Interview by Nancy Gaines, Gain Advantages Inc. of Erik Harbison, CMO, AWeber
Eric Harbison is the chief marketing officer at AWeber, where he oversees AWeber’s overall marketing operation, vision, and strategy. He has more than 20 years’ of experience in the marketing and advertising space. That includes starting and selling a boutique agency, growing award-winning marketing teams, and launching performance based campaigns. He’s contributed and participated as a panelist, moderator, and speaker at events such as I-Media Summit, Etail, Podcast Movement, and FinCon. He has written for the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, MediaPost, Be-to-Be Online.
NG| Eric, what else do you want to add to that introduction?
EH| Nancy, thanks for having me. Other than that, I’m an ordained minister and I love soccer. Those are probably two other things to round out the bio there.
NG| Can you share the difference between a CRM and emailing marketing?
EH| It’s not so much the difference between the two as how much does one work with the other. CRM is a customer relation management tool and email is actually a part of that ecosystem. Email as a stand-alone is powerful to help connect with your audience. But CRM is a little more integrated and not just leveraging email as the method to send and connect with your audience, but it also incorporates other attributes or data points around your customers so that you’re sending the most relevant emails at the right time.
NG| Does AWeber integrate with most CRM systems?
EH| Yes. AWeber has over 150 direct integrations, and some of those do include CRM tools for small businesses. For example, Sugar, Nimble, Zoho, even Salesforce, we have an integration. We can provide the email power for a small business that wants to connect with another CRM platform.
NG| When should a business owner start using email marketing?
EH| Day one. Or, I should say even before. I think there’s been a ton of entrepreneurs that have admitted to the mistake of, “If I could do it all over again, I would have started day one with my email marketing.” If you’re looking to start a business, no matter how big or small, definitely think about how you’re going to start building relationships through email.
NG| I always tell people systemize from day one. You want to grow into your systems and not be at the point where your business is on fire and you have no system. What do you feel is the state of email marketing today?
EH| Based off of just countless stories we get from our customers that they are just so thankful that they have email (marketing) in place. They’ve been able to make an extra sale, they’ve been able to grow their audience, they’ve been able to make a stronger connection. So, I definitely think it is, and will continue to be a key part of a business marketing ecosystem.
Recently, there was a law that was passed primarily affecting anyone in Europe called the GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation. You probably saw a ton of emails come through around mid-May that asked you, “Do you still want to be on this list?” I think there’s cleansing that’s happened recently tied to this law that’s been passed that is making marketers make sure that they are consistently, making sure that they’re getting permission to collect name and email information and to continue to send emails to that recipient.
A welcome email is probably the most important email that you’re going to send to your subscriber.
NG| Do you have one or two tips you can share?
EH| A welcome email is probably the most important email that you’re going to send to your subscriber. And the reason for that is, it really helps to connect the expectation that you set from when they gave you that information they opted in. Some brands that are very successful with the welcome emails use it as a way to introduce their social networks or introduce certain things about the brand. Think of it as that first meaningful connection where you can set expectations with your subscriber. You should really think through what to do and what to put in your welcome email.
they’re just what we call zombie names on your list
NG| I like that. I think I need to update my welcome email.
EH| A lot of brands have stuck with the same email for months or years, if they’ve been doing email for a while. So, definitely check it if you have a welcome email.
Then the second tip is when’s the last time that you actually looked at your list and looked at anyone who hasn’t opened your emails in the last year and you just unsubscribed them or deleted them from your list? There’s a hygiene concept here that a lot of brands tend to overlook, because they are so focused on the sending that they’re not focus on the cleanliness or the relevancy of their list. So, take time to really look at who is the most active segment of your list, and make sure that those that are not active you may want to give them one last email to opt back in or to re-engage. But, if they’re just what we call zombie names on your list, you want to just get rid of those.
shake up that list to make sure that they’re still interested
NG| Can you talk a little bit more about what we can do to have effective email?
EH| If you’re just starting your list then you probably have more time to grow subscribers, and then get a sense for who’s engaging or who’s active. But if you had a list for six months to a year, it’s using those time periods whether it’s the last six months or the last 12 months, and just pull a report to see who has not opened an email. Do a little bit more digging to see how many times was someone on your list, or how many times were they sent something, and have not taking any action. If they’re a legit email address, then they’re probably just not ready to engage via email.
So an email to those inactive cohorts could be, “Hey, noticed you haven’t opened in a couple of months, are you still interested in getting all this value from us?” There’s two way to go, one is, do nothing then we’ll remove you after 48 hours, or you can make a request to say, “Click here if you want to stay.” Because, that way if someone is going to react, you give them a chance to react by clicking.
Let them know what they’re going to be missing by not continuing to opt into your emails. That’s a really good way to shake up that list to make sure whether they’re still interested or not.
There’s no off switch when it comes to running your own business.
NG| What are the new things going on with AWeber?
EH| The biggest release we’ve had lately is around our automation platform called Campaigns. You can now send specific emails to subscribers based off of actions or attributes tied to that subscriber.
We’ve had live phone support since day one of this company, and we’ve just recently went to 24/7 support for our customers. We now have an opportunity to connect with those that are entrepreneurs. There’s no off switch when it comes to running your own business. So, we’re ready to help business whenever they’re ready to run their business.
NG| If you had one more hour in your day, so 25 hours every day, how would you spend your extra hour?
EH| If there’s someone I can pay to make that happen, I will. If I had that extra hour, I’d probably spend it learning or practicing a new skill. There’s always a new way to do something. And I love to be connected, not just thinking about it but knowing how to do it. So, I’d probably be spending it learning or practicing a new skill.
NG| So, my husband and I want to learn how to weld. We thought that’d be really cool just to put stuff together with fire. How about you?
EH| Probably a new language. I think it’s been a while since I tackled that. But I feel it would probably be nice to pick up a new language and learn that. That’s a language stand point, outside of work, maybe do something a little bit more adventurous like skydive.
NG| Eric, is there anything that you would like to add that we didn’t cover?
EH| I would want any business owner to think about if they are asking their customers questions. Again, the strength in any business is the relationship and does your customer or potential customer know enough about you to trust you? Ask this question of every customer. “Why are you a customer? Why do you like being a customer? What’s the one thing you like about being a customer of our brands?” If you ask that question, you will get a ton of information that you leverage in ads, messaging, email series, what have you. Just ask the questions and you’ll be surprised with the answers.
… the strength in any business is the relationship and does your customer or potential customer know enough about you to trust you?
NG| I think sometimes we’re afraid to ask for feedback. Right?
EH| Right, the truth hurts. The truth is what makes us stronger, especially in a business context. Imagine if you’re doing the wrong thing, you’ve been doing the wrong thing or something that could be better. Let’s not be afraid to get that feedback.
NG| Yeah. I agree with that. Thank you so much for taking time to be on the show today Eric, lots of great tips.
– Interviewer –
CEO/Founder, Gain Advantages, Inc.
I’m passionate about helping small business owners become wildly successful – fast. I believe the world needs more entrepreneurs because they solve real problems and create jobs that support our communities. I spent decades in corporate consulting with IBM and invested hundreds of hours in entrepreneur education. You don’t have to do all of that – I did it for you. Piggy back off my work and fast track your results. Why do I do what I do? Because slow and inefficient drives me nuts!
– Interviewee –
Chief Marketing Officer, AWeber
Enjoying over twenty years of providing performance-based advertising and digital marketing solutions across Retail, Sports/Entertainment, Financial, CPG, B2B, SaaS verticals. I have succeeded in roles as an independent contributor and VP, C-level manager of both small (1-10) and large (10-50) teams. I love to teach and educate. I blend my passion for teaching and marketing as guest instructor for several college courses. New Media Marketing at Drexel University and an online Digital Marketing Certification course with the University of Vermont.