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Q&A: Neil Capel, cofounder and CEO, Sailthru

Neil Capel, cofounder and CEO of Sailthru – whose technology automatically tailors email, Web and advertising content across unique users and works with publishers including AOL/Huffington Post and The Daily Beast/Newsweek – discusses the challenges facing producers of email newsletters and what his company did to streamline distribution and boost consumer results for client Business Insider.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): Tell us about what you’re doing to help your clients improve reader engagement.

Neil Capel (Sailthru): The normal practice is to send the same newsletter out to everyone on the list. But for our client Business Insider, they wanted to tailor content for each and every user. So, if you have a list of 500,000 users, instead of sending them the same email, you can send 500,000 different emails according to each user’s interests. Then the customer actually becomes committed to the email and when it comes in, they know that it will have interesting and relevant content.

DMN: What is the biggest challenge for publishers of email newsletters?

Capel: The challenge we often see with our publishers is they have to have an awful lot of interaction. The most annoying part of their day is sending newsletters manually, so that sometimes an email goes out at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., or 1 p.m. It’s very much a manual process, building the email and sending it. We have automated that process fully, allowing for the right content to be sent to the right person.

DMN: With so much data and information available, how can you ensure you’re breaking through that clutter, even with tailored content?

Capel: It starts with the first email they receive. If they open that, they’re guaranteed to be using it on an ongoing basis because it’s of interest to them. We may send out an email campaign with 200 subject lines, picked for the individual user. It’s that subject line that gets the user to open the first, and the second and the third article.

DMN: How do you tailor content for so many different users?

Capel: We have a couple of different algorithms that will select content based on the user’s open history and click history, so we pick content from what users have engaged with in the past. That is our primary focus: to make sure the end user is treated in the best manner, and to make sure they’re very brand aware and loyal to the brand.

DMN: Talk about what you did for one of your clients, Business Insider [an online business publication covering technology, media and investing that had suffered a drop-off in email subscriptions over time].

Capel: [Since employing our technology], their click-through rate on articles in the newsletter have increased 60%, email open rates have increased 15%, and we’ve reduced the setup time for their emails by 95%. They send multiple emails throughout each day, and we have fully automated that process for them. The average lifespan of Business Insider subscribers has significantly increased.

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