Community Champion: Sam SextonThis month, we’re going back to the forums to highlight the contributions made by one heck of a helpful email marketer. Meet Sam Sexton, who in less than a year has penned over 80 posts, helped countless front-line coders and defined himself as one of the good guys on our forums. We took a moment out of his busy schedule to discuss an initially rocky road into design, the reasons for not being able to code like we do for the web and finally, why email just refuses to die already!

Hi there Sam, you’ve shown a lot of dedication to our email design forums – are you driven by a desire to be better at your job, personal interest, or both?

A bit of both. I guess I’m a pretty obsessive person at heart, so when I started coding emails, I worked hard to acquire as much knowledge as I could. I love the hidden complexity in email and how there’s often more than one solution to a problem. So yeah, email design has really become a personal interest.

On the work side, I deal with client questions regularly and rather than getting my answers from a blog or two, I’ve always done my own investigations to provide a definitive answer. The irony is that the more I understand about email, the more I realise that quite often the answers come down to a risk/reward scenario – what you want to achieve, versus what you’re willing to sacrifice.

Many people who now design and code email campaigns full-time have arrived there in a rather roundabout way… Myself included. What’s your story?

I guess you could say I’m a failed web designer! After earning a Computer Science degree at university, I started doing web design/development for a couple years. Then, when the recession hit, I found myself out of work and without a strong portfolio. Luckily it wasn’t too long before I found my current role developing emails in the healthcare sector – and I haven’t looked back.

The benefit is that during my time out of work, I learnt the immense value of resources by organizations like Campaign Monitor, not to mention the email communities around them. They’re a big thing for me, as I’m always looking for ways I can do things better.

Is there one thing that you feel could really improve your life as an email designer?

That’s an easy one – standards! One of the big reasons I think that email has fallen so far behind the web is because it’s consistently taken a reductive approach, asking what needs to be taken away from designers – often in the name of security – rather than empowering them with the tools they need to create good emails.

The Email Standards Project was a big step in the right direction, but I’m interested in seeing some sort of schema or framework for emails so that as designers, we can all be on the same page. Then we’ll just wait and hope that Gmail and our arch-enemies at Microsoft take note. I know it’s a long shot, but I’m a dreamer!

Finally, there’s been a lot of emphasis on social in the last few years, but email doesn’t seem to be slowing down in its popularity. Why won’t email die already?

With social media… you’re constantly competing against more interesting content, food pictures and cat videos

Email is fast, simple and manageable. Sure, I know I’ll have at least a few junk-worthy emails on any given day, but it’s so easy to find the good stuff that I don’t mind so much. With social media marketing, on the other hand, you’re constantly competing against more interesting content, food pictures and cat videos, so it’s easy to see why email is a more productive environment. We’re deep in the relationship marketing era right now, in which consumers need to trust brands and feel comfortable with them before they’ll hand over their hard-earned money. There are few better ways to develop this trust than with email.

Massive thanks to Sam Sexton, for putting in the hard yards to gain Community Champion fame. August is also his birthday month, too! If you’ve been as proactive as Sam in helping others, we may get in touch with you in the months ahead. However, if you’d like to nominate a fellow customer, be sure to get in touch with details, including how they’ve helped you.

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  • Marco

    Very nice interview! Good guy Sam

  • Matt

    Lovely interview

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