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InsiderInbox with George Bilbrey

August 17, 2016  •  By: Renee Chemel

Q&A with the Influencers & Experts Driving Digital Marketing Innovation

In this insightful new series, we’re taking a deep look into the work of some of the biggest movers and shakers in digital marketing. What makes them tick? What gets them amped up? What do they see as the biggest challenges—and opportunities—down the road?

First up, George Bilbrey is a recognized expert in email deliverability and reputation management. As co-founder and president of Return Path, a pioneer in email data solutions, he has been the driving force behind the company’s groundbreaking innovation in giving companies smarter ways to use data to promote, while also protecting, their brands.

George founded the world’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is active in several industry organizations including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group and the Online Trust Alliance. Before Return Path, George worked as Director of Product Management at Worldprints.com and was a partner in the telecom group at Mercer Management Consulting.

Here’s what George has to say about digital marketing today and tomorrow—and his role in the industry.

1. Why did you choose marketing as a career, or maybe it chose you?
Although I work for marketers, who are our clients, I am very much a “product” person. I love seeing Return Path build new products that solve important problems for our customers.

2. What is your personal mission statement?
I try to bring three traits into every situation: curiosity; empathy; and grit. I think these three characteristics are important for anyone starting or building a business and for anyone that builds products for a living.

3. Tell me something about your job at Return Path that inspires you.
I’m one of the founders of Return Path, so I’ve been “at it” for 16 years. There are two things that keep me here. First, I LOVE the people I work with. We hire really smart people and give them the freedom to build and solve challenges. I’m excited to make it to the office every day. Second, I love that I get to be a part of teams who are building cool stuff.

4. Offices or open work space?
Most Return Pathers are in open work space. However, I am on the phone a lot and have a loud voice…or so I’ve been told. This has necessitated being in an office.

5. What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?
That’s the great thing about marketing, there are so many skills required – both “soft” skills and “hard” skills. I think that as email marketing moves from campaign-based approaches to more programmatic/triggered approaches, some of the customer discovery tools used by Product Managers and User Experience designers will be a useful addition to the skill sets of email marketers.

6. What is the best part about your job?
I have the freedom to build great teams that create great products.

7. If you could only use five marketing tools, what would they be? And why?
Although I work for marketers (our clients), I don’t practice marketing. I do work with a lot of our clients to solve their problems – typically by combining data from Return Path’s Data Cloud and the client’s own data. I use the typical analyst’s tool kit to pull that data together and help the client. So, in my world, that includes:

• R (I love, love, love the dplyr package and ggplot 2 data visualization package)
• R Studio
• Python (particularly the Pandas package)
• Excel
• Hive/Hadoop

8. Facebook or Twitter?
Email, of course!

For team communications, I use a combination of email, Slack and Google Hangouts. I follow a ton of people on Twitter but rarely tweet. And, I visit Facebook about once a year.

9. What is the biggest digital marketing trend that will drive success for the second half of 2016? 
I see email marketing become more “programmatic”: triggered messaging; machine-learning driven product and offer personalization (based on web and email behavior); open-time personalization. These approaches have proven to drive results. Unfortunately, many marketers aren’t set up well to be able to take advantage of these technologies. Yet.

10. What’s your go-to Karaoke song? And why?
“(Sittin’ on) a Dock of the Bay” by Ottis Redding, because I can do the whistling part of the song really well.

Thanks so much, George, for sharing your insights with the InboxInsider!

Stay tuned for the next edition, when we’ll hear from Kara Trivunovic, VP of digital solutions at Epsilon, a pioneer in the data-driven marketing business.  And begin personalizing your emails with DynamicMail.

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