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Oct. 16, 2020

Communicating With Customers During The Holidays with Stephen Carl of Needle Movement

Communicating With Customers During The Holidays with Stephen Carl of Needle Movement
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In this episode, Andy discusses communicating with your clients during the holidays with Stephen Carl of Needle Movement.

Discover how you can stand out from your competitors by implementing SMS (text) and Messenger (Facebook) communications during the upcoming holiday season.

Also, listen to the entire episode to take advantage of a special offer from Stephen Carl on how Needle Movement can help you with your client communications this holiday season and into 2021.


Andy Splichal is the World's Foremost Expert on Ecommerce Growth Strategies. He is the acclaimed author of the Make Each Click Count Book Series, the Founder & Managing Partner of True Online Presence and the Founder of Make Each Click Count University. Andy was named to The Best of Los Angeles Award's Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021.

New episodes of the Make Each Click Count Podcast, are released each Friday and can be found on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and


Andy Splichal  0:00  

Welcome to the Make Each Click Count podcast. This is your host, Andy Splichal. And today I'm being joined by a special guest. This guest runs an agency named Needle Movement. Needle movement specializes in providing done for you SMS, messenger and email marketing services for emerging ecommerce brands. A big welcome to Stephen Carl. 


Stephen Carl  1:16  

Hey, Andy. 


Andy Splichal  1:17  

How are you doing?


Stephen Carl  1:20  

I'm doing great. I'm thrilled to be here.


Andy Splichal  1:23  

Well, we're glad to have you. Now, before we dive into today's topic, which is communicating with customers during the holidays, let's hear a little bit more about you and in about the company, Needle Movement.


Stephen Carl  1:38  

Yes, so Needle Movement is, Needle Movement specializes in conversational marketing channels, email, SMS and Messenger. For brands. We have Needle Movement is as in move the needle in that expression. And really, our mission is to, you know, having been in E-commerce for over 20 years, myself. Five years ago, I was so excited to jump onto the services side because as a client, I always knew the problems that I was trying to solve. You know, and now with having worked with many clients, it's, you know, it's exciting to tackle to help companies grow, and to learn faster. Because as we as we both know, with digital marketing, it now seems to change on a daily basis. So it's hard to keep up.


Andy Splichal  2:43  

Well, that's great, too. I see most good service providers started out doing the e-commerce themselves. I mean, you really almost have to in order to understand your clients. So that's definitely a great background. Now, why look through your website. By the way, I love the name Needle Movement. It's a great agency name. Now I saw I saw on the About Us a border collie that you got featured on your website.


Stephen Carl  3:12  

Yes, that border collie. Her name is Nico. And I appreciate your research. Yeah. So Nico is a a rescue dog that my wife and I adopted about six years ago. And she's she's a border collie. Next I think, she's actually my first dog. So you know, but um, actually, she's looking at me right now and give you


Andy Splichal  3:43  

You know, that's funny. We just got a puppy a couple months ago and my wife wanted to get a Border Collie, but saw that they need to run a whole lot, like two or three miles a day. Is that true?


Stephen Carl  3:54  

They got a lot of energy. You know, and we're in and then we're in Brooklyn, New York. Actually, the city is surprisingly very good for Border Collies because there are so many parks that you know, that you can that you can hang out and I think what I enjoy about Nico and having her is that she's Border Collies are very intelligent. And they and they love humans. So everyone in the neighborhood knows her and it's gotten to the point where she knows how to she's very good at working people. She's very good at flirting, but um, sometimes they know Nico's name and not mine. 


Andy Splichal  4:36  

That's funny.


Stephen Carl  4:36  

Like, hi Nico. Hello.


Andy Splichal  4:38  

Oh. So you said your your Brooklyn. Is that what you said? 


Stephen Carl  4:43  



Andy Splichal  4:44  

Great. Now how? You know there's so many aspects of e-commerce and in companies, how did you come to specialize in customer communications? 


Stephen Carl  4:56  

It happened very organically because in my past and even In the beginning of NeedleMovement, I was managing digital strategy. So just managing the big picture and all the channels, okay. And then in my experiences, I kept going back to things like email and now SMS and I came back to them because they were the most profitable channels for the brands that I was working with. So, after a while, I just said, Wait a minute, why don't I just focus on these areas that I know are going to be so helpful to businesses?


Andy Splichal  5:27  

That's great. Now, for those that might not be familiar with the different terminologies. So SMS, and messenger and email can you clarify exactly what those are for the listeners?


Stephen Carl  5:42  

Yes, I love this question, because I think it's, you know, it deserves this breakdown. So I think we all we know, email, the most sure, email marketing, since it's been around for a while, you know, but then you have SMS and messenger. And that's the difference between texting and messaging. So, you know, there was a, there was a stat that really jumped out at me a couple of weeks ago, where they said in 2020, there are more mobile messaging app users than all social network users combined. Surprising, but you know, I will explain the difference between SMS and messenger. SMS is text messaging when you're texting someone. And the advantage to SMS is that no app is necessary. It's done by your phone provider, it's available on all cell phones. It's also a very sensitive channel. Because people get away with murder, with messaging, in email, they will send any email, SMS, you can't really get away with that people will really be it's a very personal channel. So you have to be a little bit more sensitive to what you're sending them. Facebook Messenger is a more advanced messaging app that has some of the same chat features, I think the difference with messenger is the technology is newer, the interactivity between the user experience, the multimedia video is much better on Messenger. It's easier to have some people say SMS is one way communication and messenger is true two way communication, it's easier to collect marketing data also on Messenger.


Andy Splichal  7:29  

Really? So you see a lot of people respond more on Messenger than on a text messages?


Stephen Carl  7:36  

Actually, I'm glad you mentioned the open, I mean, the open rates on SMS and messenger are world's above email. Because you know, we've SMS I mean, people say there's 85% open rates, and the click through rates because you don't have an inbox to funnel through. And that's going to block a lot of the messages from coming. So that's the huge difference between these are people that want to see your message. They're not you know, they're they're people that signed up, that opted into it. So, you know, so SMS is good, because it's available to everybody. So there's no, you know, it's you can, you know, but messenger is good, because it's more conversational, it's a richer UI.


Andy Splichal  8:26  

You know, I always see those warnings, when I sign up for something for text message says you may incur additional charges. Now, does anybody get charged? I don't understand, or is it just your phone service where you might not have unlimited.


Stephen Carl  8:43  

There are charges, I mean, their charges to send SMS from the provider? I think it's just if you're, it depends on the plan that you're on, on the users unlike on the person side.


Andy Splichal  8:55  

Right. I remember, you know, back when I used to have a flip phone, it was like 10 cents to send a text message.


Stephen Carl  9:01  



Andy Splichal  9:02  

I mean, I've always been kind of interesting. Um, so what do you think's gonna happen with these different communication systems during the holidays coming up here? You have any predictions or?


Stephen Carl  9:17  

Absolutely so I think, you know, the, the easy way to translate this is that consider SMS and messenger is the next generation of email, no kind of read because it's, it's because it's what you do on an email, but it's just taking it to another level. And it's also owned media. What's nice about own media is that the brand owns the list. And that means, you know, your are like email is not, doesn't perform well, just because it's, you know, it's a dinosaur in terms of technology, but it's because you own the list that you can get a high ROI, you know, so a lot of the things that you can do on Messenger and SMS or things that you're already doing on emails, it's like a welcome series and abandoned cart. If you have a product launch if you have a sale. It's just about like, what's fascinating about communication these days is different generations use, you know, different, very different apps like my mother, she's on the phone, that's how she communicates. But then my nephew, he texts all the time, you know, but we don't have to choose one platform, you can communicate with people on the platform they like. But to get to your, you know, your question about the holidays. I think, you know, I think this is going to be a coming out party for definitely for SMS and also messenger too, because think about Black Friday, when every company known to man is going to be sending you an email. And a lot of people are going to open up, and it's just going to be this mixture of 25% or 30%, or 40% off, so it all gets muddy. But with SMS, there's no inbox, so people can slide in these companies while


Right, yeah, no, that definitely would be a really good way to stand out from the crowd. You know, I was even reading that a lot of companies are prepared to start Black Friday sales in early November this year. So, you know, it's


Really yeah. 2020 is such a blank slate that you really can start the sale whenever you want. At this point, Amazon just did it with Amazon Prime Day


Andy Splichal  11:24  

Right. Yeah, no, that was this week, as well. So opposed to July, which is just crazy. Um, now what do you do for your customers? So your private clients? Do you help develop the strategies? Do you send it you write it? What? You know, what kind of services? Are you offering your clients with all these different communication avenues?


Stephen Carl  11:48  

So there's a I would call it okay, there, there are two basic options, there is a done with you service and a done for you service, okay, you know, so a done with you service would be like, we have a client right now, who we're working within, within the Klaviyo, email marketing platform. And they don't, you know, they're great with creative but they don't know all the ins and outs of creating automations and flows for email. So needle movement is just functioning as an in house Klaviyo expert, where it's, we're collaborating, we're not doing the creative, but were showing them while we're guiding them on this strategy, and also building out some of these automations. Like, you know, things like abandoned cart, or things like welcome. And a lot of times what happens with email or SMS is, you always get better over time. So, you know, I remember this conversation I had, with when I first started out with another client, and, you know, I was telling them what to do. And they're like, oh, but, you know, this sounds like your proposal sounds really great. But we're already doing abandoned cart, we're already sending to VIPs, we've got up to this all covered. And then after that conversation, we ended up three axing their performance. So 


Andy Splichal  13:17  

It's just great. 


Stephen Carl  13:18  

But it just and it's not because it, you know, it's not because of you know, our unique talents here, it's just because we're really honing in on a lot of times, from what I've seen in house, is, there's just a lot of money that's left on the table, things that could be done better optimized over time. So when you have, and I think a lot of times with brands, I really I've been in their position, and I know the challenge of an in house team that's doing 10 Other things and might not have the time to perform a lot of the functions at a Needle Movement that's focused on it could be doing so. You know, so there is so done with you is a way to just add a person to your existing team that can help you in areas that you're not well covered, because email is not, you know, there's a creative element. There's a strategic elements, there's a technical element, so we just fill in the blank so that you can double your performance. And then there's the done for you, which is we do everything.


Andy Splichal  14:23  

So you're doing creative, you're scheduling, you're coming up with the promotion, or they're telling you the promotions, but you're doing the creative and the said in all that.


Stephen Carl  14:33  

Right. And that's where the client is involved, typically and more of the approval process and the revision versus but we would do it entirely in the dashboard.


Andy Splichal  14:44  

Now tell me are there certain ESPs email service providers that you specialize in or with the done with you service or you know, you're like if you use this, this this I can help but I forget which one you just mentioned? Or can you really help on any of them?


Stephen Carl  15:10  

We do most of our work in Klaviyo right now, which is more of an e-commerce, email marketing channel. Also have some experience with honestly, I've worked I've worked in six different email channels, because different ones come up all the time. So I think it's a conversation. I think we're just looking for channels that can be I mean, an email service provider that it's easy to build automations off of.


Andy Splichal  15:43  

So if somebody is using like, like a MailChimp or one of the lower end ones, is that something that you guys can help with or no?


Stephen Carl  15:52  

MailChimp? Yes. Okay. But it's, yeah, it's and then, you know, SMS you know, they're all different providers. And typically, we're not, I wouldn't say we're entirely agnostic to plot, you know, to provider. But, you know, we definitely work with you know, like, another thing is, like on in for e-commerce platforms, mostly Shopify, but there's other platforms like big commerce that we've done work on as well. 


Andy Splichal  16:21  

Now, what about the SMS and Messenger? Who are you using to send those out?


Stephen Carl  16:28  

So there's a company called postscript that that is has a very good it's basically just like Klaviyo or MailChimp for SMS.


Andy Splichal  16:41  

It's postscript


Stephen Carl  16:44  



Andy Splichal  16:44  

Okay. Okay, and then messenger is that many chat? Is that who you're using? 


Stephen Carl  16:50  



Andy Splichal  16:51  

Okay. Okay, great. Now, why, and you touched on this a little bit with the example you gave one, the company that was doing it in house, and then you guys took it over? And it, you know, you three acts what they were doing? But really, what what is the reason for a company to decide to go with a firm like you're supposed to managing all their client communications in house?


Stephen Carl  17:17  

Well, I guess there's, there's two functions. I think one is to maximize owned media, because that's how companies can become profitable. Where, you know, they're getting because, you know, if you're, if you can make 40x off of email, you know, there's, wouldn't it be great if like, 15% of your revenue came from it instead of 10%. Right. So to increase, like, go doesn't solve all your problems, but it just, it puts you, I think it puts a company in a lot healthier state, because there's so many other other problems, you have to solve, you know, to get through it.


Andy Splichal  17:55  

Definitely a cheaper way to get your ROI up, as opposed to like, the different paid marketing channels.


Stephen Carl  18:02  

But I think it's also about teaching companies to learn faster. And because, you know, with all the changes that happen with it, it's like, how does your company get informed? And know those changes, because, you know, even looking at digital marketing, you know, things like, you know, the emergence of TikTok, and they're just so many examples where the playbook from two years ago, the 2018 playbook doesn't work anymore. So I think we also serve this function where our goal is to educate our clients to so that they're learning faster, and they know what to do. But to get into, like, you know, why? Why, the advantage of doing and how, I mean, the advantage of outsourcing is, I think, with, you know, you're familiar with search engine marketing. And brands have always understood that, hey, I'm not going to look up and see what Google's doing on a daily basis and figure out what the latest algorithm changes or how, you know, how Google has changed their ad platform, I'm going to trust this agency and I for a long time with email, it became known as a DIY platform, and I'm just gonna say, I think email is criminally underfunded companies, because it's just it's hard to see sometimes where a brand will be spending like 50k on ads a month, and then it will be then they'll have one poor person managing the emails and it's really a holistic effort where everything can help each other.


Andy Splichal  19:42  

Right. And I mean, it could be to that since email traditionally performs so well. That it's something where they're not throwing money at it because you know, they're already getting but I guess they're just not calculating what they're leaving on the table as far as the amount of money they even additional they could be making.


Stephen Carl  20:00  

so maybe they can, yeah, sure.


Andy Splichal  20:03  

So what what are what are some of the biggest mistakes that you have seen the companies make when managing their own communications?


Stephen Carl  20:13  

These days, with communication, it's important to be personal, because people can spot ads from a mile away. Once you start, I mean, if you like, just look at email subject lines, now, there's so conversational, and, like, you know, just having a personality and your communications. And that means, a lot of times, it just means bringing on a copywriter, it's so worth it, you know, but if I wrote in an email or an SMS, and I said, 10% off today, you know, or I wrote the message, we did a little negotiating for you, you know, those, those different approaches, like, the latter is a more personal thing. You know, it's it, you know, then you've seen 10% off everywhere, there's nothing unique about it, you know, but with communications to the idea is to be persuasive. That marketing is there's so much psychology behind it. And you have to, you have to get through a couple of things you got to get through you know, there are 100 places where I could buy this product. Why are you guys any different? You know, so you got to you got to answer that to the customer. And then you also got to find out what's stopping these people from purchasing?


Andy Splichal  21:35  

Yeah, no, that's great. I know, one of the people I follow regularly is Dan Kennedy, and one of his sayings you need to to convince customers why they should do business with you, as opposed to all the other options, including doing nothing at all. Yeah, really, along that same lines.


Stephen Carl  21:54  

I guess the other the other mistake, I think, is you have to see it as omni channel, and how these things can work together. And I think you know, you're a baseball fan. So you might, you might enjoy this analogy, Andy.


Andy Splichal  22:06  

Well, I am today because the Dodgers won last night, but it might not be tomorrow.


Stephen Carl  22:12  

Okay, okay, well, good luck. But it's stop trying to hit homeruns. You know, where it's, I think even the way, the way that we look at campaigns, the way that we analyze them, it's not about hitting homeruns, it's about getting on BS. Because whatever we're doing in marketing, it's like, it's not about what each campaign does, but like, if I have a customer, I don't care if I converted them today, I just care that I convert them with a certain within a certain period of time.


Andy Splichal  22:42  

Okay. Now, as far as pricing, how do you calculate your pricing when working with a new client? I mean, what should i What should accompany know, when deciding to outsource outsource some of these communication functions?


Stephen Carl  23:01  

I guess what, okay. So with, with pricing, I think the, the overall philosophy is that our a needle movement engagement is paid for through the additional revenue that is generated. And that's really the idea. You know, because if I can't, you know, it's much easier for me to look in a dashboard and say, Well, look, you know, we've generated $20,000 for your business, more than you paid for, then, if I'm, you know, if we're working on marketing, and not delivering the results, like, so that's what's so great about these channels, that they're very transparent. You know, pricing is always based on the amount of work, you know, and I think it's, so, you know, a done with you engagement would be less expensive than I'd done for you engagement. Sure, you know, so it's just, you know, a lot of is just keeping the, you know, so the pricing is just consistent with what we're doing. But I think, you know, in terms of pricing, you know, we're just trying to keep things affordable, because we always we know, the challenges that the brand is having on the other side and how many other engagements and that it's not an endless, you know, marketing budgets have to be have to be very strict. And sometimes, you can't always spend on all the things that you want to spend on.


Andy Splichal  24:27  

Right. Now do you have I mean, do you have any special offers or, or incentives going right now in preparation for the holidays? If somebody's interested?


Stephen Carl  24:39  

We do. So for anyone listening to the show. I am happy to offer a free growth audit. No, so just you know, all the stuff that we're talking about today, like let's let's put it into practice for your business, so that you can understand how much additional revenue is possible through email, SMS and or Facebook Messenger. It could be all three it could be one of the Three. But I'm happy to dive deep into it and give you some feedback.


Andy Splichal  25:08  

Great. Well, that's, that's very generous of you. Thank you. Now, if someone's interested in doing that, how, how would they contact you?


Stephen Carl  25:18  

You can email me directly at, that email address or fill out a contact form on our website, needle And I shouldn't say this, don't worry, because I hate salespeople with a passion. And I get, you know, I get spammed a lot too. So I have a lot of empathy here. So if we, you know, if we talk we'll have a good conversation, whether we decide to work together or not.


Andy Splichal  25:47  

Wait, can somebody send you an SMS or a messenger.


Stephen Carl  25:53  

Email is the primary.


Andy Splichal  25:55  

I'm just kidding. Well, is there anything I forgot today? Anything else you want to 


Stephen Carl  26:03  

I think we cover it all. We covered all the bases.


Andy Splichal  26:07  

Okay, great. Well, thank you for joining us. That is it for today. But remember, if you liked this episode, please go to Apple podcast and leave a five star review. And if you're looking for more information from Stephen regarding what Needle Movement can do for your company, this holiday season and into 2021 Feel free to reach out to him directly through either his email so in or through the contact form on his website. So that's it remember to stay safe, keep healthy and happy marketing, and I will talk to you in the next episode.