Natalie Rockall, Email Marketing Interview Series

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Interview with Natalie Rockall, EDF Energy – Transcription


Kate       Hi, I’m Kate Barrett, the founder of Shine A Light Media and the Email Marketing Academy, and welcome to our series of interviews with everyone from entrepreneurs to fellow email marketing experts where we will be finding out how they use email in their business to give you inspiration in your own work.

Our guest today is Natalie Rockall.  Natalie is the senior email executive at EDF Energy and a fellow member of the Direct Marketing Association Email Council.  Welcome Natalie and thank you for joining me today.


Natalie  Hi Kate, thanks very much


Kate       Do you want to introduce yourself a little bit more Natalie and EDF Energy and what you do for them in your role as senior email executive.


Natalie  Yes, sure, no problem at all.  So, my name is Natalie Rockall, I’m the senior email executive at EDF Energy and we are one of the UK’s largest energy companies, and I work on the B2C (business to Consumer) side of the business.  I’ve been there for about two and a half, going on three years now.  It’s a very busy role but I love it, it’s great.


Kate       Fantastic, so obviously you specialise in the email area but is EDF Energy involved in lots of different marketing channels to generate those sales?


Natalie  Yes, so we use quite a few different types of offline and online channels for sale.  For online it’s a blend of e-marketing and aggregators and then offline there is  more traditional channels, such as direct mail, door drops, inserts, press advertising, stuff like that.


Kate       Fantastic, so a really good mix there.  How does email sit within that and how do EDF Energy use that in their business to drive sales or to build a relationship?  How are you currently using email?


Natalie  We are actually using it across the whole of the customer lifecycle.  We don’t use it just in one area, and we are even finding more and more areas of the business we can implement an email program or email campaigns into.  We use it right from the start of a relationship, so when somebody comes to our site and they get a quote we email them a copy of the quote so they can come back to it and purchase.  We do things like, when somebody is coming to the end of their tariff we will send them an email that tells them, ok your tariff is going to be closing in a couple of months, you might want to look at these other great tariffs we’ve got on offer, and they work really well for them.   In the energy sector people are quite price focused so it’s great for us to be able to let customers know we’ve got a cheaper tariff and there’s a choice out there for them.


Kate       Absolutely, that sounds fantastic, so that’s using triggered emails or other people may know them as auto responders.  So are the majority of your emails sent using triggered emails or do you send any emails manually as well?


Natalie  Yes, actually quite a large proportion of them are manual at the moment.  We are wanting to get more campaigns automated but being a team of one unfortunately right now it means that I’m doing a lot of agency resource to do manual deployments while we have been proving the case of email but really we are getting to the point where we are trying to commoditise so it becomes the default route for contacting customers rather than an addition to DM.  Most of the campaigns are still ad hoc and manually deployed right now but we are working on putting them into programs and doing automated and triggered campaigns which will make life a lot easier.


Kate       Absolutely, and that sounds really exciting.   It’s really nice to hear that even the larger businesses still have to work towards these things.  Nothing happens instantly and I think it’s great for the entrepreneurial business owners that we’ve got listening today that they know that  even the bigger businesses can’t just start something and within a day it’s absolutely perfect, you’ve got to work towards it, test different things and see how they work and then start to implement.  So that’s really great to hear Natalie.


Natalie  No worries, it’s all about the planning I think really.  You can’t go from 0-60 super quick.  It’s all about putting things in place and making changes, looking at the results and then seeing what working, what’s not working, making all these tweaks to make it as effective as you can really.


Kate       You’re absolutely right, and that’s a great tip.  So in terms of all these emails that you are currently doing and all these fantastic things you are planning, which email service provider, which ESP are you using to help you implement all of these fantastic campaigns?


Natalie  So we’re currently using Silverpop, and we did use to use Exact Target, but having two ESPs wasn’t really working for us and it made sense to try and combine everything to go through one ESP, so we are now just using Silverpop.


Kate       Fantastic. So why did you choose Silverpop out of the two? Did they have any particular features that you really liked about the system?


Natalie  Silver Pop and Exact Target were on board at the organisation before I started, so the majority of our campaigns were going through Silverpop so that made sense for us to switch really to Silverpop.  They’ve got a really good tool, I have used them in a previous role as well.  I started off in email doing coding so I like the simplicity of the Silverpop interface.  I found that the actual coding of emails, using the WYSIWYG if I was feeling a little bit lazy, setting up the campaign dashboard, attaching the data and getting all the pre-deployment stuff ready, I found that really intuitive and straightforward to use.   Also from a pricing point of view, our agreement with them is we do not pay an increased overage fee.  I know a lot of other ESPs you have to pay a slightly higher CPM rate if you go over your set number of emails per month that you want to send.  So yes, not paying an increased overage fee was quite attractive for us.


Kate       Absolutely.  I think that’s a really good distinction to make as well.  When you get to the level of services such as Silverpop, they charge based on the volume that you are sending and the amount that you are sending whereas the lower level systems, the Mail Chimps, the Awebers, the entry level systems, they charge more on the number of subscribers to have.  I think that is a really good distinction to make there as well and really interesting to hear about the usability of the Silverpop tool and how you find it.  I think that’s really great.

Are there any other email marketing tools that you use, either alongside Silverpop or separately from Silverpop that really help you to analyse your emails in more depth or just to take your campaigns to the next level in any way?


Natalie  So we use Return Path, not sure if anybody has heard of Return Path but they are email deliverability/email intelligence specialists, that’s the way that I would describe them.   So we use them in addition to Silverpop to see how our emails are going to render in different systems, on different devices, which is really important these days.  We also can see through the tool are the emails actually hitting customer’s inboxes or are they going into spam or a junk folder or are they even going missing.   Also it can tell us our IP address sender score, so that gives us a flavour of how our reputation is going and  it’s something that we take quite good care of to make sure that our sender score remains as strong as possible, so that’s a really good tool.  We also use Unica which is also an IBM company in addition to Silverpop which is an IBM company, and we use them for integrating our marketing database with Silverpop so that we can run automated data jobs and triggered campaigns through the tool.


Kate       Fantastic, that’s a really great suite of tools that you have there across the board and it gives you a lot more information using these additional systems.  The information that you get from your ESP, from Silverpop is fantastic, but there are obviously systems out there such as Return Path that offer fantastic additional information about your campaigns so that you can really build and create the most effective strategy that you can.   I guess following on from that, and perhaps you use the tools to do this, or create the campaign, what has been the most effective way you have used email? What’s been your most effective strategy that you’ve put in place, or campaign?


Natalie  Obviously as a big organisation I can’t share all of the nitty gritty, but I would say that one of the most effective campaigns that we have got on at the moment is called product closure.  This is the one I mentioned earlier, so there are a lot of customers who go on to a fixed term tariffs so there on a set tariff for a particular amount of time, and we email them to let them know that they can pre-register to go on to a new tariff so they can seamlessly move over when the current deal ends.  A lot of the time it can be a big panic when the current deal comes to an end  and suddenly they think, “Oh what am I doing, am I going on to the standard variable tariff or do I move on to another one”.  So we are telling people in advance the tariff is coming to an end and all they have to do is visit a microsite and they can see what tariffs are available, how much they could cost and they can pick which one they want to move to.  Also they’ve got the opportunity to move immediately or they can future date their transfer to the new tariff so that gives them a lot of control over moving and puts the control back in the customer’s court.

These campaigns I have picked out because they have some of our highest open rates.  I would say we’ve been running them for quite a while, but I would say that most of our open rates vary between 60% and 70% which is really really good.


Kate       That is, that’s fantastic! Particularly the industry you’re in as well.


Natalie Yes, it’s hard!


Kate       It’s obviously difficult, absolutely.  So wow, that’s fantastic and do you think that is because of how personal they are or the offer they are giving? Why do you think they have been so well received?


Natalie  I think it’s a mixture of all that.  I use the saying “it’s the right message for the right person at the right time”.  We have a suite of three emails in that program and it’s going to people where we know their tariff is ending, and we know that the tariff is ending and price consideration and switching around is very important to customers at the moment,  and the whole process is really simple and straightforward so we have had great reviews of the process and people have got the confidence that actually, once they open this email it’s going to be a really straightforward  path to conversion to reach the end goal that we and they want to get to.


Kate       Absolutely, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there with a couple of things.  Testing it to make sure of what you’re saying in those emails when they’re going out but also sending them at the right time, sending them based on somebody’s behaviour and we know as email experts that they are the best types of email that you can send.           If you’re going to focus your effort on anywhere in your email strategy, its focusing around those triggers, where you can deliver that really personal information with a great offer or whether it may be but it’s at the right time.  It’s giving them that correct information and matching it to their behaviour, which is exactly what you’re doing.  That sounds really fantastic.  I think they’re two really key takeaways from you Natalie there that are really interesting and something that anyone, it doesn’t matter how small or big your business is, you can implement these as well.  If you think a little bit creatively, have a look at the functionality that you have, have a look at the information that you have.  Something that I always say is, if it’s in your database you can use it to personalise, or to segment or to trigger.  You’ve obviously got that information about renewals in your database and that’s what you’re using and that’s the information you’re coming back to, which is absolutely obviously as we know the best way to do it.

I guess jumping from the highs of email marketing and the 60-70% open rates, which is amazing, kudos to you and hats off, that’s some pretty amazing open rates there, that’s fantastic!  What would you say on the downside is your biggest challenge, and if you do have a challenge at the moment what are your plans to overcome it?


Natalie  I think you’ll always have challenges, not just in email but in any business, and I think ours at the moment is resources and speed to market.  We’ve done a great job, we know that the business appreciates that email works and we’ve proved it and we know that our customers really like it.  Now my challenge is more about how to increase the number of campaigns for the programs that we are running how to get them going as soon as possible and all still with just one dedicated email member of staff.  What I’m looking at now is more about moving from this manual ad hoc deployment into automated commoditised model, but still keeping all the standards that we need and all the strategy in place and following our plan really.


Kate       That sounds fantastic, ok great.  So what is going on in the business right now then and how do you think your future email marketing plans that you’ve just been telling us about are going to help achieve it?


Natalie  Well as you know, I am in the energy industry and as a business  we are really dedicated in bringing down the cost down for our customers and sending communications the business issues by email instead of post really really helps us meet that objective.  Also we have paperless customers.  If they are on a paperless tariff rather than receiving paper communications they are actually expecting to receive electronic communications and by that we don’t mean just the marketing kind of emails but also their service emails and their regulatory communications.


Kate       Absolutely, fantastic.  So they’re helping the environment at the same time.  That’s a new benefit of email                that I’m going to put on there.  I tell people all the time about the benefits of email and that one slips my mind a lot.  I should put that on there, I like that one!


Natalie  Singlehandedly saving the universe!


Kate       You are! Fantastic.  So a question Natalie, just to end our interview and round up all this fantastic information that you’ve given us and great insight, so thank you for sharing that .  A question that I ask all of our interviewees is which business people do you admire and why?


Natalie  I have a lot of admiration for Jo Malone.  I went to an event this year and heard her talk and it really struck me how she started from the real bottom, she started from complete scratch and she  built up a hugely successful business that she was completely and utterly passionate about.  For me, for somebody to pursue a career that they really adore, it’s quite rare these days, I don’t really know that people that have done it.  She seems to have a really genuine love for the perfume and cosmetic industry and an interesting thing that I picked up on that she said is she makes choices based on both facts and figures and her gut feel, and I think in business gut feel is often something that people overlook and they are almost afraid of but actually I think a lot of the time your intuition and your gut feel can really add value.  Do take into consideration facts and figures as well but it’s quite a good trait that I admire I think.


Kate       Absolutely, I totally agree with you and I think something I’ve learnt running my own business, sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut.  Absolutely agree with you, if you’ve got facts and figures in front of you, you’ve got to go with that, but if you don’t have that in front of you, go with your gut, go with what feels right to you.   As entrepreneurs and small business owners that’s why we set up that business, to have that freedom and flexibility to try different things.  It is very different when you are with a company and you’ve got that structure around you I know, but I think it’s always good to expand your horizons, have your passions and do all of those things.  So I think that’s a really great suggestion from you there with Jo Malone.

Thank you very very much Natalie, it’s been really great to speak to you today and hopefully we’ll catch up with you again in the future.


Natalie  Yes, my pleasure, great to talk to you this evening.