If your boss asked you to create a robust and intelligent email marketing program in less than a year, would you know where to start? This was the question Lee Brine faced the day he joined the video platform, Vimeo, five years ago.  


“I walked into a database of 15 million users who had never been talked to or emailed before,” he recalled of becoming Vimeo’s first Email Marketing Manager.


Lee knew that his boss's request would be challenging, but he also knew this was his area of expertise. After nearly a decade of managing email marketing campaigns and working with customer relationship management (CRM) data, Lee could see the untapped potential to better serve Vimeo’s core users. If he could pull this off and create an effective email marketing program, Vimeo could deliver highly relevant content when its users needed it most. He knew if done right, that this kind of individualized communication could increase retention and result in exponential growth for the business.


Vimeo’s head of marketing at the time asked Lee to select a vendor, integrate it with their customer data, and start sending emails. The expectation was that this needed to be done as soon as possible. He decided to select Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud, a platform he worked with at a previous company.


A Strong Email Marketing Foundation Starts With Data

The first six months of Vimeo’s integration with Marketing Cloud built the foundation that their email marketing “house” would sit on. A lot of that had to do with data. Lee spent countless hours creating an email strategy and thinking about questions like:


  • What should our data warehouse look like?
  • What kind of integration best fits with Vimeo’s business model?
  • What types of email campaigns will drive the biggest impact?
  • How do we address the unique needs of all of our creators?
  • What kind of data do we need in order to send those emails?
  • How do I automate my email sends to reach more customers?


“I just knew I needed to speak to each of our creators' individualized needs to make this thing work,” said Lee. Working closely with Vimeo’s Business Intelligence and Data Engineering teams, and Salesforce’s Support team, Lee led the charge to create a marketing “data warehouse” that hadn’t previously existed at the company.


“I had to start by laying a strong foundation that would allow data to flow efficiently in both directions,” he said. With Vimeo’s customer data in the right places, Lee could now shift his focus to sending email, like his boss had originally asked for.


To help, Lee hired a new team member to manage email production and deployment, and together they started to dig deeper into how this newly formed data warehouse could drive more personalized and relevant connections with Vimeo’s users.


Turning Data into Customer Engagement and Loyalty

The reason Lee wanted to create a data-rich foundation was that he knew it was critical to sending personalized emails to customers. As he put it, Vimeo is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for video creators, and the company’s customer base is made up of hundreds of different types of creators, from filmmakers to fitness instructors to small businesses. Each of these unique needs is served by multiple subscription tiers, including Vimeo Basic, Vimeo Plus, Vimeo PRO, Vimeo Business, and Vimeo Premium.


The basic (and free) tier allows for a maximum of 500MB of storage space per week. Lee’s team is responsible for using email and other communication channels to generate awareness of each tier’s features, and if a user approaches or exceeds the 500MB per week limit, to educate them on the best upgrade option for their needs.


“Customers receive anywhere between five and ten messages over their first two months, guiding and educating them on different areas of the site,” Lee explains. “Based on their actions, users are segmented to help us inform more personalized communications. From that point on, the messages a user receives vary based on what is most relevant to their unique needs. The actions they take (or don’t take) on the site help us better learn what is important to each user.” Good marketers know that personalization leads to greater engagement and brand loyalty. Lee pointed out that an activity-based email marketing program takes time and requires ongoing development, but Vimeo is already well on its way.  


An example of a personalized email sent by Vimeo


“The level of personalization we want is only made possible through our ability to sync with Marketing Cloud on a nightly basis, giving us the powerful tools necessary to make the insights actionable,” he said.


Scaling for Growth

Five years later and Lee is now the Director of CRM at Vimeo — and still just as fixated on data as he was on his first day. Now at over 70 million users, his email marketing program is also a lot more robust. His team of five now sends approximately 300 million emails every year.


“It sounds like a lot of mail, but the average user doesn’t actually hear from us that often,” he said. Lee sees this as both an accomplishment and an opportunity. It shows that his email program is functioning at a high level of personalization, ensuring that customers only receive messages that are both timely and relevant. But it also means that his work isn’t done. There will always be more customer touchpoints to fill with segmented, personalized email campaigns.


According to Lee, building a successful email marketing program from scratch is possible with the right foundation and tools. These are three steps he recommends any company should follow when starting out:


  1. Start With Data: Building a strong data foundation allows for a two-way flow of information and is key to unlocking personalized marketing communications. The next step is analyzing the performance of each campaign and adjusting strategy accordingly.
  2. Ramp Up Activity-Based Campaigns: The best way to drive engagement is through activity-based emails that communicate messages to customers in the moments that matter most for the business.
  3. Think Multi-Channel: Lee’s team at Vimeo manages more than just email, so he prioritized choosing a solution that powers multiple marketing channels, in addition to email. It’s a critical step towards creating a holistic customer experience.


About Lee: Lee Brine is Director of CRM at Vimeo, the world’s largest ad-free open video platform. In this role, he manages Vimeo’s overall strategy and implementation of marketing lifecycle campaigns sent to the platform’s community of 70 million registered users. Having been with Vimeo since 2012, Lee is responsible for developing and implementing the platform’s robust CRM program. Previously, Lee held a number of digital marketing roles across industries and is experienced in both the client and agency side of the business. Lee earned a B.S. in TV, Radio, Film from Syracuse University. Originally from Massachusetts, Lee now lives on Long Island with his wife, Rachel, and son, Dylan.


This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the many voices and stories that make up Salesforce’s diverse community of Trailblazers.