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From August 26th, 2020

Braze Bonfire x Really Good Emails AMA

Cloud-based software company Braze invited Matthew and Mike for an Ask Me Anything. We gathered 'round the Braze Bonfire with curious geeks to talk shop. 💬

braze-slack-ama

Check out the full Slack AMA below featuring insights on really good B2C brands, retargeting your audience, if AMP is something that's worth adopting, and best practices to give your audience the best email experience. (Mike even breaks out some of his Korean.)

Meet the Crew


Maddie Bertschmann: Braze Bonfire Community Admin

Matthew Smith (@Whale): CEO at Really Good Emails. CEO at Fathom & Draft. Loves to hustle and have fun.

Mike Nelson (@Mike): RGE co-founder. Speaker. Lame marketing guy. If you found a typo on the site, it was probably his fault.

Full RGE x Braze Slack AMA

Maddie Bertschmann: Alrighty, let's get started! @channel

@Whale, want to kick us off with a quick intro?

Matthew: Hey everyone, I’m @Whale on Twitter, Dribbble, Facebook (who cares),

Instagram.com/whale, and some other spots. I started Really Good Emails about six years

ago. I was on a mission to show the world that better emails do exist. Since then, we’ve seen 

over 1.5 million visitors, and we’ve become the center of the email universe where this 

fantastic community comes to play. We LOVE our email geeks. I’m a dad of 3, and have a fantastic GF who’s moving in this Saturday! I’m from Colorado, but I live in South Carolina 

and will travel again as soon as COVID has a curtain. Super excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Maggie Wessell: How long is too long when it comes to an email?

Matthew: Great question. It depends on the audience. Is your audience there to read your in-depth report, or are they in the zone for something more transactional? How long is too long of a conversation with your friend? How about someone you just met? When you think relationally about these questions, the answers become clear.

Sujeong Yu: I want to know how to see the long-term performance of email. As we are a car-sharing service, the usage cycle is long, so most customers don’t immediately use our service after receiving an email. It doesn't mean a lot to look at the open rate and click rate for each case. I'm curious about examples of how other brands that have long-term usage cycle do it.

Matthew: I’ll be candid here and say I don’t have as much experience on this one as @Mike Nelson - RGE, who can jump in here later and answer with more fidelity.

What I can say is that the more you get to know your customers, the more you understand how to relate to them during onboarding. Knowing how other brands do this is helpful but not as powerful as actually learning from your customers.

Mike: Great question! The important part of your email program should be focused on giving the reader some value. For your example, Uber has been reminding users why people use their service and the outcomes they have when they arrive. Their latest campaign was about the importance of seeing loved ones. At other times, they remind their users of actions they are taking to be safe, diverse, and helpful. Email is a great way to keep your brand in the consideration set to be top of mind when they want to engage in that activity again. The better you can predict their usage patterns, the better you can be at targeting them with messaging at the right time.

Jheri Malm: What are the future trends that you see coming in 5 years?

Matthew: I am so excited about a “logged in” state in email. One-click buying and deeper personalization. To get there, we need to see Outlook shift their practices to have a modern web framework inside email tools.

I also see personalization and segmentation getting a lot smarter, so emails are more specific and more targeted to be valuable to customers.

Lastly, we’ll see design get better as design systems become more integrated into our thinking in the industry.

Ross Cato: What are your top 5 or so A/B tests that you would run if you're hoping to increase your CTO rates?

Matthew: That’s a best question for @Mike Nelson - RGE, who can answer here later, but I’d say you’ll know your best A/B tests when you are clearer on your customers.

Try showing them unique personalized product offerings.

Try showing them default product offerings.

Mike: First question - what is CTO rate serving on the business? Is there a better metric that you could look at on email performance that helps the bottom line, extends LTV, or drives other behaviors you are looking for? I’d create tests that get to those underlying issues. Optimizing just for clicks can be done, but it doesn’t mean it gives you the desired outcome. But, if you already know all that stuff, here are some things:

  • CTA & copy. Are you using hard call-to-actions or soft-call-actions? Are you compelling with your words?
  • Length. Are you keeping the email focused or trying too many things at once to see what sticks?
  • Segmentation. Are you shotgunning the email or getting personalized with the options?

Matt Pogor: In your opinion, what makes a good subject line?

Matthew: With subject lines, I’d suggest using curiosity or value to drive people through to the core of the email.

The “job” of the subject line is to help the user know if the email could potentially be interesting or valuable to them.

Ask questions or tell specifically what’s inside.

Marianne Flageole: Except for changing the subject, what would you recommend switching to increase open rates?

We send emails to a group of more than 40,000 recipients and have 10% open rates, but when an email is opened, it is automatically clicked…

Matthew: Get to know your customers. Write to them. Ask them why they aren’t opening. Interview them. A lack of opening is a lost product-market fit.

Priyanka: Love the RGE newsletters. Do you have any tips for improving Open Rates? Especially regarding subject line & pre-header?

Matthew:

  1. Hire a copywriter.
  2. Find your voice & tone and define it.
  3. Lead with curiosity and ask a question.
  4. Get people the value they want to know is inside.

Jacob Bonta: How do you persuade upper management that less is more when it comes to emails? The same way you answered @Maggie Wessell’s question? Because I feel like they aren’t necessarily asking for an answer like that sometimes...

Matthew: I’d suggest trying one design that’s low hanging fruit. See if you can refine the design 

down using better UX/Typography, etc., and then show results both quant and qual.

David Mroczek: Do you think AMP for email will pick up in adoption?

Matthew: I think AMP has the right ideas, but it’s proprietary, so I believe they are going about it the wrong way. IMO, I’d like to see Google push to make AMP a more open-source tech and use its power to motivate Outlook to change so we can all see a new future of email clients developed more like modern browsers with logged-in states. That’s my dream.

Morgan Stone: Not a question, but I'd like to see a category on RGE for AMP for Email, especially since Braze supports AMP. I'd like to see what other brands are doing.

Matthew: Noted. It seems like a good one to add. Thanks for thinking of that. Will you start submitting AMP emails you find?

 

Blaine Hostetler: What are your thoughts on AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for email? Do you feel like it is a make or break shift in technology that should be more sought after by brands, and how many emails does RGE see currently using AMP?

Matthew: *references previous AMP answer* I think AMP has the right ideas, but it’s proprietary, so I think they’re going about it the wrong way. IMO, I’d like to see Google push to make AMP a more open-source tech and use their power to motivate Outlook to change so we can all see a new future of email clients developed more like modern browsers logged-in states. That’s my dream.

There are some thoughts, but we don’t see a ton in Really Good Emails that meet our design standards, but we’re on the lookout. Please submit new ones and make sure to note that it’s using AMP. It sounds like we should start curating more of these.

 

Yvonne Ly: Do you have tips for retargeting those who have opened emailed campaigns but have not engaged?

Matthew: If you were in a relationship and someone showed some interest but didn’t engage, you might start by asking them a question.

How can you ask them a question in email?

  1. Hey Matthew, we noticed you saw our last email, didn’t unsubscribe but also didn’t buy our thing. That’s cool by us, but we’d also like to learn more about what you want so we don’t waste your time and give you better results. Take our survey….
  2. Or you can just segment those users, then send them an email asking for an interview for a $30 amazon gift. Find out what’s not working for them. The answer will show you what to do.

Nikki Collins: Tips/Ideas for getting out of a person's "promotions" folder and into their inbox? Is the key in the subject line, from name, content/code of email, etc.?

Matthew: I don’t have data on this, but @Mike Nelson - RGE probably has some ideas.

From a content perspective, you just want to figure out how to be more valuable to your customers. Find out what sucks in their lives and why they are using your service/product and see if you can deliver that to them in a more meaningful way.

Mike: Engagement is the most significant factor. From the time that they sign-up, give them a reason to click or reply. The more people who do this regularly, the better chance you have of staying in the inbox.

Also, to point out, being in the “promotions” folder is designed for marketing messages. It doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing. Chad White (was at Litmus, now at Oracle as head of research) told us that when an email is in the promo tab, the likelihood of it converting better off of an open is much higher than in the inbox. The assumption here is that people go to this tab when they are ready to buy something, so they are already in that mindset.

Maddie Bertschmann: What are some B2C brands that come to mind with the best emails? B2B?

Matthew: 

Conor Irvine: Code compatibility is something that I am continually thinking about. When considering fonts and making emails feel 'on brand' - do you have any tips for getting around web fonts not supported by all?

Matthew: Good question, Conor.

I think the best protocol is to simply have a great font-family fallback. Also, I’d suggest that not all of the email needs to be using web fonts. Figure out which of the typefaces you use are the most brand memorable (usually headings) and use that. It keeps your email loading faster and more consistent if you use only one webfont, but some brands need it for everything.


Marianne Flageole: Do you suggest any easy training to be able to code emails?

Matthew:

Marianne Flageole: Thanks!!

Nikki Collins: WOW, gold! Thanks!

Jen Hibbits: This is just what I needed. Thank you @Whale!

Matthew: Woop Woop


Jheri Malm: Which email client compatibility for emails do you find the hardest to work with?

Matthew: That’s a good question. I don’t code our emails, but generally, I’d say that the older versions of Outlook are the trickiest.


Ashton Jeong: Hello, I’m a Product Marketer in Class101, Korea. In Korea, users are not familiar with Email Marketing. It's hard to make purchases with Email. So, I treat Email as a kind of content, not just for direct conversions. Do you have any good cases with this kind of approach?

Matthew: I think Invision does an excellent job of this.

Ashton: Do you think the way I use email as content is a good way, though?

Matthew: I think it can work, yes, but I do believe you can directly drive customers to the site for buying a product through email. This is wildly successful as a strategy.

Mike: 안녕하세요! Stibee가 뭘했는지 봤어요? (10넨 전에 서울에 살았어요.) Stibee가 한국 이메일을이해해요.


Stacey Shanken: Do you see that more users are using dark mode lately? Do you always design emails with dark mode in mind or sometimes adjust your email after the initial creative is made to fit dark mode?

Matthew: IMO Dark Mode is “neat” but not a priority. There still aren’t enough hooks to be able to consistently design/build for dark mode.

I’m in the camp of making sure you have a background color set, so you control what it looks like until we have better control over that at some point in the future.

Jada Miller: What are some easy run-of-the-mill email campaigns that make the customer feel appreciated, but that we don't usually think about?

Matthew: 

  • Anniversary of them signing up
  • Half-birthday. (don’t give gifts when people expect it. That’s boring)
  • Survey/Quiz for a prize (Chipotle just NAILED THIS here)
  • Tell the brand story and involve your customer in it. Get them feeling or connecting to the brand.

Maggie Wessell: In your opinion, how often should you email your customers? How do you balance being top-of-mind and being annoying (and getting the dreaded unsubscribe)?

Mike: I have a feeling that a lot of our answers are going to start with “depends.” But this is one that you want to keep an eye on unsubscribe rates for. As you increase your cadence, what happens? Also, in your preference center, do you have an option for people to get fewer emails from you?

Here are some things we’ve done at RGE to curb the number of emails that people get:

  • We send two emails out per week. If you think that is too much, you can opt-out of the first email or the second email.
  • We give a priority and scoring to our content. And we limit the real estate for that content. So, it ensures that the best content makes it, and the stuff that probably doesn’t matter is left out.
  • We set expectations from the sign-up on how many emails they get from us.

Katie Baldwin: What are your thoughts on clickbait subject lines? (i.e., "Re: Your Latest Order" or "Re: Out of Office")

Matthew: Don’t do them. Email clients are getting smarter on detecting what would be considered a spam message from subject lines, sender names, etc. If you have never sent an email with a subject line of “Your Last Order,” Gmail and the like can see that it isn’t a real reply and will most likely move you out of the inbox. Stick to subject lines that are clear and serve your reader. That doesn’t mean that they have to be boring, but if the experience doesn’t match the expectation, you’ll have a bigger set of unsubs on your hands.

Melissa Muncy: If you don't have a lot of data gathered on your readers (such as first name, where they live, etc.), what are some other creative ways to personalize the weekly newsletter they receive?

Matthew: You can’t personalize for what you don’t know about your customer.

  • Do you know what they’ve clicked on before?
  • Can you segment your customers using demographic data? (be careful with this)
  • Can you segment your customers based on what they have shopped for?
  • Start asking them questions, including if they’d like more personalized emails. If the answer is yes, they’d gladly answer a few questions. If the answer is no, then leave them alone.

Nisha Mehta: Not a question, but would love (at some point) for RGE to allow members to include message performance stats (opens, clicks, etc.) with their emails showcased on the blog. I find myself guilty of looking at RGE for design inspiration, but in reality, I don't know how the emails performed (i.e., is this something to be inspired by or more of a learning opportunity?).

Matthew: You can understand why we don’t have that data now. It’s private 🙂 That said, we’re moving to a place where YOU can record that information about your emails that you upload. It’s coming…

👍 I WISH we had that data to share, though. But each company keeps that private for competitive reasons.

Blaine Hostetler: You can also use that inspiration as a learning opportunity if it makes sense for your brand by A/B testing… then you have tried out the idea, made it workable for YOU, and gain metric insight comparing the two variables.


Jheri Malm: How would you know if your new email design performed well? A/B test?

Matthew: Just ask it. JK. You’d need a baseline and then making specific changes to your email design. You can also get qual results by asking your customers.

Mike: 👋 - Hey, everyone. Mike here from RGE. Late to the party, but glad I didn’t miss it. Thanks for giving @Whale arthritis. I’ll be jumping in and helping out as well.

Whale: @Mike Nelson - RGE I love you, dude. Welcome to the party.

Kelly Cunningham: Would you recommend segmenting campaigns based on the user’s geolocation to allow for more tailored messaging or images that speak to the user’s culture? I.e., Fitness is perceived differently across the globe.

Matthew: It depends on the level of effort for the bang you’d get from it. But generally, anytime you can create a more tailored experience for users, you’re getting closer to solving whatever sucks in their lives that made them want to start using your product, service, content, etc.

If you have the bandwidth, do it! Test it, ask customers if they like it.

Katie Baldwin: How do you balance leveraging email to develop/maintain brand voice vs. driving user action? Should every email be action-oriented?

Matthew: The customer is hiring the email to do a job for them. The job is likely to serve them in some way. That includes BEING you (the brand). The action should not be about the company (that’s narcissistic) but instead about the customer (that’s empathetic). When you relieve whatever sucks for your customers well, you have product-market fit and win.

So, it’s both. You always want both.

Some emails are more brand than action and vice versa. Think relationally about it to get your answer.

Jeffrey Blom: Any thoughts on when to use GIFs in emails? When do they genuinely add value for customers?

Matthew: The answer lies in knowing your customer.

  • Does the GIF make the email more enjoyable?
  • Does the GIF make the email clearer and more understandable?
  • Does the GIF make the email too large file size and slow down their reading?
  • Does the GIF make them laugh?
  • Does the GIF communicate the brand?

Katie Baldwin: What are some of the best calls to action? Are 'softer' CTAs better in your opinion? (Explore More vs. Shop Now)

Matthew: The answer has to do with your audience. Are they in a functional mode or an exploratory mode when reading your email? Figure out what would serve them the best and do that. I suggest specificity where possible. “Read about dogs” rather than “read more.”

Krissy Isenberg: What should be included in the footer of an email? How many calls to action are too many?

Matthew:

Footer:

  • Navigation
  • Social (but I’d suggest SHOWING them the social from your site, rather than just links)
  • Required legal information and unsub and address
  • Keep legal to links, not LONG stupid legal that doesn’t serve the customer.

CTAs

  • When you’re having a convo with a friend, how many questions within a short convo is too many? Think about it relationally and that’s your answer.

Yvonne Ly: Two-part question!

  1. Do you have suggestions on how to keep audiences engaged through a sequence of emails? (i.e., email [1/3] directly in the subject line, teasing the next email's content in the first email, etc.)
  2. If the goal is to get the audience to action something after every step (i.e., complete your profile) - how spread out should these emails go out?

Matthew: As with my other answers, my suggestion is to think relationally.

  1. Tell a story about where you’re going with your content. It helps people get a sense of whether they want to come on a journey with you. It’s like FedEx package tracking. Give them a sense of what to expect.
  2. Timing should feel like you’re present but not annoying. I’d suggest that you don’t do every day but help keep your product top of mind. Even better if you can trigger it based on an event like them finishing a task, and then give them the next task a couple of hours later.

Nikki Collins: Is there a best practice related to multiple languages? For example, if you have one email that needs to be available in 10 languages, is it wise to use liquid tags and have one VERY long email with code/text for every language (then it's served to the person in their indicated language) or is it better to make ten emails, so the code is short and clean? Concerns around deliverability, load time, etc. with the former option.

Mike: You could do liquid, but that seems like a lot of trouble to do the database lookups and ensure that the content is there from the respective language owners. Doing it as dynamic content (if your ESP allows that) will give you a sense of how that looks as well since some languages may have orphan text because or word length.

Nikki Collins: Dynamic content = connected content?

Mike: Not sure what it is called in your ESP, but essentially it is a content block that changes based on segmentation or rules for that specific subscriber. You usually can stack them as you build it out, but the user will only see the applicable version.

Matthew: What @Mike Nelson - RGE said

Mike:


Matt Pogor: Let’s say you are starting from scratch. What are some good ways to get to know your audience better so you can send better and more relevant communications?

Matthew: LOVE this question. It shows empathy.

  1. Let your audience know you’re dying to learn more about them, so you don’t give them crappy content or the wrong product. Ask them if they’d like to have more personalized content. If the answer is yes, then they are willing to answer questions. If not, leave them alone 🙂
  2. Surveys are great. Plan them carefully. Don’t do them too often.
  3. Interviews with segmented audiences are great. Give them something in return for their time. Amazon or Etsy gift cards are great.
  4. Start putting events on your emails so you can segment based on what users are doing, clicking, buying, etc.

Alejandra Escobal: Hello there 🙂 Would you recommend using a more granular marketing consent? For example, one for only newsletters or promotions or brand or transactional or service messages. If it’s a good practice, how would you manage frequency?

Matthew: 

  1. Yes. I think it’s more relational and empathetic to precisely ask your audience what content they want and probably avoid them unsubscribing wholesale.
  2. Frequency can be insanely hard. I don’t think ANY ESPs or MPs are doing this well that I know of, but overall try and BE a customer and see how the frequency FEELS like a customer who takes actions on your site, etc.

Matthew: Okay, I HAVE QUESTIONS!

  • What tools do you use to analyze your own company’s emails and talk about them as a team?
  • What tools do you use to create a brief before starting a new email campaign or series?
  • When you find an email you like, what tools do you use to share these emails with others?

XOXO 😛

Linh Tran: These are great questions!

  • What tools do you use to analyze your own company’s emails and talk about them as a team? -> We’re not using any tool; would love some recommendations
  • What tools do you use to create a brief before starting a new email campaign or series? -> Confluence
  • When you find an email you like, what tools do you use to share these emails with others? -> Slack  😂

Maddie Bertschmann: I have one more question... What's the story with the whale, @Whale? 🐳

Matthew: hahaha.

  1. I was on Twitter/Instagram/Dribbble way long ago. I’m like 142 years old.
  2. My brand back then was called Squared Eye, and the Whale was the logo.
  3. I changed all my handles to Whale when I sold that company. I’m kind of a big personality (loud and in your face, but also really kind and sweet) Like a Whale.

Maddie Bertschmann: That’s a wrap! @Whale and @Mike Nelson - RGE can spend a couple of minutes closing out loose ends here, but then you're off the hook 😂 Thanks to everyone for participating, and big thanks to RGE for your time and insights! Epic AMA! 👏

Matthew: @Maddie Bertschmann thank you so much for having us 🙂

Mike: Ditto ☝️

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@whale

CEO at Really Good Emails. CEO at Fathom & Draft. I love to hustle and have fun. Ask me anything. Have a great day.

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