Read Time: 20 min

Delivering Episode 26: Micro-Efficiencies in Email With Magan Le

In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez chats with teammate Magan Le about what it means to be agile in email marketing and how small improvements—or micro-efficiencies—can combine to supercharge your email marketing.

Episode Transcript

Jason Rodriguez:
Welcome to Delivering, a podcast for the email industry from strategy to design, code of leadership and everything in between. I’m your host, Jason Rodriguez. Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform trusted by professionals to help you send email with confidence every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus as tools to build, test and analyze better email campaigns, faster.

Head over to litmus.com to start your free seven day trial of Litmus and start sending better emails today. And 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.

So, one of the things we’ve been focused on at Litmus is how to improve the email marketing process, especially by removing inefficiencies while enabling collaboration between team members, which is a little bit tricky. Our own research has shown that the number of people involved in campaign production, the number of emails in production at any given time, and the length of time to produce a single campaign have all grown over the last few years, which could be a recipe for disaster for teams that can’t manage that growth or aren’t focused on their workflows and their process.

So, with that in mind, I’ll be chatting with my own teammate, Magan Le about some techniques for combating that chaos that comes from that kind of growth. Magan is our content marketing manager at Litmus and the author of a few recent posts on agile email marketing and how email marketers can implement micro-efficiencies in their workflows to make their lives easier. So, welcome to the podcast, Magan.

Magan Le:
Thank you.

Jason Rodriguez:
So, let’s kick off by just digging into your history a little bit in the email world. I’d love to hear about your work before Litmus, how you got to Litmus and just how you’ve lived with email over the past few years.

Magan Le:
I’ve been in the email marketing industry for about 10 years with a focus mostly on strategy and content and a little bit of design and development. I feel like a lot of email marketers are unicorns and doing it all. And so, I got my start at a tech startup back in 2010 and then later moved on to a financial services enterprise in the B2B world. Then right before Litmus, working in e-commerce. And so, it’s been a really fun ride. Obviously, since I’ve been doing email marketing before, I’ve been familiar with Litmus and now I get to write about it.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, which is awesome. Yeah, it’s been fun getting to know you a little bit better and working with you over the last couple months here. You’re still kind of new, but have been doing some great work and I’m excited about all the future projects we have in the hopper.

Magan Le:
Yeah, me too.

Jason Rodriguez:
It seems like you’ve touched on a bunch of different industries, which is cool, so have probably seen a wide range of teams and some of these challenges that everybody’s facing.

Magan Le:
Oh, yeah.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah. I think that’s good experience to come from and draw from. So, one of the things you’ve been writing about recently, you had two recent posts on the blog about agile email marketing. We’ve on the product side and the engineering side of Litmus have been practicing agile for a while. I feel like some people might be familiar with the agile methodology, but explain a little bit about what that is and how it applies to email marketing.

Magan Le:
For those who aren’t familiar with the agile methodology, it’s really about working in small parts or sprints to create a most viable product, which means you’re not looking for perfection, you’re just looking for progress. The great thing about that is you’re able to pivot much more quickly with the changing environments, your changing customer needs, which is especially important in this day and age, because we’ve got the pandemic and the economic crisis. And so, agile teams are able to move more quickly, which also means you are able to grow and learn more quickly as well. And so, translating that over to marketing, it’s just being able to create really quick, fast marketing campaigns, experimenting much more quickly to continue to learn what your customers want.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, I feel like especially in 2020, it’s people that haven’t practiced agile before have been kind of forced to practice agile, whether or not they want to, because we’ve all been contending with just a massively rapidly changing environment and have had to pivot our email strategies as a result. So, when it comes to agile, and kind of beyond that too, when we talk about productivity in general, and how people get their work done, there’s this concept of micro-efficiencies that you’ve been digging into. So, explain to us what micro-efficiencies would be, then.

Magan Le:
The point of micro-efficiencies is just being able to work in small steps and small ways in order to make really big changes to your email marketing process, for example. The reason for that is, especially in my experience with agile marketing, is that a lot of people aren’t used to the idea. It really takes a huge mental shift in order to work in that kind of environment. And so, micro-efficiencies is an easier way to get into it because it’s a step that’s so tiny that you just can’t not take it. It’s supposed to be really simple and easy for you to do. So, that’s the point of micro-efficiencies, is how can you take these really tiny steps to eventually grow into the agile email marketing process?

Jason Rodriguez:
Nice. Yeah, I’m always reminded of, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen What About Bob? With Bill Murray, but he has the book, Baby Steps that he’s always thinking about. It feels like that, it’s these smaller little baby steps that we can take in our daily work and our daily process that taken together will add up to something bigger, this larger shift in our working practices. Is that right?

Magan Le:
Yeah.

Jason Rodriguez:
Awesome. We’ve talked a little bit about, we have to pivot these days a lot more quickly, but beyond that, what are some of the reasons that teams should start thinking more about micro-efficiencies and smaller improvements as opposed to these larger strategy shifts and process changes that people tend to think about?

Magan Le:
I know we talked about the changing environment and all of that, but I really think it’s around that because for example, a lot of marketing teams focus on these really huge campaigns and sometimes by the end of it, it’s not the right thing to do for your customers or for your company anymore. So, being able to think about smaller improvements as a way to stay on top of things and move more quickly. Because if you’re just focused on this really big thing and it fails, that’s not a good thing versus if you had smaller failures, you know?

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. So, I guess maybe a good tactic to take would be to look at some of these micro-efficiencies, some examples. So, walk me through a couple of examples of micro-efficiencies that people could start using in their own process, regardless of where that happens to be in the email production process.

Magan Le:
Well, one of the things would be to start thinking more strategically about your emails, if you haven’t already, which can feel like a huge, huge thing. But again, as a micro-efficiency, just thinking even very basically, what is your objective and what is your goal? And that’s it. And then on to email development, there are huge ways that you can really be more efficient in that. And even if it’s working in very small things. So, we talk about partials and snippets, which this is probably something that you’re more familiar with, and so maybe you can speak to that. But it’s helping to be more efficient in the email development process, which usually takes a while in the whole email marketing process. I don’t know if you want to talk a little bit more about that.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, that’s definitely, I feel like one of the biggest improvements I’ve seen. I don’t develop as many emails as I’d like to these days, don’t do as much coding beyond workshop stuff and couple of template-related things. But just over the decade or so that I’ve been in the industry, it seemed like we started with hand coding everything from scratch every time we built a new email campaign, or copying and pasting an old template and updating it for whatever the new content is. That was always a really tedious and time-consuming process. But then adding these micro-efficiencies by using things like partials and snippets and not having to reinvent the wheel every time we want to build new email campaign, is one of the greatest productivity hacks that I think every email developer should look into using.

Jason Rodriguez:
So, that’s definitely reflected, we built that into Litmus Builder because it was such a great benefit to email developers. A lot of people were using solutions inside of Dreamweaver or whatever code editors they happened to be using, but we wanted to make that front and center for Builder. That’s what we’ve been improving over the last couple of months too, with the release of Design Library and the new Visual Editor inside of Builder. So, yeah, I think that’s a huge win. When it comes to, on the planning and strategy side, you mentioned getting more strategic about your email campaigns and thinking a little more deeply. Are there any tools or documents or anything people can use on a practical level to use that kind of micro-efficiency?

Magan Le:
Yeah, there are a lot of great email brief templates, we even have our own, that you can use if you’re not sure where to even begin. So, take advantage of things like that. And then just even thinking about any other micro-efficiency, there are a lot of different tools and resources to where you can start doing some of these things in tandem. So, I talked about the email brief template to help you with email strategy, but there are also things, for example, that Litmus does to help you, for example, collaborate in one place.

Magan Le:
And so, for example, we’re talking about the review process. So, if you’re used to getting feedback and sending a whole bunch of test emails out and then trying to figure out what everyone is trying to say, that takes up a lot of time. It can be really frustrating. But when you have a tool like Litmus and there are other tools that do this too, you can, for example, with the Litmus Proof, you can see the email right then and there, people can actually click on the email and make a comment so you know exactly what that comment is supposed to be for. Everyone’s on the same page. You can even collect approvals on all of that. It’s super convenient and then it saves you a whole bunch of time too.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, for sure. It seems… which I think that’s a tactic we’ve taken when we think about the Litmus product, is finding all of those pain points and those inefficient, I guess, those micro-inefficiencies that people deal with on a daily basis and trying to build them into the product and improve it a little bit.

Magan Le:
Yeah, they really add up.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah. I think that’s the thing, is they seem small when we think about them in isolation, but when you add all those micro-efficiencies up together, then it’s potentially a game-changing workflow for email marketing, which is awesome. What are some of the biggest challenges, people and teams face when they’re trying to be more agile, that you’ve seen?

Magan Le:
I mentioned this at the beginning of the podcast, but it’s about a change in mindset, and it’s something that a lot of traditional marketers will struggle with, because again, they’re used to thinking in huge campaigns and having this perfect campaign and this perfect product, but you have to get out of that and you have to be okay with making mistakes, with failure, because you’re only going to learn from that. And so, you see a lot of people resisting that. And so, there was a company that I worked for before, where we started implementing agile marketing. And that is definitely the thing that we struggled with, is how can we get people to work in this different way and not thinking about trying to be perfect all the time?

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah. Were there any familiar experience, any tips or tactics to get people over that hurdle?

Magan Le:
I would say education, especially because in the marketing world, agile is not something that a lot of marketing teams are familiar with. And so, education, and then even just having a proof of concept that you can work with so people can see the value in an agile and how it can apply to one small part before… I guess it’s kind of like a micro efficiency, just… Yeah, try it out in this one small way and then you can see how awesome it is and apply it to the rest of your marketing campaigns.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, I feel like that should be the tactic in email marketing in general, is you run an A/B test or something, and then you figure out what works for that subject line or that bit of copy or whatever happens to be, and that’s a micro thing, but then you can scale that out. Especially when we at Litmus, we’re really big on working email first and then learning first in email, then scaling that out to the rest of our marketing program. So, it seems like it should be almost an innate concept for marketers, but I think you’re right in saying that a lot of people are used to having these months or years long marketing plans. And as we’ve seen in 2020, a lot of things can happen that are completely outside of our control that we have to just completely scrap all of those plans and work on a really shorter time scale.

Magan Le:
Absolutely.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah. So, outside of email, are there any micro-efficiencies that you can think of that are really improved, like your work or your life? For me, one thing that I have to use as… I use a task manager and my preferred one is called TickTick, and I’m mostly on Macs but I have, instead of opening up my task manager and entering whatever the task that happens to be, and flipping back to whatever I was doing before, I have a keyboard shortcut set up. So, whatever I’m doing at my computer, I can hit that keyboard shortcut, type in what I have to do, set a date for it really quickly and then get right back to where I was, which is handy for meetings and all that stuff. Is there anything like that outside of email that just makes your life that much better?

Magan Le:
I don’t know. I feel like I’m such a… Well, I guess I should have some, because I’m also a mother of three, so it’s like how can I [inaudible 00:16:00] with my life, maybe just have no life. But something that I like to do, it takes a similar concept of micro-efficiencies, is breaking down tasks into smaller tasks, because if I just have something on my calendar and it’s like agile email workflow ebook, you know, create it around this thing that we’re talking about, that in and of itself is a huge thing. So, I have to break things down, even if it’s just writing copy for section one, writing copy for section two, or even just the sentence. I don’t know, just breaking things down into smaller pieces and it makes me feel like I’m making progress toward this really big thing.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, it seems like it is that kind of mental shift that you were talking about, where you look at these larger projects and it can be overwhelming and intimidating. If there’s one thing we don’t need more of in 2020, it’s that feeling of being overwhelmed because we’re all constantly overwhelmed 24/7. So, I like that, just looking at things, breaking them down to their smallest atomic components and tackling them on that scale seems a lot more manageable.

Magan Le:
Yeah, I don’t know how else I can get things done.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and that definitely helps out. So, beyond just agile and micro-efficiencies, are there any big challenges you see teams facing in the email world over the next couple of years?

Magan Le:
I think it’s the same thing that email teams have been facing, in that we’re always being asked to more with less. Like I mentioned this before, a lot of email marketers are unicorns and so you’re expected to do everything. So, it’s like how are you able to scale with all these new demands? And I guess it’s still going back to being agile and micro-efficiencies and all… We’re trying to talk about something else, but I really do feel like that is one of the biggest challenges email marketers have been facing and continue to face.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah, which is always so weird to me because it’s been… I feel like every year we do research, we release stats and a lot of other companies do, where it proves that email is one of the, if not the most valuable marketing channel that people can rely on. And yet, constantly email teams are under-resourced, understaffed and asked to do more and more with less and less, which I guess, it’s just mind-blowing to me. It doesn’t make sense to me, but I guess that is the reality of the world. So, I think you’re right that it’s going to be more collaboration, teamwork, getting the most out of what you have and being agile to do it. So, what are you most excited about in the email world right now? Any new techniques, any cool companies sending things, what has you excited in email these days?

Magan Le:
I love that emails are focusing a lot more on content these days. And again, I think it’s just because of everything that’s going on right now, a lot of companies are struggling to sale or push product. And so, there’s a lot of focus on content and creating a story and building relationships, which I absolutely love.

Jason Rodriguez:
Yeah. That’s awesome, yeah. I’m hoping that, yeah, we’ll get to see more of than more of that, even as hopefully the world returns to some sense of normalcy. But I like that too. Yeah. I feel like more people are leaning on values-based marketing and storytelling and connecting with people on a more human level, which is something I think we all need.

Magan Le:
Yeah.

Jason Rodriguez:
Awesome. Cool. That does it for us today. Thank you Magan, for joining me. Hopefully I’ll have you back on the podcast sometime soon and we can talk about any of the other cool projects that you’re working on and some of the topics are tackling at Litmus.

Magan Le:
Yeah. I’d love to.

Jason Rodriguez:
Awesome. So, that’s it for today’s episode of Delivering.

Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the only platform trusted by professionals to help you send email with confidence every time. Over 600,000 marketing professionals use Litmus as tools to build, test and analyze better email campaigns, faster.

Head over to litmus.com to start your free seven day trial of Litmus and start sending better emails today. And 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.

 Cheers.

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