Episode 222: Carrie Tillman, Building Character into Your Email Marketing
Carrie Tillman runs a successful online business and does it primarily through email marketing.
Her character, Shelley McMurtry, has legions of fans and followers she actively monetizes.
Learn the process that Carrie goes through to create a lovable character that gets results.
Find out how you can use Characters to increase sales in your email marketing, even if you are a b2b marketer.
Carrie and I cover her 10 techniques for sustaining a relationship via email marketing and compare and contrast our strategies.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. And on today’s show, you’re going to get to meet Carrie Tillman. Carrie and I are in a mastermind business-networking group together, and I recently attended a mastermind in person gathering where Carrie did a presentation where she talked about her email marketing strategies and what she does to create a character that can sustain over years and years of connection with an ever-growing audience. So we’re going to talk today about sustaining relationships and building your characters in email marketing, and Carrie and I are going to share – we do things differently. She does some things in the same way I do and some things we do differently, and so I thought it would be a really interesting dialogue for you to think about. Because honestly, I see a lot of bad email marketing out there. There’s a lot of talk about what emails services to use and what are open rates and click through rates and should you use HTML or plain text and blah, blah, blah. But no one’s getting into the soul, the connection of email marketing that people are doing, and I think Carrie’s really doing a good job with that.
Now she started out in the high tech sector. She had a market research company, so she’s not new to marketing by any means. She brings a wealth of background and experience to this particular subject. She started this new career path that I’m going to tell you about, filled with stories from her own dating life of being a single career-minded successful businesswoman who was tired of dating men who were intimidated by her successes and her drive. And so she entered the attraction and dating market for men. She founded Firstinhermind.com in 2004 with a desire to help men recognize and to be able to keep a super high quality woman like Carrie in their life. She teaches men how to develop their confidence, identity and sense of security so that they won’t make the classic mistakes she’s seen men make out there in the dating world. In her emails, she tells stories from her own life, from the lives of her friends and relatives, through her pen name, Shelly McMurtry. Her persona as Shelly is known to be sarcastic, direct, as well as controversial in times, yet I personally find Carrie to be as smooth as silk and butter.
So she’s had years of loyal readers who’ve been with her since her very first emails where she’s dated, utilized a lot of observational humor of the things she sees men doing, and she’s told some pretty outrageous stories that could, as outrageous stories are, only be true. Now Carrie thinks it’s important for a character to be entertaining, controversial and not afraid to make someone angry. So in addition to fulfilling the role of her own character and running Firstinhermind.com, Carrie also teaches others how to properly develop a character that will work for their business or practice and increase your profit margin and the long-term success of your business.
So what we’re really talking about here are techniques for sustaining a relationship using email marketing and we’ll probably slop over into some copywriting here and there. So lets get Carrie on the show and welcome her and find out all kinds of interesting things she’s thinking about and building a character. Welcome Carrie.
Carrie Tillman: Hi. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Susan Bratton: It sure is darling. Thank you so much. So lets go through your list. First of all, let’s talk about for First In Her Mind, what’s your frequency of mailing and how do you manage writing your emails? Lets really just get a level set on that. What’s the frequency and how do you do it?
Carrie Tillman: Okay. Well I started out originally focusing on two emails per day. The first would be what I call a relationship building email where it’s free content. It might be a story from my life, something that gives the reader something to look forward to, that kind of gives them more of a connection to me and my character Shelly McMurtry, something that’s entertaining. In those, well I call them articles instead of emails, but of course they come via email, but in those articles I’ll have a couple of ads. It’s not a direct pitch, but it’s kind of a soft pitch that’s set up more as a classified ad. But in addition to that, they’re getting a lot of free content and entertainment as well. Then in the afternoons or later on in the day, sometimes even in the evening, I send out a direct pitch, and that is pretty much a direct cold hard pitch, click on this link, buy this or whatever it may be.
So at first I started with two. I still for the most part follow the two emails per day foundation, but I’ve also added to that in that now I have a continuity program. I actually have two continuity programs. One is very low cost. Some people are even on there for free due to other products that they have purchased. So they get emails occasionally, as well as my full continuity program. Some people are getting emails through that. Then I have segmented lists. For instance, I have a list for men that are just over 50. So lets say that a man is over the age of 50 and he’s on that list, but he’s also what I call a gold hold man, which is my continuity program. If he’s on my gold hold man, that means he’s also on my silver hold man. Then if he’s also opted into firstinhermind.com originally, then certain days he could get upwards of five emails from Shelly. Now a lot of those emails are not direct pitches of course because of my continuity program. Those would be content filled, what I now call tidbits. Versus doing larger newsletters like once a month, I think that it’s more valuable to send out more frequent emails that are a little shorter and just give him what I am not calling tidbits.
So my readers get a minimum of two emails per day, and sometimes upwards of five emails per day, depending on which lists they’re on, as well as if they’re in any of my continuity programs. As far as my content, I get that from everything that I’m around on a daily basis, everything that I’ve experienced in my life, things that I witness as I go about my daily activities. A lot of people ask me, “Where do you get all your content from? How can you sit down and write that much each morning and have that many new things to say?” And my response has always been, “Well if you’re alive and breathing, then you have content. Content is all around us.” You just have to kind of develop the mental muscle to recognize content, and some things, it’ might not even be direct content, but you can link them to content in some way, shape or form. So to me, finding content is extremely easy.
Susan Bratton: All right, so one of the things Carrie and I decided to do on this particular episode of DishyMix is to just kind of compare and contrast the way we do things. So Carrie’s just explained how she has guys segmented on different lists, in different programs for her company. That’s the same thing that we do at Personal Life Media. We’ve got many different products. We’ve got people coming in to sales funnels, going through auto responder series. So we do auto responders, which are already preprogrammed to take them through a path of information, maybe they’ve come on to one of our mailing lists about one of our products and we’re educating them and teaching them and explaining it how it works and giving them some examples of the product and then asking them for an order, making them offers for orders.
But we also do broadcast emails, and those are emails we do fresh, daily. That’s like daily fresh content. Now I only do broadcasts Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I do five days a week. I don’t mail any broadcasts on Monday and Tuesday because the data that I’ve seen in the marketplace looks to me like most unsubscribes come from Monday/Tuesday. Especially Carrie and I are both sending out personal information and people are busy focused on their work on Monday and Tuesdays if they do work, and so we found that we’ve lowered our unsubscribe rate based on not mailing Mondays and Tuesdays. So a person could, in our database as well, they might be on to auto responder series, maybe they’re a customer of one of our products, a prospect of another one our products and they’re getting emails from us. So a person could get five emails a day from Personal Life Media from different brands and different characters as well rather than just a single character. And we definitely try to watch for that, but we also do these fresh broadcast emails everyday, so I’m writing between five and ten emails a week, ‘cause I’ll also mail twice a day sometimes, but I’ll mail them from different characters. So Susan Bratton would never send out two emails a day, but Susan and Tallulah would or Dr. Patti and Sloan would. And o we actually use multiple characters to mail multiple messages to even the same person in a single day. And then we’ll take those broadcast messages, and if there’s evergreen content, we’ll pull that out and we’ll add that into an auto responder loop.
So a person might come in and go through one auto responder series with 20 emails in it. They’ll loop onto another auto responder series that’s more general about many of our products and services. When they’re done it that, they’ll loop on to the next one. So essentially even as I’m writing broadcast emails every day or five days a week, what I’m doing is adding to my backend evergreen content so that there are literally hundreds of emails that a person can go through so that they can, like you have done Carrie, been with you since 2004, year after year, you’re just continuing to give them both fresh content and really high quality evergreen content in the form of what you call articles. So I do blog posts and I put some of the content in an email and then link to the blog post as a way for customers to kind of, to teach them that click to the blog post. And so that’s our strategy as well. So we’re very similar in that way. We’ll mail multiple times a day. We’ll work from one or more characters. We have auto responders as well as broadcast emails and we’re constantly moving people forward through our funnels and our segmentation. Did you think I wrapped that up pretty well?
Carrie Tillman: Yes, yes.
Susan Bratton: Great. So one of the other things that I want to talk to you about is who you write for and who you don’t write for. Because once you’ve created a character – and we’re going to get into that – you’re really, that character is in service to that target audience and what their needs and desires are. So I’d love to hear how you describe your target audience.
Carrie Tillman: All right, the target audience that I really have gone for is the educated mature man, the college graduate and above. Really men that are in their earliest late 20’s, really more 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. Some that are divorced, that have already been married. Others that have not been married yet but desire to get married, as well as men that are more interested in a long-term committed relationship versus one night stands. Now whenever you have a site like this, you’re going to get a little bit of everything. It’s hard to say, “Oh I’m only going to have this or I’m only going to write towards this group of men.” So there’s certain articles where Shelly, my character Shelly, throws in something that they may not necessarily be expecting Shelly to say or admit. And that kind of adds to the layers of Shelly’s personality and to the entertainment value, but it can also then go towards the group of men that maybe Shelly doesn’t talk to or talk with as often.
So you still can incorporate other groups, other segments even if they’re smaller ones, on your list, but for the most part Shelly writes for men that are a little older, a little more mature, refined and they really desire a long-term stable relationship or marriage.
Susan Bratton: Perfect. And for me, I have a similar target. Mine is men in relationship who are 35 to 65. That’s my target audience. Also college educated. And so when a woman writes to me and she says, “You know, even though my name is Pat, I’m a woman. How come you don’t write to me as a woman?” I email her back and I get maybe one of those a week, and I say, “Our list is targeted to men. Our products are targeted to men, and I would love and encourage you to stay on the list, but know that I don’t write for women, I write for women, I’m in service to women, but I write through men. That’s what I do.” And they seem to be fine with that. I mean if you’re really clear about who your customer is, I think (a), it helps you create a deeper relationship. You’re not trying to be all things to all people. You’re very clear about who you’re in service to, and then you can do better work for them. I think a lot of people get into trouble when they try to reach and talk to too wide an audience. And I’ll tell you, list segmentation for the average small business customer is very difficult.
So the inbound lead and where they come in from is helpful. We have those segments. But trying to do back in segmentation with a lot of these email products is very difficult.
Carrie Tillman: And as an example, for me having also a male list, I have one woman that has been on my list for several years and she’s stuck with it and she loves reading the articles, and occasionally she sends her feedback to either a readers question or an article that I’ve written. And she’s provided great material and insight, and so sometimes I share one of her emails, so it’s just kind of added to the value and the content.
Susan Bratton: Absolutely. I think that’s probably one of my best techniques is I have a lot of series of emails. I’ll do a whole series on something and then I’ll put it in brackets, I’ll give it a name. I’ll say, “You’re going to get ten insights into intimacy, episodes with Calle and I talking about the ten biggest problems that men in long-term relationship face.” Or, “Dousing your burning questions” Readers send in questions and Tallulah and I answer them. That kind of thing. And so I like to do series and often I do at least once a week a mail bag where I have one or more responses from someone who’s using one of our programs and positive and/or negative experiences, and share those with my advice, and then blog that as well. So I think the more that you can incorporate your members and make it feel like our group, which is one of your ten techniques for sustaining relationship, the better off you are at making people feel like there’s really a core group of people and something important happening because they’re seeing the feedback from other members, and they’re realizing that they’re not along and that this is actually a very, very vital place for them to be.
Carrie Tillman: Exactly, yeah. Well the feeling them filling that day are part of a group and that they are a member of something and they’re sharing and they’re heard and others are sharing and they’re heard is extremely, extremely important. And some of my best email campaigns that I’ve done have come through allowing various group members to share their opinions, to give their feedback and then I share those in my email articles, and they kind of go back and forth with one another indirectly, but it really gives them that feeling that they are a member and they are heard and they are part of this group.
Susan Bratton: So lets go through your ten techniques for sustaining a relationship using email marketing, and lets just consider that one number one, referring to readers as members and our group. I’ve started doing that since I heard you speak. And it had always been in my mind that that’s what they were, they were members and it was our group. But I really started being more acute, more direct using that actual languaging. And now these are impossible things to track, other than that if you get tons of feedback and you’ve got really high open rates, which you do and I do, we’re on the right track because we’re doing those things. So that’s number one, refer to readers as members and talk about them being our group. Make it inclusive and make sure they feel like they’re part of something, that it’s a community, a vital community. What’s the next of the ten techniques that you use for sustaining a relationship?
Carrie Tillman: Well one that I think that’s very important is to create your own vocabulary so that there’s certain words that your character uses or certain names of things that your character will call upon whenever there is a reader that he or she wants to respond to in a certain manner. And they can kind of be corny; they can kind of be funny. You want them to be a little lighthearted and not too serious, but still your group members know exactly what you’re talking about or what type of person you’re talking about when you use that term or that name, and that’s extremely important. And it’s important for a couple of reasons. Number one, it separates you as a marketer and a writer from other marketers and writers that they read. They’re words that pretty much only you use or names that you have for things that you’ve just created, that they’re names that they know that you use or like that my character Shelly uses. That’s one reason why it’s important.
The other reason is that part of what you want to create with having members in a group is where they feel like they have inside scoop and long-term seasoned members know certain things and know certain terminology and vocabulary that’s used, that newer readers and members won’t know. So it also helps to go back to that first point of building the feeling of a membership and a group in that the vocabulary terms and some of the wording that you use, seasoned readers will of course know about that and the background stories to some of those terms and names more so than a new reader would. So creating your own vocabulary is very important. That’s the next one.
Susan Bratton: All right, what’s the next one after that, ‘cause I think that’s pretty straightforward?
Carrie Tillman: Okay, the next one I say is to have ongoing characters and friends that are often mentioned, like for instance Shelly has a really good friend named Sandra. Now Carrie in my real life, I don’t have a friend named Sandra, but Sandra as a character is really comprised of several friends and women that I know that are very strong-willed women and their business savvy, their extremely smart and they’ve, like I have had, have had problems with men being intimidated by them, getting very sheepish and mousy around them when they find out that she’s a business owner or whatnot. So Sandra is really kind of comprised of a few friends that Carrie has in real life, but I tell a lot of stories through Sandra. And over the years, readers that have followed me know my friend Sandra, know Shelly’s friend Sandra.
I have another character that I use, my friend Hailey. Now Hailey is my wild, crazy, extremely sexual professor friend. She’s a nutty professor. She’s extremely smart, but she can go out and stay out all night and drink a good bit and she hooks up with men for one night stands. She’s a lot crazier than Shelly is. So she can tell some crazy stories that might actually lose some credibility if Shelly were tell them from her own life, but if she tells them through Hailey, Hailey is just a wild, nutty, crazy professor friend. And so Hailey’s a very fun character.
So there’s different characters that I use that are Shelly’s friends that where I can convey certain stories that may not be best for Shelly to tell directly herself, because it could hurt my main character’s credibility.
Susan Bratton: I do exactly the same thing. We have four different characters. They’re real people and they’re characters, and they’re our brand. But Sloan can tell stories that Dr. Patti or Tallulah would never tell. Susan has to be very buttoned up and yet she shares her personal details. And so we do that same thing. Now thinking about a business-to-business brand, because so many of the people who listen to DishyMix are marketing much more straight-laced things than dating and relationship and personal information. How would you recommend, knowing what you know, coming out of traditional marketing and market research, how would you recommend that someone take our advice about having ongoing characters and friends, and build that out into more of a corporate business to business strategy?
Carrie Tillman: Well as far as doing it on a list, you can even segment a list where different people who want to follow different characters can follow those characters individually and specifically if they choose. So you really can carry that forward and divide that and also add that, incorporate that into your segments. For instance, years back, she doesn’t do it anymore, but I had a friend, her character name was Mary Jo Tyler. Her real name was very similar, but we changed it a little just for her own safety. And she kind of started doing work through the Shelly McMurtry list first and sharing reports and whatnot, and then she really wanted to kind of build her own business. She wanted it to be kind of on the side. She never wanted to do it full time because she had other passions and other businesses. But we were able to build it out where people that wanted to just follow the stories of Mary Jo could go and opt in to her list.
So you can really use characters to widen your list and your readership. You can market those characters individually where if lets say, like for Shelly, maybe my core is more for the older more conservative man. But maybe I’ll want to advertise in something, maybe a publication on a website for younger men, maybe Hailey would be the better character to advertise with for something like that. So you can use a lot of these characters depending on what your advertising and what segments you want and who you want to attract to various lists that you might have.
Susan Bratton: Yeah and I think for a business to business strategy, if you can get an editorial calendar going with a number of people in your organization and you’ve got engineering people, customer support people, your CEO, VP of marketing, whomever it might be, anyone that can write a couple of times a year even can be someone that you introduce and say, “Look, I’m forwarding this for my CEO because I thought you’d really enjoy getting to know him or her better.” I think the forwards from other people in the organization can also be a nice way to keep your list, having a good idea that there are a lot of bright people within your particular company.
Carrie Tillman: Yes, and one, I was just going to add one point in this. I have known over the years one of the people that my list really likes hearing from because they hear about her quite a bit is my assistant [inaudible]. And so occasionally [inaudible] – not often, I really save this. I’m very conservative with this one. But I save it for like product promotions that are very close to my heart for someone I really care about. I know that if [inaudible] sends an email out because she does it so infrequently, the open rate is substantially higher, usually 40% to 50% higher. And I’ll save that for a [inaudible] recommends this type promotion. And I use that sparingly, but they know that when they hear from [inaudible] it’s going to be something new, something very interesting and something they haven’t been exposed to before.
Susan Bratton: So we talked a little bit about also your number four techniques is occasionally doing a series of emails – part one, part two, part three. What have you noticed gets the highest open rates in serial emails? And lets also in this particular part of our conversation talk a little bit about the soap opera sequence that Andre Chaperone has been using. Have you been doing things that are just individual one, two, threes or are you doing soap operas with cliffhangers? What kinds of strategies have you used that you can tell in a finite way have worked better to increase the performance of your marketing?
Carrie Tillman: Well really I’ve tried all of the above. I have done just kind of the basic email to email. Now one thing – and we’ll get to this in a little bit – one thing that’s very important if you’re doing, especially as I do daily emails, is to keep them current so that they know that they’re live and they have anything in it, even if it’s just one simple sentence that lets them know that you’re writing it that morning. Maybe it’s a breaking news event or something. We’ll get to that in a little bit. But as far as soap opera sequences, those work really well and I’ve written several of those. And I incorporate that as well in my daily articles and I’ve done a series of articles up to like 20something, 30something parts, where at the end of each one it’s “To Be Continued,” “To Be Continued.” So they get accustomed to following them.
Now in between, whenever I’m doing one of those to my main list, I send out other articles and other items as well. I may only do one part of that series like two or three times a week so that they’d never know when the next part is coming, they’re always opening their emails, they’re always looking and it keeps them very active. So I think doing all of the above is important, having the soap opera sequences on the side, but also incorporating the same psychology in your normal article writing, your day to day writing.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, what I’ve been doing, so you actually pen your emails on a daily basis. I don’t do that; what I do is I have a deadline every Monday night to get all of my emails, five to ten emails completely written and delivered to the person that works with us who puts them into our email system ‘cause that’s a very laborious process. And the way that I do it is I think about what I, I try to have some, I try to balance things. One, I have some themes; sometimes I’ll do a theme week. Other times I have a couple of different theories that are happening concurrently, like maybe I have a mail bag series and an audio interview series and a series on something else, and each week they get one of those. So those go in and out of my auto responder sequences. And then I also have the desire to get people to open more of the emails I send them, and so I try to use future pacing, I let them know something that’s coming, so look for an email tomorrow about this, and I put that right in the body of the email about the thing I’m writing today.
So what I’m trying to do is tell them about things that are coming up by writing them in a sequence. I also try, instead of doing – I haven’t done a lot of cliffhangers specifically, but what I have done is portend what’s coming and/or create series that once you read all three or all five or all ten you get a deep dive into a subject. I’m also using a lot of PS’s, where I will have a main article, as you like to call it and I like your nomenclature, with something that says “Tomorrow” or “Later this week, this is coming.” But I’ve also started putting in the PS’s links to a couple of things that have already happened in the past and even some things that are happening in the future that they get early ‘cause they open that email. They don’t have to wait until next Thursday to get or Sunday to get it. It’s right there as a PS. This is coming out to everyone on Sunday, but here it is today for you.
So I worry sometimes that I have too many links in my emails, but I also think well if you’re only getting a 5% to maybe 30% open rate on your emails and 30% is like pretty much only when I do like the things people like the very, very most on my list, which are usually pictures. And we’re going to talk about pictures. I want to balance trying to find something they want to click on in that email without putting too many links and then they get overwhelmed by how much I’m asking them to do in the email, and I’m not sure I hit that balance all the time. I can live at a high level of imperfection, ‘cause I have to, ‘cause I have a high level of imperfection. But I just, in talking about that, the series and the links and the soap operas and threading things together so that you’re getting them really engaged, if you have any additional wisdom based on what I’ve just described to you, I’d like to hear it.
Carrie Tillman: Yes, number one, as you said, pictures are big and we’ll talk about that more in a minute. But I’ve never been too concerned about putting too many links in an email or, as I call them, articles. I have found that many times – and I see this when others come in – many times in my daily relationship building articles, I’ll have a few classified ads in there, I’ll have an ad in the PS or something, and a good percentage of the time if someone, especially a new buyer comes in that has seen one of those products before and they’re hungry for products, they will buy not only one of those but a couple of them and you’ll see in different order forms their name come up a couple of times where they bought not only one product from that email but a couple products from that email.
So I’m not real hesitant as far as how many links I put in an email. I think you can overload it to an extent, but I normally have one at the very beginning, which is usually one of the best converting ones before the article starts. Then I’ll have one at the tail end of the articles, sometimes one in the middle of the articles, and then I’ll have one or two PS’s, and I do the same thing as you do where sometimes I leave it with another PS that says, “If you want a sneak peak of this that’s coming out on such and such date, go here now.” And I use a lot more cliffhangers though and “To be continued” soap opera sequences as far as getting them ready to open the next article and preparing them for that. If I, what I do, I enjoy writing every single day, and that’s a little different than somehow most people approach it, but I really enjoy writing every single day. When I started this, I hated it. It was like trying to pull teeth for me to sit down and think about what to write, how to write it, get my thoughts in order, then type it out. It literally, I could sit in front of the computer two hours without a thought in my mind. I mean it was ridiculous. It was absolutely ridiculous. But over time, it got where I enjoyed writing articles and now I really, even if I take a vacation and I queue articles in advance, which I do occasionally, I feel lost. I mean I really like my routine of being able to get up, have my espresso, sit down and write an article. I just love it. For some reason, it’s almost like my therapy.
So a lot of times though what I will do is I’ll have ideas for articles now long before I write them. So I may sit down on Sunday evening or something and I might kind of just drop myself notes of this “This is what I want to write Monday. Oh, on Tuesday, I want to write about the segment I saw on 60 Minutes.” I may write whatever my thoughts are for articles. So then on Monday when I write that article, in the PS or towards the end I can say, “Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about such and such stuff, which I got the idea from watching 60 Minutes,” and whatnot, and then I might even give them the link to that clip because it’s very important to share gifts with them and freebies with them where they click on links and it’s not always a sales pitch, where you share everything from music with them. It could be some corny YouTube video, even a segment that you saw on TV or a website. You definitely want links in there occasionally that aren’t always just sales pitches, but just to free content that you’re sharing with them or passing along.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, ultimately – and lets go to sharing our life pictures – what you’re really trying to do is connect at a human level with your customers that you can certainly ask them for orders and tell them why you think it would benefit their life to try your products, but ultimately you’re also their cheerleader, their advocate and their friend. So number five…
Carrie Tillman: And they’re part of the family.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Carrie Tillman: Yeah, and number five is yes, share our life’s pictures, even of everyday events. I’ve tested a lot of pictures. I’ve tested kind of showing my sexier friends when we’re out in public. I’ve tested things since I live on an equestrian center, I’ve tested kind of horse related pictures and women. I’ve done kind of the whole gamut of pictures that I could possibly try. And it’s funny, I found that a lot of readers like the pictures that just come from honest everyday life. Of all pictures that I’ve sent out, one of the ones that got the most positive feedback in response was a picture of my cat Zora curled up in one of my flowerpots basically crushing some of the flowers I had just planted. But she looked so cute and comfortable, and I just happened to take a picture and I sent it out, and I got incredible feedback. And I think the reason for that is that it looks real. It looks like Shelly really is sharing something from her true life, and it applied to them and maybe something they even subconsciously made them happy in their past or maybe it made them think of something or remember something. Who knows? But it was amazing how the corny picture of a cat in a flowerpot got that big of a response, yet I’ve sent out pictures of my more attractive friends and pictures of me going about daily activities, and while those get a good response, sometimes it’s the dorkiest, goofiest picture of just an everyday event that gets the best response.
Now going back to my nomenclature and vocabulary, one thing that I talk about and I just, I kind of coined this a while back, is I have what’s my big Chihuahua award, and I think I went over this when I was doing the presentation that you heard. And I have a pictures of this Chihuahua statue in my garden that one of the cats managed to knock over and break the tail off of and it kind of rusted hole in its rear end. Anyhow, occasionally I will send that picture out and it’s the big Chihuahua hole award, for if I saw a man doing something in public and throwing kind of a temper tantrum with his girlfriend or doing something that was highly unattractive and goofy, I’ll tell the story, then I’ll put that funny picture of the Chihuahua statue with the kind of hole on its butt in the email. Everyone laughs at it. Yes it’s corny, but they know that Shelly will give the big Chihuahua hole award to a man that isn’t doing what he shouldn’t be with women or isn’t demonstrating attractive qualities, and they kind of follow it and they know that.
And so it’s pictures like that. They’re kind of funny. They’re of everyday events. A while back I shared one, we have some what’s known as [inaudible] which is basically a small green parrot that comes to the equestrian center, and one day I came home from lunch and they were around the bird feeder, so I stepped out of my car and got close and focused in on my camera and took a picture of them, and I shared it the next day. And it was amazing how much feedback I got from that. So sometimes it can be your everyday picture, something you just happen to come across, something that’s in your own backyard, and they love it because it seems real and like you’re sharing your real life with them.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I think in business, we get afraid to be funny and silly and personal and send pictures of parrots and Chihuahuas and that’s what people like. And so encouraging my listeners to bring some fun little reality into your email marketing, people love Easter eggs and blue birds and apple pie, and… It doesn’t always need to be so darn serious, does it?
Carrie Tillman: Right. You’re right because so many people are intimidated to do that; not many do. Therefore, if you’re a character that does that, right there you’re going to kind of separate yourself from many of the others.
Susan Bratton: Definitely. Now we’ve got to go a little faster through the last five, so lets take number six and what is number six of your ten techniques for sustaining relationships?
Carrie Tillman: Okay, I say regularly shock your readers, okay. Say something that they wouldn’t assume your character would say or something that your character wouldn’t normally do. It doesn’t have to be completely off the wall, but something, maybe be a little harder on a subject than they would assume you would be. Or maybe go out and, lets say in real life, there’s a lot of what Shelly talks about happens in Carrie’s life or Carrie witnesses or something, so maybe if I, lets just say I happen to go out with a group of friends, it lasts a little longer than I think it will, we get into some pretty comical subjects and maybe I end up being a little bit goofier than I normally would be or a little more opinionated than I would normally on a particular subject. Then the next morning I might write an article and I might incorporate that from the Shelly character, and I might tell the story of what happened or what was discussed or the opinion that now I will say that Shelly said, and it may be a little shocking to them. It may be conscionable. It may be something that they didn’t really anticipate that I would say or do, but it keeps them on their toes. It keeps them interested.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s always hard from a business perspective to do that. And one of the – so lets see. I really think number seven, frequent controversial remarks is similar to regularly shocking them, and number eight is a continuous look into Shelly’s world with pictures, stories, sharing and resources, which is like sharing real life pictures, right?
Carrie Tillman: Yes.
Susan Bratton: So I want to move to this steady stream of truly free gifts. And I want to talk about that because the things that we can give away in email are audio clips, video clips, free e-books or simply some really insightful content, especially something maybe like an exercise or a thought process or an actionable nugget that they can apply today to their business or their life or whatever it might be. What other kinds of things besides that have you been able to find to give away for free, or is that really like what we have to work with?
Carrie Tillman: Yes that’s what we have to work with to an extent. The other option is to hold contests. Contests are very powerful because they get your readers involved. It makes them active. So you might give out, lets say you find, it can be some funny T-shirt you find even when you’re on vacation, okay. So maybe you’ll say, “I went to Key West this weekend. Normally I don’t like goofy tourist T-shirts, but I found this one, I thought it was so funny I picked up five of them.” And you hold a contest and for the five winners they get one of these T-shirts. So you can take a picture of the T-shirt, send it out in an email, state whatever your contest is going to be and how it’s going to be judged, and then your readers get involved and they can win a T-shirt. No it’s not a free gift for everyone, but certain ones will get the gift.
And so yes, you can also do gifts through contests and giving things away for someone that either is able to answer a question correctly or sends them the best email for whatever you’re asking them to do, whatnot. But contests are very powerful. When I was traveling on a road trip a while back, I did “Where in the world is Shelly,” and they had to guess along the way where Shelly was. Shelly would send out hints and then along the way there were prizes that they would be sent if they guessed where Shelly was in time. So that’s another way of delivering free gifts that also gets them involved even more.
Susan Bratton: I like it. That’s a great idea. Yeah, I sometimes wonder if I gave away so much free content that they have no need to actually buy anything from me. There’s definitely a balance to be struck, and I think I’m overcompensating. I think I’m giving away too many great things that are so rich that I should really be selling them, but you know how hard it is to sell every little thing you have. And so I wonder what is it that’s working for you when you’re actually trying to sell them, sell your lists something, how do you go about doing that? Do you use scarcity? Do you have a timeframe? Do you have a special sale? What things work when you have a very active customer base and you want them to purchase your products or products from other people?
Carrie Tillman: Well of course the scarcity always works. The very limited quantities or timeframes, that’s always a good promotion to use. I’ll tell you one thing, this goes kind of right back to what you were talking about, do I give away too much for free and do I leave them no necessarily needing to buy anything from that point? One of the simplest, easiest sales – well it’s not really a sales pitch, it’s basically a soft pitch, that I have found that I’m using, especially to sell a lot of my smaller products now, is I’ve taken like the first section or maybe one of the harder hitting sections of my smaller guides and reports, I’ve put it on a web page. Yes they get that percentage of that product or that report, whatever it is for free, and then at the bottom they’re asked to buy the rest of it, “To continue reading, pay such and such for this and order here.” And those tend to be on my smaller products some of my best sellers. A, you’re still giving them a free gift. They feel like they’ve gotten some content and value for free. But then they’re asked to buy.
And so it’s a very soft pitch, but I’ve done some of those that have been wildly successful, and it’s not done with as much scarcity, it’s not done as much with there’s only 50 of these available or whatever quantity you might assign to it. Its just here’s the free part, if you want the rest of it pay X amount, here you go. And it’s been amazing how well that has worked for me.
Susan Bratton: What about subject lines? What have you noticed works now that didn’t used to work or what do people think works that you don’t think works anymore? Because I definitely feel like it’s always an arms race with customers and really trying to get them to prioritize opening your emails over the millions of other things that take their time and attention.
Carrie Tillman: Well I’ve found that especially like new video, free video, for some reason video, I think because so many marketers have used that over the years, that’s just kind of like, “Oh great, another sales video.” However, I have not seen as much of a difference in my open rate if I put picture on it. A lot of time picture increases the opening rate. They still love pictures. I think too, but for me is that they know usually when I say picture, that there’s a picture directly in that email. Because I send out so many intriguing and interesting pictures, they want to know what the next picture is going to be. So for me, picture works. I have heard other people say that picture does not work in their emails subject lines as well.
In addition, I try to come up with the funny words and kind of goofy titles, things that are kind of mysterious to them, and they just have to open it to know what it’s about. I see a lot of people kind of telling the whole gist of their article or what they’re going to write about in the subject alone. So if the person isn’t interested in that particular subject, they’re not even going to open the emails, they’re just going to hit delete. So you need to leave it open enough and mysterious enough where they don’t know if it applies to them or not, but they’ve got to open it to see if it might. I think that’s very important. I think that a lot of people actually put too much information in their subject lines when they actually should leave it a little more open and mysterious.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, you like to use mystique. That probably appeals to you.
Carrie Tillman: Yeah, and I try, especially if I have something that’s a word that I use, I’ll put it in like quotation marks, I’ll do certain things to make certain words stand out. I might put a star around a certain word, things that kind of make your subject line stand out. On certain keywords, I capitalize them a lot of times, and that doesn’t affect your Spam rating as much. Of course if you use too many exclamation points or question marks, certain things like that, that will affect your Spam score, and then of course you have to worry about deliverability and everything else. But if you get creative on your titles, you don’t have to worry about that as much and you can have just completely eye opening, goofy titles that just make them want to click that email and see what it’s about.
Susan Bratton: Absolutely. And the subject line is the most important thing. I mean if you can get them to open the email, you can likely get them engaged. The other thing that you said, you use a lot of pictures. I put an image in every single email. So all my emails go out with images. Not one without it. I think that for people who are visual, they really appreciate having an image that connects in with the subject matter. I also personally just really enjoy selecting the images. I have a 123rf.com subscription and I just, I have a massive amount of images that I’ve collected over the years that are my own and I take a lot of pictures and things like that as well. And I think that also increases it. So good mystique, offering pictures, consistency of connection, always being there for them, sharing your personal life, these are all great things that I think in many cases business to business email marketers are not doing, and they can take a really good page out of your book, Carrie, and have more success, higher open rates and increased conversions by being more themselves and definitely social media has opened us up to the fact that we are both workers and individuals, and that there’s a way that we can be followed, if you will, and have fans, friends, subscribers and followers, and reveal ourselves to our prospects and our customers.
And I really appreciate you coming on the show today to talk about how you do it and for us to dialogue about how we both do it a little differently but we’re pretty similar, and there are people who -- I didn’t send out an email over ten days during Christmas, I just too the time off, I didn’t do any broadcasting. You only got my auto responders and I got so many emails from people saying, “Where are my emails?” I mean as a brand, if your customers are waiting to get your emails, you’re doing something right. And they’re buying and you’re making money on your email marketing, ‘cause I know you also – and this is the last thing that I want to talk about – you also do affiliate offers, so you’re not always just promoting your own programs and products, you’re also, you’ve promoted for me and I think I’ve promoted for you, and if I haven’t I will darling. We promote for each other in our marketplace, we find products and programs on Click Bank, etcetera. How do you decide what to promote? How frequently are you promoting affiliate offers and what is your general thinking about it? Are you feeling more or less positive about it? Just give me your whole kind of strategy on that.
Carrie Tillman: I’m feeling more positive about it. Over the years, I definitely have. There are some great affiliate products out there. There’s some great marketers and very intelligent people that are coming up with great products. I do not feel, I have come to the firm conclusion after doing this for a number of years now, that offering an affiliate product is not going to take away from your own sales, from your own products. I just, I don’t think that there’s a way you can necessarily lose with affiliate offers. And I think too many people look at it and they say, “I sent this email out for this affiliate and his sales letter or her sales letter just didn’t convert, it didn’t do well to my list.” And this is the thing, it may not do well to your list now. I send out a lot of affiliate offers that just bomb, I mean completely bomb. But with the right list, one day it might do okay at a different time and place. Sometimes products do better at a certain season or holiday. I’ve kind of learned over the years what does better during which time of the year, into which list segment. You kind of learn that through trial and error.
I also feel that I promote for a lot of people that have smaller lists, and I trade promotions, and I say, “Okay, I’m going to promote for you if you’re going to promote for me.” Now I know I’m going to sell a lot more of their units and their products that they’ll be able to sell of mine because their list isn’t as big. But you know what, we all start somewhere, and if I can form a good relationship with someone that’s just entering the marketing when their list is small, that person’s going to have a lot of credibility with you and a lot of respect for you later down the line when maybe their list is quite substantial. So I don’t think you can lose with affiliate offers even if the person you’re promoting for doesn’t have as big of a list as you do or maybe their product doesn’t convert as well during a certain time of year, whatever it may be. It’s all bottom line. And whatever you can do profit wise to add to that bottom line, you’re just going to increase your overall yearly or annual income.
So I just think that doing the affiliate side of it can be rewarding professionally, personally and financially, and I don’t think you’re going to do much that’s wrong within that.
Susan Bratton: I agree with you. I promote for as many people as I possibly can. I reach out to people and say, “I’d love to promote whatever offer is converting well for you, as long as I like the product, as long as I think my list will enjoy it and there will be people who are served positively from becoming aware of a product or program.” And I like to expand out beyond my own niche, which is sensual communication and technique for men in relationship, and I like to talk to them about everything from optimal health to personal growth to creating meaning in their life to whatever it might be. So I have a wide range of products that I like to promote. I like to support people. If their offer doesn’t convert, it teaches me about my list, what they like and what they don’t. And I really enjoy helping others as well, and when I find one that does work well for my list I really learn a lot about that. I look at their sales page, their message, their marketing, what the product was, what the price point was. I just recently promoted Revolutionary Sex by Alex Allman, and it really was one of the best promotions that I’ve ever done, earnings per click on that mailing were very high. I promoted it three of four times; just once with its own email and then I included it in as a link, a small link in a number of other emails over the course of two weeks. ‘Cause I had a sense, he’s a very high quality person, I like him, and I’ve integrated him into some of my own programs as well. So I’m behind him 100% in his work. And his product converted well to my list, so I’ll go back to him and say, “What else do you have that worked well,” and I’ll really study what he’s done because obviously whatever he’s doing is working for the kind of people that I attract.
So I think you can help people out by mailing for them and getting them a few sales. And then when you go out and you say, “Hey, I’m looking for some people who want to do reciprocal mailings for me this month and next, tell me what your offers are. I’m planning my strategy, and let me tell you what I have that you might be able to promote to your list.” And they’re like, “Yeah, I’ll promote for you. Of course I will and I love reciprocal mailings.” And so I think for a business to business, there are also, if you’re really doing this as a relationship building exercise, you have to get your head out of your own brand butt and you have to think about, “What are the other things that are out in the marketplace that compliment my product or service that I could also bring to my customers? How can I help them with anything from word press plug ins to iPhone apps to new technology to whatever, conferences they might be interested in.” Just getting up to a higher level of thinking about what you’re doing here, which is you’re in service and support for this niche that you live in and how do you get a bigger picture there? And I think that information product marketers like you and like I, we naturally do that. We think about how to market and cross promote other products and services, where a brand might think that’s off limits for them. And if you approach it as a service rather than as just trying to make money off of people, it can be very valuable for your business, small, medium or large. Don’t you agree?
Carrie Tillman: Yes. And let me add this. Of all things to promote to a male attraction dating list, earlier in, probably the early part of 2011, I promoted just on a whim, just trying it out, a product on how to build your own solar panels. Now it wasn’t the best selling product I’ve ever done, but I was surprised. That thing sold quite a few units. The sales pitch was good, they were interested in it, and here is a list for men who are predominantly interested in attraction and dating and sexuality, and they’re buying a product on how to make solar panels. So sometimes you can really take a dare and sell a product that may have nothing directly to do with your list, but they sell it. They buy it. It’s something they’re interested in. I’ve also sold a lot of how to make money online type products through my relationship-dating list.
So sometimes you can even kind of go outside of your market and even go beyond just overall self-improvement, self-help, and do something entirely different and you’ll be surprised at how well it sells.
Susan Bratton: Exactly, yeah. So if you take that advocacy perspective, I think that’s the way. Now you have a character building foundation document that you use to help people figure out what their character is and how they’re going to position themselves in their email. Are you okay giving that to our DishyMix listeners?
Carrie Tillman: Yeah, sure.
Susan Bratton: And how would you like to do it, ‘cause I forgot to ask you about this before we got on to do our show today? Would you like me to give them your email address and they can email you? Or would you like them to comment on the DishyMix fan page on Facebook and then you can send it to them that way? What would work best for you?
Carrie Tillman: I guess what I can do is I could even just send you the PDF and you can post it somewhere.
Susan Bratton: All right, that’s what I will do then.
Carrie Tillman: If you’d like.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I’ll post it.
Carrie Tillman: If you think that would work.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I think people would appreciate that. I’ll post it on my blog and I’ll put a link on the DishyMix fan page for it as well. So if you would like to have the Character Building Foundation document from Carrie, then just go to Facebook, search for DishyMix and you will be able to find the link there. So fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing your strategies and your hard earned experiences with us. If you would like to follow Carrie, you can go to firstinhermind.com and sign up and get on her email list, and check out how she does it all. And if you’d like to be on my email list for my consumer facing products, you can just go to, for me personally you can go to reviveherdrive.com or you could go to foxysloan.com and you can sign up for Sloan’s list as well. Those are two great ways to get started getting a sense of how Carrie and I do our email advocacy and character connection relationship marketing strategies. That was a mouthful, wasn’t it Carrie?
Carrie Tillman: Yep.
Susan Bratton: All right, well Carrie thank you so much for being on the show today.
Carrie Tillman: Oh thank you. I had fun.
Susan Bratton: Good, I’m glad. Me too. This has been another episode of DishyMix. Tell your friends and like my Facebook fan page and keep tuning in. I love having you as a part of my life. Thank you again so much. Make it a great day and I’ll see you on the next episode. Take care.