The Community Spotlight—a monthly blog series highlighting some of the amazing members of the email community—is back!
Every month, we interview, highlight, and celebrate the splendid members of the email community. We dig into where they got their start, where they are now, and explore their challenges and passions in email.
This month, we’re chatting with Val Geisler—conversion and retention strategist, copywriter, CrossFit and slow-flow yoga afficiaonado, and Faith No More fan.
|Val Geisler (she/her/hers)
Director of Retention & Lifecycle Marketing at ByHeart
Follow Val on LinkedIn and Twitter
What did the beginning of your time in email marketing look like?
I feel like I didn’t choose the email life, the email life chose me. I was running a business supporting companies with their customer onboarding (much more on the customer experience side of things) when I was asked to take an in-house role leading marketing at a small but growing email service provider (ESP). I dove into that and learned everything about email, inside and out.
When I left that role, I knew I wanted to stay connected to email marketing. The aspect that I loved the most was customer retention by way of better onboarding. So I started Fix My Churn and supported both SaaS and eCommerce brands in their lifecycle marketing.
When I went in-house again, I went to Klaviyo—a data platform servicing the eCommerce industry. I saw how thousands of brands approached email, segmentation, list growth, and so much more, but my role at Klaviyo wasn’t hands on in lifecycle marketing. So when the time came to leave Klaviyo, I knew I wanted to get back to what I love most: retention and lifecycle marketing. I’m now on the eCommerce brand side at ByHeart leading those efforts and couldn’t be happier!
How did you first connect with the wider email geeks community?
Gosh I don’t remember exactly, but I think through Women of Email. The email community is great in that everyone is so supportive of one another. One of the many reasons I love email so much is because of this community.
You’re best known in the email community for your focus on conversion-focused copywriting and retention strategy—what first drew you to those aspects?
My entire career has been centered around giving the customer the best possible experience and, to me, copy and retention focused activities do just that. Conversion copywriting isn’t magic, it’s just about knowing your customers and speaking their language. Understanding the job they have for your product line and putting their words in front of them so they see themselves as a customer for life. Retention is the same thing. How do they use your product(s)? What are they missing? What are the things that your most successful customers are doing? Fill those gaps and teach the successes to as many of your customers as you can. That’s very foundational retention right there. You can spend all day pulling data and analyzing spreadsheets or you can go talk to your customers and get more information in less time.
You’ve both run your own consultancy business as well as worked for some notable companies in our industry—how would you compare those experiences?
They’re both the same and also very different in many ways. I’ve come to learn I’m more of what I call an Intrapreneur—someone who works in a very entrepreneurial way inside of another business. I love autonomy and the ability to affect change. But the running of the business—the finances and HR and legal stuff—I’d rather leave to others who do that best. You can certainly hire those folks when you run your own business, but I found that working deeply on a portion of the business alongside others who do the same in their areas of expertise is how I do my best work.
Could you describe what a typical workday looks like for you?
There’s no such thing as a typical workday! Leading lifecycle and retention means sometimes I’m deep in flow building and strategy and sometimes I’m collaborating with our customer support team or product team. I do tend to work very asynchronously (you have to be really good at this as a remote employee) and that often means I do a little work before getting my kids off to school, dive in deep while they’re gone, and then juggling final meetings with family activities in the after school hours.
Of course that’s all out the window in the summer! I’m fortunate to work for a brand that really cares about supporting parents, and my colleagues recognize that kids are a part of our lives and they make us better at our work. Sometimes I do get a big burst of creative energy around 9pm, but I do really try to get in bed and read a fiction book for a bit before I doze off!
What are the specific aspects of lifecycle marketing that you find satisfying?
I love taking care of people once they’ve arrived. Building hype, getting people to the party, all of that pre-conversion stuff isn’t my jam. Lifecycle to me is so awesome because it’s covering that full journey of the customer: one that goes from acquisition all the way through their experience with the brand. Customers deserve to be cared for after they’ve handed over their credit card number and lifecycle marketing is beautifully positioned to do just that.
How do your intersecting identities shape the way you approach your career?
If there was a Venn diagram of Val Geisler, the three circles would be: motherhood, email marketing, and customer experience (CX). I always want to shape the work I do to get as close as possible to hitting that magical center point where all three intersect—that beautiful place where you get to do your very best work.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do some combination of at least two of the circles in my roles as a business owner and working in SaaS, but it’s my role today—leading retention for a baby formula company—that is really honing in on that three circle overlap. I get to work on the things I love (lifecycle and CX) while honoring a huge part of my life (motherhood). It’s cliche to say, but it truly does feel like a dream job.
What would be the first steps you’d tell someone to take who wants to deepen their understanding of email strategy?
I think email strategy varies so much based on the way you sell your product. Subscription-based brands (SaaS, consumable eCommerce) have one way of doing email, while political campaigns or local government or media companies approach things differently. So it’s important to know which sector or sectors you want to play in. It’s also much easier to get clients or full-time employment when you choose an area of expertise.
Once you’ve done that, it’s a matter of seeing what others in those industries are doing by signing up to their email lists, preferably as a customer. You can learn so much by studying from others, both what to do and what not to do.
In addition to this observational approach, you can learn directly from the research and experience other email geeks share in places like the Litmus blog. Email is a constantly changing world, so make sure you’re signed up to those email-based newsletters too so you stay on top of the latest trends and techniques.
Which songs hype you up, and which songs chill you out?
When you’re in need of renewal, what sort of activities have you found to help with that?
Fitness and moving my body in general renew and restore me. I love to lift weights and challenge myself with CrossFit-style activities. I also enjoy a nice slow-flow yoga class in a warm, dark room. It’s a total yin and yang situation that suits me nicely.
Learn from (and connect with) Val
Would you like to know more about Val’s email strategy, copywriting approach, and public speaking? Visit her website, ValGeisler.com!
Be sure to follow Val on Twitter @lovevalgeisler.