Kevin Gianni founded Annmarie Skin Care with his wife, Annmarie. Based in Berkeley, their company produces and sells high-end natural skin care products and cosmetics.
Their website features sun-kissed photos of a photogenic team and whimsical bios that mention whether team members prefer maple syrup or honey.
But don’t think for a minute that their sweet, laid-back vibe means that they’re not serious about growing their business.
At the heart of that exceptional growth is a powerful email acquisition strategy.
Kevin, also the CEO, has always viewed building an email list as a top priority for the business. And his approach gets results.
In the first-ever Klaviyo Awards, Annmarie Skin Care is nominated for the High Growth Ecommerce Store category for their incredible email list growth over the past year, which is in the hundreds of thousands.
To achieve that growth, Kevin and his team took a highly disciplined approach — and accepted that visitors to their website probably weren’t ready to invest $50 in a bottle of aloe-based facial cleanser.
At least not the first time they visited the site.
Where it started
Long before launching this company with Annmarie, Kevin studied the giants of direct marketing.
“I was listening to Jay Abraham tapes out of college,” Kevin says. “And Dan Kennedy, and all these old-school direct marketers. I was reading Eugene Schwartz. I still kind of hang with some of those old school guys. A lot of their stuff is still really relevant.”
Inspired by their lessons, Kevin was ready to be patient and focus on long-term success. His goal wasn’t to get shoppers to pull out their credit cards right away.
“The core of our business is getting targeted leads, and then taking them through smart, caring email sequences,” Kevin says. “We’re taking them through an experience that builds trust.”
Getting to know you
What helps build that trust? For Annmarie Skin Care, product quality has always been a priority: “With an ecommerce business, you have to have a great product or else you’re sunk,” Kevin says.
But for people who haven’t made a purchase yet, trust really has nothing to do with how good the product is. In fact, it’s not about the product at all.
It’s about the customer.
Kevin knew that the key to meeting his ambitious email acquisition goals involved understanding the company’s customers.
“We started out writing blog posts about skin,” Kevin explained. “It was always about ‘10 ways to make your skin look younger.’ That sort of thing. Then we said hey, what the heck, let’s start to publish more articles about health, herbs, that sort of stuff. They got much better engagement. So we realized that our audience wasn’t necessarily fully interested in just reading about skin all the time. They were interested in this larger picture.”
Kevin and his team worked to understand what that larger picture looked like, and how different aspects of their audience’s lives related to it.
“We’ve done a lot of research about who our customers are,” Kevin says. “We have a pretty strong image of who that person is. We know what she likes, we know what websites she goes on, we know what products she tends to buy, we know what kind of house she lives in.”
A lot of companies put together a handful of personas. But not all of them follow through the way that Annmarie Skin Care does, prioritizing their audience’s interests ahead of their own products.
“Even with our Instagram now, we ask ourselves, ‘Where are some of the places that she wants to visit?’” says Kevin. “Let’s show pictures of that. Let’s forget the specials. We’re done trying to promote our products there. Let’s make our Instagram a sanctuary. And the engagement’s amazing.”
But it all comes down to a single moment of truth. For email acquisition for organic non-branded traffic, there may be nothing more important to get right than the lead generators.
Acquiring customer emails
At Annmarie Skin Care, lead generators are taken seriously. The company offers four: a Toxic Free Home Guide, a Savvy Shopper’s Guide for Skin Care, a Skin Detox Program, and an interactive skin quiz.
Designed like a bright and cheerful contemporary magazine, the Toxic Free Home Guide is more than 180 pages. It covers a wide range of household and personal products, explaining what certain ingredients do and offering up potentially safer alternatives.
In other words, Kevin’s approach isn’t about trading empty promises for email addresses. It’s about exceeding the customer’s expectations and establishing credibility.
He also taps into “What’s in it for me,” famously abbreviated as WIIFM. That’s the principle behind the quiz.
The home page asks, “What’s Your Skin Score? Get your free personalized results.”
“It’s engaging. It’s interesting,” Kevin says. “What’s my skin score? I don’t know. What is it? So if you do that, that works really well.”
And this is where Kevin and Annmarie Skin Care differ from many other successful ecommerce stores: They don’t offer a discountin exchange for signing up for the mailing list.
“Many of our first-time visitors from organic search haven’t come to the site to make a purchase,” says Kevin. “They’ve come to learn something. So when you lead with a discount, you’re kind of jumping ahead.”
Can an ebook or a quiz really beat a discount when it comes to gathering emails?
Kevin’s answer: an emphatic YES.
“For cold, non-branded traffic, I would put our skin quiz or our Toxic Free Home Guide up against a 20% off coupon,” says Kevin. “And I almost guarantee you that for opt-ins, they’ll win every time.”
Image: Team photo courtesy of Annmarie Skin Care