On today’s episode, Kunle is joined by Jason Caruso, the Co-owner and host of eCommerce Uncensored, a podcast dedicated to bringing tips, tricks, and techniques to eCommerce entrepreneurs looking to grow their sales, traffic, and email list.
With the help of a fast-paced digital world, podcasts have truly become the fountain of knowledge for many. It’s not a surprise due to the diversity and the creative freedom it provides for both creators and consumers.
eCommerce Uncensored is just one of the many shows revolving around the podcast sphere. With their experience-filled guests, they dig deep and share a wellspring of growth knowledge to eCommerce listeners around the world. Their No BS strategies and techniques assure the 10x growth you are looking for in your business.
In this episode, Kunle and Jason talk about eCommerce marketing in the seven-figure range. You will get to hear about the significant changes happening in the eCommerce world during and after COVID. This is a great episode for brands looking to multiply their revenue by 10x.
Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:
On today’s interview, Kunle and Jason discuss:
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In this episode, I’ll be talking about simplifying the fundamentals of eCommerce growth. It’s a great episode you do not want to miss. Keep on reading.
Welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast. The 2X eCommerce podcast show is dedicated to digital commerce insights for retail and eCommerce teams. Each week, on this podcast, we interview either a commerce expert, a founder of a digital native commerce brand, or a representative from a best-in-class commerce SaaS product.
We give them a tight remit to allow you to get ideas that you can test right away on your brand so that you can improve commerce growth metrics such as conversion, average order value, repeat customers, your audience size, and ultimately, your Gross Merchant Value or sales. We’re here to help you sell more sustainably.
That is our remit. That’s why I turn up every week, every Thursday to give you the juice. Speaking of which, I interviewed a special fellow eCommerce podcaster, Jason Caruso. I met him a few years back in 2019. The last time I was in Boston was for Klaviyo:BOS. We got talking in the podcast booth. If you recall, I recorded a few episodes live on the podcast and then we published them on this particular channel way back.
We didn’t get to record at the time but we said, “Let’s do something at some point.” Three years after 2020, 2021, and 2022, we decided to hook up. He has a lot to share. We’re trying to get to the fundamentals. His thesis is that if you’re building a $10 million-plus eCommerce business, there are some fundamentals. If you’re trying to go from $0 to $10 million, don’t overcomplicate things. That’s what he’s trying to say.
Simplify things like the fundamentals. Don’t look at conversions. Look at also micro conversions and then build-out funnels to communicate effectively with your customers to essentially get them to convert eventually via email. He doesn’t go too tactical. It’s a strategic view for founders to understand the fundamentals of copywriting, Facebook ads, and email marketing, as well as the astronomical rise of TikTok as we speak. That’s it. He has a lot to say. He is a Co-founder at 1 or 2 eCommerce startups, and they consult quite a lot. He used to live in New York. He’s moved to a southern state right now. It’s interesting in terms of the insights he shared on this on the podcast.
Why should you read this episode? If you are trying to figure out growth from $0 to $5 million or $10 million or if you’re stuck at a GMV of $1 million or and you’re trying to break through and trying to figure stuff out, further down the line, it’s an interesting conversation for sure. Generally, if you want to know how to stack your performance and your organic and your email, it’s for marketing. It’s less operational. You’re not going to get any financial, operational, or supply chain advice. This one is marketing in the seven-figure range. If that floats your boat, definitely give this one a read. Do have a good one. Cheers.
Jason, it’s wonderful having you on 2X eCommerce Podcast. It’s been ages. You were in Klaviyo:BOS in September of 2019.
We were recording together at Klaviyo Boston. Our meetup was brief but I remember us hitting it off pretty well. It’s always nice to talk with other people doing what you’re doing to bounce ideas off. I distinctly remember Kevin and me speaking to you. At that time, and correct me if I’m wrong, you were seven years at that point into podcasting.
I will be 7 or 8 years in 2022. If my math is correct it would have been 5 or 6. We started out in November 2014. You’re right. I’d say we probably started this podcast in 2015. It was four years then. It’s still a while. How about you guys? You’re the host of eCommerce Uncensored with Kevin, your partner. How long have you guys been podcasting?
We’ve been doing it for more than five years. I remember talking to you and Kevin and I looked at each other like, “He’s been doing it for that freaking long.” I remember asking you, “Do you have any sponsors?” We were green at the time. We didn’t know what to expect. I was asking you all these questions. I remember Kevin and me talking, “He’s been doing it for a long time.” It was awesome. We enjoyed meeting you.
Likewise. I’m an introvert and this is the best thing for an introvert, to be honest, meeting people on a weekly basis. You have a phenomenal backstory and I would love you to share your backstory with the audience. Where shall we start? How far back should we go? Prior to eCommerce, what got you into eCommerce?
I’ve been doing this probably for more than seventeen years. Like everybody else, I grew up believing that I was going to create this laptop business back in the early 2000s. In 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 I’m blogging and it became this thing. Everybody was going to live on the beach. I had a business at that time that was offline. I started running ads on Google. I had $5,000 and I remember saying, “Let me spend this money on my business.” I tried to get some phone calls.
I spent $5,000 in one day and did not get a phone call. It hurt at that time but the interesting part was that my curiosity piqued it. I was like, “How did this happen? How did I spend $5,000?” Long story short, I realized that there’s this whole other side of the business, whether it be, tracking the click or at that time, conversion optimization was a big thing. Conversion optimization was doing landing pages and that stuff. I’m fast-forwarding. I’m trying to give you a clean version of it.
I failed several times after that. I’ve built blogs and failed. Long story short, I started a baking blog with a professional pastry chef. That blog went from $0 to $20,000 a month. It was a baking blog. How do you sell things from a baking blog? We did. We were selling eBooks, we had a YouTube channel. We had probably 200,000 subscribers and a million views a month.
Anything that she would use in the videos, we would have people come by on the website or the blog at the time. She and I had a falling out. That was a bad falling out. I started working for Kevin, who is now my partner. He had an agency and the agency was a graphic design agency. You can imagine years ago graphic design was detrending.
He couldn’t the money couldn’t make the money anymore so he hired me for marketing because I went through that bad breakup with my other partner. From there, I started bringing clients in. I said to him one day, “I’ve got to talk to you.” He was like, “What’s up?” I said, “Either I have to be a partner or I am leaving.” He’s like, “What do you mean? We built this amazing agency.” Nevertheless, he brought me in as a partner. From there, we started the podcast. We started the podcast originally to try to bring in clients for our agency. We could quickly realize that this platform, this podcast medium is a long game. It’s not for the faint of heart. This is the audio version of a blog.
Pretty much. It helps to turn up every day. You have to turn up and turn up.
We started this podcast. Now, what was pretty interesting about it was that Kevin and I have this relationship like brothers where we fight a lot. We would get on the podcast and we’re like, “We’re going to talk about what we’re going through in our agency and people are probably going through the same thing.” That’s what we did. We got some microphones and cameras and all we did was talk about what we were going through.
A lot of times, that would turn into us bickering at each other. The podcast grew quickly and we didn’t know that but when you look at the numbers we’re getting, and the numbers that are supposedly pretty good, we’re at the higher end of that for a B2B type podcast. It’s gone from there. We have several businesses, we have an agency, we have a multimillion-dollar magazine that we own, and we started a golf business. We have a lot of things going on. That’s where we’re at. That’s my backstory. I’m sorry for the extended version.
It’s important to get some context of where you’re coming from and why you do what you do. No matter how long it takes, it’s so important. Break down the business. You have the agency. You work with select eCommerce businesses. You also have a website called JournalOfWildlifePhotography.com. At the moment, you sell an annual subscription for about 100 boxes and then a lifetime subscription for about 300.
They’re digital magazines, which you publish four times a year but it’s high-quality academic-level wildlife photography. You’ve got a huge audience and you’re milking it. It’s a JV. With all of that happening, which is quite a lot, what do you think have been the most significant changes in eCommerce in the last couple of years with COVID and everything?
I think about this a lot because I do see a lot of changes. Aside from COVID, Facebook, or Apple with the iOS 14 update, that has also played a huge part in the changes that we’re seeing because people were so bullish on Facebook, and Facebook has gone through this evolution. When Facebook came out, everybody couldn’t wait to get on it. It was the end of the world to market on it. Everybody thought they were going to get rich and they realized it was harder than they thought. It got rid of some of the people who were posing.
This iOS thing came out and that distracted people even more and people are trying to figure out where they’re plugging that hole. Some people are using YouTube, Tiktok, Pinterest, or whatever. What I’ve seen is a crazy shift, maybe not a shift but for more than ten years I’ve been hearing that email is going to die. Social media is going to kill email. No one’s going to need email anymore. We’re seeing quite the opposite. We’re going bullish on email even more.
Supply chain issues are a big problem right now, especially with physical products. We could talk about this or we’re going to talk about this. When one of our clients started working with us a few years ago, they were doing about $1.5 million. Fast forward three years, they’re going to be doing close to $10 million in 2022. It’s 10x. It’s going to be a little tight with COVID because they can’t manufacture the product as fast.
What do they sell?
I don’t want to get specific only because I can’t talk about their revenue but they sell a hairdryer type thing. I don’t mind normally talking about it but because I gave specific numbers, I don’t want to. They have this hairdryer and it’s specifically for type-3 and type-4 hair people, men, and women. The interesting thing was, during COVID, it boosted their sales significantly because people couldn’t go to the hairdresser anymore. This device allows you to get the same results that you would at a hair salon, but at home. It helped COVID for that particular brand.
I’m seeing email being pivotal in our success right now. A lot of it is because you can track not so much. It doesn’t change the iOS thing, because the iOS problem is still affecting email but you don’t need any reporting to see how many people are coming on your email list. For instance, I’m running ads on Facebook, I’m spending thousands of dollars and people are freaking out because they can’t track what’s happening. What we’re doing is we’re putting people on an email list and I don’t need to track anything because I can see how many people are signing up to my list every day.
It’s a micro-conversion and then you funnel them through to eventual sales.
As we start seeing these distractions happening more often with the new TikToks of the world and all these other things that are happening, cross-platform pollination was causing a lot of problems with tracking anyway. How do you track a sale that the person saw on Facebook, then on TikTok, and then purchased from TikTok? Who do you give credit to? Someone came on your email list from Facebook, they went to TikTok, went to YouTube, and then they bought from the email? Who do you give credit to?
It was getting more difficult to track anyway. Kevin and I have been preaching this to our clients and it’s been difficult for them to understand this concept. We’re telling our clients, “Stop worrying about what Facebook, Google does, or YouTube does. Let’s look at this as a pie. Let’s look at it as a whole and say, ‘Are we making more than we’re spending?’” We’re spending $1 million a year. Are we making more than $1 million back in profit? If you can do that, you don’t have to worry so much about what every single platform is doing.
That is your marketing efficiency ratio where you look at the ad spend and sales. You measure that ratio but you’re also looking at your sales velocity. What’s the trajectory of sales if we were to compare year on year? Are we planning based on what we’re spending? It’s fascinating stuff. In regards to consumer behavior, do you think COVID has changed the way people shop online, particularly because we’re speaking to eCommerce? Are you seeing any seismic changes? Have people returned to their pre-COVID habits? Are some habits here to stay? What has been your experience?
It’s interesting because, for a long time, I have used blanket statements like that question requires, and have found that when I do that, there are these little outliers or these things that go against what is happening. What I’m seeing is that it depends on the industry, what you’re selling and what the need is. It’s like toilet paper during COVID. Could anyone tell you why that happened? To this day, no one even knows why toilet paper was a thing. If you ask the guys who are selling toilet paper online, they’re going to tell you that the buying pattern or behavior has changed.
People need toilet paper for some reason now. It depends because I’ve seen some buying behaviors go one way for one company, one niche, or one product, and I’ve seen it go the other way with another. Sometimes the “gurus” give advice to people that tend to be blanket statements that I’ve seen fall apart in other scenarios. I’m sorry that it wasn’t a direct answer to your question, but it’s the best answer I can give because I’m not seeing the same thing across the board. I’m seeing different things.
There are always going to be exceptions to a rule. What I’m trying to get to is, specifically with COVID, with most of the store data I’m privy to, over with the stimulus checks in the US, we had something similar in the UK. We have the government pay salaries, it was a percentage like 80% of salaries. Along with the fact that retail was shot that led to a spike. It was an unprecedented spike in eCommerce sales over that period.
At the time, Facebook hadn’t even applied the ATT, the App Transparency Tracking issue with iOS 14. We were seeing a ridiculous return on advertising spent. At that time, Facebook’s reporting was a lot more accurate than what it is now. General sales and marketing efficient efficiency ratios were sky-high. In the last couple of months, it’s almost like a clawback in which things are stabilizing. I’m talking for the middle, for the 50th percentile of stores of eCommerce brands, out there particularly direct to consumer brands.
In 2022, Q1 was hardly a good time for eCommerce in most industries but what I’m trying to get to is demographics that were not necessarily receptive to eCommerce are opening up, the 60 plus, and also new shoppers. There are emerging new shoppers. You have these Gen Z, 18, 19, and 20-year-olds who are pretty much new shoppers. In 2022, my 11-year-old son shops online. He has an eBay account. He has many shops on his mom’s Amazon. It’s seeing your perspective on, “Are you bullish on eCommerce for the rest of the year?” Things are changing. There’s inflation now.
That’s what I was trying to get at. I have five businesses and I have clients that I work with. I agree with you. Some niches or some brands have seen that. They have seen spikes like that. I can tell you about the wildlife photography business that I own. It went the other way. At first, people couldn’t leave their house so they wanted to read the magazine.
People started losing their jobs and we got a lot of emails saying, “I lost my job. I can’t afford to pay $100 a year anymore.” That particular brand was up and down. One of our clients, the one that we were talking about who’s going to do about $10 million in 2022, saw a gigantic spike because people couldn’t go to the salons anymore. People were taking that money that they were using for their hair in the salons, and they were putting it towards the device. It’s disposable.
Another thing that we haven’t quite talked about or another that plays into that is the supply chain issue. This brand that I keep talking about, we had to go out of stock several times because we couldn’t get something from China. We went out of stock and on our email list we would put on there, “Give us your email and we’ll let you know when we’re back in stock.” We were getting thousands of people every single day signing up for that because they needed this product during COVID because they couldn’t get their hair done.
I’m seeing it all over the place. I personally couldn’t say that I see it across the board with the brands that I’m working with. I have another client of mine who has a constipation product. We haven’t seen any change with them, good or bad. It’s been the same. I started a golf business. When it was a few weeks old, I had people buying that product already and then I launched it.
Is it a physical or digital product?
This is a digital product. I don’t know if that means anything. I’m finding that when you talk to people, and you’d say, “eCommerce,” guys like you and I think of physical stuff but I don’t know if the rest of the world looks at it like that. I could tell you that my partner with the wildlife photography business, was listening to my podcast, which is eCommerce Uncensored because he thought he had an eCommerce product when it was a digital magazine. I would never say a digital magazine is eCommerce but if you think about it, you’re selling something. I don’t know what that line is.
It’s transactional, it has a conversion, a cart and there’s a checkout of sorts so it would qualify. There are some classifications of eCommerce as travel so sometimes you’d find that these big data aggregators would say, “These are eCommerce sales, excluding travel or including travel,” because there’s a checkout.
I’d love to speak to the hairdryer business. You’re not going to mention the brand name. Linking it to my prior question around consumer behavior, they’re growing as a business. What I’m trying to extrapolate from here is, with COVID, some people are still not going to the salons, or there’s still this appetite for self-care, rather than going into a salon to get their hair done because it is growing. Is that the case?
It’s even more interesting than that. We heard a lot of people saying that they can’t go to the salon to get their hair done and they’re on Zoom calls all day with work and they want to look good because they’re on with 40 or 30 people or with the company. That was something that we didn’t even think about. We heard that a lot, “I’m on Zoom calls all day. I need to do my hair.” That was pretty interesting. I would have never even thought about that even though it seems pretty obvious. From that standpoint, it was helping the business because people couldn’t go to the salons, and people still wanted to look good because they were on Zoom. People are staying home but they’re communicating on Zoom with their company.
The work from home or hybrid working macro trend seems to be triggering the appetites and demand for products people can use to look the part for their further Zoom meetings, which is phenomenal and interesting as an insight. Readers probably have this in the back of their minds right now. They’re like, “Jason and Kevin, how did you, in three years, grow a brand that was generating $1.5 million in revenue to now that’s on track to generate about $10 million? It’s almost 10x this brand. If you were to do it again in 2022 with a view to growing a $1 million brand to $10 million in 2025, what would the plan look like? Would it change from what you did and what you’ve done in the last three years with them?”
It’s repeatable. It’s testable. It’s not unthinkable.
I don’t want to get on here and talk about how great I am. That’s not the purpose of this but I will say that when we started the wildlife photography business, it was at zero and in a year it got to $2 million. This company was doing $1.5 million and now we’re going to be close to $10 million. People tend to overcomplicate this game and we tend to stick to the basics. People love buzzwords. They love KPIs, this and that. Those are nonsense but what we do is look at the numbers. We look at what’s happening. By what the numbers are telling us, we tried to determine how to use those numbers to make us move forward. I’ll give you an example because it’s hard to explain.
When they first came to us their device was $399. We found that when we were running Facebook ads, it was difficult to get people who didn’t know the brand to buy the device at $399. We were able to run these offers. Let’s say, an Easter offer, Christmas offer, or in the US, a fourth of July offer or whatever. We run our offer and we would take $100 off and bring it down to $299. The minute that we did that, the device flew off the shelves.
We got a lot of resistance from the CEO about selling it at $299 because like most business owners they fall in love with their product, and then they fall in love with their perceived value of the product. He invented this product and he didn’t want to sell it for under $399. On top of that, it was expensive to make. It was $160 something to make. It was expensive. He had to make the margin up.
I remember this like it was yesterday, but early on Kevin and I were talking and we were like, “We have to tell the owner that it has to be at $299. There’s no question about it. It has to be $299. Let’s figure out how we can make $299 work.” What people do is they’re like, “I’ve got to take $100 off of my retail price. I’m not going to make any money.” No. You’re making it more attractive by taking $100 off. Now let’s figure out how to bring that average order value up.
My point is that we don’t have any preconceived notions of what things need to be. We let the data tell us and then we exploit those things. We saw $299 flying off the shelves. We found a way to make $299 work. That was an upsell, an order bump, or packaging more stuff, and then bringing it up to $399. Let’s say we have a device then we give them five other products that don’t cost us much but it brings that perceived value up.
We tend to look at the numbers and try to exploit the things that are working and we ignore the things that aren’t. That’s how we look at these things. We look at the numbers and we see if they’re telling us anything. It’s what we did with the Journal of Wildlife Photography. When our business partner came to us, he had this business and it was making $200 a month. He couldn’t sell it to anybody but I saw that he was making sales with a website that I couldn’t even figure out how to place an order with.
I went back to Kevin and said, “This guy is making sales even though it’s not a lot with $200 bucks a month but he’s making sales with something that shouldn’t be making sales. We need to get in on this and blow this thing up.” We did the same thing with that. We look at the numbers, we try to see if there’s anything that stands out to us and if there is we exploit it. That’s what we did. We went big. We saw something working and we went big. That’s what scaling is. Everybody wants to talk about scaling but it’s doing what you’re doing but a lot more of it.
Jason, I love the fact that you talk about looking at the numbers and the fundamentals to build a business and taking action on the numbers on exactly what you’re seeing. What percentage of shoppers did you bump up from the $299 retail for the primary product, the hairdryer to your target of $399? How easy was it? Was it 50/50? Was it the vast majority of the customer base? How’s that panning out on a long-term basis? Is there any subscription element to their business? Is it a one-time purchase of their products?
That was a big challenge with this business. They only had one product. They’re working on some other products so it makes it difficult to get that lifetime value up. Once they come in, they come in. I’m glad you asked this question and forgive me if I don’t answer it exactly as you envision. You hear a lot of people talking about, “Don’t discount your products.” “Discounting is lazy.”
Fine, whatever, but what’s been interesting is as the product has been having supply chain issues, we’ve been able to increase the price because of supply and demand. It was at $299, COVID happened and then the supply chain issues happened. We started saying, “This was an opportunity to start increasing the price.” It’s funny because we weren’t doing it artificially. We were like, “We need people to stop buying this thing.” We know that as we bring that price point from $299 up, it starts changing the amount of sales and volume that we get.
What was interesting, and this will not work once things go back to normal, the $299 price point is going to be where we need to be. Right now it’s working. We slowly increased the price. $299 went to three $349 or $329. I don’t remember the exact jump but as we started getting lower and lower inventory levels, we started continually bringing that price up so that people would stop buying. The interesting part about that is their revenue stays the same. We found that we lose about 50% of our orders when we start raising the price but the sales numbers are the same. That was interesting for us.
It probably gives you insights towards, “Perhaps you can create a premium product that will not necessarily be as appealing to a vast majority of our customer base but some people will be willing to spill out the cash anyway.” You flip back to the old pricing or something slightly higher than the old price and then you’re serving two groups of customers for two different price points.
We did have two different prices. There’s another one that they sell that was $499 but that was a package of other things. We do have two versions of the product. One is $399. The other one was $499 but it was adding things to it that you get for free. One of the things was this wand holder. It holds the wand that you use on your hair. That holds it on the table that was part of the more expensive package.
We did those kinds of things but now they’re coming out with other products that you can use with their device. We’re starting to become more of a brand here. We got some funding and that kind of thing. That’s moving that ball forward a little quicker. What’s even crazier is it leaves an opportunity. With a device like this, we can come up with a second device, if we wanted to. Maybe make it a little smaller, a little lighter, or those sorts of things. The people who love the first version can get on a list to buy the second version. You can do those kinds of things.
What was the stack? What are the channels you’ve relied on to stimulate growth?
You have to look at your business. We tend to think that everybody on our email list acts the same and is the same person but there are segments of your list that do things differently. They have different buying patterns. Most of what we do is test. What we’ve been doing is a lot of lead generation from Facebook to an email list and then we’ll send out some offers, blogs, and some other material about hair tutorials and that sort of thing. What we’ve been doing is getting people on the email list and then warming them up through email. That’s for two reasons.
Number one, we didn’t have any devices but number two, people tend to buy at different times. You don’t have to look too far to figure that out. We can send an email right now. Let’s say that right now it is 10:00 AM East Coast Time, Eastern. I can send an email right now, and let’s say I make $5,000 from that email, and that same email can go out tonight at 8:00 PM. The person that bought it at night skipped it in the morning and somehow in eight hours changed their buying decision. They didn’t buy it when I sent it at 10:00 AM but I sent it at 10:00 PM and for some reason they bought it from that email. The only difference is time or timing.
How many times have you looked at an email when you’re sitting at the doctor’s or you’re doing something and you’re like, “I can’t look at this right now,” and then you get the same or a similar email the next morning when you’re sitting on your couch on a Saturday watching cartoons with your kid. Now you’re like, “This is the right time.”
We focused a lot more on our email growth or email list growth and SMS. Another big thing that we’re doing is SMS. To get to your original question, focusing on that email list has been huge. We definitely see front-end sales from Facebook, but for people who aren’t hyper buyers, we like to get them on the email list and that’s what we did. We grew that email list to 100,000 or something like that.
Let’s break it down. From what I’m hearing, you’re buying traffic, largely from Facebook and Instagram. Sales is not your primary objective. Your primary objective is the collection of emails. You nurture those emails until they’re squeezed over time. That is the funnel. Any other thing could replace Facebook in the long term. What I want to do is break down and go into the details. On Facebook, what are your objectives? Are these still conversion-driven? Is email conversion-driven? Do you collect leads on Facebook or would you get them pixeled on your website and then start to collect emails?
I like to make everything simple. When I hear people telling me to do something one way, I tend to not believe it and I’ll test it for myself because there are variables. When someone’s on your email list and they know who you are, you send out an email to them and they buy, how do you teach that? Get somebody on your email list and send them emails. Let them start liking you and they’ll buy from you at some point.
You can’t scale or teach that so I tend to like testing things. I found that the simpler I am on Facebook, the better my results are. What I mean by that is, I don’t do the pixeling thing unless they’re on my website and by then I’m trying to get them on the email list. If we get them to the website, and we get them to give us their email address, if they don’t buy, we’ll then take that email list and upload it to Facebook and try to retarget the list on Facebook.
One of our clients was a $100 million brand. I know people are going to say that I’m crazy, I’m wrong and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’ve never seen a scenario where a business at even $100 million a year had to or ran out of new people to market to where pixeling made sense for the short term. I’ve never seen it.
I’ve never seen someone talking about the sales funnels like, “Top of the funnel. We’re going to pixel these people. For the middle of the funnel, we’re going to do this.” I’ve never seen that work. I’ve never seen anyone show me that that works. I know that people talk about it and I know everybody talks about it. I’ve never seen it work. It’s never worked for me. It’s never worked with the brands that are doing $100 million that I’ve seen. I don’t do that stuff. I keep it simple.
Let me give you our secret. What most brands do is create a Facebook ad. They have multiple creative copies and all these complex campaign structures. Top of the funnel, you’re trying to get them to know your brand. Middle of the funnel, they’re a little bit warmer so you can start introducing them to the product and for the warm people do whatever you want with them. What we do is the opposite. We find an offer that works. We create an irresistible offer, we put it out into the universe and when we get the offer to work, then we start testing photos, copy, and all these other things.
The truth is people think that Facebook is responsible for your sales when it’s your offer that’s responsible for your sales. Everybody wants to blame Facebook. It’s not Facebook’s fault that you don’t know how to sell your product. We find an offer. Once it’s working, then what we’re doing is we’re tightening it up with the new photos, creatives, and the new copy. We do it backward so I never have to worry about if my ads are working or not. I know the offer works and if it’s not working, then it’s not a good offer. We do it backward.
Once we get the offer working, and we know it works, now it’s a matter of figuring out the right process that gets us the lowest or the most return. Sometimes that’s email. Sometimes that’s giving a coupon for $100 or whatever. It doesn’t matter but I have this offer that I know works and then I tighten it up by testing a lot of different things.
What about the objective on Facebook? Is it conversions? Is it leads? What is the Facebook campaign objective?
The allure of Facebook was its ability to put your ad in front of people who are interested in the topic, who have shown interest in the topic and it was getting a lot of high returns because of their ability to do that. That is defining what a conversion is, what traffic is, a sale, and all those things. That was the power of Facebook, at least for the novice.
For the pros, they use it as a tool. We use Facebook as a tool to get attention. Whereas people use Facebook to build the backbone of their business, which I never recommend because when Facebook makes these changes, it screws everything up. Whereas for us, it doesn’t change much. What we’ve been doing is a conversion and not necessarily a purchase conversion because Facebook can’t figure that out anymore. I like to do conversions to say a thank you page like a lead. I’m trying not to use lead because they have a lead objective. I don’t use the lead objective. I use this conversion objective.
You create a custom conversion related to a URL hit, which is the thank you page you land on when you subscribe to an email. What email conversion rates or would you deem good email conversion rates from your experience and perspective?
Good for me depends on the problem you’re solving. I like to keep everything as simple as possible. These gurus who make everything complicated that it never worked for me. I like to keep things simple. My landing page for the lead-gen is a form with a title and a little message. I’m getting conversions. I’m getting email addresses for my golf business for under $2. It changes from day to day. Monday seems to be a bad day for all my ads. On a good day, on a normal day, it’s usually under $2. If you do it right, that’s where it should be. Most people don’t do it right.
I am studying copywriting. It’s my next evolution in learning marketing. It has been copywriting. I’m reading all the copywriting books like The Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards and How to Write Copy that Sells by Ray Edwards. What they said in both of the books stood out to me and I’ve been doing it for a long time but I didn’t know I was doing it. People think that selling and copywriting are the art of persuading people to buy something that they don’t want. When in fact, copywriting and sales are giving people who need your product or convincing people that your product is what they need to solve their problems.
It’s a completely different mindset shift. When you say to yourself, “I’m not trying to convince people who don’t need what I’m selling to buy from me and all I’m trying to do is convince them that my product can solve their problem.” Instead, it changes the way you think of everything. When you have a product that solves a problem that people are desperately looking to solve, getting people on your email list is an easy thing.
My golf landing page is a form with a title and two sentences because my ad has pre-framed them, where they want what I’m offering. They don’t care what the landing page looks like. They just want the thing. If you can do that as we’ve done with the golf business, the wildlife photography business, and the haircare product, we’ve done that with all of them, it’s easy to get people on your list. $2.50 or less per conversion.
Finally, in the email collection piece, do you ever use exit intent pop-ups, or are they predominantly landing pages.
This goes back to your data and looking at your data because it depends. It depends on if you’re heavy mobile users, if you’re heavy desktop users, or if people are buying from their desktops rather than mobiles. People do research on their mobile devices and then they buy on their desktop devices. You have to know and understand that data because if nobody’s coming to your website on a computer, then an exit-intent is going to do nothing for you.
I always look at the data. I’m always looking at who is coming to the website, and what devices they’re using, and I make that determination from there. Something that’s been working well for us for years is giving a special discount for the person’s first order only. If somebody comes to the website and there’s a pop-up that says, “Get 20% off your first order.”
You don’t want them to be able to use this coupon over and over so you’re only going to allow them to use it for their first order that has worked like crazy. What has worked even better is putting the product out of stock when we didn’t have any more and that was growing our email list exponentially. Thousands of people a day were coming on our email list with that strategy.
The final piece is the email piece. What is the ratio of pre-built automated email flows based on actions versus continuous campaigns? I found email frequency is important, particularly from a brand recall standpoint. This is anecdotal, but the more I see a brand on my email on a regular basis, the more likely that when I’m in buy mode, they come top of mind more than any other channel, in my opinion.
I’ll give you an example of flowers. There’s a brand called Bloom & Wild in the UK. When they send us emails, I expect to see a lovely, well laid out email. It’s quite often. The frequency is 2 or 3 times a week but anytime I’m thinking about buying flowers, they come top of mind. My question is the ratio. From a revenue standpoint, how do you structure flows versus campaigns in prep for that conversion, essentially?
That’s another good question because this is another area where people have been misled. You can take 1,000 people, stick them into a flow and then take that same 1,000 and send them a campaign. A flow is automated and a campaign is a one-off campaign email. That one-off email will outperform the flow every single time. I don’t know why. I don’t know the reasoning but that’s what we see. Campaigns will outperform flows. Does that mean I don’t use flows? Absolutely not, I definitely use flows, but I use them for things that are not necessarily the driver of the revenue.
What I mean by that is when we’re trying to make money, we use campaigns. When we’re doing things like cart abandonment or welcome flows, or we’re trying to sell our customers something that is related to the product that we sold them like an accessory or something, that may go through a flow. For instance, this hair product needs a filter to be changed so we’ll have a flow that automatically sends them a filter email after a year or two.
For Birthday flows, we get creative with those sorts of things and those are the things that you can’t send as one-off emails. The interesting thing is for the hair drying company, we had to stop sending emails because we were making too many sales with them. Another tip that I learned from these copywriters is that they said, “If you send emails that people want to read, you can email them every day.” That’s what we try to do. We try to send emails that they want to read almost every day.
Jason, it’s, it’s fascinating. I’m glad we’re on the same page. I’ve preached about micro-conversions for a long time on this podcast. Even if you’re looking to sell your business, one of the assets an acquirer would look at will be your email list. How many people are you talking to? How much attention does your brand have? It’s intangible and tangible at the same time.
Seeing that it is the new profit center to de-risk against the lack of data and volatility of Facebook is fascinating. I could go on and on, conversing with you because you have a lot to share but before I let you go, what would be your final parting piece of advice to readers who happen to be operators or eCommerce businesses, for the rest of or the remainder of 2022?
I think about this a lot because I start businesses as often as I can. I start businesses and I pay attention to the process. I pay attention to how difficult it is to get that first sale, as opposed to that 2,000th sale. I like to look at what are the factors in that. What are the factors in the 2,000th sale compared to the first sale? If you’re an operator, and you’re starting out or you’re an operator and you’re making $500,000 a year, or whatever, all of life, including business, is about experience and process.
After you’ve been collecting emails on an email list after you’ve been running Facebook ads, what you can do after two years is much different than what you can do on day one. Embrace the process. There is going to be a process. I’ve been doing this for years and years. I launched my new golf business and in a few weeks it’s already making sales but that’s only because I’ve been doing it for more than seventeen years and failing that I now understand the process that I need to go through to get people to take their credit cards out and buy.
For that person, I would say patience. Enjoy the process. Don’t try to rush it because you’re not going to be able to force it. You’ve got to go through the process and learn. See how your customers want to buy. People fall in love with their email list and are scared to email them because they’re worried about what people are going to say. Let’s take a look at this logically. You have 100 people on your email list. 10% or 20% of those people open. Fifteen or twenty people opened the email. Now you’re going to get 2% of those people clicking through. You’re not talking about huge numbers. In that scenario, you need time. You need to figure out things.
Don’t be afraid to offend your email list and I don’t mean that in a bad way but don’t be afraid to send them so many emails that they’re annoyed because that’s how you learn. I was sending out emails with my golf business and I saw the open rates started dipping a little bit. I started looking at the topics I was sending and I’m like, “Maybe I need to change this a little bit.” I changed the subject line to something a little bit different and all of a sudden, the open rate jumped.
Don’t be afraid to test those things because the truth of the matter is, people don’t give a crap about you. If you think that they’re hanging on every word in your email when they’re looking at it from their phone for seconds. Don’t be afraid to test things. Don’t be afraid to go through the process and understand that it’s not going to happen overnight. You’ve got to learn. You have to figure things out. You have to see what your customers want, how they want it, what they want to see, and all that. The only way to get there is through time.
Yo the guy looking for his 2,000th or 5,000th or 10,000th order, do a little bit more of what you’re doing because, at the end of the day, we are infatuated with thinking that there is this thing out there that nobody can touch and feel this destination, which we call scaling but it’s doing more of what you’re doing. Keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe you want to go on a different platform. If you’re on Facebook, maybe try YouTube. If you’re on YouTube, maybe try Pinterest. Explore a little bit.
When you have an offer that works, I see it normally working on all the platforms. It’s just how you get that product in front of people changes but the offer still works. Maybe you want to extend the span to other platforms if you’re looking for your 5000th order. That would be my long-winded advice to all of those people.
No worries. We could go on and on. It’s been an incredible conversation. We’ll try to touch base again. For people who want to find out more about what you do, they should head over to eCommerceUncensored.com. You run a fantastic podcast with your partner, Kevin. You give unique insights. As the title of your podcast implies, it is truly uncensored. It doesn’t feel polished. That’s not a bad thing at all. It is straight from the source of an adulterated eCommerce value. Jason, do you hang out on any social media channels? Are you active in social? Are you working all day?
I’m working all day but if people have questions, they can certainly email me at Jason@eCommerceUncensored.com. I’m happy to answer any questions specifically about this talk. I know that I have a tendency of going all over the place. It’s how my brain works. If anybody needs me to clarify anything, they have a question, they can certainly reach out. Your comment about us not being produced or whatever, that’s what we were going for. We’re trying to make it conversational. We’re trying to make it not theoretical.
We try to talk about exactly what we’re going through. Sometimes the things we talked about work for people and other times it doesn’t. There are a lot of variables like price points, product, time of year, there’s a war going on right now in Ukraine that’s distracting people. There’s a whole bunch of things that could be happening. We try to talk about the things that are working and not working for us.
It’s raw and good stuff. It’s organic.
In fact, we don’t know what we’re talking about until we get on.
Jason it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the 2x eCommerce Podcast show. Thank you.