Within 10 days of graduating college in December 2007, Samar Owais's life had transformed completely. She married, and immediately left her life in Pakistan behind for the United Arab Emirates. Moving to a new country with no job leads or professional connections—while on the cusp of a recession—was a challenge like none other.
To get her foot in the door, she went down the ‘rabbit hole’ of online writing gigs, independently learning to navigate the unfamiliar world of content mills and personal blogging.
She discovered guest blogging, and started building her client base—from small businesses, to Silicon Valley startups, and international hotel chains. As her notoriety as a copywriter grew, so did Samar’s aspirations for her business.
“I implemented every piece of advice that I came across. I researched, I implemented, and I found out what was working and what was not working.”
It was Samar’s willingness to experiment and take risks that ultimately led her to find her niche as an email conversion strategist, specializing in ecommerce and SaaS. Building her business and brand was a process marked by self-discovery, overcoming feelings of otherness, and honing the distinct approach to email marketing for which she became known.
Today, she is a force to be reckoned with in the email marketing game, and shares this passion with her Email Done Right newsletter subscribers, and her 11K followers on Twitter.
Samar spoke to us about her recipe for success as a strategist, her no-BS approach to pitching, and how to thrive in an industry where you may not fit the mold.
The switch from writing long-form content to email copy was the first major turning point in Samar’s career. Despite the success of her guest blogs, Samar said couldn’t shake the feeling that she was burning out.
“I kept raising my rates and people kept saying yes, and it was still not working. I thought maybe it's the way I structured my business,” she shared.
Her desire to make a change led her to Joanna Wiebe, and her course, Copyhackers. Joanna’s course taught her one of the most important lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur: treat your own business as your first client.
With her usual methodology of accepting advice, Samar got to work, pouring all her energy into her website and marketing her business. Ultimately, she realized it wasn’t that her business model didn’t work; it was that content marketing no longer worked for her.
Copyhackers was also how she met Val Geisler, who, like Samar, was trying to grow her business. Val first introduced her to email marketing, and hired her as a subcontractor. From there, Samar went on to develop email sequences for course creators and SaaS companies— including Joanna’s.
“I realized that whether it's SaaS or eCommerce, I just love emails.”
After a short stint working for an email marketing agency, Samar felt ready to break out on her own once again.
“I have a strategic brain. And because I was a copywriter, I was just taking orders and I wasn't enjoying it all that much. I always had questions, like ‘Why are we doing a welcome sequence this way? Why are we including this email here?’”
For the last four years, Samar’s bread and butter has been on-boarding and retention-focused emails for SaaS companies, as well as eCommerce customer lifecycle emails.
“The reason I enjoy it is because it allows me to take people on a journey,” she said. “That doesn't happen in a blog post, but it can happen in an email sequence.”
In this case, the final destination of the journey is a conversion. For Samar, email is the perfect medium to create multiple, meaningful opportunities for that conversion to take place.
No matter what types of conversion pain points a company may be going up against, in her experience, it can always be solved with a tactful email strategy. As a strategist, what keeps Samar excited is the challenge of identifying the gaps in a brand’s current strategy, and delivering solutions that have a measurable impact.
“Email is so close to the money. It's easy to track the ROI of the work that I do.”
The process of finding opportunities to enhance a brand’s email strategy starts with the customer, Samar said. Taking the time to understand their voice, motivations, and to map how they’re already interacting with the brand creates a solid foundation for content that resonates.
“I always say copywriting is the last piece of the puzzle, and it's not even the biggest piece. The biggest piece is the voice of customer research,” she shared.
Here are some of Samar’s best tips for tapping into your customer’s conversion journey, and creating email sequences that guide them in the right direction.
How are customers finding your brand? What are they doing the moment they land on your website? What actions do you want them to take next? Depending on how the customer interacts with you at each stage, your objective and messaging changes accordingly.
At each stage of the journey, consider where in the ‘flow chart’ the customer should go next. For example, if they already signed up for the free trial, what is the next conversion that you’re aiming for in this interaction?
At each step in an email journey, Samar asks herself two things: what email do you send next if the customer does what you want? What email do you send if they don’t? Just because someone doesn’t convert doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there. Going back to your customer research can shed light on what hurdles they’re experiencing.
Once you identify why some customers may be leaving you on read, take it as an opportunity to evaluate how your strategy could change or evolve. “I ask clients, ‘Which of these recommendations can you realistically implement? Let’s test it out.’ That’s when the real fun begins,” Samar said.
“My biggest gripe is with onboarding sequences that only focus on the features. This is why customer research is so important because you need to find out what motivates these people,” she said. Remind your customers what your product or service will help them achieve.
Though pitching was crucial for building her clientele, Samar admits it hasn’t always come easy to her. The key, she said, is finding a way to approach companies you admire in a way that feels comfortable and highlights the value you can bring to them.
“Cold pitching, it works for some people, but not for somebody who is shy and socially awkward like me,” she shared.
She describes her pitching strategy as “playing the long game.” Samar takes the time to connect with founders or marketing professionals from the brands she’d like to work with, whether through the ecommerce community on Twitter, other partnerships, or any networking opportunities.
She landed her gig with Copyhackers by pitching to Joanna while still a student in her course. Despite ongoing, individualized support from Joanna after the coursework ended, many students left the Copyhackers course toward the end. Samar saw an opportunity to improve long-term retention, and offered Joanna her help.
“She was very flippant about it. She said, ‘Yeah, that usually happens when people are done with the course.’ But I was like, ‘That shouldn't happen. Your support doesn’t end, and it’s worth it to me.’” Samar recalled.
Building that rapport makes her pitches more meaningful and personalized. Samar said she approaches each pitch as if she’s already a part of their team—as someone in their corner.
“I've always approached pitching as a way to help. Like how can I help?”
When pitching, Samar will identify gaps in the company’s current strategy, and explain how her specific expertise will help fill those gaps. She will also reach out to brands to congratulate them on what she thinks they’re doing right, maintaining those meaningful connections.
“There was this brand that was on my dream client list. They were really good at emails; I couldn't find any email gaps and I couldn't find any opportunities to pitch them,” she explained.
“But I would always highlight the good, the good stuff that they were doing. One day their founder DMed me saying, ‘we've got a retention focused email problem that we'd like your advice on.’”
For Samar, who works mainly with American companies while living in Pakistan, Twitter has been a crucial component of her recipe for successful clientele-building.
Samar’s 11K Twitter followers can expect far more than just email or marketing content. For Samar, Twitter is her water cooler—a place to build camaraderie, exchange ideas, and just engage in casual conversation.
“You talk about a bunch of stuff at the water cooler, not just work.”
In her experience, initiating and taking part in conversations that aren’t all strictly about business has yielded exciting results. Once, after tweeting about how much she enjoyed speaking on podcasts, her online community sprung into action:
“So many people recommended me, people that I've been on a podcast with said so many nice things about me as a speaker. So I booked 12 podcasts within three days.”
In turn, Samar said she’s always checking her timeline and notifications for opportunities to help others out, and boost their content as well. A large part of cultivating a supportive Twitter environment for yourself is being strategic about who you follow.
Here is some of Samar’s advice for curating your community:
Samar says regularly engaging with topics that matter to her, and following users both big and small, improves her notoriety in the email marketing space and encourages her community to recommend her for new projects and opportunities.
What it feels like to navigate the tech space as an outsider
Before spreading her wings on Twitter, Samar said she struggled with feeling like an outsider or unwelcomed in the ecommerce community, especially when she was first building her business.
“Half of it was maybe my own insecurities. But also the fact that it felt unwelcoming, and there are certain communities that I'm a part of where I don't speak up to this day,” she explained.
“I had a lot of baggage being who I am. I'm a brown hijabi, Muslim Pakistani person who doesn't even live in the US, but works with US clients. There’s always been that angle of fit,” she said, adding that the ecommerce space continues to be largely male-dominated.
In the early days, Samar said she felt insecure about reaching out to others for help, and didn’t feel as though she had anyone she could be vulnerable with.
“You don't want to jeopardize anything by putting yourself in a position where you could be made to feel small,” she said.
At first, she started requesting ‘discovery calls.’ It was a way for her to connect with others and gain industry insights, without having to put herself out there by explicitly asking for help or guidance. Eventually, she started making more connections with people who felt the same way she did. As her business started to flourish, she returned the favor, offering advice to industry newcomers.
“I don't care whether you’re in your pre-launch early phase or just starting to blow up. If you have reached out to me about an email problem, I will book a call with you.”
Through these conversations, she felt validated in her feelings of otherness in the tech and ecommerce space, and has gotten a closer look at the ‘ugly underbelly’ of the industry that is often not discussed.
“I attract a lot of women and POC-owned brands, and their stories are just hair-raising at times.”
Samar says she hopes to continue to promote the conversation around marginalized communities in the tech industry, and use her platform on Twitter to keep building safe spaces for women and POC entrepreneurs.
Though it can take a great deal of courage, Samar’s best advice is to be unapologetically yourself; and believe that you are entitled to a seat at the table.
“Don’t make the mistake I made. Be loud. And proud.”
Even some communities that may seem exclusionary or closed off will have nice people in them. Pay attention to who seems genuine and trustworthy, and reach out for support.
“Reach out to somebody who feels a little different than the majority of the crowd,” she said. “Or just reach out to me.”
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