So, That Was Fast

On December 3rd I wrote a post titled Screw Automation. Interesting update on that. Chris (a long time reader) didn’t just agree with the post it’s how he is already running his email marketing. Chris sends out personalized emails. Granted, this is hard to scale but that’s precisely why Chris’ emails perform so well.

Chris was kind enough to let me share an example of his email and … performance metrics!

Email example:

Performance metrics: 24 hours after sending email above 44.6% open rate and 11% clickthrough rate (percentage of people who opened the email and clicked a link in the email). I don’t need to know industry averages to know this amazing.

Screw Automation

96% of marketing emails are obviously templates (or is it 100%?).

I know why companies don’t send personalized messages; it’s too damn expensive.

If you think sending personalized emails is too expensive you’re asking the wrong question. The right question is:

How can we communicate with our mailing list of X thousand in a profitable way?

Just because no retailer is doing this doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Most companies are basing their marketing on what others are doing. The blind are following the blind.

I’m not saying this is easy. It’s definitely not, which is why no one is doing it.

But, if a retailer can find a creative way to have a profitable pen pal relationship with their customers it could would transform their business.

This isn’t for all types of businesses.

If you’re a business like LifeSource Water ( where people buy just once this idea might not be for you. Though I’d argue could still develop a strategy around my idea. But if you are a site like this idea is a slam dunk.

How does one operationalize such a strategy?

— First, let’s identify a pen pal size. I think 2 hours a day sending 10 personalized emails is doable. I’d recommend the business owner take the lead on this experiment. Once we calculate ROI you can have a junior employee do it.

— The next step is identifying conversation topics. Here are some templates:

>> You can create a welcome email to new buyers.

>> You can recommend item Y to a customer who previously bought X.

>> You can contact a customer who last purchased a year ago. To this person, you can talk about all the things that happened with the site in the last year.

>> You can contact a customer who just posted a review.

… you get the idea. Just identify a communication strategy that fits your brand.

— Do this for a month. The goal is to send out 200 emails. Make note of replies. Are people happy to receive your emails? Are people wanting to continue with the conversation?

— Wait 6 months and compare the productivity of these 200 contacts against your larger list. Don’t look at the cost of sending out the emails at this point. The reason we’re ignoring the input cost is that over time it will go down 70%. You’ll get more efficient. At this point, we’re only interested in seeing if personalized communications drive profitable action.

Update: After writing this post I received this amazing comment from Chris:

This has made a big impact on me. This is precisely how I send emails to my mailing list. I believe the results speak for themselves. My average open rate is right at 50% (quite a bit better than the 10-11% industry average.) The click rate varies depending on the subject and just how much emphasis I put on it but I have seen click rates of over 40%. And if I send a strong recommendation for something to the list I’d BETTER put a bunch of it in stock because they are going to buy.

In the body of my emails I ask questions of my readers and encourage them to reply. When they do reply they will get a personal reply from me. I certainly don’t spend quite as much time as your suggestion implies but the time I do spend is richly rewarded.

Designing for Distracted Shoppers

Are you easily distracted? No? Go check your browser history over the last 2 hours.

I thought I was super disciplined, methodical, and task oriented. Turns out, my browsing history betrays this self-image.

Checked your browser history over the last 2 hours?

Are you a little shocked??

If this is how distracted we are (and it’s scary to see) why would our site visitors be any different? Truth is, they aren’t.

Here is the bigger problem: This chronic issue of depleted attention has been on the rise for the last 10 years. What did irresponsible marketers do when they learned visitors who normally spend 5 minutes were now spending 3? They started cramming more on the page. The strategy was simple: cram down 5 minutes of content in 3 minutes.

This is stupid and there is a better way. Persuade the shopper to spend 5 minutes. Give them a good reason to spend 5 minutes. Minimize distractions so their 5-minute session is high quality.

Assignment for today. Identify an important page where visitors don’t spend enough time and answer this question, “How can we improve the quality time on this page by 20%?”

Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) + CRO

I’ll never forget the first time I understood the connection between site visitor data and conversion optimization (CRO). That was 11 years ago.

On November 15th, 2018 life took another turn. I attended a 2-day workshop by Bob Moesta for Jobs to Be Done (JTBD).

Jobs thinking isn’t exactly new. I read Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma in 2005. The book describes the famous McDonald’s milkshake insight. Watch this video:

It’s also not the first time I’ve heard Bob Moesta speak. I often share Bob’s condo story where he increased condo prices, added free storage + moving service, and ended up driving by condo sales 17%. Bob achieved this outcome by understanding the job condo buyers were trying to do. But it is the first time I fully acknowledged that conversion optimization without Jobs thinking is mostly meaningless.

I’m starting a new journey to fully understand Jobs-to-Be-Done from every angle. I’ll be reading a lot. I’ll be writing a lot. I’ll be thinking a lot.

What prompted me to look beyond A/B testing?

Trouble. Clients paid us to identify and fix site friction. A/B testing is a great program to make an existing page as good as it can be. We unearthed amazing counter-intuitive lessons about buyer psychology. Insights that gave clients an edge over the competition. But when I consider our impact beyond A/B testing I’m left disappointed. We haven’t been able to transform clients’ businesses inside out.

Hey, A/B testing isn’t bad. It’s an inexpensive way to start making scientific changes. It’s 100x better than not testing. But it can exclude the end customer from the process. Jobs thinking moves the spotlight to the actual buyer. In fact, Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) thinking doesn’t care about the product the business is trying to sell, it also doesn’t give a damn about the A/B tester (me). It only cares about the end buyer.

I still love A/B testing. I’ll still continue doing it. But I’m going to add JTBD thinking to our process.

I suspect everything is going to change, just like it did in 2007. If you’re interested in following our journey post a comment below and come along for the ride.

Have a great week.