Stephanie McKay, Email Marketing and Personalization Manager at Lucky Vitamin, shares a day in the life of her creative team.
– [Hadas] Hey, Stephanie.
– [Stephanie] Hey there, Hadas.
– All right. So before we begin, just like Jo, do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and your role at LuckyVitamin?
– Sure. So I’m Stephanie McKay. I’m an email marketing and personalization manager. And LuckyVitamin was started in 2005 by Sam Wolf, who is our chief wellness spreader. And it began of his family’s brick-and-mortar health and wellness store in a small suburb outside of Philadelphia. And since then, we’ve worked really hard to grow our product offering to over 40,000 items and really be a leader in this space, in the e-commerce world because we really believe that a healthy lifestyle begins with what we put into our bodies and what we bring into our homes. So my role at LuckyVitamin is to make sure that all of our customers are being served through email, through personalization, push notifications, and other types of channels.
– As one of the most creative marketers that I know and I’ve had the privilege of working with, do you feel like sometimes the constant changes in the marketing world can bring to a sort of creative paralysis?
– Yeah. Definitely, I understand that these constant changes can feel like the burden of, you know, creative paralysis is going to stop you in your tracks on any given day, right? But we really feel like everything in life is about mindset and we like to view these changes as challenges, and challenges can be overcome.
– Can you give us a small example of such a challenge?
– Yeah. So one example is that, with email marketing in particular, right, it has its own unique set of challenges where even just small changes can affect deliverability across dozens of different email clients and that can be a little bit frustrating, right? So we’ve found that working together as a group to brainstorm solutions, coming away from these brainstorms with really clear action items, a clear understanding of who’s responsible for what deliverables and what the timeline for those deliverables is going to be, has really helped us to create a cohesive working environment, and simultaneously being able to subscribe to industry newsletters, do continuing education and professional development to make sure that we’re able to really stay on top of all of these changes in this ongoing world where there’s always new technologies and tactics being introduced.
– So you mentioned your group, and I know that you work with a very talented, also very funny and a lot of pranks type of group setting, can you tell us a little bit about your creative team, how it’s built, and what are the touchpoints between the different team members?
– Sure. So since…
– And maybe a prank or two.
– Maybe a prank or two? So our creative team has actually grown to nine people. Hey, that’s us.
– I can see it down here.
– So, okay. So our creative team has actually grown to nine people including myself. So, on the strategy side, we have Kim McCorkell who is our Customer Retention Manager and she works on projects like authorship, loyalty, and our print projects. We have Jenelle, who is our Website Operations Manager. She helps us to coordinate all of our assets across all of the channels including, in particular, on our website. That’s me. I do email marketing and personalization like we already covered in case you forgot. This is Maddie. She’s our content coordinator. She was not in the original photo, but I would be remiss if I left her out. This is Leah. She is our content and social media manager and an extraordinary at taking selfies if you haven’t noticed by this photo. That’s Matt Braun. He’s our junior graphic designer and we have a second designer with Adam. We also use these guys as in-house photography. So every item that you see on our website, every piece of creative that we create is in-house photography. We never use vendor items. This is Matt Bomberger. He’s our creative director. That’s okay. You have a question?
– I know, like, I just got excited. Go ahead.
– Okay. This is Patrick. He’s our video coordinator. And then we have Ray who is our HTML email specialist, and that’s our team.
– So now that we’ve met your team, can you describe what is the process of actually launching a campaign at LuckyVitamin? What does it look like in terms of inspirations and ideas that you guys have?
– Yeah. So, as marketers, you know, we are also customers ourselves, right? So we’re out in the retail world. We are purchasing products. We’re taking care of our families. We’re living our lives every single day. And we often encounter really interesting effective marketing techniques that we recognize are influencing our buying behaviors. And so, we’ll frequently bring those back to the team so we can sort of reverse-engineer what it was about that marketing that really grabbed us and then we can kind of figure out how we want to incorporate that into our own techniques. Also, you know, we as marketers, we use a lot of these buzzwords that are like affinity, replenishment, acquisition, retention, but at the end of the day, we are all customers, and we are all people. We have personalities. We have these real human needs, and we want to be approaching all of our marketing efforts with the mindset that customers are more than numbers. They’re more than uplift. They are more than revenue. They are more than just a customer ID, right? So we want to be creating journeys that we ourselves would also be pleased to take as customers and we want to make sure that we are individualizing and personalizing all of these factors so that we can find people-oriented solutions to our marketing.
– And what does the process of launching a campaign look like in terms of team functionalities and rules?
– Yeah. So what’s really important to us is the process. All of our campaigns from trigger campaigns, sales emails, they all begin with a series of group brainstorms where we all come together at the beginning of the month. I bring in a set strategy for what sales we’re going to be covering, what kinds of campaigns we’re going to be building, what we’re going to be pushing for the upcoming, you know, season. There’s a huge seasonality, believe it or not, to vitamins. You have your cold and flu season, you have your needs for vitamin D in the wintertime, all these different kinds of sunscreen protection, things like that. So we know what we’ll be focusing on the minute we walk into the door from any one-to-one campaigns, any kind of trigger campaigns, daily batch and blast kind of sales emails.
– Can you just elaborate on what is the difference for you between one-to-one campaigns and triggered campaigns?
– Yeah. So one-to-one campaigns are really personalized to the customer journey. So this is something that might be like a welcome series to a new customer. It might be a win-back campaign to somebody who’s churned. And then trigger campaigns are more like something that’s been triggered by an event. So they’ve abandoned their cart or they’ve signed up for a newsletter, and each of those are going to have their own unique floats.
– So I interrupted you, sorry, just for that clarification. We were talking about…or you were talking about brainstorming sessions that you include both strategy and creative side with your team, can you tell us how that looks from start to finish in creating a campaign?
– Yeah. So, basically, we start by prioritizing hard deadlines, availability of resources, level of efforts, and once we kind of gauge what things are going to fall into an order of priority, we dive headfirst into the creative angles for each campaign, and this is on a campaign level. So the campaigns are purely surprise and delight emails, they can be more goofy or a spark of levity, something that looks like this. We might have something that’s a little bit more like a very high-functioning campaign, like a dynamic replenishment, or, you know, a recommendations campaigns.
– Do you want to clarify regarding replenishment that they’re aimed mostly at consumables when customers are…
– Absolutely. So these are aimed at customers who’ve been purchasing highly replenishable items. So there is a timing logic behind it that recognizes when a customer is about to be needing something to be replenished and then it will fire off a dynamic campaign that will show them what their most recent purchase was, that we think that they’re about ready to need this, if they need to reorder, what the current price is. And the real point of that is to make sure that we are staying top of mind to give them exactly the right messaging at the right moment when they want to make that purchase. So, anyways, once we have established our goal for the campaign, for example, what are we compelling the customer to do or how are we going to serve the customer with every single piece of artwork that we put out there? This particular example is a win-back campaign. We’ve established a creative direction. We move forward with basic messaging from there, and then we’re able to craft the graphics, the content, and any related other kinds of channel notifications, right?
So we’re talking browser push, we’re talking about, you know, Facebook or other kinds of social media campaigns. And we really like to approach all of these components in a really integrated way so that we have these consistent touchpoints along the entire customer journey in a way that’s continuing the conversation that we want to be having with our customers. So, for example, we walked in knowing that this was going to be an offer for a win-back campaign. We were going to be giving 12% off to customers at a certain place in a churn journey. And then we started to kind of think about, “Well, what would the artwork and the messaging look like? What comes in 12s?” And Maddie yelled out, “Eggs,” and then there was no going back, right? It’s all we could think about, is what now can we do with eggs?
So, luckily, we’ve made a lot of process improvements over time so that we all are very aware of how critical a role we play in making sure that this wheel keeps turning. So we walk away with each brainstorm knowing exactly which pieces of the puzzle that we will be responsible for delivering, and as part of this, we implemented a project management tool called Trello. So you can kind of see an example here. Yesterday, there was a session that was talking about ideation to execution and the importance of the creative brief so that everybody is on the same page and this is basically what we’ve used to replace a creative brief, right? So you can see, when we walk in, there is a very basic idea of what’s needed. We knew that we needed one template. We knew how long the duration was going to be. We knew what was going to be needed in terms of generic content, and then from there, we started to establish with each other, through our brainstorm, what the creative direction was going to be. We came up with the subject line that says, “Doesn’t a dozen sound delightful?” And then we went to a pre-header, “Get a dozen percent off,” right? Continuing this idea of 12s. And then we decided we needed to come up with a code. So the code became, “EGGCELENT,” okay? And then we kind of came up with other “D” words that we might use in the copy like “delicious,” and “darling,” and “dreamy,” and “dashing.” And then from there, we started thinking about some copy blurb ideas for the direction, right? So, “This is no yolk, you all!”
– I think that’s an American thing. I’m not sure.
– Yeah, no yolk?
– Scramble to get this deal! Get it before it’s over-easy! Don’t whisk missing out!
– Sorry, I have to stop you. Can you just notice that only the Americans are cracking up?
– So we really kind of went all in on this pun. But again, this is, you know, something in the churn series where we have a lot of creative freedom where we’re able to do surprise and delight in this way and make memorable campaigns for our customers that we also get tickled by. So, anyways, Trello has really helped us with, or any project management tool, visibility of work road, a place of record for all the campaign details in lieu of creating tons of individual creative briefs, where we’re at within the project flow, and this has really helped build our communication skills and cohesiveness within the group. So, again, here you can see things like campaign details, due dates, little headshots of which team members have been assigned this project, and any notes that we need for the copywriting. So, where am I pointing? Okay.
As we scroll through this, you can kind of see how these pieces started to, like, flow together. This is a little bit of the finished email. So, again, all in on this egg pun. “Don’t whisk missing this deal. For 2 days only use code “EGGCELENT” to take 12% off your $55 plus order. Eggs-ercise your right to save and get this deal before it’s over (Easy)!” Right? So we were really excited about this. We felt that we just really nailed this egg analogy in so many ways. We felt pretty much like it was the greatest set of egg puns LuckyVitamin had ever achieved and possibly the entire world, honestly. This is what we walked out of that brainstorm with.
– All right. So now that we’re all egg-punned out…
– Egg-punned out.
– …are there any situations in which the strategy or the messaging of the creative actually change as you deep dive into the campaign, because we’ve seen that you put so much effort into really preparing everything ahead of time. When you start actually, you know, creating everything, do you ever find yourself changing directions?
– Oh, sure. I mean one important thing about marketing is that flexibility and constructive feedback is really crucial to success, right? So in our process of creating content and graphic assets, we know there’s a three-step review process that begins by meeting weekly with stakeholders, and then we can get all of the input from really important parts in this process. So we’re talking the e-commerce department, we are talking the products content team, and the merchandising teams, and the people who really know what these products are to make sure that we’re clearly giving good marketing and insight into what it is we want to be doing with any kinds of product launches or, you know, recommendations templates, things like that.
And then from there, we send out a test campaign and we make sure that we are checking for any kind of rendering issues before we add the campaigns to the queue, we’re getting feedback from copywriting perspectives, make sure that we have not overlooked any kind of, like, editing issues. And then our process for the strategy side, that means even after campaigns have been running for a while, checking in on the metrics and uplift to understand is this performing according to the goals that we set for ourselves? So is it achieving our desired goal? You know, what kind of insights can be provided from Optibot? You know, is there any kind of issues that we might be seeing within the target group that might not be serving the needs that we originally set out with?
The thing about recurring campaigns is they’re fantastic because automation really frees up a lot of time to do other things but these can never be “set it and forget it.” You have to always be going back and reevaluating what is the story then that your metrics are telling you as far as the engagement with the customers? And you need to be flexible from a strategic perspective to make sure that if it’s not working, you can reevaluate why. Is it the messaging? Is it that the offer is demotivating or not compelling in some way? Are you not reaching the right customers at the right time? So because of this established process and our mindset for continually making improvements along the way, we’re also able to push a very high volume of output each month as far as the marketing department goes, and we understand that we basically live and die by each other.
– Yeah, not dramatic at all but yes.
– Not even a little bit dramatic. So then when mishaps do arise, we understand that we need to just pinpoint the error. We need to figure out how we can improve the process to make sure it does not happen again in the future instead of really wasting energy in a futile way to kind of point fingers and assign blame, it’s really not worth it. And then that also really helps to keep morale high and to make sure that we’re still feeling comfortable communicating and being in a cohesive setting.
– How much of your time is really dedicated to existing campaigns, all that testing, and making sure everything is continuously running and working as you would expect it to versus strategizing about, you know, new campaigns in terms of fine-tuning existing campaigns, also, campaign analysis versus really planning for the future?
– Yeah, all the things you just said are just not a big problem for us.
– Not at all?
– No. Just kidding. Of course, it’s a big, like, thing.
– Everything is perfect in LuckyVitamin, yeah.
– Everything is perfect. No, we’ve automated away every problem we’ve ever had. Even though I am creative by training, my degree is actually in graphic design. I am admittedly obsessed with data and Optimove has contributed to that obsession. So every day I come into the office, I log in. I check our marketing plan. I look over everything that’s gone out the day before, just even from a high-level perspective to kind of gauge on a day to day basis how our campaigns are doing and what is our campaign health right here, right? And then once a month, I do a much deeper dive on campaign analysis where I’ll spend a couple of hours parsing trends, and performance metrics, and really, you know, looking at reports and utilizing a segmentation migrations. A lot of what I do is project management. So I need to make sure that my team has all the tools and time that’s necessary in order to perform at this really high capacity. And frequently, one of the barriers that I run into is a limit on time and resources and having conversations with some of you in the crowd over the last couple of days, that is not an uncommon problem. How many of you have gone out into the world, and you come up with these, like, really great ideas, and then all of a sudden, it’s completely derailed because whatever you’ve been working on has now been replaced with something that’s a higher priority part of your roadmap, right?
So we all kind of encounter these problems and, you know, one of these points of friction in the process is making sure that all of the necessary departments, and role players, and stakeholders are all coordinated so that we can move forward with these bigger level of effort projects, making sure that, you know, if we need our business intelligent team to supply new data in the file transfer process, so that we can then create new attributes in Optimove for some lofty campaign that we’re now trying to execute. Or that we need some kind of new HTML development work that centers around dynamic pricing logic, or even like the amount of time that it can just take to produce good content like blogs and Instagram posts, right? So all these things take a lot of time and a lot of coordination to make sure that they’re moving along but luckily, we’ve really been able to foster an environment where we can make recommendations. We feel comfortable putting ourselves out there. We can give feedback, and take the feedback, and then really that helps us to constantly keep a good flow of new ideas in the works.
– So speaking of time, what types of enhancements have you really implemented that allow you to have more time to strategize?
– So, basically, automation within the CRM has played a big role in allowing for more time spent on things like strategy. For example, we’ve implemented a fully automated welcome series. We’ve launched recommendations and replenishment campaigns. And then you’re able to spend more time on some of the more creative things like creating customer journey workflows, or developing parameters for some of our reactivation and win-back campaigns, and setting these across life cycles, and getting really creative with how you’re approaching what your segmentation even looks like and then, you know, coordinating these across various channels, you know, omnichannel campaigns and creating more touch points that will help us to stay top of mind with our customers.
– And how has your team evolved since you started using Optimove and implementing all these automated processes?
– Yeah. So our marketing team has actually grown and added three extra people. There’s this idea that, like, best-case scenario, you’re kind of automating yourself out of a job, right? So, eventually, I think some marketers kind of have this fear that they won’t be needed anymore in some way. But the great thing about automation is, for us, it’s helped us to kind of have so much more opportunity to do unique and interesting campaigns, how to be strategic and more creative with like visual elements and how we’re integrating our social posts and our content, pushing these multi-channel campaigns and really elevating the level of our marketing because of all these insights that we’ve been able to find through Optimove that formerly were not even available to us in any way. So we’ve got these better segmentation capabilities, we’ve got these ongoing possibilities for improving our campaigns, you know, insights from Optibot, these really interesting features, like you mentioned earlier in your session with Joe, like, real-time. The ability to use these trigger campaigns because of what people are doing in real time on your website and how that that can kind of help you to create, you know, push notifications or, you know, coordinating email campaigns, and really being able to provide a better experience for our customers, and then reinforcing all of those touchpoints across the lifecycle. So we’ve had a big shift in our approach in the mindset geared toward building a more complete customer journey and having a unique voice within our retail space.
– What do you feel like your unique voice is, if you don’t mind me asking?
– Yeah, so our unique voice, we really feel like, because we start out as a family oriented company that we still kind of convey that. We’ve grown so much in terms of product offering and who we are as a company, but it still feels small because we’re able to reach out in a way with this, like, fun kind of family-oriented voice that really helps us connect with our customers and, you know, build this kind of conversation around the kind of company that we want to be and how we can serve them to live healthier better lives.
– Let me just get a little Israeli and personal, as we all know you are, how does your…and, again, only if you feel comfortable, but how does your work experience serve in your private life?
– Okay. So not what I dream about at night.
– Let’s skip that one. I think it’s too personal.
– So, if I’m being honest, you know, I am a bit obsessed with efficiency. A super inefficient thing I’m experiencing right now is how this headgear doesn’t want to stay in my head and that’s why I keep playing with it. But Optimove has definitely fed into my obsession with efficiency, right? So now I like to really approach my entire life in this really results-oriented way. You can set goals, you can make a strategy for how you’re going to achieve these goals, and then you kind of keep reevaluating like where you’re at according to your goals. So, for example, in my personal life, I’m a really avid weightlifter, some people don’t know about me, but all the obvious data points are there, right?
You can set a goal for how much you would like to be lifting or, like, what your training might look like in the process and kind of track yourself along the way. But even beyond that, I am a member of a board of directors for a local non-profit in Philadelphia that helps to serve former foster youth. And as they’re growing, I’m able to use the skillset that I’ve learned from Optimove and in my world of marketing to be able to help them to grow their message, to set these strategies, to figure out how we’re going to segment according to whatever their needs are in there, you know, marketing to expand the awareness of what they even do. So, in that way, the feeling of, like, seeing goals being met, you know, the process along the way, it’s really gratifying in a continually compelling way. When you see, personally, or the teams that you work with every day really being able to go above and beyond, and I just want to say, if you take only one thing away from the time that we’ve been able to have here today…
– Except for the egg puns.
– Yeah. Except for the egg puns, definitely, take the egg puns. Tell everybody and sign up for our newsletter. But if you take only one thing away from our time today, it’s to be obsessed with your customer. You’re a customer, I’m a customer, we’re more than numbers. So be obsessed with your customer and be relentless in the pursuit of ongoing process improvement in order to achieve success in all your goals.