Audio

268: How To Rank An Ecommerce Store In Search With Dan Shure

268: How To Rank An Ecommerce Store In Search With Dan Shure

Today, I’m excited to have Dan Shure on the show. Dan is the founder of a boutique SEO consultancy called Evolving SEO and he is an SEO expert with a fantastic reputation.

He’s helped entrepreneurs like Nathan Chan of Foundr Magazine and Noah Kagan of Sumo.com with their SEO in addition to popular startups like Ring, and Hint Water.

He also runs a popular podcast called Experts on The Wire. In this episode, Dan and I discuss what it takes to rank an ecommerce store in search.

What You’ll Learn

  • What’s working with search engine optimization today
  • How to rank an ecommerce store in search
  • The right way to do keyword research
  • How to write clickable post titles
  • How to get the featured snippet
  • The main strategy when it comes to ranking a site 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.
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

EmergeCounsel.com – EmergeCounsel is the service I use for trademarks and to get advice on any issue related to intellectual property protection. Click here and get $100 OFF by mentioning the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast.
Emerge Counsel

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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267: The New Amazon Ads You Probably Aren’t Running Yet With Brett Curry

267: How To Run Amazon DSP Ads With Brett Curry

Today, I’m thrilled to have Brett Curry back on the show. Brett is someone who I met through Drew Sanocki at the Traffic And Conversions Summit in San Diego.

He has spoken at my conference, The Sellers Summit, for the past 2 years and he runs OMG Commerce which is an ecommerce agency that has helped over 125 companies with their pay per click advertising.

In this episode, Brett and I talk about combining Amazon PPC with Amazon DSP to grow your Amazon business.

What You’ll Learn

  • What is Amazon DSP?
  • What ads can be bought through Amazon DSP
  • How is Amazon DSP different than the Google Display Network
  • How does Amazon DSP compare and differ from Amazon sponsored product ads
  • How to implement Amazon DSP

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

EmergeCounsel.com – EmergeCounsel is the service I use for trademarks and to get advice on any issue related to intellectual property protection. Click here and get $100 OFF by mentioning the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast.
Emerge Counsel

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’m happy to have Brett Curry back on the show, Brett’s been on many times. And today what we’re going to do is we are going to cover an entirely new topic called Amazon DSP. Now, if you don’t know much about this new Amazon advertising platform then this episode will enlighten you.

But before we begin I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode whether you were getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale Klaviyo offers fast simple and repeatable ways to grow and with Klaviyo, you can personalize your marketing build your customer relationships and automate your online sales and it is now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. Now, I want to talk about Klaviyo is new entrepreneurial growth guide. It is packed with must read blog post case studies and getting started content. This guide will help you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth now moving to a new marketing platform can be intimidating but Klaviyo helps you get up and growing fast, proven technology and countless support resources. Now, you can check out this free content now over at K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife. Once again, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife

I also want to give a shout-out to Privy who is also sponsored the show previous a tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now, what is Privy do? Well previous an email list growth platform and they manage all 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 are managing email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. And right now I’m using Privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up basically a user gives her an email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store and customers love the gamification aspect of this and what I implemented this form email signups increase by a 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.

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 Brett Curry back on the show. Now Brett is someone who I met through Drew Sanocki at the Traffic And Conversions Summit In San Diego a while back. He spoke at my conference, The Sellers Summit last year and he runs OMG Commerce which is an ecommerce agency that has helped over 125 companies with their pay per click advertising.

And I’m also happy to say that he’s speaking yet again at the Sellers Summit this year so if you want to meet the guy, you’ll see him in Miami on May 15th. Anyway, today Brett and I are going to talk about combining Amazon PPC with Amazon DSP which stands for demand side platforms to grow your Amazon business. If you don’t know what Amazon DSP is, stay tuned to find out and with that, welcome to the show Brett, how are you doing today man?

Brett: Steve. I’m awesome. Thanks for having me on really excited to dive into this topic is going to be fun.

Steve: It was great to hang out with you last week as well in person.

Brett: Yeah, man, that was great. That’s one of my primary reasons to do that event. Social media marketer. It’s a great event, but I love pain you know, guys like you and other speakers and it’s good time.

Steve: So Brett since you’ve been on the show before we are going to skip the intro this time around but what has been going on lately with OMG Commerce, where have you been seeing the biggest growth in advertising?

Brett: Yeah. So, you know, we’re growing as an agency. We’re up to 30 people now, which is super exciting and challenging and all that which is cool. So, you know, we primarily focus on two platforms. We were huge Google agency. That’s not talking about a seller Summit. So, Google search shopping YouTube lot going on there. On that side, YouTube is the piece that’s just kind of blown up for e-commerce Sellers and it’s been a lot of fun. I think we’re actually getting YouTube dialed in for e-commerce, which is great.

You know about going on three years ago now, when we started running Amazon ads or just a natural progression because we know search and a lot of similarities between sponsored product ads or now just called sponsor products, but those in Google shopping ads but less similarities. So serving those about three years ago and that’s been doing great. And we’re kind of leveraging some of Amazon’s new smart bidding. Some is not so good.

Steve: We’ll get to that. Yeah.

Brett: Yeah exactly exactly and you know Amazon DSP, which really we can talk about how it works and we’ll get into all that. But it basically the primary benefit is it allows you to remarket to people that visit your asons and don’t purchase. You can remarket to them with display ads that run across the web. And so that’s been that I spoke at Prosper Show recently James Thompson’s events event that we really well, but it’s mainly about DSP and a lot of Amazon sellers are pretty excited about the potential with that platform.

Steve: I want to ask you a quick question, since you run a ton of ads like how much has advertising increased in cost on Facebook Google and Amazon and just like the last year and what you’ve seen?

Brett: Yeah, it’s really interesting what we’ve seen with Google. So, okay. Let’s just talk Google in general. I think CPC’s have gone up. So if you look at search ads across the board. CPC’s have gone up. I believe though on the e-commerce side. It’s relatively mature. So if we look at Google shopping for back in 2012 to where it is today costs are definitely up but over the last year not a whole lot has changed because I think it’s reached a level of maturity where people are saying.

You know, because it is auction-based and you’re saying I can’t pay any more than this or that it becomes not profitable. So it’s kind of self-regulated. We did not see major increases for our search and shopping cost for most of our clients over the over the past year, but that’s because we’re running e-commerce campaigns. We still consult talk to like local businesses attorneys’ things like that. I think those cpcs are still on the rise to a certain degree.

Brett: What about Facebook?

Brett: Yeah, Facebook has definitely gone up and that that’s been a kind of a combination of Facebook restricting inventory. You know, trying to kind of clean up the feed and make users happy and you know, it looks kind of gone through a couple of crises but that stuff like going up right to the tune of about 30 plus percent. I don’t manage Facebook campaign. So I’m not in the platform very frequently. I understand it to a certain degree, but I know costs have gone up there.

We are seeing YouTube costs go up some so YouTube is one of those things where everybody’s excited about it. It’s actually we’ve got some ways to make that profitable costs are going up. And then with Amazon, so as we compare like CPCs are often higher with Amazon sponsor products and they are with Google shopping. But the conversion rates better on Amazon and so off probably.

Steve: Way better?

Brett: Yeah way better substantial better and some cases 3x better some cases. So the metrics still work but yet the CPC’s are almost always higher on Amazon and they are on Google shopping as an example.

Steve: Okay, and you know, if you guys didn’t catch the last interview that I did with Brett that was actually on YouTube advertising. So if you understand that you guys Check out that episode. I don’t have the number off the top of my head, but I’ll post in the show notes.

Brett: Great.

Steve: So Brett. What is Amazon DSP? What is it exactly?

Brett: Yep. So DSP, some people think it stands for like a display. It’s a shortened version of display. You do run display ads room is on DSP, but actually stands for Demand-side Platform, which will just means it’s self-service. So you get into the platform and you can build out your ad campaigns and things like that. And so basically what, it’s a layering of Amazon’s Shopper data.

So what they know about Shoppers and obviously hit they have millions of millions of Shoppers. And so it’s the layering of that data onto ad networks. So what we can do then is we can say hey I want to remark it to all the people that visit my asons either all of my asons or my top asons and I want to remarket or retarget those that visit those product pages and don’t buy and now, you know if they my product page and I’ll buy and a seminar on espn.com or MSN or something like that. I could run one of my ads to them to get them back to my listing.

Steve: This is very similar to the Google Display Network, right?

Brett: Absolutely. So it’s actually a combination of about seven networks plus some Amazon own properties. So it includes amazon.com also includes IMBD internet movie database, which is an awesome site if you’re researching movies. Amazon owns that then there’s Amazon publisher Services, which is a couple of kind of Comscore 100 sites that Amazon has control over. So that’s included.

And then there’s about seven open networks that Amazon participates in and allows you to run ads on. So basically those are other AD networks, you could advertise on on your own but what makes it kind of magical as you get the Amazon data that you’re using for your targeting purposes. So.

Steve: Just to be clear. These are the ads that kind of follow you all over the web on any arbitrary website, right?

Brett: Correct. Yeah. It’s standard retargeting. Right, which if You’ve been running your own website, you know, you potential been running retargeting for years and years. But sometimes Amazon will run retargeting ads on their own for your listings through vendor or whatever. But now this this gives you the option to do it yourself and it’s a pretty powerful.

Steve: Actually. That was my next question. I already see my ads follow around the web on Amazon, right Amazon’s running Those ads for me. So the question is why should I pay for them?

Brett: Yeah, it’s a great question. So one gives you more control right? You, you get to pick which of your products you’re going to retarget. Because Amazon is not retargeting every product that’s available on their site. So, you know, depending on who’s listening they may or may not have Amazon running ads for them at all. But usually Amazon’s not going to run retargeting ads for all of your products and not all of the time. So it gives you much more control.

Obviously you can see all of the data so you can see your cost per impression and your return on ad spend and all of that to kind of dial things in but ultimately just gives you more control and allows you to grow your business the way you want to grow it.

Steve: Do you have any visibility into because I still I notice an Amazon only runs Those ads for my best-selling products. Is there any visibility? Otherwise, if you’re not using their DSP platform.

Brett: Not that I know of, there may be something but I have not seen it. So that’s the other thing and I know you’re the same way Steve, but I love to see the data right? If we see the data, we know the data then we can make decisions and we know what to do. And so seeing that data is super important. Yeah.

Steve: How do I get access to this? And what are the requirements?

Brett: Yeah. So the requirements are actually a little bit steep right now. So you got a couple options. You can either go direct to Amazon and use Amazon’s managed Services where they’ll build campaigns. You’ve got a rep they’ll manage everything for you. We’ve had a few clients use that with different degrees of success, but the tricky part is they want to charge like 35 Grand minimum spend to get started.

Steve: Right.

Brett: So in that can be spent over a couple months, but 35k is kind of the minimum. You can also go direct. So DSP is the self-service platform you can get into that. Has a minimum too right now. It’s something at about 15K initial spends what they’re looking for. So that can be kind of steep for some people as well or you can find an agency like ours are there are others as well, but we meet all the minimum so we don’t have a minimum for people to run and test on DSP. So that, that’s an option as well. You also find an agency that has that direct connection to DSP and run your ads that way.

Steve: So just curious. Do you have to be brand registered like are than you requirements from the perspective of an Amazon Seller?

Brett: So you do not have to be brand registered. Yep. So that that’s not a requirement. You can actually run, there’s not a ton of restrictions on the ads you run. You could even run ads and direct people back to your website if you want it to.

Steve: Oh really?

Brett: Or or yeah. Yeah, they really are pretty lenient about that. It’s just a matter of you know, you’re paying for the you’re paying for the ads, but you can send them back to your site if you want. Or you can design your own ads obviously or you can kind of use ads that look like an Amazon listing and so that that’s typically what we do.

Steve: Well, so this is just like Google Display Network, except you have all the Amazon data.

Brett: Yeah.

Steve: You can take them anywhere you want you can put anything you want in the ad as well?

Brett: Absolutely. Absolutely and we’ll go ahead and fall apart.

Steve: I was just going to say can this be text-based as well as image based or is it just image-based?

Brett: Yeah. It’s all image-based right now. So you got kind of you know, the various sizes of image ads, you know skyscrapers and Banners and stuff like that, you know. The square ads 250 by 250. So yeah, it’s your standard display ad sizes.

Steve: Okay. And then can you target specific sites? Like how powerful is it right now?

Brett: Well targeting specific sites. You can Target specifically Amazon property. So if you want to choose Amazon and IMBD, or you can you can run just app ads inside the Amazon app. But we found that a lot of results from the open network as well. So we will build campaigns targeting both what kind of use your segment them, but the open networks work really well also.

Steve: What does that mean please? Open? What’s an open network?

Brett: Sure. So the open networks would be, networks, like AOL. As an example their ad Network or there’s other AD Network names that that basically they’re like an alternative to the Google Display Network. So it’s a group of sites where you could go directly to them if you wanted to and buy ads, but this is allowing you to run ads with those networks using Amazon’s data. Even cooler I think than placements because ultimately the placements are an important, aren’t as important as the people that you’re targeting right? So it’s really about the Amazon data.

What’s awesome is that it’s not just about targeting people the vizier asons or your product pages and then bounce without converting. You can also Target your competitors and you can also Target people that are just in the market so kind of shopping, browsing. So it’s really, I’m happy to break down those audiences for in kind of other words.

Steve: Yeah how do you the target your competitors?

Brett: Yeah. So this is yeah. This is one of the coolest thing so, you know, I’ve been in a Google guy forever, you know, and we’d always ask people are people always ask us. Hey can we retarget to people that visit our competitor sites in through Google Display Network, you know, the in the quick answer is no. You can build certain type of audience that sort of gets you close. It kind of builds a look-alike audience, but it’s called custom Affinity audiences.

But really you can’t you can’t quite retarget visitors to your competitor sites. With Amazon DSP, you can. So basically what you do you give Amazon a list of your asons, you know, either all of them or just the ones you want to advertise and then they’ll build a list of similar asons, right? They’ll build an audience of similar asons, which would be your competitors asons. And it’s actually an audience of people that have visited those asons but did not purchase. So it is literally retargeting my get people to visit.

Steve: Oh my Goodness..

Brett: It’s crazy.

Steve: That is crazy.

Brett: To clarify this like three times because the marker and me was nerding out when I when we first learned about it, but yeah, it’s people that visit your competitors asons and don’t buy. What’s also cool is that the audiences are updated in almost real-time. So if someone visits, you know, this competing spatulas page, they don’t buy now. They’re on my list for me to run ads to but then you know this afternoon they do by their taken off the list almost immediately. And so that audience type is extremely powerful.

Steve: That is crazy.

Brett: Yup, yup.

Steve: And then you can go those people back to your own site or anywhere you want to.

Brett: Yeah, anywhere you want, you know, usually we’re we’ve tested that somewhere we’re finding and obviously these are Amazon customers and Amazon Shoppers. So an ad that looks like your Amazon listing that points people back to your amp bacterium is on listing. Those do work best. But test whatever, you know, I’m always about testing to see what’s going to work.

Steve: Totally makes sense. So, do you have any numbers that you can share like what sort of results you’re seeing targeting your competitors? That sounds amazing by the way.

Brett: Yeah, it really is. So there’s a couple ways to look at the numbers. So when you run Amazon DSP get a couple different reports, you get kind of this direct sales report right that just shows people that click on ads and convert. And so, you know, we’re seeing in the high range of you know, 4x, 4x, 2/5x for those similar product targeting. So 400, 500 return on ad spend.

Steve: Okay.

Brett: Kind of on the higher side were seeing lows of you know 1 to 2, but that’s just people that click on the added by immediately. There’s also what’s called a brand halo effect. And this is something I’m sure you seen Steve and something that I’ve noticed forever. Once you start running ads, you’ll just see everything increase right direct traffic will increase. People you know, searching for you by name only increase things like that.

So that happens on Amazon, so Amazon will give ran halo effect report as well aware of the opinion. It’s a little bit greedy right now. I can I think it over Rapport so sometimes it’ll be like 3x what that is. So it’ll still say like a yeah 12x return on your ad spend when you look at the halo effect. I don’t know. I don’t know that I buy that so the truth is probably somewhere in between. Yeah, the results have been going out results for asons retargeting where your retargeting people to visit your products and don’t buy. That’s great. I mean that’s a no-brainer. I think that works for essentially everybody.

The similar targeting, you know or competitive targeting works for most people. But you’re not in all in all cases. So as an example for retargeting, I mean we’re seeing return on ad spend of 11, you know, 11x 20x from the direct sales report.

Steve: Okay.

Brett: You know, yeah. and then, and then the brand Halos higher but you know average your least 4x on.

Steve: That’s still pretty cool. I mean 11 X is crazy. These are just straight retarding ads where you just retarding back to the product they were looking at.

Brett: Yep. Correct, correct.

Steve: And are you able to put in your at exactly the product that they were looking at?

Brett: So no, so that that’s what okay, so so there’s a couple ways to do it. Basically what you’re doing is you’re Building audiences and audiences are based on asons. So you can either send Amazon single asons and ask for an audience for each ason or kind of a group of asons and ask for an audience around that group. And so if you their requirements as well, so you can’t do this unless you have Five thousand unique visitors per month to either one a son or your group of Aces.

Steve: I see.

Brett: So where that becomes tricky as if you’re kind of just getting started and I have a lot of traffic you may have to bundle all of your asons together to get an audience that’s sizable enough to Target. And then if you get a lot of different, you know use it you’re a sins are very different from each other that it may be hard to serve the right ad. Because basically you’re matching add to audience if that makes sense.

Steve: So basically it’s the dynamic aspect is not quite there yet?

Brett: You have to put there is not correct. There’s not a dynamic aspect. So it’s you building audiences and they can either be single product audiences or audiences based on a group of products. And then and then you have to run an ad to those people. Say there’s not a dynamic offering yet. I’m sure that will happen yet. That’s the way it works with Google and GDN which is a beautiful thing. So that will.

Steve: Force your Facebook already to so

Brett: For sure. Yeah. Uh-huh Yeah

Steve: So on these Ads like recently Amazon allowed you to run display ads on people, other people’s products right? And have control over that.

Brett: Yup, yes.

Steve: I’m just kind of wondering how that compares here?

Brett: Yeah. So those are those are really good. So those are from about the same thing and I think we are product charging.

Steve: Yeah. Product listing ads I think they call them? I don’t remember.

Brett: Yeah It’s a subset of sponsored products, but it is part of product targeting and just like with kind of like with Google Amazon changes the name of things, you know monthly it seems. But you can Target specific products and then, you know towards the bottom of the page your sponsored product or your sponsored listing will show there. And what we’re seeing with that is the results are really good almost identical to sponsor product ads that run elsewhere like in top of search and search results like that.

We are seeing volume is lower. So, you know some product targets work some don’t obviously but once we kind of down into the ones that work the returns are great. They’re just using not quite as much volume on.

Steve: Sure.

Brett: That’s but that is a great way to Target but that’s actually a subset of sponsor products. There is one other audience that was kind of interesting for display for DSP. And this is kind of a little a little broader. So, you know, we talked about funnels, you know, shopping funnels and things like that. I think it’s fairly instructive. But you know the top of the funnel that’s where people are maybe just becoming aware of your product or product options and then we’ll lower the funnel. It’s more of a comparison evaluation. I’m really shopping and comparing my options and then at the bottom its decision time. And that’s a, over simplified funnel, but we kinda get the idea.

So, you know retargeting that’s definitely bottom of funnel. The similar product argument that’s kind of mid funnel because that’s when someone’s doing some evaluating and they’re clicking on different products and trying to decide what to buy higher higher in the funnel than that is what’s called in-market audiences.

Steve: Uh huh.

Brett: So these are these are interesting. These are kind of based on category page activity. So basically you build, that you can build an audience of people that are in the market for organic dog food as an example. And that doesn’t mean that they necessarily clicked on specific asons or similar asons, but they were kind of on category Pages or there. They’re doing things on amazon.com to make Amazon say hey there in the market for organic dog food or there in the market for toys for kids ages 5 to 8 or whatever the case may be.

Steve: So they copied Google’s terminology here, right or is this? Okay.

Brett: Correct. Yep. Yep. So yeah in-market audiences at some of the Google builds as well. So this is a direct copy of that same thing happens though. Those audiences are updated in almost real time. So someone starts kind of shopping organic dog food there on that organic dog food in Market audience. Then later today, I you know, I buy my organic dog food now I’m off the list. So it does save you some money because what’s interesting about this platform versus others, is you’re actually paying for Impressions.

So we’re still seeing return on ad spend, you know, we’re really dialing in and looking at the return and all that and you can see CPC’s but you’re paying for Impressions so that that’s where it’s important that those audiences are updated in near real time.

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You know, this is really powerful a lot more powerful than Google in my opinion, right? Because people are actively shopping on Amazon in a category. So if I understand correctly this in Market is category based on Amazon.

Brett: It is category based. Yeah, and I totally agree like I mean, I love obviously love running Google ads and stuff. But Google will put someone in and in and in Market audience based on you know, what searches they’re making and what sites are clicking on but yeah, it’s kind of hard to tell exactly where they are in the process.

Steve: Yeah.

Brett: But your conversion rates are so high on Amazon. And so if someone’s on category Pages really browsing on Amazon that they’re likely to buy pretty quickly.

Steve: How did the returns look for the for the in-market audiences as opposed in targeting your competitors?

Brett: So as you could imagine, because this is a little bit higher in the funnel the returns are lower. So, you know, this is where we talk to advertisers whether it’s on the Google side of the Amazon side, you know, we like to say, okay we need to get an overall return that makes sense. Right? We’ve got to we got to watch our overall money spent versus money that we’re getting in sales, but we can’t necessarily the same goal for every ad type. Right?

Sponsored products. They should just kill it. You know, they should do great High return on ad spend or actually it’s sponsor products a measure a cost. So it’s you know low a cost but for in Market, that’s kind of top of the funnel see I don’t want to spend the whole lot like, you know, that’s a smaller budget item depending on how aggressive want to grow but the returns are lower. So, you know, we’re seeing on the high side like a 3X return on those.

Steve: Okay.

Brett: And again, this is this is direct sales. The halo effect is always larger, but but you know, you have to trust it and I don’t really think I do yet. To kind of an average of between 1 and 2x return.

Steve: That’s If you just try to keep the Amazon flywheel going, right?

Brett: Exactly. Yeah, you’re trying to say, you know, because the Amazon loves you getting traffic from outside of Amazon, you know that can help with Organic rankings and those wasps and all that. So again, we like to at okay, if we if we look at all of our ad types is kind of a portfolio and we need a total, you know, return an spinner total a costs. Then let’s see where we you know, we just put a little bit of money to in Market because we’re always getting new people finding new people that way and so.

So yeah, we use this very heavily around the holidays for a large toy seller and man it did well. It was it just crushed it which that makes sense kill the market around the holidays and toys and you know impulse type purchase. So that worked very well, but yet it’s exciting audience type. I do viewed as a little bit higher in the funnel and so you just have to kind of budget and plan accordingly because of that.

Steve: Are you able to calculate lifetime value of a customer with this platform?

Speaker 1: That’s not something that I’ve seen yet. I would love to be able to do that. I mean, the oh that’s the other thing. That’s the other audience that I forgot to mention is as you give Amazon a list of asons, they’ll give you know, your retargeting audience will give you similar products, but it will also give you buyers. So you can you can find hey this is this is my list of buyers for these asons. Now you can Market to them and try to sell them something else right?

Steve: Ah, yeah cross sales.

Brett: Exactly so, you know, I bought a guitar. I did not buy a case. Okay, let’s run ads for the case or I bought the eye serum but not the facial mask. Let’s run ads for the facial mask. So it’s another way to kind of yeah cross promote and cross-sell.

Steve: Can you market to people who have purchased your competitors products or just looked at them?

Brett: Yeah, right. Now it’s just looked at them so that. And used to like when we first started doing this we could give Amazon a list of our competitors. Like he wanted we want to target these guys can’t do that. Now, It’s just all automated you give Amazon you’re asons you want to target they’ll automatically build that similar list. But yeah right now it’s just people that have visited those products and have not purchased.

Steve: And what’s in clear me is you keep mentioning that everything is in real time in people getting taken off a list, when they’re taking off a list is that when a purchase occurs of any type?

Brett: Yeah, so it’s near real time. So I don’t know what the actual delay it is. It seems like it is same day which is which is interesting. But it should be a purchase related to that category. So the way the way it was explained to me and you know, there’s always some of the some of these things that a little bit Black Box, you know, where you ask questions and you don’t always get super clear answers. But the example was given to me on the organic dog food as an example.

So now I’m in the organic dog food I go ahead and purchase them. I’m not in Market anymore. But then in 30 days, I’m back in Amazon searching again on category Pages. Now, I’m added back to that in Market audience. So it’s definitely one that you can you can be added to it again, but it seems like it would certainly make sense that it’s related to that I purchase that specific product. Or a product in that category.

So I know when it comes to the similar audiences and stuff, that’s did someone buy one of those specific products in Market. I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten confirmation, but I think would have to be a purchase in that category.

Steve: Do you get to set the duration?

Brett: Yes, there’s remember all the options that I know. I know the Google options a lot better, but you can, you can set the duration. Yes. And I think it’s I think it’s default 30 days if I’m remembering correctly, but you can modify that some not as much control as Google. So like with Google as an example, you know, we’re building sometimes three-day audiences and seven-day audiences and 14-day audiences and then being more aggressive with our targeting in different Windows. You can’t at this point. You can’t be that detailed with Amazon.

Steve: Okay. Can we talk about the creative little bit?

Brett: Yeah, absolutely.

Steve: Do you just take your GDN creatives and roll with it or do you create a fresh set just for just for these Amazon DSP ads?

Brett: Yeah, so we’ve tested it and you know Amazon DSP says, Hey run whatever you want. I mean obviously with some policy guidelines, but run whatever, you know, make the ad look like whatever you want to look like. So we tested it. We we’ve taken kind of our GDN looking, you know ads and we were Designers are really good really talented. And so we use some of those ads, but we also wanted to test you can kind of build these ads automatically in the DSP platform. It basically had just looks like your Amazon listing just you know, it’s got the Amazon add to cart button and it’s got the pictures from Amazon and ratings remember that just looks like Amazon.

Those ads always do better. They just do I I think it is one of those things that there’s some triggers there some visual cues or someone sees it I yeah, that was the product I was looking at. Even looks like the listing I was looking at and so the results are just better there. I think everybody still needs to test you never know but in our experience so far and we’ve done quite a bit of this the ads that look like Amazon there. Right now, they’re winning by a healthy margin.

Steve: Okay.

Brett: And they’re easy to build to because you just build a right there and DSP the not a ton of creativity. There you kind of decide you want to pull in your reviews or Price or you can have ads that kind of rotate and show multiple things. And so that’s what we’re doing primarily. But yeah, you can be as creative as you want and essential upload any add to test.

Steve: So these are just set templates like I want to display these three Essence and it’ll just put together an ad with add to cart buttons.

Brett: Correct. Okay, correct.

Steve: Does it add to cart when you click on it?

Brett: That’s a that’s a great question.

Steve: Or better yet. Is it one click sell, one click page?

Steve: That is what, no it’s not one click. That’s actually a great question. I haven’t clicked on the ads. I’ll confirm it. I’ll confirm that we can drop it in the show notes, but not actually certain on that. My thought is that it probably does go back to the product detail page. Yeah, that’s super interesting.

Steve: What other levers can you play in the ad itself that Amazon gives you?

Brett: You can add headlines. So there are depending on the ad size. You can add a headline. So even if even if you want it to look just like your product listing on Amazon’s, you get the picture and the reviews and you know, the Amazon looking buttons. You can still add a headline and test that and you’d be on the ad size that may or may not be eligible to show if it’s a smaller add than you have.

Steve: So do you create ads for like all the different ad types? There’s like a bunch, right?

Brett: Yeah. So when you when you go in and kind of build the basics, it’ll auto adjust to fit those different sizes. So but we do like to write headlines and that’s something that, you know been marketers for a long time.

Steve: Sure.

Brett: And we seen the power of one headline versus another even in search ads or on a landing page. So we do like to test headlines for sure and but you can also, so to clarify you can build specific ad sizes as well. So 300 by 300 whatever like you just build those sizes as well if you want. And you can get to the smaller skyscrapers or the smaller. I forget all the names of them, but you can just create those individually, and It’s one.

Steve: And on mobile as well, right?

Brett: Mmm. Yep.

Steve: And you can you control like I don’t want anything in an app or a game or anything like that?

Brett: So there are some controls you can you know, you can choose only on Amazon only in the Amazon app. You can choose only in these open networks. There are there are a few things you can kind of restrict on where your ads show. But it’s not quite the same as against it’s a GDN now, although I will say on Google. They’re getting a little more automated where they’re kind of automatically excluding things like, you know, sexually suggestive content or violent content. You kind of you can opt out of all of that if you want to. And that makes it pretty easy. So there are some controls with Amazon but not quite the same.

Steve: It’s really didn’t use it. Maybe they’ll get.

Brett: it is. Yes. Yes. Exactly.

Steve: So DSP like to get access to this two completely different site, right? You don’t get this from Seller Central for example, right?

Brett: Correct, it’s not in sort of central at all. It’s actually just obviously Google Amazon DSP, but it’s advertising@amazon.com and that’s when you kind of go and get some of the details and there’s some videos about it and stuff like that. But yeah, it’s separate from vendor or seller its own its own platform.

Steve: So I know you run ads like across the entire gamut, right? So let’s say I came up to you as an Amazon Seller. So let’s say I’m just doing 1 million a year. How do you prioritize the ad spend?

Brett: Yeah, it’s a great question. So same way I would do if I was talking to someone, you know using Google and so their own site. I want to maximize that bottom of funnel first, but specifically sponsor products. So our sponsor product ads what they used to be called so sponsor products and then headline search ads which are now sponsored Brands. You have to be brand registered for that though. So usually to maximize that or at least get that to where get some good volume the return is what you need it to be, I would prioritize that.

Steve: Sponsor products and headline ads. I know they’re not called sideline ads anymore.

Brett: But yeah exactly sponsor products and headline acts. Yeah. Those would be the primary drivers just because the return is so predictable and it just works. So then as you have..

Steve: About the product listing ones, I mean in my opinion, those for me have been the highest converting ones.

Brett: You talk about products targeting..

Steve: Yeah I’m talking about

Brett: Where you learn how to talk

Steve: Exactly. Yeah.

Brett: So those that’s a subset of sponsor products I can,

Steve: Oh okay. Yeah.

Brett: Sorry lumpy.

Steve: Okay.

Brett: Yeah, so I’ve got a lump that together but I totally agree. Those are those are awesome. And now you can Target those specifically which is really cool. So I would maximize the budget there before I would look at anything. That’s DSP related and then if you, so, you know that this will vary from seller to seller but maybe you’re saying hey 60% of my 60 to 80% of my ad budgets going to go to sponsor products in headline search ads with sponsor products taking the majority of that budget.

And then I’m going to take you know, 20 or mittens that maybe like 10 to 20 to 30% of my budget going to retargeting once I start doing some DSP. And then I would just use you know, and like that 10 to 15% range. And now that I’m doing math on the fly I’m not sure hundreds..

Steve: Haha

Brett: We always give we always give 110% Yeah, I don’t know. But then the rest would be targeting similar products and and in market and then you know, you can always shift things as you go. But I think that’s the allocation that makes the most sense. And that you can really grow as you get that bottom of funnel built out high converting, you know, consistent predictable ads really push those first and put most of your budget there. And then start with a small amount and then ramp up as you see results with other, you know audiences and add types that are a little bit higher in the funnel.

Steve: So let me ask you this. Typically when I do retargeting like I do it based on duration, right? Like if they looked at the product within the last three days seven days 14 days and 30 days. Can you do all that stuff and ESP as well?

Brett: Not quite that detailed and I totally agree like that’s exactly what we do on the Google side will split even you know, product detail page viewers, versus cart abandoners and put these tight Windows on it. And will be be super aggressive for that narrow window and then we’re less aggressive as we go. So right now no you cannot be that specific.

Steve: Okay. So basically it’s just kind of like this blanket 30 days.

Brett: Right.

Steve: Okay

Brett: Right. Yep.

Steve: I mean this is new I imagine all that stuff is coming on down the line, but that’s just the way

Brett: yeah and depending exactly and so he like depending on when someone listens to this maybe Amazon or at least they’re releasing new things all the time and we’re actually we found out we’re fastest-growing Agency on Amazon DSP. So I get to go to the Amazon headquarters with my.

Steve: Whoo Hoo!

Brett: yeah going there next week with my..

Steve: Can you take a fellow Asian guy along too. I’d love to

Brett: Dude, Come on man, come on yeah. Let’s do it.

Steve: While we were chatting earlier before I hit the record button you were talking about like Amazon’s automated bidding and your experience with that. You want to just comment on that real quick.

Brett: Yeah. Sure. So this is one of those new things for primarily for sponsored products right where, we’re all we’re always a fan of testing new things were pretty big believers. In Ai and machine learning and it just because we’ve seen what that’s done on the Google side and how that’s changed performance there. So as an example to make a comparison on the Google side, they go uses smart bidding. Specifically Target return on ad spend or Target CPA and that’s basically where instead of getting up and getting down on your own. You’re giving the Google algorithm a Target.

So hit five hundred percent return on ad spend and then we found the algorithm now is so good. It will dial in and hit that row as maybe exceed it and help you get more volume. so really powerful there, but what was interesting is that first came out though, it kind of sucked like for about a year and then it got better and better and now, it’s so good. Google leverages all kinds of data that you won’t be able to ever see as an Advertiser. They’re looking at, you know, 70 million signals that they’re kind of calculating it at auction time, you know some cool stuff.

Well, I would kind of you Amazon as being at the same place we tested the bit up, bid down feature for kind of our top 20 advertisers or so. Just a little bit on a few campaigns here, there and the results were interesting to say the least so..
Steve: It usually means negative But yeah, yeah.

Brett: Yeah. kind of yeah. Yeah. So the 50% of the campaign’s just went nuts, haywire, like spending a lot just going crazy. So we pretty quickly mix those about 30% of the campaign’s just fluctuated too much too much volatility. Like there be one week where they’d be Okay one week where they would just do weird things. We couldn’t explain, so all-in-all now, you know like 20% did okay. But anyway to date we only have about 10% of a campaigns we started with actually still use the bit up and down functionality.

So just a tiny fraction of our campaigns overall. We manage are actually using that using the bit up and bid down functionality. Here’s what I know about machine learning and I’m not a programmer not a computer scientist, but the one thing that machine Learning Systems need to perfect their craft is data, right? They need lots and lots of data my advice to people listening is, let other advertiser’s Supply Amazon with data for right now. I would probably avoid it, you know, maybe test it with the campaign or two just to see how it does for you.

But overall it just increased spending and increased a cost that that’s what we saw that those kind of end of story. So I think it will probably get there, you know, if because Amazon’s pretty smart lots of other scientists and just some really smart people. So it will probably be a tool that will be useful maybe you know in the next year is the results will change but for right now I would say proceed with Extreme Caution and probably. Just wait a bit the bit down only which is kind of been around for a while that still works well. But bit up and down is a I would give that a strong caution and probably just avoid.

Steve: So Brett you’re going to be talking about Google shopping at the soda Summit this year. And I’ve been asked this question in the past, and I’ve never tried it so I don’t actually know the exact answer. I thought take the opportunity to ask you right now. People have been wondering whether you can run Google shopping for an Amazon portfolio of products on your site where you’re actually linking direct to Amazon in your feed. Is that possible?

Brett: That is not currently possible.

Steve: Okay.

Brett: So Amazon has been kind of in and out on running ads themselves in the Google shopping results for longest time. They would not run Google shopping ads and then they were and so that’s kind of on again off again type of thing. You can run Google search ads to your Amazon listings and we do that a decent amount. It’s a great way to get you know, people off of Amazon to your listing and increase velocity and ranking and all that.

It’s hard to track currently, you know, because you can see the click and cost data inside Google but then you can’t connect that with conversion data because the Amazon and Google, you know won’t connect to each other that way. But you can only do that if Amazon isn’t already bidding on your keywords. So Google’s policy is for any given keyword, they’re only going to show one ad for a given domain. So if Amazon’s already bidding on ads for your top keywords, then you’re likely not going to be able to run.

Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still create it because you know Amazon may be bidding in such a way that you would win the auction versus them or what have you but you can’t have an ad and Amazon have an ad both to your listing or both just the Amazon for the same keyword so search yes with those caveats shopping ads to Amazon listings, No.

Steve: Okay, even if this is the structure that was thinking like even if the shopping at takes them to a page on your website on your domain with the add to cart button leading to Amazon?

Brett: You can totally put that yes, you can do that. Yep

Steve: But it’s just not track, the conversions aren’t trackable?

Brett: Correct and you can’t see it and we’ve had some clients that have done that where you know, they’re get their listing on the shop store, you can check out there or you can check out on Amazon. and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You may get overall more conversions, but it will make the data a little bit a little bit messy. There is a kind of preview some of that’s kind of cool that’s not really ready for prime time, but it is interesting. Have you heard of Amazon attribution?

Steve: Nope.

Brett: It’s a new tool. We’ve got done now several webinars kind of still in beta right now, but basically it’s a way to track campaigns off Amazon and see whether those people convert on Amazon. So basically, it’s just pixel-based but you’re creating pixels for

Steve, Oh yeah yeah, I have heard of this. Yes, yes.

Brett: Yes, it’s really cool you can search campaigns. It’s for criminals work on Facebook, but for Google search campaigns or the display campaigns or whatever the only not the only one of the drawbacks is it only works for vendor right now? So if your Seller Central you can’t use it, but it’s coming, you know Amazon’s working on in perfecting it’ll be available for everybody at some point.

So once that’s available. Now you can start tracking and seeing okay this campaign did lead to these conversions on Amazon. So that that has the potential to be a game-changer as we’ve kind of demo to I think it’s going to be a potential little bit confusing a little bit messy in the beginning but promising for down the road for sure.

Steve: Cool. Well Brett where can people find you online if they have more questions about DSP or anything advertising related.

Brett: Yeah. Would love to connect left to talk Amazon DSP one of my favorite topics or sponsor products. Or I can connect you with the true wizard of all Amazon ads and OMG Chris Tyler’s our director of Amazon, but go to omgcommerce.com. It’s the best place and info their info on Amazon ads. Reach out If you’d like to schedule a free consult, happy to do that, and then you can actually on LinkedIn. I’m also on Facebook happy to connect with fellow Amazon sellers and marketing nerds alike. Happy to connect.

Steve: Cool. Well Brett. Thanks again for coming back on the show.

Brett: Yeah, man. Thanks for the invite had a blast and I really appreciate it.

Steve: And I’ll see you in a month and a half. It looks like.

Brett: Yeah, just a few weeks excited about it.

Steve: Alright, man. Take care.

Brett: Okay. Thanks Steve.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode now. I’m pretty excited about Amazon DSP because Amazon has so much shopping related data that you can use to drive targeted traffic anywhere you want. For more information about this episode go to mywifequitjob.com/episode267.

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

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

Now. I talked about how I use all these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six a 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!

266: How To Invent A Product From Scratch And Sell Over 300K Units With Kim Meckwood

266: How To Invent A Product From Scratch And Sell Over 300K Units With Kim Meckwood


Today I’m thrilled to have Kim Meckwood on the show. Kim was the winner of the 5 Minute Pitch, my Shark Tank like show with Mike Jackness, Greg Mercer and Scott Voelker where we gave away 50,000 in cold hard cash.

Kim invented an ingenious product called Click And Carry that has sold over 300K units. Click And Carry is a tool that allows you to comfortably carry a bunch of bags all at once and sling them over your shoulder.

In this episode, we’re going to talk about the triumphs and the struggles of entrepreneurship and how Kim got started with her business.

What You’ll Learn

  • Kim’s motivations for starting her business
  • How Kim validated her niche before she began
  • How Kim designed and manufactured her product
  • How Kim generates most of her sales and how to get on QVC

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 bootstrap business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today. I’m thrilled to have Kim Meckwood on the show.

And Kim is the founder of Click and Carry. The ingenious invention that allows you to carry an insane number of bags hands-free that she was also the winner of the five minute pitch. And today we are going to do a deep dive into her business and her story.

But before we begin, I want to give a shout-out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is a tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store and right now I’m using Privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up.

Basically, these are gives our 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 a hundred thirty one percent. Now, you can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pop-ups and abandoned cart email sequences as well and 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.

And I also want to give a shout-out to Klaviyo who’s also a sponsor of the show. Now whether you are getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale Klaviyo offers fast simple and repeatable ways to grow and with Klaviyo, you can personalize your marketing build your customer relationships and automate your online sales and it is now easier than ever to create amazing email in advertising experiences. So I want to tell you about Klaviyo new entrepreneurs growth guide.

It is packed with must read blog posts case studies and getting started content. This guide helps you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth. Now moving to any new marketing platform can be intimidating but Klaviyo helps you get up and growing fast with proven technology and countless support resources. Now you can explore this free content now, Over at K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife. Once again, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the my 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 Kim Meckwood on the show. Now, Kim was actually the winner of the five minute pitch my Shark Tank like show with MIke Jackness Gregg Mercer and Scott Walker where we gave away $50,000 in Cold Hard Cash to a single company. And that was Kim’s. Kim runs an e-commerce business selling Click and Carry, an ingenious tool that allows you to comfortably carry a bunch of bags all at once and sling them over your shoulder.

Now, it is truly an amazing invention that has sold over 300,000 units. Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to this interview now that the winter has finally been announced for 5 minute pitch. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about the triumphs and the struggles of Entrepreneurship and how Kim got started with her business and with that welcome to show Kim. How are you doing today?

Kim: Hi Steve. Thanks so much for having me. I’m doing well, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be here and I’m really honored to be your winner on Five minute pitch. It’s huge for me. Thank you.

Steve: You know what’s funny about the five minute pitch, you know, we only saw each other virtually and then we finally got to meet in person at my event to seller Summit and it was awesome. It was great to see everyone in person.

Kim: I couldn’t agree more and I can’t believe how many great new friends. I have as a result of your five minute pitch. So thank you all around. I feel really lucky and it’s an honor to meet you.

Steve: Yeah, you know, it’s amazing how all the finalists got along really well and just started, you know, hitting it up. Basically.

Kim: Yeah, they’re pretty great. In fact, I actually have John’s product for my cat.

Steve: Oh, you purchased it already. Awesome.

Kim: Yeah, and I sent one to my mom to so, so prudence and Leila have a cheese.

Steve: Nice nice. So Kim, please tell the audience about your product what you sell and how you got started.

Kim: Sure. So I have a product it’s called Click and Carry and it’s just a simple handle device and it has two areas that allows you to put in as many bags as you can fit. Each side takes 40 pounds for a total of 80 and then you can secure them into place by rotating the top into place and then you either hold it in your hand with a comfy gel grip or even better you wear it over your shoulder and your hands-free.

It’s just very necessary for condo living or for moms who have to have a free hand for their baby or for people who just want to have a free hand to unlock their door.

Steve: I’ll post a picture of it in the show notes. So people can, sometimes you really have to see it in order to understand the product fully.

Kim: I agree and as you know, because you’re you were one of the few judges who actually had a Click and Carry, it’s one of those things where once you use it, you can never go back because it just really saves your arms and hands from getting the grooves from carrying so much weight.

Steve: Absolutely, so how did you get the idea for this? And yeah, how did you get started manufacturing? Did you start already knowing how to make stuff, or?

Kim: Okay, so this is such a bizarre story, but I have really vivid dreams and, in my dream,, appeared to Click and Carry but it was actually flat and it was a Jetsons ask dream where there are those flying cars and they zip in and zip down kind of like a helicopter. And in my dream, it was basically a line of those cars but one slot was missing.

So this car zipped in and zipped down and the Click and Carry was there it was in the form of an ex the cars zipped down it closed and then the train took off so I thought to myself. Oh, wow, that makes sense. That’s a way to secure things together, but you’ll still have room in the middle to put your hand. So I just modified it slightly. I made it a little bit rounded so it fits perfectly on one shoulder and then the product was born.

And the interesting thing is that I was talking about it for a while and I was sketching it. And at the time I was in medical device sales for Medtronic I used to work in Brain stimulation. So one of my clients she’s a neurologist at USC. She I guess was sick of hearing me talk about it. So she said you know Kim will you shut up and stop talking about it and do something about it. So I took her advice.

I actually met her neighbor who at the time was studying an entrepreneurial studies at the Pasadena design school. So I hired her neighbor to help me with the prototypes because the Pasadena design school had access to a 3D CAD printer so which was huge because at that time each CAD print was about $175, but if I had done it in just the real world it would have cost me probably a thousand each time.

I made a prototype. So with the help of this design student, I created the winner and once they had the winning clicking carry prototype, I sent it off and I made a mold in China.

Steve: How did you get in touch with a vendor who would make a mold for you?

Kim: That’s another weird story. Okay. So I live in a Condo building in Los Angeles and they call me the mayor here in my condo complex because I talked to everyone and just so happens that across the hall. There was this guy his name is Stewart and he worked for TIE and Tie’s the company that makes beanie babies.

So I told him all about my invention and what is trying to do and he put me in touch with his Factory that made the beanie babies. They were able to make a steel mold for me. And so I made the mold

Steve: Wait. Okay. So the Tie manufacturer you got in touch with them and they decided to make a mold for you?

Kim: Yes. Well, I mean, they also made steel molds. They didn’t just make Beanie Babies. They had, it was, it’s a really big Factory over there.

Steve: Okay.

Kim: But..

Steve: How much of the mold cost?

Kim: At that time, It was $5,000

Steve: That’s really cheap. Actually.

Kim: It is. But not when you’re bootstrapping. I mean for me at the time it was a lot of money, but the sad news is that I knew that it wasn’t going to work that it wasn’t going to be perfect. But I also knew there was a good chance I’d be able to modify my mold. So what happened is I received the first prototype back from the mold and initially, I’ll actually send you a picture of the original one.

Originally the slot where it turns it was just a straight line. So what would happen is when click into place, even though there was a male female parts prevent it from moving and dang stationary since it was just a single line. It was easy for the Click and Carrt to continue to move. So it just didn’t suit the purpose.

So I redesigned it and I made it kind of like a tooth and I’ll make sure that I get that to you so you can show your podcast viewers what it looks like but I changed the groove which also allowed me to modify my patent. So I ended up getting two patents from the same mold and now I finally had the winner. So that’s when I decided I did that I was going to take that revamped version and go and get a patent. So that’s just what I did.

Steve: So in terms of manufacturing the mold part, how much did it cost to redo the mold?

Kim: That was about $3,000 to modify the $5,000 molds. Luckily, It was using the same shape of the product. It just needed to be modified slightly so you could only take away from a mold. You can’t add to a mold.

Steve: Right.

Kim: So I was lucky in that sense that I was able to just take away a few things and modify it slightly. So ultimately the first mold cost me about 8,000 and my current mold cost about 25,000

Steve: And this mold is it’s in China?

Kim: it is in China. Yes.

Steve: Okay. And did you ever go visit there or was this all done remotely?

Kim: It was all done remotely and lucky for me the factory that I used to work with, they used to do a trade show in Orange County, California once a year, so I would meet them once a year here in the state.

And we would just talk to each other via internet. I should have gone but the interesting thing and sadly this is still the case in China if you’re a woman owner or inventor, you’re just not taken as a credible.

Steve: Mmm.

Kim: Inventor, in fact, many of the times when they were when they were in town meeting me. I would bring my nephew who I had working for me and my company and they would always ask questions to him, even though he wasn’t the owner or the inventor but he was a guy so

Steve: Right.

Kim: So I felt safe that they came here to meet with me. So it was a much safer way to go.

Steve: Okay. And so at this point you’ve spent $8,000 you have a new mold what happened next?

Kim: So I just started going around town and talking to local stores and I started sewing up farmers markets and I even did the Pasadena the Pasadena Rose Bowl, which is a swap meet that has I think 50,000 visitors once a month and I was just trying to get the word around and..

Steve: How many did you make in your first production run? I forgot

Kim: Probably about 5,000

Steve: 5,000 Okay.

Kim: Yeah.

Steve: And how much did it cost for that? First run, per piece?

Kim: Oh my gosh, they were really expensive and luckily I’ve turned things around but I think when I first started they were two dollars and nine cents a unit and then they ultimately went up to about two dollars and Seventeen cents a unit and that remember that’s not including importation taxes and getting it to the United States.

Steve: Mmm. So your landed cost was maybe around $3 or?

Kim: Pretty close. Yeah. It was it was pretty high. Luckily. I’ve modified the mold and made a new mold that and reduce cost but at the time that was what I had to work with and that was kind of a hard sell because it’s just a plastic piece of good. So people don’t want to pay a whole lot of money for it.

Steve: What was the selling price in the beginning?

Kim: It was $7.99 in the beginning.

Steve: Okay and two x mark yeah

Kim: Yeah. It was fine for me because I would you know, I was just bootstrapping it and just selling out of my out of my place. So I didn’t have to worry about getting margins for retailers and things like that.

Steve: So did they just fly off the shelves at the swap meets?

Kim: No, no. No.

Steve: Okay, I’ll let you continue.

Kim: They didn’t because it’s the kind of product that needs a demonstration and all of the sales that I made were made showing how it’s used or demonstrating it on a mannequin or actually physically showing the person they use. Once they actually had it in their grasp or over their shoulder, that’s when I would be able to sell them. But it was a one-on-one kind of thing. So.

Steve: Okay.

Kim: That’s when I really knew I had to really Branch out into the website thing.

Steve: Okay, and then so how did you start generating sales at the swap meets and that sort of thing weren’t working that well?

Kim: So then I started to get smart and I did research and I found out about a trade show in Chicago called the home and housewares show. And I knew it was a big risk. It was going to be very expensive. It probably cost me close to 10,000 to do it because I think..

Steve: So you bought a booth at the show?

Kim: I did there they have a section and this is great for young companies who want to get their product out there if it fits the genre. There’s an area called the inventors corner where you get a discounted Booth.

I think it was something like five or six thousand, but obviously that doesn’t include getting all your stuff there and you know having monitors to show videos and things like that, but the beauty of inventors corner is the fact that all of these bigger companies come in and try to find a young brand new company or brand new unique product and then they allow you to pitch your product to a panel.

When I pitched, the people on the panel were QVC, HSN, and SkyMall and companies like that. They were always looking for new products oh, Lakeland UK, which is a popular retailers in England. I was able to pitch to them. Unbeknownst to me, they really liked my product.

And the funny thing is I’ve gathered all of their cards and when I got home from the trade show, I followed up and I reached out to QVC. Bernadette of QVC didn’t call me back and didn’t call me back. I thought that was really strange. She seemed to like my product but then I got a call from the Bethenny Frankel show. Bethenny Frankel is the girl who sold this Skinny Girl Margarita franchise for I believe about a hundred million dollars.

Steve: Wow Okay.

Kim: I know, she’s a rock star. She makes margaritas and wine that they’re low-calorie and I think she’s well not I think, she’s one of the New York Housewives. At the time, she had a talk show and so I had applied for it months earlier because she would help a female entrepreneur once a week and a segment called Bethany, Bethany in your business, and I never received a call back.

But then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I got a call from her people. And they asked if I would be interested in doing her show and I said, yes, of course because I knew I would get business advice from her. And again, she had just sold her company for something like a hundred million dollars. I knew I would get her business advice and perhaps a stipend.

I was expecting maybe five or ten thousand dollar stipend to help me in my business. And instead, I ended up getting a contract with QVC which was a Cinderella. It was crazy. It was such a Cinderella moment and it really it changed the trajectory of my business.

Steve: How does QVC work exactly? so they have a contract. Do you have to produce a certain amount of units?

Kim: You do. So it works in many ways. I was really lucky. They basically brought me in under their Sprouts program. So they really made it easy for me. Usually people have to pay for all of their inventory and they only get paid as they sell the product.

But because I was the Sprouts winner that year, I was the gadget of the year. Since I was the winner, they allowed me to have a guaranteed sale. So they initially ordered I think it was thirteen thousand six hundred units.

Steve: Oh wow Okay.

Kim: I know it was crazy. It was it was an interesting time because they made a lot of exceptions for me. Usually you have to have all those products in stock and I just didn’t and I had like maybe whatever the leftover what from my 5,000 units was. And they ordered 13,500. They filmed me. I filmed that Bethany episode in April.

That’s when they told me. They wanted to order the 13,000 units. I went on a month later, but the units weren’t ready. It takes about 3 months to create that many units at that time. It’s different now. And then like another month or so to get to the United States, so I filmed in May I sold out in 7 minutes.

And then customers were going to receive their products in August of that year. But the funny thing is I did so well that they added another five or 6,000 units too, to that initial order because I sold out.

Steve: So, did you have to front all that money for the production or did they help you with that?

Kim: No, I had a front all the money, which means I was out of that money from April until a month after it was delivered which was August 8th. So until September 8, I was I was out that money and then when they do send you the money they take away five percent because they count on returns. So.

Steve: What are the terms of the QVC deal? Like how much do they take? So you retail price before you said was $8.00, right?

Kim: Yes, yeah because I sold a set of four and they sold it for $25.

Steve: They sold 25 and how much of that do you get to keep and how much do they take?

Kim: I ended up keeping a little bit over five dollars a set. So was it wasn’t huge obviously. It was like well, let’s say about a dollar forty a unit is what I made. Okay. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. But it was it was still okay, it was fine, but it was a real success story in that right after that delivery. They ordered 60,000 more.

Steve: 60 thousand. Wow. Okay.

Kim: Yeah, so I had to figure out how to find the money to make the product. So that’s when I made a really big error because I didn’t really know how to go out there and pitch and find investors at that time and I had to learn these things kind of on the Fly and my Dada just passed away. So I wasn’t going to ask my mom for the money so what I did as I use my 401 k because you sometimes you have to strike while the iron is hot.

Steve: Sure.

Kim: Though I knew I was going to have a tax penalty. I thought I was going to be 20 or 30 percent but it ended up ultimately being about 50%. I know, on a bright note though. I didn’t get that tax penalty until about a year and a half later. So I was able to really function and build the business in the meantime.

Steve: So 60,000 units menu had to front like a hundred and twenty k or a little bit more than that?

Kim: Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Steve: Okay.

Kim: I think was like a hundred and thirty thousand and that wasn’t including shipping it to the US and oh one thing I forgot to mention about the initial order is you know, you have to keep your timelines if you’re working with QVC. You don’t want to set the wrong precedent. So my factory lagged a little bit and I actually had to fly the first order into the United States which cost me an additional 13 thousand which would normally have cost me like maybe 5,000 if I shipped it.

Steve: Right.

Kim: So.

Steve: So the money that you made from that first run of QVC, wasn’t that much was it like on the order of 20 grand then?

Kim: I don’t remember the exact amount and I should have had this prepared for you. But it was I want to say offhand I made, I don’t know, I didn’t want to discuss..

Steve: It was just far less than you needed to front the money. Right?

Kim: Far less. Yeah.

Steve: Okay far less. Okay.

Kim: Far less, yeah I was I was lucky I had the money in the 401K to be able to continue working with QVC cuz it and it was a great thing for a few years and I could I could go back and I eventually will but it was a really great thing.

Steve: So, okay. So you you borrow money to buy this production run for 60,000 units what happened after that?

Kim: So then I continued to go on until you go on until the units are sold. So I’ve I was on like seven or eight times on QVC. In fact, they even did a segment on me during breast cancer awareness month because I’m a Survivor. And they brought me on and they did a beautiful segment and I was able to tell people how you know, you have to believe in yourself and you know stick with your plan and try to get over adversity and do what you need to do.

So QVC’s been amazing to me and it’s been a really credible source, for example, when I go and I try to sell to other retailers when I say that I have been working with QVC for so many years they’re really impressed and they know that I have a quality product because it takes a lot to be proved as far as the quality of your product at QVC.

Steve: So there was a gap where you stopped selling all together, is that because that tax bill finally hit and then you for to produce anymore?

Kim: Yeah. It was a little bit of that in a little bit of, you know, I was to the point where I was just living off the proceeds from Click and Carry. That was great. But when you have these orders and that was at the same time getting orders from other places like Ralph’s which is a local grocery chain here in Los Angeles, you’re putting out all this money, but you still have to live and I was to the point where it was really hard for me to pay for my mortgage.

And more importantly for my health insurance because I was a cancer survivor. So I had to make the choice to go back to work. I kept Click and Carry alive and I continued to sell the whole time. But I had to go back to a daytime job just to just to make sure I was going to survive with Click and Carry.

Plus on QVC, I received 4.7 out of five stars. And that was after many many reviews hundreds of reviews. And the only negative comment, I would get on Click and Carry is the fact that it was difficult to open. So that’s when I realized that I needed to make a new version and I decided to back off a little bit on QVC to re-engineer my product and that’s when I met an amazing Mentor. His name is Mark and he invented the perfect push-up and he then taught me the ropes.

He taught me how to pitch to find an investor. He taught me how he used his Factory and how his Factory produced over 10 million versions of the perfect push up with very little error and he put me in touch with them. So then I switched factories and now I’m proud to say I’m with a new Factory. My new mold is significantly better in that, there’s very little error in the product that I produce and I’ve reduced cost and the amount of material going into each product by 81 cents a unit which is about a 37 decrease in cost. And that’s just it’s a game changer for me. It just it brought me to a new level and that’s, all thanks to mark.

Steve: This new mold. Was it significantly more expensive than the last mold?

Kim: It was, my new mold is 25,000.

Steve: Okay. So that was more in line with what I was expecting actually for the first round.

Kim: Yeah, that’s it was it was 25,000 and in the United States the same mold would be somewhere between sixty five thousand and eighty five thousand. And the per piece units were more expensive in the United States. I wish that weren’t the case because I’d prefer to make a US.

Steve: Sure.

Kim: Company, but unfortunately it was a lot less expensive for me to make my own mold in China and to produce there.

Steve: How did you get into Ralphs and those other stores?

Kim: All just knocking on doors, cold calling? I really used the clout that I had with QVC to get into these places. The same with the Container Store and Lakeland UK and then there’s a Japanese company called Essaouira Park. And it was all because you know, just being aggressive and getting out there and just doing your research or going on LinkedIn and finding out who the buyers are.

Steve: So what is it cold call look like? Like, pretend you were cold calling me.

Kim: Sure.

Steve: What would your script like?

Kim: So I have this cute little PowerPoint presentation and I had a printed out version as well and I told them about my success on QVC or I would play them my b-roll that I show on QVC. A b-roll is a, in my case. It’s a 53 second video that shows all the different uses of Click and Carry. I would show that to them I would tell them how the function.

Steve: Back up for a little bit. How did you get that first meeting did you cold call? Were you introduced by someone from QVC?

Kim: Glad you asked that question because I’ve missed that part right? I would send samples in the mail to them. I would find out who the buyers were. I would send a little care package. I would send pictures of the product in use. That’s how I would get my foot in the door. So many of those times people would call me or you know, email me and ask for more information.

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Okay, so they didn’t know you at all and you didn’t have any warm intros to these people. You just literally cold called them sent them a care package and then they reached out to you?

Kim: Yep. That’s right. In fact.

Steve: Amazing.

Kim: Yeah. In fact my buyer from Ralph’s. He’s one of my best friends to this day. He’s since retired from Ralph’s his name is Chris, but he and I probably talk once or twice a week. He’s in fact if I get to the point where I’m very successful, I’m bringing him on board for operations. He’s awesome.

Steve: It’s funny how these things work out, isn’t it?

Kim: It really is.

Steve: All right. So you have your pitch deck and I’ve seen this pitch deck obviously since you pitch this in five minute pitch. And is a very compelling pitch.

Kim: Thank you.

Steve: So I can see why after that you got into these stores. The one question in my mind is I imagine the margins are better than QVC for these retail shops. So how come the money from that wasn’t better than QVC?

Kim: Actually, no, I’m sorry. You’re not right. The margins are about the same and it’s because remember it at the time it was a $7.99 item or let’s say all the way up to $9.99. because that’s what the container store sells it for is $9.99. You have to give them a price so that they can make at least a 50% margin.

Steve: Right.

Kim: So it, I would say the average was about a dollar forty a unit as what I would make.

Steve: Okay.

Kim: Because it’s retail and I think I told you this because one of my issues with retail is that when people see it in retail, they’re not sure what it is. They don’t know if it’s a chip clip or if it’s one of those little gadgets that women hang their purse off the table with.

Steve: oh yes, yes.

Kim: So I actually need to revamp the way I work with retail and there’s this new idea now where there’s a mini screen that Loops a video and they could be charged with a UCB charger and they last for about six months and they continuously Loop a video. So people can actually see the product in action and see what it’s for, but I’ve actually pivoted and changed my strategy because of you and because of the other judges because you’ve opened my eyes and you’re absolutely right.

I was missing the boat in regard to selling online because the margins are significantly higher. I can make my money there and then I could afford to buy things like this little screen that would Loop a cute b-roll and show people the product in action on a show, at a store and actually relay the proper message. And so that’s what my concentration is right now online.

Steve: One thing I was curious about also is how did you come up with your pricing? Like was $7.99 kind of arbitrary?

Kim: It was kind of arbitrary and now I think $9.99 is probably the perfect price. In fact, I get a lot of feedback that perhaps it’s too low, but since it’s a brand new product It’s an Impulse buy. I think you have to kind of lower your cost to entry initially to get it out there. So I kind of think it might be a fair price at $9.99.

Steve: I was just kind of curious if you tested that at all because impulse buys for me are anything under 20 bucks like a no-brainer buy anything under 20 bucks.

Kim: Mmm-mmm

Steve: And I was just wondering what you could get away with. I don’t know. Just thought I just wonder if you do any testing on the pricing or if you got any feedback from people from QVC or the retail shops on your pricing.

Kim: No, I didn’t do any testing but see that’s that just goes to show why I am so lucky that I won the five minute pitch because that’s a great suggestion that you just gave me and that’s something I will Implement. Because I didn’t do any testing and the beauty is then now I’m concentrating online. It would be easier to test their and fast.

Steve: Absolutely.

Kim: Yep, and I’m currently testing a single unit on Amazon Prime at $11.99 and then a set of two for $19.99. So it’s incentive obviously for people to buy two. But I’m so I am selling units at $11.99.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think there’s room for to go up. I don’t want to just preemptively say that but it seems to me that you could get away with higher pricing.

Kim: Thank you.

Steve: So let’s switch gears a little bit. So a lot of the listeners of this podcast are people who want to start a business and follow down your path. And so I wanted to get your perspective on some of the more difficult Parts about getting your business off its feet and what you did about it. What would you say was your greatest challenge?

Kim: Well, my current greatest challenge is showing people what it is because it’s basically changing the way people shop for groceries. My biggest challenge right now is getting the word out and product awareness.

Steve: What about in the very beginning when you first got started? Actually one question, I forgot to ask you is did. You know that this was going to sell when you started making it like did you have any initial orders before you create the mold and invested all that money?

Kim: No, I just knew in my heart and I know in my heart that this is going to be everywhere. It’s going to be like an umbrella and I know that sounds like a conceited thing to say, but I know I feel like that dream that was a gift from God. Like it was this is something that’s going to make people’s lives easier. Even if it’s just a little bit easier, especially people who don’t have cars or in third world countries who have to carry heavy things. It’s going to make lives easier. I just know it’s going to be out there everywhere. One day it’s just the challenge is getting to that point with a shoestring budget.

Steve: Sure. Absolutely actually. My next question was how much did you invest it sounded like $5,000 to get started with this?

Kim: Yeah. No, it’s way way way more I would say today, I’ve probably because I put a lot of my my proceeds back into it because it takes money to make money, you know, making marketing pieces packaging promotions. I probably put about a quarter of a million dollars into this business and much of it was the patents. And the multiple molds and shipping and production there. There’s a lot to it keeping up licenses every year.

Steve: I meant like to get your initial first couple of units for sale. So you spent 5,000 for the mold and maybe an additional production of 5,000 units, right?

Kim: Yeah.

Steve: So we’re looking at like 15 grand or so.

Kim: Yeah, that would be about right.

Steve: Hey, I know you’ve invested obviously a lot more over the lifetime of the product but also produced a lot of things as well.

Kim: Yeah, I have yeah, but yeah initially, yeah, I would say 10 to 15,000 like I did it as inexpensively as I could.

Steve: Then so once you had produced your product, I’m just trying to get an idea. So the swap meets was your initial strategy and then what kept you going? I mean when things weren’t going well.

Kim: Just that believe I just for example, when I had to go back to work because I didn’t want to lose my condo. Like I mean, I had already lost my 401k the anxiety level if I lost my condo on top of that I wouldn’t be able to handle it and I would be homeless.

So I just I knew that I had to step back for a little bit and be conservative but I kept the dream alive and I would work nights and weekends. Wake up super early mornings to keep the dream alive and it’s just something I know in my heart that has to be out there and I’m not going to stop until it is. I am not gonna stop until I can do just Click and Carry again because there was nothing more exciting than to wake up and to be creative and to work on your own dream.

It’s in fact, my days would be 12-15 hour days because I loved what I was doing and that’s what I would I would push to every entrepreneur out there who has something and has something that they believe is special, believe in it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Just keep moving forward because if you believe in it, there’s a reason and I really, I believe there’s a reason and I’m going to get this out there if it kills me.

Steve: In terms of your initial motivations for starting this, it wasn’t because you didn’t like your job or anything right? It’s just because you had a dream one night and then this you just knew that you had to bring this product to the market?

Kim: Yeah, actually, let me go back and tell you, I did love my job. I loved it. It was amazing and fulfilling. But when I first started talking about it when I first had the dream, I was in pharmaceutical sales, and I was selling this drug for Parkinson’s that was just a slight modification to the gold standard. It’s called was called Percopa, which is the staple of a Parkinson’s drug regimen is called Cinema or Cardio Levodopa.

The company I worked for put this product on the market as of a kind of like a Band-Aid because they were going to be launching a new product once it was FDA approved. And the FDA approval kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed.

So initially when I first met the doctor Jennifer who helped me to find my help me with the cad design. I had really nothing to talk to any of the doctors about because it was a slight modification on the gold standard said that’s when I would talk to them about my ideas and inventions and we talk about life, but then I end up getting a job with Medtronic and deep brain stimulation.

So it was a very serious job and it was a very exciting job, but what happened is a couple of years later, I was there for about five or six years. A couple of years later I ended up getting breast cancer. That was a really scary time and luckily everything’s fine. I’m cancer-free. But when you go through something like that life event like that you realize how short life is and even though I made it a ton of money. I didn’t really have any free time. I realized what really made me happy was working on Click and Carry.

So I ended up getting breast cancer in February of that year the completed all my surgeries by the end of March of that year and I decided right then and there I was going to quit my job. So I saved up all my money till the end of the year and then I just did something crazy and starting in the new year. I started Click and Carry and it was never so exciting as those three years where I just did Click and Carry. And didn’t have a day job and I can’t wait to get back to that place and I’m going to get there soon.

Steve: Okay, So last question for you Kim if you were to start all over. Again, and I never you’ve made your share of mistakes and whatnot. What would you do differently today if you were to start all over again?

Kim: Gosh, well, so there’s so many different tools now available to people and online sales have really blown up. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, they’ve all blown up. I would use those vehicles to get the word out and the awareness out versus starting in retail, which I enjoyed.

Those something that you pointed out to me and you were absolutely right. I started with the hard part first. The good news is now I know the Beast that is retail, and I know how to be successful in retail, but I could have made this a lot easier on myself by starting out selling online or starting on Amazon and that’s something that people now have the luxury to do.

Steve: Would you go back to that trade show again or?

Kim: yes, I would I wouldn’t be allowed to go back into inventors corner, but though I would obviously have to be more successful in order to go back. Because the booths on the regular stage are a lot more expensive than and inventors corner. But that Is just the end-all be-all for products like my product. It’s the home and housewares show is a magical event that really introduces you to a lot of people around the world.

Steve: You know, one thing I actually forgot to ask you to just popped into my mind. Was that worth getting was it a hassle and has it protected you in any way?

Kim: I wouldn’t say it was a hassle because I did it the right way in that. I actually hired an attorney was very expensive. I actually have two attorneys. I have an attorney for my patents and one for my trademark, but it was the best thing I could have ever done because it gives me the confidence to know that I’m protected at least in the United States.

If someone were to infringe on my patent, I am very safe. I’m I have two utility patents on Click and Carry, but even better the United States patent and trademark office did a story about me. They have a publication called it’s called, Inventor’s Eye and they put me in a segment called Spark of Genius. So if someone were to try to infringe on my patent, I’m not only do I have a United States Utility Patent, but I’m also in their publication so I’m extra protected.

Steve: So just curious have there been any copycats that you’ve experienced at all?

Kim: There have been 16 products since 1962 to carry groceries. But the reason I was awarded a Utility Patent is because mine is the only one that can be worn over the shoulders as well as carried in the hands.

Steve: I see.

Kim: But there’s a new product. It’s called grocery grips and it’s just a strap that you kind of Sling over your shoulder kind of like a hobo strap and in a way, I think they’re infringing on my patent to a small extent but it’s not truly hands-free.

So I haven’t filed any paperwork, but they’re trying to say it’s hands-free when in actuality. It’s not necessarily hands-free because you can’t you have to hold it with your hand down one side and it doesn’t evenly balanced though, the weight so it defeats the purpose.

Steve: So Kim moving forward, it seems like you’ve had a lot of hardships and you recovered from them and you’ve won $50,000 from five minute pitch. What are your future plans in the near future?

Kim: So my future plans are number one, I’m going to get the mentorship from the four of you. I am so thrilled about that. Because one thing I won’t do is waste money in the wrong direction. So I’m going to hopefully with your help take that money and I’m going to produce many ads for Instagram for Facebook for YouTube. I’m going to reach out to influencers who are let’s say Mom bloggers do-it-yourselfers for the construction industry. I’m going to use my money wisely. I’m going to do that because I’ll be educated by all of you.

Steve: Awesome. Well Kim where can people find you online and get a video demonstration of your product?
Kim: So if they go to clickandcarry.com, it’s C-L-I-C-K-A-N-D-C-A-R-R-Y.com, you can see quick video that shows how the product is used. It’s the b-roll that I use on QVC and it’s also available on Amazon Prime and the videos also there.

Steve: Awesome Kim. Well, you know what I like about you a lot? And this is what made you stand out in the competition is that you’ve went through all these hardships, but you didn’t give up and you’re in a really good position now to kick major butt.

Kim: Thank you. I can’t wait to get out there and kick major butt and I know I’m going to be able to do that. Thanks to you. So thank you for picking me.

Steve: And Kim, Thanks a lot for coming on the show.

Kim: It’s an honor. Thank you.

Steve: Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now, I just love Kim’s spirit, her work ethic and the fact that she’s not willing to give up no matter what the circumstances. And with an extra 50k and our mentorship, I know that she’s going to be successful. For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode266.

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

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

Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store heading over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini-course just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away. Thanks for listening.

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

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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!

265: How To Be More Efficient With Your Time With Thanh Pham

265: The Secrets To Asian Efficiency Revealed With Thanh Pham

Today, I’m really happy to have my fellow Asian compatriot Thanh Pham on the show.

Thanh runs the popular site AsianEfficiency.com where he teaches others how to be more productive with their time.

He is considered to be one of the top thought leaders in the productivity industry and he has been featured in Fast Company, Inc.com, Forbes, Huffington Post, and The Globe & Mail.

In today’s episode, we uncover the lost Asian secrets of productivity.

What You’ll Learn

  • Productivity tips on how to manage your inbox
  • How Asian Efficiency gets its traffic
  • How AsianEfficiency.com makes its money
  • Top productivity tips for small business owners
  • The Pomodoro technique

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 bootstrap business owners, and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. But today, I’m happy to have Thanh Pham on the show, and Thanh runs the popular site asianefficiency.com where he spreads the long-lost secrets of productivity from the asian culture. Do not miss this one.

But before we begin, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode, whether you’re just getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale, Klaviyo offers fast, simple, and repeatable ways to grow. And with Klaviyo you can personalize your marketing, build your customer relationships, and automate your online sales. And it is now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. Now I want to talk about Klaviyo’s new entrepreneur growth guide, packed with must read blog post, case studies, and getting started content. This guide will help you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth. Now moving to a new marketing platform can be intimidating, but Klaviyo helps you get up and growing fast with proven technology and countless support resources. Now I encourage you to check out this free content now over at klaviyo.com/mywife. Once again that is K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/my wife.

I also want to give a shout-out to Privy who is also a sponsor of the show. Privy is a tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now, what is Privy do, well Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all my email capture forms. And 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. And right now, I’m using privy to display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up. Basically, user gives your email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store and customers love the gamification aspect of this and when I implemented this form, email signups increased by a hundred thirty one percent. I’m also using their new cart saver pop-up feature as well to recover abandoned carts. 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 preview.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 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 really happy to have my fellow Asian compatriot Thanh Phan on the show. Now Thanh is someone who I met at Billy Murphy’s mancation and we’ve hung out on several other occasions, including the men potential conference a couple of weeks ago. Now Thanh runs the popular site asianefficiency.com where he teaches others how to be more productive with their time. And he is considered to be one of the top thought leaders in the productivity industry and he has been featured in Fast Company, Inc.com, Forbes, Huffington Post, and the Globe and Mail and in today’s episode, we are going to uncover the Lost Asian Secrets of Productivity and with that welcome to show Thanh. How you doing today, man?

Thanh: Hey Steve. I’m glad to be here and thanks for having me.

Steve: So Thanh, we both turned 13. We signed a solemn oath to never reveal the Lost Art of Asian efficiency to the mundane world yet here you are spraying the hidden secrets of our culture to the masses. Please explain yourself. And what caused you to sell out.

Thanh: Hehehe well, thank you for introducing me in a way. Uhm yeah, I think you know in our culture we have this secret that I think everybody would benefit from. So I thought, “Why not let it out and share with everybody and not give the Germans so much credit for their efficiency.” And so, I thought let’s launch asianefficiency.com and spread the message. But it all seriousness, really started off as a passion project for me back in 2011. I was trying to figure out how to be more productive at my first job and I was so behind at work. I was losing clients. I was just so overwhelmed. I started to gain a lot of weight from all the stress and such and so I start to figure out okay, I need to be more productive because like behind and everything.

So, let’s read some books and let’s go to a bunch of seminars. And so, I started to document everything I learned and throughout the whole process in one year was able to read 35 books, listen to 21 audiobooks and drop the excess of 25 pounds or so that I gained from being so stressed out about my job. And so, people kept asking me all the time “Thanh, how did you do this?” “What did you learn?” Like, how should I go about this and I started documenting everything on asianefficiency.com which kind of started off as a joke and now is a full-time business for me. And so, I’m super fortunate to be able to do what I love and help people.

Steve: So, it’s funny as you learn how to be productive not at work, right? But with your own stuff.

Thanh: Yeah, I was just trying to figure out like, okay, if I’m like a few weeks behind at work. What do I need to do to change my life there? And then I started to learn all these different things and then I started to apply that to my own life as well. And so, as you gain control of your life you get more time you start to think, “Okay, what should I do with this time?” And I’ve always been somebody who’s really interested in personal development and developing myself. And so, I started to read more books and listen to more audiobooks and just trying to figure out like, okay, how do I get the most out of my life? And that is always been my guiding compass to say, “Okay, let’s maximize my life as much as possible.”

Steve: So how many hours do you work? Because I always see you doing two things shopping and traveling just curious right now in your current lifestyle.

Thanh: Hehe well, fair enough. I probably work anywhere between like 30-35 hours a week I want to say? Definitely few years ago. It was more in the 60s and 70s, so I definitely cut back a lot and I remember meeting you a few years ago and we were having this discussion was actually a Billy saying that you mentioned at the beginning and I remember you saying how, how little you worked and I thought that was really amazing and I was at that time trying to transition into that myself as well and it was the whole idea of something that you can have like set off the cuff as well. It’s like you’re basically trying to focus for happiness. Right? Like what’s the point of making more money if you’re you know, if that’s not going to make you that much happier, right? And you want to spend more time with your family or kids and only do the things that you love and I think that’s one of the most beautiful things that we can discover in life is that it’s not all the time about working harder, making more money, but also actually enjoying our lives throughout the journey and process as well.

Steve: Absolutely and we both know that you love Louis, right? So, Thanh…

Thanh: I think that’s partly an Asian thing.

Steve: So, before we get to the productivity section of this interview, I am actually curious how you built up your site. So, first off, we talked about it earlier. It is a seven-figure site. So, you make seven figures off of it. And where do you actually get your traffic from?

Thanh: We got most of our traffic from organic. So, we started back in 2011 and we just started to post once a week. And at the time I was having a partner alongside of me to help me with that and I said, “Okay, let’s publish something once a week and just share our message.” So, we posted every single Tuesday and over time, it just got so much traffic and traction that all the people than our friends and family started to email us and ask questions and we just kept this publishing schedule over the last eight years now. So, we’ve never missed a Tuesday ever from just publishing that over the last eight years has garnered so much organic traffic that, that’s pretty much our main source right now.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: And then over the last two to three years or so we started adding Facebook on top of that. Where we basically set aside a budget every single month and just spend that on look-a-like audience to kind of like get exposure to new people and then we run a lot of targeting on top of that as well. And so, that’s our main traffic source right now.

Steve: What’s funny about your story is that it’s exactly how I got started. I started publishing once a week and I’ve done it for the past nine years now, I should say? And yeah, just traffic just builds over time and the majority of my traffic is through search as well. So ha-ha, I want to ask you, are you very deliberate in what you write about? Or is it just kind of off the cuff? Whatever you think it’s going to be interesting.

Thanh: So, we have a quarterly publishing schedule so we know every single quarter ahead of time. What podcast is going out, which blog post is going out and over the years, we kind of tweaked it where we definitely started off by saying, “Oh, let me just write whatever I want to write about.” And that was completely fine. But, as our audience grew and we kind of got to know better who audience was what they wanted, what they needed, and then also matching that with the several products that we have nowadays. We are more strategic now in terms of, what content we publish, when it goes out, and what we should write about. So now we have our quarterly publishing schedule so we know for example, okay, if we want to launch this product on this month, we should probably write about that particular topic in this week. And this week leading up to the launch for example, so it’s a little bit more strategic now and we try to mix it in kind of like own accord off weeks where we just want to write whatever we want to write about. So, it’s still you know is fun at the same time while also having strategic content in place.

Steve: I guess what I was trying to ask was do you do and do you write your posts to actually target specific search terms?

Thanh: So, I would say tiny part of it. We know we want to rank for five to six keywords and we have like specific landing pages where we try to rank them and try to target them. And so, when we write publishing or and publish blog posts about certain keywords, we will try to obviously redirect all that traffic to the main landing pages and such. But for the most part, we really focus on solving problems. And so, we have this huge community called The Dojo where we have tons of people in there and we have a private forum and I’m talking to customers like five hours a week. So, I’m always in the “Marketplace”. So, I have an idea of what people are dealing with, what kind of struggles are having. I also review customer service tickets every now and then to kind of see what’s going on there and what people are dealing with and so I always have a pulse of what’s going on and that gives me a lot of ideas and inspiration to say “hey, this is a product we should create this is type of content we should write”. And then once we have that kind of like topic figure it out, then we will look for keywords to kind of match with that. So it’s kind of almost like an afterthought not the other way around where hey let’s try to rank for a certain keyword and then published content around that.

Steve: Okay, and you mentioned a bunch of things. There are private Community. Is that on Facebook or is that your own private Forum now.

Thanh: We have a private Forum. I think it runs on in vision boards. And yeah, we’ve been doing that for the last four years now.

Steve: Interesting. So what’s the rationale of doing in there as opposed to like Facebook groups? For example.

Thanh: We actually started off on Facebook and I think it’s mostly specific to our audience where most of my audience hates Facebook because they want to be more productive and going on Facebook as well.

Steve: That’s true. Yeah, I didn’t think about that

Thanh: Productive for them. So they all said to us. Hey, we hate Facebook, please move it away. And most of our audiences can go into code organized or they want to be organized. So they love the search function. They love to be able to revive old topics and look for stuff and we kind of realize that the form or having a private forum is the best thing for them.

Steve: Okay, and I actually, you know, I don’t even know the answer this how do you make money? Like, what do you sell exactly?

Thanh: Yeah, when people come to our website they can enroll in one of our courses. So we have about seven courses right now. Most of them are like anywhere between like fifty dollars to a thousand dollars. Hours and then we have a members area as well as our membership site for $49 a month or 350 a year.

Steve: So for the thousand-dollar course, for example, is that a high-touch course?

Thanh: Yes. It’s a high-touch course you work with a coach. So as soon as you enroll, you get a few sessions with a coach and then that coach will help you walk you through the program and kind of like help you stick to it. Make sure that you’re accountable for the things that you say you will do. So it’s a little more High touch and for people who want to have a little bit more personal attention. Where’s the other courses that are on the lower end. It’s all kind of like do-it-yourself go through it at your own pace and make it make it happen.

Steve: And how many people are employed by you right now?

Thanh: So right now we have about 12 people.

Steve: Oh, wow. Okay. So yeah actually have quite a few people and how many of those are coaches versus writers versus marketers?

Thanh: So coaches, we have two coaches and marketers. We have one marketer and then writers we have like four of them.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: And you mentioned earlier that you’ve branched into Facebook ads which I find kind of funny because people don’t want to be on Facebook and I guess the audience who aren’t productive yet are still on Facebook. But what is your ad strategy look like?

Thanh: Yeah. It’s actually really simple so I am of the mindset of okay, let’s publish amazing piece of content on our blog or have an amazing podcast and let’s share it with as many people as we can. So what we do is we will have a look-alike audience in Facebook of all of our customers and then say, hey, let’s target all of these people and just get them onto the website. So every time we publish a new blog post as long as we’re really proud of it, it should usually be published. And then also we want to send it out to as many people as we can. So we have a fixed budget every single month where we just say Hey, Let’s just get the word out there. It’s kind of like putting a billboard on the road and no it’s not. It doesn’t even matter how many options we get or how much traffic we got is really just like advertising in the traditional sense. Right? So we just want to get the word out there as much as possible. And then on top of that whatever traffic comes to that we will then retarget those people to then either join us on a live webinar or an evergreen webinar or a specific landing page where we try to give them some sort of lead magnets and get their name and information so we can follow up with them over email.

So the strategy is relatively simple, but it really just started off one thing at a time. I just said, hey, let’s start off with like five hundred dollars a month. So you just, you know, promote our blog post and then we just increase that budget over time. And then as soon as we start to get more traffic, you know, some people opted in some people didn’t and then on top of that we just added over time to say. Hey, let’s try to retarget everybody that came from Facebook and see if we can collect very name and email address as well. And then that is where we are today and we just continue to do that in just cycle that over and over and over again.

Steve: So you have you put out content?

Thanh: So we have a weekly podcast on Monday and then a blog post that goes out every Tuesday.

Steve: So terms of these ads does that imply then that you’re rotating out ads once per week?

Thanh: Yes and no. We sometimes we find a one of the ask just what just takes off right and you just never know which ad that is and if we see one ad just taking off then we just keep it running because you just what we’ve learned is you just never know which ad is going to really take off and the Beautiful Thing with Facebook is if an ad takes off a lot of people start to organically share it and then we’ll take a life, It takes a life of its own so you get a lot of traffic that way and so you’re not just limited to your own budget.

Steve: So these ads are just traffic ads?

Thanh: Yeah. Exactly. We just want to get people to the blog or to the podcast and just grow it that way and I’m not too concerned about how many people opt in or like take a specific action. It’s really just like hey, let’s get the word out. And as long as you have a profitable business in my opinion, that’s one of the best things you can spend your money on is just to get the word out.

Steve: What do you consider a good ad versus a bad ad I guess in terms of how much money you’re paying per click?

Thanh: Yeah, so I don’t even look at the like cost-per-click or anything like that like to me a good ad is when people are organically sharing the ad so that’s why we know the content is really good and it’s resonating and the ad itself is really good. So when people are organically sharing a ton of ads then I know OK that’s the thing that’s resonating. We should continue to publish that even more

Steve: What are certain guideline for like share percentage?

Thanh: No, like as we see like as long as we get over like 10 shares or something that’s probably something worthwhile continuing to maximize and optimize.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: So it’s really simple because the flip side is if nobody sharing this ad then the ad as probably not that great. And also if a lot of people are just like, you know skipping it or just not checking out the the post then we have that data. So we just try to continuously, you know evolved that strategy.

Steve: Okay. So basically it’s you looking at shares rather than likes and comments for the most part?

Thanh: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: Yeah, because I just know that the more people share this stuff the more it’s resonating and the more benefit we get as well, right so we know that the content is good. This is something that’s obviously very helpful. It makes certain people look good as well, right? Like a lot of people want to share stuff because it makes them look good. And so if we can accomplish these things with our ad and contents then I think that’s a winning strategy and then if you see that taking off, then it’s worthwhile to put in extra money in there because now, you know more and more people are going to come to the website.

Steve: So you mentioned you have seven courses and you do a lot of email marketing. Does that imply that you have seven different funnels that kind of funnel different products? Like how do you organize your email funnels?

Thanh: Yeah, so when people come to the site they can basically buy like three or four products. So we have like an evergreen webinar. We actually have two of them now so people can join one of them and then usually most of them funnel into the members area. So the membership site that we have and that’s really the main focus we want to get as many members as we can that’s kind of our strategy but sometimes people don’t want to subscribe to a subscription right away and sometimes they just want to buy something first and then decide later on to join the members area. And so we have a few lower ticket items that people can buy and then say hey, oh just this content is great. This has been really helpful. And then from there we try to get them into the members area or some higher ticket programs on the back end.

So it’s a very simple strategy in terms of like come to the site join the members area. Okay, if you’re not interested, That right now then you can buy one of our other lower ticket products kind of get some few quick wins. See that what we do actually works and as legitimate as well and it’s helpful. And then from there, you know, it’s up to you to decide like how you want to evolve, you know your own life and how you want to maximize your time.

Steve: How much is the members area cost?

Thanh: So right now it’s $49 a month or three hundred fifty dollars a year.

Steve: Okay. And then so how long is this sequence to get them to pay $50 a month?

Thanh: So the sequence that get them into the members area is right now, I believe like seven or eight months or something

Steve: a seven or eight month email funnel?

Thanh: Well, once people get on the campaign, you know, we will try to get them on the webinar.

Steve: I see.

Thanh: That’s the most effective strategy I find terms of getting people in the members area, but that campaign will keep running for eight months basically. So.

Steve: I se.

Thanh: It’s like an evergreen process. So some people you know are ready to jump in right away and some people it takes a few months to kind of, you know convince them to join. And so I also don’t know what the right length is, but we just found out that we have eight months of content that we can give them.

Steve: Right.

Thanh: And not every single email is like hey, you should join the webinar or hey, you should join the members area. Some of the emails are just like hey, here’s some useful contents for you to you know look into but it’s strategic in the sense that it’s hopefully getting them closer to joining the members area at some point.

Steve: And you mentioned you run webinars are those Auto webinars are those live webinars?

Thanh: So we have about to live webinars every single month that we do and then we have to automate a webinars as well. So the automated ones there on the website you can find them there when you join our email list, you’re going to get the opportunity to join one of them as well. So we have basically to “sales processes” going on all the time that people can join plus, you know, the email funnel itself and then the live webinar we do about twice a month as well to talk about specific topics something that’s little bit more up to date of what’s going on sort of in our industry and then also have a good time with people.
Steve: Are they all different content all the four webinars?

Thanh: Yes. Yep. So the to automated ones are completely different. They talk about very different topics. So for example one is more about habits. The other one is more about Focus. These are two things that we see in most people struggle with so we decide to make ever Evergreen webinars around that and then the live webinar is more about like, oh, let’s pick a topic every single month and then talk about that and it’s really just partly fun. But also partly just you know show people some of the advanced strategies that people can learn when they join the members area.

Steve: And those webinars that they funneling to the members area or specific classes?

Thanh: Most of them are for the members area

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: Because the product that we really want most people that buy and join because once you become a member you also get access to all the other high ticket courses that we have as well. So it’s almost like a no-brainer.

Steve: It’s like a gateway drug. So to speak.

Thanh: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Steve: Okay and just curious. What is your turn right look like on the membership site and how do you keep people interested?

Thanh: Yeah. So one of the things I’ve learned is that you know, when you started off building courses, you sometimes have the mindset and or at least as was the case for me like this is an evergreen product. So let’s just build it and then just try to get as many people as we can and what I learned from the membership site is that it’s really evolving product. It just changes every single month in terms of like what we introduce what we take away and it’s like a product that is just constant evolving and improving. And when we first started off the average Troon in terms of Lifetime, Lifetime is the easier way to calculate.

Steve: Sure. Yeah.

Thanh: For you is roughly like seven months or so.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: So we find out that’s okay, on average when people join they stay for about seven months. Hence why the pricing is also annually at 350.

Steve: Right.

Thanh: For us, because we just know that okay, that’s the average price that people are willing to stay on for a while. And then from there is just making tweaks and opportunities to make it better. So we run sprints in our company. So we have like a scrum methodology in terms of how we run everything. So every two weeks we have like things we need to do like publishing content, you know recording a podcast and such but also we always try to add one or two things in there to improve the members area as well. So we always have like little tweaks and fixes that we introduced and a lot of that comes from the feedback that I get from either, you know talking to people that are in there or what we see are happening on the forum or we have a private slack as well. We kind of see what’s going on. There and then also from a customer success team where they are interacting with people and they’re getting you know bugs, bug fixes submitted to them as well. And so we try to like evolve and fix it all the time.

Steve: So let me ask you this. You mentioned your lifetime values about a 350 bucks. So why not charge like five hundred dollars and give them life time and have payment plans?

Thanh: Yeah. That’s the thing that we thought about as well. And the bury we ran into was like the whole price point, what people are willing to pay per month and then also per year as well. So we’ve done a lot of testing around that and we just found that like over 49. It was almost I wouldn’t say impossible but it was definitely more challenging to get people in versus, let’s say it’s like we saw no difference between 39 and 49 for example.

Steve: I see.

Thanh: And we started off at 29 that’s when we first started off like four years ago. And so we moved around to like 69 to 99 to 150. We’ve tried all sorts of different things and it seems like 49 is the sweet spot for us.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: And yeah, we also you know, anybody that’s listening you just never know until you test. And testing can also take a lot of time because you know, when you test a new price when you have two tests are going how long do they then stay on right? Because if you get somebody a 39 versus 49. if the turn rate is exactly the same then that’s great that you can charge $49. But sometimes you won’t know until you know, eight months later because our lifetime was about seven months. So we had to wait.

Steve: Right, yeah.

Thanh: Eight or nine months or 12 months sometimes to kind of see what’s going on there. So if anybody that’s listening right now, you haven’t run any tests yet. I would say, you know start sooner than later because there’s a big waiting game that has to happen.

Steve: in terms of lead Gen. Would you say that your podcast is more effective or your blog?

Thanh: Oh by far? It’s the blog.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: I think the Podcast, I always have a love-hate relationship with the podcast because I love the podcast, it’s engaging, it’s so intimate. People love the contents and it’s a great way to stay in touch with people. but as you probably have seen as well, It’s a terrible way for getting people to take action on something.

Steve: Right.

Thanh: Because the conversion of the so low from hey, I’m gonna make you this offer on the podcast and then actually seeing people take action on that compared to the download numbers is really low. So what we found is that the block is the most effective way of generating leads for us, but the podcast is the most effective way for keeping people in the members area.

So an interesting Insight that we’ve had is we had the members area before we had the podcast and what we found is that most members who are in there are podcast listeners and then also once we introduce the podcast we noticed that our turn rate went down. And this is before started introducing a new sort of fixes and changing the product and stuff. And so what we found from also talking to our members in such is that whether they admit it or not, they almost like subconsciously associate the podcast with being a member. And so, the more amazing content we put out when it comes to the podcast the longer at this stay on in our members area. And so what we found is that the pockets is a great retention tool for your members area. And so if you have a members area, I would highly encourage you to get as many members on the podcast because it’s just another channel to keep people excited and you know stay on top of mind and continue to be part of your community.

Steve: In case you haven’t been following the latest e-commerce news most of the states in the US are now requiring you to collect sales tax. Even if you don’t have a physical presence in that state. As you can imagine, keeping track of every state sales tax rules can be a nightmare now instead of pulling your hair out. You should let a tool like Avalara take care of your sales tax headaches for you. Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax calculations and automatic return filing and the best part is that Avalara are already integrates with your existing accounting e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super simple to set up. So even if you have no idea how to get started with sales tax Avalara can help you get registered in a snap so you can focus on getting back to business. Join over 20,000 businesses already automating sales tax compliance. Simply put Avalara is tax compliance done right. Find out more at avalara.com. That’s A -V-A-L-A-R-A.com. Now back to the show.

Yeah, you know most of the students who sign up for my course say that they really started trusting me once they started listening to the podcast. Which is kind of why I asked that question, but in terms of tracking conversions, it is very difficult to do so, you basically have to ask.

Thanh: exactly yeah. You don’t know until you start talking to people and that is one of the reasons I spent about five hours a week just talking to either prospects or customers. So I always have an idea of like what’s going on? Why did they buy? You know, why did they decide to join us? Why did they decide to leave? So once you kind of start talking to people that’s the only way I found out that there was this relationship between people being a member and also listening to the podcast and so, you know, as you know, all of us have like internet businesses and we tend to shy away from talking

Steve: I know like talking to people. What’s that?

Thanh: exactly. What’s one of the most valuable things you can do and that’s one thing I took away from tending a couple scaling up workshops and they encourage all the time for CEOs or like business owners, like continuously talk to your customers because that’s where all the insights come from.

Steve: Do you do live sessions as part of this membership site on a regular basis?

Thanh: Yeah. So we have a monthly live coaching session that we do.

Steve: Okay.

Thanh: So once a month we talk about a topic and we talk about industry news and that kind of stuff so people Always on top of things. Yeah.

Steve: Okay. Alright. So let’s switch gears a little bit now and talk about the Asian secrets of productivity. You probably get asked these questions a lot. So what would you say is your number one top productivity tip that you get asked about a lot for business in particular.

Thanh: Yeah, whether it’s business or personal I think the most important thing that you can do is whenever you start your day, tackle the most difficult task first. So whenever you look at your to do list as you’re starting your work day, pick the thing that you find most difficult to do or the thing that you will most likely procrastinate on. Because if you get that out of the way first, then you can go on with the rest of your day knowing that you got that done and then everything else that comes your way is relatively easy. So I’m going to copy this analogy that John the Cavalier share with me on my Instagram page because I share this tip with some people and he said well, you know the way I see it is I just climb, I climb a mountain every single morning and then I hang glide down for the rest of the day. And I thought those are really interesting analogy. And I feel that way too. Like if I get the most ugly thing out of the way first then everything else all my to do list looks really simple and easy to do. And I have confidence, I have momentum. And even if I don’t get anything else done, at least I got the hardest thing out of the way, so I still have a productive day.

Steve: What if that hard thing cannot be accomplished in a day and it’s more like a year-long study project?

Thanh: Yeah, when it comes to things like that, what I encourage people to do is to break it down as much as possible. Right? So let’s say you want to publish a book this year. Obviously, you’re not going to publish a book on one day, but what if you broke it down and say hey, I’m going to maybe write one chapter a month for example, right? And then every single week you could say, okay my goal every single week is to have a draft ready of Chapter and then every single day you can break that down to say. Hey, let’s let’s write at least for 50 minutes for example, or let’s write at least for 90 minutes or let’s write at least 1,000 words a day or something like that. So the key is if you have a big outcome or a project break it down to its smallest Parts as much as you can and just start there.

Steve: You know, what’s funny is tackling the hardest thing of the day. It’s actually a mental issue. Right? Most people want to just get some of the simpler stuff out of the way just so they can get those items off their checklist. So is there any ways of mentally preparing yourself to I mean, it’s easier to say hey, I’m going to tackle the most the hardest thing in the beginning of the day, but are there any mental ways to get over that hurdle?

Thanh: One strategy I find really useful is where you basically set a timer for yourself. So some people called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s like the most popular strategy out there. But it’s the idea of okay, if I’m going to tackle something and I have sometimes troubles getting started, what I find really useful and what a lot of people find useful is if you just commit to saying doing 15 minutes or 25 minutes or even just 30 minutes? If you set a timer for let’s say 15 minutes, you just say, okay, I’m just going to do this one thing and after 15 minutes I can stop. It’s usually good enough for people to commit to at least for that short period of time.

And the reason that works is because you give yourself an excuse or a reason to stop working after a while. And that is often times good enough for people to get started and just focus on one thing and often times, what you find is that as soon as the timer runs out you got oh man actually, you know what? I’m going to keep going because I’m in the groove right now. I have this momentum. And then often times people will just continue to work on the thing that they you know, didn’t want to do in the first place. So setting a timer really helps.

Steve: I see, your kind of tricking yourself into just getting started

Thanh: Exactly. So the language I usually coach people through is to say to yourself, “I will just do this, so I will just write a few hundred words” or “I will just write for 15 minutes and that’s it”. And so you’re essentially tricking your own brain to say, “Okay, I mean, I can do 15 minutes, right? I can do 25 minutes. That’s not a problem. And then after that I can do whatever I want”. But then often times you’ll find yourself in that groove to say “Oh man. I feel so good about myself now. I’m so glad I got started. Like I actually want to continue to work on this” and then oftentimes people will.

Steve: You know, this isn’t exactly the Pomodoro Technique, but I remember when I wanted to start my blog, I kept putting it off, kept putting it off, but then once I installed WordPress it became a lot easier because that just one main hurdle of having like the infrastructure in place allowed me to just start writing on a regular basis.

Thanh: Yeah, when it comes to getting started and procrastination and just getting things done, one big thing that just I hope people take away from this is, the more friction you removed from everything that easier it is for you to get things done. And often times, It’s not just about learning a new strategy or learning a new way of doing things. But sometimes it’s just about like how do you remove friction from your life? So for example, it’s way easier for me to get started when my desk is clear and it’s clean and tidy. Whereas, if there’s papers on there if there’s books on there, there’s like dishes on my desk as well. Then I’m not going to feel motivated to start working because it then I have to remove some stuff first. I have to get rid of some stuff before, before I can actually do the thing I’m good at. Right? So when I know for example the next day that I’m going to be writing and I need to be creative, I will actually put an effort the night before to clean my desk make sure everything is put away so that my future self when I wake up the next morning I can get started right away. So it’s just all about removing friction as much as you can.

Steve: And I imagine that applies to working out and that sort of thing as well, which is kind of why I moved all my work out equipment to the garage. I mean, there’s no excuse for me not to go in the garage every day.

Thanh: exactly. Like how do you make it inevitable and that’s kind of like what I teach people as well as like the inevitability mindset. Like, how do I make it inevitable for me to do this? So for example, if I want to work out? Yes, I can go to the gym downstairs or I could go to a gym that’s one block away from me. Right? Like how do we remove that friction? Because if you have to go to a gym that’s 50 minutes away and traffic, you know chances are you’re not going to go as often versus having a gym at home for example, right? So, how can we remove friction in our lives? And the more you start to look for opportunities to remove friction and getting rid of that the more you start to see that you can actually accomplish way more things.

Steve: I don’t know what you call this technique either. Maybe you can classify it. So I have a pull-up bar right outside the bathroom and before I can go to the bathroom, I have to do some Pull-Ups. So that’s just like another Fitness thing that I do.

Thanh: Yeah. I have the same thing. I have a pull-up bar in my bedroom that connects or transitions into the living room. So anytime I go to my bedroom. I have to do 5 pull-ups and that’s just.

Steve: Interesting. Okay.

Thanh: A commitment that I made for myself and you know, I could be an ugly pull up. It could be really good pull up. It doesn’t matter as long as I do five. You know, it’s my Integrity that I like to stick to, right? and that’s really important to me as well and something I teach clients as well, like, if you have integrity you do what you say you will do. you’re going to live, you know, authentically. And that’s the kind of person I want to be. And so, every time I do 5 pull-ups, you know, I’m living up to my own integrity and I want to stick to that and that’s why I am and that’s what I value. and so you know, pick a number that works for you, you know, if you have a pull-up bar, but it’s just the whole idea of like how I how can I stay with doing this and also have my word that I said I would do.

Steve: Yeah

Thanh: just having Integrity in my life, you know.

Steve: That’s interesting. I would probably never go to the living room then. at least, you know with the bathroom. I gotta go to the bathroom. So, All right. So Thanh, I have I guess a personal problem. I want to talk to you about, like how do you manage your inbox? My inbox is crazy. I was hoping you’d provide some insights there.

Thanh: Sure. Well, we have one course that’s going to help you. It’s going to cost you $499.

Steve: Amazing. You know, 499 I don’t know Thanh. Sorry go on.

Thanh: So it’s called Escape Your Email, but the short version is there’s so many things you can do. One, is most people have no clue or no system for managing their email. it’s kind of assumes that everybody knows how to manage your email inbox, right? So some people do it from top to bottom, some people have to email inbox open all day long and there’s like hundreds of different strategies. And what I found most useful is setting aside, maybe two or three times a day to check your email for 30 minutes or less. Each time you check your email.

So if you can commit to just doing a 30-minute sessions of checking your email, if you do it twice a day, that’s one hour a day on email and then, and as soon as that timer goes off right for 30 minutes, then you can stop and you can continue to do other things. So this is one simple strategy I recommend for most people to do because most of my clients tend to have their email client open all day long, and then they easily get distracted, they feel like they’re on edge all the time. They can’t really focus because this email notification will always distract them and derail them. And that’s the last thing you really want. Right? So especially if you’re a business owner you need to have like Focus time and create stuff. The worst thing you can do is having your email client open next to you while you’re producing video course content or recording a podcast or whatever, right? So closing your email client as much as possible and then only checking it two or three times a day is the best thing you can do.

Steve: but if you do it that way email tends to pile up right? So do you just not let that bother you?

Thanh: Well, when you process your email, you can then kind of like prioritize right? what you want to tackle. And so whenever I check my email I try to get it done as much as I can but realistically that’s not always going to happen. Right? So for some weeks, it might be where I have more emails to process than others and that’s totally fine. As soon as I dive into my email inbox. I know I have 30 minutes and then I’ll just try to go through as many emails as I can. And I personally just want to spend less than an hour a day on my own email and I know this is going to be different for certain people. Right? Let’s say you work in customer service, for example, that’s obviously going to be different than somebody who is a sales person versus somebody who’s a marketer somebody who runs their own business. So my guideline is usually shoot forward an hour a day, but for some people might mean two hours or three hours, but what I don’t want you to do is to spent your whole day in your email inbox.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah. I have the opposite actually try not to spend much time at all in there and I have like a dedicated support desk for the important emails that I have to respond to any given day.

Thanh: Yeah, exactly. Yep.

Steve: So Thanh, let’s pretend that you were to start Asian efficiency all over again. What would you say are some of the most important aspects to this success of Asian efficiency that you would carry over if you were to start all over?

Thanh: Whoo, interesting question, I would say one concept that I would instill in others, is to show up consistently every single week. Whether that’s podcasting, blogging, doing a webinar. I think the key to our success was to show up every single week to publish something and that lets you, you know, lots of organic traffic and such but it was, you know, found it on the foundation of showing up every single week. So that’s one thing I would continue to do if I were to start all over again. The other thing I would say is, I wish I had done webinars much earlier. I was definitely late to the game when it comes to that. I think we started doing webinars and maybe like 2017? so not too long ago.

Steve: hmm mmm

Thanh: And Yeah, like we just seen that one people really love them, and to I think it’s one of the most effective strategies for selling. And then three, it can also help you generate more email subscribers and leads as well. And then four, if you make it Evergreen as well, you basically have a new sales person in your company working 24/7 for you. So yeah, definitely more webinar.

Steve: Can you comment on auto versus live and why you kind of combine both?

Thanh: Yeah so auto I think is great when you have an evergreen topic. So when it comes to productivity and procrastination is an evergreen topic how to focus is an evergreen topic. So for our particular industry, that’s great. And you know, it took a lot of live webinars to eventually make a really good Evergreen webinar. And so we want to give people the opportunity to sign up for this material when it is convenient for them because when we do them live we can only cater to one specific time. And so, we can’t cater to everybody. Whereas with Evergreen we have, you know, just in time webinars where you can sign up and then 15 minutes later get started or one minute later, depending when you sign up. But there’s also specific times as well.

So I like to think of it as like you can pick a time and place that works best for you to learn something really interesting and beneficial. and even if people don’t buy on the webinar, I’m still happy that people go through it because we just know that the information that’s in there is really helpful and beneficial to them. So even if they don’t buy, that’s totally fine. Because as long as we make that impact then that’s really good for us. And eventually, you know, the more people spent on webinars in terms of time, the closer they get to purchasing from you anyway, right? So we’ve also learned that for example, some people like to watch the same webinar like two or three times before they make a purchase and that’s totally fine too. Right? So, it’s really just a tool for us. You allow people to get educated become more familiar with us and then hopefully down the line bring them closer to making first purchase with us.

Steve: So in terms of the lives, I’m just curious why you haven’t doubled down on the Autos then maybe just narrowing it down to just one live webinar.

Thanh: Yeah, so we have the auto one’s going where we have like Facebook traffic sending, you know, to landing pages to the webinar. And then we have like our own email responders as well. But there’s something about live that just one, is more interactive and converts better. Because as you probably have seen as well, as soon as you go from left to automate it the conversion numbers are never the same.

Steve: Yeah, right.

Thanh: So if you do live at ten percent, which is pretty decent then if you go to automated if you do like, I don’t know, anywhere between like three and five percent that’s really good. Right? So like the numbers are never going to be the same but in terms of the impacts, I think combination of both is the way to go.

Steve: Okay. Hey Thanh. We’ve been chatting for quite a while now. Where can people find you to become more efficient.

Thanh: Yeah, you can go to asianefficiency.com. We also have a podcast called The Productivity Show, so you can look for that as well. And if you want you get in touch with me, you can just go to asianefficiency.com and reach me there.

Steve: Cool. And Thanh, where are the next events you’re going to be going to?

Thanh: I have no clue. My schedule is pretty empty this year. So I’m going to be playing it by ear and see what’s going on every single month.

Steve: Cool. Well, thanks a lot for coming on the show. Really appreciate your time.

Thanh: Thank you.

Steve: So there you have it all of the secrets to Asian efficiency in just 40 minutes. It is now a Level Playing Field for everyone, great. For more information about this episode. Go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode265. And once again, I want to thank Privy for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use the term visitors into email subscribers. They offer email capture exit intent and site targeting tools to make it super simple as well. And I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop-ups for any parameter that is closely tied your eCommerce store. Now, if you want to give it a try it is free so head on over to privy.com/steve. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.

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

Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store heading over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini-course just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away. Thanks for listening.

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

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264: What Amazon Strategies Are Working Today With Brad Moss

264: What Amazon Strategies Are Working Today With Brad Moss

Today I’m thrilled to have Brad Moss back on the show. Brad is the former head of Seller Central at Amazon and he’s also the founder of ProductLabs.net where he helps Amazon sellers blow up their businesses.

As a result, he has intimate knowledge of how Amazon works from the inside. This year, Brad spoke at my conference, The Sellers Summit, for the 3rd straight year, and his presentation was very well received.

Brad is one of my go to guys when it comes to Amazon and today, we’re going to talk about the latest Amazon strategies.

What You’ll Learn

  • The biggest changes with Amazon in the past year
  • The most effective way to launch a product today
  • Notable changes with Amazon ads
  • Email append services – Are they worth using
  • External traffic strategies that are working well

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

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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 delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Today I’m thrilled to have my friend Brad Moss back on the show, if you don’t remember him, he is the former head of seller central and today he’s going to give us an update on what’s working with Amazon today.

But before we begin, I want to give quick shout out to Privy who’s a sponsor of the show. Privy is a tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store and right now I’m using Privy Display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up basically user gives your email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store and customers love the gamification aspect of this and when implemented this form email signups increased by a hundred thirty one percent. Now, you can also use preview to reduce car abandoned with cart saver pop-ups and abandoned cart email sequences as well one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full-blown email marketing solution.

So bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales so head on over to privy.com/steve and try it for free if you decide you need to the more advanced features use coupon code MWQHJ for fifteen percent off once again that’s privy.com/steve.

I also want to give a shout out to Klaviyo who’s also a sponsor of the show. Whether you are just getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale, Klaviyo offers fast simple and repeatable ways to grow.

Now with Klaviyo you can personalize your marketing build your customer relationships and automate your online sales and it is now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. So I want to talk about Klaviyo’s new entrepreneurial growth guide. Packed with must read blog post case studies and getting started content this guide will help you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth.

Now moving to a new marking platform can be intimidating but Klaviyo helps you get up and going fast with proven technology and countless support resources. You can actually check out this free content now over at Klaviyo.com/mywife once again that is Klaviyo.com/mywife now on to the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Brad Moss back on the show. He’s the former head of Seller Central at Amazon and as a result, he has intimate knowledge of how Amazon works from the inside. He’s also the founder of productlabs.net where he helps Amazon sellers blow up their businesses.

This year, Brad is speaking at my conference, The Sellers Summit for the 3rd straight year, and his presentations are always well received. And in fact, Brad is one of my go to guys when it comes to Amazon and today, we’re going to talk about the latest Amazon strategies and sale. And with that welcome to the Brad, how are you doing today?

Brad: I’m doing great, thanks Steve thanks for having me. I’m really happy to be on your show again.

Steve: So Brad, we haven’t spoken I guess since the last seller Summit what’s been going on with product labs? And what are some of the biggest changes that you’ve seen with Amazon in the past year?

Brad: Yeah it’s kind of a loaded question there so much that goes on every single year you know I’ve actually noticed a trend I think during the end of February beginning of March. Amazon belong to some new big thing for sellers last year it was they got rid of vendor central our vendor express on vendor central.

Steve: Yeah.

Brad: This year now, they’ve recently just kicked off. Well not in this a kicked off its not fulfilled POs for over 10,000 different vendors outside the platform

Steve: That came without warning right?

Brad: Yeah, It came without warning and it was a lot of confusion some vendors were getting notices of all there’s a problem in our system other ones were saying, yep. We’re just not reordering from you anymore.

Steve: So what are those? I don’t know if you’ve been in contact with any of those vendors what recourse do they have?

Brad: I know they don’t have anything in particular, Amazon’s acting like a retailer, right? so they have the right to order from you or not but these people who are depending upon these order from Amazon or no longer getting, it’s just, which is a little, spooked a lot of people and it’s also going to speak on how. In general, how much control Amazon has over these things but they do make policy changes as they said and they review them and sometimes they make adjustments.

Now, the kind of silver lining here is that there is there’s another way of selling for these vendors it’s just they’re going to have to spend some time in shifting their business model over to two or three P the market place side has a lot of benefits that I think these be seven or double we’ll see as they jump into it.

Steve: I mean will they be competing against their own vendor central listings, though?
Brad: Not necessarily, so once Amazon ships out the last of their goods then inside so essential if they have an account set up they actually can jump in and have control again over some of their aces and there listings inside of Amazon.

Steve: Okay I didn’t know that, so they’re basically taking over their listings their vendor central listings and turning them into third party seller listings.

Brad: Yeah there’s some complexity there and how to do it but in general Amazon is selling your product through vendor you cannot change anything about it through 3P but once they’re out of inventory and we help clients sometimes even buy back all their inventory from Amazon because soon as themselves out then we can go through and start making adjustments on the three P side of the other listing.

Steve: I see and that’s assuming that Amazon’s knocking a reorder again though, right?

Brad: Yeah or it’s assuming you may just not fulfill the PO even if they do re order because it’s all done through systems right? And that’s the that’s the hardest parts of the vendor model is that it serves the very large companies very well but it doesn’t serve the mid-sized or smaller companies very well.

I mean, I got buddies over there who are running you know five hundred thousand SKUs right? so how are they are they giving you or even more? But how are they giving you any attention for your you know kind of SKUs or your even a couple thousand SKUs.

However, you need that much attention and so that’s what’s so hard that model the doesn’t scale very well from the vendor side because they have to spend so much time on each one so they have systems that are doing these things and so Amazon and systems are doing kind of predictive reordering of their products and goods and when you’re relying the whole thing your entire business on that was on the system you don’t have any control over the intimate you know, knowledge that you have in your business saying, “Hey look springtime’s coming I know our sales are gonna be bumping up an extra thirty percent”.

Amazon’s now ordering an extra thirty percent for me and I can’t get a hold my mentor manager to tell him to order an extra thirty percent or whatever. it might be and that that’s one of the beauties of three P side. as you have full control over what you’re doing with your business on Amazon and really the customer sees no difference if you’re selling prime then there’s no different to that to the consumer.

Steve: It sounds like just say no to vendor central at this point.

Brad: I don’t necessarily want to. There’s different there’s different businesses that work different ways. And I always say it’s more like vendor Central’s like putting the plane on autopilot. Seller Central is more like jumping in there and having full control over all the knobs and wages of what’s going on with your business. and for us and you know, I think my perspective for us who have such a deep intimate knowledge of how to run these businesses inside of Amazon from the third party side. We love it more because we have more control.

There’s so many more knobs that we can adjust and to get more out of the business versus some companies are just large enough that it doesn’t matter for them. They say this is fine. I wasn’t just another channel. So let’s just set this whole thing on autopilot. We don’t need to squeeze out an extra 10% or 50% out of Amazon.

Steve: I mean I guess from the perspective of the listeners of this podcast I would say three P is the way to go right?

Brad: Yeah yeah I think I think you’re probably right.

Steve: So what are some of the most effective ways of selling today and have the metrics change at all like the past year in terms of strategies or what not?

Brad: So I think what’s happening, and this we predicted this several years ago when you look at the general market place you know there was when I first was at Amazon talk about this a little bit. I was inside Amazon I was looking at all these numbers in these categories and saying well there’s so many holes in the system and then this is back in 2014 when I was inside Amazon and looking at this stuff.
So many holes here.

Say, well there’s a lot of opportunity right with Amazon and then did the guys down a couple people down from me, he created the whole brand idea inside of Amazon. And launched that whole component and then mixed with Alibaba. you know created this kind of brand revolution you know that the new brand private label movement essentially that’s come on Amazon.

Now, since then, what’s happened is the market is starting to get full. it used to be a land grab and now the land’s there and now it’s more real estate development right?

Steve: Yeah.

Brad: Dealing with what’s going on and so it’s the people and the business are more and more sophisticated. they are the ones who are winning out now and so you used to be able to put the product up and sell it. Now instead, you have to start using more and more of your analytics and looking more and more deeply at the market of what’s going on with your competition to make sure you’re staying in business staying healthy and not just relying on and not and you get to know your numbers you’re not relying on top line that you’re acting as your bottom line also.

And so all this kind of wraps into being more more sophisticated. And how you’re selling so you can make sure you stay alive. And then also, so that you can start climbing various different categories knowing what your limit is. You know a lot of people came to us in the early days “Hey here’s a switch and I want to sell a million dollars worth of it”. And the market wasn’t there.

And so, but they didn’t know that, we did we had to do the research and looking into Amazon and “hey your markets only big enough for you to sell five hundred thousand”, not a million dollars for this product. And so it’s understanding your limits on the various different products, kind of have the full category is and then using various techniques to kind of grow your ranking position inside of that.

Steve: Can we talk about some of these metrics? You know in more depth.

Brad: Yeah. So.

Steve: So let’s say someone comes at you with the product what are some things that you look up?

Brad: So, we don’t, we take a look at who are the top sellers inside of Amazon. Kind of what the estimated search volume is for the key words for those top sellers. A lot of it’s straight up math right? so if I’m going to look at, if I’m going to look up paper towels, that’s kind of a lame example.

Steve: It’s okay doesn’t matter what the examples listed as the mechanical pencils.

Brad: Okay. Sure. So I’m going to look for mechanical pencils. I got a look at the key word by a mechanical pencil right?

Steve: Right.

Brad: And if I’m looking at the total volume of that key word it might be say fifty thousand searches a month. You want to look at the whole landscape and see okay, well who are of the competitors this mechanical pencil? How powerful are these competitors? And socially, how may refuse to they have? How well is there, are other listings developed? You know sometimes, there’s listings I just need a lot of help but they’re the top sellers. So that might be an opportunity for you to come in.

And with all those very factors, we I mean, we create internally kind of like a string to string factor of how competitive this category is.

Steve: Can we talk about the components of that strength factor? I mean, like how many reviews is too strong for example?

Brad: Yeah it’s. So. Reviews my view on reviews our view is different from a lot of people out there. We consider reviews one of four key input into your conversion rate. And so, review is reviews are one thing. The price is another the key inputs. Your images, you have on your listing is another input. And the last one is the text you have on the screen. So those four things make up your conversion rate.

And so if you have no reviews you can still sell product and do well, for example, we had a client come in launched a brand new product in a category that was really old. I had a lot of old big brands in it and we got them to over a million dollar run rate with zero reviews on that product. And I only bring that up because to make the, to emphasize the point the reviews are one of four main inputs.

Steve: Can we use that example that you just gave? Like, what are some of the things that you did that allowed it to sell so much even without the social proof of reviews?

Brad: Yeah exactly yes, so what it was, was we came in we had a much better image. So our listing was a lot better than all the other competitors, I guess. It was a little bit older guard inside this brand. There were some really old brands that were there but they just didn’t do a great job with their listings, right?

Steve: Okay.

Brad: Amazon was selling their products and so they might have had like two pictures or three pictures. We came in and it all nice you know six or nine pictures for these products and then we had a really nice description. Product description, people appointed that spoke to the consumers need for these products and those things like we said those are four different inputs back to make their conversion rate go up or down. And those things are powerful enough to overcome any idea of reviews of needing refused to sell that particular product.

Steve: How did you get the visible in the first place was it just sponsored content ads.

Brad: So, this an interesting one like, yeah, we get just a little bit of sponsor product content. But we had done a really good job with the key word research in getting them indexed for the right key words for their for their category. And there’s another interesting point here, in this product was American made and said made in America versus all the other competitors were made overseas. And so and in this particular category people care about. And so, that I think that also had a factor there. But because of those things we actually need to push too much marketing into this at the very beginning. And I know it’s kind of counter to what the general strategies are from our people out there.

And I like to bring this up because I will work for one thing. There’s no silver bullet and these things right and want to bring that up but a lot of people believes there is a silver bullet. But there is no silver bullet, it’s really taking a closer look at all the different strategies and factors that you need to consider for your business.

Steve: When you’re doing their key word research, especially on search volumes, what would you say like you would estimate your conversion rate would be? Assuming you fully optimize the listing.

Brad: So a couple different things. There’s a click through rate since one is on the search results. That’s how like you’re going to get that click on the convert from that key word. And then once you’re on the page, there’s the conversion rate of one someone then your detail page, how often are they convert. The general number that we like is around ten percent conversion rate. One, some of on your page. Now that’s an Amazon, that’s a general one. Based on all categories, there some categories are smaller some that are much bigger.

Steve: Sure.

Brad: So, I am not much higher general ECOM right? ECOM is closer to three percent conversion rate. Now, taking a half step back on to the click through rate. So you’re, someone types in mechanical pencil and I show up. How many of those clicks? You know, if there’s fifty thousand clicks on mechanical pencil. How many does can I allocate to my particular product? That’s a little it’s a little trickier, but we do like to look into that. And the General numbers are the top three listings, are going to get between 40 and 60% of that traffic. The top three listings on that keyword.

Steve: Hmm-mmm

Brad: And so if you’re number three, if we’re saying, okay, we’re going to try and get you to number three. So we’re going to estimate, we can get 15% maybe 20% of the of that volume of the 50,000 volume. Like that would be the ideal position to be for this product. So then we take you know, take those numbers or say with 10% just for easy math, right 10% of the 50,000. So you get 5,000 clicks once your number three, so that’s 5,000 clicks. And now in the conversion rate once they’re into your product is 10%. So now we’re going to say, okay you’re selling 500 units.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: Your product, based on that one keyword, right? And so there’s probably a list of 25 to 50 keywords that you could be could be doing this on but that’s I mean that’s so that’s the general approach. We start taking into it when we really look. Closely at the numbers.

Steve: And In terms of actually getting that product visible initially though, what did you do, cause in the beginning you get no reviews, nothing. And you said you ran limited sponsored product ads how did you actually drive product ads into the listings?

Brad: So, for that one, that, strategy worked. I would say in general using the sponsored product ads are the way to go.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: We used to get the product team with the sponsored product ads and you’re trying out this key words right? So you have the list of your fifty key words, that would be the most important key words to you and you want to start putting money against those ones on the sponsored product ads and then you want to be tracking your ranking because to us, It’s more important than getting your return on that ad. You want to be moving up your organic ranking on those key words also, and so that’s the, it’s the most, it’s the purest, most authentic way growing your organic ranking inside Amazon is to use Amazon systems to just do it.

We know in our world all of the various different “hacks” out there to try to increase the ranking and all of those things. And the ones that Amazon likes the ones they frown upon. So in short, it’s the most authentic way to use the Amazon systems to do it the right way.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: In using the advertising systems.

Steve: Let me ask you this, you know, In your listings, in your key words tab of you listing, there are a variety of fields like intended use subject matter and that sort of things, how much do those field do actually take into account in the rankings for key words?

Brad: So in the rankings for key words, very little.

Steve: Okay.

Brad:They do take, they to matter certain parts of Amazon’s back end. So they’re trying to map different categories and different use cases with the really complex back-end network of things. But when clients talk to me about it, it really comes down to more of a, it’s like creating just the keywords, because someone people so many people search through keywords. And so the vast majority of all searches are through keywords because that’s the case adding. The rest of those fields is more like is more like saying, hey, we’ve got 95 or maybe even 98% of this listing complete. Doing all the rest of that stuff is like filling the last two percent right? To make the rest of it complete.

So it’s more of saying hey, what’s our biggest priority if we want to make sure everything is listings done a hundred percent great, but that last five percent or two percent could take you know, double the time of doing everything else on the you know on the listing.

Steve: The only reason why I’m asking this question is because there had been rumors floating around that the subject matter field you know, which I can’t really confirm or deny with my own account. That the subject matter keywords are very important. I don’t know how people came to that conclusion. I was just curious you talked with a lot of you work with a lot of Amazon sellers. So I was wondering what your opinion was.

Brad: Yeah. I mean they also very important subjective term, right?

Steve: Yeah.

Brad: So it’s like I said, there’s value in all of them. It’s just questions of what’s the highest value that you’re going to get? And I wouldn’t deny that someone might, you know, there might be one or two examples of someone finding “Hey, I actually put this in in my keywords or in my fields” and all sudden, I’ve seen some growth and that happens a few times. But in the vast general landscape, it’s looking at you know, the core keywords that you’re putting in are what mattered the most from what we’ve seen.

Steve: Okay, okay, what are your views on some of the other services? So we’ve been kind of chatting about, you know prior to this interview about customer demographics and getting a hold of their customer data outside of Amazon. What are your views on like email a pin services and what are some techniques for data mining?

Brad: Yeah. So I think one of the one of the most valuable things that we try and help our clients understand, general businesses understand is that a lot of people inside of Amazon because Amazon posts up that big A cost number and even many third-party software’s are built on top of that idea of the a cost number. A lot of people are really focused on the A costs, right?

Steve: Yep.

Brad: And which is the advertising cost of sale and what that number is telling you is that it’s telling you how much I spent on ads and then how many sales resulted from those ads. And so what that’s not taking into account, so say my a cost is 50 percent right, which a lot of people be like.

Steve: Gosh that’s so high.

Brad: But if you’re spending money on the right keywords and you’re moving up the organic ranking, you’re going to also see a bunch of organic sales that come along because you’re doing so well on your advertising. And your actual your total what we call your ad spend over sales is the real number that matter. So what’s your total marketing budget, divided by what your total sales are that’s it. I mean, that’s the simple math. Let’s say, my total marketing budget was $30,000 this month and my total sales were a hundred thousand dollars. So my total ads been over sales is was 30% that’s actually high. But in my example, we could say $200,000, 30 to $200,000 So it’s 15 percent.

Steve: So that’s the number that you primarily look at? Instead of a cost? Because I guess it’s all intertwined right?

Brad: Yep. It is and we do look at that because that matters so much more. I mean someone saying “hey I’m going to do a giveaway”, right? And I’m going to give away, you know, $10,000 worth of product and my margin on that $10,000 with the product is going to be, I’m only getting 10% of that and so I’m now giving away nine thousand dollars in advertising essentially by doing a promotion. You should take that put that in your marketing budget and say okay. I just spent $9,000 to do a giveaway to try and rank on something. Is that more valuable? In spending nine thousand dollars on ads to also to rank through Amazon for the exact same keyword.

Steve: I guess the problem arises though, when you start lumping a whole bunch of other stuff in there, right? Like I could run and spend 50% on Facebook ads, but the Facebook ads are in fact driving any sales, right? and then it wouldn’t show up.

Brad: Yeah. So that’s why you got that’s the complexity and some of this is trying to take all of your marketing budgets and add them all together and to giving you a true or number there because the a cost is really useful or the account has a sales is really useful when you’re looking at a campaign by campaign metric of how well is this one campaign doing versus this other campaign? And so are you using those relations there? That’s it’s really used to I mean, it’s like the key metric you got to be looking at but if I’m looking at my business, I’m taking a step back from my business and say okay how well is this generally working for my business or how well is this product working? The entire catalog of Amazon I have to take into account what my SEO, what the Amazon SEO is doing. Because the advertising that I’m running also.

And a lot of people don’t know that because Google is different. In that Google, it doesn’t matter, the Google SEO algorithms are totally different than Amazon. Amazon, it’s hey, who’s number one when I’m looking at mechanical pencil, the guy who’s number one, guess what? He’s the guy who has the most sales right now on mechanical pencils. And so if I have more sales on a particular keyword that I’m going to be moving up that SEO ranking. Make sense?

Steve: Yes as far as you know Brad, is there a way to figure out which keywords organically are translating in a sales?

Brad: We have our own algorithms that are backing into that. There is no way Amazon’s not giving any data, any of that data to people and that’s all close. So we’ve actually come up with several algorithms internally that look at that.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: It’s a really complicated takes a lot of a lot of math to try and back figured that out.

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Steve: Based on what you are saying. I think Amazon advertising is you can lump the ad spend over your total sales for that because the sponsor product ads you’re bidding on keywords and those keywords directly attribute those sales will affect your rankings for those keywords?

Brad: Yes.

Steve: So for that it’s probably okay for the other stuff. It might not be okay to lump in?

Brad: Yeah, I mean.

Steve: Was that?

Brad: Yeah. Yeah, I mean perhaps yeah, it’s what we look at it on a product basis and then on a business basis, so I would say from a business perspective you still should be looking you should love everything in and look at it from an entire business perspective. But if it’s are you looking at on a project by project basis and then are you looking at on a campaign by campaign basis. From, so campaign by campaign, Is that a cost the product or product, you do the ads over sales for those and then from a business, you should probably won’t be in all the advertising activities and see how that’s working. Because it’s your margin in the end. Right?

Steve: Sure.

Brad: So after giving Amazon 15% that’s 15% out of my margin and by spending 10% on all add activities great as 10% out of my margin. That’s how you to operate a business.

Steve: So what are some external traffic strategies that you’re employing for your clients or that you’re using?

Brad: Yeah, so externally some really interesting stuff that we’ve been getting into as looking at lifetime value of customers repeat purchases repeat purchase rates and starting to figure out who are these customers. Because Amazon in general doesn’t want you to have a relationship with your customers. That’s how Amazon is treats it. They like to have a relationship and they don’t like to share it but in the end they are your customers and there’s some data inside of Amazon that you can start looking at. At least understanding generally who these customers are and what the repeat that repurchase rates are the life and values are.

And so what we’ve done is we go through and we creating some ways of finding who some of your customers are. As you mentioned, there’s some email append Services. We have some stuff that’s kind of taking another step deeper that we do internally.

Steve: Tell me.

Brad: So if someone saw that our work that the software that we’re working on and we’re still debating whether we’re going to launch it external or not or just keep it for our clients.

Steve: I mean strictly turned against terms of service, right? So I would imagine you might have some conflicts with Amazon if you were to release it.

Brad: Yeah, that’s some of the fine details that right?

Steve: Okay.

Brad: But what people can do actually, I mean I want to offer information people can just go use so, you know, you can go in and download your Amazon shipping reports and find some of that information who you’re shipping to and then use some of that with inside of Facebook. Of say, create some groups of who you want to target at like groups. Not those people but, people like those groups and we’ve done that before and found some really discounted. Well, our ads used to be like a buck 20 per ad and once we started finding these groups and refining the group’s it dropped it to like 40 cents per click or even 20 cents per click on some of them. So we’ve been able to find some Facebook ad efficiencies by grabbing some this information from who your customers are and just grabbing some similar target groups through Facebook’s systems.

Steve: Right. And that is generally not risky at all, right? B=Because it’s not like you’re targeting the exact Amazon customer.

Brad: No, no, you’re not you’re just finding like people and saying here’s general people who order from us and it’s either an a Facebook has their own algorithms that say it they have a whole little upload portal that you can say. “Hey you want to find a light group to the current group of people?” upload information about them here. And we’ve done that and create some really efficient Facebook advertising that way.

Steve: So when you’re doing your analysis on who to create these look like audiences from, what are some of your metrics?

Brad: So, we look at repeat purchasers. So if you grab everyone I would say, you know, we don’t like describing everyone who’s ordered from you. We like people who have purchased from you more than once. We actually look at geographic information as well and start looking at which regions are these are people purchasing from me is really interesting. We had a brand that was selling jewelry. And this is just a fun example, a brand that was selling jewelry and another brand that was selling athletic socks. And we compare the two and the price point was the same there around 20 dollars each for the products. But the jewelry was over-indexing which means, in relation to the population more people are buying it in Florida for the jewelry. And the athletic socks, it was under indexing in Florida. And so, I don’t know that speaks about Florida but.

Steve: But they don’t wear socks, they probably won’t wear flip-flops. So hot there, right?

Brad: They love it. Yeah, exactly and but ever they want to wear some bling right? Some really good jewelry. So it was just interesting looking these exact same price points, but there’s a different distribution of the geography and both of those were kind of generic brands. There’s some brands that are specific to a region. So we see over indexing in specific States and the U.S of the region say, hey this was over-indexing in California because it’s a West Coast brand. This one’s over indexing in New York. It’s an East Coast brand and what not, but that just gives you some higher-level insight into your business it right? And how you might want to think about it, or even if you’re looking for retail strategies. Some estate is useful there, of talking would read it with retail buyers now, I don’t know how many of your listeners actually are.

Steve: So, so how does that affect your bidding? So that Florida case did you just not run ads in Florida for those socks?

Brad: For those socks the experiments we did there. I don’t think I can fully answer your question where you’d like me to. To satisfy you, but.

Steve: Let me re ask a question after you’re done. Yeah, go for it.

Brad: Okay. No, but I think it’s in Florida. We didn’t use geography to be to be doing those Facebook targeting ads. We used more of specific individual profile information.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: Yeah demographic information and send Geographic.

Steve: The way I was going to refine that question was you know, how useful is that Geographic data? Because most of our sales and most of the sales for anyone happened in the large the larger metropolitan areas, right? California, New York, Florida, is one of those Texas is one of those States. And so, isn’t just creating a look-alike audience. Doesn’t that just kind of circumvent that whole thing?

Brad: Yeah, I guess your point. You can circumvent it by just doing the look-alikes. Now the Geographic, I think you’d have to think kind of one step up is saying how is my brand position in these areas and these regions or are there things about the people in those areas or their Lifestyles that I’m really kidding or not hitting.

Steve: I see.

Brad: We’re selling we are selling a for another example. We’re selling a water aquatic product and it was selling really well in the Great Lakes area, but not very well in the coasts. And so some of the information they took back to the manufacturer. Well they were the manufacturer actually, they’re saying okay, well, these are all these are more targeted towards specific Lake people and people who like to go to lakes and hang out on lakes all day long. Versus people who like to you know, be really active in not seem like people aren’t active. I’m an active like person myself, but you know versus people who are on the coast and might be more of like an ocean kind of water aquatic products.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: So with that they took it back in the kind of double down. They actually went after a license for their products. That was really, that would target that Great Lakes area and it was really heavy in that Great Lakes area. And they’re now launching, they got the license and now they’re going to be launching a big thing that’s going to push heavy to the people in the Great Lakes area for The Aquatic products. I mean, it’s a perfect example.

Steve: I can see how that effect copy and marketing strategy. Can we switch gears a little bit? And just kind of talk about, you mentioned, in the early days it was a land grab now. It’s about building up your real estate. So when we are competing against sellers in China who might have a pricing Advantage what are some things that you’ve been doing with your clients to kind of combat this?

Brad: I think one thing we still in, I think when you say, we you probably more referring to people here in the in the states were selling these things. Is that right?

Steve: Basically, anywhere that’s not in Asia

Brad: That’s not China?

Steve: Yeah. Basically, yeah.

Brad: So there’s, actually we found some pretty fascinating manufacturers locally that are all in the state. There’s over 300,000 manufacturers in the United States. Did you know that?

Steve: I did not know that.

Brad: There’s a lot and so most people, I think it’s just we have access to overseas manufacturing so easily through Alibaba. But there is, you can make some really good advantages locally in the states. I mean, that goes the back to your supply chain, right? As saying well are there other options in the States. But in terms of, you know, what to do with where you are now, where most of these sellers might be now, there’s a whole concept that I think, speaking to, knowing your customer is extremely valuable and extremely important. So I would double down on how well, you know, your customer and making it, making your experience that much better. Because if you’re living in the states you speak the language, you know how to perhaps market and brand your product to them, price matters somewhat. But again, it’s one of four different inputs into your conversion rate, right? And so how well can you treat your customers that really do love your product.

We have another brand where we’re actually selling it for twice the cost that Amazon selling it for. And we’re still out selling Amazon with the product. And the cost is I think it’s up to $16 versus Amazon’s $8. The exact same product, but it’s much better branded has better reviews better, just the detail page and the whole experience is better.

And I like to bring up these outliers to just give people hope too and saying well, you know, you know, I’m not falling into all these just general boxes, but there’s plenty of outliers out there that are that show that you can do it. If you, if you kind of hit if you really focus on the key things that you have an advantage for. So the question is, what is your business? How’s your business differentiate itself from other people’s businesses? Are you just going to do a land grab? Just do a me to hey, we’re grabbing, we’re going to grab our own bit fidget spinner and put our own twist on it. Or we’re just, we’re just going to be a me to fidget spinner company, right? You know that strategy, that’s not a strategy. That’s just trying to move product. But if you’re building the brand and focusing on what are you building as part of this? Then you can, there are unique angles and that’s the create, that’s the creative side that you know, people like to deploy and get really good at.

Steve: So using that example that you just talked about. Is that an Amazon only brand or are they doing a lot of things outside of Amazon?

Brad: This is an Amazon only brand.

Steve: Interesting.

Brad: Only on Amazon.

Steve: So it was just purely based on their listing that they

Brad: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: And good and really good customer service. So we had some people who didn’t like the product or had some problem with it and you know, they reached out to him like the day, you know, the day something happened reached out to them sent them some free product and try to get on the phone with them and even talk with them. I know that’s not, they did that, we didn’t encourage that. But it really took the customer service to the next level of trying to make people happy with their product and their brand. And they you know, they built it in a really good clean way and it’s been it’s still been very successful for that.

Steve: It’s funny that you say customer service. I just think of that as like par for the course, right? Someone complains you just give them a refund. I mean, I feel like almost everyone’s doing that already like

Brad: Yeah.

Steve: It seems like it’d be really hard. To stand out from that perspective.

Brad: Yeah, it can be but I guess versus and maybe it’s just unique for this category, right? As is versus the other people in their category. They’re doing better.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: On that and then so again, it’s a question of how do you stand out versus your competitors too? And you might be right, It might be customer service. You can’t do anything unique in customer service in a certain category because everyone else is doing an A+ job. And so it’s well, you know, what else can you do that differentiate yourself?

Steve: I just saw this question just now. In terms of enhanced brand content, based on the clients that you’ve seen, what has been the lift for doing a good job there?

Brad: We have seen a minimal lift.

Steve: Okay.

Brad: What it is it just gives, it my opinion, I think it gives a little extra confidence in the brand. But we have never seen any huge changes in conversion rates. And I think some of that speaks to over 60% of people looking at product or doing it on their mobile devices. And your enhance credit on content is squashed in a mobile device. You’re seeing one picture and like one small snippet of information there on your mobile device. And so it’s still the hero pictures, the hero are one two or three pictures that people are looking through on mobile.

Steve: Okay, that makes sense.

Brad: Now out the minority of sales still come from mobile from what I understand. It’s people look at it on mobile put it in their car and they buy it eventually on their desktops. That’s General the behavior in general right now.

Steve: I also wanted to get your opinion real quick on, you know, Amazon developing their own brands, and I know for a certain listings where I’ve done a search for like glad trash bags for example. And then all of a sudden Amazon has this gigantic pop up that fills up like a third of the screen that says, you know, their own brand the same quality as the Glad bags for like almost half the price.

Brad: Yeah.

Steve: And it just seems like those are unfair tactics that Amazon is employing to compete against their, the third-party sellers. Are you seeing more and more of that and how do you fight against that?

Brad: I think we can agree that we are extremely frustrated with that kind of behavior. I’m very frustrated Amazon’s kind of behavior. And it’s just them we have multiple examples of how they’ve done stuff that only they can do, they only they have access to and their squishing out all the other sellers. I know there’s been some articles written. I’m not sure what to do about it because some of us try drives me crazy, honestly.

Steve: Okay

Brad: Honestly, with what they’re doing. Now, I think some of the interesting things they’re trying to do, so you got to think the other side to is Amazon, there’s a whole section of Amazon that loves their customer loves their sellers and they really want sellers to do well. So there is, you know, they’ve started opening up more and more information to sellers now. It’s just lagged, right? So, you know something that we saw, you know an ad spot that was there for Amazon a year ago, finally is coming out for a 3rd party seller can do the same thing now and it’s lag.

So, yes, they have a first mover advantage of advantage and all of these things but there’s a side of everything. I think that really really cares about their sellers and are trying to get these tools in these spots open for their sellers also. And so I don’t want to just come out and say Amazon’s the devil because they’re not. They’re doing, there’s a lot of good stuff that they’re doing but I think there are certain groups inside of Amazon that are taking advantage of their space a little bit too much and it’s driving drives us crazy when they do.

But some of the new brand stuff that’s come out. It’s interesting. They’re talking to date now in this seller and the advertising portals, at least in the ads. You can see how many people are coming that are new to your brand, versus people who haven’t seen your brand name or that’s really cool. That’s really good information. You have more control now in the market in the advertising of where your product placement. With the called.

Steve: Yup.

Brad: Is your placement. Now, on that piece of you want to say, you know, certain people start talking about hacks and everything there. There’s no hacks. It’s just it’s just how the system works. And Amazon’s now giving you access to bid extra if you want to be on the first page or if you want to build a product pages of the rest of search results.

And there’s some extreme, some people saying, hey just do everything for the first page. I would say that’s short-sighted and that you should look at your A cost between those three placements and try and balance those. That’s a kind of a side tangent. But I think that’s a you know, again, it’s many times new stuff comes out people find a little a little trick that works. It’s the whole ecosystems, you’d be able to adjust a little bit better right now with these new features, so.

Steve: Okay, well that’s good to know. So Brad, we’ve been chatting for quite a while. I wanted to also give the listeners a chance to kind of know a little bit more about product labs and what you’re up to. So anyway, they can get it get ahold of you.

Brad:
Yeah, so come to our website at any point at productlabs.net or productlabs.ai actually. We have both domains that we are some interesting things were trying to do there. Check out what we do as a service that we do, many times clients will come to us and say hey my business is too big or I want to grow I want to get a little bit more sophisticated what I’m doing. We do full on operations. So we’ll take over the whole Amazon channel for our clients, but we add a whole level of strategic analysis and strategy and analytics of everything that we’re doing.

So myself and Tim my business partner, we will become from more formal business backgrounds. And so we believe in setting out long-term 6 months, 12-month plans for our clients or even longer. S couple of year plans. And we look at the marketplace. And so we a lot of the value that aside from the core operations that we do for our clients is looking at this this whole strategic piece that we’re putting into play for them. And so they can understand for the Strategic level what to expect and what our goals are and everything. And so we got, we have some larger companies that come to us. We also have some business that are growing and they want to just off load everything on Amazon on to a team which allows them to do more stuff or allows them to maybe go find more product or focus on off Amazon tactics and things that they want to do there.

So that’s you know, that’s kind of the core offering that we do but the fun stuff that we’re doing for me is, well, aside from growing businesses, it’s always super fun to grow businesses for our clients and see all the success. But the technology that we keep developing. We like, you know, my background I worked inside and ran the other Central platform built the Amazon seller app. So there’s a Tech in my background and we just have a lot of cool Tech that we have going on. And it’s all kept under the hood at this point, and some point will let in more and more people see it in the light of day. But it’s just been doing really well for us internally and so.

Steve: Cool.

Brad: We’re building lots of cool Technologies. Some of these things that we’ve been talking about that’s been really good for our clients.

Steve: And I know there’s like a signup form on your site. If you want to be a part of the beta program too, right?

Brad: Yep. Yeah and do that and that’s the group we’re going to go to first when we launch. Something that people can take a look at and start using. I think, in general, we have a very different approach to what from what we found is this whole community. And when we launch something, you’ll be able to see that. It will be pretty evident of our whole different approach of how we look at a business and look at how you want to grow your business inside of Amazon. or even operate your business inside of Amazon.

Steve: Cool. And Brad is also going to be speaking at the seller Summit this year again, I’m saying this little late because all the tickets are sold out. I was going to say go buy your ticket, but I mean if you already got one, great. You’ll see Brad there. He’s very knowledgeable and he’s a lot of data. So if you are at the summit, be sure to flag him down and ask him your questions.

Brad: Cool.

Steve: So Brad, thanks a lot for coming on the show man.

Brad: Yeah. Thanks a lot Steve. I appreciate it.

Steve:
Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now Brad is one of those guys who is always up-to-date with Amazon. And if you need help with your Amazon business and you’re in the seven to eight figure range, then he is your guy for more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com episode 264.

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

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 and sectarian tools and make it super simple as well and I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop-ups for any parameter that is closely tied 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 privy.com/steve.

Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store headed over to mywifequitjob.com and sign up for my free 6 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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263: How To Outsource Your Amazon Business For Less With Omer Riaz

263: How To Outsource Your Amazon Business With Omer Riaz

Today, I’m really happy to have Omer Riaz on the show. Omer and I just hung out for 3 straight days at my annual event the Sellers Summit. He’s been an Amazon and Ebay seller for many years and now he helps others manage their own businesses.

Today, he runs the popular Amazon VA service Urtasker.com and in this episode we are going to talk about how to outsource and scale your Amazon business even if you are a one man show.

What You’ll Learn

  • Common mistakes Amazon sellers make
  • Which Amazon tasks are easy to outsource
  • How much it costs to outsource Amazon management
  • How to work with a virtual assistant
  • The biggest mistakes sellers make when outsourcing

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’m happy to have Omer Riaz on the show, and Omer runs the popular Amazon VA service UrTasker.com. And in this episode, we’re going to discuss how to outsource and scale your Amazon business if you’re a one man show.

But before we begin, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Whether you are getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale, Klaviyo offers fast, simple and repeatable ways to grow. And with Klaviyo you can personalize your marketing, build your customer relationships and automate your online sales. And it’s now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. Now I want to introduce Klaviyo’s new entrepreneur growth guide. Packed with must read blog posts, case studies and getting started content, this guide will help you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth.

Now moving to a new marketing platform can be intimidating but Klaviyo helps you get up and growing fast with proven technology and countless support resources. Now you can actually check out this free content now over at Klaviyo.com/mywife. Once again, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife.

Now 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 my email capture forms. And 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%.

Now I’m also using Privy for 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 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 Omer Riaz on the show. Now Omer and I just hung out for three straight days at my annual event the Sellers Summit. He’s been a seller on Amazon and eBay for many years until he decided to help others manage their own e-commerce businesses. And today, he runs the popular Amazon VA service, UrTasker.com. And in this episode, we’re going to talk about how to outsource and scale your Amazon business even if you are a one man show. And with that, welcome to the show, how are you doing today Omer?

Omer: I’m doing good, what about you?

Steve: I’m doing well, still recovering from the event however, since a full week of lack of sleep has gotten to me, but I’m slowly catching up.

Omer: Same here.

Steve: So Omer, I understand that you used to be an Amazon and eBay seller. So first off, are you still selling today? And then how did you kind of come up with the idea of starting UrTasker?

Omer: Sure. I mean, currently, I’m not selling on eBay or Amazon. My story started in 2015. So my background is in IT. I have worked at Accenture and Deloitte as an IT consulting for implementation of ERP softwares. So me and my brother, we started selling on Amazon in 2015. And when we started, we obviously started with the retail arbitrage. And then later on, I moved to private label. And that’s how we started. But when we started, what I felt is there is a huge gap when it comes to staffing for e-commerce. You can find people, and if you find people they’re not economical. So we basically brought our third co-founder and we set up a team in Pakistan with three people.

And what happened after a year or so, they were managing our listing, listing creation, PPC management. Obviously, when we brought them in, I got myself training first and then I trained them on these basic tasks. So after one year, we were doing pretty good. Like we were six figure seller, and we had some of our suppliers in New Jersey, and by the way, I’m from Long Island, New York. And so they were asking, you guys are from IT and how you guys are doing e-commerce, it doesn’t make sense. And we could see our orders and everything. And we said, we have our own team, which is managing all the daily tasks.

And they said, wow, where is your team? And I said, it is in Pakistan, and they said, okay, can we get those guys to manage our account? And that’s how the idea came in. And we said we could be sellers. But then we started, we felt the gap. I mean, these guys are facing the same issue so we should start growing that outsourcing practice because in our IT background, we have managed teams in India and Philippines. So we had an experience to manage and grow our teams. So we said we should apply the same experience in e-commerce, there is a huge gap. So that’s where we started building our team. And now I was back in Pakistan two weeks ago, and we completed our fourth year in business. We have about 200 trained e-commerce specialists on our team. I have three offices, one main office in Long Island and two offices in Pakistan.

Steve: So Omer, I’m just kind of curious, why did you outsource to Pakistan so early? I mean, a six figure business is still manageable with just like a couple of people, right?

Omer: Yes. At that time I was working full time. So it was not easy for me to do e-commerce as well as do my job. So I had to delegate to someone who could basically do all the product research criteria, because it was taking a lot of time. So I was not ready to invest that time. I mean, I was good learning stuff and then delegating stuff to my VA. So that’s why early in the race[ph] when I started selling I started delegating, and that’s how we came up with that team.

Steve: I see. So in Pakistan, these are just your friends who are helping you out with the business. And it just — you just kind of stumbled upon UrTasker or basically.

Omer: Yeah, so UrTasker is basically a family business as well.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Omer: Yes, yes. So we are three co-founders, three brothers, one in Pakistan, two here in US. So we brought our younger brother who is helping us, he’s the director of operation, he is doing great job. So it started within the family. And now we have a family of 200 people.

Steve: Oh, wow. Okay cool. And so when did you decide to just shut down the e-commerce business and just focus on the outsourcing part?

Omer: In early 2016, where people are demanding a lot of where we can allocate time to train people rather than just focus on our Amazon account. So we stopped selling and also it’s not interest of the sellers because if we keep selling that and it’s a conflict of interest, I would say.

Steve: If there’s an overlap of product, I would say.

Omer: Yes.

Steve: Okay. All right, so I mean, you’ve been doing this for quite some time now. What would you say are some of the most common tasks that you believe that everyone should be outsourcing with their business? And I understand you do more than Amazon, right? You also do PPC advertising, you also do Shopify store outsourcing and that sort of thing. Is that correct?

Omer: Yes. So we started delegating very basic tasks, like we were doing Amazon wholesale, retail arbitrage. And so basically, we started with the listing creation. Then when I learned Amazon PPC, I delegated that to PPC. So we were growing our team. And one of the basic concepts behind UrTasker is that we always vet the skill set of our VAs. So if I’m not comfortable — I was not comfortable two years ago when we were doing PPC, but now I’m comfortable. They can manage PPC because they have this knowledge and experience as well managing multiple accounts. So I would say everything which has to do e-commerce, whenever I talk to someone I said, other than making your coffee in your room, we could do everything like customer support, listing.

Like the other day, I heard a story which I would like to share. One of my guys reach out to me, and he said a lot of time when I was at Sellers Summit, they said, a couple of people were asking me how do you do inventory management? So one of the managers shared a story that we were doing, we were filing case in Amazon for missing inventory and they basically helped the client to recover around $5,000 which is amazing. We’re doing that job, which probably could take a lot of time like researching, and doing data filters on Excel and getting all the data and then submitting cases. So these kind of tasks. So I mean anything which has to do with Amazon, other than shipping your product can be delegated.

Steve: Well, okay, so if you look at your client base right now, what would you say is — I want you to just give me like a prioritized list. So let’s say I’m a seven figure amazon seller, and I need to offload some stuff, what are some of the low hanging fruit things that everyone you believe should be outsourcing right now?

Omer: Well, it depends on the business model. Let’s say, if you’re private label, and you’re running business on private label, and I think the major part is listing optimization and PPC management. That takes a lot of time because you’re getting data from your PPC, you’re downloading reports, now you have to get the data and put into your listing whatever you find. Initially, you have to do optimize your listing based on best images based on Amazon standard, you have to check your title, bullets, backend keywords, description to make it attractive to whoever comes to your product listing. Then you have to come in the second part is like when you start running PPC, now you’re getting very valuable in information you need to input.

A lot of what I have seen the past two years, a lot of people miss that opportunity, they are so busy in their day to day tasks that they don’t focus. I mean, how I see like a lot of people are focusing on listing optimization and as you have seen since 2015, Amazon is changing a lot of things. Back in the days if you remember, you were allowed to have 500 characters in the backend. Now, they only allow you do 55. So a lot of people don’t know these basic things. So the VA should not only be doing whatever you assign, but also researching whatever is going on Amazon or eBay or Shopify, just to bring the latest stuff in your plate, so you decide what to do and what not to do.

Steve: Okay. And so, in terms of the listing itself though, there’s a lot of components of that, that need to be provided to the VA, right, like product images and all that. Is there any disconnect then with the message you want to give across? And I don’t know, for my listings for example, I would tend to want to try to handle those myself rather than someone who does not know anything about the product to handle the listing, right? How do you rationalize that?

Omer: I mean, the very first thing which I tell everybody whenever they come to get our services or inquire about our services, I say that the very first thing you need to ask yourself is, are you following Amazon standard? Okay. I mean, titles are you putting — are you utilizing the full space available? When it comes to bullets, are you putting relevant keywords there? Description, is your description attractive that people can make decision based on that? Are your images optimized? I mean, back in the days, there was only like people used to focus on the main image, now you have lifestyle images, and based on your product category you need to optimize that so it can convert well.

Steve: But are those images, those aren’t something that a VA can handle; you have to take your own images?

Omer: Yes, VA can basically, I mean, you have to provide basic images. And then a VA can also suggest you, if your VA is on advanced level, that once you’re taking images, you need to keep this thing in mind in terms of lifestyle images, these are the things which I need as a VA from product. So it makes your job much easier when you’re taking photos of your product.

Steve: Sure. Okay. So I guess the real question I’m trying to get at is what is the best way to work with the VA, right? Basically, you’re contracting your work out to someone who knows nothing about your business. What are some of the best practices with working with the VA?

Omer: Sure. I mean, one of the concept which we’re trying to implement at UrTasker basically is we want to provide or any other agency, it’s basically provides same services which fortune 500 companies get. I mean, obviously, these are small sellers, they don’t have like, probably they don’t have corporate experience. But there are a couple of things which they need to keep in mind whenever they are working with the VA or any agency or freelancer. I mean, the first thing is you have to be patient, you need to spend some time to know your VA, since you’re working with a human being. So you need to build a strong sense of mutual understanding. That’s the very first thing, because that guy is working as your employee, so you need to be patient, learn about them.

The second thing is that you need to make sure, and that’s very important, whenever people come to us, and they said, well, you said that your VA is trained and we could start working from day one. And I said, well, that’s true. But what you need to do is you need to make sure that your VA understands your business process, okay? So everybody has a different way of doing things. So you need to show them what and how, okay, so this will basically eliminate roadblocks and downtime. So you need to spend some time to make sure how your business process works, it is documented, it’s great. If it’s not, document that and make sure your VA understands your business process. And don’t start from day one. Obviously, everybody wants to utilize their VAs from day one, but spend some time teaching them or helping them to learn about your business process. That’s the second thing.

Steve: What does a realistic onboarding process looks like? So let’s say I approached you guys, and I said, hey, I need a VA. What’s the onboarding process look like?

Omer: Well, onboarding process is basically — I mean, if you ask about your task, and obviously we do account audit first, okay, that’s the very first thing just to know how you’re doing, what you’re missing. It’s basically give us the scope of the work. And then we take the task which you want to delegate, and we make it a complete scope of work which needs to be done. But onboarding process, I would say, let’s say, I mean, it depends on the availability of the VA or the skill set you’re looking for. But once you start, you need to at least for two weeks, you need to have continuous meetings, spend some time.

So I don’t know if I answered your question. But it depends on the skill set of the VA. If availability how long it — but normally, onboarding would take probably two weeks I would say from the day when we do analysis, and then you should probably spend like one or two weeks, not every day, but maybe spend every day maybe 30 minutes, 40 minutes with your VA to help him or her to understand your business. So that’s how the typical…

Steve: So you mentioned the skill set of the VA. I understand like at least in your firm everyone is trained right. So is that not a factor any more then?

Omer: I mean they are trained on different levels. But again, what is your requirement, what exactly you are looking for? You need to match the skill set of the VA and then the business process. I remember when I used to work in big for IT consulting firm, they used to spend a lot of time during the project implementation for requirement gathering for defining the scope of the word. So that is also very important in e-commerce world as well.

Steve: So outside of listing optimization and let’s say PPC because PPC involves money, I would imagine people might be a little bit squeamish about that, what are some other things that people have been outsourcing?

Omer: I mean, customer services and other stuff like basically talking to your customers, let’s say if they have an issue with your order that is another thing. And then inventory management, which that takes a lot of time as well, like you are creating FBA shipment orders whatever, and then you take like number of steps just to make sure all of your inventory arrives at FBA warehouses, okay. And let’s say if they are doing FBM, then you need to have run the whole system at your own, whether you’re selling on multiple channels, so every seller has their own ways of doing, they have different softwares to manage that. So basically, depending on your business model, inventory management would be another.

Steve: Can we go into more depth on the inventory management? So am I using a VA just to make sure all my stuff arrives on time, and then nothing is lost? And will the VA also just contact Amazon for a refund in case things do get lost? Like just outsource that whole section? Is that what you’re suggesting?

Omer: Yes, yes. I mean, there are two ways. One is like manual way of submitting cases. Now there are like software as well, we are working with a couple of vendors who are basically, they are using different softwares, but at the end of the day, there are still some manual work which you need to do. Like when you’re pulling up the report, inventory report and you just have to filter out some data just to see what exactly you’re looking for, so these kinds of tasks needs to be — that can be managed by a VA as well.

Steve: Okay. And in terms of customer service, I know you said your team is in Pakistan for the most part, right?

Omer: Mm-hmm.

Steve: I guess one of my concerns if I just — off the top of my head if I didn’t know you would be okay, how is the English of the people? And can someone really manage a customer service team because they’re representing your company, right, and you want everyone to respond appropriately?

Omer: Definitely, definitely. For customer service — I mean, in Pakistan, the second language, I mean, English is obviously a second language, but they, for past 10 to 15 years, they start teaching from grade one. So obviously, the level is good. But if you compare to a US resource, you cannot compare. Obviously, there is a difference in skill set and all those things. But what I suggest is whenever you’re working with VA, or you’re going to delegate, I tell people that you need to build your templates. That’s very important.

There could be communication, which is outside of those templates which can be handled, but you need to have your templates, and every business has different scenarios, and you need to build those templates so your VA can easily use those situations, scenarios, and reply to customers, or Amazon using those templates. So that is another way of doing smart things. Rather than yourself, you’re putting yourself basically applying the same thing over and over again.

Steve: Do people ever outsource their voice support over to you guys, because I know you guys do more than just Amazon?

Omer: Yes. I mean, voice support, not much. I mean, they can call to Amazon, okay or they can talk to their customers as well, but not much, mostly focused on PPC and listing optimization. And some of our clients have their own rep in US which they would like to use.

Steve: Okay. And I know, I’ve heard some stories about this in the past, but have you ever seen the issues with Amazon sellers allowing freelancers and VAs into their Amazon accounts? And the reason I bring this up is because I have a buddy who once allowed a VA into his account, and that VA had been doing some suspicious activity with other accounts kind of inadvertently and he ended up getting suspended for a brief period.

Omer: Mm-hmm. I mean, that’s a very important point. I mean, that’s how — we try to manage it in this way. Like we have our own offices and all of the traffic is managed. The very first thing, whenever we work with someone, we will tell them, like what is your scope of work? What exactly you want your VA to do? Okay. And then we suggest, okay, we need permission using user permissions of those stuffs, don’t allow us anything else, okay. And we continuously review that after a month or so if let’s say, the VA is just focusing on some tasks and he is not authorized for other one, we tell the client right away, you need to take back access for those stuffs. So it’s very important.

I mean, Amazon encourages people to give their staff permission using user permissions rather than giving them admin account. So the way like you have seen in offices, people have signs like no smoking, so we have signs, posters in our offices saying no admin account, okay? Don’t log into any admin account. So there is no admin account, obviously, and everybody who’s starting, who is thinking about delegating it, they need to make sure that whoever they give access, it should be through user permission. And they also need to inquire about, let’s say, a freelancer, if he or she has admin account, because they need to add that extra layer as well.

My younger brother, he’s a cyber line Pro local, cybercrime lawyer, and he recently recorded a video as well just to educate people that what they need to do when they are delegating, just to make sure they are not end up giving their account to a freelancer who is basically also having his own account or managing someone else’s account through admin access. So you need to be very careful, make sure. And also, one other thing you could do and all of our client do with us is sign NDA as well. So in this way, they are safe since we are located in the US. So, we sign NDA with everybody, whoever gets our services. So that’s another layer you can add to just protect yourself.

Steve: So what are some of the biggest issues and pitfalls you see with Amazon sellers? What do they run into while outsourcing? Like what are some of the common problems that you’ve witnessed?

Omer: I mean, let’s start with if someone is very fresh and start planning to sell on Amazon. I think the major mistake which they make is they rush into their product research, okay, they don’t spend much time looking at different categories and looking into different options, looking at the market, their competitors, they rush into first product. I mean, that is fine if you have a lot of money, but let’s say if you’re trying to build your dream, and if you’re working full time, and you have low budget, so you have to be very careful when you are selecting the first product.

The way we do is now like for the past one and a half year we started — we said okay, you don’t have to hire a VA, we could give you a small package where you could hire someone for a time being who could do product research. So this way you are safe, you basically get maybe five or six choices of product research and products, and then you could basically order them in like less than 100 items, and launch maybe four or five, and obviously one or two is going to work. That should be your product rather than just rushing into the product research phase, and then ordering thousands of items and they are just sitting in a warehouse or Amazon.

And that’s how you basically, the dream you’re trying to build or being an entrepreneur or having your online business, it’s basically you just making a mistake right there. That’s for people who are starting up. So if you’re starting out, just make sure you spend your time just learning about basic stuff and spend time on product research.

Steve: I guess specifically what I was asking is what are some of the problems or unrealistic expectations that people have when hiring a VA and what are some common mistakes? So for example, let’s say I get a VA, and I expect this VA to be able to do everything right off the bat, and I just throw everything over and expect my business to take off. It’s stuff like that, what are some, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see people performing when they’re just dealing with VAs for the first time?

Omer: Sure. I mean, there are two things. First thing is people who basically give everything to their VA, okay, and then they expect that this VA is going to work like them in first two months, or one month or two. It’s going to take time. Basically, if you’re making a photocopy of yourself, it’s going to take some time to have level of that VA, if basically, your level as a VA should have your level, so it’s going to take some time, that’s the first thing, okay? Obviously, you have to review some of the stops in the beginning, you have to spend some time so that you need to have real expectation. They going to do stuff for you, but as an owner of the business, you have to review their stuff and make sure there are things which need to be improved next time, you highlight those on, okay, you do that.

The second thing which I have observed, a lot of people, they get their VAs okay, but they don’t know how to delegate. They still like to micromanage their VAs. And that takes a lot of time. And that creates a lot of frustration on our end as well. And we basically, the way we have structured our business model is every VA has a quality assurance manager. So whenever someone gets a VA, we provide complimentary quality assurance manager who reviews the work before it is submitted to a client. So the quality assurance manager maybe has like 10 to 15 years under him and he makes sure that the quality of work is delivered.

But on the client end, if start doing micromanaging, it’s not going to work. It’s basically you have – you now you’re managing your VA and then you have to do your work and that creates a lot of frustration as well. So whenever when I talk to someone and they said, we need to hire a VA and I say that are you ready to delegate and said, what do you mean? I say, well, did you listed all of your tasks you want to do and how you’re going to monitor those? And I mean a lot of people they say they are not ready, or they have not thought about that. And I said; spend some time before doing that. We can educate you in first few weeks that how you need to monitor work of your VA or what are some best practices, we can educate you.

Because at the end of the day, what we want to do is we want to free up some of their time, so they could focus on strategy or important part of their business to grow their business. Let’s say if they are good in product manufacturing or product research, they can focus on that and all of their day to day tasks can be managed by a VA. So these are the two things which we observe that people have issue when they try to delegate.

Steve: And specific to UrTasker, you employ all of your people and VAs. So if I were to go to you, does that imply that I might be sharing a VA with other sellers?

Omer: Okay, so let’s say if you’re hiring a full time VA, okay, obviously, that VA is fully dedicated to you. Or if you’re hiring like let’s say, a half VA or four hours of VA, obviously that we have to put their hours somewhere else. But most of our clients have dedicated VAs and they love that, because they have someone who they can reach out every day, at any point in time during the day, they can call them, Skype them, message them so they have this back office team during the whole day. And that’s how people have built their team from one VA to like 15 VAs right now.

Steve: Is there an option to hire the VA outside of you guys like if you like them?

Omer: Outside of us, what do you mean by that?

Steve: Meaning you just want them as an employee of us and not of UrTasker, does that make sense?

Omer: Yes, a couple of people have presented that. I mean, I wouldn’t say a couple of, maybe one or two. But there is an option, they can do that. But obviously, they have to pay a certain number of fees.

Steve: Sure. I was just wondering if that was a common practice. And I’m just kind of curious, since your team is in Pakistan, how much would it realistically cost for me to have a full time VA handle my Amazon listings and my PPC and my inventory management, that sort of thing?

Omer: I would say that probably less than, way less than if you hire a full time resource in your office.

Steve: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’m just trying to get an idea. I don’t know if you feel comfortable just giving me a ballpark?

Omer: Sure. I mean, it depends on the skill set. We have basically three packages and that ranges from $6 to $15 per hour. So it depends on the scope of the work, what exactly you’re looking for. I mean, a lot of people have hired expert level VA as well, because they found it very helpful to have someone, there is only month to month contract, you’re not paying for anything. We take care of everything basically, we take care of their trainings, we take care of their benefits, we provide — I mean, obviously, we’re providing backups to clients whenever they go on vacation or something like that.

So we take care of that, we have a lot of benefits that we will provide them since they work full time employee, so we take care of that, I mean everybody. On top of that what we do is, which help us a lot in past three years, is that we get a client feedback every month. And based on that feedback from our payroll, we give them bonuses. So client is not paying for that, they are just paying the fixed amount. But that help us a lot in growing our practice because everybody is interested to make their client happy.

Steve: Sure. Yeah, I’m just thinking in the back of my mind right now, I guess a couple things I might be nervous about would be like if that person decides to leave you, leave UrTasker, the person that’s been assigned me who has intimate knowledge of my business, and then all of a sudden I have to start all over with someone new, right? I guess it’s the same whether they’re an employee of my own.

Omer: What we offer is basically we say that, okay, obviously, whoever leaves they have to provide us a two month notice. So, we basically prepare the replacement during that time, and obviously, the client has to agree, are they have to be happy with that new guy. Let’s say if someone leaves immediate notice or whatever the situation is, we take care of the replacement better in training. So let’s say if the new guy needs two big training, we’re not going to charge to client, we’re going to take care of that. So replacement is complimentary as well.

Steve: Can you give me an idea of what I get for six bucks as opposed to $15 like at the ends of the scale?

Omer: Sure. So six bucks is I would say like someone who has six months or one year experience, okay, and they could do like basic data entry. Obviously, they’re trained on Amazon, eBay or Shopify, Walmart, but they would know basic stuff with one year experience. Then we have specialist and expert and expert is basically lot of people who use for PPC management, just focusing on PPC. We work with a lot of agencies as well, they get those guys. But the middle one is the most popular one specialist one where he or she can manage all the tasks for listing, listing optimization, PPC management, all those things.

Steve: So it sounds like realistically for like 10 to $12, you can get someone to just do listing optimization, PPC management, and all the basic tasks I guess that an Amazon seller requires. And then the most expensive part would be just specialists that have been doing this for a very long time if you need more specialized help.

Omer: Definitely yes.

Steve: Okay cool. Hey Omer, I also wanted to give you a chance to talk a little bit about UrTasker and the special offer that you’re giving. Before you talk about that, I just wanted to just mention that I had — the reason why I came across Omer in the first place for the listeners out there is they came to me and they said, hey, we’re willing to do this free account audit for you. And because I treat my e-commerce business like a laboratory, I was like, sure, why not? Let’s see if they can find anything.

And during this free audit, they discovered that my team had made a couple of mistakes on my Amazon listings and they were there actually embarrassing mistakes. I guess someone on my team had mistakenly put something in the incorrect field on my Amazon listing and once that was rectified, sales have gone up close to 30%. And when you have a lot of listings, oftentimes you might lose track of some little details and just using and getting another set of eyeballs on your listings is actually quite helpful. So sorry, Omer, tell them about this, the service and where they can find you.

Omer: Sure. I mean, what we offer is — I think we offer at Sellers Summit as well and through people who are coming from your podcast, it’s a special offer as well. Whenever we onboard someone or we talk to anyone, the very first thing we do is account audit, just to make sure how your account is doing. Basically, it serves two purposes. On your side, it tells you like, do we really know Amazon? That’s how we know each other when I talked to you and you said, what is UrTasker? I don’t know. I said; okay let me do an account audit. And we did that and we found a couple of things which are helpful to you.

So we do a very detailed account audit. And I’m going to offer through this podcast free of cost. We could basically audit your account, and if you want us to focus on some listing, we could do that as well, just to find out and it’s great information, no obligation you take it, okay. If you like it, that’s great. And you could basically use that information to improve your account, or make those changes. And it shows you that what we know about Amazon. So it’s a free account audit, it takes us two to three days to perform. So that is the offer which I have.

Steve: Yeah. So just for you guys listening out there, you got nothing to lose. Like I said, Omer just came up to me and said, hey, let me audit your Amazon listings. And I didn’t think he was going to find anything to be honest with you. But he ended up doing it. And it’s actually this PDF report that he sends you which is pretty good. So I mean, even if you already been selling on Amazon for a while, it’s worth just getting this account audit, which is free. And since that, they found some stuff and I’ve been using UrTasker to do some listing optimization and basically just to check up on my work. Anyways, so Omer, they can find you at UrTasker.com, right?

Omer: Yes.

Steve: Okay. And they can just ask about this offer they just heard on the podcast.

Omer: Yes, they can ask us through Facebook, on our website. Our reps are there so you could find us.

Steve: Awesome. Well Omer, I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your wisdom with respect to outsourcing. Thanks a lot.

Omer: Thank you so much. And at the end, I would say that I was at the Sellers Summit and it was great, great summit, and I would tell everybody to go next year. It was such a great summit. I still have memories, talked to so many people. It was so different. It was amazing.

Steve: Awesome. And I hope we’ll see you there next year again.

Omer: Definitely.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Omer: Take care.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now if you find yourself overwhelmed with your e-commerce business, it makes sense to outsource some of these tasks overseas. And right now I have a full time VA in the Philippines who has worked out great and I’ve used UrTasker to help update my Amazon listings as well. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode263.

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 parameter 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.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, 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!

262: How Amazon Counterfeits Nearly Destroyed A 7 Figure Business With Kevin Williams

Today I’m really excited to have Kevin Williams back on the show. Kevin runs the site BrushHero.com where he sells a power cleaning brush.

Last time we spoke on episode 209, Kevin’s company was doing great, sales were going gangbusters and they had just been on Shark Tank. But last year, things took a sharp turn due to an unfortunate sequence of events involving IP theft and piracy.

In today’s episode, Kevin and I talk about what happened and how he almost lost his entire business.

What You’ll Learn

  • The revenue and profit of Kevin’s business
  • How Shark Tank affected sales
  • The dangers of comingling inventory
  • Amazon’s take down policy for trademark and patent infringement
  • How to fight the fakes

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 dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today, I’m thrilled to have my friend Kevin Williams back on the show. And the last time I had Kevin on; his business was flying high and growing at an exponential rate. But this past year, a group of malicious Amazon sellers basically came close to destroying his entire multimillion dollar business. And in this interview, we’re going to talk about what happened and what you can do to fight the counterfeits.

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%.

You can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pops and abandoned cart 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. Whether you’re getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale, Klaviyo offers fast, simple and repeatable ways to grow. And with Klaviyo you can personalize your marketing, build your customer relationships and automate your online sales. And it is now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. So I just want to introduce Klaviyo’s new entrepreneur growth guide. It is packed with must read blog posts, case studies and getting started content and this guide will help you prioritize what you need to do to maximize revenue growth.

Now moving to a new marketing platform can be intimidating. But Klaviyo helps you get up and going fast with proven technology and countless support resources. Now you can explore this free content now over at Klaviyo.com/mywife. Once again, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife, now on to the show.

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

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really excited to have Kevin Williams back on the show. And Kevin runs a site BrushHero.com where he sells a power cleaning brush that hooks up to your hose and spins with a lot of torque to clean up hard to clean objects like wheels, bikes, boats, and more. Anyways, last time we spoke on episode 209, Kevin’s company was kicking butt, they had just been on Shark Tank, sales were going like gangbusters. But last year, things took a sharp turn due to an unfortunate sequence of events involving IP theft and piracy. And I want to let Kevin talk about what happened. And with that welcome to the show Kevin, how are you doing today?

Kevin: I’m doing great, Steve, how about yourself?

Steve: I’m doing well. And you sound great by the way.

Kevin: So last time we talked was…

Steve: Six to eight months ago I want to say right.

Kevin: Yes, six or eight months, February or March last year. Our Shark Tank episode aired right at the end of January, which to be honest, was a little sub optimal for a water power clean brush. But still all the anecdotes you hear about Shark Tank are pretty much true. We got a bunch of media attention, we got a surge in sales, real high levels of morale. And then we realized that the judges and the American public weren’t the only people that were watching Shark Tank. It turns out that a lot of Chinese manufacturers were watching Shark Tank as well.

Steve: Why is it always the Chinese manufacturers? I mean, you could have just said manufacturers. But I guess they were…

Kevin: No, it was Chinese manufacturers.

Steve: Oh they were, okay right.

Kevin: It’s true. It’s true that it is — it could easily have been Bangladeshi or…

Steve: I’m just giving you a hard time sorry, go on.

Kevin: But it is a good question, it really is. And I think the answer in my case is that because it’s an injection molded product, and China is the land of injection molded products. For clarity, I produce my product in the UK and then assemble it in the US. So I don’t actually do Chinese injection molding. But China is the source of all things plastic, generally speaking.

Steve: That’s correct.

Kevin: Anyway, so we’re doing well, we’re selling a lot of units, even though it was cold and dank outside. And then right around the end of April and the beginning of May, we started to see fakes pop up. And the way that we just discovered it was truly unfortunate. We started to get calls into our customer service department saying, hey, my brush popped off or the turbine just broke, or hey, this thing is just a piece of junk. Or most disturbingly, why does it say made in China on the box? That raised all kinds of red flags.

So we had some really well-meaning customers send in their packaging and it turned out that not only did we have knockoffs, but they were true fakes. They were using all of our images, including images of me, they put our patent numbers and our customer service phone number right on their fake box. So after they sold the product, and people had trouble, those customers rightfully dialed that customer service number and it was absolutely devastating for us.

Steve: Are you sure the – so how did this affect sales? So first of all what were your numbers in profit? I guess the last time we talked and what happened immediately after that happened?

Kevin: Well, we were on a big upswing anyway. Before Shark Tank, we had both Walmart and Costco retail distribution heading our way. So we were – oh gosh, in 2017 we were heading towards $3 million. After Shark Tank in 2018, we were projecting hitting about five and a half million dollars all things considered. Remember, this is early in our season. Our season really hits its stride somewhere in April, May, June somewhere, but we absolutely started to see some sales impacts because first there was one and then there were two and then there were five and then there were dozens and dozens and dozens.

First day really popped up on eBay. Then they popped up on the Amazon EU marketplaces, we sell in most of the Amazon marketplaces. It actually lagged a little bit with Amazon US because due to a quirk of fate, we had brand restriction or brand gating in the US, which prevented sellers from selling on our listing.

Steve: How do you get brand new gating by the way? What did you have to go through to get that?

Kevin: You have to know the right people. No, that’s not true. Brand restriction, which is the actual term that Amazon uses, we all say brand gating. Amazon doesn’t really like that term. But brand restriction is granted on a case by case basis. And it’s rarely, rarely granted. My supposition is often it’s granted these days as a result of arbitration or litigation of some kind. In my case, our brand was a very early participant in something called the Launchpad program. And the Launchpad program was what Amazon was terming an incubator for little brands to help them grow.

And I think that our rep at some point, just basically flipped the switch on the back end, we didn’t get any proactive notice about it. We didn’t even know it had happened until we had an authorized reseller try and list the product and bump into the gating screen or restriction screen, which says, hey, you need written permission in order to sell this brand. Honestly, there was a ton of rejoicing in our ranks when we found that. We were like, yay, we’re gated, we’re safe, it’s good. And then gating went away.

Steve: They took it away?

Kevin: They didn’t take it away. As best as we can figure, there was a big upgrade in the Amazon Brand Registry system in May, April, May of last year to Brand Registry 2.0 which offers a whole bunch of new IP enforcement tools to sellers, which is great. But when we upgraded it, we think it did something on the back end of Amazon that just refreshed our records. Amazon has zero record of us ever being restricted but we totally were. In retrospect, I really wish that we’d taken screenshots and had some sort of proof that we had restriction in place because once it went away, Amazon just said, no, you weren’t. We had really no way to do anything about it.

So basically, hours after gating went away, we had our first hijacker on Amazon. And for your audience, the difference between a hijacker and say an imitator is that the hijacker actually lifts on your listing. So they undercut your price and they sell a counterfeit or alternate version of your product. And they steal the Amazon buy box, which gives you the best opportunity for sale. This is different from somebody just listing and another product that similar or even a counterfeit of your product in parallel.

And it’s much more damaging because the listing that we had established over several years of operations had 1,200 reviews, it had over a four star ranking. It had keyword relevance all over the map. We were pushing traffic to it externally through media activities like Shark Tank and our own Facebook activities. So it was horrifying because we had all of these dollars that were floating around there in marketing and all of those dollars were basically going to Chinese fakes.

Steve: So these fakes, these are the guys that were copying your packaging, everything, your customer service numbers, everything exactly, except it was made in China.

Kevin: Except it was made in China. Well, it was all inferior quality. I like to quip that had they done a better job with the counterfeit, everything would it be a lot better for everybody because the counterfeit was such low quality that it just didn’t work. My device is — it is a little complicated as far as a spinning brush, and they just sort of slapped it together. So my brand was then on a product that just didn’t function very well. So the next thing that happened is because it was being sold on my listing on Amazon, I got just a flood of one star reviews. So I had something like 150 one star reviews in a row, just it was funk, a POS etc.

Steve: So those who weren’t malicious right, those were legit one star reviews.

Kevin: Oh yeah, that wasn’t one of these scenarios where somebody is like paying to hurt me. These are real customers who thought they were buying my product and instead got a fake version that was a piece of junk. And they got on the internet and they told the world. That was a giant deal. So we went from number one in the number of categories to just off the first page, sales plummeted by 50% plus on those listings, and that’s not even including the issues that we had with the hijackers.

Steve: How did they get the buy box? Were they just drastically undercutting the price? Is that what happened?

Kevin: Sure, yeah. We had both FBM, so fulfilled by merchant hijackers at extremely low prices that were shipping direct from China. And we had FBA hijackers, who were either directly placing their inventory in Amazon under their own seller name, or they were commingling their inventory in Amazon based on just the UPC.

Steve: Let’s talk a little bit about that. So first of all, if you wouldn’t mind defining commingling for the audience, that’d be great.

Kevin: So commingling is seems to me that it’s on the way out. But a few years ago, Amazon, it was really hard to the idea that you could have what you call fungible inventory. So we all know what a UPC is, the labels in individual product. Well, from Amazon’s perspective, if two products have the same UPC, they’re the same product. So if you Steve in California are selling let’s just say a coke, and I’m in Utah selling a coke and they both have the same UPC, and we’re selling it on Amazon, from the consumers’ perspective, as long as those products are identical. It doesn’t matter if Amazon grabs your piece of inventory or my piece of inventory, because they’re fungible, they’re the same thing right?

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: That breaks badly when you have a counterfeit situation. Because in the vast fulfillment centers of Amazon, what happened was, we ended up with a boatload of products that had our UPC on them, but were fakes. So I would end up selling a product to someone that totally legit, I’d have the buy box, but an Amazon fulfillment center would grab a fake off the rack, and then they’d ship that to that customer. So now the customer gets a fake that I actually sold. And then they go back and they write a one star review.

Now, I go back to Amazon and say, hey Amazon, you know we’re having a fake problem, a counterfeit problem, help me out here, this one star review is clearly related to it. And Amazon says no way. Look here, this buyer Steve is connected to one of your orders. And since they’re connected to your order, you sold it to them and go on, prove to us that the inventory we shipped is fake, and just can’t. The flip side is the fake seller would occasionally sell a real unit to their people. So somebody would buy a real Brush Hero for 9.99 or 12.99, and get my real product.

Steve: So what’s confusing to me is I remember, you were featured in Inc. Magazine recently and it said that you are the only seller of your product. So what are the chances that someone else would be selling it and so what advantage did you have on commingling your inventory?

Kevin: It was encouraged by Amazon early on in that from an Amazon fulfillment efficiency perspective a lot of my inventory tends to go to Stockton, the Stockton fulfillment center for whatever reason. But if I have an East Coast customer and some East Coast seller of the product had the product and inventory over there, they’d far rather be able to give the amazon customer one day delivery than two or three day delivery by having to airfreight it from Stockton.

Imagine what that would cost if all my inventory was in Stockton, and I had a New York customer and Amazon needs to meet their prime promise for New York, yeah, a New York customer, they’re going to have to fly that thing all the way across the country. And they’ll do it so they can satisfy that customer. But when they analyzed it, they thought oh well, inventory is inventory, all the UPCs are the same. So why not just pick the one from New York? It also saved some complexity in my warehouse. Most of my volume actually comes off Amazon. It is from retail and from my direct channels. So if I’m having to sticker Amazon inventory with FN SKUs, it just adds complexity, it adds a little cost etc. In retrospect, it was a huge mistake. So if you take one thing away from this Amazon sellers, don’t ever commingle your inventory, don’t do it.

Steve: So what you just said implies that you have resellers that are actually selling your product legitimately, right?

Kevin: No, I don’t. I have pretty tight channel control. In various times that has happened. It’s not something we encourage, it’s not any part of our strategy. And in our reseller agreements, we actually prohibit it now. But for a brief time, we thought that it might be a good idea. That’s also a horrible idea. If you can control Amazon, you should control Amazon.

Steve: Okay. All right. So in terms of – all right, so obviously, you complained to Amazon. And what happened after that? First of all, what is Amazon’s takedown policy for this sort of thing?

Kevin: So we have three different types of protection in Amazon. We have well, three different types of intellectual property protection in general. We have utility patents, US and some international utility patents, we have our trademarks which are registered with a USPTO and we have general copyright protection. In Amazon land, in excess of 85% of our successful take downs, actually just at large, 85% of our successful take downs are related to copyrights. And the reason why is there is something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, even Google or others to make a reasonable effort to remove infringing copyright material once it’s reported.

So they’re pretty clean and clear reporting mechanisms and Amazon for saying, hey, this is clearly our image. Where it gets really complicated is when a seller who may or may not be in your listing by the way, a lot of these copyright claims are, they’re not hijacking our listing, they’re actually creating a parallel listing, and then they steal our images. So there’s a picture of me standing there cleaning my neighbor’s dog, literally. And that’s something that’s in one of our listings. And it’s pretty obvious that it’s me, and we can point to the copyright and Amazon will take that down, sometimes in as little as 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, not a big deal.

Where it really stinks is when there’s a hijacker or there’s somebody who’s not superficially using copyrighted material. You actually have to purchase the item, and demonstrate the copyright or trademark infringement. So again, my brand is Brush Hero. So I bet if you looked on one of the Amazons right now, you’d find something called 360 brush cleaner. And 360 brush cleaner at this point has done away with stealing my images but they’re still using the box. So I have to buy the product, have it shipped from China, which can take two or three weeks and then photograph the box, which always still includes pictures of me, and then report the box. Meanwhile, that listing has been sitting up and active for two or three weeks, and it’s been siphoning off small amounts of my traffic the whole time.

The most insidious example of this was over Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend. I was on — you should never go on vacation that particular weekend. Yeah, in e-commerce world, you pretty much give up Thanksgiving. But I was in San Francisco with my family. And right around four o’clock on Thanksgiving afternoon, we had seven hijackers pop up on our listing, because they knew full well that it being a US holiday, followed by Black Friday, followed by a weekend followed by Cyber Monday, it wasn’t likely that Amazon was going to be able to take down those listings.

So even though we reported them by 4:30 on Thanksgiving, it took until Tuesday or Wednesday for them to go down. So on one of the biggest sales weekends of the year, and this was just a few months ago, we didn’t own our buy box for significant portions of the time. And that could have directly cost us $30,000 over that weekend. It’s sort of hard to quantify. But they’re smart. They know what they’re doing. They know how the system works, and they know how to work it.

Steve: All right, so you just presented two problems. So it sounds like the parallel listings are not really a problem. Is that accurate?

Kevin: No, they are definitely a problem. They’re out there. They look a lot like our product. They generally have low star rankings.

Steve: But they’re not pretending to be you. It’s just like another piece of competition from your perspective, right?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah, at this point, it’s less of a problem now because we’ve been very effective in our whack a mole efforts. I looked last evening, and we have 7,200 individual intellectual property actions since May.

Steve: Oh my gosh, okay. Do you automate this process or is it just like a real manual process?

Kevin: We use — last year, when it was really starting to ramp up, at one point we employed three different intellectual property whack a mole firms. I mean, that really is the best way to describe them. These are firms that specialize in identifying keywords, images, multilingual references to your product in market places all over the world. And they’ve established API, or in some cases manual reporting mechanisms through those. And just every single day, they’re refining and reporting more.

I also have a virtual assistant who spends a chunk of every day doing our own internal checks and then adding those to the firm we use, which the firm that we landed on is one called Pointer Brand, which is out of the Netherlands. They’ve been a very good partner. And we now have a lot of data as far as who these people are, where they’re coming from, what the countries are, etc.

Steve: Okay, so you went to Amazon and there’s this process for getting them taken down. So presumably, once you actually get the product in hand, you take a picture, and they’ll take it down, right. But obviously more pop up faster than you can take them down. So what can you do about that?

Kevin: Well, we are a participant in the transparency program; it hasn’t fully kicked in yet. But that’s an individual unit labeling program that provides a born on date, and basically a unique identity for each unit. So if you were to use your Amazon consumer app and scan one of these little QR codes on the back of my product, it would say built in Salt Lake City in November of 2018 because that’s when we initiated that particular production run that the stickers are using. Amazon is supposed to prohibit units that don’t have the transparency code affixed to them from entering circulation. But we have yet to see that kick in. It’s in process, I have faith in it, but it hasn’t fully kicked in yet.

Similarly, there’s an FBM version that requires fulfilled by merchant sellers to demonstrate that they have the QR codes through photographic evidence. But that is in beta and hasn’t fully rolled out yet either, so other ways to prevent this from happening.

Steve: So before it came back up on the transparency program, why hasn’t it kicked in yet exactly, or what hasn’t kicked in yet?

Kevin: It’s a big rollout for Amazon, and they’re still basically trying to figure it out. We enrolled in transparency in mid-2018 and it has, it’s still rolling out. The fulfillment centers are still dealing with how to find these codes and identify them and scan them accurately etc.

Steve: Are you paying money for this right now?

Kevin: So yes, you pay five cents a code plus you have the sticker itself, which is it can be a center too and then you have to adhere it. So I would say I’m spending 10 cents a unit to make this happen. There’s no subscription fee, there’s no recurring fee that’s tied to it. Given the issues I’ve had and the sort of financial impact we’ve had, to me it was a no brainer to at least give it a try to see if it would work.

Steve: It’s really new so I’m not sure what the procedure is. So let’s say someone gets a fake, are you supposed to have that customer report that code to Amazon?

Kevin: So they wouldn’t be able to have a code. It should never make it into the Amazon system. These things are — they look like little QR codes, and like a data matrix and every single one of them is unique. Unlike an FN SKU which is the Amazon unit identifier within the fulfillment system, you can print those right on a box and it’s not going to change. Every single unit I have has a slightly different QR matrix that is machine readable. Theoretically, those are encrypted and it would be very, very difficult for somebody to spoof them. They can spoof one and copy it over and over again but Amazon is supposed to pick up on that.

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Right, okay, and that infrastructure is not in place yet right, the detection and enforcement?

Kevin: It is in place. It’s just it doesn’t feel like it’s at full force yet. We know that we still have hijackers, and we know that we still have fakes. This is one of — I feel pretty positive about this program. And I feel that Amazon will get it under control, they will recognize this issue. This is one of the ways that they have to mitigate it. And I absolutely see down the road, everyone who’s in any sort of sensitive category, like toys or nutraceuticals or high counterfeit items, you’ll see Amazon pushing everybody towards this program, I’m sure.

Steve: So that actually solves a problem at the end customer. But is there anything that you can do at the source to like shut down the manufacturers themselves?

Kevin: So we have — in 2018, we filed for a pile of Chinese intellectual property documents. So we filed for utility patents, for trademark protection, for copyrights, etc. Those are all going through the Chinese patents in the intellectual property system right now. And had we had the trademark in particular filed in China, we would have had a lot more teeth. Alibaba has been a decent partner as far as taking down trademark violations because they recognize the bad press it creates, but some of the others less so. And they want to see that there’s actually a Chinese violation. In my opinion, the Chinese tend to respect Chinese law a little bit more than they do other laws. So had I had those pieces in place before, I may have been able to stem the tide.

Steve: Did they register the trademark in China though?

Kevin: They did.

Steve: Oh my god. Okay.

Kevin: So they registered my patents, they registered my trademarks; they even tried to register some of my copyrights. We’ve won some of the trademark battles; we’re probably going to lose the patent battles. But we’re actually trying at this point just to invalidate their patents based on the fact that there was prior art as in the product is already out there. So you don’t get to patent it. But it’s expensive. And I think this is it’s a good point to be made. People say, oh, what do you wish you’d done differently? Well, the company was headed towards $3 million in revenue.

Had I known what was going to happen to me at that sort of scale, it probably would have made sense for me to file for the Chinese trademarks then. And it’s ended up costing me almost $50,000 to do that. So that’s not an easy thing to do for a small company that’s growing really rapidly. I would way rather spend that $50,000 on most of a new person or a new product or whatever. But instead, I’ve been playing whack a mole. So before we went on Shark Tank, which that was never a sure thing, right. It’s not like you know you’re going to go and you know you’re going to air. But we were on an upswing, things were going in the right direction. So it would have been smart for us to invest in that sort of protection before we grow.

Steve: So trademark is $50,000 in China?

Kevin: Well, but by the time you go through a reputable firm and register for multiple categories, and in our case, we had to battle down the previous filers of our trademark. So there was some back and forth, not necessarily litigation, but there was a lot of administrative process that we had to go through. Had we filed before there was anyone, it would have been quite a bit less than that. I don’t have a particularly good number. We also went through a large US law firm DLA Piper, because at that point we just needed to make it happen and make it happen right. I’m positive that if you found local council, you could pay a lot less.

Steve: But once you have the trademark, I guess your point is you could have shut these people down?

Kevin: Faster and easier. It would have stemmed the tide. Just picture it like a funnel at the very top of the funnel, it’s like an inverted funnel are the manufacturers. And as far as we know, we had at least five distinct manufacturers making the product. And that comes from an analysis of the fakes that we’ve seen and their mold lines and things like that. They’re all slightly different from each other. And if those guys are getting battered down when they’re doing their first test runs, they may decide not to proceed with the run. But we also think that they made hundreds of thousands of units.

And although we’ve been very successful in battling them, they’re still out there, and they’re still out there in big piles, and they’re devalued because their customers don’t want to buy them because they know that we as the brand are going to go after them with vigor. So now they’re pretty much dumping the inventory. We’re seeing listings popping up. Yesterday we had one pop up in Bangladesh; we see them in like Bolivia, and really crazy places. Those of you who backpack and travel, you might well see my product in like third world market places, because the Chinese are now selling them at a loss just to get rid of the inventory.

Steve: I want to talk a little bit about I guess the value of a patent. I mean, I can’t even imagine how much money, it sounds expensive everything that you’ve done. I don’t know if you have a number for that. But when you get a patent, which you had both the trademark and a patent like how truly valuable is that?

Kevin: So when I tell people what I do, I’m really not just Brush Hero, we own a couple of different patent lines, or we have licenses for a couple of different patent lines. And that was what we built our business on this idea that we could test products, figure out what works, license the patents or acquire the patents and then grow from there and the patent would give us some level of protection. In those 7,200 take downs, I think at last count we had something like 23 that were patent related. So 7,200 intellectual property take downs and 23 the grounds were patent.

And we suspect those were basically accidents. Somebody like Alibaba just — we claim whatever we can, and Alibaba maybe clicked the box that said patent. And the reason why is the big platforms aren’t in the business of arbitrating patents. You just think about Amazon and one garlic press versus another garlic press, one has a patent in one doesn’t, how the heck is Amazon supposed to make the difference between them. So if you pursue a patent action in Amazon, they say that’s great, show us the court order. And pursuing a court decision for patents can cost you $100,000 each.

It’s also sort of worthless, because given the whack a mole aspect of this, if you were to get one amazon seller shut down under a patent, it’s pretty easy for them to just shift their inventory to another seller name, and you take down lanky one and then two days later, you’ve got lanky two who pops up. And guess what, that’s a different seller. So now you have to go through the court order again. That is enormously frustrating. So for superficial, tactical, intellectual property enforcement, the patents have not been useful to us.

Steve: Okay, so I guess the next question is, should that be a priority for someone?

Kevin: Well, think of it this way. We are — now we have pretty broad distribution in these big retailers. And we are establishing this category of the hose power water brush, right. And if we didn’t have the patent, all of this work that we’ve done could easily be replicated by people who are real and big and can just crush us. So I’m not saying they would do this. But imagine somebody like AutoZone, who runs a lot of their own private label products. If we didn’t have a patent on this, we spent all of these dollars developing the category. And it would be pretty easy for them to go out and make their own version of it, and basically shut us down.

Steve: I guess that’s the case for people that play by the rules, right? But let’s say someone in China decided to create a better mousetrap than you did and sell it. It doesn’t sound like there’s much you could do, right?

Kevin: No, there’s really not much I can do.

Steve: So it’s basically a projection.

Kevin: [Overlapping 00:33:50] small scale.

Steve: Yeah, it basically protects you from people who play by the rules, which I guess is like US manufacturers or whoever obeys those laws, right?

Kevin: Sure. At the end of the day, that’s what the big business is, right? So I’m growing past the point of these kind of little transactional issues and now I’m gaining attention of big players. And my business was definitely hurt by the Chinese but my business could be ended if someone really big decided just to eat my lunch.

Steve: I’m kind of curious how you recovered off of that Amazon listing. So you’re getting 150 or whatever negative one star reviews and I imagine they’re just coming in on a regular basis. What do you do at that point, or what did you do at that point?

Kevin: This was a rough week; we eventually shut down that listing. And this was a listing that was doing seven figures a year, and was first in a number of keywords and a number of categories. And for the Amazon sellers out there they know how valuable that is. But once Amazon declined to help us with removing the reviews, we just couldn’t let it sit there with a 3.6 rating. It was having huge impact on the rest of our business. We would go visit a big retailer and the first thing the retailer would do is they go look at Amazon and they’d see 150 one star reviews.

So it wasn’t just about our direct sales. It was actually just it was hurting our brand everywhere. So we shut down the listing. We happened to have vendor central listing or vendor Express listing from our days in Launchpad that was a similar product that could be adapted. And we revived that one which had more like 150 reviews. And honestly, its stars weren’t awesome for other reasons, but it was way better than what we were looking at. So we shut down the awesome listing with 1,200 reviews, and we relaunched another one with 150. And to date we have not recovered our ranking. We have not recovered our velocity, we have we have less keyword relevance, etc.

Steve: What’s to stop the hijackers from finding this new listing and starting this process all over again?

Kevin: Oh, they have.

Steve: Oh they have, okay.

Kevin: Absolutely, they found it within days. We did get Amazon to fully close the old listing, which impaired the inventory that all the hijackers had and the fakes had. So they had to re-sticker everything, they had to call back inventory that probably hurt them a little bit. But as soon as the new listing was there, they re-stickered for this listing and sent it back in. But we were more geared up to fight them. So we take down seven or eight a day at this point.

Steve: Oh my God, that’s crazy.

Kevin: And it’s not just Amazon that’s everywhere, eBay is the worst, eBay makes up probably 90% of the claims. But yeah, we take down a bunch every single day. And we’re just faster about it and we’re better about it. If you were to do some brand search on us, you’d also see that we make clear that there are counterfeits out there. It’s painful, because I will end up with fakes in Google PLAs, which are product listing ads as well. So most of our direct to consumer sales come through Facebook advertising, which then leads to Google searches for our brand, which can yield a non-Amazon fake, say a Shopify store or a drop shipper, who has — they’re undercutting us in the PLA. So we have to fight that too.

Steve: So Kevin, I kind of want to, we talked about a bunch of stuff in this interview, I just want to kind of turn it into like a little summary of if you had to start all over again and you knew you were going to get on Shark Tank, for example, or you were going to get mass exposure, what are the steps that you would have taken ahead of time to mitigate this disaster?

Kevin: I think one, I would have been being more aware of international intellectual property, particularly in China. So I would have spent the money early on to get the protection that I need in China.

Steve: Which includes what, sorry?

Kevin: Trademark in particular, copyright filings, I would have filed for registered copyrights. This is something we haven’t touched on yet. But when at the bottom of your website, you put copyright My Wife Quit Her Job 2019; you are claiming the rights to the imagery and the copy on your website. But you’re not actually registering that. And in order to have any teeth in court, you need to register your copyright. You can do this pro se which means on your own with the USPTO. It’s actually a really simple process to take your website, to download a PDF version of it and submit the whole website to the USPTO as an actual registered work.

At the end of the day, after eight to 12 months, you receive a registration number. And that means that as opposed to reaching out to someone and saying, hey, you’re infringing, take it down, you can now reach out and say, hey, you’re infringing on this specific copyright registration. And that entitles us to statutory damages, which can be 10X per incident, actually, something like $30,000 per incident. So if you’ve taken six of my images, the statutory damage can be $180,000 for just the number of incidents, plus loss of income plus whatever you took in plus some sort of multiplier, it has a lot of teeth. But it takes a long time. So I would have done that. I would have filed…

Steve: So the regular copyright is not worth very much is that what you’re saying?

Kevin: Oh, it’s good as a tool for takedowns but you can’t really go to court and sue…

Steve: For damages.

Kevin: For damages with it.

Steve: Got it okay.

Kevin: It’s just a tool you can use to take down and obviously have everything copyrighted. Another thing that we do now that I wish we’d done is we do very tiny watermarks in all of our images, because a lot of the platforms are highly automated. So imagine if there’s a image of my brush that is 45 degrees to the right, it’s pretty easy in Photoshop just to flip that. So it’s 45 degrees to the left, and the sort of dumb AIs that are behind the reporting systems. I won’t pick that up necessarily. So what we do is we bury pixel level watermarks. They’re not obvious, but they’re pixel level watermarks in the images. So even if it’s skewed or distorted, we can point to that mark and say no, no, no, no, this is a derivative of our original work.

Steve: I see. So even manipulating the image and receiving in Photoshop, the watermark still gets preserved.

Kevin: Unless they know how to find it. And most of them are pretty lazy to be honest.

Steve: Okay.

Kevin: I’m trying to think of other things that we may have done. Transparency wasn’t there?

Steve: Well, okay. How about — I mean, assuming today, right?

Kevin: Yeah, transparency? Oh, yeah, I’d absolutely do transparency. That’s super important.

Steve: Where does – so if we could just prioritize all these steps, it seems like trademark is probably the most important one. Where does the transparency program fall into that?

Kevin: Well, I would say registering your copyrights. Even though that seems it’s just so easy to do and it has a long timeline to it. It costs $135 to file something like that, 150, whatever it is, but it takes eight to 12 months. Next, I would say the trademarks in China. And again, it would just be estimating, but 15 to $20,000, in multiple categories to file original trademarks, and figure that will take a year right. Transparency, because well, our experience with transparency is it’s taken six, eight months to happen. But we were one of the first companies, as far as I know to start down that road. I suspect if you started transparency now, it could be live in even a matter of two or three months. So think of it as far as timelines of things that you need to do and dependencies that you need to do.

Steve: Where does filing a patent internationally fall into this in terms of priority?

Kevin: Well, for me my business model is predicated on those patents. So patents can take a long time, and they can be very, very expensive to maintain. You want to know that you have some sort of commercial value in your product before you are going to spend all of that money. For me, that would be lightweight testing of a concept. Basically, minimum viable product stuff where you have the concept, you have the idea, put up a landing page, see if anybody cares. And if I’m really excited about it, and I’m going to invest in it, at that point, I would probably pursue the patent path. But to be clear, I license existing patents so I don’t have to do that.

Steve: Got it, no, no. Okay. That’s clear. What about your hijacker strategy now? Like let’s say, I’m sure a lot of people listening out there have hijackers and piggy backers. What is your strategy for getting them off right now? It sounds like it’s an automated — it’s not automated, but you have like a procedure for it now, right?

Kevin: So given the volume of my problems, I’m using one of these IP monitoring firms has been really useful for me. But that’s about $24,000 a year we’re paying the firm to help hold our hand. Once you understand how the process works, and how the Brand Registry reporting process works, it’s pretty straightforward to develop SOPs that you could implement internally. We just haven’t done it yet. But you can do it yourself based on scale. What you’re not going to catch yourself are the crazy things that are appearing in other countries, like the Bangladeshi listing like I would — I actually did catch that one. But generally speaking, you are going to be focused on the marketplaces where you sell. And meanwhile, your brand is being trounced in Brazil or other places. So you might find five years down the line that your brand reputation is ruined, because you haven’t been monitoring in these other countries.

Steve: Okay. But within the US, it’s as simple as going on the Amazon Brand Registry site for your brand and then reporting a violation there.

Kevin: Yes, the piece that’s really painful is the recognition that you have to buy the fake and a lot of people get stuck in this rut where they’re like, well, it’s obviously a fake. And Amazon says, well prove it. I actually had an Amazon employee telling me once that it was possible that I had shipped bulk product to some retailer in China who is now shipping it back from China one at a time at a quarter of the price that I was charging.

Steve: Crazy.

Kevin: Crazy. So, you can’t really fight the gorilla, you have to learn the rules of the Amazon jungle. And one of them is if you have a hijacker, do not try and fight them and prove to them that it’s a fake, you actually have to buy it. And we just hit this point, we buy them, we expedite them, we get them as fast as we can, we take pictures of them and then turn those around and submit those to Amazon. Super, super frustrating in the case of FBM from China, because of the time lag involved.

Steve: And I have a higher level question for you, Kevin. Has this been worth all the stress? I mean, that the Amazon Marketplace for your product?

Kevin: Oh, that’s a good question. I had a good life before. Yes, I mean, I am an entrepreneur. This is a neat brand. We’ve done neat things with it, we continue to grow. Even in the middle of this, we grew by 80% year over year. We could have grown by a lot more. This cost me the ability to acquire a new brand or invest in a new brand or develop new employees. But I am bullish on Amazon. I think there are big changes afoot as Amazon realizes the impact on their own brand of counterfeits, and you can see it coming.

There were big actions in vendor central just a couple of weeks ago, the implementation of this project zero thing that they’ve announced, which will, in my opinion, end up being the universal adoption of transparency codes. Amazon is not going away anytime soon, and the naysayers out there like if you just walk away and you don’t participate, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. So for me, it is worth it. It’s agonizing and it’s painful. And boy, it really was like waking up every day and getting kicked in the shins, but I’d probably do it again.

Steve: Okay. One thing I really appreciate about you, Kevin, is you actually decided to fight this. Not only did you fight it on your own, but you also got press coverage in Inc. Magazine, which I will link to underneath this interview. And I’m just kind of curious, I know there’s a lot of people who are getting violated out there. How did you manage to get Inc. to take your article and take your story live in public?

Kevin: So obviously, this was a huge mess for us. I had more faith than I should have in the Amazon system. And we contacted so many well-meaning awesome Amazon employees who absolutely could help us. We hit the director level within the transparency program. And even that person was at the end of the day only able to basically toss the information over a fence with a no reply email, he couldn’t make anything happen. So we decided that maybe the way to do this was to shine a light on the issue.

And so we put together a press release, telling our whole story, the Shark Tank thing, sort of American, this American entrepreneurial journey that we’ve had, and the fact that Amazon basically didn’t care at the end of the day. And then we targeted major media outlets that we thought might care. And more importantly, we thought that they might be read by Amazon people. Inc. was three or four down on that list. We solicited The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, and Money, Fortune, etc. And Inc. was the first one that bid. A reporter actually a bureau chief of San Francisco reached out to me. And it turned into a many week affair as far as interviews and back and forth, and me serving his background, making sure that there’s — there are a lot of anecdotes about that.

I’ve had a lot of Amazon adventures. But there are things I know that have happened to other people within our e-commerce community that haven’t happened to me directly. So I was then a resource for the reporter to go find those people and interview those people so that he could get directly quotable information about things like false positive reviews, or review dumping or some of the black hat stuff that’s floating around out there. And I just tried to collaborate with them as much as possible. I had no idea where it was going to go. They did get an exclusive on the story.

So once they picked up on it, we couldn’t solicit the story to others. But I didn’t really know if it was going to get published or what was going to happen. And then they announced that they were flying a photographer out from LA to Salt Lake City to meet with me. At that point, I realized, well heck, this is actually going to be a real story if they’re going to spend that sort of money to do that. And we did a whole photo shoot at our 3PL in Salt Lake, and they had me look pensively into the distance.

Steve: That was a really good shot actually; you look like the president of the United States.

Kevin: My kids love it. My staff thinks it’s hilarious, smiley, happy guy. And the photographer was like, dude, stop smacking, you’re supposed to be pensive.

Steve: Well, Kevin, I am very happy to spread the word about the article, and all the experiences that you’ve had. And it’s important that anyone who’s selling on Amazon to be aware that these things can happen, especially if you get media attention for your product.

Kevin: Absolutely, yeah.

Steve: So Kevin, where can people find you online if they have any other questions, or if any other press outlets want to get a hold of you?

Kevin: So BrushHero.com is our major retail site. I’m on LinkedIn under Kevin Williams. I’m pretty easy to find out there as well. I’m happy to help out as much as possible. I’m definitely seeking more media attention if we can get it. I think the story is an interesting one to tell. And it’s important that people actually understand this sort of dark side of Amazon and e-commerce.

Steve: Cool. Well, Kevin, I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on.

Kevin: All right, Steve. Cool.

Steve: All right, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now even though Amazon is doing their best to fight the counterfeits on their platform, it’s a fairly large problem that is going to be very difficult for them to solve. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode262.

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 parameter 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 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 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!

261: How My Student Kym Campbell Makes $400K/Year Helping Women With Their Fertility

261: How To Use Challenges To Grow Your Business With Kym Campbell

Today I’m really happy to have Kym Campbell on the show and Kym is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course.

But her story is different compared to the other students in my class in that she doesn’t sell any physical products.

Instead, she’s taken her business SmartFertilityChoices.com to over $400K in revenue this past year with a membership site and digital courses. As it turns out, marketing is marketing and it applies to both physical and digital products online.

Today, Kym and I discuss how she grew her business based on what she learned in the class.

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

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

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

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

What You’ll Learn

  • How to use SEO to grow your traffic
  • How to use challenges to gain email subscribers
  • Kym’s Google Adwords strategy

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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Avalara.com – Handling sales tax is complicated. Fortunately, Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax rate calculations and automatic return filing. And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super easy to setup. Click here and get a FREE TRIAL.

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 delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I’m happy to have another student in my Create a Profitable Online Store course on the podcast Kym Campbell. Now Kym runs Smartfertilitychoices.com and grew to over $400,000 in revenue this past year based on many of the concepts she derived from the class. And in this interview, we’re going to find out exactly how she did it.

Before we begin, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Whether you are getting your business off the ground or looking for new ways to scale, Klaviyo offers fast, simple and repeatable ways to grow. And with Klaviyo you can personalize your marketing, build your customer relationships and automate your online sales. And it’s now easier than ever to create amazing email and advertising experiences. So I want to introduce Klaviyo’s his new entrepreneur growth guide. Packed with must read blog posts, case studies and getting started content, this guide helps you prioritize what to do next for maximum revenue growth.

Now moving to a new marketing platform can be intimidating but Klaviyo helps you get up and growing fast with proven technology and countless support resources. Now you can actually check out this content for free right now Klaviyo.com/mywife. Once again, that’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.com/mywife.

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 my email capture forms. And 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 the tool 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 Kym Campbell on the show. Now Kym is a student in my Create a Profitable Online Store course. But what is different about her story compared to some of the other students in my class is that she hasn’t created or it she’s not selling any physical products online. Instead, she’s taken her business Smartfertilitychoices.com to over 400k in revenue this past year, based on many concepts that she’s learned in the class. And as it turns out, marketing is marketing, and apparently it applies to both physical and digital products online. And also Kym has some tricks up her sleeve that she’s going to share with us today on how she builds traffic and customers. And with that, welcome the show Kym, how you doing today?

Kym: I’m doing well Steve, thanks so much for having me.

Steve: So Kym, please let the audience know about your business, what exactly you sell and how you got started with this.

Kym: Sure. So I’ll go into the origin story, I’ll try to not be too long winded about it. So I used to actually play music for a living. And I don’t know if you know many musicians, but being a musician is actually quite a difficult profession to be in. So even though I was signed to a small label, and I had a deal in Japan, I actually did all my own publicity, all my own marketing, tour booking, etc. So I was working during the day doing the business side of things, and then playing gigs at night and touring. I wasn’t making a lot of money at that point, because the music industry was quite broken with the internet coming in and people downloading music for free. But it was something I was really passionate about.

But I met my husband in my late 20s and I was heading into my 30s, we were starting thinking about having kids and I realized that it wasn’t really the lifestyle that I wanted because I didn’t want to be away from my family. My mom was a single working mom and I grew up in daycare and didn’t see her that much. So I just wanted something different for my kids. So in 2015, I started doing a lot of research and I came upon things like Pat Flynn’s podcast, four hour workweek, and that really resonated with me, because the idea of lifestyle design and creating a business where I could eventually be really available to my kids, do something I was passionate about and also actually earn money was very appealing.

So at the time, my husband and I were also trying to get pregnant, and we’d been struggling with infertility for quite a while. And I’d been diagnosed as well with PCOS, and we kind of climbed up the ladder of fertility treatments. So it was kind of a natural thing to think, okay well, that’s something that I could start a blog about and write about. So I started my blog in middle of 2015 and opened up a bunch of different social media accounts, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. And I kind of did the classic thing that you’re taught, because I was listening to a lot of podcasts at the time where you create a lead magnet. So for example, I had a fertility checklist and kind of used that to start collecting email addresses.

And then I created an autoresponder series and the second email in the series, I just had the second email that was it, asking what were people struggling with the most? And that kind of helped me understand that the most common question people had were diet changes and how I was doing that to just help manage PCOS. So that was quite exciting for me. And I came up with the idea of doing a free 30 day diet challenge. So I think I might have gotten the idea from your podcast actually with simple green smoothies.

Steve: Oh, yeah, that’s right, with [inaudible 00:06:44], that’s correct.

Kym: Yeah. So I was like, oh, that would work so well for what I’m trying to do. So I created this 30 day diet challenge.

Steve: So Kym, let’s back up a little bit just for the listeners. I know I was going to ask you what PCOS but if you wouldn’t mind just explaining that very briefly and how many people it affects?

Kym: Sure. Yeah, so PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. And it’s a hormone disorder that affects about 15 to 20% of women. It can cause a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, acne, weight gain, [inaudible 00:07:23] and it’s also quite common to struggle with infertility. So that was kind of how I was diagnosed in my late 20s.

Steve: But it is treatable without drugs.

Kym: That’s right. That’s right. But I think the reason that our business has done so well is that a lot of women, when they do go see a doctor, it’s not — they’re normally given the pill, or put on Metformin. But actually, the number one treatment for PCOS is diet and lifestyle changes. But a woman doesn’t have that sort of time with the doctor; it takes more than 15 minutes. So there is really this niche that needed to be served that wasn’t being served, where they needed someone who could really stick with them, and hold their hand while they make these massive lifestyle changes and diet changes.

Steve: Okay. So the best way to treat this is through a lifestyle change and that’s kind of where your content comes in.

Kym: That’s right, exactly yeah.

Steve: So let’s talk about your blog real quick. How do you get traffic to the blog?

Kym: So it started out with social media. That was kind of our main driver. At the first it was Instagram, then later probably Pinterest was a bigger driver than Instagram. But now it’s our blog. So for the last year, we’ve just seen tremendous growth. And that was just because of our blogging strategy really, we just kind of doubled down on SEO and blogging and that’s really where we’ve seen massive growth.

Steve: Okay, so most of your traffic comes from Google search.

Kym: That’s right, yeah.

Steve: So can we talk about how you come up with the content? Or did you just start writing about your own problems and the traffic just came? Or was it a very deliberate strategy to get traffic?

Kym: In the beginning, it wasn’t super deliberate and I was just kind of writing about my journey. But we didn’t see much traffic at all from that. So it wasn’t until I actually bought your course so that was the end of 2017. And you have like an entire section on SEO. So I went through all of that, I was listening to podcasts. And I started to become really intentional about the way that we did our blogging. And that’s when we started to see a massive increase in traffic.

Steve: Okay, so can we talk a little bit about that strategy that you use specifically?

Kym: Sure, yeah absolutely. So basically, the first step is I’m just trying to pick a keyword that I want to go for that’s really relevant to our challenge, because that’s really where all of our signups come from. And then people that do the challenger, it’s quite similar to what the program is. So we really try to stay within really relevant keywords to our product and to our challenge. And so then we basically — so I actually co-write with my husband. So he’s got a postgraduate degree in food science, and we spend about a month co-writing, and just write like the most epic blog post ever, basically.

Steve: By epic like what is the length of one of these typical posts?

Kym: Yep. So around probably 6,000 minimum to about 11,000 words.

Steve: Wow okay. It’s like small book.

Kym: Yeah, it’s massive. But it works and it actually suits our personalities really well, because we’re just perfectionist and I think we’d probably struggle to write something under that. And it’s a massive topic. These keywords that we’re choosing, you kind of need that many words to do it justice and to write the best blog post that exists on the internet about that topic.

Steve: Can we talk about that a little bit. So at 11,000 posts, wouldn’t it make sense to like split into two different keyword sets? Or are you targeting just one keyword set for that monster post?

Kym: Basically just one keyword set. So they’ll be like — so for example, I’ll give you an example. PCOS diet, that’s like a huge one for us, because it gets about maybe, I think in America 18,000 searches a month. And that one’s probably about, I don’t know, 9,000 words or so. And within it, we’ll try to — so PCOS diet will obviously be in the URL and the title, the metadata description and obviously, throughout the blog, and some of our headings, section headings. And then we kind of will put more ones that are similar to PCOS diet, like best diet for PCOS, so I’ll pick five or six of those, and we’ll just put them in. But what I find is if we organically can rank for that main keyword, we’ll actually start showing up for like a ton of other ones just organically that we haven’t even tried to rank for.

Steve: And in terms of backlinks, do you have a strategy there?

Kym: No, we actually haven’t focused on backlighting at all, but we’ve still been able to rank between every blog post we’ve done for 2018, between probably one and four on Google for those keywords.

Steve: Nice.

Kym: Yeah, it’s great. I mean, I think some of the other things that we do within the blog posts that I think have helped is citations. So we have between like 25 and 50 scientific references within these big pieces. And I think it was the Morse Podcast I was listening to where they were kind of talking about how do you show Google that you’re an expert? And citations was one of them. And that’s just something that we just naturally do anyways because we’re very science based.

Steve: Yeah. For these citations, are you linking out then to these?

Kym: We are.

Steve: Okay.

Kym: Yeah, that’s right. Yep. So I think that kind of shows Google, okay, she’s linking out to all these scientific references. I mean, that’s the theory at least.

Steve: Yes. Yes. And would you say then that your content is like light years better than what else is out there on the front page?

Kym: Yes. Yes by far yeah.

Steve: All right. And is this a popular topic? Or I don’t know what tools you use. Maybe it’s a good time to talk about what tools you use, but what difficulty of keywords do you typically target with your blog?

Kym: So I mean, I mostly just use Keyword Planner to be honest.

Steve: Really okay.

Kym: Yeah. And I’ve just gotten really familiar with all of the keywords because I spend a lot of time on spreadsheets looking at the keywords and also just kind of identifying questions that, really common questions that people ask that they just ask over and over again in like different ways. But I mean, I did use, like I got a free subscription to Ahrefs. And I did kind of look at the competition farther into 2018. Like for example, PCOS diet, that’s like 40.

Steve: Yeah, that’s got to be.

Kym: No, no, sorry. That’s 20. That’s 20. So it’s actually quite a low…

Steve: It not bad actually.

Kym: Yeah, it’s not, although we were just able to rank for one that was 40, and gets maybe, I don’t know, 20,000 searches a month. But that took a lot longer to rank.

Steve: Do you find that your articles just naturally attract backlinks? I don’t know if you’ve looked at the backlink process.

Kym: Yeah. Well, I knew you’re going to grill me about all this because I’m on the podcast. So I’ve done — I was like, oh my goodness, I have to go back and start. So I did, I actually just looked at backlinks. And it’s really interesting, because we are starting to accumulate a ton of backlinks just naturally from ranking one, two or three for those keywords. So yeah, I mean, for me, like I just didn’t feel like — we only have so much time and I felt like we’re really good at writing these epic blog posts. And I just wanted to see how we could do without back linking and I think it’s working. I think we’re starting to just get those backlinks naturally.

Steve: Yeah, no, I mean, when you put out a publication that is easily light years better than the rest, Google recognizes that. And I’m sure that people who are searching for that topic are sticking on your posts for a very long time as well.

Kym: That’s it. Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Steve: Prior to this interview, we had talked about ways to kind of accelerate getting into the search results, would you care to share that strategy?

Kym: Sure. Yeah. So this is quite an interesting one. I hadn’t heard anyone talk about it on a podcast before and I’m a total podcast junkie. So I should know. So we had — my cousin actually came and visited and he works for Amazon. And he’s a developer. And he helped develop their search algorithm within Amazon. And he kind of studied the Google search algorithm as best he could before that, and I was kind of grilling him when he was visiting, saying, what can I do, we’re not ranking for anything, our site is quite new. We have really low domain authority, what can I do to try to rank these blog posts?

And he said, well, you could try something which he had tried, I think, for a few websites he had created where he actually ran Google AdWords, and just used it as a way to feed Google data about the blog posts to kind of accelerate kind of working the way up the search results. And yeah, so I mean, that’s what I did. So I started running Google AdWords to the blog posts. And I tried to create really clickable titles that would get a really good click through rate. So we used a lot of how tos and listicles. And I basically just set up a campaign; I do manual CPC, set it to like $20. So it’d always show at the very top and outbid everyone else. And it works. So we get really high click through rates, quite low bounce rates, so Google would actually see how popular the post was and that people actually want to stay on it.

Steve: When you set the bid at $20, how much were you actually paying per click just curious?

Kym: Yeah, not that much, so ranged between probably 30 cents and $3. It really depends on what we’re trying to target, the keyword we’re trying to target. But because we had such a high, we’d get quality scores of between eight and 10.

Steve: Sure, yes.

Kym: Yeah, yeah. And we’d get a click through rate of between probably 12% and 30%. I feel like that’s kind of…

Steve: That’s insane actually.

Kym: Yeah. But it’s because it’s a blog post I think, we’re not running these ads where it’s trying to sell something, we’re just leading people to really epic content that they want to stay on the page, they want to read it, they’re ending up – they’re probably going to other pages on our site and I think we got rewarded for that. Yeah, so it wasn’t too expensive.

Steve: I don’t know if you’re going to have this data ready, but I’m just kind of curious what your onsite metrics look like for that monster post. Like how long do people stay on that page?

Kym: I don’t know. I don’t know to be honest.

Steve: Unprepared Kym, I’m ashamed.

Kym: I knew you were going to ask that question. I mean, I think from the past, looking back, maybe a couple of minutes, but I think it’s hard I think because they’re such epic posts, there’s probably a lot of people will like read it and like, oh my goodness, this is like a book. But what we did to kind of help aid that is we do create, like all of our blog posts or listicles. So at least, if people go on there, they can at least kind of get to where they want be within the post. But then of course, we would have those people who would stay on it forever. And I would think that it’s those sorts of metrics that Google is looking at. I don’t really know what our average time on page is to be honest.

Steve: Do you do any other media like YouTube or podcast or anything like that?

Kym: Yeah. So we just do Instagram, Pinterest. I mean, I started a Facebook page and Twitter, but that really doesn’t do anything for us. But Instagram in the beginning was our biggest driver. And it’s probably about, I don’t know, maybe 15% now of our signups, but probably I think it’s about 60% now is Google.

Steve: One thing I did also want to talk to you about is your email list growth strategy because it’s pretty intricate from the way you were describing it to me earlier. And I cut you off earlier when you’re talking about this 30 Day Challenge, so let’s talk about how that works.

Kym: Sure, sure. So I would say that the reason that our email list has grown so much is because of the challenge, like for sure by far. Probably 90%, 95% of the people that sign up to our list do it because they sign up for the challenge. And I think the reason that it’s so popular and we get so many signups is because we just give so much value within that challenge. Like you could literally charge for it, like it could be a month long course that you could charge for, we just really went all out.

It took a couple months to build. So we give weekly meal plans and shopping lists. And we have a pretty intricate social media strategy. So we’re posting every day on, we’ve got a Facebook group where we post every day, and we do it on Instagram as well, we’re sending out emails daily. We have nutritional video lessons that we send out probably for the first half of the challenge and mindset videos where we’re trying to just help people I guess have a growth mindset because it’s a pretty major thing to change your diet. It’s actually really difficult to do.

Steve: It’s not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle change right?

Kym: That’s right, exactly. Yeah, I mean the challenge is just diet, it’s then our paid program where we actually focus on additional lifestyle changes like stress management and exercise.

Steve: Let’s talk about that. You mentioned you give so much away in this 30 Day Challenge. Does it overlap a lot with your 10 week program?

Kym: No, I don’t think so. I think if anything, it really complements it. And because changing your lifestyle is massive, you can only tell people so much in a free 30 Day Challenge. And we also just focus on diet. And I think it takes a lot longer than 30 days for you to be able to kind of make these changes. And also we go into so much depth in like nutritional lessons and we have an intuitive eating program within the paid program. We have a sugar rehab module. So it’s just so much more value that I think if anything, the challenge really prepares people to be able to do the program because there’s so much in there.

Steve: In case you haven’t been following the latest e-commerce news, most of the states in the US are now requiring you to collect sales tax even if you don’t have a physical presence in that state. And as you can imagine, keeping track of every state sales tax rules can be a nightmare. Now instead of pulling your hair out, you should let a tool like Avalara take care of your sales tax headaches for you. Avalara simplifies sales tax with real time tax calculations, and automatic return filing.

And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super simple to set up. So even if you have no idea how to get started with sales tax, Avalara can help you get registered in a snap so you can focus on getting back to business. Join over 20,000 businesses already automating sales tax compliance. Simply put, Avalara is tax compliance done right. Find out more at Avalara.com. That’s A-V-A-L-A-R-A.com. Now back to the show.

So how do you get me to sign up for the challenge? Like what am I supposed to get out of this 30 Day Challenge?

Kym: Basically just support in learning how to change your diet and actually helping you implement it. So I mean that’s where like these weekly meal plans have been just incredible. I think that’s the biggest reason why people sign up is that are actually getting weekly meal plans. They’re tailored to women who want to manage the PCOS through diet. There’s a lot of information out there on how to change your diet and it’s really confusing, and a lot of people are saying different things. And not many people are giving recipes.

So I think with the challenge, it’s like they have one person who’s giving them scientific backed information, who’s giving them video lessons, who’s giving them these weekly meal plans and kind of holding their hand and we’ve got a really good community element to it as well. So I mean, it basically sells itself like people just — it’s like, oh my goodness, this is free. Everyone just wants to sign up because there’s so much value in it.

Steve: Does the challenge have to change or is it the same challenge that…

Kym: No, it’s actually the same challenge every time. I mean, it’s so intricate, I think it’d be pretty crazy to have to do it again, or even change the meal plans because we’ve done the meal plans to the point of where you use a certain element from one dinner, you use the extra tomato for your next meal. It was like two months of work to actually create the meal plans and the shopping lists. But what’s interesting is we do find that women are doing it over and over again. So I didn’t actually expect that. Yeah and there’s actually a lot of women who end up doing it multiple times before they’re even ready to do the program.

Steve: How does the lead then work from the challenge to the 10 week program that you sell?

Kym: Yeah. So we basically start — how do we do it? So we send out — so the challenge — probably three days before the challenge starts, we start basically sending people emails every single day. And I think it’s day seven, we start kind of exposing them to the fact that we have this paid program. So we start actually sending out sales emails. But we run like an early bird special. And that’s kind of how it’s like, oh, if you’re — because people are actually the most excited about implementing changes we found during the beginning of the challenge. We used to kind of only start telling people about the program at the end of the challenge, and it actually seemed to work a lot better, kind of telling them about it in the beginning makes people very excited.

Steve: Yeah that makes sense.

Kym: Yeah. So we basically have like a little banner for when people go to our different videos on the challenge pages, we start sending out sales emails about this early bird special. And that’s pretty much it. We don’t sell it on our social media channels at all, because we found that that didn’t really work very well. So it’s mostly just via email. And then it’s just on our challenge pages as well.

Steve: What is the price point of the 10 week program?

Kym: So we we’ve split it into so it’s tiers. So we’ve got three different price points. And so we’ve got like a Kickstarter, which is 147, we’ve got a lifestyle membership which is 247. And we’ve got a premium which is 347. But we end up selling almost all the spots just through the early bird specials. I don’t know if you — it might be an interesting story if your audience does want to hear about how we majorly failed when we first commercially launched it because we realized people were really price sensitive.

Steve: I love a good story, yeah go for it.

Kym: So yeah, so when we first started the challenge, we right away pre sold the program to the first set of challengers, because I kind of had the idea for the program at the same time I had the idea for the challenge. And it pre sold really well. So we made about — we presold at twice, we made about $25,000 and we hadn’t actually built it yet. And I think it was about a 5% conversion rate on each both times that we sold it. So that said to me, okay, oh great, people are going to — this is definitely going to work. So we built the program, my husband took three months off; we put a lot of time and effort into it. We hired a developer and we hired a couple staff and spent quite a lot of money and built it. Everyone went through it, we had like a beta program. People loved it. And then we launched it commercially. But I increased the price to the price points that I just told you. And we launched it to literally crickets. I think really like four sales.

Steve: Really?

Kym: Yeah.

Steve: For 349 price point or the $149 price point?

Kym: So we had the three price — I think we had that three tiered price point and at that point nobody bought anything.

Steve: Huh, okay.

Kym: Yeah, it was crazy. We totally freaked out. And so we basically, we sold it to four people. And so we had to say, look, we’re not going to run the program. And we pulled the program and we basically surveyed everyone who we had launched it to and hadn’t purchased. And the majority of the people said it’s too expensive. We’re not willing to pay that much. And that was really hard for me because I was like, well, it’s actually worth this much like I had gone kind of looked at what else was out there, what other programs that were similar. And I just kind of thought our program blew everyone else’s out of the water, like it was pretty cool. And I was well, what do I do, because I don’t really want to lower the price and make it look like a cheap program because it’s not. It’s actually a really valuable digital product.

And so I thought, okay well, maybe I could run an early bird special and discount it. And then people still — it’s still I feel like it doesn’t lose its value as much. It’s still like kind of placed as a high value product but it is at the price point that people are actually willing to pay for it. So that’s what we did.

Steve: That’s interesting.

Kym: Yeah, and it works really well.

Steve: What’s the discount for the early bird special?

Kym: So we actually, we run two different early bird specials. So we run for the first half of the challenge, we run a 50% off.

Steve: Oh wow, that’s significant, okay.

Kym: It’s significant yeah. I mean, that’s what people seem to be willing to pay, like we tested a bunch of different price points and that seemed to be the one that sold it really well. So we do 50% off for the first hundred spots. And then after those spots are filled, we’ll do 35% off for the next hundred spots. And then after that, we’ll go full price.

Steve: And what is the breakdown in the different tiers and why did you decide to do tiers in the first place?

Kym: So being a podcast junkie, that was kind of like a no brainer for me to do the tiered strategy, because I thought well, people get to decide how much they want, how much they want to pay and how much they want to get. And I think that it works really well for selling the program. And sorry, what was the original question just how we came up with the tiers?

Steve: So one, why you do the tiers and two, what is the distribution of sales among the tiers?

Kym: Okay. Yeah. So basically to sell it better. I thought the tiered pricing would work really better and I think it does because I would say we get an even distribution throughout the tiers, but we definitely get the most premium sales so the most expensive, because with the premium, you get like a customizable meal plan where you can actually customize your meals, customize your shopping list and there’s a few other goodies, but that would be the main one. And that seems to be what people really want the premium for.

Steve: There’s a reason why I asked you that because a long time ago I had three tiers as well. And I found that the students that weren’t getting the stuff in the highest tier were less likely to be successful and that was a moral dilemma for me.

Kym: Oh, interesting.

Steve: So what I ended up doing is I just upgraded all the lower people to the highest one and I just did away with that. This is a long time ago of course.

Kym: Yeah. I mean, I have heard some really pretty amazing success stories from women who have done the lowest tier. So I think it works. And I think because the program is so big, and it can be overwhelming because there is so much information that some women only want to focus on diet, which is what our Kickstarter tier offers. Whereas other women actually want to try to do it all, they want to change their diet and also add in exercise and stress management. So I don’t know, I think it works just for our niche quite well.

Steve: And do you — is your launch like evergreen or is it literally like a launch where it closes and then you open it again?

Kym: It’s live. And the reason it’s live, and I don’t think we’ll ever go evergreen is because the live element of the challenge and of the program is probably like the coolest thing about it and I think what attracts people to it the most. So having this community of women that are going through the same thing that are making these changes together, it’s just really amazing, and it works really well. And I think taking that live element out would just make it not as valuable. And also obviously it helps for creating scarcity, etc.

Steve: Sure, so this 30 Day Challenge, does that mean you just do it once a month?

Kym: We do it once a quarter.

Steve: Once a quarter okay.

Kym: So we’ve worked it out where we could run the challenge up to four times during the year because it’s 10 weeks, and then we run a challenge leading up to each program.

Steve: I see. And then the 10 week program, what happens after 10 weeks?

Kym: So yes, I mean, after 10 weeks the program ends and then people go into an alumni group. But what we’ve found that was actually quite interesting is that a lot of women were doing the program multiple times. And so we created like an alumni discount price. And anyone who’s done the program before can purchase it again for $29 for the original tier, like membership level that they purchased that and that’s actually been really popular, and also really valuable to us because all of these women that have already done the program before and are in our Facebook group are like amazing. They’re answering the questions for us. They’re providing inspiration and support for the other women.

Steve: It’s very interesting actually, so they’re having a much lower price for the same content?

Kym: That’s right, but because all the content is downloadable, really the only aspect they’re getting is if they bought the premium, they get the customizable meal plan, which can be quite useful and it generates a shopping list. But it’s more so that live element of being in that group. So for me, that seemed like a reasonable price, because it’s almost like, because we were thinking for a while about creating a membership site or something like that. But I think creating that just alumni, we call it an alumni repeat special kind of — works really well.

Steve: It’s interesting. So this Facebook group for the 30 Day Challenge, does it reset every time you do it?

Kym: It doesn’t, it doesn’t. And if you want to talk about our Facebook group, your audience might actually find it interesting.

Steve: Yeah, let’s talk about it.

Kym: It’s pretty cool. Yeah, so we’ve got about I think over 30,000 people in our group now. And it’s become really, really valuable to us. We do spend quite a lot of time and they’re like admitting, but at the same time, it’s actually become like quite a good source of leads for us. So we get probably 15% of our program purchases and signups come from the Facebook group alone, we get a lot of social proof. So within our Facebook group, we get a ton of people posting success stories daily, like really amazing success stories, which I think is great social proof that what we’re teaching people works really well.

And it also is really great for inspiring others to show, okay, I can do this, this is possible, because I do find that with a lot of women, they just really struggle to make the changes. So being in kind of this group atmosphere where they’re seeing these success stories is really powerful. It drives a lot of traffic to our website. Yeah, and we post in there quite a bit.

Steve: Can we talk about back in the day when the group was zero people, how did you kind of foster the interaction between the members?

Kym: Yeah, I mean, it grew so quickly that it was pretty easy to do that, because we launched the Facebook group at the same time we launched the chat. We actually just created the Facebook group in order to have a place to host the challenge on social media. And it just grew really quickly. So basically I think at the time I was using Meet Edgar. So I would just post blog posts in there. I just created discussion topics. I would post some lead magnets like diet cheat sheets and checklists. We do weekly giveaways. It was yeah, it just really naturally happened.

Steve: How did you get people to join the 30 day challenge in the first place, or is that just kind of organic through SEO?

Kym: Originally, it happened because of social media. So Instagram probably was our main one. So we would basically tell everyone on Instagram we’re doing this free challenge, we post about it quite a bit. And then because we would be posting the challenge like day by day, similar to how like simple green smoothies does it day by day within Instagram, people would be like, oh, what’s this challenge, I better sign up. So that kind of would funnel people on to our email list. And then we would say, look, if you’re doing the challenge, this Facebook group is a really great place to join as well if you want to do the challenge on there.

So Instagram was the main one, and then Pinterest, basically driving people to blog posts from Pinterest. And within all of our blog posts, we talk about the challenge a lot. We might talk about the challenge too much but I think it works really well. And it also like we include success stories from the challenge within all of our blog posts. And so that’s kind of now where most of our leads are coming from is people finding us in search, reading these blog posts, hearing about the challenge, the success stories, and then signing up from there.

Steve: I know you mentioned a customizable meal plan in your premium package. How does that work? Do you like hand create meal plans for these people or?

Kym: We do, we do? And it took us about nine months to build the program. It was like a really — it was a massive passion project I would say. Yeah, so we basically — it’s got about 200, over 200 recipes now in it. And yeah, it was a really big job. And we basically took it — I mean if you find it interesting, took a plug in, and then customized it to create this kind of customizable meal plan. So we basically create a meal plan that people get over the 10 weeks, we drip it out, it’s always nine days in advance. And we basically say, look, this is what you’re having for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And there’s a recipe index so if people want to, they can switch out a recipe that they don’t want that we’ve put in their meal plan for dinner and switch it out for something else. And they can add in snacks and drinks and then that will populate out a shopping list.

Steve: Nice. Nice. I kind of wanted to kind of end this interview talking about physical products and your strategy. I know you didn’t end up selling physical products and I was just kind of curious the decision to not do that. And why do you want to sell physical products in the first place because this was kind of already going on even beforehand.

Kym: It was. I mean, for me, it was a lot about — when I was thinking about physical products it was really about how do I diversify? We’ve created this program, and we’d created a few eBooks and it was just kind of trying to brainstorm what to do next, what to create next. And I had the idea of — I was seeing other bloggers, I think that was really the influence for me, starting to put physical products into their stores. And I thought okay, maybe that’s something I should do. And I was basically a huge fan of yours and a longtime listener on your podcast and knew that you had a course. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read your blog or gotten an email from you. I literally was like, oh, I love him, I love his podcast.

Steve: Interesting, okay.

Kym: Yeah, I went straight away and bought your course because I thought if anyone is going to teach me how to do physical products, it’s got to be Steve. So I signed up for your course and I did a lot of your lessons. And a lot of them helped me just for digital, for our digital products, SEO and Facebook advertising. And you pretty much go into literally anything you possibly need to know if you’re going to be online. But after doing your course, I was like, oh man; this is tough, like physical products.

Steve: You know what I was just thinking that would work for you Kym would be some sort of journal or accountability journal.

Kym: Well, that’s so funny you say that Steve, because that’s like the one thing that I’ve decided I actually might do. That’s so funny that you say that.

Steve: Oh okay yeah, just for the listeners out there, we didn’t have this conversation beforehand.

Kym: No.

Steve: And that’s like a really low, pretty simple thing to source. And it’s low risk.

Kym: Yes, yes. And I actually have a lot of notes and I’ve done a lot of brainstorming. And I do think I’ll do it. It’s just hard for me to justify it only because I feel like it would be a lot more work than creating an eBook.

Steve: Yes for sure, yes it would be.

Kym: It is, it’s a lot more work. But I do think that if it’s something that would really benefit my audience, then I’ll do it. It’s just a matter of time.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Kym: Yeah. I mean, so that’s I guess that’s where we’re at with the whole physical products thing.

Steve: Okay. I mean, I think it would add value. I mean, granted, I don’t exactly know what your 10 week program is like, but it seems like having something physical too as an accountability tool would add value to your 10 week program?

Kym: Yes, yeah. So I mean, there’s a few different things, we could do a workbook that goes along with it that people could purchase with the program. But I also love the idea of having something like lower priced products because we get about a 2%, 3% conversion rate on the program. And there’s heaps of women — I’m saying heaps, because I’ve lived in Australia for so long. But there’s a lot of women who do our challenge who just can’t afford a program or don’t think it’s worth the money. So I think having some sort of lower price point product would be really useful for them.

Steve: So Kym, where can people find more about you and your program and 10 or 15% have this ailment. And so, I’m willing to bet that a lot of listeners out here are probably experiencing some of the symptoms. So where can people find you online?

Kym: Yeah, sure. So I’ve got two different websites. So Beatpcos.com and that’s where we host the challenge and where our program is. And then my blog is Smartfertilitychoices.com.

Steve: Just curious, why did you decide to split that into two different sites?

Kym: Yeah, so with Smart Fertility Choices, I came up with a name originally when I was blogging a lot about fertility. And we’ve kind of niched down a lot into just serving women specifically with polycystic ovarian syndrome and doing that through diet and lifestyle changes. So it just, I’m really struggling at the moment of actually what to do if I want to move my blog over to Beatpacos.com. I’m just a bit nervous about the technical aspects, but it’s just that I just needed to do the name change because Smart Fertility Choices just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Steve: So does Beat PCOS have monster content on it, or is it just for the challenge?

Kym: No. It’s just — yeah, at the moment it’s like a bunch of pages selling the program. And then we run the challenge on there as well. So we basically open pages up during the challenge that we then send people to via email with the videos and meal plans.

Steve: Got it, I would not change. It’s very risky and it’s not worth it.

Kym: Oh, interesting.

Steve: I had friends who tried to switch domains to something that they bought that was a little more appealing. And I have one friend actually right now, he lost 85% of his traffic and he’s been hiring SEOs and whatnot, and they still haven’t got it back. He’s considering switching back again now. It’s unpredictable.

Kym: That’s so interesting. Okay.

Steve: Some people experience like a 30% loss and it comes back within a couple of months; other people just lose the traffic. Most people don’t have the stomach to sit through like more than like four months’ worth of significantly lower traffic, but it has happened with some of my colleagues. So it’s hit or miss.

Kym: Okay, that’s really, I’m so glad you said that. Yeah, I am – that’s something I was actually going to email you about. So it’s one less email you have to get from me.

Steve: So Kym, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I mean, I know I learned a lot and I’m sure the listeners got a lot of value out of it as well.

Kym: Yeah, it’s my pleasure.

Steve: All right, take care again. Thanks a lot.

Kym: Thanks Steve.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now when it comes to online marketing, it doesn’t matter whether you sell digital products or physical products, the principles of selling are all the same. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode261.

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 parameter 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.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, 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.

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!

260: Introducing The 5 Minute Pitch Podcast Episode 1 With Dawn LaFontaine

260: Introducing The 5 Minute Pitch Podcast Episode 1

The 5 Minute Pitch is a Shark Tank like show where 32 contestants pitch us their business for the chance to win $50,000 in prize money.

Think of it like an NCAA style basketball tournament for small companies!

The judges are Scott Voelker, Greg Mercer, Mike Jackness and myself and we’ve put all of the episodes in a podcast for your enjoyment.

Right now we are running a contest where we’re giving away over $6000 in prizes.

Click Here To Enter The Contest

What You’ll Learn

  • What the 5 Minute Pitch is all about
  • A pitch from our first contestant Dawn LaFontaine

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

Avalara.com – Handling sales tax is complicated. Fortunately, Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax rate calculations and automatic return filing. And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super easy to setup. Click here and get a FREE TRIAL.

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

Coming soon

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!

259: How To Rank For Competitive Keywords In Google With Jimmy Daly

259: How To Rank For Competitive Keywords with Jimmy Daly


Today, I’m really happy to have Jimmy Daly on the show. Jimmy runs Animalz.co, which specializes in content marketing for SAAS companies. They are responsible for ranking many of the successful SAAS companies out there in Google search and clearly know what they are doing.

In this episode, Jimmy and I are going to discuss the most important aspects of content marketing and how to rank in search.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Animalz was founded
  • How to formulate an effective content strategy
  • Keyword research and SEO factors to consider
  • How to come up with great titles
  • The myth of building an audience
  • The biggest mistake content marketers make

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

Avalara.com – Handling sales tax is complicated. Fortunately, Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax rate calculations and automatic return filing. And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super easy to setup. Click here and get a FREE TRIAL.

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

Coming soon

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!

258: A Recap Of Sellers Summit 2019 With Toni Anderson

258: A Recap Of Sellers Summit 2019 With Toni Anderson

We’re doing a special episode today. Sellers Summit 2019 just ended so I brought my partner Toni Anderson on the show to do a recap of the event.

The Sellers Summit is a conference that we throw every year. This is our 4th time and the show is all about bringing ecommerce entrepreneurs together and learning new strategies on how to sell physical products.

Today we’re going to talk about what worked, what didn’t and some key takeaways.

What You’ll Learn

  • The theme for this year’s event
  • What we did differently this time
  • How we improved the conference in 2019
  • An overview of the speakers and sessions
  • Where Sellers Summit will be next year

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

Avalara.com – Handling sales tax is complicated. Fortunately, Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax rate calculations and automatic return filing. And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super easy to setup. Click here and get a FREE TRIAL.

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. So I just got back from my annual e-commerce conference the Sellers Summit last week, and after sleeping for the past seven days to recover, I am finally ready to do a recap of the event in today’s episode. Now, overall it was easily the best Sellers Summit that we’ve ever held. And to help me out, I invited my partner in crime Toni Anderson back on the show to help me with this recap.

Before we begin, I want to give a 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 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 e-commerce 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 purchased, piece of cake, and there is full revenue tracking on every mail. Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you could try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

I also want to give a 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 my email capture forms. And 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 we are doing a special episode because I’m not interviewing anyone on the show. Now instead, I brought Toni Anderson back on the podcast to do a recap of Sellers Summit 2019. Now if you don’t know Toni by now you probably haven’t listened to many episodes, she is my partner in crime for the event. And this is actually appearance number six I think for her on the show.

Anyway, Sellers Summit is a conference that we throw every year. This is our fourth year. And the show is all about bringing e-commerce entrepreneurs together and learning new strategies on how to sell physical products online. And today we’re going to do a recap of the event, what worked, what didn’t and some key takeaways. And with that, welcome back to the show for the sixth time, Toni, how you doing today?

Toni: I’m doing great. Do I get a special sticker for sixth time alumni?

Steve: You get an Oh Gee sticker, perhaps?

Toni: All right, all right.

Steve: Well, I haven’t gotten any negative feedback from you coming on yet. So until I do, I’ll keep you coming back for more.

Toni: All right, keep up the positive emails guys, come on.

Steve: So I haven’t actually had a chance to look over our survey results. Every year after the event, we send out a survey. But I know you probably have, you’ve probably been very diligent about looking at it. How was the feedback for this year?

Toni: Well, I think as usual, we received a lot of positive feedback from the event. Most people say that it met or exceeded their expectations, which always makes me feel really happy. And I think the main reason why we get that feedback every year, and this is actually they say this in a survey, is it’s the small group mentality that we have about the event.

Steve: Absolutely. I mean, in terms of networking, we actually haven’t really strayed from the original formula since we first started, right, a really small, tight, intimate event.

Toni: Well, I think that is what makes people feel comfortable at the event and makes them — I think it helps them learn even more, because not only are they learning in the sessions, but they now have friendships that they’ve built outside of just going to the event. These people communicate with each other all year round and so they’re able to catch up with old friends. And then after the sessions, talk about the things they’ve learned and continue to learn, even though there’s not a speaker actually presenting it.

Steve: And you know community building isn’t exactly my forte, but I think we’ve built like a pretty good community. What do you think?

Toni: I like them? I think they’re pretty cool.

Steve: Yeah, I like everyone there, which is strange for me, it’s unusual for me.

Toni: It’s not strange for me, I like everybody. But it’s really fun I think for us too thinking back on that first year. And we did something really cool this year that was mostly your idea to recognize…

Steve: It was?

Toni: Yeah, I think so.

Steve: Okay.

Toni: Recognize our original members I guess we’ll call them are people that have come to Sellers Summit every single year. And to me, that was a really big deal because our first year even though I had done events in the past, we had never done an event together and I’d never done an e-commerce event. And so these people took a big risk I think with us the first year giving us their money and expecting to learn something, and hopefully we delivered for them because they keep coming back. But it was cool to recognize that core group of people that have been coming back for four years.

Steve: Yeah, we gave out these cool t-shirts that said Sellers Summit oh geez for the people who had been all four years. And then all of the alumni who had come back before, they had special stickers on their badges to denote that they’d been there before.

Toni: And we had I think a core of maybe 12 or 15 original four time attendees, but our three time attendees is actually a pretty large group of people. I would say that’s 50 to 60.

Steve: Oh, wow. Okay, I didn’t realize that. I didn’t have the numbers in front of me.

Toni: Yeah, we’re not going to be able to afford t-shirts for them. They’re just going to keep getting stickers. But it’s cool to see those same people like Rick and Natalie and those people come back year after year, because they really do feel like friends at this point.

Steve: Yeah. And as usual, we stuck to the standard formula. We catered lunch every day, everyone eats together and we have cocktail parties every single night. We also make sure no one eats alone. So we have these dinner signup sheets where people can just have dinner together and arrange their own meals. So this past year, I think that was one difference that the reason why I enjoyed this year more than past years, I feel like the caliber of attendee was even better than all the prior years. Would you agree with that?

Toni: Oh, absolutely. I actually, I’m just getting all these facts together. So they’re a little bit fresh in my mind. But I think we have 77% of our attendees are selling full time already. So this is their real job. This isn’t a side hustle. And I think 81% of our attendees, or maybe it’s higher than that have been selling for more than a year. So the experience level with our attendee has really skyrocketed from our first year.

Steve: Yeah. And what I like to see is like everyone who I’d met in prior years, their business had grown significantly this year. And it was just really fun to kind of talk about what they’ve done to grow their businesses. And some of the people who have attended, their business has really blown up, like three to five x in just a single year, and that actually made me feel really happy.

Toni: Yeah, it’s fun to catch up with those people. I think one of our oh geez, Chris Nelson, when he came in the first year, he had his — I think he had already purchased business or started business. But he was doing I think a couple of thousand a month, which isn’t bad. That’s a great start to a business. But I mean, at this point, he has his own building. He’s got I don’t even know how many employees now, I think 13 or 14, he’s doing seven figures. And it’s cool to see his progression over the past four years. And we have a lot of people like him in our group.

Steve: Yeah, it’s been really amazing. Now, before we get into the key takeaways, anything we did differently this year than last year?

Toni: We expanded our masterminds, so I cannot remember how many we had in 2018. But this year we had six mastermind groups. So it’s almost half our attendees were in a mastermind, which is pretty cool. And we expanded the amount of 1 million plus masterminds. So I don’t remember what we had two years ago, but this year, we had four masterminds dedicated to sellers with a million or more in revenue. So I think that was something that we did new this year.

Steve: So just for the benefit of the listeners who don’t know what the mastermind is, we sell a special pass where we actually screen attendees to make sure they made at least $250,000, or $1 million, respectively. And what the mastermind is, is we lock ourselves in a room, we cater and food and we spend the entire day helping each other with their businesses. Everyone gets a chance to be in the hot seat where they can tell the group what’s working with their business and then one question that the rest of the group can help them with.

And then everyone basically in the group helps that one person a lot of time with their issue. Personally, the mastermind is the most rewarding part of the conference for me, and I just really love how open and comfortable everyone is, and how willing everyone is to reveal their problems and their triumphs.

Toni: Absolutely.

Steve: Sorry, I interrupted you, where were you going?

Toni: No, that’s okay. No, I agree with you. And I think it’s interesting because that’s what I’ve received the most feedback on post event. I’ve got people emailing me, messaging me on Facebook saying, we love the mastermind. We want more, we want more, can we have more days? They want it, they want have a mastermind for a week I think. So that’s really cool to see these people that have been with us for a couple of years too and in the masterminds just continuing to want to continue those relationships with each other, continue growing with each other, and that they feel comfortable enough to want to continue those relationships even outside the Sellers Summit.

Steve: And what was your personal opinion of this year’s mastermind compared to last year’s?

Toni: Actually, what was interesting to me is that I think this is another a little bit of a change for us is that at least in my mastermind group, we had a lot more people that weren’t primarily Amazon sellers. So I think in my group, we were 60% off Amazon, completely off Amazon, so some of these people have never sold a product on Amazon at all. So I think that was the biggest change for me is seeing people in the group that are really smart with marketing and content and email and Facebook ads and being able to have those conversations in addition to all of the Amazon conversations that we have at the event.

Steve: You stole my answer.

Toni: Oh my gosh, I’m sorry.

Steve: You always do this to me; you always steal what I was going to say. So basically Amazon is getting a lot more cutthroat. In my keynote, I mentioned that over 40% of the top sellers are now based in China, there’s rampant piracy. I think one of the statistics I quoted was one in three listings, at least in the clothing category are counterfeit listings. And so there’s now a big impetus for people to get their listings off Amazon and establish their own audience. So a lot of my mastermind this year, at the one that I ran at least was focused on building a presence outside of Amazon and building your own brand.

Toni: Well, and I think part of the reason why we have the same answer is because I gave both of our groups a lot of non-Amazon sellers. I think you and I love all the other side of things, too. And so for our personal knowledge, I think we are able to contribute a lot more on the off Amazon space as well for that group.

Steve: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I don’t want to just focus on the mastermind. So for the regular attendees who have a regular pass, we also have kind of — I don’t want to call it a mastermind, but it’s kind of like a pseudo mastermind, right with the roundtables?

Toni: Oh, absolutely. It’s just a shorter version basically, where we get our speakers and other mentors. Some of them are former speakers at the event. And everyone leads a small table discussion for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, where attendees and speakers and some of our sponsors lead them to get together and discuss in-depth the topics that the speakers talked about during their session, or even topics that we didn’t get a chance to cover in sessions. Like this year, I did one on content marketing, which we didn’t really cover in a session, but it allowed people to sit around and talk about how do you start a blog? What kind of content should you be creating? How do you get that content out there? And we do that every year. And that’s one of the things in the feedback that I get when I read these surveys that people want more roundtables more time, because it really facilitates more small group learning, which is what we love.

Steve: Yeah, this is actually the first year I didn’t give a breakout session, mainly because writing the keynote just takes a whole lot out of me. And so I decided to focus my efforts on the round table. And this year in the round table, I covered SEO and conversion optimization. And what was interesting was that Andrew Youderian, he’s a buddy of mine, buddy of ours, he runs the Ecommerce Fuel forums. Every year, he takes a survey of all the merchants in his community. And what was interesting is that almost everyone in that community, their top traffic source was SEO. So SEO is a great way to get free traffic. And in the past two years I would say, I’ve been focusing a lot on SEO, and it’s starting to pay dividends now. And so I kind of went over all my strategies on how to do so.

Toni: Well, and I’ve noticed too, and I think it’s your Profitable Online Store private group, people are starting to ask a lot more questions about that as well. So it’s definitely a topic that people are wanting to learn more about.

Steve: I mean SEO is not dead. And definitely conversion optimization is not dead because a lot of people are driving traffic to their sites when their sites are not quite ready, and then that’s when they fail. And then they blame it on like the ad platform like Facebook ads is dead or Google ads, it’s just not working for me.

Toni: Right. And I think especially with Facebook ads becoming more expensive. If your site is not ready for that traffic, you’re almost wasting your money.

Steve: Yeah, no, absolutely. So one other thing that I forgot to mention is these roundtables, they’re all run by the speakers. And one thing that is really cool about the Sellers Summit is that every speaker hangs around the entire event and mingles with the attendees. And it’s not a big event. So you’re going to see everyone multiple times during the day, including the speakers.

Toni: And that’s another thing that we hear all the time in our post event survey is that they love that everyone is so accessible at the event. And honestly, we’ve had opportunities to have some I would say big name speakers at the event that we’ve decided against having them because we know that they like to show up and then leave. And that’s okay, that’s their thing. But we’ve actually shied away from that because we feel like I mean, I know you are a total believer in this that most of the learning happens after the event at the bar.

Steve: Well, yeah, how would you know that, you never stay up that late?

Toni: I know. I have to get mine in during the session because I’m in bed.

Steve: Yeah, that’s the reason why we have these cocktail parties every night. It is true, that’s my MO. What I’ll do is I’ll get a speaker or someone I want to get to know better to the bar; I’ll get them a couple drinks. I will not drink however. And then I will just simply ask the speaker to reveal everything to me.

Toni: So if you’re coming next year, that’s how you can learn everything.

Steve: Yeah, so I’ll order like two vodka shots, except one is going to be a water shot, which I take and then yeah. It works really well.

Toni: But I totally agree. And that’s actually — and I know we hear this and I know this is tough you and I have been to a ton of events together that we don’t run, it is hard sometimes to have those conversations because it is loud. And no matter where you do them, it’s going to be loud because you have 150 people talking, which is why I think the dinner groups are great additional way to have those conversations because it is a little bit small and quieter. It’s a little bit of a smaller group. And then you can continue those conversations at the networking event later on. But the dinner groups are a way to get your foot in the door.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, for me, I’m much better in smaller group situations when it comes to being social than it is in like one large group where you can barely get a word in edgewise.

Toni: For sure. I have one more thing that I noticed that we did better this year. I don’t know if it is did better. But one more change that I thought was cool this year is we had a lot more females at the event, which people were very — all the females were very excited to see more females at the event and we’ve had more female speakers. So I think that’s a cool thing because there’s a lot of really amazing female entrepreneurs out there that are doing cool stuff. And it’s fun to get them on stage and get them in front of our group of people.

Steve: That is interesting. Do you know what the breakdown was?

Toni: Of attendees I do not. But everyone agreed with me at the bar that it was more.

Steve: Okay. Well, I didn’t notice like lines for the women’s restroom this time.

Toni: Yeah.

Steve: Well, it wasn’t like that before. So yeah, clearly there was more females, and the female speakers kicked ass. We’ll get to that in a little bit. So we switch gears and talk about like key takeaways.

Toni: Sure.

Steve: Are you ready?

Toni: Yeah.

Steve: So first off, I started off the conference with my keynote by talking about how Amazon’s growth is slowing. So Amazon has been growing like gangbusters, but believe it or not in Q1 of 2019, they only grew by like 16% or something really low like that. Meanwhile, the percentage of Chinese sellers had been increasing. Last year I think was like at 25%. This year it’s at 40%. And as I mentioned earlier in this podcast, there’s rampant piracy all over the place. And so it is more important than ever to create a strong brand. But a lot of people, they throw on this word brand but specifically what I’m talking about is a brand that is hard to copy.

What I’m talking about here in the keynote is a brand that relies on developing a community of rabid fans. So, all the talks for 2019 were specially curated to help you succeed in 2019 for stuff that is related to strengthening your brand. So Toni and I, unfortunately, we don’t get a chance to attend all the talks, because we’re each in a different room monitoring them. But I thought it’d be interesting to just kind of go down the different talks, and just give our opinion and our key takeaways on some of these talks; do you want to start Toni?

Toni: Absolutely. So, one of my favorite, favorite Sellers Summit speakers is Dana Jaunzemis. And what I love about every talk she’s done for us is that it’s all based on logic and math.

Steve: So that’s what you like about it? I thought you weren’t a math person.

Toni: I do. I’m not a math person, but I like when other people talk about it. But what I love about Dana is that she is very strategic in her business. And this is something I think she used Amazon as her example. But you can use this, whether you sell on or off Amazon. And she basically talked about finding those profit heroes in your business, those products that are the most profitable, and maybe those aren’t your best sellers, which is something to think about. Your best seller might not be your most profitable product. And so she went through this whole process that she uses to evaluate her products.

And so she doesn’t get distracted by other sort of — my gosh, I’m blanking on what they are called, you chasing the rabbit, I can’t think of the right word.

Steve: Shiny objects.

Toni: Shiny objects, yes, she doesn’t get that shiny object syndrome, because she’s so focused on the bottom line and finding those products that are the most profitable and then optimizing those. Things as simple as updating your listing, making some changes and she actually asked a question in the group, how many people go and update their listing on a regular basis? And less than half the room raised their hand. So what I loved about that talk was just sort of going back to the basics that in the back your mind you know you should be doing but most people aren’t. And just walking you through the whole process of how she does that to identify these items and these products in a catalog. And then what she does to sort of optimize them and maximize her profit with those products that are the most profitable for her.

Steve: I wasn’t in that talk but I saw the slides. And one thing that I’ve just noticed in the e-commerce community in general is everyone just talks about revenue, revenue, revenue which is a vanity metric, very few people talk about profit. And that is actually what Dana focuses on. And that’s what everyone should be focusing on really, right. At the end of the day, it’s about how much money you actually get to keep.

Toni: Exactly, exactly. And actually she did a similar talk a couple of years ago and I actually went in and made some adjustments. And I’ve seen my most profitable product increase in sales just based on some of the things I took away from her talk a few years ago. So I’m excited to implement the things that she shared this year, and hope to see more profit growth as opposed to revenue growth.

Steve: Yeah. And while you were in Dana’s talk, I was in Ed Ruffin’s talk on scaling Amazon advertising for growth. And what was interesting about his talk is he was — he kind of outlined his story about how his Amazon PPC strategy has evolved over time. And I don’t want to go into specifics on Amazon PPC in this podcast. But let’s just say that he found a new method that is working much better than the old traditional methods that you may have been hearing about just kind of online or what people have been writing about. And what came out of Ed’s talk, afterwards, I went to talk to him, I said, hey, I would like to switch over to this new strategy.

And so what we’re doing now is Ed and the Seller Lab’s team, they are going to go through my account and convert it to the new way. And we’re going to do a case study; we’re going to document all the numbers and the increase in sales as a result of switching over the strategy. And that’s going to go on the blog.

Toni: All right. And his recording is also available too if you’re interested in since we’re not going to talk about it.

Steve: Yeah, I don’t want to go through the specifics because it can be a little technical.

Toni: For sure.

Steve: But yeah, excellent talk. It was eye opening for me, because I’m not using that strategy right now.

Toni: Awesome. Yeah, I didn’t get to see that one so I’m excited to watch it.

Steve: And then after that, I think you were in Michael Paulson’s of Jungle Scout’s talk.

Toni: I was in; I actually didn’t get to hear all of it. I was running around a bit. But first of all, he’s a great speaker, he was substituting for Greg this year for us and he did a fantastic job. But I think this is — the talk was interesting to me the part that I got to see only because for my business, we’ve had tons of supply issues with our manufacturers. And so I’m always trying to find new suppliers. And this was a whole new strategy on how you do that. And it’s very simple. It’s nothing. It’s something that everybody can do. And something really fun that I don’t think will convert well on the video is he actually had everybody playing a game at the end, where you had to answer questions about importing products and cost of goods.

And it was actually pretty fun to see. And all the results were coming up live on his screen on the big screen in the room. So I hope that conveys well on the video. I’m not sure if it will, because it was a fun — it’s fun to see how much people thought they know and didn’t know about cost of goods and products and things like that. So unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear the whole talk. So that’s another one that I’m waiting for on the recording.

Steve: And while you were in Michaels talk, I was in a talk about the Google Display Network with Ilana Wechsler. And Ilana, it’s a funny story how we met, we met at Traffic & Conversions at the wicked reports booth. And we were both trying to extract information from the guy running the booth and I don’t think we were getting the answers we wanted. And we just ended up talking to each other. And then that’s when I discovered that she knows a lot about advertising. And a lot of people, they’re running Facebook ads, but most people are not running Google Display Network ads.

And so Ilana gave a really great talk. And it got really high reviews in the survey too about how to leverage the Google Display Network, which actually has a much larger reach than Facebook. And one key point from her talk which I’ll reveal is that a lot of your ads that you’re running on Facebook can be used with the Google Display Network with equal efficiency. And so you can easily expand your reach just by adopting some very simple principles with the Google Display Network.

Toni: Yeah, her talk was I think, one of our attendee favorites based on the survey. So I’m excited for that one as well.

Steve: Yeah. And then next up, Mike Jackness gave a talk about how to extract max value from your customers. I wanted to moderate that talk, because I gave Mike a really personal introduction, since we’re good friends. But he delivered. Basically, when a customer comes, he basically documented the entire journey of when a cold customer comes onto your site, how to nurture them into a warm customer. And then once they make a purchase, how to keep them buying over and over and over again. So I think that got really good reviews as well.

Toni: It did. And if you’re not familiar with Nathan Resnick, how old is he? I just have to ask, 22, 24, he seems so young.

Steve: I think he’s 26. I’m not positive. He had his birthday again right during Sellers Summit, as he…

Toni: That’s right. Yes, he did. Yes. We’re so kind to invite him to Florida on his birthday. He actually, every time I hear him talk, I’m just amazed that he’s as young as he is, with the amount of knowledge that he’s gained. And I think he did — I think his story is that he lived in China right as an exchange student when he was a teenager, and is fluent in the language and created a product?

Steve: He speaks better than Andrew for sure, yeah.

Toni: Well, that’s our standard, come on. But Nathan is always very impressive with his knowledge. And I know that we just had a big — I think you actually posted or he might have posted about it in a group about tariffs going up. And so he basically shared a strategy that he’s using to avoid some of those tariffs, by basically bringing your goods through, can I say where? I don’t know what we’re allowed to say and not allowed to say.

Steve: I don’t know. Just go ahead and say it and if we can’t say it, I’ll just edit it out.

Toni: You’ll bleep me out; you’ll just do a big bleep. Basically, by bringing your goods through Mexico and avoiding some of the terrorists and there’s a whole strategy to do it, which we don’t have time to get into on the podcast. But if the tariffs are something that’s really affecting your business right now, this is a talk you must listen to, because it’s a very once again, a very simple strategy, but one that will work and it’s totally legal. And it was funny at the end of the talk, and

I’m not sure this part was recorded, a couple people asked him what I would consider maybe some like black hat strategy things and he was not going to comment. He was not going to — we don’t endorse any black hat at all, from the stage for sure, and I think you and I don’t endorse it on our businesses, either. But people were very interested in being able to use his strategy. And he kept saying to these people that were asking is you can do this and avoid the tariffs, you don’t have to try to trick the system basically, because there’s a whole legal method of how this works.

Steve: Yeah, I don’t think it’s worth the black hat method. And Nathan and I actually talked about this over drinks, of course, and he was telling me they are black hat ways but if you get caught, the penalties are very steep.

Toni: Right. And that’s what he was saying in his talk is it’s not — there’s a system that works legally. So why not try that as opposed to risking, it could be a big risk for your business.

Steve: I mean that the timing of that talk was awesome, because I think like the week before Trump had just raised everything to 25%. And I don’t actually foresee an end to this trade war anytime soon now that they started blocking some other companies like Huawei and SMIC. So, all right, so next up, we had firing on all cylinders, high powered Amazon business sales with Brad Moss. If you guys don’t know who Brad moss is, he’s been on podcast a couple times at this point. He is the former head of Seller Central.

And basically, he did a breakdown of how he analyzes Amazon businesses to basically maximize their sales. And he talks about all the things you have control over and how to analyze different aspects of your numbers and adjust your inputs accordingly. I know that’s kind of vague. It was actually a very detailed talk that I plan on watching over and over and over again to make sure I get every last nugget out of it.

Toni: Which is funny because that’s exactly how I would describe Matt Sanocki’s talk as well. He talked about email deliverability. And I think even when I introduced to him; I said something about this is a talk that you’re going to watch three times before you get all the information, just because he packed a ton in in the 50 minutes. But basically, obviously it’s about email deliverability. And I think for all of us, it stinks to build your list and then have the emails not get to your customer. So he talked about some strategies that you can use to make sure that you’re in the inbox, which is getting harder and harder.

And he talked about different email service providers and the different strategies and how they work with each one. And I actually had a conversation afterwards telling him that like you and I have had issues with Sellers Summit emails not even getting to like Hotmail addresses. And so he had a lot of strategies for what you can do with the emails that are not being delivered. And then also what you can do with the email addresses that are sort of fallen off, so they aren’t opening your emails, they’re sort of dormant and the things you can do with those emails before you just get rid of them all together. So it’s definitely one of those talks that you’ll watch two to three times before you are able to implement everything that you learn.

Cool. I just wanted to take a moment to thank all the sponsors for the Sellers Summit. Without these sponsors the conference would not have been possible. So in no particular order, I want to thank Klaviyo my email marketing platform of choice, HYC Logistics, a freight forwarding company that will hand hold you through the entire process. BigCommerce, my fully hosted shopping cart of choice, Payoneer, the payment platform that I recommend when you’re doing international sales, Viral Launch the keyword tool that I recommend to all Amazon sellers, Privy the email list growth platform that I recommend to all of my students, Avalara, the sales tax platform that I recommend to all e-commerce merchants to handle all their sales taxes, Product Labs, a company that helps six, seven and eight figure Amazon sellers grow exponentially.

Seller Labs, they offer a bunch of tools that I use, including Scope and Ignite, which will help you manage your Amazon PPC. FEInternational, the company that I trust to buy and sell businesses, Second Office, the Filipino VA firm, where I actually found my Filipino VA to which I’ve used for the last year or so and she’s been great. TotalTM and EmergedCounsel, which is the service I recommend to get your trademark, and Drip, the email platform that I use for my blog. It is a superior email marketing solution if you’re in the blogging space.

PickFu which is a polling platform that allows me to make decisions on my product listings like soliciting feedback from real humans, Jungle Scout, which is the de facto standard for Amazon research tools, Gorgias, which is the tool that I use to handle all my customer service, Urtasker, which is a firm that allows you to outsource all of your Amazon tasks. And I used this from recently and they increased my sales over 30%. And finally FreeeUp which is a freelance marketplace where you can find a freelancer that specifically specializes in e-commerce. Once again, I just want to thank all these companies for making Sellers Summit a success this year. Now back to the show.

Next up, we had the four part formula that will explode your business and create a future proof brand with Scott Voelker. You know what’s funny about this is this is actually the first time that I’ve seen Scott speak at Sellers Summit. I mean, he speaks every year, but this is the first time I actually was there to witness the true power of this man. He has tons of energy online. And over the years, he’s changed his focus over to building a brand. And he talks about his framework about building an audience prior to even deciding what product you want to sell. And it is actually the way to go going forward today in e-commerce in my opinion, too.

Toni: Well, and it cracked me up because I was sitting in Brett Curry’s Google Shopping talk and I get a text from you that says something like Scott Voelker has amazing energy or something like that. And I had forgotten that you had never seen him speak live. And is because I’m always in his session and I thought, well, yeah, why do you think I always put him after lunch? But anyway, it cracks me up because I almost laughed out loud in the middle of Brett’s session when I got that text from you, because I’d forgotten that you had not seen him before.

But Brett, he actually did a similar talk last year on Google Shopping. And last year, I went home and I tried to implement it and I got really angry. I think I probably yelled at you Steve and then I gave up. And so this year, he did his talk that basically, if you got stuck last year from his talk, you will be unstuck this year. He basically went step by step through the process of how to set up your ads. And they’re actually pretty inexpensive when you compare them to Facebook, although one caveat he did have in that talk was that they don’t scale the same way so just something to be mindful of if you are interested in Google Shopping ads. But he basically walked us through lots of examples in his slides, lots of best practices. So if you’re interested in Google Shopping, definitely one to watch.

Steve: Yeah. I mean, if Toni can follow it then…

Toni: That’s right.

Steve: That says something right there.

Toni: There is a lowest common denominator for me in that but it was good. And I think you actually maybe talked to Brett during the year and said, hey, we just need a little more information. And it’s a tough subject to cover in 50 minutes if you have zero knowledge of it for sure. But he did a really good job this year in an overview but enough information where you can go do it on your own.

Steve: I mean, this was based on feedback from last year. Last year, I actually told him to do it advanced Google Shopping talk, mainly because that was the talk that I wanted to see for myself. But it turns out that a lot of people are actually aren’t even running Google Shopping. So this year, I asked them to do a more basic talk. And it sounds like it got better feedback this year than last.

Toni: It did. Because if you’re not familiar with Google Shopping at all, which I wasn’t last year, it definitely cleared some things up because there are a few I don’t want to say tricks, but things that aren’t intuitive in Google Shopping.

Steve: Yep. So that was actually all the talks for day one. Day two, we kicked it off with Bill D’Alessandro on how to scale past solo partnership. And I know for me, this resonated with me, because I’ve been a solopreneur almost solopreneur I should say. And a lot of things that Bill said about how he actually succeeded in obtaining the four hour workweek but then he became miserable, because he was making all this money and he had all this free time but it wasn’t satisfying him. And I’ve started to feel this way a little bit in the past year as well. And so I don’t know, did his talk resonate with you at all?

Toni: I actually did not hear all of his talk but this is my recommendation for his talk. As you know or some of you guys know, my nephews are our AV team. And so they film all of our sessions for us. And I heard and they’re in their 20s, they’re early 20s, they’re 20, 22 and they loved this talk. And I feel like anytime you can resonate a talk with a 20 year old who’s just on the first steps of being an entrepreneur, you’ve really hit a home run. So I’m looking forward to watching that one. People were buzzing about this talk afterwards. It was crazy. I could hear people walking out of the room talking about it. So I’m sure it’s worth. I can’t wait to watch it.

Steve: I mean, if you want to grow your team, and basically get past solopreneurship, Bill’s talk was awesome. It was incredible. The only reason I reacted the way I did was because Bill and I we – you know what’s funny about this is we actually had this talk before he created this talk at Ecommerce Fuel. We were kind of debating the merits between solopreneurship and what he’s trying to do, which is build a huge company. And so it was just interesting for him to put all that in an organized fashion in a talk, very valuable. And I know most people actually want to build a big team and a big company. So I’m probably in the minority there.

Toni: You are definitely in the minority.

Steve: Yes. Next up, we had Ezra Firestone talking about Facebook chat bots. What can I say about Ezra man? That guy is an excellent speaker. It was it was funny, it was informative. There was one point actually during his talk where his mic kind of fell off. And Todd, who runs our AV, he was motioning to me; he is like, hey, go and fix it, go up and fix it. And so I went up there. So his shirt had become unbuttoned. So in the middle of this talk, I just walked right up on stage, I buttoned shirt, he kept on talking. I buttoned the shirt, adjusted his mic, and that was that, he didn’t skip a beat.

Toni: That doesn’t surprise me at all.

Steve: But it was an excellent talk about Facebook chat bots. It turns out a lot of people haven’t been using chat bots. So it’s actually a great primer for it.

Toni: Well, and I think the interesting thing about that is that so many people that we talked to throughout the week were — they’d started their business on Amazon, which is pretty typical, and were really either seeing the writing on the wall or feeling the need to diversify. And so I think people were really interested in some of these off Amazon talks, because that’s going to be such a huge component in building their own online store. And so I think that’s one of the reasons.

I mean, Ezra is an amazing speaker, and I know he always does a good job. You and I have seen him at other events. But I think people really were super interested in the email marketing talks and the Facebook marketing. And those sort of talks were really resonating with people, Scott’s and Brett’s talk because so many people are looking at their Amazon sales and looking at the competition and looking at the Chinese competitors and realizing that they have to make a change in their business.

Steve: Absolutely. How’s the email segmentation talk?

Toni: Oh, she’s the boss, Alexandra. She’s amazing from Klaviyo, she just talked about segmentation. And this is actually something that I feel like I’m pretty good at. So I might suck at Google Shopping ads, but I’m pretty good at email. And it was interesting because some of the things that she talked about were so granular, but easy to do, especially within the Klaviyo platform that I’m not doing and it was like these little light bulbs. And I actually spent most of her talk texting other people that I knew in the room saying we need to do this, you should do that.

Think about this for your product, even down to like, if you sell anything, I’m trying to say if you’re like a fashion or jewelry or anything that has colors involved, you can even segment on the colors that people are buying and then creating emails that actually have those colors in them. So if you have a customer that always buys your gold jewelry, right, say you’re selling jewelry, and you can create emails where everything that email is gold tone, including the buy button, right at the VMware button. And so she just gave a lot of tips on how to think about segmentation, which I think I thought that I was doing a great job and thinking about versus…

Steve: You always think you’re doing a great job Toni.

Toni: I do, I do only on email, really. So but I was thinking segmenting on order value or products that they’re purchasing or frequency of purchase. But she got so much deeper and I thought that was really cool. And I think for a lot of people who have multiple SKUs, it’s something that you should be thinking about, and it’s a great way to improve your conversions on your emails.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people come and ask me, why should they spend the money on Klaviyo? And her talk is the reason right? You can segment very granularly with all of your emails, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

Toni: For sure. And she knows her stuff. So there was — there’s nothing she didn’t cover either that or in the Q&A. So it’s definitely, it’s one of those other ones that you’re going to watch two to three times to get all the information.

Steve: So how was Trent’s talk about scalable wholesale businesses on Amazon? I asked him to talk because I know that there’s actually a bunch of attendees that sell wholesale, and so I thought I’d asked him to just give his perspective on it.

Toni: I’m not going to lie; I had no idea what he was talking about when he got started. I didn’t really understand the whole wholesale on Amazon business, which I’m sure it’s not shocking to you. But he did a really good job of breaking down from how do you get started into like how do you negotiate the contracts? How do you deal with other sellers? And so he did a really good job of walking people through the steps from if you were like me, and had no idea what wholesaling on Amazon was, to being able to actually, you could take that talk and get started.

Steve: Okay.

Toni: And not — I don’t want to say very easily because it doesn’t. It definitely seems like a difficult process. But it’s definitely a doable thing if that’s something you’re interested in. And it was actually a really well attended talk. I think maybe people were interested in maybe branching out.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I mean one thing that’s great about Amazon wholesale is that it is a low risk. I mean there’s always pros and cons to wholesale versus private label. But in general, in terms of monetary risk, Amazon wholesale is a little bit more favorable. You don’t need as much money to get started.

Toni: Yes. And he gave a lot of strategies on the negotiation side, which I thought was good, because there is a lot of negotiating that goes on when you’re trying to get a customer. And so he gave some actual, I don’t want to say they were scripts, but it was close to a script on how you actually approach people and close the deal, which I thought was great.

Steve: Yeah. And while you were in Trent’s talk, I was moderating a panel on transport and tariffs, product sourcing, and protecting your IP from theft. Because I think, I want to say that most of the questions were involved in protecting your own IP, because people are getting knocked off left and right. And what was great about — what came out of that panel was that one, patents are not the best way to protect your product for a variety of reasons. And then Stephen Wagner suggested alternate ways that are a lot less expensive in protecting your IP.

And we also had a bunch of questions about tariffs and getting cheaper prices out of your freight forwarding that both Pam and Nathan Resnick were able to answer. And then Greg, the reason why we had Greg on the panel was because he has all this practical knowledge, because he still sells, I want to say six figures per month in terms of product. And so while everyone else was talking about IP theft and freight forwarding, Greg was actually giving knowledge about what he actually does with his Amazon business. And so it was actually really well done I think.

Toni: Yeah, that should be a good one to watch too, because I actually, I talked to Stephen afterwards. And I think we needed to give him a cough drop or something. He was very talked out after that session, which was great.

Steve: Well, you know me; I got down to every last detail. So if they gave a vague answer, I actually went in just pressed on it until they got tired of talking about it.

Toni: You didn’t let them get away with…

Steve: I didn’t let them get away with vague answers.

Toni: There was no it depends.

Steve: Yeah, you got to test it. Well, no, I don’t want you to tell me what the actual thing is.

Toni: That’s right.

Steve: All right, and then Casey Gauss, you want to come on his session?

Toni: I actually did not get to see a lot of it. I was getting ready to set up for the roundtables that came right after that. But if you’re familiar with Casey, if you’re familiar with Viral Launch, Casey packs in a ridiculous amount of information in a very short period of time. I think this year he had 80 slides. So I have to go re-watch it because I only caught the very beginning of his talk, but he’s so knowledgeable in getting products on Amazon, ranking, driving sales. Their case studies are pretty phenomenal, if you’ve ever taken a look at some of the things that they’ve done at the company. But yeah, he gave a talk on basically how to get your product on Amazon, how to get it to rank without having to give away tons of products.

Steve: One thing I like about Casey is he always talks about his suggestions or his tips and tricks based on data. Because he runs Viral Launch, he actually has tons of data from all the sellers that use his product and that sort of thing. And what he does is he compiles all that information into real strategies that you can implement with your Amazon business.

Toni: And he gave a lot of examples in his talk for the time that I was in there. So it’s definitely one that you want to take a good look at the slides because a lot of that data was on slides in his talk.

Steve: And while you were in Casey’s talk or not in Casey’s talk I should say.

Toni: I was setting up cards on tables.

Steve: Toni is the one running the event and she has to run around while I enjoy myself. At least that’s what she’ll tell everyone. But I was in Molly Pittman’s talk about Facebook ads. And I don’t know about you guys but Facebook ads has changed dramatically in just the past year. Because a lot more people are using the Facebook platform and it’s become a little bit more saturated, Facebook has been — well, they’ve been getting a lot of flak also with all these data leaks and that sort of thing, also. So they’ve really made a change in terms of the way ads work to favor more engagement. And so Molly just outlined a whole bunch of examples of ads that are working for her that have changed dramatically in just the past year. It was a must watch talk.

Toni: Awesome. And we got a lot of good feedback about her talk as well. And it’s that same theme that we’ve seen this year, of people are just very interested on driving sales off Amazon.

Steve: And this year to close the event, we actually got a closing keynote.

Toni: Well big time. We’re big time now.

Steve: Yes. What do you think of Craig’s talk? Did you stay for this one at least?

Toni: I sat in the front row.

Steve: Oh you did, okay.

Toni: Yeah. I mean, we saw Craig at Ecommerce Fuel Live. And he did a talk on shipping rates, which totally was not relevant for me at all. But he was such a good speaker and he has that Scott Volker personality I feel like.

Steve: He’s different than Scott Voelker, though.

Toni: Well, different but he’s got the same energy level on the stage.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Toni: So he’s very engaging. When Scott talks onstage, you pay attention, when Craig talks, you pay attention. And actually, my nephews once again, their feedback was, he’s one of the best storytellers they’ve ever heard and they would listen to him all day. So I actually really enjoyed his talk since I asked him to speak on it.

Steve: You want to tell him what the topic is?

Toni: I’ll let you talk because you actually were a little bit shaken up after his talk it seemed, shaken up is not the right word.

Steve: Okay, so he talked about becoming a purposeful business, basically going beyond just making money and helping the community. And it was just amazing what Craig has done with the community. A lot of us we start our businesses to make money and we don’t really think about like a higher purpose. And I actually talked about this in my keynote, like there’s businesses like Toms, who gives away all these shoes every single year. And the reason why people are loyal to businesses like Toms is because they actually help the community. Now, I’m not saying that you should do it just as an ulterior motive, but it really makes your business a lot more meaningful. And so when stuff gets difficult or whatnot, knowing that you’re actually helping the community will actually keep you going through the hard times.

Toni: And I think one of the interesting things that he talked about is it also gives your employees a reason to stick it out to and I think that’s an interesting tie in that he made in his talk. I think he might have done that in the other talk we heard from as well, but just that they they’re working for something bigger too. And I think that is important. And I thought it was cool too in Sellers Summit with that talk, because I feel like for two or two and a half days, people are just bombarded with information, and strategies and tactics, but at the end of the day, you have to figure out, you have to weed through all of that and figure out what you need to do for your business. And if you have like a bigger goal or a bigger purpose in mind, it helps you sort of weed through the noise and figure out what your business should be doing for your goals and your vision.

Steve: And After Craig talked, that was the official end of Sellers Summit, but we had a bonus session, which was the 5 Minute Pitch live finale. If you guys aren’t familiar with 5 Minute Pitch is a Shark Tank like show that Mike Jackness, Scott Voelker and Greg Mercer now we put together where we gave away $50,000 to one lucky business. And we had five companies come and pitch the audience of Sellers Summit live. And then the audience voted to see which pitch they liked the best and they narrowed it down to the final two. And then we had a panel of seven judges, where we voted to see who the winner was. And we actually handed out a big $50,000 check on stage. It was incredible.

Toni: Yeah, and I didn’t get to go because they had this rule where if you weren’t in the room at like 4:55, they locked the doors and actually had someone guarding the doors because everything was being recorded for your show. And so I actually didn’t finish up with Sellers Summit till later. So I actually wasn’t able to get in. And actually our keynote, Craig couldn’t get in for a while. He stood out there waiting. But what I heard from everybody was that the tension in that room was like palpable, right? People were like sweating and nervous. And this was in the audience, not even the people pitching.

Steve: I was really nervous because over the course of the season, I’d become emotionally attached to these people. And with so much on the line, I could tell they were really nervous. I don’t know, I felt something, I was whispering to Jackness during the thing, which probably got picked up on the mic. I was like, oh man, I’m so nervous for all these contestants. So we’re actually turning that into a podcast, which will be available I think in the next couple of weeks or so. So if you want to catch up and binge watch and all the episodes, they will be available on iTunes pretty soon.

Toni: But it was a packed house for that. And I heard it was amazing. And congratulations to the winner who I don’t think we can say yet, but congratulations.

Steve: We cannot say yet, but it will be revealed soon enough.

Toni: And I have to say like I’m most bummed that I missed the giant check. I really wanted to see a giant check in real life so I’m bummed that I did not get to see that.

Steve: Okay, well, that’s kind of unusual. I can buy you a check if you want.

Toni: Do you watch the Office?

Steve: I do of course.

Toni: Do you remember when they did the fun run and they were going to present the giant check that the giant check itself cost like $300 and they’d only raised like $500?

Steve: The giant check is kind of pricey yeah.

Toni: I just wanted to see one in real life after the Office. It’s a bucket list. I just need to see a giant check.

Steve: Give it to Toni to not want to see the talks; she just wants to see the giant check.

Toni: That’s right. And how cool for the winner though. I mean, that is a really cool experience for everybody. And I’m glad that Sellers Summit got to be a part of that this year.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. So I hope you guys who are listening are interested in these talks, we are going to continue to sell the virtual pass. When do we usually close those? I don’t even remember.

Toni: We don’t keep them for sale forever only because the content is constantly changing or the information is constantly changing. So we want the content to be fresh. So I think we keep them for sale for about six weeks.

Steve: Yeah, for about six weeks, I would say. So maybe in August I guess we’ll close on those sales. But those tickets are available. If you want to check out all the sessions, if you didn’t get a chance to attend the event, we’ll keep that card open for six weeks or so. And I can tell that the reception for this year’s event was good because right now we’ve already sold a bunch of tickets for the following year, which is always a good sign.

Toni: Last year we sold out — well for 2019, our tickets were gone by mid-February. So a lot of conferences pretend like they’re sold out but then they have held tickets back. When we sell out, we sell out; we don’t have any extra tickets. And it actually got so bad this year that Steve had to post in our Facebook group needing an extra ticket, because I would not sell him a ticket because we were totally maxed. So if you’re thinking about going for 2020, grab your ticket now. One, they’re not as expensive; the price goes up as time goes on. But we never have another sale. So it’s not like the price is going to be low on Black Friday or anything like that.

Steve: Yeah, we don’t do that.

Toni: The price is the price. We don’t mess around. Like that’s how it works. And two, don’t be like Steve. Don’t be in the Facebook group crying in March saying that you need a ticket because the gatekeeper is not going to get you one.

Steve: I think you just wanted to see me beg.

Toni: I did. I did. I didn’t have a ticket, though. I really didn’t.

Steve: I think you enjoyed it because prior to posting on the Facebook group, I was like, come on, I just need one, give me one ticket woman. And then you were like, I don’t know. Maybe I could be pissed.

Toni: Here’s the thing, though, here’s the thing, I am loyal to our attendees. And the one thing that we hear every single year, the reason why people come to Sellers Summit again and again, is because they love that it’s small. So if I keep selling tickets, we don’t stay small. So I have to be loyal to the people that are loyal to us. And that’s why.

Steve: Now you’re making me out to be the bad guy trying to expand this conference.

Toni: I know, but I do think that’s why people love it. And I think that’s why people keep coming back because it’s so easy to meet people. And it’s so easy to connect with the speakers. And it’s easy to connect with the sponsors, like everyone is just like – it’s like silly, but a big happy family.

Steve: We’re going to keep it small. If anyone asks, we are not increasing the size of the event. It’s going to stay small, intimate, we’re all going to eat together still. And that’s just the type of conference that I want to attend, quite frankly. And all the sessions are going to be strategy focused. There’s not going to be any fluff, and that sort of thing because that’s just the way that we like things.

Toni: well, I think for us personally, when we attend events, it’s time away from our families. It’s money that we’re spending. If this isn’t going to help us grow our businesses, it’s probably not worth our time and money investment. And so that’s how we feel for our attendees as well. So that’s why we keep creating a conference that does and Sellers Summit does.

Steve: So Toni, where’s the event next year? I know we have everything booked already.

Toni: It is. It is in Fort Lauderdale. So all of you who we’re not a fan of the elevators in Miami, that will be a problem no more. All of our sessions are actually even on the same level next year. So we are in Fort Lauderdale in May, we are May 6th to the 8th and it is the same hotel, The Westin that we’ve been at before so it is right on the beach. There’s actually a walkway directly to the ocean. People like Kevin [inaudible 00:54:19] can get their morning swim before the event and tons of restaurants, everything is really walkable. So we are back at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale.

Steve: Awesome. And by the time this episode comes out, the sales pitch should be up over at SellersSummit.com. Anything else you want to add Toni?

Toni: I hope to see you guys next year.

Steve: Yeah, same here.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now we are selling virtual passes to Sellers Summit 2019 for the next six weeks. So if you want to catch the recorded sessions for yourself, head on over to SellersSummit.com. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode 258.

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, you can basically trigger custom pop-ups for any parameter 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.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, 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!

257: The Right Way To Outsource Your Business With Nathan Hirsch

257: The Right Way To Outsource Your Business With Nathan Hirsch

Today, I’m really happy to have Nathan Hirsch on the show. Nathan is the founder and CEO of FreeeUp, a platform that connects businesses to freelancers and virtual assistants that specialize in ecommerce and digital marketing.

In his prior life, he bootstrapped 2 multi-million dollar businesses and at one point he was managing over a half a million products selling on Amazon with over 1000 suppliers.

In this episode, you’ll learn the best way to scale your ecommerce business and how to outsource.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to manage your products and suppliers
  • The best tasks to outsource
  • The most common tasks that everyone should offload to a VA
  • How to hire and integrate freelancers into your Amazon business
  • The biggest issues Amazon sellers run into while outsourcing
  • Hiring freelancers vs employees

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

Avalara.com – Handling sales tax is complicated. Fortunately, Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax rate calculations and automatic return filing. And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super easy to setup. Click here and get a FREE TRIAL.

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 the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I’m thrilled to have Nathan Hirsch on the show. And Nathan is the founder and CEO of FreeeUp, one of the premier e-commerce outsourcing platforms around. And today we’re going to talk about the best ways to find help for your business.

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%.

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 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 over 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 really happy to have Nathan Hirsch on the show. Now Nathan is the founder and CEO of FreeeUp, a platform that connects businesses to freelancers and virtual assistants that specialize in e-commerce and digital marketing. And in his prior life, he bootstrapped two multimillion dollar businesses. And at one point, I think he was managing over a half a million products selling on Amazon with over 1,000 suppliers. And how is all this possible? It is because Nathan has mastered the art of outsourcing his e-commerce businesses. And with that, welcome to show Nathan. How are you doing today man?

Nathan: I’m doing great Steve, how are you?

Steve: I’m good. How are you?

Nathan: Great. Thanks so much for having me.

Steve: Yeah, thanks. Thanks a lot for coming on Nathan, because you have a really interesting story. And I’m actually very curious about your background and your path on how you kind of started that first company to your other e-commerce company and now to starting FreeeUp.

Nathan: Yeah, so growing up, my parents are both teachers, and I kind of had that mentality that I would go to school, get a real job, work for 30 years and retire, just like they did. And I had all these summer jobs. And I quickly realized how much I just hated working for other people. So when I got to college, I kind of looked at it as a ticking clock. I had four years to figure out something to create some business or else I was going to get thrown into the real world and be miserable for the rest of my life. So I started hustling and buying people’s textbooks to make some extra side money. This was back in 2008 before there were courses and gurus and everything about Amazon, no one really knew what Amazon was at the time.

And I started experimenting selling books on Amazon, and then realizing that they were so much more than a bookstore. And just from trial and error, I mean, I tried sporting equipment and DVDs and computers and stuff that a normal college guy really likes, and I just failed. And the only thing I could get to sell were these books until I came across the baby industry. And that’s when my business really took off. So if you can imagine me selling millions of dollars of baby products as a 20 year old single college guy, that was me.

Steve: Where did you get the products in college?

Nathan: So it was all research. I mean, I didn’t have a warehouse, I didn’t have any money to buy inventory. So I came up with the concept of drop shipping years before I even knew it was called drop shipping, the idea that I could sell something I didn’t have at a marked up price. Whenever I got an order, transferred over to a supplier, a retailer, a vendor, that would ship it for me and I would make the difference. And that was really the concept. I would find these baby products online. There was no SEO or creating listings or figuring out Amazon’s algorithm back then. It was more post stuff on Amazon and see what sells and what doesn’t.

Steve: I’m just curious, like when you were contacting these drop ship companies, why would they take a chance on a college dude to establish relationship with?

Nathan: Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, I started off with these smaller retail sites that were kind of the in between of wholesale and retail. And as I started to sell products from there, I started to go around the websites and contact the manufacturers and say, hey, we’ve had some success selling these products, or hey, we think we have a lot of potential. And it’s kind of like how I do sales outreach now to get on podcasts. You see what works and what doesn’t work and you keep tweaking your pitch until you find that value proposition. And back then that value proposition was, hey, you don’t understand Amazon, there’s a lot of potential there. We have this store with great reviews. We have great customer service; we’ll make it easy for you. We have a process; all you have to do is give us access to your inventory.

Steve: I’m just curious what your views are on this Amazon drop shipping business today. It’s been a couple years since you’ve been out of it, right?

Nathan: Yeah, I stopped last January. I mean, it’s definitely tough. It’s a much different ballgame than it was back in 2008. I did it for eight years and had a lot of success. But at the same time, I have a lot of clients now that do drop shipping, and they hire freelancers and virtual assistants from FreeeUp, and they have a lot of success. And it all really comes down to quality assurance. Amazon is always changing the game on the merchant fulfillment side, whether it’s your cancellation rate, your return rate, your defect rate, all that stuff is incredibly important. And the people that succeed are the ones that are very strict with their suppliers.

You have to be able to do XYZ. And they’re pretty quick to stop working with people that — or working with suppliers that won’t hit those metrics. And that’s what we did back in the day. I mean, back when I started, it was me and two other people on every listing. Now you have a lot of competition out there. And Amazon has gone pretty overboard on the quality assurance as well. So it’s a lot harder, but it definitely still exists.

Steve: So let’s talk about your drop shipping company a little bit. How did you possibly manage? So were those numbers, accurate, 500,000 products and 1000 suppliers?

Nathan: Yeah, that was at our peak. We did about five to $6 million of revenue a year for 7, 8 years.

Steve: So how can you possibly manage that many products? And kind of what was your process for doing so?

Nathan: Yeah, so when you’re doing drop shipping, there’s a ton of moving parts, right. You got to answer every customer service email, you have to update prices, you have to change inventory when stuff goes in and out of stock. So we really used virtual assistants that we would teach to specialize on one thing. We would have a VA that would log in every morning at 9am. And they would adjust prices, or they would get emails from manufacturers and say, hey, we need to get these products down.

We created an onboarding team. So whenever we would get a new manufacturer, they would have a process that they would take them through. So we would get their files and their pictures. And we would go through and say hey, these are the products we definitely don’t want to list on Amazon. Maybe they were too big, or they had a risk of harming someone, whatever we thought it was to try to get only the best products up there, and then once they were up monitoring what was good, what was worth selling, and what was kind of a waste of our time, to take them down.

So we started off very manual. I mean, I’m not a developer. So it was all manual processes. And as we got deeper into it, probably year four and five, we started hiring developers to create a software where the manufacturers could send us files to upload into the software. It would actually monitor the prices, it would monitor the inventory, and it would relay it to Amazon’s API. So it’s kind of cool how it went from a lot of manual process to a combination of manual and automation.

Steve: So I don’t know how good your memory is. But if we could kind of rewind back to the beginning, like what were some of the first things that you knew you need to outsource? And how did you kind of chronologically get to where you were at your peak?

Nathan: Yeah, so customer service was always the core of this. I mean, I had a lot of customer service training in the internships that I had. And when I came to Amazon, that’s one thing that I wanted to really take pride in. And with drop shipping, it’s tough; you don’t have a lot of control. So having great customer service is key. And we used to have it so clients or customers will get responses within hours or minutes. And that was one of the first things that I had to take myself out of because you’re getting emails 24/7, seven days a week. And I had to get someone that could do it at my level without me having to be there so that I could focus on the sales, getting new manufacturers and expanding the company. So the first thing was really customer service to get off my plate. And I still remember that first day that I woke up and I said, wow, I don’t have to answer any customer service emails today.

Steve: Can we kind of talk about the process there and the different types of help that you can get to do that, specifically on the lines of getting someone local versus someone in the Philippines and kind of what is your process for vetting a customer service agent?

Nathan: Yeah, it’s very similar to — I have assistants now that monitor my Skype, my emails, our live chat 24/7, and it’s really that same process. I’m a big fan of going remote. I mean, I’m biased; I opened up an office with the Amazon business around year five, had it for a year and a half and actually got rid of it because I realized that I didn’t love driving to work every day. I thought bringing people together actually caused more drama. I was competing with a lot of other businesses for that same talent that was in my town or town around me. And I thought that I kind of lost a lot of that competitive advantage that I had being a remote business. So I tend to hire remote now.

And back then, I mean, I really structured it so I had a US customer service rep who would handle a lot of the higher level issues, a lot of the management, and then I would have people in the Philippines that would handle a lot of the repetitive tasks, the tracking, the questions, hey, can you tell me about this product. And what I would do is create a blueprint of hey; here are all the different types of situations that we would get, the returns of tracking. And I would kind of break them down, hey, here’s a return that’s not our fault, here’s a return that that is our fault, or manufacturers fault, which really means our fault.

And I would kind of break it down to, hey, here’s canned responses for each one and here’s the level of person that can handle these type of emails. So once it got to past a certain point, that’s when it would get forwarded to that US customer service rep would be able to maybe talk to them on the phone or, or calm down an upset customer. And there was always the point where if the person was really upset, it would get escalated to me. So having that breakdown of all the different types of situations that come in, and as you find new ones, you can always add more situations, and really leveling out to who goes to what is incredibly important in terms of how to vet them.

For me, I’m looking for someone who’s really passionate about customer service. And those type of people are hard to find, the people that no matter how angry the customer is, no matter how irrational they are, they don’t get aggressive, the meaner they get, the nicer that customer service reps get, that is really what I’m looking for. And obviously the other factors like being able to write English at a high level, being able to clearly communicate, showing up on time, stuff like that.

Steve: How do you test that personality attribute? Do you like yell at them during the interview or personality test or how do you do that?

Nathan: Yeah, it’s a great question. So with FreeeUp, and it’s the same hiring process I had back with my Amazon business, we quickly realized that you can’t just vet people for skill. Too many people, they have great resumes, and then you hire them and it kind of blows up in your face. So we like to vet for the attitude and for the communication. And the attitude is where that one on one interview comes in.

And we like to challenge people. We like to have people really prove to us that no matter what we say, and we’re not yelling at them, they’re not going to get aggressive, they’re not going to get agitated, that they’re actually that type of personality that we want to work with. Because I think we’ve all worked with someone who has taken something in the wrong way or they’ve taken something personally, and that kind of stuff really doesn’t work in customer service. The last thing that you want to do is find yourself in the middle of a customer and your customer service rep. So you really have to find the right type of person that no matter what you say, no matter how you challenge them, they’re always going to get nicer and nicer and more rational.

Steve: Can you comment on why you have that US representative and what the breakdown is and whether you have considered having that US job in the Philippines as well?

Nathan: Yeah, so with FreeeUp, we don’t have a US representative. My entire team 12 people that monitor all my Skype and emails, they’re all in the Philippines. The main reason we had it with the US side is when I was in college, I didn’t know anything about outsourcing. The first people I hired were in the US, they were other college kids. And when I graduated, I took the US person and we made them a full time customer service rep at our company. And then when we found out about outsourcing and the Upworks and the Fiverrs and we added people in the Philippines, we didn’t want to fire that person. We just escalated him to the higher priority issues and then we inserted the people in the Philippines underneath. I’m a firm believer that you can have an entire customer service team in the Philippines. It’s not for everyone, but I have a lot of large e-commerce sellers that do it just like I do it for FreeeUp.

Steve: Okay. And then the pros and cons are as far as your experiences go.

Nathan: Yeah, I mean, the pros are obviously price point and having someone that can work different hours. I mean, for me, I have someone that works while I’m sleeping, and then it’s no big deal. It’s tough to get someone in the US that’s going to work overnight. I mean, the cons, it is more of the culture than anything else. Because I would put my top customer service reps against any US customer service reps out there in terms of ability to speak English and communicate and problem solve.

That really depends on the person more than where they’re from. But there’s always going to be those culture differences and it comes up a lot of times in customer service where a client might say something, and it gets a little misinterpreted on the other side by the non US rep. We kind of treat those as lessons. And it’s pretty easy to jump in and say hey, my assistant is in the Philippines, let me just clarify what’s going on here. But that’s definitely the downside.

Steve: What about voice customer support? Do people tend to — do they mind the accent?

Nathan: That’s the thing. With the people in the Philippines, for the most part, their accent is not as prevalent as let’s say someone from India or Pakistan. So it’s not as big of an issue. Of course, there’s always going to be someone who only wants to talk to someone in the US. But again, I have lots of clients that do phone support that will hire four people in the Philippines and the clients on the other end have no idea.

Steve: Okay, so customer support it sounds like was the very first thing that you outsourced? And then once you had that done, what was kind of like the next step in your Amazon business that you wanted to outsource?

Nathan: Yeah, two things. One was bookkeeping. I used to pay all my manufacturers via credit card. So at the end of every month, every quarter, I would have these sheets of just credit card invoices or bills that I would have to go through and input into QuickBooks, which was a huge waste of time. I remember my business partner, Connor and I used to sit there and he would read me a number and I would enter it in. And we would do that for hours every month, until we actually outsourced that and got someone else to put it into QuickBooks. And the other side was updating prices and inventory. I mean, it just got out of control where we were working with so many manufacturers that we were always changing things that we hired a small army of people in the Philippines to update everything as soon as emails came in.

At first we had an inbox where manufacturers knew they could email anytime anything was out of stock or a price change. And the VA would go in, they check the email, they updated on Amazon and mark it as red. And that eventually turned into our software where the person would get the email, enter in our software and move on to the next one, which is a lot easier for the manufacturers that didn’t go to our software directly.

Steve: So on the lines of bookkeeping, are you just going out and looking for like accounting firms? Because I know there’s a bunch of services out there that will find you a bookkeeper. Is that process different?

Nathan: Yeah, it’s a great question. For what I was doing, it was just data entry. So we just hired someone to put it in, we had a system, hey; do A, B, C, D, and then you were done. On FreeeUp, I mean, I have a US accountant, I have a US bookkeeper and then I have the person who handles our billing, a team of people that are in the Philippines that do a great job. And that’s a lot of times how I encourage clients to set it up, to have a US accountant, but have someone different for the actual bookkeeping, and we have a lot of non us bookkeepers that are very good. And they’re a lot more than data entry, they actually understand the US laws and US taxes and how to organize everything. So it’s not a big mess when you’re trying to do your taxes at the end of the year.

Steve: And in terms of just giving them sensitive information, was that something that you had to get over?

Nathan: Definitely, I mean, when I first — my business is growing, right. I’m 20 and it’s time for me to pay taxes. And I meet with my accountant or an accountant for the first time and the first thing he asked me is when are you’re going to hire your first person? And I kind of shrug them off, like why would I do that, they’re going to steal my ideas, they’re going to steal my information. I’m going to have to teach them, it’s going to mean money out of my pocket, just endless excuses that I think a lot of entrepreneurs have. And he just laughed in my face. And he pretty much said, you’re going to learn this lesson on your own.

And sure enough, my first busy teasing came around, and I just got destroyed. I was working 20 hours a day, answering every email, filling every order. And come time for January, I kind of realized I have to get over this fear, I have to start hiring people. And one thing that I’ve kind of realized over the years, and I tell clients this all the time, there’s always going to be a risk, right? There’s nothing I can do to make that risk zero. Even if you hire your best friend to sit right next to you, there’s always a chance to do something stupid. But I’ve been hiring for eight plus years, I’ve never had a serious issue. We bill 15,000 hours a week. I’m sure eventually something will happen, because that’s just real life. But the percentages are a lot smaller than people think.

I mean, these freelancers, these virtual assistants care a lot more about providing for their family, growing their freelance business than they do about stealing your information. And you can have them sign every NDA in the world, but are you really going to chase them across the Philippines to enforce that? Probably not. And what I do recommend is just building relationships with the people that you’re giving sensitive info to because there’s really no substitute for that. And I’ve had people that I fired who have quit on me, and I didn’t want to hurt them. They didn’t want to hurt me because we kind of built that relationship. So that’s kind of my advice.

Steve: I guess what I’m specifically asking you is like, is there a division of what you give to your Filipino bookkeepers versus the US? Because what you don’t want is like your numbers getting screwed up and not having anyone accountable for it, right?

Nathan: Yeah, there’s really not. I mean, on the back end with whether you’re using PayPal or a credit card or on Amazon, you can always give user permissions. And I essentially give them permission so they can view stuff and get access to what they need for the bookkeeping, without actually changing or taking money or anything like that.

Steve: And in terms of managing your entire product portfolio, do you just kind of split up all your products into categories or something and then you just form them out to different Vas?

Nathan: In terms of like managing it from the manufacturer side?

Steve: Yeah, like managing 500,000 products? How is that even structured? Let’s say you have like 20 VAs, how do you have them — do you just have each one of them handle like 100,000 or 50,000?

Nathan: Yeah, so we would mark our best manufacturers. So those are the ones that we would give to the people who have been there the longest. And then from there it was every single manufacturer was set up differently. Some of them, they never went out of stock. They made everything very custom made. So those were very low maintenance, maybe we would check in with them every quarter. And then you’ve got the ones that are updating prices all the time, and you have someone that’s constantly checking those emails and updating, and then you have others that are once a week or once a month. So for us, we’re really structuring it by the type of manufacturer and how often they change prices and inventory, then more of that, okay, you got a rep with us that’s in charge of 50 manufacturers a piece.

Steve: Can you also comment on freelancers versus just having someone on your staff because the term Freelancer implies that they have a whole bunch of other different customers that they’re kind of handling at the same time, right?

Nathan: Right. And this is kind of how I structure my business. My day to day operations, the customer service, the billing, that’s all outsourced. These are people that are part or full time. But for the most part, they’re working just with me and that’s kind of in substitute of having the office with 10 full time employees, but all the higher level stuff, the writing for my blog, the running my Facebook ads, all that is US either freelancers, or agencies. And most of the time, I don’t need them just dedicated to me. It’s totally fine if they have other clients, as long as my work gets done at a high level. So that’s how I kind of structure my business. The things that I need full time that are more repetitive, that are day to day, I’ll outsource to the virtual assistants. And the stuff that’s more project based or more high level, but not full time, that gets put on to the freelancers and to the agencies I use.

Steve: One other concern that I just thought of is if you want them to help you out with their Amazon business, they’re going to need a login. And if they’re logging in from like all over the place, and perhaps they use an IP where someone else got banned, is there any risks there?

Nathan: Yeah, I’ve been hearing that rumor forever. To be honest, I’ve yet to actually see that happen. And I’m not saying it doesn’t. But I work with thousands of Amazon sellers that use VAs that work for lots of other Amazon sellers both inside and outside FreeeUp, and I’ve yet to ever see that happen. And I think from Amazon side, they expect you to hire people, they don’t expect every amazon seller to be a one man operation. Yes, you should give the user permissions and make sure that you’re not giving someone the main access. And if you want to take it a step further, you can have that hide their IP and give them a VPN. But I think it’s a concern that’s been well overblown in the industry. I’ve really not seen that happening. I know with my own Amazon store that I did it for eight years with VAs. They were working for lots of other sellers at the time as well.

Steve: Okay. Okay, so as far as you haven’t seen anyone get affected in that way?

Nathan: I really haven’t.

Steve: So what are some of the biggest issues specifically in the e-commerce space that you’ve seen people who’ve been hiring freelancers, like what are their main issues and how do you overcome them?

Nathan: I think the biggest issue is setting expectations right from the beginning. I mean, you have to remember that freelancers like you said, they work for a lot of different clients. And what’s good for one client might be bad for another, what one client really likes might be another client’s pet peeve. And I see too many people that will hire a freelancer and just get them started with the work and then check in three weeks later or whatever it is, and they’re not happy with it, for whatever reason. And for the most part, that’s all about setting expectations up front, hey, this is how we’re going to communicate, this is what the goal of the project is, this is what constitutes success or failure.

I even tell the freelancer what it’s like to work with me because I know that I’m unique compared to other business owners, I talk fast, I move fast I, I don’t do voice calls. I do keep everything in writing on Skype. So I really prepare people what it’s going to be like working with my business, working with me, and what the expectations are on that project. And the more time that you spend up front before actually getting started setting expectations, the more time you’re going to save down the line on the he said she said or not getting the type of work that you want.

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One thing I also want to ask you about is just talking about the cultural differences in a Philippines employee as opposed to like a US employee, for example, and how to navigate that. So what are some things to expect? And what are some things that you preempt we do to make the transition easier?

Nathan: Yeah, I learned this the hard way back in the day. I hired this really awesome lady Cheeks [ph] who still works with me today seven, eight years later, whatever it is. And after her, I made a bunch of hires; I invested my time, my money into training them, and getting them set up, only to have people quit on me. And I couldn’t figure out why is everyone keep leaving; I’m treating them the same way as I’m treating the people in the US. They don’t seem to be quitting on me. And I really just asked Cheeks, I said, what’s going on? Well, why do people not want to work with me? And she told me that the way I talk is very direct.

And people in the Philippines, you can’t generalize everyone, but for the people that I was working with, and my personal experience with people in the Philippines, they tend to be more emotional, they tend to take criticism a little differently than a lot of people in the US. So what I had to do was change my approach. I had to change how I would talk to people, how I would give feedback, how I would give directions. And just by making those small changes on how I would send out an email or how I would send a Skype message or how if someone did something wrong, I wouldn’t call them out in a group with other people, I’d keep it more private. Stuff like that went a long way into decreasing my turnover. So that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve seen is they just tend to take things a little bit more personal, less on the business and logical side, if that makes sense.

Steve: Interesting. And then what are some other cultural differences that just kind of affect the day to day? So why would you go for — I guess, aside from the price, what are some of the pros and cons?

Nathan: Yeah, I personally have had a great experience hiring people from the Philippines. I think they’re really hard working, I think that they’re looking for an opportunity, that they want someone that they can — they want something reliable that they can grow with and be a part of, and I think what I try to do is make them feel a part of the business because at the end of the day, that’s where they are. FreeeUp is growing that and they’re growing too. And I think getting more into that mentality where you might have someone from the US that is just interested in the paycheck, but could still do a good job for you. If you get someone from the Philippines for the most part, I try to make them feel included, make them feel like it’s a family, make them feel like I had their back at all times. And that’s how I’ve seen a lot of success. And yeah, like I said, they can be incredibly hardworking and dedicated to you if you treat them correctly.

Steve: How is the vetting process different?

Nathan: So what I mentioned with FreeeUp is we vet people for skill, attitude and communication. So we get thousands of applicants every week, we take one out of every hundred, and let them on our platform. For skill we have different skill tests that we give. If someone’s a graphic designer, we look at their work, if someone’s an Amazon expert; we have the Amazon tests that we give them. And we’re not looking for someone who’s a 10 out of 10, you can be a seven out of 10 or a four to 10 as long as you’re priced accordingly, and you’re honest about what you can and cannot do. So the first part is skill.

The second part is attitude, which we briefly touched on before. We want people who are passionate; they’re not just in it for the payments. They actually care about their clients; they don’t get aggressive the second that something doesn’t go their way. And we do one on one interviews for attitude.

Steve: I guess I’m just trying to get the distinction between the — because someone who’s using a Philippine worker for the first time, they might be kind of surprised, or there might be some ways that they interact with you that are kind of different. And so I’m just trying to ask you what the expectations are. It’s funny, I had John from Onlinejobs.PH on the podcast a while back, and we were just talking about some of the cultural differences and how to navigate those. And that’s what I’m trying to get out of you.

Nathan: Yeah, I mean, I kind of briefly touched upon it. It’s weird. I’ve had like a very great experiences working with people in the Philippines, I haven’t seen something where it’s like, okay, you need to watch out for this. A lot of it too is just talking to the people that you’re working with and saying, hey, what do you like? What does not make sense? What’s confusing? How can I communicate better? And that’s how I’ve kind of figured out how to work with people, regardless of their location?

Steve: Or do you work with them in the exact same way as you would a US employee?

Nathan: For the most part, yes. I mean, I tend to talk to everyone, no matter where they’re from in that same light. And I tend to only hire people that can work with me in my environment. I try to stay away from people that wouldn’t be a good fit for the kind of way that I work with them because I mean my team right now is 40, 50 plus people. If I have to work with everyone different, I’m going to go crazy at the end of the day. So I try to find people that are a fit for me rather than me trying to become a fit for everyone else.

Steve: Well. So one thing you mentioned earlier is you’re less direct with your Filipino employees, right? So can you give me an example of how you would soften the blow on — so I mean, apparently you do treat them slightly differently, right, just based on that?

Nathan: Yeah, it’s funny, once I got that feedback and I started to adjust how I would talk to them, I kind of adjusted how I talk to everyone to kind of more like preventative maintenance. But yeah, so I had an assistant who I hired, he was really smart. And he kept making these small little mistakes. And I kept tagging him in a group chat, like, hey, watch out for this, watch out for this. And he couldn’t, for whatever reason that just wasn’t effective. And I finally pulled him aside and was like, hey, what’s going on? How can we keep making these errors? I keep calling you out. And he pretty much said that he was embarrassed that I kept calling him out in front of other people. And it made him nervous, and it made it so he couldn’t focus and so he couldn’t work.

And so what I would do separately is say, hey listen, you’ve done a great job on XYZ. Here’s a few notes on things that weren’t done properly. Let me know if you have any questions. You’re doing great, just kind of keeping it much more positive, if that makes sense.

Steve: Can we talk about outsourcing tech, because I know a lot of people in the US including my students, they have problems making little adjustments to their website and whatnot. And so when it comes to outsourcing tech, any tips there?

Nathan: Yeah, I mean, that’s something that I learned way back in the day, working with developers is really hard. I mean, for someone like me that’s not a developer that has more of a business mindset, trying to bridge that gap between what is going on, on the code side and what’s going on the business side is hard. For me, it’s all about communication and not assuming anything. I have two developers in India right now, one in the US and we go over things to the T. What might be assumed on the business side, like hey, it has to have this function for the client is not assumed on the dev side.

And what might in my mind be a small project might be a big project, or vice versa. So before we get started, we spend extra time going through everything, making sure that everything is in writing that it’s hey, this is due by x date. So there’s no confusion. For the most part, I don’t do any voice calls with my tech people. It’s all in writing. It’s all clear, ready to go.

Steve: Do you use any software to help you out to describe the app? I mean, I can’t imagine not having a voice call. Are you drawing flow charts? What does the document look like?

Nathan: Yeah, we use a software called Jira. It maps out every bug, every revision, every new update, and it really lays it out for them. Yeah, that’s what we found to be effective. I mean, for the most part, I’m not doing voice calls with anyone. I’ve found that by dealing with people from all over the world, the most effective way is to keep everything in writing at all times. So nothing gets lost, calls don’t drop out and there’s always something to reference back to.

Steve: What is your communication tool of choice? Are you using email, Slack, Asana?

Nathan: Yeah, I keep it pretty basic. I use email, I use Skype, I use Trello for projects, I use Jira for developers. And that’s really it.

Steve: Wow. Okay. And so can you just kind of describe your day to day and how you manage all your VAs. Like, what does your typical week look like?

Nathan: Yeah. So Monday morning at 10am we have a meeting with all the VAs, we go through the week before we go through what’s coming up this week. For example, I’m traveling this week. So I update them on that, the different projects that each team is working on, each one gives an update. And then throughout the week, we have different meetings. So my customer service team has a meeting, my billing team, my social media team, and my business partner Connor and I, we’ve really split up the teams. We have very different skill sets, he handles the developers, he handles the social media, the content. I’m handling the customer service, the billing, more of the business structure type things. So we split those up, we have different meetings throughout the week. And then…

Steve: So by meeting it’s not a voice meeting or?

Nathan: Nope, it’s group chats on Skype.

Steve: Group chat. Okay.

Nathan: Yeah, so we’re going through those, and then people will cover my Skype, my email and all that while I’m doing podcast, doing client calls, whatever it is, and then as issues come up, anything that needs to be handled within the next hour or so that gets sent via email, anything that’s urgent gets sent via Skype. And that’s really how we differentiate that.

Steve: And can you comment on the price difference between getting a VA in the Philippines versus the US and how much basically all the different things cost? Like, for example, how much is a customer service rep that you’d expect to pay versus a dev versus like a bookkeeper?

Nathan: Sure, so outside the USA, it’s usually in that five to $10 an hour range ballpark. There’s obviously going to be people that are cheaper or more expensive. For that mid-level, that’s kind of where you see the difference where you can get that mid-level specialist in the Philippines for maybe somewhere between seven and 15 an hour, where in the US, it’s more on that 20 to $30 an hour.

Steve: What is your definition of mid-level?

Nathan: Yeah, so basic level is people that are followers, people who can follow your systems, your processes. Mid-level are more specialists, the bookkeepers, the writers, the graphic designers, where you’re not teaching someone to be a graphic designer, but they’re not consulting with you either. They’re doers. And then the experts are that maybe 15 in non US and 25 and up US who are bringing their own expertise to the table, can console, can execute high level gameplay and stuff like that.

Steve: So we’re looking at like a price differential of like two to one then Philippines to US?

Nathan: Yeah, a lot of times.

Steve: Okay. And oh, can you comment on the writing? Like, do you ever outsource any writing?

Nathan: Yeah, if you go to the FreeeUp blog, made up of both US and non US writers. And, again, it comes down to the person more than location. We have some really talented non US writers on the blog. Do they compare to the US? Maybe not. A lot of times the US can far exceed anything they can do, but they’re very solid, especially if you’re a startup and you’re running on lean, and you need to get a lot of content out there.

Steve: Okay. So Nathan, I want to kind of end this interview with just some common pitfalls to avoid, just some general tips that people who want to outsource and try to help them avoid some of the common mistakes.

Nathan: Yeah, I mentioned the three levels. That’s where a lot of people go wrong; either hiring someone for five bucks an hour and say, hey, run my Facebook ads, run my Amazon PPC, and then they have a bad experience. Or maybe hiring an expert who has their own system and process and trying to make them follow yours. That’s where a lot of people go wrong. I mentioned the setting expectations, not diversifying. What a lot of entrepreneurs will do is because hiring is hard, so they’ll make a lot of bad hires.

And they’ll finally find someone they really like. And they’ll load that person up with everything. And it just makes your business incredibly risky. If that person quits or gets sick or you have issues with them, it can really set your business back months or years. So those are kind of the three things that I would encourage you to do is make sure you’re hiring the right level, make sure you’re setting those expectations up front. And make sure as you grow, you’re diversifying and not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Steve: And then I did want to give you a chance to talk about FreeeUp a little bit. And specifically, I’m curious how is FreeeUp different from like an Upwork for example?

Nathan: Yeah, so I used all the other platforms out there. And I really wanted to build my own that was better taking what I liked and changing what I didn’t like. We get thousands of applicants every week, we take the top 1%, let them in, make them available to clients quickly, rapid fire whenever you need them. We have clients who get started within hours or minutes of putting in their request. On the back end, we have 24/7 support to make sure that you’re taken care of. And then we also have a no turnover guarantee. If someone quits for any reason, we cover replacement costs and get you a new person right away. So that’s how we’re different, the pre-vetting, the speed, the customer service and the protection.

Steve: Interesting. How can you find someone so quickly actually, you said within a couple of hours?

Nathan: Yeah, so we’re not recruiting. So it’s not like you put in a request and we go out into the world and find them. We already have these people in our network ready to go. We get about 4,000 applicants a week to get on our platform. So we’re constantly adding people to the platform. And once you submit a request, that request is going to the people that are already there ready to go looking for work.

Steve: I see. Cool. Well, Nathan, where can people find you online if they have any additional questions?

Nathan: Yeah, go to FreeeUp.com with three E’s, my calendar is right at the top. If anyone wants to book a time with me, mention this podcast, get a $50 credit to try us out. And definitely check out the FreeeUp blog and the FreeeUp YouTube channel for a lot of other great content about hiring.

Steve: Cool. Well, Nathan hey, I appreciate you coming on the show man. It was good to finally connect and chat.

Nathan: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Steve: All right, take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. I’ve actually started making use of VAs in the past couple of years and it’s actually made a huge difference to my businesses. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob/episode257.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, 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 and sign up for free, 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 parameter 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!

256: Sunny Lenarduzzi On How To Start A YouTube Channel

256: Sunny Lenarduzzi On How To Start A YouTube Channel

Today, I’m really happy to have Sunny Lenarduzzi on the show. Sunny and I met at Social Media Marketing World where we were both speakers and she has over a decade of experience as an award winning video, social media and brand strategist.

She helps entrepreneurs elevate their businesses on YouTube and her clients have generated over 5M in revenue from organic YouTube traffic.

In this episode, we discuss using YouTube to grow an ecommerce business.

What You’ll Learn

  • What type of videos work well and how to think about getting traffic on YouTube
  • How rank a video in search
  • How to build an audience on YouTube
  • How to turn YouTube subscribers into email subscribers
  • How to promote new videos

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 Sunny Lenarduzzi on the show. And Sunny is a YouTube expert. And what’s interesting about today’s interview is that the advice she shares with us today is actually very different from the last YouTube expert that I had on the show. Stay tuned to find out why.

Before we begin, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Supper excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are my email marketing platform that I 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 e-commerce 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 purchased, 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 my email capture forms. And I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Now, there are a bunch of companies that will manage your email capture forms but I use 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 Sunny Lenarduzzi on the show. Now, Sunny is someone who I met for maybe five seconds at Social Media Marketing World where we were both speakers. But I did see her on stage and I was very impressed with her YouTube knowledge. Anyway, who is Sunny? Sunny helps entrepreneurs elevate their businesses on YouTube. And she has over a decade of experience as an award winning video, social media and brand strategist. She’s helped clients generate over $5 million in revenue from organic YouTube traffic. And she was named as a must watch YouTube channel for business by Forbes and Huffpo. And with that, welcome to show Sunny, how are you doing it?

Sunny: Thank you. I’m good. Thanks for having me.

Steve: So Sunny, give us the background story and your motivation for doing what you do. And why did you quit television actually?

Sunny: Why did I quit television? Good question. So I think my motivation is really intrinsic to even when I was a kid. I always wanted to help people and educate people, while also doing it in an entertaining way. I grew up as a total arts kid. I danced and I was an actress and did all that stuff. And I think the through line was that I really loved telling stories that can make an impact. And I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So my original thought, because obviously social media was not always the thing was that I was going to be a journalist and I went to school to be a journalist. My big goal was to work at the 2010 Winter Olympics and I achieved that goal.

Steve: And you did, didn’t you?

Sunny: I did yeah. I achieved that goal and that was pretty much right out of school, which was very lucky. And it was happening in my hometown of Vancouver. And I went up and lived in Whistler for the entire duration of the games, and was filing stories every day. And the thing that really struck me was that on a very logical level, I was on this amazing path. I was, oh my gosh, I was like early, early 20s when the Olympics were going on. And so I was on this pretty fast trajectory. And if anybody knows me, they know that that’s not a coincidence, it’s how my life works. I’m very impatient and I do everything fast.

But in this case, I was like, cool, okay, I’m here, I’m at the Olympics. This is amazing. I’m getting this once in a lifetime opportunity. This is really my first big gig out of school, which is crazy. But it still didn’t feel right. And I thought logically in my head, this is it. I’ve done it, check, moving on to the next thing. And my vision of what I wanted was to be the six o’clock news anchor in Vancouver, the major market and I was like, hey, well, I’m going to have to move to a small town. And that’s okay, I’ll do that. I’ll get my experience, then it’ll come back. But when I had this light bulb moment when I was at the Olympics, and it just did not feel right to me and I wasn’t feeling inspired.

I was feeling a little bit frustrated. And I just was more than anything feeling stifled. My whole purpose of getting into journalism and TV was to be creative and to tell stories in a way that I wanted to tell them. Whereas I found the opposite to be true was, I was being told how to edit things. I was being told how to say things; I was being told how to dress. And I kind of just realized it wasn’t for me. And on my way home from the Olympics, I had this crazy idea of starting my first business which I have never started a business, I do not have any business knowledge. I did not go to business school. And I decided to start an online magazine, which at that time was also insane, because not a lot of people were doing that. And I built the entire thing up using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and just naturally figured out how to use all of them. This time, Instagram wasn’t even a thing.

Steve: Right. You’re dating yourself by the way but yes.

Sunny: I know totally. I think it’s also important for people that are saying like I’ve been around the block for a while; this is not new to me. But I just didn’t talk about it for a very long time. And so I basically did that. I started this business and I built up a team of 10 writers. I executed everything on my end. We built up our email list pretty fast, like everything grew fairly quickly. And I really got good at building brands with social media. And so, all these other companies started to take notice because it was so new. And they basically asked if they could hire me to do their strategies, do their management on social.

So then I built this little tiny consultancy, one woman show, did it for five years, traveled, worked for my laptop. And one day, it just got to a point where I was very lucky that by word of mouth, I was getting new clients, but as a solopreneur, you hit a ceiling and I hit that ceiling. And I basically realized I can’t keep answering my clients’ questions individually and going to these meetings to talk about their questions about social media. I have to figure out a way to answer these without having to spend more time because I need that time to work. So pure desperation, I sit down, I film a tutorial on one of the biggest topics at the time.

One of the biggest questions my clients were asking me, which is all about Periscope. It had just launched itself by Southwest that year. It was this huge phenomenon and everyone wants to know how to use Periscope and livestreaming for their business. I sat down, filmed a video, sent it to my clients, thought nothing of it. I had no subscribers on YouTube, but my channel was full of old demo reels and family videos. That was it. And the next morning I woke up and I went and looked at the video and it had 2,000 views on it. And I was obviously shocked. I didn’t know where the views had come from, I was so confused. But I also again had a light bulb moment and realized, okay, well if I did this for a year, I wonder what would happen?

So I kind of just went in with a sense of curiosity. And I made a new tutorial on a social media topic every single week for a year. And in that first year, I grew to 50,000 subscribers, 3 million viewers, and I built my email list completely from scratch to tens of thousands of people on it, which was nuts to me. I didn’t even really know I wanted to be talking about YouTube specifically. I created my first digital product, which was about social media in general, did a launch for that ,learned about online business, learned what an online course was, all this stuff. And everything changed. I always say YouTube changed my life because it really, really did. It changed my business for sure but it also changed my life.

I got a ton of speaking engagement offers. My very first speaking engagement was actually at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, because of their social media manager found me on YouTube and reached out on LinkedIn. And they flew me out to Brussels to present on how to leverage video for their delegates and for the people that they were inviting to this conference. And so it really was a game changer for me. And I think the motivation has always stayed the same. I light up from helping other people understand how to leverage communication tools like social media to make an impact. I want to empower anyone who comes in contact with my content to get their message out there. Because everyone in my opinion, and I think this is the journalists in me but everyone in my opinion has a story to tell.

Everyone has an angle in their life that no one else can speak to and that’s what makes you unique. That’s what helps you build a really powerful brand. And it all starts with this. I just tried, I just tried it. I was curious, I didn’t give a crap about metrics, I did not care about vanity numbers. I just tried to put out good content that wasn’t even highly produced. I used a webcam and a window.

Steve: Today your videos are very polished though.

Sunny: Thank you. Yeah, but now I’m at 200 and some thousand. So again I think that’s a really important thing for people to understand. Like I grew to 50,000 subscribers using a window for my light and an $80 webcam that I touched my computer and I edited the videos myself on IMDB. So and that grew my email list to like I said to tens of thousands of subscribers that allowed me to do my first launch. It brought on thousands of new customers for us through a digital product. So it doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to try.

Steve: So Sunny, you got me really excited now. So when it comes to YouTube and today’s podcast, I want you to kind of address the crowd as if we were starting from complete scratch. And I don’t want to talk about any equipment at all, let’s just assume that people know how to take good quality video from a technical perspective. So I would also like you to take the spin of kind of using YouTube to grow an e-commerce business because a lot of my audience is into e-commerce. So let’s start first with the very basics, like what type of videos work well? And how do you actually start getting traffic on YouTube.

Sunny: Okay so the best way to start getting traffic on YouTube is and this is going to go against probably what a lot of people listening are thinking right now is starting with educational videos, because you have to keep in mind, YouTube is a search engine. And people are searching for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems all day, every day. And if you can show up and as entrepreneurs, we are problem solvers, as business owners, we are problem solvers. As an e-commerce store owner, you are solving a problem by providing a product that’s either going to help somebody or have some kind of an impact in their life, whether it’s something little and fun or something monumental and related to their health, it’s there for a reason.

And so you have to keep in mind that by doing tutorial based content, you’re allowing your content to show up to people who have never heard of you before, which is the magic. I went from zero people and 10 clients max in my little consultancy to 3 million people knowing about me and tens of thousands of people on my email list in a year. And that’s why my business grew so fast. So it’s understanding that tutorial based content is always the best way to start. Then once you have an audience, of course, you can start going after different kinds of content, you can create more lifestyle content, you can create content that’s maybe a little more interesting or diverse. But I still to this day, if you go to my channel, the majority of my content is tutorial based, because I’m constantly generating new leads and a new audience that are going to be interested in my products and services.

Steve: Do you do keyword research then to figure out what to film?

Sunny: Oh, yeah, a lot of it. I always say research before you record. I think it’s my number one rule that I have when it comes to YouTube. And I reiterate it to my clients and to our students all the time, mainly because if you’re not, you’re kind of just throwing up videos and hoping they succeed. And that’s not really fair to anybody, because you’re putting time and effort into these. And we’ve all had those moments where you post a piece of content, and it’s like crickets, and that just doesn’t feel good. So I use a couple of different tools but the easiest tool to use is called Keywords Everywhere. And it’s just a free Google Chrome plugin. And it will tell you the search volume of any term, any long tail phrase, or just individual keyword that you type into either Google or to YouTube. So you know what kind of search volume is behind the topic that you’re going to be making a video on and whether not you have an audience for it.

Steve: How do you determine how competitive that keyword is though?

Sunny: So it’s changed a little bit recently, because the easiest way was I had a formula where it was basically search volume versus search pool versus views and velocity. So what I mean by that is, it was basically the search volume is obviously the amount of search display in behind that keyword.

Steve: And this is on Google, right? Not necessarily YouTube, is that correct?

Sunny: It can be on both. I mainly focus on YouTube, because it is a little bit different. But it shows you how many people are searching for a specific topic every month. So that’s your search pool, and then you do your search volume. And then your search pool is the amount of other results that show up. So I used to be able to see this really easily, there’s a couple different hacks that you can see it now. And it will say like 2 million results, 1,000 results. So that means 1,000 other videos have been made on this topic. You’re trying to look for a topic that there’s been fewer videos made on because if you’re trying to compete, especially as a new channel with millions and millions of results, you’re going to sink to the bottom of the sea and never get found on YouTube.

So and keep in in mind that YouTube is a ranking game. So your best bet for actually building momentum in traffic is to rank number one. And in order to do that, you need low competition, high search volume. So I used to do it with just looking on YouTube search results. Now since it’s gotten a little bit trickier, you can actually use a tool called TubeBuddy, it’s a great tool. And it will show you the competitiveness and it will say you’re rating basically from poor, fair, good, very good or great. And so you’ll know if it’s worth going after based on that rating system.

And then the views and velocity is say there’s three videos ranking at the top for the topic, how to get more views on YouTube. And those videos have been up there for five years, and they have a handful of views. That’s going to tell you right there oh, that’s probably not a very good topic to go after because the top ranking videos only have a handful of views. So you want to go after topics where the first couple of videos actually have a high amount of views on them because that’s a topic people are actually going to be wanting to watch and searching for.

Steve: So assuming you’re not using TubeBuddy, do you have any guidelines in terms of how many videos you’d like to see for a given keyword topic?

Sunny: Yeah, I mean, it’s not really a guideline, because it’s totally dependent on the niche. And we’ve worked with people in thousands of different niches, but I just always say the smaller the better. That’s kind of the general rule. And if you’re just starting your channel, try and keep it under 50,000 video results that you’re competing against. And if you’re a more established channel, of course, you can go after bigger topics because you built more authority, but yeah, the smaller the better.

Steve: All right, so let’s say you found the right topic, and it has less than 50,000 videos on that particular topic. Is there a process that you use to actually get it to rank once it’s been published?

Sunny: Yeah, I mean, there’s so many things to that. So in our program with YouTube for bosses, we teach it in a four phase system. So really, first is the research portion of it, which does take the longest, but it’s also the most important because then you’re making videos that you know are actually going to get views on them, and have potential to rank. And then we go into scripting and filming. And scripting and filming is really important to ranking as well and not a lot of people talk about that.

I created something called the hot script formula, which gets you into the meat of the content as quickly as possible. Because again, your goal on YouTube is not to just serve your existing audience, the goal of YouTube and the magic of it is that you are capable of bringing in a brand new audience all day every day. So you want to make sure that you’re doing your videos in a way where if someone has never heard of you before, they’re going to stay tuned for the entire video. And it’s going to give you high retention because that’s the number one ranking factor on YouTube is people watching your whole video. So you want to get to the meat of the content as quickly as possible.

Steve: Yeah. Can we talk about some of the guidelines as part of that? So you said get into the meat as soon as possible? These are new people also viewing you. So do you give like a brief intro about yourself and your credentials also or no?

Sunny: Yep, so the hot script formula is hook. You’re hooking the viewer and then you give them the outcome of the video so they know exactly what they’re going to learn. They know they’ve landed in the right spot, they know what’s clickbait, they’re not going to waste their time. And then the testimonial or something like if I were to do this for a video, I would say the hook would be in this video, I’m going to teach you how to rank number one on YouTube. The outcome would be by the end of this video, you’ll know exactly how to write the perfect description so that you’ll get found in your search results. And the testimonial would be I’ve helped my clients go from scratch to 100,000 subscribers in 10 months and 10 million views leveraging this formula.

Steve: Hmm, nice. Nice. And that sounds pretty concise actually also.

Sunny: Yeah, you want to keep it under 30 seconds ideally, but if you can do it under a minute that also works.

Steve: And then how long of a video do you typically target? You mentioned that retention is very important. Does that imply that shorter videos work better?

Sunny: Not necessarily. I get that question a lot. People are like, what’s the perfect length? There really is no perfect length. I have videos that are 15 minutes. As long as it’s a tutorial with no fluff, no filler, people watch the whole thing because they’re trying to get the outcome. So of course as concise as possible, no fluff, no filler but there’s no really specific length, because if it takes you 30 minutes to explain the outcome and how to get to the outcome the viewer is looking for, people will still watch that for 30 minutes.

Steve: Because the reason why I asked that question is sometimes I don’t actually have 20 minutes. And maybe I won’t finish the video even though it’s really good. So is there some ideal length in your mind or does it really not matter at all?

Sunny: It really doesn’t matter at all to be honest, because I think you have to think of the mindset that people are in. If you really want to learn something, whether you watch the entire thing in that sitting or you come back to it later, you’re going to want to watch whatever video that it is in order to learn the outcome that you’re looking to learn.

Steve: And are there any tricks to get people to watch until the very end?

Sunny: Yeah, I mean, my scripting formula works pretty well. We usually give them an incentive to stay tuned until the end and it might be something like I’ll give you a special invite to my community of e-commerce sellers so you can get support from other people who have done this like yourself. So that will be like a Facebook group. But you don’t give them the information until the end of the video or you tell them, we actually have put together an entire guide on how to sell your first $100,000 worth of product, stay tuned until the end. So there’s a lot of different ways to do it. But yeah, giving them some sort of an incentive, also doing it step by step because then people have to watch the whole video in order to again get the outcome they’re looking for.

Steve: Interesting. And that incentive you talk about at the beginning of the video?

Sunny: Yeah, you tease it; you tease it at the beginning of the video.

Steve: And then to get them to watch other videos I hear is also another metric used to rank. Is there anything that you do at the very end of the video also?

Sunny: Yeah, I think I call it complimentary content. And this is something fairly new in the last year or before. This wasn’t weighted heavily but of course, every social platform at this point wants to keep you on it longer. So watch time on your channel. But watch time just on YouTube in general is very, very important. So basically, what I do is I kind of alternate so one video, I’ll send people to a guide. One video, I’ll send people to another video that’s like complimentary. So for example, I have a video on how to get really comfortable on camera. From that video, I’ll be like, okay, great. Now you’re comfortable on camera. Now let’s make your first video, here’s how to make videos with your phone. And then I’ll send them to my video on that topic. So I just kind of alternate to increase both watch time on my channel and my authority, but also build up my list, build up my community.

Steve: Okay, and then once — assuming we followed your scripting formula, do you do anything else to actually get the video to rank? Do you give people … okay yeah.

Sunny: So step three is actually optimization and uploading. So of course, you have to upload your video in the right way to optimize in the right way. That includes doing end cards, adding clickable cards throughout the video, doing your titling and your description in the right way, your title has to have your keyword up front, or also it will not get found. Your description needs to be done in a very specific way. I have a bunch of videos about that. And then tags and of course, your thumbnail. There are so many factors to getting your video to actually stand out on YouTube and those are the things that you need to do in phase three.

And then phase four of our program is all about distribution. So this is often a misstep, people just put the video on YouTube and hope it’s going to get seen. But with how much video is uploaded to YouTube on a daily basis, your biggest unfair advantage if you do have an existing audience, or even if you have an audience of 10 people is to share that video on platforms where people are already following you. So when I got started, I had like a couple of thousand people following me on Twitter. And I would share every video that I put out within the first 24 hours on Twitter. And then when Instagram came around, I started sharing every video on Instagram, Facebook same thing.

So I share it on all the platforms, I send it to my email list. So we have a whole checklist in our program of where exactly you want to be sharing your content and how to do it and why you need to do it in the first 24 hours, which is because YouTube really pays attention to that first 24 hour period and how much engagements, how many comments, likes, shares the video gets. And the more comments, likes, shares the videos gets, the more YouTube is going to go, wow, this must be a really good piece of content, I’m going to push it up even higher in not just the rankings, but also in suggested, meaning it will show up in the sidebar, when people are watching YouTube, and it’ll be a suggested video for them to watch.

Steve: So does the thumbs up matter as well as the comments?

Sunny: Yeah, that’s the like, yeah.

Steve: You know what’s really hilarious about this Sunny, I actually just interviewed someone on YouTube who does this for a living as well. And what’s funny about this is your strategy and his strategy are completely different.

Sunny: Oh, interesting.

Steve: He was saying that none of that stuff matters. It’s just all about retention. And the keywords in the description don’t really matter, either. But I think mainly it’s because he produces non tutorial based video.

Sunny: Yeah. Is he doing more blog stuff?

Steve: Yeah, more blog stuff yeah.

Sunny: It’s just a different beast in both. But I’m still saying like retention really for me is the most important metric. And it definitely isn’t last year on YouTube. But I’m also I think it’d be silly not to make sure everything else is done right because those things are very important for your rankings as well. So yeah, I think there’s obviously differing opinions. But I know what’s worked for me. And I’ve now helped over 2,000 people grow their channels very rapidly, so I know what works for other people too.

Steve: Sure, of course. And in your description, does it pay to create a nice, long, rich description?

Sunny: That part doesn’t matter as much anymore. I’m not really one to do like an essay in the description, especially because a lot of the times, it can kind of defeat the purpose of the video. I often see people put every single step that they include in their video in the description. I’m like, why are you doing that? Because people are smart, and they’re going to go down there, read that instead of watching the actual video, and that kills your retention. So I do about 200 to 400 words. And it’s really just a reiteration of what we’re talking about in the video and doing the primary keyword saying that over again, and then also adding in your secondary keywords as well.

Steve: And what about the keywords in the video? Are those important or do you just populate them just kind of by default?

Sunny: Do you mean like saying them verbally or?

Steve: No, no, you know how underneath the video you can type in the topics?

Sunny: Oh, like a tag?

Steve: Yeah, the tag, sorry.

Sunny: Yeah, I do recommend paying attention to your tags. And I mean, I don’t think you need to go crazy with them. But you do want to reiterate again your primary keyword and the tags as well.

Steve: Okay. All right well, let’s talk about — you mentioned building an email list from YouTube many times. Can we talk a little bit about how you do that?

Sunny: Yeah, totally. So I mean, my best way to do it is to just keep it hyper relevant. And I think that the more that you understand that people if they’re taking the time to watch your video, they’re invested. And YouTube is really a lot of warm leads, because they’re already in a place of needing the answer that that they’re searching for. When they find you, so when you deliver it, of course, they’re going to want to learn even more from you. So for example, we have a video on how to get more views on YouTube. That video now has well over half a million views on it. And it’s built our email list and continues to build our email list even though it’s three years old, and I’ve made updated versions of this video, it’s building our email list by about 300 leads a day. And those are all being funneled into our programs and our product offerings.

Steve: Is that done via a link beneath the video or within the video itself?

Sunny: So both, so I always talk about it at the end. And that’s part of my scripting formula, it’s my call to action at the end is it’s just extra relevant information. So the video is on how to get more views on YouTube. Our lead magnet that we have attached to it, which is basically a PDF download that has extra information about how to optimize your videos, it’s called views release news and it’s a YouTube SEO checklist. So it shows you how to optimize your videos in the correct way to actually rank them.

Steve: And when you decide your call to action at the end, you mentioned earlier, sometimes you refer to other videos, and sometimes you take them off to sign up for your email list. So you just kind of keep a balance because both are important?

Sunny: Yeah, exactly. Both are important yeah.

Steve: Okay, and kind of talked about a lot of things. You did mention the thumbnail, how important is the thumbnail?

Sunny: Thumbnail is vitally important, especially now just because there are so many videos on YouTube, so really dialing in a thumbnail strategy is super, super, super important for your videos to stand out.

Steve: So do you have any tips? What’s your style?

Sunny: M style has changed. I was doing — I don’t know I was doing like three words, three or four words and I still recommend it. If you’re a newbie, and you’re just starting on YouTube, no more than four words on your thumbnail is really, really important and having big bold text because you have to keep in mind if people are searching on mobile, which a lot of traffic on YouTube obviously comes from mobile, it’s teeny, teeny, tiny, tiny, the thumbnail. So you have to really make it pop on a tiny little green with a tiny little thumbnail. But now because I have an audience, I use a lot of thumbnails that don’t have any text at all. And it’s just more of like a big bold picture of myself in like a bright background.

Steve: Interesting. Yeah, I’ve heard conflicting things about thumbnails. Some people advise that you always keep like the same style so when someone is scrolling through, they immediately recognize that it’s you and they want to click on it. And then there’s other people, they just try to be really bold, really bold colors, really funny facial expressions.

Sunny: Yeah, totally. I mean, there’s so many different styles you have. And I think the thing is like, I’m constantly changing it, I’m constantly testing it. But if I were to start all over again, and I just did a video on this, I was like, if I were to start my channel from scratch, this is what I do. And I would go back and I would start my channel with thumbnails that have three to four words maximum, that are very like punchy headlines for whatever the video is about.

Steve: Okay, and for the distribution part, when you’re starting from scratch, and let’s say you don’t have anything, what are some of your advice there in just kind of jump starting the process?

Sunny: Sorry, what was that, sorry?

Steve: Let’s say you have no audience to start like you’re starting from nothing.

Sunny: So still same thing applies. I mean, I would still just — I would do the research. And we have a lot of people that come in through our programs who have no experience, have no audience and are starting from scratch. And I think the thing that I just always reiterate is like, this is not an overnight game. YouTube is a long game, we do have clients who have grown insanely fast and built massive businesses in a very short period of time. But I think it’s important to set the expectation that every video is helping you, every video is getting you where you want to be. So if you don’t have an audience, do the research, still do the research, figure out how to script and film your videos in the right way, optimize them and upload them in the right way so they can actually be discovered in search. And then of course, distribute them where you can.

And here’s the thing, when you’re a beginner and you don’t have an audience, you can pull from other people’s audiences. So there are so many Facebook groups and forums out there and I did this at the beginning. I would go to Facebook groups and forums that were dedicated to social media marketing and filled with other people in the marketing space. And I’d ask the admin or I just get the approval to be able to share and I’d say, hey, I do these videos, is it okay if I share them? And then even a lot of times that there’s tutorials in groups, there’s going to be people asking questions about specific things. If you have a video that answers that question, that’s so helpful. So I think as long as you understand you can build an audience even if you don’t have one right now by getting really crafty with where you’re putting your videos.

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So Sunny, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about some specific case studies that you’ve done or clients that you’ve had in e-commerce space, and how you’ve managed to help them build an audience. Do you have any case studies handy for physical products?

Sunny: Yeah, so Stone Coat countertops. This is a really interesting one, we just worked with a company called Stone Coat countertops, and they sell epoxy products. And we brought them in through our intensive program and they worked with us for 90 days. And they started with us at about 70,000 subscribers; they already had a good start. But they came to us because they didn’t really understand the entire process of YouTube and they didn’t understand how to continue the momentum. They were finding that they were kind of getting stalled. So we worked with them for 90 days, we doubled their subscribers to 140,000. They’re now close to 200,000.

And we also helped them pay off the investment of that program, which is not small, but it’s worth it if in the first video, you are generating close to $20,000. So their first video that they did with us, they’ve generated close to $20,000 in product sales. And it was a live stream. And it’s something that we do with a lot of our clients to kick off the momentum of their channel. It’s our live launch strategy. And yeah, they generated about 20k in sales, and then they had their highest revenue month ever in the first month of working with us, and like I said, doubled their subscriber growth as well. So they doubled their revenue and doubled their subscriber growth.

Steve: Can we kind of talk about like the exact video that was produced that generated this money?

Sunny: Yeah, it was actually a live stream video. So it was the very first video that we did with them in the program and we advised them to go live to basically do a live demo of how their products work and treat it like a launch, treat it like a product launch. And they had extremely high retention. It was super interesting and engaging how they set it up. It’s on their channel if you want to go check it out. I can’t remember the exact title to be honest. But it is on their channel if you want to check out how they set it up.

Steve: I can see how that would work. It’s an epoxy right, so you can demonstrate how good it is. It’s kind of like an infomercial or like a QVC type of commercial.

Sunny: Totally yeah, yeah.

Steve: What happens though if your product doesn’t really solve a problem and it’s kind of like a vitamin?

Sunny: Oh my God, that’s huge. There’s such a big opportunity for say you’re selling a vitamin. Okay, what is the vitamin for? Do we have an example of like what the vitamin?

Steve: No, I just kind of came up with that at the top of my head. But let’s say it’s like vitamin C.

Sunny: Okay, cool. Cool, so I would be making videos on all — I would create basically a list of all the benefits of what vitamin C can do for you and then I make tutorials. So let’s say that vitamin C helps build up your energy, or helps you get better sleep at night or helps you have a better complexion. I would do a video on how to get clear skin with vitamins. And then I would talk about all the steps that you follow. And then I would say actually, one of the things that I use is this product, which is something that I’m actually selling now. Vitamin C, whatever the brand is, you can grab it in the link below.

Steve: How do you get over people who have camera fright? Do you have to have your face on the video?

Sunny: You don’t have to, but it works a lot better when you do, yeah. It’s called YouTube for a reason. They want to see you on YouTube. And I just know because we’ve worked with so many people now and I get this question a lot. And the thing that I always say is, I’ve been through this too, I mean, and I came from working on a multi-million dollar set in Morning TV to going on to YouTube. And you think it would be easy for me because I had done so much TV before this. But it was really hard because I was like, I don’t have the lights. I don’t have a team. I don’t have a producer. I don’t have a director; it’s just me in a webcam. Why would someone want to watch this?

And I also really battled with people thinking I was going to be an egomaniac because I was putting myself on camera. And so I just got to a point where I was like, the thing is, I’m helping people. And if I focus on the value of my content, the nerves really go away. I’m not focused on what I’m looking like or sounding like and getting so caught up in that, I’m more so focused on like, I’m a genius at what I do and I’m going to share that out to the world. And everyone is a genius in their own right; everyone has something that they’re really, really good at talking about. And you naturally are talking about it anyways.

I’m sure for you, you talk about e-commerce left, right and center because you’re passionate about it and you know a lot. So if you were to write down — and this is a good tip for anyone listening, if you write down a list of all the things that you’ve mastered in your business, that’s a really good place to start for topics. So you write down a master list of like, I know how to optimize videos, I know how to write a description on YouTube, I know how to sell products through YouTube videos, I know how to build an email list on YouTube. I know how to build up my Instagram following, I know how to double my engagement. Cool, all good topics, then I do the research. So starting with just like a brain dump of these are all the things I’m really good at and then doing the research and the process that I talked about earlier to figure out how to actually get them up and out there on YouTube.

Steve: Sonny, I know you have a podcast as well. What’s your opinion on putting your podcast episodes on YouTube?

Sunny: I really don’t like it.

Steve: It actually will hurt your channel?

Sunny: Yeah.

Steve: It will.

Sunny: Yeah. Well, it depends on how you do it right. So there are really cool strategies of how to do it in a way where you’re still getting higher retention. But that means you’re doing basically short clips from a podcast. So I think it’s actually Jordan Harbinger who’s just on my show, but he does a really good job with repurposing it. And he basically takes like little mini tutorial clips from his guests, and he turns them into tutorials on YouTube. So he just takes that clip, puts a thumbnail on it, does it the right way for YouTube uploads and for YouTube, and it does it really well for him.

Steve: Okay, yeah, that guy lives like right down the street from me.

Sunny: Yeah, he’s so awesome.

Steve: Yeah, it’s so funny because he does video as well. So he’s taking video clips, right?

Sunny: Yeah, exactly.

Steve: He knows. Okay yeah. And what is your opinion on Facebook video actually compared to YouTube?

Sunny: Facebook video is great. I think the thing to understand is that video of any kind on any platform works in an amazing way for you, it’s the best way to build that like a trust factor with people, if people can see your face, they can see how you react to things, they can see your eyes, they can see how smart you are and trustworthy you are on camera. My thing with Facebook video is that it’s not evergreen. It’s cool for viral velocity and it’s cool for engagement in the moment. YouTube and why I love it so much is because it will continue to build your business in your sleep, it will continue to bring in leads for you in your sleep as long as you’re getting your videos ranked. And it you will continue to generate videos for years to come if they’re high in the search rankings.

Whereas on Facebook, you post it, you get a couple days’ worth of engagement velocity, and then you have to make something new. So I love YouTube because it’s a little bit of a lazy strategy. It’s like I make one video, that’s free advertising for me bringing in leads for me. I don’t even need to touch it, the channel is going to continue to grow, subscribers grow, leads grow on my email list and I’m good to go.

Steve: No, laziness is good. So just kind of curious then, when you produce a YouTube video, how do you repurpose that content?

Sunny: So when I produce a YouTube video, we repurpose it into Instagram stories, we repurpose it onto our Instagram feed usually through a graphic and image and a really interesting caption about why the audience there should go and watch it. We send my email list; we put it on to our Facebook page as basically we used to do a native teaser. So that strategy worked really well for a long time, where we would do like a 30 second clip of the beginning of the video and then we’d say to watch the full video, go to YouTube. Now I mean the best way to do it is to do a live stream because it gets so much attention on YouTube or on Facebook. I go with live sometimes, and I’ll just be like, yeah, check out this new video that we have up on YouTube, you’re going to learn X, Y and Z. It gets an immediate high level of attention from your audience and drives a ton of traffic over to the channel.

Steve: I see. So you’re actually not trying to get an audience on Facebook, you’re driving everyone over to your YouTube video?

Sunny: Exactly.

Steve: So how do you feel about embedding YouTube videos into like a blog post and driving people there? Is that the same as driving it directly to the YouTube page?

Sunny: It’s not. So our strategy has always been drive people directly to YouTube for the first 24 to 48 hours. And then we’ll switch out the links and we’ll send people to my website. But the reason that we don’t send people to the blog, or the website in the first 24 to 48 hours is because that you don’t — a lot of that traffic doesn’t count and you’re not getting engagement. People don’t go to a blog and then click on the YouTube video and give you a thumbs up, a comment, and a share. That just doesn’t work that way. People are lazy, which I get. So you want them going directly to YouTube to give you them the signals that you need so that YouTube knows it’s a good piece of content. So this is a huge missed opportunity for a lot of people when they just embed the video on their blog. You want to send people directly to YouTube first, give them a thumbs up, a comment, a share, a subscribe, super, super important.

Steve: Okay, wow, this is so interesting just because I interviewed the guy and he said that stuff wasn’t important at all. So the thumbs up and the comments, okay. All right, so send them directly to the YouTube video and then also embed it on your post and maybe later on, you can refer people, but that first 24 hour period you’re saying is crucial.

Sunny: Crucial. Yeah.

Steve: Okay, do you have any key analytics that you look at for your videos?

Sunny: Retention is my main analytic and then I will say…

Steve: What’s a good retention number?

Sunny: I’d say anything about 50% is good because you have to keep in mind people’s attention spans and also understand that there’s going to be a lot of people dropping off in the first couple of seconds just because things happen. It’s okay, that’s normal. But as long as it’s a pretty flat line throughout the entire video before you see a drop off. And for most of my videos, if I look at the graph, so I can actually tell when people go off of my videos because there’s a dip. And it’s usually when I say and this is the goal is when I say yeah, go grab our guide, or click this link below to go join our Facebook group or whatever it might be. And at that very moment, I can see in the graph on YouTube in the back end, people are dropping off and heading over there. So that’s a pretty powerful method for people to stay on the video.

Steve: Okay and if my videos are unlisted and I change them to public, does that 24 hour timer start then or when I actually…

Sunny: Yeah, it starts when you actually make it public?

Steve: Okay? And what are some of the most common mistakes that brand new YouTubers are making?

Sunny: Oh man, there’s so many. And I actually just did a video about this, because I get asked all the time. So I mean, the biggest one is people think they need to be doing a video a day. And that’s just like painful because it’s all about quality. If you can do a quality piece of content every single day, all the power to you. But if you can actually create something that’s going to be impactful, meaning it’s going to inspire, educator or entertain, you just don’t, you don’t need to be posting it, it’s not going to benefit you in the long run. It’s not like an Instagram or a Facebook where you constantly have to be active. It’s about quality over quantity. So that’s the biggest mistake, I would say. And then…

Steve: Let me ask you this, if you have a bunch of crappy videos, would you recommend deleting them then and keeping your channel tight?

Sunny: No, I think you can keep them up. I don’t think you need to necessarily like have them public but I think you can keep them on the channel. I think people ask that a lot too and they’re like, do I need to delete all my old videos? And I’m like it’s kind of a waste of time. I’d rather just you focus on moving forward and doing things in the right way there. And honestly, we’ve had a lot of people have success with re-optimizing their videos in a way with old videos and seeing those old videos go to the top of the rankings and generate more views for them.

Steve: Interesting. So if we were to look at your channel, we would see all the old videos as well?

Sunny: Yeah, they’re all there, good and bad.

Steve: I will definitely link those up then.

Sunny: Yep.

Steve: Sorry, you were in the middle of talking about another mistake. I apologize.

Sunny: I actually don’t remember what I was going to say. Oh, the other biggest mistake briefly. I’m sure peeve people off but it’s just that people think like, oh, I look at someone like Casey Neistat or I look at someone like Peter McKinnon or I look at them like a Gary Vee and I’m like, okay that’s the model. I got to follow that model. That’s what I’m going to do. And it’s not. You have to do what makes sense for you, the niche you’re, what your capabilities are. Casey Neistat is a world class filmmaker as is Peter McKinnon.

Gary Vaynerchuk has a team of 20 plus on his brand team, dedicated full time editor and videographer. So like, be realistic about where you are and what you’re capable of, and how you can bring the best forward with what you have, instead of trying to copy other people’s models because no one’s ever going to supersede the original. And it’s important to hone in on what makes you unique, because that’s what performs the best on YouTube.

Steve: I’m just curious, what does it take for you to produce a video today, like who’s on your staff?

Sunny: For us, we now have — we just actually like this month brought in an in house videographer. But she’s also doing more than just YouTube. She’s doing all of our video content internally for like our courses, and then also for our programs and then also for like promotional ads, and then YouTube as well. So it’s actually still to this day, very easy. We for the most part are doing one shoot every month or one shoot every two months. And I bang out four to eight videos in about four hours. And that’s it. That’s all I do. And then my team takes them and edits them and creates the teasers for them for the other platforms. And then distribution is up to myself and then the other members on my team, where we make sure that it gets sent out via email and social media.

Steve: Okay, and so you just batch it all and it’s just one video a week.

Sunny: Yep, yep.

Steve: Well, Sunny, we’ve been chatting for quite a while. I want to give you an opportunity to talk about your services and your course.

Sunny: Well, thank you. Yeah, so YouTube for Bosses is the best place to start. If you go to my website, SunnyLenarduzzi.com, you’ll be able to find it under the work with me section. I’ve had thousands of students come through this program. See incredible results. We’ve had one student go from, like I said, zero to 100,000 subscribers in 10 months, and she built a multiple six figure business. She’s done well over half a million in her first year of business, starting from complete scratch with no email list nothing when she began with us on YouTube. So that’s one of our best case studies out of YouTube for Bosses. But we have so many more. We have clients growing by thousands and thousands every single day, whether they started with one subscriber on their channel, or they started with a more established channel.

So it really does show you everything you need to know to succeed as an entrepreneur on YouTube. But I think that something really important to understand is that there’s a big difference between being a daily blogger, a creative and an influencer, versus being an entrepreneur on YouTube, and really checking in with your objective and your goal for it before you get started on your strategy. But our strategy has worked for entrepreneurs, but it also has worked for personal brands, it’s worked for bloggers, it’s worked for people in all different niches because it’s a formula. It’s not like it’s something that’s customized to every single person. It’s a formula you follow. If you follow the formula step by step, you’re going to see insane results. And then we also have a consulting program, both group and one on one and we have an agency see as well.

Steve: Do you handle smaller clients as well?

Sunny: Our smaller clients usually come through our group consulting program.

Steve: Okay. Okay, cool. Well Sunny, I really appreciate you coming on the show. I learned a lot today.

Sunny: Thanks for having me.

Steve: All right, thanks a lot.

Sunny: Thank you.

Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now because I’m in the midst of starting a YouTube channel with my kids right now, all of this information is super helpful. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode256.

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 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.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post-purchase flow, 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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255: How To Make 6 Figures Selling Clothing For Moms With My Student Tsippi Gross

255: How My Student Makes 6 Figures Selling Clothing For Moms With Tsippi Gross

Today I’m really happy to have Tsippi Gross on the show. Tsippi is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course and I distinctly remember her first sale when she sold 12 dresses just by showing off her samples!

Today, Tsippi runs a 6 figure business at HavahTribe.com where she sells trendy apparel for breastfeeding Moms without using Amazon at all.

In this episode, Tsippi and I discuss the triumphs and the struggles of entrepreneurship.

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What You’ll Learn

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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’m thrilled to have Tsippi Gross on the show. And Tsippi is a student from my Create a Profitable Online Store course, who has created a six figure maternity fashion company from the ground up, and today she’s here to tell her story.

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 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 a red handkerchief 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 over 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 really happy to have Tsippi Gross on the show. Now Tsippi is a student in my Create a Profitable Online Store course. And after joining my class, she launched her online store HavahTribe.com selling trendy apparel for breastfeeding moms. Now Tsippi is actually one of my favorite students in the class, mainly because she is so communicative. And I still distinctly remember her very first sale, which came in September of 2017, where she was just showing off some samples and I think she made 12 sales just like that.

Anyway, fast forward to today and she now runs a six figure business without using Amazon at all. In any case, I’ve been looking forward to this interview for quite some time and I asked Tsippi to come on the show today to keep it real. We’re going to talk about the triumphs and the struggles of entrepreneurship. And with that, welcome the show Tsippi, how are you doing today.

Tsippi: Hi Steve, thanks so much for having me on. This is quite an honor.

Steve: No, it’s an honor for me to have you on. And hope I didn’t butcher the timeline or your name or your store details.

Tsippi: I’m pretty impressed with you remembering all that. That’s pretty cool.

Steve: So please let the audience know about what you sell in your store and how you got started.

Tsippi: Okay, so we sell apparel for nursing women, and it’s actually could really be worn by any women. And it really is, that’s the truth, a lot of just any woman buys it. But the point is that we wanted a line that would be specific that any breastfeeding woman could buy it too and wear and feel comfortable while they were breastfeeding. So how we started out was basically I had just had a baby and I have these like horrible pregnancies. I have HG where I’m like on IV the whole time, like my whole entire life basically shuts down every time I get pregnant. And then I’m like, after that I’m like, oh my god, what am I supposed to do?

I have to start rebuilding a life and I looked into different jobs. And I was like, I don’t want to just like work for someone. And I was like listening to all these podcasts about, I don’t know, parenting. And then I was like, there’s got to be a podcast about starting a business. So I was scrolling through. And then I saw My Wife Quit Her Job. I was like that’s so cool; whoever that is, is awesome. So I just started like binge listening. And it’s so interesting, because the first podcast I heard was your student who had started a clothing business online. And I was like, so inspired, I was like, oh my gosh, if she could do it, maybe I could do it. And I was like, I just remember being like so, so inspired, I listened to it like 10 times probably.

And at the same time, I just didn’t have anything to wear. As a modest mom, I just couldn’t find any clothing to wear while breastfeeding. And I didn’t want to send out my baby. So like everything that your class and podcast stood for, I was like, okay, this is going to be my life from now on. So that’s really how I got started.

Steve: So let’s talk a little bit about your product, because it is kind of unique. And just for the benefit of some of the males out there perhaps, can you describe what your value proposition is with your product?

Tsippi: Yeah. So our value proposition is that we make clothing that women could wear through any stage of their life. So instead of having to buy clothing when you’re pregnant, when you’re nursing, and after that, we have one item that you could wear throughout all stages. It washes well, it fits well and you could just feel really good and confident. So that’s our value proposition. And sorry, what was your second question?

Steve: It was okay, so I’m just going to put words in your mouth here because I don’t think you’re doing your product justice. So basically, if you’re out in public, and you need to breastfeed, there’s nice convenient zippers and claps where you can discreetly without like completely undressing breastfeed your child.

Tsippi: Exactly. Because I was finding that we have to like take our clothes off physically when we’re breastfeeding. And especially if someone’s wearing a dress, I mean, you got to go find a public bathroom, it stinks and it’s just seems so pleasant. And it just felt like the fashion world was like kind of punishing these women who were having babies. It was just like crazy. So that’s how.

Steve: So let’s talk about just designing clothing. Do you have any experience prior to this?

Tsippi: Nothing.

Steve: Okay, so how did you go about designing these pieces?

Tsippi: So I just want to say that when this idea came to my mind, I interviewed, I surveyed like 100 of my friends just to see if they wanted it. And this is when I was still like, should I buy Steve’s course? Should I not? I was still like toying with the whole thing. And I was like you know what; your major value prop is that you okay everyone’s idea. So I was like, I really just need to make sure this is a good idea before I get into it. And I was sure that it was and then I emailed you. And I was like, hey, so what do you think about this? And you’re like, I really don’t recommend clothing.

Steve: Yes.

Tsippi: And I was like, oh my God, I really want to do it. I think it’s going to work. I have 100 women who said that they will buy and you were like, listen, I really I don’t think it’s a good idea. But the keywords are good. So I guess if you’re like dead set on it, you could try. I just want to say coming full circle that I agree with you clothing is a bad idea. We’ll get into that later. But I had no experience and I really just followed your steps in your course of how to find a manufacturer, how to find a supplier. I kind of like sent them really bad videos of my daughter kind of like super glued tissue paper onto her shirt and made her lift it so I could make a video and showed — we stapled stuff to send them videos. Can you do this? And they were like, yeah. So that’s how we started.

Steve: Interesting. So did you communicate with the vendor via Skype? Oh no, you sent them video you said.

Tsippi: It was WeChat?

Steve: Yeah, WeChat. Okay, great. And how many vendors did you have to go through before you found the ones that you’re working with today?

Tsippi: We found this one pretty much right away. And we also were working with another one who failed their inspection so we stopped working with them, but yeah.

Steve: Let me ask you this question. Why did you decide to go to China right away, as opposed to someone in the US?

Tsippi: Yeah, so we actually didn’t, we started off in the US. And while I was toying with joining your class, I was already doing my own, making my own samples in America. And I realized really quickly that the cost of production here would be about like 65 or $75 an item. And I just didn’t think I could sell them for much more than that. So I still did make a first run here in America. And also, it was so difficult, like the fashion world in the US is so hard to navigate. You have to order your fabric from one place, your buttons, your zippers, you have to have your pattern made by someone, your sample made by someone else, the factory then has to make another sample of it, the tags have to be somewhere else, the whole thing is crazy. And in China, they do everything in one place. And I was like, oh my god, I need that. I don’t have time for this.

Steve: So you made your first run in the US. Did that imply that you had a pattern then that you sent to the Chinese manufacturer?

Tsippi: We didn’t actually end up sending it because I was so unhappy with the US quality actually.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Tsippi: Yeah. So we didn’t, we started from scratch with China.

Steve: Okay, so the China vendors were better than the US vendors in your experience.

Tsippi: They were like eager to please. They had had so much experience working with other customers. And I don’t know, I guess we really lucked out with this factory.

Steve: Okay. And what was your initial run? How many pieces because with clothing and the reason why I don’t recommend it just for the benefit of listeners is there’s so many sizes you have to worry about, and the return rate is much higher.

Tsippi: Awful exactly. So when we started in America, I think we made something like 50 units total.

Steve: Of one style or multiple styles?

Tsippi: No multiple, because here in the US, maybe it was more, it might have been 100. In the US they’ll make as many as you want, they’ll just charge you a lot more. And in China, our first run was probably about five to 700 units.

Steve: Okay, wow, that’s okay. That’s the number of units. And how did you distribute the sizing?

Tsippi: It was awful. Oh, this was actually really funny. So since I had just had a baby, and my sister who was helping me had just had a baby, we were the models. So we tried it on, we were like, yeah, this kind of fits like a medium. But we were like so off because our bodies were not back to their regular sizes. So our first run of production, everything ran a size too big. So it took us like a while to figure that out when all the customers started complaining that everything was a size too big. But we rolled with it.

Steve: Yeah, let’s describe that. I mean, especially when dealing with someone who’s pregnant or just gave birth, that must be really difficult, right?

Tsippi: Yes very difficult.

Steve: What was your — was it just trial and error then?

Tsippi: Yes. And we have such exact measurements on our site and a guide explaining like how to measure and we still have like insane amounts of customer service questions about this, like how many centimeters? I’m this big on top and this big on the bottom, what size do you think I should get? And I’m like I don’t know, like measure again.

Steve: So do you have a phone number where you’re handling these calls then or are they just via email?

Tsippi: Mostly email, we use Facebook Messenger. And then yeah, some people kind of find our number, but I don’t know how.

Steve: Okay, all right. And how did you know that it was going to work before you ordered five or 600 units? Like how did you validate it?

Tsippi: Well, I think that’s what you were talking about the trial before. So basically, when I was still in the niche hunting stage and wanting to validate, I bought a bunch of dresses from a fellow manufacturer here in America. And we literally like sewed zippers in and cut holes in certain places. And I put up the worst landing page you have ever seen. Somebody that I did not know at all off the internet sent me a message saying like, hey, I saw your landing page, I just want to let that you screenshot the picture and I could see your battery level at D on the picture. You might want to change that. And it was so bad, but people bought them. And then I knew that we could do this.

Steve: Wait, did I see this site or no?

Tsippi: No, no. This is like before we had even started talking.

Steve: Oh okay.

Tsippi: It was right after but I hadn’t like actually asked you anything yet.

Steve: Wait, so let’s talk about the site really quick. So did you just – is it just like a one page site or?

Tsippi: At the time it was, I don’t I don’t even remember what I used. I think, oh, it was like you know that Shopify $9 a month plan you could do.

Steve: But that requires a website right?

Tsippi: Well, I think I like hooked it up to Facebook somehow.

Steve: Oh yes you can, that’s correct.

Tsippi: Yeah. So I think they were buying it off of Facebook primarily. And now we just have a regular Shopify site.

Steve: Right, right. Yeah, I’ve seen your site now. So and then Facebook, you just posted pictures of your product and then with these buy buttons using Shopify Lite, and then people bought your samples. That’s great.

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: Who did you sell to for that initial run?

Tsippi: So I really went — I had done this sample like survey thing when I was just trying to see if anyone wanted this.

Steve: That’s your friends or?

Tsippi: Yeah. So I emailed them all again, just telling them about it. And they kind of sent it to their friends. Again, this was like a needed item in my community where modest women and there was like nothing out there. And it’s becoming, I guess until now people just didn’t care and didn’t — were just like used to like, I don’t know, making do. And now I think like with this millennial era, people are like well, I don’t want to live like that anymore. I need something I can wear.

Steve: I remember when my wife was pregnant; she had this big smock I guess you could describe, yeah. Were all these 100 people, were they all pregnant or did they just give birth?

Tsippi: It was like a mix yeah.

Steve: Just a mix. Okay all right. And so by the time that sold, you were pretty confident that you would hit on something that was going to work?

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: All right. So after that you had your first run. Where did the website kind of come into play here?

Tsippi: Basically while we were waiting for the stuff to get here, I made the site.

Steve: Okay. And which platform did you choose?

Tsippi: Shopify?

Steve: Shopify. Okay. And would you describe yourself as a technical person?

Tsippi: No and you know this.

Steve: I did, I just thought I’d ask you live on air though. So I wanted to ask you about your experience. On a scale of one to 10, how much of a pain was it?

Tsippi: Okay, it’s like learning a new language. So it seems like really scary before but then as you do it, you’re like, okay, I could do this. I probably called Shopify for hours at a time. And if I had to do it again now, I would be scared again. But I know that I could do it. And like, I would just figure it out again, it’s just I don’t like to.

Steve: Yeah I know, I mean, that’s one thing that I really liked about you. And in our conversations, I knew that you were not technically inclined. In fact, I’m surprised we’re having this interview right now. But you pulled through and in fact, we did a website critique. And you actually went ahead and implemented all those changes. Did you have a designer or did you do those yourself?

Tsippi: No. I did not have a designer. Yeah, I had a friend who kind of knew Canva type of thing. No.

Steve: Okay. No, that’s great. That’s great. So let’s talk about some of the more difficult parts about getting your business off its feet. So let’s say you have your website, what were some of your first challenges?

Tsippi: Well, we immediately realized that China kind of takes the six weeks break in the middle of nothing.

Steve: Like right now actually.

Tsippi: Yes. And so it was a month after we launched our winter line and it was time to order summer. And I was like, oh my God, they are not going to have time to make our summer stuff because we didn’t even think about it yet, I was so busy launching winter. I was like, oh my gosh, what do we do, and by the time they get back, it would just be way too late to get started with that collection. So my husband and I, and all of our kids got on a plane and went down to Mexico and found this manufacturer guy that had come really highly recommended by like random friends, a whole crazy thing.

And I went to see his factory, I spent days with him. And then once I felt really confident with his work, I saw he sells his own line of clothing for children. So I was like really confident with his work. And then he sent us samples and they were like really great. And he spent probably like 20 or 30 hours on the phone with me going over the details and everything. And then we made a huge order. And when it got here, it was all garbage, top to bottom. We lost like $30,000 in our second month of business.

Steve: No. Oh my gosh.

Tsippi: It was horrible, awful, awful, awful.

Steve: That Mexican vendor, I guess you didn’t hire an inspector or they didn’t take returns or?

Tsippi: Yeah, it’s still an ongoing; it’s still like a back and forth like is it worth the legal cost? Is it not worth the legal cost because it’s Mexico? It wasn’t like, I mean, I’m so comfortable working with China, and I know what to do and how to do it. I have no idea of how to do this Mexico thing. And having come back, everyone is like, oh yeah, never do business with Mexico. And we were like, oh, thanks for telling us now.

Steve: Interesting. So I’m just kind of curious, how did you find this person in Mexico?

Tsippi: So through a friend’s dad who had made clothing in Mexico with this guy a couple years ago, and they gave us the name and then we were like, don’t trust us, go see him, go meet him yourself. And we were like, okay, so it was a lot of calling, we like called everyone we knew basically that had Mexican connections.

Steve: And this had to do with the fact that it was Chinese New Year?

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: Okay. But then so after this whole debacle happened, you just stuck with the Asian vendors then?

Tsippi: Yes, definitely.

Steve: Okay. And so the only reason you actually went to Mexico was just for timing reasons really?

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: All right. Can we talk about how you found your first Asian vendors? Did you use Alibaba or did you use…

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: Okay. You did.

Tsippi: I did.

Steve: Okay. And you just followed the rules.

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: Okay, amazing.

Tsippi: I really did then I looked up on Panjiva and found out that they were also a supplier for like a really well-known brand here in the States. And I was like, oh, that’s awesome. I was like, really excited about that.

Steve: So just for the benefit of the listeners, Panjiva is a tool that allows you to basically find out where companies are importing their goods from, like what factories they’re using.

Tsippi: Yes right.

Steve: Okay, so we already covered your first sale. So how do you generate sales for your shop?

Tsippi: So that’s a really great question. I think my whole vibe with my brand is community and kind of creating like a space for moms. And the reason why is because oftentimes, the moms are so busy putting everyone else’s needs first and taking care of everyone and not taking care of their own lives. I really like focused a lot on that. And in doing so, I’ve even used that in advertising. So I really, really try to support all the women within our community.

And I’ve honestly asked them like, hey, would you mind posting our sale? Or would you mind posting about X, Y and Z, our new collection on your page, on your Facebook groups? Would you pass this along to any of your friends? And the do and that has really been a huge way that we’ve been driving traffic is really word of mouth and people like sharing our content online, sending the emails, forwarding them, posting on Facebook groups for us. And I think it’s like a lot about the ask, they wouldn’t if I didn’t remind them to, but once I do, they’re happy to.

Steve: So when you talk about your community, is this a community that exists via your email list or is it Facebook groups?

Tsippi: Instagram.

Steve: Instagram?

Tsippi: Yeah, major Instagram.

Steve: So let’s talk about your Instagram strategy. How often do you post and what types of content do you post?

Tsippi: Oh, Instagram, I try to post about five days a week and I really story also. I found that that has made like a really big difference with people like identifying with the brand and feeling connected, is seeing a lot of the behind the scenes and knowing I’m just a mom just like you, I’m going through all the same stuff as you. This is what’s going on in my day and asking them for their feedback and input. And I even have them design stuff. Like I’m like, hey guys, what do you want to see next season? And then they’ll send me pictures and ideas. And I’m like, oh, that’s cool. I like that. I’ll make that. Okay, cool. So that’s basically where I hang out.

Steve: How did you get your Instagram page off of its feet?

Tsippi: A lot of giveaways with minded influencers who were micro influencers at the time 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 followers. And then just, I would say, a lot of that, a lot of I had — I would ask other people to come be featured on my page to do a takeover and then they would tell their followers about it. And I’ve done several loop giveaways as well, which I found kind of 50/50 about that.

Steve: Let’s talk about these giveaways. So actually no, let’s talk about the influencers first. So when you approach them, what do you say?

Tsippi: A lot of them at the time had approached me and by a lot, I don’t mean like 1,000, I mean, a couple. We’re not — it’s not like I have 300,000 followers, I have about 12,000. So, a lot of them had approached me, and they’re like, hey, I just had a baby, do you want to do a collab? Do you want me to post about you and you give me a dress? And I’m like, well, I would love to collab but maybe not opposed, let’s do a giveaway, because that’ll get a lot more engagement and get people to my page. So those are the giveaways that I like the most, because the people who enter them want my product as opposed to like enter for a chance to win a $3,000 amazon gift card, like I don’t know who’s entering that. And I’ve done those, but I feel like it’s dead weight and I wish I wouldn’t have done that.

Steve: How does your contest work? Are you using like a platform for that?

Tsippi: No, comment below, tell me why you want this dress or tag a friend who could use this to follow this other influencer. We both have to — they have to follow both accounts to be able to join the giveaway. And it’s super easy. And I think giveaways are getting a little bit outdone now like everyone’s doing them and people are getting tired of them. And my followers have been like can you stop with the giveaways? And I’m like, yeah, it’s getting a little annoying. So I’m trying to make them a little bit more spread out and more special and for special occasions.

Steve: Interesting. So how many followers would you get in a given giveaway? And what were you giving away?

Tsippi: So I use — my most successful giveaways have been just for my followers, or just with one other brand, follow both of us; get a dress and a candle or whatever it is that they sell. Or if it’s just my followers for our anniversary, I’ll be like, hey guys, our anniversary, we’re doing a giveaway just to appreciate you, we’re going to give away five dresses to five of you. Tag a friend below who might be interested in a dress and tell us why you love being part of this community. So those have done really well and we would gain somewhere between 100 to 1,000 followers from those. And then one of these like paid giveaways where you’re joined — they’re getting a gift card or a stroller will gain also somewhere between 300 to 3,000, just depending on the giveaway, and then again you know that some of them will fall off after this.

Steve: Of course yes. And for those people, did you make any money during the giveaway?

Tsippi: I don’t. I mean, like you’re saying, did I see a sales increase?

Steve: Yeah, I guess it’s really hard to measure with Instagram, right? Can you track? You can’t track your sales exactly right?

Tsippi: No, but with each giveaway, I would notice a new bunch of people who started engaging with me, and then I would see their names on like sales. So in my mind, I think it definitely covers the cost. And I see the engagement going up in general, and the page views and the story views and all that kind of stuff going up.

Steve: So does your strategy translate into Facebook as well?

Tsippi: I haven’t worked much with Facebook, because I hate tech and I hate all these things and I’m like, I finally understand Instagram now. But we just opened a Facebook group for our breastfeeding moms, because I wanted somewhere that they can interact and ask each other questions and kind of support each other through their journey. And that’s been really cool. But our page on Facebook is like an afterthought. So not – yeah.

Steve: Let me ask you this question. So when you’re breastfeeding, at least my wife only breastfed for a year, so which kind of means that your customer base is constantly evolving, right?

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: So how does that work?

Tsippi: So my philosophy has always been to create a brand and not just a product. So like my content is not very much about breastfeeding. It’s very much about being a mom. So it’s because I want them to stay because I want them to be part of my community, which is not the best strategy when you want to sell clothing, because I’m not marketing to my target market. So that’s an issue that I have had and if I would have been smarter, I probably wouldn’t have done that. But I mean, the real truth Steve just to be open and honest with you is, after doing this for a year, I kind of took a step back.

And it’s — you don’t know this, but when we were talking about doing this podcast interview, we were talking about doing it in January. And I was like at that time going through a whole like, oh my god, do I want to keep doing this. And I was like, I can’t go on his podcast and talk about this because I don’t know if I want to shut down my business because I don’t like clothing very much. And I was like I need another month to figure out what I want to do.

So I kind of took a step back at that for all the reasons that we had talked about, the return rates, and the sizes, and the colors and all that kind of stuff, which is we take a lot of pride, we write handwritten notes in every single package, we package it with care. And then when 30% come back, which is the standard industry average, is hard. We do it all ourselves. So okay, I want to change the business model, because I have an amazing community and I want to do other things with the community. And I don’t really want to sell clothing for much longer. So I’m kind of changing things around right now.

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What I was just going to say is once you have that community to moms, I think there’s a huge percentage of purchases. I can’t remember what the exact statistic was, but most people who buy stuff are moms.

Tsippi: Yeah.

Steve: So once you have that community, I mean you can easily branch out to other products, like what you’re selling now is just kind of like a stepping stone.

Tsippi: Exactly, exactly. And I still think I still love the service that it provides to women. So we’re not going to entirely stop making clothing, but I’m going to move it to like a wholesale model so that that way, I know like twice a year we do this whole like going out, showing our stuff, selling it to stores. And then the rest of the time, we could focus on other things. I don’t have to deal with that one on one customer service.

Steve: That’s great. I’m so glad that you mentioned that because all these things as I was asking these questions, they’d all kind of come through my head. And we’ve communicated quite a bit on email.

Tsippi: Yes.

Steve: And I think I’ve — I don’t think I was very direct in mentioning some of these things before. But I’m happy that you have this community. And once you have this community, you can do whatever you want with it. And that’s the best thing.

Tsippi: Yes, yes, exactly.

Steve: I want to switch gears a little bit. And let’s talk about Amazon, have you considered selling on Amazon?

Tsippi: Yeah, I consider selling on Amazon; I’ve been back and forth about it. I think it would probably be a good idea to give it a try. But I’ve done a lot of research with Jungle Scout. And while there’s not much competition on Amazon with this product, there’s not many sales. So, I would kind of rather not have to. I cannot ever compete with our pricing of some of these companies selling for so inexpensive that I just can’t imagine that the work involved and the costs involved would be worth it with the return rate being what it is.

Steve: I mean, if you’re competing on price, you’re probably losing in general is my philosophy, especially with a small niche shop.

Tsippi: Yes. And if you’re getting like a 30% return, then that I would imagine would kill you on Amazon.

Steve: Yeah especially since you’re paying for the FBA fees.

Tsippi: Exactly, exactly.

Steve: Just curious. How do you mitigate that?

Tsippi: In terms of?

Steve: The return rate.

Tsippi: What we do is I mean, it’s not — it’s something that I really don’t like. I kind of like go on this whole thing of like we should stop allowing returns, but we can’t stop allowing returns. We only accept things that are really unworn, unused, and then that we can sell again. If it seems like I couldn’t sell it again, I couldn’t accept it back. And yeah, we do end of season sales and then those are like final sale because they’re getting it discounted then we’ll just do final sale for that. So yeah, I think it’s because of that I just, I’ve had a lot of people come to me and be like, hey, can you help me start a clothing business and I’m like, unless you’re like are diehard fashion person, you have to really love it, or have a store or something like that where you don’t care about all the stuff that goes into it.

I just want to say another thing about clothing because the other thing is that the seasons change, so you only have three months to sell each season before it goes on sale. And then it’s not like you could keep selling the same thing each year, because people want new fashion and new trends, especially wholesalers especially like repeat customers, they don’t want to see the same stuff they saw last year. So your window to sell is so small. So that’s kind of why if somebody loves fashion, and that’s your calling, I’m like go for it. But if you’re doing this just as a way to make a living, like, I’m not sure that fashion is your best bet.

Steve: Let me ask you this question. So you’re saying that if you have a design this year, you can’t sell it next year? Meaning there’s not a subset of customers who don’t even follow these things and wouldn’t buy it?

Tsippi: I mean, if you are not a fashionable buyer, then you probably could, but people know that the colors of the season and the styles of the season. So we’re constantly updating new fabrics and new trends and adding this trim or that lace or whatever it is.

Steve: Okay, okay. I’m going to ask you a bunch of rapid fire questions really quickly. How much money did you start with to start this business?

Tsippi: 500 bucks.

Steve: 500 bucks. Wow. Okay, that’s a lot less than I was anticipating.

Tsippi: For just to do the initial market research.

Steve: Yeah, the initial market research. How long did it take to create up your site and how much did you spend on your website?

Tsippi: I guess just whatever the plugins cost it at the time, like we went with Klaviyo right away from the beginning, because I was listening to your podcast. And I was like if he’s recommending that, I’m going to do that. Probably, I mean, it took me probably a week or two.

Steve: Wow okay all right. So this is where we say that Tsippi was exaggerating how she’s not technically inclined?

Tsippi: No, no, no, it was like a week of being on the phone with Shopify.

Steve: In terms of finding your niche, did it take you a while?

Tsippi: So I kind of skipped that stage, because I knew right away what I wanted to do. And I felt the need myself after having the baby it was just a matter of seeing other people wanted to.

Steve: Okay. And has most of your marketing just been organic traffic from Instagram?

Tsippi: No, we definitely rely on Facebook ads for some things. I wouldn’t say Facebook ads work very well for us. And I obviously know it’s just because we haven’t done enough testing. But for cold market traffic, I haven’t seen it do very well. I think it’s because our product is not an impulse buy and it’s not a high end product either. It’s in between. So I think people are like, if they don’t know who we are, they’re like, I don’t know. For retargeting, our Facebook ads do really, really, really well.

Steve: Okay, yeah, that’s not unusual actually. And in fact, Facebook costs have gone up tremendously in just from 2017, 2018. It’s, I think they’re just running out of inventory. So

Tsippi: Oh yeah, okay that makes sense.

Steve: And okay, so for the benefit of the people listening who haven’t gotten started yet, and are thinking about starting a business, what sort of advice would you give them since you’ve gone through this?

Tsippi: I think, first of all, and I’m going to make a plug here for Steve’s course and he didn’t know I was going to do this. But I just want to say that my entire family knows your name. I’m like, well, let’s see what Steve says about this. I have learned so much and I couldn’t have done anything without this. And even like I have my assistant here just watched the course on Amazon so that you could test it for a couple of weeks, or watch the email marketing course and that’s how we roll around here.

And I’ve spoken to Facebook agencies and different agencies, they’re like, it’s this much money. I’m like, dude, I have the course, it’s okay. So that has really, really given me a lot of confidence and being able to reach out to you and ask questions, I would say, like has helped me so much. But really, I think you just have to start, you just got to take a step, you just have to make a decision, just go for it. Things will change. You’ll figure it out as you go, you’ve got to start.

Steve: What was your biggest challenge early on starting your store and how did you overcome it?

Tsippi: I think having kids. A lot of fashion is getting out there and having people try stuff on and it was really hard for me to get out there. So I was really only relying on website traffic. And you know how it is when you start a store; there are days where nobody comes to your site. That’s just the reality if you’re not advertising, and you’re kind of like, but I have all this stuff sitting here. So I think that as a young business was really hard. Why aren’t people coming today? I think that the creation of all the technical stuff, it’s just like a lot for a business owner to do. But yet, you don’t want to give it to someone else, because they don’t have that same passion. So I think that that, I think that just like trying to juggle all the pieces and make it work with life. But I would never ever give it up because it gives me so much freedom.

Steve: On the flip side, what’s worked really well for your business? And what would be your advice on what someone brand new should start out first, or how to find that avenue that really works?

Tsippi: I really think that going through the steps of trying to find something that makes sense and is profitable and feel someone’s pain point, if it fills a pain point, you’re probably good. So there’s so many companies that I talk to now, they’re like, well, nobody is buying. I’m like well, your product isn’t necessarily helping their life, it’s just pretty or whatever. So I feel like those would be the best way to start. And yeah, that would be my advice is value prop.

Steve: And you mentioned that you spoke with a hundred friends about your products. And one thing that I found personally is that when I ask my friends, they’re just nice to me. How did you kind of adjust for that?

Tsippi: Meaning that they weren’t honest you’re saying?

Steve: Yes, or were they honest?

Tsippi: Well, they were all honest in telling me that they think I will never succeed.

Steve: Really? Okay.

Tsippi: Yes. They were like Tsippi honestly, you’re not in fashion, and you’re going to start a fashion company, okay. And I was like, yeah, I’m going to do. And they’re like, who’s going to design the clothes? I’m like, I’m going to do. So that was a great boost of encouragement from them. But now they’re all like, whoa, how do you do that?

Steve: Yeah, actually, this is one of the things that I really liked about your personality. You’re just willing to just keep sticking with something until you get it done. I mean, throughout the technical challenges and whatnot, I mean, over time, if you just hammer on it long enough, it’ll get done.

Tsippi: And that’s what I’m seeing from other entrepreneurs is it’s not necessarily about being the best or having the best thing. It’s just your persistence and just moving forward, making your things better as you go. We just had a complaint that one of our dresses was shrinking. We’re like, sorry, we’ll do better next time because there’s not much we can do about that now. So yeah, just say move forward and keep getting better.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, clothing shrinks, right. It’s just part of life.

Tsippi: Yeah, people complain about that.

Steve: So Tsippi, I want to give you the opportunity to tell people how to find your store and how to reach out, how to join your community.

Tsippi: Okay, thanks, Steve. You know what; I actually had one question for you. Is that okay?

Steve: Yeah, go for it, yeah.

Tsippi: I’ve been meaning to ask you this for so long because I want you — one of the things that drew me into your community and what you’re doing is that you had not only this e-commerce half of your brand, but you also have a blog and a podcast and a whole area of knowledge that you’re giving over and I read your content, and I listen to your podcast. How do you have time or do you have a content strategy where you’re able to, because it’s high quality, high level things, how do you just get it all done and balance that with your e-commerce side?

Steve: So number one, I have a very good wife. So we shouldn’t discount that at all. She actually does the operations for the business, which allows me the freedom to just work on marketing and my other stuff. So let’s be clear about that. It’s a two person project. So I can tell you my schedule, on Sundays for four hours while my kids are in math class, I write, for four hours straight out. Yeah, so four straight hours in the coffee shop. And that’s pretty much my one blog post for the week.

Tsippi: Okay. Okay.

Steve: During the week, I usually do just one podcast per week that takes about an hour or so, and the rest of the time is doing customer service for the course, like I get a ton of those niche critiques, as you know. And I’m busy putting out new videos and new curriculum. So that takes some time. And I would say one, or one and a half days of the week, I work on trying to grow the e-commerce business. And I mean, I really don’t put out that much right, one podcast a week, one blog post a week and I do that one office hours for the class every week.

Tsippi: Yeah, I guess I was just wondering, because of the level of the blog posts and you still have your emails going and the working with the students and you have your new Go Brand Win, and you have all the other stuff.

Steve: Yeah, so just to be clear on that too, I have a great partner with Go Brand Win. And she helps a lot with the heavy lifting. Likewise, with my conference, I had that same partner, and she does, our bargain is basically I sell the tickets, get the speakers and get the sponsors. And she does the rest, like I show up at the event.

Tsippi: Oh that’s amazing.

Steve: Which is really amazing and it’s hard to find. So I hope I’m not like demystifying myself.

Tsippi: No, I really, I think it’s important like at a certain point to be able to grow to be able to take on partners like that and helpers like that. It’s just that I think it’s like a level that you reach at a certain point, I guess.

Steve: I actually spend a lot of time just sitting there thinking and doing nothing. And the reason why is because I find myself to be more productive once I kind of have a game plan instead of just waking up and going, okay, what am I doing today?

Tsippi: Interesting.

Steve: So at least one day of the week, I would say.

Tsippi: Okay, interesting. Wow.

Steve: So nothing special. I mean, just like everyone else in terms of productivity, I just have like a kind of like a set schedule for everything.

Tsippi: Okay, so interesting. Okay, I’ve been meaning to ask you that forever.

Steve: I don’t think you talked about how to reach you and your site.

Tsippi: Okay. So my clothing site is HavahTribe.com. And that’s spelled H-A-V-A-H-T-R-I-B-E.com. And we’re on Instagram @HavahTribe, or I am actually launching a new podcast myself in a couple of weeks, which I’m super excited about. And it’s talking about how the mindset struggles that moms go through as they start their own businesses and run their own thing. So that’s really exciting. And that’s called The Stunning Success. And that’ll be out in just a couple of weeks.

Steve: I think it’s going to be great. And you’re a very eloquent person and just knowing your drive, I’m sure that podcast will be successful.

Tsippi: Thank you, Steve. And just one last thing to end it off is that the one thing that has kept me going and that I have passed on to people within my community from you this entire year is one blog post that I read that you wrote, where you said that your tip was to do one thing every single day, no matter what. It could be tiny, it could be big, one thing every single day. And literally on days where I’m exhausted or whatever I’m like, I’ll just make one phone call, just make one email. And just before I got on this podcast, Instagram, or just Instagram me and DM me, and she said, I just want you to know how much that tip has changed my life. Because of you, my website is about to get up and running. And I’m taking huge action with my business because I do one thing every day. And I was like, that is so cool, because I got that from Steve. So I had to put that out.

Steve: Wow, that’s awesome. Sometimes things come out of my mouth, and I don’t realize I guess. Thanks for sharing that with me.

Tsippi: Yeah, I have that taped above my desk. So thank you for that.

Steve: Well Tsippi, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I had a blast and it was awesome.

Tsippi: Thanks for having me Steve. It’s an honor.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now Tsippi story is yet another example of how heart and hustle is what it takes to start a successful e-commerce business. Now, in the interview, we alluded to a website critique that I gave Tsippi for her site. And as part of my course, I regularly do full video critiques of a student site and sometimes I end up redesigning their entire site in Photoshop. So if you’re interested in joining, check it out over at profitableonlinestore.com. Now for more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob/episode255.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, 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 parameter 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!

254: Meghla Bhardwaj – Global Sources Vs Alibaba And How To Find The Best Suppliers

254: Meghla Bhardwaj On Global Sources Vs Alibaba And Finding The Best Suppliers

Today I’m thrilled to have Meghla Bwardhaj on the show. Meghla is the head of content marketing at Global Sources, a company that helps entrepreneurs find Asian suppliers online.

In addition, Meghla coordinates the annual Global Sources Summit in Hong Kong where they provide incredible content for ecommerce entrepreneurs.

Today, we’re going to discuss product sourcing, trade shows and everything supplier related.

What You’ll Learn

  • The benefits of attending a trade show
  • How to ensure the quality of your suppliers
  • How is Global Sources different from Alibaba
  • Tips on preparing for a trade show
  • The best way to request a sample from your vendors

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

Avalara.com – Handling sales tax is complicated. Fortunately, Avalara simplifies sales tax with real-time tax rate calculations and automatic return filing. And the best part is that Avalara already integrates with your existing accounting, e-commerce and marketplaces like Amazon, so it’s super easy to setup. Click here and get a FREE TRIAL.

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. And today I have Meghla from Global Sources on the show. And Meghla is the head of content marketing over at Global Sources, which is one of the premier places to find Asian suppliers online. And today we’re going to talk about product sourcing, trade shows and how to deal with suppliers.

But before we begin, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Always excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are my 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 e-commerce 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 purchased, piece of cake, and there is full revenue tracking on every email sent. Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used and you could try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

I also want to give a 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 my email capture forms. And 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 Meghla Bwardhaj on the show. Now Meghla is the head of content marketing at Global Sources, which is one of the leading companies that help entrepreneurs find Asian suppliers online. And in addition, Global Sources runs an annual conference in Hong Kong right before the Canton Fair, which provides incredible content for e-commerce entrepreneurs. And once again, Meghla coordinates this event every single year. Now Anyway, I’ve known Meghla for quite some time now. And today we’re going to talk product sourcing, trade shows, and everything supplier related. And with that welcome to the show Meghla, how are you doing today?

Meghla: Hey, thank you so much for having me Steve. I’m doing great.

Steve: So thank you for accommodating me today and the time change that I did last minute. I was hoping that you could just give us a brief background about your role at Global Sources, and basically kind of talk about what Global Sources does.

Meghla: Okay, sure. So let me talk about what Global Sources does, first of all. So Global Sources is actually a B2B supplier platform. And not many people know this but we were actually established in 1971.

Steve: Wow.

Meghla: So we were like the very first supplier platform out there. And at that time, you started with magazines. And then in the 1990s, we launched our website. And then in the early 2000s, we launched our trade shows. So we primarily help overseas importers find and meet suppliers in China and also in other countries in Asia. And there are a couple of ways we do that. So first of all, we have an online supplier directory at Globalsources.com. And we also host sourcing trade shows in Hong Kong every April and October. So the exhibitors at these exhibitions are basically suppliers, manufacturers from China and other countries. And then me personally, I have been working with Global Sources for almost 18 years now.

Steve: Wow.

Meghla: That’s a long time I know. Did I give away my age?

Steve: I was at my last company for 17 years. So we’re probably the same age then.

Meghla: Yeah. So I’ve worked in India and the Philippines, in China and I’m currently based in Singapore. I lived in China, specifically Schengen for almost 10 years. And I’ve been working with manufacturers and importers for a long time. And there’s been hundreds of factories in China and India working on research reports for Global Sources. And more recently, I’ve been working with e-commerce sellers, trying to help them source products more effectively from China. And as you mentioned, I’m the organizer of this conference called Global Sources Summit that we host in Hong Kong in conjunction with our shows every April and October.

Steve: Yes, which is an incredible feat. I don’t know how you do it, because this show is really large, right? I mean, compared to Sellers Summit, you got vendors, you got attendees, you got speakers, it’s quite a task.

Meghla: Yeah, that’s correct. And so we have a separate team that manages the exhibitions. And they’re like hundreds of people there in that team. So there’s the sales team and the marketing team, the logistics team and everything. So and then we have a separate team for the conference for Global Sources Summit. But the idea of organizing a conference together with the trade shows is that when people attend the conference, they can learn all about sourcing and selling on Amazon and network with other e-commerce sellers. And at the same time, they can put that education into practice at the show floor and start sourcing their product at the same time.

Steve: Yeah, that’s really smart. I know that a lot of people tend to get Global Sources and Alibaba confused. So I was hoping you could just kind of describe why it’s different. I have my own answer to this question. So I’m just kind of curious what you have to say about that.

Meghla: Okay, sure. So first of all, for Global Sources, one of the key advantages is O2O what we call O2O. And O2O basically means online to offline, which means that we also host trade shows whereas Alibaba is more only online focus, they don’t have their trade shows, Global Sources also has trade shows. And the benefit of sourcing at a trade show is that you’re actually — these suppliers tend to be a little bit more reliable, because they are investing in attending a trade show and they’re putting themselves in front of buyers. So typically, they’re more reliable than suppliers online. And also many of the exhibitors at our shows are also on our website. So you can source products from exhibitors on the website too.

And then another difference is that there is a higher percentage of manufacturers on Global Sources, whereas on Alibaba, you’ll find a lot more trading companies. And of course, there are tons of manufacturers on Alibaba, for sure. But sometimes it becomes difficult to differentiate the manufacturers from trading companies on Alibaba. Whereas in Global Sources, it’s easier to do because suppliers tend to be more transparent on Global Sources, like if they are a trading company, they’re more likely to say that openly on their profile that hey, we are a trading company, and these are the products that we do.

And then one of the reasons for that is because we work very closely with each supplier to try and write their company profile and try to identify the USPs of each company so that company profile is posted on the website, and buyers can get a better understanding of what that company specializes in and what the company is all about. The other difference I would say is that Global Sources tries to curate more products. So we try to focus on making it easier for buyers to identify new and innovative products, because I think this is one of the biggest challenges that all types of buyers not only e-commerce sellers face when sourcing products, everyone is trying to look for their best seller and the next big thing.

So we try to help buyers with that by curating products. We have something called analysts choice, where we actually identify new innovative products, and then give them the analysts choice badge on the website and at the trade shows as well. And then we have other lists such as the top 20 most trending products, top 20 most popular products. And then we also have new from exhibitors. So there are different categories of products that are curated. And even at the shows, you’ll find things like millennial zone, for example. So we’ve actually curated products that millennials would find appealing and would easily buy. And then we have a design award, for example. So we’ve got external judges, and they’re actually reviewing products and awarding products that are unique and innovative.

Steve: So one thing I’ve noticed when using Global Sources versus Alibaba is that there’s a lot less what I call riffraff on Global Sources. The vendors that you do find will tend to be legit, whereas Alibaba you’re never sure whether it’s just like trading company, or even something less than a trading company, like some guy who’s just going off and buying stuff that they find and delivering it, so which kind of leads me to my next question. I know you guys have a vetting process, what is that like for the companies that you have on the directory?

Meghla: Okay, so we believe in trust, but verify. And I think that’s something that importers who are sourcing from China or anywhere actually should also believe and trust, but verify. So we check and verify our suppliers and the information they post as much as possible. For example, business registration details of all of our advertisers are verified by independent third parties such as Dun and Bradstreet, or Ease credit, Experian. And then similarly, all of the suppliers at our trade shows are also verified. And the other thing that we do is we make it easier to identify actual manufacturers on the website by this verified manufacturers label that we assign companies.

And the way that we assign this label is that we check the actual license that has been given to them by the relevant government departments that allows them to manufacturer products. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that they manufacture all the products that are displayed on their website, but it basically means that they have the license to set up a factory and manufacture products. And it’s very common in China for companies to manufacture certain product lines in house and then outsource other products from different manufacturers. But when you see this label, you at least know that it is very likely that their primary product category is manufactured by themselves and that they are a factory.

Steve: Okay and this is something you do for everyone who applies to be a part of the directory. Is that correct?

Meghla: Yes, correct. So if you don’t have a business, if you don’t have a proper business registration, you cannot go up on the site.

Steve: Okay. And that is probably one of the other differences as well.

Meghla: Yes it is.

Steve: So when you are interacting with a vendor, let’s say I’m a brand new shop, and I’m interacting with the vendor, what are some no nos that you shouldn’t do when contacting someone for the first time? And how do you make sure that you get a reply from them?

Meghla: Okay, so first of all, you have to keep in mind that just as buyers are vetting suppliers, suppliers are also vetting the emails that they receive. And in fact, Global Sources, we get so many complaints from suppliers saying that, hey, we’re not getting good quality inquiries. And these buyers are just looking to buy samples, and they’re not serious buyers. So what’s the most important thing is to communicate that you are a serious buyer, and you understand the product.

And the way to do that is first of all ask very specific questions about the product. Don’t just give very vague and very broad messages or emails, don’t just say that, okay, I’m looking for this product, send me your catalog. That is something that suppliers don’t like at all. And that’s a red flag for suppliers. And that tells them oh, this buyer is very new. And he’s probably he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So you’ve got to make sure that you send them very specific details about the products that you’re looking for.

Steve: Do you have an example off the top of your head have a good initial contact letter?

Meghla: So, for example, you could say something like, hey, I’m looking for I don’t know, garlic presses. And yeah, and I saw that you manufacture whatever, stainless steel garlic presses, and I want to source a garlic press in so and so stainless steel, and I would order whatever, 100 pieces initially. Once I’m able to establish this market, I will be increasing my order volume to so and so. And I am importing into the US, so I need to make sure that you have such and such certifications for this product. Can you please confirm if you have those certifications or something like that?

Steve: Okay, so very specific questions about the product to show them that you’re really serious, and you actually know what you’re trying to source essentially.

Meghla: Exactly, yes. And also, it helps to give a bit of background about your own company. So I mean, even if you’re just starting out, you don’t have to say that I’m a new seller, and I’m just starting out, but just say that I’m an online seller, and this is a product category that I specialize in. And here’s my website, if you have a website. That’s another thing that suppliers want to look for the buyers website to see what kind of other products the buyer is selling.

Steve: One thing I noticed about using Global Sources is that the MOQs tend to be on average higher than Alibaba. And so I was just wondering like if you’re brand new starting out, are there actually a good number of vendors that are willing to do let’s say, 500 units or less?

Meghla: Actually, nowadays there are. And because of this, we’ve actually launched a new feature. I mean, it’s not new; it was launched maybe last year or so. But this is a new filter that we’ve launched on the site for small orders. So if you search for any product, on the search results page, right at the top of the search results, you’ll see a filter accept small orders. And once you check that, you will see the list of suppliers that are willing do smaller orders.

Steve: That’s very convenient. What is the definition of a small order?

Meghla: So we leave that up to the supplier because of course, it’s very different for each product category right? But in general, it’s about I’d say 100 pieces or so.

Steve: Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah, that is definitely a small order. Okay, that’s great. And so you filter all those out and this is based on whether the vendor decides to check that box whether they want to show up for small orders, is that correct?

Meghla: Yes that’s correct yeah.

Steve: Okay. And then it’s up to you, obviously, to still ask what the MOQs are for a specific order.

Meghla: Yes, that’s correct.

Steve: Okay. And okay so as vendors are vetting you, how should you be vetting the vendor? Now, you guys have done a lot of the work already, but what are some other things that buyers should look for as well?

Meghla: So, of course, each buyer is different, because you’re sourcing products for your own specific market, right. So the most important thing is to know what the requirements are for your market, and then find an ideal supplier for you. So the first thing that you need to do is find out if there are any regulations for that product, and then try to identify suppliers that have those regulations or suppliers that export to your market because if you find suppliers who export to your market, then they’re more likely to already know the regulations and the requirements for your specific market. So I think that’s very important. If you’re sourcing for the US, then make sure that the supplier has experience exporting to the US. I think that’s one thing.

And then also, you have to decide whether you want to go direct to a manufacturer, or you want to source from a trading company, because sometimes sourcing from a trading company can be advantageous because you can get smaller order volumes, because trading companies source products in higher volume from manufacturers, and then they can sell products into smaller quantities to buyers. Especially if you’re just testing out a product and you’re not able to find a manufacturer who’s doing a lower MOQ, you can just go to a trading company.

Steve: When you filter out based on small orders, will more trading companies tend to pop up on Global Sources?

Meghla: It’s likely but I think increasingly, there are more manufacturers. I think manufacturers are kind of adjusting their supply chains and their product runs and assembly lines to cater to smaller orders, because that’s where — that’s the need of the market nowadays. I mean, not only e-commerce sellers, but even larger importers, they tend to order in smaller quantities, because they want to test products as well.

Steve: So when it comes to like the regulatory requirements of a product for the US, for example, if a vendor says that they’re certified, are they to be believed?

Meghla: Well, it depends. I would say like, if it is a larger kind of more established company, they tend to be more — you can trust them a little bit more. But if it’s a very small workshop and factory has just started out and doesn’t export a lot to the US and doesn’t have a lot of big buyers that they already sell to, then I would be a little bit more cautious. But if you see an exporter who is already selling to Disney, or some of the more well-known brands in the US, then I think they’re a bit more trustworthy. But if you’re scaling your product, and if you’re sourcing a new product line, then I think it always helps to do your own certification, like your own independent testing. So you just need to buy a sample from the supplier and then send it to a testing laboratory for testing,

Steve: Do you have any good resources on what certain products require certain regulatory requirements in the US or any other country?

Meghla: No, we don’t have any resources on the website, but I think this information should be available online, or a lot of the inspection companies also offer this information. So for example, Asia Inspection, you can always just, if you’re looking at a product, they should have all of this information in there on their website, or you can just contact them and ask for it.

Steve: So one common concern of brand new sellers are that they’re worried that their intellectual property or the brand will get stolen. What are some things that you can do to prevent that from happening with the factories that you interact with?

Meghla: So I think that’s always a risk that that might happen. But some of the things that you can do is sign an agreement with the supplier. And this agreement is not a guarantee that the supplier will not go ahead and sell your product to another buyer or sell it themselves on Amazon. But it basically, it will make them think twice. I think that’s the main thing to consider. If a supplier is rogue, and that’s what they intend to do, they will go ahead and do it regardless of a contract, but it will just make them think twice.

And then the other thing to do is you have to also keep in mind that it is less likely that the supplier will copy your products. I think it is more likely that sellers, like other sellers would copy your product because most suppliers, they don’t like to do B2C, because that’s not where their profit is. I mean, they are manufacturers, so they would prefer to manufacture high volumes and sell to buyers, rather than sell 10 pieces on Amazon. So it’s more likely that the sellers that you have more competition from sellers in your country or in other countries.

Steve: Are there any questions that you would ask a vendor to kind of weed them out, like the good from the bad?

Meghla: So I think there is no real definition of good or bad for a supplier.

Steve: Sure.

Meghla: it totally depends on what your specific needs are. So it comes back to listing your own requirements, identifying the criteria that is important for you, for your ideal supplier. I think once you do that, then it becomes very easy to weed out suppliers that are not right for you.

Steve: Okay, and one thing that I’ve noticed kind of happening with some of the manufacturers that I work with is that some of them are actually listing their stuff on Amazon, and you just mentioned that a lot of manufacturers don’t want to do B2C, but I have been seeing more and more of that happening. What are you seeing on your end?

Meghla: So what we’re seeing is that, yes, you’re right. I mean, there are some manufacturers who are doing that. But by and large, I think it’s third party sellers in China who have access to these factories and to wholesale markets in China, they are the ones selling products on Amazon directly. By and large, we’re seeing that manufacturers they still want to do high volume orders.

Steve: Okay. So Meghla, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about trade shows. So why should someone fly all the way to Hong Kong to attend Global Sources? Is the directory that you guys offer enough?

Meghla: So I think in most cases, sourcing online is enough, but I feel that there are certain advantages of sourcing at a trade show. First of all, you can be the first to source a new product, because a lot of the suppliers don’t post products online, I mean, new products. They usually launch products at trade shows, because when they post products online, they’re afraid that other suppliers will copy the product. So if you’re at a trade show, you’re more likely to see products that are new in the market. And then it speeds up the sourcing process. I think that’s another advantage.

Like if you’re sourcing online, you’re searching for products online, contacting suppliers, asking them to sell send samples to you. And that in itself takes a couple of months. Whereas when you’re at a trade show, then you can actually touch and feel the products and ask all the questions about the supplier and about the product and get a lot of information. And you can compare products from various manufacturers just in a couple of days. So it really speeds up the sourcing process. And then you can touch and feel products. I think that’s the biggest advantage. You can’t do that from behind the computer screen. You can look at the product and get all of information. But touching and feeling the products is something that really tells you for certain product category, especially, it tells you a lot about the product quality.

And then sometimes you can get better pricing when you’re at a trade show. So many of these, the exhibitors at the trade shows, they tend to take you more seriously because you are at a trade show, because they know that you are real, you’re a serious buyer, you’ve come all the way from your country and spending a couple of days here. So they will take you more seriously. And even when you’re sourcing even a couple of cents or a couple of dollars can make a big difference to your bottom line. So, you can get better pricing when you’re at a trade show, better payment terms as well.

Steve: Do you have any tips on how to negotiate this?

Meghla: Yeah, I think it’s easier to negotiate when you’re at a trade show, that’s one thing. So I don’t think you should start by negotiating the price. I think what you want to do is portray to the supplier that you are serious about the product, you’re a serious buyer, you’re going to buy more quantities for them, you’re going to place repeat orders with them. And once you’ve placed a couple of orders with the supplier, build a relationship with them, I think that’s the time when you can ask to lower the price or negotiate for better prices and better payment terms.

Steve: Would you advise negotiating before your first large order or after the first large order?

Meghla: I think you can try to negotiate before the first large order, especially if you’ve tested the product, and you’re confident that the product will do well and you’ll be able to place multiple large orders moving forward. If you can convince the supplier of that, it doesn’t hurt to negotiate before you place a large order. And in China, it’s very — suppliers expect you to negotiate actually. So there’s nothing wrong with that.

Steve: Yeah, sometimes my wife and I get a little bit too into it actually. About samples, I remember before we were just talking about some new feature that you guys have in regards to getting samples, what is that new feature?

Meghla: Oh yes, this is something that I’m really excited about. So this is a new filter that we’ve launched on the website, and it’s a new service, actually. So accept samples, or you can buy samples from the website. So this is a new service. It’s still in beta, we’re working on enhancements, but basically what this allows buyers to do is to buy samples directly from suppliers. And we have this whole section on the website at Globalsources.com/buysamples, and there are about 100,000 products currently listed on this section. And these are samples that are ready to buy at a single click, at the click of a button.

And so this basically makes samples very accessible without the need for long discussions and negotiations with the seller because I mean, currently, if you want a sample, you contact the supplier and say, hey, do you have a sample of this product? No, I don’t have a sample but I have one in of this other model, would you like this? And then there’s a lot of back and forth for samples. But here you have all the samples displayed. And then you just click on whatever, whichever sample you want to buy. And then you can just buy it directly. So these are samples that are available from suppliers.

Steve: Interesting okay.

Meghla: And the other thing is that pricing that’s displayed on the website that includes shipping to anywhere in the world. So I think that’s a big — it’ll be very convenient for buyers because they don’t have to negotiate the shipping price or anything like that with suppliers.

Steve: Okay, so it’s kind of like Amazon.

Meghla: It’s kind of like Amazon yeah for samples. But of course, prices will of course be higher than what you would actually pay for when you buy at wholesale. But what I’m seeing is that many samples are actually lower cost, because we’re encouraging suppliers to offer prices, to offer lower prices and treat this as a marketing cost. Because what we found is that higher sample costs, it actually turns off buyers more instead of just filtering out sample hunters. So whereas typically, you’d see suppliers offering a $1 product for $100 or so, but on this section, you’re more likely to find the price between say 50 to $60 just as an example. Of course, it varies from product to product.

Steve: Okay.

Meghla: And then, yeah, I mean, suppliers decide which products they want to feature here in this section depending on availability of samples, and what products they want to promote. And we encourage suppliers to feature new and hot products over here.

Steve: So usually — oh sorry, go on.

Meghla: Now, I was just going to say that there’s also filter on the search results page. It’s accept small or accept sample orders. So when you do a search result, you can just use this filter to display suppliers that have ready samples of that product.

Steve: Okay, that’s very convenient.

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I was just about to say that when I get samples, usually I make my modifications first and get a custom sample made. It sounds like this feature is much more useful when you’re just kind of select between the manufacturers first to see what their initial quality is of their existing products are before you customize, is that accurate?

Meghla: Exactly, yes. Yes, that’s accurate. Yeah.

Steve: And so all this stuff from what I’m gathering is already premade and you can just add a click of a button, it gets shipped almost immediately.

Meghla: Yes, it gets shipped within two days; the shipping is done by the supplier. So we’re not holding any inventory or anything. It’s shipped directly by the supplier.

Steve: And one thing that I sometimes do is I just have this sample kind of comped on my first large order. Do all those rules kind of still apply if you use this feature?

Meghla: Absolutely yeah.

Steve: Okay. So we got sidetracked a little bit, because we were talking about trade shows, it seems like all these features that you’ve added to the main website make it a little less necessary for you to attend a trade show. So given all the new features, how do you kind of decide whether you should go to a trade show or not? And what would make it worth it to you? First of all, does it cost any money and who’s allowed to attend the show?

Meghla: So it doesn’t cost any money if you preregister online, the trade shows are totally free. But if you don’t register online, I think at the venue it’s about 50 Hong Kong dollars or 100 Hong Kong dollars.

Steve: It’s very little.

Meghla: It’s not much, very little yeah. So generally, what I advise people is to do most of the sourcing online, but visit a show at least once a year or once in two years. And then at the same time, when you’re visiting a show, you should also try and visit your factories. I think that is something that makes a huge difference when you’re sourcing from China and you’re trying to build a relationship with suppliers, visiting their factory and seeing how the products are manufactured.

So there are a couple of trade shows that are held in Asia and they’re held during the same time so every April and October. And the dates of the trade shows are exactly the same April and October. So it’s easy for people to remember. And they are timed in a way to make it convenient for buyers to go from one trade show to another. So there’s not a lot of overlap between shows offering the same kind of products.

Steve: What would you say that Global Sources, the exhibition specializes in, what type of products?

Meghla: So there are four exhibitions that we host every April and October. One is consumer electronics. The second one is mobile electronics. The third one is lifestyle products, which covers gifts and home products. And the fourth is fashion. So I would say that Global Sources specializes in electronics products, those are our biggest exhibitions because we have two shows dedicated to electronics. So if you’re sourcing electronics products, then this is definitely a must attend show. And then Canton Fair, which is held in Guangzhou, which is about two hours from Hong Kong, it’s in mainland China. So Canton also has a couple of three phases basically.

The first phase is more electrical and electronics. The second phase is gifts and home products. And the third phase is fashion and textile kind of products. And so I would say that most Amazon sellers attend phase two of Canton Fair, which is the gifts and home products. And of course Canton Fair is much bigger than Global Sources, and especially the phase two of Canton Fair. But for Global Sources fairs, we try to focus a lot more on curating products. And so we are a smaller show, but we try to make it easier for buyers to find new and innovative products.

Steve: And I’ve heard the huge advantage is the conference itself. When does that take place in respect to the exhibitions?

Meghla: So that takes place during the lifestyle and the fashion show which the dates for the upcoming conference are April 27 to the 29th. And it’s held in conjunction with like I said, the lifestyle show, which is the product category that most e-commerce sellers, Amazon sellers are most interested in. Yeah, so it’s a three day conference and we’ve got about 23 speakers, mostly from the US and from China. We’re going to be covering topics related to product selection, sourcing, driving traffic, driving sales, doing a listing. And we’ve also got a lot of trade show time built into the agenda so that you have enough time to attend the trade show while you’re at the venue attending the conference.

Steve: So for someone who’s going over to China and Hong Kong for the very first time, do you have some tips for kind of traversing a trade show because I know that at least with the Canton Fair, you don’t want to just go and walk around and bum around right?

Meghla: Absolutely. And especially Canton Fair, because it’s so huge, it’s just easy to waste so much time there.

Steve: Exactly.

Meghla: So I think the first thing to do is list all of the products that you are interested in, or at least the product categories and at least know what products, what kinds of products you want to source. And this will help you focus and save time when you’re at the show. And then the other thing to do is list all of the product features and all of your requirements. If you already source certain kinds of products, or you know what you want to source, make a list of all the specifications, the functions, the features, the quality standards, certifications and any other information that’s important to you, and what kind of supplier are you looking for, trading companies, manufacturers.

And then it becomes very easy for you to filter out exhibitors that are not right for you. And you can just ask a couple of basic questions at the booth and then quickly move on to the next booth if the supplier is not right for you. The other thing that you can do is get estimated prices online before you go to the show for the product categories that that you’re interested in so that you can at least benchmark prices and compare prices at the show from prices that you got online.

Steve: Is there an exhibitor list online for Global Sources?

Meghla: Yes, yes.

Steve: Okay perfect.

Meghla: So yeah, that’s what I was going to say next. You should actually shortlist exhibitors online before you go to the show. And that makes it much easier. You can get a map of the show floor and then actually identify where each booth is and kind of make a walking route for you so you will save time. And then definitely get a lot of business cards printed, because it’s very common in China for people to exchange business cards. And then if you’re going to China, then get a VPN because a lot of the websites including Google, so all of Google’s websites and YouTube, Gmail, all of them are blocked.

Steve: That’s not true of Hong Kong though, is it?

Meghla: No, it’s not. Hong Kong, all of the websites are accessible in Hong Kong and you don’t need a VPN. Yeah. And then get a high capacity power bank, comfortable shoes, since you will do a lot of walking. And then I would also suggest to schedule factory tours when you are visiting the trade shows, because that really helps build relationships and takes things to the next level with your sourcing. And then do some sightseeing as well. And China is such a beautiful country, there’s a lot to do. Even Hong Kong, they’re very beautiful heights in Hong Kong.

Steve: Yeah. Like the Peak.

Meghla: The Peak yes. Have you done that?

Steve: I have yeah.

Meghla: Okay, cool. And then…

Steve: No, I was just going to — a common thing that people are afraid of when going to China is the language barrier. So if you were to go to Global Sources trade show, English is fine, right?

Meghla: Yes, English is fine, because Global Sources trade shows are held in Hong Kong. And most people in Hong Kong like even taxi drivers would speak English, some basic English so that’s not a problem at all. Whereas yes, you’re right, in Guangzhou and Canton Fair, there are fewer people who speak English in China for sure. I mean, taxi drivers do not speak English at all, not even a word of English. So you have to make sure that you have your hotel address with you in Chinese at all times so you don’t get lost.

Steve: Yes. I mean, in my opinion, Hong Kong is so much more fun than going to China. And so I don’t know. I mean, and there’s no language barrier, either. And it’s just like it feels like a more modern city to me, lots of great food and everything as well.

Meghla: Totally. And you don’t feel lost in Hong Kong, right. I mean it’s so easy to get around.

Steve: Exactly.

Meghla: All of your restaurant menu cards are in English, the information, signs, everything is in English.

Steve: It is not intimidating at all to go to Hong Kong; it’s slightly more intimidating to go into China and the Canton Fair.

Meghla: Exactly. Even the exhibitors at our shows, especially the electronics suppliers I found, they are better at English than other product categories, because multiple electronics factories are based in the Pearl River Delta region, which is closer to Hong Kong. So they tend to have better English speaking skills than people in factories and interior cities.

Steve: Can you talk a little bit about how you go about scheduling a factory tour because factories can be all over the place right?

Meghla: Yeah, so of course it totally depends on where your product is being manufactured and what product you’re sourcing. If you’re sourcing electronics, then it’s most probably going to be somewhere in Shenzhen or Guangzhou, which is in the south of China very close to Hong Kong. So Shenzhen is about one hour from Hong Kong and then Guangzhou is about two hours by road from Hong Kong. But if you’re sourcing, let’s say, I don’t know spatulas, plastics spatulas, they’re most likely to be in Zhejiang province, which is further north. Zhejiang is on the east of China. And it’s likely to be in a city called Ningbo that does a lot of the appliances and other products.

So I think what you have to keep in mind is that pick a city where you want to do a couple of factory tours because in China what happens is that there are production hubs for certain product categories. And so if you’re in that city, it’s easy to go from one factory to another, because they’re all in that city, and they’re nearby, whereas if you’re scheduling factory visits of different cities, you’ll be spending a lot of time traveling from one city to another because China is huge. So I think just be aware of where the factories are located for the products that you are sourcing. And yeah, make sure that they’re not too far apart.

Steve: So can you kind of describe the process in your experience, like would a vendor actually come and pick you up? Do you meet at the factory? What are the logistics?

Meghla: Yeah, it’s very common for the vendor to come pick you up from the airport. And so you just need to like communicate to them that okay, we’re coming at this time, and they’ll have somebody at the airport holding a sign board with your name on it, and then they’ll take you to the factory, they’ll take you around. They’ll most probably take you out for lunch or a meal.

Steve: Sometimes they’ll take you drinking, yes.

Meghla: They’ll take you drinking. Yeah. And they’ll make you drink baijiu.

Steve: Yes.

Meghla: That is really very strong. I would not recommend having more than two shots.

Steve: Yes.

Meghla: Yeah. And then if you want to go to another factory after that, they will even, if the factory is nearby, they will even drop you to the other factory because sometimes transportation can be very difficult in the interior cities of China. I remember I was traveling to this one factory a long time ago and there were — we were literally on a motorcycle taxi. There were no regular taxis no nothing, just a motorcycle taxi from going from one factory to another. That was not fun at all.

Steve: So Meghla, if it’s your first time, what would you recommend?

Meghla: So if it’s your first time and you’re sourcing, let’s say you’re sourcing gift products or home products.

Steve: Okay, so that’s third phase right.

Meghla: Yeah, that’s second phase.

Steve: Second phase okay.

Meghla: Second phase of Canton Fair.

Steve: Third phase is textiles.

Meghla: Yes, correct. So what I would suggest is visit both shows, Hong Kong Global Sources and Canton Fair. So Canton Fair is held right before Global Sources lifestyle fair. So what you can do is fly straight into Guangzhou if there is a direct flight to Guangzhou, because many times there aren’t direct flights, you have to go via Hong Kong. But if you can find a direct flight or even go to Hong Kong, that’s fine. But attend the Canton Fair first, and then come to Global Sources. If you want, you can attend the conference as well, and attend the trade show. And then you can go back to Canton Fair for phase three, if you do want to source fashion and textile products or you can go into Mainland China to visit your factories.

Steve: You what’s funny Meghla, I would recommend the opposite itinerary. I would recommend staying in Hong Kong, because it’s a lot more fun, the food is a lot better. And then if you want, go into take the train over to the Canton Fair, and then come back to Hong Kong.

Meghla: Yeah, but it depends. I mean, if you do want to visit factories right.

Steve: Of course.

Meghla: You go back to Hong Kong.

Steve: I just like Hong Kong so much better.

Meghla: Yeah that’s true. And then you also have to keep in mind that if you are going to go back into China, you want to get a multiple entry visa for China. So that’s very important to keep in mind. And many people have got stuck because of this. And you do not require a visa to go to Hong Kong, like most nationalities don’t. But for China, you do require a visa. So make sure that you get your visa at least a couple of weeks before you plan on going to China.

Steve: Yeah for sure, for sure. Well, hey Meghla, we’ve been talking for quite a while and I don’t want to keep you because it’s part of your work day there. It’s late at night over here. Where can people find more information about Global Sources and the exhibition and the trade show?

Meghla: Yeah, so for the exhibitions, people can go to GlobalSources.com/exhibitions. That’s where you can get all of the information about all the various trade shows that we host. For the summit, its GlobalSources.com/summit, that’s the URL.

Steve: And do you have a sampling of some of the speakers that are going to be there this year in April?

Meghla: Yeah, absolutely. So one of your judges at 5 Minute Pitch Mike Jackness.

Steve: Nice.

Meghla: He is a speaker this time yeah.

Steve: He’s great.

Meghla: He’s actually spoken a couple of times.

Steve: He’s a great speaker.

Meghla: He’s amazing. I love yeah, I love his part. And then we have Kevin King, who’s coming to speak, David Bryant, who is Mike’s partner. And then Lilan Hirschkorn, Tim Jordan. He does a lot of good stuff related to sourcing. And then we have Sophie Howard from New Zealand. She’s actually — she has her own course and she does a lot of sourcing from India and Vietnam and other non-China kind of locations. So that’s something that we’re seeing a lot of interest in, and we’re covering the topic of that. And then we’ve got CJ Rosenbaum is also coming.

Steve: Aha, the Amazon sellers’ lawyer yes.

Meghla: Amazon sellers’ lawyer, that’s correct. And then we have Sean Smith, Chris Rawlings from JudoLaunch. I’m looking forward to his presentation.

Steve: Cool.

Meghla: Yeah.

Steve: It sounds like a rock star speaking lineup.

Meghla: It is yeah.

Steve: Well Meghla, thanks a lot for coming on the show. I really appreciate your feedback and your advice on sourcing and trade shows and the like and I think all the listeners will benefit from it.

Meghla: Thank you so much Steve.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now the Global Sources Summit is actually going on right now. So if you’re in Hong Kong, make sure you look for Meghla and say hi to her. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode254.

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 subs. 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.

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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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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.
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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 what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have my buddy Colin Jones on the show. And Colin is a successful card counter who has made over $4 million playing blackjack. And today he’s created an incredible business teaching others how to count cards, and we are going to learn how he did it.

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 bucks who purchased a red handkerchief 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 really happy to have my buddy Colin Jones on the show. Now Colin is someone who I’ve hung out with on multiple occasions at various conferences. And he actually even wrote this guest post for my blog, I want to say almost eight to 10 years ago, but Colin has a really interesting story. The man used to play blackjack professionally and he made over $4 million by counting cards at casinos.

And today he runs a successful online business teaching others how to beat the casinos at blackjack over at Blackjackapprenticeship.com. And today what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about his entrepreneurial journey and how he created an incredible business out of — I don’t want to call it a hobby but how he used to make money before counting cards. And with that, welcome to show Colin, how are you doing today?

Colin: I’m great. Thanks so much for having me.

Steve: So Colin, I know you got a lot of funny stories to tell. But take us back to when you first started playing blackjack. First of all, how the heck did you end up doing this professionally?

Colin: Yeah, so I graduated with a math degree and pretty much no ambition, no idea what I was going to do for work because with the math degree, you either teach or you go back to school, can become an actuary, but that’s going to take years of tests and I just didn’t want to really do any of that. But a friend of mine said, hey, Colin, you’re a math guy. I’m teaching myself how to count cards, and he loaned me these books and he was a smart guy. And he wanted someone to get into it with him. And I thought I could probably do this. And so while I was doing a combination of working at Red Robin and substitute teaching, I read these books and practiced it, decided to give it a go, convinced my wife to take $2,000 of our savings and which was not enough, but I just kind of got lucky off the bat and the rest is history.

Steve: Okay, so 2,000 bucks. Was that like a significant portion of your savings?

Colin: I think we had six grand in the bank but were, I think we lived off of something like 1,500 a month at the time and so it kind of felt like go for it, what’s there really to lose? I could get another job if I needed to. She didn’t think it was going to work but she thought I get out of my system and it did work.

Steve: So was Red Robin like your only job ever then?

Colin: I mean, I had some jobs in high school and I was substitute teaching when basically the deal I worked out with my wife was if I didn’t get called into substitute teach, I could go play blackjack, which sounds awful. But I’d honestly never been in a casino until I’d spent at least dozens of hours practicing card counting and I spent, I don’t know probably at least 100 hours practicing before I went in a casino. But she agreed, hey, if I don’t get called into work, I wouldn’t just sit at home, I’d go and count some cards.

Steve: So, before we get into the details of your business, I’m just kind of curious about card counting in general, can you just kind of give a brief high level overview of how it works? And can you actually consistently win when you count cards?

Colin: Yeah, so I mean, first off, I always have to tell people, it’s perfectly legal, because you’re just using your brain in the casino and fortunately, it’s legal to use your brain. And the analogy I like to give is it’s a mix between chess and extreme couponing. So it’s this game of skill. But it’s kind of this hack where casinos created a game that it’s the only game in the casino where future events are dependent on past events. So if a card comes out of — if they’re dealing, and let’s say a queen comes out, you won’t see that Queen again until they shuffle. Every other game is all independent events. And so someone, a mathematician figured out that this kind of this hack and you can absolutely use it to your advantage.

It is basically a system of just keeping track of what kinds of cards have been played. And that will impact your betting. And then you have to learn the playing strategy and a bunch of other things. But it’s not rocket science; it’s just a system that takes a couple hundred hours to perform. And you don’t — it’s not like the casino has become an ATM where you just walk in with 100 bucks and walk out with 1,000. But it is a very consistent system. If you get in a few hundred hours, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be in the positive. And it scales, like a lot of other investments, where with 2,000 bucks, I was making maybe like $7 an hour, but when we had 20,000 were making $50 an hour, when we had a couple hundred thousand we were making three, four or $500 an hour playing blackjack.

Steve: What is the true advantage percentage wise from a probability standpoint?

Colin: It’s between one and 2%. It depends on how good of a game you’re playing and how good your game is but between one and 2%.

Steve: That actually does not sound like a lot, which implies that you could lose a lot of money before you start winning right? Like, do you have any crazy up and down stories while gambling?

Colin: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So, compared to — I tell people that compared to the stock market, it’s more consistent. If you get in, let’s say a professional card player plays 500 to 1,000 hours a year, you’re going to be in the positive, and you could actually calculate how much you’re expecting to make. But it’s not a large advantage, like you’re going to win every night. You win kind of like 55% of the time and lose 45% of the time. So it’s really important to get enough hours for the math to work out. But as far as myself, I mean, my first trip to Vegas, I had been a card counter for about a year, first time ever went to Vegas. I lost about $40,000 in like three hours and got kicked out of all MGM properties. I was told I couldn’t walk into MGM property and play blackjack again, which is a little bit like…

Steve: Wait, you lost money and they kicked you out? That doesn’t make sense.

Colin: Yeah, well, it’s because they think the same way a card counter does, which is they’re not looking at the short term results, they’re looking at, do I have a winning game? And of course over a long enough sample size, I won all that money back plus a lot more in Vegas, but it was a pretty, pretty rough first trip. And I think that’s like the worst single day I had losing 40 grand, but I’d had other days where I won, I think my best day was about $45,000 in a couple hours and I just couldn’t lose. But again, we’re not looking at the short term. Like any business you want to say, well, what’s this going to do over the long term?

Steve: Okay, and then I always see like in the movies, whatever, like they’ll pull people aside into like this back room and beat you up. Does that actually happen?

Colin: Yeah. I’ve never been pistol whipped for card counting. That’s all Hollywood. I mean, if they even said that you had to go into a back room and you said I don’t want to and they forced you to, you’d have a six figure settlement. So that’s all Hollywood, but they have a right to refuse service. It’s like the no shirt, no shoes, no service thing, a grocery store can say, hey, if you don’t wear shoes, we’re not going to serve you. Well casinos can say, hey, if you’re a winner, not a loser; we’re not going to serve you. And it generally is something like Mr. Jones; your game is too good for us. You’re welcome to play any other games but no more blackjack. And you take it with a grain of salt, you move on to the next casino or even go back to that same casino three months later and they’ve forgotten about you.

Steve: But have you been taken to the back room ever or any sort of side room?

Colin: Yeah, well, only once. There was another time where a guy was demanding I go in the back room and I knew better. I said, no, I’d like to cash out and leave and he huffed and puffed for a while and then he said, cash him out, I want him to leave. But there was one time we had $140,000 in chips to a casino, one casino that we’d just been absolutely clobbering. And when we went to cash it all out, we actually – it was really dumb of us. But it was a team of four of us, and we’d been playing for four days. And we won a whole bunch of money, and we sent one guy to cash out all the chips.

So we thought, if they’re going to back off one person, let’s have it — or back off anybody, let’s have it be this one guy. But it was dumb done to send one guy with that amount of money. So of course, they say, well, how do you have this much money? Are these real chips or are they fake or whatever? And so they said he had to go in the back room. And then basically an hour later, all four of us are there saying, we want to get our money, we’ve got a flight to catch. And it’s the craziest thing, but the casino didn’t even know what card counting was. They’re saying, how did you cheat us? We’re like, we didn’t cheat. We were counting cards.

They said, well, how does that work? And we’re explaining it to them. And then they’re saying like, well, how do how much to bet? And one of the guys on my team says, I’ll tell you for a fee. He was asking casinos to pay him to tell him how we know how to bet. And long story short, they eventually cashed us out. And they sent the letter in the mail saying that we’re not welcome on their property again.

Steve: Okay. Okay. But so you’ve never been like physically harmed or anything or detained.

Colin: Oh no.

Steve: Okay all right.

Colin: I know a couple of guys that have been detained against their will and they’ve all gotten large settlements for it.

Steve: Interesting. My next question actually is you have this business now that teaches people how to count cards. If this system is scalable, why not just continue to do it?

Colin: Yeah, that’s a really valid question. I’d say it’s scalable to a degree. But one of the things that got me really thinking of doing something — well, first off, I didn’t get into card counting to be a card counter for my whole life. It was like a way to not have to go back to Red Robin, and not have to go back to School. Sorry go on. Yeah, I’m a happy customer. So, I wasn’t looking to do it forever. And it was really, really fun when I was playing the first two years and scaling something. I’d never known I could do something entrepreneurially. But then it started to feel like a grind. And then me and the guy I got into it with, we started a team and we ran this team that, like you mentioned won roughly $4 million between the different teams we ran.

And that was really fun for a while, but then it only scales to a degree. You can’t bet tens of thousands of dollars ahead, casinos just can’t handle that kind of money; you’re going to get asked to leave way too quickly. And once we kind of reached its limit, I realized I created a job for myself not a business, it wasn’t something I could sell, or if I got hit by a bus, my family couldn’t sell off the business or anything. So I was looking for something more passive.

Steve: Okay, no that makes sense. And in terms of running the groups, I guess you could have scaled it that way, but it would have been probably a lot of trouble, right?

Colin: Yeah, it was really fun for a while, but then it really started to feel like a grind and I started having more and more kids. I wanted to be traveling less and probably wanted something I could just do from my basement.

Steve: Yeah, I’m just kind of curious. Like, I’ve seen the movies where people have like wads of cash strapped to them. Was that something you had to deal with too?

Colin: Oh, yeah.

Steve: Why do you have to deal with cash? Why not just deposit it in like [inaudible 00:13:19] or something?

Colin: Well, you’d have two reasons. One is you’d have to only travel during bank hours. If you want to fly into Vegas, you can’t fly in Friday night; you’d have to fly in during the daytime. But the second thing is we used to try that and banks would freak out. They’d say — we’d say hey, I’m here to withdraw the $80,000 that I have in my account, and they’d say, well, we don’t have that kind of money or why do you need your money? And it was a huge hassle and so just cash is king. If you show up in Vegas on a Friday night with $80,000 strapped to you, you can just head straight to the strip and start playing and casinos will always take cash.

Steve: What about leaving Vegas, though? Can you deposit it in a bank in Vegas and not have to do that?

Colin: Okay, so the reality is I’ve been backed off from three banks. I’ve had three banks close my account and say, we don’t want your business because they’re so freaked out about cash. And I’ve said, hey, we’ve got accountants, we’ve got lawyers who’ve got a business license, and they say, we don’t care. You’re depositing and withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars every week, and we don’t feel comfortable with it.

Steve: Ah, interesting. Okay.

Colin: But cash is king.

Steve: All right. I was just kind of curious if all the stuff that I see in the movies is true, but I guess there is some merit to some of that stuff.

Colin: Yeah, totally.

Steve: All right, so let’s get into Blackjack Apprenticeship. So first of all, what do you sell? How do you get paying customers? And what does the product look like first of all?

Colin: Yeah, I’d say that our main product is the membership, but we have products from $5 all the way up to $6,000. But we’ve got an iOS app that’s five bucks. But our main thing, the majority of my income comes from selling a membership. And it’s not very different from what you sell. So we’ve got a video course, we’ve got a forum, we actually have training software that we’ve developed, we’ve got a casino database so you can know the blackjack game of every casino in the country. We’ve got premium podcast, stuff like that. And then we have a higher end product which is a live training. So people fly to Vegas for two days of training with me and a group of other card counters. And then the highest product is private training with me where I’ll work with someone for a couple of days, but that’s six grand.

Steve: Oh, wow. Okay, but do you actually train them in Vegas and then take them to the casinos too for the highest paying tier?

Colin: Well, wherever, it’s more if they want me to fly to them, but if they fly to me in Seattle, I’ll go to the — we’ve got hundreds of casinos here in Seattle and I’ll go, I’ll watch them play, after I work with them for a couple days and see how they do in the casino.

Steve: Okay. Now it’s one thing like when you were gambling for this, did you start this business with a list of people who are interested in learning already, or did you kind of start this from scratch?

Colin: Yeah, absolutely from scratch. And we kind of timed it — of course we were behind schedule, but we timed it around the release of 21 the movie, like we knew that movie was coming out, it’s like we got to get this thing up and going. And we got kind of lucky that we got the number one YouTube video for how to count cards and we just kind of rode that wave for a while. But as it started to die down, I was like I’ve got to figure out this SEO thing. And just spent a few months devouring anything about organic traffic and was able to grow and we’re now all the way up to the word blackjack. We’re bouncing around the top three results for that, but that took many years to get to and YouTube has become a huge part of our inbound funnel in the last year.

Steve: So let’s talk about how you have you managed to rank for blackjack, which I imagine is crazy competitive. What are some things that you do in the SEO front?

Colin: Yeah. So I mean, early on, I went for lower hanging fruit just little bit longer tail search terms, but stuff that I thought we could compete for. But at the same time, we would create a page on something higher up like blackjack strategy or how to count cards, and just try to have well optimized pages. Basically, I stepped back and said, how can I create the best page on the internet for this phrase, and really worked on the best content, the most authoritative, the best images, all that stuff. And we’ve created and kind of set it and forget it, while at the same time going for a little bit lower hanging stuff and working on and I would do guest posts and broken links, anything to get quality links, while creating the best content and that stuff just started popping up over time.

Steve: Can we dig deep into like what search volumes you were targeting? Like when you’re first starting out, for example, and you had nothing, what sort of keywords in terms of volume and competitiveness were you going for?

Colin: I think things in the gosh…

Steve: I don’t know, what tools do you use actually first of all?

Colin: So it’s funny because I’ve been out of the SEO game for a few years now, because I have someone that does that stuff for me, he’s part of my team. But I used Google Keyword Planner, I would at times have a membership to Moz and just look at competitiveness, and we would just look for anything we could and do a combination. Most of it was lower, easier to rank for stuff. But we would create these pages that if one day we could get in the top 10 for some of this stuff, it would be amazing. And now we’re in the top three for all of those things.

Steve: And in terms of — I mean, oftentimes writing the best content isn’t good enough. So did you have a specific link building strategy?

Colin: Yeah, so it was a combination of guest posts, so we’d reach out to people. That’s the way it was. I had some e-commerce stores back in the day and that’s why I wrote a guest post for you. I’d reach out to people. I tried to write like the best thing I possibly could and then pitch it to people.

Steve: What was your hit rate actually? I think I can’t remember why I accepted yours because I didn’t even know you at the time.

Colin: Yeah, it was something like how to how to be Amazon’s SEO or something like that. It was like I would niche them or I don’t even remember, but I had like five bullet points and send it to you and I couldn’t believe you accepted it.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, looking back, like I wouldn’t do that ever again, to be honest with you today. But I’m just kind of curious when you were doing that, what was your hit rate like? How many people would you have to hit up in order to even get one yes?

Colin: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 20 people but we just create a list and I think you were one of those like, well, I’ll go for it. I’m sure he’s going to say no, but apparently it piqued your interest. And I think having that just kind of that, I’d say one thing about card counting is you aren’t going to make it if you don’t take it incredibly seriously and have really thick skin. And I’d say it’s the same for SEO or e-commerce or anything like that, you have to work really hard at it and you have to have thick skin. A lot of things aren’t going to work but you just keep grinding. So it is a combination of guest posts and finding broken links.

Steve: I haven’t had that much luck with broken link, asking people to replace broken links. Has that been a really good strategy for you guys?

Colin: I wouldn’t say really good but it’s been a thing we’ve gotten some good links for. I’ve created one infographic ever but we created an infographic on how to play blackjack and that actually worked pretty well. We got quite a few links from that. And then we started getting lucky with some things. Like Ben Affleck got kicked out of a bunch of casinos a few years ago. He was actually — yeah, so we kind of used that to create an article about why and how does card counting work, why would casinos kick him out and got some links from that. And just trying to keep coming up with ideas and try things and keep reaching out to people and created some training drills that got us some links, and then some YouTube videos would get us some links. And it was just kind of a combination of efforts.

Steve: So this is just like an ongoing thing that you had. Do you have any goals in regards to how many links you build in a quarter or whatever or is this just kind of like this ongoing thing that you’re doing every day?

Colin: I wouldn’t say every day, but I would say maybe like, every year we make an effort of okay, hey, let’s put some work into this, whether it’s on page optimization, because SEO is kind of always changing. Then there was the page speed stuff. When that changes, we got to up our game with our page speed because sometimes it would be like an algorithm update would come out and we would lose some ground. And whenever we would improve things, we wouldn’t just recapture where we were at, we’d actually do even better than that. So until I felt like we really had a good grasp on the traffic piece, we’re always trying to improve either the user experience or the on page or the link building.

Steve: So has Page Seed really made a huge difference, though?

Colin: Yeah, I would say so especially was it in August, there was an algorithm update that came out. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but we got kind of hit with that, which was, I felt pretty confident in our traffic and our rankings. And talk to Deacon [ph] I don’t know if you’ve had him on the podcast, you can hear that.

Steve: Yeah I will.

Colin: Yeah. And he was like, well, it looks like the two big things with this update that they’re focusing on his page speed, and kind of user experience. And so we really kind of stepped back and the page speed, I thought we’d really solved it because we redesigned the whole site to be faster, but we had just some really heavy assets on some of those pages. And by fixing that stuff, we saw our traffic come back pretty quickly, and then went even quite a bit higher and so kind of kicking myself that we didn’t fix that stuff sooner.

Steve: Interesting because I got hit in August also. I’m almost recovered, but I didn’t do anything with page speed. I’m just — I think my site is okay, but it’s probably on the slower end. What did you do to improve the speed outside of removing images and that sort of thing?

Colin: So I’m very different from you in that I hire a lot of stuff out. So I could give you the name of the guy I used, but man for a few hundred bucks, he got things blazing fast, combining JavaScript and image assets and setting up a CDN and just some stuff that I don’t know how to do.

Steve: Okay, fair enough. Cool. So that made a difference in recovering from August.

Colin: Yeah, we’re at all-time highs by far, like considerably in the last couple months. And so we really focused on that. We got hit in August, we spent three months really working on every phase of SEO and it’s been well worth it.

Steve: Cool. Maybe I’ll hit you up for that guy after this.

Colin: Yeah.

Steve: All right, so in the beginning you were getting business through SEO. Did you have a the YouTube channel from the start?

Colin: Yeah, we had the YouTube channel from the start. But if I could do that over too, I would have put more effort into it. But we kind of got lucky in the beginning. And then I focused on SEO and I’d go through phases of filming a bunch of videos and putting them out on YouTube, but I didn’t think it was a viable — I didn’t think it was going to convert to customers. I thought YouTube would be some college bros would watch my videos and wouldn’t be interested in dropping 200, 300 bucks for our membership. And it was actually about a year and a half ago, there was a scammer guy on YouTube that was claiming to be a card counter. He didn’t know what he was talking about. And people kept sending me his videos and, and I was like, oh, this is such bad information.

I thought well, I’ll kind of just start putting some good stuff on YouTube again. And we have a little survey when someone buys our membership, and we ask them, the first question is how did you first hear about us? And that YouTube went from about 10% of our paying members to about 50% became YouTube. And so I started really focusing on it. And it’s been, I’d say, the last year and a half. So at first I started doing a YouTube video every other week, because I’m just kind of lazy or don’t like working a whole lot, a video a week sounded like too much work. But when it started working, I decided you know what, for six months, I’m going to do a video every week. And for my business it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Steve: How were people finding you through YouTube? Did you ask them or was there link tracking or?

Colin: Yeah, just this post purchase survey. So that’s the first question is how did you first hear from us? And now it’s over 50% is from YouTube, even though I thought maybe we could grow from 10 to 20% would be YouTube traffic but the thing is video trust is so much faster than written content. When someone sees me and gets to know me, they say — the goal of video is that people can get to know, like, and trust you. So first they have to get to know who you are and they get to know you so much better through video than through a blog post.

They get to like you because they get to know your personality more, and they just build trust a lot more through video. So in the last year, I’ve gone from not wanting to focus on video because I don’t like it. It’s a lot more effort and I don’t like being on camera, but it’s become I’m a pretty big evangelist for using YouTube or using video for your business.

Steve: So for what you teach, I imagine, how do you make sure that what you’re teaching for free on YouTube doesn’t completely encapsulate what you teach in the class?

Colin: Yeah, I was actually pretty worried about that. And I talked to Tim Schmoyer, he runs Video Creators. Actually, I’ve known that guy for like five or six years, and he’s helped me with some of my YouTube strategy, but he said Colin, you got to put some of your best stuff on YouTube. Not all of it, but some of it. But with that being said, I would say, I teach some of the lower level concepts, but I try to do a really good job of it, really high quality, that’s part of it is I don’t give away the best stuff. And then some of it is even like lower level than I would ever put on our video course so just more basic concepts.

But then periodically, I even will post one of our membership videos on YouTube. So it’s some of our best stuff, maybe once every month or so, I’ll post one of those and people get a taste and we’ll put in the comment or in the description hey; this is from our video course. But the second thing I’d say is it’s upped my game for our paid video course. As I’m putting better stuff on YouTube, I feel like I’ve kind of circled back around to our video course and said, hey, how can I make that content even better and so then I’m serving my paying members even better.

Steve: I just want 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.

So I guess I don’t really know anything about card counting, but is it involved enough that you can put out one video a week about it? Because you mentioned earlier that it was fairly straightforward what the strategy is.

Colin: Yeah, so I mean, that’s something I’m going to have to figure out is, can I continue putting out a video every week. But some of it is I can interview other people or I think if you sit back and — I’ll put it this way, I’ve been at it for a year and a half of a video week or a video every two weeks, and I’m still coming up with good ideas. And not all of them are. Some of them are just like blackjack strategies that don’t work. And then at the end, I say, if you want a blackjack strategy that does work, you need to learn card counting. And so I can get kind of broader and some of the stuff can be more like how this stuff applies to life or whatever and just get creative with it.

Steve: So can we talk about like how you come up with the YouTube stuff? Like do you do keyword research? Are you very deliberate in what you’re going for, or are you just trying to put out good content?

Colin: So YouTube is really different and that was one of the things that Tim Schmoyer told me, he said, you don’t approach YouTube like you approach SEO. So that’s how I was initially. I was coming up with keywords and YouTube is basically it’s like cable service. There’s all these different channels and YouTube doesn’t want people ever leaving YouTube. So it’s less about ranking for keywords and more about being the content that they serve either on the sidebar or someone gets to the end of a video and then the next thing that auto plays or the suggested content, so which has less to do with keywords and more to do with if someone is interested in these sorts of things, so for you, it’d be some people that are interested in e-commerce. Well, hey, Steve’s channel has really good watch time, really good audience retention; they’re going to serve your videos.

So I thought of it less in terms of keywords and more in terms of, well, what stuff would serve my audience anyway? And then how do I make this video have really good audience retention, like it’s not boring, it’s got good B roll, it’s got good, interesting content, people are going to want to watch all the way to the end and then get people into playlist so they watch video after video. And then I sprinkle in some, just things that I do want to rank for that keyword like how to count cards, how to play blackjack, but that’s more like 10% of it. And the rest is just how do I create really good content that would serve my audience and get people watching on YouTube.

Steve: You know what’s really funny about this column is, so I interviewed Tim on your recommendation.

Colin: Oh, yeah.

Steve: The episode hasn’t released yet. But I also interviewed someone else. I think her name is Sonny, who also does YouTube. And they had completely opposite YouTube approaches. So it’s funny, as she was saying, you got to be very deliberate with your keyword research and whatnot. Whereas Tim was more like, hey, just put out good content with a long watch time and everything just kind of works itself out. I would be curious to see, actually get them both on the podcast at the same time and argue it out at some point.

Colin: That would be great. And I’d say that there’s like I said a bit of both. And I went to Tim’s live event and it’s like kind of like a conference for about 20 or 30 video creators and the guy that kind of led my little mastermind session said, hey Colin, you actually do need more searchable content. Not like that should be my primary focus. But that was a huge boon was to actually say, okay, our last video on something as basic as how to count cards is like 10 years old and so I read them that and that’s done really well. And so it’s I’d say it’s a combination of those things.

Steve: All right and so you have these videos and you’re getting people in the door, how do you actually convert them into sales?

Colin: Yeah, so I spoke at a conference the last time I saw you about this idea, but I kind of stepped back and I had — I used to have like an eBook like a lot of people have, but I saw what some other people are doing with video mini courses and it just kind of made sense to me that I sell a video course. Most people buy our membership for the video course. So why isn’t my free, my lead magnet videos? And so I created this card counting mini course and it’s like five videos and it walks people through kind of gives them a paradigm shift and teaches them a bit and lets them know kind of like separates people that should or shouldn’t become a card counter or shouldn’t buy our membership. And that I think has something like quadrupled our conversion rate, it has been something that forced me to add video to more parts of the website and eventually to say, hey, if this is working so well on the website, why am I not doing this on YouTube also?

Steve: And so that eBook basically is no longer there and you’ve just broken apart that eBook into videos essentially.

Colin: Sort of, I kind of stepped back a little bit. The eBook actually did worse than a previous version of an eBook. And I was like, what’s wrong with it? I asked a few people, they’re like, hey, you’re kind of like overwhelming people with information. And so when I kind of scripted out the mini course, I went a little bit bigger picture and not so much information and that seems to work better. But yeah, the eBook it’s, I don’t know, maybe it exists somewhere, but it wasn’t that effective. The main course was – go ahead.

Steve: So the mini course doesn’t teach you exactly how to count cards, it’s more the higher level like is this for you, and what your goals are for doing this?

Colin: Yeah, so I really want to start with a paradigm shift that card counting is not gambling. We think of it as investing and really like diving into that. How is the card counting thing versus a gambler, and when people get that paradigm shift, they’re either like, oh well, I like gambling, or they’re like, oh, this is for me . And then by the third video, I actually I’m doing some teaching so that people kind of can trust me that I can teach them. But I don’t go too deep into the teaching, because that’s really what the paid course is for and I don’t want to bug people down. I want them to realize yes, I want to do this and then go from there. And there’s plenty more content where I’m teaching throughout the website and YouTube channel that they can digest that if they really want to.

Steve: So your membership site, is it a monthly paid membership?

Colin: No, we used to have both a monthly and annual thing but with a video course, some people they pay like the minimum out and then just binge watch the videos and then cancel was part of the problem. But the other problem is it attracted people that weren’t really committed because you’re not going to learn card counting in a month. And so we kind of scrapped the monthly. And it’s kind of the 80/20 principle where we got rid of a large portion of our members, but they were the biggest pain in the butt customers. They were the people that weren’t really going to become card counters and like the college kid with 19 bucks, not someone that had what it took to really become a card counter.

And when we switched from monthly to annual, our revenue went up and with fewer members. And this has probably been the same for you as you raise prices every six months or a year; you have fewer people but probably more income and focus on people that are really going to follow through.

Steve: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean raising prices was actually the best thing that I could have done because the quality of people improved dramatically.

Colin: Yep, yep.

Steve: So in terms of your YouTube videos, do you have like a certain target length or any just kind of higher level strategies that you try to do for each video?

Colin: Well, when I script it out, it’s all stuff you can learn from smaller or other experts, but I try to hook them at the beginning. And I want to provide content all the way the end of the video. But what I used to do is a sort of wrapping it up thing for the last 30 seconds, but people are just going to leave your video. You want to be giving all the way the end. And my videos used to be like three to five minutes and I was encouraged to actually make them longer and I thought three to five, that’s as long as I would want to watch. But it’s actually been good to make them a little bit longer. They’re in the six to nine minute range. I would say longer than that, I think would be a lot of work for me. So I don’t generally go longer than that.

And adding B roll, it’s amazing. You can see in the retention graphs where people are dropping off. And so not having too long of time of just me sitting there talking helps people stick around longer. So a lot of B roll and getting better at storytelling, not just content, but also anecdotes and things that keep people engaged.

Steve: Okay. And I know earlier when we were kind of chatting, you have a book coming out, how does that factor in the overall strategy? So first of all, what is the book about and what are your goals with the book?

Colin: Yeah, the book is about card counting. And I would — the way I really thought about, it’s not memoirs, and it’s not a like comprehensive how to, it’s kind of my best advice so that someone that’s either interested in card counting or actively counting cards, this would be the best resource they could have to either learn or to have success as a card counter. And the reality is the world’s changed a lot where with the internet, people don’t need something that like fills in every single gap. But 20 years ago, if someone wants to learn a subject, they go to a bookstore and find something that’s everything. Well, now people are going to watch videos on YouTube, they’re going to read online about things.

So I didn’t want to fill it up with things that are all over the website, but with the best advice, best stories I could provide. How it fits into our funnel, I’m not exactly sure yet, but I don’t know. I would say there’s probably no entrepreneur out there that hasn’t thought about writing a book. And it was just kind of an idea. And then, I was part of a mastermind group, and the guys kept saying, oh, Colin, you got to write a book about this stuff. And I don’t know, it just sounded like a fun project. So I wrote it and pitched it to one publisher, kind of my dream publisher, which ironically, this publisher when I told him I was thinking about writing a book, he said, oh, don’t do that. You’re not going to make any money at that. There’s too many blackjack books. But once I’d written it and sent it to him, he was like, hey, we’d like to publish it.

Steve: Nice okay.

Colin: Yeah, so that was I mean, that was kind of a dream scenario. I was going to self-publish if he didn’t want it, but they did want it. And I think it’s going to work in a few ways. One is, people, there’s just — the reality is a lot of people want a book on a topic. They don’t want to just read blog posts or watch YouTube videos, and so it’s going to bring in a different audience. Secondly, it’s going to, I think it’ll actually lead more people to buying memberships, because we’ve got a $5 product and then we’ve got a $250 product. And this will be the $20 product for someone that’s like not ready to drop 250 bucks, but it’ll kind of prime the pump for some of those people to say, okay, I want to do this. And the website will provide the training and the community and all those things that a book can’t provide.

Steve: Does it read more like a narrative or is it like tips?

Colin: It’s kind of a combination. So I tried to use as many stories as I could, but at heart I like teaching people, so it’s really advice and teaching and with as many stories as I could all along the way.

Steve: One thing I kind of forgot to ask you was along your funnel, is it primarily like an email funnel or do you use Messenger or do you use push notifications? Like, what’s your best medium?

Colin: Yeah, it’s email. So even from YouTube, I’m trying to get people into our card counting mini course, which is an email campaign and that’s just always been pretty effective.

Steve: So in terms of YouTube, you mention the link in your video, but what works better links in the video or do people actually click on links underneath the video in the description?

Colin: So we have an end card, and we put that the maximum length it can be, so I think it’s like the last 30 seconds of the video. And in the end card, I’m still teaching, I’m still giving valuable information so people aren’t leaving, but they’re seeing next steps are like other YouTube videos of ours, which will help our channel out, or a mini course, or a subscribe button. So every video, we’re promoting that mini course and just getting some percentage of people over in. And honestly, some people, they don’t go to the mini course, they just buy membership because I built enough trust through YouTube. But I’m always trying to get people into that mini course so that I can kind of nurture that lead further.

Steve: Cool. So what are your plans looking forward for this year in 2019?

Colin: Well, yeah, I have the book coming out. And that should be in March or April. We’re definitely getting pretty far along the process with that. And I want to promote that well and do a good job of launching that. But beyond that, I think I’m going to — I’ll keep doing the things we’re doing for inbound. But I think my personal energy is going to be stepping back and saying how can I serve our existing members better and grow our lifetime customer value? So if someone — get more people keeping their membership for year two, year three, year four, year five, rather than just saying how do I get more people in and out?

Steve: Okay. Yeah. I’m just curious, like I’m just trying to think if I was taking a blackjack class, I would think a year would be enough, would it not?

Colin: Well, that’s where we’ve developed some of the resources that are ongoing. So we’ve got a forum and card counting can be a lonely thing, you want other people that you can say, oh, man, I had this crazy night, whether it’s winning or losing, or hey, what do you guys do in this scenario, there’s a lot of subjective stuff. And so a forum is valuable for that. But we also have a casino database that as long as you’re a card counter; it’s helpful to know where to play, where not to play. And we have some betting software. And so basically, some of it, that’s kind of the software as a service component of the business, not the informational part. So people join for the information, but stay for the software.

Steve: Interesting. That’s a cool model.

Colin: Thanks.

Steve: Well Colin, this is all really interesting stuff. And I’m sure the audience is really intrigued by card counting, because I know I am. Where can people find you online?

Colin: Yeah, I mean, I’d say the best place is Blackjack Apprenticeship and that free mini course. Or if you’re a video guy, we’re at BJ videos for Blackjack Apprenticeship, BJ videos is the YouTube channel and currently putting out a video a week unless I get bored and drop it down to every other week. But those are the best places to start. And the book will be a good resource for people if they’re a book reader.

Steve: It’s funny, we’ve been talking about your sequence now, people should just go and sign up for it and watch it for themselves.

Colin: Absolutely.

Steve: All right Colin. Cool. Well, I’m really glad that you were able to come on the show, and I believe I will be seeing you in a couple of weeks as well, so looking forward to that.

Colin: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t wait and thanks so much for having me on the show.

Steve: All right man. Take care.

Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now Colin’s story is just the perfect example of how you can monetize any skill set you have no matter how bizarre. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode253.

And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, 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 parameter 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!

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.
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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 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, tha