Interview with Nancy Vodicka, VP Marketing at iContact

1. Could you tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the VP Marketing at iContact?

Product Marketing was my entry into Marketing. This gave me a strong customer-first, data rich footing. Being assigned to “new” product ventures meant I often had to wear many marketing hats to fill in the gaps. I quickly got up to speed on all things Marketing and began leading teams. Leading iContact’s Marketing Team was a natural fit. We are dedicated to helping the customer and using data to make customer-first decisions.

2. What is the core marketing technology capability of iContact that you bring to a marketer?

iContact helps businesses and organizations of all sizes and segments begin and maintain the customer conversation through multi-channel holistic marketing campaigns.

What we do best is make email marketing affordable, accessible and easy for anyone — whether that’s a small business, a large company, a nonprofit, or an educational organization

With iContact Pro, we literally help organizations transform their workweek by personalizing marketing, segmenting their audience, and automating tasks that used to be difficult and required a lot of input and work from multiple departments. With our products, you don’t have to be huge to be a pro with email marketing.

3. Where does your product fit in vis-a-vis the customer life cycle?

The beauty of our products is that they enable companies to engage at any point in the customer life cycle from lead acquistion, to paying customer, through to retention. We help companies keep that conversation going, and with our sign-up forms, brands can learn more about their subcribers from the very beginning.

4. From a technology perspective, what are some of the biggest challenges that your marketing team faces today?

Today’s website infrastructures are so complex. Managing plug-ins and various content platform integrations seamlessly is always a challenge. Also, picking and choosing the right design elements that look stunning on mobile devices as well as desktop computers. We want the customer journey to be as seamless as possible.

5. What are some of the new approaches that you would like your marketing team to try this year?

Our goal is to empower the entire company to be an extension of the marketing team

We want to engage everyone to be our advocates and share their expertise with others. Every person in this company is in marketing, from sales, to support, and everything in between. A recent example of how we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of what’s most important, i.e. our customers, is our new Voice of the Customer initiative, a partnership with our award-winning support team. The marketing department, along with the rest of the team at iContact, has been listening in on real customer service calls to witness first-hand how our decisions affect real customers.

6. What are the key metrics for which marketers should deploy A/B testing for in an email marketing software? How should they go about deciding on the key parameters to be tracked to make their email marketing campaigns more effective?

For email marketers, subject line, time of day, imagery, CTAs, preheaders, frequency, offers, price points and even colors are all important variables to test. For organizations concerned with brand awareness, the most important metrics are opens and clicks; for e-commerce users, making sure they have tracking enabled so they can measure engagement from the email through to the website and sales conversion. To make this job easier on our Premier level customers, we’ve armed them with a new tool, something we call their Report Card, which includes a new proprietary engagement metric called SUTOR™ Score. SUTOR™ is an acronym for the special algorithm we created that weighs Spam complaints and Unsubscribes against Open Rate. There are so many factors that help an email marketer move the needle and iContact is here to help.

7. How can fledgling SMB marketers go about setting up email lists and building robust databases of their audiences?

One of the best ways is to establish your social media sites and websites and then implement iContact’s Sign-up Form Builder to easily collect subscriber contact information to begin building healthy email lists. You can also use content marketing to provide useful or interesting information such as white papers, mini-guides or tutorials to potential subscribers in return for email addresses.

8. Do you suggest opting for third-party data while they gradually build out their lists with first-party data?

We definitely do NOT advocate buying or obtaining third-party data as this results in large number of spam complaints and could damage your domain’s sending reputation. Good email lists are built from the ground-up. There’s really no good shortcut.

9. What factors should email marketers keep in mind for better deliverability? How would you rate segmentation for better customer engagement in these? Does choosing automation software that has the capability of monitoring sender reputation iron out the hurdle of landing in the customer’s spam?

A great place to start is to register your SPF record so ISPs know who you are and what ESP (email service provider) you are using. No matter what, practicing good list management is essential. Segmenting lists, targeting emails, and maintaining a healthy list by eliminating non-openers keeps your reputation and deliverability high. When choosing an email software, make sure you choose a reputable ESP that checks for “spammy content” and automatically removes bounces and unsubscribes to keep sender reputation high.

To be most effective, message personalization should go beyond simply inserting a customer’s name at the top of the email. Instead, use data you’ve collected from your consumer interactions, whether that’s from their purchase habits, email click history or one-on-one communications, to send a campaign that speaks with the consumer about something they care about

The more people open your emails, the more likely inbox providers will be convinced that they actually wanted to receive them in the first place.

10. Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you’re excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into?

We’re really excited about our new Spanish-language product we just launched, iContact en Español. We provide the same holistic approach of our English language product to the Spanish language market, from the email marketing platform to training resources to product support — all in their native language. iContact is the only US-based Email Service Provider (ESP) to provide a fully immersive Spanish-language experience during the entire buyer lifecycle, and we did this by listening to customer feedback, doing extensive research into the cultural differences in Latin America, and considering every aspect of our product through a multilingual lens.

11. What is your take on the massive explosion of MarTech cos across so many categories? Do you see competition, opportunities to partner and / or integrate?

There is a lot of competition out there, but too many people jump in without having years of experience and proven success to back their marketing claims. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of customers achieve email marketing success. That counts for a lot. We built our products based on years of feedback from interactions with customers about their pain points and needs. And we build, and continually seek to improve, our products to specifically address these concerns.

12. How do you weigh in on the whole ‘buying into vs building a marketing cloud’ choices that marketers have to face today?

If you buy a product that was created based on the input of thousands of customers, it’s robust and covers the spectrum of email marketing needs. That puts us way ahead of the curve, whereas those who try to build their own platform have to learn as they go and may overlook small, but important, details.

13. Could you share for our readers, an infographic or description depicting your marketing stack (various marketing software products or platforms your team uses or subscribes to)?

iContact Pro, Google Analytics, Ahrefs, WordPress, Salesforce, and Pentaho, just to name a few.

14. Can you share a screenshot of the homepage of your smartphone (iOS/Android/other)? It would be interesting to see some of the apps you personally use on a daily basis to get things done and stay on top of your day.

Connect with Nancy

This article was originally published on MarTech Advisor