Email once revolutionized the way people communicate, but people exploited the ease of email giving it a bad reputation. Today, people are trying to master and relearn how to connect through an email campaign, making sure it reaches a prospect’s inbox and not be ignored. The Cofounder and CEO of Autoklose, Shawn Finder, talks about email marketing and shares his knowledge and know-how on making sure your email campaign becomes successful. Don’t miss this episode to learn more about what a great email content should have and what you need to do for people to engage with you through email.
I've got a great guest for you. His name is Shawn Finder. He is the brains, the Founder, the man behind Autoklose. We're going to get down to email marketing. Shawn, welcome to the show.
Ben, I’m very happy to be here. I can't wait to talk to your audience about different tips and tricks for their email campaigns.
The email has gotten a bad rap. It truly has. The spam artists are out there sending out millions and millions of pieces of mail. Let's face it, it's cheap. I came from the old school of direct mail. Many years ago, when I got into marketing and communication, we killed trees and we killed the forest. I would send out 250,000, 500,000, 750,000-piece direct mail runs and we would do these sequences and send them 6, 8, 10 pieces of mail over a six-month period, driving them to whatever sequence we were looking at. There has to be an ROI on it because you got paper, stamps and everything that goes with it.
People all of a sudden go, “Email.” We can do the same thing with email because it's new and exciting. Everybody is sick and tired of getting stuff in their mailbox, so we're going to email them. All of a sudden, email marketing became this huge, enormous thing, clogging up people's email blogs, sending them everything left, right and center. We've gotten to a point, at least I have, where my spam filters kill 95% of this stuff. I want to get into this with you. How do we email better? How do we create an email that people want to look at, they see value in, think is authentic and want to engage with it? Welcome to the show, Shawn. Let's have a conversation.
Touching up on what you mentioned with the spam, one of the biggest mistakes people do is they don't look at the content they're sending, even try and test to see, is there any spam words in there? If you're writing an email and you have the words, “Free trial, discount, great,” even the word “great” and “get” are all spam words. What you want to do is to try and get out of spam filters, make sure you're emailing from your personal email but also make sure you're eliminating all those spam words that you could easily get out and reword and edit inside your content to make sure that you're giving yourself a better chance. You can't guarantee it, but you're giving yourself a better chance of heading into that inbox.
Let's get into that first because I didn't even know that was possible. Is there a database or something that you could run against that will take your copy and say, “These are spam words?” I use Grammarly every day. I want to make sure that when I'm sending out a letter, an email, with the copious amounts of magazines that I write for, that it's intelligently written. It's grammatically correct and all the stuff that goes with it. I put it into Grammarly and it tells me where I missed the comma. It tells me that I used the wrong tense, all those wonderful things. You go, “That was a dumb mistake. Let's do that.” Is there that same type of software that will take a look at your marketing copy and sit there and say, “Don't use this word, don't use this phrase, maybe use this instead?”Any email you send should not be about you. It should be about your prospect. Click To Tweet
I used to have clients call me and say, “Shawn, I keep going to spam.” I look at their subject line, I'd be like, “Email back for a free $100.” You have the word ‘free’ in your subject line. Strategically, what we've done now is when you're typing out your email sequence, we highlight the spam words going against a database. We've taken a database with over 1,000 words that Google, Microsoft, all these firewalls say are spam. You typed the word “discount” highlighted in yellow. You type the word “free” and it’s highlighted in yellow. “Millions,” highlighted in yellow. That way, before you click that button send, you can take those 5, 6, hopefully less, maybe 8, whatever words, and reword those words so that you give yourself that higher chance to get in. The problem is if you look at the list of spam words, 40% of them, I would never even believe were spam words. It's very interesting to see. You can target a list. You can look at that list and obviously look up to your content. I strategically think it's something that email marketers should do.
This is within the Autoklose software itself?
Inside Autoklose, when you're typing out an email, we will highlight in yellow any spam word that you are putting in your content.
That becomes a habit-building thing because we're all lazy. It's true. When we're writing emails and stuff like that, we go for what we think is the quick hit. What's going to get people's attention? What's going to get me noticed? We use these words like free or get or million or whatever and we think, “That's going to get somebody's attention. That's great.” What it's doing is it's putting you in somebody's spam filter. I would never have thought of that. There are words that I guess the spam filters are looking for that they're going to say, “That's spam. Put it in their spam folder. Put it in their junk mail, in whatever.” If you send out enough emails and you're constantly doing that, you're going to get a reputation from the ISP as being somebody who's a spammer.
You can make simple changes. For example, instead of putting nine million, why not you put 9M. M is not a spam word. You can make those little tweaks inside your content and to remove those spam words. The last thing you want to do is it's all about reputation. Google, Microsoft, Gaudet, whatever you're using, as long as you continue to send good content that doesn't go into spam, they'll continue to put you in the inbox. If you're using promotional words, too many links, too many images, too many attachments, all that stuff will put you in the spam. At the end of the day, you could be sending out 10,000 emails a day and think that's great, but you're not getting it in front of your prospects.
Let's talk about links. How many are too many links? I've got two links in my signature file. If I put 1 or 2 links in the copy of this piece, have I put myself in an email hell?
You have. We hyperlink a lot in our signature. We’ll put one thing as a link now. For example, if you want to put your emails, like mine, Shawn@Autoklose.com, I could hyperlink. Why do I have to link it? Put it in there without having a link.
If you hyperlink it, is it okay?
Yeah. You want to put maybe 2 to 3 links max that's including your signature. I would recommend not putting as much in your signature. Even for your website, put your website. If people want to go on your website, they're going to find your website. Too many links, too many attachments, all that stuff will hurt you when you're trying to get your email across.
Most people, when they send emails out, make the mistake of saying, “I want you to learn about this and this. I want you to learn about these three things.” You're probably far better off sending three separate emails to that same person about three different things than you are to send them one email that talks about three different items.
That comes down to the length of an email, but also any email you send should never be about you. It should always be about your prospects. One thing I find a lot of people do is the first line of the email, “My name is Shawn Finder. I'm the CEO of Autoklose. I want to teach you about A, B and C.” Your prospect does not care. They already know your name and your company by your email that you sent them. It's in your email, Shawn@Autoklose.com. There are my first name and my company. You want to make sure that the first three seconds you hit them with a pain point, something that will make them tick, that will trigger them. Find some value prop that you can solve for them or a pain point they might have in how you can solve that pain point in that first line.
The other thing is, as you said, do you want to write three different things? No, you want to write a quick 50 to 125 words. Nothing more than that. If you're sending more than that, you're going to lose the interest of your prospect anyway. Short and concise is better than long and salesy. Keep it short and concise. Try and hit the pain points and ideally, you want to try and get them on a call or meet them in person for coffee depending on what you're trying to do. Short and concise is what I would recommend for the emails and follow-ups is even shorter than your initial email.
I was listening to a Tim Ferris podcast and I forget who his guest was. The guest says, “I read the first paragraph of an email. After that, it goes to spam. You may have good content in your second, third, fourth paragraph. I'll never read it. If I don't understand what you need in the first paragraph and why I should call you, I never will.” It got me thinking that people have got a limited amount of time. Your email is not the only email that's walking in their door at that moment. You're one of 200, 300, 500. You need to be able to sit there and say, “How do you make it for them?” How can you sit there and say, “Does this help me make my day better?” Whatever their day is, whatever's going on in their life, can you fix a problem they're having? Are you going to help them tear their hair out?When it comes to people, hire quick but fire quicker. Click To Tweet
On top of that, the most important thing is 68% of people read their email on their mobile devices. If you're reading on your mobile device, the only thing your prospect sees is your first 2, 3 words of your subject line and your first 6 to 8 words of your email paragraph. If your first 6 to 8 words are, “My name is Shawn Finder,” snap their finger, they know it’s a cold email. If you've put that one word in that first 6 to 8 words that will trigger them and say, “That's a pain point our company has,” you're going to get them to open. I do agree. I can read the first line and determine do I want to read this cold email or not? I get almost say 1,000 a day of cold emails. Sometimes I answer. I can give you some reasons why I answer but I always look and read the first line.
It's interesting because people connect with me on LinkedIn and the first thing, I asked them is, “Why did you connect with me? What was it that drew you to connect me because I'm curious? I want to know why do you want to connect with me? How can I help you? How can I add value to your life?” and start the conversation and hopefully get the people online. The number one reason people connect with me on LinkedIn is they read my signature. The first words on the signature are every employee that you lose costs you $100,000 to replace. I get more times than not, people connect with me because of that and the corresponding video that goes with it. They go, “We absolutely have that pain point. You fix that. Let's have a conversation.”
Your first email to me was the same thing. It was very strategic, but it was also something that got me interested in talking to you. People always check LinkedIn, etc. LinkedIn is your resume. Your resume nowadays is not going in and sending a resume to a company. Your resume is LinkedIn. You have to put everything on there. You should have a backdrop picture. You should have your education, your endorsements, what you're good at, everything on your LinkedIn page. That is your resume. I do agree. Talking about employees, I always say, “Hire quick, fire quicker.” People spend way too much holding onto people thinking they're going to change. Churn with employees is such a costly thing for a company.
It's a fortune. Every company is going to have a churn. People say, “I got to hire well.” I go, “Yes, you need to hire well.” You also need to have those first six months that somebody is on board. You need to have a proper onboarding process. You need to bring them into the culture. This is what too many companies do. They assume that people will walk in the door perfectly. They know exactly what you need, exactly how you work, exactly who your customers are and the value that you add to them. Too many relationships between employees and employers fail because of that lack of communication.
That goes back to the email. People want to know how is this going to help me. Whether it's how is this employee going to help me or how is this person going to help me, how is this going to add value to my life? It's a question that everybody asks whether you're going on a first date, applying for a job, trying to get a new client, trying to get promoted within the company. The question always needs to be, how can I help the other person succeed and fix a problem that they already have? It's amazing how few people think that way in life, if you think of a way that life, you're going to write emails accordingly.
Even with emails, you've got to remember people don't want the sales emails. Emails should be literally follow-ups. You should send that initial email where you hit them with that pain point and it should be a follow-up. On a Friday you said, “As we close out the week, I'd love to discuss A, B, and C with you and how we can help you with A, B, and C.” On a Monday, “As we start the week, as we start the month, as we end the month,” use those things too when the prospect reads it, they feel like he's spent more than one-minute clicking start, send and blasting it at the 100,000 people. He puts some thought into this email, it's a Friday, the end of the week, and he's trying to help me with A, B and C. You've got to be very personalized, but that's also the way you're going to build that trust. Instead of what they say is spraying and praying.
We all see these enormous databases that you can buy online and we'll get into CASL. We'll get into GDPR. We'll get into all that stuff as well, ins and outs, how to buy a list and why to buy a list and all that stuff. People don't take advantage of the information that when you're buying a list or you're creating a list or whatever, you have the data information that's going to make it more personalized in that email, creating those personalized emails that make it sound like and you feel that, you're making it relevant to that one person. It's not one email that goes out to 100,000 people. You're blasting the same thought process in the same way, in the same thing, but rather segmenting it into these types of people have this type of problem. These people are on the East Coast, are on the West Coast, in this industry. Being able to customize your emails in such a way that when people open up their doors is, “They're talking to me.”
Some of the tips that we use and I've used in the past, a funny one I use now, the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl. What did we do? You go and you target people in Kansas City, Missouri. What you do is you send them an email, a subject line saying, “Is the city still going wild?” A, they know it's personalized. B, if that person, which most likely is a Kansas City Chiefs fan is passionate about it, they'll read that email and reply. We got a huge response. It’s like me, for example, I used to play tennis. You can write me an email, cold email, as long as you bring Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, some tennis thing inside that email, I will open it because I'm so passionate about tennis. I'll read that email and I'll usually reply.
You've got to find those nuggets. Even LinkedIn, you can type in a keyword like “golf” as a keyword on LinkedIn. Find out who in your connections has a hobby on their LinkedIn is golf and say, “Ben, I noticed we both have a love for golf. I played last week and had three birdies. A quick question for you. How do you currently do A, B and C?” They feel like it's a one-on-one email. You've built a relationship, but you've also hit them with something that they're very passionate about.
I can't even explain to people how important that is because all of a sudden, you've connected with somebody that you don't know from Adam. You don't know from Eve. You don't know this person from anywhere. All of a sudden, because either you're a tennis fan or you're a Chiefs fan or a golf fan or whatever. You put sentences that say, “We both like this. We're both interested in this. We both are passionate about this. Now that we realize that there's a way that we're connected. Now let's talk about business. Now let's talk about how I can help you. Now let's figure it out.”
All of a sudden, you built that level of connection because you can have that conversation about golf. If somebody wants to talk about the Masters, I'll talk to them about the Masters in golf until the cows come home. We can talk about the Masters for the last 40 years and shots that we've watched and remembering when Baba put it over the trees from the pine straw, all those little things that make the Masters. All of a sudden, we have a connection way outside of the business. We can relate to each other. We have a common language. It makes the business so much easier to do because there's a level of know, like and trust with people.
I can't agree with you more. I could talk about sports for hours. Don't get me wrong. People are very busy too. It's not like we're asking you to spend twenty minutes talking about The Masters. Try and get like a good 2, 3, 4 minutes at the beginning of the conversation to talk with the Masters, but not only going to talk with a Masters, you're going to get that prospect that might be patched with a Masters in that good mindset. “Where have you traveled?” “I was in Hawaii.” “I've been to Hawaii.” You start talking about it like, “I'm in the sun, on the beach.” You're in a good mood and your prospect will be more adept to buy from you because you put them in the mood, unlike me here in Toronto where I'm in minus seven degrees in snow. If you put me in a good mood, I might buy from you now.
I alluded to this earlier, most of my audience are in the United States and they may have heard the terms GDPR and CASL, but I don't think they truly understand what they are and how they affect them. GDPR is the anti-spam legislation that governs the European Union and CASL is the Canadian anti-spam legislation that deals with Canada. It's not just Canadians emailing Canadians or Europeans doing anything. It's anybody who's sending electronic messaging into these countries. The fines, the rules and the regulations are becoming stringent and getting an understanding of what you can do and cannot do, especially from an American company, trying to do business in Europe or an American company trying to do business with Canada. You need to have somebody that can sit there and say, “Are our lists compliant with the needs of these countries?” or else there can be $250,000 fines, $500,000 fines. I don't even know what it is, but it's becoming far more expensive to plead ignorance. I'd love your thoughts on that.With email list, always keep in mind that quality over quantity is the way to go. Click To Tweet
There are all these different worlds here. One of our clients is a top ten company in Canada and they're still sending out Canadian emails, etc. You don't want to push it. In the UK, we don't do it. In Canada, what we do is, you want to warm them up through generic emails, but make sure they have a way to opt-out. I always looked at CASL and thought they were they're giving a few slaps on the wrist, but now they are going after some of the bigger companies. You got to be careful and not overdo it, not send too many emails, not follow up. You have to give them a way to opt-out. It's company to company to see if they're going to follow up with CASL. I know a company that did CASL and somebody will report you to the CRA, for example. Then he went to a conference, got a business card at the event of that company and said, “I met you at the event. I had your business card.” There are different ways to do it. It all depends on the company. I'm indifferent to it.
I'm a little bit more stringent. In my view, it's opt-in, not opt-out. That's the biggest thing that people need to figure out. Did somebody opt into your mailing list? Can you prove that somebody at some point said, “Yes, you have permission to email me?” Whether it's the fact that you buy an opt-in list where somebody has said there that says, “Do I and the people that I market with have permission to email you?” There is a lot of gray area in there. It's becoming more and more important. California is coming up with new legislation. There's new legislation that's happening statewide on various different things in terms of how you can communicate to people electronically because let's face it, there is more and more spam that's being sent out there. The more you look like spam, you smell like spam and you sound like spam, the more irritated people get. I do agree with you. If you don't have an unsubscribe at the bottom of every single email, you're crazy.
Two things I'll say on that, any company or data company that is telling you that they have one million contacts that are opt-in, they're lying to you. Nobody has an actual opt-in. Strategically, what a lot of the big companies do is they'll send these companies and they'll automatically send the emails to spam saying, “If we don't hear back from you, we're going to have you in our database.” What they would do is automatically push their emails to your spam. You never see them. Any company that tells you that they have an opt-in list, be careful of it. Me personally, our company, we only prospect to the US. We don't prospect to Canada. We don't prospect to Europe, if we do it via LinkedIn but not through email.
That's important is to sit there and say, “Understand what you can do and can't do,” you'll understand the ramifications. You, a business owner, need to make those decisions. I remember when CASL first came out a few years ago now, I read the document from cover to cover. I'm probably one of the few people in Canada that read the document from cover to cover because I had a lot of clients in mind that it was going to affect. I read through it. The one thing it did for me was, and it did for a lot of my clients, is it allowed me to clean up my database.
What I did is I had a database of 10,000, 15,000 people, whatever it was. You go to conferences. You grab people's cards. You go to this. You scrape a list here and what I realized was did I have permission from the majority of these people to email them? No, I probably didn't. Up to that point, nobody had done anything or said anything I had on subscribes, so no hurt, no foul. If somebody was mad at me or they didn't want to listen to me, they unsubscribe. What it made me do was go to my list and sit there and say, “These are the people I do business with. They're fair game. I can send whatever information I want to them within the email system. I have the ability because they are clients of mine. I can email them.”
The people that weren't, we had to send out a series of three emails say, “CASL is coming up, do you want to be part of this? If you do, please subscribed to this list.” My list went from say 15,000 down to a few thousand. I got depressed. I’m like, “I had this great big wonderful list,” and I started looking at it going, “Nobody from the big list engaged.” My engagement rate now that I'm a couple of thousand people and I've grown since then is far stronger. I get 25%, 35% engagement rate and open rates. I'm sitting there with 2,000 people than I ever did with 15,000. You have to sit there and say, “Sometimes you need to trim the fat, get them a better list of people that care about you, see you as valuable and you'll want to hear from you rather than having this great big list of people that could care less whether you live or die.”
Quality over quantity, as I said. You're better off with 2,000 people that want to hear from you than an extra 12,000. Even though emailing is cheap, you still have to have an email platform. You're supposed to spend time. You have to clean the list. It's better to have quality over quantity. Out of those 2,000 that are engaging, you're probably getting a lot more than if you did have the 15,000 people that the 12,000 were not engaging.
I was paying to have 15,000 names on MailChimp. It's a lot cheaper in 2,000 people than it was in 15,000 when all of those people were paid. I was sending out all these emails and paying to send out all these emails and nobody cared about what I was sending on anyway. You're far better off of that. People tell me what their LinkedIn followers and their Twitter followers. We've got 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, 1 million, 5 million. I'm like, “Okay, but how many of those people that are following you are going to your website? How many of those people are buying something off your website? How many people of these great big lists that you have are engaging with you?”
Ben, you’re right there. For example, I thought that way. I increased my LinkedIn followers to over 30,000 the limit, but I started realizing, out of these 30,000, there are people in certain parts of the world that would never be interested in my product. It makes me look like I'm so popular on LinkedIn. What I do now is every month I clean it out. I also do LinkedIn Lives. I try and get rid of the followers aren't engaging because it's better to have 5,000 followers that are engaging with me than 30,000 followers that are sitting there that will never ever be interested in my product. I was one of those people that made that mistake early on about a few years ago. Now I'm trying to correct it by getting rid of the people, but it's a lot easier on email to delete them on LinkedIn. One by one you got to unfollow, unconnect. You've got to hire a virtual assistant for that.
That's where you have to do that with the Philippines is sit there and say, “How many of these people have not looked at my profile or not engaged with me in the last six months? Get rid of them.” Everybody pick a litmus number, sit there and say, “If somebody hasn't contacted me in a year, if someone hasn't opened up an email of mine in a year, somebody hasn’t looked at my profile on LinkedIn in over a year or engaged with a piece of content that I put in over a year, why do you care whether they're on your list or not?” Those who die with the most followers do not win.
It's this volume game. It doesn't work for me. To me, it's all about engagement. Are people pushing through to your website? Are they getting involved? Are they clicking on things that you're doing? Are they forwarding stuff? Are they sharing? Those are the people that are my heroes and I will support them 100 times out of 100. If I find that somebody has shared an article, I'll find out where they shared it and I'll leave a message in the comments and say, “That was nice of you to share for me. Thanks a lot. Your people may like this as well.” If you can create those types of engagement, those are gold.
There are so many people that are like, “I've got this great big list. I must be important.” One last thing that I want to talk about, we can talk about email marketing all day. I want to talk about the video. I want to talk about when is a good time to use video and when it is not. There's a lot of people out there saying, “Video is the next big thing. We got to get involved in the video. You got to be involved in the video. You got to do this.” The question is, why is video so popular and why are people moving to video when they used to do a lot of stuff in text-based?
Here are a few reasons why. Not everyone is doing video. If people get twelve emails cold prospects and one person does a video, one video will stand out. For me, I love using video almost to prequalify. I have my team use it to prequalify. What I mean by that is with these tools like Vidyard, Loom, there are tons of tools out there, you can get an email with how much of that video that prospect watches. For example, if I send Ben an email and say, “Ben, I love to be on your podcast.” I do a one-minute video. I realized I sent it to you and Ben replies. I see Ben only watched 6% of my video, “Ben, you don't want me on your podcast.” If Ben watched 90%, I can say, “Ben wants me on a podcast. He watched the video.” Same thing with the prospect, if you want to do a product demo or you want fifteen minutes. You want to introduce them, go through their pains. You can see how much that video they watch, how interested they are. If they are interested, get on the phone, call them up and prospect. I like to use video for pre-qualifying.
I want to talk quickly about Autoklose because that's what you do is you do the email marketing. The way you guys do and what I love is that there's a free trial and there's a demo right on your website. People can sit there and say, “Get a quick demo, figure out what the software does, how it differentiates itself and be able to test it before they go on.” Give me a closing thing about what makes Autoklose different. What makes you different and what makes you valuable?It’s better to have 5,000 followers engaging with you than 30,000 followers that have no interest. Click To Tweet
Autoklose is a sales engagement tool, but it's an all-in-one sales engagement tool that consolidates a lot of the stuff we've talked about. You can A, find out your spam words in your content. B, you have a database that has validated real-time for prospecting. C, video email. You can use a video email inside your sentence. We've done is, instead of having salespeople have seven different tools and on eight different tabs and always we put consolidate everything into one place. Sales first because ideally go in, build a campaign, choose who they want to prospect to, press send and make more money.
Here's the question I ask everybody, when you leave a meeting, you get in your car and you drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you and Autoklose when you're not in the room?
I'm one of those people that no matter when I leave a meeting or leave anywhere, I want to make sure that I was noticed. The way I'll go to a meeting is I'll wear something that's a little bit flashy, it could be a tie, it could be anything. It’s one thing that will keep me recognize. With Autoklose, I want people to feel like Autoklose can save people fifteen hours a week in prospecting, help them fill their calendar with more qualified leads and ideally let them hit their quota and hit their number at the end of the year.
Shawn, you've been a wonderful guest. Thanks for taking the time. I can't wait to share this with the audience. Everybody is going to do it.
Ben, thank you for having me. That was a lot of fun.
Shawn Finder has always been an entrepreneur at heart. At age 24, Shawn entered the entrepreneurial world after competing as one of Canada's top-ranked tennis players. He started out importing packaging from the Orient and selling to top retailers in North America.
However, knowing he always loved selling and list building, he founded ExchangeLeads in 2013 which helps his company build quality lists for outreaching new prospects. This was followed by his new venture Autoklose in 2017 that combines both sales engagement and list building all-in-one platform.
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