When Jacob Sappington was getting started as a freelance retention marketing specialist, Jason Wong was his first client and their friendship grew from there. Now that Jacob is a partner at Homestead Studio he and Jason reconnect to underscore the importance of retention marketing and the specific role it plays alongside other channels in a company’s growth plan.
In this episode of Ecommerce Building Blocks, Jason invited Jacob Sappington onto the show to discuss how brands can make the most of retention marketing by understanding what it does well and how it can work with other marketing channels like paid advertising and influencer marketing. Jacob outlines how he sees all marketing channels as touchpoints inhabiting different places on a timeline. Retention marketing is a way of keeping a product top of mind at customers on all parts of their journey with a brand. Jacob talks about specific ways that brands can stand out, and why it’s most often not about generating more content volume. Jacob and Jason give their hot takes on what’s going on with email marketing in Spring/Summer 2022, and they end the interview with some reflections on the difference between being an employee and taking on the role of partner.
Jacob’s twitter: https://twitter.com/jsappington
Homestead Studio: https://homesteadstudio.co/
➡️ Building Blocks website: bbclass.co
🍍Jason’s twitter: https://twitter.com/EggrolI
Sign up for Jason's weekly newsletter: http://news.bbclass.co
Jacob is Partner at Homestead digital growth agency, and former Manger of Retention at 4x400, a holding company for digitally native brands. He lives in the Midwest and loves fantasy baseball.
[00:00:00] Jason Wong: What's your hot take as an email marketer?
[00:00:02] Jacob Sappington: Uh, AB testing is a rated specifically on camp.
[00:00:07] Jason Wong: In my opinion, this is my hot take. I think the people that blame, I was 15 that's the only thing is just lazy because they just have not thought outside of the box of paid ads.
Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the building blocks. Today. I am joined by Jacob Sappington, who is currently the partner at homestead, email and SMS. Welcome to a show with Jacob. And he drew some things from me on, I actually met Jacob two and a half years ago on Twitter. Um, how, how did you, like, how do we meet?
[00:00:49] Jacob Sappington: Yeah, so, um, we had a mutual connection, um, uh, at the time another, you know, a partner of longhouse, uh, Adrian was, was helping me run the ship there. Um, at the time, um, I had reached out to him. I said, Hey, um, I signed up for your emails. I think there's some opportunity here. It's in your account. Let me, let me give you a free audit and see what we can uncover in there.
And so, um, give you a free audit, uh, and you guys were actually my, my first client, um, freelancing. So, uh, you know, deeply appreciative for the opportunity that you gave me and, um, you know, really happy to see the work that I was able to put in place there, you know, leading strategy for, you know, Uh, to see, uh, you know, the growth that the DOE has seen, um, you know, prior to me coming on and then, you know, just all the new product roll outs you guys have had the, the product, um, development, um, just, you know, the, uh, Um, what sort of mind for a year, uh, you guys were really pressed the needle on, um, you know, cutting edge marketing.
Like the recent email that you guys sent out was the PD, you know, in the email, there's an Easter egg on these products, find these ones and, uh, you, you know, you'll get a discount in this product. So. Um, so yeah, so we, we got introduced, I helped you guys out with your email for a little bit, and then you guys have taken a lot of work from there since then.
It's been really cool
[00:02:08] Jason Wong: to see. Yeah. I didn't know that we were your first client until much later. Like you came in, swinging with an audit and you literally came in and make such a huge change to art retention channel that made me believe in retention channel. I was an influencer marketing guy. That was my background.
And I was, you know, I dabble in paid ads. Retention has never been a thing that I was proud of. Um, and I think you set the bar, we're still trying to reach that bar. You set by the way. Uh, there there's a period of time when I didn't email accounted for 30% of our revenue. You, you know, like a couple months were like, I was a far, whenever I interviewed new agencies, I said, this is what we did.
So like, we've got to look at that. I, I don't think anyone has ever gone back to that yet. You can also argue, we have done a lot more net new acquisitions, but I'm always like, look at what Jacob's Sappington
[00:03:02] Jacob Sappington: did. Yeah. Wait, I'm glad I was able to set that bar for you. And I think that, uh, Um, you know, I, I was preparing for this, you know, short call here.
I was singing like, you know, uh, 38%, 40%, you know, whatever it is, like that's not attainable without a good product. And you know, the work that you guys have done on social, in product development, um, it makes it a lot easier. So. Um, yeah, we, I could insert some things in place that, you know, obviously helped your channel out, but ultimately, you know, um, tactics alone, don't win an email
[00:03:35] Jason Wong: really on that same topic.
I want to hear a dots on like your take on retention because there's this whole discussion online, like pay marketing is not really what defines your brand is not what. Right. That's what they say about paid marketing, but really what helps retention marketing? You mentioned products you've mentioned brand, like what is that thing that is outside of your control as a retention marker.
That brand needs to be aware of to really help you become more success.
[00:04:01] Jacob Sappington: Yeah, as I mentioned it, like, it really comes back to product like, um, obviously paid ads work too, to get people familiar with product. Um, I think like retention channels, like they're really this opportunity for you to like speak with your customer, remind them that you, that you exist to show off new products.
But at the end of the day, um, the most important thing is, um, you know, product like. Ads, you know, uh, emails, SMS, like these are all just touch points. You know, it's kind of that classical, um, attribution issue of, you know, radio billboard, um, social media, like what really drove that sale. And at the end of the day, like these are all just touch points and, you know, we're trying to smartly layer in these types of.
Um, just again, just remind people why you exist, how you solve their problems, why they need your product and without a good product that just doesn't happen. So, um, yeah, really it really dives into the product.
[00:04:52] Jason Wong: Absolutely. Uh, I heard through a little birdie recently, you guys had a big viral moment on Reddit, wants to ask you a little bit more about that.
Um, and from my understanding, it wasn't like a revenue driving campaign guys did, um,
[00:05:08] Jacob Sappington: Yeah, uh, actually just happened, uh, yesterday. Um, I was filling out, you know, preparing for this call and that was something that I thought was really cool was, um, I think that, you know, the own channel is just an opportunity for you to like build these relationships, you know, talk to your customers.
And we had a client who, um, Uh, selves sells product to a very popular, um, Netflix TV show, uh, for Bridgehampton. And, um, they got leaked on Reddit, as you know, they have these fabric swatches for free. Um, so they ended up getting 1200 orders placed, um, overnight, uh, for free fabric swatches. And one person tried to place an order for 200,000 swatches.
Yeah. And so we, we checked the numbers and we saw that, uh, that out of those 1200 orders, we had about 400 people who were consented, uh, who had signed up for our emails. Um, so we took that segment. We wrote a quick little plain text email, like just talking finally, like, Hey, glad you found us. Um, no, you're not getting all those swatches, like who is the maniac that thought they were going to get 200,000 swatches?
Like, what were you going to do it. And then like, we've positioned it like H you actually went on to our gloves. We'll, we'll send you this. We gave them 10% off. Um, as of last night when I checked that again, that hadn't driven any revenue, but yeah. Like having that drop thought process to like communicating with your customers, even if they're not your ideal customers and that situation.
I think that's the thought, the thought process more, it means more than the revenue itself. There's a small audience of people who didn't care about us, frankly. Um, so it didn't surprise me that the revenue hasn't came from it. But, um, again, I'm more proud of the thought process that went behind it.
[00:06:41] Jason Wong: Oftentimes these things come up much, much later. You're definitely more memorable. Um, Oftentimes customers don't get an immediate communication back on something that they just did on your site, except for the usual win-back or like abandoned cart checkout. So when they saw this opportunity and they did something and they felt like they got caught, that's memorable.
You're like, oh yeah, this brand is watching out there. They're looking out for, for us. What else could they be doing? You know, if they're paying attention to this, what else could they be paying attention? And in my head, like, even though that's not a revenue generating campaign, that's still something that keeps you top of mind.
And honestly, I, at the core of advertising and just continuously putting your brand on top of people's mind, and you keep doing that until the end, that's really
[00:07:27] Jacob Sappington: it. And honestly, there's a small chance that our campaign could be screenshotted by one of those 400 people that we sent it to and they could post it on Twitter, Instagram, and they could go viral.
And then that in itself, Bringing tens of thousands of dollars. Um, so, you know, it's, it's a, it's a shot in the dark. It's kind of a lottery ticket, but again, the process to talk to your customers, like that's really what matters. Absolutely.
[00:07:53] Jason Wong: And that's what I loved about working with you is that we, back when we were working together, we did a lot of out of the box.
Email marketing campaign. Like you remember when we sent
[00:08:01] Jacob Sappington: that blank template, we sent a blank template just to see what it would do. And tons of people were like, Hey, did you mean to this? And it's like, uh, no, we didn't, we didn't need to do this. But yeah, I remember
[00:08:11] Jason Wong: that there's a lot of funding site idea.
And again, I always look back to every single person that I work with. Now. It's always a reference you're like that kid that graduated and the teachers couldn't stop talking about. Like you have like a corporate hung on a wall. Like there's a bar that we set and there's also like the fun shit that you did.
And like, you know, me, we worked together for over a year. I, I love doing unconventional stuff because for me, selfishly, it's really fun. Um, I, I hate doing boring ads, um, but for you to be a marketer that is also willing to do these things, you kind of have to be. A little silly, um, and, and willing to try these things solo an agency just wouldn't do that for us, like traditional agencies, right?
[00:08:53] Jacob Sappington: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's tough. But yeah, those, uh, uh, oddball moments or like, you know, off the cuff ideas are always, you know, probably the most fun execute it did. It's probably gonna be next to no revenue, but it's definitely a new one of my favorites from this past month,
[00:09:07] Jason Wong: I would say, like, I think these things add on and multiply the intensity of.
Success from future campaigns because people remember you more. They're like, oh yeah, they make me laugh last time. You know, maybe I'll open this. Yep.
[00:09:21] Jacob Sappington: And I think the client is appreciative. Um, just like the speed that it took to implement that we were, you know, he, he was, he came to us and didn't say, Hey, I had this idea.
He came to us and said, Hey, I'm going to be like, getting those revisions back to you. We had this 1200 orders come in. We're having to go through and cancel all the fraudulent ones. And so just bear with me, I'm like, Hey, this is, this is a moment right here. Let's let's do something like
[00:09:43] Jason Wong: this. You're actually that person that taught me to poke fun at our misfortune.
Um, you know, when we ran out of products, we sent an email saying, Hey guys, we, we left up, uh, and like really acknowledging it, like being public and saying that and being transparent, like you're the person that really made me do that more. And we do that now. Um, you know, when we run out of stock or when we oversold or, um, if there was a product defect, like just poking fun at it and being transparent and we were kind of early doing that because now brands do that, but we were early doing it because we realized.
Being transparent is really the key to standing out in the world. All the brands who have this wall of communication were only got texts you in very formal type of language. And like, we will sprinkle some pictures here and there. And then you told me like, you know what? I sent them an email, like how you send an email to your friends.
We did a lot of plain text emails. You, you shifted my, my thoughts on plain text, email, and I, and I'm very, very grateful.
[00:10:43] Jacob Sappington: Yeah. Awesome.
[00:10:45] Jason Wong: I want to touch a little bit more on retention marketing, but not on specific strategies, but more so on your thought process in how this industry has changed recently, but also like the general public perceptions, because for most people retention, isn't something that they learned in school.
They kind of jumped into it because of someone like you on their team, but eventually they found a need for it. So will, what would you say is like a common misconception that people are. When they first get into retention marketing. Um, for me personally, I was like, I'm just going to set up 23 different flows and then let it fly.
[00:11:18] Jacob Sappington: Yep. And that's, that's the one that we see a lot is like, people are like, um, we weren't flows, we need more flows, we need more flows. And, um, yeah. I, I think that there's something to be said about like respecting the inbox, like not being an MBR in the inbox every single day. Um, communicating, like, you know, just like.
You know, talking to your customers, like we've already said you like talking to them, like they're real people. Um, but yeah, I think that's the big one is that people think that more flows, fixes everything, that more emails fixes everything. Um, and it's, and it's a pretty bad trap to get into. Like, we, we talked to people who were sending an email every single day for 30 days and, um, You know, maybe that works, that, you know, you've already removed everyone.
Who's going to unsubscribe at that point. Um, you're, you know, you have a small list of core people who will really purchase whatever you have, but that list is that that audience that will purchase everything you put out, isn't getting bigger because you know, every single day is just too much. And so yeah, the, the big thing that we see is just people.
Thinking that more and more email is the end all be all when you just can't do that. If you want long-term success. Anyways, it'll certainly work in the short term, you'll see increased revenue and then eventually you'll see, you know, just the health of your list of grades. So that's a big one.
[00:12:41] Jason Wong: You, you obviously see a lot of accounts.
Um, you've seen accounts that posts every single day and you see accounts that are a lot more intentional, less volume, but very, very high quality emails. Do you see that? Emails with high volume. Like once a day, they eventually exhausts her lists and it tapers off. But like during the times that they do it, they obviously squeeze a lot of money, but then eventually destroys out.
Is that what you're seeing or something else?
[00:13:06] Jacob Sappington: Yeah. Yeah. So that's definitely part of it is like you're, you're dwindling that list. Like people continue on subscribe. And at a certain point you actually run out of people who are willing to unsubscribe. At some point you've reached an audience of people who are comfortable having.
Probably like you've probably 30,000 emails in their inbox. Um, just chilling and, um, you know, at that point, people see you in their inbox, but it doesn't mean thanks to them. Like it doesn't elicit an emotional response to like, oh, I need to get to us. Cause they know that it's going to be in their inbox again tomorrow.
Um, so we, we, we do see, uh, those lists eventually perform worse and worse. And the downside to that is that the long-term ramifications is that you're hurting your overall deliverability. So you're shrinking that audience. That cares about what you say. And then eventually the domain providers are going to say, Hey, we see that.
Um, G Gmail says, Hey, we see that your peel, you're saying too, don't open and click your email. You're probably spam. You're you're, uh, you're just not going to be prioritizing the inbox. And so it's, it's, like I said, it's a really easy short-term trap to fall into because you think more revenue, but that's just not holding the.
Long-term viewpoint. And it's also difficult because it's kind of based on theory. Like I can sit here and say, this is going to happen. But if you sit here and say, well, my unsubscribe rate, isn't going up whenever I increased since then I, then my audience is fine when it's, uh, you're really relying on one KPI to, um, decide that your whole entire strategy.
[00:14:30] Jason Wong: Absolutely. I, I do want to ask you. Some stuff that would just spice things up. Let's do hot Tix projects. All right, let's do it. What's your hot take us an email marketer.
[00:14:41] Jacob Sappington: Uh, AB testing is overrated specifically on campaigns. Um, I think whenever you AB test campaigns, you're introducing another variable into the equation.
Um, unless you have a massive list, like if you have, you know, 200, 300,000 higher than, you know, multiple hundreds of thousands, if not more, um, Then you're introducing time is a variable that you can't equate for in open rates. The other thing is, is that, although Klayvio now gives us the option to segment out engagers based off of, um, apple privacy protection being true.
They can still get onto your list. In other ways, such as, you know, through our engaged segments, they can get on there by being active on site the, or clicking an email, placing an order. And so they could have fulfilled those engagement metrics. Um, but we're still gonna have a higher. Open rates. Um, and so if I sent a campaign to two groups, you know, AB tests, um, it might just be random distribution luck.
That group a has 20% more apple mail, privacy protection users in it. And so, um, yeah, so my, my hot take is that AB testing subject lines is probably not worth it. On flows, you can probably get away with it because it's a more, um, it's a more intent based audience. So we can, we can make decisions on opens and clicks there.
But for campaigns, you just add in another variable to it and you can't control that distribution of users.
[00:16:10] Jason Wong: Absolutely. On the same topic of the hot tech, obviously your team retention, and you have you, you work in an agency that does pay. Um, is there like a constant battle of I'm better than you, or is this let's just work together mutually and I think we can grow to.
[00:16:30] Jacob Sappington: So I, I consider own channels, like dependent channels. So they are, um, without paid ads, without organic SEO, you know, whatever it is, like my flows aren't going to run. Um, because you know yeah, exactly. In that channel, that those campaigns I'm sending to previously acquired. We're required using re required we're using paid.
Um, when we look at campaign or when, when we look at like account, um, health, like we want to see a really healthy mix of campaigns and flow revenue. So again, a perfect world is 15% campaigns, 15% flows. What that tells me is that we're able to convert. People coming to the site, like new with the flows and we're able to convert, um, previous purchasers with campaigns.
So yeah, we it's, it's, uh, you know, we work together, um, and tandem and, uh, you know, without, with, without us, their ads aren't as effective. And without them, we don't have our lists. So we've got to work
[00:17:25] Jason Wong: together. I'd love to hear it. Um, there there's sometimes just marketers, such as think you're not going to live without.
And I just think that's such a bad way to think about it. Like diversifying your channel is so important when, when this whole Alice 15 thing happened or even 14.5, everyone starts blaming each other. And I, in my opinion, this is my hot take. I think the people that blame, I was 15 that's the only thing is just lazy.
Um, because they're, they just have not thought outside the box of paid ads. There's so many things that they could do. Um, way outside of the Facebook ads manager that they haven't explored. And so when that thing went down, their entire ship sunk well, yeah, because you just never thought it would happen to you.
You thought you're spending so much money, you have so much data and that you will be Bulletproof and then you're not, you know, when the dust settle, it really shows.
[00:18:17] Jacob Sappington: Yeah. And we're, we we're in an industry that moves really quickly. And so if you don't and make adjustments to 14.5 to 15, Whatever the next privacy protection thing, the apple puts out like you will get left behind.
And unfortunately, that's why we're seeing a lot of businesses struggle is just because they haven't been able to, um, to adjust in a, in a correct manner, I guess.
[00:18:39] Jason Wong: Yeah. Uh, off the topic of email. Now I want to talk to you a little bit more about being a partner you recently got. Um, I'm going to say promote you, you joined as a party.
At homestead. And before that you were, um, you were doing retention at 40 and I always get those two mixed up. Cause they're like neighbors and that'd be a friend. I'm so sorry about that. And then before that you were working with me or maybe you have something in between,
[00:19:08] Jacob Sappington: right? Or, uh, so I, I was doing freelance and then, um, We're different, but for a hundred full time.
And then now partner at Alma said,
[00:19:16] Jason Wong: yeah. And I, and it's obviously a great progression I'm seeing like that. That's what I think is an ideal progression for really talented marketer. What what's been the biggest difference you're seeing from row to row in terms of your mindset, like how you approach work now as a partner versus just, you know, working for someone else.
And also like the biggest difference you're seeing in your personal.
[00:19:39] Jacob Sappington: Yeah. Um, I'll address that first one or that last one first, like the biggest thing that I've seen in personal growth is just like helping lead a team. Like, you know, um, in the past, like I was the person that came to my boss and, you know, frustrated because you know, XYZ went wrong and now I'm that person or one of those people that, um, That someone comes to, uh, with concerns and, and, you know, whenever workload gets heavy, like, you know, how can we shift priorities around here?
And so I would say that it's really helped me to, uh, help lead better. Um, I think the other part of your question was what's the difference? Um, I guess the biggest difference going from like, uh, employee to then like partner is, has been, I'm still involved in part of the account day-to-day at homestead.
Um, but again, the biggest part has been being involved in the sales process. You know, being a team lead for, um, for our employees, uh, helping them navigate through fires and everything, but, um, yeah, here in the future, I, I think there's going to be even more leadership opportunities as we grow as a company and, uh, really excited for that.
[00:20:46] Jason Wong: I love that you are able to have that perspective. Okay. You know, someone in their position, who's now reporting to you. You're like, yeah, I get that. Your workload is heavy. I understand. Cause I was literally in your shoes two and a half years ago. Um, and I think empathy through that experience is so important as a leader.
There's so many bad managers can account for how many bad ones there are. Um, and I think the fact that you've been through it makes you a better leader in my opinion. And hopefully that is, you know, maybe I'll quit some of your direct reports on that. No, it's definitely a whole different game because when you work on someone's account as an employee, there's obviously incentives, which is keeping a job and doing whatever and, and putting out the fires of the day.
And then once you move into a partner level or ownership level, it's like you have to start building fireproof walls and stuff, just putting out fires. And then you got to do the two things at once, and then you got to figure out how to get more firemen to help out and do those two things. And it does get chaotic sometimes, but I, I know you're, you've been always, uh, capable of managing workload.
I think that's one thing that I've always respected about you. I feel like I just did like a episode just to praise you, but not surely. I always tell people, this is what we've done in the past. And I want us to get back to this. Um, and I actually tell them to like, reference your tweets, like read your stuff.
And so just want to say like, from a previous, like a former coworker, that that's the impact that you've made at our company. And I don't think I've ever said.
[00:22:21] Jacob Sappington: Yeah, I appreciate that. It sounds like I need to start tweeting some more too. So you guys have more content to go off of and
[00:22:25] Jason Wong: you back up, come on.
Our entire company depends on me now. I am so happy to actually reconnect with you. I know we've all been so busy and it's hard to talk because you're living in the middle of a cornfield. Uh, that was, that was the joke of the entire time that we were working together. You're in Illinois. Yep. And his internet was always so spotty during cost, we would just freeze and we would just make fun of them and say, oh man, the Corfield wifi is not working anymore.
[00:22:56] Jacob Sappington: We recently got it. Upgrade here at the office that I rent to 300 megabytes per second. So yes, we're getting there. Big, big growth in all in all aspects, I guess.
[00:23:07] Jason Wong: Huge. Well, thank you so much for coming on. Where can we find you? Where can we find home? Yeah.
[00:23:12] Jacob Sappington: Um, you can find me on Twitter at J Sappington and then homestead at, um, the URL is homestead studio.co.
Um, and we, we do growth. We do retention. Um, we can, you know, some clients choose us for, for both growth intervention, and then they can also kind of, uh, pick their services that they want. Um, we have a pretty, pretty wide array of clients, you know, as, as niche down as, you know, really fancy gloves that are like truly one of a kind, you know, all the way to, you know, more generic stuff like supplements.
So we, we have a pretty wide array of clients and definitely a, uh, Uh, benefit, you know, just seeing how, how we think through objections of trying to sell, um, $200 gloves versus, you know, $30 supplement. So yeah, we're available for growth and retention.
[00:24:02] Jason Wong: Love that. Well, thank you, Jacob. We'll see you soon. All right.
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