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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts we have Christy Olsen, Managing Partner at Cadence SEO. Dawood got Christy to share the most effective email marketing strategies for increasing sales and growth. Dive in to ace email marketing.
Getting on the phone with people doesn’t mean you can close them, that’s just the first step. The second step is, the actual sales call where you need to be a real person & you need to be honest.
I’m glad to be here.
Yeah. I’m Christie Olsen. I’m one of the managing partners at Cadence SEO. The other partner is Kevin McLaughlin, who is also my husband. Yes, we have different last names on purpose. We started this company about two years ago, built it almost exclusively to start outbound email marketing, and have built up a rather successful, fun place to work. And I love to talk about how we made it work. Take questions from other people who might be trying to make something work and the pitfalls to avoid, like how we got our very first ever outbound email domain, completely spam blocked, couldn’t even list our website, things like that. How to not make those mistakes.
For our remote team. We are always on Slack. That’s basically our office, we have all different channels. We, of course, have the typical ones you’d expect for the SEO team for each client. We also have the company name chat where people can share funny names if they want. And we have just the fun chat where you can go in and share stuff. We always try to recognize birthdays, holidays, etc., and then about every three months we try for every month. It doesn’t always work out. Works out more like every 2 to 3 months. We do a zoom call with everyone in the company, which can be tricky because we’re dealing with all different time zones. So, we usually hold it where it’s early and very late simultaneously for a couple of teams, but we try to make it the most convenient possible. I think the biggest key to remote teams is high communication and a lot of grace because somebody might not see your question until the next day and you have to be patient if you’re dealing with somebody who’s maybe sleeping when you’re sending them that question or whatever. So, we just keep really high communication. I like to tell everybody, you know, it’s why we love what we do and we work really hard. It’s only marketing. Nobody’s going to die. So, tone it down, and take a deep breath. Taking an extra 3 hours is not going to kill you.
One of our core values as a company and it sounds probably a little counterintuitive is, you have to put your family first, I mean, first before your job, because if you don’t put your family first, you will never give me the best anyway. I have six children and they come first. I quit working at 3:00 every day to go pick them up from school and I don’t care what’s going on outside. I will stop that and I expect my employees to do the same thing. There are times I might work late, other times when the kids are in bed, they can do the same. But you have to put your family first. We work to provide for our families. That’s why we work. None of us work just because we just want to go work for the heck of it. Those of us that have families for them. So, I tell people, put your family first. I have one of my top employees right now, who spent the longest time with us. She’s actually our chief technology officer. Her dad is dying and she’s missing a lot of work and I don’t care. I am not charging her for it, it’s not taking her days off. This is what’s most important in her life right now. And if I, as an employer, can’t recognize that, she’ll never give me the best of her anyway, and her work will suffer or she’ll go find another job.
So, it has to be that way, or else your company will fail. You have to put your people first, or they will never be able to give what they need to their clients anyway. And frankly, they’ll always be looking for a better opportunity. I promise that we’ve never actually had anybody, No I guess we’ve had one. We’ve only had one employee quit ever. And I know that that’s because of our culture. Our culture is, please make work second, not first. So, I know it’s very different, but don’t think there’s any other way to be.
That’s okay because then I get all the best employees.
Well, that’s changed a little bit. So, I was helping a lot of people, mainly friend’s kids with math. Most people who are really good at math are way too smart to help other people. I’m not because I’m not that smart. And so, it helps if you have a creative mind to have somebody else sit and explain things to them. So, I normally help friend’s kids with their math or if somebody is struggling, mainly algebra, to be honest, algebra for some reason, people, as soon as you start putting those letters into the problems, they associate that with reading and their brain just cannot compute it. And it’s so silly. Just take something and like make it a heart. And all of a sudden, you’ll see these kids like, oh, okay, well, I’m not dealing with a letter anymore. And they, it’s like their brain keeps trying to read the words. So, it just happens and it works out. But right now, I’m actually coaching two cross-country teams for my kid’s school, which is taking up most of my after-work time. But that’s super fun and I’m very passionate about running Sam, my Ironman finisher shirt on. I don’t know, I feel you make time for things you love, and my kids are involved in all of the things that I do outside of work, including running and math, tutoring, and everything else. So, just make time for it. I don’t know how it works. Of course, there are some things we don’t do. I don’t travel that much; I travel a little bit. But I don’t care, I used to travel a lot when I was younger, and I value my family. I value everything about that. I value other people’s kids. I value that. That’s way more fun to me, I tell my teenagers because I have four teenagers right now that as you grow, you’re going to really value just the normal, everyday life stuff. I love the everyday life stuff, I love making lunches for my kids in the morning. That’s important to me and I don’t care what I’ve got going on. I always make sure I can do that by picking them up from school. It’s way better than when I used to live in Hawaii. And you know, you’ll see waterfalls. Like, I don’t care if I ever go back. But you can see that’s why I believe in our culture. Putting our people, putting your family first, because I think so many people missed the mark on that. They just think that life is about adventure or about making money. But I think it’s about making lunch for your kids in the morning, it’s about being at their baseball game. I think that’s the best thing I can ever do with my life, not that I have to do it. But it’s literally the best stuff.
So you understand?
Yeah. And you’ll be back and it will be okay. But I bet you’d rather be with her than wherever you’re traveling to. It doesn’t matter how exciting or beautiful or pretty and I’d probably rather be with her. Having you heard Babble on about whatever she had for breakfast.
Well, wait till she will start running with you. That’s so much fun. I mean, every stage has been fun, though. Everyone’s like, what’s your favorite stage of the stage my kids are in right now? But earlier it was that one.
Well, I mean, the right approach is whatever’s working for you, that’s the right one. But what we do has worked really well for us.
I would say make sure that your domain extension gets a lot of them. So, like, we never reach out from Cadence SEO.com. But now, even though I have a lot of safeguards in place, I’m not going to run the risk of getting my own domain spam blocked that I build my website on. So, make sure you have a bunch of different domains that you can do outreach on and know that eventually, it’s going to get burned anyway. It might be a year, it might be two years, but eventually, that domain is going to get burned on you, and have to move to the next one. So that’s step one that a lot of people mess up with because there’s just a backup. There are a few things you got to think about. First is, can I get it to their inbox? If I don’t deliver the email, it doesn’t matter anything else because it never got there. Second is, as are they going to open the email, and then we’ll get into subject lines. Third is, the actual messaging. Fourth is, the follow-up, and all are very important. But if you don’t get those first two steps in their deliverability and open right, nothing else you do actually matters at all. You could have sent nothing. It wouldn’t matter because they never saw it. So, to get it delivered. You usually need to make sure we don’t include any links in our first email. None at all. Not a single link, no images, nothing. It is a plain text email. That’s how we ensure it gets into the inbox. You mentioned lists, where do we get our lists? We do the mass approach. We target a lot of people. We send out more than 40,000 emails a week.
That’s a minimum probably that might even be per person. We get most of our lists from Apollo. It’s cheap data. It’s not always perfect, but we don’t care because we’re not sending on our own domain. So, even if we get bounces, it’s not going to bounce back. Plus, you can get unlimited contacts at Apollo for $100 a month. And we do the higher tier so we can export more, but you could honestly start at $100 per month. Whereas if you compare that to Zoom info or discover org, you’re looking at 40,000 a year. It’s not even comparable. We’re testing another tool right now for outreach on LinkedIn, but I don’t know if it works yet or not. So, we just started. It’s been in for one month, so I’ll let you know if that actually works. But we primarily use Apollo. It’s straightforward, it’s low cost, and it’s easy to do. It’s all in one. And there’s just a numbers game subject line. You made a point before we started recording that it doesn’t really have to match necessarily. You just have to get people to open it. We actually are pretty boring with our subject lines. We almost always use just meeting requests or company name meetings. People open something that has a meeting on it. They think, maybe we missed a meeting, maybe I have a meeting. I don’t know. They’re going to open it.
And if you don’t get someone to open it again, nothing else matters unless you get delivered and opened. So, those two things have to happen. Messaging. People like to write books, don’t write a book, nobody wants to read your book, they don’t care. This long, can I fit it in any viewing pain without having to scroll? That’s kind of the rule of thumb there. You can bold stuff to make it stand out and be very clear on what you’re asking for. We’re always asking for a call. We are very upfront with what we’re asking for. We’re asking for a call. I don’t hide the fact that I’m trying to sell them. I don’t hide that at all. I’m very upfront. I want to get the fastest way possible to a yes or a no. A no is okay too, just tell me yes or no so I can spend my time with somebody that wants to talk to me. Most people don’t respond to that first email, though, short to the point, they open it fine. Follow up. We have most replies to the third, fourth, or fifth follow-ups than we do the first or second.
We don’t ever quit. You give me a yes or a no. So, our sequences usually follow someone around for about 30 to 35 days. That’s an email every 1 to 3 days you’ll get from us. Unless, of course, you say yes or no. Then just pulled out of the sequence. If you still have not responded at all, we feed you into another sequence 30 days later.
I want you to say yes or no, and we’ll try a different sequence then with different rules maybe that aren’t traditional to see if maybe respond to that one. But if a prospect does not give us a yes or a no, we will continue emailing them. Do you want to stop receiving emails from somebody? Take note of that. Let them know. Because we always respect people that ask us to be removed from lists, we do not have a problem. We don’t want to waste our time on someone not interested either.
We’ve learned people like women better than men. We get almost double response rates from female names as opposed to male names. Keep them very traditional. My name does really well. Christy does well, Heather does well, and Amanda does well. Kevin does terrible, and James is the worst. By the way, just if you were wondering, people are not only more likely to book with a female but even if they say no, they’re more likely to be nice. So, we almost always have female names reaching out as opposed to male names because it’s all about getting people to actually respond to you. And you might as well accept that people have a bias one way or the other and work it into your favor with marketing.
So, it sometimes does work nominally better. But we’ve also found that sometimes it can turn people away because then you have to literally analyze if you think your employee’s face is going to improve or hurt their chances. And that one’s a little tricky, and we just don’t use images. But I know other people have really successfully used it. We target the U.S. market almost exclusively and people will hyper-analyze that face and decide whether or not they want to talk to you. So, we rather keep that out of the conversation.
That seems like a really good idea. I may even try it. Anything that we do that helps as we always do a referral, an internal referral. But people are usually nicer if they think your boss is telling them to talk to them than they are otherwise. And again, even if they say no, there are a lot nicer about their no, which is fine. The whole goal is to get to a yes or to a no as fast as possible. So, we will have a referral email that says, “hey, name, please reach out to this person”. I noticed this. Talk to him and then we can have a male refer to the female, which is how we get away with our male salespeople. Because then the person who was referring them is who ends up on the call and that’s acceptable and okay. And is in line with what they did the outreach on.
But I like the idea of putting in help. So many people do that for clients, SEO. Do you pick linked numbers in there? Like, what do you guys do?
Honestly, I just think my sales team and told them to try it. So, I think that’s a great idea.
I mean, that’s another thing I would add in when you ask me what’s the best one, whatever’s working. Never ever think your system is perfect and can’t be improved ever. I don’t care how well it’s worked for you in the past. I’m always trying new things, writing different sequences, and breaking my own rules to make sure those rules still hold. You should always be testing and trying. I always approach it as if you really could be wrong and I love everybody’s advice, I want everyone’s feedback. That’s how you’re constantly improving and can make sure you stay on top of the marketing game because marketing isn’t stagnant. What worked ten years ago doesn’t work today. So, you’ve got to stay ahead of the curve and stay humble.
We haven’t, but primarily because of our data sources, we don’t have phone numbers to go with it. Also, we’re targeting B2B, so the numbers we would have are typically offices. Now we have done phone follow-ups before. But we tried that in 2020 when everybody was at home and it was very hard to get through to people. It’s something we talked about starting up again, but it hasn’t been part of the process and working now. Years ago, I used to be director of sales at a different agency and we always did phones as well and it worked very well. But that was pre-remote COVID works.
If you could just call the main line and usually get through to somebody. You know, we do coach on gatekeepers and we would add that into the sequence. And I do strongly believe in phone calls. People like real people and you can be more of a real person on a phone call than you can in an email.
So the bare minimum would be a 20% open rate would be a low open rate, if not at least hitting that, then there’s something wrong. You either have poor email addresses and they’re not actually getting delivered or there’s something wrong with your subject line. You should at least have a 20% open rate. We target a 40% open rate and anything 40% or above we consider really good. That’s with cold data, of course.
Regarding the reply rates, we really want to work with meetings, so we’d like to be able to schedule between 3 and 4% of the total number of meetings that we’re working with. But that’s at the initial, so that’s not 3 to 4% of the open rate, that’s set for everybody.
Reply rates, those ones are a little bit harder for us because a lot of the replies that we’re going to get are going to be negative. So, we don’t necessarily track that. A lot of people will click “book a meeting” because after three and four and never reply to us. So, we do just look at those meeting books. In fact, most people click “book a meeting” and just never reply to us. So, a salesperson who’s doing well will be fed in between 20 and 30,000 leads a week and out of that be booking between 20 and 30 meetings a week. Those I guess are mass numbers.
That’s ideal. That keeps their day very full, close rate from outbound. This is something really important to know will always be lower than inbound, always. You don’t even know if they’re looking for somebody and you have to look at it. I’m closing deals that we reached out to last year, and this year. It’s not always an immediate sales cycle. No, depending on what you’re selling, obviously. But we’re not selling a pair of shoes. We’re selling a strategy, a commitment. Our minimum pricing starts at about 2600 dollars a month. We’re not selling something that is an impulse buy usually. So, your sales cycle is going to be longer. Occasionally we have one call closes, we happen to hit somebody at the right time, at the right moment, and we have exactly what they were looking for. But most of the time our sales cycle is between 3 to 6 months and there are some just like when we pitched your proposal, unless you told us to stop following up, we’re still following up with you.
This that’s where everybody falls. I think that follow-up is where sales teams fall. They don’t want to be annoying. I always tell everybody, just embrace the fact that you’re annoying. They didn’t tell you to go away. So, they obviously are okay with you following up. You can usually track if they’ve opened it or not. If they’re still opening it and they’re not telling you to stop, you’re not being annoying. Just keep following up. There was a study that was done years back that says on average it takes five touchpoints before you are going to get a positive response or to get someone to respond to your sales. I think it was done by Harvard. Well, most people stop at two or three. Yeah, I actually got this whole career kick-started because of my follow-up because I was not in a great position. I was in a lead qualifying role and I had somebody not take a call because they didn’t think it was a good call. So, I did the call myself. I’m like, I’m not going to drop this lead and end up closing a $50,000 a month contract on that, which launched my career completely because it enabled me to break through into the next levels of my development. I tell people that all the time, always follow up and take every single lead seriously. You don’t know who you’re talking to. Their website might look like crap, they could have a $1,000,000,000 company elsewhere on a different website that you didn’t know about. So, treat everybody with respect, take every lead seriously, and always follow up.
Yeah, exactly. Always try to get a yes or a no. I consider it a no success, too. Like, whatever. I just want to know whether or not I should continue putting my resources towards you. Now again, we use Apollo, so a lot of our follow-up is automated. So, it’s little resources, or else I would probably stop after 45 days if I was manually sending emails, but most people I don’t think manually send emails anymore.
Absolutely. And you want your brand in front of them as much as possible. You want to retarget people; you want to have your PPC ads going. You want to have if they type a search, you come up, you want to be on their social. The more times they see your brand, the more likely they are to trust it. And that’s why we tell people you can’t just do one channel of marketing and expect to be very successful. We’re an SEO company and that is strictly what we do. But we encourage people to do other channels of marketing and we do other channels of marketing on our own brand because we believe that we don’t just tell people what to do. We’re running paid campaigns, we’re retargeting, we’re doing display. We got to do everything. You got to be everywhere your audience is.
Our core marketing campaign is very simple and to the point. It does on average have a 45% open rate and is the campaign that we primarily use to keep our sales team’s calendars full. It is a 12-step sequence and it is super simple and to the point. It says “Hey, the name, referred by my colleague to set up a time to walk through, findings on your website could be affecting its visibility and organic search. Do you have some time to connect to this next week, Signature.” that is it, and down below it, is the referral that says on this day, at this time, so-and-so reached out, emailed, and said, “Hey, I noticed some issues on this website and it’s all dynamically pulled in. Please reach out to the “name of person”, I think this is their email. Set up a time to connect. And it’s so simple and then, the follow-ups are very short as well. “Hey, just wanted to check in and see if you were interested in setting up a call to review that, let me know”. A few days that work, by email three, we can include links that say “Book a time here”, which is when we start getting responses usually not early on. It is a very straightforward sequence. It works very well. Our follow-ups are honestly annoying. We follow up in 1 to 2 days until somebody responds to me and it works well. Now it’s only going to work well, that’s the piece getting the appointment and everybody says, oh if you get someone on the phone with me, I can close them. That’s not true. That’s absolutely not true. That’s the first piece. The second piece is, you know, the actual sales call and the sales call has to fall through is what you said. If you said you have findings, you have to have findings, they’re just going to hang up on you. You need to be a real person. You need to be honest. If somebody asks me how I found their email, I show them, oh, look, it was Apollo. Yes, it was an automated email. I won’t lie to people, they’re already on the phone with me now. I just need to show them I’m a real person. We can do real results; we have real value and I’m never shy or hiding behind-the-scenes work to get to them in the first place because they’re already talking to me. And I think that’s another key with people when they get lost on that first call because you got to book the meeting, then you got to make a sale.
That’s so bizarre. You could say I don’t have an office. We’re based, we have employees there, we’re all remote. We don’t have an office, if we need to meet with clients, we can rent space. No problem. But we don’t have an office and we don’t tell people we have an office because we don’t.
We’re all remote. I think it works great.
Thank you so much. I hope that you have a great rest of your evening and thanks for staying up so late to talk to me. I respect that.
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