Email and SMS (Short Message Service) messaging are the chocolate and peanut butter of the digital marketing world. Each is great on its own. But they’re unbeatable when you pair them up in a program that uses the strengths of each channel to create a communications mix that recognizes when, where and how consumers want to be reached.

This synergy is even more important today, given the pandemic-drive move from physical to digital commerce. We don’t know whether consumers will continue to stick with digital-first for shopping. But marketers should do all they can to capitalize on this shift, and forging more cooperation between the two channels is one way to do it quickly.

What you miss with an ‘either-or’ mindset

SMS is usually touted as the ultimate email-killer. A 2020 Omnisend study credits SMS with an average 14.2% click rate and having SMS in the mix of an omnichannel campaign increases conversions by 47%
Still, email hangs on as consumers’ No. 1 preference for brand communications. Here’s why you need to create a partnership in your marketing decisions:

1. The two channels share some big benefits:

  • Real-time content based on time, location, transactions and more
  • High ROI 
  • Low barrier to entry
  • Easy to automate and personalize

2. Each channel does some things better than the other. 

The 160-character limit on an SMS message doesn’t give you much room for education and nurturing. And an emailed fraud alert or flight change might not get seen in time. That’s why you need both to serve your customers best. 

3.  Each channel can build up the other one. 

SMS to email: Send a message with a link to your preference page so they can sign up for email messages. Email to SMS: Add a tap-to-text function to your email that lets customers opt in to SMS with just a few taps. 

Both of these help you widen your contacts with your audience and give them more options to stay in touch with you. Win-win for everyone.

Caution: Remember “WIIFM!” Figure out ahead of time how each program fits into your messaging plan, and tell customers up front what you’ll send and when and why it benefits them to opt in. That’s the WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?”

How email and SMS can work together

You can probably come up with dozens of use cases to join up email and SMS that benefit everybody. For example, Thrive Market, an online grocery retailer and Sailthru customer, uses email and SMS marketing in tandem. If someone hasn’t engaged with email, Thrive Market tries to reach them via SMS.

Here are three tactics that you can test and implement quickly:

1. Create a new engagement segment.

If you already ask for mobile phone numbers along with email addresses (that is, you ask specifically for a mobile number and not a general number), run a query to see whether customers who provide both are more likely to buy or use your services. If your query pans out, target them for special treatment in high-traffic periods like holidays or travel high seasons to increase propensity to purchase.

2. Use tap-to-text to contact customer support.

Your email can become another port of entry for customers who need to contact customer support. Add tap-to-text to open an SMS conversation with a customer agent to resolve problems like missed deliveries, rescheduling services, travel hiccups or order errors. Or use tap-to-text to encourage subscribers to opt-in to another form of communication.  A leading brand in the travel industry gained over 1600 opt-ins in 24 hours by implementing tap-to-text with Liveclicker.

3. Combine email and SMS in retargeting sequences.

Abandoned-cart reminders are a natural place to start. Add an SMS alert to your abandoned-cart email series if a product in the cart is about to sell out or go on sale. If you don’t maintain perpetual carts, alert via SMS before you close out the cart. Test to see which actions are better suited for email or SMS. 

Final thought: Set up your SMS strategy before you start sending texts 

Nobody wants a mobile phone that buzzes or pings every five minutes. Decide which messages are suitable for the always-on immediacy of a text and which need email and its richer information environment. It takes less time to type “STOP” on a text than to find and click an unsubscribe link.

Email marketers are under tremendous pressure right now to perform, while at the same time facing tightening budgets and shrinking resource pools. That means it’s never been more important to get the most possible value out of every campaign, and take steps to make production more efficient.

This includes a core component of every good email marketing program: testing.

Testing is important for effective email marketing because you can see whether you’re investing your time and budget wisely. But traditionally marketers have had to wait hours – sometimes days or even weeks – before you find out which variable of your test generates the results you want. That means you can’t apply your findings until the campaign is over, often well after those insights would have been most helpful (in that campaign!).

Testing + dynamic content = faster, better results

You can solve both problems when you join A/B testing with dynamic content in an astonishingly simple, yet powerful, combination. Here’s how it works:

You set up a typical A/B test comparing two versions of creative: hero headlines, CTA buttons, product features…whatever you want to compare performance. But here’s the important part—when adding the creative to your email code, you make sure to do it as dynamic content (content that can be changed and adjusted at any time).

Then deploy the campaign as normal, and wait for the opens to start. Once a statistically significant winner is determined, the testing platform automatically swap in the winning content for all recipients—even those that already received, or even opened, the message. BAM! The higher-performing, better-converting creative is now sitting in the inbox of your entire list.

The result? Faster results and better campaign performance. 

If you can set up your testing through a dynamic content platform to monitor performance and automatically update your campaign with the winning content, that’s one less task on your list.

Two more bonuses:

3 tests to try using dynamic content and moment-of-open technology 

Try it out on three tactics that can help you capitalize on the changes in consumer behavior and other special challenges that will make this holiday season one for the books. 

1.  Update your BOPIS/BOPUC strategy with dynamic product recommendations

Hypothesis: Adding dynamic personalized product recommendations to a pickup reminder will generate incremental sales without increasing spam complaints or unsubscribes.

Rationale: BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) and BOPUC (Buy Online, Pick Up Curbside) helps customers buy local and get their goods faster than waiting for home delivery. The emails you send when their orders are ready to claim give you a chance to upsell or cross-sell customers, just as you can with regular order confirmations. 

Test: Your control is your regular pickup notification. The variable is the same email with personalized product recommendations pulled from inventory. Test to see whether customers respond to this additional content.

KPIs: Unique/total clicks, conversions, unsubscribes, spam complaints

2. Test static versus animated coupons

Hypothesis: A coupon using a scratch-off animation will attract more clicks and conversions than a static coupon

Rationale: Animated GIF support is nearly universal now in email browsers. Plus, a moving object is more likely to arouse curiosity and clicks.

Test: The control is the static coupon. The variable is the animated coupon. Divide your database into two segments at random, and test to see which one draws better responses.

KPIs: Unique/total clicks, conversions, purchases, revenue.

3. Increase personalization throughout the email message

Hypothesis: Adding personalized content in more locations (greeting, images, offers, location-based elements) will increase customer engagement and conversions.

Rationale: Most marketers can personalize the subject line or use segmentation to target content manually. Adding personalization throughout the email instead of segregating it to one location tells your customers you know them as individuals, not just numbers. 

Note: With this multivariate structure, you’re comparing one entire email to another instead of individual sections like the subject line, image, call to action or offer.

Test: Your control is your standard email with one personalization element, or none. Your variable is an email in which you add multiple personalization points, such as a combination of the following according to the data you have for each customer:

KPI: Unique/total opens, unique/total clicks, conversions.

Want to learn 7 more ways to improve your email workflow efficiency?

Testing is just one way you can streamline your email process, leaving you more time to think, plan and analyze. Check out our new guide, 8 Secret Workflow Hacks Email Marketers Use to Get the Job Done (With Results!) and get tips like these: 

Download your copy now and get ready for better results!

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Anaya Duncan, a brand strategist at Henkel. 

“It be like that” (The background)

While it shouldn’t require a McKinsey report to get you to believe why workplace diversity is a positive for any organization, understanding that there are blind spots and pitfalls in marketing that come from lack of firsthand life experience or cultural familiarity should absolutely do the trick.

As a Black woman, the way I’ve navigated the world and the way the world has acknowledged me back is a first-hand, personal encounter that on a macro level has informed the way I operate. But as it pertains to my career in marketing, it’s also shaped the lens through which I view things. Sometimes I apply that lens to more work-related matters like a creative brief for an influencer marketing campaign; but a majority of the time I’m just like everyone else, scrolling through my social media feeds seeking a laugh, an insightful conversation, or even some inspiration for something work-related—and I am far from the only one doing the latter. More on that later.

“The Tea” (The current state of affairs)

We are currently living in a time where information exchanges are instantaneous and nearly limitless, and there’s no place where that’s more visible than social media. 

Via mediums like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, millions of microbloggers and content creators share unique expressions of self—or oftentimes just a funny story or grievance—with their followers, which can often operate more like a community. And it’s fairly safe to say that one of the most pronounced and studied social media communities is “Black Twitter” and its ability to drive and push popular culture and slang. (I’ll spare you all the jokes about Black Twitter being likened to Fight Club, because, first and foremost, if you are part of it, one thing you absolutely do is talk about it.) 

In celebratory times, there’s a shared joy expressed by Black Twitter. In times of sorrow, the community bands together and publicly grieves. In times of hilarity, the laughter reaches far and wide. And all of this is typically done in the chosen dialect of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). 

What is often referred to as Ebonics, AAVE is a recognized and legitimate English dialect, but one that is often elusive and difficult to mimic without being fluent in the dialect yourself. In short, if this language is non-native to you, it will easily show. However, because those Twitter jokes I mentioned do reach so far and wide, it’s not uncommon to see attempts at similar turns of phrase or jokes being quickly co-opted into different brand’s social posts or consumer-facing communications—like email subject lines. 

Whether it’s to ride the wave of relevancy or to directly catch the eye of the Black audience, as a consumer, the end goal remains unknown to me—but specifically as a Black consumer, the initial reaction to brands that don’t already align with said culture is a major cringe. My first question is always, “Who signed off on this?” Which is swiftly followed by, “Was not one Black employee asked to weigh in on this?” And with current data for brand marketing jobs showing only 6-7% are held by those who identify as Black, it’s a fairly safe assumption that the latter answer is no.

In industries like fast fashion and beauty that are especially vying for the dollars and attention of the young and trendy, I empathize with the desire to stay as current and up-to-date as possible in your communications—but not at the expense of co-opting language and mannerisms without highlighting, acknowledging, and giving a platform to the community that you’re attempting to profit off of. 

This performative usage of AAVE or capitalization off of Black cultural moments is often merely seen as cringeworthy. But, at its worst, it can be viewed as inauthentic, disingenuous, and opportunistic—and can absolutely turn a consumer away. 

As we have seen in 2020, as many brands and companies engaged in large scale declarations in support of Black Lives Matter, performative allyship can and will be publicly called out. And people are more than willing to pull up receipts regarding a non-diverse workforce, lack of BIPOC representation in content and creativity, and lack of vocal or monetary support to causes that impact Black lives. To sum it up, in these instances it is not in your best interest to “fake it ‘til you make it.”

“PERIODT” (The call to action)

I want to emphasize here that the main takeaway from all of this is not that brands and companies should not engage with the Black community and its culture—that would be a silly way to conduct business. But you should do so in a way that is authentic and true to your own brand of business. While co-opting language and phrases may seem like the lowest hanging fruit available and an easy way to stay current, I would like to remind you that, technically, the easiest fruit to grab is often that which has already hit the ground—i.e. the overripe and mushy fruits, which aren’t particularly enjoyable. 

While I cannot provide a surefire guide for how to navigate the landscape of diversity and inclusion both within your organization and externally with the content you produce, I can provide some insight on how to better maneuver through the terrain—and it starts with hiring and retaining Black talent. As I stated earlier, there is simply no replacement for the experience and POV that comes from being a Black person. And, while the guidance and input Black brand managers can provide on topics such as these is invaluable, I assure you their value adds extend far beyond matters of D&I as well—and that alone makes them quality candidates. 

If your workforce does not remotely mirror the racial and ethnic makeup of the country, I would urge you to look internally as to why that may be the case. As a reminder, systemic racism is not always overt, and oftentimes the status quo is the result of decades-long actions. 

If your entry-level pipeline is mainly sourced by formal interns, but your internships are often unpaid or underpaid, or if your recruitment mainly takes place at certain schools or partner organizations that also don’t have an incredibly diverse makeup, then your recruitment will inherently mirror the pools which you select from. Additionally, if your middle management and leadership are also lacking in diversity, it’s not shocking why someone would be uninterested in “growing” with a company where they don’t see themselves moving up—not to mention the mental and emotional burden that can come from constantly being the only person who looks like you in the room. 

In short: start within. Make sure your recruitment pipeline is inclusive, your workplace environment is supportive and fosters growth for everyone, and company leadership reflects the real world. With these measures in place, you’ll have the resources at hand to make sure your brands are always being challenged internally—which sure beats being challenged externally—and can be steered away from moments of inauthenticity and cheap co-opting long before hitting the “post” button.

With a career devoted to marketing, Anaya Duncan started out in the Insurance and Financial Services industry and is currently a burgeoning brand marketer in the Consumer-Packaged Goods space.

Originally from the Midwest, after graduating from Emory’s Goizueta Business School with her MBA, Anaya is currently located in New York City.

While brand management is her day job, Anaya wishes to further tap into her passion of connecting with people by way of writing and speaking on topics she’s passionate about such as Black Women’s empowerment in business and authentic representation in marketing and media for all people.

Want to learn more? Connect with her on Linkedin!

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back for our next guest post. CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru, and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

Until recently, marketers have been able to reliably look at past holiday performance as a strong starting point to build their email strategy for the next. But this year? Not so much.

Retailers and researchers alike have scrutinized consumer behavior closely since March, looking for trends and changes in shopping patterns. This report title from WARC, based on panel data and insight from media firm Meredith, sums up the general direction of most of the research so far: “Meredith predicts consumers will use e-commerce to drive an earlier, quieter 2020 holiday season.”

The 10 statistics below show a combination of two big trends: Consumer behavior shifted significantly in the first seven months of 2020, but marketers can still base their planning on a few fundamentals. 

1. 48% of holiday shoppers expect to spend less to “a lot less” than last year. Nonretail services like dining out will be affected most. (Coresight

2. One-third of holiday shoppers expect to do their shopping on Amazon Prime Day, which is expected to be in October. Another 28% said they will start their holiday shopping earlier than usual, 18% said they would shop on Black Friday (Coresight)

3. The proportion of consumers avoiding any kind of public places, especially malls and shopping centers, spiked to 85% in late July, reversing a gradual decline (Coresight). 

4. 73% of holiday shoppers will purchase primarily online this holiday (Netimperative/Rakuten).

5. More than 72% of consumers believe the 2020  holidays will be different from past years. (WARC/Meredith)

6. 50% of consumer families have someone concerned about a job. More than a third of them have already experienced some loss of income. (WARC/Meredith)

7. July, August and September have the highest rates of shopper interaction with customer reviews, photos, and questions and answers as they research gifts online. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

8. October is the month when shoppers are most likely to submit reviews and questions as they intensify their gift shopping. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

9. Retailers’ loyalty-program members generate 12% to 18% more revenue for retailers than non-member customers (Accenture Interactive).

10. 36.4% of consumers say they don’t consider themselves brand loyal until they’ve made five or more purchases from a brand, and 36.5% of shoppers said they will spend more on products if they’re loyal to a brand.  (Yotpo).   

What now? How to act on new insights

Most of the evidence points toward an unpredictable, difficult holiday season for email marketers, right at a time they’re under more pressure than ever to drive results and make up for lost time. Creative, innovative measures will be needed to stand out in a crowded inbox, keep revenue flowing, and stay essential to your team.

Download the 2020 Holiday Email Lookbook for ideas and inspiration to update your email strategy for a new kind of holiday season. You’ll get actionable tips and examples to help you pursue revenue growth, engagement, and efficiency when it’s needed most.

Amazon’s decision to delay Prime Day extravaganza to October could throw a wrench into retail marketers’ Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns, threatening to steer holiday spending away from the traditional Thanksgiving weekend shopping extravaganza.

The Prime Day challenge, plus surveys showing nearly half of U.S. consumers expect to spend less on holiday shopping and a significant share remain skittish about in-store shopping, mean marketers must engage customers more creatively to compete and win in this highly unusual and uncertain holiday season.

5 tactics for Black Friday and Cyber Monday email marketing 

Many marketers are counting on a record-breaking holiday season this year to make up for lost time. Make a few core adjustments and adaptations to set your email program up for success during the peak of the holiday shopping season.

1. Anticipate the Prime Day challenge

Coresight research shows one-third of consumers will do their holiday shopping on Amazon Prime Day (which could land in early to mid-October and run as long as a week), while only 15% said they would shop on Black Friday instead.

It’s a problem because Prime Day shoppers might end up with less money to spend on Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions or have finished most of their holiday spending. 

Delivering a better customer experience with advanced personalization and real-time data can help marketers recapture shopper attention by the time Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around six to eight weeks later. Adopt flexible tactics like:

2. Double down on loyalty

Loyalty programs are rich sources of data that marketers can use to keep members’ eyes focused on their stores and websites with some clever messaging strategies:

3. Stress convenience and safety of local store shopping 

Coresight research also shows that consumers are once again avoiding public spaces like shopping centers and malls as COVID-19 cases rise again. 

It’s too soon to predict what will happen when the holiday shopping quarter begins on Oct. 1. However, marketers can use email to explain how they keep customers and employees safe in their stores and what services they offer, like curbside pickup and BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) for time-pressed or cautious customers.

Besides this content – which can also explain mask requirements, sanitation, and store layout changes to reduce time spent online – marketers can use dynamic content modules that contain late-breaking news, such as sudden changes in hours or open locations. 

Adding a map or store address of the nearest open location can keep foot traffic going to the right stores and reduce shopper frustration.

4. Get on your customers’ calendars

Whether it’s an in-store VIP event or a major promotion online, an add-to-calendar function lets customers add the date to their phone or desktop calendars and then generates a reminder just before the event happens. 

This is a big bonus because the reminder comes from the calendar—appearing on the desktop or the phone lock screen—and keeps the big day from getting blitzed by wall-to-wall Prime Day promotions in the inbox.  

5. Keep email content up to date and accurate with real-time inventory data and moment of open technology

An October Prime Day might pull inventory as well as spending forward six to eight weeks. That, along with supply chain disruptions, can lead to shortages and out-of-stocks for Black Friday Week promotions.

Marketers can use dynamic content powered by real-time data to swap out-of-stock promotions for in-stock merchandise, even after sending the email. Moment of open technology refreshes email content automatically whenever the customer opens the message—another way marketers can reduce frustration and increase conversions.

The real benefit of advanced personalization: Resilience and reliability

There’s no doubt that 2020 is testing retailers like never before. But marketers who connect with their customers on deeper levels and offer them more than just a deep discount, who reduce barriers and frustration and build trust and reliability will be the ones who come out on top when the world rights itself again. Get actionable inspiration to shape your own email strategy for success through BFCM and beyond in the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook.

Download your free copy now!

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Le’Shae Robinson, an event planner, digital advertising specialist, and Director of Operations for nonprofit, NoLi CDC. 

Imagine my face when I opened up an ad for a trampoline park that read “It’s lit” with three White kids on it. As the only Black person on my team, I was stunned—“It’s lit” is a term made popular by Houston rapper Travis Scott. 

It was 2016, and I had just landed a job working for a digital advertising agency. My responsibilities included reviewing ads from clients across the country to make sure their ad images were the right size, URLs pointed to the correct website per the ad, double-checking the demographics the ads were supposed to be targeting, and making sure budgets aligned with clients’ expectations.

Basically, I was quality control for the team before they entered the ad into the platform and it was pushed to customers. It was here where I learned how racism plays a part in digital advertising.

Cultural appropriation in 2020

Cultural appropriation was the result that came from running ads that said things like “It’s lit” while not showing any African American people. It’s an old American story to profit from parts of Black culture without reference. It’s especially hurtful when it comes to music: We can’t forget how Elvis Presley went on to become the King of Rock and Roll, but heavily studied Black musicians and mimicked their singing and dancing styles. The artists who influenced him saw nowhere near the amount of success Elvis did—that is the true problem with cultural appropriation.

The digital ads this agency ran also contributed to inequality. One story in particular that stands out to me was an ad for a private school. The ad encouraged viewers to apply, showcasing the advantages of what their school offered. The demographics specifically targeted Caucasian people. I found it interesting that the client specifically wanted to target that demographic. Instantly I thought, “Wow.” What if there were other races who might be interested in what the school had to offer? 

I voiced my concern to the team, and they, too, thought it was odd. However, the sales rep for the account insisted this was what their client wanted. We could have changed the demographic before we entered the order, but we feared what would happen if the client got applications from people outside of the targeted demographic. Would they dump us as an agency? Our backs were up against the wall.

I had to wonder how many qualified candidates of color missed the opportunity to attend the private school because the ad was targeted only to White people? I grew up going to public school and had an overall good experience. There were times, though, when I experienced situations I’m almost certain didn’t happen at a private school. (For example, 13 fights in one day taking away from learning time.) Imagine my parents being exposed to advertising for a private school. Would I be more accomplished? Would I have a better professional network? Would I have a better job? I’ll never know.

Stereotyping as a means of marketing 

Stereotyping target audiences is another way racism rears its ugly head in the digital advertising industry. 

An order came through one day for mouth grills. The image for this ad was a mouth grill that featured gold teeth in front of a black background. The ad ran as a mobile ad, which meant it would be displayed only on cellphones and other mobile devices. What made this racist? It specifically targeted Black barbershops and people who had a household income of $40,000 or less per year.

When advertisers showcase items like mouth grills to people who frequent Black establishments or don’t make a lot of money, it reaffirms certain stereotypes. The client likely missed out on sales because of this bias. There are plenty of people who own a mouth grill and make significantly more than $40,000 a year. In today’s climate, wearing a mouth grill is similar to wearing other accessories like earrings, necklaces, or watches.

If someone were to attend a Travis Scott or Migos concert, there is a high chance they would see concert-goers wearing a grill. These are the same people who have office jobs and can afford high-dollar concerts. They just don’t wear this accessory to work.

Consequences of following orders

Processing these orders, I often reflected on the true consequences of cultural appropriation, inequality, and stereotyping by running these ads.

Right now there is a call for racial equality. But it was my position as a quality control specialist that taught me racial equality is more than just asking for cops not to kneel on people’s necks. As our technology continues to evolve, racial equality could look like advertising educational opportunities to all people; giving Black people an opportunity to model in ads that use cultural references; finding a way to give credit to the origin of a particular phrase. There are many possibilities. 

The call I make for advertising professionals is this: when working on projects, ask yourself, “How will this influence other cultures? Is there an opportunity to honor other cultures through this work? Is there anything about this project that would negatively impact another culture?” 

Challenge yourself today not to just do your job—ask the tough questions and find innovative ways to make clients make more money while also fighting racial inequality.

It is possible.

Le’Shae Robinson is a jack of all trades. She has worked as an event planner, digital advertising specialist, and now as the Director of Operations for the NoLi CDC (a nonprofit that works to better housing and economic development in Lexington, KY). She also enjoys writing and providing social media management to local small businesses. Recently she won an award for a social media campaign that she led where her client earned the most meals per capita in an effort to fight hunger awareness. You can read her most recently published work here. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, learning new recipes, and listening to Beyonce.


This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Tray T.S. Deadwyler, a civic strategist, servant leadership coach, and national service expert.  

Though our world and work are continually changing, being mentally nimble and mindful is essential to adjusting to the ever-ebb and flow of life. 

Some of us at this very moment noticed the word “mindful” and immediately thought of meditation and yoga attire, or maybe a crystal bowl and chants. Others may be thinking of affirmations and theta-wave soundtracks. But there is vastly more to the practice and application of mindfulness in our lives. 

Simply stated (though not as easily practiced), “Mindfulness is focused attention, on purpose, at the moment, and without judgment.” Mindfulness is a skill. It is to be developed, improved, and enhanced within all of us. Mindfulness traverses the various contexts of our lives and makes us better humans and better leaders.

It enables us to be more present, introspective, empathic, vulnerable, courageous, and authentic. I believe these are characteristics of the people and leaders we want and need in our lives, workplaces, and communities. These characteristics could also be considered modes and manifestations of the same. The more you practice, the more you become. 

How deploying mindfulness elements could affect our day-to-day

For the sales and marketing teams, it shows up in every campaign, every event, and every ask. Having a better grasp of what your customers and clients care about may produce a better result. We can also agree that connection is our ideal and goal, so our communication must be authentic to our company’s brand, vision, and values. 

Mindfulness shows itself by taking another look at the scheduled email to ensure it is the right moment for what is happening globally. It is checking the “Yes” box for speaking to the gap while also checking “Yes” to being vulnerable and reflective, ensuring our personal biases are not skewing the copy.

For the CEO, it may look like “the second ask” during the morning coffee break. You may notice anguish or confusion on the face of a team member who is typically upbeat and magnetic. Being present, you listen carefully to a canned response (we have all been guilty of this) and discern that their response isn’t congruent with their physiology.

It takes courage and empathy to ask again, “How are you, really?” In that simple inquiry, you have allowed for vulnerability and introspection at that moment. Maybe they need a listening ear or are feeling stuck on a particular challenge. Taking a few moments to be right there in the moment can mean the world to team members and yield immeasurable results. 

For the finance team, mindfulness allows us to effectively communicate why a decision was made. It marshals emotional intelligence to foster an understanding of your current state while having the ability to appropriately respond to others within the organization. Budget cuts can have some pretty personal consequences, but I have found over the years that when we can thoroughly explain the why, how, what, and when, changes seem to be a little more palatable.  

And at home, many of our relationships could benefit from us being a little more attentive, having courageous communication, and forming congruency of thought and actions, consistency in the peaks and valleys, an open heart and mind—all while becoming our truest, most authentic selves. 

Unfortunately, these elements of being mindful are not always dispensed toward people of color in the spaces we live and work. If we are to be mindful of this moment, there must be intentional vulnerability and presence with active ears to global protests and cries for justice and equality. 

The challenge and the triumph of the mindful leader is internal and external awareness. Being present and introspective also means you are constantly searching yourself for biases, prejudices, limiting beliefs, and judgments about yourself and others. We live our lives from the inside out; how we interact with the world is merely a reflection. The authentic and courageous leaders we admire to avoid placating and passive conversations. They step up to correct the missteps and their indignation compels them to act.

Next steps

Some questions to consider:

Did you find some of these questions difficult to answer? That’s a start. It can be challenging to determine where to go when we don’t know where we are. 

One way to begin is to try this simple exercise when you have a moment:

After the time has ended, ask yourself: 

This simple practice can help you with the first element: Presence. Continue this practice for at least once a day and increase the time as you feel more comfortable. Keep a log and identify any patterns. The goal is for you to notice how much your attention is focused on the now

Imagine our homes, communities, and workplaces with more presence, introspection, empathy, vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and inclusivity intentionally in play. What benefits do you foresee? What challenges do we need to overcome? How can you personally encourage an environment where mindful lives and leadership thrive?       

This mindful journey begins with self-study and responsibility and ends with cultural change. May you be and become the mindful leaders for moments such as this.

Tray T.S. Deadwyler is the Founder of Think for Good, which supports leaders and organizations to increase their efficacy through creative ideation, planning and implementation. Think for Good works collectively with their clients to push beyond the conventional to develop innovative solutions. embodying the company mission, “Solve it Together.” They are committed to systemic problem-solving and co-creating a theory of change to achieve success in any area of life and leadership.


Affectionately known as the “Service Nerd” by his colleagues, Tray focuses on developing cross-sector solutions and training professionals to effectuate empathy in communities. With service to the community at his core, Tray’s civic and professional transcript spans organizations such as the American Red Cross, Atlanta Police Department, Communities in Schools, Morehouse College Spelman College, Points of Light Foundation, and the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, Angels in Distress, Love Beyond Walls, and One World Link. 

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back for our next guest post. CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru, and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

In a normal year, many email marketers would be hard at work right now planning strategy and campaigns for the holiday shopping season. But these days it’s hard enough planning a campaign just a week or two out, let alone three to six months in the future. 

And nothing’s more frustrating than scrambling to replace a campaign you had to scrap because something went wrong at the last minute—except, perhaps, scrambling in damage control mode as you realize a campaign you just sent has incorrect or outdated information.

This year, with so much riding on a successful holiday season, you must be able to plan campaigns knowing your hard work and creativity won’t be wasted if conditions change unexpectedly. But how can you do it without pulling your team off other projects to create and test hasty replacements?

Here’s the not-so-secret secret: Dynamic content that you can swap out as needed will keep your messages fresh and up to date no matter when your customers open them.

3 easy ways to work dynamic content into your messaging

Dynamic content lets you update messaging and creative in emails at any time. It’s as easy as changing out a header image on your website, and updates can be automated or made manually depending on the situation.

You probably know about some tried-and-true uses of dynamic content, like a map that shows your customers where to find your nearest stores. These days, with businesses opening and closing at short notice according to government requirements, that feature is more essential than ever. But dynamic content can do so much more, keeping all your hard work and holiday planning as evergreen as the finest tannenbaum.

Need some holiday email marketing ideas? We just came out with a new guide, the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook, which is filled with ways to use dynamic content to boost revenue, help your team work smarter and build customer engagement that makes your brand your customers’ reliable source for easy holiday shopping. 

Here are three tips from the Lookbook you can use right away to create campaigns that will stay relevant and usable months after you create them:

1. Give customers a gift they can open again and again

Keep your subscribers clicking on your emails with a multiple-day, multi-touch campaign that highlights different limited-time promotions (like a “Twelve Days of Christmas” campaign with last-minute gift ideas).

Dynamic content ensures that each subscriber sees only your current offer, no matter which email they open or when they open it. It ends the frustration customers feel at clicking on a tempting offer, only to find themselves shut out when they reach your website.

2. Make the moment unforgettable

Whenever you have a big event coming up, like your Black Friday kickoff or a VIP gathering at local stores, include an “Add to Calendar” function in your email invite.

With just a couple of taps, your customers can add your event to their calendars. They’ll even get a personalized reminder when it’s time to show up!  

3. Reduce your follow-up workload

Expired offers and out-of-stocks are some of the hazards that go along with the harried holiday shopping season, but they don’t have to be business as usual in your email messages. And, in this year of disruption and uncertainty, you could be dealing with other issues like merchandise delays and regional business disruptions, too. 

So, use dynamic content to update your outdated email automatically with correct information. Your customers will see only the updated content whenever they open the email – even after you send it! Your team won’t have to spend time on follow-up emails or even the dreaded “Oops!” apology email. This gives your subscribers a better experience with your brand, too.

Want to know more? Get the guide!

Your copy of the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook is as close as a click. It’s free and filled with great tips to help you leverage the power of dynamic content and moment of open technology for more relevant and engaging email. 

Download your free copy now!

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Alice Li, a Principal Email Engineer at Litmus. 

Early on in my career in email marketing, a new director joined my team. On our welcome lunch with him, he made time to chat with every one of his new reports to get to know them. When it came to me, however, all he wanted to talk about was his frequent trips to Thailand. I made it clear that I had never been to Thailand, nor was I Thai, so I had no context for anything he was saying and was honestly puzzled as to why he kept pressing the topic.

Later on, an Asian colleague (who was also, decidedly, not Thai) revealed to me that the director did the exact same thing with him, yet went on to speak with our white colleagues about their actual hobbies and interests. It was difficult to avoid concluding that this director simply didn’t see past our race when it came to relating to us, and therefore wouldn’t take the step to get to know us as individuals who could speak on topics outside their ethnicity.

These aren’t unusual or isolated incidents. Asians in America are often stereotyped as homogenous monoliths and perpetual foreigners. It didn’t matter that my colleague and I were both Chinese American; Thai was close enough, right? Aren’t all Asians basically the same anyway? The “American” part clearly didn’t factor in either. We were all American and therefore already had a shared culture to draw from—one that I’m definitely more familiar with than Thai culture. 

These microaggressions are akin to behavior that many Asian Americans face on a regular basis in the workplace. They may seem trivial on the face of things but are rooted in a long history of anti-Asian racism in America that still has a substantial impact on the lives and livelihoods of Asian Americans today.

In recent months, COVID-19 has shone a new light on the old problem of anti-Asian racism. On top of a massive increase of hate crimes against Asians and Asian-run businesses as well as the resulting spike in mental health crises, Asian Americans are now experiencing the highest increase in unemployment filings among any ethnic group—a 10,210% year-over-year increase versus 3,222% for Latino Americans, 2,904% for white Americans, and 1,927% for Black Americans. 

Xenophobia and the model minority myth

It’s become exceedingly clear that the coronavirus has unearthed the xenophobia that many had presumed buried beneath the so-called “Model Minority” myth. Coined in 1966, the Model Minority myth “characterizes Asian Americans as a polite, law-abiding group who have achieved a higher level of success than the general population through some combination of innate talent and pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps immigrant striving” according to

Although many Asian Americans have embraced this as a positive stereotype, it actually subverts the progress of racial justice not only for other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities but also within the Asian American community itself.

The Bamboo Ceiling

The supposedly “good” stereotype of the Model Minority contributes to the harmful phenomenon of the “Bamboo Ceiling.” Coined in 2005 as a variation on the “Glass Ceiling” metaphor that stunts women’s career paths in the workplace, the Bamboo Ceiling is another example of a barrier that prevents Asian Americans specifically from climbing above a certain point on the corporate ladder. This is substantiated by the fact that Asian Americans make up 27% of the corporate workforce, but occupy less than 14% of executive roles and only hold 2.6% of Fortune 500 board seats while making up almost 6% of the U.S. population

How is this massive underrepresentation at the top levels possible, if we experience “good” stereotypes? The double-edged sword of Asians being perceived as heads-down, quiet but diligent heads-down workers undercuts many traits that corporate America would deem “leadership material”—i.e., assertiveness, risk-taking, and confident communication. It also prevents Asians from receiving the support they need if they don’t live up to what’s expected of a Model Minority—not only on an individual basis in school or at work, but also on a macro level where Asian Americans receive proportionately far less funding for social services despite having the largest wealth gap and rates of poverty.

Breaking down all racist stereotypes

On a societal level, the Model Minority myth has also been frequently used to drive a wedge between Asian Americans and Black and Brown folks. With the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and so many others throwing #BlackLivesMatter into focus recently, many corporations, marketers, and individuals have been asking how they can communicate their support for the Black community. 

One of the first things that we Asian Americans can do is to bust the Model Minority myth and the associated stereotypes of passivity in order to stand up against white supremacy in solidarity with Black and Brown folks.

Asian Americans have historically benefited from Civil Rights progress that has been pushed forward by Black people, and have historically stood by the Black community during the Civil Rights Era. It’s time to rise to the occasion again. 

Casual racial microaggressions that Asian Americans often encounter underscore a far more destructive legacy of xenophobia and anti-Asian racism. Although the Model Minority myth has since whitewashed this history of racism, continuing to feed into “positive” Model Minority stereotypes of us does far more harm than good in the long run. Not only does it impede our career paths by supporting the Bamboo Ceiling, but it also allows Asian Americans to be used against Black and Brown people as examples of why systemic racism doesn’t exist. But we know it does, especially with COVID-19 reigniting old prejudices against Asians across the globe.

It’s time for us to unite in solidarity with other BIPOC by pushing for anti-racist practices— not only in the workplace but also for the rest of society. With Asians representing a significantly larger portion of marketing professionals in comparison to other BIPOC, we must use our collective voices to demand anti-racism in the workplace. Here are a couple of resources I would recommend:

Alice Li (she/her) is a total geek for email creation, from design to development. She began her career in email marketing immersed in the world of ESP creative agencies since 2007 at Epsilon, Responsys, and Oracle. From there, she went on to serve as the sole email developer for Shutterstock as well as working as a UI engineer on the UX team towards the end of her tenure there. 

In her role as the Principal Email Engineer at Litmus, Alice remains a passionate evangelist for interactive and accessible email. She is honored to have spoken at Email Evolution Conference 2017 and 2019, Litmus Live conferences from 2017-2020, UNSPAM 2019, and to have received the 2018 EEC Stefan Pollard Award for “Email Marketer of the Year” as well as the 2020 Validity Email Hero Award for “Most Innovative.”

Although based in New York City, Alice was raised on the east side of Detroit, MI where she was lucky to be educated in social justice by Black women from an early age. As a Chinese American individual with “actual hobbies and interests,”, Alice justifies her occasionally regrettable BFA by painting artwork for galleries and publications as well as writing pop culture articles. When not under lockdown, she is also physically incapable of resisting a karaoke lounge, a ping pong table, or a tea parlor. You can follow her at @AliceLiCode.

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back for our next guest post.

 CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru, and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Dela Quist, Founder and CEO at Alchemy Worx and Touchstone Intelligent Marketing. 

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.” 

– Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Like many others, email marketing professionals have had a challenging time since the coronavirus epidemic took hold. They’re doing their best to keep up with and bridge swiftly shifting consumer sentiment and changes in our work practices.

Despite, or perhaps influenced by, our overwhelming preoccupation with the pandemic and global lockdown, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken center stage. So much in fact, that most companies are (re)considering their position with regard to their messaging. Several major brands are even undertaking reviews of logos and communications in light of the now-global protests and wider conversations around racial equality.

This change is not entirely altruistic; it is also driven by what seems to be a fundamental shift in consumer attitudes toward businesses. There is plenty of recent evidence that people trust a business more than the government. Whether the issue is animal welfare, the environment, or the systemic prejudice faced by people of color, many look to businesses to take the lead, so to speak, in solving these problems. 

More concerning for marketers, as this slide from a deck we prepared for a client illustrates, this has been accompanied by a clear shift in expectations. 

A fundamental shift in consumer attitudes and how actions matter more than words

Since the arrival of the coronavirus epidemic, consumer regard for brands that understand “ethical marketing” has skyrocketed. However, it comes with a huge caveat. As the graphic above shows, it is no longer enough just to have an ethical position or voice support for an issue. You have to demonstrate that commitment. Today more than ever, actions matter more than words. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned your statements are; you lie open to accusations of virtue signaling when your brand conspicuously expresses its values without actually taking actions to live by those values.

Email, one of the only channels that makes it easy to express your displeasure with the messenger, poses a particular danger to your brand. People regard messages in their inbox as personal, and are certain to let you know via the unsubscribe or worse, the spam button.

Which brings us back to Black Lives Matter. The protests and outrage sparked by the killing of George Floyd understandably dominate the discussion. But to me, protesting the death of a man at the hands of the police is something almost any person, brand or marketer would willingly sign up for. It makes it easier to look in the mirror and say, “that’s not us.” Or, “Our industry is not racist and neither I nor my colleagues even see color.” (More on that later.)

For me, the more uncomfortable questions are those which address the wider issues: How the systemic lack of opportunity and equality faced by people of color leads to certain incidents, such as we witnessed, which culminated in the tragic death of a man.

Think about it. It was clear from the outset that the police officers involved saw their actions as routine, bystanders were treated as irritants getting in the way of a person going about their job—getting another Black criminal (aren’t they all?) off the streets. So “everyday” even, that calling it murder may almost seem too strong to some. Without that video, many people would instinctively have sided with the police. When I watched it, and I made sure to watch it from beginning to end, the thought that sprang to my mind was, “George Floyd was euthanized!”

Population diversity is an indicator of what our actions say. 

Now this is where things may get a little uncomfortable.

The marketing and advertising industry prides itself on shaping popular culture, pushing boundaries, and influencing perceptions. In fact, if you think about it, our budgets almost entirely fund every “free to consumer” social media platform.

A good example of how we can affect change is to consider the increase in the number of people of color we see in advertising on a daily basis. In fact, if you take the percentage of non-white people in email creative compared to the share of the population, you could even argue that we overdo it. In doing so, might we not have found it easy to look in the mirror and say, “we are not the problem, we can black out our Twitter accounts, go on protest marches or observe Juneteenth—all with a clear conscience?” However well-intended this may be, isn’t this just optics? Isn’t it about looking good, or being performative? Are we not all guilty of the worst kind of virtue signaling?

Let’s dig in a little more and take a look at the following stats relating to ethnic diversity within the advertising and marketing industry. It’s embarrassing.

Here is a look at the makeup of the UK, courtesy of Marketing Week in January 2020.

And these are the US numbers, thanks to ANA’s Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry published in November.

For what it’s worth, Blacks in the US comprise approximately 13 percent of the total population. In the UK it is 4 percent.

Frankly, this is unacceptable. No matter how much we might protest, our actions tell the world that Black people aren’t good enough to work alongside us, or signal that white people are better. From a marketing perspective, we chase the Black dollar but are also quite comfortable not having a representative number of Black people work alongside us. It is this mentality of systemic racism, a quiet feeling that white people are better, that can influence a police officer to shoot first when dealing with a Black person and think first when dealing with white folk.

“Not me,” I hear people cry; “I don’t even see color!”


Maybe that’s the problem. If you don’t see color, then you can’t or won’t notice that everyone of consequence in your department is white, or that everyone at the agency you work with is white, or spot the inherent irony of a whole bunch of white people brainstorming how the brand should position itself with regard to Black Lives Matter.

The inherent problem of “I don’t see color”

When I walk into a room full of white people, I notice. In the same way that any white person walking into a room full of Black people would notice too, but that rarely ever happens in our industry. As far as I am concerned, what people mean when they say they don’t see color is that they are comfortable with the level of color diversity that surrounds them. And that needs to end.

We need to start telling the truth about color. We all notice it, but it’s easy to pretend we don’t when we are surrounded by people who look like us.

I have tried very hard to make sure that no one reading will interpret this as an attack on who or what they are, or feels the need as an individual to be defensive. But that in itself highlights how very complex the issue of diversity is. This, for me, is about raising awareness.

“‘Is it hard?’

‘Not if you have the right attitudes. It’s having the right attitudes that’s hard.’”
– Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I think we, the email marketing industry, could take a meaningful role in doing something about the lack of diversity around us.

How email marketers can take a meaningful role

There are two reasons the email marketing community is especially well-positioned to act on diversity:

People: Those in email marketing are part of a very strong and nurturing community. I took part in a fun panel at the Email Innovation Summit recently. It was “Family Feud” meets email marketing, and one of the questions was “What do you like about email?” The number one answer by far was the people. And I agree! As part of the community, I believe if we put our minds to it we can collectively make a difference.

Education: Email marketing stands alone in the quality and range of skills entrants will learn and hone. Whether from another industry or straight out of college, anybody joining the space will quickly be given actual responsibility. Ask anyone who has ever worked in email marketing where the time they spent within our space ranks in terms of their career and it is usually at the top or thereabouts. Whether we like it or not, the email department acts as a feeder for other better-funded channels attracted to the superb training and superior skill sets. This makes what we do in attracting Black people into email even more valuable.

Here are a couple of things we can all do:

Let’s stop being comfortable with the idea that “good” Black people are hard to find, or that by working harder to find a Black person to hire you are in some way lowering standards. It never stops us from going the extra mile to hire someone who went to the same institution as you, attends the same church, or made the rowing team in college.

Pay particular attention to entry-level hires. While I can just about tolerate the concept that finding experienced marketers of color may be a (self-inflicted) challenge due to scarcity, I cannot accept that about entry-level or graduate hires. To do so is to imply Black people are inferior. I would also argue that it will be a lot easier and faster to make our diversity numbers less embarrassing, while simultaneously priming the pump, in terms of providing more qualified people of color for more experienced roles in the future.

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.”
– Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Recognize and address your prejudices.

Everyone carries some prejudice—myself included. What I have learned to do, and would encourage everyone to also do, is recognize your own prejudice(s)—skin color, accent, school, neighborhood, income, dress sense, tattoos, sexual orientation, height, weight, gender, religion, politics—everyone has at least one. Once you do, make sure every time you are privileged enough to be the one choosing between two or more people for a job, speaking role, network opportunity, or even to sit beside on a bus, ask yourself if your prejudice is the dominant factor in your decision. It is amazing how powerful that pause for thought can be.

You have to be totally honest with yourself, and recognize that what others think is irrelevant. If your prejudice is still the dominant factor on a consistent basis, then shame on you.

I, therefore, challenge the email marketing community to step up. We are where we are, but I would rather we actually take action than spend hours wringing our hands over it. Start noticing!

Dela Quist is founder and CEO of Alchemy Worx and Touchstone Intelligent Marketing, a suite of software products based on a unified proprietary infrastructure that records and analyses all previous campaign data history. He estimates he has clocked up over 20,000 hours thinking about email.

A popular international speaker on all matters email, and his thought-provoking views and lively style regularly receive rave reviews. “Dela always takes a contrarian view that gets the industry talking – and often gets the smartest email folks to rethink their views,” says Loren Macdonald, IBM Watson Customer Engagement Evangelist/Agency Success.

Dela served many years as a member of the UK DMA’s Email Marketing Council. He also served on the executive management group of the IAB, and on the steering committee of Future of European Advertising Stakeholders (FAST).

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back for our next guest post. 

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru, and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand, and Uruguay.