Audio

159: Larry Kim On How To Run Profitable Google Adwords Campaigns

Share On Facebook

Larry Kim On How To Run Profitable Google Adwords Campaigns

Play

Larry is the founder and CTO of Wordstream which is a service that develops online marketing software and helps companies optimize their PPC ad campaigns.

He is considered one of the most influential PPC experts in the world and he’s a frequent blogger for Search Engine Land, MOZ, Search Engine Journal and other top business publications.

In this episode, you will learn about how he started Wordstream and how to run profitable PPC campaigns the right way.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Larry came up with the idea to start Wordstream
  • How to run a brand new PPC campaign for an ecommerce store
  • How Larry leverages content to run profitable ads.
  • The common mistakes that people make with Google Adwords
  • How to raise your quality score
  • How leverage RLSA

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Ignite.Sellerlabs.com – If you are selling on Amazon and running Amazon Sponsored Ads campaigns, then Ignite from Seller Labs is a must have tool. Click here and get a FREE 30 Day Trial.
Ignite Logo

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

158: How Noah Kagan Grew Sumo.com To An 8 Figure Company

Share On Facebook

158: How Noah Kagan Grew Sumo.com To An 8 Figure Company

Play

Today, I’m really happy to have Noah Kagan back on the show. Now Noah was actually one of my very first guests way back in episode 7 and he took a chance on coming on a podcast that hadn’t even launched yet.

Anyway since we last spoke, Noah has gone on to create an 8 figure company in the span of 3 years in Sumo.com and today we’re going to find out exactly how he did it. Noah also started a podcast called “Noah Kagan Presents” which you can all check out by clicking here

What You’ll Learn

  • How Noah decides on his yearly goals for his company
  • The intricacies of having a freemium model with your SAAS business
  • Noah’s philosophy on paid advertising
  • What’s worked well for Sumo.com and what hasn’t worked so well
  • Random Actionable Noah-isms

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Today I’m thrilled to have your boy Noah Kagan aka rhino, aka rabbi [inaudible 00:00:14], aka DJ PB back on the show.

Noah was actually guest number seven on my podcast way back in the day. The guy took a chance on me when I didn’t have an audience at all and I thank him for that. And now he’s actually started his own podcast called Noah Kagan Presents which I highly recommend that you check out. Normally I listen to all my podcasts at 2X speed, but with Noah’s podcast I listen to every single episode straight through from start to finish at 1X speed.

Anyway today Noah and I are going to be talking about sumo.com, and how he took his business to eight figures.
But before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Now I’m super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are my email marketing provider of choice that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another provider. Well Klaviyo is the email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it’s so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they purchased which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, it’s a piece of cake, and there is full revenue tracking on every single email.

Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you could try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Now what’s cool is that I also use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here is why I like and chose Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a coupon code for that item or display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subs, which I then feed to Klaviyo to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve and try it for free, and if you decide you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off, once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m really happy to have Noah Kagan back on the show. Now Noah was actually one of my very first guests way back in episode seven, and he actually took a chance on coming on a podcast that had not even launched yet, and in fact back then we didn’t even know each other at all and I actually conned him to coming on by telling him it was an Asian dating podcast.

Now what’s hilarious about all this is that I told my podcast editor that Noah was coming back on, and she was terrified because the last time I had her edit out all of his F bums and they were a lot of them. Anyway most of you probably know his background already and if you don’t, go check out episode 7 of my podcast.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going through his background, but last time we talked about his company AppSumo, and today we’re going to talk about sumo.com, and how he’s grown it into an eight figure business. I’m glad to have you on the show man, how are you doing today?

Noah: Better, better, I woke up feeling pretty lousy, I went to therapy and felt lousier, had a great lunch, felt inspired, went to the gym and now I’m on it dude, I’m with you Chou.

Steve: Are you still go on therapy, I thought you stopped that.

Noah: You know a lot of the things that we do that get us successful, you have to keep doing, and I think that’s part of the hard part is that I was reading about it this morning it was really interesting. It was like we get to this level of arrogance or assumption that we think we know everything, and then I don’t need to do this basic stuff anymore. I try to just keep myself in check and so I reflected in the past like therapy was helpful for me so I go every other week.

It’s funny because I think therapy just has a bad phrase to it, it’s more of like a mind coach, it’s my mind coach and I go there and I do all my Jewish complaining, and the guy is like that will be like 125 and then here’s your [inaudible 00:05:10].

Steve: Speaking of therapy I actually had a question for you like I remember a while ago when we were talking about Sumo, you grew it to like 20 something people, right? And you went to India and then you came back and you fired everyone, went back to basics and made it a small quadruple of people again, and now you got like what, 30 people at Sumo group, is that right?

Noah: There is around 43 of us.

Steve: Yeah 43, okay so what’s different this time? Like you grew up Sumo and then you fired everyone, why are you growing Sumo Group?

Noah: Do you think that if I told the team I was going to India again like everyone would be [inaudible 00:05:41]. Like hey guys next week I’m going to India, heads up. No I love everyone at Sumo, what’s different or what are you trying to understand?

Steve: Oh no in AppSumo you brought it back to under a quarter group of people.

Noah: Oh yeah.

Steve: So now you’re trying to grow another company, large it seems, right?

Noah: Yeah, it takes the same amount of effort and this is up here [inaudible 00:06:05] thing he told me. It’s like it takes the same amount of effort to do something small as it does to do something big, like literally the same amount of effort like you’re going to work eight hours a day you might as well try to do something bigger. A lot of the times I think decisions of mine should be like what makes a more interesting story like over the boarder choice, what makes a more interesting story?

So if you’re choosing things you’re like well there’s something kind of really big, I think that would be more interesting for my life and I can look back and have a great story for myself not just for other people. So company wise I think what – I actually had this amazing thought, I thought — that sounds so strange, it sounds so [inaudible 00:06:40], all this is an amazing thought. I had a very interesting thought for myself, it was like what if you couldn’t have a legacy and then how would you behave?

Meaning what if your kids are going to die right after you so you couldn’t have kids as your legacy, or like everything you do gets erased 50 years after you die. So the idea, it’s like oh I’ve got to do this stuff so I’m remembered which I think is what we’re all trying to aim for, that is like not important anymore, and like I wonder how that will change a lot of our behavior?

Steve: That’s a great question, you’ve already got money, right, so what does growing a larger company do for you?

Noah: Well the larger company it’s not time to grow a larger company just for a large company, I think a lot of people could just go hire a bunch of like low wage people then you could have – anyone can hire 20 people off Craig’s list and have a 20% company today. So I’m always kind of cautious when people want to brag about their company.

When I share myself I never try to brag about it, I’m just trying to share like here’s advice of things I’ve learned through my experience, a lot of it is for me to reflect on, it’s like my own therapy. What I’ve done through – or would I say like in terms of our evolution of the business at Sumo Group like appsumo.com or our coupon for gigs and sumo.com, our free marketing tools, it’s more of like creating what you want and then putting yourself in the right place.

So more specifically I call it finding your sweet spot, so finding the thing that you just love doing on this earth and that you’re really interested in and then really sticking around that and growing around that, and then really complementing yourself in your weaknesses and things that you’re less interested.

So specifically with sumo.com which is our free marketing tool software, helps people grow their email list, like I’m really good at starting things, I’m really good at marketing things and I really love that part. I don’t particularly like any meetings at least at this point of my life, maybe when I’m 40 I’ll be, oh yeah it’s like meeting day, I’ll say the F word fun, I know that’s what you’re saying I said in the last episode, but yeah it’s I don’t enjoy that, I don’t enjoy a lot of long term super big planning, it’s just not what I want.

I think I felt guilty about that for a long time and that was like, oh I’m weak at it let me get better. I’ve come to the conclusion in the past – more recent that I was like just go embrace the things you’re great at and improve on those, and then find people who love to do the things that you don’t. So find someone who loves to do recruiting and find someone who loves to do development or loves to do sales and then you go and focus on what you really love doing.

Obviously if you have a family and bills don’t just like quit and leave everything, oh no he said I’ve got to love this and I love you, but go and reflect in the past six months what have you worked that wasn’t work, what have you done in the past six months that you woke up early for, what in the past six months have you been excited to share with others?

And then that’s what really what we’ve done with Sumo where Ayman is amazing, he’s running appsumo.com our group on for gigs and he’s growing it to a larger size because he’s excited about it and there’s a lot of products to promote on AppSumo, and then shared my business partner with my best friends who was our CTO, he is running sumo.com, he has a bigger vision that I do for it.

The idea that I stepped out and I’m more of an advisor, I’m still involved, I’m still helpful, I’m not like 4 hour work week like not do shit. I don’t really respect that in the other people, it’s more of like I’m involved, I actually think distancing myself has actually helped me and helped the business. So specifically if you have ever gotten advice from someone that you’re like, man the advice was really good, why didn’t I give it to myself, have you ever had that happen?

Steve: Where I’ve given out advice that I should follow myself, is that what you’re talking about?

Noah: Yeah someone gives you advice; you’re like dude I feel like I tell other people that advice.

Steve: Yeah, yeah it’s happened to me before.

Noah: Yeah that happens, you’re Steve Chou so like it never happens; you have perfect advice just like your SATs. I mean you’re the perfect Asian child, I wish if I could have a perfect Jewish child that was like you, but Jewish that would be cool.

Steve: Stop, stop it, stop it right now.

Noah: No so in terms of that like I think the fact – like for anyone here who has a company even if you have a small company like you’re making 1000 a month which is amazing, it all starts somewhere, or you have a larger company, I think if you can take and step outside of your company and just give yourself advice in a more unemotional way I think that’s a very easy strategy to create a larger company.

And so for me I’ve stepped out of more the functions that I don’t really enjoy like recruiting I don’t enjoy, doing certain types of marketing I don’t enjoy, and then putting myself in terms of like doing podcast interviews or creating content in certain topics or experimenting with new marketing channels, that’s where I’ve gotten lot of my fulfillment, and so you’ve got to put yourself in that place.

I literally have this quote repeating on my to dos and I see it every day pop up and I’m really resonating with it which is, it’s always your responsibility. So for all this different stuff and creating the company you want and creating the life you want and creating the relationships you want it is your responsibility and I’m not saying you Steve, I’m saying like you, me and the 15,000 people who have this open to their ear lobes.

Steve: You know I remember back actually when you first started – it was SumoMe back then before you spent a ridiculous amount of money on a domain, by the way how is that going?

Noah: The domain?

Steve: Yeah.

Noah: You know I don’t know about you Steve, but I am so freaking, can I say that word freaking is not…

Steve: Yeah freaking is good, freaking is good.

Noah: Freaking happy about it and you know it’s so weird I literally just bought these boots that were like $100 and I’m like yeah the boots are okay, and then I got like – I’m looking over my thing, I got – what else did I get – I got this like coffee table for $300 and I’m like it’s okay, but I bought a $14 belt and I’m like unbelievably happy about this belt, and I’m just it’s not about the money, it’s just about buying and getting things you actually really want and going after them.

The domain is just something I’m so happy with. I know you’ve told me sort of your wife and you’re like you know you went after it and you got it, and obviously I want to go do that in a safe environment. My suggestion though is like with the domain it sounds like a lot of money but number one we structured it over a five year payment plan, so we paid half upfront and the rest over five years, so it’s only actually a few percent of our revenue each month if you break it down that way.

Steve: Well thinking about that way it’s like an expense I guess.

Noah: Yeah it’s literally an expense that’s umber one and number two I’m just so proud of it, like I called someone on the phone last week and I was like no it’s sumo.com and it wasn’t like, oh how do you spell that, because before it was sumome.com, they are like it’s sumo, some of me. And so yeah there’s more to that, it’s a story of persistence.

Like I think in general people need to think about what do they really want and pick things that you like, you’re willing to say like go seven to ten years afterward and I think a lot of that is fun, it’s really damn rewarding when you finally get that.

Steve: I remember you correcting me this morning when I texted you, I think I used SumoMe and you then you said Sumo, its Sumo man.

Noah: I mean $750,000 a word a letter, so yeah I paid a lot for two letters. You know one thing I heard this morning about getting things you want, I was talking to the in a hundred contacts funder Jonathan Koon who runs Wikibuy, it’s a cool chrome extension. He’s insanely impressive, he had this belief and I have to share it because so damn good. He said if you want anything in life I will give you the secret of success, and I was like you’re going to just give it to me, how much?

He’s like it’s free and I was like okay so I put on my seat belt, I was like yeah tell me Jonathan I want to know. He’s like all right, work on anything 80 hours a week for 20 years, and I was like you’re serious, he’s like that’s not even – there’s 168 hours in a week, this is less than half of your week working, but I promise you if you pick anything and you do it for 20 years and you work 80 hours a week on that, you will get the success you want. And I just thought that was kind of an interesting thing.

Steve: I had that philosophy for myself except not the 80 hours part, but like when I start something I plan on doing it forever.

Noah: How do you keep interested in it, so like I’m doing my podcast and I’m still loving it and I’m still interested in it, but like you look at turtles, so how does the turtle like – like how do you keep going with that?

Steve: So I just put it in my schedule and it’s done, so my class I’ve been running since 2011 and every single week I do a webinar for my class and I’ve been doing that for six years now straight. Same with the blog, I started that in 2009, I write one post a week, and I’ve been doing that for eight years now.

Noah: Okay, so you’re simplifying it too much, you’re like I put in the calendar and it just magically comes out like oh like your cousins in China just write it for you or something which is probably not – maybe that’s how you do it, you have like a billion people over there to hook up.

Steve: This you again on my case for this before this interview started right? Okay so go on let it out.

Noah: No, no, no I’m actually just really curious, so how do you actually keep yourself interested, is it just like you’ve built a habit muscle like your discipline habit on like sticking with something is just so strong and like you’ve just worked on that? How do you keep doing it weekly for so long on that and I think that’s impressive, I think that’s – and I do, do that with certain things but not others and I’m trying to learn and improve on that.

Steve: Yeah I mean – so each time how do I come up with content or?

Noah: No I don’t care about how you come up with it, like how do you keep yourself interested so that you can keep doing these webinars every week for the past 500 years.

Steve: I don’t know, there’s just my personality, it’s just like lifting weights. I’ve lifted at least once a week not missing any workouts since I was sophomore in high school maybe or junior in high school, so it’s just my personality, like I pick something and I just say I’m going to do it forever and I rarely drop anything like I’ll pivot, but I’ll rarely drop anything outright.

Noah: Okay so number one, you make it sound too easy but I think you actually had some – you do dude really like you do, you’re like yeah it’s just me, it’s like okay so – I guess what I’m trying to think about for everyone else and myself is that what is it really, and I think maybe it’s a key you’ve promised yourself that you’re going to do it every week and then that like commitment to something helps you stay with it?

Steve: Yeah I’m committed to it.

Noah: Do you have like an end date with that, or is it no I just like hey every week I just do this, this is like I build the habit?

Steve: I don’t have any end date for any of my stuff.

Noah: That’s actually a really interesting point; you’re just like hey I’m really excited about this or interested in this, so it’s not about an end date, this is like a continuous state like when there is no end date?

Steve: There is no end date, in fact I never even plan on selling stuff, like someone told me once that you should go on to every company with the intention of selling it at some point. I don’t have that philosophy, I mean it might happen but I don’t go into anything with the idea of selling it. Like my blog, my face is on there, I don’t think I’m ever going to sell it.

Noah: What’s the last thing you stopped and why?

Steve: What’s the last thing I stopped?

Noah: See I think you’d be great for a wife like to get married to because you know you’re not going to quit on them. I’m sure Jen is like he’s never leaving.

Steve: I don’t know man, maybe this is like…

Noah: No, no dig deep.

Steve: I don’t know, I don’t know if the listeners want to hear about me man, they are here to hear about you, let’s revisit it at the end maybe, is that cool?

Noah: Oh I like how you do it Steven. Whatever you want to do Steve, it’s your show.

Steve: All right, let’s talk about Sumo, the beginning.

Noah: Dot com.

Steve: Sumo.com, sorry. Early days like I remember when we were in Fincon and we were taking a walk, you told me you started SumoMe back then, it’s not sumo.com and you asked me to install SumoMe like 20 times in a single conversation which I eventually complied. But I want to know what your game plan was in the early days to build it up to what it was today, and – see at the time you already had a big audience and a following.

So I want you talk about it from the perspective of not having any of that stuff, and I know you talk about focusing on a single goal a lot; I’ve listened to a bunch of your stuff.

Noah: Yes Steven.

Steve: I do, I follow you man. So how did you design your goals from year to year for SumoMe – Sumo.com?

Noah: So let me just preface this because I think a lot of people were like Noah has AppSumo which is a large mailing list and OkDork.com my personal blog which you should all go subscribe to. Just because you have a large list doesn’t mean they’re going to do what you say and hopefully they do, hopefully they make their decisions and – but hopefully they also trust you and do what you recommend.

So many times in my career I’ve noticed that we’re like, hey we built this, go buy this, and people are like, no not interested. So I think people have to be aware like just having a large mailing list is no point, it’s about the quality of it and then doing things that people actually want. So when we started Sumo our original hypothesis was we would build and app store for the web. There was like the WordPress plug in directory and there is all these other directories like you have Shopify store but what about for every website.

We built that and we kind of literally just built a bunch of random apps, and we used it on our own website like we built this highlighter one, twilighter is what we called it where you could highlight text and then tweet it on your blog. I think the two interesting things that happened in the beginning of it where number one how do you prioritize your work, because everyone has the same amount of time but how prioritize the work so you get the most leverage for your work, and
I’ll say it again, how do you prioritize your work so you get the most leverage?

Let’s say you have a list of ten things, you can get them all done but if you get the first one thing done before another, how much more leverage and growth can you get out of that before you get to number ten? I think that’s where a lot of people miss, so as we did our first step like how can we better prioritize the different apps we’re building.

So we went and looked at different directories and different SaaS products that were paid and cost money and we figured out which ones are the most popular and that’s how we prioritized the different apps we made.

Steve: Okay.

Noah: So that was a really interesting concept just working backwards from like what’s popular, how do we just…

Steve: What was that app, was that the list builder?

Noah: Yeah, list builder the pop up was really popular and then share buttons. It was like we just kind of like those are really popular on other competitors and people were paying for them, I’ll just make it free. And then the second thing…

Steve: Can we talk about that real quick, why just make it free right off the bat, like the other services were paid if I recalled at the time, right?

Noah: Yeah, if I had to do it all over again I’d probably do paid.

Steve: Okay, why?

Noah: Because it tells the truth. I love the freemium model, so I don’t think I would leave the freemium model specifically, I don’t think I would leave that, but what happened is that after the first year and a half we were like man we have all these people using it. Our yearly goal for the first year was to get a billion people, unique people to see a site that had Sumo installed, that was our goal.

Then at the end of the year we were like let’s just see if these sites will pay any money, and then we went to these sites we were like do you want to pay maybe for something and a majority – maybe we didn’t have something great to offer but the majority of them were like nope. I was like we should have just tried to figure that out right away.

Steve: What percentage?

Noah: I mean it’s standard kind of SaaS software percentage which is like somewhere between like 3 and 5% and that’s an impressive number for a freemium SaaS business.

Steve: Okay, actually how much were you charging for that first – the first time you were charging people?

Noah: I’m going to share a story from like MailChimp. If you read MailChimp – I got so excited about MailChimp, my bonner [ph] popped over the microphone.

Steve: I’m going to have to edit that out I’m sorry my friend. Okay go on.

Noah: My junos [ph] knocked over that microphone, I can’t say that either. I knocked over my microphone. So MailChimp put out this blog post that kind of stuck with me that they changed their pricing seven times in like two years or some surprisingly amount of number of times. This is kind of the same thing with our business and I think with every business, and I’m not trying to encourage you, I hate when people do this.

Here’s a great way to grow your business, raise your prices. I feel like that’s like the most generic ass business advice I’ve ever heard and I hate when people say that, but I do have to think people to realize that pricing is a very powerful tool to decide who your customers are and decide how much value you’re creating for those customers. So what we realized is that recurring revenue is a lot better way to grow our company because it’s more predictable and consistent.

It doesn’t grow as fast but it definitely helps and also to make something that people want to subscribe to, like software as a service is a service that you’re giving as a software which I think people miss, but we actually started out just selling like templates for our pop up design. So we had this list builder in sumo.com that you can collect emails and then we sold the templates and it was one off, they are $5 each, and we wanted to do it to see if people would pay and much less people paid than we thought.

Then we charged like $5 to remove the branding and no one paid for that and I thought everyone would pay to get the branding removed.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Noah: So it was super interesting, I was like oh of course you don’t want to see powered by.

Steve: I just had – I interviewed Nathan Latka, I’m pretty sure you know who he is and he said when he branded his stuff, that’s how he got the majority of his traffic, was that the case for you guys too?

Noah: One more time?

Steve: When he added a link to his company Heyo I think it was at the time, he got the majority of his new customer acquisitions through that link.

Noah: Yeah so that part was great, but people actually paying to remove it, no one really cares. I think people are just kind of used to it by now.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Noah: And then so we’ve changed our pricing probably about seven times in the past two years, so what you have to do with pricing is try to – here is the simplest way, this is like the really easiest way to think about it. You should feel that people are stealing from you, like that is the easiest way to figure out your pricing and you are like what do you mean?

The price should be so good you’re like, oh my god these guys are going to go out of business, I can’t believe it’s so affordable. That is the way I love to do pricing like I’m sure we can come up with formulas and stuff, but we basically keep looking at the business and we’re like – so for example we used to sell the templates and we were like there’s got to be other advanced things, so we built advanced things for other tools in Sumo because Sumo is this app store for marketing app store for your website so you need a great website.

And so we had each of the tools had a pro version and then we were like we should make it recurring so it’s better for us and it’s easier instead of charging people for each time we have a new update. And so each app was $20 and it was like if you wanted all the apps it’s like $200 which seemed kind of expensive for all the apps, so we were like what if we had a bundle because that seems a lot fair for everyone and that’s what we would want.

So we were like well all right you can add an extra $100 or you can buy them individually. And then we thought about it and we were like there is small sites and large sites, some sites can afford a lot, some can’t afford a lot at all. So then we were like what if we just made it one price for small guys and one price for big guys, and so then we did that.

And then we realized like wow, people really want to pay for certain things and not other things, so we actually just went and looked in being like we looked in our data and said, what is everyone paying for like when they hit buy what feature are they looking at or what feature are they coming from? And so we left that paid and everything else that they are not using we just made free.

I can promise you in the next year we’ll make other changes that we think just make the product so effective that is great. I think one suggestion for almost any product out there, anybody who’s got ecommerce or anyone who’s got a SaaS business or info business whatever it is like get the people engaged first, get them kind of like I don’t want to use a drug analogy, but basically get them addicted to what you make, get them getting the value.

Steve: I like get them pregnant.

Noah: Oh god man you took it to the next level which I like, but yeah you want to get them kind of hooked on your service and like putting up barriers or like not letting them invite people. So you want to get them engaged and you want to get them to be able to bring people with them to your product. The more I think you can do those things and have it at a price that they’re like, this is such a good price, I just think well you’ll have a business that will be successful.

Steve: Does that imply like a freemium model then or no?

Noah: I don’t think freemium one is the only way to go, there is always [inaudible 00:26:30] to a lot of this stuff, I’m just saying like it works because freemium is basically a marketing strategy. If you don’t do freemium that’s fine, it’s just that you have to do employ – use, employ, what the hell does the word stand for?

Steve: Employ.

Noah: Employ yeah I guess employ other marketing strategies. I like the freemium model in general because it’s like a trial before you buy, like before you buy a car you test drive it. So I think the question then is for people who have like ecommerce may be they are gateway drugs, can they have smaller items for people to get experience, is there something like my buddy does it from fitflyshaker.com. He gets people, the first ones free, all they have to do is pay for shipping.

Steve: That’s what we’re doing right now with hankies believe it or not.

Noah: And what have you noticed with that?

Steve: People buy hankie and then they come back and they buy a big set.

Noah: Really?

Steve: A small percentage yeah, believe it or not there’s people out there who collect handkerchiefs and use them all in the house. Our demographic is 55 years of age or older, I discovered that recently through Facebook.

Noah: How did you discover that, you were like upload your email lists?

Steve: Upload the email lists, look at insights, and then just run a bunch of tests.

Noah: What do you mean run a bunch of tests? This is where I want you to be a little more specific.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

Okay so I would take an ad where I just put together a nice video of all the handkerchiefs, and then I create a look alike audience and then I just send that ad out to all the different age demographics and just kind of split test it across them.

The 55 year old people and up, there was like an overwhelming demand for that demographic and then the younger people didn’t care at all.

Noah: So do you sell like the handkerchief right away or do you give it for free and they just pay for shipping.

Steve: Free plus shipping.

Noah: Oh they just pay for the shipping.

Steve: They just pay for the shipping but after they add the free thing to their cart I kind of up sell them with like something that’s like 40% off and see if they’ll buy, and I do that to just kind of pay for the cost of the ad. It ends up that that little extra up-sell more than pays for the ad and then I have them on my email list in the back end.

Noah: That’s cool.

Steve: That’s how I do it; sorry I interrupted you, go on with your story.

Noah: I don’t remember where we were with it.

Steve: You had a friend who did a free plus shipping model for something.
Noah: Oh yeah Dustin yeah and that’s actually – I mean the point is that for ecommerce people figure a way that if it’s like a bigger purchase like how can you get them on the phone, how can you get them like – I think ultimately with a lot of this is like how do you get people to trust you, to believe what you’re saying will be true.

I think with the product there is number one thing is, is it valuable to that person that you’re trying to target, and then do they believe that what you’re actually offering will give them the satisfaction they are hoping for in a physical product or a digital product or even in a meal. And so that’s really what you’re trying to accomplish, so figure out ways that you can build that trust, like I think about it like a coach.

I have a chess coach and I think more people should get coaches, so if you’re trying to learn anything or improve anything go get a coach, and I don’t have a coaching business so I’m not selling you anything. But if you want to improve go find someone who is already better than you and then they’ll teach you.

Steve: You have a ping pong coach right?

Noah: Ping pong coach, chess coach, Hebrew coach, mind coach.

Steve: I had to say this on the air, Nevel said that he beat you on ping pong, he doesn’t have a coach.

Noah: Oh my god, he like one time it’s like he beat me once and then it’s like I’ll put it on his tombstone I bet.

Steve: All right sorry so let us go back. So I’m curious myself like how did you come up with that goal of one billion people for that first year, like what was the reason for that?

Noah: I think that was incorrect if I had to look back on it. One is like similar goals because I think it unites the company. The thing that I would probably do is have a goal that doesn’t end within a short period of time, like right now we have a five year 2020 goal and I think that kind of helps continue, so at the end of the year — because what happens is we hit our goal like let’s say November, we‘re like what do we do now because we have another month before the next year, do we just like show. No we already know where we’re going in 2020 like keep working towards the longer term goal.

The goal like how do you choose a goal. The way I like to think of it is specifically is like it should be realistically impossible, so what that means is it’s realistic and there is a chance you can do it and it’s impossible, you’re like I may not be able to hit it. So for instance my podcast Noah Kagan Presents, so if they are going to listen in they want to hear more of me, they go check that out. If they like me, they don’t then they should probably listen and they can hate me more but Noah Kagan Presents.

So my goal is 100,000 downloads in episodes. I think putting it out there and having a similar goal helps you prioritize your decisions, so I wonder if I market Facebook and it makes things easier. Like I was working on OkDork.com my blog and I was like, well we need to make a change and I was like which change will help the podcast grow more, it’s like this one, it’s like let’s do more of those.

Steve: What was that change?

Noah: The change was our autoresponder series. It was like do we put a link to YouTube in it, to YouTube videos I’m working on or to the podcast, and I was like what’s the goal, podcast, easy.

Steve: What are you linking to on your podcast, are you linking to the iTunes page or another page that instructs people how to subscribe?

Noah: I’ve listened to the instructions page but I don’t know if that’s really well optimized.

Steve: Okay and are you…

Noah: How do you recommend?

Steve: I’m just curious, are you diverting them, do you just care about iTunes subscribers or do you care about the other ones too?

Noah: I think if everything goes through Libsyn it’s overall.

Steve: Right yeah that’s true.

Noah: Okay the similar goal – and I think the similar goal just like we have a dashboard that you see literally every single day, everyone knows our goal in the company, it just kind of unifies the company. Then there is obviously like key performance indicators or [inaudible 00:33:06] or whatever acronym somebody wants to use that each team is responsible for to help hit that goal. But I just think it unifies people, so I’d say in terms of like how we chose that goal, it was like realistically impossible, so it should be something you should probably do within some set period of time.

And then I would say if immediately you know it’s not even going to be close, change it. So for example our second year we were like let’s try to make $10 million in our first year of charging for things and literally in our first month we made like 50,000. I was like there is no way impossible we were going to make 10 million, like that is just not – it’s never been done which doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but that just seems like way too – that’s like unrealistically impossible.
And so then we shift our goal to a million dollars because like…

Steve: Sorry I want to hear the details on this, so you hit 50,000 in the first month, then how did you…

Noah: Honestly it might have been lower than that, like let me go; I’ll look it up as we’re talking.

Steve: Okay so how did you pivot from there, like what were you doing wrong, what changes did you make?

Noah: Yeah so I think the two things there was — there was two separate things. It’s like one is the product off which is yes and then there was the goal off which was yes. Right so here I’m looking it up, bad all time. I’ll look at our first month, our first month – oh my god it was $17,000 of revenue, so twenty times twelve, it was basically we were going to make a quarter of a million dollars by the end of the year which is not good.

Steve: And your goal was 10 million you said?

Noah: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Noah: So it was like that’s just never going to happen, it’s very unrealistic, so that’s number one. Then we were like – then we had to go back into the product and figure out okay what the hell do people actually want to pay for, and that’s where we started making a lot of pricing changes, that’s where we started improving, okay which products are people really using and then let’s go improve those more than other things.

I think that’s something that a lot of people miss out on, they are like let’s just do – it’s like marketing, let’s do all the marketing channels. I’m like if you’re going to do one which one would you do, this one. If you had to stop which one would you stop, that one, okay?

Steve: Can I ask you a question, for the ones that people aren’t using that much, like why even bother having it because it takes engineering resources to maintain it, right?

Noah: Yeah so we started hiding them. Okay, that’s kind of what Brain Dean has been talking about and like what I did on my blog, it’s like I removed all my old blog posts that I just didn’t think were quality, same with my YouTube. Because I think of it like a restaurant, it’s kind of my favorite analogy. You go to a restaurant you have shady meals, you’re not coming back to the restaurant no matter how – if you had a dessert that was good but all the other dishes were [inaudible 00:35:34], you’re like no I’ll try another place.

It doesn’t mean that your old dishes that are classics can’t stay there but maybe you need to refresh them or maybe they are just a classic and you keep it. I just think in general focus on what’s working and then you got call, either like kill it, remove it or improve it, the things that aren’t working or people aren’t using.

And lastly I would say for like ecommerce or any business out there if you try to understand what people will pay for just go talk to them which I know people don’t want to hear this because they’re like, oh no I’m trying to do a passive income business where I can avoid real feelings in people. But I’ve noticed that if you try to grow a larger business you have to get your hands dirty and do some of the bitch work sometimes. Like you have to go either survey people, like hey why didn’t you buy this, just tell me.

Like literally if you guys go ask your customers, hey why didn’t you buy this, they’ll tell you, and the people who bought it you’re like, hey what made you want to buy this, they’ll tell you. And then you can just go fix those two things.

Steve: I can support that, I had to answer phone calls on Cyber Monday for my store and I actually discovered a couple of usability issues with my site by just talking to people who couldn’t really surf the web, like these are like we have an older demographic and so they didn’t know how to actually navigate a web browser, so I would never have found that out if I wasn’t answering phones on Cyber Monday.

Noah: What did you change?

Steve: There were some things where like on our cart people would try and remove something on the cart by making the quantity zero whereas I had this big checkbox to remove the item, people weren’t using that checkbox, they were just entering in quantity zero and expecting the item to go away, so something stupid like that.

Noah: Well I think that’s a really important point, so if anyone who’s got ecommerce either A get them on the phone which some people are like no I don’t like phones, or B get on live chat, or C like an easiest one – so two here’s a stupid one we forgot to do and now we’re doing again is like when someone unsubscribes or someone wants to return something just collect that information.

So we collected and we force it like hey please give us information why you’re unsubscribing or why you’re returning it so that you can go and make your business better, and you can do the same thing to people who are buying and I think that’s a great thing.

Steve: Can I ask you how you’ve used that feedback to improve, like give me an example?

Noah: Yeah so a lot of people, so with Sumo and we look at [inaudible 00:37:43] we have a weekly kind of discussion about why are people returning – you can’t really return it but why are people cancelling it, and then we like rank it and we see some of them is unrealistic like they are just small sites where they have no money. You can’t optimize losers and it’s not like we don’t like everyone, we like most of them, it’s just like you can’t help everybody. What is it help everyone; you help no one kind of thing.

The ones that you can actually fix are the ones that you should be considering, so for us it’s like hey I didn’t use it, okay what happened there? So and going and talking to them, so we started offering now like a concierge service, we’ll go help set up Sumo for people.

Steve: Interesting, okay.

Noah: Hey I didn’t get enough value out of it, so I didn’t get enough value because email is just actually not that important to them or they didn’t know how to set it up correctly, and is there a thing we can improve in the product to really solve that like maybe we need to improve our autoresponder, so once they join they can learn how to use it better.

So I think it’s just more of like, okay make a list of all the different things why people are cancelling or returning something, prioritize it like just sort it by most popular and then see which ones are actually solvable and then go and solve them and then you keep doing that, you’ll have a business that will be successful.

Steve: I’m just curious; do you actually go out and call these people?

Noah: They are talked to by the support and success team, so most afternoons we have a support team that kind of does reactive complaints like people that are now coming in to complain and then there is success which kind of proactive support. So you go into new customers and either answer the questions ahead of time or helping them optimize their current business.

Steve: Okay so the purpose is just to learn, it’s not to actually get them back per say?

Noah: You know I think it’s kind like a relationship with a girl or it’s like building a house. You have to have a good foundation and then by the time someone is churning in a business it’s already too late at that point. So you have to actually – it’s kind of like it’s first impressions that people had of me. If people are listening to me right now on your show, by now they like me.

Steve: They do.

Noah: They do, it’s not alien, but I’m trying to make an example. If they hated it they would be like, I’ve heard Noah before, I hate all the stuff he says, I don’t get anything out of it. It’s already too late, by now they are not here, but the people that are here because I have given enough value and ideally things that they can use in their own live, they are like, man what else is he going to say because I want to keep listening.

That’s the same thing with your business, the more that in the beginning you create a good relationship and you maintain it and you keep delivering on it, the less you have to worry about churn. When they are already at the end it’s too late, like you never go a store and you plan to return something, it’s too late, it’s already too late then. The best you can do is not have them walk away, complain to everybody else and then try to learn something so that you can improve for the other customers.

Someone said this to me once for email businesses, because email has been a big thing in my life, don’t optimize the unsubscribe page. I spent like a month on AppSumo optimizing the unsubscribe page and my friend said to me, so you’re optimizing the people who hate you, why don’t just go optimize more of the people who like you. I was like that’s a good point.

Steve: Interesting I didn’t know that – what does it mean to optimize an unsubscribe page, what does that mean?

Noah: Oh put a picture on it, change – have options for frequency, have options for time of the week, have options for which emails they get, put the Twitter button there, Facebook whatever, RSS. But it’s like why are you trying to cater for the people who don’t like you. The only consideration is that they just don’t want an email and they want to get communicated in the other medium, that’s one consideration, but if someone doesn’t like you get them out the door and focus on the winners.

Focus on the people who already do like you and double down and invest more in them instead of being destructive with all the negativity or the hate of the people who don’t, you can’t make everyone like you.

Steve: Once you started earning down your product what strategy did you use to grow, what worked for you in terms of growing the most?

Noah: Well free is a damn good one, I’d say about a third of our customers come from free.

Steve: But you still have to let people know that it’s free right, and so I know you reached out to me, was influencer marketing kind of your main things or what other things did you do?

Noah: Yeah it’s been a little bit, so it’s been three years at Sumo. I would say number one was free, number two – it’s not just influencer marketing, I think people miss this in business Steve where they forget one by one, and a lot of the stuff I say is simple or cliché but frankly that’s a lot of what the answers are.

It’s that just one by one you go to people, so for my podcast literally I found having lunch with someone and this is no joke, I did it a few days ago, hey do you listen to podcasts, yeah, are you listening to my podcast, no. All right get on your phone and subscribe, I’ll wait. I did it to my friend Muddy and he’s like I don’t listen to podcasts, I’m like well you should start, let’s do it today. But I think a lot of us are just, oh I’ll send an email and kind of hope things happen.

So yeah I would say number one was free, number two one by one, so a lot of people if you have a business – let’s say you have an ecommerce business and it’s not growing really fast, go do this, get out a spreadsheet right now and go spreadsheet and then just make a list of 100 friends that you think should buy your product, or make a list of ten friends, this even could be simple that might know someone that will buy your product and literally you do that today, you’ll make more sales, that is a promise.

I don’t think of any other business or any way possible that you can make more sales by just writing a list and then reaching out. Number three you have to understand who target customer is, so who is your exact customer, and where are they? So our customers have email providers like AWeber and MailChimp, whatever, so we went and guest posted partnerships with them. Who’s our customer, people who send emails, where are they, reading the blogs of the service providers, so we went and worked with the service providers.

Steve: What’s their incentive to work with you?

Noah: We’re helping people grow their email list which is how they get more money, so we went to them and we did a lot of guest posts or we do a joint webinar or we give some discounts back in the day, we don’t discount any more, but we’d give offers just for their people, that worked really well. You have to — directories so like what are complementary products, so if you go to like WordPress, people are looking for social share buttons, okay well we should probably be in these directories where people are looking for complimentary tools.

Another tactic we’ve used more recently is cross promotion, so how can you partner with people that are complimentary but not competitive. So for example with Sumo we help people grow their email lists, it’s really a lot of the value we provide so there are other partners like social media like let’s say Buffer or [inaudible 00:43:57] or MeetEdgar or share this image, whatever different providers that are complimentary but not competitive.

And we would be like, hey why don’t we give away your product for free if people buy Sumo, or why don’t we both email our lists recommending each other’s products or like even podcasting. Hey I’ll interview you on my show to your audience and vice versa to your audience, whatever, you get what I’m saying.

Steve: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Noah: It’s as easy as like rap, it’s like music. Have you ever noticed that music, everyone always featured on another person’s album, why is that?

Steve: Yeah just like concerts, there is always someone opening for someone else also, right?

Noah: Exactly, it’s a chance to go and expose someone to a new audience and generally on both ways, so yeah cross promotions are really helpful. I generally discourage people spending money on ads because one it’s easy to lose a lot, and two I don’t spend money on ads until I have something that makes profit. So you can actually try to understand the economics of what the hell you’re doing, I think it’s too easy to kind of prematurely just waste a lot of money.

Steve: Interesting, would that be the case for an ecommerce store as well for you?

Noah: Yeah like if you don’t have any sales don’t start spending it, I think that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard, because it’s too easy to blame an ad instead of the actual business. For example I bought Google ads, they went to the landing page, people gave me an email address, I sent out a PayPal thing or I built a Shopify store then, now it’s two months later by the way and now I have a store and then I told these people to go buy and they didn’t do anything.

And I’m like couldn’t you just like called a few people or posted in a Facebook group or gone to your LinkedIn network and found that people didn’t want this right away. No, no I definitely need to Shopify because people couldn’t PayPal me.

Steve: It’s interesting; I grew my ecommerce store based on AdWords way back in the day, so I’m a little surprised.

Noah: Yeah I would say, one you also went to Stanford so you’re intellectually really smart, two it’s kind of getting into Stanford, do you think it’s harder now or before?

Steve: It’s much harder now, yeah for sure.

Noah: Exactly, it’s the same thing with online marketing, you don’t think Google is more expensive and more complicated now, it’s more expensive. So my overall point is that I’m sharing with people the way I get to my destination, I’m not saying it’s the only way.

Steve: Sure, sure, okay.

Noah: I think you can buy a bunch of ads and make it work, but I think you could potentially lose a lot of – you’re more likely to lose on money than other ways you could do it for free, figure it out, and then actually buy ads when it makes sense.

Here’s the problem with it Steve, it’s more fun to buy the ads; it’s more fun and safe and easy and playful to buy ads. You’ll be like, well the ads didn’t work, it’s okay, while you’re just sitting on your ass in your boxers or in your bikini whatever it is that we wear.

But the hard part is going out and finding people who actually want it and then you can go scale the business. I think people put the scale ahead of the business.

Steve: You’re still wearing the underwear that I got you?

Noah: Which one but I wear all your underwear. Which one did you give me?

Steve: I got you the CK one – was it the C — no, no, no it was a Lululemon’s.

Noah: Oh dude I’m actually not wearing it today but for the most part – it’s been interesting with my outfits, it’s kind of like we were talking about with business like do more of what works and less and remove less of what’s not working. I kind of been thinking of the phrase focus on the essentials – no, no it’s not about clothing, it’s about everything, focus on the essentials for everything in life like what are the essential friends that really you love, what is the essential work you really want to do, what’s the essential clothing you really want to wear.

So I literally pretty much have the exact same pair of underwear, so your Lululemons are the only ones I don’t have, but every other pair of my [inaudible 00:47:20] is like very specific type of Saxx underwear, or like right now I’m replacing all my socks with the exact same pair of socks, and my shirts I pretty much just like only wear three types of shirts.

I wear a sumo.com shirt, I wear a Myles shirt which is Myles Apparel, or a pistol like shirt and those are the only three types of shirts I wear. It’s just like makes life simple and it’s like man I don’t wear any of these other clothes, why do I keep it around.

Steve: That’s like the Steve Job’s mindset, right?

Noah: I think it’s actually a bigger concept that people could actually really benefit in all their life like remove decisions from everything except what really matters, like you shouldn’t ever have to think about breakfast, you shouldn’t ever have to think about your clothes, and that frees up – because I do believe we have creativity and will power in a certain allocation of all this of decision juice or decision power. If you’re using it on like stupid crap, then you’re going to basically not have as much for the more important decisions.

I think frankly like for clothing, if you actually took out only the things you really wear like for the month, you’re like I only really wear 20% of it and I keep 80% around for once a year. My belief is just get rid of it and then if you actually need it add it back into your life. So a simple example for anyone listening is like on your our phone, open your phone right now, I’ll do it with you, you can do it with me Steve. Look at your apps on screen two or screen three, which ones are you actually using all time?

Steve: I just did this the other day man; I removed all the stuff that I don’t use.

Noah: Yeah, so like here remove Austin 311 because I don’t really need that, which other ones have I not used in a while, I don’t use zoom on my – I actually do use – I don’t use Plex on my phone, I just delete that. I’m just like removing all the ones – oh 360 cam I don’t use that. Anyway the point being is the way I’ve noticed it is removing things it helps you add things back in, and then you’re like, man these are the things that I really, really love and it just removes the distraction so that my mind is more clear to focus on the things that really matter.

Steve: You do that with friends too?

Noah: I’ve done it with everything, like I had a friend come to town, and I was like I don’t really like getting out with you and so I’m not hanging out with then, we’ll have a lunch next week and I actually don’t mind the guy, I like the guy but I don’t love the guy and I just have other things I want to spend my time on. I think we’re too cheap with our time, meaning that we give out our time way too freely.

The time never comes back and the older you get the more you realize it, and it’s like we’re like oh yeah have lunch, sure I’ll take time to go do these things or yeah I don’t mind. It’s like go pay for things that will save you time, anything you spend your time on, go pay for it if it saves you time. If you can, if you can afford it, go do it.

Secondly if you’re spending time on things like look at your calendar today or tomorrow, look at it one day ahead, is there anything tomorrow that you don’t need to do or you’re not really pumped to do, even if you don’t, if you have to have a job fine, there’s parts of you you’re going to have to give in, but like is there anything else so you can just like I don’t really like that.

Let me give you a crazy example of what happened today Steve. I went to the W Hotel and had lunch with this guy. We literally walked in and I had a table, it’s like we sit at this table, I’m like what do you mean, it’s like we just go to this table, I’m like okay tell me more. He’s like I tip $100 on our meal, I’m like what are you talking about, he’s like I tip $100 on a meal every time and he wasn’t bragging.

He’s like but I just want it to be streamlined, I don’t want to wait, I don’t want to bill, I don’t want to wait for my car. So I come in, the food is basically ordered for me, they know what I like and they bring it to me so everything is streamlined, he removes the friction and that gives him the opportunity to not waste time on things and also spend his mental energy on just with the things he really wants to spend it on.

Steve: Did he order for you also?

Noah: I got the same thing he ordered because he actually he got it really often.

Steve: Okay that’s interesting.

Noah: He does it at the movie theatre too, he actually prepays at the movie theatre so he can just walk in and they text him ahead of time and be like what time are you coming, it’s like here, this time and then they have the food ready when he sits in, as soon as he moves there, so they bring your food in Austin. But anyway I think conceptually it was just an interesting reminder of A, how can you remove friction, B how do you remove non essentials and then C spend energy on the things that really give you excitement.

That’s something I like, I can’t say I’m perfect at it but I can tell you I’m working through it and I’m thinking about it a lot.

Steve: Well let’s talk about it a little because you just decided to a launch a podcast, so what aspect of your life is that fulfilling for you?

Noah: Similar to what you said when we were chatting pre show is like one it gives me a chance to meet people, and two it kind of forces me to create content and be thinking about things on a regular basis. So like today I’m recording an episode about alcohol, I’ve been sober for 55 days which you can’t…

Steve: [crosstalk 00:51:44] town really, I did not know that, oaky.

Noah: You can still be sober without standing like you were an alcoholic and it’s not even about that but I actually think it’s a really interesting topic that I’m trying to have more fun with it and that’s not what we talked about. But I think it’s an interesting topic, it forced me to explore it and I’m grateful for it and so I’m excited to share the story, and the podcast kind of gave me that outlet for it.

Steve: Interesting.

Noah: And I was also kind of as a marketer or something who is curious how things are promoted, I was curious what the medium of podcasting has been like and it’s very different than en email list which is what I spend a lot of my career building and then helping others build.

Steve: Here’s a question that we kind of touched on this before the interview, I should have recorded the before the interview part actually. I just quit my job on October and it looks like you’ve kind of not divorced – maybe divorced isn’t the right word but you have gems working on the different parts of your business now and so we both have free time now. How do you choose to kind of devote your time in terms of fun versus working?

Noah: I think there’s different people with different parts of life so I can’t tell anybody else what to do.

Steve: No I was asking you.

Noah: And even the people at Sumo like I want everyone there doing what they really want to do and I think that’s what it comes down to. I don’t think work should not be fun, I think work should be fun. To keep it simple I think work should be fun, I don’t think it should be this thing that no matter what kind of work like there are people who are nurses that love to be nurse and they should go be a nurse. There are people who love making coffee for people and having tattoos so they should be a barrister and I think that’s where I want to spend my time.

So how I’m likely to spend my time. I really love helping Sumo so wherever it needs help in the business I spend about a day doing that, creating podcasts or videos or blogging, I spend about two days doing that. One day a week I plan nothing, so I’m doing a lot of experiments and challenges with the podcast and Noah Kagan Presents podcast for everyone listening, get it on your phone.

So I did an experiment where is pent like a whole week alone and I spent a whole week with nothing planned and I was like there’s good and bad about it which you can hear in one of the episodes, but what I realized from that was that man I really liked it, it was liberating not to have anyone with me and to be very unplanned for day for that week. So now once a week I have like an unplanned day, there is nothing.

Steve: I hear it works better if you go to India.

Noah: Yes, yes I’m going right to India. No so like yeah one day a week with Sumo, more or less if you look at the time two days a week on like content creation, one day unplanned and one day I’m kind of building side projects that will help Sumo. So like one is a chrome extension that I built, because I’m curious about that and then one is like a recruiting tool because recruiting sacks and try and make it easier for our company.

Steve: Okay hey I know you got an appointment to go to pretty soon so I want to be respectful of your time. Where can people sign up for your podcast and take a look or listen I should say?

Noah: Yeah Noah Kagan Presents just search it the Google store KAGAN or Google or iTunes podcast. It’s also OkDork.com search podcast for I guess if you’re on a desktop, but everyone on the phone just go right now Noah Kagan if you want to hear.

Basically I’ve been on interviews, I’ve been on these really interesting book reports that are like unnormal, and then I’ve been doing kind of like challenges reporting back on that, and then a few case studies where I’ll talk to someone in different types of businesses and then try to relay like one or two action items related to a specific thing like SEO or ecommerce or I had one guy who’s like trying to do freelance video consulting.

Steve: One thing I like about Noah’s podcast a quick plug here is that I never know what to expect, like you don’t have any patterns per say, so every episode is kind of unique in its own way, so I recommend that all you guys go check it out.

Noah: That’s interesting, thanks man. Yeah it’s funny because it’s actually one of the things I struggle with where each week it’s different and it actually causes a lot of mental energy on that, so what we’ve done this week is try to create more of a formula and template where it’s like here’s the types of shows we do and then here’s the order of content we want to do it in, and then line up the podcast and YouTube and blog so that each week it’s like the same thing and it kind of makes it easier for us to operate that.

What’s an interesting thing is old Asian dudes said to me this in breakfast a few days ago maybe it was your uncle, he’s like look around – he said it, I thought it was so powerful, you can do their accent because you’re better than me. But he said, look around and make life easier, and he said this over some — I was literally getting a croissant or something like that, I think a scone and I was like what are you talking about. He’s like look around and make life easier and I thought that was a just a very interesting thing because he was getting a tray and I was trying to carry all the stuff in a plate and he’s like dude just look around and make life easier.

So I think that’s a great word to end the show where it’s like in all aspects of your life, in your friendships, in work, in your health, whatever it is, look around and be like how can I make this better, what are things that I can improve like what’s already working that I like doing or that seems to be working well that I can just work better or make easier, and I thought that was a really good concept to kind of reflect on.

Steve: I think that’s a good way to end this episode man, thanks a lot for coming on.

Noah: Steve Chou every one.

Steve: Take care dude.

Noah: Ah brother, keep it real.

Steve: Right, hope you enjoyed that episode. What I love about Noah is that he’s honest, sincere and always straight up with you, like the guy does not sugar coat anything and he always provides insightful takeaways about his philosophies and his experiences. So go check out his podcast Noah Kagan Presents now. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode158.

And once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, they offer email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, and once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/ K-L-A-V-I-Y-O for a free trial.

I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

157: How To Create An 8 Figure Amazon Business Selling Electronics With Bernie Thompson

Share On Facebook

How To Create An 8 Figure Amazon Business Selling Electronics With Bernie Thompson

Play

Today I‘m lucky to have Bernie Thompson on the show. Bernie runs an 8 figure business called Plugable.com which is a company that sells USB and Bluetooth devices online.

Now what’s cool is that his company is global. Plugable sells its products in many different countries all over the world. And what’s also cool is that Bernie built all of his own tools in house to manage his Amazon business named Efficient Era.

Now I’ve actually started using Efficient Era myself to manage the feedback for my shop and the tools are really useful. Anyway, the reason why I have Bernie on the show today is to talk about how to be successful selling electronics on Amazon and the exact processes and tools he uses to make money. Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Bernie got into ecommerce and what made him choose to sell electronics.
  • How Bernie comes up with product ideas
  • Bernie’s strategy for going into new markets.
  • Why Bernie decided to sell internationally early on
  • Bernie’s main criteria for selecting products to sell.

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Today I have

Bernie Thompson with me on the show. Now Bernie runs an eight figure Amazon business called Plugable where he sells electronic equipment which is quite possibly the most competitive and the most cut throat niche that you can possibly go into on Amazon.

He also runs a popular Amazon software service called Efficient Era which allows you to match up your product feedback directly to a specific customer on Amazon. Now I actually use this software and as far as I know it is the only software out there that allows you to do this. In any case Bernie is an amazing guy, and enjoy the interview.

But before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Now I’m super excited about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I use for my ecommerce store, and I depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another provider. Well Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it’s so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email out to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, it’s a piece of cake, and there is full revenue tracking on every single email.

Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you could try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s also cool is that I use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here is why I like Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has 90 bucks in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or display a related item. In terms of email capture, I’m showing different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our store.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to Klaviyo to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve, once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, and try it for free, and if you decide that you need some of the more advanced features, then use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m lucky to have Bernie Thompson on the show. Now Bernie runs an eight figure business called plugable.com which is a company that sells USB and Bluetooth devices online. So first off those of you who have followed me for a long time know that I generally advice against going into the electronics business.

Not only is there the threat of your products going obsolete but the quality assurance and the [inaudible 00:04:03] required can be very daunting as well. And then you couple that with the fact that China can produce electronic knock offs fairly quickly makes it even tougher as well.

Anyway Bernie has managed to create an incredibly successful Amazon business selling USB and Bluetooth devices, and what’s cool is that his company is global. Plugable sells its products in many different countries all over the world. What’s also cool is that he built all of his own tools in-house to manage his Amazon business, and then he decided to take those tools public and his company is called Efficient Era.

Now I’ve actually already started using these tools myself to manage the feedback for my shop and they are really powerful. Anyway the reason why I have Bernie on the show today is to talk about how to be successful selling electronics on Amazon and the exact processes and tools he uses to make money. And with that welcome to the show Bernie, how are you doing today?
Bernie: Great to see you, great to talk to you.

Steve: Yeah so Bernie I know that from your background you used to be a software engineer, how did you go from software engineer to ecommerce?

Bernie: Yeah I was a software engineer, actually kind of like you Steve I was a low level kind of guy, so I worked on the device driver layer, so all these hardware devices that we use every day, they have a bunch of software that interfaces between that device and the operating system and that’s what I used to work on and I used to then manage the USB and Bluetooth teams at Microsoft, and that led to creating this USB and Bluetooth devices business.

Steve: So why electronics of all things?

Bernie: Yeah I think interestingly Plugable is electronics company first and then Amazon seller second, so it really was because we had to go on building a better device company that when I started Plugable in 2009, the experience buying things like USB and Bluetooth peripherals was pretty dismal. They seemed to work most of the time but when they didn’t work you had horrible information and horrible call center style of support.

So we wanted to go direct using all of these new capabilities that were coming with Amazon and FBA and the ability potentially to sell globally, and do kind of that information and support in a much different, more customer centric online way with fast feedback loops and doing the right things for customers and getting rewarded with good reviews.

So yes Plugable was an electronics business, design is electronics business first and really selling on Amazon was secondary. We really wanted to solve issues that were out there for all the USB and Bluetooth device companies that they really were providing poor support call center style. We saw the opportunity to do it online with better information and a more customer centric approach using all the new tools that were coming in the form of Amazon and the Amazon FBA and it’s worked out pretty well.

Steve: So here is the thing, I looked at some of the products on the Plugable website, so for example you sell like a USB hub, but if I go out there is like – I would say there’s hundreds if not even thousands of those out there. So how did you come up with which particular electronic products to sell, and I guess what was the first product that you launched?

Bernie: The first product we launched actually was trying to take some off the shelf hardware and use it in a different way. We took USB docking stations which were new in 2009, and were turning them into USB thin clients, and I actually because I’m a software engineer I actually did a bunch of unique work in Linux to make that possible. So we did a unique product as our first product and as it turns out it failed.

Steve: Okay and why did it fail?

Bernie: It failed because the USB thin client market never took off. Around the same time you started having less and less expensive Windows laptops and tablets, you started having Chrome books a few years in, and so the benefits that you got from taking a single computer and connecting a bunch of thin clients and turning that one computer into many, you’re really looking at mostly a cost benefit there, and that cost benefit people were getting in different ways so just having their PCs being cheaper.

Steve: So when you decided to sell this product – I guess what I’m trying to get at is like what is your process for figuring out or making sure that a product doesn’t fail when you bring it to market?

Bernie: Yeah, when I first started I thought we would be a single product company. As it turns out that product failed and I faced the choice of, well do I stick with this and keep trying harder in this USB thin client market or do I go wider, and I made the decision to go wider. So at that point it really kind of switched from a mindset of we’re a thin client company to I’ve got to launch a bunch of products in the hopes that one or two of those will be successful. I kind of thought it might be like a five to one ratio or something like that, so almost like a VC mindset.

As it turns out in the early years 2009, 2010, 2011 it actually was more like one out of every two was successful, it was a very high hit rate, and we can talk about maybe why that was. And then over the years that has varied a lot starting in 2012, 2013 a huge influx of sellers often from mainland China where most electronic factories are located, and our hit rate went down significantly.

Also at that time you started having the review gaming which we never participated in, so we really had a lot of head wins against us because our competitors were launching products and having hundreds of reviews within a few weeks, whereas we took months to get hundreds of reviews.

That was a huge disadvantage that we suffered, so recently our hit rate has actually been going up because we’ve continued to refine our processes and now Amazon has cramped down on the fake reviews. So it’s not as good as it was in the early years but we’re probably talking about like a one out of every four products is a hit.

Steve: Okay and just to be clear do you design all of your own stuff in-house or you don’t do any sort of private labeling or white labeling of products that are existing, right?

Bernie: We do the full [inaudible 00:10:44] from basically products that already exist and bringing the model of the Plugable brand to actually getting involved with a little bit of low level PCB design and other things, but most of our products fall in the middle where we kind of do ground up research.

We know what chip sets are coming out from the IC makers and we go out and seek factories that are experienced using those chip sets, and we put in our FQs and try to get them to build a product that uses the chip sets that we’re looking for and has the features that we want.

Steve: Interesting, so do they perform all of the testing and everything for you then?

Bernie: Yeah we do a lot of testing but really it’s mostly kind of from the user perspective and high level testing, so our factory partners are heavily involved with the low level testing also.

Steve: I see so in terms of like schematic design and all that stuff, that’s all handled by your designer?

Bernie: Yes.

Steve: And are most of your products created over in Asia?

Bernie: Yes, the original designs come from all around the world. Most of the designs originally come from the chip set makers; the IC makers from the reference designs and so just as an example of a lot of our products use chips from a company called DisplayLink which is a USB graphics company.

They are located in Cambridge England, so a lot of the original reference designs are coming out of Cambridge and then they get picked up by the factories, they modify them to fit a form factor or adjust the cast or adjust our request for features and that’s how the low level design gets done.

Steve: So to do what you guys do requires some amount of technical knowledge is that accurate?

Bernie: Yeah, I think you said earlier in the call you generally recommend against electronics. Yeah I mean there’s a lot of barriers here, I’ve worked at — and even though I’m a software guy I’ve worked at two chip companies, a chip graphics chip company called S3 in the 1990s.

Steve: Yeah I remember those guys.

Bernie: I worked at DisplayLink themselves, I was a VP at DisplayLink. So I’ve been able to use this knowledge of how these chip companies work and how the supply chain works to not just be a passive actor, but actually to be an active participant in all these choices that ultimately end up determining whether the product is a quality and whether the product is differentiated from other products that are out there in the market.

Steve: Okay and so I’m just curious to achieve your revenues how many product skews do you have and what country are the majority of your sales coming from?

Bernie: So we have over 100 products at this point, we have about 110 and by far our leading market is the US. US is greater than all of our other geographies combined although all the other geographies are growing and they are fairly healthy too.

Steve: And in terms of skews you mentioned you had like a one in four hit rate, what do you do with the three that fail, do you just kind of discontinue them right away?

Bernie: No we don’t discontinue them right away, I mean because we’re doing products that are unique in many cases, will have unique aspects, we’re dealing with relatively large MOQs, minimum order quantities usually 1000 or 3000 at least and so it takes some time. When we do have something that’s not a hit frankly we’re stuck with the inventory for quite a bit of time usually a year or two.

So what we’re trying to do over that year or two is basically try again and again different communication strategies, different emphasis on the feature aspects of the product to try to find a strategy in terms of how we’re marketing or what

we’re saying in our marketing to get that product to take off. It’s funny it’s a lot like starting a campfire or something, sometimes you get a situation where it just fails to light with the few attempts and then just for some reason on the fourth or fifth attempt it lights and that happens with products too.

Steve: Okay and then when did you actually decide to expand overseas to other countries?

Bernie: It was actually pretty early on. When you’re doing unique products that you’re investing a lot in ahead of time, any market that you’re not in is a missed opportunity. You’re giving oxygen to your competitors by giving them a market that you’re not competing with them in. So we try hard to be as aggressive as we can be to reach every market around the world, although that said we tend to focus on Amazon. So we focus most on the markets that Amazon covers but we do also try to reach the other ones.

Steve: Okay so I want to talk a little bit about your product selection process without getting technical at all. What is your main criteria when you decide to bring something to the market, what is your process and what price point and margins do you like to see?

Bernie: I think we do with electronics where the Plugable brand we’re connecting this with that, so the number one issue is compatibility, are we able to make a very broad statement that if you have an HDMI monitor that this product will connect your laptop to it or whatever. Very often in electronics it’s not so simple, the compatibility story is inherently complex.

Maybe let’s say the product is a DisplayLink graphics product and the drivers on Mac just aren’t that good or the operating system support for DisplayLink is not that good. So we spend a lot of time trying to create a product with the maximum compatibility possible, and then whatever is left just is a limitation. We work really hard to try to communicate that accurately and upfront to the consumer so that they know what will work and what won’t.

Steve: So I imagine you have several competitors on Amazon, right?

Bernie: Yeah many, I mean literally it’s electronics so we literally have hundreds of competitors.

Steve: And so how do you stand out?

Bernie: We try to get the little details of compatibility right, and sometimes that’s firmware thing, sometimes that’s a tweet to the hardware, and then we try to get the expectations setting right. Often we have an advantage there because all of our staff is here in the US where actually I used to work in Microsoft here in Washington, and so we got some great technical people around. So we’re able to describe the product more precisely and so we don’t have people for whom the product is not going to work buy it and then write a negative review.

So in addition to compatibility issue it’s features. We’re trying to make sure that when we look at all the products in the market out there that we’ve made at least a few choices that move the feature bar forward. Although we don’t focus on price as much as some other people, we want to make sure that at the feature level we’re on that the price is competitive. So there’s really a lot of market research that goes into every product before we launch it.

Steve: I’m sure.

Bernie: Then if we think we have that right mix of features, compatibility, and price that we’re able to produce something
competitive, then it’s a matter of really doing kind of all of our execution right in terms of selling on Amazon and doing ecommerce so that we can drive the Amazon fly wheel and push that product up in search results through proving to Amazon that when people glance at the product they choose to click on it, when they click on it they choose to buy it, and when they buy it they have a good experience.

Steve: And I’m just kind of curious what the margins – can you kind of give us an idea what the margins are like for electronics?

Bernie: Yeah the margins are really tight for electronics. If you’re able to net out after everything a 5 or 10% that’s probably considered norm.

Steve: Wow, okay I didn’t realize it was that low.

Bernie: Yeah that’s after everything, support and everything.

Steve: Sure of course yeah, and in terms of the time frame from inception to getting a product ready to go to sell what is like a time frame for a typical product of yours.

Bernie: We try to make it as short as possible. When you’re producing custom product that is being manufactured in Mainland China there is just inherently some fairly long latency, some long delays. Even on a product that is settled that we’re just doing a reorder the delay is anywhere between two to four months depending on chip set availability.

So for a new product it can be as long as nine months but we try to get it down to maybe four months or so on a new product.

Steve: Okay and then typically like what’s like a minimum investment for like the first purchase?

Bernie: It depends on the cost of the product.

Steve: Of course.

Bernie: We sell products that are $200 docking stations and we sell products that are $10 cables. So if you kind of multiply out a wholesale cost on that by 1,000 or 3,000 units plus the bunch of time invested, you’re usually talking about a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars on a new product.

Steve: Okay, all right so let’s switch gears away from the actual product design, because I’m pretty sure like the actual product development is probably a little too technical for anyone who is listening even though I would be personally interested in all that stuff.

Bernie: Right yeah you have all the background for this.

Steve: Like trying hard not to ask you those questions right now. All right so you got your product, you’ve sent it over to Amazon, so what is your strategy for getting it visible on Amazon. So let’s start from the beginning like it’s got no reviews, what is your strategy for launch?

Bernie: You know it’s so tough – even when we started and certainly now here in 2017 if you launch a product on Amazon it could be the best product in the world at the best price, and it will sit there at the bottom of search results and no one will buy the damn thing, so strategies are absolutely necessary.

So let’s talk in terms of the funnel because I think that thinking of a funnel is the correct way to think about this. So our first challenge is to get anybody to go look at the product at all regardless of what their reaction will be to it. And so our strategies for doing that are number one is content marketing. Every product has a story, every product has a reason for existing, every product has problems that it’s solving.

There are people out there who are having those problems, who are having those frustrations who if they were aware that there was a solution they would be excited about it, so our job is to reach them, this is marketing. The only thing that’s changed about marketing is video is so much easier now because we can use tools like posting videos on YouTube and posting videos on Facebook and we can use targeted marketing on Amazon, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google honing in on the searches and the keywords and the interests of customers.

So our first job is to break our product down into what are the problems it solves, what are the customers who would be interested in that kind of problem and solution and then what are the keywords that are relevant to them and what’s the content that would be compelling for them, often the videos, sometimes blog posts, sometimes maybe a cross post or an article on another site and creating hat content.

Steve: So you’re creating content and I think in the case of Plugable you guys do a lot of how to type of videos, or feature videos?

Bernie: Correct.

Steve: Okay.

Bernie: It’s kind of interesting, with electronics it’s hard but there’s a lot to talk about because there’s a lot of how to and a lot of interesting new things that is sometimes possible with technology, so yeah so we use all of those excuses to create some – tend to create some compelling content.

Steve: So you have the content but how do you get people to actually look at it?

Bernie: So a lot of it is patience, that building an audience takes a lot of time, there are so many gigantic problems with ecommerce, we talked about how you launch a product on Amazon and it sits at the bottom of search results and nobody finds it. That is true for your content too; until you’re able to build up an audience, it can be frustrating. You can have a very compelling video sitting out there on YouTube and no one will go view it.

So a lot of it is really about pushing a snowball down hill and having the patience to have that snowball build in size. Today Plugable has over 8,000 YouTube subscribers and we have several million video views on YouTube. It took eight years to get to those numbers, and so there is a bit of that is that planning and setting aside your time and your budget to give yourself enough time to have that snowball build some size and become self reinforcing in the end. Your past content is in a sense creating the audience that is going to be viewing your future content.

Steve: So I’d like you to take me back to your first successful product like when you had nothing, and were you doing content well before the launch of the product?

Bernie: Yeah we had the content strategy from day one, so if I would look back at the plugable.com site right now I could find blog posts from the fall of 2009. At that point we figured we were trying to reach the most dedicated possible audience for our products, so we focused on very tactical blog posts that would really get a core group of people very excited about what we were doing.

I also was speaking at conferences about the product and I was trying to reach that same sort of audience. So I guess there is a lesson there in terms of being realistic about what audience is likely to be excited about you, and even though ultimately you want to reach a wider audience, first focus where you’re strongest and establish some momentum and some credibility where you’re strongest and then kind of build on that and expand on that.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse; you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

Okay so you advice anyone who is launching a brand new product from complete scratch to start thinking about their audience and start producing content for that audience?

Bernie: Yeah I would say so. There’s strategies that don’t involve content marketing and certainly actually there’s a lot of successful Amazon businesses that don’t do content marketing. But I think that there is a fragility to that, that the content marketing because it is a snowball that rolls down a hill and grows, it creates a more sustainable momentum for your brand and your products that even though it’s sometimes painful to get that rolling to start with, ultimately it’s what can build a strong, large and sustainable business.

Steve: So in terms of the sales of your first successful product then, was it Amazon customers that were browsing the marketplace, or were they people that you were driving either through email or your content to buy that Amazon product?

Bernie: So on the first product which was a unique USB thin client product, it was mostly us driving people to Amazon and I think even the terms that people would think to search for if they were looking for such a product weren’t very clear. And then as we expanded our product line, we went into very well understood commodity areas like USB hubs and USB keyboards and mice and USB graphics adaptors.

In those areas there was an existing body of people on Amazon already searching for those products, and then we just needed to focus on coming up high for those searches that were already happening.

Steve: Okay so essentially kind of using your terminology like the fly wheel going, right?

Bernie: Exactly, so we talked about kind of filling the top of the funnel with content marketing. So then the next step – and this is somewhat what’s unique about Amazon and powerful about Amazon is Amazon is really using and looking at using all the metrics about your products. Amazon’s philosophy is very customer centric, they want customers to have great experiences on Amazon, and they want to help that to happen through data.

So they want to reward products on Amazon that when somebody is driven to the Amazon site for whatever reason or searches on the Amazon site there is a product that they are attracted enough to click on. Then when they click on it that there is a high percentage of the time that they buy that product, and then when they buy that product that there is a high percentage of the time that they a have a good customer experience.

So Amazon is literally taking those metrics, those conversion metrics for your product and feeding that back into the search results. So it is a fairly beneficial kind of feedback loop of if you do right by customers on Amazon, Amazon will reward you with a higher position in search, and so a lot of the focus of our business has been on making sure that that customer centric feedback loop is spinning the Amazon fly wheel and driving sales.

The final part of it is that when that feedback loop is working and you’re getting pushed up in search, well that results in more sales which results in more statistics which reinforces that hey this product is a good product that is increasing its sales. So that’s how you kind of get this fly wheel effected, and in fact if you can push your product up in the Amazon search to where it is one of the top sellers and people are having good experiences with it, it’s very self reinforcing and it’s actually hard for competitors to knock that product out of that position except by slowly growing there with a better product and better experiences for customers.

Steve: So can we talk about some of your specific processes that you use for Plugable to kind of push this fly wheel and get a positive feedback loop going?

Bernie: Yeah absolutely, so a lot of the really successful sellers who started earlier on the Amazon platform and I have met a bunch of them – it’s interesting a lot of us were software developers, and part of the reason why that happened was Amazon provides a lot of tools for sellers, but they don’t do all of the essential things.

So a big part of making sure that the feedback loop goes well and that the fly wheel is spun is identifying all loop wings in all these things that happen on Amazon where communication with the customer or being very fast to respond to things that are happening with Amazon will help produce better experiences.

So one of the early things that I did in 2010 was begin developing software that for example every time an order shipped from Amazon FBA I would send out an email to the customer that had a bunch of helpful support information, and also establish a rapport with the customer and said that after you have a chance to use the product for a while we’d love to have a product review with your experiences.

So at this point here in 2017 is great because there is actually a lot of services that will do that for you, you don’t need to develop software for it, and we’ve actually now taken all the software that we developed for Plugable and made that available on efficientera.com, so we’re one of those services too. So that was the key thing is establishing contact with the customer.

Steve: Can we talk about your email flow like how many emails are you sending out?

Bernie: Yeah so we’ve had a philosophy from day one that we don’t want to annoy customers by sending them multiple emails, so it was actually interesting when we created Efficient Era and took our internal system and offered it to others because other competitor tools allow you to send multiple emails for a single order.

So we went ahead and did that in Efficient Era, but Plugable still to this day does not use it. We send out a single email that is more about customer service than it is about asking for a review, and we send it out when the item ships so that the email will arrive right before the product does, that’s how Plugable does it.

We have a heavy support component with all of our products because we’re connecting this with that and when something goes wrong, it can get complex about why is something not working. So customer support is a huge part of how we can mitigate negative reviews or avoid negative reviews and encourage positive reviews through good experiences.

Steve: So from what I understand then you are not actually sending out a review link in this email then?

Bernie: We do actually send out review link but we qualify it with after you’ve had a chance to use the product for a few weeks.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Bernie: Yeah it’s an interesting middle ground. I know a lot of our competitors would break those two up, they might send a support email when the product first ships and then send a review request email a few weeks later and our system supports that, but I know we still are sticking to this thing of it’s not in the customer’s interest to receive multiple emails per order and we don’t want to be annoying, so yeah it’s interesting.

Steve: So they actually have to remember to go back to that email then to leave a review, is that right?

Bernie: Yeah that’s right yeah.

Steve: Okay, I know for electronics because one of my friends sells electronics that often times they are quick to a negative review if something doesn’t work.

Bernie: Yes.

Steve: And so when you’re dealing with them on the phone – you have phone support, right?

Bernie: We actually don’t, we only are online support, and that’s one of the reasons why we send that email because we want to say in that email, you can contact us by email just reply to this mail to contact us.

Steve: Okay do you ever – like once a successful support email has been sent out do you send them a review link then?

Bernie: Yeah we may or just generally encourage it, because we do want to treat every customer service incident as an opportunity to avoid a negative review and if we’re able to provide a really positive experience or better experience than maybe they’ve had before we get an opportunity for a positive review.

Steve: Okay, I’m just curious so how do you deal with negative reviews like what is your strategy?

Bernie: Our strategy is just simply to treat them as a customer service incident. I think in electronics that is a little easier to take that philosophy because usually they just have a simple goal of getting two things to work together, and so either that’s working or it’s not. So when somebody writes a negative review and that’s one of the things that is tough that Amazon kind of makes it tough for you, a negative review is usually just kind of a request for help in a sense.

They’ve had a bad experience and at least in our world a lot of times they could have had a good experience if we had had an opportunity to help them. They often jumped to a negative review before they even contacted us for service, but Amazon doesn’t really provide a good way to contact the customer, really the only mechanism you have is to post a comment on their review.

Unfortunately the reviewer is often not notified that that comment is there, and it’s really not an appropriate place to have a customer service interaction where you have to exchange information back and forth. So one of the things our tool does is it digs through all of your orders as a seller and all of the reviews and is able to do a buyer review matching so that when you have an Amazon verified purchase that came from your seller account, we’re actually able to send you an email and we do when you get a negative review, and it has the Amazon order number that that review came from.

So now once you have that you can just take that link to seller central and contact the customer. So we get that notification for every single negative review that happens on any of the Amazon geographies around the world and those go straight into our customer service ticketing system, and we just try to help the customer and turn that situation around.

Steve: So how do you get them to kind of retract their review?

Bernie: Well we’re not pushy about it; in fact Amazon terms are clear that you can’t be pushy about it. We focus first on just trying to – whatever was in the review that caused them to have a bad experience, our focus is very clearly just on trying to solve that problem. Then once we’ve solved that problem we will often say something like, oh that’s great, it’s working now, if you have a chance to update your review we’d really appreciate it, or something like that or if you have a chance to write the full experiences up in review we’d really appreciate it.

We really leave it at that and we don’t do follow up mails, we don’t do pesters, and I think in most cases the person who is angry and created that negative review because they were having a good experience in most cases they are so happy to have that problem solved that they’re really in a mindset at that moment that they do want to have that be reflected in the reviews. So we get a really good response rate even on that light and very customer oriented guidance.

Steve: And incidentally for everyone listening out there, this is actually the main reason why I’m on Efficient Era, the fact that you can actually find out who left the review and then contact them directly is actually a huge boost for customer service, because when I think about how I run my own business like we contact customers who are unhappy right away, and the sooner you do it actually the better because they start fuming and it builds up over time.

Bernie: Yeah and we’re able to get that email to you as a seller that there was a negative review and what order it came from in less than 24 hours from when the review was posted, and then on the Plugable side when we are the users of that ourselves we try to get back to the customer within 24 hours of getting notified. So basically in a relatively short period of time the customer gets contacted back with an apology and an offer to help.

Steve: Okay so it sounds like the way you run Plugable is with a strong focus on customer service, right?

Bernie: Yes.

Steve: Are there any other things that you have done to accelerate your Amazon sales?

Bernie: Well there is a lot of – the main event for interacting with a customer is the post order email and then responding to reviews. There is also a bunch of other smaller but important events. For example one is Amazon will send you an email when you receive a return or question from customers. Very often customers will tend to not write a negative review until they have the money back and then they’ll write a negative review.

So you have a time window there to also treat that as a customer service incident and offer to help solve whatever problem is leading to that return request, so that’s another thing that Efficient Era does is it captures those events and turns those into customer service requests for you.
Steve: Have you had success like turning around a return request?
Bernie: Yeah absolutely, and it’s sometimes in the form of they haven’t actually sent the product in yet and we’re able to get the product working. Other times it’s just simply – well if it’s a product that the reviews are really critical to us right now like let’s say it only has a few reviews, we might actually do something like, well we‘re sorry you had a bad experience, we really want to understand what went wrong here, we’re actually going to send you a free unit and work with you to get that working just so we can understand what happened here.

And of course that’s very much in the customer’s interest, the customer is getting the return and the refund of the product and they are getting the product they originally tried to get working. That happens in our space, sometimes compatibility is complicated and we really are in the dark about why something is going wrong and in a sense that customer is helping us to understand something that may also impact other customers, so in our minds between the review and between learning it’s worth it to us to work with this customer and try to figure out what went wrong.

Steve: I see and then by doing that I would image no negative review is ever left when you’re just giving away units, right?

Bernie: Yeah if the person hasn’t submitted a negative review yet, they want to see how it all resolves. I mean if they have your engagement, very few customers are going to write a negative review while it seems like you’re honestly trying to help them, because it might work out still. There are some people who are just in a negative frame of mind that they’re going to write a negative review no matter what, but that’s the minority of customers.

Steve: And in terms of just boosting your sales, do you guys ever use like discounts or lightening deals or anything along those lines?

Bernie: We do, not heavily though, a lot of our competitors in electronics use like deals and best deals very heavily. We have more of kind of an everyday low pricing and fixed margin model for our products, so if we’re doing a lightening deal we’re probably losing money on each unit. So especially now as of this fall Amazon has moved to a system where lightening deals have to come from an approved list that Amazon reflects back to you, and each lightening deal has a cost associated with it, $150 currently.

There is only a limited number of circumstances for us where lightening deals make sense, so actually it’s really not our primary means of getting the fly wheel started on Amazon.

Steve: Okay and how do you guys manage inventory like how do you know how much product to order, do you systems in place for that.

Bernie: We do, they are actually not part of our Efficient Era tools right now; they might be in the future. There are actually today a massive number of spreadsheets with a lot of scripting between them, so we basically have a custom in-house inventory system that tells us that current run rates, how many weeks of stock do we have left, because it’s hard.

We’re trying to steer a ship that a decision we make today has its impact three or four months from now because basically if we order one product from our suppliers today, it can be that long until we receive it. So it really feels like you’re steering an ocean liner at times, and it’s very hard to make those forward looking decisions, so we have a lot of analysis around that.

Steve: What about tracking your revenues and like your inventory like when Amazon loses some stuff, how do you manage all that stuff?

Bernie: The Efficient Era tools do have a functionality in that area, we basically have time series graphs that allow you in aggregate for your whole account and for each product to be able to see the graph of your sales and your inventory over time so that you can see when inventory has been dropping when you’re making that decision about whether to place a purchase order.

Amazon is kind of good about giving you data in numeric form for right now, but sometimes that data is deceptive. You might have had just in the last week or two this massive sales spike and then you think – and so you’re looking at your stock you’re going, oh no I’m down to five weeks of sales, but if you look at it in a historical context you might realize that that’s way off the normal trend for this product and I need to be careful and wait for a few more weeks of sales data to confirm the new trend.

So we try to use that historical perspective on our sales and our inventory levels to make better decisions.

Steve: Okay and I have to ask this question, I noticed on your site that all links point to Amazon. Is there any reason why you don’t take orders on your own site?

Bernie: Yeah it’s a tough decision because it’s scary to be so dependent on Amazon and even though we’re an electronics company first and an Amazon seller second we are very dependent on Amazon, and it’s because we’re so good at Amazon, we focused on that and Amazon has really been eating everybody else’s lunch.

That said we’ve tried every other ecommerce service, we’re really on Jet, we sell on Wal-Mart, we sell on eBay but basically if you’re trying to do your own sales on your own ecommerce site, the fly wheel has a lot of resistance. Yes you can build a brand and get people to think about your brand first before they buy a product and come to your site, but boy is that hard. Unless you’re a GoPro or you’re a Dell, chances are you’re going to have a very hard time getting that particular fly wheel spinning. More likely people are going to buy past your site and head directly to Amazon and start searching in.

So our philosophy has been to be really stuck about that, that there is too much friction on the fly wheel for us to have people think of Plugable first, so we’re going to focus on driving those sales to Amazon and pushing Amazon fly wheel for our products.

Steve: So in terms of your content marketing efforts, are you gathering customer data, email addresses and that sort of thing?

Bernie: We do a bit; we’re actually not heavily into that and again our philosophy of not pestering customers. We don’t actually have email marketing that goes out other than if people kind of very proactively subscribe to our blog with their email address, yeah so we have not used cold email marketing actually at all.

Steve: Okay interesting and do you do any paid advertising?

Bernie: We do lots of paid advertising and it’s very focused on that breakdown we were talking about earlier of customer segments, why they will buy the product, what they’re searching on, and we spend that marketing money on a mix of Amazon, and Facebook and Google and really a lot of online channels so that when people are searching for something, that our product is a solution for that, that we’re trying to get our product up in front of them.

Steve: So what’s the plan moving forward, I understand that Plugable uses Efficient Era for all of their processes, like you’re eating your own dog food essentially?

Bernie: Exactly.

Steve: And so what is the future, like are you focusing efforts on Efficient Era, are you focusing efforts on Plugable, what is the game plan going forward?

Bernie: So all the tools that are in Efficient Era were originally created just internally for ourselves, in fact let me not — I personally did most of the tools in the early years and then started having to build a team as the tools got more and more complicated. So kind of hit the point where wow this is a huge competitive advantage for us, but if we just keep it to ourselves, we’re investing all this money for just one Amazon business when these tools would be useful for many and we could kind of amortize the costs, pretty large costs of developing these tools across a lot of businesses.

So we made the decision to spread it out and give up our competitive advantage and offer it to other people. And so now at this point they’re really independent businesses, it’s kind of nice because we have a big in-house customer Plugable who helps guide the feature set and make sure that it’s really relevant and that it’s solving problems for Plugable, and that it works every day without fail.

Then on the Efficient Era side we now have over 200 companies that are using it and they are getting all the benefits from it, and we’re able to kind of amortize our cost of keeping the software moving forward across all those businesses.

Steve: Yeah I mean there is a lot of annoying things about selling on Amazon; like I just looked at my listing the other day and I noticed that Amazon inserted a bullet point for me.

Bernie: Yeah.

Steve: Stuff like that happens; does your software monitor that tuff too?

Bernie: It does, those features are actually just coming out right now.
Steve: Oh they are okay.

Bernie: We have a listing monitoring notification service, so we’ll send you emails if any of the key fields of your listing change, we’re calling the Amazon APIs and also looking at the page and notifying you of discrepancies and changes.

We’re also doing a lot of stuff now with sales notifications where if any of your products hit a new record sales for this week we’ll notify you about that, because that might also be interesting or factor your decisions with purchase orders.

So yeah all of those things where Amazon’s own seller central tools are not doing it for you, we’re trying to automate as much of that as possible.

Steve: Cool Bernie, hey I appreciate your time for coming on the podcast today and just giving us a glimpse into what it’s like to sell electronics online. If anyone has any questions for you or maybe just want to check out your tools, where can they find you?

Bernie: Just email me at Bernie@efficientera.com and of course visit efficientera.com, we’ve got a lot of content up there.

Steve: Cool, well hey Bernie thanks a lot for coming on the show, I really appreciate your time.

Bernie: Oh appreciated Steve, thank you, bye.

Steve: All right, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Bernie is actually one of the few people I know who has been able to make a profit selling electronics, and I love the fact that he developed his own software Efficient Era to help his own Amazon business. So definitely go check out Efficient Era to manage your feedback if you end up selling on Amazon. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode157.

And once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, they offer email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. And if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/steve, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo and sign up for free, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

156: How My Student Carmen Makes 6 Figures Selling Kaftans Online Without Amazon

Share On Facebook

How My Student Carmen Makes 6 Figures Selling Kaftans Online

Play

Today I’m really happy to have Carmen Rivas on the show. And Carmen is actually a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course from Australia.

She joined over a year ago and she’s been doing amazing with her business Vizcosa.com. Now I often get questions from listeners whether it’s possible to run a viable ecommerce business outside of the US and the answer is of course.

Carmen sells kaftans and resort wear and what’s cool about her story is that she validated her niche using Facebook before investing a lot of money into her business.

Today, she’s doing very well. She just had a baby and she’s able to run her business while taking care of her child! Enjoy the interview.

Want To Learn How To Start A 6 Figure Ecommerce Store?

Create  A Profitable Online StoreDid you enjoy listening to Jen’s story? If you would like to create your own profitable online store and join a community of like minded entrepreneurs, then sign up for my full blown course on how to create a profitable online store.

My course offers over 100+ hours of video and includes live office hours where you can ask me questions directly.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about ecommerce, be sure to check it out!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Carmen came up with her niche
  • Her motivations for starting her business
  • How Carmen validated her niche before placing a large order
  • Her platform of choice
  • How Carmen generated early sales for her online store.

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou and today I’m thrilled to have another student in my Create a Profitable Online Store Course on the show.

Carmen Rivas is a student from Australia who is now making a five figure monthly income selling kaftans on her own site, and in fact I don’t believe she has transitioned to Amazon yet, but she’s doing really well and you guys are going to really enjoy her story.

But before we begin I want to give a shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m super excited to talk about Privy, because I use and rely on Privy to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with my email marketing provider.

Now there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in ecommerce. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can have Privy flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to get them to buy one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a unique and special coupon code for that item or to display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, right now I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve and try it for free, and if you decide you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Now I’m really blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on them for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email provider. Well Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it’s so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they purchased which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, that is easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, that’s a piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email sent.
Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m really happy to have Carmen Rivas on the show. Carmen is actually a student in my Create a Profitable Online Store Course and she lives in Australia, she joined over a year ago and she’s been doing amazing with her business vizcosa.com. Now I often get questions from listeners whether it’s possible to run a viable ecommerce business outside of the US and the answer is of course.
Carmen sells kaftans and resort wear, and what’s cool about her story is that she validated her niche using Facebook before investing a lot of money into her business. Today she’s doing very well, she just had a baby, and she is able to run her business while taking care of her child. And with that welcome to the show Carmen, how are you doing today?

Carmen: I’m very good Steve, how are you, thank you so much for having me.

Steve: I know, thanks for coming on, I just still continually find it amazing that I’m in the United States and you are in Australia and we are talking today.

Carmen: I know, it was a bit hard to find the time but here we are.

Steve: So Carmen how did you come up with a niche and the idea for selling kaftans online — first of all what is a kaftan?

Carmen: A kaftan is a very glamorous gown; it’s pretty much a dress that women can wear in summer and you can wear it to a wedding, you can wear – especially something that you take to your holidays, but it’s just pretty much really glamorous, very elegant and it just comes from many years ago.

Men used to wear kaftans and I think men still wear kaftans, but with the evolution of fashion now it’s a very fashionable gown that you just wear for an evening, for a cocktail, for a party and especially it’s really beautiful to wear at the beach during the holiday, because it’s very free flowing, very comfortable, mostly made of silk or luxurious fabrics and they are always decorated with stones, they are very colorful, so it’s something that will bring a very happy feeling when you wear.

Steve: Okay and how did you come up with the idea of selling those?

Carmen: I am a lover of summer and I really love fashion. I knew I wanted to start a business that was pretty much within the fashion industry, and if you see me during summer I will always be wearing a dress, long maxi dresses and anything that has to do with color and with free flowing fabric. So I really had this idea that I wanted something similar, and I actually had another business before, one of them was tape [ph] wear.

It was something similar to spanks [ph] and that didn’t really go very well because it’s something that I love to wear, but I was trying to sell it without really finding what women really wanted. So when I decided that I was going to change my business within the fashion industry and go for something that was clothing, I started to ask around and ask before not necessarily something that I wanted to wear but what they want to wear, what they like, how they feel, what they wear it for.

So I used two medias to validate that idea, one was Facebook and the other one was a survey that I did in Survey Monkey to my friends, and that’s how I came up with specifically kaftans.

Steve: So real quick back in your other business when you were selling spanks like products, why didn’t those work out exactly?

Carmen: I think it was I didn’t have the knowledge. I think if I start again now with that business it’s going to do well because it’s actually a really good product, but back then I didn’t have any mentoring, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was trying to sell wholesale, I was trying to sell online, but I was just trying to do Google AdWords and everything was all over the place.

I wasn’t niching down the product, I wasn’t being specific, I was trying to be a little bit of everything, but I was doing nothing at the end because I wasn’t really targeting anyone in particular.

Steve: Okay can we talk a little bit about the survey that you sent out; you mentioned that you were just trying to validate your niche, what were some of the questions on the survey?

Carmen: It was pretty much, I really wanted to find out who these women were, so I started with age group, with occupation, income and also what they wear like what do you feel beautiful wearing, and also for different occasions because you might wear something to work and something different to a party, so I asked them everything, what do you wear to this and this and this different occasions.

I gathered enough information to sort of – and I also knew that I wanted to go with summer wear and dresses, but I was very open to different opportunities. So at the end of that survey everything really pointed out to the kaftans.

Steve: So who did you send the survey to?

Carmen: I sent it to friends, pretty much to friends, I did it literary because in Survey Market you can actually buy an audience, so I did buy a little more audience but I also sent it to my friends.

Steve: Okay and how many people actually responded to your survey just curious?

Carmen: It was a while ago I don’t remember, I think it might have been no more than 20 people maybe; it wasn’t a lot of people actually.

Steve: Okay and then when you were validating on Facebook, what was the process for that?

Carmen: Okay so listening to – basically when I joined your course that’s when I started to have a lot of direction on what really I needed to do and the first thing was sort of knowing what people were looking for online. So I used a couple of different programs just to see what people were looking out for online, so it was with Google, Terapeak was one of them.

So I decided – there was an interview that you have with Ryan Daniel Moran from Freedom Fast Lane. He was talking about how he started — it was I remember some business selling yoga mats, and that really gave me the idea to start a Facebook page just to start adding value having a little bit of information about clothing just to see what the response was going to be.

That’s how I started the business, I didn’t even have the website yet, but I decided to really communicate with people through that. I started to really get a lot of information from them, what they wanted, what they wanted it for. I was very responsive if I got any questions and all of this was before even I have the website, and that really helped me to validate the idea.

Steve: So you just created a Facebook page from scratch, how did you get early fans of your page?

Carmen: It was with Facebook likes, so it was just the usual Facebook likes, I just would find dollars I remember at the beginning on to the page and people started to like it and every night I remember I will upload a couple of pictures and the pictures were just generic pictures that I took from Google.

So everything was really generic, I was just trying to find out if people – what they like, where did they click like the most or if they put a comment, which pictures they were commenting on and things like that. That’s how I started; I just wanted to know where they were going pretty much.

Steve: Interesting, so when you were posting these pictures, these were kaftan pictures that you just found on Google?

Carmen: I did, some of them were kaftans, some of them were celebrity pictures wearing similar items. So I was posting everything that I wanted to sell, so similar items, they were not only kaftans but they were a little bit of different type of clothing just to still continue to understand what women wanted and what they really like, so pretty much.

Steve: And just curious how big did you build up the space, like how many likes did the page end up having?

Carmen: At the moment it has 10,000, a little bit almost 11,000. April we only had about 100 likes when I decided to start my online store.

Steve: Oh wow okay.

Carmen: It was very soon.

Steve: And so you posted different pictures and then based on the level of engagement, that’s kind of how you chose which ones that you wanted to sell in your store?

Carmen: Exactly because I noticed that it was a very good addition, so everything happened within probably a month. So probably by the time I have 500 likes I was very comfortable. I already felt, okay there is a – because I had a business before I knew that it wasn’t that easy to get even these 500 likes, and I knew with the business that I had before the engagement was really low. With this one even though it was only 500 people, they were very engaged.

So I knew that this was enough for me to start. I made my first sale within that month because of the conversation I was having with customers and they were asking me for advice and I was giving them so much advice until this – I remember one of the women just I really I need this outfit for a wedding I think she was having, I don’t know what to wear and I started to sort of back and forth ask her what her style was, what time was the wedding, every question.

She said, okay I really need that dress and I remember posting a picture of a garment that I thought was beautiful for the occasion and she said, oh I would really like to have that one. I said okay you can have it, and I went and I found it locally, I tried to find that garment everywhere I could and I found something very similar, and I created my website and I told her this is the link, you can buy it.

Steve: Interesting, okay so you just bought it from a retail store and then sold it?

Carmen: Correct yes, I was only at the stage of validating the idea and I saw, okay somebody wants to buy it, I don’t want to miss the opportunity.

Steve: So on your Facebook page you were having conversations with people, did you ever try to pre-sell any of your products?

Carmen: Not at that stage but very soon after but only within another week I started to source the product. I went to look for a supplier overseas and I got a few samples and everything was really quick, it’s really where I had samples on the website and I started to sell them.

Steve: Okay and in terms of your suppliers how did you find them and where did you look?

Carmen: I looked in AliExpress and I looked in Alibaba and I found a couple of suppliers there and there were various endless stages. I didn’t stay with so many of them, the suppliers that I have at the moment I actually asked them and I found them because I was trying to make my own designs, and I was trying to understand how you can make your own prints and how to print in silk and in fabric, and doing those searches I found actually my current supplier.

I goggled him and I found him and I have a couple of suppliers now, but the biggest one was a little bit outside of Alibaba, but you can still find people there for sure.

Steve: Okay but you started out selling other people’s designs first before?

Carmen: Yes for only a couple of weeks, it was a very short time. When I understood that I was on to something, I really wanted to have my own business and I really wanted to have my own label and I wanted to be very original and doing my own things, I really rushed into finding my own brand really early on.

Steve: Okay, I have a couple of questions just related to clothing like how do you decide how many of a certain size to buy and that sort of thing?

Carmen: At first it was a risk, I just had no idea how many I needed, so I started with very small amounts and very small quantities and I just pretty much I will order a little bit of…

Steve: How large was your first order?

Carmen: It was probably just 20 items, it was really small and they actually thankfully they have quite big minimums, but I managed to – on your course you mention all the time you can always sound like you are not exactly the final person they’re talking to, and so I started to sound like a bigger business and I said, look we really need samples to start with. So my first order was a sample order and that sample order sold really fast, and that’s how I started to build up on my bigger orders.

Steve: So your first order was 20 you said, right?

Carmen: Yes.

Steve: Was that different sizes or you did you just go with the common sizes?

Carmen: It was different sizes yes. So obviously I kind of run out of one size and then run out of the other. It was a struggle at the beginning just to get it right when it came to sizes.

Steve: Okay and then after that your orders – what were some of the minimums that you were encountering?

Carmen: I started to order 15 minimum and then they started to have minimums when it came to a particular print, and obviously when you start making your own print, then the minimums are bigger because they need to do a production run for something that they didn’t have, and it’s something that is exclusive to you. So the minimums started to build up a little bit, so at the moment – I mean it was very slow and they were quite flexible at the beginning, so I would order 15 here, 20 there until I stated to build it up on my own prints.

Steve: Okay, I’m just curious did you look locally at all for sourcing or did you go straight overseas?

Carmen: I went straight overseas, however yes at the beginning it was a local supplier the very first ones. Yeah I definitely went overseas and actually I had looked in America back in the day when I first I had this idea, because originally I’m from Colombia so in my way there I actually looked in America for suppliers and there is actually good ones there, but at the moment I’m not working with any American suppliers.

Steve: Okay and I’m just curious what is the price differential from going to China versus like the US or Australia for example?

Carmen: At the moment I’m working with India and I think the prices might be quite similar.

Steve: Oh really?

Carmen: Yes, it probably might be a little bit more expensive than to go to America and a little bit cheaper to go to China I will say, but the prices are not – it’s just not that massive. I think when it comes to silk; silk is not cheap anywhere so I think is very similar regardless, yes.

Steve: Okay, so if that’s the case why are you still going overseas as opposed to going locally?

Carmen: No what I say is similar when it comes to doing America or…

Steve: Okay.

Carmen: Yes, yes.

Steve: Okay got it.

Carmen: Nothing local, at the moment I don’t have anything local, I think the quality one — I haven’t really explored someone that can actually make my own garments locally. You can find local people but obviously they are sourcing it from overseas.

Steve: Okay and when you first got started how many designs – like there is this misconception that you have to have like a huge variety when you launch. I’m just curious how many styles you had when you first launched your store?

Carmen: Yes definitely it doesn’t have to be a lot of styles and like myself and I used to have that belief as well, I have to have a massive store for people to come and buy and they need to have all these options. But no, at the beginning as I said the first time was one dress that one particular lady wanted to purchase, so I had that one on the website, and then I started to upload a couple, so probably when I first launched the website I have five designs and I started to build it from there.

I didn’t have a lot of designs and I don’t think when it comes to someone wanting to buy your product, I don’t think they are very worried about you having a massive amount of choices. I think it is all about offering quality, being trustworthy and offering something that they really want and need and being there for your customer and building that relationship. They don’t really care that you have a lot. At the moment I have somehow many more designs but I didn’t start with that many.

Steve: Okay and then what platform did you ultimately choose to run your store on?

Carmen: At the moment we are on Shopify and I do have experience with having open cart when I had the underwear business and that was very difficult. So I recommend to everyone just go to Shopify, it’s much faster.

Steve: Did you do your own website design on Shopify?

Carmen: Yes I did.

Steve: Okay and just curious how long did it take you to get your store up and running assuming you had all the photos and everything ready to go?

Carmen: It was really quick, I did it probably in a weekend, but I’m not saying that it’s something that is that easy to do. I did it that fast because I spent years before with my other business. So I already made all these mistakes, I already had a little bit of experience with Photoshop, I knew how to sort of the photography, I really knew photography well, I already knew more, I really knew how to organize a photo shoot. I really understood the whole process; I understood a little bit of design because I learnt all of that from my previous business.

So it was very fast when I started this part of the business, just setting up the shop because I had the experience and I also had an open cart website before, so I was involved with a little bit of coding and a little bit of everything. I understood a little bit. Not very technical but I understood.

Steve: Okay and just curious like you mentioned are you designing your own patterns for your kaftans or just the prints?

Carmen: Everything at the moment.

Steve: The patterns too?

Carmen: Yes, yes.

Steve: Okay, does that mean that you know how to design clothing?

Carmen: Well I will say maybe yes.

Steve: Or did you hire someone to design it for you?

Carmen: No at the moment I do the whole design, the whole process.

Steve: Okay.

Carmen: Yeah at the moment I do everything, obviously I’m not a graphic designer, so I do work with graphic designers to help me put it all together, but I do solve everything, the inspiration, how I want it to look, how the sleeves look, how long is it going to be, how wide, all the measurements, all the patterns, everything. I am, different samples everything together and give them the instructions to get it all done.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

So what software do you use to do that, I’m just curious?

Carmen: Photoshop.

Steve: Oh Photoshop okay, so you just lay out the measurements in Photoshop?

Carmen: Exactly yeah.

Steve: Okay so there is nothing special in terms of software or graphic design?

Carmen: There is a bit at the end, when they are going to print it they have other softwares that they need to put it all in to their softwares and then they need to print on to the fabric. So I don’t do the printing because that all is done overseas, but I put together the design and how everything is going to look and what the measurements are and I send it to them, then they need to put it on their own systems just to get it finalized pretty much.

Steve: Okay and in terms of what you’re sending them, is it just like each individual piece of fabric cut out?

Carmen: No they do everything overseas, so what they get from me is the actual designs and the measurements, and if they need something physical I will
send them something physical.

Steve: Oh no that’s not what I meant, I meant like when you’re laying it out in Photoshop, is it on a per piece basis like a kaftan might have different pieces of fabric sown together. When you’re sending them in the Photoshop, are you sending them a design of each individual piece of fabric and then they put it together?

Carmen: Yes correct, so it’s a lot of specifications and a lot of measurements, and I actually do everything at home and I start to try them at home and I try it on. I also have my sewing machine here if I need to put something together. So I try to do as much as I can until I am comfortable with it and then I can tell them, because a lot of things can get lost in translation as well. So I make sure that I understand and they understand what the final is going to look like, and then we just do one sample and they send me the sample, and then it’s a little back and forth until I am happy.

Steve: Okay that’s amazing, so you’re like a one stop shop yourself, like you understand how to design the clothing and you even put together a sample yourself like a prototype?

Carmen: Yes, yes I also I always have loved clothing and that type of clothing, so I had an idea and my family has always been involved in fashion and my mum is very good at sewing and making clothes. So I kind of have a lot of that idea of what is involved making clothing so yeah.

Steve: Okay, all right well let’s shift gears and talk about sales, so you got your first sale off of your Facebook page, how are you making consistent sales today?

Carmen: It’s actually the same, so it has continued to be Facebook but over the times, it’s been about a year that we have been within on the business and it has started to grow a little bit outside the Facebook but it is still a community that we have there. Now that I started to gain regular customers, so I have continued other relationship with them through email as well, and that’s pretty much how we have continued either a little bit of influencer marketing, some couple of bloggers that have been working with us to build the brand, but it’s pretty much still Facebook page.

Steve: Okay can we talk about your Facebook page then, how do you maintain it like how often do you post, what do you post?

Carmen: I post at least three, well sometimes nothing but ideally it is at least three times per day just to continue with the consistency, and I found that my customers really love it. I just make sure that everything is about engaging with them and everything is about having that conversation and everything is about them, and every time somebody comments being there for them straight away.
Even if they say well I love this and this is beautiful always reply thank you so much, thank you for the love, we can’t wait to show you what’s coming. It’s all about staying in touch with the customers.

Steve: How do you decide what to post, are you just posting pictures of products or are you posting content?

Carmen: At the moment well it was pretty much through that but right now we’re posting little bit of content, so slowly started to do a couple of blog posts but even each picture on its own has a little bit of content on it. So it’s not only the photo, but the photo might have a little bit of [inaudible 00:28:08], it might say this particular color will look beautiful with this particular type of shoes or this particular location.

So even that picture has a little bit of information and a little bit of advice and I think that’s what our customers love because it’s not about only telling them buy this, it’s all about what do you need, I’m here to help you and I’m here to give you advice. Are you going to a cruise ship, this is what will be beautiful to wear for thin air, that’s what – this is beautiful for the pool side, so they really respond to that.

Steve: So are you posting these questions on the group as well?

Carmen: Yes, it’s only a Facebook page, we don’t have a group.

Steve: Facebook page, okay so you’re like doing customer service on your Facebook page essentially?

Carmen: Exactly yeah.

Steve: Okay and are you still buying likes at all anymore?

Carmen: No not anymore, so we stopped very – probably we stopped at 3,000 likes I think or less. So all the rest, we have almost 11,000 likes and
everything has been organic.

Steve: Do you remember how much you paid for those 3,000 likes early on?

Carmen: I remember back on the day I was probably investing $5 or $10 a day and getting maybe 20 likes.

Steve: About 25 cents a like?

Carmen: Yes something like that, but very early on I stopped yes.

Steve: Okay and I’m just curious when you’re running a Facebook page now like when you post something the reach is very low, so are you boosting your posts, are you paying for ads?

Carmen: Ads, so at the moment it’s all ads based and that’s how we reach and continue to reach customers, so it’s pretty much ads every day and there’s a combination of ads and a little bit of email marketing, yeah that’s pretty much.

Steve: Okay do you feel comfortable talking about your ads a little bit?

Carmen: Yes let’s talk a little bit.

Steve: Okay all right so what does the ad copy look like and who are you targeting?

Carmen: The target is – do you want to be too specific about the particular target?

Steve: Sure.

Carmen: But I mean a little bit in general, I do different ads for different targets, and then I see which one is going to take off, so it’s a constant trial and error all the time.

Steve: Are you pointing your ads directly to your kaftans or do you point them to like a content page?

Carmen: No it’s actually to the product.

Steve: To the product okay.

Carmen: Yes to the products. I remember you mentioning a lot what you do pointing it to content, no but I do directly to the product. There is something I might explore a little bit of going to the content but people really actually like to see the products really like.

Steve: Okay and then so you’re making more money than you’re spending on these ads obviously?

Carmen: Oh yes they are really profitable yes.

Steve: Okay and are you selling only on your site right now, are you selling on Amazon or anywhere else?

Carmen: No I sell on eBay actually.

Steve: eBay interesting.

Carmen: Yes but not a lot, just a little bit because of the price point. We have an early rush, our cheapest price is $120 so probably eBay, there’s not a lot of people on eBay that will see – they will go and spend that kind of money probably, but I have an eBay page and I have people coming through it and making purchases as well and they are really happy as well, I get beautiful feedback from the people there, yes.

Steve: So I’m just curious why eBay and not Amazon?

Carmen: It’s just been a lack of time probably, Amazon is definitely something that I will be exploring soon, but Amazon is just being probably lack of time, my being just busy with the website and to be honest my original idea was to go on Amazon. That was my objective and I never even wanted to start my website that soon within a week.

What I was going to do is the Facebook page, use it to start my Amazon business, but because I saw that the business has started to not only be an online store but it started to become a little bit of a brand, I decided, okay I might just stay within my website, it’s something that I probably will have more control of. Amazon is a little bit more difficult being in Australia, so it is just at the end even though that was the idea, I think it turned out a little bit better for us to stay within our own website and build our own label in our own realistic rather than being in Amazon.

Steve: I’m just curious, so that means you’re carrying your own inventory, is that correct?

Carmen: Correct yes.

Steve: So where are you storing everything?

Carmen: Everything is at home.

Steve: Really?

Carmen: Yes.

Steve: Okay.

Carmen: There is a lot of stock.

Steve: So does that mean that you do your own shipping and fulfillment as well?

Carmen: Yes I do everything, not for long, I think is we’re getting to the point where it’s just not going to happen for everything to stay here for me to do everything, so yes, so very soon it’s going to change, and we got nothing with fulfillment.

Steve: So I’m just curious how do – I mean you have a new born, so how does your day look?

Carmen: Well I’m very busy; it’s not a lot of sleep. For new mums out there they understand what it is like but I also will say to any new mum in business that it is definitely possible and it is actually a good idea to start before hand before you have the baby, but it doesn’t matter what stage you are at. So it’s pretty much when the bay sleeps I work, that’s how my day is like, and I have a good baby in terms of he’s easy going when he goes to go out.

If I need to go and run errands for the business he’s let me and he’s very good, but pretty much I wake up in the morning, I feed the baby, I get ready to start my day, I put the baby to sleep and I do some work and then it’s all about going back to feed, going back to play for the baby, I’m going back to work for me. So that’s a very busy day.

Steve: Do you get a lot of phone calls?

Carmen: I do but I don’t offer – so pretty much there is no numbers on my website.

Steve: There isn’t, okay.

Carmen: No it’s only when someone contacts us by email and they say they want to talk to someone I will definitely give them the number. I do have a number for the business, so I do give them the number and they’re happy to call where I said to them I’m happy to give you a call back with this number to those and that’s how we do it.

Steve: Okay so here’s a couple of rapid fire questions that I’m just curious about, so how much money did you invest to start this business?

Carmen: It was only pretty much just the cost of the website and the cost of the first garments and it took off from there, so it was probably around $500.

Steve: $500 okay.

Carmen: Yes I will say it’s not a massive investment, and obviously the investment on the course, because I think everything really took off when I started the course with you. So I think that has been my best investment today for sure.

Steve: And how long did it take you to put up your site?

Carmen: Just to get it up and running?

Steve: Aha.

Carmen: It was also it was over the course of a weekend but I’m not saying…

Steve: Like you had experience with it.

Carmen: Exactly.

Steve: Okay.

Carmen: It’s not like it’s something so easy to do, before that I tried having a website and it was on an open cart, it was called PrestaShop, I don’t
know if you heard of it.

Steve: Yes PrestaShop aha.

Carmen: It took me six months to have the website and even after those six months I was literary crying, I had all these developments and people though – please help me because I couldn’t even get it to work. So I learned so much by having that website that now having a Shopify website everything is so much faster and so much easier, and I had the experience just to get it all working.

Steve: Okay and if you had to pick one thing, what would you say your main struggle was in starting out?

Carmen: It was definitely finding the niche, it was finding the niche and obviously connecting to people, and once that happened everything became not on a smooth sail but everything started to make sense. Another struggle is definitely sourcing the product, finding people that you can trust, because you need to understand what quantities you need and you need to take so much risk especially for me because I’m carrying all my inventory and everyday I’m making this business but also everyday I’m buying more and more and more inventory.
You need to really find people that you trust that they want to send you the quality that you really want.

Steve: Can we talk about your vendors a little bit, so are you going with your original vendors, or have you switched a bunch?

Carmen: I do have new ones but I had these ones for months and months at the moment.

Steve: Okay and how did you get them to ship you such small quantities because it sounded like you started out with very low quantities?

Carmen: Yeah I was just lucky I think. When I first contacted them they are very good vendors and the quality is amazing, so they can just be very difficult and say no we only do these minimums, but I was just lucky and I said, look this is a business that is going to be amazing and I said to them, it’s already a big brand but I need to know your products first, and I need to know if your product is the quality that we’re looking for and I really need samples.

So at the beginning that’s how we did it, so they sent me samples and they saw that I was serious because mine is all necessary to be bigger as I promised, and I said mine is all necessary going to be bigger and bigger and that’s what has been happening month after month and I think they trust me and now we have a good relationship.

Steve: Let me ask you this, are the same vendors that you started with early on, are those the same ones that are manufacturing your own designs now?

Carmen: Yes correct. I changed a little bit so I now have a vendor that I stumbled across just trying to find something else and that one is my main vendor at the moment, so that was a bit hard, that was like a lucky strike to find, but I will say Alibaba, AliExpress is still good places to find people.

Steve: Okay and then this other one you just said you found through search or?

Carmen: Yes through search as well yes, so I just been lucky with those ones.

Steve: And when you are approaching someone randomly like on search, how do you vet them, is it the same process you ask for samples and then you just go back and forth?

Carmen: Yes and I really like the fact that there were not very sellsy either, I think they were very private, they are very hard to find and very hard to get in contact with. So to me that sounded like a good thing, and at the same time they were also a little bit skeptical who are you anything, and I think it was a little bit of back and forth to get to know each other and that’s how we got there.

It was a trusting relationship and they started to send me samples and it was all about doing everything. I tried to be very professional, I sent them a questionnaire before anything with every question I can possibly have, and I said to them once you answer these questions to me these are our terms.

So please make sure that everything you answer that’s how you – everything about minimums, everything about privacy, everything, so make sure that you’re happy with that, everything about shipping.

So they will reply and I will reply back and I said I didn’t like this condition what this means, so it like a real contract in between so I did everything — from the beginning everything was so professional, involves but it really works out.

Steve: And in terms of quality control, I mean we do handkerchiefs which is much simpler than kaftans I’m sure and we run into quality problems and I’m just curious if you have run into any quality problems and how you address them.

Carmen: There have been minor quality problems, probably I had one or two products that I had problems with and when that happens I will just say to them, look this happened, please make sure it doesn’t happen again because it’s just not a massive amount, I haven’t had any massive issues.

Steve: Okay does that mean you have inspectors over there or?

Carmen: No, no not at this stage. I definitely want to start working with inspectors just to make sure that as we get bigger everything is going to be okay, but no I’ve been lucky I’ve to say I’ve been quite lucky.

Steve: Wow it’s amazing.

Carmen: Yeah because I always get a sample before anything especially when I’m going to launch a new product. I get the sample, I try it on, I make sure, so obviously the sample is going to be fine. So it’s about trusting that the production run is going to be the same as the sample.

Steve: So Carmen there is a lot of people listening and they are kind of on the sidelines right now, and a lot of them want to know really how hard it was for you to get started, and what sort of advice would you give to people who are kind of waiting on the sidelines today?

Carmen: It is definitely not easy and I understand how everyone out there is feeling. I really want to have my business, I really want to start but I have no idea where. My recommendation is continue to learn and continue to invest on your education, find a mentor. I did your course and that gave me so much direction and also I did benefit so much from your podcast, and that’s why I’m so excited to be here because if in a small way I can tell my story and help other people, I hope that will help them just to push through.

So it’s not easy, it’s not easy to find your niche and it’s not easy to find your product, but it’s also not impossible and it’s also about trial and error. As I said before this business I started another one and that one was not only online, it was a wholesale business and I made so many mistakes but it was all about trying because every mistake that I made really taught me something new.

So don’t be afraid of making the mistakes, just make sure that the risks are calculated, that you are not investing huge amounts of money, that you make a small investments here and there with a little bit of the stock, get a few samples until you find something that will stick pretty much. It does happen and it does happen when you continue to educate yourself for sure.

Steve: One thing I liked about your story Carmen was that in the beginning you didn’t invest any money at all really, like when someone made an order you actually went out and just paid retail prices and shipped it.

Carmen: Yes.

Steve: And you did a lot of research before investing a large sum.

Carmen: Yes because I already made the mistake before, I already had another business and I had a business for a while and I had so much stock that I purchased without knowing exactly which ones were the correct ones, so I bought all this stock and it’s just I think that was the problem just going thinking this is going to be amazing, I’m going to go and buy all this stock.

So you need to find out first if it’s going to be amazing and then do very slowly, and once you’re confident then yes go for it and take a massive risk because you already known this is going to sell eventually at least. But I already made a mistake and I know many people have done it in the past, but yeah you don’t have to buy so much stock at the beginning.

Steve: Okay, hey Carmen I really appreciate you coming on. If anyone is interested in what you have to sell, where can they find you?

Carmen: They can find me on my website which is vizcosa.com, so it’s V-I-Z-C-O-S-A.com, that’s where they can find me, and if they have any questions for me I actually didn’t tell you I have a little of a side project going on which is mentoring for anybody because I get so many people asking me how did you start your business. So if anybody has any questions, they can actually get in touch with me in vizcosa.com/page/mentoring, so they can get to me and stuff.

Steve: Okay and you ship outside of Australia at the present time or just in Australia?

Carmen: Yes I get customers from – I even got a customer from Germany.

Steve: Oh wow.

Carmen: Oh my god, she’s amazing, she’s a regular customer now, and constantly emailing me, what do you have new, so definitely I do ship outside. I ship to America for sure and especially shipping to America, to New Zealand and I have customers in Europe and a little bit in South America. So even though my business is mostly in Australia, I do get customers and sales that come from overseas

Steve: Well that’s good to know, so if anyone needs a kaftan, check out vizcosa.com.

Carmen: Yes I can give you a code for your audience if they want to get a kaftan.

Steve: Well you’re going to be part of my holiday gift card again this year, right?

Carmen: Wonderful of course.

Steve: Okay wonderful. Well so you guys can look forward to a blog post where I outline a bunch of stores that some of my students have put out and obviously Carmen is going to be there.

Carmen: Of course, my pleasure, I will be more than excited to.

Steve: Okay well thanks a lot for coming on the show Carmen, I really appreciate it.

Carmen: Thank you so much for having me Steve, it’s been a pleasure.

Steve: All right take care.

Carmen: Bye, bye.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now I often get questions from readers whether I have any international students who have been successful online, and not only is Carmen doing great but she’s making the majority of her sales on her own website as well. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode156.

Once again I want to thank klaviyo.com for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants, and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. If you want to give it a try it is free, so head on over to privy.com/steve, that’s privy.com/steve.

I talk about how I use all these tools on my blog, so if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

155: Jonathan Fields On The Good Life Project And How To Find Meaning As An Entrepreneur

Share On Facebook

Jonathan Fields On The Good Life Project And How To Find Meaning As An Entrepreneur

Play

Today, I’ve got an extra special guest on the show. He’s someone who I’ve followed and looked up to every since I started blogging in 2009 and that person is Jonathan Fields.

Jonathan is an amazing writer, speaker, podcaster and he has this incredible ability to build community. What I also like about him is that he’s a family man we share a lot of the same values when it comes to life and business. In other words, he’s very mindful of balance and living a full life.

Today, we are going to talk about the good life project and his latest book how to live a good life.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why many successful entrepreneurs aren’t happy
  • How to find meaning in your work
  • How to make forward progress with your business and life
  • How to cultivate and form meaningful connections
  • Why complexity breeds stress

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Today I have Jonathan Fields with me on the show.

Now Jonathan runs the Good Life Project and he’s actually an entrepreneur that is near and dear to my heart, and in fact when I first started blogging back in 2009, Jonathan actually inspired me to write from a more personal level as opposed to just putting out strange ecommerce tutorials. In any case Jonathan is an amazing guy, so please enjoy the interview.

Now before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Now I’m super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I depend on them for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email provider. Well Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it’s so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email out to everyone who purchased a linen napkin in the last week, piece of cake. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, easy peasy, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s also cool is that I use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. And what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here is why I like and chose Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can actually tell Privy to flash a popup when a customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or display a related offer. In terms of email capture, I’m showing different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed into Klaviyo to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve, try it for free, and if you decide you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com, P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I have an extra special guest on the show. He is someone who I have followed and looked up to ever since I started blogging in 2009, and that person is Jonathan Fields. Now Jonathan is an amazing writer, speaker, podcaster and he has this incredible ability to build community.

And what I also like about him is that he’s a family man, we share a lot of the same values when it comes to life and business, and in other words he’s a very mindful person about balance and living a full life. I remember back in 2008/ 2009 I was going through an entrepreneurial crossroads and his blogs at the time Career Renegade and Awake at the Wheel were ones that I read whenever I needed a pick me up.

So just for fun I looked at my email archives and I found an email dated November 4th 2008 where I reached out and wrote him a fairly long email about my story, how my wife wants to quit, how I want to start a business, how I want to spend time with my family yaddi, yaddi, yadda, and he replied with a one liner, thank you for your email.

And I was like yes Jonathan Fields replied to my email, and later on he actually sent me his book Career Renegade as well and I was stocked. Anyway today we’re going to talk about the Good Life Project and his latest book on how to live a good life, and with that welcome to the show Jonathan, how are you doing today man?

Jonathan: I’m doing really well, now I’m feeling so guilty about my liner back in 2008. I’m like it’s fine with me because that was a time I think I remember where I was really – I was just very newly aligned and very newly public and I just – I was like how do I deal with this bandwidth thing and how do I – so I started taking a nod from Seth Godin who basically responds to most emails but generally it’s never long, I think it’s three to five words and look it’s good enough for Seth it’s got to be good enough for me.

Steve: Hey you know I was just happy to hear from you, you know those five words were powerful.

Jonathan: Awesome.

Steve: So Jonathan I know your work well but for the benefit of the listeners can you just tell us what the Good life Project is all about and actually if you won’t mind what happened to Career Renegade, because I must have missed some memo long ago? One day I went there and it was just gone.

Jonathan: Oh the website you mean?

Steve: Yeah the website.

Jonathan: You know it’s interesting, I’m not entirely sure, so there were two things that happened. One is that we launched that site at the same time that the book launched and started to feel that is something separate. Then is realized pretty quickly that I just didn’t have the capacity to be building content on that website and also blogging, this is in the very early days where it was really just me and a desk, I had no help and no team.

Steve: Okay.

Jonathan: So we folded — I made an announcement back then and I said, “Listen, we’re merging the content site of Career Renegade into what was then my blog which I called Awake at the Wheel and we put it all on to my main website at jonathanfields.com and which kind of intervened there. And then I stopped refreshing and updating careerrenegade.com and I didn’t pay attention to it and I noticed, I don’t know but it was either a month or a couple of months, it could even have been a few years later that I just clicked on the site and I noticed that it was somebody else.

Something must have happened where the URL expired, I never got notification, somebody was sitting on it and immediately grabbed it up. I had no idea because I hadn’t launched a long time but they had even stolen some of my graphics and the load on stuff like that I had put up there, but fundamentally it was designed just for the book and when I realized that I really couldn’t store two different properties I folded the main part of that into my personal website at the time.

Steve: But today you have jonathanfields.com and you have goodlifeproject.com as well, right?

Jonathan: I do yes, Jonathan Fields is where I decided to do some of the longer essay sound writing, and it tends to be less frequent, and Good Life Project is really where most of my focus is, most of my energy is since the beginning of 2012, and here you’re asking what in the world is Good Life Project.

There are two ways to look at it, one is sort of on a bigger picture, it’s we’re on a mission to inspire, support and educate people in the quest of living a more connected, more meaningful, more lit up lives. And one layer deeper that takes the form of media and education venture where we produce media video to audio podcasts, where we create and produce courses and events, experiences, everything from centered on our courses to a once a year annual summer camp for adults where 400 people get on plane trips and obviously not allowed to take over [inaudible 00:07:57] and then build the community.

It’s really built around this idea of establishing a clear set of values and beliefs ethos, and then sharing that and other things and saying, hey you see the work of this, when you see it come join us and we’re assisting each other.

Steve: You know what I love about the Good Life Project is that everything you do, the production quality is just always amazing, and then the guests that you have on, they just have so much depth, and what I really like about what I’ve seen so far is that money is never the focus. What I was hoping to do and just to start out with was if you can give the audience an example of one of your favorite guests, and why they particularly resonate with you, that would be great.

Jonathan: Oh man yeah you’re right money is never the focus, it’s an interesting measure, brought so much rejection that is actually not the measure and it’s a [inaudible 00:08:50] indicator and not only an indicator of a life well lived. So many incredible guests over the years, [inaudible 00:08:56] we kind of like it really it just clicked like more of lost friends and she’s such a – so, so awesome and deeply bright, her life is so open and so utterly herself.

What I love I think most about her is that she is unapologetically her; there is no herself that you have to wait, if something is on her mind she will tell you, and she will tell you just so you see her there. She’s also deeply wise, she’s a researcher, she does a lot of theory research and seeing the vulnerability and courage. So I read that she runs a real academic writer with her ideas and she actually loves the world.

And interestingly similarly, but really similar in that she’s also unapologetically herself [inaudible 00:09:49] is the author I deeply love and [inaudible 00:09:51] really just had a fantastic nature of her love treatment on the world, and she’s actually a person with [inaudible 00:10:25] also but instead of deep academic writer, she’s unapologetically like a guru as well. She believes that ideas exist in the ethos and plenty of things and are just looking for people to come and touch reality from out of us.

So I love the sort of like really pull her ox, it lands on so many things but at the same time deep and shared values there and also just a willingness to stand out and say this is who I am.

Steve: Yeah that’s the common theme of all of your guests and then here’s what I always get. The people that tend to be the happiest tend to be those who don’t hold anything back, they just act themselves, and that’s what I love about the guests that you always bring on, it’s just amazing.

Jonathan: Yeah I think that’s true and I think that’s probably one of the things that we keep want to talk to them is because I know that we’re going to have a real conversation, and what’s interesting is most of my guests also are a bit further into life, so very often they’ve been through enough on their struggle, enough challenge that they can shake in some way to starting really looking at what matters on the people that will start to let go some of the posture and position that all of us are journeying on to essential times of our lives and interested in that process of letting go and are interested in how people move into through that to that better place.

Steve: So Jonathan I actually know your back story pretty well, but just for the benefit of the listeners who might not have heard of you before, can you kind of tell us what kind of events led you to create the Good Life Project, and why you think the way that you do today?

Jonathan: Yeah so depends how far back do you want me to go?

Steve: Well you were a lawyer and you – yeah.

Jonathan: So I was a [inaudible 00:11:45] kid. I’m really like an entrepreneur, I took this weird left turn and I went to law school. I had actually barely attended class in college and I just got my first sort of legitimacy in college which I saw at the end and I got really curious about what I was into actually [inaudible 00:12:03] because I knew I hadn’t really tested that in any way in college.

So after taking a little bit of time off I went to law school and with the intention of just really focusing and seeing what [inaudible 00:12:14]. I was very fortunate, I did very well, graduated from my class and then to a great opportunity. So I ended up practicing law first at the security and exchange commission with Federal government which was a whole interesting trip. Now something like 20 years later I’m just finally able to actually start to talk about some of what really happened because we were on this barrel of sequences for a long time.

And then I went to [inaudible 00:12:39] and I went and became a deal lawyer in the securities for a mega firm in New York where we were going to hedge funds and the best being ridiculous and that’s money and doing all this creating this in. Then I ended up basically [inaudible 00:12:54], I was making a ton of money, I had the power, the prestige that so many people often desire to and I was dying inside and literally dying inside, because I ended up in emergency surgery after my system shut down.

A huge infection was munching in the middle of my body, ended up going through many tests and so not believe everything is okay but it was a wakeup call for me and it certainly be that much promotion. I had a lifelong interest both in entrepreneurship and inside of my body conviction and also in the speaker question, once you need to be your life that lived well.

So that took me from being a lawyer to making 12 bucks an hour as a professional trainer because I wanted to learn the health and fitness in this trip [ph] from the ground up. Nothing matters from the middle down but from the ground up what was really happening and where were the gaps that all of a sudden I thought I could solve, and actually did get a whole bunch.

From there I ended up launching my first facility through that, after about two and a half years sold my interests to an investor here to do a little time off to [inaudible 00:13:57]. And then opened the other CDM in Hellskitchen [ph] New York City because I was getting really interested in yoga, and I saw again a gap I saw in me that wasn’t being filled. I at that point was married, I had a home, I had a three month old baby girl, and I signed on a lease specifically on the first floor on the building and actually the day before 9/11.

That led me into quite an odyssey in there and really questioning everything and dealing with the intense feelings that broke within the city. We had gotten to moving forward in launching that center and it became this beautiful solution committee where we ended up with thousands of students from all over the world and training so many teachers to go out into the world [inaudible 00:14:46].

Steve: I vaguely remember that you thought that the yoga studio was just a huge struggle and a mistake early on, was that…

Jonathan: Yeah the first year was brutal and actually there were some really big missteps that I made, everyone talks about their successes, I screwed that left and right. This was the most real atmosphere that you can ever try and open and build a business in, and we identified the fact that entrepreneurship especially to traditional brick and mortal where you have a physical facility, you have inventory, you have employees, you have all these people coming to assess, this is just a really hard and fraught and super challenging.

I remember sitting on a coach probably about a year into it with my hands just beating myself, I just want to know is this going to work or it isn’t going to work. Just give me a sign, I almost there was a window I probably I almost didn’t care if I succeed or fail, I just wanted some certainty.

Every entrepreneur gets through that even the most successful, we all had windows of time where it’s up, up, up, up and then we’re like, okay for me to push to the next level, I’m going to have to sit back and into that sit of uncertainty again and I don’t know what’s going to happen. If you never do that, then you end up going sideways and actually not backing up.

So I went through that in the early days for sure, then later we know the deep emotion on top of that and what we were building and the fact that we were building functionally what I call a business of belonging, a business where we’re building, it was based on a community and inspiration to elevation and providing source of belonging for people and it was really powerful and at the same time very challenging.

Steve: Are you still running that studio today?

Jonathan: No, it ended 2008. So right around the time that you found me actually, so I guess it was at the end of 2007 I started to really become interested in writing, and I decided to sell my first idea for both [inaudible 00:16:54] so it was written on it and I kind of knew at that point that I was starting to be more checked out in this physical business and it wasn’t fair.

I had a great management team, at that point we were really flourishing, we were doing well, we were established for seven years, but I knew it wasn’t my future and I also knew that because it was based largely on community, the community needs somebody who cares as a leader and I was checked out. I cared but I wasn’t really super invested any more, I wasn’t their commitment either.

So I think 2008 I sold the entire company and I started as this small fellow on writing, and speaking and building business in the digital space, which I did and made some different iterations, got enough growth and then actually everything kind of came together. The company and this thing called Good Life project in January 2012 which literary started as an annual refreshing blog post [inaudible 00:17:54] what I want to do.

That turned into a 40 page designed annual report which I kind of released that into the world and that thing kind of took off in its number is 100 times. At the end of it I pieced this thing called my ten commandments of that big business and also this thing called Good Life project which I didn’t honestly know what it was going to be. But I just knew that I want to create something, and I knew that I wanted to produce me at a completely higher level and take my quest to learn from other embodied teachers and turn it into a more mature business in my location, and be able to turn around and share what I was learning.

Steve: You know what’s interesting about your story is that I get emails from readers and listeners that they’re going through the same thing. They start a business and they might be doing really well, but they’re just not happy and on the flip side there is also people that feel stuck at their jobs but they aren’t happy either.

And so I know your latest book kind of covers this and I was hoping we can go through this a little bit, what is missing with these people and how do you figure out what’s going to make you happy?

Jonathan: Yeah, so one, feeling happiness is the wrong nurture. We get our purpose obsessively on happiness and as you can hear in the background by the way I’m near [inaudible 00:19:19] actually so you can hear the occasional siren and this is legit MRC, so you’re getting the full experience.

So happiness is great, happiness is something that we all want to experience, happiness can also – when you focus on like making that a primary metric for your living a good life, it can actually make you less happy, because everything you do you know like I’m happy, I’m not happy, I’m happy. We start to realize that a lot of times you’re not happy but here’s the thing, nobody is happy all the time and try to actually – when you set yourself up for I just want to be happy all the time, you set yourself up for failure.

Happiness is a fleeting space; it snaps on your life, it’s not the movie of your life. When you try to make it the movie of your life, it makes you less happy than happy, you’re are going to try that, we also have genetic settings for happiness. So we’re not entirely in control of our happiness, so you will get somebody next to you who is giggling most of the time and you’re not that way we think well it’s my job, it’s my relationship, it’s something else.

No probably it’s just your wiring and that’s okay. Be as happy as you can be. So I think the much more important metric that I’ve seen is a sense of am I doing something that lights me up, is it allowing me to use my strengths in a way that I feel strongly utilized, is it allowing me to use whatever natural gifts and talents I have in a way that feels like I’m competent and confident. Is it providing me a sense of true legal meaning? We’re in the classic and it’s just central crisis which is really what you’re talking about here. It’s not a crisis of happiness, it’s not a crisis of love, it’s not a crisis of money, it’s a crisis of meaning.

So when you stop asking okay what’s going to make me happy and say how can I add meaning to my life, what happens is a couple of things. One meaning is a metric that you can build and create an enduring business, meaning it’s also something that you can develop and cultivate even when you’re not in your happiest moods, in fact sometimes deep suffering becomes a profound source of meaning.

At the same time when you pursue meaning happiness tends to insulate as a byproduct of that pursuit and that so much help your way to pursue it. So for somebody who is sitting there and saying okay I’ve either built a cage of my own creation as an entrepreneur or I feel stuck in a job, I’m just not happy, part of the expression for me is, okay first feel back inside. There is a really good chance that you actually have no clue who you are, what matters to you, what lights you up, what your strengths are.

So before you actually say okay like just start doing things. The first thing that you could actually do is spend a little bit of time in self discovery, so with my newest book how to live a good life there is a whole section I call contribution just basically about how you bring yourself to the world and what I haven’t said it explicitly, but it is set up, it’s like the first half of that whole section is really a whole bunch of conversations around ideas that are about self discovery, self knowledge.

The second half is okay now that I know a little bit more about myself and who I am and what matters to me, how can I move that on to the world and start to apply this, how can I actually interact with the world. So if you’re stuck at a job, you’re not going to know how to get unstuck until you know who you are, what matters to you and what you care about and then at that point you can start to say, oh now I see why I feel this way and now I have a much clearer picture of where the misalignments are, the lack in fulfillments are and now I understand where the focus of what to do to resolve this.

The truth is that many people actually don’t have to leave a job to feel better, to find more meaning, to get happier. They just have to know all about themselves which is really good news if you’re in the middle of your life and you have responsibilities and a family. People think they have to blow it up, but very often they don’t.

Steve: You said a lot of stuff there and actually it kind of parallels my life. I just actually recently quit my job, I had been extremely happy working my day job in addition to all these side businesses and it was just recently that I realized I want to spend more time with my kids and so I just finally pulled the trigger, but it was just a very gradual process, nothing huge, I didn’t blow anything up.

Jonathan: Yeah and for most – it’s interesting for I tend to be actually a little bit more of a seller than the average seller, so I’ve blown things up in the past, but I also I’m fast to let people know my example should not necessarily be your example, because most people are actually not wired the same way that I am, and also most people over estimate the speed at which they’ll be joined for in their next iteration and how joyful they’ll be, and they underestimate the pain of the disruption that will be caused by blowing things up.

So the big advisory there is you may have to actually do that to go to where you want to be but that may be part of your process. But if you don’t have to I think it’s so much better to take the path of seeing if you can optimize your current reality particularly watching it first before blowing it up.

There is a whole [inaudible 00:24:43] as long as it’s not a job [inaudible 00:24:45] that is actually researched and published and documented that describes how all sorts of things that you can do to potentially redefine the job that you have or redefine the role that you have or redefine the path and make it your own without having to leave it, and sometimes at the end you’re like you said [inaudible 00:25:04] and I optimized it and it was good and it was just time I really know.
At the same time what you did was you built the next step on the side to a point where it was very easy to just kind of transfer laterally into it without having to go through the pain disrupting, and for most people even if you do make a decision that I have to leave, that’s very often serve the most bearable weight there.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.
And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

You know here’s the thing, I get a lot of emails also from people who and again this is kind of where you were talking about where people have problems finding their strengths. They’ll say, “Hey Steve I don’t have any particular talents to give to the world, I can’t think of anything that will make money.” What are some of the exercises that you would prescribe to kind of help people figure these things out?

Jonathan: Yeah first separate those two questions like I can’t figure out what are my strengths and what will make money, because if you try and answer that within the same continuum you’re pretty much always going to lose, because if you have a strength where there is a very clear conventional path to make a living doing that, that’s awesome.

But some people do but a lot of people don’t and then what they do is instead of saying, well this is my strength but there is no conventional path to earning a living, so I’m going to try and brainstorm and figure out unconventional paths. They actually tell themselves well this can’t be my strength then because it’s not going to make me money and they invalidate that strength which is massively destructive, because then they will write out themselves and say, I don’t really know what my strengths are or what my gifts and abilities are because they can’t make any money and that’s not a metric.

They are your strengths and capabilities whether they generate money for you or not and may end up being the thing that you can build a career or a company around, and at the same time they may end up not being the thing, they may end up being the thing that you do on the side, and increasingly I feel like that’s okay.

As long as you understand, really understand what they are, they don’t necessarily have to be the thing that earns you, that becomes primary source of income for you. If they are that’s great, that’s really the holy grail, hey I wake up in the morning and the thing that allows me to fully utilize my strengths and abilities and feel lit up is also the thing that allows me to earn everything I need to take care of myself and my family, that’s fantastic, that’s not always possible.

So the question sometimes becomes, okay how do I get so committed to my life in a way that makes me okay – I mean if the thing that lets you earn more than anything on earth is being a parent, we don’t derive a paycheck from that. But if you feel like the god of the universe or whatever is putting you here because you have this astonishing gift in parenting and that’s where you’re feeling lit having reached below this, that’s fantastic and if at the same time you’re somebody who has to generate, who has to contribute to the family income, there may be a way to somehow figure out how to leverage that but there may not.

So having the option of saying okay I’m going to create a way to generate an income that’s fine, it’s okay. That doesn’t empty me out, but it’s also not the thing that makes me utterly lit up but it makes me baseline okay, it makes me feel like I’m not struggling and stuff in my life. I’m not just constantly reacting from a place of scarcity and fear, and that allows me to then go home and be really doing the present in the thing that does light me up and then what I do believe is my greatest contribution which is my role as a parent.

We’ve invalidated that especially in the entrepreneurship world especially in the online world, we’ve invalidated that option, we said that is not okay. I think we do a massive disservice with people who don’t know their lives, ideally not because they do believe that is the best option.

Steve: But it is not [crosstalk 00:30:25] though. It’s hard to separate the two, right because people have needs and often times it’s monetary needs and they want to find something that they would enjoy doing and make money…

Jonathan: Yeah and if you can that’s fantastic, to me that’s the best, the first line, but what I’m saying is allow the possibility that that is not actually going to happen. So I would say like, okay so you guys I mean the original question is how do we figure out our space and my gifts or whatever is my capabilities. So there are a couple of different tools, in the book I talk about two different strength successes. One is called the VIA strengths inventory and the other is something which is more common that people know about which is strengths under [ph].

Those are great tools that you can use where you literary takes you about 20, 30 minutes to take normal assessment. One is [inaudible 00:31:17] and they will give you really good sense for those things that really – you feel like when you contribute to the world, when you live, when you act in the space, you really feel connected, you feel a big sense of meaning and joy. You feel lit up.

At the same time there are sets of ways to live [inaudible 00:31:36], think about it; take yourself back to when you were nine years old. Forget about when you were getting a PHD, we don’t need that. Then just ask yourself what did I do, what did I do that I loved, what did I watch that I just couldn’t get enough of. I talk about in the book these things I call the spots, the five hidden spots, and one of them is what is called things to do is figure out what is your spot or what are your blinded spots.

So the first stops are purely [inaudible 00:32:03] you have a burning question, are you’re willing to solve a problem, what is fascination, is there an interesting topic or field or something you’re deeply fascinated by. Three is – I’m in a blank on this, right?

Steve: No it’s okay.

Jonathan: Three is – so if we go through them, three is immersion, an immersion of an interesting activity that you love to be immersed, it’s like you’re getting to that first state when you do. You don’t do it for any other reason, you’re not trying to solve a problem, you’re not thirsty about how to do it, you just love doing this thing, you feel alive when you do it.

Four is a mastery spot; you are most lit off when you’re pursuing progress, when you’re pursuing mastery in something. You find this as a service spot; you’re most lit up when you’re being in service of some other being even if that being is an animal or nature.

So most of us have a [inaudible 00:32:52], we also have one that’s really struggling to dominate, so ask yourself, go through those five, then say okay what are my spots and what is this spot that really lights me up that I tend to always live by. And then start to dig out, okay is there some conventional way, is there some conventional path to build my living on a business around the ability to be engaged in those spots and my strengths.

For many people there will be an answer, for some there won’t be an answer and then the idea is, okay I’m convinced here and that’s where you just start getting creative and seeing that there is a brainstorming. Not so many people will get all sorts of different opportunities and testing next. So to me that’s more the process, when you allow people to get to where we’re like yeah I had it figured out either conventionally or unconventionally, I was in the dial that in.

But some people will still get to that point and they’re like, you know what I know what lights me up, I know what my strengths are, I know I’m simply being [inaudible 00:33:54], I know all these things and looked at the conventional path, and there is not a path there. I’ve seen a ton of time looking unconventionally and I’m not going to give up on that, but I really just don’t see it yet, and does that mean that I’m just doomed to live a life where I’ll never serve and never light up, there is no meaning?

The answer is no, but the answer is it may not be the thing that is your primary contribution to your livelihood. It may be the thing that you end up doing on the side. There is a fascinating book called Daily Rituals and this is the book that actually mark the Daily Rituals of many of the greatest creators of all time from artists, computers works, painters, across all the different things.

There is a really interesting pattern that emerges in that book which is that many of the greatest writers; artists of all time did it on the side. They had a regular nine to five work a day jobs and they never dreamed of quitting those jobs. And here is the reason why because if they quit the jobs, then that would put an immediate pressure on them to have to figure out a way to make their side in spite of the odds, generate a full [inaudible 00:35:08] living.

And that would start to put a lot of pressure on them to start to commoditize what they’re doing rather than allowing it to be a full and genuine expression of who they are without regard to whether it’s going to generate money for the family, and they didn’t want to unstring themselves by doing that. So when you look at – there are just too many examples of people who have contributed on extraordinary levels lived greatly by being really happy in like making their primary contribution, the primary thing that lit them up, making that happen not during nine to five but five to nine and on the weekends.

Seeing that over and over has really shifted my lens on validating that topic, it may not be the first path that you try to explore, but you may find that that is the path that you’re in, and to me if you asked me five years ago I’d probably say don’t keep pushing. Increasingly I don’t believe that, increasingly I believe that is a viable offer to establish.

Steve: You know one thing about your book which I actually read last night so it’s very fresh in my mind that particularly resonated with me was your emphasis on travelling in the slow lane from time to time. This is actually a revelation that I recently had because I was looking at my ecommerce business and this entire time I’ve been trying to just grow it and grow and grow it.

Whenever you grow something, that comes along with more employees and just more headaches and I asked myself, we make enough money so why do I continue to make my life a lot more complicated. That particular section really resonated with me, what is your way of thinking about it in terms of just travelling the slow lane, and when did you come to that revelation for yourself?

Jonathan: What I realized over the years is that for me on a very personal level complexity deconstructs and stress equals pain, and so probably what I really shifted my value set to do says, how do I scale a path while minimizing complexity? That’s what I’m about right now and it’s not an easy thing to do and it’s an inspiration so deeply in. But for me because I know complexity brings stress and stress is something that is just deeply negative in my life, I’m always trying to figure out, how do I dial that, I always simplify. How do I springboard?

So if we can automate stuff instead of adding inventory or keep talking to a process we’ll do that. If there is a way to take an idea and strengthen around in a way that minimizes complexity we’ll do that. That said, at the same time I’m also deeply aware of the fact that human connection is really, really important and commoditizing knowledge even though it scales really easily often does not have any real impact of bringing people together and creating environments that help develop relationships and that has complexity.

So we’re constantly balancing things out with what we do, we try and say, okay we want to build impact, we want to create engines of impact and engines of connection breathing along and at the same time is there a way that we can do it that minimizes complexity and maximizes simplicity along the way. That doesn’t mean that we’re going end up with something simple but hopefully may end up being simpler.

We mention speed and what I’ve realized also is that speed is very often not – we tend to move really quickly, we know that we can do faster if we move than more productive the more we get done. What I’ve realized is that we tend to all have a threshold where if we start to move faster than that, we create the illusion of getting work done but our error rate as you start to get back to the level, we have to start to re-trend and go back and fix.

That makes us even have to move faster because now we are in — part of the reason we have to move faster is because we are creating errors by our speed that we have to go back and fix which creates a sort of distracted silo. Not only does it not help us create our best work, but it makes it feel really bad along the way because literary we’re just rushing faster and faster and faster making more mistakes, spending more time fixing rather than creating, and we’re not making progress on our primary metrics. That to me, that’s not a business we’ll build or let [inaudible 00:39:53].

Steve: You know that’s funny, that example that you just gave is something that I’ve encountered when I was coding my sites. Like I would just try to get – pump something out and just get it out right away but then later on have to rip it apart entirely when I want to add some sort of new feature. And just by slowing down and just doing things at a deliberate pace and doing it correctly often works out much better in the long run and I’m happy as well.

Jonathan: It’s so much more fun also. I mean dialing is not bad even just 10% very often makes – it’s a leverage to do, because if you’re dialing back 10% your average probably going to make up for the drop in speed, and at the same time the joy you will experience with the process by dialing back just 10% is probably going to double. So this is like a really simple idea that needs [ph] some really big keywords.

Steve: Let’s talk about something else that resonated with me as well which is kind of related to what we’re talking about here which is the notion of prioritizing and saying no, like early on I had lots of problems doing this and it was just recently within the last couple of years where like if something is not floating my boat I will just say no right off the bat. How does one come to this state of being able to say no?

Jonathan: Yeah brutally and fixedly [ph]. After having so like being beaten down a lot by just like being sort of – because we’re taught as kids not to [inaudible 00:41:19] to speak on, you get it like be helpful, be of service which is all awesome and at the same time we know there will come a time where so many people are asking so much of you that to say yes to everyone and to tell them that for every single request means that you have to start to say no to all the stuff which is deeply meaningful to you, and which is the stuff that really matters in your life, whether it’s the relationships or the moments of peace and stillness or the creative project you’re dying to work on or nearly completing that you want to start to do on the side or building your own company, whatever it may be.

The interior starts to gain the ability to say no, you’re essentially saying no to all the stuff that matters to you instead.

Steve: What are your rules for saying yes?

Jonathan: My rules eventually it’s got to be hell yes or it’s no.

Steve: Why did you take this interview today?

Jonathan: Because a mutual friend introduced us and she’s a hell yes to me and I like her. If you’re a friend with her then it’s got to be a hell yes. Plus I was just – I’m really fascinated because I had that statement where I was like should I talk to the student like background 2008/ 2009 and I’d really love to find out what he’s up to and it sounds like it could be a fun conversation.

Steve: Well those five words that you did write back to me were very powerful, so try and freshen your mind. Yeah I know I was just curious so yeah just when you say yes it’s a hell yeah, but there is a lot of times when – I’ll give you an example of my own life.

Just recently someone asked me to coach my daughter’s soccer team with them, and then someone else asked me to coach the basketball team and then the soft ball team as well and I couldn’t say yes to all those things or any of those things without worrying about my son as well and he’s got these three sports teams as well. So how do you figure out, what is your criteria for saying yes to something?

Jonathan: For me it’s largely, it’s kind of funny; it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. It all starts from deepening just self knowledge first, so you can’t be able to say yes or no to them until you actually know what you care about, what matters to you. So like for the example that you gave, like okay so I got two kids, each kid has three sports and for each of those sports I’m being asked to coach so we have six sports that needs a coach.

If I say yes to all of them I’m going to do a terrible job with all of them and then I’m not going to be able to do some of the other work or be there with my wife, I’m going to be really [inaudible 00:43:46] and get to show up on behalf of everything. So in the name of actually being to all of them, honoring my – maybe you have a deeply held value that I want to be present and engaged and positive in the lives of my kids when I’m with them.

If you want to honor that you’re like okay so there is no way I can do that while I’m saying yes to six things. So what’s the maximum number of things that I can say yes to and still honor my values and what I know to be my strengths and the things that let me [inaudible 00:44:15]. You think, well I can say yes to coaching one, being a coach for one of my daughter’s teams, and being coach for one of my son’s teams.

That will allow me to be present and when I’m present I’ll really be there and be entirely focused, and at the same time every week I’m not there, it’s for me to focus on my honor and put relationships and let it be other things that light me up. Or maybe it’s two, maybe it’s whatever it is for you, but for me there are two parts of it. One is actually learning how to say no and with understanding and compassionate and respectful, but the other one is honestly you must say yes and no to, it’s really about understanding who you are and what matters to you.

So it’s like what lights you up, what empties you out, what do you really value, just say to really have values and believes. So like I said if your value is it’s really important for me to be present and engaged in the lives of my children, then that’s going to change the way you answer the question you just told us. If you stated your value around family definitely where if your value around family is to provide financially for the education, university education of my kids, that’s your primary family value.

You’re going to choose very differently when you have this opportunity to coach, because you’re going to say no, probably you must say because you think in your mind, okay to honor that value what I really need to do is make more money so that I know that my kids will go to whatever college they want to go to and just be able to focus on their academics and not the play.

It comes back to again spending some time on understanding who you are and what matters to you. Once you do that then the hell yes and the no is actually pretty easy, because it becomes pretty obvious to you once you really touch down on what matters on you.

Steve: That’s interesting, these decisions are always very difficult for me because I feel like I have overwrapping interests, like I want to be a parent but then on the flip side there is other things that I need to get done as well, and so it’s never black and white for me at least.

Jonathan: Yeah but at least like I know if you really know yourself well, you’ll understand what your big – so it may not be – you may say well [inaudible 00:46:39] you’re supposed to love to do that and at the same time if I do that it shouldn’t be upsetting, I can still spend less hours a week on my business which is going to make my family financially okay, and that actually would have more of a negative than the positive of you being present for that one.

So it’s a tradeoff but at least if you understand what your values are so that you can feel confident in what better place to make more I think much more intentional decisions rather than just [inaudible 00:47:06] after.

Steve: Would you say that a lot of the people that contact you saying that they don’t have enough time to pursue something, would you say that those people just have a problem of prioritization and not understanding what they actually want to get out of something?

Jonathan: I would say a lot of them. I wouldn’t say a universal blanket, but I’ll say a lot of them, there’s a tremendous in other ways, there’s a tremendous amount of creativity in the way that we live our lives and tremendous lack of intentionality. And again I’m saying understanding what to say yes and no to.

But I also want to point out another case which is that there are all sorts of people who are in a point of life where things are just hard, where circumstances are a big part also but they have locked them in a place where they got to work three jobs to take care of their family, and I don’t want to belittle the reality of that person’s life and say, oh that’s just not a priority.

Steve: Sure.

Jonathan: For many people it is, but there are also other people where I was like you know what there are just things that are brutally hard and it is genuinely something that’s just a really, really tough scenario without a lot of really clear easy ways out of them, it will just take a longer 10% of [inaudible 00:48:30].

Steve: Hey Jonathan I want to be respectful of your time, we’ve been chatting for like 45 minutes at this point. I read your book last night and I thought it was fantastic and it’s actually really quick and easy read, where can people find more about your book and more about the Good Life Project, and just more about your back story?

Jonathan: Sure, so if you go to goodlifeproject.com you’ll find details of the book and then the book is available pretty much at book sellers all over the place, online, offline and my back story is probably in there somewhere. But thank you so much for inviting me on this, it’s been so much fun kind of reconnecting with you and to your audience thanks so much for listening in and allowing me the space to share some time with you.

Steve: And right now everyone who is listening the book is 99 cents, I think I got it for 99 cents which is a ridiculous deal.

Jonathan: I know, my publisher really put the eBook version on sale for 99 cents. Right now I’m not entirely sure how long it’s going to be there, but it’s kind of insanity because this is a traditionally published book that usually costs a lot more than that.

Steve: Yeah, no brainer guys, no brainer, it’s How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields. All right Jonathan thanks a lot for coming on the show, I had a blast man.

Jonathan: Thanks a lot for inviting me.

Steve: All right, take care.
Hope you enjoyed that episode. Jonathan is really an amazing guy and you really have to go and actually check out his writing to fully comprehend what I mean. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode155.
And once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. And if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/steve, and once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing provider of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

154: Darren Rowse On How To Become A Professional Blogger Today

Share On Facebook

Darren Rowse On How To Become A Professional Blogger Today

Play

Today I have someone really special on the show. He’s actually someone who I’ve looked up to for a very long time and someone who I never thought I would have access to especially since he lives in Australia. And he’s actually one of the reasons why I got started blogging in the first place back in 2009.

His blog ProBlogger.net started a revolution of professional bloggers all over the world. He’s got close to 8000 posts and he’s influenced millions of people worldwide. If you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s none other than Darren Rowse.

Today Darren runs ProBlogger.net, Digital Photography School, a podcast, an event and has written a bunch of books as well. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • What web properties Darren focuses on today and how they have evolved over the years.
  • Darren’s biggest money maker today
  • Darren’s traffic levels
  • How to make money with a blog and how it has changed.
  • How to start a successful blog today

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou and today I’m thrilled to have the father – no the grandfather of professional blogging on the show with me today, Darren Rowse, and he is going to teach us how to create a profitable blog in this day and age.

But before we begin I want to give a shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m super excited to talk about Privy, because I use and rely on Privy to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with all my email marketing providers.

Now there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in ecommerce stores. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you want to offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to get them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a unique and special coupon code for that item or display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, right now I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing on our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, and try it for free, and if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Now I’m also blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another provider. Well Klaviyo once again is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought and that makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email out to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, that’s easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, and that’s a piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I have someone really special on the show, he is actually someone who I’ve looked up to for a very long time, and someone who I never thought that I would have access to especially since he lives in Australia, and he’s actually one of the reasons why I got started blogging in the first place back in 2009.
His blog ploblogger.net started a revolution of professional bloggers all over the world, he’s got close to 8,000 posts on that blog and he’s influenced millions of people worldwide, and if you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s none other than Darren Rowse.

Today Darren runs ProBlogger, Digital Photography School, a podcast, an event and he’s written a bunch of books as well, and admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve “graduated” from ProBlogger, so I’m really eager to catch up, and with that welcome to the show Darren, how is the going today man?

Darren: Very well, that was a great introduction, I might borrow that, you just summed up that beautifully, so often I had to know how to introduce myself.

Steve: For some of the other guests I usually have them give a brief intro about themselves, but I in your case I’m actually more interested in what you’ve been up to in the last several years, so what web properties are you focusing on today and how have they evolved over the years.

Darren: So my mind to businesses are the ones you mentioned, Digital Photography School which is about ten times bigger than ProBlogger, we do around four million visitors a month to that and that’s a site on how to take better photos with that camera in your pocket or a rare generic. I started that in 2006 really as a site for me to answer my friend’s questions, I used to get a lot of friends who had this new [inaudible 00:05:23] and I would just point and shoot photographers and they wanted to learn how to use them and I was a guy who was a little bit more advanced than them, more of an enthusiast.

So I just started running two or three articles a week on by six like how to hold a camera, what’s [inaudible 00:05:38] really quite basic things. So I didn’t realize that it would be bigger than ProBlogger. At the time I had been blogging on ProBlogger for three years and that was a blog about blogging which I thought would always be too nichy, but it turns that really 2004 was a great time to start blogging on that topic, because there was a grounds for people who had been blogging for a while but didn’t know how to sustain it.

So I really focused on helping people to learn how to make money from their blog, so that’s started 2004. Digital Photography School was 2006 and yeah they’ve grown into businesses of their own and I am in the fortunate position to be able to I could really focus on either one of them and make a living out of each one.

Steve: You know what’s funny I noticed that the events and your podcast, they are all kind of focused on ProBlogger, right? Do you have the equivalent properties for DPS?

Darren: We don’t do a podcast with DPS, we’ve talked about that a lot over the years, but being a visual kind of medium we always come up against how would we in an audio kind of way talk about visual concepts. And I think we can do it but we probably to do it well we need to do a video podcast or a YouTube channel probably would make more sense.
But it’s a tricky one because a lot of what we’re talking about is landscape photography or travel photography and to do videos of those subjects you really need a film crew almost to go out and to do them well. Yeah so we’ve not really progressed to that stage.

Steve: It sounds like a big money also too right, it sounds expensive?

Darren: It does, it sounds expensive, and I’m a bit of a shoe string kind of guy, so a little bit tight.

Steve: So incidentally I just always been curious, so is DPS a bigger money maker than ProBlogger today?

Darren: Yeah for sure. In some ways ProBlogger is my labor of love, it is more of a passion project than anything else and I probably should be spending more time monetizing it, but I just love helping bloggers. So in many ways if it breaks even and makes a little bit of a profit so I can pay my team, I’m happy with that. Digital Photography School is certainly more of a strategic play and where I spend more of my time and my team spends a lot more time.

Steve: I was just going to ask you that next question, so when you allocate your time, is it like 60/40 or is it majority on your money making properties like the biggest one?

Darren: Yeah it changes from month to month. I’ve probably this year have put more time into ProBlogger particularly since I’ve started the podcast, that has taken more of my time and it’s something I’m really enjoying. So I started that in July 2015, 1st of July. So since then ProBlogger has taken more of my time and since our event has grown to the size it has, that’s taken more of my time as well. So I’d say it’s probably 50/50 over the year but it depends on what’s happening, what we’re launching, what we’re working on at any given moment.

Steve: And just for the sake of comparison, like what are the traffic levels like and how they differ between the two properties?

Darren: I need to dig in to the exact sets, but DPS on a good month we do around four million visitors, sometimes a little less. ProBlogger last time I looked I think I remember was about 10% of DPS or maybe a little bit more.

Steve: No way okay.

Darren: Yeah and ProBlogger is what people know me for because it’s a passionately branded site, but DPS you would struggle to find my name in a recent post there, I just don’t write content or hide behind it, and it’s become more of a brand in and of itself. That’s been a strategic move as well, one day I might sell it. I’d love to sell it I guess one day, so I didn’t really want to tie my name up in this at all.

Steve: Right whereas ProBlogger would be a harder site to sell probably?

Darren: Tricky yeah definitely.

Steve: And in terms of income at least I remember back in the old days it was a lot of Adsense and affiliate revenue. Has your revenue sources evolved over time as well?

Darren: Oh yeah, big changes there. So we started out, the first money I made online was Adsense and also my first personal blog way back in the day, and then I experimented a little with Amazon’s affiliate program, that was the two main things, and it was originally a few cents a day in the early days. Half of the day my wife clicked through the ads and I quickly told her not to do that anymore because I would have gotten kicked out of Adsense.

That was the [inaudible 00:10:15] and Adsense certainly become the thing that I made my first full time living from, and then I experimented with some ad networks and it works and a bit of other affiliate. Then back in – I think it was about 2009 I had been experimenting with recommending other people’s eBooks and courses, and I saw that my readers were responding really well to information products, and both my sites being information sites we teach on both of them and they worked quite well, I just didn’t sell products that teach as well.

So 2009 I created an eBook for both sites. On ProBlogger was 31 days to build a better blog which was really just a repurposed series of content that I had done on the blog, and then on Digital Photography School was a portrait photography eBook which again was repurposed content. It was a collection of the best articles I had written on the topic of portrait. And I was really nervous on both fronts, would anyone buy something that’s repurposed that they could get for free, but in both cases I think the photography one made $72,000 in 11 days and that just blew my mind.

Steve: That is crazy.

Darren: That was crazy, and the ProBlogger one did similarly, and so that opened my eyes to this idea of having more products and I think since then we’ve published about 40 eBooks. Not all of them have done that well, some of them have done a lot better than those early ones. We’ve done three courses on Digital Photography School and we’ve also this year started to create some library of our presets, so a library being like Photoshop and you can plug in some plug-ins almost like Instagram filters into the library, and so we’ve been selling those, so it’s almost like a software to our product as well.

Steve: How much do you charge for a course versus an eBook?

Darren: Our eBooks typically range from $20 to $30 depending on the length, we tend to publish quite hefty eBooks, and they are very produced, so we put a lot of time and energy into the design of them. So I know there is a lot of eBooks around for $5 or $3, that type of thing, this is certainly not that type of product. They are all PDFs, we don’t do Kindle, we do not any Amazon store, that is all sold directly through our site. Our courses have I think they are about $50 typically.

Steve: Okay so not expensive?

Darren: They are not super expensive, you’re certainly not paying $300, $400, and a lot of presets are $50 to $60, $70 in that range as well.

Steve: I’m just curious what your rationale is for not putting something on Amazon as well?

Darren: We did one and it was really hard because we had priced it at $20, and every other eBook on Amazon in the Kindle store was $3 in our category, and whereas we thought it was a great product and was much better than those, it just didn’t look right in that category and we’ve always had such success with PDF and we’ve got such a large audience, we really are able to drive a lot of traffic to our own products.

Steve: That’s true, you don’t really need Amazon.

Darren: Well I mean I wouldn’t mind doubling sales but we’ve just not quite found the right model for that. We do have three other smaller eBooks that we have developed under a different brand, we’ve attempted to put those on to Amazon because they are mini eBooks and they’re probably more the $6, $7 range, so that might be something we could experiment with.

Steve: So you have a whole bunch of different projects going on, and I’m just trying to get an idea what is like the one thing that you’re working on right now that you enjoy the most of all the projects that you have.

Darren: Definitely the podcast. My first love in communication was public speaking way back in the day like 2000, that’s while I was working in a church and with young people and so I was speaking every weekend and loved the preparation, loved the idea of taking people on a journey over 45 minutes and not being interrupted and really being able to teach.

So the podcast is very similar to that in many ways and it’s helped me to fall back in love with that speaking, verbal communication. I was going to say I love the feedback as well, I feel like it’s connecting with my audience in ways I’ve never ever, ever seen through a blog, the personal nature of it and just the sense that people would talk to me like we’ve shared time together, not that they’ve read my stuff. They’ve actually sat in their car with their kids listening to me, and I’ve shared an experience of listening to something I’m doing and I really enjoy that.

Steve: I just remembered you characterizing yourself as an introvert; I think I remember some posts like that, but yet you’re doing all this public speaking and the podcasts.

Darren: Yeah one of my [inaudible 00:15:04] you made, I’m much more comfortable on a stage in front of – I think a large one I did was 4500 at World Domination Summit, I loved that. I felt so alive, but I’m much more uncomfortable talking one on one because I don’t know what the person is going to ask and I’m a bit of a slow paced person as well.
So to have prepared a talk is fine because I know what I’m going to say, but to be in this environment just you and me talking now, that’s much more — puts me out of my comfort zone which is a good place for me to be, but it’s not somewhere where I tend to live much of my time to be honest. The podcast I’ve developed is much more about me talking, I’ve interviewed four people in 165 episodes, so it’s all me teaching.

Steve: Wow okay. I remember you were wearing a superman costume, perhaps that’s what gave you the confidence.

Darren: Yes, that was how I finished that World Domination Summit talk which yeah was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had.

Steve: So one thing I did want to talk to you about is that blogging has kind of changed dramatically in like the last five years I would say. Today everyone’s got a blog, content marketing is pretty much a give and play business, so I want to know if you were to start from complete scratch today, how you would proceed and how would it be different from than your story?

Darren: Blogs have changed so much, I think one of the main ways that I’m seeing that they have changed is that they used to be purely written content and now they tend to be more of a home for all your stuff, and so we’re seeing my blog now has a podcast on it and the blog has a video and it’s the home of different total stuff in it. I guess that’s really how I would change, I probably would start with a mix of written and audio instead of just written.

It really comes down to your personality and your experience and style and I guess the topic that you’re talking about as well and what it lends itself to as we said before DPS, the photography is based and really lend itself to audio. So some mix of your style, your audience and what they want and the topic as well. So yeah I would be much more multimedia, I think I would be using live video a lot more. That’s I think where it’s a bit of…

Steve: Are we talking like Facebook live or?

Darren: Yes Facebook live, if I had more time that’s where I’ll be sinking my time at the moment. I think there’s an incredible opportunity in that live interactive space and that’s probably for me the other place that I’ve seen my audience ride up and get very interactive with me and much more personal maybe when I’m sitting in front of a camera just doing Q&A like doing an “ask me anything,” and my audience do really well with that.

It works really well for me because I’ve got an audience already though, so if I was just starting out it might be more tricky although I think on a platform like Periscope there is perhaps opportunity there to be seen in front of new audiences, whereas on Facebook live you’ve got to have had that audience already liking your page.

Steve: Yeah you know I want to get your perspective, do you think like a purely written blog still has a chance to succeed today?

Darren: Definitely if that’s your way you’re most comfortable, that’s where you’re at your best, I think there’s people who that’s all they want, and I say on ProBlogger actually the audience who listen to the podcast are very different to the audience who’re listening to the blog.

There’s certainly some overlap there but I get emails from my blog readers every week saying, stop doing the podcast, I don’t listen to podcasts, and then I get people on the podcast going, stop linking to blog posts because I don’t read, I only listen. So I think there’s certainly an audience demanding just one or the other.

Steve: In terms of people in your class where you teach people how to blog, has your strategy evolved in terms of telling them what to write about even, because back in the day it wasn’t as saturated, but today there’s like tons of every type of blog imaginable?

Darren: Yeah there certainly been a big change from when I started in 2002 blogs were very personal multi topic, and they’ve certainly become much more niche. I’m not someone who says you have to have a niche; I think there’s plenty of examples of people who have written more for a demographic than a niche and talking about multiple topics, but you do really have to work hard at differentiating yourself from others because it’s so saturated at the moment and that way if you can bring a different spin on a niche or look at a niche or a topic through a different lens, then I think that one might stand out.

So if someone like you Steve came with a nerd fitness I think is a brand example, he’s talking about something that there must be tens of thousands of blogs on fitness, but he’s looking at it through the lens of a nerd and in doing so he’s running for a different audience who’ve been ignored in the past. As nerds we want to get fit but no one is speaking our language, so if you can find a way to hit a demographic that’s been ignored I think that’s one way into a saturated niche.

Steve: I notice you said we and I didn’t tell you that I was a nerd but I guess you just assumed.

Darren: I’ll send you a picture, we met, didn’t we meet?

Steve: That’s true we did meet, we did meet very briefly. So along those lines, so let’s say you picked a topic, what would be your strategy just to gain some early traffic to your site when you’re a nobody?

Darren: Yeah really it’s such a frustrating period even though it’s been 14 years almost to the day, I think it’s next week it’s my 14 year anniversary, I still remember that feeling of no one is reading my blog, is there anyone who knows it exists? So I think for me in the early days what I did was comment on other blogs and I started to network and do relationships with other influencers and I had no idea what I was doing, it was purely instinctive but I think today that’s certainly a place that I would be investing on.

The people I see breaking through into niches are usually either just brilliant and there’s not many of us who are brilliant, I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as brilliant in terms of my writing or production or anything like that, so that’s not a way I do it. But for me the way I broke into niches was to get to know people and then niching to become a prolific commenter, to email other bloggers, to suggest things that they could write about, to ask them questions, to really get on their radar on that way.

I think there‘s still is – there is a lot of noise in the space and so it’s hard to get on the radar of the really big bloggers or influencers, but there’s certainly lots of other people who aren’t quite as big who will be able to chatting with you. Guest posting I think still there is opportunity there to create guest content for other blogs or even to be interviewed on other podcasts, those types of things as well. It certainly takes some time to build those relationships, to open up those opportunities, but I think there’s certainly opportunity there to grow your profile through other influencers.

Steve: I do want to tell a quick story, there is this one guy, he tweets every single post that I put out like within a couple of hours after it goes out, and at first I didn’t notice but after like maybe six months of this happening I noticed, and so yeah I don’t know if that’s like something that you could do too that’s worth that many.

Darren: Yeah and look I’ve seen people who’ve become writers on my site who started just leaving really useful comments on our Facebook page and I noticed that. And then I gave them an opportunity to do something bigger and then that gave them a platform within my community and a bigger market if you like to grow their profile. So still being useful in those sorts of involvements can help.
But having said that you really also need to simultaneously be working on what you’re doing on your own blog and to have something really worthwhile being found there, and so there is attention anyone would be putting a lot of great content, adding to other people’s places with guest content and building those relationships, but you’ve simultaneously got to build the brand so as when people do start to trickle over to it that they are impressed and then they begin to share the word for you. So it’s not just do this and it will come, they’ve got to do lots of stuff.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.
And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.
What would your split be in terms of time, like I know [inaudible 00:24:59] always talks about 80/20, like 20% creation, 80% promotion, how do you split your time or how would you split your time I should say?

Darren: I probably aren’t quite at that level of 80/20, particularly in the early days I think you’ve got to build up your archive of good quality content, so I’d be investing quite a bit into that. The other thing I’d say about creating content, you probably want to be trying to create two types of content.

Firstly you want to create that evergreen cornerstone content that you want to be known for on your site, so you really want to think carefully about that foundational content and get as much of that in place as you can, but then also weave into your publishing sharable content. Usually there are two types of content, usually that cornerstone foundational content is not as sharable and so on Digital Photography School for example I wrote maybe 200 articles over the first couple of years, and it was more the evergreen content, what’s [inaudible 00:25:56], what’s avatar, how to hold the camera.

It wasn’t really sexy content, no one was really going to share that content stuff, but then I started to also weave in things like ten mistakes landscape photographers make. It’s still teaching, it’s still useful but it’s a little more intrigue in there, I guess in some ways some people might say it’s a bit more click buddy, but it’s a top content that people will share.

You don’t want to just do that because then you end up with a sort of fluffy [inaudible 00:26:26] sort of site, sort of sweet and sickly, it’s just a lot. You want the deeper stuff as well but you do weave that in and then that helps you to grow when you start having people come into your site. That’s the kind of content that others will share for you on social media. So I’d be focusing on those two types of content and then spend the other half of my time building relationships, trying to write content for other people’s sites.

Steve: One thing I forgot to ask you was what are your primary traffic sources for both properties that you have right now?

Darren: Google is definitely number one on both sites.

Steve: Okay so search okay.

Darren: Definitely yeah and Facebook would be our biggest social driver of traffic and certainly has become trickier to get that traffic organically, and then email would be number three, and that’s the other part of building your audience. You really want to find a way to hook them in that isn’t just getting them on to your Facebook page because Facebook won’t show them your stuff all the time.

So I grab their email addresses is certainly the big – that’s really why I’m so happy I spent time doing in 2006 is building my list.

Steve: Let me ask you this question, so when you’re writing your posts, are you writing for people to actually share on Facebook, or do you write more for SEO like to get ranked in search?

Darren: Both and sometimes it’s that distinction between those two types of content that I was mentioning before, I’m certainly paying – in the early days I paid a lot of attention to what I felt people would be searching for, but I guess ultimately for me I’m trying to write content that is going to help people to become better photographers, and ultimately that’s the first thing I’m thinking about.

I want to create a blog that changes people’s lives because I know if I do that they will come back, they’ll subscribe, and they will bring their friends. So ultimately that’s what I’m doing but I’m also really aware that certain types of content get shared more, and so I’m doing analysis on sites like BuzzSumo shows you what people are sharing on your site and everyone else’s, and that highlights the type of formula for content that you might want to weave in as well, yeah and so I’m doing both I guess.

Steve: I’m just wondering how deliberate you are when you are picking topics or titles for your posts like do you bust out like a keyword tool, or do you just write and try to make the title compelling from a click perspective?

Darren: I don’t use any keyword tools as such. I guess I’m probably doing partly based on what I know works after 14 years, and what I’ve seen work in the last six months. We like for example that title I gave you before, ten mistakes landscape photographers make, I know for a fact that anytime we use the word mistakes in an article on DPS that it goes ballistic. It may not work on every blog but it works for us, and so we weave that one in, not every day obviously but once a month we’ll do a mistakes top article and pick a different niche within our niche.
I know DIY posts do really well with their audience, so I’m weaving in those sorts of keywords and I guess it’s just based on experience. But ultimately my style of creating titles is more about telling people what’s in the post and which is probably better for SEO.

Steve: Okay and are those posts the ones that are ranking though like your mistakes posts?

Darren: My mistakes posts don’t tend to rank as high; it’s more the how to do this, or solving a problem search that people might do.

Steve: Okay so your pillar posts are the ones that tend to rank and then your more shareable posts are more catered to social platforms like Facebook, is that…?

Darren: That’s right yeah, because I got a little system that I share every post on our site twice a year, and so I know those posts that I title in a way that would be shared that will get a second life at another point down the track.

Steve: Is Pinterest a part of your traffic for the photography site?

Darren: You would think so but it’s never really worked for us, like nothing we have done has seemed to work on Pinterest. We certainly have days where we get a spike of traffic from Pinterest but it’s very little to do with anything we’ve done, it’s just the fact that someone has found that and shared it. Yeah so…

Steve: Interesting, okay.

Darren: We’ve had a Pinterest board where we put a lot of time and effort but it didn’t really seem to make any difference, we kind of let it look after itself these days.

Steve: Are you running any paid ads to any of your content?

Darren: Not any of our blog posts, if we’re launching a product we will do some paid ads to that. It’s an area that I don’t personally feel energized by, I don’t enjoy it, it works to a degree, but I’ve not had spectacular success with it either. So it’s not a massive part of my strategy but it’s something we have experimented with.

Steve: Okay, let’s talk about your podcast since you mentioned that that was something that really excites, like how does your podcast content tie in to the overall blog?

Darren: A lot of the content on the podcast is really just updated blog posts; so things that I’ve written over the years that needed an update I’ve given them a verbal update, that’s been part of it. I did an exercise right at the start of the podcast where I mapped out 100 episodes, and that exercise was based upon the overall change I was trying to bring to my audience.

So I’m a big believer in creating an avatar for your audience of who your audience is which a lot of bloggers do and I think it’s smart but I also created almost like an after avatar, so there is a before and an after of who I want my audience to become. So I’ve got this picture in mind of who I want my readers to be.

And so on ProBlogger the full time blogger spends the after avatar, and so I mapped out, what does someone need to know to get from A to B, to get from their before shot to after shot and then I mapped out 100 things that I thought they needed to know and that became a big part of my first 100 or so episodes on the blog.

So it’s partly a combination of looking at what’s worked on the blog already but also sort of going through that process, and then I do a lot of Q&A podcasts as well. So I recorded a podcast this morning and that was purely based on a question someone asked me on Facebook yesterday.

Steve: I’m just curious, how do you measure the impact of your podcast on your traffic?

Darren: I’m watching Google analytics to see how many people are hitting the show notes, I’m watching my download numbers which are the actual number of people listening obviously, but it gives me an indication of whether a show is relatively successful or not. Then I guess I’m really looking for anecdotal kind of the emails that I get and the tweets that I get from people going wow that one really helped me with this.

Those types of things I think are really what I’m ultimately looking at, and from a conversional perspective I’m looking at how many people attended live this year based upon the podcast or how many people bought a book that we recommended in an episode.

Steve: Is your goal in general to get people on your email list ultimately?

Darren: Yeah for sure.

Steve: What are some things that you’re doing with email, and I imagine your list is probably pretty huge, several hundred thousand people at this point, how do you manage such a large list?

Darren: We use a number of tools, we’re largely on AWeber, we have used MailChimp from time to time as well, and we’ve used ConvertKit as well at times, so we are agnostic toward the tool but we have used them in different parts of the business. We’ve been doing a lot of testing this year with Welcomemat and I don’t know if you’re familiar with those…

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Darren: But being dropped down from the top and split testing those and they have doubled our subscriber numbers from when we just had a pop up, and when we had the pop up that ten times to our subscriber numbers. So Welcomemat have worked really well, I’m a bit concerned with Google’s announcement that they’re going to penalize people using them on mobile, so we’re also testing at the moment exit pop ups and they’re probably our second highest performers, so we’ll probably replace the Welcomemat January I think it takes over.

So we do a lot of testing around different types. On ProBlogger we found that the most plain Welcomemat works best, no pitches, no video, they’re just like plain. On Digital Photography School they love images being photography, and particularly they love images of people taking photos, so photographers pointing their camera to viewers.

So we do a lot of testing around that, we’ve used some different opt-ins this year, we created a series of opt-ins for ProBlogger, so you would sign up to get six emails, so it’s almost like a mini course and that worked quite well at keeping people on our list. One of the things I didn’t like about opt-ins in previous tries that I’ve used them is that people would subscribe and then unsubscribe once they got the free thing.

And so we created this one where you get six months worth of blog post ideas and that kept people on our list a lot longer, but it got tricky to deliver them all. We found all our providers went — people weren’t getting all the six emails on…

Steve: So what do you do to improve deliverability?

Darren: Well in the end we made that into a single download because we got sick and tired of – the six emails we would get from people. One of the things we did do last year was killed off a large part of our list that wasn’t responsive, and that it seems to help with getting our emails through spam filters a little bit more, I guess we’ve made our list a bit more healthy. So we killed off 200,000 subscribers.

Steve: Oh my goodness, really wow.

Darren: We hit a mean subscribers on Digital Photography School and so we realized a large percentage of them just weren’t opening their emails, and so we gave them a couple of last chances to engage with us and then we killed them off.

Steve: You mentioned three services, ConvertKit, AWeber, MailChimp, do you split your entire list across three services?

Darren: No we typically use MailChimp more for our event type lists, but AWeber is where we keep most of our lists. MailChimp we were doing more for specific campaigns that we might be running just for ease of use to separate them out. So they are quite different parts of the business.

Steve: Okay, I’m just curious like why you would use MailChimp for an event versus just like another list on AWeber?

Darren: I think from memory it was because one worked better with our event sales system.

Steve: Okay that makes sense.

Darren: And so once it was set up on a wink we just kept it there.

Steve: Okay and one thing I did want to touch on also is monetization, so like if you had a new blog, and let’s say you’re starting to develop a following, what would you start with in terms of revenue sources, like what is your main goal in monetizing a blog, like the holy grail so to speak?

Darren: So a starting place for me these days I would start with affiliate. I would go into a niche and thinking ultimately what do I want to do, and ultimately for me my goal would be to create a product, and that’s going to take a lot of work. It’s not going to convert at a high rate till you got some traffic, so I would be looking to find affiliate products that were similar to the product I wanted to create, and I would be testing a lot of those.

In doing so you’re creating a revenue stream but you’re also learning a lot and you begin to see what your audience will respond to in terms of do they like eBooks or do they like courses, I’d be promoting both. Do they like $10 products or do they like $30 products or do they like $200 products. So the more you promote different affiliate products the more you learn about what kind of product that you should be creating, and you’re also earning some income in the mean time.

So that’s probably the strategy I would go to. It probably depends a little on the niche, some niches led themselves to working with brands or doing sponsorships, but I’m moving more and more away from working with brands and advertising.

Steve: Let’s talk about DPS and ProBlogger, like how are the monetization strategies different across both sites?

Darren: Sure, so DPS we do, do advertizing, we have Adsense running on it still to this day. I know a lot of bloggers moved away from it but it still works really well for us, I don’t know why that is, so we run that. And then if we can sell advertising directly to an advertiser at a higher rate than what we can do with Adsense we swop in those ads as well.

Steve: Would you mind sharing the CPMs?

Darren: Oh gosh, I’ll open it up while we’re chatting.

Steve: Okay sure.

Darren: So we do run those top things – here we go, on page PM we’re running $1.25 so it’s not high for Adsense, but we’re doing four million page visitors.

Steve: Yeah that’s true.

Darren: So it kind adds up and if there is nothing else in those spots it kinds of adds up to $20,000, $30,000 a month which I’m not going to say no to. So yeah we do a combination of different advertising and affiliate and then products, and so depending on the month affiliates can actually be more than our products. If we’re launching product usually that then that means our product sales are higher than the affiliate, but yeah data mining comes through [inaudible 00:40:34].

On ProBlogger it is more our products, our event, we have a job board on ProBlogger and that’s been bringing for us, that’s very passive income, I don’t really do any work on it at all, no one does, it just looks after itself. We don’t do any advertising really on ProBlogger at all, I think we did one campaign with an advertiser on the podcast but it’s largely our own products, and occasionally we do an affiliate push as well.

Steve: And I’m just curious did you test like removing the ads versus keeping them on and still having the affiliate offers?

Darren: Yeah we’ve done all that testing, and on DPS obviously the Adsense is just – it doesn’t really make any difference if it’s there in events, if it’s not there it doesn’t and nothing else really earns anymore, so it’s good to get going.

Steve: For DPS do you do a lot of Amazon affiliate revenue?

Darren: Yeah we do probably around $7,000 or $8,000 a month in Amazon and that’s largely through recommending cameras and lenses, those types of things. Probably the best thing I’ve ever done with Amazon in terms of a tip is to create best seller lists. So we look at our reports every quarter and then we basically compile a best seller list based upon what sold in the last quarter and then we report that to our audience.

So those convert like crazy for us and people love to make their purchasing decisions based upon what other people have already bought, so that was clever.

Steve: So in terms of DPS would you say that affiliate revenue generates the bulk of the revenue as opposed to your own products?

Darren: Most months it probably generates the bulk of the profit but not the revenue, and the reason I say that is that our eBooks and courses generate more revenue but we’re splitting that revenue with the creators of those products. So we do revenue share type arrangements with authors of our eBooks and creators of our courses, so profit wise they don’t tend to be as profitable as an affiliate push.

We also do a big 12 days of Christmas campaign; we’re kind of gearing up for that at the moment where we do 12 deals in 12 days and these are a combination of our own products. So we might do 50% off our courses, 50% off our eBooks, and then we also tier up affiliate deals as well. So over the 12 days we send out 12 emails to our full list and say here is the deal of the day, they’ve got 24 hours to work on that. That’s our biggest two weeks of the year, it’s huge.

Steve: Okay, are these your own products or other people’s products as well?

Darren: A combination.

Steve: A combination okay.

Darren: Yeah every second day really, and then all the deals usually come back on the last day as well, so people get their last chance.

Steve: For ProBlogger they are just all blogging related products or internet marketing products?

Darren: Yeah some of them, we do, do information products but we also recommend server polatis [ph], WordPress themes, some more tools type stuff and then more generally businessy type stuff as well. So yeah in the past we have recommended Michael Hyatt’s courses which aren’t really blogging specific but they’re more entrepreneurial, yeah.

Steve: So going back to getting started again, so if you had a brand new blog so what traffic source would you personally focus on more today?

Darren: I’d be optimizing from Google, I think a lot of bloggers have been completely seduced by social media and have ignored SEO, basic SEO principles, and I think in doing so they’re really ignoring a massive source of traffic. So you’ve got to learn the basics of SEO and set your blog up well using the right kind of plug-in like Yoast WordPress plug-in, get set up in the right way, learn the basics, and then write content that will be searched for.

So that’s kind of like a thing that you just need to get right, and then I would be working on identifying who I’m trying to reach and where they’re hanging out. So are they on social media, if so which social network and then building a presence in those types of places, so it might lead you to Instagram or Pinterest or one of the other social networks.

Then I’d also be doing the same exercise with what other blogs are they reading, what podcasts are they listening to, what events are they going to, and I’d be targeting those places as well to build a presence and get to know those influencers in those places. So that would be the three areas…

Steve: It sounds like a lot of your strategies kind of leans on social aspects meaning like getting to know other bloggers and that sort of thing?

Darren: Yeah I’m a fairly relational kind of person, so I think that’s probably where my strength lie and I tend to go that way.

Steve: I did want to ask this as well, like I just had my first event last May, and I was just curious what your motivation was for having your own events?

Darren: Yeah so my first one I don’t really know that I had a motivation; I just thought it was a fun idea and people just loved it so much. And I think from then on I realized that it was probably one of the best ways to have a big impact on readers, because I saw people from first year, second year go full time with their blogs from nowhere, and I was like it was purely by something they learnt or someone they met.

I was like this has a potential to change people’s lives in a really big way and so that hooked me, that alone. There are so many other benefits, they potentially can be quite profitable, we’ve not really driven hard on the profit front because I’m really just passionate about bloggers particularly starting bloggers, and so we’ve kind of kept that cost down to make it as affordable and accessible as we can, but you could make quite a good profit and I’ve got some friends who make great money from events.

The other part for me is that it really energizes me for the rest of the year in my blogging because I’ve got all these conversations in my mind with people I’ve met at the events asking me questions that then inform the content that I’m going to create over the next year. So it really impacts the content for the next year and products as well that I can create, because I’ve started to see you have all these conversations in two days and end up talking to a couple of 100 people and out of that you see themes that you wouldn’t see just blogging away, and so ideas have come out of the event for other products in the last few years particularly.

Steve: By the way this is very non introverted behavior I’m getting from you Darren.

Darren: I suck myself up, and then I go home and I’ll sit in my room in the fetal position for a few days after an event.

Steve: Hey we’ve been chatting for quite a while and I want to be respectful of your time. If anyone wants to get a hold of you today I don’t know if that’s changed, before it used to be Twitter I think, right? But what’s the best way to get a hold of you and what things are you trying to promote right now?

Darren: Yeah so if you want to find out all things ProBlogger, we’ve actually bought and set up problogger.com now, so we’re still on .net with the blog but everything else is living on .com at the moment. So if you go to problogger.com you’ll see all the probloggerish things, we’re ProBlogger on Facebook and Twitter as well.
And then Digital photography School, if you just Google that it’s so much easier than me telling you the URL because it’s got hyphens, so that’s there. And then yeah I guess just search for us on iTunes for the podcast, I’ve just transitioned from twice a week to once a week shows now, and as I said before they’re all teaching, largely me just going through a topic for the week, 20 to 45 minutes of good solid teaching.

Steve: When is your next event?

Darren: We are still trying to work that up, but we typically hold them between August and October in Australia.

Steve: Okay cool. Oh hey Darren thanks a lot for coming on the show, I had a blast, and it was a pleasure to finally have a conversation with you.

Darren: Likewise.

Steve: All right take care.

Darren: Thank you.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. When I first started blogging I never would have dreamed of having access to a guy like Darren, and he’s a great guy and totally down to earth. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode154.

Once again I want to thank klaviyo.com for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants, and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, and once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. If you want to give it a try it is free, so head on over to privy.com, that’s privy.com/steve, once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I actually talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

153: How To Use Amazon Exclusives To Launch A Successful Product With Chris Boerner

Share On Facebook

How To Use Amazon Exclusives To Launch A Successful Product With Chris Boerner

Play

Today I’ve have someone really special on the show, Chris Boerner. Now I met Chris at the Ecommerce Fuel conference in Savannah Georgia a month ago and I’m really glad that we met. She has an amazing story and she runs a successful business called CieloPillHolders.com where she sells premium key chain pill fobs.

She’s done exceptionally well on Amazon, is extremely well connected with the Amazon community and she has a lot of experience with the platform.
In fact, she’s been featured in several videos on the Amazon website including a full blown documentary about her story. Enjoy the episode.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Chris got into ecommerce and what made her decide to sell pill holders.
  • Her process of finding a niche
  • How she gets her pill holders manufactured.
  • Why she manufactures in the US vs China
  • Why you should go with Amazon Exclusives

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Today I have the Chris Boerner with me on the show, who has made a killing selling high end pill holders on Amazon.

It’s a super random product and the reason why I’m having her on the show is to talk about Amazon exclusives, and how she’s managed to create all of these amazing connections within Amazon while launching a successful product made in the USA. Also I want to apologize upfront for the audio quality on this one. I ended up upgrading Skype just before the call which was a huge mistake. The audio is still passable but if it bothers you, you can always find the transcript on my site at mywifequitherjob.com.

Anyway before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Now I’m always excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another provider. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a blue handkerchief in the last week, piece of cake. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, easy peasy, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.
I also want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s cool is I also use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here is why I like and chose Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks on your store, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or to display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, I’m showing different email lead magnets depending on what product a customer is browsing on our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to Klaviyo to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve and try it for free, and if you decide that you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com, P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I have someone really special on the show, Chris Boerner. Now I met Chris at Ecommerce Fuel conference in Savannah, Georgia about a month ago and I’m really glad that we met. She’s got an amazing story and she runs a successful business called cielopillholders.com where she sells premium key chain pill fobs.

She’s done exceptionally well on Amazon, she’s extremely well connected with the Amazon community and she has a lot of experience with the platform. In fact she’s been featured in several videos on the Amazon website including a full blown documentary about her story that is going to come out later this year. And with that welcome to the show Chris, how are you doing today?

Chris: I’m doing so great, thanks for having me Steve; I’m excited to be here.

Steve: Yeah and you got a great story, so I want you to definitely tell us how did you get into ecommerce and what made you decide to sell pill holders?

Chris: It’s so random, when I tell people I sell pill holders I get these looks like they just don’t have a clue what I’m talking about and I can understand why. My background is in corporate strategy and brand management.

So I worked for Starbucks for a number of years doing a number of different roles there, and didn’t work for me anymore and that scared the crap out of me because I thought I was going to do it forever and I loved it and I was good at it, and then it just didn’t feel right. So I left and when I left…

Steve: What didn’t feel right about it, I’m just curious because I just quit myself?

Chris: Oh my gosh, congratulations. I was feeling like I wasn’t making a difference in a way that was meaningful to me, that was probably the biggest part and so when I left I actually didn’t know what I was going to do next. My husband Mike is incredibly supportive and let me leave a really great job so that I can have some breathing room to just try to figure out what it was going to be. When I talked about my job at Starbucks to him, I described it as dead, every minute was just jam packed with information and intensity and I needed to just get away from that just to even have a minute to think about what I could do and what I could be excited about, because I wasn’t feeling very excited anymore.

So I left, I was up to two things. I wanted more flexibility in my life, we were down the road going to have a family and now we do with two very little kids and I knew that that was hopefully going to happen someday and so I want more flexibility, and I wanted to connect with people and I wanted to connect with customers in a way that I had when I was a barrister at Starbucks.

I used to be that person handing over the coffee and I loved that moment when I got to say have a good day and make someone smile, and so I really missed that connection. I laugh a little bit when I say it but it’s kind of true, I felt a power point presentations away from the customer at Starbucks, So then I left, to more flexibility and connecting with customer and no idea what that actually meant.

Steve: So in terms of coming up with the actual idea for pill holders, how did that come about because it is like a random product to someone who just hears about it, right?

Chris: Yeah it’s very random, so I started like many of your listeners I would guess, I read the 4-Hour Work Week and the idea of automation really resonated with me and so it sounded kind of like something I wanted to try. I had a lot of experience with business and with building brands, and I thought, uh I could do this, but what’s the thing, I don’t have anything to sell.

So literally one day I was lying in bed a couple of days after I read this book and I was racking my brain and I started thinking about what consumer goods am I part of, what products do I use in my life, and you know what’s really different from everyone else brand. So I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called [inaudible 00:07:14] when I was 14 years old, and I’ve taken medicine every couple of hours since I had the diagnosis for 20 years now I’ve been taking medicine.

And so I was lying in bed, I started to think about gosh I take pills and I have a pretty nice pill holder that my dad gave me that it’s been a very important part of my life and lying there thinking everyone who takes medicine must have a nice pill holder and they must be a totally developed category. So that next morning thinking that there wasn’t a whole bunch to this idea, but I searched on Amazon and I searched on Google for a nice pill holder, a quality pill holder, a designer pill holder and there was nothing.

There was like actual total like based on the category for high end premium pill holders, so I decided to give it a try and here we are a couple of years later.

Steve: So you pretty much came up with a product just by brainstorming, did you run the numbers, like was there significant demand for just pill holders, if there was a high end component to it?

Chris: Yeah. Well my hypothesis was – so first I started with just pill holder category in general, like it was clear that there is tons of demand for pill holders out there, because there’s 1000 products from the market that are just junk. And I was digging up some keyword searches and quantified that a little bit, and then I really started to think about that culture that we’re living in and how much it’s changing with how pills and perception means you’ve had a life and I don’t just mean prescription or [inaudible 00:08:39].

Steve: Okay I was like where are you going with this, because then…

Chris: I know like this is not coming up quite how I meant it, but anyway seriously who doesn’t have Ibuprofen [inaudible 00:08:50] in their purse or in their pocket, everyone’s got a vitamin or a supplement. And so I started to think about the expectations that consumers have today, and especially if you’ve got 18 baby boomer population that cares about quality and that cares about nice stuff.

It blew my mind that there wasn’t a product out there already doing it. So I looked at it pill holders as a functional accessory like jewelry, like watches or eye glasses, that was the vision that I had for Cielo Pill Holders.

Steve: Okay and so you basically decided to target the high end, really high quality jewelry like pill holders?

Chris: That’s right.

Steve: So can you talk about how you went from your idea to actually getting a manufacturer?

Chris: Yeah so I was very interested – let me say the most important thing in my brand was quality, and so the way that translated to my product was that I needed to be really, really involved in the manufacturing and the production and the design and ongoing quality control. So from the very beginning I really believed that made in USA was going to be something that mattered to Cielo Pill Holders, and I believed it also mattered to my customers in ways beyond just the quality of the pill holder they were buying from me.

So I started out with a belief that made in USA was the direction I wanted to go, and so pretty quickly actually I found on eBay a couple of products that were a little better than what was in the market and they were good enough for me to test the idea that people would pay more for a better quality pill holder. So I bought some pill holders off of eBay, and then I built my own website and I really tested the marketing messages around made in US that are quality and started to see will people buy this product.

Steve: How did you do those tests?

Chris: I spent about six weeks just building the website and getting some product photography done so that it really was a high quality proposition, and so launched the site and had this great idea that somehow miraculously everyone in the world is going to know that now there are high quality pill holders available and I was going to show out immediately. It turned out I didn’t because nobody cared about Cielo Pill Holders.

So it was within the first couple of weeks of launching my business with very little traffic on my own website that I started to realize Amazon or meeting my customers where they were already buying to be a really interesting and quick way to test. So I launched on Amazon within a month of turning on Cielo Pill Holders.

Steve: Okay I was just curious, the ones that you bought on eBay were those made in the USA?

Chris: They were, yup they were.

Steve: Okay and so when you sold those did you contact the same manufacturer who made those, like how did you find the manufacturer?

Chris: Again I started out with them, but they didn’t really have the capabilities, the really the partnership mentality that I was looking for, so went to the web and I went to ThomasNet, but I also just did a Google search for high quality machine shops. So I had figured out what type of manufacturing I needed to make my own pill holders, and lo and behold in the Seattle area we had a lot of machine shops because there is a really strong aerospace factory there and machine shops and CMC machines to fly a lot of aerospace parts.

So I went to Google and I looked up high quality machine shops, and I found one that actually had a website that was beautiful and that talked about their commitment to the customer and their commitment to quality, and those sentiments were really what I wanted my brand to stand for and so it felt right that I could look for a partner that cared about the same stuff.

So I called him up and I remember sitting outside Safeway, the first time I talked to him I was in my car and I told him I wanted to make pill holders, would you be interested, and I’m sure he must have thought I was crazy to the multimillion dollar business since I was [inaudible 00:12:48] and huge companies. But he said yeah I’d be willing to talk to you and I said, great can I come back to meet you tomorrow.

I went up to his shop and we sat down and talked about it and I remember when I left after that first meeting he said, I think you’re going to be my biggest customer.

Steve: No way, okay.

Chris: And he believed it, he said I think you’re going to be my biggest customer, he said I totally get it and I want to help you figure it out. From then on he just then became a partner and really figuring out how to build it efficiently and in ways that my customers would love the product.

Steve: So you didn’t have any experience with manufacturing at all?

Chris: Not directly, from working at Starbucks I had seen manufacturing and I had managed the process of getting things made, but I didn’t know a lot about manufacturing on my own no, ever so much.

Steve: So in terms of just like designing the actual pill holder, did you use any card sulphur [ph] or was that all your partner?

Chris: He did that for me, so I told him what I wanted and then he designed it, and then I had sort of a few products that I started with, and then my vision really was that there was a really designed for elements to this like jewelry beyond what me or a manufacturer could come up with, and so I engaged a pretty incredible product designer.

She, her name is Flora Handler, she’s out of New York and she’s worked with brands like Carrie and Tom Ford and a few great premium brands, and I could not believe it when I called her and she got the concept too and she was really excited to work on the project.

Steve: Would you say that people agreed to work on this was because of your story or what did you tell these people?

Chris: I think I painted a picture of the opportunity, it was like tens of millions of people take medicine, they have to keep it with them and all there is junk to put it in. So it seemed so clear to me and them as I just told them about it that there was room in the market for this high end product, so they were excited to be part of it.

Steve: With your machine shop partner what was the arrangement like early on, like he wasn’t a partner from the beginning?

Chris: No he wasn’t but he acted like one. I mean I was really, I was just buying products from him but he spent time with me well beyond what the volume of my orders wanted. I think that he saw the potential of what it could be, and so he and my designer and I actually spent a lot of time working together on my more fashion for design for product.

In fact I remember I started the business in June of 2013 and it was August when I started working with Flora Handler my designer. I always remember sitting in my manufacturer’s bed of his pick up track outside of his facility and we had had our stone sitting in the middle of us, and we were on speaker with Laura who is New York and we were starting to talk about the briefs and the project for really making jewelry like pill holders.

Steve: What was the initial investment, I’m just curious like when you first got started?

Chris: Maybe $1000.

Steve: $1000, wow okay and so he was willing to design the pill holder for you at a such a small quantity for you?

Chris: He was yup and it’s really fortunate in the manufacturing process that I use because the upside and downside there is not a ton of efficiency that comes from scale, but there is also not a ton in the way of total cost either, it’s all done on computer, you’re not dealing with molds and such.

Steve: So is manufacturing a pro – so here is a single individual hand making these?

Chris: No, he has a number of machines in his shop and I’ve grown since then in my supply chain, so he has 20 or 30 people who work for him in his shop.

Steve: Okay and then you brought on this designer and you just cold called her?

Chris: It’s the one connection. I never knew the power of a network until I left the place where I worked at Starbucks. It turned out I knew a lot of people that were excited to help out.

Steve: Okay and these were just connections you made through your corporate job?

Chris: Yeah that has been pretty valuable in the product.

Steve: I know you told me that you decided to go made in the USA right off the bat, but I’m just curious did you do any research on the nature and just to see how much this potential would be.

Chris: I did, I definitely did, I wanted some mixture, it was smart business decision besides just a feel good decision, and so I through a different connection had someone was a sourcing agent in China that I worked with to just got quotes to get me a rough ball pack on what I was giving up, and it’s definitely no surprise there is a cost advantage, but I built a model that supported the higher made in US cost.

Man I can’t even tell you the value being turntable value that’s brought to me with the flexibility in partnership I have with my supplier and being able to iterate quickly and bringing the products to market fast and deal with quality control right away. I would have lost my mind if I didn’t have someone in the US; I talk to my supplier almost every day.

Steve: Just curious percentage wise what are we talking about here?

Chris: It’s probably 50% keeper.

Steve: Wow. Okay so but you again you had to work very closely with your manufacturer to make slight tweaks all along the way, right which wouldn’t have…

Chris: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Chris: No definitely not and even scale as the product is continuing in its life cycle even my top sellers are making refinements along the way, but my manufacturer is really quick to respond to and get what I’m trying to do.

Steve: Okay so let’s talk about sales now, so you launched a site, you didn’t get any traffic to it and so you decided to launch on Amazon. How did you actually launch your product on Amazon?

Chris: One afternoon right before the 4th of July, I looked up can an individual sell on Amazon and found out that I could and I was sort of shocked by that, and so I went through their seller central support system and I set up my product and I turned it on, and that was the extent of my launch.

Steve: No giveaways, no ads, you just…

Chris: Never actually up until the last year I’ve just started doing fancy products I guess in the last year and a half, but no I was pretty naïve, I just turned it on and that was it. And then I went on vacation and found that I was selling some pill holders, this my cool little seller app tells me how I’m doing.

Steve: Which I’m sure you were not checking at all on vacation?

Chris: No, no definitely and I still don’t check it every ten seconds [inaudible 00:19:42]. My husband and I like to shout out numbers to each other as we get excited, but we were living the dream.

Steve: You product just naturally takes off, so how – so just walk me through this, like how did you start getting featured on videos, your documentary and all that stuff, just walk me through that?

Chris: All right, so let me think of the timeline here. So July of 2013 I launched on Amazon and then…

Steve: Specifically how does a Chinese guy get on a documentary?

Chris: Yeah how do we make it happen? So much of it I think is who you know and chance. Well let me just not say who you know, but it’s just like being open to what can happen, I think that’s a better way of saying that. So since I started there’s never a Cielo pill holder, if I listed for you the 28 things that have happened that seemed so coincidental, you would just go there is absolutely no way that, this is not possible. And yet somehow things are suddenly working when you’re on the right path, I really, really, really believe that.

Amazon and my partnership with them has been probably one of the biggest examples that the series of so called coincidences like holy crap they just, they work and there has to be, and you look in hindsight and you’re like of course that is the way I went. That was theoretically how the Amazon relationship got as strong as it did for me. I guess I’m naturally a person, I just love to meet people, and I love to connect. The Amazon relationship started for me in the peak section at a Home Depot, because I was going to pick my kitchen and I started talking to a girl there because we both had little tiny babies and we started to chat.

She and I hit it off and she said you know I’m having this barbecue; you and your husband should come next weekend. So here is a friend, a person I met at Home Depot and I went to barbecue at her house and she said I want you to meet my friend, he works at Amazon, I think you guys have a lot to talk about. And lo and behold it was his last week there and Amazon had just launched the exclusives program, so this was June of 2015, just a year ago.

It was his last week with Amazon and I talked to him and he said, oh my gosh this product, I think it’s just right, let me email my friend who is in charge of the exclusives program, I think you should do it. So that was a Saturday and on Monday I had an email from the head of Amazon exclusives saying, would you like to join our program, and I’d had a conversation with a pretty big buck retailer in order to partner with Amazon and I think I was the 26th brand that they brought into the exclusives program and it’s now into the many hundreds.
So that was the fortuitous, random, you can’t meet it at Home Depot that lands me on Amazon.

Steve: Lets’ talk about Amazon exclusive, so first of all for the people out there what is it and why did you decide to not go with the big bucks retailer and go with Amazon?

Chris: So Amazon exclusives is awesome, it is perfect if you’re a brand that is really just trying to get off the ground, or if you’re a brand that is bringing a lot of new products to market and wants to get traction fast for them. So the intent behind Amazon exclusives is that Amazon is curating these interesting core products and brands that they can introduce their customers to, and exclusives is actually a store front within Amazon.com, so it’s amazon.com/exclusives.

That really show case all of these brands, and so as a business or brand owner what you give them is exclusivity for starting a six months is the initial commitment you make to them where you’re only going to sell on your own website, so that’s okay and you’re going to sell on amazon.com, and you also pay them a little bit more in fees, so a few more points in fees on your product assortment.

So what made that worth it to me was the additional marketing and merchandising that they give you, it’s incredible for they’re constantly every month refreshing different collections of products that they are featuring for their community, and so you have a chance every month and I’m sure I was being featured right now as a stock in to [inaudible 00:24:05] for example.

Every month your products can be show cased in these different tech gadgets or a gift for him, a gift for her, whatever areas to focus on.
Amazon gives it home page extra marketing, there is access to deals which was a lot more valuable but for other lightening deals where [inaudible 00:24:26] you can do deals a lot more if you’re selling through the exclusives team.

Steve: Can you do a [inaudible 00:24:31] more of their restrictions.

Chris: There are the same restrictions that you have with the frequency of them and so on, but the fees are waived, so now that they started targeting for lightening deals you don’t pay fees on them in the exclusives program, that’s all rolled into what you pay them upfront. They also give you A plus content that you can put on all your product pages, so that’s really a place to show case your brand story, and you can upload videos which isn’t something that just a normal Amazon seller can do.

Steve: Can you [inaudible 00:25:02] A plus content just in case someone doesn’t know what that is?

Chris: Yeah so A plus content is if you scroll through a product listing down to the bottom of the page, and if you looked at one of mine, my frame single chamber pill holder product is probably a good example of it, it’ll show you where you can just tell, there is like extra space to put a picture, then put up copy and put videos and your logo and really use that space to tell more of a story about your brand so you are not just a picture and a price with a couple of bullets. So it helps people really engage with you beyond just a typical Amazon experience.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.
And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

Just curious, what is the conversion rate increase from having that A plus content versus not having it?

Chris: I wish I knew, there are so many variables that have changed over time that I don’t actually have a good answer to that. I believe it works though.

Steve: I’m sure it does and I’m sure a lot of…

Chris: I sure want to know.

Steve: I’m sure a lot of people have been curious how some of these listings are so full whereas other listings are just like flat out text, so this is how you do it.

Chris: That’s exactly how you do it, and if you’re not privy to this program I think through AMS you can buy, there is a way you can pay for that extra content if you’re not part of exclusive.

Steve: Right it’s like thousands of dollars I think, right?

Chris: Yes it is, it’s thousands of dollars, yes so and then so many other things that come that are less concrete I guess but can just happen because of the visibility you have on the exclusives platform is PR opportunities. So the Amazon PR team is really interested in what’s going on with third party sellers, and what a third party seller which now make up half of Amazon sales.

The third party sellers with some of the most visibility are on the exclusives program and so when they get a pitch from a reporter or they’re pitched in a story and want to illustrate it with follow up commentary, they call up sellers from the exclusives program. So I think I’ve had some pretty unusual results but I’ve been featured in Forbes, Small Business Journal put in an article about Cielo this week, been on the front page of the Seattle Times. I was in an Amazon fulfillment center on Cyber Monday last year which was awesome, and I ended up in 13 local news segments that day, incredible.

Steve: Do you know what these effects of all those press releases are in sales by any chance, like did you notice any…

Chris: Sales, yes, yes, yes and then they just keep growing.

Steve: So which press release actually had the largest effect, was it your magazine mentions, your newspaper mentions?

Chris: It was the newspaper, so actually it was the local TV where I was able to talk about the product by far, and so I think there a whole bunch of factors that go into that was also Cyber Monday. So people were in a gifting share mind and my product was being featured as a highly giftable stock in [inaudible 00:29:23] item. But I think – go ahead.

Steve: I was going to say in terms of visibility on the Amazon website, it’s not limited to just the exclusives section, they…

Chris: Oh no, no and in fact I should also mention that when you submit your products every month for consideration for different marketing opportunities, the Amazon exclusives team is taking that internally and they are looking at what are the broader promotions within Amazon that are going on, and can we take Cielo pill holders for example and promote them more broadly on Amazon.

So last year they did 12 days of gifting promotion, Amazon exclusives did and they were able to promote that on amazon.com mobile home page, so Cielo had a day last year and Cielo was on amazon.com’s mobile home page.

Steve: Like the front page?

Chris: Yeah like I just drove down, aha once you got to the 12 days of gifting pack it was insane, it was awesome.

Steve: Okay, all right so anything you left out about this awesome exclusives program, it sounds incredible? My next question would be naturally how you get in?

Chris: So the way you get in is pretty easy actually, they have an application process right on their exclusives home page, so amazon.com/exclusives and you can get in right there. I also, I know a bunch of people and I’m always excited to talk to new entrepreneurs and people too, so feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about it.

Steve: Are they really restrictive on who they let in, like I would imagine like you are special because you have this really awesome story and then your product really ties into your background. Is that what they look for or do they just accept a lot of people?

Chris: I think it’s kind of a mix, they are looking for great stories to tell and that is their top priority is to bring really great products and with stories behind them to their customers, and I think they’re trying to balance that with how they also grow the program quickly and maintain the integrity of it.

Steve: Okay and then so today how many people are in the exclusives program, do you happen to know?

Chris: I actually don’t know, it was a few hundred a few months ago I think.

Steve: Okay, so a relatively small number of sellers are getting…

Chris: Yeah.

Steve: Which clearly means that they have a very exclusive criteria to select who they want?

Chris: Yes, definitely.

Steve: What would you say – sorry go on.

Chris: I’ll just add one more thing. One really great benefit has been that I have been invited to strategic seller conferences which clearly I would never be part of as just little tiny Cielo Pill Holders without a connection to exclusives. So exclusives often gets to invite some of its sellers to the bigger top seller conferences that Amazon hosts, so I’ve been there with top, top Amazon sellers and learnt so much from people in Amazon.

Steve: Care to share any of those things that you’ve learnt

Chris: Nothing specific comes to mind right now, I’m sorry.

Steve: It’s okay. Well let me ask you this, what would you say are some disadvantages of doing the exclusives program?

Chris: Well I think that there is a right time in a brands life for the exclusives program, so I think it’s really, really great as you’re just starting to grow. I talked with some people who are close to the program and the idea isn’t that you’re in the exclusives program forever, eventually you should outgrow it. So I think that I’m at the point right now where I’m starting to think about what’s the right distribution strategy for, me and is it staying exclusive with Amazon forever, probably not.

And so I think figuring out the right timing in your life cycle is probably a really important thing to consider.

Steve: So for a launch vehicle, that’s generally when you recommend getting in?

Chris: Yeah I think it’s great for a launch especially now that incentivized reviews have gone away, because I didn’t mention one other part of the program is they’re constantly featuring new products, and there’s a whole new “Look what’s new” in exclusives section. So every time you add a new product, you are automatically on the feet to get show cased there, so you’re getting extra visibility for new products.

Then this is also a group where they are beta testing a lot of the new Amazon programs, and so I know there has been a lot of talk about what are they going to do with the early reviewer program, and I think that with probably some of the exclusives people are getting the chance to try out before maybe the general seller population.

Steve: I see, so I would imagine as part of the exclusives program, you really don’t need to do much marketing it sounds like, right?

Chris: No.

Steve: Like giveaways, even sponsored ads, you mentioned you’ve just started buying them?

Chris: I do and they do great, so it’s not really – all the things that work on Amazon just work even better when you’re part of the exclusives program. It’s like you have this tale win
from the exclusives program that’s just getting you going even faster, and then from there sponsored products and whatever extra marketing you do and giveaways and all of that just rumps up that fly wheel even faster, that’s the word they use all the time internally, the fly wheel.

Steve: When you launch a new product then, do you still just list it or do you do anything special?

Chris: I have been a little bit lazy because of – I’m going to blaming it on having two babies these last two years, but mostly I just listed, and I probably could be doing a heck of a lot more.

Steve: Okay, another question I want to ask and it might be obvious but do you make the majority of your sales on Amazon, like is your site generating sales right now?

Chris: The majority of my sales probably 85% are on Amazon.

Steve: Okay and here’s a question I want to ask you, because you’re part of the exclusives program and you have some internal contacts over there, do you feel a lot more secure putting more of your eggs in Amazon’s basket, like are you immune to like the copy cats and getting your listings suspended and that sort of thing?

Chris: No, I’m not immune to it. I have advocates to help me through when it happens and it has happened, it happened recently and even with really great advocacy and great connections it’s not an overnight step even for me and so that actually scares the heck out of me, so what would it be like if I didn’t have those connections.
And so I’ve seen competition has increased significantly in the pill holder category including the cost to buy product over the last six months or so, and so that’s actually a big part of what really pushed me to think about diversification as well.

Steve: Do you think that has anything to do with being a part of the exclusives program, or do you think it’s just people using Jungle Scout and finding your product?

Chris: I think it’s probably more just the Jungle Scout stuff, because it’s Chinese knock offs.

Steve: So let me ask you this, they can probably undercut you on price, and they are probably not domestically realistic, right?

Chris: No and that’s another thing that they’re really good about in the exclusives program is obviously you’re part of brand registry, but if anyone hijacks your listing they’ll take it down immediately, you just have to email and tell them it’s gone.

Steve: Okay, so we’re talking about copy cats right now that have separate listings, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Steve: So let me ask you this, a lot of sales have to do with price, so how are you emphasizing your listing and still making sales even though your product might be like 30 or 40% more expensive?

Chris: I rely a lot on my imagery to communicate quality and that’s probably besides price the second biggest thing you’ve got there, and so I’m nervous about it to be totally honest, and I’m thinking a lot about innovation and patentable innovation as where I can get my sustainable growth from. The rip off from my core products have been pretty intense.

Steve: And I would imagine that these rip offs look pretty close, right, they’re just…

Chris: Oh they look identical, in fact they look so identical that they steal my images and my bullets and I’m still working on getting those taken down.

Steve: That’s terrible, that’s terrible.

Chris: And the quality is actually pretty good too which is the worst part in my mind.

Steve: Oh my gosh, okay. So you mentioned wanting to go beyond the exclusives program, have you considered going into like retail outlets then, other retail outlets?

Chris: Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the right path will be if I expand beyond exclusives and online and I do think it’s more wholesale. I think high and independent pharmacy
makes a lot of sense for Cielo, and so that’s an area that I’m very interested in learning more about, but I do think there could be a really strong wholesale business and that’s probably my next attraction.

Steve: One thing I did want to talk to you about as well is you’ve kind of created this philanthropic community around your product as well, how has that contributed to sales and what has that done for your business?

Chris: It’s been awesome. I mean it’s a pill holder but it’s a lot more than that in my mind, and what I mean by that is health is so personal, and matters so much, and so I hope these pill holders are creating an experience for people that’s better than anything else they’ve experienced with pill holders out there. It’s coming to people who have – they have chronic conditions and being sick isn’t the best part of their lives, and I want to help them make it better.

So beyond just the product, I wanted to create a business that mattered and actually helps people, and so I with my autoimmune condition I still pin it back to that with the way I try to really make a difference in terms of choosing, make a difference that is true. I partnered with this incredible organization, generally a research institute, I couldn’t believe it when I found out they were in Seattle.

I was looking at campaigns all around the world that I could work with and they happened to be in my own backyard quite literally, and so they are a leader in global autoimmune disease research and I have been so fortunate to work with them. I’ve been through their facilities and worked with their scientists and spoke at their events and I give money to them, but more than that I’ve just connected with them and they’ve connected me to their patients, and I’ve just met some wonderful people and I know it’s actually making a difference for them.

Steve: So in terms of this, is this something that’s prominent on your Amazon listing as well that you give money to this organization?

Chris: It is, yeah it’s one of my bullets on the key, my five bullets and then it’s also in my A plus content.

Steve: Okay and so that probably all ties in, like that value prop is probably pretty strong that someone may want to pay the extra money for?

Chris: That’s the hope, made in the USA, philanthropic, beautiful and of course great quality.

Steve: And so going forward you mentioned that you’re a little bit nervous about all these knock offs that are coming out, so what are specific things that you are now doing to get more
sales in your own website?

Chris: I’m actually really focused on building an ecommerce business through my own site. It’s funny; you know we met at an Ecommerce Fuel event a couple of weeks ago. I felt like such a novice there because I’ve a great Amazon business, but I feel like I don’t have a clue about building my own website.
So one of my strategic task for this coming year is really to build a strong ecommerce business off of the Amazon, so I’m actually right now migrating off of exclusives on to Shopify so that I have an introduction platform in place that can help with that, and then I really think Facebook ads are going to be a place that I can find the right customers to a pretty specific niche product.

Steve: Yes.

Chris: So once I get the migration done I’m going to focus on Facebook and I think I’m going to focus on really specific groups like I have products geared for people who have had heart attacks. So that’s a really narrow group and I’ll probably try to find them on Facebook and they’ll be some of my testing.

Steve: Okay and then what were some of your key takeaways, like what are your top three things that you’re going to do to take yourself off of Amazon and establish your business, so you mentioned Facebook ads, what else?

Chris: Well I’ll take diversification with the hotel platform is probably the biggest number two, number one for me, so looking at hotel opportunities, number two building my site through Facebook ads, and also I think this is equally as big but a little bit longer term play is this product is something that I can mention is personal, it’s about health and I have done nothing to really raise awareness and promote it and create advocates in the community of people who have chronic conditions, so huge plans for outreach and advocacy to really start to create loyal brand followers.

Recently I was combing Amazon data, it’s 15% repeat customers, and that’s just off of Amazon from people who like the product. So imagine if I can get people that actually know the whole story to start to talk about it and care about it, I think the opportunity is huge.

Steve: That will be cool. One thing I did want to ask you, you mentioned you wanted to branch out into wholesale, that implies that you’re going to be off the exclusives program, right?

Chris: If I go that route, I think that that’s a someday thing, it’s not an immediate thing, so this is more like my long term strategic plan.

Steve: Okay and then in terms of this document that’s coming out, first of what is that coming out and is it going to be like plastered all over the Amazon website?

Chris: I don’t know, that’s such a great question. So Amazon, they’ve just been really excited about my story, I don’t remember if I told you this or not but I’m actually in an ad campaign for Amazon right now in Europe. I think I’m on the side of a bus and maybe some bill board.

Steve: Oh my gosh, that’s crazy.

Chris: They did a photo shoot at my house and I got some great images I get to use, but they did do this video which was not – we filmed it actually a year ago almost to the day, I can’t believe it and we shot six locations, inside my manufacturer’s, inside my high school, kind of like the life story of Chris Boerner that culminates in hero. I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do with it, I got an update recently that it’s very much still under way and they’re getting close to wrapping it.

So I know they’ve invested a lot of time in it and they want to really show case to really tell a story, so my guess is they’re going to promote it maybe someday I’ll be on the Amazon home page, I’d be all right with that.

Steve: That is awesome, well I’ll be looking out for it, and Chris thanks a lot for coming on the show. If anyone wants more information about exclusives or more about your story, where
can they find you?

Chris: You can send me an email, chris@cielopillholders.com. Thank you so much Steve.

Steve: Thanks a lot, it was great hearing your story, and it was a pleasure meeting you a month ago, it was awesome

Chris: I agree.

Steve: All right take care.

Chris: You too.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Chris has an amazing story and it also goes to show that you don’t necessary have to be importing your goods from China in order to succeed with good margins. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode153.

And once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/steve, that’s spelled P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, and once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

152: Easy Ways To Boost Sales And The Real Reason You Need To Look Beyond Amazon

Share On Facebook

152: Easy Ways To Boost Sales And The Real Reason You Need To Look Beyond Amazon

Play

In this solo podcast episode, I go over the most important reason why you need to expand beyond Amazon. You’ll learn 6 easy to implement strategies on how to sell more to your existing customers and boost your sales significantly.

Enjoy the show!

What You’ll Learn

  • How to find your business customers
  • How to find your best repeat customers
  • How to leverage Facebook lookalike audiences
  • How to cross sell your customers
  • How to implement a referral program
  • Why you need to expand beyond Amazon

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou and today we’re doing another solo episode where I’m going to discuss six simple ways to grow your business by selling to your existing customers.
But before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m super excited to talk about Privy, because I use and rely on Privy to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with my email marketing provider.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in ecommerce stores. Now Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over 100 bucks, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item into their cart.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a unique and special coupon code for that item or display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, right now I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, and try it for free, and if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Now I’m also blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another provider. Well Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, well that’s easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m doing another solo episode, and I’m here to discuss the number one reason why you need to be expanding beyond Amazon, beyond eBay, beyond Etsy and one of a third party market place that you happen to be using. I’m going to show you six simple ways to make recurring revenue off of your existing customers which is really something that you can’t do if you’re relying on some of these third party market places, so let’s talk about that for a moment.

In general it is much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to go out and find a brand new one. They know your brand, they trust you, they like you, and most importantly they’ve already spent money with you, so they’re willing to open their wallets. According to the small business administration, it is 65% easier to convert an existing customer than it is to find a brand new one, and from personal experience I think it’s actually way more than that. It is way easier to convert an existing customer than it is to find a new one.

Just as an example, over the holidays email marketing which is to our existing customers account for over 21% of our revenues, a little under a third of our business are from repeat customers like event planners, hotels, small airlines, etc. All of our pay per click ads like Facebook ads, Google ads to our existing audiences have a ridiculously high ROI, something that like five or 6X return on ad spend.

So if you aren’t doing so already, you really need to be paying more attention to your existing customer base rather than devoting all of your resources to finding new customers out there because it’s a lot more expensive to acquire a brand new customer. And just a quick note, everything that I am going to be talking about today you can’t do on Amazon, you can’t do on eBay, you can’t do on Etsy, because you don’t have customer emails, you can’t easily retarget your customers and bring them back.

If you run ads to like an Amazon listing for example, you have zero conversion information. Now you can try to use Amazon affiliate links for links in your third party ads like Facebook or Google, but technically that’s actually against Amazon terms of service. You are not supposed to be driving affiliate revenue to your own listings online.

So bottom line if you are relying on third party market places like Amazon, you’re actually missing out on a ton of sales. And here’s a funny statistic, for 2016 Amazon accounted for 15% of retail sales which basically means that there is 85% of business out there that is actually off Amazon, that’s actually another reason why you need to get off there as well.
The other thing you also need to remember is that there is very little or no brand recognition on Amazon. So whatever your business that you’re getting now off the Amazon, it could actually disappear tomorrow, and I always like to reference this conversation that I had with my mum last year.

My mum still to this day thinks that when you are shopping at Amazon, you’re actually buying on Amazon, and when I told her that we actually sold on Amazon, she was shocked because this entire time, she thought that Amazon just had every single product under the sun, and if my mum thinks that, chances are there is a lot more people out there that think the exact same way.

All right so let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about some specific tactics on how to sell more to your existing customers. This first one may not apply to all businesses, but for my ecommerce store, we actually surprisingly attract a lot of business customers, and I was actually pretty shocked when I first discovered this. You might be surprised too with your business if you take the time to look.

So the first step is to export all of your customers and all of your transactions to a spreadsheet. A lot of shopping carts like Shopify or BigCommerce allow you to do this right off the bat. If you’re using Klaviyo for your email marketing provider, you don’t even need to do this step because all the transactions it is built in to Klaviyo already.

The next step is to flag customers who buy an abnormally large quantity of your goods. For example let’s say you’re using Klaviyo, I can create a segment of people who have purchased more than three dozen napkins. I’m choosing napkins in my example here because most people who buy napkins from us, they buy one dozen or at most two dozens for their own personal use.

But in general anyone who is going to be buying three dozen or more, chances are those people are either running an event or they are running some sort of business. So these are the customers that I want to single out, the people who have a lot of purchasing power. You also want to scan the emails that you’re filtering out for your customers for signs of a business. So for example we found our first airline customer this way, in the email address was actually the name of the airline, and I recognized this airline name and instantly I knew it was a business customer.

So you’re looking for business customers here, and once you have this list, pick up the phone and call them up. So let’s say I was calling that airline, I would say something like, “Thank you for your order, I just wanted to verify your deadline to make sure we get these linens to you on time.” Then once you have established a conversation, then you want to probe more into their business and establish a relationship.

Mention that you want to be their single point of contact for future orders, and if you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to me directly. Here is my number, call me any time you have any needs, I’ll make sure your linens get to the destination on time, and boom instantly you have large consistent orders for life assuming that business has needs for recurring purchases.

This actually works really well, we’ve gotten a lot of our larger customers this way, it’s amazing what picking up the phone does for business. Now contrast that if you’re buying on Amazon for example, sometimes people like a little bit of hand holding, so all of the event planners who are our customers, sometimes they have last minute requests, they need their stuff delivered on time, and they need that single point of contact to make sure that stuff gets there on time, and as you know for weddings timing is very crucial. That’s’ why it’s important to pick up the phone and actually call these customers on line.

I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all of their friends. What if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve. Once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

So that’s how you get more business customers. The next step you need to do is to look on that same spreadsheet and isolate out all of your repeat customers online. These people don’t necessarily buy in huge quantities from you, but they buy on a consistent basis. So here is the thing, we’ve targeted the wedding industry for such a long time that we actually didn’t realize that we actually had a repeat customer base, after all unless someone gets divorced, they aren’t coming back to buy more wedding linens.

For years I thought all of our customers were actually one offs, but you can’t actually know unless you look. So once again take your spreadsheet, isolate all the people who have purchased more than once and what you want to do is once you have that list, you want to run special promotions and ads to these people because the conversion rate is going to be sky high. Push them to buy more items, email these customers more often because they are already a customer, they buy more than once, it doesn’t hurt to email them more often and treat them like loyalty.

We actually have this one customer believe it or not who has purchased over 150 times from our store which is crazy. I’ve also met a bunch of people that frequently collect handkerchiefs; I had no idea that there are people out there like this. There are also people out there that use handkerchiefs to decorate their house or for various arts and crafts.

Once you have these two lists, the business customers and the repeat customers, you can leverage the power of Facebook to scale your business by creating look alike audiences. So once again if you don’t have your email addresses and you are relying on Amazon and Etsy for this, you can’t do any of these things.

Now just a recap if you guys aren’t familiar with Facebook ads, a look alike audience is when Facebook goes out and finds people that are within 99% of the people that you’ve uploaded to Facebook. So for example I can email my entire customer list of emails to Facebook, and they’ll find people that are within 99% of the same demographic. These are going to be 100% brand new customers that haven’t bought and are very highly likely to buy from you.

Leveraging look alike audience incidentally is how a lot of companies scale and it works really well. So for example, I recently took my repeat customer list and generated an audience of 2 million people on Facebook that are 99% the same demographic to sell to within ten minute’s time. Right now I’m actually running a free plus shipping offer to two different look alike audiences, and they are converting quite well, because I’m relying on Facebook to find similar customers than the ones that I’ve already had.

Very powerful and once again you can’t do this unless you have an email list. Once you have your customer base, you can easily cross sell them additional products as well. So once again if you go through your spreadsheet and look through your product mix, and you’ll probably find products that are very complimentary to each other. Find people who have purchased item A but have not bought a complimentary item B.

Here is just a quick example from our store. If someone bought dinner napkins from our store, there is a high likelihood that they may want to buy place mats or cocktail napkins, so why not isolate these customers, send them an email, and then show them place mats or cocktail napkins. Why not run an ad to people who only purchase napkins and run them ad to get them to buy cocktail napkins or place mats.

If someone bought a hankie, they might need a box, so why not reach out and see if we can up sell them a box. The customer at this point, they’ve already purchased from you, they trust you, they are willing to open their wallets, they’ve spent money with you and they would easily buy from you again, the friction is gone at that point. That’s another way to leverage your existing customers.
Now you guys are probably listening to this cross selling and all these techniques, and it might sound a little bit tedious to you, but the way I do it, it’s actually fully automated. Once again I use Klaviyo and they are incidentally a sponsor of this podcast. If you’re interested in starting up for free, you can go to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, but with Klaviyo you can simply create a segment of people who purchased dinner napkins but not cocktail napkins.

They’ll amass all the emails of people who exactly fit those characteristics, and then at that point you can send them emails directly, or you can export these audiences over to Facebook at a click of a button and instantly run Facebook ads to these people. This is very powerful and once again this is fully automated, I don’t really need to do anything about this.
As I mentioned before, the number one problem with our store is that there aren’t enough people getting divorced in this country. I like to see the divorce rate go to up to over 90%, now just kidding but as I mentioned before wedding customers are our primary customers and they aren’t coming back. So what is a way to get these wedding customers to actually come back? Well you can’t really get them to come back, but you can get them to refer their friends.

Here’s how it works, after a purchase you can provide your customer with an additional coupon or a gift card if they refer a friend, and then as a double bonus you could actually give that friend a discount on their next purchase as well. So it’s a win-win, and once again there is an easy way to do this by using a service like ReferralCandy who once again is a sponsor of the show, promo.referralcandy.com/steve if you’re interested in signing up.

This is an easy to just facilitate referrals, because as you’ll discover as you are running your online store, word of mouth is going to be pretty huge, and anything you can do amplify this word of mouth is going to work really well.

So once again if all of these other options that I’ve mentioned so far are tedious as well, well fine, just take your customer list and blast them an email with a coupon or a promotion. Once again you can’t do this on Amazon or eBay or Etsy, because you don’t have the list you can’t blast them an email, but if you’re really lazy and you just want to get some instant business, just send them out an email with a coupon code and it works like game busters.

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about coupons in general, a lot of times people end up spending the same amount as they were planning to spend regardless of the coupon amount, because they feel like they’re getting something for nothing already, and sometimes they actually even end up spending more than they were planning on spending. But here is the thing about discounts, you don’t want to send the discount to someone who would have purchased anyway, and you don’t want to give a higher discount than it’s necessary to actually get someone to buy.

So here’s what you can do to segment your customers and incidentally this is what I do for mine. So if no one has purchased in two months, I give them a very small coupon. If they’ve purchased in the past and they haven’t purchased in two and a half months, I give them a larger coupon. If they haven’t bought in three months, I give them an even larger coupon, because if they haven’t bought from us in three months, chances are they aren’t coming back anyway, so this is kind of like a last digit effort to get them to come back.

If they bought recently I don’t send them anything, although the people who are repeat customers and very loyal customers, I’ll often send them special promotions just to make them feel better for being a loyal customer. So this is how I run my promotions so that I don’t overspend or over discount anything online.

So here is the thing about your customer list, it is an endless source of repeat business and allows you to lay a foundation for your revenue, and if you think about it this way, having repeat customer is like running a SaaS business. It’s similar to SaaS for software because it’s recurring revenue. Once again if you’re only selling on Amazon, Etsy or eBay then you can’t take advantage of this, you don’t have emails.

You can’t contact your customers, you can’t run good external ads like Facebook ads because you won’t have the conversion data, you have no idea whether a customer is converting or not. You won’t have brand equity, grandmas all over the nation will think that they are shopping at Amazon and not from you, you’re not going to have any brand equity, you can’t establish a foundation for your business.
I’m not saying that you should stop selling on Amazon, Amazon is great for cash flow but you need to start laying a foundation for your business, because your business on Amazon could disappear at any time, people are not going to be loyal to you, Amazon can ban you at any time, there is going to be another listing for your exact same product at half the price, and obviously some people will buy that listing and save yours.

So really the only way to future proof your business is to establish your own brand, your own customer list, and it provides a foundation for your business because those people are going to be buying from you again, again and again.

All right, so I hope you guys found this valuable, just now I’m going to take a peak on Facebook live to see if there are any questions I can answer. Hope you enjoyed that episode, hopefully I demonstrated to you how crucial it is to own your own customers and your own platform. And if you’re relying on Amazon or any other marketplace for that matter as your only source of revenue, then you’re missing out. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode152.

Once again I want to thank klaviyo.com for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants, and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. And if you want to give it a try it is free, so head on over to privy.com/steve. That’s privy.com/steve.

Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

151: How Mike Stelzner Created A Multi Million Dollar Social Media Marketing Site And Conference

Share On Facebook

151: How Mike Stelzner Created The Largest Social Media Marketing How To Site Online

Play

Today I’m thrilled to have Michael Stelzner on the show. Now I was introduced to Mike by my friend Darren Rowse of Problogger and I’m really glad that he made the intro.

Mike runs the ridiculously popular site Social Media Examiner which gets an insane amount of traffic. I’m just going to make a rough estimate here but I’m guessing somewhere in the 1.1 million uniques per month range.

He’s got over a half million email subscribers and a half million Facebook fans for his page. Mike also runs the largest social media conference in the world called Social Media Marketing World which is happening from March 22-24.

Enjoy the show!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Social Media Examiner makes money
  • Mike’s leading traffic sources
  • How he built up each traffic source.
  • How he scaled both his site and his conference so quickly
  • How to leverage influencers to write for you and promote your site

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Today I have the legendary Michael Stelzner on the show, who runs Social Media Examiner perhaps the most popular social media site around, but before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show.

Now I’m super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email marketing provider. Well Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email out to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I have ever used and you can try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo for a free trial.

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s also cool is that I use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.
Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here is why I like and chose

Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer you desire. For example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over $100, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or to display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, I’m showing different email lead magnets depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to Klaviyo to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve and try it for free, and that’s spelled P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, and if you decide that you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. So once again that’s privy.com/steve, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m thrilled to have Michael Stelzner on the show. Now I was actually introduced to Mike by my friend Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, and I’m really glad that he actually made the intro. Mike runs the ridiculously popular site Social Media Examiner which gets an insane amount of traffic.

And I’m just going to make a rough estimate here, but I’m guessing somewhere in the one million uniques per month range. He’s got over half a million email subscribers and a half a million Facebook fans for his page. He also runs the largest social media conference in the world called Social Media Marketing World, which is actually happening on March 22nd to the 24th.

Now having run an event myself, I know that the amount of work it takes is tremendous. Mike’s conference is actually 40 times larger than mine, so I can’t even imagine the organization that is required. Anyways I’m actually going to be a speaker there talking about Facebook ads for physical products next month, so if anyone out there listening wants to meet up in sunny San Diego, look me up. And with that welcome to the show Mike, how are you doing today man?

Michael: I’m doing great, thank you so much for having me Steve.

Steve: Yeah Mike you know we met relatively recently, but what is your background and what gave you the idea to create Social Media Examiner?

Michael: Well it’s a great story. I’m a serial entrepreneur; I’m 21 years in this adventure. My background is that before Social Media Examiner I was a writer, I wrote a book called Writing White Papers, and I was hired by lots of well known corporations to help them write these things called white papers which are like informative and persuasive designed to help the marketing department generate leads, sell, and all that fun stuff.

Right around 2009, late 2008, early 2009 a lot of people started talking about social and it was like the buzz. So for my business back then I had a newsletter with about 20,000 people on it all about white papers and white paper marketing. So I started interviewing all these people in my network that seemed to understand Twitter, and Facebook, and LinkedIn which were pretty much the players at the time, and I just started to notice that whenever anybody wrote anything about social it was like exploding on social.

So I got this crazy idea to start a website more as a movement called Social Media Examiner and kind of I didn’t notice any [inaudible 00:05:50], I started searching for domain names and to my great shock Social Media Examiner was available. Back then nobody was using three words, everybody was using two words, so the first thing I did was I registered the trademark, because I thought San Francisco Examiner was going to come sue me, because I just assumed they had a lock on the word examiner, and everything exploded from that point forward.

Steve: So these 20,000 people that you started with, that was just from your white paper business?

Michael: Yeah that was my white paper business, and I kept that going for about two years while I run Social Media Examiner like as a side gig. Not very many of those people moved over to Social Media Examiner. I would say I pretty much started from scratch just like everybody else does, and I did obviously use – because writers aren’t always interested in social, at least they weren’t back then, go ahead.

Steve: And you mentioned interviewing them, was that like in a podcast or was that like a text based interview?

Michael: What I did with the white paper business I would interview and I would change – basically I would do interviews, then I would work into an article and then they would get emailed. So back in the white paper days I would send a monthly email newsletter that was very long and would have four or five articles. It started before blogs were popular, and then eventually I started a blog called Michael Stelzner is writing white papers, because I was coming out with that book.

But yeah interviews were always at the core of what I did. When I started Social Media Examiner actually I went to two different trade shows and I hired a video guy to come with me, and I did on ten minute on camera interviews with all the social luminaries at the time, people like Scott Monty, he used to work for Ford and Chris Brogan, and a number of other people and I just asked the questions that I personally wanted answers to, and that became some of the content we published on Social Media Examiner.

Steve: Interesting, so you what’s funny Mike, I’m looking at your blog right now, I don’t see any ads, I don’t really notice many affiliate links either. I listened to your podcast and you primarily promote your own event, and so what are the main revenue sources for Social Media Examiner?

Michael: It’s a great question, we don’t take advertising, so the way I describe us is we are a product based media company. So we are a true media company in the sense that we have a very big blog, a very big podcast, a live show, video stuff that we do just like any other media company, but our exclusive sponsor is our products, Social Media Marketing World during half the year and Social Media Marketing Society during another portion of the year, and pretty much that’s how we make most of our money.

We have an email newsletter that goes out three days a week to about 560,000 people, and in that newsletter there’s links to our articles and there are also links to offers for eBooks and stuff, and those are paid placements inside of that newsletter. But that’s a small part of our revenue, the bulk really is from our conference and from our society which has kind of gotten monthly ongoing professional development and training.

Steve: So what is the rationale for not including like affiliate links for example?

Michael: So I thought to myself – and by the way a lot of my friends are affiliate marketers. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with affiliate marketing except there are some challenges that come with it and you know this to be true. First of all those affiliates expect that you’re going to promote them, and you do get to this point where you have to decide, do I want to be reliant on selling other people’s products or do I want to actually make my own products.

I realized that there was a lot more money and if I was willing to do the work in creating and selling my own products as you know over actually just being an affiliate for someone else’s products. In early days every one of my friends even to this day, they all have their launches, they all have their products, so about four or five years ago I made the decision, we’re not going to do any affiliates for anyone under any circumstances ever.

We just made the decision that we’re not in the business of doing that, we instead are going to be more like consumer reports, we’re going to be agnostic, and I think by making that decision it’s helped us in a couple of ways. First of all because we’re a pretty big media entity, there is FCC compliance rules, and we don’t want to have to deal with some of these issues.

We have lots of writers that write for us and if we took an equity stake or if we took an affiliate relationship with these products, then there’s all sorts of disclosures that have to happen in the content that we produce. And we just want to be in the business of producing really high quality original content that is unencumbered with affiliate relationships, and allows us to produce our opinion on anything we want without any compliance issues.

For us the money on the affiliate stuff no matter how good it is isn’t enough because we’re making so much more from the products that we sell.

Steve: I notice on your right hand side bar there’s links, those aren’t affiliate links or?

Michael: They’re not, no. We have Social Media Examiner recommends and we have a couple of company logos on the right hand side of our website. These are people that are part of our partner program, and what that means is they are spending at least $30,000 a quarter in our email newsletter, and that’s one of the benefits they get for that kind of commitment is that we will place their logo, and we only have four slots in the partner program.

We’ll place that logo on our website which allows them to get a lot of branding and traffic to their website, but there is no affiliate deal at all, that’s just kind of a special pack we put together to help us sell out of our email newsletter inventory.

Steve: Okay, that’s actually pretty interesting. What is the going rate for advertising in an email?

Michael: $6,000 per day per slot.

Steve: So per email or?

Michael: Per email.

Steve: Per email okay.

Michael: So we can earn up to $12,000 on every email we send and it’s we don’t do direct sends ever, so our email newsletter is like – and by the way it has to do with the size of the email too, so the price used to be a lot less, but it’s like in block number one in the email will be a 70 word blurb which includes a link to our article, then block number two and three are promotions for free offers like eBooks. You know these guys are using us for leads and stuff, and then the next block will be a promotion for whatever we’re selling like the conference Social Media Marketing World, then last block would be another one of our articles.

So we always begin and end with our articles to get the readers to get all the way to the bottom of the newsletter.

Steve: Is it based on open rate or is it based on list size?

Michael: It’s based on clicks.

Steve: Clicks, okay.

Michael: Okay let me rephrase. The way we sell it is everybody wants the clicks because the clicks drive the traffic and then they generate the leads, but the list size is what they’re buying, so they are buying a fast a highly accelerated way to generate leads because when you email as big of an audience as we do three days a week, they could get 1000 leads in 48 hours. So they’re not going to get that anywhere else at that speed for that price, you know what I mean?

Steve: Yeah for sure.

Michael: So that the cost per acquisition depending on the offer can be very economical but they ah veto make the commitment to the slot.

Steve: Here’s a question, when you have like 500K subs, can you still just blast out your entire list?

Michael: Oh yeah we do it three days a week.

Steve: Okay interesting, I was told by – I can’t remember, maybe it was Noah Kagan or Neville Hill like once you get like that many subs you really have to segment is what they told me, because like if you blast too much at once like certain inboxes will just block you with the sudden flood of email that’s coming, but you just blast?

Michael: Well I can tell you that we test this, we use a service called Glock, which is a third party email deliverability testing service and we get into the inboxes of Gmail, Yahoo, all the big ones without a problem.

Steve: Okay and then when you’re blasting out, it’s just the articles that you’ve had for the last couple of days along with these advertisements?

Michael: Yeah it’s kind of part of what we train our audience that you’re going to get three days a week emails from us for our articles. The idea is don’t miss our future content because we are always publishing every day really high quality content.

Steve: You guys publish how many articles per day?

Michael: We used to publish two, now we’re down to one, so we publish six days a week, we take Sunday off, and that allows us to put two of those articles in every one of those three emails that goes out Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store word of mouth is huge and when a customer is super happy with their purchase they will tell all their friends. What if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business? This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.
And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

Let me ask you this recently or in the last couple of years, the way Google has worked was like it’s quality over quantity. Do you find that publishing that often is making a difference versus publishing like one huge mega article every week?
Michael: We have a very diverse audience that’s interested in lots of different topics, and if we just published one article a week, then we would not be as successful as we are because if you think about what we sell which is training on a wide swatch of different social media marketing topics, we have to attract people that are interested in LinkedIn and Pinterest, and Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Pinterest.

So for us to keep up with all that change that is going on in the space, and along the lines there is also blogging and there is also live video, there’s just so many YouTube, so visual images, there is all these different things. So we have a diverse audience that we’re trying to attract to sell the products that we need to sell and if we only publish once a week, we just wouldn’t draw the audience that we have, and we wouldn’t be able to sell as much as we sell.

Steve: So to put up that much content, does that imply that you have lots and lots of writers?

Michael: We have 52 people on the company and 11 of them are full time, the rest are regular part time contractors, some of them are practicing full time, and we do have a decent swatch of writers. Like every Saturday Social Media Examiner policies are wrap up week in the news in the social media, every Friday is my podcast put in a really rich article, and then Monday through Thursday are what’s left for everything else.

We do have some staff writers, then we have some contributing writers and all that basically – there is always seems to be new writers are popping in, but it’s a lot easier to do now because we are really only talking about four out of six, really more of like two to three out of the six are contributing writers, and all the rest is done internally by staff.

Steve: Has your content gotten like changed over the years?

Michael: Yes but not much because we were always strict from the beginning, we were always 1000 plus words, lots of visuals, lots of sub heads, lots of captions. We’ve always been – to use the words of Michael Hyatt, “The gold standard when it comes to blogging,” but over the years other bloggers like Buffer have gone for the really like 3000 to 5000 word articles. We’ve decided not to do that, we would rather have two or three articles on a topic than one gargantuan one.

I believe that our content is rich enough and our audience loves it enough that if we went that big, I don’t think anybody would read it, I think because we know how much time people spend on our site.

Steve: Sure yeah.

Michael: And we know how fast this space changes, and to produce something like that is a lot more work than just producing a really nice article that’s 1500 words.

Steve: So in terms of your traffic sources, what are your top thee?

Michael: Take a guess at what number one is.

Steve: Social?

Michael: No.

Steve: Google?

Michael: Yes and it’s a huge chunk. Number two is our newsletter, so the second biggest source of traffic is actually the people that are on our newsletter. We track that using UTM primers, so after Google is our newsletter subscribers that are reading our content, and then the third one is Facebook.

Steve: Facebook, okay. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about like your early days when you had nothing like no one was reading it, how did you get traffic early on and how did you build up the name?

Michael: In the beginning it was really – pre Social Media Examiner I had been building relationships with marketers for years because of what I did in my writing, my white paper business was called White Paper source. Some of those people, those marketers went into the social world and I asked many of them who had become friends with me, who should I get to know, and many of them suggested people like one of them was Mari Smith who is one of the leading experts in Facebook marketing.

But back then she was new on the scene, and many others like Amy Porterfield, she had left Tony Robbins and she actually came to work part for me, but then she went on to become also another expert. So I believe in developing relationships with people because I know people are having flow, and everybody has their own little networks and everybody seems to take care of each other in the blogging world.

Steve: Yeah for sure.

Michael: So in the beginning there was a couple of high profile writers that wrote for us, Jason Falls who was a big guy back in the day as a social media dude, Chris Garrett who now works full time for Brian Clark. He coauthored ProBlogger with Darren Rowse, Denise Wakeman who was a big time blogger back in the day, myself, and Mari Smith. We each wrote one article, they each wrote one article a month until they bored of it or was no longer interested, and then I leveraged all that star power if you will to persuade others to want to write for us.

I even had a big button on the navigation bar that said write for us, and all this in bulk commerce demand came in because in the beginning we sold nothing. There was no advertising for anything, not even our own products. We also released an industry report which now is entering into its eighth year and that thing got crazy exposure for me and for Social Media Examiner, and a lot of people back then — like I wrote the very first industry report for the Social Media World.

I was one of the first people they would call even in the industry, so a lot of people began looking at my research, looking at the content that we were producing and they just wanted to be part of this movement that I was creating because it wasn’t obviously any commercial objective, I had no desire to be consultant, this is really just a movement I was building.

Steve: That lead magnet is still your main lead magnet today for email?

Michael: Yeah we get somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 opt-ins a month on that.

Steve: It’s crazy, what was the incentive for the big bloggers to blog on Social Media Examiner?

Michael: They knew my reputation. I didn’t have the huge bloggers, like Brian Clark told me he might write for me but he never did because he never went down that road of social, but I think the incentive was they believed in me, they knew that in the white paper world I was king at that space.

I was an undisputed guy, so they kind of figured well maybe there is a chance that this guy could at least be one of the jokers, but maybe he’ll go somewhere and I think it was my reputation and I think I’m generally a nice guy and they figured what have I got to lose, this guy seems to know what he is doing and I’d love to hitch on and just see where this goes.

Steve: Interesting so they wrote for free essentially?

Michael: Yeah even to this day, everyone that contributes writes for free unless they are on staff, because like it’s usually everybody wants, they all want exposure. This is the secret source of what we do at Social Media Examiner, and by the way speakers at our conference speak for free. We’ve never paid a speaker, and the reason they do it is because when you build something that everybody is talking about and everybody likes and they know that there is quality.

Everybody wants to be part of something that’s exciting and that’s headed in a certain trajectory, and they are willing to do it for nothing in exchange for the hope that maybe they’ll pick up some clients, or maybe they’ll establish themselves as a thought leader and indeed that has happened, so many people have gotten book deals and so many people have gotten famous as a result of them writing for us.

Steve: It is an easy sell now, but in the beginning I guess…

Michael: Let me tell you we added 20,000 email subscribers in 90 days, so it wasn’t hard in the beginning either, we were over 100,000 by our first year.

Steve: That’s crazy and that just came from other people promoting you?

Michael: That just came from the traffic coming to the site back in 2009 and people wanting to learn more about social, the demand was there, everybody wanted to know more about how to market with social. Remember we were coming out of a serious economic problem in 2006 and social was the solution for a lot of these people, they were like I can’t spend money, I’m going to do the social side.

Back then it was a big deal, because it was driving enormous traffic for most businesses, so I was in the right place at the right time I think you could argue.

Steve: Was it Google traffic then early on?

Michael: It was – surprisingly Google was the smallest in the early days, it was Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and really Twitter and Facebook was driving enormous traffic. Now it’s much bigger, it’s gotten bigger and bigger over the years, but in the beginning search was the minority, it was 40%, 60% was social. Now it’s the other way round.

Steve: And it’s just people sharing your posts?

Michael: People would share our posts; it would go crazy viral, we would trend on Digg and all these other sites that nobody even thinks about anymore. Our staff would go crazy viral, on Delicious, I don’t know if you remember them?

Steve: Of course I do yeah.

Michael: We would trend on all those sites all the time and…

Steve: Give me an example of an article that went crazy.

Michael: It’s such a long time ago, but it happened so regularly that honestly it happened almost like once a week, I mean just…

Steve: Wow okay.

Michael: So there wasn’t just any one thing. Part of this because I’ve got a writing background, I taught a lot of these people how to write like Leo the cofounder of Buffer wrote for Social Media Examiner back when he started Buffer and this helped Buffer get on the map, and now Buffer has got a great blog and much of what Leo learnt writing for Social Media Examiner, they apply over their Buffer.

So I just had this insatiable demand for expertise, I mean for quality and in the very beginning we had like four editors working on every article, and they were all volunteers. So I think our quality was just really above what everyone else was doing, and as a result everybody was sharing that because they knew that if you want to learn about the stuff, then this is the place to go.

Steve: Did you write any of your own posts?

Michael: Oh yeah, I was writing one a week for the first probably a year or two because we needed enough content to draw the traffic in, but eventually I stopped doing that probably about two and a half years in because the amount of people that wanted to write for us exceeded the available spots that we had, so I didn’t need to do that and I didn’t need to write any more.

Steve: So back in the early days did you make a conscious effort to scale and did it just kind of happen?

Michael: Yes.

Steve: So what did you do to scale, did it mean like more content?

Michael: Yes it did, in the beginning there was like two or three articles a week, so I was writing one. Well actually in the very beginning there was two articles a week, so I would have high profile people write once a month because that was kind of within reason. I would write once a week and then eventually after a couple of months we scaled that up to three times a week and the goal was to eventually get to like four times a week.

But then we realized, wow every time we add another article we get more traffic, so we scaled to five, and then we scaled to six, then we scaled to seven, then we scaled to eight and then we scaled to nine and we stopped at nine, we never got past nine, and then we eventually scaled back to six because over time we began to realize that were pushing the envelope of our editorial team’s ability to process these articles.

Because we had nine a week, that’s a lot, so we would sometimes publish stuff that wasn’t up to snuff because you want to fill a spot, and then eventually we just decided you know what – I just said to my team I’d rather publish nothing than publish crap, you know what I mean?

Steve: Yeah sure.

Michael: That was a huge relieve to them because they were struggling to keep the editorial calendar filled, but we never missed ever in the history of the company our publication goes, we’ve always been able to deliver.

Steve: If you were to start all over today would you still try to pump out as many quality articles as possible?
Michael: I’ve always measured everything, I’ve always been a Google analytics freak, so if I was starting again today I would want to see whether or not there is a correlation, whether or not the traffic is coming, whether the conversions are coming, that’s the key thing that we started many years in we started saying, okay wait a minute we’re not tracking email conversions.

One example of something was Instagram apps, we trended number one on Google for two and a half years on Instagram apps and they were bringing like a 100,000 page views at least a month for like two years, supporting millions of page views. The problem was it wasn’t converting at all. I’ll take a million plus pages a year if I get a certain number of conversions on it but I wasn’t.

Stuff that was getting a lot less traffic was getting much higher quantities of conversion, so we began saying to ourselves, we don’t want to just develop content for the sake of traffic, we want to develop content that is going to draw somebody that wants to stick around and receive this content on a consistent basis.

Steve: I just want to let you know that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellerssummit.com. Now what is the Sellers Summit? It is the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. And unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference, where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business.

In fact every speaker that I invite is deep in the trenches of their ecommerce business, entrepreneurs who are importing large quantities of physical goods, and not some high level guys who are overseeing their companies at 50,000 feet. The other thing I can also assure you is that the Sellers Summit will be small and intimate. Last year we cut off ticket sales at around 100 people, so this event will sell out quickly.

This event caters to sellers of all levels, and if you’re a beginner, you’ll leave the Sellers Summit with a product to sell, potential vendors and a road map for your business. If you’re an existing shop owner, you’ll learn proven techniques to take your business to the next level whether it be through learning advanced Amazon selling tactics, SEO, social media, pay per click advertising, copy writing, email marketing, you name it. And if you are an ecommerce entrepreneur making more than $250,000 per year, we’re also offering an exclusive mastermind experience with other top sellers.

So the Sellers Summit is going to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from May 18th to May 20th, and for more information you can go to sellersummit.com, once again that’s sellerssummit.com or just Google it, now back to the show.
By conversions do you mean email sign ups?

Michael: Correct.

Steve: Okay so lets’ talk about list building for a sec, what are some ways that you boost email sign ups, is it all organic based on the articles?

Michael: We do a bazillion things over Social Media Examiner. We use OptinMonster as our primary way to capture leads, and we’re pretty aggressive about it, so we have a pop up that comes the very first time someone comes to the site within the first like ten seconds. And then we also have one on the side of every article, and then as you scroll down the article and you get near the bottom we have a scroll in thing that I’ll ask them if they want to get a report, and in the very bottom of the article we also have another one.

Then on the home page we’ve got one and as people leave the site we have a pop up. So we’ve got like if you come in at any particular article you’re going to see at least four or five options, some pretty in your face to get you on our email list.

Steve: Is the lead magnet the same no matter where you are?

Michael: It is but the way that we display it is different in every single case, so at the point of entrance and the point of exit, they look totally different. So it doesn’t look like it’s the same offer, and we put down a lot of – we do almost weekly split testing to try to tweak as much as we can to try to grow that.

Steve: You mentioned that you’re selling ads for your email and I’m just curious like how that’s different than actually selling ads on your site in your mind?

Michael: It’s a lot more money first of all. People are willing to pay a lot of money to have email inbox deliverability of their ads. Display advertising is kind of a dying thing, I mean anybody who takes display ads realizes that they’re making less money now than they did a year ago and they’re making even less than they did two years ago, and it’s partly because of programmatic advertising which is pretty much algorithms deciding the best cheapest way to deliver these ads, so the cost per 1000 is so low right now that there is not a lot of money.

What people are doing is either putting more ads on their website to try to make more money and what does that do, that just sends people away from your site. So the ads inside the email newsletter are only ads that we approve and they are almost always free offers for eBooks and content, so they kind of don’t look like ads because we’re not selling like a product specifically, they are actually offer like here is a free report on this or that and they are lead generation.

So they are quite different, they are text based, there is no graphics, and it kind of looks like an article but it does have the word ad or sponsor next to it, so we disclose that it’s not — so have disclosure on what it is.

Steve: And when you’re sending your emails, it’s primarily just your articles, you’re always sending out content for the most part?

Michael: Yeah.

Steve: Right, okay.

Michael: Three days a week only content. When we have something to promote or send a dedicated blast like if we have a sale on Social Media Marketing World like last week we had a big sale, we do dedicated blasts on those cases.

Steve: And you blast out all 500…

Michael: The whole list.

Steve: That’s crazy okay, so I’m just curious when you send out email that often what do your open rates look like if you don’t mind sharing?

Michael: I can’t disclose to you the actual numbers on air, but I can tell you they’re pretty significant. The open rates for our newsletter and for our dedicated blasts are identical and they are high for a list of our size. But the good news is that we’ve had to work really hard to make sure that we can get that delivery in to the in box and our audience does not unsubscribe when we send promotional emails, or they rarely unsubscribe, they stick with us.

I think part of it comes down to the fact that we have consistently been providing value to their lives for a while. They are high for a list of our size.

Steve: Okay and what are some things that you’re doing to maintain high deliverability rates?

Michael: We don’t send any graphics in our newsletters, pure text and we get to the content almost immediately, we don’t have any kind of fluffy introductions or anything like that. In the subject line of the newsletter we always make sure that the subject line is something that we know our audience would be interested in.

So for example if we’re sending out an email on Wednesday and we’re going to reference on Monday and Tuesday article, we’ll selectively choose which of those two articles is going to get the higher open rate as the subject line, and we make sure that we spread out our editorial so that we have three good subject lines in our newsletter no matter what because we – and we have research from our – we just surveyed 5700 of our email subscribers to understand what they are most interested in learning about, so we take that research and those headlines and couple it together.

We remind everyone when they subscribed, how long they’ve been a subscriber, so that does a little bit of a kind of a…

Steve: Is that at the end of the email?

Michael: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a kind of hey you’ve been with us for this long, kind of makes them think twice before they unsubscribe. In our promotional stuff we give them the option to opt out from receiving promotions instead of just unsubscribing from the whole list.

Steve: Okay, I’m trying to think…

Michael: They can do either one but we always provide that as an option for people, and we also give people an option to transition over to a weekly broadcast instead of three days a week broadcast.

Steve: I see, okay I was just going to ask you that, like how do you prepare people to get blasts three times a week?

Michael: The moment they sign up, we tell them right in the beginning here is what you’re going to expect. We say thank you so much for – the subject is your free gift or something like that and they get the eBook and in the newsletter it says, “Thank you so much for signing up for Social Media Examiner’s newsletter, here is what you can expect. We are going to email you original content three days a week and blah, blah, blah,” so we set that expectation from day one.

Steve: And in terms of the subject lines for your email blasts, do you use like content based subject lines or do you use like catchy ones just to get them to click?

Michael: No we use the actual headlines from the articles, so it might be like in brackets SM Examiner so they know it’s from us, and then it might be like just a headline like I’ll give you a quick example. It might be like three ways to improve your Facebook ads, which happens to be one of our articles from yesterday, so most people are going to be like oh I want to learn that.

Or it might be like how to improve your blog posts with YouTube videos, so we just selectively – or five ways to sell more products on social media. So we just literally pick our headlines right off the articles and we prop that…

Steve: They all sound actionable, so I can see why people will want to click on those.

Michael: Yeah all of our content is highly tactical, so we don’t publish any opinion stuff at all.

Steve: So you got the content, you got this huge audience; you got this huge email list. My question to you now is why conferences, they are not really easily scalable, requires a lot of physical resources, like what’s your rationale for focusing on this large event?

Michael: Well I guess the question is why should someone go to a conference, and I will tell you I started Social Media Examiner by going to a couple of conferences one of which doesn’t exist anymore which is Blog World. For me it was important because I knew everybody in the space was going to be there, and I needed to network with those people if I was going to be able to grow my business.

I remember meeting like Leo from Buffer there and so many people that are now close friends, and well social media is absolutely true that you can develop relationships quite quickly with Twitter and Facebook and stuff. You know this because you go to events and you have your own event, there is nothing like making that face to face human connection. It can accelerate relationships; it can lead to business development.

That’s the reason that I go, but the reason people come to my event because they tell us this is because they want to accelerate their learning, and I would imagine that’s the same reason they go to your event.

Steve: Absolutely.

Michael: They want that professional development, they know that we have hand curiod these speakers and that we only like really high quality people like yourself to present. They think to themselves, all right are there enough topics that I want to learn about, would investing in coming to this conference and the air fare and the hotel and all that stuff, would it allow me to for example dig in to live video and walk away with a total plan on how I could crash live video, because that’s the hot thing right now?

Or would it allow me to really go into Instagram because I’m good on Facebook but I’m not so good on Instagram. I think that’s the reason why 3000 to 4000 people are coming to San Diego to our conference. I found that they come for the content; they come back for the networking and the relationships because they form masterminds, they find customers, or they just find peers that can help them understand, comrades to join in the joint struggle, because this is a struggle.

Steve: Yeah I know. But for you personally though like there is easier ways to make money that are less labor intensive?

Michael: True but I will tell you when we started Social Media Examiner it was all online conferences, so we were one of the very first to do — significant online conferences started in 2008 which was really just many webinars spread over time, multiple times a day, kind of like the conference experience, but it was online.

That was something that we’ve been able to do successfully for many, many years and I just always knew that I wanted to do something in person because I got my start at a conference, and I knew that there was just that magic sauce that happens at a conference. The reason I decided to start it is I was at my good friend Joe Pulizzi’s conference called Content Marketing World, and I just saw how calm he was, and I’m like, why are you so calm, he’s all, because they are event planners that do all the operational nightmare stuff that exist.

I’m all are you kidding me? Oh yeah they exist. I’m like oh my gosh I want to do this. So I just kind of – I saw how calm he was and how cool his conference was because I’ve been to everyone since the first one, and I just said to myself, this is a business that I could execute on and do with excellence because I am all about excellence.

And I just know it’s not easy to do and I know that if I could do with excellence, I wouldn’t really have a lot of competition, and frankly I have no competition, because there is no social media marketing conference that comes anywhere close to my event other than South Bay [ph] but no one would say that’s a social media marketing conference.

Steve: Yeah sure.

Michael: That’s really a music festival that happens to have some interactive stuff in it.

Steve: Actually incidentally that’s why I partnered with my friend Toni in my event, she handles all the logistics, I handle ticket sales and it’s like a great partnership.

Michael: Yeah and it’s like I’ve got a big team now, a big part of my team is on that event side of thing and it’s a significant amount of money, but I will tell you it’s also a significant amount of risk. Like we already have as of this recording like 2500 people coming, and we just broke even like about a week ago.

Steve: It’s crazy.

Michael: It’s a multibillion dollar expense and there is a lot of risk, and that’s why a lot of these guys go out of business. We have something a lot of other people don’t have which is a huge audience and really deep relationships with a lot of these people that kind of reduces a lot of the risks that people would normally have to do a conference of this magnitude.

Steve: That is what I was just about to ask you actually, like how do you know how many people are going to attend year after year, so that when you put that money down you are not like having a heart attack?

Michael: Well it’s a math science kind of stuff; I’m a daily geek. So we track a lot of stuff, the big expense as you know is food. The good news is that’s a variable expense so if you have less people you have less food expense, but the biggest expense really is labor and all the people expenses and stuff. So just like anything you have to make projections and budgets and commitments with hotels and stuff like that, and there is always risk that you won’t fulfill your hotel commitments and you have to pay the hotels, but we’ve never had that happen.

So for us it’s just like we’re constantly monitoring it every day and every week and every month just making sure we’re where we need to go and we have like high and low thresholds, and if it looks like we’re not selling this many then we go back and we say we’re going to have to cut some of these things we were thinking of doing. So it’s like a crazy – it’s like one of those puzzles where you have to move all the pieces in one little square and you have to make a puzzle, those ones are the opinion of others who want it to flop.

Steve: Yes, yes, yes.

Michael: It’s like that and it’s not easy and that’s part of the reason why there is very few people that do bigger conferences because it’s unbelievably complex and it’s not for the faint hearted.

Steve: What is your strategy for selling tickets, is it just email primarily?

Michael: Oh my gosh no, we have like a 70 page marketing plan.

Steve: Oh my goodness okay.

Michael: We do everything, like right now if you go to our Facebook page we do behind the scenes documentaries and we do me appearing on podcasts which is the obvious thing. We have ads all over our website; we have every medium that we own, the podcast, the live show, the blog posts are all sponsored by Social Media Marketing World. We have speakers and affiliates and we have paid search, paid Facebook, paid everything, it’s impossible to not hear about Social Media Marketing World if you are in any way, shape or form a fan or a subscriber.

Steve: It’s been following me around the web for like the past month.

Michael: Yeah we do all that kind of stuff too, we do really sophisticated remarketing campaigns, yeah it’s no one thing. But I will tell you the stuff that delivers the most sales is obviously the website, because we have ads all over the place, so in aggregate that’s the biggest thing and then of course the emails are another really big thing. Then there’s hundreds of little things that all kind of add up, and when they all add up, they all kind of informs the final product.

When you get to be like this is going to be our fifth year, when you gather reputation and when you trend globally like we always trend globally number one on Twitter when our conference is going on. We had 70,000 tweets at our last conference, so what ends up happening is people that are friends with the attendees can’t help but not see the bullets created, what happens when people come to the conference, because they take thousands of pictures, they go live, they talk about it for weeks and months afterwards.

So we get an enormous amount of free plus from our attendees and they evangelize for us, and that’s really kind of cool because we’re getting at the point where a lot of our sales are unattributed which means it’s good old fashioned word of mouth.

Steve: What’s nice also is that almost all your speakers have their own following too, right?

Michael: Yeah they are all – not all of them but many of them are very high profile, for example I’ll throw out a couple of names, Guy Kawasaki, Mari Smith, Jay Baer, Ann Handley, Michael Hyatt, Chris Brogan, Mark Schaefer, Tim Schmoyer, Darren Rowse, Chalene Johnson, Shaun McBride, Joel Comm, Zach King, Marcus Sheridan, Pat Flynn.

A lot of these people are like literally the dudes or dudettes in their space, like the top of the top, Cliff Ravenscraft, so because I just developed relationships with these guys over years and they are all like the kings and the queens of their space. As a result whether they promote for us or not they are known entities, which helps sell tickets because a lot of people are like I want to meet that person.

Steve: Yeah that’s amazing, so if I can just summarize your strategy it’s just being a cool guy, establishing relationships, and just helping each other, right?

Michael: Yeah and I’ll tell you one more thing, another way we make money on the conference that a lot of people don’t realize is we also sell virtual tickets for people that can’t travel, and it’s because – remember I mentioned how we started with online events, so we already had all the knowhow and systems in place to know how to capture all the recordings of all the sessions.

So we sell those recordings and we have thousands of people that purchase virtual tickets, and that really is getting the access to almost 140 keynotes and breakout sessions and panels and workshops after the whole thing is over with. So there is a whole another revenue stream that we have that’s coming in on the virtual ticket front.

Steve: So the listeners out there, the back story between this conversation is Mike has been trying to convince me to sell virtual tickets before the tickets are sold out, and so I’m going to just blindly take his advice and give it a try very soon.

Michael: It’s really, really great because in our case it’s significantly less costly for the virtual ticket than it is for physical ticket, and on top of that when you don’t have – because like here’s the deal, a lot of people would love to come but they just can’t afford to travel, and they can’t afford to buy a ticket, but they might be willing to pay just to get to the content, and that’s always been the core. And we’re also getting in — you’ll be excited to hear merchandising too, so we had t-shirts.

So last year we started selling t-shirts, this year we’re going to probably introduce a new t-shirt every year, so we’ll have two different t-shirt designs that we sell on site and eventually I’d love to get in the baseball caps and all that kind of stuff. So that’s not going to be a huge chunk of revenue, but merchandising is part of our future too.
Steve: That’s cool, that’s good to know. Hey Mike we’ve been chatting for quite a while, I want to be respectful of your time, where can people find more about Social Media Marketing World?

Michael: You can visit Socialmediaworld17.com, or you can just Google it or you can go to Social Media Examiner and check it out.

Steve: And where can people find you online?

Michael: If you have room in your podcast listening, my podcast is called Social Media Marketing and there I produce really rich content every single week, and then on Twitter I’m Mike_Stelzner, or you can just Google my name and I’m pretty much everywhere.

Steve: Cool, well Mike thanks a lot for coming on the show; I really appreciate your coming.

Michael: All my pleasure Steve.

Steve: All right take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now I’m actually going to be speaking at Mike’s conference Social Media Marketing World next month, so if you want to meet up, join me in sunny San Diego. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode151.

And once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Now Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/mywifequitherjob, and that’s spelled P-R-I-V-Y.com/mywifequitherjob.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

Now I talk about how I use all these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

150: How My Student Abby Makes 100K/Month Selling High Heel Insoles Online

Share On Facebook

150: How My Student Abby Makes 100K/Month Selling High Heel Insoles Online

Play

Abby Walker is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course and I’m really happy to have her on the show today. Abby runs VivianLou.com where she sells insoles for high heels.

What I love about Abby is that she never takes no for an answer and finds opportunities from out of nowhere. Some might call it luck, but I believe that everyone is in charge of their own fate. She’s doing awesome and she’s not even on Amazon yet!

Enjoy the interview as there are a lot of details that Abby shares that will motivate you.

Want To Learn How To Start A 6 Figure Ecommerce Store?

Create  A Profitable Online StoreDid you enjoy listening to Jen’s story? If you would like to create your own profitable online store and join a community of like minded entrepreneurs, then sign up for my full blown course on how to create a profitable online store.

My course offers over 100+ hours of video and includes live office hours where you can ask me questions directly.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about ecommerce, be sure to check it out!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Abby found her niche
  • How Abby sources her products
  • The details behind being featured on HSN
  • What it’s like to be on Oprah
  • How her Facebook ads return a ridiculously high ROI

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou and today we’re talking to Abby Walker, a student in my “Create a profitable online store,” course who is killing it online. She runs the site vivianlou.com, where she sells insoles to alleviate the pain from wearing high heels.

But before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Now I’m super excited to talk about Privy, because I use and rely on Privy to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they manage all of my email capture forms, in fact I use Privy hand in hand with my email marketing provider.

Now there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I personally like Privy because they specialize in ecommerce stores. Now Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over $100, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a unique and special coupon code for that item or to display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, right now I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve, and try it for free, and if you decide you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Now I’m also blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email marketing provider. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email out to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, done. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email.

Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m really happy to have Abby Walker on the show. Now Abby is actually a student in my “Create a profitable online store” course. She joined over a year ago and she’s been doing amazing with her business Vivianlou.com. Vivian Lou sells special insoles that allow you to wear high heels four times longer without any pain, which is actually a major pain point that a lot of women have.

Recently she was featured in Oprah magazine and on the View and in October alone she closed with six figures in sales. Anyway today we’re going to dig deep and find out how Abby came up with the design and how she managed to get the word out about her insoles. And with that welcome to the show Abby, how are you doing today?

Abby: Very good, thank you so much for having me on.

Steve: So Abby I was just curious, I mean both the name of your store and your product are a little bit random, so how did you get leads for your online store and the name?

Abby: Sure so I’ll just go back from the beginning, because I honestly stumbled across this product as I was kind of just a random question I asked. So my story starts actually in 2001, so I was fresh out of college, working in down town Chicago and I fell in love with high heels. I was struggling to find a niche in the workplace, and I worked with these women who had beautiful hair and beautiful jewelry and beautiful clothes.
I was like how do I find my niche in the workplace and still move across a pair of high heels that I absolutely loved and forever kind of changed my course. I was in the corporate world, corporate communications world forever, but had really always loved high heels and wearing high heels. So in 2012 I decided to start a blog, and this blog was actually the platform for me starting my online business but in a roundabout kind of way.

So I launched this blog called Mama’s Shoes and I worked on that honestly off and on for about two years. In January 2014 I wrote a blog post about foot sprays that were designed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation for women who wear high heels. And I felt these products were phenomenal in concept, but at the time I worked for a company that manufactured holistic supplements, and so I was really attuned to the ingredients that were put into beauty products and over the counter products.

Some of these products had Lidocaine which is a numbing agent that then [inaudible 00:05:46].

Steve: Okay.

Abby: And so in my mind I was like, well great concept but if you wear high heels you really probably shouldn’t numb your feet, it’s not a very good idea. So I had this great idea in January of 2014 that I was like I’m going to create my own foot spray. And I knew nothing about manufacturing, I knew nothing about formulations, I knew nothing about ingredients, but I pretty much had the courage and the curiosity to hire some folks who could help me formulate the spray.

So I hired a clinical [inaudible 00:06:21] and a naturopathic doctor to help me formulate this foot spray, and it was a phenomenal, phenomenal product. We could manufacture it on a small scale, but we couldn’t replicate the effects of the product in a large scale. So I was really frustrated, kind of broken hearted, because this business concept that I had or this product concept wasn’t taking off. But I continued to do market research as it relates to women in high heel pain, and in April 2014 I stumbled across this forum where two women were talking about this amazing insole called Insolia.

I was like why have I never heard of this, I wear high heels every day, I shop for high heels, I write a blog, why have I never heard of this product? And so I called up the CEO of the product and said, why have I never heard of this product? Long story short he sent me some samples, I tested them out, I fell in love with this product, and I offered my services to help him market this product to women.

My initial proposal was like, hey I’ll take a cut of an increase in sales, and long story short their company had pivoted out of the direct to market, or direct to consumer market. They are a company that’s really based on creating – being OM, so design insoles that are manufactured into shoes. So they really weren’t looking to grow their direct to consumer market. And so long story short after a couple of conversations, I ended up becoming the exclusive distributor of the product in the United States and Canada.

Steve: Wow, okay.

Abby: I know so it all happened because I picked up the phone and asked why have I never heard of this?

Steve: I think you skipped a bunch of steps here, so why was he willing to take a chance on you and become the sole distributor?

Abby: Honestly I have no idea, honestly I don’t know. The two gentlemen that I work with are absolutely phenomenal, they are wonderful people who are probably two of my biggest cheer leaders, and honestly I think because they are so focused on growing the Om side of things that they were willing to take a chance on me on the direct to consumer business. They weren’t doing that much of business, so it wasn’t like they were – there was a steady pace of sales, but it wasn’t significant enough to look for someone who had a tremendous background.

I think they were just really curious about how I could grow given that I am passionate about the product and I wear high heels every day. They were men to be quite honest trying to market a product to females, and so I suspect that where they were like, oh this woman came to us and said she was interested, and let’s give it a shot and see where it goes.

Steve: So they allow you to put your own brand on the product as well?

Abby: Correct they were unbranded, so it’s all branded under Vivian Lou, yeah so it’s my brand, my company and they act as pretty much my contract manufacturers and I have like as I said an exclusive arrangement with them for Canada and United States. So just a phenomenal opportunity, but I didn’t know the first thing about online sales or building a store or what I was doing, so I spent the summer of 2014 really drinking from the fire hose.

I had to look up legal entities and minimum quantities and insurance and trade mark and packaging and all of that kind of stuff. It was a crazy summer to say the least.

Steve: So why the name Vivian Lou as opposed to Abby Walker?

Abby: When I started the company, I was really looking to give the company a personality and I was reading all these articles about naming conventions and how you should have a single word and it should have an X in it and it should really capture people’s attention, and then that really sat well with me. And so one day I actually sat down and created a list of attributes of the women I would like to serve with my company.

So it was she stands tall and shines bright, she can accept the compliment with a simple thank you, she is feminine but can run with the boys, it’s just that all of these like list of attributes, and one night after dinner I was actually sitting down with my husband reading all these attributes and he was like I know someone who that describes exactly even though she may not be your target market. I’m like you’re right; it was our three year old daughter.

Steve: No way, okay.

Abby: She doesn’t wear high heels, but she embodied all of these attributes that I was describing, and so I decided to name the company after her.

Steve: Okay, that’s a big story actually.

Abby: Yeah so it’s funny because we see all this Vivian Lou everywhere and my son is like when are you going to come up with a company named after me. I’m like next company honey, next one, so yeah and one of the most things that I take most pride in is 2% of every single one of our sales goes to organizations that help women revitalize their confidence and reclaim their independence. So we support Dress for Success in the Twin Cities and the Women’s Bean Project in Denver.

Steve: Okay, so just curious with this manufacturer, are there minimums or like in the beginning were there any minimums that you had to purchase or did they just give you a bunch of products and say, hey just try to sell these.

Abby: At first I ordered the product what I call raw on box, so it just comes not packaged and it lands in my warehouse. I probably — my first order was probably 1000 insoles, so it was so tiny, my first orders were so tiny and now we have minimums in place. Now that we have a real formal exclusive arrangement, there are annual minimums in place that I have to meet, but…

Steve: But even the order of 1000 like did you know that they were going to sell ahead of time, like did you validate it before you bought 1000?

Abby: No and it’s so funny because at the time it was just kind of a side business, so I worked full time, my husband worked full time or works full time still, and he’s like this is a really hair brained idea like you don’t have any background in this, you don’t even know – so he agreed, it’s like I will give you $7500 and then that’s it, like you can do with that what you need to do to build a website, order product, get your boxes, find a fulfillment center.

So one of the things that I first did was I knew that if I were fulfilling orders out of my basement or garage, it wouldn’t go anywhere. I needed to partner with a fulfillment center right away, so that’s one thing that I did that I think helped set me up for the success where I am today, because I wasn’t scrambling to fill orders, it was all done through a fulfillment center.

Steve: Which one did you end up going with and how did you find them?

Abby: I went with a fulfillment center in Minneapolis, at the time I was in Minneapolis. It’s called King Solutions and they were great, they were honestly phenomenal, I actually love that warehouse. And I just picked up the phone and called a bunch of fulfillment centers and asked if they could fulfill orders out of Shopify. So my store is built on a Shopify platform and then you won’t have to do like all of this data transfer.

I wanted them to have an API on app that would sync into Shopify so they could pull orders out and then upload tracking information for shipping, and I was really small like I only had 1000 products offer, so none of these big warehouses were even willing to talk to me. So I was just kind of picking up the phone and doing a lot of Google searches and asking if they would be interested in taking on the small, but potentially many.

King Solutions actually took me on and phenomenal. They were a great partner and I’ve sent to move the company to Wisconsin.

Steve: Just curious like how much does it cost for them to fulfill something like a typical order?

Abby: Well so they have — there are a couple of different costs, so they actually did the assembly of my product for me. At the time my product was just in these really plain brown boxes, and so I would have then there was a cost because I would have them keep those for me in this fulfillment house. So then there was kind of a monthly storage fee, and then there is an order fee, so that can range anywhere from like 60 cents to 75 cents for an order that come in

Steve: [inaudible 00:15:28].

Abby: Then there is a pick and pack, so if an order comes in and if there are four units on that order, then you get charged per pick, and so that would be your pick and then obviously the shipping cost involved.

Steve: Okay so overall it’s a very small percentage of your cost?

Abby: Correct.

Steve: Okay, you know what’s hilarious, I didn’t know about your back story about your suppliers, so I had a bunch of questions like how you found your contract manufacturers, but it sounds like everything was just kind of serendipitous, right?

Abby: Absolutely.

Steve: They’re very reliable from a supplier stand point as well, right?

Abby: Absolutely, I mean it is like a lot – so I’ve told my story to several people and a lot of them are like they are just like divine interventions, like how this happened, why you picked up the phone, why they are willing — and it is, it’s all serendipitous like how this all came to be.

Steve: And in terms of your website did you design that yourself or did you contract?

Abby: I did.

Steve: Okay.

Abby: So my first website, so I designed – I hired a gentleman who I knew to design my logo, but then I designed the original packaging, this brown box that it came in, I designed my own Shopify website and it was embarrassing.

Steve: I didn’t think it was bad actually because it had the message, like I always look for the message as opposed to the esthetics.

Abby: Right like write up tab.

Steve: Yeah.

Abby: Yeah so I mean it was – I was extremely proud of that website just because it was all me. I had put my heart and soul into that and what not, but I quickly realized that I needed, or earlier this year I needed to kind of upgrade or…

Steve: Spice it up a little.

Abby: Level up yeah where I had the packaging and how it was being presented in the market place. So I kind of have a unique story too, and I don’t know if I should share this but…

Steve: Go for it.

Abby: I’ve actually raised the price twice.

Steve: Yeah I was going to talk about that actually, I think they are too inexpensive.
I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store, word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is supper happy with their purchase, they’ll tell all of their friends. Now what if there was a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business. This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse; you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.
And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

Abby: Oh I love you, I love you. So it is so funny, okay when I first took on this product, the manufacturer had perimeters for me and I didn’t know enough of it at the time to kind of push back, but I knew that I was selling two for 19.95 and I knew that that really was positioning this product in line with the doctor soles or [inaudible 00:19:18] the doctor soles. This product is so far beyond the doctor soles product or any other insole in the market place.

The science that has gone behind it, the way it’s designed, the way it’s fitting your shoe, it’s not one size fits all. It comes in four different sizes; I mean it is so scientifically based in why it works and how it works that I knew it needed to be positioned in elevated space. But I took their guidance, and then in the summer of – oh man, I don’t know if it was the summer, but in Minneapolis I went to a free seminar talking about seven steps to increase your sales.

The woman who was putting on the seminar [inaudible 00:20:04] who is phenomenal by the way, she recommended that I double my price. She was, you’re not positioned well to sell in the market place, like you should be selling one for 19.95, and I was like I don’t know if I can do this. She’s like I challenge you to do that, do it this weekend, like don’t sit on it, just do it.

So I did it and I got two hate mails from customers, they weren’t taken aback, I think they see the value in this product, and I also offered I said for the next six months you can get it at two for 19.95 versus the one for 19.95. So that was where I ended up, but then when I re-launched the product and the branding in August of this year, I actually took it to $29 per pair, and then offered bundles, so women can get at much significant discounts if they add bundles, a bundled pair to their offer.

Steve: Yeah even that I think you can even go higher, because it’s all like such a huge need that everyone is looking for.

Abby: I know.

Steve: I didn’t notice all those doctors, like were you involved in that in getting the doctor studies and all that’s tuff or was that…?

Abby: No that had all been done before I had — yes. So I literally was handed a business, like a really viable business.

Steve: It’s really guys, anyone who is listening should just head over to viavianlou.com, it’s a really good sales page, like as soon as you land on there, you know what the value proposition is, and so Abby just did a really good job on the site. So let’s talk about the first sale, how did you get your first sale?

Abby: My first sale, again just a phenomenal opportunity, not only was I given the business; I was also given a list of women who had expressed previous interest in the product. So I was handed a list of…

Steve: Like an email list or…

Abby: Yeah like a list of emails from women who had purchased previously direct from them and all had expressed an interest. So I started there just reaching out, sending out notes to women saying, “Hello, you may have purchased this before from Insolia, but now I’m the authorized distributor in the United States and Canada. I would like to offer it to you at a discount, can I get you on my email list yadi yadi yadi yada.” That’s really how it started generating sales.

Then it was just kind of word of mouth. I was doing some Google advertising and some really minimal advertising on Facebook myself, but that wasn’t generating much traffic. So in early 2015 I was doing five sales a day, and so it was still kind of a hobby, and it was frustrating because I knew the potential for this product was huge and I was really struggling with how to get it off the ground. I kept it that way throughout much of 2015, and then my brother in law who works for Kohl’s department store, he works in their corporate headquarters, he had actually gone to a conference in New York City about the future of retail.

I happened to be staying at their house and I was driving my kids to Michigan in August of 2015 and he had just come back from the conference, so we were sitting down just talking about what he had learned. He had said there was this great store in New York City called Story, and the woman who runs it called Rachel Shechtman, named Rachel Shechtman, she’s trying to change the face of retail and she has this store where she tears it down every like four to eight weeks, and rebuilds it as a different “Story.”

Her retail store operates like a magazine where every month or so it’s torn down and it comes up with a new theme. I had signed up for her newsletter because I thought that concept was brilliant and I was like maybe one day my product would fit into one of her stories. Two weeks later I got an email saying that she was hosting a pitch night, and these pitch nights typically are designed for artisans and local business owners in New York City, but because I was on her mailing list, I was like why not me.

So I actually applied to attend a pitch night in September and I was actually one of 34 folks who were accepted to come pitch. So September 16 last year I flew to new York City and pitched my product to Rachel Shechtman. Well she also had there Middy Grossman who is the CEO of HSN. So I was scared out of my mind but I pitched my product, and half way I had 3 minutes to pitch and half way through the pitch Middy Grossman took off her Christian Louboutins and was like put them in, if they say what you say they can do, put them in my shoe.

I was like you realize these are permanent placement insoles, like I can’t take them out once I put them in, and she goes let’s do this. And she stood up, and she’s like where have these been all my life. And you have three minutes and no one commits to anything, and Rachel is yelling out I’d like to have these in our home for the holiday Story, your head is just spinning.
So I left that night not knowing anything, I was great, Middy loved them, Rachel clearly thought they were neat, but there was no commitment.

So literally I said like a silent wish, every morning I was like please HSN call, please HSN call and sure enough a week later I get a phone call from HSN saying that Middy Grossman had dropped off the product, and wanted to test it on a show.

Steve: This is crazy, okay.

Abby: It is, I mean it’s just crazy. And so I was fast tracked through HSN like QA and legal process because they were trying to get – when I originally talked to HSN, they were hoping to get the product done during the Easter time frame which is a big push for them, but I got a call in November saying that they were trying to get it on I thought as a product wrap up bought like product introduction on January 4th. So I had to re-kit the product, so they were selling them as a two pack so we had to buy suffocation bags and HSN only UPCs and have my warehouse get all this new product.

So we were able to get that done and ship it off to HSN in December in time for this January 4th show. And ironically we had gone to New York City over the holidays and I had run in Rachel Shechtman, because we went to see the product in the store, and she goes, “Oh well you must be going on air on January 4th.” And I was like, no it’s just a product wrap up, she goes, “That’s odd,” she’s like typically you’ll be going on air.

And so I left the store that day, and I was like oh no, oh no. I’m like but I’m not going to think about it because I haven’t been contacted, and sure enough I went back to my in law’s house that night and I got an email from Rachel saying, “You haven’t filled out your HSN profile like on air personality profile. I was like, oh no, so literally it was a week I didn’t eat or sleep or do anything for a week. I was so nervous but I was on air on January 4th.

Steve: Oh you actually went on the show?

Abby: Yeah it’s like actually I did go on air, so I went and I flew down the day before and they do all these like tests. I had to wear ear pieces and they were telling me like look at camera five, look at camera four, meanwhile you are trying to have this conversation, so it was just crazy. But I sold out on January 4th and then…

Steve: On HSN, what are the terms in terms of like financial?

Abby: Sure so it varies. They actually place POs [ph] with me, so they place POs and then there are different ways to fulfill that product, so you can either drop ship directly from your warehouse or you can send it to one of their central warehouses and they can handle all the fulfillment, the customer service and all of that kind of stuff. They were getting it at a price point that it didn’t make sense for me to handle all the fulfillment and the customer service.

Through our negotiations, I just send them all the products and they handle all of the fulfillment and customer service side of things.

Steve: Are you willing to reveal like how much they take of the cake?

Abby: Sure, they take upwards of 60%.

Steve: Okay, it’s not horrible, okay.

Abby: It’s not horrible but they were selling two for one, so it was on top of an already 50%.

Steve: Oh I see, got it.

Abby: Yeah but the way I looked at it is I was making money, it wasn’t a lot but I was making money per unit sold, and the way I looked at it I was making money to advertise, because it was a great advertising opportunity. So even though it wasn’t a great financial position for me, how can you say no to an opportunity like that?

Steve: Do you get the [inaudible 00:29:03] as well like email address?

Abby: No, no, no, no, so they keep all that stuff, so they keep that really close to their vest, they don’t reveal that kind of stuff. So I went back on, on March 7th or 17th and sold out again, I went back on April 4th and sold out again.

Steve: Can we get an idea of like how many units we’re talking about here?

Abby: Sure so it was between – they varied, but it was like 1200 units or 1200 two packs.

Steve: Okay in like a span of like an hour or something like that?

Abby: Ten minutes.

Steve: Ten minutes, good lord.

Abby: Yeah, so I went back in April of this year, I’m like Bill my husband, I was like if I can prove that market and this product – there is a market in HSN which is such kind of a microcosm of — it’s such like a unique viewer audience. I’m like if it can sell out in ten minutes three times consecutively for this audience, there has to be an opportunity for me to blow this up across all of United States and Canada and make it a truly, truly viable business.

So in April I convinced him to let me jump in, so I quit my full time job and have been focusing on this only since May of this year. So in May I was invited back kind of as alumni to the pitch night in Story for the Story store in New York City, and that night I happened to meet Adam Glassman who is the creative director for Oprah Magazine.

So that night I kind of shot at my back, she’s like this is a great product, but your box – your packaging just doesn’t kind of scream what it does, and Rachel Shechtman was like, “Yeah if you want this to be in retail stores, you might want to rethink your packaging,” and all this kind of stuff. So just a great opportunity to talk to people who know the business and I did have to take a step back and do like what do I want this to look like, how do I want this to resonate in the market space if I can’t show case it on a website, how do I want this to sit on a retail shop?

I took my cue from Spanx, so I loved how Spanx disrupted the hosiery market place, and I loved how bold and bright and red and colorful they were. So I took my lead from them and spent this past summer redesigning my packaging, then in June I was notified that I was going to be in the September issue of Oprah Magazine.

Steve: Crazy.

Abby: At the time so it was June and at the time it was going to be on the show, or the September issue so it was going to be on the newsstands in August when they had asked for my price point was, and I was like this is the time to make a commitment, because it was going to be in print. So I can either go with my existing price point of 19.95 or I can go with my elevated price point of $29, and so I just on the phone I was like this is it, it’s going to be $29. And so she’s like, okay that’s what is going to go on print.
I was like oh man, so I had to redo the website, I had to redo the packaging, I had to get everything set for first week of August when that issue hit the newsstands.

Steve: What was the effect of the issue on sales?

Abby: Say that again.

Steve: What was the effect of being in that magazine on sales exactly?

Abby: Minimal to be quite honest.

Steve: Really, interesting.

Abby: Yeah so I had – and I think because it was print, so maybe if it would have been an online article, and I was mentioned in the online article, but if it was – so I’ve also been featured in Real Simple but it was an online, it was realsimple.com not their print publication, and I’ve gotten significantly more traffic and sales from that feature than I have from being in Oprah, the print magazine.

But it’s phenomenal, I mean it’s just such an honor to say that you’ve been featured in Oprah Magazine what not, but sales ironically didn’t jump too much. They jumped for sure the first week it hit the newsstands, but it wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t a sustainable development.

Steve: It has been our experience as well. Actually we were on Real Simple as well and just like a tiny little spike, but in general all the other magazines that we’ve been in also there is never like a huge spike compared to like being on TV for example.

I just want to let you know that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellerssummit.com. Now what is the Sellers Summit? It is the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. And unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference, where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business.

In fact every speaker that I invite is deep in the trenches of their ecommerce business, entrepreneurs who are importing large quantities of physical goods, and not some high level guys who are overseeing their companies at 50,000 feet. The other thing I can also assure you is that the Sellers Summit will be small and intimate. Last year we cut off ticket sales at around 100 people, so this event will sell out quickly.

This event caters to sellers of all levels, and if you’re a beginner, you’ll leave the Sellers summit with a product to sell, potential vendors and a road map for your business. If you’re an existing shopper, you’ll learn proven techniques to take your business to the next level whether it be through learning advanced Amazon selling tactics, SEO, social media, pay per click advertising, copy writing, email marketing, you name it. And if you are an ecommerce entrepreneur making more than $250,000 per year, we’re also offering an exclusive mastermind experience with other top sellers.

So the Sellers summit is going to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from May 18th to May 20th, and for more information you can go to sellersummit.com, once again that’s sellerssummit.com or just Google it, now back to the show.

Abby: Right so speaking of TV, so in July, so in June I was notified I would be in Oprah Magazine and then in July I was notified that Adam Glassman had selected our products as one of six products to be featured on a special view your deal Oprah version on the view. So the view hosts these flash sales, these two day flash sales called view your deal where they offer products at a 50% discount but only for two days.

That was a phenomenal opportunity that I was notified in July, so I had to get ready for that as well. So July 28 my new packaging was done, the first week of August I launched the new website, and then I was doing six orders a day like average five to six orders a day in August of this year. And then I started playing around with Facebook ads and had landed on one that was converting significantly really, really well and so I was doing 75 orders a day.

Steve: Let’s back track a little bit, so the view have you gone already?

Abby: Correct yeah.

Steve: [inaudible 00:36:35].

Abby: So yes so I was averaging 75 orders a day in September and then the end of September I went on the view, so the view was at the end of September, it was 26th and 27th were the flash sale days, and I did 2565 orders in one day.

Steve: That’s crazy.

Abby: It was insane, it was funny because my new warehouse actually they have these display monitors throughout their offices, and so they had put up my order systems on their display, so everyone in the office was like, oh my god she just hit 500 sales, oh my god she just hit 1000. They kept calling me being like do you know what you just hit, I’m like yes. Honestly I had to lay down twice that day because I thought I was going to pass out.

Steve: What were the terms for being on the view, do they take like a similar percentage as HSN?

Abby: No, so the view it’s interesting so they set up and I don’t know how much I can share or should share, but they set up their own Shopify site, so it’s kind of a flash sale on their terms. So I offered it at 50% offer for retail, and then they took a percentage just for keeping me on the show, and I’m not going to reveal what the percentage is. They take a percentage of kind of having me on the show.

Steve: Okay but before then you had already expanded your sales 10X with Facebook ads, so let’s talk about that Facebook campaign that’s been killing it for you. What does the ad copy look like and what does the landing page look like?

Abby: Sure, I don’t have a landing page; I just drive them to my home page.

Steve: Well your home page is like a sales page.

Abby: It is kind of a sales page, yes so it’s designed kind of as a sales page, but I have two ads that are converting extremely well and if you notice the – it’s the shoe graphic that I have on my home page, that kind of hero image when you first land. So it’s those pairs of shoes and then honestly underneath I just have wear high heels four times longer without pain, that’s the graphic.

Then the text on top says something like love high heels but hate the pain, we have a product that will forever change the way you wear high heels, and then the headline underneath it is just Vivian Lou Insolia with shifting insoles. So it’s a very, very basic ad that happens to be converting extremely well for me.

Steve: Can we talk about retargeting and what are the parameters that you use to target your ads?

Abby: Sure so the only parameters I have set up for those series of ads, it has to be a woman in the United States who speaks English, who has an interest in shopping and is 38 years old or older.

Steve: Interesting, so how did you come up with 38 years old or older?

Abby: Based on demographics, so the gentleman from Insolia had done a demographic study, and the women who purchase my shoes tend to skew older, and I think women who buy high heels when they are younger either have more tolerance for pain or at a $29 price point they would rather put that toward a new pair of shoes versus buying an insole to put into an existing pair of shoes.

Early on I tested Facebook ads skewing younger and then skewing older and the age that skews older tends to purchase significantly more than the younger age group.

Steve: So are you still marketing to the younger curve or did you just turn that off?

Abby: No, I turned it off all together.

Steve: Okay and in terms of – like you’re saying it’s killing it, like can I just get an idea what your conversion rate is on these ads and how much you’re paying per click?

Abby: Sure, I wish I had my…

Steve: It doesn’t have to be exact, like just what [inaudible 00:40:36].

Abby: Okay, let’s just say I am 6exing my daily spend.

Steve: Oh in terms of — okay so you’re making 6X?

Abby: Each of the profitability, so what I spend on my Facebook ads daily, I make like 6X daily.

Steve: That’s awesome, and so once you found out that it was working, you just scaled it up, right?

Abby: I scaled it up yup, and it’s crazy how if you raise it by $50 or lower by $50, it completely impacts and it varies, on a day it can vary 5X to 6X but that’s consistent by how much I spend a day. So if I’m running short on inventory which I did after the view, I had no idea how crazy that would take off, I ramped down my Facebook ad spend because I didn’t want more orders until I could get inventory, I didn’t want to go out of inventory and so I really scaled back.

Then sure enough my orders went – I was seeing much smaller order numbers come through. One of the things that is crazy to me is that Facebook can have such a profound impact and it is so true, but I also don’t want to rest on my roles, because I know Facebook algorithms could change or whatever the case may be, it could go away tomorrow.

So some of the things I’m focusing on like today is I only make five sales a day through Amazon and I’m not doing Amazon FBA and so to build my Amazon business, to also open up an amazon.ca. So I’m not even advertising to women in Canada right now which is a huge lost market. I’m in talks to open up a warehouse in a fulfillment center in Canada as well so that all of my inventory to amazon.ca, and to Canadian customers are fulfilled through Toronto.

Steve: Just curious, when you’re scaling your Facebook ads, how did you know how high to scale it to, like how high did it get and why did you stop there?

Abby: I’m at $500 a day averaging kind of $500 a day right now and that varies depending on what my inventory looks like. Now I will tell you I’m much higher than 6X since Friday based on Instagram ads that have taken off, and I’m still only spending $500 a day but it’s crazy.

Steve: So why 500, why not like 1000?

Abby: Because I don’t have confidence in my fulfillment center right now to process that many orders, so I’m in the process of looking for a new fulfillment center, one that has the capability to do very large quantities of pick, and pack orders in a single day.

Steve: So I was going to ask you this also, you mentioned like your Instagram ads recently took off, do you know why that happened or do you have any idea – were you just running like ads on all the Facebook platforms and then all of a sudden Instagram took off?

Abby: My initial two ads, the ones that’s been driving the majority of the traffic, when I initially set them up. I set them up to just run in the Facebook newsfeed and on Instagram, and I have not touched those ads except for ramping up and down spend since the end of September, and I have no idea why Friday these Instagram ads have taken off.

So last week ironically I engaged an agency that is like a pay per click agency, and so I sent them a note this morning asking them if they could look into why all of a sudden Instagram has taken off because I had no explanation for it.

Steve: And we forgot to talk about the other ad, how is the other ad different from the one we already talked about?

Abby: The other ad is just one of the skews, it’s one of the red pairs of high heels that’s in the other ad, and it says something like high heels without the hurt is what it says in the copy on the ad, and then it’s just the same intro text up top, so again like love high heels? Hate pain? And then just the name of the product, and the headline down below.

Steve: Is it the same audience that you’re driving…

Abby: Same audience.

Steve: So it’s just a different variation of the same thing, otherwise the landing page, everything is identical?

Abby: Yes and I spend between $4 and $5 per conversion…

Steve: That’s crazy.

Abby: Without the ad I know.

Steve: And we were talking about this before the interview recorded, but she is not doing any retargeting yet, I think you’re doing minimal email marketing right now too, right?

Abby: Minimal.

Steve: So like there’s all these things that you can totally blow this up with which really excites me actually, like you’re just at the tip of the iceberg right now.

Abby: I am, and I’m quickly becoming overwhelmed which is a phenomenal problem to have, so looking for customer service help and those sorts of things, but yes the potential for this product to kick off is huge, and I really need to focus on growing this out. I’m hoping I’ll be able to in three weeks once we figure out the fulfillment center situation.

Steve: So let’s talk a little bit about, let’s [inaudible 00:46:35] the listeners a little bit, so what were some of your biggest challenges in starting your store, how did you overcome them and how hard was it for you to get started and what general advice would you give them?

Abby: Oh man, the hardest part for me getting started was not knowing anything, so your course was a phenomenal help, I mean even just hearing from others who had gone through the same thing or taking and keep away from this article or keep away from that article, it’s just a tremendous help.

I think my one tip I have is don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know anything and rely on folks who do know what they’re doing. It was a huge learning process and still is for me, I dove in not knowing much about HTML, but learning it quickly to try and get my photos to become the right size on a Shopify platform to asking help in understanding a contract when it comes to either your fulfillment center or becoming an exclusive distributor.

There was just so much to learn, but I loved that part of it, so while it was a challenge, it was also really rewarding that I admitted that I didn’t know what I was doing but I was okay with that and I wasn’t shy to ask a lot of questions.

Steve: It’s amazing, I mean one thing I like about your story is that you’re a go getter right, I mean you called the distributor and you…

Abby: Yeah.

Steve: Then you decided to go to New York to join this group and that got you an Oprah and the view and HSN.

Abby: You’re right.

Steve: And fulfillment houses you went out and you just got one who was willing to work with you despite the small quantities. I mean that’s – what it really comes down to is doing the leg work and willing to do the work, right?

Abby: Yeah and having fun, I mean there are often times you can get bogged down in such minute details, and I think at the end of the day being able, one to like kind of laugh at yourself and say this is just a learning curve, this is just part of the journey is really helpful. And then two, I would say this may be my biggest tip and I don’t know where I heard this, but don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. So when you look at where you want to be or how you want to be set up and that’s why I was kind of so embarrassed at my first version of my website…

Steve: I thought it was great, you remember this conversation, I thought it was great.

Abby: Yeah I do, I do and you were like don’t change it, it looks great, people know what they’re getting. But yeah so don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle and that I think is critical, and it’s all journey and I’m so thankful, so incredibly thankful for all the people who have given me this opportunity and given me their time to share their wisdom on how to move forward.

Steve: That’s awesome Abby, well you know I really appreciate you coming on the show, I think your story is really inspirational, I think the listeners will get a whole lot out of it.

Abby: Oh thank you.

Steve: Thanks again Abby, oh and I always end, so where can people find your products, I didn’t spell your URL?

Abby: On my website at vivianlou.com, V-I-V-I-A-N-L-O-U.C-O-M.

Steve: Yes and anyone who has heel pain or high heel pain should definitely go check it out, I will be getting a set for my wife for sure.

Abby: Awesome, excellent.

Steve: Thanks a lot for coming on Abby, take care.

Abby: Thank you.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. As you can probably tell Abby is an amazingly driven woman and her success is a direct result of her hard work and tenacity, so congrats Abby. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode150.

Once again I want to thank klaviyo.com for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants, and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, and once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Now Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/steve. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

149: How To Make 6 Figures Selling Jewelry Online With Tracy Matthews

Share On Facebook

149: How To Make 6 Figures Selling Jewelry Online With Tracy Matthews

Play

Today, I’m thrilled to have Tracy Matthews on the show. Tracy is someone who I was introduced to by Andreea Ayers and she runs the popular site Flourish Thrive Academy where she teaches others how to sell jewelry online.

Tracy has a ton of experience in this area and her jewelry line was sold in over 350 retail outlets all over the globe (ABC home, Sundance Catalog, Bloomingdales, Anthro) and she’s been featured in many magazines like Real Simple, InStyle And lucky magazine.

Anyway, since Tracy specializes in jewelry sales I am very eager to pick her brain on tactics specific to the jewelry niche

What You’ll Learn

  • How to stand out in the jewelry niche.
  • Should you sell on Etsy or your own site.
  • How to drive traffic to a jewelry site
  • How to be successful selling jewelry.
  • How to sell jewelry wholesale
  • The best marketplaces to sell jewelry.

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

EpisodeTracy
Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Today I have Tracy Matthews of Flourish Thrive Academy who specializes in teaching others how to sell jewelry online, but before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show.

Now I’m always super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email provider. Well Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the store in the last week, easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s actually full revenue tracking on every single email.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I have ever used and you can actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and that’s spelled K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, so once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s cool is I also use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. So what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here is why I like and chose Privy. So Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over $100, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when a customer has 90 bucks in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or to display a related item or offer. In terms of email capture, I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to Klaviyo to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve and try it for free, and if you decide you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. So once again that’s privy.com/steve, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, today I’m thrilled to have Tracy Matthews on the show. Now Tracy is someone who I was introduced to by Andrea Ares and she runs the popular site flourishthriveacademy.com, where she teaches others how to sell jewelry online. Now Tracy has a ton of experience in this area and her jewelry line was sold in over 350 retail outlets all over the globe including ABC Home, Sundance Catalog, Bloomingdales, and she’s been featured in many magazines like Real Simple, InStyle and Lucky magazine.

Now in my create a profitable online store course, there are several students selling jewelry to varying degrees of success, and to be honest I think that selling jewelry is not one of my most recommended niches, because it is so competitive and you really have to market yourself well to stand out. But since Tracy specialized in jewellery sales and she is very successful at it, I’m very eager to pick her brain on tactics specifically for the jewelry niche. And with that welcome to the show Tracy, how are you doing today?

Tracy: I’m doing great, thanks for having me Steve.

Steve: So give us the quick background at how you got into ecommerce and specifically jewelry?

Tracy: Okay so back in the olden days when I was in college, I took a jewelry making class as an elective, and I knew that – probably a couple of months into
that class that this is what I was going to do for a career. The independent jewelry seen in the early 90s were just sort of emerging, and I was working in a lot of boutiques and specialty stores at the time, working in retail and I just loved the idea of selling my jewelry in the store.

So fast forward a couple of years later I launched my business full time, I worked from a part time business to full time business and started selling to stores. So back in those days, selling to retail stores was pretty much the only way you could have a jewelry business, the internet wasn’t really around. I remember when I started my company, this is so embarrassing back in 1998, I don’t think I even had an email address; we used to fax in phone in order to communicate.

Steve: Wow, okay.

Tracy: Which I felt was pretty crazy. So fast forward a couple of years later ecommerce started coming around, and I started my first ecommerce website for my company at that time Tracy Matthews Designs. Ecommerce at that was really just like a secondary part of our business because still 95% of the business came from wholesale. So I closed that business down in 2010 to start anew direction doing custom work and selling jewelry to private clients, and I knew when I started this new business model because it was so different and working directly with clients that I was going to be meeting a lot of people online.

In fact 50% of my leads come from people just finding me through organic search on Google. So I knew that a lot had to change, I had to change the way that I was showing up in my business, I had to change the way that I was branding myself and I also had to change the way that I was communicating on my website if I wanted people who were just finding me randomly who didn’t know who the heck I was to actually fill out that form and move to the next set.

So that’s sort of my journey into the jewelry industry and I had an ecommerce site for many years, I’m going to be probably eventually launching a ready to wear bridal line which will have an ecommerce aspect in it, but I also teach thousands of jewelry designers how to create rounds online and also have successful ecommerce stores.

Steve: Yeah absolutely and we’re definitely going to talk about that. I‘m just curious just hearing your story why did you start the wholesale business in favor of more I guess you wanted interaction with your clients?

Tracy: That is a great question. I’ll try to make the story short; it’s kind of a long story. I had been in wholesale for about 11 years at that time, something like that before I closed the business. I don’t know if you remember 2008, but it was a very tumultuous time in the economy.

Steve: Yes it was, yeah.

Tracy: And quite honestly it was a combination of factors. I’d been in the industry for a long time, the face of wholesale was changing at that particular time, and the type of jewelry that I design was very personal, kind of [inaudible 00:07:31] and the trend in the market was kind of going more towards big and bold and cheap and chick at that time because people didn’t have as much expendable income to spend.

So the middle market was starting to close and I did have a fine jewelry line that time that was starting to become successful, I started shipping to a bunch of stores. Some of my best accounts were picking it up which is great kind of moving it to that new direction that my business was evolving into.

Then 2008 I started getting bankruptcy notices from some of these companies in the mail which for anyone who has a forward based business who is shipping lots of volume like a thousand units at a time or sometimes $100,000 orders it can be quite detrimental if you don’t get paid on time for your cash flow, or when people tell you that they are pretty much not going to pay you.

So I was faced with a choice, do I stay open or do I change directions? I lost my passion for wholesale at that time, and I was working with business consulting, I highly recommend getting consultants serve you in your business, I think that was the best decision I’d ever made, I actually made it too late. But working with this business consultant slowly helped me pull out what it is that I love to do and he kept asking me these questions to do with me, like what is it that you love, what do you love about this business, what do you hate about this business, where do you see yourself?

And I’m like I really miss the interaction with the clients and I missed that, I missed the designing part, I missed this creative process piece and I missed having a personal connection. And so we kind of worked shop together and I’ve been doing fine jewelry for a while, and I had designed my first engagement ring a couple of years into my fine jewelry line, and I realized that that’s sort of the direction I wanted to go in, and it was like feeding my soul. So I think that it was just an opportunity for me to kind of reinvent and have my small successful business.

Steve: Would you just say that if you wanted to go into jewelry today, you should just go to the extreme either like really fine jewelry or less expensive jewelry as opposed to that middle ground?

Tracy: That’s a great question; it depends on what you’re trying to do. I’m not really a huge fun of people like under pricing jewelry or importing jewelry from China and trying to have a jewelry brand, I mean like everyone is doing that. What we really do is we try to get people to position themselves from their brand.
It’s interesting; I was talking with a former client of mine who owns this great store the [inaudible 00:10:17].

She came and talked to our community and she was saying one of the things that drives her crazy about designers coming in is that they really don’t know who their customer is, and they end up designing for millenials but then over price their work and millenials can’t afford it, they are making things basically in a baby boomer price point. So I think when it comes to really expensive or really cheap, I think it really starts with knowing who your customer is.

If you are designing for millenials, then design in the millennial price point and work backwards so that you can do that. If you are designing for people in their 40s and 50s who have a lot of expendable income like I do, then design fine jewelry or things in a higher price point that they can actually afford. So I think that you can have a successful business in any price point, you just need to be really clear on who it is that you are targeting and what your positioning is on your brand.

Steve: Okay, I guess one of my main questions is what makes selling jewelry different than for example selling other regular retail products online?

Tracy: Well I think jewelry is a really personal purchase. There’s been a huge rise of people self purchasers these days, where they are buying jewelry for themselves to commemorate special occasions, it’s no longer just like a gift giving thing anymore even though that’s still a huge part of the market.
One of the things that I always try to do when creating different jewelry collections over the course of my career is to create things that people want to collect, and I think that’s something that’s so different about jewelry is that it’s really a collectible item, it’s something that is often passed down through the generations. Depending on the type of jewelry it is, junk costume jewelry is probably not, but my grandmother gave me some really cool costume jewelry and I love it, so maybe, you never know.

But thinking about it in terms of what is the meaning behind it, and I think jewelry is very different than other products because for instance like a sweater that you might buy on [inaudible 00:12:23] you might have like a very classic cardigan that you wear for years but like a Chinese sweater or something like that might be out of style in two years where a very personal piece of necklace you might wear for 20, 30 – it might be around for a hundred years because it’s being passed down.

Steve: Right, so how do you frame your jewelry in such a way that it makes it like a collectible, and how do you make the customer feel the meaning of your jewelry?

Tracy: I think a lot of it comes to your brand positioning; there is no doubt about it, you can literally throw a rock and hit a jewelry designer, there are so many others these days. It’s how you can position yourself and stand out and how you can share your story. So I’ll just share an experience for my personal life, my mother passed away when I was in my early 20s and if she hadn’t passed away, I probably would have never fallen into the jewelry industry, that’s a story for another day.

Because of that I had inherited some diamonds from her and other pieces of jewelry that were basically family items and these diamonds were not set. So I wanted to create something for myself that I would wear every day, so that was my first piece of earring redesign. And the way I position myself is based on my story about my mother, and I redesign a lot of family items into pieces of jewelry that people want to wear every day.

So a lot of the customers that come to me, they find me because they are maybe searching for a redesigned family earrings or something like that, they land on my website, they see my story, they go to my about page, read what I’m all about and my history and then we have strong calls to action that gets them buying to the next step.

So I think that for every designer it’s a little bit different, we work with people who do personalized jewelry, they have a different kind of story, or people who have a very formal training at GIA and they came about designing jewelry in a different way.

So I think there are so many different ways to position your jewelry business, but I think a lot of personal branding and the success of a jewelry business comes down to what it is that you stand for, the values, the prop that we call this the [inaudible 00:14:43] proposition, other people call it a unique selling proposition or an emotional selling proposition, it’s like how you are connecting with your audience to position your brand and then turning that into something maybe that is going to be something that they want to collect down the road.

Steve: Does that apply then that you have to use your own face and your own personality when selling your jewelry, or can you still create like a non personal brand?

Tracy: You definitely can create a non personal brand; I think that there are many successful brands out there who have. Some use like different types of names like a pseudo name or something like that. Most of the brands I’m going to use, they do show their face at some point, but remember this like [inaudible 00:15:30] back in the days with those really successful called King Baby, and I can’t remember the guy who owns it, but he really position himself like all the imagery on the site wasn’t really about him, it was more about the jewelry but then you find out about him when you go to the bio page. Or there is – I’m trying to think of another good example.

Steve: It sounds like story is a very strong aspect of being successful in the jewelry business?

Tracy: I think so. We have a lot of introverts or shy people, there is a lot of introverts that are very social, but there is a lot of shy introverts who are afraid to put themselves out there, and that’s fine. But I think the more that you’re able to put yourself out there, the more people want to buy from you, because that’s my personal experience at least the types of clients that I work for. There are many successful beginning and small name jewelry brands that never show their face, but they are really positioning or branding, it’s just a little bit different. But I think from a niche designer, positioning on your story and your values can be really valuable in helping you grow your business.

Steve: Okay so I know you teach a very successful class on how to start a jewelry business, so I was hoping that maybe you could just walk me through the process, like let’s say someone out there listening wants to start a jewelry business, what’s the first step? Assuming I’ve already created some jewelry, do you advice like I go on Etsy, do is start my own site, what’s the first step?

Tracy: Well it really depends on the amount of money you have to invest in it, how much time you’re willing to put in it, because there’s a lot of different ways that you can successfully run a business. You could do in person events like craft shares and craft fairs, you can set up a website which as you know and your audience should know that takes a little bit of time to get traffic to the website and to be able to build the website up.

If you want it fast you can get on Etsy as you mentioned. There were some pitfalls that come with that or you can go back and try to wholesale right away. There is a lot of different ways that you can start a business, I think the things to consider in the beginning are – we try to walk people through understanding like when they’re designing collections who their audience is which I mentioned earlier, how they’re going to be positioning their brand, so these are sort of the steps if we’re not talking about the legal steps to start a business.

Steve: Yeah not the legal steps yeah.

Tracy: And then we will talk about collection development because I think that’s a really important piece. A lot of people who fall into jewelry making or jewelry design don’t really think like a designer, they think like a maker and they just make a bunch of stuff because they like it and not think about how that ties into a merchandising perspective, which from a retail standpoint that’s like one of the number one things that buyer s are looking at.
It doesn’t matter what kind of buyer it is, whether it’s someone landing on your website for the first time, someone buying from you in personal, or someone buying from a boutique or a specialty store, how your collection merchandises together is what makes it sell.

Steve: Can we talk about that a little bit?

Tracy: Yeah, sure.

Steve: What goes into creating a collection so to speak?

Tracy: What goes in to creating, we call it collections that sell.

Steve: Yeah I don’t know anything about this so…

Tracy: There are three main aspects. If you think about a lot of successful businesses it’s like it’s pretty prevalent these days across all industries, but if you go into a fast food restaurant and you order a burger, they are always going to be trying to sell you fries with that or a full meal. So you have to be thinking like how you are building your collection around it, so you start with your signature pieces which we call the gateway pieces. They are the pieces that people – they’re probably going to be your best sellers and the things like people are always going to buy.

Then you want to build that also around your statement pieces. The statement pieces are the pieces that are bigger and bolder and it doesn’t matter if you design [inaudible 00:19:34] jewelry or supper substantial cost to your jewelry. They are the ones that really like catch the eye, so those are the pieces like if you’re displaying at show or they are in a retail case or on your website, people might go to first, but they might not always be the ones that they buy, they sort of like draw the attention in.

Then sort of round if out by the up sell or the add on item which is like a lower price point item that can be literally up sold at the end, so like maybe someone comes in and buys your middle price point necklace and then they want a pair of earrings to go with that. That’s the development around it and then as far as a price point structure level and then on top of that you have to be thinking about design, like what do you stand for as an artist, what’s your signature style, what are the key elements that are tying all the pieces in the collection together? Is it a design esthetic, is it a color story, is it how the pieces are made, or is it something else.

So it’s a combination of esthetics, I would say size, scale, structure, price point, all those things and how all that works together as a unit as a whole.

Steve: Can we use an example of one of your collections for example just to kind of fill in some of these blanks because I don’t understand all the terminology and everything.

Tracy: Absolutely, so when I was designing like foreign collections when I wholesaled, I would have like a necklace that sold really well, and it was like the best seller, I’m trying to think of the name of it, I was going to use the name, I will call the Shonti [ph] necklace. I used to teach yoga, so a lot of my pieces were named after…

Steve: Okay so you were targeting yoga people specifically?

Tracy: Not necessarily, it was more of a fashion jewelry line, but a lot of the influences of my design were based on Indian architecture or Moroccan shapes. So it made sense that I would use those fancy names. So then I would have a similar shape to earring but maybe that was like smaller that went with that. So maybe the necklace retailed for $125 and then the earrings retailed for $50, and then when I would be merchandising I would have another necklace like let’s say on the pendant, the chain for the Shonti necklace that I’m making up right now.

It had like an element and some stones or whatever. I would have something similar to that, but let’s say instead of one element in the center of the necklace, they would be like three or four or five elements of a similar shape on like one piece, so it was like a statement piece that really stood out. Without having visuals in front of you that’s the best way I can explain it over just with my voice.

Steve: I think I can understand, so you have something that basically draws everyone’s attention and it might be more expensive or too bold for people who actually buy it, but then they buy the toned down version, is that…

Tracy: Yeah they buy the toned down version because maybe – a lot of people do buy statement jewelry obviously, there is tons of statement jewelry brands, but you want to be building collections around these three aspects. So even if you’re only selling items like let’s say you only sell bracelets and you don’t do all categories of jewelry, you would want to have a low, medium, and higher price point piece and with those scaled price points, they will be like more embellishments based on the design and price.

Steve: Can we talk about pricing a little bit, like how do you come up with your prices?

Tracy: Jewelry is very specific pricing formula I guess is the best way to put it, and there is no really one way to price, so it’s confusing. I think the one thing that people need to remember is that you need to make sure that you have your archer crossing down and that you’re changing fair market labor for the labor of the piece.

Probably the people in your audience, probably a lot of them aren’t necessarily makers, they might be people who are outsourcing jewelry design, or outsourcing the making of the jewelry, that’s great because I’m a huge believer in that because I feel like you get fair market rates. I think when people get into trouble is if they are actually making now the jewelry themselves, and they think, oh I want to make $50 or $100 an hour and they are wrapping a necklace, that’s not a fair market wage rate for that labor.

So you need to get the actual costing down of the materials and the fees and a fair market rate for the labor that’s included, and the first thing that you need to do is to be taking those same things and then marking them up to a wholesale price point. So just a basic formula because there is so much more involved in this like with over heads and how much you market at, but let’s just say you’re using a basic pretty simple formula.

You take the labor and the materials, charge that by two, that gets you to a wholesale price point, and then to get your retail you’d want to charge that number by 2.2. So let’s say we have $10 cost of material and labor, that gets you to $20, and then that will get you to I think about $50, $20 wholesale and then like $50 retail if that make sense.

Steve: So that’s interesting, so that’s like a very scientific way of pricing, and I know I just bought something for my wife from Cartier [ph], and I guarantee you that it was marked up.

Tracy: Oh my god, Cartier market are pretty more than that.

Steve: Yeah exactly, so I’m just curious like you mention like story and all that stuff that will entice people to pay more. So you had that formula that you just gave me but for the students in your class for example that have managed to gain the mind share of their follower, how does the pricing work, and can you price a lot higher?

I just want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now for any ecommerce store, word of mouth is huge, and when a customer is supper happy with their purchase, they’ll tell all of their friends. Now what if there is a way to amplify word of mouth about your company, what if there was a way to reward referrals for your business. This is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse you can add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders; in fact it’s not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on your investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer, is seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because referrals share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again that’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try the service. Now back to the show.

Tracy: You absolutely can. When I’m pricing my custom jewelry a lot of it really depends on the variables of the project, it depends on who I’m working with, return of the budget of the client and it also depends on what I like to call the pain in the ass factor, like how hard are they to work with. So I’m obviously designing something different, it’s not ready to wear and it’s custom, so there was like a lot more expensive. I try to educate my clients on the front end that you can’t compare a custom piece of jewelry to a commission piece of jewelry basically.

So something that you find in the market, there are like apples and oranges, but for people who are designing ready to wear product or ready to wear jewelry in particular, a lot of it really comes down to what I spoke about earlier on understanding who your audience is, understanding who you are designing for and then understanding what the perceived value really is on your work because a lot of things you can charge, have a lot bigger margins because people see that there is much more value there.

A lot of things can’t be marked up that much. I think Etsy has created this phenomenon of people totally under pricing their work, and it’s devastating for the jewelry industry. I think that what I really encourage designers to do and makers to do is to come up with something different, like come up with a new idea. It’s cool that you started this hobby making things and you’re turning into a business like I’m all for it, but now it’s time to appreciate even further, like what makes your designs different than everyone else’s.

So like really be pushing that design piece and then I think like communicating the value of the process and what goes into the work to your clients, I think that’s really the most important piece with pricing and being able to charge a little bit more. If you can’t successfully do that, people aren’t going to buy it.

Steve: So in your case, what would be something noble in the world of jewelry, like I obviously don’t know anything about jewelry, so like what is an example of something noble that you have done and can you kind of go through the process that you’ve conveyed to the customer?

Tracy: What do you mean by noble?

Steve: You mentioned that when you’re designing jewelry, it helps to have something that is totally unique, doing something that other people…

Tracy: Okay so like something that I’ve done?

Steve: Or anything or any of your students that have been successful.

Tracy: Well this is a good example because I think it’s really unique and very different. We had a student come through our program a couple of years ago, and she designed like centic [ph] food jewelry which was really kind of random, I’m like I don’t know who would really like to wear like centic [inaudible 00:29:20] of jewelry but she had a huge market for it.

It was a very low price point, it’s very different, I’ve never seen anything like it. I still haven’t seen anything else like it, and it was something, she sold it like more on mass, but it was something that was very different and very unique to her. So we have – I’m trying to think of someone really specific.

Steve: That’s pretty unique.

Tracy: It’s pretty unique. We have another design on our mastermind program right now J. Kerry of the [inaudible 00:29:51] and she — a lot of people do personalization, but I found this really unique, they customized latitude and longitude points for their particular stores and clients. So they’ll do like a whole range of products that are personalized just for that store based on their latitude and longitude location. So it’s great for like destination spots, vacation spots where people are buying, so I think people will be willing to reimburse a little more or something like that, you know what I’m saying?

Steve: Yeah totally, so once you have your unique aspect with your jewelry and let’s say you’ve done a really good job with your story telling and the process by which you make the jewelry, how do you actually get the buyers to come to you?

Tracy: Well yeah, that’s a great question. I think in any business especially products type businesses, unless you’re going like [inaudible 00:30:50] to like really like ninja ecommerce strategies like you do, I think it takes like really a variety of methods. For instance like my business from the beginning, I did have a huge wholesale business, I did trade shows, I met buyers; I got class and had my work on a lot of celebrities.

But it wasn’t like I started my business and that happened, that was like over the course of 11 years. It started step by step and when I was just starting out, I would do anything to get an introduction to a store owner. Like basically I really have always said that my business has grown based on my frontal, whether it be referrals, people sending their friends to your website or people providing introductions to maybe a store owner because they are friends with them.

My first store opened when a friend of mine who was from Portland, Oregon introduced me to the store owners of the amazing store called Twist [ph], and that introduction then saw another introduction that I had to this store in Francisco where I was living at the time called [inaudible 00:31:53]. Those two doors opened like a whole variety of doors for me in the wholesale world because if you were selling at those stores people found you valid.

So that becomes like sort of their system overflow and building trust, it’s like recommendation. So testimonials on your website, how other types of social proof that you’re getting, referrals from other customers and I think something that you asked like how, I think there are so many ways, that’s one way, referrals.

Steve: Let’s say I want to get into wholesale for example, what would be like the first step that you would recommend?

Tracy: Well you need to get a line sheet together and a line sheet is basically a wholesale catalog of your work. You need to have all these branding assets that we spoke about earlier together; you need to have a really tight collection that has something unique and different. You need to have clearly maybe a store list of stores that you want to sell to that are not necessarily selling products like yours, but that your jewelry actually hangs with the designers that they are working with.

You need to understand who their customer is so that you’re making sure that you’re approaching the right kinds of stores. Basically you would just start with like sending them post cards or shooting them emails; I think that’s the best way or getting introductions from other people.

Steve: So when you mention a collection I just want to touch back on this, does that imply that you need pieces for like a necklace, a bracelet, earrings, and that sort of thing?

Tracy: It can but there is different ways to develop collections, because you can have an item driven business where like let’s say your entire collection is only hoop earrings. You could do an entire collection only of hoop earrings in different varieties of styles and that would be what I consider an item based collection.

Steve: Okay.

Tracy: Or you can do something where it’s like all sorts of products that like coordinate together.

Steve: So how many pieces constitute a collection?

Tracy: Twelve to 24 I would say minimum, but when I was wholesaling I had up to 150, it depends.

Steve: Oh my goodness, okay. So basically you can’t just walk into one of these stores with like five pieces and hope to get in?

Tracy: Do you probably won’t get in? It’s hard, those like the businesses I think are better for like selling an entire — like if you only want to go deep in
like five designs, selling it on a platform like Etsy or Amazon handmade, or you could try it on your own website, but if you’re really serious about building a brand, you need to develop a cohesive collection.

Steve: Okay that’s good to know. So assuming I have all these pieces, is there any kind of strategies involved, like I’m emailing a store, what do I say?

Tracy: Hi there, my name is Tracy Matthews. My friend so and so told me about your store and I just love what you are doing. I wanted to introduce my line to you, here is a little bit about my line, I would probably tell them a little bit about my line. I’ve been featured in these places, and some of my key accounts are these stores. It depends on the account, but you might want to reference stories, you might not, because some stores like it, some stores don’t.
I think smaller stores would like to know that you are like in a really awesome door. Here’s a link to my line.

Steve: This is my first store though.

Tracy: Your first store. I would try actually; here is what I would do if it’s your first store. I would try to look in your local market; it’s always easier to start locally than anywhere else. I would find a couple of stores in your local market, I would walk in, get a sense of what the vibe is there, try to talk to someone.

I won’t try to show them your jewelry right there, I would try to talk to someone and have a conversation with them about who does the buying, complement them on their store, get more information, and then put yourself out there to say – hopefully they comment on the jewelry that you are wearing because you’re wearing your jewelry in the store, right?

Steve: Yeah.

Tracy: And then start a conversation and try to get an appointment with the buyer that way. I think locally that’s the best way is to develop a relationship and just say I’d love to make an appointment with the buyer. You can’t take it personally if they say no or they are not interested at the time. These people are really busy and it might take a couple of tries before you get in the door. I know that there are statistics out there that says 7 to 10 touches before I know turns into a yes.

So it takes some time and you have to give yourself in, but I would do that and try to get in to a couple of stores in your local market and then I would leverage those local stores into like maybe surrounding areas. For instance like when I lived in Francisco, there was like 15 neighborhoods in Francisco that I could potentially sell into. So I was like stock all those neighborhoods, try to get into one store each in those neighborhoods, and then I would go to the south bay, and then I would go to the east bay and then I would go to [inaudible 00:36:49].

So you are like expanding your circle. Same thing with New York, it’s like you might want to sell this to so and so, then you might sell to a store in the west village, you might sell to your store in Brookland. So just expanding in different neighborhoods, and then so as to give you exposure and leverage to get introductions…

Steve: To get into the bigger ones.

Tracy: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, it works just like wholesaling for other products that way too, you start out with small stores. Okay and in terms of what makes a jewelry line a success at one of these smaller boutiques in terms of sales?

Tracy: I mean related price on the store, I think that educating the sales people about your product I think this is really important so that they know what to talk about. I think being in a store that actually is committed to selling your work; I think it’s a struggle these days. A lot of stores call themselves like a wholesale store or whatever but they are just taking stuff on consignment and that’s tough, like I don’t recommend that at all.

I recommend trying to go for stores who are actually going to buy your product, because they invested in the inventory and they want to sell it. So really like developing partnerships with the stores that you’re working with and teaching them how to sell your work I think is like the number one key to success.

Steve: Is there like a minimum order?

Tracy: I think that people should have minimum orders for sure. I don’t like dollar amount minimums because I think that money gets in the way of strategic buying. Instead I would recommend people having a per piece minimum depending on the type of collection that they have. So for some collection that might be six pieces because it’s a bolder collection.

My collection was always kind of [inaudible 00:38:34] so 12 pieces made sense from a merchandising stand point, and for other collections it might be a little bit more, but I would have a like per piece minimum, I think that’s really the best way to go.

Steve: It also sounds like of you have a really good online presence or just a presence in general, the chances of getting in the store are much easier, and so what are some of the things that you recommend to really get the brand out there?

Tracy: I can tell you honestly most stores will not take you seriously unless you have a beautifully branded website, an Etsy shop is not enough, Amazon store is probably a ton of moth only. You could do those things on the side but I wouldn’t advertize it. A website is basically like your digital business card, and it shows people that you are a serious business owner and that you are legitimate.

There is something about it. I talk to so many business owners and like I said there are so many ways to sell jewelry, like you don’t even have to wholesale your jewelry in order to have a successful business, I don’t anymore and I’m doing multiple six figures these days. So it’s not that hard, it’s just about being strategic and understanding who your audience is.

So I think a website really creates – a good website creates really a lot of brand validity and I think what you need to do on that website is to be able to build trust when people land there, to make it look like you know what you are doing and to make it look like you are not a [inaudible 00:39:59]. You can do through your imagery, having really good professional photographs through a lifestyle look book sort of images that create the feeling of your brand and what you stand for.

I’ve heard so many times the about page is the number one visited page on a website because people want to know what the company is all about, whether or not you are a personal brand or you’re just a brand name. A well written about page that draws the reader in is very important, it’s about them not just you which I think is a huge mistake I see designers doing all the time.

And then a website that takes people to the next step is important, so if you want to wholesale, so if I’m a wholesale buyer and I’m checking you out, I want to know like how do I order wholesale from you if I want to? So you need to make that crystal clear on your website if that’s an offer that you have.

Steve: Does that imply that you need a shopping cart on your website or?

Tracy: No you don’t have to; I mean for ecommerce obviously you do. I think over time it can be expensive to build out, that’s a nice park and I know some website platforms you can basically like replicate your ecommerce store and turn it into a wholesale store by just creating like a discount for that particular store, but there is a place you can do it.

But what I would do is have some sort of password protected area on your site where buyers can go and apply and then log in and then they can go into the secret area of your website and check out your line sheets or ordering your shopping cart, but it’s not necessary but it’s a good idea to have. It’s not necessary to have a shopping cart.

Steve: People can check out Tracymatthews.com, is that the site?

Tracy: Yeah Tracymatthews.com is my jewelry site, full disclosure I don’t wholesale anymore so you won’t have that, I don’t have that but you can see how I walk people through the custom jewelry process and get them to fill out my form on there.

Steve: Okay and it is still that site where you’re getting your custom customers, is that correct?

Tracy: Yes, absolutely.

Steve: Okay we’ve walked through going in stores, what are some of the other ways to market your jewelry as a small business owner?

Tracy: Online is a great way, it’s a great way to get the word out there about what you do, but like I said jewelry is really a very referral business and people – I don’t know if this is your answer Steve but a lot of people just put up a website and expect people to show up.

Steve: Exactly yes, it never happens.

Tracy: It requires strategies, so it’s like what is your marketing strategy, how are you getting the word out there? I think a huge missed opportunity that people don’t leverage enough is their friends and family network, and people think that that’s not a super professional way to build a business, but it really is like even to this day a lot of my best sales have come from a family or a good friend referring another person to me and then they refer someone and they refer someone. So it starts there and then expands beyond that.

So that’s the place to start. Obviously as you start to grow you want to be building your brand, and so you do that I think what we teach is really to get exposure through influencers, through traditional PR methods like getting placements in magazines or influential blogs. Influential Instagramers are huge in the jewelry industry; I know a lot of the designers we work with have brand ambassadors who basically either get free jewelry in exchange for sharing products on Instagram.

That landscape is starting to change a little bit, I think that there is a huge opportunity in brand building through affiliate marketing which is I think underutilized in a lot of markets. People don’t think outside of the box of how you can use affiliate marketing to spread the word about what you’re doing from a jewelry perspective, and I’ll give you an example of how I’ve done that with my custom jewelry business.

There are a lot of parallel markets that aren’t necessarily product based businesses that can refer products. So the wedding industry is a really good example, there are coaches who coach bride to like lose weight on their wedding day, or they coach them how to like decor. There’s wedding planners who can refer our business, or there’s like wedding photographers who are always in front of clients who are looking for other services.

So a couple of years back I partnered with a coach who was actually working with brides who were trying to lose weight for their wedding. It was an offer to her community, she went and blog posted about me and sent an email out to the people in her program saying, here’s my friend Tracy, she’s an amazing jewel custom designer, she’s offering this to my community, check out, this might be a great opportunity for you to have a custom wedding band made.

I was able to build a ton of leads for my list and then also I got probably about $5,000 in orders just from one email from her, and I gave her a small commission of like $100 for her campaign. So those ways it’s still like it is like a pain or play or like a leverage [inaudible 00:45:17] sort of thing but I feel like those are great opportunities, and this is huge in the blogger community these days. A lot of times bloggers you might be able to work out something with them instead of paying them upfront to work out some sort of affiliate commission opportunity.

If they are really getting traffic to those sites, you can offer some sort of discount to their readers. I’m not a huge fan of discounts, or you can offer something special to their readers if you don’t want to discount and you can track all that traffic with an affiliate link and pay the blogger based on the number of sales that they got. And you can stay connected with them so that you’re honest so that they know how much if they are really serious about selling more of your work that they can promote it and push it more.

Steve: You mentioned the email list, what do you do to get people to sign up for your email list, like what do you say?

Tracy: One of the best opt-ins that I had, I don’t have it any more because I felt like it was a little off ground for me, but when I started over back in 2010, my first opt-in was a jewelry cleaning guide. It was basically like learn how to clean your fine jewelry in non toxic ways. They’d opt-in; they get an email with this jewelry cleaning guide that taught them how to clean their jewelry that was really cool.

That was a really good opt-in that I had personally. What I really like that I think is working right now and a lot of people are starting to do it, so who knows if this will continue to working or not, but we have a designer in our community named Carina Harris [inaudible 00:46:50] and she started this VIP program for members. So she opens up a membership like if they opt-in to her mailing list for VIP sales that are only open to them, you can only get in on the sale if you are on the list, special like pre packaged items that are only available to those people and then some sort of style guide or something like that, there are a couple of other things.

Carina is like super stylish and really, really good at branding and marketing and packaging things together, so she will create these like Mother’s Day boxes that had like, here is the joy, then like it had a candle and some candy in it and it was wrapped up beautifully, she’s a great marketer. There is a lot of things that you can do like that, you can show people how to wear the jewelry, you can do some sort of like quiz on the front end where they are doing self assessment test like what’s your jewelry style, and then they take the quiz and then it points them to what they should buy on your website. So there is a lot of different ways that you can get people to opt-in and get them engaged.

Steve: How is she driving traffic to her site, is she running ads, is it blogging?

Tracy: She has a really great social media, she’s blogging as well, probably not as much as she should be, and then she does a lot of in person shows in her local market and she builds her email list in person. With a lot of jewelry I think that it’s a multi pronged approach not to be choosing any of the jewelry tab, but it really is.

I look at times you can’t just like I rely on one way, because you have to test what works for you. If you’re someone who sells a lot of jewelry in person, that’s like a great lead generation tool that’s on this opportunity if you’re not taking it, if you don’t have a lot of money to invest in paying for Facebook ads or Google retargeting and stuff like that. Hopefully you’re not getting the traffic to your site in the first place.

So but Carina I think she might be doing some retargeting, I don’t think she’s doing a lot of paid ads, but she’s blogging, she does has a great social media, she does a lot of in person to build her list and then just – yeah I think and then getting – what am I trying to say? Getting featured in the press, so getting bloggers to feature her, partnering with bloggers and influencers, and getting her stuff on TV shows, and magazines.

Steve: Can you give me an example of a good outreach email when you’re reaching out to some of these influencers for your jewelry?

Tracy: Sure, yeah, I mean it’s similar to like reaching out to wholesale buyers. You’d probably do something – I think the most important thing especially for influencers plus PR, anything like that is to have a good headline. You want to make sure that someone wants to open your email, so study headline writing formulas, so when I was talking to [inaudible 00:49:48] last night, she said something really good, it was really cute. It was something like don’t open this email; because if you do you’re going to die, the jewelry is so beautiful.

So thinking about something that’s going to get them interested to actually open it instead of like pro stud earrings, no one is going to open that stupid email. So think of like a catchy headline that’s going to capture their attention, and think of who their audience is in the first place and do some sort of play on that, that’s like another whole another podcast if you like.

You want to do an introduction, you want to tell them who you are and why your jewelry is relevant to their audience, that’s the first step. Then you want to tell them a little bit about your jewelry line and get into your pitch. Our PR expert for Flourish and Thrive [inaudible 00:50:33] recommends bullet pointing things so that it’s easy to read, so you can bullet point like five things that the editor or influencer, whoever needs to know about your brand in the center of it.

Then you tell them how to follow up for samples on the next step, and include in the body of the email – I prefer a collage picture that is like small in a file so it’s not like 20 megabytes, you want like 4 megabytes or smaller that is a great visual or example of what it is that you’re pitching. So it could be a couple of pieces of jewelry or maybe you want two pieces depending on what the angle is. So that’s like the formula, now what’s written in there will be a little bit different.

Steve: Sure, I hear there is a course on that.

Tracy: Yeah there is like courses on that, we also have blog posts about it over Flourish and Thrive Academy, so lots and lots of information.

Steve: Yeah, I was [inaudible 00:51:29], don’t go there. So I’m just curious, it sounds like when we were talking about this, it sounds like you have a negative feeling towards market places, is that accurate, like Amazon, Etsy and that sort of thing and so…

Tracy: I was not negative, but I will clarify, finish asking your question and I’ll clarify.

Steve: Oh no I was just saying does that mean like it’s kind of mutually exclusive, like if you want to have a serious jewelry line that is going in retail shops and stuff, does that imply that you shouldn’t be going into like Amazon?

Tracy: Okay, that’s a great question. I know a lot of retail stores actually selling on Amazon like designer rings and designer stuff, and a lot of designers – I don’t want to [inaudible 00:52:12] for I’m not 100% sure, but a lot of like high name designers are actually all selling stuff on Amazon in the designer section. So I don’t necessarily think it’s bad, but it shouldn’t be the primary. Same thing with Etsy, I don’t think it’s bad, but it should be a secondary source. I think that the problem comes in when someone relies solely on these markets.

If you’re trying to build a brand, if you’re just trying to make money selling products, that’s different, a totally different mindset, you’re just trying to make money selling some products, putting it online and getting on to Amazon, that’s like…

Steve: I feel it’s not sustainable though unless you build your brand though right?

Tracy: Yeah, so like with jewelry like I said if you really want to have a successful and sustainable jewelry business that’s growing and you want to keep developing collections and evolving as a designer, the branding piece is like the most important part. It starts with the website and then these other things are great alternative tools and we have a lot of designers in our community who are doing Etsy and Amazon handmade and selling on their own website.
In fact one of the designers in our community is Stephanie [inaudible 00:53:14] has a really successful business doing multiple six figures, and she has a beautiful website, and the majority of her sales actually come from Etsy, I think like she told me 70%.

Steve: Interesting.

Tracy: But she realized the importance of having a branded website because that gives her validity in the eyes of her clients, so she sells at Etsy business but the website helps improve the brand. So I think it just really depends on your branding, I think for a lot of people Etsy can be a good way to get rid of excess inventory, you can include the Etsy shop in a different name that’s related to your brand so it doesn’t conflict when people find things on Google search. There’s a lot of different ways you can use that tool, so I don’t think it’s bad, I think it’s like a good secondary.

Steve: Okay so the reason why I asked that question is people who shop on market places like Amazon or what, not Etsy but Amazon, they are more focused on price. It just seems to me that you can command much better prices if you’re just selling on your own site.

Tracy: Well that’s the whole thing, I mean Etsy and Amazon – Amazon campaign now, it’s real like people are competing on price and none of us are going to be – well maybe even you maybe importing from China one day I don’t know and doing mass volume, but the only way you can really compete on a stage like that is volume, and if your business is not set up for volume, then it’s going to be really hard to make money.

I think that it’s cool if you want to play on that stage and you want to do a volume business and many people can have very successful jewelry businesses doing that, but that’s a totally different game and it requires prior infrastructure, it requires a lot of strategy, it requires a lot more work I think in my mind.

I used to sell like ship orders worth 1000 units that we would produce in China and India, and the management of those processes, we would negotiate discount, the stores would negotiate discounts and I’m thinking like I think that in order to have a successful business in a discount market place like it would be the same thing is that like you have to do volume, so I don’t know.

Steve: Is it generally harder to brand those items too, and did you ever have any copy cats?

Tracy: Oh gosh, everyone has copy cats, it happens, but that seemed for reason being a designer that is continually evolving in their design, because that’s what makes you stand out and people to keep coming back. People can tell someone who just copies.

Steve: Right and I think just your personality and your branding is what prevents you from falling victim to that.

Tracy: Yeah, exactly.

Steve: Okay cool Tracy, you know we’ve been chatting for a while; I want to be respectful of your time.

Tracy: I know.

Steve: Where can people find you if they want to learn how to start their own jewelry business?

Tracy: Absolutely, you go on over to flourishthriveacademy.com, you can also find us at fnta.com if you like, flourishthriveacademy.com and you can check out some of our courses. We have so many courses that walk you all different aspects of the jewelry industry or the business of jewelry I should say. Then we also have a membership community, we have a free online community, lots of different ways to participate, so I hope to see you over there.

Steve: Cool and your site was tracymatthews.com also.

Tracy: Yeah my jewelry website is tracymatthews.com.

Steve: Okay, awesome. Well hey Tracy thanks a lot for coming on the show, I learned a lot because I know nothing about jewelry.

Tracy: Thanks for having me; it was so fun to be here.

Steve: All right take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now selling jewelry online is really challenging, you have to stand out in order to succeed and Tracy is an expert at making that happen. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode149.

Once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Now Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. Now I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/steve. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all of these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

148: How We Grew Our Ecommerce Store By 22% In 2016 With Steve Chou

Share On Facebook

148: How We Grew Our Ecommerce Business By 22% In 2016 With Steve Chou

Play

My wife just closed the books on BumblebeeLinens.com for 2016 and I’m happy to say that we had another year of double digit growth. In this episode, I go over in detail how we grew and what’s in store for 2017.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why it was a tough year for my shop
  • Our revenue and profit numbers for the year
  • The main contributors to growth for 2016
  • Why conversion optimization is so important
  • Why you need to keep an open mind
  • The importance of a mastermind group

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re doing another solo episode where I break down how my online store performed last year and all of the strategies to increase sales for my online store, but before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show.

Now I’m super excited to talk about Privy, because I use and rely on Privy to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with my email marketing provider.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in ecommerce stores. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primers that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over $100, well you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item.

Here’s another cool use case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a unique and special coupon code for that item or display a related item for purchase. In terms of email capture, right now I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop.

So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/steve, that’s privy.com/steve, try it for free, and if you decide that you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again that’s privy.com/steve to try it for free.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Now I’m also blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email marketing provider. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, done. Let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s full revenue tracking on every single email as well.

Klaviyo is the most powerful email marketing platform that I’ve ever used and you could actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo. Give them a try, it’s absolutely free, and it’s a no brainer, now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m doing another solo episode, and last week I reported on the earnings for my blog, and so what I thought I do is report on the earnings for my ecommerce store as well. So those of you that know me know that I also sell handkerchiefs along with my wife at a store at bumblebeelinens.com. If you guys have never visited our site and if you’re getting married go over there and I’ll hook you guys up, but that’s bumblebeelinens.com. If you want to check it out and kind of follow along with what I’m talking about today.

Anyways my wife just closed the books for Bumble Bee linens, and it was another double digit growth year end. This actually marks the ninth straight year of double digit growth, and if you want to put that in perspective, when I was working my full time job not too long ago towards the last several years, I was lucky just to get like a five to eight percent raise.
So when you compare that to our store where we’re consistently getting double digit increases in revenue and profits, it’s not even a comparison, and it just goes to show that the only way to make life changing money is with your own business. If you’re working a day job and unless you have a lot of stock options, it’s probably not going to happen.

So we’ll get into the numbers a little bit, but 2016 was actually supposed to grow even more with our online store, and I was actually planning on devoting a full half year towards expanding our linens business. But as I mentioned in the last podcast, I ended up officially declaring that I was quitting my job on June 1st, but ended up staying on part time until October 1st.
Now in addition to that I also decided to run my own ecommerce conference and it was the first time that I had run my own event and it ended up being a ton of work. Now I kind of went in knowing that it was going to be a lot of work, but again I didn’t know to what magnitude the level of work was going to be. So that ended up taking a lot of time to plan.

And speaking of conferences, I thought I just do a little quick plug for the 2017 Sellers Summit which is my conference; tickets are on sale right now at sellerssummit.com. I’m not going to talk at length about it, but here is my 30 second value proposition for my conference.

Now for those of you who know me I’m big on action and not really on inspiration. Every speaker that I invite actually gets his hands dirty in ecommerce, and will cover actionable strategies to actually grow your business. I’m also not a huge fan of large events where you can kind of get lost in the crowd. So my events will be small and intimate. Last year we only sold 100 tickets, and this way everyone gets to know each other and all the speakers as well.

I’m also not a huge fan of speakers kind of like hiding in their rooms during the event. Last year all the speakers were accessible and approachable, and that’s kind of one of the main value adds for my event. So go check out the conference site at sellersummit.com, and hopefully I’ll see you guys there. But anyways despite the conference, and the fact that I actually kept working until October 1st, I still made some major improvements to the site which I’m going to share with you guys today.

So first and foremost here are the numbers, so revenues went up 22%, operating profit went up 24%, traffic was flat and increased just 1.7%, but the desktop conversion rate went up 29%, tablet conversion rates increased by 18%, and mobile conversion rates increased by 88%. So a couple of things to point out about these statistics, the traffic was flat, and I actually did not really focus that much on customer acquisition. Instead this year – or last year I should say, I mainly focused on conversion optimization.

So all of my changes were aimed at making more money with what we had, and I’ll go into a little bit more depth about that a little bit, but I also want to take a quick moment to talk about the pain. Now 2016 was filled with turmoil, so let’s get some of the low lights out of the way first, because I honestly felt that we could have grown more had Murphy’s Law not taken place. One thing that just really sucks about ecommerce is that you got to feed the machine, you got to buy physical inventory, unlike digital products everything takes up space.

Towards the latter half of 2016, we were actually at max capacity in our warehouse, and by max I mean that every single nook and cranny was filled with linens, and we had so many that I debated whether to just use our linen like as napkins in everyday use because we just had things just like lying around all over the place.

And here’s the thing, we knew our lease was going to run out in 2016, and we knew this ahead of time so we actually negotiated month to month for it to stay, but here is what ended up happening. We had this huge container coming in from China, and we basically had no place to store it because we already were at max capacity in our warehouse and basically this gave us two options.
We could stay at our existing office and basically move a good portion of our business back in our house like a 24 container back in our garage and probably in our office or wherever, we had to find a place to store at our house, or we could just quickly speed things up and move into a larger office, and sign a longer term lease. What ended up happening is we had to make this decision in a hurry and ultimately we decided to move as that was the better long term solution.

So here is the thing, back when we moved into our first office it was really simple, because we didn’t have that many linens, but this time around it actually took six guys an entire weekend to move our stuff over. And because we were kind of in a rush like this container was just literally coming in pretty soon, we didn’t actually label everything properly, and as a result things were just really disorganized post move.
There were linens everywhere, we had problems finding everything, and to make things even worse we had the holiday season kind of rearing up just around the corner and it was kind of a disaster. Reluctantly my wife asked me to turn off ads, and I didn’t want to turn off ads because that’s just like leaving money on the table, and so I thought about it and I didn’t want my wife to go nuts, and so I reluctantly complied.

What’s funny is I just remember the conversation. I was like, “All right we can turn off ads, cool, so how about we turn it off for just like an hour, how about just two hours or four hours, you just need a half day to get back in business, right?” And my wife would come out to me, she’s like, “Have you seen the office, plus we have two brand new employees to train, there is no way we can handle all this business right now.”
So I didn’t want her to go crazy, I value my marriage and my family and my life and so I said fine. We left some money on the table by turning off ads for a while but eventually everything got organized, but that period of I would say three weeks really, really sucked when it came to our business.

I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now in this day and age word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most ecommerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program. And this is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks to the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders, and in fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI, and referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again it’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try out the service risk free. Now back to the show.

Well let’s talk about the improvements really, so those are some of the main low lights, but I did get a good amount of work done to actually improve the site, and the biggest change was that I redesigned our entire site. And here is how that kind of came about, because whenever I take on huge projects like I say redesign, it really has to make sense for me to do it.

So here’s how it went up. A bunch of us were in a mastermind retreat and we were doing hot seats, and basically what a hot seat is, is you go around, people ask questions and then everyone else tries to help you improve your business. And so when it came to my turn I was like, hey guys, my store the conversion rate is great, it’s like we have a 3%, I’ve got a ton of stuff on my plate and I’m wondering if redesigning the site should be one of those items that I should prioritize for this coming year.

The response to that was very harsh and very immediate, so Mike Jackness was like, you know what, I’m looking at your site, and I don’t see how you’re making any sales at all. I mean this site looks like it was designed in the 90s. A couple of other guys David and Jason were like, you know I think it needs a new logo, I think it needs brand new pictures all over the place. Dina was like these are the sites I like to buy and improve because there is just so much head room.

But the comment that actually impacted me the most was Kevin Steckel when he said, you know what dude; I actually wouldn’t buy your class based on how your store looks alone. And so this roasting actually went on for a good 30 minutes, and I just wanted to crawl up in a hole and die. We were actually in Montana at the time at the Ski Resort, and I just wanted to take the ski lift to the top of the double black diamond and just go straight down.

I tried my hardest not to get defensive which is actually something that I’ve been working on for many years now. When I’m getting constructive feedback, I try not to just argue with the person, I just take it, I just take the abuse. And so I just kind of sat there quietly and I ended up taking lots of notes. I didn’t necessarily agree with everyone’s comments, and here is actually my philosophy on website design.
Just because something looks pretty doesn’t mean it makes sales, functionality and usability is what determines sales. One of our largest competitors actually has a heinous looking site that does really well. But that being said, there were a couple of principles that I was not doing that I was actually teaching about in the class, and I didn’t want there to be this disconnect between what I was teaching and what I was actually implementing. And I actually do believe that you do have to have a minimum threshold and anesthetics on your site to not turn away customers immediately.

So ultimately it just comes down to trust, does your website design inspire trust in people that are actually coming to your site so literally as soon as the abuse or I mean the feedback was actually done, I ended up contacting my web designer that day and I started drawing out sketches in my mind about the improvements that I want to make to my site. And as soon as I got back from the mastermind, literally the day I hoped off the plane, I shut the door and I cranked out a 100% redesigned site in seven weeks.

Now it was a little bit bulky at first, but within a couple of weeks I had worked out the kinks and then I sent that site back to the people at the mastermind for another round of roasting. This time around the comments were much less severe, and it was obvious that it had made a difference based on the conversion rates that I was getting. So within the first couple of months, the uplift that I was getting was pretty dramatic, so desktop conversions were 46%, tablet conversions were 25%, mobile conversions were up 21%.

I was actually getting a lot of positive comments from customers as well who would email me saying, “I love your site, it looks beautiful.” Now once again how pretty a site doesn’t matter as much as you think, you just have to be kind of on par with your competitors in this department and just do things better. And so you have to express your value proposition very clearly, you have to make things very easy to find and navigate, you have to reassure the customer and establish trust, a customer has to trust you enough to hand over their money to you.

I posted about my site redesign and I’ll post another link in the show notes, but I wrote about everything that I considered in my site redesign in very great depth. But if there is anything to be learnt here, it’s that when people are bashing on something that you’re doing or trying to actually help you by providing constructive feedback, do not get defensive. Instead listen, pick what you agree with and what you don’t and then take action immediately while the iron is hot, and when you feel like jumping off the top of a mountain and crawling into a hole and dying.

All right, so back to the income report. One of the things that actually surprised me the most was that the mobile conversion ended up being 88% up in the latter half of the year, and there was actually one very minor change that I made to accomplish this feat which in retrospect I was a complete idiot for not doing this a lot earlier. That one change was actually implementing PayPal one touch.
Now what PayPal one touch is, is it allows a customer to log in to PayPal and all of their information is just magically imported into your shopping cart during check out, so they don’t actually have to type out anything. And so also if they happen to be logged into PayPal, the transaction literally is like one click check out on Amazon. And so as you can imagine if you are on a mobile phone, you don’t want to type anything, right? It’s much easier to just go through, have everything imported from PayPal and you just have to click one button and then check out.

And so this one single change removed the friction off of mobile transactions, and probably was the largest contributor to that increase in conversion rate on mobile. Now I made a couple of other changes as well. The other major change I made was to my Google shopping campaigns after talking to Daniel Packer who I’m actually having on the podcast very soon to talk about Google shopping. Right now Google shopping is the highest converting pay per click ad platform that I personally run on, but I discovered that I wasn’t doing the last 5% to maximally optimize my shopping campaign.

So for example my feed wasn’t optimized, I wasn’t uploading my reviews to the merchant center, I wasn’t using structured mark up on my pages. These things incidentally had been on my list of to dos, but sometimes it takes a kick in the butt and talking to somebody to actually get things done, and again I’ve written about this also which is all included in the show notes after this is done.

Now the other thing that I did which had a pretty good effect as well is I added several new email autoresponders using Klaviyo. Now what’s nice about email autoresponders is they are set it and forget it, so for example I wrote new post purchase sequences. Once again these are sequences after someone has purchased from us, and I segmented them based on what they bought. So for example if they bought hankies I sent them a custom post purchase sequence based on handkerchiefs. If they bought napkins, I sent them a very specific sequence based on napkins.

I also put in win back campaigns by sending email to customers who had purchased in the past but had not within a certain amount of time. So for example someone hasn’t purchased in 60 days, I sent them a 10% coupon, they haven’t purchased in 90 days, I sent them a 15% coupon. And so by sending them gradually increasing coupon amounts and this incidentally is called the discount letter, I’m trying to get customers back to make that second purchase, because it’s much easier to get a customer to buy again as opposed to acquiring a brand new customer.

I also put in this nifty abandoned new sequence that basically emails customer suggestions based on what they were browsing. And if you shop on Amazon you’ve probably noticed this in the past, if you’re looking at a certain item, within a couple of hours if you don’t buy anything Amazon will send you an email with suggested products that were very similar to what you were actually looking at on your site review.

And then finally I made a bunch of miscellaneous usability fixes that I actually discovered while answering phones on Cyber Monday and Black Friday. And yes business was so good during that period that I actually had to take one for the team and answer customer support calls so we could actually have the other members of the team focus on order fulfillment. Anyway so just to give you an idea of what some of these customers are like, a lot of our repeat customers are over the age of 55, and some of them can actually barely surf the web, and so answering phones for the first time in a long time was actually pretty eye opening for me.

So for example some of my customers could not figure out how to remove items from their shopping cart. What they ended up doing is they were entering zero for the quantity, and the way I had my set up before was I had a specific button to actually remove the item from the cart, entering in zero in the quantity was not removing items from the cart.

And so I fixed that, and other people couldn’t figure out, like these were 55 year olds or 65 year olds on their mobile phones. They couldn’t figure out where to tap, and the reason for that is I have pictures of the products and item description and the price, but there is no real call to action like add to cart under each item. And so I’m actually still in the process of making all the products and the pictures more obviously tappable on mobile without making the site look ugly, but these are just some of the things I discovered while answering phones and talking to some of our older customers.

But yeah bottom line sometimes you just have to pick up the phone and talk to people to find out what’s wrong with your site, and it actually gives you a chance to understand what your customer base is really like and what the pain points with your site actually are. But overall I’m really happy with the 22% increase in revenues, and this year I’m going to do a lot more work on the customer acquisition front now that the foundation is in place and my focus has mainly been on Facebook ads.

Naturally I’m going to report on my progress as more data becomes available, but I wanted to end this Facebook live and podcast episode by addressing a common question that has been brought out to me by several readers, and here’s how it reads, “Steve I saw your income report and how you made a million dollars with your blog this past year, congratulations. My question for you is should I go into ecommerce or should I blog? Because you have to actually carry inventory or deal with physical products it seems like running a blog and digital products is so much easier.”

So here is my answer to that question. If you need money sooner rather than later, then sell products online, but if you have a three to five year time frame, then in the long run maybe starting a blog makes more sense. To give you some perspective, I didn’t actually make a dime on my blog until after a year, and I didn’t make anything meaningful with my blog until after three years, and if you contrast that with my online store, we made six figures in our first year, because we were actually exchanging a product for money, whereas with blog and content it can be a lot more ambiguous unless you create a digital content.

And so today I actually run both because both businesses actually complement each other. I treat my ecommerce store like a laboratory where I try all these new things in ecommerce, and then I report on the results at mywifequitherjob.com and my training class at profitableonlinestore.com. I also report these results at my conference at sellerssummit.com. So my advice to you is no matter what you decide, just do something, and stop sitting round pontificating about it. And just depending on what your income goals are in the near term or the long term, pick a business model that is appropriate for you.

Hope you enjoyed that solo episode and I actually want to ask a favor of you. If you wouldn’t mind leaving a comment in the show notes and let me know if you would like to see more solo episodes, and because I do them live on Facebook, it’s actually good practice for me for my public speaking skills as well. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode148.

Once again I want to thank Klaviyo.com for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants, and you can easily put together automated flows like in abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase sequence, a win back campaign, and basically all of these sequences that will make your online store money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O and sign up for free. One again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

I also want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it supper simple as well. Now I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop ups for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. If you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com, that’s PRIVY.com/steve. Once again that’s privy.com/steve.

Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away via email, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

147: How I Made Over One Million Dollars Blogging In 2016 With Steve Chou

Share On Facebook

147: How I Made Over One Million Dollars Blogging In 2016 With Steve Chou

Play

My wife just closed the books on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com for 2016 and I’m happy to say that I hit 2 major milestones this past year. In this episode, I go over in detail how I managed to make over a million dollars blogging and what’s in store for 2017.

What You’ll Learn

  • The 2 milestones I hit this year
  • Why I decided to quit my job
  • Why it was so hard for me to quit
  • The income report for my blog
  • How I hit the million dollar mark this year
  • My Facebook ads strategy
  • Should you start a blog or an online store

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Klaviyo

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
Privy

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. Now I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re going to do a solo episode where I break down how I made over a million dollars blogging in 2016, but before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show.

Now I’m actually super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store and I actually depend on Klaviyo for over 20% of my revenues. Now you’re probably wondering why Klaviyo and not another email provider. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here’s why it is so powerful.

Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they purchased which makes it extremely powerful. So let’s say I want to send an email to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, boom, let’s say I want to set up a special autoresponder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there’s a full revenue tracking on every email too.

Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you can actually try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, and the way you spell Klaviyo is K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I also want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Now what’s also cool about Privy is I use and rely on Privy for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Privy is an email list growth platform, and they actually manage all of my email capture forms, and in fact I use Privy hand in hand with Klaviyo.

Now there is a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but here’s why I like and chose Privy. Privy is easily the most powerful platform that I’ve ever used, and you can trigger sign up forms based on any primer that you desire. So for example let’s say you offer free shipping for orders over $100 in your store, now you can tell Privy to flash a popup when the customer has $90 in their shopping cart to urge them to insert one more item in their cart.

Here’s another cool case, if someone has item A in their shopping cart, I can easily tell Privy to display a special coupon code for that item or display a related item or offer. And in terms of email capture, I’m showing a different email lead magnet depending on what product a customer is browsing in our shop. So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed over to Klaviyo to close the sale, so head on over to Privy.com/mywifequitherjob and try it for free, and if you decide that you need the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. So once again that’s privy.com/mywifequitherjob, now onto the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I have a very special guest and that special guest is actually me. Since my wife just closed the books on mywifequitherjob.com, I thought it would be good to kind of give a little recap of how I did and everything that I did this past year to reach the one million dollar mark, which is really cool.
I hit two major milestones this year, so first one I just mentioned I made over one million dollars in revenue which is something that I never thought that I’d be able to do with my blog, with my store certainly but not with the blog for some reason because it still feels like kind of funny money to me in a way.

The second major milestone that I hit was that I finally quit my job after 17 years of working at the exact same company. Now out of both of those milestones I would have to say that quitting was actually more difficult to me than making the money, and the reason why it was so hard for me is you got to understand when you are at a company for 17 years you build a lot of these friendships, and my entire identity was carried along with my profession.

And here’s the thing about me, I don’t know if you guys know this about me but I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be an electrical engineer since the age 10. My dad was an electrical engineer and really bottom line as an Asian; I really had only three choices to begin with. I could be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, so naturally I chose an engineer because my dad was one.

I’ve actually designed micro processors for over 20 years, and so a lot of my brain power over the years has been dedicated to designing micro processors, and if you’ve done anything for that long, you probably know that it’s really tough to give something up like that, it was a part of my identity.

And here is the thing, so I was just up at my buddy’s engagement, and one of his friends came up to me and asked me, “Hey what do you do for living? I had already quit at that point and honestly I didn’t know what to say, am I a blogger, am I a writer, am I a podcaster, am I a conference thrower?

And so what I ended up telling that guy was, “I’m actually unemployed right now, and just kind of doing my own thing.” The guy was like, “Oh man okay that’s tough, if you ever need any leads or help getting a job, I can hook you up.” I said, “Oh no, no, that’s good, I’m just doing my own thing, it’s not a big deal.

I ended up just feeling a little awkward at that conversation because in the old days I could just say that I was a hardware engineer, a micro process designer and that would be the end of the conversation, because no one would ever want me to go into more depth about the technical stuff. Now if I say I’m a business owner or a blogger or a writer, the follow on questions are, oh yeah what do you write about, what do you sell and what not.

To be honest sometimes I don’t want to get into all that, and it was just so much easier back in the day just to say I’m an engineer, no one wants to know any more, and that’s that. I did want to talk a little bit about what it’s been like to quit, because it wasn’t like an amazing thing when I first quit and perhaps it’s because I was just kind of slowly leading up to that point.

I wrote a blog post back in June saying that I had quit my job, but that was actually slightly a lie. I did announce my resignation during that point, but the company gave me this really sweet offer to stay just two days a week, gave me full health insurance and there were some other line items to that deal which I don’t want to disclose publicly, but in a nut shell it was an offer that I could not refuse, and so I stayed on working two days a week, and then I finally left cold turkey on October 1st.

It’s just been okay, and one of the reasons why, and you guys might be thinking that I’m crazy for thinking this way, but I’ve got too much time on my hands right now. So right now I work until noon, I usually have lunch with my wife, then I usually work out in the afternoon, then I pick up the kids and that’s it pretty much. There’s just very little social interaction outside of Skype, I’ve got my Skype friends and that sort of thing.

What I found to be difficult about quitting is that it’s really hard to stay motivated in a way. In the old ways when I worked my full time job and I still run my blog, my podcast, and my store, I only had like a really small amount of time to get my stuff done and I had to plan my day really carefully. Now that I have so much time, I don’t feel like I have to plan anything and so big blocks of time can pass before you know it, so I’ve had to be a lot more diligent about planning my day.

But it has also allowed me to kind of figure out what makes me happy in life, and I’ll probably get into a little bit more about that in a future podcast episode, but having all this time has caused me to think about a lot of different things and what actually makes me happy. Anyways I don’t want to bore you with those details, let’s go ahead and jump to the numbers real quick.

So revenues for my blog increased by 46%, as I mentioned before we hit one million dollars. February was the highest month where I made over $125,000 in a single month, the traffic to my blog increased by 15%, the profit margins for a blog of course are astronomical, 90 plus percent. I just want to say this, what I really love about blogging is that it’s really highly scalable, and I can honestly maintain my blog in just 15 hours a week.

I’ve got it kind of down to a system, it takes me three hours to write a blog post, and I write one blog post per week. It takes me roughly two hours to put together a podcast, it takes me 10 hours roughly to manage my course and my email load and so overall it’s very scalable, and that’s what I like about blogging. Now what’s funny about all of this also is I routinely get a bunch of entrepreneurs on my podcast and even though the blog is doing really well, I still have my insecurities so to speak.

Now I recently interviewed someone who is really high profile and if I told you who this person was you would instantly recognize that person, world renowned author. He basically flat out told me that my blog was just a job and not a business. At first I was going to argue with him and debate back and forth, but he is right in a way, the blog and everything I do that’s related to the blog cannot function without me being there, like I got to be the one to write the blog post and that sort of thing.

Of course I can probably contract it out but it just wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t putting out that content myself. So instead of trying to argue with the guy I just let it go because honestly at 15 hours per week it’s not really a bad gig and a million bucks is nothing to sneeze at either. But anyways you probably noticed that the traffic to my blog went up only 15% and the revenue actually went up 46%.

For 2016 my intention was actually not to grow the blog that much. I was going to focus all my efforts on my ecommerce store and what ended up happening was I didn’t end up focusing my time on my blog or my store all that much because I ended up working until October, that was kind of unplanned. But I did want to talk a little bit about how I did grow my blog that 46%, so one of the things that I did was I ran more webinars.

I just want to take a little bit of time to give a quick shout out to Grant Baldwin and Toni Anderson who kind of pushed me towards giving webinars a try because I did not want to give them at all. I can be someone anti social at times, I like to hide behind the computer and do coding, I don’t really particularly like doing webinars.

The space for blogs is a little bit different because it’s a little more off the curve and I can just talk about whatever, but I was reluctant to try it, but then Grant sent me this spreadsheet of all of his profits that he was making with his webinars, and then Toni kept nagging me to give it a try. Nagging is probably not the right word; she kept urging me to try because she knew that it would be big for me.

So I ended up doing one and I made $60,000 in 90 minutes of work, and then I just sat there I was like $60,000 in 90 minutes of work, all right, it’s not bad, I can do these, I can do even once a month.

I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now in this day and age word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most ecommerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program. And this is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks to the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders, and in fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI, and referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again it’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try out the service risk free. Now back to the show.

And I still don’t completely enjoy doing them, so I just do them once a month, and what’s cool about these webinars is that it’s like instant cash, so during the month of November my wife told me that I was short of my million dollar goal by about $30,000, and I was like don’t worry about it I’ll just do a webinar. And so I just did a webinar a couple of weeks later and that webinar ended up doing $50,000 and so I hit my goal in early December actually.

Now the funny thing about webinars is I don’t really know how they work. When I get on a webinar I’m certainly not an expert but it just converts so well, and I think it really has to do with like the real time and personal nature of giving a live webinar. I always stay on till the very end to answer as many questions as possible and for all of you guys who know me, I’m not really a sales guy, I’m not a sales person by any means.

So what’s funny about all this also is I started having these successive webinars, and I ended up giving two speeches about webinars at FINCON and Digital CoLab which are two awesome conferences this past year. If anyone is interested about how I ran my webinars, I could be coaxed into doing a Facebook live session or even a podcast about it if you guys are interested. If you guys are interested leave a comment in the box for me.

The other thing that I did to grow my blog this past year is I ran a lot of Facebook ads. Now for all of you guys who aren’t quite familiar with what I sell, I sell a course that retails for about $1300. Now no one is going to spend $1300 dollars with me on impulse, and you got to get people to like you, you got to get people to trust you. Very few people will actually even sign up for your email list unless they trust you.

And so what is started doing this past year is I started running ads to some of my best content. These are great blog posts that I had written in the past just to get a little bit of mind share and then I ran ads to these posts. When you ran ads to posts, it ends up being really cheap. Some of my best posts and ads, I’m paying like nine to 13 cents per click which is really good.

And then what I do, for all the people who actually land on that page and read the article, I retarget them to an email sign up page, and because they are already familiar with my work, they’ve read a blog post, they are much more likely to sign up for my email list and as a result I’ve been paying between one and two dollars per email sign up for those people who’ve actually experienced my content in the past.

I’ve also tried running ads straight to a sign up form but I end up paying a lot more money when I do that, sometimes on the order of five or six dollars. So just by sending people to content first and then a sign up form, it ends up being cheaper and much more effective. So right now I’m not really scaling these ads, but I plan to this year in 2017, and I’ve got a strategy plan for this year that I’ll probably talk about publicly a little bit later once I’ve implemented it and once I know that it actually works.

Ultimately the key to all of my course sales is email. Email is the backbone of my entire blogging business. Now for all of you guys who are unfamiliar with that, I offer a free six day mini course on how to start your own ecommerce store, and if you’re curious right now you can head on over to mywifequitherjob.com, there is sign up form right there on the front page and I’ll deliver that course to you via email.

Now I’ve given a bunch of talks about my email sequence in the past, but I’ll just quickly summarize a little bit. The first nine lessons of that free six day mini course are hard core teaching lessons and I actually don’t hold anything back. I teach you everything that it takes to get started in ecommerce, so it’s a 30 email sequence, and the remaining 20 or so emails are what I call get to know Steve type of emails.

What’s funny about this is I have separate emails targeting females and separate emails targeting males in particular to just kind of get them to jump on the Steve band wagon so to speak. So for example for the women I have an email that talks about when we had our first born and she couldn’t stop crying. I talk about the story how I felt so prepared for my first baby.

I was reading all these baby books and I just got really cocky about being able to calm down a baby, but when my baby girl finally came out, she ended up crying uncontrollably and all that book knowledge that I had amassed was worthless. I ended up [inaudible 00:17:57] the baby at last and buying all these toys to help pacify my child, and the point of that email of course is to say that no matter what you read online, and no matter how many books you read, you’re never going to be prepared to start your own business and that’s why you need extra instructions to sign off for my class.

So that email actually goes put to the women. For the guys I have a post on six pack abs and comparing getting six pack abs to starting a business, so it’s really funny. So for both of those posts I always get a lot of comments on the six pack one from guys and a lot of comments from the women about the baby post.

For those later 20 emails I also do a bunch of case studies with my students and needless to say that this email sequence converts really well to get people to actually sign up for my class. Now one other thing that happened this past year which was just really incredible for me was on May 19th, 2016 I started my own conference which is called the Sellers Summit.
Here’s the thing about the Sellers Summit, I had always wanted to be a keynote speaker, but no one was willing to let me become a keynote at any of their conferences, and so instead of kind of begging people to let me be their keynote, I decided to start my own conference instead. And once again I want to give a special thanks out to Toni Anderson for pushing me to do this, and she is actually a partner with me in launching this conference.

Anyways this conference was actually the most fun that I’ve ever had outside of my wedding reception just in case you’re listening Jen, and I had a blast and I decided to throw another one and I’ll probably do a separate FB live on this. But the reason I started the conference of my own, and there are other ecommerce conferences out there, it’s mainly because I was just tired of conferences with just inspirational speakers.

I wanted to start a conference that was more strategy focused, based on strategies and low level tactics and kind of avoid all the inspirational stuff, because I don’t know if you guys know my personality but I don’t need to be inspired, I just need to learn. And I was just betting that a bunch of other people out there had the same philosophy. And so as a result, I only get hardcore ecommerce [inaudible 00:20:17] to actually talk in my conference.

These are entrepreneurs who are actually getting their own hands dirty. There is a huge difference in actually doing something versus having high level knowledge about something or even contracting stuff out to other people. I like to get speakers who are kind of deep in the trenches and doing everything and getting their hands dirty. And so the summit was actually designed to provide very actionable content.

The other thing that I was just kind of tired about other conferences was going to like multi thousand person events, like you can get really lost in the crowd when there are just so many people there. And so I purposely made my conference very small and intimate, so I could actually form some meaningful, intimate relationships, and so those are some of the cool philosophies why I decided to start my own conference besides wanting to be a key note of course.

I just want to give a quick shout out; tickets are on sale right now for the Sellers Summit. Go to sellerssummit.com, the price is actually going to go up on February 1st, so be sure to get your tickets before the price goes up.
Now the other thing I did, or I should say that I’m constantly doing is I am always improving my class. Now here’s the thing about courses, if you don’t update them, they’re going to get stale and what’s ironic is that the more work that I put forth on improving my ecommerce store; it actually improves my training class because it creates a lot more material for me to teach.

And so I spend portion of the year improving my online store and I’m not going to go into too much depth about what I do for my store because incidentally the next podcast is going to go over the year and recap for my ecommerce store. But I’ve been updating my course constantly with all the latest things that I’ve been doing to improve my online store.

So a couple of these things are I completely revamped the email autoresponders for my store, I experimented with a lot of Facebook ads for my store, I talked a lot about conversion optimization, I invited more guests to the class, industry experts to come talk to the students about areas of their expertise. I also sent out the survey and was very pleasantly surprised by the results.

Here’s what’s really cool, 56% of the students who have been with me a year and launched their own product are now making at least four figures per month, and 9% of these students are making more than $50,000 a month in revenue which is really awesome, it makes me feel really good, I’m going to try to get some of these students to come on the podcast to talk about their experiences.

You probably have already heard from Jen Depaoli who runs showercurtainhq.com, you may want to check out that episode if you haven’t listened to it, but right now I have two other students lined up to tell their stories as well. So given my results in blogging and the fact that I made over a million dollars this past year, does that mean that you should go out and start blogging or should you start an online store, and I get this question a lot because I’ve been successful in both areas.

The answer I always give is it depends on your long term goals. I’m going to be upfront and say this, blogging is a slog, it actually took me three years before I made any sort of meaningful money with it and it can be hard to do something for three years and not have anyone really reading your or making any money, but it’s really incredible once the money does start rolling in because it ramps up really quickly.

Contrast that with my store. I actually ended up making six figures right away, but in the past couple of years the growth has slowed. It’s still in the double digits, we’ve maintained double digits since 2007, but it’s not as high as the blog. So bottom line if you want to make money sooner rather than later, you want to sell something online, and so if you want to make money soonest, go with the online store because you have a product you’re putting it up there and someone is exchanging you money for an actual product.

But if you have a three to five year time horizon I would say I would start a blog, maybe a podcast and really build your own personal brand. So of the two businesses that I had today I feel like the blog has much higher barriers to entry because no one can take my identity away from me. I’ve built up a personal brand, and this is despite the fact that my mom constantly asks me, why are people reading your stuff? I told her my results actually, I told her that I did a million dollars, and she is like what, why are people buying your stuff? And so at least now it’s gone from why are people reading your stuff to why are people buying your stuff.

In the Asian land that’s like a huge upgrade in terms of place. Anyways that’s pretty much all I had to say about how my blog performed in 2016, going forward I don’t know if I want to take on any additional products, projects just yet. I do have a software product that I’m hoping to release later on this year, but for now I’m just going to focus on making my existing properties better.

Hope you enjoyed that solo episode. Next week I’m actually going to be talking about how my ecommerce store performed in 2016, and discuss all the changes that I made to make that happen and grow that business as well. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode147.

Once again I want to thank privy.com for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers, therefore email capture, exit intent, and site tagging tools to make it supper simple as well. Now I personally like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom purpose for any primer that is closely tied to your ecommerce store. So if you want to give it a try it’s free, so head on over to privy.com/mywifequitherjob.

I also want to thank Klaviyo, which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. Now you can easily put together automated flows like in abandoned cart sequence, or post purchase flow or win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo, once gain that’s mywifequitherjob.com/Klaviyo.

Now I talk about how I use these tools Privy and Klaviyo on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away, thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

146: How To Grow From A Company Of 1 To A Company of 1000 With Michael Gerber Of E-Myth

Share On Facebook

How To Grow From A Company Of 1 To A Company of 1000 With Michael Gerber Of E-Myth

Play

Today, I’ve got an extra special guest on the show. He’s an author who I’ve followed ever since I started my first business.

He is an amazing speaker, author, and business consultant who has coached more entrepreneurs than anyone I can think of.

His book the EMyth Revisited is considered required reading for anyone wanting to build a business of their own and changed my way of thinking about small business.

He’s the founder of the dreaming room, a 3 month program that introduces you to a new way of thinking about entrepreneurship.

Now if you don’t recognize who I’m referring to yet, it’s the one and only Michael Gerber. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • The biggest mistake that new entrepreneurs make
  • Why most businesses are broken
  • The necessary personalities of a successful long term business owner
  • How to size up a business
  • The mindset required to build and scale a business for sale
  • Questions you need to ask yourself before you start your business

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re talking with Michael Gerber, who is the world renowned author of the E-myth series of books. You will learn how to create a company from the ground up the right way so that it’s scalable and sellable.

In other news I want to let you know that the tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellerssummit.com. Now what is the Sellers Summit? It is the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference, where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business.

In fact every speaker I invite is deep in the trenches of their ecommerce business, entrepreneurs who are importing large quantities of physical goods, and not some high level guys who are overseeing their companies at 50,000 feet. The other thing I can assure you is that the Sellers Summit will be small and intimate. Last year we cut off ticket sales at around 100 people, so this event will sell out quickly, so once again that’s sellerssummit.com and go check it out.

And if you want to learn how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business, so go to my wifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email. Now onto the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’ve got an extra special guest on the show. He is an author who I have followed ever since I started my first business, he’s an amazing speaker, author and business consultant who has coached more entrepreneurs than anyone I can think of. His book The E-myth Revisited is considered a required reading for anyone wanting to build a business of their own, and it actually changed my way of thinking about small business.

He is the founder of the Dreaming Room, a three month program that introduces you to a new way of thinking about entrepreneurship, and if you don’t recognize who I’m referring to yet, it is the one and only Michael Gerber, and with that welcome to the show Michael, how are you doing today?

Michael: I’m great Steve and thanks for the lovely introduction.

Steve: So Michael I know your work well, but for the benefit of the listeners who may not have heard of you before, can you kind of tell us what led you to write the E-myth series of books and at a high level what the E-myth is all about?
Michael: Sure, well the reason I wrote the book is because we had been working for seven years prior to the publication of the book with small business owners, and when I say working with them I mean we were teaching them a whole new paradigmatic way of thinking about what they do every day.

And so that came to the whole idea of the e-myth, the e-myth is the entrepreneurial myth and it essentially says that despite the fact that most people believe if you own a small business you’re not an entrepreneur, the contrary is true that in fact very few small business owners are actually entrepreneurs. They are what I’ve come to call technicians, suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure, meaning they simply created a job for themselves, another working for a lunatic.

Steve: Meaning themselves, right?

Michael: Yeah of course. And so our work over the past 40 years, we launched our company in 1977, has been to actually transform the state of small business by awakening the entrepreneur within a small business owner so that he or she can approach the act of business development with a completely different perspective about how to do that work.

We have an expression that I’m sure you know; you’re familiar with my work. It says, “Work on it not just in it,” and 99% of all the people we ever meet are just working in it, meaning they are their business, they don’t own one. And so their business is completely dependent upon them, if they are not there, it doesn’t work.

Steve: Okay, so let’s expand upon that a little bit. I know a bunch of people in the audience have probably read your books, what would you say the biggest mistake is that new entrepreneurs make in trying to actually follow your principles and making your business the product and that sort of thing, why are most businesses broken?

Michael: Well the biggest mistake they make is by not following my principles, meaning they might think they are following my principles but there is no rigor to it, understand the rigor is key.

Steve: Do you have any examples of people who kind of fall into this category of people that you’ve worked with, I know you’ve worked with thousands of businesses in the past, so maybe if there is some things like watch out for that you can talk about?

Michael: Well sure, but rather than talking about the people who didn’t do it, let me just talk about just a handful of people who did do it.

Steve: Sure okay it sounds good.

Michael: A perfect example is a company I’m sure you know, Infusion Soft.

Steve: Yes.

Michael: Infusion Soft is a great example for a company that truly internalized my e-myth point of view and then went on to actually participate in a dreaming room with me, and that is not several months process, it’s a two and a half day process. I now call it the new dreaming room to align it more with Beyond the E-myth rather as it was with the original e-myth books.

Infusion Soft came to me about six and a half years ago, and they were introduced to me by a good buddy of mine, and they wanted to spend two and a half days with me with a large audience, not an audience of them spending the day with me, but an audience they are spending those two and a half days with me in what I call the dreaming room.

Steve: Can we talk about what the dreaming room is first before you go on?

Michael: Sure, the dreaming room is really the first half of a process for creating a company that works, I call the strategic half, and I’m saying that without it, in the absence of that process most companies will fail. The dreaming room really works around the four personalities that exist within a true entrepreneur.

I call them the dreamer, the thinker, the story teller, and the leader. The dreamer has a dream, the thinker has a vision, the story teller has a purpose, the leader has a mission. I’m saying every entrepreneur, no matter what their company aim is, no matter kind of a company it is, no matter what industry they are in, every entrepreneur is a dreamer or thinker or story teller and a leader or they are not an entrepreneur.

And so our first job obviously is to awaken the entrepreneur within every small business owner on the planet, and we do that in the dreaming room and now in the new dreaming room.

Steve: And does that imply that those traits can all be within everybody, or do you need to …

Michael: Everybody, and everybody does ask that question, what if I’m a dreamer but I’m not a thinker, what if I’m a thinker but I’m not a dreamer, what if I’m a this and I’m not a that, and I’m simply saying get with the program. In other words Steve they all have to be there, because without one part of you, there is no venture possible, there is no enterprise possible, you can’t buy that, you have to develop that.

And so it’s a process of you might say personal growth toward the evolution of a great enterprise, and until you’ve done that you don’t really understand what I’m talking about. So you have to simply a measure of trust, the guy has been doing this for 40 years. Everybody speaks about the E-myth. If you haven’t read the E-myth you don’t know anything on and on and on and on, so at least I’m saying somebody got to simply give me a pulse and say okay I’m going to do that Gerber.

Well that’s what the Infusion Soft guys did. When they came in it was a very small company, they didn’t know where they were going, and because they didn’t know where they were going they obviously didn’t know how they were going to get there. They thought they were a software company, in the dreaming room they discovered in fact something significantly different than that, and they discovered their dream, their vision, their purpose and their mission and their minds were blown.

In fact today Clate Mask, the CEO and one of the key share holders of Infusion Soft says that there are three major contributions that led Infusion Soft to where it is today, and one of those was Michael Gerber in the dreaming room.

Steve: Okay, so back when they were a small company or just a software company, which one of those elements were they lacking actually that you helped them with?

Michael: They were lacking all of it.

Steve: Oh really?

Michael: They didn’t really have a dream, they didn’t really have a vision, they didn’t really have a purpose, they didn’t really have a mission. Understand these words, everybody has heard but not in the context in which I use them. So let me give you an example of that, in my case my dream way back then in 1977 when we started out – in short at the very beginning my dream was to transform the state of small business worldwide.

My vision was to invent the Macdonald’s of small business consulting. My purpose was that every independently owned small business can be as successful as a Macdonald’s franchisee, or if they truly get it as successful as a Macdonald’s franchiser itself. And finally my mission was to invent the business development system that was absolutely critical to grow any company.

And that’s how we started out in 1977, and it’s the wager of that, that has created our company and our ability to do the work that we have done and the ability to do what we did with a company like Infusion Soft, like 1-800-Got Junk and on and on and on and on, company after company after company, we’ve worked with over 100,000 clients since we formed our company in 1977.

Steve: Do those aspects of your business, do they ever change over time or are they kind of like steadfast things that you decided in the beginning?

Michael: No they never change.

Steve: They never change, okay.

Michael: My dream is the same, my vision is the same, my purpose is the same, my mission is the same. Some of the how we do those things change of course as new technology comes forward, as the internet has changed, as this has changed, as that … How we do what we do is altered, but the core baseline for what we do and why we do it hasn’t changed at all.

Steve: So is the reason why you need to figure this out because it dictates all of your decisions going forward, is that the fundamental principle?

Michael: But of course, it’s the heart of it.

Steve: Okay and so people go to your dreaming room like Infusion Soft and you allow them to discover for themselves what these primers are with their business, and then what is the next step?

Michael: Well we don’t allow anything; we take them through a rigorous process. The process generates insights, perspective, a paradigm that is an internal experience for the people who are there. We don’t tell them what their dream, vision, purpose, and mission are.

Steve: Of course.

Michael: They do, but it’s the process through which we stimulate and inspire them to discover something they didn’t know before they came in the door so much so that Infusion Soft if you were to walk into their company today which is now doing 100 million in revenue with close to 1000 employees and hundreds of contractors, you discover on their wall, our dream, our vision, our purpose, our mission written explicitly on the wall so that everybody can see it.

Steve: So once you’ve figured these things out about yourself and your company, what is involved next in taking it to a business of one to a business of 1000?

Michael: Well that’s cool; I call this the tactical component of this thing we’re talking about.

Steve: I would imagine most people that come to you are probably interested in tactics, right, is that correct?

Michael: Oh yeah everybody want more sales, I mean that’s all everybody wants, more sales, more sales, that’s why – in fact the primary business service out here on the planet is we’re going to show you how to get more sales, more sales, more sales and we don’t do that at all, because in our case what we’re essentially saying if we will define a way to get you more sales, we destroy your company, because you couldn’t handle them.

Steve: I see.

Michael: And you couldn’t handle them because you’re not organized to handle them.

Steve: Because the process is not in place?

Michael: Right, the system is not in place, so that’s the second half; I call it the job, the practice, the business, the enterprise. What we used to do, we used to fix broken businesses, in other words the whole business of E-myth for years has been fixing broken small businesses. And so we’d start out to fix the broken small business, step one step two and step three etcetera, we’ve stopped doing that. We don’t fix broken businesses any more, we start new ones.

So we’d say to anybody coming to us, look we’re not here to fix your broken business, and we can guarantee you it’s broken and I can demonstrate that in a thousand ways, but that’s not a problem if you do that process right now. Let’s just accept the fact that you’ve got a business that you’re doing whatever you’re doing, it’s producing whatever it’s producing, I’m going to call that business old co.

What we’re going to work on though is new co, we’re not going to fix the business you’ve got, we’re going to create the company you want, so we’re going to start it a new and we’re going to start it a new by discovering what your dream, your vision, your purpose and your mission are. Once we have done that we’re going to start to go to work on your company from step one with a blank piece of paper on beginners mind to first determine what your client fulfillment system is, I call that the job.

So we’re going to go on, on the job to design, build, launch, and grow and turnkey your client fulfillment system, that is what you deliver to your most important customer, turnkey…

Steve: So the concept of Infusion Soft … go on sir … yeah before you go on I was just going to say in the concept of Infusion Soft here the delivery system I guess would be their email marketing software?

Michael: Of course, but not just the software, the whole methodology by which they work with a client.

Steve: So the on boarding process?

Michael: Well the on boarding process, the continuous improvement process, the continuous help that they provide, no not that way, this way, no not that way, this way, the constant process by which they engage their client to become a significantly more functional representation of what Infusion Soft was created to do.

Steve: Okay and then in terms of old co and new co, Infusion Soft, did you tell them to throw away their old or was this…

Michael: No it wasn’t throw it away, it’s never throw it away, just keep and let it do what it’s doing. In the meantime we’re going to create new co over here, and as we build new co gradually old co is just going to disappear.

Steve: Okay I understand, so sorry I interrupted your thought.

Michael: No but a great question. So the job, so first we’re going to create the client fulfillment system, and we’re going to turnkey it, we’re going to document it, we’re going to be able to transfer it to another guy, another guy, another guy, another guy meaning inside of the company the people who are responsible for delivering the client fulfillment system will have a turnkey methodology in order to deliver it with integrity to every single client that they get, you follow?

Steve: Yes, so do you work on all these things before you even get your first customer because the way a lot of people work is they just try to get customers just to validate what they are trying to do first and then put the process into place.

Michael: Yeah, you’re getting customers validating the job, the client fulfillment system, but even if you’re giving it away, you’re testing it, validating it, quantifying it, reassuring yourself that the way you do it actually has the impact you intended it for their house.

Steve: Okay, so this is like ongoing process, it is not something you have in place before you get your first customers, right?

Michael: No it’s an ongoing process, and I describe that ongoing process very, very clearly in Beyond the E-myth book, so that anybody who is listening to us right now, if they get the book, they will be able to understand much more clearly what the dream is, what the vision is, what the purpose is, what the mission is, what the client fulfillment system is, the process by which you do the work that I’m describing here.

Steve: Okay, don’t worry we’ll link all that stuff in the show notes with a link to the book.

Michael: So the next step is practice, and the practice is what I call the three legged stool. Now we’ve created the turnkey client fulfillment system, that’s absolutely critical, that’s why I said that everybody wants to get sales, sales, sales, sales but they don’t have a turnkey client fulfillment system, so even if they got sales they wouldn’t be able to replicate their ability to deliver the result that in fact they are designing their company to do.

So they’re setting it off on a completely awkward and dysfunctional path. So I’m saying these steps are so critical and absolutely essential if somebody is going to create a company that ultimately will become a leader in what it sets out to do. You got to do it, so the three legged stool is lead generation, lead conversion, client fulfillment.

Sure now that we’ve tested, validated, secured the ability of our client fulfillment system to work, now we’re going to put the pedal to the metal and attract more people to buy it, and that’s the three legged stool, lead generation, attracting people to our door, lead conversion, converting them into customers, client fulfillment, converting those customers into clients.

You can begin to see it as the franchise prototype. So effectively the six step in this process is step one is the dream, two is the vision, three is the purpose and four is the mission, five is the job, the client fulfillment system. Six is the practice which is the client acquisition and client fulfillment system integrated into one thing, that’s your franchise prototype. One you turnkeyed that system, you can now put the pedal to the metal and grow your company into a business.

Steve: I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now in this day and age word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most ecommerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program. And this is where ReferralCandy shines, with just a couple of clicks to the mouse you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

And this tactic works wonders, and in fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment. So for example Greats Footwear, who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI, and referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And the best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical setup and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.com/steve, once again it’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try put the service risk free. Now back to the show.

So in the book you often mention the franchise prototype and when you use the word franchise, are you kind of using it loosely here, because when I think of franchise and you mention this in the book Macdonald’s all the time, when you use the word franchise, are you talking how like the franchise business model or in terms of just making your business scalable and allowing other people other than yourself to run it?

Michael: Franchising is simply a model for expanding the reach of your company, it’s a distribution model. So when I say franchise, note that Starbucks isn’t a franchise, those are all company owned stores, and understand but those company owned stores operate like a franchise, there is a barrister in every single one of them.

Every single one of them are identical to every single one of them so that business model that they have developed is in fact their franchise prototype. Once they roll that franchise prototype to store number two, they were going into the process I’m describing now which is the development of your business, and the business resides in the turnkey systems of lead generation, lead conversion, client fulfillment, but also with the turnkey management system.

Steve: Okay, can we talk about the turnkey management system a little bit; can you talk about exactly what that is in an example maybe in Infusion Soft company concept since we we’ve been talking about that company?

Michael: Absolutely, the turnkey management system is our ability to assure ourselves that every single one of our practices think chiropractor, think graphic designer, think whatever, whatever business you are in, every one of them is utilizing the system we’ve designed, built, launched and grown for the very purpose of replicating ourselves faithfully with great integrity everywhere we live.

The management system determines that in fact that is happening, so it’s the oversight that’s critical if the business is going to have integrity in the operational deliverable that effectively we’ve designed, built, launched, and grown, you get my point.

Steve: So does that imply then – is this all based on metrics that you set up for your company then?

Michael: Of course they are metrics that we set up for our company, but the metrics that we learn as we implement what I’ve
just described and it speaks to us, we’re quantifying it, how many of those, how many of those, what is the conversion from this to that and on and on and on and on. We begin to understand the metrics of our business and we manage to do it.

Steve: So the concept of your company for example, what were some of the metrics earlier that you used when you were going out and consulting other businesses?

Michael: All right very, very simple. We would call on a small business down the street, way back then at the very beginning we had what we called marketing associates who knocked on doors. They would walk into every small business, every business in our trading zone and effectively they had this script and they would invite them to a free seminar.

So we had to measure the number of calls that were made, the number of business owners that were talked to, the number of invitations that were delivered, the number of enrollments that were made, the number of people who showed up at the seminar and the number of people who showed up for the needs analysis that we would do following the seminar, the number of people who having done the needs analysis and on and on and on, you get my point?

Steve: Yes I do, so how do you know what metrics are good, like how do you determine what your goals are or what metrics you should expect to see?

Michael: You make it up at the beginning, you make it up. So as an example we’re rolling the new dreaming room out to 150 markets, and that means we will open our doors in 150 cities and deliver a new dreaming room in every one of those cities once each month. We know that that dreaming room we delivered to 50 participants, and so we’ve set the objective for 50 participants. We know that those participants will pay $3,000 to participate in that two and a half day experience, and we’re projecting that 30% of those participants will enroll in Beyond the E-myth program.

So we’ve set out some goals, let’s call them that and we’ll measure our performance against those, and as we begin to measure our performance against those, we’ll look at what constituted our performance, meaning there is a leader of a dreaming room. Did the leader use the dreaming room system they were trained to use and on and on and on and on?

All of these measures come to bear on our performance in every one of those markets nationally, internationally because we’ve tested them, validated them, and improved upon them every single step of the way through what we call continuous improvement.

Steve: You brought about a couple of interesting points there, but one thing that just was fascinating to me is you are releasing this dreaming room in 150 places, is that correct?

Michael: We will over the next two years.

Steve: So can we talk about your process, I mean do you have a huge organization that handles all these things, like what is your process for just even releasing it to 150 places, that sounds like a lot of places to roll out?

Michael: Yeah indeed it’s a lot of places, but it’s not 250 places or 1000 places, so in one respect it’s not a lot of places, but how do we do that? We do that by growing that and bootstrapping it.

Steve: What is your role in this process, you develop all the materials and then you train a bunch of people or do you train one person…

Michael: Don’t say your role because in fact it’s not my role. I’m doing the first four new dreaming rooms myself. We’re videotaping those, audio taping those, we’re scrutinizing those, and we’re scrutinizing the impact they have on the audience. We also have a lead generation, lead conversion system in place to attract people to come to those dreaming rooms, and we’re testing that and validating that every step of the way as well so we’re preparing to grow.

Steve: So this is the franchise prototype stage?

Michael: [inaudible 00:30:27] that’s what we’re doing; we do exactly what I’m suggesting everybody needs to do Steve.

Steve: Okay and in terms of your lead gen, I’m just curious about your own organization, this book is obviously part of that, but is it primarily through email, word of mouth, what are your primary lead gen mechanisms.

Michael: Our lead gen is everything that you could imagine we’ve done in doing what we’re doing right now, so this very podcast interview is part of our lead gen process. I told you I have done about 30 podcasts, now that’s me, I’m speaking to you and you sharing what I’ve spoken about to your folks and them sharing what they heard with their folks and on and on and on and on.

You do that 30 times, 40 times, 50 times, 1000 times and you begin to understand that what I’m doing is I’m telling the story, I’m the story teller, I’m telling the story. Steve you tell the story, when you do a blog you’re telling a story and when you do whatever you do, when you ask me questions you’re really moving it to a telling a story.

So effectively you started your company for the purpose of doing something that you can define as your something, and the way in which you do it you can define as your way of doing it, and I’m suggesting that’s the beginning of the prototyping process. But to the degree it doesn’t go beyond Steve, it’s not an enterprise, you follow?

Steve: Yes.

Michael: So the whole objective of this is not for Michael to do this work, the whole objective of this is to build an
enterprise that does this work and lives without me, that’s why we say every life a legacy.

Steve: But Michael needs to be very heavily involved in the beginning right to develop the franchise prototype?

Michael: Of course I’m the entrepreneur, Michael was very involved at the very beginning just like I get involved in the beginning of whatever I’ve done…

Steve: This is funny we’re talking about each other.

Michael: But not to build a company dependent upon Michael.

Steve: Right, so let’s say I haven’t done your franchise prototype which is your course and your dreaming room right now, how do you kind of scale from there going on?

Michael: It’s very, very simple. You do a second dreaming room, a third dreaming room, a fourth dreaming room, a fifth dreaming room. In short now I’m in San Diego, then I’m in Anaheim, then I’m in…

Steve: But it’s not you at this point?

Michael: No, no it’s not me, these are certified new dreaming room leaders, and these are people who have learned the script by actually studying the script. And the script is what; the script is me doing it.

Steve: So let me ask you this, you mention the word script, does that imply that these leaders are just going off of a set protocol, or is there room for creativity there?

Michael: There is no room for creativity. Just like there is no room for creativity at Macdonald’s or Starbucks etcetera, there is a business model and the business model says the barrister doesn’t change your name from barrister to waitress; she didn’t get to do that.

Steve: Right.
Michael: Very creative, choosing to wear some stupid outfit, you understand?

Steve: Yeah I understand that.

Michael: It’s absolutely clear, so understand that what we’re doing is creating a template, a turnkey template that we can then expand worldwide.

Steve: So let me ask you this question, I’m an engineer so these are some of the things I think about, so given that people are using a script and everything is a template, is it hard to attract people as part of your organization?

Michael: No it’s easy; oh it’s just blatant simple.

Steve: Okay and what is the process then, how do you convince someone who is really, really out there and wants to do their own thing to come work for you or is that just not the right people that…

Michael: Well you understand it’s a process and so everything is a process. The process is simply a system over time, so understand if I’m going to attract somebody to become a new dreaming room leader, then I’m going to determine what the demographics of that individual or those individuals are, and I’m going to then go out in the market where we are going to open our door to seek out our finalists and we’ll do that using a system. The first thing is this, the second thing is this, the third thing – you follow what I’m saying?

Steve: Yes.

Michael: And all of it is turnkey, so even the process by which we audition these individuals is turnkey, everything is turnkey. Everything is developed, refined, designed to work in a very specific way so that we can be assured that when we get a leader in Cincinnati, that leader measures up to the kind of person we’re looking for and the absolute clear result we’re intending to produce.

So a dreaming room in Cincinnati is the same as a dreaming room in Cleveland is the same as a dreaming room in San Mateo, is the same as a dreaming room in Santa Rosa etcetera. It is, it is, it is, and it is because it’s organized in that way to produce a very specific result we’re looking for.

Steve: Okay so literally…

Michael: Practically so and that is we’re continually working on the new dreaming room even while we’re delivering it, and so there is the system for improvement, for continuous improvement as well and every leader will participate in that. So everybody is getting a chance to work in a harmonious way to continually improve upon what they do to improve upon the results they produce.

Steve: Okay so you have a feedback mechanism in place essentially, right? All of your satellite dreaming rooms you probably get together and you share feedback and then improve and enroll these…

Michael: You’ve got to, you’ve got to, you can’t grow without this, you understand the…

Steve: Yeah totally it makes sense.

Michael: That’s when I say the franchise, the franchise, the franchise, you can’t grow without this. I could send anybody to any dreaming room anywhere and they would have the same experience or be it the same experience given the difference they bring to the room, you follow me?

Steve: No I do follow you, I’m just trying to think of this model in terms of like a software company for example because they aren’t like separate franchises so speak, right? So when you’re talking on the concept of like in Infusion Soft it’s a little bit different because there is only one central area. I guess the way the software is delivered is like a franchise, right?

Michael: No it’s really not different and we would have to get really, really, really specific for you to take that in. It’s absolutely clearly transferable to any kind of company on the planet, and we have done this with every kind of company on the planet and absolutely faithfully, rigorously stood on the platform that I’m sharing with you here, and as we do that you begin to see that it applies everywhere, it’s a universal system.

Steve: Let’s talk about your book for a little bit; this book is targeted to people who are solopreneurs essentially, right?

Michael: Well they don’t have to be, we’re taking that as the worst…

Steve: Worst case scenario.

Michael: Worst case scenario, they call themselves solopreneurs, I immediately diffuse that word by essentially saying it’s contradiction in terms, entrepreneurs are not solo, period. No entrepreneur ever succeeded as a solo anything, so effectively if a guy calls himself a solopreneurs he bought a pitch, and that’s an info marketing pitch. It’s effectively saying creating a lifestyle mentality about being there on your own all alone doing what you do and how splendid you are, and I’m saying bullshit.

Steve: Sorry, this is what I want to ask you Michael, so along those lines how do you coach people to think bigger. Some people just want to create a business that allows them a lifestyle so to speak.

Michael: I got it Steve, I got it and it’s a great question, it really is a great question and the reality is I can’t get them to want more than they’ve got, but I can inspire them to see the limitation of what they presume they want by expanding their availability to something they never thought they wanted, and in the process of doing that something can happen.

And so that something can happen frankly it’s exactly what happened in Infusion Soft, the guys told me they really didn’t want to grow any bigger than they were, understand didn’t really want to grow any bigger than they were, they had no idea whatsoever that they were going to grow to become 100 million and then a billion dollar company when I first met them.

Steve: How did you convince them?

Michael: I’m sorry I didn’t convince them at all; suddenly they woke up to the possibility. It’s waking up to the possibility that’s extraordinary. Have you heard of Landmark?

Steve: No I have not.

Michael: Have you heard of EST [ph]?

Steve: No I have not.

Michael: Okay, so Steve I’m going to sit here as you’re on your way, look up Landmark, they are right there where you are, they are in fact worldwide. Have you heard of [inaudible 00:41:49]?

Steve: I have not; maybe I should make a list of these things.

Michael: Hey Steve man I’m telling you, yeah this is big stuff. Well if you heard of Landmark and you go to the forum, the
forum is an event all about possibility and you walk out of that with completely new framework. You begin to understand that all the “choices” we make are really choices to live in our comfort zone, and I’m saying to live in our comfort zone is in fact the worst thing any of us can do because it prevents us from seeing what’s possible.

So when I look at Steve and I don’t even know you Steve and I don’t have your picture in front of me, but when I look at
Steve I’m saying Steve is somebody he has never even met before. As successful as you are and the possibility of that is a mine blower Steve, that’s what the dreaming room is all about.

Steve: Okay, I have to check out these resources then, are they similar to the dreaming room then or no?

Michael: I’m sorry.

Steve: The resources that you just asked me about, are they similar to the dreaming room?

Michael: No.

Steve: No.

Michael: They are personal growth.

Steve: So Michael we’re coming on 40 minutes here, I want to be respectful of your time. Can you lay out like a roadmap for someone who wants to get more involved in e-myth and your coaching, where should they start?

Michael: Absolutely positively, all they need to do is to go to www.beyondemyth.com and they will be connected, they will be able to get the book; they will be able to read the book. In fact we have a special I think going on right now, what’s that, automated book.

Steve: I’m sorry.

Michael: What’s that automated book you can buy it for $1.99.

Steve: Oh on Amazon you mean the eBook.

Michael: Yeah you get it for $1.99, just do it.

Steve: Okay well that’s a steal you guys.

Michael: Yeah I mean that’s a steal, just freaking do it, and then the minute you do that you’ll understand this much, much better and will begin to pause a question for you, what is the possibility awaiting you, and how do you proceed to pursue it, and many people don’t want to do that, then just forget it since it’s not something we talk about.

Steve: Okay, by the way the book is a pretty quick read and it goes by really quick, so I highly recommend everyone go and check it out.

Michael: Thanks Steve, you enjoyed it?

Steve: Yeah I did, I did, I read on the plane in fact.

Michael: Oh wonderful, give my best to your wife and stay in touch with us. Check out Landmark if only to speak to the whole idea of extreme possibilities, and you discover that in fact you’re going to want to bring stuff like that to everyone you work with and wrench him out of their comfort zone to see the possibilities that are just waiting there unattended to for everybody.

Steve: It sounds good Michael. Thanks a lot for coming on the show, really appreciate your time.
Michael: My delight Steve, thanks, bye, bye.

Steve: All right take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. I’ve actually been a huge fan of E-myth Revisited ever since is started my ecommerce store and it was an honor to finally meet and chat with Michael Gerber one on one. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode146.

And just a reminder that tickets to the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellersummit.com, the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. The event will be small and intimate, and I promise you that the speakers will focus on actionable strategies to improve your ecommerce business and not high level BS. So head on over to sellerssummit.com, and check it out.

And once again if you are interested in starting your own online business, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com, and sign up for my free six day mini course on how to start a profitable online store. Sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the course via email immediately. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

145: How To Make 6 Figures With Network Marketing (MLM) With Rachel Holland

Share On Facebook

145: How To Make 6 Figures With Network Marketing (MLM) With Rachel Holland

Play

Today I’m really happy to have Rachel Holland on the show. Rachel is someone who I was introduced to by a friend and she is killing it in the network marketing space. Rachel runs the popular site Surviving The Stores where she teaches others how to save money and live healthy on a budget.

She and her husband Ryan run the site together and have turned it into a huge resource. Anyway up until this point, I have not had anyone doing network marketing before on the podcast and I’m very curious how it works. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Rachel came up with the idea for her site and how she got into network marketing
  • How network marketing works.
  • How to get customers to sell under you
  • How to find the right network marketing product to sell
  • How the payouts work for network marketing

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re talking with Rachel Holland, who was introduced to me by a good friend. Now Rachel runs survivingthestores.com, and the reason why I want her on is to discuss the ins and outs of network marketing.

In other news I wonder that you know that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellerssummit.com. Now what is the Sellers Summit? It is the conference that I hold every single year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference, where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business.

In fact every speaker I invite is deep in the trenches of their ecommerce business, entrepreneurs who are importing large quantities of physical goods, and not some high level guys who are overseeing their companies at 50,000 feet. The other thing I can assure you is that the Sellers Summit will be small and intimate. Last year we cut off ticket sales at around 100 people, so this event will sell out quickly, once again that’s sellerssummit.com, so go check it out.

And if you want to learn how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business, so go to my wifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email. Now onto the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Rachel Holland on the show. Now Rachel was someone who I was introduced to by Tony Anderson, and she is killing it in the network marketing space. Now Rachel runs the popular site survivingthestores.com, where she teaches others how to save money and live healthy on a budget.

She and her husband Ryan run the site together and have turned it into a huge resource. Anyway up until this point I have not heard anyone doing network marketing before on the podcast, and I’m just really curious how it works. With that welcome to the show Rachel, how are you doing today?

Rachel: Thank you so much Steve, I’m glad to be on the show with you, I am doing great today.

Steve: That’s good to know, there are just so many questions that I have for you about this space, but let’s just start from the very beginning, how did you come up with the idea for Surviving the Stores, and how did it move into the network marketing space?

Rachel: That’s a great question, so back in 2008 I was a stay at home mom and my husband was working outside the home, and as everyone knows the economy tanked and we were just really, really struggling to meet our budget every month. Gas prices started to rise and it just killed us. So we looked at our budget and we said, okay where can we cut back, what can we do, and we didn’t have people, we didn’t drive a lot and there weren’t a lot of places that we could cut back.

Where we saw that we could cut back was in our grocery budgeting because we were just spending crazy amounts. So I actually started Surviving the Stores as a way to keep myself accountable in grocery budgeting. It has moved from that through the years to end up being a full time income for our family starting in 2010, 2011 and I was able to use that blog as well to launch a network marketing business even though I had no intention of doing that at all. I was actually pretty against network marketing in general.

Steve: Okay, I’m just curious, are you friends with Ellen Chase because that grocery budgeting stuff is like [inaudible 00:04:17] early too?

Rachel: Yes, Ellen and I are very good friends, I love Ellen.

Steve: Okay and so did you start Surviving the Stores to make money in the beginning or was it just a way to document everything?

Rachel: Not at all, it was very much just a way to document everything.

Steve: Interesting, so how did it gain traction?

Rachel: You know the news media printed up in our local Dallas Fort worth area, and then it ended up being on a segment with Good morning America…

Steve: Oh my goodness, okay.

Rachel: It took off from there, and people found out about the site and grew that way.

Steve: Did you do anything to get those media mentions?

Rachel: I did not, I mean I know there are classes now at blogging conferences about how to get in the media, but no, but he ended up just finding me.

Steve: Okay wow, that’s incredible, okay. So how did Surviving the Stores and not talking about the network marketing stuff just yet, how does Surviving the Stores make money?

Rachel: We make money through several ways, the first one being through just general CPM ads, and so and all possible clicks, so Google Adsense or just in ads that when you make money off of impressions to your site, so take photos to really generate a good income. You have to have a lot of traffic to your site. That’s always been a very significant way that we have made money, but also through affiliate links.

Since we were a deal site for so long, we would find good deals, and then we would have affiliate links that we would – let’s say Kohl’s [ph] had a good deal online, then we would have an affiliate link over to Kohl’s and say here is how you get this at the best price, so we would make money that way as well. As you can imagine, the fourth quarter was always our best quarter for that for sure.

Steve: So this is all physical product affiliate links?

Rachel: For the most part, yes.

Steve: Okay, because I know you told me earlier prior to this interview that you had grown this blog to six figures without the network marketing stuff, and so this is mostly affiliate and ad revenue?

Rachel: Yes. I never did a lot of sponsored posts, that wasn’t something that I – I wanted to blog because once I did start making money blogging, I wanted to be on my own schedule, on my own timetable and so I know a lot of bloggers also make money through sponsored posts and that was not something that we really did often.

Steve: Okay, and in terms of finding these deals, like how would you find them?

Rachel: Research, lots of research. There are deal forums out there where people get on and search for deals and post deals that they have found, and then others get on and search for it. So basically as the deal blogger, I would get on and look through to see which ones were the best ones, because it’s just a mess I these forums, it’s an absolute mess. So you get on and you search for what the best deals are, and then you can post them as a blog post in your blog.

Steve: Interesting, so it’s a manual process, it’s not automated?

Rachel: Absolutely, it was completely manual.

Steve: Oh wow, so what is the typical affiliate cut then for like Kohl’s you mentioned for example?

Rachel: It depends, it depends, anywhere from – there are some affiliates where I’m not going to name any names, but some of them are at 1%.

Steve: Wow okay.

Rachel: You know what, surprisingly those don’t get posted that often on blogs, but then anywhere up to 4, 8, 10%, and then if you work with other bloggers as an affiliate for example you mentioned Ellen Chase. She has several different programs that you can be an affiliate for, and so she pays a much larger percentage than say Kohl’s or Best Buy or any of those.

Steve: So would you say that your audience were people that did not have a lot of money?

Rachel: You know it’s really surprising because there were some who were in that same place that I was where they just were struggling to make ends meet, but then it’s very interesting because a lot of the people who are looking for deals and who are looking for coupons, they have very good, very established salaries. They are just not trying to make ends meet, but they know how to be smart with their money and save.

Steve: Okay and in terms of – outside those major media mentions that you got, what were some other ways that you got traffic to your site?

Rachel: Networking, absolutely networking with other bloggers.

Steve: Like face to face?

Rachel: Yes, blogging conferences, lots of blogging conferences, just networking with people, doing projects with other bloggers where you post about them and they post about you, or you do a series together. I did a series with Tony, actually a few series with Tony over the years, then just think of like that where you are – it’s a reciprocal thing you just, you help them by sending your traffic to them and they help you by sending their traffic to you, and it’s just a great relationship.

Steve: Interesting, so when you start out though and you have nothing, like how would you approach someone with a lot more traffic than yourself?

Rachel: That’s a great question.

Steve: Just curious.

Rachel: Just build a relationship with them, for me it was meeting people in person and talking to them, getting to know them, learning about their site. In a lot of ways very similar to what you do with network marketing asking them a lot of questions, learning about what they’re doing, their passion behind blogging, why they’re doing what they’re doing, what their blog is about, what they want their readers to come away from their blog feeling, or just getting to know them, really developing those relationships.

Steve: So you could not have gotten your blog to where it is without these face to face in person relationships that you built over time?

Rachel: No way, there is absolutely no way.

Steve: Okay and so I know prior to this interview we chatted about how you’ve gone away from being a deal site and you’ve moved over to network
marketing. Can you describe that transition?

Rachel: Yes, so I was actually pretty against network marketing for a long time, all of the stereotypes that you hear about network marketing, those were things that I believed because I had experienced it back in college. When I was in college I was a freshman in college and I was looking for a job to make just some extra income and I looked in the paper, the classified ads, that’s before you would just look online or on Monster. I looked at the classified ads and there was an ad that said make your own hours, unlimited income potential, call for an interview, must be a self starter.

I said, yes absolutely, that sounds like me, I can do that. So I called and they said, oh we have an interview spot open and they brought me in, I even took a little test on the computer and they brought me back into the back room and said, you seem like you would be a great fit for our company, all you have to do is buy this starter kit, it’s commission only. And so I was then ready to start selling the best knives ever.

Steve: Was it Cutco?

Rachel: Yeah, it was Cutco, I wasn’t willing to mention the brand, but yes it was Cutco.

Steve: The reason why I ask is my friend used to sell those knives when I was younger, yeah.

Rachel: They are great knives, I mean their scissors really do cut through a pinning and I don’t know of any other scissors that will cut, they are great scissors. But I lasted about two weeks in the company and it was when they told me to talk to my family and friends while I was brand new in a college town, I didn’t know anyone. And they said, well here you can have the records of anyone who had bought previously and I could go to their house, or I ask them if I could come to their house and clean their knives, and then while I was there I could show them the new product catalog.

I did that and then I thought, you know this probably isn’t the best idea for me as an 18 year old college freshman going to people’s house asking them if I can clean their knives. I ended up saying this is a bad gig, this is not something that I want to do, I never want to sell anything ever again, I am done. That’s where I ended off and so for me it wasn’t just a seamless transition into network marketing.

Steve: Can we define what network marketing is, I’m pretty sure a lot of people out there listening don’t even know what it is?

Rachel: Yeah so network marketing and there are all kinds of wrong definitions out there, but really network marketing is a way to create a residue income that not only can last through your lifetime, but I know with the company that I’m a part of we can actually will our business to our children and they can continue to receive that residue income, but a way to receive a residue income through sharing about a product that you love, and then you believe other people will love. So I would say in a nutshell that’s a good definition of how it works.

Steve: So to summarize what you just said, you sell something or you have people that are selling on your behalf and you take a cut of what they sell, and they can recruit their own sellers as well, is that how it works?

Rachel: That’s correct and the way that I like to share with people is I talk a lot about sharing because really that’s what it is. Whenever I’ve tried to sell it doesn’t work out so well, just sharing about what I’m doing and if you’re passionate about it, people will be asking you how do I get this, what do I do?

Steve: Interesting, okay. And so you mentioned synergy before, you were talking about how transitioned from Cutco and then you had a bad experience there, but then what changed your mind about – you’re doing essential oils now, is that correct?

Rachel: Yes, that’s correct.

Steve: Okay, so how did that transition take place?

Rachel: Well I ended up getting – I was researching essential oils and I had settled on where I wanted to get essential oils from. I had always – you’ll see lots of posts dating back to almost the beginning of Surviving the Stores on natural remedies. That was something I was already interested in; I wanted to get started with essential oils. So I researched several different companies then ended up deciding on one specific company.
I knew that I wanted to get started with them but just for the essential oils. I had no interest at all in doing the business in any way and I even told the person that I signed up through. I said my plate is already full, I’m blogging full time, I do not want to end up with marketing again, so I just want to get these products.

So for a year I stuck to that and for a year I just got the products, but because they have been so beneficial for our family and because it fits so well with the blog, I started blogging about them, I started sharing on Facebook my experiences and how they were benefiting our family. So people either from the blog or from friends on Facebook would message me saying, okay tell me more, I want to sign up.

Steve: Interesting, so actually can you just describe what essential oils are for just the people who are listening who might not know what that is?

Rachel: Absolutely, so essential oils are plant extracts and they are essentially the life blood of plant, they are what go through the plant, they give the plant its smell, they do amazing things for the plant, and I believe that they are what God created to work with our bodies, to help our bodies do what they’re supposed to do.

Steve: Okay, and so it’s mainly for medicinal purposes?

Rachel: Health and wellness.

Steve: Health and wellness, okay and so you started writing about the essential oils on your blog and then people started becoming interested in what you were talking about, and they wanted to buy their own, is that how this all started?

Rachel: Yes, exactly.

Steve: And then you hadn’t signed up or anything to sell these things, did it just fall into your lap then?

Rachel: Well so one of the things that’s great about certain companies and this is true for the company that I’m with, whenever you get a starter kit with this company, you are not required ever to sell anything, but you do have the ability to share and get a referral check from the company essentially.

So we call them a thank you check, so you get a certain amount whenever somebody else purchases a starter kit through your link, it’s like an affiliate link. You can earn through that, through sharing with other people and they purchase, and then you get a bonus or a commission off of that.

Steve: This is different than the cut of the sale; this is just a flat commission?

Rachel: For their initial kit yes, it’s a flat commission.

Steve: Can we talk a little bit about what this starter kit is, like you’ve mentioned it a couple of times but I’m not sure what goes inside of that?

Rachel: Inside this starter kit for essential oils there are 11 of the most popular, most used essential oils, because really the world of essential oils can be very overwhelming and anyone who has dabbled in it can say, oh my goodness there are so many things out there. So what the company that I work with which is called Young Living Essential Oils has done is they have put together a kit that has the most popular essential oils, the ones that people would be using every single day.

Steve: Okay but if you want to buy a certain set, like do you have to buy the starter kit or can you buy the individual oils that you want?

Rachel: You can buy the individual oils as a retail customer, so there are two different things that people can do when they sign up, they can either be a retail customer and they pay a 24% mark up, or they can become a wholesale member by buying a starter kit and then they get a 24% discount forever, and they also get that ability to share with others and earn that commission if they choose to do that.

Steve: I see, so how much does this starter kit cost?

Rachel: It costs $160 which is absolutely incredible for starting a business. If somebody does go into that saying yes I want to start an essential oils business, for $160 they can, which is an incredible price.

Steve: And if I were to just buy like a few bottles of the oils that I wanted to, like how much is each individually, you said that starter kit has 11 you said?

Rachel: Yes, it really depends. So you can get certain oils for $5 and then there are oils that are almost $200, so for example rose oil. Rose is just extremely delicate and expensive to distil the oils out of the rose plant, so it really depends on the oil itself.

Steve: Does that rose oil come with the starter kit though?

Rachel: It does not, but there are some frankincense stuff and frankincense is an extremely amazing and much more expensive oil. So everything in the starter kit, if you were to buy it all separately, it would be over $350, so the starter kit is actually just a really good deal in and of itself for getting started for the essential oils.

Steve: I see and it sounds like it gives you like – it’s like a variety pack for example if you’re just starting out it makes sense to get that regardless?

Rachel: Exactly.

Steve: Okay and so now you have the starter kit and you’re using these oils yourself, so how did you transition and how did it work in terms of selling these oils?

Rachel: What I did was I created a few Facebook groups and really Facebook groups have changed the game for network marketing. I mean it just really has because even 10, 15 years ago, or five years ago network marketing was done over the phone and that was it, and through emails, emails, snail mail, over the phone.

Facebook groups have changed the game because I created, one of the first things I did when I started the business was create a few Facebook groups, and I have for example a Facebook group that’s specifically just for education where people can ask questions about essential oils and how to use them on their family, on their kids, on their pets, all of that, and then another group specifically for those who are interested in learning more about the business.

And so in a sense I created like a little bit of a funnel system through Facebook groups which has been really neat and fun to do, and that’s one of the things that I learned through blogging was how to do that. So not only do I have that through email but also in a sense through these Facebook groups.

Steve: I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now in this day and age word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most e-commerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program, and this is where ReferralCandy shines.

With just a couple of clicks to the mouse you can add a referral program to your e-commerce store, and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop, and this tactic works wonders. In fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment.

For example Greats Footwear who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI, and referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook, and Twitter.

The best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical set up, and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referrallcandy.com/Steve. Once again it’s promo.referrallcandy.com/Steve to get a $50 credit to try out the service risk free, now back to the show.

How did you build the Facebook group?

Rachel: Just on Facebook there is a little thing that says group…

Steve: Oh sorry, I meant how do you build members, like how do you add a whole bunch of members?

Rachel: Once somebody signs up, I email them and get their email address that they have, and most people, the majority of people have a Facebook account. So I email them and I get their email address that they use for Facebook, and you can add people to the group with their email address.

Steve: So this starts from your blog it sounds like then, right?

Rachel: Either from my blog or people that I know personally, either way. I’ve built both ways; I have several people that I know personally and then blog readers as well.

Steve: So would you say you got most of your downstream people through personal relationships or through your blog?

Rachel: Personal relationships for me.

Steve: Interesting, so can you describe how that works, how can you get critical mass doing things that way?

Rachel: Because everybody knows people, so I have a certain number of people that I know, but then each of those people has a different sphere of people that they know, and then each of those people has a different sphere of people that they know. So everybody has their group and so let’s say I end up signing someone up and they get their starter kit, they love the oils; they are interested in the business. And I say it in that order, because whenever somebody tells me okay I want to get a starter kit because I’m interested in the business, I kind of back up a little bit, because I want them to truly love the products first before they jump into the business side.

So once somebody does that, let’s say I enroll somebody who decide that they love the oils and they do want to get started in the business, and if their network is also a large network, then that means that my team and their team grows more quickly, they want to sign someone up who has a smaller network. Really that’s a big part of why it’s called network marketing or relationship marketing.

Steve: Okay and how do the economics work, like let’s say you sign someone up, like what is your cut and what is their cut?

Rachel: So if I sign someone up, and it really varies from company to company. Every company is going to have a different compensation plan, and that’s one of the things that I tell people whenever they say they are interested in a network marketing business. I tell them to look at the compensation plan, look at the income disclosure, every network marketing company is required to have an income disclosure up there at least I think every couple of years.

So take a look at that and see if these are the incomes that you are comfortable with, so every company does it differently. The way that Young Living works which is the company that I’m with is that I earn a commission when somebody buys the starter kit and that commission is $50, and then there is a bonus during their first three months for what they buy during their first three months, and then you get just general commissions depending on the level that they are on after that.

So starting in month four you get just regular commissions. The thing about essential oils and really any consumable product, because I would highly recommend for those who are considering network marketing to make sure that it’s a consumable product that you love, that you use daily, that you would use whether or not you are making money, because other people will do the same. So there are – I mean over 90% of the people on my team are not building a business, they are buying these products because they need them every single day.

So I just want to commit to anyone who is considering this that that I think would be a very crucial thing in deciding which company that you go with.

Steve: Interesting, so for the first three months you get a commission of what your person consumes and then afterwards like if they…

Rachel: You still get a percentage.

Steve: You still get a percentage, but then if they go on and sell starter kits, you also get a cut of that as well, is that correct?

Rachel: Correct.

Steve: And how does that work, like what are the economics like there?

Rachel: Again it varies from company to company. If I enroll someone and then they enroll someone else, I also get a percentage from that enrollment, and then up to a certain level. So all network marketing companies will have let’s say either five levels or six levels that you get paid on. Really there is so much in here, different network marketing companies even have completely different commission chapters like some will do uni level commissions, others will do a binary system which is just kind of I don’t understand that level.

Steve: How do your levels work, like I guess I don’t understand how that works, what does it mean to be in a level?

Rachel: So let’s say I sign up four people and they are on my level one, and then let’s say each of those people sign up four people, then each of those people will be on my level 2.

Steve: I see, okay.

Rachel: And then if those people sign up people, they would be on my level 3.

Steve: Got it, got it, okay so your level one people then I guess what commission do you get off of them with your current company?

Rachel: With my current company after those initial three months it is 8%.

Steve: 8% okay and then the level 2 guys what is the cut, it’s a smaller cut I would imagine, right?

Rachel: Yes 5%.

Steve: Okay and then it just trickles down?

Rachel: And then four, four, four, correct.

Steve: Okay and then how many levels can you have, infinite levels?

Rachel: Well so this is where you get into the tricky parts ins and outs of the compensation plans, so there is uni level commissions, and then with our company we also do generation commissions which is when you get to a certain rank, you get an extra percentage off of your team, the what is going on within your team.

Steve: Okay this is fascinating, so what is that, like I didn’t quite understand what you just said actually. So after a certain point you get extra commissions?

Rachel: Correct, so in my company for example whenever you reach the rank of silver, you get an extra, well that’s called a generation commission off of everyone, off of the entire volume of your down line.

Steve: Oh my goodness okay.

Rachel: And then whenever people under you get to higher ranks like so let’s say somebody under you gets to silver, then you get an even larger amount of commission, so what’s really, really fun about it is that it benefits me for other people to grow…

Steve: To do better.

Rachel: Or to even just to pass me, like it’s wonderful to watch, and I get to be a part of other people having these financial successes and residual income for the rest of their lives.

Steve: What does it take to achieve silver like you mention like these different levels, how do you achieve that?

Rachel: With our company to achieve silver you have to have to have a certain group volume which is just overall sales essentially in the group. And then you have to have two people on your level one, on your first level who also have a certain amount of group volume. It will vary from company to company and I see people all the time getting to that silver rank within a year. At silver rank the average income is $1,700 a month.

Steve: Wow, okay and can you give me an idea of what volume is required to hit silver?

Rachel: 10,000.

Steve: 10,000 okay a month or?

Rachel: A month yes

Steve: A month, okay, and just for clarification what level are you at right now I’m just curious?

Rachel: I’m at the diamond level.

Steve: And then what are the advertised incomes for that level?

Rachel: That income disclosure says that the income for diamonds would be 20,000 to 50,000 per month.

Steve: That’s amazing, okay, and so even though – like even if you just stop doing this altogether, you would still get that income from month to month?

Rachel: So we essentially did that.

Steve: Okay.

Rachel: Last fall we had this crazy idea to pack all of our things in storage and buy an RV and travel the East Coast in RV. It was an amazing experience, I mean just incredible, we got to go to DC and Williamsburg and [inaudible 00:32:25]. It was so much fun, and I thought that I would be able to work more on the road, but I was not, we were just busy the entire time.

I was still diamond during those months, I still made those pay checks during those three months, and three months was as long as we lasted and we said get us out of this thing and into an apartment. We wanted to do a year but no, that was not going to happen with four kids.

Steve: So is there any maintenance that you have to do then?

Rachel: There is, it really just depends on what you want to do, so I still teach classes because I love to, I love helping people get started, so I still teach classes, I have weekly calls for my business builders. Any of the people on my team who are interested in building a business, I have a weekly call with them where I share with them just something encouraging to help them, and then we do a question and answer time every week so they can bring me their questions and we just talk through those things and brainstorm together.

And then in the Facebook groups I post often, different whatever the specials are that month or different things for business, but then I also for people who are interested in the business, I’ve put together a two week boot camp to help them get jump started. It’s actually called the jump start boot camp to help them just start their business, to know here are the things exactly what you need to do to get started on the right foot in a network marketing business, and specifically in this network marketing business.

Steve: I was just going to ask because if your downstream people don’t make any money, you don’t make any money either, right?

Rachel: Exactly, and that’s the beauty of it, me being successful means that so many people on my team are successful, and there are multiple people on my team who are making six figures as well.

Steve: Okay wow, so in terms of your Facebook groups, it sounds like that’s where you do the majority of your marketing, why not just your blog and email, why is Facebook groups better than just like an email marketing list?

Rachel: Because I love getting to know the people, I mean I’ve built friends through this, through Facebook groups. Everyone is on Facebook constantly, I mean we’re always on our phone; I mean people even eat dinner on their phone scrolling through Facebook. It gives them a notification when someone posts in the group, they see it through their feed, it’s an easy way for people to ask questions, and also it’s way that I don’t have to personally answer everyone’s questions.

So I’m not getting all of the emails, somebody can ask in this Facebook group and then there are other people who can get on and answer those questions instead of me being the one that has to answer all of those questions.

Steve: Interesting, okay, and so I think I’m starting to understand how this works now. So getting them to just buy the starter pack is just like the beginning of the journey, right?

Rachel: Exactly.

Steve: And so the way to thrive in this business is you really have to put in the work to get to know everyone and teach them how to sell the stuff
themselves, is that accurate?

Rachel: Yes and there are systems like for example the boot camp. I run it through a system where it automatically posts on Facebook, and I run the boot camp also through a Facebook group, that jump start boot camp. So there are definitely systems in place that can help you, a lot of people use a scheduling software like HootSuite or something to schedule posts in their Facebook group.

There are so many different systems that I learned as a blogger that have come in handy during building a network marketing company, but yes getting to know the people is such a huge part of that and it’s one of my favorite parts, I love that.

Steve: Are these boot camps that you run, are they free or do you charge for them?

Rachel: I do not charge, no not at all. I can’t imagine myself ever charging for my team members to go through a boot camp to do something that yes benefits them but also benefits me. And I know that there are some network marketers out there who do that, who will have people sign up and say, now for only 3.99 you can buy my system to show you how to be successful in this. That’s just not me; I don’t want to do that.

Steve: So whenever you refer to your team members, are these like your level ones and your level twos?

Rachel: And level 20s and level 50s and anyone who is on my team anywhere, it does not matter where. I am a part of helping them get their answers.

Steve: Here is a question I had, so let’s say you get to like level – like your 20s for example, is it much harder for your level 20s to make money?

Rachel: No, not at all, I’m someone’s level 20. There is a good friend of mine who is actually at the highest level of the company, she’s also a former blogger, her name is Alyssa Francis. She’s at the highest level of the company which is loyal crown diamond, and the loyal crown diamond income is 100,000 plus per month so she is there. She is there, she signed up a year before me, and the person right above her is actually still just a silver, so those who are on your team can rank up faster than you, it really just depends on what you do.

Steve: The reason why I asked that question is because there is a cut that happens at each level, but pretty soon doesn’t that exceed 100%?

Rachel: It does not because there are some cut offs down there.

Steve: Oh okay where people don’t make any money if there is a sale or?

Rachel: This is where you get in to the really complicated ins and outs of the compensation plan, but yes eventually there is a time where there are some people may be on your level 13 or level 30 or something like that where you would not make anything off of what they bought, but if you are at a certain rank no matter what if I am a diamond I’m going to be making on average 20,000 to 50,000 per month.

Steve: And that’s from – so that number, like what determines where that range you lie on the diamond plan for example?

Rachel: A lot of it is determined on how many leaders you have on your team, so for example a leader would be considered silver and up with Young Living, so a lot of that is determined by how many silvers you have. Some of that is determined by how many people are in your levels one through five, but I would say the biggest portion of that is going to be determined by how many leaders you have under you, those other people who have reached silver.

Steve: Interesting because you mentioned that other example with your friend who was the ultra diamond or whatever rank that was, the person above her was just silver, like how is that possible?

Rachel: Because she didn’t do what needed to be done to get to the higher rank, so it’s not like everybody above me is a higher rank than me at all.

Steve: Interesting okay, so what does it take — so you mentioned with silver you needed to have multiple silvers under you, right?

Rachel: To get a silver you have to have two groups, essentially groups we call them legs, two groups under us that have an overall volume of 4,000 per month.

Steve: 4,000 okay and then what’s the rank right after silver?

Rachel: Right after silver is gold.

Steve: And then what does it take to become gold?

Rachel: To become gold you have to have an overall volume of 35,000 per month and then you have to have three legs under you, three groups under you that each has 6,000 of volume.

Steve: I see okay, so that one silver person probably just had that major leg which was your friend?

Rachel: Right and then another smaller leg and that was it, she never worked on creating those other legs.

Steve: I see okay, so going forward with your business right now, you mentioned that you had the opportunity to go on this really cool RV trip. So going forward like what – do you have incentive to continue to sign on new people?

Rachel: Absolutely and I would say even more than money. It is because I have seen these oils change people’s lives, and that truly is my incentive is that I want to get these oils into more people’s hands, because they are what were created to work with our bodies.

Steve: Okay interesting and so even today you continue to blog about these oils, you continue to run your groups and your boot camps, and at this point what would it take for you to reach that next level past diamond?

Rachel: At this point what it will take, so I have all of my legs in place for the next level, it is just a volume thing right now, so it is just gaining more volume, helping more people learn how to share and sharing with their friends in their network.

Steve: Interesting, so is it in your best interest then to give special treatment to your legs?

Rachel: As opposed to?

Steve: As opposed to just random people like focusing more on the people who are actually on your team, does that make sense?

Rachel: Sure yes, so one of the things about network marketing is that whenever somebody buys a starter kit, let’s say within Young Living, they are automatically a part of a team somewhere. So that way everybody is able to be helped by someone, so my responsibility within the company is to help those who are a part of my team.

Steve: Okay.

Rachel: And not that I don’t help overall, I mean I love talking to others and brainstorming with other leaders who are not a part of my team or even not a part of my up line, that is so much fun, I love doing that. I love having what’s called those cross line relationships; they are not your up line or your down line.

Steve: Okay I think I’m kind of understanding how this all works now, so the way you build your business is you ensure that the people under you are successful, and then you get these bonuses which push you up to the high bend as opposed to signing up as many level ones as you possibly can.

Rachel: Exactly, yes.

Steve: Okay that’s an interesting business model oaky. You mentioned earlier that it’s in your best interest to sell some sort of consumable and I don’t know, you probably don’t even remember this, but how does Cutco work, like most of the times when you buy certain knives you’re done, right?

Rachel: Right oh yes. I could use some more knives, actually I still have my set, but it’s been goodness almost 20 years since I bought my first set. So you’ll see those big ticket items where they are pretty expensive like the vacuum cleaners, I mean how often do you need a Cabby vacuum cleaner, or do you even need one, do you even need a $2,000 vacuum, I don’t know.
So a lot of people have that in their head, you know the people that come around to their door and say, hey I just want – I’ll shampoo one room of your carpet for free. A lot of people have that in their head, but yeah it’s just such a different experience now.

Steve: Okay and then I had a couple of more questions relating to oils, and so going forward, like your friend who is at the highest level, is she doing the same things you are?

Rachel: She is absolutely; she is still very involved with supporting people, because she wants to see as many people succeed in this as well.

Steve: Okay, and is she at the highest level?

Rachel: She is yes.

Steve: She is okay, and so really it sounds to me at least that you don’t go into something like network marketing unless you’re a true believer of the product?

Rachel: Yes, and I have had people join my team before who were just interested in the money and I tell you what that it faded very quickly, because they were not passionate about the product. So now that is just something that I tell people upfront that the business will not work unless you are truly passionate about the product.

Steve: How often do you actually go in person and have like parties so to speak, or is it all done online at this point?

Rachel: It depends, there were different seasons for me, there were times where I was doing in person things a lot. We are in an apartment right now and while we’re building a house, and so right now it doesn’t work out super well for me to have in person classes at my house, but I’ll do webinars and then when we move I will certainly have events at my house, but just because I love it.
I was at a retreat this past weekend, it was actually the silver retreat for everyone who had reached silver in the company, they invite them to Salt Lake City and you go see the lavender farm and everything, and there was a loyal crown diamond, again that’s the top level on the company. We spoke from the stage and she never taught one single class, she completely built online and got from – bought her starter kit to get to the highest level of the company in 18 months.

Steve: Wow.

Rachel: And that’s without teaching a single class and building all online, so it really can be whatever fits with you and with your personality and what you have time for, what you want to do.

Steve: Have you ever bought ads for any of the stuff or through your blog, like how did you get people to read the essential oils articles on your blog?

Rachel: I had a pretty good email list for my blog, and so that was definitely a part of it. We did run some Facebook ads, that helped back when Facebook would actually show your posts to people. That was good because we had a pretty, we had over 50,000 fans on Facebook and so that was great.
Then Pinterest, I would say by far Pinterest was the main traffic generator and sign up generator to our posts, so people would see a post on how do I use essential oils, or essential oils for a healthy immune system, or essential oils for a healthy respiratory system. So they would click on that post, come and read about it, and then decide to sign up to get a starter kit from there.

Steve: And to sign up is just a link that leads to some landing page where you can put in a credit card, right?

Rachel: Exactly.

Steve: And so for all these people who are listening who are interested in getting into this, what are some of your recommendations?

Rachel: To get into Young Living specifically, of course my recommendation would be to come to survingthestores.com…

Steve: Yes sure, of course.

Rachel: And click on the essential oils tab, and I would love to help you get started, but really I recommend whatever company you end up choosing
because I really do think that everyone should have some kind of residual income, and whatever that is, whether that would be investment properties or whether that’s network marketing, but to really develop some kind of residual income, to do your research before jumping into a company. Can I just say one little quick thing about residual income?

Steve: Yes, absolutely.

Rachel: With our blog, with Surviving the Stores, I thought that we had found residual income. There was one post that we had that we ranked really high in Google for, and we were making $1,000 per day off of that post, and I thought oh my goodness this is it, is this really going to happen? Well Google changed their algorithm, and we ended up on page two, and now we’re making about $5 a day on that same post.

And so the things that I thought were residual income ended up not being residual income, and so I love that this, that network marketing really can be true residual income for people and that’s what it has been for us. It allowed us to take those three months off last fall and so on, and I would say ask if you’re interested in a network marketing company, ask if it is something that if your income can be given to your children, if it can be willed because with Young Living the income is willable. That was huge for us; I love that part about our company.

Steve: Would you say that a blog is necessary or helpful?

Rachel: No not at all. It can be helpful for growing more quickly, but I have plenty of people who are making solid incomes and on their way to making a solid income just from teaching classes and sharing in person with their network. But I would say that whatever avenue somebody uses to grow their networking marketing business, they have to have a network.

And so whether that network is online, whether that network is at work and mums at the soccer field or wherever that network is, there has to be a network, there is a reason that it’s called network marketing. And so if somebody just wants to stay inside and not build any kind of network at all, then they are not going to be successful in network marketing, but there are many different ways to expand that network of people.

Steve: Okay, hey Rachel I learnt a lot today. If anyone out there has any questions for you where can they find you online?

Rachel: They can find me through survivingthestores.com. My Instagram is @Racheleholland, on Facebook I am Rachel Holland and again you’ll see Surviving the Stores, you’ll see Young Living. I also have another website called howtohomeschoolforfree.com, just because we’re also a home schooling family, and I put free resources that we find for home schooling. So any of those places you can find me there.

Steve: Is there a contact form on those sites where they can actually reach you directly?

Rachel: Yes there is on both of the websites, yes.

Steve: Awesome and are you on Twitter as well.

Rachel: I am on Twitter, it is survivingstores.

Steve: Survivingstores, awesome. Hey Rachel, really appreciate your time; all of this stuff is fascinating to me, because I haven’t had anyone on the show doing network marketing before, so I appreciate it.

Rachel: Thank you so much for having me; this has been so much fun.

Steve: Thanks a lot for coming on, take care.

Rachel: Thanks Steve, you too, bye.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. I’ve always been skeptical of network marketing and MOM, and it was actually good to hear from someone who is actually making significant money from that business model. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode145.
And just a reminder that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellersummit.com, the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. The event will be small and intimate, and I promise you that the speakers will focus on actionable strategies to improve your ecommerce business and not any high level BS. So head on over to sellersummit.com, and check it out.

And once again if you are interested in starting your own online business, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com, and sign up for my free six day mini course on how to start a profitable online store. Sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the course via email immediately. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

144: How To Make 6 Figures Teaching People About Rideshare Services With Harry Campbell

Share On Facebook

How To Make 6 Figures Teaching People About Rideshare Services With Harry Campbell Of TheRideShareGuy

Play

Today I’m thrilled to have Harry Campbell on the show. Harry is someone who I just met at the financial blogging conference in San Diego and we actually met playing basketball.

A few conversations later and I knew that I wanted to have him on the podcast. Harry has an interesting story. He started his site TheRideShareGuy.com in 2014 when he was a full time aerospace engineer and part time Uber and Lyft driver.

And seeing as how ride share services were starting to take off, he decided to create the ultimate ride sharing resource. Today, Harry has quit his engineering job to work on the site full time and his mission is to help drivers around the world. Enjoy the episode!

What You’ll Learn

  • Harry’s motivations for starting the ride share guy
  • How RSG makes money
  • How Harry built traffic to the site early on
  • Which strategy has been the most effective in terms of revenue growth
  • The best forms of traffic and how to build it
  • How Harry gets people to sign up for his course
  • The primary difference between Uber and Lyft

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re talking with Harry Campbell, who is someone I met at FinCon this past year. Harry runs therideshareguy.com, and you’ll learn how he turned blogging and podcasting about ride share services Uber and Lyft into a six figure business.

In other news I just want to let you know that the tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellerssummit.com. Now what is the Sellers Summit, it is the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference, where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business.

In fact every speaker I invite is deep in the trenches of their ecommerce business, entrepreneurs who are importing large quantities of physical goods, and not some high level guys who are overseeing their companies at 50,000 feet. The other thing I can assure you is that the Sellers Summit will be small and intimate. Last year we cut off ticket sales at around 100 people, so this event will sell out quickly, once again that’s sellerssummit.com, and go check it out.

And if you want to learn how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business, go to my wifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email. Now onto the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Harry Campbell on the show. Harry is someone who I met at the financial blogging conference in San Diego just a couple of weeks ago and we actually met playing basket ball, and a few conversations later on the court, and I knew I wanted to have him on the podcast. Now Harry has an interesting story, he started his site The Ride Share Guy in 2014 when he was a full time aerospace engineer and part time Uber and Lyft driver.

Seeing how rideshare services have started to take off, he decided to create the ultimate ride sharing resource and community. So today Harry has quit his engineering job to work on the site full time and his mission is to help drivers around the word. With that welcome to the show Harry, how are you doing today man?

Harry: I’m doing well; I think I’m just about recovered from the conference, so a perfect time to come on the show.

Steve: I’m not quite recovered yet myself, and you picked an early morning – oh it’s not early morning slot, it’s 8 AM right now, but I’m still a little groggy.

Harry: We’ll ease into it.

Steve: So Harry you are a successful aerospace engineer, so my first question is why the heck did you decide to drive for Uber and Lyft in the first place?

Harry: It’s funny you’re mentioning that in the intro and honestly it seems like a long time ago that I was an engineer, and I don’t know if that is a bad thing or a good thing, but yeah you’re right, I used to be an aerospace engineer for Boeing, and really I guess I’ve always been attracted to side hustles and just honestly easy ways of making money. For me I heard about people driving Uber and Lyft and doing it on their spare time, and some of the drivers were telling me, and this was a few years ago when Uber and Lyft paid a lot more, price has come down since.
Some of the drivers were telling me they are earning 30 to 40 bucks an hour, and I was thinking to myself, hey that’s more than I make in my day job so I should probably check this out even if it’s only for a few hours a week.

Steve: Interesting so an engineer the Uber and Lyft position was making more than your day job?

Harry: I would say that in limited capacity yeah, I drove a couple of big holidays like July 4th on average $50 an hour, but on the regular I think when I first started I was earning $20 or $25 an hour, so it was less than my day job. It was like that feeling where, hey I’m doing something that’s actually pretty fun, when you do anything zero to ten hours a week it’s a lot more enjoyable than something you do 40 hours a week, right?

Steve: Okay yeah I know absolutely. So this is just basically in your spare time you had nothing better to do for that day and just this was just earn some money, right?

Harry: Yeah and honestly I really blame my wife, because my wife was in medical school at the time and that meant that I had a lot of free time.

Steve: Oh yeah absolutely, actually you probably still have a lot of free time right, because she has to go through residency and all that stuff?

Harry: Yeah I guess so, she’s actually so she’s just starting to apply to residency, so I’d say that that’s the one thing that I guess has benefited my business because in a lot of ways I just had a lot of free time to figure
out ways to make money, figure out ways to work and do all that good stuff.

Steve: So what was the motivation for starting The Rideshare Guy then?

Harry: Well honestly I went out there and started driving for Uber and Lyft, and I was expecting it to be super easy and super fun and it was sort of all the above, but at the same time it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. It’s combination really of dealing with customers, safe driving and navigation and also running your own business too, because you’re 1099 independent contractor for Uber and Lyft, you have to do things like tracking your mileage and file a schedule C at the end of the year.

A joke I make is it wasn’t rocket science like my real job, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as it seems, so for me I started goggling and went on YouTube and I said, hey there’s got to be some people giving advice and tips for basically how to maximize your income, and the crazy thing was that I couldn’t find a single blog, not a single blog about rideshare.

I reads a few articles here and there just about people doing like a one off experience type article, but I couldn’t find a single blog, and at the time Uber was worth $10 million and there’re 100,000 drivers in the US. This light bulb went off in my head that hey there’s nobody doing this, so I either have a really good idea or a really dud idea here.

Steve: Can you give me an example of a piece of information that you were looking for but you couldn’t get online about Uber, I mean to me in my mind right now you just pick up the app and you start driving, right?

Harry: For me honestly I was really concerned with how much I was making, so obviously I’m an engineer like you and I was doing just these detailed really natty spreadsheets. I would import all of my ride data and I would go in and calculate by the hour and by the ride and just see where my down time was, because obviously you don’t make any money during your down time as a driver.

So I was just trying to figure out ways, hey I’m making $28 an hour right now, how can I go make $35 an hour, what are the opportunities, even something as simple as texting your rider so that they’ll come down faster can maybe save you two minutes on every single ride. I was looking for stuff like that those like really more in-depth strategies that would help me earn more money and I couldn’t find anything close to that, so basically I decided to create it myself.

Steve: Okay, so basically maximizing your Uber driving experience?

Harry: Mm-hmm.

Steve: So when you started The Rideshare Guy, was it with the intention of making money or did it start out just as a purely informational site?

Harry: So to be honest I would say that it was a combination of both, I definitely didn’t have a completely altruistic view, and I said, hey I want to start this because it is cool and I enjoy it, but I knew a few things. I knew that I enjoyed it; I was really interested in just taking the technology behind it and the whole start up that seemed really like sexy and fascinating to me because I worked this boring day job as an engineer.
Then at the same time I also saw the huge potential business opportunity. I didn’t think that I would make a ton of money in my first year and I didn’t, but I knew that it was probably a good bet that Uber was going to keep growing, and if I can establish myself as this go to person for the drivers, then there would be a huge opportunity.

I should also say that I did have a little bit of a head start because how I got involved in the whole of personal finance bloggers conference and everything, I did own and I do still own a couple of small personal finance sites that I started like 5 years ago, and those were purely for hobby, but that’s how I got into everything and saw the potential of guys like Jim Wang at Bargaineering and those types of guys who were selling their blogs for lots of money and the kind of I could basically, hey my site was maybe getting a few hundred page views a day but I could extrapolate.

I could see that if I could get to that point in maybe that niche or a different niche, I could probably make some real money.

Steve: I see so but in terms of your personal finance blogs, did those ever go anywhere?

Harry: Not really, I would say so I started a couple of – actually more three or four and two of them still exist today, but honestly though they are still making about $500 a month net and right now it’s 100% passive for me. I have a couple of people that completely manage it, all we do are just these simple sponsored posts and we do one article a week, so I’m not doing any work on those.
It’s very low traffic, may a 1000 page views a day which is very small for a personal finance site, but I could see that if I can grow that audience even whether it’s in the personal finance niche or another niche I think that I can make significantly more. It’s less what I saw with Rideshare, I was coming from this very saturated niche of personal finance where it was harder to break through. For me now I’m going in Google and I can’t find a single blog and I’m getting all excited, because…

Steve: Totally, I’m just wondering how much time comes into play here, because when you started your PF thing, it was already pretty saturated.

Harry: For sure, I mean I think that’s definitely one of the big things, timing and honestly just getting lucky is important, but I think what really benefitted me is that I was continually putting myself in that position to start something. A lot of people were saying to me, hey you work as an aerospace engineer; you get paid a lot of money, why would you go and drive for Uber and Lyft?
For me it was just about just trying it out, I didn’t know that I was going to try it out and then start a blog and then quit my day job to focus on the blog full time and then have this big business, but it was just like continually putting myself in that position, because you really never know what’s going to happen. But one thing you do know is that nothing will ever happen if you don’t continually try stuff, so that’s what it really was about for me.

Steve: Okay and so how does the Rideshare Guy actually make money?

Harry: Right on, so I’m surprised it took you so long to ask me that question. Literally the first question I ever get asked by anyone regardless of age, sex, and anyone they always ask me, so it’s funny. So we actually have a few different revenue streams and some are a little bit more traditional that your audience is probably familiar with, but really what it boils down to is one of our main sources of revenue is driver referrals so signing drivers up for Uber, Lyft [inaudible 00:11:04] that’s the most obvious one.

We also do direct advertising, so with any advertisers that have products or services that are looking to cater to Rideshare drivers. An example of that would be Intuit in their QuickBooks self employed product, so they’re one of our biggest sponsors and basically they’re looking to get drivers to track their expenses and use them for trouble tax and all that good stuff.

Then we also have a video training course that we sell, very traditional online marketing 101 training course, and then we also have a really unique one that’s an insurance market place since Rideshare drivers need a rideshare insurance. We actually have worked with – we have over 30 individual agents signed up on our site in this big directory and two companies at the corporate level, and so that’s another big revenue stream for us, because as you know insurance is a high commission product.

Steve: Yeah absolutely.

Harry: Honestly I wish I could take more credit for that one, but literally agents started reaching out to us and asking if they could come on our site. Someone wanted to give us money, so we had to figure out a way to accept it.

Steve: So you get paid per lead for that?

Harry: We actually don’t get paid per lead but we do a monthly, basically we charge them a monthly fee and honestly I don’t think I have the insurance marketplace as optimized as it could be, but it’s really simple on our
end. We basically have a directory by state, and then the different companies available in each state and then we list one agent per city.

So it’s super simper, super rudimentary to be honest but at the same time we drive traffic to it every month with an insurance article and we’re really well optimized as far as rankings and things like that. So we’re doing well for all the insurance key words and it works, lots of agents sign up and we have about a 95% renewal rate for our insurance agents.

Steve: Wow, that’s awesome, so of all those income sources that you specified, which one is the top one?

Harry: I would say probably – actually the income sources, I’ve worked really hard in 2016. It used to be all driver referrals because honestly driver referrals were the easiest and most natural fit, we would be writing about Uber and say, hey here is our experience at Uber, go sign up. Pretty natural and pretty easy to mention, we would tell drivers you can make more money by driving for Uber and Lyft, go sign up for both of them, stuff like that.
That was the most natural fit and I would say in 2015 that was by far probably 75% of our revenue. In 2016 though I made a really big push to build out our direct advertisers and affiliates, so I hired a guy full time to handle that and then I have another guy part time that does the insurance marketplace, so honestly driver referrals is probably about 30 to 40% right now, but then the rest are pretty evenly matched.
Our direct advertising and affiliate, our video quarters and our insurance market place all pretty even when it comes down to that.

Steve: That’s cool man. I’m just curious what is the pay out for a driver referral?

Harry: Well, that’s the crazy thing is first of all it’s funny that it really varies, so I’m going to say a number and you’re going to say that sounds pretty high, but in some cities it’s a lot lower. So in a top major market it might be like $500 to $750.

Steve: That is crazy.

Harry: LA, San Francisco, it’s $500 to $750 and obviously it varies, it goes up and down a little bit. This month it actually dropped to 250 but over the past year in a major market honestly it’s been averaging around $500, and the crazy thing is that it’s double sided, and I’m simplifying it a little bit. Basically what happens is if I’m an existing driver, I can go refer my friends, we each get $500 after they do 75 rides in 30 days, and that’s the gist of the program.
There a lot of small to mid size cities that might be anywhere from like 10 or 25 bucks to a couple of hundred bucks but still it’s definitely high amounts for driver referrals.

Steve: So they have to do 75 rides in 30 days, so do you do anything post sign up to encourage them to do that or?

Harry: That’s one of the really unique things is that I actually don’t have a direct affiliate program set up with Uber and Lyft even to this day. I’ve had my site for two and a half years, I’m probably one of the top referrers by volume with Uber and Lyft, yet I actually use the same referral code that I used when I first started and it’s my driver referral code, so I have…

Steve: Interesting, okay.

Harry: Isn’t that crazy? I have no tracking, I have no ability to follow up or anything like that and I’m also doing very high volume, and you’re right it’s actually a big problem for me because Uber and Lyft don’t have – it’s funny because these companies are also big, but they don’t have any of the affiliate tracking or anything like that you are probably used to with some of the more established companies with more established programs.
For me I actually only get about a 5 to 10% conversion from the people that sign up using my link to the people that actually end up driving and getting me paid a bonus.

Steve: Okay but the dollar amounts are so high; I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Harry: Exactly, so the dollar amounts are still so high when I really try to focus and honestly I’ve never been that in love with increasing conversions and worrying about all that even though it’s funny because I’m an engineer, and since I started blogging I really kind of just attacked the top of the funnel and said, hey I like writing articles, I like doing content.
If I spend more time on content, I can increase my top of the funnel and I end up doing something that I like and then do that way and by that way I can actually increase my pay out down the road as opposed to down the funnel increasing my sign ups to conversions by 12%. I would rather just focus on the top of the funnel because that’s what I enjoy and also that’s what I think my skills are at too.

Steve: Okay and so when you made this shift to go again to steer your business away from the referrals more, did you focus more on your course or the insurance part?

Harry: Honestly I wish I could say that I took more credit for the insurance, I sort of stumbled upon the insurance, but at the same time we did the course I would say I spent the most time on the course. I would say that I spent the most time on direct advertising and affiliate stuff and then the insurance marketplace and then the course in that order, because that was what when I first started really trying to expand the income, that was what was already producing the most income in that order if that makes sense.
Really I felt like the course was going to be tough to boost that income, basically it’s like, hey here’s the channels that are doing well, I want to double down on those and spend more time on the channels that are doing well, that have the more potential, that’s how I focused and allocated my time.

Steve: So in terms of the course, how much do you charge for it?

Harry: I charge $97 a pop for the course.

Steve: Okay it’s just a lump sum, right?

Harry: Yeah, one lump sum and then they get access to a bunch of videos.

Steve: In terms of your direct advertising model, do people come to you or do you have like a team that’s going out to these companies and approaching them?

Harry: That’s one of the nice things; we talked earlier about there not being a lot of competition right now. If you’re looking to advertise to Uber drivers, my site is probably one for the best places that you can go. So honestly all of our advertising deals that we do come from inbound leads, we do very, very little, almost none, no outreach.
So everyone is coming to us, we have a little process that we put them through, if they are a huge advertiser, we’ll hold their hand and talk to them, but otherwise we make them fill out an inquiry form and then I have one of my guys go and reach out to them and send them our media kit and things like that and take things from there.

Steve: Okay and then I know you have a podcast as well, is that all part of the advertising equation, is it for the podcast or is it for the site more?

Harry: So I have a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, and video training course, so those are my four main mediums and the four main ways that I distribute content. It started with my site two and a half years ago, I did the
blog and the podcast. It is a no brainer; hey I’m catering to all these Rideshare drivers that are going to be in their car all the time, probably I should start a podcast, right?

Steve: Right, yeah absolutely.

Harry: What I found was that my blog growth was just eclipsing my podcast growth, so right now I’m at about 10,000 total downloads a month for all of my episodes every single month for the podcast and the website, the blog is actually – so this past month, in the past 30 days, we did 800,000 page views last month.

Steve: That is crazy.

Harry: Yeah so you can see that there is a pretty big difference there, right?

Steve: Yeah, so you’re focusing more on the blog?

Harry: I would say yeah we’ve definitely spent way more energy and time on the blog, but at the time I enjoy doing the podcast, so we do sell advertising spots on the podcast, but it’s not anywhere near one of our main forums, one of our main outlets of revenue. Actually what I’ve been really surprised with is the YouTube channel is I started the YouTube channel about a year and a half ago and it was really to promote our video course.
I said to myself, this is how I think, right? I’m going to start a video training course, we’re going to have videos in there, I should start a YouTube channel because then people who will like my YouTube channel will maybe buy my video training course, it’s pretty simple thinking, all right. Actually what happened was that our YouTube channel started doing really well, we now release two videos a week, and it actually has grown to 10,000 or 11,000 subscribers, so that’s been one cool thing.

I guess in order of how well our outlets are doing I would say the blog is definitely our number one advertising outlet, and then YouTube below and then podcast way down below.

Steve: Interesting, that’s not what I would have expected.

Harry: Yeah I know it’s interesting, pretty funny too because the YouTube channel I just started on a whim and it’s actually been pretty close to the blog in terms of growth.

Steve: In terms of getting traffic, what is your primary traffic source?

Harry: My primary traffic source is search, so we get about 67% of our traffic from search and it’s all organic. I mean I guess I’ve done some Facebook boosted posts here and there but never more than like $50 and that’s only really started in the past year, but when I was first growing my site everything was all organic, and it was really kind of – yeah I mean that sort of – to answer your question basically 67% organic.

Steve: Okay and then what about the other 33?

Harry: The other 33 is going to be mainly direct, actually it’s really mainly direct, and then referrals, so I could probably pull up the numbers for a little bit more in-depth of the top of my head.

Steve: No that’s okay, I was just curious.

Harry: Actually I do know, so it’s mainly direct and referral. One area that’s really low compared to other sites is actually social, so I think social is 4 or 5% of our overall traffic which when I talk to some of my other friends, I think they told me that their social stuff from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, whatever is a lot higher, but our social traffic is actually very low.

Steve: Did you do anything deliberate to get all that sort of traffic?

Harry: Oh yeah definitely, I mean like I said I’m not an SEO expert or conversion expert or anything like that, but I think one thing that I’m really good at is establishing relationships with people, and so for me I saw the media as a huge opportunity to really help grow my blog. I was doing a ton of organic stuff, I was out there in Facebook groups, I was out there taking Uber rides, I was having my friends talk to Uber drivers.
I was doing everything I could organically word of mouth, but at the same time once I started to get traction with my site, I looked at these huge media sites and said, hey with one link or with one article mention or something like that, one quote, I can probably drive hundreds or maybe even thousands of views to my site. For me at the time Uber and Lyft and even today are still really hot in the media, everyone is writing about them.
For me I really started to try to establish relationships with everyone that was covering media, so I had all of these media outlets like The Verge, Business Insider, all the big tech publications, they all have at least one or two people dedicated to rideshare, dedicated to the whole Silicon Valley space. So I started finding them, identifying them, trying to develop relationships to them, just become a really good source for them so that when they did need a quote, they would know that I am the one they should talk to at least.

Steve: Can you talk about some of the things that you did to get on their radar?

Harry: For sure and this is where I think it really helped me having a little bit of experience blogging in the personal finance niche, so back in the personal finances and I don’t know if people still do this anymore, but everyone would do these weekly roundups and I’m sure you’re familiar with these.

Steve: Yeah of course.

Harry: It’s basically a bunch of friends or even sometimes not even friends, the [inaudible 00:23:24] or whatever they would call them, and each week you would feature maybe five or ten or sometimes 10 or 20 different articles from your friends, and then you would share them on social media and you basically all link back to each other. For me I took that strategy and applied it to Rideshare, and the reason why I thought that it would work so well is because no one else was doing it. First of all I was one of the only rideshare bloggers…

Steve: Right exactly.

Harry: Then second of all I said hey – so I started featuring about five to ten different articles that I found during the week, and I would post them on my Facebook page and see which articles were most popular with my audience. So I was posting probably 20 or 30 articles a week on my Facebook page every week from like big outlets, like reputable outlets like CNN, a lot of the tech blogs which people may or may not be familiar with, The Verge, Business Insider, all of those and I would see which ones would do the best.

Then I would feature them in my weekly roundup on Saturdays, and after that I would have my virtual assistant go in and she would find all those authors, find the publications and she would tweet them and say, hey – first she would follow them and then she would tweet them. She would say, hey @stevechou, at My Wife Quit Her Job, we just featured your article on the Rideshare Guy, and then we would link to that article.
Now they sort of, first of all we were stroking their ego a little bit because one thing I found is reporters love Twitter, and that’s one amazing way to get in contact. You may not get a response from them, but I guarantee they’ll see it, every single reporter is on Twitter, I don’t know what it is but they all love Twitter, and then now we’re featuring them, so we’re stroking their ego a little bit.

Then they maybe come to our site and see that, oh hey this guy actually has a blog, he has this little branding, the Rideshare Guy, he’s a driver and so now we’re starting to establish those relationships with them and just interacting in general with them on Twitter, so that’s really how I started reaching out to a lot of people. Of course I saved all their names, all their emails as we were featuring them.

Once we’d established a little bit of relationship, I think I reached out with an email and said, hey I’m Harry, I’m the Rideshare Guy, I’m an Uber driver, I know this, I know X,Y, and Z, here is why you should listen to me. If you ever need anything – I didn’t ask for anything, I just said if you ever need anything, here is my cell phone, here is my email, I never sleep, I’m available at all times of the day.

I really just tried to be a valuable resource to them, because one thing I found with reporters is that they just need – they don’t really care where they get the source from, they just need you to be credible, they just need to make sure you’re not a wacko, that you can get back to them quickly if they’re on deadline, and that they are not going to quote someone who turns out to be crazy or psycho or anything like that. For me I was just trying to put myself in that position to help them.

Steve: I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. Now in this day and age word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most e-commerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program, and this is where ReferralCandy shines.

With just a couple of clicks to the mouse you can add a referral program to your e-commerce store, and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop, and this tactic works wonders. In fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment.

For example Greats Footwear who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI, and referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook, and Twitter.

The best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical set up, and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referrallcandy.com/Steve. Once again it’s promo.referrallcandy.com/Steve to get a $50 credit to try out the service risk free, now back to the show.

Okay and so once you establish initial contact – so how many roundups did you do? Are we talking about like a handful of these or do you do this every week?

Harry: I have done them every week for about two and a half years, I still do it today, it still works really well I think.

Steve: And each time you reach out to another group of…

Harry: I don’t email any more, but now what I do is every week on Saturday I publish a roundup, but now we do about maybe five to six articles featuring the top stories of the week. Then I have my virtual assistant go in the following week and tweet them, say hey reporter X at the publication, we feature the article on my blog and then we follow them.
That is what we’re doing now to continually find a lot of these reporters and now I will say when people – a lot of reporters find us to be honest we put the badges on our site to show them we’re a little bit legit where I have been featured and things like that. It’s a little bit of a snow ball effect now, but when I was first growing my blog that was really how we did it and of course I also did the low hanging fruits to help a reporter out, things like that.

Steve: Do you ever have any luck with hello [ph]?

Harry: To be honest I have a pretty interesting hello strategy, well not interesting hello strategy, but I have a little strategy with hello too because I have a lot of friends like you that are bloggers that are media that use hello and so I ask them. I ask them, hey what is in a good hello request? So what they told me was that you need to be first, because some of these hello requests get dozens or hundreds of responses, you need to be first.
So I set up little alerts in my Gmail, basically anytime a hello request comes in with like an Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, any type of those mentions, now it’s mainly Uber, Lyft rideshare that I look for, it stars it in my Gmail so hopefully I’ll see it pretty quickly. Then I have a canned response that is custom tailored, and then I custom tailor just the middle section of it depending on the hello request.

Then usually these hello requests will tell, sometimes they put anonymous but most of the time they’ll say a letter from – so like I just did one for New York post and the reporter’s name was Christian. I found him on Twitter like I said Twitter has been my best friend when it comes to dealing with reporters. I found him on Twitter and I sent him a message, I said hey I just sent you a hello request about I’d love to chat, and sometimes I’ll send them my contact and sometimes they’ll just reply to me on Twitter and we’ll just do it right there.

So that’s how I do it. I try to just get them multiple touch points, because you could imagine how many people are responding to those hello requests, how many people are also tweeting them. So now when they go and see 100 hello requests, if mine was first, hopefully they’ll be like Harry Campbell Rideshare Guy, I think that guy just tweeted me and maybe open mine first.

Steve: Interesting, so do you pay for the hello service because you get earlier alerts right?

Harry: Oh really, I didn’t even know that, maybe I should be doing that, but no I don’t pay for it, I just wait till it comes into my inbox, and I will say since Rideshare isn’t as saturated a niche as personal finance I am 100% sure that there aren’t nearly as many people responding to these hello requests as in another niche.

Steve: That’s probably true, yeah okay. Like one of five maybe.

Harry: Yeah honestly one of five, but at the same time it’s kind of all goes back to me picking this niche and trying to establish myself as a go to person in a smaller niche although I guess I will say that it’s grown a lot bigger than I would have ever thought.

Steve: Right now so you’re reaching – you do your initial outreach, do they usually reply at this point or you just keep following up with them?

Harry: Hello, are you talking about hello?

Steve: No, not hello, your other strategy with the roundups.

Harry: My other strategy with the roundups, well my other strategy with the roundups is really just about establishing a relationship so that when they do need a source or when they do need someone they think of me first, that’s what I’m trying to get because you can imagine like these reporters – I really try to do honestly like the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
These reporters are getting dozens, hundreds of pitches asking me, hey come on, hey I have this story for you and anyone who has ever written for Forbes or Business Insider, or Huffington post knows that if you put your email anywhere on the site you are going to get dozens or sometimes hundreds basically really crappy PR pitches, and so for me I’m trying to provide like the opposite experience. I want to find them around Twitter; I want to establish my relationship on Twitter.

If I do email them I don’t want to really ask for something, I want to say, hey I’m here to provide you value. Sometimes especially when I was first starting, I was looking for really interesting stories and sending them to reporters. I was looking for like things going on in rideshare and then sending them to that as opposed to feeling like, hey write about me, write about my site.
It’s like the strategy of really like I was trying to provide them value in the sense that they were looking for good stories, and it’s also about knowing these reporters. I talked to one reporter at [inaudible 00:32:03] who told me she had to get 2 articles a day, that’s a lot.

Steve: Yeah I know totally.

Harry: So for them if they can find anything that’s in the realm of a good story and they trust you, they’re going to be really thankful to you because you’re always feeding them good ideas and helping make their job easier, so that’s the type of stuff I was really looking for.

Steve: Okay, would you say that getting mentioned in these publications is one of the main reasons why you are ranking in SEO?

Harry: I would say that it has to be, I’m not an SEO expert but at this point I think I have a page on my site that we can probably share on the show notes, but I just call it my around the web page and I think that I’ve probably been quoted, featured, linked maybe 300 to 400 times or more and these are publications.

Steve: Oh wow.

Harry: These are everything from New York Times, LA Times, Wired, San Francisco Chronicle all the way down to like I just did one for like the Boston College, I don’t know some Boston college newspaper because that’s the other thing, I take every single – no media request is too small for me and there is literally a reason behind that too.

Steve: Okay, just curious I know a while back, a whole bunch of the bloggers started removing their roundups because of panda, like [inaudible 00:33:12] the articles, has that had an effect on you at all or do you care?

Harry: Honestly I don’t really care and that has always been my strategy. I know what I’m good at, like I’m good at creating content, establishing these relationships. Honestly I don’t know crap about – I know what Google panda update was, but I guess I didn’t see a big drop off from that, and so for me I’ve never really trusted what Google said. I just look at the numbers, like hey if my site is still doing well I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing; I’m going to keep trying new things to try to push the envelope.

If crap starts to hit the fan, then maybe I’ll hire someone to try to sit down and reassess. I think at the same time though I think it really depends on what a lot of other people are doing. If everyone is doing roundups and it’s the spammy way to approach things, then it does make sense that it’s not as valuable, but for me if I’m curating all these articles.

I actually will say in the text face especially, just the sheer fact that there’s so much content these days, a lot of bloggers and a lot of journalist are actually moving to this curated newsletter format where they may not publish it on their website, but once I’m subscribed to a bunch of newsletters from really top people in the tech and rideshare industry, and they send out weekly newsletters basically challenging the top content, because there is so much info these days.

Steve: Interesting, have you done any paid advertising at all?

Harry: I really haven’t done — I mean I’ve done hundreds of dollars but not even thousands in my two and a half years of doing this, I’ve probably spent no more than one or two thousand dollars. So paid advertising is not something that I’m good at, and also I just honestly feel like anyone can do – no I shouldn’t say anyone can do paid advertising, but I feel like it’s a low barrier to entry.
I feel like anyone can really go and spend a bunch of money and try to get return on their site, but I feel like it takes a lot more work and a lot more strategizing and brain power to think about how to develop these relationships with the media, how to get free things and things like that. Those are what I enjoy doing, because I think it’s a lot more challenging and I think that the value and return is a lot better.

Steve: It sounds like your primary strategy is just put out lots of content in all different channels and get linked up, and then just get all of your traffic organically, right?

Harry: In a nut shell that’s honestly exactly what I do.

Steve: In terms of just content creation then, how often do you post to your blog and the YouTube channel and the podcast?

Harry: For sure, so I’m actually extremely consistent with the blog, and I think that’s one thing that’s been super important. I’ve done four articles a week I think for the past year and a half, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and before that I was doing three articles a week. On the blog I’ve basically almost always done four articles a week. On the podcast I do one every two to three weeks, and then on the YouTube channel I do two new videos every single week.

Steve: How do you promote your articles on your blog since you’re posting almost every day?

Harry: Right on, so I’m posting four times a week, so every time I do a new post I release it at 9 AM Pacific, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and then I also have my – it’s called like blog to RSS set up, so it automatically goes out. I’m a really bad blogger, I should probably know what that’s called, so it basically sees my RSS feed that a new post is out and then at 10 AM it sends it out to my email list.
They get the entire article in the email and we actually have – so that sends out and then I’ll post it to Facebook and I use co schedule to basically post it four times after that and I go from there. So that’s really all I do every time I release a new post.

Steve: Interesting, so do you send out four emails a week then?

Harry: Mm-hmm.

Steve: Okay, and do you have another email strategy like do you follow those people to your course or towards Uber referrals, do you do anything else besides just sending out the article?
Harry: Yes so I would say the email is one area where I did a lot of work on right at the beginning because I was hearing all these big people that are smarter than me were saying, hey you need to build your email list. I said okay I want to build my email list, so I used all of the SumoMe plug-ins, the drop down on the top bar and then basically all the basic ones. So I’m collecting I think about 40 to 50 emails a day right now using those basic plug-ins, and I don’t even think I paid for it actually, just the free plug-ins.

So it seems to be working pretty well on my end, so I’m adding about 1000 to 1500 new subscribers a month, our email list is at 18,000 or 19,000 right now. According to MailChimp we have a 30% open rate although it does seem like most articles get opened in the 20 to 30% rate, so we’re in that kind of range. All that I do though with my email, I have about a ten email autoresponder.
When they sign up I send them this ultimate guide which is honestly is like a15 page PDF but it’s more like an ultimate guide to my site. It’s like getting here, they’re getting started, and then I throw in an affiliate offer and to go through and provide some value and then pitch in an offer and things like that. Then I highlight my top blog post and then I highlight my top YouTube channel in the autoresponder, I introduce some to my various channels.

I will say I’m literally looking at my to do list right now and on my to do list is the build out like a three month autoresponder that has 50 more emails, so that’s on my to do list, that’s the one thing I haven’t done a good job of, but it’s definitely something I need to do.

Steve: I’m just curious how you get the sign ups, is that just naturally through affiliate links in your articles or is that part of your autoresponder?

Harry: How I get signups for…

Steve: The referrals for drivers, the ones that pay out 700 bucks a pop?

Harry: Honestly those are mainly from my site, so I’m not doing a lot of email conversions, I guess I will say that obviously when I send a blog post out obviously if there is anywhere to include relevant links or anything like that I’ll do that in emails. But in my autoresponder it’s more about introducing people to the various areas where they can find me, like I’ll highlight my most popular YouTube video and I’ll say, hey go subscribe to the YouTube channel, go check it out.

I’ll highlight one of my most popular podcast or highlight my video course and I’m not doing as much sales from the emails although I probably could and should and will be in the future. Most of my conversions are actually coming straight from the blog and people finding me and converting there and clicking on my links all over the site, because I have on my other resources page, I have a sign up bonuses page, I have an insurance market, all of these pages on my site, so I’m getting most of my conversions from my actual blog.

Steve: Okay and then your email sequence it sounds like just introduces the reader to all those different channels where they can just pick and choose what they want to consume?

Harry: Exactly, now that we’re talking about – I am a little embarrassed of my email autoresponder series, because I think I’ve heard it up there for about a year and a half and it should definitely be a lot longer, so maybe after this call, I’ll go set it up.

Steve: I was just curious because you have this course right, you get to keep all the cash too, and the payout isn’t bad 97 bucks, so I was just curious if you actively market it?

Harry: I would love to talk about the course because for me the course is one area where I started it just because it’s like that online marketing 101, everyone saying, hey you got to do this course, obviously it’s nice because it’s very diverse, it’s like mutually exclusive from driver referrals. If driver referrals I don’t control that, one day if Uber said hey we’re not going to pay you any more, my income goes from X to zero.

With the course that will likely never happen, if anything it might be a slow drop, but for me I’ve always felt – I haven’t felt bad taking money from drivers but honestly Uber drivers don’t make a lot of money. So I would rather find ways to extract money from direct advertising or find rideshare insurance product that they need to get anyways and monetize that way as opposed to – I still do a lot on my video course, we just spend a lot of time building out an affiliate program.

We actually now have a blog on, so we have the course hosted on a separate site called maximumridesharingprofits.com, which is probably one of the longest URLs you’ve ever heard. But we actually added a blog and we started transcribing so I use this transcription service called Speechpad that’s only a dollar per minute, and we started transcribing all of the content from our YouTube videos over to the MRP blog.

So we took out top YouTube videos, the ones that basically were doing the best and we transcribe them and now we do one post a week on the MRP blog, and we’ve actually been able to get the traffic up completely organically to around 75,000 page views a month on that separate site, just on transcript and we obviously have one video that is about how to enter multiple destinations on your Uber ride and that’s doing 25,000 page views a month.

It’s definitely for me one other area that I really have been focusing on, it’s kind of leveraging my content across different platforms, because we spend a lot of time, we only do four articles a week which might sound like a lot, but I obviously have other writers that help me. We spend a lot of time and a lot of research and a lot of effort into these articles and one thing that we’re finding is that our audiences are very mutually exclusive.
The podcast listeners don’t read blog articles, the YouTube viewers don’t do the other two, so what we’re trying to do now is not necessarily repost the exact same content but figure out ways to leverage a really big blog post, maybe there is one paragraph that we can go more into detail on a YouTube video, and we are already very familiar with it, and it might make for good YouTube video.

So we try to leverage that content so that we’re not coming up with completely original content across every channel because honestly we have a very different audience, so it’s not like someone is going to see the same thing in three different places.

Steve: So it’s not just a straight transcription, you’re taking that transcription and you’re turning it into a post, is that right?

Harry: No it’s basically a straight transcription, we’ll add headers and put a neat little intro but honestly it’s more of a transcription than a blog post and we try to make it pretty upfront. We’re pretty upfront about like hey here is a video we recorded, because actually a couple from people complained and they said your blog posts are amazing on Rideshare Guy but your MRP blog posts suck.
I said well first of all if you think these are blog posts that’s probably a problem on my end, so we just try to make it really clear that, hey this is a transcription of this video. People seem to – we haven’t got a single complaint since we started making that a lot more clear and it seems to be working pretty well.

Steve: In terms of revenues for the Rideshare Guy, are you going to hit seven figures this year or?

Harry: Not quite at seven figures but hopefully at some point in the future.

Steve: Okay, that’s amazing. This is just a question that I have that I was just really curious about, what’s the difference between Uber and Lyft?

Harry: That’s actually one of my most popular YouTube videos.

Steve: Is it right, okay.

Harry: Honestly for me I’d say the biggest difference is that Lyft tends to be more of a driver friendly community. They have a lot of features, once you become a driver they have a lot of features that are just more friendly to drivers, they have enough tipping so passengers at the end of the ride can leave a tip in the app, Uber doesn’t have that. If you do a certain number of rides, Lyft will actually – if you do 50 rides a week, they’ll give you 10% of your commission back, things like that.

I would say that Lyft has typically has more of a community and more driver friendly features. Uber on the other hand they are like you know what you’re going to get. Uber you’re always going to be busy with Uber, you’ll probably going to make more money with Uber than you will with Lyft, but you also at the same time know they don’t really care about you, it’s like you are a number on a spreadsheet to them, they are like strictly business.
Lyft is like this friendly alternative that really cares about you. You kind of support them even though you don’t make quite as much money but you support them because you like them.
Steve: Interesting, so if I’m driving though and I have both those apps, I’m just going to use the Uber app right?

Harry: Yeah I mean honestly that’s one of the strategies we talk about on the site, if you sign up for Uber and Lyft during slower times, it makes sense to turn both the apps on and just take whichever request comes first. For me I’ll always take a Lyft request over an Uber request if it comes in, because the rates tends to be a little bit higher, the passengers tend to be a little bit friendlier, and you also have the option of getting a tip on the Lyft app.

Steve: Okay and then in terms of one completely demolishing the other, do you foresee both of these services co-existing going forward?

Harry: Yeah, I mean I definitely think that going forward – I mean the funny thing is that Uber is obviously this huge $68 billion company and Lyft is often thought of as an afterthought, but at the same time Lyft is a $5.5 billion company. I think a lot of people forget that, but if Lyft were to stand on its own, it would be one of the biggest tech companies out there today, but since they are in Uber shadow they pale in comparison.
I think just because of that I don’t know that Lyft is going to be able to really ever come close to Uber as far as market share. I think Uber has about 80% market share right now in the US, but I do think that Lyft can definitely coexist, and 20% of a trillion dollar market is still a really good business.

Steve: So going forward Harry, what plans do you have for your blog to grow even more for the latter half of this year and next?

Harry: Definitely, well I would say that for me my goal by the end of 2016 I would love to hit a million page views a month, so that’s just one number that we put in our head at the beginning of the year. For me honestly I definitely like the growth, but one thing I’ve found as I’ve gone on is that it’s not all about growth for me, I really like the balance of life and work, I mean I’m married, no kids yet, but at some point in the future I’ll probably have kids.

For me it’s about continually growing the business, but at the same time really figuring out the areas where I can optimize and make things more efficient, because like I said right now there’s probably the insurance market place for example, I think we could probably increase the revenue by 20 to 30%, but I think it would cause a lot of extra headache and a lot of extra hustle for me, so I don’t know that it’s worth it.

For me it’s really just finding those low hanging fruits and just exploring things. I really like taking on challenges that I haven’t done, so like for example right now I’m in the process of launching a consulting business to help some of these startups who are doing products and services for drivers. A lot of people who are doing how to start a rideshare company type stuff, because I have a lot of this industry expertise and knowledge, and honestly if you don’t work directly at one of these companies, there aren’t a whole lot of people that you can go to.

So for me those are the types of challenges that I’m looking forward to and trying to really grow other businesses and leverage everything I’ve done, leverage my audience and my expertise to diversify into other projects.

Steve: In terms of quitting your job, how much was The Rideshare Guy making when you quit?

Harry: The Rideshare Guy was making about, I think $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Steve: My goodness, okay.

Harry: We were probably on track to make $30,000 or $40,000 a year, but I could see the writing on the wall. I mean we weren’t optimized, I talk about we aren’t optimizing some revenue streams right now. When I quit my job we weren’t – I literally had not focused – for the first year of the blog; I didn’t focus on making money.

I really just focused on building that audience, I really wanted to get to 100, 000 page views a month because from talking to other bloggers, and talking to other people it seemed like that was the level where you could start to eke out a full time living and really start to turn it into a business. For me in that first year of running the blog, I was really just focused on growing it.

If someone came to me and said, hey we want to give you money for this, great but I really didn’t even consider any of those small monetization opportunities, because for me I looked at it like, hey I might spend an hour on this ad deal right now and make$250, but if I can grow my audience to two or three X in a year, then I can charge $750 and it’s still going to take that same one hour.
So it’s like trading that hour now for trading it later and I will be able to make more money, so I was just trading my time for the hopes of making more money which ended up working out.

Steve: Yeah, I’m just shocked, because you quit when you were only making 30 or 40K and you live in LA, and I imagine your aerospace engineering job paid pretty well.

Harry: Yeah so I was getting around I think 70 to 80,000 as engineer but obviously plus all the benefits and bonuses and everything like that, but honestly for me I wanted to do personal finance blogs. You can imagine I’m a big saver, I worked for six years as an engineer, and I was always doing side hustles and always making extra money on the side, so I had a pretty large – I mean I had a six figure emergency fund saved up.

It wasn’t as big of a risk, I think from the outside I think it looked like a lot bigger risk than it was to me. Honestly for me it didn’t seem like a big risk to me. When I quit my job my boss said, hey if you want to come back just let me know. He was like I don’t know what you want to go do but if you want to come back, just let me know, I’ll have a job waiting for you.

Steve: That’s awesome; Harry thanks a lot for coming on the show. If people want to reach out to you, I know you answer every single email you get is that what you said?

Harry: Honestly I test people, so a lot of times people just email me to say hi and to ask me if I check email, so yeah feel free. It will be me, it won’t be a virtual assistant and shoot me an email Harry on his site or obviously you can find me on therideshareguy.com or on Twitter @therideshareguy. I keep it pretty simple, so keep that…

Steve: Everything is the rideshare, he’s got a YouTube channel too.

Harry: Yeah it’s at the Rideshare Guy

Steve: Rideshare Guy yeah. Cool man well thanks for coming on the show, really appreciate your time.

Harry: Yeah awesome, I really appreciate you having me on and I look forward to talking more.

Steve: All right Harry, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Harry is the perfect example of someone who found a market that wasn’t being well served and then jumped on it, and his story just goes to show that you can make by providing value to those who are looking for answers. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode144.

And just a reminder that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellersummit.com, the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. The event will be small and intimate, and I promise you that the speakers will focus on actionable strategies to improve your ecommerce business and not any high level BS. So head on over to sellersummit.com, and check it out.

And once again if you are interested in starting your own online business, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com, and sign up for my free six day mini course on how to start a profitable online store. Sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the course via email immediately. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

143: How To Make 6 Figures As A Food Blogger With Bjork Ostrom Of PinchOfYum

Share On Facebook

143: How To Make 6 Figures As A Food Blogger With Bjork Ostrom Of PinchOfYum.com

Play

I’m really happy to have my friend Bjork Ostrum on the podcast today. While Bjork and I have not met in person, we have mutual friends in Erin Chase and Jim Wang, both of whom I’ve had on the podcast in previous episodes.

Bjork runs the very popular site Pinch Of Yum where he blogs about food. And when I say that his site is popular, I mean that it is crazy popular. Last month he had 2.7 million visitors to his site. He has 91,000 Facebook fans, over 227,000 Instagram followers and almost 100K Pinterest followers.

Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • Bjork’s motivations for starting his food blog.
  • How long it took for the blog to take off.
  • Bjork’s early traffic strategies
  • Bjork’s Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram strategy
  • How does PinchOfYum make money?

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into what strategies are working and what strategies are not with their businesses. I’m Steve Chou, and today we’re talking with Bjork Ostrom, who is one of the most successful food bloggers I know. Now Bjork runs pinchofyum.com, and you’ll learn how he makes between 50 and 100K per month running a successful food blogging business.

In other news I just want to let you know that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellerssummit.com. Now what is the Sellers Summit, it is the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference, where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business.

And in fact every speaker I invite is deep in the trenches of their ecommerce business, entrepreneurs who are importing large quantities of physical goods, and that’s some high level guys who are overseeing their companies at 50,000 feet. The other thing I can assure you is that is that the Sellers summit will be small and intimate. Last year we cut off ticket sales at around 100 people, so this event will sell out quickly, so once again go check it out at sellerssummit.com.

And if you want to know how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business, so go to my wifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email. Now onto the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have my friend Bjork Ostrom on the podcast today. Bjork and I have not actually met in person, we both have mutual friends in Erin Chase and Jim Weng, both of whom I have had on the podcast in previous episodes.

Bjork runs the popular website pinchofyam.com where he blogs about food, and when I say that his site is popular I mean that it is crazy popular. Last month he had 2.7 million visitors to his site and this incidentally is the slow season for them, he usually gets a lot more traffic. He’s got 91,000 Facebook fans, over 227,000 Instagram followers and almost 100,000 Pinterest followers.

What’s cool is that they actually publish monthly income reports and last month Pinch of yam generated roughly 60K. So if you’re interested in how to make money with a food blog, you’ve come to the right place and you’re listening to the right episode. And with that welcome to the show Bjork, how are you doing today man?

Bjork: Hey, I’m doing great Steve, thanks so much for having me on the podcast, truly appreciate it.

Steve: Yes, so was I accurate about those traffic numbers, usually they are like double that, right?

Bjork: Yeah summer is a slow season for food blogs especially if you have any bend towards like nutrition type content, because the pick season will really be January, February where people are wanting to find healthy recipes and things like that. So this is actually perfect that I’m on this podcast because I want to say this right off the bat, my wife Lindsay did indeed quit her job, and she does Pinch of Yam, and I want to make sure like in terms of the content side of things, those traffic numbers and the social media following, like all credit due to Lindsay for building those up.

However, I definitely have a role in the business, but I’m more like behind the scenes and Lindsay is very front face things, so I want to make sure that she gets credit for that, and that we can have this super synonymous relationship in terms of the actual content that we are talking about in the name of the podcast, right?

Steve: And there my friends is how you stay married for very long.

Bjork: Yeah.

Steve: So give us a quick – I should have been interviewing Lindsay instead, I don’t know?

Bjork: No, I think this will be good, I think you’ll be able to get a lot of awesome content from it, but I wanted before we got into it, I wanted to make sure and say that on the content side of things, she drives that forward, I have a really good understanding of it, but I just want to make sure to give credit where credit is due.

Steve: I think we have similar roles; you are more in charge of the tech and that sort of thing?

Bjork: Yup exactly yup, I love the behind the scenes element of it for Food Blogger Pro, a membership site which we might talk about a little bit later. We’re going through some design updates, so I’m looking at like the check out process on different pages and updating what that looks like or I love the idea of doing like AB tests and things like that. I work a lot with the servers, ad networks; think a lot about like critically about how can we create income from the site itself off of the traffic and engagement that Lindsay has brought to the site.

Steve: Yeah we‘re very similar, like my wife is like the brains and I’m like the marketing and the tech and that sort of thing, that’s cool man. We have to compare notes later.

Bjork: Yeah, it’s a fun relationship because both are needed, right? So like you can’t just have content without the business side of it and you can’t just have the business side of it without the content side of it. So I feel super blessed and thankful to be married to somebody who is also somebody that is in a sense a business partner, but that is really capable and awesome and super skilled at the content side of things, because that allows me to do what I do.

Steve: Absolutely, so give us the quick background story, how did you guys come up with the idea For Pinch of Yam and how did you get started?

Bjork: This was six or seven years ago and I was the one interested in online business and technology and computers, and I would geek out on podcasts and audio books and things like that. So I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It, and for those that have read it or are familiar you know that he talks a lot about this idea of a personal brand and building a personal brand, and how possible that is because of the internet.

The example he gives is if you’re really into worms, like you could be the expert on worm farming and you could write a worm blog, and then there will be people that have worm farms that sell them, they want to come to you and work with you because of your expertise in worms.

As I was listening to that audio book just stuff really clicked, and around the same time Lindsay had been interested in recipes and food, and we were recently married, so she for the first time was cooking for two people and really enjoyed that process. We were sharing things on social media and felt like, you know what, I wonder if there is a better place for this to live.

Those two things came together at the same time, I was listening to this book; Lindsay was going through this processing of enjoying food and food content, but not really knowing where that would live. So we had this meeting and over the years it’s grown into this mythological meeting that we don’t even know if it actually happened or how it happened, but basically was the sit down conversation of maybe there would be a better place for this.

The first step was creating this blog, and we created on Tumblr at the time, and was the place where Lindsay started posting content, and that’s the origin story for us, that’s where things started.

Steve: So why did you choose Tumblr?

Bjork: At the time that was one of the suggestions that was made, I think Gary Vaynerchuk had built his personal blog on Tumblr, and at the time I don’t think WordPress was quite as established. Well I know it was, and it’s just such a behemoth today. I think it was still established obviously, but it wasn’t until like a year in that we said, you know what, this isn’t the best platform for a food blog, or for really a blog in general with the type of content we were creating. There is just so much that you can do with WordPress as you know, so we made the switch, we switched over, and it’s a WordPress blog now.

Steve: What year was this?

Bjork: Started in 2010, April of 2010.

Steve: Okay, right. Oh around – I started a year before you I think.

Bjork: Sure with the ecommerce site.

Steve: No, with the blog actually not the ecommerce site.

Bjork: Okay, ecommerce site was before that, a couple of years before that?

Steve: Yeah ecommerce site was 2007, the blog was like 2009.

Bjork: I should know this because I just interviewed you for our podcast.

Steve: Yeah I know it’s funny, we just spoken.

Bjork: I didn’t study my notes before I started.

Steve: Were you guys both working at the time?

Bjork: Yeah, so Lindsay was a teacher, she’s fourth grade teacher, and I was working at a nonprofit. I would say this would be like a tip or a little jump for people that are listening that are thinking about making that transition, one of the things that I knew at the nonprofit that I was at was there was some flexibility in my role, not a ton but a little bit.

I was really interested in web sites and web design and online businesses and I was working at a nonprofit that actually partnered with schools. We would go into schools and we would do retreats. Like those who are familiar it would be like a weekend camp parked into one day, and we would talk about things like respect or courage, kindness, things like that. It really came out of this idea that there was a need for schools to have these conversations, incredible organization called Youth Frontiers.

Anyways what happened was I knew I was interested in this business side of things, so what I did is they had a position open for like a 10 hour a week IT person, and I said I would be super interested in filling that because of my interest. So as much as possible if you can, for those that are listening find ways to like own little tiny pieces of a job that you might be interested in an area that you might be interested within the company itself, and maybe that is even volunteering for something.

I think that’s a huge way that you can make steps towards moving towards your goal without having to super burn the candle on both hands. There is obviously a little bit of that that has to happen, but as much as you can roll that into the job itself, that can be a huge win and that was one of the ways that I curved my teeth initially with understanding WordPress and web design, and even just like IT stuff in general like what is a server and how does it work.

Steve: I see so those skills directly translated over to Pinch of Yam?

Bjork: Yeah for sure 100%, and I think it’s not something I went to school for, I didn’t have any experience with it. It was all on the job training in the sense that I said I know I want to do this and I know I want to do it [inaudible 00:10:42] perform on our own, so I’m going to see if there is any way possible that within my normal day to day that I can start training in on this wherever I am.

Steve: That’s good advice, so was your wife trained in food or cooking I should say?

Bjork: Yup, that’s a good question. Lindsay doesn’t have any formal experience with food or food prep or recipe development or anything like that, just a general interest with it and I think really a skill, this is something that we’re starting to learn, another little takeaway here, but I think that everybody has some type of background that they can shift and maneuver in a way that applies to what they’re doing.

For Lindsay, she is an awesome incredible teacher and she is able to take that and she’s a really good communicator as well, and so she is able to take that, adjust that and apply it to this niche where it’s not 100% food, it’s also communicating how to create something or story telling or communicating with a group of people. She’s been able to take that and apply to it, she’s also just from seven, eight years of making recipes, and testing and learning about it, she’s really good with food and recipes and content, but a lot of her skill set also applies to her background of teaching.

I think everybody has that previous experience in something that they might not think applies to maybe an ecommerce site or developing an online business, but better if you really critically think about it, you can adjust and maneuver that and apply it in a way where you can leverage what you’re doing more efficiently because of your previous experience in whatever area it is.

Steve: Absolutely, arguably the communication and the personality is much more important than the actual thing that you’re talking about, right?

Bjork: Mm-hmm.

Steve: Whether it be food or quitting your job or whatever. I’m curious though, so you started out on Tumblr, how long did it take for the blog to take off, did it off on Tumblr?

Bjork: No, well and that’s all relative like when you’re first stating, it feels like it’s taking off when you have 100 visitors.

Steve: Okay, sure.

Bjork: It just like scales up appropriately to however much, like as soon as you get 100, the next time you get 100 it’s not as impressive, like you know how that is whether it is page views or the income you’re able to earn from it or whatever it is. Let me pull up a stance real quick here and see, it took a really long time to get to a point where I was like, now we’re moving along fast and have a lot of momentum, it’s one of those things where I would say it’s you work hard for three, four, five years and then you’re an overnight success, right?

Steve: Sure, sure, but you know what’s funny is I had Erin Chase who is a mutual friend, and her blog took off in like three months whereas it took me three years, so I was just curious what your trajectory look like.

Bjork: Yeah so if I were to look back, and this is on a month to month basis, I would say it “took off” probably at the beginning of 2013, and that’s where we’re starting to get like 500,000 sessions a month pretty consistently. There was also rump time where in terms of as a business we were starting to make comparable income to what we had in our normal jobs, and granted it was like teaching in a nonprofit, so it was not like we were Wall street bankers, but it was at the point where we said, maybe it would make sense for us to switching over to doing it as a full time job.

Steve: Did you guys both like your jobs?

Bjork: We loved them and that was one of the reasons why we had this like super slow transition out of them, and to paint that picture what it looked like is, and this is maybe a takeaway as well like we didn’t burn the bridge and jump off. We did make this very slow transition, and I know your story is a little bit similar where we would have been able to switch out, but we cut back to like three, four’s time.

So we’d spend one or two days fully dedicated to our own businesses, and then it switched to like half time. Lindsay was able to get a job where she had reduced hours, it wasn’t a classroom teacher, she was helping out kind of in a more specialized subject, and then I was going in a couple of days a week. And then it switched, Lindsay left and then I went into like a consulting role where I was doing maybe a few hours per week, and then eventually transitioned full time two years ago.

Steve: That sounds exactly like my story, it’s crazy.

Bjork: It felt super comfortable and we knew that we had a foot in the door in these other jobs and it allowed us to comfortably make the transition where we could see, hey in general the trajectory with these is up and at any time it’s like you always have a little bit of that feeling of like well everything could crash and burn and it could, but I think with two years of feeling that tension of, yeah I could be leaving my job but I haven’t yet. It really feels good to like draw that tension out, so you just feel really ready and at the point where it makes sense, you’re mature and it’s like the decision is ripe, it’s like ready to be picked and it feels appropriate to move on.

Steve: Can we talk about those first three years leading up to the hockey stick so to speak, like what were you guys doing those first three years and what was it like?

Bjork: Sure, so it was a lot of like mornings, evenings, weekends, and lunches. So we would feed the content side or just the work in general into early mornings or not necessarily even late nights but evenings, and then for both Lindsay and I pretty consistently like over lunch we would work on stuff and then weekends. That was just the norm for quite a while and…

Steve: Is this just content production?

Bjork: It’s content production for Lindsay, so it’s recipes, photography, writing the posts. For me it’s behind the scene stuff, so it would be maybe working with ad networks or thinking about affiliate type stuff that we could be doing for the blog. Eventually it moved into me focusing on Food Blogger Pro. So a for a long time the vast majority of the work those first years in terms of Pinch of Yam itself, the food blog, that was Lindsay, 80%, me 20%.

Then once we got to a point where we said, it might make sense to build this membership site for food bloggers, that’s where things really went up for me in terms of my time and my energy, because I shifted and I was focusing really heavily on that to really ramp that up. But those first few years it was just like you just fitted in where you can, and it feels like you’re doing two jobs because you were, right?

Steve: Sure of course.

Bjork: It can be a little bit overwhelming and it can feel like we’re doing so much because you are. I don’t think it always has to be that way, but if you’re doing like slow transition and building up, bootstrapping a business I think it has to be like that for some time where you sacrifice on sleep, or social activities.

It doesn’t have to be extreme where you feel completely burned out, but I think there is a little bit of that where you have to pay your dues in order to get to a point where you make that transition and shift and are able to focus on a full time.
Steve: How did you increase traffic, was it just putting out content and did people naturally find it, what are some things that you guys did to promote your content?

Bjork: In the early stages there were food sharing sites, so FoodGawker, Tastespotting. These are sites where it was kind of served the role what Pinterest does now where you would post your recipes, it would be your photograph, people would like it, they would click on it and they would come to your site. That was really early way of doing it and you need to have really good photography, but that was an important piece of it.

Steve: Those guys are still around?

Bjork: They are yeah, but in terms of like actual impact that they would have on traffic would be less than maybe focusing on Pinterest or just SEO in general.

Steve: Okay, sure.

Bjork: SEO is such a long tail thing like a long term and long tail, so we really start to see that now, that’s one of the primary traffic sources for us is search, but in the early stages it was more of that promoting content. Not in the sense that it was paid, but you were exchanging your photograph on a site, and that allows you to get traffic for them to use that photograph to be able to build these visual representations of recipes.

Steve: So back then Pinterest wasn’t around, there was SEO, did you guys do a lot of link building?

Bjork: No, that was never something that we were super intentional about doing other than being open to people using the photographs for Pinch of Yam or a list of the ingredients, so relatively we grow in terms of allowing people to use the content on Pinch of Yam. It can’t be the full recipe, but if people said, hey we would love to link back to this recipe and use the photograph; we’d always be open to that.

Or there is editors at BuzzFeed and if they’ll reach out we say yeah you have open access to use any of the photographs that we have here on the blog, because we know that that not only is a traffic driver but they are also dropping a link in the BuzzFeed which is a good thing.

Steve: Interesting, so early on then I’d say for the first couple of years was the majority of your traffic from these sharing sites?

Bjork: Early on it was probably a combination of like social sharing and then starting to get into some SEO stuff, it was a mix of that and then some direct traffic as well. So people that are coming back and maybe they bookmark a recipe and they come back to it. And then when things really started to pick up and become influential was like when it tipped over into Pinterest, and that was a huge traffic driver and still is, it’s the second most popular source of traffic for Pinch of Yam, but for a while was the number one source of traffic.

Steve: So in terms of SEO did it take a long time for that to kick in, like did it take years for that to kick in?

Bjork: Yeah it took a long time. Obviously right off the bat you’re getting some search terms, but it took a while in order for that to really kick in and become an influential factor in the traffic. I don’t know the exact dates and what they look like, but even like I’m pulling up here and looking at real quick.

From December of 2012 we would get maybe 7 to 8,000 visits a day, but it’s like if you go back to that first year even after the first year was maybe like 500, 600, 700, which sounds like a lot especially for people that would bend towards having some type of business related site or ecommerce site, but the reality with like a strictly content based site where to advertise, it’s monetize off of advertisements and sponsorships primarily. That’s not a lot of traffic and engagement just because you need so much in order for that to get to a point where it’s influential.

Steve: Okay, so would you characterize your early traffic strategies then was just like putting out really good content and then taking advantage of these social sharing sites?

Bjork: Yeah for sure and to be honest I think a huge part of it was not really having a super strong strategy, it’s not like we came in and said we’ve got to think about link building, or we have to think about doing guest posting or anything like that. It was really just Lindsay producing content and trying to figure out the best possible way to get good photographs that represent the recipe, good recipes like finding those.

Then there was the intention where I heard of like these food sharing sites, but to be honest like early on we really focused less on traffic and more on content. When I say we I mean that was Lindsay, she was really focusing in on that and there wasn’t really an intentional effort by either of us to say like, hey what are some strategic things we can do for link building or building social media following or anything like that.

Steve: So if we would fast forward today and you were to start from scratch today, what would you be focusing your efforts on?

Bjork: I think it would be smart to think about within the content that we’re producing and we’re starting to think about this now, like what are the sub niches within it. Pinch of Yam as a food blog is a little bit of lifestyle and then food and recipe which is a very big category, so it could be anything from chocolate chip cookies to like a healthy salad.

We have a really broad range of content that we can produce, but that also means like it’s a little bit more of the titanic versus a speed boat. It takes so long to get going and to move when you have a huge range of content that you’re producing. If you have a little niche, you’re able to get traction with that a little bit quicker and also you’d have a better idea of what your offering is as opposed to a site that’s a little bit more of a catch on in terms of the content.

I don’t know if I would necessarily niche it down what it is, but within that be intentional about thinking what are the things I want to be known for, what are the niches within the food category that we’re going to really claim and own, and then how can we produce offerings whether that’s the free content or paid for content within those little niches or areas of focus.

Steve: I want to take a moment to thank ReferralCandy for being a sponsor of the show. In this day and age, word of mouth is a huge driver of business for most ecommerce stores, and the best way to amplify word of mouth marketing is through a referral program, and this is where ReferralCandy shines. With a just a couple of clicks of the mouse, you could add a referral program to your ecommerce store and reward your customers for telling their friends about your shop.

This tactic works wonders, and in fact it is not uncommon to get a ridiculous return on investment, so for example Greats Footwear who is a ReferralCandy customer is currently seeing a 20X ROI. Referral word of mouth marketing is also useful for building up your social media presence as well, because everyone is talking about your company with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.
The best part is that ReferralCandy is a set it and forget it service, requires no technical set up, and they are giving My Wife Quit Her Job listeners 50 bucks to try them out if you go to promo.referralcandy.co/steve. Once again it’s promo.referralcandy.com/steve to get a $50 credit to try out the service risk free. Now back to the show.

In terms of – you mentioned Pinterest was like your number two. In terms of like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and SEO, how do you allocate your resources today?

Bjork: It would be SEO, it would be Pinterest, and then to be honest there is this interesting sub category of social media and I think is something that I’m just starting to understand a little bit better, that we’re starting to understand a little bit better of like it’s not about traffic, it about engagement on those platforms.

A great example that I love to refer back to all the time is BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed isn’t trying to drive traffic; they are not trying to post something on social media, like they are not posting a story on Snapchat for instance, and then including a little link back to BuzzFeed to get you to opt in to their free download. What they’re doing is they are entering the room and saying what is the vibe here in this social setting, and then they’re feeding in to that and having conversations with the people in the room.
That feels really natural as opposed to like coming in and being like, hey guys, now that I’m here everybody come with me and go in to this other room that has a different feel, and we’ll take you out of the context of where you are. One of the things that we’re trying to do is figure out how can we be having — creating content that lives really naturally on these other platforms and remove the idea of traffic.

So we’re not thinking how do we get people back to the site, how do we get people to download stuff for free. It’s more about how do we produce something that fits really well for this platform, that engages people where we can build the following. One of the huge things that we do is then work with companies in a sponsorship relationship, and so they’ll maybe sponsor a video and you’ll see that with BuzzFeed as well, they are a great example of a content driven site that does that at a really high level.

Steve: How much traffic do you need to get like a sponsorship?

Bjork: I think it depends on the niche, so like last night I was reading Modern Dog magazine which we subscribe to and get, and which is a great case study in and of itself, but as I was looking through it I thought, there is probably not a lot of people that subscribe to this magazine like thousands, maybe not tens of thousands, but they have so many opportunities to do sponsorships or in this case again advertise on the magazine, because they know that it’s such a specific niche.

I look at these products that are in there and it’s like, oh yeah I’m interested in not all of them but a lot of them, because we have a dog and we love our dog. And so when I look at these products it’s like I can see how a small magazine with a small subscription base how they can make it even like an actual print magazine which is crazy.

The idea being that you can have a really small audience if you have a super specific niche because those people out there sponsors or companies or whatever it is that are interested in working with you will know that and understand that the audience that they are serving that content to is really aligned. An ad in Modern Dog magazine while maybe isn’t as expensive as it would be in Time magazine is potentially just as effective because of the audience that they are advertising to. My official answer is that I think it depends.

Steve: In terms of Pinch of Yam, you guys mention it’s advertising and sponsorships, when were you guys able to attract both?

Bjork: Sure, advertising you can do right off the bat, and the reason is because the primary way that ads are served right now for a content site, so if you are running traditional banner ads or pre-imposed or video ads, those are programmatic ads, so essentially what’s happening is you’re not working directly with a handshake deal with another company and saying, hey you can show this ad on our site for $3000 this month and then they show them.

What’s happening is there is these, it’s essentially micro transactions that are happening on the back end server side where there is an ad buyer and an ad supplier and those are talking to each other, and based on cookie behavior from somebody. People I think understand that in general even if they don’t know advertising, because they go and look at a basket ball hoop and then three days later they see an ad for a basket ball hoop even though they are looking at a coffee site.

The reason is because you’ve been cookied and so then that ad shows. The thing to know is that when you’re browsing, what you’re doing is essentially building up a profile, and so they start to understand potentially what your age is, where you’re located, what sites you’ve looked at, what things you’re interested in and that profile is then wrapped into something that ad buyers can say I want to buy $10,000 worth of ads against this type of buyer and they’re making those micro second decisions.

Long explanation to say if you want to run ads you can do that relatively early on, you could use something like Google Adsense and get up and running pretty quickly, but the payoff that you’re going to get isn’t very high especially if you don’t have a decent amount of traffic.

Steve: What do you guys get paid out?

Bjork: I would say like in this past month so July would be anywhere from 25 to $30,000 based on…

Steve: No I meant CPM sorry.

Bjork: At this point overall we’re getting probably like seven to eight, I think it was eight.

Steve: That’s actually pretty good.

Bjork: That’s really good, but some of the things to know is that that’s like the cumulative like wrapped up total for like video pre-imposed, it’s the ads that we have injected on mobile and desktop, so it’s not just like one ad, that’s cumulatively like what do we get like on 1000 visits.

Steve: I see for all the ads encapsulated?

Bjork: Yes.

Steve: Okay got it.

Bjork: So it’s not like one individual ad unit which then adds up so we’re getting like 40 or 50, it’s for 1000 visits on average what will the site earn from advertising.

Steve: Okay and then in your experience, which networks have provided the best payout?

Bjork: There is a couple of networks and these are specific in the food niche, so the two that I think of that are the most popular right off the bat, they are most common I would say, the company we work with is called AdThrive, and they are going to be a company that comes and both of these are as far as I understand holds your hand and gets you up and running.

They have a minimum page views and I don’t know what that would be, you would have to go to their site to check it out and there is another one called Mediavine which operates in the same way. On Food Blogger Pro, those are the two most common that we hear from people using. Then after that I would go into there’s thousands of individual ad companies, but they are usually less of like, hey we’re going to come and partner and more of like we’re going to give you the script that you put on your page and then we collect off of that. Mediavine and AdThrive are a little bit more involved in the process.

Steve: Okay and in terms of when you were able to attract these offers, you mentioned like there was like a minimum page view limit, were you guys running Adsense early on and then gradually shifted over?

Bjork: Yeah, well it was comparable to ad, so we had Adsense and then we had some food specific sites or companies that we were working with. There was one called Foodie Blogroll, there was another one called Gourmet Ads. These are companies that are ad companies with the focus on food content, but the thing is just with the shift to programmatic over the past few years, you see that becoming more generic in the sense that it’s not like a food related company is going to be working with other food companies as much, because of programmatic.

They don’t care as much about who are the blogs they’re working with, they are more focused on who is the actual individual and what is the ad that we’re serving them. So to answer the question, we started out with some individual ad networks like Adsense, Foodie Blogroll, Gourmet Ads, and then eventually you start to work more. So you have a handful so you can an ad stack that you’re running and you’re playing around with which ones work better and which ones show first and things like that.
Then eventually we started to slowly shift over towards having a partner advertising company take over and really run with that.

Steve: I see, do you still do private placements on your site?

Bjork: No, and we never really did.

Steve: You never did?

Bjork: No. And to do that is totally possible, but I think it’s becoming less and less common to do actual like display placements, so like somebody would buy something on the side bar because of the shift of programmatic advertising. What is really common and becoming much more important is, it ties into what I was talking about before like the BuzzFeed thing where you partner with and work with a company and they say we want to sponsor this post that you’re doing and this video on Instagram.

We will work with a company that does let’s say chocolate, and they want to focus on having their content in a video and then include it in the recipe, so there will be like a product shot of it. It’s like an online version of America’s Got Talent, drinking Dunkin Donuts.

Steve: Sure got it.

Bjork: Whatever it is that they are doing.

Steve: Like a TV show is they are embedding like car commercials practically.

Bjork: Yes exactly and it’s a more transparent version of that, so it’s not trying to hide it necessarily, it’s more saying, hey for this post, for this video we’re working with this poster company. You’re letting people know and there’s rules and regulations around that, that you have to be transparent in that and we’re pretty intentional at doing that, but the basic idea is the same where you have an audience and you’re exposing that audience to the product in a way that isn’t a traditional ad.

Steve: Are there ROI goals on their end for that and how much is that pay compared to your regular CPM ad?

Bjork: Yeah, so it’s less CMP based and it’s more – there is a negotiation element to it and there is also just a – I think kind of a – like you scale up with more traffic and engagement obviously. So I wouldn’t be able to say CPM, I think the ROI is a little bit difficult because they are not necessarily tracking sales.

If you have a company that is selling Ketchup, they are not selling that online, and they’re not like using a coupon, usually not using a coupon to encourage people to use that, so then they can track the sale of it. So it’s a little bit towards like PRish in the sense that it’s awareness as well as…

Steve: Their branding place basically.

Bjork: Yeah right exactly.

Steve: Got it, okay.

Bjork: I think in terms of what you will be able to get for that, for us like at this point we’re looking at anywhere from maybe like — I wouldn’t even know and it depends on the package, but I would have to check with Lindsay because she does more of the client relationship stuff like this. But I would say it won’t be uncommon if you have a site let’s say with a million page views to get somewhere between – this is a total guessing, lots of variables and this would like what type of content is included in social promotion and stuff, but maybe $1,000 to $3,000 for that type of sponsor content.

We know people that for instance like they don’t show any ads on their sites, so just super clean site and they don’t have a ton of traffic engagement, but they’re charging $10,000 to work with the brand, to do a video on a post and promote on social media. A lot of it depends on your strategy and how you’re presenting the content on your site, and also negotiation probably.

Steve: Okay, you know what I’ve had other food type of bloggers on the podcast, and I have friends that do that too and they’ve all been telling me that just the whole ad revenue model is been decreasing over the years. Are you guys experiencing that as well and what have you been doing to combat that?

Bjork: Yeah for sure, and it’s interesting because it decreases and then – I was just thinking about this the other day and then it changes. So like people figure it out and they catch up with it and then the industry changes and then people figure it out, they catch up with it. I think in general, display advertising is on this trend down, it’s becoming less effective, and I would say that in sense of like traditional display ads like banner ads.

But it’s interesting because as tracking becomes more effective, then I think the value of that comes up, so we’re starting to see an interesting shift where tracking is becoming a lot more capable, and programmatic is becoming more effective, so I think, I don’t totally understand the deep, deep intricacies of the industry. I think what happens essentially is that as tracking becomes better; people are willing to pay more because it’s more effective to serve those ads to a targeted market.

I think that there is an element to that. I think in general it’s a little bit like trying to swim upstream, you can make progress, but it’s not as easy as swimming downstream. The other element of display advertising is – and this a little bit of a shift, but video ads are in such high demand that there is a really high CPM on video ads right now. That’s one of the reasons you see this shift towards videos, not just because that’s how people are consuming content in general.

But for content sites whether it be CNN or Mashable or the StarTribune [inaudible 00:40:01] whatever it would be you see them starting to include a lot of video and running ads pre-imposed against that, because it’s such an effective way to monetize content right now. The interesting thing with that is sometimes you’ll even see on some of these new sites that they’re showing videos that have to do with the report but not necessarily. It’s almost like they’re just trying to figure out ways to include video content so they can run an ad against that even if it’s not directly related to the story; maybe it’s remotely related to it.

Steve: Does that mean you’re focusing more on video content today?

Bjork: Yeah, so we just hired a full time video person, so she is shooting and editing and then we have a part time person that we call a shooting assistant and is handling all of the food side of it. So it’s not necessarily Lindsay every time that’s going to be doing the video, it’s traditional like you see on Facebook a lot of times these food recipe videos where the person isn’t necessarily front center, so we’re doing a lot of those and starting to include those on social media as well as within posts and things like that. We’re really leaning in to it; we’ve hired a full time person and somebody part time.

Steve: In terms of Food Blogger Pro, that was my way of trying to segue in to Food Blogger Pro by the way.

Bjork: Yeah nice good, because there is videos on there as well.

Steve: So you have ad revenue and you had all your eggs in that basket, so can you tell me about how you thought about doing Food Blogger Pro?

Bjork: Sure, so that was three years ago now and it really came out of us – so we did these monthly business reports where we said, here is what’s happening, it’s pretty typical for what you see with like income report or transparency report or whatever you want to call them. Here is what we did this month to create an income, here are some of the expenses, here are some of the things that we learned.

As we started to do those more and more, naturally we had people reach out and ask questions about it, and it just started to become this like a rhythm of everyday we’d have a handful of people asking XYZ, so…

Steve: Was that the reason you had the income reports by the way or no?

Bjork: It wasn’t intentional at the beginning and to be honest when I think back to when we first started, it was way in the beginning and it was before the blog was really anything, so we were making maybe $20 from it or $100 the next month. So I don’t think I would like to think that I was that intentional to begin with, but I don’t know, I don’t think I was.

Steve: Okay.

Bjork: It’s one of those things where you look back and it’s almost kind of funny really knowing what it was. I think there was truly, we started out by saying it was the food blog money making experience – experiment. So I think that’s really what it was and in a way I think what happened was I had like two people on my shoulder, so the classic like angle, devil situation, where on one shoulder was people saying like you can do anything, you can create one blog and have that be your full time thing.

On the other shoulder are these articles that I had read where people were like of you’re going to do this especially in the food space you have to do it out of passion, only passion because it’s never possible to turn it into something like to make a business out of it. For me it was – and for Lindsay I think too was an experiment in saying like is this possible, is this something where we can build this into something that we’re actually able to create an income from.

That’s like the purest form of what it started out as. I think as it got to the point where did start to get – some people that would follow along with them would be interested in them. It was at that point where we said, maybe there is a little sub category that we can build or sub community of people that are doing similar things, or interested in doing similar things and that’s where the idea of Food Blogger Pro came about.

Steve: Is that course primarily marketed through Pinch of Yam?

Bjork: Yeah and then we have some affiliates, we have some pretty awesome affiliates too and those are, I would say 99%. Everybody that I know of are people that are members of the course and then promote it to their readers. The nice thing is like the audience that we serve there is also people that have audiences, so affiliate marketing makes a lot of sense for us because we can just work with people that are members, and it’s natural for them to talk about it and promote it.

That’s the really other big piece of it, but in general it’s something that’s tied to Pinch of Yam, like if we ever wanted to sell Food Blogger Pro, which we have no intention of doing especially not in the near future, nobody would be interested in it because they would be like, well it’s essentially attached to Pinch of Yam, it’s not necessarily a standalone thing.

Steve: Got it, can I ask you like how you decided on pricing, it’s a membership site, then you have a yearly membership versus like a onetime fee, so I was just…?

Bjork: That’s a good question, I think that I liked the idea – personally I really like doing small incremental changes over a long period of time, I’m more – especially at the time, not as much anymore. The idea of building something up and then doing a big launch was a little bit intimidating to me, and having like a high price point for it. I really liked the idea and still do of this recurring revenue as opposed to like a really big launch and then waiting.

That being said, I think there is space for that and I think that it makes sense to have that type of offering in your sales funnel, or your offering list or catalog or whatever it is that you want to call it, and at some point we’ll probably start to have things like that. But it wasn’t like a super intentional thing to be honest; it wasn’t like I sat down and weighed the positives and negatives of having a higher price point.

Steve: But you guys still do launches, right for this product, like right now it’s closed?

Bjork: Yup, so that’s one of the things that we’ve changed and that’s why I was saying previously especially when I first got started, the idea of a launch was really a scary thing, but as we got into it, one of the things that we realized is like I was growing weary of like always promoting and always encouraging people to sign up. We worked with Stu McLaren who is connected with or was at the time Platform University and has done a lot of membership site and stuff.

That was one of the recommendation that he had is both for marketing sake like it’s easier to market when there is an open and close and also so that you’re not always weary from promoting it. It makes sense to switch to kind of like a college or university, where you’re doing a longer period, people join and then they are part of the community. That was a big change for us and felt really good in the sense that we could step back a little bit and not always be in promotion mode.

Gary Vaynerchuk talks about jump right hook, so you’re giving, you’re giving, you’re giving and then every once in a while you’re like; I’m going to promote this. That feels really good to have that rhythm, and also it’s just better for marketing, it’s something that I think people are used to, so there is big movie premiere and you see ads for it and everybody goes and they watch it. You have a long period like I said for college or university and it starts at this date, and everybody joins.

There is a natural rhythm to it especially with something that’s community oriented I think versus I would say if it was a SaaS app or like an application. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to have an open and close for something like that, but that shift has worked really well for us. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that to start as much just because I wasn’t as comfortable.

Steve: I mean it’s a ton of work which is why I don’t do open and close launches, instead I just have an email sequence that’s really long that teaches a lot, and then presents the offer and then teaches some more and then presents the offer.

Bjork: What is your reason, is that something you tested or it just felt like a good fit for you?

Steve: I don’t like doing launches just because it’s just too much work and pressure just all once and you have to do it – I would dread doing a launch every time I do it basically.

Bjork: Sure, sure.

Steve: And so for my personality I thought it was just better to just leave it open and let my email sell it for me.

Bjork: Yeah for sure.

Steve: But I also do webinars too which is kind of like a launch but not really. I just do those once a month.

Bjork: Okay once a month and is that only – this is like switching the interview a little bit, is that because, or is that only to new people to the list like who do you email for that webinar?

Steve: Yeah people who have been to the webinars before, people who have expressed interest in certain pieces of content that I have, and people who are new to the list.

Bjork: Got it, okay interesting.

Steve: But what I found also is that people will attend multiple webinars, like there’s been people who have attended every single webinar that I have given even though it’s the same content sometimes.

Bjork: Right, right, interesting.

Steve: So Bjork real quick, in this interview I was hoping that you would be able to provide a piece of advice to somebody who wants to start a food blog, because we were both bloggers and I know that can be a slog especially in the beginning, right?

Bjork: Yeah for sure.

Steve: What would you recommend for these people?

Bjork: A few things here, I think it’s really important to figure out something that you’re going to you’re going to enjoy regardless, so there’s all types of income, so there is the income that we think about and that’s income where it’s like literally dollars into the bank account. But there is also these income sources that we don’t talk about as often it’s emotional income, like how do I feel when I’m working on this, am I excited, does it feel like a good fit, is this something I’m passionate about.

There is relational income, so if you’re somebody who is naturally extroverted and you’re wanting to be around other people all the time, maybe starting a blog where you’re like having to be by yourself all the time and work on content in this closed room isn’t going to be a great fit. If you do know that you want to do a blog and you are super extroverted, think about ways that you can shift that so that you’re working with individuals more or working with other people, if relational income is a really important thing for you, that you’re factoring that in.

So that specific item is think about the types of income not just like the primary money income which is what we normally think about, there is all these other ways that you could be creating an income. I think the other thing especially if you’re going to be going in to something purely content driven where you are eventually going to want to work with advertisers or sponsors or things like that, to know that it takes a really long time, and that’s why that first tip or takeaway is so important.

It just takes a lot of time to get up to speed if or get to the point where you’re creating enough monetary income for that to replace your job or to be significant enough that it makes an impact, so to be patient. We call that 1% infinity, this idea that you’re improving a little bit 1% over a long period of time infinity, but doing that each and every day, that’s a really important thing.

Specific to the food space, I would say it’s really important to think about what is it that you’re going to own in terms of the niche which we talked a little bit about before, and you’re able to get a lot more traction if you start out with a specific niche. The interesting thing here is that there has to be a balance between claiming a niche, but also restricting yourself long term to only that niche.

I think that would lean into the name side of things, so I think you can have a name that is flexible enough, that allows you maybe to claim that name and then have maybe a tag line that defines the niche a little bit more. So down the line you’re able to open it up a little bit once you do have that traction initially that you’ve gained because you’ve claimed this niche, because that’s such a common thing is eventually you get to a point where you want to niche out. Amazon didn’t want to sell books forever, Zappos didn’t want to sell shoes forever, their names allowed them to change because of the flexibility of that. If it was a shoesite.com, it would have been really hard for Zappos to switch down the line.

I would say the third piece is think about a niche that you can start and that you can really claim, but always be thinking about the reality that later on you might want to open that up a little bit and to be intentional on how you’re structuring it and naming it and branding it to allow that to happen.

Steve: I think dashofyam.com is available too?

Bjork: Oh yeah, there you go, yeah.

Steve: There you go, hey Bjork you’re good, thanks a lot for coming on the show. If anyone has any questions for you, where can
they find you?

Bjork: If people wanted to reach out, probably the best way, I’m not super active on Twitter, but if people wanted to reach out and connect with me on Twitter I’m on there, Bjorkostrom, and then we’re just at Pinch of Yam and Food Blogger Pro. So if you want to follow along with what we’re doing, you can go to Pinchofyam.com, and then the membership site is foodbloggerpro.com, and we’d love to connect and hear from you, so that’s it.

Steve: Cool, thanks for coming on the show Bjork, really appreciate it.

Bjork: Thanks so much Steve, appreciate it.

Steve: Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. As I mentioned before Bjork is one of the most successful food bloggers I know, and is the perfect example of someone who took an interest and turned it into a thriving business. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode143.

And just a reminder that tickets for the 2017 Sellers Summit are now on sale at sellersummit.com, the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets ecommerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. The event will be small and intimate, and I promise you that the speakers will focus on actionable strategies to improve your ecommerce business and not any high level BS.
So head on over to sellersummit.com, and check it out now.

And once again if you are interested in starting your own online business, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com, and sign up for my free six day mini course on how to start a profitable online store. Sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the course via email immediately. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with an iTunes review. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!
 
Share On Facebook

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

Give Me Access To The Free Course!
Enter Your Email Address:

142: How My Student Jen Makes 6 Figures Selling Shower Curtains Online

Share On Facebook

142: How My Student Jen Makes 6 Figures Selling Shower Curtains Online

Play

Jen DePaoli is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course and I’m really happy to have her on the show today. Jen runs ShowerCurtainHQ.com where she sells shower curtains online.

What I love about Jen is that she hustles, she’s constantly finding new ways to expand her business and she’s not afraid to try a variety of different business models. Just like the other student interviews that I’ve conducted, this podcast provides a very realistic, in the trenches account of someone who just started their online store.

Enjoy the interview as there are a lot of details that Jen shares that can help anyone get started.

Want To Learn How To Start A 6 Figure Ecommerce Store?

Create  A Profitable Online StoreDid you enjoy listening to Jen’s story? If you would like to create your own profitable online store and join a community of like minded entrepreneurs, then sign up for my full blown course on how to create a profitable online store.

My course offers over 100+ hours of video and includes live office hours where you can ask me questions directly.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about ecommerce, be sure to check it out!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Jen came up with her niche
  • How Jen got started without investing a large sum of money on the business
  • Mistakes Jen made in getting started and how to avoid them
  • How Jen attracted customers to her store early on
  • How to leverage marketplaces like Houzz and Amazon

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

SiteLock.com – Most people tend to neglect security when they first launch their websites. And it’s all fun and games until you get hacked. In the event that this ever happens to you, SiteLock can help you restore your site and lock it down tight. Click here and get your first 3 months free.
SiteLock

ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
referral candy

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit her Job Podcast. If you are new here, it’s a show where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now I don’t bring on these famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning, and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

Now if you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes, and if you want to learn how to start your own online business be sure to sign up for my free 6-day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. So go to mywifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email.

Now before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to sitelock.com for being a sponsor of the show. SiteLock is the leader in website security, and protects over 8 million websites by monitoring them for malicious activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So here is the thing, most online business owners never think about security until they get hacked. Now my online store got hacked long ago, and it was the most miserable experience ever.

I basically lost thousands of dollars as I frantically tried to patch the issues, and get my store back online as quickly as possible. In the event that you get hacked, call sitelock.com, and they will help you out, or even better protect your site before you get hacked. Right now you can get 3 months of SiteLock free if you go to sitelock.com/mywifequitherjob. Once again that’s sitelock.com/mywifequitherjob. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Jenifer Depaoli on the show, and Jen is actually a student in my Create a Profitable Online Store course. Now it’s been a while since I’ve heard a student on the show, but last week I actually sent out a survey to my class of about 2000 students and was very pleasantly surprised with the results.

It turns out that 56% of students you’ve launched a product and have been here in the class for at least a year are now all making at least four figures per month, and a whopping 9% of students are actually doing over 50K per month. Anyway Jen runs the awesome store showercurtainhq.com, where she sells shower curtains designed by local artists.

And I’ve had the pleasure of having her in the class for over a year now, and Jen is doing really well with her store where she makes money selling on both her site and on Amazon. And with that welcome to the show Jen, how are you doing today?

Jen: I am doing great Steve, thank you so much for having me.

Steve: Yeah it’s been over a year since we last chatted on Skype I believe, and a lot of things have happened since then.

Jen: Yes, they absolutely have. I took your class and I have to tell you by the way, I found you because of the name of your website My Wife Quit Her Job. I was working at a pharmaceutical lab, and I was very unfulfilled, very miserable, I wanted to just quit and stay home, but the money was good. And I found the podcast through Pat Flynn, he opened up my eyes to making money online, and so I just became obsessed with learning how to do that, and I came across your blog and I was hooked ever since.

And I found your blog and then I wanted to buy your course, and my husband who is like my biggest fan and my biggest skeptic, I remember showing him the course, I was like, “Honey I want to buy this guy’s course,” and he was like, “I can already tell you that looks like a scam.” And I was like, “No you don’t understand, you got to visit this guy’s blog, his wife got to quit her job, they sell stuff online.” He’s like what do they sell online? And I’m like wedding linens and they make a lot of money doing it.

So he finally just said, do whatever you want but I don’t know, it doesn’t look like it would work to me. So I was like [inaudible 00:03:54] determined just to prove him wrong. So I started drop shipping shower curtains, it took me a long time by the way to find my niche, but once I found my niche …

Steve: Yeah, can we talk about that real quickly?

Jen: Yeah.

Steve: Talk about the process of finding your niche actually.

Jen: Yeah, I was one of those people where it was kind of like paralysis by analysis for a while, I don’t know if that’s what you call it, but I had a really hard time. I had already bought Market Samurai, and I was just going back and forth, I couldn’t find the right niche, but then – and I would always think about while I was just taking a shower, okay what’s going to be my niche?

I finally just realized, okay shower curtains, unless you have a glass enclosed shower you need a shower curtain and it usually sets the tone for the bathroom, then you know what color to paint the walls and what waste paper basket to get and light fixtures. And a lot of people need to get them, and they fit the metrics that you taught of shipping something small and it’s not an electronic.

So I was like you know what, I’m going to just email Steve and ask him a few things this is a good niche. And I remember you emailed me back right away and you said I already did the keyword research for that for somebody else and I know it’s a good niche, but the good news is, is that person picked a different niche, so you would the only one in the class that is going to do shower curtains.

So finally I just said you know what, I‘m going to do shower curtains. But I was still a little bit afraid to import from China, so I started out drop shipping, and so I just cold called this company. I just started cold calling companies that I found on Etsy and asking them if they would drop ship, and the third company I called it was really cool.

It was a husband and wife team, and they were like, oh yeah we could drop ship for you, how about if we gave you a 30%, we’ll give you a coupon code, and then you can pick out which ones you want, and you can put them on your side. And so I started out drop shipping and I remember my site was live for about a week and then I finally got like that little update on my phone from Shopify that I had made my first sale, and I was like, oh my gosh.

It was like I couldn’t remember, it was like early Sunday morning and I run into the room and like to show my husband like, look I made a sale on my website. And after the site was live for about a month, I remember thinking, okay this class that I took it just paid for itself.

Steve: Awesome. I know you have an interior decorating background somewhat, right?

Jen: I do.

Steve: I just want to ask you this, and this is a question I ask a lot of people, are you passionate about the products that you sell or is it just strictly a money thing?

Jen: You know what that’s a really good question. I do pick products that I would want to put in my own house, and now I’m actually importing shower curtains from China. And again I just keep an eye out on the market like what patterns are hot, what’s trendy, and then if I see something that I think might work, then I go and do the key word research on it to see if it would sell.

I also go and see if there is other competition out there. So I guess — but the answer is yes to both. I also have a sales background, so I want to get paid if I’m going to work hard, and I want to have a type of lifestyle where I can go on vacation with my husband and my daughters and go whenever I want.

Steve: How important do you think it is to like really be passionate about what you’re selling, just in your words?

Jen: You hear different opinions on it. I think that it makes it easier if you’re selling something that you’re passionate about. I mean you’ve had so many entrepreneurs on your podcast that they’re selling something – you’ve even said yourself it’s not like you’re passionate about wedding linens, but your wife is, I mean you guys have a really cool story about how you chose that niche too. So I think there should be some connection to it.

Steve: Okay and you mentioned that you keep up to date with what you think is going to be popular. Let’s say you find something that is popular, how do you go about figuring out whether that particular curtain style is going to sell?

Jen: Well I was able to find some vendors in China that would send me smaller quantities where I can test the market, and then also I have a printer that I have teamed up with. So if I have an artist that will sell some [inaudible 00:08:22] art, and I can put that on a shower curtain, I will try first drop shipping and see if it sells really well that way.

In fact I have two styles that sell really well on my website and then houzz.com, which is a really great market place if anyone sells anything home décor related, and I sell a couple of those styles a day. So I need to just contact the artist and see if I can buy the rights to that and order that one particular style in bulk, because I think that would do really well, actually I know it will do well on Amazon. If people are willing to pay $100 for a shower curtain on Houzz for that style, then I’m sure that if I bought it bulk in China, they would be willing to pay $20 for that same style.

Steve: So back when you were trying to get drop shippers, did you say anything special? So you went on Etsy you said to find these people?

Jen: Yes.

Steve: And then you actually mentioned that you print your own shower curtains as well, how does that work?

Jen: Yeah, that was my second step. So I was drop shipping just strictly drop shipping for a while, and at a 30% profit margin, I didn’t really have any money to do any sort of marketing, so I just figured, okay what’s the next step? I need to find my own printer that can print my own styles.

And so I finally was able to find a printer and I teamed up with an artist who gave me some styles that I only I sell, so own styles they can only get from me from either my website or my brand on Houzz. So it’s still is somewhat of a drop ship business model, because I don’t hold any inventory even though I have my own printer, and my printer isn’t in my garage, the printer is in Kansas city. But then also my husband is a graphic designer, so I was able to have him draw up some really cool patterns that I’m able to sell as well.

Steve: So this printer actually prints on shower curtains, meaning like they stock shower curtains and they just print whatever design that you want on them?

Jen: Yeah. The process is dye sublimation and so this printer they will print shower curtains, they’ll print pillows, they will even print leggings if you want to design your own leggings they’ll print those. I just mostly focus on shower curtains, I also sell a few pillows with the same designs on Houzz, but again the only reason why I’m selling the pillows is because I can drop ship them, I don’t have to hold those inventories, because that would take up a lot of room in our garage.

Steve: Okay and you mentioned how several times now, a lot of people out there they are selling on Amazon, they’re selling on their own site, but very few people have talked about Houzz, so what is the process on selling on there like, what are the margins, how much do they take, and how easy is it to use?

Jen: Okay it’s extremely easy thing to use, and I know that Houzz is really trying to build their market place, and so if you get started selling, you could actually talk to a person live for free where they help you get your whole store set up, and they take a 15% margin every time.

There is no monthly fee, it’s just every time you sell they take 15% of it, and the traffic there is unbelievable. If you talk to any other person that sells on that site, it’s highly worth it. They do recommend that you offer free shipping, so again it’s beneficial if you’re selling something – not like a piece of furniture or a table where it’s going to be expensive to ship. So yeah it’s extremely a profitable hub, anything that you would use in your home, but I’ve even seen stuff that won’t use in your home, I’ve seen baby products being sold on there as well.

So I will say this that the customer that buys off of Houzz is very – I don’t know if the right word is picky, but I do get more returns if the product isn’t completely perfect, they’ll right away and want to return it.

Steve: Okay and they don’t do any sort of fulfillment for you, you always have to sell and fulfill all the goods?

Jen: Correct, yes as of right now.

Steve: Are there any guidelines like they enforce on shipping times and that sort of thing, like how do they keep you guys in line?

Jen: Well the biggest guideline they want is they want the picture on a white background, because it’s an interior designer website, so they really want the pictures to look very professional. I think if you submitted a picture and they didn’t like it, they would say you need a better picture.

And then when you are setting up the listing you need to give a window of time when the order will ship, and since my curtains are – since most of them are made on order I say please allow six to ten days before the order is shipped, and it has not been a problem. The only time I think that they would get upset is if somebody ordered a return and you didn’t respond to them right away, they want you to respond within 24 hours when someone messages you.

Steve: And in terms of the market place, is it just list it and forget it or like are there ads for the platform or anything like that?

Jen: I believe you can buy ads, but I have not, I’ve been able to get enough traffic that it hasn’t really – it’s just hasn’t been something I’ve done because I’m also selling on Amazon and working on my own website. But you can buy – I will tell you this though, they do have newsletters that they send out to their readers every single week.

And there was one time when one of my shower curtains was featured, and I did not know that they were going to feature it, the person just found it and said here’s a new product and it also happened to be the weekend before Thanksgiving. So I think Christmas season was already starting, and I remember selling 30 of those same shower curtains in one day and these were $100 shower curtains.

Steve: Nice.

Jen: So those are really, really nice things.

Steve: So let’s talk a little bit about just – go in to a little bit more depth about some of the more difficult parts about getting your business off your feet. So you mentioned early on that you drop shipped by contacting Etsy vendors, when did you make that decision that you need to go to China to get some stuff?

Jen: It was – okay so I talked to you right after I got laid off from my pharmaceutical job. I was home for about four months and I was researching China vendors, and I knew that if I ever was going to make this the type of business where I was making money in my sleep, I could go on vacation and not have to worry about it, I was going to have to import from China.

I had made that decision, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. I remember I was about to put an order in and I was still in between jobs, and so I could tell that my husband didn’t want me spending $6000 with some folk I never talked to before, I was just emailing.

So I finally told him, I said okay I will get another day job, but once I start getting money coming in from my job I’m going to take the money I have made from my shower curtain business and I’m going to import from China. And he said that’s fine, do whatever you want. So I got a new job, totally new industry where I worked from home, I’m an independent contractor so I can make my own schedule but I did have money coming in.

So I found two vendors, put in the orders – and I will tell you this, the first order from China is always the scariest, you wire the money, it’s so scary, you are like I hope that these people don’t scare me, but then the second order that you put into China it’s also scary, it’s just a different scary because it’s not going to get here on time, and you’re going to run out of inventory. So yeah.

Steve: So did you have any problems with quality control at all initially?

Jen: You know what I haven’t, I’ve not gotten one, I’ve been very lucky, I just ask a lot of questions. Usually though whenever you put in a smaller order, they don’t want to accompany with packaging. So these three new styles that I’m launching, they said we’re not going to do any sort of insert cards.

So I’ve had to order stickers and my mom was over yesterday helping me put stickers and labels and barcodes on these new shower curtains, but as long as they’ll sell well and I do a reorder, then they’ll do the insert cards and everything else that I want. No the quality control has been really good, I’ve been very lucky.

Steve: Okay and in terms of your initial orders for testing like how many of these do you buy, like for these three new products that you’re launching?

Jen: Yeah, I bought 300 of each.

Steve: Okay, 300 of each, okay and then usually you start with that quantity and then once you know that it’s going to sell then what do you usually step up your order to?

Jen: Well obviously the more you order the less it is, so as long as it sells a couple a day my second reorder for this one product that’s selling really well – my first order was 1200 because that vendor was not going to do any lower than 1200 for the first order, and then the second order was 3000. Obviously it’s less per unit and again I’m afraid I’m going to run out of inventory by quarter four, I’m going to need to order before Chinese New Year.

Steve: And what’s your turn around time, I’m just curious?

Jen: My turn around time for my website or Amazon or Houzz?

Steve: Oh no, not for fulfillment, just in terms of getting product in your warehouse or in Amazon’s warehouse?

Jen: Oh when I order from China?

Steve: Yes.

Jen: It took about a month, I did everything by sea, I’m cheap so I just figured – once I got that sample and I was comfortable with the sample, I just had everything ordered by sea and it took about a month.

Steve: Okay and then what would you say like your margins are from the products that you order from China, are they north of like 70%?

Jen: Yeah the stock that I had to reorder the style, it sells on Amazon for about $19.99 and I was able to order it for $2.50.

Steve: Okay, so it’s much more than drop ship, like significantly more than drop shipping?

Jen: Oh my goodness yes, yeah.

Steve: Okay, so today I’m just curious do you still drop ship any products?

Jen: I do actually, some of the ones that have sold really well, I’ve cut them on my website, and my website has been around long enough where it has some organic traffic from Google, and if somebody orders a shower curtain that I have to drop ship, I figure okay all I have to do is send an email to order the shower curtain and it’s 20 bucks, I make 20 bucks for an email that takes me two seconds to put the order in for, so yeah.

Steve: And in terms of just your site versus Amazon versus Houzz, like what does the revenue split look like?

Jen: I would say most of my profit right now does come from Amazon and then Houzz would be second and then my website would be third. However, I am working right now, my focus is building my website, because you talked about it on your last podcast Steve that Amazon is very cut throat, I’ve had a lot of piggy backers on some of my styles, and then I have to send them a nasty letter.

So that was the best advice that you gave me was don’t put all of your eggs just in the Amazon basket. Sell on Amazon, sell on your website, have a lot of different revenues and platforms that you sell on. So where I will spend my marketing dollars will be on my own website.

Steve: Before we actually started recording we had talked about certain products that you had on Amazon, have you had any products that were easily found on let’s say like Alibaba where you’ve actually ended up losing margins or having a lot of competition for?

Jen: Yes, the one that sells the most I had that, and what I have zero tolerance for is another vendor selling underneath my listing, I will immediately send them an email and say, “I created this brand from scratch, I don’t know what type of curtain you’re sending these people, but you’re sending them a counterfeit, so I will report you to Amazon if you don’t take down your listing immediately.”

But what you can’t control is that I’m selling a shower curtain and if it’s a cool style and it’s got a bunch of reviews, people are going to know that people want it, and so some people can make their own listing and copy it, and there is nothing I can do to really control that which is why I also need to also sell on other platforms, and I need to continue to launch new products as well.

Steve: So would you say that you’re focusing more on your own designs at this point?

Jen: Yes.

Steve: Okay and with your local artists, can you actually take their designs and sell those on Amazon as well or are you already doing that?

Jen: With my local artists, the only way I would sell them on Amazon is if I could take their art and have it mass produced in China so that the profit margin would be good, and I would pay them for that and it would need to be something that we would agree to. But as of right now the only designs that I’m getting mass produced are the patterns that I’ve either found on Alibaba or my husband has designed a pattern, because I said, hey I like this pattern, can you design me something like it.

Steve: And just as an aside, has your husband come around, because I actually have a lot of students in the class whose spouses aren’t on board when they first launch, and I’m just curious has your husband come around?

Jen: Yes he has. There was someone that I once heard on the podcast describe their spouse as their biggest fan and their biggest skeptic, and I immediately thought, oh my gosh, that’s totally my husband. But yes, he has come around. My advice for anyone where their spouse is not on board with their ecommerce dreams is you just got to show them the money.

Start small, and you can start small, there is no risk in putting up a drop ship store, it’s a great place to start, just know that that’s not where you’re going to make quit your job money, but show them the money and just show them how hard you’re working and then they will get on board. Now my husband is always asking, hey how many shower curtains did you sell today?

And it is fine too because we built our dream house and he built this great big garage to put all of his tools in, and right now there is 3000 shower curtains also sitting in this great big garage that we need to send them to Amazon. So I definitely converted him and I think he’s a lot more open minded too that it really is possible to make money online with this gift that we have of the internet in the age that we live in.

Steve: Just curious, how much money did you invest in this business to start out?

Jen: Initially, well the cost of your course which by the way is worth every penny, you could double the price and it would still be worth every penny and then some, but then to start my website I was — I don’t know like I think I spend 300 bucks a year on Shopify. So that was, I mean there 30 bucks a month to get it started.

Steve: So practically nothing basically?

Jen: Yes.

Steve: Okay, can we talk about your site a little bit, you got your first sale on your sight Right?

Jen: Mm-hmm, I did.

Steve: What sort of marketing were you doing just for that first sale, do you remember?

Jen: Yeah, I was trying to do as much free marketing as possible because I’m cheap. So I set up a Facebook page, I’m addicted to Pinterest, so I would pin everything. I took Pat Flynn’s be everywhere approach, I don’t know if he still sells, but I put it up on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. I even put it up on Twitter, I remember my brother like texting me, like stop putting shower curtains on Twitter.

So it was a lot of free marketing. I would even like sometimes comment, which I don’t do anymore because now I realize that that was annoying and spammy, but sometimes I would comment on articles, on blog posts and say, oh that’s a really cool shower curtain, if you want another cool shower curtain, come to this website. I stopped doing that.

So I have done some Google advertising, but again I shied away from it at the time because I was only drop shipping and so I felt like the profit margins were so thin it