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AMAs

Colin Darretta is the founder of WellPath, an e-commerce and media wellness business, and DojoMojo, a partnership marketing platform.

While growing WellPath, his team unexpectedly started DojoMojo because they saw partnership marketing as the most cost-effective and fast way to grow their email list and acquire new customers. Now two years later, DojoMojo connects over five thousand brands including Conde Nast, theSkimm and Casper to work together on over 10,000 partnership deals from content swaps to giveaways. At the risk of sounding too dramatic, Colin credits a significant portion of WellPath's success to the technology enabled by DojoMojo.

He is also an investor in several consumer startups and has been interviewed on topics ranging from venture fundraising and investing in business strategies and tactics. He's hosting this AMA to answer any questions our community might have about entrepreneurship and strategies to grow their business.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn or email colin@dojomojo.ninja.

  • DF

    David Freitag

    7 months ago #

    What’s a good strategy for finding partnerships if my business is just starting out and our email list is very small?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Thanks for the question, David.

      The focus of any partnership is to make all the partners feel like the exchange of value is equitable. If you’re doing an email cross promotion (or sweepstakes, or whatever else it might be) with a brand with a much larger email list then the onus is on you to figure out how to bridge the value gap. This takes a thorough examination of what other value drivers you can bring to the table.

      5 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Ask yourself a few questions:

      - Do you have a big social audience you can promote to? Perhaps influencer connections who will promote the partnership?
      - Another brand with whom you have a strong relationship that you can bring into the partnership who has a larger reach?
      - Are you willing to put up some cash to promote the partnership through advertising channels?

      Almost everyone has other levers to pull on to create value – the ones listed above are by and large pretty boilerplate but most people developed their brands and businesses with some unfair advantage that makes you unique. Figure out how you can leverage your uniqueness into an asset when it comes to pitching yourself for partnership opportunities.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Another thing to take note of is the big brands want to partner with the nimble, cool, hot upstarts. A Quip, for instance, has more cache than SonicCare, even though it may ultimately be a much smaller business (for now, at least). Hope that helps David, don't hesitate to reach out with any follow up.

  • RW

    rachel windzberg

    7 months ago #

    What trends do you see in e-commerce brands monetization strategies?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      The short answer is, a lot.

      Facebook has become more competitive than ever before. The twin factors driving this are ad prices going up (in part due to decreased ad loads) while consumers becoming inured to Facebook advertising and thus driving LTV down. What this means is the ROAS is increasingly less compelling than it was in the halcyon days of only a few years ago. Gone are the days of simply pumping money into the Facebook advertising machine and being nearly assured of a compelling return.

      5 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      So brands are forced to look for different channels to monetize in a more cost effective fashion. And as things tend to be cyclical you’re seeing many DNVB’s going into physical retail, physical mailers and back to email. Obviously I am very long email – it’s one of the only channels that you can actually own and not pay anyone to have an ongoing conversation with an audience – and I think the broader trend around building community and engagement is focused on finding channels through which to have conversation. Email is a great place for many brands to start as it requires less budget and infrastructure than an attempt at retail or physical mailers. That being said more than ever before one needs to understand that the more touchpoints you have with a prospective customer the better the flywheel operates.

  • BI

    Benjelloun Ibrahim

    7 months ago #

    Hi there,
    Any book would you recommend about building a solid partnerships

    Thanks in advance

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      As I think about it I realize that there are surprisingly few books written about partnerships explicitly. This is in part because there has never been a clearly defined process for how you build and engage on partnerships (institutionalizing the process of partnerships is part of our mission for DojoMojo).

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      I can recommend Shortcut your Startup, by Courtney and Carter Reum, which talks about the value of partnerships and understand the strategy pretty deeply through their experience investing in many of the top DNVB brands of the past decade (disclosure: they have referred some of their portfolio companies to DojoMojo in the past and are investors in WellPath). Otherwise most business books talk about high level strategy but tend to skip over the tactical stuff of how to actually go build these partnerships. Apologies there isn’t a more fulsome answer but if you ever want to touch base on specifics don’t hesitate to reach out via email.

  • QL

    Queenie Leung

    7 months ago #

    What are the 3 most important things to consider when a brand is looking to work with new partners?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Partnerships succeed the more alignment between the brands there is. There is huge beta in partnership results and most of it results from partnerships doing a poor job in the selection process of who they partner with. I would argue, perhaps controversially, that the partnership itself matters less than the partners involved.

      3 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      For that reason I advocate spending more time and energy making sure you have vetted the partners than designing a grand landing page and creative. To that end you want to find brands who:
      1. Share similar target audience demographics. For instance, millennial urban women who like fitness boutiques,
      2. Have similar messaging to your brand. If you’re a wellness company partnering with a junk food company, even if you’re targeting the same people, that will inherently seem incongruous.
      3. Have deep and authentic relationships with their readers. You can typically see this via social engagement, an active content site, or some other form of community engagement.

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      In this sense being more narrowly focused on brands that really fit alongside your own somewhat irrespective of their total reach is preferable to adopting a reductive “bigger is better” approach. Investing time and doing the work up front to ensure you are working with good partners makes the rest of the process much easier. I hope that helps.

  • HW

    Hayden Wilson

    7 months ago #

    How do you think about the value of content and commerce?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      I think building authentic engagement with your target customer is absolutely key. Glossier, for instance, does this better than just about anyone. Into the Gloss predated any sort of commerce by quite some time. Even now their approach to retail is more about building connection than driving sales numbers. And I would argue a great, engaging retail experience is a form of content - and will lead to a lot of content creation alongside commerce.

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      We live in an era where unless your product is patent protected there are very few barriers to entry in the form of unique supplier relationships. Almost anyone can replicate almost any product in terms of design, ingredients, formulation, etc. So ultimately the barriers to entry for commerce businesses (where network effects rarely apply) is going to come from the demand side (namely, the customers). And content can play an enormous role in building trust, credibility and brand loyalty which can give you a powerful demand side relationship.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      At WellPath, we rely on the Path (our content site) as our primary acquisition channel. We take the responsibility to empower and inform through content seriously. While we absolutely do find opportunities to promote and mention our own products well over 90% of our content has nothing to do with anything we sell. That may seem like a lot of work for something that doesn’t directly tie out against sales but ultimately it’s an earnest and authentic commitment to putting out content we feel can really help people that builds the seeds of trust in our community that creates a willingness for people to give our products a try. At a minimum I believe that two thirds of the email and communications you send to your community and users should be about empowering and informing them and not marketing.

  • AS

    Anna-Elyse Schwabacher

    7 months ago #

    Why kind of partnerships marketing efforts can I participate in that won't sacrifice my existing customers and send their business to the newer partners?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Partnership marketing is all about cross pollination and bartering your audience. Ideally you’re doing it with brands that have similar target demographics but are not directly competitive. For instance, Equinox could work with Reebok and Men’s Health. They all target fitness forward individuals who make wellness a central part of their lives. And while they have overlapping parts of their businesses (Equinox does do apparel and content) their core businesses are fairly distinct. Inevitably some Equinox customers will become Reebok customers and vice versa.

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      The fundamental underpinning of a partnership is always that a rising tide raises all ships, which is to say that an Equinox customer becoming a Reebok customer does not mean they are no longer a Equinox customer. Partnerships are, importantly, not a zero sum game.

  • JG

    Jenna Goitiandia

    7 months ago #

    How have you been able to convert the leads acquired through DojoMojo?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      I’m very lucky to work with an incredible team who creates incredible content and have developed a large and engaged readership base for our content, that is far and away the most important aspect of our ability to convert DojoMojo leads into customers.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Further, we are very proactive in making sure the list stays engaged by doing things like:

      - We make unsubscribing really easy.
      - Similarly if someone does not engage with our email list for 90 days - even if they have not unsubscribed - we automatically remove them.
      - Since email is core to our growth strategy we guard our deliverability zealously and measure it weekly leveraging a mixture of tools freely available.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      If we’re not making it to the inbox we are in trouble. So it’s a balance of putting out great content, being extremely disciplined about making sure we keep our IP and domain reputation high so that content hits the inbox and finally producing great products that people actually like. The last part, though I took a while to mention it, shouldn’t be overlooked. Ultimately if your product is not compelling no matter how good a lead is or content produced might be it will be very hard to sell.

  • CE

    Chris Eckenrod

    7 months ago #

    What is your recommendation on how I should choose an ESP?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      The very short answer is if you do not have someone who can dedicate significant portions of their time to deliverability then you should be using an ESP which handles a great deal of the deliverability nuts and bolts for you. That means a Mailchimp, Klaviyo or Bronto. As you grow and decide that you want to have a dedicated IP (versus shared) and have the resources to have someone who spends a significant portion (if not all) of their time on email you can investigate solutions that are both more complex but have more bells and whistles like ReSci, Listrak and others.

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      The even shorter answer – if your team size is under 10 and/or your list is under 500K you are probably best suited to be on one of the more turnkey solutions like Mailchimp.

  • AH

    Amanda Heffernan

    7 months ago #

    When building an email list how do you ensure deliverability stays high?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Deliverability is about as byzantine as it gets and is really hard to give a short(ish) response to an incredibly complicated topic but I’ll give it a shot. That being said, I’ve written several fairly long articles on the subject for Entrepreneur Magazine so will not repeat everything therein but if you’re interested are worth reading. The succinct version is fairly straightforward (advance warning, a lot of acronyms and jargon inbound so please forgive me).

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      First, you need to understand what your deliverability is – that means using tools to monitor IP and domain health (I suggest Delivery Index and Google Postmster). That also means you need to monitor your presence on blacklists like SORBS and Truncate and request removals if you find yourself on them.

      Second, assuming you now have a grasp on how you’re doing on the deliverability front there are a number of engineering tasks you should ensure you are set up and up to date (email signing, SPF, DKIM, DMARC, WHOIS).

      Finally, you should ensure it is very easy for a user to unsubscribe, that you are very diligent about removing inactive emails from your list, ensure images use alt tags and perhaps use third party list hygiene and verification services.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Does that sound like a lot? It is. There are third party services that can do this for you – like ReturnPath, but they don’t come cheap. I advocate investing time and energy into figuring it out yourself as if email is going to be core to your business this needs to be something you have a very strong handle over.

  • EK

    Erin Keane

    7 months ago #

    Different channels of acquiring leads obviously imply people being at different points in their customer journey - how do you tailor the messaging?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      In short, the earlier they are in their path through the customer journey the more you need to focus on educational and general messaging than product and sales messaging. If you acquire someone’s email through a sweepstakes there is a very good chance that they know very little about your brand and so if you straightaway try to sell them hard on your product you’re likely to get at best an unsubscribe or at worst them marking you as spam.

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      For a brand like WellPath that means starting with some of our best performing articles, topics that come across as much less sales oriented and more about empowering and educating. Only after a reader has started to engage with your brand and learn who you are is it time to build more clear product marketing into the communications. For this reason I’m a big advocate of having different drip campaigns for leads acquired through different channels. Someone who has been on your site and abandoned cart clearly knows much more about your product and is close to a sale and thus should be receiving very different sorts of communication.

  • JG

    Jenna Goitiandia

    7 months ago #

    How do you know if the emails you acquire have any intent to buy your products?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      The quality of the emails you acquire is going to depend on how you acquire them. An email acquired from someone who came to your site and perhaps entered the checkout flow but didn’t complete obviously has given you reason to believe that they are a very high intent customer. An email acquired from someone who saw an ad on Facebook, came to your site and entered into a lightbox to subscribe to your email list is reasonably high intent. An email acquired from a cobranded sweepstakes is low intent. However, the cost of acquiring those emails should be correspondingly the inverse of their level of intent. A low intent email should cost only a fraction of what a high intent email will cost you, because only a fraction of those low intent emails will turn into customers.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      In summary, you should be tracking the source of every email, tailoring the communications to fit that channel, and tracking each email and users progression through your customer journey and adjusting messaging as they reach each decision point.

  • VF

    Vanessa Francisco

    7 months ago #

    What would you do to ensure the emails your acquired from a campaign convert to customers?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Having a good drip campaign that introduces any newly acquired emails to your brand is crucial. As I mentioned elsewhere, your drip campaign needs to be built in such a way to take into account how you acquired an email. If you acquired emails through a sweepstakes you should assume that most people do not know your brand well yet so those initial emails need to be about informing more than selling. Many, many brands go wrong by leading with the sale first perhaps out of concern that it’s their first and best shot at getting the conversion.

  • MA

    Milad Aria

    6 months ago #

    What is the best method for getting initial traction on dojo mojo?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      It depends where you are in terms of your existing list size as well as what your goals are. If you are coming to the platform with little to no list you are going to have to think creatively about ways to really entice brands to partner with you. Every partnership is predicated on an exchange of value – so if you don’t have much audience then you need to bring something else of value to the table. This can be a great prize if you’re doing a sweepstakes or a willingness to spend advertising dollars to promote a partnership on other channels like Facebook if you don’t have a built in audience to promote to. You really need to think of the pitch you make to other brands when making partnership proposals as your opportunity to convince someone why they should want to work with you.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      By the same token it is important to be thoughtful about who you try to work with. Everyone wants to work with theSkimm. They are thus incredibly discerning about who they choose to work with – the partnership needs to check all the right boxes. If you’re a small brand with little audience and little history on Dojo you better have a very, very compelling pitch. You’re chance of success is much higher when you work with brands who have similar sizes and audience types as your own. As you grow and develop a reputation within the DojoMojo community you’ll be increasingly able to partner with more marquee brands. There is something of a natural “leveling up” process that happens on DojoMojo the more you use it.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Finally, work with brands who have audiences that you think will really connect with yours. Be more focused on that than just trying to find big brands to work with. An email acquired from a brand that doesn’t have a similar target demographic as your own is much less likely to convert to an eventual user/customer/reader than when you work with a brand that is well aligned. Yes, it takes more work to find good partners, but the returns more than justify it. Hope that helps.

  • BK

    Bryan Kimmons

    6 months ago #

    How do you measure success for sponsored content or email?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      I fall pretty squarely in the camp of expecting metrics and feedback that is measurable – it’s part of why I like email marketing. If I email a million people I can track specifically how many people open the email, click on it, enter a purchase funnel and ultimately make a purchase. There is a huge amount of variability on conversion rates contingent on what you’re selling but you should have a good sense of what metrics you need to see to justify the investment.

  • RN

    Riley Nieman

    6 months ago #

    How do you see brands generating value through partnerships outside of sweepstakes?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      DojoMojo started as a sweepstakes platform. What we quickly realized was that people were using the DojoMojo network to connect on and execute many forms of partnerships aside from sweepstakes. This means things like box insert swaps, content swaps and media buying and selling. We’ve actually just launched the beta on our media marketplace which will be a mechanism to connect media buyers and sellers and track performance in much the same way we have for sweepstakes.

      As I mentioned elsewhere here a really good sweepstakes partner often can be a really good partner for a number of the other forms of partnerships and we’re starting to see that play out pretty extensively in the DojoMojo network.

  • PN

    Phil Ng

    6 months ago #

    What are your thoughts on the future of email marketing and do you think it will eventually replace the more traditional methods such as Facebook, Google Adwords, etc. ?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Facebook advertising and Google adwords aren’t going anywhere. Between Facebook and Google they control between 60% and 70% of total digital marketing spend. That is a staggering amount. What I see happening however is that brands are increasingly trying to find other alternatives to the big two, especially due to ROI on Facebook becoming harder to come by than it has in years past. This has led people to lean into trying to find other channels to reach customers, in particular channels where you can truly “own” the connection with the customer. In spite of much talk about how messaging was going to kill email that has shown no signs of actually playing out – on the contrary we’re seeing more brands come back to email marketing as technology around email personalization really evolves. I think that the market is eager for good, measurable alternatives to Google and Facebook. Emphasis on measurable – Facebook and Google have done an amazing job at enabling very precise attribution when it comes to customer acquisition and any other digital advertising channels will need to offer the same to wrestle dollars away from the two behemoths.

      2 Share
  • AS

    Anna-Elyse Schwabacher

    6 months ago #

    What tools do you personally use for marketing?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      Many of the greatest hits – the goal is less to reinvent the wheel than make sure you’re doing a good job at the things that are well understood to work when done right. So that means targeted affiliate and influencer relationships, some SEM, Amazon advertising, Facebook advertising, products like Buffer and Tailwind for social scheduling, HARO for press outreach and obviously DojoMojo for email acquisition. We’ve tried a number of ESP’s – as I mentioned in another question I do think Mailchimp is a great solution for most early stage businesses and as you develop infrastructure to have dedicated resources focused on your email marketing program you can “graduate” to tools like Retention Science (ReSci).

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      I caution that those looking for some magic “hack” that is the holy grail to growth will be sorely disappointed. Using all these tools well and in concert (and leveraging your first party customer data extensively to build good lookalike audiences) is what will create enduring success.

  • LZ

    Luke Zhang

    6 months ago #

    Hi Colin,

    What partnerships have been the most successful for you, and for what reasons do you think they were?

    Thanks,
    Luke

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      The best partnerships are, almost without fail, the ones where we invested the most time in ensuring there was strong brand alignment and subsequently strong messaging alignment. Every time I have partnered with a brand solely because of their sheer scale I have been ultimately disappointed by the results. Obviously the more well established WellPath has become and the larger our audience has grown we now have the luxury to be pretty discerning about who we choose to work with. When you’re just getting started you inevitably have to make some compromises but making sure that you are doing your best to find good partners and strong messaging within whatever constraints might exist is enormously valuable and impactful.

  • JS

    James Shalhoub

    6 months ago #

    How should I decide what partnership medium is going to work best for me? Sweepstakes, box insert swaps, email swaps, etc.

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      I think of something like sweepstakes as a coffee date. It isn’t a huge commitment on either party and gives you a chance to see if your brand resonates with the other. Something like content swaps or email cross promotion can be a longer term partnership and might be analogous to a lunch date. Box insert swaps where you’re doing physical print outs and packaging them alongside your product connotes a pretty deep level of intimacy so that’s perhaps dinner. Bad analogy aside I think ultimately the only way to see ROI across mediums is to test them out. My caution is that it is oftentimes less about the medium and more about the partner selection. A partner with whom content swaps works very well is likely to probably perform well in a box insert swap. Use less invasive, lower commitment forms of partnerships to determine the brands with whom you are willing to invest more energy and effort into more complex partnership mediums.

  • AD

    Amanda Davies

    6 months ago #

    When you evaluate your different marketing avenues, how do you compare them on equal footing?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      By remaining disciplined about data. We spend very little on “brand” or “awareness” marketing that is inherently the least measurable piece of marketing. So for us that has meant no television or radio, for instance. The great thing about digital (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Email) is that you have all the data you could ask for to make intelligent decisions and reallocate resources. And by and large it is (relatively) easy to evaluate those channels on equal footing against one another.

      2 Share
    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      My one caveat here is that the data should inform but not necessarily be blindly followed. Context is key. And typically marketing channels all start to work better when you use them in concert. So just because your ROI is higher on one channel than another does not necessarily mean you should divert all energy away from the lower performing channel into the better. One will often find that Facebook starts to convert better when you're emails are really optimized and humming. The holistic approach almost always wins.

  • TR

    Tamara Rahoumi

    6 months ago #

    How can my brand use content to drive conversions?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      First and foremost, your content is how you build trust and credibility with prospective customers. This can vary contingent on what you are trying to sell. For WellPath, where we sell nutritional products, having our customers trust us is mission critical. If we sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about how could someone ever want to put something in their body that we’re selling? To that end great content informs and empowers, and hopefully by creating a more informed consumer they will understand what makes your product different and unique and then they will make intelligent buying decisions themselves.

      2 Share
  • TR

    Tamara Rahoumi

    6 months ago #

    What content marketing strategies have you seen success with? Specifically, how have you been able to tailor your content marketing efforts to the interests of the new emails you acquire?

    • CD

      Colin Darretta

      6 months ago #

      When we do create content that is built to sell our products we almost always see more success with emails that really inform customers of what makes our products special. I think many people underindex the fact that potential customers are smart and capable of understanding product complexity. Too many businesses talk down to customers and assume they will not understand and appreciate nuance. We lean into really talking about the formulations we use, where we source our ingredients and how we differ from the competition. Ultimately it reads less like an email encouraging people to buy our product and more like an article about our product really dissecting it. Assuming you have a product to be proud of these emails are far more effective than simple discounts or flashy images.

  • PH

    peter hence

    6 months ago #

    wow good

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