Originally shared on The First Click blog here.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So if you've listened to this podcast for any period of time, then you know that email marketing is a must on my digital marketing list. But sometimes it feels a little bit like you're sending out all these emails and nobody's reading them. Or if they are, they're not following up, or they're not clicking or they're not engaging. So what are you doing it all for? Well, I'm here to tell you that sometimes people are lingering and loitering in the background, and you never know what's going to be the thing that gets them to pull the trigger. But we also know that we need some results from our email a little bit more quickly. So that's why I'm excited to have Kyle Stout on today's episode of the digital marketing therapy podcast. We're talking about all things email content, what you're putting in there, how you're getting more people to engage, how you're getting people to follow up with you and how you can send those emails a little bit more thoughtfully, so that the right people are getting the right message when they need it. Kyle Stout is the founder of elevate and scale, a leading digital marketing agency that helps seven figure product based entrepreneurs elevate their brand and scale their growth. Pilots and authority on how leveraging email marketing can vastly increase revenue by improving customer retention, increasing average order value, and driving repeat purchases. Kyle started his career in digital marketing back in 2013, as a freelance copywriter, where he honed his skills in brand storytelling and email marketing. Once he had developed a set of frameworks that work consistently across different niches, he started Elevate and Scale in 2019, specializing in email marketing for E commerce businesses. Now before you think you're not ecommerce, remember that you are. If you're selling registrations or ticket sales, if you are putting donations on your website, that is an E-commerce business in one sense of the term. Kyle is a husband and proud girl dad living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When he's not working, he enjoys working out, staying active outdoors, hosting family cookouts and traveling. I really like his take on just all of the ways to kind of think about what we're doing with email and ways to get better results from it, and how to generate that content. And I think that you will, too, because you're probably doing a lot of these things already. And maybe you just need to layer on one or two new ideas that he shares. Before we get into this episode, it is brought to you by our digital marketing therapy sessions. If you just need 30 minutes to work with me to kind of hammer out something, have me review your emails, take a look at what you're doing, give you some strategies for how to move forward. It's exactly what these sessions are for. You can book them now at thefirstclick.net/office hours. But I hope that you'll join me and let's tackle this email together. Again, that's thefirstclick.net/office hours. Let's get into the episode.
[INTRO] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, please welcome Kyle Stout to the podcast. Kyle, thanks for joining us.
[Kyle Stout] Thank you for having me.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So in the world of digital marketing, there's so many different tactics. So why email marketing? Why is that something you think should be in our repertoire?
[Kyle Stout] Email marketing is one of those things that, you know, it's kind of fallen out of favor, it seems like it doesn't get as much attention over time. But it's one of those things, it just continues to work. It's time tested, it's proven. We can get into this a little more. But it's also a sales channel where you can really own your list and own your platform, which is something you don't get with a lot of other sales channels.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That point that you made right there is critical because I agree with you. The algorithms change all the time. But at least the people on your email list, you know who they are.
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, algorithms change. Whether it's, you know, SEO and dealing with Google, whether it's dealing with social media platforms. Things can be going great, and you never think that you're going to be affected because maybe you know, you don't think your accounts gonna get banned. Because maybe you're not posting anything controversial. But it doesn't, you don't really consider that some slight change to the algorithm could just fall out of favor with your content. And all of a sudden, you're not showing up to people who are even following you.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, no, that's so true. So when it comes to email marketing, I think the biggest complaint that I get is, well, people don't respond to my emails, or I know they're opening but like nobody says anything. So kind of how would you combat that? Like, do you think people are still reading it? Do you think they're still engaging? Like, what kind of mindset do people have around how people are engaging with their email?
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, so responses are great. And it's definitely a really high value engagement metric. So with gmail and hotmail and all the inboxes, they're going to decide whether you end up in the promotions tab or the inbox or spam based on the engagement that they see from their clients or customers responding to your emails and replies are very high. So you do want to get replies. But I would say it's not as big of a deal as people might think. At first, I would look at open rates, then click rates, then conversions on whatever the thing is. So if the email is an offer, to buy a product or service or to make a donation, whatever it is, look at those conversions. Because ultimately, a lot of people, they are very interested and they're going to convert and buy. And they just don't care to talk about it with you. They you know, they got enough information and they go through. But that said, it is a sign of good quality content whenever you're getting unsolicited replies from people. And it's also something where if you want to get replies, there are things you can do to sort of manufacture that.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, so let's talk about this. Let's talk about because today, we want to talk about the content that's inside your email and how it can create more engagement and more interaction. So what are some best practices that you've seen in that you work with your clients on as far as how to kind of elicit some of those responses?
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, so if, okay, if we've decided, you know, we really want to get some feedback, a lot of times it's going to be you want to get some feedback that you can then use for marketing, or sales or product development, or whatever it is. What I would say what works best most consistently is to do a text based email from the founder, or from someone who has a key position or someone who's a known personality within the company. And you use storytelling, and then you end with an open ended question. So it could be that, you know, maybe it's like there's a milestone where you've reached, maybe you've been in business for a certain amount of years, or you've hit some sort of milestone of a certain amount of customers. Or maybe it's a donation milestone, if you're a nonprofit, that could be a good opportunity to tell us where the founder comes in, tells the story, because a lot of people are new, they don't know the whole history of the company tells the story of how they started the business, why they started it, that's really important. Share some of those key moments along the way. And then end with some sort of open ended question asking for, it can be asking for feedback, it can be asking for honestly, anything. But it's better to go open ended than yes or no, just because you'll get people responding in using their own words. And whenever they give you their own language as far as how they describe something, that's really great marketing copy that you can then take and use in future emails by just literally saying, like they just gave you, they gave you the answers, you know, to their brain. So you can just go use that. And it ends up being really relatable to other people in your audience.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, I think this goes back to something we talked about a lot on this podcast where like, it's you have to ask for what you want. If we just send out content. And we say, Well, nobody's responding if you don't give them a prompt, same in social media, right? People need to be led to the next step. So putting that open ended question at the bottom of the email, leads them to the next step. And if they're reading your whole email, then they're probably really engaged with what it is that you're talking about, anyway.
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, even if you're not trying to manufacture it, you can do, or say you're not, like, say you don't necessarily want to get a whole bunch of responses. That's not the goal of this particular email. Things you can do to just get more responses that are more unsolicited would be to, telling stories is great, but being opinionated, sharing your opinions about something, taking a stance on something, and again, it doesn't have to be super controversial. I mean, that's, that, to me is the perfect opportunity. If you're a nonprofit, and you're passionate and fighting for your cause. You're going to get an emotional response from people and a lot of times a good sign that your content is eliciting emotions and that you have, you know, strong copy strong content, is if you're getting positive and negative responses because not everyone's going to love it. You're going to end up triggering emotions in people where they disagree with you. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. As long as it's not 100% negative then you might want to relook at it. But in general if you're getting kind of a balance of positive and negative responses. A lot of times people will freak out about the negative responses. But that's a good thing because you're having a real conversation. And that's really what email was originally about was just actually, you know, humans communicating.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I'm so glad you said that. Because as long as you're in line with the goals and the message behind your organization, I think the negative feedback is almost better than the positive, like the positive is probably already people that are giving to your organization or volunteering are willing to talk to their friends and family and refer you to them. But the negative feedback opens the door for you to be able to educate and kind of talk deeper about what it is that your organization is doing. Like that is almost a better conversation to have.
[Kyle Stout] Definitely, another thing you can do with negative content, is you can take that negative response and use that to create new content where you send out an email sharing the negative response. Now, I don't recommend necessarily calling out the person inciting a mob on them or anything, but take that response. Because that's the thing is, if they have concerns or critical response, there's likely other people on your list who feel the same way. And this can be a chance for you to win all those people over on one hand, on the other hand, you will end up even strengthening that relationship you have with your supporters, because they are probably having conversations like this with people they know. And you're helping them. It's again, you're all fighting for the same cause.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Now you're giving them the language that they can use with their friends and family that maybe don't necessarily, I love that. So let's talk about some best practices with like crafting the content that's in your email. So, you know, we kind of talked briefly at the beginning about the laundry list of things that people will put in there. But if we're trying to increase kind of our click through rates and our engagement and responses, like how much is too much information to put in an email, or how about we want to think about kind of putting these campaigns together?
[Kyle Stout] Okay, so I usually lean towards having every email really be about one thing, and really only trying to drive one click or send one message. The exception to that would be your standard newsletter, where maybe you're sharing a roundup of recent content. And, you know, that's, I feel like that's, that's fine to break away from that. But in general, I think people get too caught up in trying to figure out these formulas of the content for the email. And they're really forgetting some of the basics, which to me, the most important things are, who are you sending the email to? And why are you emailing them in the first place? What's you know, do you have a reason to show up in their inbox? So you really need to balance, you have your business goals that you're trying to accomplish with email. But then you need to really actually care about who is receiving this email. Why, you know, how can achieving your business goals also benefit them and provide value to them? And then look for, where can you create content around those things? So if you're selling products, I always like to look at, okay, so this product probably solves some problems for this person and helps them you know, achieve some sort of goal or live a certain lifestyle that they are trying to live. So what's the overall lifestyle where this fits in? And how can we help them get more of that lifestyle with or without our products? And by us, just helping them with that and help, again, kind of fighting for that cause of what they're trying to do, they're more likely to want your products. So yeah, not only that, but you just have more reasons to show up in their inbox. You're not always saying, hey, you know, knocking on the door, again, we have another product for you to sell. It's like, No, we have something of value to talk about, by the way, our products are here, they're not going anywhere, but you at least have a legitimate reason to show up in the inbox.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, I think that's key. Because if you are, like, let's say it's registration, you might have like a, like a period of time where you're trying to get people registered for like an after school program or whatever. But then you have the whole rest of the year where you can be providing value in like, well, here's after school activities you can do at home with your kid here, summer activities, here's, you know, healthy eating habits, like whatever it might be. I think we tend to think about our emails from that selling mode, as opposed to the resource mode and product or service base. There's, there's solutions you can be providing on a regular basis. And that, I think, is the difference that's gonna set you apart from your competitors or other people that are doing similar work because there's not a lot of nonprofits in this space that are sending out emails on a regular basis that aren't donation or sales related.
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, it really and that's what we find, working with companies when we take over there content and we start to switch to doing more of this is, I mean, people will literally respond and say I love the way you're doing marketing now, because they want to get, they want more honestly, they want. And the thing is, say someone's going to make a donation. There's more to it than the tax benefits and all that. They want to feel good about that donation. And it's but how can you get them like, maybe they don't know enough to even feel good about it in the first place. So the first thing I would do is say, look at, okay, let's just say someone's a total stranger, they don't know anything about your cause. What will it take to get them to go from being in that state to being a passionate advocate for your cause, and then you kind of break down those things. And there's a lot of opportunity for content there. Because you can share education and statistics, you just bring them up to date on the facts about the situation. You can tell stories. So now that brings in the human element, now it's a lot more relatable, they're going to start to see themselves or their loved ones in those stories of those other people. And then you can, you know, beyond that, you can even just like share the momentum that your company has working towards your cause. So that way they feel like they're actually involved, and this is a real battle that's going on and they're involved. And they're, everyone wants to be on the winning team, right? So they don't want to feel like there's no chance, like they want to feel like their money is actually going to be used for good and not just be a waste.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] 100%. So what would you say? Because I think that's another thing that email comes into is just continuing to validate their involvement in your organization and showing that you're still doing good work with whatever the volunteer hours or the money that they're giving you. So this is the impossible question, but I'm going to ask it to you anyway. How much is too much to email your list? And how much is too little? How can an organization figure out that sweet spot for their emails so that they can kind of digest what they put in those emails based off of that frequency? Very loaded question.
[Kyle Stout] No, that's a great question. And there's not, I can tell you how we approach it. Because there's not one answer that's right for every business. Even organizations within the same industry, it's not going to be the same. So what I would say is this, within your email list, you have a group of people who are the most engaged, they open every email, they read every email, they're probably assuming that there's something to click on, they're clicking through on almost every email, they've donated, they have bought a lot of your products, not just one, and then you have people who are that maybe they've never purchased anything, maybe they've made one's kind of small purchase. And, you know, look, not everyone's going to love you. So maybe they're just like, you know, they want to know whenever there's a good deal or a good opportunity, or, like they want to know when there's a big event that they can maybe participate in, but they don't want all the updates. So how do you differentiate who's going to get those emails? Well, we want to get to where the people who are the most engaged are getting more frequent emails, because they want everything you've got to give to them, they want it all. And that people who are less engaged to get fewer emails and only get the important stuff. And that's how you can keep your email list healthy over the long term by not not getting those people who aren't as interested, burnt out to where they just start ignoring your emails, or they click spam and all of that. So what you can do is, it really comes down to segmentation within your email list. So creating segments based around engagement. And so one thing we do a lot are these time based engagements. So you can have a 14 day engaged group. So these are all the people on your email list. And you can decide how you classify engagement for your company. But usually, it's going to be something like a 14 day engaged group or people who have opened an email, clicked an email, or visited your site in the last 14 days. And then we'll create that for 14 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, all the way out to like 180 days, which we don't use that one very often. So then the goal is to get okay, how wide of an engagement group can I email without where I don't see a breakdown in our engagement metrics. So let's just say you get to, you do a 30 day, you hit your email your 30 day engaged list, and you get like a 50% open rate and a two and a half percent click rate. And you're thinking okay, I can bump this up, I can go 60 days and you want to go as far out as you can until you see that drop off and this is going to change over time. It's not always gonna stay the same. Then, and there are other ways you can create segments. So I'm trying to keep this very basic here.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I just want to say I mean, I want you to finish your thought. But I want to say like, if you're listening to this, and you're like, I have no clue how to do that. Utilize your chat and your help desk at either your CRM or your email software, because they can help you automate this. So take in what Kyle says, because it's really, really good. But don't be overwhelmed by how to do it because your software, your helpdesk at your software team will be able to walk you through the steps of what he's talking about. I just want to make sure that
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, no, that's, that's important. It sounds like if you're not familiar with this terminology, I'm throwing all these random words out, it sounds complicated, and it's really not, honestly, most of these companies, they can set it up for you. This is literally a less than a five minute conversation. It's a five minute task, you know, in your CRM, it's just one of those things where if you've never heard of it, you just have to, you honestly just have to read the blog article on their website, and then all of a sudden, you'll be right up to speed. So it's not as crazy as it sounds. So like getting back to that yet. So then we get to where, okay, those highly engaged groups, you can kind of, you can start emailing them more frequently, until you start to see that engagement pullback. And that's where, you know, okay, this is the limit. And also, you don't really want to just increase frequency for no reason, it goes back to what we were talking about earlier with content, if you just don't have enough content, don't email them for no reason. Because once people decide that they're going to ignore your emails, like you've, you know, whenever you get emails from a company or a person or whatever, there's a certain point where you've just kind of had enough, you never really go back. Sometimes you might, if something is really interesting, but a lot of times we make that decision, I'm just going to archive these when I see them. And eventually you unsubscribe, and you don't want people to ever get to that point. So that's where we give more stuff to the highly engaged people. And then the big offers the big deal, the big announcements, all that, that will go to the wider groups who are maybe less engaged, because a lot of times those people, they just don't want to open multiple emails a week, but they definitely want to know when you have something exciting going on.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So would you say like a good space to kind of start with would be like sending a weekly email, maybe three emails a month are value add. And one is something that has to do with an ask or I mean, just to kind of get started with like, what the cadence might look like to start testing this to see where that drop off is.
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, weekly email, a weekly email is perfect, you can start with that. And so if you're looking at your month, so there's different ways you can come because a lot of times people just don't know how to come up with content ideas. So the first thing I would do is if you go back earlier in the podcast, where I was talking about looking at where someone is now versus where they would be if they were like your diehard customer or the diehard advocate, and break down everything that has to happen in between, at every one of those stages, there's content to educate, inspire, motivate all that along the way. So there's your one source of content. Another thing you can do just for fun, fun stuff, is you can go to a site called, I think it's called Nationaltoday.com. And you will be surprised every single day there is a random holiday that exists. It's like, yes, it's insane, like National Puppy DAY, national, you know, red flowers day, not even just flowers. That's another day but and look for ones that are relevant. So if you're this is again, this is just like random stuff. But if you're looking, you can find something that's relevant to your business, make a fun email about it, connect it back to something that's, you know, actually useful for them. And that's another way that's an easy, like, there's a lot of those out there. And then of course, even if you're trying to sell something, if it's a product, or you're trying to sell a donation, there are still lots of ways to make it interesting, where it's not just hey, click this button and buy but we're going to educate you on a very specific problem that this thing solves for you. Or let's say it's a cause, likely within one major cause there are maybe 10, 20 smaller problems that all makeup that cause. And so you can focus on one symptom or one problem and kind of go deep into that. And then you ask for the donation. So that way, you're not just asking for a donation for no reason. And every time you show up, you have unique reasons. So over time, they've got you've given them like 20 reasons. Well, it's a lot harder to say no when you've given them 20 compelling reasons over the last three months or however long as opposed to just showing up every time with the one high level cause and asking for a donation.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well I like what you said there too, because it's almost like creating a series. We tend to think such high level about our stuff. that we put everything into one email. Whereas if you took that one topic, like you just said, and just distilled it down into all the different things, now you have a bunch of different emails, like we don't need to put everything into one thing, we can break it up and have multiple, multiple, we just talked about this, I think the episode that just came out today actually, how you can take content ideas, blog content ideas, and really turn them into 10 or 15. So I think really drilling down what the topic is, can help organizations with that feeling of Well, I have nothing, I'm not gonna have anything to say. I'm going to run out of ideas.
[Kyle Stout] Yeah, and that's so important, because I think that is one of the biggest mistakes companies make is trying to do too much in any individual email. They put too much pressure on themselves, instead of thinking of it that this is going to be an ongoing conversation. If you miss something today, you can just remind them next week, you know, tell them what you missed. Tell them that, Oh, I forgot to mention this last week, we forgot to say this. It's really, I mean, people prefer the more human conversation, it doesn't have to always be perfect. And also people like when the emails feel like you're picking up from where you previously left off, because again, it just feels like a real conversation.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, so one of the last things I want to touch on before we kind of wrap this up is best practices around click through rates. So like, what are some ways that you can engage people and encourage them to click. I know, you talked earlier about plain text emails. A lot of people are doing like really fully designed emails, but like, you know, links and just hyperlinking text versus buttons versus images, kind of what are some best practices that you use when it comes to encouraging clicks?
[Kyle Stout] Oh, okay. And one thing I want to clarify is, so the text base that was, so if you're sending a, you know, a letter from the founder, that's a great way to get responses. But traditionally, text base has always been like, a lot of marketers have preferred that even though a lot of consumers like the really graphical. I would say, at this point, honestly, both do really well for just any kind of engagement. But okay, so with click rates, one mistake I see people make is they give away too much in the email. And people don't need to click. So I prefer to tease more in the email, but they have to click to get the rest. So if it's a blog post, don't put the entire blog in the email, give a teaser, or pull out a snippet that's kind of like the most interesting piece, but you leave out the, it's like the cliffhanger, you leave out the answer or the conclusion or, you know, whatever that is. And they have to click through to get that now, that's for a blog now for let's say you're trying to get them to click through on a product or service. This is where you need to just test different ways of presenting the value props for that product or service, and not just send the same message every time. So that's why I like to, again, whatever it is, whether you are a nonprofit, you have a product or a service, you're solving problems for people. And instead of listing out all 50 problems, just focus on one, but go deep into that one. And so that way, there's just no, it's very clear. And then they have to click through to find out about the other stuff. And then there are some like tactical stuff where you can get tricky. So you can keep the emails really short and have a button, you can have a button above the fold. So they immediately see it, when they get in there. You can use all image based emails people will accidentally click, the thing is, I would say is, not to get too focused on doing that. Because ultimately, if you're just tricking people into clicks, and they don't convert, then they're not going to want to click later on, because you just tricked them. And they're gonna feel like you're Yeah, yeah. So it really is gonna come back to the old school copywriting of having a strong offer. So and also, it could get back to the engagement piece of the segment that you're sending to. So that's the first thing I look at whenever click rates start to fall. Well, maybe we're just emailing too many people too often. And maybe we need to start dialing that part back. And you're not really getting true data because a lot of those people are checked out but you don't quite realize it yet. And then you get back to where you're engaging. You're emailing your most engaged people, and all of a sudden your click rates are healthy again and you realize, okay, I just needed to exclude some people.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, and I think, to your point, on really taking all the individual pain points and doing separate emails on those is really strong because you're in this for the long game, right? Like, we're not just trying to get that money today, we're trying to like do this over time. So when you're sending out individual pain points, you're speaking to your customers.
[Kyle Stout] And reason number five is the thing for me. But if you don't really go deep into those different reasons, then you haven't really fully won over that person where that would have been the thing that pushed them over the edge.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I love that. So Kyle, you've given us so many things to think about with how we craft our emails, and how we kind of build an engagement. Are there any kind of final tips or tricks that you like to share?
[Kyle Stout] Let's see, honestly, I would go back to really what I have kind of stressed throughout this, which is getting back to who you're emailing. So focusing more on who you're emailing to, and less on what you're emailing them. And that's going to help you figure out the what and the why and the how, is really getting into diving deep into what they're interested in, what they care about, the problems you can solve for them, the ways that you can help them, help make their life better in the areas that kind of surround your product or service or your cause. And really just being thoughtful about content and getting back to having human conversations.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, human conversations, what a novel topic to talk about. Well, Kyle, if people want to know more about you, and the services that you provide, how do they do that?
[Kyle Stout] Okay, yeah, so for anyone who's interested, you can go to elevateandscale.com. And there's several buttons there where you can schedule an exploratory call. I know a lot of people say that their first call is not a sales call. But this truly is not a sales call. So on this call, without I mean, I could share information with you about our service, of course, but the purpose is to really help you find clarity around how email marketing fits into your overall marketing strategy. And then we'll map out your sales process and try to identify those opportunities to unlock hidden revenue that's already in your existing sales process. And then also look at a more longer term strategy of how you can use email marketing to grow your business.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] I love that. And we'll have all this linked up in the show notes as well at thefirstclick.net/161. Well, Kyle, thank you so much for joining me today.
[Kyle Stout] Thank you so much for having me. This was great.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Great. Big huge thank you to Kyle for joining me on this episode. You can check out all the show notes at thefirstclick.net/161. We'll also have some additional resources linked up there for you as well. But I hope that you will start to revisit your email marketing strategy and take it to the next level. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope that you will subscribe wherever you listen and leave us a review if you don't mind. And of course, check out the video versions of these episodes at thefirstclick.net/YouTube and I look forward to seeing you in the next one.