How I Started A $55K/Month Email Marketing Agency Specialized in Ecommerce

$55,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
product
Boundless Labs
from Orange Coutny
started June 2018
$55,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
1.14M
alexa rank
platform
email
accounting
other

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Chase Dimond and I am the Co-Founder of Boundless Labs. We are an email marketing agency that specializes in working with eCommerce brands. We currently work with 30 eCommerce brands that do anywhere from 6 to 8 figures in annual revenue.

Since starting Boundless Labs 18 months ago, we have driven over $25 million (and growing rapidly) in email attributable revenue for our clients. Most of our clients generate ~30% of their total revenue from our email work. Our 5 highest performing clients are generating 45+% of their total revenue from our email work.

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From launching in June of 2018 through the first half of 2019 our “agency” was making $40K per month (fees our clients paid us). The reason I put the agency in quotes is that during our first year in business my business partner and I were just focused on having a great time with no intentions of building a true agency.

Additionally, in my personal life, I got engaged in 2018 and married in June of 2019 so I was very focused and busy with that. Once I got back from my honeymoon at the end of Q2 of 2019, we realized we had a huge opportunity to scale the business. Clients love us as people equally as much as they love our work which has led to a majority of our client acquisition coming from referrals (more to come on this in later sections).

We ended up bringing on our first full-time employee in Q3 of 2019 and started onboarding clients again. For the second half of 2019, our business grew by ~$12K per month and we’re now making ~$90K per month. We just recently hired our second full-time employee and anticipate we’ll be at $100K per month in revenue by the end of January 2020.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Boundless Labs is the third agency I’ve started. I had an agency on the side right after I graduated college that was making ~$25K per month. We landed clients for this agency in a super interesting way. We didn’t have a ton of marketing experience at the time so my partners and I bought this dating site called Bernie Single. As we purchased the site, it went viral. The site had a few million visitors within the first 6 months of launch. We ended up parlaying this experience into a case study that we shared with friends and family which helped us land our first few clients.

From here I did some full-time consulting for a well-funded startup called VidMe that garnered around 30 million website visitors every month. After getting burnt out of commuting from Orange County to Los Angeles every day, I helped launch an email travel series called The Discoverer. I took this newsletter from 0 to 500K email subscribers in the first year.

I’ve always been incredibly thankful and appreciative of those around me. This is something you can start implementing today and you’ll be shocked at how well perceived it will be.

After receiving a few inbound consulting offers, I was brought on as a partner in an agency called ScaleUp Labs and the business did ~$1M in revenue in 8 months before merging with another agency. From here, instead of wanting to stay on board and continue offering all the marketing services under the sun as we had at the previous two, my business partner and I wanted to build one that specializes in a specific offering.

My personal background is in community building through email marketing so choosing email marketing as our sole offering made a ton of sense. After a monumental conversation I had with my friend Nick, we decided to niche down, even more, to just focus on email marketing for eCommerce businesses. This was hands down the best decision we ever made. At the first two agencies when I met with people (prospects, friends, and family), I would them my agency offered everything which in their minds, meant we did nothing well. As the popular saying goes: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” This was something that always frustrated me about agencies so we decided to make the leap to narrowing our focus. Now after I leave meetings people not only understand what we do but we have done so well for our clients that people are really attracted to wanting to work with us as we have the results and testimonials to prove we’re some of the top email marketers.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When we first started Boundless Labs we leveraged a lot of my personal experience with building an email centric business (such as the travel newsletter business I grew from 0 to 500K subscribers in one year). My friends Nick and Haris were also key in helping us land our first few clients.

Two of the ways we were able to land our first few brands so easily was due to the fact we were charging way under the market rate and we never made brands sign multiple month contracts. Everything we did was month-to-month which allowed brands to rest easy knowing they could opt-out at any time.

Even to this day, we actually still never make brands sign a multiple month contract. Additionally, we promised our early clients that we’d grandfather them into their pricing for the lifetime of working together if they took a chance on us. We’re fortunate to still have a number of these brands as clients today. Outside that, our client retention has been great because every month we go above and beyond knowing that we have to earn our client's business. We’re competitors so we love this but I can imagine other agency owners feeling uneasy about this.

We have since increased our agency pricing twice (for new clients) since first starting out. That being said, our pricing is still extremely fair and the ROI on our services is exceptional. We have clients that we charge a few thousand dollars a month, which we generate tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in revenue for.

To do some quick math, we’ve generated over $25 million in email attributable revenue for our clients. Since inception, our agency fees have been a little shy of $1 million but let’s round up and call it $1 million. That means for every $1 our clients invest in us, we produce $25 in revenue for them. Obviously this is just a high-level average across all of our clients but just wanted to illustrate the potential of email marketing as a channel to really invest in if you aren’t already.

Describe the process of launching the business.

At the previous agency I ended up joining as a partner, I had 2 other partners. One of my partners (the main guy who brought me in) wanted to build his own eCommerce brands versus work on other people’s brands so we ended up merging with another agency. My partner David and I ended up splitting off from the merged agency and started Boundless Labs since we both wanted to stay in the agency world but wanted to have control of the business.

We spun up our Boundless Labs website in a matter of a few days (as you can probably tell if you visit our website). We actually haven’t updated it since we started the business in June of 2018. We’re one of the many notorious agencies that spend all their time focusing on clients' businesses that we’ve neglected our own website. This has been our thesis from day 1 though, to focus on our clients' needs ahead of our own. At some point, we’ll update our website but thankfully we haven’t really needed to.

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Truthfully, almost no one even visits our website since most of our leads are referred to us so there built-in trust. If we did more outbound efforts, then I’m sure we would have to tidy up our website but for the time being, we’re good as is. It’s actually really cool that we’ve been able to grow to just shy of ~100K MRR without a great website.

Once in a while, we’ll send prospects a deck that we have (which is updated and looks way better than our website).

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In terms of startup costs, thanks to our business being service-based, we didn’t need to raise any outside capital or take out any loans. For the first 12+ months of the business, we didn’t have any employees so we had almost no overhead. This is what was so attractive about us starting out just doing consulting as two guys. Everything we charged was pretty much profit.

Today, our margins have definitely decreased as we’ve brought on full-time employees but they are still pretty healthy. We also don’t have an office which has been a big cost-saver as the four of us all work remotely. And over the past few months as we’ve brought on full-time employees we’ve been focused on growing the funds in our company bank account whereas before we pretty much paid ourselves anything that was in our bank account. So this definitely has been an adjustment but we’re very excited about what’s to come in 2020!

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

There are a few main things that have helped us attract and retain clients.

  1. There is no substitute for hard (and smart work). Our team is one of the hardest (if not the hardest) working teams out there. Whether it be early in the morning, late in the evening, or on the weekends, we’re spending the time required to achieve success for all of our clients. While we only have four full-time people on our team, we always joke that amongst the four of us, we’re a 24/7 shop. When you work hard and go to bat for your clients, they take note. And you better believe that the second they learn of someone in their network needing email help, they recommend us right away. A referral from a current client makes the close of a prospect extremely easy.
  2. In line with the above, we’re also very focused on building real relationships with our clients. We’ve built so much trust with our clients due to us putting them the first time and time again, that we end up becoming really close with our clients. They know we’d do anything for them and that comes back around in the form of incredible retention. We also take feedback very well so there’s always a constant feedback loop. This feedback loop has helped us iterate our processes to become the perfect team for each of our respective clients. And again, building this relationship with our clients leads to them working with us for a very long time. Additionally, as mentioned, the second they hear that someone needs email help, we’re the first call they make.
  3. We’ve networked extremely well with like-minded agencies. Since we only offer email, we’ve become close referral partners with other complementary agencies. We have three main agencies that refer us to a ton of business. We’ve been working with them for over a year and they each send us 1-2 leads per month. Our close rate on these leads is 90%. These other agencies go to bat for us and pretty much hand us closed deals as we’ve built this much trust with them, and they’ve built that must trust with the brands they are referring to.

Outside those three items above, we acquire clients in a few other ways.

  • My personal network has been incredibly supportive. Never have I ever seen a network that wants someone to do so well. We get 3-4 qualified leads a month from my personal network alone.
  • We’re now starting to get a number of leads from leveraging other people’s networks as well. I am starting to do written interviews, podcast interviews, and even just taught my first-course in partnership with Foundr Magazine (which will go live soon). This gets us 2-3 qualified leads per month, and I anticipate this ramping up a ton in 2020 as I am starting to do more of these. My goal is to acquire 10 qualified leads per month in 2020 from these efforts.
  • We get a few qualified leads per month through SEO. We rank on page 1 for the keyword, CBD marketing agency. These leads are typically prelaunch startups so they aren’t as qualified. However, we did land (and continue to work with) a large public cannabis company which has been really cool.

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How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Things at Boundless Labs are better than ever! We’re just shy of $100K MRR and plan to be there by the end of January 2020.

Our team is lean but high producing and we’re excited to continue scaling the team in 2020.

Our client acquisition costs on the frontend are $0 as we don’t do any paid marketing to acquire clients. Our biggest acquisition channel revolves around inbound referrals from partner agencies. We pay our referral partners an ongoing 15% rev-share monthly for the lifetime of a client. We have a few agencies that make $3,000 to $4,000 per month from sending us business. More importantly, we make them look good and they take comfort in knowing we have their client's best interests in mind. One super important note: We ALWAYS pay our referral partners within 24 to 48 hours of receiving payments from clients they’ve referred. This has been so important for building trust and further solidifying us as a great partner agency.

No matter what you do, you should absolutely provide world-class customer service. Again in the beginning stages, this is something that won’t cost you a cent.

A lot of our clients are also serial entrepreneurs so we’ll start working on one of their businesses and after we prove ourselves, they reward us with additional brands. For example, we have one client that we manage email for all four of his eCommerce businesses.

Outside inbound referrals from partner agencies, my personal network has been on absolute fire lately. Buddies from college, past coworkers, family, and friends all love to send us business. Every time I post on my social networks about a case study we put together on a client or even a podcast interview I am on, I get a few intros from my network to brands that could use email marketing help.

Right now I would say we’re on defense when it comes to growing the business. We’re so focused on going the extra mile for clients that we’re scaling our business in a very thoughtful and mindful manner.

As we continue ramping up our team we’ll likely start working on some outbound efforts (cold email) as well as further investing in SEO for our website.

Our revenue goal for 2020 is to do $2 million in revenue with our more ambitious revenue goal for 2020 is to do $2.5 million in revenue.

A large part of us achieving this goal involves my partner and I gave up more control. We’re very much perfectionists and want to have our hands in everything related to our business. Thankfully, through the best hires, we could’ve ever made, we’ve been able to entrust our team to handle a lot of the heavy lifting. By continuing to build our team with the right hires, we can transition to more of a leadership role. This will allow us to go from being on defense to playing offense. We’ve been in the fortunate business of getting most of our new clients inbound, but we’re equally as excited to be able to go out and prospect new clients.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think one of the biggest competitive advantages we’ve set up with Boundless Labs as opposed to my other previous agencies is our laser focus on only offering a single service, email marketing for eCommerce brands.

This has been advantageous for so many reasons. To name a few:

  1. We’ve become experts in email marketing for eCommerce. We’ve begun to create a name for ourselves in the eCommerce space. As such, people are now starting to reach out to us for comments on email trends, I’ve personally done 5 podcasts interviews over the past few months (with a few additional scheduled), and I just got my first invitation to speak on stage at a super cool marketing conference in February 2020. Additionally, I just recently finished filming a course with Foundr Magazine on how brands can leverage email marketing to go from 6 figures to 7 figures for their eCommerce store.
  2. People understand what we do and the impact we have. All of our case studies, copy, and social proof is geared around being experts at eCommerce email marketing. This has created a ton of trust with our clients and prospects which has made our sales process extremely easy. At this point, we don’t have to sell ourselves, but rather we’re able to have a transparent conversation with prospects about where we see opportunity and how we’ll execute. Our close rate lately has been ~80%. Additionally, the average amount of time it takes us to go from the first interaction with a prospect to onboarding them as a client is about two weeks. With my previous agencies, our sales cycle took about a month, so we’ve reduced the time that it takes to close a client and get started by half.
  3. A lot less context shifting is required. This has lead to increased productivity and efficiency. It means we can take on more clients and do a better job for them with fewer resources. For my previous two agencies, so much of my mindshare was consumed by switching amongst having to execute on eCommerce email marketing for one client, cold email marketing for a B2B brand, SEO for another client, and so on. By being able to focus on just email marketing for eCommerce brands, we know the scope and process so well that we’ve been able to build a highly successful and repeatable process that ensures our clients are maximizing revenue from their email channel. Additionally, we don’t have to recruit as many different roles. Hiring and training take up so much time especially when you have to do it across various marketing functions.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

  • Recommended ecommerce platform: Shopify
  • Our agency website builder: Squarespace
  • Email marketing platform: Klaviyo (by a long shot)
  • Internal team communication: Slack
  • Communicating with clients: Slack // Email // Weekly video calls on Zoom
  • Project and task management: Trello // Asana // Notion (depending on if a client has something setup or if we can implement one)
  • Client invoicing and billing: ZipBooks
  • Scheduling calls: Calendly

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I personally prefer listening to podcasts instead of reading books. I do read a ton of online business and marketing articles, but my favorite is listening to podcasts.

My two favorite podcasts at the moment are:

  • Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan. Nathan is genuinely curious and asks things that he truly wants to know about. As such, his podcast provides actionable advice, depth, valuable lessons from people who have done it before, inspirational stories to get you fired up about starting a business, and the tactics and how-to's to actually get started and grow your business.
  • The Side Hustle Project with Ryan Robinson. Ryan is the king of side hustles and as such as surrounded himself with dozens of others that run successful side hustles as well. His podcast interviews these entrepreneurs to explore the nitty-gritty details behind what it takes to start and grow a profitable side hustle.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My advice revolves around 3 core pillars:

  • 1. Effort

You have to start somewhere. You have to try.

An effort is something that doesn’t cost you anything but will make the world of difference.

Here are the 10 steps to success:

  • Try
  • Try again
  • Try once more
  • Try a little bit differently
  • Try it again tomorrow
  • Try and ask for help
  • Try to find someone who has done it
  • Try to fix what is not working
  • Try to expand what is working
  • Just keep trying until you succeed

When others see your perseverance they can’t resist wanting to help you. But remember, no one can force you to do or try anything, so this needs to first start with you and then others will follow suit.

  • 2. Customer Service

No matter what you do, you should absolutely provide world-class customer service. Again in the beginning stages, this isn’t something that won’t cost you a cent. As you scale, you might have to invest in dedicated customer service staff but you’ll absolutely want to. This investment will pay dividends for a long time.

In my business, a service-based business, this is so crucial to retaining clients. At the end of the day, there is an endless amount of others who can provide a similar service, but not everyone can or will match a high-level of customer satisfaction. Ensuring customers are happily paired with providing a high-quality product or service means you will have clients/customers for a very long time.

  • 3. Quality of product or service

If you nail the two pillars above and succeed here, you’re going to make great things happen. Having a product or service that’s good enough, doesn’t cut it anymore. Clients and customers have so many options that you really need your product or service to stand out.

In our business, I strongly believe that the quality of our email marketing service is so much better than that of our competitors. This has been a big part of our business going from $40K per month in revenue to $90K per month in revenue, over the last 6 months.

When it was just my partner and me starting out, we focused on obsessing over the quality of our work as well as becoming masters of our trade. From here, we’ve been extremely picky and selective in who we’ve hired. We’ve hired employees who even more talented than my partner and myself. When your team is at your level or even better than you are, you take comfort in knowing that things aren’t going to fall through the cracks and you won’t have to micromanage your staff.

Bonus advice: Have Gratitude

I want to start with a quote by Alfred North Whitehead, “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

I’ve always been incredibly thankful and appreciative of those around me. Some of the most powerful words are “please” and “thank you”. I think this is something you can start implementing today and you’ll be shocked at how well perceived it will be.

A big part of why people want to help me is because I’m always genuinely grateful. I didn’t grow up with a ton so I’ve always been extremely appreciative of what I have and I’ve realized over the years it’s played a large role in helping me get to where I am.

My latest saying is: When your network wants you to succeed, you have no choice but to succeed. I am constantly thanking people in private (1-to-1) and from time to time, in public (sharing my appreciation of others on my social media profiles).

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes, we actually are. Our business is growing at an incredible pace so we’re looking to bring on our next full-time employee. We would love to start working with someone on a part-time basis out the gates with the ultimate goal of having this person go full-time once they are trained.

Our approach thus far has been to find really talented designers and teach them email marketing. Our two current employees both have a design background and have picked up the email side extremely quickly.

The role will be focused on creating emails (strong emphasis on email design and light email copy) for weekly campaigns (holidays, product launches, and so on) as well as automated emails (abandoned cart, welcome series, and so on).

While you’re part-time you’ll be compensated on an hourly basis and once you go full-time you’d switch to receiving a competitive salary.

So if you’re reading this and either is a designer or know eCommerce email marketing well, please reach out!

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Chase Dimond,   Founder of Boundless Labs

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