Today’s interview is with John McIntyre, a behavioral reengagement specialist and email marketing genius who runs the Email Marketing Podcast and helps businesses convert more leads with behavior-based reengagement campaigns. He’s got some really practical advice on how you can use a customer’s online behavior to engage them and encourage them to become a customer. Listen in and let me know what you think.
The Desire for Something Different Fueled Entrepreneurship & The Discovery of Behavioral Reengagement
John is originally from Sydney, Australia, but after a trip to Nepal, he decided he wanted a more exotic life, so he found a job as a marketing director for a resort in the Philippines.
After a year of working there, he decided he wanted to start his own business, so he started a marketing agency that quickly grew into a boutique email marketing agency.
At first, he was just offering to write autoresponders, but over time, he began to realize that people needed more than just emails… the real thing they were after was more customers, and emails were just a vehicle to get there there. So he came up with the idea of running behavioral reengagement campaigns with his clients, and they’ve been incredibly successful.
He discovered that if you target a campaign based on how people act in your funnel or sales process, you could get a lot better results.
For example, traditional businesses spend loads of money to get leads, but once they have that lead, they only call them twice, but don’t really bother with them after that. At best, the company might have a newsletter, but newsletters hardly ever work because they’re not targeted.
With behavioral reengagement, John helps companies look at their basic retargeting campaigns and look at how their visitors are behaving on their website, and putting those two things together to create amazing results.
An Example of Behavioral Reengagement
One of the clients John works with is an exercise and fitness company that sells a $30 per month membership. Since this is their main, goal product, the marketing is very straightforward and there’s not much of a funnel.
To adapt behavioral reengagement for this company, John helped them set up the following:
If a person visits the site, but doesn’t buy into the $30 per month program, they get a popup offering them three free videos.
After the videos, they get offered a $100 product that’s only $17 for 20 minutes.
If they buy into the $17 product, they get the up-sell to the $30 per month membership.
If they don’t buy into the $17 product, they go into an email sequence of 10-15 emails where the price goes back up to $100 and they start giving valuable content like tips and informational videos. After two weeks, the price drops down to $17 again for another four days.
John says bringing the price down again at the end of the email sequence has great results. And then, if they buy the $17 product but not the membership, they go into another email sequence designed to get them to buy into the $30 per month program.
The most important thing, John says, is to hit someone’s behavior in real time. The emails don’t need to be fancy or elaborate – they just need to be on-point.
Why the Backend Matters
When the fitness company offers a $100 product for $17 in their first sale, they’re losing money. But according to John, that’s okay, because the most important thing is to get them as a customer.
For example, he says that Amazon can afford to sacrifice their margins on some of their first sales to a customer, because once someone is an Amazon customer, the amount they spend there in a lifetime is astronomical.
Once you have an idea of your customer’s approximate lifetime value, you know how much you can sacrifice in the first sale, because getting them as a customer will more than make up for the initial money lost.
When Should a Startup Start Focusing on the Backend?
John recommends to start looking at your backend some time after you know you’ve found a product-market fit.
In the beginning, all your effort should be put into developing a product that works with the market, but once you have that, you can start optimizing what you already have by focusing on the backend.
The Tool to Use for Email Marketing: Aweber Gets a Thumbs-Down
John recommends using Drip for email marketing, because you can use anything someone does on your website to trigger an event within it and engage with them about their behavior in real time.
At first though, John was using Aweber just to avoid the switching cost, but he found it really clunky and didn’t like it all that much. Rather than being a tag-based system, Aweber is a subscriber-based system, so if someone is on three different lists, they show up in your database three times and you can’t track them or their behavior properly.
Drip, on the other hand, lets you look at someone’s contact details and what pages they’ve visited on your site and when.
Keeping the Email Backend Organized and Structured
With so many behavioral possibilities, organizing an email backend aimed at behavioral reengagement could get messy.
But John says after a while, you begin to ‘get it.’
“The goal of every step in the funnel is to move them to the next step – it’s really that simple.”
John says a lot of people try to advance a customer three steps ahead with their marketing copy, but that’s not the best tactic.
First, the goal of an email is to sell the click – to get them to click through to the landing page.
Then, the goal of the landing page is to get them to the checkout page.
Finally, the goal of the checkout page is to collect their credit card details as they buy the product.
If someone visits the sales page, but leaves after that, then there’s an email to respond to that. And if someone gets all the way to the checkout page but doesn’t make a purchase, then there’s an email response for that.
Similarly, the goal isn’t to sell them all of your products at once… your first goal is to get them to buy into the first product. After they buy into that, then they get an option for the second product.
He says if you think about behavioral email campaigns as retargeting, then it’s a little easier to understand.
From Thailand to Seattle to Richard Branson’s Island
After working in the Philippines for a year and establishing a business that literally let him work anywhere, John decided to check out Thailand for a conference in October 2012, and ended up basing himself in Chiang Mai for the next three years.
In February of this year, he left Chiang Mai to go to Singapore to take care of some banking issues, then left to the US to speak at a conference in Austin. After making plans with some friends to go to Whistler, he went up to their meeting point in Seattle, which was where destiny struck.
While talking with a friend of a friend who was building a space company, the guy mentioned that he was going to Necker Island (Richard Branson’s private island) for an event. As a joke, John said he’d see him there in three years.
They guy responded by saying he expected to see him there before that, and got him in touch with the right people to send his resume and LinkedIn profile to. One month later, he was in, and the rest was history.
Trends of Success in Email Marketing
As the guy who runs the Email Marketing Podcast, John’s heard and seen it all, and says that the people who are really succeeding in email marketing are the ones who are committed to excellence.
They’re not the guys who want to make quick hits or are hacking things together just for the sake of making money – they’re the ones who are committed to making their business work over the long term.
He says there’s three things that are essential to success with email marketing:
Changing His Business Model for Higher-Paying Customers
Right now, John’s working on refining his brand.
Over the last few years, he’s been known as the autoresponder guy, which has worked really well. But he’s realized that if you know what an autoresponder is, you might not be his highest-paying client.
He’d built a brand around the “autoresponder” feature word, but realized that what people really wanted was an automated marketing system.
Companies will spend loads of money on marketing campaigns to get more leads and customers, but there’s a lot of people who think that spending just $100 on an email autoresponder is excessive.
For example, a guy running a $3 million to $5 million company doesn’t have time to listen to podcasts or read about autoresponders. All he knows and cares about is a system that will turn more of his traffic into paying customers, which is where behavior-based autoresponder sequences come in.
Now, rather than selling written emails, he’s going to present autoresponders as a solution, which in turn will also help him help his clients a lot more.
One Big Struggle While Growing the Business
According to John, his biggest struggle growing his business was getting over mindset challenges.
He came from a working-class family with an architect father and a nurse mother, and said that until he was 24, he was never really exposed to how business worked, how to grow a business, or how to think about business.
He says he didn’t find the nitty-gritty of what you need to do to make business happen particularly challenging, but he did have the tendency to under-value himself, especially with consulting and figuring out how much to charge for emails.
The biggest thing, he says, was working through the mental battles that it was less about the amount someone paid than it was about the results they got from his efforts.
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Eric Siu (@ericosiu) is the CEO at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency that focuses on paid advertising and content marketing. He contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes and more.