Email Peeps 33: Mike Nelson
What attracted you to email marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?
During the Financial Crisis, there weren’t a lot of great marketing jobs out there so I joined my friend’s beauty startup because he needed someone who could help with SEO, Analytics, and promotions – and he knew I was desperate.
One of the first things I started was collecting blogger email addresses who looked like they would be interested in our products and could give us some quality backlinks. Then I started testing different email approaches that gave me the best results. When they replied, I would cross-reference it against the variation in the subject line, intro paragraph, or call-to-action I had used for that individual. The response rate was really good, so I applied the same ideas to our company’s customer emails. Within six months, we were doing over a million dollars from our email channel and just kept growing from new tests we tried out.
Long story short, that program did really well, led us to become an INC 500 company, and ultimately played a big role in selling the company to a private equity firm. I went back to school to get my MBA and that’s where I started on ReallyGoodEmails.com (AKA RGE) as a class project.
RGE has served as a great creative outlet, and also opened a lot of doors for my career. If you follow RGE, you may not know that it’s continued as a side project for over a decade; my full-time career is growing web properties. But building on RGE every week, running our annual UNSPAM conference, and analyzing email trends and user behavior has given me a lot of ideas on what I can do in my day job and vice versa.
What keeps you excited about email?
How fast AI is moving, I think email is only going to get perfected. Way more personalized, way more relevant. And owning the communication to your subscribers (unlike the whims of search engine rankings or social media impressions) makes email even more important.
How do you come up with fresh ideas for the Really Good Emails newsletter?
A long time ago we set up a content idea calendar for the entire year that highlights weird holidays and normal holidays. Then we leave the rest of the calendar open to fill with trending topics and search history on ReallyGoodEmails.com.
What’s in your email marketing toolbox?
- Macbook and iMac Secondary Screen
- Refigerator to keep me hydrated and perky
- Motorized desk so I’m not sitting all day long
- Soundcore headphones to block out the noise
- Google Sheets
- Google Docs
What is your favorite email of all time?
I don’t have one for “all time,” but I do love this one more than a lot of the emails on RGE: https://reallygoodemails.com/emails/more-than-just-tees/live
Whose email newsletters do you consistently make time to read?
How do you manage work-life balance?
I don’t believe in a balance. More like a juggle or a pie chart. You can only handle so much, and adding more just takes away from the efforts or focus of other things. But here’s what I’ve found to be really helpful:
- Get an amazing spouse / partner. My wife often jumps in to take part of the load at home when work gets really busy, especially around the holidays. We plan out the weeks in advance so we know what is going on in our lives and can anticipate busier times.
- Keep hobbies and work separate. I have specific times I work on RGE and I never let it interfere with my day job. I also schedule RGE outside of time with kids, typically right after they go to bed or before they wake up – which lets me be more present when I log off for the day.
- Be healthy. When you get sick or hurt, everything else piles up. This one is top of mind because I am recuperating from the Flu and a back injury. It sucks to be in bed when you are trying to be productive.
- Mitigate vices. I don’t drink, gamble, or spend on extravagance. This works into the whole life/work balance thing because I don’t have to worry about working extra to pay for an addiction, dumb debts, or something stupid while intoxicated. Plus I have that time to do other things.