Email marketing

Retention marketing 3.0: A contrarian take on the future of ecommerce

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I have a confession to make.

I hate the word “retention.”

As an email marketer, this is somewhat blasphemous to say. After all, it’s a hot topic in the DTC space.

But to me, it always reeked of neediness. Can you “retain” your customers? If you beg hard enough, maybe they’ll pity you with a second purchase.

Maybe not everyone sees it that way, but this is the vibe I get when I hear people geeking out over the “R” word.

It almost reminds me of this scene from Season 3, Episode 13 of Mad Men (“Shut The Door. Have A Seat.”)

Don is venting to his partner, Bert Cooper, about the short-sighted, small minded-ness of the company that bought them out:

Who the hell is in charge, a bunch of accountants trying to make a dollar into a dollar ten? I want to work. I want to build something of my own. How do you not understand that?

Retention Marketing sometimes feels like that.

Like it’s a bunch of people geeking out about how to get a 1% improvement here… or a 0.5% improvement there.

Sure, at a certain size, every percentage is significant.

But for a lot of founders, this isn’t going to move the needle.

We want home runs, not bunts.

I’ll admit… this whole ‘retention marketing’ thing sounds very complex.

Truth is, it’s not.

I wanna show you a radical new paradigm for approaching your own retention marketing. This is an approach I’ve used at my agency with dozens of clients with some pretty incredible results.

We’ve doubled email revenue for some clients within 2 months of using this approach. I helped another client 4x the size of his business within a quarter. Another client saw 81% of their topline revenue coming from email, with this approach.

Stay with me, because I want to shift your mindset a bit and expose you to a new way of thinking about how you’re building your brand.

Belief Shift #1: The only reason people buy from you is because they like your brand

It doesn’t matter what you sell, there’s a 99% chance someone is selling it cheaper than you are. It might be on Amazon or it might be at Walmart… but someone, somewhere is selling the exact same thing as you, but for half.

So, why then would someone inconvenience themselves by buying from a website on the internet rather than going through a faster, cheaper source?

It’s because they like you.

Or your company.

It could be the way you make them feel. It could be the way you market. It could be the mission around your brand.

For some reason, they like you. And they want to be involved with whatever you got going on.

We need to build a strong bond with customers if we want them to keep coming back for more.

Belief Shift #2: Frequency is your friend (so email every day and never stop)

Think about the people in your life who you would consider to be “close friends.”

I bet you talk with them often.

Now, think back to someone you used to be friends with in high school or college who you’ve fallen out of touch with.

Which one of these people do you have a stronger bond with?

The person who you talk to every week (or even every day)… or the person who texts you once a year on your birthday?

Frequency is your friend.

Quantity time turns into quality time.

It’s true in marketing, as well.

My “hot take” in the world of ecommerce email marketing is: you should be emailing every single day. And if not every day, pretty damn close to it.

It’s funny:

The biggest, most successful brands in the world are relentless, especially when it comes to email.

I’d argue that success leaves clues.

There’s a reason your favorite 10-figure+ brands email you multiple times a day… because it makes them a ton of money!

They aren’t worried about things like “OMG, I sent more than one email in a week… I’m not being respectful of the inbox.”

You run Facebook ads every day, correct? You keep making sales every day… why is that?

Your customers see you post on social media every day, right? They don’t unfollow you tho… why is that?

You’ll sit down on a Sunday to watch a football game and see the same commercial 15x in a three hour block… and you never say to yourself, “That’s it! I’m unsubscribing from football, I’m never watching it again!”

Of course not.

Get real.

But… emailing more than 1x/week is ABUSING your inbox privileges?

Give me a break.

It’s time to grow up.

Your customers have problems. You have solutions. Every day you refuse to sell to them is another day they’re living in pain.


Belief Shift #3: “People don’t read advertising, they read what interests them. Sometimes, that’s an ad.”

The above quote comes from Howard Gossage, my own personal inspiration and spirit animal. If I ever try a Ouijia board, he’d be the guy I try to channel.

I believe he’s correct.

People read what interests them… so write interesting ads!

Take a look at this email I wrote for Carnivore Snax (a longtime client of mine):

This email reads like a piece of content. I guess if you peel back enough layers, you realize that every piece of writing can be considered ‘content.’ Some of it sells… and some of it sucks.

This email isn’t a “Hey look at this thing I got now give me money” type of email you see 98% of ecommerce brands send.

It’s interesting.

It’s… dare I say… funny?

It’s engaging.

People learn something. They get some value out of the exchange. It’s radically different than anything they’ve seen in their inbox.

And, most importantly… it keeps them coming back for more.

Carnivore Snax doesn’t have a retention problem. Of course, this isn’t the only reason why. But I believe it definitely helps.

When you write interesting emails, people sit up and pay attention. They lean in. They get curious to see what’s coming next.

You can tell stories, create content, and educate your customers… and make a lot more money emailing this way.

Belief Shift #4: You are the influencer your brand NEEDS

Why the hell do people become obsessed with their favorite influencers?

It’s because they tell stories and post content each day.

It’s not really hard to do this.

You simply share stories about what’s going on behind the scenes in your business.

Here’s an example:

This is only half the email… but the story is the important part to focus on.

This is a story about eating a burger. It made a bunch of sales for us.

You don’t need to be the next Gary Halbert to do this.

You simply need to tell stories from your life and business that are demonstrative of the products you’re trying to sell.

People love seeing what’s going on in your life. They are bored as hell with their own lives and are looking for an escape.

You can’t do this with a ‘pretty poster’ style email.

Belief Shift #5: Flows are cool but they’re not everything

The coolest thing about your favorite TV shows are that there are cliffhangers at the end of each episode, which keep you coming back for more.

The stories you tell in your emails are always evolving. There’s always another chapter in your adventure.

Sure, you SHOULD have flows. You should have a lot of them.

But flows aren’t everything.

I’ve worked with clients where we make six-figures a month just by writing an email each day. Some of these clients didn’t even have flows.

You SHOULD have smart, behaviorally-triggered flows and automations built out. Of course you should.

But that shouldn’t stop you.

When you send an email every day, things like cart abandonment, browse abandonment , win backs, and cross-selling tend to solve themselves.

When people are always tuning into interesting, story-based emails from your brand… every metric improves.

Belief Shift #6: You can 2-3x your revenue in 15 minutes a day

It doesn’t take long to write an email to your list.

It does take hours to design a ‘pretty poster’ email. You need great design skills for that.


It’s not hard to knock out a quick story-based email that sells your products and builds a stronger bond between your customers and your brand.

It’s infinitely scalable.

It doesn’t take you any longer to write an email to 1 person than it does to write it to 1,000,000+ people.

The profitability scales infinitely.

You’re building a flywheel.

You start emailing every day (or close to it).

Your sales shoot up.

You now have better profit margins and more cash in the bank (and on the balance sheet).

What can you do with that cash?

You can reinvest it into front-end acquisition.

Which feeds into your backend retention system.

Around and around the flywheel goes. Things can blow up pretty fast when you are creating CUSTOMER FUNDED growth.

The future of retention is being radically different at all costs

Send an email every day. Make it fun. Tell a story. Sell some product. Open a loop and keep people coming back for more. Build a mission around your brand. Involve your readers on your adventure through life.

There’s enough milquetoast marketing in this world.

Dare to be different, dare to be better.

Following the pack leads to average results.

You can build something great.

I believe in you.

About our guest author

Chris is a fractional Chief Marketing Office for ecommerce brands and the author of the bestselling book, The Moat: How to build a durable, profitable e-commerce brand that can last forever . He’s on a mission to build the next generation of 100+ Year American Brands.

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