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253: How To Make Millions Teaching Blackjack Card Counting With Colin Jones

253: How To Make Millions Teaching Blackjack Card Counting With Colin Jones

Today, I’m happy to have my friend Colin Jones on the show.

Colin was a professional black jack player and made over $4 million dollars by counting cards at casinos. But today, he runs a successful online business teaching others how to beat the casinos over at BlackjackApprenticeship.com

Today, we’re going to talk about his entrepreneurial journey and how he’s created an incredible business based on his previous hobby.

What You’ll Learn

  • Colin background story on how he became a professional gambler
  • Why he decided to teach blackjack
  • How he gets paying customers to his program
  • How card counting works and your advantage over the casino
  • How to build an audience on YouTube
  • How to turn YouTube subscribers into email subs and messenger subs

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

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

Transcript

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252: How To Create A 9 Figure Ecommerce Business With Dustin Robertson Of Drip

252: How To Create A 9 Figure Ecommerce Business With Dustin Robertson Of Drip

I’m really happy to have Dustin Robertson on the show. Dustin is the CMO of Drip but in a prior life, he executed the digital marketing strategy for BackCountry.com and helped grow it to over 350 million dollars in revenue.

Not only is he an ecommerce expert but he also serves as an advisor for Armada Skis, Vegas.com and other popular brands.

In today’s episode we will talk about what it takes to win in the age on Amazon.

What You’ll Learn

  • The largest contributor to BackCountry.com’s growth
  • The best way to build an email list for an ecommerce store
  • How to tag and segment emails for a large organization
  • How to set up email autoresponders for maximum open rates
  • How to combine email with other traffic strategies
  • How to combat noisier inboxes moving forward

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

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

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrap business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I’ve Dustin Robertson on the show, and Dustin is the CMO of Drip. But before taking on that role, he actually built an e-commerce business from the ground up to over nine figures in revenue. And that is what we’re going to be talking about today.

But before we begin, I want to first apologize for the sound quality for this episode. Normally, I use Skype to record my interviews. But when I recently upgraded the software, my recording software all of a sudden stopped working and I had to scramble to find a brand new one. So thanks for your patience. Meanwhile I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Always super excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are my email marketing platform of choice that I use for my ecommerce store and I depend on them for over 35% of my revenues. Now Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

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

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now, what does Privy do? Well, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. And bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Hey Dustin.

Dustin: Hey Steve.

Steve: Hey, I’ll just let you know we’re not doing video today because sometimes the extra bandwidth breaks up the audio.

Dustin: Okay, cool.

Steve: Cool. So how are you today?

Dustin: Well, it’s snowing like crazy here.

Steve: Oh is it?

Dustin: Yeah.

Steve: Where are you at again?

Dustin: Park City, Utah.

Steve: Ah perfect, so you’re going to hit the slopes?

Dustin: I would except I have a herniated disc in my back so.

Steve: Ouch.

Dustin: Yeah, just got an epidural injection on Friday to calm down the sciatic nerve and apparently to start the healing process, but normally yes.

Steve: Hey Dustin real quick, I notice there’s an echo. Do you have headphones by any chance?

Dustin: Yeah, let me go downstairs and go grab them.

Steve: Okay.

Dustin: Okay, how’s that?

Steve: It sounds better on the audio but did you switch microphones by any chance because it sounds a little muffled now.

Dustin: Let’s see, I don’t normally use Skype so let me get into the settings here.

Steve: Okay. But yeah, all the background noise has disappeared, which is good. Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today, I’m really happy to have Dustin Robertson on the show. Now Dustin is the CMO of Drip, which is the email marketing provider that I’m using for my blog over at Mywifequitherjob.com. And we are also using Drip for Go Brand Win as well. But we’re not here to talk about Drip. I have Dustin on the show because of his e-commerce expertise. And back in the day, Dustin executed the digital marketing strategy from the ground up for Backcountry.com the preeminent outdoor retailer online to generate over $350 million in revenue.

He’s also served as the CMO at armada skis and Vegas.com and advises several brands like Lyftopia, Altitude and RallyMe among many others. Anyway Dustin has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to growing e-commerce businesses to up to nine figures, and especially what it takes to win in the age of Amazon. And with that, welcome to show Dustin, how you doing today?

Dustin: Great. Thanks for having me Steve.

Steve: So Dustin, give us a quick background story about your entrepreneurial history and how you ended up at Drip actually.

Dustin: Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting story. So if it goes back to when I was in grade school, I was always trying to have a hustle, so actually sold candy at school to make money. And that was like my first business. And then through college, I was just lucky, I moved to Utah to go to school because the [inaudible 00:06:47] Utah was 27 miles from Alta Utah, which is one of the best ski areas in the world. And that’s how I ended up here and kind of focused my life around that passion. And then I was lucky to meet entrepreneurs here and we basically started Backcountry.com as ski bomb at the ski resort working in room service. So that was kind of how that started. That was in 94. So e-commerce and the internet was new at that point.

Steve: Oh yeah, that’s a long time ago.

Dustin: Yeah, it was really — I got to give credit to my buddy John because he’s the one that threw it out there and said we should sell avalanche beacons on the internet. And that was this obscure piece of equipment for backcountry skiing but back in the 90s, to get them you had to order them from Europe and it was really difficult. We basically got them from the ski patrol at the resort was normally where we could get them. And when we got a delivery of them one year, that’s when he said we should sell these on the internet. It was 94. So that’s kind of how we started on that path. And I’d gone to school for marketing.

And what really appealed to me about the internet was the fact that all the marketing we were going to do was measurable, kind of I was studying marketing in school and advertising. You learn these big theories and kind of reaching audiences and impressions, but they don’t teach you much about if it’s working or not. And so really, that’s what drew me to the internet was just thinking I can track everything I was doing. And from there, we were able to track what we did. But also we were able to build a brand with 100% native to the internet, never had a physical presence.

Steve: Was email a huge part of your strategy back then for Back Country?

Dustin: Yeah, we had it right from the start, so call it 2000 we were mailing. I think the platform was called WhatCounts. That might still be around. And yeah, back then it was a lot different, right?

Steve: Sure.

Dustin: There wasn’t as much spam and you got a better open rate and engagement. But yeah, what we learned pretty quickly is we were kind of opening marketing channels as they started. So when we started, there was no — Google.com wasn’t something that we could be on and we definitely didn’t advertise on it. So, as soon as it became the place everybody went, but it was only organically, we got really good at making sure we were indexed. And then as soon as AdWords came about, we got really good at making sure that we were really good at placing in that and converting.

And so that’s kind of how we built the customer base and then we would engage them with email but the reality is we engaged them because we were selling something that was their passion. And so that was kind of Back Country secret is we connected people to their passions, and our customers concern themselves athletes. So, somebody might be a dentist for the profession, but they’re actually a cyclist. They would say, I’m a cyclist first, I do dentistry. So that’s kind of how our customers described themselves and we were able to tap into that vein.

And then a lot of the lot of the things that we did that made it successful was it really always in this just one step behind Amazon. So we started to have community content really early on, we built our own review system and that was to drive SEO, because we knew if we had fresh content being posted to the product pages that Google was going to index more frequently and the best way to do that was to get the customers to do it. And then we added questions and answers, then we added photos and videos. And then we created this community leaderboard for contributions and kind of gamified the whole thing. And this is all before 2005. So that’s really what got the brand going and got the customer base really engaged.

Steve: So you left Back Country in 2013 and then he left Vegas.com in 2017. And so you have a whole lot of experience, like all throughout, and I was just kind of curious how has e-commerce changed? I mean, it changes very rapidly. So if you were to like do it all over again, what would your strategy be? And I know like Amazon, I think the latest 2018 numbers came out. And I think they have like 51% market share of the online retail market. So how would you handle e-commerce if you were to start from scratch today?

Dustin: Yeah, the biggest challenges have kind of been removed, right? There’s a new challenge with Amazon, but the fact that the technology component is removed — so back in the early 2,000s, we were having to build our own e-commerce platforms, we were having to host our own site, and scalability and solving those problems is really challenging. And so now with the Shopify, that’s just table stakes and you can focus on building your brand and connecting with your customers. And so that’s where you’re like, okay, but how do I keep them from going to Amazon? And so, that’s the, I guess hard trick today.

And the tool we have that we didn’t have, back in the early 2,000s is we have unlimited data storage and unlimited compute power that Shopify store can buy for $49 a month, through the various platforms out there. And so that’s how you’re going to take on existing names in the world, you’re going to leverage all that data, and you’re going to have a relationship with your customers that Amazon won’t. Amazon – I’m sorry, go ahead.

Steve: No, I was just going to say can give me some examples of what you would do, specifically with the data that you would get from a Shopify store that Amazon obviously wouldn’t have.

Dustin: So Amazon obviously has all the data that they want. But what they won’t do is they’re not going to take the time to bring any context or timing or guidance or expertise to the conversation. And so that’s where Amazon solved buying things, right, they made buying things really easy. They have not solved shopping. And so if you want to shop and actually engage in a category, right, so if you want to buy an avalanche beacon, and learn everything about avalanche beacons, and figure out which one is the best for you, and how to use them, and what other things do you need if you buy the avalanche beacon, that’s not going to happen on Amazon.

So that’s where that as soon as the shopping experience requires, or the buying experience requires one extra step, Amazon is no longer the best place to do that. And that’s where all the specialty retailers have an opportunity to excel. And then if you can layer on a brand that the customer want to engage with, and use to represent who they want to be on top of that, now you’ve built kind of a moat that Amazon is not going to be able to penetrate.

Steve: Can you give us an example of either one of your consulting companies or Back Country, can you give an example of how a store has done this what you’re describing right now?

Dustin: Yeah, I mean, that is what we did at Back Country. So every category we sold there, whether it was rock climbing, trail running, back country skiing, or camping, there was a bunch of guidance and expertise that we could bring to the purchase experience. And so once you bought from us in one of those categories, we would then engage you to find out what else you needed or what else you wanted to know about that category and then continually feed you that information. And we would go as far as we would have people actually call and reach out. So they still have this today. It’s kind of like a VIP shopper experience. They call it their gear heads.

And essentially, these are actual people that are experts in that category. And you have them on speed dial the customers too. So you can text them, you can call them, you can email them, or you can just follow them and they’ll just reach out and send you all their info and what products they think are good.

Steve: Interesting. How is this scalable? So if you’re calling your customers, can you kind of describe like the sorting process? I mean, you can’t call everyone right?

Dustin: Yeah, no, you can’t right. So it’s they’re segmenting the customer base by LTV. And it’s the 80/20 rule, right? 20% of customers are going to deliver 80% of revenue. So those are the ones that you’re calling and it does scale. And again, Amazon is never going to do that.

Steve: This LTV process, what are some ways that you can calculate it? So what is the process for calculating it because it can be kind of complicated, right?

Dustin: It can be super complicated. And so, again, with the SaaS platforms coming out, I think more and more of them are going to start to calculate it for you and I have no doubt that it’ll probably be native on Shopify soon. But essentially, you could just do gross merchandise value through the door and how much got returned. And some people get more complex, they’ll go, what did I spend to acquire those customers? What margin did I make when they came through? So it’s really — I think the key is you start, now would just do a count of orders. So you do — it’s called RFM, it’s a really old direct mail concept, recency, frequency, monetary, [inaudible 00:16:05], how much they’ve spent and do your RFM scoring on your base.

Steve: So can you do that — like what tools would you use to do that today? Would you just kind of do it by hand with a spreadsheet?

Dustin: Yeah, I would just do it. We might yeah — so I have a small Shopify store. We did do with the spreadsheet.

Steve: Okay. And then when you’re contacting them, I imagine you’re contacting other than voice too right, you’re probably using email. And what other avenues are you using? Are you using Facebook Messenger or?

Dustin: Yeah, so the other kind of big change in the world that’s just really becoming front and center and accessible to smaller retailers is your customers want to be contacted in a way that they choose. And they’re not going to tell you, right? Well, they’re going to tell you, but they’re not going to explicitly say, hey, don’t email me. They might opt in an email, but they never open the emails. And so the merchants got to be savvy enough to understand that like, okay, this person never opened emails, they only read the text messages we send or they only engage on Facebook. And so that needs to go on the customer profile. And then you guys have your automated flows going to that person. Maybe still email them but you have to follow up on Facebook.

Steve: Right, right. I mean, one of the big advantages of having customers in your own store as opposed to Amazon is that you have an email list. And since you’re on Drip, I thought we focus a little bit on email for the remaining part of this interview. So I guess question number one, let’s say you’re a brand new shop, and you mentioned you still have a small Shopify store, what are some strategies that you use to kind of buildup that email list as fast as you can?

Dustin: Yeah, it’s not the most articulate way to do it, but it works, right? You just offer them that first purchase discount. And that’s what my store does currently. I recommend that people try to find a contextual content offer. So don’t immediately choose to come to the website, just pop up and say, hey, you get 10% off if you give me your email, that works, and that’s why we all do it. But it’s much more graceful. And I think if you can do the work and figure out once somebody has clicked in a page or two, and you have some context on what they’re doing, you offer them content around that.

So like Lyftopia’s example, you’re shopping for a ski trip, they know what ski resort you’re looking at, they can pop up and say, hey cool, you want to go to Snowbird, do you want to know the 10 best runs at Snowbird? We’ll send you the secret guide. And then you get their email. And it’s in context to what they’re looking at. And they’re like, oh, that’s really cool. Yes, I need a guide. And now you have their email, and you can find all the data and they’re not really powerful, you can append the trip date to know, okay, they’re going to go in April, now we can set up a flow that communicates with them about their trip that they haven’t booked or if they have booked, and we can communicate with them about the purchases they can make.

Steve: Is this guy that you’re talking — this hypothetical example here, is this Dripped out via email or as a PDF guide? Like what does Liftopia do?

Dustin: Yeah, you would send them a — you can send them a PDF, or you can just send them a link to a blog article. Or you could possibly deliver the content right on the page.

Steve: And then would you go for — do you actually try to go for the sale in that sequence or is it just purely just building goodwill with the customer?

Dustin: Yeah, I think it depends on the buying cycle. So a trip like that people generally research and plan for 45 days. So this is your first touch with them, you wouldn’t immediately try to close the deal.

Steve: Okay, and so you just Drip it out and maybe when it comes close to time for them to actually go on their trip, then give them some sort of offer at the end of the sequence.

Dustin: Right, the 45 day research window is closing. And so then the flow starts to get more aggressive about hey, have you booked? Okay, yeah I have not booked. Well, then we can help you, and probably you can start to reach out and say, hey, we can call you or offer those little more high touch moments.

Steve: I know that a lot of people who do email, they get a lot of the stuff correct, right? They have a simple abandoned cart sequence, a pre purchase sequence and a win back campaign. But let’s say someone is on your pre purchase sequence and they never end up buying, what is kind of your strategy? What do you do with those people who are kind of done with your sequences in the beginning?

Dustin: Yeah, first, I’d look to see if they’re engaged. So you got people that are opening every fourth communication, clicking through, but never buying. And so, I would make that a segment of engaged users, but not customers and then try to figure out what commonalities are happening there. And so maybe it’s a certain type of content that they always click on. And you can start to figure out what they’re actually interested in why the rest of it is not encouraging a purchase. If you just put everybody in abandonment sequence, I don’t think you bring in enough of that context to what they’re doing to help move them through the process and kind of really start to build that relationship with them. So automation is awesome but if you rely on it too heavily, you’ll miss these opportunities, right? And so people engage it all the time but they’re not buying and why is that? Simple abandonment sequence and you’ve got to pick that up.

Steve: Actually, let’s talk about these segments. So you just mentioned one, like people who have engaged with the content, but haven’t purchased. What are some other segments that you can think of that you’d want to bucketize your list with?

Dustin: So the biggest bucket, the most valuable are the people who bought once. They made one purchase, they never made the second purchase, and really trying to figure out what can be done there. So most retailers fall in this metric, so essentially, if you can make that second purchase within the first 90 days, the probability that that customer becomes one of your best customers goes up like 90%.

Steve: Really, okay.

Dustin: Pretty much everywhere that I’ve worked, and we’ve done ridiculous amounts of data to figure out how many days is it, it’s always in that 90 day window. And so, most retailers that have done this analysis put a lot of effort into trying to get that second purchase out of their customer in the first 90 days. And so you should for sure have some type of automated flow that’s trying to encourage that. But again, if it’s kind of a one size fits all, it’s probably not going to work as well as opposed to figure out okay, this person shopped in women, this person shopped in men, this person bought shoes, this person bought jeans, what’s going to get them to buy their second purchase is probably totally different based on what their first purchase is.

Steve: Can you just kind of give us an example of a post purchase sequence of one of the companies out of that you advised or Back Country? How do you guys do it?

Dustin: Sure. So you bought — we can go through like a campaign scenario, because there’s lots of ancillary purchases. He bought a tent and so the first thing we do is we would follow up, probably about seven to nine days later, and just make sure you’re happy. So I think a lot of those in e-commerce, we immediately go for the next sale, and you got to remember that this is the customer, they just bought, you need to make sure they’re happy because if they’re not happy, you’re not going to get a second sale. So you got to check that box, make sure they’re happy. Do whatever you can to ask for a review, just simply ask them if they’re happy. Maybe they do an NPS score or something like that.

And then once they’re happy, maybe follow up with — in this category, we can follow up with maintenance advice, the back, hey, great you got that tent, here’s some things you can make sure it last you a lifetime. And at that point, maybe you could sneak in a small $10 item like hey, here’s a solution, you can scan it, keep it waterproof. And you actually get that second purchase and it’s only a $10 item and that generally would work. We just needed them to go through the purchase process. Again, it didn’t actually – they didn’t have to spend another $400.

And if again, if that didn’t work, then probably keep kind of enriching the content. And then you can start to find out if they have other items that go with the tent. And so we can start to send them content and then track what they’re clicking on. So we could send them a sleeping pad guide, like forget about the pant, let’s send them sleeping pad guide to engage them. That might be an indication they’re in the market leading cloud. And once we have that, and we know we’ve marked that, okay they are, let’s see if we can get them to buy this sleeping pad, maybe offer my special deal. They bought a family for per person tent, so offer him a deal on for a sleeping pad.

Steve: Interesting. So at this point, I guess you’re just tagging people based on the links that they’ve clicked on in your emails. And then you’ll — I guess you just branch out the further emails based on what they’re interested in. This can get pretty intricate pretty quickly, right if you have a lot of skews in your store?

Dustin: Yeah, it definitely requires orchestration. And again, like you can get it to where it’s ridiculous or you can just stick on the big bucket categories, right? So it’s not realistic for most small stores to build out 1,000 of these [inaudible 00:25:53].

Steve: So maybe just your biggest cash cow categories.

Dustin: Yeah. In the big stores, they’re able to do this because they have a big team, and they’re uploading all these flows through a spreadsheet and tracking them.

Steve: Okay, so you’re trying to get them to make their second sale. So what happens once they buy the second time? Do they go into a different bucket and what do you do with that bucket?

Dustin: Yeah, once they’ve bought a second time within 90 days, they would move into your high LTV customer bucket. And then at that point, those for like Back Country that meant they were going to buy four times that year. And so essentially that’s what usually just happened. But obviously once they’re in that bucket, now you’re just doing your normal targeting on them, okay, they’re interested in this category, not that, make sure that they’re getting that content, kind of doing the basic personalization.

Steve: So what does that look like, actually? And you can talk about how Back Country does it. So once they become a high LTV customer, what type of updates do they get after that?

Dustin: So after that, they’re engaged with the brand and they’re shopping frequently. And so we’re just sending them content that’s based on what they’re interested in.

Steve: Content or offers or a mixture of both or?

Dustin: Yeah, both. Back Country does — their offers are usually content focused. So it’ll be — so if you’re interested in the camp category, you bought the tent, were like, hey, we’re going to send you kitchen information. So you might get the stove guide. And then there might be an offer within that. And then what Back Country does now, which I think is just limited from their email platform, but they also just continually send all the weekly promotions out too and so that’s one thing I would not do. If you’re engaging, and you want to get email from me twice a week, that’s fine. But I would still make sure the offer was somewhat relevant to what you’re doing.

Steve: I see, so you would not just blast the same offer out?

Dustin: No, they do that right now. If they have a sale on a brand, the whole brand is on sail, then they just send it to everybody. And it’s not usually relevant to what I’ve been buying.

Steve: Can we talk about that? Like, what is the negative aspect of doing it that way? So let’s say someone doesn’t open, it doesn’t cost anything to actually send the email. So what negative effects would you see from doing it that way?

Dustin: Yeah, so the more you contact your customers with things that aren’t relevant to them, the less they engage, until you’re going to slowly see that open rate drop, and that click through rate drops. And as opposed to like, looking forward to that once a week email from Back Country and getting one every three days. And so I’m starting to not open all them and I get busy and kind of delete everything in my promotions folder, and I don’t get a chance to look. And then when you send me something that’s actually retargeted, I don’t see it. So it’s that — yeah, we’re all have limited time. And I think we need to be considerate of our customers’ time. And when they engage that they’re choosing to do that, so we need to make sure it’s relevant.

Steve: I guess the mentality of a shop owner when they’re blasting like that is, hey, there’s an off chance that someone is going to take advantage of that promotion. And if I don’t send it to them, let’s say they were segmented wrong, then I may be missing out on potential sale. How do you reconcile that fact?

Dustin: Yeah, it’s really hard because if you do the cast and blast, it always generates revenue. And it takes a while before that revenue starts to decline, and you start to wonder what’s happening, especially if your store is growing really fast, you can actually mask the fact that you’re just kind of churning through your customers, because you’re continually adding new ones. And they want to be casting blasted for the first couple of months of the relationship. And then they eventually stop opening too.

Steve: So what do you do with the people that start opening less? I imagine you segment those folks as well.

Dustin: Yeah, so that that goes back to ideally under segmentation dial, then you’re monitoring the content they’re opening, and you’re making sure that they’re getting more of that or less of that. But if people aren’t opening, you got to stop mailing them so much. Like, that’d be the first thing. One of the tricks out there that does work that it’s really easy to do in Drip is to resend to people who didn’t open. Super basic, but it works really well because — and this is just in general in the population. Obviously, you’re looking at a segment somebody hasn’t opened a long time and can be different. But anything you send, you should always reset to people who didn’t open and then if they haven’t opened and you’ve been doing that continually, like okay, I have an unengaged user here, but just so we check that box that you should resend to people that didn’t open because sometimes the second time is a charm. We usually see about 15% increase in revenue, when people send to the people who didn’t open.

Steve: That’s interesting. I was talking to someone else about email, and they only recommend resetting to unopens for your most important campaigns because when you do it too often, it tends to have a negative effect on the overall deliverability rate. I don’t know what’s your opinion on that?

Dustin: Yeah, I think it’d be really hard to tie that activity to deliverability rate, but that logically makes sense. And again, that’s where you got to be looking at who you’re mailing. And if they’re continually never opening, then sending them a resend to them because they didn’t open is not a good idea.

Steve: So when do you just finally say, hey, I’m going to kick these people off? Like, what’s your threshold for that?

Dustin: I don’t think you should ever kick people off unless obviously they’ve asked to be removed. So, at this point, the email address is kind of the golden ticket to digital marketing on the internet. Now, if you have an email address, it can enhance your marketing across many platforms, not just Facebook. And so if they never open their email, you don’t ever want to delete their address or not use it, you want to still append data to it, and use it to market across the Internet, and try to get them to reengage.

Steve: Okay, and what are some ways that you would do that?

Dustin: So obviously, Facebook and Instagram are the ones that are built into the platforms. Google is slowly opening their networks, if you have an email address, you can increase your bid for AdWords. You can obviously do Gmail advertising. And I believe, I’m not sure if the retargeting works out, the email doesn’t, I don’t think it does. But just AdWords and Gmail, those are the two biggest places people go to search. And so if you have an email address, then you can enhance your bid, when someone searching, that’s part of your customer base. That’s pretty powerful. So I think the email address is kind of the key to how you’re going to spend and get ROI. And so if you can’t send them an email, it doesn’t mean that email address isn’t worth something.

Steve: So the people that aren’t opening or haven’t opened in extended period, you just stop sending those people and you just use those as retargeting audiences?

Dustin: Correct?

Steve: Okay. Would you ever just occasionally try to email them again and see if they respond? Or what is kind of your threshold for that?

Dustin: Yeah, I think once a quarter; you should try to come up with something to see if they engage or something like that. And again, just make it targeted and maybe make it an offer to have a call or something if they’re category enabled, that they may want some totally different conversation with you. Or maybe they’re really angry and they want to vent. I don’t know.

Steve: I know a lot of store owners, they have this like one gigantic monolithic list that isn’t segmented. So, so far, we’ve talked about different buckets, like they’ve purchased once and high lifetime value people and people who aren’t that engaged. How else would you go about taking this one monolithic list and just kind of breaking it apart after the fact assuming you didn’t tag when you were sending the emails?

Dustin: So and there’s no data as it is, it is just a list.

Steve: There might be data appended to it I guess from previous, I guess it just depends on which email provider but yeah, let’s say you do have some data about previous sense of content and offers.

Dustin: Yes, I would just start at the simplest segmentation, the highest level you can come up with. And so whether it’s category, or it’s just recency from when they’ve engaged, like, okay, this is what people who in the past 90 days were engaged like, okay, those are strike while the iron is hot concept, those people are probably your best bet. And then start to bucket it out from there, llike, okay, these people have a bottom 24 months, and then figure out what goes on with your product category. That would imply, okay, 24 months have gone by, why haven’t they come back? It’s like, okay, maybe they’re right. In travel, a lot of people only take a trip every 24 months. So actually Vegas, people who hadn’t bought 24 months was a valuable list because they’re ready to come back.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Dustin: And feedback, hey, it’s been this long since you’ve been on a trip, I bet you’re ready to take another one, let us help you find one. Those types of conversations you can have there. When you sell physical goods, again, you have to figure out the characteristics of what you’re selling.

Steve: And in terms of guidelines, do you have any in terms of like determining whether you’re doing well? Like what’s a good open rate? What’s a good click through rate?

Dustin: I really think that is — looking at averages out there is really difficult, because so many people email poorly. I think the average e-commerce open rate is like 15% or something. But I’m sure your listeners and people on Drip, it could be much higher than that.

Steve: Of course.

Dustin: And it’s because they’re sending targeted messages with data right? And so, yes, that’s a tough one to answer without knowing what people strategies are. Throughout my career I’ve seen 15% with really bad practices.

Steve: Well, let’s flip it. What is considered a poor open rate where you definitely need to start looking at what’s going on?

Dustin: Yeah, I would say 15% is kind of the Mendoza line where like, okay, that’s probably average for people that don’t do it very well. And if you get below that, then something is wrong. The content is not resonating, the list isn’t segmented, maybe you’re just simply mailing everybody too much. I don’t know. But we like to — if you have a really engaged audience, and you’re sending them relevant content, you can see 40% open rates.

Steve: What’s funny about not emailing the people that haven’t opened in the past is that if you’re not emailing them anymore, you’re not actually giving them a chance to perhaps open an email. And so I’m just kind of curious how this — is this life cycle emails that you’re talking about here, is it mostly automated, meaning like as soon as they drop down a bucket, they are given a separate sequence and as soon as they’re upgraded to like the high LTV bucket, is there a separate autoresponder sequence? Or are you just using those buckets mainly for broadcast that you’re setting up?

Dustin: No, ideally your customer list is segmented by LTV and they’re dropping into their automation based on that, and then you’re going to do a broadcast, I think that’s a separate exercise where you determine if you’re going to dump everybody in or not. Does that makes sense?

Steve: Yeah. So the broadcasts depending on for example, if you have a certain sale in a segment — okay, actually, let’s take that example. Let’s say you have all your buckets that we’ve already talked about so far and you want to do a broadcast of a specific item. Do you send that broadcast to everyone who you think might be interested in that item or has shown interest in that item across all of your segments? Or do you just do it to your, I guess, your better segments to people who have purchased before?

Dustin: Yeah, I would think it would depend on if it was a special offer, a limited edition item, or something like that, how deep you want to go because when you have a really compelling offer, that’s probably the time to try to wake up the sleepy part of the list. I would just calculate it based on that, like okay, this is a good time to talk to the people who haven’t bought for 24 months, but had interest in this category? Or is this a limited, I only have 20 of them and I want my best customers to have first shot at it and kind of create a scarcity and exclusivity messaging for that segment.

Steve: Okay. Outside of email, what are some of the other growth strategies that have worked well with the companies that you’ve advised in terms of getting people to just buy more often?

Dustin: Yeah, so after we’ve acquired them as customers, obviously?

Steve: Yes, that’s correct. Yes.

Dustin: Yeah, treating them as a person, and kind of not always trying to sell them is definitely the best method. And so I’m pretty lucky I don’t deal with a lot of companies that just sell commodity widgets, there’s always some passion or something behind it. And so once the customer comes in, you want to welcome them into the family and make them feel like they’re part of the movement. And that’s generally the best way to build loyalty and kind of really get them to be your fan and promote you. And that’s kind of what all the brands I work with focus on. So once they’ve had that transaction with them, we then work through all the ways to enroll you in the brand. And frankly, a lot of that happening through email, but then you just have to track what they do, right? And getting them to contribute content and write reviews and things like that are really key today.

Steve: You bring up a pretty good point there. I think just even determining what you want to sell or how you want to structure your own business going forward, you probably want to choose an item that is conducive to having a following right, and is conducive to having like a fanatical audience, as opposed to selling like just regular widgets online.

Dustin: Yeah, I mean, either you’re going to celebrate the widgets like the Shopify store I have sells reading glasses. That’s about as regular of a widget as you could get but we built a brand and a movement around it that is working. And so, we sell these reading glasses for people that don’t want to wear reading glasses essentially.

Steve: That would be me actually; I’m starting to get farsighted. Tell me about this movement actually. How have you created it?

Dustin: Yeah, it was my buddy’s idea. And he essentially — same problem you’re having right? He’s like having trouble reading menus. That’s how it starts. Then your kids are like dad, your arms must be long enough to hold the menu far. Yeah, anyway, so he went to go solve this problem, he is like, wow, the only option is to go to the optometrist and spend a ton of money or go to the drugstore and buy granny readers. He’s like, none of those appeal to me. And so essentially just build a brand around people that wanted — that had to solve this reading glass problem but weren’t willing to kind of sacrifice I guess style is how we frame it.

But basically, he made it into a movement about aging awesome. And so we’re all Generation X. And basically, none of us are willing to stop doing what we’ve done our whole lives. And that’s really what the whole brand is about. So he’s gotten influencers into the brand, and we kind of launched it with four models, the glasses, influencer movement, and it’s worked incredibly well.

Steve: Interesting. So, this audience that you have isn’t necessarily interested in glasses, but it’s the targeted demographic? And your content, I imagine it doesn’t have do with glasses most of the time, right?

Dustin: Yeah, it’s a side project for everybody; we’ve been really slow to get the content going. But you’re correct; the monthly broadcast would have nothing to do with glasses. It would have everything to do with ageing awesome and just really cool things people are doing in life.

Steve: Okay, right, right, right. And so that way people actually would be very conducive to opening those emails. I know I would as someone who’s starting to get farsighted, but just that whole bucket of aging awesome; it’s almost like a blog at that point, right?

Dustin: Yeah, essentially, that’s a very good way to look at it, even we created a blog audience and there’s products behind it that help them kind of be part of the movement.

Steve: And this store, I imagine it’s not limited to just selling reading glasses, right?

Dustin: It’s not; it only sells reading glasses today. But the way he’s built up the brand and age awesome, it opens itself up to other categories pretty easily.

Steve: Nice. Does he sell on Amazon? Or this is your store too; do you guys sell on Amazon?

Dustin: Yeah, we put it on Amazon just to see what would happen. We didn’t put much effort into it, honestly. So yeah, just for — sure that numbers, no big deal. We do about 50 orders a day and we would get one order a day from Amazon.

Steve: How do you reconcile that? So let’s say you were making like 100 orders a day on Amazon, how would you kind of reconcile like where to put your efforts? Do you just put all your efforts on the highest paying channel or would you still focus more of your efforts on the store?

Dustin: Yeah, I would focus efforts on the store. Amazon, selling on Amazon is just a cash flow exercise. So if you need to convert your inventory into cash, it can be beneficial there. But you don’t get the customer, and so other than you’re getting your product in the customers’ hands, but if they bought on Amazon, they’re probably going to go back to Amazon to get it again. It’s really hard to enroll them in the brand.

Steve: Do you ever point people — in this reading glasses store, do you ever point people to Amazon or do you always point — the reason why I ask this is some people just always buy on Amazon, right?

Dustin: Yeah, I think people buy on Amazon until they don’t, right until they need more info to make the purchase. So, finding really cool reading glasses is just not something people would even think to start that search on Amazon for. And I think that’s why we didn’t sell that many there because if you’re going to look for reading glasses on Amazon, you’re most likely in the mindset you’re going to pay $12 for them and ours cost 90.

Steve: Right. Okay, that makes sense. Cool. Well, Dustin, that I just kind of want to end this by giving you a chance to talk about some of the companies that you work for or promote or whatnot. And where can people find you online?

Dustin: Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s just @DustinRobertson. And then obviously, if you want to learn more about how we’re appending data and enhancing the e-commerce shopping experience, check us out at Drip.

Steve: I do want to say a couple of things about Drip. I mean, one of the reasons why I use it for my Wife Quit Her Job is because of its tagging abilities. Basically, you have at your disposal what any person has done. And as soon as they click on a link or interact with something, you can tag them appropriately and then do some of the things that we talked about in today’s interview. So Dustin, thanks a lot for come on the show. I really appreciate your time.

Dustin: Great. Thanks for having me, Steve.

Steve: All right, take care.

Dustin: Bye.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now for everyone who thinks email is dead, well guess what? Email is not dead. And the key to a successful email strategy relies on the proper segmentation. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode252.

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

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

251: Tim Soulo Of Ahrefs On How To Rank Any Website In Search

251: Tim Soulo On How To Rank Any Website In Search

Today, I’m excited to have Tim Soulo on the show. Tim is the Chief Marketing Officer at Ahrefs, an industry leading SEO tool powered by Big Data.

He has 10 years of practical experience in SEO and digital marketing. He loves to share his knowledge of SEO and he speaks at industry conferences all over the world.

Enjoy the episode!

What You’ll Learn

  • What’s working with search engine optimization today
  • Tim’s main strategy when it comes to ranking a site in search
  • How and where to promote your content online
  • How to rank an ecommerce store in search

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today, I have Tim Soulo on the show, and Tim is the CMO at Ahrefs, which is the best all in one SEO research tool out there that I actually use multiple times per week. And today we are going to discuss how to rank websites in Google search.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

You can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pops and abandoned cart email sequence as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So, bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. Now, because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding and taking cues from my customers and deliver personalized marketing messages.

So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over $100 who purchased red handkerchiefs in the past year. Now, it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo. And you can try them for free at Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, 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 excited to have Tim Soulo on the show. Now Tim is the chief marketing officer and product advisor at Ahrefs an industry leading SEO tool powered by big data. Now he’s got 10 years of practical experience in SEO and digital marketing. And what I like about Tim is that he loves to share his knowledge of SEO. And in fact, you’ve probably heard him speak at industry conferences all over the world. And on a personal note, I’ve been using Ahrefs for a while now. And it has been invaluable for helping me perform an SEO site audit for both my blog and my online store. And today, I actually don’t even write a blog post at all until I’ve run the tool. So I’m super excited to have him on the podcast. And with that, welcome to show Tim. How you doing today, man?

Tim: Hey, Steve, I’m doing fine. Thanks a lot for inviting me to the show. And thanks a lot for that awesome shout out to Ahrefs, I’m super glad to hear that you’re actively using it.

Steve: You know, I’m so glad to actually get this interview in the books because I know it’s kind of difficult to schedule an interview with someone in Singapore. So I’m really happy it worked out.

Tim: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for being flexible with your time really.

Steve: So some people in my audience probably don’t know who you are. So if you wouldn’t mind just giving a very brief intro about how you got started with SEO and the history of how you kind of became involved in Ahrefs, that’d be awesome.

Tim: Yeah, so I started in SEO, I think 10 years ago now. So yeah, I basically landed a junior SEO job at my hometown back in Ukraine. And from there, I was simply learning everything I can. I was trying out my own websites to rank them to make money from them and then gradually progressed. And I would say just by accident, because I was kind of working on my own projects and kind of trying to promote myself as a marketer trying to promote my own projects. Ahrefs CEO kind of noticed me; he noticed what I was doing online.

And he — at first he hired me to do some kind of freelance work for Ahrefs, but eventually it ended up that I came to Singapore and he made me marketing director, it was three years ago. And I was actually marketing director with no marketing department, because when I joined Ahrefs, there were only 15 or 16 people and I was the only marketing person. Yeah – so I was marketing director with no one reporting me. Yeah, and today, we’re at 45 people in our team. And so I think our marketing team was like 10 people or something, depending how you count, because I kind of feel there’s some kind of convergence between our support and customer success department and the marketing department, because the roles are quite similar to those. So yeah, but yeah, our marketing department, I’d say is like 10 people.

Steve: Cool. Well Tim, hey, let’s talk about SEO. So can we talk about first, what is working and what is not working in terms of ranking in search today?

Tim: That’s an amazing question.

Steve: it’s a loaded question but yeah.

Tim: Yeah. And like for anyone who’s listening and who is getting ready for me to start plugging a lot of technical SEO jargon or some concepts that people won’t understand, it’s not what I do. Actually, I’m not like a super technical SEO, I don’t like to get really deep into it, I prefer the basic concepts. And I think that on the surface level, SEO is like super simple. All you need to do is you need to figure out if people are searching for whatever you have there.

So if you want to write an article, you need to figure out if people are searching for the topic of that article, and then you need to build links to it. So these are the only two things that you need to nail and you’ll be good. All the other like Hreflang, and like multi lingual SEO and schema.org and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, it is it is complicated and it only helps a little. But you need to nail those two foundations.

Steve: Okay. Actually, let me start by asking you a question specifically. So recently I performed an SEO audit where actually eliminated, I would say maybe 35, 40% of the posts that just were not very good. Have you found that SEO site audits where you’re eliminating bad content has improved search rankings for your clients?

Tim: To be honest, I cannot tell you exactly if it does help or not, because we’re not an agency.

Steve: Sure.

Tim: So we work on our own blog. We don’t work on blogs of other people at scale. So we didn’t have an opportunity to test for example, you have two similar blogs. And one of them, you will delete a lot of content that doesn’t bring search traffic and redirect those articles to some other relevant ones, and on the other blog you will leave things as these and see which blog will perform better. So we didn’t do this kind of experiment. But on our own blog, we are continuously and constantly deleting any underperforming articles.

Steve: But just let’s say the content wasn’t outdated, it just wasn’t performing that well, you would still recommend removing it, or redirecting it?

Tim: If the content is good, and the article is not doing well, what I would recommend is first to check if there’s a surge demand for this kind of topic, this is something that I just said. You need to make sure that people are searching for whatever you’re writing about in your article, and that your article is kind of tailored towards this search, so that you’re matching the search intent. And the second thing, if article is not performing, it needs more links because links is what is the kind of primary ranking factor in Google, it is what gets you to the top of Google.

And then like I said, what we’re doing at Ahrefs, if we publish a great article, and then it doesn’t end up ranking well in Google, the first thing that we’ll check is if we’re matching the search intent, if our article is what people searching for something specific want to see. And then we would probably rewrite it with some new information, we would make our headline for example, more better and have some more interesting promise within the article, add some information, remove some information, maybe actually make the article shorter, if we decide that people are probably reluctant to read a lengthy piece.

So we will try to figure out how to kind of please our potential readers, and then we will relaunch the article as if it is entirely new, you will send it to your email list, we will promote it with Facebook ads, we’ll send some outreach emails in the hopes that people might link to us. And usually after an update, after a kind of clever update, quite a few articles start performing well. But sometimes it takes us I don’t know, three to four updates to finally figure out what the article should look like and to finally accumulate enough links to that article for it to be able to rank. So yeah, we don’t look at our content as one off pieces, we’ll continuously go back, review how the articles are forming and if we should invest time into updating and re-promoting them.

Steve: So what is your process? So you mentioned a bunch of things there, right. So search intent, what is your process for determining whether your article matches the search intent?

Tim: It’s just like common sense. So it’s hard to explain because there’s no like process in like instead like do you do this first, do the second, I’ll just tell you what recently happened with one of our articles. And I think if people will be able to understand how we do it here at Ahrefs. So we published an article on the topic of what is SEO, because a lot of people are searching for things like what is SEO and blah, blah, blah, then you want to direct them to the article. So we thought it would be kind of smart to reach out to the most prominent people in our field, ask them this question, what is SEO? And we kind of knew that everyone would give different answers, because there is no specific definition for SEO, everyone understands it as they want.

So we got a lot of interesting answers. We kind of created our article. Now on top of these answers, we created what people were telling us, the structure we did nicely and created an article what is SEO based on what prominent people in our field told us. We promoted it, some of these people tweeted it because they had their quotes there. But the article didn’t end up ranking in Google. So when we posted this article on our kind of internal Slack channel and started discussing, why didn’t the article perform that well? It was actually our CEO, who said, are you sure that people are searching for what is SEO in Google? They’re looking to get quite advanced answers from the top people in the SEO field, maybe they’re just looking for super basic explanation what is SEO like on the most, most surface level, instead of going into deep details and complex thinking process that those experts had offered us?

And so right now you’re thinking, yeah, probably when people are searching for what is SEO are getting high quality, complicated answers from top people in the field is probably not what they want. So yeah, this is how we kind of make sure we nail the search intent. We just try to put ourselves in the shoes of searchers, and figure out what could they — like what do they need when they search for something? What do they mean when they search for x? So this is our process.

Steve: So let me ask you this, though, you keep using the word underperforming. So what are the metrics that make it under performing in the first place? Like do you look at your analytics data? Do you look at bounce rate, time on site? What do you look at?

Tim: Yeah, this is a great question. And for me underperforming is I simply search for something in Google, I take the top ranking articles, I put them into Ahrefs, and I look at how much traffic these articles get in total. So, whenever we publish an article, and we see that this article, first of all, it doesn’t rank on the first page of Google for the terms that we wanted it to rank for, and second, if that article is not getting as much traffic in total as those top 10 ranking articles for the topic, we consider it underperforming. We don’t — yeah sometimes when like with that article about what is SEO, we might go to Google Analytics and look at the time on page, are people actually reading this article?

And if time on pages low, it means that we are failing to make people interested in that article. And so we need to rewrite it. Maybe we need to put better information, or if the information is already good, maybe the actual writing style is not kind of up their alley. So yeah, probably time on page is the best indicator that readers are not interested in the article. And in terms of performance, like your goals, what kind of goals you have with the content marketing, we look at how well the article ranks in Google and how much search traffic it gets in total, because article doesn’t rank for a single keyword, it will rank for a lot of search queries.

Steve: Actually, you know what? So when you’re talking about time on site, what is your baseline for comparison? Do you look at like your average time on site for an article or what are your metrics?

Tim: There’s no baseline actually. And usually, the time on site would be either like super small, like less than a minute. No one can read a lengthy article in less than a minute. Or it can be like three minutes plus, and it means that it’s okay, because it’s average. So some people will read the article till the end. But some people will read only a little bit and bounce and this way skew the average number to a lower one. But usually, the time on page should be relative to the length of your article. So I think the average reading time is 200 words per minute I think, I don’t remember, I need to Google it. So just calculate what is the average time to read your article and then look at your average time on page for that article and you’ll see if people manage to read it till the end within the time frame.

Steve: Okay, you know, this question actually Tim just came into my mind right now, should I be indexing my podcast episodes? Now there’s a transcript, but most of my podcast episodes never end up ranking, because there’s no structure to the content. So do you recommend people index their podcast pages on their blog?

Tim: This is a good question, so yes and no. So on one hand, for example, with these podcasts; I don’t really see what kind of search it would fall into. Do people search for interviews of Tim Soulo? I’m afraid I’m not [overlapping 00:17:12] means or whatever, for people to be searching for interviews with me. So probably you won’t get any search traffic out of it. You could try the ranking for I don’t know effective blogging strategies. If that’s not too competitive, you could kind of call your podcast effective blogging strategies, have all the transcripts there, and probably, you would be able to get some traffic towards it.

But if your podcast names are generic, and if during the podcast you discuss a lot of different topics with each of your guests, it would be really hard to rank for anything, since you’re covering so much stuff in one podcast episode, so the page will be relevant to too many things at once. So yeah, he you should either go for more focused episodes that talk only about a single topic, or I don’t know, no index your episode so that Google won’t see a lot of pages that don’t have any traffic from search and don’t really don’t have specific topics.

Steve: Great answer. So, Tim, you also talked a lot about backlinks right in terms of ranking. So what is your blog’s strategy for building backlinks?

Tim: I’m not sure that our own strategy would be relevant to people because we have a large enough audience and we have a good enough budget. So our strategy is simply send email to all our email subscribers, post our article a few times on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere where our friends and our customers are following us, and also put like $300 plus into Facebook ads. Some of it goes through retargeting past blog visitors, some of it goes to reaching new audiences. And simply by doing these things, we reach enough people to have a high chance that some of these people because we are also in internet marketing niche, which means that almost everyone in our niche has a website, some people have like three to five websites, some people have 10 websites.

So basically our audience is audience of people who have websites, and simply by reaching this audience with our articles, we have a high chance that we’re going to get backlinks. So we are frequently mentioned in different roundups, people post our articles on different forum discussions, etc. etc. So we don’t need to be kind of proactive in terms of building backlinks. And we also have kind of a trusted brand right now. So it also helps. So our strategy would only be relevant to companies who are kind of at our stage, who have their audience, who have their brand, and who have some budget in terms of paid promotion of their content. But for people who are just starting out, there is no better way to promote your content to get backlinks other than reach out to people in your niche who have websites.

So like I said, for the most part, you can only get a link from a person who has a website. If a person doesn’t have a website, it is unlikely that you will get a link from them unless they will post it on some public forum or whatever. So a good strategy is to simply make a list of all websites in your niche. So for example, if you’re a travel blogger, you should have a list of all other travel bloggers, you should have a list of all other travel websites, you should have a list of websites or e-commerce stores that sell some travel stuff, etc. etc.

You should know your kind of online niche. And whenever you publish an article, you should out of all these websites that you know, you should create a list of people who might be interested in reading that article, and who might be interested in linking to that article from their websites, and just reach out to them and show them your article. And if your article is any good, if it is relevant to these people, there’s a high chance that they will link to it, maybe not immediately, maybe simply going forward in a month, in two months but you might lend the link.

Steve: I was kind of curious how you’re going to answer that because I was going to give my answer to that question.

Tim: Sure.

Steve: So for me, I feel like SEO, at least the back linking part is all about social engineering at this point. So you really have to go out and try to meet people, other webmasters become friends with them and basically you help each other occasionally when there’s a post that you want to rank. And like you said, you can’t — it’s really hard to just cold email someone and get them to link to your site. But if you already have a relationship with them, the likelihood of it happening is much greater.

Tim: Yeah, exactly. Actually, I look at marketing overall, as an interaction between people. Some people like to think of marketing, as I don’t know, in terms of campaigns or in terms of growth hacks, but what I see it’s all about relationships. When you want someone to read your article, it’s not mechanical, it’s not that you use some mechanical or I don’t know, psychological trick to kind of persuade that person to tweet your article, it doesn’t work this way. You should you should have an amazing article, then you should have some kind of connection to the person, for them to even care about reading your email or listening to you.

And when you’re marketing to your audience, you’re marketing to individual people as well. So it’s not that you could use some tricks or some mechanics to somehow bring tra — a lot of people think of traffic to their website as just numbers. I think of traffic to my websites as individual people, as real people. So yeah, it’s all about interactions. It’s all about building your relationships. It’s all about building community, building your brand. So I totally agree with you.

Steve: Yeah. So Tim, let’s switch gears a little bit. And let’s talk about everything that you do before you put down a blog post, like how you do keyword research, how you determine whether it’s going to be easy to rank for or not, what is your process?

Tim: It is super easy. So I’m using our own tool, I’m using Content Explorer, because I don’t think I saw this feature in any other keyword tools. So basically, what they do, whenever I have an idea of any article, I will just formulate a search query without even thinking of it. So for example, for what is SEO article, I could write into keywords Explorer, like how does SEO work? Or what does a show mean? Or what does SEO mean today? Or how do you study SEO in 2018? So I can come up with any search query at all, without thinking if other people around the world will search the same way as me.

And the reason I do this is because our tool keywords Explorer, what it will do, it will pull the top 10 ranking pages for any search query that I put into it, just like Google. So you basically can do this with Google, not with keywords Explorer. But the only difference is that keyword explorer will then show you the total search traffic to each of the top 10 ranking pages. So we don’t need to know the exact keyword like the most popular way of how people search for something, I only need to search it in my own words, and Google will still rank the most relevant page and Google will rank the same page for all the search variations that other people would use.

So wait, I’m only interested in the total search traffic potential of the topic. And that’s basically, a lot of people; they look at the search volume of individual keyword, which obviously correlates with the total search traffic that you’re going to get from all different search query variations that other people will use. But sometimes, there are cases where the individual search volume of individual keyword would kind of discourage you from making an article on the topic. But in total, the top ranking page would get a lot of traffic from all the keyword variations. So yeah, I don’t just look at the individual — on the search volume of an individual keyword, I always explore the top ranking pages and how much traffic they get in total. And this is what kind of drives my decision if I want to pursue this topic or not.

And in terms of figuring out the difficulty, so first of all, I try to simply ask myself for a question like, will I be able to create a better page on whatever topic I’m targeting than those pages that already rank there? What would be the value for searchers, for people? How am I going to stand out? Why would Google consider ranking me above those pages that are already there? So if what I’m going to do is take those top 10 pages, rewrite them in my own words and put my own article, that’s not going to work, I need something original, I need something new. I need something that will stick with people more than the top ranking pages.

And if I know that I’m able to come up with a better piece of content than those top 10 ranking pages, the last thing that I would look at is the number of backlinks that they have, and specifically the number of unique websites that are linking to each of the top 10 ranking pages. If I see that most of the top 10 ranking pages have, I don’t know 50 plus backlinks, backlinks from 50 plus pages, it means that the topic is quite competitive, especially if they have like 100 plus backlinks to each of the top ranking pages.

But if I see that most of the top ranking — top 10 ranking pages don’t have many backlinks, it means that it would be easier for me because I’m kind of estimating my own chances to get as many backlinks with my own article. And I know that getting like 10 backlinks for us at Ahrefs is like super easy. We don’t need to bother about it at all. But if we need to get like 200 backlinks from 200 websites, I know this is quite challenging. So we won’t be able to rank within those search results that easily.

Steve: Doesn’t the quality of the backlink matter? I mean they could have 200 backlinks from crappy sites, right?

Tim: Yeah, that is true and quality does matter. But for our own process, we don’t really spend that much time researching. So we don’t really dig into the quality of backlinks of the top 10 records. So if you’re analyzing top 10 ranking pages for the keyword that you want to rank for, and each of the top 10 ranking pages has 200 backlinks from 200 and plus websites. So this means 200 times 10, it would be 2,000 backlinks that you need to review to even make a decision if you want to write article about this. So in our case, it is quite different. We simply decide if the topic is important enough for us to go and wrestle with those big guys.

And if it is important to us, we will still write an article even if we see that the top ranking pages are super competitive. But then we’ll use their backlinks, we’ll use their like 2,000 backlinks of that top 10 ranking pages have in total to piggyback from them. So we’re going to see who is linking to them, we’re going to reach out to all these websites, we’re going to show them our content, hoping that those same websites will link to us as well, because they linked to these pages.

Steve: What’s your hit rate when you try to do that? I imagine you’re reaching out to strangers, right for this.

Tim: Yeah, we’re reaching out to strangers for sure. But again, here at Ahrefs, we have kind of a rule, we don’t explicitly ask for a link. So we don’t reach out and say, hey, I saw that you’re linking to this article from your article about this, can you please put a link to us as well? We never do that. We consider it kind of sketchy or we consider it stupid I would say. We simply try to impress people with our articles. So what we will do instead, we will reach out and say, hey, I found your website, I see that you’re interested in this topic. Now I recently wrote an article about this and the cool thing about this article, or the interesting fact from this article is that, this and this and this. So if you’re interested to learn more, if that was interesting enough to hook you, you can read the entire article here at this link.

And so we simply track if people are opening our emails, if people are replying to our emails. So if a person will actually reply to our email and say, yeah, that was like an interesting fact, I never thought that I could consider this topic from this angle, and blah, blah, blah, we then might reply to that person and say, oh, it’s awesome that you enjoyed our content. Well, if you ever find a chance, if you ever have a chance to link to that article, we’ll be super grateful but that’s it.

I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about a free resource that I offer on my website that you may not be aware of. If you are interested in starting your own online store, I put together a comprehensive six day mini course on how to get started in e-commerce that you should all check out. It contains both video and text based tutorials that go over the entire process of finding products to sell all the way to getting your first sales online. Now this course is free and can be obtained at Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Just sign up right there on the front page via email and I’ll send you the course right away. Once again, that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Now back to the show.

Steve: What is your hit rate? Because I know I get emails like that almost every day and it never works on me, like never even if the article is awesome. So what is your hit rate?

Tim: The hit rate is pretty low. I think out of a hundred emails, we might get five backlinks within the week.

Steve: That’s too bad actually, that’s higher than I was expecting.

Tim: Yeah, but that’s because we have a brand and a lot of people in our industry know us. And that’s because we often try to create amazing content that is better than anything what’s already there. So if people are trying to reach out to others with kind of average articles, and without having any brand at all, I guess it will be harder for them. But still, if I were starting out again, I would still do this because by doing this, you’re putting yourself on the radar of a lot of people. And even if you reach out with the first article and no one replies, you then write a second amazing article and then you reach out to more people. And then you write the third amazing article and then you reach out to more people. And some people start noticing and sure, that you just said that it doesn’t work on you.

But I’m absolutely sure that you’re noticing that there are certain people who produce amazing content; you see a lot of people that reach out to you with stupid content with simple articles that you’re not interested in. But sometimes you see that someone is really promising. For example, back in the days when I just started working on Ahrefs blog this way, I actually found a few kind of guest writers for our blog, because people reached out to me with articles that I enjoyed. So by reaching out to people in your industry, and by making sure that you are only reaching out to them with your best content, you’re putting yourself on their radar. And even if they won’t link to you immediately, they might still kind of make a mental note that there’s this guy who creates amazing content on this topic and they might reference you in future. So it might help you in the long run.

Steve: That’s a really good point, actually because there have been some people even though I didn’t link to them, I now know who they are and I’m probably more receptive to them going forward. All right, let’s switch gears once again; let’s talk about e-commerce sites. I know you don’t have a lot of experience ranking e-commerce sites. But as you’re probably aware, most e-commerce sites, they’re bear on content, right? You got a product description; you have a category page sometimes with little or no text. How do you rank those pages?

Tim: Yeah, it’s like you rightly said, I’m not an expert in e-commerce. I don’t think I ever had an e-commerce website. But because a lot of our customers, a lot of people for using Ahrefs, they have e-commerce websites, I had quite a few kind of meaningful conversations. So I think I know that if I were to start an e-commerce website today, what I will do. So first of all, if your product, if you want to rank your product pages and they don’t have a lot of content, then it is kind of obvious that you need to try to put content on those product pages. And they like — the only reason why people don’t make — reach an awesome product pages is I think they’re probably they’re just lazy. Because whatever product you take, you can invest in making for example, awesome photos of this product.

And I’ve seen a company that sells car parts, and everyone in their niche, they were using the standard photos that the manufacturer of the car parts was giving them. But this company, they approached it differently, they set up a small studio, and they were reaching out to all the car part manufacturers and asking them to send them samples. And they were making their own photos. And their product pages were all already looking better and people stayed longer on their product pages, simply because they could click more images of the car part from different angles. And that improved time on page and this is something that Google likes.

In terms of product descriptions, that same company, they hired quite a few different automotive bloggers, people who are interested in cars, and all that stuff. And they asked them to basically post good descriptions, good reviews of those different car parts. And eventually they had rich product pages that could generate a lot of traffic. So if people are saying that they have product pages, and there’s lack of content, then I’m sorry, I don’t have any advice for you, it will be hard to rank with those product pages. And whatever tricks you use to rank those product pages, whenever someone will create a store and create rich product pages, with awesome photos, with awesome description and with even customer reviews, you will get outranked by those product pages.

And then so in terms of building links to your e-commerce store, it is also quite challenging, because people generally don’t tend to link to products directly. But for example, what I’ve seen when I was shopping for wakeboards, I saw that one of the e-commerce shops for online e-commerce shops for wakeboards, they created a sizing guide. So you should buy a different wakeboard based on your head, based on your weight. You also have to determine your shoe size and all that stuff. And so they created a nice guide, where you could pick the right size of wakeboard for you depending on your height, and how much you weighed. And this kind of resource generated at tone of backlinks.

And they simply funneled that link juice that they got to this resource to different product categories. And from these categories, the link juice flowed further to the actual products. So if you struggle to build backlinks to the product pages or category pages, which I’m sure is the case for any e-commerce store, you should think of creating kind of valuable resources for shoppers, for people who are interested in buying whatever you have, and then building backlinks to those valuable resources and then funneling the link juice that you get to those pages towards your category pages and towards your product pages. And this will help them rank better.

Steve: Do the social factors matter in ranking based on your data? You guys have a whole bunch of data right on all these backlinks and everything. Do social shares make a difference?

Tim: Yeah, we have a little data. But whenever we do a study, we always say that correlation is not causation. So we can kind of study, like if top ranking pages tend to get a lot of social shares. But we can’t really say that it is social shares that help them rank because once you rank at the top of Google, you consistently get search traffic. And as you consistently get search traffic, it means that some of these people will treat you right. So it’s kind of a vicious circle. Do you get a lot of social shares, because you rank well, or do you rank well because you get a lot of social shares? So overall, I don’t really think that social shares in terms of numbers do matter. So if you just go on Fiverr, or whatever website sells tweets, and shares, and whatever, and buy those “signals,” I’m pretty sure that won’t help you.

But if your article kind of naturally generates buzz, if people visiting your article to read it to their followers, and some of their followers see the tweet and click a link and go back to the article, and then some of them tweet it again, Google, I’m pretty sure that Google can kind of see this dynamic. They might not see even directly as a kind of tweets, or Facebook shares, or whatever, but I’m pretty sure that Google can see that your article is taking off, and that your article is generating word of mouth, and then it does help your article to rank especially it helps it to rank immediately.

So I mean, we had quite a few cases where we would publish an article at Ahrefs blog and the piece was a little bit controversial. So it starts to generate a lot of buzz on Twitter, on Facebook, etc. etc. and we had a huge traffic spike. And what we saw is that the article ranked in the top 10 for its keyword within less than 24 hours. So less than 24 hours, and Google was able to see that our article is generating a lot of buzz on social media that it was getting a lot of traffic, and Google would put our article at the top of the search results. Later, when the buzz faded and the traffic to our article faded, Google will also put it lower and use probably some different signals to figure out if they should put us back in the top 10 search results.

But I’ve noticed it quite a few times that whenever your article takes off, whenever it initially performs and generates more buzz than your average articles, Google somehow will be able to see this and it will also support it by ranking it at the top of the search results immediately. But from my experience, that affect it never stays for long. So eventually, Google will drop your article from top 10 search results unless you will be able to consistently generate buzz and unless your article will get more backlinks so that it will have a stable position within Google search results.

Steve: Is that why you pay for Facebook ads for every article that you post?

Tim: Yeah, yeah. First of all, we pay for Facebook ads, because that’s like, it’s crazy but it’s one of the ways to bring our own audience back to our content. So we have our email list, but as I’m sure you know and many people know, whenever you send an email to your email list, the open rate is pathetic. It’s like 30%, 20%, I don’t know, maybe the best email list, they get 50% open rate, but you cannot reach 100% of your audience. Same on Twitter, you might have like 10,000 followers, but whenever you tweet something, you get like 15 clicks. So you’re not reaching like all 10,000 of your followers. And same with Facebook, whenever you publish something on your Facebook page, only a few friends will see this.

So our primary goal with paying for Facebook ads is to simply reach our own audience because it has no way to do this. And secondary benefit is yeah, we try to generate traffic and buzz to our article to kind of show Google that it is something important and that is something that people like. But then what we don’t have control over is time on page. And I’m pretty sure that Google is also looking at time on page. So we can throw like I don’t know $3,000 into bringing Facebook traffic to our article. But if Google will see that people don’t stick, that people open the article, they scroll a little bit, they see that it’s not interesting, and they will bounce, Google will not rank it.

But if Google will see that people come to the article, they stay for long, they read, and then people will also tweet it and bring their friends and article is taking off, it will quickly get to the top of search results and stay there for a while. At least that’s from my experience and from the articles that we publish at Ahrefs blog.

Steve: Just curious, how long do you run that ad for when a new post comes out? Or is it kind of indefinite?

Tim: Yeah, great question and we actually have some kind of system there. So initially when we release the article, we have a fixed budget of anywhere from 200 to $300 into promoting that article, and it goes equally, like half a week goes to retargeting our previous blog visitors and half of it goes towards trying to reach brand new audience who have never visited Ahrefs blog before. And from there, once we’re out of the budget, once we out of $200 or $300, we compare the performance of that newly published article to the past articles that we promoted the same way.

And if we see that the cost per click — for us, the threshold is less than 30 cents. So if we get clicks for less than 30 cents, we would throw even more budget into that article and we’ll probably try to optimize audiences to get even cheaper clicks, we’ll try to create additional ad copy, maybe even additional image to see if we can get even cheaper clicks. And then if we see that the article consistently performs well, and it gets us consistently cheap clicks, we’ll move into the category that we call evergreen articles. These are the articles that we kind of promote indefinitely. And we will throw more and more budget for them from month to month to month because we see that these articles are bringing us cheap traffic.

Steve: And in terms of — do you do analyze how well the traffic does in terms of converting into email subscribers or whatnot?

Tim: That’s interesting, because we don’t do this. But the only reasons why we don’t do this is because I don’t think there’s even a single article at Ahrefs blog that doesn’t mention the awesome use cases that we can and that doesn’t teach people to use Ahrefs. So whatever topic we’re covering, within the article, we try to show people how to solve that issue with the help of Ahrefs tools and how Ahrefs tools actually make solving that issue easier and more convenient. So, I don’t need to kind of track the conversion rate of these articles. I just know that these articles convert well, based on the fact that we’ve been blogging for the past three years, and we were growing our blog for the past three years.

And our annual recurring revenue is also growing quite well. And I see a lot of tweets that literally say that Ahrefs team is like super good at plugging their own product within their content and explaining their readers how their product is awesome. So we don’t even need to track the conversion rate because if I know that the conversion rate is 7%, or 15% of 5%, it doesn’t matter to me at all, I just know that people do convert, so it makes sense for me to promote that content and get more customers.

Steve: Okay. My final question here on my list is do you guys even bother using the disavow tool anymore or removing any bad links from your site? Is that a thing anymore?

Tim: This is an amazing question. And honestly, I don’t know the answer. Again, I can speak for ourselves. Recently, I saw that we had a negative SEO attack. So someone was trying to build thousands and thousands of low quality links to one of our pages. And actually I posted this on our internal Slack channel and asked for opinions of other guys. And I actually even emailed a few of my friends asking them what should we do, should we care about disavowing them or not? There were different opinions. Some people said, yeah, you should disavow all these backlinks.

Other people said that you have a strong enough brand, and you have a good enough back link profile. So Google should be able to figure out that this is some kind of negative SEO happening, and it shouldn’t affect you. So what we ended up doing is we did nothing. And so far, nothing happened. We didn’t get any penalties. And the page is actually — that page that was kind of negative SEO filled with bad links is actually now ranking number one for its term. So probably the person who was trying to negative SEO us, they actually helped us. But I don’t know, maybe within one month, Google algorithm will figure out what’s happening and ban us, and then we’ll have to disavow but so far, we didn’t disavow.

So for us, right now, based on this specific case that happened just I don’t know, three months ago or something, I feel that we have a strong enough website that we don’t care about disavowing bad links. But as I speak to a lot of agency owners, they do actively disavow to prevent whenever bad links are being pointed at the websites of their clients. And obviously, you should disavow after you get the low quality backlinks penalty or artificial backlinks penalty.

Steve: Sure. Sure. Yeah.

Tim: That is like 100% obvious if Google told you, hey, you have those artificial links, you should do something about it, then yes, obviously, you need to try to remove them in the first place. And then those that you can’t remove, you have to disavow. But should you disavow preventively? For us, it doesn’t make sense. For other people, there are mixed opinions about this.

Steve: Okay, so final question, Tim. And this kind of goes out to everyone who has a brand new blog with no authority whatsoever, what would be your best piece of advice to people just starting out?

Tim: To people just starting out, my best piece of advice would be to do something extraordinary. This is the best to way to kick start your blog and this is the best way to get traction. What I see — the most common mistake that a lot of bloggers make whenever they start a blog, they simply start writing about the same things that all other bloggers in their industry are writing. So they would go read 10 blogs, they would learn something and they would go and post an article about the same thing that they just learned from other blogs. There is no value in that I’m afraid.

So if you’re starting a new blog, you should figure out something unique that you can do. Like, it might be even as simple as after reading advice from those 10 blogs, don’t just give the same advice in your article, do this. So if you’re if you’re following weight loss blogs, and all of them tell you that there is a recipe of like healthy breakfast and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, then start eating this breakfast for 30 days. Track everything, track your weight, track your health, track your mental performance, I don’t know, and write the article with your results. So don’t just write an article that here’s an awesome recipe of healthy breakfast that I read elsewhere. No, just do it, try it and write your own results. And then you can say that okay, so initially in this recipe there was celery, but I think that celery didn’t taste good. So I replaced it with this. And it felt better.

So by doing this, by actually doing something before blogging, you’re creating unique content that is amazing that people want to read. People don’t want to read reversed articles. They don’t want to read the same advice they’ve read elsewhere, they want something unique. So if you’re starting a new blog, you should first and foremost think about things, about unique things that you can do.

Steve: So just to kind of sum it up, just great content that’s kind of personally tailored and putting your own spin on something.

Tim: Yeah, but again, putting your own spin. Like I said, you can just read 10 articles and create your articles with your thoughts. So based on reading these articles, you think that something will work or not work. From my experience, what you think, no one cares. Everyone cares about for results, what you do. So actually do something, get the firsthand experience, not your thoughts, but your actions, and then blog about it. So this is what works.

Steve: That’s great advice, Tim. Thanks a lot for coming on the show. I just want to give you guys a chance to plug Ahrefs. What do you guys do, what’s the tool good for?

Tim: Well, first of all, I would like to plug that Ahrefs is not just a set of SEO tools. These days, we have a blog where we have a lot of awesome materials about SEO, about marketing, about content marketing. So people should definitely visit Ahrefs blog.

Steve: And a YouTube channel too, the YouTube channel is excellent.

Tim: Yeah, we also have a YouTube channel where we share tutorials, and where we teach people awesome marketing and the sales strategies. And then we also have a Facebook group where our customers are helping each other, answering each other’s questions. And our team also tries to always be helpful and jump in and help people. And as for Ahrefs, Ahrefs is a set of SEO tools. But Ahrefs is not some magic button that you press and it will do SEO for you. You need to understand what you’re doing because we only give you information and then you need to act on this information. This is why I’m saying that you should read Ahrefs blog and watch Ahrefs videos because you need to understand how marketing works and how you can apply different strategies to your own business. And then you’ll probably go to Ahrefs and use some of our tools.

Steve: Sounds good, Tim. Thanks a lot for coming on the show. Really appreciate your time.

Tim: Thanks a lot for inviting me. I hope I was able to share something valuable to your listeners

Steve: No, absolutely. Take care.

Tim: Yeah.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. SEO is a huge part of both of my businesses, and Google actually brings me tons of free customers every single year. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob/episode251.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. And you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So head on over to Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again, that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

250: How To Win Any Argument And Influence Others With Victor Cheng

250: How To Build a 7 Figure Personal Brand With Victor Cheng

Today I’m thrilled to have Victor Cheng on the show. Victor is someone who I met at Billy Murphy’s annual retreat. He’s a former McKinsey consultant, a Stanford graduate, and he’s been on tv a number of times on Fox Business and MSNBC.

Victor advises CEOs of small businesses and Inc 500 companies and is well known for his website CaseInterview.com where he teaches others how to get jobs in the consulting field.

In this episode, Victor shares many of his secrets to building a personal brand including special tips on how to win any argument. Enjoy the show!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Victor went from Mckinsey consultant to advisor, to author and to the owner of CaseInterview.com
  • EQ vs IQ – How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career
  • How to sell your ideas
  • How to build a personal brand
  • How to get traffic for your site

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have my buddy Victor Cheng on the show. And Victor is a fellow Stanford grad who has turned one of his specific skills that I would never have thought would be monetizable into a successful online business. And we also talk about how to build a personal brand and the difference between EQ versus IQ.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Always excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store and I depend on them for over 35% of my revenues. Now Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

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

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And in fact, I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Now, there are a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Victor Cheng on the show. Now Victor is actually someone who I met at Billy Murphy’s mencation. And I’m really glad that I did because he’s got some really interesting experiences to share. He is a former McKinsey consultant. And like me, he is a Stanford grad, go Cardinal. And he frequently advises CEOs and small businesses and Inc 500 companies. He’s been on TV a number of times on Fox Business and MSNBC.

He’s also the author of a bunch of books, including Extreme Revenue Growth, The Recession Proof Business, and Escaping the Self-employment Trap. And he’s also well known for his website CaseInterview.com where he teaches others how to get jobs in the consulting field. Overall, Victor has accomplished so much that to be quite frank, I’m not even sure where to begin with this interview. But let’s start with an intro. Victor, welcome to show how are you doing today, man?

Victor: Thanks Steve. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it and feel very honored. I’m doing great and excited to talk about a wide variety of topics.

Steve: So Victor, let’s start with your story in case people don’t know who you are, of how you went from McKinsey consultant to advisor to author and to the owner of CaseInterview.com.

Victor: Yeah, so many years ago, more years than I care to remember, I graduated from Stanford, got recruited into one of the top consulting firms McKinsey, was there for a couple years. I was sort of a rising star at the time, and decided too that really wasn’t for me for the long haul. This was back around the dot com boom, around the year 2000. And decided to leave and start my own company and sort of went down this very windy, entrepreneurial path for a couple of years, worked for some big startups for a couple of years in tech, and sort of worked myself again. So I would say over the last, I guess 25 years or so if I can count correctly, I’ve been working on my own for probably about 17 of those years.

Steve: Oh, wow. Okay. I didn’t realize it was that long.

Victor: Yeah, yeah, three different iterations starting in 98. And I’ve worked for others for probably about six or seven years in consulting and then in the software industry.

Steve: Just curious, how did you come to the conclusion that you wanted to be self-employed?

Victor: Steve, I was having kids. I was at the time, yeah, I was an executive in a tech software company. And that’s since been bought by Oracle. I was traveling 50% of the time, I was on a path to really becoming a CEO of a tech company at some point, was sort of the momentum of my career trajectory at the time. And we had our first kid on the way. I’m like, I’m going to be a dad, the kind of dad I want to be if I’m traveling literally like 25, 26, 27 weeks a year. And I just didn’t see how that would work. And so decided I just need to be working from home. And then, so jettisoned my career at the time and said start over and like what are my options? And that was the starting point for all that.

Steve: So just for the benefit of listeners, Victor and I, we were just chatting before this interview started how we are tutoring our kids in math right now. And Victor spends several hours per day tutoring their kids, which would not be possible, obviously, if he had a full time job.

Victor: Yes, yeah very true. So I think a full time job would be easier than pre-algebra. But hey, it’s what it is, right?

Steve: So let’s talk about that. So you quit your job. And you decided to build a personal brand, right?

Victor: Yeah, I would say I quit my job, I wanted to earn a living. I built a personal brand somewhat by accident, I’m more conscious of that now. But it became a necessity to building up the kind of business I wanted to build. But it wasn’t the goal from the outset.

Steve: Oh, it wasn’t okay. So what do you mean by accident? And what was your plan when you quit?

Victor: Well, to get clients. So when I quit, I wanted to get clients and customers and I’m very good at selling in person. And the problem was to sell in person in the fortune 500 means jumping on an airplane. So I needed to talk to someone running a billion dollar business, very comfortable in that environment, I could talk to them, but I have to go there. So when I started to work from home with the one self-imposed constraint of not having to get on an airplane anymore, then that meant I can only communicate with prospective customers through direct mail, online or the telephone. And so really, I ended up using the internet as a marketing medium. And it became very hard to get customers unless they knew of you. And so, the building of a personal brand sort of evolved with a desire to be known as a way to get clients. So getting clients was the goal, personal brand became the vehicle for doing that.

Steve: Okay, and so what did you start out doing then? How did you do it, what was the process like?

Victor: Yeah, I think very early on, I gravitated towards what today would be known as content marketing, in the sense of just helping other people out online. I remember the very first person that I helped out was — this is pre internet years, this was probably like 98. And back then there weren’t really message boards. They were like using that I think forums; I forget the terminology we used back then.

Steve: You’re dating yourself Victor but yeah go ahead.

Victor: Yeah. Yeah, totally I mean, I was in Stanford when the web browser got invented, right. So I’m ancient, I guess, in terms of [overlapping 00:07:49].

Steve: Actually does that mean we overlapped? I think we overlapped because that was around when I was there too actually.

Victor: I finished 95. When were you there?

Steve: Okay, I finished in 97. So you only got two years.

Victor: Oh okay. All right, so we did overlap.

Steve: We just both date ourselves, but go on.

Victor: There we go. All right, with geriatric here. And my first taste of it was, I was on this sort of email list serve used net group forum kind of thing and we were talking about business. And I was just sort of riffing on just some — someone asked a question and then I answered it. And my answers tend to be fairly extensive and thoughtful, and particularly in areas I know very well. And then lo and behold, a random person reached out to me and said, hey, I really liked what you wrote the other day. Well, yeah, sure. No problem. Thanks for that. I’m like, no big deal, would love to pick your brain on some other issues. I’m not sure, no problem, I’m having nothing else to do. And so we got on the phone.

And turns out the guy was one of the newest billionaires on the Forbes 100 list.

Steve: What?

Victor: Yes, yes. And he really resonated with – he was sort of eaves dropping on this forum. He had just made the list and he had started a software company, was looking for advice and some help on some I don’t know the topic, some topic I was talking about. And we had a phone call, right? So it’s interesting when people ask like what do you do when you call like a CEO to get a meeting, and get through the rest of system, get through the gatekeeper? And there’s a phone script that works 100% of the time.

And it’s very simple. So let’s say Steve, I’m calling you, you’re the head honcho of a fortune 500 company, I’ll say — and your assistant answers. I’ll say, hi, this is Victor Cheng calling for Steve. And then she’ll say, or he’ll say, so what is this regarding? I’ll say, oh, I’m returning his phone call. That’s my script. And it has to be true. So the trick, what I do is I get people to call me first. And then I call them back and I get a meeting or a phone call every time.

Steve: Okay, elaborate please, how do you get them to call you first? Yes.

Victor: Sure, that’s where the content comes in. So, when you put content out there, then it resonates with people and take an intrigue, and you give them some way to come out and reach out to you. So content marketing in it’s early for was writing a book, right? If you wrote a book on a business topic, it was a New York Times bestseller, fortune 500 CEOs will reach out to you, they want to try to hire you, get you involved in some way, shape, or form. Public speakers do the same thing. People with blogs today do the same thing.

You’re doing the same thing, right with the podcast, right? You’re putting on information on the topic, you’re getting known in the field around a particular idea. And when people think of that issue, that problem or topic, your name pops up. Okay. And so that’s essentially the process. It has been around for literally for probably hundreds of years, and the digital form the last 20 years, but the process has always been the same.

Steve: So let me ask you this, how do you make sure that the person you want to contact has actually read your stuff?

Victor: You don’t always know, you can put up filters. One simple way is just to charge for your time. So if you’re on the Fortune 100 list, I don’t particularly care, you got my stuff, you just called me, I’ll take the call. If you’re some random person, you can either qualify them so you can use the qualification process …

Steve: That’s actually not what I meant, how would you get someone on the Forbes top 100 to actually read your content, like in your case that story you just told was by accident, right?

Victor: Yes, yes. So there’s a couple of different ways. So if it was literally someone like on the Forbes 400, or Fortune 500 CEO type person, they’re harder to reach. And I mean, the simplest strategy is write an article and then FedEx it to them and I’ve done that. Or get an article published in a magazine and then get a clipping of it, and then FedEx it to them. It helps a lot if the content is being read by someone they know, that passes along to them with a recommendation. So I will often tell my friends, oh, if you’re struggling with this issue, you got to read these three books, they’re like by far the best books on the topic. And that’s one way to get your material to the right people. You can’t always target super precisely, but you want to be in the ecosystem that they operate in. And you want to write about issues or create content around issues that they care about. And so if you’re on the right ecosystem, that’s kind of a pretty straightforward process.

Steve: The reason why I was asking is I just interviewed someone, I think, a couple of months ago, and what he does, and he compiles all the emails of all these publications of people he wants to reach, including CEOs and owners. And then he creates a custom audience on Facebook, and he just bombards them with content on Facebook, Facebook ads, and Instagram ads.

Victor: Or you can target by individual.

Steve: Well, once you have a large enough email list, you can create a custom audience on Facebook, and then you can just target those people.

Victor: Got it. I was not aware. I don’t use Facebook all that much on the targeting site.

Steve: Yeah, and so yeah, that was good. I was just kind of curious if you did something similar.

Victor: That’s clever. No, no, I think for me, I’m old school. I sent FedEx.

Steve: Well, apparently it works.

Victor: Yeah, yes, send a Fed — write a book, send it via FedEx. FedEx always gets opened.

Steve: So can we talk a little bit about the content in this case that attracted that Forbes top 100 guy?

Victor: Yeah, in that particular case, I actually don’t even remember the topic. I mean, this was 20 years ago, I since use the process for lots of different prospective clients. But really is you want to write or create content around a problem your target audience has, so be clear on who your target audience is, then you think about what are the top three headaches they have? And what can you do that can help them? So in your case, you have a podcast for people who are either in the process of thinking about starting a business to a hobbyist who have already started one, and they’re trying to grow it. There’s a certain set of problems and headaches people in that situation have.

And similar to what you’re doing is you’re trying to find thinking the case of your podcast, people who have expertise that would be beneficial to your audience. Some cases you are the content creator, and you’re creating content for or one could create content for your audience based on what they’re struggling with. So really, it’s just like, what are your headaches and just try to find solutions. One of the favorite exercises I have that I have for my clients when they do market research, is I tell them to go to a trade show or a conference or anywhere where your prospective customers gather and then listen for complaining.

And normally our society, when we hear complaining, we went the other way. I don’t, I run towards people who complain, particularly people who complain about money to solve for complaints, right? So, rich people with money, who complain a lot, those are a good customer base in general. And just listen for what they’re complaining about and take mental notes or literal notes or recordings or whatever you can do to capture that information, obviously in a legal way. And think, okay, well I can solve that problem, I can solve that problem. Oh, that’s another problem. That’s interesting. I could solve that with either a product or a service or with information, or knowledge or expertise. And that’s a great way to start a business is you find some with a headache who’s willing to pay money to solve the headache? And then you become like this Tylenol for that particular problem.

Steve: Can we talk about CaseInterview.com? Is that how you got started with that?

Victor: It is in a roundabout way. I did create content around the case interview. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the case interview is an interview process used by management consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group. And it’s a hypothetical situation interview, so a case study type interview. And so that was very unusual. Most employers, most industries don’t use that particular approach particularly when I started the site. And I went out to Harvard to do a one day a lecture on that, I recorded it, I put it up on YouTube and put all the videos on this one page website called CaseInterview.com. And then I kind of I wanted to teach the topic, I kind of did it and I kind of let it sit there.

And I kind of left and forgot about it for a couple of years until three years later, my web host contacts me saying they’re shutting down my account because my web server keeps crashing due to the amount of traffic it was getting. And I’m like, but my regular websites at the time, my corporate website, there’s no traffic, not a lot of traffic, right, it’s nowhere close to crashing the server. And then I went, I checked on my log files related to this project that had CaseInterview.com from three years ago, it was sitting on the server this whole time, but we forgot about it. That was just generating tens of thousands at the time visitors for the billing period. And it would crash the account, I had to upgrade. And then fast forward about, I don’t know, eight or 10 years, it’s millions of people, over a million people a year who read my work on that set.

Steve: So it’s just completely by accident. And were people just finding you from Google, or was it referrals or?

Victor: It was a lot of word of mouth. So what happened is people — I think like 10 people that first month found the site, however, they found it, and they used the material and then they got job offers. And for consulting, for the consulting industry, coming out of undergrad these days, if you got a job offer from one of the top firms, it would usually be about 90,000, $200,000 for someone who is 21 years old. These are big deal job offers, and they would get it. And then a year later, a lot of their friends who were a year behind them in school at places like Harvard and Stanford would say, hey, I want to pass this case interview thing. How did you do that?

And they said, oh, there’s this guy named Victor Cheng, he has a website called CaseInterview.com and there’s like six hours of free tutorials that are on the homepage. And I just followed the videos, and I just did what he did. And now I have a six figure job offer. And like really, like yeah, it worked. And so they go ask multiple people, multiple mentioned my name. So then that year, twice as many people would get job offers, because there were now twice many people who were aware of it. Then the following year, it just sort of grew exponentially.

So every year, people would ask the people ahead of them in school, hey, what are the good resources? And then now to the point where in about 100 countries around the world, probably 80 to 90% of all the new hires of McKinsey, Bain and BCG, these are the top consulting firms, their recruitment, I believe 80, 90% of them are people I’ve taught one way or another.

Steve: No way. That’s crazy. How do you make money doing this, then? Are you selling the materials now?

Victor: No, no, it’s the same materials, it’s been free for, I don’t know, eight or 10 years, whatever it’s been, those continued to be free. I operate on a freemium model. So free, sort of the word free plus premium. So it’s a 90% of my content is freely available. I think you mentioned before our podcast started that you have read 250 of my articles, I think there’s like 700 on there now. That’s all free, this would be 8, 10 hours of videos, PDFs, there’s all kinds of things that are free. And then a small percentage of our content I create is for fee or at a premium fee. So if it works…

Steve: So people are getting jobs with your free content, I’m kind of curious how you separate out the premium from the free, like what does the premium stuff look like?

Victor: So the premium stuff would be, so for example, the free version is 8 hour, 6, 7, 8 hour tutorial on how to pass the case interview. A premium version would be 24 hours of actual interviews being recorded with play by play analysis by me on what particular candidate is doing well, and what they’re doing incorrectly and how they could have turned around performance with reenacting what a better answer or a part of the answer would sound like. So, this is two different versions.

Steve: Is there is a one on one instruction that you provide, is that like personal instruction?

Victor: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Victor: Yeah, we do that. So I have a staff of — a team of former interviewers from the top firms. And I think have delivered 9,000, almost 10,000 individual one on one Skype based practice interviews since about the year 2011. So we have the largest case interview coaching organization that I’m familiar with in the world, particularly on a particular, one particular approach, the case interview so a unified approach. Yeah, and so that’s been in over 60 countries, I think over that time period, as well.

Victor: And I just want to emphasize to the readers out there, just head on over to CaseInterview.com. I’m not saying this to be mean but it’s not like a beautiful site but the content is fantastic, to the point where I literally spent several hours last night reading his posts, and I actually want to get into some of those in a little bit. But I’m just kind of curious, Victor, like how you — it sounds like you kind of stumbled upon this by accident, right?

Victor: Yeah, I think I’ve been trying lots of different things over the years. But I think the one thing I — this particular project worked out usually well, and that was a bit by accident, but I was prepared for it too. I did my part in terms of being prepared.

Steve: So if you were to be more deliberate about this today, how would you kind of redo CaseInterview.com? Would you do it the same way?

Victor: I would actually yeah. So I think there is a lot of value in — and it’s written — I back up, it’s very counterintuitive, because this does not work well in the offline world. But it works really well in the online world. Giving stuff away for free works really well as a marketing strategy. It works for crack cocaine dealers, right? The first it’s free. It works for Mrs. Fields cookies, right? The first bite is free. But if you want the rest of the cookie, you got to buy it. It works for enterprise software that cost a million dollars, they give it away to college kids, college students to learn programming, and then when they get out in the workforce, then you have to pay a million dollars for the company and employer to buy the software.

So free, is by far the single best strategy for marketing when you have a good product, when the product is exceptional, giving it away as a free sample works really well. If the product isn’t good, then it doesn’t work very well. So I’ve always been very interested in creating things that were exceptional in everything that I do, but from a traditional marketing standpoint, if I say, hey, Steve, my product is exceptional, you’re not going to believe me, right?

Steve: Well, I would try to believe you.

Victor: You would well, yeah. If you didn’t know me, you would say, oh, well, doesn’t everyone say their product was awesome. And then it’s very hard to tell. And it creates a lot of risk for the consumer or the customer. So when you give things away for free, take away a lot of the risk. So I would probably start a business or a project, particularly with more expertise based around giving away content for free.

Steve: Which is an actual case study because I know you told me earlier that you started a new site called Firsttimeceo.com.

Victor: Yeah, yeah. So I am expanding the executive coaching portion of my business. And I work with a number of insider type CEOs, companies who are over a million in sales growing at least 50% per year, year over year and have, I think at this point, made six clients over the past couple years who made the Inc. 500 or Inc. 5,000 list. So I’m starting a new project called FirsttimeCEO.com. It is a brand new site really geared towards trying to draw more people who are in that demographic into my universe. And so what I’ve done, I literally did this yesterday, is I took a lot of content I had sort of in my archive server and the server of almost everything I’ve written over the many, many years. And I found a couple of pieces of content that would really click with, resonate well with someone who’s building that kind of multimillion dollar business, and put it up on the site.

And that’s the same process I used to start CaseInterview.com years ago. Those will ultimately be videos because it’s a more visual world these days than maybe a decade ago, and convert some of into slideshow, so lots of different formats to be consumed. But the general idea is to give away free stuff, get known to a particular audience, use something called permission marketing, which Seth Godin talks a lot about that. It’s as a great strategy to build a relationship. And then there’s many, many options, what you can do with that either from a monetization standpoint, or just getting known in a particular field. But that’s kind of the overall approach, it works very well.

Steve: What is your strategy for disseminating that information? Like right now, I just went to the site, and there’s a bunch of content on there. How are you getting the word out about it?

Victor: Yeah, well, since the site was only 20 hours old [overlapping 00:24:07].

Steve: It’s like a case study, right?

Victor: Yeah, totally. It’s a case study. So here’s the blueprint if you will, and I’ve done parts of much of this myself, and I would absolutely have no hesitation to repeat the process. So you get all the content up there first, you want to get at the summit into multiple channels, if you can. So it’s video which would be on your site, and it should be on YouTube. If it’s audio content, it should be like in iTunes, all the podcasts players, and also on your site as well. So the first that content has to be accessible. Once it’s accessible, it has to be good. And when it’s good, what you get is word of mouth. So you get one person on there who sees the article and says this is amazing. And then they email it to like two other people. And then you get this exponential growth curve, right? Every visitor who comes tells two other people about it at some point for the next couple of months, that is a sign of good content.

So that gives you the ongoing growth, when the content is good enough to get to trigger word of mouth. And then to sort of get the ball rolling, there’s a couple of options that come to mind. One is if you already have a mailing list, you just sort of let people know in the mailing list. Or if you have a social media following, you post it and say, hey, there’s a new content I produced that might be of interest to you and here it is. If you don’t have that at all, and you’re starting from scratch, then the other way to get traffic really to your content is to participate on other people’s either social media or blog presences. So it is going to someone else who say is better known in your field, if they have a blog, and commenting on the articles, and contributing in some value added way, like be helpful and add comments, add examples, add links to resources, be helpful in your community.

And particularly in the digital world, when you’re helpful to one person, there’s like 10,000 other people who are witnessing the process, right. And a couple of things that happen in that particular approach, you get known by the bloggers, bloggers we know, we read the comments on our blogs. And when people write something really interesting, we tend to notice, particularly if that happens more than once. And it can build a relationship with that particular blogger. Writing guest content on other people’s sites is probably one of the best strategies for getting content known, getting your own content recognized because you can link back to that. That’s essentially what I’m doing right now Steve, other than the fact that I like you, which I forgot to mention on our pre conversation.

Right now I’m getting – I’m exposing your audience to my work, right? They may know who I am. And I’ve mentioned my website more than one time Firsttimeceo.com, and that’s spelled either way, numerically or alphabetically. And some of the people who are listening in are going to come and check out Firsttimeceo.com, and they will see some of the content, some of them will really like it a lot. They may tell their friends, they may sign up to receive more information from me. And then that process is, basically that’s the whole process I’m talking about in a nutshell.

Steve: I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about a free resource that I offer on my website that you may not be aware of. If you are interested in starting your own online store, I put together a comprehensive six day mini course on how to get started in e-commerce that you should all check out. It contains both video and text based tutorials that go over the entire process of finding products to sell all the way to getting your first sales online. Now, this course is free and can be obtained at Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Just sign up right there on the front page via email and I’ll send you the course right away. Once again that’s my Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Now back to the show.

So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about some of the content because I did read like 250 posts, and I actually enjoyed a bunch of those posts that were relevant to me. One of those was how to win any argument. I don’t know if you remember some of these posts, but it had to do with a way that you kind of approach arguing with somebody, not necessarily to — you’re not trying to shut them down, but you’re trying to kind of influence them to see your point of view. I don’t know if you remember this post, but I’d love for you to go into a little bit more depth on it.

Victor: Sure. I think one of the easiest ways to be influential to somebody and have them hear your words and really receive them well is to listen to them first. And one of the great ways you can confirm that you heard them is when you first speak, you speak back what they’ve already said and believe to be true. So if you and I are arguing about something, and it doesn’t really matter what the topic is, and I really want to convince you to my way of thinking, when I respond to whatever you say, I will not begin with what I think. I will begin with what you think and feel very strongly about. So, I’ll say something like, Steve, it sounds like what you’re saying is — and then I’ll make your argument for you, that you just told me.

And I’m going to argue your point of view so passionately, so articulately, so clearly, so well-reasoned and stated that you’ll be nodding your head like well, yeah, totally. All I’m doing is I’m repeating back what you told me, but perhaps in a maybe hopefully a bit more clearer kind of way. So that opens the door to the other person listening, because the beginning of the conversation is their own words.

Steve: Even if you don’t agree with it.

Victor: Even if you don’t agree with it. Yeah. You don’t have to say you agree with it. Easier to say, I heard what you’re saying is, pick some controversial topic, I hear you saying is that this is the case and for these reasons, and this is why you feel so strongly about that. Steve, did I hear you right? Is that what I heard you correctly saying? And then if you did a good job, and sort of actually paraphrasing what they said, they’re going to be number one paying a lot of attention because people in an argument are expecting a fight. They’re expecting you to disagree with them. So it’s very disarming when you can repeat back what they said, and particularly very clearly.

Steve: So [overlapping 00:30:09] basically the argument for them.

Victor: Yeah, you summarize their argument for them better than they could have said it themselves. Then suddenly they’re quiet because what do they need to say, you’ve already said everything they’ve just said and you said it really well, and really clearly and very convincingly? So that’s the opening of this kind of approach to influence. And then suddenly, they’re paying attention. And then they’re very open-minded. And so what you want to do though then is you then want to say, what you just talked about, I think really, it really clicks with me, I see what you’re talking about. But I think there’s one area that I think – I think you’re mostly right, it’s the phrase I often use, I think you’re mostly right, but there is one little piece that I’m just not quite sure about. I think I have a slightly different point of view on that.

And sometimes I’ll ask, particularly if they’re more senior person in a position of authority, would you be open and interested in hearing this other different point of view? So I use the word different a lot. I never say you’re right or wrong, because right or wrong implies that someone has to win, right? And so what I often do, particularly as I’m often talking to people with more power than me, I often ask for permission, are you open to hearing something, a different point of view? Not are you open to hearing how you’re wrong? Not do you want to hear why I’m right. I’ll phrase it specifically as are you open to hearing a different point of view, or a different perspective, or a different opinion on that particular issue?

Steve: it’s a very humble way it seems of arguing, right?

Victor: it is, and here’s why it works, because most argument occurs at two levels. One is at the actual logic of the argument, and the other is at an emotional level. And most emotional arguments usually have some element of power dynamics involved. So if it’s husband and wife, it’s who’s got more power in the marriage, right? If it’s between two peers in a corporation, it’s who’s going to be next in line to be CEO. So underlying a lot of arguments is a power dynamic, right. And so this is why you’ll see like a lot of corporate politics gets a bad name, is because people are using the company issues as a way to jockey for power, and sort of dominate one person over the other.

So when you have a more humble approach, you’re saying that I’m not disputing the power differential hierarchy here. So, if I’m a junior person, I’m not going to challenge the CEO and say you stink as a CEO because you’re wrong. I’m going to acknowledge the CEO’s power by saying; do I have your permission to share another idea? Would you be open to hearing a different point of view? That question has a couple of things baked into it. Number one, is it says, the only person in this relationship that can decide whether I speak is you Mr. or Miss CEO? Okay. That’s why I’m asking. I don’t have the authority to tell you what to do but I only have the authority to ask you if you’re interested in hearing, so I’m asking for permission, and you only ask for permission, when the other person has more power.

So it’s a very humble way of acknowledging that they have the power and not trying to challenge it. When you say words, like I have a different point of view, then you’re not saying they’re wrong, right? People in power don’t like to be told they’re wrong. People in marriages don’t like to be told their wrongs.

Steve: I was going to say, this is like marital advice here.

Victor: It’s the same down there. The CEO is in the boardroom one day and in the bedroom at night, right? So husband, wife, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about people. Same thing with kids, no one likes to be told what to do. And no one likes to be told that they’re wrong. So you never say that, and it’s very disarming. And then they let their guard down because they know the argument is not about power based combat, it is actually hearing the ideas. So a lot that’s very subtle. I learned this sort of in the corporate world, dealing with people who were literally 40 years older than me, having 40 years of experience when I had like one year of work experience and influencing someone who runs a billion dollar company when I’m 22, you don’t have a lot of power, right? So it’s very differential, but yet still hold from [inaudible 00:34:08].

Steve: So along those same lines, I really enjoyed your posts on how to kind of present yourself to be taken seriously by others. And I believe you used the term gravitas, right? So first of all, define what that is, and what is your way of getting people to listen to you even though you might be really low on the totem pole.

Victor: Yeah, so gravitas is sort of a Latin phrase that really means executive presence. So one of the challenges in the corporate world is sometimes the person with the best idea is not the one that gets paid attention to. Often it’s the person with the most seniority; they get paid attention to even if their ideas are terrible. And oftentimes, the smartest person in the room is the one that’s getting ignored, or the most knowledgeable person in the room is getting ignored. So executive presence is about how you present and how you create a context so that your ideas get taken more seriously. And there are a couple of strategies for doing that.

A very simple way, two or three simple strategies, number one is to know your material. So if you are not competent in your stated area of expertise, you don’t deserve any executive presence. So that’s the first things, you have to know your material core. And that’s just the entry point. But to get taken more seriously, there is a couple things you can do, two strategies in particular that come to mind. One is to, particularly if it’s within a company for example is to build relationships with the people that are in their audience, and building those relationships offline. So if there’s a big presentation, or a big decision meeting, oftentimes, the person with gravitas or executive presence has invested in the relationships with the key people who are in the room.

So much like I talked about earlier about getting to know somebody else’s point of view and position, when you already know what everyone else is already thinking and they know that you’ve taken the effort to learn from them, they are far more open to hearing your ideas because you heard their ideas first. And so, I have a friend of mine who recently got promoted to Chief Financial Officer of a company and it’s her first CFO position. She knows the finance side of things core, they have been doing it for a very long time. But her question to me was, what do I need to know as an executive? I’ve never been a C level officer before it.

And I told her this exact same thing is get to build relationships with every person, know every functional areas, key issues and concerns and how they see the business and what they’re concerned about, and be able to argue all their issues, and all their perspectives and know them so well that you could argue their departments needs more eloquently than they can. When you do that, then you go put that in your financial plan as a CFO, they’re going to listen, because they have confidence that you’ve already listened to them. So, one way to get taken seriously is take others seriously first before like a big thing. So that’s sort of one strategy.

Steve: How does that translate to the online world by the way?

Victor: To the online world, I would say it would be if you are trying to build a relationship with someone like a blogger or a YouTuber, someone with a lot of influence, one of the things that works really well is when you’ve read all the material, and you ask them intelligent questions that aren’t already on their blog or YouTube channel. So Steve, you done your homework, you read my articles, you’re mentioning things that — apparently something I forgot I wrote, like, oh, shoot, okay, Steve’s done his homework, right? Like respect to you, you put in your effort to build a relationship here, or extend our existing relationship and that means something.

I mean, I get like thousands and tens of thousands of email requests all the time. And the ones I dislike the most are the ones where, hey, I want this, I want a job that pays $200,000 a year. Where do I start? I wrote like 700 articles, there’s 1.5 million words I wrote on that topic. And the person hasn’t gone to Google; they haven’t gone to my site. They haven’t gone to YouTube, they haven’t read my books and they want me to do all their work for them. So those are kind of like, I’m not the human Google, right.

The questions I appreciate are, I read your book, I read every article, I looked through all the videos, but there’s one issue I still stuck with that I can’t seem to figure out. I’m not sure I’ve missed it. But what do you think about this? And then I’ll go shoot? No, I actually never answered that question. That was a really good question. They did their homework and they’re asking for help. And then I’m happy to help because they’ve done their part, they met me more than halfway. So with building a relationship it’s know their work first, don’t ask questions that you can find the answer to about them on Google, read their LinkedIn profile, read the last blog post, read the last thing, a social media post, kind of do the basics. And unfortunately, people don’t want to do that.

Steve: Since we’re talking about relationships, one thing that I found extremely provocative about your blog post was your notion of EQ versus IQ. And we’re both Asian here, right?

Victor: Yes.

Steve: We emphasize a lot on I guess book learning and intelligence. But it seems like in the real world, the relationship aspect, and what you call the emotional intelligence quotient is a lot more important. And if you wouldn’t mind, just kind of define those two terms first, and what you mean by that.

Victor: So IQ would be what we would traditionally think of someone who is smart, right? Gets good grades, can do math, that kind of thing. So IQ test is where that term comes from. And emotional intelligence would be more around someone’s emotional savvy at relationships and interacting with other people. And the reason why EQ tends — and there is research on this why EQ tends to be responsible for greater levels of success is because most senior roles either within a corporation or when you’re an entrepreneur and you have people working for you, as you progress in your career to greater levels of responsibility, usually, the people doing the work are people who work for you, not yourself.

So I would say IQ is very important in your sort of first job if you would, because you’re like an individual contributor, like doing work individually. But as you progress to a manager, or director or VP, or founder or CEO, or business owner, then quite often, if you look at the amount of work being done in the company, you’re actually doing very little of it yourself. And you’re managing or leading others to doing. So the ability to work with other people becomes more important. So a new engineer has to be good at engineering, the VP of engineering doesn’t have to be good at engineering. The VP of engineering has to be good at managing people who are very good at engineering and is a different skill set. So EQ is about building those relationships and being very effective and managing relationships to reach your particular objectives.

And so my big take, and this is especially the case because I’m Asian American is the culture I grew up on. Really overly, I think my opinion overly emphasize IQ, probably to a fault. There’s value even in that, but there’s a limitation to it too. And in my experience happiness in life, a successful career at some point transitions over to having EQ being more important. So that’s kind of my take in terms of definitions and why I think it’s so important.

Steve: And in terms of business, at least to me, it seems like EQ is way more important than IQ.

Victor: I would agree because in a business to survive, you need clients, or customers and buyers. And a lot of EQ is about understanding the world from their point of view. So when I visit a website, I am able at this point to try to imagine what it feels like for that particular customer when they see a website or when they see a product or a service. So one of the things I asked you for example when preparing for our call today, or our podcast call was like, hey, Steve, who’s the audience, who is this going out to? And you kind of give me your description, I have a mental picture of who they are, what they might likely care about. I’ve been in many of those positions before and it’s been a while and I can try to put myself from that vantage point.

And a lot of what I’m saying is geared towards my picture of who that person is and what they might care most about. And so that’s an EQ skill, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. And that’s super important in business from a sales standpoint, how you convince somebody, a marketing standpoint in terms of what words to use, what messages will resonate with them. From a product design standpoint, from a personal brand building standpoint, it’s seeing things from the other person’s point of view, like that’s one of many EQ skills that’s very vital in business.

Steve: So the question is, how do you develop these skills?

Victor: So the EQ development comes from a couple of different places, the foundational elements of EQ starts with being emotionally self-aware and here’s why. In order to recognize feelings that other people have and that’s coming across to you, the only way to recognize for example, if someone’s irritated at you, is when you recognize when you’re [inaudible 00:43:11] at somebody else, and you remember what it felt like, and you remember the behaviors you did, right? So if I’m irritated, I might cross my arms, I might squash my face kind of like I’m kind of irritated kind of look, my voice might change. I might say things like fine.

The word fine literally means okay, right? So Steve, you asked me, hey, is it okay if we extend our podcast another two hours? I might say, fine. So the word says yes. But you laughed because my voice intonation and I can tell you have very high EQ. I’m not really saying fine, right? I’m not saying okay. My nonverbal say I’m not okay but my verbal says okay. And you laughed because you picked up I’m different, I kind of exaggerated a little, sometimes it’s more subtle. And so the ability for you to recognize that I was not really being honest about my feelings was because you recognized the feeling, right? You’ve sensed frustration in my voice, you sensed sarcasm, you sensed many little things that tell you that there’s an incongruence between what I said and what I meant.

And the only way you can do that and see that in others is if you recognize it in yourself, right. And it doesn’t mean you have to do the behaviors, but it means you have to have the impulse too, and you recognize the feeling, maybe wanting to say okay, because it’s not polite thing to do. But really feeling like I don’t really want to, and I’m feeling a little conflicted. And I just expressed that conflict in a sort of a passive aggressive way. And you picked up on that because you had that awareness. So EQ starts at home if you would with yourself. And one of the exercises I have people do when they’re trying to build up their EQ skills is to set an alarm on their phone for every hour, and there’s some apps that will do that and just ask yourself every hour, how are you feeling? Because if you can check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling, you can get better at noticing how other people feel as well.

Steve: So it sounds like to just kind of summarize what you said, just being a little bit more deliberate about recognizing how you feel based on the actions that have taken place and being able to relate that to others.

Victor: Yeah, yeah, very much so. And I think you can notice it and others and then when you can notice feelings and emotions in yourself, you can notice in others. And then you can put those feelings and emotions on the table in terms of a conversation with others. And so a simple example, that would be like empathy, right? So you hear that word used a lot. And the empathy is really about if you’re having a rough day, I might notice that because I’ve had rough days before and I kind of see similar signs. How am I saying that Steve? It sounds like you’re having like a really rough day. And that’s like empathy.

And the reason I can be empathetic is because I too, have had bad days. And I remember what it felt like, even though your bad day is quite different than my bad days, at least in the past, the feeling is awfully similar, right. And so it’s interesting, as I’ve traveled around the world, meet lots of different kinds of people, the heat, the surface level experience we have are quite different, but the human emotional experience is quite similar across cultures and across time. So when some person in some far flung third world country loses a child to death, that child gets killed, I don’t know that person’s role. I don’t know the culture, I don’t know the language.

I mean, I can be able to communicate with them in any common language, but the feeling of loss, like I felt loss in my life, right. And I can just – I can experience that, I could share that feeling, and my heart can break because I’ve felt loss and I recognize when someone else feels loss. That’s an example of being empathetic. And so all this builds, starting with yourself, noticing your feelings, noticing other people’s feelings, and then making the feelings being a part of the conversation. And the way that relates to businesses, because most people who make any kind of decision, personal or professional are doing things for two reasons. One is like the intellectual reason, like I need a new car, because the old one is broken, that’s an intellectual reason.

And then there’s an underlying emotional reason that often does not get expressed verbally. The real reason I want that Ferrari is because I’m middle aged and feeling poor about myself and I want to look good, right. And I may not admit that publicly, because it’s kind of embarrassing, but I really want the Ferrari comfortable kind of thing. And so when you sell or when you work with employees, there’s always the stated reason, that’s usually intellectual, logical, factual, reasonable. And then there’s the emotional reason. And so when you can get some insight into the emotional reason, and then you address people’s emotional needs, you’re far more influential.

So a simple example is the person might not want to buy your service because they’re really afraid that if they buy it, they might get fired if your product or service fails. They might not ever say that, but they’re going to say, no, it’s the deal. They’ll invent some kind of reason of like, your price is too high or whatever, some kind of reasonable complaint about your offering. But really, the underlying reason they’re not buying is they’re scared. It’s their fear. So if you have high EQ, you might pick up on the fear, and try to find some sort of face saving way to address that fear without calling them a scared cat, because that’s kind of offensive.

So that subtlety is what allows, for example, very large deals like multimillion dollar deals, the one to 7 million in sales for one transaction. Those deals, a lot of it is driven by emotion, but it’s often never stated out loud this undercurrent, and people with high EQ can pick up on that, can pick up on opportunities, those with only high IQ, don’t ever even see.

Steve: That actually reminds me of when I used to work, people would come to try to sell us their software. And oftentimes our decision came down to who we liked better in terms of who is going to support us?

Victor: Absolutely. That is right. Over a million dollars in particular, you’re buying the salesperson. Yeah, you trust them to take care of you after they get the deal. And that is very, very right, you’re not you’re not alone in that.

Steve: So Victor, I would love to talk to you for two hours more, but you said fine. So I’m afraid, I’m going to go ahead and let you go. But I do want to mention your new site, First Time CEO, are you going to be talking about these things on that side as well, because I find this customer or human psychology element very interesting?

Victor: Yeah. Yeah. So First Time CEO, again, is geared towards people who are growing a bigger business, generally over a million dollars in sales, growing 50% a year or more. And I talk about sort of the technical aspects of scaling growth, as well as the human interactions pieces, right. So leading a team, working through others rather than doing it yourself, all these factors become important and that’s something I’ll be covering on that site as well.

Steve: Cool. And the site is up. I’m actually on it right now. And there’s actually a number of good articles on there already that I encourage everyone to go check out. So Victor, thanks a lot for coming on the show. Really appreciate your time.

Victor: Thanks for having me, appreciated.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. My conversation with Victor really made me think about what makes a person successful in life, and how anyone can take their knowledge and monetize it. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode250.

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

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

249: How To Manage Cashflow Issues With Your Ecommerce Business With Victoria Sullivan Of Payability

249: How To Manage Cashflow Issues With Your Ecommerce Business With Victoria Sullivan Of Payability

Every physical products business requires capital in order to grow. And cash flow can often be a problem because you need to invest a large amount of cash upfront to pay for inventory.

In today’s episode, Victoria and I are going to discuss different methods of raising money along with the pros and cons of each.

Victoria Sullivan is a marketing manager over at Payability and she’s an expert when it comes to raising funds for your ecommerce business.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why financing is so important for an ecommerce business
  • Why it’s hard to get a loan from a bank
  • How does Payability work
  • The primary advantage using Payability
  • The Different funding options (Bank loans vs SBA Loans vs MicroLoans etc.) and the pros and cons of each

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Today I have Victoria Sullivan on the show and Victoria works at Payability and is an expert when it comes to keeping e-commerce companies fed with a constant stream of product. And today, we are going to discuss how to deal with cash flow issues when it comes to selling physical products online.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. And right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

Now, you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pops and abandoned cart email sequence as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So, bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding and taking cues from my customers and delivering personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over 100 bucks who purchased red handkerchiefs in the past year. And it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo.

And right now, they have this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf to check it out. Once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf, now on to the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today, I’m really happy to have Victoria Sullivan on the show. Now, Victoria is a marketing manager over at Payability and she is an expert when it comes to raising funds for your ecommerce business. And as you probably know, every physical products business requires capital in order to maintain your sales, and cash flow can be a huge problem because you need to invest a large amount of cash up front to make money. So, Victoria and I are going to discuss different methods of raising money today, along with the pros and cons of each. And with that, welcome to the show Victoria. How are you doing today?

Victoria: Hey Steve, thanks for having me. This is great.

Steve: Hey, Victoria. You know, I’m sorry; I’m used to call you Vicki, Victoria sounds so formal. Is that what you normally go by, or?

Victoria: I normally go by Vicki but it’s fun to get called Victoria.

Steve: So Victoria, please give us your background story and how you got into this business of financing.

Victoria: I don’t come from a financing background common with sellers. I think a lot of them don’t come from business backgrounds, and yet run these awesome ecommerce businesses on Amazon. I came from an advertising background, and I was [inaudible 00:04:02] ad agencies here in New York and I really was looking for a change. I wanted to go in house. And I had some experience with technology, working on ad campaigns for Samsung and Skype. We’re actually on Skype right now. So, I decided to apply for Payability. I wasn’t sure how it would go since I don’t have any finance experience, but ended up being a great match. And I’ve been here for over a year now and I’m really loving it.

Steve: Cool. So, can we kind of talk briefly about why financing is so important for e-commerce businesses. And maybe you can talk about some of the customers that you’ve dealt with, why is it more important for e-commerce in particular, as opposed to some of the other business models out there?

Victoria: Financing is super important in e-commerce, especially on platforms like Amazon and Walmart, as you probably are aware; these platforms have really created unlimited demand among consumers. And you really need to keep up with that demand in order to scale your business and make every sale you can possibly be making.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. And I know like for us, we run an e-commerce business, every time we place an order of a container, that’s a huge initial cash outlay and sometimes we haven’t even sold out of all of our existing inventory. And so oftentimes, we’re just piping and all that money back into the inventory and sometimes if our businesses growing, we need even more money. And so, it’s definitely a huge factor, especially in e-commerce when you have to put all this money up front for your inventory.

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely.

Steve: So, what I’m hoping to do today is talk about some of the different financing options out there. And I figured let’s start with Payability first before going down some of the other routes. What does Payability do?

Victoria: Sure, so we’re financing company, and exclusively for Amazon and e-commerce sellers. We also have financing solutions on Walmart, Shopify, Etsy, Tophatter and a bunch of other different marketplaces and we plan on adding even more marketplaces this year. Financing products are created exclusively for the needs of e-commerce sellers. And we have two different products; our first product is our daily payments product, which is called Instant Access. So, instead of getting paid every 14 plus days, like you do on Amazon, you’re going to get paid your daily cash flow and get paid every day. So you always have money on hand to place an order, to pay your employees, or order shipping materials or whatnot. So, that’s just like continuous cash flow to grow your business.

Steve: So you’re getting paid every day, but what is the cost of getting paid so often?

Victoria: Sure, so for that we charge a 2% fee on the gross, the total sales.

Steve: Okay, so I’m sorry, you get paid every single day 2%. And so if you amortize that out to a year, do you know what the yearly interest rate comes out to be?

Victoria: Since it is a factoring product, there are no interest rates; it’s a flat fee, yeah.

Steve: Okay. And so can we contrast this then to like getting a traditional bank loan?

Victoria: I would say it’s completely different as far as any traditional loan, and that’s more like financing your business with someone else’s money. But this is financing your business with your own money. So you’re assuming a lot less risk. And again, it’s your own money; it scales up and down with you. And so, it’s very different from a traditional loan, but it can be used alongside a traditional loan.

Steve: Interesting, so let’s talk about that a little bit. So, is there like a monthly fee to use the service then? Because let’s say, I don’t make any money that month, does that mean I don’t owe anything?

Victoria: The fee is based on how much money you’ve made. So, it’s just a flat 2% fee on your gross sales and on your total sales. So yeah, it is contingent on how much you’ve made.

Steve: So, do I need to do anything to qualify for this? So, let’s say I come in, and I’m only making like $1,000 a month. And then there’s some months where I don’t make that much at all, is it just completely variable?

Victoria: So you do need to make a certain amount of sales in order to qualify. We require around 90 days of a consistent selling history and an average of around $2,000 a month in sales. You need around $100 to cash out every day so that’s why we structure it that way. But again, so it’s a pretty small minimum, you definitely don’t have to be a big seller to use it and start scaling your business. Another thing I should point out about all our products, and kind of what makes us unique for e-commerce sellers is that we don’t check your credit.

We don’t ask for tax documents. We don’t ask for any bank statements like our more traditional financing company would, it is all based on your Amazon account health and sales performance. So again, no credit polls, and you’re just going to get rewarded with financing for being a good seller, because Amazon does provide us with data to see how you’re performing and how good a seller you are and that’s kind of how we evaluate you.

Steve: Interesting. So what are the minimums actually in order to qualify?

Victoria: So for daily payouts, it’s an average of $2,000 a month in total sales.

Steve: Okay, it’s not that much at all, okay.

Victoria: And around 90 days of sales history.

Steve: Okay. And if there’s certain months of very low sales, then it doesn’t matter, right, once you qualify, you’re pretty much…

Victoria: We evaluate each customer individually. But yeah, once you’re on, if you have very low sales, then what usually happens is we do sunset those accounts, but usually that doesn’t happen.

Steve: Okay. So, all right so if we’re contracting like a traditional bank loan, where you’re getting this loan upfront that you need to pay back, there’s the potential that you can’t pay back the bank loan and then they can start repossessing stuff. Whereas with Payability, you’re just taking a percentage out of someone’s earnings on Amazon and so there’s no real risk of a default per se, because it’s not really a loan. Is that accurate?

Victoria: Yeah, it’s totally accurate. This is a factor; they get automated factoring service for Amazon and e-commerce sellers so there really isn’t a lot of risk on your part. It’s just getting your own money faster, and putting it to work faster.

Steve: Okay. And then 2%, that sounds like kind of like on the order of like a credit card charge, right? Like, if I was taking credit cards through Stripe, I get charged 2.9%, you can kind of think of it analogous to that in terms of fees?

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely equivalent to like your payment processor that you would pay if you had a physical store that was accepting visa cards; you can definitely compare it to that.

Steve: So, why would someone use this as opposed to just like credit card financing, which is readily available, like you don’t have to go through any application process, you can just max out your credit cards?

Victoria: Maxing your credit cards also does create a lot of risk. And like I mentioned before, demand on Amazon, a lot of people sell, even if they do have really high credit limits, if they have a really hot product, a lot of people sell a lot more than their credit limit will allow. So they really need to catch out every day or more often in order to pay those credit cards down and keep ordering the inventory that they need to keep scaling their business. It’s all about just getting every sale you can possibly get.

Steve: So in terms of payment, how does it work and how do you enforce that the seller is going to pay you?

Victoria: So, how it works is when you sign up for Payability for a daily payments product, you switch out the bank account on your Amazon account to our account. So, you would get paid by Payability every day. And then we would get paid by Amazon.

Steve: I see. Okay and so that’s why you have such a high approval rate, right? You’re just doing it based on Amazon sales, you get the money first and then you pay out to the seller.

Victoria: So yeah, so we advance the seller on the money that we see in the Amazon account each day, and then we get paid back by Amazon. So you don’t have to go in and write us a check or anything like you would with a more traditional loan, it’s just directly in the flow of funds.

Steve: Can we talk about what happens for refunds, suspensions, and some of those special cases.

Victoria: So as far as refunds, we only advance you 80% of your payout every day and that’s to cover returns and charge backs. So, that usually covers that and then we release that 20% to you when we recruit the funds from Amazon usually at the end of the 14 day period. As far as suspension, when you are suspended from Amazon, you are also suspended from Payability; we don’t continue to send you any more funds until you’ve worked it out with Amazon. Well, it’s like we will have advanced to you some of your Amazon payment go to you, hey, you got suspended from Amazon, pay us back that money right now. We don’t do that, but we do put a hold on those funds with Amazon. So in case your account doesn’t get reinstated or we can’t get ahold of you, we are able to recoup the money that we advanced you.

Steve: Okay. And how invasive are you guys into the Amazon account? So for example, let’s say I was a seller, and I was doing some sketchy activity like buying reviews or whatnot, and I was just counting on the immediate payout from you guys to get the money before I was suspended, for example, in the worst case, do you guys monitor the health of the Amazon accounts?

Victoria: So, we do have over two years of machine learning that kind of picked up on these behaviors of people who have defrauded us in the past if that makes sense.

Steve: Yeah.

Victoria: So, our system runs — the computer runs 24 hours a day and a lot of times, it’ll spot these behaviors and flag that account. And sometimes something is indeed going on and sometimes nothing is going on, the seller has perfectly reasonable explanation as to what happened. But we usually stop advancing funds until we get ahold of them to talk about what’s going on.

Steve: Okay, can we talk a little bit about just like Payability versus like Amazon loans. I get these emails all the time where Amazon will just loan me a set amount of money based on the amount of sales that I’m generating. And I guess if Amazon is just willing to give me a loan without anything, they’re obviously pretty confident that I can pay it back. So, what are the pros and cons and why would I go with one or the other?

Victoria: You can definitely go with both. We work really well in conjunction with Amazon loans, about 40% of our customers have Amazon loans and we work really well to accommodate that. That’s also a great tool you can use to grow your business. So definitely it doesn’t have to be one or the other, especially with our daily payments product, they can really complement each other.

Steve: I see. So people are getting loans up front to fund their inventory and getting their money back immediately they can funnel back into the inventory?

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely or other aspects like paying your VAs.

Steve: Let me ask you this, I’m just thinking kind of like on my feet right now. Typically you get paid out from Amazon fairly often. So what can you do with an extra week or two weeks’ worth of money? Like what are some scenarios where you’ll need the money like that quickly and that immediately?

Victoria: So, with a lot of the bigger sellers, I think they find it challenging where they have hundreds if not thousands of skews and they have many different suppliers, all of which that want their money at different times on different terms. They don’t have to worry about constantly having to put this on a credit card and borrow here to cover all of those orders at different times of the month, they’re just able to cash out every day, cover the order, pay cash and not think about it.

Steve: I see, can you give me some examples of maybe some of your customers where this is like an absolute necessary thing?

Victoria: Sure. Yeah, we’re actually shooting a video with a customer in Atlanta and they came out with a private — they have a private label allergy test product for pets and people, a really cool product. It’s really taken off on Amazon and they have no other financing, no other loans, no investors, and they finance their entire operation really just off daily payments. They had a lot of surprises before where they had the inventory, but sales are spiking in December or during the holiday season and they need to order a bunch of shipping materials at the drop of a hat. They can just cash out that day, cover that order and they’re done. They’re not thinking about it, they’re not putting a little bit on this credit card, maybe borrowing a little bit from parents, may be borrowing a little bit from here in order to scale the business and cover that order, they’re just cashing out and not even thinking about it.

Steve: I see. So for these customers, like even within like a couple week window, they need the cash quickly?

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely just with the demand of Amazon, and then they want to scale their business quickly. So, that’s why they’re cashing out and really benefiting from being able to pay different people at different times, being able to order supplies at the drop of a hat, make payroll, hire extra people. It really gives you more flexibility around your business because you’re not dependent on that payment coming in order to cover these expenses; you’re just going to be able to cover them.

Steve: So, I’m just curious, and I’m not sure you will have the answer to this question. But if you were to do like a case study of someone who has the funding and who does not, I’m just wondering if you have any statistics in terms of growth where you’re funneling everything quickly into your business versus not.

Victoria: So Marketplace Poll actually did a case study over a year ago, I’m going to bring it up here on my computer and I’ll read you some of those statistics. But it’s like you said, people who got paid sooner did scale there businesses a lot faster, and in ways you wouldn’t think. It’s not just growing their catalog of products; their positive reviews also went up as did their overall rank within Amazon. Because as you probably already know from selling on Amazon, stock out can be really detrimental to an Amazon business in that and you’re not only just losing sales today, you’re also losing sales tomorrow because you are going to lose a lot of your rank within Amazon and you’re going to have to kind of get back to where you started. So, because of that a lot of people have been able to avoid stock outs and they’ve increased their marketplace pulse rank because they haven’t had to play that game of catch up.

Steve: Right. I should have warned you ahead of time that I was going to ask this. What else does that study say? I’m just very curious.

Victoria: Sure. Yeah, I can certainly send you the link. It’s over a six month period of setting Payability to customers versus non Payability customers. And Payability customers increase their rank by an average of 26.4% after six months, while non Payability customers decrease their rank by an average of 22.1% after six months.

Steve: So, I’m just doing some mental calculations in my head right now. If I were to pay 2% of everything, if you kind of treat it like a loan and amortize it over like an entire year, it seems like the rate overall is significantly higher than getting a loan right? And so, I was just kind of curious of what are kind of like the ideal businesses for this? When would you choose to get a loan or even do crowdfunding and that sort of thing versus Payability, and when do they work well together?

Victoria: Sure. So yeah, I mean like you said, Payability definitely is not the cheapest way to fund your business but it is the fastest and most flexible way and it is a product designed for e-commerce sellers. So yeah, a loan or a credit card is definitely probably going to be cheaper for you, but this gives you more speed and flexibility. For example, because we don’t pull credit or anything, we’re able to approve people I know in less than 24 hours. We have another product called Instant Advance which is kind of like a merchant cash advance but for Amazon and e-commerce sellers, and here’s a good case city on that and how it gives you more speed and flexibility.

We had a seller that was on daily payments, it’s a Walmart seller actually and his supplier was having a huge sale. So he gave us a call Friday morning saying, I need 15 grand to buy from my supplier sails which he warehouses and he wants to sell me this inventory super cheap. So, Friday morning, we were able to approve him for a $15,000 instant advance, and he got his money that afternoon. He went to his supplier Saturday and bought the inventory. And with a bank, that’s going to take you at least two weeks and require a ton of paperwork, and by then somebody else has bought the inventory. So, that’s kind of what the benefits are. If you really need that speed and that scalability as a lot of sellers do, that’s where Payability comes in.

Steve: Actually no, that makes a whole lot of sense because getting a bank loan, sometimes you don’t even qualify right, sometimes you need a huge track record of sales in order to get a bank loan especially if you’re like a six figure seller and you don’t even have like a two or three year track record, it can be difficult to get a blown actually in my experience at least.

Victoria: Yeah, we hear that all the time and banks don’t really understand FBA or anything like that; they’re going to want to hold your inventory as collateral. And when you tell them my inventory is across 18 different FBA warehouses, they’re going to say, I don’t understand that, I can’t give you a loan based on that. But where capability is different is we’re actually looking directly at your Amazon account, seeing that you have the sales, seeing that you have even more potential and getting your money in 24 hours, no credit checks.

Steve: Okay. So, it’s okay, I think I’m getting a better picture of this now. So, it seems like if you have the time and you’re not in any urgency, perhaps a bank loan is a cheaper choice, but as you’re just kind of running your business, you’re going to run to these cash flow issues and Payability just helps smooth everything out for you.

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, if you can get approved and you have the time, a bank loan is probably the way to go. But a lot of our customers again do use both; they use both the daily payments and get bank loans too for bigger inventory.

Steve: Can I ask if there’s any sort of ideal business for this certain funding model? And immediately comes to mind actually is like a parallel, right? I need to outlay a large amount of cash for all these different sizes and all these different skews, especially over the holidays. That would be like the first industry that comes to mind. Are there any patterns in the types of customers that you have for this that is ideal for this service?

Victoria: Yeah, I haven’t really seen like a certain type of business or a type of category that’s really big into this business, we just see a business that seeing growth on Amazon and wants to take it to the next level, but it needs additional financing to do so. So, really just fast growing e-commerce businesses, but I haven’t seen a certain category or anything as far as our customer base.

Steve: And are most of your customers, are they larger businesses or their smaller guys too that have been taking advantage of this?

Victoria: We see everything from people who are doing around $2,000 a month to people who are doing well over a million a month benefiting from our service depending on their business model.

Steve: I’m just curious, for someone who’s just doing $2,000 a month, why would they need the money so quickly? Have you interviewed any of these people? I’m just kind of curious.

Victoria: Sure. I think a lot of them are doing retail arbitrage to just kind of get started. And even if you’re getting only $100 a day, if you go to Walmart, you can definitely buy a lot of inventory there.

Steve: Okay. That makes a whole lot of sense actually, because I was thinking of private label and oftentimes you have to make your order two to three months in advance, so even if you were to get the money sooner rather than later, it might only save you a couple of weeks. But retail arbitrage, you need the money every day, pretty much. So that makes a whole lot of sense.

Victoria: Yeah, I love them. I started retail arbitrage just to get going on Amazon and then I can go into wholesale and private label.

Steve: So, if I’m a seller and I’m looking for funding, and we talked about a bunch of different ways to get money. There’s also micro loans which we kind of haven’t talked about yet. Those are where it’s kind of a way to raise money where a whole bunch of people contribute, there’s like Lending Club and those sorts of services, can you kind of talk about why you’d go with one or the other in terms of that as well?

Victoria: I would say that probably the same thing with speed and scalability. I’m sure [inaudible 00:27:11] a while for all of these different loans to come together. But if you come to Payability, and you decide that’s what you want to do, we just take a look at your Amazon account and within 24 hours we can get you paid. So, I think again, if you have more time, that might be a good option for you.

Steve: Does this only work for Amazon? Like if I’m running my own e-commerce store, can I also use it?

Victoria: We also have, we have clients across at Walmart, Shopify, Etsy, Tophatter, Newegg. And we keep adding — Jet, we keep adding new marketplaces. So absolutely not just for Amazon, it’s for general e-commerce sellers.

Steve: How does Shopify work, is it the same thing like the money gets deposited into your account, and then it gets paid out?

Victoria: So, we don’t have daily payments on Shopify, we just do instant advance on there since they do pay every day or every other day. And it yeah, it works very similarly. We’re always directly — we like to stay directly in the flow of funds just to make it easier for us and the customer that way, you’re not writing us a check like you would on a loan. It’s just you’re making the sales, you’re scaling your business and we’re getting paid.

Steve: Okay. It seems to me after our conversation today, I think the biggest factor with your service at least is peace of mind, right? You don’t have this debt hanging over your head; it’s just kind of taken out of your existing funds, and there’s no worry factor, I guess.

Victoria: Yeah, that’s why a lot of people use us, they don’t want to worry about the, again, the debt hanging over their head, or if all of a sudden their sales scale up, they have the inventory, but they need to order a lot of shipping materials in a short amount of time, they don’t have to think about it. So, it’s two minutes of your day to manage cash flow, just going into the Payability app, and — well we don’t have an app yet, but website and cashing out. So, it cuts a lot of time for customers. They said they used to spend hours a week figuring out how they were going to pay for different expenses of a growing business, and now they don’t even think about how they cashed out that day and they paid for what they needed to pay for, and they just continue their growth.

Steve: Okay. So if I were to just kind of sum up our conversation today, it sounds like if you have a lot of time, then it’s probably in your best interest to try to get a loan. But oftentimes, in the spirit of running a business, it’s never going to be that smooth, and you can never predict things in advance. And so, it’s fine to combine both of these services. But as you run your business, if you need money, and it’s busty at times, Payability helps smooth everything out.

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely, I mean opportunity cost is huge in e-commerce and you don’t want to be missing out on sales.

Steve: And the two services work well together. Is there any way for me to like pause it from time to time when I don’t think I need the money that quickly?

Victoria: So for [inaudible 00:30:25], you can’t turn it off day to day, week to week; we just have a 30 day cancellation policy. So you absolutely can — so it is flexible, not as flexible as I don’t need it this week, you’ll turn it off, but it is a 30 day cancellation policy. So, a lot of people do use it seasonally. They only need it in Q4, they cancel December 1st, and by January 1st they’re no longer there.

Steve: That was my next question because that makes a whole lot of sense. Like, I definitely might want to turn this on during the holiday season, where things are just absolutely crazy. But then when it’s slower, maybe like during the summer months, I might want to turn this off.

Victoria: Yeah, there’s no cancellation fees or penalties for canceling, just the 30 days.

Steve: Okay. And in terms of the 2%, is there any wiggle room there?

Victoria: Sure. Yeah, we do have, again, we evaluate each account individually, amateur sellers doing 50 K or more a month, if they qualify, we often are able to bring that down a little bit, so yeah.

Steve: Okay, cool. Well Victoria, thanks a lot for kind of clearing this up. You know, we’ve talked in the past and I was never 100% clear on like some of the use cases for the service. I understand that you have a special offer for the listeners?

Victoria: Sure. If you go to go, that’s go.payability.com/Steve, you can sign up for Payability and get a $200 sign up bonus.

Steve: Interesting. So that’s like free money.

Victoria: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. Yeah, so hopefully the listeners out there, if you feel like you’re going to come to a cash flow crunch, at least talking with you today Vicki has mitigated some of my main concerns. It seems like the ability to turn this on and off during peak periods from a month to month basis is very attractive. And just for peace of mind, for your ecommerce business, it can make a lot of sense, especially if your business is busty.

Victoria: Yeah.

Steve: So, Vicki, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really appreciate your inputs.

Victoria: Cool. Thanks for having me.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now I thought it was really interesting to break down the different options when it comes to raising money for an e-commerce business. And there’s some amount of peace of mind when you use a service like Payability because you can avoid going into debt. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode249.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for developing real customer relationships. And right now they just released a cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where you can learn successful e-commerce marketing strategies from real companies using their platform. Now, this docuseries is free and you could check it out at Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

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

Now, I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

248: James Clear On How To Create The Right Habits To Grow Your Business

248: James Clear On How To Create The Right Habits To Grow Your Business

Today I’m thrilled to have my buddy James Clear back on the show. James’ most recent book, Atomic Habits, hit the New York Times bestseller list and the last time I checked, it was the #8 best selling book on all of Amazon.

In today’s episode, we’re going to take it up a level and discuss how to build good habits and break bad ones when it comes to business. We’ll discuss tactics that James has uncovered over the years from studying the habits and routines of entrepreneurs, artists, athletes and high powered individuals.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to get on the New York Times Bestseller list
  • How to develop the proper habits to follow through on a business idea
  • The best way to start a new habit
  • How to make a habit easy to adopt
  • How to fight procrastination

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have James Clear on the podcast for the second time. And if you don’t remember James, he is a New York Times bestselling author and an expert on habits. So in this episode, we’re going to talk about developing good habits in the context of growing a successful business.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding, and taking cues from my customers and delivering personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over 100 bucks who purchased red handkerchiefs in the past year.

And it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo. Right now they’re running this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf to check it out, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Well, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Now they’re a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form, email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. And bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have my buddy James Clear back on the show. And in case you missed him last time, James is on the podcast back in Episode 202, where we broke down his strategies on how to build a blog that gets millions of visits per month. But in today’s episode, we’re going to take it up a level and discuss how to build good habits and break bad ones, tactics that James has uncovered over the years from studying the habits and routines of entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, and high powered individuals. And I’m proud to say that James’s most recent book Atomic Habits has hit the New York Times bestseller list. And at one point, I think he was the number eight best-selling book on all of Amazon. And with that, welcome to the show James. How are you doing today?

James: Yeah, I’m doing well. Thanks so much for having me back. It’s good to talk to you.

Steve: Yeah. So first off congrats on the book.

James: Thank you.

Steve: I’m actually just curious what it takes to hit the New York Times bestseller list these days. Is there a strategy for doing so? Is there a way to game it?

James: So, there are two answers here. So the first answer what does it take? I can only tell you what it took for me. So, the kind of high level was I wrote two articles a week on Jamesclear.com starting in 2012. I did that for like three years and build my platform up and got an audience of I think it was around 200, 250,000 email subscribers around that point after about three years. And I leveraged the size of that platform that audience to get introduced to agents and publishers. And we put together a book proposal that took about three months and pitched it to, I think 17 or 19 publishers, I think it was 19. And I think we got meetings with seven.

So I flew to New York for a week, went and met with all these publishers with my agent. We were lucky; we had a good amount of interest. So we got bids from four and then ended up selecting our favorite one out of the bunch. And then I signed the contract to write the book in a year, became very apparent that I needed more time than that. And so, I went back and asked for an additional year and they very kindly gave it to me. So, it took me two years of writing and research. That was easily the hardest part, like the biggest and the most suffering. I felt like it was really hard to write under contract. I felt like there were a lot of expectations to produce something great. I was really worried that people wouldn’t enjoy it or that the publisher wouldn’t think it was good enough.

I handed that in actually three months late from the extended deadline, so two years and three months of writing and then we spent nine months planning to launch and marketing and prepping and doing interviews and all that stuff, getting the book on the publisher side. They were getting it type set and printed and all that type of thing. And then the book released, the three months before launch, I did 85 interviews in like 10 weeks or 12 weeks, something crazy like that, a bunch of blog posts, emails to my own audience, basically any and every favor I could call in, I was like working on that.

And that culminated with a bunch of exposure on launch day. I was on CBS This Morning and did a TV segment. So just like a ton of marketing push, in addition to trying to write like a really fantastic book. And all of that came together and we had a really great launch week and then ended up hitting the New York Times bestseller list and then we hit it again. So, the first time was we were number five in advice and how to, and then the second time and still right now, it’s number three in business. And so yeah, the book the launch has done really well but that’s what it looked like for me. So that’s the — really and I give that whole process because it was definitely not like a one week thing, I mean it was like…

Steve: Oh, yeah, I know that. I was just kind of curious how many books you actually have to sell. It’s in like the first week, right?

James: Yeah. So they have two different types of lists. The first one is calculated weekly and the second one is calculated monthly. And so we ended up hitting both, so one is based on weekly sales ones based on monthly sales. For weekly sales, it does depend on what category you’re in. So some categories like general nonfiction like memoirs, and things like that, I’m not sure what the numbers are for that. I think they’re actually a little bit lower from what I’ve heard from people, but I don’t know for sure than what you need in like advice and how to, which is the category I was in.

And this gets a little bit to your question of like is there a way to game it or not? Certainly, many people have tried, I was not really interested in doing some of those things that are I guess you would say like on the margin of like, oh, is this allowed or not? Some people, some speakers will try to do things like buy — I won’t name any names but there are people who bought like 10,000 or 20,000 copies and then have them sitting in their garage. And so they’re like they bought the book so that it would look like that number of sales came through during the first week and they could get on the list but they didn’t actually go to readers or anything like that.

So I was like really adamant about every copy we sell needs to go to an actual person, or stuff like you’ll see a lot of speakers will trade their fee for books. So, they’ll say I’ll come talk but if you do it in these three months when I’m prepping for launch then you won’t have to pay me, you can just buy 500 books instead or something like that. So people will try to do stuff like that. There’s some really weird services that you could hire. I don’t actually know if they still exist because I think the New York Times became savvy to them but for a while, people would pay like they’ll pay a service, I don’t know, 10, 20, $30,000, I don’t know how much it was, it was definitely in the tens of thousands.

And that company would have like a bunch of little — they would have people go out to different stores and buy individual copies of books or place individual orders on Amazon. Now, you were really buying like 10,000 copies through that company, but they would have their employees place them all as individual orders. So, they all looked like they were individual people buying and they would spread them out across the country and stuff. And all of that stuff is just like a lot. I mean, first of all, I just don’t know it’s a good way to spend your time or whether it’s ethical or not. But also it’s all just an effort to try to get on the list.

Now some of the bestseller lists like I think USA Today, we hit the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, the USA Today list, Publishers Weekly, the Independent Booksellers list and some of them are strictly based on sales. Like I’m pretty sure the Publishers Weekly list and the USA Today list are like whatever book sells the most copies that’s the number one book. Now the New York Times list is a little bit of a black box. I mean it’s the most elite list to be on and nobody quite knows how it works. But from what I can tell, you as a seller how many copies you need to sell, I think 10,000 is roughly the minimum kind of rule of thumb you’ll hear people throw out.

Now that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get on because it depends on what week you’re launching and how many copies other books are selling that week. But as a rule of thumb, if you do 10,000 in a week, then that’s kind of the bear in the game. Now, just because you have that many sell does not mean that you’re going to get on the list, and the New York Times will sometimes make an editorial decision and say, this is not the kind of book that we want to have on here. Well, we think that the way you got these sales looks a little suspicious.

And so, like I’ve heard from people who, I heard from one author who sold 4,000 individual copies, and then they had one company that purchased 6,000 copies. So they thought, hey, I sold my 10, like, I should be in the running here. But I think the New York Times looks at that and they think, well, really, you sold like 4,001 because you just had like one big customer that said, yes. And so, if they’re comparing, say that person to somebody else who sold 10,000 individual orders, I think they tend to give the nod to the person who has the more individual readers.

Steve: Interesting.

James: And so, authors love to complain about it because there are a lot of authors that think they should have been on because they had certain number of sales, they didn’t know they got taken off or whatever. And whether that was true or not who knows, because nobody knows exactly what numbers The New York Times is getting each week and how many sales other books made. But once you make it, now I’m like, yeah, it’s great. I love that. I think it’s awesome. So it’s funny to be on the other side.

Steve: I felt comfortable asking that question because I knew you’re not the type of person to game the system.

James: A lot of people do it and I guess you could make an argument for it. If you were like, well, if I get on the list then and my main thing is speaking, like for me, speaking is a small portion of my business, I don’t really do that much of it. But I guess if you were like a full time one, people find ways to rationalize it. They’re like, oh, well, I’ll just buy my way in the list for 20 grand and then I’ll be able to charge more at every speaking event into the future because I can say I’m New York Times bestseller. So I think people rationalize it that way.

But for me, again separate from the ethical considerations which I think are questionable in themselves but could you really be proud of it? I don’t know. Like I mean, I just spent six years building an audience and three years writing a book and planning this launch. I mean, I put everything I possibly had into it. And it felt great to hit the list because there was so much sacrifice before it. But if I knew that I had just gotten there because I wrote a check, I feel like it would be a totally different experience.

Steve: I hear you.

James: And so in a sense, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it anyway, even if I had a good business reason, which I don’t. But even if I did, I feel like it would have taken away from it. So anyway, I’m kind of going on about it. But it’s a little bit of a black box, but I can say that it feels fantastic if it works out in your favor.

Steve: So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about habits. And what I wanted to do actually was frame our talk in the context of starting or growing a successful business because a lot of my readers and listeners, they start out strong, but they kind of fizzle out in the long run if they don’t see immediate gains. And so, what I was hoping to do actually is maybe use your book as a framework. How does one develop the proper habits to follow through on a business idea until things finally start taking off?

James: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I mean, first of all, just from a high level, I like to think about habits is what I call like the compound interest of self-improvement. And the reason I like that phrase, habits are the same way that money multiplies through compound interest, you save up a little bit, it doesn’t feel like much in the beginning. In many cases, that compound interest curve is like really flat, almost like a plateau and then the hockey stick portion is only years or decades down the line. So it doesn’t feel like much at first, but then you turn around two or five or 10 years later, and it’s like, wow, this really added up. I think habits are kind of like that as well.

The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits can multiply as you repeat them over time. And on any given day, the same way that saving 10 bucks doesn’t really feel like much, making a choice that’s like 1% better or 1% worse, a little bit improved, a little bit better habit or a little bit worse habit, it doesn’t really feel like much. What’s the difference between eating a burger and fries for lunch, or eating a salad? It’s not really a whole lot on any given day; your body looks the same in the mirror at the end of the night the scale doesn’t really change. But it’s only when you look back five or 10 years later and you’re like, oh wow, that choice of what I ate for lunch really does matter.

And so, this is one of the core philosophies of Atomic Habits, one of the core ideas in the book, this idea of how can we try to find ways to get 1% better each day? And if you can capture those small advantages, if you can master those little habits day in and day out, then you can end up with a really remarkable or powerful result in the long run. And I think that not only applies to our lives, but it certainly applies to our businesses. If you can just try to find a way to get a little bit of a 1% margin for improvement daily in something you do or monthly in the financial state of your business, I mean, that can really add up over the broad span of time.

Steve: And what does that look like in the context of a business? Like what is like a 1% gain or something that you might do? You can talk about your blog, or how you built up an audience for example.

James: Sure. Yeah. So I think the first thing is, you don’t need to do something more than what you’re already doing. You just need to find a way to show up more consistently than you have before. So, in other words, you don’t need to increase the intensity. I’m not saying for then, this is I’m focusing on the very beginning. Now, what’s the first thing I do? Like I’m not saying well, you need to write a radically better blog post, or you need to become massively better at sales calls, or you need to massively improve your skills at writing a sales page. What I am saying though, is let’s find a way to make it easy to show up and do those things more consistently than you’ve done before. So it’s kind of like yeah, you could do the same workout at the gym, but let’s just make sure you miss fewer workouts. So, that’s the first piece.

So in the context of my business, I wrote a new article every Monday and Thursday for the first three years and it was really that consistency, it was really that writing habit that set me on a different trajectory as a writer and an entrepreneur. And that was the thing that made it possible for me to build this audience and get the book deal and so on.

Steve: Okay, so I mean it’s easy to say that right? But how do you make sure you start that schedule? How do you have self-control to do that?

James: Okay, so I want to answer this in two ways, I want to come back to the self-control piece. So, the first part is I like to suggest people utilize what I call the two minute rule. So you take whatever habit you’re trying to build, whatever habit is relevant for your business whether it’s writing blog posts or making podcasts or making sales calls or whatever and scale it down to just the first two minutes. So, read 40 books a year becomes read one page, or call 20 clients every month becomes make one sales call, or do yoga four days a week becomes take out my yoga mat, so whatever the habit is you scale down to just the first two minutes.

Now, sometimes it sounds silly to people because especially with like health examples, I’ll say something like there’s a reader of mine, he end up losing over 100 pounds. And one of the things he did was he went to the gym but he didn’t allow himself to stay for longer than five minutes. It feels like well, that sounds ridiculous, like going to the gym for five minutes isn’t going to get you in shape. But what you realize is that he was mastering the art of showing up and this is a crucial thing about any habit business related or otherwise, a habit must be established before it can be improved.

And so, if you don’t become the type of person who goes to the gym for five minutes, you don’t have a chance to be the type of person who works out for 45 minutes, four days a week, or if you don’t become the type of person who makes one sales call, you don’t have the chance to be the person who makes 20 sales calls every month, month in and month out. And so we’re trying to scale it down to that I guess we call it a gateway habit, the thing that initiates the response. And let me give you maybe another example here. So, I like to refer to these moments as decisive moments, these two minutes that kind of determine the next chunk of time or get you moving in the right direction, get a little bit of momentum.

So for me, there’s a moment every morning where I sit down at my computer and either I open up Evernote and I start working on the next article I’m going to write, or I go to ESPN and I check latest sports news. And what happens in the next hour of my day is really determined by what happens in those like 45 seconds. It’s like if I can master that decisive moment of opening up Evernote and starting to write, then I’ve got a productive hour in front of me. And I think that no matter what your business looks like, they’re going to be four, five, maybe eight or 10 of those decisive moments throughout each day. And if you can just put your energy into mastering that, then you can have a productive day, you can have a more effective time working on your business. So that’s the first lesson master those decisive moments.

The second piece comes back to your question about self-control. And this is I think the common narrative for habits, for productivity, for effectiveness is you just need to want it more, you need to try harder, you need grit and perseverance. You need to work smarter. You need to make sure that you try to optimize things. And certainly working hard is valuable and it’s an important skill. But if you look at some of the research on self-control, and I cover this more in chapter seven of Atomic Habits, a lot of the research will show that the people who exhibit the highest self-control who you look at from the outside and you’re like, wow, they must have a lot of willpower, actually, the thing that distinguishes them from most other folks is that they operate, live and work in an environment that has fewer temptations, so they are able to exhibit more willpower simply because they’re being tempted less.

And I think that that is the lesson to take away from this is what’s the best way to improve my willpower? What’s the best way to make it more likely that I’ll show up and do the right thing each day? It’s not to push harder, or to just try harder or to say work more. The solution, the best lever to pull is to redesign your environment so that you’re tempted less. Put the objects that prompt your good behaviors in more obvious locations, reduce the friction of taking a good task, and put the objects that derail you or distract you in less obvious locations and reduce or increase the friction of doing something unproductive. And we can talk more about that.

Steve: It’s funny because I’m just thinking about all this in the context of raising my kids right now. And we were kind of picking and choosing our kids’ friends based on like both their personality and their work ethic because we want our kids to hang out with those other kids who are trying really hard hoping that it’ll just kind of rub off on them really. It means, it’s the environment that they’re in.

James: That’s actually a brilliant strategy because children are master imitators which anybody who has a two year old can tell you that, right? Like you say a cuss word and then they pick it up instantly, even if you don’t want them to, or they imitate whatever you do. But as children age, they continue to imitate but they tend to stop imitating their parents as much and start imitating their peers much more. And so there’s a great book called The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris that talks about the influence of peer groups on how children grow up.

And parents have a significant influence too, but that influence is largely genetic, it’s largely passed down through the genes. But the way that parents can influence, one of the best levers they can use to influence their children is by choosing what city you live in, where you go to school, what extracurricular you’re a part of, in other words, choosing what other kids they get exposed to. And so, your strategy there of trying to pick their friends by what their friends’ habits are is a smart one. We pick up all kinds of habits from the people around us, and often we want to do the things that our peers are doing. And so that’s a good way for parents to subtly shape or at least influence in a little way the habits of their kids. You can’t control it totally, but that’s actually probably more effective than trying to force them to do something you want.

Steve: But you’re not always going to be in the ideal environment, right. So there’s got to be a little bit more to this.

James: Yeah, absolutely. So in the book, I offer four different strategies for building good habits and breaking bad ones. And I’ll just go over real quickly here. There are tons of examples in the book of course, but we can go over a few of them as they relate to business in this conversation. But before I do, I’ll just say that not all four of these will always be working for you. And so, you can really look at them as like a toolbox or a set of strategies that you can rely on. And when one thing isn’t working in your favor, maybe you pull on the other three levers, and that’s enough to get you to do the more productive or more effective action.

Steve: Let me cut just a little bit. One common thing, at least that I have a problem with is procrastination.

James: Yeah. So, let me give you all — let me give these four and I’ll give you some examples related to procrastination. And procrastination is a really broad topic, right? Like, there’s a million ways you could procrastinate, but I’ll just go over some common ones. So, the four stages that I like to break a habit into, and again, this is all in detail in the book. But just real quickly, I break a habit…

Steve: Better to hear it from you the man himself.

James: Sure, yeah, yeah. Well, so cue, craving, response, reward, these are the four stages. So, there’s some kind of cue that precedes the habit, which is like a prompt that gets you to pay attention to what’s going on, something that’s happening in your environment. There’s a cue that picks up your attention. I’ll give you an example in a second. Second, there’s a craving there’s some kind of interest rotation of that cue, what it means. And based on what you think it means, you take a particular action. So that’s the response, which is the third stage. And then finally, your action delivers some kind of result. There’s some type of reward or consequence that comes after that.

So for example, let’s say you walk into the kitchen and you see a loaf of bread on the counter, it’s in the morning, so the loaf of bread, visual cue, so that’s first stage. Your prediction is, oh, I want to make some toast or that would be tasty. And so you take out a piece of bread, put in the toaster, that’s the response, pops up a minute later, you get the toast, you get to eat it. That’s the reward. Okay so cue, craving response, reward. No you can just as easily imagine that at a different time say, 10 minutes later after you’ve eaten breakfast, you walk back into the kitchen and you see that loaf of bread.

And now the cue has a different meaning, your state has changed, you’re full instead of hungry, and so you interpret that cue in a different way. Now your craving is not there, it’s not existing, interpreted as so there’s the bread but I’m not hungry now. And so you don’t take the same response. So, this type of thing is happening all day long. We’re taking in cues; we’re making predictions about what to do next, or taking action, and then getting some kind of outcome or result. So, from those four stages, we can have a step for each stage for making it easier to build good habits and harder to fall into bad ones. So, I call these the Four Laws of behavior change.

And the first law is to make it obvious. So you want the cues of your good habits to be obvious and available and visible. The second laws to make it attractive, the more attractive a habit is, the more likely you’ll fall into it and perform it. The third law is make it easy. So the more easy, frictionless, convenient a behavior is, the more likely you are to do it. And the fourth law related to reward is make it satisfying. The more satisfying and enjoyable an experience is, the more you want to repeat it again in the future. And if you want to — so those four make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying explain how to build a good habit.

And if you want to break a bad habit, you just invert them. So rather than make the cues obvious, you want to make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult, make it unsatisfying. And so, let’s go through a couple of examples of what this looks like for procrastination since you mentioned that.

Steve: Real quick though, making something attractive, the thing here is a lot of what’s involved in creating a business kind of sucks, right? It’s boring. So I’m kind of curious, maybe once you address the procrastination question, how do you make something that’s really mundane and boring, attractive?

James: Yeah, it’s a great question. Well, so I’ll just answer that right now then we come back to procrastination is a larger topic. So, make it attractive, there are a couple of different things that influenced this. So first of all, let me answer and I’ll give you a quick tactic before I talk about the kind of the overarching thought here. So, quick tactic for making something more attractive, you can use the strategy that’s called temptation bundling. And so, the idea is you stack something you want to do, something you enjoy doing with the thing that you know you need to do.

So, one of the examples I give in the book, there’s this guy, he was an engineering student, and he knew that he needed to be exercising more but he also knew that he liked watching Netflix and probably liked it too much. And so, he linked up his computer to a stationary bike so that Netflix would pause if the bike was not running. So happy cycling the whole time if you want to watch a 30 minute show or something. And that’s a good way of forcing yourself to do the unattractive thing or making the unattractive thing which in this case was cycling more attractive because it meant hey, now I get to watch Netflix.

And you can do that with a bunch of things like if you are really bad with your email inbox and you feel like you never focus on that. I heard of a woman who she only gets a pedicure if she works on overdue emails while she’s getting it. So like reward yourself by doing the thing you don’t want to do. Another one, Katie Milkman, who’s the researcher at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, she was the one who came up with this name temptation bundling. And she realized that she really wanted to read The Hunger Games. She got like really obsessed with the book series when it came out. And so she made a rule for herself where she was only allowed to read The Hunger Games while she was on the treadmill at the gym.

And so, those kinds of strategies are ways to make the unattractive thing more attractive. And you can do that in different ways. Like the one that’s real, I think some habits that are really good; this is really good for what I would call habits of avoidance, so things like don’t drink alcohol for 30 days, or don’t spend money on Amazon, or don’t go out to eat and stay at home and make a meal instead. And habits like that are inherently difficult, because you’re just resisting temptation. It’s like all you’re doing is not doing something and so that doesn’t feel good. You just have to sit with this craving. But you can flip it on its head a little bit.

And so one of my readers, he and his wife, they wanted to eat out less and save money by cooking more. And so normally they’re just resisting the temptation to go to dinner to go out to eat at the restaurant. But instead, what they did was they set up a little savings account and they labeled it trip to Europe. And then anytime they stayed home and cooked dinner instead of going out to the restaurant, they would transfer $50 over to the savings account. And so, they still had to put the work in of cooking the meal, but they got the immediate enjoyment of seeing the savings account grow. And that’s really the ultimate lesson that I’m sharing here with this temptation bundling strategy is how can you give yourself a little bit of an immediate enjoyment from something else while you’re doing the difficult thing.

And so, there obviously this depends on what is enjoyable to you. But like from a business standpoint, there was someone that I worked with who he hated taking these meetings, these calls, and he really just didn’t like being inside all day, he didn’t like being hunched over to his desk. And so he changed it so that he only took meetings while going on a walk through the park that was near his office. And so taking a meeting meant he got to go outside and go for a walk. And it can be in large or small ways, but anytime you get an immediate bit of satisfaction and enjoyment with it, suddenly the unattractive thing becomes a little more attractive.

Steve: I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about a free resource that I offer on my website that you may not be aware of. If you are interested in starting your own online store, I put together a comprehensive six day mini course on how to get started in e-commerce that you should all check out. It contains both video and text based tutorials that go over the entire process of finding products to sell all the way to getting your first sales online. Now, this course is free and can be obtained at Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Just sign up right there on the front page via email and I’ll send you the course right away. Once again that’s my Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Now back to the show.

I’m just looking back in my childhood right now and I think my mom did this to me. I really hated piano, I hated it. But she would take me to ice cream after every single piano lesson. And after a while, I started looking forward to them just for the ice cream.

James: Yeah, playing piano meant getting ice cream.

Steve: Yes.

James: It’s like reframed what that cue or what that habit meant in your mind. That’s really smart.

Steve: My parents were good.

James: Yeah, so that’s one way to think about how to make it attractive. But there’s a broader conversation here, which I think is really important for entrepreneurs, certainly it was very important in my business kind of narrative and story, which is that the social environment really changes what habits are attractive to us and which ones are unattractive. Like when I was a kid, and I don’t know that any kid grows up thinking, wow, I’d really like to think more about email funnels and like workflows thing.

No kid is thinking that, but now it’s kind of exciting and interesting to me. And part of that is because my skills have improved. But another big part of it is that I get rewarded for having a big email list, and not just like financially with the business, but also people will praise you for it or congratulate you on it or ask you, how did you do that? That’s interesting, how did you grow that? And all those social signals increase the attractiveness of thinking about the conversion rate and how I design forms and how can I improve this a little bit more.

And so, my point is the thing that we’re rewarded for, the thing that we get little markers of social status for or respect from others for naturally becomes more attractive and that is dependent on not only on your results, but also on the group or tribe that you’re a part of. Like I could be around a bunch of people, like people I went to some of my friends from college or things like that, they don’t think about email list, they don’t know about it, they don’t care about it. And so, in that group, I can throw out a number and they’re like, well great, I guess that’s good for you but it doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t have any status associated with it.

And so, it would be less attractive for me to work on those things when I’m hanging around that group. We hang out for other reasons, but it’s not as important there because I’m not as rewarded for it. And so…

Steve: So that kind of just circles back to your environment point that you made earlier.

James: Yes. But earlier, when I was giving examples, I was talking mostly about the physical environment. And this, I would say is mostly about the social environment, and both are crucial factors for building better habits. So, let me come back to the procrastination question you asked and I’ll give some physical environment examples. But just to wrap up the social environment idea, we are all part of multiple tribes. Some of those tribes are large, like what it means to be American, or what it means to be French, or Australian. And some of them are small, like what it means to be a neighbor on your street, or a member of your local CrossFit gym, or a volunteer at the local school.

And all of those tribes, large and small, have a set of shared expectations for how you act as a member of that tribe. And you can see this in people’s habits all over, all day long. So, you walk onto an elevator and you’re in this little tribe of like three people. And the expectation is you turn around to face the front, if you face the back of the elevator it’s a little weird, it’s not what people are expecting. Or you go to a job interview and maybe there are four people interviewing you, and you’re sitting there and the expectation is you’re going to wear a suit and a tie or a dress or something nice. Now, it doesn’t have to be that way, you could face the back of the elevator, or you could wear a bathing suit to a job interview. But we don’t do that, because it violates the shared expectations of the group.

And so, the point here is that when habits go with the grain of the tribe that you’re in, they’re very attractive. And when they go against the grain of the tribe that you’re in, they’re very unattractive. And so one way to kind of hack your habits or to increase the odds that you’ll do the thing you want to do is to join a group where your desired behavior is the normal behavior, because if its normal in that group, then it will become attractive for you to do it because doing so helps you fit in. And this was huge for me as an entrepreneur because I did not have any entrepreneurs in my family and really didn’t have any close friends who were entrepreneurs either. I kind of vaguely knew that some people run businesses but I didn’t have anybody to look to.

And so, for the first like three to six months that I started out, I just emailed a ton of people well over 100 that were already doing the kind of thing that I wanted to do, but they were already full time. And I just asked if they wanted to chat on Skype. And most of them said no, but I would say like, maybe 30 or so said yes. And so, by the time I got six months in, now I had a few dozen people that if I had a problem, or if I was dealing with — had an idea, I could go to them with the questions I had. And I could also see what like what are they doing normally, what are their habits daily? And I didn’t have to consciously ask that question, right? You just kind of soak it up as you’re part of a tribe, as you’re part of a group, you see what everybody else around you is doing. And then you start to imitate and do those things because that’s the normal thing to do there.

You see this all the time, people jumping like across the gym, and then they start to eat paleo and they buy a certain type of knee sleeves and a certain brand of workout shoes, and they’re picking up all these other habits that they never really thought about doing but that’s just what people do in that particular tribe.

Steve: Yeah, in the context of business then, that’s why it’s key to go to conferences and events where you can meet other likeminded entrepreneurs. At least that’s how I started taking off in my business. It started when I started going to events.

James: 100%, and so I did those Skype calls. Then I went to my first conference about six months in. And what was really nice for me in that case was that I already knew like maybe 10 people from those Skype chats and those emails that were going to be there. And so I didn’t go in cold. I had like a couple people I can hang out with or talk to at least, which was nice. And then of course, I met a bunch of other people from those conferences. So, I did some conferences for the first two or three years, and then the last couple of years I’ve started to host my own events which are small usually like eight people or so. But it’s a really great high touch way to see, soak up all of that kind of implicit knowledge that everybody else has about what they do and why they do it and all that type of thing.

But the overarching point there is, no matter what habit you’re trying to build, the habits that are normal within your tribe will be attracted to you, because they help you fit in, they help you belong. And we all have a deep desire to belong.

Steve: So James, I don’t mean to skip around, but this question just kind of popped into my mind also. One thing that I see among people who are just kind of starting out in business is they’re looking for quick wins. And oftentimes, the payoff is like many years later, but it’s painful for those many years, right? You got to get used to what I call like the suck. So how — if you’re not getting immediate gratification, how do you train yourself to kind of persist?

James: Yeah, that’s such a great question. And it’s really it’s not just business, I mean, it’s central to all habits, right? There’s kind of this plateau in the beginning. So the analogy that I like to use, the metaphor that I like to bring up is the story of an ice cube. So, say you’re in a room and the room is cold, it’s like 25 degrees, ice cube sitting on the table and you can see your breath and slowly the temperature starts to increase 26, 27, 28, 29, still this ice cube is sitting there like nothing’s changed 30, 31, and then all of a sudden you get to 32 degrees and you hit this phase transition, the ice cube begins to melt.

There is one degree shift, no different than all the other one degree shifts that came before it but suddenly something new happens. And I think that in many cases, the process of achieving a change or building a business, it’s like that because you’re stuck on this plateau of latent potential early on, you’re putting work in, your banking reps and effort and time and energy and you don’t really have anything to show for it. The ice cube still hasn’t melted. But if you’re willing to stick with it, then you hit this phase transition. And so the question that you had is like, well, how do you get through that period?

I think first of all, just knowing that it happens is helpful. It helps reset your expectations a little bit, because a lot of the time we think that progress should be linear, that we put a little bit of work in and we get a little bit of results. So if we put a lot of work in, we’ll get a lot of results. But actually, it’s not this like 45 degree angle linear progression. It’s more like that hockey stick or compound curve that I mentioned before, where you’re kind of stuck on this plateau for a while, and all the greatest gains are delayed. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing though, I think that this is one of the reasons that small habits really matter, perhaps the deeper purpose why they matter, which is they reinforce a particular type of identity, they reinforce being a certain kind of person. And so, like in the book, I use this phrase, the goal is not to run a marathon; the goal is to become a runner. The goal is not to write a book, the goal is to become a writer. And I think we could say that about entrepreneurship as well. Like the goal is not to build a business, the goal is to become an entrepreneur, to be that kind of person, to be a creator, or to be financially independent or to have that identity.

And I think the way to foster that identity is through small wins, through small habits on a daily basis. And so in a sense, every action you take is kind of like a vote for the type of person you want to become. It’s like you’re these little habits, or how you embody up being a particular type of person, or having a particular type of identity. So, every day that you make your bed, you embody the identity of someone who’s clean and organized, or each time that you write one sentence, you embody the identity of someone who is a writer, or every time you make a sales call, you embody the identity of someone who is good at selling. And so, on any given day, those little actions don’t count for very much, but each time you do them, it’s like casting a vote, building up a little mound of evidence that this is who I am.

And I think that ultimately, true behavior changes identity change because it’s like it’s one thing to say I want this, I want a million dollar business, I want to have a best-selling book, I want to have a popular blog, but it’s something very different to say I am this, I am an author, I am a blogger, I am an entrepreneur. Because once you believe that about yourself, you really aren’t even pursuing behavior change anymore. You’re just acting in alignment with the type of person that you already believe that you are. And so, I think the way to get through those, to get through the suck as you call it, to get through those periods where it’s really difficult and you don’t have the results that you want is to focus on fostering that identity.

Even if you’re not happy with how your body looks, and you still want to lose weight and all you could do after a long day of travel was five pushups before you collapsed on the bed, well, maybe that’s not the result you want. Maybe you’re still in the suck from that standpoint, but you did those five pushups and at least you’re the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. At least you’re the type of person who foster that identity. And I think that on the hard days in business, that’s what I try to remind myself of like how can I show up and cast a vote for the desired identity even if the results are still long in the future.

Steve: So, it means you just try to show up, even if showing up in this particular case isn’t spending a lot of time or whatever, you’re just out of habit working on your business, even if it’s not a whole lot at that given moment?

James: You’re trying to cast a vote for being the type of person that you want to be, rather than worrying about what the results are in that moment. And I think that there are all kinds of ways that you can show up in small ways, and I think we all either have done this or know someone who does this where you waste time on frivolous things. You just like putter around and do a bunch of little things that don’t make much difference and that’s different than what I’m talking about, that feels like a waste of time. But what I’m talking about is taking a small action that reinforces your desired identity, the long term identity of you or your business that you want to foster and the type of person you want to become.

Steve: It sounds like step one is to actually figure out what that is right?

James: I think so. And that’s what I talk about in chapter two of the book. I think it’s a very central question to ask yourself. Now, the good news is, I don’t think it needs to be that hard. I think most people know, they may not — questions like what identity do you want? Or what are your values? Those are like big questions and sometimes they’re hard to answer. But I think most people do know what kind of results they want. So you can just say, well, do you want to — maybe you want to lose 40 pounds in six months, or maybe you want to double your income this year, or something like that.

And once you get a pretty clear picture of the result that you want, then you can sort of reverse engineer it and ask yourself, well, who is the type of person that could lose 40 pounds? Well, maybe it’s the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. Or who’s the type of person that could double their income? Well, maybe it’s the type of person who creates one new product each month or something like that. And once you reverse engineer the outcome, and ask yourself that question, who is the type of person that could achieve that, then you become a little more clear on what that identity might be.

Steve: Like if I want to become a New York Times bestselling author, I would probably follow in your footsteps and then set aside time to write two days a week and be consistent about that for three years, for example?

James: That’s a great example of scaling it down. It is like, who is the type of person that could write a New York Times bestseller? Well, it might be the type of person that has a really big email list, like hundreds of thousands of people that they could tell about the book when it comes out. Okay, well, who is the type of person that could have an email list of 500,000 people? Well, maybe it’s the type of person that writes every week. And so then that becomes the identity that you’re trying to build. I just want to be the type of person who writes every week.

And that line of questioning I think leads you more — it leads you a little bit away — what it does is it clarifies the fact that your outcomes in life are a lagging measure of your habits, right? The number of email subscribers I have is a lagging measure of my writing habit, and your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits, your bank account is a lagging measure of your financial habits, you’re really just trying to figure out who, how do I need to show up each day to get that long term outcome that I’m looking for?

Steve: Right. And then adopting the little detailed habits of that individual to get what you want, or in the case of writing a book, the writing part is just one little habit, and all these little habits that you do if we were to delve deeper into your life James, all that add up to where you are today.

James: Right. And the things that we were talking about earlier, like optimizing your environment, or choosing the right tribe, or tweaking little elements of that, the two minute rule and scaling it down, all of those are strategies for building those habits that surround that core identity of I want to be the type of person who writes every week.

Steve: Right. James, I think that’s actually a good point to conclude this interview because we’ve already been chatting for quite a while. Where can people find more about your book? Where can they get it?

James: Yeah, thanks so much for chatting, I enjoyed the conversation. So, the book is called Atomic Habits and you can get it at Atomichabits.com. And on that page, I have a couple like bonus downloads and stuff too. There’s a guide on how to apply the ideas to parenting, a guide on how to apply the ideas to business. There’s a cheat sheet for kind of the core ideas in the book and just kind of like a one pager you can look at and review a template for tracking your habits. Anyway, so all of that is at Atomichabits.com.

Steve: What’s funny about this is just our little chat today has kind of reinforced my parenting style a little bit because I’ve been pushing my kids hard because I want to get into the habit of feeling like they’re smart and at the top of their class. And I talked to certain people and they think I’m crazy, but maybe that just means I need to change my environment a little bit.

James: Nice. Well, congratulations. I’m glad that habits are on top of mind and important for you. I think there’s something all parents should think about deeply and really all people. I mean, they impact all of our lives.

Steve: And just for the benefit of listeners here, I’ve actually read James’ book and it’s excellent. And I was just kind of playing dumb in the interview today because I want to highlight some of the key points that resonated with me. But thanks a lot James for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time.

James: Wonderful. Thanks Steve.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now when it comes to being successful in business, consistency is the key and the concepts that James talked about in this episode will allow you to make your business part of your routine. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode248.

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

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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247: How To Automate Your Amazon Wholesale Business With Trent Dyrsmid

247: How To Automate Your Amazon Wholesale Business With Trent Dyrsmid

Today I’m thrilled to have Trent Dyrsmid on the show. Trent is a serial entrepreneur, husband, and father who owns 3 companies, an Amazon ecommerce business, an SOP software company called Flowster and BrightIdeas.co which is a popular podcast and entrepreneurship publication.

Together, these companies generate millions per year in revenue. I invited him on the show today because we share the common goal of maximizing income without negatively impacting family life. He is a master of systematizing businesses and we’re going to learn his business secrets. Enjoy the show!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Trent became an entrepreneur
  • How selling Amazon wholesale works
  • Where to find products to sell and wholesalers
  • The margins for an Amazon wholesale business
  • How to scale an Amazon wholesale business

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
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SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
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Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have my friend Trent Dyrsmid on the show, and Trent is an expert when it comes to systematizing businesses through SOPs. Today we’re going to talk about how he’s completely outsourced his Amazon wholesale business to various virtual assistants all across the world.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. And right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

Now, you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pops and abandoned cart email sequence as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So, bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding and taking cues from my customers and deliver personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over $100 who purchased red handkerchiefs in the past year. And it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo.

And right now, they have this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf to check it out, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf, now on to the show.

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

Steve: All right. Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Trent Dyrsmid on the show. Now, if you don’t know who Trent is, he’s a serial entrepreneur, husband and father with three companies, an Amazon e-commerce business, a software company called Flowster.app which does SOPs, and Brightideas.co which is a popular podcast and entrepreneurship publication which together generate millions of dollars a year in revenue.

And profit magazine named Trent’s first company as one of Canada’s profit 100 fastest growing companies for two years in a row before he sold it for seven figures in 2008. Anyway, the reason Trent and I resonate so well is because we share the common goal of maximizing income without negatively impacting family life or lifestyle. Also, Trent is a master of systematizing businesses, and today we’re going to find out how he does it. And with that, welcome to the show Trent. How are you doing today?

Trent: Very well, Steve, thanks very much for having me on, I’m so thrilled to be here.

Steve: I feel like we’ve been talking like a lot lately.

Trent: Well because we have.

Steve: So Trent, give us a quick background on your business, how you kind of got into entrepreneurship and what your e-commerce business is all about?

Trent: Sure. So, let’s start with how I got into becoming an entrepreneur that dates back quite a few years back to 2001. I had a really high paying job, I was making close to about $200,000 a year back then as a guy in my 20s. But unfortunately, the job was kind of boring, and I wasn’t intellectually stimulated and I know some people might be thinking, well, who cares? You were making a pile of cash. But the funny thing about money is, is after you were making it for a while, it’s not fulfilling in unto itself. And so, I decided that I wanted something more.

And so, I quit that job. I sold my house, I cashed in everything I had, and I put it all into starting a company that ultimately was ranked as one of Canada’s Profit 100 fastest growing companies. And that’s a whole another story for another day. But that’s how I got into becoming an entrepreneur.

And since selling that company, I’ve pretty much been focused on making my living on the internet, so I could always be location independent, in other words, I can run my business from any place that I choose. And approximately two, two and a half years ago, thanks to a number of my what I call my internet friends, in other words, people who I’d interviewed on my show and developed something of a relationship with a couple of them, a fellow named Spencer and another friend of mine named Country, we’re doing quite well doing Amazon private label. It’s something I knew nothing about, and they were both strongly encouraging me to give it a shot.

So, we were running a digital marketing agency at the time, my wife and I and a team of contractors and it was going quite well. And I said to my wife, I said, you know, I’m going to take a little hiatus and — I’m going to close the tab, it is making that noise, sorry. I’m going to give this Amazon thing a go and see if I can become successful at it because I’d always been in service businesses and I really wanted to try a product business because as a lot of people will know, a product business is much easier to scale up than a service business. So, I was completely and totally not very successful at private label after four or five months due to picking products that were too competitive.

I was making sales, I was doing 25 or 30,000 a month in revenue, but I was having to spend so much money on Pay Per Click and run so many promotions to try and get that sales velocity that I wasn’t making any profit at all. And to be honest with you, I was extremely frustrated. And right around that time, one of our biggest clients at the agency was starting to let us know that when their contract came up, they weren’t going to renew and so I was starting to get pretty stressed to be honest with you. And right, right around then fortunately, I interviewed a fellow on my show named — two guys actually. One guy by the name of Eddie and another guy by the name of Dan [inaudible 00:08:11] and both were doing some version of this Amazon wholesale thing that I knew nothing about.

And when Eddie explained it to me, it wasn’t too terribly appealing, because he’s a single guy with no kids and he spends his life going to trade shows to find his products. So he’s on the road all the time. And I thought, no man, I don’t want to do that. And then when I talked to Dan, and I interviewed him, he did the whole thing without any travel at all. And suddenly I realized, oh, man, that’s what I want to do because wholesale compared to private label is substantially less risk and we can dive into that further if you like.

Steve: Yeah absolutely.

Trent: That’s how I got started. Short Story, within five months, we were doing over 100 grand a month. We did just under 1.1 million in our first year and we’ve never looked back.

Steve: What are your margins on that 1.1 million?

Steve: So we operate on a gross margin of around 20%, which sounds thin but it’s actually enough because you can do a lot of revenue per employee in this model.

Steve: Okay, so let’s start by talking about the wholesale business as compared to private label. So how does the wholesale business work?

Trent: So wholesale is simple, but not easy. Simple, in that you buy products wholesale from US manufacturers, and you resell them on Amazon. And simple because unlike private label where you’re trying to launch a new product and get traction and get reviews and all that, with wholesale, you’re simply using available software tools to look for products that already have an established sales velocity and then you’re trying to buy those products at a price that would allow you to make a margin, so simple, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Steve: So, I see a couple of immediate disadvantages. I see a whole bunch of other people selling the exact same thing. And I also see you having to fight for the buy box on Amazon. Is that correct?

Trent: In theory, you’re correct but there are ways to mitigate those two risks. So, predominant — when we started, those were big issues for us. And back then our margin was less and the race to the bottom was a big issue for us. And because of changes in our business model, those are no longer issues and those changes are very simple. We look for suppliers who have already restricted the number of authorized sellers of their products on Amazon.

Ideally, we’re the only seller. Almost as ideally, the brand is one seller and we are the other seller and there is no one else. When you get that and we that’s predominantly how we do it, there is no race to the bottom. You know exactly what percentage of the box you’re going to get and your margins are maintained. The only issue can be obviously competitive threats from other brands, that’s just the nature of the beast.

Steve: But private label will experience that as well.

Trent: Correct.

Steve: So how do you go about finding these vendors, then?

Trent: Wow that is the tough part. So, when we started off, and we continue to do this to this day, but of course, we evolve as we grow as every business does. We use basically simple math equations to identify products. So, we’re looking for products that have an estimated profit per month within our parameters. And that’s simply a function of looking at, well, what’s the sales velocity of this product? How many current and sellers are in competition for the buy box? If we were an additional seller, would we get enough share of the buy box to sell enough units at a 20% margin for it to make it worthwhile for us to carry this product?

And then if it is, we’re going to reach out to the brand that owns that product and try to establish a relationship with them. And we grew at 20% per quarter for the first two years doing just that approach, sending a lot of emails and that’s where the whole SOPs thing factored in.

Steve: How do you determine what percentage of the buy box you’re going to get?

Trent: So we look at, let’s say there’s a widget on Amazon and it’s 19.99, and there’s three sellers at 19.99. And if we’re going to be a fourth, we just assume we’re going to get 25% of the buy box.

Steve: Okay. Okay. And you mentioned before that the way you do it now is you’re basically only competing against the brand owner. So now, do you kind of exclude anything where there’s more than one seller?

Trent: No, we regularly go after brands that have multiple sellers because we strongly believe those brands would be better off to have fewer sellers and oftentimes there’s a gap in their understanding, or they’re just not thinking about it. Because what you have to remember with a brand is that in all likelihood, Amazon is only 10 to 15% of their total sales because they have brick and mortar distribution across the country. And so, that is a much larger portion of their focus. And so, Amazon it’s almost a pain in their ass and there’s a lot of problems that come, typically unauthorized sellers and MAP violations. MAP stands for minimum advertised price.

And when that happens on Amazon, it causes the brand quite a bit of grief because they’re brick and mortar partners. Let’s say for example, a brand is selling their widgets to Walmart. Walmart is 40% of their total revenue, MAP for those widgets is 19.99 and they’re on Amazon for 18.50, do you think Walmart is very happy about that?

Steve: Absolutely not.

Trent: No, they are not. And do you think the brand is stressed about that?

Steve: Absolutely. So, I guess the brand has to make sure, I guess does the brand have a say in that? Can they say, hey, and kick you out?

Trent: Well, if they put the correct policies in place, yes absolutely, they can get Amazon under control. And this is what most brands or many brands don’t understand, or maybe they desire to do it, but they don’t know how to do it. And that is the biggest problem that we end up solving for brands. As an example, right now at a recent trade show that I attended and that is another method of finding brands by the way is go to trade shows. I entered into a discussion with a sunglasses brand, a $200 million a year brand and their number one problem is unauthorized sellers and MAP violations. And they said, man, if you can fix that, if you can help us fix that, we would authorize you to become a seller. And I am reasonably close. I haven’t got the yes yet, but I am reasonably close to getting it and that’s why because we understand how to solve that problem.

Steve: Okay, so let’s back up a little bit. Are you comfortable sharing some of the metrics that you look for in a product?

Trent: Sure.

Steve: Okay. So what is the minimum profit that you would expect, and what are some things that make you attracted to a certain product over another?

Trent: So let’s talk about what we did in the beginning and then we’ll compare that to how we do it now because now we’re a little bit more mature and we have far more resources than we had in the beginning, so we go after bigger elephants now. But in the beginning, we were very happy to carry even just one product from a brand as long as we could make 300 bucks a month or more, or if we carried a couple of products from the same brand, if that one account would make us 400 bucks a month or more. And these are just rules of thumb; you can pick whatever number you would like.

These are not the correct numbers; they’re just the numbers we used. Then we would carry that brand because a small brand like that, I mean, once you have a relationship, all you’re doing is reorders. So, the amount of labor involved is really, really low. And so, if you could get 3, 4, 5, 6 or 10 of those products that are like that, now you’re making three, $4,000 in gross profit each and every month, and that’s a heck of a good start. And so, for anyone who’s listening who obviously still has a full time job, and they’re thinking about doing this part time, that is not an insignificant amount of income and someone could easily manage that on a part time basis. Now, it’s a little bit more work to build it, of course, but there are ways to help reduce labor on that and we can talk about that more later, but in the beginning, that’s what we focused on.

Steve: So just to be clear, you’re actually buying these products also and shipping them into FBA, right?

Trent: Yep.

Steve: Okay. And what is the minimum buy? I would imagine a lot smaller than private label, right?

Trent: Yeah, it is. This is one of it, so one of the things that appealed to me so much about wholesale versus private label is risk of loss. So, when I did private label, MOQs were typically two to $3,000, and if I screwed it up, if I picked the wrong product, it’s quite possible I could lose the lion’s share of that money. In wholesale, that scenario is virtually impossible because you’re buying products that have established sales velocity. So, it’s not a question of are they going to sell? It’s only a question of are they going to sell profitably, or at breakeven, or maybe a small loss. And so, MOQs depends on the brand, I mean, a thousand bucks, I think we put in first orders for 700 bucks. Typically now we’re doing bigger than that. We’ve had initial orders that were 20 grand.

So, it’s all dependent upon the brands that you’re pursuing. The big thing to understand is it’s way less risk and the time to market for private label is measured in months because by the time you think, do all your product research and get samples and talk to factories and put your order in and get it shipped over and create your listing, and get your Photoshop, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, a long time goes by. With wholesale, you can literally have products in Amazon’s warehouse as soon as a week or two after your first phone call.

Steve: Right. I guess the other disadvantage though also is you don’t own the brand, you don’t own the product and I guess vendors probably come and go periodically, right?

Trent: They do but you own the business and you own those relationships. So, there is a number — I mean probably one of the biggest in the space is Netrush. Netrush does over $100 million a year doing what we do, and they don’t own any other brands. But do you think network is worth a fair amount of money?

Steve: Yeah, I mean, it’s just like a traditional retailer, right? Like Target carries most other people’s brands, they have their own brands but…

Trent: Correct.

Steve: It’s just a traditional wholesale business.

Trent: Correct.

Steve: Cool. So, can we talk about how to land a vendor? So, it sounds like you’re getting exclusive vendors now, so what is your negotiation, how does it look like?

Trent: So, that’s always the goal but you don’t necessarily start there. So, yesterday I was speaking with a brand owner and he’s the sole seller, does about 200,000 a month on his line and he’s a little bit overwhelmed right now. So he’s a small company, he doesn’t have enough boys to do all the work and so some things are falling through the cracks. So there’s the opportunity for us. And so I said to him, I said, look, why don’t we start off with instead of trying to get this guy to sign a contract with me on day one granting me co exclusivity on his entire product line, which is a big decision and would have a long sale cycle, I make it easy. I say, look, let’s just pick a product or two and you let me order enough so that I’ve got inventory to last a couple of months.

We’ll do a test order first just so I can verify all the volumes that our tools are estimating to make sure that we know how much this thing actually sells and then let me place enough orders so that I’ve got inventory for 60 or 90 days and let me show you what we can do. And we’re going to run Pay Per Click campaigns and we’re going to optimize the listing and we’re going to respond to negative product reviews, maybe we’re going to create some bundles, there’s all sorts of things that we can do to help increase market share which is one thing brand owners want to see.

The other thing that we could be doing during that period of time in the case — now, the story I’m telling is not a good example. But another example where there’s multiple sellers, and there’s unauthorized sellers. We can also then over that period of time work to reduce the number of unauthorized sellers and restore MAP pricing. Now, if you do that well on a couple of their products, you’re golden. They’re going to say, hey, obviously, you guys know what the hell you’re doing. This has been a great experience. Now you can present them with a contract. And now you can say, look, I want exclusivity on your entire line of products. And that is a far easier yes to get.

Steve: So to be clear, these brand owners are not selling themselves on Amazon, right? They don’t want to be dealing with the Amazon side of business. And so that’s why they’re soliciting I guess third party sellers?

Trent: They’re not necessarily soliciting. Some are, I remember we won an account a year, a year and a half ago. They were actively looking when they got our email and we won and that was a huge account. So yes, they were soliciting but many times like this particular guy, he’s been solicited before by a number of my competitors, and either I had better timing or I caught him on a good day or I had a better pitch. Because either way, he’s now getting ready to hop on an airplane and come and see us because he’s committed to, or he seems committed to moving forward into a relationship with us.

Steve: Okay. And in terms of finding these vendors, you mentioned going to trade shows, but I would imagine that’s not how you get the bulk of your vendors, is it?

Trent: It can be. As a matter of fact, I just interviewed a guy on my show by the name of Ryan Grant, who’s on episode Number 246, and he does get the bulk of his from trade shows. But here’s the silver bullet of trade shows, you need to have a name to drop. So, I recently attended the Outdoor Retailer show which is a very large show, a lot of big brands there. I did my homework beforehand so I had my shopping list. I knew I had a virtual assistant go through all the exhibitors list, figure out what their Amazon revenue was, stack ranked them in order of the best to the least. And then I figured out which ones were in my sweet spot, and I made sure I went and visited all of those companies.

So, I talked to about 40 different companies over a three day period. The number one question I was asked is who are you working with in our niche now? And that was a new niche for us. So, my answer was, well, no one yet, but this is going to be a niche we want to focus on blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and I’m working on winning. I have out of all of those 40 companies; I’m really only in an active discussion with one or two. Now, once I get the one or two, it would be much, much easier and that’s what Ryan told me. He says once he had a name to drop, so we do actually have a big brand name in the health and nutrition niche. So, we’re going to be now starting to go to shows for that niche and name dropping that company’s name because they are a huge player in that space and everyone will know their name and that’s a lot of social proof.

Steve: What is the brand’s motivation for not selling themselves on Amazon?

Trent: Some of them do it and some don’t. And if they don’t, it’s just because they consider themselves a wholesale company. And oftentimes, they don’t want their retail distribution partners, their brick and mortar partners to see them selling on Amazon because then they’re like, hey dude, you are competing with me, what the hell. Whereas other brands they do, they are a seller themselves. We have relationships like that, where the brand and ourselves are the only two authorized sellers and sometimes what those brands will do like our largest account right now, in the beginning, we split the buy box evenly.

And after a while, I pitch to them and I said, why don’t you guys just step out of the buy box and we’ll do some extra stuff for you with this extra profit that we’re going to make? And they said, sure. So let’s say the product was at 20 bucks. They raised their buy box or their price to $26, they get now no percent of the buy box because the Amazon algorithm is never going to rotate them in when I’m at 20 and they’re at 26. And essentially, we would get 100% or we got 100% of the buy box as a result of that.

Steve: That’s interesting. I’m just wondering why they would want other people selling if they’re selling as well. Like, what’s the motivation there?

Trent: So, there’s a couple of things. One is if a brand has 100% of the buy box and they split it with us, it actually only reduces their net profit by 10%. And the reason that is because the other half of the buy box we’re still buying those products wholesale from them and we’re paying Amazon fees that that they would be paying on that other half of the buy box and we operate on a 20% gross margin. So, 20% down with half the buy box equals 10% is all it costs them, so why would they do it? Number one is mitigation of risk. If they are the sole seller and for whatever reason their account were to get suspended, or they were to run out of inventory or if anything happens to the BSR and their products.

Steve: I see. Okay.

Trent: And so, that’s reason. That’s one of the reasons. The other one is that we have a higher level of expertise on the Amazon platform than they do; we have more resources than they do. And we say to them, we’re going to help you to do things that are going to take sales to a higher level than they are at now. And so that’s another way of adding value.

Steve: I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about a free resource that I offer on my website that you may not be aware of. If you are interested in starting your own online store, I put together a comprehensive six day mini course on how to get started in e-commerce that you should all check out. It contains both video and text based tutorials that go over the entire process of finding products to sell all the way to getting your first sales online. Now this course is free and can be obtained at Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Just sign up right there on the front page via email and I’ll send you the course right away, once again that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Now back to the show.

Okay, so Trent, one of the reasons why I’m having you on is because you’ve completely automated this Amazon business through SOPs which are standard operating procedures. So, this is kind of why I asked you about the trade show thing early on, do you actually have your employees go to trade shows on your behalf?

Trent: So I did, so we had an employee that I hired who was in charge of sourcing that he left recently, so I’m temporarily wearing the hat until I find a replacement for that individual. I’m actually now in a more active role in the business which is why I went to that trade show but he had gone to the ones previous. So this individual, he was the one sending all the emails, dealing with all the replies, talking to the brands, looking at price lists, sending them the contracts to getting them signed. I had no for over about a year I had absolutely no day to day role in the company whatsoever because of our SOPs and because of the team. And like I said, because of his absence now, I’m temporarily back in, but only until I find a suitable replacement.

Steve: Okay, so can we talk about your SOP process, how these are created, how everything works?

Trent: Yeah. So that was the big differentiator for us. People ask me, gosh man, how did you get to 100 grand a month in just five months? And I said, well, I sent how many emails, it was thousands of emails to prospective brands. And that sounds simple to do but when you break it down, there’s actually a boatload of work in sending that many emails because you’ve got to find competitive sellers, that takes labor. You’ve got to extract their storefront into spreadsheets, that’s more labor. You then have to run math on every single one of the products that are in those spreadsheets, more labor, then you have to for the ones that pass your filters, you have to identify well, which company, who is the right person at that company? What’s their email address? And you got to get all that data into HubSpot, and then you got to send out an email.

That is a lot of work. And so, when I started off because I’ve always been a big believer in creating documented systems, before I started to do any of the labor and like roll up my sleeves and do work, I instead I sat down and I designed a system for all of those steps that I just described. And then I document that system. And then I hired a number of virtual assistants from the Philippines at three bucks an hour and I simply had them do all of that grunt work so that with essentially no labor of mine, and a small amount of labor from one of my employees, I was able to send out two to 300 emails a week, that’s two to 300 leads, new product leads each and every week, week after week after week.

And all I had to deal with and this was before I hired anyone else and I was the guy in charge of sourcing, all I had to deal with was the replies. We’d send those two or 300 emails, I’d get a lot of replies and then I’d be replying back and forth and moving those conversations forward and filling out account applications and getting price lists and negotiating on prices and ultimately issuing a purchase order. And without the SOPs, I never could have done that volume of emails.

Steve: So, are those processes of replying, are those outsourced as well?

Trent: No, the replies, we didn’t outsource that because now you’re in a conversation, now we have processes that guide me and guide my team in that, but it’s not outsourced to a virtual assistant.

Steve: So, all this outreach and that sort of thing, is it all rote meaning like there’s no creativity that’s involved in drafting one of these emails?

Trent: Correct, it’s pure carpet bombing.

Steve: Okay.

Trent: Now, that’s not the only way that someone should source but it worked extremely effectively for us. And so, it is one of several arrows in your quiver that you should use. And the reason that’s important is I’ll use this brand, they’re no longer with us, they were with us for only a year, a year and a half. They were a supplement company and they got one of our many emails. I mean this is how we landed all of our brands, and if you’re not sending a lot of emails, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to find a brand that has already decided they’re looking for a third party seller.

Steve: Can you kind of describe your carpet bombing process, like what are your filters like on how you do research and how you decide who to carpet bomb I guess?

Trent: It’s kind of what I described before. We would find all these existing sellers who met certain criteria.

Steve: Are there SOPs for that as well?

Trent: Yeah there’s SOPs for everything. In my office, the going joke is you can’t even fart unless there’s an SOP for it, so everything is defined. So, one virtual assistant would be in charge of making a list of sellers, competitive sellers, other third party sellers because our thinking was simple, if they can carry the product, so can we. And if they’re making money, so can we. So, we started with that, then there was another SOP for extracting their products using a tool called price checker too into a spreadsheet. So for a given third party seller, they might have 100 products, they might have 3,000 products; we’re going to dump all those products into a spreadsheet.

And there’s another SOP for that spreadsheet. And there’s a spreadsheet template that would cause excuse me math to be done on each and every row automatically since we paste everything in to calculate our estimated profit per product. And the labor, there would be a VA would have to manually go and see for each product how many sellers were in contention for the buy box because there was no really great way to automate that one little bit, but for three bucks an hour, I don’t really care. I’m happy to pay for it.

And so, then that spreadsheet would give us a list of leads. We then figure out who the contact was for each one of those leads and a VA is doing that via LinkedIn and something called Snovio which helps us to find email addresses and then we import them into HubSpot. And then we use another tool called GMass and we send these hundreds of emails out. And that’s how it goes.

Steve: What is your hit rate like? I’m just kind of curious.

Trent: Low, less than 2%.

Steve: Less than 2%. Okay, but it’s worth it right. Once you land one of those, that could be like a six figure account.

Trent: Hell yeah, absolutely.

Steve: How many people do you have running this business?

Trent: So, right now there are three but they’re not all. So my wife works around 25 hours a week. She’s the COO. We have another fellow who is in charge of inventory management and reorders which my wife used to do. And then we have another woman who splits her time about half between my information products business, the Bright Ideas business and the Amazon business. So, I guess you could say if you consider on an FTE basis, it’s run by about two full time people. And then to make it grow, you need another one which right now temporarily is me, but the goal is to hire another person because you always have to be looking for new brands because you’re going to have attrition. So if you don’t, if you’re not putting food in, obviously shrink. So to run it two, to make it grow three.

Steve: So, can you kind of describe the — so what you’re describing sounds great, but it also sounds a little bit overwhelming. So, what is your process for getting these SOPs created? How do you even deploy these SOPs properly? It sounds like in my mind, you might have like this bundle of SOPs but how do you kind of coordinate what everyone is doing?

Trent: It’s not actually as complicated as you think. So, the old expression, how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? So, when I started there was no SOPs. So, I sat down and I thought, well, what are the steps to do find a competitive seller, and I simply created a Google document. They don’t live there anymore. They’re not in Google anymore. We’ll get to that in a minute. But in the beginning, I just created the Google document. It says, do this and then I’d have a screenshot with big red arrows, and then do this and have a screenshot with more big red arrows and that’s one SOP. And then you just keep adding more and more and more and more SOPs.

Now, of course, now we’re at, I don’t know, 70 or 80 SOPs, and we’ve got people on a team, Google Docs isn’t cutting it anymore. So we actually built our own software called Flowster, you can find it at Flowster.app, and that is SOP software. And the reason that you need software is as you have more and more SOPs that are kind of in progress and because each SOP is kind of like a mini project, right? Every time you’re doing a competitor extraction, that’s a mini project, you’re just doing it over and over and over and over again.

And we don’t have SOPs just for product sourcing; we have them for PPC campaign management. We have them for shipping and receiving. We have them for purchasing. We have them for inventory management. We have them for listing optimization. We have them for HR, we have them for Amazon account health, and we have them for everything. So, the benefit of having them in software is now each SOP can be kind of like Trello. You can assign members to it, you can give it a due date, you can give it multiple due dates, because if an SOP has like 15 steps, maybe there’s different due dates for the different steps, you can assign those steps to different people. And the software is then sending alerts to everyone saying, hey, you’ve been assigned to this task, the due date is this, click here to begin? It’s what brings cohesion to having what would otherwise be just this huge, fragmented pile of SOP spaghetti.

Steve: Right. No, that makes sense. Actually one question I have as I’m thinking about those right now is when you’re having people look for products, sometimes there’s some gut feeling there. Like, it’s not always about the raw numbers, because I’m thinking about when I’m looking for products to sell, there’s always some amount of intuition involved. And how do you kind of document that?

Trent: So, we don’t really worry about documenting intuition and I’ll explain why. So, let’s say that we send 300 emails in a week. And the product sourcing agent, which is currently me, but I’ll be replaced by one or two plays, they will be trained over time to have the intuition. So they’re looking at, all these emails go out; boom, and then they’re getting replies. And when they get a reply, that’s when they start doing a deeper dive, do I really want to, let’s say a brand replies and they say, well, we don’t want any more Amazon sellers, which is a very common reply. Okay, so now is the product sourcing agent with the intuition, I’m going to look at that brand and I’m going to look for some key attributes.

I’m going to look at, well how much does the brand do in total? Are their sales up year over year? How are their sales over the last quarter? How’s their distribution among their products? What does their product listings look like? And for the main keywords, where do they rank in the search results? Well how much market share do they have relative to their competitors? Do I think there is room for us to help this brand make improvements? And does this brand carry the type of products that we think are really great products and that we’d love to have a relationship with? What’s their social media presence look like?

But there’s other things that the intuition part of it factors in and then that would then allow the product sourcing agent to make a decision of how aggressively or not they’re going to pursue that brand to try and get them to change their mind from a no we don’t want any more Amazon sellers into a yes. And that is where the skill comes in. So, this really large brand that we have, the one that’s got the great name in the fitness niche that is exactly what happened. I picked up the phone and I called them and no, I don’t want any more Amazon sellers. And I started asking the usual questions that I asked. He gave me the answers that I was expecting. I explained to him how we could solve the problems that he was having. And by the 18 minute mark of the phone call, he said, you are approved.

Steve: Nice. I would imagine that’s a lot to do with your skill as a negotiator. What happens when you’re just first starting out and you got nothing?

Trent: So when you’re first starting out and you got nothing, you go for the low hanging fruit. You’re going to pursue like we did smaller brands. Much of the transaction, much of the conversation is going to happen over email. Like we landed plenty of brands in the beginning, I shouldn’t say brands, products; we landed plenty of products in the beginning. We didn’t have exclusivity back then, we would just buy the product if the numbers made sense without ever talking to any human being on the phone. Everything was done over email. The purchase order was sent and we made money on the product.

What happened over time though is you’ll outgrow that as you get bigger and as you get more working capital and your appetite for relationships with brands will trump your desire to just add more products because if you have too many products, it can become difficult to manage because you’re going to have races to the bottom. So those products are going to churn. If you’ve promised brands to do things, but you have too many, it can become overwhelming. Maybe you don’t have enough margin to hire enough people. It’s a great way to get started and that’s how I got to 100 grand a month focusing on products. But now we don’t focus on products. Now we focus on brands.

Steve: What is your process for looking at your portfolio and eliminating the products over time?

Trent: Pretty simple. So again, you have to first of all decide whether you’re product focused or brand focused because if I’m brand focused, and let’s say a given brand has two dozen products and they want me to carry them all, and the 80/20 rule will probably apply. And if 20% of them are making 80% of money and that’s a good healthy account for me; I’ll still keep stock of the ones that aren’t selling, because that was part of the commitment to have the relationship with the brand.

Steve: Okay. And by just keeping them in stock, you’re just keeping them in the warehouse. They might not sell, but you’re just keeping them in there and you’re paying long term storage fees potentially?

Trent: Potentially. But I mean, let’s define how many I’ve got in stock. If they’ve got a product they want me to carry, and it’s not selling very well, I’m not going to own 400 of them. I might own 12.

Steve: Right, that makes sense. That makes sense. And in terms of — I imagine you have like a minimum profit level before you stop carrying a certain product, right?

Trent: Yeah, again, it depends if you are product focused or brand focused. If you’re product focused, I wouldn’t carry a product that makes me less than probably 200 bucks a month because there’s still a small amount of labor in looking at it and doing the reorder and carrying the inventory and 200 bucks a month is not a lot of money. But if you’re brand focused, it’s all about just how much money is this brand making us in total? And that’s always what we look at when we make a decision of whether to continue or not.

Steve: How did you make the transition from product focused to brand focused, did something happen?

Trent: Well, we got to the point where we had cash flow credibility resources and a team. And so, now we could more credibly pursue relationships with bigger brands. And we’re literally at that inflection point right now where I did some analysis of Netrush and a few of the other really fast growing third party sellers that are doing 100 million, 80 million, whatever and I said like, okay, I want to be as big as those guys, what are they doing? And they were carrying much larger brands than us, so we made a decision to place our focus more on now going after bigger brands.

And in order to do that, you better have some credibility. And we have that credibility now, because we’ve got that one really great big brand name, plus we’ve got all of our store reviews, plus we’ve got our revenue and our team and we own our building and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But we didn’t have that in the beginning.

Steve: So, what is your pitch now to larger brands, and has that differed from the beginning when you were just pitching individual products?

Trent: The pitch is pretty much the same. You still need to demonstrate to a brand that you’re going to help them solve problems, and that you’re going to bring value to the table. So, it’s not the pitch that changed, we just pointed the gun at bigger targets.

Steve: Okay. But I would imagine you have a set, you have set things that you say that are very convincing, right?

Trent: Yes, the number one pain by far is identifying and ultimately removing unauthorized sellers, especially those that are violating MAP, that’s the biggest problem. There are other problems, but they’re a small problem relative to that one. And then the other thing that’s not so much a problem is just a benefit is and will help you to increase market share, because maybe we can run Pay Per Click campaigns more effectively than you can because we have higher levels of expertise and dedicated people and we pay for expensive software than you do. So, if we can get more market share by doing that, or maybe we’re going to create like one of our this big brand, we create bundles of several of their products that drive entirely new sources of revenue for them and they love that.

Steve: And how do you go about removing these violators of MAP to get these people kicked off?

Trent: Yeah, that’s more of a trade secret because it took us a long time to learn, and there are ways to do it.

Steve: Okay, there’s nothing you can share that’s low hanging fruit?

Trent: No.

Steve: Okay that’s your secret sauce. Well Trent, your secret sauce is also SOPs. I want to give you an opportunity to just kind of talk about what you have to offer and where people can find you online.

Trent: So, what I have to offer, I spoke at a conference on wholesale a year and change ago and I didn’t have anything for sale to help other Amazon sellers at that point in time. And I talked about all my SOPs much like we’ve done today. And a lot of people came to the mics afterwards and said, man, oh man; I don’t want to have to recreate what you built, would you just sell it to me? And so, we decided to take our SOPs and we did turn them into a product called WEBS which stands for Wholesale E-commerce Business Systems. And WEBS are available for sale currently twice per year, and the next time they’re going to be available is actually October 22, so the interview is relatively timely. If people would like to be able to learn more, all they need to do is come to Brightideas.co, become an email subscriber and you will definitely be marketed to, these SOPs will be offered to you.

You can attend the live webinar, you can learn all about them. You can read the FAQ, you can watch the videos. All that stuff kind of starts happening, I think the webinar is October 17th and then the cart will be open for one week. And if someone believes that they’re a good decision for themselves, they can buy them during that week and if they choose not to, then they’ll have to wait for the next time.

Steve: And Trent also has a podcast called Brightideas.co of which I was a guest not too long ago. And Trent is actually going to be speaking at the Sellers Summit next year in May.

Trent: I will indeed.

Steve: So, Trent thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time.

Trent: Thank you very much for having me on Steve, it’s a pleasure.

Steve: Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, I actually had the chance to meet Trent for the first time at the Ecommerce Fuel Live event in New Orleans and we hung out for most of the weekend. And in addition, Trent will also be speaking at the Sellers Summit in May. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode247.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for developing real quality customer relationships. And right now they just released a cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where you can learn successful e-commerce marketing strategies from real companies using their platform. Now, the docuseries is free and you could check it out at Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

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

Now, I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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246: Everything You Need To Know About Sales Tax With Martina Chavez Of Avalara

246: Everything You Need To Know About Sales Tax With Martina Chavez Of Avalara

Martina Chavez is an expert in sales tax compliance over at Avalara and I invited her on the show today to clear the air in regards to everything that is happening with Amazon and nexus when it comes to paying sales tax.

Ever since the decision of the supreme court case Wayfair vs South Dakota was handed down, states may now charge tax on purchases made from out of state sellers even if the seller doesn’t have a physical presence in the taxing state. This has enormous implications to ecommerce.

What You’ll Learn

  • Martina’s sales tax background
  • Do you have pay sales tax in all 50 states?
  • What states does Amazon collect taxes on behalf of sellers and how does that work?
  • How are my Amazon revenues taxed for sales from customers in states that require sales tax?
  • The easiest way to file your sales taxes across all states

Other Resources And Books

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Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they used to grow their businesses. Now, today I have Martina Chavez on the podcast, and Martina is an expert when it comes to sales tax compliance. And as you know, the entire e-commerce world has been in utter chaos ever since the Supreme Court decision of Wayfair versus South Dakota ruled that states may now charge sales tax on purchases made out of state. Anyway, today we’re going to talk about what’s going on in sales tax land and how to be compliant with your e-commerce business.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding, and taking cues from my customers and deliver personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over $100 who purchased red handkerchiefs in the past year.

Now, it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo. And right now they have this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Well, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And in fact, I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Now there a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Martina Chavez on the show. Now, Martina is an expert in sales tax compliance over at Avalara. And I invited her on the show today to kind of clear the air in regards to everything that is happening with Amazon and Nexus when it comes to paying sales tax. And as you may or may not know, there was a huge uproar over the collection of sales tax ever since the decision of the Supreme Court case Wayfair versus South Dakota was handed down.

Well, states may now charge tax on purchases made from out of state sellers even if the seller does not have a physical presence in the taxing state. Now this is huge and extremely important to understand the implications for e-commerce and I’ve got a ton of questions for Martina today. And with that, welcome to show, how you doing today Martina?

Martina: I’m doing very well Steve, thank you so much for having me; it’s good to be here.

Steve: So, Martina, give the audience a brief bio in regards to who you are and your background in the area of sales tax compliance.

Martina: Sure, happy to do that. So hey everyone listening, thanks for joining. So like Steve said, I’m with Avalara. I have actually just celebrated my five years at Avalara, which is very exciting. Avalara is a global sales tax compliance software solution. We also offer a whole lot of other ancillary compliance options including professional services. So we’re not just software but primarily software. And when I started with Avalara, I knew nothing about sales tax. So, I definitely didn’t go into working at Avalara with some form of expertise.

I came from a company that I was doing accounting actually at, and we were using Avalara as a sales tax software to help us sort it all out on our end for billing, and definitely had many calls with customers who would say, hey, this isn’t my sales tax. And then I would get to click into the Avalara dashboard and be like, actually, according to this jurisdictional breakdown, here it is. And so, it was really cool to be able to have that direct experience with our product, and then later move into the world of talking about it on a daily basis and learning about it on a daily basis.

So, started with Avalara in business development, working with our technology partners, so helping partners integrate our solution into their platforms or build an API so that their customers could utilize our service because most people don’t want to get into the mess of learning or trying to offer a solution for sales tax. It’s really, really complex and it’s changing constantly as I think everyone listening probably knows to a certain degree.

Steve: We’re going to dig deep into the mess.

Martina: Yeah we definitely are. So yeah, so that’s kind of how it all began and then over the years, it’s something that I’m constantly being confronted with. And now I’m working very specifically with the marketplace channel. I’ve been working in and around the world of Amazon and supporting Amazon sellers for the last four years that I was at Avalara. So I’ve kind of been growing up with this new trend of sales tax compliance for the online seller or the Amazon seller, the marketplace seller or whatever category you want to put yourself in.

Steve: Let’s start by talking about Amazon actually. So how does Amazon collect taxes today? I’ve heard that they collect in certain states, but it’s your responsibility to pay the IRS. Other times they pay depending on the state and you’re still responsible for filing. How does it work right now?

Martina: So, right now when it comes to sales tax, which is different than income tax, I just want to make sure there’s that distinction. When it comes to sales tax, Amazon does have a calculation engine that they use to support the seller on their platform which is great. It’s a free tool for the seller to use but the seller is still obligated to determine where that sales tax needs to be collected. So, if you’re living in California for example, then it’s a pretty much a no brainer that because you live here that it is your home state and therefore you’re obligated to collect sales tax here. And because you’re selling on Amazon and maybe you’re using FBA, your inventory could be in a lot of places. And before last June 21st, which we’ll get into what that date means and kind of everything that’s happened since June 21st of 2018, but the rules in each state are different around why and when you need to collect sales tax.

So, Nexus is this fancy term for physical presence that is used throughout every state throughout the US to identify who is obligated to collect sales tax. And again, each state has a little bit different variation on who they think is liable. So, a state that doesn’t collect sales tax like Oregon, you wouldn’t be obligated to collect sales tax there ever because there’s no sales tax. So, that’s an easy one, right? But if you’re living in California and say you sell into Washington, that’s an interesting one because Washington is one of the marketplace fairness [ph] states.

So, the state of Washington has ruled that Amazon and other marketplaces have to remit the sales tax that’s collected on behalf of the seller, but the seller is still obligated to register and file that that sales tax was collected. So, the seller is actually not completely off the hook. And I think that there’s a little bit of confusion there. I get that question a lot. We get that question through the sales team a lot, customers who are coming to us seeking our support. So Washington is an example of that. And then there’s going to be other states like South Dakota, which, this might be a good segue to kind of start talking about the economic Nexus side of things, but there’s other states that have different rules about when you’re supposed to collect sales tax and the seller is obligated to do that.

Once you as a seller have said, yep, I’m getting registered and you get your ID, your identification number to tell the state that you are collecting sales tax. Then you can set it all up in Amazon in your seller central profile, and then Amazon will in fact just start that calculation process for you so you don’t have to do anything.

Steve: So, just to kind of sum up what you just said, right now, Washington is one of those states where Amazon will collect taxes on your behalf when you sell into Seattle or Washington. However, you still have to do some work. You still have to register in that state, even though Amazon is still paying sales tax on your behalf.

Martina: Correct, that’s exactly right.

Steve: Okay. And there’s only a handful of states that are currently like that, right? Do you happen to know which ones off the top of your head or?

Martina: I have a handy dandy map in front of me that our company actually keeps up to date all the time. And so the crazy thing is, there’s so many different changes all the time that I’m constantly having to reference that. It’s hard to keep it all in on the top of the head, but yes, I do.

Steve: I’ll just post that maybe underneath the podcast in the show notes.

Martina: Yeah, that would be great. So I’ll send you that link for the map because this has just a ton of information on it, and you’ll be able to identify exactly which states are technically what collecting or I shouldn’t say collecting, remitting on behalf of the seller and then which states have economic Nexus and which states have affiliate or click through Nexus. And so, there’s some other forms of Nexus that sellers should be aware of.

Steve: Now, in terms of the states that are not remitting on your behalf, what do you have to do?

Martina: So, states that are not remitting on your behalf, which is most of them and majority of states are not remitting on behalf of the seller. You have to do that yourself. So in addition to filing, you also have to send in the money. So that’s really the only difference which I think is — I actually think for most people, the filing portion of it is the more challenging part because that’s the part where you have to aggregate your data and you have to know exactly how much sales tax you collected in what state and what jurisdiction it’s supposed to go to. And then you’re supposed to say, hey, state of wherever, State of California, here is my document saying that I collected all of the sales tax and it is due in XYZ location. And also here is the money.

So, really the only thing that the state of Washington now is requiring Amazon and marketplaces to do is to send them the money. Yeah. All the other complexities of it still rely or still live with the seller.

Steve: So a common question that I’ve been getting asked is, let’s say I live in California, but I don’t have a physical presence in New York, for example, why should I have to pay sales tax in New York? And I think this is like a good segue to that court case. So, if you wouldn’t mind kind of summarizing what happened in June 21st of last year, that’d be great.

Martina: Sure absolutely. So last year was a very, very exciting year in the world of sales tax. And so, what was going on prior to June 21st was there was a case of South Dakota versus Wayfair Inc. And it was presented to the Supreme Court, and basically the case involved South Dakota saying, hey Wayfair, you because you sell into our state, you owe us sales tax, we want to enact an economic Nexus rule. And it was specifically in relationship to Wayfair at the time. And so, they were saying even though you don’t have a physical presence, you don’t have warehouses, you don’t have employees living here, your headquarters isn’t here, you haven’t gone to trade shows, those are all examples of what could potentially trigger a physical presence in a state.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of South Dakota. So, they said, yeah, South Dakota you’re right, you actually we agree with you, we think that Wayfair Inc. should be paying sales tax or should be collecting sales tax I should say for any of the sales that they’re making into your state. And so, thereby there was economic Nexus was then ruled to be a law. So, all of a sudden South Dakota is this first state doing that and all of a sudden all these other states started to enact the same law. They’re saying, oh okay, South Dakota just got that ruling; we’re going to do the same thing. And so, it’s been kind of this slow but not that slow process of lot of new states then coming to enact the exact same law.

So, economic Nexus and in the State of South Dakota to start, what they’re saying is there’s threshold. So it’s not every single person who makes a sale ever like if you’re selling something and you sell something one time and it was a $20 sale, you’re not all of a sudden obligated to start collecting sales tax in South Dakota. So they did create threshold triggers. So in South Dakota, and I can go over the triggers that come up for other states as well. But in South Dakota specifically, it was $200,000 or — excuse me, no $100,000 or 200 or more separate transactions or both.

So, if you sell more than $100,000, or if you make more than 200 transactions, so those transactions could be $10 each but there you are, you’ve then triggered this economic Nexus obligation which means that as a seller whether you’re selling on Amazon or you’re selling through your online store BigCommerce, Shopify, whatever platform you’re selling through, you are now obligated to register and start collecting sales tax going forward. So, one thing to also just be aware of, is when you register for sales tax collection in a state, you’re basically saying, okay, so I hit that threshold this year. So I’m registering to collect sales tax for basically ever for the life of my business. So even if the following year you don’t hit the threshold, you’re still registered, you’re still telling the state that I am going to collect sales tax, so that that process has already happened.

Steve: Because you have to pay sales tax in all the different states now, it seems like for a small business owner that burden is tremendous.

Martina: Yeah, yeah so great question. So yes and no, I think it depends on the case, right? So, if a seller has been selling for let’s say a year or more, and they’re only collecting currently in their home state, and maybe they’re selling it through FBA, so they have a lot of inventory and a lot of places and they already have a physical presence obligation and let’s say they’re a top seller. If they are top seller, and they know that that revenue marker is a kind of an easy threshold for them to have already hit or hit very soon, then yes, they’re going to have to start thinking about what economic Nexus means for them in a very real way.

The good news is because economic Nexus is something that just passed; it’s not something that they would have to be worried about for five years of back taxes for example. It’s something that in the case of South Dakota, that legislation though it passed, it wasn’t enacted, it wasn’t June 21st, 2018. The process takes some time to actually make it a viable ruling. So, there are other states though, that have followed suit. And California and New York are the most recent ones and those are huge states that most people are selling into. And so, I think that those two states in particular are the ones that I think are the kind of the biggest triggers for people.

Steve: Can we talk about California real quick? Mainly because I know a number of the students in my class, they got notices from California to start filing and they came to me asking questions, and I was just kind of curious what your take is. When you get one of these notices, what do you do?

Martina: Rule of thumb; don’t ignore it, so ignoring it is not going to help. California is a really aggressive state, they will keep coming after you and they’re pretty real repercussions on not being in compliance and it goes far beyond. It can go far beyond just your business, this can affect your family from credit and liens and that sort of thing. So, it’s not something to ignore. You want to talk to somebody, talk to a ideally a state and local tax expert, an accountant who really does have the expertise in state and local taxes, who can say, okay, so here’s you got this notice.

What does this mean for you? Do you start collecting sales tax? Do you register and start collecting sales tax as of today, or do you have back taxes that you should have been collecting for over the years? And if so, do we do a voluntary disclosure agreement with the state? So there are things, there are ways to move forward successfully as a business, but definitely the one thing not to do is don’t ignore it.

Steve: Since I live in California, I know that there’s like 25 different sales taxes, depending on the region. Are they really expecting a small business owner to take care of that stuff?

Martina: So here’s another piece of good news for you. You don’t actually have to keep track of the different kinds of or the different sales tax jurisdictions, because Amazon as a platform and other software solutions like Avalara will take care of the calculations for you. So, that includes knowing when there’s a jurisdiction change and knowing the tax rate in X, Y, Z location. And you’re right. There are a lot of different jurisdictions, there’s over 600 in the United States. I mean, there’s tons, we have another map that we can share with your audience to kind of give you an idea of all of the different tax rates that exist. And then, and it’s just an example. It’s just a visual example of, yeah, this thing is, it’s a beast, it’s complex, and it’s different everywhere, and the rules are constantly changing.

So, the point is that you shouldn’t have to do it manually, there’s software out there to help you with that. So, from a calculation standpoint, I wouldn’t be worried or concerned about that side of things, because Amazon already takes care of it. If you’re using another platform, like a BigCommerce or Shopify, good news, again, Avalara is actually embedded into both BigCommerce and Shopify platforms. That’s at least the calculation engine is free in both of those platforms, powered by Avalara. And then we have integrations to over 500 e-commerce and accounting platforms, so there’s really kind of no place that we wouldn’t be able to support or some other form of support wouldn’t be available.

Steve: So, I think your answer might be a little biased but let’s say I just started selling online and hopefully you won’t be biased, but do I really need to register in all 50 states?

Martina: That is a phenomenal question and the answer is no, and I’ll say this with confidence because first of all we know that there isn’t sales tax in all 50 states. So, you at least 46 states are not sales tax worthy, you wouldn’t have to collect in the in those.

Steve: 46 states.

Martina: So 46 states but the answer is no. So, if you’ve just started selling, most often you’re selling into — and let’s use Amazon FBA as an example just because it’s an easy way to kind of think about this, most often your inventory is living in maybe two to three states to begin with. And it really depends on what the demand ends up looking like and what your total inventory ends up looking like. And so, usually start with a few states because that’s where your inventory is actually living, so you start with your home state, get registered there definitely, that’s no brainer and get registered in your home state assuming you have sales tax in that state.

And then you would have to track where your inventory is landing, so you have to also abide by the physical presence rules, so those don’t go away just because economic Nexus is now a layer on top of that. And then the next thing to track is how much revenue you’re driving from individual states that have enacted this economic Nexus rule. And like I said, we have a resource for you so we have a map and then below the map is this really great breakdown of all the different states, when they have had economic Nexus enacted and what the thresholds are.

And so, you’ll be able to determine, okay, so I’m selling in California, and I know my inventory lives in Texas and in Florida let’s just say, so start by registering in California, get registered in Texas, get registered in Florida, start collecting there, watch where your sales are going. And if you see your sales going into a state that has economic Nexus, for example, South Dakota, keep an eye on where that threshold limit is at. So maybe you only sell $25,000 into South Dakota and you hit 100 units let’s say, no sweat, you do not register. You did not hit the economic Nexus.

Steve: It just sounds like such a huge burden. So, thresholds every state has different thresholds, right? Like how am I going to do frack all the thresholds of all my sales? It seems like I would need like a dedicated person to do that.

Martina: Yeah, so again, this is where software comes into play. And of course, I’m biased. I believe wholeheartedly in the software that Avalara has to be able to track all this, but there are other software options out there. And so, at the end of the day what it comes down to is there is an obligation for the seller to take their business really seriously when it comes to sales tax compliance, and unfortunately states in the US has not made that an easy burden. And it’s interesting, what I think is so interesting about the marketplace channel and one of the reasons that I love working with Amazon sellers and other folks selling online is because this is like the new frontier.

This is global commerce is changing and it’s changing super-fast and anyone selling online is a part of that change. And states have traditionally relied on sales tax coming from brick and mortar stores to support them, so whether that’s keeping the roads safe or putting in those traffic lights or whatever other services, and we all experience every day that we all benefit from like our police officers and our firefighters like sales tax is a part of that revenue. And so, states of losing revenue because people are buying online and not buying in the stores in the same volume that they used to. So, that’s why states have started coming up with all of these new ways to collect the sales tax. And it’s smart on their end, but it’s hard on the hard on the business owner. And so it is something that’s very real. But again, software is available to help all of these processes.

Steve: So, do you have any insights on where the legislation is going or what’s going on right now? I would imagine there’s lawsuits going left and right, or discussions going on and how states can possibly enforce all of this stuff.

Martina: So, good question. I actually don’t have a ton of insight into any of that. What I have insight into is just as it comes, the new legislations that are passed and new states that opt into economic Nexus. And that’s something that we keep up to date through the website at Avalara.com. But aside from that, I’m not in the rooms with the lawmakers so I don’t know. I do, I definitely know, I’m very aware that there are a lot of Amazon sellers and probably others but I feel like Amazon sellers maybe are just the most vocal in kind of expressing their upset about these new legislations and the impact that it could have on them and their business.

And so, I know that there’s some folks who are getting together to kind of try to fight it and there’s definitely two sides of the camp I think. There’s some folks that I talked to who are like, yeah, I just got into compliance and I’m using software to support me and it’s fine. I would rather be in compliance then be a risk of my family potentially being harmed by me not kind of following the rules and then having a state like California come after me and my home and that sort of thing. So that’s literally, a conversation I’ve had with a number of sellers before.

And then there’s other conversations I’ve had where sellers are like, yeah, like, I’m not doing anything, they have to come after me, they have to come after me for me to believe this. And that’s, it’s a choice and it’s a business choice. And I think this is one of the things that we do talk about this when we talk to sellers is you’re measuring your risk in involved, right. So it may be that the risk of not being in compliance doesn’t outweigh the flip side of being in compliance. So being in compliance, what does that mean as far as time and resources and maybe some financial burden as well, at least in the initial stages. It does cost more money to get registered and in states and it definitely takes time.

But going forward, once you’re registered, it’s just a pass through the, you’re not actually — sales tax is not your money. It is the customers’ money; it’s the consumers’ money. So, it’s passing through you, you end up being becoming kind of the tax man and in a weird sort of way. But then on, the other side of it is for some people, they are of the opinion of, yeah, I’m not going to get registered, I don’t really sell that much. It’s just not huge enough. So, if they do come after me, and I owe a penalty, it’s not going to be a penalty that’s really that harmful to me or my business. And so, that’s something that can be weighed. And it’s always a business decision.

Steve: So, if you can take off your Avalara hat for a minute, let’s say there’s a company that’s been selling for five years, they only collect sales tax in their home state because that’s where they have Nexus, what would you advise that they do, and how do you come up with these decisions on whether to wait till they come after you or be proactive about it?

Martina: It’s hard to take off the Avalara hat because this is what I’ve been doing for the last five years. And I do have to say, I’m not a tax advisor. So I have opinions but I’m not — I definitely wouldn’t want to be held accountable for someone making a decision based on my…

Steve: Of course, absolutely that’s a given. That’s a given.

Martina: Disclaimer, disclaimer yeah. So you’re saying you are, let’s pretend it’s you. So Steve, you’ve been selling for five years, you’ve been collecting in your home state?

Steve: California yep.

Martina: In California. Good that’s great. I’m glad you’re collecting in California.

Steve: I know right. The most aggressive state yeah.

Martina: Of any of the states, California, Texas, and Florida are pretty aggressive yeah. Colorado actually is or Denver is. Yeah anyways, we could get into all the different states, but so you’re collecting in California and you’re selling on Amazon. Is that — was that the?

Steve: Yeah. Let’s say you’re selling on Amazon.

Martina: Okay. So, I mean, there’s information you should have. This is kind of the stance that I have. I think it’s about you being armed with information so that you can make those decisions. But my opinion would be, look, if you really care about your business and you want to keep doing this business, it would behoove you to seek some professional advisement around your sales tax obligations. So, there’s accountants that you can talk to who can give you the kind of the right information but there’s options for you. You can either get voluntary disclosure agreement if your sales tax obligation is so big across many, many states.

If it ends up at the end of the day determined that you have a physical presence that you should have been collecting sales tax in, let’s say, five states plus economic Nexus thresholds have been hit in another four or five states, and you have suddenly have 10 more states that you’re needing to collect and remit sales tax and potentially should have been for four or five years, that’s a bigger case. I think most people aren’t going to be in that situation.

A lot of times, when we’re talking to folks especially, and I’m going back into Avalara hat land, but when we talk to people and we have accountants in the conversation, a lot of times the experts that we’re engaged with are of the mindset that it’s okay to start collecting from now on and you’ll just move forward because at the end of the day, the states are really just looking for people to start giving the money. They’re like, can you just start collecting sales tax, but sometimes it’s bigger than that and there’s nuances there. And that would just be something that you’d have to work with an expert on.

Steve: Okay. Have you heard of any cases where a company has just gotten totally busted and ruined as a result of this?

Martina: Yeah, unfortunately, yeah. I mean, it was like three years ago maybe, there was an entity that came to us, and a lot of times, people who come to us just kind of going off on a tangent here for a second, but a lot of times when people come to us, it unfortunately is not a proactive thing. People are becoming more proactive now, but a lot of times it’s because they’ve just gotten audited or other, and so they’re kind of like man okay, we need help. So, we’d like to promote that preventative method. But yeah, we’ve had a few sellers come to us in the past saying, hey, this is my situation. I’ve got states coming after me, they’re getting the letters.

Once you get the letters, the states know, if you’re getting a letter, the state knows that you have an obligation to collect sales tax and they are going to come after you. That is what they’re telling, they’re saying, we know, we have people on staff who we’ve hired to do this job to basically come after you and others. And we had a seller who it would have been over a million dollars for him to actually get in compliance because there was so many back taxes and that was with a voluntary disclosure agreement.

So, what’s crazy is that that’s like a long time that’s many, many years of selling and not collecting in a lot of states at high volume, at high revenue and never collecting the sales tax and not remitting anything. And so there were penalties and interest, and even though with a voluntary disclosure agreement, those penalties and interest get minimized to a certain degree, you have to pay a big lump sum all at once just to kind of be like, okay, here is all the money, it’s not 100%, all of it, you’ve given me a little break on the penalties and interest but here’s a lot of it all at once. And this person was would have owed all at once over a million dollars. And that puts them out of business. It’s just like it was too much.

So yes, so there’s unfortunate circumstances. The good news is that’s rare. It’s actually like not — it’s not the everyday scenario. Most people don’t have that kind of massive volume in their sales as online sellers, and so if they’re doing a voluntary disclosure agreement, it’s a much more manageable amount to pay. And then if that’s not necessary, then really all that they’re looking at is the immediate expense that comes along with getting registered and starting to collect and pay going forward.

Steve: Right. Okay. Yeah, fair enough. Well Martina, thanks a lot for coming on the show and lending your expertise. If anyone wants to find you with more questions, where can they get you?

Martina: They can find me at Avalara.com. You can get a lot of information online but you can email me if you have questions, Martina.Chavez@avalara.com. If you’re going to be at a show coming up, we’re going to be at Prosper, we’ll be at Sellers Summit, so we’ll hopefully see some folks there as well. I’m looking forward to that Steve and yeah, we float around a lot of different places so find us in many places, but you can reach out to me directly at Martina.Chavez@avalara.com.

Steve: Awesome. Well Martina, I really appreciate your time.

Martina: Yeah. Thanks so much Steve, I appreciate it.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Martina: Okay, you too. Bye-bye.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, I probably get asked about sales tax at least three times a week. So, hopefully this episode with Martina has answered all those questions. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode246.

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

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

Now, I talk about how I use both of these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

245: A Student’s Candid Journey Selling On Amazon And How To Email Jeff Bezos

245: A Student's Candid Journey Selling On Amazon And How To Email Jeff Bezos

Today I have a special guest on the show, Maria. Maria is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course who is making 6 figures with her business and last week, I invited her to come talk to the other members of the class about her experiences starting her ecommerce business.

But instead of celebrating her success as an entrepreneur, I asked her to provide a candid account of her experiences including all of her struggles, her triumphs and how she overcame various obstacles on her journey.

This is a very raw episode and in fact, my chat with Maria was not intended for the podcast. But it got such rave reviews from the other students in the class that I decided to publish it for your enjoyment.

Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Maria found her niche
  • How Maria found her vendors
  • How to negotiate low MOQs
  • How to email Jeff Bezos and get a resolution
  • How to establish great relationships with your suppliers

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
ahrefs

GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have a special guest on the show, Maria Finch. Now Maria is a student in my Create a Profitable Online Store course who is making six figures with their e-commerce business. And last week, I invited her to come talk to the other members of the class about her experiences starting her e-commerce business.

But instead of celebrating her success as an entrepreneur, I asked her to provide a very candid account of her experiences, including all of her struggles, her triumphs and how she overcame various obstacles on her journey. Now, this is a very raw episode, and in fact, my chat with Maria was actually not intended for this podcast. But it got such rave reviews from the other students in my class that I decided to publish it for your enjoyment.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

You can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pops and abandoned cart email sequence as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So, bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding and taking cues from my customers and delivering personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over $100 who purchased handkerchiefs in the past year.

Now, it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo. And right now they have this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf to check it out. Once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf, 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: I have Maria in the class and I’ve spoken to her in the past — I think — was it a consult that we had or something like that?

Maria: It was after I hit 3,000 points.

Steve: After she hit 3,000 points. And you’ve been in the class for two years, three years.

Maria: So I started in March of 2016 so almost three years.

Steve: March of 2016, yeah, so almost three years. And what I liked about Maria is one, she’s very well spoken, two, She’s very competent, and she knows what she’s doing or she’s a quick learner. Over time, she’s developed a lot of skills. And what I wanted to do is I get asked these questions all the time from the students. And one of the main problems is that once someone becomes successful in the class, a lot of times they tend to clam up because Amazon especially is a very competitive area. And there’s always this fear that if you reveal your product, other people might jump in and copy and that sort of thing.

So, you’ll notice that whenever I go on the podcast with the students or whatnot, it’s almost always with someone who already has a solid website and their own following. And Maria has been doing very well in the past couple of years. And so, what I thought and she was gracious enough to come on office hours and kind of talk about her experiences, kind of like her struggles, her triumphs and what she’s gotten stuck on, and that sort of thing. And I don’t want to do all the talking here Maria, if you want to give a quick intro to yourself, that’d be great.

Maria: Sure. I mean, so I have been doing this since March of 2016. I found Steve’s class after doing extensive research because it was really important to me to find a class that would be thorough, that was detailed and given by somebody who had a presentation style that I could stomach. I looked at a lot of different classes and some of them I was like, okay, it might be good content, but I don’t like to hear this person talk. Steve has it all, and I love that you always are refreshing your content, etc. So that was where I began at. I began with research on Jungle Scout, I ran it by Steve and I — are you still doing that?

Steve: I do, I do it for a lot — I am actually overloaded with them. So by the way, just quick aside, if you’ve submitted a niche critique for me, please be patient. It takes me like two or three days to do it and I have a whole bunch of them. So and I like to think about a little bit and do a little bit of competitive analysis before I respond. That’s why it takes a little longer, sorry, go on.

Maria: Well, so I will tell you that I came up with the niche and I ran it by Steve and Steve said, this looks like worth investigating further. He didn’t say yes, this is going to be successful because it’s like you’re giving it your best guess. But that really mattered to me. And so from there, I ordered a test market amount of products. I put them up, I sold them in a few days at a higher price than I thought I could and then I was like, okay, here’s my niche.

Steve: That’s great.

Maria: And I’ve just gone from there. And I mean I can give you all kinds of detail.

Steve: Well, you know what? Let’s start from the beginning. So you bought your first batch. And how large was it again?

Maria: I did about 10.

Steve: Ten okay. And then what did you do with those 10?

Maria: So, I had them air shipped to me because I wanted to put them up quickly. I put them up on Amazon. And in the meantime, I looked — so I ordered something that existed. So it was like, I went on Alibaba, I found something that existed. I said, okay, I’m going to try this. As soon as I got it, I decided how I wanted to modify that product. So, I put them up on Amazon to sell them and then I started making my own design. And then I went back to the manufacturer with my own design. I had them produce 20 of them and I ran a test market with my own design, and that went better than I could have imagined.

Steve: So let’s back up a little bit. So that first one that you just listed as is, how did that do, and did you run ads and whatnot for that first batch of 10?

Maria: I didn’t, I just put it up and those they sold but while that was up and selling, I started working on the other design. And I did a pretty quick turnaround to get my own design on there. My own design sold faster.

Steve: Right. So what I was trying to — so at this point, you were still trying to figure out whether this product had legs or not, right?

Maria: Yeah.

Steve: So did you get any initial sales that kind of convinced you of that fact for that first batch of 10?

Maria: Yes. But it was really when I got the batch of 20 that was my own design and they sold very quickly that I said, okay, this is good.

Steve: Okay, so let’s talk about that second batch of 20 then. As soon as you put it up, did you do anything to promote it, or did it just kind of sell on its own?

Maria: I didn’t do anything because I didn’t yet have any reviews. What I did, I had a couple friends buy them and put up reviews for me. And then this was — I mean, I wasn’t offering a discount or anything. These were just friends of mine who were helping me out. So I had a couple reviews but I didn’t do any PPC, I didn’t do anything like that. But I sold out of them in eight days, and I increased the price by $12 over eight days.

Steve: Okay, someone in the class is asking what was your original budget?

Maria: So, I didn’t — I had money that I was prepared to invest in this business. And so I wasn’t going from a budget. I just said, I’m like, okay, I’m going to start out with 20 of these. I’m going to see what happens. So, that initial 20 plus the air shipping, etc. cost me a couple hundred dollars.

Steve: Okay.

Maria: And so basically, I was making a couple hundred dollar decision to decide, am I going to dive deeper into this?

Steve: And those changes that you made with your product, can you kind of describe that process?

Maria: So, I’m just going to go ahead and reveal what I do and I’m going to ask the people in the class, don’t copy me. So, I sell [inaudible 00:08:50] and I have lived overseas in multiple places in the world where [inaudible 00:08:56] were essential for life. So, when I got the first [inaudible 00:08:59] right away, I was like, okay, here are the things that I would change based on my own experience with using this. So, it was a pretty personal decision about what I decided to change.

Steve: Oh, that’s not what I meant, actually. How did you work with the manufacturer to make those changes?

Maria: Oh, okay, sorry, I misunderstood you. So, first thing is on Alibaba I chose only gold level. I made sure they were trade assured, I did all of that stuff. I initially sent emails to maybe five different manufacturers saying, here’s what I want to do, can you do it? I followed one of the things that you had put out. And then the manufacturer who I felt like gave me the best answers, that’s the one that I bought the original samples with, which was an as is, and then that’s the one that I started corresponding with and saying, here are the changes I’d like to make, do you have this ability? And they were great and I have worked with them ever since.

Steve: So, were those changes, you just described them in words or did you — like how complicated were these changes?

Maria: They were simple enough that I could describe them in words and drawings. So, I made some drawings and then I was really careful in how I said things. And we had quite a bit of back and forth. I mean, the manufacturer was really good at asking me detailed questions, which I appreciated.

Steve: And then, how many samples were produced back and forth until you kind of came up with your final one?

Maria: One.

Steve: Really, okay, that’s amazing. Even for me for a handkerchief, it sometimes takes a couple iterations.

Maria: Yeah, I mean, with later products that I’ve done, I’ve had more back and forth but the first one they just got it right, right away.

Steve: Okay. And then did you have any quality issues at all?

Maria: No, I have been really lucky. So, I have everything inspected in China before it’s shipped and I use Asia Inspection. So, I have found that Asia Inspection almost always fails everything, but then when I go in and I read the details, I find that what they’re failing are not really things that I would fail for. There has only been once that they came up with a defect that I was like, oh, this really isn’t okay. And this was a lot later in my journey. And I emailed the manufacturer, I said, hey, sorry, this is just not acceptable. And they actually on their own dime, they went back and they corrected every single one. And they sent me photographs, they sent me a video of them doing it, but that was because I have put a tremendous amount of energy into building really good relationships with my manufacturers.

So they’re invested in me in the same way that I’m invested in them. And I really feel like this was such a good example. Like I said, this is not going to work and they said, oh, we’re so sorry. I had been very clear. So when I place an order, I make a list and I say, these are the things you’re going to be inspected on, and so you should be paying attention to these things as you make them. So I always do that beforehand. And in this case, they said you told us this and we blew it. So it’s on us to fix it, and they fixed it.

Steve: When you get your inspections, do you get it done on the line, at the end, or both?

Maria: I’ve only done them at the end.

Steve: At the end. Okay, so when you caught this error, they had already produced a bunch of them?

Maria: They had already produced 4,650.

Steve: Wow. Okay, so clearly if this was your first order, that might not have come out the way that…

Maria: Oh, it would not have, it would have been a total disaster. So, I think that a couple of things, number one is, I would never start with a big order. I would start with smaller orders and build up even though you’re going to pay more, who cares? It’s better to pay a little more and have the security of knowing that you’ve got a manageable amount to inspect and you can feel confident that the inspection is valid, etc. So I’d start small and build up.

Steve: Okay. And so, a question from the class; was it hard to find a manufacturer who would allow for such a low order number? You mentioned you only produce 20 of your custom design? How did you convince them to just produce 20?

Maria: So, what I did was I said, this is — I explained that I was going to do a test to market and that to do a test market, I needed a small number and that as long as this went well, that I would be ordering a lot more and they believed me.

Steve: Okay, did you have a voice contact or was this just through email?

Maria: All email?

Steve: Really? Okay. That is amazing. You must be very convincing. Usually to produce low quantities like that, I would have to get on the on the phone with them or like on Skype or whatever with them. So it just depends on the manufacturer. Do you remember the language that you used to get such a low number, or was it just exactly what you said?

Maria: I can go back and find it because I sent it by email. But I mean, I don’t remember off the top of my head. This was years ago.

Steve: Of course.

Maria: I mean, I can find the language, I can send you the language if you want.

Steve: Okay, what was I going to ask about that? Okay, so first of all, how much do you pay per inspection? And then, because of that incident, did you start changing your inspection towards like the front of the line as opposed to all at the very end?

Maria: So the inspections are, I’ve done sort of the same level; it’s like level two or something in Asia Inspection. If you go in, you can see their pricing, so it’s like $360, something like that. And so, it was my most recent order where this error happened that they fixed, and I haven’t ordered again yet, so I haven’t changed anything yet. And honestly, I don’t really think I would, because I feel like I have such a good relationship with this manufacturer that if I’m really clear in saying this is what I expect and this is what you’re going to be inspected on, I mean, it seems like they’ll honor it.

Steve: Right. Yeah, I mean, I’ll just tell a quick story. And you guys might have heard this on my podcast with the handkerchiefs where we got fabric that was all kind of slightly blue, and we couldn’t sell it. Now, ultimately, the manufacturer, we have a great relationship, they were willing to make it right. But that was like another four or five months gone, right? We weren’t going to get product. And so what we started doing now, and this is kind of why I was asking you is we front load the inspection to just grab like the first couple pieces off the line. And so that way, they haven’t made a whole bunch yet and we catch it now much earlier.

Maria: So, one of the things that I do is they send me photographs, they send me detailed photographs of the first ones they make.

Steve: Okay, yeah, so for us, the photograph would not have actually exposed the problem. It would have had — it’s like a slight shade of white that’s different. So we would have had to have seen the product in hand. So that’s just something extra we do now just because we got burned. This was just, the vendor has been rock solid for many years, over five years and then all of a sudden this happened.

Maria: So how much do you have to pay for that initial?

Steve: It’s the same price. It’s basically essentially an inspection at the front end and then one in the back. It’s actually cheaper if you only want them to pull like a couple pieces or so.

Maria: Right.

Steve: Yeah, because they don’t have to go through like a huge bunch. Okay, so another question for you. At what point did she start private labeling and customize your packaging like for those initial 20?

Maria: I did it with the initial 20. The only thing I ever sold that wasn’t mine was the first order of 10 where I was just testing by themselves. So it was an as is. As soon as I did the order of 20, I put my company name and everything on it.

Steve: Okay, so as soon as those 20 started selling, what did you do to kind of increase your sales and what was your process like?

Maria: So, you mean front — well so the first 20 sold and then I placed a big order.

Steve: Okay. So what was your size of your big order?

Maria: It was 3,000.

Steve: 3,000 okay.

Maria: Yeah. So it was basically a container full. And then I learned the hard way that when you lose your sales momentum, it sets you back. So, it took me a while to gain that sales momentum back. And I did PPC, I had some friends buy them, I did different things to like get that momentum back.

Steve: Did you do anything special to kind of boost sales outside of just Amazon PPC, for example, did you do anything to get reviews?

Maria: The only thing I did to get reviews and I only did this a few times was I had friends review things for me. And actually, one of the things that I did that I think works really well especially now where Amazon is paying attention to buying reviews is I traded reviews with some people. So, I bought their product, I reviewed it, they bought my product, they reviewed it.

Steve: Interesting. Okay another question; you did FBA for even those initial batches, right?

Maria: Yes.

Steve: Okay. And Sandra is asking, what do you mean by lose your sales momentum? I was actually kind of curious about that too because with 20 units, you don’t really have that much sales momentum right?

Maria: So, I just — so when I sold 20 units, they sold quickly and then I had a dead zone where I didn’t have any more products to sell. I left one in there and I jacked the price way up so that it wouldn’t just go to zero. But then when I restocked, I thought they would just sell quickly again and they didn’t. It took a while for that to get going again.

Steve: Okay, just for future reference for the class, you probably shouldn’t jack up your price on those last units. You should probably just let it sell out and then…

Maria: I know that now. At the time, that’s what I thought, was the right thing to do. That was three years ago.

Steve: Three years ago. Yeah, no, I’m not criticizing you. I’m just saying.

Maria: Yeah I know, I’m just saying.

Steve: Okay. And so all right, so things started going well. And I want to kind of shift gears a little bit and talk about some of your struggles. Like, it wasn’t obviously all smooth sailing. And I just kind of want to highlight some of the things that you had to go through.

Maria: So, I ended up switching freight forwarders. I had a freight forwarder who gave me quote, who basically there was like a big miscommunication and it was just a total nightmare. And then I was like, okay, I have all this product here, but I’m not going to ship with this freight forwarder. So then I was out searching for another freight forwarder. That was one big challenge in the beginning.

Steve: Well, can you share who you are using now?

Maria: Yes. So who I use now is called Bestocean Worldwide Logistics, they’re in California. They have been great; they give me great prices for shipping. They also do warehousing, and they have a warehouse system that’s actually like computerized so that you can do everything online and you you can see exactly what’s going on as opposed to like some third party warehouses where you’re hoping they know what they’re doing. So yeah, Bestocean Worldwide Logistics, if anybody wants the name of my rep I can provide.

Steve: You mentioned that, do you take advantage of their warehousing?

Maria: I do.

Steve: So, do they do any prep work for you before they send it off to Amazon?

Maria: So, I am only sending case packed cartons to Amazon so they’re coming from the manufacturer case packed, so all the warehouse is doing for me is putting the FBA label on and sending them in. And the great thing is their warehouse is located right by the Ontario California Amazon fulfillment center. So, usually things get there in a day.

Steve: I see. Okay, so when you make that larger, you have it shipped over to their warehouse and they do the flooring to the Ontario warehouse.

Maria: And I do it that way because my product is seasonal, so in the offseason I don’t want a lot of things sitting in Amazon that I’m just going to pay storage on. I pay less money in storage at my third party warehouse than I would pay if I just stored everything there. So, I manage my inventory that way. I watch on Amazon, as it’s getting low, I have my warehouse send in more because I want to be paying Amazon less. Amazon charges more for storage than my warehouse charges, so I do it that way.

Steve: Yeah, so that’s just a quick tip for the students out there. Amazon over the years, they’ve just been jacking up their storage fees especially over the holidays, it’s like three x higher. And if you do your research, you’ll find that warehousing can be like up to six times cheaper than what Amazon charges to hold their products. So the way that Maria is doing it, having it stored in a warehouse and having it kind of shift piecemeal so that you don’t have too much stuff in Amazon’s warehouse at any given time will save you money.

Maria: Yes.

Steve: Does your manufacturer also create your packaging for you or do you have another person do the packaging for you?

Maria: They do it all. They outsource the packaging. So, in the manufacturing time, one of the things that can make your manufacturing time longer is they’re getting different pieces of the package from different places. So for example, there’s an insert, there’s a plastic bag, there’s a cloth bag, each of those is coming from a different place. So, they’re managing all of that, but it can just affect timing and you want to make sure your manufacturer knows how to do it. I have two manufacturers, they’ve both been great.

Steve: Okay, does your warehouse do any labeling for your product or are they just boxing stuff up and sending it in?

Maria: So, they are not boxing anything, the boxes are coming packed from China, all they’re doing is putting an FB a label on it, but they can do anything and everything. They can label individual products, they can do individual product fulfilling, they can do it all.

Steve: But for your purposes, each one of your products are individually labeled with your FNSKU, right?

Maria: Right. I have an insert that has that on it. So there’s no labeling involved. It’s all; the only label is the label that goes on the carton to send it to Amazon.

Steve: Okay Kathy, I will post all the information about Maria’s freight forwarder below this video so that everyone can have access to it. All right, so more on struggles, sorry. So we were talking about … Yeah, we got sidetracked there.

Maria: So I mean, the majority of my struggles have been dealing with Amazon, like Amazon has overcharged me fees. Amazon is taken down listings when they shouldn’t have; Amazon has done all kinds of things. And I have been — the number one thing I can tell you about selling on Amazon which Steve’s on blog posts said about a week ago is you have to watch them like a hawk. And that means you got to play around with all their silly reports and find the reports that give you the data you really need. I have like Seller Central; their customer service drives me insane. So, multiple times I have emailed Jeff Bezos himself, and I’ve been successful in speaking with his reps, and that’s how I’ve gotten things fixed.

So for example, they had overcharged me a fee for one of my products for like a year and I just fought and fought and fought and I got to Jeff Bezos his person and I said, this has been overcharged, I can prove it. She tried to argue with me but then she reimbursed it all.

Steve: Can you talk about what that fee was?

Maria: It was the FBA fees, so not the percentage that they take, but the fee that they charge for doing FBA.

Steve: Did your item get misclassified somehow? Is that why it happened?

Maria: They never said so. I had I think I started out saying this needs to be re-measured, and they came back with the measurement but it’s still based on what was on their website and then what this person was telling me, they didn’t add up. So, I just kept sending her a link to the website saying this is not what your website says. And so, I don’t know if she blew it or if something on the website was incorrect, but I could prove that they were overcharging me. So they reimbursed me for all of it.

Steve: How many interactions before you decided to email Jeff?

Maria: I only email Jeff if it’s something that I think is like a bigger level Amazon issue. So, I’ve emailed him about this fee change, because I think that to me was like, is there something wrong in your algorithm that’s overcharging this on a Prime Day? So on Prime Day in 2017, when my sales were going like gangbusters, they took the prime tag off of my listings.

Steve: That actually happened to a lot of people. I feel it was on purpose.

Maria: I went straight to the top; they came back, so it took a while. It usually takes like two weeks to hear back from one of Jeff’s reps and they told me that they can do whatever they want with the prime badges. And I said, okay, that’s fine but the problem was you guys sent out a media guide saying, here’s what you should do on social media to promote Prime Day. And I had followed that. And so I said, essentially what you did was you made me spend money to drive traffic to Amazon, but then I didn’t get to benefit from that as a seller. And they said that because I had made a business decision based on information that they sent me, they gave me some money.

Steve: Okay, so you’ve had pretty good luck emailing Jeff.

Maria: I have. I mean, I’ve had other times where I’ve gone straight through and I have had them say, we do understand where you’re coming from, but we’re not going to do anything. I’ve gotten compensation multiple times. And I think that I mean, I’m very careful in how I structure emails to him. I make them very factual and make sure that I’m giving data that can actually be acted upon and not giving any opinions, not putting any emotion to it and making it really scientific. So somebody can read it and be like, oh, wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense. And those get responses.

Steve: Would you be willing to share one of those emails?

Maria: Sure.

Steve: Okay, cool. Once again, I’ll post it below the video if Maria can find it. A question from the class, you mentioned you now sell multiple products. Did you just grow in your niche, or do you have a diverse selection of unrelated products now?

Maria: Yeah, I’m only in my niche.

Steve: Can we talk about some of the specific Amazon struggles that you’ve had and which ones have impacted you the most?

Maria: I mean, I feel like every struggle I’ve had with Amazon has impacted me. Like when I figured out that they were overcharging me this fee, I was so angry because I was just like why are they being so dishonest? And how can — when I went back and forth with Seller Central and they always come up with strange things like some of them. One of the reps I talked to reimbursed me like a couple of cents, but they weren’t really paying attention to what I was saying, they weren’t following the detail. And then when I finally got to Jeff Bezos, his rep, and then it got fixed, he was like, okay, that was worth my time. And then I go on.

So, I kind of feel like with each struggle with Amazon, I go through a phase where I’m really mad at Amazon, I think I’m crazy to be on Amazon, I think it’s time to shift over to my own store, etc., etc. And then I force myself to get over it and go on. And the truth is, I mean, this has happened to me multiple times. And I think it’s just the price of doing business on Amazon. I mean, I’m in touch with people who are much bigger sellers than me, and they have the same thing. I think it’s just part of the nature of the business on Amazon. Has that been your experience?

Steve: Absolutely, which is I think the class pretty much knows this either through the podcast and whatnot. But whenever an Amazon issue pops up, my wife just gets a really bad mood and it last for weeks, or however long it takes. So, that’s why we’ve made a conscious effort to focus more on our own shop. Actually, that’s my next question for you, Maria. You’ve gone through all this stuff. And it’s a struggle and it’s come out good for you. You’ve gotten resolutions, but how much time and mind share has that taken you to get to that point? And are you focusing more now on your own site or are you still all in on Amazon?

Maria: So, I’m my goal for 2019 is to get as much business off of Amazon as I have on Amazon. And that’s my absolute focus. So I am, like it’s the beginning of the year. So I’m doing kind of a re-optimization of my listing on Amazon doing a re-work of the keywords etc. As soon as that’s done, I’m going to let Amazon fly a little bit. I mean, you got to always watch them like a hawk. But I’m going to try and reduce the amount of time I’m spending dealing with that and really put my efforts into I’m focusing on business to business sales.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank Ahrefs for being a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m a huge fan of their tool and in my opinion Ahrefs is the best all in one SEO tool out there to rank in Google search. And recently, I completed a search engine site audit for mywifequitherjob.com and Bumblebeelinens.com and Ahrefs was indispensable. For example, I used Ahrefs to do a deep dive into all my posts to find the highest volume, lowest competition keywords to target in search. And in fact, recently, I used Ahrefs to rank a blog post in Google from position 20 to position five for a big time keyword in the span of just one month by switching around my title and H1 tags.

I also use Ahrefs to spy my competitors’ sites to see what keywords they are ranking for, and then I write a more comprehensive post and eventually outrank them in search. Now those of you who know me know that I hate spending money on tools, but I actually pay for Ahrefs and that should say something in itself. Right now, I’m giving away nine three month Ahrefs memberships for free. To sign up, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway, once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway to win a three month Ahrefs membership. Now back to the show.

Yes, I was just going to suggest there’s probably a lot of organizations that will buy from you in bulk.

Maria: Yeah, yeah. And I’m not interested in doing individual sales off of Amazon because I don’t want to be doing customer service etc. But I want it business to business like individual sales Amazon can do that but the rest I want.

Steve: Can we talk a little bit about mindset here, especially if you can remember when you first started out, just taking those risks. Did you just go into this saying, hey, I’m going to invest a couple thousand dollars in this and whatever happens? How did you finally just be willing to take that first leap and place that first $4,000 order or 4,000 unit order I should say?

Maria: Yeah, so I’m really good at research. I had watched like so many things in your library. I had corresponded with you to ask you questions, I felt reasonably confident. Another thing that has been absolutely key in my journey, though, is that I started meeting with another student once a week, and we’ve met once a week for almost three years. And our relationship has been essential because we help each other, we figure out what’s working, what’s not, we make suggestions. And then, another student in the class, we don’t get together regularly, but she’s also been really key in helping me feel confident.

I am a very determined person. So, I just decided, I’m like I decided I’m like, based on all of the research that I’ve done, based on all of the webinars that I watched, this should work. So it’s going to work. And then I just worked really hard to make sure that it did. And that meant paying attention to a ton of details. It meant continuously learning because it shifts so often. So, I mean, I still put a lot of energy into hearing the latest changes and whatever, and then adapting accordingly.

But basically, from the beginning, I just decided, like, I’m doing this and I’m doing this all the way. I will say that if in 2017, if 2017 hadn’t been as successful as it was, I might have said, oh, maybe I should switch niches. But 2017 was very successful and so it was just confirmation in like you’re doing the right thing. And then in 2018, I grew by 77%.

Steve: I’m just trying to get an idea of where your mindset was. Let’s say the first batch of 20 didn’t sell out immediately, let’s say you sold maybe four units, would that have been enough to push you over the edge, or would one sale have done the trick for you?

Maria: No, it definitely mattered that I sold them all quickly and that I was able to raise the price significantly while they were selling. Like every day I raised the price by the dollar or more. Had that test market not gone so well, I may have revisited the niche. I probably would have contacted you and said, hey, what else should I try? I mean, really, that test market made a lot of sense to me. The other thing is that because this product is kind of personal to me, like I had done a lot of research about just the global environment and sort of how does this product fit into the global environment and I was really confident that there would be a market based on that research as well.

Steve: All right, I think the reason why I’m asking you that question is because these days, it’s a lot more rare for you to just throw something up and then sell out 20 units. You have to do a little bit more these days. And so I guess you’ve launched several products since then, right?

Maria: I have three products and three products have made me a six figure seller.

Steve: Right. So for those other ones, I guess at this point, you’re already confident and so you probably just put them up and then just started running ads and it was all peachy, right?

Maria: So for the second two, yeah. I put them up, I had a couple of friends by them so that I had two reviews and I started running PPC right away. And I also, my timing was really good. If you were to start with [inaudible 00:35:48] today, it would be much harder because there’s more competition. So, I had the advantage of having gotten in when I did. So that’s something to consider like if you want to get in on something I think before it becomes to popular in theory.

Steve: Sure. A couple questions from the class. Where are you located, and is this a full time business for you now?

Maria: I am in Alexandria, Virginia, and yes, it’s a full time business.

Steve: And were you working when you started this?

Maria: No.

Steve: All right, so we’ve talked about struggles. We’ve talked about how you got started; do you have any tips for some of the students in the class who are just kind of starting out?

Maria: So, I think one of my tips would be when you’re doing product research, I mean, I know there are sort of two lines. One is to fall in love with the product that has the best numbers and the other is to find a product that somehow speaks to you. So for me, it worked where a product that had good numbers happened to also be a product that spoke to me personally, so spoke to my own life experience. And I really think that that connection was very helpful. So, I think if you can find a product where you get good numbers, but it’s also something that inspires you or is connected to you some other way, that’s a good thing to pursue.

Steve: So, given that you just said that, if things weren’t going so hot in that first 20 units, would you have probably just kept with it for a while longer because this niche kind of spoke to you?

Maria: I might have I mean, I might have tried a different design, so I might have said, okay, maybe this first design I came up with wasn’t the best one to try. I mean, because looking at the bigger picture, saying what’s happening in the world? So, the temperature is only going up, bugs are only getting worse. That was a pretty good impetus for me to say this seems like a logical thing to get into. If I wasn’t looking at that bigger picture, then if something didn’t sell right away, I might say probably not a good choice. But I’ve always been looking at this from a big picture but then also from details, looking on both sides.

Steve: Are there any mistakes that you made early on that you’d care to share and that other students would hopefully avoid going forward?

Maria: I actually think that the first order that I did of 3000, I think I was overly ambitious. I think I probably should have made that first order a little smaller, because as it ended up, that model sells less than the two models that I did later. I mean, it’s still a good model, but it’s just kind of interesting how that went. I don’t have any regrets because I learned from doing it, but I think if you can get a manufacturer — so like if I had first ordered 1,000 of that model, I might have made modifications to it. I might have decided I didn’t want to continue with that model and that other models would make me more money. So yeah, and the thing is hindsight is 2020. At the time it totally made sense to me to go ahead and order a container of them and go forward, but now when I look back I say, that was pretty ambitious and it would have been okay to start with 1,000 and then reorder.

Steve: It’s funny that you say that because whenever students asked me how much they should get for their first order, if it’s anywhere close to the holidays, I usually advise them to get more than they think that they’re going to need which is kind of what you…

Maria: But I mean close to the holidays I would agree with you. I mean if I was in the season, so had my timing been different, had I’ve been ordering those 3,000 that’s in March and they had arrived in May, I probably would have sold them like gangbusters. Instead, I did my test market during peak season but then the order production time took Time and so I didn’t actually get those until the fall when they were starting to get [inaudible 00:40:07], so some of it was timing. So that’s another thing to think about is timing especially if you have a seasonal product. I absolutely agree with you, if you have a product that’s going to sell hot over the holidays, then yes, buy more than you think you should. I agree with you 100%.

Steve: This is a lot of people are usually squeamish about that first order. So they’re like, hey Steve, should I just get 200 units. I’m like 200 units is not going to last you.

Maria: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a couple things. One is, even if you do a test market and your test market is successful, you may decide that there’s something you want to change if it’s your own design. And so if you start out with fewer, you can change that design quicker. But if you’re not in that scenario, then it’s totally, then I think I would look at it very differently. So, only from a design perspective would I say start a little smaller, double check your design, make sure there isn’t anything you’re going to want to change further and then go into a bigger order. And by small, I mean like 1,000.

Steve: Okay, are there any things that you’re doing now for your later product launches that you weren’t doing in your first launch because you figured a few things out? Are you doing anything differently today to launch a product?

Maria: I’m not.

Steve: Okay. So it’s the tried and true formula of creating a really good listing, Amazon PPC, anything else that you’d care to share?

Maria: I think the key is have — so I know that now apparently Amazon is connecting friends with friends. So have friends of friends buy things and put up a few reviews for you. I pay people, so I will say if you’ll buy this for me, I’ll send you a check for the product if you put up a review, like I will do that because that gets you your first reviews. It gets you on the board and then start PPC. I would do that with two.

Steve: Right. Okay.

Maria: I’m not talking about doing this with 10 or 100 or whatever.

Steve: Of course.

Maria: Start small because it’s just kind of getting the ball rolling. I’m a big believer in, you got to get the boulder in motion. And once the boulder is in motion, physics takes over. So, get the boulder in motion and then, do all you can to support it.

Steve: Okay. Does anyone in the class — I mean, we’re almost close to 50 minutes here and I don’t want to keep you too long here. Does anyone in the class have any other questions for Maria? I’ll continue talking but if you have any questions, just post them on the live chat because Maria is gracious enough to be here and talk very openly about what she sells and her struggles and that sort of thing. And so, I think this is a really good opportunity for anyone who’s curious. So, anyone who’s just kind of starting out and a little bit hesitant about the entire process.

Maria: Another thing I did want to mention is that I think that I mean I have to do this all the time, it’s some backing yourself up. It’s like making yourself feel good about what you’re doing. And one of the things that I use is mantras. I don’t know if anyone has ever done that. But you can get up in the morning and you can tell it, kind of give yourself what’s your focus for the day. So you might say, I am powerful and then you write that down a whole bunch of times. And as you’re writing it, and you’re reading it, it just helps you get a mindset. And then I find that that carries into my day.

Steve: Okay, a couple of other questions that have just come in. You mentioned trading reviews, where did you find people who are willing to do that?

Maria: So, this was in the old days when we had the forum and I asked on the forum.

Steve: Actually, we still have that that forum. I know I said I was taking it away, but I just kind of left it around because a few students asked me to just keep it around. So I haven’t removed it just yet.

Maria: Well, and I should say to give credit there was another student who came up with the idea and then we have pursued it.

Steve: Okay all right. So you got a whole bunch of thank yous, I don’t know if you’re on the classroom page right now Maria but everyone has found this extremely valuable and very informative. I was going to ask you, how do you plan — so first of all, how many hours do you work on this business a week?

Maria: So, one of one of the reasons why I did this is I wanted to have a lifestyle business where I don’t have specific work hours and relax hours. I mean, I would say probably 40 to 60.

Steve: Really okay.

Steve: If you were to break down the time that you spend, do where the breakdown is? Is it on product research, Amazon issues, how does it break out?

Maria: I spend a lot of time on research, and it’s not just product, it’s researching — so for me what’s going on [inaudible 00:44:52] what’s going on with the disease, where there are outbreaks, because I have a Facebook page that I post on every single day. So, I’m trying to keep people informed. I see my business as educational in addition to providing a product.

Steve: Do you have a blog as well or is it just a Facebook page?

Maria: I do, I have a blog on my website. So I have a website that just links all my products to Amazon because I’m not yet selling from my website because I want that to only be business to business. But I do have a blog on my website. I am not blogging all the time. And Stephen, I had talked about this a while ago. I don’t know if you remember, but it’s like in some ways with [inaudible 00:45:37], there’s a limited number of things you’re going to discuss. So, I’ve kind of done those posts and then I revisit them. I do try and come up with new ideas. But Facebook is one of my primary things that I’m using to just kind of communicate with a broader field of people and to demonstrate like this is not only about a product, this is about keeping you informed.

Steve: Do you have anyone on your staff to help you?

Maria: My dog.

Steve: Your dog. Okay that’s great. So there you have it Maria. Maria is doing this solo essentially right now.

Maria: But I really, I consider my team to be Steve, a couple students that I am in regular touch with, my faithful order, my manufacturers of, my warehouse people. I consider that to be my whole team, and so even though technically like I’m the one doing it, there’s a lot of people that are involved.

Steve: Of course, of course, so no full time employees I guess?

Maria: No, I’m in.

Steve: Okay. Well Maria, this has been great. I really appreciate it, and the class does too. You might want to hop on the live chat, maybe later open it up and just everyone is like yeah, thank you so much. Dan was just saying, thank you everyone for making this a safe space where we can openly discuss our products and not feel too vulnerable.

Maria: I did begin by telling you [inaudible 00:46:59] don’t be bad, so don’t do that.

Steve: I will ban anyone’s account if you sell [inaudible 00:47:05].

Maria: Yeah, the other — I mean, my main message though, to fellow classmates is, it’s possible. I mean, I went from zero to six figures in…

Steve: A year and a half.

Maria: Yeah, a year and a half. So it’s very, very doable and you have to really just keep motivating yourself and keep saying I can do it, I believe in myself, and you got to be right about that. Like you can’t have a pipe dream and pursue a pipe dream. You got to make sure your dream is grounded in reality.

Steve: Well, Maria, I’m going to stop the broadcast. Hang out a little bit, I want to talk to you a little bit, but thanks a lot.

Maria: You’re welcome. Good luck.

Steve: I hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, you probably noticed that I had to bleep out Maria’s product from the podcast and unfortunately, all the extra resources mentioned in the podcast are for students only. But I hope you got a lot out of this episode. It’s not always smooth sailing, but as long as you are persistent and detail oriented, you will eventually succeed. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode245.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for developing real quality customer relationships. Right now they just released a cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where you can learn successful e-commerce marketing strategies from real companies using their platform. This docuseries is free and you could check it out at Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

244: Tim Schmoyer On How To Create A Successful YouTube Channel

244:  Tim Schmoyer On How To Create A Successful You Tube Channel

Today, I’m really happy to have Tim Schmoyer on the show. Tim is someone who came highly recommended to me by Colin Jones who will be a future guest on this podcast.

He is a veteran when it comes to audience growth on YouTube. And he specializes in helping YouTube creators spread their message to reach people online.

His channel has over 400K subscribers and this interview comes at an opportune time because I’m actively trying to grow my new show, The 5 Minute Pitch.

What You’ll Learn

  • Tim’s motivation for starting VideoCreators.com.
  • The types of videos that work well on Youtube?
  • How to build traffic to your videos and establish an audience
  • How to get a video to rank in search
  • What you can do in your video to grab a watcher’s attention

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
ahrefs

GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have Tim Schomoyer on the podcast. And Tim is my go to expert when it comes to building successful YouTube channels. And it just so happens that interviewing Tim comes at a very fortuitous time because I just released my brand new show where 32 entrepreneurs pitch their products for the chance to win $50,000 in cold hard cash.

Now my new show is called the 5 Minute Pitch. And you can think of it as a more relatable down to earth version of Shark Tank where the judges actually provide actionable feedback to the contestants. Now my fellow judges are Greg Mercer, Scott Voelker and Mike Jackness, and you can check out the show at 5MinutePitch.com/launch, once again that’s 5MinutePitch.com/launch.

Now before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding, and taking cues from my customers and deliver personalized marketing messages. For example, with the click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over $100 who purchased a red handkerchief in the past year.

And it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo. Right now they have this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Well, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. They’re a bunch of companies out there that will manage your email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form, email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m happy to have Tim Schomoyer on the show. Now, Tim is actually someone who I have not met in real life but he’s someone who came highly recommended to me from a friend of mine by the name of Colin Jones who will be a future guest on this podcast. Now who is Tim? Well, he is a veteran when it comes to audience growth on YouTube. And he specializes in helping YouTube creators spread their message to reach people online.

His channel has over 400k, subscribers and meeting Tim actually comes at a very opportune time for me, because I’m thinking about starting my own YouTube channel for real this time. I’m actually sitting on about 11k sales right now by accident and not doing anything with these people at all. And hopefully Tim can help both me and the audience out. And with that, welcome to show Tim, how are you doing today?

Tim: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m doing great.

Steve: So Tim, give us a quick background story in your motivation for starting VideoCreators.com.

Tim: Yeah, so I actually started back – I started on YouTube without any sort of motivation to do something like Video Creators, which is my business today where we work with creators and help them grow their audiences on YouTube. It actually started back in 2006. I was in graduate school halfway across the country from my family. And I was dating this girl and was trying to figure out a way of introducing her to my family back home. And I was doing a blog at that time, which I was using the way most people use Facebook today. Back then Facebook wasn’t a thing yet.

And so, I was just posting on there what I ate for dinner the night before. And then this YouTube thing came along. I’m like, oh, instead of emailing them video files, I could just post them here and they can just click play, it’ll be a lot easier. So, I started making videos with her going out to eat, going out the restaurants, going out to the park, on movies. Today we would know them as vlogs but back then that wasn’t a word. It was just being awkward in public with a camera. So, I would go out make these videos, I post them on YouTube, better than my blog and my family could watch them.

Well then, this weird thing started happening where other people started watching them too. And I was a little bit nervous because this was during Myspace days now where if someone knew who you were on the internet for some reason, they will come down and kill you. Right? I was like, who is Catholic, you’re 69? And should I be concerned that they’re watching my videos and commenting? So, I was trying to figure out like, who are these people? Why are they watching my videos? Where are they coming from?

And I started asking around other people who are posting on YouTube and everyone was like, we don’t know, Tim, but we’re trying to figure it out and if you if you figure it out, let us know. I’m like, okay, like a good challenge. And so from the very beginning days of YouTube, I was the guy trying to figure out how does this platform work? How do people discover content here? What keeps them coming back? What gets people engaged, what builds community all around on my video?

And in 2013, I started doing this audience development YouTube professionally full time for a lot of different companies and people, but in 2013 I launched VideoCreators.com which is business I run today. It is a small team of nine people who work for me, and together we’re just all working with clients and helping train people, doing their YouTube strategy for them and so far we have helped our clients gain 14 billion views and 61 million subscribers.

Steve: Wow, that’s a huge number.

Tim: We have a lot of fun with it. And for me it’s all about reaching people and changing their lives which is ultimately I think is about my girlfriend at the time now wife, we got married, and now we have seven kids in eight years somehow.

Steve: Oh my goodness.

Tim: We didn’t know that was possible, but we’re just seeing tons of people watching our family videos just like having their lives change, people who didn’t like to commit suicide because videos we’ve made. And people saying, I was about to to get divorced, but I watched your video or you and your wife are learning how to love each other better and I shared that with my husband, we talked about it and now we have hope again for our marriage, just want to say thank you. And just tons of stories I could tell you, but I know you want to talk about more than that. But that’s what gets me most excited. And I just love it when other people can spread that message that reaches people and changes lives.

Steve: That’s really awesome Tim, and when it comes to YouTube and today’s podcast, I actually want you to start from the beginning, but I don’t really want to talk about the mechanics of shooting a video or the equipment that you need, because all that somebody can find online. Let’s just assume that everyone knows how to shoot audio and video and let’s start actually by talking about what types of videos work well, and if there’s a different mindset involved in getting traffic on YouTube. So for example, does it involve keyword research, is it very deliberate and how you put out these videos and tag them.

Tim: Yeah, so that’s a really big topic to discuss. And the short answer is that there’s many ways to get discovered on YouTube. A lot of people come to YouTube, especially bloggers come to YouTube thinking primarily the way they think with Google, which is primarily search. And so, they are thinking in terms of keywords and outranking each other and it’s very competitive. But on YouTube, I mean, it’s the second largest search engine in the country, second only to Google.com itself — or not in the country, in the world. But YouTube is much more than just search. I mean, there’s that search feature, but a lot of people also can discover you through suggested videos, through the homepage and through playlist and through recommendations.

And so, what’s different about YouTube versus what people are familiar with on Google is if Google does their job well, you’re on their site for maybe a few seconds, and then you’re gone. But YouTube has the opposite goal, their goal is to get you on their platform and stay there as long as possible. And so, discovery is there’s a lot more discovery happening than just search. So, that totally answers your question but just think bigger than that.

Steve: So obviously search is a component of discovery, right? So, let’s talk about that first and then focus on how to get people to stick on your channel and continue to watch you.

Tim: Yeah, I don’t usually target search any more personally, it’s been about a few years. And the reason for that is one is really competitive, and two the principle is like where is your most valuable customer, and go after them. And in terms of YouTube, your most valuable customer/viewer is typically not a search driven customer/viewer, because those people are just looking for information real quick and then once they get the information, they’re gone. They’re scrubbing ahead, they’re like, okay, it’s taking too long, but just looking for information. And according to almost everyone’s analytics I’ve ever seen, the search traffic is worth the least from an average view duration perspective, which is which viewer gives me the most amount of watch time which is just the amount of time someone spends watching your video.

And so, if the goal, YouTube’s goal is to get people to come back to YouTube as often as possible, engage with as much content as possible, then you want people who are going to be watching longer. And often those people come from end screens, playlists, suggested videos and things like that. So in order to hit search, what I’ve been doing for the past few years, it’s actually targeting suggested videos where I get more watch time.

And then what happens is, as I successfully do that, Google starts figuring out who my videos are for, who’s responding well to them. And then they just, literally, they just put my videos in front of the right people, whether they’re searching or they’re on their homepage, whether they’re watching a competitor of mine or whatever, YouTube just learns who this is for and puts it in front of them. So like I said, search is how most people think with Google but on YouTube it works a little differently.

Steve: Okay, so does that imply then that the titles don’t really matter from a keyword perspective, and then you just want to create titles that encourage someone to actually watch the video?

Tim: Yeah, you’re on the right track. Yes and no. So yes, they still matter, but in my opinion, they matter primarily for people like when we’re thinking about optimizing here we have to remember we’re optimizing for people, not for robots. So, everything that ranks in positions of videos and search and discovery mechanisms across YouTube, all of them are based on viewer signals, which is like I mentioned, how long this someone has been watching your video, do they click on it, watch for 10 seconds, and then leave versus this other video, the exact same title, keywords and everything. Do they click on that video watch for three and a half minutes? Well, Google is going to say that the one with three and a half minutes of watch time per person must be more valuable than the one with 10 seconds.

And so, the one that’s only hooking people for 10 seconds is going to drop pretty quickly in results and suggested. And so, the title matters, but not because you’ve repeated the keyword 16 times and really convinced Google that this must be about that keyword. But it’s more because the keyword is what the person who’s looking for that information expected to see. And so they clicked on it, this must be about what I’m looking for. And then the content has to deliver because at the end of the day titles and tags and descriptions, nothing matters if the content itself isn’t actually crafted to hold someone’s attention.

Steve: Okay, and so does the keyword tag when you’re creating a video, does that really matter?

Tim: No, I mean, so we add tags tags, tags which is a form of metadata, you’re telling Google here’s the tag that this video is about. Google primarily uses those now just to check misspellings in your your title and description. So, if you like accidentally misspelled someone or something over there, they’ll be like, oh, here’s the where they actually meant but that’s about it.

Steve: And so in terms of getting on the suggested videos, what are some ways to do that?

Tim: Uh love it yeah, so there’s again this is a big conversation but there’s a couple of basic things that need to happen. Number one is your content needs to regularly attract a similar or the same audience. So, you can’t have like a video about here’s how I don’t know — tie a tie, then here is how I make playdoh, and then here’s what to do if your child’s diaper is dirty. I’m a dad so…

Steve: Yeah I know

Tim: Thinking about this morning trying to get kids ready, but yeah so it’s like those are all the three different potential audiences interested in those videos. And so, Google is like, well, this video is for that audience, this video is for that audience but if you want your newer videos to keep being recommended to people, it’s got to be like yeah, you need to have a specific audience. Google starts to feel pretty confident like oh, we get it, this channel is about people who are trying to climb out of debt and need financial help, right? Or this channel is about people who are trying to grow their audience on YouTube, and they start feeling confident, like who your videos are for.

And then once your videos are regularly targeting those people, then those people need to be consistently number two, be getting the value from your content that they want. So you need to train them that every time I listen to My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, I’m getting exactly what I need. And the same thing is true on YouTube. Like what’s that value proposition or that thread that ties all of your content together so that Google starts feeling confident this is who this video is for and this is what this is about.

And then what happens is when a new person who’s coming to YouTube who has not yet connected with your content search like looking for something or or Google just starts noticing that they tend to start clicking on these types of videos, then they like, oh, they’re probably also interested in My Wife Quit Her Job here. Let’s just put that in front of you on the homepage or as I suggested video and get you into their content as well.

Steve: So that implies that only focus like a focus channel does better than a channel that just talks about random things.

Tim: Better depends on what your goals are obviously, but if your goal is to grow a subscriber ship and grow a community of people who keep coming back to you looking for this, then yes that’s true. You can do have like a random channel but you’re going to have individual videos that grow and you’re just kind of going after maybe adsense revenue at that point.

Steve: Interesting. So I was just thinking about all the blogs out there. Are those guys making a lot of money or?

Tim: Potentially. I mean not all of them are. I mean the thing that you probably know more than probably YouTube creators is that the the size of your audience is not tied almost — well I shouldn’t say in any way, there are some ways it is tied, but but there are channels with like around half million subscribers. That’s like half of the entire YouTube English speaking creative community is around a million, so I’ve got like half my market already subscribed to my channel. I make more — our business makes more I should say than other people. I got a client of mine who now has 10 million subscribers but at the time they had 6 million they came to me saying, Tim, I’m going to quit if you can’t help me figure this out. And I was making more than that person was. So, the size of your audience doesn’t make it — isn’t correlated to how much revenue you earn, necessarily.

Steve: Okay. And then, when someone types in something in YouTube, what kind of determines the rankings and how can you get your stuff to rank higher?

Tim: In search or suggested or both?

Steve: Well, let’s start with search and then move on to suggested.

Tim: So, getting yourself to rank in search really comes down to some of these same principles, which is the title and the thumbnail, do they work together to tease a value that someone in my target audience wants? Not necessarily needs, people don’t really click on what they need; they click on what they want. All right, so my audience wants more views, more subscribers and more money, so if I make a topic around one of those, it tends to perform better. And so, I want to create a video around a topic that I know my target audience is really interested in.

Then the next thing I would recommend is go and do that search a few times on YouTube and incognito window so that your previous viewing history and search history and things aren’t taken into consideration and just see what pops up there and look for what’s in common among all those videos that are ranking top four. Is it new like it was just published a few days ago? In that case then, YouTube just experimenting with it and it probably it may or may not be there in a few days from now.

Maybe you notice that all the thumbnails have like a bright smiling face on them or they all have a question mark on them. Or you go, oh this isn’t doing this title is actually crafted differently than the way I was going for it, and then you realize that definitely has a stronger human element to it. And I can see why it’s not “perfectly” optimized, but the human element there is a lot stronger so it gets more people to click. And so, maybe you notice that.

And then next thing I would look for is how do these videos start because a lot of people, they craft YouTube videos; they kind of model it after what they’re used to, which is television. But on television, when you turn the TV on, the video is already playing; you don’t have to click on a title and thumbnail. But on YouTube, the customer journey so to speak, the viewer journey actually starts with the title and thumbnail. So, you look at the title and thumbnail, and then you pay attention to the first 15 seconds of how those videos open because the title and thumbnail sets an expectation for the viewer of, here’s the value that you want to consume. And then the first 15 seconds either quickly affirm for that viewer that yes, what you clicked expecting to get is coming in this video, otherwise they leave.

And so, maybe you start evaluating how these top videos for the search query are doing that or not doing that. And often there’s a lot of opportunity there because sometimes they’re doing it terribly. So, that’s like the main thing you’re going to maybe for that particular in our example that we’re talking about right now, that’s the main thing that you go like, okay, all these videos are ranking number one for this but none of them are connecting the first 15 seconds of the title and thumbnail. So when I do my video, I need to make sure that I do that.

Steve: So it sounds, like just to kind of summarize is the click through rate matters and then the stickiness of the person matters in the rankings.

Tim: That’s right. That matters more than the actual text in the title and thumbnail yeah, except for the title and thumbnails which gets them into the video in the first place. So that’s important for that reason.

Steve: So when it comes to the thumbnail, I’ve actually heard that there’s a lot that goes into this. So, I was wondering if you could just kind of talk about some thumbnail tips.

Tim: Yeah, really important because a lot of people don’t realize that it doesn’t matter how amazing your video content is if someone is not enticed to click on it in the first place. So, the title and thumbnail is like the billboard, that’s like the marketing piece that really gets people into your video. So, for the thumbnail, a couple principles to consider, one is that most of YouTube’s viewership now is mobile and that we really need to craft these that are really small, tiny size like 72 by 100 pixels or something like that, right? So when it’s really small, can all the information that the viewer needs to see and consider, does it stand out?

So, if you’re using text and your thumbnails, is it still readable? Or if there’s like you’re trying to show like a human emotion or there is something that the viewer really, really needs to see, is it still viewable when it’s super small? So, your thumbnail should be at 10 ATP or 4k, like you should match the resolution of your video but we need to make sure that you can consider that we can see it in a small size, but also then some of the other principles all follow that which is it needs to be clear. It needs to have math like high contrast between the foreground and the background, the thing you want the eye to be attracted to needs to pop off the screen.

Smiling faces typically do better than non close ups of faces. Some sort of human emotion does a good job, whether it’s a surprise or shock or what or just a question or thinking like human emotion does well. Yeah, so all those need to be taken into consideration.

Steve: So, it seems like a human — the thumbnails at least that I see most commonly now always have a face. So, does that kind of imply that you should put your face on the thumbnail?

Tim: If that’s what the person sees when they click play, then yes, because remember the title and the thumbnail set an expectation. But there’s a lot of channels out there for example, like just tutorial channels where all you see is the hands, no face on there. And so, in that case your face isn’t as important because people aren’t clicking to connect with the person, they just want to know how do I build this table or whatever? Others like a kid channel, they just care about ABC series so they don’t they have to have faces either.

Steve: I’m just looking at some of these thumbnails right now actually on my computer and it seems like a lot of these people are outlined in white. They’re these big funky letters for the fonts, neon colors, are these all things that you do with your channel?

Tim: What types of channels are they?

Steve: They are tutorials actually.

Tim: Yeah, so the other thing to consider is the age of the video because thumbnails, like the style thumbnails tend to change like the style and fashion tends to change over time, so what works on YouTube two years ago doesn’t necessarily still work amazingly today. It’s not that they’re bad but but the style a few years ago was definitely to stroke everything in white and put it for us and color in the background. And now it’s kind of moved more towards like Instagram type of feel where it’s just like an amazing picture with that being color graded but not necessarily doctored in terms of texts and things. You’re like, oh, there’s a story there, I really need to see how they did that, or yes, that’s the cake I want to learn how to make or something. So, they tend to be a little bit more straightforward today.

Steve: And in terms of video content then, if you have any sort of pointers on how to create videos that encourage someone to watch all the way to the end, it sounds like it’s a ranking factor, so what are some things that you do to do that?

Tim: So, the other quick outline that I would recommend everyone starts with and not that this makes sense for everyone all the time, but it’s like learning how to write. You need to learn the rules of grammar and how to write so that you can break them and do that intentionally rather than just haphazardly later, right.

Steve: Sure.

Tim: So, the outline I would recommend at least considering when you first get started is starting with your title and thumbnail not your actual video. And so, that means sitting down and you know like the beginning of this customer journey/ viewer journey is they got to see the title and thumbnail. So, draft 20, 30, 50 whatever different titles for this piece of content and keep keep tweaking it. And then what’s the image I am going to use to represent this content that’s going to entice someone to want to click and watch, and start there. That way you can open the video already knowing what the person saw in order to click, and you can open the content pitching the content based on what they click because you already know the title.

Otherwise, what too many people do is they make the content first, they upload it and now that it’s uploaded, they’re trying to figure out the title and then like sometimes it matches but then often like the value actually comes at eight minutes into it. But you can’t title it that way because no one is going to click. At the end of the video, the title might make sense, but you need to make sense in the first 15 seconds. So you need to start there. And that’s the only way you can match the first 15 seconds to connect with the title and thumbnail. And then you need to open — the first thing you need to do then open that video with a hook which is like I said earlier just reaffirms for the viewer that what they click expecting to get is coming in that video.

So, it’s like an educational type video series tutorial for example, it opens like you guys really want to learn how to make this cake. It’s amazing. I love it, it is like the most beautiful fancy cake I’ve ever made. And everyone who comes to your party is going to think that you are some professional chef, but it’s actually really simple. Let me show you how to do it in this video. Right. So just something like that for that, or if it’s a narrative based content, it could be just opening up with a conflict or a motivating story, right? Yeah. Or some people do like coming up on, you can do that but that’s basically the same thing as you just teased the climax of the blog.

If you do a blog, well, you tease the climax of the story and then you go back until the backstory. So you open with a hook. Then number two, I recommend you have some sort of branded intro. And that could be anywhere from three to five seconds but absolutely no longer than five seconds. Anything longer than five, you’ll start seeing audience abandonment on your videos. So three is ideal. And what that needs to…

Steve: Why is number two important in your opinion and how did you test that?

Tim: Yeah, so what happens is a lot of people when they do this is they’re just putting up their logo and making their logo do some like fancy flip or something. That doesn’t add any additional value, it reinforces your brand, but what we’re doing with it is it actually needs to pitch the value proposition of your brand or your channel, in this case to someone in your target audience. And that sets the context now through which people should evaluate and consider subscribing. Like oh, this is a whole channel about growing my audience on YouTube and learning to reach people and change their lives, like heck yes, I’m here, I subscribe.

Versus like My Wife Quit Her Job and maybe the quit sign does a nice little flip in the middle and people are like, I don’t really know if it’s for me, is this not for me, right? And so, that three seconds in my case, it says, Master YouTube, that’s the what, spread your message, that’s the why, Video Creators TV. So, it’s not like a full thing but I’m telling people this is what I do and this is why we do it and then branding.

Steve: Okay, that makes sense.

Tim: And that gets people like a quick intro to who you are what you’re all about, which is one of those questions they’re asking about before they subscribe. Is this for me? And is this content that’s valuable for me or not?

Steve: Okay, great. Yeah, this is just like the principles of e-commerce. As soon as someone lands on your site, they need to know what you sell and why they should buy from you. Same…

Tim: Exactly, yes. Yep. Yep. Yeah, a lot of these principles are straight from business marketing world. It turns out people are people whether they’re on Google, YouTube, a blog, Facebook, whatever, like we’re all people, so the principle is transferred. And then the video should — if you’re doing like a talking head number three is it should like just welcome people very briefly, hey guys, my name is Tim Schomoyer, welcome to Video Creators, we are all about helping you grow your audience so you can spread a message that reach people and changes their lives. And then you get into content.

But in order to do that, you get into content. So the number three, the welcome should be very quick. And I actually do most of my welcome with a lower third that pops out so I don’t have to take as much time verbally to talk about it. And so people can kind of just visually see that while I’m talking. And then again, to the content itself and…

Steve: What’s a good length for the video now that we’re talking about content?

Tim: The way to evaluate length is based on how well you can hold someone’s attention. So, sometimes people say three minutes, but that’s only true if you’re only good at holding someone’s attention for three minutes. Some people are great at holding someone’s attention for 10 minutes, half hour, or some people can’t do it for three. so it really depends. My principle is if you have a two minute idea, take two minutes to share that story of that message. Don’t try to artificially inflate it into 10 and don’t try to take a 10 minute idea and squish it into two because someone told you a two minute idea was better. Serve the viewer the best you can and if that takes two minutes or 10 minutes, serving the viewer is the most important thing.

Steve: Okay.

Tim: So, deliver the content and then you wrap it up with some call to actions. I have a couple of different call to actions to make depending on what the goal of the video is. Another mistake a lot of people make is they try to do too many goals with each video. Each video they want to get tons of views, they want to rank number one in search, they want to generate a ton of leads and sales for their thing, they want to go big on Reddit, they want Huffington Post to pick it up, they want it to engage a new community. I’m, well, well, well, slow down.

A video will perform much better if you have one primary goal for it not 15. Just like your website, the front page of your website is designed with a specific goal in mind which is different than the about page which is different than the contact page which is different than this sales page, right? And so, what’s the primary goal of this video? And that determines what your call to action is. I think you should have — there’s probably — well there’s four different goals you could have for content.

One is discoverable, and if this is meant to be discoverable video, then the primary call to action should be to get them to watch another video which is you on the screen saying, guys, now this cake was amazing but if you have a birthday, you probably want to consider this cake right here and you’re like pointing to it on your screen. Say like, click this video right here and we’ll really dive into like how to turn this same recipe into an amazing birthday cake or something, and I’ll see you guys in the next video.

So, there’s nothing like hey, hope you enjoyed the video or see you next time or bye, just like another sales technique, which you’re probably familiar with, which is you just talk about the product as if they’ve already made the transaction. You start talking about the vacuum cleaner like, oh, wouldn’t be nice like this would suck up everything in your home and can you just imagine coming home and rather than having to pick up everything, you can just vacuum? And people are like, oh yeah. So, you’re doing that same thing with video, don’t sign off, just talk with the assumption as like they’re going to keep watching and they’re going to keep hanging out with you. And they are far more likely to actually then give that next video more watch time and increase the session time that your videos are having from getting people from video to video and all that is just really good signals that give your your videos a lift.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank Ahrefs for being a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m a huge fan of their tool and in my opinion Ahrefs is the best all in one SEO tool out there to rank in Google search. And recently, I completed a search engine site audit for mywifequitherjob.com and Bumblebeelinens.com and Ahrefs was indispensable. For example, I used Ahrefs to do a deep dive into all my posts to find the highest volume, lowest competition keywords to target in search. And in fact, recently, I used Ahrefs to rank a blog post in Google from position 20 to position five for a big time keyword in the span of just one month by switching around my title and H1 tags.

I also use Ahrefs to spy my competitors’ sites to see what keywords they are ranking for, and then I write a more comprehensive post and eventually outrank them in search. Now those of you who know me know that I hate spending money on tools, but I actually pay for Ahrefs and that should say something in itself. Right now, I’m giving away nine three month Ahrefs memberships for free. To sign up, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway, once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway to win a three month Ahrefs membership. Now back to the show.

Let me ask you this, how do you prioritize all that? So you can guide them to another video, you can ask them to subscribe, you can actually take them off your website and try to get an email, how do you decide what you want to do?

Tim: Yeah, let’s come back to that because that’s the fourth video. So, the first one is discoverability and the call to action, get them to watch another video not necessarily to subscribe actually because if you get them to watch multiple videos, YouTube will follow them around with more videos from you on their on their homepage, on suggested videos, and things and that’s more valuable than just getting a subscriber who never watches you again. Two, the next goal would be community, and for me the main call to action there is engagement, so comment like guys, how would you make this cake? This is how I made it, but man, I’m open to other ideas.

And this is typically content that’s a little less produced and just the goal there is to grow then know, like, and trust factors after you’ve already brought people in with your discoverable content. The third video is…

Steve: Are you getting them to content to write comments on your video, is the thumbs up a factor also?

Tim: No, thumbs up and comments don’t actually mean anything. People often get correlation and causation confused on YouTube. I see a lot of YouTube experts making this mistake all the time. On the surface it looks like if you get more likes, your videos perform better. But it’s only because the people who are engaged enough to give you likes are people who watch your videos longer. So it’s just correlation not causation. So what you really need is people just to watch your videos and to give you a like, it’s fine but it doesn’t actually change how your videos perform because Google said this is too easy for people to gain that. So they don’t count it.

Steve: Okay, yeah, go on, I keep interrupting you.

Tim: Yeah, no, this is good, this is great. So whenever you need, just keep interrupting me, otherwise, I’ll just keep talking. So number three, these are your sales videos. And this is now where you’re going to try to get people off. So in terms of like an email sequence or something, we’re doing the exact same thing, we have a lead magnet which is our discoverable videos. And then we have our community videos which is like the first several emails of that email sequence which grows into like and trust factors, because people value the information, they otherwise wouldn’t have gone out and sought for that type of thing, they know, like, and trust us.

And now we get to the last email, the sequence which is to ask for the sale or in our case post the sales video. And the goal, the call to action here is to get people off of YouTube. Now the reason you don’t want to mix this with your discoverable content is because one of YouTube’s goals is to keep people on YouTube as long as possible. And so, if your video successfully keeps ending the viewing session and getting people off of YouTube, that video will not be discoverable for that much longer, right. So instead, we’re doing it just like a normal funnel like with email so we’re doing that with videos.

So the sales video, that is just intended to go to your subscriber base. It’s not intended to get a ton of views. It’s just going to pass through that feed of people and then like a week or two after you publish it, it should no longer be getting any videos. And that’s where you’re getting people off to go sign up for something or buy something, or there’s a sale going on, or a brand deal opportunity, or whatever the case may be, just get the heck off of YouTube. And that’s that one.

Steve: So when you’re talking about getting people off of YouTube, you’re talking about embedding a link in the video that they can actually click on, right?

Tim: Yeah, or a link in the description. It’s going be like that first link they can click under the video orifice to your website. You can put that right on the video for the people to click on.

Steve: So, when people click on those links, that actually negatively affects the discoverability of that video is what you’re saying?

Tim: Potentially. It’s a little bit more complicated than that but for our conversation, yes, if it does it effectively and consistently, which is what you want. If you do that well, then that video will not be positioned as favorably.

Steve: Interesting. Okay, so let’s say I have the video now. How do you actually promote a video to just kind of get it off its feet, so to speak?

Tim: So, if you have a built in audience like you already have, then I would be emailing those videos to my list, be promoting him on Facebook, Twitter, just kind of wherever I already have an existing audience, just promote it there. And the goal isn’t necessarily like a lot of people try to get all their Facebook people to subscribe to them; they try to get everyone in the audience to subscribe to them everywhere. And I’m more of a fan of getting someone from Facebook to subscribe to you on YouTube doesn’t necessarily help you because they’re engaged on Facebook not youtube. So, I at first will just promoted to everyone I can just to get that initial watch time and traction on it.

After that, it comes back to what we kind of talked about earlier which is consistently posting content for a specific audience that delivers a specific value every single time that people just grow to know and expect is coming from you. And it’s about doing collaborations, it’s about looking for videos that are performing really well in your niche and making similar content that could be suggested to it, not making the same video, but like, for example, my wife and I, with one of our kids, we homeschool our kids. And we saw this one video about how to do golf ball paint, and it’s getting tons of traction.

And basically it’s you hold a pen, you put a piece of paper in the bottom, squirt some liquid paint in there, and then you just roll a golf ball around in there and it makes like a cool design on the paper. You’re like, oh, that’s cool. Like, we don’t have any golf balls. And my wife is like, oh, we got an oak tree though. And and so we made a similar video called, how to do golf ball paint with acorns, right? And so that video, you can see how it was not the same video but it could clearly be a related video or a suggested one next to that video. And so our goal was just to get the spin off views then of people who were watching that big video to then start watching our video and then gain traction that way as well.

Steve: So, you’ve mentioned repeatedly that getting a subscriber is not as important as just getting people engaged in your video. So first of all, is that correct? And two then, what is the point actually trying to get a subscriber?

Tim: Yeah, it’s a good question. S,o subscribers are valuable because they will typically give you more watch time than a non subscriber will and that makes sense. They are familiar with your brand. They’ve already learned to love your content. And so, as your subscriber base grows, each new video you publish, you potentially get to launch that new video with more viewership and more watch time, which as we’ve kind of referred to already helps with how that video gets positioned all across YouTube.

So there’s value from that perspective, but the reason I don’t push it as much now, I mean, I still do, it’s still visually there on screen, the subscribe, and I’ll often say even on discoverable video, I’ll say something just very briefly like, so subscribe to this video and I’ll see you guys over in the next one or just something like that. I’m not making this full blown pitch for it. And the other reason for that is today’s social media is also mature enough that we know what it means to follow someone on Instagram or Twitter, we know how to like a page, people know how to subscribe to a channel. And often I just do that visually instead of like taking the time to call it out instead. So, they’re so valuable but on a discoverable video, the goal for me is actually to get people to watch more content.

Steve: So, one question I had for you and I’m not sure if you up do this, but I have all these podcast episodes, should I not be putting those on YouTube because those tend to get horrible engagement?

Tim: Again, it depends on your goal. If it’s on the same channel that you’re trying to grow with different type of content that is more optimized for YouTube, you could and just community and just count it as community content. But typically yes. So those podcasts on YouTube don’t perform as well as native content that’s designed for YouTube. If you wanted to kind of mix it up a little bit, kind of the way I’ve found, this is how I do it on my podcast actually, is I record my podcast as a live stream on my channel. And so, it’s a piece of content that people are watching and listening to.

So, I present the material like I normally would just as a recording live and then my producer then gets a lot of the good questions that were in chat while I was talking, but submit a shared Google Doc for me while I’m talking. And then I just answer some of those questions at the end of my podcasts less live stream and I include those in the podcast recording, but then it lives a little bit better on YouTube than before.

Steve: I guess the question is, can putting a bunch of non engaged content hurt your channel overall?

Tim: Potentially because what happens is you’re unintentionally teaching your audience, your subscriber audience to subscribe for the native content that’s designed for YouTube. They’re thinking, oh, I don’t have to watch every video that this channel puts out. Steve puts out great content, but only like that one I don’t have the watch. And you never want to start training your content that or your audience that they don’t have the watch everything you put out. I mean, they just want naturally but you certainly don’t want them to start filtering if you don’t have to. So I would either put that type of stuff on a second channel or just stop completely.

Steve: Okay, that makes sense. So, I just kind of want to end this interview by having you outline some of the most common mistakes that new youtubers make. And if you can just sum up the ones that you see, I imagine you see these all the time.

Tim: Yeah, we talked about a lot of them already so far, but the main one is that people just focus on optimizing for robots and not for people, and they don’t understand that the robots are designed to surface what people respond well to. So, instead of getting caught up in all the algorithms stuff, which we can talk about it if you’d like, but it’s just far more advantageous to focus on the viewer rather than on the system. that works better in the long run.

Steve: Yeah, so if I were to just sum up everything, it seems like just engagement is key. And as long as you have people watching all of your videos, YouTube will figure it out eventually.

Tim: If by engagement you mean people watching, yes.

Steve: Watching the entire video.

Tim: Yeah, because sometimes engagement people think like interaction, which is helpful and yeah, so those people do equal more, they’re worth more from an average view duration perspective. But at the end of the day, if you have a channel that’s going after toddlers, you’re not going to get comments and thumbs up. They don’t even know how to do those things, but they’re going to give you a massive amounts of watch time, right? So, engagement in terms of how they watch the video.

The second thing I guess a mistake is that people give up too quickly. And maybe your audience is a little bit different. But on YouTube, it looks so easy when you’re watching the top creators. You’re like, oh, all they’re doing is hanging out, making videos with their family. Like, I can do that. Oh, all they’re doing is playing video games, I can do that. But we forget, sometimes, I think your audience is probably more mature than maybe the average YouTube viewer is – I’m not insulting anybody, but I’ll just maybe go with that assumption for now which is that we understand when we watch an athlete on TV, there’s a whole backstory that are missing. There’s like, they’ve been practicing this since they were six and now they make it look effortless.

Or that musician who you’re like, oh yeah, I could play the piano like that, that doesn’t look too hard. Or that actor or actress who plays her role so amazingly well. Like when someone is good at what they do, they make it look easy. And a lot of creators, I think, watch a lot — yeah, they watch other YouTube creators, but they’re only looking at the ones who are at the top of their game. No one is comparing themselves to someone who’s at the bottom of their game. And what we don’t see which is what my team and I see is we see all the people who are struggling at the 100, couple of thousand, even 10,000 subscriber level, those are all the channels you don’t see because they’re small.

And so it gets frustrating because it’s easy for us to see just the people at the top of the game and get frustrated like why, it feels like I’m doing everything that they’re doing, and yet I’m not winning. And then I guess a third thing, a third mistake is that people — like we tend to think that the only thing people want is the content itself. But what makes channels actually win on YouTube is actually the human connection that people feel with the creator. So, you can give a perfect tutorial, let’s just use the same example, a perfect tutorial on how to bake a cake. And you give step one through eight for example, and you deliver it and execute and maybe the cinematography is just beautiful, and then a true story actually.

I worked with a creator who had seven full time people on their production crew, all television background, shooting on like $10,000 cameras and couldn’t break 24 views on a video. And the content looked amazing, and they come to me like, Tim, this content looks great but why is it not performing? And there were frustrated because there was a guy in his basement with a frickin webcam getting millions of views. And they were like, our content is so much better than that guy’s content, why is he getting millions and we’ve been doing this for 10 months now and can’t break 24 views?

And it makes sense when you think about it in terms of this guy I was working with. I was like I’ve watched 20 some of your videos now and I still don’t even know the host’s name. I don’t know — it was a vegan channel — I’m like, I don’t know why veganism matters to you, or what like, should I consider it? You just gave me the hard, cold, straight up, dirty facts and that was it. This other guy, he has a story people connect to. They understand why he’s doing this. They understand what his motivation is and they feel like they’re connected to him. And so, his videos are performing far better all day long with a webcam in a basement because he’s connected with people.

And so, the end of the day, remember that each of these views that we have in our videos, they’re not just like little tickers that just count up. Every view represents a real person and so we’re actually connecting with people. And I don’t know how much time we have here. We could talk into what gets people to connect but just…

Steve:We have a couple of minutes if you want to just summarize that because I mean, I think it is important right, people in course, like I sell digital course, people tend to buy the course because of the teacher as opposed to necessarily the content. So, I imagine this principle applies to videos as well.

Tim: Oh, yeah, and pitching, not the what you do but like the reward that they’ll get if they buy the course/ watch the video or something not just like, yeah, like solving the problem. So, there’s a few things that I recommend people do to kind of make it easier for people to connect with you and your content. And a lot of this for me goes back to a book called Primal Branding by a guy named Patrick Hanlon. And he looks at all the top brands that develop cult like followings and he asks, what made it possible for this brand to get people to love them so much, so deeply? And he breaks it down to seven aspects of the primal code.

And all the channels on YouTube that are just growing or killing it, they have pretty much all seven of these aspects just firing on all cylinders so well again, that you don’t even notice it unless what to look for. And we’ll just go through a couple of the big biggest ones right now, which is one of them is your backstory. Number one, like your key cult is your creation story. And that is people just need to know like who are you? Where do you come from? We know Google started in someone’s garage, right? We know like Steve Job’s story, we know who these pioneers are, the people who started these brands, these companies, we’re not connecting to logos, we’re connecting to the people who started these these logos and these brands.

And so, when I opened up to you in this podcast, you asked me how did you get started? I told you my backstory, my creation story. And so, for people to start caring about you, they need to know kind of where you came from. Number two, they also need to know what do you believe, which Patrick calls it the creed, but we’ve been referring to it a little bit here called the why as well. But I believe YouTube is a great place to reach people and change their lives.

I told you one little story that impacted me in terms of in that regard, but the strongest communities online and offline, they always revolve around shared beliefs. A lot of people think they would revolve around common interest but they’re actually like — common interest will give you something to talk about but when you believe the same thing, it like sucks you in. And so, stating that might sound scary and intimidating, but YouTube channel is so much competition that you really do need to state not just what you do but you need to say why you do it. What do you believe about why this is important? And the people who share that belief with you will jump on board so fast, as opposed to if they don’t have that information.

And you also need that, maybe number four is because the creed will separate the non believers and you actually need the haters. The Democrats wouldn’t be anything without the Republicans, Folgers would be nothing without Starbucks, Apple would be nothing without PC. You need these opposing people because of the strongest communities when they link arms together; they’re standing against something and which means that you need to stand for something in order for anyone to stand with you.

So, this guy with the vegan thing in this basement was like people knew, they knew his story, they knew what he was for, they knew what he was against, they knew what he believed, they knew who the non believers were, and then they also another one is the rituals. And the rituals are just the repeated interactions for people to grow to love and expect with with your brand. And so the best creators — do you watch a lot of YouTube by any chance?

Steve: I do actually yeah.

Tim: So, if I say like Pound It, Noggin, See Ya, do you know who that is?

Steve: No I don’t, I only watch a certain type of video, but yeah.

Tim: Okay, what type of videos do you watch?

Steve: Personal development, e-commerce, tutorial related ones, but I did notice that a lot of them sign off the same way.

Tim: Yeah like like Dude Perfect is the one I just mentioned, they have about 30 million subscribers. They have so many rituals if you start looking for them throughout their entire — the content, the celebrations they do, and the way they sign off. PewDiePie currently the largest but soon not to be the largest channel on YouTube used to do like Blueface and would do [inaudible 00:51:56] fingers and do this PewDiePie type of thing. And it’s like as you say like another creator I know will start every vlog with this camera in a different location. And he would pick up the camera then be like audience, that’s another ritual audience, why are you in my plants? And so every video opened like a question, why are you under my desk? Why are you in this shoe box? Why are you?

And so, it’s just like a ritual the audience just grew to love and expect. So we could go on with that. Rhett and Link have those too, they open with a hook and they say, let’s talk about that. And then they have icons and the icons are the things that just represent your brand, like in terms of Rhett and Link, it’s their hair. You know who Rhett and Link are by the way?

Steve: Yeah I do, I do actually.

Tim: Okay, so you know what I’m saying when I talk about their hair?

Steve: Yeah.

Tim: Their background, their sets is iconic on crutches of creation story, everyone who watches them knows their creation story, that they’ve been best friends for first grade, started making videos, started a commercial company and grew to this YouTube thing. They talk about their relationship, the Baxter, the relationship in almost like every other episode. So, we can keep going but some of those things make it easier for people just like, oh, I know who they are and what they’re about and it’s easier for me to make a connection with them now. And if you can…

Steve: [Crosstalk 00:53:13] is just about exposing your personality to the viewers, right?

Tim: Yeah, and your story, what you believe, what you’re all about, and then giving them some things to latch on, like, the icons and the rituals and stuff too.

Steve: Okay, Tim, this has been an amazing episode.

Tim: Yes, sorry, I just keep talking.

Steve: No, no, no, you know how I am. I tend to interrupt people and I haven’t interrupted you that much because everything that’s been coming out of your mouth has been really good stuff. Well, Tim, I want to give you a chance to talk about what you do and where people can find you online.

Tim: Yeah, so my team and I, we love working with creators and just helping them with their strategy and doing their analytics and everything for them to really help them grow a channel that reaches people and changes their lives. We do that through – well, right now we’re doing every weekday we have a new video video at YouTube.com/VideoCreators which is content designed just help people grow their audiences. We do a series, right now we’re in the middle of — called how they got 1 million subscribers. And we just sit down with million subscriber plus channels and ask them to reveal all the tips, tricks, and secrets, and tactics that they implemented to grow their audience to 1 million subscribers so that we can do the same.

I also have a podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, just search for Video Creators weekly episode every Tuesday where we talk about a lot of the same principles as well, and dive into them in-depth. So, check us out there.

Steve: Cool. Well, Tim, I really appreciate your time. Thanks a lot for coming on the show.

Tim: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. I’m actually really excited to implement the action items from this episode and looking forward to grow the 5 Minute Pitch audience. Now once again, if you all want to check out my brand new show, head on over to 5MinutePitch.com/launch. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode244.

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

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

243: Marcus Sheridan On How To Get Results With Your Blog

243: Marcus Sheridan On What To Do When Your Blog Sees No Results

Today I’m thrilled to have Marcus Sheridan on the show. Marcus runs the Sales Lion where he consults and teaches companies how to do inbound content marketing.

Today, he’s known as one of the premier thought leaders in the digital sales and marketing space. I’ve been following Marcus for years so it’s cool that we got to connect at Social Media Marketing World for a few minutes and that’s how he ended up here on the podcast. Enjoy the episode!

What You’ll Learn

  • Why inbound marketing is the key to growing any business
  • What content works well and how to get results with your blog
  • How to become an authority in your niche
  • Types of content that attracts readers and customers no matter what the niche

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
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GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now, today I have Marcus Sheridan from The Sales Lion on the show. And Marcus is an old buddy of mine that started blogging around the same time that I did. He’s definitely one of the better speakers that I’ve ever seen. And today we’re going to talk about inbound content marketing. It’s an incredible episode, and I guarantee that you’ll come away with some actionable nuggets.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. And right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

Now, you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with their new cart saver pops and abandoned email sequence as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So, bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding and taking cues from my customers and delivering personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of the button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over 100 bucks who purchased handkerchiefs in the past year. And it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo.

Right now, they have this cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf to check it out. Once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf, 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 Marcus Sheridan on the show. Now if you don’t know who he is, Marcus runs The Sales Lion where he consults and teaches companies how to do inbound content marketing. And today he’s known as one of the premier thought leaders in the digital sales and marketing space. Now, I actually started my blog in 2009 and kind of in my periphery, I’ve been following Marcus for years. So, it’s really cool that we got to finally connect at Social Media Marketing World for just a couple minutes, but that was enough and that’s how he ended up here on today’s podcast. And with that, welcome the show Marcus, how are you doing today man?

Marcus: Steve so great to be here man, excited to speak with you and hopefully I’ll say something that your audience says, you know what, that was worth to listen right there.

Steve: I’ve seen this man speak, he is excellent. So Marcus…

Marcus: I have fun.

Steve: I got the date correct maybe but you started blogging like 2009?

Marcus: Mm-hmm, yeah glorious time man, that’s in internet years, that’s about three decades ago.

Steve: We are like dinosaurs I should say.

Marcus: You know what? That was actually back when people used to comment on blogs.

Steve: Yeah, those are the good old days, exactly yeah.

Marcus: That’s a good old inside blog joke there and I love it. Times have changed, man. Times have changed.

Steve: I remember at the time, you created the leading swimming pool website on the internet. Can you kind of talk about how you got started with that and how that transitioned over to The Sales Lion? Like what’s your story just for the benefit the readers who don’t know who you are?

Marcus: Yeah, I’ll try to give the very short version here. I started swimming pool company out of college with two friends in 2001. Things were going okay for us up until the market crashed in 2008. And by the beginning 2009, I thought we’re going to go out of business and I was getting ready to file for bankruptcy. But that’s when I started to read all these fancy phrases like inbound content marketing, social media blogging, all that stuff. And really what I heard in my simple pulled out mind was, Marcus if you just obsess over your customers questions and you’re willing to address them honestly and transparently through text and video on your website, you just might save your business right?

So, I embraced this philosophy that we call, they ask you answer, which basically said, hey, we’re going to be the best teachers in the world when it comes to in our case fiberglass pools. And so, like I said, to make a long story short that’s what we did. We became essentially the web entity of pools, and it became the most traffic swimming pool website in the world in the business, and last year we were the largest installer of fiberglass pools in the US. Now, I’m not a pool guy anymore, I still own a third of the company. But in this process, I started to just to write about what I was doing, which as you mentioned, Steve came at the end of 2009. And so I’m like, you know what, I’m just going to write the stuff that we’re doing, this whole they ask you answer, it’s working and I believe in this.

And so, I was just writing about it and then all of a sudden companies said, hey Marcus, can you teach us how to do that? And some conferences said, hey Marcus, can you come share that story of what you do with your pool company in our event, and it just started to snowball from there. And so, I was getting so many requests. I’m like; there is a business model here. And so I transition slowly out of River Pools.

And by 2012, I was essentially full on with speaking and consulting. And my agency, The Sales Lion, which is what it was called, is now a part of Impact. I’m one of the owners at Impact and we’ve got about 65 employees, and I give about 70 keynotes a year around the globe on sales, marketing, business communication. It is a dream, my friend, and it’s all because the economy crashed. Like if the economy hadn’t crashed Steve, it wouldn’t have happened, which is amazing how that works. But at the time, I thought it was the most stressful period of my life.

Steve: That is crazy. That’s more than one talk a week.

Marcus: Yes, yeah. I often, I mean, I’ll generally give that 1.5 talks a week. That’s correct.

Steve: Yeah, that’s great.

Marcus: It’s moving. Yeah, moving along.

Steve: So Marcus, the reason I wanted to have you on today is to kind of talk about content marketing and how to use it to promote your business. A lot of my listeners are e-commerce sellers, but we don’t have to talk about that per se. But if you can kind of tailor your answers towards an e-commerce biz, that would be pretty cool.

Marcus: Yeah.

Steve: So first off, like if you were running your own e-commerce business, I want to know like, what content works well, how to get results, how would you approach that problem?

Marcus: Yeah. So when we started the process of the ask you answer, within about six months, I could see there’s clear patterns of content that works, content that doesn’t work in terms of really moving the needle from a sales perspective, from a search SEO perspective, a whole nine, and we today I call that the Big Five. There’s essentially five subjects that before somebody goes to buy something, they want to understand these five things. It’s the psychological need that we have to feel at ease and to feel informed. And fundamentally today in today’s economy, we don’t want to make a mistake and we know that we don’t have to make mistake but we want to know these five things. So here are the big five.

The big five are, as buyers, we are obsessed with how much something costs. Now, we’ll talk more about that, Steve but that doesn’t mean we just put a price. That doesn’t count because every e-commerce person puts a price that doesn’t count as talking about costs. Okay? So we’re obsessed with all my costs and learning about cost as buyers, we are obsessed with understanding the negatives, the problems, the issues, how could this blow up in my face if I purchase it, if I buy it, whatever it is, service, product, it doesn’t matter. Okay, so that’s number two problems.

Number three, we’re obsessed with comparisons. In other words, generally, we don’t just look at one thing, we’re looking at two or more of a similar thing, product, service, again, it doesn’t matter. So, we love to compare. Number four, we’re obsessed with what other people say about it, of course, reviews, and then number five obsessed with the best. So generally speaking, we don’t search for the worst. We search for the best, right? These are the big five and here’s what’s fascinating. I’ve seen this again and again and again. When companies obsess over these big five, and they make that their just clear, clear directive, their compass, if you will, that’s what’s going to move the needle, because these five subjects are the bottom of the funnel.

And whenever you’re selling a product or a service, especially in the e-commerce space, you want to start at the bottom, not the top of the funnel. The mistake that a lot of people make, if they are producing content, it’s really, really fluffy, right? So let me give you an example if that’s okay Steve.

Steve: Yeah absolutely.

Marcus: And these are going to be pool tables but I don’t want anybody to think because right now if I turn on our e-commerce on our site, I’m sure we do at least a million dollars in revenue just in e-commerce alone because of the traffic that we have. I mean, now some months we’re getting close to a million visitors, I mean we’re doing really, really well. And so, there’s a reason for this, we would kill in this space. But because I’m a manufacturing installer, I don’t elect to go down that road that. So, this is this is an example of how we did with fiberglass pools. Okay, so when I started the process of they ask you answer, one of the first questions that people used to ask me all the time as a support guy was, so Marcus, I’m not going to hold you to it but give me a feel of how much is this going to cost?

Of course they might have been talking about a fiberglass swimming pool or an inground swimming pool or whatever. What’s crazy is when we started out this process, nobody in the world had addressed how much does a fiberglass swimming pool costs on their website? The reason for the Steve is because businesses don’t — they’re afraid generally speaking, they’re afraid to talk about, like I’m going to give it away to my competitors, I might scare them away. I mean, there’s all these different things. And so, we openly talked about it and we said, here’s all the factors that are going to drive it up, here’s what could keep it down, here’s the different packages that you can expect, here’s why some companies are expensive and why some companies are cheap.

That was critical and fundamental Steve, and this is the part that most ecommerce companies do not do is whenever you sell a product especially if it’s a significant major product within your skew set, you always want to make sure that you have definitive articles and videos just on how much does that particular type of product or service cost. If you don’t do that, you’re never going to play in the search space and you’re going to devalue and potentially commoditize the thing that you’re selling, which is a problem. So, to make a long story Steve, that one article has generated over $6 million in sales, how much does a fiberglass pool cost?

So, if you search anything today about how much does inground pool cost, how much does it cost to install a fiberglass pool? I mean, anything like that, if you’re in the United States, we’re the first ones you’re going to see to this day, it’s a cash cow. Okay, that’s number one. Number two…

Steve: Hold on one second, let’s elaborate on some of the things you just said about cost. I heard you say that you outline what companies do and what they don’t do and what factors into the cost. I was thinking like when you said that that psychologically, customers are going to now ask the competitors whether they do that certain thing and compare that to you.

Marcus: Right, that’s correct. That’s correct which is what you want them to do. Just like, let’s say you have an e-commerce platform but you also have a great blog and they mutually feed each other right? So your blog feeds e-commerce, but your e-commerce should be feeding the blog and people are like, what do you mean by — how can — if they’re on the platform, why would the platform feed the blog? Well, if it’s a good platform, you can do things like this, like hypothetically, you could set it up and I guarantee you 99% of your listeners have never done this before. So, let’s say that on your ecommerce platform, you have underneath the price a little arrow with a link that says, see why it costs this much.

Now, if a buyer sees a price and then sees a little arrow pointing to a link says, see why cost as much and it’s clickable link that takes them to an article and video that definitively explains why it costs that much. Have you commoditized or decommoditized that thing that you sell? Of course you’ve now decommoditized it. And now you’ve done a major, major value add to that particular visitor. But the problem is, more often than not, in the e-commerce space, it’s just cut and dry. They got reviews. Oftentimes, they do have reviews now on most of these platforms, but they don’t talk about the good, they don’t talk about the bad, they don’t talk about the ugly. Well, they might talk about the good, but they don’t talk about the bad and the ugly enough, and they don’t really explain it well enough.

And so, I’m constantly dealing with this. Most of the research I do, especially when I’m shopping ecommerce situations, I have to go and find the prices on the e-commerce platforms, then I have to research on another site that has nothing to do with that particular site to really understand the cost factors like why is this in costing as much as it is, and then I’ll go back to the e-commerce site, that’s dumb. It doesn’t make sense. Of course there’s conversion loss at that point anyway. And so this is why if you really, really do this well and again, if you’re selling a ton of stuff, choose the 20% that are generating 80% of your sales. Focus on that and it’s magical. This is service, product, it doesn’t matter. I’m telling you, for 90% of my clients around the world, I’ve done this with big companies, small companies, 90%, the number of traffic leading sales generating content has to do with cost and price.

Steve: This is very interesting. I’m just thinking in my mind, this would be a great place to point out your unique value proposition for each product as well, right?

Marcus: Of course, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And this is where you can really blow away transparency because you’re able to say things like, hey, look, this isn’t the most expensive one, and it shouldn’t be, this is for the person that is looking for the middle of the road, but they’re looking for this, this and this, but they’re okay, not getting this, this and that. And if you feel like you are that person, well then, this might be a great fit for you. And it’s certainly a great value for that buyer. Most people don’t communicate like that right? Do you see what I’m saying? It’s just like just flat out here’s what it is, and it’s not this is for you if, this is not for you if. It’s unfortunate that most companies don’t think like that.

Steve: I guess my biggest concern here is you’re actually taking them off of the-commerce site to a different article and then they have to make their way back, right?

Marcus: Yeah, you open it up in a separate window. And if most of us are paying attention to our conversion rates of those shopping cart pages anyway, it would make us vomit to see how much we lost, right? And so, all you have to do is you split test this out, right? And you can definitively see it. Now, if you have a chance to have it on the actual page, great, have it on the actual page. But the thing is, it’s difficult to do that because most platforms aren’t built that way, right? And you can’t really build out a beautifully robust article slash video interactive format if you do it that way.

Steve: I guess now that I’m just thinking about right now, as we’re talking, you could just have a button and it could be like a pop up that is nicely formatted that you can just easily close and still remain on the product page.

Marcus: Yeah. So you could do the pop up in the pop up should have, read the full article here if the summation isn’t enough, but you can’t — here’s my philosophy on this Steve, and this is why is this such a big deal to me. We can’t treat people like they’re dumb, we have to treat them like informed humans that are smart shoppers. And so, it’s my strong belief that if we have a choice between let’s not inform them well, allow them to be ignorant and hope that that will increase conversion, or let’s allow them to learn more in the moment, if they’re still not psychologically satisfied with the value prop of that particular product or service knowing that if they do see it upon reading it, it means they’re more serious anyway. And the ones that do say, yep, that’s for me are going to come back and buy.

I just refuse to believe that the majority of cases, the person is going to say, wow, my gracious, that was helpful. Okay. Let me go find on some other place now.

Steve: Yeah, I think I tend to agree with you. That’s very interesting. Okay. Yeah. Do we have anything more to add on cost before we move on to the next one?

Marcus: Not so much on cost? Yeah, I mean, I think that hits the mark on cost. And again, I want to stress this as article in video at this point. We got to be doing it that way.

Steve: Okay, cool.

Marcus: So let’s talk about problems for a second. Problems is prolific. Once we feel like all right, I think I want to go down this road, then our natural question is, but how could it blow up in my face? And this is oftentimes why we seek out reviews, but the problem is, if we’re review dependent as an e-commerce shop, or as a business, that’s flawed. We need to beat the punch with these, in other words, get in front of it yourself. Let me get an example, again we’ll go to pools, this applies to everybody, so don’t think you’re different if you listen this because I’m telling you I’ve done this with too many services and products. I know that nobody is the exception to this.

And so, what happens is in my case with pools [inaudible 00:18:22] ask me all the time for example, so Marcus what are the problems of fiberglass pools? Very, very common question, and once again Steve nobody in the world, I’m not exaggerating, at the time had addressed that singular question on their site, why? They were afraid to address the elephant right. The smartest companies, they know that the greatest way in life to resolve concern is to address it before it even becomes a concern. And so, I openly talked about the problems of fiberglass pools on our website. And because we talked about it, it’s wild. Every year the number one keyword phrase that generates the most traffic to the site is fiberglass pools problems, or excuse me leads to the site is fiberglass pool problems.

So, that article has made a couple million dollars in sales at this point right. And it’s not just there, like when somebody says, hey Marcus; do fiberglass pools pop out of the ground? Okay, I’ll write about that. Are fiberglass pools cheap? Okay, I’ll write about that. These are consistent questions that we would get. So, I’m not going to bury my head in the sand, I’m going to openly address them when we get in front of them and then I can own the conversation set of one of my competitors, so it’s what you want to do.

You want to look at your different products and services that you offer, you want to say, on all the times that you’ve been asked, so I heard that, or is it true that, or somebody told me that, or I was reading, when anybody says anything like that, that denotes something negative is coming. And now, if you get on the front end of addressing it, you have a significant chance of earning the person’s trust and respect. But the key is you can’t be biased.

Too many people, especially in the e-commerce space are just biased, which loses that trust factor, you can’t become the trust agent at the same time be extremely bias. So, an example of how you might phrase this again, I’ll just go back to the simple pool example. So, we might say something like this, fiberglass pools aren’t for everybody. They don’t get wider than 16 feet, longer than 40 feet, deeper than eight feet; you can’t customize them anywhere you want. So, if you’re looking for a pool that is wider than 16, or longer than 40, or deeper than eight or super customized, it’s probably not a good fit for you. But if you’re looking for a low maintenance pool, that’s going to last year lifetime, has less than 16 my 40, less than 8 feet deep, and you can find a shape that does fit your needs, well then this might be the perfect fit for you.

But you notice here, we present the ugly first and then we come back, just psychology, with but this is how it could be a great fit for you if you fit these classifications. So, the idea is when somebody’s going through the process of buying something, the whole time, they’re nodding their head saying, yep, yep, yep. Or they’re shaking their head saying, no, not me, which is fine. Because we don’t want people buying our products anyway, that they’re not a good fit for, not if we have integrity, right? If we sell from a place of integrity, we want people to be very informed about the said product or service so that they don’t make a mistake. So, that doesn’t come back on us or our shop or our product, and they say, these guys never lead me astray. That’s the whole idea. That’s the essence behind problems.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank Ahrefs for being a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m a huge fan of their tool and in my opinion Ahrefs is the best all in one SEO tool out there to rank in Google search. And recently, I completed a search engine site audit for mywifequitherjob.com and Bumblebeelinens.com and Ahrefs was indispensable. For example, I used Ahrefs to do a deep dive into all my posts to find the highest volume, lowest competition keywords to target in search. And in fact, recently, I used Ahrefs to rank a blog post in Google from position 20 to position five for a big time keyword in the span of just one month by switching around my title and H1 tags.

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I love it. I love it. I know there’s this leather store that does the exact same thing. They point out the flaws in leather and they basically educate you on the different types of leather. And then they show you a demo of their leather, where — it’s called Saddleback Leather, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but then they show that they’re leather is basically indestructible, and it’s incredible.

Marcus: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right. So it what’s funny is, there’s other good leather out there, but they actually understand that unless we show it, it doesn’t exist. I mean, in 2018 and beyond the idea that we would sell anything and just say it and not show it is almost laughable. We have to be in the mindset of unless we show it, it doesn’t exist. They show it really well. It really sticks and it’s crazy. So many other companies could do that, but they don’t. So that’s the essence of problems. You got to get in front of it. Again, the moral of the story is as a business, you have a choice. You can allow your competitors to own those negative conversations or you can own them. That is your call. But clearly one is better than the other.

Steve: I love it also because it’s counterintuitive.

Marcus: Exactly, a lot of stuff is counterintuitive. And that’s why I’ve given over 200 workshops to different companies around the globe. I’m in New York City right now to give a workshop to sales and marketing team tomorrow basically helping them understand why talking about these things is good instead of burying your head in the sand like most of their competitors and not addressing them, right. Yeah, the problem is, you don’t see many sites doing this well unless it’s like a review site or a third party site. The actual businesses, they don’t generally do it well.

Steve: Right. And to find out the problems just use any keyword tool or do a survey, like how do you find out what these problems are?

Marcus: Yeah, I mean, hopefully you’re in tuned to what the marketplace is saying, just keyword tool in the world is just listening really well. But beyond that, yes, I would use a keyword tool and search for them. And in that case, I would search for like negative reviews, things like that of the particular product to see what people are saying, and then you can really run with it. But depending on the type of product too, you can just — there’s some standard ones out there, like is XYZ product cheap?

I mean that’s like a very legitimate question that a lot of people ask right, that’s a common one that people ask right. How long does XYZ last, an honest review. That’s another example of a really good double up right there. We doubled up on how long does it last which is a problem statement, and then an honest review is review statement, so we doubled them up together and now it’s even more effective. So that’s just a way to do it.

Steve: Cool. Let’s move on to number three.

Marcus: Number three four versus and versus has picked up finally a lot more. I mean, I was talking about it long before a lot of companies were doing it. It’s still incredibly prolific and important. And as I’m talking about these things, some people are going to listen to this and say, well, I’m just afraid that the marketplace is flooded with all these already and it’s just too saturated for me. That’s a very, very scarce mentality, not healthy for a couple of reasons, A, by you answering these, it forces you to be a dramatically better communicator teacher and force you to know your products better.

Also when people come to your site, they’re going to be way, way more informed and they’re going to get your opinion out instead of everybody else’s. This goes on and on for the reasons why we should do it. So, with versus, every product and service generally means that somebody is looking for a comparative item, all right. For me, these poor guys they were looking for fiberglass versus concrete pools, fiberglass versus vinyl pools, and in the swimming pool space, what was funny about that one Steve is no fiberglass pool guy in the world was addressing fiberglass versus concrete pools. Of course the reason was because they were saying our biggest competitor is concrete pools.

So, this is where we’re going to do, we’re not going to talk about them on our website and when we will talk about them, well then, nobody will know they exist which is about the stupidest mindset ever. But that’s literally, that’s how so many pool guys thought, right? And so, my mindset was, I’m going to ask this question every day, so you heck yeah, I’m going to address it. So, I openly talked about them. I compared them very honestly; I didn’t say one was better than the other because that would be a lie. And again, it was a matter of hopefully this article is going to help you decide which is the best choice for you and then gave pros and cons of each right. So that’s what we did.

Now, what you want to do is you want to think of every comparison based question that you’ve ever been asked. And if you talk with your customers, oftentimes you’re saying things like, so if you were me, which would you choose? Or in e-commerce space this is people that bought this also looked at or also searched for. But the easiest way to do this one is I do like to go to Google and I always just put the product plus the word versus or compared to, and then you get a slew of potential results that you should be talking about, you should be showing and this still works extremely well to this day.

But again, the key that most companies screw up man is you just come across as one sided and it just doesn’t work that way. You can’t come out and say, all right, so this video we’re going to explain why fiberglass is really your only choice and concrete frankly is a poor option to consider. That’s dumb, why in the world would people do that? Yet that’s oftentimes the language of companies, that’s not going to induce trust, you got to be real.

Steve: This is — I’m just thinking about my own products right now in the digital space, I run a class, which is a pretty high ticket item. It actually makes sense for me to create my own review versus some of the other competitors out there and just point out both my strengths and the weaknesses. I think that would actually help because I know for a fact that a lot of people search for reviews of my class.

Marcus: So that’s number four, perfect transition there, Steve. So oftentimes, we leave reviews up to everybody else. I don’t think we should. I think we should also include ourselves in that conversation. Now, there’s different ways that you can do this. You can gather up a lot of the reviews from people that have used it, but you should clearly target that keyword phrase, but here is where we’re going to go even further than that Steve. We should target our competitors’ reviews too. And let me give an example of how I did this incredibly successfully. I’ve made a few million dollars off this.

So, I was the first person in the swimming pool industry that in fact in pretty much probably any like home improvement industry because I was teaching this and people are like you’re crazy. In 2009 and 10, I guess I started teaching this, people were like you’re nuts. So let me give an example, because my philosophy was they ask you answer, I was obsessive with listening. And one night, it was probably around 2010 or 11, I had given this — this is at the end of me being a poor guy.

And I gave this couple of quote for a pool. And they said, Marcus, we like you. We think we want to do business with you. But if we don’t get this pool from you, is there anybody else that you might recommend? I thought to myself, go on it. You know, I hate this question. And of course, when most companies get asked that question, they’re like, oh, there’s nobody quite like us, the way we do what we do, right? And so yeah, that’s right. And so the person’s is like, oh, whatever. So, I went home that night and as I dug on it, they asked a question so I’m going to answer this.

And so, I wrote an article and anybody that’s listening to this, you should look it up, and it was who are the best pool builders in Richmond Virginia, review/ratings. And I came up with a list of five of the best pool builders in Richmond Virginia. Now, come right out and say I didn’t even put myself on the list of five. You might say why did you not? Well first off, if they’re reading the article on my website, they’re already looking around; they’re already thinking I’m a pretty cool guy. The second reason is if you’re going to create a best of lists and then you put yourself on set list, well then, that denotes bias. And again, every business should be built on trust. And so, I’m not going to do something that is going to make me look biased and it’s going to cause me to lose credibility.

But the other factor is this, if you go to that, if you just typed in like best pool builders Richmond, Virginia right now, I mean you’d find it immediately in search results, and you’ll see exactly how I wrote it. But I talked about each one of my competitors. Now, here’s what I would suggest on this, you don’t inject opinion, you stick to the facts and you just make clear comparisons, right? So I could clearly compare my competitors in the sense of this is where like this swim pool company has been around since 1972, and they’re located in the mechanics area of Virginia. They specialize in inground vinyl liner swimming pools, and have a heavy emphasis on automatic swimming pool covers. They also install fiberglass pools and have a full service department.

Now, all that information I got directly from their website and basically using their words, right. So, I don’t express any negatives. If a company ever does express negative, it should be sourced from an outside article. And even still, I’d be very, very careful, right. I tend not to mix with any of that, I only stick to the facts and I try not to inject opinions when it comes to other people stuff. But because of that, today if you went online and you search for things like reviews, Pla-Mor Pools Richmond Virginia which is a very major competitor of mine in Richmond Virginia, and Pla-Mor is spelled Pla-Mor.

So, if you search for reviews Pla-Mor Pools Richmond Virginia which is a very common search, that article is one of the first ones you’re going to see. It’s always one or two in search engine results. And it’s crazy Steve, a few years back I had this lady come to me and she said, Marcus, the craziest thing happened. I was so close to signing a contract with Pla-Mor Pools but before I signed that contract, I decided to go online and research their company. And as I was researching their company, I stumbled across this article that you guys had written. I said my goodness, these guys are honest, so honest, I should probably call them too. And of course Steve, you know what happened because otherwise I wouldn’t be sharing the story right?

Steve: Yeah.

Marcus: That article cool generated just that year alone $150,000 in sales. And sometimes people say to me, aren’t you afraid you’ve now introduced them to the competition, which is silly because it takes them about point four eight seconds to know who your competitors are. And so, you know and I know that consumer ignorance is no longer a viable sales and marketing strategy right. Now, with the digital age they’re going to find out. And so, if we automatically say to ourselves, look, they’re going to be informed, they’re going to be intelligent, I’m not going to treat them dumb, I’m going to treat them like intelligent human beings with the capacity to learn and understand and make smart decisions.

When we do that, it gives us the ability to be way more honest, to say way more, give way more information. I mean, just the possibilities are endless because now there’s nothing handcuffing us, there’s nothing holding us back. It’s very, very exciting and it’s very, very fun. So, I just combined the final two reviews and best into one there but that’s an example of how we did that. And I’m telling you I’ve done that with so many companies to this day. It just wins and it continues to win.

I just want to let that tickets for the 2019 Sellers Summit are almost completely sold out. Now, what is the Sellers Summit you ask? It is the conference that I hold every year that specifically targets e-commerce entrepreneurs selling physical products online. And unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, mine is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an e-commerce business.

Now, recently, I put up the curriculum and the speakers who will be attending and we have an all-star lineup, including Ezra Firestone, Mollie Pittman, Scott Voelker, Greg Mercer, Mike Jackness and more. Now, the Sellers Summit is going to be held in Miami Florida from May 15th to May 17th, and for more information, go to Sellerssummit.com, once again that’s Sellerssummit.com or just Google it. Now back to the show.

So, my only concern with what you said was that you don’t include your own company in the top five for example.

Marcus: Yeah.

Steve: The problem is when people do searches; they might not even recognize that they are on your site, and they just look through the straight five and then pick one among your top five and avoid your company all together. Does that happen?

Marcus: Yeah, yeah, that could actually happen. And so if I was selling an item with e-commerce, right, an item on e-commerce, I would include in that list, okay. But I would come out — now it’s different with a swimming pool company, right? And you have to read the article to understand why it’s different. It just doesn’t sound the same. Now, I would come out and say, though, now listen, we sell — it would sound something like this, let’s just choose a dumb one, toothbrushes. I would say something like this, here are Marcus’s toothbrushes.

We get asked all the time about other brands that we believe are good, and because we believe so much in educating our customers over just having them buy from us, we’ve created this article, this video today that’s going to give you an honest assessment of the top 10 brands that we’ve seen in the marketplace for soft bristle toothbrushes. Now, keep in mind as you read this, two of these we sell. But of course, we sell them because we believe in them so very much. So, although we include them in the top 10, we also include eight others that we don’t sell. And hopefully, this is going to give you a great sense as to what is available in the marketplace and why we chose what we chose.

Steve: Interesting, I suppose if it’s something that you don’t sell, you might even be able to establish some sort of affiliate arrangement also.

Marcus: You can clearly do this with affiliates. And the other way that you do it Steve is with indirect industries, right? So in other words, let me give you an example. So, if I’m selling swimming pools, I might do something on swimming pool heaters. And the reason why I would want to do that because if they’re looking for a heater, they might also be in the process of buying inground swimming pool and just looking for the heater for a set pool, you see what I’m saying?

Steve: Yeah.

Marcus: And so, it’s a smart play to indirectly do this. I mean there’s just lots of ways to do this. I mean, I’ve done this with like I’ll give you an example, let’s say and this doesn’t necessarily apply to e-commerce but the same principle. So, let’s say you’re a pet sitter and so you would want to do articles or videos on both always — it’s really always both but on the best veterinarians in your area, because now you’re giving — it’s great credit for them, you’re getting on their radar and people are searching for that, and if they’re looking for a veterinarian, there’s a good chance they need a pet sitter as well. You see what I’m saying?

Steve: Yeah absolutely.

Marcus: So, that cross pollination is really, really effective with best off stuff and it’s still, to this day man, it’s just so effective. Obviously, with any of those, preferably you want to put the year if you can, because it definitely makes a difference in search engine results.

Steve: Okay. And then just adjust the year accordingly obviously as time passes.

Marcus: Yeah, yeah. I mean because we’re in a, what have you done for me lately world, we just got to keep producing new content isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Steve: Well, let me ask you this, so we’re putting out all this content but it might not necessarily rank anywhere and people might not necessarily be able to find it. And so how do you attack the problem of actually ranking and getting people to read these articles?

Marcus: Well, everything we just talked about was a straight SEO play. I mean, it’s very bottom of the funnel based major search. Every single client that I’ve had, in the first year we never get less than 10x growth in terms of traffic. And I don’t even call it SEO, even though that’s essentially what you’re doing because obviously, Google’s obsession is that you specifically and relevantly answer the question better than anybody else. And so, the thing about a lot of e-commerce shops is they don’t produce super quality content oftentimes. For example, I know you know this; the average number one ranked page in SERPs is above 1,000 words, right?

And so, whenever we have a client producing a piece of content and we’re vetting it out, unless it’s above 750 or more that’s the — 750 words is the bare minimum acceptable number for any piece of content any of our clients produce, because we help train clients with content marketing okay. So, anything less than that, preferably we like the bar to start at 1,000 words. Now, I’ll be like holy freak, are you serious? Yes. That’s the marketplace, that’s the game we’re in, because meat is good, this is what search engines want. You get all this stuff that like everybody wants short bite sized, not search. Sorry, anyhow works. We want meat and potatoes, man, and that’s why bigger, beefier is better not wasteful. Not wasteful, but bigger, better and beefier is better.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, I would argue that it should be 1,500 or even 2,000 words plus at least…

Marcus: Yeah, you’re exactly right. You’re exactly right. And I say, 750. That’s the low bar of the low bars.

Steve: Yeah. What is your take on the site design as opposed to just the straight content? Like, does the site have to be beautiful? I mean, what is your experience on that, because a lot of people spend a lot of time and money designing a beautiful sight.

Marcus: Yeah, and then conversions are less.

Steve: Yeah, in e-commerce space, for sure that’s the case yeah.

Marcus: Yeah, it’s very, very common and this is because a lot of website designers are arty-farty and there not conversion based. And anybody that’s gone through a website redesign has probably seen that and experienced that which is why we’ve got to be obsessive testers. I mean all of us do. And we never sacrifice — I’m going to put conversions and UX together here because I think done right, great UX leads to conversions. It doesn’t hurt it right? Because to your point earlier, the question about but if you have that Marcus is it going to hurt conversions? I think incredible education increases conversions, right. It’s always been my experience. And so my point is, I think that always needs to be our primary focus and secondary focus is the visual side.

That being said, I do think we have to be outrageously obsessive of this point about video. I think most people should see themselves as media companies, pretty much everybody especially on your major products and services. If you don’t have a really robust video that truly says who it’s for and who it’s not for, that’s actually more important, well then, you’re missing the mark in terms of psychology.

Steve: So Marcus, we covered a lot of stuff today. And what I want to do is I kind of want to summarize it and kind of put it in a cohesive content plan, so to speak, so that the listeners can come away with something that’s actionable. So, if you want to just give a few actionable tips on how to just get started with what we talked about today, that’d be great.

Marcus: So, one of the things that we do that’s been incredibly successful is we have what’s called the content matrix, right? So the content matrix is what you do. Let’s say you’ve got, I don’t know, 20 major products that you sell online or services. So with those 20, let’s create a chart or a graph if you will, and at the top of the chart, you have each one of the major products that you sell. Now, that’s the top of the chart. Now, on the left side of the chart or graph, put the Big Five, put best, cost, problems, versus, reviews, and best. And then take each one of those and fill in all the cost questions that are involved with that particular product, fill in all of the comparison based questions, all the negative based questions, all those things that we’ve talked about.

If you do this, and let’s say that you have 10 products that you sell, let’s just use 10, well, it’s not just that you’re going to have 50 pieces of content, you’re probably going to have a couple of hundred pieces of content that come out of it if you’re doing this the right way, right? Because just on versus alone, there’s probably a bunch of versus that you might do, right. And there’s a bunch of cost ones potentially that you might do. I mean, it just depends on how it said. So, the content matrix works and within a couple of hours of just really focus, you’re going to have 12 to 24 months potentially it could be of content to produce through texts, through video that’s very exciting, that’s very, very helpful.

I think that’s one of the majors and also urging anybody that this is not a straight e-commerce play but it does matter conjunction with video which is such a big deal. I’ve been doing so much with this with clients and experimenting is crazy. We’ve consistently seen over and over again that putting a video next to a form that people have to fill out a form on your site like on a landing page on average increases conversions around 80 to 90%. But here’s the thing that a lot of companies will mess up is they won’t title video. So they slap a video next to a form, that’s not good enough. What you want to do is the video has a title and the title should be something like this literally, should you fill out this form or see exactly what will happen if you fill out this form.

Steve: Interesting.

Marcus: It’s really powerful when you have that titled. So the person comes on that landing page or whatever it is, and you’re trying to get their information for whatever reason, and they have a form. There’s four major fears that people have when they fill out forms. Number one, are you going to call me to death if you’re asking for my number? Number two, are you going to spam me to death if you’re asking for my email? Number three, what are you going to do with my information, privacy. Then number four, exactly what is this process going to look like if I fill out this form? So you want to address all for those fears in this video. You do it nice and easy and relax, right?

So, it’d literally be something like this. I might say okay, so you’re sitting there right now and you’re saying to yourself, should I fill out this form really, are you going to spam me? Are you going to like email me or call me to death? All right, let’s talk about exactly what this is going to look like. So then you explain it. At the end of the video, it doesn’t have to be long at all. At the end of the video you say, so hopefully that addresses your concerns. If any questions let us know. Otherwise, fill out the form; we can’t wait to talk with you soon. Unbelievable results, generally like I said, 80, 90%. I’ve seen a bunch that were between 150, 200% lead to conversions. So those are magical. You see very, very few companies doing that right now, it’s a major opportunity Steve.

Steve: Would you suggest doing this on like an e-commerce checkout page though?

Marcus: Absolutely, absolutely all stinking day long. And again, the beauty behind this guys, is we can split test this stuff, so you don’t want to take my word for it. If you doubt it, split it and you know what, oh yeah, the poor guy was right. At least test it because I’m happy to — there might be situations where it’s more effective 90% of the time, but 10% it’s not. That’s okay; let’s use it for the 90.

Steve: So, just to kind of reiterate what you said, so in the checkout process, you want to just kind of outline the forms that you will experience, what the outcome is going to be, and reassure them that you’re not going to sell their information and that sort of thing.

Marcus: That’s right, overcome those four major fears, major conversion list buddy.

Steve: Interesting. Okay, I’ve never thought to do that at all.

Marcus: That’s why we’re talking.

Steve: I know, so what else you got Marcus.

Marcus: I got lots of stuff.

Steve: We got five minutes left or whatever. If you got anything else, that’d be great. These have been awesome nuggets.

Marcus: Yeah. Well, and hopefully it means to the listeners, look, if you get the book they ask you answer, it’s on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, all the stuff. It was rated the number one marketing book in 2017 by Mashable. And it really breaks all the big five down and talks about this really, really well, all the principles definitively apply to e-commerce. I mean, it really, really does. One thing that I would suggest to people to consider doing Steve, if you are not using some of these simple personalized email video marketing tools by now, you are behind the eye ball, for customer service and e-commerce, they are unfricking believable.

So, an example of these tools would be GoVideo by Vidyard or Soapbox by Wistia or there’s some others out there. And many people when a purchase is made, they’ll send some automated, hey, thank you. But even better especially if they spend a bunch of money with you, if you create a quick personalized video that says, hey Steve, you just went on our site and you purchased this, man, I’m so excited for you, I just want to thank you. But if you do that, and they see the thumbnail of you holding up a card that says, thank you Steve for your purchase, and it comes to them the same day, they’re going to be blown away. This is stuff that Amazon isn’t doing yet.

And that is the power of personalized video; it’s free. If you get GoVideo right now by Vidyard is the company that makes it, it’s a free Chrome extension and anybody that is not technical can learn how to do in about 60 seconds. Everybody that’s listening to us right now for that ultra, powerful customer service experience should be sending out personalized email videos. And it makes all the difference.

Steve: And so just to be clear, this service, so I’m not familiar with the service, you can actually personalize a video and generate on the fly?

Marcus: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. Yeah.

Marcus: Super, super fast. So, it’s like if I wanted to Steve, and I might even do it after we get off this, I might just send it to you directly just because it is amazing. There’s two major problems with emails that we have. Okay, number one, do they open it? Number two, do they consume it after it’s been opened? So those are the two major problems, so how do you do it? You got a subject line that says something like this. Hey Steve, I made this video for you. Okay. Now as soon as you see that, you have to open it, psychologically you don’t have a choice, right? You don’t have a choice.

Then when you see a thumbnail of a video and on that video I’ve got this little whiteboard or note that’s saying, hey Steve, I just wanted to thank you, whatever, hey Steve, or whatever it says, or just Steve exclamation point. Once again, you can’t help but to click on the video and watch it. And the whole thing oftentimes will take me less time than actually writing out an email, and it’s so outrageously personalized and it’s just different than what anybody else is doing. Again, GoVideo by Vidyard, it’s free Chrome extension guys; get it right now unless you’re using some other type of personalized video program.

Steve: I love it Marcus. Hey, I want to give you a chance to talk about your services and your books and all the other services that you have to offer.

Marcus: Yeah, well, I’ve got an agency; it’s called Impact Brand and Design, ImpactBnD, Bravo and Nancy, Impactbnd.com is my agency, but my personal site is Marcussheridan.com. And I speak all over the world and if you’ve got — I know there’s a lot of solopreneurs here that don’t necessarily need a workshop, but if you’re thinking about somebody for a conference or whatever, recommend me because this is what I do and I have a lot of fun with it. And my obsession is the audience and their takeaways, and hopefully, that’s what this audience has gotten today Steve. They’re like, man, that’s a clear nugget. That’s a clear nugget. That’s a clear nugget, not a bunch of fluff, not a bunch of hypothetical jargon. They’re like man, this is actionable and I can take it and apply it to my business tomorrow. That’s always my goal.

Steve: Absolutely. In fact, Marcus I may not publish this episode and keep all these nuggets to myself.

Marcus: That’s awesome.

Steve: But thanks a lot for coming on the show Marcus, really appreciate your time.

Marcus: My pleasure.

Steve: All right. Take care.

I hope you enjoyed that episode. Marcus is amazing at planning and writing copy that converts and I know that I’m personally going to listen to this episode one more time in case I missed anything. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode243.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for developing real quality customer relationships. Right now they just released a cool docuseries called Beyond Black Friday where you can learn successful e-commerce marketing strategies from real companies using their platform. This docuseries is free and you check it out at Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

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

Now I talk about how I use these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

242: How Allen Walton Created A 7 Figure Store Selling Spy Equipment

242: How Allen Walton Created A 7 Figure Store Selling Spy Equipment Online

Today, I’m thrilled to have Allen Walton on the show. Now Allen is someone who I met at Ecommerce Fuel Live a long time ago but we didn’t really get to know each other until we hung out at Billy Murphy’s Mancation earlier this year.

Anyway, Allen runs SpyGuy.com which is an ecommerce store that sells spy equipment online. His store has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Fast Company and he was recently featured on the Tim Ferriss podcast as well.

What’s cool is that he bootstrapped his company from the ground up and turned it into a solid 7 figure business.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Allen got into the spy equipment business
  • Where Allen sources his products
  • What the margins are like for dropshipped goods vs goods that you carry inventory for
  • How to prevent customers from doing price comparisons online and on Amazon
  • Why spy products have no brands

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
ahrefs

GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Today I have my friend Allen Walton on the show, and we actually recorded this interview a while ago. But in the past couple of months, he’s been featured on the Tim Ferriss podcast and the Tropical MBA podcast as well and he’s got an amazing story that I know you’ll enjoy.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding, and taking cues from my customers and deliver personalized marketing messages. So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over $100 who purchased red handkerchiefs in the past year. And it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo.

Right now they have this cool docu series called Beyond Black Friday where they discuss successful marketing strategies that their customers are using that you can emulate with your business. So, if you’re interested in watching this series, head on over to Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf .

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Well, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. And bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Allen Walton on the show. Now, Allen is actually someone who I met at Ecommerce Fuel Live a long, long time ago, but we actually didn’t really get a chance to know each other until we hung out at Billy Murphy’s Mancation earlier this year. Anyway, Allen runs SpyGuy.com, which is an e-commerce store that sells spy equipment online, and his store has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Fastcompany, and he’s actually recently on the Tropical MBA podcast. Anyway, Allen bootstrapped his company from the ground up and turned it into a solid seven figure business. And with that, welcome the show, how are you doing today Allen?

Allen: Hey I’m doing well, thanks for having me.

Steve: So Allen, I was actually on your site shopping last night, and then I realized that I was going to get retargeted on Facebook with Spy Guy ads which made me kind of preemptively tell my wife that I was interviewing today just in case, call me a little paranoid. So Allen…

Allen: Now, we do get customers that – sorry to interrupt you but we do to get customers that get really frustrated with us when they see retargeting ad because they’re really concerned about somebody on their computer that sees an ad for Spy Guy, they get really upset. Even if we just email an order confirmation, they get infuriated.

Steve: Just curious though, I actually didn’t end up getting any ads so my my worries weren’t real but are you running retargeting ads on Facebook?

Allen: Not right this second we aren’t, but we’ve been kind of testing it over like the last month or so just to see if we can make it profitable because it’s actually been kind of difficult.

Steve: Okay. And we’ll get into that a little bit because we did chat about it earlier. So Allen, before we get started with the guts of the interview, why spy equipment? And how did you actually get into this business? It seems a little random to me.

Allen: Yeah. It’s super random, actually. So I live in Dallas, have my whole life. And when I was growing up, there was this spy shop here in Dallas that was called Spy Supply. It’s no longer in business but I used to go there with my family, like on Sunday afternoons or whatever after church. We’d go to the pancake house that was next door and I’d always be really curious about the spy shop that looked sketchy as hell. So wait, am I fast, is that okay?

Steve: Yeah, that’s cool.

Allen: Okay. So it’s a really sketchy looking spy shop. I didn’t want to go in, I just kind of like wanted pear in through the windows. And so grew up still eating at that pancake house that was next door, and one day they had a help wanted sign out front. At the time I was like 21 years old, I was living at home, my parents really wanted me to get a job. And so my mom made me apply. It’s really kind of that, but I applied for the job and I ended up getting it. And so that’s kind of how I got into it. So selling CCTV systems to like big businesses and people with homes that wanted security cameras, but they also did sell a lot of spy related gear, so like hidden cameras, GPS trackers and whatnot.

And they worked with like police departments and private investigators and plus it was kind of like a novelty store, so sometimes we’d get celebrities that came in and just want to poke around so that was always really fun. And that’s how I got started I guess.

Steve: Why is it such a covert industry?

Allen: I don’t know. It’s very frustrating. There’s no brand names on any of the products that we really sell. You can’t get any of these items in big box retailers or anything like that. You pretty much have to get them all online. Or if you live in a big city, there might be a small small spy shopp or security store in your town, but there’s no mass manufacturing going on. The big brands that are out there probably don’t want to have their brand name on a hidden camera, might just ruin their brand image kind of. Yeah, and possible a lot of the people that get in this industry, they’re just sketchy people as well. So like it’s sketchy industry run by sketchy people selling sketchy products and a lot of paranoid people going on. So yeah.

Steve: Wait, so these items don’t have brands, so how does it work? How do you source your products?

Allen: So when I started, working in that brick and mortar spy shop, that’s why I learned where they were getting some of the items from. A lot of it is coming from Asia, obviously and then there’s US distributors, so that’s how I started. The brand though, how do you even look it up?

Steve: Like if someone wanted to get into this, it’d be difficult, right?

Allen: It would be really difficult. I mean, you can see some — if you go to Alibaba or whatever, and you type in some keywords, then you can find some of the products that are on there.

But the thing is there’s a lot of factories in China that are all making the same stuff. It’s like they’re using a public mold or something like that, or maybe it’s just a bunch of trading companies that are sourcing it from some factory that I can’t find on my own. So, it’s just very confusing. And I’ve made the trip over there trying to figure it all out, contacted as many people as I can. It’s just really bizarre. Like, you have no idea who’s the actual brains behind making some of these items, who’s the actual factory that’s making it, it’s really odd.

Steve: Interesting. So do you actually carry inventory of your products then or do you drop ship them?

Allen: Yeah, we carry inventory on all of the items that we sell. Sometimes we are running low or just completely out, then we can talk to the supplier that we’re getting stuff from into drop shipping it for us. If it’s an item that’s made in the US, if it’s an item that’s been made here, we just make sure that we have it in stock at all times.

Steve: So what do you think that — you mentioned they don’t have brands, so are you allowed towhite label these? Like, can you slap your own brand on these items or no?

Allen: Yeah, people do it all the time. If you go to Amazon or you just look around the spy shops that are online it’s pretty much all white labeled. Most people just keep it in the same crappy gift box or whatever that the Chinese supplier is giving them. They don’t even bother changing out the instruction manual. But yeah, if you look at Amazon, you’ll see the same item that’s being sold — excuse me, you’ll see the same item being sold by like 20 different suppliers under 20 different names. They’re all terrible brand names. It’s like somebody just did alphabet soup or whatever and just threw it on the Amazon product title. So yeah, it’s just very odd.

Steve: Interesting. So you carry your own inventory, so how do how much to carry and what to carry? Because you have a lot of products in your site, I was just shopping on there the other day?

Allen: Yeah, experience I guess. So, I’ve been doing this for almost a decade now, about five years on my own I suppose. So, just kind of seeing what customers are drawn to, what works, what gets returned often. So like, I actually take a lot of pride in our product selection on the website because we only carry the items that customers actually really like and items that we like and are low stress and don’t require a ton of tech support. We just want to avoid all of the headaches of dealing with returns and customers who are happy and saying that stuff about us online. We just eliminate that entirely by not carrying products that we don’t like.

Steve: Yeah, that makes sense. I was actually shopping for some stuff on your site just kind of comparing on Amazon. And as you mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of stuff that looks very similar but because it’s not really branded, it’s really easy to get things confused. So, how do you make your stuff kind of stand out among your competitors?

Allen: That’s a good question. I suppose we make it stand out because we’re offering more information. So, we have better product photos and we actually have a studio here where we take our own product photos, we have videos for most of the products that are on our website. Whereas if you’re looking on Amazon, or some of our competitors, they don’t have any videos at all. We have product descriptions that share all the details. So, we tell them exactly what is this case made out of on this hidden camera. So for example, there’s a really popular generic, it’s the type of product that’s just a free for all on Alibaba.

You can source it from a million different suppliers. But the thing is, I’ve been selling that product for like eight years, and I’ve seen all the different iterations of this product. It might be in a plastic enclosure, but somebody else is selling it in an aluminum enclosure. The aluminum one feels much more higher quality than the plastic one, there’s some weight to it, it feels higher quality. But then you also have the internal components. So I might be offering a camera that’s 10 ADP, and it’s higher priced than the one that you see on Amazon, even though they look the exact same. But what that Amazon seller isn’t saying is that the camera side is actually like four ADP or 7 ADP.

So even though the stuff looks the same, it really kind of is different. And we get customers all the time that call us asking why our price is higher or asking what the difference is. And that’s another value proposition we have is that we actually have a phone number where you can call and we’re happy to answer questions and match you with the right product.

Steve: Interesting, so you actually provide tech support on all of the products that you sell?

Allen: Right. So we offer expert advice. So if you haven’t bought anything from us, and you’re looking around, you’re trying to figure stuff out because people aren’t just buying this stuff like just because, they’re buying it because they have a need for it. And so they have questions, they have a lot of concerns, they’re trying to be discreet a lot of time, and so we’ll offer that up front advice and then we do lifetime tech support on all the products that we sell. We just do that on our own; we don’t have another company that does that for us.

Steve: Would you say then that you close a lot of your sales over the phone in person as opposed to just on the website?

Allen: Yeah, we did a test on it earlier this year. I’d love to find a way to make this like an ongoing test like we do it every month, but it’s really kind of annoying to run this test, but maybe 15 to 20% of the sales that we get are orders placed over the phone.

Steve: Wow. Okay. I guess that makes sense. So that implies then that the people that are answering phones at your company, they have to be very knowledgeable about the products.

Allen: Right. Yeah, we currently have four people doing sales and tech support, they do it all and we educate them on all the products that we sell. So we have everything in stock that we actually show them how to do everything. We have internal videos that we use for training. My most senior tech support person is actually the guy that trained me when I started at the spy shop here in Dallas like 10 years ago.

Steve: Oh, that’s funny.

Allen: He’s the guy that actually taught me all of the stuff that I know. And then when I went on to start my own business, maybe like a year later, I needed help. And I thought it was going to be so hard training my first employee, I just reached out to him and asked if he wanted to come work with me. And he said, yeah, so that was really nice. And he handles a lot of the training for my new employees.

Steve: Okay, that’s pretty sweet. So, was he still working at the Dallas shop at the time?

Allen: No, this is where it gets a little confusing. I worked at that store for about two years. And then five years ago, I started my own company. But there was a gap in there about three years. So like 2009, 2011, I was working in a brick and mortar spy shop for somebody else. And then in 2011, I actually got hired by a really bad TV show called cheaters.

Steve: Yeah, I actually vaguely remember that.

Allen: Okay. Yeah, they were a customer of mine and I was friends with the detective on the show. And the guy that created the TV show wanted to start his own brick and mortar spy shop. Long story short, I met with them, I convinced them to do an e-commerce website because I felt like that was the direction things were going in. And so they hired me to start an online spy shop for them, which they advertised in all of their TV show. They actually had like a 15 second commercial that ran in the TV show. And so when I went to work for them, I actually took the guy that trained me, my friend Vince, we went over to that venture. We worked there for about three years and then I went to start my own thing.

And then a year after I started Spuy Guy, I needed help. And so he was still working over there and I convinced him to come and work for me.

Steve: Interesting. So is that store still alive, the cheaters one?

Allen: No, that one died a couple of years ago. It was a big mess, and I’d be happy to talk about it with you in case you’re curious. I’m not sure you want to air it because the guy is very litigious.

Steve: Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, we’ll talk about it after after the recording. So, when I was going shopping for this, it was actually quite confusing, because there’s just so many different options and whatnot. And so one, like how do you get traffic to your store? And then how do you manage to close the sale once you do get someone there?

Allen: So when I started out, I realized that SEO was going to take absolutely forever, it was gonna be really hard because my niche is pretty competitive. So I learned paid ads, I learned how to do Google AdWords. I probably bought like three different books on the subject, a lot of YouTube videos. I don’t know if it’s still around but there was a really good blog called PPC Hero that talks about.

Steve: Yeah, it’s still there.

Allen: Okay, cool. Yeah, I learned a lot of stuff on their blog and through videos that they had posted on how to create campaigns, manage ad groups, create a list of keywords and optimizing for quality score. And right about the time that I started my business, I wasn’t making a whole lot of money. I was trying to do the four hour workweek thing and really trying to automate the business, but I needed to grow it and, it doesn’t take four hours a week or whatever to grow a business. And so, I actually took on an apprenticeship, some guy I found on Craigslist, he was just living in the suburbs of Dallas but he was solo managing some really big AdWords accounts for companies like SimpleHuman like they do…

Steve: Yeah, I know them [overlapping 00:16:56].

Allen: Yeah, exactly. So he was managing SimpleHuman and See’s Candy. They’re not big in Dallas, but I think…

Steve: They’re big out here in California. Yeah.

Allen: Yeah, he was managing their ad account in addition to a bunch of other ones, and he needed help. And I was like, all right, this sounds like a really good opportunity to learn PPC. And so I went to work with him for — I was only there like two or three months but I learned a lot about managing PPC campaigns. And that’s how I really scaled my business when I first started it, and it’s still a huge percentage of our sales today.

Steve: So when you say Google ads, are you talking about AdWords or Shopping, display ads?

Allen: Oh, yeah, so AdWords and then product listing ads, PLA it used to be called, I guess it’s just Google Shopping now. Yeah, so those two things. We tried the display thing, can’t really get it to stick.

Steve: That’s been my problem too although I just had someone who’s an expert on that on the podcast. I just haven’t gotten around to implementing what she’s taught yet, so I’ll do it. Okay so AdWords, were you running these ads by yourself first and not being successful until you took on this apprenticeship?

Allen: So my company launched in May and then I took the apprenticeship on in June. So just like a month later. I had been running my own campaigns for a month, and it was working, but it wasn’t enough to pay all the bills. And so the PPC apprenticeship was a good opportunity to earn a little extra cash. Not a whole lot, I was only getting like $1,000 a month, but it certainly helped and I learned a lot of info and I’m really glad I did it.

Steve: What were some of your key takeaways that you learned from the apprenticeship that you were not doing actually before you joined?

Allen: Oh, that’s a good question. I haven’t thought about this in a while, like over four years. So I learned a lot about spreadsheets. I never use spreadsheets before and I was learning about pivot tables and be look up and all this other stuff that I’m pretty sure is really basic for somebody that is in Excel all day but it was brand new to me and conditional formatting. So I was learning how to easily tell which ads were profitable. I was learning a lot about reporting and how long…

Steve: So the AdWords interface isn’t good enough to tell what’s going on, because you can actually do a whole bunch of filters and everything now within the AdWords interface.

Allen: Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. I ran my ads for probably eight months. And then I met somebody at the very first Ecommerce Fuel event in Austin, his name is Travis.

Steve: Yeah Travis. Okay.

Allen: Yep. He’s been doing all of my PPC for the last several years. And so I haven’t been in the weeds in quite a while.

Steve: Okay, fair enough. So AdWords is like, or Google Ads I should say is a decent sized chunk of your revenue. What are some other ways that you’ve been able to get traffic to your site aside from that?

Allen: We do get organic traffic, not a whole lot; it’s like less than 10% of our overall sales. And something that I just been really neglecting for years even though I know a lot about SEO, I’ve been neglecting it because I largely just got complacent with my business. And I hadn’t set new goals. Money was my main motivator for a really long time. But once I was making a sizable amount of money per month on my e-commerce website, I just kind of like fell into a phone for like a one to two year period where I didn’t have to do anything all day and I was still making good profit. So, I just kind of like didn’t do anything.

And now I’m paying the price for it because I got Google like suspending my account for like weeks at a time because they don’t like what I’m selling.

Steve: Did you say Google suspending your account. Is that just for PLAs or just in general for AdWords as well?

Allen: Yeah, it was for Shopping.

Steve: Shopping, okay.

Allen: I got in trouble with text ads, but with Shopping they’ve been really…

Steve: They’ve been cracking down a lot of industries actually for that recently.

Allen: Yeah, I’ve been looking at that and when they do that, it’s so difficult because you have no idea what to do. It’s like all of a sudden, like your sales drop like a rock. And you can’t get ahold of anybody there. They won’t let you actually talk to the policy team directly. You have to go through and just some phone support person that’s totally unhelpful. And so you can’t find out exactly what’s going on. They’re not clear and their description of what problem they have with your ad or website or whatever. So it’s very frustrating to just suddenly wake up one morning and then see no sales coming from Google Shopping, and then you realize they shut down your account without telling you, and it takes like or two weeks to get it running. It’s beyond frustrating.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank Ahrefs for being a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m a huge fan of their tool and in my opinion Ahrefs is the best all in one SEO tool out there to rank in Google search. And recently, I completed a search engine site audit for mywifequitherjob.com and Bumblebeelinens.com and Ahrefs was indispensable. For example, I used Ahrefs to do a deep dive into all my posts to find the highest volume, lowest competition keywords to target in search. And in fact, recently, I used Ahrefs to rank a blog post in Google from position 20 to position five for a big time keyword in the span of just one month by switching around my title and H1 tags.

I also use Ahrefs to spy my competitors’ sites to see what keywords they are ranking for, and then I write a more comprehensive post and eventually outrank them in search. Now those of you who know me know that I hate spending money on tools, but I actually pay for Ahrefs and that should say something in itself. Right now, I’m giving away nine three month Ahrefs memberships for free. To sign up, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway, once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway to win a three month Ahrefs membership. Now back to the show.

Would you say then that a lot of your sales are just like word of mouth sales? I would imagine like once someone trusts your store, and because the whole industry is kind of sketchy, then I can imagine word of mouth being a huge factor.

Allen: It is. Yeah, especially after we started getting reviews on our website and stuff, getting reviews on the website really helps because it convinced people who are shopping to do business with us, and then I feel like I run a pretty good business. And so, they would order from us, they’d be satisfied and then maybe they have a friend of theirs that’s going through some issue, and it’s just a word of mouth referral. And so, we do get a lot of direct traffic. Actually, I’m glad you brought that up because we do get a lot of people that just are coming directly by typing Spuy Guy into the URL I’ve noticed.

Steve: How did you get your press mentions? Like I know in the beginning, you’ve been on CNBC, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company. Did you go out and try to get those? Do you have a PR person or did those just kind of fall in your lap?

Allen: So it all started when I got mentioned in Forbes and I’ll tell the story about how I got involved if you like.

Steve: Sure.

Allen: I’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan. So like 4-Hour Workweek was a huge influence on me years ago and one of the resources that he talks about in there is Haro, helpful a reporter out. And basically three times a day I get an email with reporters, bloggers, journalists, whatever you want to call them. They’re looking for sources for their stories. There’s another one that’s out there, it’s called PR Newswire or something like — I can’t remember off the top of my head. Profnet I think is what it’s called. But it’s a very similar service, a little bit higher quality, but it also costs a lot of money.

And so I was using those two services to find people who were asking questions about things that I knew about. It might be digital marketing, it might be entrepreneurship, sometimes they talk about spy related stuff I guess or security related issues. So I try to be as helpful as I can in those emails, so that they can quote me in an article. And one day I open up [Inaudible 00:25:08] and I see a request in there in the business section and it’s like looking for million dollars solopreneurs. And I was like, oh wow, nobody’s going to respond to this because there’s probably not a whole lot of people that are running a business by themselves and doing a million dollars in revenue.

And I noticed that it’s a Forbes next to it. I’m like, I have to respond to this. I have to do the best answer I can in this email so that maybe they’ll reach out for a phone conversation and I can get quoted in Forbes and so it worked essentially.

Steve: I’ve never had any good luck with Haro actually.

Allen: It’s been awful lately, like the last two years I haven’t gotten like anything. Fortunately, that Forbes mention — so this is a little tricky, I made sure to name drop Tim Ferriss a lot and the interview that I do with Forbes so that if you got mentioned in it, then I could like send it to him, and then he’d post it and share it with his audience. And long story short, that worked.

Steve: Clever.

Allen: That Forbes article went live, three days later it hadn’t had any clicks or anything like that. But they made Tim Ferriss like front and center on the article. They had an image of him that’s like the banner image. And so what I did was I set my phone, I installed Twitter on my phone, and I had set up to text me or whatever, whenever Tim Ferriss was posting on Twitter. And this was back when he wasn’t doing the podcast I think, so most of his tweets were authentic and he’s like typing it on there and asking questions of his audience and whatnot.

And so whenever it was an authentic post, I would send a link to the Forbes article saying that it mentioned him. It only took me like two tries, but then he retweeted it to his audience. He sent it out in his five bullet Friday, posted on Facebook, and then all of a sudden it went from like 1,000 views over three days to like 300,000 views in like June period or whatever. And so I think like Inc.com, they spun the article or whatever. So it was just a rehash of the original Forbes article. And then when I do other help a reporter out responses, I like be sure to say, hey look, I was mentioned on CNBC and Forbes, and I’ll link to those articles and stuff. So it gives me credibility with whoever is seeing that response and then they are more confident in featuring me.

Steve: That’s a very good strategy and that apparently works, yeah I can see how that would work.

Allen: Yeah. Another really great resource if you’re looking for PR is Ryan Holiday’s book, Trust me, I’m lying. I found it fascinating. And I’ve actually used a lot of the tactics and strategies that are in there to get press mentions.

Steve: Why don’t you just name one for people who haven’t read the book?

Allen: Oh, okay let me think about it.

Steve: Okay, we can come back to it.

Allen: Okay. Sure.

Steve: All right. So I would also imagine you mentioned earlier that you have businesses that buy from you, right? What is your strategy there on getting these b2b customers?

Allen: I guess it’s b2b, I never really considered it. We do have customers that are business owners, and they’re trying to combat employee theft. We have police departments and private investigators that are purchasing equipment from us. And I don’t really have a strategy there, they just find me. Maybe they’re looking for what I sell, and they’re doing some comparison shopping or whatever. And then they see our website, they see the phone number, and they call and ask us questions and whatnot.

Steve: Okay, so you don’t go through your customer list to see if anyone looks like they could be like a large customer?

Allen: We do. So, whenever we see a customer place an order and it says like private investigator or PI, or investigative services, or whatever, they have their business name and the title, we’ll make a note of it and realize that this is a customer that, okay, these types of customers and this police department, we can probably get multiple orders from them. Whereas with regular customers, they’re pretty much one and done. So, lifetime value for my customer is whatever they place on the first order.

Steve: Right. Yeah, that’s kind of what I was getting at. So just kind of curious what your strategy has been, because a lot of these people are one and done. Do you get a lot of repeat business in general?

Allen: No, not at all.

Steve: Oh, really? Okay.

Allen: It’s brutal. Yeah, if I can do it all over again.

Steve: See, you get a steady flow of customers, obviously. And so they’re just funding you have through search.

Allen: They’re finding us through search primarily, Google Shopping and AdWords. That makes up the majority of the traffic that we’re getting. We’ve played with Facebook, it’s so difficult to target people that need spy equipment. Like there’s no demographic in particular. I’ve looked at all this stuff on Google Analytics, they break it into four different age groups or whatever. And it shows you the percentage of people that are coming to your website and what age group they are in like 25, 25, 25, 25, male, female, slightly more female than male, which is shocking.

Steve: That’s interesting actually. Okay.

Allen: Yeah. So more male visitors, but more females convert. It’s weird. I loved another reason behind that. But there’s no common interest or trade or demographic or whatever you want to call it that a customer would need, a shopper would need to become a customer of ours.

Steve: I’m not sure how I would feel if I saw spy equipment ad in my feed too, like, as we talked about earlier, right? Like if my wife was just browsing my Facebook or using my computer and all of a sudden she saw like hidden camera stuff, she’d probably ask me about it.

Allen: Right. We haven’t had any luck with product ads or anything like that on Facebook, we’ve tried the retargeting thing. It’s just breaking even really. And I’ve had multiple people, not just my account manager, but I’ve had multiple people that do Facebook ads for living, look at my account and be like, oh, yeah, this is really difficult. Okay, I have some ideas for new strategies for Facebook. It just takes up a lot of like we need more ad creative and we need to make use of more videos and more content on our website. And just content production is expensive, it takes a long time. I think that we’re starting to figure out a strategy that might work with Facebook.

Steve: Okay, what is your email strategy? I actually didn’t notice any pop ups and offers when I landed on your site. So, I was just curious.

Allen: Yeah, I don’t have one. So, I mentioned earlier I went and started cheater spy shop, and I was there for like three years. And we did email marketing when we’re there and I know from that experience, we just weren’t making any money on it whatsoever. Why?

Steve: Interesting, okay.

Allen: There’s probably several reasons why, we don’t really get new products. There’s not a whole lot of people that are developing spy equipment at all. So, it’s largely the same stuff that’s been selling for a long amount of time and customers are not repeat purchasers. So, if they order something on the website, we get the email and we try to hit them up for more sales, it’s pretty much a no go there. I do think that we — I know for a fact we can make email a lot better than it currently is because we’re only sending a couple emails a year like Cyber Monday, Black Friday, we do a little bit of Valentine’s Day related stuff.

Steve: Valentine’s Day, hilarious. Okay.

Allen: Yeah. Well, so here’s how it goes is that if somebody is like having an affair or whatever, they’re going to have to celebrate Valentine’s Day twice, so one with their spouse and then the second person is on the side, and so they usually do that like on February 13 or whatever. And so what we’ll do an email series in the lead up to Valentine’s Day to be like, hey, this is a perfect time to catch an affair if you’ve been suspecting.

Steve: That’s too funny.

Allen: Yeah. But you’re right, I don’t have a pop up on the website, been looking around. I heard you’re Privy thing on the podcast recently, so I’m taking a look at it because I do know that we have a lot of customers that are people visiting our website that don’t buy the first time that they visit or the second time that they visit, and we really do need to be emailing them. It’s something that has been on my radar and I just haven’t gotten around to it for several reasons I guess.

Steve: I actually went ahead and did a bunch of shopping before this. I just looked around and I can say that I think what’s very attractive at your store and it’s probably why it’s so successful is the fact that you curate the products and then you explain them and you provide tech support, which is something that you’re not going to get at all on Amazon and these other sites. They are kind of sketchy too. And the fact that you’re willing to put your face in a video also really adds a lot to the credibility of the site.

Allen: Yeah. So I’ll tackle the last one first. Here is the thing, I hate being on camera, I’m just always hated it. I feel like, I look goofy. And more importantly, I just didn’t want to be associated with spy equipment at all. I was really hesitant to put my face on the website, because I don’t want this to be what I’m known for. This is just [overlapping 00:34:27] right. I’d rather be, I’d be happy to put my face on something if I was like, really super, if this was a product or industry where it’s very shareable. Right? Nobody is sharing spy stuff on Facebook and Instagram and whatnot. If I could be in a different industry, like selling music equipment, or if I were like a really hot model and I was selling like, bikinis or whatever, I’d be happy to put my face out there. But I didn’t grow up wanting to be associated with spy gear or anything like that.

And so for the first like two years that I did my company, my face wasn’t anywhere on there because I didn’t want people know that this is what I was doing. But I’ve just learned to embrace the fact that I’m in a really weird industry with a lot of people that are genuine and need help, and nobody out there is filling that need. And so I kind of put myself out there, I was like, hey, look, I’m the guy that you can trust. I have everything in stock. I’m not drop shipping everything, you can actually call us and ask questions and we’re happy to help you out. And that was radically different than what everybody else was offering when I hit the scene.

Steve: I think that works really well. Like as I was shopping, the video that you put out, it just looks — it was, the lighting and everything was great, but it was just very authentic. I think that’s the right word. And it made me want to trust you because you’re not like the sleazy guy trying to hawk spy equipment.

Allen: Right. Yeah, I don’t. I don’t think of myself as sleazy. I’m just trying to be an honest guy matching a product to a customer that really needs it, because some of these customers are going through like really frustrating situations. And not to bring the mood down or anything like that, but they might have a parent that’s in an Alzheimer home and they think they’re getting abused. So they want a hidden camera. Or maybe they have a kid who’s autistic and they think that something is going on and they’ll like put a recorder in the backpack and then find out that the teacher is like verbally harassing this kid, or they’re being harassed like a woman might be harassed at work, and she needs to prove it.

And so, they’re going through these situations, they’re going through divorces, it’s all really sad. And a lot of times, they they call us and they want to unload on us because it’s so frustrating for them. Unfortunately, we’re not licensed therapists or anything like that. And so we listen to their story, we try to match them with the best product that will help get rid of that issue that’s causing them some sort of emotional or financial distress. And so, by putting ourselves out there is like, hey look, we’re here to help you out. We’re not just trying to make a quick buck selling a crappy product, we really only sell the best stuff. I think you’re right. I think it does shine through.

Steve: I think so for sure especially among the stores that I was looking at comparing them to yours, actually.

Allen: Yeah. And one more thing I’ll mention about it is that we get so many people that call here and like straight up asked for me, or like maybe I’ll have an employee that’s sick or maybe I’m at the office and my employee’s phone rings for a sales call. And I’m like, hey, you know what, I want to take that call. I just kind of want to keep my finger on the pulse of the business. And so I’ll do the sales call. And I’ll say, hey, my name is Allen, thanks for calling. How can I help? And they’ll be like, oh, you’re the guy in the video because they recognize my voice.

Steve: Oh, yeah. Right.

Allen: Right in the video. And I’m like, yeah, and they’re like, oh, that’s awesome. Why am I talking to you? And I’m like, well, I own the business and sometimes I answer the phones just to find out what’s going on and talk to customers because I like it. And so they like that and then I’ll take an order over the phone.

Steve: Nice. So I know recently you’ve done some adjustments to your website, you did a redesign, I want to ask you, what are some of the key takeaways that you had from just kind of changing things around this past year? Like what are some of the mistakes that you tried to address, and and what did you try to emphasize about your store?

Allen: Yeah, so when I started my website like four and a half years ago, I used a default Shopify theme. The guys over at out of the sandbox, they are a development company that specializes in Shopify themes, they make really good themes. And so, I went ahead and bought one for like 150 bucks at the time I think that was good enough, and then I got into an argument on Reddit with some guy about logos and how they didn’t really matter all this other stuff. And I ended up hiring him to design a logo for me, it’s kind of funny.

Steve: It’s hilarious okay.

Allen: So, we made the website, it was very scrappy. I got the whole company started including like forming the LLC and all the legal stuff for under a grand. And so it was very bootstrapped effort. And we had the same website largely for like the next three and a half years where I just didn’t change anything at all. And then it finally got to the point where I was going to conferences, I was meeting people like you, I was meeting a lot of people who took a lot of pride in their businesses whereas when I looked at my business at the time, I was like, I could be doing a lot better, I could have a much better website and plus it’s how I make like 100% of my income. I really need to up the design of the website.

And so I had found somebody that was I thought did amazing work designing websites, I found another person that I thought did amazing work with branding, and so I worked with those two people to come up with the website that I have now. I kind of have a funny story your listeners might enjoy. I had the logo when I started this back in 2014, and it was just like this sketchy looking detective logo or whatever. It was a guy in a fedora. And a year later, I noticed that an extremely similar logo was being used for the Google incognito like the Google Chrome.

Steve: Yeah, incognito mode. Yeah.

Allen: Yeah. So they’ve had three different incognito logos since they launched Chrome. And the first one was like a dude in a trench coat. It looked really super scary looking. And then after my website was live for like a year, they changed the logo and it looks almost exactly like the logo that I had created a year prior. And then they modified it again like a couple of years later, and then it was even closer to my logo. And so I had a lot of customers that were like you just stole the Google incognito logo and put it on your website. And I’m like, no, I swear I was first. And it got to the point where I was like I got the sketchy looking detective dude as my logo. My color scheme is black and white. I could probably redo this to make it a little bit more trustworthy. And so that’s why I went through the whole brand redesign process.

Steve: Like your numbers were fine at the time, right before you did the design.

Allen: Oh, yeah, they were great. We were really hesitant to change anything at all. Again, like, for the first several years of the business, I was just interested in running a four hour workweek style business that was very hands off, and I achieved that goal. But eventually I was like, you know what, I really want to scale this thing to be bigger than it was before. I want to be proud of my website and my brand. I’ve got my face on this whole thing, it should really be the best thing that it can be. It’s time to put some money into this website.

And my marketing guy was very — he was like, dude, I don’t know, this is working really well. You don’t want to suddenly have a huge drop in sales. We know this thing converts. And so, I was like, yeah, we can always go back to it. It was an experiment, I learned a lot and I’m glad we did it.

Steve: What were some of your key takeaways from the whole experience?

Allen: Key takeaways. I would not work with two people again. When you’re small e-commerce business like I am, you should not have a whole bunch of projects going on at once, because everything moves slower. It becomes very difficult moving from one task to another. So I was looking at manufacturing my own products. I was looking at redoing the website, I was looking at filming new videos, I was looking at all sorts of different aspects of my business and putting on different hats and stuff was very frustrating.

So going back, I would have just made the new website like my only priority for like the next six months because it was very intensive. It was hard to go between all of these different projects, it’s just too much of your brain ram being taken up. And then also working with two different people that were not communicating with each other was so difficult.

Steve: Who were these two people? You had a designer and someone else or?

Allen: Yeah, so I had a branding expert, whatever you want to call it. And she was coming up with the art style for my website and the color scheme and the branding voice and the logo, of course, and all of this other stuff. And she was also really good at — she’s very conversion focused when it comes to like designing websites. The problem was that she didn’t do Shopify stores at all. So, she would come up with like have the wire framing of [Inaudible 00:43:43] like down to the pixel. But then I had to move all of that stuff over to a Shopify developer who’s very good at what they do, but the two of them were not communicating with each other in the process. Like I just couldn’t make that happen for whatever reason. And so I had to act like a middleman like…

Steve: Oh I see.

Allen: Yeah it was very frustrating.

Steve: Well, all that’s behind you. So Allen, looking forward, what are some of your plans and hopefully people don’t need spy equipment but where can they find you online if they need something, and will they get you on the phone actually if they do call?

Allen: Yeah, sometimes they’ll get me on the phone. The website is SpuyGuy.com. It used to be Spy Guy Security but I bought SpyGuy.com about a year ago which is like a whole another interesting story about negotiating a domain and stuff.

Steve: [Overlapping 00:44:40] what was your rationale for doing that if you already had Spuy Guy Security for so long?

Allen: Spuy Guy Security, I think it’s like 14 letter domain or whatever. Spyguy.com, it’s just six. It sounds like a Silicon Valley startup. Like it’s just very straightforward. It rhymes. It’s catchy, it’s memorable. We have a logo to go along with it. So it’s very memorable. Spy Guy Security is a lot more, I don’t know. It sounds more professional I guess you could say. But I think that the succinctness of SpyGuy.com, it’s kind of like an intangible thing I guess you could say. It’s very, yeah, I don’t know, I haven’t been thinking a lot of that.

Steve: Fair enough, man. All right, so SpyGuy.com. And if you need spy equipment, feel free to hit him up. And yeah, if you guys can’t tell from this interview, Allen is a very genuine guy. He just tells it like how it is, and he’ll help you out. So Allen, thanks a lot for coming on the show, man.

Allen: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s been fun.

Steve: All right, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, what I like about Allen is that he’s just a regular dude, and he’s a complete open book. And it’s always refreshing to hear a realistic account of all the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode242.

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

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, a win-back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. Right now they have this cool docu series called Beyond Black Friday that I highly recommend that you check out and that can be found over at Klaviyo.com/beyondbf, once again that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/beyondbf.

Now I talk about how I use both of these tools on 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

241: How My Blog Performed In 2018 – Year End Review

Year End Review - How My Blog Performed In 2018

My wife just closed the books for 2018 and in this episode, I’m going to do a year end review for MyWifeQuitHerJob.com including all of the projects that I’m currently working on.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to do a site audit for SEO
  • Where I’m speaking at in 2019
  • What’s new for 2019
  • My key takeaway for 2018

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
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GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

TBD

I Need Your Help

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

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

240: Year End Report – How My Online Store Performed In 2018

240: Year End Report - How My Online Store Performed In 2018

My wife just closed the books for 2018 and in this episode, I’m going to breakdown the highlights and lowlights of the year for BumblebeeLinens.com.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to overcome bumps in the road
  • Amazon versus your own online store
  • What’s worked well this year
  • The one marketing platform that has been a home run

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
ahrefs

GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

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239: Paul Jarvis On Business, Happiness And Running A Company Of One

239: Paul Jarvis On Business, Happiness And Running A Company Of One

Today I’m thrilled to have Paul Jarvis on the show. Paul is an author, designer, podcaster, course and software creator. His works have been talked about by Ashton Kutcher and Ariana Huffington. He’s worked with clients like Danielle Laporte, Microsoft, Marie Forleo and Mercedes.

Now Paul is obviously a total stud. But the reason this interview is special to me is because his latest book “Company of One” has had a profound effect on me.

I rarely gush about business books but because Company Of One spoke directly to me and my philosophies, I’m going to recommend it to everyone I meet from now on. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • What exactly is a company of one?
  • What you should think about if you are already running a successful company
  • Some successful examples of entrepreneurs following the “Company Of One” philosophy
  • How to strike a balance between business and life

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
ahrefs

GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they used to grow their businesses. Now today I have my friend Paul Jarvis on the show. And Paul’s an author, designer podcaster, who has worked with famous clients like Danielle Laporte, Microsoft, Marie Forleo and Mercedes Benz. Now, Paul is a stud, but none of that stuff matters today because we’re going to talk about business, happiness, and satisfaction today. And just giving you guys a heads up, this interview really spoke to me unlike any other.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this and when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%. And just recently, I added Facebook Messenger into the mix as well which you can read about on my blog.

Now you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pop ups and abandoned email sequences as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ For 15% off. Once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Always blessed to have them as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my e-commerce store, and I depend on them for over 30% of my revenues. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

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

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

Steve: And then we’ll be silent for five seconds and then I’ll just give you a quick intro and then we’ll see where the interview goes.

Paul: Perfect.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Paul Jarvis on the show. Now Paul is someone who my buddy Sol Orwell introduced to me completely out of the blue. And to be quite honest, I was actually thinking about brushing off the intro at first, but since Sol is a good friend, I took the intro and I’m so glad that I did because I feel like I hit the jackpot. Now before I tell you exactly why, here is a brief bio for Paul. Paul is an author, designer, podcaster, a course, and software creator. His works have been talked about by Ashton Kutcher and Arianna Huffington. He’s worked with clients like Danielle Laporte, Microsoft, Marie Forleo and Mercedes.

Now Paul is obviously a stud in this regard. But I actually interview lots of studs on this podcast. But the reason this interview is special to me is because his latest book Company of One has had a profound effect on me. And in fact, I rarely gush about business books, but because Company of One spoke directly to me and my own philosophies, I’m actually going to recommend it to everyone I meet from now on. And with that, welcome the show Paul, how are you doing today?

Paul: Hey, I’m great. What a great intro, good match.

Steve: Well, the book which I just finished this morning, for the listeners by the way was excellent. If I had more time and I didn’t have two kids, I would have just read it straight through.

Paul: So you’re probably fresher with the content of the book than I am at this point because I finished writing it over a year. Publishing is such a long, long game, right? So I finished writing it so long ago that I’m going to have to reread it again soon just to brush up on it as well.

Steve: Well, I’ll make corrections over the course of the interview. Well, that’s funny; I would imagine you have to read it like 100 times, right, when you’re publishing a book or?

Paul: Oh, yeah, so that’s the thing I had to, obviously it takes a while to write. But I have to go over it quite a few times with the copy editor, the editor, and then the copy editor. And then when I record the audio version of the book I’m going to get very familiar with it again, but there is actually quite a gap because the book is finished and goes to print for limited run for advanced copies, like the one you got probably about eight months before it comes out. So there’s a gap where I don’t have to do any reading of the book again, and we’re kind of in that gap right now.

Steve: Well, it’s fresh in my mind. And Paul, just for the benefit of the listeners who don’t know who you are, looking over your history, you’ve done a lot of different things. So can you kind of give my audience an overview of your background and what kind of led you to this point in life?

Paul: Sure. So I guess the main things that I do are design and writing. So I started designing in the 90s, I’ve actually worked for myself, or almost went for — it’ll be 20 years in this coming February.

Steve: Wow.

Paul: It seems like a long time.

Steve: It does yeah.

Paul: So one I feel so old, but two, that’s like a really long time. So in the beginning, I was doing web design for clients, a lot of like fortune 100 companies. For a while, I was doing a lot of pro athletes’ websites like Shaquille O’Neal. He’s just random, doing a bunch of proactive websites for people in like the NFL, NBA, NHL, that sort of thing. And then I kind of moved from that because that wasn’t very interesting, and working with agents of athletes, oh no isn’t great. But I decided, hey, this internet thing is pretty cool. I’ve been doing websites for a while. There’s these people who are making money on the internet making businesses on their own. And so I kind of gravitated towards working with online entrepreneurs like Marie Forleo, Daniela Port, Chris Carr, those sorts of people, and they’re really smart.

And so I started designing websites for them. I was learning a lot about business. And then probably about six, five, six years ago, I decided to create my first products. And they were books. And from there, I’ve now sell a bunch of software products, a bunch of courses, a bunch of podcasts, I don’t actually do any client work anymore for design. All the product stuff has taken up all of my time. It does well for me financially, it gives me the space, and like today, I spent the entire day bike riding. I’m glad this call is at 5 pm tonight as it was a nice day outside. I was just biking with my wife in the woods for the entire day.

Steve: Nice.

Paul: Got fun. So yeah, I guess it’s kind of — I think that’s kind of where I’m at from start to finish.

Steve: Yeah. So Paul, before we move on, I kind of want to set the stage about the topic of today’s podcast by kind of telling a personal story before we talk about Company of One.

Paul: Great.

Steve: Now, you don’t know this about me. But for the past decade, I’ve been super focused on growing my two main businesses, which is Bumblebee Linens, and My Wife Quit Her Job like pedal the metal growth, right? And business has been good. And today I run two legit seven figure businesses. But here’s what hit me like a ton of bricks last year, growing these businesses further has not equivalently furthered my happiness and my wife and I don’t spend nearly as much money as we actually make. But even still, every year, we set a new arbitrary goal and then try to meet it and it’s getting really stressful. Every new product launch, every new sales channel that you want to add, it just adds to the stress.

And man over the holiday season since we run an e-commerce store, when the customers are coming in, it’s a mad rush to orders and it’s just not as fun anymore. And the money is good but it’s just not always a comfortable situation. But my wife and I made a pact last year to artificially limit our growth to a certain percentage. And we’ve actually been much happier since the pressure is gone and we’re just kind of enjoying just running the business more now. And here’s the thing though, I hang out with a lot of successful entrepreneurs. And I would say 90% of them are just so growth focused that I almost feel like an outlier now. And I felt that way actually, until I picked up your book this past week. So with that long winded tale Paul, what is Company of One?

Paul: Yeah, so many good things in there. I also don’t spend nearly as much as I make. And in the beginning in my 20s, I was like, I want to make a million dollars a year at whatever cost. And so I started to work on that. And after a couple, only like a few months, I was like, this is like, I’m making great money, but I’m also working like 16, 18 hour days, I have no weekends. It was just — I realized like why do I want this? And I couldn’t — like honestly, there wasn’t a good reason. So I was like, okay, how about I just work towards making enough money. So I put some money away, I can cover all of my costs. And that’s kind of — so Company of One is really just the idea that it’s okay if we question growth, because there’s no other, I don’t know of any other business books, or podcasts or blogs that say that growth isn’t always the best thing ever, right?

Steve: Yeah totally.

Paul: Everything is always like growth hacking and 10xing. And it’s like, but why? I feel like I’m the weird guy in the back of the room, putting up my hand like asking, but why, why, why? Why do we need this? And what I found through writing the book and interviewing dozens and dozens of people, poring through really, really boring research papers and business studies, is that the business doesn’t match up with logic always. Obviously, sometimes growth is bad. And I’m not even against growth in business. I’m just about questioning at first, does this make sense? Is this going to make my business better or worse? Is this going to make my happiness better or worse? Is this going to make my revenue better or worse, because sometimes more revenue doesn’t equal more profits, right?

Sometimes you end up spending more than you’re making, even when you’re making more. And there was a study done by I think it was a Copan Group and Inc Magazine, where they looked at like the Inc 5,000 list, the list that everybody’s like, oh, this is the best list ever. And the study found that, I think it was like five to seven years after, they looked at the 5,000 companies five to eight years later. And most of them had gone out of business for reasons not because of any other reason, other than the fact that they grew too fast, they took on too much investment that they couldn’t pay their investors back, they hired too many people, and they couldn’t keep that growth rate going. Because the problem with growth is that you always want more.

So if you’re making 5% more this month versus last month, you want to do 6% the next month or 7% and eventually gets to a place where it’s ridiculous. It just does not make sense. So that’s kind of where the book — the book, I think, is really an examination of what if we don’t look to growth for the answer? What if we look to better for the answer, because bigger isn’t always better, but better is always better, I think.

Steve: Can we kind of talk about your own personal views of happiness. You said a couple things there, like how do you know how much is enough? And then what is your own personal definition of happiness? Like, how do you look at your work?

Paul: So enough for me is covering my basis like for my family, for that kind of thing. It’s funny, there’s a study that a bunch of bloggers are talking about right now, that figured out the exact income where making more money doesn’t make you more happy. And I was like, that’s how much I pay myself a year. I was like, I’m right.

Steve: What is that amount by the way, do you know?

Paul: 75.

Steve: Oh 75, okay, yeah, right.

Paul: So I pay myself that and I my pay my wife as well. And so technically, our income is more than that. But individually, it’s exactly where we’re right on the money for that. And the study found that making, say you made 50,000, you’re happier if you make 75. But if you make 100, you’re no more happier and sometimes less happier than if you make 75 versus 100. And I’ve kind of the same like my business makes more than I need. I live a pretty minimal life. I still do a lot of fun things. But it’s like I don’t need that many things to be happy, especially the things that make me the happiest aren’t things that cost a lot of money like going for a bike ride today, it doesn’t really — like our bikes, mountain bikes are kind of expensive, but you buy those once and you maintain them and they’re good for quite a while.

So for me, figuring out what enough is is more important than figuring out how to grow bigger and bigger, like month over month, year over year and I can’t remember what the second part of the question was.

Steve: Yeah, I know. And just to like, for a long time I thought I was alone in this regard. Do you happen to know any popular entrepreneurs that are actually following this philosophy other than like you and me?

Paul: Yeah. So Sean D’Souza on Psychotactics.com, you actually mentioned that putting a limit on growth, he does this; he doesn’t want to make more than 5,000 dollars a year. So he limits that. So he has like a certain number of spots open up in his courses, or he takes on a certain number of clients. So he doesn’t make more than that, because he’s found if he makes more than that, he has to work more than that. And then he’s not as happy, he can’t, I think he helps tutor his two nieces, and that sort of thing. So like, he likes his life the way that it is. And if he makes more than that, it doesn’t make any sense. And that’s business revenue not per — I don’t know how much he pays himself, but for his business making 500k a year is enough. And that’s the limit that he sets on it.

There’s — oh man, in the book there’s tons of examples as well. [Inaudible 00:14:42] is an illustrator. And he would rather find good paying clients than all of the clients because he wants to sit — he lives in California, like you. And he wants to sit in his studio in his backpack yard and draw, and his two daughters come and they draw as well with their dad in the afternoons after school. And it sounds kind of like an idyllic life to me.

Steve: It does. I mean, but it’s so hard, though. And so the next topic I kind of want to ask you about is, let’s say you are kind of running a successful company, it’s growing, it’s doing great, how do you come to this conclusion whether growth is beneficial or not? What are some questions that you should ask yourself?

Paul: Yeah, I think I come at it very much from a nerdy perspective. My background is like web and software. So I always try to think of, for anything concerning growth, I try to think of what the maintenance costs are. And what I mean by that is — and this relates to everything, not just software. But I’ll start with software then relate it to everything. So for software, if you add a new feature, that could be great, it could be something that all your users are asking for. But it could mean that now you have to charge more, because it costs that much development time to build it. It could mean you need to hire more support staff, because this feature that everybody said they wanted is a feature that requires a lot more support, because some users may not get it.

So, I always try to think of the maintenance costs of that. And that’s actually why I sell the products that I sell, because they require — like writing a book has no tech support. So, I don’t have to do a whole lot other than the marketing and the promotion and I like that kind of stuff anyways, but the book can exist as a product that’s making me money every single month that I don’t have to do — like it’s not taking me eight hours a day to maintain, right?

Steve: Paul by the way, how do you make money? I actually don’t even know.

Paul: So number one is courses. I sell three courses right now. Number two is probably books like advances from publishers. Number three is probably software and then podcasting. Those are the main ones.

Steve: Okay. And then for your courses, is there some amount of support involved with those?

Paul: Yes and no. So the way that I look at courses, so I approach courses like satisfy everything relates to software for me. But I approach courses like software. So I’ll release a very small alpha version to just a few of like the people in my audience who would just buy everything from me. So I’ll give a few people access. And I want to see with their access, where they have questions, especially in on-boarding. So when somebody buys the course, what happens next and what questions do they have? And so whenever I’m building a course, I always try to look at how I can pre answer questions that people might have, but won’t have once I answer them.

So I’ll do things like introduction videos, and all the introduction video will be is talking about all the things that the alpha users, the beta users, or the first people in the first run of the course had questions about. So every time I get a support request or a question for a course I note it. And then when I start to see patterns in that, I’ll make a video or I’ll make a blog post, or I’ll record some audio for it. So I try to answer things in volume. Same with software, I make videos for all the software products that I have for support, because I want people to be able to get the answers they need without having to talk to me. And then if they do have to talk to me, I’m like, okay, good. This is a new question. I can note this in my spreadsheet. And if I start to notice a pattern, I can make a video or a blog post or something like that for it.

And then the only other thing for my courses is there’s a slack group for each of them. And that really, it’s like 10, 15 minutes a day. I like the P — I really liked my audience. So I like the people in my courses. And so I really like interacting with them. And so that really doesn’t take up a whole lot of time, like I’ll login about 10, 15 minutes every other day or so, maybe sometimes every day but it’s not a whole lot of work.

Steve: So what is your formula, then? Your own personal formula, I guess, since everyone’s going to be different for this threshold of support, and how to fix your happiness?

Paul: Yeah, so I always look at what I’ve currently got on the go, because I do have a lot on the go of like three courses, a bunch of podcasts, a bunch of software, books. And so I look at, well, how much time do I want to spend working in a day and it’s usually no more than six hours because I don’t feel I’m productive past that. But I also feel like there’s so many other things in my life that I like doing that I wouldn’t have time for those things if I had to work, like if I was in my 20s when I was working like 16 hours, just ridiculous hours. I didn’t have time to go to the gym, or go out or do yoga, or like make fancy meals. And so I look at what space do I have to add, and I look at is there anything not working that I can remove?

So I like to do this even with like household items. So if my wife or I want to buy something, we’re like, okay, we’re bringing something into the house, maybe there’s something that we can get rid of in the house so we don’t end up with a house full of stuff. So I kind of look at my business the same way where it’s like, okay, if I really want to make this piece of software, what’s it going to cost in terms of maintenance time? But is this even going to fit because I don’t think a lot of people think about that, like they have — a lot of entrepreneurs have lots of great ideas are always wanting to make new things or different things, but they don’t think about how much time it’s going to take to do those things. And everybody is like, oh, I can get stuff done really fast.

And everything takes longer than you think it does. And we’re all awful at multitasking. So I always try to figure out like, okay, what the balance is, because I think there is a balance. And it’s hard sometimes to find that balance.

Steve: So it sounds like you want to work six hours per day. And then you just kind of do some rough calculation to see if you can take on something and if you can’t, you’ll throw away something perhaps.

Paul: Yes.

Steve: Right okay.

Paul: And that’s why I’ve sunseted a bunch of software products, probably about four courses. And I’ve just taken them and some of them could have been making some money. I was selling WordPress themes for a while that were making decent money but they required so much support that I couldn’t do anything else. So I got rid of them because it wasn’t worth it to me. There’s other things that I can do that could make the same amount of money with less work and maintenance on my end.

Steve: Interesting. So that means you must be pretty good at time management because I always have problems too like whenever I start a project, I’m really poor at estimating how much time it’s going to take me.

Paul: Yeah, it’s tough. Especially I think the pedigree that I have of doing client work was really, really helpful because the reason that I got hired, like when I was hired by Microsoft or Mercedes Benz, they weren’t hiring an agency that I owned or worked at, they were just hiring Paul Jarvis to do just design work. And so, the way that I could get clients like that was to always be 100% accurate with my time management skills. So if I said, I need to get this thing done for you in two weeks, you would have it in two weeks, no questions asked. I would not ever miss a deadline. And that’s how I built such a name for myself in the client work design world that kind of carried over to products where I figured like, okay, in my mind, I’m the client, I can’t let my client down even though the client is me.

And so I’d be like, okay, I have to get this thing done in this amount of time. I know approximately how long things take. And typically I padded because life always gets in the way of productivity, or especially like whenever you’re in the flow, something will happen. So if I know writing a piece of software is going to take writing like a feature of software is going to take me eight hours, I don’t put an eight hour chunk in my calendar. I’m like, okay, it’s probably going to be about 16. So eight hours of actual work. And then another eight hours of interruptions or phone calls, or maybe the power goes out, or maybe my pet needs to go to the vet or something like that. So I always kind of double the actual time I think it’s going to take because it always works out for some reason that bring in is always the actual amount of time it takes.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank Ahrefs for being a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m a huge fan of their tool and in my opinion Ahrefs is the best all in one SEO tool out there to rank in Google search. And recently, I completed a search engine site audit for Mywifequitherjob.com and Bumblebeelinens.com and Ahrefs was indispensable. For example, I used Ahrefs to do a deep dive into all my posts to find the highest volume, lowest competition keywords to target in search. And in fact, recently, I used Ahrefs to rank a blog post in Google from position 20 to position five for a big time keyword in the span of just one month by switching around my title and H1 tags.

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So Paul, like one of the tenets of your book that I could really relate to, was paying more attention to your existing customers, as opposed to putting all of your research on new customers. And just a quick aside here, like with my store, I found that B2B customers were converting a lot higher meaning like, once you got one of them, they ended up purchasing on a regular basis. Whereas I was spending all sorts of money on ads to get these new customers and oftentimes, these new customers were just like single purchases and done. And so, can you just talk about some examples, maybe whether with some of the people that you talked about in your book, or for yourself, where actually paying more attention to your existing customers actually paid off?

Paul: Yeah, so the first thing is that it it’s more expensive to acquire new customers than to work at building more business with existing customers. And there was a study done, it was like five to eight times more for acquisition versus retention, which is mind boggling. And that was for big business and I mean for a business like mine where it is like literally just me at my home office, it’s just like I really enjoy talking to the people in my audience. And I don’t think a lot of people realize that you can kind of build the audience that you want to have, you’re not stuck with the audience you get. You can actively work at building a cool, interesting audience.

Steve: Give me some examples of how you do that.

Paul: So trying to trying to write for writers specifically, so trying to write in a way that’s going to resonate with a certain type of person, as opposed to trying to write in a way that appeals to everybody. So like, I swear in my writing, and I know that put certain people off and I know that the people that it puts off are the type of people who get angry at the products that I sell anyways, so it’s I swear naturally, so there’s swearing in my writing sometimes, not all the time, not a potty mouth, but like just things like that, or telling stories about my pet rats as business parables.

And some people are like, that’s so weird. Or the welcome email to my newsletter, the Sunday dispatches talks about how I was so excited that — a spoiler alert if anybody signs up for it now. But it talks about how I’m so excited that you signed up for my list, I went out, and I got your name tattooed on my inner left arm. And every time I raise my arm, I’ll think about the day that you sign up for my list. Some people hate tattoos, which is fine, but like I’m tattooed from my neck to my toes. So this is kind of on brand for me. But it’s fine that I put off certain people because it draws the people that are actually going to buy from me or stay customers a lot better.

I show people who I actually am as often as possible, which is very, very scary to do. But it also helps because the person that I am in the three things that I do like the podcast, or the writing of the newsletters, that’s the person who’s in the paid products, like even in my software products, there’s some silly jokes in the micro copy or in the videos. So I think that it’s okay to do that to really hone in on the audience that you want. Because like I think the last time I checked, more than half the people who bought one thing from me have bought more than one thing from me.

So like, I really like to have lifetime customers who buy all of the things because I think that builds kind of a relationship. And like these people, I know these people by name, because they email me, I see them when I get a Stripe receipt, or a PayPal receipt, and I talk to them on Slack. So I get to know them. And the more I get to know my customers, the more I can figure out what they need, what they need help with, what they value, and then I can make better products that are focused for that type of person. And then for them, it’s just like I don’t even need to read the sales page. I’m just clicking buy. And that’s a good position to be in for both myself and for them, because they’re getting things basically custom tailored to them.

Steve: So how do you balance I guess this more personal behavior with the need to reach out to colder customers? Like, let’s say you’re giving advice to a business that’s deciding whether to scale or focus more on their existing customers, how do you strike that balance?

Paul: Yeah, I mean, I would probably look at the data to see how — so I talked to somebody in Company of One. And she was working at a magazine and magazines are very much subscription based, right. And they were trying to figure out how to get more subscribers because they needed to increase their revenue. And not a single person in the company was thinking about how we can reduce the churn from existing people canceling their monthly subscription. And it’s like you already have this pool of people, if you decrease your churn rate by a certain percentage, it’s the same as increasing your profit by a certain percentage.

But it’s easier because those people bought the magazine because they liked something about it. So maybe you talk to them and find out what they like, or what’s no longer resonating with them because they’ve already given you money, they’ve already shown that something about your business or your product is valuable enough for them to open up their wallets to you. It just seems easier to me in a lot of cases, not all the time. But in a lot of cases, to look at the existing customers, because they’re the ones who’ve already found — they’re the ones who are already paying attention. They’re the ones who are already coming to dinner at your business, basically.

Steve: I mean, in your book, you talk a lot about doing things that don’t quite scale for your existing customers. And can you just kind of provide some examples of how you’ve done that to kind of make your existing customers true fans of your product?

Paul: Yeah, so the best example of that is for a book I wrote probably about four years ago. I was trying to figure out what specifically to write about. So I sent an email to my mailing list, which was probably around, I don’t know, 10 to 15,000 people at the time. And I was like, hey, I want to get to know you. I want to get to know what you’re working on, what you’re struggling with. Let’s hop on a Skype call for 10 minutes. And I put a link to like my calendar or my booking thingy. And I think I got like 40 or 50 people book calls with me and I was like, okay, I should probably turn this off now. That’s a lot. But so I spent a couple of weeks talking to subscribers just about themselves, their business, that sort of thing.

And in the beginning, I was floundering with like, okay, what do I want to write about, what should the next book be about? And I was like, oh, maybe it should be this, maybe it should be that. And then after I’d spoken to dozens of people on my mailing list, I was like, it’s absolutely clear, based on the patterns in what people are talking about, I know exactly what my audience is struggling with now. And you can’t — it’s really hard to scale like actual conversations on the phone. But it’s really, really useful. I can give one more example too. It’s is not me but it’s my friends who started another company called Crew. They are a freelance matchmaker service.

So companies are like, I want to hire a designer developer, and they would go to Crew, and there’s already a vetted pool of designers and developers. They had a MailChimp mailing list in a spreadsheet to start, and they were like manually looking through it. And it wasn’t until they had a decent amount of revenue, that they actually built the software to run it. But they started out with a mailing list in a spreadsheet, and they grew it into — they sold for millions of dollars last year.

So things can start without — I think people are so obsessed with scale that you can go back to doing things that don’t scale. And it actually works fine. And a lot of times, you can do things that don’t scale until you can no longer do them. And then it might make sense to scale, or it might make sense to automate at that point. But in the beginning, I think getting to know your customers on a personal level is more important than having like a 36 email sequence if you’re just starting out, right. Maybe just get to know people and their businesses, then make this crazy automation sequence with segments and funnels and automation and all of that so yeah.

Steve: That’s actually a good segue. Like, let’s say, I’m working a full time job right now and I want to start something, how do you go about starting a company of one? Like, what’s some advice that you have, like, should I quit my job right away and go full bore? Like, what’s your advice there?

Paul: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t do that.

Steve: Neither would I actually.

Paul: Yeah, like, it’s funny, because a lot of people who aren’t entrepreneurs think that entrepreneurs are inherently risky. But then I look at my friends who are entrepreneurs, and I look at myself, and like, I’m so risk averse, it’s not even funny. So I’ve worked for myself since I was a teenager. So it’s really hard. But the way that I can relate to this is that I had a very successful client service business and I wanted to move into products. So products kind of became my side job. But I didn’t want to do products unless they were making as much or more money as the client services. So from day one, I kept the income stream separate. So I had my bucket of how much I was making doing client work, and my bucket of how much I was making doing products. And I started doing it on the evenings and weekends.

Like my first book, which is a vegan cookbook, which I never went any further into that niche or audience but it was a good first start. And I basically tried to start that, and this is really that Company of One model is I tried to start as quickly as I could for as little money as possible, and then doing it in gaps. So at that time, I was like, okay, I’m working at the time; this was after I was doing 16 hour days. So I was only doing like, eight hour days. And I was like, okay, I’m working eight hours, I’m sleeping eight hours. And that’s a non negotiable for me to sleep. So I think that’s important. People who hustle really hard really give up on sleep and I don’t think that’s a wise idea.

And then I was like, okay, so I can block my day in thirds, eight hours of sleep, eight hours of full time job work. And then I have eight hours of other. So obviously, I have some life commitments like things like eating, but I can take that time, maybe I can watch less TV. And for about 10 years, my wife and I didn’t even have a television or Netflix or cable, or anything like that. And we really just worked on those sorts of things. So I started my product business, very small. I traded so many things to get that book done. I spent I think zero dollars to publish that book other than…

Steve: Interesting, you didn’t have an editor or?

Paul: I did, but I traded her for web design work.

Steve: Oh, I see. I worked at a five star restaurant and my plates and bowls are ugly, they just look like normal plates and bowls. So I got all these because it was a cookbook. So it had to have nice food photography. I traded the photographer; she could eat all the food I made if she helped me do the photos. So I did everything for basically zero dollars because I wanted to see what can I do with — and the thing is, creativity thrives on constraints. And a lot of people like if I had all of the money and all the resources in the world, I don’t think I could have created as cool of a cookbook. I mean, it’s not even that great of a book. But if I had all the resources, I don’t know if I would have ended up with a better product.

I think the fact that it was so interesting and weird how I basically created a book and wrote a book that was professional quality for zero dollars actually made it a better book. So I think creativity can thrive on constraints. And I started like I made a decent amount of money with that book. And then I started spending money on my second book. So I actually paid my editor because she already had a website at that point. I couldn’t just trade her again. And then yeah, so I started to reinvest, so I’d only reinvest money in products from money that I already made from products. So in the beginning, I was working a couple hours on it a day, and then a bit more. And then I could scale back my client work, and then scale up my product work until eventually the client work scaled down to zero and the product work to 100.

Steve: You know, one of my favorite quotes in your book, and it wasn’t a quote that you necessarily wrote but it was part of a story was that overhead equals death. And I actually had this philosophy with my businesses that I want to keep it lean. So in case like, revenue goes to zero, I can spend like 50 bucks a month and still maintain it forever, or some really low amount of money and or even like I’m really — so I’m so anti SaaS that if I can write the code in like a week or so, I’ll sit down and write the code so that I don’t have to pay a monthly fee. So that’s as far as I go. I don’t know if that kind of correlates to your book, or the point that you’re trying to make. But that overhead equals death really resonated with me.

Paul: Yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorite stories in the book. And I’m kind of the same way, like I would rather figure out how to run my business on — because I think a lot of people don’t look at the lower number, like the expenses of a business, they only focus on the profit, and that the higher number, the above number in the business. And it’s like, if I can run my business for as little as possible, I don’t need more customers to make more money. I can have the same amount of money coming in, but I can end up with more of it if I just spend less. So I’m the same. I’m relentless with spending money. I’m like it’s funny, nowadays it’s trendy to be a minimalist, but before that, it was just cheap.

Steve: So for me, at least my thought process is like let’s say I wanted to take a month off, I don’t want like all this overhead keeping me up at night. Like, let’s say, I had a whole bunch of employees, I got to pay them no matter what. Or have to pay these SaaS apps, no matter what, whether I’m doing work or not. And so the less I guess monthly recurring expenses I have, the more peace of mind I can have at night when I sleep.

Paul: Exactly. Yeah, it’s exactly the same for me where I don’t want more responsibility than I need in my business. And that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t want to hire employees, because I would feel responsible for them. Like if they have kids in college, I would feel responsible for their salary. And I’m okay with responsibility; I’ve run a business that has endured for two decades. But I don’t want more than I have to have. Because then that feels stressful to me and that impedes on my happiness a little bit more than I want it to.

Steve: This is like a therapy session for me by the way Paul. So the last topic I did want to touch upon was, you talk a lot about relationship wealth and how that’s helped you over the years. Can you talk about what that is exactly?

Paul: Yeah, so social capital is almost like a bank account. If you think about it, kind of like that, where I think a good example is if you go to somebody’s website, and they’re like buy now, like you just clicked on it from Google and there’s just like, buy now, buy now, buy now. And it’s like I want to learn a bit first about this. Like, there’s no capital built, there’s no trust built. And I think that if we take a step back, and we look at, like all of my customers, I would rather have some kind of relationship with, like a long term relationship with where they’re supporting my business, I’m supporting them than just like quick sales, like high retention or high churn kind of thing, where like maybe I’m selling — and I’ve talked to some people who sell like way more courses than I do, but their refund rate is like 30%.

And for me, like, first that would crush my ego. My ego was far too fragile to refund a third of the people who buy anything from me. And I think I can probably count on both my hands how many refunds I’ve had to give in for things that I sell, because I don’t want that to happen because I really try to work hard with my existing audience and pay attention to them. But I think that’s yeah, it’s difficult for sure.

Steve: So, for some reason when I was reading the book, I took your relationship wealth to talk about like the colleagues that you’ve met who have actually helped you along with your business.

Paul: Yeah.

Steve: And you didn’t really go into specifics in the book, actually. But how did those relationships actually help you get to where you are now?

Paul: Yeah, so I’ve kind of been of the mindset that I really like interesting people. Interesting people are interesting; I think that makes perfect sense. And so I would always kind of approach relate like I look at the emails that show up in my — like today, for example, I probably got like five pitches from people I don’t know, deleted every single one of them, I do not care. But I look at the people who connect with me on Twitter, or that sort of thing where they’re just like interesting people doing interesting things, and I just want to talk to them. So the person that I teach one of my courses with, her name is Kaylee Moore, she contacted me about a year and a half ago. And she was a student of one of my courses, creative class at the time.

And she was like, hey, I would love to get together for a virtual coffee with you for 10 minutes to talk about what you’re working on, what I’m working on. I have nothing to sell you. I just think you’re interesting. And let’s have a talk. And I wasn’t sure. Her and I now work together. And she’s my partner in creative class because we got to know each other, we figured, oh, we can both kind of balance each other skill sets out. It makes sense to work together. But in the beginning, there was no — I think a lot of people look at relationships now, especially online relationships, where it’s like, what can I get out of this person? Other people can smell your intentions and can see your intentions even if you think you’re trying to hide them.

So a good example is even the person that connected you and I, Sol Orwell, I think that he is like a master connector. He is like really he knows everybody. But he doesn’t know people. I’ve talked to him on the phone a bunch of times and like, neither of us have a business that could benefit from each other’s businesses. He’s just doing really interesting things, knows interesting people, I probably the same. And so when — he’s on my mailing list as well. And he saw that my Company of One is coming out soon. And he was like, hey, let me know who I can connect you with to like be on their podcast or to interview you or that sort of thing. And I was like, that’s awesome. Like, I didn’t have to ask for that. My first email to Sol wasn’t, hey, I’ve seen that you’ve been on some great podcasts, can you introduce me? He would have deleted that email, right.

So I just look at, like, all of the things that have come in my life and to my business from personal relationships weren’t because I wanted something from the other person. It’s that I like the other person and they like me, because there’s a relationship there. So I think that that’s really important. And then I look at, like, the growth hacker emails I get, which are the exact opposite of that, like, I’m a big fan of your show, I think I’d be a great guest. And like, my show has never had a guest on it in the length of the show. Like, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not a big fan of the show. So it’s just like, just, I don’t know, just get to know people. And people can be really, really interesting. And you don’t have to get something from them. But maybe in the future, if you’ve given a value to them, or you’re just friends with them, then maybe something cool will happen. Maybe it won’t and either way that that’s fine.

Steve: I mean that’s totally been my experience as well. And in fact, my business partner now is someone I met at a conference just kind of randomly.

Paul: Nice.

Steve: And it’s been many years now and it’s been a great relationship.

Paul: Cool.

Steve: But hey, Paul, we’ve been chatting for quite a while. This is actually been quite a good therapy session for me, because for the longest time, I thought I was alone in that just constantly trying to grow, grow, grow, grow, has had really been adding to the stress. And all these goals, for me, at least have been kind of arbitrary, right? Like I want to grow X amount next year, and I don’t spend a lot of money. I don’t buy anything really. I go on a vacation every now and then. But that’s about it. So it just makes life a lot happier when you can just cut back and think about what really makes you happy.

Paul: Yeah, it’s true, like, good question. I find that questioning things in general, like business life, whatever, it’s just a good idea to think like how does this benefit me? Or how would this not benefit me? Instead of just like blindly following like things you read on the internet.

Steve: I mean, the ego is a problem though, right?

Paul: Hundred percent?

Steve: I mean, I belong to this entrepreneurship program as part of Stanford, and everyone in there is they’re running these funded companies. And a bunch of my friends there have had exits, like nine and 10 figure exits. And man, it is really like, I go in there, and I’m selling handkerchiefs or selling courses and it’s just kind of intimidating. I don’t know.

Paul: No, it’s true. And I mean, I was talking to Jason Fried the guy who runs Basecamp, I interviewed him in the book. And he’s like at dinner parties, like you saying that you work at a company that’s like a couple of employees versus saying, like, oh, I work at a company with like 10,000 employees, it doesn’t — but then like, who are you trying to impress? What does it matter? And I mean, even like looking at Basecamp is a ridiculous example, because their profit per employee is way higher than any fortune 100 company. They make so much money comparatively to the number of employees that they have that is actually better than a lot of these massive companies. But just like the dinner party conversation, like, oh what do you do? I work for myself. And people automatically think like, oh, you like you sit in your underwear on the couch?

Steve: Exactly yeah.

Paul: No, dude. Like, I make money but I also have a life that I really enjoy. And I don’t need to hire people to sound good at dinner parties because I wouldn’t want to go to dinner parties where that was the only metric.

Steve: So Paul, where can people find you online? When does your book come out? I think it’ll be out by the time this interview goes out actually, but where can people find it?

Paul: Yeah, so the book is called Company of One. It’s available at every major retailer from Amazon to Target. It’s in or will be in pretty much all bookstores. It comes out on January 15th, but it is available for pre order on October 15th. And then the way that it works is the more books I sell between October 15th and January 15th, the higher it ranks because all sales count on the first day. So if this sounds like a book you want to read, then maybe buy it in that time. If this is coming out after that, then just get it if you like it, but…

Steve: I highly recommend the book. When I was reading it, I was nodding the entire time because it really resonated with me just the whole focus on happiness. I started my businesses originally, so I could spend more time with the kids. And over the years, I had kind of lost track of that. And it was just last year when I was having a rough year that it just kind of all hit me like is all this growth making me happy or not? And then your book basically just reinforced all of that for me.

Paul: I’m glad to hear that. Thank you.

Steve: So Paul thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time.

Paul: Thanks Steve.

Steve: All right, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, I really loved Paul’s book and I highly recommend it to all business owners. And the link to the book Company of One will be in the show notes. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode239.

And once again I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, a win-back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So, head on over to Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

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

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

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

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

238: How To Become An Influencer In Your Niche With Selena Soo

238: How To Become A Leader In Your Space With Selena Soo


Today I’m thrilled to have Selena Soo on the show. Some of you have probably heard of her before because Selena is fairly well known in the online business and entrepreneurship space.

In any case, Selena is a publicity and marketing strategist who helps authors and coaches become well known leaders in their space.

She’s worked with a bunch of big names like Farnoosh Torabi, Kimra Luna and she’s helped countless others like Ramit Sethi and Pat Flynn.

In this interview, we’re going to learn exactly what it takes to become an industry leader.

What You’ll Learn

  • Selena’s background story
  • The best way to grow a business and get more exposure
  • How to build lasting business relationships
  • How to approach new people as an introvert
  • How to add value to a celebrity or a big name entrepreneur

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
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GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Intro: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they used to grow their businesses. Now today I have my friend Selena Soo on the show, and you’ve probably heard of her already if you follow guys like Remit Sethi, Derek Halpern, Andrew Warner, or Pat Flynn. Now Selena is a publicity and marketing strategist, and today we’re going to be talking about what it takes to become a well known industry leader where customers come to you rather than the other way around.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is a sponsor of the show. Always excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store and I depend on them for over 35% of my revenues. Now Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

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

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now what does Privy do? Well, Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all of my email capture forms. And I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

I’m also using their new cart saver pop up feature to recover abandoned carts as well. And bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale. So head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve. Now onto the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Selena Soo on the show. Now, some of you have probably heard of her before because Selena is fairly well known in the online business and entrepreneurship space. And we actually both have mutual friends in Remit Sethi, Derek Halpern, Jordan Harbinger, Andrew Warner, and Pat Flynn. Anyways, unlike most podcast guests, I’ve actually never met Selena before and our introduction was through someone who I do not know at all, a man by the name of Ahmet [ph], and apparently Selena and I were chatting before this recording and she doesn’t know him either. So it was really a kind of random introduction.

But she’s actually been someone on my list of people to reach out to and I’m actually very happy that Ahmet did me a favor. In case you do not know her, Selena is a publicity and marketing strategist who helps authors and coaches become well known leaders in their space. She’s worked with a bunch of big names like Farnoosh Torabi, Kimra Luna, and she’s helped countless others Remit and Pat. And in this interview, we’re going to learn exactly what it takes to become an industry leader. And with that, welcome the show Selena, how are you doing today?

Selena: I’m doing so well. Thank you for having me.

Steve: So Selena, given that we are total strangers, how would you describe what you do and what led you down this path?

Selena: Yeah, sure. So I would say my biggest passion is elevating experts and entrepreneurs who are doing amazing work and making sure that the whole world knows about them. And the way that I came to this is in my mid 20s, I had a quarter life crisis and I just felt terrible every single day and I wanted to stop feeling like shit, basically. And I was asking friends, like, what do I do? Where do I go? Do you know anyone who can help me? And I discovered this woman’s life coaching group. And it was really powerful.

And in that group, I got exposed to different thought leaders and authors, people like Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, and people who were showing you that you could really create your own life that you’re in control of your own thoughts. And that you can overcome all these things that you’re struggling with, whether it’s a career issue, a life purpose issue, or you are in a toxic relationship, or it’s a health issue. And I realized that for myself, and for so many others, we’re not just looking for more information, we’re really looking for inspiration. And I was so inspired by these role models, because these individuals are people that I looked up to, and that they really embodied this message of possibility.

You have mentioned, I think Remit Sethi at one point, and he is someone who was actually a huge role model and support for me in launching my own business. But as I just started discovering these people, and falling in love with their work, and their stories, and even seeing a piece of myself in them, and seeing hope, I was like, I want everyone to know about them because a lot of my peers had no idea who these people were. And I felt like this is the most important thing, personal development, loving your life, being able to pursue your dreams. And so, I really want to help get these people out into the mainstream, and so that more people would know about them.

Steve: Interesting. So was that how you ended up meeting like Remit and Derek for example? Were you promoting their stuff? Okay.

Selena: No, well, that’s an interesting story. So Remit was and still is my favorite blogger. And I would read everything that he wrote. I was such a nerd. Like, there was this one piece that he wrote, and I forwarded it to like 30 friends being like, oh my gosh, this is so amazing. You have to read it. And I think a bunch of people didn’t even respond, like so into his stuff. And one day, I was walking home from my summer internship, I was in graduate school, and I saw him on the street, and I was on the phone with my mom. And I was like, I got to go mom. And he was outside his apartment building. He was looking like, I don’t think he – maybe he had his glasses on, I think he had slippers on, he was letting his parents into a car.

And I just knew, in my mind, I was like, I don’t know if I ever see him again. So let me just approach him. And I approached him and I introduced myself. I was like, are, you are Remit Sethi? And he’s like, yes. And I was like; I’m a huge fan of your work. I read your book. And we started talking, and the thing that we have to remember, sometimes we’re like, how could I ever talk to someone who is such a big deal in online world? And the thing is, everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, it’s the easiest topic for them to talk about. So I had so much to say to him about his book, about his blog, and about the impact that it had in my life.

And so we started to get to know each other. He was like, are you on my list for local New York meetups. I’m like, actually I am. And as he started doing meetups, I would attend those meetups, and actually, that’s how I met Derek Halpern. I remember he saw me talking to Derek, and we were like, laughing and everything. And he was like, oh, so you guys know each other. I was like, no, I just met him like five minutes ago. But the thing is, with Derek, I was also a huge follower of his work, and I had so much to say to him. And so, that’s kind of how I started to develop those relationships.

And over time, there have been ways I’ve showed my support to Remit like, as an example, as we became friends and I was in business school, he sent me an email saying, hey, I’m redoing my website, if you have five minutes would love for you to like, or a couple of minutes, take a look at this new mock up for the homepage. And there were a few different versions. And I was in my ironically, entrepreneurship class, and I left the classroom and I went to the library, and I gathered just people and friends and I got, I organized like a mini focus group.

And I spent like five hours between asking people for their opinions, and listening and doing that market research, and then writing up all my ideas and I shot him an email later that evening. And he was expecting probably like five minutes, or no response, or I don’t know what, and I gave him five hours. And he was just really blown away by the depth of my insights, and how I really showed up for him and went above and beyond, and he shared it with his team. And that’s just like one example.

Steve: So hold on, let me just introduce, let me just interrupt you real quick because you said a lot of stuff there. And like, my first question was, first of all, when you’re approaching someone who’s famous or semi famous up, how did you become memorable in Remit’s eyes that one day when you approached him in the car, or was that just like a first introduction?

Selena: Yeah, I mean, so the way that I became memorable, the way I became an interesting person to him was being interested in him. So, I was a huge follower and fan of his work. And when someone’s full time profession is helping other people and they want to know that they’re making a difference, it’s very different to — so it’s like, even when they send out emails, it’s like they’re wondering, are people going to respond, are people resonating with this? So to meet people in real life who are like, oh my gosh, your work has changed my life, that’s what they live for. That’s why they do what they do.

And I think I also stood out because now Remit has a much bigger audience. I met him several years ago and his audience then was definitely majority like Matt [ph], and he jokes like a young geeky guy. And so I’m like just like women and like know all his stuff and I just had like this — it was just like I didn’t fit his profile, a little bit intrigued. And yeah, I think also my enthusiasm went a really long way.

Steve: Okay and it sounds like you helped him greatly which immediately got you on his radar so to speak when you did that whole entire case study on his website design.

Selena: Yeah, absolutely. But even before that, one thing that some of your listeners Steve may be thinking it’s like well, I don’t live in New York City, I’m not going to be like walking down Main Street and bumping into like my favorite influencer. And it’s not really like I want people to kind of see the bigger picture here. The thing is, in life we can’t wait for opportunities, we have to create our own opportunities. And for so many of us, oftentimes there are opportunities in front of us, maybe we’re going to a conference and our favorite author, speaker, influencer, course creator is there, but we’re too afraid to go out to them. Or maybe a friend of ours is connected to someone who has interviewed them on a podcast, or who is their star student or something. But we never have the courage to ask them, oh, do you have any ideas of how to get in front of this person?

So all of us, we all have opportunities. And I think that what made the difference here, like, the very first step is I seized the opportunity and I went for it. And so that’s really, that’s one of the first things I want to make sure everyone takes away from this.

Steve: So given that you do this for a living, let’s say I was a client of yours, what would you say is the most important way to grow a business and just get more exposure for your business? Like, what do you coach people to do?

Selena: Yeah, I mean, the first thing is always strategy. So I mean, I guess there’s two areas I’m really well known for. I mean, the overall area that I’m well known for is helping people get well known, right, getting visibility, becoming thought leaders and influencers. But when you break that down, there’s two main areas. So one is getting publicity, and the other is connecting with influencers. So I really believe that publicity is one of the absolute fastest ways to grow your business. You could have a lot of success and get hundreds, thousands of people on your webinar and you tell your parents like, oh, I had this really successful webinar, I had like 700 people live on it, and your parents are going to be like, what’s a webinar?

But if you’re like, oh, I got this feature article on Forbes or Business Insider has been talking about how I am the go to person on this topic, they’re going to be like, oh my god, they’re going to tell their relative, family, your high school friends are going to see on Facebook. Oh my god, you posted this, people kind of the Woodworks. So there is something unique about publicity.

Steve: It’s funny you say that, because with my mom for the longest time, she didn’t understand what I did. And then I told her some of the numbers. She’s like, why are people paying for that? And it was only after I got in Entrepreneur or Forbes, I can’t remember which one it was, she was like, oh, my God, what you’re doing is like real? Like, good lord mum.

Selena: Yes. I know. And it’s definitely not the actual most significant, the most significant thing is the results you get in your business and for your students and clients. But it’s something that is sort of universally understood. And so when you’re thinking about building your brand, and thinking about marketing, publicity really should be in the mix somewhere. And when I have people think about publicity, I have them think about their goals and their business model. So for example, for some people, a goal of theirs might be I want to publish a book and I want to have thousands and tens of thousands people buy the book. Others are like, I don’t need a ton of clients, but I’m looking to get like high ticket clients for like a $10,000 coaching program, whatever it is, and I just need like 10 people at a time, right.

So those are very different goals. And based on your different publicity goals, there’s going to be different types of publicity and media outlets that you should focus on. So one example I can just share quickly is like I mean, I’m a huge fan of podcasts. And I think it makes a lot of sense for people who are experts and especially people that have online courses or high end coaching because with a podcast interview someone feels like they really get to know you. They’re listening in to like that coffee table conversation, you can go really deep. And when you hear someone speak in 30 minutes to even an hour, you feel like you know them and you’re more comfortable taking the next step or as are some other forms of media like TV which is a massive credibility booster and can be really good for specific purposes.

If you’re looking to sell like a $10,000 program of some nature, the average person watching TV might not be the right person, but the person who’s invested an hour and follows as expert could be someone who is much, much more qualified, So all about the strategy with a publicity piece and then also I’ll just quickly touch on the second piece is the influencer piece. That is really key and it’s similar to publicity in the sense that a lot of us tend to hire based on recommendation, and so if we know a top influencer is endorsing someone, we’re like, oh yeah, I want to work with them. It’s kind of funny. So my personal trainer actually is the personal trainer of Remit Sethi, Derek Halpern, and for whatever reason I mean I don’t know, I guess it’s just how my brain works, I was looking for someone and they recommended him to me. And I’m like, oh well, he works all of them, I want to work with him too.

And in my own business people are like, oh wow, like she’s been endorsed and she’s helped like Danielle LaPorte and she’s helped Kimra Luna and Marie Forleo endorses her work, I trust her. So similar to publicity, that is kind of like one of those instant credibility markers and then but influencer relationships go a lot deeper than publicity. And I think that those two combined are really, really powerful ways to grow your business and really to grow your reputation.

Steve: So Selena, so from the perspective of my listeners, let’s say they have a specific skill, and they want to be able to make money with it. So let’s say, it’s some medium to high end coaching service that they want to start but they are a nobody right now. They don’t have any content, they don’t have anything, how would you advise that they get started?

Selena: Yeah, I mean, the most important thing when you are getting started, and even at the higher levels is mindset. Because the thing is, if you don’t believe in yourself, or you feel bad about selling or charging, or you’re not sure about your worth, then you’re going to self sabotage. Also, I’ve had situations where I’ve had it early on, I had a nightmare client. And there was something on my offering that was off and I just like I felt so bad about myself that even though people wanted to work with me, and they wanted to give me money so badly, I just kind of turned all away, I was like, I was too busy. So you’ve got to get yourself in a good mental space and a good mindset.

And I would — the way that I built my business, and what I recommend people considering is just start helping people, because as you start helping people, even if it’s pro bono, or it could be a small project where you say, hey, I would love to help you with this project for free for like a one month period, or for six sessions, or four sessions, or a three hour deep dive, whatever you want to do, say, if I do an exceptional job, I would be so grateful to get a testimonial from you, and if you have happen to think of anyone who could benefit from my services, let me know, or let them know.

So that’s, I mean, I didn’t do it so explicitly in that way. I was just because I was in school at the time, I didn’t really, I wasn’t focused on making side income, but I just started being helpful to people and I identified people, I’m like, oh, wow, I can connect you to this person. And let me introduce this reporter. Let me help you make this connection. Oh, like, you need feedback on this. Like, I would love to give you feedback. I just went above and beyond. And it really for me, it’s a lifestyle and that’s really what I encourage everyone to consider is when you show up every day as a giver and you create all this goodwill, people are going to want to give back to you and it really builds your reputation. So for me, right away when I started my business, Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte, all these people, they wanted to give me testimonials.

Steve: So was that a gradual thing? Like, when you met them, did you do a lot of pro bono work for them?

Selena: Yeah, so I can explain how it worked because it’s evolved over time. So initially, like for example, with Danielle LaPorte, I just kind of like helped her for free. I knew her several years before I even started my business and I had offered to connect her to people at different media publications. I’m just a helpful person. And over time, like more recently, I was like in charge of like influencer marketing for her White Hot Truth book campaign. And so it’s something started off as pro bono and then there was payment later. There have been other times where people have wanted to pay me whereas I like let me just help you for free.

So, every situation kind of varies, but I will say that I put like a lot of just like, I just help people. Like with Remit, I’ve never asked him for payment. And personally, I don’t really want payment from him, I just want to help him but he also helps me so much. I mean, I’ve taken his courses but beyond that, now, he’s somewhat have an inner real bind, I can just text him and be like, hey, can we talk, and like I’ll do that maybe like once a year. I’m not going to take advantage, and he’s there for me. So, yes, I absolutely did a lot of pro bono work in the beginning. And then there were also people that I charged, but my number one goal wasn’t like, how can I make the most money out of these people? I was thinking really it is — and this is still my philosophy, when it comes to people you really admire, it is an honor to be a part of their world, to want to give back to them. That is a gift in of itself.

So that was — and I think that is a reason why a lot of these influencers really opened up to me, because a lot of times, you can feel when someone’s got an agenda. And you’re a bad person for having agenda. I mean, I’m very quickly can connect the dots between people, ideas, and opportunities. And I know if I add a ton of value, they might help me. Ultimately they might not, but it’s not a big deal. So it’s fine to see the connections that could be made. But I think that when there is this feeling of desperation and expectation, then people feel very scared to let you in. But I think I’ve always had this kind of very giving attitude and I’m laid back about like, I don’t really need anything from it, but I’m also like a go getter like their biggest advocate and supporter and people feel that. And then they appreciate me and then many of them end up wanting to support me.

So going back to like your listeners, what I would recommend they do is to create an influencer list. And so this is like the first step. I mean, the first step with everything, we got to figure out the strategy. So my definition of an influencer is someone who can help you reach your goals faster. So identify what are your top goals, and let’s get more specific than just grow your business. Is it to get — land five high end clients this month, or generate X amount of revenue? And when you think about your influencers, these are people who have already achieved your goal, or maybe they’re a couple of steps ahead of us, so they kind of know the path ahead, and they’re very familiar with the current situation around it. Or maybe they are people who connect you to other people who can help you reach your goal faster.

So make that list, and you can definitely have like some aspirational people on that list. But I also would encourage you to think about who’s kind of in your own backyard? Who do you already know, that you’re not tapping into because all of us have people in our world who care about us and believe in us already. And oftentimes, we’re not asking them for help, or asking them if they might be willing to make an introduction or brainstorm ideas with us. And so, you want to identify your list of influencers and connect with them and think about how can you be an incredibly useful, helpful, valuable person in their life?

And simultaneously think about maybe how can I just help people, perhaps do a pro bono project here and there and start building up that goodwill and getting those results so that when I have calls later with people who are prospects of my business, who would be paying clients, I can say, yeah, I worked with someone for a month, and these are the results we got in a one month period. I’ve done this with three other people, and I’m so confident I can do this for you too.

Steve: So it sounds like you worked your way up, right. So you had this list of influencers and you were doing this pro bono work to build up your portfolio, and then perhaps at some point, you’ll approach this influencer with a strong foundation of work.

Selena: Yeah, well…

Steve: I’m just trying to understand how you operate yeah.

Selena: No, I love it because I want to make sure it’s really clear to people. So with the influencers, I would say, these are the people that you can offer the pro bono work to, but not like indefinitely, it could be a project or a series of things you do for them. And after time, some of them will be like, can I just hire you, I would love for you to lead up this in my company, or take on this bigger project. Or they might be like, you know what, you’re so awesome. I should put you in front of my students, you should be a guest in my group program, or, hey, let me connect you to a colleague who could really use your services. With these influencers, the most important thing is building a relationship; it’s not the short term revenue you can make from them. If you can really help them and they want you in an ongoing way, they will pay you, they will be, you know what I mean?

Steve: Yeah.

Selena: Or you just say like, hey, I’ve loved helping you and I would love to continue to help you, but I want to explore the possibility of us working together in a deeper way, could we explore what that could look like? And compensation or whatever, that’s not my main goal. My main goal is to support you but I want to figure out a way that can be a win-win, where I’m being compensated, we have a long term relationship where I can create these results in your business.

Steve: So Selena, I’ve been offered pro bono work many times in the past, and I’ve always just turned it down because in my mind, at least, I’m like, okay, great. I have to think about what I want this person to do. It just might be another complication in my life. And I don’t know what the skill set is. So how do you overcome that?

Selena: Oh, I mean, I’m so glad you brought that up because I mean, I’ve gotten the same invitations too. I mean, the problem is, like, if you have to think about what you have to give them and you don’t know, and like can I trust this person? I mean, it’s not going to work out. So, like, with me when I reached out to people, I mean, a lot of times also, as I start to develop a network of friends and influencers, they’re introducing me to other people. So like Remit Sethi and Danielle LaPorte pretty much simultaneously introduced me to Marie Forleo. So there’s definitely like a high level of trust there. But when you email someone, introduce me with like can I help you, and then there’s like no link to your website, or LinkedIn or anything or with your skills.

So you need to sell the person on why they should accept an opportunity to work with you because free work is not really free, they still have to coordinate with you, maybe put team members in touch with you. I mean, if you do a bad job, there’s consequences. So it’s not actually free. So, you want to connect with people in a way where you’re highlighting your expertise, and you already have ideas to bring to the table. I mean, for me, with the publicity work I do and the influencer work, a lot of it is, it is very clear, it’s like, hey, I would like to introduce you to this person. I feel like it would be interesting for you to connect, because of XYZ reason. I’ve known so and so for the past couple of years, I think that it would be a really cool connection, would you be interested, right? So it’s like very straightforward. And I’ve also got a website and things like that.

Steve: So let me ask you this, would you recommend you have all those things in place before you approach an influencer for pro bono work?

Selena: I would — I don’t think you need a website per se. But I would say you need to have something about you online. Because if they Google you, and there’s nothing, it’s like, is this a real person? Are they legit? So what I would recommend at minimum is maybe like say LinkedIn. And then in the summary section, you kind of share what you do, your expertise, and include a link to it in your email. So as they’re looking for more information, they can see, oh, okay, this person is a professional, this is their experience or expertise, this is the work they’ve done before, oh, we’ve got mutual contacts, okay, this is like a real person, this is not fake, it feels like there’s more trust there.

Steve: So it sounds like — and I might be paraphrasing here, the foundation for your methodology is to just build relationships and kind of gradually work your way up to larger and larger influencers to kind of promote your business in the grand scheme of things. It’s all about relationships, right.

Selena: Yeah. Oh, 100%. It’s all about building deep and meaningful relationships. And the other thing I want to clarify is, I’m not saying just spend all day doing pro bono work because it’s very hard to build a business if you’re not making money. I actually believe in being really thoughtful and selective about who you invest in because for me, when I’m looking to build a really meaningful relationship, especially in the beginning, and I had a lot more time in the beginning, because you’re starting off any clients, so I had more time, but you need to go above and beyond, because that’s the only way that someone’s going to notice you. But you can only go above and beyond for so many people, right?

So that means you should be really thoughtful and selective and not from like, I mean, I guess you should be aware of, okay, how could this potentially be beneficial to me in the future, but really thinking about who, where, I mean, I like to think of it as where they’re the most synergies where I could invest a lot and create amazing results and value and there could possibly be [inaudible 00:27:54] or also like, if the kind of person like, I don’t believe in developing relationships with people just because they’re “famous or influential” if they’re not a good person, you don’t like them, got a bad reputation, what I mean? Like that personal connection is really important too.

So, be thoughtful, and choose about who you’re going to develop relationships with, and go deep, but then don’t just all put on one person, because then it’s like you get this intimacy of desperation where it’s like, oh, everything is banking on this one person potentially being helpful to you in the future. I would say, be developing like three to four meaningful relationships at a time, while also doing other things to grow your business. It should not be your only strategy. But especially early on, this is something that you do want to think about.

And when I think about even now, now that I have a thriving multi seven figure business, I mean, I’m still helping people all the time for free. But I don’t even think about it, because that’s what we do for friends and people that we care about, like, oh, hey, can I make this introduction for you. Oh, tell me about your business, oh, like would you be interested in a couple of ideas? Or can I give you access to this resource I have. So it really is kind of a way of living and it is an art and figuring out what’s the right balance, but I think there is a lot of room for us to always be givers, while also simultaneously being focused on our own business goals.

Steve: So let me ask you this. So let’s say you did not meet Remit by chance that day, what would have been your strategy to just kind of gain mindshare in his eyes? And how do you approach people? I think I read on your blog that you’re an introvert. How do you overcome that as well?

Selena: Yeah, I mean, that’s a big thing. And a lot of people in my community, they’re drawn to me because they have that introverted side. I mean, I think everyone on some level can feel shy or it’s like a spectrum introversion, extroversion. I think for me, and for everyone I know, it’s really about not putting the focus on you. It’s more about putting the focus on the person you’re looking to connect with. I’d approach for me as an example and thought like, oh my God, what is he going to think of me? Oh, how do I look like, what am I going to say? And like, I hope I don’t mess up. And that is the dialogue in my head and I’m like hi, then I would probably mess it up. But I was more like kind of in the moment, like, oh, there he is. And it was all about like him; the focus was on him, not on me.

And I think it’s one of those things when you let your kind of like your passion speak louder than your fears. And for me, I just had this real passion to connect with him, to express gratitude and also be a helpful person, so that always kind of leaves leads. But I mean, I’ll be honest, there have been times and there are still times when I’m in front of some big influencers, and I get nervous, and maybe I feel like I kind of messed it up, or I don’t know, like if I came off in the right way. But the thing is, like, out of, a couple of time, but then there are like dozens and hundreds of connections, where at this point it’s just like, it’s been a great connection.

And I remember actually, I was at an event, actually Remit’s event, and someone came up and spoke to me, and we had a nice conversation. And later I saw her again, we were paired up for an activity, interestingly enough, and she was like, oh, my gosh, I’ve been feeling bad the whole day because you said that you shouldn’t XYZ, I don’t remember what I said. It’s like I did that and I just feel like I left a lot of really bad impression. And I was like, oh, I didn’t even remember that. I didn’t even think of that. I just thought you were awesome. So a lot of times, we’re so in our head, and we make up these stories about why we’re not worthy, or oh my God, we put this pressure on ourselves. And that is really a way that we kind of screw things up. I don’t know if I answered your original question, because I kind of got into this other place. But what was the original question? I can back up the bow.

Steve: No, no, no, let’s actually kind of go with what you just were saying. And in fact, I want to take the opposite approach, what are some ways not to approach influencers or people that you want to get to know? What are some common mistakes because you were just talking about that a little bit at the end?

Selena: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So, I would say there’s kind of two typical mistakes when you’re approaching people. So one is like, and I get it like being so scared and shell shocked that you’re just kind of standing there and saying nothing. Maybe there’s a group of people, and you’re just standing there, and, or you see someone and you’re like, oh my God, I’m too scared, and you just run the other direction. So there’s that, there’s like the total avoidance, and then there’s like the — I don’t want to say over enthusiasm, because I think enthusiasm is important. But it’s like saying too much.

So, for example, and Steve, I mean, I’m guessing that you can relate to this, when you become a well known person, an expert, you’ll get emails from your audience, which is like one of the most exciting things. But sometimes, I’ve been in situations where you get emails, and they’re like 13 paragraph emails. And it’s really like a one way monologue, and there’s like several different questions. And it’s just like, it’s really a lot.

Steve: I feel bad replying to those too actually because I don’t have time to write a novel back.

Selena: Right. So then you feel guilty, right, because you’re like, oh, I respond with a sentence, and they’re going to think I’m rude. And actually, that happened before I responded briefly and someone got really upset at me. And I wrote back to her, and just kind of explained why I wasn’t able to respond at length like she had. But people don’t realize that you’re actually making someone feel bad by sending them a novel. But really the psychology of what’s happening is we feel like we’ve got that one shot to make a big impression and we want to prove ourselves. And so we over share, we tell them everything, when really when you think about a friendship because that’s what you’re going for ultimately, or like a meaningful relationship, when you talk to a friend, there’s back and forth kind of someone says something, the next person says the other thing. And it’s not like you have to put everything out there, like this is your only chance.

And I remember being once I was at an event with Lewis Howes, and there was someone who approached him. And it was like this five minute long monologue where she was talking about herself. And I’ve done this before too actually with a magazine editor. I remember, I got like, I won this charity auction, I got an hour with her and I spoke mostly about myself. And yeah, I mean, I think we do that because we are nervous. But it prevents us from building that back and forth really meaningful connection. So I would just say, that is one of the mistakes. I mean, instead of just like one way talking, think about what are some questions that I can ask the person. And there’s a lot that you could share about yourself, and maybe what are like two or three points, I just want to make sure to get across, and then really let the conversation be more organic.

Steve: I can tell you my MO, and you can tell me if I do the right thing or not. But what I usually do is when I talk to someone who’s like a big name celebrity in some certain aspect; I don’t talk about that at all. I don’t talk about anything that they’re good at. Instead, I try to talk about other things that are very common, family, kids, and whatnot, and I try to find something where I’m an expert and they’re not that they might be interested in, and then I just steer the conversation that way. And I never end up talking about what they’re good at.

Selena: Oh, that’s interesting. I mean, that’s a really good one. I mean, I think that yeah, that is really beneficial because with different people that I’ve met, including my students and clients to other people, when they’ve got a skill that I can benefit from, I’m very interested and oftentimes, I’ll just like, I’ll hire them and be like, hey, can you help me with whatever it is, with decluttering, with getting better sleep and all of that. So yeah, I think that is an important part of building the relationship not, I mean, yes, I think it can be valuable to show appreciation for someone’s work. But then I think it’s also very valuable to also show what you’re an expert and what you bring to the table, because that person wants to be like, oh tell me more about what you do. That’s awesome.

Steve: And I try not to fan boy too much because I think if you fan boy too much, it instantly puts you on a rung below whoever that is that that you’re targeting.

Selena: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t know if these are like, I’m obviously not an expert at this. I’m just telling you what I think sometimes and how I operate. And I’m just curious like whether that gels with what you teach?

Selena: Well, we should talk about that because that’s so interesting. I’m loving your perspective. So one of my favorite sayings that I heard that I share with a lot of people is the moment you put someone on a pedestal is the moment they start looking down on you. And what I mean by that is, when you put someone on the pedestal to think, oh my god, they’re so amazing, they’re so successful, they’re like the best person in the world. And like, where am I? I’m at the bottom; I’ve got nothing to offer them. Who am I to think I could talk to them, I’m going to be wasting their time, why would they want to talk to me when there are other people.

And you create that dynamic where they’re everything, and you’re essentially in your mind nothing, then the relationship is going to be screwed up. You approach them that way, they just, they feel it, and it affects what comes out of your mouth, and your energy, and how you follow up and all of that. As human beings, we’re all equal. And I mean, it is important to recognize, okay, like maybe they’re a busy person, maybe they have more time constraints or whatever, and they’ve got this expertise, I appreciate. But it’s not about thinking that you’re nothing, and they’re everything. I think that the fastest way to level the playing field is to show the value that you have to offer. And the way that you show it is by sharing your expertise and finding a way to potentially give back to them. So, I think we’re talking about a similar thing here.

Steve: I think it all comes back to the original thing that you were talking about earlier in the interview, which is mindset, right? You have to go in with confidence. Even if you all aren’t as skillful as the person you’re talking to, you have to at least project confidence. And then that way that person wants to talk to you.

Selena: Right. And then the other thing is it doesn’t have to be confidence about something directly related to what you are known for, as a business owner, entrepreneur in your job. It could be like for example, there was someone I met recently, and she has seven kids, and she’s a successful entrepreneur, and she’s really good at managing her time. And I’m not looking to have kids myself; I’m like, oh my God. Like, sometimes it’s enough to just take care of myself and my cat. Like, I don’t know how you manage to run a successful business with seven kids. I want to hear your time management secrets, how do you delegate? How do you outsource?

Or just people’s personal character even, or how they handle stressful and difficult situations. There’s so many ways that we can create those meaningful connections. And there’s different ways that people can learn from each other beyond the number one main thing that you’re known for, as a business owner, or a professional.

Steve: Absolutely. So it let’s — so we got five minutes left, let’s try to kind of sum everything up, right. So original question I posed to you was, let’s say, I have some sort of skill and I want to develop some sort of high end clientele, maybe, perhaps. And so the first thing that you suggested was to perhaps just get some sort of body of work right, that you can show off, it sounds like.

Selena: Right, yeah.

Steve: And then after that, make a list of influencers that you might want to meet, perhaps that you can help out pro bono whatnot, and then develop relationships that way, and then perhaps grow your business by referrals. Is that kind of…

Selena: Yeah, exactly. That is the fastest way, it’s developing that body of work, and publicity can be part of that body of work. When people are goggling you, they’re like, oh, he did this interview, or he wrote this article, not just on their blog, but on other well known websites, that’s your body of work. And combined with building meaningful relationships, and getting people results and having case studies, and tangible things that you can help people create in their lives, and then they refer people to you, and you’ve built your reputation. Yes, I think that is a really smart, and one of the fastest ways to build your business early on, for sure.

Steve: How do you get press mentions? What’s your strategy there?

Selena: Yeah, so there’s a couple of different steps. But one is getting really clear on what you want to be an expert in. It should ideally be connected to your goals and your business model. And then it’s about coming up with a really good story idea. So oftentimes, that people are like, oh, I want someone to just write about me, and my business. But it’s not about you, it’s about the readers. So what valuable advice do you have? How can you really serve the audience? So, some things that you can think about are where do people get stuck in your work? Or what’s the number one question people ask you, or what’s the fastest way that you can help people achieve XYZ goal?

I have like dozens and dozens of prompts and ideas of how people identify their story ideas, but basically, what people are most definitely wanting to know from you is usually something that is the basis of a good story idea. And then there’s also just kind of people like things that are interesting, or sensational, or surprising. They love rags to riches stories, they love hearing about big results, and things like that. So, getting clear on your story ideas, and then sending an email pitch.

Steve: How do you know who to pitch?

Selena: How do you who to pitch? It depends. So like, let’s say, if it’s a podcast, usually, it’s the podcast host that you would pitch and sometimes they will have forms on their website, like a contact form, and they’re like, please follow this form specifically. Other times, there will be an email, you should jump through hoops. Sometimes there won’t be an email, but you’re on the podcaster’s email list, and you have a sense of the email format or at least you have a hello or info at email, or maybe you know someone who has been on that podcast, or someone who is connected to that person. So there’s a lot of different ways you can go about to get the information and then definitely depending on the media outlet. Like for TV you may want to call at the TV station, and then get the information for who would cover like type of story. But the thing is, it’s all accessible. It just involves a little bit of outreach.

Steve: What’s your view on hiring PR agencies?

Selena: Yeah, I think it’s not the best idea if you are early stage business owner, because it can be very expensive. And I think that even if you hire an agency, you need to understand how it works before you just hand over $5,000 a month, or $10,000 a month, or whatever it is. And the thing is, nobody is going to care more than you. And you’re going to have the best ideas; you know your story the best. So if you have a little bit of education, so that you can understand like what is it that is going to get you into the media and how you’re going to leverage to the media, that’s important. Because the other thing is a lot of PR agents, they’re not thinking about the business, they’re just like, oh, let me get you a mention.

But you could get a random mention on a blog, or even do a podcast and nothing could happen to your business, if you don’t know how to set it up right, if you don’t know how to leverage it, if you don’t know how to create the relationships, there’s all the other things you need to be thinking about. I mean, I actually have publicity programs on this. And if someone is interested, feel free to reach out to me. But the thing is, I also take the perspective of a business owner, because I’m a business owner myself, and like all of us, I don’t have a lot of time. And if I’m going to invest my time into something, I need to see the return, it needs to be strategic, it has to directly grow my business. So there’s this whole other piece to it. And if you just outsource it without being educated yourself and having a strategy, there’s a very high chance you are going to be wasting your money.

Steve: Let me ask you a different question here just to kind of close things up. Let’s say I run an ecommerce store and I don’t want to be the face of the business, does that strategy greatly detract from your methods?

Selena: Well, you don’t need to be the face of the business but someone’s going to have to do the interviews, right. And there’s going to need to be certain calls to action, whether it’s on podcast, or even certain messaging that you want to get across. I mean, I think that hiring a PR person can be a really good idea. I mean, I’m in the industry and I’ve had clients before, but I think that the best PR relationships are collaborative relationships where you’re not just outsourcing and delegating and have no involvement and you’re just crossing your fingers, but that you are also kind of leading the way and overseeing and making sure you’re getting the results you want. So I think it is still important to have some base level knowledge about your PR strategy versus just trusting someone else.

Steve: Okay, so it sounds like you recommend having at least one person who’s willing to be more public I guess?

Selena: Yeah, there should be someone absolutely, mm-hmm.

Steve: Okay, hey well Selena we’ve been chatting for 40 minutes believe it or not and thanks a lot for your time. Where can people find you and the various courses that you offer?

Selena: Yeah, so they can go to my website, they can go to SelenaSoo.com. I do have a page about the programs I have. I have a lot of launch based programs. I do have some evergreen things that are coming out. So I mean, you can also feel free to email me. You can email Hello@SelenaSoo.com and my team will pass that along to me. I’m happy to point you in the right direction. And I mean, I love helping people and making sure they’re getting the support they need. So feel free to reach out to me. And then also on my website, I have a video if you’d like to check that out. That goes deeper into how I build relationships, some of the top influencers and some of my best tips to building connections that go beyond what we discussed in this podcast.

Steve: Absolutely. Well, just kind of as an aside, my businesses did not really take off until I started attending conferences and meeting other people. And that holds true for both my blog as well as my ecommerce store. So, we talked a lot about relationships in today’s podcast, and it’s really hard to apply a $1 value to it, but I just know that things did not start happening until I started building these relationships.

Selena: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Steve: So, Selena thanks a lot for coming on the show. Really appreciate it.

Selena: Yeah, thanks for your time.

Steve: Well, that’s a wrap and I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Selena Soo. Now as I look back on the success of my own businesses, a huge part of it had to do with networking and establishing myself as an authority. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode238.

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

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

Now I talk about how I use all these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own 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’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.

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237: How To Build A Personal Brand With Facebook Ads For Just 5 Bucks A Day With Dennis Yu

235: How To Build A Personal Brand With Facebook Ads For Just 5 Bucks A Day With Dennis Yu

Today I’m lucky to have Dennis Yu on the show. Dennis is someone who I met at Social Media Marketing World at the speakers mixer and it’s funny. I knew that I recognized the guy right away because he’s been plastered all over my Facebook feed for years.

Anyway Dennis is the CTO of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults, teaching them how to manage social campaigns for large enterprise clients. He’s been featured all over the place like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and he’s an all around Facebook ads geek. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • Why Dennis started Blitzmetrics
  • How to create a strong personal brand
  • How to select a targeted audience
  • How choose the best creative for your ads
  • The key to a successful campaign

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
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GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. And today, I have a special guest with me on the show Dennis Yu. And Dennis is the CTO of BlitzMetrics and a total Facebook ads geek. And in today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how to use Facebook ads to develop a personal brand.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. And right now I’m using privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this and when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

But you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pop ups and an abandoned email sequence at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales in my online store. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ For 15% off. Once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Always blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my e-commerce store, and I depend on them for over 30% of my revenues. Now Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

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

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

Steve: Welcome to My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m lucky to have Dennis Yu on the show. Now Dennis is someone who I met at Social Media Marketing World at the speaker’s mixer. And it’s funny; I knew that I had recognized the guy right away because he’s been plastered all over my Facebook feed for years. And so, we started chatting about his Facebook strategies which are fascinated by the way.

And I found out that Dennis is the CTO of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults teaching them how to manage social campaigns for large enterprise clients. And he’s been featured all over the place like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and he’s an all around Facebook ads geek. And with that, welcome to show Dennis. How are you doing today man?

Dennis: Hey, good Steve. Always good to hang out, I don’t know if like me being plastered on your feed is a good or a bad thing.

Steve: No, it’s good thing. I recognized you right away. I’ve seen you literally every day.

Dennis: Oh, oh stalking you, retargeting you.

Steve: I mean the strategy works. And that’s something we’re going to be talking about today. But before we begin, I wanted to get a quick background story about you just in case someone my listeners don’t know who you are. Tell us how you got started with Facebook ads and how did that lead to BlitzMetrics.

Dennis: Yeah and I started working at American Airlines, had built their website 20 something years ago, almost 20 years ago, I started analytics at Yahoo. And ever since then, it’s been all about data, and using data and relationships to try to drive ROI. It’s great for agents like us, right. You’re good at math. I got a perfect SAT except for two questions on robotic perfect math. And so how do you use things that you’re good at in terms of analytics to then be able to drive things at scale? And like at could Yahoo, I learned how do you drive sales for something like Yahoo Personals or Yahoo shopping, Yahoo Mail, and you’re driving relationships at scale.

But I learned from analytics, which almost nobody gets the viewpoint from being inside a search engine. I learned from being inside a search engine that it wasn’t the masses of 170 million users that were coming in every day, hey, this is before Google became big, right. Imagine back in the day, Yahoo doesn’t exist any longer. And I learned that it was about finding and developing these micro relationships. So someone who was using Yahoo mail, and they played fantasy sports, we also knew something about their favorite sports teams and who their friends were and how they can invite friends in to chat because maybe they’re using chat to talk about fantasy sports, while they’re coordinating on scores from Yahoo Sports and Yahoo News.

And the idea that you could build a giant company off of micro bits of relationships and data is something I think almost no one would understand unless they’ve been inside a search engine. Now you’ve got all this talk about influencer marketing, and personal branding and social media expert, consulting, author, speaker, coach, public figure, I’m famous, look at me, Ted Talk, all that kind of stuff. And it’s come full circle where you need to have the data, the building blocks of these relationships. And I’ve always come out at the last 20 years from a data standpoint of quantifying relationships.

Steve: And the way you do that these days is how?

Dennis: Everything that you do creates a deposit or a withdrawal in every relationship, whether it’s a client or not. It’s for example, prior to this call, we were meeting with some of our friends in [inaudible 00:06:07] and they publish textbooks, and we’ve got a digital marketing analytics textbook that’s coming out. And two weeks prior, well, these folks are up in Idaho Falls way up in the mountain on the border in the mountains in the border of Montana, and just having a good time. And a year ago, we were hanging out at Social Media Marketing World.

And three or four years ago, we were teaching well, they reached out to me saying, hey, I hear you’re really good at Facebook ads; can you do an expert session? And I said, sure, happy to right. And since then, tens of thousands of students and university professors have seen it. But what you see is a small relationship that started years ago, grows just like relationships that you have, people that you know. Think about like who your best friends are, or maybe your wife, she quit her job, right? It’s something you had to develop an initial seed, and that seed grows, and it grows through remarketing, it grows through frequent lightweight touches.

When we did analysis on Yahoo Personals, which was a dating site that we started from nothing, we found that when people would date, and they became eventually close, and maybe they got married, the nature of their interactions when they were already going steady, they’re already married, already been together a long time versus people who are like newlyweds or they were just going on a first date, or whatever, you know what, the distinguishing factor was that people in solid relationships had frequent lightweight touches. And you examine their text messages, you examine their mail, you examine, we had all this data in Yahoo, and it would just be simple things like yes, or no, or ha-ha, or just little touches.

And it’s funny, because when you build up many, many lightweight touches, that puts deposits in those relationship bank accounts. And you think about the social graph on how you’re constantly making these deposits, your personal brand is the sum of all of these positive and negative deposits that eventually you may ask for a favor, you may ask for money, and that’s a withdrawal. And if you don’t have a positive balance there, you will bounce a check when you try to make a withdrawal.

Steve: Which happens all the time to both of us, I’m sure right, people asking us for help out of the middle of nowhere, right?

Dennis: Yeah, it’s like he already has his jab, jab, jab, hook thing because you make deposits before you withdraw anything.

Steve: And I had to wait two years for this interview constantly hounding you.

Dennis: That’s called interest. Now, I owe you, right?

Steve: So one of the conversations that we did have, you probably don’t remember this; it was all along the lines of personal branding. And every day I get hundreds of emails from people who are kind of stuck in dead end jobs, or people who can’t find a career. And my advice to them is always to just start something on the side, or build your own portfolio of content. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, then just build an audience, establish your own brand. And that’s what I was hoping to pick your brain about today. And I know you do a lot of this stuff at BlitzMetrics. But let’s say one of the listeners out there, they’re starting with nothing like, what’s the first step that you would give them or have them do to just kind of start establishing their brand?

Dennis: All of what you’re doing Steve, interview other people, who have some kind of expertise, whether it’s perceived or actual, and get them on video and make a one minute video. Like if we’re hanging out at Social Media Marketing World and there’s 6,000 people there, certainly at the lunch tables or in a session or when you catch a speaker, not right before they’re about to go on stage or something like that. But you can find these people and you can ask them a question or two, not five questions, just like one question for a one minute video. And you collect a series of these.

And you don’t have to know anything; you don’t have to have a brand. You don’t have to be good on camera, because you’re just pulling out your iPhone and getting their feedback. That’s what I did for the first 20 years of my life. And then the next 20 years of my life was about paying that forward from the mentors and other people that have taught me. A lot of people want to jump straight to the main stage without having any experience and without having the knowledge and it shows through, they think they’re fooling everybody. I made a post on Facebook about that yesterday and it got to like 400 likes, because it’s about people who are fraudulently promoting their lifestyle.

They don’t have the lifestyle, they owe people money, they don’t own those vehicles that they’re posing in front of. They are constantly burning relationships, because they think it’s all about maintaining that look. And in social media people are they spend so much effort. So many of these people, these author, speaker, coach, influencer, whatever you want to call these people are so busy trying to maintain this Hollywood facade that they have not invested in their knowledge. And I always believe I’m old fashioned. I believe, invest in your knowledge is the best way to learn firsthand, right? Just start a podcast and interview other people. Of course, do your homework beforehand so you don’t come off as being silly, right?

Steve: Let’s say I want to become known as an authority in a certain area. And I know you do this a lot with your Facebook ads, because even before we even met, I saw you talking about various topics in social media. And I think you were talking about a bunch of different topics. Every time I went on my Facebook, I saw you on the feed talking about something else. And even though we hadn’t met and I knew nothing about your company at the time, I watched some of those videos. And over time I started seeing you as an authority in that area. And so, if someone wants to do that, like I’m kind of curious what your strategy over time is for doing that.

Dennis: That’s easy, so if you want to be an authority in X, whatever that is, let’s say, it’s helping out dentists or help helping attorneys generate leads. My buddy Ben Doll is actually an expert here, he’s sitting right next to me. Well, if I know nothing about that, I’m not a lawyer, I have no experience; I would do a Google search for internet marketing lawyers or something like that. See who shows up in terms of the people, follow them on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn, maybe if I’ve built sort of a relationship or something that I can say, and…

Steve: Can you give me some examples, like assuming you’re doing this cold, right?

Dennis: Yeah, it’s really easy. You have to creep on people in a non creepy way. So if you follow these people, if you retweet their stuff, that’s not seen as being intrusive, that’s just being part of the community. And when you comment on their blog posts, when you comment on their Facebook Company, and you write them a review, when you do things that are positive, and you say thank you. And in those reviews, and in those blog posts that you write, you are demonstrating that you have taken the time to review their stuff, not just like, oh, that was a really great article, all that was awesome, great job on being featured on Entrepreneur. That’s not building engagement. That’s not demonstrating that you have earned the right to talk to these people.

It’s very easy to build authority in any area that you want if you do this. I know because 99% of the people that approached me are automatic DQ because they come straight for the ask. They say, can you get me a blue checkmark? Can you introduce me to Mark Zuckerberg? Can you get me tickets to the Golden State Warriors? We’ve never met. I don’t even know who you are. And that’s the — can you imagine like Stephen, I just walked up to you and I didn’t know who you were and I said, hey Steve, can I have the keys to your car, and we don’t even know each other right?

Steve: I would say Dennis you could have whatever you want.

Dennis: If I had a gun at your head maybe. All of us I think we understand this kind of etiquette. Yet 99% of people fail because they think the internet is such a big place that you can get away with murder or there’s just enough people. Going back to Yahoo Personals, there were people that would behave, they’d set up their dating profile, and they just figured there’s enough people that if I make a profile and if I reach out to enough women, enough of those women are going to you no respond to my message. And of those, I’ll be able to go on a date. And of those I’ll be able to — and if you just send out enough messages, if I blast my resume out there enough times, then eventually I’ll just get a job right, if I just blast enough.

And that is what spammers do. That’s what people who put their stuff on Twitter and just like mass blast and follow and the Instagram follow trends which are getting killed, like don’t do that. I believe in following a few people. It’s a warren Buffett methodology, right? Warren Buffett, you know what is stop picking strategy is?

Steve: No, what is it?

Dennis: Like invest in 1,000 random stops like a mutual fund. It’s put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket, research a few stocks really well, and put your money there. I have a finance degree. I can say stuff like that.

Steve: Actually, one of my buddies, you might know him Billy Murphy. He put all of his money in Apple like many years ago.

Dennis: Yeah, he’s doing well.

Steve: And he’s doing well, though, yeah, exactly. But okay. So you find someone that you want to follow, and then you kind of subtly in the background, you tweet them, you might leave a comment, a thoughtful comment on their blog. But if someone’s really busy, they might not necessarily notice that right. I mean, is this a very long term strategy?

Dennis: No, they’ll notice. I mean, do you consider long term three months?

Steve: No, not at all, three months is short.

Dennis: Look, even people like me, I’m not trying to say I’m famous or anything like that, I’m not whatever, Paris Hilton or one of these people, but I certainly get a lot of people coming after me. And I notice when people leave thoughtful comments. I notice when they leave a review, I notice if they tag me multiple times. And of course, I’ll try to block them or whatever because a lot of spammy people will like tag 80 people in a post. But if people say something that’s interesting, that really stands out. And it’s to your advantage to do that, because you know that 99% of people don’t do that. So you will easily stand out.

I know a lot of these other people — I know, I have friends that are billionaires. I have a lot of internet billionaires who it’s not hard because I know all the people from the beginning. And we all joke about these people that come up to us. We’ll be having dinner, like one time I was having lunch with Robert Scoble. And we had this, and I think I brought Logan with me. And as a three, and we were good for the first half hour at dinner, and then all of a sudden, some people noticed us. And then because we’re hiding in the back, and these other people, and then all of a sudden, all these people came up and they tried to pitch us and they want to take pictures oh my, oh no.

Steve: While you guys were eating?

Dennis: While we were having lunch.

Steve: Oh yeah that’s terrible.

Dennis: So eventually, [inaudible 00:17:01] Robert, let’s leave, let’s go somewhere else because we were chatting about some stuff, right? We were working on some stuff together; we had a book coming out, right? You can’t be interrupted right now; we don’t want to be impolite. So just don’t be one of those people, right? That’s the main thing, ask any celebrity and their main thing is just don’t be one of those people. And it’s so easy to approach. You would think like celebrities, or famous business people or whatever, oh they think that they’re so important and their time is so squeezed. And it is, but they’re actually really helpful. And I’ve met so many successful people, not just billionaires, but people who have just below that level, and they’re all really nice to me.

Steve: So, so far, we’ve talked about establishing contact with influencers and that sort of thing. How does that tie into making yourself as an authority? So once you have contact with this person, and you’ve established some sort of mutual trust, what is the next step?

Dennis: Then you interview them in a one minute video, get on Skype for five minutes. Or maybe you ask them one question. You say, hey, I’ve got an article I’m writing and it’s coming out next Friday on the 10 things that are happening with Bitcoin. No, don’t do that. That’s a big, but some kind of topic that’s an area that you would like to be well known in eventually, but you don’t have any authority. Can you just give me one tip, and so you assemble a listical, because maybe you reach out to 10 people, and they each give you one tip, and lo and behold, you have an article, a listical right? It’s the easiest way to do it.

You see a lot of people that will say, what 150 experts have to say about how to get a mortgage, or whatever the topic is, like, insert your topic, what’s your topic? Who are those people? Don’t just mass blast each of them saying, hey, can you give me this one thing, but take the time to research who they are, take the time to see what they really care about. And ask a question that demonstrates that you have done some homework, and they will reply most of the time.

Steve: It’s funny; I’m just looking at my own correspondence here. I would say 99.9% of people do not do that. It’s really easy to spot a mass email.

Dennis: Yeah, and then what’s worse, or actually about the same is then they hire these VAs, or they use these bots, the PR agencies are the worst. I even got three of them today that were saying, yeah, I can help you drive leads on LinkedIn and do your lead gen automatically and all this and that. And I replied back saying no, thank you. You’re a robot; I would not want to be known as spamming people like that. In fact, if I had competitors, I would pay for them to use your service to put them out of business.

Steve: Okay. So we have this video or this listical, what’s the next step?

Dennis: You’re going to put it on Facebook; and you’re going to set for $1 a day.

Steve: So, what would be the caption, or what would the ad look like and who are we targeting here?

Dennis: We’re going to target the people in the audience that care about that particular topic, to people that go to that conference, the people that read the book, the people that follow that particular person. So let’s say that I’m in sales and I do real estate, and I am able to pull off a five minute interview with Grant Cardone, I’m not saying it has to be A list people, I’m going to target Grant Cardone. So I’ve got an interview with Robert Scoble, I’ve got lots of interviews with Robert Scoble, guess what I’m going to target, Robert Scoble.

I’ve got pictures and videos of me with the Golden State Warriors at their headquarters with their marketing people talking about how to do digital marketing, and how to succeed on Facebook. Who am I going to target? The people that work with the Golden State Warriors and the people that work at ESPN and the people that work in the NBA, and the people that are going to care about that kind of content. I want the highest relevancy possible. Think about who would care about that piece of content.

Steve: And then I’m targeting those people. What is the goal of the ad?

Dennis: I just want to drive engagement. I want to drive an initial touch. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m not trying to make a withdrawal. I want to demonstrate that as a journalist, as a fact gathering objective helper, I am collecting useful information and distributing it to other people without an initial ulterior motive. And when people see that you are trustworthy, they know you by who you hang out with. So, if they see that my co founder Logan Young is hanging out with Mark Zuckerberg, and they see that he is being interviewed on CNN about oh, Senator, we run ads, and being interviewed before Congress and all that.

If they see him there, he’s not selling any of our packages. He’s not selling consulting. He’s not saying anything about how good he is or how much he knows, or the fact that our company we’ve spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads. Not once does he or I or Ben, or any of our people, none of us ever need to say that because Steve, who would you trust more, Logan, who let’s say you know nothing about Logan. But you see him hanging out with Mark Zuckerberg versus somebody who says, hey, Steve, I’m really good at Facebook ads, you should hire me, me, me, me, me. Like, who would you think would be better at Facebook ads?

Steve: Yeah. So you’re gaining authority by association in the very beginning.

Dennis: And that’s called perceived authority. And perceived authority has to always precede actual authority. Actual authority is that you have the credit, you actually know how to do it, you have the proof, you have the checklist. The actual authority is where, let’s say, Steve, we implement this for you. And you saw you saw our personal brand manager, which is a media kit, let’s say they implement that for you and it drives good things for you, and it works for you and it builds your personal brand. That would be actual authority, because you’ve seen it, the proof is in the pudding.

But if you haven’t seen it, but you think based on who we are hanging out with, you think based on what we’re saying, you think based on people that we’re interviewing and the fact that we’re speaking at Social Media Marketing World, then you think that we might be good, and that’s perceived authority. Here’s a secret for anybody that wants to sell things, you must develop perceived authority before actual authority.

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I also use Ahrefs to spy my competitors’ sites to see what keywords they are ranking for, and then I read a more comprehensive post and eventually outrank them in search. Now those of you who know me know that I hate spending money on tools, but I actually pay for Ahrefs and that should say something in itself. Right now, I’m giving away nine three month Ahrefs memberships for free. To sign up, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway, once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway to win a three month a trust membership. Now back to the show.

And this perceived authority according to you can be obtained with this video that we’re just bidding $1 per day on Facebook campaign, right?

Dennis: Yeah.

Dennis: So can you walk me through this campaign, $1 in my experience doesn’t go that far. And so can you tell me how you can figure out whether the ad is working, or the engagement is good? What are some of the metrics that you use?

Dennis: So there’s something we call the standards of excellence, which is another way of it’s like the check engine light in your car when something’s wrong, right? And if your relevance score is low, that’s a sign that something is wrong but it doesn’t tell you exactly what’s wrong, right? It could be the engine is broken or whatever, when you’re in the car, that the thing goes on, right. And the way to troubleshoot further besides relevance score, which you can look at, at the ad level, very easy to look at, you should be getting at least an eight by the way. If you’re not getting an eight, something is wrong. You’re shooting an interesting video and you’re not getting eight, if you’re not selling anything, you should always get an eight plus.

But if it’s a video, I want to see what my average watch time is; the average watch time is six seconds on Facebook. I want to see 15 plus. If I can get 15 seconds plus on a one minute video, means I’ve captured their attention. If people are bailing out after three seconds, which is where Facebook I think currently counts a video view, that’s a sign that people are just scrolling past my junk. And maybe it’s because I don’t have captions or I’m not interesting, or I’m sitting in front of — I’m sitting in a conference room with a blank wall in the back and a fake potted plant, not interesting, right. Or I have my logo coming across the top with my name; no one cares about that, right. You’re going to lose people.

So the first thing is that watch time, which is governed by how many people I’m losing right away. Then I want to look at what my cost per view is, and not just my cost per three second view, which ideally should be two cents or less. But I want to look at my cost per 10 second view, and you can actually bid to a 10 second view. I mean, you don’t have to; you could just boost post all day long. But if I can get a 10 second view for under five cents, I’m doing pretty well. So think about that. If I spend $1, and I’m getting a 10 second view for five cents, a nickel, then I’m getting 20 people to watch for at least 10 seconds. 20 people that I know are going to be interested. Is that worth it? I think so, 20 of the right people.

Let’s say I spend 10 bucks. Now I got 200 people staying for at least 10 seconds to listen to what I have to say or listen to some other top or demonstrate that I have some kind of authority. Even if I say nothing in that video but I’m interviewing someone else who is authoritative, that Association spills over on to me, it’s called implied authority, right?

Steve: And that becomes very powerful, especially with a targeted audience of people that you want to eventually sell to.

Dennis: Yeah, I’ll just give you an example. So three years ago, Logan Young was delivering pizza for Pizza Hut at $9 an hour. Then he started following our systems on personal branding. There’s no magic, we publish it. It’s not some secret, right. And he became good at optimizing Facebook ads. Imagine that, like a cook that could follow a recipe for chocolate cake. He became good. Not that it was hard, because we follow the recipe. Betty Crocker is not a witch; you just follow the things on the side of the box. And so we were charging $250 an hour which is not bad from $9 now, right to do an ad now, right? That’s pretty good.

Then Mark Zuckerberg approached him at a conference and wanted to take a picture and his price is now $1,000 an hour. And so he used to make $250 an hour which is good right, now it’s $1,000 an hour and the clients are better, we’re getting more business from people buying that power hour because he does have the skill. He has the actual authority meaning that after they pay the $1,000, they’re not going to get disappointed because he knows what he’s doing. And I also like to look over stuff too just to make sure it’s good. I mean, I never really need to, but I just like to look over other stuff before it goes out because it has my stamp on it too.

But he has the perceived authority because he’s hanging out with Zuckerberg, so he can charge four times as much. And he’s always had the actual authority. Do you think Steve that the day before he hung out with Zuckerberg versus the day after somehow his ability to do Facebook ads was like four times better just by like, hanging out Mark Zuckerberg for a few minutes, all of a sudden, his knowledge was just like four times better?

Steve: The answer is no. But how did he meet Zuckerberg in the first place?

Dennis: Ah, you see. Now that is many lightweight touches over time because we have been to so many meetings at Facebook. We have been involved in their betas. We know a lot of their people. We even helped build the initial Power Editor, which is their copy of Google’s AdWords editor. And there was one conference that Logan was at, and he was wearing a Facebook shirt. He was the only one at the conference wearing a Facebook shirt. Why? Because the only place to get a Facebook shirt is at Facebook headquarters. You can’t order it online; you can’t even get it at the local offices. And Mark Zuckerberg said, where did you get that Facebook shirt? Are you an employee? And he wasn’t even in the main sessions. He was just like, walking around. He’s on his laptop or whatever, right? And they struck up a conversation and they talked about all kinds of stuff. And then Zach said, can we take a picture together?

Steve: Nice.

Dennis: And that’s where you see the picture that’s on his public figure page, which we then boost out and we use that picture all over. We use clips from him on CNN from being quoted in the Washington Post, he’s been all over the place, Social Media Marketing World, Traffic and Conversion Summit, keynotes in all these different countries, right. And that just builds tons and tons of perceived authority. But I don’t think it has anything directly to do with whether he’s any good at Facebook ads. He is, but you wouldn’t, you’d have to believe that he is first and then he has to prove it to you.

Steve: So we’re running this engagement ad, we’re doing $1 day and presumably if the engagement is good, we’ll up the spend on that, right.

Dennis: Yeah, so do you just let that run? When do you start transitioning over to reaching out and maybe going for some sort of sale? Like, what are the steps leading up to that?

Dennis: Okay, most people are not going to like what I have to say, they’re going to disagree with what I’m about to tell you. I don’t believe in reaching out to sell. I believe in inbound marketing all the way through, they have to come out and want it. So just 10 minutes ago, or whatever, 20 minutes ago, somebody signed up for our Blitz nation pro subscription, which is an annual subscription for 1,500 dollars of private membership. I’ve never met this person before. And he said, I’ve been following your stuff for years on digital marketing, and these other places where you’ve been sharing with the community.

And every one of those touches, we’ve been building that relationship until at which point he said, I am now at the point where I want to scale my business. I want to grow my agency and take better care of my clients. I am ready for this. I was not ready three years ago or four years ago. Is there any way I could have tracked that? Is there any way inside my Google Analytics or Facebook analytics or Infusionsoft I could have tracked that? I would have never known. And that’s really where it comes from. You have to have some amount of blind trust that if you plant this seed, that months and years down the road, it’s going to pay off. Personal branding is not put a $1 in the machine, and you get something out 10 seconds later. It’s not a vending machine, it’s a gardening thing. You plant the seeds, and however long it takes for the crops to grow, that’s how long it takes.

Steve: Right. It’ll be hard to calculate the ROI of these engagement ads, right?

Dennis: It’s really hard. I wish I could tell you, I’m an analytics person. I’m telling you it’s not fully possible. But there are some — it’s not completely blind. What you can do is see, of the people that are engaging with you are, who are they? And when you comment with them, and have a conversation with them, when they say something or ask a question and you respond by answering their question in a helpful way, instead of like trying to sell them something, they’re going to realize that and then you’re going to see their name. We see their names, usually a couple of weeks later, and they’ll buy one of our courses like $97, right? Because people aren’t just going to spend $97, well, some people will. But most people, they need to see some of the content, they need to kind of talk to you, like chat with you, right? I’m happy to chat with people if they reach out and then they buy. And that’s just how people are used to buying.

Steve: Let me ask you this. So you don’t turn those engagement ads into any sort of other ad that tries to get a lead?

Dennis: Oh, we do. We remarket those audiences.

Steve: Okay, all right.

Dennis: We’re not calling them up. It’s not like they fill out a form and then we keep calling them. It’s just like if you sign up for Salesforce, a rep will call you within like 10 seconds. Like, that’s why you never — you get your badge scanned at a conference. Never let them scan your badge because you know they’re going to keep calling you and calling you. So we do remarketing. So if people have watched multiple of our videos, then we could say, people who have watched video one for more than 10 seconds in the last 30 days, then show them video two. And video to or landing page two, or whatever the next piece of content is, could be promoting, hey, we have we 10 ways on how to do whatever.

It’s a lead magnet, and we just need your email address and we’ll send this to you. It’s free still. But you have to give me your email address so I can send the thing to you. And then when they go through our email sequence, we’ll give them a bunch of tips, we’ll give them videos, we’ll give them so much stuff. They’ll think like, wow, this is amazing. And they’ll say, hey, for $7, we have this thing on how do you hire a virtual assistant from the Philippines, that one is $7 to you? Well, heck, yeah, I got all this stuff for free. I put in my email and I continue to get all this amazing stuff for free. For $7, yeah for sure. I mean, if it’s anything like the stuff I’ve been getting for $7, Holy Molly, right.

And then from there we say, hey, would you like to learn how to use our dollar a day strategy? It’s $189. And they’re like, oh man, I’ve gotten so much value out of the $7, I think I’ll — yeah, I mean 189, my goodness, it comes with a little bit of support. It actually has tons of video lessons, it has like, it’s robust. It’s a full course, there’s a certificate, I can earn, there’s quizzes and exercises like, yeah, I think I would do that, right. Versus just starting cold saying, hey, buy my course for $189, or buy a power hour from Logan for $1,000 to optimize your ads. So what we do with — you guys understand like lead magnets are things you get for free with an email address, and the trip wire is something really cheap just to collect the dollar or two, right?

Steve: Mm-hmm yeah.

Dennis: Our best selling consulting are people who are spending say 10 grand a month with us is most of them come through by buying a course for like $99, $97 where they buy something small. The majority of people that have bought something big had bought something small first.

Steve: Do you have a gradual progression? I think you mentioned something like seven bucks first, and then 200 followed by 1,000.

Dennis: So that’s called the ascension model or some people call it an ascension path. And there’s many different price levels that you can have. You’ll see people argue in the forums on, oh, how much should your trip wire be? And a lot of people like to put trip wires at $7. And I don’t want to go into all the different arguments on how much a tripwire should be. Here’s the answer. It depends on a particular audience. So if you’re selling high end B2B software, then $1,000 could be a trip wire, right. On a million dollar package, $1,000 is the trip wire. But if you’re selling something to consumers, like learn how to play the guitar for the first time, to play an A chord and an E chord, your trip wire might be $1 or two and your course might be $17, right? So it’s all relative to the expectation of the buyer.

Steve: Okay. And then I’m just curious about your opinion on grabbing a Messenger subscriber versus an email subscriber in this day and age.

Dennis: You do both. Messenger will give you subscribers at maybe a third of the cost, but then again, I know there you can well argue with me, monkey, we’ve gone round and round. The day after he sold his company for $150 million, he spent the whole day with Logan and me, he canceled his whole schedule just to spend it with us two making videos about what to do about Facebook chat bots and the common misconceptions. But I still believe in email, right now, an email address is worth more than someone who is a subscriber in your list because you have their information. And there’s limitations on how many messages you can send and what’s promotional versus not.

However, you can have your cake and eat it too because if you set up a chat blast, or if you set up a [comment guard] [ph] where you are collecting their information with a chat bot and say, hey, comment yes, and I’ll give you the seven ways to do whatever, right. That’s a lead magnet. People comment yes, and then you give them that thing. But you say, oh, just in case we get disconnected, can I have your email address, which is a ridiculous thing to say. But that’s what happens when you’re on the phone, though. So people are like, sure here’s my phone number or here’s — and so people — I don’t remember what the opt-in rate is on that, but it’s something stupidly high like 80, 90%, right?

Steve: Really, okay, I’m not doing that right now. Okay, I’ll try that.

Dennis: And we’ll set up your mobile monkey if you want, we’re good at it. We have the inside scoop, the building features for us is really cool. So if you set up your Messenger bot, you can have your cake and eat it too, because along the way, you’re going to collect their email address. And then you have the opportunity to ask one or multiple questions and then send them down a path. So the Messenger model actually breaks the typical funnel. So when you have a sequence funnel that goes from awareness to consideration to conversion, it typically occurs over multiple weeks or months, or it goes through an email nurture sequence, it’s multiple emails. You can actually shortcut that and have it all occur in a single conversation because Messenger allows you to do that if you build out your sequences the right way.

Steve: When you mention replacing an email sequence with chat, are you talking about the interaction, or are you talking about auto responders within a chat bot?

Dennis: I’m talking about the interaction. I don’t think about chat boxes auto responders; although that’s the way most people build chatbots. They think of it as like crappy SMS, or they think of it is like, oh, I’m just going to take what I would say in an email and I’m just not jam it through a chat bot. You can’t do that because chat is so lightweight. You can’t send whole emails through chat. I mean, chat is like a few — you send a chat that’s more than a response, that’s more than a couple of sentences long and it takes up the whole window, and you can’t do that, right. So it has to be really lightweight, it has to be conversational. It has to be yes, no, A, B or C, it has to be really simplified.

Steve: I just wanted to take a moment to tell you about my brand new service that will help you grow your email list for free through group giveaways. Now, this service is called Gobrandwin.com, and we’ve had amazing results so far. In one of our last giveaways, we gathered almost 12,000 emails and grew the email lists of participating ecommerce stores by over 56% overnight. Now, does getting more customers and more emails for free sound interesting to you? Here is how it works.

If you own your own e-commerce brand, and you have a following, you contribute a gift card from your store valued at $200 or more. We will then assemble gift cards from other participating brands with a similar customer demographic and turn it into one massive sweepstakes giveaway. Now, everyone is going to send this giveaway email to their entire customer base, and drive them to a special landing page on Gobrandwin.com. We will acquire email addresses. Now consumers enter their emails, we send them special offers from your store and select a grand prize winner.

And after the sweepstakes is over, you will receive the full list of entrants and instantly grow your email list. And because my co founder and I have a pretty big network, we will also send the giveaway entry form to related influencers within the same niche and instantly augment any sweepstakes that we run. So bottom line the concept is very simple, we all help each other promote each other’s businesses, get free promotion from bloggers, and share the customer base. Now, if you’re interested in growing your email list, then head on over to Gobrandwin.com. That’s G-O-B-R-A-N-D-W-I-N.com, that’s Gobrandwin.com, and it is 100% free. Now back to the show.

Let’s take a moment since we’re getting up to 40 minutes here. Let’s take a moment to kind of just summarize everything that you’ve said so far because it’s been a lot. If you’re starting out with nothing, and you want to become an authority in your niche, you first start out by trying to get the attention of an influencer in the space that you want to pursue, right?

Dennis: Yep.

Steve: Through thoughtful communication, tweets, comments, whatever. And then try to get them into a conversation on Skype and create a small video.

Dennis: Or meet them in person at a conference.

Steve: Or meet them in person at a conference, that’s even better, right?

Dennis: Like friction, it could be friends that you know because everyone knows somebody. And if you just run into them, pull out your phone and be ready for that one minute video. Be ready for the topic. If you’ve mapped out your six topics that you care about, which we call your topic wheel, then you’re Johnny on the spot and ready to go. The worst thing is you’re about to meet someone well known or you didn’t know they’re going to be there and you don’t have anything to say, you’ve wasted that opportunity. You need to have those topics you care about mapped out in advance; it’s too late to try to make it up on the spot. It’s not going to come out the way you want.

Steve: Do you need permission before you show a video of an influencer in an ad?

Dennis: Well, I’d like to interview you for a one minute video. And they say yes, that’s called lightweight consent. It’s verbal consent, and it’s legal.

Steve: Okay. And then you put out an engagement ad, and you’re looking for metrics such as 20 cents for a 10 second view.

Dennis: Five cents for a 10 second view so you can get…

Steve: Oh, five cents, okay.

Dennis: Well, or even for dollar because we’re talking about a $1 day and you’re going to put that video or put that post or put that picture of you and that person on your public figure page, not your profile, but on a business page that has your name as the name of the page just like mine, right? If you go to fb.com/getfound, you you’ll see that that’s my public figure page, fb.com/DennisYu is my profile, the one that has a blue checkmark.

Steve: What is the difference between having a public figure page versus just your personal page?

Dennis: There’s only one page. You have a profile. As a user, you log into Facebook, and you have friends. And that’s called the profile. You don’t have analytics. You can’t boost posts. You can’t do things that happen on a business page. A page is a business page. There’s many categories of business pages. There’s restaurants, and brands and nonprofits and celebrities. And there’s one called a pop up with figure, one type of business page called public figure, which looks like you, it has your name, it has your picture, it looks just like a profile. But instead of friends, it has fans and you have the ability to run ads and do analytics and all the kinds of things that you can do on a page, right?

Steve: And what is the distinction between boosting a post versus using ad manager and running an ad manually?

Dennis: Well, ads manager allows you to choose from a broad range of objectives, like you want to drive for conversions, you want leads, you want to get video views, you want check ins you want offers. There’s all kinds of things that you can do with ads manager, if you want to sit down and actually build complex ad campaigns. However, most of us, including me, will just post stuff on our public figure page. And then we’ll just hit the boost button, right? The boost button is right there in the timeline. And then you hit boost. When you hit boost, the default, this is objective, is engagement. I mean, you can sometimes choose messages or if you want to drive video views, but I’d like to keep it on engagement.

And then you just choose who your audience is and choose the budget. And that’s the easiest way to get started. You don’t have to go to ads manager, you can boost right from your page’s manager on your phone right from your Facebook app, right? You open up Facebook and see what’s going on. In your pages there, you can boost from right there. You don’t have to go on to your desktop. And there’s no more Power Editor anymore, but you don’t have to do anything fancy.

Steve: And that is equivalent to doing the exact same thing in the ads manager.

Dennis: Yeah, it’s the same thing as driving engagement.

Steve: Right, okay. And then once we have some engagement, we want to retarget those folks into some sort of lead magnet followed by some sort of trip wire followed by a gradual ascension into larger offers.

Dennis: Yeah, so Steve, and everyone else who’s listening, if you made it this far, you’re going to have multiple posts that you’re boosting, you’re going to put a $1 day against each of them for seven days. So each post you are spending $7 and you may have to put out 15, 20, 100 of them. And you’ll find that 5% to 10% of them will become winners. And then these winners, you’re going to put for a $1 a day for 365 days, or $2 a day for 365 days when it’s generating high engagement. And you can tell, once you’ve got 10 or 15 of these posts out, you can tell which ones are doing well, and which ones suck. And usually the ones that you think are awesome are the ones that are going to suck. And the ones you think are they are whatever, those are the ones that actually do really well.

But let the numbers tell, don’t just put post out there, and just keep posting and posting and not extending the boosts. What you want to find is eventually you have these winners. We have some posts that are three years old that are still boosted and they’re fantastic. It’s the greatest hits model. And when you have a library of these greatest hits you’re going to – you know if you are Guns N Roses you’re going to play Paradise City over and over, people want to hear and we actually saw Guns and Roses in concert a few months ago because MGM Resorts International is a client of ours so we get to go to concerts and stay in hotels for free and all that. But yeah, think your greatest hits.

Steve: So Dennis, where can people find you if they want more information?

Dennis: The best way to find me to learn about Facebook stuff is to look me up on LinkedIn because I’m at the 5,000 friend limit. So don’t friend request me unless you actually know me, because I have so many of them, I’m not going to know, just connect with me on LinkedIn. The LinkedIn limit is I think like 28,000 and I’m only halfway there, I’m at 15,000 so there’s plenty of room.

Steve: And watch out, if you ever end up landing on one of Dennis’s sights, you will see his posts in your Facebook feed forever.

Dennis: Hey, if you buy our stuff, then you’ll be in some of our negative targeting so you won’t see it, so get on our feed and buy one of our courses, buy like the standards of excellence for $25, and then you won’t have to see a lot of these things.

Steve: And I want to give Stelzner a plug here too since this is how we met. If you want to meet Denis in person, head on over to Social Media Marketing World. I found you walking around the halls randomly too at times.

Dennis: Awesome

Steve: All right, hey Dennis thanks a lot for coming on the show, really appreciate your time.

Dennis: Awesome Steve, thank you.

Steve: All right.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Dennis is just one of those guys who is great at everything related to marketing and it’s all derived from experience. And his strategies are so intuitive that you end up hating yourself wondering why you haven’t been following Dennis a long time ago. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode235.

And once again I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants and you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, a win-back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So, head on over to Mywifequitherjob.com/ K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/ K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

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

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

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

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


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

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

236: The Fastest Way To Make 5K/Month From Scratch With Greg Mercer, Mike Jackness And Scott Voelker

The Fastest Way To Make 5K/Month From Scratch With Greg Mercer, Mike Jackness And Scott Voelker

Today I’ve got my buddies Greg Mercer, Scott Voelker and Mike Jackness back on the show. If you listened to last week’s episode, we were all together in San Diego to film the 5 Minute Pitch and while we were together, we recorded a couple of podcasts.

Anyway, today we’re going to collectively answer a question that I get asked all the time. If we were to start all over again, what would be our fastest way to make $5000/month. You’ll be surprised at some of the answers. Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn

  • How to make $5K/month with only $5k in starting capital
  • How I personally would make $5K with no money at all
  • How to build an audience
  • Is ecommerce the best way to go?

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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

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

Ahrefs.com – The best all in one SEO tool out there that I personally use to improve my search rankings for my blog and my online store. Click here to win a FREE 3 month membership.
ahrefs

GoBrandWin.com – The fastest and most effective way to grow your email list for free using group giveaways. Click here to signup for free.

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

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. And today, I’ve got my buddies, Greg Mercer, Scott Voelker, and Mike Jackness back on the show. And if you listened to last week’s episode, we were all together in San Diego to film the 5 Minute Pitch. And while we were together, we recorded a couple of podcasts. Anyway, today, what we’re going to do is we’re going to collectively answer a question that I get asked all the time. If we were to start all over again, what would be our fastest way to make $5,000 per month, and you’ll be surprised at some of the answer. So stay tuned.

But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. And right now I’m using Privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prizes in my store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this and when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.

You can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pop ups and abandoned email sequences as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ For 15% off. Once again that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Always blessed to have Klaviyo as a sponsor because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my e-commerce store, and I depend on them for over 30% of my revenues. And right now over the holiday season, it’s close to 35%. Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it is so powerful.

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

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

Scott: All right guys, I’m out here on a back patio looking at the ocean once again, with my good friends. I figured you know what, we’re in town. We got to actually get together and record an episode, another episode. All right, here’s what I want to do. I’m going to ask a question and this is going to be a speed round. I want to know what you would do right now with all of the information that you know, everything that you’ve gained, but you only have $5,000 to start your new business. What would you do with that money? What kind of actions would you take? And how soon do you think you could get to $5,000 in profit per month?

Mike: Okay, this is interesting. I didn’t know what the question was going to be until you asked it. So I’m stalling for time for just one second. But I know the answer. I know the answer. Number one, the things I’ve had the most success with in my life is the things I’m really passionate about. If I start doing something just for the business aspect of it, of just to make money or make a business that’s going to — just for the money, it doesn’t ever work as well. I’ve had success with it but it doesn’t work as well from my happiness quotient. And ultimately, it doesn’t work as well, from a long term profitability, and other parts of it.

So the things I will get into will be things that mimic my life to what I would be doing anyway, things that I already have an immense personal passion in. So for me, it’s traveling, I like playing tennis, scuba diving, whatever it might be, everyone’s thing is a little bit different. I’m not saying backpacking is the only thing I really enjoy doing. But I would be doing something for sure that’s involved directly with that. And the reason I know this now is because again, I’ve been doing entrepreneurship for a very long time. So I think back to when I was doing online poker, I was super passionate about poker. And it never felt like a day of work versus what I do now, even though I still enjoy what I do, it feels a little bit more like work.

And if you can do things that you’re passionate about, the ultimate expertise, the subject matter expert, is you. So I would go start a blog and start building an audience. That would be my first step, because traffic and an audience and trust is always going to make you money. And now that I’ve done affiliate marketing, SEO, content marketing, YouTube, ecommerce, all these different things run very well to making money via that audience, and that traffic. And I would really laser focus in on doing that, and stick with it for a long enough period of time, until you start seeing that success because most people give up too soon.

Scott: I’ve got a question. I’m going to come in here. Okay, that’s a great strategy. And I love that strategy. But what is your first monetization from that? And how soon would you expect to see something? If you didn’t, where would you be disappointed?

Mike: So that’s a great question. And I have, I think, a good answer for this; because this has taken some time to like, really fully understand. I think the first monetization spot should be affiliate marketing. Use something that’s already out there to establish a baseline of need, or success or purchases, whatever you want to use as a counter. They’ve already got the thing out there; it doesn’t have to be the perfect fit. But whether it’s someone else’s product, physical product, course product, service, whatever, you put an affiliate link on a page, and you see people going towards those things.

You look at your entire site, and all those different pieces of data, and then the thing that’s been the most successful with someone else’s product is right for you to develop and make your own thing there. Again, whether it’s a course or a physical product, or whatever it might be, you know that you already have a built in chance of success that’s way, way over 50%, whatever it is, is probably closer to 100%. It can never be 100%, but you use those data points before you start leaping into the unknown.

Greg: My answer is going to be a little bit different than Mike’s as to be expected. After watching all of the 5 Minute Pitch contestants, I’m pretty high right now on trying to invent something. So if I were to start all over, I had $5,000 to spend, which is it’s a good amount of starting capital. With some smarts and 5,000 bucks, I would try to invent a physical product or make significant improvements to a physical product in an area that I would consider myself like a little bit of an expert in. And I am definitely a tinkerer and a creator by nature, and that’s why this intrigues me right now.

But let’s use an example. For example, I enjoy playing beach volleyball. And one of the things that we often deal with is the net gets saggy and I work around those people who have created like these ratchet straps, or they just use ratchet strap. So you’d use like in the bed of your truck, or whatever, to just like tighten down the net. And really like those ratchet straps can be built into a volleyball net. That’s something that think could be created. It could be patented. With $5,000, you could definitely get started on that. And I think that’s what I’d probably do.

Mike: Let me ask you a question real quick, right? If you were to take my strategy and mirror it with your strategy where you build an audience first and have people that are following you because of volleyball that’s already there, it’s a built in audience and then you launch that invention, that’s like just fuel on that fire.

Greg: Absolutely fuel in the fire. If you have a large audience, it’s pretty easy to launch anything whether that be an info product or a physical product or a software product. I don’t know what other kinds of products. But creating an audience is pretty dang hard and it’s a long play. I would say – one of Scott’s questions was how soon do you think you would be able to receive or have $5,000 in profit. And I think by building a physical product and starting to sell it right away; I would see $5,000 in profit before I’d be able to build up a large enough audience that I could sell them something to receive that amount of money.

Steve: I disagree. So I don’t even need five grand. In fact, I had a student in my class who read one of my posts on how I made a lot of money doing a webinar. So what he did is he just ran some Facebook ads. I think he only had like 80 people and he did a webinar and he ended up making like $4,200, just like that selling, I think the content was actually the webinar or more of the webinar or more detail after that.

Greg: This is what you do, though, if you had to start all over, you’d run Facebook ads to a landing page to capture emails to run a webinar.

Steve: So I’m going to just take it. If I didn’t have any money at all, here’s what I would do.

Greg: You have $5,000 Steve.

Steve: I don’t need the 5,000. Some people out there that are listening don’t even have 5,000. Is that right Scott?

Scott: That is true.

Steve: Yeah, right. All right, so here’s what I’d do. I have a friend that did this. He just went on a popular forum. And he’d start posting these really long posts that people would read. And then all of a sudden, when people read those posts, they would comment on them, ask him questions. And all of a sudden, he became an authority within that forum. And then all of a sudden, people started asking him for advice. And he created a class and all of a sudden, people from that forum started signing up for his class, he didn’t even have his own audience or his own website.

Mike: I love all the different strategies and ideas here. And I think that they’re all coming from a little bit different point of view. For me, the reason the strategy that I mentioned is what I mentioned is because at this point in my life, I’m thinking about a very long term defensible business. And I’m not concerned with the amount of time necessarily that it takes to get there. And there’s obviously a much different point of view, where like, if you said, Mike, you have $5,000, and you have no home and you have no other belongings, I’m just giving you 5K, and you got to like, go out and be scrappy, and survive, that’s going to be a much different set of criteria.

But if I’m where I’m at now, and I’m just starting over trying to build a business for a long term defensibility and success, I would go with that strategy. If you’re looking to make money as quickly as possible; I love what you just said Steve. It’s like a really great strategy.

Greg: You guys might be getting off the question now though. Scott, can you remind us what the question was?

Scott: Yeah, you have $5,000, Steve doesn’t need it. So he’s going to give it to you. So you have $5,000, and you want to start a business that can make $5,000 in profit the quickest. That’s what I’m looking at. So let me give you my answer. And I believe that kind of a hybrid of what you’re talking about, Mike, I’ve done this. That’s why I say I’ve learned it, it works, I can speed up the process now. Again, this won’t work for you if you don’t want to be an audience or if you don’t want to gain an audience and if you don’t want to be the front of the camera. Some people don’t want to be, they just want to build a business on the back end, and then that’s it. Maybe you want to be an inventor like Greg said, and you just want to be that person and just come out with a really killer product that just blows up because everybody wants it, because it’s just awesome.

Me personally, it is building an audience. But the way that I would do that is I would put something out there, and in this case, I would probably do something just to get the attention in the market like I teach right now. And I would do either a giveaway in that market, I would do something to give people or get people to raise their hand so then I can deliver my content. And when I deliver my content, it’s going to be stuff around that market. So again, if it’s in the bass fishing, I’m going to basically create around that market, because that’s what I’m doing every weekend. I’m going fishing with — I’m not, but I’m saying if I did. I’m going fishing every weekend with my son. So I’m going to record that stuff, I’m going to report on that stuff, the lures that I’m making, all that stuff.

And in the meanwhile, while I’m doing that, I’m also going to be doing the affiliate marketing thing like Steve said, like you said. I’m going to be using the affiliate stuff, because it’s the easiest way to basically make a sale without having to have a product, right? With Greg’s strategy, I like that strategy, it’s going to be a little bit of a longer strategy to do to do that whole process unless we’re just going to modify a little bit. If we’re just going to modify a little bit, that’s fine, inventing, a little bit longer of a strategy. But I agree, if you can do that, have your own product, and then you’re going to also do the actual, how you’re going to get the attention in the market for that thing, I think that becomes the challenge unless you have an audience.

Here is what I’ve learned, okay, been at this for over 15 years, whether it’s for my photography business, when my wife and I built a brick and mortar business, we built a little email list of people that came to our studio, didn’t even know what we were doing using like Outlook and we would just blind copy, that was our email blast. And we would sell out our entire fourth quarter photography sessions. We had no spots available, we would book solid because we built an audience.

We built an audience locally of people that trusted us, they wanted us, they didn’t want anyone else, then I took it to the online space. I did the digital photography stuff there, built an audience, trust, sold stuff very easily. Build an audience, know, like, and trust, you can sell anything you want as long as the audience wants it, but you all know that. That’s the easiest way for me because that’s what I know and that’s what’s worked for me. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone. Greg is a little bit different.

Mike: So I mean, the one thing I want to say just about Greg strategy, you kind of mentioned it Scott, it kind of picked my thought process here. I don’t know that everyone can be an inventor, and I’m going to throw myself under the bus here. I’m just not creative enough when it comes to that type of thing. I don’t feel like I can be the inventor type. I can sit there and dream about this for a year, and probably not come up with an invention.

Steve: I just want to take a moment to thank Ahrefs for being a sponsor of the show. Now, I’m a huge fan of their tool and in my opinion Ahrefs is the best all in one SEO tool out there to rank in Google search. And recently, I completed a search engine site audit for mywifequitherjob.com and Bumblebeelinens.com and Ahrefs was indispensable. For example, I used Ahrefs to do a deep dive into all my posts to find the highest volume, lowest competition keywords to target in search. And in fact, recently, I used Ahrefs to rank a blog post in Google from position 20 to position five for a big time keyword in the span of just one month by switching around my title and H1 tags.

I also use Ahrefs to spy my competitors’ sites to see what keywords they are ranking for, and then I write a more comprehensive post and eventually outrank them in search. Now those of you who know me know that I hate spending money on tools, but I actually pay for Ahrefs and that should say something in itself. Right now, I’m giving away nine three month Ahrefs memberships for free. To sign up, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway, once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/giveaway to win a three month Ahrefs membership. Now back to the show.

Scott: Totally. But back to the question was what would each of us do. So that’s what I do. That’s what I’m pretty excited about right now. I love having an audience and having someone I can promote products to. But it’s not easy to build up an audience even if you’re trying to go like Steve said, and create long forum posts every day and work on that all day. Tha