Having a direct communication line to your customer is the first step to driving sales online.
But too many ecommerce businesses have a poorly thought out email marketing strategy and struggle to generate revenue from this powerful channel.
This podcast episode teaches you the right way to think about your email marketing. One that creates a relevant experience through the entire customer lifecycle.
In this 38 minute podcast, Sam and I discuss:
- Sam’s serendipitous start into the ecommerce world
- The importance of email list building for ecommerce
- How to use freemium content to build and nurture your email list
- Why slashing prices should be your last, not first move
- Why you shouldn’t send the same email to everyone
- What should replace your ecommerce sales newsletter
- Getting started with email automation
eCommerce Email Marketing Resources
- Why Email isn’t Dead: The Economics of Ecommerce Email Marketing
- Ecommerce Email Marketing: 10 Tips to Boost Product Sales
- Why Email isn’t Dead: The Economics of Ecommerce Email Marketing
- Ecommerce Email Marketing: Download our Free Guide to the 4 Campaigns Guaranteed to Boost Your Revenue
- The Email Strategies of 20 Top Retailers
- Transactional Email and Confirmation Message
- Sam Mallikarjunan on Twitter
- Eric Ries, Author of The Lean Startup, Ask Me Anything
- Inbound Ecommerce: How To Sell Better Than Amazon
- HubSpot Ecommerce Automation
Darren: Welcome to The Pursuit of Relevance Podcast. I’m your host, Darren DeMatas. This podcast is for entrepreneurs looking to launch and grow an ecommerce business by making it relevant to search engines and more importantly, people.
Welcome to episode eight. I’m here with Sam Mallikarjunan. I’m going to talk to you today about ecommerce email marketing. Specifically we’re going to talk about how to increase ecommerce sales with email marketing.
So Sam is a Head of Growth for HubSpot Labs. And before that, he headed up their ecommerce department. So can you just quickly tell us, Sam, how you got started in the ecommerce game?
Sam: Sure. So I actually got started in the ecommerce game because I was selling health insurance, and I was selling health insurance out of a cigar lounge. And I ended up helping the cigar lounge launch an ecommerce site, and then started working at a cigar-related ecommerce site called CheapHumidors.com and then the rest has been history.
Darren: So I want to get started today talking about growing your email list. So why should ecommerce site owners focus on building their email list?
Sam: So building an email list is an end result of a goal, right? So an email list is a list of contacts, and these contacts are in different stages of the relationship with your company. They might be complete strangers and they’ve just begun the research process of trying to decide whether or not they want to buy what you have to sell. They might be in the process of buying. They might be a past customer who’s already bought.
The key isn’t necessarily just to build an email list. The key is to convert contacts based on where they are in the buying cycle, understand that, and then deliver them a relevant email experience once you’ve got that process nailed. So I’m going to give people a piece of educational content and get their email address in exchange for that, and then nurture them towards the purchase, and then nurture them towards a re-purchase. Once you got that process down, then the question is, just how much can you scale that funnel, how many people can you put through that process?
Darren: You definitely have to have a process in place. So do you think it’s important to get the process in place before you just start going? Because I know a lot of people are eager to start building their business and building their list. So how important is it to have a process in place before you even get started?
Sam: Sure. So the wonderful thing and terrifying thing at the same time about startups and about launching a business is: it’s like you have to design and build an engine in a car that you’re currently driving down the road in a hundred miles an hour.
So you go ahead and get started now. If you’re planning on launching an ecommerce site, launch it literally today, sell to your friends, sell to your family. Get it rolling and work on improving the process over time.
But as you’re going along, you should be gaining insights and you should be constantly improving the experience for the users based on the feedback and the data that you’re getting from putting people through the system.
Every time a customer buys from you, you should use that information to make your process better.
Darren: So let’s take a step back and let’s just talk about email marketing for ecommerce in general. Second to organic search, email marketing is the biggest driver of sales, is that the right?
Sam: Yeah, definitely. Particularly because a lot of cases from most ecommerce businesses, they don’t have a big email list of people who are in the research phase. They’re not collecting these big lists of people who haven’t bought from them before. Most of the people in their email list are previous customers. So, a lot of their sales, and it’s a lot easier to drive sales from people you’ve already sold to before.
Why Targeting Shoppers At The Start Of Research Phase Is More Profitable
Darren: Okay. In your book, you talk about the importance of starting early on in terms of targeting customers at the research process. You don’t necessarily want to target people who are in the buying mode because at that point, you’re competing for price, and that’s the big premise of your book.
And so if you’re trying to acquire email addresses of people who are in the research phase, people at the top end of the funnel, what are some effective ways to capture those email addresses?
Sam: Sure. So one of the reasons we talk about going further and further into the researcher awareness and even just audience building phases of the buying cycle, one is it’s less competitive.
So if you’re trying to compete for people who already know what they want to buy, the real differentiators you have are, okay, maybe service but mostly price.
Amazon has decent service and Amazon will almost always have the best price.
And even if you want to compete for PPC clicks, if you just want to try and outbid people to get them to your website, it’s very expensive. The keywords are very short tail, they’re very targeted.
It’s a very understood market, and it’s a bloodbath of trying to compete with people. And really the only thing that you can do to be competitive is just slash your prices, and ultimately that’s self-defeating. It’s very hard to build a sustainable business that way.
By building an audience and moving into the research and education and awareness phase of the buying cycle, you’re able to bring people into your funnel at a lower cost because people aren’t competing as directly. It’s a lot harder to compete directly for people who are just interested in a general topic.
So if you’re selling smart home devices, you know, people who are interested in gadgets, and having some reviews, and having some features, and having some content that’s about people who have done really interesting things with smart homes, it’s actually easier to compete in that phase.
The long tail optimization is easier to go after, and the PPC is easier to go after. It’s just generally less competitive.
Now, if you want to turn those people into contacts, into leads that maybe you can nurture into actually buying something on your site, what you do is you use the freemium model of content, as a freemium in software applies to, “We’re going to give you something for free, and then if you want more, you have to start paying us.”
In blogging and in contact generation and building an email list, it’s the same general concept. So we’re going to have this content. We’re going to have this experience. It’s going to bring people to our site that they can use for free. But then there’s more premium content that they can use in exchange for giving us, for example, their email address.
So if you’re doing like the smart home, and maybe you’re writing about seven awesome applications that plug into Alexa, which is actually built by Amazon, it’s a very interesting piece of technology, you have the blog article, and then you can have the ultimate guide to smart homes or something like that. Ultimate guide is a little bit played out, but you can do something that’s a very interesting midi piece of content that’s worth somebody downloading.
Why You Should Think About The Customer Experience Before Asking For An Email Address
It’s also useful if you can explain to people why giving you their email address will help you make the experience better for them.
So it’s not necessarily even just building an email list and capturing the email address, it’s can I ask you some information about yourself that’s going to help me customize my ability to help you make a better decision.
I’ll use a good example right now. Christmas is coming up, I’m shopping for jewelry. I know nothing about jewelry. I’m a terrible person at shopping for jewelry.
But most ecommerce websites that are selling jewelry, I only have two options. I can either buy something from them right now and make that decision, do the entire process on my own, or the best case scenario, maybe they have a piece of premium content and they just asked for my email address.
First of all, it makes it less likely for me to give them a real email address if I give them my email address at all because I don’t understand why they’re asking for that and how that actually helps me.
Second of all, they’re missing an opportunity to make this experience better. They should ask, who am I buying jewelry for, maybe what’s my price range, what type of jewelry does she like, maybe some style questions. Things that they could ask me on the form, add to my contact record, and use that to help me make a decision, which is that’s how you grow your sales, that’s how you help people sell.
Darren: So let me stop you right there for a second. That’s an excellent point. You’re either going to buy jewelry right then or you’re not. And so if you’re not going to buy jewelry right then, you could you could use this email marketing to nurture that person. Like you, you know nothing about buying jewelry so maybe…
So my question for you is, do you front-load the form with those questions? Or do you maybe drip those questions out via email? Like say you sign up for this ultimate guide to purchasing jewelry for your wife or whatever, and you sign up, you put your email in, and then you get email back auto0responding saying, “Hey, Sam. Can you tell me what you’re looking for? Are you looking for XYZ?” And maybe do some automation based upon what you click? Is that better or is it better to front-load to get all the questions that you need?
Sam: Yeah. You should ask for the minimum amount of information to help you create a good experience. I know it’s really frustrating to get an answer that’s essentially it depends, but you want to get enough information. For the jewelry, for example, it could be, they need to know what sort of jewelry I’m looking at. You can pull that from behavioral data. They need to know what price range I’m looking at. You can pull that from the behavioral data.
What they’re not really going to know and what’s the subjective thing that I don’t know in my ability to make a decision is what colors does she like? Some of these questions, that they can ask me on the form. And that makes me more likely that I’m going to give them good data because I understand that, “Okay. By filling this form out, they’re going to help me make a good decision that’s going to help me buy a great gift for my wife.”
Darren: So if we’re talking about just actually getting email addresses, we’ve talked a lot about blogs right now and just having educational-type content. So should you even focus on getting email addresses on your actual store? Or should you just focus on getting customer accounts and things of that nature?
Sam: Well, you almost always want to get an email address for the transaction. Because that’s the base unit of a relationship anybody has with any company is the email address, so that you can send them like the order confirmation. You want to be able to send them shipping updates. You want to be able to send them abandoned cart nurturing emails. So you should almost always have an email address be the center of the contact universe. And then all the other information you have enriches the relationship that you can have through that channel.
Why Slashing Prices Should be Your Last, Not First Move
Darren: But what about just like having popups on your store for, “Enter your email and get instant $10 off,” or whatever. Is that playing the wrong game by doing that?
Sam: Sure. Frustratingly abandonment models work fairly good. The data is relatively clear. They work in terms of their ability to build contacts.
The first reflex shouldn’t usually be to give a discount though because you’ll often find that price is not the thing that’s preventing somebody from buying right now.
When you do abandonment surveys, you see it’s usually decision-making things.
Either, “I’m not sure this is exactly what I want to buy.” Or “I just need more education about this.” Or “I’m going to save it for later, I’m just not planning to buy right now.” You should give the contact, you should give the customer a chance to engage with you before you make the entire conversation about price, because there is the potential to take somebody who wasn’t price-sensitive and make them price-sensitive by framing the entire abandonment conversation and nurturing conversation about price.
So while that is useful and you do want to do some of that building a sense of urgency by having time-sensitive price discounting, at the same time you don’t want to make that the first reaction that you have.
So an abandonment model for example that’s like, “Having a hard time deciding? Download our guide,” or “Having a hard time deciding? Talk to somebody at our company and we’ll help you decide,” can actually more effective than just doing the price.
Why You Shouldn’t Send Everyone The Same Email
Darren: So we’re talking about just segmenting your list. And you have obviously the people who have bought from you, and they need a whole different chain of emails, and I want to get into that little bit later. And then you have the people who are at the, early on, in their life cycle and they’re actually, we’ll call them leads and not customers. So why is it important to segment your list in those ways? Why can’t you just send the same type of emails to everybody?
Sam: It’s an interesting question. This is a real question that marketers ask themselves. But if positioned it from the perspective of dating or something like that, say, “Why can’t I just have the exact same conversation with everybody that I go on a date with? Because fundamentally the end state is still the same we’re going to get married or we’re not going to get married. So why don’t I just go ahead and lead with that?”
A good philosophy we try to live by is the whole, “Market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”If the experience isn't relevant, there's nothing differentiating you. - @MallikarjunanClick To Tweet
You’re just going to treat me the same as everybody else, I’m going to treat you the same as everybody else, meaning, the customer. So if you’re going to treat me like all of your customers, I’m going to treat you like all of the retailers. And then the only thing you really have differentiating you is price.
The internet has gotten smart enough. Consumers have gotten smart enough. It’s gotten competitive enough that the real leverage comes in can you make my internet different and better for me than Darren’s internet is for him? So you’re going to have your own internet, the internet customizes itself to you, I’m going to have my own internet, the internet customizes itself to me. And that removes a lot of the friction and a lot of the angst, and helps build a value in the relationship that you’re having with a brand.
You would do this in a store. If you walked into a store and you were talking to somebody at the department store about buying a new pair of jeans or whatever or maybe a suit and you’re talking to the person, they’re not going to give you the exact same spiel that they’re going to give everybody else. They’re going to ask you some questions. They’re going to help you make a decision.
And scaling that relationship, that one-on-one interaction you might have with a retail associate to 100,000 customers a month, that’s what makes ecommerce really interesting and creates a competitive advantage.
Darren: I think the question why marketers asked that is because when you start talking about segmenting your list and developing different communications to different people, it gets complicated fast. And just even the technology side. I was recently working on a project where we were doing aggressive emails list building, things like exactly what you’re talking about, where we have buyers’ guides and things of that nature, and we ended up with, “Well, do we put these people in MailChimp or do we put them in WooCommerce?” And so we ended up having two separate list.
So when you’re talking about list building and list management, is it worth maintaining leads and customers in separate email tools, just so you don’t get confused?
Sam: So there’s couple of things there. One, yes, this is hard. This is extremely hard. Everything worth doing in the world of ecommerce is only getting harder. SEO is way harder than it used to be. Email marketing is way harder than it used to be. PPC is way harder than it used to be. Because this multi-trillion dollar industry of ecommerce is a pretty valuable thing and smart people are working on it. To answer your second question, which is about…we call it a franken system of technology.
Darren: I’ve used that term before.
Sam: Yeah. I would always favor simplicity. So it means that you can have a central source of truth, even if the source of truth isn’t perfect, as long as it’s imperfect consistently, that’s usually better than trying to get multiple sources and then trying to sync them together via an API or something like that. So whether it’s analytics, whether it’s email, whatever it is, whether it’s finance, really you always want to have a single source of truth that at least always agrees with itself.
There are some instances in which, yes, you want to connect two pieces of data together. For example, like your email service provider with your shopping cart, if the shopping cart doesn’t have native personalization and analytics and stuff like that. But you always want to have the fewest possible failure points when you’re using marketing technology.
Darren: So how do you communicate differently to leads versus customers in terms of just the whole content stream and the emails? Because we have emails that you automate, which we can talk about that now, then you also have your one-off like sales promotion that we’ll talk about a little bit later. So how do you arrange communications so that you’re cultivating that lead along the way?
Sam: Sure. I’m not a fan the batch email. Almost everybody should be in some discrete type of relationship with you, and you should be able to bucket-classify and market to that person on their own. So either they’re in a re-purchase waiting period, in which case you want to keep them warm with content, or they’re in an education period, in which case you want to be moving them along the process, we don’t look at it as much of a funnel.
So in the book, we make the joke about the ecommerce marketing sousaphone instead of the ecommerce marketing funnel. So a funnel implies that there’s an end point where there is this terminated relationship, there’s this bottom. A sousaphone is as if the marching tuba that you’ve probably seen, where the bottom of the funnel forms an infinite loop at the middle of the funnel. And at no point in that is somebody just at this random bucket that you should want to blast.
Now, there may be instances in which you do want to do batch emails, but it’s very rarely going to…it should be rare that you just email your entire list the exact same email because there’s too much diversity and you need to invest a little bit more. With how competitive space in the inbox is right now, you need to invest a little bit more time in making that a relevant experience.
Darren: Let’s go back to your ultimate guide to jewelry buying for your wife here. Because if I have ecommerce site and I sell jewelry, that’s a great idea. I’m going to create some type of ultimate guide that can help you buy something, the perfect gift for your wife.
But I’m an ecommerce site, I want to make some sales this quarter or this month, and so I want to run some type of effective sales promotion. So you’re obviously a good lead because you’re in buying mode at some point, but I also have all these other customers that have bought for me before. So why is it a bad idea for me to just do a global email and say, “20% off jewelry for this weekend only,” why is that not a good idea for everybody?
Sam: Because for me it’s not really price, right? For where I am right now, it’s been awhile since I bought my wife any jewelry. If I don’t do this right, there’s going to be a cost for me personally. So the price isn’t the problem, it’s buying the right thing. So not only are you going to, “Yeah, sure. I’ll take the discount,” so you’ll lose the margin that would have gone on my transaction.
But that’s not actually what’s stopping me right now. I know she wants earrings, and I know she wants stud earrings, and then that’s where my knowledge ends. And that’s just what I’ve been able to tease out. And no one has created an experience that actually helps me make that decision.
So you’re not actually at all likely to accelerate my buying process by sending me a coupon right now. In fact, the company, I’ve visited their site a few times, they sent me a 15% off coupon and I’m like, “That’s not helpful.” What I’m actually waiting to do and maybe I’ll even do it later today is I want to live chat with somebody there to have them explain to me the differences in the products.
So you’re going to lose margin, you’re not actually going to accelerate my sales process anyways, and you might potentially lose me to somebody else who does a better job of educating me.
Whereas there are people who are price-sensitive right now and that’s what’s blocking them up, the second email and abandoned cart sequence, or people where you know that you’ve already educated them and you just need to accelerate a sense of urgency, that’s when price promotion could do really well.
That’s your job as a marketer. You’ve got to identify and create a different experience for me so that you’re not giving away margin when you don’t have to in an already low…ecommerce is already normalizing and lowering margins as much as it can, and that you’re actually doing something that’s going to impact my probability to buy.
Darren: So once you have someone on your list at the early buying process, how do you know what education they need to move them along the cycle? How do you determine that?
Sam: Sure. So that’s going to be another one of those “it depends” questions.
Darren: But there has to be a process, right? There has to be a process that someone could walk themselves through or think themselves through in order to find where that person is. It definitely depends, but the process of discovering what they need, is the process the same or is that going to be different as well?
Why You Should Replace Your Sales Newsletter with A Nurturing Email
Sam: I see what you’re saying there. So I’ll walk you through like the process of buying something like HubSpot, you’ll talk to a lot of sales reps. And I think of sales and ecommerce as essentially the same thing. You’re still selling to a person, like B2C and B2B, there’s still a human in that B.
But instead of having this nice sales rep who can use human intuition to create this personalized experience, you have to have one sales rep. It’s your shopping cart that has to create that scalable experience. But in software sales, I used to talk about BANT, so Budget, Authority, Need and Timing. And the sales rep would customize their sales and nurturing process to identify whether any of those were disqualifying characteristics, whether that was their motivation, and position the messaging that way.
So if it was authority, what they would actually do is they would change up, if this is not a person who has the authority to make the decision, they would change up their sales process to say, “Here’s how you can sell this to your boss.” And if it was timing, they would reset and get into the sales process when timing came up. That disqualification criteria that sales reps go through is the same qualification criteria you want to go through.
Now, BANT isn’t actually applicable to selling jewelry. Some of it is. Budget is relevant. Need and timing is relevant. Authority isn’t really relevant, like I have the authority to buy. So the question is, is it I haven’t been able to decide? Is it budget? Is it timing? Like I don’t actually have to buy this until Christmas, I have a little bit of time? You want to identify, what’s the hang up? And you can do that by asking, first of all, on the form. “What are your concerns? What’s holding you up from making this decision? How can we help?”
And you can also do that by looking at some of the behaviors. So if they’re visiting lots of product detail pages, I’ll draw that they don’t know what to buy. They’re in a comparison phase of the buying cycle. They’re comparing two things against each other. If they’re visiting an individual product page repeatedly, then it might be price sensitivity, it might be they need to have an accelerated sense of urgency. And if they visit your website and then don’t come back, then it might be timing.
So when I say it depends, it’s you’re going to have to make this decision on your own what are those disqualifying characteristics, and how do you collect that information. But there is some consistency around, if somebody’s in the comparison phase versus the intent phase where they’ve added it to their shopping cart, the intent phase is a very strong signal. That’s where coupons actually do belong…
Darren: Yeah, once they add that thing to their cart, it’s going to be your automated emails, abandoned carts is going to kick them into the sales funnel, correct?
Sam: Right. If I got it into my cart, I’m either doing that to save it to compare it to some other things, which you can tell because I will add other stuff to my cart that’s in the same category. Or if I add it to my cart and then don’t complete the purchase and haven’t added anything else, then you go into the abandoned cart sequence of first support, “Hey, do you need any help completing this purchase?” Then discount like, “Hey, will give you a discount if you buy right now.” And then you can go into community and social proof in trying to convince them to actually complete the purchase and that this is the right thing to do.
Darren: So I got a couple follow-up questions for you now. I guess the first question is, what are some tools that you can use to look at the actual person? I’m looking at Sam, he’s in my system, he clicked on this diamond ring 17 times. Or Sam looked at this 50 different products within the span of a week. What are some tools I can use to figure that out? Obviously Google Analytics sucks for that, so what can you use?
Sam: I’m really trying to find a way to answer that without sounding super self-serving because that is what HubSpot is designed to do. There are other tools that do that, Kissmetrics, for example, has some customer-centric customer record, customer analytics tools. There are a few tools out there, but really what you’re looking for is you want a marketing tool and an analytics tool that is built around a contact.
So there’s a big difference between Google Analytics, which is typically built around a session, it’s built around a visit. It’s really good for webmasters. It’s really good for identifying experience issues. But it doesn’t really give you information about a contact. The contract should be the center of your universe. You want a piece of marketing software that puts the contact at the center of the universe and builds everything else, all the metadata around that.
Darren: Yeah. So how is HubSpot different than Kissmetrics then? Because I look at tools all the time, and I’m a big believer in that you need to choose the right tools. And for what I do, I’ve gone through tools, I’ve tested them, and I’ve switched them out. And tools evolve over time. So how do you evaluate those tools in what you need as an ecommerce site owner?
Sam: Yeah. So first of all, you don’t need to buy a Ferrari to drive to the grocery store. A lot of times, people will overestimate how much they need. So people, they’ll want to do advanced regressive analytics or something like that, and they’ve got 100 sales a month. You’re never going to get your reasonable sample size if you’re making that decision.
So figure out what you need and really be honest with yourself in the scope of what tool you need. Either you need to drive more traffic to your site, in which case content tools, social promotion tools, PPC analytics tools, that sort of stuff is really relevant. If you want to improve your conversion rate, things like Optimizely, Unbounce, and stuff like that might be good things to invest in.
If you want to improve your long-term relationship with the customer, that’s were marketing automation comes in. So you might look at HubSpot, or you might look at integrating with MailChimp’s API or something like that to create a marketing automation relationship. Figure out what the problem is. Don’t necessarily buy, like I said, a Ferrari to go to the grocery store.
Darren: So if we’re talking about just running an effective sales promotion, and it sounds like a lot of it is just automated marketing. You’re not going to send a handcrafted emailed to each person. Is the email marketing, newsletter for ecommerce sales, is that thing dead? Is that whole concept of, “Here are some top sales products,” and here’s the email going out to everyone, is that whole thing dead? Or should it be dead?
Sam: Yeah. So it should be dead. It, for the most part, is dead. There’s a couple of forces at play here. One, again, the email inbox is an incredibly competitive real estate. People are subscribed to lots of list, and email inboxes are getting much better blocking spam. And Google Inbox is likely the death of the crappy promotional emails because it’s gotten to the point now where I just don’t even see those anymore because it doesn’t make it into my inbox.
And then by the time I get around to clearing things that are in my promotional inbox on Google inbox, there’s so much crap in there that the odds of me actually reading your newsletter are pretty slim, unless you have a great, awesome newsletter.
And sales aren’t great and awesome. Very few people, if you take a survey of the things they like to read or the emails they look forward to receiving, are going to say that they’re just really looking forward to the latest sale from X-catalog. Newegg and some of those stores do that a lot. They just blast their whole list all the time, like one giant image with all their sales.
So competitive space in the inbox is one thing. The other thing and the thing that’s not talked about often enough is driving revenue isn’t always the goal. There is such a thing as bad revenue. So there are types of customers that are actually unprofitable. And there’s actually there’s four specific categories, and there’s a good research on this in the Harvard Business Review on specific types of customers to exclude from your the marketing activities.
And really, price-sensitive customers are one of them. If all they’re doing is maximizing price, they’re going to drive down your prices over time, they are not as profitable a cohort, as maybe refocusing your marketing efforts on different cohorts that are less price-sensitive, that need help making decisions. And you’re going to attract what you build the experience for. And if your entire experience is built around being cheap, don’t get me wrong, I ran marketing at CheapHumidors.com, being cheap was our thing, but that’s not as effective anymore. It’s really hard.
If your play is that I’m going to be the cheapest person and have the lowest price, that’s a hard game to win. You better have an economy of scale on the level of Amazon or something, if that’s going to be what you expect to carry you through the next 10 or 15 years.
Darren: So it sounds like you don’t really want to put a lot of pricing in your email and send a lot of promotional emails. So what are the emails you should be sending to not make it about that bottom of the funnel, not make it about the sale? What are some emails as an ecommerce site? What kind of emails can you be sending to prospects in order to help them convert into customers?
Sam: Yeah. So what would be great, and I’ll just keep using my jewelry buying experience, I would love to see a nurturing email. Big difference between a newsletter and a nurturing email. A nurturing email is simple, it’s to the point, and tries to get me to do a thing. A newsletter is just reminding me that they exist and sharing with me the content that they have.
I would love to see a nurturing email right now that’s just like people like me, what jewelry have they bought and what was the reaction of the person they bought it for. That would be super interesting to me. I would love to see maybe an article written by a person who has received the wrong gift. And why was is it wrong? What was the mistake that they made? I would like to see some of that content.
I would actually look forward to receiving that in my email inbox. I would click it. Open it. I would click it. I would go to their website, they would learn more information about me because it’s another touch point, and then they would have an opportunity to sell to me again. It doesn’t always have to be…because that’s really what’s holding me up. It’s not the price. It’s not the timing. It’s not the need. It’s the I need help making a decision on this. And that’s really the help that I need.
And there’s lots of great content that you can do. So there’s aspirational content. If you’re selling consumer electronics, you can show awesome consumer electronic setups, “This great theater room that somebody made and here’s all the technology involved in it.”
And there’s the social proof content. So you can see, other people have bought this stuff and they’ve had this reaction. They’ve had this experience. There’s a lot of different avenues that you can explore, but it should be very clear, very simple, and relevant to where I am in the buying cycle.
Darren: So I know there’s some people listening right now and they’re thinking, “This all sounds great, Sam, but I need to drum up some sales right now.” So how long does this process take to go from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel by using this type of strategy?
Sam: So there’s two things, two comments I want to make. One, there’s a guy named Eric Ries. He’s the author of a book called “The Lean Startup.” Great book. Almost everybody should read it. And he did an Ask Me Anything or an AMA on the Inbound.org website, and I asked him that question.
Because startups have this problem a lot. They just need revenue, and they end up just building custom features for the person who’s going to give them revenue right now. And where is the balance in like, “Okay, this is all great. I’d love to build an awesome experience long-term, but I need revenue right now.”
Darren: Yeah, exactly.
Sam: His answer was, “It’s almost never that bad.” It’s almost always more damaging to the long-term survival of the organization to chase short-term revenue, instead of building for long-term growth. And you can be read more about his thoughts in “The Lean Startup” and things like that in terms of just chasing short-term revenue.
But then the other point, when it comes to the profitability cohorts, like who’s going to actually drive revenue for me long-term and how hard this is you don’t have to build the whole perfect system right now. HubSpot, and I’ll just keep picking on us because I know us very well obviously, we had a blog before we even had a company. Dharmesh and Halligan, we had a blog and they had traffic, and they actually even had contact, which those contacts could be leads, long before we were actually selling anything.
And we’ve gotten better at stuff over time. And there are stuff we still suck at. We use a strategic framework here called “mspot”. And the O stands for omissions. So it’s things that we are intentionally not going to be good at right now. And we know that these are things that are important. On the Inbound.org, a site that is a project that I worked with for example, a CRL, the site…if you go to Inbound.org right now, it’s getting better. If you look in the Wayback Machine for six months ago, it was way worse. But it’s just something that I’m okay with not being good at right now because the problem that we have is we needed to drive more traffic and we needed to drive more growth and membership.
As long as you’re aware that you’re intentionally omitting some things, and you’re improving your machine, and every transaction and every customer engagement helps you improve your machine as you move down the funnel, it’s fine to not do everything right right now.
Darren: So if you’re starting out with getting email marketing added to your mix for ecommerce site, so you should first focus on the transactional-type emails, and then move into these type of emails, to the lead nurturing?
Sam: Yeah. Absolutely right. So you can always plug a funnel from the bottom up. So do abandoned cart nurturing right now. If you’re not doing it, you’re wrong. Go to do it right now. It will work. It’s not even that complicated. There is easy point solution tools. Even if you don’t want to buy a complex marketing automation solution, go to do it right now. There’s no reason not to.
And then you can work your way down the funnel further. So you can do remarketing and reorder emails. That’s relatively simple because these are people who have already bought from you before. And then you can work your way back up and say, “Okay. I’ve got this really well-functioning funnel to turn customers with intent into customers. And then turn existing customers into repeat customer. I’ve got that nice funnel. So I’m going to fill the funnel with more people by expanding, by collecting people early in the research phase, and then nurturing them until they become a contact with intent.” So you’re right, you can start at the bottom of the funnel and work your way up.
Getting Started With Email Automation
Darren: So for email marketing and email automation, if you’re not tech-savvy at all, it sounds like it could be really complicated. I have to set up these rules to this guy who’s clicked on this product page 10 times and then add it to his cart. I have to setup another rule for this guy who saw this product page and that product page. How do you not let that overwhelm you? And how do you make it simple? And how do you launch a campaign and the sales promotion and have it be relevant, timely, and not be overly complicated to implement?
Sam: Yeah. So I have this conversation with people in my team a lot. There’s the attitude that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. You shouldn’t be focused on being the best. We’re not focused on being the best. What you should be focused on is being the best at getting better. Brian Balfour at our company loves to use that phrase. Execute on the things that are easy to do like set abandoned cart nurturing, reorder emails. Relatively straightforward. Go ahead and knock those out. And then just keep working on continually improving the process and improving the funnel.
And while you’re growing the bottom of the funnel and getting really good at nurturing that process, you can be doing some of the stuff that takes a long time to see a result from blogging and SEO this stuff can take three to six months before you actually start to see that hockey stick graph of increased traffic, which will then drive more people into your funnel.
It can be intimidating. And particularly for maybe small businesses and small, medium-sized businesses, the biggest challenge that we hear is, “I don’t have the time,” or “This is too hard.” And the reason that they’re feeling that way is because they listen to this podcast in its entirety, and they hear me use terms like customer-centric, unit economics, and buying cycle optimization, and all other kinds of meaningless jargon, and they get so intimidated that they just don’t do anything at all.
So what I would say is pick up the easy wins. Just focus on getting better over time. Every customer transaction, every customer interaction, just use that to get better, and then you’ll be set up for long-term success.
Darren: All right. I got one last question for you about this. So you haven’t bought the jewelry yet, so what was the last thing you bought online?
Sam: The last thing I bought online was a “Doctor Who” screwdriver for my Halloween costume.
Darren: That’s awesome. So thanks so much for joining us.
If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review on iTunes, or drop me a comment over at selfstartr.com. If you want to learn more about ecommerce, be sure to sign up for our newsletter over on our homepage.
A big thanks to my friends over at Buzzsprout for hosting this show. And a huge thanks to you for listening. This podcast is for you. I’ll see you on the next episode.