searching for that perfect margarita to cool off on a hot day?

Seriously now I'm craving a margarita, thanks, Al. I love them, but I'm not snobby about them. Yeah, sure some people will do fancy infusions with their tequila or rim their glass with a smoked salt (I don't hate those!) But my jam is to use fresh citrus (lime and orange), my fave tequila (mine are blancos generally,) an orange liqueur and some salt and Tajin on the rim. On the rocks, NEVER frozen. Well, I take that back. I've been known to make a refreshing frozen watermelon margarita in the summatime.

Is it just margaritas, or might it include…nachos to go with the margarita?

Nachos are great but my fave dish to pair with margaritas is green chili chicken enchiladas. My family is from New Mexico where the best (Hatch) green chilis come from. No shade to Pueblo (Colorado) chili, but IYKYK. Can you get green chili in Chicago, Al? I may need to ship you a batch with our family recipe!

I am ashamed to say that I have no idea where to get the best chilis in Chicago!

Alison Gootee and I agreed recently that raisins ruin everything. Do you agree, or are you wrong? If not raisins, what is one foodstuff or ingredient that you believe should simply NOT exist, something you can't believe people knowingly enjoy?

I'm probably wrong. I can live with or without raisins but let me tell aunt makes the BEST oatmeal CRaisin cookies. It's the little tang I appreciate.

Let's talk cilantro. A perfect partner for my fave salsa and Mexican dishes but the dry seeds called coriander are just the worst. It's soapy and gross.

Okay, we're putting coriander seed on the list!

Back to the topic of the blog. Email marketers so often come to us after the problem has already happened. Deliverability remediation, not deliverability prevention. If you could corner every single email marketer in the world and inject 1-3 specific points of knowledge or best practices directly into their brain – to try to help them avoid stepping into that bear trap of a deliverability problem in the future, what would you tell them?

Yes! So true. I think deliverability consulting is more often pain relief than self-care!

Ok top tips:

  1. Be a smart marketer! Segment and tailor your messaging, apply creative approaches that resonate, be intentional and memorable with your tone and cadence.
  2. Set and manage expectations from hello. Tell subscribers what to expect and how often and let them snooze when their interest wanes.
  3. Permission isn't granted forever. Low response, unsubscribes and complaints are your subscribers telling you they need a break...or a break up. Proactively sunsetting non responders is key to inbox.
  4. Can I add a fourth, because why not? Use every tool you can get your hands on. SNDS, Google Postmaster, bounce logs, your ESP reporting, third party data, alerting on reputational signals like blocklistings, email geeks and women of email and other communities. It's not always cheap (but sometimes it's free!) and you have to know how to interpret the data, but it will all provide perspective to round out your world view and get you to resolution faster.

Carmi, thanks so much for your time and words and knowledge and opinions! I'm so glad you're part of our deliverability community and HubSpot is lucky to have you.

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