Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of The Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.
Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. Hey, man. How are you doing?
Austin Brawner: I am doing very well, man. I'm very happy to be recording with you today. It's a lot of fun. This has been marked on my calendar for a little while. I love hopping on and doing the Flash episodes.
Andrew Foxwell: Totally, I agree. And thank you for the feedback, from many of you that have said you really like these. And you know, we took, actually, some more of your feedback, and that's what today's episode is all about. It's actually about us, and about who we are. And Austin's actually going to interview me, understanding how we got into this, because people have said, "Hey, look. Your downloads seem to be growing," and indeed, they are, and said, "Maybe you want to introduce yourself. And I'd love to know what you guys are working on and how you even got into this world." So that's what we're going over today.
Austin Brawner: These are questions I'm going to ask Andrew that I don't even know the answer to. So this is kind of my opportunity to dive into and figure out what happened. How did we get the oracle of Madison? How did he become? We're going deep to the origin story.
Andrew Foxwell: The first title that you gave me on The Ecommerce Influence Podcast.
Austin Brawner: Oracle of Madison, exactly. Exactly. So, yeah. So let's kick things off. How on Earth ... When did you first know you were interested in digital marketing?
Andrew Foxwell: You know, I had actually, in college, started a digital marketing company with three buddies. And we did websites. Well, we got a small business grant from the school, from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. And we applied and got a grant. And then we bought monitors and some other stuff, I don't remember exactly what, that we needed to start a digital marketing company. And we did websites. We did graphic design. We did PR. I actually found a flyer the other day that I had put together from Foxwell Digital ... Or, it wasn't called Foxwell Digital. It was, I forget what it was called ... Oh, Modica Marketing, which means "modern" in Latin, so I thought that was pretty cool.
Austin Brawner: That is good. You take old language, "modern" in an old language.
Andrew Foxwell: Right, yeah, right. Super meta. So that's how, really, when I realized like, this seems to be a thing, right? People don't understand like how this works. And so that was really where, I think, my interest with digital marketing started.
Austin Brawner: Where were you at this time? So you said you were in college. Where in the country did you go to college? And, yeah, was it Midwest?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, yeah. It was in Minnesota, Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota; a little, small, liberal arts college across from Carleton College, another fantastic institution, liberal arts institution. And you know, it was the right distance away from my parents, about two hours away, two and a half hours away. So I was like, couldn't just pop over.
And it was a really great experience. I mean, that's really where I learned, I think, to be an entrepreneur, and that it was okay to be an entrepreneur. So many of the people that I went to school with, you know, you initially, in college, think a lot around traditional roles and traditional jobs. And I had a number of marketing internships and realized that I liked working in a company, but I think I ultimately always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So that's really what I had had my mind tuned towards for quite a while.
Austin Brawner: And then you went out west, right? So when did that happen? Because I know that was one of the ... You jumped ship from the Midwest, out to San Francisco. When did that happen? Where did you end up? So, because your path wasn't to being an entrepreneur right away, was it?
Andrew Foxwell: No, no. So I graduated, and then I went to work for this company. And I was selling virtualization solutions for servers from Microsoft, actually.
Austin Brawner: I don't even know what that is, but I like it.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this would be like, you take a physical server, and then you put it into virtualization, which is like, basically, in the cloud. And you know, I was a sales guy. Well, I was kind of a technical sales guy, but then they realized that I was better as a sales guy. But anyway, then I started volunteering on this congressional campaign, actually, for a gentleman who was running for Congress in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. And I went in, and they said, "Hey, you're making phone calls. Do you know anything about websites? And do you know anything about social media?" And this is where this all began.
So I helped him on social media. I helped the staff, did website, created videos. And this guy actually won. So before I actually went west, I went east, and it's where ... So I moved to DC because he won and I worked on Capitol Hill as a press secretary/ new media director for this member of Congress, for two and a half years.
Austin Brawner: And this was truly new media at the time.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, it was. It was what it was called, new media, which is awesome.
Austin Brawner: It's hilarious.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. But that's where I met my wife, and life and business partner, Gracie, as well. We were neighbors on Capitol Hill.
Austin Brawner: That's exciting. So you were out there for two and a half years, working on the, well, initially, the campaign, then continuing to manage new media. Then, from there, that's when you made the move to the West Coast, after that?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So on the DC thing, what's interesting is, I think people maybe don't know is, I was part of a group, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives, that the rule had recently been changed, that members of Congress could use official funds to advertise online. So previous to this, the only thing a member of Congress could do was send out a glossy mail piece, and that was taxpayer funded. And that mail piece had to go through a bipartisan commission on language approval. It's called the Franking Commission.
And so the rule had been changed, and I realized that there needed to be a solution for members of Congress, help people, or have them run ads. So I actually left and started an agency within another technology company, government contractor that helped members of Congress run Facebook ads.
So that was literally like when Facebook ads had been invented. But the newsfeed was invented January of 2009, which is when I came into Congress. And so there were no ads in the newsfeed at that time. There were only right-hand-side ads. And so we ended up growing that business to have over 100 members of Congress that were putting things up that said, "Click here to learn about my bill on the environment." So I'm a true Facebook ads OG, just for the record.
Austin Brawner: Sure. How many Russians were involved with those initial, first 100 members?
Andrew Foxwell: A lot. First of all, I had a direct line to Putin, definitely.
Austin Brawner: He wanted to get in on that new media.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this is, you know, right off the bat, not a problem. And, yeah, no. But it was like, you couldn't target things in any way. And it was pretty interesting, doing that work.
Austin Brawner: That is like, truly ... So we think about how long ... Everyone freaks out about when some channel grows and then dies, right, or like, there's always ... We can look back at that time, and you've been doing this for quite some time, right? In the whole, even though it's not 15, 20 years, it's still, in the scheme of things, from new media to now, being the largest channel for many businesses-
Andrew Foxwell: To media, yeah.
Austin Brawner: Yeah, exactly. It's just, it's wild to see how that has changed so quickly. People always freak out about, you know, a channel dying. But really, what it comes down to, it's just always evolving and changing. And what we're dealing with right now with Facebook is just the evolution of new media.
Andrew Foxwell: Totally, yeah. Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. And it's interesting, you know, seeing how the product has changed so much, and what it's been like. So, yeah. So then we, Gracie and I, then decided to move, actually, to Chicago. So I was working for a company, an agency, a digital agency at the time, named PPC Associates, now known as 3Q Digital; out of Chicago, out of their Chicago office.
Austin Brawner: This is when they were ... They're large now, very, very large. But when you started with them, how many employees ... How big were they? Were they still pretty early on?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think when I joined the company, there was maybe 35 employees, or 40 employees. And now, I mean, I think there's probably hundreds.
Austin Brawner: Yes.
Andrew Foxwell: And a lot of that's a testament of the CEO, David Rodnitzky. And so, yeah, I had worked with them. And I was the original director of paid social. So now, we go from calling it "new media," to "paid social." And in that, I was going to San Francisco quite a bit. Gracie was coming with. We were, you know, just kind of figuring out that scene, and if we wanted to move out to San Francisco, et cetera. So that's how we kind of got out there, to be honest.
So from there, then, I mean, within 3Q is where I worked with companies that were working with 3Q, that wanted to test paid social. So these are companies like Dropcam, and Eventbrite, and Fitbit, and GoPro, and you know, big names; that they would assign us budget and say, "Hey, if you can make this work, go nuts." So it was pretty interesting.
Austin Brawner: Was this ... What year was this around, when you-
Andrew Foxwell: This would be like ... I love when people talk about years in couplets. So this would be like '13, '14
Austin Brawner: Okay.
Andrew Foxwell: ... and in that range, I think. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Austin Brawner: What were you doing ... So, what you were saying, you got a budget. What was working back then?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. So it's interesting. I just was talking about this with somebody. So I remember being on a bus to Sonoma County from San Francisco that had WiFi, and launching my first newsfeed advertisement for a company on the bus, on the drive out there. And so that's how new it was. I mean, they were called dark posts. We still call them dark posts to some degree. But you had to go into the post creation area within the business manager. And then you had to create a post, and hit "not publish," and then use that post ID, similar to how you do social proofing now, only it was much more clunky. And then you would launch it to interests. And lookalikes were not ... Lookalikes had come out, but they weren't really used significantly.
So, yeah. And then the other big thing that everybody had for remarketing was a program called Facebook Exchange or FBX. And this is, if you know Antonio García Martínez, who wrote the book Chaos Monkeys, about his early days with Facebook, he was basically the main architect of the Facebook Exchange remarketing program. So it was like a remarketing exchange.
And the current head of Facebook ad platform and policy, I think is what his title is, Rob Leathern, he actually owned the company we worked with, called Optimal. So, yeah. That's what was working. And I mean, first of all, like, was it working? Sort of.
Austin Brawner: Sure. It was still so brand new. Everything was.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah.
Austin Brawner: Tracking was very, very limited at that time.
Andrew Foxwell: Exactly, yeah. I had no idea.
Austin Brawner: I remember, still, probably around that time, trying to figure out ... Actually, maybe it was a little bit before that, but likes were still valued, right, so, and like the social proofing around getting likes.
I remember working with a company out of San Diego, and our whole goal was to get like 100,000 likes, because they realized if they had more likes, people would take them more seriously whenever they went, in person, at these trade shows. They'd be like, "Oh, wow. Like Google," Google, the company, "Look. Oh, they have 100,000 Facebook likes. They're legit." Little did they know, we were just blasting the Third World with images of people, like Twilight pictures, and getting likes for that; so just like, completely outrageous.
Andrew Foxwell: Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that was definitely a big strategy in some cases. You know, my thing, still, with fan growth and likes was always like, what are you going to do with it, you know? I mean, if it's vanity, that's fine, and you can just grow that. But what are you going to do with it? What are you going to turn it into?
So, yeah. So I was at 3Q. And then from there, basically, decided to ... You know, Gracie and I had been chatting, and we just really saw an opportunity in the market between people that wanted to work with a big agency but didn't have the budget, and then sort of like an hourly, you know, hire-your-neighbor-kid consultant, type of thing.
And so there was an opportunity there. And so we actually quit our jobs in Chicago, packed up, and traveled around the US for about a year, speaking at coworking spaces, and small businesses, and marketing conferences, and anywhere, basically, that would have us, to teach them Facebook marketing. So that's how we basically started the business together, and did that for a year, and ended up getting a sublet in Madison. And that's how we are where we are today.
Austin Brawner: When did you know that you really loved doing this type of stuff?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I mean, to me, the power of this that's so crazy is, I love to be able to drive business results for people. And so when I sat down, and Gracie and I started working with companies in the early days of Foxwell Digital ... And 3Q is cool, too, right? You could see impact for bigger companies, and you could see them growing because of our efforts. But when we had Foxwell Digital, just in the first year, starting, and people said, "This is crazy. We've never had results like this." That's when it really gets you hooked, because you are contributing to it.
You know, I was thinking about, the other day, how many people that listen to this podcast, not to have an inflated sense of worth, but even just an idea, how many people have taken advice that we've given on this podcast, grown their business, and been able to hire. So it's like, how many jobs has this podcast helped to create, you know? And that's crazy to think about. I have no idea what the number is, of course. But to me, it's like that's what hooks me every day.
There can be ups and downs with clients. There can be ups and downs with performance. But any time we get a note that, "Hey, you're really helpful. Hey, thank you. That was huge for us. Hey, that was explained, you know, doing courses," things like that, that's really what keeps bringing me back.
Austin Brawner: When you guys were going on this journey, coworking space to coworking space, how did you translate that into, I guess, your first Foxwell Digital consulting client? Or how did that translate over to the point where you were actually managing ads for people?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think people ... That's a good question. People really just asked us, you know, "Hey, I want your help. Can you help us run these tests? We have the idea of kind of what we want to do, but we're not totally sure."
And so that's really where it started, was helping to run ads for people, them giving us a budget and running with it, and then, also, the teaching, too, kind of came along with that. So you know, initially, when we had the business, just like, I'm sure, many of you listening to this, you know, you start with everything. You know, Gracie and I did web audits. We did a lot of other stuff to start off, initially, to see what would stick. And this Facebook stuff actually was starting to stick.
Little known fact, actually, on the road trip, about five months after we started the road trip, we actually taught iPhone classes to senior citizens in Florida, through a community center, to make a little extra scratch, too. So you know, look, you know yourself. If you're a hustler, you can hustle, and make it work, and figure something out.
Austin Brawner: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. You know that iPhone course was just absolutely blowing people's minds.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Actually, I don't know if I've told you that story, but there's a guy that said, that raised his hand in the second class I think we ever taught. And it was about 15 minutes into a 45-minute class. And he's like, "Hey. I just want you to know, you guys are blowing the doors off this place."
Austin Brawner: Off the senior citizen center.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was super jacked. He was just super excited, going to be able to FaceTime with anybody he wanted to. So, yeah. I mean, you know, so I think that's kind of how we transitioned into it. And Foxwell Digital now, five years later, really has turned into a strategic consultancy that Gracie and I run together, and is really a collaboration between the two of us. Although people know me and hear me, Gracie's very much a part of the business in every single way. And so it's really two people, getting it done. And it manifests itself in a lot of different ways, of what we're doing now for Foxwell Digital.
Austin Brawner: So I'm trying to remember, like think back. I should have prepared for this, but maybe you'll know. How did we initially get connected?
Andrew Foxwell: The initial connection was because of Jon Loomer. You guys had heard me on Jon Loomer's podcast.
Austin Brawner: Jon Loomer, yes.
Andrew Foxwell: Yep, yep. So I've known ... So you know, part of what we do now, some of you may know, is do the teaching of a lot of courses through Jon and through his site. And I've been friends with Jon since 2013. So I started, basically, blowing up the comments on his blog. And he and I have been friends since then. And a lot of it's, he's from Wisconsin, I'm from Wisconsin. And you know, those of us that listen to this podcast, I'm sure you feel it, too, which is, we are in this together as a community, and we're in this together from a genuine standpoint. Like, we're doing it for the right reasons.
And so that's something that Jon and I had right away, too, which is like, "Look, I'm just here, trying to grow this business so I can help my family and be able to lead the life that I want to." A lot of people, I think, others in the industry focus a lot on like, "Crush it. Kill it. Make a jillion dollars." You know, and that's not necessarily our strategy here, and that's not necessarily the strategy with Jon. We want to help you scale in a sustainable way. We want to make sure that your business is growing in a sustainable way. And I think you and I also hit that off, right off the bat, too.
Austin Brawner: 100%. That was, you know, initially, you came on, we were joking about the oracle of Madison, because we would bring you on the podcast and get our minds blown about what was happening all across the country with different businesses, what was working for them on Facebook. And we just kept ... I think, at the time, Chad and I brought you back maybe twice or three times over a period of like a year and a half, because every time we bring you on, you'd have all these new ideas and new things you're working. We're like, "This is great." And we'd kind of share with the community. And then you joined full-time earlier this year, right? Was it end of last year?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. So I think we started doing the podcast together full-time, actually, about a year ago in April or May. And so, yeah. And it was kind of up and down until the fall, when it really started to kick into gear-
Austin Brawner: Yeah. We said, "Hey, let's not mess around. Let's go. Let's do this. You know, really focus on quality, make sure this thing is where we want to be." Well, tell me, what do you ... So you mentioned it briefly, but what are you working on? What are you excited about right now, the most?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, right now, we have a lot of different, interesting things happen. We've gone from, last year, doing a lot with more management of clients, and being an agency, style, to switching into, we still do agency management in some places. And then we also do teaching through Jon, and some teaching with you as well. And that's been really a lot of fun, because it does force us both to process and document the way that we think about things, and kind of put a flag in the sand, and say, "This is the way that we do this." And it really inspires people from all over the world. I got an email yesterday from somebody in Sweden.
You know, it's just, that, to me, is something that I think Gracie and I take very seriously. And I think I see it as an honor to be able to give advice to our colleagues. So that's something that's really exciting me, is the teaching.
And the podcast is also very exciting, as you said. You know, our goal with this is taking it much more seriously this year. And we've done that, and it's been growing. And people are finding it really helpful, which is awesome. And to me, it's inspiring to me that we're out here, ensuring that you're just getting free, good advice, to be able to grow every day, or, I mean, every week.
Austin Brawner: Every day would be a little too much. I don't know if I could do it every day, not yet.
Andrew Foxwell: So humbling, you know, that we're able to give that advice. It's just, it's fantastic. And it also helps me realize my lifelong dream that I've had, of actually, I've always wanted to be a radio DJ. So this helps in that as well.
Austin Brawner: I think it's better than being a radio DJ at this point, right? Because the thing with radio, it's, I think, just the ... Well, my problem with anything live, and anything that you have to like, tune into at a specific time, nobody wants to do that anymore. There's no reason you need to tune into anything live anymore. And a lot of, obviously, radio is now going towards the podcast space, because they recognize that having to change your life or your routine to listen to something at a specific time, or watch a show at a specific time, is going away. It's not going to be here much longer at all.
I wanted to say, one of the things from knowing you, we talked in another episode about delegation, and documenting, and allowing you ... and doing those things to be able to direct some of your creative energy towards better pursuits. And I feel, 100%, you were mentioning around the teaching, how it forces you to document what you believe. It forces you to systematize. And watching, you know ... I think you're an incredible teacher and coach. And those two things together, all the documentation that you've done has just made you better at that.
Andrew Foxwell: I am glad to hear you say that, and I'm very glad to hear that. The other thing that has definitely aided in my teaching is, Gracie and I built a network of our favorite consultants and agencies out there, and it's expanding and growing. But I had always spoken to all of these people disparately. There's probably about 20 to 30 of you, maybe some of you are listening to this, around. One of them is a previous guest, Justin Marshall. And these are people that we really, really respect, who are always testing and always innovating.
And so in order to be good at Facebook and Instagram ads, you have to first accept the fact that you know nothing. You have to first accept the fact that you have a baseline of understanding, but that, also, things can change all the time. So you're only as good as the other people you're checking in with. So that's been a very good part of the teaching, as well, and something that particularly excited by. So that's been a big part for me, and one that I'm really glad of.
Austin Brawner: So my last question for you before we wrap this thing up is, where do you want to be three years from now?
Andrew Foxwell: Mm-hmm. That's a great question.
Austin Brawner: How do you see Foxwell Digital evolving?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. It's a good question, and something that Gracie and I are thinking about really actively right now. You know, I don't know, to be honest. I don't have an answer. And I think that a lot of it is, what we've done this year has been, first, eye-opening experience for us, of taking more advantage of the location independence of our business. So I think it could be doing similar things, but it could be doing them in different places, something that, frankly, you've inspired us by, in terms of your location independence, or traveling, and having that be a core value for you.
So I don't know. It's interesting, and I'm not sure. My core thing that I do know that we want to keep doing is providing value, to be helping people, to be helping you guys on the podcast, and to be more and more who we truly are every day. So that's a really big thing that I've been very validated in this year is, I don't have to be like others. I don't have to be paying attention to the competition. And we can just be and design who, exactly, we are. And that's, people notice that difference, which I didn't have confidence, personally, in, I don't think, as much as Gracie did early on. And so that's been a really big shift this year, and I think that's going to be a big part of it.
Austin Brawner: It's so much more fulfilling, as well, right, to continue to focus on who you are, defining that, being unapologetic about that. It's difficult, right? We live in a society that does not ... I'm not going to say it does not support that, because I do think it supports it. But I feel, constantly, that without intention, you're always brought back towards the average, towards the middle.
Andrew Foxwell: Totally.
Austin Brawner: And it's a consistent process, to be you, and to like check in with yourself, and figure out what this. And it's a competitive advantage, too, in everything that you're doing.
Andrew Foxwell: It is.
Austin Brawner: I feel like, you know, we're running, right now, a business that's based on personality, right? The two of us hop on here. We talk on the podcast. And that's a lot of our forward-facing content. But the same thing goes for any business that you're running, being unapologetically you in your business, because there are other people that are going to resonate with that. There are other people, and it's going to turn off a lot of people, which is totally fine. But, yeah. It's definitely a process, and a very fulfilling process.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I completely agree. One thing that ... I don't want to go too much into this, you know, because I know we want to wrap up here in just a minute. But one thing that's, I think, you and I certainly strive to do, and those of you that are listening to this, I mean, we'd be always interested in your feedback, is be different than what other people are doing, and have that ... Not like, you're going to blow it out of the water, and you know, explosive growth type of thing.
Like, I think that the people you and I have worked with and confidently can say we know as friends, that are also either previous clients or current clients, you and I share that together; that we want them to be, over time, continuing to grow. And we will do that, because we want to understand every single part of that business.
And that differentiating factor is incredibly important to me, and incredibly important to Gracie, and to you, and to this podcast. And so, you know-
Austin Brawner: Well, it's just more realistic.
Andrew Foxwell: ... I just, I want to say that.
Austin Brawner: It's more realistic, right?
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, it is.
Austin Brawner: Because for every ... It's very easy to get sucked into the narrative that everyone is blowing up these businesses, and selling, and exiting, and that sort of thing; when the reality is, it's very, very rare. And the combination of variables that have to come together to make something like that happen are unique. Also, it always is going to be a much longer process, even if you do exit for $100 million, or $200 million. The process of getting there is going to take a lot longer than you expect.
So the day-in, day-out, you've got to love it. You've got to absolutely love it. If you don't love those things, you're not going to be able, there's no reason to be an entrepreneur. There's no reason to be able to continue to run this business, because the chance for every Native Deodorant that gets sold for $100 million in two and a half years or three years, there's a million other businesses that don't; and you know, the vast majority of it.
What do you think the top 1% makes in America, salary?
Andrew Foxwell: I honestly, I could guess. I mean, I'm going to say the top 1% makes over $100,000.
Austin Brawner: So the top 1% makes $400,000 or above a year, right?
Andrew Foxwell: Oh, okay.
Austin Brawner: So a lot of people would say more, thinking, "Oh, top 1%, they make $1 million a year." No, it's only, it's $400,000 a year.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I was going to say, it's more conservative than I would have guessed, yeah.
Austin Brawner: Yes. It's not ... Right, think about that. If you are in the top 1% in America, you're at the largest GDP, most capitalist country, you're in the top 1%. That is incredibly, incredibly, successful. And you can do that without having to crush everything, blow everything out, explode everything. It's just a matter of consistently working to get there.
And yeah, like, we both align on that. And it's been something we've been aligning even more on, as we have been in this game for a long time, you know? You talked about new media. If you've been in here since new media, been here since SEO, when SEO was like the thing, black-hat type stuff, I mean, it's just funny.
That was one of my first clients, as well, was like hiding all these keywords in the dark, you know, on the website. And it worked. So it's just, the game has changed.
Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, no. We ... Oh, yeah. No. I mean, the clients, our first client, our first, I would say, real client, it's actually pretty cool. It was a nonprofit that was run by friends of ours, that is now like, probably, legitimately, one of the most famous food-based and food-centric nonprofits in the world, named Food Tank. And Gracie helped them and really led the way.
And so, yeah, it's nuts, the stuff that you took on early on, too. But for those of you that are listening to this that are new and thinking about getting going on something, you know, I think there's going to be a lot of advice in this podcast, in previous episodes, that hopefully will help you understand the foundational things you can do for growth. So, well, thanks for interviewing me today, man. I really appreciate it.
Austin Brawner: This was fun. These are questions that I always ... I like doing this, because I get to ask questions, you know, that you don't normally ask in a hang-out setting. So it's been a lot of fun, man. Thank you.