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Disruptive eMail Marketing Strategies with Doug Morneau
Our guest is Doug Morneau, who I met when he reached out to me to appear on his podcast. His area of expertise is marketing. Every time I talked to executives, they ask me, “Mark, how can I find more customers?” Marketing is the first step to finding more customers and Doug has an interesting view of the world. He believes that the best way to reach out and find new customers is through email marketing and he has a different take on it. That’s the reason why I asked him to join us on the show. Doug, welcome.
Thanks so much for having me on the show.
It’s a delight to have you here. Three Big Lies is the name of Doug’s book and we’re going to dig straight into it. What are the lies around email marketing?
That it’s dead, that it doesn’t work and that the form of email that I’m talking about is illegal. All of those are not true.
It’s dead, it doesn’t work and it’s illegal. Friends, if you have any of these three beliefs, stick with us because we’re going to change your mind. We’re going to give you access to a whole new and powerful way of finding customers. Is it dead?
No. If you look at the stats, not my stats but good third-party validation, stats are still showing that email still has the highest ROI of any marketing platform out there. While there are a million new platforms and there are all opportunities, I realized that email is not the only thing, but what I found is it does the heavy lifting that I can’t do with a lot of the other platforms.
Give me some more insights about the heavy lifting.
I’m a marketing guy so I look at analytics. We track what does it cost to get a qualified potential customer over to your website to sign up. We look at ROI. If I spend money on social media, what does that cost? It’s free stuff what we’re posting. If I pay influencers, what does that cost? The same thing with direct mail, email and pay-per-click using platforms like Google and Facebook. The cheapest has always been social, even paid social but the challenge has been that it’s not as scalable. If I want to reach 100,000 people on paid social, it’s a lot of work to figure that out if you haven’t done it. If I want to reach 100,000 people in direct mail, it’s very simple. Cost-wise, social is the cheapest, then email, then pay-per-click and then direct mail. That was the order of costs but we couldn’t get enough scalability in the first one and so we look at emails. We run emails and then run the other two to support it.
That’s a good lineup. When I asked you for the heavy lifting, that was a great answer to that. For our audience, you’ve got to figure out how you blend these things together. There is no one approach to marketing that’s going to work for everybody. Marketing is always a blend. As my dear co-author, Jay Conrad Levinson pointed out, “It’s never one thing. It’s many things all together.” How do we approach email marketing? It does work. Most of us have tried email marketing and the results feel abysmal.
I’ll give you a couple of tips and stuff you can do right away without spending any money or much time at all. First of all, 60% to 70% of the people expect a welcome message when they sign up to your list. What we found is that almost nobody sends a welcome message. You’ve got this expectation and you’ve let down somebody who’s made the first contact with your company.
Let’s break that down for a moment. What would a good welcome message include? Are we going to give them something or it’s just something more than, “Nice to see you?”
You could definitely give them something. There’s a craft store called Michaels that does a, “Thanks for signing up to our list,” and they set the expectations. I always say, set the expectation. Tell them what to expect, “I’m going to email you once a week, twice a week, three times a week, every day.” Whatever you’re going to do, let them know. Ask them to connect with you on other platforms. “Connect with me on social. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Twitter. I’m on YouTube. I have a Snapchat account.” Ask them to do that. If you want to give them something, then feel free to give them something. The welcome message has got the highest open rate of any email you’ll ever send in your list.
That’s such a critical concept. If you don’t have a solid welcome message, you’re blowing it.
You’re letting them down with their expectations. They don’t know what to expect from you. You’re missing the chance to move them to social. You have multiple contacts and then you’ve got the opportunity to offer them something right off the bat with not a hard sell. We’re not saying, “Thanks for signing up. Here are my sixteen-page sales messages of buying my course.” Lots of people will offer a lead magnet, an additional something that they didn’t offer on the website or they might offer a discount code for their first order.
I could imagine Michaels includes coupons for 50% off anything in the store.
That’s a simple first tip on just cleaning up what you’ve got in-house now. Beyond that, what we do is quite simply, we go out and we buy media. It’s no different than buying an ad in a newspaper or buying a banner ad or buying a Google Ad. It’s like who’s your target audience? Who’s your avatar? Where do they live? Where do they reside? What do they read? What do they do online? Then we partner with publishers that have those people as subscribers on their list. We pay those publishers to send out an email and in my case, it’s always a solo email. You pick a brand that’s in line with your target audience. If your target audience is boaters, then I would go to the boating industry. I would find a publication that’s got a good solid subscriber list that treats their subscribers with respect. I would negotiate for them to take your boating related ad and send it to their subscribers.
Their subscribers are expecting an email because they subscribed to this list. Even like the Washington Post, for example, I’ve done a lot of immediate rental in Washington Post. The people that subscribed to the post are expecting to get an email from the post every single day. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I send them one talking about the leadership and transformation that you do with your businesses. If they send that out to their audience, they’re not going to go, “I can’t believe I’ve got an email from this Mark SA Smith guy. Who is he?” I get an email from the post, this isn’t an advertiser. There’s proper transparency in terms of disclosure, but they get the email and they open it up because they trust the sender. You’re leveraging the center’s reputation and database.
In this particular case, the sender is sending it out on our behalf versus we’re just stealing their list or using their list and sending it out without any association or affiliation with their brand.
You can do cold email. In the US you can still do cold email, business-to-business, but the opener response rates aren’t the same as doing a warm introduction. It’s no different than when you’re looking to generate a lead or sell. It’s always better to sell a warm market than a cold market.
That’s a fantastic idea to find organizations that have an affiliation with the customer we want to target and then use their brand as an introduction.
People talk about influencer marketing as if it’s something brand new, but we’ve been doing this for a long time, for over fifteen years. We have become one of the largest email media buyers in North America doing this for our clients. It’s off the radar so it works, we crushed the results and I figured it’s time to let the rest of the market know that there are some opportunities here that you don’t hear talked about often. If you listen closely to Ryan Deiss and Frank Kern and those guys, you may hear them talk about email list rental. If you dig deep enough into Gary Vee’s background, you’ll hear him talking about renting list, but it’s not part of this conversation because it’s not the new shiny object.
Another part of it is sometimes decision-makers say, “I hate when I get unsolicited emails in my email box so we’re not going to do it.” You’re also missing the boat here. Not everybody you sell to is like you. A lot of decision-makers are proactive and a lot of the people you want to sell to are reactive. For them, getting an email makes their phone ding and they say, “I wonder who just emailed me? That’s interesting.” It’s the crazy psychology and I’ll take it.
If you dig deep enough, what you’ll find is people self-identify. They basically put up their hand, especially in the health and wellness space. I can pick just about any ailment that you can think of. I can find a list of people that are suffering from type two diabetes who are on an email list that is written by a number of doctors. They want to receive information on the disease that they’re suffering from. They’re not going to go, “Who’s interrupting me?” If you send them an offer to buy a new car, that’s not in alignment with what they’re expecting to see but if you send them an offer of, “Here’s something that you could do with your diet to help you with your Type-two Diabetes,” it’s in alignment so it’s a welcome message as opposed to an intrusion.
That’s such an important idea. You want to align with the motivation of the customer that you’re targeting. Anything that’s out of alignment is going to get rejected. It’s not going to work. The tighter the alignment, the easier it is for us to start a conversation that leads to business for us. How do you find these lists? What’s the process that one goes through to figure out what’s the right list and where to find them?
There are a couple of ways. You can do the legwork and the groundwork yourself. You can go through the process with your marketing department and look at where you’re already buying media so start there. What are you already buying? Are you buying ads in Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Inc., and the Wall Street Journal? Where are you already spending media dollars? Do they have digital media that they will sell you? Most people don’t advertise it, you need to dig to find if it’s available. The other way is if you’re doing direct mail, you’re likely dealing with a list broker and the list broker may also have access to email lists. If you have a relationship with an existing list broker, ask them, “Do you have access to email? I’m interested in moving into the email space.” Often the direct mail list will have direct mail, telephone, as well as email. If you’re doing DM, now you can also email them and say, “Hi, Mark. Check your mailbox in a couple of days. I’ve sent you over a special offer.” There’s a way to start to leverage as you’ve said, the one plus one doesn’t equal two, it equals three, four or five because of the multiple touches.
You use email to accelerate your open rate for the direct mail piece. You get a lot more leverage out of that. Then if they have the phone number, you can also follow-up with a phone call.
There is a good chance that a lot of your audience that are working with agencies already have access to this. They just didn’t know or they haven’t asked. They need to ask and failing that, if they can’t ask, they could reach out to me. I’d be happy to help them.
You’re very kind to offer those. The reality is that we like to work with people who have the expertise and can shortcut the stupid tax of doing it ourselves. I’ve paid a lot of the stupid tax and attempt to do it all. I’m one of these guys just like most of our audience are that can do anything and frequently I shouldn’t. It reminds me of the time that my father who was an MD PhD, a really smart guy in the world of medicine. One day he attempted to fix his toilet in his office. You don’t have a doctor do a plumber’s job and don’t have a plumber do a doctor’s job. Unfortunately, he made a mistake and flooded his office and it cost him thousands of dollars. It was the last time that a doctor did plumbing in my family. We don’t want to pay the stupid tax. We’ve got the list. We figured out what we want to work with. How’s the best way to write the email so that it connects with the audience? Do we clone one of the pieces that are going out from the company that we’re using to connect with these new people? What do you suggest?
That’s a good point. Let’s say you identify four or five lists. The first thing you’d want to do is subscribe to the list and see what their subscribers are receiving. How’s it formatted, how long is it, what other ads are being sent? You can do a little bit of market research and see what they’re already receiving. Then you more than likely with your marketing department, have all the collateral material you’re going to need to roll this out. You’re not going to have to go create a whole bunch of brand-new stuff. You probably have some sales copy, you probably have some videos and some graphics. It depends on what your offer is but if it’s a soft offer, it might be just simply a lead magnet.
It might be, “I know that you have this problem, this problem isn’t likely going away. As a matter of fact, it’s likely getting worse. I have a solution. If you click here, you can watch this video or you can download.” In other cases, we do a hard offer. Basically, we don’t know who the people are, they don’t know us. We go with a strict hard offer. Here’s some information and it says a hard sale. At the end, it’s pulling your credit card and buy. It depends on what your company’s strategy is. You don’t have to create a whole lot of extra collateral. To your point, it’s good advice to look at what they’re receiving. It’s no different than advertising in a magazine. What’s everybody else doing? You don’t necessarily want to copy them, you just want to see what they’re doing so you’ll have a feeling of what the people are used to receiving.
You have to be in alignment with what the reader is expecting, with what the target audience is expecting. If you’re too far afield, they’ll reject it. That’s something interesting. I see a lot of marketing mistakes where people go, “We’re going to make this one shocking and different,” then they wonder why it doesn’t work. They’re so far afield from what the expectations are of that particular person and people won’t accept things that are beyond their identity. You’re right, you don’t want to copy them. They’ve got to be in the same ballpark, if you will.
You’ve got an idea who your customer’s avatar is and what their emotional hot buttons are. You need to be in alignment with that. The other thing is the good publishers, they’ll reject your message if it’s not in alignment with their brand because they don’t want to damage the list.
That makes all sense. Now that you’ve got the materials in alignment, you send it off, then what? Do you do some A/B testing? What’s your best practice for making sure you get the most out of the list?
My best practice is to do some A/B testing for subject lines to your in-house list to see which gets the most opens. If you’ve got a house list, I might test the offers inside to see what’s responsive. I would also look at what headlines are pulling off your Google ads, your Facebook ads if you’re running those to get some ideas. There are numbers of things you need to do. Identify the right media. You’ve got to create a headline or subject line and the only goal of that is to get people to open the email. Then when you open it, you need to meet the promise of the subject line and then walk them through an introduction to you and your brand and to the end goal, which is a deeper connection, “Sign up for my list or buy my product.”
How do we make sure that we have a headline A/B test that’s going to be attractive to the particular list that we’re buying? If we’re testing against our house list, doesn’t that tilt the results a little bit against the lists that we’re choosing?
It does but the other way to do it is to take a smaller budget and go to the actual media themselves and do an A/B test with the media. The campaigns that we work on are our longer-term campaign. We’re not doing one campaign and betting all our money on that one’s going to pay off. Our approach is we’re going to work for months or years with a particular client. We’ll go to that media and we will test. We’ll say, “We’re going to send out two emails.” Let’s say 50,000 emails with this headline, 50,000 of that headline. We’re going to look at open rates, click through rates and the bottom line conversions. What happened to the sales process? Then the next time we go back, we’re going to take the headline that pulled the best, use that as the subject line for both emails and we’re going to change the offer. We do that same process with direct mail. It’s just a matter of using your smart team around you, you’re probably doing your testing already for all your other media, whether it’s direct mail, digital or print. Use the insight that you’ve got and move that into the email space. That’s what I’m saying. It’s not a lot of new learning, it’s just a different digital platform.
It’s a different vector. That’s true, yet it seems as though email has become mysterious just because people have been doing it wrong.
I am on a bent next year to push hard on my list because I subscribe to a lot of emails. Obviously, it’s my business. There are not very many people that say, “I’m excited when I open my email in the morning and I get an email from them.” It’s not normally like, “I’m super excited. I know that when I read this, I’m going to feel good. I’m going to look better. I’m going to be younger. Whatever, I’m looking for a benefit.” It’s normally like, “Buy my stuff. This offer expires in two days. You haven’t bought my stuff. I’m taking you off my list.” I’m thinking, “I’ve been wanting to get off your list for a long time. Please do me the favor.” At the end of the week, they’re mailing me again. I said, “I thought you’re going to take me off your list? Now, I have to unsubscribe. You promised to take me off your list because I haven’t been responsive, go away.”
What do you see as some of the worst things people do when it comes to email marketing? What should we avoid?
Going online and doing a search for email lists and buying one. What it does is, first of all, you waste your money. If that’s what you want to do, just take that amount of money, whatever it is. $399 for a DVD of everybody that’s in America. Take that $399 and give it to your favorite charity and you’ll help somebody. In other words, you’re just going to help the guy who’s selling you the list and he doesn’t care. If you do send the list, you’re going to have to find a vendor to send it. None of the email service providers allows you to import a purchase list. If you do, you’re offside. If you do that, they can shut down your account. There goes your house list, you damage your domain name, your reputation. The thinking is, “I’ll just change email service providers. Now I’m using this company and tomorrow I’ll use the other one.” No, it follows your domain name. If you screw that up, how excited would you be to go talk to your CEO or CMO and say, “We have to change our domain name because I’ve got our domain name blacklisted and we can’t deliver any email to anybody including our host list.”
That’s not a good idea. The goal here is to ride the back of somebody else versus buy a massive list and then spray on that.
We do cold email for clients but on a lot different approach. We buy good data, then we clean the data to make sure that the email is valid and that it works. It’s a different approach but in this way, people are welcoming you because you’re being introduced by a trusted third party.
Is it possible to do some retargeting to these third-party lists? Will they allow you to do that for enhancing the brand awareness?
I’ve never asked but we do it. That’s the other thing. That’s a good point because with the email, if we rent a list, we have a landing page that we’re going to drive them to. We’re going to get the email, then you go to the landing page, we would definitely make sure we’ve got retargeting there for Google Pixel and for Facebook. If you have YouTube video on the landing page and just the side tip video in landing page crashes it with email for time on site, we remarket there. You build your retargeting list very quickly. You could start a campaign now and have zero people on your Google retargeting list. By Friday, you could have 5,000 people that you’re retargeting because it’s so scalable and it’s so instant that the results are in in 24 hours.
There’s no other marketing strategy that allows you to get there that fast, is there?
Not that I’ve found. We’ve run some pretty big pay-per-click campaigns. At least big for us, $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a day with Google. We still can’t get that media lift because think of it this way, it’s a waiting audience. If you’re doing search marketing, people are searching and you’re trying to capture their search and you’re competing with a bunch of other people. These are a whole bunch of people. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. They’ve all got together and they’re in one place and they all have a problem. They’re looking for a solution and they’re waiting for you to show up. I don’t want the number to scare people, but some of these lists are over a million names. If you rent 50,000 and you do a test and you figured out your ROI and you do some testing, you do a couple of send of 50 and it works, then you’ve now got 900,000 additional people that you can ramp up your marketing to. Once you get some success with that list, then you can look for similar lists.
Plus, the concept is that you can send to the same list over and over again with proper time spacing and have the same response every time.
I’ll touch a little bit on that. There’s a political list that we started using years ago for generating money for crowdfunding. The list was so productive and work so well. I signed a contract with that company and I pre-rented it for the entire year so my competitors couldn’t get it. Twice a week for an entire year, we sent to the same list. The list was a little over a million names and it just produced like crazy. The list owner got greedy and started sending it the third time and so we canceled our contract, “We’re done. You guys are clearly not respecting your subscribers and so our open rates, click through rates, and conversions are going down. Congratulations on trying to generate more revenue. Unfortunately, we’re not going to renew it.”
You can’t burn the list for that is such a critical aspect to it. One more don’t do when it comes to email marketing.
Don’t tell your friends what you’re doing.
One of the things that I’ve seen in my years of working in the world of marketing is that people run marketing campaigns by their spouse. The worst possible judge of your marketing friends is your spouse. That is a 100% accurate rule even when your spouse is in marketing.
I’m thinking more from a selfish point of view. What happens with us is we identify a new list that works well for your vertical. You’re going out and having some drinks of your buddies and it’s guys being guys or whatever. You’re saying, “I’m doing this new thing and I’m crushing it.” Then what happens is on Monday, my phone rings and this person calls me. I don’t know who they are. They’re now asking about list rental. I’m thinking, “Cool, new client.” I take them on and you say, “What are you doing dealing with my friend?” “I didn’t know he’s your friend.” Like I told you, don’t go to the hockey game or football game and tell your buddies what you’re doing because everybody wants to increase their sales. It increases competition. It drives up the price of the list. It reduces the availability of our marketing. There’s no reason to share this with a competitor, even if they’re your friend. They’re going to see you making lots of money in what you’re doing and they’re going to soon be on my doorstep or somebody else’s and we’re going to be trying to buy the same stuff.
That’s good advice. Your buddies are never going to give you great advice if they’re suffering. One of my favorite ideas is to choose advice from people whose history is your future. That way you’re always going to be in great shape. One of the things I like about this idea is in my world, the way that I look at marketing is there are three fundamental approaches. Search, outreach and word of mouth. You’ve already talked about how search is limited because it’s limited to the number of people that are searching for that topic right now. Then outreach, this is what this is. This is an outreach strategy where we identify the pool that we want to go fishing and then we go put some bait out in that pool and that’s extremely scalable.
Then the word of mouth and the challenge with the word of mouth is that it’s unscalable. You have no control over what your customers say. An important concept to that as well is that if you want to sell your company, no investor is going to buy a company that has word-of-mouth-based marketing because they can’t scale it. What we’re doing right here is a fantastic way of bringing online a marketing strategy that has a fleet of foot. We can test, we can know in 24 hours whether this is going to work or not. It is also extremely scalable. If you’re looking to improve sales, if you want to get your company groomed to sell, you’ve got to put something like this into play. This is what investors are looking for when it comes to, “This is a company I want to buy.”
Almost all of my clients are in the VC and investor business. It’s not a surprise that they’re not out talking about what we’re doing. We’re just making money for them. To your point, this leverages search. If you’re already running Google campaigns, what you’ll see when you run an email campaign is you’ll see a spike in people searching for your brand.
Of course, because you just turn them on. You just alerted them of something to search for.
100,000 people just heard about your company and not everyone’s going to believe every word in your email. They’re going to hit the keyboard and they’ll be going to do some research. Your search teams are coming and say, “We had this massive spike this week of people searching for us. We had another 25,000 people looking for our brand. What’s going on?” That’s just validating that your email went out and people got it.
Doug, how do people get ahold of you? How do they get ahold of your book, The Three Big Lies?
Just go to my website, DougMorneau.com. You can sign up there. I’ve got an email list if you want to get connected and see what I’m doing. You can buy the book there. You can buy the book on Amazon for $29. You can sign up for my new offer, which I had talked to you a little bit about. If you go to DougMorneau.com/MarkSASmith, you’ll be able to sign up and get a free copy of the book. If you pay for shipping, I’ve already bought the book, I’d be happy to send it to you. If that’s not a good enough offer, please feel free to go to Amazon and spend $29. You can buy it there.
Thank you for also setting up a landing page for me specifically, Mark SA Smith, of course. Doug, this has been a great conversation. Thank you for sharing your insights with my audience. We had some interesting ideas that can help people make more money. First one, you’ve got to make sure your welcome message is absolutely rock solid. That was a blinding flash of the obvious. Second of all is you have to pick email lists to go out under other people’s brands that have already created the relationship and you can leverage those brands. Number three is a video on your landing page. If you don’t have that right now, you’ve got to get some solid video that’s going to connect with people. Then go grab a copy of Doug’s Three Big Lies and think about how we might be able to use email to scale up our business as rapidly as possible. Thanks, Doug, for being on the show.
Thanks, Mark, for inviting me. I had a blast.
About Doug MorneauDoug Morneau is a serial entrepreneur since founding his first company over 32 years ago.
Doug is a passionate lifelong learner and expert marketer with significant experience in email marketing.
Doug has the ability to quickly understand concepts, adapt to new technologies and new media making him a valuable contributor to any sales and marketing problem-solving conversation, or marketing strategy session.
Doug is a dynamic, powerful, and knowledgeable speaker that never fails to add value.
Doug just recently launched his podcast, Real MARKETING Real FAST.
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