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Ken Magill

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Vendor Spotlight: Word to the Wise

By Ken Magill
Word to the Wise helps companies clean up their email marketing practices so their messages stand a better chance of getting delivered.
“What Word to the Wise does is help companies understand how their email marketing their programs affect their deliverability,” said Laura Atkins, principal, Word to the Wise.
Just about everything a marketer does within their email program—how they acquire addresses, how much they send, what kinds of links and call to action they include—“all of these things impact deliverability in some way,” said Atkins.
“Certainly your list [building] processes will affect your deliverability, but your content will affect deliverability as well as your cadence,” she said. “What we really do is help companies with developing the understanding they need to resolve any deliverability problems they may [encounter].”
Word to the Wise gets a lot of its business from companies who have been blocked from reaching recipients and are unable to resolve the issues on their own.
As such, Atkins said she refers to her company as “the fourth-level escalation.
“We’re the escalation path when your internal delivery folks can’t do it, when some of the other vendors in the marketplace who offer deliverability consulting can’t do it,” she said.”We’re the folks you come to when you’re just stuck.”
Word to the Wise begins helping companies with deliverability issues by looking at what Atkins calls the easy things.
“What we do is sit down and take a look at what you are doing now,” she said. “We’ll do technical audits to make sure you’re not doing something silly with SPF [an authentication scheme], or that your authentication is correct or that your IPs are set up in the right way and that your content is good.
“Then we sit down and we talk about how emails into fit into the company and how they are using to drive purchases and communicate with customers,” she said. “Then we look at what kinds of things we can do with your data processing, with your segmentation, with your email marketing program to improve deliverability and get that email back into the inbox.”
She said the name Word to the Wise stems from the idea that her and her husband, Steve, make a living by giving advice to smart people.
“We’re giving advice to people who really know what they’re doing,” she said. “They actually understand a lot of the ins and outs. We’re just helping them with that higher-level knowledge that you’re really not going to get unless you spend all day every day, 40 hours a week or more, deep in the email space.”
Word to the Wise’s value to clients is based on the idea that its principals keep track of everything relevant that goes on in the complex eco-system of email, such as the latest ISP developments, she said.
“I think that big picture is really helpful because we’re not pushing a particular vendor we’re not pushing a particular product,” she said. “We’re just trying to help you understand the environment you’re sitting in as a mailing company and how you identify what you need to do in order to get that deliverability.”
Atkins conceded that a major challenge inherent in Word to the Wise’s business model is that most of its new business comes from companies that are having deliverability trouble.
“That is a challenge we’ve been addressing for the last couple of years,” she said. “People come to us when they’ve got problems. Then we fix them and then they go away.”
However, business has been brisk enough that Word to the Wise hired its first employee in December.
Word to the Wise has been increasingly offering services as strategic partnerships to help companies improve their email marketing performance, Atkins said.
“Maybe things aren’t broken-broken,” she said. “Maybe you could be doing a little better. We can sit down and talk with you about where you want to be. And then we can work with you to identify how you can get from where you are to where you want to be without hurting your deliverability.
“Email is a really special place because the consumer has so much more power than the marketer in terms of ‘yes/no’ decisions,” she said. “All of the other channels, the advertisers own and pay for. Being able to understand that you’re a guest [in the inbox] and you have to be a good guest in order to be invited back is where we come in and help you work through: ‘What does being a good guest mean?’”

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