Email Expert Interviews: Kitty Bates. Digital Content Executive at MRS Digital

Kitty Bates - email expert in digital marketing industry
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In today’s interview, we have with us Kitty Bates, Digital Content Executive at MRS Digital. Passionate about the content and the email industry, Kitty shared with us valuable tips and tricks on what makes an outstanding email and how to use the power of content to create long-term relationships with subscribers. She also emphasized the use of in-depth data in every step of the process.

Learn more about what motivates her on a daily basis and how she embraced the opportunity to become a frequent speaker at email industry events.

What I admire so much about her is her enthusiasm for sharing her expertise and insights from working with millions of emails each week.

So, let’s begin!

Kitty, first of all, thank you for being with us today! Tell us a little bit about your role at MRS Digital and how you got here. 

My role at MRS Digital is a blend of content and email, so on a day-to-day basis, I could be writing anything from new website copy to planning in email automation. It’s hugely varied, and why I love my job so much. 

As for getting here, my first ever marketing role was agency side, before I took a nosedive in-house, which was where I started working in emails, managing a weekly send of 2.1 million emails. I then moved to another agency, before ending up where I am now, at MRS Digital, and I love it here!

What do you enjoy the most about working in a digital marketing agency?

The fact that no day and no client is the same. 

The nuances of each client and the services they offer to make producing content for each of them so interesting. And it’s not just blogs, content here means any kind of written copy, so you’re always doing something new.

Could you give us some hints on how to build an effective content strategy for email? What main elements should we focus on?

Emails need to provide a personalized answer to someone’s question that can’t be answered by a web search. Content for emails needs to address those lower funnel problems that people have while also providing actionable content and courses that provide long-term positive outcomes for the person who’s asked to receive it. Email requires the consent of a user to receive emails, so make it worth them saying yes!

In your opinion, what makes an outstanding email newsletter, and how can email publishers create better experiences for their subscribers?

An outstanding email newsletter is one that fulfills what the person signed up for and what they want.

If people are only clicking on one type of content and email marketers don’t analyze and understand that, then the email becomes what a marketer wants over what a subscriber wants. At its core, a newsletter should answer the needs of a user, and no two should look or act the same. 

Email publishers should be creating better experiences by using data-driven marketing. Here at MRS Digital, we’re lucky to have an insight and data specialist to help us understand really in-depth information surrounding the user journey, attribution, etc. While not every company has this, using the data and understanding that you do have to hand will help you massively.

Look at things like:

  • Open to click delay. If it’s 20% higher than the predicted reading time of your content (most grammar checkers tell you this), people are likely digesting the information in your email before clicking through. Maybe you’re not telling them enough? Test some content variants to see what works. 
  • Which button or link is people clicking on most? If it’s near the top of the email, and you had better information at the bottom of the email, split test the order of content. 

What kind of email content engages subscribers the most?

Whatever they’ve signed up to get! People will engage with emails they want to receive. 

Since last year, more and more brands started to (re)consider email as the best channel to communicate with their audiences. Do you think this shift would have happened anyway, or was it an effect of the pandemic?

This is a great question. The email has been given the spotlight as a way to communicate directly to customers with pandemic-related updates. The growth of email during the pandemic has been greatly impacted by the ‘service notification’ stipulation in GDPR. 

However, whether this growth is simply a percentage increase in sending that will drop down as the pandemic slows down in people’s minds or not is unknown as of yet. I’m looking forward to seeing the Litmus State of Email 2021 report see what future trends are from the email marketers themselves.  

What are some of your predictions regarding the trends, as well as future challenges in email?

Trends and future challenges in the email are beginning to line up a lot.

With privacy and sender verification becoming a large part of what email is, this is both a future challenge and a trend.

The news that Gmail is rolling out BIMI means that sender verification is becoming more ‘mainstream’ and therefore email will become more secure. 

The iOS 15 news, however, spells a period of change in the email where statistics and data reporting become innovative and require alternative approaches, along with the cookie news from Google and the general way consumer privacy is heading.

What do you think of email monetization as an extra revenue stream for publishers that use email as one of their primary communication channels?

It’s a fantastic idea. When I worked in-house, we used affiliate channels and targeted deals to create a profitable income source that also gave our members access to discounts and deals related to the company’s sector. It gave us industry standing and rewarded users. It’s a win-win situation if you can get custom deals and opportunities and leverage your sender base.

Could you share with us what inspired you to become a speaker at email industry events, and what are your main takeaways from doing this?

I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and communicating. I fell into speaking at email events by accident, and since then, haven’t looked back. My main takeaway from speaking at events is to communicate with other speakers and get to know them! It’s a great opportunity to connect with people who are like-minded and keep on top of trends in email marketing. 

Your favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to share with us?

In my personal life, I am obsessed with both Off Menu with James Acaster and Ed Gamble and Gossipmongers with David Earl and Joe Wilkinson. 

Email wise, For the Love of Emails by Netcore, is always interesting and varied, i.e. they don’t just talk about newsletters.

The Really Good Emails email is always a joy in my inbox as is “it depends… by @megbosh”. Both emails are useful and quick to digest and always filled with good information. 

How do you find inspiration in your everyday life? And what’s your smartest productivity hack?

My greatest source of inspiration is working and sharing with my colleagues here at MRS Digital. I’m lucky to work in a content team, and my partner in content crime and I have a great working relationship, and regularly bounce ideas off each other. Having people around you who understand the clients you’ve got, and the content types you have to write make creativity and inspiration easier to handle. 

Productivity-wise, get two screens! You save so much time when you don’t have to switch between tabs while creating content and it means you can refer to sources, designs, theories, and supplementary content easily. It’s a simple but the most useful thing on my desk. 

Closing on a funny note, could you share the most ‘unexpected’ request that you received from your customers so far?

I don’t often get unexpected requests but one of the most unusual projects I ever worked on was in-house when we liaised with the BBC for a BBC One TV slot. That was a crazy moment early on in my career! 

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