Ep. 55 – Go Beyond Business and Marketing: Dinner Party Strategy for your Emails with Val Geisler

The best way to know what kind of content
to be producing, in the first place, is to talk to your customers. Welcome to Honest eCommerce, where we’re dedicated
to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I’m your host Chase Clymer, and I believe
running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. If you’re struggling with scaling your sales,
Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect
to learn more. Now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode
of Honest eCommerce. This is a long episode in the making. We’ve rescheduled, I think
three times, so this is the record. Third time’s the charm. Exactly. Exactly. And the best part is you’re
here locally in Columbus, Ohio with me and we couldn’t make it work. Nor have we purposely met up in person. Yeah. We forgot to get coffee, too. (laughs) So the mystery guest, (laughs) that I haven’t
introduced yet, is Val Geisler. She’s the Chief Email Officer of Fix My Churn. They’re
a team of specialists dedicated to keeping customers around longer through a better lifecycle
and transactional email campaigns. I can’t believe I did that all in one take. Good job! Absolutely. So let’s get right to it. Why
is email important? Well, probably because everybody thinks about
transactional emails. That’s… If you don’t have transactional emails, like what are you
even doing with your business? But there’s so much more to email and that’s
what’s really fun for me about it. There are so many opportunities to… Especially, in
today’s data-filled world, we have so much information about our customers and it’s just
a matter of using it. And email is always going to be the best way
to reach people. It is direct. You “own your list.” It’s not run by engagement on a social
media platform or managed by the amount of money you’re willing to spend on an ad. Once you have someone’s email address, you
can talk to them. Talk directly to them. And so email is cool for lots of reasons. And we can talk about maybe some of them unless
this is like a 3-hour show. But yeah, I think email matters a lot. And most people are doing
(only) 5% of what they could do. Oh, you have no idea. And I will talk about
that later. (laughs) So, what brought you down this path of email
and copy and just the power of owning that relationship with your customer? The joke about email marketers is that nobody
got into email on purpose. There’s no degree in Email Marketing. Maybe there is, actually.
I haven’t really looked. (laughs) But it’s not something that people necessarily
choose to go into. We all just landed here through happenstance and experience. So, I got into email by way of working for
an ESP. So I was the email marketer. The person sending the emails that did the marketing
for the email marketing company. So that was a little bit of a meta job, maybe
as meta as you could possibly get, actually. And I just fell in love with email on both
sides. So I learned the tip of the iceberg –as far as like deliverability– and I have
a little bit of knowledge there from being on the backside of an ESP. But then I also –as the person sending and
then also having all these customers who are doing really cool things with their email
campaigns– Being able to watch what they were doing and see it from the software side,
it was just like a crash course in email marketing. And I just fell in love. I think that’s the best way to learn any new
skill is just trial by fire. But my project manager, Andrew, would murder me for that
opinion. (laughs) Well, it was like what they say:
“The best way to learn a language is to go to the country and just immerse yourself.”
That was definitely how I learned the language of email. Absolutely. So speaking of the language of
email, what’s your favorite salutation? Oh. Well, it depends on the brand. Oh, and
see, that’s the thing. That’s the number one answer that I will give you about everything
email: It depends and you have to test it. But as far as for my own personal use, it’s
usually “Hey…” (laughs) Yeah. Or that’s a greeting, I guess. Salutation.
That’s a sign-off? You know what, I don’t know. (laughs) I think. Because the saying is, “Greetings
and salutations.” Right? So that’s hello and goodbye? I think salutation is signing off. Perhaps. I know that Shawn, my business partner,
broke me off the habit of saying, “Hey!” He thought it wasn’t as professional. And then
he got me stuck on saying, “Hi!” Hi. That was four years ago. I don’t know. But
that’s… I think it’s to each their own. It’s your personal brand. You can say “What’s
up?” if you want. Right. Exactly. So to that point about (how),
it’s not “professional.” Maybe your brand is one that is purposely not professional
and so “Hey!” makes total sense. Our friend, Nick, has a client or worked with a client
that’s very brusque, I suppose. And they’ll send emails like, “Hey, moron.”
(laughs) And that’s how they start their emails to their email list and people sign up to
engage with their brand because of that language. It’s not a turn off in that case. Yeah, absolutely. So when we were at the Klaviyo
conference, a few months ago. I have a terrible perception of time. Chubbies was one of the
(ones that) was giving a talk on how they’re doing emails and whatnot. They said that their list has grown a lot,
but it hasn’t grown along with sales. And what they found is that their very hilarious
and goofy antics in their emails have attracted people that want to be on the list to see
what they’re going to say and what they’re going to send. Yeah. So yeah. You can say whatever you want in
your emails. And if your brand is true, and you’ve got your audience and your market picked
out correctly, they’re probably going to respond to it. Yeah. And I’d be interested to see how many
people joined the Chubbies list to just check out their emails and enjoy some time in their
inbox and then end up becoming customers but not with the intention of becoming customers
but end up buying anyway because of it. Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s the old, 7 Touchpoints
to when a customer… Or now it’s 12 or 100. I don’t know. (laughs) But you know it’s… I bet you there are people
that signed up just because it was goofy. And then they’re like, “You know what, I want
those shorts.” Yeah. I think that there are several brands
I’ve interacted with lately that make me feel that way. TUSHY is one of them. I’m familiar. Yeah. So they have some really great language
both in their emails and on their site and it just makes you feel like “Yeah, I want
to buy from you guys. I have options in this world but…” And Mandy’s is another brand that is a great
example of using copy wisely to attract their right customers, whether that person was intent
on becoming a customer or not. Absolutely. So we’re talking about all these
great brands. They’re doing it right. It’s completely 180. That’s going backwards, right?
Yeah. Mm-hmm. So to the other side of it is, what about
the small business that’s just breaking into something to beyond like, “Sale! Sale! Sale!”? Yeah. How do you do from nothing relationship-building
personalization? Having a great email experience, I guess, for lack of better words. Where should
I start? What are some concepts to keep in mind? So, I think of instantly about this company
that I recently purchased from and then ended up on their email list. They’re called Compete
Every Day. It’s a little t-shirt company designed for athletes with that mindset of “compete
every day.” And they do such a beautiful job of telling
their story and I think that that is what small brands should focus on. Because you
don’t have the ad budget for every single podcast commercial out there like MeUndies
does, right? So you have to do something that’s different
and meaningful to your customers. So, Compete Every Day, I don’t know how many customers
they have, or email subscribers they have, but they most likely have less than MeUndies.
And so what they do is they tell their story. The founder uses the welcome email to say
like, “Hi, this is me and this is what I do and why I care about it and why I make these
t-shirts in a world of like, everybody’s making a t-shirt. And by the way, I do some motivational
talks for corporations and…” He even goes so far as like, “If you want
to talk to me about those things, hit reply. Otherwise, I’m so excited that you’re here.”
And so he does like a little selling of his own side hustle for his t-shirt business in
his emails. But the point is that he really focuses on
the story of why he started his company. He acknowledges the fact that, me being there
on his email list, he notices it, it makes a difference to him and that there’s this
community thing built around this brand of Compete Every Day. And that’s what everybody wants, to feel like
a part of something, feel some belonging. And so he just capitalizes on that and then
continues that messaging throughout his entire email experience, and it’s just perfect for
a small brand. No, yeah. I fully believe in just being honest
and sharing the story. I honestly think the more and more that I’m getting down this rabbit
hole of business, strategy, and marketing, all that fun stuff, it always comes back to
the… The same core concepts always come up and
every strategy or tactic is just based on that. The first one is people want to do business
with people they know. They want to know there’s a human on the other end of that transaction
and they’re curious as to… Yeah. …why are they doing this? Why did they deserve
my money versus this other company? Right. And even him talking about things like,
“Hey, I do these motivational talks for corporations or whatever.” And I think that he even (gave)
links to a video of one on YouTube or something and by doing that, establishes even more humanness. So, it’s not just that he has his signature
there, and he says his name, and he addresses you directly as a reader, all those things
are important. But then as a reader, I have this opportunity to go watch a video of him
and he becomes a real human being in my mind. And then when I’m thinking about where I’m
going to buy my next t-shirt to work out in, that’s the company that comes to mind first
and foremost. Even just in this example, you are talking to me about what businesses are
doing really well, that came to mind instantly. Oh yeah. So, you mentioned in the notes here
that there’s a simple solution to stop your brand from feeling like a vending machine.
I feel like that’s going to be a quick win for a lot of our listeners. Oh yeah. What is that simple solution? (laughs) To not just email your list when
you have something to sell them. So finding that way that your brand can add value beyond
your products and delivering that value to your customers. So it’s a simple yet possibly
complex solution because it can be difficult to land on… In TUSHY’s example, or a day company, how
can we add value to our customers? Well, what they do is they take everything they can out
of the news about, quite honestly about poop, and put it into a regular newsletter for their
customers. So they don’t have… Well, they actually
just launched a toilet paper so now they have a subscription model in their business, but
it’s not like you’re going and buying a bidet every month. So, they want to keep you engaged so that
when you’re thinking about gifts or when you –I don’t know– build an addition and have
another bathroom, –I don’t know (laughs) when you would need more than one– but they
engage you and they become the leading authority on poop. (laughs) And that’s what they’re
solving, the problem that they’re solving with their product. And so they go out and seek out those resources
to become that authority in your inbox. They recently sent an email about how there’s a
car company that’s experimenting with using cow manure to provide fuel for cars. And I mean, it’s related. It has nothing to
do with human poop, but it means something to them. And it probably means something to
their customers and it’s interesting. And again, I can recall that from reading one
email a couple of weeks ago here in this conversation. So it obviously makes a difference. No, I think that’s a fantastic strategy. And
also, congrats on being the first person on the podcast to say poop. Yay! Multiple times. Yeah, no. I’ll make sure that you get a banner. (laughs) So, I think that almost goes hand-in-hand
with just the power of having a niche and the power of having a brand. If you’re selling…
If you’re an internet bodega (laughs), –it’s my term (that) I like to use (if) your selling
everything and you don’t really have a story around it– it’s harder to create a strategy
around your email. Whereas TUSHY and these other examples, they
have a brand, they have a particular niche, a particular market, so it’s a lot easier
to find reasons to email your customer, give them strategy, give them the news, potentially
create content that plays into what your audience wants to see. So, I think that’s just something to keep
in mind as you (are) –any listeners evolving their business– thinking about where they
want to go with it. If you’ve got a niche market or you’ve got your segment pretty picked
out, and it’s pretty solid, and it’s working for you and you’re getting your sales, it
makes it so much easier to make content down the line. Yeah, and I think the best way to know what
kind of content to be producing in the first place is to talk to your customers. It’s another
thing to add to your to-do list, especially for small brands, –you’re probably wearing
multiple hats, if not all of the hats of your business– going out and having meaningful
conversations with your customers can be challenging when you’re just trying to get everything
done that you need to get done. But it does make all the difference and it
can help you discover what they need to hear about. It’s a little bit more on the app side
of things but I had a client that I worked with recently that we did some customer interviews
for them, and their app is very habit-based. So, it’s like a daily activity kind of thing.
And so they knew habits were really important to their customers but the one thing that
they didn’t realize –that we found in doing customer interviews with– several of their
customers said over and over again like, “I’m very OCD.” And they use that term. A lot. And so we were able to create content around
habit building, and wanting things a particular way, and spending a lot of time on a thing.
So whether they realize it or not, those are particular traits of their customers. And so instead of just continuing to push
them into the app, we were using emails to talk about things that mattered to their customers
and made them feel like, “Oh, this brand really gets me. They understand me. I’m going to
continue to engage with this brand.” Instead of just continuing… Doing the same old habits
that already existed, establishing new ones with this brand in mind. Let’s be honest today. All of your customers
are going to have questions. What are you doing to manage all those questions?
Do you have a helpdesk for your business? One of our sponsors of today’s episode is
Gorgias. Gorgias is the number onerated helpdesk for eCommerce. It integrates seamlessly with
Shopify. We have installed it in a bunch of stores. It’s also used by brands like MVMT
and Rothy’s. What it does is it takes all of your customer
insights and information, brings it into one amazing dashboard so you can solve their problem
as quickly as possible. If you want to give Gorgias a try, visit gorgias.link/honest to
get your second month free. And just going back to talking with your customers,
that helps beyond your email. That helps throughout your business. From your product design to your marketing,
through Facebook and Instagram, you can find the exact phrases that people are saying that
can translate over to what you want to say in your emails. There is so much stuff you’re going to find
out just by talking to your customers. So, making an effort to do that and finding a
way to do that, making it part of your business, and doing it every couple of months is going
to work so well for you. Yeah. I think if you can schedule a day of
it and put it on your calendar every quarter to have a couple of customers that you’re
interviewing on either a day or two days and just take those insights, yeah. We do these interviews for the purpose of
writing better onboarding emails for our clients. But they take the transcripts and the survey
responses that we give them and apply it to their marketing messaging on their website,
to their sales teams going out, and how they talk to people. I even had a client completely pivot their
product because of those interviews where they said, “Wow! Everyone is really focused
on this thing. So we’re going to double down over here and leave this other stuff behind.” Yeah. And that’s the power of just asking
the people that are actually giving you their hard-earned money for your product why they
did it. Yeah, that’s right. So to change up a little bit, we’re one week
from Black Friday. One week in two days, which I’m super excited about. This is the busiest
season for us. I don’t know about yourself. Oh yeah. So thanks for fitting me in. But this isn’t
gonna come out until January. So I think in January the holiday season’s gone, there
have been so many sales, and there are so many blasts about these, flash sales, whatever.
You mentioned here that there are certain times when you shouldn’t send a promotional
email, so let’s explore that. Yeah. So, I think it’s really important to
be aware of what’s going on in the world. I see this happen with too many brands. And
unfortunately, it’s actually the bigger brands that fall prey to this. There’s something really meaningful happening
in the world and or even in a particular part of the world. So like a hurricane on the East
Coast or forest fires in California or Brexit in the UK, there are all kinds of both natural
and man-made disasters. happening and when you’re sending promotional emails, in the
midst of all of that, it’s not only incredibly distracting for your customers, it’s quite
often seen as very rude and out of touch. So that’s that whole like, “You need to understand
your customers. All they want to feel is (to be) seen and heard.” If you can help them
feel that, by acknowledging what’s going on in their world, that makes a huge difference. So there are ways to do it. Instead of sending
your standard email that you were going to send, –let’s say it’s forest fires in California–
you can, to that portion of your subscribers or even to your global subscriber list, you
can say like, “Hey, we’re recognizing this big problem going on so we’re going to stay
out of your inbox. But we want to let you know that if you choose
to purchase from us during this week, or this set period of time, we’re going to make a
donation to the Red Cross or to a support group in that area.” And get your customers
involved. You’re acknowledging what’s going on and then
you have an opportunity to get your customers involved in helping. It just creates such a feeling of a community
again. So I think it’s really important to know what’s going on in the world and be careful
about sending promotional emails during challenging times. Which these days could be every day. Yeah. That’s definitely something to keep
in mind. And it’s something I honestly haven’t thought about too often. So, you might have
changed up my strategy a bit. But I’m going to take that to heart and really use it. That’s
fantastic… It’s not an idea or a strategy or anything, it’s just being cognizant of
what’s going on in the world. Yeah. I think it’s just creating humanness
inside of the box of our computers. Everybody thinks about email as just this thing. It’s
this thing we do as a business. But you have to remember that there’s a human
person going into their inbox, opening the emails, and reading them. And even though
you have this “list” and we’re going to send it… If I hear the word “blast” one more
time… It’s just like the worst possible word you can use, but I hear it a lot. People say like, “We’re going to blast our
list.” Well, no. You’re going to send an email to… People on the other side of the email,
don’t think about themselves as part of a list. They think about themselves as one of your
customers or one of your potential customers. And so how are you going to communicate with
that individual person on the other side of the email? Yeah. And you know what, I think that is a
great segue into –I know– one of your favorite topics. What is the framework that is going
to help customers make more money? I’ve heard you talk about this before, so I’m excited
to hear it again. Oh yeah. So, I think the best thing that you
can do is create a really strong welcome sequence for your customers. This is where I think
a lot of Ecommerce brands get it wrong, quite honestly. We place an order and then the only emails
we get are related to our order. And I think that it’s really important to make sure that
those take precedence over anything else. But once that order has been delivered, that’s
your opportunity to come in and say hello, first of all, as soon as they place the order. But then after the order has been delivered,
continue to give them those value-adds and mix it up with the promotional email so that
they don’t just feel like, “I’m just a wallet. I’m just a credit card that I enter into your
website and all you want from me as money.” Give them opportunities to engage whether
it’s… A lot of brands have a Facebook group or something
for their customers where they can all interact together if it’s an Instagram hashtag that
they can post to creating a sense of community and then giving back to them through the value
add content. And I use a framework called the “Dinner
Party Strategy” where you can think about your welcome emails, your onboarding emails
like a dinner party. You don’t walk up to somebody at your front door and serve the
main course before they’ve walked into your house. You invite them in for drinks and appetizers
that complement the meal and then you all sit down at the table and serve the meal.
And there’s dessert, and there’s a conversation, and there are all these things that make up
a dinner party and it’s not just about having the quick sandwich on the way out the door. A dinner party is an event for a reason and
your onboarding, that initial touchpoint where your customers are experiencing you for the
first time, has to be a focus for your brand. And otherwise, you do run the risk of being
just like a commodity, a marketplace that they go to once and never come back to. And if you’re interested in this Dinner Party
Strategy, you can actually find it on Val’s website. So that’s fixmychurn.com/tdps, The
Dinner Party Strategy. So I would highly recommend checking that out. I actually took a look
at it a few months ago. It’s a fantastic little framework to help you wrap your head on how
to write this stuff. So before I let you go, I do have one more question for you. These days something that’s really kind of
popular that people are adding on to their business source… The whole basis of business
is this subscription-based service. Subscription product businesses. Do you have any tips specifically
for those types of businesses? Oh yeah. Subscription models are perfect for
ongoing emails. One of the biggest problems with subscriptions is customer retention.
And this is where the opportunity to engage becomes extra important. So, I think about two different phases of…
You have that –I call it onboarding— welcome email phase of when they have made their first
purchase. So first purchase to a second purchase. Everyone talks about the second purchase in
the Ecommerce world. But what I think is really interesting, beyond the second purchase is
that subscription. And for a lot of brands, it’s that 6 to the 9-month mark. Maybe your brand is more or less but you want
to know where that cliff is –where customers start to fall off– and create messaging for
them that is specific to their needs, their interests, the way that they’re using the
product… And not just make it a 12-step process to change a subscription once they
log in to their customer portal on your website. Don’t make it the most difficult thing ever
to change or cancel a subscription. A lot of people think about impacting churn from
that standpoint like, “Well, let’s just make it really hard to cancel or give them lots
of options so that they feel like they never want to cancel.” To me, that’s a little too late. If you can
message them prior to that point where they start to drop off, then you get a lower churn
because they are thinking about your brand in a meaningful way. They’re making decisions based on the relationship
that they have with you and not based on like, “Oh, well, it’s just really hard to cancel
so I’m not going to.” It’s very, very hard to churn away from a relationship with a person. It’s hard to say, “Hey Chase, I don’t want
to buy your thing anymore. Can you just turn it off for me?” But it’s a lot easier to go into a portal,
click and turn something off. It’s all you are as a product and the back end is a piece
of software that does it, then that’s really simple to walk away from. It’s much harder
to walk away from a human being. Absolutely. So before I let you go, is there
anything else that you think would be valuable to the listeners in regards to email? Or do
you know just anything else that’s on your mind that you think is worth sharing? Yeah. I think to that point about subscription
models, look for the ways to build a subscription in. Going back to TUSHY, we talked about how they
added this toilet paper option, which they certainly didn’t have to do, but it creates
a subscription for them where their brand is now front and center every single time
somebody renews the product. So every month, their logo is showing up inside
someone’s house. It just keeps the brand top of mind, especially if you have something
that people don’t purchase all that often. Let’s say you sell furniture, couches, and
chairs, and things. Maybe you have a pillowcase monthly subscription where they can change
their pillowcases. The 12 by 12 square pillow that you give in every order. Giving them
a different pillowcase option. And that can be something that’s set to monthly,
3 months, 6 months. So there are lots of options to create a subscription and create messaging
to your regular existing customers about the subscription, and how it benefits them, and
how it speaks to what their greater needs are. But always go back to the customer to figure
out what that subscription should be and try it. The worst thing that happens is that you
get a handful of people who are interested and you decide that “Hey, we’re not going
to go this route anymore.” But I think the most important thing to do
in email is to test things and see what sticks. You can do that a lot more easily if you understand
your customers through those interviews. Val, thank you so much for being on the show
and sharing all these awesome insights. Hey, thanks for having me, Chase. You’re welcome. I cannot thank our guests enough for coming
on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We’ve got a lot to
think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available
in the show notes as well. If anything in this podcast resonated with
you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect.
Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!

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