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Inbound Success Podcast

What do the most successful inbound marketers do to get great results?

You’ve heard the stories about companies using inbound marketing to dramatically increase sales, grow their business, and transform their customer relationships, but not everyone who practices inbound marketing knocks it out of the park.

If you want to know what goes into building a world class inbound marketing campaign that gets real, measurable results, check out the Inbound Success podcast. Every week, host Kathleen Booth interviews marketing folks who are rolling up their sleeves, doing the work, and getting the kinds of results we all hope to achieve.

The goal is to “peel back the onion” and learn what works, what doesn’t and what you need to do to really move the needle with your inbound marketing efforts. This isn’t just about big picture strategy – it’s about getting actionable tips and insights that you can use immediately in your own marketing.

Dec 17, 2018

How did the team at Carney grow the wildly success Daily Carnage newsletter from just 275 subscribers to 11,000 subscribers in 18 months?  

This week on The Inbound Success PodcastCarney Marketing Director Mark Rogers shares insider details on how he built The Daily Carnage and grew it to one of the most successful email newsletters in the marketing industry.

Some highlights from our discussion include:

  • Mark started The Daily Carnage in 2017 and grew it from 200 to 11,000 subscribers in its first year and a half.
  • There are just three staff members that work on the project, which is a daily newsletter, in addition to their other responsibilities.
  • The Daily Carnage's brand voice is distinctive and edgy, which sets them apart from other marketing email newsletters and has attracted a loyal subscriber following.
  • Early on, Mark used Facebook ads to grow The Daily Carnage subscriber base. He began with simple demographic targeting, then moved to look alike audiences.
  • In addition, Mark made a practice of notifying anyone mentioned in the newsletter or anyone whose content they shared. This got them several high value backlinks and spurred organic growth.
  • When the newsletter first launched, it contained almost entirely curated content from well known marketing thought leaders. Over time, Mark began to include more of Carney's content.
  • The team at Carney tries to limit each edition of the newsletter to around 700 words.
  • Carney has a subscriber reengagement campaign that is triggered when someone has not opened 20 emails in a row.
  • The Daily Carnage's open rate averages 30% and its click through rate is 4.5%.
  • Carney's team of three Daily Carnage staffers spend about four hours per day on the newsletter.
  • The team uses an internal Slack channel to share articles of interest and determine what will go into the newsletter each day.
  • The newsletter has generated nine new clients for Carney in the past year.

Listen to the podcast to learn the secrets behind The Daily Carnage's explosive growth.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success PodcastMy name's Kathleen Booth, and I'm your host. This week, my guest is Mark Rogers of Carney. Welcome, Mark.

Mark Rogers (Guest): Hey, Kathleen. Thanks, it's good to be here.

Mark Rogers and Kathleen Booth
Mark and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: I'm excited to have you. I am a loyal reader of your awesome newsletter, which we're going to talk about in a few minutes. But you are the marketing director at Carney. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and about Carney?

About Carney

Mark: Sure, yeah. I guess I'll start with Carney. We're a pretty small creative agency in Pittsburgh. There's about 12 of us, and we do really a lot of digital marketing, and then anything from creative campaigns to website designs and really anything in between. Whatever our clients need, we pretty much have a solution for it.

Me, I've been working in marketing since I graduated college seven years ago now. Just slowly working my way up and trying to do the best that I can.

Kathleen: Well, you're definitely doing something right. For context, if you're listening, and you're not familiar with Carney, or it sounds vaguely familiar, Carney is the agency behind a newsletter called The Daily Carnage, which I first came across, oh my gosh ... I'm going to guess it's been at least two if not three years now. I know it was before I joined IMPACT.

I used to own my own agency, and I stumbled upon it. I remember seeing it and thinking, "These people are geniuses." Because at the time, I was a subscriber of The Skimm, which is ... If you haven't heard of The Skimm, it ... How do I describe The Skimm? It's a-

Mark: Yeah, The Skimm is great.

Kathleen: ... mildly snarky newsletter that is aimed at delivering the news concisely and with a very dry sense of humor in a very short and consumable format. It's mostly aimed, I would say, at millennial women, although, which I am not one of, but I appreciate it.

Mark: Yeah, that's all right.

Kathleen: The reason it's significant is that The Skimm grew its subscriber base astronomically, was acquired, I want to say, by Bank of America, has gotten VC capital. I mean, it's just really taken off. It's a behemoth at this point.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: When I first came across The Daily Carnage, my first thought was this is like The Skimm, but for marketers.

Mark: Yeah. That was our exact goal, so I'm glad you thought that.

Kathleen: Oh, as soon as I saw it, I was like, "Damn, why didn't I think of this first?"

That being said with the context, let's start with how you guys first came up with the idea, and let's go all the way back. When did you start it? What was the goal with it? Walk me back ...

Mark: Yeah. It's actually not too old of a newsletter. We actually started it in March of 2017, so -

Kathleen: I must have found it right at the beginning then.

Mark: Yeah, you might've.

Kathleen: I will take credit for being one of your first subscribers.

Starting The Daily Carnage

Mark: Yeah, so we started it a year and a half ago, a little over a year and a half ago.

Really the goal was, as an agency, we'd never really marketed ourselves. We were mostly a design and development shop until my boss was hired. Then he hired a marketing team, and it was kind of like, well, we need to market ourselves, so what do we want to do?

We thought about doing traditional blogging, which there's a ton of benefits to blogging, which is why we do have a blog. But the bigger goal for us was what can we do that's different than everybody else, and how can we actually build an audience?

Mark: We knew we didn't want to build an audience on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter just because you don't really own your audiences there. So, the obvious choice was to focus on email because you do own your audience there.

There's no algorithm preventing you from getting right in front of your audience, and it's just a really ... As long as you're providing value to your audience, you're going to keep getting people to open it. So, it's really just as close to one-to-one marketing as you can really get.

Mark: We were looking around at what are people doing in email that's cool right now, and we came across ... A couple of us are subscribed to The Skimm, which we knew of, and then there's another newsletter called The Hustle, which is-

Kathleen: I love The Hustle.

Mark: Yeah, great newsletter. Really, really love it. We loved the voice they had and the daily approach that they took of giving you something valuable every single day. So, we started to think, can we do this for marketing?

I mean, me personally, I read a billion marketing blogs every day, so it was just ... It was a pretty organic, obvious idea just to take the best marketing content of the day from all these other blogs out there, curate this content, put a spin on it, summarize it in our own voice, and send it out to our subscribers.

Yeah, we started ... When we first launched, we had 271 subscribers, so basically none. That was mostly just clients and other agency contacts that we had, so it was tiny.

We've grown a huge amount. I mean, we're over 11,000 subscribers now. That's not even an accurate number because we always prune our list, too, so we unsubscribe people every single month.

Kathleen: Wow, so wait. You started in what month of 2017?

Mark: March of 2017.

Kathleen: So, it's a year and a half old.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: And you went from 200 to 11,000 subscribers.

Mark: Yeah, and that's ... I mean, it's been crazy.

Kathleen: That's insane, especially for ... How many people are in your agency?

Mark: There's 12 of us, and there's three of us that work on The Daily Carnage, writing it, strategizing on it, curating the content.

Kathleen: Wow.

Mark: So, it's a big investment for a small agency, but it's been awesome.

Kathleen: Sounds like it's paying off.

Mark: Yeah.

Start With An Audience-First Mentality

Kathleen: Yeah. It's interesting because the approach that you took, which is let's focus on not ... Let me back up. Most agencies, if they were having the conversation about what should we do to market ourselves, would start thinking, how can we generate leads? Right? That seems to always be the first conversation. I think what was really genius about what you guys did is you didn't start with how can we generate leads? You started with how can we build an audience?

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: Because leads will naturally follow from an audience if you do it right. That's definitely an approach that we at IMPACT take as well, very much inspired by Joe Pulizzi's writing in Content Inc. and Killing Marketing.

I mean, he talks in Killing Marketing about how, really, if you're starting a business today, it's almost like you should grow an audience first and then start your business or then figure out what your product is, I guess. Because your audience will naturally tell you what the product should be.

Mark: Oh, yeah.

Kathleen: As opposed to the reverse. Most companies do the reverse. They come up with a product, and then they try to build an audience, yeah.

Mark: Then they try to ... Yeah.

Kathleen: So, do you-

Mark: I think another guy that does that really well, I think is Rand Fishkin, actually. He kind of built his own brand, and now he's started this new company. They haven't actually launched yet, but I'm sure when they launch, it's going to be a huge success just because of just who he is. He's built up an audience and then his product.

Kathleen: Yeah, you're talking about SparkToro, right?

Mark: Yeah, yeah. SparkToro, which-

Kathleen: Yeah, I love his stuff. I think what makes him so successful, and it's the same things that makes Joe Pulizzi successful, and it's the same thing that makes you guys successful, is that he has a very unique and authentic voice.

Like in Rand's case, he's almost radically honest and vulnerable. Like, he talks about his failures as well as his successes. There's some personal stuff on his blog, but he also does ... I mean, the reason I read it religiously is that he's producing some of the best thought leadership around no-click searches.

Mark: Oh, yeah.

Kathleen: And On-SERP SEO.

Mark: Yeah.

Defining the Brand Voice

Kathleen: Yeah. But going back to The Carnage, what drew me to it ... Anybody could do a newsletter with just, like, here's the top marketing news of the day. But I think what you all did really well from the beginning is cultivate that voice.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: Can you tell me a little bit more about how did you guys come up with that? Was it a specific strategy to have that particular voice?

Mark: Yeah. Well, it was a little more ... I'd love to say it was a super-planned strategy, but it was a little organic, honestly. My writing style, I'm very casual when I write because I just think that you should write in the same way that you talk.

So, it started in that exact same way. I was writing it, just putting my own voice on it. We started to notice a common theme from our new subscribers that they were all around 25 to 35 and in small to mid-size marketing companies. So, we were like, "All right, how can we position our voice to be a little closer to that?"

It was about that same time, we hired a copywriter from a company called ModCloth. She came over with just this super-snarky, edgy voice that really just ... It worked so well with our newsletter, so we're like, "You know what? I'm not going to tell you to reign it in. Just run with it, and put your complete, total voice on it." She's done an awesome job just having that voice and building that connection.

I think that brand voice is something that a lot of people overlook, but it's a really big differentiator when that's really all you have in the digital space sometimes. I mean, there's a billion other blogs out there. You can write like all of them, but you're not going to stand out in any way. So, that brand voice, I think, is a big differentiator for us.

Kathleen: Absolutely. I think that that's actually, in my experience at least, the area where most companies kind of fall down is that they like the idea of having a voice, but especially when you talk about kind of a snarky voice or anything that anybody could potentially find either offensive or might not like, all of a sudden, brands get scared. They want to please everyone, and in pleasing everyone, they please no one, then-

Mark: Yeah. They come out with this really diluted voice that just sounds like a computer talking almost, honestly.

Kathleen: Yeah, corporate robot speak.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, so I think it takes courage to allow a distinct voice like that to be used, but obviously, it pays off very well. That's the same thing that made The Skimm successful. It has a really distinct voice-

Mark: Yeah, absolutely.

Kathleen: ... that not everybody likes. There are people on my team who can't stand The Skimm.

It's funny. When I was coming to interview you, my thought was do I say it's like The Skimm for marketing? Because I know some people really don't like The Skimm. But that's kind of the point, right? Your audience, and the people that love you, love you a lot.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: So-

Mark: Yeah, it was interesting. We actually got some ... We've gotten some angry emails over our voice before. People are just like, "This is terrible. This isn't professional at all. I can't share this with my boss." I'm like, "Well, I would love to please everybody, but that's not really the point."

Kathleen: That's-

Mark: Our point is to create a really strong connection.

Kathleen: Yeah. I love hearing that because I almost feel like you're not doing it right if you don't get a few of those emails.

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Kathleen: I remember when I had my agency, we didn't necessarily do this with a newsletter, but we had some marketing emails we sent. And there were some controversial subject lines on purpose because we wanted to start to have a voice and to ruffle some feathers. I remember one of the people that worked at one of our clients wrote back and was like, "This is completely unprofessional and unacceptable, and I don't think you should be doing it."

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: My team came back to show it to me, and I think they were really scared. They're like, "Oh, should we send an apology?" My response was, "No. If that's the way this person feels, then they're probably not a great-fit client for us."

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: I guess you have to be willing to make those trade-offs.

Mark: Yeah. I think I had the exact same conversation with my team the first time we got that angry email about being unprofessional. I was like, "You know what? I think we're onto something here if this is the kind of response we're getting from people."

Kathleen: Yeah, don't back down.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. You know?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Mark: It provoked enough of a response for somebody to take the time and reply to our email, so that's pretty cool even if it was a bad email.

Kathleen: You know they read it. Exactly. They spent the time to reply, so how ... Yeah, you're getting something out of it.

Mark: Yeah.

Growing the Subscriber Base

Kathleen: Now, I'd love to learn a little bit more about how you grew the subscriber base. You said you started with 200-some odd subscribers, and it's obviously grown to over 11,000. Where are these subscribers coming from?

Mark: Yeah. First thing we did, we put a little bit of money behind Facebook ads just because we needed to jumpstart this audience and get in front of other people who'd never heard of Carney, people not from Pittsburgh.

We just needed to get out there, so we put a couple thousand dollars behind Facebook ads over the course of a few months, just to spark it in that way. That did a huge amount of subscribers. We were getting subscribers for like 27 cents at one point just from that, which is pretty awesome, and on top of-

Kathleen: How did you target that? Who were you going after when you did those ads?

Mark: Yeah, so we started ... Let's see. What was our first audience? It was a pretty general audience we started with. We knew we wanted marketers in small to medium-sized business just based off the persona of our clients, so we started targeting that.

Then, as we started to figure out who our ideal subscribers were, we changed the ads to fit more into that, so adding that snarky voice to the ad copy itself and finding images that really connect with marketers, even if it's not exactly related to the newsletter. Just something that catches somebody's eye, gets them to stop scrolling, click on our ad. We were able to dial it in pretty well that way.

Then, after a while, we used look-alike audiences, which is one of my favorite features from Facebook advertising is just that look-alike audience. It usually works so well in anything, really.

After we got that audience built up a little bit and started to get some people talking about it, we started to do more organic promotions. Any time we'd feature somebody's content in our newsletter, I emailed that person who wrote that piece of content, and I'm like, "Hey, we featured you. This is cool. Check it out. Read it." Usually they love it, and a lot of people share it on LinkedIn or Twitter, or they email it out to their audience. Ann Handley did that, for example. We featured one of her pieces, and she loved it. She was like-

Kathleen: I love Ann Handley.

Mark: Yeah, she's awesome. She's like my hero in marketing and writing, especially. She sent it out to her email newsletter, and it was just really cool to see that.

Then, slowly from there, we started to get a lot of backlinks from bigger blogs like Convince & Convert and Content Marketing Institute mentioned ... They're talking about how cool this newsletter is that these guys have. Check it out.

We started to get a lot of subscribers that way, too. Just over the course of time from getting backlinks and mentions elsewhere, it's really built up our organic traffic. 

That's where the majority of our newsletter subscribers come from now is just through organic traffic, so people searching, either word of mouth, they heard about The Daily Carnage from a coworker, or they're just searching marketing newsletters.

I think right now, we get a little over 100 a week from just organic traffic sources, which is really cool.

Kathleen: Wow, so it's kind of snowballed at this point.

Mark: Pretty much, yeah. It's almost like it runs itself on the subscriber acquisition side. We don't spend too much time doing outreach anymore just because we have a lot of client work that we got to handle, too. So, we let it kind of run on its own as far as subscriber acquisition goes, and it works pretty well.

Determining the Right Newsletter Format

Kathleen: That's great. Now, I'm curious to learn more about the thinking behind the actual format of the newsletter and what you learned along the way.

Specifically, let's start with the fact that the newsletter does ... You are curating content from other places.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: Was that a deliberate choice to have it be curated as opposed to a spotlight of your content? And I'm really curious also, knowing that it is curated, how much traffic does the newsletter itself drive back to your site? Because obviously, if people click on some of those links, they're going to other sites. So, I'm wondering how that works out for you.

Mark: Yeah. I mean, it was ... We definitely wanted to do it curated to start with because, going back, people have never heard of Carney, right? We were a tiny agency with not much following, so we were like, "People have never heard of us, but they've heard of Moz, and they've heard of Buffer, and they've heard of HubSpot. So, let's feature their content," and it's kind of, well, to associate ourselves with them and try to make ourselves look a little better. That approach works really well.

Mark: From there, we've now started to put our own original content in there.

We've recently launched a podcast. We do our own blogs, so we feature some of our own content. But as far as traffic to our website from the newsletter, it's actually pretty decent because we do have ... I mean, we have a couple call to actions within the newsletter.

Sometimes, we'll really call it out, be like, "Hey, hire us. We need more clients," and that always drives ... Whenever we do that, it drives a couple hundred clicks a day to our website.

Then, we also have in the footer of every email, we have our design and development and marketing capabilities. We get a few clicks on those per day, and we can always see who clicked on those.

A lot of times, it's like somebody clicked on that, and they may have not have filled out a Hire Us form. But we know who clicked on it, so I might just send them a friendly little email and be like, "Hey, how's it going? Just wanted to catch up," and go that approach of business development. It doesn't drive a ton of traffic to the website, but it does drive leads and clients, which is really the ultimate goal.

Kathleen: Yeah. Just like we talked about in the beginning, focus on the audience, and the leads will follow.

Mark: Yeah, exactly.

Kathleen: What about structurally, the format? We have a lot of debate on my team at IMPACT, because we launched a new marketing email newsletter in August, about how to structure a newsletter, both for readability, for design, for deliverability. I'm really curious to know how you arrived on the structure that you have and what you've learned along the way with that.

Mark: Yeah. I mean, good thing for us, we have an awesome design team. They design a lot of emails for clients, so we went to them. I was like, "I need you guys to design me this email. Give me a template for what we want this to be." They thought about it.

They put a couple different iterations out, and the biggest thing is we wanted it to be not a wall of text. So, we had the opportunity to use subheaders in it and images within each section that really helped break up the text. That structure was pretty simple from our design team.

The structure in terms of length has always been ... That's an ongoing debate with us is how long do we make this newsletter? How short do we make it? We try to keep it around, where are we at, about 700 words per newsletter, and sometimes it gets a little longer. Right now, we're working on dialing it back a little bit because I think it's getting a little too long.

Kathleen: Are you looking at data and testing this? Is that how you're coming up with these hypotheses about the length? Or is it just more heuristic?

Mark: Yeah. We always monitor our open rates, click rates, and we see people are ... We look at averages overall, so the majority of the people click on the first link that we have in the newsletter, and then it trickles off as it goes further down.

The first thing we did when we noticed that people weren't getting all the way down to the bottom of the email or at least clicking on things at the bottom of the email, we added some more fun features into the newsletter. We have the Ads From the Past every day, which is we just feature a vintage ad that people absolutely love.

I think now, a lot of people just open the email and scroll to the bottom to see Ads From the Past. We actually have people tell us that. They're like, "The only reason I open this is for that vintage ad. It's so cool." So, it's like trying to get people to scroll down a little more with fun content at the bottom of the email.

Then, we also poll our subscribers about ... We've done it four or five times now. Just with a simple survey, we'll ask, like, "How do you think about the length? What do you think about the design of the email?" and then take their responses and go from there.

Carney's Approach to Subscriber List Hygiene

Kathleen: Yeah. You mentioned earlier that you are constantly kind of doing list hygiene and removing people.

Mark: Yep.

Kathleen: Can you talk a little bit about your approach to that, and what are the signals that you're looking for as far as when somebody should come off the list?

Mark: Yeah. List pruning is ... It's a huge deal for me. It really affects deliverability. The more engaged your list is, the more likely you are to land in inboxes. It's something we do with all of our clients, too, make sure their lists are just high-engaged subscribers.

With The Daily Carnage, we're pretty strict with who's an engaged subscriber. We go 20 email newsletters, and if you haven't opened a single one of those, we'll put you on basically like a probation list.

We'll give you a few more chances to engage with the newsletter. We'll call it out and be like, "Hey, you haven't opened any of our newsletters. If you don't want to be on our list, you can unsubscribe right here." We'll straight up tell them that, "Unsubscribe if you're not interested." Because we don't want to clutter up your inbox if you're not going to open it. It doesn't help anybody.

A lot of people immediately do say, "Oh, wait. I don't want to unsubscribe. I just have been so busy lately, I haven't been able to open anything." But the ones that don't, that's fine.

Like I said, after about, ends up being about 25 emails ... Once they're on that probation list, they get cut from the list, and we move on with our lives.

Kathleen: Yeah. What are you using? Are you using a marketing automation platform to track that and to automate some of that? Or how do you manage that on the back end?

Mark: Yeah. Yeah, we use MailChimp, which scores all of our subscribers. It gives them a star scoring, so five stars, somebody who's really engaged, opens every single email, clicks on things throughout the email. Then, it goes down from there. One star is basically somebody that rarely ever opens an email.

We take those one and two-star subscribers, and those are the ones that get put on the probation list and pruned from there.

I think it's really done wonders for our deliverability, and it helps keep us in inboxes. Like I said, it's a really important thing to do, and a lot of people don't do it because they're so focused on, oh, I want this huge, massive list, which is cool. It is-

Kathleen: I want to be able to say I have all these subscribers, right.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. But if your huge, massive list only has a 7% open rate, is it really that good?

Kathleen: Yeah.

The Daily Carnage Email Marketing Benchmarks

Mark: I mean, we prune our list, which helps keep our open rate above 30%. Our click rate is usually around 4.5%, so ...

Kathleen: You just answered ... My next question was going to be, "Let's dig into the data." Let's start over again. Your open rate is what? Average is what?

Mark: I think it's ... I just looked at this. Average is 30.1%.

Kathleen: That's really good.

Mark: Yeah, and that's sending five days a week. I'm just really impressed with that number.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Mark: Then, average click rate is 4.2%.

Kathleen: Which is also really good.

Mark: Yeah, really good stuff. The click rate comes a lot from just finding the right content. People want to read more about it, so they click on things. They click on inline links that we have in there, too.

Kathleen: What about unsubscribe rates? What do you see there?

Mark: Yeah, unsubscribe rates are pretty low, honestly. Yeah, just off the top of my head, I think we do see about eight to 10 unsubscribes a day, which honestly is ... Like I mentioned before, it's fine. If somebody doesn't want to be on our list, that's totally fine. I don't-

Kathleen: Yeah, that's very negligible given the size of your subscriber base.

Mark: Yeah. I don't focus too much on unsubscribes. I just focus on the overall week. Like, I see subscriber growth. That's all I focus on. As long as people continue to subscribe more than they're unsubscribing, I think we're doing something right.

Kathleen: Thank you, by the way, for sharing all those details and kind of opening up the kimono as they say. I appreciate that. It's really interesting to kind of benchmark against where you guys are.

Mark: Yeah.

Looking to the Future

Kathleen: Now, coming to today, the newsletter is where it is. You've seen a lot of growth. What are you looking at as far as future growth or future plans for the newsletter?

Mark: Yeah. We just actually had this debate last week, two weeks ago, something like that. We're trying to figure out how to keep it fresh, how to keep doing different things with it, and how to keep providing value for our subscribers.

Since we've launched this newsletter, we've actually seen a number of other agencies start doing the same thing. Now, all of a sudden, our unique, interesting idea is copied by a lot of people, which is ... Like I said, that's fine.

It doesn't really bother me. But at the same time, we still want to be different and a little fresher than everybody else, so we're trying to figure out what sort of features we can add into the newsletter, what we can do differently if ...

Can we spin the newsletter off to be its own thing and live on its own, kind of like The Skimm or The Hustle do as their own thing? We're probably not going to go that path, but it's a conversation we've had.

How do we just basically put more time into it and make sure that our subscribers are getting the most value out of it? We just did a huge survey of all our subscribers to ask them, "What do you guys want? What do you want to see?" It was kind of cool to see that everybody's like, "No, I like it the way it is." Which is cool, but at the same time, I think we need to push it.

So, how can we find things that people don't even know they want yet? That's kind of what we're working through right now is that process.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's tough. As soon as you settle on a format, I feel like, then it has to change again. Right?

Mark: Yeah, exactly.

What Does It Take to Publish The Daily Carnage?

Kathleen: Now, how much time are you spending on this? You mentioned you have a couple of people that are involved from your team. You're putting this out every weekday, so tell me a little bit more about what that daily rhythm looks like.

Mark: I mean, yeah. It's a lot of hours a day, so I give my boss credit for allowing us to do that. It takes away from billable hours that we could be working on agency clients.

It ends up being ... With the three of us on my team, it ends up being about four hours a day, which is a decent amount. But it's totally worth it from the results we've had. And really, a lot of that comes down to just summarizing the content. We don't really ... Curating the content and finding the content is the easiest part by far.

Kathleen: How many people are involved in that? Is it all three, or is it more than that? Is it the whole agency?

Mark: It's just the three of us, so we usually just ... We have a Slack channel, and we just throw things in there as they come up in the day because we like to be really fresh with the content.

It's hard to plan super far ahead. We try to find content that was published either today, and we'll feature that in tomorrow's newsletter, or in the past few days to feature in the next newsletter just to keep that content really fresh. We have a Slack channel. We just throw content in there, and we debate things. It's like, "All right, this content isn't that good," or maybe, "We just did an SEO piece yesterday. Let's hold off on this."

We try to have pretty open communication about what pieces we're going to pick and work from there. Then, it comes to summarizing and editing part, the writing and editing, which is definitely the most time consuming, but that's the most fun for me. I love writing and editing, so that's-

Kathleen: Do you still have the one copywriter from ... The former ModCloth person who's doing it? Or is that a collaborative effort?

Mark: Yeah. She still writes a decent amount, and then we ... I mean, all three of us write on it, so it just depends on who writes which piece each day.

Kathleen: Yeah. How do you keep the voice consistent?

Mark: That's the toughest part, honestly. That's where a really good editor comes in and just making sure that it all matches up with making sure that it's consistent. It's kind of a feeling more than like a strict process. It's just kind of like, "Oh, this section doesn't sound as snarky, as edgy, as the other two, so let's see where we can add in some snark to it," basically. That's-

Kathleen: How does the editing process work?

Mark: It's basically everybody writes their pieces. It comes to me, and then I go through and give it a pretty hard edit, read over everything. Then, I put it all together in our template.

Then I read over it again to make sure once it's in the template, and we're not doing anything that's repeating ourselves, or making sure all the pieces match up, making sure we're not being contradictory of ourselves, too. Because there's been a few times where one person's written one thing, and in the very next section, somebody else has written the complete opposite. It's like, all right, we got to think about this a little more.

Yeah, it's just making sure that we're consistent and keeping up with that.

Kathleen: What time does the newsletter go out every day?

Mark: It sends at 7:00 a.m. every morning, and we obviously write it the day before for that.

Kathleen: How'd you settle on 7:00 a.m.?

Mark: We used to send it in the afternoon, like 2:00 p.m., and people were just emailing us. They're like, "This is too late in the day. I need it first thing in the morning." We're like, "All right, we'll test first thing in the morning."

We started doing that, and our open rates went up a couple percentage points, and we're like, "All right. Clearly, first thing in the morning's the way to go, so we stuck with it and have been doing first thing in the morning for, oh, I don't know, I guess it's been a little over a year, 14, 15 months at this point.

Kathleen: Do you send it at 7:00 a.m. by time zone? So, if I'm in California, do I get it at 7:00 a.m. my time? Or is it 7:00 a.m. Eastern, and everybody gets it at that time?

Mark: Yeah, it's 7:00 a.m. Eastern. Just because I feel like if we're first thing Eastern, we'll still be first thing on the West Coast because it'll be 4:00 a.m. there. The only difference-

Kathleen: Super early-bird people.

Mark: Yeah, super-early bird people. The only difference that I wish we could do a little better is people in Europe. We've had some of them complain that they're getting it too late now, so it's ...

Kathleen: Can't please everyone.

Mark: I know, I know.

Kathleen: We're right back to square one on that, right?

Mark: Exactly. It's like all right, you know? We'll make do.

The Results

Kathleen: I love it. Now what I would love to do is talk about business results for the company. You mentioned that periodically, you'll put something in the newsletter to drive leads. What has this done for Carney as an agency?

Mark: Yeah. Let me see here. In the past year and a half, we've gotten nine new clients from the newsletter, which might sound small, but we're also a small agency, so a small agency who never really did business development before this. So, those nine new clients over a year and a half are pretty good for us, and some of those clients are pretty big, which is cool to see.

Kathleen: It's also impressive just because if you're anything like we are, as an agency, the sales cycle is kind of longish.

Mark: Yeah.

Kathleen: It can be a few months sometimes, and so given that you've only been doing this a year and half, nine clients is good, I think.

Mark: Yeah. I mean, it took a really long time for us to get that first client. It was to the point that my boss was like, "Is this really going to work? I don't even know."

Kathleen: I promise it's working.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. I mean, to his credit, he gave us a huge runway for it, so it was like ... Because before that first client, our ROI was, I don't know, negative 1,000 on it or whatever. Because we spent so many man hours into it and hadn't gotten any clients, so there's no ROI.

To his credit, he gave us that runway, and we got our first client from it. I think it was actually a year ago, so last November. Then, since that client, we've gotten eight more. It's been pretty successful for our small agency, so I'm super stoked about it.

Kathleen: That's great. Well, I love the newsletter.

Mark: Well, thanks.

Kathleen: My whole team loves the newsletter. We frequently talk about it in our Slack channel. So, if you're listening, and you're not currently a subscriber to The Daily Carnage, you need to go out and do that right now. If you want to see an example of a newsletter that is killing it, it is really a great model for other companies.

Mark: Well, thanks.

Kathleen: And I think you could do the same thing in any industry.

Mark: Oh, yeah.

Kathleen: You could be The Skimm, or now people will say, "I am The Daily Carnage of this industry." No, it's really great.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Shifting gears for a minute, as my listeners know, I always ask the same two questions of everyone who comes on the podcast. I'm curious to hear your answers.

The first is company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Mark: Yeah, I've got a couple that are doing really awesome.

One's ... It's a contact marketing agency called Animalz. I don't know if you're familiar with them, but their blogs, I mean, they're really strategy focused, and it's really, really good. They definitely take a different approach than a lot of other blogs. The strategy is kind of almost like the contrarian view of everybody else, but it just really gets you thinking really well.

I think they're doing an awesome job, and they're really a young agency. I think they might only be two years old or something like that.

Kathleen: Wow. Is that Animals, A-N-I-M-A-L-S?

Mark: It's actually a Z at the end, which-

Kathleen: That's what I thought okay.

Mark: Yeah. Kind of a strange name for an agency, but their blog and the guy who writes the blog, Jimmy Daly, they're doing an awesome job there. I really respect that.

Kathleen: Oh, I'll have to check that out.

Mark: Yeah. Then, another one, just to throw a non-marketing out there, Bumble, the dating app, their blog and inbound marketing approach is actually really awesome, surprisingly.

I know somebody on the team over there, and he was like, "Yeah, we have a blog." I was like, "Eh, I'll check it out," and it's actually ... They do a lot more than just talk about dating. They're talking about career advice, professional development advice, things like that. It's just a really surprisingly unexpectedly awesome blog.

Kathleen: I'm trying to think. Because I heard somebody speak at HubSpot's INBOUND conference this year from one of the dating sites. I'm trying to remember. I think it might've been Bumble. Is that the one that lets the women ...

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, if that's the one, which I think it is now that I'm looking at the site and it's all yellow, I totally agree with you because ... The woman from Bumble, I think she was their marketing director, she got up and spoke, and she showed an example. Her talk was about how you stay true to your core purpose throughout your marketing, so she showed this example of some things they do on their blog.

They're kind of like "Dear John" letters. Basically what it is is, because it's a very female-centric dating app, they have really strict rules around what you can post and how you can interact and communicate. And if anybody is at all abusive, or if they make somebody feel, I don't know, offended or in danger, they can get kicked off the platform.

So, they write these blogs, which are like letters to guys who take an obnoxious approach with women. They're basically tear-downs of these guys. I'm going to have to find some examples and throw them in the show notes (read Bumble's "An Open Letter to Connor" here).

When I came back from INBOUND, I shared these with my team, and I was like, "This is phenomenal." Because not only were they super-entertaining reads, but they were 100% spot on true to the brand.

Again, it goes exactly back to what you and I talked about, which is there's probably a lot of people who would read these and think "this is really not cool." Like you're totally calling out a guy who maybe didn't mean to offend somebody. But for their brand, it is completely authentic and spot on.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. For their brand and their audience, it's the perfect thing.

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah. I like that one.

Mark: Nice.

Kathleen: I had forgotten about that until you said it. Cool, and you're a guy who reads a lot of content because you kind of do it for a living for your newsletter.

Mark: That's true, yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah. It has to be hard to pick just a few. Well, the second question is the world of digital marketing is always changing and changing so quickly. What do you do to stay up to date and to educate yourself and always be on the cutting edge?

Mark: Yeah. I read a lot. I read a lot of blogs. For social media, my big go-to is Buffer. I think they have an awesome social media blog. Moz is another good one. For SEO, we talked about Rand Fishkin and Moz a little bit earlier. I already mentioned Animalz. If you're into marketing strategy, that's definitely the blog to read right now for marketing strategy.

Let me think. Oh, a good one for marketing design is Canva. I think they do a really awesome design blog, and it's not like ... Some of the articles are really in-depth and more for designers, but most of them are more for like marketers like me who have no design skills, so-

Kathleen: I use Canva for a lot because I don't have any design skills either. It is the one place I can go and I know that even with my dummy design skills, I can create something that looks good.

Mark: Yeah, exactly.

Kathleen: So, I'm a fan of Canva.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. I'm a huge fan, too. I have zero design skills. I couldn't even ... I can barely draw a stick figure, so Canva is like my saving grace.

Kathleen: Do you have any particular system for keeping track of all these blogs for reading them? Some people I know use different RSS feed tools. How do you go through it? Or is it just literally like you open up your inbox, and there they are every day?

Mark: Yeah. I mean, I've tried using Feedly and some of those similar ones, but the only problem I found with those is they don't get you the content fast enough.

Sometimes by the time they crawl through content and surface it on your Feedly feed, it's a couple days old. Which is fine, but especially for The Daily Carnage, I need fresh content. So, I just subscribe to a ton of stuff and have it all go to a specific folder in my email. Once a day, I go through and sort through that.

The interesting ones, I'll add to my Pocket. Are you familiar with Pocket?

Kathleen: Yeah, it's a great tool.

Mark: Yeah. That's so good. I add them to there and read them when I have a few seconds, or skim through them when I have a few seconds. Luckily, it works with your phone, too, so I'll add it to my Pocket on my desktop. Then I can check on my phone while I'm on commute or whenever it is and catch up on some content that way. That's-

Kathleen: I think Pocket just added a new feature, if I'm not incorrect, that will actually read things to you.

Mark: Oh, really?

Kathleen: So, like if you're ... I'm super geeky, and I listen to podcasts and things when I'm working out. That was intriguing to me because I was like, "Wow, I could actually have Pocket read me an article now while I'm working out."

Mark: Oh, that's cool. I'll have to check into that because I did not know that one.

Kathleen: Which makes me a giant geek, by the way, that that's what I choose to listen to when I work out.

Mark: Hey, no. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a good time to do it.

Kathleen: No, it's funny because I similarly subscribe to a lot, and for a while, I had it all go into a particular folder in my inbox. I had a rule set up, and the folder was called "Read This Today." I realized it wasn't working when I looked in that folder, and there were 1,500 things in it. I'm like, "Well, that's not going to happen. I won't be reading that today." So, I definitely need a better solution. Maybe I should be looking into Pocket.

Mark: Yeah. That's the best solution, I've found. It's still a little crazy because I check that folder, and it's like, "Oh my god, there's a lot of emails in here." It's just like, scan through it really quick. Try to focus on the headlines that really pertain to me or our audience if I'm doing it for The Daily Carnage, and go from there.

Kathleen: Yeah, if you don't look in it every day, it gets totally overwhelming.

Mark: Yeah, exactly.

Kathleen: Great. Well, this has been so interesting. I love geeking out on the topic of email newsletters. It's something that my team spends a lot of time talking about-

Mark: Awesome.

Kathleen: So, it's really interesting to hear how you're approaching it and to also get more details on exactly how it's grown and the success you've had. Kudos to you for what you've accomplished.

Mark: Well, thanks. Thanks, I-

Kathleen: It's clearly something that you've put a lot of work into.

Mark: Yeah.

How to Reach Mark

Kathleen: If someone's listening, and they want to ask a question, want to learn more, what's the best way for them to find you online?

Mark: Best way is either Twitter or LinkedIn, and just Mark Rogers at both places. Unfortunately, there's about a trillion Mark Rogers out there. So, Twitter, my handle is ... It's mrog91588, and that's probably the easiest way to find me.

Kathleen: I will put links to all that in the show notes. So, if you're confused about which Mark Rogers you're looking for, just check the show notes, and the links will be there.

Again, definitely, if you haven't already, subscribe to The Daily Carnage because it's awesome. 

You Know What Comes Next...

Kathleen: Well, that's all I have for this week. If you're listening, and you have gotten some value out of the podcast, you know what to do. Please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform or your choice.

And if you know someone else who's doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, please tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them.

Thanks, Mark.

Mark: Thanks a lot, Kathleen. It was good to be here.

Kathleen: Great to have you.