Interns Ask Us Questions About Growing a List

Reading Time: 15 Minutes Clueless Email Marketer?!

We made our interns listen to the first nine episodes on growing a list and then told them to ask us any questions that came up. After all, they’re the resident Clueless Email Marketers in our office.

00:22 Andy Shore: Hey, everybody, welcome back to Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. We have a special episode for you today. We have our interns here with Daniel and I, and since they are the clueless email marketers in our office, our resident clueless email marketers, we figured we’d force them to listen to the first nine episodes and then see how Daniel and I did, if we covered anything, if it raised more questions with you guys, or if we’re geniuses and our job is done, but we know we’re not, so we expect you guys to have questions. You can say “hi” and introduce yourselves, if you guys like.

01:00 Zach Morita: Hey, how’s it going? I’m Zach, thanks for having me.

[chuckle]

01:03 Milena Saradinova: And… Oh, my God. [laughter] Hi, I’m Milena.

01:07 AS: Milena is nervous, and she’ll be fine. [laughter] Daniel and I were more worried she is gonna ask us too hard of questions.

01:16 Daniel Miller: Yeah, we were very worried about that.

[overlapping conversation]

[laughter]

01:22 AS: So, how did we do? What’d you guys think of the first nine episodes?

01:25 ZM: I thought they were pretty good, very informative. You guys really broke it up into easy to understand parts.

01:30 MS: Yeah. It was easy even for us to understand, how to build our lists if we were starting fresh.

01:38 AS: You guys don’t have to say that, you’ll get your college credits.

[laughter]

01:43 DM: Was there something in there that you had no idea that existed and you’re like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool. I had no idea I could do that”?

01:52 ZM: I’m not too sure about that, but I like the strategies that you guys talked about. I would have never thought of print ads or anything, ’cause these days everything is digital.

02:00 DM: Millennials.

02:02 ZM: Yeah, exactly, right?

02:04 AS: They’re younger than millennials. We’re the millennials.

[overlapping conversation]

[laughter]

02:11 DM: So, what’s your first question? Hit us.

02:13 ZM: You guys talked about a lot of things that are happening in present time. Do you guys foresee any future trends happening under new technologies, or just new things you can do with emails, other things you can add to them?

02:25 DM: There was a certain… There was this app, I think it was called Bump. And what it was is… The whole thing of cards is kind of in the past. I have business cards, but I got a feeling when I give that to someone, they throw it away 10 seconds afterwards. The people that really care, they’ll take a picture of it. There’s an app, I think it was Bump. I think when the iPhone 3GS was out, or something like that, it allowed two people with the iPhone to bump them and it would automatically share their contact details.

02:54 AS: Yeah, I remember that.

02:55 DM: So, I’m hoping for more of that to evolve in some way, for app developers and the phone companies to try to figure out a way to sync it, because only iPhone users could do that. If it was Android, there was a lot of conflict that would barely ever work. Technologies like QR code and apps like Bump, I’m hoping for those to evolve more as business cards become more and more obsolete.

03:19 ZM: Yeah, it’s crazy.

03:20 AS: Yeah, I don’t know what I… Maybe something with voice, in terms of growing your list, ’cause voice search is continuing to grow and people are having to optimize their websites to have phrases like people would talk, that there might be something in the voice space, like an app to grow your list or something with how that integrates to make it easier though. I don’t know how Siri understands me half the time, and she doesn’t the other half. But I think that’s a possibility, if I’m just guessing.

[laughter]

03:52 ZM: No, absolutely. I’m like, I can’t tell the future, but, yeah, that’d be interesting to see.

03:56 DM: Milena, do you have any questions?

03:58 MS: You guys have a lot of good tips on how to grow your list, but let’s say someone has tried them all and nothing really worked for them. What advice do you have for them, and… I don’t know, if they’re feeling discouraged about it, do you have any words of encouragement and what do you guys do?

04:15 AS: Shut down shop. [laughter] I think you have to look at yourself at that point and realize that, are you going after your core customer? Because if no one’s signing up, no one’s joining your list, you might not be going after the right customers, because what you’re offering, they’re not interested in, and you might not be offering either a good enough incentive or good enough content. It could be that your sign-up form doesn’t tell them the amazing things they could get, or offer a free e-book or something or other for signing up, or once they get the newsletters, they don’t like what they’re getting, and so they’re unsubscribing and your list isn’t gonna grow. But I think there are very specific reasons that’s happening. I don’t think anyone who’s doing the right things and the right strategies in the right places is gonna find that happen. But if you are, I think you really gotta look inward at that point.

05:06 DM: Yeah. I think what Andy is saying is absolutely right. It’s really easy to bring people to your site, really, really easy. To bring the right people to your site is the complicated part. And just to give you a personal example with Benchmark Email, our traffic spiked, but signups didn’t really go up. And we’re curious, “What the heck is going on?” And when we looked at Google Analytics and we saw where this traffic was coming from, an FAQ that we had, which was how to export your contacts from Hotmail, was driving, I think it was like, 50% of all of our traffic overnight. It just started growing like crazy. When we looked into this, Hotmail had been sold to Microsoft and was shutting down Hotmail, and everyone was trying to look for how to export their contacts. So, our FAQ was rising like crazy ’cause it was a really well-explained, step-by-step process on how to do that, but, of course, none of these people will… Not none of them, but the majority were just looking to export their contacts. They weren’t looking to sign up for the email software.

06:07 DM: So, our traffic spiked, but our number of signups didn’t spike. If somebody is trying to grow their list, and they see that they tried all of these tips that we’ve given and nothing’s working, are they writing the right message? Like what you’re saying, are they… On that signup form, is it informative enough to what they’re signing up for? Could it be better explained? Could there be more of a history behind that? There’s a ton of different things that I would look into to fix that. But, yeah, I think it would be more on the message getting across and connecting with the core customer than the strategy itself.

06:41 MS: So, what has worked best for you guys to finding your core customer and engaging with them?

06:47 DM: Oh, that’s funny that you say that. It’s actually… We tried doing… We were following this book called “Inside Advantage” to really try to identify who our core customer is. We got a lot of the company involved in really trying to figure this out, from our sales and support reps, all the way to the top to our CEO. And we had a core customer in mind, which we thought was a really good fit. And just recently, actually, we went back and we’ve updated that a little bit slightly to adjust more to who are core customers. And, I’m sorry, but what was the question again? [laughter] I was rambling off.

07:26 AS: What’s worked for us to grow the list.

07:29 MS: And engage with the right customer, not just with any… As you were saying, not everyone is important…

07:34 DM: That’s great. Okay, that it is. What’s worked for us to grow our list specifically for core customers, really understanding who it is that uses our service, and understanding what they use of our service, meaning there’s email marketers that are gonna go in, and unless you have a very powerful marketing automation tool, they’re not even gonna take a look at your service. We noticed that we were getting a lot of people sending out simple newsletters, just keeping a constant communication with the subscribers on a regular basis, but nothing really too complicated. So, we made sure to adjust our language on our site to adapt to those people, meaning we would avoid, in a way, using the word “automation,” ’cause our core customer, they would be scared off by that word. But maybe later on after they’ve been using our product for some time, we would then maybe introduce this as something new to them, and start very, very simple and say, “Hey, try this welcome email strategy,” and so forth. So, really the biggest thing, I think, that we’ve done is change our language to really adapt to what our core customer is looking for.

08:39 AS: Yeah. And another thing I’d say is that one thing that I found incredibly valuable in understanding our customers is getting out from behind a computer and talking to people face-to-face. If you’re strictly in the e-commerce space or you’re a SAS product, digital marketing, all that stuff, there’s really no need, in theory, for you to ever talk to somebody face-to-face. It’s all on the phone, email, chat, whatever that might be. But Daniel and I started going to events and working the booth for Benchmark and getting to talk to actual business owners and walking them through the process, and time and again having them say, “Well, I don’t need email marketing,” but then being able to talk to them about their business and give them two, three different tips, things they could do with email marketing and see those moments where the light bulb turned on, there’s really no replacing that.

09:27 AS: So, finding those opportunities to really look your customer in the eye and talk to them and get to know them and their needs and how they wanna use your tools, not how you want them to use your tools, that was huge for us. I’m the copywriter for the company and I’m running all our content, so it’s made me better at that job in delivering more valuable, relevant content, just by talking to them face-to-face, and getting to understand that, I think that’s helped grow our list as well.

09:56 MS: I guess the main takeaway from this is that know your customer and figure out the best language to really reach them, would be another tip to add.

10:05 AS: Totally.

10:06 DM: Exactly. Back in the day, let’s just say 10 years ago, or 20, it was as easy as just creating an ad that showcases how you solve a problem. That’s it. As long as you had a product that solved a problem, people would buy it. Now, there are so many competitors, and no matter what industry you’re in, competitors come up overnight. People are really looking for products and services that speak their same language. I think there’s over 100 email marketing platforms out there. Benchmark Email doesn’t attract everybody. We attract somebody that when they come to our site, they went, “Oh, this company gets me. They understand my problem. And not only that, they’ve created tools and support to help me solve this problem in the way that I understand it.” Versus, if they go to a competitor, they may say, “Oh, this is too confusing,” or, “It’s too fast for me,” or, “It’s too slow,” whatever that is.

11:00 ZM: Yeah. So, you guys try to keep it simple with your guys’ interface and everything, it seems to work out?

11:05 DM: Exactly, yeah. We tend to think that our core customer is a time shaft owner or manager, that really they’re juggling a few things, their social media, their PPC ads, their landing pages, and email marketing is just one of those things. So, we know that time is super important. They don’t have hours and hours to spend there, so we wanna make sure that our workflow and our process is as simple as it can be, so someone can go in and out in less than 15 minutes.

11:34 AS: Yeah, a few years ago, we made coffee mugs. The design was like a barometer, and as soon as you were two or three sips in from the coffee, you were done with your email and you can move on with your day and do everything else you had to do. It was just like, you don’t need to worry about spending all your time here. We know that both marketers and business owners have to wear a lot of hats these days, even just the marketing space, every aspect of it, but some business owners don’t get to be just marketing. They’re marketing and sales and support, and everything else, so to be able to do it quickly and effectively is really important.

12:10 MS: You didn’t go into… When you have your list, what do you do? How do you keep that engagement? How do you get people to open your emails? How do you get them engaged with your content, and let’s say you’re sending all these emails, but you don’t get any response?

12:26 AS: Sure. It starts with the open rate. If they’re not opening your emails, maybe your “from name” isn’t familiar to them, maybe you’re using a person in the company instead of your brand name, and they might not know it’s you sending the emails, and that might be an issue, or your subject line isn’t very good or not interesting or enticing enough to get them to open the email, or you didn’t use the preview text that gets a little extra shot in there, trying to grab their attention and beam that teaser that gets the email opened. And then once it’s opened, if they’re not clicking through to your website, then it’s a content issue. And it’s just trying to pay attention to your reports and identify which level of the problem you’re facing and working from the top down to improve each one to where the whole funnel is working.

13:14 DM: Yeah. And for this first section that we have for the Clues for the Clueless, we were really focusing on list building first. What you’re talking about, list engagement, is gonna be part of our next series that we’re gonna talk into how to build email properly to get the most opens, engagement rate, click-through rate. And revenue, as well, I think, is something that we’ll definitely tap into. But I do agree with what Andy is saying. One thing to really keep in mind, separate… I’m kinda getting ahead of our self now since we’re gonna be covering this next week, but as a preview, as a snippet here for us, when you’re looking at your email performance, people tend to do what Andy just said now. If you see a problem with your open rate, just play with the subject line and your “from name” and the preview name, let’s say. That’s technically true, but at the same time, similar to the traffic, it is very easy to get opens. If I say in my email “$300 gift card to Amazon,” I may get a lot of opens. But then if the content has nothing to do with that, I’m really shooting myself in the foot, I’m creating a bad taste in the mouth for my subscriber, and I’m creating a sense of distrust. They’re not gonna trust me anymore.

14:26 DM: So what’s important is look at those step-by-step, the open, the click, on the email, how long they stay on the email, did they click to get to your site, to get an overall sense, but always keep in mind what is the message that you’re trying to send. Maybe the open rate that you have for the message you’re sending is through the roof, because not all of your subscribers are technically interested in that. And instead of trying to say, “My strategy sucks,” maybe try to go back and say, “How can I further segment this to make the messages more relevant to each of the buckets or each of the type of people that I may have on my list?” Again, we’ll get into that in the next series.

15:01 AS: Just to add to what Daniel was saying about opens are easy to get, you’ll also have the neurotic subscribers like me who are just like can’t handle having push notifications on their phones, so I’ll open and X out of an email immediately just so it’s not… The push notification isn’t there anymore. And so that open has no value either. But I wanna ask you guys a couple of questions, as long as you’re here. I thought about doing it before, but we’re not throwing you any curve balls. It’s about growing your list. What are some newsletters or email lists you guys subscribed for recently or have you ever subscribed for an email list?

15:38 ZM: Me, personally, I do. Sometimes when I shop, like clothing companies, or something, something that catches my eyes, like “20% off now,” or things like that, something that’s in it for me.

15:48 MS: I do like those retail ones too, like when you sign up for their newsletter, you get some percentage off of your next purchase or something like that. And I also am interested in marketing, so I do subscribe to the Ad Age newsletter, and I really like it. They give you the quick updates for this week, and I really like that. I’ve subscribed to a lot of emails and newsletters, and I’m really upset about it. I get at least 50 emails a day, and I hated it. That’s why when I think about email marketing, I’m like, “How do you even stand out? I don’t open most of these.” I get 50 of those every day. So, it’s not even about… Even if you’re subject line is cool, I’m not going to open it just because I get so many. So, when you guys were talking about how sure you are about the future of email marketing, I was thinking, how can you guys be so sure when our future generation gets so many emails a day and doesn’t even open one of them?

16:46 AS: Sure. We actually had the Heart of Business a month or two ago, interviewed Chad White, who wrote the Email Marketing Rules, and we asked him a similar question, “Are email marketers shooting themselves in the foot by sending too many emails? Are people fatigued by crowded inboxes.” And he pointed out to us readily so, and you even say it yourself, you’re in marketing and so you subscribe to newsletters and now you get a lot, but that isn’t necessarily the average user. And people who maybe do a little bit of online shopping, but not all of it… And even if they are un-subscribing, people are used to the noise in the inbox, and Gmail has the tabs and everything to sort it that I don’t think people are tuned out to this point and, the stats don’t necessarily show it in terms of what the open rates are, that I think the general average consumer will still be opening emails and being able to interact with that.

17:43 DM: Yeah. No, I agree with that. And that enforces more what I was saying earlier about really focusing not on all of your subscribers, because I think that’s really something that, in a way, is unrealistic, but really focus on who your core customer is. And inside of that, there’s another shell inside of that, which is, who’s ready to buy now or who’s ready to engage right now. I subscribe to LivingSocial, and all those type of things. They send me an email daily, sometimes two or even three times per day, depending on the season. I don’t open or buy from every single one of them, but I’ll tell you what, if I have some PTO that I wanna take off and there’s an email that pops up at the right time with a trip to Yosemite at 300 bucks for a whole week, I’m taking that. And if you think about that purchase of $300, that almost pays for the email marketing, for me specifically, for them to send it to me for years to come. So, that’s how that balances out, I see.

18:41 AS: Yeah. Every podcast, audience won’t be treated to the skeptical look we got from Milena, that response.

18:46 MS: I’m just curious, because…

[laughter]

18:48 DM: If we can convince her, email marketing has the feature.

18:52 MS: I mean, you guys are just so sure about it. And you even talk about how maybe Facebook will become… Will be gone in a couple of years or something like that, but you sound so sure that email marketing is here to stay. But maybe in the past, people thought that mailing things to people, like flyers and stuff like that, was going to stay with us forever. And it still is happening, but what is the return on investment on that now? I have so much junk mail at home that I don’t even go through right now. So, do you guys fear that one day email marketing will become obsolete?

19:28 AS: I don’t know. The answer is no, but I’m gonna steal Daniel’s answers with all of this and what I respond to, but communication, in some form, is always gonna be there. Like Daniel said millions of times, there was writing on the walls and caves thousands of years ago, and that’s how they communicated with people. “Here’s what I ate for lunch today,” painted on the wall of a cave instead of on your Instagram. And so that communication is there, in some form or another. Even if it’s not email marketing, the ideas of how you communicate with people and engage with your audience to sell to them and to solve problems for them and provide them with value is gonna be there, even if it’s not email marketing, per se. And I think the company and the space will evolve with that in the natural way and in ways that it’s not something I worry about because, like you said, junk mail, it’s still communicating to your audience. It’s just [20:25] ____ do it might change, but even all the new ones, social media, all that ties back into email. You can’t sign up for it without an email address, you get notifications in your email. It’s all still pretty email-based.

20:38 DM: When it comes down to email marketing, I think when it comes down to the channels, how many channels I use to communicate with friends, family, co-workers. To name a few, Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, ’cause I’m talking about the Facebook wall versus Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Instagram direct messages, Twitter, Twitter direct messages, LinkedIn, LinkedIn, and these are people…

21:00 AS: Snapchat.

21:00 DM: Snapchat, Face2Face, and these are people that I can just choose one channel and communicate on it. But depending on the type of message, I wanna send it through a different channel. Right? If I wanna do a goofy face for a situation, I may use Snapchat. If it’s more serious, I don’t know, type of communication, I may use a different form that… If it’s more personal, I may do something like WhatsApp or regular text messaging. Again, depending on the channel of communication… I’m sorry. Depending on what I wanna say, I’m gonna choose that channel.

21:31 DM: And one thing that I wanna be very clear, I don’t think anybody should just do email marketing. If you’re just doing email marketing, you’re losing out. That’s just the bottom line. Same thing as if you’re just doing Facebook, you’re probably losing out as well, because not everybody likes to receive communications through the same channel. Just how I like to send a message based on what the message is for a specific channel, people also like to receive specific things through certain channels as well. If I send the exact same email on Facebook versus their email, it’s gonna get a totally different response. I think that’s why every brand needs to identify what does email mean to them, what is the voice and the type of message that they wanna send through that channel, and how does that correlate with all of the other channels and messages that they’re sending out? Don’t duplicate it, don’t overlap it too much, but you want that consistency surrounding of your subscriber and fans.

22:26 AS: Yeah. Do you have any more hard-hitting questions?

[overlapping conversation]

22:29 AS: I’m not giving you any more opportunity to ask questions. [chuckle] Thanks, everyone, for listening to this very special episode of Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. And we’ll catch you next time. Bye, guys. You guys wanna say goodbye to our audience?

22:43 MS: Bye.

22:43 ZM: Yeah. Bye.

[laughter]

22:45 DM: So enthusiastic. They’re so happy to be here. Thanks, everybody.

22:50 MS: But it was fun.

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