Joe Portsmouth – Email Marketing Will Never Die! – Episode #102

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“Click rates don’t always correlate to revenue.”
Joe works as the Director of Retention at The Beard Club. In his spare time, he’s been growing his audience of 30K+ followers on Twitter and LinkedIn by sharing daily marketing tips and content geared toward DTC marketers.
He has generated over $50mm in revenue with email marketing throughout his career and recently finished teaching his first Email Marketing 101 course on Maven.
Other brands he’s helped in the world of marketing include Hopsy, FanDuel, and PetHonesty.
Questions and topics we covered include:
  • What are the unique challenges that come from trying to grow a subscription business?
  • Why is email marketing a tactic that will never go out of style?
  • Are open rates dead?
  • What do teams do wrong when launching their email marketing campaigns?
  • How can you create cross-channel campaigns that include emails?
  • Do the same tactics that work in SMS marketing work with email?
  • What to look for when hiring the ideal email marketing specialist.
  • Joe’s favorite marketing tools.
And more!
Links to learn more from Joe:
My favorite LinkedIn posts from Joe:

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people Digital Marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s guest, Joe Portsmouth. Hi, Joe, how are you?

 

Joe Portsmouth 0:14  

Good. Thanks for having me.

 

Kenny Soto 0:16  

So we just before recording talked about how we’re both in New York, which is pretty cool. And I gave you a little background on the podcast. For those who have been listening. Yes, we have just hit two years of the podcast, which as of recording, this episode is pretty wild to say, this episode is going to be Episode 102, which is also wild to say, and, Joe, we haven’t had someone on the podcast yet who’s an expert in b2c, email, SMS, etc. Before we get into that, I want to get more background into how you got into digital marketing. So I think that’s the best place to start.

 

Joe Portsmouth 0:59  

Yeah, so I went to grad school at Northeastern to get my MBA. And part of their program is that you have to take a corporate residency, which is basically a six-month full-time job. So I got placed at construction products, b2b manufacturer, and I was selling, you know, concrete supplies and things that I’ve never heard of before. 

 

It was my first intro to all things marketing. So, I did a little bit of everything. I did some social media, LinkedIn, and Twitter, editing the website with some copy. And then it was also my first introduction to email marketing. So it was kind of, you know, by chance that I landed there. And in that particular industry, it felt very random, and didn’t know if it would be what I wanted to do full-time. But I knew that marketing felt right. But maybe not selling construction products.

 

Kenny Soto 2:02  

And can you tell the audience, just to give more context, what you’re doing at the beard club?

 

Joe Portsmouth 2:08  

Yeah, so at the beard club the director of retention, so that means everything related to getting our customers coming back. So we’re a full-time subscription business, I think 99% of our orders that come in are on subscription. And so my goal is to get people to stay on subscription, and also to buy a little bit more over time. 

 

So that’s increasing our customer lifetime value with upselling, and cross-sell offers that are relevant to our customers. And just making it an overall great customer experience that makes them want to come back again and again.

 

Kenny Soto 2:50  

What are the unique challenges that a subscription slash DTC business faces that other businesses don’t? Businesses? No.

 

Joe Portsmouth 3:00  

I think the biggest thing is, not everyone wants to be on a subscription. So being upfront about that, and making sure that people are aware, no matter what. That’s one thing that I’ve learned, I’ve been out to a couple of different subscription companies, no matter how transparent, you think you are, as a company, there will always be people that say, I had no idea I was on subscription, and they’ll want to cancel. 

 

So it’s, it’s about probably more than anything managing expectations. So for someone that comes to our site and wants to grow a beard, getting them on a cadence of buying every month, is what they need to do to get the best results of their product of our product. So if someone you know, is saying that they have too much product after a month, that could be an education issue, where we’re not telling them how to properly use the product. 

 

So we got to invest more time into that from like, maybe an email or SMS marketing standpoint, or on-site. Yeah, and it’s just about making sure that, you know, they know how to get the most out of the product at the right cadence, you know, to get the best results.

 

Kenny Soto 4:14  

Now, let’s dive into an email, we’ll get into SMS. But when it comes to email marketing, can you give us the lay of the land, if you will, as to how that fits within the broader marketing effort for the beard club?

 

Joe Portsmouth 4:27  

Yeah, so one of the most important things I think, for any DTC website is lead capture. So if someone comes to your site, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, over 95% of your traffic is going to come to your site and they’re going to bounce they’re not going to place an order on that visit. So in order to keep the conversation going, it’s so important to capture email and SMS to keep that conversation going. 

 

And The way that we look at it from the beard club perspective is anyone who’s coming to our site has never purchased before, we want to educate them about the product. So we send them through a quiz funnel that gets to the root of their pain point, maybe it’s a patchy beard, or they want to grow a full beard, but they’ve never been able to. 

 

And so they answer a few questions about where they’re at now and where they want to go. And then that gives us the power to then send them the best recommendations via email. So it’s like, we prime them for the best educational experience from day one with email, and then we keep that conversation going over time.

 

Kenny Soto 5:41  

Are you in any way repurposing content from other channels to aid in email marketing?

 

Joe Portsmouth 5:49  

Yeah, so when we see a Facebook ad that’s performing well, that is getting people in. And maybe it’s like some UGC content or testimonials. We’ll use that site, the same sort of imagery, and copy in our emails because we know that that’s resonating with people. So yeah, there’s definitely some sharing of learnings across channels.

 

Kenny Soto 6:14  

What metrics matter when it comes to email marketing? And I asked this, because with changes to iOS, I think was 14. Yeah, I think this is my personal opinion, you can disagree with me. open rates don’t matter anymore. What do you say about that?

 

Joe Portsmouth 6:30  

Yeah, no open rates, I feel like they’ve become sort of a vanity metric, the best way to measure engagement is by looking at your click rates, and just how many orders you’re getting off of each email. But the thing is, email, and click rates don’t tell the whole story. So one thing that we’ve been seeing a lot is click rates don’t always necessarily correlate to revenue. 

 

So we can send really good educational content that gets people engaged in their reading, but that doesn’t really lead to revenue. So also, looking at your email performance from a revenue percent standpoint is also beneficial for understanding, you know, at the end of the day, you’re trying to drive purchases with your email. So it’s good to have that balance of looking at engagement, and then also performance.

 

Kenny Soto 7:24  

Some people and I’ve heard this in conversation with past clients, some people believe that email marketing is nice to have it’s an outdated tactic, you usually tack it on after all your other channels are optimized. Do you think email marketing is out of style.

 

Joe Portsmouth 7:44  

I couldn’t disagree more. And I’m probably the most biased person, but probably also one of the more educated people on the topic. And my last company, email drove, you know, 30% of our company’s revenue, then you layer in SMS driving another 25 to 30%. And that’s 50 to 60% and 50 to 60% of revenue coming from those two channels alone. So, they can totally have a ton of weight and drive performance for the business. 

 

And, I feel like it’s the best way to communicate with your customers is to have these messages trigger, particularly in an automated fashion, at the right time with the right content. It just, really makes the customer experience better from an education standpoint. And also just from a business standpoint, you’re able to get conversions at a higher rate when you’re sending your emails at the right time. 

 

So I think that it’s probably underutilized, and it’s such a high ROI channel, I’m sure you’ve seen these stats to where, you know, email generates $38 for every $1 invested. So I don’t think it’s going anywhere. anytime soon. Everyone still has email, everyone still checks their emails. It’s harder and harder to stand out in the inbox. And that’s probably the biggest challenge, but I would not say that it’s out of style or anything like that.

 

Kenny Soto 9:17  

So Joe, let’s say that I am leading a marketing team, I want to do email, but I’m concerned that I might not be starting off on the right foot. What do teams usually do wrong when launching their first set of email marketing campaigns?

 

Joe Portsmouth 9:37  

One of the things that I see too often is that people will either not warm up their sender delivery or their sender’s reputation and email deliverability properly. So that’s always something that you should be talking to your email service provider about like a clay vo or a MailChimp they usually have, you know a recommended plan for the first 30 days of warming up your list to make sure that you’re getting a good reputation with inbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and all those other ones. 

 

So you don’t, you don’t want to send to unengaged people when you first start out. So that would be the first thing that you want to start strong by sending to your most engaged audiences. The next thing I would say is that people don’t send emails often enough. So there’s magic and money to be made in the reminder email if you think about, you know, the average open rate being, you know, anywhere from 20 to 30%. 

 

And that means over half of your audience is not seeing your emails most of the time. So that could be just wasn’t the right time, they didn’t get to it, you know, people are not opening all of your emails, as soon as they hit the inbox as nice as that would be. So having the right cadence of, you know, respectful follow-ups and reminders, and just not giving up after one email is probably the next biggest mistake that I would say.

 

Kenny Soto 11:07  

This might not be applicable in every situation. But have you done any cross-channel coordination, where there might be some content that’s going out on social or on a paid channel, that then coincides with content that’s being presented via email?

 

Joe Portsmouth 11:26  

I’ve done things like say why promotions, you know, if, you know, Amazon Prime Day is tomorrow. So there will be no promotions going out for all of our social channels. And we’ll be promoting things via email and SMS. So there is coordination from that standpoint. But is that what you were getting at with that question?

 

Kenny Soto 11:47  

Yeah, cause I think one of the challenges that marketers have when they’re just trying to collaborate with team members is sometimes it’s difficult. Unless you’re a leader that’s had experience in multiple functions, it’s difficult to know how to coordinate the content that’s going on on one channel and match it to the same kind of messaging that’s going on to the other without just directly copying the content, if that makes sense.

 

Joe Portsmouth 12:10  

Yeah, totally. A, I’ve always noticed that. It’s nice to have someone who kind of leads the overall company promotional strategy. So I’ve played that role in past companies. At this at the beard club, it’s more led by the social team. So it’s like, who’s gonna step up and plan out the promotion, and then make sure that everyone has their ducks in a row and is getting like there are specific tasks done for the team? But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of coordination required for bigger initiatives like that.

 

Kenny Soto 12:47  

Do the same tactics that work for email work for SMS?

 

Joe Portsmouth 12:51  

Um, for the most part, I would say, yes, then, I think the biggest difference between SMS and email is SMS, you should probably send less often, you know because texting someone is a little more intrusive than ending up in their inbox. So I usually cap our SMS campaigns at two to three absolute max per week, whereas email, I’ve been at companies where we sent emails every day. And, and so like, when I think about email you can send emails as long as you’re providing valuable content. 

 

And I think, you know, as a marketer when you’re just kind of spamming people versus when you’re delivering something that’s worth sending. But even with SMS, it doesn’t matter. I can’t think of many companies that can get away with sending a text every day before getting people annoyed. So that would be one thing that’s different. 

 

But in terms of like the content that you’re sending, and you know, the promotions that you’re sending, a lot of the times, what we’ll do is take a multi-channel approach where, you know, we send an email with a piece of content on a Monday and then Wednesday of that week, we’re following up with similar content via SMS to just kind of reinforce the same message and multiple touch points because it takes multiple touchpoints for something to stick in someone’s head. So you know that that’s, that’s one way that I like to approach the two of them combined.

 

Kenny Soto 14:22  

If you were to hire an email marketing specialist, what skills and experience? What kind of thinking frameworks would you look for in the ideal candidate?

 

Joe Portsmouth 14:36  

Yeah, so one of the biggest things I think the most important skill for an email marketing specialist is attention to detail. You will have to QA everything from subject lines, from fields to preview text to copy in the email to where the links are going to the copy in the email and making sure that everything makes sense the segmentation on who’s going to, are you excluding the right people and not sending the wrong message to the wrong person? 

 

Do you have the right disclaimer information at the bottom of your email, if you’re sending a coupon offer, like there, there are so many little details that go into it. And having just one of those off, like, I’m sure you’ve received the emails where you get the Hi, first name because the dynamic code is not set up correctly. 

 

So I think that’s probably first and foremost, the most important skill. And that probably goes for a lot of jobs like that, that are very technical and require, you know, a very heavy QA process. Another one, I would say that’s extremely beneficial is copywriting skills. So being able to identify who your target audiences, and then find the messaging that resonates with them, and promote that in a very, you know, effective and appealing way. 

 

Because the design can only do so much like people are reading the copy at the end of the day. And that’s what’s going to convince them, to take action on your email. So copywriting and attention to detail are probably two of the biggest ones that I look for initially when vetting candidates.

 

Kenny Soto 16:30  

This doesn’t have to do just with email can be with marketing in general, what are some of your favorite marketing tools?

 

Joe Portsmouth 16:36  

Favorite marketing tools, I love clay, VO, he, as an email service provider, I’ve, I’ve tried my fair share over the course of the last seven plus years, and they’re by far the best. And I can’t imagine going to another company that doesn’t use them. I think they’re really solid. attentively. 

 

I like them for SMS, they are really solid, and they have probably the best account management that I’ve ever had with working with any vendor, they just they have they provide excellent insights on strategy, and they’re always willing to help out with either setting up campaigns or going the extra mile and like setting up a test for us. So those two are the ones that stand out the most in my mind.

 

Kenny Soto 17:28  

Two more questions for you. What is the biggest marketing challenge your company faces this year?

 

Joe Portsmouth 17:36  

That’s a good question. Um, the biggest challenge that we face this year, I think, is the economic climate that we’re in right now is really unique. So like, the beard club is not necessarily a need to have a product. Um, some people might say that, but for the overwhelming majority, it’s going to be not a necessity. 

 

So I think our biggest challenge is going to be how do we cut through that with our messaging, you know, to kind of uplift people, and make them feel more confident during a time where they might not necessarily be, you know, in the highest spirits during a recession or economic downturn. 

 

So I think it’s going to be like finding that balance of making sure that our business is running efficiently. But also just that our messaging is resonating with customers during a time our wallets are probably a little bit tighter.

 

Kenny Soto 18:44  

Before I ask my last question, I just have to say, personally, after growing my facial hair, my confidence shot up through the roof. So yeah, I would argue that it’s nice to have. Now, my last question is hypothetical. Yeah, because time machines don’t exist. Yeah. If you can go back to the past or about 10 years, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?

 

Joe Portsmouth 19:10  

Oh, that’s an easy question, I would start writing online. So I’ve only started writing on Twitter and LinkedIn in the last nine months. And that’s how you found me and invited me on this podcast and the amount that I’ve learned in that short amount of time from other marketers and just people that I’ve connected with on in on the internet that I would never meet in real life, I think has just exponentially sped up my learning curve and like even just the amount that I’ve learned about copywriting in the last nine months alone from Twitter is it’s pretty remarkable and you know, if I, if I was to do one thing over it would be to start sooner. 

 

Start connecting with other people in the industry and start learning from people that are writing and putting their thoughts out there right now because I think copywriting is like, as I mentioned, for hiring an email marketing specialist, I think it’s one of the most useful skills that you can use in pretty much any profession. It’s like you’re selling any role that you’re in whether you think you are or not, you’re convincing people and making people take action. That’s a very valuable skill to have. And so I think you can learn a lot by just doing it every day for a long period of time.

 

Kenny Soto 20:32  

Absolutely, Joe, if anyone wants to say hi to you, where can they go?

 

Joe Portsmouth 20:37  

They can find me on Twitter at Joe underscore Portsmouth and also on LinkedIn, I started posting a lot of my thoughts on LinkedIn. So that’s been a fun new journey.

 

Kenny Soto 20:48  

And for anyone who wants to do a deep dive, I’ll actually put three of my favorite LinkedIn posts that Joe has shared in the show notes. And that being said, Joe, thank you for your time today. And as always, thank you to your listener for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast. 

 

And if you haven’t done so already, please subscribe. Give us a review and share this with your network of other marketers. And as always, I hope everyone has a great week.

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