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What happens when you pick a developer’s brain about marketing and technology

This June, Adestra Profiles celebrates developers. They work hard to make technology twist and bend. The Adestra Development team in particular is responsible for creating and continuously improving MessageFocus to make it work hard for our clients. I talked to Dan Thomas, one of the original creators of MessageFocus.

A: If we were to dissect a developers mind, what would we find?

D: A great desire to fiddle with stuff (laughs). You’d probably find little compartments that are each assigned to figure out how stuff works. In our team, for instance, each developer has their project that they’re working on at any given point. And the way we work for a new feature is roughly this:


We want everything to be right so we can avoid any major issues after we release new features. It shouldn’t be rushed, it should be right.

A: There’s a lot of talk on what technology can do for marketers. How do you figure out what features are needed?

D: Well, first, we look at what clients want. Because if several clients are highlighting a particular need, it must be important so we’ll focus our efforts and talent on making it a feature for everyone.  We believe MessageFocus should be a result of what is needed, not just what is trending in the tech world.

Right now, we’re getting some questions on filters, so we’re working on a way make them more user-friendly and easy to set up. Our clients have employees who work a lot in MessageFocus, they use it every day, they know it well, but also employees who use it a couple of hours a week. So it’s very important for us to try and make our interface easier and obvious so that both groups can use it just as well.

Which leads me to my second point.  Talking to technical people can be tricky for some, but it shouldn’t. So if something is broken, we need to understand the background of the problem. When talking to a technical person, try answering these three questions:

1. What do you think is supposed to be happening?
2. What is actually happening?
3. How can we recreate that? What did you do to get there?

Similarly, if clients ask for a feature, we’ll gladly look into it but we need to understand the need behind it. And that’s not because we are stubborn, but because the solution might be somewhere else . We want to find the best solution, not just a solution, and that might be different from what was suggested initially.

A: In a way MessageFocus is your baby. Which of its features are you most proud of?

D: Any parent thinks their child is the best! All jokes aside, if I were to pick one thing, it would be security. I take it very seriously and MessageFocus has many different levels that we offer to customers. It’s a boring subject for most, but it’s so important! We want our clients to feel safe with us.

For instance, you can lock access for certain IP addresses or authenticate an IP address over email. You can have OTP tokens for that extra security which is something you would normally get with a bank. If you trust a bank with your money, you can trust MessageFocus with your data.

And it’s not just for clients, we make sure that internally people only see what they’re supposed to see.

A: We are all guilty as marketers of not using all the features we are given. If you would pick an underused feature in MessageFocus, what would it be?

D: Campaign pre-sets. They can streamline your day to day activity and make it so much easier when you create campaigns. This feature saves you time, makes things consistent and stops you from doing something as boring as inserting the from address and name over and over again.

A: There’s a lot of talk that the gap between marketing and IT is closing. Do you feel that’s the case?

D: Yes, marketing teams are getting more technologically savvy which is awesome! They have to really, because a big part of marketing these days is digital marketing. And I’d like to think that IT people are more likely to open up their systems to people’s needs.

And I like that marketers are using technology in much better ways:

  • They use automation to send more targeted campaigns instead of blasting emails at consumers
  • They are wiser about deliverability concerns – they know hiding their unsubscribe link might keep a few contacts on the list, but will ‘earn’ them complaints and affect their chances of reaching the inbox
  • They present content in a way that consumers can relate to, because they know that if you improve people’s reaction to your content, you ultimately improve deliverability and keep your customers coming back for more.

Key takeaways:

  • The process through which developers create things involves problem-solving and lots of testing
  • If more than one person asks for something, it might be a solution to benefit the many
  • Developers like to think of the background and needs that generate a problem
  • MessageFocus gives you top-notch security and can help save time on boring tasks so you can enjoy the fun ones
  • Marketing and IT are working together better than ever before

About Dan

Dan Thomas headshotDan Thomas is Adestra’s Head of Development, and one of the two developers that built the first version of  MessageFocus almost 10 years ago. He shared the founders’ vision that there was more to email marketing than sending one-off blasts and collecting a cheque in the process.
He helped create MessageFocus as a technology that can wrap itself around business models and help companies create effective campaigns. Today, he puts the same passion into making sure MessageFocus is a platform born from the needs of the industry and inspires his team to do the same.

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