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November 28, 2023 - Articles

Email Peeps 31: Jane Portman


What attracted you to email marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?

The story goes back to 2013, when I started building an email list for UI Breakfast, my UI/UX consulting practice. It was my number one channel for selling books and services.

Then we started Userlist together with my co-founder in 2017, and it went full throttle from there. These days weโ€™re immersed in email marketing for SaaS companies, from strategy to execution.

Whatโ€™s your favorite email hack?

An โ€œevergreen newsletterโ€ is one of my favorite concepts. Itโ€™s a super long email campaign that drips out your best content every 2-4 weeks, on autopilot. It can be as long as 1-2 years worth of content. Such setup helps marketers get off the hamster wheel of broadcasting.

When it comes to execution, I love using โ€œsnippetsโ€ which is a Userlist feature for reusable blocks of text. For example, inserting a greeting line is as easy as typing a variable, e.g. {{snippets.intro}}.

What are most SaaS marketers getting wrong when it comes to email automation?

Apart from not doing anything at all? ๐Ÿ™‚

The most common mistake is โ€œthinking smallโ€ which results in a large number of tiny campaigns triggered by individual events. E.g. โ€œcongratulations on your first projectโ€ as a separate campaign. This is creepy and not effective.

Instead, we recommend to โ€œthink bigโ€ and orchestrate the entire lifecycle (see this guide for illustrations). First you segment your customers by lifecycle stage, and when they join a certain stage you trigger a corresponding campaign.ย 

This way, you end up with 3-5 bigger campaigns. Weaving new emails into them is much easier than setting up new campaigns.

How can email marketers create more personalized experiences without the help of a dev?

The key is to plan upfront and have a solid back-end integration between the product and your email marketing platform. This way you work with your developer once to track all the data, and then itโ€™s all yours to play with. The rest depends on the email marketing platform. We recommend Userlist, of course ๐Ÿ™‚

Whatโ€™s in your email marketing toolbox?


  • Razer Kiyo Pro webcam
  • Samson Q2U mic
  • Rode PSA1 studio boom arm
  • Elgato Key Light Air for the lights


  • Userlist for both marketing and lifecycle email
  • Notion for planning
  • Google Docs for collaborative editing
  • SavvyCal for integrating a variety of call types
  • Livestorm and Pitch for the webinars

Which SaaS companies nail email marketing?

We love what SavvyCal โ€” our beloved customers โ€” are doing with their newsletters and feature updates. Their product images are always a source of envy (and inspiration).

Among others, Notion stands out with their sophisticated illustrations and recognizable writing style.

How do you manage work/life balance?

In addition to running a software product, Iโ€™m an avid podcaster with two shows under the belt, and a mom of three kids. So the term work/life balance means a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

Sure enough, things get overwhelming.ย 

The key is to delegate, set up processes, and focus on the important things. You just canโ€™t have it all.ย 

For example, Iโ€™m not trying to kill it on social media with continuous personal updates. Instead, we focus on publishing 1-2 high-quality, long-form pieces per month.

Much love,

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @emaillove


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