Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Some people say email marketing is dead but Kelly Hackney would literally fight you tooth-and-nail over that notion. To her, email drives not only sales, but also a better conversion rate. It also makes repurposing your content and staying on top of mind a whole lot easier. Kelly does email marketing independently as a solopreneur, but it hasn’t always been like that. She spent more than 10 years in a corporate marketing job before finally deciding to start her own business in the middle of the pandemic. Deeply resonating with the personal brand she has built for herself over the years, she resurrected her old blog to become her new business’ hub. Now, Caffeine with Kelly is quickly building a reputation for helping entrepreneurs caffeinate their marketing and put themselves in a position where they can serve the greatest number of people. Tune in as Kelly shares her journey of fostering her passion for marketing, entrepreneurship, and authenticity. And yes... coffee.
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Increase Your Sales And Conversion Rate With These Easy Email Marketing Strategies From Caffeine With Kelly
Take Your Marketing From Sleeping To Fully-Caffeinated
I am so excited to be here with Caffeine with Kelly. I'm super excited that you're here. This is going to be super fun. I am usually not an afternoon coffee drinker, but I feel like I'm with you. I needed to have my afternoon coffee.
Nothing else for this hour.
I made sure to save myself some this morning from my jar. I do like hot coffee one day and then I save the rest of the pot for the next day, and then I make iced coffee. I'm so excited that you're here. I love my new Clubhouse BFFs and you are one of them.
Thank you so much. I'm so joyed to be here. As soon as you asked me to be on as a guest, I don't even know if I blacked out for a second, but I was so dang excited. Thank you so much for having me on here.
First of all, I'm obsessed with Clubhouse. I think I've talked about it on the last few episodes that I've done so people are probably going to be sick of reading about it, but if you are not on the Clubhouse app and you are reading this, you probably want to have time to do both. I found my tribe. I found my people. I found women that I truly resonate with and really have a door getting to know. I'm loving it. I feel like everyone should be on there. It's the best thing that came out of the pandemic as far as I'm concerned.
What if it doesn’t work out? But then again, what if it does?
I completely agree. I started my business in December 2020 and I feel like, without Clubhouse, I wouldn't be where I am because I've been able to make connections and meet my people. Now, people say my name in rooms where I'm not even there. The coolest and most rewarding thing is to have a tribe of people that know you, love you and support all of your mission and then you can do the same for them. Clubhouse has changed my business for sure.
I know your story, but no one else does that's reading or maybe they do, but take us on that journey. You said you started your business in December 2020. That was a crazy time to be starting a business. I feel like I'm so thrown off. Not even knowing what month we're in, it has been crazy. You went through the pandemic. Tell us your story.
You're correct. I had a 9:00 to 5:00 job throughout the pandemic until about last September 2020 is when I left. I quit. I didn't have a plan B. My plan B was I was getting married in a month. When I graduated college eons ago, I always knew I wanted to be in marketing. When I was young, I went to work with my dad one day. It was like a, "Take Your Daughter to Work Day." I accompanied him and I sat. I felt so proud. I was at a boardroom with him like we were in a meeting.
At this long boardroom table, I was sitting down and he gave me a spreadsheet just like everyone else. I felt like such a big kid to be able to hear my dad speak. I remember coloring it in. It was a spreadsheet that he had given everyone else. For this next hour, he talked about numbers and it was boring. After that, we went to lunch and he brought me back to the office. We walked me into the marketing department and he said, “I’m pretty sure this is your place. I'm going to drop you here for a couple of hours and I'll be back in the afternoon and we'll go.”
Ever since then, as soon as I was able to take marketing classes, I did. I was one of those nerdy people in high school that as soon as I was able to take marketing classes, I dove into entrepreneurship, digital marketing and social media when it was new back then. MySpace was out and they weren't even really marketing platforms at the time, but they were the new thing that we were learning about. Long story short, fast forward all through college, I majored in Marketing. I never wavered and never changed my major.
I graduated and was so ready to take on the world and conquer it with my marketing knowledge. I had so much passion for it, so I dove in. I worked at a marketing firm for a couple of years. I loved it. I got to touch a lot of different companies and niches and really learn what I liked in the marketing realm and what I didn't like, and that's okay. Part of your career is learning and growing. I ended up moving to another organization where I was strictly on social media and then I worked my way up and I was strictly on event marketing. It was all amazing.
Then I left and I went for a not-for-profit organization. At this point in my career, I was jazzed about it. There were women in leadership, which was new for me at the time. I was so excited to be joining a not-for-profit that was helping people all around the world. I was like, “This is my place. I can be my bubbly, happy and excited self.” It's extra caffeinated to serve people with my marketing knowledge. Long story short is that a broken road took me here and there was a serious roadblock. I was squashed to no end.
I was told I couldn't be positive and that I needed to fit into a corporate 9:00 to 5:00 box. Because I didn't fit in the box, they moved my cubicle away from my team to a different corner because I would walk in and say good morning to everyone as I passed their desks and everyone would wave and say good morning. I was disturbing the culture and the peace, so they moved my desk one day. For me, when the pandemic hit and I was working from home, I figured, “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.” I'm still chatting with my team. I can collaborate on different fronts.
Then it became, “You're collaborating too much and you're getting answers to questions that leadership doesn't even know yet,” because I'm collaborating with other departments. There were a lot of things that I felt squashed about or discriminated against. You're in pandemic life, so I was working at home. I wake up, leave my bedroom, brush my teeth, walk across the hall in my office and I would cry in the morning because I didn't want to log on. I had reached a point where I didn't want to feel like that anymore. Bless my fiancé at the time because he was there when I was miserable. I loved the marketing piece, but everything else was squashing me.
One day, I was out of town. I was at my sister's house and I was in a meeting with my boss and boss's boss and it was bad. After the meeting, I said, “This isn't it,” and I wrote my resignation letter. I called my fiancé and said, “Let's take some time. What is the reality if I quit my job now?” Obviously, this falls on him. We're partners and I wanted to make sure that he didn’t feel like he was taken advantage of or he would have to give up things because I decided to quit in this role. He said, “Go for it. If this is going to make you feel better night and day, please do it,” so we crunched numbers.
We had a date in mind of, “If you can't find anything by said date, we'll figure something out.” Bless him. He said, “You've had quite the year. You take the next couple of months. Let's focus on our wedding.” In October 2021, we ended up getting married in our backyard, and then in November, we went to Mexico and got married with some close group of friends outside. It was beautiful. In December, I came back and I was applying to jobs for probably over a year at this point because I wanted to get out, but it's mid-pandemic. I'm a marketing professional. No one was hiring for marketing. Most people were firing from marketing during this time.
You have to stay authentic to who you are. If something’s doing well for someone else, it doesn’t mean it’s going to do well for you.
For me, I was between a rock and a hard place. I have always had some clients on the side for the past few years. I had clients on the side that were local clients and either we traded services. I worked with a gym for a while. I worked with other companies and traded some things, so I was able to still keep my marketing knowledge fresh during this point without having a job specifically.
I was talking to one of my mentors one day and he asked how the job search was going, and I was really honest. I said, “It's awful. I've applied to so many jobs. I've gotten nothing. I've been in this industry for many years. I don't understand. I thought that I would be able to find something and find a place that made me feel welcome.” He asked me if I was still working with those other companies on the side and I said, “Of course. They're my people. Why would I not?”
He asked why don't I do that. He was like, “It seems to light you up. Why don't you do that?” I think in my head and I had my dad in my brain saying, “You can't quit a job without another job.” Going into business for myself was terrifying at this point. I hung up the phone and I thought about it and I walked into my husband's office. I said, “I have a crazy idea. I'm really glad you're sitting down.” He was like, “I'm here for it.”
I said, “I think I'm going to take Caffeine with Kelly,” which was my blog at the time just for fun. “I think I'm going to take that and make it into a business. This is what I'm thinking. I want to change lives. I want to be a positive force. I want to help people in the best way that I can and serve.” He said, “I would have told this, but I needed you to come to this conclusion on your own.” I said, “Are you sure? What if it doesn't work out?” He looked me dead in the face and he said, “What if it does?” I literally fell to my knees in his office and was crying. The next day I woke up, I bought my LLC and haven't looked back.
I wish I had my little applause button.
Thank you. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I love it and good for you on 100 different levels. Good for you for not letting that company crush you any longer. Good for you for having what we call chutzpah in Yiddish, for having the balls to go and do something that you wanted to do. Also, good for you for finding a partner in life that is there to have your back, to support you, to believe in you, to respect you, to honor you and trust that you are going to put your all into this. That is rare and I have the same thing, so I know how lucky we are as women to have those people in our lives that are our biggest fans.
I always say, “God blessed the broken road that led me here,” because even before my husband, I was engaged to someone else and this would not have been the case so God bless him, God bless my journey and I'm so blessed that I'm able to wake up every day. I wake up with such a positive force that I'm able to do this and serve others the way that I want to and it's such a powerful thing.
I love the story. Where did Caffeine with Kelly come from?
I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've been drinking coffee since I was really young because that's what my nana would do. If I stayed at my nana and papa's house and she had a coffee, she would give me a splash of coffee and the rest is milk. I felt like a cool kid drinking out of the same mug. Coffee has always been a part of that. It's a warming feeling. Coffee brings people together in connection and love. I'm also a big Gilmore Girls fan, so that's one reason I think that ties it together too. Caffeine with Kelly worked when I was building a blog.
I wanted somewhere that I could have conversations with people. It’s like a written-type podcast. It's like you're having caffeine with Kelly and we're going to have a chat about it. It was something fun to start, and then when I started really thinking about me as a personal brand and what will stick and what will people think of me, I wanted it to be warm, welcoming, connecting and so Caffeine with Kelly stuck.
I had a logo before. I have a new one now from the switch from just having a blog to having a business. I'm blessed with an amazing brand guru that I work with, but it's something that is so a part of me that I couldn't think of a business name. If you would ask me, “What is a different name?” I don't know of one off the top of my head.
When I started my blog, it was during the time I was getting divorced and there was our marketing girl in the office. I kept saying like, “What should I name it?” She turned to me and she's like, “For those moments in life when you're like, ‘What The Hayley.’” WTHayley is my blog. I started a million years ago and I have not kept up with it.
I did write a couple during the pandemic because it seems to be as part of my outlet, but I have not kept up with it, but there are some fun blog posts on there and it still gets some attraction. There's only so much we can do. There are only so many hours in the day to do a podcast, to do my business blogging, my business writing and my emails, which is a great segue into what you do. In a nutshell, tell us exactly what services we can find from you.
Thank you for asking. I've been in marketing for years and when starting my business, I wanted to serve anybody in any way because I had so much experience. It took me a couple of months to niche down and see what my ideal clientele was looking for and then pair it with something that I'm good at. Everything that I do is either consulting and a lot of people come to me for Instagram support and email marketing support because those are things that are thorns in some people's sides and I'm here to help.
I'm passionate about them and learning new things. I have a consulting part of my business and then I also have courses that I'm starting to create, but not yet, that will also help. I build custom build strategies to help your content shine. I like to say that I take your marketing from sleeping to fully caffeinated because all it takes is one person to change your life and if I'm not one person that can take your marketing, add caffeination, some whipped cream on top and hand it back to you so you can thrive in your business, that's amazing. That's what I want to do.
I'm excited that you have a course coming out because I love helping women promote their stuff, especially through my network of women. I don't have a woman that does the email side of things, so you're my girl. Again, I love your story. I resonate with it so much. Mostly because when I was a little girl, I was the same way.
My dad was my biggest fan and was always like, “You need to come to the office and you need to work with the gals.” I've got some years on you. I would go back many years back to when I was in my dad's office and there were no computers. There wasn't a social media. My dad was in direct mail, which was a huge marketing thing at the time.
Everything went out in print and newsletters. He was one of the partners in a direct mail company and I ended up in the finance department. I love the marketing side of it. I've always had the marketing mindset, the same as you, even from when I was a little kid and I've always loved writing. I used to have a book of poetry. I loved art. I was no one in my family for drawing Snoopy. It's so easy to draw a Snoopy.
They knew you were there if there was a Snoopy in a napkin.
I remember being in his office once and there was a hurricane coming to town. I can vividly remember sitting at the desk and counting how many cubicles I need to make a Snoopy for.
During my summer internships, I worked in the bookkeeping department, which was a great experience, but I remember I asked my dad one summer for a raise and he was like, “I'm not your boss. You need to go ask your boss.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He's like, “I'm not your boss. Mark is your boss. You need to go ask Mark for a raise.” I'm like, “I don't want to ask Mark for a raise.” It was my dad's way of pushing me through the door and instilling that confidence in me at such a young age to be like, “If you don't ask for it, you're not going to get it,” and he made me do it.
If you want to set yourself apart, you need to show up authentically and make sure that you’re really thinking about your customer and their needs first.
I went in and I did it, but similarly, our dads bringing us to work and showing us the ropes. My dad always used to say to me, “These gals, they're breaking through the glass ceiling,” and we're talking about the ‘80s. My dad was born in 1926, so he was in World War II. He's been gone now for years, but I always say he's still up above. He sent my husband my way and he's always got his hands on my shoulder guiding me.
That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that with me.
He was always my biggest mentor. I named my business Foster Consulting, Inc. because I always felt like if he had his own business, and he was an entrepreneur at heart. He had a million businesses. He was such an adviser and such a supporter. Our whole family, we are such Fosters. That's what we do. It's who we are, so I'm always so grateful that was my last name. I use it probably a little too much like Foster Your Passion, Foster Your Life or Foster Women.
It rolls under your umbrella.
It does. It works. That's the marketer in me. Your story and what you've been through resonates with me. It was my own business and I wasn't me anymore. I wasn't living my full potential. I was not passionate about what I was doing before I started this and it takes a lot. I've been in your shoes and I get it. Again, I applaud you for making that huge jump and making that move to follow your passion and do what you love.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it a lot. There was someone that complimented my energy. They heard me speak and they said, “I love your energy.” I reached back out to them and I said, “People commenting on my energy and my strength as an entrepreneur are the best thing someone could compliment me on.” You can compliment my hair, my animals and my coffee drinking abilities, but that's a deep compliment, so thank you. I appreciate it.
I love being in rooms with you on Clubhouse because you do bring it. You bring that energy wherever you go. Speaking of that energy, I would love some fostering tips from you for the people that are reading that may be interested in you and your services and what you put out there into the world. Here I am. I've got my business. The people reading this are obviously entrepreneurs or my mom, my husband, who is my biggest supporter, maybe my brother, but I feel like everybody could use that marketing piece, the emails.
It is so hard to sit down and put pen to paper, which we don't do anymore. The blank screen in front of you, it's a scary thing for people that may not have that strong suit. That's where I always say to people like, “Hire where you lack and you will never lack again.” For people that are trying to do it on their own, what are some of your recommendations?
One of the first things that I tell anybody is that you have to stay authentic to who you are. Let's say you're copying messaging from someone else and you read something online or you read an email and know that it's doing well for someone else, it doesn't mean it's going to do well for you. That's why I pride myself in being able to take someone's strategy and customize it for them because what's going to work for a car dealership isn't going to work for fostering women, as an example.
If it does, that's from the grace of God that it worked out amazing, but that's not how I do it. I always say you have to stay authentic to who you are, may that be on social media or in your tone of voice on how you're writing something. The hardest part I think my clients get hung up on, especially when it comes to content and writing is that they think they need to come off with a more professional tone and then they get stuck even with the message they want to portray.
I always say, “Write like you're writing to a friend. If Sally is the persona that you built for your ideal client, pretend you're talking to Sally. What does she need and how can you help her?” That square one is to stay authentic to who you are because the last thing you want is to feel squashed by anything. That's one of the things I always say. On an email marketing front, there are people that think email marketing is dead. I will fight that tooth and nail because email drives not only sales but a better conversion rate for people to be your follower and you also have those people.
You own those email lists and that's so important, especially for a business owner that has a lot to say. Maybe you wrote a blog long ago, but it's still really relevant. Pull that content. Make it an email and a social post. Also, people forget that they have to see something eight times before it clicks in their heads. It's okay to repurpose things and tweak them up a little.
I always tell my clients not to shy away from repurposing content because if there's something that, “How many times have I said you need to be authentic,” and maybe on the tenth time, someone will finally go on an Instagram story with their face and they said, “Finally. It hit me.” Lastly, I tell people, especially after 2020, that no matter where you are in the world, you had quite the year. No matter your trials were big or small, I always say with your marketing message, you have to put empathy first.
Even if you're coming to the table and you're trying to sell something to someone or you're trying to show them a new product that you have, how is that helping them? People need to feel seen, heard and special, especially in this time because there's so much out there in the world. If you want to set yourself apart, you need to show up authentically and make sure that you’re thinking about your customer and their needs first.
You have to start with empathy first. I think that's so important. You're 100% right because I read a lot of emails and the ones that I find most catchy for me are the ones that are hitting that pain point for me. Empathy or pain point, I think that's super important. Pain point first, 100% and I completely agree with the authentic side of things.
Here's my question for you. Let's say I hired you to do my email marketing. How do you remain authentic? I think this is where a lot of people have trouble outsourcing email and marketing because they want to be their authentic self, but how do they do that when Kelly's writing my emails or doing my social posts? How do you combat that as a stop-gap?
I have clients that come to me on a one-on-one monthly basis and they say, “I have these five emails that are going to go out. Can you look at them for me?” A lot of my clients come to me with word vomit on a page and I basically put it in a pretty package for them. Conditionally, they have the say. It's your brand.
I would never tell anyone that I'm the best copywriter because there are amazing copywriters out there. That's why they do what they do, but sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else, so you could say, “I want to talk about this program I'm going to launch. These are all the details and all the pain points.” It's easier for you to bullet something out and give it to a marketer who can make it shine for you. I always say to add a little bit of caffeination and put that together in a bow. You then just have to copy and paste it and put it into send mode.
Sometimes all it takes is another set of eyes and a lot of people come to me for that. I have a program and it's called the Fully Caffeinated Marketing Method. It starts with me starting with all of my clients at ground zero. We start at, “What are your values? What are your values of being a human? What are the values of your business and why are those important to you?” We talk about your content pillars, your branding and why that's important and then we move into strategy work, and all throughout that, I help them with their content and how we can implement it.
At the end of the program, we look at analytics, readjust their strategy and then they're ready to fly on their own. It's a partnership. I don't do a lot of social media management anymore, but I did that at the beginning of my business and a lot of people send that like, “How are you going to take what I've already been doing and make it better?”
For me, it's always listening to how you speak and what you want your customers to know. I come to the table with empathy all the time because you have your own pain points and your clients have their own pain points. I do physically put pen to paper. I love to write things down. I like to become the arm of the human that I'm working with. That's a long answer of how do I do that.
Who would you say is your biggest mentor? The person that inspires and motivates you.
I would say personally, it would probably be my dad and my mom because they did so much for me growing up. Not only did my dad take me to work, but at church, he would volunteer me to speak and shove me in front of the congregation and tell me to go. That's why I loved to speak because I got so comfortable and I used to dance. For me, being on stage and being in front of people and conveying a message is so important.
I would say half of being forced into it like that helped and the other half is personality. I would have to say in a professional realm, there are entrepreneurs like Jamie Kern Lima, who went from having a teeny tiny store in her house and trying to sell a makeup line to selling that makeup line to L’Oréal for $1.2 billion or something crazy.
I've been learning a lot of things like boundaries and how the word, “No doesn't always mean no forever,” from her. She is one of the entrepreneurs that I follow, and I make sure I’m using her as inspiration because every time I get to a no, I think, “That's fine. I will get a yes.” The next right yes is what I need and maybe that no was a blessing.
Every no is a blessing because it leads you one step closer to a yes. I’m such a believer in that as well. A quick question I should've asked you this in the beginning, what is your favorite coffee shop?
It's a local coffee shop and it's called Guilty Café. It's right outside of where I live here in Madison, Wisconsin. My favorite chain is a tough one. I do like Starbucks on some fronts. I also am a big fan of Dunkin’. If anyone came up to me and gave me a free coffee, no matter where it's from, I'm going to love it. I would probably say Starbucks because I order the same thing, but Dunkin’ is the closest second of the big chains in the world.
What's your favorite coffee drink?
An iced white mocha or an iced caramel macchiato, mainly because I run hot and our air conditioner is broken in our house, so I’ve been drinking iced coffee and only iced coffee for a while. Usually, it's iced. In the winter, I live in Wisconsin, so it gets cold and chilly, but there's nothing wrong with a regular black cup of coffee either.
Are you more of a go-out for coffee or make coffee at home?
I would probably say make coffee at home. I like to be able to have it in my mug. It's the whole hearing the grinding and the whole smelling it from the other room. It's a lot of that, but when you go to a coffee shop with a friend, magic happens, so that's something that I love to do too.
I try to keep these short. I want to be respectful of people's time. I appreciate every minute they're going to spend tuning into my show. I want to thank you so much for being my guest. This flew by. This was fast and super fun. Thank you so much. I appreciate you being here.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Until next time when I see you in the Clubhouse streets. Stay caffeinated.
About Kelly Hackney
Kelly started Caffeine with Kelly, LLC. in December 2020 with the vision to add some caffeination to marketing plans! She has a mission and passion to add more positivity to the world, one cup of coffee at a time. With 10+ years of marketing experience, Kelly brings authenticity, customization, and deep strategy work to the marketing space. She prides herself as being the guide for her clients to help them be the hero in their story and win the day with their customers.