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Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
My guest this week is Monaica Ledell, a sought after copywriter and digital strategist.copywriter and digital strategist. In the last decade, she’s helped her clients create nearly $10 million in revenue, and worked with personal and entrepreneurial giants like Lisa Nichols, Jaime Tardy, Jonathon Fields, and Author Benjamin. She’s the president of Truth Hacking, and unconventional branding and sales positioning company that builds profitable, results-based brands, and the creator of Mommy Breadwinner, a blog for working moms who want more play and dough.
Monaica and I talk about her process for creating stories and brands that sell, how she connects with clients who don’t have time for your content marketing, and how she divides her time between client services and business development. Monaica Ledell, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Monaica: Of course. What an honor and a privilege.
Tara: Absolutely. Thank you. So let’s start off by talking about how you got into copywriting and branding. What kind of drew you into this work?
Monaica: Well, it was by accident, because plans in my life just don’t work out when I make them. You know, like life plans? I can make lots of business plans, Tara, but … but doing life plan stuff, like it just always takes its own kind of angle and twists and turns, so I was in another business, it really wasn’t working out. I was down in Mexico at an event. This is ten, eleven, twelve years ago, and actually, eleven, and I meet this guy who I thought had all the answers, and he really did at the time, and he became my mentor. I just wanted to know how to be successful, and so this guy ended up becoming my mentor, which is a story in and of itself, and I didn’t fall into copywriting or anything like that, although my high school AP English teacher told my parents as a senior I could write romance novels at the time, but anyway. So he … this guy called me one day, Tara, and he said, “Monaica, I’m mentoring you, but I want to do something different.” And I said okay. And I, you know, I’m in my early twenties, and he said, “I want to teach you sales.”
And I said, “Well, I don’t have any interest in learning sales, David,” and I didn’t say it like that, but that was basically the gist.
And he was like, “No, I’m going to teach you this, and it’s the way it’s going to be, because if you don’t know how to do this, then you’re not going to be successful in business, but if you do know how to sell, you can go anywhere. It doesn’t matter what happens in your life or your business.”
And I said okay. Because it was contingent. Like this guy was not going to mentor me if I didn’t do it his way. So as I grew in that mentorship, things just started to happen. So I started doing email copywriting when it really became a thing. So in some ways, I guess I’m kind of like a little bit of a veteran, which is strange, but anyway, it’s the truth. And we just started using other tools and I was adopting them as I was learning sales, and that’s really how it all came about.
Branding was a different story, if you want me to tell you that.
Tara: Yeah, please.
Monaica: Yeah, so what I realized over the years, after doing a ton of launches, you know, because you kind of get into this thing, and you’re like, I mean, we were using Constant Contact at the time, right?
Monaica: I mean, that’s all there was, really, and besides like just sending things through, like, your computer, you know, on a mass email list, which we would never do anymore, right? But what I realized through the years after doing all of these launches and producing so many people and products and services and pitching them out into the world is that you could have a great performing ad, you could have all of the strategic thingies on your website, like I got the opt-in here, and I got this here, and it looks good, and it’s on the right hand, and the blah, blah, blah, right, and then you could have like a highly-targeted ad with Google ads or even Facebook now, and everything could still underperform, right? Or it could perform at subpar levels, so it was like what’s the deal on that? If they’re following the quote/unquote marketing, internet marketing rules, why is this happening? Right? Well, the brand is off, and when you talk to high-level brand, I mean, sorry, funnel experts, they will tell you if you don’t have your story right, like the whole thing is going to underperform. So that’s when I started to be able to really step into my creative juice and my psychology background and go, ah, I know what makes people tick, I can get them to move, right? But then the … the brand piece goes further, because it’s layered, Tara, and so you know, over time, what I developed was a really incredible skillset, which is how do you create market disruption? Right? How do you actually take this amazing, genius individual who has all of these talents, and how do you help the world make sense of who they are.
Tara: Mmm, okay. We need to dive into that a little bit further.
Monaica: That’s okay.
Tara: Really good. So what is your thought process when you’re trying to figure out how do I make the world make sense of this person or this brand or this company or this idea?
Monaica: Well, sometimes, I tell people, I really, what I really have is human investigative company, right?
Monaica: I do a lot of upfront work, and to this day … now, I don’t know if I’ll always be able to say this, but I can now, so I do, but I always preface it with this, to this day, I’ve never been wrong about a brand, ever, not once, yet. And I just dig and I dig and I dig, and I get to know somebody. I mean, like when I kick off, and I start with a client, Tara, I start with, “So where were you born? What was your dad like? What was your mom like? What kind of house did you grow up in? Were they married?” You know? And we get all the way up to kindergarten, and we’ve probably been talking for a half hour before we get up to kindergarten. So I have to know the whole story, and many, many times, I’m the first person who’s ever got the whole story. And then there will be this … there’s this piece that like how do you quantify it? Right? Like, I see people like my clients in their creative genius, and they get into that zone, right? Where they’re just so connected. You know, like when you’re just writing or you’re doing something or you’re singing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you’re like … like time literally stops, okay? You know that feeling, right? And so you know that that’s the zone. I learned from this woman who is a, I don’t know, some sort of specialist in this kind of zone area. She says, and I believe her, that most people in the world only get to experience that a couple of times in their life, and when I was sitting in this really private, ten-person kind of mastermind two years ago, I thought to myself, “Man, I’m freaking lucky as hell, because I get to feel that like several times a week,” and then, of course, that high, ambitious entrepreneur was like, “Hey, how can I feel that every day?” Right? But when you get into that place, there’s this intuition that happens, and you’re like, eh, they’re holding back, or they’re not clear, and so my job is to help them get really, really clear.
Like, the whole crux of this one individual’s brand, who is a huge success story for us, right? And as so many of our clients are. I get down to about … we get up to about five, you know, and she’s making coffee and she’s waiting for her daddy, because her daddy is a … she’s using the terms daddy, her daddy is a grass farmer in Texas, and she’s living with her grandma, and anyway, and I just kept pressing and pressing and pressing, and I’m like, “So what did you do when you would wait for him to get to work,” because they had this house on this property and he would come into work in this house, and she said, “Well, I would make coffee.” And now I’ve got the footage rolling in my head of this little, tiny girl, who’s so ultra-responsible, making coffee for her dad at five years old. And I said, “So, did you drink it?” You know, like I’m looking for every detail, and she goes, “Well, as a matter of fact, I would.” Would you put cream and sugar in it? She goes, “No, I took it black.” And so it’s all of those little details that start to come together where you really start to get fully immersed in a human being, right? Who they really are? In addition to that, I do tons of interviews. So I don’t want to just take their word for it. Like, I’m interviewing people on their behalf. Like, I want to know how the world sees them.
And so there are these other, you know, brand experts who kind of DIY it, and they’re like … and there’s nothing wrong with this, by the way, because it can get you started, but it’s like so, go ask people what they think of you. All right. Well, the problem with that, and if you have a background in psychology or you’ve experienced this, you would know, is that when two people get into a conversation like that, it’s pretty vulnerable. So Tara, tell me what’s awesome about me. Right? And like … like what are my gifts and blah, blah, blah. Like, those are uncomfortable questions to ask, for starters. Secondly, you’re going to be put on the spot, so it’s not like, you know, human nature doesn’t want to come back and be like, well, you know, you, you know, I think that these are your gifts, but you’re going to kind of shade it and tell me what you think I want to hear, even if you’re up front, because it’s just … it’s just too vulnerable, and then whatever you’re telling me, even if it’s like amazing, 100% truth, I’m probably only going to hear about of that and be able to interpret it, because it’s vulnerable for me to accept that truth and reality about myself.
So when I say we run a human investigative company, I’m doing a whole lot of up front work to talk to these people and figure out where their true genius is, and then it’s about putting the magnifying glass in the right spot. Because I could be like, “Oh, you’re the most amazing author in the world,” and a lot of our clients are, but like is that how we really want to step out there in the world? Or is it the fact that they do this, instead, and then secondary to that, they’re an amazing author? Right? We have to find that white space in the marketplace and put them right there, so that now they have their own segment of the market that they’ve just swooped up and taken, nobody else owns it. Does that make sense?
Tara: Yeah, it does. Okay, so you’ve … you’ve talked about your interview process with a client. You’ve talked about sort of the interview process that happens with their clients. And then you mentioned, you know, where … where do you put the magnifying lens, how do you find that white space in the market, and that makes me think that you’re also doing a good bit of market analysis, sort of as a three-prong approach. Is that true?
Monaica: Yes, we do do that piece, too.
Tara: So what does that look like?
Monaica: Well, I’m doing … I do a couple of things. First, I research within the marketplace, and then I research just outside of the marketplace, because sometimes, a client comes in, and they’re like, “I want to be here,” but where they really need to be is over here, right?
Monaica: Which is a totally different spot. And so if I were to just go into their competitive market and look at it, we’re leaving out a humongous opportunity here. You have to really look at … you have to be able to dive deep, not only within a client, but within a marketplace, and also look at something globally. And then you have to be able to theorize, this takes me back to like psychology research college days, what would be the domino effect if we theoretically put somebody right here instead?
So I had a client, this is a really good example, it just was very plain as day. She’s at the top of a network marketing company. At the very top. She’s a veteran. She’s been there for a long time. She makes a hell of a lot of money. She travels the world. Everybody knows who she is. And so she’s at the very top of this network marketing company, and we get into some of the competitive research, and we’re looking at who her competitors are, like you know, other competitors within the network marketing industry and some of the other personal development. Something just wasn’t sitting right, you know. And so as we talked and talked and talked, I finally … we got down to the truth, and she was like, “I think I figured it out, where my resistance is.” And I was like, “What is it?” Because I’m just trying to get her feedback about the market. Like where are her creative boundaries, right? I’ve got to push her to this edge and this edge to figure out where her creative boundaries are. And she’s like, “I don’t really resonate with anybody in my market.” And I was like bingo. Okay.
So then we went in a totally different direction, right? And she was so excited and enthusiastic about that, because she doesn’t really feel like she fits in over there, and the truth is, she really doesn’t, but it was this whole discovery process. So then we go to have fun and say, okay, so if you got to pick, where do you want to be? And I think people forget that, too. Like, it’s not just about talking to an expert or a coach or a friend and saying hey, you know, this is what I want, help me create that, what do you think, right? I’m sorry, what do you think? Tara, what do you think I should do? What do you, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, right? What’s your advice? The truth is you get to pick.
Tara: Absolutely. And daunting. But awesome.
Monaica: It is, yeah.
Tara: All right. Let’s pull back a little bit, because I could go way down the rabbit hole with you with this … with this particular topic. We could talk about this all day. So I want to … I want to come back to as you’re starting your business again. What kind of misconceptions did you have about starting your business and maybe what kind of misconceptions have you had in growing your business?
Monaica: Okay, well, I think probably the biggest misconception is like I have this public mentor. I mean, he was known in some spaces, authors, coaches, you know, all these other things. He was a protégé of Bob Proctor, and so I make a lot of money for him. I make a lot of money. He teaches me sales. It was the scariest thing that I ever went through in my life to learn how to sell and influence people, right? And … but I learned I actually was pretty gifted at it. I didn’t know it. He just kind of helped me uncover that. I think that’s true of probably a lot of people?
At any rate, so I decide it’s time for me to go out on my own, and that was perfectly fine decision. I mean, it was scary in its own right, I weighed the pros and cons, and anyway, I left, and I started to do my own thing, which was consulting at the time, and I just kind of thought, well, because I was in these inner circles meeting with all of these high profile people, the clients will just come, and the clients they did not come, Tara. They just … they just like didn’t show up. I’m like why aren’t people knocking at my door, I don’t understand. What’s going on here? Don’t you guys remember who I worked with? You know, you make a couple calls, and it just doesn’t happen like that. Like there’s a whole new hustle that happens when you shift gears in a business, and it actually took me a while to accept. That, and then once I did, I was like oh my God. Like, let me tell you what I actually did, Tara, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, and I don’t know if this is that big of a deal, I just don’t think I’ve ever shared it. I didn’t really work for like a year. I was just like yeah, I’m just gonna let it like morph into its own thing, and like … like let the universe direct me, or what … I don’t know what I was thinking, but like at the very least, I should have kept my feet busy, like, doing something. Like go get a job at Starbucks. Just stay in it. Do something. I didn’t do anything. Partially because I didn’t have to, right, for that year. The pain wasn’t there. So the pain’s not there, you just kind of like yeah, do what I want, right? Or the motivation’s not there. I really thought it would just manifest all by itself, and it just didn’t. And so I get down to a year, and I’m like okay, I really … I haven’t done that, and then I had to learn marketing, and there’s a difference between sales and marketing, and I didn’t understand what the true difference was.
Tara: Can you talk about that difference? Because most people don’t.
Monaica: Yeah, I mean, so I thought I could write some emails and I can convert. And to this day, if you give me an email list or a leads, I don’t have problems converting leads. I have like an insanely high close rate. It’s like 86%. It’s like ridiculous, right? People think that I’m lying. Or I’ve had men, and not knocking on men at all, it’s just the only people who have accused me of lying have been men up until this point. But … but like who do you have to email to? Where’s your list? How did you build that list? That’s all marketing, right? Like, it’s getting out there. It’s running ads. It’s figuring out how to do it. It’s figuring out what your niche is. It’s … I mean, it’s like oh my gosh, marketing is this whole ‘nother Universe, right? And for awhile, it was like I’m just going to go gangbusters, and I’m just going to do everything, and you know when you do that, and you make those kind of decisions … when you’re trying to grow a business, which is the second part of the question you asked, you really do nothing well. Or not … even if you’re able to like kind of like C level it, like I’m getting a C in marketing, nothing really takes shape that quickly. Like if you were to just really narrow your focus, and go I’m just going to do this one thing, and I’m just going to dominate it.
Since … since that time, what I’ve learned is that I always have five things in the hopper. If I have three, it’s still a little dangerous to me, because I used to ride out the waters of the ocean on my silver bullet, right? So when I say focus on the one, focus on one, get it up, but then get two and three up pretty quickly, and four and five, right? And so I always take this five-pronged approach. When I’m working with a client or when I’m working on my own business, because I can’t totally know if something’s going to over perform or underperform. Like, I could think I have the best darn opt-in and like this video’s going to be amazing, right, and like nobody wants it. So what do you do then? How do you handle that? Well, I don’t want the silver bullet. That’s too dangerous for me.
Tara: Yeah, absolutely. So let me ask you … so you’ve essentially got like plan A, B, C, D, E, right, if you’ve got five things in the hopper.
Tara: When do you, or do you ever pull back on one of those things? You see it’s underperforming, or you see something, one of the other things is way over performing. When do you choose to narrow your focus, or do you choose to narrow your focus?
Monaica: Well, again, I credit … you know, you get into college, and you’re like, oh, this is all, like, worthless. I mean … you know what I mean? Like, I’m not going to use this stuff. Western Civ? How am I going to use this out in the world, right? Well, who knew that I would be studying Seneca some day on my own as a little hobby? I don’t know. Anyway. Anyway. So I … what I … what I learned, and again, it was in these upper level psych classes and some of the statistics and things is that, you know, you can’t just pull back after like a week. Like, you’ve got to give some things some time here, or it’s not going to work. I’m not talking about, okay, obviously, you just spent $500 on Facebook and it’s not performing, like let’s give it six months and let’s just keep wasting money. That’s not what I’m talking about. If it’s just glaring, that’s so in your face, well, you need to pivot right away, right? But … but do you actually pull back and just stop Facebook? No. You just pivot, right? You just start tweaking. Can I get … I always tell clients, and they … then they sound hopeful, because they’re like, oh, I want a 50% conversion rate. I want a 67% conversion rate, because you’ve written landing pages that have converted that high. Well, yeah, but look, I’m looking for the 1%. If I have a 1% conversion rate, I have something to work with, Tara.
Monaica: If I have 0, I have nothing to work with, right? And so sometimes, you have to accept that that’s part of the journey. Pulling back entirely is just when it’s obviously glaring, right? Like it’s just not working. But otherwise, I like to let things germinate for 90 days to 6 months. I mean, you can’t go heavy at PR and get turned down twice, and this has happened to many of my clients, and they’re like, well, I’m just going to, you know, not invest in PR anymore. Why? Like it’s … there’s nothing hotter that’s going to give you more oomph in your business than PR. It’s like the most undervalued marketing strategy ever, right? Like, it’s going to take awhile, so you’re going to get turned down, but like, you know, it only takes once to get into Marie Claire or CNN Money, and I’ve been featured in both of those, right?
Tara: Awesome. All right. Let’s … let’s talk specifically about how you’re generating revenue right now, because I want to make sure that people understand, you know, how your business is actually set up. So what are all the ways that you are currently bringing in money into your company?
Monaica: Well, lately, I’ve been inventing new ways, and it’s been working, so I encourage anybody who’s wanting to invent new ways of earning money in their business to do so. I … most of what I do is this brand sales positioning. Okay? So again, those words for me are synonymous in the marketplace. They should be. People should be teaching it that way, although they’re not. I learned how to merge creative with strategic, right, and layer in all that revenue. So the main way that I make money is by building these incredible sales platforms for people, or launching these incredible brands out to the world. There are other ways, then, that I realized … I got burned out on consulting, Tara, and I was like, uh, I’m just going to do this process, because if they would go through this process with my entire team, me being at the helm, right, but then they get to touch some of the other team members, they are going to come out so much further on top, which is the truth, but then I wanted them to be done, and I realized that the clients are always going to come knocking again, and really, like, that’s where your true revenue is.
I mean, again, we have high-end programs, but the money is in the repeat customer, and so it’s been an unraveling for me, because I consulted for so long that my company in August will turn 3. It’s not even that old, right, and we’ve done well in less than 3 years, but these clients are going to come back, and you need to be able to service them, right, with something that gives you joy, or in … is … and provides value for them. So while I just wanted to be a brand identification company, and you know, do some copy writing and launching stuff, what I realized is that I really needed to move into brand-building, because we are very skilled at that. I’ve run national campaigns many times, and so we do copy writing, we do copy editing. Like, if you just need sales conversion editing, right? And that was something I kind of fought, but then I realized how beautiful, like, if they want to write their own copy and become skilled at sales copy, they should, but maybe they just need somebody to come in to edit it for higher conversions. Okay, cook, we can handle that, too, right? We can do that high-end brand platform. I also, lately, started pitching these strategic sales and marketing plans where I just come in for 90 minutes and I leave and I develop a plan for you. You know, we talk for 90 minutes, I leave, I develop this incredible plan for you that you can ride on for the next 6 to 12 months. People are loving it. It was a total test. I didn’t know if I could sell it and they would buy it, but they totally do. And it’s easy, easy, easy work for me. It’s like drinking water, and it really gets them going. Those are really the core things.
And then my husband has a design company where he does a lot of like sales page, landing page, web development and design, right? And little Facebook design stuff, just all of that, and so because we’re married, I get to refer him a lot of business, and he gets to help me out with a lot of cool clients, and we get to work together, and so then we’ve got that income coming in, right?
That’s mainly the core ways that we generate money.
Tara: Okay, that’s … that is perfect. That’s exactly what I needed. Now, you mentioned your team. Can you tell us what your team looks like right now?
Monaica: People are usually surprised when I tell them this that our bench is now about 19 people deep.
Monaica: They’re like, “What?” I’m like yes. They’re like, “But you have a brand new company.” I’m like I know. But there’s a genius behind it, and it was because of another mentor who taught me this, and he … he’s a really credible guy. He sold his last company for half a billion dollars, Tara, and he told me two things that changed my life, and one of those things was don’t ever have people step out of their genius. Ever. He has like twelve companies now that he owns, and he’s like in his mid-70s, okay, and I’m like don’t ever let people step out of their genius. He’s like, “Yeah, like the Toyota way.” Like just pile people down, like a VA, with a bunch of skills that they don’t actually have and get them to develop it. No, no, no, no, no. You keep people in their genius all the time, 100% of the day. So like video guys does only video. Audio guy does only audio. It’s not that video and audio … I could probably find one guy to do both, it’s just that we found two guys, and they’re amazing at each one, and so we just keep them there. Copy, storytelling, Kyle, he does just that. I could give him other things so he could earn more money within our company, but I don’t. So I think it’s really important, and this way of doing business has never failed me. Like, in fact, people are so happy, Tara. You know why? Because they’re in their passion, they’re in their gifting, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t pursue other things. Like, I’m totally pro them doing that. I have the most incredible project manager in the entire world. Like, I love this woman. I would be drowning if it were not for her. She has an ROTC background, she has a Master’s in Leadership Development, like, she’s incredible. Like, I’m so lucky to have her, right, and she … that’s her gifting, but she wants to try lead gen, because she has an interest. Well, then I let her play, because I don’t know if something else is going to spark, but her core … we have other lead gen things that we’re doing, so it’s not like I’ve let her like step out of her genius, but the distinction is she’s playing, and that’s okay. You know, I think it’s okay to let people experiment, because our company has been built, the way I wanted it designed, was that if you put … it’s an us company, not a Monaica company, and if you put value into this company, it should output dollars to you, right?
Monaica: So the more value you add, the greater amount of, you know, money you’ll make here.
Tara: I love it. It sounds like you guys have a real value for flexibility, too. Personal flexibility, team flexibility, structural, flexibility. Would you say that’s true?
Monaica: Yeah, totally. I just … I don’t want people to feel handcuffed. I don’t want them to get up … you know, we don’t become entrepreneurs to like hate our jobs or our businesses, you know?
Tara: Yeah. Absolutely. So the clients that you work with are high-performing clients, and they’re not the kinds of people who get wooed by content marketing or email marketing necessarily. You know, they’re busy people, right? And they don’t … they’re not going around reading your blog, maybe. So how do you … how do you, and how does your team connect with the right people for your business?
Monaica: Our business is 99% referral. I tell people … is it okay to get a little cheeky here?
Monaica: Okay. I tell people, you know, I should be in this to make money, right? Of course, I’m in it to impact the world and change the world, because our clients, 100% of them are doing incredible things in the world and impacting the world in a good way. That goes without saying, but what I really, what like really gets me going, Tara, is like I’m a total whore for testimonials, okay?
Tara: I love it.
Monaica: Like … like, I let clients know I am here to help you have an extraordinary experience. I am so good at that courtship piece, and being able to carry it through the entire time. I took the Five Love Languages, and I broke it down, and I know this is an unconventional way of talking about how do you get clients, right? But I … but this is the truth. I broke it down, and I was like how can I incorporate each one of these five love languages into our business, right? For our clients. Because I want them to experience me being all in, because I want my client to be all in, right? And so they start having such this incredible experience that they’re like holy cow, then the referrals come, and the start talking about you. You know, let’s give them something to talk about. That’s exactly what we do, and I’m just really good at doing that, and … but I’m always trying to like up level that in a bigger and bolder way. I would say almost all of our clients end up becoming good friends. They’ve invited me into their homes. I get packages on my doorstep. I don’t … these are unsolicited packages, and then I get this text like, “Did you get your gift?” And I’m like what? And like I got a soda machine in the mail, and it’s like epic. It’s like amazing, and my kids are like oh my God, I got a soda machine, you know, and I’m like, I know, this is awesome. You know, they’ll send me flowers. I’ve had them send me organic, like, grass-fed full frozen meals that were like a couple hundred dollars, you know. Like just ridiculous stuff for them to reciprocate. It’s just a beautiful experience when you can do that, and they just … they naturally want to send clients to you, because the people that these influencers hang out with, well, and everybody, right? But their circle, like they want to share that, and they want those people to have another incredible experience, right? So if you can create the extraordinary for somebody, you’re going to get referrals.
Now, that will only take you so far, and it’s pretty … it’s passive. Like not a lot of control in that. Like you can’t … kind of hard to anticipate. I mean, you can look at trends. Like, oh, I might get 10 referrals this month. That’s not likely for us at this point. I mean, that would be a whole lot, because we don’t really serve that many people over the course of a year. You could look at trends, but there’s no real control in that, so at the same time, I’m being a smart business woman by saying how can I actually go replicate some sort of funnel experience that would be extraordinary. Not like totally douchey. You know, like, and I’m a funnel girl, right? I’ve created a million of them, but like I don’t want to just take people through the tripwire and to this and to that and blah, blah, blah, blah. Like how can I just blow it out of the water so that I can maybe draw in these clients? And it’s just barely starting to happen. They’re not coming into our higher level package, but I can … I’m quick on my feet, and so I have designed a lower level package that’s still really incredible, and this is literally within the last 90 days, and that’s selling really well, almost every time. So it’s happening, but I would say that it always goes back to creating extraordinary experience for somebody.
Tara: I love that. I love that. I love the idea, too, just to kind of back up for a second of translating the Five Love Languages into a way, like giving … having that as your structure for creating your client experience or your funnel experience. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. So can you talk a little bit about how you divide your time between being the executive of your business and actually providing client services? How much, you know, on an average day, you know, how much time are you spending on executive functions, how much time are you spending on client services, that kind of thing.
Monaica: Well, I have another mentor helping me out with that one. Seriously. And he’s incredible. Okay. So I would say that at this point in the business and my career, I am head lead of creative. Nothing goes out the door without me seeing it, looking at it. I am, you know, my creative team is amazing, but like to give you some perspective, a client never knows this. Maybe I should tell them. We’ll go through 80 to 90 concepts before I finally pull the trigger on the one, and we never tell the client the other 89. I only give them the one concept that I said this is your brand and this is what we’re running with, right? And so I can kind of like make my team mad, because they’re like why don’t you like that, and I’m like, it’s not the one. I mean, you know, there’s a little bit of, like, kind of a romantic Mad Men thing going on, right? Like it makes you feel really cool when you think about it if you’re not letting things be sleazy. So there’s that piece. So I would say 60-70% of my time is actually being spent in creative with clients every single week. Maybe it’s closer to 60, because I’m also lead sales person, right? I mean, I am the strongest sales person on our entire team. No question about that. So I need to pick up all of that. And my mentor defines the creative and then the salesperson and then the CEO all differently, and that’s just the way he’s defined it. A lot of people will kind of merge CEO and sales in one, and that’s fine, too, but for me, he separated the three of them, and then I would say maybe 10%, I’m 5-10% spending on business development. I’m trying to change that, but what I have to find, and I have to be really particular, is a person that is like a me on the creative, right? Like we can really get into it. So I’m kind of like trying to bring my best friend, one of my best friends over. She’s a documentary filmmaker, and she does … she’s done some filming for some of our clients and she and I could do this together. She’s just like really busy, always on set, like traveling the world, so there’s that problem. But I think that if … what I’m learning to do is delegate up, right? So my tendency is Monaica can just take on the world and do everything. Well, I can’t. I mean, that’s ridiculous and it’s not effective and I’m six months pregnant, so that’s not really going to work out. But if I can really empower the team, and people talk about it, you know, like what the hell does that mean? But like really, really, really, really put people in their genius, and then have that expectation of leadership, like I … not in a rude way, not in a mean, bitchy way, but like in an I expect you to figure this out, because I trust you and I believe in you, and you know what, I bet you can do a better job than me. And every time I let the reigns go and I have that conversation, like I bet you can do a better job than me, they always do a better job than I could have done.
Monaica: So some of that executive stuff, like, actually gets taken care of, which is nice. Like giving the reigns to my husband when we were doing this whole transition into Scrum, which I don’t know if your audience knows about, yet, but you can have a whole show about that.
Monaica: Right? Like I gave him the reigns as Scrummaster, which is like not a glorified project manager, but like a … he has a really important job. Well, like, I kind of wanted the job, and I’m probably going to be pretty good at the job, but you know what, Andrew can, he’s actually going to be better at the job when I really step back from it, and he’s been great, and it’s given him a leadership opportunity. So that executive stuff he can handle.
Tara: Yeah. So it sounds like, you know, and I suffer from this, I guess it’s a problem, it’s not really a problem, it’s a quality problem to have, right, where you’re just good at a lot of things. Like, it sounds like you’re good at a lot of things, right? But you have this, you have this value for genius, for being in the zone at the same time, and so it sounds like what you’ve started to recognize is well, yeah, you could be the Scrummaster, somebody’s going to be better at being the Scrummaster than you are. Just because you could be good at it doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone else out there that’s best for it, right?
Monaica: Yeah, there’s a lot of that. I mean, and that comes with some humility, you know, too. Like, hey, let’s not get your ego involved, Monaica. Not like you really have to. And like you really have to trust people, and … and I think that when you have, as so many creative do, I’ve found … okay, you may think this is, or maybe you agree, I don’t know. We naturally value excellence, and when you want to show up in the world, like you know you can dominate something, even if you’ve never done it, and you usually can, because the underlying value is excellence. But like give that to somebody else. Like you don’t have to like try so hard all the time, Monaica. Like … like, yes, I’m trying to reconcile that whole genius thing within myself, and it’s been an unraveling trying to figure out where am I actually best suited, and the truth is, I may find out it’s actually sales, and it’s not in the creative development, although I’m very gifted at it.
Monaica: I don’t know. I’m … I’m willing to look at it over the next year.
Tara: Yeah. It’s a really interesting process, I think. You know, wherever you’re falling, whatever decisions you’re wrestling with in terms of, you know, where you’re putting your attention or where you’re finding out what your genius is, I think the process for it is really interesting.
All right, so as we start to wrap up, I wanted to ask you about your side projects, because as we were doing research on what I wanted to talk to you about, I … my assistant just kept kind of uncovering all of these domain names that had your name attached to them, and so I’d love to find out more about that. You know, how are … you know, what part of you are you spending on side projects, or you know, other businesses? How does that affect your day-to-day, your week-to week? What does that look like for you?
Monaica: Okay, so full disclosure, I’m not really supposed to be quote/unquote working on my side projects, and I know that we’re in like the same group with, you know, same group of people in this two group mastermind. However, I can’t get it out of my system, and you know what, Jaime knows I’m going to do exactly whatever I want to do.
Monaica: So here’s what happened, okay? Quickly. Five years ago, six years ago, I’m with this client, we’re at the Oprah show thing trying out in Georgia. She just wanted me to be in Atlanta with her. I wasn’t doing it. Hell no. I’m not going to go try out for Oprah’s show, like OWN. I don’t know what I’m doing. What would I do? I’m just there to support her, and like, anyway. So what happens is I get this idea, and it was Mommy Breadwinner, and it was something that was so reflective of me. I’ve always been the breadwinner. I thought I was going to marry a brain surgeon. I did not marry a brain surgeon. It still shocked me years later when I realized I did not marry a brain surgeon. I don’t know why that was so hard for me. I was not intuitively one of those women, although I wanted to be, that was like, oh, I want to just let my husband stay at home, and like, I don’t really want to take care of the kids, and I wanted a career. I wanted that stuff, but like I really wanted to be a mom, so that caused a lot of issues with us. Full disclosure, right? And so it took us a long time. We’ve been together for 15 years. We’ll be married 13 in July, and so it took us a long time to really get past that, and for me to realize that there are different seasons. I may not always be the breadwinner, but I’ve got to start taking control of my life. I’m not … I’m also not victimized by this, right? Like well, if he would make more money, I could stay home, or if … because you know, I’m not really a stay-at-home kind of girl. Like I get bored, right?
Monaica: Like I spent four hours on Sunday making a freaking alphabet box for my three-year-old that’s epic, mind you, right? It’s like total Montessori and epic, but like, you know, I get really bored, and so what was I going to do? And I know that there are other women who are conflicted, and I know that there are women that are not, they’re just like owning it, and that just wasn’t me, and I’ve also had to accept that. So where’s that balance? And how can, you know, and then I had to kind of decide what was I going to do, and so I tried to do a little bit of Mommy Breadwinner stuff, and then I just let it go, but I just couldn’t let it go. And then the only publicity I’ve picked up is not because I’m like an awesome brander. Like, apparently, the marketplace and publicity, they don’t care about that, but they care about me being Mommy Breadwinner. And so I thought, you know what, there’s something to this, and I just can’t let it go. I’m getting some market confirmation out of some of this. Like I recently, like, just got this plan together. I bet we spend, I bet I spend 10 hours on that a week. That’s not a lot for a side hustle. I’d like to spend more. But I just want to be … I want to teach women how to create more sales, and of course, we’ll drop in some sticky lifestyle content. It’s my experiment, and I never gave it my full. I never gave it my all. Now, 10 hours might feel like the all, but I’m investing a whole lot of money in this, as well, and a lot of time. Time that I’ve never invested before, right? So 10 hours is actually quite a bit for me to invest in a side gig. That’s not maybe all in, because I’m all in in the other business, because it’s the only thing that’s making money for us, right?
Monaica: Like Mommy Breadwinner is not making money, yet, but we just relaunched it. Like, I don’t know, less than 6 months ago. Money fixes a lot of things. Sales can fix an awful lot of things in your life and your business. And it’s okay, and how can I help women get okay with that comfortable … and get into that comfortable spot? And also not make them feel like they are doing something wrong. I think most women have been taught by … most successful women salespeople have been taught by men who have been taught by men. And again, this is not a male/female top thing. Like I’m not bashing them. I love men, okay, but those tactics don’t work for women, and they have this other, like, overwhelming intuitive thing that’s happening, and they have to listen to that if they want to be successful and make money.
Tara: Love it. Love it. Well, Monaica, what’s next for you?
Monaica: Well, a baby.
Monaica: That’s really my focus. I mean, I’m trying to hustle and do all these crazy things before the baby gets here to see how much time I can take off, right? So that’s what I’m working on right now. And then I want to blow this out of the water. I mean, of course I do. Have you heard me talk this whole time?
Monaica: I’m super motivated. Actually, I’m finally ready to kind of step outside, behind the people, and I think I’m ready to come out publicly, just to say, yeah, you know, I’ve done some really cool shit, and you should maybe know about it.
Tara: Love it. Monaica Ledell, thank you so much for joining me.
Monaica: Thank you.
Tara: Find out more about Monaica and her team at TruthHacking.com. My guests next week are husband and wife duo, Jason and Jody Womack. I speak with Jason and Jody about the importance of offline relationship building in an online world, the unique challenges of wooing corporate clients, and what they do to create momentum when even they get stuck.
That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast. Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes. If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend. It means the world to us. Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu. This episode was produced by Michael Karsh. We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts, so you never miss an episode.
I see too many business owners leave money on the table–and leave lives unchanged–because they’re not following up.
So the mantra I’ve been making all my clients repeat this year is:
Follow up, follow up, follow up.
When was the last time you sold something to your audience? Last week? Last month? Last quarter? (If it was more than that, we need to have a different talk.)
How many times did you follow up with your audience after you made the pitch? What did you say in those follow-ups? How direct were you?
In our last big campaign, I sent 3 “last chance” emails on the final day of promotions. 49% of our sales happened on that last day. About 30% of those happened between the 2nd and 3rd email. Yes, a few even occurred after the 3rd email.
Before that, I sent out testimonials, video case studies, FAQs, and additional content to educate readers.
All of that was after we made the initial pitch.
Look, I know you don’t want to annoy your readers, fans, and subscribers. But think about how busy you are, how many emails you miss, how many opportunities you’ve beat yourself up for missing in the last few months.
They’re facing the same thing.
If you don’t follow up with them, they can’t buy. If they can’t buy, they can’t experience the transformation–big or small–your offer will create for them. Here are 3 ways you can follow up, help customers get what they really want, and maximize the profit you’re generating in your business.
1) The Pitch Follow-Up
Every time you make a pitch, plan to send 4-6 follow-ups. Not all of these emails need to go for the “hard sell.”
You can provide additional content, tell stories, and share results from former clients. Though, you should include at least 2 or 3 follow-ups that directly overcome objections to buying, describe the perfect customer for your offer, and heighten the natural urgency they feel for buying.
Make sure that all of your follow-ups include a call to action to buy.
Here’s an email I sent recently as part of my own pitch follow-up campaign. The email told a story about one of our clients which allowed me to describe our Perfect Participant, highlight the problem we solve, and point to specific outcomes new clients could expect. While the “sell” was soft, it was still clear and–ultimately–effective.
2) The Up-Sell Follow-Up
Customers who buy from you once are 2x more likely to buy from you the next time you make an offer. That’s true even immediately after they’re first purchase.
Your new customer has just expressed a specific need. Do you have something else you could sell that further helps to fulfill that need? Maybe it’s 1:1 consulting, a video course, a consultation with a team member, etc…
Follow-up with another offer.
We recently put this Up-Sell Follow-up in place to suggest our entrepreneurial community, The Lab, to new customers. Just 3 quick emails to point out a few of the benefits of the community and tie them to problems we know those customers have–nothing fancy.
The application is simple: people who buy certain products are tagged in our ConvertKit system with a label that triggers this automated email sequence. It happens automagically. Even if it only increases sales incrementally, those are sales I don’t have to work harder for and those increments really start to add up!
3) The Referral Follow-Up
I’m often asked how to get more referral business–or how to turn referrals into a dependable system.
The easiest way is to ask. The easiest way to do that is by automating it.
You can set up a short sequence like the one above or use a tool like Boomerang or Zapier to send referral emails a short time after a client completes with you.
Now your ask is just another part of the process your clients or customers go through in the course of doing business with you.
And, of course, this doesn’t just apply to service-based businesses. If you have a product-based business, you can ask for referrals, too. Just ask your customers to share your product with friends who might like or need it.
Are you sold? Choose one of these follow-up techniques to implement in your business now.
Connect More With Your Audience By Doing Less: 6 Marketing Automations You Need Today
Want to supercharge your email marketing so that you can create more human interactions with less work? I’m hosting a live workshop with Darrell Vesterfelt from ConvertKit on how you can do exactly that. Click here to register FREE of charge.
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For my full review of ConvertKit, click here.
Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
Today, I talk with my friend, Nathan Barry, a software designer and founder of ConvertKit, an email marketing service provider that helps you build your audience and convert them into customers. Nathan made his first foray into digital entrepreneurship with The App Design Handbook, a guide to design beautiful iOS applications. He started ConvertKit in 2013 when he found all other email marketing tools lacking the set of features he wanted as a content marketer. It’s now on track for its first $1 million year. Nathan and I talked about making the decision to pursue growing ConvertKit full-time, and put his lucrative digital products business on the back burner, the direct sales strategy he used to woo influencers to his product, and what he’s learned about building a Software as a Service venture.
Nathan Barry, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Nathan: Hey, thanks for having me.
Tara: Absolutely. So I want to talk lots and lots about ConvertKit, both how that business works and how it can make our listeners businesses work, but first, tell us how you got started with digital entrepreneurship in general.
Nathan: Yeah, so I started out as a web designer in high school. I learned how to write HTML, mainly because it had a really quick feedback loop that I thought was cool. You could just change a tiny bit of code, and then refresh and see what change that made, and so it just got me excited, and then I started working on all of that, and then from there, I did freelance web design, and then got into software design, and got a job at a software company, and then eventually led their design team, and then I was always fascinated by the world of, like, you know, side projects and building little products rather than just doing services. And so I followed people like Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from Basecamp, you know, and loved anybody who was basically making products, and so on the side, I started building iPhone applications. Had got a couple in the app store. Ended up quitting my job to work on that and also do consulting, and then I started getting asked a lot about how to design applications. All of my developer friends were asking me for help with their iPhone apps, and there weren’t really any good resources to point them to. So I wrote a book called The App Design Handbook. I didn’t really have a blog at the time, or I had a blog, but nobody read it, and I just started working on promoting this book and writing iPhone application design tutorials, and then I built an audience of like 800 people, did a book launch that did very well, and so it was like whoa, okay, there’s something to this training business idea, and then ended up writing more books on software design and on marketing, and then just kind of built a big blog audience, and made really a great living from selling books on technical design and marketing.
Tara: Nice. So what misconceptions did you have when you started your business?
Nathan: Oh, that’s a good question. I didn’t know the power of an audience. I really had no clue how to build an audience, quite frankly. I thought that only like the internet famous people could build an audience, and so when I would hear about someone doing a product launch, and you know, they might sell a book and, you know, it would sell, you know, $50,000 worth or $100,00 worth or something, I was like, yeah, well, of course you can do that, because you’re famous, you know, and I didn’t realize … like I made no connection between how people got to that point. And so it wasn’t … I had to learn this lesson from like three different places before it sank it, but the idea that in order to become one of those internet famous people, you know, who has an audience of 10,000 subscribers or whatever, all you have to do is teach, you know, and so the story that made this really sink in from me was from a guy named Chris Coyer, and he had this site called CSSTricks.com. So as a web designer, I was really into, you know, all those web design blogs and articles, and I remember when he came out with the CSSTricks site, I looked at that, and I was like, eh, he’s actually not … like, his content’s not that advanced, and so I’d looked at that, it was good, but I already knew everything that he was teaching, and I kind of remember thinking, like, okay, if I already know everything he’s teaching, like he’s not that much of an expert, and so he would come out with more stuff, and I’m like, oh, yeah, already knew that. And then eventually, his stuff got better, and then like later on, I’d be like referencing it or sending other friends to it. They’d ask me a design question and I’d say, oh, why don’t you check out, you know, Chris’s site. And so all along, we had the same skill level, we basically learned web design at the same pace, and then one summer, he came out with a Kickstarter campaign, and basically, what he said is hey, I want to redesign my site, and I want to be able to take a month off of client work to do it, so I want to raise $3000 on Kickstarter so I can do that, and as a thank you, if you back this project, you know, as I go along, I’m going to create all these design tutorials, and if you back the project, you get access to them. So he ended up raising something like $85,000 on Kickstarter. And I’m looking at this going wait a second, Chris and I are the same. Like we have the same web design ability, we started it basically the same time, and we’ve been learning at the same pace. So how does he have the ability to effectively flip a switch and make $85,000 on Kickstarter, and I have nothing like that at all? And so that’s when I realized that the difference, and it was a massive difference between us, is that when Chris learned something new, he taught it, and when I learned something new, I kept it to myself and just, you know, applied it into my next freelance project. And so that’s what I realized. The only difference between the people who are internet famous and the people like Chris and me was that one set of people were teaching and the other wasn’t. And so from then on, I just became determined to teach everything that I know. I even have t-shirts now that say that. So it’s kind of become my life mantra of how, like how to build an audience, and all you have to do is as soon as you learn something, teach it to everybody else.
Tara: Yes, and I totally missed an opportunity, because I forgot to wear my ConvertKit t-shirt today, and so now I feel like a big old dufus, even though this is an audio-only podcast. So I love this takeaway, because … and I wrote a post something very similar, you know, because one thing that I hear from people often is that they don’t feel qualified to do this or they don’t feel qualified to do that, and it comes down to the same thing where they see … they see, somehow, a substantive difference between them and the people that they admire, the people that they see doing the things, and what you’re saying is that it’s not a substantive difference. It’s not something that I’m born with or you’re born with that they are not born with. It is in fact just action that you and I have chosen to take. And even in my own story, there’s that sort of realization of wait a second, if every … if there are other people doing this, then I can do this, too. There’s nothing different about those people and me, I just need to do it, and that’s huge, because you know, not doing the thing, not taking action is the only thing that holds us back from getting where we want to go, right?
Nathan: Yup, absolutely. The way that I’ve thought of it is that those people you look at that are experts, they’re not teaching because they’re experts. They’re experts because they teach. So you start teaching, and you become that expert, and then you get asked to speak at the conferences. You get asked to be the guest on podcasts and etc., but it all starts with teaching, and it can start at a very, very basic level.
Tara: That’s fantastic. So this leads me directly to ConvertKit, because I feel like I have this problem with ideas like ConvertKit. In other words, I see me as, you know, a founder in the information marketing space, but I feel like there’s a substantive difference between me and a founder in the SaaS space or the startup space, and you know, when I look at it objectively, of course, that’s not true, and maybe you dealt with that, maybe you didn’t deal with that, but you decided to move from information marketing into a, what looks much more like a startup model and build a SaaS product, which is ConvertKit. So what gave you the idea for ConvertKit, and what kind of gave you or what was the sort of permission that you gave yourself to make that move?
Nathan: Yeah, so what inspired ConvertKit was really me learning how effective email marketing was at actually just driving sales. I … when I started selling the books, I kind of expected that like Twitter and Facebook would be the best converting channels, because like Social was the new thing, and it turns out I was totally wrong. Like email drove more sales than all the other platforms combined. And so then I was like hey, guys, this email thing is amazing, you know, to other marketing friends. It’s like, yeah, we’ve known that for a decade. I’m like okay, all right. So I was getting the best conversion rates over email, and then I was learning all these more advanced techniques, like you know, drip email sequences to time your pitch message exactly to the right timing for each subscriber, doing content upgrades, you know, tagging your customers, all these sort of things, and I was using MailChimp, and I was just fighting it at every turn, where I was just like why are these best practices so hard to implement. And I would find myself not doing things that I knew would increase revenue, just because it was kind of a pain in the tool that I was using, and so I very conveniently had a background in software design, and you know, user experience design, and so I thought, okay, I can do this better. And so then I started down that road, and I was thinking of starting it as a side project and that’s what I did. So I balanced the, you know, the information products and the training business along with the software business in order to get that off the ground, and it actually took a long time to get it going, but then, you know, over the last year or so, I’ve fully made the switch the other direction, so now I, you know, put really 100% of my time into ConvertKit and the software business, and effectively no time, which is unfortunate for my blog, but you know, almost no time into the training side of the business.
Tara: Yeah. Can you say a little bit more about how you actually made the transition? Not just the decision, but you know, you’ve got a family, you’re a provider, how did you wrap your head around … what was the process of, you know, putting the numbers down on paper to figure out that putting your time and investing your money into ConvertKit full-time was the best way to go for you?
Nathan: Yeah, so first, I should give a little bit of context. When I started ConvertKit, which was in January 2013, so just over three years ago, it took about six months, and we got up to … six months after that to get to about $2000 a month in recurring revenue, and I honestly thought it was going to be easier than that, but okay. Put in a bunch of work, got to the point, that was good progress, we’re on an upward trend, but then I also had, you know, the other, selling the design products and the rest of the business that was making really good money, and so I found it really hard to focus on like the long-term business and growing ConvertKit when the books and courses and product launches there could make really great money in the short-term, and so I effectively spent the next year and a half supposedly balancing these two businesses, but really, almost all my effort went into the training where, you know, you could do a $30,000 or $50,000 product launch, and almost no effort into the software side, into ConvertKit. And so then in, like, middle of 2014, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, his name’s Heaton Shaw, and he’s really well-known in the software and startup space. If you’ve ever used tools like CrazyEgg or Kissmetrics, those are his companies. And he just, we were walking back from dinner at a conference, and he just said, “Look, Nathan, it’s time that you admit that ConvertKit’s a failure and shut it down.” And I was like, well, hold on, it’s not a failure. It’s making like $2000 a month, you know, and he’s like, he was pretty firm, and he said, like, “Look, if you’ve been putting time into it this entire time, it should be way bigger than that. If it was going to be successful, by now it would be, and you need to admit that it’s a failure and shut it down. Move on to something else.”
And then he continued, because that sucked to hear, but so I was glad that he continued, and he said, “Or you need to take it seriously and give it the time, money, and attention it deserves, and build it into a real business.” Because I was kind of working on it a little bit on the side hoping, yeah, once this takes off, then I’m going to switch to it. And I think a lot of us do that with side projects, because you know, that’s what the hope is, but things don’t take off on their own, you know, 99% of the time. They take off because we make them, and so what I did is I ended up waiting about six months to, or four or five months, before I actually acted on his advice. And so the revenue of ConvertKit dropped down even further, so we were making $1300 a month at the time, and from there, you know, I finally had a decision to make. Should I shut down ConvertKit, admit that it’s a failure and move on, or should I double down on it? You know, invest real money and build it into something. So I kind of came up with my own little framework for deciding how to make this the decision, and came down to ask myself two questions, and the first was do you still want this as much today as you did the day that you started? And so for me, you know, do I still want to be the CEO of a software company as much now as, you know, two years ago? And the answer was a resounding yes. Like, I still really wanted it, and so you know, that was good, because if I didn’t still want it, then just shut it down. Like it’s easy to move on.
But then the next question was, you know, have I given this company every possible chance to succeed? Because if the answer there is no, then okay, there’s an opportunity there. If the answer is yes, then it’s like, okay, well, if you’ve really, truly given it your best effort and it’s not working, then like shut it down and move on. But in this case, I looked at the time I’d been putting in, and I hadn’t given it every, you know, possible chance to succeed, and that didn’t, like, if I wanted it more than ever, why … why was there a disconnect there? And so that told me, okay, there’s still an opportunity here, and I decided to … to double down on it. I invested $50,000 into the company. I hired the best developer that I’ve ever worked with to lead the development team, and then I just started selling. Like I, instead of waiting for customers to come to me, I made lists of all the bloggers and, you know, people doing email marketing and just tried to get on calls and email with every single one of them, and it took time, but we gradually turned the revenue around. You know, we started growing about 20% each month. You know, three months later, we were doing like $4000 a month in revenue. By June of … So I made the decision October 2014, by June 2015, we were at $10,000 a month in revenue. $25,000 a month by October 1st. $83,000 a month by Christmas. That’s a magic number, because that’s a $1 million a year run rate. And then now, we’re just about to pass double Christmas, so today, we’re at $160,000 a month in revenue, and growing 20% month-over-month, and it’s turned into this amazing thing, but it wouldn’t have happened without deciding to really double down and focus.
Tara: That is awesome. So I want to talk more about that. I have some very specific questions about that a little later on, because you know, this decision to sell, sell, sell, and to stop waiting for people to come to you is absolutely huge, and we need to pick that apart, but I want to go back to the beginning just a little bit, just so that people can understand. Did you do the initial development on the product or did you outsource that?
Nathan: Yeah, so I did the design and the front-end code, so that would be the HTML and the CSS.
Nathan: And then I outsourced the Ruby On Rails development.
Tara: Okay, fantastic. And where did you find that initial set of customers that, you know, were supporting that $2000 a month revenue at the beginning?
Nathan: Yeah, so I found them effectively just from my blog audience. From the books and courses that I had written, you know, I had … I don’t know how many. I think when I started I maybe had 6000 or 7000, when I started ConvertKit, I had 6000 or 7000 subscribers, and so I told them about it, and enough people signed up and tried it out.
Tara: Nice. And do you think … what do you think was their main reason for signing up then? Was it because wow, Nathan developed an email marketing provider, that’s awesome, or was it a particular benefit? What do you think got them to sign up?
Nathan: I think the pitch was fairly compelling because it was I ran to this specific set of problems that you probably have, too, and you know, and I solved them for myself, and so, you know, a lot of people who are feeling the same problems with MailChimp, you know, being charged for duplicate subscribers, all these other things, they were like yeah, this sounds great. Now, the downside is that the product, the ConvertKit product wasn’t super robust at the time, and so, you know, it was limited in who stuck around and so it was definitely an uphill battle, but that … the initial sales pitch is what got people over.
Tara: Okay, awesome. Can you talk more about the particular problems that you saw in the email marketing space that you decided to solve with ConvertKit? Because I think this is a really compelling part of how you decided to build the product to begin with.
Nathan: Yeah. So my idea was that there’s all these best practices in email marketing, and you shouldn’t have to work for them. They should be built into the product by default. And so when we focused in on professional bloggers and you know, content creators, then that meant, okay, I can solve just their problems. And so the main ones were that you should be able to tag your customers. So you know, you should never send a message to someone telling them to buy a product that they’ve already purchased.
Nathan: The next one is you should do content upgrades on all of your content that’s, you know, the highest value. We had a ConvertKit customer recently, they have an amazingly popular blog, and they had 400, they were averaging 400 new subscribers a day, and they went back to their top 15, they went into Google Analytics, ran a report, the top 15 articles, and then they made specific content upgrades for those. So instead of saying, like, the call-to-action being subscribe to my newsletter, it changed to being, you know, get this free guide on topic exactly related to the blog post, and they ended up doubling their subscribers per day based on that one change.
Tara: Oh, so good.
Nathan: So they went from 400 subscribers a day to 800 subscribers a day on average. And so I was like, okay, that should be really easy to implement, and so I wanted it to be very easy to make it so that a form, when someone signs up, you know, they could get like the free guide or the free link to the video course or whatever right there in the email, and that should all be customizable. And then there were other little thinks like if someone goes to our site and they subscribe to your email list and then they come back, most likely, you’re pitching, like the call-to-action all over your site is subscribe to the email list, and so I was looking at that going, okay, why is everyone, again, like the earlier thing, why is everyone pitching an action that has already been taken? We know that that person subscribed to the email list, and so … and it’s not that hard to track. You know, you can do some custom code and track when someone subscribes, and then show different content. But out of, you know, all the professional bloggers I know, like three of them have done the work to custom code that sort of tracking. And so what we built straight into ConvertKit was if someone signs up to your email list and comes back, that same form can now show different content just for them. It could either hide itself so they’re not getting pitched on something they’ve already done, or it can show a call-to-action for the book or the course, you know, the next thing that you want them to buy. And so we just built that into the platform once, and now every ConvertKit customer can use it, and it’s a very, very profitable feature. So basically, those kind of things. Every best practice I have learned about email marketing built directly into a product.
Tara: Yes. Which is why I love it. So all right, awesome. Let’s talk about more about the selling and the influencers piece here, because I think this is so, so, so important. There is this misconception in content marketing, in digital marketing in general, that people … that the way this all works is that you build this thing, and then people come to you, and if there is anything that I have learned over the last 7 years, it is that that is completely false, and that even when we’re doing our very best job and we are getting people coming to us sort of organically, it’s because we’ve done the hard work of actually reaching out to begin with. And so you’ve really focused in the last, like you said, six months, last year, on growing the customer base at ConvertKit by reaching out to influencers in different markets. How did you decide on that particular strategy?
Nathan: Really, I learned that there is a lot of people who were trying to … who I was pitching on ConvertKit through blog posts and that sort of thing, and they weren’t buying, and I didn’t know why. And so that’s something, if you write a blog post pitching your course or whatever it is, and say that … say that’s read by 1000 people, and 10 people buy. Well, why did the other, you know, 990 not purchase? You don’t know. They just kind of moved on with their day. But if we’re having a conversation, and I, you know, verbally tell you all the benefits and say, “Would you like to buy it?” And you … like you can’t just hang up the conversation and move on. I mean, I guess you could, but if we’re friends, you’re not going to do that. You have to actually tell me why it is that you’re not going to buy the product. And so getting that feedback is incredibly valuable. And with content marketing, you just almost never get that feedback. People just silently move on. And so I realized that I needed that feedback, and I realized that content marketing wasn’t working for me to sell, you know, this particular product. It worked amazingly well for me selling the books and courses, and so I just … I started with the direct outreach. I actually made a Trello board so I could track every conversation, which now, you know, there’s obviously way better CRMs and sales tracking tools for it, but I started really simple with Trello, and so the big things were I just made lists of people to reach out to, and then I made sure to follow up with all of those people, and it was just a lot of conversations. And I started small, where the first people I was reaching out to were, you know, had 1000, 5000 email subscribers, and we just kind of worked our way from there, and you know, later on, we’re reaching out to people who had 100,000 subscribers, and you know, way beyond that.
Tara: Yeah, and one of your big victories was getting Pat Flynn to switch to ConvertKit, right?
Tara: Can you tell us how that happened?
Nathan: Yeah, so this is a case where your own content marketing will help your sales efforts a lot. So if you’re purely sending a cold email, like that’s not going to get great response, but if you’ve been blogging and putting a lot of things out there so that these people might have heard of you already, then all of a sudden, it’s way easier to get a response to your blog posts. The other thing is if you’re going to do direct sales, go to conferences.
Nathan: Because there’s just a huge difference between some random cold email that, you know, you and I get tons of every day, and you know, a real person standing in front of you at a conference, you know, and just getting to know people. So through some mutual friends, through my blog, stuff like that, Pat and I had had some conversations, and then we met once at a conference, and things kind of went from there. But then I emailed him and said, “Hey, you know, would you consider ConvertKit?” He said, “No.” He had just made the switch to InfusionSoft and was really excited about it. So I was like, oh, that’s a bummer, I wish I’d caught him before he made the move. Too bad. But then I decided to actually go down and visit him in person. So we had enough of a relationship that I knew that if I showed up in San Diego, he would like take a coffee meeting, you know. And my goal at this point, I decided, was to not pitch him on becoming a customer, but instead, to get him to promote ConvertKit as an affiliate, because even if he loved InfusionSoft, it was probably too complicated for, you know, his readers. So I got coffee with him, talked through all of that, got him on board with, you know, him becoming an affiliate, or at least the idea of it. We kind of worked on it slowly, and then, like a few weeks later, he came back to me and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about this. If it’s this … if everything you’re saying is true and it’s this good for my readers, like InfusionSoft is really, really frustrating me right now. It wasn’t the dream that I was sold, and so let’s try out ConvertKit.” And so in July of last year, he signed up, switched over from InfusionSoft to ConvertKit, and we weren’t allowed to talk about it publicly, because he was just trying it out. But then he ended up, you know, really enjoying it. And we get email from people who, they’d be like … they would see from his email list, you know, because the link tracking and stuff was coming through ConvertKit, they’re like, oh, did Pat just switch? And then he would like quietly mention it in some live Periscope broadcasts, too. Like, we actually got a bunch of customers, because one night at Midnight, because this is how Pat works, he was doing a Periscope broadcast, and he mentioned that he switched to ConvertKit and started showing people that over ConvertKit, and we ended up getting like 15 or 20 new customers the next day, like that night and the next day, which was huge for us at the time.
Nathan: You know, just because he was talking about it at Midnight on the internet. So another thing on the sales side that we did was we started doing what we called concierge migrations. So basically, we would have a conversation, and someone would be like, “Okay, this all sounds really good, but man, I do not want to move my email list. That … like I love everything that you’re doing, but this is too much work. I’m sorry, it’s probably just never going to happen. Or it’s going to happen when I have time, which is also never.” And so then we’d say like, great, totally understand that. We will move your email list. You know, migrate you from MailChimp to ConvertKit or from InfusionSoft to ConvertKit, and we’ll do it totally for free. And so in the early days, I was doing this for anybody, and then later on, we set, you know, some limits. So only the $100 a month and above accounts, and that kind of thing, but it just made the sales process so much easier, because it just removed that last objection right at the end where people were like, “I’d love to, but oh, man, no.” And so when we removed that last objection, they were like, “Done. I’m in.”
Tara: That did it for me. I mean, I had … I knew I had outgrown MailChimp years ago, even though I loved … like I love them, and I still love them, and I still recommend them, and they weren’t … it wasn’t what I needed anymore, but the cost of switching was so high. Not in terms of financial decision, necessarily, although that could have been part of it, but just the time and the frustration, and so when you told me, “Well, yeah, we’ll do it for free.” I’m like, uh, okay. I mean, I would have paid you to do it, but doing it for free, absolutely, it removed that last objection, and it was so easy to say yes, because I was in exactly the same place. Like this sounds great, this sounds amazing, it’s exactly what I’m looking for, and the cost of switching is huge. So that’s great. And I just want to emphasize for everyone again that, you know, we talk so much about marketing. Marketing, marketing, marketing. Content marketing, Facebook marketing, social media marketing, but sales is where transactions actually happen, and sometimes, that means getting on the phone with people, and I’m just so thankful for your example of how that can be so beneficial. Are there any other strategies, tactics that you’ve used to woo customers outside of this influencer marketing? You’ve mentioned affiliate marketing some.
Nathan: Yeah. So the other great thing about getting influencers is that a lot of people tend to follow them, that’s why they’re influencers, and so we, you know, worked on getting a good affiliate program in place, so we pay a 30% recurring commission, and you know, so that … that made it easy to get, you know, Pat promoting as an affiliate, and then just these other influencers in like the health and wellness space and in fitness and in all these other areas. Some just promoting it to their friends, and others, you know, promoting it very, very vocally, and so right now, we pay about $10,000 a month out in affiliate commissions, and that’s, you know, increasing, you know, at a very quick rate. So the three big channels, really, are direct sales, affiliates, and then just referrals, where you know, someone who loves ConvertKit just tells their friends, and it just kind of spreads from there.
Tara: Awesome. What has surprised you about developing a SaaS product versus what you’ve done before?
Nathan: How hard it is to develop and maintain, and then also, how hard it is to sell. You know, there’s something about with books and courses, just because you bought one, that doesn’t preclude you from buying another, you know. We all kind of have a bunch of them that we buy and learn from and all of that. Whereas an email marketing product or, you know, a scheduling tool or any of these, you pretty much buy one, you know, and you might switch from one to the other, which we’ve already established is a big deal, but it’s not … it’s not an impulse buy. It’s a big decision, and you know, if you’re already using and loving one tool, you’re not going to buy another. You know, you’re like you can’t do it. So that’s been the hardest thing. I thought it was going to be way easier to sell than it actually was.
Tara: That’s excellent. And again, to kind of point out this exactly what you were just saying, the home page for ConvertKit is just completely benefits-driven, and completely, you know, here’s why this is the best choice, here’s how we’re going to help you get over all of those problems that you have with your current provider, and I think that that really, I think it’s super effective, and I think it really speaks to, you know, what you just said. Can you tell us what your team looks like right now?
Nathan: Yeah. So we have a team of 13 full-time people. We’re distributed all around the world. One of our … I’m headquartered in Boise, Idaho, and we have three, two other people in Boise, but then other, you know, like Nashville’s popular for us, Portland, and then around the world, we’ve got Thailand, Brazil, and Spain. So the team is five developers, four support people, and then there’s three in the account management and sales side, and then there’s, you know, we’ve got one person in operations, I don’t know how many people I’ve listed. Beyond this, it’s like everyone is overlapping between different roles, like Val, who’s amazing, who runs all of our marketing, you know, also helps out in support. And so you know, beyond that, a lot of people are juggling multiple roles, but that’s the basic team.
Tara: Awesome. Do you have a strategy or system for managing your time?
Nathan: Poorly. I schedule the recurring meetings, you know, with each of the directors on my team, because I guess now, I still … I directly lead the support team, but everything else, you know, I have fairly limited involvement with, because I’ve just tried to set up those systems so the … like with development, I have a meeting once a week with my director of development. We set the direction and that kind of thing, and that’s pretty much the extent of my involvement, because he just runs that entire team and does an amazing job. And my team is really good about listing out all the things they need from me, and then getting them taken care of in one block instead of just pinging me all day long in Slack or something. So that’s helpful, but at this point, my job as the CEO changes so often. Like the company is growing so quickly, you know, that we’re doubling the size of the company every couple months, and so my job changes all the time, and quite honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how I fit into this whole picture, you know. What it is that’s most valuable that I should be working on. There’s a lot of strategy and that kind of thing, but then at the same time, early this morning, I was in Photoshop and you know, designing some new posters and getting some new t-shirts ordered and stuff like that, that I just wanted to do. So it’s kind of a balance of all … all kinds of different things.
Tara: Yeah, I do those things, too. That’s … and that was exactly going to be my next follow-up question. What are some of the things that you’re still really hands on, or that you find yourself being hands on with now?
Nathan: Yeah, so I’m very hands on with customer support right now.
Tara: Oh, okay.
Nathan: Because dealing with the huge number of customers coming in, you know, and trying not to, I don’t want to just keep throwing people at the problem. You know, I don’t want to be the sort of company where, you know, you blink and overnight, it seems to have gone from, you know, 15 people to 100 people type of thing. I want to solve the core problems, so you know, we’ve been working very hard to get our customer support response times down, and so that … that’s a lot of my time. I’m still fairly involved in design, because my background is software and user experience design. So we haven’t hired a designer on the team, yet. So I’m the bottleneck there, and that’s got to change soon.
Tara: Oh, wow.
Nathan: Yeah, and then I spend some time on sales, and I still teach some of the webinars as well. So that’s kind of … I really work on a lot of different things, and that needs to change. But then I also, you know, I cut out early yesterday to go skiing because we got an inch of snow and so, you know, just gotta do that.
Tara: Oh, yeah, that’s the life, right? I was going to ask you when you were talking about the team and you mentioned you have a couple of people that are on sort of the sales side of things now. Are they getting on the phone with people the way you used to do most of? Or is it more like internal sales? What does that part of it look like?
Nathan: Yeah, so their process, we do sales in two different ways. One where we’re reaching out to people to do, like for partners to do webinars, just some sort of promotion, and so that’s, you know, a very organic process, and we’re going to spend a lot of time to figure out, okay, here’s this person we’re trying to get to, who do we know that could introduce us, you know, in what ways are we connected? And then the other side would be, you know, kind of the outreach. So we’ll … we’ll just put lists together of, okay, all of the top paleo recipe bloggers. So we’ll get really, really narrow in who we target, and then we’ll put together a list of 30 or 40 of them, send an individual email to each person, and then everybody who responds, you know, we’ll try to get on a call with them and tell them about ConvertKit and go from there. So that’s … that’s what I used to do, and now, they handle all of that.
Tara: Fantastic. Awesome. So what’s next for you and ConvertKit?
Nathan: We’re going to build this company up to the size of like a MailChimp or a Campaign Monitor, or you know, any of these companies. We’re going to try to do it with, you know, a small, very effective team, and my whole mission is just … I learned a few years ago that if you … going back to the beginning of the conversation, if you teach, you can build this audience online and you can make a full-time living just from writing a blog and, you know, sharing this valuable, whether training, your stories, or whatever else with your audience, and so my mission is to get thousands and thousands of more people doing that, and I want to do that through ConvertKit, and so yeah, what’s next is to just keep teaching and training and building tools to make it easier for people to make their living on the internet.
Tara: Oh, that’s so good. Nathan Barry, thank you so much for joining me.
Nathan: Thanks for having me.
Tara: You can learn more about ConvertKit at ConvertKit.com or by reading my full review at TaraGentile.com/ConvertKit. Next week, I’ll sit down with Lori Allen, the director of Great Escape Publishing, about her entrepreneurial journey, including helping the direct response marketing company she works for take their snail mail efforts online. We also discussed the different types of offers Great Escape creates and why they create them, her process for creating compelling ads and copy, and the surprising thing she’s learned helping retirees acquire a new set of skills.
Are you surrounded by the right people to help your business succeed? Your support network has a huge impact on your success, your satisfaction, and your ability to achieve your goals. At the Quiet Power Strategy Lab, we get you and your business. We respect your individuality, and we challenge you. The Lab is our entrepreneurial resource library and support community. It’s full of smart, experienced, and savvy business owners who want to help you succeed. Start your free, 10-day, all access trial by going to Lab.QuietPowerStrategy.com/People.
That’s it for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. You can download other episodes of this podcast and subscribe in the iTunes store. If you enjoy what you heard, we appreciate your reviews and recommendations because they help us reach as many emerging entrepreneurs as possible. Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Jaime Blake. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Madariaga. You can catch up on older episodes in the iTunes store, where new episodes are added every week, and you can learn more by going to CreativeLive.com.
Photo of Nathan by Armosa Studios
Ever since I publicly switched email providers from MailChimp (my first love–you never forget your first love) to ConvertKit last fall, people have been asking me if they should switch too.
The answer is complicated, so I wanted to lay down my thoughts in a thorough review of ConvertKit and provide a sort of self-assessment for deciding if it’s a good move for you too.
Why I Switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit
I was a MailChimp customer for almost 7 years. I knew after the first year or so that I had outgrown them. It wasn’t that the service was bad–it’s phenomenal–it’s that what I wanted to do with email marketing couldn’t be done on MailChimp. The main feature I was lacking was advanced segmentation (the ability to send people the best content or offers for them based on their interests).
The other feature I was missing out on was easily being able to send out multiple opt-in incentives while maintaining a nice, neat list.
As the years went by, MailChimp added more and more features and more and more integrations (mostly Zapier and LeadPages) that allowed me to cobble together most of the functions I was looking for.
However, this just left my account even more bloated and unwieldy.
But the biggest problem of all was that I was avoiding emailing people because I was afraid that I could segment them properly so that they would only receive the email that was meant for them.
That meant money left on the table.
Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit, phoned me up in September 2015. We chatted about the product, what they were working on next, and why it might be a good fit for a lot of my clients. He wasn’t trying to sell me. He just wanted me to mention ConvertKit when I talked about email marketing in classes and workshops.
But I was sold.
It was time to move on from MailChimp and I just didn’t want the hassle of a solution like InfusionSoft or Ontraport.
As I mentioned, the biggest reason I switched was the ability to send the right people the right email. It’s that simple.
What I Love About ConvertKit
ConvertKit makes highly targeted email easy.
The inside of my account is set up with no less than 43 different tags. Each tag tells me something about the people associated with it. I can mix and match those tags and create email that is specially formatted just for the people I’m writing to.
Another reason I love ConvertKit is just how easy it is to create Sequences. Sequences (or courses, autoresponders, or automated email) can be trigger by just about anything that happens in the system. It can set a new subscriber down a Welcome sequence, a new purchaser down an On-boarding sequence, or an old subscriber down a Free Course sequence.
Based on a subscribers activity in one sequence, I can move them on to another.
The possibilities are endless.
I also love the simplicity of the emails I’m sending. My goal is to be your business mentor-from-afar in your inbox a few times a week.
Would your mentor send you a color HTML email? I doubt it. They’d pen something simple, easy-to-read, and personal. ConvertKit makes that really easy.
Why You Shouldn’t Switch to ConvertKit
Now, just because I’m into ConvertKit and recommending it to many doesn’t mean that you should switch. Here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. You want an all-in-one solution.
If you want an all-in-one solution that hosts content, takes payments, manages affiliates, etc… you should switch to something like InfusionSoft. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. Yes, you’re going to pay a lot for it. But it’s worth it if your business is such that having this type of solution is going to make your life easier and add to your bottom line.
Our main ecommerce tool is WooCommerce and I have an affiliate management plugin that works well with it. While seamlessness is awesome, it’s not always practical and I’m happy with the balance we’ve achieved in terms of integration and customization.
2. You want to send pretty emails.
There are lots ($$$) of reasons to send plain-text or simple rich-text emails. There are also lots of reasons to send HTML emails.
If you want to send something with lots of images, a banner/logo, and columns, you’ll need to stick with a provider like MailChimp. It can be done with ConvertKit but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Just keep in mind that lots of email is read on a phone or other mobile device. My emails may not be as “pretty” as they used to be but I know more people who start reading them will read to the bottom. That’s important.
3. You’re not willing to commitment to a tagging strategy.
When I switched to ConvertKit, I tried to take my email taxonomy (such as it was) from MailChimp and transfer it over. That was a disaster. Luckily, one of my team members is a whiz with logic puzzles like this. She took what I wanted to be able to do with email and what we knew about individual subscribers and created the tagging taxonomy you see above.
Yours doesn’t need to be as complicated but, if you’re not willing to devote energy to figuring out a tagging system and then commit to using it successfully, don’t switch to a provider like ConvertKit.
This might be the biggest hurdle of all. However, you have to ask yourself whether you’re really committed to email marketing if you’re not willing to commit to figuring this piece out.
What’s Next for Your Email Marketing
In the end, whether you switch to Convertkit from MailChimp or Aweber or whether you choose something else entirely, the decision shouldn’t be based on where your business is at now.
You have to look ahead to what you’d like to be able to do with your email marketing, how you’d like to be able to communicate with customers, and how you’d like to prospect for new leads in the future.
The longer it takes you to switch to the solution that meets more of your needs, the harder that switch will be (trust me, I know!).
ConvertKit is probably the right choice for you if:
- You want to be able to send the right messages and offers to the right people.
- You want to start or accelerate automating your best messages so that sales start happening on their own.
- You want to on-board new customers easily and with minimal effort.
- You want to prioritize simplicity and clarity in your communications.
- You want to use multiple email opt-in incentives to grow your audience and track your progress.
If that sounds like you, click here to give ConvertKit a try.
(That’s my affiliate link–if you’d prefer I didn’t get compensated for providing this information to you, click here for the non-affiliate link.)
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Tara: Hey everyone. Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
Today, I’ll talk to my friend, Andy Hayes, founder of Plum Deluxe, a subscription tea service that helps people create moments that matter. I spoke with Andy about the windy road he took to finally find the business idea that would work, what he’s learned about growing a business with a physical product, and the unusual way he’s finding new subscribers. Andy Hayes, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Tara: All right. So let’s dive right in. When you first told me about the idea behind Plum Deluxe, you told me about your vision for helping people find affordable luxury. What does affordable luxury mean to you today?
Andy: Juicy question to start. I feel like it’s changed a lot for me, and that in turn has helped me be a better teacher of that to other people. So for me, what does affordable luxury mean to me? To me, it’s a very individual concept, and to me, it’s the things in your life, the experiences, the objects that do not require a large amount of time or money to make you feel really good, and so for some people, that may be a walk in the park, more time with your grandchildren, or for other people, it might be frozen yogurt, House of Cards on Netflix, etc. So it’s a very individual thing, but to me, it’s a small amount of effort equals a delicious reward.
Tara: Ooh, that’s awesome. I love the personalized aspect of it, too.
Andy: Well, absolutely, because otherwise, it doesn’t feel very luxurious I don’t think.
Tara: That’s a good a point. So why, I think you’ve basically already answered this, but I want to dig a little further. Why actually pursue luxury? I think it’s something that we think of as beyond the necessities, so why put attention to it? Why pursue it?
Andy: Well, I feel like our lives have so many challenges to them, you know, building a career, building a portfolio or book of work. I know a lot of people listening to this call have their own businesses, and that’s a whole endeavor into itself. Raising children is a big piece of work. So if our lives have so many big kind of seemingly heavy things to them, not to say that, you know, any of those things are heavy, but it’s just there’s a lot to take in and a lot to hold, then we owe it to ourselves to take care of ourself. To take good care of ourselves, so that we can show up fully in all those things, and to me, luxury represents the things that sort of really make you feel like you’re able to take on the world. They are the things that as we say in the cliché, make you feel like a million bucks, and you know, I think we owe it to ourselves those things. I think in today’s culture, luxury has a very specific connotation, and it’s not necessarily a good one, and we need to change our tunes a bit on that, and remind ourselves, and this is … if you’re hearing this, this is a reminder for you, that whatever you feel like a little luxury is in your life, you deserve it. You can have it. It’s totally okay, and even if your definition of the thing that really makes you feel good is kind of weird or different or strange, that’s totally cool. Like rock on with it. You know, I … nobody’s going to judge.
Tara: Nice. I love kind of thinking of you as a spokesperson for luxury for everyone, not just, you know, the rich or the famous.
Andy: Thanks. I like that.
Andy: I like that. I had someone else also told me they felt like I was a spokesperson for helping people to slow down.
Tara: Oh, nice.
Andy: And I feel like that kind of goes hand-in-hand. I think Plum Deluxe is a great place to stop for a moment, and it’s in those spaces that you can get a feel for the things that are really important to you and what they look like and how you can make room for them.
Tara: I love that. So tell us a little bit more about Plum Deluxe. What is your business?
Andy: Plum Deluxe. Well, the business of Plum Deluxe is actually a purveyor of premium loose leaf tea. All organic, all free trade, free of artificial chemicals, sweeteners, etc. That is our business, per se, but I think, as I like to tell people, we’re more in the business of helping people create moments that matter, and that ties right into that thing about slowing down. So if you think about tea, tea is often paired with a lot of very slow, thoughtful moments. You know, catching up with an old friend. Mothers and daughters getting together, you know, for thoughtful conversation. Slowing down and trying to take in everything that’s happened at the end of a busy day, and so that’s why, if you go to the Plum Deluxe website, under our logo, it doesn’t say, you know, organic tea, you know, oh my God, you know, get all of it before it’s gone. It says making moments matter, because that’s what I feel like our mission truly is try to help people create those moments, and the tea is just how we actually pay ourselves along that path.
Tara: I love that, because, so I’m a big fan of thinking of products as tools. We buy products to help us accomplish something, and often, especially people who sell physical goods kind of get caught up in that, because they don’t see what it is that their product helps someone accomplish. All they see is the product, and so I love hearing from you that you see tea as really being a tool for helping people accomplish those moments that matter.
Andy: And it took me awhile to figure it out, so I, you know, I don’t want to overlook that statement that you just made that it’s easy to get yourself lost in that. I mean, I came at it from a different angle. I had Plum Deluxe before the tea, and I tried a lot of different things to see what fit, and having a physical product for me worked the best, because it’s physical. People actually have an experience with it. You know, they taste it, they see it, they smell it, they, you know, can meet other customers in our Facebook group, so there’s, you know, the conversation. So for me, that’s what worked best, but I came to that along a journey. It didn’t … you know, I would love to say I was so genius that I was like, oh, you know, this is, you know, we’re about moments, and you know, the tea’s how it all works. That all came together, but it took a long time. Like, you know, five years.
Andy: So …
Tara: I’m really glad you pointed that out, so let’s actually hear a little bit more about your journey, because I think, you know, the different things that you’ve been doing in online business are really interesting. You had a travel blog for awhile, Plum Deluxe started and was maybe something a little bit different, and then you’ve evolved into the tea. Can you tell us what that journey actually looked like?
Andy: Oh my goodness, we’re going to need three episodes for this. Okay, so I used to be in IT corporate software, and was really burnt out and seeking a change, really wanted, I had experienced two or three different corporate mergers. Each time, I ended up on the shorter end of the stick. I didn’t lose my job, but I just found myself in a worse and worse work environment, and so I decided I was going to take control of my future, and I left, and the thing that I started, that you mentioned, travel, that was where I started, because I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Edinburgh’s a big tourism town, and I kind of ended up in there, and travel, the thing that I was talking about when I was in travel was I wanted to understand why we were better versions of ourselves when we were on vacation.
Andy: That is the thing that started it all. I wanted to understand that, and when I started to get my head around it, I learned, and I realized that to be in the travel business, you needed to travel all of the time, or hire people to travel for you, and it just doesn’t, it just didn’t really, wasn’t clicking for me.
Andy: I had a lot of early success. You know, I was blogging and kind of in the social media things really early, and so I did have a lot of visual success in terms of followers, you know, page views, things that I don’t think mean a whole lot, but as a business, it was not very stable. It was just, yeah, not … it was very unstable. So that’s when the brand came in, because I felt like I had started and not really done that step, and that’s something that I knew how to do really well was creating brands. It was part of my old work in the IT space. So I stopped and kind of got myself around Plum Deluxe, and the whole, you know, affordable luxury, life’s little luxuries thing, and so that really established me as a footprint, and I said okay, you know, I kind of have an idea about what I stand for. I stand for moments. I stand for slowing down and finding things that are important to you. I stand for understanding how to be the best version of yourself. I stand, you know, I was really trying to find the right words for it, but I knew what I stood for, you know, and I think that part of having a good brand, especially if you’re an artisan or a small business, is knowing what you stand for, whether it’s you state your values or you have a great tagline or mission statement, but you know, I think of it as like what do you stand for? Like what do you want to be known for? When you die and the business is left behind, what are people going to say about it? What do you want people to say about it? So I was getting my feet around that, and I still was this elusive what is the business model that supports this thing? This site, this structure that’s trying to talk to people about moments? And let’s see, what did … I think I started out first with affiliates and selling other people’s stuff, and I found out that to make that successful, you needed to have just a crappola ton of traffic.
Andy: I’m sure you can link to a footnote on how much traffic that is. I do not know, but it’s a lot, and I also found that very unfulfilling, because I was selling other people’s stuff. Like, you know, affiliate links to teapots on Amazon. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I found it unfulfilling. So then we started doing sponsorships. You know, having people sponsor different sections of the site, because at this point, we’d really broadened our horizons, and we were not just talking about this travel and how do you really become the best version of yourself, but it’s like how do you bring that home? So we had a lot about recipes and entertaining. I mean, the same things that you see now in Plum Deluxe, if you go to our blog, you see a lot about entertaining and gathering, small gatherings, having people together. You see a lot about mindfulness and self-care. So this was already starting to show up. We still don’t have a business model. So then I thought about the sponsorships, and I would have sponsors in different sections, and the problem with that model was I found that sponsors didn’t want to pay what I thought I was worth, so that was always really difficult, and sponsorships are a difficult sell. I find it really interesting now, and we’ll get to that later, I actually purchase a lot of sponsorships now as a successful product business, but at the time, I was really not very good at selling sponsorships, and so that fizzled, and then I moved into events, which was the worst thing that I’ve ever done as a business owner is host events. If you’re listening and went to one of my events, I’m sure you had a good time, please tell everyone that you did, but I would do like these themed events, so it’s like you, you know, I think it was a good concept, and maybe someday it’ll be a thing again, but you would be part of this Plum Deluxe community and having these conversations and you know, reading stories about great parties and you know, how to, you know, talk about politics without angering your friends, and just did different things, and then you would actually go and meet people who also follow Plum Deluxe in person at these themed events. So we’d have like, you know, Washington Wine night, or you know, Oregon Bourbon Party, like all these different things. And that was very stressful. Events are very hard, because you have to do sales twice. You have to sell the seats, and you also have to sell all the sponsorships and products and promotions that pay for everything. They’re very difficult. At least I felt they were difficult.
So I decided after that I really needed to take stock of what I was going to do, because at this point, you could imagine I’m feeling like wow, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve not really made any results, and while people are really liking what I’m doing and very interested, you know, I felt like I have always had a following of people who really want to know what I’m going to do next, because I’ve always, you know, knew what I stood for, and I feel like people always saw where I was going, but I didn’t. So people were like, oh, you know, I really want to see where this goes, and I decided that I was going to … The only thing that I had not done that I would try to do was my own products, and I will say that I had a lot of people tell me if I had sold my own stuff, they would buy it, no matter what it was. So I took them up on their offer, and I said, okay, Plum Deluxe, you know, little luxuries, slowing down, moments that matter, you know, like what product would we sell, and I’ve lived in Europe for a good part of my life and very steeped in tea culture, pun intended, and you knew that was going to come in there, didn’t you?
Tara: Oh, yeah.
Andy: So I decided that tea would be a lot of fun, and I would give it a try, and I really lucked out into finding a mentor who helped me get started, and the amazing thing was that all those people on my newsletter list or in my community were correct. They said if I would make something, they would buy it. They have. And so the tea, I think I’m just I’m now in to my, about to start my third year into it, but I’ve had a more successful two years than all the other ones combined, and doubled and tripled, I’m sure.
Tara: That’s awesome. So when I first saw that you were coming out with the tea, I was like that is brilliant and awesome, and then I was also thinking how the heck did he work that out? How did he get that product developed? Is it like is he white labeling someone else’s product? Like can you tell us like actually kind of the step-by-step of how you went about developing the tea line?
Andy: Yeah, yeah. It’s a good question, because I had the same question, Tara. How the heck am I going to do that, and I really lucked into someone who could help me. I found a mentor who had a successful tea business on the east coast, in Pennsylvania. We had a mutual connection, who you know, Tara, Carrie Keplinger. She introduced me, and I got a lot of mentoring. And I feel like in this particular business, some mentoring is really useful, but let’s just break it down into general steps. So the first thing is you need to know what your concepts are going to be. So how did I want to appear in the tea world? And I knew that I was really excited about creating things. You know, I really wanted to have lots of like seasonal teas. You know, some of my tea favorites are things that are like, you know, just for the holidays or pumpkin spice, or you know, these like just really limited edition things, and to me, it seemed like a tea club where the things would change every month really suited my personality, because I could be creating all the time and actually have a place for it to go. So that really suited me. A lot of people might think that’s a terrible idea for them, that that would be way too much, so you really need to think about your concepts, and the other thing that I also thought about for my tea products is I wanted to really tie into my moments mission, and so a lot of the earlier teas that we developed were kind of tied to moments. Reading Nook tea was one of the first, and it says it’s great for reading and writing. You know, we have, for years, we had published blog posts about reading nooks and about journaling prompts and about conversation starters. Well, here is a tea for all those things. You know, it just, it fit right in there. We had Cuddle Time Tea was one of our first, it helps you sleep, and that fit right into, you know, the turning your brain off at night and trying to calm down and with stress and self-care. You know, you had Self-Care Blend. So for me, that was my shtick was the moments, and so I think that’s what people were thinking about something like this would really need to look at is how would your product show up in the world? And for me, you know, it’s like these really interesting names that are tied to activities all underlying a foundation that is a tea club where the tea changes every month. So I kind of laid out that. If you think of it as almost like a blueprint, you know, like I was kind of an architect here, like saying okay, what are the, how are the, what’s the structure that puts this all in place?
And so from there, I then went and got the help I needed to actually, like, write recipes, you know, learn how to write recipes, and put things together. Now, you could, at that point, said I’m just going to white label someone else’s product. And that does happen in this industry a lot, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I just made a decision, a very conscious decision, and for almost all physical product people, you have to actually do this side of this. This is … I wanted to manufacture the product. I wanted to have, like, really tight control over how it was put together, because, and this is partly because I had had so many failures, I really wanted to be able to turn on a dime. You know, if I controlled all the pieces, I could just like, errr, you know, nope, that’s not right. You know, change that up here, down here, left here. So that’s why I did it like that, but all physical products, you do have that kind of big decision point, and it can be different for different people, and we might even, you know, later do tea ware or something where we white label it. You know, it can go either way, but I don’t white label. We make everything our self, because it just happens to be something that, you know, we’ve gotten really good at and we like it, so that’s how I do it, but you can white label.
The downside, and let’s talk about that for a second. The upside of white labeling is you get started faster, and you don’t have to recreate the wheel. The downside of white labeling is you have less control, most of the time, and you also are paying a little bit of your profit out, because you have to, you know, like whomever is providing the white label product has set the price, whereas I can shop around for my ingredients, I can kind of work my recipes to get my pricing down, etc.
Tara: Nice. And we should probably clarify, too, that white labeling is when you put your brand on someone else’s product. It looks like your product, but it’s made by someone else.
Andy: Yeah. So like in the tea world, here’s an example. In the tea world, you could white label tea. So what would happen is you would have this box arrive with a big bag full of tea, and then you would put it into tins that had your label on them. Or maybe the supplier does that for you, but that tea is also in someone else’s tin somewhere.
Andy: But you could name it something else. You could have a different marketing tactic for it, but it’s the same product in the inside.
Tara: Perfect. So are you … are you physically manufacturing your tea, or are you blending it, deciding on the recipes, and outsourcing that manufacturing? How does that work?
Andy: So we’re a tea blender. So we don’t have … we’re not a manufacturer, because I don’t have like tea plants in my backyard or something.
Andy: You know, here in Oregon, there is a tea plantation, but even I would outstrip their production.
Tara: Oh, wow.
Andy: So it’s just, it’s not… yeah. Yeah. So there’s a lot going on. So we buy the raw ingredients, and then blend everything in-house.
Tara: Nice. Okay, awesome. I am so glad that I know how that works now.
Andy: Yeah, yeah. It’s really interesting to see it all come together. You know, it’s different, they’re different colors, they smell differently, they look different, and then when they come together, you know, the tea actually kind of transforms, in a way, even before you put it in hot water. So it’s kind of fun.
Tara: Yeah, that is so cool. I mean, really, as I’ve watched, you know, each kind of iteration of how you’ve been working on this, it keeps coming into my mind exactly what you just said. Like the product itself is so almost like sensuous the way, you know, there’s a smell and there’s color and there’s texture and there’s so many ways that you sense the product itself. It seemed like it would be just so much fun to do.
Andy: I love it. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s … We have kind of this, I feel, real close attachment to our customers, because just of the nature of the product.
Andy: So it makes … It means you have to really be on your game for customer service, but it also means that you can really establish a lifelong customer, if you show up for that conversation I feel like.
Tara: Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay, so let’s talk about the ways that Plum Deluxe is generating revenue today. You mentioned the Tea Club, and so tell us about that, and then tell us, also, how else you’re generating revenue right now.
Andy: Yeah, so Tea Club is our main revenue driver, and so that’s a $10 a month subscription that people pay quarterly, and I created that program modeled off of Amazon Prime.
Andy: With the exception that you get something with it. I guess Amazon Prime you get like free movies, so maybe it does correlate, but the thing that I wanted to create was sort of $10 and you get all these extra things in addition to the tea. And that really seems to have hit with people. So we charge that, and you get a tea in the month. So in each month, it’s different, and it’s kind of themed, so in the summer, it’ll be more light, iced, citrus, you know, little fun, fruitier, and then in the winter, it’s heavier, spicier, maybe just better with heavier food, so it’s kind of, you know, the tea, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but you know that it’s going to be great for what’s happening in March in your life or you’re going to enjoy it in a pitcher in the backyard in the summer in July. So that’s the main thing, and then they get a sample of something else from our shop, and then they get free shipping on anything else that they want, and then they get just periodic special offers or freebies or just, you know, extras. Like one thing I do, and my community decides these things. I don’t always come up with them. When we make a mistake in the blending room, which happens on occasion, we don’t do it too often thankfully, but if we make a mistake and the tea is still good, it’s just not what somebody ordered or what is supposed to be the recipe, we put them up as Blooper Teas, and they’re like half off, you know, and people, there’s been some ones that people are like you should just sell this, because this is really good.
Andy: You know, like it’s, you know, had lemon peel instead of orange peel or something, so it totally changes it. So the Tea Club is really the driver, and it’s the driver of our community. They do gift exchanges every quarter and there’s a secret Facebook group that everybody hangs out in, and so that’s really the core. Like just such a huge bulk of our revenue comes from that, and not just the subscriptions, but also them buying extras. You know, they say hey, you know, send me extra this, I’m buying something for my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day. So that’s the main thing, but then if you go under our website, there’s a shop, there’s an ecommerce shop that has signature blends that we have all year round and then limited edition blends that change throughout the year, and then a small selection of accessories. So like honey sticks, sugar, tea infusers, that sort of thing.
Tara: Awesome. And are you handling all the shipping in-house as well?
Tara: Wow. That’s a lot. So the subscription models completely fascinate me, because there are so many upsides to it, but there are so many, I wouldn’t say downsides, but there’s so many things to think about when it comes to a subscription model that so many people don’t think about. The chief one is reducing churn and keeping people in the subscription. Keeping them happy, keeping them, you know, really glad to see that line item on their credit card every month.
Andy: That’s right. That’s right.
Tara: So what do you do to reduce churn and keep your subscribers around longer?
Andy: Well, the number one thing that I try to do is create community. So often, when people have to leave my club, they send me an email that’s like a breakup letter.
Andy: And they like begged if they can stay in the Facebook group. You know, they really feel attached, and so that, I think, is the number one thing. It’s not just a packet of tea in the mail every month. It’s tea and you get to share it with these people who also like tea and also who are really interesting people. So that’s my number one piece of advice. Get them invested in your success and in what you’re building, because they will stay. The other thing is very practical, and it’s keeping your costs down. You know, $10 a month, not too bad. You know, I have to say I spent and inordinate amount of time on the pricing and all of our stuff, and I remember a previous guest of yours, Carrie Chapin, I was, I said hey, Carrie, look at this spreadsheet again, and she was like, you just need to launch. Like you’ve been looking at these numbers forever. You know, like, your numbers are good, go, I’m like, go for it. But you do need to take that time, especially for a subscription, because it’s very hard to change after the fact, especially if you want to go up. Like good luck with that. If nothing else, you have to grandfather the people in or you lose a lot of them, so make sure you spend the time working on that.
The last thing, and you know, you were talking about the downsides, and this is another downside, besides churn, is logistics. Subscriptions have logistics because there’s so much going on at any one time. Like today, today that we’re recording this podcast, we had a shipping day for the club, and Tara asked me to be on the show, and I was like, oh, I don’t know, like that’s our club day, and she’s like well, you know, can you do it like at the end of the day, and I was like sure. So I’m here, so it’s a sign that our logistics are very good, but it’s something that we work on.
Andy: Because we have to process so many different packages and the variations. You know, if you have even one variation on your subscription, it makes things twice as complicated. So you really need to think about that. So why do … I mention that because the logistics goes into your pricing and it also affects people’s experience, so you want to make sure that you know how you’re going to deliver the subscription so that people don’t get screw ups. And trust me, we screw up every month. We always have something that we mess up, and I own it, I make it right with them. You know, people understand, you know, that it’s a, you know, artisan company, our stuff is made by hand, so people kind of get it, so I have a little leeway, but you gotta really think about that stuff. Like how’s it going to work?
Tara: Yeah, amen. So how are you growing your customer base today? What are the things that you’re doing that are actually working that’s putting, you know, getting more people on your list and then putting more customers into your club?
Andy: Yeah. Email is huge for us. The email list really does wonders for us, and so we have a … we’ve always done that blog, you know, Plum Deluxe has always had a really great blog, and I now today look at the blog as like a way to get people onto the email.
Andy: You know, it’s like we publish a blog so there’s something to put in the emails, and I say that kind of in jest, but I do kind of think that way. But you know, it’s all part of the thing. You know, I’m not saying that you should just have a blog just so you can stuff it in a newsletter. We’re really intentional about what we put in there, and we are very proud of the things that we publish and think of, but it’s a big driver. It’s a big driver. It creates SEO, it creates social media, but you know, as far as customer acquisition, you know, I’m kind of in a huge growth phase, doing a lot of investing, and I’m even doing, like, print advertising.
Tara: Oh, really?
Andy: Yeah, which I thought would be crazy, but I’m in tea, and there’s a tea magazine, Tea Time, and it drives sales for me.
Tara: That’s awesome.
Andy: So, yeah, so I’m really creating a relationship with them. But you know, one of my best methods is, right now, podcast sponsorships. Would you believe that?
Tara: I am hearing that from a lot of people right now, actually.
Andy: Yeah, I’m really obsessive about tracking my cost per acquisition.
Andy: And podcasts is the lowest.
Tara: That is awesome. What podcasts are you advertising on?
Andy: Let’s see, I was just on, there’s a podcast called the Psychic Teachers, and they talk about these kind of esoteric mysteries and interesting things, and I got the best people from that podcast. I loved it, it was so nice, and the women that run it are so nice. They’re so kind, and so that was a really fun one. And that just happened to be one that I had discovered, you know, along the way and was, you know, a listener of. I think, you know, that’s maybe a great tip is you probably listen to podcasts that might be a great fit. Some of the ones that I’m looking at this year, I’m trying to think of the names, like I’m doing a couple of crafty ones.
Andy: This is where you’ve really got to understand your customer, like what’s in their head.
Tara: Yeah, because you’re not just targeting tea podcasts, you’re targeting the podcasts where people who drink tea listen, right?
Andy: Exactly. Exactly. Because there’s not that many tea podcasts, and a lot of them don’t have the reach that I need, you know.
Tara: Of course not.
Andy: Yeah, I want a … you know, I have a bigger reach than some of them, so that’s, you know, I’m kind of really getting out of my boundaries. I do some pay-per-click and it’s really expensive, I just haven’t figured out how to make it work. I do some Facebook ads. I can’t get my conversions up enough where it works for me.
Andy: But yeah, the sponsorships. Oh, and I do, like there’s tea festivals, so I do some post cards and sampling for those, and I have really good experiences sponsoring events, like retreats, you know, where my tea can be enjoyed in kind of the experience that it was meant for. So that’s a big one for me. So like really small events. One that I didn’t talk about I guess I should add, too, is word of mouth, and the way I do word of mouth is if I hear about, say, one of my Tea Club members is sharing a lot of their tea at their office, I will send them extra to put in the kitchen in the office. Or for the Downton Abbey finale …
Andy: You know, we had somebody that was hosting a big shindig, and I was like oh, like let me be involved, like, can I send you some tea, and they were like, oh, of course, and so and it’s totally non-salesy, but it really got people to try it, and I think, you know, really thinking about if you have a physical product, like where would you love it to be? Where would it be in its natural state, and for me, like a bunch of Downton Abbey watchers having a party dressed in, you know, all the getup, that would be perfect. So I, most of those opportunities seem to find me, but I am always on the lookout for them. Like I kind of have my ears raised for those kind of things, and if I see one, I say oh, hey, like, I would, you know, I’m happy to … Because they don’t usually ask, and I think they would maybe feel like it would turn into a salesy thing, but when I say oh, I’d love to just gift, it’s my gift, you know, I’d love to be involved, they’re usually happy to have me.
Tara: Yeah. So you’ve already got this group of brand evangelists, and really, you’re just giving them what they need to do the job you need them to do.
Andy: Yeah, yeah, and I always try to remind them, too, that I’m a resource for them, so if they’re planning something, and they, you know, want to run an idea by me, like what would be a good tea for this, or have you ever tried this. I kind of try to remind them that I, and I demonstrate that with trust. Like I don’t … I don’t try to sell them on anything, I just say, oh, you know, my suggestion would be this, and you know, if you want a bag of it to try, you know, I’ll send you one, it’s no problem, but I don’t push it.
Tara: That’s awesome. I love that.
Tara: So you’ve a little bit about money when you talked about, you know, really pricing out the club and making sure that your numbers all work. How do you … I’m sorry … What role does money play in the way you plan for your business? How … what numbers are you looking at? What systems are you using to figure out, you know, what you’re going to be up to for the next year?
Andy: Mm, that’s a good question. I pay a lot of attention, I mentioned earlier, to my cost per acquisition, so how much it costs me to acquire a customer. I’m really obsessive about that right now, but I’m in a growth phase and investing a lot, so I need to pay attention, you know, so I don’t lose my shirt, you know, advertising. As far as like the core, you know, that churn percentage is an important one. Mine’s very low, and I like to keep it that way. And then I pay attention to the breakdown of our monthly revenue. So for us, it’s subscriptions, and then a la carte, it’s what it’s called in our … you know, my spreadsheet or whatever, but people just buying in the shop, and then what percentage of the people who are buying from the shop are new. So it’s kind of seeing, you know, like what’s … because people often will buy stuff from the shop to try and then become a club member, versus, you know, somebody who’s totally open to the concept becomes a club member first, and then uses, you know, free shipping to try other things. So there’s kind of two methods. So I’m really kind of … I see those numbers just to kind of see what’s the trend. You know, like … and right now, we’ve done a lot to promote our a la carte offerings, because our club has been so successful. It’s been so successful that it’s like going to blow us out of our new facility that I just moved into in October. So you know, we really wanted to try to get people to buy, you know, some of our accessories and things that we had made for the store, and I’m seeing our store numbers go up, so I’m checking to make sure that the things that I’m really pushing on social media or in advertisements are moving.
And then the other one is because it drives so much that we have a tool, we use Moonclerk. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone, but it’s what drives our subscriptions, and it’s just a front-end for Stripe, to create … you know, Stripe, which is a payment system, very popular payment system. It has subscription plans built into it, but you have to have to have some kind of front end. You know, it’s more like an API or something, like a program. You know, you can’t just like go in and type in subscriptions on your own, so we use Moonclerk to do that, and I pay a lot of attention to, say, what amount of money is coming in for renewals in the next month. You know, is there anything funny about that? Is the number of subscribers that are coming in more or less than before? And then of course, for me also, because we make everything, I have to really stay on top of the inventory attached to what’s coming in and out.
Tara: Yeah, I can’t even imagine. Better you than me, man.
Andy: It’s not too bad. Once you have a routine established, it’s not too bad. But it does take, especially, and this is frank advice for people who have subscriptions, I really think it takes about six months for you to get your head around it, and I tell you what, your first holiday season, you’re going to have your behind handed to you, but you’ll be better for it. You’re going to be like, wow, we made so much money, and then you think I’ve got to save some of this and buy, like, you know, a hand truck, or new cardboard boxes, or that kind of thing, but it takes a good six months for you to get into a really good place with subscriptions.
Tara: Yeah, that’s a great benchmark for people to keep in mind, because it is not all … you know, you think, oh great, these people are paying me every single month, but there’s way more to it than that.
Tara: Yeah. Okay, let’s talk about your team. Who’s on your team right now?
Andy: Well, I had a big shift at the beginning of the year. I went from a lot of people who were specialized, and I kind of shifted direction into having fewer people who were more invested.
Andy: Which seems to be working out for me. But the main things I have right now is I have one person who handles all of the social media and the marketing, and is kind of like my wingman on product development. So that person has quite a bit of stuff to do.
Andy: Oh, and she also manages the blog, too, comes under that. Making sure our writers, because we pay them, you know, making sure the writers send in their stuff, making sure that I know that they need paid, getting it loaded into WordPress, but you know, that, we kind of created this wheelhouse, all these things that go together. So it’s working. And then the other person that I really rely on heavily is I have a woman that comes in to help with packing and shipping, particularly the club, because you can be down there a whole day of working on one thing. Like you know, if the club, for example, if the club is getting, everybody’s getting the same thing for the month, we have a caffeine free option and a caffeinated, so sometimes, there’s more than one thing being made, but if we’re doing like one thing, well, you can just, it’s like you can spend hours making this one recipe, and I can’t do that, because I have so much else to hold and to focus on and I need to be like where are we going to invest for growth, and are we, you know, managing our expenses correctly, and you know, all the CEO things. So I’m so thankful I have someone down there that’s kind of just stocking, making sure things are ready for ship, and then the bonus is on her way home, she drives by the post office, it’s right there, so she always is dropping off our shipments.
Andy: So it’s really nice, because often, you know, we … Because tea is light, we are always post office, USPS, and I feel … I feel like I have to buy our new postman, you know, after we moved, like this most splendiferous gift basket because of all the mail that I leave out for him. It can be crazy sometimes, but whenever she is here, she’s always like what do I need to take with me. Like you know, what have you not dropped off that needs dropped off.
Tara: That’s awesome.
Andy: That’s the core. Here and there, you know, I have a graphic designer that pops in and works, helps us with the website upgrades, and you know, I might hire someone for advice on pay-per-click or something like that, but the core is really, that’s the core.
Tara: That’s great. So you mentioned there’s a lot on your plate. There’s a lot that you need to kind of hold in your head and hold in your bandwidth, really. Do you have a system or a strategy for managing your time?
Andy: Well, I make sure that everything is in Asana, so that if it’s recurring or if it’s something that I need to do later that I have it, and then I use a print planner, like paper, paper journal, and it’s right here. I’m trying not to move everything around to make a loud noise, but it has two pages. I use them, where is this one from, May Designs, M-A-Y, like the month, MayDesigns.com, and this is a really plain journal, and it just has on the left a schedule, so anything, any meetings I have, and I really try to minimize meetings. I do not need to be in many meetings. So those are on the left, and then on the right it’s kind of to do list, but I have them in different areas. So I have like production things that I have to do, like this week, we’re launching something new this month, and so I have I need to make the labels and go down and make sure the recipes are right. I could give that to somebody else, but we haven’t made it before, so I want to make sure that it’s right. So I have like production things, but then I have more strategic things. So it’s like PR, you know, I do a lot of the PR, and then, you know, I have on here checking our paid advertising, making sure that we’re not, you know, spending a fortune, even though we do spend a fortune. So that’s how I kind of break it down, and so each day, so I have this whole big list here for the week. I don’t know if I said that. This is for a week.
Andy: And then at the end of the day, I make a little post it note, and I highlight what are the most important things that I need to work on the next day.
Tara: You are the second guest who has given that particular tip today.
Andy: And on that list, I include things like working out, so you know, that’s important to me. I feel 100 times better if I work out, so it’s on the list, because it needs to happen. So that’s kind of how I do it. It’s kind of loose, and you know, flexible, because that’s how I like it. But that’s how I do it.
Tara: That’s awesome.
Andy: Asana and a paper journal. And some post its.
Tara: I think a lot of people can relate to that for sure. I love the idea of breaking your to do list down into pieces, so you can kind of see, I mean, that’s … We run in Trello as opposed to Asana, and that’s one of the reasons we like Trello is because we can see pieces like that, but I love the idea of having it just in a paper journal as well.
Andy: Yeah, and I like the pieces because it’s a couple of things. It reminds me that I need to be both strategic and tactical, and I’m making, you know, I’m aware of how much time I’m spending in each, and then it helps me, for some reason, just having this kind of big squares, it helps me make sure I don’t forget anything, because things can get … I’m one of those people that if it doesn’t get onto a list somewhere, it gets forgotten.
Tara: Oh yeah.
Andy: And when I’m writing this down, putting a big square in, you know, strategic … Strategic items, and I’m putting them down, for some reason, the squares like trigger my memory. It’s like oh, you know, I’ve got to remember to prep for that call with Tara, you know, or I’ve got to do this other thing. So for me, it’s just that paper and pen moment kind of really gets, make sure it gets the bases covered.
Tara: Nice. All right. So what’s next for you and what’s next for Plum Deluxe?
Andy: Well, we’re upgrading our packaging this year. We’re trying to go 100% recyclable.
Tara: Oh, cool.
Andy: Yeah, and just the packaging that we have is fine, but we want to just make it even better. You know, like we don’t have any tea tins, we only have the smaller packages, so upgrading our packaging is on the list for this year, and this is another great reminder for people. It’s like, you know, if you have things that are just okay, like sometimes they can be just okay for a whole year or two. You know, like our packaging is fine. We’re ready now to make it truly like what we want it to be, and you know, that could have taken another year. It’s totally fine. The other thing is we have some really great, new products coming online. So we mostly have flavored teas, you know, the essential oils, you know, vanilla or citrus or fruit, and so we’re launching, we’re calling them Royale Teas, and they’re unflavored blends.
Tara: Oh, nice.
Andy: So we’re doing a small selection. Our club will still primarily be, you know, the flavored ones, which I see as kind of more fun and interesting and different, but we’ll have this new core line-up of something that appeals to, you know, another segment of tea drinkers, and it’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but it’s just not, it’s just one of the things that’s like not been on the list yet. So we’re excited that that’s on the list, because that’s a big thing, and interestingly enough, it … Getting the recipes right more difficult, because there’s like nothing to hide behind.
Andy: You know. It’s like, oh, you know, throw in a little more orange peel and a little extra vanilla, that’ll be fine. Not that we do that often, but you know, if it’s just a very simple black or green tea, you really got to get it right, because there’s just nothing in between you and that taste bud, so I feel like we’ve done a really good job, so I’m excited about that.
Tara: That sounds awesome. Well, Andy Hayes, thank you so much for joining me. It’s been really interesting seeing inside Plum Deluxe.
Andy: Thanks. Thanks for letting me share. I appreciate it.
Tara: Absolutely. You can find Andy and the Tea Club at PlumDeluxe.com.
Next time, we’ll talk to Nathan Berry, founder of ConvertKit, about making the decision to pursue growing ConvertKit full-time while putting his lucrative digital products business on the back burner, the direct sales strategy he used to woo influencers to his product, and what he’s learned about building a Software as a Service venture.
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That’s it for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. You can download other episodes of this podcast and subscribe in the iTunes store. If you enjoy what you heard, we appreciate your reviews and recommendations, because they help us reach as many emerging entrepreneurs as possible. Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Jaime Blake. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Madariaga. You can catch up on older episodes in the iTunes store, where new episodes are added every week, and you can learn more by going to CreativeLive.com.