We had the privilege of sitting down with our friend Laura Sullivan, the head of Brand & Marketing for Inbox Monster, to discuss deliverability, SMS, and how Inbox Monster is staying ahead of the curve when it comes to digital marketing’s evolution. Check out her super thoughtful and informative responses below.
If someone were just learning about Inbox Monster for the first time, what would you want to know? What kind of insights do you help your clients glean?
We are an inbox signals platform, and we essentially help enterprise brands send better emails. That can include everything from helping them stay out of the spam folder and land in the inbox to ensuring that their email is rendering properly, isn’t broken, and looks exactly the way they want it to when it lands.
I appreciate that Inbox Monster’s brand voice is fun and approachable. It makes concepts that might otherwise seem very daunting feel really accessible.
Email is a medium that’s been around so long that people think “oh, I know how to do that.” But the truth is it’s very complex, especially when it comes to deliverability. A lot of brands look at their ESP and see ‘delivered’ and assume everything is fine even though that only tells part of the story. But when you start to peel the onion, you realize it’s far more complex than that. It touches on their reputation, where they’re landing in the inbox and why – it can get overwhelming quickly, which is why our goal is to demystify the process and make it less scary.
How have you seen Inbox Monster keeping pace with the evolution of the digital marketing landscape?
I have been with Inbox Monster a little over a year and, and this team’s pace of innovation is truly incredible. I think the company really saw an opportunity within the email landscape, and within CRM in particular, to be more innovative and helpful to brands. They came together and quickly created something really incredible. The initial product upon launch was all about deliverability, and that is still the core of what we offer. But we have really branched out into so much more.
We have launched tools like Subscriber Insights which helps people understand their list and what it is really comprised of so they know where to focus their attention when there is an issue, whether it is with deliverability or reputation or even with creative rendering. We have launched tools like Oversight, which is kind of an eye in the sky that allows brands to keep tabs on all the rules they put in place for their program —their suppression rules, their unsubscribe rules, all the rules they set and move on — and ensure that they’re really happening or flag and understand when something is going wrong.
We also offer the Creative Projects suite which focuses on creating emails that are perfectly rendered across 75+ modern devices, ensure all the links are working, confirm a good content score so we’re confident that it won’t trip any SPAM traps. It’s all built into our creative projects tool so that our customers have everything they need to build an email and feel confident when they hit send.
The fact that Inbox Monster has evolved all of that in a year is incredible. But the real secret sauce, I think, is what we see when we look at all of our 5-star reviews on the App Exchange or the 90% retention rate we have now that we’re in renewals. People recognize our proactive approach and understand how much we care — because we truly do. And knowing that is conveyed is a truly incredible feeling.
That dovetails so well with the kind of core values we have at Digital Additive. It’s a great feeling when your customers stick with you can feel confident that you’re really looking out for them. Speaking of product evolutions, Inbox Monster recently launched a new SMS Signals tool, and that seems like a real game changer. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Absolutely – it’s definitely a huge step forward. We’re in a closed beta stage right now getting our first users engaging with the platform. We’ve always been very committed to responding to customer needs and this product is no different, so we’re getting some really great users interacting with the tool and learning more from their feedback.
It is really a first-to-market tool for SMS showing users when they’ve sent an SMS message, did it get where it was going. That has been a missing piece and crucial link that has been missing in the SMS landscape. So we’re really excited about it. While that deliverability is the core of the tool, it also includes a rendering tool so you can see what’s showing up where. It can seem so simple, but there are so many different views – the locked view, the list view, the message view – it’s important to be able to see how your message will appear. We also offer landing page preview tools so you can see did your link work, where is it going, does where it’s going look right: it’s all so crucial when you have a short message you need to get across effectively.
That makes total sense. What other pain points is this tool addressing? How would you say that marketers can apply the learnings that they are going to gain from using SMS Signals?
I think that with SMS, it had previously been a little bit of a guessing game; you’d send and see that some messages performed better than others but that could turn on a time and then you would have to play detective to figure out what had happened. We’re hoping these tools empower marketers to better understand the situation and arrive at a solution quickly. We want to help people send better emails and messages by offering them the relevant information they need to send their message exactly how they want it to the right people. The feedback we’ve gotten so far in that regard has been really positive, which is very exciting.
What are some common mistakes that you think some companies are making when it comes to their SMS marketing and what advice might you offer regarding deliverability?
I can only speak for my experience of trying to understand SMS and one of the huge complexities of it regards time of day and respecting people’s time zones. You don’t have to consider if you might accidentally disturb someone’s sleep when sending an email. And that’s just one of the ways that SMS is a different game than email. There’s a statistic that for every dollar spent on email marketing, you get around $40 in return and for SMS it’s far less, more like $10 in return. Because it’s more expensive, the stakes are higher. But on the flip side, the open and response rates are so much higher than email. So it’s a high-stakes game you’re playing with SMS, and you want to make sure that you’re getting these timely, helpful communications right when you’re investing more in it.
What do you see in the future of SMS marketing when looking ahead?
The digital marketing world has been talking about orchestration and making all the types of messaging fit together for so long, but I feel like the technology has finally caught up with those aspirations. Now we can meaningfully move from channel to channel with seamless precision, and I think that is only going to increase in the future. SMS serves such a unique purpose – there’s a moment when you need an immediate text to tell you your flight is delayed or your order is out for delivery, or you need to respond to something right now, or let us know that you’re here. There are other circumstances better suited for an app or for the story telling of an email. And I feel like we’re finally getting to the place where we can stitch them all together and choose the right medium for the right situation; we can make that multi-channel expectation real.
At Digital Additive, we’re proud to partner with Inbox Monster to provide our clients the deliverability insights they need to take their digital communications to the next level. Want to know about what that could look like for your company? Contact us today.