Episode 215 – Tom Kulzer
Welcome to another episode of The HERO Show. I am your host Richard Matthews, (@AKATheAlchemist) and you are listening to episode 215 with Tom Kulzer – Connecting People Around the World in Remarkable Ways.
Tom Kulzer is the CEO & Founder of AWeber—a company he established in 1998, to help small businesses around the world better and more effectively communicate and build relationships with customers and prospects using permission-based email marketing.
Having organically grown AWeber from 0 to over 300,000 active clients, Tom’s focus is strategic planning, market strategy, business development, and team building.
Recognized as one of Pennsylvania’s Best Places to Work for the past 10 consecutive years (2021-2012), Tom believes in creating a unique workplace lifestyle unlike that of most companies. With a culture driven by five core values, they are constantly growing their talented team of 100 team members to take on new, unique challenges in pursuit of growing millions of small businesses around the world.
Here’s just a taste of what we talked about today:
Being Exceedingly Detail Oriented as a Superpower
Tom’s superpower is being exceedingly detail-oriented. He leaves very little room to open interpretation when he talks about things, but he sees the connections and interactions between disparate systems and, can tie those pieces together in ways a lot of people can’t.
He likes to say he is not good at one specific thing, but pretty good at a whole lot of different things.
The Driving Force: Connecting People in Remarkable Ways
AWeber’s driving force is to connect people around the world in remarkable ways. Their company is about creating more personal relationships with people around the world. Tom goes on and says, “Your email lis, isn’t just something to monetize. Email addresses are real people.”
Over the years, they were able to help people connect in more real ways that are more tangible to create ongoing relationships beyond just a transaction. This is the sole reason why they serve the small business space.
Their mission at AWeber is what gives Tom the passion to do what he does for the last 24 years—being able to affect that kind of change and see the change that an email from their platform has had on people.
Other Topics We Covered on the Show:
- We also get to know more about what AWeber does, the people they serve, and the services they provide.
- Then, we talked about Tom’s origin story. Creating a program that automatically sends emails when he was in collage paved the way to become who he is now in the Email marketing space.
- Tom shared his thoughts about email being always the baseline to interact with the internet. Does he see this changing in the future?
- Being too direct has been Tom’s fatal flaw in his business. He fights to overcome this flaw by spending a little more time talking about what went well and why it went well.
- AWeber’s common enemy is people who say, “Permission doesn’t apply to me. Everyone wants my emails, or my emails are special, but everyone else’s aren’t.”
- Lastly, Tom’s guiding principle is the hiker’s creed—leave every place you go a little better than where you found it.
The HERO Challenge
Today on the show, Tom Kulzer challenged Andy to be a guest on The HERO Show. Tom thinks Andy is a fantastic person to interview because he has a pretty cool story about his everlasting passion for life and work, which has the same approach to—“leave every place that you go a little better than where you found it.”
How To Stay Connected with Tom Kulzer
Want to stay connected with Tom? Please check out their social profiles below.
With that… let’s go and listen to the full episode…
[00:00:00] Tom Kulzer: My superpower, you know, there’s a bunch of different directions that I could take that. I think that my wife would probably not say this as a superpower, but like I’m exceedingly detail oriented. I leave very little to the, like open to it, I try to leave very little open to interpretation when I talk about things.
[00:00:25] So, very literal in what I say, my, you know, kind of emotional side of things is very like cut and dry binary when I think about things. But you know, I see the connections and interactions between disparate systems and, I’m able to tie a lot of those pieces together in ways that I think a lot of people can’t you know, so I like to say that I’m not good at any one thing.
[00:00:55] I’m not like really good at any one specific thing, but I’m pretty good at a whole lot of different things that allow me to be able to tie them together in unique ways that others haven’t thought of. So.
[00:01:09] Richard Matthews: Heroes are an inspiring group of people. Every one of them from the larger than life comic book heroes, you see on the big silver screen, the everyday heroes that let us live the privileged lives we do.
[00:01:17] Every hero has a story to tell from the doctor saving lives at your local hospital, the war veteran down the street, who risks his life for our freedom to the police officers and the firefighters who risk their safety to ensure ours, every hero is special and every story worth telling. But there is one class of heroes that I think is often ignored the entrepreneur, the creator, the producer, the ones who look at the problems in this world and think to themselves, you know what?
[00:01:36] I can fix that I can help people. I can make a difference. Then they go out and do exactly that by creating a new product or introducing a new service, some go on to change the world. Others make a world of difference to their customers. Welcome to The Hero Show. Join us. As we pull back the masks on the world’s finest HERO preneurs and learn the secrets to their powers, their success and their influence.
[00:01:54] So you can use those secrets to attract more sales, make more money and experience more freedom in your business. I’m your host, Richard Matthews. And we are on in 3…2…1…
[00:02:04] Hello, and welcome back to the Hero Show. My name is Richard Matthews. And today I have the pleasure of having on Tom Kulzer, Tom you there?
[00:02:09] Tom Kulzer: I am. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:12] Richard Matthews: Awesome. So glad to have you here. I know we were just chatting before we got on you’re up in new England for the summer.
[00:02:18] Tom Kulzer: Yes. Yeah. Enjoying the summer weather.
[00:02:21] Richard Matthews: What’s the summer like up there? Cause I’ve only ever been up there in the fall and the winter, it was cold.
[00:02:26] Tom Kulzer: It can be cold. It’s kind of cold and rainy today. It’s like 65, 66 or so today, but it was in the nineties yesterday.
[00:02:33] Richard Matthews: You get plenty of beach weather.
[00:02:36] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. So we’re in a lake up here. So we spend a lot of time in the water and, swimming and, you know, sailing and kayaking and all that kind of jazz. But yeah, it’s been unusually dry and warm this summer.
[00:02:49] Richard Matthews: That is next in my family’s list is to learn how to sail.
[00:02:53] Tom Kulzer: Ah, there you go. Yeah. I have a little cat he’ll be 16 that we like to sail around with the kids and to enjoy that.
[00:02:59] Richard Matthews: We’ve been traveling in the RV for five years and we just finished seeing all of the lower 48 states. And our next plan is buy a big ass sailboat and learned to sail port to port around the world.
[00:03:09] Tom Kulzer: Oh, nice. Okay.
[00:03:10] Richard Matthews: That is on the plans. And for my audience who’s been following along with us and our travels we’re back in Florida for the next three months or so. So probably the next several interviews you’ll see will be us in Florida and keep you updated on how we go with us getting a boat.
[00:03:23] Tom Kulzer: With the sailing aspect.
[00:03:24] Richard Matthews: Yeah. The sailing aspect.
[00:03:25] Tom Kulzer: Check out Sailing La Vagabonde that family that sails whatnot. They also use sailing boats.
[00:03:32] Richard Matthews: We also followed Sailing La Vagabon and we we follow sailing Zatara another family, a smaller family, the are called the sailing family, I think on YouTube. And there’s a couple with two kids.
[00:03:45] There’s another family that traveled for a few years. I can’t remember their name, but they just stopped this last year. Sothey went around the world with their kids once and they’re done now.
[00:03:52] Tom Kulzer: I gotcha. Yeah. There’s a bunch of them that are out there, so yeah.
[00:03:56] Richard Matthews: Yeah. La Vagabonde actually uses AWeber.
[00:03:58] Tom Kulzer: Yep. I do for some of their newsletter and email stuff going out. So yeah, it was funny cuz like I followed their YouTube channel before I realized they were AWeber customer. I got an email from them. I was like, wait a second, that came from us.
[00:04:14] Richard Matthews: You’re like, Hey, I, I recognize that company footer.
[00:04:16] Tom Kulzer: Exactly.
[00:04:18] Richard Matthews: So, yeah. So what I wanna do to start off is just do a brief introduction for those people who don’t know you. I’m pretty sure everyone knows the company you run. But you are the CEO of AWeber company you started I think is says here in year 1998 to help small business around the world better and more effectively communicate and build relationships with customers and prospects using permission based email marketing. So what I want to just start off the interview with is what is it that you guys do? Who do you serve? What do you do for them?
[00:04:47] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, so we serve small businesses and creators and mostly their email marketing needs. We also do landing pages like website posting type things, as well as push notifications and those sort of things on their websites. But the bulk of majority of what we do is email marketing. So think email automation, email newsletter delivery you know, automated updates from like, if you have a, we were just talking about YouTube.
[00:05:13] Like if you have a YouTube channel, you can create little automatic newsletters that go out. So someone can subscribe and, receive those. But we work with, you know, small businesses, both like, you know, physical, in place stores and retail establishments to a lot of online, you know, digital only type creators that have blogs and YouTube channels.
[00:05:35] And, you know, you name it. We have customers that probably do it.
[00:05:40] Richard Matthews: Yeah. And you guys, you said 1998, that’s that’s pushing 25 years.
[00:05:45] Tom Kulzer: It is
[00:05:45] Richard Matthews: In the email email space. And if I’m not mistaken, you guys are probably one of, if not the biggest name in email marketing, is that right?
[00:05:53] Tom Kulzer: We share the space with the number of well known you know, competitors and so forth. But yeah, we’re,definitely up there as far as the overall size and number of customers and so forth that we help. So we send billions of emails every month all permission based and not spam. I always like to clarify that and you know, we connect people around the world constantly. So, which is pretty cool.
[00:06:13] And we seen much more of a push towards email just with, even as social grows, because so much of like social audiences and, and being able to see what you’re putting out there is algorithm based. You know, if you’ve got a YouTube channel, you know, maybe 10 or 20% of your subscribers will actually see something when you put a new post up on YouTube, similar thing with Facebook and Twitter and so forth.
[00:06:38] So being able to use those platforms to grow and curate your email list. Becomes an, an asset and a communication path where you can reach many more of your people reliably.
[00:06:51] Richard Matthews: More audience, Yeah.
[00:06:52] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, exactly.
[00:06:53] Richard Matthews: Yeah. I run a small agency called Push Button Podcast where we help creators create their audio and video podcasts like this one on a regular basis.
[00:07:02] And one of the things that we do all the time is we take whatever the RSS feed is for their show and use the email triggers in either active campaign or AWeber or whatever system they use that they happen to have one already that lets us, you know, essentially suck in their newest piece of content with the title and the thing, and like a whole bit so that it goes out to their email subscribers.
[00:07:23] Which generally is the biggest way to get them to actually show up and watch your content.
[00:07:29] Tom Kulzer: Absolutely.
[00:07:29] Richard Matthews: Like you said, with the algorithms and whatnot, you not always guaranteed that they’re actually gonna see your content, even if they’re subscribed.
[00:07:35] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, we have a couple of different tools. We have a previous tool that we’ve used called blog broadcast that does that.
[00:07:41] We also have a newer tool. That’s part of our automation stack, that’s called auto newsletter. That does that, that allows you to pull in an RSS feed and really customize and tweak what it’s doing. One of the coolest things that I think about it is you can not only pull in like your latest bit of content, but you can also re pull in previous you know, shows and stuff that somebody might have missed to be able to get to get that in front of them.
[00:08:05] Richard Matthews: It’s like show them some extra content pieces.
[00:08:08] Tom Kulzer: One of the things that people don’t often think about is when you’re pushing out that email and you know, your most fervent fans get that first, they’re clicking on that and they’re feeding into the YouTube algorithm and some of the podcasting algorithms on how popular your show is and how likely somebody is to actually click on that because they see all this organic track that coming in and they’re like, oh, I don’t know where that came from, but like, people must be interested in it.
[00:08:32] So they’re more likely to show it to other audiences outside of your subscriber base, which has this really nice feedback loop of continuing to grow your subscriber base. And that doesn’t really come if you’re not doing the email component of it and the email component of it, it’s really easy. Cuz you can automate a hundred percent of it and then it just runs.
[00:08:51] Richard Matthews: That’s the best part.
[00:08:52] Tom Kulzer: It’s like magic. Yeah.
[00:08:53] Richard Matthews: Yeah. That’s my that’s one of my favorite things is my clients, like we set up that automation for them with their shows and they’re like, oh man, it just goes out every week. And I’m like, every week we don’t have to do anything. And they’re like, oh.
[00:09:03] Tom Kulzer: They don’t do a thing.
[00:09:04] Richard Matthews: You must be an automation God. I’m like, no, just using the tools that are already available for you.
[00:09:07] Tom Kulzer: Yep. And you can set them if so, you can tweak them before you wanna send, if you really want to do it that way, but like the best way to get people to actually do it consistently is to remove the person.
[00:09:17] Richard Matthews: Yeah.
[00:09:18] Tom Kulzer: Just let the automation do it.
[00:09:20] Richard Matthews: So that’s essentially what we do with the Push Button Podcast is, you know, most people struggle with getting their podcast out on a regular basis because all the work that goes in after you hit stop record. That’s what stops people from publishing all the time.
[00:09:31] So that’s what our agency does. You hit stop record, and then we do everything else. We do the video editing and the audio editing and the graphic creation, the written creation and the publishing and the distribution and everything that goes into it. And the automation setup and everything. So they just show up and do the one thing that they’re good at or not say the one thing that they’re good at, but like the one thing they enjoy doing, which is showing up and actually recording the content.
[00:09:50] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. Right.
[00:09:50] Richard Matthews: Being the thought leader. And then all the hard work that goes into like stuff they don’t want to do. That’s where we come in and just do that for them.
[00:09:57] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. That’s excellent.
[00:09:59] Richard Matthews: Yeah. Super cool. So, what I wanna do is dive a little bit into your origin story, how you got into creating AWeber. We talk on this show, every good comic book hero has an origin story. It’s a thing that made them into the heroes they are today. And we wanna hear that story. Were you born a hero or were you bit by a radioactive spider that made you wanna get into permission based email marketing? Or did you start a job and eventually move over to become an entrepreneur?
[00:10:18] Basically? How did you create AWeber?
[00:10:23] Tom Kulzer: I got bit by a whole lot of flies when I was outside this morning, but I don’t think that’s doing me any good now. No, it’s kind of, I have like entrepreneurs in kind of my history of, you know, family and so forth. So like my grandfather, both of my grandfathers, my one grandfather owned a little print shop.
[00:10:44] And my other grandfather owned a excavation business you know, small sole proprietor, but think, you know, showing up in your backyard with a dump truck and backhoe and digging holes and that kind of jazz. My mom and dad owned a garment factory for a number of years. And yeah, so, you know, me growing up, I was always mowing lawns, doing that kind of stuff.
[00:11:03] But back when I was in college, I was going to school for mechanical engineering and ended up switching majors to finance and ultimately dropped out to start my company. But while I was in school, I was selling wireless modems. Back before we all had iPhones and Androids and high bandwidth stuff in our pockets, we dial up was still pretty much a thing.
[00:11:25] Richard Matthews: When the internet made noise.
[00:11:26] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, exactly. When the intermit made noise now it makes noise, but it’s a different kind of noise. And I was selling these modems and I go to computer shows and other things, and I sell them to truckers and business folks that traveled. And it was a new novel technology and you really needed to explain it for people to get it.
[00:11:44] As much as that feels weird now, looking back on it, like you had to explain mobile internet. But it was not a thing that existed. So it was just weird for people. They didn’t understand it. And so, as I’d go to these computer shows, you know, people toss me their business cards and say, Hey, send me some more information.
[00:12:01] Like let’s follow up later. And I would do that manually and that took a lot of time.
[00:12:07] Richard Matthews: Forever, yeah.
[00:12:08] Tom Kulzer: And it was boring. And you know, some people got back to you and lots of didn’t even though they stood right there and talked to me at a computer show. So, you know, being the Lazy college student that I was you know, I figured out like, Hey, let me write a little program that will send these emails automatically to these people that wanted more information.
[00:12:30] And, you know, I would write it like it came from me and it was pretty much, I had pretty much my standard sequence of follow up that I would send people when I was doing it manually. And I just wrote it into a little program. And during that process, it worked pretty well. And I ended up sharing that same program with some other folks in different parts of the country that were selling the same wireless modem.
[00:12:54] And we would kind of collaborate on what messages worked really well. And it was a way for me to be kind of the hub of what worked really well. I knew before anybody else knew, so I could implement it into my sales cycle and then I would share it out with everybody else. And it just became kind of this self feeding you know, feedback loop.
[00:13:12] Richard Matthews: Other feedback loop, yeah.
[00:13:13] Tom Kulzer: It was really positive, but one thing led to another. When I switched majors you know, I wasn’t doing all that great in school. And I was like, I need to cut a few things out to focus on school. And I was like, okay, I’m gonna drop this wireless modem thing. And focus on school for a little while, take a break from that.
[00:13:33] And when I did that, I stopped doing it for everybody else. And I was doing it for free up to that. And so they all started coming to me saying, Hey, that email follow up thing you were doing, like, I’ll pay you for that. Can you turn that back on? So I can do that again. I’ll pay you for that.
[00:13:50] And after a little while, it was only, you know, a handful of people that came back and said, Hey, I’ll pay you for that. I was like, hmm, maybe I don’t need to sell this wireless modem thing. Maybe I could just sell this email thing that I was doing for. And that was the kind of Genesis of AWeber AWeber is kind of a amalgamation of automated web assistance and kind of shortened it down.
[00:14:13] It’s like, A Web Ask, no, you can’t name your company, A Web Ask. That’s a very different kind of company so it became AWeber and the rest is kind of history. We do own AWebAsk.com. If you want to go there.
[00:14:29] Richard Matthews: That’s awesome.
[00:14:30] Tom Kulzer: So, but yeah, it was.
[00:14:31] Richard Matthews: I always wondered where the name AWeber came from automated web assistance. That’s good.
[00:14:35] Tom Kulzer: Yep. So that’s kind of the origin story. Lots of companies spend lots and lots of money on their company names. I’d like to say there was more thought put into it than that, but it was a unique domain name. It was short, it was catchy. It had some meaning. I mean a lot of people don’t know, but yeah.
[00:14:53] Richard Matthews: You guys got started in email before there were any regulations around email. Is that correct?
[00:14:59] Tom Kulzer: I’m trying to think. Yeah, there wasn’t really, there were definitely lawsuites.
[00:15:05] Richard Matthews: It was the spam act wasn’t until 2003, I think. So it’s like five years after you guys got started.
[00:15:09] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. There were some early stuff, but you know, everything that we’ve always done has been permission based. We’ve never been, you know, pro spam or anything like that.
[00:15:19] So, you know, we take extensive action to make sure that our users are only sending email to people that have specifically requested it, you know, no buying purchase lists and importing them into accounts, no conference lists that you have dubious permissions to be mailing, those sort of things.
[00:15:37] And we’ve always operated that way to our detriment or benefit depending on how you look at it. But for me, I’ve always looked at email as a major company doing this. You have to look at it from the longer term, bigger ecosystem picture. And while there are things that you can do to goose your profits and revenue in the short term, in the long term, you hurt the overall email ecosystem of how the world uses email.
[00:16:07] So we’ve always tried to kind of be, you know, on the, not tried, but like we’ve always been on that like ethical side of using email in the right way that you, as an email user yourself would want to receive. You know, I don’t ever want to have people on my platform using AWeber in a way that I wouldn’t want in my own inbox.
[00:16:28] That doesn’t mean that I agree with all the content that gets sent, but I agree with the permission practices and that sort that people use when they’re using AWeber and you know, when they use any platform, when I talk about it in any form, regardless of what platform you use. So if you don’t have permission to send emails, you’re doing it wrong.
[00:16:47] And you will have terrible results. It’s just the way the filters work these days.
[00:16:53] Richard Matthews: Yeah. I know the idea that you just mentioned too, that you may not agree with everything your customers send. But as long as they have permission, that’s actually, I really like that. Cuz you know, you probably tell from my flag in the background, I’m a bit of a free speech absolutist myself.
[00:17:06] Tom Kulzer: Sure.
[00:17:07] Richard Matthews: And that’s one of the things that’s interesting about running a podcast platform is we have podcasters that say things that I don’t particularly agree with, but I agree with their permission to say it.
[00:17:16] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. There’s, you know, there’s a Delta between free speech and like having an open platform you know, there are definitely types of speech that we don’t allow on AWeber, just because you can’t, you know, it’s not healthy to the overall world and ecosystem and it puts us at liability for, you know, all the rest of our customers.
[00:17:39] So we do have to, you know, kind of mediate that. But we try to take as light a hand as you can possibly have on that. You know, so,
[00:17:47] Richard Matthews: So one of the things I’ve found interesting abou t that sort of subject in general is there is you have to take some sort of action. Like you can’t just let anything go through, but you have to have, like, thought about it.
[00:18:04] And it’s interesting cuz you’re not a what’s the word? You’re not like a government entity or anything like that. You’re a private company. So you have like your rules that you set up, you know, someone has to play by your rules to play in your court kind of thing.
[00:18:14] Tom Kulzer: Right.
[00:18:14] Richard Matthews: And it’s just an interesting sort of, I dunno what you call it. It’s something that you have to be acknowledged, especially when you’re at your size and the type of, you know, you guys serve people in pretty much every industry and every political affiliation, religious affiliation there ever was.
[00:18:30] So you have to, you probably have departments that talk about these kind of things.
[00:18:34] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s definitely a part of our overall conversation and it’s a part of our, you know, abuse mitigation practices. It’s part of being, you know, part of the global ecosystem.
[00:18:46] It’s, you know, we don’t just do business in the United States. We do business all over the world. And we have to take, you know, there’s certain types of actions that we take in different countries. Like there’s certain countries we can’t do business in and, you know, keeping those users out is, you know, a problem because they want in.
[00:19:03] There’s lots of tools that can help them try to evade those sort of detections and that kind of stuff. So there’s always a cat and mouse aspect of what we do. In the same time, like email is a tool that gets abused a lot and a big part of keeping our platform good for all of the rest of our users is the fact that we’re good at keeping the bad people out that want to send, you know, the two spam list or two phishing emails or you know, scams and those sort of things.
[00:19:35] So, you know, there’s always an element of content evaluation that you have to do.
[00:19:42] Richard Matthews: Nigerian princes that reach out to you on a regular basis.
[00:19:44] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, you name it, we’ve seen all kinds of different stuff and, at the end of the day, like there’s an element of like, there’s our rules, but there’s also the mailbox provider rules of like, if we send content to Google or Yahoo or Microsoft that they don’t want on their platform, you send enough of it and a hired percentage of quantity and they just block you know, they block those senders, they might block your whole network.
[00:20:15] So there’s, you know, we don’t just. We’re not just playing by our own rules. We have to follow the rules of the platforms that we’re sending email to. And I think that, that’s an angle that often, you know, when you start getting into that whole free speech conversation of like, well, we’re a commercial entity, we’re sending a commercial entities.
[00:20:36] Like, that’s not where free speech lives. Free speech is a government thing. That’s a government principle in the United States, which doesn’t exist everywhere around the world.
[00:20:47] Richard Matthews: It’s definitely an interesting conversation.
[00:20:50] Tom Kulzer: It’s a very nuanced topic. Yeah. There’s a lot of layers, so and you’re never gonna make everyone happy. So
[00:20:58] Richard Matthews: One of the things that, I know we’ve discovered, I’m curious how you guys like help your customers with this is, you know, you get enough people to say opt into your list. And you start sending to them, you’ll have a portion of them that never interact with your stuff.
[00:21:13] Right. And so they don’t engage with it. And one of the things I noticed ISPs have started doing more often lately, is that like, if your engagement with your list is, is low, they will start making it so that people who actively do engage with your stuff, don’t see your stuff either. They all get start putting into either promotions tabs, or junk stuff like that.
[00:21:30] So like, as an end user of email platforms, it makes a lot of sense for us at least to make sure we’re splitting off our lists into people who are actively engaged versus people who are maybe less engaged. And I know, like we have to think about that more actively. Do you guys, is that something you guys like train your users on and teach them how to do and that kinda stuff?
[00:21:51] Tom Kulzer: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And that’s built into the platform as far as being able to segment your lists and looking at who’s active and who’s inactive and, so forth there. So I would make once, like, you know, asterisks to what you said, like mailbox providers typically are not putting unengaged emails in the promations tab.
[00:22:13] Like a lot of people incorrectly talk about the promotions tab as kind of a spam folder, it’s not. Promotions go to the promotions tab. Spam goes to the spam folder. So like, we often have this conversation with customers. It’s like, my emails are gonna the promotions folder and it’s like, yeah.
[00:22:28] Richard Matthews: Is it a promotion?
[00:22:29] Tom Kulzer: And you’re exactly. And it’s like, when I read it, it’s like, you’re selling stuff. That’s a promotion. Like that’s where it belongs. And if you don’t wanna be in the promotions tab, don’t send promotions and they think that getting into the inbox is where everybody should be or where their email should be.
[00:22:45] But like, everybody else can go to the promotion tab. Like that’s okay.
[00:22:48] Richard Matthews: Not us.
[00:22:49] Tom Kulzer: No, every everyone is not a special snowflake and you don’t get to make your own rules. And if you send promotions, you’re gonna go to this promotions tab. It has nothing to do with the platform that, whether AWeber or any other email marketing provider that you’re using to send there, it’s all about your content and what you’re sending to people.
[00:23:06] You know, the Spam folder is something that happens more as you’re looking at the engagement of your list. And if you have low engagement, meaning people aren’t opening and clicking the messages that you’re sending there and a too large of a percentage of your lists becomes unengaged.
[00:23:21] Eventually the mailbox provider, let’s say Google Gmail decides, well, you know, 80% of the people that they’re sending to, aren’t engaging with what they’re sending the other 10% or 20% might be confused and just clicking on it, just because, so let’s put it in the Spam folder and see how many go to the spa folder and pull it back out.
[00:23:43] Because that is instructive to their algorithms as well. Like when they make incorrect classifications, Do those readers miss it and go looking for it and pull it back out of the Spam folder because that action of pulling it back out is also a signal to them to like, Hey, make sure stuff goes in the inbox.
[00:23:58] Richard Matthews: That’s a big strong indicator.
[00:23:59] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, exactly. So like, you know, when you’re looking at your list as a creator and as a sender, look at it as something where you wanna have that engagement, but don’t just treat people that unsubscribe as your unsubscribes, if they haven’t opened and clicked in, you know, six to 12 months, they’ve already unsubscribed without having unsubscribed.
[00:24:22] So you should think about pruning those people off, you run a re-engagement campaign where you segment them out and maybe mail to them specifically to try to get them interested and, you know, click or open something. You will often see the stark Delta between, Hey, if I mail my unengaged people, I get like a tiny open rate and a tiny, like single digit number.
[00:24:44] You can send a thousands of people and get like single digit opens and clicks and, usually you get somebody that’s like, well, see, they’re interested. It’s like, no, but you emailed 5,000 people. And like four people clicked that’s the statistlical anomaly.
[00:25:01] Richard Matthews: Four people, you can move back in.
[00:25:02] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. Yeah. Those are four people that you can move back in, but the rest like they’re gone and, you know, mail them a couple more times if you want, but the more you mail them the more you’re signaling to mailbox providers that like, Hey, these people aren’t interested and I’m not listening to those signals.
[00:25:17] Richard Matthews: We set up for all of our clients, we set up an automation, essentially. That’s like, Hey, if they go 30, 60, 90 days without engaging, like open click, those kind of things it pulls them off the main list and puts them on a second re-engagement list where they get, I think it’s like four or five emails that are just designed to like, Hey, it looks like you’re not seeing our stuff or whatever.
[00:25:33] It’s like a specifically written re-engagement campaign.
[00:25:35] Tom Kulzer: Yep.
[00:25:36] Richard Matthews: And if they get to the end of the re-engagement campaign and they haven’t hit the engagement signals, it just unsubscribes them, just removes it from the list. So, and that keeps the engaged portion of your list clean. And you know, we see regularly people like it, cuz you know, we do coaching on this stuff.
[00:25:51] People are like, how do you get high open rates? And we like, we average like 40 to 80% open rates on our emails. It’s like, because we’re just sending people who wanna see our stuff. That’s like 90% of the job. It’s just send it to people who want to see it.
[00:26:04] Tom Kulzer: Yep. It’s not rocket science, but like when you explain it like that, it’s like, oh yeah.
[00:26:10] Richard Matthews: So, you know, when they wanna hear from you and you send ’em an email, they open your email and read it.
[00:26:15] Tom Kulzer: Well, a lot of businesses get caught up in the, you know, or individual creators or whatever, get caught up in the like, you know, the like, oh, I have a hundred followers or I have a hundred subscribers or a thousand subscribers or 10,000 subscribers. And it it’s always growing and it’s like, nah, it really isn’t.
[00:26:33] Richard Matthews: Yeah. And I had a really instructive thing that happened with one of our clients. It wasn’t email related particularly, but it gives an idea of like how engagement changes the profitability of your company. And so, he had 45,000 people that followed him on YouTube that were subscribed, have the notification bell the whole bell like 45,000 people.
[00:26:51] And then on his podcast, he had less than a thousand. It was like 860 people or so that were on his podcast. And that year we did $250,000 in sales from promotions to both his YouTube channel and his podcast. His podcast with 870 people was responsible for $200,000 of those sales and his podcast with 40,000 or his YouTube channel with 40,000 people was responsible for the other 50,000.
[00:27:15] And because the podcast listener is a more engaged listener, right. They’re like, literally they’ve got them stuck in their head, they listen to you in the car. And while they’re doing dishes and doing the gym and what kind of thing, YouTube is just like, you know, scrolling through. And like, you see a video every once in a while.
[00:27:27] It’s a different level of engagement. So when you have someone’s attention it’s definitely drive sales.
[00:27:35] Tom Kulzer: Absolutely like podcasting is the same kind of when you’re looking at the equation there, like is very similar to email in the sense that when I sign up for someone’s podcast, I get every episode cause it’s an RSS feed in your reader that pops through, which is essentially what all podcasting apps are these days.
[00:27:57] You know, and emails the same sort of way. Like when I sign up for someone’s mailing list, I get every email that they sent. It’s not up to YouTube’s algorithm to decide whether or not, you know, Sailing La Vagabonde, newest episode shows up in my feed that I happen to scroll through. Like, there’s no end to that feed.
[00:28:13] It’s not like an inbox where it’s like, oh, I’ve checked it off. I’ve seen all the things that there are to see. So it’s a very different user experience.
[00:28:21] It’s very engaged and, you know, just cuz I’m in the marketing spaces a lot, I’ve seen more and more people talking about the importance of email today as social grows and gets bigger.
[00:28:29] Richard Matthews: It seems like the importance of email is also getting bigger. And I sort of have a question for you on that, cuz you’re definitely more involved in the email space than I am. One of the things I’ve noticed is like, as technology grows, everything always uses email as a baseline. Like you can’t get on Facebook without an email.
[00:28:45] You can’t get on anything without having an email. And I’m curious if you see that changing at all in the future or is email always gonna sort of be like the baseline requirement to interact with the internet?
[00:28:55] Tom Kulzer: Yes and no, like the whole, you know, web three, crypto and a lot of that sort of stuff. I think there’s gonna be some, you know, innovations there, but that’s still very much in its infancy and very techy. It’s very hard to keep up, you know, your average user is like, I struggle to keep up with it and I’m pretty techy. You know, so.
[00:29:19] Richard Matthews: It’s like I say, web three, isn’t gonna go anywhere until they can figure out how to get grandma to use it without knowing she’s using it.
[00:29:25] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, exactly. So that, you know, so I see some evolution there. There’s definitely opportunity for evolution there when that’s gonna actually happen. I don’t know. I always hate to bring it up, but like everybody has talked for decades about how emails gonna die every year, more emails get sent than ever before with, you know, just as high of engagement as they ever have been.
[00:29:49] So, you know, it’s, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, you know, no new generation is, you know, yeah, everyone’s using TikTok, but like you don’t talk with businesses over TikTok, you know, you’re not sending your grandma a TikTok to interact with her. Like there’s still other communication patterns besides just whatever the latest, greatest social fad is at the time.
[00:30:13] Richard Matthews: Yeah. And you know, what’s interesting is like even business deals that happen because of the first interaction on TikTok, they always move to email afterwards. And you know, same with like our podcast. We do a lot of business from our podcast and it all goes from podcast to email.
[00:30:28] Tom Kulzer: Yep. Exactly. And how did we set this up today? It all happens over email.
[00:30:33] Richard Matthews: I’ll have via email. And so like, I love the idea. Like people talk all the time about whatever the, the next greatest thing to die is. And it’s funny to me, how often I get, like, cuz I’m subscribed to probably every marketer’s email list on the planet.
[00:30:46] And like probably at least twice a day, I get like a thing that says email marketing is dead and I’m like, it always makes me giggle. Because I’m like, you’re emailing me.
[00:30:52] Tom Kulzer: And they sent that via email.
[00:30:54] Richard Matthews: Via email, I’m like email marketing is dead. Except here you are using it to tell me instead.
[00:31:00] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. When they stop using email, I’ll believe that it’s dead, but until then I’m not believing it
[00:31:06] Richard Matthews: So I wanna shift gears a little bit and talk about your superpowers, right? Every iconic hero in the comic book space has a superpower, whether that’s a fancy flying suit made by their genius intellect, or the ability to call it on thunder from the sky. In the real world heroes have what I call a zone of genius, which is either a skill or a set of skills that you were born with, or you developed over the course of your career that really help you to help your people slay their villains, come on on top of their own journeys.
[00:31:30] And the way I like to frame it is like over the course of your career, you’ve probably developed a lot of skills and each one of those skills, there’s probably a common thread that sort of ties them all together. And with that sort of framing, what do you think your superpower is that you’ve developed or that you brought to the tablefor AWeber?
[00:31:46] Tom Kulzer: My superpower, you know, there’s a bunch of different directions that I could take that.
[00:31:51] I think that I am. My wife would probably not say this as a superpower, but like I’m exceedingly detail oriented. I leave very little to the for like open to it like, I try to leave very little open to interpretation when I talk about things. So I’m very literal in what I say, my, you know, kind of emotional side of things is very like cut and dry binary when I think about things.
[00:32:22] But you know, I see the connections and interactions between disparate systems and, I’m able to tie a lot of those pieces together in ways that I think a lot of people can’t you know, so I like to say that I’m not good at any one thing. I’m not like really good at any one specific thing.
[00:32:44] But I’m pretty good at a whole lot of different things that allow me to be able to tie them together in unique ways that that others haven’t thought of. So.
[00:32:54] Richard Matthews: Yeah, it reminds me of, I was having a discussion the other day with someone who worked in both software engineering and in like the business administration.
[00:33:03] Tom Kulzer: Okay.
[00:33:04] Richard Matthews: And he operates in the place where he can sort of translate for both worlds. And that’s sort of a unique power, right? The ability to see all the things in different areas. And be able to communicate, be like, Hey, this over here and this over here, like if they just talk directly to each other, they miss out on things.
[00:33:22] But when you have someone who’s got like your skillset to both understand this side over here and understand the side over here, that, you can really help them achieve their vision.
[00:33:30] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, I do a lot of translating internally between like our engineering teams and like our customers and you know, our marketing teams.
[00:33:37] And it’s like, this is why, this geeky technical thing is really important because of, you know, Sally over here has this issue in her business and this is gonna really help her. And being able to kind of tie those things together and also like, say, Hey, you know, this engineer, like, you forgot this little thing over here.
[00:33:56] And like, that’s gonna cause a problem when it gets to over here. So Ifeel like I’m every engineer’s QA nightmare. It comes to me, I can always break it.
[00:34:05] Richard Matthews: I’m felling you, I can always find something that won’t work for me too.
[00:34:09] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, pretty much. And I think I drive some of our engineers little nuts sometimes with that that’s like damnit, he had it for 45 seconds and he figured out a way to break it already. But yeah.
[00:34:22] Richard Matthews: So just out of curiosity, how big is your guys’ engineering team now?
[00:34:26] Tom Kulzer: Engineering specific it’s 40 ish, 45 people, something like that. Give or take, depending on how you, you define engineering.
[00:34:35] Richard Matthews: Are you guys dispersed all over the world for your engineering team or you have them all like centrally located.
[00:34:41] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. We’re since, so we were all physically in Philadelphia up until kind of the beginning of COVID. And then we went remote with COVID like most of the world did. And then shortly thereafter, probably six months or so into COVID we decided to stay permanently remote. And we’re all remote now.
[00:35:00] So we had people being in Philly. We had people in like three different states, kind of that like three, four states, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey are all kind of right there as is New York. And we were all out of that same office, but now we’re in 15 different states around the U.S. And predominantly U.S based.
[00:35:18] We have a few folks overseas, but predominantly in the U.S. And yeah, so we’re entirely remote now. We actually just scheduled our first kind of company retreat since the beginning of COVID in September. So we’re looking forward to getting together. That’s meeting people that I’ve worked with for two plus years that I’ve never met in person yet, so.
[00:35:39] Richard Matthews: Yeah, It’s really interesting cuz like my company we’ve been remote since before COVID and so like we built it as a remote company. And then so like I know a lot of companies went remote when it happened and I’m curious, did you guys have any discussions about that before COVID?
[00:35:54] About like the possibility of remote work and things like that or was it just cuz it was thrust upon you and have you seen that impact say like profitability or anything like that? Cause you’re not paying as much for like office space as you would’ve before.
[00:36:07] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, so there’s a couple layers to that. So, you know, we definitely had like, particularly being an engineering tech organization, we definitely had like flexible kind of work arrangements with a lot of folks where, you know, there were certain days of the week that some of the team would work remotely and whatnot. So we’ve always had a component of remote to what we do, but we were all still in the office, you know, it’s probably closer to what people would call hybrid these days.
[00:36:32] And you know, when we went, so we’d spent a lot of time talking about what worked and what didn’t work with that. I was always a big proponent of being in person. And I always, you know, in the ways that I’ve talked about it during like our all hand company events is you either need to be all in person or all remote because what ends up happening.
[00:36:52] And what I predict is going to happen with a lot of hybrid companies, is there become two classes of team members in that there are people that are on site and there are people that are remote and the folks on site when you’re on site and you expect to see Richard tomorrow, I’m not gonna take notes and create written documentation the same way that I would, if everyone is remote and that you have to, when everyone is remote to be able to communicate asynchronously.
[00:37:23] So the communication becomes very different. So think that conference call that you had when you know, you’re in a conference room and there’s five or six people huddled around one mic and one camera looking at everybody. And everybody there has a really nice interaction. It’s very interactive in two way, but then the like three or four people that remote it into that meeting, they’re just like off on a screen in the corner.
[00:37:50] And you have to be like, Hey, I have something to say, you know, and those people tend to get left out those conversations. And you know, then when the meeting is over and everyone walks out of the room, what do you do while you’re walking down the hall, you continue talking about this stuff you were just talking in there and you know, Hey, we should talk about this, or, oh, did you think about this?
[00:38:09] And everyone that’s remote now misses that because the meeting was over to them. Whereas when everybody is remote, you know, almost we talk extensively, we use Slack extensively internally.
[00:38:22] And we push really hard to make sure our teams are having communication in open chat rooms so that everyone can see what’s going on. And that we create documentation. We create good meeting notes and that those go out to everybody. We record meetings that do happen synchronously. So even if you aren’t there, you can, re-watch it.
[00:38:40] Or go look at the notes and catch up on what was said there. So it’s just a different style of communicating. You know, the remote is interesting as well. It’s definitely not cheaper. We still have some office space due to a number of different like tech things that we’ve got in office spaces and whatnot, but when you look at the full kind of stack compensation of like what it costs to employ somebody like we’re now in multiple states, like the overhead of just managing that is such a pain in the rear, if you’re actually doing it properly as employees and not as contractors, which a lot of people violate U.S Law and have a lot of contractors that should be considered full-time employees.
[00:39:25] Richard Matthews: Yeah.
[00:39:26] Tom Kulzer: So that’s definitely something that a lot of folks are not considering and are going to get in trouble with eventually. You’ll get you get in trouble with that. So, you know, so that overhead, you know, get togethers and just putting people up in hotels for a couple of days, like that’s multiple months worth of rent in most people’s cases.
[00:39:46] So, you know, and we do lots of things remote, so like we’re shipping stuff to people and, you know, we still have teams get together and flying to conferences and, you know, if I want to get any team together, like everyone’s flying and traveling extensive distances now versus, Hey, we’re in the office every day.
[00:40:03] Like I can meet with whoever I want if you’re going to meet, you know?
[00:40:06] Richard Matthews: So just where the cost is located.
[00:40:08] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. It’s just, it kind of reallocates expenses. So I wouldn’t say it’s definitely not cheaper. It’s much like working in an office versus working remote. One’s not better than the other.
[00:40:21] They’re just different. And you can optimize a company for doing one or the other. I’m personally, not a believer in hybrid. I feel like that’s going to fail. And a lot of companies are gonna realize that. And I think there’s a lot of old school managers that manage based on butts in seats, and don’t know how to manage people remotely effectively, because you manage more based on your actual work product, which is how you should manage, even when they’re in an office, but most people don’t.
[00:40:51] Richard Matthews: Yeah, they’re looking at time clocks. Did we get eight hours of your time today? Not did we get a good outcome?
[00:40:57] Tom Kulzer: Right? Or, you know, you were at your computer and you looked busy versus like, what’d you actually get done?
[00:41:02] Richard Matthews: Yeah. I know, one of the other companies, I have a small ownership stake in we’re hybrid. Right. And it’s hybrid because it has to be cuz the we have a warehouse and we have the warehouse manufacturing section and those people show up. That’s where the office is. And then the rest of the team is remote. And it’s interesting because like I go into the warehouse when I’m in the area and like, so I know them, but like a lot of the team has never, like, they’ve never met before.
[00:41:25] And you can tell that it’s an interesting, I totally see where you see that it causing problems. We have the warehouse staff who manages the warehouse and the manufacturing stuff, and then we have the remote staff. And it definitely creates this, like this little separation of like the company, if that makes sense.
[00:41:42] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. And I think, you know, there’s certain aspects of like hybrid that like, you know, you got a physical warehouse, you gotta ship atoms like that. You know, there’s a requirement for those, like not every role can be done from home. You know, in our business, like, vast majority of what we do there’s only a couple of roles that are really like, and most of ’em are like internal IT type things where it’s like, you gotta deal with our laptops and equipment that sort of thing.
[00:42:07] Richard Matthews: Do you guys have your own data centers or do you guys leverage things like AWS and Microsoft’s, what is it as well?
[00:42:13] Tom Kulzer: We’re hybrid in the cloud. So yeah, we have some of our own data centers and we have stuff in the cloud, so there’s a lot of.
[00:42:22] Richard Matthews: It’s like, for a tech company their data centers, like the equivalent of a manufacturing, like that’s people have to show up and make the data center work.
[00:42:29] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, no, absolutely. So there’s definitely certain types of workloads that are much, much, like everybody says like, oh, move it to the cloud. It’s cheaper.
[00:42:36] No, it’s really not. It can be a lot more expensive in certain cases. So there’s some components of what we do that it makes a lot more financial sense to do in our own data centers. You know, obviously that’s constantly an evolution on where it makes the most sense to do that from a cost and reliability standpoint.
[00:42:55] But yeah, we do have, we do have some of our own data centers to manage workloads for customers and so forth both internally and externally.
[00:43:04] Richard Matthews: Yeah, that’s cool. And definitely an interesting discussion. So, you know, just an interest of time. I wanna move on and talk a little bit about the flip side of your superpower, which is of course the fatal flaw, right?
[00:43:14] Just like every Superman has his cryptonight, or wonder woman can’t remove her bracelets of victory without going mad. You probably had a flaw that’s held you back in your business. Something you struggled with. For me, I struggled with a long time with perfectionism. Like if it wasn’t exactly right, I wouldn’t ship it.
[00:43:28] And you know, that’s a pretty low bar cause then you never ship anything. I also struggled with lack of self care for a long time and I didn’t have good boundaries with my clients. Didn’t have good boundaries of my time. I once thought I would see how it would go to go three days without sleeping.
[00:43:39] Doesn’t go well, you know, puking in the bushes in case you were wondering. Yeah, but I think more important than what the flaw is, is how have you worked to overcome it? So you could still continue to grow your business and hopefully sharing your experience will help our listeners learn a little from you.
[00:43:53] Tom Kulzer: Yeah for me I would say, and my wife would be shaking her head vigorously in agreement.
[00:43:58] Like, I’m too direct in many ways. If I don’t like something you did, I’m probably gonna tell you pretty directly, you know, and that has its pros and cons. You know, generally everyone that I surround myself with and that is around me, like, you know, appreciates direct feedback.
[00:44:21] Like they know exactly where they stand with me at any given point. And it’s not that I am, you know, my directness is never targeted at like, being mean or being angry or upset or anything like that, which I think a lot of people can take that the wrong way and think that I’m just an asshole I try not to be, but like, you know, it’s more that in that kind of detailed oriented that I looked at before, like I can see where things can be better.
[00:44:50] And I have a very direct way of saying like, Hey, I think, these parts are really awesome. That’s cool. And I spend like 10% of my time talking about like, what was really awesome because we already nailed that. Like, why spend all your time talking about that? And I’ll spend like 90% of my time talking about the things that I think like could be better and, that can often come across or be interpreted in a way that is not as good as it could.
[00:45:16] So I’m very aware that that’s just kind of my natural proclivity. So I try to constantly kind of mediate that and spend a little more time talking about what we did well and why I think we did it well so that we can recreate that with other people. So you know, so it becomes kind of a training education for other teams. But yeah, I don’t know. That’s probably my personality.
[00:45:39] Richard Matthews: Yeah. Yeah. It’s definitely interesting thing, cause it’s directly related to the detail oriented nature, right? The superpower. And the other side of this, that the fatal flaw that comes from it. Is like, I see everything. So then I see the flaws really clearly.
[00:45:57] Tom Kulzer: But then I spend too much time talking about those and not the things that we’re doing right. Sometimes. So I’m very conscious of making sure that I spend more time praising and talking about what we did well and why I think we did it well, but yeah.
[00:46:10] Richard Matthews: And I think that second part’s really important, the why. And it’s one of the things that like with that, like we focus a lot on with like our documentation in our company. It’s like, anytime we do documentation, I always tell my myself mostly. And then my staff who works on documentation for things’ like, we start with the why, like we have, we have our process documentation template and like the biggest part of it is like, why does this process exist the way that it does?
[00:46:33] Cause we wanna teach people the thinking behind the process and not just the steps. And what I’ve noticed that does is it helps people who are looking at the documentation later and actually implementing it in their day to day jobs to ask better questions and come up with better solutions and then be like, Hey, your thinking says this.
[00:46:49] And then the process says, these things I’ve come up with a better way to do this based on, you know, why we’re doing it. And if you just given the how to’s, just like the step by step and not the thinking, then you turn off the thinking essentially.
[00:47:01] Tom Kulzer: Absolutely. Yeah. I couldn’t agree more so yeah, absolutely. And we approach much of our documentation in the same way. So, but it takes constant iteration to be able to get there and constant reminders of like, you know, because it takes time to do that versus like, I can just mash out the steps to do this thing, but then whoever has to do it just becomes kind of this like mindless process person and they don’t understand.
[00:47:27] And, you know, we talk a lot about company culture and to me company culture is very different then how a lot of people would define it. And I think like if you ask most, you know, kind of team members and employees, they would say a company culture is all about like your benefits and perks and how fun it is to work there and all that kind of stuff.
[00:47:44] And I totally disagree with that. Like, that’s just how a company should be. But like you should have good perks and good benefits and be a fun place to work.
[00:47:52] Richard Matthews: That shouldn’t be the baseline.
[00:47:53] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, that shouldn’t be the baseline. You know, but for me, like culture is how we make decisions together and how we communicate the thinking behind why we make the decisions so that the rest of the team can make similar decisions with the same kind of you know, ethics and morals around, you know, how we exist as a company.
[00:48:12] So that I don’t need to necessarily spell out every decision that we make or every process that we make, because they can come up with, Hey, well, you know, in this scenario, because this customer’s sick and they have this, like we’re able to treat them in a way that makes everyone whole, and, you know, retains them as a long term customer and so forth just based on how we’ve kind of defined our ethics and decision making process across the organization over time.
[00:48:44] Richard Matthews: Yeah. And it’s one of those things that like, if you don’t do that, and like, I learned this firsthand early on with my company, it wasn’t that long ago that it was just me and I remember one of my mastermind. It was one of the guys that was heading it up, you know, he pulled me aside and he was like, you’re doing a lot of really cool things with your agency, but he’s like, you need to hire people and you need to hire this person to do this thing and you need to do it like now.
[00:49:09] And I remember thinking, I was like, I can’t, I don’t know how to do that. And a lot of it had to do with like that process sort of thing, like actually teaching the why behind things. Cause I didn’t know how to get it out of my head and like actually grow what you’re calling the culture.
[00:49:22] It was like, how can I get them to think, like I do. And it wasn’t until I started thinking about that.
[00:49:25] Tom Kulzer: It’s never ending process thinking about that.
[00:49:27] Richard Matthews: Yeah. And it’s been really helpful. I said, we got a long ways to go before we’re AWeber’s size, but still like it’s such an essential skill as an entrepreneur to learn how to build that kind of a culture for other people.
[00:49:40] So that, you know, your business is growing and can grow, I guess, even without you being the one who’s making the growth happen.
[00:49:48] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, absolutely. Like, you know, if you look at like what I spend my day on these days, I don’t do much, which is kind of funny to say out loud. But like, I spend a lot of like, when it comes to like servicing our customer base, I’m not like the doer that does the things that you know, is affecting most of our customers.
[00:50:05] But like what I’m spending my time on is documentation and process and all the things behind the scenes that help the rest of our team then execute to do the stuff that we’re doing for our customers. So, it feels like a giant time sync at times, but like, the timelines are just longer.
[00:50:26] The bigger you get the timelines on affecting those changes take longer because you got more people to have to influence to you know, make those moves.
[00:50:37] Richard Matthews: One of the things we talk about, I have a Thursday afternoon mastermind, we get together with a bunch of business owners that are, you know, right around the same sort of like growth structure we are. And one of the things we talk about all the time is how important, like one of the highest level jobs that you have as a CEO is process and documentation. Which feels like it shouldn’t be a thing that you do as the CEO, but it’s like one of the most important things you can do.
[00:51:00] Tom Kulzer: Yep. And a lot of it going back to your statement is, you know, a lot of people can write down the specific steps to do a process, but understanding the why is really important. So yeah. I spent a lot of time writing exactly that sort of thing. So it’s funny that you pretty much, just nailed it.
[00:51:22] Richard Matthews: It’s exactly where we are. And I feel fortunate to have learned that as a younger company than having to, like, I don’t know what it looks like if you don’t learn it young. But I imagine it would be more difficult.
[00:51:33] Tom Kulzer: I think every company goes through that phase. So like we just acquired another small company and that hasn’t been announced who it was or what it was yet, but like, you know, part of that integration phase is like, okay, well, what do you have here? And like, what do you have in the way of documentation? And because it was a small company, it was only a handful of people.
[00:51:54] Like they had very little documentation. So most of what we spent the last couple weeks doing is writing documentation and the whys behind like, okay, well you do it like this, but like, why do you do it that way? Like, did you do it a different way over here? Because you know, our team’s gonna show up and be like, Hey, we can optimize this.
[00:52:10] Oh, they’ve already, you know, tried to do that. And it didn’t work because of X, Y, and Z. So it’s interesting, even as a larger company to kind of go through that process with another company, Kind of coming into the fold. You kind of rinse and repeat those same exercises.
[00:52:28] Richard Matthews: What’s really interesting about that is I mentioned the company that we manufacturing arm for and they’re in the process of trying to sell.
[00:52:38] Tom Kulzer: Okay.
[00:52:38] Richard Matthews: And one of the things that like I’ve came in and talked to the owners, there was like, Hey, if we want to sell and you wanna be acquired by someone else, we have to nail the documentation for everything. I was like, because your company will be more valuable to a buyer, if you have everything documented well, otherwise you guys are have, like, we call it the golden handcuffs.
[00:52:56] Right? They’re gonna need you to come and explain everything. Cause they wanna retire. They wanna step on and retire. I was like, if you don’t have everything documented, you won’t be able to step out and retire. Cuz they’re gonna need you to come and explain why you’re doing these things these ways.
[00:53:07] Tom Kulzer: Yep. Yeah, no, absolutely. So yeah, the more you can remove the unnecessary you are to your business, I think the higher, the value is overall. Like, obviously I have an impact if I disappeared tomorrow, that would, you know, not be great for AWeber and the team, but I like to think that they’d survived even given my absent and, frankly, as a CEO and founder, like if I haven’t set our team up to be able to be successful without me, I’m not doing my job well.
[00:53:39] And the rest of our kind of executive management team or not doing their jobs well either. So as you go through different phases of growth, those needles move on where you need to have redundancies and you know, where you need to create that, you know,
[00:53:56] Richard Matthews: This might be morbid, but I call that the bus test.
[00:53:58] Tom Kulzer: Yeah.
[00:53:58] Richard Matthews: If you’re hit by a bus tomorrow.
[00:53:59] Tom Kulzer: Absolutely. Yep. The bus factor is real, so, and that goes across for all roles.
[00:54:04] Richard Matthews: If you think about it, but like, yeah.
[00:54:05] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. We too, we talk about that with our engineering team, oftentimes because a lot of you know, a lot of you have to untrain bad behaviors from people frequently, cuz a lot of organizations operate really dysfunctionally and you know, you bring somebody in and you talk with them and where did you write that thing down?
[00:54:24] It’s like, yeah, but I’m the expert. I know how to do it. And it’s like, yeah, but people of the fly airplanes are experts too, but they still have a checklist. Every time they take off the airplane or every time they land the airplane because when they don’t use a checklist, someone dies or someone gets hurt or something expensive breaks.
[00:54:41] So, you know, we’re very like, okay, if I send an email wrong, somebody might not die. But like, I definitely have specific instances that I can point to where emails that have been sent from our platform have saved lives. So, you know, I try to set our team up to create that same environment of like, Hey, if you’re doing something like it should have a checklist because you know, if it breaks in the middle of the night and you need to fix it, your 3:00 AM brain is not the same as your 10:00 AM brain
[00:55:10] Yeah. And having those checklists become really good sanity check of like, okay, I didn’t mess a step. I didn’t mess a step. I didn’t mess. No one’s dying. No one’s dying. No one’s dying. You know, and, it also removes them as a single point of failure. Should, you know, they get sick or, they be out on vacation or whatever.
[00:55:28] I don’t have to bug you because you, I already have what’s in your brain to be able to step through that process and someone else can fix it. And the person that is able to create that documentation, write that why that you’ve talked about really well. Those people that can create that documentation are significantly more valuable to the organization than, you know, Joe that sits in the corner and says, I’m the expert.
[00:55:49] It’s all in my head. It’s like, no, Joe, you look like a liability to me.
[00:55:54] Richard Matthews: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:55:57] Tom Kulzer: And shifting that thinking is hard for some people.
[00:56:01] Richard Matthews: One of the things that I think is really valuable and something we’ve done with our podcasting organization is figure out how to build our documentation into our project management system.
[00:56:11] So the actual, like the checklist that they go through, so like the way I’ve sort of explaining it to my team is you have your your checklist, you have your macro steps and your microsteps. So like, just as a really basic example, you know, we upload a video, you know, a customer’s podcast to YouTube, right?
[00:56:28] The step on the project management system might just say upload to YouTube because someone who has done this a hundred times before knows all the things that go into it, but the documentation that’s linked to it. That’s just got a link right next to it. And every time we that pops up, it just automatically adds a checklist to it.
[00:56:44] It’s got a link on it that goes to the documentation that walks through is like open the Chrome browser. Here’s the reason why we use the Chrome browser. Right? And you navigate to this page and you log in here and you click on this button, you do these things. And like, and it’s very minutia oriented.
[00:56:56] So someone who we picked up off the street, we could give them that documentation. They could follow the steps. But the checklist is for an expert to use someone who knows how to fly the plane. Right. Cuz they’re gonna look at like, yes, I uploaded that to YouTube. Yes, I did whatever the next step is.
[00:57:11] And anyways, we found that to be really valuable is to be able to put the documentation into the actual project management step. So they can’t like move on to the next portion of the project until that one, like they’ve checked off all the things.
[00:57:21] Tom Kulzer: It becomes a visual indicator that you followed the process. So yeah, no, we do the same thing. So we use JIRA internally and we have built in checklists that keep track of like, who checked the box? When did they check the box? So you can create that kind of sanity check. So, because it’s across all the elements. So like, you know, when we ship new software, we don’t just hit ship to production and, there we go, cuz you know, I could break hundreds of thousands of people’s stuff that they’re doing.
[00:57:49] So having quality control and making sure that like, okay, engineers saw it, you know, tech lead review have reviewed it. It’s gone through that peer review process. We’ve looked at it from a security perspective. It’s gone through our quality assurance team and they make sure that it actually works according to the product spec.
[00:58:05] So there’s a lot of steps that go along in there and those are different teams and different hands that touch heap through those and creating an element of you know accountability behind who’s doing what and that, you know, so, and so did it, and they put their name on it that it was done properly.
[00:58:21] And when it’s not, it becomes a coachable moment of, Hey, we missed this. Here’s what happened? How do we avoid having that happen again in the future? You know, we try not to make the same mistakes twice, cuz that’s just bad. You know?\
[00:58:32] Richard Matthews: Do you guys, do the I don’t know what the software term for this is cause I’m not a software engineer, but like where you roll out a change to like a small portion of users first to see how it functions properly?
[00:58:43] Tom Kulzer: Yep. Yeah.
[00:58:43] Richard Matthews: What’s the name for that?
[00:58:45] Tom Kulzer: There’s a lot of different. So we call a feature flagging internally and then, we ramp up depends on what the feature is. Like certain things you can feature flag and, ramp up over time. Other things you kind of have to cut over, just depends on what it is.
[00:58:59] But you know, you can do like Canary testing. Like there’s a bunch of different like terms for depending on what it is, but for us, it’s, you know, we have what they call feature flag. So there’s a lot of like, at any, like right now in our platform, if you know the right URLs to go to, there’s probably a half a dozen different unreleased features that are out in production that you could hit, if you knew where to go.
[00:59:20] And we often have like external beta testers go and poke at those and real customers. We do like UX interviews with folks just to make sure like, Hey, when we revamp things much to the disagreement of comments that you might read online of like, ah, I can’t believe you released this thing without anyone’s feedback.
[00:59:36] It’s like, no, like dozens and dozens of people I’ve looked at this before and we’ve used it. We’ve got lots of lots and lots of testing on it. Like doesn’t mean we won’t find things when it gets out in the world. Cuz real world’s a tricky beast, but being able to kind of ramp those things up over time and see how it changes behaviors.
[00:59:54] So a lot of, you know, what we do, it might be a new feature, but a lot of times it’s an optimization of a previous feature that we want to, you know, make it easier for people to share YouTube videos. So like when we share YouTube video, you might have previously had to pull in like a screenshot and, you know, link that up.
[01:00:12] Whereas now if you paste in a YouTube link, like it just turns into you know, a video preview with like the little play button over the top of it. And, and those sort of things that make it easier for people to create their content. But you have to be able to measure the performance of those and the interactions with those and see how people use it and whether or not, you know, the way that you thought it was gonna get used is actually how it gets used.
[01:00:35] Cause that’s often surprising. Yeah. So, you know, people are interesting folks to try to predict. So you think you’ve got it nailed, they don’t.
[01:00:45] Richard Matthews: Going through something similar, the Ecom company with the manufacturing, we’re currently having a problem where the customers are not understanding how to pay invoices.
[01:00:55] Like if they have to do like a custom shipping quote or something and send them an invoice. And it is like, it’s really like from our standpoint, it looks like it’s really clear, cuz it says, here’s your invoice, click this link to pay the invoice. And like you click it and it pulls up the invoice and just asks for the payment details.
[01:01:11] It seems like it’d be really simple. But we’re having a lot of people that are like, I don’t understand how to pay the invoice and we’re like, Click the link that says pay the invoice. Like how could it be hard? But anyways, we have to go through and figure out like, what’s wrong with it.
[01:01:22] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. And sometimes just being direct of like, Hey, you pay the invoice by clicking the link below. Yeah.
[01:01:28] Richard Matthews: The one that says pay this invoice.
[01:01:30] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. So sometimes it’s the most obvious of things that actually, you know, completely change user behavior around stuff. So yeah.
[01:01:39] Richard Matthews: And just like, I know you probably know this already, but those of us who are like power users on your platforms, when you guys reach out and ask for feedback on like beta stuff, I love going through those things and like beating the crap out of them to see what I can do.
[01:01:52] And you give feedback and you get responses back, like, Hey, that’s actually a good idea that was helpful or something like that. We love that kind of stuff.
[01:01:59] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, I love feedback from users. I love jumping on the phone with folks or jumping on a session and watching how people interact with the platform.
[01:02:10] I find that you often learn more based on what people actually do versus what they tell you they do. Similarly, like when you’re building software, understand what the problem is that somebody’s trying to solve, because oftentimes they’ll tell you they want X, Y, or Z feature. And it’s like, okay, I could build that feature, but like, why do you want that feature?
[01:02:31] What is it that you’re trying to do with that? And really understanding what someone’s trying to solve with that particular feature.
[01:02:39] Richard Matthews: That translation skill again.
[01:02:40] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. Often turns into a better feature or something entirely different than what they ask for that actually completely solves it much better than they would’ve ever come up with on their own.
[01:02:50] But having the context of being able to ask, you know, hundreds or thousands of people for input and feedback on that you know, So those sort of things are super valuable and you’d be shocked at how few people often give feedback when asked directly. And it’s like, I think sometimes they feel like it’s going to somewhere where, you know, you’re just part of a giant list in a giant queue and no one’s ever gonna read it.
[01:03:16] And it’s like, when we ask for feedback from our users, we read every single one of them. There are, you know, dozens of people internally that read every single one of those and use that as a part of their day to day business functions to you.
[01:03:31] Richard Matthews: It’s like, I’ve noticed that with a lot of software companies, cuz like a lot of times they’ll be like, Hey, we’re releasing an alfa or beta or something like that.
[01:03:37] And if you wanna test it, you can go here with feedback. And I always participate in those whenever it’s something that I use on a regular basis. And you always get responses back. And they’re like, oh, I didn’t see it being used that way or whatever. Or like we found a way to solve that problem stuff like that was like, I just had one the other day that like, they built this whole thing and they did all the testing and everything.
[01:03:55] They were in the alpha stage and it wouldn’t work in safari. They were like, oh, our whole engineering team was using Chrome and it just didn’t didn’t dawn on them.
[01:04:01] Tom Kulzer: Didn’t occur.
[01:04:02] Richard Matthews: Yep. It didn’t Occur to them. They’re like, oh, it doesn’t work at all in safari. Like at all, so they’re like, oh, we have to fix that.
[01:04:08] Tom Kulzer: Yep, exactly. So, and things like that, that like, you know, might want, if depending on how big your team is, you might not realize until it gets out in the real world. So
[01:04:18] Richard Matthews: I was like, cause they were a small engineering team. There’s only like two or three of them and they were working on the software and they built the whole thing in Chrome, which is great.
[01:04:25] It was working fine in Chrome and it wasn’t until they asked for feedback from their alpha users that someone popped it up and was like, it doesn’t work in safari. They’re like, oh yeah, we should have thought about that.
[01:04:35] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. And when you get to a certain size, like eventually you start running into like, oh, you’re running a Chrome plugin.
[01:04:40] That’s messing with the code on our site. That’s completely breaking things. It’s like our site’s not broken. It’s your Chrome plugin. That’s breaking things. And people don’t realize that often time, it’s like your site’s the only one that doesn’t work. It’s like, well, you know, let’s take a step back, diagnose, try it in a different browser.
[01:04:58] Oh, it works in a different browser. Well, it’s clearly not our site then.
[01:05:01] Richard Matthews: It’s clearly something going on with your browser.
[01:05:03] Tom Kulzer: So there’s clearly something going on with like, it works in our browser here, but like, okay, well what are the plugins you have? Well, that’s not one of my plugins. Well, I can guarantee you an awful lot of plugins inject a lot of stuff into websites that you’re surfing around without you realizing it.
[01:05:18] And until you get a large enough user base that you start running into those kind of like weird edge cases You know, you start hearing those Grammarly is probably the biggest offender of that. They inject all kinds of stuff into your website that you don’t even realize. And it causes havoc at times
[01:05:35] Richard Matthews: I have to like, and this might just be a personal practice. I wish more people who understood how they worked. It’s like, I run all the plugins off.
[01:05:43] Tom Kulzer: Oh yeah.
[01:05:43] Richard Matthews: Until I need to use something, I’ll be like, I’ll turn Grammarly on to do something with it. And then as soon as I’m done, I’ll turn it back off again.
[01:05:48] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. I have very specific safe list for which plugins can operate and see which websites. So I very rarely run them in like open mode.
[01:06:01] Richard Matthews: Yeah, absolutely. So I wanna talk a little bit about your customers then. We talk about on the show, your common enemy, right? Every superhero has an arch nemesis, it’s something they constantly have to fight against in their world. And we like to put this in the context of your clients and it’s a mindset or a flaw that they come to the table with, that you guys have to fight to overcome.
[01:06:19] So you can actually get them as a result that they came to you for. Right. And you know, if you had your magic wand and every time someone signed up for AWeber, if you could just, you know, bop them on the head and not have to deal with that common enemy, what do you think the common enemy is in the email marketing world?
[01:06:33] Tom Kulzer: Permission doesn’t apply to me. Everyone wants my emails. Or my emails are special, but everyone else’s aren’t you know, it’s that kind of like. You know, everyone wants my emails. No, everyone doesn’t want your emails. That list you bought is not special. They don’t all want to hear from you because you’re in that industry and they don’t all wanna buy that thing that you think that they all wanna buy you know, permission matters.
[01:06:59] And it’s important. So, I could skip that whole process, man.
[01:07:04] Richard Matthews: Yeah, absolutely.
[01:07:05] Tom Kulzer: So how much does this magic wand cost?
[01:07:08] Richard Matthews: You’re like, I want it, where do I get it from? So, like one of the things that I know like we’re doing right now in our e-commerce company is like, we have a list who are interested in our reseller program, but we don’t have permission to email them.
[01:07:20] So it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like 700 people, but so we have the email address. So we have their phone numbers, but we’re not putting them into a list, like AWeber One, you wouldn’t let us, and it doesn’t actually work. You just get spam complaints. So like, we’re calling through those people and just finding out like what their interests are and and whether or not they’re actually interested in becoming a reseller or doing things like that.
[01:07:39] And it’s a very manual process of actually like calling and interacting and finding out what kind of permission we can get, if any to do further marketing. And I’m just curious, what are your thoughts on how people can do more of that or do that more effectively so they can get to the point where they can do the permission based marketing that you’re doing.
[01:07:57] Cause you know, like buying lists and getting access to lists is a part of marketing. It’s not permission marketing. It’s a different animal.
[01:08:05] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, there’s, no shortcuts at the end of the day, like there’s a certain amount of work you have to do in order to be successful. It’s kind of like, AWeber like we’re overnight success, you know, 20, some years ago.
[01:08:15] Richard Matthews: Oh, five years. Right.
[01:08:16] Tom Kulzer: You know I always round down at this point. Makes me feel better. Yeah, there really aren’t any shortcuts you gotta put in the work in order to build the audience and to build the permission that you do. And those that do that, you know, see success over times.
[01:08:30] And those, that try to take the shortcuts and mail the list that they shouldn’t mail. Like they get booted off the platforms that they’re using, or you might get away with it for a short period of time, but like mailbox, Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft, et cetera. They’re really good at detecting that sort of stuff.
[01:08:47] You know, if we had another two hours, I could give you a slight glimmer into like email deliverability and all those things that they can track and tech and look at, but like they know when you bought the purchase list, they know when you haven’t been emailing that audience before your emails will go to the spam folder eventually if you continue to do that sort of stuff, you might get away with it a couple of times. But in the long run it’s not a healthy way to build your audience. You know, it’s just like you look at social audiences, like, yeah, I can go and, you know, hire people to get me more followers.
[01:09:20] They’re all bots and it’s not productive. So it’s the same sort of thing. And, you know, you want permission and engagement and people that are actually interested in what you’re doing requires work. You just gotta do it.
[01:09:33] Richard Matthews: So just sort of like on that topic of like email deliverability, and like being able to track like all sorts of different things with email, have you noticed a big impact with like, apple has released a bunch of new features in the last couple of operating systems that are supposed to like, hide your interaction with email from the email service providers.
[01:09:51] Have you guys noticed like a big impact to that with like your guys’ analytics and your stats and stuff like that and how that’s impacting your business?
[01:09:58] Tom Kulzer: So basically, the main change you you’ll hear it talked about is the apple MPP changes. And it basically, so when you open an email and, you load the images that are in that email, it pulls those images in through apple servers rather than directly from the end servers.
[01:10:15] So we no longer like, see your end user IP address, I’ll be at there still sort of geolocated. So you can still kind of approximately figure out where somebody might be opening a message from. But one of the things that they’re also doing is they’re doing what’s called pre cashing. So like at night when you plug in your phone on your nightstand or whatever, and you charge your phone overnight it’s downloading and pre cashing.
[01:10:37] Preloading the images that are in those messages. So the byproduct of that is, is when you load an image in an email that is seen by an email service provider, like AWeber as an open, it’s just how the technology works. Like an open isn’t really necessarily measuring a human, doing something.
[01:10:53] It’s just measuring that someone loaded a particular image. And it’s very hard to tell the difference between, you know, your computer just doing it because it’s plugged in on your nightstand or like it’s because you’re thumbing through your emails on your email client. So that has had the effect of, you know, essentially inflating the open rate stats so that you’re seeing a higher open rates now.
[01:11:15] So like, you know, I’ve talked to many of marketing teams that are like, oh, our opens are way up. And we’re doing a great job with these new campaigns that we’re doing. It’s like, yeah, when did you start seeing those increased opens? Yeah, that’s when the new iOS version released and you’re being affected based on the MPP.
[01:11:31] And like, doesn’t mean you’re not sending great stuff, but like you can’t necessarily attribute all of that change just to what you’re doing from content percentage.
[01:11:39] Richard Matthews: Have you guys had to do a lot of education on that perspective with your clients?
[01:11:43] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, but that’s, I can’t say that that’s always been, that’s an ongoing process constantly because although apple is the latest one to do that, Google’s done it in the past.
[01:11:54] Microsoft has done it. Like all the platforms have done various degrees of these sort of proxying messages and proxying opens and images and, you know, pre downloading things like every now and then you’ll get somebody that’s like, yeah, my open rate went off the chart at Google and it’s like, yeah, because they think your emails are sketchy and they’re running them through their malware software to see whether or not your emails are bad.
[01:12:17] And it’s like, that’s a big warning sign. If your open rates suddenly go from like very little to very high, it means you’re on the naughty list. And they’re looking at your messages really hard. So, you know, they’re signals that you might think as an end user mean, one thing could actually mean something completely different.
[01:12:38] You know, so your open rates going down suddenly, or having low open rates can be an indicator that your messages are going to the spam folder. Like, you know, a low complaint rate. Like, Hey, I don’t get any complaints. Yeah. Cuz all your messages go to the spam folder and you complaints from the spam folder, you’re already in the spam folder.
[01:12:56] Richard Matthews: So like, it’s already done.
[01:12:58] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, exactly. So there’s a lot of balance there.
[01:13:02] Richard Matthews: With AWeber. Like it’s been a while since I’ve done this. Cuz like I sell all my stuff up years and years ago, but when you set up like your domain, like, I wanna send emails from, you know, say like my name, right.
[01:13:12] Richard Matthews.me. It’s like, you know, supported Richard Matthews.me or whatever you have to set up like the SPF records and the DKM records and stuff like that. Do you guys have to do all that with AWeber or do they all send from your domain or like for customers? Cause I know that has to do with like reputation, right? Like, the domains reputation.
[01:13:30] Tom Kulzer: There’s absolutely we recommend, and we have some process for kind of automating the DNS setup for your domain send from, you can send it without, but it’s a best practice and we’re gonna push you heavily to configure those. It’s usually just a couple of clicks depending on your registrar that you have based on some of the integrations that we do.
[01:13:49] But it’s definitely a recommendation. You usually, if you’re sending messages from an email service provider, like at AWeber, you don’t need to set up SPF records specifically because you would be covered under the SPF records that we already have. But you definitely setting up DKM we recommend setting up demark records.
[01:14:07] There’s a bunch of authentication stuff that we kind of walk new users through setting up. Most of it can be done with just a couple of clicks. So it’s not the super geeky process that it used to be.
[01:14:18] Richard Matthews: So what’s the short, non geeky version of like, why it’s important to set those things up.
[01:14:25] Tom Kulzer: Basically what it does is it helps you attribute it helps mailbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo and so forth attribute the messages that you’re sending specifically to your domain so that you can build up a reputation. So it’s kind of like I don’t know what the good equivalent is, but it’s like you going to, you know, your favorite establishment and they punch your little like frequent visitor club.
[01:14:49] And eventually you get certain rewards as a result of that. You know, when Google sees you delivering emails that people like and open and click and reply to and forward to other people and, file away into their email folders or tags, you know, that helps build your reputation in their system.
[01:15:09] And they go, Richard sends great emails. We wanna make sure his emails go to the spam folder or excuse me to the inbox and you know, if you’re not sending from a domain that they can directly attribute to you, like if you’re using a Gmail address to send your emails out to your subscriber base, like all that reputation just kind of flows to Gmail.
[01:15:28] And flows to every other user that uses a Gmail address. So you’re not as able to build a reputation around that. So it’s like, you know, if you let’s say you’re a plumber and you have the completely plain white Econo van versus the one that you had app and it has your brand all around it.
[01:15:48] And it’s nice. And when you show up in the driveway, everyone knows who you are and like you’ve got a good brand and you know, you do good work. It’s the same sort of, kind of equivalent.
[01:15:57] Richard Matthews: So digital email equivalent. Yeah. The way I’ve always explained it to clients is like, if you ever used a like click funnels or lead pages, they’ll always let you build like a sales page that uses like, you know, my name.clickfunnels.com or whatever it is, dot leadpages.com.
[01:16:14] And then like places like Facebook or other things you go to share your page on there. It’ll be like, we’re sorry, that’s a spam, like you know, it triggers their spam boss because you know, everyone good, bad and indifferent on that platform, we’ll use the clickfunnels.com domain. But as soon as you put your own domain on it, then it’s yours, right? Cause it’s just your reputation instead of like everyone who’s used that services reputation.
[01:16:39] Tom Kulzer: And it becomes mobile too then because the fact that you’ve built that reputation on your domain, if you decide to use another email platform later you know, to migrate off to you can bring that reputation with you as you go versus having to start over again, or have to start with whatever the reputation of the platform is so much of email deliverability.
[01:16:59] Like, you know, when we talk to users that are going to the spam folder, 99% of the reason that they’re going to the spam folder is because of something they’re doing. It’s very rarely something that’s going on our platform. And almost the default. Everyone is like your email, your platform is making our emails go to spam.
[01:17:14] We’re gonna go to another provider. And it’s like, well, good luck with that because your emails are gonna continue to go to the spam folder because it’s something you’re doing and you need to do these three things. That’ll make sure that you get out of the spam folder and build a proper reputation.
[01:17:27] And. You know, some users are like, oh, okay. Like, I didn’t know that let’s do those and they get results.
[01:17:33] Richard Matthews: So if your gets blacklisted, so to speak where you start always getting sent to the spam folder. Is there any way to recover from that?
[01:17:39] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, it takes time and dedication and you basically have to depends on where it is and on how you would you know, recover from that, you know, but like, let’s say it was Gmail was started sending your stuff to the spam folder, stop sending to Gmail for a while.
[01:17:56] You know, you can continue necessarily sending your other messages, but I would think strongly about what it is that you’re sending and why Gmail started putting your emails to the spam folder, because if Gmail starts putting them in spam folder, eventually all the other providers are gonna do the same sort of thing.
[01:18:11] Cuz they see, you know, they don’t operate exactly the. But they’re looking for the same things. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So it can be kind of that Canary in a coal mine of like, Hey, the little birdie just died. Look out for all the other birdies that are gonna die soon thereafter. So stop sending a Gmail.
[01:18:30] You know, you wanna let that domain kind of rest and, not have mail traffic on it for a while for several weeks and then take and segment your list of the most engaged, you know, most frequent clickers and openers that you have and start to send to them again in small quantities and gradually ramp up in the amount of volume back to whatever it was that you were originally doing.
[01:18:54] But again, you, you wanna holistically, you can’t just stop send to your most engaged people and then continue sending the same stuff that you were before to the same overall mailing list. Cuz you’re gonna end up right back in the spa folder because you’ve changed none of your actual behaviors. So there was a reason that you ended up in the spam folder and you need to inherently change what it was that was causing that, you know, the most common thing that I see is people don’t set expectations around the frequency in which they’re gonna send. So I go to your website and I sign up for your newsletter. And I think in my head like, oh, I’m gonna get your monthly newsletter and you start sending me emails four times a day.
[01:19:31] Well, what am I gonna do? I’m gonna market a spam or I’m gonna delete it every single time. And eventually enough people do that. And now the people that do want your four times a day newsletter. Aren’t gonna get your messages either. So it’s permission, but set expectations, you know, how frequently am I gonna get it?
[01:19:47] What am I gonna get? Those are the two biggest things that you can do up front to make sure you have a successful, highly engaged list. You know, some of the highest engaged lists that we see are people that send on a schedule and their emails are familiar and show up, you know, regularly in your inbox in a way that’s recognizable.
[01:20:07] They’re not cute with their subject lines. They don’t do the little FWD, colon, whatever, you know, thing I’m promoting or RE like I’m getting reply to an email that I sent, like don’t play tricks on your subscribers. Like do what you would wanna see in your own inbox. If you’d be annoyed about seeing your messages in your inbox, you’re doing it wrong.
[01:20:26] And if you kind of put that hat on, I think most people would see remarkable improvements in what they’re doing.
[01:20:33] Richard Matthews: One of the things I tell people all the time is cuz we work in the podcasting space. People always ask me like, what’s the frequency we should do our podcast at.
[01:20:40] I was like, think about serialized fiction, right? Every serialized fiction TV show you’ve watched on Netflix or Amazon or you know, back in the day when they used to do him on cable television. Right. It was like they come out every Thursday with the new episode and it’s at eight o’clock.
[01:20:54] Right? And the episode follows a particular arc. Right? It’s like, you know, the bad guy comes and then like you have the discussion about the bad guy and then they try to find what’s going on with it. And then they find the wrong bad guy. Cause it’s always the wrong bad guy first. And then they find the real bad guy.
[01:21:07] Right. It’s like it’s the same sort of cadence that happens every single week. And I was like, people are creatures of habit. So if you’re gonna put your podcast together, your newsletter together, create a cadence that people want to show up for that they’re expecting.
[01:21:20] Tom Kulzer: Yep, exactly. And that fits into kind of their time scale of when they want to interact with it. Like, you know, if it’s something that takes time to consume or you have to go off and do something with it, you know, should you be sending that on Friday afternoon? If it’s a business related thing, you know, that gets into that, like, Hey, what’s the best time of day to send an email or what’s the best day of the week to send an email? It depends on a lot of purpose.
[01:21:45] Richard Matthews: I tell people all the time too. It’s like, if you wanna get more opens on your emails, learn how to tell stories and create open and close loops. If you open a loop on this one, people are gonna show up for next week to get the close on that loop.
[01:21:57] And if you start training them that you close loops and then open them with your storytelling and like that kind of stuff, people will show up and open your emails and read your stuff and consume your content because we’re a story born people. We can’t help it. Like we want to hear the stories.
[01:22:11] Tom Kulzer: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[01:22:13] Richard Matthews: So. Well, the flip side of your common enemy would of course be your driving force is what you fight for. Right. So just like Spiderman fights to save New York or Batman fights to save Gotham or, you know, Google fights to index and categorize all the world’s information. What is it that you guys fight for at AWeber your mission, so to speak?
[01:22:29] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. So we’re, you know, at the top, I think you kind of let in here, you know, connecting the world’s people in remarkable ways. So, we’re really about creating more personal relationships with people around the world, you know, your email list, isn’t just something to monetize. You know, email addresses are real people.
[01:22:47] And I think that, you know, we help people connect in more real ways that are more tangible to create ongoing relationships beyond just a transaction. And that’s really what we’ve, you know, ultimately that’s why we serve the small business space, because I feel like we can more directly do that than like large enterprise corporations that tend to be more, you know, nameless, faceless entities and orgs.
[01:23:13] You know, most of our customers are the person that’s actually sending you the mail. They generally are not, you know, huge companies or huge marketing departments doesn’t mean we don’t have some of those users, but, you know, we speak directly to most of our end users that are actually in the platform on a daily basis.
[01:23:30] And that’s, that’s what gives me the passion to do this for the last 24 years is being able to affect that kind of change and see the change that, you know, an email from our platform has had on people. So like, when I say that, like we’ve sent emails that have saved lives, like I have not in my office here, but in my office back in PA, like I have a printout from an email from somebody that said, send me an email, this email saved my life. Thank you. And that’s pretty cool. Like, I actually just got shivers even just talking about it now. So that’s pretty cool to be able to know that you have that kind of impact on people around the world.
[01:24:09] Richard Matthews: Yeah, the ripple effect, right? Where you guys work with your clients and those clients get to go out and work with hundreds, sometimes thousands or tens of thousands of others.
[01:24:17] And you make an impact that is beyond the reach of like your actual, the scope of your product. If that makes sense.
[01:24:24] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, absolutely. We Send billions of emails every month, just billions of people we’re touching which is pretty cool. When you like, think about it in scale, it’s like the entire population of the U.S, like multiple times over, it’s kind of mind boggling to some extent.
[01:24:39] It’s like looking at the James webspace telescope, you know, images are like.
[01:24:43] Richard Matthews: Those were something else.
[01:24:44] Tom Kulzer: It’s like, I don’t even know how to process that.
[01:24:48] Richard Matthews: I know it was like one of them. They were like, this is a dark spot in space that like, we didn’t know there was anything there.
[01:24:54] And like, we get the pictures back from it and it’s like, it’s so filled with galaxies that there’s no blank spaces at all. And you’re like, well, we’re a small fish in a big pond.
[01:25:03] Tom Kulzer: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
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[01:26:31] See you there. And now back to the hero show.
[01:26:37] So I got one more question for you here before you wrap this up and it’s about your guiding principles, right? So one of the things that makes heroes heroic is that they live by a code. For example, Batman never kills his enemies. He only ever puts him in Arkham Asylum.
[01:26:48] So as we wrap up the interview, I wanna talk about the top, maybe one or two principles that you live your life by run your business by, maybe something you wish you’d know when you first started out, you know, 25 years ago.
[01:27:01] Tom Kulzer: Gosh core, I would say, you know, it’s kind of like the hikers creed, you know, leave every place that you go a little better than where you found it.
[01:27:10] I think that probably be best summarizes kind of how I approach life, trying to make everything a little better than it was. So it’s never gonna be perfect, but you can make it a little better.
[01:27:23] Richard Matthews: My first like spiritual mentor in high school is one of the things he sort of like pounded into my head was like, leave it better than you found it.
[01:27:28] He’s like, even if it’s a person, right. If you can leave them with a smile, they didn’t have when they started with like you’re and it’s something that I’ve always tried to focus on is every place we go, we leave it better than you found it. And like my kids now, the whole hikers creed thing, you mentioned, like we go hiking a lot.
[01:27:43] Cause we travel all the time. And like my kids have like a special spot in their backpack for trash that they pick up because they can’t help themselves. Like my son will be going along and picking things up off of the ground as we go places. And he’s like, yeah, this is a plastic thing.
[01:27:58] And like, he’s all into it because he really likes birds and they affect the birds and whatnot. He’s gotten to the point where like he researches this stuff on YouTube and will tell you exactly like what kind of damage that particular type of litter causes to birds in the bird population.
[01:28:12] And I’m like, I never knew any of those things. We were just like, you know, pick the trash up, cuz it’s not good for the environment. My son’s like, you know, just the reasons why.
[01:28:19] Tom Kulzer: That’s cool. That’s cool. That makes you proud. That’s proud dad does.
[01:28:24] Richard Matthews: So, that’s basically a wrap on our interview, but I do finish every interview with a simple challenge.
[01:28:29] I call it the hero’s challenge and I do this to help get access to stories. I might not otherwise find on my own, cuz not everyone is out doing the podcast rounds like, you know, you and I might do. So do you have someone in your life or in your network that you think has a cool entrepreneurial story?
[01:28:40] First names are fine. And why do you think they should come on our show and share their story? The first person that comes to mind for you.
[01:28:48] Tom Kulzer: Hmm. Gosh, it’s hard to pick like just one. I’d say my buddy Andy has a pretty cool story. Just in his like everlasting kind of passion around life and work and it kind of has that same approach to like leave the world a little better place.
[01:29:08] So yeah, that’s probably who I’d pick at the moment.
[01:29:13] Richard Matthews: Well, we’ll see if we can reach out later and get an introduction to Andy. See if we get him to come on the show, we always like to get those stories when we can. And in comic books, there’s always the crowd of people at the end who are clapping and cheering for the acts of heroism.
[01:29:24] So as we close up this interview, I wanna do just find out where can people find you? Where can they light up the bat signal, so to speak and find out how they can do more with their permission based emails. And I think more importantly than where is, who are the right types of people for AWeber.
[01:29:41] Tom Kulzer: Yeah. So we’re, you know, like, I’ve talked about a bunch, like we help small businesses, both, you know, kind of physical store, you know, physical presence. But also a lot of digital creators you know, social creators, YouTube channels, you name it. We have customers that do it. You know, as far as finding us, you can check us out at AWeber.com. A W E B E R.com.
[01:30:02] I’m on all the social places. So you can always hit me up on Twitter. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wanna shoot me an email, I don’t hide behind random email addresses and those sort of things. I love conversations with folks that have listened to interviews and, you know, users or non-users that, you know, just try to try to solve problems.
[01:30:22] So, and that’s what I’m good at. So I always like hearing from folks that have problems that I can hopefully in some way, make better.
[01:30:31] Richard Matthews: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today, Tom really appreciate your time and, you know, I’ve been a long time user of your product and it was actually AWeber and your guys’ blog education that even taught me what permission based email marketing was in the first place.
[01:30:45] So way back today, when I first got started. So you know, you guys have been doing a great job and have been a you know, the pivotal in my learning about marketing, you know, 10, 15 years ago, which is cool, cuz like not a lot of companies have been around that long. So anyways, I appreciate that.
[01:30:59] And I appreciate you coming on the show today. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our audience before I hit this stop record button?
[01:31:04] Tom Kulzer: Nah, just thanks for having me on. Thanks for being a customer and hope I can help some of your audience as well.
[01:31:10] Richard Matthews: Awesome. Have a good day, Tom.
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Would You Like To Have A Content Marketing Machine Like “The HERO Show” For Your Business?
The HERO Show is produced and managed by PushButtonPodcasts a done-for-you service that will help get your show out every single week without you lifting a finger after you’ve pushed that “stop record” button.
They handle everything else: uploading, editing, transcribing, writing, research, graphics, publication, & promotion.
All done by real humans who know, understand, and care about YOUR brand… almost as much as you do.
Empowered by our their proprietary technology their team will let you get back to doing what you love while we they handle the rest.
Check out PushButtonPodcasts.com/hero for 10% off the lifetime of your service with them and see the power of having an audio and video podcast growing and driving awareness, attention, & authority in your niche without you having to life more a finger to push that “stop record” button.
What Is The Hero Show?
A peak behind the masks of modern day super heroes. What makes them tick? What are their super powers? Their worst enemies? What's their kryptonite? And who are their personal heroes? Find out by listening now
The HERO Show
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