TAM 001: James Schramko – Profitable Email Marketing
Welcome to the very first episode of The Active Marketer podcast. I am very excited to be firing up this new podcast, so that I can share the best sales and marketing automation strategies from the top Internet marketers. This week I talk with James Schramko from SuperFastBusiness.
James is a very successful Internet marketer and sent out over 1.3 million emails in 2014! James walks us through how you can tag leads, and target the right message to the right person to maximise the profit in your business.
Listen in as James Schramko and I discuss a number of automated sequences you can be using to engage with your audience:
- Welcome / Onboarding sequence
- Cart Abandonment
- Unsubscribe sequence
- Affiliate promotion
- Event countdown sequences
- General survey sequences
I'd love to hear what kind of sequences you are using in your business. Use the comments section below to show off what you are doing in your business.
Also tell me what topics you'd like to see in future episodes.
If you want to give ActiveCampaign a try, you can set up a free trial account here.
If you want to take your sales funnel and marketing automation skills to the next level, join us at The Active Marketer Academy my private mastermind and coaching community where we share all the good stuff!
Inside you will find, courses, live training calls, quick wins, shared automations and a helpful community of smart business owners and service providers just like you. Check it out here.
Links Mentioned In The Show
Barry: Alright, I'd like to welcome James to the podcast. James, welcome.
James: Hey, It's good to be here Barry.
Barry: I guess, James, you're widely known for your own racecourse strategy, which is kind of a content marketing strategy about getting your content out in as many places in front of as many people as you can. But today I wanted to talk to you about email marketing. I heard you on another podcast, so you're so prolific with podcasting, I can't remember exactly which one it was, but you were talking about, I think it was 2013, you'd sent out something like a million plus emails. So do you have any idea about how many you've sent out in 2014?
James: Yeah. I've sent out 1.3 million emails.
Barry: 1.3, that's an impressive number. What kind of infostructure are you using to send that out?
James: I'm using Office Autopilot, which is now called EntrePort.
Barry: All the outbounds are just going through them as well?
James: Yeah. Look there's a couple of emails I send from my Gmail account. Just for usually replying to say a survey email, where I'll be sending it from my own email system. I think I send about 1,000 emails a month from my personal account. But that's to my team and in reply to customers and just general stuff.
Barry: So, those ones going out through your marketing automation system, are they for all your business units? Or are those just for people who visited your website? Or does that include like Silver Circle and your private membership community and that sort of thing?
James: It can run all of the different divisions from that one account and even the different co-branded podcasts.
Barry: Okay. Very cool. So, how are you segmenting the customers amongst all of that? How are you keeping who's who all straight in that million plus emails?
James: Well, the really good thing about a system like that is that you can tag people with labels and then it can make up groups depending on what tags people have, so you can be very specific with who you're targeting. You want to have the right message to the right person at the right time. And it's very easy to do that with a system that allows you the ability to segment, so if someone comes in from a podcast, we can tag them as being from the podcast and then I can make a group up saying, “Hey, everyone with this tag, we'll call this the podcast list.” So, if we put a new episode out, we can only just email those people and not sending a broadcast to everyone.
Barry: I guess the crux of my question is are you using those tags to track the source or what products they buy or what kind of business unit they're in or all of the above?
James: All of the above. You can have unlimited tags that you can use. I think you can go a little bit tag crazy, but the types of tags that I have would be to different sort of segments, like check-out tags if someone visits a check-out page. There'll be a source tag from where they came, like what marketing channel, like Facebook for example. Or opt-ins that aren't a purchase and then it will be product tags that will list every single line item that someone actually buys. So, they're the basic tags. Marketing source means we literally tag source. They put the different type of location that they first opted in. One of the newest tags we're adding is topic tags, which is where we tag people according to the topic that they've opted in on. So, if they come into a podcast like this, where we're talking about email marketing, we might tag them “Topic: Email Marketing”.
Barry: Alright, very cool. Well, that was my follow-up question. You can go tag crazy and I'm guilty of going tag crazy on a number of occasions. So, how are you keeping all those tags straight? How do you know which tags are which? Are you using some sort of taxonomy to keep track of all of those? Or are they kind of in different parts of the system? Or how are you keeping all of them…how do you know this tag is the source tag as opposed to a product tag as opposed to a thing tag?
James: Well, we literally say which type of tag it is as a codex. So we have check-it, check-out colon and then the page that the check-out was with the product that the check-out was. Then we have product colon and whatever product someone purchased.
Barry: Fair enough. What kind of…what are some of the sequences you might, some examples of different sequences you might use in your business?
James: Well, I guess we have the most common types: the welcome type sequences when someone buys something that directs them to their product purchase and explains to them how to get the most value from it. And then a check-up a little bit later to make sure that everything is running smoothly. So you might call that an onboarding sequence. We have abandonment sequence, so if someone visits a check-out page, but doesn't buy, we like to follow up and find out how they're going, if they need help, or just re-direct them to where they were last. Because sometimes people forget to buy or they've got a question that wasn't solved. We have unsubscribe sequences, which is probably one of the most powerful ones, because my business is set up mostly recurring subscriptions. So if someone stops a subscription, it will automatically send them a note, just basically identifying with them: Hey, your subscription stopped. If that was a mistake or a billing error, you can go here and rejoin. If not, please hit reply and let me know why you're leaving. It's kind of a unsubscribe/reactivation request combined with a feedback survey thing, so that's pretty cool. I also have affiliate promotion sequences, so when people have registered an interest in a particular topic and they click on the certain link, it will start sending them information about that topic and explaining why I decided it was good for their business. Often it will combine an incentive. There's also event-specific countdown sequences, so right now I'm holding a live event and it will automatically send emails to people just before a price increase as we go from early bird to normal pricing. And it will identify who still hasn't purchased a ticket. That's pretty cool. I've got cross-selling sequencing, which has a look to see when someone buys something if they have the related product or not. And then it can recommend it if they don't. And then I've just got general survey stuff. So, it's probing to find out stuff, such as why people bought or what results they got, so that I might generate testimonials or case studies.
Barry: Very cool. So, at a ball park, how many automated sequences do you think you have built into your system?
James: I'd say 56.
Barry: Fair enough. That's a good ball park. Any trouble or any lessons about how you keep all those straight in your head? Or are they all documented to the nth degree in SOPs or are they just self-documented in the system?
James: When I went to this system, I had spent a week reading the information and just watching the training videos and then I went in and had a go at setting up the sequences that I needed to start with. And then I've just added a couple along the way. But, once you've built one, it's reasonably easy to just copy a sequence and just change names. So, when we add a new product, for example, it's just a matter of adding in the different product name and putting a different filter and changing which cart that it's responding to. So, once you set up, it's not that much to maintain. And the fact is, I'm not really in there doing a whole lot of manipulation of our active responses or step sequences. Once they're set up, I just let them run and occasionally just modify a link or a message in the sequence if I find a way that I can improve. It's something that needs reviewing from time to time, but it's not something that's hands-on once it's set up.
Barry: And are you tracking those sequences back to a dollar value, back to a conversion value? Like, especially those source-based sequences?
James: I can. I can make groups and I can actually look at lead-scoring, so I do attribute a dollar, or I actually give points when someone buys something, so I can actually drill down and look at it. But I don't spend a whole lot of time doing it because in my mind that's really just comes down to yes or no. And that is: Is it worth the time and effort to set this up? If it's a yes, then I'll just do it. I know it's making dollars. How many dollars doesn't really matter. I've got the sequence, so it's good to have.
Barry: Are there any particular types of sequences or particular types of email that you're finding are more effective for conversions or sales than other ones?
James: Well, I think one of the biggest changes for my business was adding the cart abandonment, because those people have registered an interest in buying, but not gone ahead.
So, I believe that if you can get that up and running, that's a really worthwhile sequence to have. And of course in my business the unsubscribe sequence is vital, because if you can keep a customer, it's much more effective than trying to go get a new one. And rather than just let someone go unquestioned, that little investigation into why someone stopped or fixing up a bug in a billing system is definitely worthwhile. So I'd say that one also is a really profitable sequence to have.
Barry: Yeah, for sure, especially with those recurring monthly customers. Once they leave, that's monthly revenue for who knows how many months that you're going to miss out as opposed to just one single sale. Any kind of ideas what percentage that cart abandonment is saving or bringing people back to the fold?
James: The cart abandonment, I would estimate, about 20%. I think it really makes a huge difference, because I do see people responding to that follow-up. And you can get a feel for how many people were on that list that then get migrated across to a product list. So, you can actually measure that one.
Barry: Very cool. I remember too, like years ago when I first came across you and I came across your website, and I was having a look at some of your website services and like three days later I got one of those nine-word emails: Hey, are you still interested in trying the website? And I was like, “How the hell did he do that? Obviously subsequently I've gone and found out. But I think those nine-word emails are really, really simple and really, really effective. Have you found those particularly useful or effective in converting to a sale?
James: Extremely effective. It's probably the best thing you can possibly do. When people actually reply to those with the reason why they weren't or with an excuse or an objection, quite often it's giving you that feedback or data that you need to be able change the messaging and to save a lot of future sales, so it's not just that one person. You're leveraging your sales copy and there's nothing more important that increasing conversions on your website. Because most people in online marketing have a conversion problem.
Barry: I think everyone says it's easier to convert more of the people you have than to go out and try to double your traffic, or something like that. But it's all about conversions and good copyrighting and if you have those feedback loops, like those sequences and if you can get people to reply and those exit sequences that you've got going on when people stop subscriptions, then obviously that's a feedback loop to make your copy better and make your conversion rate go up. Really good tip there. Another thing I came across was I'm obviously a member of your “Super-Fast Business Community”, which I think is fantastic and great value for anybody who's building an online business, but I was really, really surprised by one of the threads in there where you were talking about conversions. You shared with us some of your conversion stats about how many touch points someone had had before they converted to the sale. I think it was like 25 or something like that. That was pretty amazing.
James: Yeah, it's phenomenal, isn't it. People are there, they're always there. As a general rule, more than half the people on my website have visited before. So, it sort of ties in with the way that I market. It's more of a farming style than a hunting style. It's not as threatening or maybe not even as profitable up front doing it that way, but if you're there to nurture and grow for the long haul, eventually the crop grows and you can harvest it. And it might take a long time, and I have this metaphor about making Grange. Which is a fabulous red wine in Australia. It takes a long time to produce and to build its reputation. But it starts out as a grape on a vine and it ends up over the long haul maturing and growing into a fantastic product. I think in my case, being available to people through multiple modalities, whether accessing people through iTunes and also YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and on my own website and my email list, gives me the ability to maintain communications without having to be overly pushy. When someone's intrigued or ready to get more value, they just drop. It might take years. In some cases, it's taken five or six years, which is probably far too long, but it's a great snowball effect. It just keeps going, so those people who if you're doing that hunter and gather type of effect where you're trying to shoot the game as they wander into the field rather than nurturing and getting them to come back, you would have lost that sale after two minutes. But since you're nurturing those people, they keep coming back. And I would imagine you've had people in your membership community that have been there for years and years and years and years and probably will never leave.
Barry: Exactly, these people stay for a long time and are lifetime customer values. Extraordinary. I just wanted to loop back to something you said about Facebook and Twitter. I know you don't use those very much and you're more prolific in blog posts and videos and especially podcasting, very prolific in podcasting. I find it interesting that you don't have to result to what I find spamming tactics of I know you do a bit of retargeting, but it seems to be all the rage at the moment that as soon as you look at someone's product on a website somewhere, they follow you around for days and days and months and months with retargeting cookie. How have you found that retargeting experience?
James: Well, I've been able to generate sales to my event for like one cent in ad spent, so that's pretty impressive.
Barry: But, do you have a guideline for how often you do it? Because the reason I ask is because I looked at someone's product on their website, I won't say who it was, but…it was a seminar they were giving and I was thinking about going to it. And I needed some more time to consider it. But then, for the next kind of two weeks, every single website, like at least 30 times a day, their ad was in front of my face. And it got to the point where it was like, right, I'm never going to this thing now, just out of principle because they've been hitting me up 30 times a day for the last two weeks, it was ridiculous.
James: I think retargeting can be, it's a tool and it can be used rightly or wrongly. A knife can cut a steak or it can stab someone. You've got to be sensitive to the different levels of people's tolerance, and it's also got to fit with your overall idea about how you want to be in the marketplace, how long you want to be in the marketplace, and how you want people to perceive you. For my retargeting, it's very, very bespoke. I'm really zooming in on just the right person for what I'm trying to achieve that I sincerely believe is going to help them be better off. If someone visits the check-out page for my live events, I don't see any major harm in just putting out a live event banner for that person. Or if they're on my email list, it's kind of nice to run a little ad for them in Facebook, just nudging them. Because what I've found as a promoter is that every single time I run an event, every year, people leave it until the last minute. And I think it's sort of helping them out if they can access an early bird ticket, make a little bit of a saving, and help me shore up my events and give me some stability in what's happening and prepare better. So I think it's a win-win if it's done right. And absolutely you can take it too far or reveal that you know so much about the customer in the ad, which is a bit sort of creepy. No one wants to know that you know everything about them.
Barry: Yeah, exactly. You don't want to be that guy that's just totally stalking everyone just for a sale. But at the same time, everyone in Australia is carrying around a Flyby's card that they swipe at the supermarket check-out that reveals absolutely every item that they've ever purchased and I'm sure that they get targeted for advertisements off line. This is not an unusual or a new concept when you think about it. It's just that some people get too excited about it and push it too hard. Like most markets and most tactics, it's the internet marketers that go and break things and push things to the limit and start getting banned and making it more difficult for everyone who's a little more controlled about their approach.
James: Very true. Very true.
Barry: Just going back to that social media Facebook kind of stuff, has that been kind of a conscious choice that you don't want to really engage too much in that channel? Or is that just not where your customer avatar is? Or just doesn't resonate with you? Or…
James: I don't want to spend my life on Facebook. I just think that's the saddest thing ever. I see people and they're on there like 12 hours a day, and I think what sort of life are they living? That doesn't appeal to me, but I do use those channels. I'm using them for advertisements. I upload my podcasts and syndicate there, but I wouldn't spend more than an hour and a half on Facebook a week. And I think in five to ten years from now there will be some great declaration that Facebook or social media sites, let's not target them, is some sort of social cancer that's destroyed society and communities. Like, I leave my phone now when I go out to a meal or a coffee shop, I'm switched off from technology a great deal of the time, compared to my peer group. And I just don't think everyone else can see what they're actually doing. If you watch people walking down the street, they nearly get run over because they're texting and walking at the same time. It's a scourge of society. You know, these lifestyle marketers that are on Facebook 24 hours a day, that's just a joke to me, and I don't understand why other people fall for that.
Barry: Yeah, it's not exactly…
James: I don't need to see what my next door neighbor ate for breakfast. I'm not that interested in some funny video of a guy slipping over or whatever. To me, life can be much richer than that. I'd rather be paddling around the Pacific Ocean on a piece of fiberglass, catching waves or reading a great book. Everyone's got their own thing, but to me, I don't need to have social media as a distraction to living. And I think that people aren't really considering where they're spending their time and they'd be horrified if they were to look at it on a spreadsheet or something. They say the average American watches like seven or eight hours of video a day. That's frightening to me.
Barry: Yeah, that's pretty bad.
James: I remember I was catching a ferry in Brisbane and we were waiting for the ferry to come. It was a beautiful day and we were sitting on the river and it was just magic little natural environment there. There was six other people waiting for the ferry as well, and they all had their heads down on their iPhones and I'm sure they were all on Facebook seeing what their neighbors had for breakfast. I was like, “Lift your head up! It's a beautiful day. You're up by the river.” You know?
Barry: Aside from that, if you're going to be spreading all of your content on social media, it provides very little incentive or rarity, or specialty in people accessing your premium content.
James: I think people just dilute themselves too much.
Barry: Alright, just to loop back to the email stuff. So, you do a lot of coaching and mentoring. Are there common mistakes that you see people make when they set out to do email marketing for their business?
James: Well, I think the shotgun blast is a pretty common one. That's where you have one big list and you blast it over and over again. It's kind of selfish if you think about it. It doesn't follow my golden rule. That is that if I send an email out, I've got to be considerate of my recipient's time. And they have to be better off for opening the email. So, I always make sure there's value for my receiver. And I also want to make sure that it's segmented and appropriate. So, for them to get value, it's got to be relevant. It's got to have context. They've got to have agreed to be on the list. It's got to be at a frequency that is fair and reasonable. And they have to think, “This is good. I don't want to unsubscribe.”
Barry: That's really what I'm trying to achieve on all this. So, more layers of segmenting than shotgun.
James: Yeah. One shot, one kill, as they say.
Barry: Just finally, I was wondering if you might be able to share a simple sequence with the listeners that they might be able to go away and implement in their business that might help.
James: Well, I would say, if you're to follow up on something that you sold a few days later, with just an open question that's something like, “Hey, Barry, a few days ago you purchased a xyz. I'm just wondering how that's going?” And it's just something like that. People get a chance to reply and say, “Oh, it's really good. It's better than I thought.” or “Actually, I'm still waiting for something.” or ” I didn't feel it specifically addressed my concern.” or whatever. So it gives you a chance to save an otherwise bad experience. This is especially relevant if you have a service for sale, because services are a lot about expectation matching and being able to fulfill on expectations. Because when we're marketing and selling, it's pretty common that people hype up the sales letter a bit, but you do actually have to deliver once they've purchased, so the sequence that is quite a simple sequence is just a post-purchase follow-up to see how everything is going. And you can come up with your own wording on that. But I like to receive those in my inbox and I like to respond. It's 99% positive and I screenshot the positives and I put them in my little positive file. So that, if I ever get a complaint or a little entrepreneurial lull where you're wondering if this is the right business for you, just have a look through there and remind yourself that you're doing good work. That people are happy. You're making a change and significance out there. You can also pass on the feedback to your team if they're involved in creating that positive result because it's great to give positive feedback into a bunch of people who are working for you side by side to deliver this great experience that you've set as the goal and you're actually achieving it. It's important to know that. And of course, if something's not going perfectly, you've got an ability to correct it before it gets sprayed on social media or sent to a complaints board or a charge backs file, which is what happens if people don't feel that they can connect or communicate with the seller and they're not happy, even if their own problem. Sometimes the seller can be penalized from their own lack of ease of communication.
Barry: For sure. I guess too, for a bigger ticket item, it kind of heads off the buyer's remorse if they hear from you straightaway and you're trying to ask them how they're interested and how they're going and how they're getting along. With a more expensive product, they don't worry about whether it was the right purchase or not.
James: If people are investing in themselves, and you're showing them that not running from the sale. It's not like, “Hey, I've got your money. Now I don't want to hear from you.” Which seems to be a common approach. To, “Hey, thanks for investing in yourself. I'm here to help you. Let's make sure this is getting you the result that you need. And I'm right here.”
Barry: Fantastic. Alright James, well really great advice for anybody out there who's starting off with email marketing, especially marketing automation. I really appreciate your tips and they're fantastic. I look forward to seeing you at “Super-Fast Business Live” in Manly.
James: I'll see you there, Barry. Thank you.
Barry: Thanks, James.