Welcome to another episode of 3-Minute Marketing, where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into three-minute blocks of genius for your listening pleasure.
Today’s guest is Eric Carlson, Co-Founder and CEO of SweatPants Agency, a growth marketing firm that does paid media, CRO, email, and copywriting for subscription and e-commerce businesses. Eric is a good friend of mine and an expert marketer.
Whether it’s Facebook Ads, TikTok, YouTube, or any other platform, Eric always seems to have the answers. So my question for him is, “What are the 5 traits of a highly skilled and unstoppable marketer?”.
- Think of marketing and sales in terms of conventional and unconventional thinking. Conventional thinking lowers your risk and involves looking at what other players in the industry are doing (how their websites are set up, how their ads look, etc.). Unconventional thinking is what actually gives you an alpha.
- In marketing, there are a lot of things that are unconventional but actually work, such as adding steps and micro-commitments.
- There are a lot of people who conventionally think sales is about manipulating people or getting the deal done, but the truth is that it’s about finding the right fit and being authentic. If you’re authentic in sales, you’re going to close more.
- You have to make a decision regarding conventional or unconventional thinking based on where you are in terms of risk tolerance.
- Your best sales emails could be the ones that get the highest unsubscribe rate. The 2008 Obama campaign had a goal of a certain unsubscribe rate.
- The goal of double opt-ins is to increase email engagement and manage your reputation, but there are other ways to increase engagement upfront and get rid of the people who aren’t engaging. Double opt-ins could mean throwing away leads because users have to go to their inbox and verify that they want the email.
– [Narrator] You’re listening to Three Minute Marketing, where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into actionable bite size insights. Now here’s your host, Chris Mechanic.
– [Chris] Hey, what’s up, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Three Minute Marketing. Today’s guest is Eric Carlson, who’s Co-founder and CEO at Sweat Pants Agency, which is a growth marketing firm that does paid media, CRO, email copywriting, mostly for subscription and ecommerce businesses, but Eric’s a good friend of mine in real life. I’ve known him for many years and he’s just one of these marketers that’s unstoppable. He’s a expert in when it comes to Facebook ads, TikTok and YouTube but he is one of these people that no matter what the platform is and no matter what the scenario is or the circumstance he always just seems to know. He always just seems to have the answer. He is just absolutely unstoppable piece of savage. Welcome to the show today Eric. My question for you is what makes an unstoppable marketer? What is it that you, that you do, or how is it that you think that just makes you such a badass?
– [Eric] I think of marketing and sales in terms of conventional thinking and unconventional thinking. So if you look at the conventional thinking, it’s going to lower your risk. That’s where you look at what other players are doing. Whether it’s the way that their websites are set up or the way that their ads look. You can go ahead and model those things and lower your risk. Right? And then I think of the unconventional thinking. The unconventional thinking is the thing that actually gives you an alpha. Right? So, in marketing there’s a lot of things that are unconventional to actually work. Things like adding steps. Things like adding micro-commitments. Things in sales for example. A lot of people conventionally think that sales is about manipulating people or getting the deal done. And the truth is, is that sales is about finding the right fit. And it’s about being authentic. Candidly, if you’re authentic in sales, you’re going to close more. So when I think of marketing, I try to think of it from the conventional unconventional thinking. And you got to make a decision based on where you are in terms of risk tolerance.
– [Chris] Yeah. So what are some other examples of unconventional stuff?
– [Eric] So many. So in terms of unconventional, there’s a lot of things that people don’t really think about that actually give you an outfit. A great example of this is let’s talk about like email. Every time that I talk to somebody that claims to be an email expert, all the time they say we got to get the unsubscribed rate is below this certain point. And while that sounds terrific and honestly, for reputation reasons, sometimes you have to get it below a certain threshold. A lot of times your best sales emails are the ones that actually get the highest unsubscribed rate. So we’ve done a correlation analysis on this and we see this time and time again. Even the Obama campaign, when they were running in 2018, they actually had a goal of a certain unsubscribed rate. So like I think about it and I just hear people all the time talk about things that they’re saying are conventional. Heck double opt-ins on freaking email. I mean a double opt-in your whole goal with that is basically to increase your engagement and have a higher quality engagement with your user, as well as manage your reputation. Well, there’s other ways to do that. Double opt-ins are horrible. And the truth is, is that you can go ahead and build a sunset series. You can do a lot of different things to increase engagement upfront, but also get rid of the people that aren’t engaging while not throwing away a lead, because they have to go to their inbox and verify that they want the email.
– [Chris] You just blew my mind man. We’re just around at time right now, this was a super useful and interesting concept. This idea may be blending some conventional with some unconventional. I’m curious to hear more about how you think about that. If you’re enjoying this conversation with Eric Carlson the men himself stick around. You’ll probably see a link to some bonus footage where we’ll continue talking for a few minutes or if you’re on the website watching this, it will probably start in just a few seconds here. Eric, tell everybody real quick how they can learn more about you, Sweat Pants Agency and maybe some of your other unconventional strategies.
– [Eric] Yeah. So, I mean, you can always see me talking trash on Twitter and that’s going to come Eric Carlson and also you can visit us at sweatpantsagency.com. We’re really good at eCom. If you’re looking for B2B, they should be talking to you.
– [Chris] Thank you for that.
– [Eric] But yeah, I mean, that’s where they can find me.
– [Chris] Yep, eCom among many other things. Eric is a man of many talents. Super grateful to you for spending some time here with us. Stick around. We’re going to keep talking. Drop a like a comment or share with your friends if you’re liking it.
– [Chris] So on your topic of unconventional thinking, I’m curious when you approach a new client or a new project, do you are you thinking, “hey what’s the ratio?” Do you think like a portfolio manager? Like what’s the ratio of conventional SaaS stuff that will probably work versus unconventional?
– [Eric] So a lot of times we’ll start with the conventional thinking because it lowers risk and it builds better baseline. So if somebody has brand new brand, for example, as an example, we could talk about somebody that already has a brand too. But if they’re a brand new brand, the way that I approach it is a lot of times I’ll look at what’s out there in the market and who’s advertising. Right? So what I like to do, let’s say you’re eCom brand. I would look for people that are in the same space as you, that are advertising. And there’s tools to see people that are advertising. Whether it’s the Facebook ads tools or you can look at like Bigspy and see how long somebody’s been advertising. A bonus to this is that you can find somebody that’s advertising in Bootstrap, absolutely amazing. And a way to do that too, is, you can go to Crunch base and see who’s just raising money and who’s not, right. And so if you can find the Bootstrap ones that are advertising to going for a while, you can look for the patterns across the board, right. You can say, okay these are the ad styles that they’re doing. These are the formulas that they’re doing in their ads. As well as let’s say on the homepage of the commerce brand. They have a certain type of image in the hero banner, maybe a flat lay, maybe it’s people. Then you might see that every one of them has a credibility batch in terms of like press and all this. And you can dive into these patterns and you’re basically looking like, okay, do all three of these have this do two of these have it? And there’s so many examples and you basically use that as a shortcut to your success. Right. Cause upfront what we’re really trying to do is get baseline that we can then beat. Right. And in terms of the unconventional, I mean, that’s as soon as you have that base, that’s going to basically pay for profitability. Pay for agency. Pay for ads. Pay for all those things. And then you have the ability to go and do something crazy. Or even if you’re close, it might be time to do something crazy, right. I think some of the best marketers have a little bit of nuts in them. And so like there’s so many examples of that. We talked a little bit about extending like funnels. Like with hunter killer, we added this quiz that everybody’s like, why would you add a quiz to this? Well, this quiz that people go through gives them concept to use, so it asks can you keep a secret? How much you like true crime? All this other stuff. Who are you going to play with? And it gets them thinking about playing the game as well as gets better understanding what it is and that particular funnel when we introduced it, it double conversion overnight. Right? And people don’t think that way. When you tell people to add steps to a marketing funnel, they say, oh no, you got to get rid of the friction. Let’s make this friction less. Let’s get rid of this. And almost all the smart marketers I know, we secretly know you can build forms that are a little bit longer and sometimes get better completion rates. We know that we can do things that sometimes lower advertising, like advertorials We know that we can do things like articles. We also look at data rather than just take things blindly, like the double opt out or the unsubscribed rate. There’s just so many things that you can get alpha by just being a little bit crazy.
– [Chris] Yeah. I like that. I’ll use that. I’ll just be like, hey team, everybody let’s just be a little bit crazy today. But I do say that actually to clients. As we’re signing on, just to make sure that it’s a good fit. As I tell them, “hey sometimes we’re going to suggest things that may sound crazy. And we really hope and expect that you are willing to let us do those things.”
– [Eric] That’s why I like you, Chris. You’re a little nuts.
– [Chris] I am a little nuts man. I’m all about those unconventional things and like messenger ads. I think there’s a lot of room to be like clever and unconventional there. Hi Papa. I’m recording a podcast. What do you need? We recently hired a media buyer who’s a savage. And he was telling us stories about basically I forget the vertical. Something about maybe car insurance or something. But he was saying he was getting long form leads like 17 different form fields, including VIN numbers for less than $10.
– [Eric] That’s incredible.
– [Chris] Yeah. On TikTok that was.
– [Eric] That finance is actually a real thing on TikTok. I don’t know if people really realize it, but like there’s people making finance entertaining on TikTok all day long and there’s so many advertisers on there. Plus the CPMs. Like if you have a really good ad, you can get like $2 CPM.
– [Chris] I know you have a lot of huge wind stories under your belt. Can we talk about hunter killer in detail?
– [Eric] Yeah, I mean. Sure.
– [Chris] If you don’t know, so hunter killer is a brand that has an experiential subscription box, which is mimics a true life crime story. Eric can explain it better. But I know Ryan I’d known him from the past and I introduced him to Eric at one point. And Eric basically single handedly used Facebook and Insta and probably other types of ads to scale that business from nearly zero to I think they’re at like a 50 or 75 million annual run rate. So you mentioned one on conventional technique that you took which was increasing friction by introducing that quiz. I think that was clever and we could unpack that. Cause I think that the questions that you were asking they were useful. It’s like, it wasn’t necessarily like, What’s your name? What’s your email? Gimme your credit card. It was more like, “are you going to like this?” Right? Type of stuff. So as a user, I’m not considering that to be like I’m converting. I’m considering it to be like, I’m doing something useful to determine whether or not this product is for me. So that’s absolutely brilliant. But tell us about any other like unconventional things or what else really drove that type of growth in that scenario?
– [Eric] Yeah. So first of all, big credit to Brian and team over there, cause their ability to execute at the speed that would grow is absolutely amazing. A marketer’s job is a lot easier when everybody else can execute on everything else. Right. And so in terms of the marketing there, obviously the one unconventional thing was the quiz and I don’t want people to get confused. This isn’t like a personality quiz or something that’s useless. This is a quiz that it’s whole purpose is to give people better concept and use and understand how they can actually play this game. See how it’s in their WIS as well as say, “hey I’m going to raise my hand I’m interested.” Right. So asking questions, like who do you plan on playing this game with? I plan on playing it independently. I love the challenge. I plan on playing it with my spouse, because we want to have a great date night. And then like we would ask questions like, what do you do when you get stuck? Get frustrated and quit? Go to the community, dig in my heels and put on my detective hat. There’s things that you can do that give them the vision of what they’re actually going to play. And you see this a lot in subscription. Subscriptions the big ones usually have a quiz or they have a builder if you will. And a lot of new people jump in and they don’t do that. In terms of hunter killers, definitely a lot of unconventional things that we did. One of the things that is not just about hunter killer, but overall is an email. Again a lot of people, they have so many preconceived notions. Like hey, a pretty email is what you need. Right? And so there’s this point in time when a lot of the emails got converted over to image and we basically went in and we redid them all as plain text. In the minute that we did that we saw increase in open rates. We saw basically everything improve because when you go plain text, you look less like a marketer. But there’s other hacks on that too. And this isn’t necessarily hunter killer related, but recently you are running a contest. And one of our clients she reached out and she said, “listen we’re only getting a 21% open rate on this first email. What should I do?” I said, “let’s convert it to plain text.” Well sure enough, we do that. We get up to about like a 42% open rate. By the way that was after one day. So that’s pretty climb. And then after that, and she started to say that we ran the issues with the rest of the followers. It went up in terms of email two email three had higher open rates once we had a higher open rate on the first one, but we wanted to get even more throughput. Right? If you’re getting contest leads and you have the ability to jump from 21% to 40 some percent on your first email, you’re essentially increasing your bandwidth of engagement by two X. Right. So what we did in addition to that is we’d say, hey, you’ve been entered into the contest, but could you do me a quick favor and reply to this email with yes so that I can get a hold of you in case you win. Right? And so that quick little reply, people don’t really think about it, but having people reply to your email is a quick way to almost guarantee that you’re going to inbox. Because now the email client ISP knows that you have a relationship with that person. Right. And they’re going to go ahead and pop that up more likely. So a lot of times we see this increase the rest of the back-end metrics in terms of second and third email. Now I don’t have the exact stats, but she told me that they’re improved across the board. So, and we’ve seen this. The first time I saw this was at BombTech golf because his first email was straight up a question and I would look at it and we had a hundred and some subscribers and a hundred and some thousand subscribers and he was still getting 40% open rates. And I was like, how is this possible? And then I looked at him and he is like, it’s like, this is the only guy that asked a question for his first email. Right? He asked what driver do you use and what would make you switch? And his replies were insane. So back to the unconventional thinking you show that to somebody that’s read all the Neil Patel blog or went to all these conferences or works in a big company and they’re like, well it’s not pretty. It doesn’t have a good aesthetic. People aren’t going to like it. I don’t personally like that. That’s something that kills more than anything else. I try to be completely non-deterministic and agnostic to the market and just use the patterns and ideas as hypothesis whereas people, a lot of times they don’t even try that. They don’t even want to collect the data because they have a preconceived notion.
– [Chris] Yeah. So you are a master Carlson. You’re like level 10 certified in terms of media buying. But you’re also just a really dang good marketer. I’m confident that Facebook ads and YouTube and TikTok and these things could explode and maybe the metaverse comes or something else comes, you’re going to be the first to figure it out I know that.
– [Eric] You’re good at that.
– [Chris] Yeah. And cause you’ve been doing it for so long. I think it’s just the 10,000 hour thing with Malcolm Gladwell. Once you’ve done something for so long, it’s just like you can go in and immediately see all the angles so much faster than somebody that’s new. But I’m curious. Do you know of any resources or anything like for that newer marketer or for that more traditional marketer that’s pivoting into deeper into digital. Are there any books or courses or websites or anything that you would suggest to just not necessarily master media buying, but just really thinking like a good marketer with some mixture of convention and unconvention.
– [Eric] So one of the most foundational books for me was the Psychology of Influence, which is written by Robert Cialdini. It used to be Six Principles of Influence. Now there’s a seventh. I can’t recall the seventh. I think it’s a rally call or something like that. But that was so foundational for me. So he talks about a lot of things that are just influential across the board. Social proof, reciprocity, scarcity, commitment and then I’m sure I’m missing two more. And so those were foundational because they taught you these influence principles across the board. That being said, I know this sounds really crazy. And I used to read a lot, but I don’t anymore. Not for marketing A lot of books we learn in marketing is off experience, but what I often do and there’s peer groups out there for this but I develop my own peer group. Right? So like if I’m going in the industry, a lot of times I’ll reach out to people and be like, hey I done this and this and this. I’m going into this industry. And I believe that rising tides lift all ships. I would love to hop on the phone and talk to you. And then a lot of times I’d follow up and we go into a group, whether it’s Slack, where it’s Telegram or whatever, and we just start chatting. So right now I’m in a group of about, I think it’s like 14 other media buyers. Minimum level guys probably spending a million a month in terms of advertising. And it gives us such an advantage because not only can we learn from our own portfolio and what we’re doing, but we can also learn from others. And I think pure learning, at least for me, maybe I’m too stupid to read enough. Right? Like pure learning for me just works really well, and I feel like finding those people that are on the journey or step ahead, or even people that are a step behind you’re teaching them, it’s really, really important. In terms of media buying it’s tough out there. The best recommendation I would have for somebody that’s looking at getting in media buying basically reach out to somebody that’s excellent and offer the work for them at a very cheap price. Because candidly, the training that you’re going to get is going to be beyond anything else. Especially if you’re working with one of the goats and like I’d never met anybody that came into media buying knew what they were doing. Right? But I met people that learn quite quickly by working under people that knew exactly what they were doing. So my big recommendation, if you’re doing it, work for free, do whatever. Forget college. Go work for free. Go work for something. At least get paid. Maybe get paid for it. At least don’t pay for it. And bake these people to work for them because you’re going to learn a lot. Also I’ll say this too. I don’t know if it’s true across the board, but DDC Twitter is amazing. People sleep on Twitter. If you will get Twitter, I used to think it was a place where people just spit on each other and treat each other bad. But like Twitter’s evolved into this like amazing professional network. You can reach out to VCs. You can reach out to founders of freaking billion dollar companies and they’ll talk to you. But DDC, Twitter has amazing people sharing honestly. One thing that kills me in a lot of groups is that people guess like people, right? They’re like, “oh, everything’s great.” Well, I got to tell you some of the best marketers I know they can admit when things aren’t great because I got to be honest. Even with all the success that we had and we shall continue to have, it’s not always roses. And I think you know that too.
– [Chris] Oh absolutely. So you mean Twitter is a good source for learning or good to run ads on or both?
– [Eric] It’s good source of learning. I would definitely get on there and try to find people that you like what they’re saying, because there’s these threads that people put on there that there’s so many people building in public, but also people inventing about what’s working and not working. It’s almost like its own mastermind except you don’t have to pay for it. And candidly, the engagement is voluntary versus like you go into some of these paid groups and the engagement is sometimes not that great. After time, you often get like less and less quality people. So the quality people stop actually engaging. Whereas like Twitter, these are volunteers. These are people saying, “hey, I’m building in public. This is what I’m doing. I’m hoping by sharing with you that I understand what I’m doing better, but also I get the feedback from this amazing community.”
– [Chris] That’s awesome man. I’m definitely going to do that. And maybe we’ll do another follow up and you can show me some of your search hacks on Twitter. How do you even find these conversations? Cause that has been on my list. I’m real active on LinkedIn, but Twitter.
– [Eric] I follow you.
– [Chris] Thank you man. Thank you. Yeah I appreciate when you give me some love on there. It’s always nice to see you. Cool man. Well, I know we’re at time. I have one last question for you. I’m just curious on with Sweat Pants. What’s next for you guys? What’s big on your guys’ mind or what are you trying to do this year?
– [Eric] I think the biggest goal for us this year is to build a rockstar team A plus players. And that’s probably the biggest focus this year. We’ve been fortunate to have A plus players this whole time. Now it’s time to expand out and that’s been really the goal. In this business, ultimately it’s the people that make it work.
– [Chris] Yeah.
– [Eric] And you need really talented people and no matter how talented you are, you’re never as talented as a room of A plus players together.
– [Chris] Yep, yep. I heard that. Cool well if you’re listening to this and you want to work for one of the goats, I would say reach out to Eric. Sounds like he’s hiring and I’m sure that anybody that’s working for you is going to get a PhD, probably not only just in media buying, but in like how to think. Regardless of the platform, just how to think. How to frame offers, how to use psychology. Innate human psychological principles to your advantage, to just explode. Explode performance. Explode results like that thing you said about email replies and how it affects the whole down. I’m going to go change my email sequences right now.
– [Eric] You do it. I got to be honest. Even asking a question in your email. Some commitment upfront. What your biggest maybe not your biggest marketing problem, but what attract you to sign up today? If you have a newsletter, what attract you to sign up? Just tell me candidly. I’m trying to improve and make content that you find would valuable.
– [Chris] Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Love that brother. Well, hey thank you so much for your time. I want to let you go. But if you like this, reach out to Eric he’s at sweatpantsagency.com.
– [Eric] Sweatpantsagency.com.
– [Chris] Sweatpantsagency.com and also drop us a like a comment and let us know who else you’d like us to interview, and what other topics you’d like to hear about.