Today I have my friend Michael Jamin on the show. Michael specializes in creating brand stories for companies and he used the power of storytelling to grow his ecommerce store, Twirly Girl, into a multi-million dollar girl’s clothing brand.
In this episode, you’ll learn how to create an amazing story for your brand to generate sales.
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What You’ll Learn
- What it’s like working as a Hollywood screenwriter
- Why storytelling is important
- How Michael and his wife grew their business using powerful stories.
- A step by step guide to creating your brand story.
Other Resources And Books
Postscript.io – Postscript.io is the SMS marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Postscript specializes in ecommerce and is by far the simplest and easiest text message marketing platform that I’ve used and it’s reasonably priced. Click here and try Postscript for FREE.
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.
EmergeCounsel.com – EmergeCounsel is the service I use for trademarks and to get advice on any issue related to intellectual property protection. Click here and get $100 OFF by mentioning the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast.
But before we begin, I want to thank PostScript.io for sponsoring this episode. Now if you run an e-commerce business of any kind, you know how important it is to own your customer contact list. And this is why I’m focusing a significant amount of my efforts on SMS marketing. I sincerely believe that SMS or text message marketing is going to be a huge channel for my store going forward and I have chosen PostScript.io to be my text provider. Now why PostScript? it’s because they specialize in e-commerce stores and e-commerce is their primary focus and not only is it easy to use but you can quickly segment your audience based on your exact sales data and implement automated flows like an abandoned cart at the push of a button. Not only that it’s priceable too and you only pay for the messages that you actually send. So, head on over to PostScript.io/Steve and try it for free. That’s postscript.io/Steve.
I also want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Now, it’s safe to say that most of us have been doing more online shopping lately. And if you’re an e-commerce brand, that means you might be seeing more first-time customers, but once they made that first purchase, how do you keep them coming back? Well, that’s What Klaviyo is for. Klaviyo is the ultimate email and SMS marketing platform for e-commerce Brands. It gives you the tools to build your contact list. Send memorable emails automate key messages and more a lot more and that’s why more than 30,000 e-commerce brands like Chubbies Brooklyn and Livingproof use Klaviyo to build a loyal following. Strong customer relationships mean more repeat sales enthusiastic word of mouth and less depending on third-party ads. So, whether you’re launching a new business or taking your brand to the next level Klaviyo can help you grow faster and it is free to get started. Visit Klaviyo.com/mywife to create a free account. That’s Klaviyo.com/mywife. 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’s your host Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast today I’m thrilled to have Michael Jamin on the show. Now, Michael is someone who I met at e-commerce feel alive and he is also going to be a speaker at the Seller Summit in May. Now, Michael specializes in creating brand stories for companies. He’s been writing for television since 1996 and his many credits include, Just Shoot Me, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butt-head, Wilfred, Out of Practice, Rules of Engagement, Lopez and Tacoma FD. Now by applying his knowledge of storytelling Michael grew he and his wife’s company Twirly Girl into a multimillion-dollar girls’ clothing brand and today he helps other small businesses do the same through his company cardboard rocket ships and with that welcome to show Michael. How you doing today, man?
Michael: Hey, thank you Steve. I’m good. Thank you.
Steve: So, Michael, you know for all those who don’t know who you are. Give us a quick background story on how you got started with brand storytelling and how you and your wife decided to launch an e-commerce store selling girls’ clothing.
Michael: Yeah. That’s weird. So back in 2007. My wife just wanted to make our daughters we have two little girls just like a special dress for them. Just you know, because just a beautiful special dress like a twirly dress and so she took some classes and she made them in the girls wore them to school and next thing, you know, all the other kids like, “Hey, we want one!” and the parents wanted my wife, you know to sew them and she was like, well sure but she was happy to do it. But you know, she explained that these are… She’s like a lot of fabric the best fabric. It’s the stitching that she uses very high quality. It’s like it’s pretty intensive. It’s not like a regular dress you just going to get, you know, at Macy’s and so it’ll cost more and the parents are like, “That’s no problem.
You know, we want it. We just you know, we see how good it looks so we want it.” So, she started doing that and next thing you know, a local boutique found her and they wanted to order dresses and she’s like, “All right, so she just was sewing them on the dining room table.
Steve: How did that boutique discover her?
Michael: I think the girls were just wearing it outside the mall and like the woman’s like, “Oh my God, I want to see these.” And it was just like that. It was a woman who owned a boutique.
Steve: Oh, wow. Okay.
Michael: I believe that was that’s how it happened. Yeah and then next thing on Nordstrom was expressing interest and like it just kind of exploded and so at that point you could no longer sew ‘em on the dining room table, you know, she had a higher… We hired local sewers and contractors in LA…
Steve: In the garment district? Or?
Michael: And so, most of our in the Garment District, Yeah. Or close by. And so yeah, then it was like, “Well, why don’t you put them online and so… We… You know made a website and then in those… Like we really had no idea how to do any of this online. I mean just none and so all the first two websites were like terrible and you know, but the orders were still coming in and so, you know, it’s a learning curve.
Steve: What were the orders coming in from?
Michael: You know, it wasn’t a lot it was… You built the site and then it was just basically SEO or people hearing about it and just you know, we had labels on addresses and so people would see here the labels easy to label and they place an order.
Steve: Okay, so it was mainly word of mouth in the very beginning?
Michael: And it wasn’t a ton of business. We weren’t really advertising then.
Steve: Okay. You mentioned SEO I would imagine ranking for dress related terms is really difficult right?
Michael: It’s impossible. The only thing we ranked first on is twirly dresses.
Steve: What is it totally dress? I’m just kind of curious.
Michael: You know, it’s when you spin around the dress kind of flares out. It’s got a full circle skirt. So dreadfully flares out and you know creates like a hoop…
Steve: Oh, yeah. Okay. I know what you’re talking about. I have a little girl that’s why I’m asking. Maybe I’ll get one after this.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah, we’ll set you up.
Steve: So, validating your niche just kind of came naturally right? People just love the dresses. It’s not like you intentionally decided to start a business doing this in the very beginning…
Michael: Right and the dresses are there higher price because they’re made in America. So, some people have a lot of reluctance to buy that much on a dress and you know, we kind of explained that in the branding it’s like, “Well, these aren’t dresses really they’re happy childhood memories. There’s a difference. It’s going to cost you more…”
Steve: How much are we talking about here for a dress?
Michael: Well, so most of our dresses are reversible. So, it’s literally two dresses in one that are kind of like sewn together. And so that range it’s like… It could be like $84-ish in that area.
Steve: So, it’s not outrageous…
Michael: It’s not when you consider like, you know high quality dress like that you buy at a mall might be like in the 40’s. So, you know but that’s not reversible. So, it costs twice as much but people still freak out. I mean, they’re like, “This is not a ten-dollar dress that I can get at Walmart.” Yeah, right, but the quality, you know, you came here compare, so you have to… I had to learn really because I… You know, I just wanted to help out so I started doing the marketing. I really had to learn how to sell something and express why it would cost more and why you shouldn’t be looking at the numbers? Why you shouldn’t be looking at price?
Steve: Can I get an idea of like the designs are they completely unique? Like is your wife designing all of them?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve: Okay. So how does how does she do it? What’s your process?
Michael: Well, some of the just it’s weird like we have I think we own three or four or more trade dress design. So, it’s very hard to get a trade dress from the government saying that this is you can’t you know patent it most that’s you know, because the dress is a dress. It’s hard to get that so we have a few of them because as the designs are so unique and original. So that’s kind of like a patented back. Like wow, you got a trade dress…
Steve: So, no one can copy the dress design?
Michael: Specifically, yeah, they have to be they would have to make significant changes to the design. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. People… You know, you just have to enforce it. But, if you’ve got a twirly girl shop, you’d see all the designs.
Steve: So, given that in the beginning it was word of mouth. But once you go online, you know, you’re trying to convince total strangers who can’t really touch and feel this dress before they buy and as you mentioned before $84 is on the high side, like we’ve spent like 50 bucks for our girl’s dresses. So, I guess 84 is a little bit on the high side. So, how did Twirly Girl generate most of its sales once you started, I guess marketing to total strangers who couldn’t actually touch the product.
Michael: Right. And by the way, they’re made in America so that, right there the labour…
Steve: That’s true. Right.
Michael: So, you use that as a selling point, you know made in… Because like right now it’s so interesting back in the 90s half of all the clothing sold in this country was made in America half and now it’s less than 2%. So it’s like a novelty. It’s like wow, I mean, there’s just no industry anymore here. So, when you explain it like that they go, “Okay, I get why it costs more.” and then I really sell the values about you know, what we’re about and I sell… I basically learned this from our customers. They would say, “Wow. I remember having a dress like this when I was little my mother sewed it.” And after hearing that over and over again I picked up on I was like, okay these aren’t dresses.
It’s their happy childhood memories and then once I started selling… Once I started telling that particular story things kind of change, they go, you know, you’re right. You can’t express the how soft it is in the website. You can even mention… Maybe you can put made in America everywhere. People are going to see it. So, in the marketing is all about telling happy childhood memories and I tell that over and over again and then people get it. They finally, you know…
Steve: So, before we get into like the guts of the storytelling, I am just kind of curious. How come you don’t have these dresses made overseas? Where you could lower your price and reduce that one barrier to purchase.
Michael: Well, there is a certain amount of appeal to buying made in USA. It’s a lot of people really like that. But also, we make everything in such limited quantities, you know, that’s just how my wife wants to do it. Small runs that we’re constantly changing, so that the inventory is always fresh. So if you were to… If you would make it overseas you really have to make a huge… A large quantity and it would have to be three versions instead of 30 because you know you just have… And then at the end of the season you’d have to mark everything down by half to liquidate to move, to make room for the next season. It doesn’t make any sense because it’s not like these dresses go out of style.
That’s just the way the everyone else is doing and I think everyone else is playing in the dark ages because that’s just how it’s always been done.
Steve: So, they don’t go out of style then. Can you just sell the same design season after season? Is that what you guys do?
Michael: Yeah, we don’t mark it down…
Steve: Right that implies that you could get it from overseas, then right?
Michael: But I would have to order in such large quantities and I wouldn’t have the same variety that I have now. So that’s a real barrier for me. It’s like, you know, it’s like you go on our website now and you all look at all these, all the varieties that can get and you couldn’t do that now. if I had to do it overseas and then there’s the issue of, if something comes to you with a flaw in it, and that happens. You know, now you’re spending another six weeks sending it back to get fixed and never mind. If I were making in China now, I’d be out of business because nothing’s coming from there now.
Steve: Right? Well factories are starting to open up now. But yeah, yeah, I get you’re getting at, yeah. It’s a huge house. So, I was just wondering like if you had some bestsellers that always sell out, you could in fact get that one design mass-produced somewhere.
Michael: I could but then I wouldn’t have any variety. I would have like, you know a thousand of one dress and then what if someone doesn’t like it or what if you know, but now they can come to the website and it’s like a candy shop. You’ll see all these different colors and sizes and everything and that’s part of the appeal is that you’re getting like kind of a… We sell everything and everything is numbered like a work of art, so you’re getting dressed number 40 out of 56 or whatever.
Steve: So, you mentioned that the message that really resonated with your customers was you know, childhood memories. How did you come up with that?
Michael: Well, that was that was my… I was me, listening to my customers. They would say that. I would listen, watch the you know, the comments on Facebook or the reviews they’d leave and then over and over I started hearing. I think it’s oh… Okay because you know, I didn’t grow up wearing dresses. So, and you know my wife she didn’t have a happy childhood, so she didn’t wear dresses either growing up. It was something that was lacking for her, but she made it for our daughters so that they could experience this and it all kind of came together.
T’was like, okay. This is a memory that you know, kids grow up so fast, so they have this, you know up until like 12 or so and then girls suddenly change. They want to be you know, sophisticated, they want to wear a black and they want to you know, that childhood thing is over so quick. So, but it’s always just a memory of you know that a lot of these girls have…
Steve: And how do you turn that into I guess a story and how do you convey that to the customer?
Michael: Constantly. So, one thing I talk about is when you have a message, you have to say it seven times before someone hears it. It just doesn’t really, you know doesn’t resonate. So, for example, if you’re going to see a movie, you maybe you’ll see you know, someone mentioned the movie the title of a movie and they go, “Oh, yeah, I want to see that.” And then you’ll see a trailer for you. “Oh that looks good.” But then you after that you forgotten all about the movie and then you’ll see a billboard. “Oh, right. I want to go see that movie.” and then you’ll forget and you see a guy on a talk show and it really seven times before It occurs to you like, “Oh right. I want to go see this movie.” And so, it’s the same thing with branding you have to tell whatever story you’re telling. It’s like seven times in various ways before they finally get it. So, on our advertising on Facebook, you know, I’ll say more than a dress. It’s a happy childhood memory or I’ll say something about dresses for girl… That girls remember forever and I’ll put that everywhere. I’ll put it you know in an e-mail. I’ll talk about, you know a memory, I’ll talk about…
I’ll feature a girl, you know, and their story or in my advertising, everything is a happy childhood memory. So, it’s over and over again and I get it all the time. I’ll see the comments that people leave on our on our site or on Facebook and like and they just talk about, “Yeah, it is a memory. I remember my dressing, you know, I want to get that from my child or my granddaughter”
Steve: Does Twirly Girl generate most of its sales from Facebook?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve: Okay. So, can we talk about I guess the types of ads that you’re running? Are they video ads? Are the image ads? Like when you’re telling this story, what is like your top of funnel look like?
Michael: Well I described It as an ecosystem. So if I show a static image ad, and that’s what I’m doing a lot of that right now where I just show just a flat address and saying here it is and you know, then I’ll retarget that with either a video ad, I have number different videos just like a video of a girl twirling in the dress so you can see the motion or I’ll retarget that one from one of my longer I do these ads that’re like three minutes long which are all funny and it’s about kind of like going down the rabbit hole so that very creative and fun like that. So, if I have to do both. I it’s you know, if I’m doing just a static image, then every target with these videos. If I just do the video, we’re talking about the tagging images. All works together.
Because part of my problem is that, you know, so little girls don’t have credit cards, so they don’t buy it themselves, right? So, your marketing for moms and grandmothers and so even if they want to buy today, they’re not going to because they got to find out there’s girls’ favorite size if every color or size or whatever so you have to kind of hit them. Keep on hitting them before they make a purchase.
Steve: Interesting. So with your Facebook ads then it because I’ve seen some of these videos and it’s really hard to convey a video in a podcast but I will actually post one of your videos in the show notes for this episode, but do you lead with the video or do you lead with the image? Like what is the strategy there?
Michael: Currently, I’m leading with the image and then the follow-up the video but last year I did the opposite so…
Steve: And is there a reason for that? I was just kind of curious because those videos are really good. They’re really convincing.
Michael: Yeah, there’s it just depends what’s working if they are, if my body is gets saturated by something that I kind of switch to the next thing.
Steve: So what I was hoping to do today, Michael was like you have this brand Twirly Girl that you’ve found this store that you can tell over and over and over again, but the problem is a lot of people out there that are selling like mundane products. Like I don’t know like, Office Products or jewelry or what-not. Stuff that might not… People might not think that they have a good hook for people to buy. So I know you kind of teach this and you have this formula for coming up with a story and I was hoping we kind of walk through that with just some example of someone selling something boring.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah, there’s a good… Okay that’s perfect. I just took on this is client home kind of consulting for. And he said, “Yeah my products a little boring. So, I don’t know if you’re going to go to help me. What do you sell?” He said. Well, it’s basically name tags for he makes them for businesses and you know, just name tags and I go well that’s not boring. That’s like the best thing ever because… What’s everyone’s favorite word in the English language is their name, people love hearing their name. It’s like if you say your name, these electrodes light up in your brain. I mean it. We’re conditioned to like and that’s why people desire fame they want other people to know their names.
So, I was like, you’re not selling name tags, you’re selling recognition and your selling recognition in every sense of the word. If you’re important enough to have a name tag, what does that say about you? A nametag could open a conversation with someone, with a customer. And so, I think that kind of opened his eyes and was like, oh he’s like, “Wow. I’m selling name tags, you know, it’s I really believe it applies to every. I’m sure there’s an exception to the rule but, I haven’t met that person.
Steve: Well, let’s go with these this name tag example here. So that’s great. You tell me that it’s all about name recognition. Like what do I do with that information?
Michael: Well for him, that’s kind of what we’re mapping out. I don’t want to go to…
Steve: Ohh you don’t want to use that… Cause’ I probably know who you’re talking about. Actually. It’s probably a mutual friend of ours at ECF. I’m guessing.
Michael: I don’t think so. But he did learn that he did hear from me through somebody ECF so I don’t know.
Steve: So I mean, can we just pick a boring example, let’s say I’m selling staplers. Hehe.
Michael: Okay. Well stay put well, you’re probably selling I guess office supply office supplies. So you’re selling you know, I guess what you’re probably selling is productivity and an organization and so you’re selling something more emotional than just a stupid stapler and a stapler is probably let’s say a stapler probably the first thing you get when you set up your shop. I mean, you got to get you know, you’re sitting at your desk. What do I need? I need a pen a stapler. It’s you know, it’s like the basics. If that were a good example, you know, I think that’s kind of what you’re selling is.
Steve: Or let’s uhm… I’m trying to think of a good sample we can go with like so when you’re creating these videos to tell your story, are you not focusing on the product anymore then? Are you just literally just telling the story?
Michael: I’m focusing on what on what they want the brand to be. I don’t think people like products are boring. Like apple doesn’t so like if someone says they like apple they don’t say, “Oh, I love the Apple iPhone 4S.” They go, “I love Apple.” You know, that’s what they talk about. The brand. They don’t talk about the product. And so, I think that’s what distinguishes brand, you know a good brand from a from a boring brand is that is the overall story that they’re selling, not just the products. Because products, everyone has you know, you can get that product somewhere else. But if you’re selling your brand then that product you can look that product through the brand so like an example, I use them back in the 80s. You remember… Well, I mean…
Steve: I’m a child of the 80s.
Michael: Do you remember Izod Lacoste?
Steve: Of course! Alligators shirts?
Michael: Yeah, right. Exactly. So, everyone preppy was the thing back then, right? Everyone had to wear these great the green or the pink Izod Lacoste right? Because that preppy. There were, the Izod was selling prep, which was having money and wealth in going yachting. And you know, that’s what they were saying this lifestyle, there’s rich lifestyle and so you had to have the shirt with the alligator on it. But pretty soon, they were being knocked off by Le Tigre. Remember them?
Steve: I don’t know. I don’t even know if I had genuine alligator shirts, actually. To be honest with you. Haha.
Michael: Well the knock off was Le Tigre. And so, it was the same exact shirt, but it had a tiger on it. Okay, and it sold that much less because that’s a knockoff but it’s kind of defeated the point. Like if you were rich or want to pretend, you’re rich you’d spend the extra $15 on this shirt because that’s what their shirt represented. It was the alligator you were buying you weren’t buying the shirt; you’re buying the alligator.
Steve: So, I understand that but how do you get to that point? So if we want to go with the productivity example, we just alluded to earlier, what sort of like… How would you tell that story?
Michael: Of the stapler guy? Well, I guess I would want to know that’s why it’s…
Steve: I guess what’s the process like I’m not asking you just come up with it. But like how do you think about it? So, you already came up with this hook so it sounds like you need to come up some sort of hook that that trigger something emotionally. Right?
Michael: Right. I would find out why that person got into that business. I’d ask me the first question and they’ll say well it was just a stupid business. I found like a no, it’s not as to why did you choose that one?
Steve: Well, let’s say this person says, oh I use jungle scout and I found that it was a good product that with little demand and that’s why I started it.
Michael: Okay, but why did you… Okay. What were you doing before you became an entrepreneur?
Steve: Let’s say I was a customer service agent.
Michael: And then what was wrong with that?
Steve: Bored at work.
Michael: Okay. Right? And so, and what are your reward and what else you probably weren’t making a lot of money…
Steve: Weren’t making a lot of money. I didn’t enjoy talking to people who are angry and complained about their products.
Michael: There you go. Okay. So, then you decided to open up your own business and you knew then that you weren’t going to have… You don’t have a business where people were angry and compelling about their products. You want to help them and help them get their own businesses off the ground because that was exciting and not boring to you. So, there’s the passion behind what your product is. You could be selling, you know, it doesn’t matter whether you’re selling staplers or pencils or whatever it is. You’re talking about the passion that you the reason why you got into this business and the reason why you’re going to be trustworthy and why someone wants to purchase from you. Because you know, you’re not going to be that kind of the guy who’s….
Who has something of an awful product with poor service, you already did that for a living and you know, how awful that is?
Steve: Interesting. So, what you are suggesting actually is essentially like an origin story?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah and in that if that’s the story like if you have a product that isn’t sexy like staplers. Well then fine, let’s talk about you and talk about why you’re the one selling staplers and why I should trust you because I could buy stapler and staple it from anybody. But if I like you and I trust you and I understand why you got into the business now. I trust you, right? That’s the first step.
Steve: So, I would imagine putting together a short video that kind of talks about your story and putting that on your about page, but would you suggest using that in your advertisements as well?
Michael: Well, I draw, you know, I think the most valuable… The three most valuable things you can get when someone comes to your website, of course, there’s a purchase. Second to that is getting their email so you can you know, if they don’t buy so you can purchase later and the third is getting them to your “about us” page so that they can learn about you. So yeah, you could put a video there or you could you know, you could just type it out or you can make that the first or the second of your email campaigns or that story. I’m not sure I would open unless you can do it in a funny way and it can be done like Dollar Shave Club, they were selling… You know, there’s boring razors, but that guy is so… He creates a great commercial so you’d have to really know how to make a dynamic commercial to do that.
Steve: Well, so let’s talk about Twirly Girl. How do you guys do it?
Michael: So, it’s funny because the reason why I called my side business cardboard rocket ships. It’s because I wanted the second commercial, we made was I had my wife stepped out of a cardboard rocket ship and I built that everything in the garage. And your first line is I just returned from Jupiter where we source all for all our fabrics, you know comes out of a rocket and it’s you know, it’s all nonsense because it’s like the brand that we sell is basically, it’s basically Willy Wonka. it’s as if Willy Wonka was a dress company, so it’s a lot of imagination and those are all childhood memories like playing with rocket ships and make believe and all that fun stuff.
So yeah, so that’s how we did it for her just you know step in and that it grabs you like what you came out of a rocket ship and everyone knows it’s made up. And it looks like it’s it looks like a guy built in his garage, which is fine. That’s how kids do make believe they don’t, you know, they built stuff themselves, you know with cardboard boxes.
Steve: So video which I’ve seen by the way, which is excellent. Are you putting that on your about page or how you getting people to actually watch that video?
Michael: That one so I have five videos similar to that. You know, like you’re all just as fun and crazy and I got two more coming up. That one I’m running just ads on Facebook and it takes some. That one. Yeah runs on Facebook and it takes them to my home page where you can see the other four videos. Yeah. And so, and if you like that one that get retargeted one of the other videos that are similar to it. So what I get out of that is, you know on my website, you know, even if I get a 3% conversion rate, which is considered pretty good, you know for all the people who are seeing the ad what about the other 97% so that ad is the, that the intention of that ad is to do something with another 97% will never buy because they don’t want to dress, they don’t have a child, they don’t need it, you know. So, to get some value out of those people those ads get shared a ton.
Steve: Oh, because their viral.
Michael: Yeah. I mean it you can’t make something go viral. But if you make something that that doesn’t… That selling something other than a dress, I’m selling imagination, I’m selling, you know a memory then then that has a higher chance of going viral.
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 Wiegler 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.
Steve: How do you get the other people to watch the other four videos? You mentioned you have five videos and let’s say someone watches one video and lands on your site. How do you get them to watch the other ones?
Michael: Well there and they want to watch it. I mean, you know…
Steve: Ohh they’re right on the front page on the homepage
Michael: Yeah on the homepage.
Steve: I see.
Michael: But also all retargeted on Facebook. Now just I’ll show them the other ads.
Steve: How does email kind of come into play? Like, how do you how are you grabbing email addresses and getting people to come back?
Michael: So that is the only time I offer a discount and that’s 10% to sign up and that’s the, you know I talk about this a lot as like I don’t believe in discounting my products are competing on price because I’m not something, I’m not selling something anybody else has so I don’t need to mark it down. So, but in order to get somebody to sign up on your email, you do have to offer them something. So, it’s a 10% off coupon and that’s basically all we ever offer. You know, when I send out an email blast once a month or whatever. It’s the same offer 10%.
Steve: And then terms of your autoresponder sequence once someone gets that coupon, I’d imagine there’s more storytelling there. I’m just trying to ask how you structure your email sequence.
Michael: So, for the automated email. So, what okay, every three weeks or four weeks. We send out a blast, you know, here’s our new arrival say 10%. And so those are just regular standard but then for the automation sequence every different email, I’m not trying to sell there. I’m just trying to sell the brand and so I just tell a different story about us. I tell a story about how, why my wife got into the business then I tell a story about how I got into the business and then I have another story where it’s like…
Steve: So, you’re a part of the story not just your wife?
Michael: Well, we have we have there’s multiple stories to tell so I have my own story, she has her story.
Michael: One day everyone in the office had to go to Atlanta for a trade show. So that left me I had someone had to watch the shop or and fulfill, you know, take care of everything and I was the only one, right? Because everyone was gone. And so, I had this idea of… Okay, I’m going to learn the business from the ground up. I’ll see how it really works and I’ll make things more efficient and you know, that was my arrogance and then as I… It was overwhelming.
I was like, I don’t know, you know, I don’t have do any of this stuff and I learned how to do it and I realized why the in efficiencies in our brand actually are actually will give the product a lot of character and why I couldn’t get rid of all those inefficiencies because that’s what breathes life into it. Like every process was. Oh, I get why we’re doing this now and so I just wrote a story about that. And so, and I…
Steve: That actually sounds like a movie.
Michael: Well wasn’t that dramatic. Hehe.
Steve: Well so it’s like you’re stuck alone running this business and like you’re making a mess of it. Trying to improve upon it and at the end you realize that you know, all these inefficiencies are in place for a reason and that’s what makes the brand special.
Michael: Right yeah. And so, I do, you know, I’m a screenwriter. So, I guess you’re right I come to it from that point of view. But I so, I wrote that and it’s not a long email, you know, I don’t know how many words but it’s a page and people right back on that and they send me notes. “Oh, you did great!” and I think this is like they’re encouraging and stuff. “Hang in there.”
Steve: That’s funny. Okay.
Michael: Yeah, so and that’s just that’s just good engagement. It’s getting people… First it helps you. Your open rate because people want to read your stuff, but also, you’re getting to people just to feel like oh, you’re a person. You’re not just a faceless, you know brand.
Steve: What’s the subject line on these emails? I’m just kind of curious to get people to open.
Michael: Okay. One of them is CEO promoted to mailroom. That one’s called that see how…
Steve: Hahaha. Okay.
Michael: You know and the other ones oh for my wife Story how it was like how a mother what was it called that I’d have to look it up. I was but it was something like by how a mother created a million-dollar business, you know, it’s just interesting and it’s true. It’s kind of how that’s how her origin story is.
Steve: Interesting. It’s got nothing to do with the product. So, I mean this is like a fundamental shift that it’s hard to fathom for people who aren’t used to doing this, right?
Michael: Yeah, and that’s kind of why I walk them through it and help them. But that’s I think that’s the fun part because I think people relate to people they don’t relate to business like big giant brands and when we first started, I was very insecure about that. I was like, well who’s going to buy from us? If they know you’re selling on the sonar dresses on the dining room table. Who’s going to trust us? And so we kind of took out all the personality. We try to make it seem like a big giant brand and that’s like such a mistake. I think that’s what big giant brands, what they do is they opposite they try to make themselves look small and personable and that’s why they hire faces like progressive like they have flow. They give the brand of face even though flow is never going to pick up the phone when you call, they try to make it seem like flow will.
So yeah, it’s really about just you know telling your personal story and if you’re proud of your business and you should be, you should tell your story and I think one of the added benefits is like on days that we are that were slow and I having someone’s got a slow day but will get an email from someone or will get a comment on Facebook and you can like they chose how much they love us and help me know they’re referring their friends to us and they’ll you know, they’ll share. “I love this brand.” “Have you seen these videos?” or whatever and so that’ll pick me up on a good on a bad day. You’re like, okay, we’re doing everything right just calm down. It’s just a slow day don’t panic.
Steve: Others think about my autoresponder sequence right now I have emails where I’m just kind of talking about the products. I’m wondering whether I should just totally replace those with creative stories. Like I enjoy writing those creative story type of emails. I have a couple of in my sequence but a lot of them are really just talking about the product and you know, those are boring. So, what how do you find the balance between product or is it just all story?
Michael: Well for the automation we have you know, I think there’s like we’re constantly adding so I think maybe we have eight or ten different, you know story kind of where I talk about our values and so I don’t like to and then sometimes I’ll give a coupon at the end. Oh, thanks for reading save 10% for you know for your trouble and just you know, again, it’s the same offer.
Steve: But that’s not the point of the email is not to get the coupon, right?
Michael: Yeah. The point is not to sell its just to share. You know and I do think if you give somebody something first and that could be a laugh and emotion or you’re just sharing your vulnerability. If you give them that, they’re likely… They’re more likely to give you something in return which is their business or referral or whatever and so I would try to just mix it up a little bit. I mean that’s kind of the name if the name of your website. It’s the name, you know, you’re talking about your wife.
Steve: Oh, I’m not talking about the blog I’m talking about the store part. The blog is all personal, All-Stars pretty much. Here’s a question that I’m sure you’ve gotten before in the past. What if someone doesn’t want to put themselves out there? Like what if they don’t want to get on camera? What if they don’t want to be a… What if they don’t want to get personal?
Michael: Well, I think well if you don’t want to be on camera, I guess if you wanted to create something. And you hire an actor for example, that’s kind of what the world’s most fast interesting man. You’ve seen that for the commercials and it’s all horseshit but he’s funny right? He’s still you know, how he rides the bull to work every day, you know, and we know he doesn’t ride a bull to work. And so that’s the face of the brand. So, you know, you hire someone and they create, you know, I help brands do this as well. Kind of create a persona so that when you speak to your customer, you’re always speaking to them and that voice that pompous know-it-all adventure man voice which people recognize and they know it’s tongue-in-cheek and that’s the voice of your brand.
That’s fine too. I would still encourage that brand to get a little personal maybe on their “about us” page where there’s just a photo of the owner and why the owner got into it and it’s not like you’re oversharing it’s not like you’re talking about something horribly personal but you’re just giving a little bit. You’re giving a taste of why you’re doing this and the struggles and the obstacles that you faced at that it shouldn’t make anybody to uncomfortable. It really is, you know, it’s not so intimate that sharing, you know horrible secret about yourself.
Steve: That’s interesting your kind of like blurring the lines between like the blog and the store. So, you would suggest talking about some of your pain points and running the business?
Michael: Yeah. We all have those pain points…
Steve: No, we all do it’s just… I really, usually do not see those as part of store emails.
Michael: I would try and see what happens where its worst-case worst that can happen. If someone falls in love with you like no one ever, you know, there’s a great quote by Oscar Wilde whose genius, right? And he said you, “you’d worry less about what about what people thought of you, if you realized how little they did.” and that works on so many… Like it basically means “A” they already think you’re garbage anyway, so what are you worried about which is funny. But I think he really is meanings means to say is like in five seconds later. They’re not going to remember this.
Anyway there, you know, they got their own problems. No one’s really worried about you know, how you come across they have their own issues. So, but if you can share and connect to somebody on a on a personal relationship, I don’t think you’re going to be judged. I think they’re going to say, “oh, yeah. I have the same problem.” You know.
Steve: I’m just thinking about my other storms signature. Wonder if I should lead with, you know, wife quits her job to stay at home with the kids and creates a million-dollar business. As one of the autoresponder sequences for the store. I just never thought of doing that before.
Michael: Well type it up and send it over and I’ll look at it. Hehe.
Steve: Well, okay. So, a lot of this involves creativity. So how do you teach creativity?
Michael: You know, it’s funny. I always someone just asked me like, “oh, well, maybe I should make a module and that’s all I’m going to make a video of that as well my website and it’ll be like a 30-minute of my creative process and it’s not like a you can’t teach someone.
Steve: What can we talk about this process a little bit. I mean I’m curious.
Michael: Yeah. Well, so I think so. I’m a like I said like we talked about I’ve been a sitcom writer for 25 years. So, and I remember I was working at King of the Hill during… On 911 right so that day everyone was stayed home from work, but the next day we had to go back to work and we had to make comedy and no one was in the mood. I promise. No one was in the mood for weeks to say and even funny it was somber like we’re all in morning, but we had to write these scripts and we had to write these funny scenes and it was is almost surreal is like a like, how do we do this when we all just want to sob and so you kind of just relied on our training and which is and is going to be someone would pitch a joke and then the room no one would laugh people go. Yeah.
That’s funny. That’s funny put that in. You know, it was that kind of thing. We rely on your training to kind of make this product. And so that’s kind of how I think about the creative process. It’s really about taking two things that are very ordinary and putting them together. So, a lot of people think creativity is like blue sky and then the sky is the limit we can do anything we want like that doesn’t that makes creativity harder. Creativity is about imposing limits on yourself. And so, for example, if you ever watch the show Project Runway, have you seen that?
Steve: I have my wife watches it.
Michael: Yeah, so like they have different challenges every week. And so, one week it would be one of their challenges these unconventional challenge. So instead of giving people cloth, they’ll say here going to a candy store and use all the candies to candy wrappers or whatever to make clothes out of so it’s unconventional right? So that’s a limit you’re saying make a dress, but you can only use rappers or candy or you know, Red Vines or licorice. So, you’re imposing that limit on yourself and then they come up with the most creative things because oh, wow. I didn’t realize you could use candy that way put it together to make something flowy and beautiful.
And so, it’s the same thing for creativity put a put a rule on yourself saying, “okay. I’m going to have a thank you page or I’m going to send a thank you email but I’m going to say thank you without saying thank you” like but okay try that. Well, maybe you could say gracias or whatever or maybe you could say. I’m indebted to you forever. I’m in an R. I’m naming my child after you but then at that’s how you can get creative on a thank you page is by, how can I say thank you without actually using the word “Thank you.”
Steve: Lemme ask you this. How is all this measurable? Like when you create a brand story and let’s say you change up all the copy and you have these videos. How do you know that It’s actually doing something?
Michael: Yeah. I mean like you can A/B test and I’m not I don’t think when it comes to creativity that’s like the best measure of things is like well which joke is…
Steve: Oh you mentioned like trying out one of these story emails, right? For example, like the one I just described about how my wife quit her job. Do you measure the effectiveness of that email by the amount of sales of brings in? Or the number of people who reply?
Michael: I would measure that by maybe the click rate or the open rate and just compare it to some of your other ones. I do have you know; I do have coupons on those thanks for reading. Here’s Goose coupon so I can measure which emails do better than others, but there’s so many other factors because it’s like well did someone buy from this email because the story’s better or do they buy it just because it was earlier in sequence. Like you just don’t know.
Steve: Right? So, is there a way to find out?
Michael: I don’t know that I don’t really worry myself with that. I just try to tell a lot of different stories and some because you know one story is going to resonate with one person a different way than another one is. So it’s a little apples to oranges to me.
Steve: For the for like your best performing story. Like what is the open rate and click thru on that email? I’m just kind of curious.
Michael: Well, I’d have to look that up
Steve: but it’s is it a significantly higher than average? Like I think the average just like 17% or something like that.
Michael: Yeah. I always shoot. Shoot for an open rate of you know in the low 20s.
Michael: so I definitely get that but I wouldn’t get that for a regular email blast. I get that for sure, you know with my story emails. Yeah.
Steve: I guess another good sign of like a really strong brand is repeat business.
Steve: Do you happen to know on top up your head what your repeat customer it is and with these people are they like opening all of your emails? Are they?
Michael: I get you know, I don’t have it’s fun with I’ve tried to do the numbers on that and it’s just too tricky to I’ve tried you know, it’s sort of like, you know, I’m not a spreadsheet Guy where you know, so I don’t know that but I do know that’s what we hear from our customers and that it’s like so sending, you know, a birthday offer often people buy for birthday. So we get them into our birthday club and that always performs well because you know if they if some if a girl’s birthdays in March chances are they’re going to order in February for a gift. so I said that I remind the people the next year in February. So that always does well because it’s you know, you know at that’s repeat business.
In terms of in terms of how do I know just because I could tell from the comments they leave on our site and on found on our Facebook page, you know I can just tell
Steve: and then this you mentioned earlier this this creative process that you constrain. Can you just share at least something like a framework that you have? What does it mean exactly to constrain or be constrained or constrain the creative process?
Michael: Okay. So for example for the videos and you can go see those videos on our website, you’re on Twirly Girl shop or on cardboard rocket tube. You can see how I do them. So the limits on those videos would be okay. How do I make a commercial that sells and that tell us about our brand and my budget is $1,400. So that’s a limit right there. I’m not going to spend more than that on, you know, so okay is that means I have to buy everything make everything all the props out of cardboard and spray paint. That’s a limit right there. And another limit is okay the brand voice that we use for our brand and you would note. Well, some people have picked up on this is Willy Wonka. I write everything as if we are Willy Wonka and I never reference Willy Wonka.
I never put my wife in a you know in a purple hat and a purple, you know top hat or anything. I don’t steal any lines. I don’t even say Willy Wonka, but I talked to them in that crazy voice. Willy Wonka was a little he was very mid. I’m talking about the Gene Wilder version is very mischievous. He was very and naughty and a little crazy and almost like you got spooky at times but he was like And loves what he Wonka it was magical. And so that’s that’s a limit. Okay. So, how do I write all my dialogue for the for the ad or every time we talked, you know, when I when I do a certain kind of branding email I only talk talk as if I’m channeling that voice. So that’s a limit. You know, I’m not using any one else’s voice. I’m using trying to do it as if through Willy Wonka, so I’m not you know, I’m not referencing Alice in Wonderland. I’m just doing Willy Wonka.
Steve: How did you come up with that? Willy Wonka angle in the first place?
Michael: it just kind of you know, I just love that to me. That’s a happy childhood memory for me. It’s like why do I remember my childhood? So if I can associate Twirly girl with other happy childhood memories like Willy Wonka it all it all kind of fits together.
Steve: It seems like your creative process is always based on your personal experiences. And do you recommend that most people do the same?
Michael: I think so because that’s what makes it authentic like you can’t make that up. So when I had when I tell people to write I’m like just be truthful. no cliches ever ever. Like I hate cliches everyone does and it’s there inauthentic. It’s just that stuff that’s out there and there are cliches in the comedy writing world. We call them we call them clams and that’s a No-No. So like and you hear this all the time on you know, someone would say, oh, I like doing homework said no one ever, like said no one ever is a cliche. It’s a clam right? It’s not your joke. It’s a joke. You’ve heard a thousand times or and someone post on Facebook I know a dog eating a watermelon and then they write this so this period is a cliche it’s not your thought. It’s in the first person who came up with that was a genius after that is just you know, or if someone says I’m switching you to decaf like that.
You’ve heard that a billion times right? It’s just it’s not fresh never use that so this speaks to authenticity when you’re taught when you’re telling your brand your Brand Story refer back to instances and specifics from your childhood because that can’t be made up. And that’s your personal story. That’s what people want to relate to. They don’t want my story. They want, you know your story.
Steve: So Michael we’ve been chatting for about 40 minutes. I kind of want to end this episode with a set of action items. So if you are running a brand and you think that the products are mundane what are set of action items that these people should take?
Michael: well first is I’d figure out like why you why you got into this line of business in the first place. And talk about. Okay what? You’re doing beforehand. And then why are you doing this now? And now I can now I can trust you because I know what you what you really want in life and what your what Your obstacle was getting there. So I’d bring a little bit of your own personality into it.
Steve: I wonder if like you have to embellish that a little bit because some people just say hey, I just want to make money.
Michael: but why do you want to make money? Okay, so well because my you know, I grew up poor and we never had anything and I have kids and I don’t want my kids to grow up poor and I want my kids. I want to give them the best of everything and so I don’t want to have when I was a child. Woke up worried, you know if we’re going to have food that day and I don’t want them to suffer that way. So, okay. So now I get it. So if you say I want to become a billionaire and Rich like we have Beezus. Well, yeah your jerk, but if you talk about why you really what spot underneath it. What’s really driving you that fear? You know that memory that was painful now people are going to root for you.
Steve: When you whenever you say something, it sounds infinitely more interesting.
Michael: Oh I think, that’s my training, right? Yeah, but we all have that but but right we all have that story. just have to know how to access it.
Steve: Do you have any other action items?
Michael: Well, those those the first I mean this this is really for people who I don’t want to know if you’re getting bored with your company or your you know, you’re getting bored with the whole process or you want to pick up sales and you don’t you’re tired of marking things down then this is what this is for. It’s like if you go on you Of a linklater, but you can go and made a free course for people just watch it’s like 25 minutes of how you know how branding creates value and so it’s free to sign up for it and enter your email and I’ll send it to you and it’ll help you learn how to get your first foot forward on this.
Steve: I think really it’s all about getting people to think about different things like prior to talking to you. I never would have thought to talk about our origin story on the actual store Page because in my mind at least everythingin my emails and what not have talked about the products it focuses on the products and what they’re used for in the value propositions, but just by adding an extra layer of story to it people are going to be rooting for the owner as opposed to just any other products
Michael: But they’re also going to know why they can trust you. I think right there like Okay. So this guy selling something why should I believe him? Like, who is he if I know? Okay now I know a little more about you and how you got to where you are today. I’m like well hell I want to be that to I want that too or at least I want a root for you I want Help you in some small way.
Steve: What’s hilarious about this is these are the exact things I do on my blog to sell my courses, but they are not things that I do with the e-commerce store. I just never thought to meld the two together.
Michael: Yeah, I think yeah. Well, I guess you know it sometimes takes an outsider to point it out that off. It’s often the case. I think.
Steve: so Michael tell us where can we find this free course?
Michael: so if you go to cardboardrocketships.com and you know pop-up will come up there and just sign up for the free video and enter your e-mail at cardboardRocketships.com. That’s it.
Steve: Cool. Well, hey Michael. Thanks a lot for coming on the show and I guess opening my mind to different ways to Market my business among the readers to yeah.
Michael: Yeah, and you know, by the way if they sign up and then they’ll get emails as well. And then you can see you could just studied my email even if you’re not interested in using the course, you can study the emails to okay this here’s a guy who’s sending out stories, you know stories each time. He’s telling a different story so that may help you as well.
Steve: Okay. Yeah. Hey Mike. Thanks a lot for coming on the show man.
Michael: Yeah. Thank you for having me. What a pleasure.
Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now as I mentioned earlier Michael was a speaker at my annual e-commerce conference. And what is cool is that he helped out a number of attendees live on camera established their story Brands right there live. It was awesome. For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode313.
And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode, Klaviyo which 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 and try it for free. Once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo
I also want to thank PostScript.io which is my SMS marketing platform of choice for e-commerce with a few clicks of a button. You can easily segment and send targeted text messages to your client base. SMS is the next big own marketing platform and you can sign up for free over at PostScript.io/Steve. That’s Postscript.io/Steve.
Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce 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