I’ve worked with over 150 DTC brands on their email & SMS marketing strategy spanning 6, 7, 8 and even 9 figures in revenue.
Based on all of my experience, this is how each brand needs to navigate retention marketing in terms of priorities and execution.
Email Marketing Strategy for 6-figure Brands
At 6-figures, your focus should almost exclusively be on acquisition to improve your retention.
Focus on product-market fit and speaking to as many customers as possible to gather qualitative feedback on how to improve your product and experience. This will move the needle far more than any retention ‘hacks’ you would deploy.
At 6-figures, you’ll want a basic automation setup to maximise profits and plug the gaps in any potential leaky bucket coming through your acquisition funnels. Flows to focus on include:
- Welcome flow
- Post-purchase flow
- Abandoned cart flow
- Browse abandonment flow
A/B testing isn’t too important here either as the sample size is often too small to generate statistically significant results or exciting insights.
I would, however, make sure that the brand has the following emails in their setup to encourage qualitative feedback as this is essential when just starting out:
- Post-purchase flow: plain text email from the founder asking for feedback on what they’re most excited about and why they purchased the product
- Abandoned cart flow: plain text email asking why customers didn’t purchase
Campaigns, at this stage, are also usually a distraction. You won’t have a large enough database to really move the needle much here (depending on your AOV/margins) but I do recommend having a solid template you can quickly switch dynamic product blocks out from time to time for ad-hoc sends around key dates such as BFCM/Christmas.
Ultimately, brands who are at the 6-figure range need to focus on market penetration. Retention will improve naturally as a bi-product of acquiring more customers and building mental availability in the marketplace.
Email & SMS Marketing Strategy for 7-figure Brands
At 7-figures, you’ll want to add more sophistication to your setup but still keep things relatively simple.
Here’s what will start to move the needle in addition to the fundamentals you set up at 6 figures of annual revenue.
- Start sending 1-2 campaigns per week (using the existing template you’ve built - tie in more themes related to the brand such as content if you have invested here to maintain engagement)
- Encourage SMS subscribers: deploy the strategies from this article quite aggressively to build this revenue stream as quickly as possible
- Collect zero-party data in key flows to personalise experiences and understand your customers better
- Deploy basic A/B testing around key flows and signup forms to provide incremental uplift and test offers
- Integrate transactional touchpoints into your flows to reduce support tickets as your order volume scales and win back time
At 7-figures, it’s likely that you’ll also have more apps and integrations you need to integrate into your CRM setup.
Keep it basic here and focus on review collection software to help improve the business as well as transactional updates. Anything else is usually a luxury at this point.
Email & SMS Marketing Strategy for 8-figure Brands
This is where things really start to get fun (and interesting).
Now, depending on where you're at on the “8-figure” level, your needs may vary massively here, as we’re talking about a spectrum from $10million-$99million in annual sales.
The range of revenue, traffic and the overall database size can vary dramatically, depending on whether you’re low or mid-high 8-figures.
I’ll break this down into two further sections to be more granular in my advice.
1: $10-25million annual revenue
At this level, you’ll want to build our more advanced automation to support wider business goals. Examples include:
- Product replenishment flows
- Leveraging predictive analytics
- Automating ambassador programs
- Advanced conditional logic on basic flows
You’ll also want to examine your integrations as they scale up in complexity and become more integrated into your CRM system.
Campaign frequency will start to incorporate wider-business goals such as content distribution, company initiatives, and even supporting new product development by de-risking R & D.
Qualitative feedback strategies will also start to become more sophisticated here as you leverage automation to generate insights.
At low 8-figure stage, cohort analysis should play more of a significant role in determining the retention strategy, as marketers and brand operators leverage which products, segments and offers generate the most LTV to the business.
Overall, a low 8-figure brand will need a sophisticated automation setup, basic A/B testing, channel development that encompasses email, SMS and even direct mail, and support company-wide objectives beyond revenue generation.
2: Beast brands - $25-99million in annual revenue
8-figure brands in this range are a different beast entirely and often require multi-faceted teams working in harmony to support the business.
Incrementally and compounding gains are given more scrutiny on strategy and execution as the brand looks to squeeze the juice out of each channel more diligently.
Terms such as “Holdout Testing” and “Lifetime Value” will start to govern a lot more decision making, while A/B testing will become more advanced, rigorous and aggressive in pace to maximise profits.
A T-shaped marketer (or team) that has a deeper understanding beyond channel-specific metrics and has some credentials in economics is best controlling this function in the business now.
Cohort analysis will become more advanced and not only dictate more of the retention strategy, but also pollinate acquisition funnels as well as teams commit to sharing cross-channel insights.
Overall, to manage a high level 8-figure brand, you’ll need to be an expert in managing data, deductive reasoning, harmonising team efforts, and even navigating politics - skills that go far beyond marketing and at the intersection of human psychology.
Email & SMS Marketing Strategy for 9-figure Brands
Throughout my career, I’ve had the ‘luxury’ to work with three 9-figure brands on their email/SMS marketing strategy. All three experiences had one prevalent feature: there was a myriad of politics to navigate.
People posturing, egos interfering with speed and execution, and keeping tech agile enough to synchronise the required testing velocity needed to eek out improvements are the core challenges when working with 9-figure brands.
Still, all three experiences were invaluable and extremely beneficial to my personal development, even if I did find them frustrating at times (I’ll write a book about this one day!)
Stay focused on execution
When you’re creating and deploying strategy, it is easy to get caught up in sophisticated workflows and overstretch yourself (I’ve been guilty of this over time).
The more experienced I’ve become, the more I’ve dialled in my focus on the fundamentals, especially for brands based on their level of maturity adhering to the loose guidelines above.
I suggest you do the same to generate consistently excellent results.
further in depth reading
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