Norm Farrar joined us today on the Serial Entrepreneur Club to talk about the specifics of jumping into the e-commerce industry. It was an open conversation with the audience to ask questions and share their experiences, which made for an especially informative session.
We got practical, sharing easily applicable tips that are sure to benefit everyone from experienced sellers to curious onlookers.
Finding your niche will make it much easier to connect with your audience so you can expand later.
1. Build a flexible, entrepreneurial brand
Whatever you decide on, Norm says, make sure your brand has breadth and you can build on it as you grow. You don’t want to limit your brand’s future success in the early days, but don’t go into it thinking you need to fix every problem, everywhere.
2. Choose the right sales platform for your business
Whether you decide on Amazon, Etsy, Shopify, or another platform, make sure you’ve done thorough research. You don’t have to dive in and create a huge storefront right away, but make sure the platform will be maintainable as you grow.
3. Find a reliable, trustworthy manufacturer
Communication is key for this one! While it can be difficult for a business owner to not oversee every step, working together throughout the production process can ease some concerns. Be sure to be as specific as possible with what you’re expecting and when you need it, and test out a lot of samples.
4. Build a network
Besides approaching people to support and purchase from you, you can also support other businesses. Look for partnerships and grow together.
5. Find a niche
Grow your customer base in one area, with few products rather than constantly restarting with different products for different markets. Finding your niche will make it much easier to connect with your audience so you can expand later.
…all that and more is covered in this session! Listen to the full conversation above and start growing your storefront today.
Today it’s all about launching an e-commerce business and I know we’ve got some expertise on stage here today. We’ve got yourself Jeff who runs pod.com. You’ve got Michelle who runs Meowingtons.
I’ve invested in a number of e-commerce companies, including those companies and hip optical as well. So we’re pretty much, we’re deep in the mud on these e-commerce companies. We have really been working it for the last three or four years. And I think what’s going to make today really special is that we have the podcaster himself, the rise of the micro brands lunch with norm, probably one of the top e-commerce podcasters out there.
Who’s joined us right now. Welcome norm to the show. Hey Colin. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. We know we’re looking forward to hearing a lot of getting a lot of your [00:01:00] wisdom today. I know you’ve spoken. To hundreds of entrepreneurs. You’ve probably done about how many podcasts do you think you’ve done on that show?
About 50, 60, 70? I dunno. No, like on lunch with norm, just by itself, there’s over 250. 250 podcasts. So if you really are serious about e-commerce, you might want to check out his podcast. How would somebody do that? They just type in lunch with dorm, a rise of the micro brands. Like how would they find that podcast?
Yeah, they it’s everywhere. We’ve we’ve promoted it on all social media. You can check out the website, lunch with norm. It has all the the podcast there, but if you really want to hear it and go live it’s Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays at noon Eastern standard time. And you can hear it on Facebook, our Facebook group through LinkedIn.
It’s pretty much everywhere and it’s on every available podcast platform. Okay, awesome. And obviously it’s at noon because it’s [00:02:00] lunch with norm, but today I thought today, I thought we could cover sort of five topics. And if you’re in the audience. And you run an e-commerce company, or you’re thinking of launching an e-commerce company, please raise your hand.
This is all about all of us connecting together and talking about, different issues in business. And today we’re talking about e-commerce. I thought we could break it up and we’ll start with the people on stage here. And then we’ll definitely bring in as many people as we can today on stage.
But I thought we could talk about five different areas first. What are the types of businesses that if knowing, if you’ve never launched an e-commerce business, what are the types of businesses that you think that people can launch? That’s going to be my first question. Okay. So get ready if you’re in the audience again, raise your hand and come and talk about that.
The second is what could a platform, is it Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, let’s try to demystify. The process of setting up that store, we using a platform. If you want to build or design products, how could you find a [00:03:00] manufacturer, the United States or China or elsewhere? If you want to build traffic or build a community to sell your e-commerce products or sell your products on your e-commerce site, how do you do that?
And I know we’ve got some experts here today, onstage, and lastly marketing, what are the key things that you can do to market or drive those sales for your website? If you build it, will they come well pretty much in e-commerce that’s not the case. If you build it, you got to find a way to market it.
So we’re going to kick it off with that first question. It’s going around here. We’re going to start with you, Michelle. What are the types of businesses that an entrepreneur or a startup can launch with respect to e-commerce like, just give us an idea. Hey there. Yeah. This is a great topic and obviously very timely for today’s world.
So tips that I would have are, really doing your research to make sure. That you can bring something to the market that has a [00:04:00] little bit of a unique value proposition. I would say it does not need to be an innovation, although innovations are fine. That takes a lot longer, but what are the little trends?
What are the little micro trends that you might be able to capitalize on? Where are others even getting traction? What segment are they getting traction? But I, for myself, I would say while you’re looking at that also look at, the bigger picture of, are you able to actually get product?
That’s a really, obviously big issue that you see. Are you able to get product so that you can at least do a test before you start trying to scale? That seems to be the harder thing to do right now, but I would say we here at me, young tens are cautiously optimistic that will be ending soon as supply chain management issues [00:05:00] start to wane.
So that is our suggestion is to do your research and it’s not just what people want or need, but it’s also, can you actually get the product? Thank you. All right, great. Is there a type of product that you sell it knowing to ins that would be applicable in other industries and other industries? For instance, you do.
I know you do cat beds. I know you do cat toys. I need to do other things like that. And are there other products that. People, could sell like fashion or jewelry in other verticals or is it just cats? Actually, for us, we do saw a lot of fashion slash human items. It really depends on, for us, we’re trying to address a specific vertical, which are, folks that have cats and love cats.
Yeah, of course, you really need to understand what people in that demographic, [00:06:00] what people are in that segment, what they like. And for us, we know it’s a little bit different than dogs other than the obvious, but for example, cat folks, they actually really like to wear things and buy things that have cat humor or cat decorations.
So knowing that and understanding our customer, it influences as you’re asking, obviously the product mix, but it also very much influences how we market. So it’s not just about cats for us, because we know that people have cats are actually like to wear. For example, t-shirts funny, t-shirts that have little sayings about cats.
They like to have mugs that have funny sayings about cats. It really it’s really more of a lifestyle for them and it’s something that they’re proud to identify with and it’s a great conversation point for them. So let me ask the question a little differently to you norm if someone has a hobby and I don’t know what that hobby is, [00:07:00] maybe it’s it could be knitting.
It could be bookbinding I don’t know what it is. Can they actually create a store and sell their product? Yeah. If you’ve got a a hobby one of the things I would do is, okay, let’s say you’re into cooking or yeah, let’s use cooking. I would expand the hobby because you want to see what’s sellable.
Depending on what you like to sell or what your hobby is, I check out like a Pinterest or an Etsy and see what is unique, because Michelle said, you definitely do not want to have a me too product. It’s gotta be a little bit different. And that doesn’t mean that you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on mold.
It could be a material that’s different. It could be a lot of different things, but I would not go out with a me too product, but going out there with a hobby, let’s say you’re into cooking. You could get into knives. You can get into Damascus, steels, steel knives, and get an impairing knives. You can go into different types [00:08:00] of butcher knives or You can expand the brand.
The other thing, like when you’re looking to get into a product or into an e-commerce store selling on Amazon is you want to make sure that your brand is expandable, that you have breadth. So if I’m getting into cooking items so knives that you’re not just stopped there. So I’ve seen a lot of that, probably a fairly common mistakes is that somebody brands a product that’s for cooking and then their next product they bring out is in pets.
And it doesn’t make sense, but you could bring out, it could be a spice or it could be another type of, it could be a cutting board or something like that. So you’ve got to think ahead about where your hobbies going to lead you to, and you have to make sure that you do competitive analysis and it could be.
Amazon’s probably the perfect place to do it, but you can also go and I love this going to Pinterest and seeing, [00:09:00] what’s really being creative. What’s selling out there. What are, what are the artsy fartsy kind of things. And then going over to Etsy and doing the exact same thing, you can get really good ideas for product ideas and even better the packaging, because then it comes down to perceived value, right?
So if you love it, if you love an industry, say the pet industry which we do on this stage, I’m going to the trade show for pet and pet products and really learning what’s out there can sometimes stimulate or give you ideas that can lead you to building or designing a product that’s unique and different that you can now sell in the marketplace.
And and I’m going to come back right back to you at you, Norma, how important is being unique. It’s a hundred percent you can go out there and you can sell. And this happens. I see it on Amazon all the time where somebody goes out, they go to Alibaba. They contact a supplier and all of a sudden you’ve got seven plastic shoe stretchers that are all crappy, that are being [00:10:00] sold from the same manufacturer with their images.
So you don’t even. There’s no, not even a change there. I’ll give you a great example. Colin, I did this for a client once where I was looking at a plastic shoe stretcher. They were awful. I found seven of them on Amazon and the highest rating I saw was three and a half. So they were all getting the same crappy plastic, the same crappy reviews.
So you can take that and turn it. Okay. What does it take to be different? Could I use a different plastic, a different color, a different material. Maybe I turned that into wood. They were talking about the the spring. Maybe I’d turn that into a titanium. Bring. The other thing that you can do is I’m going to go back to the wood because it actually, the answer was there.
Somebody had come out with a wood, a shoe stretcher. Now the one was selling. Believe it or not, 30, $3,500 a month. The woods. That [00:11:00] we were looking at was three, a $3 more, and it was selling a hundred thousand dollars a month and there was no comp. Now it’s saturated, but there was no competition at that time.
And believe it or not the client, because, and this is another thing you have to separate emotion. They were so tied up on this bloody plastic shoe stretcher that they missed going after where the money was. Changing things is very important knowing the country to go to is very important. And the other thing, that’s a big issue right now.
You can make all the changes that you want, but you better check with the insurance company to make sure that. You have the proper risk tolerance. And I’ll give you an example with that as well. It might be that plastic shoe stretcher is so crappy that it breaks in your hand and you get cut topicals, you want to research insurance with topicals or even pets.
This, if somebody gets hurt [00:12:00] with, let’s say it’s raw hide and your dog chokes, people are going to come after you and your insurance, you better check out the insurance and you must have, you have to have insurance nowadays as well. But those are some things that, you know, if you take a look, if you change the me too product.
One of the th one of the other things that are changing right now people are coming back to north America, but they’re changing. Let’s say you’ve got a plastic product or a product that might be made out of wood overseas. They’re bringing it back into the U S or in the Mexico. And they’re finding more automation, which sometimes brings down the cost.
And I can tell you an example that just happened where it was a wood product. And then we made the suggestion of creating a resin product, which the client saved $30 just by changing it. And it actually made it a better product.[00:13:00]
Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Great cause great. Aetna, we’re just right now talking about ideas for an e-comm business, any. Ideas from e-comm business, man, this is so not my space, but I saw the subject matter of wanting to come in, I think if we were looking and what’s trending in the pet space is so strong.
And there’s there’s this one little gadget that that, that is in the home space as well. And it’s like pillows and I saw it the other day and I thought that was pretty incredible. Cause it had a little cooling factor and with power shortages and a lot of places, a lot of folks are without heat at night.
And so I thought it was pretty clever. Maybe it’s a silly thing, but it’s something that would probably be relatively simple to make and get out there and mass produce. Yeah. I know that you do a lot of. Do you actually do any e-commerce or you be [00:14:00] more of a wholesaler of the solar? I’ve thought about doing that.
And maybe setting up a shop because a lot of people are looking into solar and for me, it would be really easy to put together packages and then drop ship via Amazon. But you still have the permit component and you’ve got the design element component, and then you have the installation component.
So I would be, I would have to be able to like, sell that separately and turnkey and then get them financed if it’s interesting. Cause I, I know a con my contractor just bought some products through eBay. So we’re going to talk about platforms in a minute. Before we do that, though, Marsha, you are the idea queen.
You always seem to come up with new ideas, new, innovative, cool e-commerce products. Can you share with the audience today? What you think are the best types of. Yeah, that a somewhat at home. So you at home right now could think of in launch on a, on an e-commerce site. Happy Friday, everyone.
And [00:15:00] thank you for inviting me up. My ideas come from problems. I need solved. If I have a problem in my life, I think of a product that will solve my problem. And I then check it out with some of my friends who I believe might have the same problem. And if they like it, then I take it a little farther, put together a formal focus group.
And for me, products that make sense are products that solve problems that a lot of people have. I love that. I just, I love what you did with chalk. Can you just tell. Side west side walk, chalk story. Oh gosh, that was back in the 1970s. Again, my daughter was young and I didn’t let my children have battery toys.
Cause I knew they were smart and I wanted them to be used their brain their natural battery. And so they liked to play with creative art products. And the only chalk [00:16:00] available back then were the little tiny, thin Blackboard sticks out of China that were dusty, dirty. They stained, they were full of lead.
They didn’t last, they broke. So I spent the summer of 1978 researching how to make chalk. I didn’t have any idea how to make it, but I knew I wanted my daughter to have better than that junk out of China. And I came up with this phenomenal formula. I started selling it at craft fairs and people loved it.
That’s where I did all my initial pricing. All my packaging put all of it was I learned by watching consumer behavior at a craft fair. I don’t even know how many craft fairs they still have, but it is a fabulous way to see firsthand. If a consumer picks it up and says, how much is this? And you say it’s $3.
And they say, I’ll take five where you may be, can charge $4 if they pick it up and ask how much it is. And you say it’s [00:17:00] $4 and they put it back down rather than me. A little bit too expensive. I know that’s rudimentary, very rudimentary, but that’s where I did my initial focus group. And then my son had the idea back then 1980, that Walmart said they only bought American products.
Now this is when Walmart had 66 stores. And so I started a 46 day in a row, precisely at 9:00 AM phone call to Walmart to see if they would carry our chalk. On the 46 morning, I reached the buyer. He said, I can see you at 11 o’clock. He was at a brand new distribution center, about an hour from my house.
So I met him and that started a seven store test, turned into a 14 store test, turned into a 21 store test, turned into nationwide, all 66 stores. So it started out [00:18:00] very humbly, but we did grow to 72% global market share with five factories making chalk around the clock, chocked around the clock. I like what you said craft fairs and that sort of our second question around the whole e-commerce site or the whole e-commerce company is how do you know what kind of platform?
And I think you probably brought up the very first one. Which is simply just crap. Heirs are going to affair and seeing if there’s market demand. We’re going to go popcorn style here. I’m not, I hope that you know anyone here especially you norm, who’s got a lot of expertise in this area.
Can talk to us about this, but I’ve got an idea. I built it. I now want to launch it. Marsha said, let’s start with the craft or the flea market or whatever it is, and let’s prove that concept. What else is, or where else can I actually sell my products? And how hard is it to get it onto a Shopify or an Amazon norm?
Again, I’m going to kick it off with you. Okay. Thanks.[00:19:00] It’s not hard, but there’s a huge difference. So if you go to a Shopify platform, you have to find your demographic, or you might know your demographic, but you. Get that external traffic to come over to the site. If you go to an Amazon style platform or a Walmart platform, Amazon still king, but it’s a captivated audience.
It’s the largest search engine out there for people wanting to buy. So you’ve got everybody there. The unfortunate part is you’ve also got your competitors there. So as, as long as you, and this is very important and there’s courses out there that you can take, you can learn from YouTube, but you have to understand the beast.
And once you understand the beast, you can take advantage of it and have a proper optimized listing. Have it where people in the certain lake, when everything comes up in the search engine, that on the search page or on the results page. Your product stands [00:20:00] out that your price is optimized. That’s really important the perception of your product.
So there’s all sorts of things that you can do it on Amazon. Another tip another quick tip is just, you don’t have to go after the main keywords. Let’s say it’s bully sticks. Bully sticks is a $20 click, but if you go, natural bully sticks for dogs, that might be a $3 click and you could go out and launch on that.
But on Amazon, You have to be able to, like on a platform, they have a built-in PPC platform. They have a social media platform built in, and if you know how to use it, you can build a community around your brand. You can drive external traffic to Amazon and they’ll reward you with 10% off the referral fee.
And there’s all sorts of things that you can do if you have, if you’re brand registered. So that’s just, if you have a trademark and you’re you register it with Amazon, Walmart is coming up, they’re doing very similar. I think you’re going to see them explode [00:21:00] over the next two years. When you go over to eBay, e-mails is really doing a great job, trying to get away from the horrible image that they had.
I think everybody that is on e-com at least, my age was selling at one point on eBay and then it was very tough and they went away from what they were doing. And now they’re trying to build brands. Which is really cool Shopify. There is so much you can do with Shopify with creative, with the web pages, with, just the apps.
What I like about Shopify is that you have this app marketplace, which will allow you to build out your store, be as creative as you want. Get the, like the abandoned cards have the popups do all of that. And I don’t know if any of the listeners are realized, but there’s an app that you could just seamlessly integrate with Walmart.
So now you can have your Walmart store tied into your [00:22:00] into your Shopify store. So there’s all these different platforms. And we can’t forget about Etsy. I know people now that are selling more on Etsy than they’re selling on Amazon. Now this is more of their print on demand. But Etsy is a marketplace that you can kill it.
And anyways I don’t want to take up all the time, that’s kinda my take on it. Yeah, Jeff I know you’re the CMO pod.com sort of a bigger e-commerce company. Any thoughts on the platform that you use? Shopify? Yeah. So w where our Shopify plus site with paul.com and that’s been very effective for us because it’s highly scalable.
You can customize it. So we don’t use a standard template. We actually have a dev team that has created, a custom website built upon Shopify plus for us. So I, it’s been a very good platform. It’s continuing to grow and add new features and capabilities which we like.
So the platform is [00:23:00] important in that regard, but I think, one of the things that you mentioned. Colin that struck me in norm reinforced it is, one of the things that we have to think of as an e-commerce brand and we’re in the pet space is, once you establish yourself for any given product, the goal then is to really, you don’t want to start from square one with every new product.
So as I think norm was mentioning earlier, you don’t want to start by selling a widget for the kitchen and then your next product is something for the bedroom. And you’re all over the place because if you go through the hard work and it is hard work to build a following to drive. To your site, to get a base of customers, it’s a lot easier to grow products that will appeal to those same customers and customers like them versus starting over from square one, in terms of your audience with every new product you introduce.
So I don’t think you want to be a Walmart on day one and have products in lots of different verticals. I think you [00:24:00] want to pick a vertical that a, you have some interest in like then find products within that vertical that solve a problem, as Marsha said. And then. Try to stay in that lane because as you build an audience and customers and community, if you’re staying in that vertical, you’re more likely to be developing new products that you can sell to existing customers at the same time as you bring in new customers.
So I think having a vertical, like we have the pet space and along those lines, just a little bit of the pot.com story. When the company was started, it was called treat a dog. It was treated dog.com and we were on Shopify, but as treated dog, we were somewhat limited to dog products. So when we had the opportunity to acquire the domain name, pod.com and rebrand the company as pod.com, it opened up more flexibility for us to be in the pet space and not just the dog space.
So you want to think about those things too, when you’re naming your e-commerce business, if you name it to narrow. You may be limiting the [00:25:00] products you can go into. You want to think into the future, think what you want to be, two or three years, two or three years down the pike and make sure that your naming and your product strategy fit, hopefully that’s helpful.
Absolutely. And I think this idea of a logical Extenture, a logical upgrade, if you can, somehow, if you create a beachhead with your core product, your first product and you succeed at it, having something logical that connects is, I think that is a tried and true strategy.
I see that email@example.com and I’ve seen it at meetings as well. I know we have Christian on the stage. Christian, do you have a question or a thought or an e-commerce experience that you could share with us? Hi. Thanks for having me and thanks for creating this room. Yeah. I’m not sure if this concept is e-commerce, but I have a.
I’ve been selling like handmade lawn games, like cornhole on Instagram and Facebook marketplace. That’s basically where I sell all of my products. I’ve been doing it for [00:26:00] about three years now. So it’s all woodworking stuff and I would customize the sets with either sports teams or family names or custom tribal designs.
I’m I’m originally from Hawaii. So a lot of people used to use this use the play with these games especially when COVID first hit. I guess a lot of people were stuck at home, so that’s funny. My, my business started booming. But my question was since like it’s woodworking and I’m a one man factory, so it takes up a lot of my time trying to build all of these boxes.
And and I was trying to outsource manufacturing for the longest time, but for some reason it’s so hard to find other woodworkers out there who can build these boxes for me and stuff. And then shipping, shipping the boxes, like they’re so heavy too. So it got tedious for me to, or expensive for me to keep going.
So [00:27:00] I’m trying to transition from this woodworking business to print on demand products. I wanna cause I create my own art and stuff, so I want to. Sobriety with this new print on demand e-commerce business. I just wanted to know I, I liked that you guys touched on Shopify at CA and Amazon I’ve used that Etsy before.
But I wanted to know your thoughts on Shopify at see Amazon versus a personal website with either a membership or subscription platform and tips on transitioning, like how I could go about transitioning from a woodworking business to a print on demand business and which platform would best suit a unique art on print on demand products.
Thank you. So let me ask just a quick clarifying question. Is your print on demand for the cornhole totally different products, totally different. Cause I think that, I think there are different platforms that you can list your art on, but do we have [00:28:00] someone here who can give some feedback or who has some good understanding of how Christian could could improve his distribution for print on demand?
Yeah. Tonight German, go ahead. Yeah, the community. Yeah. Thank you very much. Calling Christine I think you wanted to start off can you speak a little louder? It’s hard to hear you.
I understand that you wanted to start your business and you’re new at your business. As a up, I always advise there don’t go with big platforms because it might be a little bit costly for you. So I can suggest to you that you can go with bricks where you can connect your printing. So printing is a platform which will help you with print on demand.
So they have a lot of products on which you can print your designs and then you can sell it off and it can be connected with wigs and you you can sell a lot of products. So whatever you think like caps, t-shirts multiple [00:29:00] accessories for male and female is available on printing, and that can be easily connected to Wix.
And if you think about the costs. So recently we have done one website like that, and it costs around $1,000. That’s all for. So I think as a startup, that is something which you can think about. And then if you really grow up, then you can move to Shopify, which is a better platform. But again, VIX is something which is budget-friendly right now for you.
Dan speaking. Great. And Michelle, I know you have a lot of experience with print on demand as well.
Yes, actually. I think you’re talking to me. Yes, I do. And we actually use a Shopify site and we hook up directly to print a fi, which makes it exceedingly easy. I would say, I would suggest to you what I’ve learned is I suggest that you test the products because obviously it’s like [00:30:00] a marketplace, right?
Basically the way it works is not one backend vendor supplier. So you have a lot of choices. Which is a good thing. Eric go, you have a lot of different price points and quality levels. So what I would suggest to you is test some different products and vendors before you go, guns blazing. I think you’ll be happy that you did.
For me practically I’ll give you an example. We sell a lot of t-shirts. Unisex and women’s, and there’s, it vastly is different in terms of sizing. And also if you’re just using their API, their sizing is oftentimes not very helpful. So you don’t want to make a mistake where you get returns because you can’t return.
You cannot return as the seller into those vendors, unless it’s a defective item. And even that it’s not easy. So [00:31:00] really, do a little bit deeper diving. And then if you find out one of those products is taking off, it’s very easy, via their interface to see who that backend vendor is, you should reach out to them and contact them.
Because I think you said one of your. Goals right. Was to find reliable supplies. Once you see they have a good product and there’s demand and, by the way, you’re not paying anything to do that. So it’s a fantastic way to get started and test, you can go directly to them and, see if you can get more customized products, if that’s what your need, or maybe even a bigger discounts.
I’m a big fan on the, on demand for many reasons. It’s I also felt more eco-friendly by the way, but it’s a great way to enter a market without having to put forth inventory price and test your concept. It’s y’all out here and [00:32:00] give a of points. Yeah, go ahead. Appreciate it. Christian, I just wanted to throw two things at you.
One for the woodworking stuff. If you’re not looking to fully transition away from it, maybe take a look at trying to find an apprentice. There’s gotta be, younger people that are looking to learn a decent skill. And it’s just top of mind, cause I’m in the middle of building a fence right now.
Not as detailed as the kind of stuff you do, but them and having a second set of hands just makes things go so much faster. And then on the shipping, clothing line, promoting sobriety community, building a community is going to be probably the biggest driver of success for a business with that kind of focus and mission.
Because I’m sure Michelle will tell you anybody who’s done. E-commerce drop shipping. They’re basically it’s gotten. Streamlined enough to set [00:33:00] up a dropshipping e-commerce business, that there’s a lot of it out there. Shopify has this great report on kind of this, all this research they did over the last year and a half.
And there’s just been this massive proliferation of e-commerce brands and, print on demand makes that easier than it has been in the past. So focusing on a mission driven community led brand is a much, I think, should be a much bigger focus for you than necessarily what platform or what specific products you’re going to sell.
Those things are base level very important. They’re foundational, but with something like sobriety community is going to drive that revenue. It’s not necessarily going to be if it’s t-shirts or sweaters. Nice. Thanks for the tips guys. Really appreciate it. Yeah. I want to mention something [00:34:00] else that I did during the pandemic here, because I couldn’t get things out of China.
It’s just crazy pricing for shipping, et cetera. I actually looked into the community and it did take me some time I wanted to make these specific higher end cat beds. What I did is I was able to find actually a little community of actually some elderly women that are same stress that were just literally dying for some additional income they’re on, like social security and it ended up being like, it’s an amazing relationship.
And there were so like excited. To embrace the product. So I know you were thinking, or I think you were thinking maybe like younger folks, but don’t overlook, the older community as well. So Michelle, your has over a million followers and the community. I think [00:35:00] if you’re a Christian who wants to build a community about sobriety and with the products print on demand, the art, what would be some suggestions that have succeeded for you with your building your community?
Yeah, for me, what works is really being part of that community. I don’t know if you are, but really embracing the community first before you ask them to follow you. I think that’s really what it is about these days being transparent and authentic. If you go into those communities, start adding value and participate in.
You’ll you, you will start to attract folks as well, ask them for their opinions, just really be who you want to attract. And if you are not who you want to attract, the, maybe who’s leading the community. I would consider having that person be that person. For us, we all love animals and we love cats, of course.
But the person, [00:36:00] the young lady who runs our community, she is so entrenched in that community that people are just, they just want to be in, and following us because everything that she says and does and supports outside of us is really the antithesis of what we stand for. So that’s what I was suggest.
Thanks. So I’m definitely a part of the community. I just recently started documenting my journey yeah. Great tip would definitely go to. Go in and be a little more involved in the sobriety community. Do we have appreciated? Do we have anyone else on stage here? Just wants to pop up and talk a little bit more about community.
I know Devin, you kicked it off. But how do, how does he get Facebook followers? How does he get linked? I don’t know. How do you get the followers? Is it providing contents, building your own? Like I, I’m not, this is not my expertise. Norm. Yeah. There’s a lot of ways of doing it, but Michelle hit it on the head.
You really have to be engaged before you get married, get into other groups, [00:37:00] start talking, don’t promote. The worst thing you can do to kill a relationship is promote, but just more quality content, ask questions, just see the lingo of the community. If you’re not familiar with a community.
There’s a whole different way of speaking, see how they’re talking, get the tone of that. And then start, just start engaging. Start following, start. If there’s influencers within the community, start to go that way. I know that one thing you should stay away from and I’ve made this mistake is go really thin.
Try to be everything to everybody on every social media platform. That’s not the case, pick 1, 2, 3, like maybe you’re doing something on YouTube something on tech talk and something on Facebook, not sure, but whatever your demographic is. I know the demographic that you know, that’s on Pinterest, and if I’m dealing with 35 45 year [00:38:00] old women, I know.
That would be the place where I would be marketing onto. And I also know that has the highest average order volume. So if I’ve got a product that could target that demographic, then that’s where I’m going. But anyways, it’s understanding your audience. And one of the things I have nothing to do with this.
I don’t plug anything, but if you want a really quick way to understand your competitors, who’s following your competitors, who the influencers of your competitors are. Go do. Rand Fishkins app called spark Toro. It’s S P a R K Toro. And it’s about an eight minute training. And you’ll be able to dive in like an expert and understand the communities and grow your communities now.
I like taking the Neil Patel approach, which is, I’m not going to put up. Anything like I’m talking about content, why blog wise, unless it’s the best out there. [00:39:00] And if I see there’s a lot of crap content out there, or my writers are crap and I want to spend $5 when I shouldn’t be spending $250, I’ll spend the $250 once a month, rather than try to do it every other day.
It’s one piece of high quality content. And then you can take that and repurpose it a million times. But anyways, that’s the way I would do it. Repurposing is key. And I wish my son was on because some of the things that he’s done with just our podcast and some of our brands that we have is just amazing.
But we’ll have to have them on next time, no further Edna. And he talks about this topic. I’m fascinated Collin, cause this is not in my wheelhouse. This is not my zone of genius and I’m enjoying everything that they’re sharing because it not only applies to like e-comm businesses, but it applies to other businesses as well when you utilize those strategies.
And I just wanted to make that connection. Cause I know we’re talking about e-comm [00:40:00] stores, but I see so much strength and value in what’s being shared that I wanted to make the connection that you can also do with what Michelle shared about community and getting involved. You can also utilize that in, in any other business as well.
And yeah, Jeffrey and I had a question and it’s something that Michelle said that they were struggling with. Logistics coming out of China and I’ve got a trucking companies and I’ve got access to trucking companies in Mexico because we send LPG and fuel all the way down to Mexico. And so I’ve got so many people reaching out to me that want to do fulfillment all along the border because they’re having to rethink their, their product strategy, especially with all the problems, issues, and costs coming with China.
And so with that, I yield the mic and I pose that as a question, like what, any suggestions because I can provide the logistics, but I’m just trying to figure it out. I’m an oil and gas, so [00:41:00] I’m trying to help someone problem solve. That’s not my space, but always looking for opportunities. Thanks for the opportunity.
Yeah. We’re popcorn style here. So I love the pivot here towards manufacturing. No, I want it to I don’t have an answer for ed on the manufacturer, but I wanted to just touch on one more thing on the whole content and community issue that I don’t think was mentioned. One thing that’s really important is developing your brand’s voice and how you want your brand to be perceived.
One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of e-commerce businesses do is they accept all the default. When they open up a Shopify store, one of the great things about these platforms like Shopify and others is they make it really easy to get started. They’ve got everything you need. They’ve got order confirmation emails set up.
They’ve got, shipping, tracking emails set up. They’ve got it. All preset for you and many people, too [00:42:00] many people, in my opinion, leave the default settings in place. So you end up getting the exact same order confirmation email from 10 different companies, because all they did was leave the default email in place, and they never actually went in and thought about their brand and thought about their brand voice and thought about changing and customizing those messages to really reflect the brand that they want to represent to their customers.
So my bit of advice there on that content and community building side is when you choose your platform, go into all the default settings and change them. Customize. To be appropriate for your brand, with your messaging, have some fun with it. Some of the top e-commerce brands, when you get an email from them, you smile.
Even if it’s a simple order confirmation it’s done in the style of their brand, it makes you smile. It makes you feel some affinity to the brand. So don’t leave the defaults in place, go in and look at all of [00:43:00] those customer touch points and customize them for your brand. That would be my advice. Thanks for all of your advice, guys, I gotta hop on a call real quick.
I’m just super grateful to be a part of the startup club and congratulations on anybody else, starting a new e-commerce business and hope you guys do well in all your future endeavors. Okay, thank you. Thank you, Christian. All right. I know. Yeah, Colin, it wasn’t necessarily my question wasn’t necessarily about manufacturing and solving the issue of manufacturing because we have already tapped into the manufacturing.
What we’re now problem solving for is the warehousing. And y’all call it the three PL so three PL fulfillment, because you want, we still want to take advantage of section 3 21 taxes coming out of Mexico. And so I know that norm he may or may not know someone or have contacts or can help with that part in that aspect.
Yes, strangely enough. Yes I can help you with that. [00:44:00] This is something that apple lobby he’s been on here a few times calling, apple lobbies my partner over at my, my sourcing company, but he’s been working at building a north American directory and it’s spread out. It started as a very small operation now it’s it’s a couple of people involved, Tim Jordan, Amy Weise who probably a lot of people on this call know.
We have a it’s a trade show in Mexico in April. It’s going to be south American, central American, Mexican suppliers and manufacturers. Alibaba is going to be our sponsor, but if anybody’s interested, that’s something that’s happening and. There’s so much opportunity for products to come up, but you have to know the little bits of insight.
Edna one of the things I could if you’d I could have you reach out at where I can have my partner reach out to you. If you’d like to talk to you about some of this and they know the insights of in the ins and outs of bringing products in or out to [00:45:00] Mexico, I love it. Thank you so much.
Appreciate it. You’re very welcome. And normally, like how hard is it to get a manufacturer in the United States and Mexico or China or Poland? Cause obviously it’s one thing, like what Christian was talking about was building and designing it himself. But at a certain point, if you want to hit the volume and you really want to make profit and you need to find some way to outsource.
And I just wanted you to see if you could talk a little bit about that. I know Michelle, you bet had experience in that area as well. Not certain debit or Mattachine if you have, but we’ll start with you. Okay. China, has it down pat? The problem is supply chain is horrible. The freight costs are horrible.
You can look to other countries like if I look at career right now, Korea is awesome for cosmetics as, that’s one product. You don’t have the Trump tax. I, so it’s very inexpensive to get the product. It’s higher. It’s a higher cost of manufacturing, but it’s cheaper to get in now it’s it [00:46:00] actually equals to what was coming in from China.
And I would trust the Korean cosmetic company more than I would. Somebody you find on Alibaba, India is opening up and they’re trying to expand more and more in the U S there are some fantastic manufacturers. The problem is. The U S. It’s just getting used to e-com they’re not used to accepting 250 500, a thousand, even 2,500 units.
They want big product. That’s been the issue. One of the things, there is a workaround when you talking to a us manufacturer and you could go to a trade show where they all are there, they are, you can talk to them, but if you show that. R a brand building to succeed, or you are a successful brand and you’re bringing a product to market.
You might have a chance in some companies that, need 10,000 units as an opening order, which I would never do. But us is a tougher [00:47:00] go. And this is why we’re trying to build a, more of a database and believe it or not apple or apple lobby Alibaba is starting to do that as well.
You’re starting to see more manufacturers come on, Alibaba, even though you think Alibaba’s, over in China, in Mexico. And I’ll tell you in Columbia I was in the Eva game. That’s a foam game and I brought over containers and containers of Eva foam. We went to China because we thought it was the.
I recently saw a father and son startup, an Eva foam company in Colombia, better pricing than China, no problems, getting it up to the U S and I would never have known about them. I ran into them at a trade show and the PR the actual product itself is as good or better quality than would be over in Columbus.
So there all that’s [00:48:00] happening right now is all these south American companies that were dealing with south Americans. If you’re in Brazil, which is another awesome place to get product, they were dealing with. So now they’re seeing that there is the opportunity in the U S and they’re starting to come up.
So it’s just, it’s challenging. But one of the things that you can do, it’s a pain in the butt go into Google, white label X, north America, us Brazil, and just Mexico. And see what comes up there. There’s not one big database right now, except for Alibaba. And you can definitely go there. You just have to know the right questions to ask when you’re going to these different countries.
Oh that’s great. And so how would Norman, how do people find these rep firms? These manufacturers use, you mentioned Alibaba. Can you go to the website on Alibaba? Can you go to do you need to go to a trade show? [00:49:00] What are the ways you can actually find someone to do this manufacturing for your.
There’s a variety of different ways. So trade shows are awesome. If you can find a trade show in the U S the ASD is a huge retail trade show. That’s happening in Vegas in April, March, April, sorry, February, March 26th to the second. That’s a ton of suppliers that go there and you can check that out.
Or if there’s organizations, associations check out an association that might be doing wood manufacturing or, whatever it is, it could be bottles. It could be shampoo, tons of manufacturers in us that do beauty products like supplements. But anyways, all you would do is check associations, checkout, trade shows.
Then you could also what was I going to say? Oh sourcing agents. So if you take a look at good quality sourcing agents, so you can just source it, just go onto the internet, [00:50:00] check, sourcing agent, see what comes up and then talk to them directly and see if they do specialize in Mexico or in these different types of products that you’re looking for.
If I was looking for medical devices, I, I wouldn’t be getting a sourcing agent to do baby toys unless they knew about that. There’s a, it’s a whole other breed. So sourcing agents is a new, really great way to let them do the legwork. You’re going to pay for it, but they do the legwork for you.
They find the product and they come back to you with all the information. Those are a few that I would I would talk to Colin, unfortunately. I’ve got a podcast that I got to be on in five minutes, no issue, but you can get, you get out of here. I’m going to ask you. You’re done now anyway all right, Michelle.
Yeah. Michelle can you just give us a couple of tips about working with manufacturers overseas? What are the do’s and don’ts all right. So Greg question it’s really hard if you’re a small person, [00:51:00] and you’re trying to do overseas sourcing because you’re not there to see the quality and oversee the product.
So I would say the first thing is expect that it’s going to take a lot longer than you expected to. Other than that, I would also say you need to, sounds easy to say, but you really have to find somebody that you can work with. And for me, what that means is someone who is highly communicative and obviously who’s going to be trustworthy.
So I think it’s worth it. If you can go meet these folks, once you decide that you’re going to order products and do the whole nine yards, figure out how they like to best communicate. So for example, what we’ve learned through the years is that folks in China like to use, we chat. So instead of asking them to be, having conversations in the middle of our day, Or using email we have [00:52:00] adapted to, to what’s convenient for them.
It goes a long way. So we use, we chat, we talk with them in the middle of our night, which is in the middle of their day. We make sure from the beginning that they understand they’re going to have to send us lots of samples right along the process, as well as we’ve learned, you just learn this with experience.
Just like what you have to say when you’re describing what you want for the product. For me personally, I’ve found the more specific I could be, or if there’s some kind of sample I can send, it saves a heck of a lot of time. If you’re too open and vague, your timelines are going to go, through the sky.
So what I’ve found even, so is that you should still expect about six months. If you at all, can go arrange to make a visit to the factory daring, a time when the actual prototype is ready before they want to start production, it really can save [00:53:00] you a lot of heartache time and money. Because last thing you want to do is get something shipped, and then it’s not good.
Or there’s some problem with packaging. Like for us, we had a lot of issues with one of our manufacturers in terms of packaging, even though we had lots of conversation, afterwards it was obvious that their definition of packing a product really well. So it didn’t get damaged was not what we, and what we expected.
I think the postal system, whatever deliveries is a lot different in China than it is in the U S. It’s mostly like couriers there. When I say couriers, very localized and somebody, and their scooter dropping something off, not like going through many trucks and warehouses and being thrown on pallets and on FedEx trucks and whatnot.
It’s really important to have that open line of communication. There are obviously also language differences. [00:54:00] So we bring in people that know the F the language. It’s just, there’s a lot of things to think of. But for me, if I had to say one recurring theme is it’s heavily around communication and relationship.
Thank you. That’s awesome. And I know we’re running out of time. We’re going to probably go a little bit over here, but the last category that we wanted to take on here was marketing advertising. You’ve got, let’s say it was Christian and it was off stage now, but he’s got his hole.
Business. He’s got to now, he’s got a manufacturer, he’s worked it all out and he’s got a website and he’s even working on his community, but what is next? Like how do that, how does he take that product and get buyers? And what are the different avenues? Jeff, you’re our COO on stage. Do you want to kick it off with us?
I know there’s Google. I know the space. And there’s other methods as well, but why you take it here? You’re the expert? I don’t think that, but the, the first thing you have to understand before you do any paid average advertising [00:55:00] is really understand what your actual costs are and what your margins are, because you really need to understand what is going to be.
A reasonable customer acquisition costs. That’s gonna allow you to grow your business and be profitable and not go under because you’re acquiring customers for way more than the customer’s worth to you. So you have to have a good understanding of the economics of your product.
And if you’re importing products from overseas, as Michelle was talking about, you have to take into consideration all those import costs and everything else. So step one is to really understand the economics of your product sourcing. So you can understand what kind of a marketing budget you can build.
Obviously we’ve grown paul.com over the years, heavily focused on social media advertising. So the large majority of our advertising spend over the years has been in Facebook and Instagram and some Pinterest. And that’s been very [00:56:00] effective for. We have a higher price item. The dog beds typically sell, around $129 and up.
So we had some room to to spend and have a reasonable customer acquisition costs. So you need to understand that outside of paid me. There’s a lot you can do in social media and with content marketing that doesn’t necessarily cost you money. But can drive a lot of awareness and traffic to your sites.
And that’s gonna vary by whatever vertical you’re in obvious to lead today. With social media, with influencers, if you can get some raving fans out there, if you can get your product into the hands of other people who are vocal and who have their own followings in their own audience, that can be very cost effective.
There are a number of e-commerce brands that have really taken off because someone with a large following like their brand. So sometimes it’s not a paid opportunity. Sometimes it can be organic. If you can get your product into the hands of someone who really likes it, really appreciates it and [00:57:00] can speak to the brand.
There, there are a lot of different things. You can follow to get the ball rolling, but having great content packaging is important to, making, having that unboxing experience would be something people like then people tend to share that’s another more cost-effective way.
So instead of paying people to advertise your product, if your product comes in nice packaging, if it has some cool stuff inside of it, maybe you put in a sticker or some other unexpected moment of delight, a humid as Collin likes to refer to it as, sticking a little sticker in the package, something that’s going to get some excited, something that they might take a picture of and share or slap on their laptop or back of their car to help promote your brand.
So all of those things are organic ways to grow your brand and market and draw a attention to it. Obviously there’s a million things you can do. And one of the things I’ve learned, in 40 years of marketing is it’s never one thing too. So you have to do a lot of these things.
It’s hard to just hang your hat on one thing and say, this [00:58:00] is going to be my marketing strategy. And this one thing is going to drive all of our sales and customer acquisition. That’s rarely the case. It’s usually a combination of all of these things working together to really drive that traffic to your site and drive those customers to your product.
So hopefully that’s helpful. Colin. No that’s great. And I don’t know about you, but this was an episode. This last hour was very intense. A lot of information. I will go back and listen to the replay. I’m either on clubhouse or you can actually, if you want to listen to it on startup dot. You can just go to the website.
We’ve archived hundreds now of episodes from start-up club. I think we now are at about 40 or 42 or somewhere there abouts. Yeah. Episode 44. I told you I was guessing the number. So it’s our 44th time. We’ve run the serial entrepreneur club on Fridays at two o’clock [00:59:00] Eastern. Please join us every Friday.
If you miss it, you can now get it on podcast. You can go to your apple iTunes type in or your apple podcast and type in the serial entrepreneur club. And there are so many great episodes or just go to start-up dot club and listen to them. They’re like, now let me just tell you about next week. Let me tell you about next week.
We had Jeffrey Moore crossing the chasm two weeks ago. We have next week Bernhardt issues, an expert in his own, he’s been on the show before, but he’s also coming on with John Mueller. Who’s wrote a number of best-selling books, including the customer funded startup. He is an award-winning teacher scholars.
He’s probably the most foremost thought leaders on entrepreneurship in the world. He teaches at the university of London and he’s coming on next Friday, two o’clock Eastern. Another one of those shows not to be missed. Sorry, just clarification. The London business school, not the university of London.
Just to clarify, sorry about that. But another [01:00:00] one of those episodes not to be missed the customer funded startup, we all talk about venture capital. We all talk about raising money, but what if our customers paid us to scale and that’s happening next Tuesday? Sorry. Next Friday at two o’clock Eastern.
Thank you very much, everyone. Devin, Edna, everyone on stage. Really appreciate it. And if you enjoyed the session, please follow the people on stage and we will see you next week.
Thanks. Colin. Appreciate y’all have a good afternoon. Thanks everyone. Have a great weekend.