Email on Tap, Episode 21: Lee Brine, Sr. Director of CRM, Vimeo

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In Season 2’s final episode, Validity spoke with Lee Brine, Senior Director of CRM at Vimeo (and Validity customer!), to delve into his history at the world’s largest ad-free video platform. Lee discusses his start in CRM, building an email marketing program from scratch, to today, where Vimeo has scaled its platform to serve over 175 million members globally.

What does Lee see in his vision of marketing’s future? How does he see video playing a role in digital marketing today and tomorrow? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

Check out the video:

(Keep scrolling for key timestamps and even a full transcript. Plus, find links to our podcast version!)

Total Run Time: 15 minutes

00:30 – Overview of Vimeo and Lee’s role
01:37 – Lee’s early days at Vimeo, building an email marketing program
03:30 – Lee advice for marketing teams starting an email program
05:35 – Important touchpoints for Vimeo
09:40 – CRM communication channels’ evolution over the years
13:30 – The power of video

Listen and subscribe on your favorite platform:



Anthony Chiulli
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Email on Tap. I’m your host, Anthony Chiulli, and I’m super excited to be at Vimeo’s headquarters here in New York City interviewing Lee Brine. He is the senior director of CRM here at Vimeo. Lee, I really appreciate the opportunity for coming in and sitting down and having an opportunity to interview.

Lee Brine
Absolutely. Thanks for coming in.

So to kick us off, tell me a little bit about your role and just an overview of Vimeo.

Absolutely. I’m the senior director of CRM here. I’ve been here a little over seven years, which is crazy how quickly time flies. Vimeo is the world’s leading professional video platform and community. We have over 175 million registered users at this point, users of all walks from the video industry, people who use video for all different reasons. From small businesses who are using social video to engage with customers, to enterprises who use our services for live streaming corporate events, to videographers and video professionals who use video as their primary business, to non-profits and other organizations who use video to help support their business. Our goal is to support our community with powerful, easy-to-use video tools and software.

Very nice. You mentioned seven years at Vimeo, and you just passed your seventh year anniversary. When you actually started, your very first role here was Email Marketing Manager, basically tasked with the very daunting task of building and creating an email marketing program. Can you talk about those early days and that endeavor to literally create something that hadn’t existed before?

Sure. Yeah. When I came in, there were about 15 million registered users and there was no infrastructure in place to email them. Email was obviously an important channel to communicate with those users, who, at that point, had never heard from us. It was a daunting task to walk in and say, “I had it. What do we build? How do we build it? What’s the infrastructure going to look like?” The first six months or so, I like to call it “building the foundation of the CRM house.” You need a really strong foundation so you can build 100 stories on a skyscraper on it. So, the first six months are architecting data to figure out what types of campaigns we want to send and what we want to send in those campaigns. What should the data structure and the data model look like? What’s the data that we’re going to need for both segmentation and personalization? It requires working with people from all different groups within the companydata engineers, platform engineers, the creative team. And once we figure out what immediate messages we want to send, how do we design it, how do we get the data flowing between Vimeo data warehouse, which didn’t really exist in an ESP? Building the foundation of the ESP house as well, joining them together, ultimately, seven years later, we’ve grown and we’ve put a lot of coats of paint on. We’ve grown up about 100 stories and we have over 175 million registered users and a lot of messages that go out every day. But we’re still building and relying on that same architecture that was built seven years ago. The feet are still holding strong for now.

That’s amazing, and that’s incredible to see. I mean, I think you talked about the importance of that data strategy and data model first before getting ahead of yourself and just throwing together a marketing program, allowing you to unlock it and kind of empower that personalization and that vision that you’re describing. What type of recommendations or advice would you give any other marketer tuning in in the same spot or preparing for that journey of literally creating their first email marketing program?

That’s the one of things I love most about the CRM worldyou get to interface with so many different groups within the organization. You’re architecting data, you’re working with creative teams, you’re working with engineering teams, working with product teams and all different aspects of the CRM program. I’d say to start, it’s a lot of whiteboarding sessions and working backwards. What are the messages that you want to send? What’s most valuable for the user? What do you want to educate them about? What do you want to get them to engage with or to purchase if it’s an e-commerce site? What’s the end goal? How many messages is it going to take in a particular series or multiple series or a whole journey, looking at the whole journey mapping exercise. Maybe it’s five messages, maybe it’s 10, maybe it’s 100. What data is it going to take to be able to identify those users? It’s making sure you have the right data to identify those users. And like I mentioned before, it’s making sure you have the right data to be able to personalize the content within those messages. And then again, it’s working backwards to say, here’s the data that I need. Here’s where it may or may not live within an internal data warehouse. Then here’s how we need to get it to an ESP in order to actually use their segment and then to actually build the content that matches up with the data to get it out the door as an email that the end-user receives.

And I think you mentioned, obviously, a testament to the way that you were thinking about that early on. Kudos to you; seven years ago. That foundation is still holding strong, still allowing you to build, as you mentioned, the analogy of building floor by floor, adding a new coat of paint, the foundation is still solid.

Yeah, you rip the wallpaper off and repaint every couple of years as business strategies change, and as technology evolves on the ESP side or in the industry. Best practices are changing; we’re constantly evolving, but you still need the same underlying data to be able to send those messages.

You mentioned Vimeo’s a global community of video creators ranging from skilled filmmakers to very small businesses. Talk about, what are the customer touchpoints that you focus on from the email marketing strategy standpoint of timely, relevant content? How do you define what touchpoints to start to initiate those types of campaigns?

Sure. With a base our size, over 175 million at this point and over a million paid subscribers, SaaS users are always at different points in their lifecycle, whether they just sign up with us as a free account to get a sense for all the tools that we offer and they start uploading their first video. So, a basic member onboarding series where we introduce them to the tools that we have and walk them through the workflow, encourage them to upload their first video if they haven’t. If someone has uploaded versus not, they get something of a different content, causing them to do so and telling them everything that they can do once they upload and have videos in their account. And then all of our paid tiers; each tier has its own onboarding series to welcome them into the tool specific to that tier. Then throughout your lifecycle, once you get through the first 30 or 60 days, there are touchpoints based on tools that you engage with or don’t engage with, things that we think would be relevant or interesting for you based on how you are using the site. Then our program is going to continue to evolve, too, as we can identify what your use cases are with video and our tools continue to evolve. We’re going to continue to evolve the CRM program to make sure that we’re recommending the right tools and features based on how you want to get the most out of video and grow your business.

You’re certainly paying attention to those signals. And I think again, it’s a testament to your data model, data strategy model of having the right data to target at those various touch points. Deliverability is often a moving target. You know the analogy about the cat and mouse game and trying to stay ahead of the ever-changing landscape of deliverability. What lessons have you learned over the years of growing and building an email program of the importance of optimizing deliverability to keep your program successful?

The bottom linedeliverability is hard. I feel like my grandfather, saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Best practices are best practices for a reason. So especially as your database scales and your volume scales and the number of campaigns scale, people are sending more and more mail. Especially once your database reaches a size where you can’t fly under the radar anymore with ISPs, it’s making sure the strong deliverability best practices are always part of your business-as-usual send practices. So it’s making sure you’re pointing out unengaged site users or engaged email users ongoing for ad hoc campaigns, for automated campaigns, because when you do have those ad hoc sends that do have to spike your volume up above your daily averages, it’s not a giant red flag to the to the ISP, so they say, “Oh, whoa, what’s the sender doing if the volume is normally X and then it’s 100 times that in a given day?” We have our normal monthly newsletters that go out to a high volume of users, and we try to spread it out across a couple of days whenever we can, because the volume is above our daily averages. But because we have such strong reputations from maintaining the best practices, the other 29 days of the month when we have this, there’s generally not issues because we’re spreading out as best we can in best practices of pulling out inactive users that are always just part of our normal day to day. Once you’re in deliverability blackholes, it’s hard and painful and time consuming to dig out of them. So we like to avoid that whenever we can.

Yeah, I think I certainly echo that sentiment. Mitigation is more important than remediation, and if you can prevent issues from happening in the first place, it’s hard. I think everyone who’s in a marketer’s position, especially overseeing marketing, you’re going to have issues. It’s just a constant evolution of educating yourself, understanding why things are happening and being able to hopefully quickly resolve them.

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve worked at places in the past. I was on the ESP side for a while. And there are certain times where a client will say, “I have to get this campaign out to everyone in the database today.” You may recommend, “Well, this is probably what’s going to happen.” You do that and then it’s the I-told-you-so game of where, you know, you went through a practice that’s not sound. This is how you ended up on the Spamhaus blacklist. You ended up on this blacklist or something like that where it’s hard to dig out of.

In your seat driving CRM, talk about the evolution of the channels that are available to you and the way that you market not only just email, but the evolution, the growth of some other channels that you’re working on.

I mean, that’s been one of the coolest things that I’ve seen over my time here. When I started, there was a marketing team of three or four people literally just building the foundation and that’s evolved as the company is now over 600 employees. So it’s been amazing to see all these programs and channels just grow and mature over time. We have amazing brand marketing now that gets the word out about Vimeo. We have an amazing content marketing team who’s constantly publishing out great content, like Vimeo Video School. Where do you go to find the best camera gear or what are the best practices for shooting interviews? Things like that, and businesses of all sizes can rely on that as a source of information for video creation. It’s not just the professional filmmaker who has to see what the best super-expensive camera is that we may have a recommendation on. But it’s advice on how a small business can grow their business with video. Because today, everyone has to be fluent in video making. We just put out a blog post last week about a local pizza shop in New York City. Their business is not videoit’s pizza, of course—but they are producing these really awesome short-form videos and posting them for their customers who really enjoy it. And it’s going to live on social and on their landing pages. It’s just a whole different type of business now that is embracing and using video to help support their business, which is really cool to see. So, our marketing is focused on highlighting stories like that, about our community and how they’re using this medium. Our events have matured in an awesome way, too. Earlier this year, we had our Vimeo Festival and Awards, which is an annual celebration now, to look at the best content on Vimeo. And we handed out awards and all these great categories celebrating the best content and the best video creators on Vimeo. We have a huge paid marketing team now who is getting the word out to bring people who may not know about Vimeo to make them aware that we have all these tools that can help grow their businesses. So all these different channels, whether it’s brand marketing and events and paid marketing and CRM, and they’re all we’re all trying to work together to make things cohesive and consistent. And all of that has grown and matured over time, which has been really cool to see.

It’s a perfect segue into my follow-up question. Online video is undoubtedly changing the way that brands communicate to their audiences. And I think it’s a powerful medium. And, you know, if a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? Clearly this is a great example of the power of video to communicate with the email marketing audience as a whole. How is video positioned for that trend, and what do you see for the future of online videos?

Yes, I mean, it’s exactly what I was just saying: Video is becoming an essential part of a brand’s marketing strategy. Not even just brands, but small businesses, entrepreneurs, video professionals. Everyone is using—or should be using—video in some way, shape or form, whether it’s a story on Instagram or it’s published as a post on Instagram or Facebook. On all these social channels, video is being prioritized in all their algorithms. So, everyone wants video to get the viewers’ eyeballs, higher placement and actual placement on the social channels. The problem with video in the past has been, it’s really expensive and really hard, and video has a very short shelf life. Plus, the majority of views happen in the first three or four days. After that, you need to start all over again with new content. Again, it’s not easy or quick or cheap to produce. So, unless you have the right tools to be able to do it, you go through all this effort and then the eyeballs spike and then they drop off and then what do you do next? Our goal is to be able to solve that, giving you the best tools to create video and short-form content and make it really easy and scalable so you can pump out a whole bunch of videos that are all really professional-looking. We want to be a one-stop-shop for video, from the creation to the collaboration to the distribution. If they need to have input on the videos as you’re designing it and building it and editing it and then marketing and distribution of that video, whether it’s for all the eyeballs in the world or for a select audience, we want to be that one-stop-shop, and we think we’re well positioned to do so.

I mean, we host these videos on Vimeo and other platforms; audio and videos. It’s certainly been a valuable asset for us. I was sitting on the plane flying here and I was writing down my notes for this interview, and I started to look at the at the name of your company, Vimeo, and quickly realized that it’sand I don’t know if this is by chance or by fatebut it’s a play on words of the word “movie.” Right? So, the word “movie,” all the letters. But then I when I landed, I was curious and I Googled it. And I don’t know if this is true or not or if you can confirm, but it was actually a video with like video plus me. Is that right?


But I thought it was very kind of creative, whether it was on purpose or not, that it was.

Yeah. Back in the day, 15 years ago, it was absolutely intentional. So, yes, it’s really cool. It still remains heart to our brand, in our community, it’s video plus me. It’s passion about what we do with video and getting our tools out so video creators can take advantage of them and embrace them and enjoy them to get their work out to the world.

Well said, Lee. Thank you so much for sitting down with me. I really appreciate your time. And thanks, everyone, for tuning in. We hope to see you on another episode of Email on Tap.



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