Email Credentials: Twilio's CMO On The SendGrid Integration

Sara Varni joined Twilio as chief marketing officer in January 2018, and took on the chore of marketing Twilio’s SMS API and other products. Barely a year later, a new challenge came her way: Twilio acquired the email API provider SendGrid in a $3 billion deal. And Varni, who is based in the Bay area, found herself spending more time in Denver, home of SendGrid. 

Varni was no stranger to corporate expansion. As SVP of marketing at Salesforce, she saw that firm grow from 1,100 employees to 26,000 during her 11 years there. (Coincidentally, Twilio has grown from 1,100 to 2,300 during her time to date).

Nor was email new to Varni. For one thing, she had started an email newsletter at Salesforce. Far from being a vehicle only for promoting webinars, the opt-in newsletter delivered serious content on process issues and “long term, was an effective content channel,” Varni says.



In light of that, it should be no surprise that Twilio also has a monthly email newsletter — for developers. 

“We publish a ton of content on all sorts of topics in the developer space,” Varni explains. “There’s a high level of engagement.” 

That may be only the start. Twilio is also considering a newsletter and online content for for non-tech buyers who aren’t "steeped in APIs," Varni adds. This is happening as Twilio tries to leverage its new acquisition to connect all channels. For instance, it recently unveiled a tool called Twilio SendGrid Ads that allows brands to extend their email campaigns to other channels, including display and social.

"We’re bringing these platforms together," Varni says. The goal is to allow companies to orchestrate all this on one platform, without having to code or buy a lot of extra tools.

She adds that marketers "can expect more product work on that front."

Varni sees a parallel between the SendGrid email API and Twilio’s SMS API. In her own practice in B2B, "you’ve to be thinking about how your customer wants to consume that particular type of message," she says.

That’s not the only thing generating excitement within the Twilio ranks. Another is Twilio Conversations, "our group messaging API," Varni says. Introduced last month at the Twilio SIGNAL conference last month, this product facilitates cross-channel orchestration, participant management and message archives. 

“It is probably not used as much in a marketing context: a financial advisor like Morgan Stanley might have to bring in multiple parties into a group message, and ensure that this is "kosher within the financial services base."

Where does Varni see email going? “There’s a dramatic shift,” she says. “Email is becoming a more rich interactive, personalized experience, where content might dynamically chance over the course of the day.”

But Varni concedes that there is more work to be done in all areas of marketing. 

“The foundation’s been poured, but it’s not dried yet,” she laughs.


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