TEIS EP38 – Podcast Episode Feature Image (WP Featured Image)

Making Email Your Best Salesperson – Samar Owais

In this episode, we talk to Samar Owais, an email conversion strategist and copywriter for SaaS and eCommerce brands. Samar shares her best advice on turning prospects into buyers.

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About this episode:

In this episode, we talk to Samar Owais, an email marketing strategist and copywriter focused on serving ecommerce clients. She helps clients like Workamajig and Copyhackers as well as agencies like Longplay Brands and Fix My Churn increase conversions, boost sales, and fix the money-leaking gaps in their emails. You’ll find her geeking out over emails all day long on Twitter and every Wednesday with her subscribers in the Emails Done Right newsletter.

We talk about the important role that email marketing plays in ecommerce growth, as well as Samar’s best advice for making sure that email becomes one of your highest-performing sales channels. She has plenty of real-world examples from her experience boosting overall revenue and revenue share for her clients.

In this episode, you’ll learn about:

  • Email marketing for software companies vs. e-commerce brands
  • Samar’s take on the statistic “A healthy Ecommerce business generates 30-50% of its revenue from email.”
  • Leveraging email strategies if you’re moving away from influencer marketing and advertising
  • Discounting and other alternatives to build a list
  • The fundamentals of a sound email marketing strategy for beginners
  • The effectiveness of Welcome Sequences & Post-Purchase Sequences
  • Email marketing trends and best practices

So, if you’re interested in learning about how to build a customer-centric email marketing strategy that not only grows your audience, but also presents subscribers with relevant product recommendations in a way that respects their inbox, then you’ll want to listen to this.

Learn more about Samar and her resources here:

Want to be a guest on our show? Have feedback or ideas for how we can improve? Send your thoughts over to podcast@thegood.com. We’ll be keeping an eye on that inbox. 🙂

The Ecommerce Insights Show is brought to you by The Good, a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) consultancy specializing in helping ecommerce businesses accelerate their growth through better research, testing, and design. Learn more about our team, our work, and our services at www.thegood.com.

Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] James Sowers: So here’s the question. How can you, commerce leaders make sure that they are producing a great product, providing a world-class customer experience responsibly managing the finances and still reserve time, energy and resources for marketing their products. My name is James Sauers, and you’re listening to the e-commerce insight show.

[00:00:16] The podcast that gives you a specific, actionable advice for growing your e-commerce business. Every Monday, you’ll get a conversion rate optimization tactic that you can implement quickly to make your business 1% better every single week. Every Thursday, we sit down with industry experts to go deep on a specific aspect of running a successful e-commerce business.

[00:00:34] It’s the perfect blend of learning and application, which means that you maximize the value of every single minute you spend with us. We’re just as committed to growing your business as you are. So if you’re looking for a partner to help you crush your revenue goals, you’ve come to the right place. Roll up your sleeves and grab a notepad because it’s time to get to work.

[00:00:52] Welcome back to the e-commerce insights show today I’m joined by summer. Had a long conversation about how to get that right. Hopefully I didn’t screw it up cause we did. We talked about it 30 seconds ago, but somewhere maybe to kick things off here before we get into the meat of our conversation today, which is about email marketing, strategy, production, tips, tricks, hacks.

[00:01:09] I hate that word, but stuff that you’re seeing out there in the wild and want to communicate that to our audience before we get into the technical stuff, maybe give us a couple sentences about who you are and what you do professionally. Yeah,

[00:01:18] Samar Owais: for sure. Thanks for having me. First of all, and you pronounce my name perfectly, so that’s a win, I’m an email strategist and copywriter for e-commerce brands who are looking to boost their email revenue by focusing on their customer’s journey and building brand loyalty.

[00:01:36] Right. Alongside right. So I am not a good fit for brands that want to boost their email revenue, but are not interested in focusing on the customers and putting them first. And these days, my main focus is on solving slightly trickier email problems for my

[00:01:51] James Sowers: e-commerce clients. Okay. Curious, how would you quantify slightly trickier?

[00:01:55] Is that just a level of complexity or is that a sophistication around maybe segmentation, something like, I feel like it’s the

[00:02:01] Samar Owais: situation they find themselves in. So there’s this one client. They have one of the most engaged brands I’ve seen in a long time and they’re an apparel brand and they do these limited edition.

[00:02:12] Print releases every Tuesday, right? And their prints are sold out within 24 hours a lot of times. And so they already making 30% of their revenue from their email, but that’s not the problem that they’re facing. Right. Making revenue. Isn’t the problem that they’re facing their problem is that they’ve got over 80,000 email subscribers.

[00:02:32] Who’ve never bought from them. And so they want to engage them. They want to encourage them to make that first purchase. And we’re working on a strategy these days that a finds out why so many of their email subscribers are not buying from them after like getting on their email list and be engaging them and encouraging them to make that first purchase.

[00:02:54] These problems excite me because it’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. Right. there has to be a way around it. Why are so many people choosing not to buy. And so that’s one, the other is slightly more run of the mill where this brand launched last year, they’re a health supplement band. They didn’t focus on emails at all, but they still ended up with a list of 25,000 customers that they’ve never engaged and they wanted to make the most off the whole holiday season.

[00:03:25] Black Friday is coming up. It’s just around the corner. And so they reached out to me saying we a want to engage them B we want to make the most off the black Friday season. Right. And so I was like engaging a dead list around the time when every brand is waking up and sending marketing emails, that’s going to be a tough one.

[00:03:43] So we created like a whole. Strategy for them that we’re executing. And it’s going to be really interesting to see how that performs and what I like best about projects. Like these is that clients understand that it’s an experiment, right? It can either fail or it will be a huge success. And they’re okay with that.

[00:04:00] And I find like those are the perfect kind of project for me because I love working on them. I love that brands are, you know, willing to take a chance.

[00:04:08] James Sowers: Yeah. That’s a great place to be for you as the consultant, because it’s not like a problem that the. Marketing managers worrying about it’s like a problem the founder or the CEO is worrying about are the CMO depending on the size of the organization.

[00:04:18] So that’s definitely a great place to play or to add value as a consultant. So kudos to you for being at that level, because I think a lot of people get mired down in the, like, what are we going to do in terms of emails for this promo campaign that lasts seven days? Like, that’s kind of like the foundational level.

[00:04:32] This is more. Hi strategic. So congratulations.

[00:04:35] Samar Owais: I almost never do promotional campaigns. It’s niche projects like these or life cycle emails, promotional campaigns. I just took on a black Friday project for that client that I was telling you about. I don’t think I’ll be doing

[00:04:46] James Sowers: that anytime soon. Yeah. It’s a lot of stress, especially around this time of year.

[00:04:49] So maybe what’s one project. I know you just talked about a couple, but is there something else that jumps out at you as something that you’re working on is maybe coming around the corner or you’re a work in progress that you’re excited about? That’s like, got you excited to open up your laptop or fire up the computer in the morning.

[00:05:02] Samar Owais: Absolutely. So this is more like a passion project and something that I’ve not talked about before. Right? So I’m a very visibly Muslim, you know, strategists and there aren’t many of me around you don’t see people like me in the industry. And so, and I’ve been working as a freelancer and running my own business for almost 12 years now.

[00:05:21] And so it’s a conversation that I. Felt was very important to have, especially this year when things have just kind of come to a head and I used to brush it under the rug. I used to be like, nobody’s going to be interested in that. But over the years, so many people have reached out to me and said, how do you do it?

[00:05:38] Right? And as my visibility has grown this year, as I’ve stepped beyond my comfort zone and shown up more online, I have found that it’s. Easier just to speak about these things. And so I am, and so we’ve got a very provocatively named show called Muslim, a Jew and a freelance podcast where my co-host is a Jew.

[00:05:57] I’m very obviously the Muslim. And we talk about how different our experiences are, even though our backgrounds are extremely similar. Right? So my cohost is a Jew she’s from, you know, her ancestors are from Morocco’s. But she’s lived her life in Canada and she’s white, but English is not her first language French is, but nobody asks her that question.

[00:06:17] And almost everybody asks me, but how is your English? So good. Right. And so I’ve always been polite about it and said, um, I went to like a really good school and my parents were crazy about us getting a good education. But the simple answer is that I went. To African school, that’s it? That’s the answer.

[00:06:34] And so, you know, people don’t really realize how inappropriate questions like these are. So with my show, I hope to a normalize talking about this stuff. And I know that people who care about this stuff are just too scared to ask these questions. Right. And people who don’t care about this down just. Ask these tone deaf questions.

[00:06:53] And so we want to make this a normal conversation to have where people who are interested are not worried about asking and offending and the people who don’t know or just don’t care. It’s just, you know, if it gets into their ear, if they become more informed,

[00:07:07] James Sowers: all the better. Yeah. I mean, as a 32 year old, upper middle class white guy sitting here, like I want to listen to the show because I feel like my heart’s in the right place.

[00:07:15] I want to do the right things, but I’m afraid of starting a conversation in the wrong way or asking a question in the wrong way. And so any additional exposure to. People who are talking about their personal experiences and places where people who look and sound like me have gone wrong. I want to learn from that.

[00:07:30] I don’t want to make that mistake myself, you know, so kudos to you for launching a platform like that and being willing to put yourself out there and spread that message, because I think it’s critically important. And as we’re seeing in the U S especially earlier this year, like we had some major events around.

[00:07:42] Racial inequality and racial injustice. And I just can’t say enough about adding momentum to, uh, moving in a positive direction in that front. So kudos to you for putting that out there as a great passion project. And I’m sure it’s a great release from kind of the more technical, like if you get into the weeds, you’re writing emails or landing pages or ad copy or whatever for a week, and you just want to step out and have like a casual conversation with somebody who I’m assuming you’re a pretty good friend with, um, that’s gotta be a great way to release intention too.

[00:08:07] It is. It absolutely is. Awesome. So if we pivot back to the professional side of your life, I did a little bit of research and I gathered that you also work with some software companies in addition to working with e-commerce brands. And so I’m curious, have you seen any overlap between those two industries?

[00:08:21] Like, is there something that historically the software industry does really well, that would also work well for e-commerce, but most people aren’t doing it or is there something that maybe they’re both doing well and that kind of surprised you, that it’s working for software and e-commerce at the same time, anything jumped out at you there.

[00:08:36] Yeah.

[00:08:36] Samar Owais: So I pull a nod of my e-commerce strategy from my SAS experience. Right. And one of the things that SAS gets right is mapping out the user journey. And that is easy to translate into emails because if everything beyond email is already mapped out, it’s easy to figure out where email can fit in. So I find that e-commerce brands don’t often focus on the email journey of their customer and subscribers enough.

[00:09:01] You know, they see conventional advice, like create a welcome sequence for your buyers and your non-buyers, but they don’t stop to think that fine creating a welcome sequence for non-buyers is perfect. Right? The welcome sequence is like the perfect introduction, but what about buyers? Because they will be getting the post-purchase email sequence at the same time.

[00:09:22] And if that’s the first time they’re getting on your list and they’re also getting the welcome sequence at the same time. Whose purpose by the way is to encourage the second purchase that just confuses and sends two different types of messages. And so if you’re mapping out your customer’s journey, if you’re asking and you know, if you’re paying attention to where they are mentally with what their expectations are, then it just becomes a lot easier to create the kind of emails that build brand loyalty.

[00:09:47] I’m just wild with customers. And so I feel like SAS does that brilliantly. And it’s also an easier sell for SAS businesses for e-commerce. I have to do my convincing

[00:09:57] James Sowers: yeah. More education around that. Right. Cause they’re just not a default behavior for them. It’s something that they have to learn from your experience with the other industry.

[00:10:03] So that’s something great that you bring to the table. And I think that, like, when you talk about that, Journey mapping exercise. Like I’m assuming you mean you physically have to like draw this out, right? Like on a whiteboard or some kind of digital white boarding solution. Now, if we have to own a piece of paper, like you can just talk about it.

[00:10:17] You have to like show the funnel. So it’s like, okay, somebody comes in and hits the website is not a customer subscribes to our email list. What happens next? Okay. Somebody came from a Facebook ad, buy something, gets their post-purchase confirmation. Right? And then what happens next? Like you have to show these things in parallel, and then you say, okay, well, if they’re in this sequence, we don’t want them in this one.

[00:10:36] And then that has implications. When you go to your ESP and it’s like, exclude these folks with this tag or whatever, if you don’t physically map that out, then mistakes will be made, right? Like people get too many emails. They’ll miss emails entirely. And either way you’re turning away customers and leaving a sour taste in their mouth, or you’re leaving money on the table because you’re not presenting them with the offer at the right time.

[00:10:54] Is that fair to say?

[00:10:55] Samar Owais: Yeah, absolutely. So what I do is when I sign on a client and I’m mapping out their life cycle emails, we get on a call. One of the things I found early on is that clients and e-commerce brands don’t have the time to fill out these Lindy. Questionnaires. Right. So I don’t send them anything.

[00:11:08] We get on an hour long call after the contract is signed. And I asked them all the questions I need to ask live. And I literally map it out on paper right there. And then, and then I tell them, I’m going to finalize this, create a digital version of it. And you know, if I have any more questions, we’ll hop on a quick 15 minute call and get clarification.

[00:11:26] Other than that, we’re going to. Hop on another call and then walk you through and see if there are any gaps that we’ve been missing. So it takes time. There’s no denying it. And it takes a lot of questions by the end of that one hour call. I have question fatigue. My client has answered fatigue, but we have.

[00:11:46] A customer email journey than whilst they’re customers. Right. So any email subscribers, so it’s worth it in the

[00:11:52] James Sowers: end. Yeah. I don’t expect that we have a lot of listeners who haven’t started yet. Most of our listeners probably already have something. Underway in terms of email marketing. So doing something like this can be a great forcing function, right?

[00:12:03] Like I imagine if you map it out and you’re with your team and you say, okay, what happens after they received this email? And everybody looks around the room and goes, well, I don’t really know. Then you fire up your ESP and you go look right. Like maybe the sequence just ends, or maybe there’s an email there you don’t know about.

[00:12:15] And so like, it forces you to be. More thoughtful and intentional about these touch points, because somebody might not have looked at this for months or years and they don’t even know what happens next. And so is this pretty reflective of your audit service? I mean, I was thinking about getting into that a little bit later, but if it’s convenient now, it sounds like that you jump into an existing email marketing strategy and kind of break down the areas of opportunity and the things that are doing well.

[00:12:37] Is this kind of like an example of what that’s like? Yeah. So an

[00:12:40] Samar Owais: audit is basically me going into the ESP and a figuring out what emails they’re sending. And I have like this list of almost 30 points that I go through it, but I get into deep into the nitty-gritty. But the first thing I see is the strategy, right?

[00:12:54] And that means taking like a 30,000 view of the entire email sequence and see what are the gaps that were missing. And the easiest way I found to find these gaps is by asking two questions, right. What happens if the subscriber or customer does what we want them to do? B what happens if they don’t do what we want them to do?

[00:13:12] Where do they go? What messaging do they receive? Right. And so it’s the second question often that gives me the gaps and shows me what is missing and what can be improved. And if you do nothing else, just ask yourself these questions. As you are auditing your emails and the answers will start coming to you.

[00:13:28] If not answers, then ideas on how to improve it.

[00:13:31] James Sowers: Right. That makes a lot of sense. So I hear the statistic tossed around a lot and you actually threw it out earlier. A lot of businesses can expect to make, I don’t know, 30 to 50% of their revenue from email. The rest comes from SEO, organic traffic, paid ads, influencers, whatever else they’ve got going on.

[00:13:46] So first I was going to ask if that number’s valid, but since you threw it out earlier, I’m guessing that you’re pretty on board with that. So do you think that that number is going to change in any way in the future? Or are you already seeing a change with some customers like ad costs increase? Are they giving you.

[00:13:58] I’m

[00:13:59] Samar Owais: glad you asked me that question because I’m actually not on board with that statistic, to be honest, because I feel like that’s the wrong thing to focus on. It doesn’t matter how much revenue you’re making from your emails, right? The question you need to be asking yourself is how can we improve it?

[00:14:14] So whether that’s 30%, whether that’s 50%, there is always room for improvement. And I use that statistics because that’s. The starting point of a conversation with my clients. A lot of the time, right? Every time I get on a discovery call, every time I sit down with them, that’s what they say, Oh, we’re only making like 8% and we want to jump to 30% and they use the 30% specifically because they’ve heard that statistic so much.

[00:14:38] And my answer is almost always let’s focus on boosting their Avenue before we focus on how much we boosted, because a lot of times, every e-commerce brands wants the best email marketing that they have. Right. Understood no brand out there is thinking, Oh, can we just coast by, they all want to do the best, but there have a lot of limitations.

[00:15:01] Sometimes it’s budget. Sometimes it’s manpower. Sometimes it’s simply that they’re too small or too new. And so we have to take all of that into consideration and then move from there.

[00:15:12] James Sowers: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It sounds a lot like the advice we give folks around their conversion rate it’s and they’re like, what’s a good conversion rate for me based on my industry or my product or what my price point, whatever.

[00:15:20] And it’s like, well, it’s one, that’s always improving, frankly. Like if you’re at 1% today being at one and a half percent tomorrow, that’s a good conversion rate. It sounds like you’re saying the same thing in terms of. Share of overall profit or revenue for email. It’s like the best number for you as one that’s better next month than it was this month.

[00:15:35] And so what are some of the things like at a high level, I’m not asking for specific tactics that you’ve done for your clients, but like what are some things people can do to increase that share of the overall pie? So to speak that email takes up. So like if they wanted to move off of. Facebook ads because they’re getting expensive.

[00:15:51] What can they do with their emails? Short of just like send more email to kind of take back some of that revenue for the own channel that is email. Yeah. So

[00:15:59] Samar Owais: two things essentially, and they both need to happen simultaneously one, grow your email list and be focused on your life cycle emails, focus on your customer’s email journey.

[00:16:08] Right. And I feel like I’m harping on and on about email journey and customers. But it is just so important. And I feel like revenue and customer email experience goes hand in hand. And so just really focused on growing your list, completely completing your life cycle emails. Like all of them starting with the primary ones, which I call the moneymakers, the welcome sequence, the abandoned cart, abandoned checkout post-purchase upsell, cross out, nurture everything.

[00:16:33] And then focus on that and then move on to your weekly emails and then your campaigns, right? Don’t just send a campaign. Anytime you want to boost your revenue. The campaigns need to have a rhyme and a reason and focus on instead of like sending out a new campaign, just like think of ways that you can boost your AOV average order value.

[00:16:53] And that can be done by. Post-purchase upsell or cross sell, or just even if you have the kind of product that takes time in shipping, and you have a post-purchase email that says, Hey, we’re putting together your order and it’ll be shipped on so-and-so day. I think dollar shave club messing up the name, I think, but they do a really good job where they send out an email saying, we’re putting up your order together.

[00:17:15] This is what else goes well with this. Do you want us to include it? And it’s just one of the ways you can increase the average order value, focus on that. And I think it’s a very smart decision to move away from influencer marketing and advertising. But again, I understand it’s a big chunk of the e-commerce world, so I don’t disagree.

[00:17:35] James Sowers: Listen, I don’t fault you for coming back to customer experience again and again, because it is so important. I mean, when we were in brick and mortar retail, Customer experience is part of that too. It just looks different, right? It’s like, how is your store decorated? What kind of feeling do they get when they walk in the store?

[00:17:49] How, how for your associates? Like how has everything laid out? Is it intuitive to find the men’s versus the women’s versus the kids? That’s all customer experience. And what we’re doing right now in 2020 is we’re trying to transfer some of that. To online. And the fact of the matter is like the touchpoint that we have instead of face-to-face conversation like you and I are doing right now is primarily email SMS landing pages.

[00:18:07] That’s what we have to work with ads. So like it’s an important part of everything that we do. So definitely think it’s like fundamental to keep bringing it back up because it is about like, How does your customer feel and how often are they hearing from you? And in what context that makes the difference between a sale and an unsubscribed.

[00:18:22] Right? One thing that jumped out at me there is like, you’re talking about building your list. How do you think about growing your list in terms of presentation and incentives? Because a lot of things that we see are like the default pop-up with 10 or 20% off your first purchase. And to me, I’ve always said that kind of feels like hitting the easy button.

[00:18:37] Like somebody was just lazy and they’re like, we need to grow our list. And I’m sure it works, but like, what’s your personal opinion on discounting as a way to grow your list versus maybe some alternatives.

[00:18:45] Samar Owais: I am very against discounts to be honest, but I also realized that it’s the fastest way to build a list.

[00:18:52] Right? So if the brand comes to me and they’re fairly new, unlike decide on a threshold. So as soon as we hit this many number of email subscribers, we’re going to turn off. The discount and think in terms of providing value. So free shipping is something that works out really well. If you can do that or for that, that’s, that’s also like a form of lazy marketing, but it’s the kind of marketing that works.

[00:19:13] And we tested it out with any commerce project that I was working on, where they had a free sample pack. It was a beauty brand and they were selling, um, the tripod. For like just free I’m you just have to pay shipping, right. It did not sell well, but when we flipped the offer and made the trial pack $7 and made the shipping free, it’s sold like hotcakes.

[00:19:33] And so it just goes to show, find out what’s important to your audience. And a lot of times brands just, you know, calculate shipping at the end. So customers get sticker shock at the end, like, Oh my God. $24 for delivery. No, thank you. And they X out, right. Find a way. Quizzes are a great way to build your email

[00:19:52] James Sowers: list as well.

[00:19:53] Awesome. Yeah. We just talked to Ben Parr from octane AI about shoppable quizzes as a marketing strategy and that some of the conversion statistics they threw out around that were just incredible. So yeah, I love that recommendation as an alternative to discounting. It’s like, let’s get a quiz, let’s start learning more about our customers and then maybe present them an offer if it’s right.

[00:20:09] But. Use that to make them feel like appreciated and recognized, and then sell them on the email list where you’re going to follow up with more information or recipe guides or whatever you want to do to add value versus just like cutting your margin. Yeah.

[00:20:21] Samar Owais: And also like if you were in a brand that is just gung ho on discounts offer it, but after your website, visitor or subscriber has done something for you, like if they’ve taken a quiz.

[00:20:32] Give them an order discount, like 15% off if they buy from the result page, from the results that are coming in on the results page, I put a timer on it, add scarcity. There is so many things we can test and do, and just have fun with it. Honestly, if you start thinking of it as having fun, trying out these new ideas, it just becomes less stressful.

[00:20:50] I

[00:20:50] James Sowers: find. Yeah, anytime you can lay fund into a work. I think life gets better overall. So love that advice. That’s true. Listen. So let’s assume somebody is not really doing much with email marketing right now and they have the rest of this year. So we’ve got what 45 days left, I guess, in this calendar year.

[00:21:05] And they want to get something off the ground, right? They’re not expecting best-in-class kind of performance. They’re just like, I want to get the essential items out there into the world. Because I’m not doing anything with email marketing right now. And some are telling me that I’m leaving money on the table.

[00:21:16] So I heard you say the money makers, maybe it’s those. And I know we could do an entire episode just around those. So maybe we don’t get into the expert level tactics, but at a fundamental level, like, what are they, which ones do you recommend starting with and what do people need to do to get things right out of the gate, at least as a starter?

[00:21:32] Samar Owais: Yeah. First thing, forget about black Friday. It is too late for that. And. We’re at a hail Mary level of like black Friday emails. So that’s just adding stress to your life that you don’t need. Right. But the rest of the holiday season is still there. Now, when I say customer experience and customer journey, think of your customers, right?

[00:21:52] What is more important to them right now? We’re in a post pandemic world. Everybody’s stuck at home. The smart ones. And we, you know, in some cases we haven’t met our loved ones in a long line, right. So gifts are the perfect way to show that love. And if you are a brand that wants to. Capitalize on that and make some sales, then just speak to what’s important to your customers or your target audience and start creating emails around that.

[00:22:17] Right. Don’t wait until December 15th to start sending holiday emails, start talking about the importance of family, of the importance of, you know, showing. People we care about you from now do gift guides. Also just share customer stories. I find those emails work so well, you know, did you get an email from last year where somebody said, Oh, your order was delivered on time.

[00:22:40] It made such a huge difference, et cetera, et cetera. Find those, highlight those. Make your brand personal and show that you care about them and just start

[00:22:48] James Sowers: sending those emails. That makes a lot of sense that you call it out customer stories. There that’s one that I usually throw out as something that software companies do.

[00:22:54] Right. But e-commerce, doesn’t do so great at like, we put reviews on the product page, but it’s five stars, a generic icon because we don’t have the person’s picture. And then it says like James S and the review and that’s it. But like, Tell those customers stories, because if you look at the case study page for any popular software tool, it use like Klayvio Shopify, go look at the case, study page and look how detailed and thoughtful those stories are and how they’re communicating the value of the tool and that person’s, or that company’s life.

[00:23:18] We can do that with e-commerce you just got to get your customers on the phone or get them to somehow document their story and then get permission to tell that to other customers. And that’s where you get. I see a person who looks like and sounds like me, and is having the same problems. If their life is better after buying this product, then mine probably will be too.

[00:23:34] And then I’m going to make the purchase. So I don’t know if you agree or disagree with that or have anything to add there, but I’ll give you the form.

[00:23:39] Samar Owais: I totally agree with you. And I did this once with any commerce client, right. But they didn’t have any way to talk to the customers. The timeline was too short, so I was like, send me your most detailed.

[00:23:50] Reviews right where you feel like people have lived there and share their entire life story. Right. And I took those and turn those into emails and they did so well, even if they don’t make as many sales as you hope they do make that personal connection. And as you continue to do this over time, it will just strengthen that bond and people would start trusting

[00:24:10] James Sowers: you.

[00:24:11] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. When you go in to work with a client, we’re talking about customer journey, we’re talking about knowing your customer and aligning with their needs and their desires and the goals that they have for their life or whatever. I’m guessing you come into a fair amount of organizations and they don’t have a whole lot of existing material around that.

[00:24:25] We’ve never interviewed a customer, or we interviewed somebody it’s been over a year. And so when we added a new product line and we don’t serve those customers anymore. So like I’m guessing the answer is probably going to be. They hire you to do that. But if somebody wants to kind of start doing that now, so that they’re prepared when they come to hire someone like you, what can they do to get in touch with their customers?

[00:24:43] Like how can they collect that data, the quantitative and qualitative and use it to inform all their marketing strategy, not just email.

[00:24:50] Samar Owais: All right. So there’s this one question that I always ask, no matter how, what industry I’m working with and what kind of customers I’m talking about. Right. And that question is what was going on in your life when you did whatever they did.

[00:25:02] And that kind of just brings the customer back into whatever was happening around that time. And they get into storytelling mode. And I feel like that is the best mode to get your customer in when you want feedback from them. And so I get a lot of. Good material from that. And I treat e-commerce customer research the same way as I treat SAS.

[00:25:24] Right. My first instinct is always to go and talk to the customers and just get them on a quick 15, 20 minute call and just get to know them. I don’t ask them questions like. What did you like about the product or the business or stuff? I just want to get to know them, find out what’s important to them so that the emails I create speak to whatever is important to the customer.

[00:25:45] Right? So yeah, the focus is always on the customer and less on the right.

[00:25:50] James Sowers: That makes sense. And so I’ve found when I do customer interviews, Typically once I’ve done like 10, I kind of start to hear the same stuff over and over again. Or at least like 80% overlap. It does that number ring true with your experience too?

[00:26:01] Is that maybe a ballpark we can give founders like get on the phone with 10 customers and maybe if you offer multiple product lines, maybe it’s 10 per product line, right? Men will have different experiences from women and everybody else or whatever. But in general, 10 per category, 10 per product line is probably a good goal.

[00:26:15] And then you have a pretty good sense of what is important to them and what it means for how you communicate with them, through your website, emails, everything else you’ve got going on. Is that true? Yeah, absolutely.

[00:26:24] Samar Owais: Yeah. I find my experience is the same. Okay,

[00:26:26] James Sowers: awesome. So, listen, I know I saw a case study for you, uh, specifically around a welcome series.

[00:26:30] And you’ve mentioned it during this conversation too. So I’m wondering if we could maybe click down into that a little bit for the listeners in terms of like when you’re building this welcome series and you have this. Post-purchase welcome series. That’s separate from just a generic, joined your audience in some other way.

[00:26:44] You’re a magician at this. I think I saw something like $120,000 of revenue generated from a single welcome sequence in a past interview. We don’t have to go. That was an entire conversation, but what’s the high level overview of like, how are you able to achieve that kind of result for a client of yours?

[00:26:56] Samar Owais: I treat my welcome sequences. Like SAS businesses treat their onboarding email sequences. So it is a journey, right? So I think about solving problems, getting them quick wins, and also familiarizing them with the brand. Right. And so when I interview customers and I find out what’s important to them, then I kind of build out an email sequence that takes them on a journey.

[00:27:20] Right. And so the welcome is. It’s a boilerplate welcome email. And then we talk about what’s important to them. The brand story is also important. If you want to make that connection, right. You know how you meet somebody for the first time and you ask each other’s name and then you find out what they’re doing, what’s important to them and stuff like that.

[00:27:36] It’s them getting to know you level. And I kind of find that four to five emails are not enough of that. So my welcome sequences for non-buyers especially is always pretty long. So I think the longest I’ve written is 16 emails and gone up to even 22. But again, We also like segment, right? So I also don’t believe in segmenting, just bypass your non-buyers.

[00:27:59] Right? So for this health supplement company that I’m working with, we are segmenting based on their health problems. And that means that the welcome sequence is asking them what is important to you? What health problems are you suffering from that brought you to this brand? And so they will click a link or they will, you know, do something that will tell us what they’re interested in.

[00:28:18] And then the email. Sequence just segments. And then if somebody says, Oh, I have gut health problems that I’m trying to solve. Then we send them emails just related to that. If somebody says joint pain, then we send them emails related to that. And so the minute you introduce segmentation into an email sequence, it just gets long.

[00:28:37] And I know that this number shocks a lot of people, but really it’s segmentation. And anytime you introduce segmentation to an email sequence, it just gets longer and longer. That

[00:28:46] James Sowers: makes sense. I’m so glad you added that, because that was going to be my question to you is like somebody is going to hear 16 emails and go, Whoa.

[00:28:51] Like somebody signs up on Monday and everyday for the next 16 days, they’re hearing from me that doesn’t feel quite right. But the difference is you’re doing almost like a diagnostic you’re taking that quiz concept. We talked about earlier. And doing it through email and you’re saying, all right, which of these is your biggest health concern right now?

[00:29:04] Right. And you say gut health. Okay. Well then that person gets three more emails, but they’re all about gut health. That’s three of the 16, but they’re not getting the other 13. Right. So it’s like, it excludes them from everything else. And what I love about that is it ties into kind of this whole concept that we’re talking about, where it’s like.

[00:29:19] The more, you know, about your customer, the better alignment you can have between your messaging and their needs. Right? So if you, during the welcome sequence collected that they have gut health issues, right? Then you can use your email service provider to apply a tag to their personal profile, or they have different terminology for it, but let’s just call it a tag.

[00:29:36] You tag them with gut health. Okay. And then maybe further down the line when you’re doing some kind of promotional or you have a new gut health product, you just send it to all the gut health people. And that’s going to increase your open rate, your click rate, your purchase rate. Everything’s going to go through the roof because it’s targeted and the people who don’t have gut health issues, aren’t even seeing that message.

[00:29:53] So, I don’t know if that was like, on your mind there are you seeing, I guess people leverage the segmentation from the welcome sequence into other areas of their business down the road, like just maybe that’s technically, or maybe that’s conceptually, like, how are they using that data?

[00:30:07] Samar Owais: As you mentioned, product launches, right.

[00:30:08] And promotional campaigns. So the black Friday strategy standpoint I was talking about is heavily into segmentation. So we’re only going to send the promotion about gut health, to the people who have told us that they bought gut health supplements before from us or in the list. What we did with them was we send, created a waitlist.

[00:30:26] For black Friday. Right. They’re getting more perks. And within that somewhere, we kind of ask them like, what kind of supplements are you most interested in buying? And so that is data that we’ve collected and that is data that is going to help us push even more personalized emails to them. Yeah. So I kind of always go conceptually first and then my, leave it to my client to figure out the tech side of it.

[00:30:48] And if they come back and one of the things that I do is I ask them like, what’s your tech stack? And I don’t make recommendations because I mean, I have no idea what limitations the brand is facing and they’re not always comfortable sharing that. And so my favorite kind of client is somebody who will sit with me on a call and I will tell them, I want to do this, this, this, and this.

[00:31:08] Can your tech stack handle that? And if they say yes, great. If they say no, okay, then you’ll find a workaround or we’ll do something else. If this is completely not doable. So yeah, just focus on that,

[00:31:21] James Sowers: honestly. That makes a lot of sense. So if we think about like, what we’re talking about now is kind of an automated sequence, right?

[00:31:27] Or it’s, trigger-based, it’s triggered by activity, the signup, and then you get this welcome sequence. We’ve also touched on some of the more one-off campaigns, like newsletters or a black Friday promotion or something like that, where you just send it once and then that’s the end of it. Right. How do you think about the balance between those two things in terms of share of the overall email marketing activity?

[00:31:46] Right. Should it be. 20% one-off emails and 80% automated campaigns, or is it closer to 50 50? Like, what’s your personal opinion there? So

[00:31:54] Samar Owais: I always say, you need to have a newsletter, right. And that would be either two times a week or once a week. It doesn’t matter. It’s the consistency that matters. So that is something that needs to be there no matter what, right?

[00:32:06] Because there are pockets of time in between when you’re not running campaigns. And there are, will be customers who are more interested in getting the information and building that relationship with you. And so those weekly emails do the job of building that connection, even when you’re sending out promotional campaigns.

[00:32:21] Right. And brands usually have the calendar for their promotions. I mean, at least that’s been my experience. They at least know what their big days are. Right. So CBD brands make a big deal out of CBD day national CBD day. Or like there was a email I wrote for like an oyster, hot sauce, and they made like this huge promotion out of national oyster day or whatever it was.

[00:32:41] And so you usually know what that is. Right? So around that time, if you are running a really heavy promotional campaign, you can maybe reduce. Actually, no, I don’t recommend that the weekly emails need to go out every single week. The only thing I say is if you’re running promotional campaigns, suppress the people who are still receiving your welcome sequence, because you’re also selling in that welcome sequence and you don’t want to do too.

[00:33:06] Uh, promotions, right. Especially if the discount percentage or whatever your offer is.

[00:33:11] James Sowers: Yeah. And you can put a time delay in there too. Right. So it could be like, they just signed up for the newsletter, keep them out of marketing emails for 30 days, or they just bought from us. Don’t send them another sales pitch for 14 days, whatever makes sense for your business.

[00:33:22] But that way you don’t kind of, this is not a good feeling, right? Like I just bought from you, especially if I paid full price and then you send me a sales or a discount for the exact same product. That’s probably not going to be a good thing. Cause I’m going to go to your support. I’m going to ask for a refund or I’m going to do an exchange or something, and that’s just like another headache for you.

[00:33:37] So let’s just pop those folks out of your general marketing cadence for a certain period, whatever you’re comfortable with, feels like the best advice there. If somebody wanted to go out into the world and see a brand who’s doing email marketing well and just kind of subscribe or purchase from them and just learn from all the different emails that they get to their inbox from that brand.

[00:33:54] Is there somebody who comes to mind is someone you’d recommend, maybe it’s a. Former client of yours because you good work. Right? So maybe one of your former clients or active clients. Yeah,

[00:34:02] Samar Owais: it’s actually a current client of mine and they’re not your mainstream brand. Right? So they’re a Muslim apparel brand.

[00:34:08] They sell the jobs, which is, you know, the head scrap that I’m wearing. And they’re the run I was telling you about that. I do live in a Prince every week. And so what I love about their email marketing is I’ve been stocking them for a few months and they were like on my dream client place, but I couldn’t find any loopholes.

[00:34:23] Right because their email marketing is so strong already until they came to me with a very niche problem that they have. Right. And so, anyway, so they’re a brand that I really, really admire because they have got it down to a science, their customers, target audience are. Passionate about them. They are passionate about the cause, which is empowering Muslim women and feeling comfortable, varying the hijab no matter where they are in the world.

[00:34:49] And so, you know, their emails, I think they send out like three emails a week. One is the sales email that comes out every Tuesday. The other is an email up there and blog ground up. And, you know, any interviews that they’ve done that comes out, I think every Thursday and then one is from their CEO or somebody else.

[00:35:06] Right. And so I know every time I see like newer from auto job, I will know that’s the marketing manager or when I see Melanie from auto job, I know that’s the, that’s the message from the CEO. And that gets opened immediately. Cause she doesn’t email often and it’s. You know, her emails are incredibly well-written.

[00:35:25] And so it’s just, that’s a brand that I’ve read or read admire. Like, even though it’s not mainstream and the product they sell is not of interest to you, but just sign up for the emails. To be honest, they don’t send a lot of emails, but the ones they do are just incredibly, incredibly well-written and well-designed.

[00:35:43] James Sowers: Awesome. We’ll link to that in the show notes so that folks can go sign up for that. I’m curious. One thing that I caught from your description, there is the usage of names and maybe even faces in the, from field, right? Like this is from somebody at the organization who happens to be the CEO or the COO.

[00:35:57] Do they use branded email too? Or like, how do you think about when somebody should send something from, I dunno, Acme shoes versus James at acne, right? What kind of emails lend themselves to maybe a branded from. Name, and then what emails lend themselves to more of a personal touch?

[00:36:12] Samar Owais: Yeah. So sales email is going to be from the brand right as they are in the case of auto jobs.

[00:36:16] So anytime I see it, it just says auto job in the front name. I know that there’s a ceiling in the email and that’s cool because the jobs that will be applied for me. So the more the merrier and I always open those emails. Right. But anytime that. There is a name in the front name. I know that it’s a personal message.

[00:36:32] And so it could be as simple as telling us that they have released a new blog post or they released a new interview or something. And, you know, so, but I know that the copy is going to be personalized. It’s not just going to be sales copy. I feel like that’s a good way to

[00:36:44] James Sowers: go. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

[00:36:46] And you know, one piece of advice that I give founders is like occasionally drop in and send a manual email. I know it’s scary and nobody ever does it, but send a manual email to a new subscriber. Or a new customer and just say, Hey, I’m James, I’m the CEO here. One, one tool that I’ve seen people use as a tool.

[00:37:01] I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. You can record little bit welcome messages and you can get it triggered by anything that’s powered by Zapier basically. And it’s like new Shopify purchase trigger an alert for James. I record a quick bond Juro and I say, Hey summer, thanks so much for purchasing from us.

[00:37:15] A CEO here just wanted to. Show my appreciation for your business or whatever. And when you get your product in a couple of days, I’d love to hear what you think about it. Reply to this email. And we got it like that kind of like personal touch. It doesn’t take a lot, do do a couple of those a day, do 10 of those a week, whatever it starts to build up and over time, they’re like, Whoa, can you believe I got an email or a message directly from the CEO like this?

[00:37:34] Brand’s awesome. And they’re going to tell their friends and other people are going to buy from you too. So that’s my unsolicited personal advice around that is like use the personal touch, but also send manual emails. Nobody wants to do it because they don’t have the time, but it’s worth the investment over the term.

[00:37:45] I think. So, listen, I think the last fundamental shift that I’ve seen in email marketing is this, this concept of the automated campaign, right? So there was from one-off emails to drip emails or automated campaigns that happen. And then maybe after that, there was another one around personalization and segmentation.

[00:38:01] Is there anything that you would quantify as like an emerging trend or maybe a strategy that’s kind of gaining some momentum? That’s got you excited, anything that really is like going to shake up the email marketing space that the listeners here could be kind of ahead of the curve on, from what you’re seeing with your client work.

[00:38:15] Yeah. So

[00:38:16] Samar Owais: because I’m dealing with niche, email projects that these are these brand specific email problems, essentially I’m seeing. And like, this is something that I also like talk about with my clients is kind of like a concept that we don’t leave any non-subscriber behind. Right. So if they’re not engaging, we need to find out why.

[00:38:35] And it’s kind of like tied into the whole email marketing strategy, but just focus on that. And again, it ties into that email experience, customer journey thing. And I feel like I talk about this so much because I don’t find a lot of brands. Focusing on it. And so, yeah, I feel like the day that becomes mainstream is the day that I feel like my

[00:38:56] James Sowers: job is done.

[00:38:56] So very practically, like what should folks be doing? Should they be identifying? Like, I know a lot of ESPs will identify inactive subscribers, right? Like they’re not opening your email. They’re not clicking your email or whatever. A lot of folks will tell you to just prune those, those people, those subscribers.

[00:39:09] And they’re never going to buy from you. So why pay the extra or whatever to have them on your list just for the vanity metric. But is there something that somebody can do? That’s a little more. Thoughtful, like trying to re-engage them. Is it one of those manual outreaches? And it says like, Hey, I noticed you’ve been subscribed for a year.

[00:39:23] Haven’t bought from us. Don’t read much of anything. How can we better serve you? Like, is it just not a good fit? I don’t know. What do you recommend there? Yeah,

[00:39:29] Samar Owais: absolutely. So here’s what I do. Right. And you know, I’ve written enough, win-back email sequences, but everyone back email sequence I’ve written is just offering people a discount to come back to them.

[00:39:41] And I feel like, again, that’s lazy marketing. We’re still not getting to the root of the problem, which is why did the desk engage? Was it something we did? Did we go off brand completely? Did your life situation change? And we did adapt. And so you don’t just talk to your customers, find out, send a quick short survey, even if it’s just a one question survey, get them to engage, right.

[00:40:04] And keep your expectations realistic. If you have a big segment of. The primers that are unengaged, you conscious send it to like a small segment and hope that you’ll get answers, right? You have to send it to a bigger segment than usual and then hope to get responses. Right? Because the hardest part I find is getting people who are unengaged to respond to you and so patience and a lot of effort.

[00:40:29] But if you can get just 10 to 15 people to respond to you and find out what’s going on, you’ll be in a much better position to make informed

[00:40:37] James Sowers: decisions. That makes a lot of sense. And then after that, if you’ve gone through that process, that sequence and they still aren’t engaging, then maybe it’s time to prune them.

[00:40:44] Right? Because the fact of the matter is like open rates, click rates, those all dictate like your deliverability and how many people receive your messages. So you want to keep your reputation up there, but you want to exhaust all options in terms of not necessarily converting the person to a customer, but understanding them right.

[00:40:57] And making your overall strategy that much more effective because you went to the extra links to learn more about their problems and why they’re not engaging. Cool. Thank you so much for coming on the show today summer, I had a really great time learn about email marketing with you, and I know the folks at home did too.

[00:41:10] So before I let you get back to the rest of your day, I’m sure it’s evening over there and you’re ready to wind things down. Where can folks go to learn more about you and what you’re working on and just gain more of these insights through wherever you’re publishing.

[00:41:20] Samar Owais: Yeah. So three places. One is my website, which is somewhere west.com.

[00:41:24] The second is my email newsletter, which you will find on email. It’s done right.com. And the third place is Twitter, which is where I hang out all day, every day. And again, it’s twitter.com/summer.

[00:41:36] James Sowers: Awesome. That’s how I heard about you. And that’s why I’ve been passively observing what you’re working on for the last couple of years.

[00:41:41] And that’s how we got here today to have the conversation. So definitely go get somewhere. I follow on Twitter. And all those other resources, we’ll link up in the show notes and make it easy for you. So it’ll, you don’t have to wreck your car, trying to type it in, wait until you get home or work or wherever you’re going and have that link in the show notes.

[00:41:54] And we’ll be good there somewhere again. Thank you so much for coming today and taking time out of your day to join us in and talk about all things, email marketing. I know we could have gone an extra hour. Maybe we’ll have to have you back through a more. Technical conversation, but hopefully it wasn’t too painful for you.

[00:42:06] And we look forward to having you back some day for your interesting, not at

[00:42:09] Samar Owais: all. I enjoyed it. Thank you for having me. Awesome.

[00:42:12] James Sowers: Hey everybody, James, again. And before you go, I just wanted to invite you to join one of the coolest things I get to work on. As director of marketing here at the good it’s called the e-commerce insiders list, and it’s a private version of this podcast feed that gets you access to tons of additional bonus content, like extra interviews, Q and a sessions, website, tear downs, and anything else we can dream up.

[00:42:30] It doesn’t cost you anything, but your email address. And we promise to always respect your inbox. This is just our way of forming strong relationships with our listeners and making sure that we produce content that is actually valuable to you and to your business. If you’re interested, you can join the rest of the e-commerce insiders by going to the good.com/podcast and dropping your email into the form at the top of the page, we’ll follow up with directions for how to access the private feed, and you’ll be off and running.

[00:42:55] Like I said, this is one of my favorite things that I get the opportunity to work on because it lets me interact directly with e-commerce founders and leaders. Just like you. If you’re interested, I’d love to see your name pop up in my notifications until then keep an eye out for the next episode of the e-commerce insight show.

[00:43:09] And we’ll talk to you soon.

James Sowers

About the Author

James Sowers

James Sowers is the Director of Marketing at The Good. He has more than a decade of experience helping software and ecommerce companies accelerate their growth and improve their customer experience.