Chris Hexton knows a little something about product emails, and in this episode he teaches us how to increase email conversion rates, the cardinal email sins to avoid, and he discloses Vero’s inbound content strategy that has driven substantial growth.
→ What is Xero
→ What does it do
→ What’s been some of the success stories of companies
→ What are the main things that he teaches people in this course
→ What’s that knowledge that he drops on people here
→ How to increase email conversion rates, the cardinal email sins
→ His strategy and how it evolved
→ What kind of success did he see from his content
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bryson Taylor and today I have Chris Haxton with us. Chris, thanks for coming on the program.
Chris: Thanks, Heidi Bronson and Howard, right?
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now, Chris, you are the co-founder of Xero, a product which I think will resonate with a lot of our audience. So to start out, tell us, what is Xero? What does it do? What do you do for your clients?
Chris: Absolutely. So there is an email marketing platform, but I do try to relax and we focus on its behavior. So it allows you to track in real time the things that your customers are doing on your website, as to what products they’re looking at, what features they’re using, how often they log in, that sort of stuff and turn that data into really granular segments that you can then use to automate campaigns. So things like a series of welcome emails, educational email calls, a reminder for someone to use a new feature. All those sort of great things. So that’s all that automation and real time tracking and behavior.
Bronson: And it’s kind of the magic of this that, you know, you still need a developer, but it’s very quick to set all this up.
Bronson: No, it’s actually it’s very appealing to me because, you know, we kind of you know, we’ve rolled our own at this point in time. And so every time I have a new idea for like, oh, when they do this, I want this email to go out. I have to, you know, you know, dial the developer, hey, go in and plug this in or whatever. If all the events were has been tracked, you know, unless there’s a new event that I want to track, I really don’t have to bother them. So I can definitely see the the proposition there, the value prop. What’s been some of the success stories of companies, you know, using video not just to be using it, but they’ve actually found success because they used it, you know?
Chris: Yeah. I mean, we’ve got lots we’ve got some a bunch of case studies on our own page. But I think probably the one that I like most of the one that I often share the most anyway, I think, let’s say it is, is Firefox. They’re an early customer of ours and they’re actually a sort of virtual travel agent, if you will, that we’re using. The crowds say, I want to go from Sydney to San Francisco he goes out to a crowd of folks is then suggested the best prices and so that in a fairly classic funnel where you’d put any search details you’d register your account without getting people’s emails there and then you’d have to pay upfront. And so obviously that was a huge drop off there. Like implement one email with there which was automated company followed people off we didn’t pay and that single email increased online at 10% which to say no matter what you think about just one email, that was the first email that tried no optimization. I think that’s a really awesome story where you know exactly why that is is permanent too. So it’s ongoing and from that it tested it up. It added new emails about a series and done a whole lot more great stuff. So yeah, certainly one I like is very simple and it shows that it increases revenue over time.
Bronson: Yeah. Do you find that when customers come to you like as a company, they start sending more email because they can now and they can dream up these things pretty quick?
Chris: Yeah, definitely. I think the the progressions, I mean, often people come, you know, perhaps like yourself when it rolled their own solution. The first step I always say is that I think most imperative campaign or campaigns and move them and then over them, patch refresh them, get comfortable with the idea. But yeah, from there, I mean you can see people start to get more creative and that’s why we’re trying to give people ideas for things that I can, I guess, test or muck around with and increase embrace that success, basically.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking is that, you know, we’re so used to just, oh, you create a new account, I’ll send an email. But beyond that, everybody’s kind of stuck like, well, we know email’s powerful, but really, I mean, there’s so many reasons and, you know, to send out email, but we have to get the juices kind of flow in there. What kind of feedback have you has gotten on what people want that you’re now kind of developing of like what’s around the corner for this email marketing platform?
Chris: Yeah. So I mean, with the platforms, you know, is really, really a new place where I think it’s very robust. So a lot of the all of the feedback is around quite specific things like bigger picture, people want more and more ability to essentially you see, see segments of it more and more granular so easily the customers and then see the results of a campaign against those segments. So, you know, I guess, you know, Google Lakes is the benchmark and you can manipulate reports and the whole the whole reason people want that is what you were just saying, where you want to be air and look at the the conversions and even the revenue tracking. That’s something I was working on so that you can invent and then break that down by applying the same out to 20,000 people. Look, this particular segment converted it like 50%, whereas these these people converted to just say what got on there so that I can then start new campaigns to say to that particular segment, I’ll get more granular. So that’s what you were saying. It’s a way to help people send new templates, come with ideas based on what they’re already doing. So that’s definitely one of the most requested things in terms of a general direction. Um, any of them that which I mentioned, yeah. So thinking about how to, how to send you campaigns, I always say just think about every single step in your funnel from like visit it to referral so that I’ll include a sort of thing where someone comes to your site and they interact a little bit, they start to trust you. They buy the first time and then the second time to there for someone else. They’ll want to know what you probably know really well. As a business owner, I just always think about what campaigns can you run in between each step to move someone to the next step? I think that’s the fastest way to get to.
Bronson: So email the kind of the WD 40 you know, to lubricate the funnel all the way down.
Chris: Of. Yeah, I should I should do that.
Bronson: All right. Now, you actually on your blog, you have an opt in for an email conversion course. So help us out a little bit. You teach a course on how to, you know, get higher converting emails. What are the main things that you teach people in this course? What’s the the knowledge that you drop on people here?
Chris: Yeah. So I think that’s three things in the course that I talk about and the first one to education and building trust and just yeah, one of the things that people find hard, particularly first time they getting started with email is is that fear of hitting sand. So, you know, you work hard to get these customers emails. There’s definitely a level of trust. Now you don’t want to send them shitty stuff, you want to send them stuff that matters. So what like what’s the, what’s the first place to start to write some content that you’re proud of? And I always say, you know, think about just sharing your knowledge, like literally sharing tips and help on your problem area. And the fact that you own your own business, run your own business means that you’re thinking about the problem area 24 seven.
Bronson: So what you recommend they do that? Are they, is it literally text in the email? Is it links to PDFs, links to videos like what works? What do you see there?
Chris: Look, I think it really depends. So I mean, I’ll give you an example. You know, in the case of B2B software like ours, our email course is a form of education, right? The sharing sharing things about our our own space, but on the other end of the scale. So it’s a whole bunch of text emails. Right. Is quite, quite heavy. There are links out to other posts where, you know, I want to get deeper so that, you know, I think that works quite well in a B2B context because I it’s a bit more expect it be if people are willing to read that sort of in-depth stuff or are going somewhere like Net-A-Porter. They’re an online retailer in the UK that most people have heard of and they’re, they sell high end fashion goods and and they have been doing sort of, you know, a couple of years. It’s a newsletter called which is like a virtual magazine. And in my line, it’s the same thing. It’s on education. What they’re really doing in it’s very short visual newsletter, lots of images is teaching the, you know, the women and men that check out their thoughts how to dress better. It’s saying, oh, this is this is what could look good. But they don’t mention prices. They don’t mentioning products when they stop the course. You can buy everything that they talk about on their store. So it’s a way of it’s a way of educating as well. And so I think a lot of the content for what’s best for you, I think that you guys are good examples that are not.
Bronson: Like one answer. But the point is you have to be educating in some way. That’s the common denominator. And then education is that builds trust. I guess it kind of makes you a thought leader, like when you become the source of education, they grow to think that company knows what they’re talking about. Right.
Chris: Exactly right. And, you know, we, I guess, is there ever again. But, you know, building building that that profile as a thought leader puts, you put your business in a great position, you know, another great tool to do that. So I think, you know, if you think about it from that angle, the perfect place to start if you if you have written many emails before. Yeah. The second thing I say in that section, of course, is segmentation. So, you know, this idea of context, which is the way I’ve been using a lot recently, but how can you make those emails more and more relevant to the people that are receiving them? A good way to do that is to break down your list rather than just having a list of 20,000 people. Even if it’s two lists of 10,000, you’re much better off in email versus female, for example. Yeah, you’re selling clothes. And I’ve been thinking about ways you could break this down and make. Emails more and more personal friends.
Bronson: How do you recommend breaking it down? I mean, I know it depends on the business, obviously. You know, male female is kind of the broad highest level one. But what have you found that maybe we wouldn’t think of? That’s a really good distinction. Like, oh, it’s really good to break out Android versus iPhone. Like, you know, what’s what’s the tidbits like that that we wouldn’t know about normally?
Chris: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, I’ve been doing I mean, yeah, so I’m trying to think something that would work for everyone. I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff recently for myself that I’m very proud of and I think it’s been really interesting, but I guess maybe, maybe a better answer is I’m not trying to bullshit. My approach has been to try. And so it’s I’ve been doing a quite specific so I can example that I wrote about recently is we we had we didn’t actually offer October 2012. So last October we had a lot of the people who bought those coupons and the offer was for a year’s worth of it for a fixed price. So that was sort of a bunch of these people that were active users of their know coming up probably three months out from their absolute worst off ending. And so that’s quite a grandiose segment where it’s not going to apply for your business. But I started thinking, okay, well, who’s active enough to find that, you know, that log into X number of times? How many of us I mean, I get these people saying a lot of these people are they do they come from apps, you know, and sort of putting those things together and then the campaigns to get them to operate early or to use new new features of the software that they weren’t yet using. And those campaigns, very different results campaigns. I was saying to the customers that one afternoon, so I guess a bit to the two things I was using to do segmentation behavior. So things like, you know, how often they log in per week and attributes. And so the attributes we collect depends on that, depends on your business. So in this case, one was sort of sort of answered your question. But yeah, that’s great.
Bronson: I don’t have any stuff I’m looking at. Is this good ideas? You know how to segment things. Do you recommend that people, when they get a new email address on file, that they add as much data as they can to that email address so that later down the road they can segment because I can imagine, you know, you open up a business, you’re online, you got your storefront, whatever, and you start collecting emails, but they’re all just in one big bucket. You don’t know what’s different about any of them, but if you start thinking about it, you can start tracking and kind of tagging them. Okay, these people came from this campaign because a lot of people, they wouldn’t even know which ones came from app sumo. You know what I mean?
Chris: Exactly. Exactly. No, I’m definitely a proponent of tracking as much as you can upfront because it will come in handy later as the same. But you’ll have a bit of foresight in that. I mean, obviously there’s this you can’t get everything out front of the two things out there. You don’t want to slow down the conversion on, say, a sign up for having a thousand forms that might be useful. So that’s the first thing if you think about what you can grab and you know, so in that case, just be happy you can build it up over time. So that the second thing I think you’re right, you always try and track where people have come from. You know, you you can type with custom corona. I mean that that makes online marketing go round and is really useful. The second thing I said with where customers come from is a big one. So yeah, think nothing else. You can track. You can track that stuff without asking. It’s implicit and only just setting up all the tags correctly on your links. So definitely rock and roll with that one.
Bronson: No, for sure. And you know, one thing that companies can do as well as even after the fact, they may not have trappings on the front end, but they can use different API services like full contact, for example. They can send an email address to full contact and for a large percentage of them it’ll send back household income data and, you know, some really granular stuff. And then you can segment based off somebody else’s data that’s, you know, relevant and accurate. So there’s that kind of possibility to do you see people doing that?
Chris: Yeah, I would say usually a bigger end of town, you know, people who have have less. And then it makes sense to get this data because you still break it down into really significant lists. Um, you know, that’s something we’ve talked about as well. Like would be cool if we could pull through all that information about stuff. And at the start is we want to start, you know, whether stuff like the full contact info, but there’s a lot of stuff you can glean from people’s IP addresses such as where it is located. You can obviously tell what device they’re on, all that sort of stuff. So we want to want to make it easier for people to stuff to have a segment of iPhone users in the dashboard. But yeah, definitely, definitely say that there would be less getting into pulling all that data together. I mean, really, I think that’s the most interesting part for me. Yeah, right. Breaking this stuff down and it’s really ridiculous. The stuff that the phone contacts and and all those guys offer. Now, I guess we’re in an age where there’s more data than ever available on new customers, which is sort of creepy and cool at the same time.
Bronson: Yeah, we’re getting through where it’s not the technological challenge anymore of having the data is the creative challenge of how to use it. And so that’s when it’s really going to come down to sitting and brainstorming and thinking what campaign makes sense for this context? Because the data is there. I mean, we’re past that point of I don’t have enough information.
Chris: Yeah, no, I mean, that’s a really interesting story. I mean, that’s spot on. I totally agree with that.
Bronson: Yeah. Let me ask you this. So the two things you say to. Focus on is education and context. I think two incredible points. What are some of the things that you see, the cardinal sins that when people started a campaign or they’re sending emails that it just kills their conversions and maybe they don’t even know it? What’s what’s the dark side of this?
Chris: Yeah, for sure. Three things. I mean, first one is not sending so is the word collecting emails and then doing nothing with them unless document.
Bronson: Now when I talk about that a little bit because I think like that’s a big deal. People like you said, they write email and they’re afraid to hit send. Right, because they took all this time to gather emails and they’re worried about what’s going to happen. What do you tell people?
Chris: Exactly. No, I think I think it must be human. I think it’s just human nature where it’s you’re front of an audience in a way. It’s scary because it’s a new thing to do, especially you starting out. So it makes sense. You know, you’re not going to be thrilled that through the send button. Yeah, but I mean, I think that I always say that, particularly when starting out, I think people are much more tolerant than you expect. So it’s going to be a learning curve for you. But the first thing to remember is that people and most people know people, you know, there’s got to be a huge difference between even the worst email that you write and spam. So, you know, you’re not going to get smashed and hammered for spam just because you wrote an email that’s not not the best copy in the world. So I think a year away is just a start. And to try and get over that fear of fear of being sent by just remembering that, you know, the people on the other end are real people, you know.
Bronson: And that, you know, you know, I sent out a lot of email from growth after TV and, you know, before I hit send every time there’s that moment of is there typos in this that I overlooked something? Do I sound dumb or do I sound clever? Like, are they going to hit the spam? And the point is, nothing bad usually happens. Like we’ve gotten almost zero spam complaints despite a crazy amount of email. Yeah, everything I say is not funny or clever, and yet nobody cares. They still think it’s great. I mean, just things work out. I mean, you know, fortune favors the bold, so hit send.
Chris: Exactly. And I think that, you know, people I mean, yeah, we get people writing back. If you do a really good job, you get to say, this is a great email. If you could be doing a bad job or saying, Hey, there’s a typo, just letting me know. So I suppose dating spam, it’s like, oh, cool. Well, thank you, I’ll take time out tomorrow.
Bronson: Doesn’t stop spinning because you messed up an email.
Chris: Exactly. Exactly. So, I mean, yet you’ve just got to do it as you said and fortunate that it was brought about is a good way to put it. But honestly, that’s probably what we the No. One thing I see people sort of asking asking about when they’re getting started anyway. Yeah. Two other things. I mean, in not not having a strong call actions, they’re not asking stuff. And I think people are getting better and better at this. But, you know, I mean, it’s again, fortune favors the ball. I mean, you’ve got to play with any online. You’ve got to ask or you won’t receive. So, you know, they get carried away and have tons of calls to action making make the goal of each email sort of individual whether it is a specific office calendar and really focus with what you’re asking and always go with all of that. Like, you know, the subject line, you know, should be relevant to the content and the content should be building up to this to action. But you know, if you know you don’t have a specific dates when they get to the end, then I think you’re probably sort of sending away you know.
Bronson: You just now kind of describe an email you could just as easily been describing a landing page. Should people see an email as they see a landing page that instead of a headline, you have a subject instead of your body copy. Well, you have body copy, same thing. And then you have a single call to action and remove all the, all the stuff that can distract.
Chris: Yeah, I think. I think so. I mean, when I’m writing a lot of blog posts, particularly ones where we’re losing a campaign or something like that, that’s how I think about it. I mean, a lot of the stuff that I draw on when I’m coming up with ideas test for email, is it all from that? The stuff that we all check out and I think that’s huge. Similar using the approach to think about it. And I mean even your summary, that’s perfect if you think about it like that. Yeah, it’s exactly the same where you go headline subject line, body, body call to action and you know, you’re talking to particular groups of people. So yeah, I think know you can use the same skills that you’ve learned optimizing, optimizing your website with email. Yeah. Equally as well. Yeah, that’s.
Bronson: Great. So there’s, there’s the two things, you know, you have to send it. That’s the first thing is people don’t send the second one is having too many calls. The actions are no call to action. And what’s the third big kind of failure you see.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, I think the third. But first I’m tossing out between either never testing or like, you know, never sort of revising their campaigns, not like they test, in other words. And I think I think it’s I think it’s a failure because. Particularly without automating campaigns that keep running, it is easy to sort of set and forget, but that is such a golden opportunity, particularly if you’ve not done any testing on a before the start testing and even something as simple as a subject line. It’s because it’s simple. It’s so easy to test and ensure that you kick yourself if you’re not. Because we’ve seen crazy things like, you know, even something as lame as putting the person’s first name in the subject line can still list has been huge.
Bronson: Like huge. Just this week I was doing a campaign and we did one with the name in the subject, another without the name of the subject and I can’t remember the stats. I’ve talk my head. The open rate was like 80% with a name and like below 50% without. It was something like that.
Chris: Yeah, it’s. And it’s like it sort of blows me away. Yeah. So all those little things, I mean, that, that is a perfect example. Okay. If you’re not, if you’re not doing any tests, I think you’ve got everything else set up and you’re doing the course action with the suite. Then that’s not an area that you can still get massive gains and I think we see an opportunity in it. So I say that’s probably, probably the third thing that.
Bronson: Yeah, well that was awful about the AB test and emails person because I don’t know a lot about it. You know, when it comes to the web, the tools are developed, we have optimized, we have these things where we can just, you know, drop a little bit of code, play with things, and all of a sudden we have an AB test running even though we’re not data scientist email. Do we have those tools? How do you AB test emails? What I’m doing right now is I’m in Mandrill. I do a version, I look at the numbers and I do the poor man’s AB test. Then I do another version and I look at the numbers and I compare just kind of mentally looking at the screen, but it’s not a sophisticated way to do a AB test. Is that the way to do it right now or is there a better way? Yeah, no. I mean, I think I think.
Chris: That’s one of the one reason that we dedicating our service providers. And I think in the case of promotional or newsletter emails, we use any one time, any, you know, MailChimp, campaign monitor, all those tools have had had that AB testing functionality two levels of sophistication for quite a while. So I think if you’re doing those sorts of newsletters, there’s a lot of options as to how you can test them and you know, step by step guide you through. It’s really good stuff. Yeah, that definitely one of the reasons we started varies for the sort of things tree based side of things, not a great deal of tools that you say at the start. Usually this code is is inside your app, so you might you have a version of it. It’s not going to be easy to test and easy to get people. Yeah. So that’s one of the reasons we thought that we could have a lot of value is, you know, all these emails in the hands of marketers and you can put that AB testing layer on top. So yeah, we’re a big proponent of that. That’s doing the same sort of thing. The matching stuff doesn’t apply that’s automated in the series emails like you said, if you like, a lot easier.
Bronson: No, I mean, that’s exactly the situation we’re in where we, you know, we rolled our own because we needed to be close to the metal. We needed to really have our hands on the flow, the decision flow, the logic flow of emails. And we just couldn’t do that inside of a MailChimp. But the MailChimp has the easy AB testing tools, so it’s like you lose something to gain something. And we haven’t been on to like put the, put the pieces all together yet to make it simple. So I think that’s why you guys are finding success because it’s a need. I feel that. Yeah, yeah.
Chris: Yeah. We all know that. That’s exactly, exactly what it goes. And yeah. So you’ve got those two competing forces. So hopefully there is like the best of everything.
Bronson: Yeah, they’re all together. They’re not really. What kinds of companies really stand to gain from, you know, not just using video, but just doing email? Well, I mean, you know, we’re in a SAS business, you know, does it work well for E commerce? Does it work well for consumer facing apps? I mean, is there a kind of company that just should ignore email and not worry about it? What kinds of people should be listening to this interview and saying, yeah, I need to figure out my email strategy because it sucks right now?
Chris: Yeah. So I think it’s pretty, pretty broad. I would say that the the business to the better best and this is still businesses is so like any online business where people can but again if that makes sense where so you just ask business people on recurring it’s going yeah you can do a lot except for the email because you can not only do stuff around getting people on board beginning do start writing anything about using these pages so that they then stick around for longer, which is really just ask people. So if you’ve got these people buying again and again, same goes for e-commerce or a lot of B2C software or is it a gaming app? You know, got some great gaming customers because in-app purchases are a big part of gaming. So again, it’s that recurring. Okay, interesting. And when you have that recurring purchase that’s just going on, a lot of stuff around you, once you got a customer, get it, get them to come back again, which totally, you know, it was yet lifetime. But I mean, how about you get through the roof? It’s amazing. You can see that. And then getting people to interact at a few times to refer to share email can help with all the parts of the funnel. So yeah, it’s definitely most online businesses. But yeah, what’s the what’s what’s to work equally well for B2B and B2C based. Usually means you’ve got a bigger list and perhaps you’ve got more stuff you can play with along the segment lines that we’re talking about earlier. But at the same time, B and C, it depends on your audience. Younger people are using all sorts of different channels and they get to respond to totally different emails to the audience. So B is a really interesting space. And in B2B, you do a lot of stuff with the question of B to B, which is really cool. And I think it’s a really well documented what a lot of people are talking about. So it’s it’s good. There’s a lot of stuff you can draw from if you ask me.
Bronson: No, I like how simple that answer is. It’s easier if you’re in a business where people are purchasing multiple times over their lifetime. An email can get that purchase to happen again or keep them from canceling or whatever, you know, kind of the WD 40 thing again. So if you’re Toyota, you may not have a lot to gain from email because, you know, they come, they buy a car and then it’s like so many years before they’re in that mode again that there’s less value than if you’re someone that is selling in-app purchases every week to somebody.
Chris: Yeah, you know, exactly. I think I’m not going to say I couldn’t use email, but but yeah, I mean.
Bronson: Maybe less, less.
Chris: Of yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah, that have to be I think carefully about the product offerings and how it fits together. Yeah, I think that’s a perfect.
Bronson: Yeah. Now do you think email is going to be going away as a viable channel? I mean, you know, you think about channels and, you know, they get drowned out over time. It’s like the best time to use Facebook ads was when they first came out, the best time to use Google ads when they first came out. The best time to have a content blog was when nobody had a content blog. It’s like, you know, it’s surprising to me that it works so well still. Does that going to keep happening? Yeah, look.
Chris: That’s a.
Chris: Interesting point. I think the yeah, I think I think it’s the start of a platform inefficiency is that you can sort of take advantage of it. So like let’s do it with all those channels you mentioned there and show it. Email is probably the same at the start, so it’s definitely a a very a movable space. And Gmail seems to be driving the charge in terms of the consumer’s experience over email. But yeah, it does it seems to be particularly resilient. It doesn’t seem to have failed one in the last 12 or 15 years. And perhaps that’s because it’s just it’s just such is like the foundation of the web, right? It’s just such an integral part of what’s going on. So it’s sort of hard for it to go away, but I think it works because it’s really direct. It’s personal in a way, which is yeah, at the same time, people are very willing to give out their email addresses. So it’s great for marketing in that sense. But you know, you’re literally getting in front of a customer. When they’re in front of a computer, they buy them, so they go through their email. And so, you know, that’s that’s quite that’s really quite direct. There’s not a lot of noise going on that in contrast with that Twitter feed where, you know, you tweet out and they’ll say you tweet. But then it tweets about and tweets below saying with a Facebook page. So I think that’s a bit noisier. And I think that’s one of the reasons that email is really powerful. It’s good. It’s just like if I do open your email, that’s the only thing on the screen, right? Yeah. And, and it’s for that reason, I think it will, it will keep being successful. I think there’s lots of things to to think about as a marker of what companies are pushing with their changes to this to the promotional tabs and they’re not doing default opens up immediately. And so they really start to do stuff that changes how people read email. So I think you’ve got to be aware of that, but I don’t think it’s going to kill it in any way.
Bronson: Yeah, you know, I thought a lot about this too, like what makes email so good and what it does. And you know, in a sense, email is like your to do list for a lot of people, it becomes the de facto to do list. And that’s the frustrating things about it is anybody can email me right now and now I have something on my to do list like.
Chris: I have to go, yeah.
Bronson: That, to do this mentality, you have to work through every email. You can’t just like throw them all away today because there may be some opportunity in there. There may be something from a past friend and they’re like, I have to open every single one because now you put it on my to do list and I can’t just carte blanche get rid of it. But that’s powerful as a marketer that you’re on someone’s to do list just because you decided to be. And then it goes back to the subject line. You put something in the subject line that is a personal and now all of a sudden it’s not only a to do thing, it’s a to do things that I want to open. I mean, there’s so much power there. And, you know, think about this, too, is, you know, so many times I’ll send emails en masse for different reasons and people think there were custom one off emails from me because of the way they were worded, because of the creativity I put into them. And they respond like, Oh, that’s great. I’m so glad to hear that. Like, whatever they respond, like, Oh, I’m sorry about that. Like they actually think I emailed them personally. At one point I was like, Oh, that’s odd. And then I realize I do the same exact thing. I’ll get an email from a company and I’ll think the CEO just emailed me like or was that a massive me? Like, I actually don’t know. And then I have to look at like the fine, you know, code of the email to see what’s going on. You know, it’s powerful because even I get fooled by it.
Chris: And, and, and even I was well, I think I, I get your emails and they’re great. I mean, I think. Yeah. Like you said, if you could do it. If you were doing it, well, then it’s. And so and I haven’t heard someone this just describe the power of it in that sense. But I really like what you’re saying. You know, it is it to do this for everyone. And, you know, most people try to get the in here as well. Like you said, it’s a task. You going to go through every single one and you know which which is which is really powerful democracy. Yeah, I think I think they’ll stick around and obviously we’re banking on it, but you know, nothing. We haven’t seen anything that’s declining. So. How to email.
Bronson: Yeah. And you know if you think about it the to do list, you know then don’t send it from the company email address because then they can market out without looking at it. And don’t put a subject that makes it so obvious that it’s, you know, en masse or from a company. So if you use your personal name in a subject that could be personal now, all of a sudden they have to open it. They can’t just I mean, are you going to delete an email that you think might be personal? No, never.
Chris: Exactly. Exactly. Absolutely. I mean, that was that was the cool thing. Also toughening up, putting in the cardinal sins like, you know, things things around, you know, what’s the folder to using? What’s the name you use it how how you opinion of these people because being personal wind seems seems to win every time over being, you know, M.P. company as far as as far as I’ve seen. So yeah.
Bronson: Well, the next question I was going to ask you, you know, because you guys see so many different companies since so many different emails, you know, I used to send kind of heavily designed, you know, MailChimp template emails, that kind of thing. And now I just in plaintext, it’s easier for me to write, it’s easier for me to just deal with. It’s easier for people to open on different browsers, devices, whatever the call to action is easier because there’s like one main link, you know, on the top of it there. But you probably have a lot more data than I have on this. Is that a good practice? Just plain text it or is it good for certain companies to really make it more polished and designed?
Chris: Yeah, I think I think you’ve got to think about this in terms of your goal. So yeah, most of the time maybe business plan tech seems to work as well as got better. I think that’s usually because it’s it’s about the relationships you know be part of a sort of sales flow away you know the rest of the process is one one so why the hell would you have an email or something? Yeah. So, so in those instances, it looks like there’s no adding the big fat emails by adding anything to the experience. I think it’s the tracking. I think it contrast if if you sending an email where it can add value. And so yeah, online retail is very if you’re buying a shirt, it’s quite a visual thing. So in that case there’s an argument that they pay me again, I value that. And in that case it probably would be better to have the have a fancy melamine. And another example that I tested recently for ourselves that released product features, would you like to have a screenshot of something we’ve done? And so I made that, that, that particular email. I’ve been using a fancy template and it has been converting better and people are getting more. I think it’s because I value the, you know, people understand what they’re talking about and in case, you know, it also showed that you can do a to place in the software. So I mean there were two specific reasons to have designed email and it’s work where there’s just no specific reasons to have one. And Playtex seems to win every time.
Bronson: So that’s a good reason to make sure there’s a reason to make it designed. So if we come out new features, maybe showing screenshots, make it a little different would probably be better. Alec That’s good. Now you guys have experienced quite a bit of growth yourself. I mean, we’ve been talking a lot about the platform email in general, you know, your clients. But you guys as a company have been growing a lot over the past year, year and a half. What kind of growth have you guys had since launching? Well, first, when did you guys launch? I guess that’s a first question. Yeah.
Chris: So we got we launched around June 2012 and we got our first paid customer in August of that year. So two months after launch. And we I mean, last year we grew just over 1400 percent in the year and sort of at the growth rate of 20 to 30% per month, which is really awesome and know. So we could do that again this year. Yeah. So yes, I mean, it’s been it’s been it’s been far to be expected and it’s been really great. I think there are a few reasons for that, but there’s definitely been definitely an exciting.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s awesome that you are still on the on the blog post you did the first 12 months you said was really trying to get to product market fit. That was your goal. Talk us through that journey just a little bit because a lot of people, they’re trying to get product market fit as well and they feel awkward, they feel discouraged, they feel like this is not normal. Like what does that journey feel like look like? And then how do you know when you actually arrived at product market fit?
Chris: Yeah, I think that’s interesting. You know, I think we probably so in the post, the point I was making, I think it really took 12 months for us to have true market fit and I and I didn’t know that till we sort of hit it, which is interesting. And I think the thing that I, I started reading this on was this probably isn’t really my own thoughts, but when, when the ticket like the support we were receiving started changing from. 5% being a does your staff do this to other stuff? So how do I how do I do this with you, with the software tools there? I just figured out that this is broken. And so that’s why I really thought, well, hang on now. Now, that’s always actually got people on complaining about it, admitting that they want to pay for that. Now they’re not complaining about the other stuff we fucked up. So yeah, I thought that means it’s got everything that people need to do, what they need to do with this platform. But I think that was like the yeah, the realization that okay, out now, now I think that we can, we can try by really quickly. But I think the initial product like it was around us, there’s sort of five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten person customers, you know, back in August, September of 2012. And in that case, it was just about, well, is someone going to pay us for this? And the fact, you know, does it come back to that for us anyway, like the fact that they did and now people we didn’t know, that was definitely not. For instance, I will have to double down this bad way if we’ve never been able to do that before, this really good sign. And so, you know, I think I think that’s people that was at the start that it wasn’t till further along that I really realized I think what drew product market fit me which is which is interesting for me.
Bronson: Yeah. No, I love that answer because as you’re saying, I’ve never thought about customer support as a window into product market fit. I just I’ve never heard anybody say it. I mean, like you said, it may not be an original thought I’ve never heard of before, but as soon as you said it, like lightbulb went off in my head, like instantly. I know that x percent of our emails that we get for customer support are about the one or two things we don’t do yet, and I know that we have to do them and it’s on the roadmap and we’re trying to get there, but it’s like that’s just where it’s at right now. And I know that will be, you know, even better, product market fit when I cross those thresholds. And so I would just recommend like think about customer support like what, you know, the people listening and watching those. What kinds of things are people saying? Because it’s almost like a survey that is ongoing all the time. We just call customer support.
Chris: Exactly. I mean, and even better, it’s proactive. Like these people have not responded to a phone like that pissed off enough to email you. So yeah, one of my mentors always says, you know, do you start off at the start? Is this about two things? And maybe this is somewhere else as well, but they like listening to this and building shit. So like a customer support is that constant stream of listening to customers. So yeah, give it know 5050 as much as much hate to ask and I think you’ll do right.
Bronson: Yeah. Now it seems like one of the big growth mechanisms for you guys has been content really building a blog, having a content strategy. What kind of success have you guys seen from your content?
Chris: It’s a confidence that only only China that we try to be scientific about and really drive forward. I mean, the other source of customers is, of course, word of mouth, which I find a bit harder to track. But we don’t do any additives. We’re doing AdWords. We don’t do any. We do a little bit of slavery marketing. But so I sort of put that in my content bucket. So yeah, from day one it’s been content. And the reasons were there’s a really great article I read earlier this week sort of saying, Do what place do you strikes if you don’t excise sales before so you’ve never outbound people then it’s going to be hard. I’d never done content before, but it was definitely the channel that I had the most skills in. And given that, we also didn’t want to raise any money, so we all import all this stuff. We it was really the only channel that made sense on all these axes. So let’s keep it to go. And it’s definitely been the same as anything else to do online. Like test, test, test again. But I think, like, I think it’s really having now that we started with that because it did two things early on, right? I mean, obviously the first one is it brought us traffic. So we we used a lot of posts on Hacker News Reddit, you know, trying to, I guess, hack other content channels. And that’s where we got the first access for the initial couple of blog posts that there’s four or five and that was really good to grow. It showed that we could write stuff that people gave it to, that it, you know, gave us the tech we needed to progress and actually try and build our own audience more organically on our own blog. And the other thing it did is with brand awareness and, and, you know, so people start seeing the name around you knowing that thought leader and you know, PBC doesn’t do that, right? Because like you say, like, I think that at the start is actually really, really powerful. If you’re if you’re a young online company because people are more willing to help you out in other ways, not just by signing up to your product. So, yeah, there’s the two things that are really paid off for us.
Bronson: And when you when you first started, you said, you know, you had skills that were in that area, but you never have done content marketing until this. What do you got? How does it evolved? You know, because they want to open up your blog editor and it’s just blank. You got to figure out what to write. You don’t know what subject. You don’t know what to write about. You don’t know the link, you don’t know. Like you just don’t know what the content should be. Did you mess up early on or just do stuff that people didn’t care about? Have you learned how people think and what they want to consume? Walk me through some of the things you’ve grown in, because for content to be such a big pull now, you’re obviously doing it right to some degree.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, that’s a good question. We definitely screwed up early on. I mean, to even get started was I thought, no, I’ll want to read what I wrote. So the typical fear of failure and deal for me and you know. So yeah, someone in NZ is doing see what happened. So I think I never screwed out Major, but it’s definitely things looking back that I read that I think we must have thought, oh, this guy has no idea was talking about or whatever, but the, there was a real kickback as you said earlier. All that happens when you do something like if a subpar post is people don’t read it and it doesn’t get shared. Right. So and Jason talks about that in one of those days, I’ve seen those books where like, that’s the beauty of being small. You got the anonymity, so you learn the skills, right? So that was one thing you know, did wrong as writing crappy post. But I when we started the way I feel about it to get back was every post had a goal. So the first post we ever did, the first few post I was just trying to I was like, Well, how can we get 100 beta sign up? So I have to be able do that with one post, right? If we get this thing to go, right. So, and I and I did a post where I was sort of like on Dave McClure’s pirate metrics or something or something like that. I do have photo of Dave McClure, so that got us our first sort of 100 beta sign ups and there were some cool counties to sign up in there. And then so that was a little bit of success. How could we get 500 more across on time? We get to 600,000. So as I will write a bigger, better post. And so all the posts I was writing were having a particular goal. But next post we did was, you know, sort of saying we were creating the Mixpanel for email and that post had a couple people read it and we tried to put together a post that we thought would appeal to the guys on the people in Hacker News. I think Mixpanel was coming out and then you were going to go through and then unfortunately the content we because we’d read it so many times was actually good stuff because I got to see our next 4 to 500 sign up. So I just thought I was always trying to bring it back to like, you know, well, what’s the immediate goal? What will really help us get the ten paying customers right? Well, we reckon we need 200 people signed up to do that or whatever. How can we do that with a blog post? We got no other way of doing it. And so that having that sort of relentless focus on like a particular goal meant that even if the initial post in were doing another one sort of thing, and that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve worked up until now a year and a bit later is just consistency. You know, you got to have those weeks where you write something bad or if you think you’ve got a psychology or figured out post to this tank. So if, if you consistently say to yourself, I’m going to write one blog post every single week, it’s weeks post tags, then you go, okay, I’ll write another one next week. And if you don’t have that, you get demoralized because like would you put all its work in and it dire. I know I’m no good at content so. It consistently takes over and helps you through a lot of those fears and then allows you to testing the testing and growth. So yeah, consistency and having a strong goal for what you’re doing. Other things that helped me figure it out.
Bronson: Now, that’s great. I mean, and I love what you said about consistency because I’m actually listening to an audio book right now called Habit. And, you know, in there it says, 40% of our daily actions are habitual, not decisions. We’re not presented with a choice of we choose one, we just do it because that’s how we do it. When we come into the office, do you check email first? Do you get coffee first? You do it because of a habit, not because every day you think, What should I do first today? And so when it comes to the habits, you can put your life on autopilot if you build good growth habits into yourself. So if you have a growth habit of I will write a blog post every week and that will become a habit, you don’t have to decide to do it. Every week I decide to record, interview. Every week I decide to write a recipe. Every week I decide to think about growth with, you know, kind of taking the blinders off every week, like building in habits that lead to growth. And growth will be a byproduct of your life, not something you have to, like, figure out every day. You know what I mean?
Chris: Yeah, that’s really awesome. And that I mean that. Yeah. Actually my, I like every Monday I try to not go to the office, I’ll go to like the library is usually where I go, not because we’re in the library. Like it’s become a habit library. I write stuff and I remember Greg from Help Scout Sharing recently on his blog that he only processing on a bit. He only does writing on his desktop on Mac or whatever, never on his tablet or on his thing. So that when he’s there, it’s a visual. That’s all he does in his mind. So I think it that’s that these little tricks make a big difference.
Bronson: You know, it’s almost like if you can hack your own psychology in such a way that you enable your corporation to grow, then it’s just going to happen, you know?
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Bronson: It’s people are sitting here watching, I would say think right now like what habits and it first it will be a habit. First is a decision, you know, before become a habit, you have to just do it because you decide to. But what can you decide to do? And you’re going to decide to do it over and over until it’s a ritual that, you know, if you did it every day, every week, every month, whatever the goal is, that it would lead to growth. And then you look back in a couple of years and be like, wow, we really went up into the right there, didn’t we?
Chris: Exactly. Exactly. And at the start, when you make that decision, like, yeah, it could make it as wild as possible. Like at the start we had these specific goals to the blog, but now, now I think what, how can we make it? We make our blog as as good or as big as like KISSmetrics, you know. Yeah, I like pretty outlandish because I do an amazing job. But why not if you know, what are the steps to make that to happen and then make those a habit I guess is how everything.
Bronson: That’s one of the things I’ve learned from this book. They say want something becomes a habit. The cognitive load to do it lessens because you’ve built it into your life in such a way that you can do it on autopilot. So it allows you to use your mental energy for a higher level activities related to it. So for you right now, at first writing a single blog post was a mental exercise. Now it’s not now becoming as big as KISSmetrics becomes the mental exercise. Running the bottles is easy. You built it into a habit.
Chris: Exactly. And that’s in fact, that’s the exact point right now where we’re spending a lot more time. You know, we used to do all our content about this race. They were spending a lot of time planning out the next sort of month, month and a half. And then that way it’s sort of like they’re on autopilot because then you just come in, you’ve got all these you thought what you’re talking about and you just coming. You go, What am I going to write today? It’s this and and so that that that’s really at every stage, it’s just going to change what you’re thinking about. So that resonates with me now.
Bronson: That’s awesome. I mean, you know, and it’s kind of a side note to keep people behind the scenes of growth out of TV. I have like 50 or 60 recipes waiting to be written like, I know what they’re about, I know the title, I know the ingredients. I just have to write them. So when I come in, it’s just there and I write it like it’s in my head. I just got to get it out. But I have a system that allows my habits to really dictate growth, and so it’s not hard anymore. It just it’s going to work. Yeah, that’s good stuff. I’m glad you guys are experiencing the same thing because it’s exactly what I’m learning about and what I’m experienced in my own life. Let me ask you this. Do you guys use video for your own emails? Like, do you actually use a product to manage your logic and emails and all that?
Chris: Absolutely. I think, you know, everyone talks about creating my stuff and then you go see the guys at Atlassian talk about like how important that’s been to them or not. You know, we’re lucky where we’re in an industry where we can use our own product. And so so using it to me is really, really important. And it’s a it’s a big driver of a lot of the a lot, a lot of the ideas anyway that we then check with customers. But yet our process has been really important. It’s become a lot more important as we get a little bit bigger from day one with how we got all of those posts out. And we always build an email list because it meant that we had these people that were somewhat loyal to us and interested in what we’re doing. And that’s really, really great for anything from asking for feedback on the product in the early days right through to asking them to share stuff. So it’s definitely, definitely very important. I mean, particularly the last four months on a post on LinkedIn can. A few weeks back, way back in October, I still felt right. Well, I want to start doing some more stuff with him. I’d be pretty blasé for three months and I looked at, well, what’s the overall conversion rates? In other words, every week then how many people then actually do what we want them to do? I know I could be sign up for a free trial. It could be if become a paid customer, it could be used to pay whatever and around 2% or something like that. And I thought, well yeah, that’s probably not too bad given that maybe average pick rates in general are 2%, we’ve got to 2% converting for that voice. It doesn’t seem right either, given that we’re trying to we’re trying to be thought leaders and really good at the same, I think stuff. So I thought, what can we do? And yeah, this, this idea of using easy right IDs. I’ve been segmenting a lot more over the last four months and what I basically did is we didn’t send any more emails per month. It’s not like we were sending 20,000 a month instead of sending 100,000 a month. So our customers were still getting the same number of emails per week, but each email we were sending was way more specific. So the emails we were getting weren’t much more relevant to you, and we managed to get that number up now to about 7.8%, I think it was in terms of people converting from emails. And so that’s been really interesting. Yeah. So it’s been really interesting to do. And literally all I’ve always been doing is before we put together a campaign, they’re strategizing more and thinking about who we go and what stage of the funnel lesson, if something really relevant to get into the next step rather than just sending to everyone, Hey, check out newsletters and be like, Oh, hey, you, you, you haven’t paid yet. Why not? Or here’s some suggestions which which might be totally different from how we send it to someone else. So you not increasing the amount of emails, but increasing the relevancy emails has been something I’ve been excited about. And it’s it’s helped over the last four or five months now.
Bronson: That’s awesome. You know, now I’ve heard you mentioned a couple times already that, you know, early on it wasn’t as big a deal because you don’t have as many emails, but as you get a few emails, then an email strategy becomes important. Do you have a number in your mind of a threshold of like, all right, if you have less than 500, don’t worry about it. Just write good content, do some other stuff, and then after that it matters. Don’t worry about it. If you got 3000, like is there a number in your head where, you know, at that point you should have a somewhat serious email strategy? Just give people watching just an idea of when they should really, you know, kind of drill down on this stuff.
Chris: Yeah. So I would I would say that email is always important. So I think what happens is there’s probably a number of changes that early on, like let’s say, let’s say you’ve got I think five items pretty good, right? In a B2B sense. Anyway, let’s say less than 500, you should still be sending emails. But they it’s like like you said at the end, it’s not going to be as strategic. Perhaps, you know, you’re not going to be to do lots of segmentation because you’ve got 500 people. But you can, you know, at that stage of your company’s life, those 500 people are pure gold. I mean, these people put their email down on a landing page, probably on the Internet for a company that does nothing. And they’re willing to give it you give it to you so you can talk to them and say you better be talking to them. But it comes back to what talking about for those should be those really personal emails where you’re getting feedback, where you’re asking questions, because I suppose people will hit reply like, you know, these are the first couple of hundred pages in your product. So use that to do to do very personal stuff, get feedback on your product, do great things there. And then as it gets bigger, particularly for doing content, you can start to be what should I be sending your blog updates to? And that’s doing things like that. So I think it’s just the nature of the email changes around the problem in terms of content. I think the what I hear and and seems to as well for us is around 5000 approaching that number seems to be a really good number where your own blog take a life of its own and people people, you know, start sharing a lot more. It’s as effective to post on your own blog as guest post and apparently, you know, starts to grow a lot quicker from there, which is just sort of where we’re at now. It’d be interesting to see the next 12 months, but that’s something I’ve had a lot of people say to me. So yeah, so I’d say that’s that’s a number anyway that comes to mind.
Bronson: Yeah. It’s interesting how you say it takes on a life of its own. It’s kind of like the what they call the flywheel, you know, at first, yeah, it takes a lot of work to do, a little bit of momentum, but eventually you build up an audience, you build up some steam and things start doing the work for you. It’s almost like the more you grow, the more you grow.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That was a cool post. Well, maybe someone asking you 10,000, maybe. How do you build a good flywheel for marketing? What are the steps? So I actually read that yesterday and even read that. So that’s a perfect like. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Exactly what they were saying as well.
Bronson: Yeah. Well, Chris, this has been an awesome interview. I got one final question for you here to kind of close out on. It’s the question I ask everybody at the end. So you kind of take it in any direction you want. But what’s the best advice you have for anyone that’s trying to grow a startup? Because in the last year and a half, that’s all you’ve been trying to do. You wake up every day and you think, How do I grow video? What do I do today? What do I do tomorrow? What advice do you have for somebody that’s in those shoes trying to grow a startup?
Chris: Yeah, I think it’s also this story. Recently, like they’ve been having some challenges and they we were talking about people who have been much more successful. And it seems there’s just like, I think you’ve just got to have a ruthlessness about what you want to achieve. So and that’s just a mindset things and there’s maybe some practical things on that. But like you’ve just you’ve just got to be obsessed with like getting the numbers higher, that’s all. You’ve got to come into work and yeah, that’s what I, you know where yesterday is not good enough that sort of attitude I could you know, why is it there’s not happened yet? Why? Why we knock out 5 hours? Why didn’t this person subscribe whatever it is? And then with that ruthlessness, you then start to think you’ll just go out and, you know, go crazy with ideas to get that to happen. I think where, you know, if it hasn’t happened yet and it needs to have happened, who knows that you’ve come up with that that is outside the box. Yeah. But then yeah, I would say that, you know, tied to that is, is consistency. Yeah, definitely double down on something like you said at the start, huge amounts of effort required to gain momentum on anything. That’s not right. We’re all going through that. But that doesn’t mean, you know, if you’ve decided that, you know, content, something you’re passionate about, you’ve got some skills to pull off, you know, keep going and make it work, you know, make you feel good excuse metrics because, you know, you’re the one if you’re ruthless enough and focused enough on that can make it happen. Yeah. And it’s just a matter of plugging away or trying new things and getting there. So definitely be consistency and just a real focus on the end goal. You know, like I said, the content was the channel we decided to use in our product. And even now the goal is not get to point out. I mean, it was 100 days of silence because that was the most important. You know, now at the end of this pain and and having that ruthless focus on the number that makes a difference to you is what works for me.
Bronson: I love the idea of being ruthless. I mean, that summarizes the way I approach projects so well. You know, it’s something we’ve built into the whole team here. When any number is not up into the right, we’re all upset about it. Like we’re all emailing, we’re all trying to figure out what do we do, how do we make it better? Like everything has to always be better and we’re just ruthless. And I read the book once it said How Good You’ll Be is mostly determined by how good you want to be. Yeah. And it just always stuck with me. It’s like, what’s what ceiling do you place upon yourself? Because that is where you’ll stop. And so if they’re saying what, because metrics will, that’s where you’ll stop. You know, if you say you want to be bigger than them, then that’s where you’ll stop. Like you’ll stop where you want to stop because that’s how amazingly awesome we can make things when we’re ruthless about them. So I love that word. That’s awesome.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, that that’s a that’s definitely how I try to think about when I’m out, when I’m down here at a bit of a wall, it’s like, well, am I being a sort of ruthless enough, brutal enough for you to to get to the next stage?
Bronson: Yeah. Well, Chris, thanks again for coming on Growth Hacker TV. This has been awesome.
Chris: I think it’s been awesome from my side as well. Lots of lots of really thought-provoking questions. So I hope everyone pick something up they can use.
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