08 Jun

Meet the consultant #1

Meet the consultant is a new series that introduces you to a consultant from the database of Consultmi.co. This series discusses a range of important topics in the selected consultant their field. Our first interview is with Connie Reichelsdorfer, who is a leading digital marketing expert, specialized in permission-based marketing practices, analytics, and search engine optimization. Connie is also the Executive Director of Zero waste Canada, an environmental non-profit organization in Canada. Throughout her career, she has also helped numerous start-ups, non-profits, and SMBs increase their online visibility. Connie is also the author of "Email Marketing 501: Advanced Analytics for Nonprofits & Small Businesses”, a best-selling Kindle ebook. As an expert in digital marketing, we thought it would be a good way to start the series by talking with her about the recent GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) changes and how it could affect the marketing industry.

Before we delve into the marketing aspect of the interview, we would like to know more about the person behind the business. Could you please give a brief summary of who Connie Reichelsdorfer is and what your previous experience has been?

Sure. I grew up in Germany, where I worked in tourism and the legal field for several years before settling in Canada. Shortly after arriving in Vancouver in 2009, I then got hired to work for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games and was also by the University of British Columbia, where I took over a graduate program of 150 students that I grew to a size of 220 in just 4 years. During my employment at the University of British Columbia, I also completed my Bachelor of Commerce full-time and started taking on contract work for marketing assignments across North America.

After completing these milestones, I started my career in marketing at full speed and also became certified in Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Doubleclick Studio, Bing, HootSuite, and HubSpot to round up my profile. I have been working as Digital Marketing Consultant for nonprofits and small to medium-sized organizations since. My clients usually get referred to me from other happy customers, and past clients regularly come back when they are facing another marketing obstacle. I’m living the dream! 

Could you describe your marketing expertise?

My marketing skill set is very dynamic and constantly evolving, while I specialize in web analytics and online visibility. At the beginning of each marketing project, I do an analytics audit to see if my clients are tracking all customer touch points and user interactions adequately. Basing important decisions on incorrect data leads businesses astray, so it’s important to get this right before rolling out any marketing campaigns. Once tracking has been successfully implemented, I move on to fix and optimize my clients’ AdWords accounts to ensure that they are indeed getting the most for their buck. These campaigns gain them momentum and online visibility while we work out a thorough SEO strategy that will ultimately lead to organic ("free”) traffic.

I particularly love working with the entire suite of Google products, ranging from Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Search Console, Google AdWords, YouTube, and Google Docs. What’s more is that I am just as comfortable consulting on marketing-related subjects, as I am on their implementation or on training contractors/staff members in any of the above.

You’ve been working with a lot of socially responsible start-ups and non-profit organizations, do you have a favorite campaign you have worked on so far? What made it stand out compared to others?

I have many favorites. One of them was kickstarting the educational outreach for Zero Waste Canada. About six months ago, one of our directors and I started creating "Zero Waste Guides” that we use as incentives for individuals to join our email list. Every Wednesday we are sending one waste fact to our supporters coupled with a zero waste tip that everyone can implement right away to fight that problem. We also post these tips on the website and allow our visitors to share them with their friends in just one click. It’s pretty fun and has received a lot of positive buzz already.

Another positive side effect is that our email list has increased by 700% in just over six months and these individuals are incredibly active. One individual even asked if he could post these zero waste tips in their building’s elevator system every week. How many individuals do you have on your email list that fall into that category?

Small businesses often rely on email marketing as an important tool to connect with their customers, how do think recent GDPR changes affect the SMB marketing industry?

Email subscribers have always had a chance to express their discontent about shady email acquisition practices and dishonesty, even before GDPR and those have always had a negative effect on a business, even financially. The only difference now is awareness. Undesirable email practices have usually been punished by a high "spam complaint rate.” The problem here is that "spam complaint rate” metrics can only be accessed via the postmaster tools of all major mailbox providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft). Unless you have signed up for these reports, you won’t know what your spam complaint rate is.

A high spam complaint rate can cause future email campaigns to be routed to the junk folder instead of the inbox, and as we all know, email that ends up in the junk folder hardly ever gets opened, let alone converts. This problem is amplified when email service providers count emails that ended up in the spam folder as "delivered,” because it doesn’t alert the email marketer that its delivery rate has tanked. GDPR, in my opinion, is, therefore, a blessing in disguise for many small businesses and email marketers. It forces adherence to email marketing best practices and businesses may now see a positive uplift in delivery rates and conversion rates as well, because quality in = quality out.

How do the changes affect you as an digital marketer?

The effects of GDPR were most felt a few months ago when I was getting my clients compliant with its regulations. There was a fair bit of resistance initially, caused by a feeling of overwhelming concerning policies that my clients were not familiar with.
After completing my clients’ cookie audits, creating their Cookie Policies, analyzing their data collection practices, updating their Privacy Policies, and working alongside their contractors to get the "opt-in” checkboxes for email signup forms right, I noticed a drastic shift in the mindset of my clients. The initial resistance has lifted and GDPR is no longer a stress factor. Since these implementations, email signups have slightly decreased, however, the impact has not been very dramatic because most of my clients were already using a permission-based approach to email marketing before the GDPR update.

One of the biggest challenges we were facing was to work around programs and applications that claimed full compliance but in reality didn’t meet GDPR standards. We had to switch out a few providers and getting settled with new applications involved a bit of a learning curve.

Do you see positive changes, or perhaps new opportunities develop in email

Every marketing discipline is continuously evolving and email marketing certainly is no exception. Apart from GDPR (although it affects more than just email marketing), one of the most recent developments in email marketing specifically was the roll-out of DMARC in 2014 to combat spam and phishing attacks. Another big change that has reshaped the industry was when mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Outlook started monitoring how users interact with their inboxes to identify where future email from a particular sender should be routed to, the glorious inbox or the junk folder. All these changes serve one particular purpose: Keeping inboxes clean and customers happy.
Professionals that are still sending the same email to their entire list need to level up , because recipients nowadays have very little patience for cookie-cutter marketing approaches.

There are so many great opportunities already available today that email marketers can leverage to create positive experiences for their subscribers and scale their business. I highly recommend utilizing the full spectrum for maximum impact. Any email service provider worth its salt will allow personalization, automation, tags, list segmentation, time-zone adjusted scheduling, SMS signup, and more. With these tools at their disposal, email marketers can actively create opportunities for growth.

To give you one example. When someone reads a blog post on web analytics on my website and decides to sign up for my weekly newsletter, they have the option to also opt-in to receive weekly tips for other marketing channels by checking the appropriate boxes. All weekly emails are highly personalized and reflect the interactions they’ve had with my site and my emails in the past. When someone purchases access to my email analytics course, they receive a special tag; I then use conditional content in my emails to ensure that readers who have taken my course already won’t see offers for the course in the emails they receive.  Emails to all recipients go out to them at a time when they’re usually reading my email, and I segment my list based on important criteria when I want to send them a special tidbit. These practices may take a while to set up, yet they keep my email recipients happy and engaged.

In my opinion, success in email marketing depends on keeping an eye open for new opportunities as they arise but also using the full array of tools we already have at our disposal.

The email marketing landscape is changing with people even claiming Facebook Messenger will replace email in the future. As an expert, do you think these emerging tech’s will affect the use of email marketing? How do you think other forms of inbound marketing will be affected?

I personally don’t think that it’s a question of "replacement,” at least not in the near future. Email, social media, messenger apps, and other tools have their place in the marketing world and they all serve their very unique purpose and audience. While Facebook is becoming less popular with the younger generation, its messenger app is highly popular among the same audience. And despite spending hours on Facebook every day, those 25 years and up are still predominantly using email over Facebook messenger.

Emerging technologies always radiate a certain hype, especially among the younger generation. Sometimes new technologies lose their appeal after a few months and sometimes we’re in it for the long haul. One phenomenon that explains these hypes is the first-mover’s advantage. If you’re among the first to adopt a new technology or marketing tool, your chances of benefiting from it before the hype dies down are higher than they are for laggards and late adopters. As a result, marketers often jump on these opportunities hoping to leverage them before fatigue for the new toolsets in. Once the appeal of the new tool wears off, people usually revert back to established channels.

While I don’t expect to see emerging technologies replace email or other inbound channels anytime soon, marketers need to be careful not to actively kill these channels either. When you create an enjoyable experience for our audience, no matter what channel you’re using, you will not have to worry too much about emerging technologies for a while.

Do you have any tips for our audience in regard to the recent GDPR changes?

Yes, embrace it. I know that many of you are likely unhappy about this whole GDPR thing, but in reality, this is a great step forward for all of us. How often do YOU roll your eyes when suddenly a flood of emails hits your inbox simply because you handed someone a business card at a conference or downloaded a whitepaper online? Your email subscribers might be feeling the same way about you. So, embrace these changes and start building relationships not email lists. Here are some tips to make sure you’re making the best of GDPR:

• If you’re not compliant yet and you still need to become compliant, hire someone who knows what they’re doing and do so ASAP. Failure to jump onto the GDPR wagon can be extremely expensive.
• Even if you’re not selling to Europe, it’s not a bad idea to inform yourself about these changes and adopt similar practices. Sooner or later, we will likely see similar regulations roll out in North America as well.
• How you phrase things matters. The outcome you’ll get from GDPR-conform messaging depends highly on the way you phrase your call to actions. If you are not gifted with creative writing, get some help.
• Don’t assume that GDPR only impacts email marketing. If you run social media ads, use remarketing, or collect analytics data on your website, GDPR affects you, too.
• Keep a record of everything. When someone fills out your form at an event and gives you consent to add them to your email list, keep a record of the form (electronic is fine). Do not discard it after adding the individual to your email list.
• If one of the providers you are relying on is not compliant, reach out and ask what workarounds they would suggest until they are compliant or switch to a different provider.

Finally, do you have any suggestions for recent university graduates who are just starting their careers in marketing?

Yes. Take ownership of your skills and knowledge! The days where graduating with an "honors” guaranteed you a job in the industry is over. Try to be one step ahead of the game and show off skills you’ve acquired on your own. If you’re up for a challenge, learn basic coding (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). Even though coding may seem unrelated to "marketing” at first glance, this skill set will jumpstart your career faster than most "creative” disciplines. Codecademy is a great resource for that and makes it fun to learn code.

And remember: Go the extra mile, because it’s never crowded. If you’re interviewing for a position that you absolutely want, reach out to the interviewer after, thank them for their time and submit a report of how you would approach this job if they give you a chance.

If you’re interested in talking to Connie, her profile can be found at https://www.consultmi.co/connie/tasker . Her book is available here: Email Marketing 501: Advanced
Analytics for Nonprofits & Small Businesses