Budget Breakthrough: How a pricey EdTech brand closed sales with a variation of the 9-word email

Ep. 1 ft. Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers

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About this episode
How do you sell a $20,000 product to a busy school principal who’s never heard of your brand? Well, if you’re Joanna Wiebe, you take inspiration from everywhere and you weave a dazzlingly simple strategy using the famous 9-word email and a missed opportunity you spotted from another brand.

Ideas you don’t want to miss
(3:05) Why email isn’t dead (despite TikTok stats looking mighty shiny)
(6:02) How one brand’s missed opportunity inspired this email swipe
(9:45) Why this email is “not a work of copy genius” – and why that can give you a leg up over AI
(12:50) How sending to a cold list can actually be a fun challenge
(15:11) The technical Klaviyo mistake that almost tanked this email
(17:14) Whether this email would work for a B2C audience
(18:44) Jo’s favorite brand to swipe from right now (listen to her pronounce it 5 ways!)

All about our guest, Jo:
The original conversion copywriter, Joanna Wiebe is the founder of Copyhackers and co-founder of Boxcar Email Agency. Her work has driven multi-millions in revenue for the likes of BT, Glowforge, Huel, Tesco, and Wistia. Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, and Shopify trust her to train their teams and customers. And she’s a popular speaker at events like Business of Software and CXL Live. You can find her books, articles, and courses at copyhackers.com.

Links from this episode:
Take a look at the email swipe we’re talking about today
Follow Jo on ⁠Twitter/X⁠ and ⁠LinkedIn⁠
Get lost in all the the awesome content on ⁠Copyhackers⁠
Hire ⁠Boxcar⁠ to get Jo and team on your emails
Swipe ⁠Hiut’s⁠ emails like Jo does
Get Nikki’s email musings at ⁠nikkielbaz.com/subscribe

Subscribe to Email Swipes and never miss another episode.


Nikki Elbaz 0:00
Welcome to Email Swipes, where we peek behind the scenes at the emails that catch your attention and earn their place in your swipe file. Every other week we’ll talk to an email expert about an experiment they ran – and in the following episode, we’ll dive into the strategies and methods used in the email, so you can inform and inspire your own email work. I’m Nikki Elbaz, the copywriter behind winning emails for 8 and 9 figure SaaS and ecommerce brands like Shopify, Four Sigmatic, and Sprout Social. And I know that hearing the background stories to these emails will help you turn pie in the sky insights into plug and play actions. Ready to make inspiration tactical? Let’s go.

First, let’s read today’s email.

Hi, Joanna, are you still wondering how you can incorporate blank seamlessly into your existing curriculum? I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, so you can make a go no go call before the end of budgeting season. Just hit reply and send me your questions. Thanks, Melissa.

We are so honored to have on with us –

Wait, hold up. Nikki, you forgot to plug in your fancy expensive microphone. Oops. Guys, I’m really sorry that the audio is so bad on this episode. Stay with me. It’s an awesome episode. And don’t give up on the podcast because we have some amazing stories. And I managed to plug in my mic for the other episodes. Yes, go me. Okay. Okay, back to our story.

– Jo, who is my absolute number one mentor who has basically taught me absolutely everything I know and is genius and has taught basically the whole world all the copywriting knowledge that we all have that’s not skeezy an awful. So I’m really excited. And I’m sure we are going to learn a ton. So let’s go.

Joanna Wiebe 1:34
That’s a nice intro.

Nikki Elbaz 1:36
Tell us about who you are, the roles you’ve played. I mean, everyone should know who you are. But just in case, there’s a select few that don’t.

Joanna Wiebe 1:42
I actually lived across the street a couple years ago from a copywriter. And I was like, Oh, cool. Do you know, CopyHackers? And she was like, no, what are you talking about?

Nikki Elbaz 1:50
No way.

Joanna Wiebe 1:51
I know. And I was like really hopeful that? She’d be like, Oh, cool. Yeah, I got your books or something. And it was nothing. And I was like, Oh, I have a lot of work to do. You’re still evidently Okay, fine. Yeah. But I’m Jo from CopyHackers. And we’ve been around for 12 years. If you don’t know us by now. I’m sorry. Working on it! Yeah, we get to work with a lot of cool clients. We have an agency called Boxcar that focuses on email, we end up doing other things for clients in addition to it, because everybody who works in email knows your client. Once they’re happy with you. They’re like, can you do this too? And they’re like, Oh, I like you. So okay. You too. Yeah. So that’s kind of that’s kind of my jam. I’ve been doing CopyHackers for 12 years, I did other conversion consulting before that, and copywriting and all of it. And yeah, here we here we are today so much learned about email that has been dead that whole time.

Nikki Elbaz 2:47
I feel like in the past week, I’ve gotten this question of like, email just doesn’t seem to be where people hang out anymore, right? They haven’t phrased it as email is dead. But just, I don’t know, I think there’s other platforms that work better. And I’m like, well, let’s work in tandem. Let’s work with all of them. Because email works. So

Joanna Wiebe 3:05
I think the problem is nobody really gets how to use email. And like if you’re going to do TikTok, that sounds more exciting now. Because #1 there’s like this whole wild world out there of you can still be new on TikTok, and it’s not as saturated by marketers, at least you hear about email, and you think, Oh, my list isn’t big enough. Or if your list is big, oh, my list is old. And it’s not segmented. Right. So you’ve got all these, all this crap in your head. It’s like just hire a pro. It’ll be great. Send one email, make tons of money repeat.

Nikki Elbaz 3:42
That’s a good point too actually about the newness, that people are more creative with it. Whereas like with email, everyone says, Oh, we have to do email the way I see email being done. Whereas with Tik Tok, it’s like, that’s not there yet. So people can be more creative. So it resonates more with people because it’s more fun and engaging and interesting, huh…

So we have this cool email, which I feel like actually ties really well into this idea that people don’t necessarily do email in more creative, interesting ways. And we just kind of follow the script. And this one is so cool, because it has this follow up that feels so personal, and really just kind of with the person in this relationships, which is what email is so awesome for so tell me how you landed on this idea.

Joanna Wiebe 4:25
So remember, was it the seven word or the nine word email? Is that what it was called?

Nikki Elbaz 4:29
I don’t remember which one it is. But I know what you’re talking about. The

Joanna Wiebe 4:33
First name in subject line with a question mark, then the whole body of the email is: Are you still looking for x? Are you still looking for

Nikki Elbaz 4:44
I’m also counting!

Joanna Wiebe 4:45
A six word email? I thought it was seven. Maybe it’s Hi.

Nikki Elbaz 4:50
Maybe it’s the name.

Joanna Wiebe 4:53
Yeah, and it was like, Oh, wow. Like change the world for 30 seconds or something. And I’ve tried it with our clients. And I haven’t been particularly moved by the results, I think is one of those things that when it works well, you go crazy and tell everybody, but you write it more than once. So is it really a good template? If you haven’t tried it more than once, it’s probably not worth templating quite yet. But I liked the idea of it. I like the personal feel of it. I like that you can easily fake personalization, like an actual familiarity, because it’s so short, there’s not that much room to give away that it’s a template with like, first name tag in there making it sound personalized. And that’s really it. So I wanted to use that. And then there was this other thing that we had tried. So in copy school, this email that we’re talking about isn’t for copy school, of course, but in copy school. Oh, and this was actually this goes back further I saw I should be more coherent. I apologize. But I’m like thinking through the process to get there and all the different swipes along the

Speaker 2 5:58
way. It’s good to hear the process. Yeah, yeah. Gosh,

Speaker 3 6:02
there’s a group that does online and live courses, and everybody would know their name, but I forget what they’re called right now. But I clicked through another emails. And then about two hours later, I got a follow up that was like a one to one feeling email basically saying, Hey, are you still looking for X, like trying that seven word email there was was much longer than a seven word, you know, but it was doing the same kind of thing. So it was because it was clear that because I had clicked but had not purchased, they had a follow up email sent out. And in it, they didn’t have the original email that they were supposedly kind of replying to, or like making part of the conversation. And I remember thinking off amiss, like if they had just taken that, and then pasted it into this new email that was templated unclear that right? Like this is not an actual one to one situation, they could have just like, kind of goofed it, spoofed it to look like a real reply. And so kind of like felt that way to do something with it. And then I was working with this client, on a campaign to a group of educators. So principals, school board heads, like high up educators, but there would be some, like teachers and things on the list. So it’s a tough list, we had to segment etc. But yeah, so I was working with them. And because of the nature of it, it was a sales team. It wasn’t marketing. In this case, it was the sales team that’s like, we need more of these educators to book demos, we can close on a demo. But if they never get there, just like every sales team, right? I can close to me, and that’s our job. That’s what this email was doing. The first email is one of many emails that was towards the end of this, I think it was about a 14 day cadence that was being sent when school board had to apply for funding for STEM, and the product we were selling is tied to stem. So that’s why that was like the impetus for this email to go out. So we’re further along, we’ve received a few emails that showed signs of engagement by the time we get here. And now we’re at this email that’s basically like, pushing for the demo, talking a bit to them about like, what questions you might have that are kind of keeping you from Jordan from coming to the demo without saying is this keeping you from coming to the demo. And so just like kind of tackling all of that, that email goes out when they click, I think it was click, no, it was open. In this case, it was open because clicks would have been far fewer, just by the nature of how it works. There’s always ways to improve that right. But going into it it was it was not evergreen, we just had to go with the best possible option. So it was on opens the open without having booked a demo two hours later, there would be this follow up email. And the follow up email is the one that has the original email looking like it’s like part of a flow below it says things like on X date, person’s name, then you put their email address in there wrote, just like we do for real emails, like if you send an email through Outlook or Gmail, or whatever your original was threaded in there, and it has like the date the sender, and it has like the standard way of looking. So we’re trying to make it look like that. The subject line is questions question mark with two slashes, then re and the original subject line. So we’re using Read, which I’m typically not a fan of when you’re faking it. But this really was further to that last email that you actually did open. So it’s like, not a real read, but it still is like it’s our E colon belongs here. And then yeah, the email itself at this point is meant to feel a lot more personal. And that’s it. It’s not it’s not a work of copy genius. So often we think we have to really push it and like write something no one’s ever heard before. But that’s not actually how people communicate. I don’t commonly Get outstanding emails from my team or like the person who was trying to get me on to a demo. You don’t have to be poetic. You don’t have to come up with the best phrasing. Most mostly it was like, Did you time it right? Is it relevant? And are you making it easy for me to take action? And that’s all we were doing with that email, which is why it’s a swipe, and it performed in the flow, the flow performed really well. So the team, the education team, their sales team had us evergreen, it was tough when the original is based on budgeting season. And the Evergreen isn’t, but that’s a whole other thing. But yeah, they performed well, hence swipeable pool.

Speaker 2 10:38
I feel like you really hit on this whole AI conversation of, you know, are we all out of our jobs because of chat, GBT? You know this, this email could have been written by chat GBT, but it couldn’t have been strategized by it. That’s where we’re at. The human brain still has its place and its whole. And

Speaker 3 10:57
that’s often the more fun part. Right? Like, that’s a big swing that’s going to like, it could not work. Okay. But if it does work like that came from you. It was interesting, you get excited about the idea. Execution is usually just like you just knock it out. Just get it out of your head. So yeah, if you can outsource that to AI, let it be your junior copywriter. Love chat GBT when I upgraded to plus, I’ve just been in there nonstop. I’m not actually even talking right now. I’m just reading off what it’s telling.

Speaker 2 11:30
I’m really curious how you evergreen it into not focusing around budget? Did you pick a different theme? Or did you just kind of strip it of any budget talk?

Speaker 3 11:38
It’s very good question. How I did it was tell my team. Hey, can y’all ever in this? So I could find out from them? No, but I do think it came based on what I read when I reviewed it. It just came down to stripping that out and like giving other reasons why now is the time it’s nice to have, hey, you’re about to apply for funding throw on $7,000 for this machine, and here’s why. And I’ll walk you through it, etc. But there’s always things that teachers and educators have need for. There’s always some parent teacher school walkthrough. There’s the post COVID World right of like, we’re back at school better make it cool. Like there’s other things. Right. So yeah, just deep down to that. Yeah. It’s tough when you pull the offer up, though. Greenup, but change the offer.

Speaker 2 12:32
Okay, I guess we’ll figure that out somehow. Yeah, that’s annoying, especially like that friendship, urgency. It’s so fun. Pull it out is so annoying. How did you feel hitting sent? Or, you know, handing it over to the client? And seeing the results come in? What were you expecting feedback and the results to be? And how was that emotionally? Yeah, that’s

Speaker 3 12:49
a great question. So it was going to a purchased list, which is always freaky, right? Because you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you know of the brand or don’t know what the brand they didn’t ask to get this from you. You’re working so hard in the initial emails to get them to engage in some way so that you can continue sending them emails. So there’s a lot of that when it’s going to a cold list. Particularly. It’s a guest. You know, it’s that’s the fun part of our job, though. Like, I don’t know if I’ve been doing this too long. And the writing part is no longer that interesting. But the fun part is how do I get somebody a busy principal, who you just like put yourself in that principal’s office, all of the pressures, they have all of the meetings, they have to run the parents calling them? How do you get them to say I’m going to spend $7,000, at least maybe 20,000 depending on what package you go for, of real money that could be spent on textbooks or on field trips or anywhere else because they don’t have that much money? How do you get them to be intrigued enough to say, Alright, show me what you got. So that’s the part that I think is it’s the sales challenge that so I think exciting for a lot of conversion copywriters, like, I’m gonna care about this. So there’s that excitement of it. But then there’s also getting the team on board with even something as simple not your team, but like the client on board with something like here’s the map of this flow drawn out in whimsical and you present that in a meeting. And you can see like, you’ve got like, presentation here, but like the Zoom images over there, and they’re just like, staring into the camera like what what is what, what, what’s that? Why is that a diamond shape? So yeah, there’s there’s that of trying to explain how it’s going to work which they typically don’t really get until you start firing the fake version of the flow for like QA purposes, and then they start to see it live and then they understand how it’s going to work. But when it comes to like the The launch itself because you just don’t know, especially in this case, because it’s cold. I hadn’t written for the educator segment for this company before. There’s a lot of question but for me, I guess we think what like the emotion of it mostly excitement with a tiny side of fear, because I had to set it up in clay. VO Oh, my team wasn’t involved in this part of the project. It was just like a side thing for the client, not the pod that was working on everything for the client was too busy. So I was like, I’ll do it online. But then that doesn’t happen. Clay vo actually hired a clay vo consultant to just like, have a quick look over it and tell me if anything would like, possibly go wrong. And it got this stamp of approval. Of course, the second it goes live that went wrong. Oh, and people that post a move into one segment that wait wasn’t in there for the right. I don’t know. I think it was in there for a minute or something when it needed to be there for like two hours at least. So a whole bunch of people who didn’t take action within like that minute, got dumped into the wrong flow, and you’re like No, get in there and get them back into the right flow. And that was a whole thing. Technical, right. That’s why so many copywriters don’t want to implement it’s legit terrifying and scary. But ya know, that was really the emotion of it. And I was right to be scared in that case, because I messed up. Thankfully, I recovered. And again, like the flow did well, I was relieved. So I didn’t get to see sadly, how many demos came out of it. I got anecdotal discussions about how many came out of it. And there were again, you know, it was really it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. And it’s like proofs email, just through like anything that you might think about how to get people in business, in particular, any kind of business as a non consumers, get them to do something, you can sell a demo, or a $20,000 machine a person didn’t even think they wanted yesterday with email. So that’s, you know, the exciting thing that gets you through all the scary parts of hitting send and realizing you messed up

Speaker 2 17:08
and it worked even despite all the mess up. So that’s pretty cool, too. Do you think this could have worked for b2c?

Speaker 3 17:15
Can’t see why not? Right? Like it’s not doing anything that I guess. But I often think everything that works for b2b could work for b2c, and vice versa. Because like people, right, we talk about this all the time, let’s like you’re not talking to Mark, the VP of Marketing, you’re talking to Mark guy who’s trying to get results, because he wants really good bonus because he wants to feel good about growing a company like being a value. And that’s a person who is a person, not just a business person. So yeah, I think that’s the difference. I mean, when I think about all of the people I know in my network are in business, but they’re so human, like they’re so constantly human, that you have to think if it works in a business setting, it should work in a consumer setting, and vice versa. At least it’s a good hypothesis. So give it a shot. I can’t see why not. Yeah. Do you like the budget

Speaker 2 18:11
idea? The fact that they have this budget to spend that’s not their money? That’s true, or is it their money because it’s the money that they have at their fingers to hit the results that they need to hit?

Speaker 3 18:24
It’s a good question. I mean, there’s a lot to dig into. But if something works for one group, that’s at least the beginning of a hypothesis that it might work for another group you could be wrong, but don’t throw it out. It could be a great idea it could fail but most things actually fail so

Speaker 2 18:42
don’t worry about it. That’s why we test all right last question that everyone gets asked what is your favorite brand right now because I know it’s always changing to call email inspiration

Speaker 3 18:51
from pronounce it so I will read it out pronounce

Speaker 2 18:56
it all five ways and then pick which one I think sounds cute hired.

Speaker 3 19:01
He is hai ut denim co it’s out of the UK. They make their jeans they sell the denim for these jeans, but they do like this. I’ll forward it to you. So you’ve got some examples but it’s worth signing up for just to have in your swipe file I currently have in front of me one that they sent four days ago subject line introducing our new Italian salvage which is evidently of fabric or denim of some kind. I’m not saying it’s a great, a great subject line, but maybe it is it is I’m scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. There’s a lot here It walks you through the story of the den it tells you like it was made with part of a regenerative agriculture system walks you through everything from the founder then digs into like the What the Why the how all of it behind it. And by the end, you’re an educated consumer of denim. Oh, and they always give you a head is up before something launches so like coming this May so like you get on a waitlist maybe they could improve on that because once I’m sold on them I’m like let’s just I’m just wanted to make but it’s it’s pretty cool and worth checking out largely I think because it’s E commerce, clothing and clothing for E commerce is traditionally one big image. Quick little headline, quick little clever line under that CTA shop men shop women. And this is just go Go, go go talk, talk, talk talk. It’s so different. So that’s my favorite. Yeah.

Speaker 2 20:32
Thank you for sharing. And thank you, of course for coming on. It’s always awesome to talk to you, especially about email. No, it’s great talking with you. You too. Oh, thanks so much. Thank you. Thanks for joining me for email storytime. If you enjoyed today’s story, give this podcast a review. So email marketing is like you can have more fun with email. See you next week when we dig into this stories takeaways. Up next, an email swipes

Speaker 4 20:56
that ended up kind of getting scrapped just because of legal uncertainty I guess at the moment so I was having a conversation with our social media manager Daniel who said why don’t you write a love letter to our customers?

Unknown Speaker 21:09
That’s so cool. I’ve never heard of legal making something better.

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