S4 E23: Designing your content strategy around lifecycle marketing and retention with Fat Earth Media’s John Gross (Founder/CEO) & Rose Eppensteiner (S. Lifecycle Marketing Manager)


John Gross, Founder & CEO of Fat Earth Media, and Rose Eppensteiner, Senior Manager of Lifecycle Marketing at Fat Earth Media, join Retention Chronicles to discuss founding an agency to work with mission driven brands to help with paid media, lifecycle marketing, and marketing creative.

Making a pivot in his career from environmental sciences to marketing, John started by taking out ad space in Craigslist advertising his Google Ads consultancy. But, he didn’t just want to focus on media buying, he wanted to invest in lifecycle marketing. So, he built Fat Earth to serve mission driven brands and help with their marketing strategy.

John and Rose don’t just detail why lifecycle marketing is important, but also how it’s related to retention, and how to make lifetime value (LTV) higher than customer acquisition cost (CAC). Not only do they tell Mariah and Noah about how Shopify & Shopify Plus brands can achieve their goals year-round, but especially during the holidays.

Fat Earth Media makes sure that their clients are set up for success by creating strategic content planning to look at monthly and quarterly campaigns. Segmentation is a critical piece for Shopify/Shopify Plus brands’ success, and making sure their email and SMS sends make sense is a big step in strategy planning. To do this, all teams have to be aligned and connected.

Another area of expertise they focus on is design. An easy trap to fall into is to confuse complexity and effectiveness. A creative director may love an email, but if no one is clicking on it, it might be the best route to take. The Fat Earth Media team redesigns assets to make them better from every possible angle.

For our holiday tips portion of the podcast, the Fat Earth Media team shares that they advise their brands to assume the consumer is very smart and don’t try to trick or be inauthentic for the extra dollar. Consumers will shop with the brands they like and trust, and the brands who know and follow that will win.

Episode Timestamps:

  • Lifecycle marketing and retention with industry experts. 0:04

  • Personal lives, adventures, and remote work culture. 1:39

  • Personal updates, background of Flat Earth founder, and current focus. 7:18

  • Career change and marketing strategy. 9:22

  • Marketing strategy and Google ads. 13:55

  • Marketing agency's mission-driven approach and impact on clients. 18:26

  • Marketing career paths and agency start-up. 22:15

  • Marketing agency growth and lifecycle marketing. 27:47

  • Retention marketing strategies for existing customers. 33:35

  • Email marketing planning and design for retention. 38:44

  • DTC brand marketing strategies for the holiday season. 45:30

Did you know that 20% of your website traffic hits the order tracking experience? Turn all of that customer engagement into customer loyalty. Malomo helps you get ahead of shipping issues, brand your order tracking experience, and reconvert shoppers while they wait for their package to arrive.

To see what your custom mockup of branded order tracking and transactional email/SMS would look like, fill out this form & we’ll send your custom design right to your inbox!

Be sure to subscribe to our pod to stay up-to-date and checkout Malomo, the leading order tracking platform for Shopify brands.

Subscribe to Retention Chronicles on Apple Podcasts


This transcript was completed by an automated system, please forgive any grammatical errors.


clients, brands, work, lifecycle, marketing, rose, big, people, customers, subscription, john, started, retention, agency, company, paid, today, program, website, great


Mariah Parsons, John Gross, Noah Rahimzadeh, Rose Eppensteiner

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:04

Hey retention pros. I'm Noah Raheem today and I lead partnerships here at Malomo. I'm super pumped to continue to chat with ecosystem experts alongside Mariah, who you all already know and love, say hi, Mariah.

Mariah Parsons 00:16

Hey, everyone, as you probably know, retention Chronicles likes to bring in some of the best retention focused brands in the Shopify ecosystem.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:24

Well, we don't just feature brands, we also feature some great thought leaders in the Shopify ecosystem that serve brands.

Mariah Parsons 00:31

And because we always want these conversations to be fun, you'll hear us talk with our guests about what they're excited about and what's helped them get to where they are today.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:40

We hope you'll stick around to learn and laugh with us retention Chronicles

Mariah Parsons 00:43

is sponsored by Malomo a shipment in order tracking platform improving the post purchase experience, be sure to subscribe and check out all of our episodes at go. malomo.com.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:57

All right. Very excited to be recorded today. It's actually my birthday. I didn't say that. John and rose at the top. But yeah, recording a pod on the birthday. It's a great time. Great way to spend it. Today, we've got John rose, from a new awesome agency partner of ours fat Earth, joining us to talk all things lifecycle marketing and retention. Hopefully, we'll get into a little holiday preview as well if we have time, but really appreciate you both. Giving us an hour here and excited to dive in with you. Maybe we could just do a super quick intro. So name roll and where you're dialing in from today.

John Gross 01:39

Cool. If we get started a quick shout out so no happy birthday. You got a young man of RT Antonio Martinez. Shout out to Antonio if you're listening. Happy birthday. He's turning 28 today so we're really proud of your birthday. Yeah, it's a good birthday. I've got a shout just really recently realized I've got to share a birthday with the CEO of one of our clients from Grazia which is which is I can tell the story of how we discovered it one day it was over a lot of wine and really good food. But it was an exciting discovery when we realize that the same the same day. But anyway before I go too far. No thanks for having us. I'm John gross, founder and CEO of fatter media. I'm calling in from Austin, Texas. We're headquartered here. Handful of our employees are here we are a fully remote company and Rose, I'll hand it over to you.

Rose Eppensteiner 02:25

Happy birthday, Noah. Thanks for inviting us here today. I'm rose up and Steiner. I am the Senior Manager of lifecycle marketing at Flat Earth. And I am calling in from Cape Town South Africa today.

Noah Rahimzadeh 02:39

Wow. I think last time we talked Where are you like in Mexico or something?

Rose Eppensteiner 02:45

Yeah, I live full time in Mexico. I'm just on an adventure right now. So here on the other side of the world for a month or so.

Noah Rahimzadeh 02:55

Wow, very cool. Okay, this the next question. Appreciate the intros might lead into some of your travels rose, but keeping it personal. At the top, we always like to ask one or two things that you're excited about in your personal lives right now. Whoever wants to start?

Rose Eppensteiner 03:14

Yes, mine is very related to my location. So I am signing off in a few days to do a big hike in Tanzania. I'm going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. So that's something I'm very excited about coming up and I hope to be able to report back a successful summit and about T minus 10 to 12 days.

Noah Rahimzadeh 03:36

Oh my gosh, is that so? Is that how long it takes to do the hike 10 to 12 days.

Rose Eppensteiner 03:42

It is a seven day hike to travel there. Have a few days to live land and saddle and then we're up the mountain one week without showering so this is a very clean version of me that you are seeing that my fellow hikers will not

Noah Rahimzadeh 04:01

wow that is why will this be the biggest like you've ever done?

Rose Eppensteiner 04:05

Yes, its biggest and highest Yeah. So a big big adventure ahead of me. I'm

Noah Rahimzadeh 04:13

always also curious like when you said it's a seven day hike? Is it like their stopping points where there's like pre built things to sleep in? Or are you like you know is your to define

Rose Eppensteiner 04:26

free bill the the My understanding is that no, it's going to be very much a camping situation so we'll be intense and the leader told us do not expect to get a good night's sleep on the adventure so my expectations are set I'm like okay, I'm not gonna be sleeping well I'll be kind of in the middle of nowhere but with good company. So really what what can what can what can go wrong? Yes, Donna That's a rhetorical question.

Noah Rahimzadeh 05:03

Amazing. Well, good luck. That is super exciting. kick you out it. John, over to you.

John Gross 05:11

Yeah, I think I'm gonna leverage rose for my personal look, first of all living vicariously through here I typically do, we've got a really great remote culture. And we encourage folks to, you know, take advantage of the way that work is getting done these days and rows is a good example of somebody who works really hard, gets a lot of really great work done, runs a very high performing effective team, but also, you know, knows when to when to let loose and went to have some fun, I think it's really important. And so people are a big part of our culture. So frankly, like, getting to see her getting to see other people in our team, take advantage of these types of opportunities in a way that is healthy in a way that is structured in a way that, you know, allows us I think, to be a more sustainable business and not have a group of employees who are always on the cusp of burnout. I'm sure you know, we're not perfect, we make mistakes, but we're trying to strive for a setup in a situation that is a little bit better. And I think that's exciting. And so, you know, actually, I'm very proud to see rose go into taking this trip. And then what I'm excited about, I'm gonna get some really good sleep. Rose will be on the floor on some sticks or whatever. I've got a great great mattress that I sleep really well. So I'll be I'll be not taking those for granted. I think roses reminded me you know, to to appreciate the little things like a good night's sleep.

Noah Rahimzadeh 06:26

Very cool. Okay, those are both great ones do you want to shout out your mattress what kind of mattress you

John Gross 06:31

have made it so someone gave me some good advice one time to invest any invest well into anything that's between you and the ground. So tires, shoes, mattress, whatever I, I was going to grad school, it's kind of like a long period of time where I had like, really kind of cheap dinky mattresses that are easy to move around. And when I got married and got a house, we got a nice match. And we have a temper. They were the exact model Lux pure, ultra soft. It's like it's amazing. The one thing that's like the downside is that now when I travel like I miss my bed, it used to be the other way around, I would go oh man, this hotel is amazing. It's way better than my setup. And now it's kind of opposite. It's a kind of plays a little bit of a mental trick on you. So yeah, I love it. Love that.

Noah Rahimzadeh 07:18

That's awesome. I love that invest well in anything that you with between you and the ground. I've never heard that. But it makes a lot of sense. I feel like I'm still in the phase of life where even though I my birthday 31 today, so I'm probably too old. But I just spent a couple of nights sleeping on a buddy's couch, I can sleep anywhere. It's not up to me. But I'm sure that it's great. My bed at home is pretty nice. Right? We haven't seen you in a while either. So I'm taking it to you. What are you excited about? Um,

Mariah Parsons 07:51

I'm excited. Well, hopefully I'll get another we're just talking about sleep. I love my mattress as well. And I've been in New Jersey for the better part of the past month or so. And sleep hasn't been well, because just the more people you have, like parents getting up at 5am. I grew up in New Jersey, but live in Indy now. So I'm also excited to get better sleep where I'm not hearing majority of the household getting up at 5am. But other than that I have a wedding this weekend that I'm going to think Cleveland that I'm very excited about. It's good to be back here. No, I didn't know is your birthday either. So way to drop that podcast. But

Noah Rahimzadeh 08:32

in turn, like not a big birthday guide on we had our team meeting yesterday. And we always ask like, we always ask same question. And I said that it was my birthday. And they were like you're supposed to tell us those things like perfect pot.

Mariah Parsons 08:47

Cool. Maybe I won't send it in or I'll eat those words. I just

Noah Rahimzadeh 08:54

started to get you back in Indy. Next week after the wedding. All right. Cool. Appreciate that. The personal updates, everyone. I'd love to maybe start with John, given you're the founder of fat Earth on like your background, what made you start flat earth and what the agency initially started to focus on as well as like where you are today. Bring us up to Rose.

John Gross 09:22

Yeah, no, I mean, yeah, I can. I'm trying to figure out how long I want to talk here. Interesting background, I think, you know, I started my career in Environmental Science got out, I got recruited pretty heavily out of college. I got a Master's at the University of Georgia and environmental science and went to work for this big environmental engineering firm based out of Baton Rouge, Houston, and ultimately, how I ended up making my way to Austin was to that company. And you know, I got really deep into client services. So we were essentially, if a big oil and gas company wanted to get a permit, for example, they would come to us with this unstructured problem, hey, we want to accomplish this in this particular area. How do we Do that. And it was my job to put the project plan together, put the strategy together, and then make sure that it was all executed very well for the client. And then of course, letting the client know exactly what's going on every step of the way, making them feel comfortable and letting them really understand the bigger picture, cut to I got this opportunity, I didn't really love the job. And in some ways I was really good at kind of like the business development and the marketing side of it. And also the customer service side, I quickly realized that at our company, I didn't think anyone really understood what the company's limiting factors were. And somebody who would be talking about a lot will probably go through that would it as it relates to marketing, they quickly realized, like, what we were bad at was marketing and sales and customer service. But all these people who are technical experts who were crazy, brilliant scientists, but like, didn't have enough work to do. Right. So I quickly realized that, you know, there's a big gap there, particularly these types of industries, I didn't get the opportunity to travel, which is coincidentally holiday that Rose and I realized at that point, I wanted to get a little bit of a career change, started looking for jobs, I could take on the road with me, I was going to be traveling for about a year, I really just want to make ends meet. So I started to see these, you know, jobs for a job opening to a remote work there were there were specifically in the marketing industry, I technically had no marketing experience, I was applying to these very junior very entry level jobs. And in 2017 2016 2017, remote work wasn't as widely available as is now it's totally different. It wasn't that long ago, but it's way different. And so I couldn't get any callbacks. I couldn't figure out how, why can I not get it, you know, I had a master's degree, I consider myself a hard worker, relatively intelligent, but I couldn't get my foot in the door. So I just decided, like, Screw this, I'm going to teach myself how to do it. And so I started taking classes on Google ads, I started just absorbing everything I could actually convinced that previous company to send me to some marketing trainee. And then this may surprise, you actually started taking ads out for myself on Craigslist, saying that, hey, look, I can do your Google ads. And that snowball actually started getting some calls, sort of having some sales meetings, started laying some clients, an agency for the mind, heard what I was doing, and was like, just kind of so depressed, that I was being scrappy, and just going for it, that they offered me a job I came in, I ended up being one of the more productive, you know, account managers really just threw myself into all things marketing. And again, really realized that that agency, that gap was in strategy, customer service, hospitality, it wasn't that there weren't people on the team that didn't know Google ads, it was kind of this bigger picture thinking that more sophisticated brands really need. Right, you'd have to have great execution. But it's kind of this bigger picture thing, that he is generally missing in the market. And so I ended up working with that agency for a while, what out on my own was just kind of consulting by myself, just kind of being a freelance consultant. And then I decided one day, I really wanted to make a real go of it ended up reaching out to Rose and a couple of other people got them on part time, and we're just kind of operating this book of business. And then we got really serious before realized the company, and really, you know, started building process started building procedure. And, you know, honestly, the rest is kind of history, had a couple of really good experiences that introduced a magic spoon pretty early, we were there, their primary media buying team for their first, you know, I think 24 months, our aisle, our place cookware, and so we had a few companies early on, that really skyrocketed our growth. And so you know, formally, early on, we were really just focused on media buying. That was my expertise at the time, I'd call up through Facebook and Google. But I think even in early 2019, I just I, our thesis, my thesis was that we were going to be an at risk business, if we only focused on media buying, particularly thing that particularly for Google, iOS 14 comes around, maybe look pretty smart. But I think you know, what that caused us to do was to build and invest in additional channels, specifically, lifecycle marketing, specifically creative, and some around CRO and website, we can talk about that way. And we don't do too much of that. And so what we wanted to build was a more diversified company that could give our clients a small suite of really core expertise, to allow them to grow their business and actually own not only de risk our business, but de risk their businesses. And so everything that we do at feta, there's really, really revolves around this framework of find when you grow, you got to have you got to improve your traffic sources, how are we actually getting people to your website, you've got to understand how to get them to convert, and then you've got to hand it over to Rose and her team and let them improve the lifetime value. And so we Yeah, again, we have a few core services that really aim at fixing those three problems for our clients. And then what really separates us is that we've invested very heavily in our creative team. So whether you're improving your traffic, improving your conversion rate, or working on lifecycle Everything across that entire touchpoint or across entire funnel is very well thought out. And the creative execution against that strategy is, you know, very high end. And so for us, it's this that's really one of our you got to move on to talk about things that differentiate us. I think that's really key is the holistic approach to strategy. And the fact that like, creative is this, you know, pretty impressive wrapper on everything that we do. So right now we're kind of evenly split 30%, across paid media lifecycle and creative. And that's really comfortable for us. And it gives our clients access to like, you know, a lot of firepower across their entire marketing stack.

Noah Rahimzadeh 15:39

Wow, lots to unpack stuff.

John Gross 15:41

Sorry. Yeah. No,

Noah Rahimzadeh 15:42

I mean, given the story, I think you, you know, tied a bow on it really nicely. But holy cow, what a journey. Okay. First question. And rose, I'm gonna come to you in a second. But I want to stay on John for a couple of things real quick, environmental science, Master's degree to pay to ads. I'm curious, like, obviously, that's a big job overall. But why did you, you know, you knew that you liked marketing? Why was it paid ads that like drew the most attention from Google? I

John Gross 16:17

mean, honestly, the answer is, is very easy. At first, it was a means to an end, I saw this opportunity for I wanted to do this thing, I want to accomplish this goal, to have this experience at Google ads were a way that I could do that. It allowed me to have this flexible lifestyle. And I could wrap my head around it, it was very, at first I thought it was very technical. My environmental science background is was very technical, it had a lot of statistics, a lot of biology, a lot of chemistry, a lot of math, it's a really go from that to Google ads actually was like, relatively easy. And then again, like what the point like why I stuck with it, and why I think I had to be so good at because I realized that the keystrokes from an environmental science perspective of me running, running these massive projects for Shell, Exxon, Chevron, like, what those folks really wanted, was to feel comfortable in the approach in the progress and in the charisma, right? They weren't so worried about the nth degree of detail on what type of soil composition, that particular plot of land had. They wanted to know. Like, are we on track? Right? It's almost that simple. And I think like, once I understood the, you know, the basics of the platform, I can actually add more value than majority of my peers by going a bit upstream. Does that make Does that make sense? Yeah,

Noah Rahimzadeh 17:42

absolutely. I also think that like, you know, I mean, just using Malema as an example we we measure attribution in, you know, in through integrations, basically like we until recently, very soon, we'll have our own attribution model, which will be a huge unlock for us. But because we measure attribution, in clay, VO or in Shopify or in Google Analytics, like we can't clearly show that progress sometimes, or it's like not as easy for merchants to digest. And I think on the paid ads side, Google ads, like, there's a pretty clean dashboard that shows you what you're spending and what you're making. Right. And you can look at that daily, weekly, monthly. And so I think, would you agree that like, because it's so clear, to see that progress, you're talking clients need and want for validation? That that was part of the reason?

John Gross 18:40

Yeah, for sure. I mean, that that made it relatively easy to sell the story just to show those results. I think another big reason that I ended up getting so excited about this new opportunity was like, because of the environmental science background, I actually realized with the help of another friend and early business partner, we I can actually make a bigger impact on what I was trying to do by having a marketing agency. And so one thing I left out, that's actually probably the most important part of the whole genesis factor is like, we were set up exclusively to work with mission driven brands. And so for me, like it was this interesting, kind of closing the loop to say, I've got this background, I won't, you know, I was actually kind of unhappy with the work I was doing. Because at the end of the day, my job was actually just to keep shell and Exxon from getting in trouble. I wasn't actually making a lot of positive impact. And I realized that there was all these brands, particularly in early 2016 2017, that were starting to really adopt these mission driven for purpose approaches, right, B Corp was becoming important 1% for the planet, those types of things. And very early, we quickly aligned with a very great core set of customers who that was their entire reason for existing, whether it whether it was environmental science, whether it was you know, educating kids in historically The undervalued areas are historically under invested areas, you know. And so we worked with all manner of brands that were set out originally to do some good. And oh, by the way, how we're going to do that good is the world class digital marketing, that's always been a hypothesis is like, if you come to fat Earth and you have a mission, then we're actually not only going to help your bottom line, we're going to move this is what we say internally, we're going to elevate the baseline of consumer behavior. Because we think that if we put our time intention behind product A, instead of behind product B, we're gonna give product a better chance to win. And if that product is doing things in a better way, well, then we're actually we're doing some good, right, if a consumer decides to purchase your product, because we've, you know, properly articulated the value of the reusable packaging, or the lack of plastic, or the fact that you're donating back to school systems, then we've made a real impact. And what we've seen is that over the course of I'm not saying we've done this, but over the course of us paying attention to it, we've seen better supply chains, right? People focusing on things that are taking care of, you know, I'm just using a specific example, like the women that work at one of the clothing shops in Guatemala are one of our clients, and they're well taken care of, that only works if that particular client is selling a product. We're also seeing that venture capital firms are taking that really seriously. Consumers want brands to do things in a better way. Now, I think we're also in an interesting time period where like, there's maybe a lot of greenwashing going on, and we could do a whole podcast just on that. But you know, I think it's important for for agencies to kind of, you know, pick and choose who they want to work for, to stand for something. What's interesting for us, and I think rose can attest is like, we've ended up relating to our clients on something beyond just performance beyond just bottom line, and has created these really fantastic and amazing relationships. And I think it's been one of the key differentiators for us of why we've been able to experience you know, the level of success that we have. Awesome,

Noah Rahimzadeh 22:02

awesome love that we actually we just had eco cart on are on. Oh, cool. Yeah,

John Gross 22:08

we're chatting right now. Work with

Noah Rahimzadeh 22:10

them as well. Okay, last question for you, John. And then I want to go over to Rose. So you started, you started with the Craigslist ad thing for paid media, which is hilarious to me. And you got some clients, I imagined that they weren't the magic spoons of the world. Maybe I'm wrong. But like, how did you end up in the Shopify ecosystem? After starting with just these, like ad hoc projects on? Yeah,

John Gross 22:36

so we first of all, like, go back to the Craigslist thing, like, that's become like a, almost like a mini legend, in a way that our team is particularly coming to hire you. If someone's out there listening to everyone's job, if that Earth is gonna be a huge hint, we really, really index on people that just figure shit out, right? Like, another thing that I say all the time, the half life for media buyers, like six months? And so like that Crixus strategy would not work today. Yeah, it wouldn't, it wouldn't make any sense. And it gives him from the wrong group of people. I don't even know. I've never ever used Craig's has probably said, but the point is like, because of the nature of the work that we do, regardless of whether you're in creative lifecycle paid media, you need to be the type of person who is willing to always be at the front line of what's working, and be the type of person who's going to when you hit a roadblock, you're gonna go, Well, I'm gonna go find this answer, I'm gonna figure out a way to get through that. And I think like, that little story just kind of sums up what makes a good agency good and bad agency bad. If you're doing the things that are able to be explained, then you're six months behind, like, the majority of the work that we do that is really good. is in front of the the Twitter gurus or in front of what's happening on LinkedIn, because once it's there, it's kind of like old hat. I don't know. So anyway, that's not really what you asked me. But I think it's really important. What was the question? Well, that's

Noah Rahimzadeh 24:04

why I love where you took it. at it. Yeah, I think well, how

John Gross 24:08

do we get into shallow blocks? So yeah, so that's really like how I got my start, right? I think I got a few clients, I was working. And really what that did was got me some attention for some other agencies. And my first real job after I did the Craigslist, adventure was was with an agency, and that agency had clients that were in the Shopify ecosystem. So that's really where I got the more formal training I got out of just doing it by myself, got exposure to running clients, so that, you know, I was running seven or eight accounts, do all their media buying Facebook, Google, you know, at that time, like, we were doing a little bit, everything's a really small shop. And so I was helping brands with back end code. I was helping brands stand up Shopify websites, I was helping hire developers off of up work and places like that, you know, kind of doing a little bit of everything. And it was a good, really good marketing education. So that was essentially how that transition was was facilitated.

Noah Rahimzadeh 25:01

Got it? Okay. Yeah, I feel like if you're in, you know, paid ads, and then subsequently lifecycle marketing, you're gonna end up around, especially around that time 2017 2018. Shopify is, you know, making storm and makes a whole lot of sense. Okay, Rose, John hinted at the how you met story and I want to first ask about that. And then get to get to what made you decide to join him from whatever you were doing before that meeting, or the call, I should say,

Rose Eppensteiner 25:39

we have a pretty epic origin story, I would say that that rivals the beginning of many people's friendships. So I'll let you all decide that. But the way that we met is through travel as he alluded to, I worked for a company called Remote year which put together work and travel programs for folks who had remote jobs. John went on a remote year program with his now wife, and I interviewed them to determine if they were qualified to come on the program. So I won't tell you what those qualification metrics were. But after about, let's say, 45 seconds in the conversation, I was like, these folks are epic, they can come on this trip, they can come on this program. So you could tell it's a really very rigorous process. As John went through that, that process that he described of like, how am I going to, you know, find a remote role to ensure that I can do this program. While he was doing that, I was traveling the world with this company, eventually, him and his life made it work. And we met for the first time. Did we meet at the beginning of your program, John and Croatia? Croatia? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So a virtual friendship turned into real life friendships, starting Croatia. And actually, as I said, I'm in Cape Town. Now we also were in Cape Town together. And that was just the beginning of very epic times, adventures all over the world. And I think I also at the time, when we started that, that friendship, there must have been some telepathy connection, because I had made the decision in my mind that I was ready to move on from my adventures at remote year after about three and a half years there, but I hadn't told anyone yet. And a few days after I mentally made the decision, I get a text from John. And he was like, so are you ready to come join me at the marketing agency I'm starting. And we had previously talked about how one day would be cool to work together. And we would kind of joke about it, like knowing that maybe it was a possibility in the back of our minds. But when that happened, I was like, this is definitely this is definitely the sign and the timing. And I was like, Well, you're the first to know. But yes, thank you for the offer, I accept. My current job doesn't know it yet. Gonna let them know and give them some time to process but let's make it happen. So that was in around the summer of 2019. And towards the end of 2019, is when we officially started working together. Fun fact, I had never heard of clay VO. But John trusted me and I trusted him. And honestly, that is, I think, the most important beginning to have that that strong foundation, right. And I tell people that all the time when they kind of asked about my work history and how I've evolved from getting my degree in journalism, then becoming high school teacher than working for a travel company and now running the life cycle part of an agency. That is something I always mentioned that from the beginning, like as a person, I trusted and still do trust John, so much as a human. And that is just the only thing really that mattered to me when he was like, Do you want to come help me figure out this marketing agency thing? I was like, Yeah, I trust you. And you trust me? Because you asked me so let's do it. And yeah, I mean, I can't believe it's been this long that we've been doing it together. But as you can see, it's been an adventure from the beginning. Literally, literally

Noah Rahimzadeh 29:26

an adventure. Thank God. Yeah. Whoa, that interview?

Rose Eppensteiner 29:31

Right, have been disastrous.

Noah Rahimzadeh 29:36

Unbelievable. Okay. So I'm curious how, like, how did you end up in the lifecycle marketing role? Like was there anything in your past experience that made you feel confident and stepping into it? And I'd also love to just go on to the next sort of topic and talk about how you balance retention with lifecycle marketing and how you think about those two things. Sort of being intertwined in your, in your daily activities?

Rose Eppensteiner 30:06

Yeah. So I think at the beginning was quite natural, right, because John said his experience was more on the paid side. And at the time when when we were determining if we wanted to venture into the lifecycle side of marketing as well. We had clients that were asking about it. So we thought it would be a natural offering to make available to those existing clients and kind of dip our toe in there. So it made a little bit more sense. Really, yeah.

Noah Rahimzadeh 30:37

Just to clarify, like, what what would be a normal ask from a merchant? So you're running, you know, paid ads? And they're like, can you do lifecycle marketing? I'm sure they didn't use that they were probably like, can you help us now growth business? Like, what? What were they really asking for? Well,

John Gross 30:52

I started rose up to jump into like it actually, a lot of times we go the other way around.

Noah Rahimzadeh 30:56

Oh, interesting.

John Gross 30:57

You know, we were we were pretty assertive early on to let our clients know where we thought they were missing out on revenue, right? Think back to when we're talking about like, this was a time when media buying was relatively straightforward. You get massive row as if you had decent, creative, decent website. And people aren't really focusing on lifecycle working on it as much as they are. Now. If we were for a lot of our clients, if we were going in and saying, Look, you're actually not hitting your revenue goals now, because your cost per acquisition isn't good enough. It's because or your traffic isn't good enough it? Is that website, it is that that lifecycle marketing piece, so they wouldn't, they would ask us for help. But a lot of times we were like presenting to them, Hey, what if you took this seriously? Here are the numbers like what if we could actually improve this metric, this metric, this metric? So it was sometimes both ways, but a lot of times it was us going in and saying it same thing for creative? Like, that's why we have a creative team, I got tired of running ads for brands didn't have good creative. So we said we'll just we'll just do creative, right and in and evolving into something that's very cohesive and holistic?

Noah Rahimzadeh 32:01

Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Okay. So you kind of, but your your expertise on the paid ad side is what led you to realize like, maybe where there are gaps there, but also like how the lifecycle part can fuel right more LTV from those customers that you're paying to acquire. Yeah,

John Gross 32:23

and again, like going back to, I think you can kind of pick out from all my conversations like I don't, I'm personally I'm the type of person that wants to be a single specialist. Like, I got into this through paid media, that was my expertise, I think I was as good of a media buyers, pretty much, you know, really anybody doing it. But I also like, at all times was focused on bigger picture ideas from our brands, and sometimes like their hires for Facebook, we would double their ro eyes. But the way that we would do it was through a website improvement. In 20, in it like, that wasn't something a lot of people were, but a lot of your listeners go I was doing it 20, of course you were but a lot of brands that we were talking to more thinking about it. So it was a big unlock for a lot of our clients is to say, maybe you don't actually have a Facebook problem. Or maybe you have a Facebook problem among many. And that was a lot of our clients a big eye opening kind of statement at that time, because a lot of these DTC brands just launch off of the back of thinking that Facebook, in and of itself was a business model. And we were coming in and saying, maybe it is for you. But what if we also had a good website? And we also tripled your LTV? Right. Right.

Noah Rahimzadeh 33:35

What if what if, you know, conversions through like, clicks to conversions increased? 10%. What does that mean? Because improvements? Yeah, we talked about this exact thing a lot, which is where I wanted to go the retention to, or basically CAC to LTV, right in today's day and age, and especially around the holidays, which are coming up, brands are never going to spend more money than they ever have before on Facebook and Google and paid media overall. But I think that a lot of times brands make the mistake. And this is sort of alluding to what John just talked about, of spending so much time on the acquisition side, that retention tactics go by the wayside, and now you've spent, it doesn't matter just picking a number you spent $100 to acquire a customer and on their first purchase, they only returned 50, right? Because that's your EO D now you have to get them back for a second purchase. And if you have dropped the ball on your retention marketing tactics and you never get them back, you're just 50% CAC to LTV like it's a horrible horrible ratio with media buying costs going so, so high up now. Keywords being impossible, like it's out it's literally mission critical. Like it's an existential crisis if brands can't convert customers back to buy Again, because most brands today aren't first purchase profitable anymore. So, Rose, from your perspective, is that something you take into consideration? And sort of how do you how do you think about that?

Rose Eppensteiner 35:12

Yeah, it's something that we talk about with all of our clients. And what we think is so crucial. And so important is something that, you know, John was alluding to before is, we're not thinking about these touch points as kind of singular, one off campaigns that we're sending out, we want to be able to tell a story, we really want to be able to show value. And the way that we're going to be able to do that is, is if we have that clear story from our clients, right? And that we all have that that kind of streamlined connection, right between what is the story that we're telling, in Facebook, Instagram, tick tock ads? How are you relaying that via email and text message campaigns? Is that connected to what's going on in the website, and NPR pieces that are being sent out by the client? And having having that cohesion there is is critical for us? And this question of like, first time purchase to second time purchase that third time purchase? And what kind of that? You know, the whole customer journey looks like? I mean, that's like, what the core of lifecycle marketing is, right? Which is why we talk about life cycle marketing, and really saying, you know, that's the service that we're providing to our customers, like, how are we making a positive impact on the site, visitors, customers, subscribers, to influence their behavior, as they move through all of those touch points, we're not just thinking of a singular one, we're thinking of it as kind of this whole ecosystem, which is, you know, I think why it obviously connects to this concept of the lifecycle of the customer, the subscriber of the site visitors. So we want to make sure that we're providing, like I said, that that positive influence, to move them through the journey, and that it's not just siloed into the single touch points that are able to zoom out and see how all of that is working together on all the different channels that are that are clients are using. Yeah,

Noah Rahimzadeh 37:32

makes total sense. I think that goes back to what John was talking about, like the ethos of find when grow. And that's to be like, you know, telling a unique advantage are sort of what sets that Earth apart in your thinking is like thinking about that as a cohesive experience. And not just we're just focusing on bringing these customers into the top of funnel, you're actually thinking about like, top of funnel to subscription, signup and beyond, for example, whatever that brands main lever is for, for growing LTV over time, if you if you and feel free, either of you to jump in, but on the growth side, that's kind of where Malomo comes in. So, you know, I would say that the equivalent to that sort of retention marketing. What are the two or three levers that you suggest all of your customers or most of your customers, depending on their different sort of core businesses implement to facilitate that growth of their existing customer base? Rosalyn,

Rose Eppensteiner 38:41

I can jump in. Yeah, I can jump in here. One of the things that we talk about a lot with our clients is the importance of strategic content planning. And that can sound like a little bit general, like what is strategic content planning. So I'll get a little bit more granular here. But it is so important that we are able that we have the ability to look monthly and quarterly at what we're pushing out. Specifically, I'll talk about lifecycle channels, but we connect it across all the channels that the client has with our agency, all the services that they have with our agency, but for example, with email and SMS, specifically, we can't just be firing out campaigns at random, right? It's not going to make an impact. It's not going to tell that story or like I said earlier, have a positive impact on moving subscribers through the customer journey. We need to be able to see okay, what content themes are we pushing out this month? And how do those connect to the goals that we're trying to accomplish over the quarter and over the course of the whole year? From those content themes? What messages are we building? What channel are we pushing them on? Is it an email campaign you need to work on? revamping the automations? Is an SMS? Is that actually a push notification? Because the client has an app? And then who are we sending those messages to? Right? Like the segmentation piece of all of it is one of the most important things and something that I can talk about for hours and hours when it comes to lifecycle marketing. Another super, super important lever that we have incorporated to every part of our planning is the segmentation and making sure that that's a part of the strategy as well, of who we're talking to, and are we hitting them with the right content at the right time based on where they are in the customer journey? So we put a lot of time and energy into that monthly quarterly planning to make sure that the individual touch points have the amount of impact that are going to that is going to allow us to reach the client's goals.

Noah Rahimzadeh 40:53

Love that answer. I feel like it's a little bit unique, Mariah to anything we've heard before when it comes to like retention. So and it's it's also very tactical, right? Like merchants who are listening can start to think about that and implement some of this stuff immediately, John, where you

John Gross 41:09

know, first of all, I'm so happy to you to say that planning is the biggest lever that we have. First of all, 100% agree is what I would have said as well. The point is that that ended. That's why we call it lifecycle marketing. It's not just retention. And we have all of these individual levers that fall under that we see when we go on and behind other agencies or just brands running themselves. They tend to have relatively high levels of execution in a silo. But the customer experience across each of those individual sets of executions is really bad, because there's no planning and so like Malomo, for example, what do we want to accomplish with those particular touchpoints? If you don't understand the customer's journey, and how that touchpoint is influencing the third, fourth or fifth, you're potentially setting that customer up for a bad experience. And potentially that that experience or that, you know how you've calibrated that experience isn't actually in line with your business's objectives. I'll give you a real example. We see oftentimes, that people think that subscription is the most important thing for their business. Now, for a lot of our clients, it absolutely is. And we are, we push subscription. And we were very, very integrally involved with our clients subscription models. However, some products, in my opinion, aren't inherently subscribable. So if they're not, and if your customers are asking you based on their data to do something different than in our post purchase series on day 20 to 21, we shouldn't be trying to get them to necessarily subscribe. And so just kind of highlighting the fact that there are different time between orders that are different customer journeys, that makes sense. In a lot of times we see a good email in a decently setup flow that's just inherently wrong for the business. And I think that when we when we talk about planning, that's really what we mean. Like, if you don't have that established first, how could you possibly deliver the right emails in the right places at the right time. And I would argue, in those cases where you don't have a high degree of subscribe ability for your product, and we could talk through what that really means, then you're better off doing a replenishment series, you're better off figuring out a way to keep people engaged, have those quarterly promos. And when I say promos, they don't have to be discount based, but like there's a lot of things you can do to drive retention. That isn't just subscribe, subscribe, subscribe. Because if that's not aligned, the really great customer experience, then you're going to struggle. Now you got a brand like Draza, for example, people really want to subscribe to our goal is to make that process, you know, as frictionless as possible. And that's a whole different set of strategies. But I think I'm really happy to that that Rose said, planning. I think another big lever is design. It's another one I think people overlook, I think particularly because in the DTC space, we've, we've somehow confused complexity and design. Right? And so when I look at a website like ritual, help ritual vitamins, beautiful website, incredibly simple, incredibly effective. See other DSC websites or emails that are like they're pretty we first look at it, and then you go, what does this email want me to do? And I think that's a really core tenet that we try to bring into there. And we, we can quickly get into an account and go, you're the creative director loves the emails, but no one's clicking the buttons, no one's taking the action that we want to take. So that AB testing and that design element, I think is what probably one of the most powerful levers that you can pull. And so you know, I would just maybe you'll pay attention to that to see emails that on the face of them look really beautiful. We actually just audited for really big footwear company here in Austin. All their emails have Men's products, women's products, three or four extra little sections, and you go through it. And at first like, Oh, this is a really pretty email because they have a very strong brand. But then you're like, Well, is it actually achieving any real goal? And so I think, just like with performance marketing, just like a paid media, that balance of brand and creative functionality is incredibly important. And it's something we see that's often overlooked in in retention programs and lifecycle marketing programs.

Noah Rahimzadeh 45:30

Awesome, a lot to unpack there. And we have a couple minutes, I want to get to the holiday preview if we can, but I do want to sort of go back, John, I think what you mentioned about like subscribable brands that are products, I should say, is really interesting. Like it made me think of a play like that merchants could possibly run if they're not sure you know how valuable subscription program would be to their merchants is like, you can always test that out by running replenishment campaigns, right? And seeing what the demand for subscription looks like. Like if nobody's buying and your replenishment flows, because then you're then your timeframes probably too far off and your subscription program based on that time, that timeline that you've rolled out for replenishment program isn't going to work either, right? Like you're pretty, pretty confident that's the case. So you can tweak that replenishment flow based on customer cohorts, if you want to get even more granular and figure out like how valuable not only how valuable a subscription program would be and how much in demand it is, but also like a whole bunch of campaign tweaks that that you can identify up front before you go invest the time, a bunch of time and energy into it. Well,

John Gross 46:50

I totally agree. I think that's a really good point. We also have like a little checklist internally, that helps our clients, you can get to a lot of these answers with a little bit of common sense, right? And we could break down the different product categories. I'll use one example, pure protein bar company, and you have a package that's 31 protein bars, is my subscribe ability, or is my time between order one month, it seemingly could be but how many assumptions do we have to make to get there, it's the only snack they're eating, they're eating it every day, yada, yada, yada. So like, you start to kind of think about how many assumptions do I need to make in order to come up with this time between order, the more assumptions you have to make, the less likely that time between order is real. And so I would kind of work backwards from the actual use case of the product. And like, with subscription, one thing that we see is when I'm doing a sales audit, or going through a strategy with a new client, let's say oh, yeah, we have subscription, like Well, you do you like well, you downloaded one of the few subscription softwares and you have the widget on your EDP. But you don't have any marketing around it, you don't have a dedicated landing page, you haven't worked that into your life cycle marketing in a real way. So yes, you have the ability to be subscribed to when you don't have a subscription program. And for us, we actually see that as a massive opportunity. Because if you can get that subscription program, like from a high level aligned with how customers are actually using your product, then to facilitate that with all of the tools Malomo Klaviyo. SMS loyalty is when we haven't talked about thing, you can really move the needle because you understand how people are using your product. And I think like, again, that whole ladders back to what Rose said first, the biggest letter we see across 99 of the DTC brands we work with this strategy in planning. Yep,

Noah Rahimzadeh 48:38

yep. Awesome. Awesome, really good tactical stuff there. Okay, we're running up at time. And I do have a hard stop. And so let's let's do 2023 Holiday preview one, either like prediction or something that you think will be unique about this year, I think you both have a unique perspective, because you, you know, you start at the top of the funnel, and you work all the way through subscription program thoughts and strategies. So rose, let's start with you, and then go to John.

Rose Eppensteiner 49:11

My prediction and also my hope, just as a consumer and a marketer is that authenticity is going to win. So brands who are speaking honestly, with their consumer base, their values are really shining through and they're not using gimmicks or tricks to try to get consumers in or retain their their customers. They're going to win not only this year, but in the long term. And I think that's like the asterik I want to say like the long term, really not relying I'll double down on this not relying on kind of tricky list building techniques or trying to do these really flashy offers to to get these folks into their list or their customer base. You The the consumers that that we're speaking with are smarter than ever, like, we know and brands are trying to trick us or they're coming off as as inauthentic. So assume that consumers are smart because they are and the brands that respect that and let their authenticity find through and the way that they communicate and what they offer. Those are the brands that are gonna win. And I

Noah Rahimzadeh 50:26

feel like I love that answer, I think it goes back to what we're talking about is like the absolute necessity and driving repeat purchases, like, if you if you go do that hacky west building thing, and you get a quick bump, like, you might have just lost me. Like, if you didn't pay attention, yeah, being authentic throughout the rest of the journey, you might have just lost a ton of money for your brand, and, you know, brand equity as well. So I love that and exactly, a lot of the themes will support that answer as well, John,

John Gross 50:58

I've got a couple SMS, we saw a huge increase in 2022, with how much revenue is driven through SMS via through the holiday period, if you're out there, really focus on that, get those communications in line with what you're doing. Again, go back to planning that SMS messages have the same discount or need to be segmented to a list that's getting a particular discount. So really pay attention to the nuts and bolts there. We did a whole deck for 2022 trends and predictions, we considered everyone on LinkedIn. But you know, one thing that we see, we continue to see particular pay media and the life cycle marketing. There's a huge period between Thanksgiving into December, where people are still really, really, really primed to buy. That's where I think Malomo comes in. Obviously one of the big things for us to look out for all of our clients. What does that was that shipping cutoff date, if you can really focus in on that and make a big push right before typically it's like December and IETF. That little period of time 15th through 19th. Cost Per impressions are down. People aren't doing as much advertising people aren't promoting their their big sales. It's a really great window. And then again, after Christmas, we call it Q five a lot of people call Q five it's a nice little place to get a bump and we've seen every year that it's a pretty heavy trend. So yeah, leverage Malema get teacher customers that shipping information they need. And I think that that period of time is is incredibly important.

Noah Rahimzadeh 52:18

Well that appreciate the shout out to we made it really works. Yeah, we just did a podcast or a webinar with a couple of our partners around like the whole period post Black Friday up until January 1 and talked a lot about some of those themes, John. Love that tactic. The tactical advice there. Okay. We did it. We went right up to the hour. This was fantastic rose awesome of you to join us from South Africa and John great to finally meet you. You know, live in the on the pod as well. Always appreciate the time and excited to get this one out to the listeners.

John Gross 52:59

We appreciate it. I'll send this deck I really want to include it so your listeners can see it. Mariah Great to meet you know, thanks for having me appreciate the hospitality. Awesome.

Noah Rahimzadeh 53:07

Thanks, everyone talk. Thanks,

Rose Eppensteiner 53:08

everyone. Thank you