All Things Email & SMS

No Spam Pls 🙅‍♂️

Hey Readers!

Eli here, live from the Buda side of Budapest, right next door to the Fisherman’s Bastion, a 19th-century fortress with turreted lookout towers offering panoramic views of the other side of the city, Pest!

Tourists very frequently confuse the two sides, and while doing some research, I’ve learned some tips and tricks to know which side is which.

You are on the Buda Side if:

  • You see the whole city.

  • You can hardly breathe from the number of uphill walks.

  • You woke up feeling relaxed, zen, or completely namaste.

You are on the Pest Side if:

  • You see the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, or hills in the distance.

  • There’s a ton of traffic and chaos around you.

  • You wake up drunk around one of the ruin pubs.

Come for the CX info, stay for the travel hacks, amirite?

While staying in the Castle District might sound like the perfect combination of bougie and blast, turns out traveling with a 1-year-old… can… maybe… be challenging??

This is the sass we’ve been dealing with pretty often, so we are frequenting ice cream shops instead of museums this trip. You win, Noah.

In last week's newsie, I ended with a survey asking y’all what you’d like to hear about next. I got a ton of responses asking to chat about Retention / email & SMS. It’s a topic I am pretty deeply passionate about, so I’m excited to tackle it.

A few little updates before we hop into this week's topic:

1. I know I mentioned I’d share the CX weekly deck I’d create weekly at OLIPOP—here it is: OLIPOP CX deck. I’ll aim to share the JRB one in the upcoming weeks!

2. Cody and I just launched our Down To Chat DTC podcast today! Episode one is with Nik Sharma. Nik chatted with us about buying his first DTC brand, what he looks for in potential hires, and what he never wants to see again in DTC. Would love if y'all can take a listen and let us know your thoughts: Down To Chat Podcast: Apple | Spotify (including video)

3. I know I mention Wonderment often, the sponsor of the newsie, and folks have been asking about a free trial. Ask and ye shall receive: For newsletter readers only, score a 2-week trial with coupon code ELISNEWSLETTER.

Now let’s hop into all things email and SMS.

Let’s split this into 3 parts. 🕺

  1. Channels: What’s What?

  2. The Long Game: Segmentation + Engagement

  3. Practical Tips and Tricks

Okay, now let’s hop right into it.

1. Channels: What’s What?

When we think about Email and SMS, many of us just think of them as different ways to get to customers, but fail to think more deeply into the way these channels are used outside of work and marketing, and how that can impact their effectiveness on consumer’s perception of the brand.

As consumers, email has evolved into a fairly spammy channel—while most of us check it fairly frequently, we expect spam in this channel. We often give brands only a couple of chances to send us something that is at all useful before we report them as spam, unsubscribe, and never want to hear from them again.

In other words, over the last decade, email has turned into the spam that direct mail used to be, where brands like JCPenny and Wayfair can send an email every single day and somehow still not suffer from deliverability issues (I’d imagine?).

This leads us to a pretty simple question I think about quite often: Why do we marketers have this cognitive dissonance around email?

On the one hand, we—as people—hate getting spam in our own inboxes. On the other hand, we—as marketers—not only have no problem spamming customers, but expect to be successful in doing so?

I’ve got answers, as I’m sure you all do as well, and we’ll get to it in a bit. (Hint: it’s a three-letter initialism and has a K, a P, and an I in it).

Now here’s an interesting observation. Next time we hit the end of a month, stay aware of the marketing emails in your inbox, that’s when they generally start spiraling. 🌀

The month starts with educational and value-add emails, but often deteriorates into discounts, aggressive subject lines, and so many more chaotic gRoWtH hAcKs as the month nears the end.

Hint: it also has something to do with KPI’s.

We’ve taken the strongest marketing channel, direct customer engagement, and turned it into cringeworthy, annoying, and desperate sales pitches.

And then SMS entered the picture.

Text, originally a channel used for folks in their private life, to communicate with friends and family, suddenly turned into a marketing channel.

“99% open rates,” sms providers bragged. “It comes directly to your phone,” they said.

Whilst that should sound like the most intimate form of customer communication and should be cherished and valued, this too has spiraled into utter chaos.

Brands went from deep customer engagement and 1:1 messaging to spammy and hacky tactics to win a few extra bucks.

Now, Eli, if it works, why on earth would you recommend against it?

Well, as you might know, everything in marketing that starts out working can eventually, if sufficiently abused, end up with diminishing returns. The few extra bucks now can, over time, turn you into a brand that customers associate with spammy annoyance and thus have no loyalty towards. Put simply, it’ll hurt your brand.

You’re grabbing a few extra bucks now vs creating long-lasting relationships with customers and focusing on LTV.

I know we constantly think that if we don’t remind customers daily to purchase… they might not purchase (!), but let me quickly call out another cognitive dissonance. As a consumer, have you ever purchased a consumable product you absolutely adored and forgot to repurchase it when you finished it?

Or perhaps the product has not quite yet fit into your lifestyle or you don’t feel any strong brand connection that pushes you to choose this product over the one that is half the price right next to it on the shelf.

Focusing on brand is a long-term pursuit of providing value to customers at every possible touchpoint, and spammy subject lines do not, over the long term, substitute for doing the work of providing value.

Both email and SMS are ways to get in touch with customers, but if you’re saying the same thing on two different channels at the same time, you’re not a marketer, you’re just a proud user of Ryan Howard’s WUPHF app.

When sending emails, focus on creating value for the consumer, as well as taking them on a journey through your brand’s story and mission. Flows are the guiding signs, campaigns are the messages you send them on a day-to-day basis.

SMS, on the other hand, is the most intimate form of communication brands have in their arsenal. Only the most loyal customers are generally signing up for text, and it only takes one annoying message for them to jump ship.

It’s a channel where you can bring your closest customers even closer and chat with them like family. 🚩

It’s a place where you can make them feel special by offering experiences/value that they cannot find on any other channel.

Here are some of my guiding principles for SMS:

  • No spam pls 📪

  • Use sparingly and with intention 📲

  • It’s a conversation, not a billboard 🥸

  • Deliver value, don’t sell sell sell 💁

  • No need to always include a link, a great brand message can sometimes do the work 💰

At OLIPOP, we’d do thousands in revenue from texts asking customers how they’ve been doing, such as this one with Anne!

Bottom line: focus on sending the right message through the right channel, and keep in mind there are customers subscribed to both channels (plus your instagram), so—one last time—don’t spam!

2. The Long Game: Segmentation + Engagement:

As a consumer, there’s nothing more infuriating than getting a message you know was not intended for you. For example, imagine purchasing a product and getting a sales email pushing said product to you just hours after.

What if I told you that ~95% of brands make this mistake by not segmenting?

The goal of segmentation is simple: get the right message to the right person at the right time.

When you can achieve that, you win on two fronts:

1. Customers feel like you are talking to them.2. You’ll have an engaged customer base.

Let me give you an example of how this plays out:

At Jones Road, most of our customers go through our OctaneAI quiz. We get a clearer idea of their skin and what kinds of products they are interested in, and they get personalized recommendations. (More generally, we see wildly higher LTV and AOV on quiz-takers vs non-quiz-takers, but that’s for another newsie.)

With a customer’s quiz info, we can now customize their email welcome flow journey to highlight the products we assume they would be most excited about before cross-selling, etc. so they feel like we are talking directly to them.

Additionally, we can customize broader brand messaging based on quiz info: When we run campaigns for our Mascara coming back in stock, we can customize messaging for folks already interested in Mascara vs. those we think would be a harder sell.

The goal of an engaged marketing department is to decrease quantity of messages while increasing the quality of messages. Get the value without the spam. The more data you have on your customer, the easier it is to do that, but you need to put in the effort.

Another genius idea from Joanne has been to exclude customers that gave us 1 / 2 star reviews on specific products from campaigns pushing said products. Another great example of how segmentation can create an elevated customer experience on the communication side of things is by avoiding harassing customers about products they have already told you they don’t like.

If you are to take one simple point from this segment of the newsie, it should be this: Be more intentional with not just the message, but who the message is going to. It’ll do wonders for your brand.

3. Practical Tips and Tricks:

Some wildly outrageous things I hear from “email marketers” very often:

“Sending lots of emails is totally fine. If customers unsubscribe, it means they were never a fit for your list to begin with.”

“Trim down your list by sending lots of emails to non-engaged customers until they either unsubscribe or start opening emails again.”

What I find problematic here is not just the technique, but rather the entire outlook on customer communication.

As crazy as this might sound, customers are like you and I. If it’s something we’d hate, they probably hate it as well.

I get it, Mike—sending 9 messages over 3 days for your Black Friday sale “did numbers,” but what if I told you that you took customer LTV and just front-loaded it all by aggressively “fomo’ing” everyone to stock up like they are about to head into the Great Depression?

What if I told you that just because a customer ordered 10 cases of OLIPOP, it does not necessarily mean they will drink 10 cases of OLIPOP in one sitting and just means they won’t be purchasing for the next few months?

Instead of focusing on email revenue today and looking at everything super linearly, it makes sense to think about consumer behavior and LTV. If you are really feeling ambitious, think about LTV and brand affinity and the ability of a superfan to bring other folks into your brand…

Now for some real tactical tips:

Welcome flow: instead of lecturing customers on your brand values which they often might not care about, focus on selling the value to them.

Why was your brand created? If you can distill the value of your mission to the consumer in 2-4 bullet points, what would it be?

Focus on your hero product if you don’t have zero-party data that they are looking for something in particular. Add some social proof with some press quotes or UGC, and maybe even a “satisfaction guaranteed” banner if you will actually stand behind it.

 Abandoned cart: A customer added your product to their cart but didn’t yet purchase it, why would that happen? Generally, there is an objection. It can be as simple as your shipping fee, or something more complex (like not knowing their shade at JRB).

Tackle and address potential objections, add some social proof, and most of all, call out free shipping if they’ve hit your threshold!

Post-Purchase: IMHO, the biggest mistake brands make on post-purchase is trying to squeeze more cash out of the customer’s open wallet.

Here’s this. Buyer’s remorse happens with every purchase. What makes it even worse online vs in-store is the lack of instant gratification. You can pop open your $3 can of soda right outside of Whole Foods but need to wait a week for your $36 12-pack to arrive when you order online. If you know there’s a solid chance for buyer’s remorse, why would you continue upselling and cross-selling? Sounds counter-intuitive, no?

Instead, focus on re-selling the values and creating hype that keeps up until the product arrives. If that’s the only thing your post-purchase flow does, consider it a win.

That’s all for this week. 🤗

If you made it until here, I have a quick favor to ask of you: Please share this newsie with one friend in the CPG marketing space. It would mean the world to me. ❤️

And lastly, what would you like to learn about next week?

A: How to attract great CX talent B: What to look for in choosing who to hireC: Leading CX teamsD: Something elseSee ya next week,Eli