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The Future of Email Marketing — Interview with Scott Cohen from InboxArmy (Thinks Out Loud Episode 410)

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Scott Cohen of InboxArmy knows email marketing inside and out. Scott started as a copywriter and focuses on driving revenues for his clients. In particular, he knows why email marketing is so important in a marketing landscape increasingly affected by artificial intelligence.

What is the future of email marketing? How can marketing professionals use AI and email marketing to improve their connections with customers? And, more importantly, how can you get your customers to open, click, and buy when an AI minds their inbox? That’s why this episode of the Thinks Out Loud podcast features an interview with InboxArmy’s Scott Cohen. And that’s why you should be sure to give it a listen.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

The Future of Email Marketing — Interview with Scott Cohen from InboxArmy (Thinks Out Loud Episode 410) Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Recorded using a Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 44m 13s

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Transcript: The Future of Email Marketing — Interview with Scott Cohen from InboxArmy

Hello again, everyone. And welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. I’m Tim Peter. This is episode 410 of The Big Show. And I think we’ve got a really cool episode for you today. As I noted on last week’s show, artificial intelligence won’t just be a cool buzzword this year.

It’s not enough to be thinking about AI. Instead, it’s how you’re going to put AI to work that will matter. And few sales and marketing channels are going to be affected by AI more than email. We all rely on it every day to connect with our customers. So I’m thrilled that this episode of Thinks Out Loud features a conversation I had with Scott Cohen, the Vice President of Marketing Strategy for InboxArmy.

Scott is an award winning email marketer. A sought after speaker, webinar and podcast guest, and he’s spoken at events like the Email Insider Summit, the Email Evolution Conference, Email Innovations Summit, eTail West, and more. As Scott notes, he’s pressed the send button a few thousand too many times to be anything other than frank about what email marketers need to do, both today and in the future.

So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Scott Cohen of InboxArmy. Starting right now.

Tim Peter (00:01.038)
Scott Cohen, welcome to Thinks Out Loud. Thanks so much for joining the show.

Scott Cohen (00:04.758)
Hey Tim, thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Tim Peter (00:07.318)
It is very much my pleasure. You work in one of my favorite areas of marketing, one of my favorite areas of digital marketing. I have always referred to email as the forgotten social network. It’s just this incredibly powerful tool that I think has existed for so long in digital, gets overlooked a lot. So I’m just thrilled you’re here. We’re finally giving it some of the attention that it deserves.

Scott Cohen (00:21.134)
Ha ha!

Tim Peter (00:34.806)
Where do you think we’re headed with email marketing? I mean, there’s a lot of change going on right now. So what do you see?

Scott Cohen (00:41.89)
Well, going back to your quick point on the forgotten social channel, you know, I’ve heard it called the original social media channel. I call it the offensive lineman of, of marketing, right? Where it pay, it paves the way for everything to work, but you only talk about it when something goes wrong. Right. Like, it was, he always, when, you know, I’m a big American football fan and you know, it’s, um, you know, they always say, you don’t want to mention an offensive lineman’s name.

Tim Peter (00:52.964)

Tim Peter (00:56.852)
I love that.

Scott Cohen (01:12.346)
throughout the entire game. And if you don’t, it means they had a great game, right? So, and I feel like, you know, I feel like COVID changed that a bit. Like I put email kind of back on the map because, I mean, how many emails did you get that go, God, I signed up for that how long ago? Or did I ever sign up for that? Okay, your stores are closed, we get it. But in terms of where we’re going, you know, I think that, and this is not just true for email, but for a lot of channels, it’s…

Tim Peter (01:13.434)

Scott Cohen (01:40.13)
marketing is getting harder and more expensive, right? So, you know, on the email side, 2024, we’ve got a lot going on. We’ve got, on the good side, I think for email, cookies are going away, right? I mean, it’s going to start in January. And like I think Google said, it’s like 1% and then they’re hopefully going to get all the way up to, you know, by Q3, Q4, you know, the full cookie deletion.

Tim Peter (01:53.087)

Scott Cohen (02:06.902)
I’ll be surprised if it goes that quickly. I think it’s just simply because I don’t think Google knows how much are their revenues dependent on it. And that’s why they’re doing 1%, right? That’s why they’re doing 1%. So we’ll see. But it could also mean that it’s going to be yet another walled garden of just getting into that piece. You’ve got AI, which.

Tim Peter (02:18.46)
Right, right, right. Absolutely.

Scott Cohen (02:33.526)
you know, buzzword bingo, word of the day, word of the year, whatever. But I think we are really headed into, you know, finally use being usable in a functional way. And so, you know, I and I wrote about this on LinkedIn a bit ago, and I was at a conference a little while ago where, you know, a brand gave a really great case study on how they’ve built this huge library of basically components. Right.

Tim Peter (02:36.363)
Ha ha ha!

Scott Cohen (03:03.214)
and then they’re letting AI learn on the library. That’s human driven, human designed, human written, and then making decisions from there on what to modify, how to optimize, who gets what message, etc, etc. And they’re clearly ahead of the curve. You know, I think there’s a lot of people. I mean, most people are still going, Oh, yeah, I use AI every day. But it’s I went into ChatGPT to give me some ideas for subject lines or, you know, which by the way, it’s great.

Tim Peter (03:29.01)

Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely.

Scott Cohen (03:32.062)
If you are just completely, if you’re, I mean, I come from a copywriting background. I would have loved to have like prompt starters, right? You know, 15 years ago. Oh my God. It would have been great. Uh, but I think that’s where we’re headed in terms, you know, I wrote in my LinkedIn post, we’re, we’re headed to the age of prompt engineers and, um, tile creators in quotation marks, like we’re going to be creating, it’s not going to be full email builds that much anymore. It’s going to be. And it’s a huge lift up front.

Tim Peter (03:39.91)
Absolutely. Yeah.

Tim Peter (03:53.132)

Scott Cohen (04:00.278)
right, to build a content library. But once you have that and it gets smart and then the smart people will test human built versus AI belt to see if AI is worth, you know, if that juice is worth the squeeze. You’re not, you shouldn’t just jump head first because I’ve seen full things written with no human hands on it. And you’re like,

Tim Peter (04:19.494)
And it shows, right? Yeah.

Scott Cohen (04:21.382)
And it shows, and you hope that it, you know, my big concern is the race for mediocrity, right? That there’s going to be, and there’s going to be a lot of companies out there that are like, that’s good enough. It’s fine.

Tim Peter (04:28.65)
Right. Yeah, right.

Tim Peter (04:33.29)
Right, right. Well, and what I would hope is true is, first of all, I agree with everything you said, so let’s just start there. But what I would hope is true is that hopefully the people that are doing that are the ones who today are just terrible at it. So good enough is a step up from where they are right now. What I, what I, I hope, I hope, I hope it doesn’t bring the top down.

Scott Cohen (04:54.458)
It’s probably true. Yeah. We hope yes. Right.

Tim Peter (05:01.194)
you know, what… concerns me and what I think is interesting, and I’d love to hear your take on this, is this idea that A, average won’t be good enough, right? Because the average is going to get better. If the bottom half suddenly comes up to what is today average, then obviously the average shifts up. The flip side is you get AI spam filters, you get AI content filters, you look at the things like Outlook is doing. Are we just going to have to, AI is trying to figure out how to get past AI gatekeepers,

Scott Cohen (05:32.3)
Ha ha!

Tim Peter (05:33.368)
into a bot at some point or am I completely off base on this, right?

Scott Cohen (05:38.494)
You’re not wrong. You know, the extent the extent will be hard to know until it really starts happening. Right. When we have and, you know, what’s the expression? I welcome our robot overlords. But, you know, it but, you know, I’d rather robot fight robot verse versus robot fight me. But I think that, you know, the challenge that email marketers will and marketers as a whole will fight is.

Tim Peter (05:50.672)

Tim Peter (05:56.842)
Yeah, sure, sure.

Scott Cohen (06:08.922)
can we now get better? What’s the, like you said, if everyone gets to average, then the human value is going to be getting better than average. And I don’t think that’s ever going to go away, right? I think that, you know, it just won’t. But I think that you mentioned, you know, the AI filters and things like another big thing for next year will be, I mean, it’s February 1st, the new Yahoo and Google.

Tim Peter (06:15.862)
Yeah, yeah.

Tim Peter (06:22.903)

Scott Cohen (06:37.71)
Gmail changes come into effect, right? For, you know, they’re raising the bar in terms of authentication and raising the bar in terms, well, I guess you could say lowering the percentage, but raising the bar of allowable spam complaint rates, right? So, you know, and what we used to look at is kind of a, well, depending on your list makeup, that’s not the worst spam complaint rate you’re ever going to have. You’re going to get hit pretty hard, right? So it’s…

Tim Peter (06:39.062)
Yep, absolutely. Yep.

Tim Peter (06:49.214)
Yeah. Yeah, sure.

Tim Peter (07:04.283)
Yeah, yeah.

Scott Cohen (07:06.518)
Which I think is good, but I think that privacy and deliverability are the two hardest things that we run into, right? You’re losing cookies. So we’re losing, we’re going to lose third party data, which makes first party data that much more important, which makes email that much more important because we’re the stewards of that kind of data. And then, but then they’re going, okay, let’s move the goalposts on that side too. Like we want you to be able to email people, but now we’re going to make it harder to email people.

Tim Peter (07:25.986)

Tim Peter (07:32.331)
Right, right.

Right, well, it’s a good thing that Google doesn’t make its money from ads or something or we’d think they’d have an ulterior motive there.

Scott Cohen (07:37.265)
So it’s a thing.

Tim Peter (07:44.338)
Oh wait, I said that out loud, you didn’t say that, I want to be very fair there. So, but given that, if that’s the reality we’re heading towards, obviously the best way to have that not be a problem, I would think, is for customers to actively subscribe or to make sure they don’t hit that spam button or things along those lines. So, what can marketers do, what can email marketers do to get customers to want our email?

Scott Cohen (08:12.45)
going to be a very broad answer, but it’s one word and it’s value. It’s always what’s in it for me. Why should I sign up? I had a buddy of mine do a poll the other day and he’s asking like, why do you sign up for emails? It was like information, discounts, blah, blah. It was like 90% of people said discounts. I said, of course.

Tim Peter (08:15.689)
Well, we don’t like to give… Please.

Scott Cohen (08:42.07)
Right? I mean, any savvy shopper is, I mean, the way that we’ve done email over the years, savvy shoppers, one, if they see an ad they like from social or whatever, and then they go, Oh, let me go sign up for their email and see if I get a discount. Or they’ll go, well, I didn’t get it there, but let me abandon a cart and wait a bit. Right? So I have, you know, one of the things I have in my head from years ago, one of my bosses said, Scott, people don’t buy from you.

Tim Peter (08:57.41)
Yeah, sure, sure.

Tim Peter (09:02.526)
Yeah, right, right.

Scott Cohen (09:11.29)
they think they’re screwing you. I sat there and I thought, that’s a really cynical way to think about things. Damn it, it’s true. That may not be a financial necessarily screwing you, but it could be like, there’s no way that you could possibly do this. I have won over on you, or you’re solving a problem for me and now I get to be better at it, or whatever it might be. So I keep

Tim Peter (09:13.483)
Ha ha!

Yeah, yeah, sure, sure.

Tim Peter (09:38.922)
Right. It’s too good a deal, too good a value, right?

Scott Cohen (09:42.414)
Right, right. I mean, and then you get, and the irony is that in some cases, if you’re too cheap for something, people won’t buy from you anyway. Because it’s like, well, if it’s that cheap, it can’t be good. And so, but it’s the value piece, right? So the value could be, and obviously it all depends on business model. Are you doing discounts to get people in the fold?

Tim Peter (09:51.502)
Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely. Yeah, right. Absolutely.

Scott Cohen (10:08.406)
Are you trying to, you know, I keep thinking about like the printer and the ink model, right? You don’t make money on the printer, but you make a crap ton of money on the ink, but you don’t make money on the ink till you sell the printer. So, you know, there’s so it’s like there’s value props there. Value could be education. It could be problem solving. It could be any number of those things. And how you get people to sign up and do that is you are providing that value. Right. So it’s maybe it’s the product that the product.

Tim Peter (10:14.702)
Yep, yep.

Scott Cohen (10:37.746)
it answers a question or solves a problem. And then it’s like, hey, we can help you get this product just a little easier or a little cheaper or whatever it is. And you just get, I mean, my philosophy is just get people on the list, right? Just get them on the list somehow. Because if they run away and they haven’t signed up, then you’re hoping you can retarget them in paid advertising, which while valuable is a hell of a lot more expensive than getting somebody on your list and sending email.

Tim Peter (11:04.766)
Absolutely. Yeah, it’s funny. We had a client sometime ago where we had a conversation with them and the first thing they said was we don’t like email.

And I said, why not? And they said, well, because we make so much less on every email we send. And so we went through their entire email inventory. We looked at every single, and you’re making a face, for those of you who can’t see Scott right now, he’s got this curious look on his face. We looked at their emails and every email was 35% off, 40% off, 45% off. And I was like, we think we’ve discovered the reason why you’re not making much money on email, right? And you’re taking a very efficient, very inexpensive channel and making it very expensive

Tim Peter (11:44.3)
and very much to your point, trading it for a more expensive channel in most cases. Yeah, so it’s an interesting point you raise about how do you translate value into content, how do you translate value into things beyond just the discount. Obviously, there’s going to be places where you’re going to have to be price-conscious, and you’re going to have to highlight that price is what I’m hearing you say, but it can’t just be that, right? Right, right.

Scott Cohen (12:03.906)
Yep. Yes. But it’s a branding thing, right? So there’s two sides of it. There’s the margin protection, which is like if you’re in 35%, 40% off all the time, and then you’re doing that all the time and you back off, people are going to wait till you come back to it, right? And then if you’ve been doing discounts for, and there’s always sort of the short-term pain, long-term gain. So I had a client years ago that…

Tim Peter (12:20.686)
Oh yeah, sure, sure.

Scott Cohen (12:32.002)
they didn’t want to do a small discount in the welcome because they didn’t want to be known as a company that did discounts. And for three weeks of the month, we wouldn’t do discounts. Then they would be like, oh no, we haven’t made sales. So let’s do a sale. And then magically all this revenue showed up, but then they reverted and it’s like, you’ve now trained your people to wait. So it’s either you can do it smaller all the time,

Tim Peter (12:50.526)
Ha ha

Tim Peter (12:56.62)

Scott Cohen (13:02.374)
Or you can not do it at all, but then you have to be OK with the short term pain, because eventually your customers are going to go, oh, I guess they don’t do that anymore. And then you have new people come in that have never known them to be that way. So it’s and that’s also a big challenge, right? Because, you know, cash flow is king. You got to keep the doors open. But if you’re don’t want to hurt your margin or want to be known as that, then but you’ve been that way, there’s always that transition.

Tim Peter (13:15.563)

Tim Peter (13:21.859)

Tim Peter (13:31.594)
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. That makes a ton of sense. If you don’t mind, I want to come back to this concept of AI content libraries, you know, and you’re talking about these AI content libraries and the like and how companies are starting to use these as a way to lever themselves up and get more effective or the like. Can you talk more about that? Do you see that as a trend? Is this just a short-term thing until AIs get better at writing the overall email? I mean, where do you think we’re going with that?

Scott Cohen (13:38.616)

Scott Cohen (13:55.01)
I mean, eventually AI is going to be able to do more, but I think you have to train your own engine, right? Like you don’t want to go out and train ChatGPT on your company, right? You’re going to have to figure out how to kind of, I don’t know if it’s white labeling or building your own, but you’re going to have to have your own AI mind learn, and you’re going to have to feed it the information, right? And then, cause if it doesn’t, AI is only as good, it’s the garbage in, garbage out philosophy, right? It’s only as good as what you put in it.

Tim Peter (14:24.326)
Absolutely, sure, sure.

Scott Cohen (14:24.778)
So, and without more inputs, it’s not going to get better. And it can, I would assume self-learn over time of, hey, you’ve given us this, but we tried this, and that’s better, so we’re going to try more of that kind of thing. But those language processors need things to work off of. So I don’t see it as a trend necessarily, or not as a fluke, let’s put it that way. It’s definitely a trend. I think we’re all shifting in that, I think, I mean, other channels are going to do that too. I imagine like,

Tim Peter (14:29.803)

Scott Cohen (14:54.402)
paid social and display and stuff, they’re going to want to start doing that kind of stuff too. And those formats you say, okay, we’re going to do this, spit it out in 15 formats, right? All the various sizes for those things. I think the savvy marketers will learn how to work with it, right, and learn how to guide it. Like I said, those prompt engineers, right? We’re going to, because you can go to chat GPT and be like, write me 10 subject lines about.

Tim Peter (15:03.295)

Scott Cohen (15:22.17)
Costco, right? And they’ll go, well, what do we know about Costco? And they’ll start writing some stuff out. But yeah, you don’t, yeah, it’s especially for the comf- there’s a lot of companies out there and believe me, we work with them all the time who, you know, everybody thinks they have the secret sauce. Well, AI really could be, right? That, you know, but only if you build it yourself, only if you use it yourself and you’re not leveraging inputs from, you know, 1500 other, 15,000 other people that are not even in your space.

Tim Peter (15:51.15)
That makes total sense. How do you think email marketers can prepare for this change or for the changes we’ve seen? Because you’ve talked about a bunch of different stuff here, right, cookies going away. We’re talking about the changes that are coming to Google and Yahoo. We’re talking to people building content libraries. We’re talking about how do we get customers to want us in the like? You know, how can marketers prepare better for those realities? I wouldn’t even say that reality, because it’s a big, right, it’s a big ball of string all tangled up.

Scott Cohen (16:17.965)
Right, yeah, yeah.

Tim Peter (16:21.325)
You know, but what can they do?

Scott Cohen (16:21.966)
I mean, I mean, first off, and I think I was listening to a couple of your previous shows and you said it pretty well, like the AI is not going to take your job. People that use AI will. Right. So adopt that mentality of this is a value add to my job and my job security. And then you just need to get reps, right? You just need to, I mean, that’s

I think you said it was like experience is something you need, but you can’t have it at the time or something like it’s I mean I the battle scars, right? I mean you and I have been doing this for a long time Why do we know not to do that? Because we’ve been burned so We made that mistake. Yes, we made that mistake. So But and emails also I think there’s you know

Tim Peter (16:51.684)

Tim Peter (17:02.136)
Because we have scars, Scott. Ha ha

Scott Cohen (17:11.178)
A lot of times when we meet with clients, it’s the foundational stuff they don’t have. So even foundations of testing, AI is going to make testing in vast quantities easier. Because if you want to do, like right now, if you really want to learn, you should be doing one variable, A, B test. Make sure you have enough volume that you get statistical significance.

Scott Cohen (17:37.966)
But if you’re somebody who has millions of people on your list, you can do a ton of things. So like the brand that gave that great example I mentioned, they said they ran 750 versions of email over Black Friday because they built the library and then AI could go, oh, the Frankensteiner, right? They could do all that stuff. So, and the 750 versions human built just doesn’t scale. So you have to think about how does it make

Tim Peter (17:55.11)
Yeah, absolutely. Yep, yep. Write all the recipes.

Tim Peter (18:04.182)
Right, absolutely.

Scott Cohen (18:06.954)
Now, my counter argument is, how the hell do you know what worked at 750 versions, right? If you want it to be repeatable, but if the engine, the brain, the AI brain is doing the learning then, and that’s where a lot of we see, when I look at data, a lot of the usage right now is really on the analytics pieces, right? The predictive analytics, the learning, it’s going to start much more deeply filtering into the day-to-day work as we go.

Tim Peter (18:34.678)

Scott Cohen (18:37.118)
Now, if you need buy in whatever you need to do, I mean, dabble in ChatGPT or what’s um, there’s a few others that are really good for content in particular.

Tim Peter (18:45.322)
like Anthropic’s Claude

Scott Cohen (18:48.942)
Yeah, Claude. Yes, that’s the one I was trying to think of. Yeah. So it’s, um, it’s like everything else. You just have to, you just have to get reps and be, and then, and the big thing there is embrace failure too, because of all the tests I’ve run in my life as a professional, maybe 5% have won.

Tim Peter (19:12.298)
Yeah, right, sure.

Scott Cohen (19:14.315)
90% are flat, right? Like usually, you don’t get winners, you don’t get losers very often, you rarely get home runs, so it really becomes more of a process piece and a continual learning piece.

Tim Peter (19:24.514)
Yeah, that’s right.

That makes total sense. By the way, points to you for increasing our listenership by at least one, so thank you for that, and proving it by actually quoting back some things from the episode, so that’s great. That’s fantastic. So, you know, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You are obviously now with Inbox Army. Tell us a little bit about InboxArmy. What are they about?

Scott Cohen (19:36.098)
Ha ha!

Scott Cohen (19:47.99)
Yeah, we’re a full service email marketing agency. So we are vendor neutral. We work with clients across 25 different industries, right? And 40 different ESP email service providers. So it’s a very, we really are strong on the production side. I like to call us a GSD agency, right? We get stuff done. And.

Tim Peter (20:13.122)
Ha ha ha!

Scott Cohen (20:17.91)
And that, but that’s really where we, we shine, right? We enable companies to get their emails, their automations bill, all this stuff out the door so that their people can focus strong on strategy and program growth. So that’s, that’s what we do in a nutshell.

Tim Peter (20:33.146)
And I’ll give you an opportunity to say this again at the end, but where can people find you?

Scott Cohen (20:37.402)
Oh well, me personally, you find me on LinkedIn, it’s, but the company, it’s really simple,

Tim Peter (20:46.914)
Perfect, that’s great, awesome. So how did you get into this? How did you get into becoming like an email guy?

Scott Cohen (20:51.438)
Ha ha

Scott Cohen (20:54.686)
Nobody goes to school for what I do, that’s for sure. Yeah, I went to school, started as a music major, and then about two months in went, you know what? I want to enjoy college. Cause you know, love music, but it is your life, like your entire life. And I’m like, I’m going to spend my four years in college and one building in like four rooms, I’m going to go crazy. So, you know.

Tim Peter (20:56.492)

Tim Peter (21:13.736)
Oh yeah.

Scott Cohen (21:24.446)
I went over into and I’m from the East Coast originally. And so I went to James Madison University, go Dukes, and switched over to corporate communications, which, as I called it, was as close as I could get to advertising without being a business major, because I didn’t I didn’t want to, you know, do accounting and economics and all that fun stuff. So I started life as a copywriter, really did the, you know.

Tim Peter (21:31.054)
Oh sure.

Tim Peter (21:44.69)
Yeah, yeah, sure, sure.

Scott Cohen (21:53.114)
small agency thing and was writing. I mean, this is how old, you know, I am. Every year I’m like, how am I getting older? My references just start going straight over people’s heads. But yeah.

Tim Peter (21:59.107)
Ha ha.

Tim Peter (22:08.744)
I teach some college classes by the way. Let me tell you, that’ll teach you real fast. Yeah, for sure.

Scott Cohen (22:12.702)
Oh, that’ll, my kids will do that too. They’ll be like, what? Okay, but yeah, it’s, but yeah, copywriting. So TV, radio, I was writing ads for, you know, local car dealers and law offices and real estate agents. And, you know, like I was saying earlier, reps, trial by fire, six to 10 scripts a day, right? Just because it was a production house, right? So it was an agency that did the media buys, but then also did.

Tim Peter (22:33.902)
Yeah, sure. Oh, wow. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Scott Cohen (22:40.81)
you know, all the filming and everything. We were I mean, I was writing things for we called them info discs where you would burn them on CD-ROM and it was like an interactive thing off of CD-ROM. Yeah. My kids are like, what’s a CD? But so I did that. And I was working for Western Governors University as a copywriter, and I was writing, you know, the monthly newsletter and stuff like that. And among everything else, you know, the brochures and website copy and all that.

Tim Peter (22:48.978)
Oh wow, yeah, yeah.

Ha ha ha!

Scott Cohen (23:08.95)
And my boss one day came to me and he said, hey, you’re writing the newsletters. Why don’t you just do them? And I went, OK, sure. And this was 2008, late 2008. And he said, why don’t you pick a conference to go to? We have this in-house CRM system that was really sophisticated for the time, but they never thought to build in things like tracking.

Tim Peter (23:22.774)

Tim Peter (23:37.146)
Oh sure, trivial detail there.

Scott Cohen (23:38.922)
So it was like, hey, we probably need to upgrade our system, to get things like that. And once you go to a show and I found, it was February of 2009, I found the email evolution conference put on by the email experience council. And I was like, let me just go there and just met some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life. The amazing thing about the email industry, and if your listeners are email people, but not,

you know, involved in the industry, they need to get involved. It’s just you have competitors that help people out. Right. And it’s just, it’s just so great. And so it was, hey, you’re on, you should get on Twitter. We have a lot of conversations on Twitter about email. And this was, you know, fail whale days, but not dumpster fire days. Right. And you remember the old fail whale, right? We’re like, oh, I guess Twitter’s down again. Was it Michael Jackson died and it was down for like a week, I feel like.

Tim Peter (24:30.618)
Oh, very much so. Yeah, yeah, sure.

Tim Peter (24:36.345)
I remember that distinctly, yeah.

Scott Cohen (24:37.895)
Yeah, so I just started getting involved in the conversations and I just fell in love with it, right? It was the combination of the art that I had from copywriting with, I mean, I’m no scientist by any means, but I could actually see results. And so, you know, you couldn’t really see that from television, but you know, because OTT didn’t exist back then, right? So, you know, you didn’t TV was like, you hoped people showed up.

Tim Peter (24:45.71)

Scott Cohen (25:03.65)
or you hope people told you that they heard a radio spot, stuff like that. So it was, I could sit there and go, I did that, I did that, I did that. And so that’s really where, and it kind of just blossomed from there. And ever since then, email has been a part of all of my job. And so it’s like I said, nobody goes to school. I mean, literally I’ve taught some email 101, like a class during a semester, right? Like, hey, we’re doing a one class on

Tim Peter (25:12.242)
Yeah, yeah.

Scott Cohen (25:32.506)
email, we’re going to do another one on this because you come be a guest speaker, right? And so again, that offensive lineman sort of thing, that forgotten channel, like we’re not the channel has been around for what? Almost 50 years now as in some shape or form and

Tim Peter (25:35.371)
Yeah, sure, sure.

Tim Peter (25:47.95)
Sure, sure. I mean, if you go back to the original direct marketing, right, I mean, email takes off from what catalogs did, what postcards did and things like that. So, you know, there’s a hundred years of practice here. Yeah, yeah.

Scott Cohen (25:58.778)
It’s like we’ve gone full circle. Like we’ve gone full circle because direct mail is back.

Tim Peter (26:05.055)
Yeah, I know, crazy, right?

Scott Cohen (26:07.234)
Yeah, because people are like, oh God, email. Oh, look, I got something in my mailbox. This is awesome. So it’s like, it’s, you know, and I’ve done that. People go, is direct mail really back? I’m like, if you do it smart, yeah, it really is. So it’s.

Tim Peter (26:10.838)

Tim Peter (26:21.922)
Sure, yeah, yeah. So to that end, there’s two things in there you said that I kinda want to drill down on just for a moment. We don’t have a ton of time left. I always try to be respectful of your time, but I want to be, two things you brought up. One, you talked about the monthly newsletter that you were doing back in 2008. Is the monthly newsletter dead in 2024? Should people still be doing the monthly newsletter or is there a smarter way to do that?

Scott Cohen (26:51.714)
I think for the most part it is and the only reason I say that is it’s not enough anymore. So if you think about it, I mean, it really does depend. I mean, there are some brands where I think you can get away with it, right? For example, I was talking to a client where they have like, it’s like a national organization and then they have franchises.

Tim Peter (26:58.669)

Scott Cohen (27:21.058)
And so the national organization is really more of like a top level, here’s new things, right? But like the meat of the marketing happens at the franchise level, right? So in that case, something monthly with maybe some other things interspersed for like, Hey, happy holidays or, you know, seasonally, if it’s, if there’s something seasonal that really makes sense is in addition, that’s great because you’re not like, it’s just more keeping people apprised. Even then I would argue like typically we do

Tim Peter (27:21.719)
Oh yeah, sure.

Tim Peter (27:29.874)

Scott Cohen (27:50.19)
no less than two per month for our clients, right? Simply because there’s branding value to just being in the inbox. I mean, I pulled numbers on that a few lives ago where I went, all right, give me everyone who got an email last week and converted any channel, don’t care about last touch attribution, just they converted in any channel within 48 hours of receiving the email and then tell me whether they opened or didn’t open.

Tim Peter (27:52.587)

Scott Cohen (28:19.582)
And this was back when open rates were a bit more accurate. This was pre-iOS 15 when mail privacy protection came in and everything went up. But it was 40% of the revenue from those customers came from non-openers. And so I went, there’s value in being there. It’s sort of like display. There’s some value in just being visible.

Tim Peter (28:47.126)
Yeah, yeah, makes total sense.

Scott Cohen (28:48.334)
There’s nothings in, I’m an email guy and I’m like, there’s nothing in a vacuum, right? Like I want to get my credit, but I also know that they may see my thing, they may see yours, they may see your thing and then come back to my email. People are weird, right? I mean, we used to send the same, we used to send the same email every week and people wouldn’t react to the one they got yesterday, they’d react to the one they got six months ago.

Tim Peter (28:53.477)

Absolutely. Yeah.

Scott Cohen (29:13.714)
sitting there like, what is going on here? But yeah, but you know, so there’s that, like I said, there’s that branding value and then you’re competing. I mean, the competition for inbox, just mind share is fierce, right? So if you’re not showing up occasionally, you only have one shot, right? And so it’s about having that shot.

Tim Peter (29:15.47)

Tim Peter (29:36.362)
Yeah. Right.

Scott Cohen (29:41.166)
to just grab attention. And if you’re, and there are some people, like some of my clients, that the newsletter is the product.

Tim Peter (29:51.374)
Sure. Oh yeah, sure, of course.

Scott Cohen (29:52.374)
And so if you’re only doing that once, you’re missing out on a lot.

Tim Peter (29:55.582)
Yeah. Yeah, no that makes a lot of sense. That’s a really, really good point, right? Because you want to get multiple bites at the apple there, right? Or multiple swings at the bat, I suppose, is another way to think about it. Right, that makes sense. If you only get one pitch, you’re going to strike out an awful lot.

Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s a great point. I don’t have a well-formulated question here. I was just thinking about this. We’ve been talking about email a lot. I know you’ve also done a lot of work with SMS. What’s the deal with SMS? Where does that fall in the hierarchy? What’s going on there?

Scott Cohen (30:28.666)
So SMS, and I think you, to borrow from what you said earlier about the clients that we don’t like email, I hate SMS personally. But damn it, it works. No, no, but damn it, it works. So you have to think about it in terms of level of intent from customers, right? So when you sign up for email, as a human being, you can go, I can come back to that later.

Tim Peter (30:39.575)
Not the answer I was expecting. Okay, go on.

Scott Cohen (30:57.854)
I don’t have to look at it right when it comes in. SMS is interruptive. So for someone to opt in, they are willing to let you interrupt them, because it’s so much more intrusive. So now there’s a cost component to SMS that email doesn’t have. Email has been getting cheaper over the years, and SMS

Tim Peter (31:09.386)

Tim Peter (31:15.982)
Sure. Yep. Thanks for watching.

Scott Cohen (31:22.826)
as I learned through my trial by fire in a previous life, that you pay what you have to pay to the provider of the tool. And then you have to pay basically the same price for fees. And then if you do images, it’s four times that. So if somebody sends you an image and then text as well, they’re paying for the image. And then they’re also paying for the text. And then there’s text cost per 160 characters.

Tim Peter (31:34.472)
for fees and messaging. Yeah, sure.

Scott Cohen (31:52.438)
In my previous life, I came in and said, why are we sending a novel? It’s like that. I’m like, do you realize how expensive this thing is? So now, in some cases, the ROI is there. Go, yeah, we do this, but the average order value from this is x amount of dollars, so it pays for itself. In tandem, I think they work really well. SMS is great for customer experience, customer support. SMS in terms of.

Tim Peter (31:57.528)
Yeah, sure, sure. Yeah, yeah.

Scott Cohen (32:20.51)
Breaking through for Black Friday probably does really well. Right? Because, you know, and what you find is, one, I think the companies that struggle maybe is if when they require email and SMS in signups, right? It should be get email and offer them SMS, but don’t require it. Right? And then you can always come back to that. But, I mean, SMS works.

Tim Peter (32:44.366)
That’s a great point.

Scott Cohen (32:49.026)
And it’s scary how well it works. But like the convert, I’ll give you an example. The conversion rate at a previous life, we ran it. And about 35% of people who signed up for email also signed up for SMS, but their conversion rate was 3X.

Tim Peter (33:06.744)

Scott Cohen (33:07.842)
just email alone. So again, that higher level of intent, like they are more ready to go because like, yeah, I know I want to get SMS about this type of stuff.

Tim Peter (33:11.23)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, it strikes me as people who, you know. Sorry, this is something I think about a lot, where the customer has told you, they have self-selected that they actually care a ton, right? So they want the big red button to push right now because they’re ready to buy. Or we see it a lot with things like search, you know? There’s certain terms that just signal intent to buy. They’re not buying because they searched, they’re searching because they’re ready to buy. It’s kind of the same scenario. You are absolutely saying, I want the SMS

Scott Cohen (33:32.44)

Tim Peter (33:52.092)
whether it’s the deal or to go back to what you said before, the value in this moment. Yeah, that’s really fascinating.

Scott Cohen (33:56.266)
Yeah. Well, and that holistic view, right, of, because oftentimes, you know, when, and I’ve looked at this before too, of you send an email, go look at your direct traffic in analytics too, right? Because how many times do you see me now, I’m going to go, let me just go search for it, right? For your organic and your direct traffic. SMS is the same way, right? Of, oh, I got this.

Tim Peter (34:10.634)
Yep, yep, oh yeah.


Scott Cohen (34:21.958)
I’m not ready to click on that, but you come back like four hours later and go, oh, that right. Let me go search for that company and do that stuff. So again, nothing in a vacuum, but SMS is a high value channel that email marketers should own because again, you have that, you’re the stewards of the data and you know, push is starting to become a bigger thing too, right? Of, you know, push notifications as marketing tools, things like that.

Tim Peter (34:47.345)

Scott Cohen (34:49.546)
I’ve never seen web push be particularly successful personally, but you know, it’s just again, all these little touch points and it takes it takes a village, right?

Tim Peter (34:54.152)
Or have I? Yep, yep.

Tim Peter (35:02.314)
No, it makes sense. It makes sense. I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell this to clients for the last year or so, and I haven’t quite worked out the messaging yet, but I grew up an analytics guy. I grew up a data guy. I was an e-commerce guy, right? So that’s where I come from by trade and trading. And the thing that I’ve been trying to explain to people, not well, is that you’ll really know when your marketing works, when you can’t tell where the sale came from, right? Because you’ve had so many touch points together to make that sale actually occur. But nobody wants to hear that after years of, oh no, we can slice and dice and attribution modeling and we get down to the, you know, the tail and the like.

Scott Cohen (35:35.799)
Yeah, yeah.

Scott Cohen (35:42.662)
Yeah, I did a whole presentation last year on how last clicks sucks. And I said, it’s accurate, it’s accurate, but doesn’t tell the whole story. Right. So, and then, you know, the cynical side of me goes with these multi touch attribution platforms that usually the platform that gets the best attributions, the one that pushed for to buy it. So, you know, it’s.

Tim Peter (35:49.744)

Tim Peter (35:53.898)
Right, right, right.

Scott Cohen (36:07.906)
You know, if the display team push it up, you’re getting these amazing ROAS is on display and you go.

Tim Peter (36:08.497)
Right, yeah, sure.

Tim Peter (36:13.39)
Shocking. Yeah. Ha ha.

Scott Cohen (36:15.066)
Sure. Not saying you didn’t do something, but sure. Ha ha ha.

Tim Peter (36:18.258)
Of course, of course, right, now absolutely. Perfect, well Scott, we’re coming up on the end of our time together. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I could go for another hour, frankly, this is a lot of fun. But what haven’t we talked about that we should have? What haven’t I asked you that I should have asked you?

Scott Cohen (36:28.768)
Oh, totally, yeah.

Scott Cohen (36:35.81)
Oh my goodness. Yeah, I think coming back to privacy, we talked about it a little bit. It’s just something that every email marketer is going to have to keep track of, right? So you’ve got, you know, overseas, you got GDPR, you’ve got in the UK, you’ve got the, I’m just going to say acronyms, because frankly, I don’t remember what they all mean. But the ICO, which is like…

Tim Peter (36:43.208)
Oh sure, yeah.

Tim Peter (36:47.136)

Tim Peter (36:58.114)
Sure, of course. Yep.

Scott Cohen (37:01.678)
pretty strict and in line with GDPR as well. You’ve got Castle in Canada, having come from telehealth, healthcare marketing background, Australia has some really interesting things with marketing regulations and all that. If it’s a testimonial, you can’t pay them. And if you pay them, they can’t talk about their things. And you go like, that doesn’t really make sense, but okay.

Tim Peter (37:24.555)
Oh sure. Sure.

Scott Cohen (37:31.242)
And then, you know, I would envision, and I feel like we say this every year as an industry, but at some point there’s going to be a better national privacy law. I mean, canned spam doesn’t really have a lot of teeth. But you have, I think we’re up to, we’ll be up to 12 or 13 states to have specific privacy policies and laws in place by the end of 25. You know, California was obviously the big one and then there’s Texas that has a big one.

Tim Peter (37:40.91)

Scott Cohen (37:59.274)
At some point, it’s going to kind of like be with CAN-SPAM where the states did it and the federal government finally goes, OK, we need a standard here. And that onus is going to fall a lot on email, just simply because, again, if you own the data and you own the collection of data, it’s going to be a big thing. So, you know, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t play one on TV, but that is something to keep an eye on for sure. And make sure that.

Tim Peter (38:05.279)
Yeah, sure, sure.

Tim Peter (38:22.881)

Scott Cohen (38:29.058)
you’re not, especially if you’re a bigger player out there with a lot of volume, they might come after you if you’re doing things poorly. So don’t disregard it. I, it’s, I said it earlier. It’s like, we keep moving the goalposts on, on everything. Like at some point, I feel like there’s going to, you know, the cynical side of me goes, at some point there’s going to be a breaking point where we don’t know anything and so we’re just going to start going back to batch and blast and.

Tim Peter (38:35.87)
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Scott Cohen (38:56.174)
then customers are going to be like, what the heck, where’s personalization? It’s like, we don’t know anything about you, so what do you want us to do? And it’s going to be, which is interesting because it’s antithetical to, especially the younger generations, they will give away data left and right if there’s value to them. So it’s, I don’t want to get political here, but yeah, the people that complain about it are the people that aren’t using it, so.

Tim Peter (39:01.622)

Tim Peter (39:13.25)
Absolutely. Right, “we care about privacy.” “Here’s a coupon for $5 off.” “Oh, okay.”

Right, yeah, we care about privacy a lot until I get that 5% discount, right? Absolutely, absolutely.

Well, Scott, this has been great. I have enjoyed it tremendously. Again, where can people find both you and Inbox Army?

Scott Cohen (39:43.234)
Yeah, come, Inbox Army, you can find us at Really, really simple. It’s spelled exactly like it sounds. And find me on LinkedIn, Happy to connect with just about anybody. Not everybody, but just about anybody. I have some thresholds.

Tim Peter (39:59.95)
Fantastic, Scott Cohen. Well, perfect. Scott Cohen, thank you very much. InboxArmy, thank you very much. We’re thrilled to talk to you and I will look forward to catching up with you again soon. Thank you.

Scott Cohen (40:14.051)
Thanks, Tim.

My thanks again to Scott Cohen of InboxArmy for joining us this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 410. Don’t forget that you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Google Podcasts while it continues to exist, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, anywhere fine podcasts are found. I would also very much appreciate it if you could provide a positive rating or review for the show whenever you use one of those services. It means so much to us and helps us build the community here at Thinks Out Loud.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on LinkedIn by going to And you can email me by sending an email to podcast(at) Again, that’s podcast(at)

Finally, and I know I say this every week, but I want to say thank you to you for listening to the show, for tuning in every week, for subscribing, for commenting, for saying what you think about us on social. So with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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