Digital Summit Atlanta’s Top Takeaways for Marketers
By Pilar Bower / June 1, 2016

Whew! Two days up close and personal with digital marketers and industry thought leaders at Digital Summit Atlanta 2016 has driven my belief in email into the stratosphere.

If you read my pre-conference blog post here on “Will Email Eclipse SEO & Social at Digital Summit Atlanta 2016?” you’ll see how excited I was that the conference focused just as closely on email’s technological and tactical advances as it did on those in SEO and social. Finally! Tried-and-true gets its due, besting the “shiny new object” advantage that social and search marketing have enjoyed until now.

Marketers Packed Email Sessions

With email’s ability to acquire new customers outpacing that of social by 40 to 1, conference leaders were wise to feature the most current email topics. Speakers covered multi-screen viewership, modern email tools, and the often-wasted potential of the high-open-rate welcome email. Digital marketers have internalized that email can deliver an ROI of up to 3800 percent. (wow!)

Pilar and Kelly

Blog author Pilar Bower, BlueHornet Senior Manager, Customer Success, with Allison Kelly, BlueHornet Enterprise Sales Executive at Canoe, one of Atlanta’s top restaurants, for a BlueHornet-hosted networking dinner.

Digital Summit Atlanta’s keynote digital superstars’ insights that resonated with me most included:

Gary Vaynerchuk

“We are living in the biggest communication shift since radio to TV.” (We all know this, but it’s great to get a reminder and affirmation of the overall context in which we all work)

“Evolve or die. Facebook won’t be around forever . . . Facebook’s only asset in your attention . . .  Live in the now but anticipate the medium shift.”

“People are not looking at billboards in 2017. They’re not even looking at the road.” (referring to smartphone domination of consumer attention)

Ann Handley

“Awesome marketing takes some measure of guts. The biggest missed opportunity in content is playing it too safe . . . Go bigger, bolder, braver.”

To do this, ponder . . .

“What story can you tell with a depth and breadth that doesn’t otherwise exist?”

. . . but at the same time . . .

“Use FIWTSBT: Find Interesting Ways to Say Boring Things” But Ann! How?

Handley emphasizes using lively, unique calls to action rather than the typical “click here” or “complete my order” on both emails and web pages. She applauded clothing brand Chubbies for engaging attempts like this:

Opt in example



Content evangelist Ann Handley showcased this Chubbies’ clever call-to-action at Digital Summit.

Use copy and images that differentiate your brand to the point that if the logo were removed from your communications, people would still know that it was from you.

Justine Jordan

Email Evangelist and Vice President of Marketing, Litmus. “Even Litmus’ emails aren’t awesome 100% of the time.” (refreshing!)

“Get “email BLAST” out of your marketing vocabulary.” (Because email will only be successful in the coming years if marketers make it relevant and personalized. Apply nail in the coffin to one-size-fits-all)

email is not blast example

The blast era is behind us. Only segmenting, personalizing email marketers are getting the highest RPEs and CTRs.

“56% of email is viewed on mobile, a 600% growth in the last 5 years.”

Jordan urged attendees to design for mobile first. No more tiny “click here” textual calls to action. Consumers today swipe and tap; few click with a mouse anymore. To illustrate her point, she riffed from rapper and would-be-marketer Sir Mix-a-Lot with this slide:

big buttons example


With consumers reading, shopping and connecting predominantly on mobile today, email design must include buttons to tap and images to swipe.

Whether it’s finding time to create a personalization program, increase conversions or institute a triggered email program, today’s brand marketer struggles to determine where to start and how to sell new email opportunities to the c-suite. It’s always motivating to see what’s working for both agencies and brands in different industries.

My Welcome Email Opportunities Session

In my own speaking session, “First Impressions: The Power of an Amazing Welcome Email,” I covered how BlueHornet clients Columbia Sportswear, BikeBandit and others increased revenue per email, opens, click-through and click-to-open rates substantially by expanding their welcome email from a single send to a series.


  • BikeBandit offers options in the welcome email that gather progressive profiling information for higher revenue per email in subsequent emails
  • Columbia Sportswear added welcome and loyalty programs which increased opens, CTRs and CTORs significantly and revenues per email by 2,000% over the standard promotional email

From there, I made it clear how many brands (including PacSun, whose case story you can read here) have successfully used preference centers and welcome email series to provides social shares, sales, and customer loyalty opportunities. You can get my entire “First Impressions” slide deck here.

While you’re considering your email marketing’s significant and untapped potential you might want to check out our most recent case study about the success a global media and publishing leader experienced after implementing a more personalized and relevant welcome campaign.

Now that Digital Summit Atlanta is over I’m back in my San Diego office with ample ideas and new strategies and tactics I’m excited to implement. Hopefully you’re doing the same.

Until next time fellow conference goers – hope to see you soon!


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