We are so thrilled to have Lisa S. Jones with us today. Lisa is the founder and CEO at EyeMail Inc., an innovative company that increases engagement by enabling instant play video-in-email, webmail, and mobile.
Lisa has a truly fascinating and uplifting story to tell.
She wanted to reinvent the email communications and created EyeMail in a niche no one else has even considered. What’s even more interesting is that she had no previous experience working in email! And yet today, her company is on an upward direction, with an impressive number of well-known customers such as Delta Air Lines, Microsoft, Coca-Cola or WarnerMedia, to name just a few.
In this delightful conversation, Lisa shared with us:
- How she left behind the comfort of corporate life and launched her business,
- The why’s behind EyeMail,
- How her technology disrupts email communications,
- The main future trends and challenges in email,
- What inspires her,
- The lessons that shaped her entrepreneurial path and precious advice to new email startup founders,
- And many more.
Let’s get started!
Lisa, what a pleasure it is to be talking with you today. To start off, can you please tell us about your career background?
Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, I am a long-time resident of Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated with a BS in Logistics & Procurement and have an MBA in Marketing.
As an advocate of education, I was fortunate to continue my education with advanced studies at the Tuck School of Business, and now pursuing an executive degree in Marketing at Harvard University.
My professional career started at NASA as a Logistics Specialist, and then transitioned into the telecommunications industry for several years before becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
Many planned and unplanned experiences have shaped my journey.
The milestones with the most impact:
The increase in layoffs in corporate America charged my drive to accelerate my timelines and take control of where I wanted to go.
I recognized there was never going to be a ‘right time’ to step away from my corporate career. If I continued to wait for the ‘right time,’ I would never get started at all.
In the initial concept phase of EyeMail, inc. I worked directly with chief architects at Microsoft’s Innovation Lab and with seasoned professionals who had the same creative concepts about our technology roadmap.
This milestone was key in developing the foundational architecture that supports EyeMail today.
As an African American woman in technology, it also showed me that I was accepted for my merit of who I am based on my innovation and contribution from individuals I consider my technology peers.
As the Founder and Chief EyeMail EyeMail Inc, I am responsible for the strategic vision, technology innovation with multiple patent-pending communications technologies.
Day to day, I have oversight into the marketing and sales divisions to ensure the quality of the brand messaging is consistent and remains relevant as the world around us consistently changes.
For sure, EyeMail Inc. is a truly disruptive company. Being able to develop such technology requires a lot of hard work. How did you find inspiration for that?
The life of an entrepreneur has lots of peaks and valleys.
Isolation can lead to thoughts of self-doubt; listening to your imagination run in the opposite direction.
“Inspiration is always lying around the corner waiting to be discovered, to show you a new perspective. The key is to be open to the possibilities”.Lisa S. Jones
I use the following tools to help combat those times when I am doubting my abilities.
EyeMail is founded on a technology that didn’t exist which means I am always educating on the purpose and value of EyeMail.
To fuel my mental energy and help keep me driving forward, I have found several things which work well any situation:
- surround myself with a personal advisory board tailored to me,
- listen to business podcasts,
- have inspirational photos where I can see them every day from my office,
- play my favorite moments from a Rocky movie for a quick motivational kick,
- I have friends who support me unconditionally, that I can reach out to anytime when I need something stronger.
You said at one point that you founded the company to bring email to life and make people feel special. Could you tell us more about that? And why email and not something else?
EyeMail was originally inspired after I read through 100+ marketing emails.
They all had the same black and white text format, oftentime links to other sites, and perhaps the most innovative idea I noticed was a picture someone had placed in the email.
I kept wondering why can’t we have a more engaging and personal experience with email. It was at that moment, the initial idea for EyeMail was born from recognizing what I believe to be a problem with email when no one else thought the problem even existed.
What better way to strengthen that communication, than having a video play directly into the email.
Email is how most of us in the world connect with each other on a daily basis.
It is the primary means of communication in our society today and can have a profound impact connecting us to each other.
At the core of communication is the human connection. We all seek some level of connection.
What better way to strengthen that communication, than having a video play directly into the email.
At EyeMail we believe that everyone should be seen, heard, and felt.
We can do that with automatic play of 60+ Ultra High-Definition video direct to the inbox in ~15K in size.
No more clicks or links to watch the video outside of the email.
The connection is right when you open the email.
Starting last year, brands have 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?
The year 2020 has been a time of reflection for numerous businesses around the world, including email marketing.
The average return on investment for email has always been a good investment of marketing dollars, but the decline in the traditional in-person conferences and events reduced the immediate need for marketing & event communications and a shift in budgeting allocation for marketing dollars.
Email is not going away anytime soon. For example, the 2020 State of Multichannel Marketing Survey, summarized Email ranked 1st for its use to reach a wider audience but ranked 4th for its effectiveness.
Email is still the only media channel that can reach every individual; it is like the post office for digital communications.
The pandemic was a catalyst simply because the work from home mandate had the same impact at the same time, to a majority of our population. I am an advocate that one voice can make a change, but many voices can help make more impactful change more quickly.
What do you think will be the main trends and challenges in email for the next period?
There are some trends we are experiencing now in the inbox for example:
- Email Surveys provide the ability for someone to answer survey questions directly in the email with no links to external sites.
- Hyper-personalization in emails. Retail and consumer goods companies are using cognitive technologies to distribute emails to specific markets based on their shopping habits.
- AMP is bringing us a little closer to shopping directly in the inbox, which consumers are liking.
Because email is the direct connection to almost every individual, email will have a renewed focus. With more demand on email, larger brands will look to smaller companies for innovating technologies that do not have corporate restrictions.
Artificial intelligence will pave the way for seamless interactivity and gamification directly into the inbox, and technology platforms will need to become more robust so everyone has the same impact across all email and webmail providers.
Increasingly, publishers use ads to monetize their newsletters and even more well-known brands choose email for advertising. What’s your opinion about monetizing newsletters with ads? And could video ads become the new thing in email monetization?
This is an interesting topic. I believe each brand has the choice to decide what will work best for their audience and newsletters are a good way to compartmentalize a lot of information.
In my opinion, a brand should stay true to the primary purpose of the newsletter when sharing information. I personally believe newsletters with multiple pages and sections, prevents the viewer from truly engaging with key content.
A busy newsletter can be distracting and eventually the brand messaging becomes diluted over time. Adding video advertisements into a newsletter, I believe, will diminish the value of the original intent of the communication.
However, I do see this becoming a trend as new methods of communication are explored, but the metrics will speak for themselves.
When the click through and call to action buttons are not tracking, the marketing departments will look to restructure the newsletter content.
What motivates you the most to keep driving the trends?
EyeMail’s culture is founded on its innovative creativity.
Innovation is not restricted to a specific age group or level within the company, our youngest team member is 23 years and the most senior team member is 75 years of age.
This wide range of age and the global diversity of its team members better equips EyeMail to foster the exchange of new ideas. Creating this natural collaborative community and knowledge sharing is how everyone at EyeMail stays motivated and engaged.
Since our target customer is anyone who sends / receives an email, I spend a lot of time listening to what others have to say and believe this is the key ingredient to consistent innovation.
The EyeMail team is often inspired by new ideas gained through those insightful conversations.
For example, at a conference in 2019, I was talking to an individual who said, “if you could do X, then it would make my life easier.”
In taking the feedback from the conference back to our team, that one conversation led to an idea we expect to launch in Q4 2021.
As a successful entrepreneur, what are some of the lessons that shaped your path? And what advice would you give to young email startup founders?
There are so many lessons I wish I had known before starting my journey as an Entrepreneur. Passing those learnings to others is how we continue to help each other to be successful.
Always stay true to yourself and your vision, even if no one believes in it. Not everyone is going to ‘get it,’ and accepting that is OK is often the first step. A few others include:
- Learn to embrace being agile and flexible in your approach. While it is good to have a plan, you must also be open to changing direction and not attribute that change as a negative.
- Maintain a team-first attitude, knowing that collaboration from many cultures, experience and ideas will yield positive results.
- Be receptive to new ideas as they may open amazing opportunities you never considered. Also, challenge yourself to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities.
- Remain proactive in taking a calculated risk and think about the risk before you act versus looking at risk in hindsight. This has helped me avoid ‘I should have’ and have confidence in the decisions I make.
For me, lessons learned are like guard rails to help me stay on track.
Over time my list evolves depending on where I am in my professional and personal journey.
1. When things get lonely, connect with images or videos that motivate you.
2. Understand that every day will not be sunshine and rainbows.
3. Set aside time to celebrate all successes, even the small ones.
4. Own it, and realize you are enough and deserve success.
5. Seek mentorship from multiple and diverse sources.
6. Tweak it, until you peak it.
7. Talk less and listen more.
8. Stay true to your vision.
9. Increase your network.
10. Find your inspiration.
Closing on a funny note, could you share the most ‘unexpected’ request that you received from your customers so far?
That is a good question. There is one that stands out as the most unexpected request. A customer asked if we could code our video to play upside down in email to generate more interest and engagement.