Episode 118

Email Marketing in Times of Uncertainty with Dylan Kelley of Wavebreak

Dylan Kelley - Wavebreak
April 30, 2020
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My guest today knows a thing or two about growing DTC eCommerce brands to 8 figures and beyond.  His agency, Wavebreak, focuses on email, SMS and loyalty marketing for growing eCommerce brands.  On today’s episode we talk about how email marketing has shifted in light of the pandemic and how it will likely continue to shift.  Ready to take your email marketing game to the next level?  Listen to this episode with Wavebreak CEO Dylan Kelley.  

Here’s a quick look at what we cover:

  • How to go on offense without being offensive
  • How to build community and goodwill now
  • How to stay true to your brand but adjust your message in light of the recent crisis
  • Top email marketing mistakes to avoid
  • How email, sms and loyalty programs work together

Mentioned in this episode:

Chubbies Shorts

Jay Abraham

Retention Marketing - Wavebreak

Resources - Wavebreak

Request a Call - Wavebreak

Wavebreak Podcast - Grow Your Shopify Store

Dylan Kelley - CEO and Founder at Wavebreak

Via LinkedIn

Via Twitter  

Via YouTube


Wavebreak - eCommerce eMail Marketing Agency

Via LinkedIn

Via Twitter

Via YouTube

Episode Transcript

Brett:

Hello and welcome to another edition of the eCommerce Evolution Podcast. I'm your host, Brett Curry, CEO of OMG Commerce, and today we are diving into email marketing, and specifically how to handle email marketing in a COVID-19 world. Right now we're in the thick of it as we record this. Obviously we'll be hopefully coming out of it at some point, so some things to consider there as well.

Brett:

My guest is the CEO and founder of Wavebreak, and they focus exclusively on email marketing. My guest is Dylan Kelley. He's hailing from Brooklyn but got out just before everything got crazy in the New York City metro. I'd visited just before it really got crazy in New York City. I think he's joining me from PA right now. Dylan, man, welcome to the show. Thanks for taking the time, and really excited to dive into this topic.

Dylan:

Yeah, Brett. Thanks for inviting me on. Really excited to talk.

Brett:

Yeah. So you are typically in one of my favorite cities. I absolutely love New York. I was telling you before we hit record, I was there like March 7th, 8th, and 9th, visiting clients and stuff, and then kind of got out just before things got crazy. But you got out just before things got crazy as well, right?

Dylan:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I bounce around. I'm one of those people. We're fully remote to begin with. We actually had some of our team members get caught in the digital nomad thing over, they're over in Asia doing some stuff. We had a copywriter over there and he had to get back to Canada. But luckily I didn't have to do that, but yeah, I made it out just in time back to Pennsylvania, where we've got green grass and it just kind of feels, I don't know, it's like a dream state here too, where it's like, it almost feels like everything is normal, except there is not a lot of people.

Brett:

Yeah.

Dylan:

Outside and in places.

Brett:

So interesting. We live just outside of town where we live. We got five acres, and so we can get out with the kids and go on a walk, and our neighbors have horses. So outside everything feels normal, but then you drive through a near city, Springfield, and it's empty in the evenings. It's really bizarre. You and I were just talking ahead of time before we hit record. The numbers we're seeing in e-commerce right now are very interesting and really quite encouraging. So one of the things I'll share just real quickly and then we're going to get into your background and also our topic for the day, but we built these dashboard where we can quickly see all of our clients. We serve about 85 growing e-commerce brands. We can see their day over day, week over week, month over month, and year over year sales both in terms of the channels we control, Google Ads, YouTube, Amazon Ads, then globally.

Brett:

It was interesting. Even in the early stages of this, like 67% of our clients were up, and about 16% were kind of flat, especially when you're looking year over year. Then the rest were down. Some down just slightly, some down pretty significantly, but actually the numbers have improved. I kept kind of thinking, like the pessimist in me, which I'm a pretty optimistic guy, but the pessimist in me kept thinking, as we get deeper into this, this is going to get worse for e-commerce. It's actually been the opposite for most e-commerce. There are still some areas of e-commerce that are hit pretty hard. But it sounds like you guys are seeing the same thing, right? A lot of your clients are really growing right now in the midst of this craziness.

Dylan:

Oh yeah. I mean, it's crazy. I'm like you, I'm an optimist from the start, so I have this energy, but I'm also this person that's also very anxious. I guess that's how I balance out my optimism. So a few weeks ago when kind of like mid March, when everybody started freaking out, and it almost like time slowed down, and that's when everyone I feel was on Twitter seeing what is everyone else doing, and you're checking your stats every day, multiple times a day. I was freaking out just like everybody else was, but then, just like you said, started looking into the data, and it's like well actually, there's nothing to be afraid of. Sure, sales were down, and it was really weird a few weeks ago, where it's like day by day, week by week. I mean, you wouldn't even know what was going to happen next. But I think things are pretty steady now. Like you're saying, overall, I mean, e-commerce is just going to just keep growing.

Dylan:

We're seeing the same thing on our end. I mean, nearly, we have those clients who are experiencing rapid growth and doing their monthly revenue in a week now, and they're not even selling essential products, right? Think of something that you're selling outdoor, like a rollerskate company we work with. I mean, they've tripled their sales overnight. We can get into how you can use email to do stuff like that and communicate timely, but on the other end too, I mean, even with things that are more kind of like a regular purchase that might not be essential, we still see sales growing there. The biggest problem that I actually noticed after, and I've been hopping in calls with everybody lately, especially in the thick of things. So I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to share what I knew, and that's kind of the what was going around then.

Brett:

Which I will comment, this has been awesome in our community. I'm glad you're doing that. We've been doing that a lot too. But it does seem like the e-commerce space, it is a relatively small community, even though it's spread out all over the globe, and I love how this industry has really come together and there's just a lot of people sharing information freely, lots of free webinars. Just people getting on saying hey, how can we help? Even if you're not a client or whatever, how can we help? It's really, really cool.

Dylan:

Yeah, I know. I mean, it's amazing to see that, and everyone sharing what's working. I mean, I saw on Twitter a few weeks ago, people were like, "Hey, here's the exact funnel that's working for us right now that wasn't working a year ago or a month ago." I thought that was cool, but yeah. I mean, overall with our clients, most of them are still growing month over month. The ones that didn't, they did scale back on advertising, but usually it was inventory issues and had nothing to do with not getting returns on advertising or marketing, it's just crap, we oversold Q4 because we crushed it, and then we didn't plan for a bonus month off in China for Chinese New Year and this crazy thing happening. But besides that, I mean, now that people are starting to get that figured out, I mean, it's just like.

Dylan:

I saw one stat that was like e-commerce right now is still only 11% of all retail, but with this, based on projections on how people are shopping online, this has the potential to accelerate it to 70 to 80% of all retail in the next 12 to 18 months, or something like that. I think that was a tweet from Web Smith, but it's like holy cow. If this is only a tenth of all the retail transactions out there with the numbers we're seeing now, with the brands we're working with, it's just like, is this an obstacle or is this actually an opportunity?

Brett:

Yeah, absolutely. I think ultimately it's both because you mentioned some supply chain issues, and supply issues and things like that, or inventory issues, but I think it is a massive opportunity. What's interesting, a lot of people are talking about hey, Amazon is the winner in all of this, and I do think Amazon is going to win big, but one thing we're seeing with a lot of our clients who sell on Amazon and on their own .com is that as Amazon is starting to focus in on essentials and just delivering the things that the customers have to have, we're seeing sales that used to be going through our client's Amazon account now coming to their .com. Sometimes there's been shifts of 30, 40, 50% increases on someone's .com because Amazon has slowed down. So I think off Amazon e-comm is going to be doing exceptionally well right now also.

Brett:

Really excited to dive into this topic. We're going to get into email marketing and some dos and don'ts, and we're seeing all kinds of bad examples of what not to do, or good examples of what not do to. But before we do that let's talk a little bit about your background, Dylan. So what did you do prior to starting Wavebreak? How did you get into email marketing? Give us the 90 second rundown of how you got here.

Dylan:

Yeah. I mean, it's really crazy. I was just talking about this this morning actually to somebody. It's like, how the heck did I get in e-commerce, direct-to-consumer, focused on just email marketing of all things? But it's actually a really, it was just an evolution of what I was doing before. So grew up on the internet. I was in high school in this bedroom, slinging affiliate marketing deals, throwing up these landing pages back when you could just rank and bank and it was super easy. I think a lot of people in e-commerce have similar background. Where it's just like you're just kind of on the internet and then saw this wave around e-commerce. I started seeing these cool brands popping up on Instagram actually, like the MVMT watches, and PureVita, these companies started becoming popular, doing a lot of influencer stuff. That was around like 2015, 2016, and I was like, "Man, this looks awesome. These are cool brands." I'm reading the stories, it's growing fast. I was like, "How do I be part of this?" I have a marketing background. Wanted to create a legit company and a stable business instead of just these random affiliate things or hustles that I was kind of running online.

Dylan:

So I decided that okay, based on my design background I'm going to do conversion rate optimization for these companies, because they're spending a lot in advertising. I'm going to help them make more money. So I went and started doing that, and landed a really awesome client. They're seeling millions, one of those social brands. I can't say exactly who it is, but they, you'll see why in a second. So they hired me. They were like my will client, paying the bulk of pretty much all my bills at the time, I was just starting out, freelancer. What happened was overnight bigger brands started to enter Facebook and it just drove up the cost of ads like crazy, and they couldn't figure out how to profitably drive traffic anymore. So I remember I was in the store and I get a text from the CEO of the company. He's like, "Hey, can you talk?" And I was like, it's never good when someone is just like, "Can you talk?"

Brett:

Yeah.

Dylan:

And I call him when I get home, and he's like, "Hey, man. We don't have any traffic for you to optimize, so we're going to have to cancel. We'll send you some free product down the line." Okay, cool thanks.

Brett:

Because that's a lot.

Dylan:

Yeah, that's not going to pay the bills.

Brett:

I'll trade product for rent. Appreciate that.

Dylan:

I know, right? I think my landlord will like that. No, but that really got me thinking, I'm like, "Holy crap. This isn't cool." We're seeing now just the cost to acquire a customer keeps rising on Facebook, even in these times we are now. It's like you talk to any brand, and their return on ad spend is down year over year, year over year, unless they're working with someone like you who is really good at what they do on the advertising front. But just in general it's getting more competitive, more expensive. So I went back to the drawing board and tried everything, from SEO, to social media stuff, influencer stuff, it's like what we do, and that's when I came across email. I was like, "There's no way this is going to work." And ran it through our first client and then they ended up tripling their revenue off it because they had more profit on the backend to invest in their ads, and just fuel growth for the company, and I was like, "Well, that's crazy. I wonder if that'll happen again." And slowly but surely over the last few years we've continued to refine and hone those strategies on email, and now introducing mobile messaging, loyalty and stuff like that with our clients, and just building programs on the backend to really fuel growth.

Dylan:

What's crazy is not only do we uncover extra revenue that's already in their business, but it also gives them more opportunity to have more lifetime value to drive scale, which is super important because I mean, we're seeing VC backed companies. It's like even they can't make the numbers work, which is why these kind of, the brands that we work with, where they're kind of bootstrap. They take money here or there, but they're just smart about growth. It's like they're focusing on profit and lifetime value, and that's how you're going to build a brand that lasts.

Brett:

Absolutely.

Dylan:

And build the next great direct-to-consumer companies.

Brett:

Yeah, it is so interesting. Customer acquisition costs are going up across the board year over year. We're seeing a dip in some costs right now. So CPMs are lower on Facebook, and I'm not a Facebook Ads guy, but just I hear cost per view is definitely down on YouTube right now, but conversion rates are also down in some cases, and things will get back to normal at some point and costs will continue to rise again. So that's one of the things I love about email marketing. One, it absolutely works, and you have to do it. I don't see it going away anytime soon, but if you do it right, it allows you to spend more money on the front end doing top of funnel type marketing, and that's what we do a ton of. So I love it when there are guys like you or people like you that help optimize the email flows because then I can be more aggressive on the advertising side. So beneficial for sure.

Brett:

So let's dive in and talk about what's going on right now with email marketing, and you and I were kind of joking as we were talking about this a few days ago. We've seen just tons and tons of examples. I think every single email list that anyone ever subscribed to felt compelled to give us their COVID-19 update, whether we wanted it or not, and we didn't want it in most cases. What do you see as the ... Is that starting to slow down, and why do you think that was a bad idea, and just any thoughts on that besides the obvious?

Dylan:

Yeah. No, I mean, I'm glad you brought that up. I actually sent out an email not about it, and my subject line was, "Not an email about that." That's to our private newsletter.

Brett:

Not a COVID-19 update.

Dylan:

Yeah, exactly. We actually wrote like a manifesto on the future of e-commerce. Anyway, we can get into that later. But yeah, I mean, in general it's like nobody cares that your support team is working inside. It's just like that's not going to, I didn't ask.

Brett:

Yeah. I think that's the ultimate lesson here. Is you felt compelled to answer a question that no one was asking you, right?

Dylan:

Yeah.

Brett:

I forgot I subscribed to your software, I'm glad that you're taking care of your employees, but all you really did was remind me that I need to unsubscribe from your list.

Dylan:

Yeah, a 100%. I mean, we sent some of those email out for clients, but not to everybody. Hey, we're still shipping. It's more like an update if there was going to be a delay.

Brett:

It's very relevant in some cases.

Dylan:

We would send that out.

Brett:

For sure.

Dylan:

Yeah, yeah. But it's like so many companies were just blanketing it, and at the same time it's like, I'm still getting some emails from that. It's like listen, people aren't worried about that anymore. Like you and I were talking, I mean, two weeks ago people were freaking out. They thought it was the end of the world. Now that we've survived these few weeks, it's kind of like okay, this sucks, things are different, but we don't feel like we're going to die tomorrow, or at least most people don't.

Brett:

Yeah, for the most part. I think there are definitely, and who knows what's going to happen in the future, but it definitely seems like okay, hey, we're seeing a path back to normal, curve is flattened, things like that. So yeah, or flattening I guess would be a way to say it. So yeah, I think there's definitely this hope that normal is on the horizon, which is good.

Brett:

So let's do talk about though how have you shifted your message? Because I think these blanket COVID-19 emails, and people, companies answering questions that nobody is answering, that's not good, but how have you meaningfully shifted the messages in the emails for your clients, and let's talk a little bit. You mentioned to me a few days ago, looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs and how that's kind of shifted. You want to speak to that just a little bit?

Dylan:

Yeah, yeah. I can start with that. I think that's the important place to start, is not, because so many people look at email and marketing as I guess tactics instead of what is actual consumer behavior, what is the actual strategy behind that, which is the most important thing. That's why Wavebreak can drive results that other people can't, because we go so deep on strategy because we're really thinking about how consumers buy, not just how do we make a great email or find the winning sequence and craft it together. We think customer by customer, product by product, brand by brand, what really makes the most sense. So people always think it's crazy when I break it down like this, but I think it's going to make a lot of sense.

Dylan:

What you were talking about with the hierarchy of needs, everybody knows the pyramid and how at the top it's just the whole, that's where we were a few weeks ago. We were at the top of the pyramid. It's like we're communicating be your best self, achieve your full potential, because everybody's basic needs were met. Especially here in America, where the majority of your customers live, we're communicating to that level, but in a matter of days, and even in hours, it's just like, I mean, things shifted fast and we jumped down that pyramid all the way down to where people are now not thinking how do I be my best self, but they're thinking more about safety, and they're thinking more about community. If you keep trying to market to the top of the pyramid, which is hey, be your best self in our leggings, or act like nothing is going on in the world, it's just not going to hit. It doesn't mean stop marketing. That's the worst thing you could do right now, because eyeballs are everywhere. We even see this with email.

Dylan:

Open rates, they're higher than they've ever been. Email conversions are up 30%, but it all comes back to what the heck should I be sending right now. We should be thinking about community and you should be thinking about just safety. Give people a break from normal, but at the same time let them know, in the beginning you wanted to kind of address it a little bit more head on, but now it's like we're noticing you need to be less direct, because we've been monitoring this very closely with our clients, and when we're more aggressive with our emails. When I say aggressive, I just mean sale offer and we're super direct and that type of thing. We noticed that people are starting to get mad at that, with certain messaging, especially among demographics that are really affected by this. So if you think younger people, you think people who work paycheck to paycheck. If you run a company that sees sales spikes around when people get paid, it's like that's something you want to take into account because these people might not be getting paid right now, so the wrong messaging could really make them mad. People are stressed out. We'll get the most responses between 12:00 AM and 3:00 AM of complaints from people.

Brett:

Interesting. Yep, yep.

Dylan:

And I've talked to people about Facebook, who run Facebook Ads and get comments like this and they say they'll even reach out the person, they'll find out the person was literally drunk. But it's like, I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if some of these people replying are in that place because it is a tough time.

Brett:

It is.

Dylan:

And you want to make sure your messaging is less aggressive. So instead of like, "Hey, sale ends tonight. You're dumb for missing out." It's like hey, here's a way we're giving back to the community, so on and so forth.

Dylan:

So for example, we have a client that sales phone cases. We still ran an Earth Day sale to remind everybody hey, it's Earth Day. The planet is more beautiful than it's ever been, and in addition they have a great charity aspect to their brand, because they're donating two organizations that help towards COVID-19 stuff this month. So we made sure to put that in too, where it's like listen, we're super relevant with the messaging, and at the same time we're acknowledging it, but we're not going as aggressive as we were, where it's like, "Hey, it's Earth Day, you got 24 hours to save. Be there or be square."

Brett:

Right. Yeah, promotional stuff. Yeah.

Dylan:

Honing it back a little bit. That's kind of ... A lot to unpack there, so I'll just leave it at that.

Brett:

Yeah. No, that's fantastic, and we'll kind of dig into it a little bit, and I love that you went to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and finally getting something useful from some of the psychology classes in school. No, I liked psych. So as we look at that, I think there may be some elements of getting back to self-actualization before too long. That could happen in weeks rather than months, who knows exactly.

Dylan:

Yeah.

Brett:

But I think definitely drilling into community and how do we help one another, and safety. You can't go wrong there. So let's kind of unpack that just a little bit. So do you have other examples? So you mentioned this one, the self-owned company. They're doing some charity efforts, and so the email is kind of about that. The hey, here's the Earth Day sale and when you do that you're helping others. I've seen that work for a few clients, where one in the laundry detergent space was like, "Hey, for every item you purchase we're donating something to these local shelters or we're donating to first responders." Or things like that. Any other examples along those lines that you've seen working right now?

Dylan:

Yeah, I mean, ultimately you got to make it work for your brand, which every brand is different. If you don't have a charity aspect, you don't have to add a charity aspect to your brand. That's what we've been telling people, but there's always an angle to it. It might even mean, because the biggest thing we're noticing now is like it's really easy to get eyeballs. Conversions might be down overall, like you're seeing on Facebook or wherever. As a merchant it's easy to get these eyeballs because everybody is everywhere. People aren't buying the same, but what we're going to see is as soon as that end date is put in sight, people are just going to start spending like crazy. That's when the gates are going to open up. But if you try to market then, you're going to be too late, and that's why I love how you mention community, it's like that's really what email is about, and that's what the top brands have figured out, that a lot of the mid market merchants who have just built on the back of Facebook, and kind of built this company over the last few years. It's like that's where they need to head, and really think about how do I build community.

Dylan:

So for example, if you're normally just promoting product, product, product, what can you do to add value and what can you do to just provide some entertainment, to provide something? If you have blog posts, you can feature blog posts. If you're doing Instagram content. It's a great time to get people to ... Like I saw a great campaign, I think it was Chubbies. They ran something where it was like be the first stay influencer or something.

Brett:

Nice. I like that, yeah.

Dylan:

Really creative stuff. But yeah, stuff like that, and then obviously if your product gets people outdoors or solves a problem like that, like we were talking earlier, roller skates are crushing like crazy right now. But if your messaging is hey, get the best indoor roller skates, that's not going to work because all the roller rings are closed.

Brett:

Yep.

Dylan:

But if you think this is a great way to get outside. We know a lot of parents are on the list buying for their kids. It's like hey, get them outside, let them get their energy out, that sort of thing. Just really promoting what's our angle.

Brett:

Yeah, I think that's what you've got to look at, is how do we stay true to our brand, and I love that you mentioned that because that's something that really shouldn't change. You're maybe going to pivot a little bit in terms of what problem you're solving, or how you're solving it, or the way you're presenting things, but the core of your brand isn't going to change, right? And one of the things that's ... One great example, and I love this company even outside of the crisis, but Huckberry, men's fashion and other thing, did a great job with their email marketing. They've been doing several work from home sales, and they've been pitching, I think they created this, I don't know. They're the first ones that I've seen to mention it, but the work from home mullet, and it's basically business up top, party below.

Brett:

So it's like hey, we know you're rocking shorts or whatever, but here's how you look good from the top up, so it's like a sale on these sweaters, and it was talked about in a really fun manner. But then they also had tips for how do you brew coffee at home that's a little bit unique. So of course there's the tried and true ways, but try something different. We all are consuming coffee in mass quantities, here are some unique ways to brew your coffee. Then they had show us your work from home set up, tag us and you can get free stuff. So it's all kind of geared around hey, we understand where you are. We're trying to bring a little bit of humor to it, not making light of this situation, but just bringing a smile to your face, we're all in this together type of thing, and then giving you some bonuses and whatnot as well.

Brett:

So I think, you mentioned it, I've heard a few other people mention it as well, that now is a great time to build your list, to build that community, to get more people following you. Do you have any tips of thoughts on that? Anything you're seeing that's unique for building an email list right now, or is that even something you're focusing on right now?

Dylan:

Yeah, I mean, I definitely think now is a great time to build out your foundation to really get set, because we've never had, yes, things are crazy, but things are also kind of slower in a way. We've been talking about this for years. We did a, Klaviyo had us do a guest post last year on priming. How we get lists primed for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. So many people don't even think about that, but that's kind of what you want me to look at right now. Is like how do I get people engaged with our email? And that example that you shared about hey, coffee tips, you're getting people to open your emails.

Brett:

Love it.

Dylan:

People love to buy, but they hate being sold. But if they never open your emails because they know you're always selling something, they're never going to buy. So how do we use this time to get people to open more emails? And as far as in the list, I mean, I would say a lot of people right now are looking to save that extra money. They're looking for that free shipping, they're looking for that discount, and a lot of brands are running their sales, which is even large companies. They're just like, "Yo, here's the code." It's like well, you could get the same conversion rate off that if you gate it with an email or even like a mobile number opt-in, and then you follow up with that person. It's a great opportunity right now to take advantage of that and really build your list from that perspective, especially as people are looking for it, and to first time visitors too. You could segment that out, but yeah, I don't want to get too deep into the weeds, but that's kind of what we're seeing on our end.

Brett:

Yep. I love it. I love it. Any other tips or ideas, and maybe looking at kind of your structured email or your scheduled email. There's another term for it that I'm drawing a blank on.

Dylan:

Cadence.

Brett:

Yeah, cadence, and even thinking about abandoned cart emails, some of your auto email things. Any recommendations on how those should shift right now or should they?

Dylan:

Yeah, I mean, definitely check those out. Look at all of them just in case. I mean, you're probably too late at this point, but it would've been a good idea a few weeks ago to just run through all the emails you had set up and all of your future emails going out just to make sure there's not any messaging that people could find triggering. So we work with some brands who are really, like for example if you think of a company like Chubbies who has really fun copy. We work with a lot of brands like that who sell crazy different products, so in men skincare and stuff like that, but it's like we're kind of toning back the messaging, where we might be a little more casual and a little more fun. We just don't want people to take it the wrong way, because people are really sensitive right now. You want to look, and a big thing is with your evergreen sequences that are set up and always running, your abandoned cart, you could have that mixed in and you just want to make sure that you don't leave that bad taste in people's mouth because that's how they're feeling.

Dylan:

Then we're a little bit past this since, like I said, it's a little ... A few weeks ago people were freaking out. They what was going to happen tomorrow. They weren't sure, it was like the world was going to end and we were just waiting for it to end and we didn't know. But now we've kind of gotten over the hump it seems, as far as just people, there's more hope and there's more optimism than there was, and so with that just realizing that now you're going to be able to, you don't have to be as timely as you did a couple weeks ago. Two weeks ago really good to be talking, hey COVID-19, here's what we're doing, blah, blah, blah. Now it should just be kind of like a bullet on the email. Hey we're donating to X, Y, Z to support for this, but you're not leading with it anymore because people are kind of back to normal. I think we're going to see that as we sort of get to the end, is think about that and then also think about like, I mean, Fourth of July, Prime Day or whatever, it might even be before that, that's going to end up crushing. So just also keeping that in mind too. So if sales are down now, just thinking about oh, this could be coming later, so how do we optimize now so we can profit then?

Brett:

Yeah, interesting. So it's a really good ... This is maybe a good time to kind of transition. Let's look at email marketing in general, right? So eventually things will get back to normal, and who knows when exactly that will be. There'll be I think probably pockets of the US that get back to normal much quicker than say New York City as an example. But what are some common email marketing mistakes that you see? So just in general, and what are some of those top mistakes to avoid? And then we'll look at kind of some of your top email marketing tips as well.

Dylan:

Yeah, for sure. I love how we're starting with the mistakes. I'm going to talk about things that people don't really think about but actually make a huge impact. I mean, the first thing is actually pretty obvious, which is not having email marketing, which at this point you should know that you need email. It's the most tested and true channel. It's lasted over 20 years in e-commerce. It's still a major revenue driver, even for leading brands that are selling billions of dollars per year. So if you don't have email, you're missing out. But a lot of brands already have email, and that's actually one of the big mistakes that people do have, is you have email but it's just email to squeeze out extra revenue. There's no deeper strategy about how it fits into your brand. So you'll see-

Brett:

It's just purely a tactical play and not thinking about the strategy, yeah.

Dylan:

Exactly.

Brett:

Or community.

Dylan:

Exactly. I think it even comes back to in e-commerce, especially as you're scaling a company, it's really easy to be shortsighted on just strategy and hey, let's throw up a sale tomorrow, instead of planning. That's actually a huge mistake, because when you plan and you have a long-term strategy, you can actually move faster and get even better results. So step one I'd say is like zoom out and know where you want to go and reverse engineer it. Don't plan for tomorrow but plan for next month, next quarter. Really the smartest brands are thinking like that, because then you're able to pull more levers and really be smart about growth, and then integrate that into your email strategy where email becomes this arm of your business and the foundation of your company, and just going deeper there.

Dylan:

Another mistake is not thinking of email as this extension of your brand, which it totally is. You go, someone has their 100,000, $300,000 e-commerce website that they got the best agency to put together, they have amazing packaging, and then you go to buy and the emails look like grandma made them. No offense to grandma, but I don't think she's the best direct-to-consumer email designer in 2020. This is a huge missed opportunity because it can leave a bad taste in people's mouth, especially if you have a premium product. Then if the emails don't flow together, all of that. Email is a huge way to not just extract extra revenue for your business that's already there that you need, but also to build a real brand, which that's what's going to last. We've seen the trend over the last five years, right? Drop shipping went through the roof, it was this thing, but since it was front heavy on acquisition and there was a bad customer experience, none of those companies are around anymore, unless they were able to make the transition into being a real brand.

Dylan:

That's the future, even for this bootstrap companies. The next leading direct to consumer brands probably aren't going to be raising tons of money from venture capital, because we see that doesn't work. Warby Parker was great, the other companies not as good, right?

Brett:

Right, you're seeing. Yeah, there's definitely been some bad press about some of these venture backed EC brands, and some even ... I think I saw Casper recently that had a massive valuation at the beginning and now it's worth like a $100 million or something like that.

Dylan:

Yeah, it's less than their annual revenue.

Brett:

Yeah, it's really interesting. So yeah, the way that plays out going forward is going to be really, really interesting. So yeah, cool. Continue. Other email marketing mistakes that you see.

Dylan:

Yeah, yeah. Well it's like that's huge. Email is a big thing to build your brand, and if you don't have that cohesive experience, you're leaving a ton of growth on the table. You think of a company like Nike. I would love to see inside their ads accounts because I bet they just print money like crazy.

Brett:

Me too. I would love to manage their ads accounts.

Dylan:

I know. Dude, I don't even know anything about Facebook Ads, well that's not true, but I know very basic things about Facebook Ads, I could probably run good ads for them because they're such a powerful brand, everybody knows it, and that's where email is overlooked. It's a great place to communicate your brand, and then from there, that's how you build a $100 million e-commerce company, right? You have a solid brand, because ads can only carry you so far, until you get that word of mouth, that brand recognition, even if it's just in your space, when you see better numbers, it's just easier to grow. Really looking at email and lifetime value as one of your top numbers, because like we said in the beginning, return on ad spend, not as great as it used to be. There's more competition every year.

Dylan:

I talk to a lot of brands and CEOs who they're worried about, not the big companies anymore because they disrupted them, right? I don't like the disrupt word, but they proved that they could come in the space, and now they're worried about people coming and doing the same to them, and increasing competition in advertising and just making it less profitable. But if you focus on lifetime value, which very few brands are, that's what's going to put you ahead, because it's going to put more profit into your business and it's really the lifeblood of every e-commerce business, but I don't think many people know that. They're looking at their return on ad spend every day, but do you even know your lifetime value? That's the metric that's-

Brett:

Very, very, very few e-commerce companies do. We talk to e-commerce companies all the time, and in their defense it is pretty tricky to calculate lifetime value, but I mean, there are some variations of it and you should at least have a goal of getting close to knowing your LTV for clients, because without that it's really hard to make marketing decisions.

Dylan:

Oh, it's super hard. People don't even know their numbers, and that's the last mistake, is not knowing your numbers and then not taking your email strategies to work that, because email is the highest converting channel. Send more email, you're going to increase your conversion rate.

Brett:

Yeah.

Dylan:

Increasing repeat orders, best way to do it. It's been proven, it's amazing. Same with like we're saying, average order value, lifetime value. You do upsells really easily, bundle products, run promotions. Do all these things strategically to move those metrics, and you just increase your traffic or conversions by 25%, your average order value 25%, and your repeat orders by 25%, then you double your business. I mean, we even see this with eight figure clients who are doubling from 10 to 20 million a year and beyond. It's wild how these little numbers, little increases can make a huge impact on your business.

Brett:

Yep. It's so interesting, and it sounds like ... Are you a Jay Abraham fan? Do you know Jay Abraham?

Dylan:

Oh yeah.

Brett:

Yeah.

Dylan:

Yeah.

Brett:

He talks about the three ways to grow a business, and it really hasn't changed, even in the e-commerce world, and he talked about this a couple decades ago, but the only three ways to grow a business are more new customers, increase average order value, and increase frequency of repurchase, right? And usually though when people think grow my business, they only think about that first lever, more new customers, which I love that, I'm a traffic guy. So we like to bring in more new customers, but if you can just get modest increases in all three of those areas, then the overall impact, like you said, you got 25% increases in all three areas, you double your business and it's pretty powerful.

Dylan:

It's a cheat code. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for traffic and our most successful clients-

Brett:

Yeah, yeah.

Dylan:

Are driving as much traffic as possible, but people forget about the backend often because there's just so much going on. That's why companies hire us, because we come in and then we just execute that.

Brett:

Love it. Now some tips. Just kind of as we wrap up here or near the close of our time, what are some of your email marketing tips, suggestions, your top email tips right now?

Dylan:

Yeah, I mean, right now one of the lowest hanging fruits is community. People are really craving that. Open rates are higher than ever. Email is just cutting through the noise at unprecedented levels that it hasn't in a very long time. So if you're not emailing and you're taking your foot off the gas, that's a huge mistake. Like we talked about, it doesn't mean you have to be promoted, but the number one thing you can do is just be consistent. Be consistent. Be consistent in how often you communicate. Be consistent in your branding and your messaging. You don't want to give people design shock. You don't want people to think, "Who the heck is this?" And be consistent in adding value. These are people on the other side. It's not just hey, let's send more email, make more money. You're going to burn out your list. It's not long-term.

Dylan:

The second thing I would say is creative, it's such a low hanging fruit. I'm sure anybody who runs ads know that creative is really one of the biggest differentiators in success of your brand. Yeah, no brand has good creative on email. It's very, very rare, because it's just like an afterthought of hey, let's throw this together, we'll send an email tomorrow. You can actually use this to make more money and really build a successful brand.

Brett:

When you say creative, are you more concerned about the copy, you're more concerned about the design and the aesthetics of the email, or is it both, and any thoughts there?

Dylan:

Yeah. So it's definitely both. A lot of people listen to podcasts like this, and someone will say, "Hey, plain text sells like crazy." Everybody is like, "Oh, we should do all plain text." It's like, no. Don't do all plain text. We do a lot of stuff like that, but ultimately, I mean, you want to be really specific about when to use it, but what you want to think about is the average attention span when someone opens an email is like 10 seconds, less than 13 seconds. So how do I grab their attention? If you just have a big paragraph there it's like, next. Then they have your competitor's email.

Dylan:

Right. You want the subject line to open the email, and then you want the design and copy to get them to click, and then let the site to the rest. A lot of people try to give their whole story and give like five million different things in an email. It's like focus on one thing per email, make it look good. It doesn't all have to be fancy graphics, but make it eye catching because you only have those 10 seconds, and then make it easy for people to skim, because so many people are on mobile, you're cramming paragraphs, people aren't going to be able to read it. Then make sure there's one focused offer works really well, because otherwise people get overwhelmed and when they get overwhelmed, they do nothing. That's really the basics when it comes to creative, and then also consistency. You want to make sure everything is on brand. I see companies who, even with large companies who, they just fire an email every day, but the button colors will change every day. It's like people aren't going to know your brand then, have a style guide, get it updated. Branding is really the future of e-commerce. If you don't have a brand, you're not going to make it, and email is one of those places where it's super important.

Brett:

Cool, I love it. Actually I know you guys do more than email. So any new trends, or tips, or ideas around loyalty and some of the other things you're doing, whether it's SMS marketing or anything else like that?

Dylan:

Yeah. The biggest thing is stop looking at all these things as tactics and start thinking about how they integrate together. Because you could have an SMS program, you can have an email program, you can have a loyalty program, but if they're all fighting for each other, you might see some incremental revenue increase, but you're not going to see any massive growth. That's really what we do with our clients, is we come in and make it all comprehensive and integrated together so that if you get hit with an email and you don't buy, then you get hit with a text. If that doesn't happen or you go to the site, and maybe there's some on site messaging, or how do we drive people to loyalty. I see brands with loyalty pop-ups on my first visit. I'm like, "I'm not going to join your loyalty program."

Brett:

I'm not even loyal yet there, bud. Yeah.

Dylan:

What is a something point, it's like a Dylan point. You get a Dylan point, bonus Dylan points on these orders. It's like, I don't even know you yet. That would be much better if you're trying to capture an email, or get somebody to make that first purchase. Yeah, mobile messaging is great. It's cutting through the noise too, but you have to be careful. A lot of people don't know this, but Fashion Nova, they had a $50 million class action lawsuit against them because they didn't follow the rules around mobile. It's like email, 15, 20 years ago. They're going to be making examples of brands. Fashion Nova was one of them. You hear about a $50 million lawsuit and you're like, "Screw that. We're going to operate within your rules." They're still studying those examples now, so you got to make sure that if you're doing SMS stuff, yes, it's easy to fire on that campaign, but you got to think about am I doing this within the law? That's huge. There's hours you have to send in. There's amount of messages that you can't exceed. A lot of people don't know that, and that can end up costing you literally millions of dollars.

Dylan:

So when you're thinking about this stuff, think about how it comes together. If you want to build a long-term business, also think about instead of being aggressive for short-term wins, think about how do I build a business that lasts and really create community by just being consistent with my customers and not going too aggressive. It'll also keep you out of the court system.

Brett:

Absolutely. How can we build a community, be strategic, and yes, keep ourselves out of jail is a good thing. So I love this. Dylan, this has been fantastic. I think really just if you look at all of these tools, email, SMS, loyalty programs, it's really about delivering the right message at the right time in the right way. To build a community, to build good will, yes to drive sales and increase lifetime value, but to do it all in a way that builds the brand long-term and serves clients and does the right thing.

Brett:

As we wrap up, how can people, one, get in touch with you if they just want to chat with you or learn of Wavebreak and help them, and do you have any resources or guides or anything that people should check out?

Dylan:

Yeah, for sure. We have a ton of resources on everything I talked about. Obviously we don't have hours to get into this stuff, but we do a ton of webinars, video trainings. We just published a really in-depth guide kind of on this, retention marketing as a whole comprehensive strategy for growing an e-commerce brand. That's at Wavebreak.co/retention-marketing. I can give you the link to link it up.

Brett:

Sure. We'll put it in the show notes and so we'll there too.

Dylan:

Yeah. Wavebreak.co/resources. We also have a private newsletter there where it's not a blog post. I'm impressed with it myself. We get a ton of great feedback on it. A lot of leading brands on the list. Yeah, just giving our insider insights on what we see every day and every week. It's real time, straight from me, it's not your generic newsletter. It's a private newsletter, what's working now with our eight figure clients. Then beyond that if you are a brand who is mostly focused on the front end with advertising, and know that on the backend your email, loyalty and all that isn't working together, it might actually be hurting you and they're just more money and more potential there, you go to Wavebreak.co/call. You can request a call with us, and that's still with me. I still run all our sales and stuff. So you.. A compliment call directly with me, and we'll literally just talk like you and I are, Brett, just about your business and whether it makes sense to work together or not. I mean, I'll point you in the right direction. At this point I know a thing or two about scaling a successful D2C e-commerce company, and I'll know where you're at and what you need to do, and if we can help, then we'll go down that path, but that's Wavebreak.co/call.

Brett:

Love it, man. Phenomenal insights. I know we're in definitely interesting times, to say the least, from a marketing, and e-commerce, and D2C perspective. Appreciate you sharing your insights. Appreciate you making all those resources available, and you guys have done fantastic work for eight figure e-commerce brands. So definitely check it out. Check out, and you've got a podcast as well, right? And that's available at Wavebreak.co too. Is that where we'd find that?

Dylan:

Yeah, you check it out there or you can go to wavebreakpodcast.com. So another e-commerce podcast, top five ranked. We've interviewed a ton of great people, founder and CEO of PopSockets, their brand, all the great companies behind their company, how they've sold ... I mean, at this point we've got people ... We're probably getting close to a billion in revenue combined of all of the people we've interviewed on the show.

Brett:

Amazing.

Dylan:

So really good insights there. If you like this podcast, you'll really enjoy it as well.

Brett:

Absolutely, yeah. Wavebreak Podcast, check that out also. Dylan, man, bringing it today all the way from PA. Really appreciate you taking the time, man. Thanks for sharing your insights, and we'll have to do this again sometime.

Dylan:

Yeah, for sure. Thanks for inviting me on.

Brett:

Yep, absolutely. As always, we'd love to hear from you, our listeners. Would love that review on iTunes if you feel so inclined, and with that, until next time. Thank you for listening. And that's a wrap.

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