Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: Everybody, I am super excited to introduce you to Karsen. Karsen is somebody I’ve been following for a while cuz we have a mutual friend. I have been loving what she’s putting out about email and content, and also lifestyle, and so I wanted to introduce you all to her. As you know, at Stratos, we are big fans of email marketing. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important parts of marketing, and Karsen has some opinions about it. And so we’re gonna explore some of those. Karsen, tell us where you are, your business. Give us an introduction to you.
Karsen: Yes. Hello. My name is Karsen Murray, and I am located in Tampa, Florida. I absolutely love it here. I think Tampa is one of the best cities. Well, I know also a lot of other people think that too, because I swear everyone’s moving. Everyone’s moving to Tampa. And so I’m in Tampa,I love it here. I am an ethical copywriter, and I write copy for websites, sales pages, and email campaigns, and I just happen to have a special affinity for email marketing.
Julia: Before we even get into email marketing, tell me about ethical copywriting. You’re the only person I’ve ever heard use this term. I’ve seen it on your social, I love it, and I’m curious. Tell me about it.
Karsen: So I learned about ethical copywriting maybe like a couple of years ago now. And ethical copywriting is basically, just in the simplest form, it does not use shame or manipulation in order to get people to take action, but instead, prioritizes choice, and clarity, and consent, and compassion. So instead of making people feel worse about themselves after they read our copy, which is what we’re initially taught to do. So if you’re like, “Oh man, I wonder if I’m doing that.” Give yourself grace. That’s kind of how we were taught to write copy. So it just prioritizes a different way of writing; it asks questions instead of makes assumptions.
And the way I look at ethical copy is it’s just an opportunity to do less harm, to just be a little bit more human in your copy and present – And something I also like to do is I like to present copy in different forms when I’m writing a website or a sales page in order to support people’s different decision-making processes, cuz we all make decisions in the same way. We’re all taught like, know your ideal client, know your ideal clients. And while that’s all good and fine, I think it’s important to know your ideal client, ethical copy also takes into consideration that, not all of – If you had four different clones of your ideal client, they might all make decisions in different ways.
So we need to present copy in different forms to them in order to support their decision-making process, help them feel seen so that they can make a really informed and educated decision.
Julia: I love that. I really do. I think in general, marketing practices can sometimes feel really sleazy. And oftentimes, marketers even get a bad rep because they’re not working in an ethical way. Clearly, you’re going above and beyond, even minimal. But I think that that’s really important. I love it.
Karsen: Yeah. And I have to give credit. I just have to. If anyone’s like, oh, my gosh, I wanna learn more about ethical copy, I would consider myself someone who practices and always is trying to just improve upon my ethical copywriting practices. But who I learned from is my friend Nat, @thebrandcopywriter on Instagram.
She developed the 4Cs of Ethical Copy, and she has a beautiful framework to just help you learn how to infuse ethical copywriting into your practice. So if you’re looking for someone who specializes in ethical copywriting education, definitely go check her out.
Julia: What’s her handle again?
Karsen: It’s @thebrandcopywriter.
Julia: I already wrote it down. I love it. So how did you get into copywriting? Tell me about that.
Karsen: This is one of my favorite stories to tell, honestly. So I got into it by accident, but I think I always had a knack or a natural gifting for it. So I always was just naturally really good at writing, spelling words, I went to spelling bees. I would sit out on my abuela’s front porch, and she would call out vocabulary words to me. Words just came natural. I was published in the Young Americans Anthology of Poetry when I was in fourth grade.
Julia: That’s awesome.
Karsen: I know. It’s so fun. I still have the book. Or maybe it was second grade. It was either second or fourth. I don’t remember
Julia: Either way, it’s better than my poetry books where it was like, roses are red, violets are blue, whatever.
Karsen: And then also in college, my English and literature professors, we’d have to submit essays, and they would always stop me after class and be like, “Hey, do you mind if I submit this for a competition?” I would just be like, “Whatever.” I just didn’t think anything of it. It’s like when something comes so naturally to you, you just don’t think it’s anything special? And my dad would always be like, “You need to write a book one day.” And I’m like, “Dad, I don’t wanna write a book.”
My dream job was, if anyone’s ever seen “13 Going on 30” or “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, I wanted to be Andy Anderson. I wanted to work for a really cool magazine in a high-rise building, grab coffee on the way to work, take the elevator up 50 floors, and that’s what I wanted to do. But it didn’t pan out. It just didn’t pan that way, which is fine.
So anyways, I was kind of in this position in my career where I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was working as a brand and marketing manager for a local company in Tampa. So I was overseeing everything as it relates to marketing for this company; social, website copy, email marketing, all that stuff. I always knew I wanted to have my own business because I was raised by business owners. It’s kind of like when you’re raised by a doctor, or dentist, or engineer, or something, and you’re just like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do.” A business, that’s what I knew. So I was like, “Yeah, I could totally do that.” And my dad was always like, “The world is your oyster.”
So I always knew that I could do whatever I wanted. And so with my career, it was like I was sick of punching and punching out. I wasn’t finding much purpose in my work. And I was like, you know what, I can take this skillset, everything I’m doing for this company, and I can turn it into a business.
So I pitched to the company. I was like, “Hey, I don’t wanna quit. I just wanna go part-time.” Because I wanted the income, even if it was less, and I wanted to build my own thing. I wound up seeing one of my favorite brands online had a social media manager position open, which is something I was also doing. So I was like, okay, this could be my first client. I’m gonna pitch to her. And I made it out of hundreds of candidates, I made it to top 10, top five, top three, and then top two, and then she called me one day and she told me I didn’t get it. I was so bummed, because I thought this was my out.
And she was like, “But I like you so much, I was wondering if you’d want to be my virtual assistant.” Back in 2018, I didn’t really know what that was. It was like 2017, ‘18, and virtual assistants weren’t as popular as they are now. So I didn’t even know what I was saying yes to, but I just said yes, and then I wound up writing her email copy. I wound up handling her email list and writing her email copy, and helping her with other copy related tasks outside of the other things she wanted me to do. So then I was like, okay, I can become a virtual assistant.
And Nat and I started booking out with clients. I had booked out really quickly, and then the task that I would naturally get assigned from my clients all had to do with copywriting. So then I realized, oh, okay, I don’t have to be a virtual assistant and do all these things, I can specialize as a copywriter. So there’s my very long story of how I became a copywriter, on total accident.
Julia: And also, I think I have a friend crush on your dad because I love dads who are so encouraging. That’s awesome. So let’s get into email marketing a little bit. What do you like about email?
Karsen: Man, what I like about email is I think it is one of the most intimate ways to connect with your community, right? Because it’s like we’re writing a letter to them, in a sense. And you can just share things differently via email than you can on social media. It just feels more personal, it feels more exclusive. So that’s maybe on the nurture side and the community building side of email.
And then as far as sales go, I mean, there’s nothing like it. We don’t have any other platform right now where we can segment by what people are interested in, and sell to them based on their interests. We can’t do that on any other marketing platform as of now. There’s no opportunity to segment on Instagram or TikTok based on people’s interests and just show them that kind of content. So I think it’s one of the most powerful tools you can use to support your sales efforts.
Julia: Yeah, I agree. I feel like everybody says, well, it’s the only like list that you can control compared to your Instagram and your social media, we don’t own those platforms. But I agree, I think it’s one way that we know that, hey, we will end up in people’s inboxes. Whether or not they open, that’s a different matter. But still, it is a way, we are getting to people’s phones and catching them. I have a four-month old. I read emails while I’m feeding her, and so we’re catching them at those intimate moments. I really like that description.
Karsen: Yeah. And also we’re just so overwhelmed on social media, and sometimes email just makes it a little bit easier.
Julia: Yeah. We can almost filter a little bit more on our email. One of the things that you talked about on a recent post, and this is why I contacted you about coming on, was about cleaning a list, warming up your audience. I think that those are things that marketers don’t really talk about or copywriters in general. It’s usually like, let me sell you more emails, let me write your emails. It’s not actually doing things that prime success. Tell me about that.
Karsen: This is so timely, because I just got off of a call with a client, a potential email retainer client that I’m about to take on. And something that I include in all of my email retainer processes is before we even start writing emails for you, we clean your list, because we wanna start things off on the right foot. We’re not just here to write emails and send them to your list, we want to make sure that the – Your list is only as good as the quality of subscribers that make it up, right? It’s kind of like social media; it doesn’t matter how large your list is, it matters how many people actually wanna be there, how many people are actually engaging.
So cleaning your list is vital to that health, right? Because we want to make sure that the people that are there want to be there, and the people that are no longer interested, we wanna invite them to leave. And that’s a really good thing. Sometimes I think we think like, oh, unsubscribes are a really negative thing, but if there’s a bunch of people on your list who aren’t opening, it’s only hurting your engagement rate, it’s only hurting your open rate, your click rate. Or maybe if there are cases where people sign up for your email list because they want the free thing, and then they have no intention of opening.
Maybe they signed up with a burner email, right? We all have burner emails. Maybe someone accidentally signed up, and there was a typo, so they never made it to your list at. Sometimes bots sneak on our list, especially if we don’t have that double opt-in set up to confirm their email, which I don’t think that you always have to do that. But there are many cases in which it’s important to clean your list to make sure that we are seeing the most success.
Like I just had a client not too long ago. She had a list of like 55,000 people, and her open, and engagement, and click rate is just – they’re super, super low. I’m talking like, way below normal. And we cleaned her list. She had never cleaned her list before. And after we cleaned her list, we wound up manually unsubscribing like 13,000 people. We saw a huge increase in her open rates, in her click rates, in her engagement.
When you clean your list, and we can get into this too, you kick it off by sending a re-engagement campaign to people, the people specifically who have not been opening your emails. And that’s one of the most successful campaigns my clients send. A lot of times people are like, “Oh, my gosh, I love your email list. I don’t want you to unsubscribe me. I just have been super busy in this season.” So it reminds people why they signed up for your email list, and it helps people who haven’t opened your emails in a while or maybe forgot about your list, it helps them to prioritize it.
Julia: For sure. I think these are not as important as what you just said, but also sometimes, email sending machines or programs, you pay by subscriber, so you could actually – And we’ve had that too, where people are paying for higher tiers than what they actually need to be, and from a budget standpoint. I think that there is this pride in saying, “Oh, I have 55,000 people on my list.” But if you said your open rates are abysmal or really low, you’re not actually getting accurate information on whether your subject lines are working, whether your content is working. You might think that something is not working, when in reality, people just aren’t seeing it, or they’re not opening it.
What sort of things do you put in a re-engagement campaign?
Karsen: So typically, the re-engagement campaign that I use and suggest is about three emails long. So the first thing that you wanna do is you wanna go to all subscribers, and you wanna filter by people who have not opened your emails in 90 days or more. And then you want to select all those people, add them to a specific segment, and that’s who you’re gonna send your re-engagement campaign to. So you’re not sending it to like your entire list.
And so the first email that we’re sending to this group of people is something along the lines of like, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you haven’t been opening. I’ve noticed that we haven’t been connecting anymore.”
In the re-engagement campaign I use, I should have looked at it before this, but my subject lines are so funny. They get people to want to open, because I wanna make light of it, and we wanna make light of it. So basically, we just let them know like, “Hey, we’ve noticed that you haven’t been opening our emails in the last 90 days or more.” And then in that email, we want to remind them why they signed up for our list in the first place.
And there might be many different reasons why people signed up for your list, maybe you have like a ton of freebies, but maybe you have one general email optin form. So remind them, like, hey, like you likely signed up for our list because of X, Y, Z reasons. So you wanna remind them of why, because people are really busy. They consume content all day long. They might be like, “Oh wait, how the heck did I get here? What was the thing I downloaded from you that I wanted?” You know what I mean? So if you do have a really simple email opt-in system, maybe you can specifically call out how they joined your list, or just make a bolded list of the possibilities. And then after that, you want to remind them of the kind of content they can expect from your list.
So remind them why they joined, and then remind them of the value that you provide from your list. So they’re like, “Okay, this is why I joined, and okay, yes, I actually do want the content that you send.” And also remind them of how often you send that content.
And after that, you also wanna end the email by giving them an opportunity to unsubscribe. And this is the part that freaks people out the most because they’re like, “What?” So yeah, you wanna invite people to unsubscribe because if they don’t wanna be there, then that’s one less person you have to manually unsubscribe when this campaign’s over. And a lot of times, inviting someone to unsubscribe makes them dig their heels in and be like, “Wait, what? No.”
And so that’s email one. Email two, I like to provide a tip signature. Give them something for free, give them one of your signature freebies, give them a tip or something. Just give them something. And then email three is kind of like, “Okay, if you’ve made it to this email, you likely haven’t been opening any of my other emails, which is fine, but just know from this point out you will be manually unsubscribed from my list.”
And then I like to preface like – cuz sometimes maybe someone is on vacation, maybe they need to get to their inbox, and they just haven’t in days. Maybe they clean out their inbox a month from now and find your emails in their promotions folder or something and they’re like, “Oh wait, I did wanna be on this list.” We also want to, in that email, link an opportunity for them to rejoin your email list by linking your main opt-in form. So just in case. And then just let them know, “Hey, you’re gonna be manually unsubscribed. If you’re just seeing this email like months later, don’t fret, like here’s the opportunity to rejoin.” And then after your campaign is over, you wanna go back to that segment, look through all the people who haven’t opened your emails, and then you’re going to manually unsubscribe them.
Julia: This is so smart. The whole time you were talking, I also was thinking back to this ethical copywriting. You’re not using guilt tactics whatsoever. It’s really just expressing, here’s the value. And I think that even as business owners, there’s something to be said for us to give people freedom of choice to say, “Hey, we want you here, you’re invited, but also we’re not gonna force you to be here either.” I think that’s really important, and it comes with this sort of abundance, realizing, hey, these are people who are choosing to engage with my business, and that’s what I want for them.
Karsen: Yeah. And you can set up automations on the back end. If people are opening your emails, they get removed from that segment. So there’s different things that you can do.
Julia: Yeah. And don’t accidentally send it to the people who have been opening your emails. That would be bad.
Karsen: Yeah. They’re gonna be like, “What the heck?”
Julia: And then they might unsubscribe for different reasons. So that’s a really great way to warm up your audience.
Another thing that you talked about recently on social was warming up your audience before a launch. Can you tell me a little bit about that and why that’s important?
Karsen: Yeah. So if you’re gonna be launching to your list as a whole, let’s say you didn’t create a specific wait list, or a segment of people to launch to, and you’re just like, I’m gonna send this sales campaign to my list as a whole, it’s important to just – There’s different ways that you can warm up. You could warm up by, maybe the first two weeks before your launch, you specifically gauge and create content specific to your launch subject to send to your email list to get them interested.
Another thing that you can do, and something I like to do before I launch to my list as a whole, is I like to preface that I’m going to be sending a bunch of sales emails to them for a specific amount of time. That’s something that my clients and I practice often. So if we’re launching to a list as a whole, letting them know maybe in the first sales, it can be one or two sentences at the most, like, “Hey, I usually don’t send long sales campaigns. Thank you so much for letting me take up more space in your inbox.” Or, “I usually don’t send as many sales emails as this in this span of time. Thank you so much for allowing me to take up this space in your inbox. This campaign will be over on this date.” So giving them just a timeline, so that way, they know what to expect.
Because the thing about launching to your list as a whole, usually, I don’t recommend it. And this is why; we see a lot of unsubscribes when we launch to a list as a whole because people don’t have the opportunity to opt out. So when we’re not giving people the opportunity to opt out, their only other choice is to unsubscribe. So if we take up a moment to warm them up to preface what’s happening, they might be a little bit more understanding.
Julia: For sure. I actually subscribed to somebody’s nurture emails a few weeks ago, and they had an option in their welcome email that said, “Hey, I am gonna send you some sales emails, like a welcome series. If you wanna skip it, press this button.” Personally, I was like, “Well, now I don’t wanna skip it. I’m curious and I want to hear what she has to say.” And I think that, again, giving people consent and choice helps them want to stick around too.
Karsen: Yeah. The more autonomy we provide our subscribers and just our people in general win marketing to them, I think the more easily it is to win their hearts, because from the jump, and a welcome campaign is usually – You’re welcoming someone to your email list, and it’s an initiation campaign essentially. So you’re letting them know right off the bat, hey, I’m not here to trap you, to manipulate you, to force you into anything that you don’t wanna be a part of. And that creates a really good relationship initially.
Julia: I love it. Before we wrap up, I have a few questions for you, like some hot take questions. But before I do that, you’ve given us so many tips, do you have any others that you are like, hey, these are some rules of thumbs that I would want all business owners to know?
Karsen: Shoot! As it relates to email or just anything in general?
Julia: Email, whatever you want.
Karsen: Okay. I’ll just stick with the email topic. But I guess if there’s any tip I could give that I think would really just improve people’s email sending practices, it would be to include an opportunity for people to respond. I’m really big on improving sender reputation when it comes to email sending. Again, something that people don’t really talk about when it comes to email marketing is including activities that would improve your sender reputation, which your senter reputation is essentially like a credit score. So if I were to send you an email from Flodesk, which is what I use to Gmail, which might be your inbox service provider, Gmail’s gonna run my email sending domain through all of these queues before it allows me to land in your inbox. And the better my sender reputation is, the more likely I am to land in your inbox rather than your promotions folder, or your social tab, or something. And nothing really improves sender reputation more than responses.
Julia: I love it. Karsen, what I love about you is that you are like a copywriter who also knows all these other things. Sometimes copywriters are like, I write copy and that’s it. But you know all of these extra things to help improve all these practices.
Before we tell people how they can connect with you, I just have some hot takes from you. We’re starting this segment. Quick questions, no right or wrong answer. Karsen has not been prepped for this. Do you believe you can send too many emails?
Julia: Tell me why.
Karsen: So I think that there is definitely a good balance. And I think it depends on what kind of brand you are, if you are a eCommerce brand. We’re kind of used to H&M, or Nordstrom, or ‘enter your favorite store here’, just send maybe two emails a day to us letting them know – It’s just more acceptable because that’s how we’ve been trained. But if you were on my email list and I were to send you two emails every day, you’d probably be like, “Whoa, Karsen. This is a lot. I feel very overwhelmed by what you’re doing. You’re taking up a lot of space.” So just the way that we’ve been trained as not just marketers, but consumers in what we allow.
My good rule of thumb, and I have a lot of like service-based business owners, so I tell them maybe, if they are really overzealous, feeling confident, maybe like three emails a week. So that’s what I recommend.
Julia: Love it. You already mentioned Flodesk as what you use. Is that your favorite email sender or software?
Julia: For your clients too?
Julia: What do you like about it?
Karsen: It’s the most easy-to-use, lowest barrier to entry email marketing platform for just about any service-based business, brand, influencer, blogger, you name it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for high capacity, need a lot of robust funnels, eCommerce brands. But if you’re a personal brand or just a service-based business, I definitely think it can serve you. It just makes email marketing fun and really aesthetic, which I’m huge on, and just really simple.
And that’s what I think people need because I think you’ll rise to the level of your systems, or you’re only as good as the software you use. And I feel like if you’re not enjoying the email marketing software you’re using, you’re likely not gonna wanna go in there and create emails.
Julia: Also, it makes beautiful emails. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an ugly email from Flodesk. Last question, and this is only because you mentioned it. Are you gonna write a book? Have you written a book? ?
Karsen: I’m a never say never kind of girl. I don’t think I have a book in me right now, but I highly doubt that I’d go my whole life without maybe dabbling into that.
Julia: Plus your dad, who I have a friend crush on, predicted it. So really, it’s gotta happen.
Karsen: Yes. For sure. I have to write it. And the first page is just gonna be like “For Troy.”
Julia: I love it. I love it. Karsen, thank you for coming on. If people want to connect with you, where can they do that?
Karsen: So I hang out the most on Instagram. That’s my favorite social media platform, and it’s just my first and last name. It’s Karsen, which is with a K. K-A-R-S-E-N. And then Murray, that’s my handle. So just my first and last name. And then from there, you can definitely join my email list, hang out with me.
I always tell people, just come, get inspired. Not that I have the best emails in the world, but I am pretty good at what I do, so you can definitely come, get inspired by it. I always provide good copywriting, sales page, website, email marketing tips, I share behind the scenes of business, all that good stuff on my email list. Those are my two favorite platforms. I also have a podcast called the Just Keep Showing Up podcast. Those are my favorite platforms.
Julia: I love it. And you can find all the matcha lattes on Instagram.
Karsen: Oh, yeah. I actually just drank one.
Julia: I love it. Well, thanks Karsen. We really appreciate your time and your insights.
Karsen: You’re so welcome! Thanks for having me.
Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have, if you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be too.