Joining me in this episode is Paul Shriner, chief evangelist and co-founder of AudiencePoint an email send time optimization company
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Jacques: [00:00:08] Welcome to MQL.fm, the marketing operations podcast.
Joining me in this episode is Paul Shriner, chief evangelist and co-founder of AudiencePoint an email send time optimization company
Let’s start with a little bit of an intro. Um so why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you do and who AudiencePoints are.
Paul Shriner: [00:00:25] Yeah. You’re right in saying AudiencePoints, you know, anytime we can pluralize things. Uh, so Paul Shriner, one of the founders at AudiencePoint and sort of my background is I want to say it’s a little bit being an artist. You know, I got my degree in fine arts. from Seattle Pacific.
But I was also, this is also what, 93 to 97. And so, I was also really into the web early and so became really, really comfortable programming and, well, you know, I got a double major in psychology and graphic design. I think that’s important here too. So anyway, what I found was, freelance programming paid a lot more than freelance graphic design and there was not a lot of programmers and there was a lot of graphic designers and I was good at design. I was not great if that makes sense. And so it was really easy to kind of go, well, I’m going to gravitate towards the bigger paycheck because, you know, bills to pay all the things.
So, you know, fast forward to lots of career different starts and stops and changes and all that, teaching at the community college teaching programming, like how is that a good idea, right. Because you know, not, not formally trained, just kind of, this is fun. So, you know, I think all good, all good products come out of sort of real pain, right?
Like rarely is someone going. I’ve got an idea. Uh, I bet I could help this industry. I don’t know anything about,
Jacques: [00:01:55] Oh, I mean, people have plenty of those ideas. They’re just never good ones.
Paul Shriner: [00:02:01] and so I was on staff with YoungLife, which is a, a Christian outreach to high school students. I was in a little town, in Washington state called Port Townsend. It’s a wooden boat building community. it is, there’s a barter economy. I mean it’s where it’s where hippies go to be. Right. And, and, and, loved it.
Right. Love, love, loved it. The other things that are important about this is it is, rural poverty, it’s the least churched County in the United States. And so those two things together when you’re trying to raise a budget from that for. Christian outreach it’s difficult. So I started reaching out to folks via email.
And this is before, you know, email was what it is today. This was 2002, 2003, 2004. So it’s early, early, early on. What I noticed was I’d send out these blast emails through my Gmail account or whatever account I was using at the time I was getting responses. This is fantastic. And. And, you know, well-written articles, well-written stuff.
People were engaging and heartstrings were being pulled and people were wanting to give, fast forward. I sent an email out to my now business partner. I said, Hey, will you give? And he said, send me an email. I said, I did. Cause I know the game. I said I did. I sent it last night at 11 o’clock and he’s like, let me check 11 o’clock I don’t see it. Well that’s because you’re on East coast time and I’m on Pacific time. You know, you might want to look at two o’clock and he says, you sent me an email at 2:00 AM. I said, no, I sent you an email at 11 o’clock. You received it at 2:00 AM time zones, man. He’s like, you can’t do this. You can’t send an email out at two o’clock in the morning and expect people to read it.
Jacques: [00:03:39] Such an American problem to have, it’s just not something that would ever be an issue in the UK.
Paul Shriner: [00:03:46] Well, I mean, you’re not wrong.
Jacques: [00:03:48] I guess it’s that pain that gives the creates an idea, right.
Paul Shriner: [00:03:54] Right. And that’s exactly what it was. And he was like, I don’t know what to tell you. You need to fix this. Like, you’re smart, you’re a programmer, do something. And I was like, Uh, so I, you know, I take some time and, it takes a couple of days, but stuck on me. Like I just can’t get over this. And so, it hits me.
I was like, Oh, well, you know, if a tree falls in the forest and no, one’s there to hear it. Does it make a sound? And, you know, the answer is yes, but how do we observe that tree falling when you’re dealing with digital footprints? Right. And so, I started tracking the RSS feeds for people.
Again, I wasn’t sending pixels out. I just, how do I know when people are sitting at their computer and I made the argument that people are checking Facebook at the same time, there. They’re checking email and there’s, this is before the open graph with Facebook, this was just like the wild West a bit.
Right. So I started reading in people’s RSS feeds and, I got really excited. I was like, Hey, do you guys see this? And he’s like, what is it? And I was like, well, I’m sort of guessing when people are going to be online. And, I was like, watch this. So I sent out an email and he’s like, that’s amazing. And, you know, there’s lots to the story, but a story goes, ran into someone who wanted to give, wrote a check for $5,000 and was blown away by the tech.
And I was like, huh? And he’s like, this is a business. He came from, you know, a venture capital background. And that was the beginning, right. It was like, how do we scale this up to enterprise? How do we help people? And I want to say it started with how do we help people? How do we help people helping others?
Because that’s. And so that’s one of those sort of core values. That’s always tracked AudiencePoint as a whole, right? Yes. We have technology that helps people to better communicate, but you know, it can be used for good or for evil. And so how do we, how do we land on the good side? Right? and so, again, it’s one of those core values that shaped who we are.
I would say if you talked to people in the industry, they would say, you know, maybe they might say tech’s good. They might say tech’s bad they might. There’s a lot of things people might say about us might say about me, but I would bet dollars to donuts that they would all say a really fantastic organization with integrity, doing their best to take care of people. And that I would say that’s probably, Again, it’s a core value. It’s what drives us all. You don’t work for us if you don’t believe in that. Yeah,
Jacques: [00:06:18] it’s a, it’s a good culture to have.
Paul Shriner: [00:06:21] we, yeah, well, I hope so. I mean, that’s what we’re working towards.
Jacques: [00:06:24] Yeah. I mean, personal experience, I’ve worked in businesses where it’s just every man for himself and you don’t want that, right? It’s so disheartening as an employee to just be stuck in that kind of culture.
Paul Shriner: [00:06:38] Right. Who brought sausage? It’s in the fridge. You didn’t label it. I ate it. Not really. We don’t do that in COVID anymore. You don’t steal other their refrigerator.
Jacques: [00:06:51] yeah, everything is suddenly more expensive. You have to pay for lunch.
Paul Shriner: [00:06:55] Oh, goodness. Goodness. So that’s so, you know, my background is programming and honestly, I think the reason I brought up the art, the psychology and sort of the programming piece, because I think fundamentally it’s those pieces sort of working in concert with each other, that kind of formed.
Who, who I am and sort of in starting a business, right? There’s the creative side. The that’s where my energy comes from is creating, right? Like it’s, that energy there, but again, it’s also sort of observing human behaviors and patterns and okay. We are creatures of habits. If we, if we hit people at that time, that’s going to, so, so I would say that’s part of, sort of the product design. And then, and then the third piece is. Is just the technical chops to sort of get it to the place of proof of concept.
Jacques: [00:07:44] So, what does the technology do?
Paul Shriner: [00:07:47] So we’ve got, so our flagship product is send time optimization and where we really, focused early on, we kind of made a bet on security, digital security, security by design. And so when you do that, when you say security by design, that means that you don’t have to sort of. Oh crap. There’s this new regulation called GDPR.
I need to back in all of my stuff. So now I’m in encrypting or pseudo anonymizing. What we considered personally, identifiable information. We don’t have to do that because it’s already done. Right. We started from that perspective to saying, we need to protect consumer data. Now, what that means is you have a file of a million subscribers that you’re sending emails to.
Right. So we would say, okay, you know, Paul opens his email at 10:00 AM where Jacques opens his at 2:00 PM. So we would each get our email at the appropriate time. What makes our stuff magic is, we’ve sort of de-identified each individual, to create this bigger pool of data that would inform the algorithm that would say.
Your two o’clock delivery time is based off of 10 different brands. Now I can’t tell you who those brands are that are contributing. I can only say Jacques opens his email at 10 and we’ve had some pretty spectacular results. Right? We’ve had things where folks are like, we paid for send time optimization off of one deployment for the entire year.
And that’s magic. Right. But you’re also dealing with human behavior and although we’re creatures of habit, We’re also creatures of choice. And so it’s not always magic. Right? And so there’s a little bit of like, you know, let’s, let’s dig in and really figure out what’s going on. So that’s, that’s our flagship product that has allowed us to our, our data pool is about just under 500 million subscribers who are, active at about sort of 2000 engagements each. Okay. So that’s, that’s a lot of data
Jacques: [00:09:45] Yeah, it’s pretty sizeable.
Paul Shriner: [00:09:46] now there’s folks that are outside of that 500 million that has substantially less data. Okay. Right. What, right now we match it about 85%. So if you were to bring a list, we’d say here’s activity on 85% of your subscribers. Well, what we’ve discovered is those same insights.
Like here’s the best time to send. Apply in a lot of different ways. How often should I email this person? Right. or what’s their propensity to open. If they’re emailed more, that might be a better way to You know, there’s a lot of different things. So, so we’re kind of looking into almost data science as a service, a little bit, that idea that like, there’s a lot of standard questions that people are asking, that we, we can have, Additional insights that you can have when you have that level of data to, to drive that aggregate.
So like, one of the questions we’re answering is, show me the people who are engaging with me, but not engaging with anyone else. Show me the people that are engaging with other brands, but not engaging with me. Now they have to be from your file. Cause again, I don’t know who these people are, but again, it’s, it’s a unique insight.
That I really do believe that’s the next level of, of data that’s going to grip our industry. Right. It’s you know, back going, going back, it started with sort of like big data. And I don’t know if you remember that, but I remember
Jacques: [00:11:09] that buzzword. Yeah.
Paul Shriner: [00:11:11] we’ve got big data. It’s amazing. Right? And it was right. It was cool. It was exciting. We’ve got, we can, we can put so much data into a database you don’t even know.
And then somebody at some point was like, okay, well, but what are we going to, what are we going to do with all that data? And people are like, well, shit,
Jacques: [00:11:31] I, I see that every day, still, like everyone collects data. Everyone collects data and no one knows what to do with the data or they’ve collected the wrong data. And it was fucking useless. It’s like you see that everywhere or they’ve collected it and it’s in data warehouse. So am I, but no one else in the business knows about,
Paul Shriner: [00:11:50] Let me show you how much I’m paying for my data warehouse. Cool. Nice job. Well, that brings up that next question, which was actionability, right? How do we go from, I have a lot to now I can do something with it. Right. And man, there are so many incredible, you know, from the nerd side of things. Cool problems to solve.
Right. I mean, when you’re talking about, two and a half billion sort of profiles have gone through our whole system. Right. And you know, thousands of thousands of data points hanging off of each, you have a really interesting sort of map reduce problem to solve. Right? Let me reduce the overall, data set down to meaningful things that I can actually do something with.
So, so there’s that nerd side that says getting to actionability is not easy, but. There’s a, there’s a path. so, you know, that’s, that, that, that, that piece though of we want to make it actionable. That’s that. Sort of data science as a service. That’s that list fit thing. That’s that saying. We’ve got, we we’re in a new spot as an industry, right?
We’re no longer just, and we’re no longer just saying, Hey, I’m sending email, click send. Right. And I know we’ve been trying to evolve for a long, long time from just like broadcast messaging. And there’s a lot of different ways that I’ve sort of played out, whether it is sort of now we’re sending journeys in each the individual experience.
You know, all of that’s terribly important. But we’re also, we’re now sort of staring at this concept of a CDP customer data platform where we’re like pulling in data from lots of different sources, but we’re also staring at GDPR. We’re staring at CCPA, we’re staring at the Texas privacy law, Washington, Colorado, uh, insert, you know, uh, Brazil.
Everyone’s got their own privacy laws, so we’re having to follow each individually. And so we’re dialing up the stakes on what’s considered secure data, right. I believe fundamentally that creates an opportunity that creates an opportunity for, for us, for AudiencePoint to fill that gap to say, we can help you identify who are the right subscribers.
You should be emailing who are the ones that want to receive your email better. Right? Because just because someone has opted in doesn’t mean they still want to receive your email. Right. And so I’ll tell you what I think that that’s part of what drives me is these are new problems we’ve never faced before.
Jacques: [00:14:19] So you’ve got this massive data set. What kind of, what kind of stuff is in there? what can I, as an email marketer find in there that would deliver value to my email program.
Paul Shriner: [00:14:29] Right? So we can’t. We can’t serve up any raw data. And in this case, just be considered the actual event types. And when, when things took place, right. But we can serve up engagement or sorry, aggregate data, right. According to GDPR that allows us to serve up aggregate. So, so again, frequency, how often should you email?
And again, I don’t think, I don’t think this concept of one size fits all works maybe like it once did, right? Like, so what we look at and we’d say, okay, you’ve got a file of a million people. How many of those people have a propensity to open on a daily or more often basis? Okay. For those people, I would say that would be a candidate for, a daily deal, more frequent sends, right?
Because we know that the more that you send, the more engaged subscribers are, the more that they buy, the greater, the retention, fewer people fall out of the funnel. We know that, but we also know if you send people email more often than they want to receive, they get mad, they get frustrated, they get deluged with way too much email and they unsubscribe.
So you’ve lost them. Right? So we’re constantly walking this fine line between, well, do I email more? Do I email less? Well, I think the answer there is, again, this is kind of the same story as send time optimization, which is, well, let’s figure out what each individual subscriber has kind of that propensity to receive.
Right. I don’t want to say predict because that’s, that’s a little bit presumptuous as well, right? Like, all we’re saying is man, in the past, they’ve opened a lot, or they’ve clicked a lot. Okay. So that’s, that’s a pretty good indicator they might do the same thing again. so frequency, deliverability.
I mean, that’s a fun one too. And I’ll tell you what I’m sure that the Owners, C-suite of Gmail and Yahoo, Google and Yahoo are probably listening to your podcast. You know what I mean? So now’s my chance to rail on them and have them listen, I get really frustrated and I know a lot of marketers do because you’ve got, folks like Gmail and let’s just take them, but insert sort of mailbox provider, here right? Flexing on email marketers, people who are just trying to do their job, right? Like people have opted in to say, I want to receive this content. And so they’re sending out email that says, you know, buy my widget. Right. And then all of a sudden, Google’s like for no reason, we’re going to tell you, we are not going to put your email in the inbox of the subscribers that have requested it.
You have to guess.
Jacques: [00:17:06] That’s yeah, that’s the big problem. They, some of them have basic feedback loops. Right? So did the email get delivered? Yes or no, but what they’re not sharing, which is all the stuff that is valuable and interesting, is how someone has interacted with that email in an inbox, not how someone has interacted with an email because like opens and clicks cool. But like, did someone just Mark it as read? Did they delete it? All that kind of stuff.
Paul Shriner: [00:17:32] But even the feedback loops. They don’t give the information out that marketers need, you know what I mean? Tell me why, why are you doing this?
Jacques: [00:17:39] You have to a certain size to even get this data in the first place.
Paul Shriner: [00:17:44] Why, why, why did only 5% of my email land in the inbox? Right? Like I only know that because my open rates went from 18% to 2%. And so now, now we’re sort of expecting the same people and we’re like, okay, fix your deliverability. And so now, you know, Johnny email marketer and Jill email marketer, and their job’s at stake, Because Google decided to flex on them. Why? Because they have a subscriber that. maybe they complained, but maybe it’s around engagement data. Maybe it’s because some of their own subscribers don’t have a 20% or higher open rate at the individual level. And so they’re not being inboxed. That’s pretty crappy, right?
Like it’s one thing. If you know what the problem is, you can fix it when you don’t have a clue. What the problem is. That’s just like backyard bully behavior. And so there’s a point to this, right? When you can bring, so, so, so Gmail, Yahoo, all of these emails, they’re sort of, they’re embracing artificial intelligence, right?
They’re saying let’s figure out, whether or not this email should land in the inbox or not based off of this set of engagement data. Right. They’re looking at sent, they’re looking at open, they’re looking at click, they’re looking at bounce, unsubscribes, why they bounce, right. There’s a lot of. But it’s all those same engagement events that we’re sort of looking at from within AudiencePoint saying bounce, unsubscribe.
I mean, it’s the same events, right? And we now have, though it’s not the same size pool of Gmail is representative. And one of those things that I think is really cool here is we have the opportunity to be a bit of an equalizer to give marketers that tools to say, we can predict whether or not this email will land in the inbox or not.
That’s what’s driving me. That’s super cool. Where you can say no, no, no, you know, of your file of a million run it ahead of time. 36% isn’t going to make it in the inbox. Okay. So now here’s the solution. Here’s how you fix it because right now it’s a black box. And again, I, I just think it’s an incredibly unfair situation.
Jacques: [00:19:56] I guess it’s the, I mean, I say it all the time. I’m on Instagram and places like that. If you don’t engage with a particular, personal feed for a while, they disappear from your feed and you won’t see them again until you go out of your way to search for them. and there are a lot of people who don’t understand how these things work that start saying, well, Instagram, isn’t showing my content to my followers.
What’s going on? The systems rigged and all this stuff and it’s to do with engagement.
Paul Shriner: [00:20:21] And it’s a black box. They don’t tell you why they just, they, they, and I know you’re a big influencer, you know what I mean? People love, people love Jacques. Right. And so
Jacques: [00:20:32] It’s probably because I’m so negative about everything.
Paul Shriner: [00:20:35] It draws people to you. You know what I mean? When you Oh, uh I I think it’s actually your tattoos I
Jacques: [00:20:44] Terrible, terrible photos. I post on Twitter.
Paul Shriner: [00:20:48] did, you know, you had a pretty spectacular sleeve done, and the last top,
Jacques: [00:20:52] right now. I’m getting my legs done right now. Um, yeah. So both legs last, I guess it must’ve been two weeks ago. I got both of the knees done, which was pretty awful.
Paul Shriner: [00:21:05] I was going to say
Jacques: [00:21:06] I really don’t recommend it, but as a, as a nice side effect of working from home, I didn’t really have to walk around or do anything. So.
Paul Shriner: [00:21:14] right? I mean, what, what kind of pain was that? Right? Getting your knees tattooed.
Jacques: [00:21:19] So the, the like kneecap area, probably like a six, back of the knee is the bad point. The back of the knee.
Paul Shriner: [00:21:26] I think we need to translate this into terms that your listeners are going to understand, right? Like you’ve got honeybee, you’ve got wasp, you’ve got Hornet. And then I think the big one is the murder Hornet. Right? So the knees are the front of the knees might be wasp.
Jacques: [00:21:42] No, it’s probably like a honeybee. Yeah. And the back of the knees, maybe like a, it’s a wasp or a Hornet. It’s
Paul Shriner: [00:21:50] But
Jacques: [00:21:50] awful. Yeah. You’re not going to die, but you’ll regret your decisions in life.
Paul Shriner: [00:21:56] Have you seen these bees in, you know what I’m talking about? The murder hornets
Jacques: [00:22:00] I saw something in the news. Yes. Was it yesterday or the day before? They’re in the news because they’ve tracked a nest
Paul Shriner: [00:22:07] right. Washington
Jacques: [00:22:08] attaching GPS hornets via fishing line or something.
Paul Shriner: [00:22:13] Some crazy, crazy deal, but, and they vacuum them out. If you saw the size of this Hornet, I mean, it was like the size of my hand. Now I do not have a large hand to begin with its, you know, it’s tiny, it’s a tiny little, tiny, tiny hand. That being said, the fact that a Hornet is the size of my hand is still quite concerning.
Jacques: [00:22:34] It’s pretty terrifying. You wouldn’t want to see one. I guess that’s a, you do a lot of trail running, so America’s wildlife is a pretty scary sometimes.
Paul Shriner: [00:22:47] you know, so growing up in Washington state, we literally had no, no, no. I mean, you, you could, I guess potentially run into a Cougar, well that didn’t ever happen. You can run into a bear, but again, you know, that’s not. That’s not real typical and I’m pretty noisy everywhere I go. And they run away from me.
Like it, it sounds that Tennessee is a different deal. There are, uh, snakes here and, I hate, hate, hate snakes. cause they’re poisonous. There’s quite a few poisonous snakes here and I’ll run into them on the trail.
Jacques: [00:23:22] you won’t see them until you’re right on top of them either.
Paul Shriner: [00:23:25] Right, right. When you’re on the trail, especially in the summertime when it’s hot, because they’re, you know, they’re cold-blooded and they want to, they want to sun and it’s Oh crap. You my son Noah he was telling me he was running the trails and all of a sudden, he sees a snake Like it’s he’s about to step on it and it’s coiled up, right, and he’s like I jumped as high as I possible You know when you’re talking about the speed they’re going Yeah, I don’t, I don’t like the snakes. I don’t like them at all. I also don’t like spiders.
Jacques: [00:23:58] and trails, I guess if you’re the first one out on the trail, you’re going to be running into some webs.
Paul Shriner: [00:24:02] yeah, no, that’s not the ones I’m talking about. We found a Wolf spider in our, in our garage and I didn’t even know what this was either, but it, it came down to, we may have to burn the house to the ground.
Jacques: [00:24:15] It’s a reasonable response.
Paul Shriner: [00:24:16] I mean again is, it’s a giant, like the size of my head. I’m like, I hate, I don’t. Now it turns out they’re not, they’re not bad. I guess they kill small animals, rats, that kind of stuff. Not really, but they’re, I mean, they’re terrifying
Jacques: [00:24:32] You still don’t want to come face to face with one.
Paul Shriner: [00:24:35] Right? Right. So, we survived the Wolf spider attack. We did not burn the house to the ground, but it was, it was an awareness that.
Jacques: [00:24:46] So you were talking earlier about ethics. And how, as a business, you want to do everything ethically?
Paul Shriner: [00:24:52] Oh, this is about spiders. Isn’t it
Jacques: [00:24:54] no, like they deserve to die. It’s fine.
Paul Shriner: [00:24:57] That’s what we call this. That’s the pros. Call it a transition know that’s where it’s coming from. No. So, so integrity doing the right thing.
Jacques: [00:25:07] Yeah. And how, how does that work with, I guess the data sets you’re working with, how do you ensure that privacy is kept and that you know, people know that you’re using their data and in a good sense, and it’s not being abused.
Paul Shriner: [00:25:22] Well, I mean, that’s the tension, right? Like, we do have some investors and, and with that comes a fiduciary responsibility, right? Like a fiduciary responsibility, the legal term, not, not just the ones that you and I would kick around over beers, which we would also do because we’re experts, right?
Jacques: [00:25:39] Yep.
Paul Shriner: [00:25:41] Like we do, we have a responsibility to return as much shareholder value back to our investors.
And so. When you are willing to color outside the lines, you have the ability to make a lot more money, but that’s again where I’d say if your core value is that you’re going to have integrity, that you’re going to be honest, that you’re going to protect consumer data. If that’s part of your sort of value proposition that you make, when you solicit investment now, your organization aligns with your values. The challenge is when it’s in misalignment, right? The challenge is when, listen, you told me you were going to make as much money as you possibly could. Yeah, well, that’s true, but you’re not right because we’re, we’re honoring sort of digital subscriber rights and you know, all of those things, but.
But that wasn’t ever promised that wasn’t, that wasn’t discussed early on, where, when it is from the beginning. And that’s what, when you start the business, having some of those things figured out ahead of time reduces the pain. And, and I don’t want to say there’s anything magical about starting a business.
There’s a lot of just hard work and late nights. Right. And there is, but I think that’s where getting a really solid advisor, advisory group, mentor, board, whatever you want to call and in it, it varies depending on the circumstance or situation, they can help you sort of navigate a way or around some of those grenades.
Right? Like if we had from the beginning said, we just want to help spammers spam as many people as we possibly can. And I, you know, I’ll say this too, there are people that come into and leverage our data set for less than ethical reasons. But it’s one thing to say that happens. It’s another thing to seek it out.
Right. And, you know, build your program around that. That’s not what we do where we’re looking about, how do we protect subscriber data? It’s how do we know what, what security protocols are coming out? Like we had a, a week ago I did a presentation on GDPR to our team again, again, right. Because, because this is one of those values that we hold, dear, if it wasn’t GDPR it would be something else.
Right. Because again, if our goal is to protect consumer data, so, so, you asked how do we do it? Because there is that tension between fiduciary responsibility and that, and, and again, that’s where it’s at. You start with a culture, that’s a big piece of it. But I also think getting those people around you that hold you accountable to those ideals, right?
Because if you start and you say, this is what I’m going to do, but then all of a sudden you start to see dollar signs and you’re like, well, damn right. Suddenly those intentions slip away.
Jacques: [00:28:39] And I guess that’s probably the Facebook problem to monetise Facebook.
Paul Shriner: [00:28:44] No, that’s, that’s exactly the Facebook problem. Well, I’m not sure. Right? Like, I’m not sure that Zuckerberg was all that full of integrity Maybe he was, I don’t know. You know, maybe, maybe, uh, I would honestly, I’ll say, I’ll say this a better metaphor would be Google, right? Because their story was do no evil.
Right? Wasn’t that do no evil.
Jacques: [00:29:07] Yeah. What happened to that slogan?
Paul Shriner: [00:29:08] Right weird it disappeared. Right. so, so, and, and I’m not here, you know, throwing rocks saying they’re doing evil, but I would say, the fact we we’ve already talked about it today. Right? They will sell the top of the inbox to the person who willing to spend the most money, but in terms of A marketer doing all the right things.
They’re still going to squeeze them and say, sorry, we’re not going to do it because we want you to buy pay-per-click advertising. We want you to pay the top of the inbox, your opt-in email program. We’re going to make it really, really hard for people to see the, the deal. I’d say that’s evil, right? Maybe, maybe I’m wrong.
But, but that, that’s one of those situations where fiduciary responsibility, won over on, on integrity. you know, that’s I hope we never go down that path. Again, I haven’t gotten to that place yet where we’re
Jacques: [00:30:00] You’ve not had that proposal yet.
Paul Shriner: [00:30:02] really bad where wait, what, how much, wait what. Although I’ll tell you this too those big decisions are a series of small decisions that are built upon each other. Right. And so it’s a lot harder to abandon your integrity when you have a series of small decisions that led you up to that. I mean, it’s the same thing as a sales funnel, right.
You’re looking for a lot of small yeses to get to the big, yes. Right. So I would say the same, thing’s true here with, in terms of integrity.
Jacques: [00:30:32] Yeah, I think that’s, it’s easy to, it’s never going to be that big kind of moment that just happens. It’s always going to be the little steps that led you there.
Paul Shriner: [00:30:41] Right. Well, I mean, just a little bit of money. Well, and I also don’t want to, I don’t want to vilify money, right? Because that makes no, it’s a fantastic thing. Can we, can we make that, can we benefit our investors? Can we benefit our employees? Can we, can we benefit our families while also again doing the right thing?
I think That’s why we’re doing it
Jacques: [00:31:07] I think that’s probably the best approach anyone can have.
Paul Shriner: [00:31:09] well. And you know, you throw on top of it. Something like AudiencePoint where it’s not lost on me, that we are. We’re on the Razor’s edge. Right. You know what I mean? Like we’re, we went as close to, is this ethical or not in terms of identification, re identification, personal information.
Right. We went as close to that as we could. and that’s not lost on me either. There’s that tension that we have to live within and sort of make the right decision on a regular basis. And honestly, most email marketers that are, who are listening, who are like, yeah, I’ve worked with Paul, they’ve received phone calls from me where I’m like, I think I’ve even talked to you about this Jacques where I’m are, we is this am I are we breaking rules here cause I don’t
Jacques: [00:31:51] Yeah, we had a good conversation about GDPR a while ago.
Paul Shriner: [00:31:54] Yeah. Cause again, I think that’s, and that’s where you surround yourself with people who have similar integrity. Right? Are we on the right track? Are we, are we not? What does this look like?
Jacques: [00:32:04] so with this big data set, are you seeing anyone using it to do things outside of email, maybe for SMS, maybe push notifications for other CRM channels.
Paul Shriner: [00:32:15] the uses are actually surprising and interesting we’ve had some financial services companies use them to say how engaged is an email is correlated to propensity to pay back loans to pay back you know in terms of financial risk this another factor on top of credit score right So if you subscribed to a bunch of emails and don’t ever open don’t ever click are you a good risk I don’t know Right Really cool Really cool question to ask I had not thought about that so those types of things we’ve had a couple of those come in where I’m thinking that’s a that’s a really interesting model right Where you use that data to inform other aspects of your business I think I think that in order to inform SMS texts that kind of stuff You really do need that activity data I mean there’s there are some correlations just like early on there was correlation between social data and an email data. Right, but I do believe that you would need SMS data Now It’s interesting we all have our phones at our hip now and I very much operate differently on my phone in terms of email than I do text. What I mean is when I sit down at my computer, I’ll write a long form email right. When I sit down on my phone and I get an email I will reply, it will be much more terse shorter, it will be much more It will reflect what you might see in terms of form factor from a short form message, and I think there’s more and more people that are using their phones as their email client. So I’d be curious I bet there is a bit more of a correlation now than there used to be because of the advent of phones I bet I bet that’s true That’d be maybe that’d be our next product
Jacques: [00:34:19] Yeah, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen in your data set? Why what’s the most surprising thing maybe?
Paul Shriner: [00:34:26] the amount of bots that are kicking around that’s, I mean, we’ve talked about bots forever, but like this morning, one of the fires that we had was, we had, a brand, wanting to improve deliverability on, on a given, file. So what they did is they ranked everything by our engagement score highest to lowest, and they of their file of a hundred thousand that they ran they took the top thousand and sent it. And it was really interesting. They were like, you know, when we send this, normally we see about a 7% open rate. But when we sent this file, we saw less than a 1% open rate. How is that even possible? Right. So I dug into the data, looked up, looked up the fingerprints on the email address to figure out what we’re dealing with and looked at the, the raw data.
That was really interesting. These are brands that would have, or subscribers that would have, like an open every four or five days, but they would have 40 or 50 clicks in the period of less than 10 seconds across multiple brands. You know what I mean? I’m like that doesn’t, that doesn’t resonate.
Right? That doesn’t make sense. The only way that that works is someone has pulled the email, like harvested the links and it was clicking those links programmatically to see where they go. Right. And these aren’t like email@example.com, this is firstname.lastname@example.org. Right. And it’s like, okay, so.
Yeah. If you take the top thousand out of a hundred thousand subscriber file, there’s a lot of bot activity in there.
Jacques: [00:36:08] Is it the Cisco Talos website that has, that shows daily global spam volumes. And I think of 200 billion emails sent on a daily basis. 10% is legitimate mail.
Paul Shriner: [00:36:22] Right?
Jacques: [00:36:23] That’s like outgoing spam. It’s not bot activity in terms of receiving legitimate mail.
Paul Shriner: [00:36:29] Right. Well, when you, when you start as an email marketer and you’re like, I’m being evaluated my KPIs, right. historically traditionally they’ve been open rate, click rate, right? Like that was the easiest way. Easiest way to say. Okay. You know, I’m doing good as an email marketer. I’m doing not good, right?
Like that’s, that was the scale as what are your KPIs look like? You were able to drive opens up by 20%. Absolutely fantastic. Dragged clicks up, you handed it off to the web team. What do you have to worry about when you, when you consider, you know, how many, how many first off, how many subscribers have their images turned off?
Right. So we know that, right. So we know that that’s already not a super reliable. metric, when you throw on top of that, sort of caching of images, pre-loading images through Gmails and yahoos, where what they’ll do is, they’ll take on the really reliable trustworthy brands. This is a preload everything, and you’ll get one open off the email of the, off that pixel.
So now you’re, so now, you know, is, is open rate, a KPI that you can rely on? Probably not, right. I mean, that’s. Which way is the wind blowing for people listening? I just licked my finger. won’t have COVID on it Right but you know it’s a it’s a pretty good indicator of which way is the wind blowing Click rates When you throw all of the additional, I mean when you say a thousand out of a hundred thousand sort of represent bot activity and I don’t know that they all do I didn’t go through all thousand sort of deep dive I don’t have the time to pull that today. Well, you think there’s that much bot activity?
How much noise are we dropping into these decision funnels? Right. Because it’s not just like, Hey, I moved people down the funnel. You’re making decisions about the subscribers and about your business based upon metrics that have a lot of extra noise in them. And that’s. That’s to me is, is a bit disheartening and a bit challenging.
Right? So, so, uh, okay. We’ve identified this problem now. So then the next step is how do we sort of productize this into a solution that folks like yourself could benefit from, right. Let me run my file through AudiencePoint through list fit to find out how many of these people are bots, because all they’re doing is, they’re creating a bunch of fake opens and fake clicks that hurt, maybe. I mean, you might see deliverability stay up because you got an artificial engagement rate there, but it’s being individualized, right? It’s no longer based on sender reputation as it once was, right. Like, Oh, well my sender reputation is good, so all right. I can go home happy. Well, no, because you know those stupid AI algorithms.
Jacques: [00:39:19] And you can, you can bet that in some ways, Gmail is probably detected that certain users are bots or using methods to download every single copy of their email.
Paul Shriner: [00:39:30] Right. And then they say, well, you should know which users are bots. That’s what put you in the spam folder now, come on.
Jacques: [00:39:38] I was talking to a spam researcher, an ad fraud research, sorry. a few days ago. And what he was saying was really interesting in terms of, people will build bots to create fake audiences, high value audiences. So for example, doctors. They’ll engage in ways that a doctor might engage online and then they’ll visit spam websites to collect ad revenue from advertisers.
Paul Shriner: [00:40:07] How dark is that?
Jacques: [00:40:09] So. Are these things linked? I don’t know, but it’s pretty interesting to think how potentially they could be.
Paul Shriner: [00:40:18] Well, Well, how much, how much, I mean, you went to the same South by Southwest conferences I’ve been to right. I mean, I mean, I remember. early on social companies who were sort of showing intent, right? Like on Twitter, like, Hey, you’ve got happy or sad or funny, you know, responses or whatever. And now like Twitter, is a bit of a wasteland, right?
I mean, we’ve got, sort of got email Twitter, which is an Island into itself where Oh, hilarious Jacques, good one. Right.
Jacques: [00:40:53] everyone is lovely.
Paul Shriner: [00:40:55] Right. Here’s a picture of a dog doing a Cartwheel. Right. But like, beyond that, there’s so many just bots. Now, granted our political climate is not helping. Right. And so, but, but when you figure that there’s so many people that are like how, how much policy is being set based off of intent, seen off of Twitter and how much of those tweets or profiles aren’t real.
You know, this is, this is concerning. Let’s add and, and you know, you and I could sit down and be like bot, bot, not bot, not bot, right. And oftentimes it’s the profile. How many times they interact all that. But that type of service that says this is, or this is not has huge value. And I think, I think applies to email as well.
Jacques: [00:41:44] Do you think we’ll see some kind of requirement to prove that you’re a human to use some of these online services?
Paul Shriner: [00:41:52] Ooh, me likey the question. I don’t know. I know that there’s been some talk of sort of moving, you know, within, within Twitter and we can keep on that one because it is what it is. You know, you have sort of verified accounts, right. And. And, you have to verify, or a verified account is a little more believable than an unverified account.
Now you and I can’t get a verified account. Cause I mean, you could, because you have this sweet, awesome podcast where, you I’m just you know just a guy in Tennessee who trail runs to avoid snakes but, so you would have the verified account I wouldn’t, right. But you know there’s been some talk of should everyone have a verified account. So I’d ask is anonymity a right, you know what I mean, so freedom of speech is one thing is it is it is also is it freedom of speech and anonymity also a right I don’t I don’t know. Right, and that’s the underlying again that’s the underlying tension
Jacques: [00:43:01] and that assumes that freedom of speech applies to non-humans, bots.
Paul Shriner: [00:43:07] Right? Right. Well, and so, I mean, I don’t know about you. I have my Twitter listening account as well. Right. The one that I, I follow the people, I don’t really want people to know that I follow. you know, because I don’t want to, I don’t, how active am I on that? Not super active. I might comment and be like, you’re so dumb.
I’m not, I’m not the one driving any conversations, right? Oh, favorite things. But what I found was when I was doing that off of my regular Shriner P account, people were, people would like my, my, father-in-law called me. He’s like, um, Hey, uh, I wanted to talk to you about your beliefs. Uh, I think, I think, I think I can clarify some things about what you’re believing wrong politically.
And I was like, Oh, my Lord. I don’t
Jacques: [00:43:55] Let’s not have that conversation.
Paul Shriner: [00:43:58] not going to happen, but, but the question is, is anonymity both as a person, but also as a bot, like, is that a, is that a fundamental right? Should everything be verified or not? I actually, I think we’d probably be a better world if everyone had to verify
Jacques: [00:44:19] An interesting take. I saw was. People should pay a minimum amount for access. so like five bucks a year or, you know, whatever. and that at least would allow, I mean, 20,000 bucks for whatever organization is not really that expensive, but at least kind of eliminate some of the, some of the noise.
Paul Shriner: [00:44:41] But if we had to verify, right, if we have to verify off a postal address or some sort of unique identifier right. Now there’s consequences, there’s consequences being a keyboard commando and, and saying a bunch of stuff. Right? Like, and, and, that concept of doxing, right. Is anonymity an underlying right?
I don’t, I don’t know the answer to that, but I, I that’s, that’s the basis of what we’re trying to do with GDPR, right. to identify. Is that anonymity or, a right. I don’t, I don’t know.
Jacques: [00:45:15] I know it’s all quite challenging. cause there’s many good arguments to be made on both sides. Um, it’s one of those things where, you know, as an individual, I like being anonymous online in a number of circumstances, but I also, when talking politics or when talking online it’s nice for people to know that I am who I say I am.
Paul Shriner: [00:45:36] Right still. I mean, we’re not going to with technology, we’re not going to get rid of those services
Jacques: [00:45:44] the cost of computing has dropped so much in the last decade, two decades, whatever.
Paul Shriner: [00:45:51] the idea that you had a more formal network, and I don’t mean Twitter insert any network here right Where no everyone to participate You have to verify who you are, I don’t see that being a bad thing, you know what I mean. Right now I think we’re trying to do two things through a single thing Like all I want to do is share memes of a bear eating picnic basket. That’s right That’s all I really want to do
Jacques: [00:46:17] And giant spiders.
Paul Shriner: [00:46:20] Right.
Jacques: [00:46:21] Well, it’s been a really great conversation. It’s been really nice speaking with you again.
Paul Shriner: [00:46:31] And one of the challenges with COVID the internationalization of our world, with, you know, so we’re working from home, I’ve got five kids. You saw one walkthrough. she’s the artist in the bunch yesterday. Yeah, came home and she had a blender out and she had it filled with paper and water.
I was like, what are you doing? She’s like, I’m making watercolor paper. I don’t think you can do that. I don’t think that’s a thing. Right. So we’re all working from home kids running through and dogs. And everyone’s crazy. Right. And we no longer have this. This is my sense of my office. It’s like, this is my bedroom and my, the color is yellow.
And I’m sorry if you want to judge me. Right. Like. We’re all stuck here, but we’re also seeing sort of the power of communication through things like Slack and zoom and all of these other things where you and I can connect and be friends internationally, but we don’t meet each other at conferences. We don’t do any of this.
And so these kinds of like, let’s just, let’s just talk about whatever for a bit and see where it goes.
Jacques: [00:47:37] I guess. So you’ve been doing that a lot recently as well with your podcasts.
Paul Shriner: [00:47:42] I have, and, and, you know, it started with just kind of the idea, like let’s, let’s connect, let’s provide, you know, at first it was like, everyone’s stuck at home. They’re not going to have anything to watch.
Jacques: [00:47:51] Yeah.
Paul Shriner: [00:47:52] I know they want to watch us, but you know, it, it grew from that into like layers, lots of people wanting to connect and that’s been a cool thing. and sort of being able to pull people from multiple walks of life. That’s been
Jacques: [00:48:08] It’s one thing I’ve found is that it’s just a nice way to have a conversation that I wouldn’t normally have. and it’s a way to hear someone’s story that I wouldn’t normally hear.
Paul Shriner: [00:48:19] Right.
Jacques: [00:48:20] so for
Paul Shriner: [00:48:20] very No, no. Well, that’s why we all do this the cell phone. Thank you for putting this together. I do appreciate it.
Jacques: [00:48:28] yeah, yeah, no, thank you so much for agreeing like that.
Paul Shriner: [00:48:31] Well, again, you’re an easy, yes, man. I think, you know, that.
Jacques: [00:48:37] Thank you.
Paul Shriner: [00:48:38] And then when you know these travel bans in and the Americans are allowed to leave our rock or our Island, and we’re at a conference, we’ll share beer.
Jacques: [00:48:47] We need that beer Thank you very much. Thanks very much. It’s been great. Bye.