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094: The Top 7 Things We’ve Learned About Building A Successful Ecommerce Business Since Starting This Podcast

Posted by Austin Brawner on October 7, 2015

It’s been 18 months since starting the podcast and many experts have joined the show to provide us with incredible advice about building a successful ecommerce business.

The question is, which ones should you be focusing on?

We thought it would be the perfect time to take the hundreds of ideas, tips, and tricks and flesh out the top 7 things we’ve learned about building a successful ecommerce business so that you can focus on the most important things now, while helping you better plan for your business’s future.

It was tough for us to choose just 7 so know that our recommendations here do not come lightly.

Key Takeaways from the Show

  • A breakdown of the top 7 things we’ve learned about building a successful ecommerce business
  • The main difference between a real ecommerce business and a job you just created for yourself
  • Predicting the end of most ecommerce businesses
  • Why you’re not as important to your business as you think you are (and why you want it that way)
  • The traffic strategy that the biggest and best ecommerce companies use that you might be ignoring

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Transcript

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Chad: Austin, man, welcome back to the show. Austin: I’m excited to be back, Chad. It feels good to be back in front of the mic. Chad: Yeah man, I think other than me weeping, I’m sure there were others out there who were listening, who were weeping for your input and for your voice as well. Austin: Oh and I was weeping too because I was not able to be on the mic chatting with all our friends here. It’s been an exciting last couple of weeks. Really like three or four weeks have been pretty action packed; came back from Russia and moved from New York City to Austin, Texas – Chad: Wait, what? Austin: Yeah. Chad: You moved to Austin, Texas? Austin: I moved to Austin, Texas. Chad’s pretending to be surprised, but he knows, he’s in on this whole thing. Chad: Yeah. Austin: But it’s exciting, it’s really been an exciting last couple of weeks; moved to Austin, Texas and made it happen and really, really happy in the land of barbecue, in the land of – I mean, my gosh, it’s a blow – the city is blowing up, there’s just cranes everywhere. Chad: I believe it’s 200 people per day that are moving there. Austin: Yeah, it’s close to 200 a day. So, I’m excited about it and yeah, that’s the – Chad: I wonder if people are – yeah, it’s huge but I wonder if people are sitting there like hey, just a few episodes back, you were moving to New York, like can you maybe give us a little insight into why all of a sudden the change there? Austin: Well, it’s exciting; one of the reasons I’m moving to Austin, Texas is we’ve got to a point where we need to have an actual headquarters for the business. We’ve been mostly I’ve been in New York, Chad’s been in L.A., the rest of the team’s been in L.A., we’re getting to the point now where there’s some economies of scale and efficiencies of bringing in people to the office and so we can continue to grow what we are doing and improve on what we are doing and it’s a big step in that direction. So that’s one of the reasons it’s exciting to move to Austin, Texas. It’s a great place to be for business in general, there’s lots of opportunities there, and it’s also a cool spot. I was looking at in between moving to New York and Austin, Texas, and Austin was the other option and now became the first option. After kind of thinking about it for a while, in that train, I realized if we are going to continue to take the next step in the business, there’s going to be moves involved to bring things together and to make it happen. Chad: Yeah man, it’s a great place to go, the land of marketing, barbecue and bull riding. Austin: It is. You can do all those things in a very short – it’s also hilarious because I’ve been riding a lot of Ubers, and I would say one out of three Uber drivers has like a bumper sticker, has something to do with barbecue on the back and I usually ask them about it, where’s the best barbecue and I’ve got – I mean, there’s strong opinions about barbecue in Texas and – Chad: Very strong. Austin: – he drove me around, it was like a 15-minute ride, and when he gets to my place, he’s like now I’m going to tell you about three more places before you hop out, and I sit in the drive and he tells me about three more barbecue spots in Lockhart outside of Austin Texas, that are his favorite. So it was pretty funny, I’m really enjoying it. Chad: We’ll get on to it, I just got to say, I just had one of the fattest weekends I ever had when I went to Austin. We went there for Ecommerce Fuel forum, so just be careful. Oh yeah. We had the deep-fried cinnamon buns, and the deep-fried Oreos and every night. Chad: So all right, let’s move it on. That was fun talking about Texas, though. Austin: Yeah, just get people to get caught back up. I mean, one thing also, this whole episode can be catch up because it’s been about a year-and-a-half since we started this podcast. Chad: Crazy. Austin: It is crazy, and we thought you know, what better way than to go back and share some of the things, the top seven things that we have learned from doing this podcast, how it’s kind of shaped us and we wanted to pull it all in together and give you some – our seven tips that we have learned from doing this podcast about business life and hopefully give you guys something that you can take forward with you and put it to use. Chad: Yeah, so really what you are going to expect here and what you can expect is an awesome authentic conversation about all these things and how they’ve applied collectively to the business and of course, individually too to Austin and I. And I am actually pretty excited about it because the authenticity behind what we talk about today is, I don’t know, it’s pretty easy to talk about and that’s when I know it’s going to be fun. Austin: Yeah, exactly. Chad: So, before we jump in, a couple of things as always, hey look if you are still using MailChimp, you might want to consider switching to Klaviyo; in fact, you can email Klaviyo at ei@klaviyo.com and set up a demo. We don’t get paid any commissions by these guys, we just use them for our clients and we think you should too, especially if you are on MailChimp. It’ll make your life a lot easier, especially when Jeff from Ugmonk says, “It’s like MailChimp on steroids.” So check it out, email them at ei@klaviyo.com and of course content, when I say content, I mean, we have a bunch of content, a bunch of free content, it’s ecommerce marketing training and it’s really everything you need to really take your business to the next level from a free content perspective. It includes training videos, master classes and now eight guides, including ‘How to generate 80000 dollars per month in nine months with YouTube influencer marketing’, ‘Four steps to hiring A-players on Elance’, ‘Selling your business for max value’ and much, much more. You can do that or you can get all that stuff in one easy way by heading over to ecommerceinfluence.com/insider. So head over there now or after this show, and get access to all that good stuff. Austin: Let’s dive in here Chad, you want to kick it off? Chad: Sure, the top seven, number one for me is what I have learned in the last year-and-a-half from not only doing the podcast but doing it ourselves, a real business is run on systems and it’s not just any systems, they are very efficient systems. So, I’ve really learned this when Austin went away for three weeks to China. A business is only a business when you can really leave for three weeks, make money and then return as if you never left, and the only way that happens is with systems. So really systematize everything but I think more importantly than just systematizing everything, it’s being able to improve upon those systems on a regular basis. Austin: Yeah. I think that’s a big learning curve that happens and from talking to a lot of our guests, it’s something that they really value as well are the systems. It’s doing something, not just something that is right and doing something right consistently, it’s doing something right consistently, and then breaking it down and putting it into a process and getting it to somebody else – either automating it or systematizing it so that somebody else can do it for you. That is what real businesses do and that’s what the successful people who come on our podcast, they all think that way. That’s a huge commonality between the successful people that come in our podcast. Chad: Yeah, and I think to add on that, start documenting right now; learn how to document these things because what I learned, the hard way was, this entire podcast, I ended up creating this system for it and documenting how it goes and I was doing everything from behind and it took me a long time to do it. But, start documenting as you go and that will make things so much easier. Austin: If you want to go back and listen to some episodes to talk about systems, Taylor Pearson, he is a great episode, Tim Francis, there’s a lot on creating standard operating procedures, he’s got a great – on his website, he’s got some great resources, there’s lots of places to go, but that’s definitely a commonality. Let’s move on to number two. I think the second thing we’ve learned is that ecommerce is really only getting more and more exciting at this point and there’s so much growth, but one caveat is that the “gravy train” of ease, of acquiring, you know, customers in growth is ending and things are changing a little bit. Chad: Yeah, I mean, this is something that we have harped on for quite a bit and more importantly, I think this is something that a lot of our guests have also harped on; Stan from HubSpot, even Ryan Deiss, I was like, it’s just like AdWords 17 years ago where you could just put an ad up and just make buckets of money. Now it’s much harder. Same with Facebook, same with everything else but ecommerce as a whole, you can’t just put a store up and start selling right away because the competition is getting stiffer, you are going to have to provide more value and I think the one thing that I always take away from this is providing that experience, that website experience and basically Ryan Deiss put it this way, he was like, make your website the next online Disneyland or the next Bass Pro Shops. And I think a lot of that personally, is going to come down to content, like really high-quality content, none of this content that you just write a few blurbs about, but I think somebody specifically like Neil Patel, and even the guy from Backlinko, and how much effort they put into that content, and that’s why I look at them as leaders in the industry, and I think an ecommerce store owner is going to have to do the same and so they should start preparing now. Austin: There’s a great example, I was just searching for a standing desk the other day, and I was looking through the different websites and the websites range from all over. There’s some that look like they were built five years ago, they barely work, other ones that have been launched new; this new company called Evodesk, I’m not sure exactly what it was, their website stood out just instantly in the crowd because I was able to go through and customize a desk and every piece that I added was assembled on the screen in front of me. And I was able to go through and select the different colors, see how it looked and by the time I was done, by the time I was ready to place an order – I actually didn’t end up placing an order with them, I read some reviews and it wasn’t the best, but the marketing was incredible and by the time I was done, I had the entire desk, what it looked like with all my little extras and trinkets assembled on the desk, and I had this image of what it would look like and I could press order and it would be there in a couple of days. Compare that to some of the other companies I was looking at, and there was no customization, I had no idea what I was adding to the desk or not adding to the desk, what it looked like, there was no information and the only reason that I went with this other company was because I read reviews and they said the website sucks but the products were really great and that’s why I went with them. But for the experience, it’s got to – if they combine what Evodesk was doing with the reviews they were getting from other people, that would just be killer, out of the park. That’s where they have to go. Chad: That found like a pretty intense experience, but you’re going to have to get there, that’s the thing. Austin: That was fantastic. Especially when you talk about the gravy train, it’s no longer a novelty to be able to buy something online. When you are buying something like a desk, you got to know if it’s going to fit in your space, what height it is, colors, all that sort of thing, lots of little variables that you need to be able to figure out and unless you have a website that helps people do that, you are not getting prepared for the future. That leads us on to number three: there’s not a clear transition here, but there’s one thing that we have learned from a couple of different people, a couple of different guests, and also from our own experience, and that’s what you can’t grow as a business unless you trust others. And I think if I was to think back at one of the top, top, top things that I have learned over the last year-and-a-half, two years, I think this is probably the best advice I can give anyone because I’ve watched a lot of businesses hire and fire consultants, service providers, and in every single engagement, whether or not it worked out, there was still something that was learned and beneficial from the partnership. And the partnership can only happen with the initial trust to, you know, ask the right questions but then once they pass through and they answer your questions, to truly trust somebody and let them as a service provider or as a consultant help you out and try to take your business to the next level. That’s a real key thing that I have learned over the last couple of years. Chad: Is that something that was triggered by an example, or is it kind of been gradually becoming more apparent to you, tell me – I mean, this is something that you wrote down on a note here and I am curious. Austin: Yeah, it really comes down to the commonalities between the successful companies that we work with, the best companies, the ones that are growing the fastest, they are working with different consultants, with service providers and their mindset is very different than the smaller, slow-growing companies. Their mindset is, hey I want to be involved initially, I want to know what’s going on, I want – but I don’t want to be micromanaging you three months down the road or six months down the road because if I am hiring you, your job is to perform this better than I can do this myself, and your job is to take what we are doing right now and then take it to the next level. I’m going to ask hard questions and I’m going to make sure that things are taken care of, but I’m not going to be unreasonable and I’m going to trust that you are going to do your job better than I can possibly do it. And if you partner, you know, a couple of service providers and consultants in their field of expertise and let them work, I have watched this time and time again take companies and grow them faster than was ever possible, say five or ten years ago, because we really ran in a time when the sky is kind of the limit. You can buy as much traffic as money as you can spend and if people are converting all the way up through, you can grow your business as fast as you can – you know, whatever your product is. So that – the only I see that happening though is the smart entrepreneurs, the successful entrepreneurs will go down the road once they give somebody their trust, they will let them run and see what they can do. Chad: Makes sense. Next one, “There are a million ways to drive traffic; don’t dabble, execute.” So, really what you have found, and this is one of yours, so maybe just let you review this one because this is something you wrote down as well. Austin: Sure, I think both of us have some experience with this, I feel like this is a big stopping point for people; they get caught in this purgatory of not knowing which traffic strategy to use. There’s all this hype around digital marketing and you know, you do this, you do this SEO like SEO video trick you’re going to get to a 100,000 visitors and be making bank, and there’s a new one of those that come out every single month. And what happens is, I feel like people get caught in the middle and they don’t commit to one specific strategy and they don’t flush it out. They are driving traffic from Twitter, Facebook, SEO, they are doing some SEO trick and they are doing some video and they are doing all these things and they are still a small company, I’m talking about under a million, or one to two million dollars, and they are not committing. That is what I want to cover, the successful people, successful companies, they focus on one channel and they really reach the limits of that channel before they begin to diversify, especially when you are just starting out. Chad: Yeah, I mean, we talked about this before getting on the show, but you look at – two weeks ago, we had a podcast with Emmanuel [Unclear 0:17:55] and that is the perfect example of somebody focusing on one channel and mastering it to the point of 80,000 dollars of revenue per month within the first nine months. He wasn’t out there dabbling in Facebook and dabbling in other things, he really picked one channel, he learned it, he mastered it and look where it’s put him, and now he’s ready to move on to the next channel which is mastering email and mastering Facebook ads. I have a feeling that Emmanuel is going to be exploding over the next year purely because of his mindset in that way. Austin: Yeah, but he took nine months to master that; how many of you can actually say that you are going to commit the next nine months to figuring out one traffic channel? Chad: Yeah. Austin: That’s something that the good entrepreneurs, the successful entrepreneurs, the ones who have successful ecommerce businesses, they understand, they master it and then once they master it, they will either pass it along to somebody else who can manage it, they train them and they pass it to somebody else, or they figure out a way to continue doing themselves but get help with some other channels. Chad: Yeah. So the next one, “Your personal impact is smaller than you think” and I think this one is even more prominent once you have those systems in place, which we talked about in the beginning, because at the end of the day, if you are just getting started, yes, your impact on the business is pretty large because it’s typically just you or just you and one other person but as you grow, as you hope to grow, as you build these systems, you realize that you put these things in place so you don’t have to be there and constantly be a part of having any impact on the business. And sometimes it’s kind of weird because you go from so involved to not necessarily needed and it’s the weirdest thing. I know, I have felt that in the past before and I know you felt it on the train in China, so why don’t you tell us a bit about that? Austin: Yeah, I think one of the main things that I kind of came – kind of have come to a conclusion on recently is that if you really think about what we can get right, or get wrong, on a personal level on a day-to-day basis, it’s very, very small. Like, just what you can do personally is very small and really it’s insignificant compared to what a team of people, of really empowered people can do. Let’s say you are the guiding force and you are able to bring 15-100 people and empower them to make choices on a day-to-day basis, what you can really do is insignificant compared to what that team can do. But we will never be able to actually do that as entrepreneurs unless we figure out a way to let go of, you know, your need for control over what you are doing – Chad: Or recognition – Austin: Or recognition, absolutely. Chad: – because control recognition are different but they lead to the same problem. Austin: They do. If you can change your mindset and figure out how to get past that and how to stop thinking about, you know, controlling every aspect but instead empowering people and helping people achieve what they want out of their life, you are going to have a team of empowered people that will make what you do on a day-to-day basis, just insignificant. It’s not going to be – that’s the only way to really, really grow and that again, comes from the people that we talked to on this podcast. They have been able to do that in their own lives, they have been able to figure out a way to empower other people to focus on, to basically live out what they want and what their goal is, and do it in the long term, if that makes sense. Chad: Yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense. I mean, when we think about the impact that we have, it’s funny because we talk about you actually have a smaller impact than you think and it’s actually true, at the end of the day your impact is less on the business and more on the people. So you have a small impact on the business, it’s the bigger impact on the people, and it comes down to how you operate on a daily basis, how you treat your employees or the people around you, and a lot of that actually will stem from how you actually take care of yourself and how you see yourself. So, while your impact is small and it’s smaller than you think that your business which is absolutely true, it’s much bigger, the impact that you have on the people, that run the overall business for you. At least that’s my take. Austin: I think that’s dead on, and I think that’s also somewhat counterintuitive because I feel like sometimes to get buy-in from a team, you sometimes need to let somebody else assert and execute their ideas even if you know and feel that they are wrong, or you know from experience that they are wrong just so that they can learn from them and progress and learn whatever lesson that you have learned in the past for themselves. You can give guidance, but if at a certain point, if you are really truly letting go and giving your team autonomy and empowerment, sometimes they are going to make the wrong decisions and that’s the best possible thing for them because they are going to learn from it. That’s something that I think is probably the most difficult thing, especially for me because I can – it’s very hard – I’m a fixer, that’s what I am. Like if there’s a problem, I want to fix it and if it’s wrong, I want to figure out a way of how to get to the bottom of it. That’s the way that I am wired, so it’s taken a long time to get to that conclusion that sometimes the best thing is to let somebody else go down the wrong path so they can figure it out themselves. Chad: Agreed. Moving on next, so let’s stick with that theme of people right; “People matter and relationships matter” and I think in the last year-and-a-half we have put this podcast together, I don’t think anything has been more impactful than the people that we have built relationships with from Andrew Youderian, we’ve got Ezra Firestone, we’ve got Avinash Kaushik who I took a class from; like all these people have been around to help us get to where we are, and you know, we are following up on employees and how we empower our employees or the people that work with us before us to build this business. But it’s amazing how empowered we have felt by building these relationships with people who are much larger than us, and I don’t think we’ve put enough emphasis on how important it is to have these people in our lives. Sometimes we do a great job, other times we don’t, but one simple piece of advice, send “Thank you” notes. That will change the game for your relationships and how your business takes off. But, if you love this podcast man, I mean, we have emailed strangers directly and they have agreed to come on and be a part of our show, and they didn’t have to and without that, we wouldn’t be anything or we’d be much less. Austin: Exactly. I think that it’s underrated to put time and energy and thought into reaching out to somebody because this community is really, really small; the ecommerce community is very small and so if you are looking online, you are seeing somebody who is writing something or is on a podcast who resonates with you, I really recommend just reaching out to them and asking for help, but doing it in a very thoughtful way. I think – I look at all the emails that I get from people, that Chad and I get, I would say 95% of those emails are completely self-serving. You know if you own a business, you know what they are; they are SEO audits that are asking for your time, meetings asking for your time to like drive leads or some crazy business hack that they are going to blow up your business, they say they’ll double your business overnight, but really I rarely get a very thoughtful email that asks a question or asks for help and every thoughtful email that I receive, I try to respond to. I think back to some of the responses or the best advice that I have ever gotten – the best situations that I have ever gotten myself into have really come from asking people; sometimes they are strangers, they are very weak ties, or like acquaintances but generally asking them for help with no expectations or asks because what’s going to happen is, if you ask an interesting question and a question that – especially if you think about this community of people who are in marketing and who are growing businesses, they are in it because they care about it and it’s interesting to them. They are not going to be spending all the time – they are not going to be on this podcast talk about marketing because we don’t like it, we are genuinely interested in it and so what I mean by that if you ask a very interesting question, the question maybe isn’t asked a hundred times before, I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised by the answer you get from somebody and you may be struggling with something, a question in your mind, and I really recommend just really reaching out to somebody who you think might have insight, and asking the question, but doing it in a way that does not force them into a corner to ignore it by asking them for a phone call or something like that. If they are interested, they will offer. Chad: Sure, and I think going from experience, right, I mean, you’ve emailed certain people, I’ve emailed a bunch of people for the show, all this good stuff, and the one piece of advice I got a long time ago, I remember this, I was getting ready to really reach out to the first five to ten people for getting on this podcast over a year-and-a-half ago, and I sent the email to somebody else who had a podcast and said, “Hey how have you been getting cold prospects for your podcasts on to the show to agree?” I go “Here’s what I have written so far.” And he wrote back, he goes, “That’s way too long and you know, here’s what I wrote.” And it was two two-sentence paragraphs and really simple stuff and that’s perfectly fine and I agree that things need to be much shorter than what they are, I definitely am guilty of this, and I always try a way to cut 50% so I definitely shorten it up. But more importantly, when I wrote these emails, I wrote them in a way that made sure that they were interesting. Yes, people don’t have time, but if you writing something that is interesting and thoughtful, they will make the time because they have realized that you will spend the time to be thoughtful, and a lot of times that is reciprocated and willingness to at least read that email and respond. I think in the – I don’t know, I’ve probably emailed, I don’t know, 50-70 different people about coming on the show and I would say only maybe 5-10 never emailed me back. Really those five to ten were people like Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel, and the reason is because they get thousands of these things every day. No matter how well you write this email, you are most likely not going to get a response unless you are much higher up on the chain because of the things you have already produced. Austin: Yeah, at that point it’s a numbers game. Chad: Yeah. Austin: Like, if you write a great email that happens to get them at the right time, it might get a response but if not, you have to be persistent and get back through to people like that because again, like I said, a thousand emails a day, it’s a numbers game and no matter how great of an email you write, it’s still an email. But yeah, that’s kind of what we wanted to cover with you guys. I think that was actually only – Chad: Yeah, I think you are right – Austin: It was six – six-and-a-half – Chad: It was six because the two were kind of together, the last two here. Austin: We wrote the last two, we wrote number six as “People matter, relationships matter even more” and number seven is “People are willing to help you if and only if you are thoughtful.” Those are the last two. Yeah, I hope you guys enjoyed that, got some value from it, as a reminder like we talked about earlier, I think if you have not gone over to ecommerceinfluence.com/insider and joined and become an Ecommerce Influence Insider, I really recommend you it because we’ve got great training videos, great guides in there that are going to go more in-depth than we can go on the podcast and all we are going to do is sign up. You’ll get instant access to all of our training material and the best stuff from – anyone from Avinash Kaushik to Ryan Deiss. If you go to ecommerceinfluence.com/insider, you just click on it and you’ll be able to sign up real quick and you’ll be in. You’ll get an email from us typically around once a week, once every other week with anything new that we find valuable as well to send your way. Chad: Awesome stuff; and don’t forget, if you haven’t done so already, make sure you subscribe. Please leave us a review; that helps us quite a bit and even if it’s not a good review, we like to know how well we are doing. Austin: He’s actually lying; just give us good reviews. Chad: You’re right, I was trying to be authentic but that was [Unclear 0:31:29] I was like, do not give us bad reviews. Don’t do it. If it’s not a five, don’t even leave it. All right anyway, well, hey good stuff man. Austin: Yeah, thanks for listening today, we always enjoy having you guys join us, and we will chat with you on the next episode. Chad: See you later.  
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