5 Questions with an Email Expert: Kevin Gaherty of Harte Hanks

In our series, 5 Questions with an Email Expert, we chat with leaders in the email marketing space about their background, favorite email campaigns, and more.

In this edition of 5 Questions with an Email Expert, we spoke with Kevin Gaherty, Vice President, Digital Communications at Harte Hanks.

What was your path to email?

I started out as an email newsletter manager way back in the ‘90s. I worked for a publisher and each magazine had their own email newsletter. We centralized it and made a revenue stream from selling advertisements in the newsletter, back when that was the cool thing to do.

We turned it into a 1+ million company with ad revenues. I had my own business for a while, and I came back into digital marketing to see that not much has changed. Since 2007 I’ve been back in the email business.

Why do you believe in email?

I believe in email for several reasons. One, it’s stood the test of time. Facebook, Twitter, SMS; all of these were supposed to be the killer of email, but email is still the workhorse. With the advantages in technology now and with some of the ways we can get contextual and real-time, content can drive extremely personalized email. We’re on the precipice of it not being such a static channel anymore.

What’s the most innovative thing happening in email right now?

I think it’s the driving context to not be a static channel, and starting to see the shift in Google offering support for media queries. One of my hopes for the near future is that emails can start replicating web pages a bit more – more content to increase the user experience. With big data and content management solutions, being able to drive those 1:1 personalizations within the email is much easier now.

At Harte Hanks, what are the most common email challenges you’ve seen recently, and do you have any tips for overcoming these challenges?

Everyone wants the 1:1 personalization, but not everyone is set up to do it. The challenge is how to best marry the data and content to scale that level of personalization and deliver that experience.

My advice for overcoming that is start small. One client that we’re working on, they’re going a mile a minute and trying to do everything at once. We’re starting with a first-time buyer journey with five or six touches. Six months down the down the road, we anticipate it being a different journey but we’re not trying to implement that now. We’re doing a small, iterative process.

We’ll launch it, see what works, make data driven-decisions, and optimize it that way – rather than starting this long, complicated journey

What brands are sending the best emails? 

Amazon doesn’t have the sexiest emails in the world, but I open them because they’re a replication of the site experience. They give powerful product recommendations based on my browsing and purchase history. They’re the champions of that. Amazon always does the best from a personalization standpoint; they’re the emails I go to the most.

American Airlines and Hilton as well. The travel industry has a lot of opportunities to be personalized with rewards points. It’s that earn and burn mentality. They give you personalized information and the ability to earn more points or you can burn them and cash out. There are so many ways they can be relevant in that regard.