Laura Hanlon has been the Founder & Co-director of Pink Leopard eCommerce growth acceleration agency for the last 8 years. Laura is driven and passionate about getting under the skin of eCommerce businesses and helping them grow to 7 & 8 figures. She has run her own eCommerce store for 2 years, so she understands every aspect of running a successful store. She loves sharing her knowledge for eCommerce and how to grow via paid ads and email marketing, and she's passionate about female-founded businesses, being a female founder. On this episode we discuss automating email flows, leveraging social media ads to grow your email lists, and much more.
Pink Leopard, a growth acceleration agency
Alex Bond: So first things first, why don't you tell me a bit about your company, pink Leopard?
Laura Hanlon: Yeah, sure. So we're a growth acceleration agency working with e-commerce businesses. So we specialize in paid social, paid search, search, and email marketing. Our sweet spot really is working with female founded businesses who have a predominantly female customer base. So that's sort of find ourselves mainly in the homeware apparel and, and beauty space.
Alex Bond: Cool. That's amazing. So when I was doing a little research on you, you initially started Pink Leopard as a social media management firm, which I imagine will most likely inform a lot of your perspective on our conversation here today, why did you decide to pivot and become a more all-inclusive growth acceleration agency?
Laura Hanlon: Yeah, so I started as a freelancer doing social media management and that's because, oh, that was about 10 years ago now when social media management was really the powerful way of growing businesses. You could post anything on Facebook and get loads of sales, but sure obviously that changed.
And I then really pivoted into the paid media side of things. So predominantly meta advertising or Facebook and Instagram as obviously it was then. Because I found that really when I was talking to businesses and they wanted to, to scale and grow paid advertising was the way that it was gonna get them there.
And not so much organic or solely organic, but then sort of fast forward to growing Pink Leopard, we stumbled across many different things over the last couple of years. Mainly everything that happened with iOS, the Apple updates, and then that meant that focusing really on just meta advertising was quite a risky strategy for us and for our clients.
And so we then, and we were always getting asked just, you know, whether we could help clients with other areas of their business with Google when it came to email. But we never really wanted to just sort of bolt that on and just say, yeah, sure we do that.
So we really sort of regrouped and thought, actually lets hire head of Google hire, head of email and then we can, you know, sort of help the businesses that we work with in all of these areas. And yeah, that was the kind of the best decision that we ever really did for the agency.
Single vs. Multichannel marketing
Alex Bond: That's amazing. So what I'm hearing you say is that just kind of that single channel marketing strategy, wasn't really the best avenue. So why do you think that is? Why is single channel presence not really working well in marketing nowadays?
Laura Hanlon: Yeah, so first and foremost is I think that iOS sort of update really scared a lot of businesses and to be honest. So I think it's really risky having all of your eggs in one basket as a e-commerce business. And a lot of businesses did go under because they were. That's where all of their revenue was coming from, was Facebook. And then overnight that changed.
So I'd say that's definitely the first thing. So diversifying your ad spend and risk. Also, I think in marketing there's, people need many multiple touch points to purchase, so having that presence across social ads and cross organic all the way through to email you know, is hugely important.
And taking your customers from prospects all the way to paying customers, audiences hang out in different places as well. So we're really finding, you know, a TikTok audience is completely different to someone who may not be on social media and they actually find products by Googling organically.
And then lastly is really just capturing people at different stages of the funnel. So social media ads is really a top of funnel play to generate awareness and then obviously you've got Google to capture that demand. They have completely different jobs. And then email marketing is obviously huge for retention, email and sms.
So they all have different jobs that work in harmony. So I really just feel now businesses need to need to be on different, different platforms definitely.
360 degree growth wheel for eCommerce brands
Alex Bond: I remember at my last job when I was looking at the marketing is you could almost see perfectly this split in the age gap with these social media platforms. I mean, you could see it step by step that TikTok was more, was better for a younger audience. YouTube for a young-ish audience, Instagram above that, I mean it literally laddered up perfectly.
You could see, okay, if we wanted to reach this age demographic, we would use this platform to. Say and do certain things. So I think you're spot on there. What do you define as what you call the full 360 degree growth wheel for e-commerce brands?
Laura Hanlon: So that includes most of the things I've mentioned. So really using social ads. So Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok as that sort of acquisition channel, Google also acquisition, but as I said, it's more of a capturing that demand. It's more of a warmer, warmer audience. And then email and sms increasing the lifetime value of your customer base.
And that's so vital because as you're growing and scaling, you really need that 360 degree growth wheel because you need to, if you have a solid email marketing piece in place, then you can afford to spend a bit more money on acquiring customers, which you need in order to grow and scale. And then obviously your returns are much, much better on that initial acquisition. So that's what I mean by the whole sort of 360 growth wheel.
Alex Bond: Great. Thank you for explaining that for me. So I imagine with that, you know, involving multiple marketing platforms and channels, there has to be more organization that comes with that.
So how does a brand get their marketing system to work in tandem with itself?
Laura Hanlon: So I guess a lot of it is down to where you put your budget, so the budget splits. So you definitely have to spend more of the budget on that top of funnel. A lot of the thing that we see, business is doing is spending most of their money, most of their money on like the warmer audiences. So Google or retargeting.
And obviously that gets you your most bang for your buck, which is great, but that doesn't enable you to grow and scale. So definitely looking at your entire funnel to see where drives the customers, the initial customers and where converts that traffic.
That all comes down to attribution. You've gotta really look at your overall attributional piece to determine, you know, where that that traffic is coming from and where you need to spend most of the budget. So using things like Google an analytics using software such as Triple Whale to look at the attribution.
How to ensure you're targeting the right audience
Alex Bond: So I actually kind of want to take that a little bit further cause you're mentioning targeting audience correct. So you've seen the impact that targeted advertising can have in reaching the right audience.. So how can a small business or a big one for that matter, that works with you, make sure that that happens correctly?
Laura Hanlon: That they target the right audience? Well for social media ads, it's so powerful to be able to target the right audience. So you really gotta get under the skin of your brand initially to look at, you know, who your customer is and why they buy from you, why they don't buy from you, where they hang out, what their interests are, and then you can really utilize that data.
Within meta ads, predominantly looking at their interests and being able to target those interests, but also using lookalike audiences. I know there's a lot of debate about whether lookalike audiences work well anymore post iOS because of the inability to gain as much data insight, but we still find that they are really powerful and we also use. Something called offline conversion.
So we often take the data from the stores and then upload that into, into Facebook, which provides not only really great insight and attributional an analysis, but it also feeds Facebook, that data to say, keep going after the same people, like, keep going after our audience. This is who we wanna target. Facebook is still, you know, one of the absolute, sort of best in terms of being able to target your customers.
Alex Bond: You know, I can, in my head probably accredit that to being pretty first to market on that side of things, I think Google Ads is probably the one B there. I don't know. Essentially what I'm trying to get to is that when that doesn't work, how can a brand then retarget to convert interested individuals?
Because, I don't know, let's say you all this works and we got a good target audience or what we imagine to be a good target audience, but they're not really buying the way that we would expect. So how do you try to retarget more effectively after that?
Laura Hanlon: So, obviously we can retarget within and instead up retargeting campaigns within the social channels, but we just, we find, and we're starting to actually, because again, sorry to keep harping on about iOS, but post iOS with people being able to opt out of cookies and that kind of thing, that it's harder to track people and harder to follow them around the internet as you used to be able to.
So what we find is really powerful is, the email marketing the flows. So once you get, you know, once you pay to get someone onto your website is then making sure that you have those automated email flows in place such as the browser abandon the cart abandonment, the the welcome flow to retarget.
And really, cause you really get the chance then to, if someone's come onto your website and they've not bought for whatever reason, maybe they need to learn a little bit more about your brand, maybe they wanna know a bit more of the backstory or the products. And so that's where you've really got a chance to, you know, to showcase your business to these prospects and turn 'em into paying customers.
Importance of great storytelling
Alex Bond: And how effective is telling that story? I think when I'm being sold to, a lot of times I feel like I'm just being told what a product is and not really like what it does or maybe even what it is to you. The person selling it to me versus what it is to me, you know, this is coffee that will keep you awake that you want in the morning and taste good. Doesn't all coffee is that to me.
So like how important is that storytelling technique in say the email advertising that is also a part of your business foundation a little bit.
Laura Hanlon: Yeah. It's huge. And that's what, when I go back to the piece about getting under the skin of your brand from the very start, and we are copyright. So we have an in-house copywriter who that's, you know, her job is, she lives and breeds copy because it is a really specialist area. So we put, we put something together, which is called the five Jobby avatar when we work with brands.
And that's really getting an in to the, what your business does, the who you target, the why not. So then you come up with all the reasons they why they may not buy from you. And that's you know, that's being able to then seek out the objections. So it's, you know, why do you not wanna buy?
Or why would you buy this coffee over another coffee?
Or it might be because you're thinking, oh, well, that this coffee is more expensive than another coffee. And so maybe you'll then pull out customer reviews, which says, wow, this coffee's, you know, really expensive, but it's worth the money because I'm trying to think of a really good selling point because it enables me to focus for so much longer or yeah.
So that's you've really gotta look at all of the reasons, the selling points and sell the sausage, not the sizzle. So the real benefits of the product and not just the kind of, you know, the features. So really, really, really vital when it comes to any element of your marketing, whether it is the social ads or whether it's email.
And that's why, again, we work with the whole joined up approach because it's really important that you understand your customer and the, the messaging and the brand tone of voice and everything is so consistent from when they first enter your B, you know, enter your ecosystem all the way through to when they purchase from you.
6 email flows that drive the most revenue
Alex Bond: And just to kind of hit on email marketing a little bit more, because it is kind of so important. It's part of your bread and butter. You're big on it, but automated email flows for e-commerce marketing is also extremely vital in your business philosophy. So why is email marketing being automated so valuable currently?
Laura Hanlon: So the automated email flows are because, well, they make you money when you sleep, who doesn't want that? But also, you know, they're set up to, as soon as somebody enters your ecosystem, as I said, as soon as this traffic hits your website and they enter a flow, or they enter their email address into your popup on your website, you know, it's those touch points and the cadence of those touch points are so, so important.
And so having those flow set up. As I said, the kind of four main flows being the welcome abandoned cart, the browser abandoned and the win black flow are so vital at turning those prospects into buying purchasing customers.
Alex Bond: And you're kind of breaking down what I assume are the six flows that drive the most revenue. Can you expand on that a little bit for me in our audience?
Laura Hanlon: Yeah. So email marketing kind of overall should generate around 35% of your email marketing. So I'm talking email total. So often for our clients, that can be fif up to 50% of their total revenue comes from email, and then flow should be about half of that. So really a good, sort of a good metric or KPI to focus on is around 17 to 20% of your revenue should come from your flows.
And so when I say the, yeah, the four most revenue generating are the welcome flows. So when anyone enters your that email ecosystem because they've put their email into your pop-up that says 10% off, and then they get this automated sort of four to six part email flow on the back of that, the welcome flows.
So that's arguably one of the highest generators of revenue for your business. Abandoned cart, obviously if somebody abandons the checkout browser abandonment, cause they come onto your website and they're browsing the product, but for whatever reason they don't purchase. That's an email automation to get them to get 'em back.
A win back is once they have purchased already from you and then say it's you know, maybe 30 days. It depends on your product and how long it takes for them to use your product. Say it may be 30 days if it's skincare, for example, you want 'em to use your product and then you can send them another email to sort of upsell them.
They're the four main ones, but then you have so many other automations that you could do, and I'd say, make sure that you get those four right and get the basics right before you start expanding out. But then you can have things like birthday flows, send people stuff on their birthday discounts to encourage them to buy.
Everybody loves a birthday, a birthday code, and product review automations as well. They're huge in getting your customers to leave a review on your site, which is massive, but they do also encourage purchases too. So that's why I'm quite passionate about flows, as you can tell.
Alex Bond: I love it. And I'll be honest, I feel like I'm much more inclined to use a birthday code online versus having to get my car and drive somewhere to go in person and go through this whole, you know, show me your license song and dance to get a free ice cream cone versus just put in my birthday and get, you know, 25% off of some thing I was probably already gonna buy to begin with.
Negative side of email marketing
Alex Bond: One thing that I've never really talked about with anyone, and maybe you can give me some insight on this, you can say, this is a dumb question if I'm being totally honest, but how can automated email flows or email marketing in general, both positively and negatively impact the business.
Cause I always hear about the plus side and but I always, when it comes to social media marketing, I always hear kinda the plus side and the negative side. But I never hear a downside to email marketing. So if there is one or multiple, what are they?
Laura Hanlon: Yeah, I'd say definitely the negative side is, it's more how you use email marketing. So if you're not sticking to the kind of policies and rules regulations and you're just uploading, you know, lists into your like Klaviyo account that you've purchased, then that's a major no-no, and I guess people are gonna be pretty and happy if they haven't subscribed to your list and they haven't said okay to you emailing them.
Definitely that and making sure that your sticking to the policies and the guidelines, but also not building a relationship with your database, your customers. That's what email is, is there for, it's to build a relationship because yes, you want to increase the lifetime value of your customers, but if you're just spamming and just sell, sell, sell, there's no story, there's no personality.
And that can impact your brand. That can harm your brand. And if you are selling, sending emails, cause we often get asked the question like, how often should I send emails to my list, but just sending emails to the entire database every single day or even every few days, will without a strategy in place, will really impact and have a negative, negative impact on your business.
Using social media ads to grow your brand's email list
Alex Bond: Now, back to multichannel marketing in tandem with an email list. One practice that you suggest is using social media ads to grow a brand's email list. So what are some of the best social media platforms? First off that, that work best for collecting emails?
Laura Hanlon: We predominantly use Facebook and Instagram ads to build email lists, so we use it alongside a full e-commerce conversion campaign within meta ads. That's definitely first and foremost.
We want people to buy from our clients, from these e-commerce brands, but we also are finding a lot of success building lead form ads within Facebook or a, we can send traffic to the website, making sure that they have the popup with, you know, an incentive that gets people to fit their email address in and a second pop up for sms.
But within Facebook ads, the lead form ads where you can sort of just have a really simple single landing page, if you've seen them on Facebook ads, put their details in and then we can use zapier to hook that into their klaviyo accounts. We find that really, really powerful for growing email lists, and as long as you've got a really, a really good welcome flow off the back of it, then them working in tandem is beautiful.
Alex Bond: Beautiful. So I also wanted to ask, you've got your copywriter on staff, right? What is the difference that he, she, they has in writing copy for say, an email that you guys are trying to market? Versus video on Instagram to try to market the exact same product. Are those two copies pretty different? Are those two techniques different if you're essentially trying to sell the same thing to the same target audience?
Laura Hanlon: It does depend and it's the same when it comes to, say, SMS and email. SMS is obviously you are limited by a certain number of characters and obviously with video ads, you've got only a few seconds to make a good impression. So you can definitely, but we still always wanna be short and concise.
We want the main message to come across, whether that is an email, we don't write, you know, really, really long form copy within emails, it's still very short, sweet to the point because that's what really impacts the click through rates with email. The principles are the same.
It's making sure that you persuasive, you get the main points, the main hooks, the angles and you make sure that you get them to perform whatever call to action you want 'em to do. And so that is very similar no matter what medium it is. But I'd say yeah, it's more the sort of length you can afford to have a bit more copy within email and with longer form ads.
We test short form ads. Longer formats when it comes to sort of Facebook as well, because we often find that it really depends on the brand tone of voice. Some are short, short, sweet, short sentences. You know, you can't write more than five words in a sentence because that's against their brand brand guidelines.
So yeah, there's a number of factors at play and it's just finding out what works for that brand, what performs for that brand when we start testing it too.
Alex Bond: And when you say five words or less in a sentence, that's against Meta's guidelines or the brand's guidelines?
Laura Hanlon: Yeah. The brand's guidelines. They're quite sort of a quirky, we've worked with quirky brands who are like, we're really cool.
Alex Bond: Five words or less. That's fascinating.
Laura Hanlon: Yeah. So, yeah, we have to stick to brand guidelines, which makes it interesting.
Alex Bond: I have heard a lot of people use the adage, you know, keep it simple, stupid. Not like the audience is stupid, but the person saying that is like, do not overcomplicate this. It should not be you know, if you're selling a cheeseburger, tell people it's a cheeseburger.
Sometimes, you know, they don't need to be told this is the greatest cheeseburger ever. Just tell 'em what it is. And more often than not, they might even just buy it because they're trusting the straightforward approach and transparency, and I think that's pretty valuable.
Most common mistakes when running Facebook Ads
Laura Hanlon: If I had to summarize, I was literally writing a post on this one earlier, actually for my LinkedIn. But yeah, I'd say first and foremost is a lot of brands, or whether it's agencies running the ads on behalf of the brand or it's the brand running themselves, they not having a funnel in place.
So they literally just set up campaigns that for ads that go to absolutely everyone, no matter what stage of the journey you are at, whereas we break it down into top, middle, and bottom of funnel. Obviously an ad for a cold prospect, someone who's never heard of you before, cannot get the same message as somebody who's been on your website, who knows the product. All of that side of things, who, that's the retargeting ad.
So yeah, as I say, brands are just chucking the same sort of ad and the same messaging as they are for bottom funnel. So that's a big big no-No, and that's such a huge, a huge error because you've really gotta think about where the customer is at their whatever stage of the journey.
Secondly, I'd say, spending too much money. A lot of brands come to us and they're struggling to scale because they're spending a lot of money on the middle and bottom of funnel. If they are running a funnel, the middle and bottom, you're really gonna struggle to scale if that's where all of your money's going because you're not, while it's tempting to do so, because so many brands focus on the return on ad spend, which I don't necessarily always agree with.
Yes, it's a really important metric, but if you're just so hell bent on, always focusing on that return on ad spend and not looking at your overall growth and the overall profitability. Then you're gonna struggle to grow and scale. It's really important to have most of your budget, at least 75% of your budget gonna that top of funnel to constantly bring new people into your funnel.
And the other I'd say is not testing enough creative ads. Again, since, well, I guess over the last sort of two years, or definitely since iOS, there's been a huge need for really focusing on the brand, on the creatives, on the copy, on the ads. People are really gone are the days where you can just throw up a stock image or you know, businesses saying, here, just use all the images from my website.
Like now it's really, there's so much more of a strategy at play here when it comes to the creators and copy. So just see too many sort of bland attempts when it comes to copy and creative. So I'd say they're the three sort of most important that I'm seeing at the moment.