How To Use Email Marketing To Boost Customer Lifetime Value for Your Ecommerce Brand

Google Podcast

Tom Kulzer

Tom Kulzer is the CEO and Founder of AWeber, a company he started in 1998 to guide small businesses in fostering more engaging customer relationships and designing effective email marketing. Tom grew the company from zero to 300,000 clients through his unique take on market strategy and team building. Due to his dedication to building a thriving and unique workplace culture, AWeber has been voted one of Pennsylvania’s Best Places to Work 10 years in a row.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Tom Kulzer got AWeber off the ground
  • Strategies for emailing customers about what they want and need
  • Common mistakes ecommerce businesses make in their email campaigns
  • Minor improvements that can make emails viable
  • How to collect subscribers organically
  • Tactics for navigating Canadian email laws and terms of service
  • The key to selling as a B2B company to a B2B company
  • Why to begin email marketing sooner rather than later

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In this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast

Email marketing is an often misused tool. For many people, emails feel stiff and forced and lack helpful information or offer them anything they truly want. How can ecommerce brands use email marketing to engage customers and boost their lifetime value?

AWeber is an agency that helps small businesses connect with their clients and communicate more effectively through emails. Their version of email marketing is far more organic, inviting, and effective than many other simple solutions. The result is a vital marketing tool that will exceed expectations. So what do you need to know to get started?

In this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast, Guillaume Le Tual invites Tom Kulzer, the CEO and Founder of AWeber, to break down the essentials of email marketing for ecommerce businesses. Tom walks through the most common mistakes and the small tweaks that can lead to huge improvements. They also address the terms of service for email platforms, selling to other businesses, and the best ways to collect new subscribers.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

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Episode Transcript

Guillaume: Hello everyone. Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast where I feature leaders in e-commerce and business. Today’s guest is Tom Kulzer from AWeber. It’s an email marketing automation platform, a very famous software out there. I’m very happy to have you here Tom. And the topic for today will be Email Marketing For E-commerce. So before we get started, first, a shout out to who connected us, thank you very much. All right, Tom, thanks for being here today.

Tom: Thanks for having me.

Guillaume: You have a very successful business here. Can you please give us an introduction about your background as an entrepreneur?

Tom: Sure. I started AWeber back in 1998, so it’s been 24 years now since we started it. It’s kind of high level right now. We don’t get into too many specifics but we have several 100,000 customers around the world that are active with us. We send tens of millions of emails every day and billions of emails every month on behalf of all those customers around the world. So we kind of get into the foundational aspects of email, email newsletters, email platform, and we have grown it from the ground up with no VC investments, all bootstrapped 100% along the way.

Guillaume: Congrats on that.

Tom: As you said, some things are easier that way and some things are harder that way. So at the end of the day we get to focus on the three core pillars of our business, the biggest one being our customers and they don’t come at the expense of anything else. So we build a great product, have a lot of happy customers and work on having a really happy team to support both of those things. So it’s really kind of a virtuous circle when you don’t have outside stakeholders that you’re trying to return on investment and all that kind of stuff. It’s a different way of running companies that I think people frequently overlook and minimize.

Guillaume: Well, congratulations on that. I also went my own path but it is a challenging path. Because the early years feel longer than they actually are, because you’re just grinding your way during the first few years to have an exponential growth, and so you’re growing slowly. So VCs can say we’ll help you to skip the zero to 1 million part and then you can start from there and move forward to even a higher number than 1 million. Otherwise you must have external capital just to be able to build your basic prototype that is product market fit.

Tom: That was myself for the first two years. I didn’t hire anybody for two years, I did everything and we had 2500 customers before I hired somebody. Would I do that again? No. That’s where I was at my stage in life and in my general experience. And frankly, the tool sets that were out there to do hiring were not as abundant and easy to use as they are these days. So it’s been an interesting path for sure.

Guillaume: Well, congrats there again. Let’s dive into our main topic here. Email marketing for e-commerce, can you guide us on this topic? Obviously, your company sends billions of emails per month and I’m sure you have some wisdom and golden nuggets to share with us.

Tom: Yeah. It’s a big topic and we could talk for days about it. I think the high level that a lot of merchants specifically don’t do is, just start collecting your customers’ email addresses and write to them about things that matter to them specifically. I can’t tell you the number of e-commerce sites that don’t have any ability to get updates from them other than I bought something from them. I’ll usually get on a customer list then, but then often e-commerce merchants think in terms of revenue, like immediate revenue, so the only things that they send out are buy, buy. You have to constantly be stepping back and look at, what would I as a consumer of this business appreciate receiving an email about? So if I just bought a new set of golf clubs from your online store I don’t necessarily want to buy another set of golf clubs. That’s often the default that you would get from a store that sells golf clubs versus as a customer it would be really great to have education around how to use those golf clubs, is there something I need to do to break them in? Or, are there accessories that go along with that that would be pertinent to my purchase that I just made? Like the golf bag and the covers for my clubs and new grip tape and all the other stuff that go along with it.

Those are great ancillary things to sell to people in the e-commerce world while also sending them education that is helpful to consuming the product that they already bought from you. Those will lead to follow on sales like, ‘Hey, I’ve leveled up my game I want the latest clubs. I’m going to go back to the place that taught me how to get the most out of the clubs that I bought the last time’. So that’s where you can use email as a little bit more of a long play and not burn people out by sending them an email every week of ‘Buy new golf clubs’. So it’s taking that slightly longer game when they think about what they’re doing to really earn that lifetime customer versus a short term customer that you’re going to get up front.

Guillaume: I really like what you’re saying here because it’s building the brand. So you’re building the relationship and you’re building the brand and this is how you can build something that is actually of incredibly high value. It’s better than the short term one which is always, what’s the return on investment of sending this one email blast versus how much I paid a guy to do it, how many sales I have made and whatever. So it’s more of a real asset than a real brand.

Tom: A good example, I’m a customer of a company called Lift and they make eFoils, which is like a hydrofoil thing that you ride on the water. It comes above the water and it’s got an electric motor and it zooms right along. I bought one of those. They’re not cheap, they’re kind of pricey. I’m on their customer email list now and I get emails from them that certainly have content in them about the new models they have. I also get a lot of stuff that is more of their social content. So think of all the cool exotic places that people ride any eFoil at, whether it’s in the tropics somewhere, or up these interesting rivers, or in downtown Miami through the canals and all that kind of stuff. So I get a lot of, ‘Oh, that’d be a cool place to ride my eFoil’, so it’s kind of inspirational. And the sales opportunity aspect is further down in the email. Like, what they’re leading with is the educational stuff of how I become a better rider on the eFoil and all the cool things that I can go and do. So it’s that dream component of it. And then they follow up with bigger batteries or a different foil to make it ride differently.

So there are sales opportunities there but it’s not the primary mechanism of the email, it’s more about keeping me engaged as a customer and looking at them as a thought leader and as someone that’s going to educate me about how to use what I bought from them most effectively. That to me is the essence of e-commerce email. It’s not just about buy, buy, it’s not just about sending discounts via email, it’s not just about your Black Friday emails, or your Cyber Monday emails, there’s more to it. And the tools have evolved drastically over the years and so when somebody buys the golf clubs, or the eFoil or whatever it happens to be, I know from an email marketing platform that I can tag you and say, ‘You bought this specific product’, so when I follow up with you I can send you content that is specifically relevant to the thing that you bought. Or at least categorize them into a certain bucket of like, hey, ‘I’m a clothing store and you bought menswear versus you bought women’s wear’. It gives you an idea that somebody that bought a bikini is probably not interested as highly in like a guy’s swim trunks.

I often use the example of an animal shelter. So if I’ve subscribed to an animal shelter to find what pets have come in that I can adopt and I only ever click on the dogs, send me the emails with the dogs in them. The emails with the cats in them are not relevant to me and I’m not likely to click on them, I’m not likely to stay engaged with them. So the more you can kind of personalize the messages that you’re sending to people the more likely they are to engage and ultimately come back to your store, Animal Shelter, or whatever. They all kind of fit in that same vein.

Guillaume: I agree with you. I’d still give a way to navigate and browse in case the first time was a mystery. I remember once my wife misclicked on some oversized clothes but she’s super slim like 115 pounds, she got all the marketing about being overweight. So still a lot of people will be interested in cats and other animals at the bottom, but I agree with you, send them the right ones. And to your previous comment, which is also very strong, it basically boils down to care about your industry. You care about surfing or eFoil and the water sports and then you have fun and then you care about how to improve the experience. You probably use it yourself, the person sending out the marketing email, and then you want to have a better experience and so next time you want to tweak your ride. It just makes sense. From a marketing point of view, they’re lucky that they have a product that can really be showcased with a great lifestyle. You have all those tropical, exotic and travel destinations. You can also go the angle of, ‘Hey, you have great looking sexy models on with swimming suits’, it depends if they want that end goal or not for their business. There’s a lot of potential in this and it’s a great example you shared there. So are there any best practices or mistakes to avoid that you have in mind?

Tom: Oh, how long do we have? I think that a lot of the things that businesses mess up are the really basic stuff. I’ll often see a ‘subscribe form’ on a website and I can get updates from this business but what am I going to get necessarily? What’s the value for me in giving you my email address there? Similarly along those lines, how often are you going to send something to me? So if I sign up and your form doesn’t tell me you’re going to get a monthly update from us and I just infer that I’m going to get an email from them monthly. But you start sending me an email three times a week, I’m probably going to be a little annoyed at that. And ultimately, annoyance in the inbox equals an unsubscribe, if you’re lucky, or it means they’re going to mark you as spam. And that would be not lucky, that would be bad because that hurts your ability to reach other people’s inboxes over time if too many people do that. So setting expectations upfront around how frequently you’re going to send and what you’re going to send to people can be really important in making sure that you have engaged subscribers that stick around for a long term and unlike what you ultimately end up sending them. So no one likes a bait and switch and the kinds of things that go along with that.

Similarly, there’s a lot of tricks that I see businesses try to pull on their subscribers at the beginning of a subject line to make it look like you’re replying to an email that they sent you. No one falls for that. And yes, you might split test it and you might see a higher open rate, but you just basically tricked your subscribers. They are not idiots. You’ve got to put yourself in the subscriber’s place. Okay, you might have gotten them over once and that might have boosted your open rates temporarily, but in the long run they’re going to come to distrust the emails that you send them and are more likely to unsubscribe or mark you as spam. No one wants to do business with a company that thinks you’re an idiot and is trying to trick you like that. So there’s only so many of those kinds of manipulations that you can play on people before they tune out and move away from you. Those are really some of the key things.

In the e-commerce world there’s a ton of focus on obviously getting to the inbox. I see it particularly with e-commerce merchants trying to reach Gmail, they tend to send messages that are ultimately promotions and they end up going to the promotions tab which many view as the spam folder even though it’s not. It’s very much still the inbox, it’s just the inbox for promotions. And my feedback to merchants that are sending emails that end up in the promotions folder is, don’t send promotions. So if you want your messages to be engaged like a regular newsletter or like a regular email that you would send to somebody, you have to send content that doesn’t get categorized as a promotion. So when you’re sending the ‘Sale, Sale’, or ‘Buy Now, Buy Now’ stuff, to Google’s machine learning algorithms that looks just like a promotion, because it is a promotion and it’s going to go in the promotion’s puller. So an email like the Lift eFoil folks send out whether it’s Instagram content and YouTube videos that are predominantly in the message, those get engaged differently. And those emails as a whole look different than a strictly ‘Buy, Buy’, type of email that you would send out and those show up in the inbox more.

So there’s things that you can do with your content to make sure that you’re showing up in the inbox that you think is appropriate for your content. But at the end of the day your content is going to go wherever your audience thinks it most deserves to go. So if you’re showing up in the spam folder, it’s not Google putting you in the spam folder and making you go to the spam folder, it’s your subscribers that are making you go to the spam folder. And if you want to not be in the spam folder you need to behave differently and engage with your subscribers differently, so that you can go to the inbox. So the things that get you there are, lack of engagement and people marking your messages as spam. Those are all structural things around what you’re doing with your email campaigns to get you there to begin with; its content, its frequency, its, meeting the expectations that you’ve set up front, meeting the promises, not tricking your subscribers. So it’s all interconnected to making sure that you have that kind of cohesive strategy that puts you in the inbox over and over again.

I often get asked like, what should I send in my emails? And I ask, what would you as a customer of your business find most valuable? And what you as the business owner want to send and what your subscribers or customers want to receive are often two very different things. Be able to meet in the center of that, which is where businesses have the most success and look at it as a longer term game.

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Guillaume: Awesome. Well, since we’re looking at mistakes, are there any other mistakes? Or we can even frame it in a funny way, are there other ways to be sure to fail at your email marketing? Like if we can do the reverse to be successful.

Tom: I like that angle. Have you ever gotten an email that says, ‘Do not reply’ at such and such I always equate that to, that business just gave me the middle finger and basically said, ‘Give me money. Don’t talk to me’. That’s not the exchange that you want to have with your subscribers and your customers. Because who wants to do business with a company like that? The retort that I’ll get from businesses often is, we don’t have the bandwidth to answer the questions that our customers have. And I’m like, wait a second.

Guillaume: Those are sales opportunities.

Tom: Yeah, exactly. Those are valuable engagements, somebody replying to your email is exactly what you want. Because one, they’re engaging with your business, two, that’s good for your overall email reputation because it shows Google and Yahoo and Hotmail that people want what it is that you’re sending and want to engage with your business as though it’s a real business. When you put up a big, ‘Do not reply’ address, it’s like, my emails become one way and Google never sees anyone writing back. And what do emails that look like that ultimately get categorized as? Spam. No one wants that in their inbox because you make it hard for people to do business with you. They’re not going to do business with you and they’re going to mark you as spam. So that’s probably the biggest one to me, barring your contact information, not even putting it in your emails that can-spam. US can-spam laws if you’re in the US, or CASL if you’re in Canada, are also important laws to make sure that you’re following appropriate permission structures as well as in the US putting a postal address and so forth in your message. So there’s some basic compliance stuff that if you’re in an email marketing platform like AWeber, we’re going to help you make sure that you’re doing those things automatically. We will try to make sure that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot by doing something really obvious that you need to be doing.

How do I fail email marketing? Sending links that don’t work, before you do that last send just go down through and click on the links and make sure that they go to the places that you think they’re going to go, it’s really easy to type out those. Tools like AWeber have a built in link checker so it’ll look and see if your links throw errors, but still it’s not going to protect you from linking to your homepage instead of the specific product page that you want it to link to, two valid pages but not the destination that you might want the price link to go to for products that you put in your message. Running your content through a spell checker and just making sure you spelled everything correctly, is among the little basic things to do. There’s only so many times you can send that accidental, ‘Oh, I sent you the wrong link’, and we know you didn’t send the wrong link. I can go back and look, it’s the same link, you just think I’m an idiot.

I think treating your subscribers as an expendable number, writing to your subscribers as though they are a huge number, when writing your email; yes, you might be writing to an aggregate 500 or 1000, or 10,000 or 100,000 people all at the same time but they read that separately from one another. I’m in my office, you’re in your office, somebody else might be in their car, someone else might be at the kids school recital, or somebody else might be sitting on the toilet. Emails get read all over the place but you’re writing to one person content that is specific to one person and making sure that there is some value that they’re getting from it or some action steps that you want them to take as a result of reading the email. A lot of emails that folks send out it’s like, ‘Okay, that’s nice’. Why do I care? You launched a new website design, ‘Okay, I don’t care’.

Guillaume: Unless you put in clear benefits on that new website where you can place an order yourself like let’s say in a B2B context and not just a website with a catalog. Now it’s transactional and you have to announce what’s new so that they would care. As I said, a B2B buyer would be like, ‘Oh, that’s going to make my life better now’.

Tom: Exactly. So on the email side, if you’re looking at the collection side of collecting subscribers, so like, if you have a blog and you have the subscribe form on your page, setting those expectations that we talked about, using confirmed opt which many people know as ‘double opt in’ where you’re verifying that a subscriber that came in or an email address that got submitted in your form is actually the person that visited your website and entered their email.

A lot of traffic these days on websites is robots and those robots fill out forms. They fill out with often very real looking information but they’re just robots. And you as a business owner might ask, why do robots fill out my subscriber form? Usually those robots aren’t filling out your subscriber form intentionally, they’re filling it out because they think you’re a blog comment form or something else they might post content online. Other parts of their bot might be submitting to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag or Viagra pills or whatever other spam and junk is going on out there. But when those names and emails get submitted to your subscribe forms, you’ve now as a business owner added an email address to your list. Our mailing email address that didn’t actually belong to that person could be going to Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc, where you send to an invalid address or to somebody else where you’re going to get an undeliverable, meaning it bounces and it’s not deliverable, or it gets you a spam complaint and those things all count against you. So verifying the addresses as they are getting filled out in your subscribe forms is really important.

Sending a welcome email after someone signs up just to make sure that they know what your emails are going to look like. They can recognize that from the address that you’re sending from and the name that you’re sending from. Those are important things to just kind of set that baseline of expectations on what they’re receiving so that they know when to expect the next message from you. Or they can opt out if they don’t want, which is perfectly fine as well. They signed up and realized this is not something they want, they can get rid of that. They don’t have to wait until three or four months later when you finally send them an email for the first time and they go, who’s that again? Why am I getting an email from there? Marked as spam. Because you have about like two seconds for somebody to make that call when they’re going through their inbox and you want to make sure that you’re on the right side of that button and not the wrong side of the button.

E-commerce sites as well are really good for having something on your ‘Thank You’ page. After someone signs up on your site for your email list, there’s often a page that is displayed that say, ‘Thanks for subscribing’, and a lot of site owners just leave that page blank and it’s a bit of a dead end, particularly for e-commerce or even digital marketers, and those sort of folks. Having something for sale on that page is often a big revenue driver. You might go like, ‘Hey, these are the three most popular things that get bought in our store just so that you’re aware of them and this might be relevant to the subscription that you just made’. So having something to buy there can be a key revenue driver for folks. So there’s lots of little tips and tricks that are out there to make sure that you’re doing things right and that you’re going to get to people’s inboxes repeatedly. So a lot of it seems like really common sense simple stuff but it’s also really easy for people to miss if you’re not thinking about it.

Guillaume: Right. And about your broken link comment, the worst is if your ‘unsubscribe’ link does not work. That is terrible. I don’t know how familiar you are with the Canadian CASL Law for anti-spam? At a very high level if you oversimplify it you could say that the US law is more of an opt out system. You send an email and it’s okay to send an email to whoever but you can just click unsubscribe or just say, ‘Don’t contact me again’ and that’s okay. In Canada, you’re supposed to have some kind of consent. So it’s more of an opt-in system where if you’ve given me permission then I can send you an email. But there are all kinds of gray zones. I’ve read that law a dozen times and it is the most confusing, obscure gray zone law I’ve ever read. It’s really not clear.

Tom: A lot of laws are like that. At the end of the day I summarize it as, don’t send spam. Don’t send emails to people that didn’t request them. If you follow that general basic premise you’re probably going to be fine. There’s always age case compliance stuff like, in Can-Spam Act, making sure they have a postal address in there. But that affirmative consent at the end of the day is really important. Send emails that people want to receive, not what you want them to receive but what they want to receive. It’s an important distinction. I can’t tell you how many businesses that are like, I got this list from somewhere and they’re all school teachers and this product that I sell is perfect for school teachers. They all want my emails and they’re all going to want to buy my products, and it’s like, ‘No, they don’t’. You can’t import that list to an email platform like AWeber. You shouldn’t send those emails to those people irregardless because you don’t have their permission. That’s not how you achieve long lasting success in building a business online. It’s a great way to ruin your domain reputation and make sure that your emails don’t go to anyone’s inbox. Those shortcuts are short and don’t last long.

Guillaume: This is a very clear, black and white answer. It is very clear and obvious and it’s totally applicable and in a B2C context. You’re selling merchandise online to the general public and you have no reason to spam people. You would be sending spam if you send unsolicited emails like this without permission. So if I recall correctly, you can send people who did not give you explicit permission emails if they bought from you in the last two years or if they had some contact with your business without buying in the last six months. That would be okay to have implicit consent, unless they give you an explicit consent that never expires, but you need to store it properly. It could either be verbal, over the phone recording or check it box that cannot be pre-checked to give you exclusive content online.

But let’s talk about another more gray zone taste that I’m curious to have your opinion on. Let’s talk about B2B e-commerce stores. They have more complex things like the manufacturers or some fancy technology company or something like that and they have an outreach team. So sure you have your inbound, you have your partnership, but you have outreach as well to try to get your product known. So you’re allowed to do cold calls as much as you want, which nobody really wants anyway, but that’s allowed. Maybe it’s being too picky but if you get in the gray zone of like, a B2B company sending out to another B2B company to let’s say, the marketing director or the buying director an email specifically related to his function to a publicly available email. I have both answers; yes, you can, and yes, you cannot. What’s your first take on this?

Tom: So there’s a nice little euphemism that many businesses have put on top of sending spam these days, it is called cold outreach. To me in my head and how we look at it as an email platform, cold outreach is spam. You’re sending emails to people that didn’t request them. Regardless of where you got their email addresses from, if they didn’t give it to you and they didn’t say I want your emails, it’s spam. And your emails will often go to the spam folder as a result of that. One of the first questions I ask if we have a customer that’s got a clearly legit newsletter going out to people that are subscribed on their blog when they go, ‘My newsletters go into the spam folder’ is, do you have a sales team? You already know exactly where I’m going with this?

Guillaume: Yes.

Tom: Do you have a sales team? ‘Oh, yeah’. Are they doing cold outreach? ‘Oh, yeah’. Okay, what are the email addresses that they’re using to do that?

Guillaume: Yeah, hopefully it’s a second domain name.

Tom: It’s the same domain. And even if it is a second domain, Google’s not stupid, Yahoo’s not stupid, and Hotmail is not stupid. They connect those things together, it’s not hard to do. You get enough data and you can connect that stuff together. So to me it’s not a viable way to build a business. We don’t have an outreach sales team here. It doesn’t mean we never email anyone that we haven’t emailed before but we’re not doing it at any sort of scale. Any sort of outreach we do is one to one, it’s somebody I was talking with on Twitter and I’ll shoot him an email as a follow up to something that we were chatting about there. That’s a whole different thing than systematized salesperson type outreach where you’re sending dozens or hundreds or 1000s of emails every day. There was a thread on Twitter this morning that I commented on for somebody that was like, ‘I built a 500,000 subscriber email list and here’s my secret of how I did it’. By the way the secret was they scraped email addresses off of LinkedIn and Instagram and other places, and emailed 5 million people with their cold outreach targeted campaign. Yeah, you’re a spammer and you built a big list of people that you spammed. That’s not a secret, it’s totally doable. But your emails will go to the spam folder, they might not now but they will absolutely go to the spam folder. So while you feel like you’re a genius right now that’s going to be short-lived. You’ll very soon come calling and be like, ‘Hey, what’s going on with this?’ Like, ‘Why are my emails going to the spam folder? I can’t imagine why that could have possibly happened’. It’s like, ‘Well, yeah, here’s why and don’t do that’.

Guillaume: That’s a clear case of spamming if you have 5 million emails being sent and scraped. You have a very clear position on your interpretation of the CASL thing. But as far as I know, maybe I’m mistaken or not up to date on this, I don’t think there’s been a very clear ruling for those kinds of gray zone cases. People here are sort of advocating and saying that that law was never meant to prevent commerce from happening in the country. Or like, reaching out for jobs of people in public positions, it’s like ultra targeted spam or unsolicited business proposal to a person that it is their function to sort of discuss purchasing.

Tom: I get dozens of spam emails a day, cold outreach emails a day where people clearly have used some sort of tool or otherwise that has looked at my LinkedIn. I can’t tell you how many emails I get that are like, ‘Oh, I went to Penn State too’ because that’s the college I went to and it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s not really relevant to me wanting to look at your solution’. And there’s only so many recruiters, so many IT outsourcing, so many SaaS products that I need to buy that are relevant to me that I want to get emails in my inbox for, and what do I do for every single one of those? Spam, spam, spam. What do their emails do when they proceed to then follow up with me for different times? ‘Oh, you’re a really hard person to reach’ Yeah, cause I marked your spam and you’re going into my spam folder now, so bugger off. I hope the rest of your emails go to the spam folder.

As a business, you, the business owner, think everybody wants your stuff. But you got to wake up no matter how hard and painful it is and how many times somebody needs to smack you across the face, that is not how you grow your business. And it is a short term growth technique that will have long-term ramifications that are negative and really hard to crawl out of. And you will beg and plead and you’ll think that Google and Yahoo and Hotmail are terrible entities and that they’re just trying to crush the little guys. They’re not, they’re doing what their users are telling them to do, and when you send emails like that, they’re going to go to the spam folder. So for me it’s not negotiable.

Guillaume: Yeah, it’s clear cut. You have a quick ruling on the question. Okay, understood. Not everybody sees it like you.

Tom: There’s multiple angles of it too. Because there’s a delta between what the law says and what the terms of service of many platforms say. So like AWeber’s terms of service and every one of our competitors, whether you’re MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, or Constant Contact, or Active Campaign, or ConvertKit, or any number of dozens of other platforms that are out there, they all have terms of service that are far more restrictive around what you’re allowed to send than any law ever is. And they specifically will say, sending unsolicited email is against their terms of service and you will have your account terminated for doing that. That includes, regardless of how targeted you think your message is, you will get terminated.

Guillaume: I agree. If I was running a platform I would 100% actually have that stance.

Tom: And then you go to the cat and mouse game of people going, ‘Well, how are you going to know?’ We’ve been doing this for a really long time and we definitely have ways.

Guillaume: Sure. The opening rate, the bounce rate, the invalid email, it just shows. It’s so easy to spot.

Tom: It’s really obvious when somebody imports a list that they haven’t been mailing before and it is not permission based.

Guillaume: It’s so easy. There’s no doubt about that. Now, are there other platforms that are specialized in cold outreach?

Tom: There’s many platforms that allow you to send spam. So it doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t make it a good thing for your business in the long term.

Guillaume: Okay, we’re very clear on this one. So we’re coming up progressively at the top of the hour. Any last thoughts you want to share here about either best practice things to avoid or anything else about general strategy or something about email marketing?

Tom: I think it’s much like planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was last year or yesterday, but the next best time to plant a tree is today. If you’re not doing any sort of email marketing, build that audience off of social media, your Facebook, your Twitter, your Instagram, they can all go away tomorrow and those audiences are not transferable. And your ability to communicate with your customers is really essential to your business for long-term longevity. So make sure you have an avenue for connecting with them that is warm and isn’t something where you’re going to start from scratch. So if you don’t have an opt in form on your website, put one there today. Whether you use AWeber and our free service that you can get started with up to 500 subscribers, do that. There’re many other platforms that do similar things out there, but just get started. Don’t overanalyze it, just do something because it’s better than nothing.

Guillaume: Let’s piggyback on this then to wrap up. Any additional tips? You can put a form on your website, that’s obvious but do you go with some kind of lead magnet? Perhaps seven mistakes to avoid when doing whatever, if you put your name and email, what else would you do?

Tom: Yeah, your lead magnets are for getting people interested. What’s your extra little kick that you can do there? If you’ve been publishing a blog or publishing on social media, oftentimes, go back through what was your most popular blog post, which one got the most comments? That’s great evergreen content, wrap that up into some little summary email and put that on your opt-in form, you know, ’14 secrets to something’. Have a little bit of a teaser there and that can be the first couple of emails that you send out to people. It’s not that you have to create something new, just look at the stuff you already have in inventory whether it’s that blog post or a tweet that was super popular, that went viral that people learned from, it clearly had value. You can recycle it and reuse it to create value for people that are brand new to your business and didn’t see the thing that you published last month or last year or even 10 years ago. There’s a lot of great content that’s still out there that’s still very relevant that people have that they could send out.

Guillaume: Okay, so you don’t necessarily need a huge case study, white paper, or whatever, write your own book that you’re going to get for free and you put a ton of effort in that. You can keep it as a small giveaway through an email.

Tom: It’s got to be digestible too. Yeah, it’s the quick hits that are often, what’s the most value that you can drive in a short period of time. Just don’t overanalyze. Just do something because even if your offer stinks you still have an offer out there and it is going to collect some audience and you can build from there. But just get started, get that kind of inertia moving. Get some momentum behind it.

Guillaume: Awesome. Well, Tom, thank you very much for being here today. If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way?

Tom: Sure, you come to our website, I’m on all the social channels. You can shoot me an email at [email protected] as well. But come check us out at AWeber and get started for free. We have a freemium offering of up to 500 subscribers where you get pretty much all the features and you can really build from scratch.

Guillaume: Awesome. Thank you, Tom.

Tom: Thank you.

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