Is your email inbox out of control? Are you always clicking delete, spam, or unsubscribe? Brands and marketers need to minimize makeshift marketing to improve open rates, engagement, and relationships with subscribers and customers. Today’s guest is Cameron Cegala, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of AdKaddy. Cameron describes how AdKaddy, a startup experiencing significant growth on a small budget, stays organized.
Eric: I get a lot of email. I feel like I am constantly at war and at battle with my personal inbox. I’m getting messages from companies that I follow and messages that I want to get from brands, on deals, specials, and sales or whatever it might be. And I’m getting messages from companies, I don’t know how they got my information, so I’m unsubscribing them, clicking spam; I’m deleting everywhere. And then some in some personal messages from my Aunt Glo who wants to know what the plans are for Christmas this year. And it’s all in one place. It takes so much time and so much organization. It’s just maddening, to be honest with you.What if there was a way I could take control, we all could take control of our inboxes? Get that control back again and at the same time, brands and marketers would experience better open rates, more engagement, and a deeper connection and relationship with their subscribers and customers. Wouldn’t that be the good stuff?That is the topic of this episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. My guest is Cameron Cegala. She’s the co-founder and COO of AdKaddy, and she’s hoping to deliver just that. It is a brand new startup organization and they’re experiencing great growth, but they’re struggling with the same things that we’ve talked about in this series as we focus on makeshift marketing.As a startup, how does she determine what a company should focus on? How can she stay nimble and move? How does she keep her small organization organized, on focus, and on track? With so many shiny objects, how does she choose what’s going to be best for her with a small budget?It’s going to be a fun conversation. I know you’ll love it and learn lots from Cameron. She’s a great guest. My name is Eric Piela. I’m the host of the Actionable Marketing Podcast and the Brand and Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule. We’ll jump into all of this. It’s a fun episode. Buckle up because it is time to get AMP'ed.All right. Welcome to another action-packed episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I have another fantastic guest. As I always try to do every week for you, I’m excited to introduce you to Cameron Cegala. She is the co-founder and COO of AdKaddy. Cameron, welcome to the show.Cameron: Thanks so much for having me, Eric.Eric: Absolutely. This is going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited to talk and learn a little bit about of course your product, and then also hear your experience. We’re talking to a lot of marketers who are winning and finding things that are really working for them in marketing, and then other marketers that are struggling in certain areas. So, any time we have these conversations, especially when I get to talk to founders, I think that got a really good perspective from a business standpoint and for a strategy standpoint.But sometimes—guilty—we as marketers can get really lasered in into our particular niche or our objective. Sometimes, we don’t step back and think about the overall goal and objective of the company. So, I really appreciate your perspective, Cameron.Cameron: Absolutely.Eric: If you could for us, let’s have our listeners get to know you a little bit. Talk to us about your career and how you ended up with AdKaddy.Cameron: Sure. My career has definitely been an interesting journey, I would say one that has taken many shifts and turns along the way. From a very young age, I thought I actually wanted to do something in the international relations or international business field, something that would really leverage my passion for Spanish language and culture. That, later on, evolved into me realizing that I was becoming more and more interested in marketing, specifically.I’m so interested in those larger international companies, but definitely that particular path, however, it ended up that I was offered an incredible job with Procter & Gamble straight out of college in their customer business development function or IE Sales [...]. They make it sound really great. So, I took that job out of college and spent about seven years of P&G in that client management function.Honestly, due to some mergers and acquisitions within the company, I ended up leaving and moving onto a smaller CPG company where that really is what launched me into more interest in entrepreneurship. I went from this really large-scale company where you’re hyper-focused on one silo to smaller CPG companies where I can really experience multi functions and own a lot more within the company.I worked for two smaller companies after P&G for a couple of years. To be fully transparent, I was at a point in my life where I was traveling like crazy and didn’t have a lot of balance between my personal and professional life. I took a step back and said, “Hey, I want things to look different,” and I have this really big passion for brands and for consumers and how they connect. I was approached for the opportunity to get together with my now-CEO and co-founder to create AdKaddy, which is what we started about a year-and-a-half ago.Eric: Congratulations on your new company. It sounds like things are going well and I think we all have that point where we look at ourselves and our careers, and go, “Okay, is this what I want to do? Is there other opportunity?” and good for you for taking that risk as I know a lot of entrepreneurs do.I love to hear a little bit about AdKaddy because reading a little bit about the product and a little bit about yourself in the bio, you really talk about advertising. The problem about advertising isn’t advertising itself. It’s really about the interruption of advertising. I think that is the precipice of AdKaddy and your product and I would love to see a little bit more of that, too.Cameron: Absolutely. I would say that AdKaddy, first and foremost, was born out of this really simple frustration of the overabundance of marketing emails that you and I, everybody else as consumers receive on a daily basis. Last year, I believe nearly 50 trillion consumer emails were sent out, which is quite amazing.Having been on the brand side for most of my career, I learned that it is incredibly difficult for these brands to effectively communicate with our customers, which is why, quite frankly, they’re using this spray-and-pray approach when it comes to email marketing. Conversely, it’s just as difficult for consumers to then fit through all these communications that they’re receiving, for the information that they actually want or the information that even, quite frankly, pertains to them.However, now having moved over to the consumer side of AdKaddy, when we ask people, “Why are you not unsubscribing from these brands even though your inbox is completely out of control?” the answer is almost always that there’s this fear of missing out, this FOMO, as a lot of millennials like to call it nowadays, and honestly that they really want to keep up with these brands that they love.To your point, in other words, it’s not actually the marketing itself, or the ad itself, or the email itself that’s annoying. It’s the interruption of it. That’s really where the second piece came in, that the truth is we want to receive ads. I like to take it a step further and say we really need to receive them.For instance, for me, it’s the big [...] every quarter. Or for a lot of people, it might be the brand new product [...] at Apple, whatever it is that personally excites you. Ultimately, we want to receive these communications in a way that’s convenient to us, a way that we can control the process, that we can do it on our own terms.Eric: That’s really interesting. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I’m always thinking of myself and my experience as my own, managing my own inbox, whether it be my professional one or my personal one. I probably have different uses for each of those. But you’re right. There’s absolutely certain brands and we’ve talked about this in previous shows that we’re passionate about, that we’ve connected with, that we want to get communications from and it’s interesting. Your point is like, “What do we do with them?”I’m sort of the same way like, “I want to get them, so I don’t want to unsubscribe to you yet,” because there’s still a chance where they call it FOMO or whatever you call it, there’s still a chance that I might want it one of these times. So, I usually give it a quick scan or I put it in a folder.But again, if I’m thinking as a marketer, I want to make sure I’m one of those brands that people want to get. They want to not be missed. They want to have that, “Boy, I can’t wait to get this email communication from this brand, I don’t want to disappear into their inbox, and I love a way to make sure that the content I’m bringing to them is relevant, important, and exciting, enough to keep their attention.”Do you have advice then, based on the origination of your idea for your product? Based on your conversations, what is it that people are looking for? What type of content seems to work the best, that people want to keep around and either stick it in a folder or put a star by, or do something so they can go back and look at when they’re not so busy?Cameron: Yeah. To your point, the personal inbox is absolutely the most valuable real estate that a marketer has. We believe fully and the life of email marketing, but at the same time a lot of consumers are looking for ways to either obstruct this brand email marketing. There’s a lot of ad blockers now, certainly a lot of privacy concerns and what not, but also to your point, a huge lack of engagement. The click-through rates on emails are extremely low, around 15% at this point.I think, honestly, it’s less about the content of the email and it’s more about the context of the email. Again, why we created AdKaddy is we truly believe that people want to be able to view ads on their own terms. If you are going into a store, going into Best Buy, you’re wanting to purchase a TV, then if someone’s promoting this TVs to you within the right context, you want to receive those promotions, those ads, whatever someone’s marketing to you. But if you’re out to dinner with your spouse, you wouldn’t want someone to walk up to the table and sell you a TV because it’s just not the right context.Certainly, content matters and savvy shoppers want to see coupons and other people are more interested in the brand’s story. Certainly, I believe we’re all looking for ways to differentiate ourselves these days when it comes to style and fashion, et cetera, but at the end of the day, a lot of it is about how often we’re sending emails? At what time of the day we’re sending emails? Do people have the ability to see more or less of the specific emails that they want to see?Eric: That’s interesting. I think we tried everything here at CoSchedule. We’ve had super, hyper personalized journeys in automation with a hundred different journeys and then we’ve scaled back and we’ve made them not quite as much and try to figure out the right timing. It’s almost like a science and you’re AB testing, you’re figuring out when people are open. It can be overwhelming and there’s probably some email practitioners that are our listeners and they’re saying, “Hey, you should try this or do this. This has worked for me.”We’ve all tried to figure out what’s right for us because there’s tons of benchmarks, just tons of best time to send, but what we found at least—maybe you can comment on this—is when we try to find what works best for our list, we find what works best when our followers and our email subscribers are opening and we use those to measure when we should be sending as opposed to industry standards.Sometimes, marketers don’t have that luxury, Cameron, and they’re doing some of the spraying-and-praying, they’re saying, “I got this one message. This is all I have capacity for. I’ll just send it out when it’s convenient for me.” Boom, there it goes. What are the ramifications of doing email like that?Cameron: We talked to a lot of people and looked at a lot of [...] email [...] phones and I’ve seen people with over a quarter of a million unread messages in their inbox. That’s the ramification. At the end of the day, if everyone is doing this spray-and-pray type method, people are ending up being completely bombarded with messages in their inbox.I think your point, if everybody’s using the same standard, using the same time of the day, using the same number of emails per week, then it ends up just being a huge bombardment then. If the receiver, the consumer on the other end had no ability to control the process at all, then nine times out of ten they’re either (a) deleting everything, (b) leaving them all unread, or to your point, maybe selecting a few and throwing them in a folder. But how often are they going back and actually checking those emails out?Eric: Right. It’s kind of funny because we’ve done some research around Tuesdays and how we pulled things. Tuesday’s a great day and I always see a huge influx in my inbox on Tuesdays because that’s the day when everyone’s got caught up after a Monday and the weekend. Really, it’s almost diminishing the value of sending out because you’re getting inundated.I know AdKaddy has found a way to allow consumers to understand, sort, and organize their incoming emails, and I’m probably not doing it quite justice, but maybe talk through about what you feel the resolution is for consumers. I believe you’re targeting consumers and people who are managing their own inboxes. Then maybe based on that, how does that affect the marketers who are sending those communications to your customers?Cameron: We have created this what we like to call a BRM instead of a CRM, a Brand Relationship Manager because it’s a one-stop shop, it’s one dedicated location for the consumer brand relationship. You go on, you download the app, you create a consumer email address and you start to use this consumer email address with all your consumer needs, whether you’re checking out online or in-store, subscribing to a newsletter, seeking a coupon, whatever it might be, this will filter into the app, into a highly organized platform.We organize everything by brand, rather than by items, so each brand has one dedicated tile where all emails flow into that tile. Within each brand, there’s a brand landing page and emails are automatically parsed into marketing receipts and tracking. You have super easy access to your shipping and receipts, and of course, you can bookmark emails, et cetera.From the consumer perspective, they can engage on their own terms, they can go into the app when they’re in the right state of mind to view advertisements. Of course, from a marketer’s perspective, people are going in to specifically look at apps. At the end of the day, we’re changing the consumer’s perspective from, “We don’t want these emails in our inbox,” to, “I actually am seeking out to engage with these emails.” Of course, it opens up loads of opportunities for marketers as far as increased engagement.We believe that our engagement rates are exponentially better than traditional email. Future features like better feedback loops, potentially being able to like emails and understand, to your point, how do you know what content your consumers actually prefer, things of that sort.Eric: Fascinating. I think the whole concept is extremely indicative of what we’re seeing as marketers were seeing. Our customers are seeing that they want to have tighter relationships, they want to connect more with brands in a highly poignant way. We just had Mark Schaefer on, who’s a marketing influencer and an author around The Marketing Rebellion. A lot of a part of his book he talks about how the most human company wins and how we’re trying to create experiences and create brands that really relate to individuals that are authentic and human.It’s interesting that your product almost helps broom that experience together. You’re not just even in email. Now you’re looking at what you’ve purchased. You’re creating that entire experience with that brand in one location.Cameron: Absolutely, and not to mention the fact that now, there is this natural organic place for both consumers and marketers to engage in discovery. So much of the discovery process of feeding people ads, whether it be on social media, or on TV, radio, et cetera, so much about it is so interruptive. People aren’t in the right state of mind, but now you’re entering a platform thing. I want to engage with brands I love and now it’s an opportunity for marketers to seek out new customers whom they have a lot more information on and they know that they’re in this right state of mind.Eric: Do you get any push back? I’m curious about like, “Hey, we’re missing it out, and the whole spontaneity of seeing something,” and that like, “Hey. Yeah, I need this right now,” instead of like, “Oh, I’ll put some time away to look at this,” and they never get around to it. Again, it’s kind of being the naysayer. What have you seen with some of your early customer adoption? Are they still making time to do it? Are you measure that? Again, if I’m a market, should I be scared of AdKaddy? Is this good for me or is this not good for me?Cameron: The answer is yes, for sure, to all of that. First of all, that’s what push notifications are for. Yes and yes, we are measuring all of that, we are measuring the number of visits to app per day, per week, we’re measuring time and app, time per email, clicks on emails, et cetera, all of which are higher than the industry standard at the moment. Of course, we are somewhat new to the game and we’re growing on a daily basis, but we absolutely measure all of that everyday.From a brand perspective, you absolutely should not be scared of AdKaddy. In fact, all the brands we talked to you are completely stoked about AdKaddy. First and foremost, the ability to have better engagement rates is huge because although email marketing is king, it’s also a completely broken model and most marketers agree with that, that something needs to change, there’s got to be ways to better communicate with your customers.So really, marketers, brands view this as a better way to communicate because now, they’re not just having all their emails deleted or marked as read, et cetera, but people actually go in with the intention to interact. They’re going to have the ability as well to [...] particular promotions onto a new tab for those customers and certainly lots of more features down the line.Eric: I love the use of the word ‘stoked.’ I hope our marketers are stoked. That’s very cool. I would agree. We’re all kind of weighing to figure out what that change that’s coming to email marketing. Besides some automation and some personalization, things have been pretty stagnant for a long time there, so this is really interesting.We talked a lot about CoSchedule about makeshift marketing, which is the idea of sometimes we struggle with too many tools, we’re jumping back and forth, it’s hard to stay organized, and we end up spending more time coordinating work than actually doing work. It sounds like you’re still fairly new, so I can imagine there’s tons of dollars flowing everywhere, so maybe you have to be a little smart with your spend and figure out what’s going to work for you. Tell me, from a marketing perspective, how did you brought AdKaddy to market? What’s working for you? What isn’t working for you? What can marketers learn from you and your experience?Cameron: That’s a great question. One of the nice things about being a newer company and getting things off the ground, of course it does mean a smaller budget, but it also means we are a bit more thoughtful about what we’re doing and where we’re putting our dollars.A couple of things that we have focused on are really brand-oriented. For instance, we’ve done a couple of sweepstakes with different brands here in Atlanta, some pretty well-known Atlanta brands where we’ve partnered with them to really co-brand an event or co-brand a giveaway of sorts to give people an understanding of what AdKaddy is and signing-up for this particular brand’s email list through our app.The really cool thing is that the brand has been able to see the increased engagement rates and how AdKaddy actually positively affects their business. We’ve also been able to leverage their email list and grow that together, so having that win-win for both of us. The sweepstakes has been big.We’ve also done some earned media with the Silicon Valley firm and some PR. Of course, we have certainly tried our hand at Facebook with targeted ads. You asked where we’ve won and not won. Facebook is actually one that has not [...] us helping for us up to this point as a smaller company, so we’ve really focused more on the ground-level new ads.We have also worked with some influencers through social media, but we just believe for AdKaddy and again being a newer bootstrapped company, really getting involved with the brands on a ground level. It’s part of our mission, connecting consumers and brands. We’re all consumers—the co-founders at AdKaddy—so just connecting with them and finding ways to really leverage each other and work together.Eric: I love that strategy. I think of doing that [...] marketing and partnering with some of those larger brands. Like you said, then you’re leveraging [...] getting some grounds fall from that level, too, really smart stuff. I know CoSchedule, we’re a bit farther along in our startup journey, but one of the things that is difficult for us is staying focused. There’s also tons of different opportunities and tons of different directions that you can start running towards, especially when it comes to marketing or even product positioning.How do you stay focused? How do you set goals and say, “Here’s what I want, here’s what we’re going to run towards, and here’s why. Don’t get distracted by these shiny objects and keep that steady growth.” What’s been your trick or your plan?Cameron: We at AdKaddy have a smaller team, which means communication is a bit easier. But we still, like everybody else, use different tools to be able to track our progress on different projects, particularly when it comes to development, but as well with marketing. We might have an experiential marketing event going on, co-branding some event with another brand.As simple as it might sound, Google Drive or Trello or Slack, making sure that everybody is really on the same page. Pretty much everybody on our team is involved in every aspect of the company at this point, which is certainly a beautiful thing at the moment because we can all leverage our strengths and jump in there.I would say that we try to leverage the tools we have out there, to stay organized and to stay on task. Certainly weighing out what things are going to be priority can be difficult at times, particularly giving budget constraints, but we, like everybody else try to look at the ROI of things and approach it from that perspective.Eric: That makes sense. It’s definitely a priority is to find a way to communicate, to know where projects are at, where tasks are at, who’s working on what, when’s the delivery, when’s the launch date. It can be a lot of things in the air and if you don’t have a great game plan for that, one of those balls is going to drop. That’s what every marketer is trying to avoid. We all have that happen to us. It's always good to hear what tools you’re able to use and make work for you.A question I would love to pick your brain around in terms of your career growth, where you’re at now, what is one thing that you wish you would have known when you begin your career, that you know now.Cameron: That is a great question. In particular as it pertains to tech, I would say to just feel comfortable being at your league. I am a young entrepreneur. I’m also a female entrepreneur and oftentimes, I’m surrounded by many men in tech and men who have had more experience and who have been in the business longer, but just being comfortable feeling out of my league and not just being comfortable with it, but really growing to appreciate it, leverage it, and learning from people.As a young college student, new professional, sometimes you can feel like you just own the world. I’ve learned that there’s always somebody in the room smarter than me and who can offer me something, some nugget of knowledge, or probably much more. I’d say that.Eric: That’s great advice. I love that. Maybe to end things, if you could step into my shoes right now as host of this podcast, what would you have asked yourself that I forgot to do or didn’t do?Cameron: I would have asked myself how can I download and use AdKaddy?Eric: There it is.Cameron: Can I say that?Eric: Yeah, actually I was going to ask you that anyway, but I love it. So, why don’t we end with that? AdKaddy sounds extremely fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing a little bit about your tool and your product. If they want to learn more, they want to check it out, where can they go for that?Cameron: You can certainly go to www.adkaddy.com, but you can also go straight to the app store, both Android and Apple, download it there, and sign-up for your new AdKaddy email address.Eric: Cool. I love it. I think it’s interesting and exciting change to email and I appreciate you coming on the show. Marketers, remember you should be stoked about this, so go check it out. It’s going to be great.Cameron, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thanks for sharing your story and providing some advice for our listeners today.Cameron: Thanks, Eric. It was fun.