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Today, I’m thrilled to have Michael Jackness on the show. Mike is someone who I met on a recent ecommerce mastermind trip and after hearing about his successes, I knew that I had to have him on the show.
Mike runs a bunch of ecommerce websites which include Icewraps.com, CuttingBoard.com, ColorIt.com. And he also runs his own business blog at EcomCrew.com
Anyway Mike is a gold mine of information and what I like about him is that he’s constantly trying new strategies to boost sales. For example, his most recent store ColorIt.com is only 4 months old and is on track for a 7 figure year.
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What You’ll Learn
- The importance of having a premium domain in terms of ranking in the search engines
- Mike’s strategy for ecommerce SEO.
- Why dropshipping sucks as a business model
- How Mike has seamlessly interleaved email marketing with his strategies.
- How Mike has scaled his business so quickly with Facebook ads
Other Resources And Books
- Mike’s best converting landing page.
- Mike’s best performing ad to date
Now if you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes, and if you want to learn how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100 K in profit in our first year of business. So go to mywifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email, now onto the show.
Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast, we will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family, and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit her Job podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Michael Jackness on the show. Now Mike is someone who I met on a recent ecommerce mastermind trip, and after hearing about his success, I knew that I had to have him on the show. Now Mike runs a bunch of ecommerce websites, which includes icewraps.com, cuttingboard.com, and colorit.com, and he also runs his own business blog at ecomcrew.com.
Anyway Mike is a goldmine of information about ecommerce, and what I like about him is that he’s constantly trying new strategies to boost sales. So for example his most recent store colorit.com is only 4 months old and is on track for a 7 figure a year already, and with that welcome to the show Mike, how you doing today man?
Jackness: I’m doing great, thank you.
Steve: Give us the quick background for those of us who don’t know who you are or your background about how you got into ecommerce in the first place.
Jackness: It’s an interesting road, and we weren’t really focusing on ecommerce to begin with. We were affiliate marketers and had domains like treadmill.com and cuttingboard.com, and one day just decide that we don’t want to do affiliate marketing anymore, and it’s going by the way of the dodo bird …
Steve: Why was that by the way?
Jackness: Well, I think that if you have an affiliate site like yours, there’s definitely still room for affiliate marketing, sorry. What I’m I saying …
Steve: We shouldn’t have talked so much on the pre interview.
Jackness: I had just eaten strawberry before we got started, and the seed like when I started talking went down … Sorry hold on just for a second.
Jackness: Sorry about that, you probably need to start over the meeting, but or I can just start…
Steve: Just start talking about the affiliate marketing or why not affiliate marketing?
Jackness: Yeah, sorry, let me get started right there. So why not affiliate marketing? We were doing affiliate marketing for years; our background actually was in online poker affiliate marketing. That’s how we got started, and we made a lot of money during online poker affiliate marketing. In 2010, I decided to get out of that business, there was a lot of back story behind that, but just really sick of the industry and wanted to get into more “mainstream affiliate marketing.”
I started doing keyword domain investing, things like treadmill.com was one of the domains we got, but we also got things like graphicdesign.com, onlinedegree.com, and a couple of other, wordpressthemes.com, a couple other really high powered affiliate marketing type related domains or things that we decided we want to do affiliate marketing with.
In 2011, 2012, Penguin and Panda started coming out. The writing was really on the wall that affiliate marketing sites were going to have a very difficult time. Non-affiliate marketing sites like My Wife Quit Her Job I think that there is still a really good place for educational sites and even review sites, but these major head terms, Google is going out of their way to make sure that affiliate sites can no longer rank for things like WordPress themes for instance.
When we bought wordpressthemes.com something like 6 out of the top 10 listings were affiliate marketing sites. Now if you were to do that search, we are on the 3rd page and I think that we’re the highest ranked affiliate marketing site. My favorite book is Who Moved my Cheese. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that book, but it’s basically talks about people hemming and howling and not embracing change.
In our opinion, affiliate marketing was going to start struggling quite merely and our prediction was right. Fast forward 4 years later, and we made a decision, a bold decision of just basically transform all of our sites into a product or service that we can offer directly to the end user, and that’s actually how we got into ecommerce. It wasn’t really by design, it was okay well we have this domain treadmill.com, we have this domain cuttingboard.com, and we think that we can develop that into an ecommerce site, and the first one that we did was treadmill.com.
Steve: Would you say that the domain itself has very little bearing on ranking these days?
Jackness: No, it’s interesting, I get asked that question quite a bit, and I’m of the opinion that it actually makes a big difference. If you have a keyword domain, a premium keyword domain, I think it makes a very big difference. For instance cuttingboard.com ranks number 1 for cutting board and ranks number 1 for cutting boards, and bamboo cutting board and all these different things. We’ve been doing SEO for 12, 13 years now, and I know very well how many links it takes to get to number 1 for related searches, and I can say definitively that we have a fraction of the back links to curttingboard.com than we would have needed to rank number 1 if we had something like mike’s-best-cutting-board.info, or something like that.
We’ve definitely seen that this premium keyword domains are still doing quite well, because Google wants to let brands rank, and if your brand is cutting board, you’re really ranking for your brand and the keyword at the same time. We’ve noticed that also with icewraps.com. Now with colorit.com obviously we went a different direction, we didn’t get adultcoloringbooks.com or coloringbooks.com, and the main reason is because I don’t think that’s a good brand name for coloring books.
You would never want to brand your adult coloring books adult coloring books, it doesn’t make sense, so I thought that colorit is a nice short and easy to remember domain, so that was the reason behind that.
Steve: That’s the main reason for that is because you were trying to establish your own brand where as with Ice Wraps and Cutting Board, are they your own products or other people’s products?
Jackness: So I mean they started out as other people’s products, that’s how Treadmill got its start, and when we bought icewraps.com from another company, they were all other people’s products, and when we developed Cutting Board it was other people’s products, but we’ve gone through an evolution of okay we’re going to start doing ecommerce, and we’ll just … We’ll have a site like treadmill.com and because we’re treadmill.com and pounding on my chest like a gorilla here we’ll rank and we’ll sell a lot off product and we’ll do well.
What we discovered that drop shipping sucks. It’s an awful business to be in. You are relying on others all the time to make you successful, which I don’t like. I like being in control, and then on top of it, we were shipping heavy equipment that doesn’t end up at the end user on time or it ends up damaged or whatever, so that you guys assume less control. So our next step in the evolution of ecommerce was to do icewraps.com and cuttingboard.com with other people’s products that we could at least ship ourselves, and that was great.
We got a lot of control for that and we loved it, but then you start realizing there’s things like pricing issues and you are not really differentiating yourself from the market place, and PPC is really tough and if you are doing any type of advertising campaign for yourself, you are helping your vendors more than you are helping yourself, and your interests just don’t align with … Your business interests are aligned with your partners.
So we started developing our own products for all those brands, and we discovered that just we really like having the control, end to end control of the channel, almost like Apple does with its products.
Steve: Sure. Would you say that … Are you still selling other people’s products today, or is it mostly your on stuff on Ice Wraps and Cutting Board?
Jackness: On Ice Wraps and Cutting Board the majority are still other people’s products. I don’t know that that’s going to change. It may be over time, we’re slowly starting to introduce more and more of other people’s products to our … I’m sorry, our own products to that, to those sites, but I don’t really see us stopping selling other people’s products on those domains. They’re just too valuable as a reseller, but we can definitely get our house brand in there and do quite well.
Steve: Do you run special promotions for your own stuff, or do you favor your own stuff over some of the other brands or is it …
Jackness: We have … We’ve been walking a thin line because we don’t want to take off our manufacturers that we’re working with. We are making good money off those selling other people’s products. We treat it like a CVS does or a Walgreens, you walk in there and they have … They’re bringing the contact solution or whatever. We don’t ever disparage any of the other products that are on there, or even really try to say that ours is better, but we do have at a lower price and the reviews are good and we let people make up their own mind.
Steve: Okay, there’s a number of things I want to talk to you about today. First off as you mentioned you are raking number 1 on the front page for a lot of tough keyword terms like cutting board and ice wraps is a pretty hard to rank for. I want to talk a little bit about your strategy for SEO, and you already mentioned that your domain helps, but obviously that’s not the entire story right?
Jackness: Definitely not the entire story, and if you want to talk about SEO, one thing I want to really make clear here is that we do the [inaudible 00:10:31] these days. To the point where we’re paranoid and probably leave behind opportunity that is still considered white hat, but when you wake up one morning and you find your site delisted or penalized, it’s an awful feeling, and when you have a …
Steve: Did that happen to you?
Jackness: It did, it happened a couple of different times actually, and basically at this point really leant my lesson. The first time like yeah I learnt my lesson I’d do this again, and then you slowly but surely you’re nibbling around the edges of doing grey hat stuff, and then next you are really in the grey hat area. We never really did any black hat stuff, but we were definitely aggressive about getting links or writing thing content, or just writing stuff just to get content up on the internet that would rank.
The stuff worked for quite a while, but now I take the approach of, okay if I was in the Goggle board room, you were with Matt Cutts, the Google spam team, what is it that they are really trying to look for here? What are they really trying to have rank, and at the end of the day, they want to be legitimately the best search engine. When you type in something in the Google the number 1 result, the number 2 result should be the answer to your question.
If they don’t do that, their product ends up being Yahoo or Bing. It’s crappy results, that’s the reason why I don’t use Bing or Yahoo. It’s just the results are awful, so why not be that site, why not do everything that you can to legitimately be that site versus trying to cut corners and get there artificially, so that’s the approach that we take.
Steve: It’s interesting; I’ve recently rewritten some articles on my blog to make them more comprehensive. They were already on the front page, and I was just trying to raise their rankings, and by making their article more comprehensive, it’s actually jumped up about 4 spots for this article that I’m thinking about. I don’t know if that was just a fluke, or whether Google is actually really paying attention.
Jackness: I don’t think it’s a fluke at all, I think that there’s 2 things that you probably noticed. There’s one thing called a freshness update. Google has been pushing articles down that have been stagnant for years, so if it was something that hadn’t been touched in a long time, it could have been a freshness update, but the only thing is Google was like really giving preference to articles that are or what I call skyscraper posts which are basically 3, 4, 5000 words long, and you mentioned ecomcrew off the top of those.
If you are on there, we do that type of thing there. I mean every post we write is a minimum of 2000 words. It’s not a bunch of filler crap, just to get the 2000 words, it’s legitimate content and the idea is that you write something that’s so profound, just answers questions or blows people away in a way that they want to share it with their friends, that’s kind of litmus test that I use.
There’s so many pieces of content that I’ve consumed on the internet that I’ve done in 25 or 50% way through it and been like back, this is awful. That’s not what you want, you want people to read the content, scroll down to the end of it and then want more. They’ll be like, “Wow that was the most amazing thing I ever read.” That’s obviously a high bar to get to, and it’s hard to generate that type of content on a weekly or daily basis, but we end up putting something like that up about every 2 to 4 weeks, and it’s a lot of work, but everything we put up get’s a lot of attention.
We do that same thing on Cutting Board, on Ice Wraps and we’re doing it on ColorIt. For instance on ColorIt, we just wrote several thousand word piece about the benefits of coloring. We have a fulltime copywriter here and she spent about a week writing this article, and doing research and linking out to resources that are like hospitals and researchers and things like that.
The article really answers the question versus just some BS basically. We’ve done the same thing on Ice Wraps, for instance we wrote an article about little league and pitchers and why it’s important to ice your shoulder and your elbow, and it really gets into the technical reasons of why that’s important, and isn’t just a 300 word piece that doesn’t even answer the question. It just says shoulder icewraps are great, you really should buy a shoulder icewrap, we sell lots of shoulder icewraps, you can get a shoulder icewrap, and it just has a keyword stuffed in there a zillion times and doesn’t actually answer anything, and we stay away from that.
Steve: So it’s one thing to put out good content, but then you have to get people to link to you too, so do you have any strategies for that?
Jackness: We do. With the content itself, I mean we actually take … We have lots of strategies. And the first off every industry is different. So anything I’m going to mention here isn’t going to work for everyone. For instance with Treadmill that was one of our biggest challenges ever because that’s not a very interesting business. I mean you are not going to write about treadmills and get people to link to that content. It’s hard to write a fitness article and get people to link to it because it’s just so saturated.
So we did some interesting thing. First off we reached out to a lot of influential people in the industry. We were like okay, what does that actually mean. Who can we get to write for us, who can we actually get to participate in something like this. So what we ended up doing was going to fitness bloggers, because that’s a close enough industry or topic if you will that’s relevant and that’s how Google looks at it its relevancy. It’s relevant to Treadmill because you can train for a marathon on a treadmill and actually quite a few marathon runners train on treadmills in inclement weather, especially if the live in a place like Chicago or something where it’s cold and snowy.
In the winter time they’ll do their training indoors in the winter. So we actually contacted lots of fitness and running blogs and got them to start writing for us on our site. We never sent that spammy email that just basically says like, we are the greatest thing, we’ll pay you, or we’ll trade content with him. We’ve all gotten these awful emails or just immediately go on the spam box.
We basically approached them and say, we are interested in having you write content for our site and we are going to pay you, and make it clear that we don’t want it for free; we are just going to pay you. We start the relationship typically off like that and that way we are not asking for a link, and we are not asking them to do anything except give us content and we’ll pay you. And we were able to get about 10 or 12 influential people in this industry to write for us, and we put their content on our blog.
So we had a benefit of getting good content written on our site that we hoped that they would share for us. That’s basically you are doing it on a hope and a prayer. Obviously it’s going to be pretty high percentage of people that are going to be willing to do it, because if you paid someone you have a relationship with them, then you had an opportunity to talk to them, you’ve actually given them some money after you put the article up and you send it to them and say, “Hey look your article is up, feel free to share it with your community if you want to.” That type of angle.
80% of people are probably going to do that and that gives you more exposure. Then you get them to write a second article if they assume that they are going to work with you, then it’s okay well let’s take it a step further. Let’s get them to write again and then again. Then after like the third article we would say, “Hey look, we want to give you this badge to put on your website that says that you are a post contributor … That was the name of our blog because we call it treadmill post.
Then we got them to put our badge on their site and we would link it to their profile page. So it was very not spammy and every one of those was going to a different place. And that was kind of one of the strategies we took with Treadmill. Then I’m sorry were you going to say something there?
Steve: Yeah, I was going to ask, so what is the incentive of the blogger to write for your site? I mean were you paying them a lot of money?
Jackness: We were paying between like $100 and $150 per article. A fair price basically. They were writing 1500 to 2000 word article that was good content. They were either talking about their training routines, or they were talking about a race that they ran or something like that. It was good content that was on our blog. I mean not something that was going to necessarily directly convert into a transaction for us, but it was getting us links and getting us attention.
Steve: Okay, and then these people, I guess they weren’t thinking about getting traffic from this, right? It was purely for the money?
Jackness: Purely for the money yeah.
Steve: Okay, got it.
Jackness: Another thing that we do when we did this is we had a profile on the article that they wrote about them, and link back to their site. So they felt like that they were getting the attention they deserved. I think that’s really important, and we talked about that in our preposition when we were offering to hire them.
Steve: Okay and then how many of those ended up linking back to you of the people that you guys paid?
Jackness: So about 80%.
Steve: Oh wow.
Jackness: Yeah. We would know usually within the first article if it was going to work or not. We didn’t really ask for a link until about the third or fourth article, but you could tell off the first one, like if you asked them to share it with their social media, and they would be like no we are not going to do that. We are okay thanks for the article, and you just never talk to them again.
Steve: Okay, yes so this is kind of like a long term strategy, right? This probably happens over the course of like weeks or months?
Jackness: Yes to … Even more specifically as far as the SEO strategy goes it’s an 18 to 24 month preposition that we are looking at. We are trying to really get like 1 or 2 quality links per month, and that’s all we really look for. We definitely are and the quality over quantity space and it just slow consistent pressure of getting more links and that really makes a difference. In the beginning you see no results. Your organic traffic like with ColorIt right now for instance it’s only been up for a few months. There is no organic traffic. I’m not spastic about it, because I know that it’s going to take 12 to 24 months to start seeing any results at all. Yeah, I mean it’s a long-term strategy.
Steve: Is this the similar strategy that you’ve taken with Cutting Board and ColorIt as well?
Jackness: It’s not, because it’s a little bit easier industry. Let me tell you just a few more things that we did with Treadmill real quick. Or actually one more specifically because I think this is really important for industries that are hard to SEO for. One of the other things that we did with Treadmill is we came up with this promotion to give people up to a $1000 cash back if they bought a treadmill. If they lost weight after they bought our units. The idea here was like for multi prone approach kind of thing.
So the idea was okay, well first off we are being held a MAP pricing here. We can’t sell this treadmill for less than the next guy. So what’s our value preposition? It was, okay well if you buy our treadmill most likely you are buying it because you want to lose weight. If you lose 100 pounds with our treadmill within x amount of time, we are going to send you 1000 bucks. If you lose I think it was 20 pounds, we’ll send you … I forgot the exact amounts, and I think it was $100 if you lost 20 pounds and if it was 50 it was $500 or something. I forget the exact numbers but it was something along those lines.
It became first of a great ad campaign because it did help convert some of our traffic and people were like okay well I need to lose 20 pounds. If I buy this $1000 treadmill from the treadmill.com versus walmart.com or sportsauthority, treadmill.com is offering a $100 rebate if I lose 20 pounds. We knew that very few people were going to actually fall through with that, these were New Year’s resolutions, or I want to get a beach body.
The reality is that most of our equipment unfortunately became the most expensive clothes hanger they ever bought, but it did help convert traffic but the SEO angle of it was, okay well now we have this really unique promotion that no one had ever done before in the industry at least that we knew off. We had to run it through legal and it cost us a few thousand dollars in legal fees to get the terms and conditions written in a way that complied with all states.
Which is really difficult because there is about 5 states out there that are notorious for coming after you for things like this. So we made sure we had all the bases covered. Once we did that then we contacted more fitness bloggers or newspapers and other media outlets, and this guy created a few links for us. It was just basically like treadmill.com is going to pay you to lose weight. It made for a compelling story, so that was another SEO angle that we took.
Steve: Interesting, so you mentioned earlier that you know exactly how many links it takes to get on the front page, so for something like a cutting board or an ice wraps or a treadmill, what would be your estimate?
Jackness: So for those keyword domains it’s been like 30 to 40, I mean very few. Again it’s just been getting 2 per month for a couple of years is basically what it takes. Now if we had a less keyword domain I think that it would probably take four times that many.
Steve: Four times that many? Wow, okay.
Jackness: That’s just basically what we’ve seen. Now your mileage might vary kind of thing, but we’ve seen … I think it’s going to be about four times harder for us to rank for adult coloring book for instance with colorit.com, than if we had adult coloringbooks.com as our brand, and that’s a long brand name and that’s not really like an actual brand name. So it’s not like a great example, maybe if it was more like mikesicepacks.com versus having icewraps.com, all right it definitely makes it more difficult.
Steve: Interesting, even if it’s just a little word like Mike in front of it, like Mikestreadmills it would make it that much harder, okay.
Jackness: For sure yeah I mean that’s what we’ve seen. Now again there is a lot of controversy about this you get … it’s kind of like talking religion with people, everyone kind of has a different opinion. For sure I can say definitively is what we’ve seen is that ranking for that specific word, whatever your keyword as in the plural doesn’t matter there. So cutting board versus cutting boards we see equal results, but we for sure we are definitely going to weigh less links that we would take if we had less keyword of a domain.
Steve: Okay, so let’s switch gears a little bit because I know that you’ve had a lot of success with ColorIt. I mean you are not getting any search traffic right now you said, right? So the way you’ve been getting traffic to ColorIt has been through Facebook ads, right?
Jackness: Yeah so I mean mostly Facebook ads and social media in general. I mean the only organic traffic we get to ColorIt, is for our brand name, which is actually getting to be higher and higher which makes me feel good that people are typing in our brand name. We are not ranking for any other organic terms.
Steve: Yeah, I mean at the same time the brand’s only like four months old at this point too, right? So I was hoping you could break down some of your Facebook ad strategies specifically for ecommerce, and what you’ve been doing with colorit.com. So what would you say is your best performing Facebook ad camping to date?
Jackness: So by far in a way our best campaigns have been video ads. We first started out with a bunch of static images and they were doing well, but the video ads by far in a way have done the best. We have two different angles that we take with video ads. The first one is my cousin Ericka who is my partner in the business, and we’ve made her the face of the brand, because women are our audience.
We’ve split test this on Facebook and we can’t get a single male to convert on our site. So I mean we know definitively that it’s a female audience. So it doesn’t make sense to have me as the brand on the site. So we’ve used her to do the videos. The first video that we have that’s done really is basically it’s a two minute long video of her just talking into the camera with like our brand name behind it.
I’ll give you a link so you can put this on the show notes; we have it up on YouTube. It’s just basically her talking about the brand, just genuinely sitting down and talking about why ColorIt came to be. There’s a lot of imagery in the video about the hard back covers and the spiral binding, and the artist quality paper and all that type of stuff.
That video has done incredibly well for us, I mean just absolutely incredibly well. It’s the one that sustains having a CPA that makes sense. It started to lose some of its performance, and then we changed the landing page, and then we were just talking about that page before we started recording here today. That’s actually kind of boosted our conversion rate back up again and got our CPA down which is great. That video has done really well for us.
Steve: Can you give us some metrics on like what your click through rate is and … Well I want to talk about targeting a little bit also?
Jackness: Yeah, unfortunately I don’t have it like up in front of me, but I do know that like our CPAE that’s the one number that I’m always looking at the most. Our CPA on that video right now is running about 12 bucks which is right about the level where it makes sense for us to run it. We are always like throttling up our budget to kind of be right there, we are looking to get as many conversions a day as we can.
Steve: And your average order size is a multiple of that or?
Jackness: Yeah, so our average order size was $41, and this is something else we were talking about before the call, but that’s dropped quite a bit right now because we are out of stock on our highest ticket item on the site. So our average order volume … Our value has dropped it has hit the performance of our Facebook ads, and kind of thrown things out of lack for the time being until we get those back in stock.
Steve: Okay, so in terms of targeting now what is your best target? Obviously there is a lot of iteration involved, but in terms of your best targeting group what has that been?
Jackness: Yeah, so the best targeting group is just basically been an audience on Facebook that likes coloring books. Surprisingly enough there is an interest on Facebook that’s called coloring book whatever reason without the ‘S’. It’s like 2.2 million people in the US, and we’ve filtered it out to just females, again because we know that females are our audience, so it’s about 1.8 million people. We’ve been just going through that audience as much as we can right now and we haven’t fully exhausted it yet.
The great thing about that is that we are getting so many customers from these Facebook ads that we’ve now been able to build a look-a-like audience; it’s starting to actually perform fairly well, too. I found … Excuse me, that you need to have probably about 3000 or 4000 people in your converted customer list to use a look-a-like audience to base that off of, because you don’t get real good data off of like 100 people obviously or 500 people.
Yeah that audience has done really well for us, and we split test everything to the nth degree. When we launched a new ad campaign, like the video I was just talking about with Ericka the intro video, we used … We probably have had 50 different iterations of that video up at this point. Where we are using different headlines, different ad copy, actually just found out the other day that you can add images into your little icons or emoticons into your ad copy.
We’ve been testing that stuff now and we just are constantly testing. Split testing landing pages, split testing stacking audiences on top of people that like coloring books. For instance people that like coloring books and Prisma color pencils, which is like the number one pencil company in the industry. Or people that like coloring books and Ellen Degeneres, or one of the ones that we’ve done that’s done really well is that people like coloring books and wine relaxation and meditation, that’s done really well because these are people that have seen like our books.
Steve: So what’s interesting is you’ve said your best converting audience right now is literary just everyone in the US that likes coloring books, right?
Jackness: Yeah, exactly yeah.
Steve: So and then you probably sort by gender and age I would imagine right, because younger people probably don’t like coloring books?
Jackness: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting. I think there’s a lot of people … Younger people that like coloring books, because we can see that by just typing into the box like it really is age empty. For instance it’s like 1.8 million women, but if we filter by 35 to 65 plus it goes down to like 1.2 or something like that.
That’s actually the audience that we target because we found that the really young crowd either isn’t able to afford a $16 coloring book, or they don’t really care about quality and they think it’s something that you kind of discover as you get older. You get more into higher end stuff; you have the money to pay for it.
Steve: Do you ever target based on income level?
Jackness: We did do that and interestingly enough actually, we’ve used Facebook insights. I thought the higher income people would convert better, and it just naturally seemed like the obvious thing. It did awful, and I was like man this doesn’t make any sense. When our look alike audience got big enough that Facebook started showing the income groups, it actually turned out that our bread and butter was actually lower income people, which I still don’t quite get.
What we discovered about our audience is and again because our look alike audiences got big enough for Facebook to share this data. For anyone that’s listening, you can go to Facebook insights, and pick a custom audience and it will tell you all this data about your audience. It will tell you their gender, their age, their income levels, whether they drive a van or a sports car.
It’s pretty crazy the data that you will get on them. One of the things that we discovered is that it’s basically home owners. It’s people that have grand kids, and there’s a couple of other things that are really interesting, but the income level one what I thought was really interesting is people basically in that like 30-75,000 thousand dollar bracket, and not the 75-150,000 dollar bracket which is what I would have guessed.
Steve: Interesting. Let me ask you this. If you were to start, or if you were to teach someone how to start their own Facebook campaign from scratch, how would you have them begin?
Jackness: Yeah, first off it’s important to not give up. Really before you … Obviously it’s not how you begin, but you got to sit yourself down and say, “Look, I’m not going to run one ad and have it under perform and then just give up.” That’s what most people end up doing because your first ads are going to be awful. It’s just the way it’s going to be. You got to get some initial data.
We set up … Basically what we are doing now is we set up at least 4 different images, and we try to have them be very different and we also use four headlines and four ad copies. And we are using a product called AdEspresso to help with that. Basically we were doing it on manually through the Facebook ads editor before, and it just would take a half a day to set all that up and with AdEspresso you can do it in like 20 minutes.
That creates … It will let you do up to 50 variations of an ad, and we typically will push it to its limits. Then we set a budget of at least $10 per day per ad. If it’s 48 ads, we’ll run $480 a day which is obviously quite high. We’ve gotten the confidence to be able to do that. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to someone getting started to go right for that type of level. I mean maybe you do 12 combinations and you do $120 a day. The reason it’s important to do at least $10 a day per ad is that Facebook just can’t give you good data on $3 a day or $2 a day. You got to get good data. Basically run those ads and give them at least 3 days to run.
Steve: Are you bidding by impressions at this point or conversions?
Jackness: That’s actually a really great question and very important. We optimize for website conversions which for us is a purchase. Obviously if you are trying to get leads you would optimize for getting a lead. Let Facebook do its thing. Every time I try to outsmart Facebook by doing bids and things like this, or trying to just optimize for website clicks, I lost. Facebook just has too much data and they are too good with what they do.
So we optimize for website conversions. I set a $10 a day budget to start with, and I use automatic bidding and let them do their thing. I notice that to start with, the performance is poor and then over the first couple of days magically it’s just improves. It’s been really interesting. We let those ads run and then through either AdEspresso or through ADS Magic if you don’t do use AdEspresso; you can then look at all your demographics.
For instance I was just helping someone today before this call that was doing a legen [ph] campaign. They had hired an agency to help them and they were paying $6 per lead. I was just like, “You are crazy dude. You got to pause that thing and let me just do a test and see what I can do with this.”
Steve: You will only charge him $5 lead, right?
Jackness: I was like I will do it for half. I will go out of the corner and get leads for 3 bucks. [inaudible 00:34:52] take me to your email address, I give you some pizza. Anyway, we ran that for just a couple days, and what we found by letting that data run is that, and again I don’t know this is just interesting because it’s … He’s in a pet space. I don’t want to talk too much about it and break his confidence, but he’s in a pet space. What we found is that immediately within the first 2 days that males were greatly underperforming females by a lot.
What I do then is I set up what I call a refined campaign. I take the images that were performing the best, the ad copy that’s performing the best, and the headline that perform the best, and then stack that on top of the genders that are doing the best if that is an issue. The age groups that are doing the best and interests that are doing the best, and do a refined ad. Now we’ve gotten him down to under a dollar per lead which is still high. I mean we are generating leads for some of the things that we are doing for 17 cents now.
Steve: That’s ridiculously cheap actually.
Jackness: It is. I mean I made a post about this that we were doing 22 cents everyone was flipping out, and we’ve actually cut down up to 17 cents, but it’s all on refinement. We continue to refine our landing page, do AB testing, we use lead pages.net. We’ve actually done 4 different lead pages. The first one bombed. I was like let me try another one. That one did a little better.
You kind of learn about what’s working and what’s not. We do AB testing on every single one of them on the copy, on the button text, on everything until we find what’s working the best, and the one that we have now performs exceedingly well. I’m happy to share that with you as well Steve. We can put that in the show notes so people can see that landing page. It’s done well for us.
Steve: Okay cool.
Jackness: It’s not just the landing page, but it’s also the ad copy. We ran a bunch of different ads and different imagery and different headlines and stuff until we found the one that worked. What seems to work the best is the tip for your audience is always that scarcity. The headline I believe that’s running right now, that’s doing the best is something along the lines of this week only. Get 4 free drawings, or this month only or something along those lines, and that’s the one that’s by far in a way done the best. Wherever you say this is going to end, you got to click on this now otherwise you are going to lose it, that seems to do the best. Yeah we are paying 17 cents a lead.
Steve: Are your best offers tend to be the ones where you are kind of giving something away as opposed to content?
Jackness: Yeah, either way I would say that what we are giving away with the free drawings is content as well. You could argue that. We are doing things like an icewraps for … We are working on getting stuff refined and doing better, but we are doing things like advertising the little leagues or parents that have an interest in little league and say we’ll give you a free report on pitching on ice.
We’ll advertise to tennis fans, to people that like tennis and talk about like how to prevent tennis elbow, and give them a free report. The key here is you just want to get their email address. Off of those, like off the 4 free drawing for instance is the one that we refined the most now. It’s a 13 part series that goes out over 5 weeks.
Steve: Can we just kind of breakdown what goes in some of these sequences like a main gist of your 13 part sequence?
Jackness: Yeah, for sure. The first thing that we’ve done that’s helped the most to get us the most value out of it is it’s 4 free drawings. We’ve actually instead of giving them all four drawings at once; we broke it out over a month. So we send them 1 drawing now per week. The reason that that’s important, there’s, with email marketing, the number one thing that you have to strive for is a high open rate.
You want to also train people to open your emails, because if you just email them once and they get it and they just kind of forget about you, that’s not going to generate sales for you.
Our target is to get a high open rate, because high open rate means a high delivery rate across all email service providers. If your open rate is 5% or 10%, Google and hotmail and outlook and all these different online email service providers will just stick your stuff right into spam. It will never get into anyone’s email box. They’ll go in promotions, they will never get there.
We break it out over a month, and basically we are trying to train people to open our emails. It’s like they want to open and then they look forward to this free thing every week.
The first email we send out actually when they sign up for this 4 free drawing promotion and again I will share the link and anybody wants to sign up for it they can get the whole 13 part series if they’re patient enough and wait for 5 weeks.
The first email actually doesn’t give them anything. It’s an email that says, “Hey, like starting tomorrow we are going to start sending you 1 free drawing a week. Look out for the email tomorrow.” The reason we do that is we know they are going to open up the first email. We are going to have a very high open rate on the first email, incredibly important.
We use it as an opportunity to be like, “Okay here are some frequently asked questions about this promotion.” Why are you giving these drawings away for free, how do I print them? Do they work on windows or Mac? We answer a few FAQs in the email. We just, like I said, we say, “Starting tomorrow, you are going to start getting these free drawings once a week.” That way, the second email has a high open rate as well. Then what we do is we alternate each email … First off we, if they don’t open, the first drawing we send them a reminder. That’s part of the 13 part email series.
The email with the drawing goes out and if they don’t click on it and open it or actually click on the button to download the drawing, they will get another email that says, “Hey don’t forget your drawing,” which is really important. That email gets a high open rate as well because people dismiss emails. We do that as well and Klaviyo allows you to do that. Then what we do is we basically alternate between sending them a free drawing, and then in the middle of the week we send them some promotional thing about our brand, just trying to soften them up a little bit for a sale.
Steve: What’s the frequency that these emails go out?
Jackness: It’s every third or fourth day depending, because there are seven days in a week. You can’t quite do it equally apart, but it’s every 3 or 4 days depending on … So we send them and we just like I said we alternate. It’s a free drawing about the color brand. Another free drawing to check out whether our customers have been doing with our stuff like the social proofs stuff, another free drawing, then they get another about the color brand type email, and it just goes back and forth like that for a month.
Then what we do is if they haven’t purchased by this point. By the way, we get a lot of purchases throughout this funnel. We see the biggest conversion when the free drawings go out. We are lucky. We are in an industry where there’s a direct correlation of, okay I get this drawing, I print it out, I like coloring, I want to go by more of those. Not everyone can do that. You can for instance can’t send someone a free handkerchief or whatever. Get more creative and use content …
Steve: We can send them a craft that uses handkerchiefs and then tell them to go, right?
Jackness: Yeah. Then the last thing that we do is we give them a coupon. If they are at the end of the phase and they haven’t … At the end of that series I should say and they haven’t purchased and we filter it out by that by the way. We don’t send a coupon to people that have purchased. We actually use like a gift card on this promotion. We say, “We hope you enjoyed the 4 free drawings. ColorIt is full of surprises. Something along these lines, we want to give you another surprise. Here’s a five dollar gift card.”
People, I think treat that differently than a five dollar off coupon. In their mind, they now have $5 in cash that they can go spend in our store, and they don’t really think about the fact that there’s nothing for $5 in our store. They got to go spend at least 16 bucks, and then hopefully once we get them to buy something, they become a customer for life. That’s basically the gist of that series.
Steve: Okay, and then once they actually make a purchase; you have another series, right?
Jackness: Yes, and that’s actually, that’s a series that we just … On ColorIt, it just got in place because we were spending all this time on pre-purchase series and trying to get people to become customers, but now that we have a lot of customers and a lot of orders coming through, we put together, I think it’s a ten part series, post purchase. The first email that goes out is basically just a thank you for your order. It’s a personal note from Erica. Then we actually send another email while the package is in transit, and that’s actually done quite well for us as well.
We basically say, “It’s time to get excited.” We want to get people … Again we are training them to open up our emails. Anytime you can send an email out and have a high open rate, we are going to take advantage of that. Anytime we can get our brand in front of them, we want to do that. Surprisingly enough, that email has actually generated quite a bit of business for us. I don’t quite get that one, because people don’t have the product in their hands yet, but for whatever reason it’s still converting traffic for us.
Steve: I’m sorry, what does this email do?
Jackness: It’s just a tiny … The title of the email is time to get excited, and it’s basically … It goes out I think 2 days after the package ships. Maybe it’s one day after the package ships. It’s basically just letting people know the package is on the way. It’s going to be delivered in a few days and it’s time to get excited about the product you are about to receive.
Steve: Interesting, and then there’s a link back to the site and then they go back and buy some more stuff?
Jackness: Yeah, I don’t quite get it. No coupon, or actual offer but yeah, they are going back and buying stuff from that email.
Steve: Okay, and then what about the remaining emails?
Jackness: The next one that we send out is once the item arrives, we use something called after ship. That has a web hook with Klaviyo. We know when the package has been delivered. We actually send out an email the following day, because we don’t want to send out the email until we know that they actually have it in their hands, because it could be sitting on their door steps. We wait until the following day.
We just basically send out an email that says, “How’s your package been delivered, we want to make sure that you are happy,” that type of an email. That email actually has the highest conversion rate of all the emails that we send out in the post purchase row. People once they get the product in their hand and if it’s their first time ordering from us they are like, “Wow, this is really amazing, I want to order more.” It does quite well for us, and I’m actually pulling up Klaviyo just so I can remember here in my head what the next email is, so just give me 1 second to pull that up.
Mike: You can cut out the dead space I guess. Okay, the next email that we send out on the series is a referral program email, and we actually just instituted a referral program for ColorIt. We get all these amazing testimonials coming in. It was like all right well we might as well get them to become ambassadors for us, and give them some motivation monetarily to want to do that. We actually pay referrers 5$ for every customer they send to us which is a lot of money, but it’s significantly less.
I mentioned earlier that we are paying about $12 CPA for some of these Facebook ads. So I find our referral fee is actually quite good for us, and we only pay it once. It’s up for any new customer. We hope that our average life time value of a customer is going to be way higher than what they you order, so paying 5 bucks is really nothing for the lifetime of that customer.
Steve: Do you use a plug-in to do that?
Mike: We do, we use a … It is a Shopify thing called like referrally or something like that. It is doing pretty well. We just launched it. We have got in several hundred affiliates already, and we have got in quite a few orders off of it, and it was something we just launched actually this week or last week, it was like a Monday of this week. It is doing pretty well for a new program.
We have that referral program email, be early in the sequence because we want people while it’s still fresh in their minds and are loving our products to be more up to want to tell others about ColorIt. That goes out 2 days after the purchase, and then on the 4th day we send out an email about social media submissions, so we basically say, “Hey, if you love ColorIt and you are enjoying the product, post at the social media with the hashtag #mycolorit.”
That’s the hashtag that we developed, and basically share your submission or your drawings with the world. This email is generating a bunch of revenue too, and the insulate benefit of that is that we are getting a ton of submissions to that hashtag and we built a landing page around, just to having all these different submissions and they are really pretty.
I’m not really in the coloring myself, but you look at some of these, things that people have done and they are really pretty. They have done a really great job with our artwork. It makes us really proud to see what they have done, and basically we just take that stuff and make it social proof for our future customers that are people that are just landing on our site for the first time. Having that as a part of your conversion re-optimization tactic is really important.
Mike: The next one we send out is 7 days after purchase, now we ask for a testimonial from the customer. This email says basically we will give you a $10 gift card if you send in a testimonial. We just ask … It only needs to be a couple sentences; you take a picture with yourself with 1 of our products and allow us to use it on our website if we want to, and we will send you a $10 gift card.
Overtime we have gotten quite a bit of testimonials from those, and we are also generating more money in sales off of these emails as well. What we really have learned is that just keep sending more email. Never stop sending email, and every one of them is making money and that’s really what we have been doing.
Steve: Is this only for 1st time purchasers?
Mike: Yes, we have only set up for 1st time purchasers right now. Actually the way we have it set up and I’m actually looking at the rules right now, is that if they haven’t made a purchase … If they made a purchase before, but it’s been more than 120 days and this will go back out again. If they are buying for a 2nd time within 4 months then this will not go out a 2nd time.
Because we are new, we haven’t set up … We are going to have emails sequences for frequent buyers, so anyone that has spot more than 3 times or 5 times we will send them a special sequence that says, “Thank you so much for being in our valued customer client,” kind of email, because we are still new, we just haven’t had a chance to set that up yet. We haven’t had enough people that are falling in that bucket.
Mike: Moving on with this email sequence is a few more that we send out. At this point now we go to every week, we don’t want to keep the frequency up to every 3 days, and we don’t want to annoy people. So we send out an email after 14, 21, 28 and 35 days and to quickly review those without spending a bunch of time here. The one that goes out of the 14 days is more about the ColorIt brand, exploring the brand. We tell people we also offer journals and sketch pads, pencils. We are going to have jelly pens soon. People who aren’t aware that we have these other things, then this reminds them.
This email again, just likes every other one in the chain is generating money. The next one is now we go to reminders. A lot of these next emails are reminders, so we do a social media submission reminder. Then we do a referral program reminder, because these are things that are really important to us. Now that we are at the 35 day mark, which is about 5 weeks I should say. We do a monthly special email, and we are constantly running a monthly special and we can have a link in this email to our monthly special page.
We don’t know what the monthly special is going to be because this is a part of the flow, but we know that there will be a monthly special there when they run there, and legitimately those special is different every month. We sit down, a few days before the end of the month and dream up what combination of products we want to give away or sell I should say at a discounted price, and we direct them there. Basically our hope is now that it has been 5 weeks maybe they are now ready to go buy something else again, or be gently reminded about the special, and that’s doing pretty well.
From there we have actually started developing this; we haven’t even implemented it yet. Basically starting at the 2 month mark we have a 4 sequence email trying to go out, and I don’t have the results for this yet, but basically it’s just a discount ladder. If they haven’t purchased in that time frame, let’s give them a coupon, maybe it’s 5% off, if it’s after 3 months it’s 10% off and maybe after 4 or 5 months, if it’s been a lot, so it’s like what do we need to do to get you back, here is a 20% off coupon or whatever it might be. Then if they just don’t buy at that point, we probably remove them from our list.
Steve: Okay, cool. It sounds like you got a lot in place, and there is a lot to be put in place as well.
Mike: Yeah, it can be overwhelming, at first I’m sure I have been rattling off a lot of stuff here, I apologize for being long winded, but there’s obviously quite a bit to it. You just have to start somewhere, right? Write that first email, then write the second email. We basically, we are trying to add at least 2 emails per week, that’s kind of our internal policy here whenever we’ve sat down and set a goal of getting at least 2 more emails written per week as a part of some chain.
We are just slowly adding on to it and the great thing is all the emails that we wrote 3 months ago, they are still going out. This is all automated, so every month we are building the number of emails that we have sent and we are building the revenue that we’ve received from email, every month, month over month it is increasing.
Steve: That’s awesome. I like that slow and steady approach where you just have a goal and overtime you going to have a ton of … Getting a lot of stuff done overtime.
Mike: Yeah, definitely.
Steve: Cool Mike, we have been chatting for quite a while, and I want to be respectful of your time. Where can people find you if they have any questions about what you are doing?
Mike: Like you mentioned before we have an e-commerce specific website called ecomcrew.com. You can hit us up over there on the contact form, or you can contact me directly if you wanted to at email@example.com, Terrence or LLC Holding Company doesn’t really mean much of anything. It’s just a site that we have, but either ecomcrew or mike@terran is the best way to get me.
Steve: Awesome, hey Mike thanks for coming on the show. I’m sure the readers, the listeners learned a lot today.
Mike: Yeah, thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure.
Steve: All right man, take care.
Hope you enjoyed that episode. Mike is a good friend of mine who really knows his stuff, and what I like about him is that he is willing to try every marketing tactic very thoroughly and he has an open mind. For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode119, and if you enjoyed this episode please got to iTunes and leave me a review. This is by far the best way to support the show and please tell your friends, because the greatest compliment that you can give me is to refer this podcast to someone else either in person or to share it on the web.
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6 thoughts on “119: How To Create A 7 Figure Ecommerce Store In Just 4 Months Selling Coloring Books Online”
Haven’t listened to the podcast, but wanted to ask what his preferred content management system is? Is the colorit website wordpress/woocommerce or is it shopify or another e-commerce platform? Thanks!
Ed – My preferred CMS is WordPress for sure, but we use the built in Shopify / BigCommerce blog on IceWraps.com and ColorIt.com. For all our media properties we just use WordPress. There is a good argument to setup blog.shopifystore.com with WordPress, but then it’s a bit disjointed from your main site. Then of course if you have it as part of your site, then it doesn’t look nearly as good b/c one thing Shopify and BC are not good at is a blogging platform. Hope this helps.
Thanks for having me on the podcast this week Steve. I really enjoyed it!
Great podcast, I learned so much in this episode. For anyone entering/expanding in e-commerce, this podcast is an essential source of info. Keep up the good work
Awesome stuff! Thanks Steve and Mike for the podcast. I’m creating my first sales funnel and my biggest challenge is figuring out how to craft a email sequence packed with high-value content. So glad I discovered this podcast. Thank you so much!
Mike, you have been very generous with your time and knowledge. Thanks you for sharing them with us! Luc
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