279: Ezra Firestone On Overcoming Adversity And How To Stay Sane Running Your Business

279: Ezra Firestone On Overcoming Adversity At Boom And How To Stay Sane Running Your Business

Today, I’m thrilled to have my buddy Ezra Firestone back on the show. Ezra runs a number of 7 and 8 figure e-commerce stores, a Shopify SaaS company called Zipify and an e-commerce education company over at SmartMarketer.

Ezra also recently spoke at my conference over at SellerSummit.com about Facebook Chatbots and as expected, his talk was very well received.

Today, Ezra and I are going to discuss the challenges he has faced this past year with Boom and how he overcame them.

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What You’ll Learn

  • What recently happened at Boom that caused Ezra a lot of stress
  • How to stay sane running your business
  • What’s working in ecommerce today
  • Boom’s primary source of growth

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Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now, today I’m with my buddy Ezra Firestone from Smart marketers, Zipify and Boom, back on the show. And this time we’re going to talk about some of the struggles he’s recently had with his e-commerce brand and how he is overcome them. It is a great episode that you should listen straight to the end.

But before we begin I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Code Black Friday is right around the corner and for my e-commerce store email marketing is a heavy part of my holiday sales strategy. And in fact last year, it was close to 50% of My overall sales. And of course as you all know klaviyo is the email marketing tool that I use for Bumblebee Linens now Klaviyo is the growth marketing platform chosen by over 20,000 Brands generating more than three point seven billion dollars in Revenue in just the last year and with the holiday season right around the corner klaviyo has created the ultimate planning guide for crushing those holiday Revenue targets for marketing creative to segmentation strategy. These are proven tactics for more personalized marketing, especially in time for the holiday season. To get ahold of this guide, visit Klaviyo.com/mywife. Once again, Klaviyo.com/mywife.

I also want to give a shout-out to Privy who’s a sponsor of the show. Privy is a tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store and right now I’m using Privy Display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up basically user gives your email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store and customers love the gamification aspect of this and when implemented this form email signups increased by a hundred thirty one percent. Now, you can also use Privy to reduce car abandoned with cart saver pop-ups and abandoned cart email sequences as well one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full-blown email marketing solution. So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales so head on over to privy.com/steve and try it for free if you decide you need to the more advanced features use coupon code MWQHJ for fifteen percent off 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 can spend more time with your family focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today, I’m really excited to have Ezra Firestone back on the show and in case you don’t know who he is Ezra runs a number of 7 and 8-figure e-commerce stores a Shopify SAS company called Zipify and an e-commerce education company over at Smartmarketer. Now, Ezra actually recently spoke in my conferences seller Summit about Facebook Chat Bots and as expected his talk was very well received but what’s funny is that Ezra and I have known each other for many years, but we’ve never really had an extended conversation. Until the speaker’s Mastermind for my event and after spending eight straight hours in a closed room with the guy. I started liking me even more and he is a wise man. Well beyond his years and he’s very personable as well. So today Ezra and I are going to talk about some of the challenges that he’s faced this past year with boom his e-commerce business and whatever else we plan on talking about today and with that welcome to show Ezra. How you doing today, man.

Ezra: My wife quit her job podcast. Hey man, super happy to be here and I just want to add to that that Hadn’t done one of those, you know speaker masterminds where you kind of get in you get together with a group of folks and you sit down for like you said, you know eight hours and you really just each person kind of goes through like what they’re struggling with and what’s going on and what they could use help with and it was like such a cool format. I’m really sold on that, you know going forward. I really liked it.

Steve: Yeah. I mean everyone was really open which I really loved and you know, one of the attendees there like she was tearing up and I think I feel like you know who I’m talking about, but I think we really helped her out a lot.

Ezra: Yeah. Yeah, we had a couple breakdowns man, there Was You know, I think when people get the space to actually kind of open up about what’s really going on. It can be cathartic and healing and it’s you know, there’s not a lot of safe spaces, especially in the business world where there’s so much sort of posturing was a cool thing you set up. So thanks for doing that.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, even I found that that you have problems too. It’s amazing.

Ezra: 99 problems. Yeah, no probs we all I mean listen, I think that what’s interesting about like the struggles is in general when you’re experiencing sort of pain or struggle or discomfort. I mean at the very same time usually some things are going well too and it seems to be this sort of like being able to hold at the same time. Both things that are going well and things that aren’t and and how you navigate that intensity over time seems to be how well you do at business because I could tell you for sure. There’s always something that’s like not doing that great in one of my Brands, you know or something that’s scary or shopify’s gonna you know kick out the replacement checkouts or whatever the catastrophe or chaos is at the moment. It seems to be constant, you know, and so I really do think it’s about how you react to it.

Steve: Absolutely. It’s actually comforting to know that other entrepreneurs are facing similar issues. It just makes you feel better.

Ezra: Yeah, totally totally

Steve: Ezra, last time you’re on the podcast was four years ago

Ezra: What? 4 years what four years ago?

Steve: You’re one of my first guess. I was just kind of looking back at the lisitngs.

Ezra: Wow. I’d like to go back and see what we talked about then that’s kind of fun.

Steve: When I have no I didn’t listen to it. I just looked it up, but I know during our Mastermind we covered a number of different things. But can you just quickly catch the audience of about all your various businesses real quick. It’s really hard to keep track because you got so many.

Ezra: Yeah, you know, well, I think one of my most fun and sort of most popular success stories is really happened in the last four years, you know, 2010 to 2014. I was attempting to launch this brand Boom by Cindy Joseph and using content marketing and all kinds of stuff and 2014 was our real like first multi six-figure year and then 2015. We did 10x went from 300,000 to three million and then 2016. We went from 3 million to 17 million and then 17 18 19 are have now all been in that, you know, 20 million-ish range. And so that’s been a really big ride and also is kind of like my team over the last four years has gone from when I would have done that podcast with you. I probably had 16 members and now I have a hundred and three so there’s been like a lot Of expansion and my journey as an entrepreneur in that time has been going from the driver to the Navigator and I think that a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck in this sort of driver roll and It ultimately is what limits their growth where you know, if you’re on the road taking the turns you can’t be above the road looking at the mountains that are coming in the distance.

It’s very hard to both navigate and drive and where a lot of people get stuck. There’s a number of kind of sticking points that I’ve identified on my journey of growth in my company’s but one of them is technology right a lot of us do it yourself entrepreneurs who started from the ground with no money doing ourselves. We’re doing the Facebook in the klaviyo in the analytics and the Shopify like we’re really bogged down in the technological infrastructure of the business. So that’s one area that people get stuck and then one of the other lessons, I mean, I know this doesn’t directly answer your question, but now I’m off on a tangent is I think that so yeah a lot of stuffs been going on a lot of growth. I’ve got three main companies smart marketer. I do, you know blogging, educational courses on how to grow e-commerce businesses Zipify apps I build add-ons to Shopify stores that you know support you in your growth as a Shopify Merchant and then boom is a cosmetic retailer for women over 50, but what I was going to say was that one of the actually I totally lost my train of thought now, I’m sorry.

Steve: Ha ha ha ha

Ezra: I’ve no idea what

Steve: I was waiting for like the Revelation here.

Ezra: It was it was gonna be really good. Oh, I do remember now, which is you know, one of the things that everyone is so focused on is growth. Everybody wants to get bigger and grow and be it’s like there’s this sort of obsession with growth and I understand it on one level. But I also think that it’s a bit misguided and ultimately leads often to the demise of very good companies because you know with growth comes a whole lot of problems, you know, you have to fund more inventory. You’ve got more overhead. There’s more stress and pressure and intensity on you as the entrepreneur who’s the one who’s responsible for the whole operation and you know what I am trying to do. Is first and foremost enjoy my life and have fun and I want my team to enjoy their lives and have fun doing what they’re doing doesn’t mean we don’t work hard, but I want it to be enjoyable and you know, you don’t know how long you have which could lead into I know something you want to talk about a big traumatic experience. I had over the last 12 months, but you don’t know how long you have.

So if you’re not enjoying yourself making time for your hobbies making time for your social life making time for your relationships and intimate connections and you know, really enjoying and putting energy into your business in a sustainable way not 16 hours a day, then what’s the point and then I want to make really really good things that serve the world that are truly great products. And then third I want to be profitable and I frankly don’t care how big it gets and I don’t care how profitable I am. If I’m having a good time making good stuff and it’s making money and paying my team and paying my bills. I’m happy and I think that this fascination with growth is actually somewhat misguided and what you really should be looking at is how can I have a lot of fun make things that are truly good and then have that be profitable at any level is you’ve won the game, you know, a lot of people get really big and they’re Shackled to these operations that are slaving away at that make them miserable that took them away from their you know, it’s just like it can get out of hand.

Steve: I just came to this Revelation probably two years ago because trying to grow your company fast actually ruins marriages also. So my wife we were we’re setting these goals and we were stressing out over it because we weren’t hitting them and then we will get into fights over and over again. And so yeah, we kind of came to an agreement that we were just grow the company. Whatever happens happens grow gradually because fast growth really is painful. You’re right

Ezra: it is and it is.

Steve: And it’s much better since.

Ezra: like, sorry go ahead..

Steve: No, I was going to say the just our relations have been much better since we kind of came to that agreement regarding our e-commerce business.

Ezra: Yeah smart. I mean and it’s you know, it’s like there is this I call it Eternal vigilance, which is the skill set that I think is needed in order to run a business yourself that’s on the internet while where you are the entrepreneur who’s responsible for it. And also maintain a healthy balance between your outside life and your work because it’s available to you at all times. I like you go to the office and you leave the office and okay now that’s gone. Like no you’re the opportunity to continue the mental game of what can I do to improve my business is available to you at all times and if you’re not careful and you don’t actually set boundaries real clear boundaries and then show up to those on a daily basis the same way you have to show up to a diet or a workout program or a relationship then you’re gonna it’s just going to fill it’s going to be the backdrop of your entire life.

It’s going to fill every waking moment and a lot of people get caught in that trap and ultimately burn out or find themselves no longer interested because they just they treated it as a Sprint rather than a marathon. I think the ability to set work-life boundaries where it’s like okay from you know, 7:30 a.m. Or whenever I wake up to 10 a.m. I’m moving my body doing a meditation having breakfast with my family enjoying myself, whatever and then 10 a.m. I start work and then 5 p.m. I’m done and then at 5 p.m. I go on I engage in my social life and I do my hobbies. I spend time with my family. I set it down if you can’t pick it up and set it down deliberately and I’m not saying that there’s not times where you’re in launch mode and you’re just working for weeks at a time sure, but I just mean in general as a rule of thumb if you don’t have the ability to pick up and set down the operation in that way. It’s going to be very very hard for you over time is what I’ve learned.

Steve: But you can’t really do that effectively without a team. So when did you actually make that transition?

Ezra: Yeah, and I think I think you can set your energetic boundaries where you are creating space in your life for your personal life your social life your physical body things of that nature. I think you can do that. Even when you’re a solopreneur and my journey was I was basically a solopreneur where I was me doing it everything myself. I mean the whole thing and you know when you and I got started the game was American drop shippers and search engine optimization and like Yahoo stores, you know, there’s a little bit simpler of a game but That’s what it was, you know, and I played that myself from roundabout 2005 until I hired my first team member in 2009 to do customer support and then I basically still did everything myself and just had one team member all the way through 2012 when I sold that my Drop Shipping businesses

Steve: Was the wig bit company or something else?

Ezra: That was the wig bit Yeah. But yeah, then basically after in 2012 when I started blogging. And also selling services. I hired my cousin I said, hey man. Listen, I will pay you twelve bucks an hour to learn how to code and then once you know how to code I’ll pay you 20 bucks an hour and you can be a coder for me. And so as of 2012, I basically, you know from 2012 to 2014. I probably hired two or three people a year and then 2014 now, I’ve just kind of gone Buck Wild.

Steve: Yeah because you got your hands in a lot of pots so to speak so it would be impossible if you were doing the implementation right here.

Ezra: Yeah. I’m doing a lot of the Sort of ideation of reading the market and figuring out what’s going to be well-received of checking what people do and giving feedback. I don’t do a lot of actual and it’s are sometimes like what am I even doing around here? You know, but it’s just, you know, it’s important for someone to hold the container in the vision and you know be Crossing all the t’s and dotting the I sort of checking everything.

Steve: Yeah. So Switching gears a little bit. Can we talk about some of the challenges that you faced recently with boom in the last year’s of?

Ezra: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I Can get into that if you want so I could just go on a run unless you have a specific question.

Steve: Well, I’ll interrupt you. Why don’t you tell everyone what happened first in case they don’t know and then..

Ezra: Okay. Well the ultimate sort of hex that everyone has laid on them and Society is that you’re going to die one day and that sort of awareness of your impending death is, you know, something that causes midlife crisis. It’s something that is used to sell you every for everything under the sun, you know what I mean? Anti-age and health stuff and like it’s something that we all have to confront us human beings that one day. This ride is going to be over if we’re like everyone else or who knows what happens but but existence as we know it now may not be around and what I had happened to me just introducing that topic the idea of death and how scary that is my business partner who was also the Ambassador / face of my company on every product page every male was coming from her. I mean that whole thing sort of suddenly passed away. Really, abruptly on like, you know, we knew she was sick and then basically seven days later she was gone. And so..

Steve: I didn’t realize it was that quick.

Ezra: Yeah. Well what happened was she’d had one bout with cancer two years prior. So three years ago and she’d gotten really close to the door, you know, she’d gotten really close and then she made a full recovery and she was a hundred percent back. I mean fully and then generally when these things come back they don’t come back better. So we thought it was like totally Clear all good, and then boom we found out about a year ago to the day almost hey, this thing is back and then within 7 days, she had passed. So, you know, that was really traumatic for me on a mental emotional spiritual level in that. Cindy was very close friend of mine. She was like a groomsman in my wedding. You know, I moved to New York went or Grooms person Grooms woman. I moved to New York when I was 17 to play poker for a living after getting out of high school and I moved in with her and she kind of I lived with her for a few years before kind of going on my own in the city.

So she kind of like was a jumping step between teenage years too young adult years for me. And yeah, so we were like really really close friends. And so, you know, that was tough. She was a much like a second mother figure in a lot of ways for me and then also, you know just from the Practical side of it like sort of setting that down the Practical side of the business operations were rough to in that. I mean, she wasn’t very involved from an operational perspective I had been running the company forever and she actually hadn’t been on a video or audio for two years because when she first got sick we realized hey, you know, maybe it’s a bit be good to diversify the representation of our brand rather than it just being from one person’s voice make it about the experience of all women.

So we had actually started that process but there were things like the community of women who were our customers were very used to hearing from her or given that all of our emails were coming from her. She was doing all of the product demonstrations. All of our Facebook front-end ads were leading with her story and her doing product demos our team, which is 30 people or something at boom was very worried that we were going to go under or fire them. I mean it was just chaos. We had two very quick we had to announce her death, you know publicly because she was a public figure and it was starting to get picked up by news outlets and that proved to be an issue with you know, her family was just like it was an it was mad. It was the most intense period in my business career by pretty far long shot. And yeah.

Steve: Is that why you came to this revelation of having more fun with your business and not just focusing

Ezra: Yeah. I’ve always been in the you know, one of my mantras in life is fun as the goal and love is the way like, I think that that I’ve always been I think that success is a very popular but less fulfilling game than having fun, and I’m really into success and wealth creation and all this stuff that Society will tell you is the way to go but I’m not in it to the detriment of my pleasure in my life because you know, I have I was raised by a bunch of hippies. And so I kind of had that I grew up on a commune mindset that you know that we that you can only give from your own Surplus. And so if you want to be, you know, my tag line in business, it’s serve the world unselfishly and profit and if you want to be of service, which is my goal. I really do then you must first and foremost take care of yourself because you cannot pour from an empty cup.

So I’ve always had this goal of enjoying myself taking care of myself making That I am energetically sound that I can show up and give and so I’ve always kind of been on that path. And yeah, I mean that you know, when someone Close to You dies, it is very intense and you reassess everything like what am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is the point of all this like, you know, you really go through that intense sort of introspection about your behaviors and actions and what is motivating them. Are they motivated by ego. Are they motivated by the desire to please people are that like what am I? What am I? I actually doing here. So yeah, I went through all that man and and on the Practical side of it, you know the announcement of her death to our community the rewriting of all the email sequences the modifying of all of our front-end Facebook ads that the removing Cindy from all of our product.

I mean, it was like the reassuring my team that we weren’t going to go under you don’t mean the whole thing was was very emotionally draining and I felt that like, it’s now August she passed in July of last year and I feel like from July to like January was brioche and then the first three months of this year was like okay things are kind of like getting back to normal and then now like the last three months. I feel like I’ve fully like sort of digested as much as you can I mean morning is a whole thing and traumas of thing and who knows I’m not educated enough in the area of you know trauma to understand. I don’t know what lingering effects that stuff causes, but I feel pretty pretty sound, you know from it and we’re having our best year ever from

Steve: That’s what I’m going to say you had your best year ever and it continues to grow and I kind of I follow you and I know you’ve used Facebook ads Google ads email marketing all that stuff over the years and I was just kind of curious what has been your primary source of growth in the past year despite all this trauma.

Ezra: Well, I think the diversification of having our front-end lead sort of lead and customer generating strategies not being a hundred percent focused around Cindy has opened us up to be well received by perhaps women that maybe Weren’t resonating with her because now we lead with a variety of women. We’ve also discovered that there’s some reverse ageism in our Market where you know women in their 60s don’t want to have a woman in her 40s or 50s telling them about aging so we’ve kind of been able to mix up who is presenting on behalf of our company and that seems to have worked and also, you know through the process of reassessing every area of the company a product cost of goods advertising email strategy and you know, repeat so just we kind of went through every and one thing that I don’t know that I ever told you was you know before Cindy with the first time she got sick I went to her and I said Hey, listen, you know, like do you really want to be doing this? Like how you know, you got sick and you really almost died.

And so I just want to you know have the conversation of I mean, I know I do all the operations in the business, but like I want to have the conversation of like are you interested in continuing this ride or should we sell this company now because it’s worth a lot and you know, you could Be set for life and take care of your kids and all that and maybe it’s time to end this ride. Like, you know a death scare. As I said has you evaluate everything and she said, you know what so we got on board about that and we got really close. We got all the way through the process of due diligence a buyer the whole thing and the deal was about to happen and she passed away and then those people backed out and then I wasn’t thinking about selling the company after she passed. I was just trying to maintain stasis, but I also think that the process of going through and I would recommend the Quiet Light brokerage podcast your podcast e-commerce fuel podcast to listen to folks who’ve almost sold their businesses and hear the things that you do when you go through a due diligence process and sort of kick every Tire.

I think having done that exercise of hey, we’re going to sell this thing understanding all the things that affect valuation profitability things of that nature that I didn’t have a lot of attention on before even though I had sold the business and then having a year of operating after that. I think that also was a big factor in in why we’re growing but yeah, I mean our Facebook ads worked Extremely well, January February March, you know our we’ve introduced a bunch of new products, which has been really great. I think one of the keys to scale once you have a company that’s been around a while is to introduce three or four new products a year that you can cross sell to your past customers buyers and subscribers. So we feel like we’ve done a lot of stuff right.

Steve: Can we talk about like more specifically what your process of kind of re-evaluating all the different aspects of the business were?

Ezra: yeah, I mean, so when you’re looking at selling okay a company there’s a Number of factors that go into the valuation that you’ll receive one of them is repeat business, right? So what’s your return rate? So if your return rate is, you know fifty percent instead of thirty percent or 20 percent you’ll end up with a higher valuation. One of them is profitability. So how much profit do you actually generate your multiple will usually be a percentage of profit and you know, one of them is diversification of visibility and customer Source like we did a bunch of things. We renegotiated with all of our suppliers we switch suppliers. Fires in certain cases, we changed out our packaging like we did things to ensure to increased our margins on the products that we were selling. We raised our prices and we ran a price raise sale, which was the best thing we’ve ever done made half a million dollars in two days just by telling our community.

Hey, our prices are going up by 10% in a week and you combine at the current prices now with a 10% discount, but we got you know, we haven’t Ever Raised our prices and as the company gets bigger things like, you know inventory and salary and our costs rise, and so we have to raise our prices. So we raised our prices and We did things to increase our margins.

Steve: How did you know how much to raise the price and how did you know that you weren’t at like some limit in terms of just pricing.

Ezra: So we split so on are two front and offers. So I only have two things that people buy from me when they find me for the first time. Then those are my cosmetic sticks. They come to me for that a lot easier to sell than it is to sell like skincare for example, because everyone has skin care but the skincare is the back end right the what we sell the people already know as so the two items that are the front end offers. We split tested the changes in pricing from a low change immediately. I am changed to a very drastic High change and ultimately raising the front end price of our products by $10 would have ended up increasing the profit the most significantly but it was cutting down too much on customers that were coming in the door and we have a goal of not only profitability but also a big footprint because one of the other things that affects your valuation is literally how big your audience is and how much revenue you generate.

Not just how much profit you make so all three price tests one against are control and we went with the medium raised on the front end the back end products, which is are all 14 other of our skin care products. We just raised by a flat ten percent across the board and we didn’t even test it and it’s been fine because those people already know us like us engage with our content and our going to buy from us because they like us not because their price sensitive and so we kind of were in the medium end of the market in terms of what we were charging and now we’re more at the higher end of the market and so front end products that are for customer acquisition. I would recommend that you split test that but your back end cross sells you can usually get away with 5 or 10% without much of a problem.

Steve: interesting. I actually didn’t even know that about your business. So you have this like one lead in product that just opened

Ezra: we have to lead in products and it’s like my whole shtick is simplify your makeup routine, you know color Cosmetics. It’s like it’s make Cosmetics or what gets people’s attention and then everything else I sell is basically a back-end upsell cross-sell and a lot of businesses are that way where they’ve kind of got like one flat especially businesses that are driven by Response and if you’re an Amazon brand sure you got a million products you sell but and if you’re a Google if you’re if you’re driven by direct response, but it’s search traffic. You generally have a whole bunch of products you sell because you got a bunch of different queries. But if you’re driven by story-based direct response where you’re telling a story engaging a subscriber in a conversation and then offering them something you usually have one or two products that are the real like 85 90 percent of what you sell on the front end and then everything else tends to be a back-end upsell cross-sell the people who came in from one of those funnels and heard about you and You know pretty much every business that I’ve evaluated that is the same kind of business has a similar story to that.

Steve: So in terms of increasing your repeat business, what did that involve specifically?

Ezra: It involved running more sale event. So we now do six a year it involved introducing more products. So we’ve kind of ramped up the product launches work. I mean there’s a reason Apple does them there’s a reason Amazon does that there’s a reason that people do them? We started building anticipation rather than just we used to just say hey, we got a new product here. It is now we spend two weeks saying Hey, this product is coming building up excitement for it do an ads and emails talking about what it’s going to be and then we release it and we’ve literally doubled the effectiveness of our product launches just by adding a two-week anticipation funnel on the front end of the product launch, which I share that on the Zipify blog in the smart marketer blog how we do that but I mean excitement works if someone’s paying attention to you and there’s an opportunity for them to follow along and get excited about something and sign up for it and then get a few emails saying it’s coming.

I mean, they’re much more likely to convert. Then he we introduced a new you know, moisturizer that helps for after you’ve been in the sun. I mean that’s nowhere near as compelling as giving the opportunity for someone to be excited.

Steve: So in terms of getting people excited in terms of just running Facebook ads are these just awareness ads or are they are you trying to get an email add or something?

Ezra: Yes, it’s for product launches their 95% people who have either been on our email list or bought for us from us in the past. We still we do run lead gen on our product launches to build anticipation for them to cold as well. But But it doesn’t really convert that. Well, so really our product launches are about monetizing the community that we have and then for Facebook lead gen. We’re still leading with our Flagship products and our customer acquisition Facebook customer acquisition and you know, we’re constantly changing up our video formulas and testing different articles and doing everything we can to, you know, reduce our customer acquisition costs for sure, but you asked specifically about you know, repeat business and one of the main things done for that in addition to you know, improving our And marketing significantly.

I mean we release for posts a week. We’ve got two writers on staff. We’ve really invest about a million dollars a year in non branded content marketing that’s designed to engage my community and I think once you get bigger and you have a front end customer acquisition funnel that is bringing you customers the game of keeping those folks engaged through content that they’re enjoying and being entertained by is a big part of scale.

Steve: If you sell an Amazon or run any online business for that matter, you’re going to need a trademark to protect your intellectual property. Not only that but a trademark is absolutely necessary to register your brand on Amazon. Now, I used to think that any old trademark registration service would work and that could even try to register my own trademark by myself on the cheap, but I was dead wrong. Securing a trademark without a strategy in place usually results in either an outright rejection or a worthless unenforceable trademark. Now, that is why I work with Stephen Wagner and his team from Emerge counsel. They have a package service called total TM, which provides the same attention to detail and process that large law firms do at a fraction of the price. Now for me personally, I like Emerge Council because of their philosophy, their goal is to maximize IP protection while minimizing the price. So before you decide to register a trademark by yourself or file for other I could protection such as a copyright or a patent, check out Emerge counsel first and get a free consult. For more information go to emergecouncil.com and click on the Amazon sellers button and tell Steve that Steve sent you to receive a $100 discount on the total TM package for Amazon sellers. Once again, that’s emergecounsel.com over at emergecounsel.com now back to the show.

Let’s talk about content marketing a little bit. Are you writing primarily to tell a story or you writing for the intention of ranking in search?

Ezra: we do know nothing is with the goal of search engine optimization. Not a single thing is with the goal of ranking. I mean, yes, we Rank and we get organic traffic and we do put you know meta title tags and meta descriptions and maybe an H1 but there’s no key word for thought before we create our content or content is all you know eight skin care tips for aging skin. Or how I overcame perfectionism or my battle with anorexia and what I did about it experiences that the women in our community are having we’re talking about them, you know, women are going through their hair graying their skin wrinkling their hormones changing through menopause their skin changing all this kind of stuff dating after a divorce is a big one for women who are in their 50s. I mean, there’s a lot of experiences that they’re having that we can talk about and we’re doing that in a number of ways.

We’re writing articles. We’ve got a new ambassador program where we’re allowing our customers to create videos about our products and also about their makeup routines and so we’ve got a bunch of different pillars that we talk about sustainability is a big one. You know, how we are sustainable why we’re sustainable what we do in that direction. We have these sort of content pillars that we create regular content within a given sort of framework, you know tips lifestyle stuff Ambassador stuff sustainability stuff. You can go to the Boom by Cindy Joseph blog and which will which will about next week be on zip if I Pages might landing page builder for shop We just released blogging and we’re switching it over. We currently have a WordPress implementation for our blog but managing both WordPress and Shopify in the cross-domain tracking and lack of S It’s just a nightmare.

So we built this really sweet blog integration on Zipify pages and we’ve moved the boom blog over there. It’s about to go live and pray excited about it. But yeah, so that’s kind of like what we do for Content.

Steve: So what’s funny about that is when you writing articles, I guess that without the intention of ranking in search a lot of times those articles kind of get buried deep within the blog. Ali right. So are you doing a lot of things you do that content back to people or?

Ezra: we do re-mail on it? We re-mail, you know, any article we track what articles and videos perform the best in terms of click-through rate engagement and purchase rate because people buy from these things to even though they don’t aren’t going to content or aren’t going to products you can get to the our products once you get to our blog. So it’s a big part of how we monetize is keeping this content coming and anything that works any good article if it’s a really good one will turn it into a front-end pre-sell article and run it to to Nuke new subscribers and Prospects. So we will use our current list to determine what is the best content and then we’ll take that and we’ll run that top of funnel. We will re mail on our best post will put them our best ones in our email automation sequences. But a lot of our stuff just gets buried on the blog and is never used again that does happen a lot.

Steve: interesting. So a lot of this really is just building a community word of mouth and social is probably your primary strategy mainly because you’re in the cosmetics Business, I would say right?

Ezra: Yeah, I mean we amplify that content. So any content at our blogs and videos and articles our Facebook fans will see it our subscribers will see it will amplify it on Google. So we’re paying to push that content out once it’s out there running ads to it. We’re also emailing our list and the idea is, you know, people get 150 emails a day. So we send we send three or four content emails a week and that generates 40 Grand a week in revenue for us. Those aren’t sale emails and then every four to six weeks will either introduce a product or run our side. We will introduce product four times a year three or four times a year, but every six weeks or so, there’s either a product launch or a sale or something like that where we have a big monetization of our community. So the content is responsible for it.

Definitely ROIs at a very very solid number based on how much money we spend to produce it and amplify it and how well it has our see what happens is your sales work better, right? If you’re keeping your community engage if they’re seeing content from your and in their news feeds and on Facebook and on Google and on YouTube on the Display Network, then when you run a sale and they see sale ads, they’re much more likely to engage with them. So our sales work way better because we have this content strategy.

Steve: I’ve heard you and Mollie Pittman give a number of webinars about Facebook ads and how advertising is just getting a lot more expensive. What are some of the trends that you’ve been seeing and have you countered them some of the negative Trends I should say.

Ezra: I mean since we’ve been online Steve, I think advertising costs have gone up on average 15% year over year.

Steve: Oh yeah actually more than that for me in some cases. Yeah.

Ezra: Yeah. Yeah, me too. You know, I don’t think it’s going to change and you know, I think that there’s a lot of cool stuff you can do and I think one of the biggest opportunities is short form video content. So sub 15-second video ads on Instagram stories Facebook mid-roll videos Facebook. I think if you’re not doing short form in addition to whatever normal video ads you might be running then you are definitely missing out on the cheap inventory at the moment because that’s where all the cheap inventory is. Of course you also have Have the longer form videos and what most people aren’t doing is also mixing an image ads GIF animation ads and Carousel ads because you know Facebook is only going to show a user a video ad a few times. It’ll show it but it’ll show that same user if you’re targeting. Let’s say a look-alike of your buyers or something or even just you know, people who are fans of Ezra Firestone digital marketer, whatever, you know.

I mean, if you’re targeting any group of people and you have multiple types of Creative Images videos GIFs short form Inform carousels that Prospect in that targeting group will see more ads from you because you have more diverse sort of AD creative that Facebook is willing to show them in addition to that. Most people only run conversion focused ads designed to generate either add to cart events purchase events or even email leads. If you’re only ever running conversion ads again, Facebook’s only going to show a certain amount of conversion adds to every Prospect if you also have 10 percent of your budget in brand awareness in you know, dynamic product ad or Catalog sales in messenger where you’re clicking the messenger, like if you were using different objectives within the platform even at a small percentage of your budget, you’ll reach way more people in your audience because those objectives have a much lower cost per thousand people (CPM) cost per impression.

So even though you’re spending less of your budget on these other objectives, you’re actually reaching way more people than you would if you were just using only conversion focused ads.

Steve: Let me ask you this. I mean your team is like over a hundred people now and this

Ezra: across Three different companies and fair. Yeah, so, you know, it sounds really fancy, but I want to just give transparency into that which is 40 of those hundred people are on the development team for Zipify So that’s a big chunk of folks and we rather developed, you know whole and that is my only physical location all developers are in one place and then you know, let’s say 20 on boom and then you know two essential it’s almost like 20 boom 30 Zipify 10 or 15 smart marketers kind of like, you know, Mixed up in that way.

Steve: I was just going to say to create the number of creatives necessary to do all this testing on Facebook Instagram short stories and what not. It kind of requires a lot of effort on your part. So if you don’t have a large team, what would you what would be recommendations for kind of like a more bare-bones approach?

Ezra: Yeah, and I don’t I mean I think that’s another kind of limiting belief, you know with Boom. For example, we have like five videos that we’ve been running for the last like two years. I mean, yes, we mix them up and edit them in different ways. You don’t actually need a lot of creative. You just need good creative. And so one video editor or one graphic designer is actually plenty and you can freelance that you know, you can hire a freelance video editor and you can shoot videos on your iPhone or you can hire a freelance designer and make GIFs and images and basically you can run the same thing for months and months and months until it stops working or if you’re spending a lot of money. Yeah, then you got to refresh your ads quite often, but if you’re spending less than Or 500 bucks a day. You don’t need to refresh your ads that often. I mean Zipify for example, you’re probably seeing the same Zipify ads that were running for months ago running now because I’m only spending see, you know, 50 bucks a day or something amplifying Zipify.

So you don’t need actually that much creative. It’s more about quality creative that’s going to engage the particular audience. And yeah, you got a test that so when you’re first launching you might need to try three or four different videos by different videos a couple different images, but but you only need one. Team member in that role to support that so for Zipify only have one designer for boom. I only have one designer. Although I also have a video editor at smart marketer. I also have a designer and a video editor. So I have two but you could freelance those roles. You could buy you could buy that on an as-needed basis through you know service providers.

Steve: This is actually a question. This is kind of a different type of question. But I’ve always wondered how Zipify kind of falls into your overall strategy. Is it just because you were doing all these these things with Zipify with boom like the function out the equivalent functionality that you decide to create this SAS company?

Ezra: So I yeah, I believe in permaculture as a business model and permaculture is a farming term and it what it means essentially is to reuse all of your resources to their greatest benefit capture the rainwater water the garden take the chicken shit use it for the compost like take all your food scraps and use those for the composite use use everything that you can to further your goal and a lot of people think that they need stuff outside of what they already have but they just haven’t taken inventory of the assets that are actually around them. And so this is a rule that I live my life by instead of looking outside of what I already have access to let me look at what I have access to and how I can better utilize that and if you look at my business model, it’s very permaculture. Take a look at this. It’s like, okay, I innovate in the direction of e-commerce first and foremost with boom and any other e-commerce business I’ve had over the years then I take whatever works.

And I document that and I share that on my blog with smart marketer and I offer that to business owners and I create courses that are in depth and I sell that and then I take the money from those courses and I put it back into the e-commerce business and then I was also back since I mean 2011-2012 doing development services. I was building websites for people on Magento OS Commerce x-cart prestashop. I understand the e-commerce customer journey and also the technology that powers the From the early days of before Shopify Bigcommerce and Volusion where the big three from, you know, the Magento days the Yahoo store days, the xcaret days the prestashop days the you know, I’ve been in this industry and I’ve also had a mind for development now granted. I’m not the greatest developer myself, but I know how everything talks to. I know how every piece of technology talks to every other piece of technology to create the customer buying journey, and I’ve always sold Services I had An AdWords Services Agency from 2008 to 2012.

I had a Shopify and sort of every other platform development agency from 2011 to 2015 and with Services I failed miserably I mean it may be my worst ever business venture. I had a real hard time in my life setting boundaries in general and at that spilled over into my Services Agency and I think I sold three or four million dollars in services and made like 30 Grand in profit, maybe because like what would is I’d sell someone a website and then and then I they’d come back and say hey, can you do this and I’d be like sure and I go back to my developers. Hey, man, we need to do this, you know, and and basically I just never figured out how to really set a container around a sale. So I was just like doing stuff for people like forever because I didn’t yeah, I didn’t quite have a command of boundaries which is something I had to learn and that’s something that served me well since I have picked up on how to do that in a way that feels good to the person.

I’m setting the boundary with but so I’ve always done development and sold development and I only stopped because I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. But I always thought it was a good business and thought I could do well in it, but I didn’t love so much talking to people or being the person. Yeah, I’m a comic. I’m a charismatic hermit man. I want to be like in my cave making stuff and then come out to your event for two days and then go back to the top of the mountain where I get to be alone and make things. I mean does I’m not like the best service provider because I don’t want to talk to the client but what I discovered so I was take a look at the By ecosystem and I actually in 2014. I created a WordPress plugin for Amazon business owners maybe it was 2013 that allowed you to do the one-time giveaway coupons where you could give a product away for a dollar and give them a coupon.

And this and that that was kind of the strategy for ranking on Amazon back then and so this this WordPress plugin allowed you to collect an email address give them a one-time Amazon coupon follow up with them build a landing page is pretty sweet little plug-in called booster page and I think I spent like 30 grand to make it and about 380,000 in revenue on it. So it was extremely profitable and it was a monthly subscription. Of course. I had to keep it up to date but the update of the development, you know was not that much and so basically I was like, oh, so the way that you make development work is you don’t sell a one-time fee you sell a subscription you software-as-a-service and so once I figured out the software as a service model, I’d always had the goal of when it you know, I want to get back in the development game and I want to do it as a product rather than you are buying me.

My time in my Consulting you are buying this product that I’ve created that is essentially thousands of lines of code that create an experience for you when you log into it and do things to help you but you’re not buying Ezra you’re buying this individual product that you pay for on a monthly basis. So I like the idea of recurring revenue of selling development. And yeah, I mean, I am developing things for my sight all the time and anything that works. I roll into my landing page builder. I roll into my upsell Builder. So essentially it’s a permaculture all over again. Because I’m taking what’s working for me and my students in my Mastermind and I’m developing that into the application and open sourcing that for my customers who can buy that on a monthly subscription. But what I underestimated was how difficult that business model is as Far and Away the most difficult business. I have ever been involved in by a factor of 15 or something

Steve: It’s very resource-intensive too, right?

Ezra: It’s so hard. It’s like so so hard, but it’s really fun. It’s kind of a never-ending spy role of Integrations and Madness and Shopify changes something and just like it’s crazy and the product is amorphous. It’s like with boom. I’m selling a tub with goo in it. And when I when I scale, it’s like more tubs more goop more labels and ship them. I mean, it’s really great goo and it’s amazingly well made and all its really wonderful product, but it’s very simple Zipify is like a code base that’s always changing and so like I don’t need just a manufacturer and then someone to ship it but I need and Engineers, back-end Engineers QAs project manager. I mean, it’s crazy the product side of it is very very difficult

Steve: How do you actually allocate your time between your three businesses?

Ezra:You know I kind of do what is needed when it’s needed. I mean, it doesn’t give you a good answer but each business has a project manager who is responsible for all ongoing operations who you could label essentially a COO and then I have a president who kind of swings across all companies and is sort of like dipping in to the key projects when needed and he’s really great. And so, you know, I might spend a week or two working only on Boom than a week or two and working only on Smart marketer. I might have a week where I You you know all of them in the same day. So it’s just kind of like as needed. But each of the companies at this point has very strong leadership and a very clear and cohesive Direction and ongoing operations. And so we’re no longer.

None of them are any longer in the startup phase where it’s like, we don’t really know what we’re doing. It’s all chaos. It’s like every one of them has consistent ongoing clear operations and objectives and team members and you know with smart marketer. I had a big change because I was both with the lead educator and also the lead kind of person who was doing strategy and content and all this stuff and I found that as boom scaled and a Zipify scaled. I was no longer having time and energy to keep the courses up-to-date and so with smart marketer, I’ve kind of transitioned to the main thing that we sell are the main thing people want to buy from us is training on paid advertising and I’m really good at teaching that because I’ve been doing it for a long time.

But Mollie Pittman is also really good if not, better at teaching that and so she’s now come on board to be the lead advertising educator which is kind of freed me up and I’ve got Colleen Taylor teaching a course for me Brett Curry teaching a course for me. So now with smart marketer, I’m no longer the one responsible for the courses, even though here and there I will do a course and I really like it but it’s more like I am the guy who’s out there speaking on stages and generating awareness because I can do that better than anyone else getting people to know about us and then the monetization or the product side of it is done by other folks, which is kind of cool.

Steve: Okay. Yeah that makes total sense man. Ez, I want to be respectful of your time here. We’ve been chatting for like 45 minutes where can people find you where can people check out your products and see for themselves what you’ve been up to.

Ezra: I got a little sidetracked there because I was going to go on another tangent about something but

Steve: Yeah go on the tangent go for it, man.

Ezra: Well, just you know was going to say that I think what you do is super cool, you know, you do this podcast and you also run a bit like we have very similar businesses and I think that this that in today’s world anyone who wants to do something and then talk about what they’re doing and share that and share tips has this opportunity to be an influencer. I mean maybe a micro influencer, but an influencer to a group of people who are sharing a collective experience who are interested in getting better at that experience over time. And I think that there’s a lot of rewarding things that are available when you build a community around a given topic like not only can you monetize that Community by selling products, but like then you make friends with people in that community and like it’s just A super cool thing to do and I just wanted to like anyone who’s listening to this who maybe has considered the potential of putting themselves out there and starting an Instagram handle or a YouTube channel.

Like I could not recommend it more highly and and you know, you’re talking from someone who’s pretty much introverted even though that is not my public Persona and I’m really good at turning it on on stage and being my authentic self and sharing that but like in general in my life. I’m not like if I get into a big room of people at a party like I don’t I don’t know how to handle that situation super well and I like Smaller groups. So I just think you know that this opportunity is available to anyone.

Steve: I can definitely agree with that. Nothing ever bad has ever happened from creating content.

Ezra: Yeah

Steve: only good things can happen.

Ezra: Totally

Steve: as long as you do it on a consistent basis.

Ezra: Yeah, consistency is the key so you can reach me @EzraFirestone on Instagram. That seems to be the hottest place right now I can tell because it used to be when I spoke at events. I would get Facebook likes, you know a couple hundred Facebook likes. I don’t mention my I don’t say go follow me, but I would just watch. Watch and then like couple years ago. It was like all of a sudden I was getting followers on Twitter and now every event I literally get no Facebook followers. No Twitter followers, but I’ll get hundreds of Instagram followers. So it seems an Instagram is like coming to go to platform at the moment. So you can find me at @EzraFirestone on Instagram, or you can go to my blog smartmarketer.com or if you’re a Shopify person. You can go to the Shopify App Store and type in Zipify, Z-I-P-I-F-Y

Steve: you know, it’s funny Ezra, we are very similar and what we Do and SAS is missing from my portfolio and actually was thinking about doing SAS company for a long time. But just after talking with you and a bunch of other people like my kids are my primary priority and it seems like it’s all consuming.

Ezra: It’s in the first year year to 18 months. It’s a very big cycle but I will tell you, you know, one of the ways to look at this Steve from one of the things I’m looking at and I think this is the last run I will go on but I think it’s really important. I think the game that we are playing is a resource generation, and I think that You know, a lot of people will say what are we doing? Well, we’re optimizing our businesses so that they’re more profitable and perform better over time, but it’s like yeah, but for what to generate as much resources we can in the time that we have to work and then to use that resource towards causes that we find Noble taking care of our family supporting our community serving the world and taking care of the world. And when we look at what are the most effective ways to generate resource, I’m looking at most people look only 3 to 6 to 9 months ahead. I’m looking at I think you need to look further. I’ve got 20 years left at this pace. 32 I’ll be 33 in a couple months.

I’m not going to be working at this pace much later than my early 50s and I’m going to be slowing way down. I think so. Okay. I got 20 years, right and I have some high Revenue goals and profitability goals and wealth creation goals because I have a lot of you know direct people in my family of where I was raised. I got 60 hippies to support, you know, I got a lot of people I’d like to take care of a lot of things I want to do in the world that require large amounts of resource, so As I understand it and have looked at the game of wealth creation its you know, cash flow businesses do not will not get you there. If the goal is massive amounts of wealth creation, which is a fun goal to have if you’re going to play the game why not have that goal. So what gets you there is asset liquidation. So the monetization of assets that you own and have equity in and then the deployment of that Capital into the market to acquire other assets.

Let them appreciate and then That was in the most common way to do this in the you know 70s through today has been through real estate right take your money by an asset level appreciate sell it but I think that you know, the way that I am playing this game is to either purchase operate and grow businesses and then liquidate them or build operate and grow businesses and then liquidate them and then use that money to deploy in the marketplace. And when I looked at smart marketer, smart marketer is a cash flow business, you could never sell it. It’s built around my Persona. So what was a way that I could create an Asset from this community that I have gathered around my Persona who I am serving. Well Zipify could be sold one day Zipify is an asset in the beauty of a SAS business is the multiple that you will receive on the SAS business is even higher than the multiple you receive on an e-commerce business because SAS businesses are generally valued for a multiple of Revenue.

Whereas e-commerce business are generally valued for multiple profit. So I do think at some point if you have the community and the desire and the skill set and the you know, It’s not a bad experiment because it would result in a very valuable asset. Even if it’s very small. I mean, let’s say you built up a small little app that wasn’t super complex. You only needed a couple Developers for and it only made a hundred grand a year. I mean that could end up being worth between 500,000 and a million dollars free and clear liquid in your pocket. If you ever were to monetize that asset which is a huge sum of money in liquid cash. So especially considering even if you have a million dollars in liquid cash you can put a hundred or two hundred of that thousand down towards the acquisition of an asset and take a loan. I mean affords you opportunity that not having large sums of money doesn’t afford you. I know you already know all this but I’m just saying it for the audience.

Steve: and this is just something like our mutual buddy Drew Senaki does all the time

Ezra: exactly, exactly. So anyways, I think you should do it. Maybe someday.

Steve: Thanks. We’ll catch up at the many check conference you go do a hangout with you.

Ezra: Yeah looking forward to it. Hey, man, thanks for having me on the show. I really appreciate it.

Steve: Thanks a lot for coming on. Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, even though Ezra is super successful. We all go through rough patches with our business and the key to success is to just buckle down and find a way to move on. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode279.

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

I also want to thank Kaviyo for sponsoring this episode, Kaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce Merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence a post purchase flow or win back campaign. Basically, all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo. Once again, That’s mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo.

Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store heading 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

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One thought on “279: Ezra Firestone On Overcoming Adversity And How To Stay Sane Running Your Business”

  1. Sean D says:

    Great Podcast. Ezra really has done it all. It was great to hear how they overcome the ultimate challenge with Boom. I thought Ezra’s perspective on SAS products towards the end huge value. Thanks Steve for the incredible guests and content

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