Why Do Agencies Suck at Email Marketing For Themselves with Sujan Patel

email marketing with sujan patel
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Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of SaaS companies create growth strategies. He’s the Co-Founder of SaaS marketing agency Web Profits, and also owns and operates Mailshake and Right Inbox.

Email marketing has been a big part of his success story. 

While most marketing agencies do a great job of email marketing for their clients, many struggle to do it on their own behalf. Join us today to find out how you can use Sujan’s methods to get ahead!

The highlights:

  • [1:24] Email strategies for marketing agencies.
  • [3:59] Figuring out what works.
  • [8:29] Best practices marketing best practices.
  • [9:30] Optimizing your email signature.
  • [15:16] Email content length recommendations.
  • [19:58] Sujan’s causes.

The insights:

Email strategies for marketing agencies

“Even the [marketing agencies] who actively do it [email marketing] – it feels a little too promotional. It feels a little too cookie-cutter canned.”
The first caveat from Sujan, who nevertheless stresses that agencies should be using email a lot more than they do.
“People always say, oh, I need to do social. I need to do these other things. But hey, why not just talk to the people you have on your list? On your marketing list, your newsletters, people who have opted in, past clients, potential leads, whomever. That’s an easy one. Get everyone you’ve kind of worked with and put them through a funnel.”
He also insists that you know exactly who your best customers are, and should target your emails to those customers. You shouldn’t be afraid to email those people directly. 
“Why not just try and take an outbound sales approach through email and LinkedIn or calling, along with all the brand-building stuff?”
Sujan stresses that many agencies don’t leave themselves enough time to make email marketing work. 
“I feel like people do this, they don’t get good results, and they stop in a month. But if we were, as agency owners, to tell our clients that something didn’t work after a month, and they wanted to stop, we would convince them to give us five or eleven more months to make it work. So why do we not?”

Figuring out what works

Garrett asked: “You’ve built agencies over time. When you’ve done email marketing, how did you approach it in the first place? How did you figure out what worked for you, and what did those experiments look like?”

Sujan admits when he first got started he forgot to market his own agencies.

“I got some traction, I got a client or two. We focused on doing the work but then didn’t really do enough of our own work and it was very sporadic.”

This is a situation that probably sounds pretty familiar to most agency owners and consultants.

In time, though, Sujan learned to approach things differently.

“One of your jobs as an agency owner or partner owner, or CEO, or whatever it is, is to be your own client. Even if you’re only doing a little bit, do something always and be consistent. Creating content? Do it regularly. Monthly, weekly, whatever.”

He says building an email list is the big thing.

“Nurture the freaking email list. We tell this to every one of our clients. It’s never too late, something we also tell people. All this is true, right? So do it for yourself. Don’t have time to write content? Curate content. There’s a lot of good content. One of my favorite newsletters for the last decade has been the Search Engine Land weekly recap.”

He says you of course don’t have to do it just like Search Engine Land does.

“Maybe go create your own newsletter. The CMO’s newsletter. Here’s everything a CMO needs to read about. Target your persona.”

He says he targets the SaaS industry because his agency has found, over time, that this is what works for them. He says don’t be afraid to niche down, to test your own stuff, and to keep working it. 

Garrett mentions a few of his own favorite email newsletters:

Here’s a snippet from Phil Rozek’s newsletter. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.

email newsletter example

Check out some of these newsletters for ideas and inspiration! 

Email best practices

Garrett then asked who the emails should come from. “Do you think it matters if it comes from the partner of the agency, vs. a sales director an account rep?”

Sujan says,

“It should come from the person who is going to be doing the communication, whoever that is.”

He says if the person who is sending out the newsletter is not the founder, then “make sure they are personally building their personal brand on LinkedIn.” 

That means sharing content, being open about being a representative for a marketing company, and making it clear that they do know marketing.

“When somebody reads your email, they look up who you are. The social proof needs to be there from the start.”

He mentions this as another benefit of niching down. People can see what you’re about right away. 

Sujan also has a 3-sentence email that he uses to pitch people.

“An engaging question at the beginning, usually a question. Do you need this, something they can say yes or no to. If it’s no, they won’t read the rest of the email.”

Why is it a  question? Because of the preview in email tools. “You’ll see a little bit of the copy.”

The second sentence:

“Who we are, what we do: we help SaaS companies scale their marketing, and we’ve helped companies like Mint and Salesforce.”

The third sentence: “The call to action.”

Sujan doesn’t pretend this is easy.

“Those three sentences are freaking hard to write in a way that’s personalized, punctual, and shows social proof.”

He also suggests putting social proof in your email signature.

“Link your Twitter, have a headshot, talk about who you are. Nobody needs to know who you are [in the email]. It’s all right there in the signature. Don’t waste valuable sentences.”

He really liked Garrett’s:

email signature

Though he did mention he thought Garrett had way too many companies linked there! 

Whoops.

You can also put things in your signature that say things like: “Check out my case study of how I helped Salesforce, Mint, and Total Attack scale up.”

The key to putting it in your signature is to ensure that you can spend the email focusing on how you can help that person. You don’t have to spend any time on yourself.

When is it OK to go long?

Garrett mentioned emails from Brian Dean at Backlinko. “He writes entire stories sometimes. Can that sometimes be effective?”

“If somebody’s opted in,” Sujan says, “and they’re a subscriber to your email list, you can go long.”

Yet he stresses that you should always be thinking about how each email nurtures the relationship.

“What’s the secondary call to action? What’s the second thing after that? I like driving people back to my website so I generally prefer shorter. To be transparent, get people to a place and then use that to sell other stuff.”

After all, we’re marketers, and we have a purpose for our email.

“Is Brian Dean just writing all that because he’s a good-hearted person? He’s an amazing human being, but let’s be realistic. He’s trying to make money. He’s exchanging dollars for value, right?”

While promoting too many things is likely to annoy people, there has to be a balance. 

“If you create good educational content every week for a year, you have the right to ask somebody for something once a month. Think about your give vs. take ratio. My personal take is…I try not to do something more than 10% to 15% at a time.”

He points out his personal website has cost him $60,000 since 2014.

“It’s an investment. That’s a lot of money. I’m not going to continue doing that if I don’t make money.”

What's your right now cause?

Sujan volunteers with, and his wife is on the board of the Girls Empowerment Network

girls empowerment network

“It gives girls motivation and helps expose them to things they probably wouldn’t think of to change their trajectory at an early age.”

He says he feels like empowering women is a matter of leveling the playing field.

He’s also trying to develop a program that can help more women become entrepreneurs, engineers, and executives.

“I know a lot of badass founders. I know a lot of badass executives. We can do this through education and mentorship.”

He’s vetting it to see how they can monetize and fund this idea.

Connect with Sujan Patel

Want to see more from Sujan? 

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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