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Adam Robinson 0:46
If we buy a bunch of open-and-click signals from the broader email ecosystem, and we make sure before we give our customer an email address that they’ve opened and clicked in, like the last seven to 14 days, depending on what the other characteristics of the email address are, that really works for deliverability. E-commerce is like bread and butter Shopify Plus in particular. So like the 14,000 Shopify stores at the top of the 4.5 million Shopify world like it works for like 95% of those guys.
Welcome everyone to the firingtheman podcast a show for anyone who wants to be their own boss. If you sit in a cubicle every day and know you were capable of more than joining us, this show will help you build a business and grow your passive income streams in just a few short hours per day. And now your host serial entrepreneurs David Schomer and Ken Wilson.
- Kothand, Meera (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 132 Pages - 05/20/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
Welcome everyone to the firingtheman podcast. On today’s episode, we have the privilege to interview Adam Robinson. Adam is the founder and CEO of retention.com, which is bootstrapped into 14 million ARR in two and a half years with six people. Retention.com is an identity resolution service that has the ability to identify 1/3 of your anonymous website traffic. So you can market to those potential customers. Yes, you read that sentence again. It’s magical. Prior to Retention, Adam was the founder and CEO of Robly Email Marketing, which was bootstrapped and he exited for eight figures to a private equity company in 2020. We are really excited to share Adam’s story and knowledge with the listeners today and dig in on everything email. Welcome to the show, Adam.
Unknown Speaker 2:26
Thanks. Thanks for having me.
You bet. So first things first, tell us a little bit of background on your life story and experiences and prior jobs and what led you to found retention.com
Adam Robinson 2:38
Stop working for the man. That’s right. I once worked for the man, I graduated college in 2003. I went to New York because you can make the most money if you got a job in an investment bank, I didn’t even really know what that meant. So, but I still had good grades. So I give job work at Lehman Brothers. And I made my way to the credit default swap trading desk. And I was there from 2003 through the financial crisis when they bankrupt when they went bankrupt, joined Barclays who bought them afterwards, and did that for like eight or nine years, they made a movie about that job. It’s called The Big Short, it was literally that is what I did, which was crazy and fun to watch some of the guys that work with like, characters in the movie. And you know, I got to New York, and these guys were my first roommates were starting this website called Vimeo in my apartment. And I watched that thing happen. And you know, I just the whole time I was doing that trading job. And my brother was also an entrepreneur, he had like a low-tech business that he liked, use the internet for it, and did really well. And, you know, I was just watching these two different people that I was two different sort of pockets of people that I was close to, and they appeared to be enjoying getting a deeper satisfaction out of what they’re doing than just sort of, you know, showing up in the casino every day and your suit and tie. So, and then I had this great mentor too. So the interesting thing about the job that I have is like, you know, it was this weird thing where as much as 25 year olds, they gave these credit plots of books to these young kids because there was no action in them. And then all of a sudden, they became the center of the universe when the world exploded because it was default insurance. Everybody, like had to have it. And then it kind of went back to being super boring after the financial crisis. And with all these regulations and stuff, just the market was shrinking like crazy. And, you know, I kind of saved enough money to be like, I don’t really want to do this anymore. I want to go try to be an entrepreneur, whatever that meant, right? And I sort of agreed with this Jeff Bezos quote that like we’re in the first inning of the internet like yeah, you know, he’s got the whole it’s still day one or whatever like that. And I still think that it’s just there’s no question to me that you know, building software and working on the internet will like keep me employed if my skills are good forever. For as long as I’m living, you know, it may be the robots taken away at some point, but like, I’m hoping that I’m building the robots, right? Like, that’s sort of my attitude, it’s like, this is the game I want to be playing. So it was a horribly long and winding road, you know, this really silly idea, when I started that I would like, kind of invest big whatever, I would invest chunks of money in things and sort of be involved at like a high level and a lot of different enterprises. And, you know, I had no experience no filter, but like, super high level of confidence in myself. And I picked five things that I was stupidly going to sort of chaperone was no experience. I mean, it just doesn’t even make sense. When I say it, you know, like, it’s totally the opposite of what I think now you know. And then, like, somehow, like, by the grace of God, this email service provider called broadly, which you mentioned, happened to work. And the really, the only reason it worked, the genesis of that story was my brother for his business was using this app for customer reviews on his website, and email marketing. And the dude who started it, like, raised 25 million bucks of venture and shut it into something happened, he walked out, they shut the whole thing down. And like, in a day, they’re like, download all your data, you know, switch to MailChimp, like this thing’s going away. My brother was like, this is a really novel, interesting combination of products, this guy spent a lot of money acquiring customers, let’s like build it for cheap in India, and then go see if we can find his customers. So I was like, okay, that’s one of five things I’m doing now, you know, let’s do that. And, you know, it was just the whole self got the software built. And then like, Finally, like, this guy still works with tait, who’s like, the seat, my CTO is a Stanford comp, SCI guy, an All American swimmer, like, rebuilt the thing and like, entirely, like, she’s just like, this is unusable. Like, if you want me to work with you. And starting over, I have a series of so like, from the text that I got from my brother, that we should do this, too, when we launched our product, it was almost two years to give you an idea with, with our current product, from when I made the first wireframe, which I so I’m skipping a lot here, but like that. So the interesting thing about the first company was the actual founder of the company, I read a bunch of books on content marketing, I was like, Oh, if you just make a YouTube video, you get 1000s of customers for your SAS app, because that’s what these blog posts Tell me. You know. And so like, I’m making these videos, and I’m like, well, so this guy sees one of them, the founder of the other company, he’s like, come to Boston, if you do, what you’re gonna try to do, it’s not going to work, I can show you how to, at the very least get like a very nice cashflow business out of this is like I found something, I found it too late. I raised way too much money, I never got my revenues above my expenses. So that’s why the whole thing blew up. So he comes to Boston, he’s like, I’m not gonna tell you too much. My partner is trying to start a data company, but like, there is an email marketing company down the road, that is leaving an unbelievable amount of customer information all over the internet. And they don’t know it, you know, and he’s like, you can find that information. And you can build a little call center, and you can get 1000s of people to pay you for the software if you just do it. So I was like, Oh, well, that’s cool. And, you know, it worked like it, you know, was also brutal spent every penny I had getting it sort of this cashflow, positive thing. And why will not say the name of the company that we were poaching customers from in Boston, that doesn’t email marketing company and not MailChimp is that’s a hard market. Like, it’s so mature. And there’s so many vendors who are selling the same thing. And there’s just like a few dominant brands like MIT like that. So we had this, it was a finite opportunity of information you could pull off of the internet and pull customers over. It wasn’t infinite, right? There’s only so many people willing to do that, like the nature of the customer base was like baby boomer, non-ecommerce, sending newsletters to their flower shop once a once a week, you know, didn’t care about features, didn’t care about tech, like it was just a really hard customer to build for. There were there’s good things that came from because you had to make the software incredibly keep it simple, stupid, but like it was just a tough thing. When we got to the end of this lead acquisition or lead, sort of bringing over 5000 customers wherever we got, you know, that we were sitting there with a product that wasn’t really competitive in its own right. It was only competitive. because we have this phenomenal channel to get our first batch of customers. So, you know, the next three years, I had this moment where I was like, Okay, we did this sales thing, I think I need to do digital marketing, right? We have this SAS app, it’s low-cost marketing makes sense. So I started taking digital marketer.com classes left, right, and center. And like, I remember very vividly over Thanksgiving, in 2016, there was this yellow card, that was a statement of value card. And it was so simple, it was just like, blank helps blank by blank. And I could not say a single thing about my company that would make somebody use it in MailChimp. So I was like, Oh, shit, like, Forget marketing, like we. But luckily, it’s like a subscription business. It was like a nice cash machine. It was like, you know, like, I had a great lifestyle for a single guy was really, it’s like the perfect polarizing situation, because, like, at the moment, it was amazing, but it like, wasn’t growing. So it’s dying, like, definitely had to come up with something else. So for the next three years, I tried to figure out what I could do that MailChimp was not doing, right. Because that made sense to me, it’s like, well, they’re doing all this stuff, surely there are things that they are not doing. And, I mean, a slew of horrible mistakes in analyzing market opportunity, you know, basically, two years in a row, big ones, like, found this girl who first one out first, I got convinced to take over the partner program, by a guy who was running the partner program at the company that we were pitching customers from. And I thought it was novel, it was this boots on the ground operation, selling software that MailChimp for sure wasn’t doing. And his impression was that the unit economics were fine to do, which, you know, I ended up spending, you know, like 100 grand over three months and getting sued. And I finally realized that like, this was totally not positive interaction. It was like a branding exercise for them, you know, just like getting people out there in the audience and butts in, you know, butts in seats, like paying people. So and then I found this girl who, you know, she’s like, well, there’s opportunity right above MailChimp, which tried to build a whole lot of software to like, serve it and wholeness. Anyway, I finally came across this identity thing. And I heard about it. And I literally just heard about it. And I was like, What are you taught? Like, you what, like, there is the ability in the world to identify someone who hit somebody’s website and get an email address, and then give it to that person. I’m like, Why is no one selling this? Like, like, I know, with our customers, I could sell it to every single one of them. Like, and by the way, I thought it was not can spam compliant when I heard about it, and I was like, I could still sell that to every single one of our customers. They wouldn’t give a shit they would, you know? Because, like, if you look at the lawsuits that have actually happened as a result of can spam a the penalties are not high. And b It’s people who are being very spammy, right? So my whole thing was like, not like, surely people will want to buy these emails, even if it’s like not sort of like kosher, because there’s a world of people renting and buying lists up there, like, lo and behold, I realized it is actually can spam compliant in the US, which was like, amazing. My assumption the entire time is that the open rates would suck somehow, like we came up with this process to like, make the engagement of these emails like better than people’s house lists, which is just mind-boggling, you know. So I like, fast forward, we have this ESP, this email marketing app, it took me a year and a half to figure out how to actually do the identity thing. And I’m like, this is going to be how we differentiate in the email space. The big enough players literally can’t do this. Because they’re in the self-regulatory disability organization called Mogh that prohibits them from selling data, if they want the if they want to be in this organization where they can pick up the phone and call someone at Hotmail, if they have a problem. They can’t sell data. So I’m like, this is the perfect feature, it’s going to be a killer feature in the email marketing space, that’s going to differentiate us for somebody else. So created the feature people were signing up for our email marketing app, using the identity thing, downloading the file, putting it in clay, VO or drip or whatever, and then giving us a 10 out of 10 on the NPS score, which at that point, I’m like, Okay, this is a really good indicator that this is like not a good feature to try to get people to switch ESPs because they don’t want to do it and our feature set kind of is behind versus everybody else. This would be an incredible thing, if we spun it out, connected it to literally everything and made it really easy to get up and going. So, you know, that was getting emails in January of 2020. And that’s all that it was until, you know, kind of like four months ago. Is this amazing? Like that name get emails, which is so direct, like, I originally thought we were going to sell to affiliate marketers, because I was under the impression that this was not can spam compliant. Like even having owned an ESP for like five years. Turns out eCommerce is like bread and butter Shopify Plus in particular. So like the 14,000, top five stores at the top of the 4.5 million Shopify world, like it works for like 95% of those guys. And I think the reason why is, it’s a function of, you know, we can’t resolve traffic unless you have traffic. If you don’t have a profitable email program than paying any price for a lead is not it’s going to be worse for you, you know, but if both of those things are really strong to start with, this is just like, maybe not as high as an intent as an opt in. But the engagement is so good, and the price is so low. And the deliverability is so high, that if you just steadily pour this stuff in over time, it works unbelievably well with all the other stuff going on. So So yeah, I mean, that’s kind of the medium-length story of how why we’re talking right now.
Yeah, awesome. So
- White, Chad S. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 488 Pages - 05/29/2017 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
sorry to interrupt the episode, you may have heard Ken and I talking recently about a new tool that we’re using for Amazon refunds. Now I have used other refund tools like this. However, I can tell you in the first seven days, they scrubbed it, the back end of my Amazon account, going back 18 months, and found $5,000 of refunds. And the nice thing about this is, it’s my money, Amazon made a mistake, and they are just auditing my account. The other thing I really like about this tool is there is no monthly fee, they only charge a commission if they are successful in getting you your money. Go to github.com GE T ID a and enter promo code FTM for firing the man FTM 400. This is an awesome tool. I can’t say enough good things about it. Now back to the episode.
A couple of things I want to circle back on before we dig into email. So Adam incredible story, you’ve got a ton of experience. I think David would agree with me The Big Short, probably one of my top five movies of all time. And so before we dig into like emails you have that’s to me, that’s kind of a crazy period right there. A couple of things about your story, you you said you were you had, you know, five different projects going on, in my mind is kind of like having fishing poles and you’re just kind of fishing for what are working. And one of them and one of them work that’s like entrepreneurship, right. And the other piece that that really stood out to me is that you stood me You said you had a like a really high confidence level. And I think that I think you have to have that or you don’t go all in, right? You’re sitting around, you know,
Adam Robinson 17:48
have you guys seen there’s like I saw one of my buddies. He’s also an entrepreneur posted this years ago on Twitter. So it’s like the x-axis is time in years. And the y-axis is level of competence in your entrepreneurial abilities. It like starts high and it drops straight down. And then it’s this like slow build over like 20 years, which that is exactly it is like you have no idea how lost you are until you’re so far in it. And then it’s like, oh my god. And then finally now you know, 10 years later, like, I don’t want to jinx myself, but like, you know, I think I kind of know how to do this. Like, I think I could start another one. And it will probably work, you know.
Yeah, that no, that’s interesting. Yeah, I think like, you come into it, like you said, the axis that you come into it and you’re like hard-charging, and so fired up, and then you get your ass be knocked down, slowly start learning. It totally, it makes sense. So one quick thing before we get dig into more emails do you have once from that crazy period of The Big Short? Do you have one story? You were surrounded by a lot of madness for probably about five years? Is there a one story that stands out to you that the audience would like, like, if you can share it? If not, so
Adam Robinson 18:58
yeah, I mean, there’s just so many just as in it’s not, it’s not really like this anymore. But like, one, so this like could have been in a movie. So we see that I was in. It was like we were what was called market makers and like we would it was like store like a hedge fund would show up. And they would say make me a price and like, whatever, swap contract for whatever. So and you’d say like I’m you know, 100 105 and then I’ll buy right? So like you’re the store and you’re managing this inventory of stuff. So they were our customers but we had these inter-dealer brokers that when you needed to lay off risky with like trade with someone else or someone at Goldman or like Morgan Stanley or whatever. And they were We were their customers and they had literally no competitive advantage other than entertaining people. And they lost the money if they didn’t spend 10% of their budget. So like, you know, quarter if people would Just be like, Yo, like, can you like go skiing this weekend? Or like, you know, can we just like, like, can we go to Vegas? Like the, like, we just gotta go spend some money somewhere, you know? So there’s one of these weekends, where one of the guys is like, Alright, dude, I gotta like, spend some dough. Like, are you for it? Can you be at the helipad tomorrow at 9 am? And I was like, Yeah, I can be there. So I get there. And it’s like, you know me and like, four other dudes that like have my job we get in this chopper in from the like debt from the downtown airport. They fly us to this race track in Jersey. And they’ve just got like Ferraris Lamborghinis, like Aston’s Porsches being like, every dream car you could ever imagine. And they’re just like, they got a speech, race car instructors. And it’s just like, we’re going to just rip these cars around this racetrack all day, and we’re gonna teach you how to do it. And then flew us back, like that, that to me is like such a, you know, vivid and Representative memory of like, the predictive is just such a weird thing. It’s like, man, we just like, it’s these guys who realize that the only way they’re gonna get trades from you is by creating these crazy experiences and having you remember them, and having to spend an unbelievable amount of money in like, you know, the next 24 hours. That’s awesome. Yeah, it was an interesting time. They’re not doing that anymore. They’re not the guys who had my job. Now, they’re not even allowed to go out to dinner with these brokers anymore, let alone all of the shenanigans that were happening. Like, they can’t even they can’t even accept that dinner. If they go, they have to pay for themselves.
- Edwards, Jim (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 328 Pages - 12/10/2019 (Publication Date) - Author Academy Elite (Publisher)
Yeah, that’s definitel1 times have changed since then. But now that’s pretty cool. Well, awesome. So let’s pivot a little bit into just so the audience has some background. So David, and I have been using Retention, we’ve been testing Retention, Retention, software and our own businesses for several months now. And it’s working really well. So Adam, can you dig into a little bit you touched on a little bit earlier about kind of what Retention does kind of one of the main features is capturing emails from anonymous traffic? Can you speak maybe at a high level? Like, how does that work? Is it legal? Check a little bit
Adam Robinson 22:08
on that. So yes, there. So we’ve been doing a bunch of stuff that we haven’t even been talking about, because it wasn’t relevant. It’s now a little bit more relevant now. But like just the for the get emails part of it, right? The first tool, the thing that you guys are using, the idea is that there are so so in order to serve ads, in the ad tech world, there are a bunch of Publisher networks that enable that. And they basically, through authentication events, people logging in people clicking in emails, they’re able to either cookie people’s browsers, or match browser characteristics with a hashed email, which hashed email is an email address that has been encrypted in a way that a human being cannot unencrypted MD five is a hashing language, Sha 256 is a hashing language. So several of these publisher cookie pools, if you want to call them that, you know, there’s one use case is to serve banner ads, other people are involved for different reasons. So we’ve aggregated a bunch of these networks that are that allow us to basically give our customer a pixel that has all of the pixels of all of these different networks that were involved in in it, so that when someone comes to your website, if they see that cookie, we can see if there’s one of these hash email addresses in it. If there is, then you’re like, Okay, that’s great, but a human being can’t on hash it. Well, the way one would unhashed if one wanted to this one would go around and accumulate all of the email addresses in America and just hash all them in the same language. Because at that point is just a VLOOKUP. So this is not in the spirit of what they were trying to accomplish with this anonymous ad network. But this is what we’re enabling. And it really works. As you guys know. So yeah. So that is the essence of the first product. It’s like we’re taking the this cookie pool, aggregating this cookie pools, we’re basically sending signals from Edward D anonymizing this anonymous information. And then the last step, the reason it really works, you know, I’m an email guy. I own an email marketing company before deliverability the art and science of getting a piece of marketing email into the inbox, it is tricky. It’s everything. We figured out that if we buy a bunch of opening click signals from the broader email ecosystem, and we make sure before we give our customer an email address that they’ve opened and clicked in like the last seven to 14 days, depending on what the other characteristics of the email address are, that really works for deliverability because That person was on your website. And they’re opening and clicking Other stuff. So that means they’re not a spam trap. They’re not a dead address, which those two things are like what gets you in trouble email if you start sending to spam traps essentially, and bad, old, you know, unengaged emails. So that’s part number one. And it’s beautifully provocative to speak about, you know, it’s just so great. Like, it’s a whole topic of conversation in itself on podcasts like this, because of the questions that you just asked, How is it legal? How can you do something like that? Like, it’s just you can talk for days about it. So the reason that it’s legal is because the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in the US, so you cannot do this in Europe. But like, our IPs are ring-fenced. Every email we have is tied to US postal address, we feel pretty good about the fact that 99.99% of these emails that we’re going to hear you are from the US, so can’t do in Europe can’t do in Canada, in the US can spam of 2003 is actually opt out, which I spoke a lot about, in the beginning of this podcast, the world would lead you to believe that email in the US is an opt-in sport. I certainly believe that. And I own an ESB, I literally was like operating as a business owner in the market. And I had a total misunderstanding of the legislation until an attorney sat me down and said, this is actually what the law says. It says so long as you have an opt-out, so that it begs the question, why are we all spamming each other all the time? Because that what matters in email is not whether you got an opt-in or not, at the end of the day, what matters is the engagement of your sin. That is what Gmail cares about. That is what Yahoo cares about. That is what AOL cares about. That is what you that if you have a high open high click low unsubscribe, low complaint email stream. It does not matter if those people opt-in or not, it would be way better for you to send more to that if people did not opt-in. Then to send to an opt-in list that was the opposite of that, if that makes sense. Wait. Yeah.
Yeah, for sure. So okay, so thanks. Thanks for covering that at a high level. And like now that works for everybody, not email, we’ve been testing the product we’re seeing, you know, you spoke to a little bit about kind of some of the stuff your team’s doing on the back end. So for there’s one thing is to capture an email, and then it’s to use it effectively. And so, you know, we’re seeing open rates of rounds above 60% on the emails that we’re capturing for Retention. And so it’s pretty incredible. And especially if that’s it’s kind of you like, like the first product that you release, I’m I’m excited to see what you and your team are, you know, we’re working on I’m gonna follow up with that. So yeah, thank you,
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Berman, Alex (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
everyone, for tuning in to the firingtheman podcast. Be sure to stay tuned for part two of our interview with Adam Robinson. That airs next week. Thank you. Thank you everyone, for tuning into today’s firingtheman podcast. If you liked this episode, head on over to firingtheman.com and check out our resource library for exclusive firingtheman discounts on popular eCommerce subscription services that is firingtheman.com backslash resource, you can also find a comprehensive library of over 50 books that Ken and I have read in the last few years that have made a meaningful impact on our business, or that head on over to www.firingtheman.com/library Lastly, check us out on social media at firingtheman on YouTube at firingtheman for exclusive content. This is David Schomer and Ken
Wilson, we’re out
before you go fun fact for all you Amazon sellers out there when you start selling in international marketplaces, all of your reviews come with you. At the beginning of this year, Ken and I sat down and talked of ways that we could double our businesses in size and landed on international expansion as our number one initiative this year. We partnered up with Kevin Sanderson from Maximizing eCommerce, and he has made the process an absolute breeze walking us step by step through the process. If you want to grow your revenue and reach new customers head on over to https://maximizingecommerce.com/fire and connect with Kevin Sanderson today. Now back to the show.