We Talk To The Champion Of Human Like Email Communication Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage
Nate Wright crafts unapologetically human emails for a living. Since bootstrapping Small Biz Triage 9-years ago, he and his small team have delivered thousands of successful campaigns across nearly every industry vertical, generating tens of millions in sales for their clients. In 2018, Nate created Inbox Attack, a business writing ‘gym’ and series of bootcamps to apply concepts of mental fitness to the art and craft of sales & marketing. His training & work has been featured by Pitch Anything, The Arts Alliance and MailChimp.
In our Interivew we going to discuss these main subjects
* Email marketing
* Unapologetically human business
* Passive vs. active training in digital media
* Building a successful LMS (Learning Management Systems) course
* WordPress form plugins
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Here’s A Full Transcription of Our Interview With Nate
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Wednesday show. We’ve got a great guest for this show. We’ve got Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage joining us and he’s going to be discussing all things email. Then, we’re going on to discuss how to produce great content for your online course or Learning Management System. And then, finally, we’re going to be talking about forms. So it’s going to be a packed filled episode here. I’m going to let Nate introduce himself quickly. Introduce yourself to the audience, Nate?
Nate: Hey, I’m Nate, founder of Small Biz Triage, founded it 9 years ago. This year we took a huge step into the Email Marketing training space with a brand called Inbox Attack. Trying to shake things up a bit with it. We’ll see how it goes this year.
Jonathan: Oh, that sounds fantastic. And I’ve got my great co-host, keeps me under control, that’s Kim. Like to introduce yourself, Kim?
Kim: Absolutely. I’m Kim Shivler. I’m a Speaker, Communications Strategist, and Instructional Design Consultant. You can find me here at the WP-Tonic podcast taking care of Jonathan.
Jonathan: Oh, thank you, Kim. And I’m the founder of WP-Tonic. We’re a support maintenance company specializing only in WordPress with an emphasis on Membership and Learning Management Systems web-powered websites. And before we go into the interview, I’d like to just do a plug for our major sponsor which is Kinsta Hosting. Kinsta Hosting are a boutique WordPress only hosting provider, manage WordPress hosting. They’re big to enough to give you all the bells and whistles if you’re a Developer, staging sites, statistics, Google platform, the works basically. If you’re a client, super quick websites, web page loading. They are a fantastic partner. We use them for the WP-Tonic website and some of our clients. They’re big enough, like I say, to have all the technology but still small enough to really care about their clients and their support is fantastic and we’re really very appreciative of their support of the show. And if you’d like to show that, give them a Twitter or go to the WP-Tonic website and there’s banners and links on the website. They are affiliate links and you’ll be supporting the show if you use those for your own hosting or for your client’s hosting. Back to the show. Nate, so Email Marketing in 2018, where are people going wrong? Can you give a brief outline of what you think works now in Email Marketing and maybe a brief outline where people are doing the wrong thing?
Nate: All right. I’ll rattle them off. We’ll start with the wrong. Automating too early and too often. I would say every day I got two to three requests from small or medium sized businesses saying, “I want a Drip campaign”, and I ask them, “All right. So how are your emails doing now? Do people open the first email?”, and crickets. So typically, people are trying to make it too easy on themselves and tend to end up very generic content that way. So we encourage most people to do it slowly, do it manually in the beginning and then learn it. And then, once they figure out what works and what doesn’t work, then you get automated but not the other way around. Second thing is using a newsletter platform for B2B sales. So for example, we have had a lot of WordPress Developers, Online Training programs, coaches, speakers. I was like, “Hey, I want to get more gigs. I want to get more clients. I’m going to take this cold email list”, whether it’s scraped or pulled out of their Outlook contacts and they blast them with MailChimp, Constant Contact and it’s, from a long list of reasons, is not effective. So typically, doing it manually or with a G Suite extension such as Mailshake is one of our favorites. Right now, we love Mailshake. So using that for the B2B side.
Jonathan: I apologize to interrupt but what’s milkshake? Did you say milkshake? Nate: No, it’s Mailshake. Jonathan: Mailshake.
Nate: M – A – I – L – S – H – A – K – E. Mailshake for B2B is the, I would say the best on the market by a long shot. We get deliverability, 80, 90 percent open rates, crazy click rates. It’s meant as a newsletter tools. It’s not meant for nurturing or informing or for automations really. It is really really good to get somebody on the phone and bring in new clients. So we MailChimp on the newsletter side and Mailshake on the B2B side and cold emails.
Jonathan: Mailshake. And what’s so great about Mailshake?
Nate: Deliverability. It just piggybacks off of Gmail servers and it’s cheap. It’s 19 bucks a month and its deliverability is really good. They know how to navigate the caps that Gmail has in place for sending. It’s just a much better platform. And there’s a lot of competitors out there but we’ve used pretty much all of them and that’s the one that sits at the top of the stack right now.
Jonathan: Yeah. The two main platforms I utilize is SendGrid and ActiveCampaign. They’re the two main technologies when it comes to Email Marketing I utilize myself. I totally agree with you there. So basically what you’re saying is, the main thing is don’t get some list that you haven’t got any kind of really close relationship with and start blasting emails to them.
Nate: Yeah. It’s best practice but people still do it. It’s not rooted in tactical or strategic issues. It’s just people are in a rush. And in my experience, small batches, when you’re doing sales emails, are way better. They’re way way better. That’s how I reached you actually. It was a Mailshake campaign.
Jonathan: Oh, was it?
Nate: Yep. It just looked really personalized though, didn’t it? And it was personalized because we actually went through the entire list of people we wanted to reach out to and pre-wrote actual personalized for every single one of them. So it took a couple extra hours of work on the frontend but it pays off so much.
Jonathan: Yeah. I think what you’re talking about there is customization, aren’t you? And list targetting and segmenting your list structure.
Jonathan: Would you agree and give some detail why? What we’re talking about basically there.
Nate: Yeah. Any opportunity you have to personalize any part of an email, you need to take it. Some of my favorite tags to use is I’ll use the company name and a subject line. And you see that used often but people get lazy and I’ll say, “Hey, I’ve got a great plugin or theme that would work really great for ABC Plumbing, LLC Unlimited”. So we’ll go through the original spreadsheet and make them human-friendly and say, “Oh, yeah. It’ll work for ABC Plumbing”. I would also say that first names, this is one of the things that’s new, 2018 new. Personalizing emails with the first name, I have not seen conclusive results and we send thousands of campaigns. I have not seen conclusive results that using the first name as a personalization tag improves or doesn’t improve emails. It’s a cultural thing too. Certain industry segments are more, they’re okay with it and others aren’t.
Jonathan: That’s great. Kim, you’ve got any questions?
Kim: I do. And I just wanted to clarify because I think this is what I heard. So for example, the Mailshake, you’re particularly talking about the power of it with cold emails.
Kim: So I’m a Communications Instructor but I’m almost all B2B. But once they’ve taken a class with me, they usually do want my ongoing information that I send them to tweak what I just taught them.
Kim: For that, I would still use my newsletter platform.
Kim: As opposed to Mailshake.
Nate: Yeah, because at that point, it’s opt-in and most of the good cold email platforms aren’t good at list management and they’re not as visual or text-based. The good ones, it’s just all text.
Nate: That’s the stack we usually use. At the end of the day, we use them in conjunction with each other, depending upon what it is.
Kim: Thank you for that. That’s what I thought I was hearing and I’m taking notes and I want to make sure I’m doing it right. So I really appreciated that because I haven’t looked at Mailshake either. I’ve just been using my newsletter platform but it’s only after they’ve met. I actually meet most people in face initially, you know, face to face. I tend to still be old-fashioned which is why I love your tagline of, “Unapologetically Human”. So, other than these two automation tools, what are some other things you would recommend we do to be unapologetically human online?
Nate: Write like you talk. If you read an email out loud and you find yourself biting down on the words or it feels like there’s a sour piece of candy in your mouth trying to say it, you need to change the wording. It needs to sound like something you would say in person. So if your name is in front block of that email and you read it out loud and it doesn’t sound like you would say it to someone in real life, then you need to fix it. Another thing is Call to Action in an email. It’s one of those things that’s talked about in all areas of marketing. My favorite Call to Action is hit reply. So people will say, “I’m sending out 30,000 emails. I don’t want to get all those replies”. And I was like, “Really?”. So it’s just hit reply.
Those conversations, they’re going to teach you more about your customers and clients and your future customers than any survey or any analytics ever will. The conversations teach you. They teach you faster. The other thing I would say is, phones still work. Hand-written thank you cards, there’s a company in the UK actually that does marketing for bigger businesses and part of their sales funnel is a hand-written really nice card. And the conversion rates on that is just crazy high, crazy high. So with all the technology in the word, if you really want that person to be your customer or stay your customer, hand-written card, phone calls, in person meetings if they’re local.
Kim: Yeah. My thank cards are right there. And I loved what you said about the hit reply because there’s nothing to me that seems impersonal than when you get that email and it says, “Do not reply to this”, because it’s that @noreply.
Nate: Oh I hate that.
Kim: Right? Oh, so why did I think you’re real? You’re obviously not that interested in me if you’re sending me an @noreply.
Jonathan: Yeah. What is a really positive thing somebody could do about their Email Marketing in 2018?
Nate: If I was to pick one thing, put in a lot of repetition of sending out smaller segment emails. So for example, you push out a newsletter and you have a certain amount of people click on a certain link in the campaign and most newsletter platforms can track that. And say it’s something about, like an LMS plugin, that little segment may only be like 23 people but it is worth writing an email for those 23 people to specifically say, “Oh, I see you’re interested in LMS program”. That’s like super creepy. Just say, “Hey, I want to give you a bit more about this. I want to tell you a little more”. So that’s one thing. I’m going to slip one more in there because I kind of have to. Practice being less self-centered. If there’s ways of bringing in other voices, I’m a huge fan of cross-promotion, huge fan of cross-promotion. It doesn’t mean you have to be paid but just sharing with people. Tim Ferriss does. There’s a lot of other people that say, “This is the stuff that I love right now”. And using that platform you have, that voice to spread the love around a little bit, enrich the ecosystem.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. Thanks so much. We’re going to go for our break folks. We’ll be back in a few moments and then we’ll be talking Learning Management System course, Membership websites and building the content that’s so necessary to make that a success. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. We’ve had a great discussion. Kim’s kept me under control. So, there we are, kept me on topic. I haven’t asked multiple questions. Thanks so much for those insights Nate, about Email Marketing. I wanted to give the listeners some and you provided some excellent advice there and some really little tidbits that they can really think about and I think we’ve done that. Let’s go on to course development. You’ve said that you’ve had a lot of experience helping clients with their Learning Management Systems and the need to develop strategy in course. Got any insights what you’ve learned from helping clients over the past few years with that?
Nate: Yeah. Sure. Video length has been a hot topic and my rule of thumb with that is pretty simple. I hear the question a lot, “How long should the videos be?”. And I was like, “Well, ask your students how long they’re going to be able to pay attention”. Because often times it’s so, the subject matter, it’s a such a fuzzy equation. It’s like Calculus trying to figure out people’s attention spans on certain subject matter. Like I imagine the length of your podcast, a lot of work has to go in to figure out what the right length of the podcast is, right? My podcasts are way too long and I don’t have a lot of subscribers too for that very reason.
That’s one thing, is just to ask on length. From a technical perspective, now that bandwidth and technology has caught up, live training has a lot of value. One of the things that I learned and it was quite accidental. A few years ago, I was doing a webinar series for the Arts Alliance in Portland, Oregon and just on the fly I was like, “Hey, let’s do like a live rewrite. Let’s do something live. And I was given an email template to rewrite live and there is nothing more effective to draw in people to me. So when you’re advertising a course or a workshop, being able to flex your muscles live where it’s unedited and show, “This is how good I really am”, granted, the first time I did it, I wasn’t that awesome. I needed some more practice. But that tactic, if you have the opportunity to work stuff up in a live setting and use that as for promotional material, really, really effective, really effective.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s so great. Kim, got some questions?
Kim: Absolutely. I did want to ask, just for clarification for them, what you were doing when you were doing it live was copywriting, correct?
Kim: Because you also are a copywriter.
Nate: Yeah. In my company, we’re all copywriters first, nerds second. We try to keep that part of ourselves closeted but I would say it’s half and half.
Kim: So when you’re teaching people this, when you’re creating your own courses around the email etcetera, how critical is it that you’re helping them also master that copywriting piece so that they are getting the right thing out to their email customers?
Nate: I would say there’s three things. One, being platform agnostic. So often times people try to shape their writing and their messaging based on the limitations of a platform and I think that if you’re training something that isn’t, if you’re training Photoshop, you need to stay in the Photoshop zone. But if you’re teaching something fuzzier like marketing or development, making it platform agnostic is much more helpful I’ve found as there’s always exceptions. The second thing would be the use of frameworks. Often times people get stuck on, follow X person, “I’m drinking this flavor of Kool-Aid right now”, but actually including other frameworks. We’ve used frameworks that screenwriters use, talking about things like value change, how to create contrast in writing. That’s something that we learned from screenwriting
. So we’ll put that in. And often times, we’ll pull in guest trainers to help teach that, to give them that different perspective. Because often times, we’ll teach maybe five or six different frameworks for writing an email because one of them will work. That and the final thing is repetition, just putting in reps. You can’t get around it. Of course, that’s tough. It’s like, “Hey, everyone wants a shortcut”. But if they really really want to learn it, they need to do like the boot camp course and then do the daily stuff and the weekly stuff. They to actually continue putting in reps. So if you structure the opportunity to put in reps into coursework, it’s going to be a lot stickier. And I imagine with your background, you probably understand how to explain that better than I do.
Kim: No, that’s absolutely it. Repetition and doing it repeatedly is absolutely how we learn and how we master. It takes a long to actually master it. So being that you that, do you then offer with your students the possibilities or options for ongoing coaching as opposed to just, “Here’s a course”, you’re out the door?
Nate: Coaching is our primary. So this year we launched Inbox Attack as a way to kind of merge together a coaching style environment with the repetitions, with the cross-training and all the elements. And we’re launching next week. We’ll see how it goes. What do they say, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. I know that structurally that’s worked. We’re hired guns mostly. I’ve been a hired gun for tons of companies, teaching and training and this is our first foray into actually throwing me on the stage and seeing how it goes. We’ll see. But I would have to say the coaching aspect is nice but it’s not as scalable. And that’s what’s happening as I am packed with coaching clients. And a lot of times, these coaching relationships almost slip into like therapy. It’s like, “Let’s do some business counseling here”. Because often times the issue isn’t that they don’t know the material, it’s that they’re afraid of actually publishing or practicing it in public.
Jonathan: I think that’s fantastic. Sorry, I interrupted there Kim, my apologies. Got another question?
Kim: No, it’s okay. I was just agreeing with him on that and was going to hand it back to you Jonathan.
Jonathan: Oh, thanks. What’s the technology that you use to build your course which you’re launching next week?
Nate: Oh geez. WordPress all the way for the website.
Nate: Yeah. I’ve like about 150 WordPress sites and hire it out when I can. I do it myself if I’m in a rush. “Any good Developers”. I’d be like, “Naw”. I’m not going to do that. I’m not putting my name on that. And we’re going to be using Zoom for the actual live coaching sessions. Facebook Closed Group and a LinkedIn Closed Group for conversational elements. So it’s pretty standard stuff there. After we get, once again, repetitions, right? Practice what we preach. I would say once we get about 8 weeks into it, we’re going to look at and this is something I haven’t figured out yet is managing the videos behind the login. So they could log in to access that stuff. I’ve used so many different plugin stacks and theme frameworks and actual non-WordPress options in the past. And frankly, I haven’t liked any of them that much.
Jonathan: Are you using a WordPress Learning Management System plugin like LifterLMS or LearnDash?
Nate: LearnDash is actually the top of our list right now as the one that we’ll actually roll out. I don’t have any direct experience with it yet but what it integrates with and then styling the stuff, I know it’s maybe speaking sacrilege but I’m a huge fan of Elegant themes and the Divi framework, even though it feels like, “I will never get a good load time with that”. And that’s true. I’ve tried. Never really get a good load time with it. But LearnDash is at the top of the list.
Jonathan: You definitely want to look at LifterLMS as well. But they’re very different.
Nate: Is it good?
Jonathan: Yeah. They’re different products, aren’t they Kim?
Kim: Very different. I teach both of them. They’re very different and it depends on exactly what you need. They’re both very good. They both also have an option, depending on which of their add-ons you go with, of private coaching areas.
Nate: Oh, that’s cool.
Kim: Where you can actually have a private page for coaching a student that’s just the two of you which is really pretty powerful stuff.
Nate: Built into the same platform.
Nate: That’s really cool.
Nate: I’ve been avoiding it because all of the ones that I’ve built for my clients over the years, there’s always been a, not a small annoyance but like a major obstacle.
Nate: Like structurally how the curriculum is organized, mixing up live elements with pre-canned elements. Our original vision for Inbox Attack was not training. It was actually a web show. I still want to explore that using OBS and Restream and get it streaming out to YouTube and Facebook and all the other, I don’t think it’ll ever be on Twitch. I don’t think it’s gaming enough for that.
Jonathan: So you also say you started a Facebook page and a Facebook group and a LinkedIn group.
Jonathan: Did you start those a little while ago and how’s that been going?
Nate: We just started it. As I said, I’ve been hired gun mode. I’ve put in hundreds of, probably like over 100 projects for Learning Management Systems, workshops, coaches. So I’m trying to take everything we’ve learned and put it all into one. One thing I have not figured out yet is that roughly half of our audience are of the LinkedIn flavor and the other half are all about Facebook and is managing between the two groups.
Jonathan: They’ve got very different cultures, haven’t they?
Nate: Yeah, yeah. So I like the LinkedIn eco-system better. Like when people are on LinkedIn, they tend to have more business-focused conversations and it’s a little less tangents in the conversational threads. But Facebook, you can’t ignore them. It’s like Google. I can’t ignore Google. I can’t ignore Facebook.
Jonathan: So building the course out for yourself, have you learned some things actually trying to build this yourself, rather than being advising clients as a hired gun as you said?
Nate: Yeah. I mentioned earlier in the conversation about duration, like how long videos, how long training sessions, how long workshops should be if they’re in person, if they’re virtual. I like to go deep dive into topics when I’m coaching. That’s where most of my direct experience is, in one on one coaching. Sometimes workshops. But I’m finding that carving it up into more digestible pieces is important. So we’re looking right now at how we could build it more modularly. So if we’re going to do an hour-long course, where are those pauses going to be? Where can we actually slip in the edits? We break it apart and do intros and bumpers differently so we could recycle and upcycle the content later. From a production standpoint that’s the big hill we’re climbing now.
Jonathan: You’ve got a question, Kim?
Kim: I was just going through the same kind of thing very recently. Yeah. In my experience after a lot of automated courses, when you’re doing the automated portion, the more you can break it down, the better. Just because if someone’s logging in and you’re not live there with them, they don’t tend to want to watch a 20, 30-minute video.
Kim: So, if you can plan ahead. One thing we have done as a work around and in fact, I was on a call this morning doing it, if you’ve got a longer piece of content that you really do want to have out there, is to break it into sections of timestamps.
Kim: Because there’s still breaks. Here you were talking about this break. There’s still a logical flow to it. And so, if you can have timestamps with notes and highlights, people still have something to refer back to quickly.
Kim: And that can help you if you ever end up with a larger piece of content.
Nate: I like that.
Jonathan: I think we’re going to wrap it up for this audio part of the show folks. Basically Nate, how can people get a hold of you? And also, you’ve got a little special offer for the audience as well which are going to be in the show notes.
Nate: Yeah. So the best way to get a hold of me is [email protected] So [email protected] I actually do check my own email. I’m a believer in InboxZero and I’ve been doing a lot of PR work lately. So I’m kind of regretting giving my email address out everywhere. I’ve got a good team of guys that I work with. They all have different flavors of Email Marketing expertise. Somehow they’ve managed to put up with me for years. I don’t know how. Inbox Attack is launching a week from Friday actually. No pressure. I’m not freaking out at all.
Jonathan: No pressure at all actually.
Nate: I’ll be providing a discount code to rock a 4 week trial of it, no credit card needed, of Inbox Attack. Just to get in some reps with writing. So you bring the material and it’s just like Fight Club. If it’s your first time here, you’re going to write. So we’re going to be hopping into Google Docs together and everyone’s going to get their hands dirty in a digital sense. A lot of people don’t like that and that’s fine.
Jonathan: All right.
Nate: For the two people listening that do like that, we’ll hook you up.
Jonathan: That’s great and that will be in the show notes folks, the generous offer that Nate and team have made. Kim, how can people find out more about you?
Kim: First, thank you for that Nate. And unlike Fight Club, we are allowed to talk about Inbox Attack, right?
Kim: I’m Kim Shivler. You can find me and everything I do at kimshivler.com.
Jonathan: And if you want to find more about WP-Tonic, go to the website. There’ll be a full set of show notes with all the links that are relevant to our discussion. We’re going to continue the discussion after we wrap up this Podcast which you’ll also be able to watch on the WP-Tonic website as bonus content where we’re going to be discussing form plugins and some of the experience Nate has had with those, good, bad or indifferent. So that should be an interesting continuance of the discussion. Like I say, if you want to support the show, please go and give Kinsta, our major sponsor, a Twitter or use our affiliate links and buy their great hosting packaging. And if you’re really generous, leave us a review on iTunes. I always read them. If I find them amusing, my perverted English humor, I even read them out on the show. And also remember to join us on our Friday Round Table hard-hitting WordPress commentary. We hold no punches on the WP-Tonic Round Table show. It’s rather controversial, got me into a bit of trouble but I just love it. And that’s on every Friday at [8:30] Pacific Standard time. You can watch it live on the WP-Tonic Facebook page and we have a great panel of WordPress experts and like I say, we don’t hold anything back. We’ll see you next week folks with somebody doing something interesting with WordPress. See you next week folks. Bye.
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