Podcast Episode 322: John Oechsle, President & CEO, Swiftpage
The Magic of Auto-Responding Email
During the global financial crisis of 2008-09 I sent around 60,000 emails as I worked through vast portfolios of distressed real estate projects - creating one of the first auto-responding email systems (though mine was steam-powered) and I had no idea at the time that's what I'd done.
John Oeschle understood the power of auto-responding email systems and has built one of the most sophisticated systems in the world.
Listen to best of class practices in this episode and see below for more links to Gary's online profiles.
What You're Going to Learn
* What is email marketing automation?
* How to know if your emails are received
* The Call To Action (CTA)
* Email marketing for troglodytes
* What's the most important part of email?
* List buying best practices.
* For 4 C's of Information
And much, much more.
Listen To or Watch the Full Podcast Here
The "Call to Action"
John: Normally, what you do is you have some kind of a call to action in your message, which means that, "Hey, you want to learn more? Click here." You want to click here, or whatever. Now you want to see did that call to action work, and how many people clicked on that? It's what's called a click-through. Normally, that lands you into some kind of a landing page, or a website, or something. It's going to tell you how many people clicked through to the landing page or the website.
Then, if you have a real marketing automation system, it's going to tell you how long did they stay on your website? Where did they go? Oh, by the way, I can capture more information about them on the website, or whatever. All of that information comes back, which is super-super-important.
Then you need to figure out what's the next [what's called a] nurture cycle. If I only opened it, I get put in this path of just open path. If I clicked through, I'm going to get put in this path. If I really spent a lot of time on the website, I'm going to get put on this path [cross talk] Go ahead-
Adam: I was going to ask you ... Let's talk about those paths a little bit. When you talk about 'in this path,' what you're saying is - correct me if I'm wrong - that on day one, what I'm going to do as the developer trying to raise capital from people in this- let's use this 20,000-person sample, as an example. I'm going to pre-write all my emails. I'm going to write a standard e-mail that I may split test, or A/B test to my group. Then I'm going to say if somebody doesn't respond at all or doesn't even open, then I may send this email or this sequence.
Adam: If they do open it, but they don't click, I'll send this next email. If they click, I'll send this email. You write all these emails ... If they're super-engaged, then they're going to get these three emails over a two-week period. You pre-author everything, right?
Adam: Put it into the system, and then the whole thing just runs automatically?
John: Exactly. You're creating what's called content. There's a bunch of different ... There's emails - that's content. There may be PowerPoint presentations, or PDFs, or little videos, or all kinds of stuff that you create. That's the beauty of having what I would call one single platform that handles both CRM and marketing automation, because you capture all of this information in one place, and you don't have to go looking for it, and say, "Oh, my gosh, let me go over to this system. Pull that, bring it over here." That's when you're working for the software, instead of the software working for you.
What's the Most Important Part of An Email?
Adam: When you pre-author a campaign, have you seen any structures that work particularly well, let's say, for a launch of a product or of a - in our case - new deal that's coming down the pipe? In other words, a three-email, or a nine-email sequence or something like that, that's just a straight line, irrespective of what you do during it - what a recipient does during.
John: There's a couple of key things that I think people need to take a look at. Number one, probably the most important thing is getting your subject line correct.
John: Think about your own inbox. I don't know about you; I get hundreds and hundreds of emails a day. You're just kind of going down real quickly, and say "Delete, delete, delete ..." Something's got to jump out at you. That's why it's so important to not just say, "Hey, let me just go buy a bunch of lists of email addresses and put them in there." If you can have any information about the people that you're sending stuff to, it's really important.
If somebody's in a certain business, or in a certain industry, or whatever, you want to get something that ticks to them, and says, "Oh, okay, this is this is interesting. Let me ..." Think about yourself and say what makes you open up an email? Obviously, if it's somebody you know, you're going to open it up, but if it's not something you know, it's ... The subject line is interesting, so that's going to be critical in how you do that. Now, if you have a good tool, a good tool is going to help you to say, "Based upon what you're trying to do, here's a couple of examples." Then you can kind of customize it from [cross talk] That's number one.
Number two - the body of the actual email, or whatever you're sending out is really, really important. Two key things: know that your audience is probably not always going to be sitting in front of a laptop, or in front of a desktop, or something like that, and opening this up. They're probably, 90 percent of the time, going to open this thing up on a phone. Whatever you do, make sure it looks good on a phone; not just looks good on a desktop, or laptop. It has to render - a tablet, whatever, and that sort of thing. That's really critical.
The next thing is to- when somebody opens, where's the best place to put what we call the call to action, the click-through? Is it just a link, or is it a box, or whatever? Is it above- what we call above the fold? Those are the types of things that you need to look at. Now, to somebody maybe in your industry, or a landscaper, or whatever, they're going to say, "I don't know how to do all that." That's when you really need a good tool. There are a lot of good tools out there. They're going to pre-populate it with a lot of this stuff. They're going to come by industry ... If you buy a tool and it comes empty, it's not a good tool type of thing. Why? Email marketing/marketing automation has been around for 15 years, 20, whatever.
If you're a good vendor, you're going to be capturing what works, what doesn't work, and then be able to put that back into the tool and say, "Here's an industry called real estate, or land development, or whatever. Here's a bunch of pre-populated content that all you have to do is click here, and it'll bring your names in; maybe you can move stuff around very quickly, so you don't have to start from scratch.
List Buying Best Practices
Adam: One of the things that you said that was very interesting to me was you alluded to buying lists. How does that work exactly? This obviously dovetails into the concept of sending spam and the definitions of spam. I know that if you send something that is of value, it's not technically considered spam. Tell me a little bit about buying lists and best practices for that.
John: There are an enormous amount of what I'll call not-so-clean lists out there, so you have to be very, very careful. Why is that? Let's start there, first, and then we'll turn into how do you get ... Actually, buying lists is a good way to go, if you do it correctly.
Why is it bad? If somebody just says, "Hey, I've got a list of people that have invested in real estate development in the past. Here's 50,000 names, and it costs 1,500 bucks." Boom. You'd say, "Oh, fantastic!" I get that. You do that, and then you say, "I'm going to put out a blast email to those 50,000." There's this thing called deliverability, and it's very, very important, because any tool that you use is going to work through a series of server names, and domain names, and things along those lines.
There are people that police that. If you continuously have a high bounce rate, the people who you've acquired the tool from are going to come to you and say, "I'm cutting you off. You're not allowed to send ..." Why? Because it's hurting the vendor's reputation. If the vendor loses their reputation, then they can't send. if they can't send, their businesses is done, right? That's one.
Now, if you say, "Well, I'm going to go past that, and I'm just going to go into Outlook, and just try and send them myself," well, then, you'll get blacklisted, as well. What that means is that you'll just get blocked at the server level and nobody will ever see your emails. That's why the bounce rate is so important.
What you want to do is, if you do buy those lists, first and foremost, you want to make sure that you're not buying hundreds of thousands. Because if you have so many like that, you know there's a bunch of trash in there. What you do is do your homework. Go search the internet, do some stuff, and talk to other people in the industry. Say, "Who has the best data?"
I don't know your industry very well, so I can't tell you go here, here, or there, but there are probably people that do have clean lists that you can buy that will have a very low bounce rate. You really want to do your homework before you do that. When you do that, you want to test the list. Don't just buy a big list and say, "I'm going to go blast it out ..."
Adam: Send just one email, right?
John: Take a small subset and send it out. If you get a high bounce rate, say, "Oh, my goodness, I probably got bamboozled on that."
The 4 C's of Information
Adam: What are best practices for getting messages through, even if you know people and you're sending out to a broadcast, let's say, to 20,000 people that do know you and do have some kind of relationship with you? You're still going to these issues aren't you, John?
John: A couple of things. I'll talk a little bit, and then I'm going to drive into what I call the four C's of information [cross talk].
Adam: That was my next question [cross talk] fantastic.
John: What I always tell small businesses is just think about how you converse with people you know and think about how you have an interaction. Like, "Hey, Adam, how you doing?" That kind of stuff. How often do you converse with some of your close friend? It's every day. Some of your other people, it's every couple of months, or whatever.
Don't just think that, "The only time I'm going to send emails or converse with this group of people is when I want them to invest." That's definitely an important time, but I also want to just keep up and say, "Hey, let me just tell you what's been going on with us." Keep them close and involved, so that when you do send them an email about investment, it's not something that came out ... Like, "Oh, man, I haven't heard from Adam in five years, and all the sudden, I'm getting [cross talk]
Adam: "He's asking me for money!" Exactly. Right.
John: You think about it in that way. Now, let's drive into the Four C's of information. This is super-super-important for anybody that's using any type of tool. So, the first two C's are currency and correctness, and they go hand in hand. If your information is not current, it's not going to be correct. And if it's not correct, it's not current. What does that mean? Some people move offices, or move house, so they have a different address. Sometimes, they move jobs, and they have a different email address, whatever.
So, if you don't have the most current information on that, it's not going to be correct. And guess what? You're not going to be able to converse with them. That's why it's important to keep constant communication, because if you're constantly communicating, you're going to know that Adam moved, because you're going to get a bounce back and, you're going to be like, "Wow! Adam must've got a different email address. What? That's weird. I'd better go into LinkedIn and find out where did he go?" Two very, very important- currency and correctness.
The third C is probably just as important. That's called consistency. So, once you have stuff current and correct, when you look at consistency, the reason being is that you now probably have information about your customers in multiple places. You have it- if you're lucky enough to have it in a CRM system, that should be your authoritative source. But some people have it in their Outlook contacts, or their Gmail, or they have it in a spreadsheet, or they have it in their little e-commerce system ... There's information all over the place. If it's not consistent - if I don't have the same information - guess what? It's not going to be current. It's not going to be correct; or I don't know which one is current or correct. You have to have that consistency around there.
Then, the fourth C, which is probably the most important C, is once it's current, correct, and consistent, it has to be complete. Now, complete - everybody kind of misinterprets this. Everybody looks at completeness and says, "I've got to have both addresses, and phone numbers, mobile, land ..." All that's important information, but, when I talk about completeness, it's I have every single interaction that I've ever had with that customer, or prospect, or lead, or contact, or whatever, and I have it in one place.
John: That's complete. I know the last time I talked to them in person, I know the last time I talked to them on the phone, or how many emails I've sent them. I know, when I send them an email, how many times they've opened it, what they've done. I know how many times they've invested, what they've invested, how many ... What kind of return I gave them. [inaudible] me, or do they hate me? [cross talk]
John: That's completeness. Really going at that, the very first thing you need to do before you start emailing and all that other stuff - work on the four C's of information. That will make you so much more positive in your results as you go forward.
What is Email Marketing Automation?
Adam: What actually is email automation?
John: Or marketing automation? [cross talk]
Adam: -stand corrected! Go for it. Marketing automation.
John: Marketing automation is a piece of a larger space, which we call conversion and retention. So, if you think about- we - 'we' being Swiftpage - focus mainly on the SMB market. We could talk about how we break down the SMB market-
Adam: What's SMB?
John: Small- and medium-sized businesses.
Adam: Ah, right.
John: So, that's kind of where ... If you think of this thing called conversion and retention, let's start with that first, and you look at the market, everybody in the market needs four digital pillars in order to grow their business. We call them presence, traffic, conversion and retention, and optimization tools.
Everybody knows what presence is, right? That is their website pages, Facebook, landing pages, et cetera. Then, traffic - SEO, semester, all that great stuff - drives traffic to your presence. What that creates - leads. Then conversion and retention is all about converting leads to customers, retaining them, and growing them. Then, optimization tools are things like financial software, HR software, or whatever. As a small business, you need to have all four of those pillars moving at the same time in order for you to grow.
So let's take, now, conversion and retention. What is that? We believe that the center of the universe of conversion and retention is CRM - customer relationship management. I think everybody knows what that is-
Adam: Well, actually, let's not make that assumption. CRM, is that synonymous with the idea of email automation? I know you already corrected me on that concept-
John: Yes and no. It's a piece. Think about email marketing, and then, marketing automation are all pieces. So, if you look at the whole space of conversion and retention, there's three or four big pieces that make that up. When I say pieces, pieces of technology. So, customer relationship management, that's really your- why we called 'center of the universe,' that's where you're going to store all of your information about your customers, your contacts, your prospects, all the interactions you've had with them. You can also put in your pipeline, your sales [cross talk]
Adam: I see.
John: That becomes your authoritative source for information that you will then use for things like marketing automation, which is the other big piece of conversion and retention; maybe even some sales automation ... Sales automation is when you're looking at your pipeline, your opportunities. It also gets into things that people call- you might hear of what was called CPQ, or Configure, Price, and Quote. That's part of sales automation.
Then, the other big piece of the conversion and retention is service management. Maybe there's service tickets, or maybe there's a field service manager managing a fleet, et cetera. All of that together makes up this thing called conversion and retention ... As a platform, you want to be able to have that all in one, so it's connected, so you're not trying to figure out what's going on [cross talk]
Then comes marketing automation, which is now I've got all this great information in my CRM, and I want to stay connected, and I want to create campaigns. A campaign is like- in your case, with your user base or customers, it's basically saying, "Hey, listen, I need to go out and raise some money. I've got this big land development, and I need to go raise $100 million or whatever. Let me go to my CRM and say, 'Who have I connected with in the past that has given me money, or been an investor, or whatever? Who have maybe I've connected with and wasn't an investor, but I think may be an investor this time'?"
Now you're going to go into your CRM system, and you're going to say, "Let me create a group of either existing investors, prospect investors, or just some people that I that I know that I need to get ahold of." You create that group, and you say, "Now, I want to create a campaign, and I'm going to send out ..." it could be an email message, it could be maybe a little video or whatever. I'm going to send some kind of an information to these folks that says, "Hey, I've got this really great opportunity. YOU need to invest [inaudible] make a lot of money." That's what the marketing automation is. It helps you to create that.
Now, you can go into your marketing automation and create your own stuff, or, if you have a really good tool, it's going to have templates, and everything already associated. It's really geared towards your industry, so you don't have to do a whole lot of work. Then you send it out, and then you can track what happens to that. So, you can track this thing, like Adam opened it; John not only opened it, but he clicked through on this stuff; Adam opened it four times. Well, he kept going back to it. Why? Because it probably was interesting to him or whatever. All those statistics come back.
Here's the key, and this is what your listeners needs to keep in mind, when you're talking about a small-, medium-sized business, which even though I would assume and I maybe shouldn't do this, but the people in your industry, they're probably small businesses. They may raise lots and lots of money, but they're not like thousands of person companies. They could be one person, to five, to 10, to 15, or whatever. When you're that small, you don't have a data scientist on your staff. You don't have a head of marketing, or you don't have any of that. What you need to do is make sure that this software works for you, not you having to work for the software.
How to Know if Your Emails Are Received
Adam: We have a deal opening next week. We're going to be raising $5 million or $10 million, whatever the number is. I send out an email to 20,000 people. What will the software be telling me that [cross talk]
John: First and foremost, the very, very, very, very first thing the software is going to say - I think you said 20,000, right? - The 20,000 emails that went out - how many were really- were real email addresses? That's the very first ... Which is important, in today's day and age. We'll talk about the four C's of information later. The information gets messed up or whatever; you don't have the right email address ... That's what's called a bounce. I don't know if you've ever heard that term. You send out an email [cross talk]
Adam: -called bounce, yeah.
John: -bounces back, and it says this is not a legitimate email. That's the first thing it's going to do is just tell you that. Then you're going to say ... If 50 percent of them bounce back, you're like, "Okay, my data is really messed up, and I need to focus on that. Let's say a large portion of it goes through.
Then the next thing the software would tell you is how many people even opened it. It's called the open rate. You'll look at different percentages ... An open rate, you should get in the 20- to 30-percent open rate. If you're getting lower than that, that means two things. One is the people that you're sending to are the wrong people, or your [what's called a] subject line is not interesting enough for people to say, "Oh, that's kind of cool. Let me open on that." That's two things [cross talk]
Adam: -you guys do a split testing, do you? You could do split testing of subject lines?
John: Yep, it's called A/B testing. That's the beautiful thing about a full marketing automation type of a software is basically saying, "Let me try this. Let me try this. Let me try this." You can put as many as you want, and you come back and say, "Okay, these worked, so now, let me do that.