031: The Curtain Rises on Powerful Email Marketing with Emily Ryan

C: Podcast

Broadway? More like broadband! Emily Ryan is THE Mailchimp influencer. After moving past the dream of being big on Broadway, she became an executive assistant. When having a baby led to a dread of returning to office work, she struck out on her own and made herself the champion of Mailchimp Email Marketing. Learn more about her journey and how she mentors new mothers wanting to work from home in today’s episode! 

Key Points + Topics

  • [1:37] Emily Ryan’s first career was in the theater. She grew up performing from a young age, went to a very serious musical theater school, got her BFA in theater, and moved to New York City to pursue Broadway. 
  • [2:25] Emily had done theater since she was seven years old. When she was old enough, she got to New York City, had a showcase, got an agent, and started going to auditions right away. It was HARD. A lot of people knew they were top of their class in theater school, but then you get to New York, and EVERYONE is top of the class. It turns it into a business rather than a passion. Then, you realize you have to pay New York City rent. She began waiting tables. She got very close to a lot of big roles. A lot of ‘almost’ moments. It was very challenging. Eventually, she stopped pursuing acting and got a job as an executive assistant and discovered she really loved getting a regular paycheck. And BENEFITS?! Amazing. While she now believes she might not have given theater her best shot, she knows this was her true path. 
  • [5:45] Through her many connections in the marketing world, Emily has discovered many people in marketing are former theater people. A lot from that world translates. Sometimes Emily will be giving a speech or presenting a webinar, and it will feel like performing again. You have to be creative, especially with email. Email design, like theater, is incredibly technical but also very creative. 
  • [7:45] Emily believes a mentor is a person that guides you. Simple as that. They are someone who is there for you when you need support. A mentor is someone you feel you can turn to, and they’ll give you advice because they’re likely a few years ahead of you in their career. She now mentors and is mentored by other agency owners through the Mailchimp partners program. She’s connected with people from all over the world who have given her very good advice and taught her so much. She’s always been an open book herself. She’s shared her contract template and pricing breakdown with many newcomers to the business. The more you can help others, it really comes back to you. Of course, there have been a few rare instances where it’s hurt her, but the good certainly outweighs the bad. 
  • [10:50] Emily is incredibly passionate about helping others, especially mothers, start their own businesses from their homes so they can stay home with their children. She never thought she could have a business of her own from home, making a good living. She was so unhappy with her last office job. Now she knows if you have at least basic computer skills, you can start a business from your home and make a significant income. She’s been known to send leads to new women in the marketing space and sit in on pitch calls with them if they’re nervous about starting out. There’s nothing better to her than seeing women successfully working from home and crushing it! She doesn’t necessarily approach this mentorship in a formal way with any set routines. It’s much more ad hoc. She’s happy to chat in Slack or quickly hop on a Zoom call to help walk someone through a challenge. 
  • [14:44] Why email marketing? It kind of stems from her time as an executive assistant. “Assistant” – a term that really bothered Emily for some reason. She was an executive assistant in New York for many years before having a baby with her husband and moving to Utah. She found she desperately did not want to go back into the office. She had to figure out a way to work from home. Val Gysler suggested she look into becoming a virtual assistant (VA). So she decided to give that a go, posted in a few Facebook groups and got her first VA client. It snowballed from there. The nature of the business at the time meant most of her clients were using Mailchimp for sending out marketing emails and newsletters. This led her to work on these types of projects frequently until it became the thing she was doing basically all the time. So she decided to ditch the VA title and just do Mailchimp email marketing. 
  • [18:45] Tales of Email Marketing – it’s a unique business in that your clients can vary widely in niche because email marketing is so applicable to so many verticals. One of her earlier clients, whom she has NO idea how he connected with her, made a product for pigeon control (think overwhelming pigeon populations in an industrial setting). Pigeon Birth Control ®. So she was doing email marketing for this man while also working on basic e-commerce newsletters and the like. She LOVES it, that it’s so creative and varied. 
  • [19:50] Email vs. Social Media – we’re always comparing the two. Emily LOVES social media, especially Instagram Stories. Instagram has always been a creative outlet for her as it’s so easy and quick. Email isn’t always that easy. There are a lot of technical requirements and variables; formatting has to be just right, and even then, it might not render perfectly on the thousands of different platforms. However, there have been times when a social media platform crashed, and she knows there’s no way to reach those followers again because she doesn’t own those lists. Email is definitely more stable in that you own your contact lists. There are obviously pros and cons to each, but both are equally needed.
    • HOT TIP: Make sure you export a CSV copy of your contact lists from your email marketing platform. All of them. Go do that right now. 
  • [22:35] There’s a saying (and lyric), “Video killed the radio star.” Emily knows this isn’t the case with email marketing, though it may seem like old news to some. If someone is unsure about investing in email marketing, Emily will simply ask, “Have you been in your email inbox today?” Practically everyone has. Someone once said getting into someone’s inbox is like going into their living room (unless you wind up in Spam). She is a big proponent of investing and growing your email list with quality subscribers (never buying lists). 
  • [24:05] SMS seems to be email’s next frontier; how does Emily feel about that? Firstly, she happens to have the inside scoop that SMS is coming to Mailchimp very soon. She’s tested it, and it’s effortless to use. She’s pondered if she personally buys anything from a marketing text, and she is unsure. But she certainly read them. The conversion rate for SMS marketing is TBD. There are also a lot of compliance rules to adhere to as it relates to permissions for SMS marketing. 
  • [27:45] Believe it or not, Emily is NOT a perfectionist. Westfield manages many clients, so they have serious boundaries when it comes to edits and revisions. She’s more of the mindset of “this is just an email.” So she is pretty good at putting her paintbrush down, so to speak. The average time people spend viewing an email is 9 seconds. Why are you spending a month editing and tweaking a newsletter? 
  • [29:05] If there were two things Emily would recommend everyone try in their email marketing (after exporting your lists… you DID do that already, right?), it’s A/B testing and automation. A/B testing, or multivariate testing, helps you figure out the best send time, subject lines, layout, and more for your specific subscribers. And it’s free. Automation offers so many cool ways to make your marketing easier. Both are very underutilized options that can make a big difference in your email marketing. 
  • [32:38] When Emily had a baby, it was SO hard. She was lucky enough to get three months of paid leave for maternity leave at her job in New York. But, the whole three months she spent dreading returning to the office. One day, you suddenly have to leave this three-month-old you’re obsessed with, entrust their care to someone else, and go work in an office for ten hours a day. It felt so unnatural. She would strongly encourage anyone feeling similarly to speak with their manager. Work with them collaboratively to get a system and structure in place that works for you in this new phase of life. Yes, it will be scary. But what’s the worst that can happen? They say no. That’s fine. Just know that you are never stuck when it comes to work. There is always a way to find a system and work setup that works for you (like working from home). 

Guest + Episode Links

Full Episode Transcript

Danny Gavin    00:05 

Hello everyone i’m Danny Gavin, founder of Optidge, Marketing professor and the host of the Digital Marketing Mentor today, I’m super excited to have Emily Ryan here. She’s the cofounder of Westfield Creative, a full service MailChimp email marketing agency, and she helps awesome brands send beautiful emails. He’s also sort of a Mailchimp influencer. If you’ve been following her, he’s a Mailchimp pro partner and Mailchimp certified and really everything Mailchimp. I met Emily either on Twitter or through the Mailchimp Artner community and she is just amazing, both as a mom as working with their clients and then just helping Mailchimp in general. She also has written Featured an Entrepreneur and the Mailchimp blog, and today we’re going to talk about mentorship and email marketing How are you, Emily?


Emily Ryan    01:09 

Yay, I’m great and Oh my gosh what a nice intro. The mailchimp influencer thing that is hilarious and i’ll take it i’ll be a MailChimp influencer, you know, that’s how I view you but obviously you’re more than that. But it’s cool like, I want to be a mailchimp influencer. How do I become one?


Emily Ryan    01:29 

I didn’t know that was a thing, but I will. Yes, I’m going with it.


Danny Gavin    01:34 

All right so let’s dive right in. Let’s talk about, you know, where you went to school and what you studied.


Emily Ryan    01:38 

Yeah, so interestingly enough, I was a singer and dancer in my past life. I studied musical theater. I grew up performing from a very young age and in, shockingly, a lot of people in marketing. Are like former theater people i have met so many. Like, I don’t know if you know Val Geishler she’s like this email guru she and I went to school together she was a stage manager, but I went to a very serious musical theater school and got my BFA in theater, which is crazy. And then I moved to New York City right after college to pursue, you know, I wanted to be on Broadway so that’s what I studied in school.


Danny Gavin    02:20 

How was your experience in New York? Were you able to get into Broadway?


Emily Ryan    02:24 

Yeah so I, you know, I had done theater since I was about 7 years old, got to New York and you know we had a showcase, we got agents, stuff like that, which is kind of essential you have to have an agent and started going to auditions right away. And I was like, wow, this is hard because every, you know, you go to school for it and maybe you’re in the top in your school but then you get to New York and everyone is the top from the top schools so you go into a room with 15 other girls who are incredible singers, who have Broadway credits who look like you and you’re like, well, this is this is not fun. So it really becomes a business instead of like a passion. And then you realize you’re in New York and you have to pay the rent, so you’re like, okay well, the only thing I can do is wait tables if I want to audition during the day. So I was waiting tables for a long time and I would get really close to a lot of like big Broadway roles. I almost got Mamma Mia on Broadway almost. I was down to like me and this other girls with like 7 auditions. And I went in for lame is i’m going for all these shows and it was just really hard. So I kind of gave up very quickly and got a quote real, real job with crazy enough. I became a nanny and then became an executive assistant. I don’t know how I got the job, but I started working with this hedge fund as an executive assistant and I really loved getting a paycheck it’s like, this is really fun. Like every two weeks you get a paycheck and you get benefits and like, benefits what? You know, I had been waiting tables all these years. I really left the business pretty early unfortunately, like I don’t. I think I gave it my best shot. You know, and a lot of my friends, my good friend was up for a Tony Award like on Sunday like my from my class at school she was up for a Tony Award i’m like you know I should have stuck with it longer maybe. But I believe I was. No I wasn’t. I you know, I think this was my path so I took me a long time to get to. Doing what I love right now. At 40 years old, yeah, I had to go through that journey.


Danny Gavin    04:38 

I imagine that creativity was a big part of who you are, and you couldn’t necessarily do it on a stage and singing, but you’re able to channel it in other ways, as we’re going to uncover today. I know one of the other early jobs you designed and created your own line of stationery and greeting cards.


Emily Ryan    04:56 

Look at you yes yeah so i’ve always been like this creative person. I went to a performing arts school from sixth through twelfth grade just around creative people my whole life. But yeah, when I was in New York I was just always looking for that side hustle and I’ve been very good at with computers my since I was really young. So I was like oh i can make a card and sell it and get it printed and so i went hard with that business and. I went to like the National Stationery Show and I was my cards were in a couple stores. But you know, again, that was very hard cuz paper is expensive and it’s very hard to make to make money that way.


Danny Gavin    05:40 

Blast from the past yeah.


Danny Gavin    05:42 

So, looking back at performing arts, whether it’s in high school or college and like you look where you are today, are there certain things you know inside or outside of the classroom that you feel like you picked up? That you know those skills that help you today. It’s crazy and that’s why I always say like a lot of marketing people were from theater, because I think it’s a lot from that world translates to marketing. You know, I could probably write 10 Reasons Why. My background in theater helped me as a marketer, even with stuff like this, like I sometimes I’ll do like a webinar or speaking thing and I’m like, oh, I feel like I’m performing again like i love it cuz it’s kind of like full circle i’m getting to perform a little bit. But yeah, just in terms of, you know, marketing, you have to. You know, not worry so much about what people think of you and you have to be creative i mean there’s so much creativity and marketing and I think that’s why I’ve always been drawn to it, especially with email because you know email design is just can be, it’s very technical, but it’s like theater. It’s very technical, but it’s also creative.


Danny Gavin    06:47 

I think I’m going to never look at you the same way because when I see you in Twitter, I’m going to feel like each tweet is a performance. Yes, it and honestly it probably is a little bit, right, just a little bit.


Emily Ryan    07:01 

Yeah, it definitely feels like a past life. I stopped performing when I was like you know, twenty one twenty two.


Danny Gavin    07:09 

So it’s been a long time, but what about around the house do you sing like how?


Emily Ryan    07:14 

I still, i love Broadway. And, you know, it actually took me a long time to kind of love it again, because I was. You know, it was very hard. I was very burnt out from the business. But yeah, I have, I have a piano and I will. I my first love was like sitting at the piano playing and singing. So i love to do that. Yeah, I see. I sing all the time my kids. I annoy my kids like crazy.


Danny Gavin    07:41 

I love it. All right, so let’s switch a little bit. And we’re going to get into mentorships so Emily, how would you define a mentor?


Emily Ryan    07:50 

I think it’s a person that helps guide you and helps you know it’s like a person that is there when you need the support. I don’t think my email agency and my business could be where it is without, you know, a handful of people that I’ve been able to turn to when I have questions or when I’m just like need to vent or, you know, stuck on a client situation. It is like that person that you feel comfortable that you can turn to and gives you, gives you advice is maybe a few years ahead of you.


Danny Gavin    08:22 

Yeah, it’s so essential to have someone like that, you know, as you’re building a business, let’s talk a little bit like the agency owners from the MailChimp partner community who they share advice, you know, how are they mentors to you what do you appreciate about them?


Emily Ryan    08:36 

Yeah so the MailChimp partner i’m a MailChimp partner and there is. You know, this amazing community of other MailChimp partners and experts from literally all over the entire world. I don’t even know how I’ve been able to connect with so many of these people. Many of them I’ve never met in person. But we do have the Slack community. It has been a literal game changer for my business. You know, there are several agency owners that have been doing email like years, 25 years. And they’re like, oh, Emily, you got to charge more or you can’t do that you got to do it you got to charge a late fee and like they are, everyone is just so open with advice and support. And I have found that community to be so incredibly helpful to me over the years. And I think it’s probably my favorite perk about being a MailChimp partner is having access to because it’s a very niche thing like MailChimp email marketing.


Danny Gavin    09:34 

Email agency to have these other people that are doing the same thing and that just get it, It’s very hard to find and that they’re willing to share with you, right cuz technically I mean we know that this is a big space, but still like especially when it’s so niche like MailChimp email, marketing you could imagine to be competitive and people wouldn’t want to share with you.


Emily Ryan    09:54 

So I have always been an open book like. I have shared my contract with so many other women that are just starting like, hey, here’s my template for my contract, like take it, go, you know, do whatever. I’ve shared my pricing guide. You know I had a another mail to partner this morning slack me and say hey do you have like a bunch of landing page examples that you’ve done? Because I’m like stuck on this And I sent her like, I’m like, here’s, here’s like 10 links to landing pages because the more I can help others, it really does come back. It comes back to you. That being said, like there are often those cases where you share and it can, it can come back to hurt you. And that hasn’t happened to me only a couple of times where someone like took something and you know it shouldn’t, you know, maybe shouldn’t have caught it their own. But it’s very, I find that to be very rare.


Danny Gavin    10:46 

So let’s jump into how you mentor others so you’ve already touched upon a little bit about, you know, mentoring other women that are coming up but you know, you’ve mentioned, you know, you love helping other moms being able to make money from home. Talk about that like that passion and how you actually help these women.


Emily Ryan    11:01 

I never thought I could have a business of my own from home making a good living so whenever that I see another specifically moms because I get. I get what it’s like you know you want to be home with your little baby that you just had. And that was really the reason I started my business because I had a six month old and. I was going into work my job for like 10 hours a day and I had a babysitter with my child like all day and I would get home and have an hour with my son i was like this is this is awful, this is horrible, this is not good. So when I see other moms that are like I’m so miserable in my job and I’ve been blown away with how many women are in this situation like I get so many d m ‘s on Instagram that are like. Any ideas how I can start doing like similar to what you’re doing? To the point where I’m like, should I make a course because, you know, it’s just so possible like if you have any skills on a computer, you can easily start a business from home and make substantial income. And the key is, you know, the reason I love moms is because they want it bad enough. Like if you want to have a business from home, you have to want, you have to want it bad you can’t just be like, oh, I want to try it like this side hustle. Like, you have to want to get up and make money each day. And yeah, over the years there’s been quite a handful of women who come to me and I say, you know what like, I’m happy to send you like, you know, if we get any leads that aren’t a good fit, I’ll send you, send you a lead and I can help walk you through the first steps of like, do you know, what do you send them you send a contract, you send the estimate. You know, the intro call like if you want me to sit in with you on it like I because nothing brings me more joy than seeing another woman. Be able to work from home and have flexibility. Like there’s nothing better than that. That’s why I get super passionate about it.


Danny Gavin    12:55 

No, I agree and you know, although I’m not a woman, but i don’t know if you knew, but i have a course it’s a Digital Marketing Fundamentals course. And I have a special track for women only, actually. And yeah, so i get to see a lot of women who and introduce them to the world of digital marketing so that they can do the exact same thing.


Emily Ryan    13:15 

That’s amazing yeah no, I’m. It’s something I’m actually really passionate about and I’ve really proud that I’ve helped a couple women become like MailChimp partners and like, really push them like, OK, you just need like three more accounts to connect and then you’re a partner. I just love seeing other women be able to make their own money. It’s like the best feeling.


Emily Ryan    13:33 

Are there.


Danny Gavin    13:33 

Any specific routines or strategies you utilize to help facilitate the mentoring relationship? Are there any specific routines or strategies you utilize to help facilitate the mentoring relationship like do you have any women specifically who are like you know we’re going to talk every week or is it pretty much just more ad hoc yeah So I it’s interesting. Like, do you have any women specifically who are like, you know, we’re going to talk every week or is it pretty much just more ad hoc?


Emily Ryan    13:46 

I’ve never had that like official, like you’re the mentee and I, you know, I’ve never had that. Very formal relationship, but I have had women that say, hey, would you mind mentoring me like through this? And so it it’s definitely more ad hoc for many of the women. You know, I’m like, listen, email me like i email me anytime. If you want to hop on zoom, you have a question like let’s hop on for 15 minutes so it is kind of very informal. But I love letting other women know like I’m here because so many people did that for me like I’m here if you have any questions like. And that’s the best feeling to know that someone is someone’s there if you, if you run into trouble.


Danny Gavin    14:29 

All right so let’s move into your area of expertise, email. Marketing so I know you just touched upon that the reason why you kind of switched to your own business was because of having, you know, your children. And I know you’ve done a decent amount of work as an executive assistant. Why specifically led you to make the transition to email marketing in particular?


Emily Ryan    14:48 

Yes, So you know, I’ve been working these. More corporate jobs in New York for many years most of them were assistant type jobs which really bothered me having that title assistant. Like at one point in my in my last year in New York, I finally said to my boss, can I just like have any other title Besides I was program assistant, executive assistant, you know personal assistant i’m like can I not assist anymore. So I was like I became program manager. But yeah, so I had done that for many years. And then finally we left New York. After we had the baby and moved out West and I did not want to go back to an office job, you know, we were living in this mountain town in Lake Tahoe. I was like, I can’t imagine having to go. With now we have this, you know, almost one year old baby. I have to find a way to work from home. I have to figure it out. And I was still working for my company in New York. And then actually, Val, Val Geisler, who? Who’s another email person she said to me, Why don’t you look into being a virtual assistant? I was like, what is that like, this was in 2015 i was like, what is this? And of course, it was an assistant thing. I was like, okay, I think i could easily do this, you know, be an assistant from home. And so I was like, I have to figure this out so that I never have to go into an office ever again. Like, I’m going to throw my work, my work clothes, my trousers i’m going to throw them out the window so I never have to do it. So I posted in some group in Facebook, some business group i was like, hey, like. I’m a virtual assistant and I can help you with this and this. And I got my first client from that Facebook post in some group. And from there, like, it kind of started snowballing like she referred me to someone else and someone else. And all these clients that I was being a virtual assistant for, they all were doing MailChimp emails, MailChimp newsletters. You know, I had a graphic designer, I had a nonprofit. So I ended up always working on mail these MailChimp newsletters and I was sort of familiar with MailChimp. From my company in New York and I was like, oh, this is interesting, like everyone’s using MailChimp. So I started focusing more on that and my clients actually would turn to me for just MailChimp work. So slowly over time I said okay, we’re dropping the assistant we are doing. We’re doing email And I became obsessed with email and I started like learning everything I could and I would like stay up late, like listening to. You know, podcasts and reading articles and just learning everything i could and like, i would study my inbox like, and I still do i like, you know, ooh who’s, who’s using which emoji and like i literally would study my inbox. And I started posting a lot on social about email and that’s when the MailChimp partner community kind of reached out to me because they had seen an Instagram post. After that, it just, it was history i was like, once I became a partner, it kind of took off. And which is crazy. So that’s your really long answer to that question.


Danny Gavin    17:49 

I love that story it’s a journey and it’s so true. And think about it, you had the guts to go into that Facebook group and just randomly post, I’m AVA not even sure exactly what that was and it literally like change your trajectory. So cool.


Emily Ryan    18:02 

Yeah, I had well I had made a little website and so my strategy was I was going to post about hey can you guys check out my website and let me know any feedback like it’s a virtual assistant. And so people went to the website and then they’re like, oh, I actually need help. And I didn’t even have a contract, like contract template then I was like, I need to like, I’m going to figure this out real quick. So I had to get like an accounting program and. But it was so easy. Like, it was just so easy to start like once you got that first client, I was like, okay, This is kind of amazing. I mean, I wasn’t charging very much in the beginning at all but it’s like this is crazy because I’m kind of doing what I’m like. What I know and what I’m good at and like people are paying me like this is crazy.


Danny Gavin    18:46 

Do you have any particularly fun or interesting email marketing stories from before you were officially the email marketer that perhaps helped give you that spark to make it your focus?


Emily Ryan    18:55 

So one of my early clients, and I don’t know how this guy found me, but he made a product for pigeon control like you know like birds that are getting out of hand for your. Like, say you have an industrial thing and pigeons are getting inside that. Whatever he made, it was called pigeon birth control. And I’m not kidding you. I was doing emails for this guy and I was like, what in the world this is crazy, but also kind of amazing that like here I am like one minute I’m building an email for say, an ecommerce, you know? Beverage Company And then a pigeon birth control product and a hardware store and a coffee shop and it’s like, I love that it’s so creative because it’s such a wide range. Email serves every single business.


Danny Gavin    19:47 

So you do a lot of work in email marketing obviously, but you also work plenty on social media. What do you wish each had that the other does? So for example, what do you wish email marketing had that Social does? And what do you think social had that email? Does and it’s a kind of an insightful question, but would love to hear your perspective.


Emily Ryan    20:06 

That is interesting and an interesting way to turn it because we’re always comparing the two and we’re always saying okay, well, emails more important because you own your list and social, you don’t own your list. So we’re always comparing the two. I love social media i love Instagram it is for me and Instagram Stories specifically has always been a very creative, like a creative outlet. It’s easy, like I can pop on my phone, post some crazy photo, put some filters on it and it’s just so easy and quick. And an email is not always that easy like you have to log in, you have to, you know, really format your images and size things correctly and like, it’s email is just so much more technical. An email can render i keep forgetting the number, but like thousands of different ways in different inboxes. And it makes it very hard. Like you’ll create this gorgeous email and it won’t look right in Outlook. Whereas social, it’s just like okay i just thought of something i want to tweet, tweet, send and you’re done, you know? But then again, social. You know, I’ve had a few instances where Instagram went down and I’m like okay. If Instagram went down or left tomorrow, I would never be able to reach any of those people ever again i don’t have these people’s emails on that follow me on Instagram. I mean, my friends, I do, but i don’t have any of these people’s emails. I could never reach them again. So I think there are definite pros and cons and they’re both so needed in marketing. I mean, I think they’re both equally needed.


Danny Gavin    21:41 

I think people underestimate how reliant we are on platforms that could just disappear in a moment. You know, we’re going through that now with Google Analytics and Google Analytics for. And old data, you know, and you know, obviously there’s the old situation where Facebook where to, you know, push your messages out to people didn’t cost anything so but I think we get stuck, right it’s like, ooh, this beautiful platform and it’s all shiny and great, but then we don’t realize that we don’t own it so I think that’s like you said, one of the huge values when it comes to email marketing.


Emily Ryan    22:12 

But that being said, if MailChimp, if the server goes down, which it does from time to time, make sure you export a copy of your list so many people don’t have a copy i’m like go in today to your list, all of your lists if you have several. And please export the CSV and have a copy of your of your list it is worth so much money so yeah, go do that.


Danny Gavin    22:33 

Often it can feel like the video killed the radio star. How do you convince people there’s still so much value in email marketing and building a mailing list?


Emily Ryan    22:40 

What I say is like, have you been in your email? Today have you been in Gmail? Yes, you’re. I guarantee most of us are have our Gmail tab, have open or have our, you know, or check our email every single day. I think there’s this great analogy someone said about, you know, going in to someone’s inboxes like going into their living room it’s like a personal, personal place that you’re you get to go into. So that is super powerful as long as you don’t end up in spam. So, you know, it’s it is mind blowing what you can do with a great email. List and I’ve heard so many entrepreneurs, you know these super successful women that are, you know, making so much money and they all say it’s my email list that has made me the most money, that has sold my courses. So i am a big fan of investing and growing your list with you know, quality subscribers and not never buying, never buying emails, but really investing, you know doing something every week that could grow your list. You know there are 100 ways that you could go and work on doing that just this week another MailChimp partner had me write a guest post Simon Harper on his email and he said I got some new subscribers and I got some new subscribers from him and so that was like a cool way to kind of work on a slow way of growing your list but it works.


Danny Gavin    24:05 

So with that, like emotional or like deep touch like you said going to someone’s living room. How do you feel about SMS? I know that MailChimp doesn’t necessarily have an SMS feature right now, but there’s a lot of platforms out there that are adding it or have it. Are you incorporating at all with your clients or thinking about that?


Emily Ryan    24:20 

So the exciting news is that SMS is coming to MailChimp very soon and it’s going to be amazing. I have actually tested it out and it’s really good and it’s just so easy, so it’ll be cool. You know, with SMS i say okay do I personally never buy anything When I get a text I definitely look at them. I definitely, you know, I i’m on Chipotle’s SMS and they’ll send some coupons and i definitely look at them. I don’t know much about how SMS converts, but I would say it can definitely work. And it’s a channel that I think many businesses are looking into and there’s a lot of stuff that goes along with it, like, you know, there’s some serious compliance stuff like you really have to get people to opt in to SMS. Like they have to opt in and you want to be really careful how many texts you’re sending. You know, you only want to send like three or four a month i hear not many. You know, we’re on our phones just like we’re on our emails. I would think it would have to be effective.


Danny Gavin    25:20 

But it sounds like you are going to dabble in it a little bit.


Emily Ryan    25:23 

I have a few clients doing SMS, not with MailChimp, but I do have a few clients doing it. I don’t run the SMS, but yeah, I mean i think it has to be a channel that brings in some revenue from many clients, especially like ecommerce.


Danny Gavin    25:36 

Yeah, and I think the cool part about adding it to the platform is that at least you can get the data in one spot, right?


Emily Ryan    25:41 

If you do like a welcome series, you could have your email welcome series your, sms welcome series kind of in one spot and just get a better overall picture from a marketer standpoint like the times I’ve done SMS it’s so easy. Like you are literally creating a short text and putting a link. It’s easy so if that’s a service that we can all add and charge good money for, and it’s really easy, then I’m all for it.


Danny Gavin    26:07 

And because you’re kind of a Twitter queen, it’s very easy for you because you know how to do it in short spaces.


Emily Ryan    26:12 

Literally a tweet. Sms is literally a tweet exactly so.


Danny Gavin    26:16 

Being that you’re the creative at Westfield, have there been any particular fun, funny, cute graphics that you’ve helped with over the years that you can remember doing email i feel like so much of email is graphic, design you know, obviously there are plain text emails, but I would say 95 % of the emails we do are HTML graphic emails. So our we use Canva. I mean, my sister uses Adobe for a lot, but we also use Canva a ton and you know, we do a lot of gifts now, like a lot of animated images, which are super fun. One fun one we just did was for a kids tennis Academy and she’s like, oh, can we incorporate like a tennis ball somewhere? So we did this really awesome gift where the ball like instead of a divider line, the ball just kind of bounces up across the divider. And it’s actually a really long gift that we had to create from scratch but really fun. That was really fun and then we also did one of our clients was Orange Gina, the like sparkling beverage brand, really cool client. But we did some really beautiful like bubbly graphics like we had a girl in a like an inner tube for summer like drinking and she was like it was like turning and that was like created not in Canva, that was like created from scratch by my by my sister. I think on our website too there’s a like example section and I think some of those are up there. Cool well we’ll definitely drop a link in the show notes. Much like any artist, it can be very easy not to know when to put the paint brush down and stop making changes. How do you know when to stop adding or tweaking visual elements and more in an email.


Emily Ryan    27:51 

We manage quite a few clients so we actually have very serious boundaries like OK you’re allowed to round supervisions simply because we don’t have the time to keep making a million changes. I am actually not a perfectionist. I’m like all right this is good and this is good enough. It’s I am under the philosophy of this is just an email honestly if it tests great. If it looks great if it you know if I want people to click on a button like it’s just an email So I’m pretty good about putting my putting my paintbrush down. I think there are times when you just have to step back and say hey this is literally an email why are we spending a month on this newsletter like this is ridiculous. I think the average is 9 seconds, 9 seconds reading an email. That’s the average you got to know people aren’t spending an hour scrolling through your newsletter reading every single little thing so.


Danny Gavin    28:47 

Yeah, i worked some back in the day, some big corporations and literally like that email. It went through like 5 revision, you know, five different people approving.


Emily Ryan    28:56 

It was just when he thought about it was just crazy like, Oh my God, yeah, I can’t i’m like this we’re just changing to change and I hate that.


Danny Gavin    29:05 

Is there a particular targeting, timing or strategic email marketing feature that you think tends to be undervalued or underrated?


Emily Ryan    29:11 

You know there are so many underrated features a B testing, I think it’s one of them i’m always blown away that people aren’t a b testing their emails. That’s free to do. Let’s figure out what your people want like, let’s test send times for the next month if you can figure out what the best send time is, or the best subject line subject lines are a b testing is super powerful. Or even testing content you know, testing 2 emails, one with a red button and one with a blue button and seeing if people click more on the red button, it’s fascinating. It’s so fascinating. So a b testing is 1 and I think you know, automations are another. Like, why aren’t you automated? There are so many ways you could automate your email automate, your. Business why aren’t we doing this why don’t you have a 10 email welcome series set up so that you don’t have to email people for two months once they join? There are just so many cool ways that you can make your marketing so much easier.


Danny Gavin    30:09 

Yeah, and it’s weird that those features, they’re so readily available, but no one does it and i don’t know if it’s laziness or maybe they feel like what’s the point. But you’re right like, it doesn’t hurt and if you take advantage, there’s huge gains that can be got.


Emily Ryan    30:23 

Yeah and I think most people, they don’t know how to use them or they’re just like, oh, I don’t know what that is so I don’t need to use that. If I saw the word AB testing or multivariate testing and I was new to marketing, why would I go there?


Danny Gavin    30:39 

Yeah, I’m gonna stay away from it with a 6 foot pole.


Emily Ryan    30:41 

Yeah, totally.


Danny Gavin    30:43 

So you work remotely with your sister? And you know, I’ve seen family businesses so how did the let’s start a business together conversation first happen who initiated it?


Emily Ryan    30:52 

So I’m outside of Chicago and she’s based out in Lake Tahoe in California. You know, I had been a virtual assistant for all these years, and I started an email. Agency and then i, think you know, she had been working from home for a while and I think I had asked her to help me on something and I was like, oh, my gosh, like, this is so great. And then she helped me some more and I’m like, you know, we could do this together. We could like, we could really do this. And so she was all in because she was like, oh, this is good money and I’ve been at home for several years. And what’s really cool is that Elizabeth, she worked in Seattle for like 15 years during the whole like.com boom and she has a background in IT so she’s like the Super technical, I mean literally can do anything like she used to build websites, whereas I’m like the more creative one. And so it just was this natural amazing, like it just worked so well we have been able to make it work and we just sit on Slack most of the days chatting and she does not like to be seen she’s like very we’re opposites she’s very introverted and so she’s OK being like, I just want to sit here and make emails and you can do all the talking like, so it just it just works. And so I’m grateful, super grateful for that.


Danny Gavin    32:11 

I mean, you sound very blessed, right because it’s your sister, so it’s kind of like your friend, but then you’re able to work together.


Emily Ryan    32:16 

It’s so lovely having a person that you can that is reliable and that you can trust. I mean it’s priceless like, I’m like, you can never leave Elizabeth because it’s just so nice, because I know the work is going to get done i know what’s going to be good. I never have to worry about her showing up like it’s pretty amazing.


Danny Gavin    32:36 

So earlier in our conversation, you spoke about the difficult transition back to work after having a baby, and I know you’ve written about it as well. What do you wish you would have known then and is there anything that you would tell a new mom or dad or about to be mom to prepare for that transition?


Emily Ryan    32:51 

Yeah, it is. It’s just so hard. And I was very lucky in New York that I got three months paid, paid 3 months leave, which I thought was just a dream. And so that three months I was like, this is amazing but the whole 3 months I was dreading going back to work because now you have this little baby and you know you’re obsessed with your new child. And then one day you just have to leave and go work for 10 hours a day in the office and leave your child, your three month old baby, with someone. It felt so unnatural to me. It was just really difficult and eat my company even let me kind of slowly face back in like I was working from home on Fridays and then eventually I went back on Fridays so that was incredible. But what I would say is to speak with your manager or your boss about it. I actually sat down with my manager i said I’m having a really hard time like can we face, can I face back in slowly and can I leave? Is it okay that I have to leave at five on the dot Like I felt guilty because you know how people stay in the office just to like just to show you’re staying till five thirty. I had to leave at five oh one or five o’clock to get back to let the babysitter go home so I didn’t have to pay for another hour to really speak to your manager and say hey, like I’m struggling here i’m happy to be back but like can you help me do this can you help me do that? And then eventually I went to my manager and said I asked to work remotely, which was so scary. But I was like, hey, it’s you know, what’s the worst that can happen? They can say no. So I went to them i actually made a written up, like plan of how it would benefit them for me to work remotely. Like I would be happier. I would probably produce quicker work like you wouldn’t have any overhead of me being in the office, like providing lunch or whatever it is. So I went to them with this written plan, I think the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life and they were like they said yes and so with the caveats of that, I would have probably like six months to do that and then they may have to phase me out, phase out my role. I was like okay and that six months actually turned to nine months, which was great. And during that nine months is when I built my business. So if you are miserable and unhappy, just know that there is a solution. You are never stuck. You are never stuck in your job. There is always a way out. There is always you know a way you can work from home if you want and you have to take that risk of like asking, asking for it.


Danny Gavin    35:23 

Do you think that in the world of 2023 if you had the baby and remote work was a possibility right away and it was encouraged? Do you think your path would have been different like you would have stayed?


Emily Ryan    35:35 

Probably honestly, I just wanted to work from home. Like that’s all it was about for me. I wanted to find a way to make money from my house so I could be around my child. And what’s funny is it’s so hard with children now, but that many days now I’m like, man, if I could be in the office, man, I can just like, maybe I should get my own office out of here. There are many days when I’m like, this is not glamorous at all, as you probably know. But yeah, no, I just wanted to be at home. And I and it was so like not an option back in 2015 like no one in my company worked from home at all.


Danny Gavin    36:15 

It’s so crazy to think about it.


Emily Ryan    36:16 

Yeah, it is and that’s this is how it should be. Or it should at least be flexible like if you need a day or two at home then you should be able to.


Danny Gavin    36:24 

Yeah, I mean, I’ve been seeing so many more posts on LinkedIn about people who are so strict about only having people in the office, how they’re losing out on so much talent because it’s just so it’s going to be it’s just be so fascinating to watch what happens in the next couple years. You know, it’s really going to be like this pull and push.


Emily Ryan    36:41 

It’s really interesting and even seeing like my husband’s job, how it changed since COVID, he worked from home, like all through COVID and now he works from home on Fridays. And it’s just interesting how companies have changed.


Danny Gavin    36:55 

So, Emily, it’s time for our lightning round.


Emily Ryan    36:57 

I would love to.


Danny Gavin    36:59 

I know that you are a avid traveler, so would love to know the top three or five fun trips that you would recommend.


Emily Ryan    37:07 

Driving across the US was one of my favorite. You know, you would think it would be like going somewhere exotic, but that was the coolest trip. It was like a three-week trip and we drove like down through the Texas, Texas route, Route 66 If you have never driven across the US do it because it is so amazing to see the landscape change like from Texas to Colorado to Utah. It that was my favorite trip iceland. It was one of my favorites. We did like a stop over there on the way to Europe once and Oh my gosh, first of all, it’s pretty easy to get to if you’re on the East Coast. It was just gorgeous like i the light, the way the sun hits there, I feel like it’s just different. It’s it is really beautiful. And then what else is my favorite? My husband and I, we love the Bahamas. So we we’ve been, we got married in the Bahamas, but we’ve been to a lot of the outer islands of the Bahamas so the exumas, it’s one of my favorite places. It is the most beautiful place and it’s a 30 minute flight from Miami so it’s like the cool it, you know, it feels like you’re going to like the Bora Bora, but it’s like off Florida. The Exumas and all those outer islands are awesome.


Danny Gavin    38:22 

Yeah, it’s funny because and I recently had a conversation, I think it was with my mom about like, hey, for my fortieth, birthday i really want to go to the Maldives or Maldives i’m not sure you pronounce it, but it’s like, why do you need to do that there’s actually a lot of really nice places in the Bahamas yeah no well, that’s on my list so i get it. You should do it. Make it happen.


Danny Gavin    38:39 

Yeah, we’re working on it. So Emily, before we wrap up. What are you currently working on what’s your next big project?


Emily Ryan    38:45 

I’m always looking to find ways to, you know create a product or something that is not client work which has been really challenging for me i don’t have a course, you know, cuz I have a trouble finding the time when I’m not doing client work to build these other things. My dream and i actually haven’t told anyone this so you get the get the news first but I am trying to build a MailChimp membership community for MailChimp users that will consist of you know having office hours with me like twice a week because I get a lot of emails of people that send me like just a random hey quick question usually a tech like tech support based type question with a membership you’ll get you know tons of resources videos but you’ll also get come with me, pop in anytime ask your questions. It’s much cheaper than booking a strategy session with me and i’m yours like throughout the month. So i’m working on building this membership, which I’m so excited about. You know, a course was really felt really daunting to me, but this feels a lot easier for me to build.


Danny Gavin    39:51 

I think both of those course or membership community are amazingly natural fits for you, so I’m really excited and can’t wait to see that come out. So where can listeners learn more about you and your business?


Emily Ryan    40:02 

I think one of the first places is Instagram, which I’m on almost every day. And I’m Emily Ryan likes, like, likes your photo emily Ryan likes on Instagram. I’m also on Twitter, Emily Ryan tweets. You know, you can learn a lot about me by my email, which comes out every Sunday. Emily emails dot com slash get. My business is Westfield Creative, our email, agency and our websites, Westfield Dash Creative.


Danny Gavin    40:29 

Wonderful well, Emily, thank you so much for being a guest on the Digital Marketing Mentor. Thank you listeners, for tuning into the digital Marketing Mentor we’ll speak with you next time. Thank you.


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