Leveraging Email for Superior Customer Engagement and Revenue Growth
- with Ben Billups

Ben Billups, Founder of NOBLE Digital, boasts a decade-long career in performance marketing, emerging as a trailblazer in the field. NOBLE is the world’s fastest-growing email and SMS service provider for ecommerce brands and digital publishers. His expertise has propelled the company to redefine industry standards, leveraging a unique blend of technical proficiency and creative strategies.

Under Ben’s leadership, NOBLE Digital has achieved remarkable milestones, generating over $26 million in Email & SMS Revenue. His hands-on experience and strategic insights have been instrumental in NOBLE’s success, specializing in scaling owned audiences and driving revenue growth for clients while navigating the intricacies of spam avoidance and maintaining customer relationships. Ben’s relentless commitment and visionary approach continue to shape NOBLE Digital, setting unprecedented benchmarks and reshaping the landscape of digital marketing through innovation and client-centric solutions.

EPISODE SNAPSHOT

[2:53] – The Value of Email Marketing

[5:54] – List Growth Strategies and Techniques

[13:30] – Email Automations and Their Importance

[18:13] – Promotional Cadence and Messaging

[22:48] – Effective Use of SMS Marketing

[27:11- end] – Improving Deliverability and Compliance Updates

EPISODE DESCRIPTION

In this episode, we had the privilege of speaking with Ben Billups from Noble Digital, a seasoned expert in digital marketing with a profound understanding of direct-to-consumer and B2B e-commerce strategies. Broadcasting from Austin, Texas, Ben shares his unique insights into the transformative power of targeted email and SMS marketing strategies designed to significantly enhance customer engagement and drive revenue growth.

Discover the secrets behind:

  • Crafting an intuitive and frictionless online shopping experience.
  • Harnessing the untapped potential of email and SMS marketing to build a loyal customer base.
  • Implementing strategic list growth techniques and automation processes that convert visitors into repeat buyers.
  • Understanding the nuances of promotional cadences and how they can amplify your sales during key shopping periods.

Ben’s extensive experience and innovative approaches to digital marketing offer invaluable perspectives on optimizing your Ecommerce strategy for maximum impact. Whether you’re a burgeoning startup or an established brand, this episode is packed with actionable advice and pioneering strategies to help you achieve unprecedented Ecommerce success.

MENTIONED DURING THIS EPISODE

SPONSOR

This episode is brought to you by Ecommerce Optimizers

At Ecommerce Optimizers, we specialize in helping Ecommerce brands in one focused area: and that’s making your website easier to use so that more of your visitors buy from you. 

An easy-to-use website delivers a highly intuitive, straightforward, and smooth experience throughout the customer journey – making it much easier and more enjoyable to do business with you. This translates into a wide variety of business-building benefits, including increased revenue, higher profits, and happier, loyal customers who buy from you time and time again. 

If you’d like to learn more about how we make Ecommerce sites easier to use and how our services might benefit your business, head on over to our website at EcommerceOptimizers.com and check out all the details.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Scott Reid 0:00
Welcome to the E commerce optimizer Show. I’m your host, Scott Reid. This episode is brought to you by ecommerce optimizers. We specialize in helping ecommerce brands in one focused area, and that’s making your website easier to use so that more of your visitors buy from you. An easy to use website delivers a highly intuitive, straightforward and smooth experience throughout the customer journey, making it much easier and more enjoyable to do business with you. This translates into a wide variety of business building benefits, including increased revenue, higher profits, and happier loyal customers who buy from you time and time again. If you’d like to learn more about how we make e commerce sites easier to use, and how our services might benefit your business, head on over to our website at ecommerce optimizers.com. And check out all the details. So today on the podcast, we have Ben Billups of noble digital. Ben, thanks very much for joining me today. I really appreciate it. where you’re coming from. You’re calling in where you’re from, I believe Austin, Texas, is that correct?

Ben Billups 1:14
That’s right. Yeah. Excited to be here. I appreciate you having me on Scott.

Scott Reid 1:17
How long have you been in the Austin area? Are you a native Texan?

Ben Billups 1:22
I’m I’m a unicorn in the city. I was born here. And so that means when I go to events, everybody says There he is. We found him because there’s so many people moving here the last couple of years. Almost everybody you meet is a transplant. Yeah, I’m a real austenite.

Scott Reid 1:35
That’s a great city, isn’t it?

Ben Billups 1:37
Yeah, no, it’s phenomenal. It’s one of the most unique in the world. I have a ton of appreciation for it. Especially the east side. There’s nothing like the East Side in any other city I’ve ever visited.

Scott Reid 1:48
Yeah, I’ve never been but I am a big Formula One fan and it is on my list to go watch the f1 race at the at the track. Have you ever been? I have? Yeah. It’s a great experience. And you know what comes out today? Because we’re recording on February 23. It’s the sixth season of drive to survive. But I digress. So why don’t you tell us about yourself, then we, you know, I believe and we had a little conversation before we before we started recording. And and personally, my takeaway is that anybody who’s in a direct to consumer, ecommerce, business, and even b2b would be very, very, it would be a very good solid use of your time to listen to this episode. Because Ben, what we’re going to talk about today, what he has to bring to the table and his level of knowledge and experience. And just as overall professional delivery is something that I know, before we even get into it, that it’s going to be a great episode. So why don’t you tell us about yourself though? Yeah.

Ben Billups 2:53
100%. So like the two minute history there is, I mean, after I graduated college, I was just very much a marketing generalist. I worked at a bunch of different startups, at tech news media doing a bunch of different things. Just like pretty typical for any new marketer, one man band in a underfunded organization, kind of learning how all the pieces go together, which I think was really valuable experience for me, and working in a bunch of different industries, which I enjoyed tremendously. And then eventually, like kind of the big aha moment for me was I, I worked for a big E commerce brand called Bellamy, which sells hair extensions. And, you know, managed to to really see some revenue come through their email on their SMS channel. So and that was a more specialized role for me. I was doing exclusively their email, I opened up their SMS channel and I was doing a little bit of their website CRO as well. They got acquired about a year after I joined I started taking clients on the side after that had like a big case study with Bellamy and and then since then, I mean, we support a pretty diverse range of clients across ecommerce news, publishing, b2b, but all of it for us as email and SMS were like total email nerds, I just completely went down the rabbit hole and learned everything that I could about it. So it’s something that I like, legitimately, I love it.

Scott Reid 4:08
Well, and with email, there’s an awful lot to learn. I mean, it sounds easy, but it’s the devils in the details of email. Could you could you talk about that and some of the ways in which you know email is kind of like buyer beware and or ways that you can leverage email to really, you know, exponentially grow your your, your econ brand 100%.

Ben Billups 4:33
I mean, in a lot of ways, I think there’s many brands out there that sort of undervalue it as a channel because precisely because from the outside, it seems kind of simplistic, it’s like alright, like, let’s send a weekly newsletter, or we’re doing our Black Friday promotion, we should tell our list about that. Right. And that’s true. That’s those are things that you should do. But there’s so much to be had with email marketing, and a big part of it the way that I really look at it is the I mean, it’s a popular thing, right that the revenue is in the list. And so a big thing that we focus on with any client, pretty much, regardless of industry, or what they’re doing specifically is, we focus a ton on list growth. And like there’s a variety of different tools, data vendors, there’s ways you can optimize your OPT in pop ups. You know, all this, all these new identity resolution software’s that are popping up that can help you identify anonymous users and trigger abandoned cart emails, right? There’s all kinds of stuff that you can get into that are all directly tied to email marketing. And part of the reason why I think that it’s something that almost any brand can benefit from putting more resources behind is because the ROI is so ridiculously high. I mean, the common statistic you hear is that email marketing has an ROI of like, 36. Sometimes I see it said is 41x ROI, right? It’s ridiculous. And so Facebook

Scott Reid 5:48
hasn’t had had that ROI since like, 2012. Right? If any,

Ben Billups 5:54
if ever. Exactly. Yeah, the golden days when you could set up an Alibaba dropshipping shop and spend $500 on ads, right. But and it’s like, email really is that money printer. And it’s been that way for two decades. And even when you look at the aggregated trends, it’s like the email Mark revenue from email marketing for like US based businesses, b2b or b2c is just like a linear growth curve over the course of two decades.

Scott Reid 6:18
Yeah. Yeah, and the thing with, with Facebook, or any type of paid traffic, it all requires, especially if you’re scaling, and you really want to grow your list and grow your revenue using those those traffic channels is that it consumes a massive amount of a very, very valuable scarce resource, which is cash. And so, you know, laying out in many cases, some of the client many of the clients that you and I work with, they’re shelling out hundreds of 1000s of dollars a month, millions of dollars a month in paid traffic expenses, whereas email, as you point out with such a incredibly high ROI doesn’t require that at all. I mean, it’s it’s relatively it’s like a it’s like a speck on the on the on the income statement. So, you know, that being said, in terms of in terms of that Ri 36 41% ROI, or not percent, but x ROI, how do you generate that? I mean, what are your What are your? What are the tactics that you employ to generate that type of ROI for your clients?

Ben Billups 7:33
Yeah. And to be clear, I’m, I’m fairly certain that that figure is based purely on, you know, the, you know, assuming that it’s not take into account the cost of traffic, yeah, there’s no way that he’s taking that to account, then you’re getting, you know, free options off the list, and not exactly free. But then it’s really factoring in basically the cost of sending emails, which in most email platforms is pennies on the dollar for reaching the same audience, right? So it’s like your CPM on Facebook versus your CPM on emails, like massively different, right, it’s way cheaper to email, your list. So I mean, yeah, but I mean, speaking in terms of E commerce brands, and a lot of people that have spent time in email and SMS marketing know that, it pretty much all comes down to lists growth. automations. And really, the the key of automations is understanding your triggers, like what are the high intent behaviors of users on your website? And then how, what like, what messaging Are you sending based on those intent triggers? And then your campaigns and promotions, so like, your promotional cadence, which that’s another kind of black box where you know, it, let’s say a brand is sending, you know, one or two emails a week, with different offers or different content that’s valuable to their audience. And they’re seeing good revenue from that. And they’re not spending much to get that revenue, right. But there’s actually, there’s a lot of theories around how do you structure which email to which segment, how you define the segments, what exactly is your email cadence? And then especially during promotions, and this only we could dive into later as well? Like, what is an ideal promotional cadence? How do you structure that? So if it’s Black Friday, and you’re running this for, you know, two or three weeks? How do you actually determine who’s receiving which emails on which days, there’s a, there’s a lot of ways that you can kind of go down the rabbit hole with that. And I mean, I’ve seen that happen before where we come in with a brand, they had a promotional cadence before that, like wasn’t bad. It was like maybe more typical. It’s like, you send an email at the beginning, like maybe one or two in the middle and one at the end. But if you if you have a more refined promotional cadence, you can actually tremendously increase the amount of revenue that you’re making just in a promotional period through email marketing, right? So there’s like lots of topics that you can get into in terms of expertise within those things. But from the outside, they look deceptively simple. Right. So it’s the structure

Scott Reid 9:49
so what you’re bringing to your, to your clients, it sounds like is a is a, like a proprietary structure that you’ve developed over the years. That is going to be To improve the way in which they’re communicating with the, with the humans that are on their list, is that a correct assumption that it’s the devils in the details, it’s the structure, and it’s the proprietary nature of that 100%.

Ben Billups 10:12
And that, in that the kind of same theories that you develop around email cadence can also apply to your automations. It’s like, so you’ve identified an intent trigger, like, how quickly do you message them? And like, how big are the gaps between emails? And how many emails are there, right? Like, if you experiment with those things, sometimes you can dramatically increase the amount of revenue that certain automations generate. Now,

Scott Reid 10:33
if we would have to back up a little bit, and think about a potential client of yours or a current client, and think about go back in time, when when your your average, I guess, prospect comes to you what state is their email? Is there email strategy in typically, I clearly this doesn’t apply to everybody. But what does that typically look like?

Ben Billups 11:01
Yeah, so I mean, there’s usually we identify pretty clear room for growth in all areas. So I mean, the first thing we look at is list wrote, and I mean, I’ve worked with prospects before that are making a tremendous amount of money through email marketing already. But then if you actually like get into their list growth, their unsubscribes are outpacing their subscribes. So you’re like, Okay, well, I mean, this is a kind of a time bomb, right? Like, if you just let this roll on forever, your your revenue is just going to continue to decrease because your audience is shrinking, right? So there’s always there’s pretty much always revenue there in terms of, you know, even if you’re just doing simple, often units, it’s like, are you actually testing the offers? And then are you actually measuring? How much revenue are we generating within a certain timeframe per offer, right, and then which offer is actually most aligned with the goals of that brand. Some brands, they actually benefit from lower intent opt in offers where it’s like, we just want as many people on our list as possible, and we’re gonna we don’t care if we convert them in six or 12 months, right? And then other brands, if they’re prioritizing short term revenue, it’s like, okay, well, maybe we collect fewer emails, but we work with higher intent offers were, we know that they’re going to convert in 14 days or 30 days, right? So there’s, that’s something to take into account. And that tends to be the first thing we look at is just just a list growth profile, and what are the opt in units. And then the next thing we look at is the automations. And pretty much every brand that I see, I mean, some brands, we come to them, and we recommend that we add eight to 10, different automations. Because I mean, if you’ve just set up the basics, which definitely setting up the basics is better than no automations. But if you’re just running set, let’s say an abandoned cart series, and a welcome series, right, it’s like there’s a lot more that you can be doing with automations. Right. And I pretty much never audited an account and seeing them running all the automations I think they should be. So then that’s one. And then the other, of course, is your is your actual email campaigns, your promotional cadence. And this is another area where, you know, maybe a controversial idea. But there’s a lot of brands out there that could just be sending more emails. And the math on that is pretty simple. If you if you’re able to even increase your send volume by 30%. Right, you’ll be able to see more revenue come through your email campaigns.

Scott Reid 13:17
Now, if we if we start at the top on that with the list growth profile data is what you do, does that include growing the list and strategies to grow? To grow their list? And can you talk about that?

Ben Billups 13:30
Yeah, absolutely. So and really, like when I was talking about opt in offers, there’s, there’s a there’s, you can get into like more creative ways to do it. But it really comes down to two basic structures for your offers. One is essentially giveaways, right. And that’s going to be your lower intent offer. So if you let’s say, every week, you give away one of your hero products to a lucky winner, right? That’s going to be a low intent offer, because you may be getting a lot of email addresses from people who have a passing interest in your brand, but they may not actually have intent to buy, right. And actually, I’ve seen that be tremendously valuable. So it’s something I wouldn’t just discount it right away. But then the kind of the most common hire and send offer is just going to be things like free shipping, or a discount on a specific product or a site discount, in exchange for someone entering their email, if they’re interested enough in your products that that a you know, let’s say a 20% discount is interesting to them, they’re going to be more likely to buy within a shorter period of time and actually use that coupon code, right. So, but also, typically, you’ll see fewer opt ins with that than you would with something like a giveaway. And like I said you can get into I mean, there’s lots of marketers these days talking about like zero party data, essentially like pushing surveys, asking them more information about them, doing quizzes and whatnot. And there’s value in that as well but typically falls into kind of like one of those two categories, and we’ll make different recommendations based on the brands goals. The other big air Are you for list growth, and this is by far, like the one that that adds sort of exponential it as an exponential to your list growth is a lot of these new identity resolution tools, which there can spam compliant and CCPA compliant. So that means they’re us only it’s not for European brands right now.

Scott Reid 15:16
But no GDPR is that’s not gonna fly in Europe. Right, exactly.

Ben Billups 15:21
But you know, retention.com, revenue roll, like there’s a couple of vendors out there. And we typically do recommend those if a site is getting, say, 30, or 40,000, plus unique users from the US per month, the number of emails you can collect from anonymous users is massive, like, it’s going to dramatically outpace almost any other email collection effort. And you obviously want to be thoughtful with how you handle those emails on the on the back end, just because they aren’t explicit opt in. So you want to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success and deliverability. But almost nothing beats it in terms of a cost per email, and like a list growth from that perspective.

Scott Reid 16:00
Now, in terms of we talked, I really find it intriguing how you talked about those lowest low intent offers like a giveaway and the high intent, which would be free shipping, or discounts? Is there kind of like a baseline discount that you that you stick is a standard recommendation? Yeah,

Ben Billups 16:18
I mean, I think this actually goes more to like pricing theory, and like how you structure promotions in general. But I mean, a good rule of thumb is that if a discount is lower than 20%, it doesn’t tend to motivate users. And if a discount is higher than 40%, users tend to think that your products are maybe garbage, or it’s too good to be true. So that anywhere in that 20 to 40%, tends to be the sweet spot. But sometimes with higher EOB or lower margin items, it still makes sense to do something less than that. But you just, you know, you take into account the fact that it’s just not going to be as interesting. And the

Scott Reid 16:55
reality is, is that you can test it, it’s not like it’s it’s cast in stone, you can exactly you can change it, it doesn’t doesn’t cost much to change the the incentive on that? Is there specific. It one of the things that that I always am sensitive to, personally, is the expectation that you’re setting with somebody for any type of an offer. Do you really make it explicit that it’s just that one time? Or is that? Do you see nuances with that, like in terms of really drilling down like this one time offer for 20%? And this may be getting a little bit too much into the nitty gritty. But is there any commentary that you have on that? Yeah,

Ben Billups 17:33
I mean, I would say generally speaking, that is the best practice is to make it a one time coupon code and to make sure that that’s something that they know, up front, you know, because that gives them a degree of urgency, especially if you set an expiration date, let’s say, you know, give us your email, get 20% off code expires in 48 hours, right? Okay, you’re gonna get more conversions that way, then structured in a different way. But you also want to make sure that you’re taking into account essentially the profile of all offers across your brand. So it’s like, you don’t want to run into a situation where you’re basically giving a better deal to prospects than you are to customers, or that your popup offers beating your Black Friday offer. Right? You don’t do that. But yeah, something pretty simple, like that can be effective.

Scott Reid 18:13
Now, in terms of the the new identity resolution, Could you could you talk about that?

Ben Billups 18:19
Yeah. So there’s a bunch of these vendors in this space popping up. The one that we’ve worked with the most is retention.com, where we’re piloting revenue row on a project right now. And I’m pretty optimistic about it. And there’s kind of two ways to look at it. One way is, is as a tool for less growth, which is true, you’re identifying anonymous users, and they’re essentially, how a lot of these tools work is they have access to some data lake, it with with a lot of them, it’s live intent. So I mean, pretty much if you’ve seen an ad on a website, you’ve been exposed to live intent, at some point, they’re like a massive programmatic advertising like one of the biggest easily Yeah, and so they have access to I mean, hundreds of millions, if not a billion email addresses, right. And so what a lot of these identity resolution tools are doing is they’re licensing data from live intent. So like, Alright, we’ve got this list of email addresses with, you know, Mt. Five hashes, whatever it is, and then they’re tacking on an identity resolution component, which is sort of part of the cookieless future, where they’re able to identify alright, you know, this is James, he’s on his phone this time instead of his computer, but like we know who this is. And then what they do is they match that user back to an email address, and they sell it back to you at wholesale pricing. So in some cases, you’re paying 20 cents an email to collect with those tools. Sometimes you’re paying five cents in email, like it can be really low from like a lead generation cost perspective. The other thing that these tools typically do, which also helpful just like generating revenue in general, is they help you trigger your high intent automation. So most of these tools they’ll have, they’ll identify anonymous users on your site, for example, who abandoned cart, and then they’ll pass that data back Klaviyo so that you can actually trigger your abandoned cart automation in clay VO. In a case where the clay vo cookie actually couldn’t identify the user, especially if they’re not in your database. clavey is definitely not going to identify them. But then also clay vos cookie has limitations with how many users on your database, it can identify across device. So it’s really just amplifying the amount of send volume, you can drive through those automations. So between those two things, these tools tend to be very high ROI. I mean, I’ve seen I mean, brands I’ve worked with have seen 11x ROI on some of these. I’ve seen a screenshot from a brand owner of one of these tools, he had a 90x ROI. And that blew my mind. So yeah, it’s definitely something that’s worth exploring.

Scott Reid 20:43
That’s a good slot machine to put your money into. Absolutely. So do you see that? In terms of the identity resolution, in terms of list quality? How does that kind of Jive between? Have you done any analysis or read any studies around the quality of acquiring names, potential customers that list growth through identity resolution as compared to a just let’s compare it to a high end 10 offer? I mean, what is the what was the quality range in that? And I know that’s a really, really open ID question. I just wanted to see if you have any thoughts on that?

Ben Billups 21:24
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s it’s definitely not as good as an opt in. But it does sit somewhere between an opt in and a cold email in the sense that, you know, someone at least spent, you know, 1520 seconds on your website, they put in your logo. And so if they get sort of an unsolicited email from you saying, like, Hey, thanks for visiting our site, you know, by the way we offer these different products due to do the response you could expect from that is quite a bit better than you could expect. If you’re, for example, just buying lists, which I don’t recommend for DTC brands. So, but yeah, I mean, your your engagement tends to be lower generally, with these vendors, I see fairly high open rates, and lower CTRs. But really, the magic is in building the list. And, and it’s like now that they’re on your list. Now you can identify them when they’re on your site. And you can do all these different things. So

Scott Reid 22:16
but when you think about it, that could really amplify the effectiveness of a paid traffic campaign, right, of all of your paid and traffic investments. Because many of those people that are clicking over from, say, Facebook, or Google Ad Tiktok, something like that, they come over to the site, they look around for a little bit there, they may not have that, that immediate buying intent, or desire or whatever, maybe they’re just distracted, and then you’re, you’re, you’re amplifying it by remarketing to them. So it’s essentially kind of like a remarketing tool in effect.

Ben Billups 22:48
Absolutely. And another thing is, I know retention does this, and I believe revenue roll does as well, where they You can also set it up so that when users are identified on your website, you integrate that with Facebook and Google to populate your retargeting audiences, your website returns, so

Scott Reid 23:04
you don’t have to go through all that rigmarole, exact, okay? How about time on site, page depth, scroll, can you with those identity resolution platforms, and you input a certain type of onsite behavior that will then match and only go after those those visitors that actually did something other than just show up and bounce.

Ben Billups 23:31
Yeah, and that’s, I mean, most of these tools offer that. So what we tend to do is just do a time delay on page view. So the script just won’t fire unless a visitor has been on the site. I mean, typically, for like, at least 30 seconds tends to be the sweet spot. Okay, the 60 seconds, you can also set it up, if you’re if you want to be extra cautious, you can set it up so that it only fires, for example, on the second page view, that’s of course going to increase the quality of the data that you’re collecting. And something to take into consideration too. And this can get into the weeds a little bit is the amount of data you could possibly collect from your web traffic versus the size of your existing email list is something to think about. So let’s say for example, you actually have really healthy web traffic, but you have a pretty anemic email list. So let’s say you’re getting 50,000 uniques a month in the US. But your email list is only 10k, you probably shouldn’t take every match that comes your way. Because you’re very quickly your list is going to be dominated by those contacts, and your spam complaint rate will be higher if that’s the case, versus let’s say if your email list is bigger, you essentially have more capacity to push these lower intent contacts in because your numbers are likely in check if you’re already dealing with a big list of options,

Scott Reid 24:48
and that’s really where your value comes in. Maybe not all of it, certainly but a certain piece of the value that you’re bringing to customers does have to do with after you We have let’s and I’m just using the identity resolution scenario, you are then bringing that person back to the site using email, using different sequences, different flows, different tactics, copywriting, so that, that they are getting the most out of that technological opportunity. Exactly. Yep. So that’s clearly got to be a lot of what you’re doing with with, with your clients now. What else can you can we talk about in terms of lists grows, let’s say somebody has a $30,000 $30,000 30,000 person email list? What are your objectives? Typically? And I know, again, this is an open ended question, but what do you like to see that that that growth go to, over time, say over the next, say, if somebody works with you for 12 months? What might they be a reasonable expectation in terms of list growth?

Ben Billups 26:00
Yeah, I mean, really, the biggest controlling factor, if it’s opt ins, or identity resolution, the biggest controlling factor in your list growth is going to be how much web traffic you get, right? So let’s say you’re running up, pop up, and your conversion rate is anywhere from two to 5%. You’re like, alright, that’s like, decent range. And then with identity resolution, sometimes you can match back up to 30% of users, sometimes it’s 10%. And so and sometimes with these tools, I mean, I would recommend basically doing a free trial, and essentially just seeing like, Alright, how many matches do we actually get? Because it varies from site to site? And so and basically, you could build a projection on that. So you say, Alright, how much web traffic? Are we getting? are expecting that to increase or decrease? Like, what is our projected web traffic over the course of the next 12 months? And then based on what is a healthy opt in unit? And what is a good batch back raid on an identity resolution tool, or at least like an acceptable one? How many emails could we expect to have, you know, in 12 months, in 24 months? And so yeah, I mean, if somebody has 30,000 emails, the way I look at it, if I’m just coming in blind, I don’t see any reason why in a year’s time, that couldn’t be 100,000 or 150,000.

Scott Reid 27:11
Now, that’s huge. That’s massive growth. In terms of automations, what what can we talk about in terms of automations? How, you know, I’ve got to believe that you’re learning a lot across different clients, things that are working, and then you’re applying those learnings to to existing clients. What? What can you tell me about automations? And what’s your words of wisdom there? What separates you apart in terms of that?

Ben Billups 27:39
Yeah, I think a big thing about it is there’s I mean, there’s a lot of sort of, like, there’s a perspective that automations are kind of set it and forget it. And in some ways that is true, where it’s like, the biggest step is like actually having the trigger and then having that send a message like, that’s the biggest part of like the revenue you’re going to generate through an automation. But there’s tons of optimizations in terms of, you know, what level of intent is the user? What message? Are you sending them? How many messages what are the gaps between the messages. And when you really get into those details and dive in, that’s where you can start to see more growth. So let’s just say as an example, you know, I see a lot of brands that maybe have abandoned checkout, but they don’t have abandoned cart, like that’s a pretty big revenue opportunity. Because that’s still a very high level of intent there at the cart, they just didn’t make it checkout. So you want abandoned cart, you want abandoned checkout, you want probably multiple welcome series based on different opt ins sources. So your popup welcome series is going to be slightly different than, you know, if you’re using identity resolution, then if you’re, you know, ran a giveaway at some point with another brand, right? You kind of you want to make sure that that messaging is consistent with how they got on your list in the first place. And so I mean, you know, we typically talking at least two or three welcome series, the content can be pretty similar, especially after the first emails, it’s mostly just about making sure that first email kind of at least acknowledges how they got here in the first place. You follow up on the offer, whatever that was, right. So you’re talking about a couple welcome series. And then you also have lower intent automations, you can create so you can do product abandonment, so someone viewed a product, and then they left the site. You can work with that, right? That’s an intense signal you can work with. And so and it depends brand to brand, like how many skews, what are the hero products, etc. Sometimes it even makes sense to send, let’s say, for example, a brand has 12 skews, but like, really, the vast majority of the revenue comes from two of them. It’s worth actually having dedicated content for those specific products, where it’s like, you know, somebody viewed your $50 protein, and then they abandon it’s like, send them follow up education about the protein, you’re not necessarily going like hard for the sale. And I sent him a coupon code right away, but you’re just saying like, Hey, here’s why our protein is better than the other proteins out there, et cetera. That can be powerful. And I mean, you can go all the way up to side abandonment, which we’ve done for some clients was like someone visited the site, they are on our email list and they left for some reason. And that’s, you know, even lower intent, that’s kind of like further up the funnel so to speak. And so, I mean, you can generate revenue through that. And then so but really like, the big dividing line is like, pretty much everything I just described is, would be considered, like a pre purchase, or like a prospecting sequence, somebody has expressed intent to buy, but they haven’t bought yet. And then you have an entire other set of sequences that are post purchase. So you’re talking about, I mean, there’s, there’s tremendous value even in optimizing your order confirmation, shipping confirmation, sending a customer, thank you note from the founder can be great. Doing product education, right? So it’s like, okay, they just bought this product, let’s make sure they know how to use it, right. And let’s make sure they know how great it is. And then, and also like building anticipation for, like, when that product does arrive, they’re like, they’re ready for it. And then, you know, even beyond that, you have, like Winback, automations, are very common, highly recommended, where it’s like, let’s say, if you have a product with a repurchase rate, where realistically, you should expect a lot of your customers should be buying, let’s say, every 30 or 60 days, if somebody hasn’t bought in 70 days, it’s worth reinitiating a conversation with that customer and saying, like, hey, you know, did you do whatever it is personalizing that as much as you can based on what they bought. That can be powerful. And then of course, basic things like review requests, follow us on social media, and whatnot. So there’s like, between everything I just described, it’s like, that’s like 10 automations. That’s a lot.

Scott Reid 31:36
And the reality is, you’re doing a massive amount of segmentation and analysis based on behaviors results, you know, throughout the customer journey, and I love I absolutely love what you said, about post purchase about thank yous about the about the delivery process, all that that’s so crucial to an end is directly related to improving and increasing lifetime value as, as well as future average order value, all that stuff. And you just simply don’t hear that talked about nearly as much as it should be. So that’s really refreshing to hear you to hear you drill down into that. How about promotional cadence? That was the that was the third thing in the list that you talked about? Why don’t we spend a little few minutes on that? Yeah,

Ben Billups 32:24
I mean, so really, the playbook here, I’ll just give it away right here on the pod. Really, the playbook is I like to call it the Infinity messaging model, which is kind of a fancy name for it. But it’s because you know, if you map for example, the size of your segment, you know, on the vertical axis, and then you map like which day of the promotion you’re on on the horizontal axis, it looks like an infinity symbol. That’s why I call it that, okay. And so basically, the The theory is, you know, when you launch a promotion, you want to cast a fairly wide net, right, because you’re essentially announcing this is a new promotion, whatever it is, could be Mother’s Day, Black Friday, etc. And a wide net, I think, our recommendation can vary based on engagement and deliverability. But just as an example, anyone who’s opened or clicked or visited the site in the last 90 days, at minimum, you should be letting them know, like, hey, we just launched a promotion. And then as sequentially, as you’re sending more emails, you scope that segment smaller and smaller. So it’s like, you go from a 90 day segment, maybe a day, a day later, or the day after next, you send to the 60 day, then after that you send to the 30. And then maybe you work your way, all the way down to like 30 Day clickers, or 14 Day openers, right? And then as the promotion approaches, it’s close, you have urgency on your site, right? Because the opportunity is about to go away. So these are opening the segments back up, you go back to your 30, go back to your 60, you go back to your 90, potentially even back up to your web ad. And then it just taking Black Friday as an example, if somebody bought from you Black Friday, last year, and they haven’t bought all year, yeah, the next time that they’re most likely to buy is Black Friday this year. So it’s like don’t completely discount a user who hasn’t engaged with the brand in 12 months, because maybe they’re only interested in your best offer, right? So you want to, you want to be casting a fairly wide net. And of course, along the way, you want to keep track of your unsubscribes your spam complaints, you may need to make a couple of adjustments on the fly. But generally speaking, that structure works extremely well. And for most promotions, you could be sending an email almost every day. But because that like really the hypothesis behind it is that a user who is who’s more recently engaged is going to forgive you more for being persistent. And so that’s kind of the operating theory and then the we just mapped that out into a cadence with different segments and it worked super well.

Scott Reid 34:49
Obviously given this a ton of thought, How about the one thing that comes to mind? Is list scrubbing. Do you actively scrub the list for quality is that could you Talk about that, because that’s something that’s definitely intriguing to me, especially with what I’d like to talk about next, which is, you know, with Google and Yahoo, and the changes that they’re making in terms of their email delivery, could we talk about scrubbing, and then maybe bridge into how it relates to those new kind of guidelines, if you will, for lack of a better word.

Ben Billups 35:18
For sure. Most of the time, if you’re dealing with a good ESP, it’s basically going to be handling bounces for you. And so the way most ESPs work, and that’s, you know, service provided by the way, that’s like clay, VO Active Campaign, whatever you’re using, the way most of them work is, if you get a hard bounce, which basically means the email is invalid, or the mailbox just isn’t available anymore. Generally speaking, the ESP will just unsubscribe them for you. And then soft bounces can be things like the inbox was full, or for whatever reason, the receiving server couldn’t receive the email at that particular time. So and most ESPs will have their own policy about if, let’s say, if a soft bounce happens two or three times in a row, then they unsubscribe them on your behalf. So generally speaking, bounces aren’t something you have to worry a ton about, especially if you’re validating upfront, which I’ll talk about next. But it’s worth checking on the policies of USPS because some of them don’t. And if that’s the case, then, you know, at least once a week, go build a segment of recent bounces and just take them off the list. It’s just gonna hurt your deliverability if you just keep mailing emails that are bouncing the and then the other, the other big part of list scrubbing is validation. And that you definitely want to do when emails come in. And again, this is something that some ESPs help you out with. But there’s some really low cost vendors out there that will validate for you for pennies on the dollar. So I mean, one that I’ve used on multiple occasions is called mail floss. So just go to mail floss.com, depending on your list size, it’s like it’s like pennies again, like per contact, and it’ll integrate with your ESP. So then if a new email comes in, let’s even just say someone mistyped their email, you know, it comes in and then mail floss will test it to see, okay, is this a valid email? If it’s not, then it’ll just unsubscribe it or label it so that you can come back to it later, I’d definitely recommend doing something like that, just to make sure that all of your inbound emails are definitely valid and available. Outside of that, so there’s kind of competing philosophies, in terms of scrubbing for engagement. So there’s, there’s a lot of email guys out there that will basically tell you that if a contact hasn’t opened or clicked in 90 days, or 180 days, so that it would just essentially six months, you should just unsubscribe them. We don’t do that because we segment every email that we send in the first place, right, so we’re already segmenting based on engagement. So for the most part, if a contact hasn’t recently engaged, we’re not mailing them. And it’s not like it’s adding that much to your bill. Again, because clay VO and all these DSPs are so affordable, it’s like, generally leaving the contacts in the database, it just means that you have the opportunity to mail them. And you know, just like that Black Friday exam,

Scott Reid 38:03
that’s a great example,

Ben Billups 38:04
if for some reason, the context be on your list for a year, they just haven’t done anything, but they might buy again from you during Black Friday, just leave them on the list. Just don’t mail them that often. Right.

Scott Reid 38:16
That makes total sense. Now, in terms of how you work with with clients, I mean, what does that look like in terms of, of timeframe? What do you look for? And how do you charge and all that stuff? Because I think that would be there’s no question in my mind that you bring a massive amount of value to your clients. I mean, clearly, you know exactly what you’re talking about. You’ve given us a ton of thought, and can speak very intelligently about everything. So if I was a, if I was a potential customer, what types of questions would you know what I’d be coming to you with? And how would you answer those?

Ben Billups 38:57
For sure. I mean, really, like what answers most of our questions is we we do an audit in advance of the clay vo cow. And we also sort of check that back against what’s happening in their in their e commerce platform, typically Shopify, I mean, our ideal stack is Klaviyo and Shopify and using SMS, I love attentive, that’s another controversial opinion, but they have the best delivery network. So it’s like if they’re audit sensitive, if it’s like play the attentive Shopify, I’m like, Alright, sweet, like we’ve got the right tools. But, you know, no, no harm, no foul with other SMS tools. They’re great, too. We could work with them. So yeah, I mean, the big thing is, we basically will look at the accounts, we’ll look at Shopify, and we’ll just identify what are the biggest gaps. So it’s like if you’re missing a ton of automations. Or if your list growth is out of whack, we’ll just set an order of priorities where it’s like, alright, this is the first thing that we want to do. Then we want to do this list of you know, 10 or 15 things. And generally speaking, we can get a brand ramped up in the space of about 30 days. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer, but we can put all the right basics in place. It’s like, you’ve got the automations. Now you’ve got lists, growth tools, like all that’s underway. And then we can transition to essentially like a kind of a maintenance situation where it’s like, we’re supporting promotions, we’re monitoring your deliverability, we’re making sure that content is going out regularly optimizing and whatnot, and providing, you know, monthly reporting on email, KPIs, revenue, and whatnot. So, with some brands, if there’s a ton of setup involved, we might charge a setup fee, you know, this north of like 10, or 15,000, just depends on what’s involved. And then after that, our fees would drop off quite a bit, because we’re just sort of like making sure that the engine keeps running. And there were some clients, if they have a bunch setup, we might just put them on a retainer to start. And generally speaking, our full service retainers are around $5,000. The one thing that we do that’s a little bit different than what some other brands do is, we are willing to work on a performance basis. So with some brands, we have a lower retainer, but we take a small percentage of their last click attributed revenue, which is basically the most conservative revenue attribution model there is. And it’s like, you know, clearly, like we generate this revenue, someone clicked on this email, and they immediately bought a product, like, we’ll take credit for that sale, and then we’ll charge some percentage they’re comfortable with, so we’re willing to negotiate there. And in terms of like, ideal client, I mean, generally speaking, if the list is less than 30,000 users, and if they’re getting less than 30,000 unique visitors per month from the US, it doesn’t, our fees don’t make the most sense in terms of like projected ROI, when you take into account all the costs of software and services. But you know, we’re willing to help out and like provide some recommendations so that they can keep plugging away. But generally speaking, if a brand is doing more than that, it’s like, alright, we know we can come in here, we can plug in a bunch of our strategies, we can fully manage these channels, and provide a ton of value to our clients.

Scott Reid 41:51
Now, in terms of the performance component, how do you how do you judge? What platform are you using? To determine the the attribution to last click? I mean, are you using GA using Shopify? Are you using what clay vo I’ve seen some crazy for some clay vo

Ben Billups 42:11
we’re not using clay vo attribution. The you know, nothing wrong with clay vo attribution. But there is some, some some sky dust in that number. The typically we’re using the Shopify report, because everybody has that it’s default. we’re appending UTM to the to the URLs we’re sending through and then if we’re seeing sales come from those UTM, we’re like, Alright, we’re gonna take credit for that sale, if they have their if they hired you, and they have their GA for really well built out, then, you know, we can work with Nga for as well.

Scott Reid 42:43
Okay, so you are using UTM zones within the within the clay vo platform. That’s awesome. Let’s see, what else do I have here? This has been a great a great conversation. Is there anything that actually you know, what I would like to talk about is SMS, could you give me a quick a quick overview on what you’re doing in terms of SMS for the clients that you’re working with? For

Ben Billups 43:05
short, so with SMS, the opportunities for growth are much more limited. And a lot of that just comes down to the fact that TCPA compliance is much more strict than can spam compliance in the US. And so you have to have that double opt in, right. And so you know, you want to work with and it’s essentially like your SMS growth pretty much comes down to exclusively your, your, your how good your pop ups are, right. And so you can set up a two set pop up, you have an offer, collect their email and collect their phone number. Attentive has a great like two step where it’s like you tap the button, it pre fills an opt in message they send you send a message. So yeah, that I mean, with SMS, you’re going to see slower, less growth. And again, it’s going to be projected based on your site traffic and your pop up conversion rate. And but that being said, the revenue per recipient that you can expect from SMS tends to be far higher. Also, we tend to implement very similar strategies, as we do on email in terms of like you have opportunities for welcome you have opportunities for abandoned checkout, etc. But the cadence should be, the volume of your messages should be quite a bit lower, about half of what you’re sending on email is generally a good rule of thumb,

Scott Reid 44:23
because it’s right, it’s like is that because it’s like, right in their face? It’s it’s on their phone.

Ben Billups 44:27
It’s a very intimate channel, right? And your open rates are like 90%, right? So if your emails are getting, let’s say, a 40%, open rate, then it’s like you basically you have to send two emails before you’ve actually got the same number of impressions as you would get with an SMS. Right? And so a lot of that just comes down to keeping the unsubscribes low and make sure you’re not getting TCPA complaints about people be like, Wait, how did they get on this list? So yeah, but I mean, apart from that, a lot of the strategies are very similar, like the the segmentation, the promotional cadence, the automations whatnot. It’s just lower volume. But that being said, I have Seeing SMS lists that are half the size, or even a third of the size of an email list generate the same amount of revenue. So if there’s a brand out there, that’s not doing it, it’s like, that’s also a huge revenue opportunity. It’s like, just set up that SMS channel and make sure you’re, you know, sending a couple texts a month, and you should be able to drive some pretty serious revenue that way,

Scott Reid 45:19
what percentage of clients that you work with? Or just in general? Are you helping them with email and SMS? Both of those, both of those two channels?

Ben Billups 45:32
I would say, typically, we’re working with both,

Scott Reid 45:34
you are okay. And one thing I don’t believe I asked you in terms of copywriting. So are you doing the copywriting for the emails as well?

Ben Billups 45:43
Yeah, we’ll do the content, the graphic design. Nine Yards. Yeah. Okay.

Scott Reid 45:47
Excellent. Is there anything else I should have asked you that I didn’t ask you, Ben.

Ben Billups 45:53
I didn’t know. I know, you mentioned before we hopped on here that you thought about diving into the whole deliverability update with Google and Yahoo.

Scott Reid 46:00
If you have time? Why don’t we talk about that? I’d love to I’d love to hear about that.

Ben Billups 46:04
For sure. So I mean, the big thing there is it’s really the big ISPs, there was a lot of people in my, in my space freaking out a little bit November when they originally announced. But really, as time has gone on, it’s become more and more clear that they’re just enforcing what are truly the best practices. And so the two big components of the update, one is making sure that you’re sending is authenticated. And then the other one is making sure that your spam complaints stay low. Both of which are just generally good practices to begin with, even before the update. So I mean, we can get into the weeds here. But the basics are your DKM. And your SPF records are essentially authenticating, descending. So what that does is when you have those records in place, when you send an email, you’re telling Google and Yahoo, that like, Yes, this is a legitimate sender from this domain. So to be verified, exactly. And then your demark record is essentially setting a policy for unauthenticated, since that’s what that does. And so I mean, the most common demark policy is p equals none, which means don’t really do anything about it. P equals quarantine just means that you’re sending that email directly to the spam folder. So it’s like, hey, if an email comes from our domain, is not authenticated, just put it straight and spam. And then there’s P equals reject, which means never reaches the inbox at all, it gets completely blocked. And for most, like T equals none is going to be fine. You’re working with an opt in list, you’ve got your, your, your domains, your domain authenticated for sending, there has been some edge cases like where if you’re working with bigger and bigger brands, I have, like we had one client at one point about two years ago, where people were actually sending fake PayPal invoices from our domain. And so in that case, P equals reject, solve the problem for us, it just meant anytime one of those emails went out, Google and Yahoo knew they’re like, Yeah, this is not legitimate, just completely block it out. So that can solve some problems for you. But if you do set up a demark policy that’s fairly strict, you just want to make sure that everything that sending an email, I don’t care if it could be Eventbrite, it could be Google workspace, like everything has to be authenticated. Because if it’s not, it’s just going to go straight to spam. So that has to be the policy there. And then with the spam complaint rate, I mean, basically, the new benchmark has to stay under point three. And to some, that sounds strict, but if you’re dealing with an opt in list, and you’re handling your identity resolution contacts in a way, that’s, that’s solid, that’s not really going to be something you have to worry too much about. But it is I do highly recommend that basically, everybody sets up Google postmaster, it’s a free tool, you can just go to postmasters, google.com, you can set it up. And then what that will do is it’ll tell you exactly what Google thinks about your domain. So it’ll tell you domain reputation, IP reputation. It’ll tell you your spam complaint rate, according to Google. Oh, yeah, exactly. So you can just literally see the numbers. So you’re like, oh, on Tuesday,

Scott Reid 48:56
you’re not guessing. Like, exactly. That’s, that’s That’s huge. That’s postmaster google.com. That’s, that’s a great tip. That’s, that’s, that’s worth the Listen, as I as I said, at the beginning, I knew it was going to be valuable. So I was looking at those at those reports, because it’s kind of like a sky is falling. And I wondered how that was going to impact. You know, an agency like yourself, who’s focused on emailed and getting all those emails in the inbox. So it’s not a sky is falling. It’s kind of like business as usual for the people that we’re doing the right thing before. And the and the ones that the bad players are the ones that that are going to feel the pain. Is that a correct way to look at it? Yeah,

Ben Billups 49:38
that’s fair. The other thing is worth keeping in mind too, is that these, these new requirements only apply to what they consider to be bulk senders. So it’s only going to be enforced if you’re mailing more than 5000 gmail or yahoo contacts on a given day. So if your list is very small, it’s not something to worry a ton about, but it’s good to put this stuff in place regardless.

Scott Reid 49:56
And is that I also read something that this is going to apply to personal emails only and not to a business domain. Is that correct? Have you heard of that?

Ben Billups 50:07
That? I haven’t heard that that as far as I know, it’s really any sending domain, at least. Okay. Yeah. Okay, great. If it’s if you’re if it’s a personal email, there’s a good chance you’re sending less than 5000 emails a day. So probably fine on a personal front. Yeah. Okay,

Scott Reid 50:23
cool. That was an awesome overview. Great. So how can how can people get in touch with you? Oh, absolutely.

Ben Billups 50:29
I post on LinkedIn and Twitter all the time. So feel free to punch out my name. I’ll pop right up. And then other than that, if you’re actually interested in in talking to us and maybe working with us, you can just go to noble digital.co. And we’ll pop right up there too.

Scott Reid 50:45
Excellent. Well, thank you very, very much. That was a that was an exceptional episode. It was value packed. I really appreciate your time and we will talk to you soon. Absolutely. Thanks, Scott. Thanks a lot done.