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Katya Allison

Director of Marketing
Content at GRIN

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About GRIN Gets Real

Welcome to the GRIN gets real podcast, the show for people who want to maximize their marketing potential. From influencer marketing to eCommerce strategy and everything in between, each episode will feature industry experts that share their insights and provide actionable tips to help you achieve your marketing goals. Subscribe and stay tuned!

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Using Email and SMS Marketing Effectively with Dylan Kelley at Wavebreak

In this episode:

Dylan Kelley

Founder & CEO of Wavebreak

In today’s conversation, host Katya Allison is joined by Dylan Kelley, Founder and CEO of Wavebreak, to discuss the power of combining SMS and email marketing, especially around Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

GRIN gets real featured image with Dylan Kelley

Full episode details

Dylan has helped many organizations grow their revenue based on a few important marketing principles:

  • The most successful marketing strategy makes use of both SMS and email marketing.
  • Well-executed creative elements on an email or text can drive revenue without altering the rest of the campaign.
  • Historical data analysis is an essential marketing tool.
  • Trial various marketing approaches early in the year to establish a well-tested campaign for the winter holiday season.
  • Timing and cadence are foundational to using SMS and email effectively.
  • In most cases, the simplest design and messaging are the most effective.

Get insights from Dylan Kelley

Dylan’s work at Wavebreak is a masterclass in how to effectively leverage every marketing tool available.

If you enjoyed today’s show, please leave a review and subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more information and links to all of the resources mentioned in today’s episode, visit Grin.co.

Quotes from the episode

Dylan Kelley headshot and quote image

“The more touch points you have with customers, or potential customers, the more success you’ll have.” 

-Dylan Kelley

 “Less is more, but it’s got to be good. Simple is hard to do, but when you do it right, it works the best.” 

-Dylan Kelley

“SMS needs to be top of mind as we’re shifting to a mobile consumer.”

-Dylan Kelley

Katya Allison (Host) (00:02):

Welcome to the GRIN Gets Real podcast, a show for marketers by marketers, to talk shop and share insights on the ever-changing landscape of the digital world. My name is Katya, and I am your host on this exciting journey as we talk to our experts who join us. Now, GRIN is the number one creator management platform, designed for the next generation of brands who recognize that in the creator economy, authenticity is everything. To get insight on how GRIN can help you manage your creator strategy, visit grin.co. That’s G-R-I-N-.-C-O.

(00:37):

Now, my guest today is Dylan Kelley. He is the founder and CEO of Wavebreak, a leading email and SMS marketing agency, trusted by the fastest growing brands. Now, the Wavebreak methodology, it has generated over $250 million in profitable growth for top brands. By combining advanced strategy, elevated creative, and enterprise-grade execution, they’ve consistently increased revenue by two to three X in as little as 90 days. So, put your AirPods in, turn up that volume, and get ready for my guest today, Dylan Kelley. Dylan, welcome to the GRIN Gets Real podcast. I’m really excited to have you on, so that we can dive into Black Friday Cyber Monday, the acronym BFCM. Welcome.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (01:30):

Yeah. Thanks so much for having me on the show. I’m excited to be here.

Katya Allison (Host) (01:34):

Now, before we dive into just kind of how you or the listeners can get the most out of just their email and their SMS strategy when it comes to BFCM, I’d love for you to just kind of lay out that groundwork of your area of expertise and more specifically why email and SMS. Tell me why this is your hill.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (01:57):

Yeah, for sure. I’ll just tell the story of how I started it because that’s why this became that hill that I’ll die on and I’ve been preaching for years now. I started Wavebreak back in 2016 as just a freelancer or consultant. What I saw at that time was a lot of brands were starting to really take off on Instagram. That was kind of the era of MVMT watches, and Instagram was at its peak, and all these really cool brands were popping up. It was really cool to buy from e-commerce. I basically saw all these brands growing, and I was like, “Oh, I want to be a part of that.”

(02:30):

I had a design background, so at that time what I ended up doing was… I knew everybody was running Facebook ads, Instagram ads, but most people were just sending them to their website. So, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to do landing pages for these high-growth brands and help them optimize for more conversions.” I basically do conversion rate optimization with these landing pages. That’s how I started out and things were going really well.

(02:51):

I was working with some really great clients. And then, one of my larger clients, the main client at that time, what ended up happening was larger brands started to enter the space and drive up the cost of ads. So, they were growing really fast, and then overnight their ad costs doubled, tripled overnight because the Nikes, the Hurleys, the Billabongs started to get into Facebook and just drive the cost up literally overnight. I remember them calling me and being like, “Hey, we’re not profitable at all anymore. We can’t even send traffic to our site, let alone need you to optimize these landing pages.” So, I was like, “Oh, crap. That sucks.”

(03:23):

So, I kind of went back to the drawing board, and working with those brands, I started to look deeper into their marketing mix, and it was basically 99% Instagram and Facebook at that time. So, that’s when I really saw the gap for email. SMS really wasn’t big at that time. I’ll say SMS really started to take off in late 2018, early 2019. Because I didn’t have a traditional retail or e-commerce background, I ended up taking a new approach to email, really breathing new life into the channel and seeing like, “Okay, here’s what’s working really well in social. What if we did a creative similar to that on email?” For the first client that I worked with on email, it took email to increase the revenue from email by five X within 60 days on that first client. I was like, “Okay, I think we might have something here,” because they even switched from another agency.

(04:07):

So, from there, we just continued to optimize or refine our methodology, build out a great team, and then today, Wavebreak’s the boutique agency. We’re 18 people. We run an optimized email and SMS marketing for leading brands, all the way up to publicly traded organizations, and still working with those high-growth startups that we started out with. But just seeing that and then following the trend even today, why do I double down on email and SMS and that’s all we do? It’s because ad costs are continuing to get more expensive. The economy… Say what you want. Every expert has an opinion, but it is getting more difficult. Consumers are more aware of the money they’re spending. They’re still spending it, but in terms of profitability as a brand, you got to get more out of your existing customers and there’s no channel better to do that than email and SMS that’s also as affordable and as high ROI, which I’m sure we’ll get into later. Yeah. That’s a background on me. That’s why email and SMS affected me personally, and I know a lot of brands too, and that’s why I’m here.

Katya Allison (Host) (05:03):

Well, I like that. Also, what I find really interesting about it is one, some people… Yes, I would say this. Some people think that email is dead. Email marketing is dead. It is all about the social, and I honestly feel like SMS is very up and coming, but you’ve paired them together. So, question one is what do you say to those people who say, “Well, e-marketing is dead”?

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (05:28):

Yeah. I would say sometimes, even in a webinar I did recently, I even said, “Email is dead.” You really do need both together. It’s just like any marketing channel. The best practices are always evolving every single week. I mean, today, the best practice for communicating with your existing customers, it’s email and SMS together. I mean, we’re looking at… Sure, you can drive revenue with one or the other and that works, but you’re going to leave a lot of money on the table, and as ad costs continue to rise, there are shifts in the economy. If you are only doing one or the other, you’re going to leave money on the table. Let’s say email is doing 25% of your revenue, with no SMS, you can launch a best in class SMS program and add another 10% of new revenue in. You get into debates with people all the time like, “Okay, is that new revenue truly incremental?” It’s not perfect, and it never is and you’re never going to be able to track it perfectly.

Katya Allison (Host) (06:19):

Nothing’s ever perfect when it comes to a marketing misery.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (06:23):

But what I always tell people is like, “The difference with SMS is it is new revenue because the open rates are so high.” For most people, it’s like, “We don’t like to have that red dot above messages.” If you’re appearing on someone’s lock screen, that’s a lot better. Most emails aren’t going there or it’s with a ton of emails. People aren’t getting as many texts. Because the open rates are higher with SMS, you are cutting through the noise versus maybe 80% of people, 70% of people, even if you have really great open rates, they’re still not opening the email and even seeing it. Whereas on SMS, even if you just say like, “Oh, it’s not 99% open rate,” but even an 80% open rate, I mean, that’s still over four times what the industry standard is for a retail open rate. So, it is new revenue and it is being left on the table.

(07:04):

And then, working them together, it’s going to drive more revenue because I think no one’s going to argue that the more touch points you have with a customer or potential customer, the more success that you’ll have and the more you can communicate with them to address objections or get them to make their next order to just not forget about you. Both together is really where we see the most revenue driven, and that’s really where we like to focus. It’s like, “How do we maximize revenue and not just any buzzword, but actually drive impact to the top and bottom line?”

Katya Allison (Host) (07:33):

Here’s what I’m hearing you say is that it’s about email and SMS working together. Some would say that’s a bit of that omnichannel strategy, right? What you see in email is something that you should see in SMS, but paint the picture of what that Venn diagram is from a strategy perspective. So, if I’m at a brand and I’m trying to lead that strategy and I’ve got email and SMS, what does that look like in execution as far as setting up a campaign? Let’s use BFCM as that example when it comes to email marketing and SMS. Let’s give the people what they want. What does that look like from a campaign perspective? Does my email go out first, and then the SMS, and how often do both of those kind of happen?

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (08:20):

Yeah, for sure. I mean, the biggest difference with email and SMS is the creative. With SMS, it’s more like a tweet, so you’re limited in the amount of content you can include, whereas an email, you can do a pretty long email. Brands like Old Navy, if you had to print that out, it’s probably going to be 20 or 30 pages long of an email. Whereas an SMS, even Old Navy, they’re limited to an image, and then basically a tweet. That’s the biggest difference, and the way we think about it is just like any good copywriter would. It’s using the highest impact copy on both channels, and ultimately with email, you can be a little bit more aggressive just because consumers are used to it, and when you look at attrition and people unsubscribing, you can email daily during that period and not see a huge impact. Obviously, people are going to unsubscribe, but you can email daily. Whereas SMS, that’s not something you’re going to want to do every day necessarily, if you’re focused on list hygiene and list health.

(09:12):

I mean, we’ve even worked with brands who’ve tried to send daily or they were a client and they wanted to send daily, and we pushed back on SMS. They wanted to send daily SMS, so we pushed back. And then, we check in six months later, and they go from making thousands of dollars per campaign, let’s say, five grand per campaign to $400 per campaign, because they just drove the list into the ground at the expense of short-term revenue. So, the way we think about it is your most important message is the one you want to cut through the noise. We focus those. That should definitely be an SMS. And then, for email, you can kind of do a little bit of everything. You can do more educational content. You can do more long-form content.

(09:47):

I will say in terms of Black Friday Cyber Monday, and I’m sure we’ll get into more details around that too, you can be more aggressive just because there’s more volume and it’s kind of expected. If you’re reminding people in the morning with a text and in the evening with a text, some people would say that’s a lot, but if it is your best sale of the year and somebody missed it in the morning, then they want to see it in the evening. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually help people who are really fans of the brand. So, I mean, tactically we’re typically sending a lot more volume on email, but then when we’re thinking about SMS, we’re sending the highest revenue generating messages. So, even though we are sending less, the impact is higher.

(10:25):

And then, just in terms of timing, sometimes we’ll send them together. Sometimes we’ll send them at different times. We’re always testing that for our clients like two touch, where you’re sending both at once. That could be interesting if there’s two notifications on their lock screen at once, for example, on mobile. And then, the other thing is like, “Okay, send them the SMS first or send them the email first. If they don’t convert there, you can follow up with that SMS they’re more likely to see.” We typically, I think, lean towards sending them both at the same time. You can experiment and really test to see what order makes better. Because even abandoned cart, 70% of carts are abandoned, and you can just recover 10% more of those. It’s really big for brands, and the right timing and the cadence of your email and SMS working together can drive a 10% additional recovered abandoned carts. So, it is important to test and optimize too.

Katya Allison (Host) (11:10):

I love that. If I had to synthesize what it is that you’re saying, email is more about volume or you’re allowed to have a higher volume of touch points when it comes to email sends that you go out, and SMS should be used from a tactical perspective. It should be a little bit more strategic. So, what does that look like then in execution for my big sale for Black Friday Cyber Monday? Am I using my email for, “Hey, it’s coming. It’s happening. It’s two days away”? And then in SMS, “It’s two days away.” Okay. It’s happening now, and then SMS is like, “Don’t miss out. Don’t miss out. Don’t miss out.” So, that you are strategically using SMS to really drive people to make that sale.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (11:57):

It really depends. In terms of what we see for Black Friday Cyber Monday strategy, and what’s really effective, is there really is a correct and incorrect cadence of email and SMS and even promotional calendar. Having that right cadence… We’ve tested across clients. Even from when you start your sale, you can drive up to 41% more revenue with the right cadence, in terms of what we’re typically doing with clients. It depends on how aggressive they want to be when the sale begins, but what we’ve seen over the last couple of years, starting in 2020, brands have started their sales earlier, as early as the first week of November.

(12:33):

This year in October, we’ve got another Prime Day that was successful, previously in that time and years past. So, brands are starting sales earlier, and when we look at our data… Check your brand if you haven’t tested this. Maybe you have a different answer, but from what we’re seeing is the earlier you start, the more you make. You still see sales spike on Black Friday and Cyber Monday themselves, even if you don’t change the offer. Some people are going to wait and hold out, but typically what we’ll do is we’ll start… Like I said, it depends on the client, but it’s good to do a teaser like, “Our biggest deal of the year is coming,” so people would get excited about it.

(13:05):

If you’re a brand that gets sold out of inventory really quickly, you probably want to give your best customers or really any customer a heads up. Same goes for it if it’s a gift. We’ll typically start to ramp that early November. We’re probably not sending every day that early, but every other day or every couple days for email. And then, SMS layering on potentially every send or every other send, depending on how aggressive we’re going to be and how aggressive the client wants to be with the calendar. And then, heading into Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Cyber weekend, that’s really when we up the ante and we get a lot more aggressive. We’ll send up to two times a day typically, as much as three times a day sometimes. The reasoning for that is on the email channel, you could have the best subject line in the world, but if you’re not appearing at the top of the inbox and every brand that anybody’s ever subscribed to is emailing them, by 10:00 AM, your 9:00 AM email could be 200 emails down in their inbox. That’s why increasing volume is really important too.

(13:59):

That’s where starting your sale early might make sense too, especially this year because you want to capture that wallet share. People have a fixed budget on what they can spend on gifts and for Christmas and all these things, and when that budget is spent, for the most part, it’s gone. So, being early is really important. And then, in terms of SMS, we’re layering that out on top too, of those most important messages up to two times per day, but I’d say mostly once per day to cut through the noise. Sometimes if a brand wants to be a little bit less aggressive, we’ll even say, “Hey, take a break on this Sunday, after Black Friday before Cyber Monday, and then start again on Monday.” But from what we’ve seen, being more aggressive doesn’t hurt the brand. It typically helps it and helps you drive more performance. I’m sure you have some unsubscribes here and there and that sort of thing, but the revenue that you generate is going to balance that out, and it’s going to end up better off, than if you didn’t send that email or send that text.

Katya Allison (Host) (14:48):

Well, it’s a really good point. I subscribe to way more email newsletters than I do to SMS. I think I’ve got about four or five SMS notifications that I get. I ignore them until I need them, and then I’m like, “Oh, it’s really quick.” And then, I can click and purchase. It removes those friction points for me because I’m not always in front of my computer and I’m not always checking my email, but I’m always checking my text messages.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (15:15):

For sure. I don’t know how some people do it. I couldn’t do it. You see they have 397 unread texts. I guess it gets to a point where you just give up, but I mean I couldn’t do that.

Katya Allison (Host) (15:27):

I love that you said that. That’s actually what it looks like in my voice mail and my missed calls, so-

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (15:32):

Or email inbox. You’re always going to see someone with 300 emails on that [inaudible 00:15:37] mail icon.

Katya Allison (Host) (15:37):

… because it’s so many. It’s really easy to-

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (15:39):

So many, yeah.

Katya Allison (Host) (15:42):

I mean, because to your point, email is often leveraged not just for the sales, right? It’s not just for, “Yeah, come buy this right now.” It is a lot of post purchase, right? It’s a lot of follow-up. It’s a lot of education. It’s a lot of how-tos. It’s so much more information, and I still want to be able to keep that information, but to your point, to be able to cut through that noise, you do need to leverage both of them and be really strategic. I have a couple of follow-up questions to that. One of them really pertains to just the type of content that you’re posting on there. I do think the influencers and creators have a really great advantage of creating the content that really resonates with an audience, so what do you say to that content creation, that image that’s used? Do you use an image with SMS and do you use that same image with email marketing? Is it more than just an image? Is it a review? Tell me about the content for something like a BFCM strategy.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (16:42):

Yeah, for sure. That’s a great question. I think the biggest difference when it comes to BFCM content and creative… We’ve seen even the right creative strategy with our clients, just to paint a picture of how important creative is from not just the design perspective, but the content you include and the type of content you include like you’re saying, with the client who… I mean, we still work with them today. We’ve worked with them since 2020. And then, last year we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to breathe new life into the creative.” They wanted to switch things up a little bit, so we basically established new brand guidelines for their email channel. Just by up leveling the creative and shifting that and taking it and making the brand, they really modernized the brand. By doing that, we didn’t change the cadence. We didn’t change the number of emails we were sending. We sent the same type of emails. We saw an increase of revenue within a six-month period. 68% just from changing the creative.

(17:32):

It’s just like Facebook. I don’t know why people… They don’t always put two and two together for email. It’s like, “We need great Facebook creative. We need the site dialed in. We’ll spend $500,000 on a new logo and branding.” But then, when it comes to email, it either looks good and it’s not designed to convert or it doesn’t look good at all, or you’ve got sequences set up from 2019 or 2018. I’m like, “Don’t go back and look at those because it’ll make you cringe.” But yeah, I mean, what we’re seeing in Black Friday, Cyber Monday is it should really grab your attention in the inbox, which is really important. So, if there’s a creator you work with that’s really close with the brand and represents that brand really well, if you can pull them into the email, that’s going to work really well to capture attention because it’s going to stand out against everybody else just throwing off the 50% off discount or whatever your offer may be, big and bold. You should definitely do that.

(18:20):

Less content is more on Black Friday. You should have a great offer. It’s Black Friday. People know what they’re doing. They know what time of year it is. You’re not going to trick them. You’re not going to convince them to buy. They’re either going to buy or they’re not, so just kind of put it out there, and get them to your site and away from the competition as quickly as possible. Use that creative to be eye-catching, whether it’s using influencer or creator content like you’re saying. That works really well. But then, get them onto your site and away from your direct and indirect competition that’s also in the inbox because it’s so easy to get distracted and go back to the inbox. Even if you want to buy, you forget. You get another notification. So, keeping it short and sweet after grabbing their attention, and then having a really direct call to action, even as simple as, “Shop now,” to get them to the site, we see work really well. Less is more, but it’s got to be good too. Simple is hard to do, but when you do it, it works the best.

Katya Allison (Host) (19:09):

What do you say to those brands? To your point, BFCM is so great because you’re looking for the deals, and that’s where people are going to shop. For some brands, it’s an opportunity to expose a consumer to who you are by trying or having them try because you’ve got this really good deal. What do you say to the brands that don’t heavily discount? Is there still a place for a strategy for them during BFCM?

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (19:38):

Yeah, absolutely. The client I was mentioning, who we’ve improved their creative and saw the 68% revenue increase over that six month period, they don’t run any Black Friday, Cyber Monday. They don’t run any sale at all. Part of the ethos of their brand is, “We don’t discount because we want to make our product as accessible to everybody as possible all year round.” So, for them, we do a couple things. One, we try to lean into seasonal merchandise if that exists. Leaning into gift giving is big. And then, on Black Friday itself, we really lean into that messaging to build the brand, and it really resonates well with the customers when we say, “No Black Friday sale.”

(20:15):

People click on the email. They go into the email, and then they read it, and we explain why we don’t do it, and it’s because we want to keep it affordable and accessible all year round. The customers really appreciate that. They respond, and they’re like, “Hey, thanks for doing this. It’s so unique.” If that is who you are, lean into it. It works really well. You could still drive a lot of revenue in Q4, thinking about gifting and thinking about, as you head into December, beyond Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shipping deadlines around gifting, and gift cards, and different things that you can do there. Also, if you have seasonal merchandise, that’s really helpful like I said, any kind of holiday gear or bundles or things you can do. Bundles are a really good thing to get people into as well, so maybe you don’t have to discount directly, but you can throw some things together and do something special there. Yeah. You definitely don’t have to do a sale, if that’s not what your brand does.

Katya Allison (Host) (21:04):

I love the idea of bundles because I think that ’tis the season. You have so many presents to buy. Well, not to toot my own horn, but I would say that I’m a pretty thoughtful gift giver, so I want to think of something that’s really unique. But then there are those people that are just like the go-to people, where you’re like, “Oh, I have to get something.” Maybe it’s a white elephant gift or maybe it’s something for a coworker or whatnot. Those bundles are really great for that, so I love that idea of, if you’re not going to discount, think outside of the box. What can you put together that is of value for your end consumer?

(21:44):

Now, I did say that I had a couple of follow-up questions in regards to that. I asked you one of them in regards to the content. The content was the imagery. We talked about leveraging potentially influencers to create your content to be able to have that emotional connection via email and then SMS. But the other thing, and I can’t wait to hear what your thoughts are on this, is when it comes to the email content, how many words should I use? I know that must sound like a really ridiculous question, but I get a lot of emails and it fluctuates between really long paragraphs. I’m not going to read it. I have this belief that you bullet point it. You bold it. You make your words visually appealing, if you’re not going to have an image in there. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on that.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (22:34):

Oh, for sure. Yeah. I’m very opinionated on this.

Katya Allison (Host) (22:37):

Oh, I love it.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (22:38):

Yeah. Although, most marketers aren’t going to like my answer. I mean, the answer is it varies and you should definitely test it. And then, I’ll go into the best practices, but I’ll share specific examples too because it’s like, “Oh, test it. You got to opt.” You’ll be like, “Duh.” Specific examples, we had a client. They sell a very visual product, so think like nail polish, nail wraps, that sort of thing. We tested with them plain text versus creative, over the course of a six-month period, and we actually found that the plain text would beat out, majority of the time, the actual creatively designed emails, which is kind of crazy.

(23:14):

They did a lot of new drops featuring that type of content, and then basically being like, “Hey, we just dropped a bunch of new stuff. Check it out.” Being more vague about it actually drove more clicks and more revenue because more likely, the ideas, they’re going to start clicking around. And then, if you have a lot of skews, they can still find something they like, even if they’re not planning on buying that versus showing the actual product itself for that specific audience. That’s where it’s going to vary too, who’s your customer. That’s where you have to test it, who your customer is and what types of emails you’re sending. So, in that case, those emails actually typically did better, however other content for that specific client, we see other content do better with creative. Maybe with a sale, like you’re saying, big and bold letters and just straight to the point works better.

(23:55):

We have another client who we’ve tested the same, and we found actually that overall, for automation, we see plain text work better because it seems more personalized. They’re deeper in the funnels. Personal touch coming from the head of support or customer success or the CEO works really well, but then overall, we see the image-based creative do really well when it comes to the actual sales promotions themselves. That’s why it’s really important to test and that’s something we’re always doing with our clients is optimizing those across the board. But then in terms of general best practices, to answer your question on how much copy, what is the creative, the creative should grab your attention, and then the copy should be as persuasive and say as much as possible in as few words as possible. It could be as simple as, “Cyber Monday starts now. 50% off. Ends tomorrow at midnight. Shop now.” That’s enough.

(24:43):

You don’t need a witty paragraph or something. We do have brands who will weave in the brand into that messaging too, so you don’t have to be that direct and that generic. So, if your brand has a personality, weave it into it. I’d say that’s kind of next-level marketing, is when you start to weave in your brand’s positioning and value props into that content too. For example, “Save 15% on the number one dermatologist recommended X, Y, Z,” and weaving that into the content. So, you’re still playing into that really strong value prop for the brand, but you’re also keeping it short and sweet without writing a whole paragraph on how it was analyzed and how that data was calculated or whatever. Some people try to cram too much in, and less is typically more, as long as it’s better.

Katya Allison (Host) (25:29):

Yeah. Yeah, you have to have something good in there, right?

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (25:32):

For sure.

Katya Allison (Host) (25:33):

Well, you’ve said this word countless times since we started. You’ve said, “You have to test it.” You’ve done a lot of testing. I feel like BFCM is right around the corner even though it’s not even the end of September. But what do you say to a brand that’s like, “Great. Listen to the podcast. I’m fully on board with email and SMS, but do I have enough time to test, and is even BFCM a time where you should or can test? Is that an opportunity? Should you always be testing something?”

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (26:05):

Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, the answer is yes and no. If you don’t have time, that’s why we exist because we think about this for our clients every month and every quarter with like, “How do we do better than before?” But one of the biggest things that we see brands overlook, and it’s not even their fault entirely, is historical data. So, even if you don’t have time to optimize this Black Friday, you probably shouldn’t be A/B testing on Black Friday itself, for sure. You should just commit and go for it. It risks things breaking. You can’t test a discount. That’s just going to be too messy. What if people get to the site, and the other offer…

(26:39):

It just gets really messy, so we don’t recommend that. That’s why we start prepping with our clients in July for Black Friday and Cyber Monday because we want to know what is the best send time well in advance. What about during a holiday period? What type of subject lines do better? Are they vague? Are they direct? Is it a mix of both? For the creative, is less more? Is more more? Is plain text better? Is this? So, using the sales leading up to it, whether it’s 4th of July, Labor Day, back to school, even Halloween now that we’re starting to run out of time to test offers and test, it really makes a big impact.

(27:12):

And then, the other thing we do with our clients that’s very overlooked for a lot of brands is looking at their historical data. Looking at the past year is like, “Where did the revenue come from? Where were the biggest spikes?” Like, “Oh, wow, we did a lot of revenue on Saturday after Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and we only send one email. What happens if we send two? What happens if we layer an SMS on that,” or like, “Oh, it seems like people are mostly converting at this time or this window.”

(27:34):

So, looking at your historical data and not just looking at it. I think everybody knows we should look at our data, but the hard part is actually doing something with it. So, that’s what we’ll work with clients to do is really analyze that data and do a true analysis to actually get insights from those data points, and then turn them into actionable strategy for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, so you’re not starting from day zero again like so many brands do every single year. They just guess again, and this year, that’s not going to work. Everything is different. Facebook’s different. The algorithm’s different. The economy is different. The consumer is different. So, the less you guess, the better. You have all this data that you can get those insights from to inform your strategy for this year, so that’s typically what we recommend, whether you’re running out of time or not.

Katya Allison (Host) (28:19):

Love that. Now, we talked about prepping for and starting earlier on, in regards to your BFCM promotions, even starting at the beginning of November, but definitely should have already been thinking about it. And we talked about what happens during the four days of BFCM, right? That’s when we’re going to hit it hard, but how can we make whatever we’ve implemented or executed for BFCM last beyond those fab four days?

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (28:49):

Yeah. It’s a great question and it’s really important, and another thing that I see overlooked by a lot of brands. It’s like September hits. All summer you could be planning for Q4, and then it’s not till September and October hit that brands really get serious about what’s actually going to happen. And I think it’s really important to extend that success as long as you can. So, a few things that we do with our clients is number one, automation on the back end in advance of it. So many brands acquire all these new customers in Q4, and then they don’t do anything with it or they get fed into a post-purchase flow from two years ago, like I was talking about. So, in this market where LTV is super important and getting a repeat purchase is super important, in advance of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you should have sequences set up on the back end to take those people, and then convert them up when you know they’re going to come back.

(29:45):

You can look at your historical data for this too, and see, “Oh, typically, Black Friday buyers are coming back 45 days after. They’re coming back around the January 5th to January 15th window,” or something like that. So. Automation is important. Thinking about December, there’s still a ton of urgency to buy, leading up to and during the holiday season, so obviously a lot of people are buying gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah and other holidays. So, really leaning into urgency around shipping and discounts ending. You can run a 12 days of Christmas. You don’t even have to run a discount on the 12 days. Just like, “Here’s 12 products,” and feature a product every day. It exposes people to more of your product catalog that might be like, “Oh, that might make a great gift for so and so.”

(30:26):

And then, leading into those shipping deadlines, since 2020 everybody is used to shipping taking longer than expected, so leaning into that urgency around, “You’re running out of time to get this as a gift,” is really powerful. And then, on Christmas Eve, if you have a virtual gift card option, you can offer that to customers and subscribers as a great last-minute gift. And then, after Christmas, think about, “I get what you really wanted,” email where someone who’s a fan of the brand, and maybe they got an Amazon Gift Card or they got a Visa gift card or something or just cash, they can get whatever they want. And then, in January, a lot of brands kind of fall asleep at the wheel, and what we recommend is going into a hardcore focus on retention, getting those buyers that you acquired.

(31:12):

They’re not always the best, right? They just bought at your best discount, so they might not be your best customers, but you want to at least try to get them back. Even if you have a gift-giving audience, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so if you can take those buyers that you acquired who are buying those gifts and get them to buy again for Valentine’s Day, you just made that marketing go even further. And email and SMS are great channels to do that because you’ve already acquired them. You don’t have to spend more on advertising to get them back. Compared to Facebook, they’re very affordable. That’s kind of how we think about it. Automation, December campaigns and beyond that, and then in January and February, focusing on retention of those people before they’re gone and forget.

Katya Allison (Host) (31:51):

I love all of those tips, and I also really love how much you’re talking about just kind of retention and also retargeting them as well too. Just going back to this original list that you have, I mean, the value of someone who has signed in, someone who has purchased, someone who has signed up for SMS and the newsletter, to be able to continue to feed them more information about your brand, more sales. Like, “If this didn’t interest you, maybe this.” At some point, something’s going to hit home, so I think that you’re always increasing your odds when you have taken the time to acquire those people, even if they didn’t purchase with you. So, I love the optimism of having the email list and the SMS list for sure. Now, I’ve taken a ton of your time, but I’ve got one final question for you and it is the prediction time question. What changes do you see happening over the next year with email and just SMS marketing?

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (32:52):

Yeah. I think overall, we’re going to see email and SMS get a lot more competitive. The channels have already gotten a lot more competitive over the last couple of years because the story that I told around Facebook ads not being as effective, brands needing to diversify their marketing, finding profitability on the back end through customers who are opted into their email and SMS, more and more brands are turning to these channels, and even today, more and more brands have good email and SMS programs already. So, going from good to best in class is going to be the next must.

(33:25):

It’s kind of what happened for media buying and Facebook ads. You used to be able to get away with not that much, and the Facebook algorithm would do the work. It was kind of the same for email. You press send, and then revenue comes in. A lot of brands are seeing that revenue get lower and lower from each send, and that’s why you got to really take these channels, make them top of mind internally, to go from good to great, and then to best in class because the ROI is going to be there indefinitely. The channels are really affordable. Compared to everything else, the ROI is unreal. I think SMS specifically needs to be top of mind, as we’re shifting to a mobile consumer and consumers are becoming really okay with SMS as a channel and getting text from brands now versus two years ago. It was kind of an invasion of privacy. Today, it’s not.

Katya Allison (Host) (34:12):

We didn’t even talk about the privacy thing either. Probably not [inaudible 00:34:15].

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (34:16):

Yeah, we’ll have to do a follow-up. Yeah. It’s going to get more competitive, so you got to get better. And it’s going to be a must, as ads continue to get more expensive, to find that profitability in channels like email and SMS. Even Amazon is expanding their email capabilities for merchants to keep customers coming back as of this week. It used to not be able to really do much with email marketing as an Amazon brand. Now, they’re expanding their capabilities. They explain, the reason they’re doing that is because they want more people coming back to Amazon and not going other places. So, they’re letting merchants open that up. So, every Amazon brand sending emails now is also going to crowd the inbox because everyone’s an Amazon customer and we’ve all opted into their emails one way or another on one of their thousands of lists that they have internally, I’m sure.

(35:00):

Yeah. As they’ve become more competitive, you need to do more to stand out with strategy and creative, and ultimately that’s where we come in, so I’m really excited to continue to bring new fresh ideas to the brands that we work with and help them stand out and drive performance increases, month over month, quarter over quarter, year over year. Yeah. It’s going from a nice to have to a must have overall.

Katya Allison (Host) (35:21):

Good. I love that. That’s a great sound bite. Nice to have to a must have.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (35:26):

And to end on it too.

Katya Allison (Host) (35:27):

Yeah. Boom.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (35:32):

I didn’t plan that. I didn’t write it down, but I’ll take it.

Katya Allison (Host) (35:32):

Had you written it down, it wouldn’t have come off as smoothly. That’s typically what I find. Well, thank you so much for coming on here and just kind of sharing your wisdom, especially doubling down on BFCM because I know that by the time that this podcast comes out, it’s going to be very top of mind as it should be top of mind just to begin with. So, I absolutely appreciate you coming on, and hopefully, I’ll have you on here again.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (35:54):

Yeah, thanks so much for having me. If listeners want to learn more about Wavebreak, they can go to wavebreak.co. Everything I also talked about, we put in a webinar that you can watch the replay. It’s ungated, so nobody has to sign up and enter their email or anything. You can go to bfcmwebinar.com, and that’ll redirect you there. So, if you want to see visual examples of what I talked about and even some of our own client data, it’s anonymized, but the percent increases that I’m talking about, I map that all out in the webinar. So, you can go check that out at bfcmwebinar.com as well.

Katya Allison (Host) (36:26):

I love it. That was a great plug.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (36:27):

Yeah. Thanks.

Katya Allison (Host) (36:32):

You have a great one, and we will talk soon again.

Dylan Kelley (Guest) (36:33):

Yeah, you too. Thanks so much for having me.

Katya Allison (Host) (36:37):

I hope that you really walked away with some helpful tips on how you can leverage email and SMS for BFCM this year. I’m a big fan of always be testing, which is really what Dylan and his team do to truly dial in that best email and SMS strategy for brands that they work with. But I also really appreciated the look of the historical of what you’ve already done to tell you where you can even start if you don’t have time to test, which ultimately, if you’re thinking about testing into BFCM, probably not the best time. Whatever campaign you could just kind of decide to execute this BFCM season, there are some key things to really keep in mind, and one of them is to start early, hit the email and SMS hard as it gets closer, take a beat on Sunday before Cyber Monday. That was really an interesting thought that he brought up, just to be kind of top of mind. Also, continue to retarget after BFCM, and most importantly, don’t let your guard down in January. That’s your time to shine with retention.

(37:46):

Want to hear more? Be sure to subscribe to the GRIN Gets Real podcast to get the latest episodes. Give us some stars. I wouldn’t mind five of them. And leave me a review. I’d love to hear the episode that you like the most. Connect with me on social. You can find me on LinkedIn, Katya Allison, and if you are interested in learning more about GRIN, visit our website at grin.co. Until next time. Keep grinning.

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