Spam Resource Spotlight: Tony Patti

Tony, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today! Your career path is an interesting one. How did you end up landing that first email/email operations/email marketing role at Travelocity? And what did you learn there that helped you throughout your career as you moved forward?

I was a call center manager for GTE Internetworking and got involved in Y2K Prep work for business email. After Y2K passed and we all didn’t die, GTE started its merger with Northern Telecom and started to dismantle our call center. My Team Lead escaped early and landed a SysAdmin role at Travelocity and when the call center shut down asked me if I wanted a fun job with email and travel and no phones. So I became the 2nd Email SysAdmin responsible for sending a kazillion Fare Sale emails through 3+ different systems. Lessons learned?
  1. Despite senior marketing leadership’s insistence, email is NOT ‘just email’ – it’s complicated. 
  2. Test, test, and test AGAIN. 
  3. Yes, it’s the database stupid. It’s always the database. Get the best one you can. 
Double opt-in/confirmed opt-in is something that you and I advocated for across the industry, across our various roles, over the years. While I know I can’t convince everybody to do it (and I don’t plan to die on that hill), I’ve seen a class of small “hyperlocal” news and newsletter sender lately who, if not doing double opt-in, seems to so quickly run into deliverability problems, so I’ve been particularly vocal about why they really just need to do double opt-in, even if it’s “not fair” that others don’t “have to.” What’s your selling point or argument for implementing double opt-in? Have you found a particular scenario where it’s most effective or easiest to fit into a signup process?

A decade or two ago marketers had a valid reason to avoid COI. Internet users were a lot less savvy and very frequently were unable to find the confirmation email so they would bolt and the marker’s conversion rate would sink and their list wouldn’t grow. That’s just not valid today. SMTP & MTA technology has improved and email is sent and received in seconds. Recipients are very used to getting a COI email seconds after they click “Sign Up”. They also know that in order to get the coupon, the discount, the free report they have to click to confirm. There’s dual benefits for the marketer – they’ll get fewer deliverability headaches and their list will be very clean without having to pay for list hygiene services. Why wouldn’t you want free email verification and a clean list?

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?

For marketers who’ve been listening to us email geeks for the past 10+ years, this is not an issue – they’ve been compliant for years. Some will need to tighten up their engagement metrics and watch their complaints but the email authentication protocols have been solidly in place for a while now. The lower volume senders will have some pain if they send through a shared pool at an ESP that hasn’t prepared properly. Typically these smaller senders are sending through agencies or marketing automation platforms that group their mail with dozens of other senders. I’ve seen these senders not have strict alignment in their email DNS records and frequently no DMARC records. The worst cases are small businesses who use their address and haven’t registered a domain name for their business.

From knowing you for a while, I get the impression that you might be a transplanted Texan...have you got a bit of New Jersey somewhere down there in your soul? If so, what led you to the Lone Star State?

Hard to hide isn’t it? Yes – I grew up in Bergen County, North Jersey but am a Southerner by birth. Conceived in Memphis, TN but born in the Florida Panhandle. Got bored with early 80’s life in Jersey so packed it up and moved to Los Angeles. When that scene went crazy I packed it up again and was heading back to Jersey but stopped in Dallas to visit a friend’s family and ended up staying,

What DO people do for fun in Texas, anyway?

Hmm... what DON’T people do for fun in Texas? I think it’s pretty much the universal things:
  1. Eating Out & Cooking In – BBQ & TexMex are at the top of the list but in DFW, we have just about every global cuisine available. 
  2. Lots of Pro Sports – Football, Baseball, Hockey & Basketball.
  3. All the outdoor stuff – camping and boating on our huge lakes. 

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?

We shall not speak of raisins but I will take all the Korean potato salad banchan that Alison and you don’t want on account of raisins at the Korean BBQ joint we’re sure to meet up at someday. Apologies to my Brit and Aussie mates but Marmite and Vegemite should be banned. Honestly I tried but, yeah, not ever going to win me over.

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?
  1. Confirmed Opt-In, Confirmed Opt-in and Confirmed Opt-in!
  2. 30 days, no opens, no clicks, no site logins – move them off your active list and to your reengagement campaign bucket. (You DO have a re-engagement campaign flow right?)
  3. Treat your customers like they were your friends and their inbox is like their front door and not your ATM machine. Would you want your friends ringing your doorbell 3x a day? Everyday? Twice a week? If you absolutely must send email frequently then make sure you tell your customer when they sign up how frequently they’ll receive your email and give them frequency choices. 
Tony, thanks so much for your time and words and knowledge and opinions! It was great to talk to you and get to know you a little better.

Did you know? Tony isn’t the first person I’ve interviewed for Spam Resource. Click here to find others.
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