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Matching email content to customer needs



Matching email content to customer needs

A personalized email will rise above the noise and engage the reader’s attention. That seems like a no-brainer. “To this day, no-one has really cracked the code,” John Hendricks told us. “You talk about personalization and it’s ‘Dear Kim’ or ‘Happy Wednesday.’”

Hendricks is the founder and CEO of Ergo, a content automation platform for email that is trying to solve the puzzle of how to personalize at scale. He has a long career in email. He co-founded Bigfoot, one of the first ESPs at the end of the 1990s (it was acquired by Epsilon). “My DNA has always been with email,” he said. “When I started this company it was to help advanced email marketers get a little deeper into doing cooler things.” That turned out to be a long, evolving process.

Containers, not content

“One of the big gaps we noticed, especially during the advent of marketing automation, is that everybody really shifted their focus to the containers — when you were going to send something out — and a lot of engineering, data, technology, operational resources and marketing bandwidth went into that, and the content wasn’t relevant.”

The results indicated that this was a misbalance. “You have this over-engineered infrastructure and your opt-outs are going up, people are tuning out, they’re giving ghost email addresses,” said Hendricks. “The blinding flash of the obvious to us was that no one was paying attention to what goes inside those containers. That’s really the essence of what we do.”

Enterprise-level brands have hundreds of thousand or millions of customers, thousands or tens of thousands of content modules. Matching them at scale is the challenge.

“When you start to look at content automation you have people that are either putting logic around the content or logic around the customer,” said Hendricks. “The epiphany for us was how those two things interplay with one another.

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Content modules and customer profiles

Ergo Content Automation Services, said Hendricks, can ingest any piece of clients’ information through CSV files, APIs, or just html, and render it as a piece of content. It will take the data and turn it into a content module. “Those modules sit in a customer-level, pretty vast library, that then gets targeted based on anything that we or the client notices about the customer. We get signals, they get modeled, and that becomes targeting logic, and that becomes a very virtuous cycle.” Machine learning means that the more the algorithms do this, the smarter they get. “The algorithms typically are optimized for click engagement,” said Hendricks.

Is this really operating at an individual, one-to-one level? “It’s all really around the notion of next-best-message, next-best-content,” Hendricks explained. “For a given piece of content you may have five cohorts or life-stages for a customer and let’s say, maybe, seven competing topics you want to talk to them about. Of all the things we could say, what is the customer most primed for?”

Email marketing expert Ryan Phelan emphasized the enormous challenges in what Ergo is seeking to do. “I have to tell the algorithm what it means to browse a page or show intent. This process is incredibly intensive and particular to a company and their target market and customer archetype.” He also queried whether optimizing for clicks is enough, suggesting that identifying item- or category-specific intent for purchase would be more valuable.

Read next: Don’t let innovation overcome email common sense

The modern newsletter

While Ergo Content Automation is agnostic to type of email, Hendricks told us that its main focus is on email newsletters. “We do everything but we’re really trying to zero in on the idea of a modern newsletter,” he said. “This works well for any recurring program — you wouldn’t do it for a one-off, but you shouldn’t be doing a one-off email in the 21st century anyway. Either fixed deployment, like a newsletter that goes out every Monday, or every first day of the month, or any structured cadence, it works.”

Ergo recently announced the launch of Content Automation Services on the Salesforce AppExchange. “Salesforce does many things well and they’re the gold standard,” Hendricks said. “But Forrester, in their most recent wave, cited them for not having the most robust dynamic content; that was a shortfall for advanced marketers. We saw a pretty big opportunity to bring something to their world.”

At the end of the day, brands are going to say something to their customers via email. “What we’re saying is, bubble up the most relevant content that you can conceive of, and that’s what you should be talking to them about.”

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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Content Marketers Share Salaries, Career Paths, and More in 2023 [New Research]



Content Marketers Share Salaries, Career Paths, and More in 2023 [New Research]

What’s it like to work in content marketing? Is it a rewarding career? Does it pay well? What’s the career trajectory?

You certainly know your answers to these questions. But, until now, little industry research has dived into content marketing careers.

We set out to find answers. Our goal is to help content marketers understand their opportunities and positions – and help companies develop meaningful roles and the resources and opportunities to retain them.

So, earlier this year, we asked content marketers about their work satisfaction, career development, and salary expectations.

More than 1,100 content professionals had their say. You can read the full story – including salary breakdowns by role, gender, and generation – in the Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook (gated).

New @CMIContent survey of #content pros gives a 2023 outlook on careers and salaries, says @EditorStahl. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Let’s take a sneak peek at some of the intriguing findings.


You (mostly) like your content marketing jobs

More than half of the content pros (56%) tell us they’re very or extremely satisfied with their current position.

One content marketer explains: “I can be creative while being tied to business impact. Content marketing offers the fulfillment and growth of a creative career with the stability and compensation of a corporate career. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s possible.”

Another offers this explanation: “I love seeing all the pieces come together; how great words and innovative designs can affect and influence consumers and audiences. And I love working behind the scenes, getting to turn the cogs of the content machine.”

Satisfaction rates stay roughly the same from millennials to Gen Xers to baby boomers. (We had too few Gen Z respondents to report on their segment with confidence.)

Of course, that’s not to say the job is easy. When asked about stress levels, 24% of content marketers say they are “very” or “extremely” stressed.

24% of #content marketers say they are very or extremely stressed, according to @CMIContent #research via @EditorStahl. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

One survey taker explains, “The pace of work can be relentless. Just when you’ve completed one big project, another is right behind it.”

And some kudos go to employers. A significant majority (74%) said they feel their employers care about their stress levels and mental health.



You’re well educated – and eager to learn more

Among the surveyed group, one in three has a master’s, doctorate, or another advanced degree. As you probably know from your and your colleagues’ career pathways, people come into content marketing from many backgrounds (some come from multiple fields), including:

And content marketers are eager to expand their knowledge base:

  • Over 45% want to advance their skills in SEO, data analytics, audience development/segmentation, and integrating new technologies.
  • 40% show interest in honing their writing and editing skills.
  • One in three wants to hone their audio and video skills (filming, editing, and production).

Content Marketers Interested in Learning These Skills

Content marketers clearly rank high on the “digital dexterity” scale – the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new environments. That’s a sign of an adaptable, resilient workforce ready to meet whatever the future brings.

As Jean-Marc Laouchez, president of the Korn Ferry Institute, says in a Computerworld article: “Constant learning – driven by both workers and organizations – will be central to the future of work, extending far beyond the traditional definition of learning and development.”

And yet, many content marketers are looking for new positions

Content marketers like their jobs and are ready to learn. And yet, most (57%) say they plan to find another position within the next year or are unsure about their next steps.

Looking at it from another angle: Only 43% say they won’t be looking for a new job in the next year.

Only 43% of #content marketers say they won’t be looking for a new job in 2023, according to @CMIContent #research via @EditorStahl. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet


Will Content Marketing Turnover Remain High in 2023?

What’s driving this restlessness? Is it a persistent echo of the Great Resignation? Or a wave of “quiet quitting” in content marketing?

I don’t think so. Instead, the research points to something at the heart of content marketing careers.

Content marketing lacks a clear career path

The data highlights a troubling phenomenon: Only 23% of content marketers say they have a clear path for advancement inside their current company.

Nearly all the rest (69%) say they must leave their companies to advance or simply can’t visualize the path forward. (A small share – 8% – say they’ve reached the pinnacle of their careers and aren’t looking for advancement.)

Many Content Marketers See No Clear Career Path

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Robert Rose, our chief strategy advisor, has written about this problem: “Content marketing is growing exponentially. But the advancement ladder for content practitioners is missing most of its rungs.”

Companies that don’t address the content marketing career ladder will struggle to keep these highly educated, adaptable employees.

Where to?

Content marketers want better-defined career paths and are eager to advance their skills. So, where to begin nurturing their ambitions? With dialogue.

If you’re an individual contributor on a content team, speak up about your needs and wants.


If you’re a team leader, involve your creative, results-driven professionals in open, honest conversations. Invite them to help shape their career paths based on their aspirations. Then partner with HR and executive leadership to provide what they need to achieve their goals.

After all, investing in their future also pays off for the brand.

Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook offers more insights into:

  • Content marketers’ income
  • Unique career priorities by age and gender
  • Advice on how companies can recruit and retain the best content marketing talent

I hope you’ll download the e-book to learn more. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How do these findings align with your experience? What would you tell the next generation about content marketing as a career? Let me know in the comments.

Get the latest Content Marketing Institute research reports while they’re hot – subscribe to the newsletter. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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