Essence of Email founder Xiaohui Wang is no stranger to adventure. Just half a year after he created his agency in 2014, he bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. He’s been abroad ever since.
“It’s funny, because the original motivation wasn't to build out a full-scale agency,” he says. “It was to leverage the skills I'd developed with email marketing within the e-commerce space to fund a lifestyle running around the world and traveling.”
But he’s not the only planet wanderer at Essence of Email. Since he bought that fateful ticket, he’s built a completely remote team scattered about the continents, including Europe and Asia. As he puts it, his employees really value being able to work from anywhere, though the team is looking to centralize stateside relatively soon.
“To us, it's the quality of work that matters. As long as everyone's time zones are aligned enough, working hours are aligned enough, then it's fine by us. I don't care if you're in Antarctica, as long as you have good WiFi,” Xiaohui says. “There's nothing better than when you see everyone pulling in the same direction.”
That attitude toward living the agency’s values has led to a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, which is how online store Food to Live came to seek them out. Food to Live wanted to get more out of their email marketing channel, and Essence of Email saw an opportunity to implement behavioral flows, list acquisition efforts, and conversion rate best practices. Here’s how they did it:
Looking under the hood
To create a strategic roadmap, the Essence of Email team first looked at Food to Live’s current program, including their branding and competitors, plus the message they want to convey. “I don't think that any client is created the same,” Xiaohui says, so it’s critical to take the company’s objectives into account and align the beginning tactics to match them.
“There are usually dozens of things we can do, and want to do eventually, but there's only a handful that are truly priority in that starting phase,” he says. For Food to Live, that meant reconfiguring campaign templates for their nearly 2,500 subscribers.
Going with the flow
Because the starting email revenue for Food to Live was around $1,800, all of which came from the 4 monthly campaigns that they sent, the Essence of Email team’s goals were to expand the list as fast as possible while generating more revenue with more campaign sends and targeted flows. To do so, they’d have to spruce up Food to Live’s basic campaign template to make the emails pop—and add flows that targeted bouncing or new customers, such as 5 welcome emails and an abandoned cart flow.
“That was the ground level,” Xiaohui says. “Two others were getting an email funnel set up around prospect emails to capture non-customers and convert them to first-time customers, both from the capture side on the site, but also the nurture sequence after they subscribed to a list.”
It took about 5 weeks total to do the custom development for that, he says, especially because they wanted to provide a unique expiring coupon code for every subscriber that came through, which they custom built using Mailchimp's webhooks and their own NODE.JS app. But ultimately they were able to successfully construct the first nurture sequence.
Getting the timing right
“The third prong was getting a structured campaign going, then sticking to and executing against that calendar,” Xiaohui says. That meant getting product launch dates on the schedule, as well as different types of promotions that were going to be re-sent, A/B testing on particular campaigns, and notes around creating links. For the links, the team usually maps out every single call to action (CTA) link in the email prior to starting the development process. This means all hero landing pages, text CTAs, products featured, secondary banners, etc.
“What we found is there was a big discrepancy between sale and non-sale emails in terms of generated orders. Normally you'll see some discrepancy with any given retailer, because obviously, an offer and a sale usually drives short-term conversions, but there was a larger-than-normal discrepancy there.”
To avoid training subscribers to expect one type of sale, which can get tiresome, the Essence of Email team decided to vary the promotions to include flash sales and free gifts with purchase. One example of this was a Black Friday email sent last November. A promo was run introducing a coupon for 15% off, and the result was 119 orders equaling a total value of $12,054.
Basking in the results
Once the integration between Mailchimp and shopping carts were complete using JustUno, Essence of Email saw an immediate jump in subscriber numbers and client engagement metrics and revenue. In February 2016, Food to Live’s email revenue was around $1,800, which jumped to more than $21,000 in May 2018—a growth rate of 1076%. The list size grew exponentially, too, from around 2,500 to over 23,000—an 863% boost.
The team didn’t stop there, either. They continued to include new items, such as a pop-up overlay for email signups, to help bolster the subscriber influx.
“We wanted to prove that building a successful email marketing channel is not always just about revenue, but also about being efficient, mindful, and resourceful.”