EP #29 Recovering from Email Mistakes and Acing Customer Engagement: A Kinedu story

EP #29 Recovering from Email Mistakes and Acing Customer Engagement: A Kinedu story

About this Podcast

In today’s special episode of the “For The Love Of Emails” podcast, we welcome Luis Garza, a Stanford University and Harvard Business School alumnus and CEO, and founder of Kinedu, an app that uses the knowledge and technology link between children’s growth and parental tools to assist families in advancing their children forward. Together with our very own host, Matthew Vernhout, vice-president, deliverability at Netcore cloud.

Quick Snapshots
The podcast covers:
How has the email platform for application-based businesses evolved over time?
How has the email marketing for the Kinedu app grown from an automated system to one that focuses on retention and conversion?
Are email metrics such as MAU (Monthly Active Users) valuable to app-based businesses?
How Kinedu rebounded from previous blunders, as well as the lessons acquired along the road.
What is the one email product or tool that stands out and is an integral part of the process?
Positive VS fear-based email marketing
Advice for founders of App-based companies on what makes or breaks their email program nowadays
Episode Transcripts

Intro (00:06):  You’re listening to the “For The Love Of Emails” podcast, powered by Netcore, a weekly show dedicated to helping email marketers, marketing enthusiasts, and professionals of all walks, engage, grow, and retain customers through reliable, smart, and effective email communication and engagement. Discover actionable ways to increase ROI and deliver value through email innovations, personalization, optimization, email deliverability, and email campaigns.No fluff tune in to hear best practices and tactical solutions from the best thought leaders and practitioners. Master your email communication now.

Matthew Vernhout (00:42):

Hello and welcome to another edition of,  “For The Love Of Emails” podcast. I’ll be your host today, Matthew Vernhout, vice-president of deliverability with Netcore cloud. I have a very special guest with us today. Luis Garza, CEO and founder of Kinedu. Kinedu is an app that leverages the knowledge and technology connection between children’s development and parental tools to help those parents move their children forward. In the early stages of their development, Kinedu provides all caregivers helpful and simple tools that they can use to engage their child’s development and build a foundation for future learning. Luis is an alumnus of Stanford University and Harvard business school, a passionate entrepreneur that found a place at the intersection of early childhood education and technology, building scalable companies that impact how parents and educators look at and act upon and engage with children thus providing the best start to life for them. Today’s episode is brought to you by grademyemail.co, Netcore’s newest community-based site offering free tools and advice on configuring email authentication, including BIMI configurations, monitoring blocklists, and validating that your email configuration is not getting in the way of delivering your inbox. Luis, welcome to the show.

Luis Garza (02:03):

Thank you, Matthew. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here.

Matthew Vernhout (02:06):

So let’s start like I always do, and just give us a bit of background in your own words about Kinedu and how the company helps your customers and clients.

Luis Garza (02:17):

Yeah. Perfect. Kinedu is a company that supports parents. We want to change the story, improve the story of millions of children. We think we can do that through our technology, our content, and there’s something to be said about our approach because sometimes some audiences confuse us for an app that gives kids tablets and games, and considering we cater to zero to three, zero to four age children, some parents get rattled up about the fact or the idea of their children with a tablet when their baby is six months old. We do not do that. We’re a company that focuses as you well said on adults in a child’s life, because no matter if they’re prepared or not, parents are their child’s first educators, whether they want it or not. They’re the first humans that support a baby in growth and development.

Luis Garza (03:15):

So what does Kinedu do? We try to work through three questions that parents have. One is how do I interact with my baby? What’s the best way in which I can interact that is conducive to the development and that promotes development. And that is a simple answer that’s evidence and research-based, children learn through play, children grow through play, children do everything to play. So the first thing we try to do is try to help parents understand what is play with purpose, what is relevant play? And the way we do that is we help parents understand where a child is in his, her development, and their development. And we help parents understand how to play with their kids. We give them videos that are minute to two minute long videos that teach parents how to play, how to get down on the floor, roll with her child, play with their child because we’re talking about babies who are zero months old to children who are four or five years old.

Luis Garza (04:09):

So that’s the first part is supporting parents to understand how to engage. The second one is helping parents feel confident and capable as parents it’s really about building parent’s capabilities. So the second thing we do is building parent’s capabilities by providing them a place where they have unlimited access to live classes, content interactive sessions. So this is focused on parents who want to understand what are the sleep cycles, what’s baby-led weaning, so things about nutrition, food, child behavior, musical development, really building parent’s capabilities. So we provide them with an unlimited tier where they have live classes every day. They can join whichever class they like, or that classes stay on demand for parents who may be busy or the schedule might not work for them. And the third question the parents have is if I can’t crack it, where do I get support?

Luis Garza (05:03):

If there’s a question I can answer, who can I turn to? And so we connect all of this experience with connect the way parents play with children, the way parents learn about their capabilities by connecting them with experts that can solve their questions. Because we don’t want to give parents advice, only want to give them answers. And we’re going to help parents feel like they’re confident and capable, but also feel supported. So those three questions, how do I engage with my child? How do I become the best parent I can be? And who’s out there to support me are the things that Kinedu does through our application, our content and our technology.

Matthew Vernhout (05:39):

Great. And you do all that using a mobile app, a website, push notifications we’re here because we love email. So you support your clients and customers through email as well.

Luis Garza (05:56):

Yeah. And it’s crucial. We have a mobile app, we have a web app, as you said, but one of the things that’s important for us is reminding parents that we excite, parents are very busy, there’s a concept that someone shared with me a couple of weeks ago, parents are time-poor, they are in a place of time poverty. They don’t have a lot of time, you barely have to take care of the baby, they have to prepare meals, they have to go to work, they have to come back, they have to clean their home, they have to do their chores, we cannot expect parents to always think about the products and the applications and technology they have. That’s where email and push come in, and for us, email is very important because that’s a big way how we re-engage the audience, how we serve them content. That’s not necessarily in the app, how we remind them of things that are happening, how we share the schedules for the next week, how we share the classes that are coming up. So email is really important for us. And particularly because we have a global audience, the ability for us to get the right message to the right person at the right time is really important.

Matthew Vernhout(06:57):

That’s great. So would you say, utilizing email, to drive app use, to drive participation, how would you say that that’s changed over the years since you may be founded the company and really started looking for the importance of it, or even just the adoption to say, did you know we have these other channels?

Luis Garza (07:21):

Yeah. Email was less important for us in the beginning. We’ve always used email in a sort of automatized way. So forget password, send them an email to recover the password, log in, hey, here’s an email where you can include…, so that type of automatization, very general, very broad-based to all our audience. What we’ve learned in the last three years is how email can drive conversion and retention, which are key metrics for us. So retention, you mentioned it is highlighting to parents what’s happening in the app, what’s new, we even have so we captured parents with children when their babies are young, so when we expanded our library to 24 months, 36, 48, 72 months, email was the best way to get them, because these parents were not in the app. Somebody might have even uninstalled it because their children grew out of our targeted age range.

Luis Garza (08:11):

So email is always a constant channel we can address and we can reach families. So that’s something we learned, retention, conversion in this case as well, getting parents back into the app and getting them back to subscribers. But now most recently what we’ve learned and what we’re building and thinking is how do we support the user’s life cycle within the application? Has a user started a free trial? What do we want to communicate to those users at that time? Did a user watch a certain activity multiple times? What do you want to do with that information? So, it might be a generalization, but we went from dumb email to smart email, to proactive email. Right. and I think that’s the importance, that’s the main thing that has changed from our perspective of email and also put resources behind a team that manages email, a team that thinks about email and those moments are important.

Matthew Vernhout (09:04):

That’s great. I love hearing about brands like I’ve been in the industry a long time, and I love hearing about brands that make that transition. And it’s not an easy transition to go from like you were saying, the dumb email, which is just very transactional, very sort of reactive to that proactive to that predictive model to say, you know, these are the types of actions you should be taking. I always love hearing stories like that.

Luis Garza (09:31):

I think that one of the things I wanted to add is thinking about email, not as a bulletin board, because that’s how it starts. It’s a bulletin board, hey, you signed up, hey, you logged in, hey, you blocked. It’s more about how email is part of the experience, how email is not just a messaging platform, but part of the experience that supports the overall experience that Kinedu gives. Because if you think about it, no brand, nobody says, Kinedu is just an app, no, we say, it’s a brand, it’s a company, why shouldn’t the email communications we give you be a part of that experience of that brand. And so thinking at email more as an integrated part of our solution and service, I think that’s the main, as you mentioned, it’s not just that dumb to smart but it is integrated into the customer experience.

Matthew Vernhout (10:18):

Right. And you’ve been integrating beyond as well. You’re using push notifications on the web, push notifications through the app, and how has that evolution sort of helped drive your business and your customer satisfaction?

Luis Garza (10:31):

Yeah, I think that it’s a similar thought process to email in the sense that it’s a part of the experience, and there are different things that you can do. And then push has a different nature, push is more a, hey, what’s up, hey, I’m here. Listen to me, it’s more like an attention-grabbing type of thing. So in trying to do, use content-rich push notifications, that’s one part. The other part is using a very personalized push for example, hey, Luis, Luis jr. Is waiting for his activities today, that seems conversational, that seems like the brand is talking to you, but it’s also part of the experience two or three years ago, our push notifications were, hey, it’s a new week, your plan is ready, that’s it, that’s what we have, and it sucked, and so people would turn off notifications because they sucked, right.

Luis Garza (11:18):

They would just be an annoyance. I think that it’s really important to have the balance between push and email and particularly all the privacy of moments that one company is doing. We’re hiding email and hiding email opens and hiding geotags, and, you know, they’re moving towards that, it makes it so much harder. So push is really a compliment to that hook that brings parents into the app. But again, I think that the right perspective is not just how do we optimize that hook to get people back into the service. It’s really, how do we make this, not just a hook, but also part of the customer experience that customers are living.

Matthew Vernhout (11:58):

Yeah. That’s great. I love when people think about that, right. Brand interaction is one of those things that should be, you know, if you have a storefront, it should be a very similar experience to your website should be a very similar experience to the messaging on your social platforms, to your website, to your email program and have that cohesive message. And it sounds like you’ve really embraced that in your platform and your programs for digital Marketing.

Luis Garza (12:22):

Yeah. And, there’s a couple of aspirations to that as well. So this is one of the completely different, use cases, but, when I took my family to Disney World in Orlando last year, I have the Disney app on my phone and you don’t hear about the app, about Disney, about the app push notifications emails, but once we’re 30 days away, they’re like, hey, your Disney trip is coming up, why don’t you book some rides or in 15 days, hey, have you booked, your restaurants are filling up fast. So it’s really about the relevancy of the content. And it’s part of the experience because look, I click on it, and it takes me to the reservation, and then I’m already filling it out. So it’s, making it part of the experience, but really driving value to users through push and email, and they both have different content forms. So you can just have a generic approach to both, they’re very different. So that has driven value to us and drive value to our retention as well.

Matthew Vernhout (13:25):

Excellent. Now for app-based companies, similar to your own, right? Looking at metrics like monthly active users is always an important metric to track. When you think about these activities, the push notifications, and the email notifications, do you actually feel and see the impact of those in your MAU type measurements, or are these sort of just ongoing activities that kind of is leveled out? Do you see sort of the peaks and such that drive that

Luis Garza (13:54):

It’s sometimes hard to gauge exactly the measure, but we do see it, once, we, if you look at our daily conversion rates, on average, every time we send an email, let’s say we send it on Tuesday and it starts to deliver in the afternoon on Wednesday, we see a spike in conversion. So you can say, you cannot send emails daily, but you can try to figure out why things are working after the weekend, where users let their email sit for a couple of days, we see a spike on Monday. So we’re seeing these interesting things. We need to do at least in our company, we need to do a deeper dive into connecting push and app opens, but it’s clear for emails. And one of the things we like about the Netcore platform is that it’s given us some, we had an internal tool before Matthew, you might have known this, but it’s giving us so much clarity on which email is working and the ability also to segment AB test and figure out which messaging is working as well to drive opens, and then to drive clicks to the app.

Luis Garza (15:01):

So that’s something that we really are using to optimize our email strategy as well and as we optimize the sort of, we have two email strategies and life cycles, which will remain optimized but are based on an app intelligence and the splash emails that we send to everybody. So we’re really using the large email send to everybody to optimize the messaging for the life cycles campaigns as well. So it’s that optimization through technology and through clarity of data is something that we hadn’t had before. And it’s, I would say we talk in a couple of years, we might be speaking about a lot of journeys, a lot of iterations, a lot of segmentation that we’re not ready today to deploy.

Matthew Vernhout (15:52):

Yeah. But you’re making the transition and that’s the important piece. And that’s the hard piece. A lot of brands get stuck on where do I start? And sometimes it’s, you just have to do one thing and then iterate from there. And I think that’s a fantastic message. So speaking of how you work with Netcore, one of the pieces I wanted to ask was really sort of the feature set you’re using. So you use our email API, you use our campaign engine, you’re now using the push notifications and journey. So as you’ve sort of evolved your program and I’ve been watching cause I’ve been around, I think I joined the company around the same time you guys started using the platform. So I’ve seen that evolution in that journey. It’s been great, you know, with those pieces, as you’ve built them, are there things that you would recommend to other marketers out there to say, we maybe had a stumbling block when we tried to launch a journey program and we resolved it by looking at data differently or we resolved it.

Matthew Vernhout (16:52):

We were talking when we were planning this about mistakes that were made, as you went through and how you learned from them and how you recovered from that, you know, are there examples of those things that you could share to say like everyone makes mistakes, but you can recover and learn from them.

Luis Garza (17:09):

Oh yeah. I mean, there are mistakes and there are things that piss people off. For example, one thing we did is we have small audiences and they help us segment the email. So one time we sent an email in Portuguese to 3000 English speakers. You know, you see that email as a user and you’re like, oh, they made a mistake, that’s fine. Bye. Like, that’s it. Then there are mistakes with a capital M, one of the first emails we sent, may have been, the first email we sent, through the new platform was we leveraged the whole user base and we sent them an email on newborn sleep. And it was very explicit about newborn sleep, when I mean the whole user base, I don’t mean the whole user base of parents with babies that are zero to three months.

Luis Garza (18:05):

I mean the whole user base that we’ve acquired since 2014. So there were parents with children who are now seven years old, six years old, five years old, four years old who were receiving an email that said newborn sleep. And the additional challenge is that we use their baby’s name because we have the baby’s name. And so to personalize, Hey, the first name, little Johnny is blah-blah-blah newborn sleep. And so we got so many emails from parents who were like, this is so fun. Like they would say, this is funny. My child is five and he’s sleeping through the night. What are you talking about? And some parents were really angry that were spamming them, so that’s a mistake in the sense of, content strategy and personalization, and when you use a person’s personal information, then you have to be careful about not screwing up.

Luis Garza (18:59):

Right. The email we sent in Portuguese to English users was, these are the classes for next month, but it was all in Portuguese, so it didn’t like, it’s a screw-up, but it’s not a big deal, but when you’re using my child’s name and you’re screwing up an email, that’s terrible. And so we got a lot of unsubscribes. I think we probably broke the unsubscribed meter on that corner. I’m just kidding, but we had a lot of unsubscribes and we didn’t do anything to recover. Like we had some discussions, should we share, send an apology? And, and we said like, we should apologize individually to those users who got pissed off, but if we send them another email apologizing for that mistake, then it’s doubled a mistake, I guess what we did is measure and be careful about what we do, use better segmentation.

Luis Garza (19:48):

Like it, it takes a little bit of work to segment just to get the audiences correctly. Let’s just do the work, that’s it, it takes if you do it once and you have the audience forever. Right, so it’s about doing a little bit more work on that. That was probably the biggest blunder we’ve had recently. We have challenges to integrate Matthew, might’ve been because of the nature of our application, the fact that you have like one user, but multiple babies. And so does each baby get an email? And if so, is that the same user repeating? So we’ve had some technical solutions and your team has been very helpful in fixing that and we’ve managed to work. So we’re on board, as you’ve seen, we’ve sent emails for the last two months, really well, and things are working and we’re getting good deliverability, good open rates. So we’re excited to continue.

Matthew Vernhout(20:40):

Those are all the things I love to hear. And I think it’s important. I think you’re right. I think there are lots of people who were talking about a very large cable brand that made mistakes recently. And, you know, it’s easy to throw someone under the bus and say, well, it was a mistake, it wasn’t supposed to happen but how you recover is always the important piece. And I think, um, you know, you’re right, you can send that follow-up email, you can put it in your next newsletter. You can acknowledge it somewhere. But I think at the same point if you don’t learn from the mistake and build those safeguards in place for the future, you’re not moving forward, you’re not building a better program, I think that’s a great example of things that brands need to do to recover if they make mistakes.

Luis Garza (21:28):

And the other thing that happened during our transition, which I think if I can vocalize it, not everybody knows this, not everybody transitions from email platform to email platform, but be mindful of transitioning your unsubscribes and all the checkmarks you have in your internal email. We had a very talented manager who was in charge of this process, but she had never transitioned email from email, and so she, we forgot, we didn’t consider moving the unsubscribes from one platform to other. So what happened is during this first email as well, is that some people who had unsubscribed were getting emails. So, and that, again, it’s a mistake, It can happen and you just unsubscribe and apologize on one hand and don’t do it again, hopefully, but we don’t expect to transition from email platforms. So I hope that never happens.

Matthew Vernhout (22:20):

I like to hear that too. So as you’ve experienced the platform and I know you’ve been, you’ve been working with it and coming on board sort of individual products as we’ve gone, you know, is there something that stands out that you say, like, I couldn’t do my job anymore without this part of the product.

Luis Garza (22:36):

Well, I wouldn’t say that we couldn’t do the job before and I’ll talk about two dimensions. It’s, it’s made it so much easier to run email and lifecycle. Like we’ve talked internally, like now, do we have too many people on the team running email because it’s so much simpler to do, right. So that’s, that’s a good part. The thing that I think we couldn’t do before, and I think it’s going to be very trajectory changing is the life cycles part, the journey builder that you guys have. I think that’s a fantastic tool, it’s very easy to set up, it’s very easy to do tests and segment. So that’s a tool I would recommend everybody to take a look at because I wouldn’t, we wouldn’t have the capabilities internally to build, but we are using it and you’ll see in a couple of weeks and months, how many year journeys we use and how we optimize that because we have a lot of plans for users and how to add value to them based on what they’re doing and what’s happening in the application. I think that’s something we’re excited about.

Matthew Vernhout (23:41):

That’s Great. Yeah. We should talk because I’ve got some ideas you might like as well. So we’ll talk offline though, won’t give that stuff away for free. So when you’ve been looking at your past campaigns, you were mentioning, there are some campaigns you’re tracking and you’re able to say as these work really well and I’ve been looking at your metrics as well to make sure that deliverability functions and things are going well, so I just kind of keep high-level tabs on the customers in my geographical responsible zone, but are there specific campaigns that when you run them, they stand out as exceptional and what kind of things do you think you put in them that make them exceptional that would translate to other marketers as well? That said, you know, if I did this type of campaign, it would be a benefit to their programs.

Luis Garza (24:35):

Yeah. I don’t have a specific campaign, but I do have attributes of the campaigns that have worked because we do a segment, do AB test, and measure. And I think the first thing I would say is not over-complicate things for the consumer, this is counterintuitive, the fewer things an email has probably the better. So finding a way to send the message across in a complete way. I email that makes you scroll that you can open it, but the scrolling then you’re bored. Like it’s a screen this size like nobody’s going to read it, the other one is, fear-based marketing pisses people off. So, the subject line is really important for open rates. A subject line we’ve tried once was “These are things at home that threatened your child’s safety” as in one version of the email and, “check out our safety courses, so you can maybe proof your home”.

Luis Garza (25:41):

The first email got fewer open rates and more complaints because people don’t like to be afraid to be pushed towards fear. People are not dumb, they’re not stupid, so it may work in Twitter as clickbait, not for email, it’s a very personal medium. So I would say use positive marketing. I think it works, use clear emails. I said,  if we can optimize the size of the images that we use in the emails, again, like having someone with low wifi, see this, their screen slowly load, that sucks. That’s a bad experience. So E C E C E images work. And there’s also a very surprising one, but emails that seem very personal that is, may not have any flashy images or text or, or creatives. And it’s just a well-written email that also works well.

Luis Garza (26:35):

so I would consider once in a while for other marketers trying direct communication and the platform gives you the tools to do that because you can write the email and just change the name and change the concept. And so that’s something worth trying and seeing for different marketers in which part of their customer journey works better. We call it the CEO email, which is something I wrote, which is just welcoming parents, but it’s a very personal email. It has me, a picture of my daughters and that’s it, and text with 200 words or less, that works well. People open it, but in terms of like promotional emails, I say positive marketing, clear value proposition, simple email, not with a lot of stuff, those are the main things I would say.

Matthew Vernhout (27:24):

I liked that message about avoiding fear-based marketing. I think, there’s a big difference when brands have marketing about the scarcity of product, meaning this could sell out soon versus there’s a danger in your house to your child. I think you’re right. There’s a huge difference in the message and how people will interpret that and how they will look at it. Um, and I think that that’s a fantastic story to tell and, and share with people around, being more positive. The world could use more positivity in general.

Luis Garza (28:05):

I was thinking about like, imagine a company that sells organic food saying you’re fat and sick and you’re going to die, that’s an extreme version of putting it versus why do you need to nourish yourself better or something like that, you know, it’s different messaging

Matthew Vernhout (28:27):

Right, body positivity versus negativity. I think it’s a great way to put it. So as a successful app entrepreneur, and there are apps for everything nowadays, there are hundreds of apps, thousands of them, what advice do you give to the founders of other apps that you would say have made your program and your application successful, where others have tried and failed over the years?

Luis Garza (28:56):

That’s a great question because we’ve seen, there’s pretty much just one other app that has scaled to similar places where we have scaled, they’re great guys, they do things well as well. I would say that one of the things that we’ve done is put resources behind it and create better designs, better applications, things that work well. I think our content also has been very good and we’ve got our team of experts hit the nail. We get so many emails. We send a monthly email to parents automatized when it’s their child’s birthday and just describing what’s going on for a typical child. And we got so many responses like this is spot on. I’m seeing this with my child. This has been so much helpful. So our content team, we call them a team psychologist and early location experts have put in a great library of content in different formats, video, email, texts, articles, etc. So I think that that is a differentiator. I think those two have great, great content that is relevant for parents. So understanding parents better, but also putting the resources to make quality available.

Matthew Vernhout (30:17):

So, yeah, that sounds like the keys to success for me. Right. I think, you know, very much aligns even with the Netcore brand and how we look at our products and services and, you’ve been very flattering today over the years, so I’m sure there are some headaches that you’ve had that we won’t talk about, but everyone has headaches, but I think working through them, building that quality product, building that quality information and then sharing as much as you can is certainly something that all brands should be paying attention to and all marketers should be paying attention to and hopefully you’ll continue to see that same success and see that same evolution, in both our products as we move forward together as partners. So I want to thank you very much for joining us on the #fortheloveofemail podcast. If anyone wants to reach out to you or reach out to your company, what’s the best way for them to reach you?

Luis Garza (31:14):

Yeah, they can look at our website at www.kinedu.com, they can download us on the Google app or Android play store or apple store, and they can also email us at [email protected].

Matthew Vernhout(31:31):

Great. And that is K-I-N-E-D-U.com. Just for the listeners out there, check out their website, check out their app if you’re a parent, there’s some great content, I’m not a parent, but I’m a multi-time uncle, so I’ve found the content to be useful when dealing with my nieces and nephews, even though they’re a bit older now, I still find the content valuable, cause I do have friends that are parents of young children. So, highly recommended if you’re a parent, especially if you’re a new parent, do check out the content, so for everyone else out there listening, please, pay attention, check it out. We did touch on it briefly, about the new changes coming to Apple iOS 15 and the Mojave macOS where images and geolocation, access to that information will be changing. We do have a blog on the netcorecloud.com blog regarding some of these changes and how you can adapt your program. We are also planning additional information pieces on this and how you can implement these features within our product and services. So please do check us out once again, that is netcorecloud.com/blog, the content will be available there.

Matthew Vernhout (32:53):

Louis, thank you very much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure talking with you and I wish you much ongoing success with your products and services.

Luis Garza (33:02):

Thank you, Matthew. Thank you for having me and thank you for having us as a customer.

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