Episode 239 Featuring Alex Bond

Prioritizing Deliverability with Israa Alrawi

Prioritizing Deliverability with Israa Alrawi

Israa Alrawi is an e-commerce Email Marketing and Deliverability Specialist who focuses on Lifecycle Growth and Retention. She has a proven track record of driving revenue through email marketing, and has scaled her online store to mid-6 figures in just three months. She uses her expertise in deliverability practices and intentional marketing strategies to help e-commerce brand owners increase their profitability and customer retention rate by over 35% in email revenue. 

On this episode, we discuss how to prioritize deliverability, implement email marketing in your business ecosystem, optimize automation flows, thanks to Israa's course about automations at theWinBox.com, and much more.


What is Winbox?

Israa Alrawi: Yeah. So the Winbox is a educational platform for entrepreneurs who are starting a new or trying to scale a new small business and e commerce small business. And it's founded in a sense that it teaches you how to utilize email marketing. 

So that's full potential so that you can scale profitably. So we have resources on how to set up your deliverability and monitor. So you're landing in the inbox, especially during like high promotional times, like Black Friday, which is a big time of the year for e comm owners.

And then we go into automations and how to like make money while you sleep or around the clock. And then there's more resources on strategies. What works, what can you do in your business to help you? Succeed while keeping more profit and like in your pocket or, you know, putting back into your business. So that's one part of the one boxes that we try to put out articles and blogs for educational purposes.

And we also have one off services right now, if you need extra help or like the handheld part of, you know, if you need writing copy, you're looking over your emails or setting up automations doing an audit, all of that stuff. So it's just a holistic approach to how do we use email to make our businesses better while not breaking the bank as you grow. 

Alex Bond: And that's the hard part of it is trying to grow and scale on a budget feels like doing two opposite things at the same time, you know? So how is the winbox able to help people grow and scale while still being on a budget? 

Israa Alrawi: Yeah. So email marketing is, it's typically your cheapest form of marketing. You pay for the email service provider, used like Klaviyo or MailChimp or Sendlane or whatever platform. And you basically can send a lot of emails for a small price.

And the reason the Winbox is set up to help you scale your business is because most of the time people focus on ads and they spend a lot of money. But they don't capture the leads that do not convert on like a first touch. So like you bring them through ads. Some people maybe buy from you about like 98% of them don't.

So how do you capture that? So we basically teach you how to retain more emails, put them in your system, get them to go through your automations, nurture them with trust and understanding what your business does for the actual customer. So we touch on like benefits and solving, you know, customer problems and then giving them the offer that they want that would help them basically convert. 

So we basically the way that the one box is set up is help you set up your account where you are good to go with the ISPs like Gmail, Yahoo inbox. So the deliverability aspect, and then we teach you how to do the automations. Where you set up funnels so that anytime you drive traffic from social media or from paid ads, or even SEO, you can capture them and then put them into your system and try to qualify them basically through automations, either convert them or get them to be engaged with your emails.

And then we teach you strategies through your campaigns, which are your weekly emails or daily emails that you send out to help you make more money. So instead of say like you make a thousand dollars a day on your ads. You can really be making around 1500 to 2000 by just using email alongside your ads.

Importance of deliverability

Israa Alrawi: So deliverability matters is because if you don't land in the inbox, you don't. Make money. And that's the bottom line for most, most entrepreneurs and e comm business owners, even service providers and SaaS owners. The only way to reach your audience is you have to end up in the inbox or they have to see you, they cannot be in spam.

So deliverability is important. That's the first step. And a lot of ecom owners, a lot of agencies and a lot of freelancers are not very aware and they do not implement it into like the customers or their clients, businesses which I come to find out that's how I kind of get my clients is they've used agencies They come to me. They're like our engagement is very low. Are we in spam? 

And sometimes they are. And sometimes they're just, the strategies they use are so low, they're about to be in spam, basically. So what we do is we approach email first from how do we set up a good domain reputation? How do we set up, how do we get you on a good shared IP, an excellent one to get you to build trust with Gmail and Yahoo and Outlook and all these other ISPs so that you are always inboxing, even if people are not engaging at every single email.

And it's really important, especially during these high seasonal, you know, sales, especially around black Friday, if you can be in boxing all year and then black Friday comes around and your score could be not as good as other people where you end up in spam and others. Take your spot in the inbox. This is really important.

It's an everyday thing. You have to keep up with it. But once you understand it, it's fairly simple. And like, once you get the hang of it, you can read, like, once you read your KPIs, your, what do you call it, your metrics, you will understand, like when you're spamming, you know, when you're inboxing, when you need to work on your strategy better to get people to engage. 

So it's like the first step in using email marketing correctly for long term. So like email, anybody could email and anyone can do email and it works for them short term. But if you're in for the long, like the long call, the long term play a game plan, you would need deliverability by your side to keep that going for you and keep that revenue up. So that is why we focus on deliverability first. 

Alex Bond: Absolutely. And in your opinion, what are some of the best practices to having such a high deliverability? I hear you say, you know, mentioning KPIs and goals and setting goals, but how do you actually achieve them a little bit? 

Israa Alrawi: So the first step is we make sure you set up your authentication records, which are your DMARC. And those records basically let the ISPs, those are like Gmail and Yahoo, know it's you. It's your signature. It's your key domain like they know it's the emails are coming from you. So they know it's a trusted source. 

So those are the first thing you set up most esps like clavio and mailchimp but they have the step by step on how to set it up into your like a godaddy accounts is you're going to set it up there but the instruction come from your ESP on how to do it. So that's the first thing you authenticate your records and you set up a dedicated domain.

So you're sending from your actual domain. We make sure that you have a clean from reply name so that you should use an app, your domain. com, not like a Gmail or reply email. So like when you look at the header, it says sending from and replying to that that replying to needs to come from a trusted source as well and not a private email.

We look at your your list cleaning. You have to make sure that you are using segmented dynamic lists instead of static ones. So if you, and a lot of people, you know, in the e commerce world use Klaviyo. So I'll just use Klaviyo as an example, when you start a newsletter on your website, so like say the pop up, you filter your emails from the pop up into a list in Klaviyo.

And that list is typically like called the newsletter. What people do is actually just keep using that same list, the newsletter. It's static because say somebody from 2020 signed into your, signed into your pop up and they're on that list and it's 2023 now, and you're using that same list without cleaning it.

And that person from 2020 might've signed up, but it doesn't even open their email anymore. So they're kind of like dead weight. So using that static list, you're just accumulating all these people on a list, whether they're engaged, whether they have unsubscribed and it affects your engagement with the inboxes.

So they see like your open rates and your click rates start going down because you keep using a static list. Instead, what you should be doing is you should create a segment off of that list. So like say people who are on this list but also have been engaging with my email in the last 90 days have opened or clicked or bought.

That way you're always using a dynamic list of people based on the behavior and that helps you rank with the ISPs. They say, okay, well, they're only sending to people who are actually interested in their emails. So list segmentation is really important. Gmail does not have a feedback loop to the esps and the feedback loop is the spam rates like When you go into a campaign you can see the spam rates for like all the other isps. 

But you do not see it for gmail and that's because gmail has its separate feedback loop platform called postmaster. So you got to sign in there And monitor your domain in there for Gmail users. And that's another thing, like you got to look at your spam rates. Spam rates are really important. If you don't anything above 0.1%. 

You need to bring that down other things we look at, you know If you have a lot of bounce high bounce rates like for hard or even soft bounces, you know that you're not using a clear strategy or a clean strategy to filter legitimate email addresses so like that could also affect your deliverability. 

So just looking at those little parts and making sure like we're always cleaning, we're always using clear communication with the isps like Gmail, especially Gmail because gmail is so big for a lot of people And their email lists to make sure that you know everything is set and clear and and clean and we're sending we're also sending content that our users want instead of just you know, just sending whatever we want to send. 

And then the final thing is making sure you have an unsubscribe button that is very clear in your email people do not use that and they usually put it on the bottom. It's very small and they don't check the link sometimes changes colors and it's very hard to see. So that's like a big one. Like if they can't see the unsubscribe they're gonna hit spam and it's gonna affect your reputation fairly quickly if you have a high spam issue. So those are like the small pieces that we focus on but it plays such a big picture in your entire strategy. 

Strategies for sustaining deliverability

Alex Bond: How can ecom owners protect and build strong deliverability. We talked about kind of the best practices of how to do it, but how can they kind of protect once they do get that deliverability sustaining it? 

Israa Alrawi: So I'd like to talk about automations on this end, because automations have the first emails and automations have your highest opens and clicks, and that's where your first like focus, I call them like kind of like the gatekeepers of deliverability.

And the reason is because when somebody signs up to your email, that's your first opportunity to get them to go look for your email and find it and take action on whatever you tell them to.  That also sets so like a lot of people will like let's take a website where people give say, you know enter here for 10 discount because that's what you see most of the time people enter their email.

And they hit show me the discount and most people will give the email We'll give the discount right away on the next step. The problem with that is people can start using fake emails and filtering fake emails into your ESP or your actual lists, right?

Alex Bond: So they can get more coupons. 

Israa Alrawi: Exactly. Or they don't want to give you their email. So they're just going to type in anything so they can just get the discount and move on. Right? So that's something like you have to be very intentional on how you get your emails. 

The front end message needs to be, needs to match whatever action you're trying to get them to take on that landing page So like say if you have a blog somebody comes through seo and is reading a blog they may not have any idea that you sell products.

So like you can ask them to give you the email, but you're not going to tell them you're going to get 10% discount. You're going to say, did you enjoy this? You know, blog posts, you know, sign up for our blog and we'll send you more like it. So like, that's where you kind of get more intent to subscribers into your list. 

So those people are signing up for a blog are wanting more information first before you even tell them you have products or you want to sell them an offer versus somebody landing on a product page and they're like, well, I really like this but it's out of my budget or I want free shipping or something. 

You give them something else. You say, you know enter your email here and we'll send you a offer or something like that or you know free shipping that forces them to give you a real email If they want to receive the offer. So I advise against giving because everyone's like, well, you're taking them away from the landing page. I'm like, yes, maybe, but most of the time, most people don't convert right away anyway.

So capturing an email is more important to me than just having a first time conversion because that first email, when they open it, they give your height, your reputation depends on it. So like you say, you have 80% open rates on your first automation emails that tells Gmail that you are a legitimate domain.

People are interested in what you have to offer. And they're opening your emails. So they will start delivering your next email. And again, it's going to read that and say, okay, you got 60% open rates. You're still legitimate. So as you go down through the automations, you are filtering who your real buyers and subscribers and engagers are.

So this is why I focus on automation and the offer a lot. So that's like one thing, like we want to make sure we have a very clean list. So that kind of qualifies for the list. And then we have the actual content. So like you want to make sure you're serving them the right content that we'll get them the click.

Cause clicks most time people don't focus on the click and the click is really important or even a reply is really important to like Gmail. So Gmail will want, you will want to see some type of action taken. So that's like, that's the first two things I focus on in automations. And then after that, for like protecting your your deliverability after that, what you want to do is.

You want to make sure you're segmenting again, you are sending emails that are relevant. A lot of people just bombard the only time they send emails to their email list is to get money out of it. And sometimes that's great, but like you can actually build a good strategy by sending some interesting content first and then asking for the offer.

So what I do is we focus on like two good content and then a cell. So that people are ready to buy by that third email I mean revenue is not like revenue doesn't determine your deliverability but that open and that click do. 

And that's what I focus on is like use a good list, get that open and people will recognize the good thing about automation is once you start sending campaigns, people recognize your name in the inbox. So they're more likely to open as well. And then make sure you're serving good content. 

So those are like the three little parts just to keep it going. It takes a lot of work and strategy, but you know, if you get those three pieces together. You're going to be in good. It takes about three months to build a good, solid reputation. And then like, you can keep feeding it after that. 

Impact of automation on deliverability, list composition, and business growth

Alex Bond: You're touching on something that's extremely valuable there in my opinion. What are the different types or categories of automation flows that you're referring to? 

Israa Alrawi: There's revenue makers and then there's like engagement ones, right? So the revenue makers are the welcome series, which is a pop up. But there's also other variations of it, like driving people from social media or driving people from a giveaway or whatever you do organically on the front end, whether it's on your social media platforms or your website could be converted into a welcome series.

So there's the main pop up welcome series which is most focused on ecommerce, but there's also variations that you can create off of that as well for your organic channels. So that's one. And then you have the abandoned cart, which is not at the add to cart, but the actual checkout. So those are like your warmest buyers. 

And then you have browse abandonment, people who viewed products, but haven't bought. So those are the three top ones. And then this is a little bit controversial, but the post purchase. So I used to own an ecommerce store myself and I was bootstrapped. So being profitable on the first touch was really important to me. And I use the strategy where I think it was like 2018 when I started using it. 

After somebody makes a purchase, we would make them a small offer on that first email at the post purchase. And it converted so well people went back and ordered more stuff to be added to their first order. 

People say, you know like that you shouldn't do that because they haven't even gotten your first item, they might be wearing but honestly, I found a really great strategy and i'll share it with everybody here. I usually offer a free so most of my most of the stores I ran and my clients we never had free shipping, you know on your order under like fifty dollars or a hundred dollars.

So what I used to do is You know you they make their first purchase and most of the time people make when somebody makes a first purchase, they would come in to our thing and it's usually under that threshold. So they're paying for like shipping the first time or maybe they didn't pay for shipping first time. 

So what I would do on the second purchase or like after the post purchase the first email they get the thank you for making an order. I would give them free shipping again. I would say hey come back, add more, you get free shipping so you can add one more item. You don't have to pay shipping and we'll add it to your, you know, we'll send it out with your first order.

And that works because even if they paid shipping or if they didn't pay shipping, cause they went over the threshold on that first order, you're just adding more products. You're getting them to buy more without needing to spend, you don't need to spend more on them and they don't need to spend, so to them, it's a deal. Because hey, they waived my free shipping. 

So like instead of having a hundred dollar average order value You would have like 150 average order value and that worked really well like that converted better than the welcome series because people really wanted that offer. But again, it works you test it on your product and you test it on your store if you want.

But that that's something I did because I was bootstrapped and I needed that money up front as fast as possible. So that's another thing that you can do with post purchase. But also post purchase is I put it in the nurture category for automations where it's you introduce yourself, you introduce your products, you build trust there, you tell them where to follow you.

So post purchase is big. Other ones in there could be your, like I spoke on like blog posts, even giveaways, people miss like, oh, you know, people sign up cause they're freebies, but you can qualify people through giveaways very easily. And what I do is because they're freebies, they're low quality.

So you have to put them through an automation and introducing yourself and building trust. You can filter the people that really are interested in your products and your services later on through those giveaways. So it's another nurture automation. If you ever run giveaways, other ones could be like the wind bag and the sunset.

A lot of people will just offer discounts there. But you can really like start talking to your audiences there as well. Like sometimes when back for example, people just want you to come back and purchase. Cause you haven't purchased in like 90 days or something. 

But for me, I would rather like schedule a call or get you to fill out a form and let me know why haven't you come back and bought, which helps me collect better data than just like giving you. Then just giving you another product. That's how I kind of use it for the nurture part. 

Alex Bond: No, that's great. I think in terms of the post purchase idea, I think there's a lot of pragmatism to it. For example, it makes me think of when you go to a grocery store or convenience store and you already have your stuff that you're gonna, you're gonna buy. But they continue, they offer you stuff, right? They offer you goods to buy right when you're about to check out also. 

And I kind of think it's that similar process where you're gonna buy, you know, ham, turkey, cheese, bread already, you're getting in line, but then there's a Snickers bar, then there's a water bottle, then there's all this other stuff that you can kind of grab and go with. So I think your idea has, you know, real world examples and value as to its use. So I think that's really cool. 

How does automation actually impact deliverability or your list makeup and overall business? I know we kind of went over that a little bit, but I'm interested in how automation can positively and negatively impact the list makeup?

Israa Alrawi: Automations are really important because they actually, I'll build your like a quality list for you. Like I said before, when people the reason you bring in people through automations first. So let's just take an example. You don't have any automation set up and you're just building a list, right?

And then you come back a month later and you send out an email, your open rates are probably going to be very low or quite low because you collected those emails a month ago, right? But you didn't nurture them. You didn't communicate with them at all, right. After you got the emails.

So the next time they see you in their inbox, they're like, who is this person? Or I don't know who this is. Where it's automations. Once they sign up to anything. The next step is they find an email in their inbox from you.

That first email should start a whole conversation going down for a couple of days to just get them to get familiar with who you are, see you in the inbox, build that trust. Learn about your services or products. Understand how that product basically benefits them. And it kind of helps the person who subscribes to you learn if you are the right fit to them and if they're going to continue to do business with you.

And if you see that they don't, you can actually create segments by the end of the automation that removes people who basically are uninterested. And that builds like a quality. So like the next campaign you send out, say like, so somebody came in, they went through your automation, like your welcome series for seven days.

And then on day 10, you send out a campaign, like a weekly campaign. You're only going to send it to people who've been engaging with you the last, maybe 10, 15 or 30 days, whatever it is you set to. 

So then what happens there, your open rates are going to be higher because you're only including people who actually were interested from the get go using your automations, instead of just somebody who signed up like 30 days ago, and you're just sending out an email now to them. 

That's kind of where it kind of qualifies who needs to stay on your list and who needs to be off of your list. That's the biggest thing that automation does for you. And then, you know, it also helps you figure out what offers work best. You can AB test, you can figure out where did these people convert. Where did they fall off? 

And you can, I like to plug in like feedback forms at the end of each automation based on the goal. So like say abandoned cart, my goal is to get them to convert by the end of the automation. If they didn't, I have a form at the end. And I asked them just to like, tell me why they didn't finish. And most of the time they, they tell you, they're like, you know, I wanted free shipping or the cost is too high, or it's not the right time. 

Or, you know, I'm not like, if you're a supplement products, like, you know, I haven't finished my other, you know, 30 day supplement or something like that. So you kind of know, you get some data back on, okay, what is my next step in copy and offers and how do I position like my messaging, all of that.

So automations can be really powerful if you know how to use them, to really like serve like that in goal for you. The whole like process is to help build and gap that message between your products and services and the customer and really deliver a better experience for that customer to come back and either engage or buy from you again.

Strategically integrating tools and channels within a business ecosystem

Alex Bond: So in terms of implementing the email marketing. Into the business strategy now, the kind of more macro side of things in terms of we've talked about how essentially giving the emails to the customers, right? I'm extremely interested now in how email marketing tools and channels should be used within a businesses ecosystem. Like what percentage of marketing effort should be put in that? You know, what are your thoughts on that? 

Israa Alrawi: So, I mean, email is big, I would say it's your second biggest channel. So of like really, you know, because it's a retention channel, so it should serve about 40%. It should it should end up around the 40% revenue. I know people argue like if you're doing more than 20% in email You're not driving enough traffic, but it really depends on your client. 

So I'll give you an example I had a client that cannot run any ads they their products. It's against the you know, the ad rules online or whatever. They can't run so it's all organic. So, how do you capture organic and the way we successfully did it was through email where you know? 50 to 70% of their revenue came through email. 

Why? Because they couldn't run traffic and convert right away. We had to bring them into email and then nurture them to buy. So like, if you see 70, it really depends on the model. So, but it is a big, it depends again on your model, a business model, but an email should be like the second one to your paid marketing and it should work side by side. 

So traffic is king. Email marketing is the queen, I guess. Or if traffic is the head, they say email marketing is the neck to the body. So if that makes sense, it's the channel that really pulls all that information and helps you retain and drive more revenue.

I know this is very controversial. I was talking to somebody earlier today. Email marketers are not paid enough to do their job. Honestly. And the email marketing departments are not big enough as they should be. It usually comes down to one email marketer in house or an agency, one person running the email marketing.

But if you really want to utilize and really use your email, there's so much power in it because your ESP is like the Klaviyo's and the MailChimp's out there. They house all your profile data. You can get whatever you want on your customer through their, through the data they have in there. If you go into somebody's profile, you can tell what they visited, what they clicked on, what's their turn rate, what's their lifetime value, you know. 

All of this information's in there for you to use and you can play it however you want. When I worked on a client, me and the ads marketer, we worked side by side because I was, you know, she built audiences from Klaviyo to use on Facebook, to basically drive traffic, so that like, that was one thing, you can also build like negative audiences and exclude them.

You can use email to drive social proof to your ads. There's a lot of factors there that can really boost your business if you really want to use it. You know, we've grown so many businesses double their revenue within a year time just by like figuring out all these touch points that they're missing and just putting you know, system in the places that we keep feeding so that they they they're not missing out. 

So that it's really important It's a big one and I think it's very misunderstood but like you said like I don't know if you saw this but you know when the ios 15 came out everybody panicked now email so big or I'm sorry not the ios 15, the ios 14 for ads everybody turned to email because email was now the revenue driver.

There's a lot in the email marketing section of like the ecosystem of the business ecosystem. There needs to be a shift into talking about how do we value email marketing beyond just driving revenue, but like really retaining customers for the long run and really scaling with profit through understanding what, how to serve our customers through that email channel.

Common mistakes cusinesses make in email marketing

Alex Bond: And you mentioned something interesting to me, and that's how businesses organizations can mishandle email marketing or they're not using it to its fullest potential. What are some of the common mistakes that businesses make in email marketing? 

Israa Alrawi: From my clients and what I've seen in like when businesses come to me, they focus on like three big things or they, they lack some of them. One is they have no strategy. There's no strategy. You know, we're just going to send out a promotion here, a promotion there, a highlight, a pick. Whatever throughout the week throughout the month. I will make some money great, but they have tons of content so like they have a lot of content. 

So one client that I had for their product launches, they had a very good fan base like the fan base already bought from them and loved them and you know Hyper focused fan base for them. However, they weren't really playing on the potential of actually driving better revenue with them on launch days. 

So like I came in and I was like, let's create a strategy around it. So we spent two weeks where we introduced the product. This is what we're working on. Here's a blog post on what's coming. You know, here's a try on here's this, this. So we kind of like sent out emails for, I think like seven days, just talking about what's coming, how they can use it, you know, what's pick your styles. 

Now we drop a catalog, they see, and then on, you know, launch day, they're all ready to buy. So the email isn't, it's literally like, Hey, here's the collection go by. Like that's how simple the selling email is because we spent so much time before. And I remember their launch days, one launch day, we, the highest launch day, I think we had was like 500, 000 in like an hour for them.

And we sold out, like we sold out and we kind of had to like start scaling back because warehouse was not ready to handle the volume anymore. So like, again setting up system and anticipating all that is important too. But like you can use email to drive powerful revenue if you have the patience to like actually build first before just like sending out the emails. So yeah, that's one thing. 

Another thing they focus a lot on virality and like Going viral and hoping and wishing that viral, you know, if everybody just shares my stuff on social media. We'll have awesome days but the problem is with you know, ecom businesses one day of virality and one day of good revenue does not equate the next 30 days of your business.

It's like a long haul game with emails. Like it helps you stay afloat when you have those like bumps in the road. It's like the stable, like automations consistently deliver revenue. And that's like the whole point of it. 

Alex Bond: But you can't like rely on going viral every, every month, you know, that's not really a business plan.

Israa Alrawi: Exactly. But like, that's what they hope for. They, you know, they post something they're like, Oh, it didn't do well. I'm like, you can't really even tell. The algorithms anymore, right? Like you can post it like Tuesday, 8 a. m. or Thursday, 9 p. m. And one might do well one week, but next week it doesn't do well. It's, you know, that's not reliable because you don't have the data to really say, okay, this is what works.

Where email you can, I'm like, I can like one client I knew at 9 p. m. every single day, mostly Tuesdays. People engaged really well. And that's because we had consistent data over, you know, a whole year to look at. So that's like the biggest one. And then the last one is something I touched on. They want to grow really quickly, but they don't have the systems in the back end to scale.

Even if you have like a million dollar day or even a hundred thousand dollar day, are you prepared? Do you have the product? Do you have the people, do you have the customer service to really support that volume? So clients will come in like, Oh, I want to make this much. I was like, well, it takes time and you got to build and you got to add more.

People like the more profit you make, the whole point is to put it back in the business and grow it, not just to put it back in your pocket. So it's really just coaching clients to really understand how to use that business and how to grow the business without just focusing on. How much can I put back in my pocket instead of how much can I put back in my business and get it to a point where, you know, I don't have to work in it myself and I have a team.

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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