Meet the Influencers: Tim Watson


Tim Watson is the Founder of Zettasphere.

1. How did you get started in email marketing?

My first experience of email marketing was a little unorthodox. Little did I know it was the first step into many years of email. And it’s a secret I've never shared until now.

Back in the early 2000's I developed a specialised software utility for translators, plus a website to market and sell the utility. This was before the days of eCommerce in a box; hand coded PHP and integration of one of the early online payment gateways.

Then came the biggest issue in any business, how to get people to know about the new software utility? I applied the early SEO techniques, on page and off page - this was in the time of running link exchanges to get a good listing.

But I wanted to more pro-actively reach the right people. Why not try email? I'd never sold anything using email before, but it seemed to be worth a go.

With the help of a simple mass mailer Windows email client program and data publically published on a translator’s association website I sent around 20K emails. This was before CAN-SPAM, PECR and other regulations, so no legal issues.

No open or click tracking in the simple mass mail program and way before Google Analytics was on the scene. But I knew it worked as sales came in and so a side-line business was launched with email. A side-line that keeps earning today.

Whilst that was my first taste of email, the big step was when a phone call came out of the blue from a long-time friend. Would I like to join his company Email Reaction? A young ESP that was just getting commercial traction.

Whilst joining a start-up might seem risky, after a look at the business plan the only risk to me seemed to be the potential loss I faced by not joining. If ever there was a sure bet this was it.

So that was it, I joined the management team in Director capacity to help grow the company. The then five person company grew rapidly, was acquired by a larger company and continued to grow. In my time email volumes went up 80,000%. Managing this kind of growth was challenging but fun and hugely rewarding.

I was hooked on email.

2.Tell us about your current role and what a typical day is like.

In 2011 I returned to being my own boss, offering email consultancy and strategic support. Selling the years of knowledge and experience gained.

At any one time I've several projects running alongside core clients with whom I work with month on month. I'm lucky to have gained several dynamic and responsive clients, where recommendations are executed quickly.

Most days I’m either deep in discovery or converting insights into actionable recommendations that can be fed into the right team for implementation.

Discovery involves a lot of data work and auditing processes. The data work can be working with BI teams or processing the data myself – it’s incredible how a few gigabytes of data can be so easily manipulated now with simple tools.

The focus changes from project to project but can be anything from engagement strategy, through list growth, contact planning, segmentation, optimisation down to deliverability.

I get my hands dirty too at times, putting the occasional quick email together and testing it out. It’s still fun to sometimes press send.

And the best bit is always reviewing the results after all the hard work to see what happened and plan the next steps.

3. What do you see as the future of Email Marketing?

Email feels stronger than ever. The smartphone has made it into a 24/7 channel and I’m seeing no shortage of appetite from brands to keep pushing email channel forwards. It simply keeps earning.

Email is moving towards a blended approach, combining broadcast, automation and triggers. All driven by behavior based insight. ‘The money is in the list’ should be changed to the money is in the data.

It’s not just about data to use for targeting, but better use of data to understand customers; tracking, performance and event data analysis that provides the pointers as to where to focus strategy.

The tools and technologies to combine data and make use of it are getting easier. The larger ESPs are being consumed into even larger cloud companies, which means a high risk that their focus on innovation in the email channel may slow. But there are plenty of entrants into email marketing technology with new ideas.

4. Why should anyone choose email marketing as a career.

Working in email marketing is so hugely rewarding because there is such clarity on the value of the work.

It’s easy to connect effort to effect and bottom line impact. Your work is not judged by subjective opinions but the clarity of numbers. You get to work out and improve to get the desired result based on hard evidence, and not unsubstantiated opinion. In short it’s a fair game.

Besides which I can’t think of many places where you can have a big button called send, hit it and minutes later start see dollar bills fly in.