9 Mistakes Ecommerce Brands Make When Hiring Email Marketing Agencies
When I was VP of CRM at the 9-figure ecommerce brands, I faced a daunting task: hiring email marketing agencies.
Having interviewed, migrated and onboarded dozens of vendors, apps and ESPs, I figured hiring an email & SMS marketing agency was a piece of cake. After interviewing dozens of potential agency partners, I threw my hands up in the air and gave up. Either the email marketing agency specialized in one ESP or they focused on one core deliverable – like copywriting or coding – instead of 360 degree coverage. And none of the agencies I hired had a single 12-month or 2-year plan, only a month-to-month mindset.
Worse, most of the agencies threw so many buzzwords around – like LTV, CDP, RFM – yet didn’t have a single unifying email marketing strategy to leverage that palaver that was incremental to my own team. I wasn’t going to bank my reputation on agencies that would “wing it” because I’ve been burned by them: our previous agency and ESP screwed up majorly over BFCM weekend and we lost $2M from that relationship (that’s a whole different story).
After kicking the tires on dozens of agencies, I realized most email marketing agencies just send emails or texts or have high-level strategies without eye-level tactics. And hardly any of them partner with ecommerce brands to solve long-term retention challenges while hitting short-term revenue goals. So I set out to hire and train experts from within while hiring an ok email execution agency to keep our lights on. And then I set out to create a better email, SMS and retention marketing agency for ecommerce brands that need to compete to win at ecommerce. In fact, I even wrote the book on email & SMS marketing for ecommerce.
I crafted the top 9 reasons (and more as the months go on) for why ecommerce brands fail at hiring email marketing agencies so you wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did. So let’s put budget aside for a minute and focus on the top questions you need to ask the email marketing agency you’re looking to hire. And then, I’ll share the mindset you SHOULD have when hiring an agency.
I’ve been burned before and I’m on a mission to help ecommerce brands like yours not make the same mistakes! So, let’s dive right in: here are the top mistakes most ecommerce brands make when hiring email, SMS and retention marketing agencies… and how to break free from the vicious cycle of being burned again.
1. They’re hiring email marketing agencies to send emails.
Any intern or Fiverr hire can send a marketing email. You’re probably pretty decent at it as well. What you really want is a retention marketing agency that has a methodical plan for growing customer lifetime value and unlocking the true revenue potential from your list while hitting short term benchmarks. Anyone can send an email but only the best agencies can connect with the person behind the email.
2. They’re hiring email marketing agencies to do what they say.
If you’re looking for an email agency to execute your commands, it’s cheaper to hire an intern. Unfortunately, most agencies do whatever you tell them as well but the best agencies use data to drive their decisions. Let’s face it you have opinions and we have opinions. But data is the tiebreaker and your single source of truth. Hire an agency that makes data-driven decisions.
3. Ecommerce brands expect agencies to hit 30% of revenue every month.
In reality, some of the biggest retailer and DTC ecommerce brands in the world don’t hit 30% of revenue (see screenshot below for one of our billion dollar clients!) and even if you did, that metric may not be very profitable for you as a business. The best email marketing agencies look past those inconsistent vanity metrics and focus on what really matters: turning one-time customers into lifetime customers and keeping them loyal and profitable.
4. Most brands hire one-stop shop agencies that do it all.
Reality is: a jack of all trades is a master of none. Seek out true email & SMS marketing experts in the field – backed up by speaking engagements, case studies, and social proof – and have them work together when needed. You’ll also be able to measure incrementality better and swap agencies in and out if the going gets rough. A one-stop shop is a guaranteed way to fail twice as hard.
5. Most ecommerce brands look to hire an ESP expert, Klaviyo expert or Omnisend expert.
With the pace of technology today, that’s like hiring an expert in 8-tracks, Blackberries and Clubhouse; they get outdated before you know it. To make matters worse, Klaviyo and Omnisend have an endgame – to be bought out by larger companies – which means they’ll lose the functionality you came to know and love. Hire an email marketing agency who is ESP-agnostic – proficient in all ESPs – as well as an expert in retention apps and technologies you may have never heard about it before. An SMS marketing agency with great vendor partnerships and ESP knowledge will grow with you. Eventually, if your agency is great at what they do, you’ll outgrow your current ESP and your agency will grow with you.
6. Most brands hire email marketing agencies who were “expertly” trained on courses, downloads and LinkedIn posts.
Your ecommerce brand deserves better than a random freelancer who copies everything from LinkedIn. A great email & SMS agency should have proven expertise working at the top brands. If they claim to be an expert in a certain industry or vertical, challenge them to prove their expertise. Otherwise, they’ll just be experimenting on your dollar as they go.
7. Most brands hire email marketing agencies that are glorified coders, designers or copywriters.
Truth is that these type of agencies are experts in that area of work… but not necessarily experts at unlocking the revenue potential of your list. Retention marketing agencies led by email coders will insist on intricately coded emails… that don’t even get opened. Copywriters will write gorgeous emails… that never convert. And designers will create gorgeous emails that make you stop and stare… but never get clicks. Hire an expert email agency that specializes in orchestrating those tactics into a true email, SMS and retention strategy.
8. Most brands hire email marketing agencies that try to make everything about email.
All the blessing, sales and great stuff you gain is all due to email (YAY!) while any business downturns are due to outside forces. The best email marketing agencies know how to embrace an omni-channel and multi-channel world – where UX, CRO, customer service, loyalty programs, paid media, SEO and more – are all interconnected. And they will offer guidance and recommendations to help your business grow even if it’s outside their area of expertise. A rising tide lifts all ships and the best retention agencies for ecommerce will help you catch that wave at all costs.
9. Most email marketing agencies think month-to-month.
And that makes sense because they focus on monthly retainers and monthly bills and monthly mindsets. The smartest email & SMS marketing agencies know that business growth is measured in quarters and have a one-year, three-year and five-year plan. As such, these proven marketing agencies have a roadmap of where your brand is now, where you should be and a roadmap on how to get there. A one-year roadmap shows you where the car is headed and breaks free from the vicious cycle of trying to beat last months results. If an agency doesn’t ask you where you want to be a year from now, they clearly won’t have a plan to get you there.
These are the questions I posed to any email, SMS and retention marketing agency when I was the VP of CRM for the top-brands. And believe me, I could count on ONE HAND how many agencies even came close to passing the test.
If you want to build a relationship with an email, SMS & retenton marketing agency who wants to help your brand level the playing field with the top brands and unlock the true revenue potential from every customer on your list, book a quick 15-minute Discovery Call and I’ll be glad to show you what makes us different. I’ve been burned before and I’m on a mission to help ecommerce brands like yours not make the same mistakes!
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