5 Red Flags When Hiring an Email Marketing Agency

5 Red Flags When Hiring an Email Marketing Agency
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Twitter and LinkedIn are saturated with ludicrous claims from email marketing agencies. It’s time to expose these claims and put the power back in the hands of brand operators.

A couple of years ago, I wrote the prequel to this article, 3 Red Flags when Hiring Email Marketers.

Two years more experience in the game has strengthened my thoughts and also revealed some new interesting claims I’m starting to see appear on the scene.

The agency space is extremely saturated and commoditised for Klaviyo services at the moment, and this article should serve as a solid refresher for avoiding charlatans or people who lack fundamental eCommerce knowledge.

1: They obsess over revenue per recipient (RPR) with their reports

RPR is one of the stupidest metrics to ever be popularised in ESP dashboards as a benchmark of success.

Not only does it assume that every email's intent is to sell, but it can also easily be gamed by creating a slew of discount codes that can drive a high RPR while simultaneously destroying your business.

RPR holds some value, for sure: it can help you gauge the effectiveness of your sales campaigns and how well the offers resonated with your audience.

However, looking at RPR aggregated across the whole of your account on a monthly or annual basis is a huge mistake and can lead to bad sending practices that erode Lifetime Value by encouraging short-term tactics.

2: They claim they can add 30-40% in additional revenue without paid ad spend MoM

Unless you specialise in voodoo and have unearthed some secret to make customers 10 X their usage of your product in 30 days, you simply cannot influence purchase frequency in such a drastic way to back up these figures.

Retention and acquisition are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other.

And, given that a very strong repeat order rate in eCommerce is between 30-40%, unless you’re selling crack, it’s almost impossible to envision a scenario where this type of revenue can be continuously driven by returning customers MoM without any additional contribution from paid media channels in today’s marketing matrix.

3: They focus exclusively on Klaviyo-attributed revenue

All channels have an over-attribution problem; this isn't specific to Klaviyo.

But the number of nonsensical screenshots posted across LI/Twitter with zero context has been out of control for a while now.

I have been in accounts that were using a 15-day attribution window for opens, and the brands also had agreements of "revenue share" with the agency 🤦‍♂️

Given that open rates have been largely unreliable for years now due to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection updates, it’s purposely being done to pull the wool over brand owners eyes and inflate their results.

To be fair, attribution is an insanely complicated topic, with no perfect solution. Ask 10 different marketers and you’ll get 10 different answers on which model to follow.

However, using Klaviyo or any SaaS as an exclusive source of truth as though nothing else matters, smacks of naivety and a misunderstanding of the modern customer journey.

4: They claim 30-40% of your revenue should be driven by email without taking into context your business model

An obsession over meaningless arbitrary percentages attributed to email revenue tells you little to nothing about the health of an eCommerce business.

An email marketer who wears this strapline like a badge of honour is likely fixated on their own ego rather than what works best for your company.

While it's often healthy to have a good amount of revenue driven through email/owned channels, the higher it gets, the more likely it is that your business has an acquisition problem and growth is slowing down.

To give this red flag more context, imagine you’re selling mattresses.

Typically, mattress brands have a repurchase cycle that spans several years if they’re not selling complementary products, and even then, a large volume of the LTV is already collected upfront from the customer in the initial order.

How can this brand drive 30-40% of its revenue through email marketing? Answer: it can’t, unless it’s been in business for decades and is flogging its inventory to existing customers with some type of massive sale.

I wrote more about retention marketing strategies for single SKU stores here, if you’d like to read my thoughts.

5: They offer an absurd guarantee for revenue

I love a good guarantee.

The problem is that most guarantees are offered at the expense of what is healthy long-term for the business.

An example is to claim to add over $100k through email within 30 days of signing a client.

Ok, great... now let's see you do this without using a single discount or launching a new product.

If you can achieve this profitably, I'll be impressed.

Be very wary of somebody who makes absurd guarantees without explaining the strategy on how they’re going to achieve this in a way that’s supportive to long-term business outcomes.

Long-term vision > short-term hacks.

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