Episode #5 – Colin Nederkoorn On Email Marketing for Software-as-a-Service (Saas) Companies

by John McIntyre

Today’s podcast is all about how to be relevant.

In today’s world, empathy and relevant is compulsory for email marketing success.

In episode 5 of the Email Marketing Podcast, Colin shares tips and tricks for increasing relevance and making more sales via email.

Colin Nederkoorn is the CEO of a small 3-person email company called Customer.io. Customer.io helps online businesses better connect with their customers by using the data they have about them… things like what products customers have purchased, what pages they’ve visited, and more.

With Customer.io, you can email customers based on the data you have on the them. It increases relevance and timeliness.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • How to make your emails more relevant and more timely
  • Feel like your emails suck? Find out how to write better emails.
  • Why relevancy is the name of the email game in 2013
  • The biggest problem most entrenreneurs have with email (and how to fix it)
  • You’re probably writing emails all wrong (find out what you’re doing wrong and what you need to be doing instead)
  • Usability… does it matter?
  • How to use the “From” name (the answer depends on whether a few specific things)
  • Action smaction… you gotta stop asking for action too soon because it’s hurting your chances of making the sale
  • Asking people to do 10 different things at once? Hmmm. Listen to find out if this is a good idea.
  • What the hell should you send your customers and subscribers?
  • How to get people to cough up their credit card details to actually buy your shit

Email Marketing Podcast Episode 1


Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO

Raw transcript:

Speaker 1: If you actually ask people to do something and communicate the value of why they should they’ll do it.
Speaker 2: Hey podcast listener you’re about to discover insider tips, tricks and secrets to making more sales and converting more prospects into customers with email marketing. For more information about the email marketing podcast or the Autoresponder Guy, go to themcmethod.com/podcast.

Hey everybody it’s John McIntyre here the order respond to gain. It’s time for episode five of the email marketing podcast where we talk about the top tips, tricks and secrets for making more sales and growing your revenue with email marketing. It’s episode five and today I’ll be talking to Colin Nederkoorn, the CEO of a small company called Customer.io. Customer.io helps online business better connect with their customers by using the data they have about them. Things like what products customers have purchased and what pages they’ve visited on the site and more. It’s very valuable stuff.

Now, in this episode you’ll find out why relevance is the name of the game in 2013 when it comes to email marketing, and how to start writing better emails, because if you’re listening to this podcast there’s a good chance hat whatever you’re sending right isn’t working; otherwise you wouldn’t be listening to it so stay tuned for that. To get the show notes for the email marketing podcast go to themcmethod.com/ep5. Now before we get into hat let’s talk news.

The email marketing podcast has four new iTunes reviews and I’m going to read you one of them right now.Ryan McLean from Australia says I’ve been waiting for a podcast like his for years. I’ve got good traffic, a sizable list, but no one has been teaching me how to market effectively to my list. Five stars, because this is a stellar new specific content that will grow my business and yours. Good audio quality and even better content. Thank you Ryan for that. Ryan’s website you can check that out at cashflowinvestor.com.au.

Now if you and shutter fame, and yes if you put your link in the iTunes review I will read it out on the show, and everyone’s getting here. So first listen to these episodes, second if you enjoyed it go to themcmethod.com, click on the iTunes ink, add your review in iTunes and I’m going to read out one five star review each week on the show and your’s could be next. I’m going to read out your link so hundreds, thousands are going to hear your website. Enough of that let’s go talk to Colin Nederkoorn, the CEO of Customer.i.o.

It’s John McIntyre here, the Autoresponder Guy. I’m here with Colin Nederkoorn, the founder of Customer.io, a special app that software as a service company can use to send their customers emails based on how they use their apps. How are you doing today Colin?

Speaker 3: I’m doing really well John, thanks.

Speaker 2: Thanks for coming on. Now let’s start with just a little quick background on who are you and what do you do?

Speaker 3: Cool; so I’m the CEO of Customer.io, we’re a really, really small email company, and we’re about three people now in New York and we–as you said we help online businesses better connect with their customers by using the data that they have about them. The things they purchase, the pages they visit, you can use that information to send them more targeting emails so they’re ore relevant and more timely. Ideally, you can build better relationships with those people through the emails that you send. Because you’re sending them the right emails at the right time.

Speaker 2: So the basic idea is just to get real specific. If someone signs up and say they visit–say they haven’t visited their profile page yet and you want them to set up a profile you can set up an automatic email to go out three days after they sign up and say you have’t set up your profile. Here’s a link, go and set it up, put a photo in it; that type of thing right?

Speaker 3: Exactly, and a lot of times what you see when people are doing this in an unsophisticated or dumb way is they’ll still send that email three days later, but there will be five things they want you to do. You may or not may not have done them, and they just blindly send the email regardless of what you’ve done on the site.

Speaker 2: Just like a random–like you might have already done all those things or you might not have. It sounds like hit or miss.

Speaker 3: Right.

Speaker 2: That’s interesting. What’s–I guess in a nutshell what’s the big message or the big idea behind Customer.io; what’s it all about?

Speaker 3: I think we’re all about sending your customers or your prospective customers better emails, and building relationships with people over time. Ideally, through that you’ll get more people from free to pay. If you’re a business that has–that’s like an ecommerce store you’ll get more people buying again. One of our customers ran a think where they have–their product is ideal for gifts so people either buy it for themselves or they buy it as a gift, and they use Customer.io to target the people who had purchased as a gift, and they offer them–Why don’t you buy this for yourself now. They did the inverse of that; people who had bought it for themselves they said why don’t you go and buy this as a gift, and they got a great conversion from that. It was around he holidays last year and a bunch of people ended up buying who hadn’t visited the site in three months, four months, but they ended up buying that product as a gift for someone or for themselves.

Speaker 2: It sounds like one of the–to me one of the most important things that’s going on here is this issue of targeting and relevancy. The average person like you said if they drew this in a bad way or in a very amateur, unsophisticated way they’re going to send out an email with five different actions on it that the user or customer may or may not have done, because they haven’t the software to figure that stuff out. But if they use say a software like Customer.io or something else they’re going to be able to send extremely specific emails which is just going to increase the conversion rate, because it’s going to match exactly who that person is rather than just throwing stuff out there and hoping that it’s relevant. You know that it’s 100 percent relevant, and that’s really an–I think that’s a really important that for email and all kind of marketing is that the more relevancy that you can with someone the better conversion rate is going to be.

Speaker 3: I think the–I did a survey really, really early on in my list and I asked people what’s your biggest fear with writing emails, and it’s–people said a bunch of different things, but a lot of it just distilled down into that word relevance, and people are concerned about not being relevant to the recipient. That generally happens if you’re doing a big blast to your entire list asking for something, but you’re really trying to reach very specific people. You know that most of the people aren’t going to find the content relevant, so yeah I think we want to help businesses use he data that they have to write more relevant emails.

Speaker 2: That’s like–If you think about it, you have 10,000 people on a list, if you send these email blasts that some people call them you’re going to have 9000 or even 900,900 people who just don’t even care about what’s in that email, because there’s just no targeting to it. What we can do with this is send 100 people out of those 10,000 the same email, but it’s all relevant to exactly what they did based on the software.

Speaker 3: Exactly.

Speaker 2: When it come to- where do people get–when people get caught up, when people sign up to Customer.io emailing support with questions on how to do their emails. What are some of the big problems that you see pop up again and again?

Speaker 3: Usually–I think there’s very specific problems, but in general the thing that burns people–most people early on when they start writing emails for their job is that they don’t read them from the point of view of the recipient. They write the email in terms of what the business goals are; so they’ll say we go–go and do this thing, but there’s no value in the person doing it. The emails read as though you’re just tell me something that I should do, but you don’t give me the incentive for me to do it, you don’t communicate the value to me as the reader. A lot of the don’t do this stuff rules break down into how can I make this email more usable for the recipient, and that can be stuff like their from address. If you’re–let’s say you’re the marketing person at a company and the person signs up on your list, but they’ve never received an email from you and they don’t recognize your name. You should put your company name in the from address and/or the subject line so that they know that they can immediately see that’s the company I just signed up with. There’s really subtle things like that make the emails you send a lot easier for someone to consume and understand and get value from. People often make those mistakes initially from–I think it’s a lack of knowledge and experience, and also empathy for the recipient.

Speaker 2: With the–from that do you find that putting a–do you find that a company name in there works better than a personal name or both?

Speaker 3: The strategy that we use and the one that I personally like is your first name from some company name? For you I think that if people recognize John McIntyre in their inbox that’s perfectly fine, and hopefully they don’t know too many John McIntyre’s and you’re going to stand out to them. I think the other approach you could take is you could be John the auto responder guy and that’s your from address. I’d say the downside with that is if you really–if your’e the sole business owner and you’re trying to build a strong personal relationship with someone having the company name in there still–in the back of their mind they’re like this is some business email. So sticking to the personal stuff if it’s just you and you’re really trying to establish a personal relationship I think that’s good, but otherwise if they’re really signing up with a company, not with you, then having the company name Colin from Customer.io or John from Drop Dead Copy.

Speaker 2: You just touched on something a couple of minutes ago about–this is a very basic thing when it comes to copywriting is the reason why I copy. I can’t remember who coined that phrase, but the idea is that if you’re emailing someone and you’e saying go to our site, login and do this, take this action. You’re going to tell them why, and they’re going to think why the hell am I going to go do that, so what. It’s–this is a really easy way to think about it for anyone listening is that when they’re writing email they can sit down and when they figure out whatever action they want to–someone to take or what they want them to do. To go buy something or click on something or sign up or whatever. Then just say here are five reasons why you want to do it. Triggers that whole what’s in it for me thing.

Speaker 3: I think the other thing, the other mistake people make is they put they action as the first thing in the email. Then they try to put all of the reasons why underneath, and I think if you know the AIDA structure; action–attention, interest, desire action, you don’t want to put the action before you’ve built up the desire to take it. So giving them all of the reasons why they want to do that thing before you ask them to do it generally yields better success. But I think it stems from people thinking about it’s got to be above the fold, I think that’s why people put it as the first thing in the first link or the first button or whatever in the email. But a lot of times I’ll see emails that have 10 things they want you to do and it’s all above the fold, and I suggest to people that they don’t do that.

Speaker 2: Right. I had a–a couple of months ago I had a blogpost on dropdeadcopy and it was basically why you should put your opt in above the fold. Because we have this traditional marketing adviser it has to go above the fold, but whats more important is that we’ve been talking about empathy and really being relevant. To be relevant you can’t just throw someone in action and say do this, you’ve got to meet them where they’re at in the current mindset, and then lead them towards that action.

Speaker 3: I think that’s exactly right.

Speaker 2: You mentioned before we started recording that you had some great ideas on how to do content for email. I think a lot of people struggle when they think about I’m going to write an auto responder or I’m going to write email’s my business, but I don’t know what to write about. Where do–obviously if you want to help someone do something figure out the action, you’re going to write down the reasons why they should do it, But if you just want to keep building that relationship with people what sort of content do you think that people should be sending their customers and subscriber?

Speaker 3: Yeah we actually–we have it pretty easy because we’re an email product so the content that I create is about how to write emails. So we have a pretty easy way to do that, but I’ve talked with businesses who they do things like online photo printing or they–actually here’s an example for you. Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer, I think a lot of decisions like hiring a wedding photographer are decisions that are–that you only make once, and you generally look around or you take a personal recommendation. The opportunity for content is getting advice on how to make that decision. So if I’m a wedding photographer the first thing I would want to do is set up an auto responder course about ow to pick a wedding photographer. What are the things that I need to look for before deciding to pay someone. What are the price ranges I should expect, basically educating me about how to make the better decision, which if you’re selling your services that builds trust, which s phenomenal. It also educates your customer so that they’re going to actually be a better customer for you and they won’t have to ask you all of these really basic questions; they’ll have that understanding. But I think the key thing is whether or not the go with you or not they’ll–anyone else whose facing that decision in the future they’ll recommend your course to them, and you’ll probably get some referral business that way. So I think any business where there’s a decision that someone has to make and t’s a high regret decision or it’s a decision that they make without fully understanding it; doing a course that educates them about the things that they need to know is a really, really easy win. The trap that most people fall into is when you’re a business owner you’re an expert and you assume that there’s nothing that your customers don’t know. Most of the ti me they know nothing and you can write content to educate them about the business. Even if it’s stuff that they know a little bit or they’ve heard before, hearing things that you already know and agree with is really reassuring. I think creating content around your business that educates people and helps them make a better buying decision is the easiest win for you.

Speaker 2: That’s really good advice. I was reading something recently about content for emails and it often varies depending on the business with–just like an information business you don’t want to give away too much information, because then they’re not going to buy that product. They used to say when selling supplements you can tell them all day about the ingredients and the benefits and all that, because no on is going to go out and make their own supplement like that. I love this idea. Joe Polish talks abouit it in I love Marketing this consumer buying guide. They sign up to your thing and you basically educate them on how to buy, and that’s relevant pretty much anywhere. When you mention any kind of buying business area that’s going to help people. I thought an interesting question is I’m sure that you’ve got a whole bunch of customers and a whole bunch f stats on email. Do you have any interesting takeaways or anything interesting that you’ve learned from having all this data?

Speaker 3: I think anecdotally most people do it pretty poorly, and part of that is the tools that exist out there. Hopefully, we’re going to change that over time, and we’re already changing that. I think that the other thing is there are a bunch of really easy wins, and there’s not a lot of information out there about what those easy wins are. I’m trying to…so one of the things I’m trying to do is observe to see what the best companies do and share that information with our customers. One of the things that I caught onto really quickly after seeing a few companies do it is if you’re a SAS product, and primarily like a B to B software as a service company one of the most effective emails that you can send is something like 30 minutes after someone signs up a really short personal message from the CEO that says hi, I’m Colin I’m the CEO of Customer.io. Thanks so much for signing up. I just wanted to reach out to see if you needed any help, thanks. Surprisingly, this email is phenomenal, because if someone actually does need help they reply to that and they ask for it. So they’ve had 30 minutes in the product and maybe they got stuck or maybe they abandoned it and never got started, but you’e reached out to them 30 minutes in and they know that even if they’re like this is automatic they at least think you care enough to have set up that automatic email. They now have an email to respond to rather than having to search for a support address on your website or another way to contact you. So we’ve recommended this–we do this and we recommend it to a ton of our customers, and I think we were getting a 15-25 percent response rate on it where people actually reply to the email. Other folks have reported to me 25 percent and higher of the people who get the email response to it.

Speaker 2: Do you ever find that it’s hard to deal with this emails if they’re going–the CEO’s tend to be pretty busy. I’m sure you’re busy; who do you deal with these support request to your own email address?

Speaker 3: We actually–I set up Colin.n at customer.io which goes to our customer support app, and I handle them in there. Or if I’m in a meeting or really busy and there’s something urgent then someone else on the team will apologize that I’m not answering and then do the reply.

Speaker 2: I guess it’s like saving and split up there.

Speaker 3: The way you scale that in my mind and I’m hopefully going to be trying this soon is rather than the email coming from me it comes from someone on our support team like the director of customer happiness or something like that.

Speaker 2: That being an easy win do you have any other examples of easy wins that businesses can have?

Speaker 3: Yeah, I think the reaching out towards the end of a free trial to encourage people to buy. A lot of ti mes during a free trial situation it might be 30 days or something like people don’t reach out during that time. They assume that the person just wants to be left alone during a free trial. But having a series of emails that map to that, and then asking for the sale right at the end or towards the end, probably in the last five days asking people to put down a credit card and upgrade the product is a great way to get people to do that. Surprisingly, if you actually ask people to do something and communicate the value of why they should they’ll do it. Not everyone will do it, but enough people will do it.

Speaker 2: Right, that’s really cool. So we’re just coming up to time right now so let’s finish up. Is Customer.io is it just for software as a service company or is this for anyone or who specifically is Customer.io for?

Speaker 3: Right now we’re very focused on businesses where someone creates an account; so they sign up for a product or a service online and they’re creating an account. They’ve got a user name and password, we’re pretty focused on those types of business. That said, you can–we’re building our product on top of an API and we want to have it like a really, really sophisticated mailing platform. So we have people who don’t have products who are just dealing with people where they have the email address. We have people like that using the product, but it’s–I’d say if you’re a little more technical then give us a shot. But otherwise if you really want an out of the box product that will do it for you, we’re probably not that yet.

Speaker 2: So that’s all at Customer.io; that’s your website correct?

Speaker 3: Yeah and the thing that I would encourage folks here to do is to sign up for our weekly newsletter which is at–If you just go to Customer.io and click on the big link at the top that says write better emails or I think it’s–yeah it’s write better emails then you can sign up for the list and you’ll get one hopefully really valuable email from me every week.

Speaker 2: Good, I’ll have a link to all this stuff down in the show notes for anyone who’s looking for that. So before we sign off do you have any final words of wisdom?

Speaker 3: Let’s see if I can dig something up. I think my final word of wisdom is when people decide to buy from you they make that decision in lines not dots; so if you just send them one email don’t expect them to buy off of that or if they just have one interaction with you. I think you’ve really got to think about how do you build a relationship with them, what are the touch points they have with your business so that they feel comfortable enough to buy. There’s this thing in sales where it’s really like in order to sell a product you’ve got to follow up with people, and the sales people that are really successful are the ones that are persistent. I think you can do that in a lower touch, non-naggy way with email and marketing, but I think the key is you’ve got to know that you’re giving people value and try to create that line. Not a bunch of dots that are all over the place.

Speaker 2: I love that idea. I feel like we could continue talking about this for hours so how about we wrap it up here. Thank you for coming on, Colin. This has been super helpful.

Speaker 3: Thank, John I’ll talk to you soon.

Speaker 2: Hey everybody thanks for listening. If you want to discover more insider tips, tricks and secrets bout driving sales with email marketing sign up for daily email tips from the order responding guide. Go to themcmethod.com/podcasts. Sign up, confirm your email address and I’ll send you daily emails on how to recruit your email marketing and make more sales via email. You’ll find out why open rates don’t matter, and the seven letter word that underlies all effective marketing and much more.

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