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247: What It’s Like to Manage the Global Marketing Strategy for a 10-Figure Business

Posted by Austin Brawner on April 14, 2020

Being in charge of the global marketing strategy for a 10-figure business is no simple feat.

Our guest today is Andrew Rosch, Director of Channel Marketing Strategy for Trek Bicycle.

He joins us to talk about what it looks like to manage a global strategy team for a huge global organization, the importance of only focusing on a few key metrics, why email is still his favorite marketing channel, organic content strategies that are working for Trek, and much more.

If you’re growing a large business, or you have aspirations to grow into a large business, you won’t want to miss this episode.


Episode Highlights

  • 6:19 What it means to be the Director of Channel Marketing Strategy.
  • 7:44 Finding harmony between brick and mortar and ecommerce.
  • 9:27 The Trek customer journey both on and offline and how it overlaps.
  • 13:02 How Trek avoids alienating its broad-range of customers with its organic content.
  • 15:22 The first test influencers have to pass before working with Trek.
  • 16:12 How Trek approaches the seasonality of the bike business.
  • 18:49 Andrew’s philosophy on measurement and why Trek’s global digital marketers are only responsible for 5 key KPIs.
  • 21:23 What the Channel Marketing team at Trek looks like.
  • 23:58 How Andrew empowers his global team to share new ideas.
  • 25:27 This Director of Channel Marketing Strategy’s favorite marketing channel.
  • 27:01 Andrew’s email marketing tech stack and team.
  • 29:16 Balancing experimentation and systemization.
  • 31:14 Three things Andrew’s learned in his career that have contributed to his success.
  • 35:05 In ecommerce, what you see is rarely the whole picture.
  • 40:02 The importance of going down the rabbit hole and finding out the larger context of what we see online.
  • 43:17 When you create content, assume that whoever is going to see it has never seen anything from your brand before.
  • 46:23 Having a brand is key when you’re thinking about business longevity.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell, and I'm excited to be here.

Austin Brawner: Like usual, we're both excited to be here and excited to chat. And I think partly it's because we don't get a chat that often outside of the podcast.

Andrew Foxwell: Right.

Austin Brawner: We've got our little podcast world where we see each other, we catch up, which is really, really nice. And then every once in a while we like hop on a plane and go meet up in person, hang out for a couple of days. It's really, really nice. And then we both got lots of stuff going on.

So we like won't talk to each other for four or five days or maybe just connect a little bit in Slack. So it's always really fun to hop on here and meet a new guest. And at the same time get to hang out with my friend Andrew Foxwell and talk about what's going on and what's working.

We have a really interesting guest today who happens to kind of align with one of Andrew's big passions of 2019-2020, and Andrew became a professional mountain biker this last year.

Andrew Foxwell: That's true.

Austin Brawner: And so to be able to bring on Andrew, who is the director of strategy and head of channel marketing at Trek Bikes, it's really interesting to kind of see the parallels of this organization that now, Andrew's become a really deep in the industry.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I think. So a couple of different things. Andrew Rosch, our guest today was somebody that reached out and actually I met on Twitter a couple of years ago, and I've been actually in full transparency and been working with Trek for a little bit. So he's a client of mine.

And I've always liked his thoughtful approach at anything that he is doing. And his almost academic approach to the way that he thinks about things to me is very rare. I feel like a lot of us are kind of more trying tactics or chasing stuff a little bit sometimes. I'm guilty of that myself, and Andrew is very strategic.

So I really like the guy. I've also got to know him better personally and the way that he thinks through things from actually mountain biking with him on their secret Trek Bike trails that they have actually, which aren't super secret. But they have these set of trails that you can ride on out at their headquarters, which is pretty cool.

Austin Brawner: They're kind of restricted to performance athletes, right?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, to performance athletes. Yeah. Yeah.

Austin Brawner: Well, I mean, one thing people might not know about Andrew is he does have a Peloton.

Andrew Foxwell: I do. I do have a Peloton.

Austin Brawner: We're talking about Andrew Foxwell.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, Andrew Foxwell. I have a Peloton. I got one used on Facebook marketplace, and the guy actually unfortunately was getting divorced. And so he needed to get rid of it immediately I think, and he sold me his membership as well at a deep discount.

So I'm going to be honest, I'm really loving this thing. Hop on there. Very efficient workout. I always am incredibly sweaty afterwards, but I do feel better than I have ever felt physically.

Austin Brawner: While it goes in line when you are performance athlete who has access to some of the Trek private trails, you got to go do the work inside. So that summertime, you shine.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, and that goes for personal too. I have to do the work inside. A lot of it's head, head and heart and mind and then it transitions into the outside. You see my... I mean, I don't know if people have met me. I'm ripped. Super ripped.

Austin Brawner: Washboard.

Andrew Foxwell: That's how people describe me.

Austin Brawner: The whole from top to bottom, washboard.

Andrew Foxwell: Let me just say this if you're in Madison and you see a scrawny kid walking who looks like he's 17 wearing Allbirds and is over 6'1", that's 50% chance it's me.

Austin Brawner: Well, today's episode, diving into what we're going to be covering, I think you're going to really, really enjoy this episode. If you are in a position where you are either kind of like growing a larger organization or you have aspirations to be in a larger organization because we talked to a lot of people who are smaller businesses. Trek is larger and they're thinking in ways that these smaller businesses are not because they have a lot more variables.

Andrew brings a really nuanced perspective, talks a lot about context and marketing and share some really interesting tactics and things that are working for Trek. So we'll welcome him to the show right now.

Andrew Rosch: Thank you so much for having me.

Andrew Foxwell: Well it's such a pleasure to be sitting across from you and to have you here. And why don't you take a minute to talk about who you are and what you do.

Andrew Rosch: So I'm the Director of Channel Marketing Strategy for Trek Bicycle, and we're a global bicycle brand that is growing and quickly growing. And as director of channel marketing strategy, the team that I work with is responsible for organic, paid search, email, social, anything that you'd see in your Google Analytics dashboard.

In a practical sense, it means that my team is responsible for driving consumers through the funnel. We provide solutions for the business and other parts of the marketing organization, do the reporting, look for opportunities. But what's really fun is that we get to provide the infrastructure and the strategy for about two dozen international subsidiary offices that Trek has.

Andrew Foxwell: So tons to talk about here in this episode. It's really exciting. I think Trek is growing in a big way. I think Trek has made a lot of strategic moves, in my opinion, being a sort of a cycling enthusiast, like watching the industry in terms of building like a pretty legitimate women's team up, investing in the right kind of technology. The products are good sponsoring a team and the Tour de France.

Can you talk more about your role, like more in-depth because it's eCommerce and it touches on that. But it also eCommerce influences a whole bunch of other parts of the business as well. And so kind of what that is and your take on that?

Andrew Rosch: Absolutely. So we have eCommerce businesses in some of the markets that we operate in, including the US, but most of our consumers interact with our products and transact at brick and mortar. And so a big part of what I do is I understand how the digital experiences and the digital funnels impact the journeys that consumers have wherever they transact and understanding in an environment that maybe feels like it's getting disrupted by online sales or if our retailers are concerned that online might be challenging what they're doing.

We try to find the harmony in that, and we try to see what we can learn from the digital side and even the eCommerce side that can really help us benefit the customer journey at brick and mortar. And we've learned a ton. It's been fascinating.

Andrew Foxwell: Because how many stores are there globally and in the United States?

Andrew Rosch: Oh man. In the US, this is a total ballpark, and I should probably know this number. I think it's about 1500 in the US. Most of them are independently owned businesses, like small local businesses, like your hometown has. And then globally, I'll be honest, I don't know right now. But we are in probably 25 subsidiary markets. So lots of major markets from Japan to all over Europe, that sort of thing.

Austin Brawner: It's really interesting thinking about that customer journey. When you are mapping it out, what does the customer journey look like typically in your guys' mind when you're kind of mapping out what happens when someone goes and purchases a Trek bike.

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, so it's fascinating. I'll give you an example.

A couple of months ago I went and visited some of our own retail stores in Manhattan, and the series of questions that a consumer is answering at a physical store are the same kinds of questions that they address in their digital journey of trying to understand our product and what our solutions are.

And so I think a first step for a lot of people is in markets where we have a lot of brand awareness like the US, they may know who our brand is. That's sort of step one. And then when a consumer thinks, "Okay, I may be a bicycle consumer," they're just sort of scratching the surface of who we are. That's where we want to make sure that we're winning any sort of awareness that we can get. And that's a lot of like organic search if we're talking very specifically in the digital space. That's also a place where social can really start to come in and we can make sure that we're part of the conversation there.

We also try to ask what are the barriers that get in people's way as they're going through their journey, and what are the questions they need to answer? How do we just remove those barriers with information wherever we communicate digitally or in the real world?

And so you can use a lot of the digital channels to answer very specifically at what steps does a consumer need to know, what thing? A really good example is recently in our email onboarding flow, we discovered that figuring out what bike size someone needs is a massive and very common challenge. And so we were able to get that signal back, discover that it was an opportunity, and then apply that learning across a whole bunch of our touchpoints.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I mean, I think it's you have done a very good job, you and the team have done a really good job in eCommerce of understanding, reframing it really. I mean, because you've been doing this... You've been working at Trek for a long time, but even doing this job for I think over two years now and of looking at the barriers to entry and things and trying to figure out how we can get people in the store.

The thing that's interesting to me about that as well is content. How does content compliment that? And how do you think about it? Because I know that you are a noted skeptic generally on like certain digital marketing and people saying something does something in a miracle way. But one thing that you have advocated for in a long term, and this doesn't really get talked about in our industry a lot at all anymore, is organic social. That if organic social plays a role in the funnel and organic social meaning Instagram stories.

And I think it works well in cycling because it's a lot of niche communities. And if you can speak into those niche communities and you have influencers that are on your team, that helps. But how do you think about organic-

Austin Brawner: When you say niche communities, let's break it down. It looks cool to post stuff about bikes. That's what it comes down to.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Yeah. 

Austin Brawner: Niche communities. I may be a bicycle consumer. Really it's like you could post cool pictures about people on bikes and people want to see it.

Andrew Foxwell: Well, what I'm saying about niche communities, what I mean is there's a very strong sense if you are a female mountain bike enthusiast or you are a female or a young male cross enthusiast, there are a very specific tight communities. And that's something that I think Trek has done well. So that's what I want you to comment on.

Andrew Rosch: Yeah. And so even within cycling, we have a huge range of customers, and it's very easy for an enthusiast hobby area to alienate the casual customers by being way too hardcore.

So if all we talked about was our Tour de France racing team, that would be really intimidating to the family that wants to cruise along the bike path in their neighborhood. And so part of understanding how to talk to everyone sort of in the right way that's inclusive is taking a look at your organic social and saying, "Okay, if a consumer is just discovering our brand and they're like, 'Okay, I just kind of want to out this brand. What's their vibe? Who are they? I'm going to go to their website. I might actually go check out their social accounts.'"

And so every once in a while we'll just go look at our feed of organic content and say, "Okay, is this totally alienating to a very relevant customer?" We're not perfect with it, but I think it's about developing that self-awareness.

I think another part of organic social is that when you are a global brand, you have partner brands that you work with and you have lots of personalities and celebrities that you work with and understanding that organic ecosystem. That's also another really big part of it.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think that that's true. If I'm a brand, if I own a brand now, even a small brand, one of the things that I'm thinking about is like influencer marketing is part of it. But influencer marketing as it's been sold in a lot of ways is a pay for post type of thing.

And I think what you can shift into is more of an advocate position where that person is consistently and constantly advocating for your brand and maybe that's paid, maybe it's not. But maybe they also like the products and you send them free product and I don't know.

I think in cycling and in Trek specifically has done a very good job with that because I'm a consumer of that space. It's positioning yourself where it's a voice of authority. It's, I know I can try trust content from Trek as well, which is good. And there's multiple people talking about it at once I guess is where I'm going with that.

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, it's an interesting challenge. When we are looking at influencers to work with, the first test is would it make sense for them to be part of our social ecosystem without the more transactional nature of some of the business relationship things. And if they really passed that test and they fit that way, then we can look at some really specific things that we're looking for.

And it's not just getting access to their audience, but a big part of it for us is getting the types of content that they can make and that sort of outside idea sort of thing that you get with like agency work and that sort of thing.

Austin Brawner: Sure. I want to dive into more of a bigger picture business question because we kind of talked about this before hopping on. Bikes are very seasonal.

Andrew Rosch: Super seasonal.

Austin Brawner: I've had many conversations with clients that also run seasonal businesses, and there's kind of two schools of thought. One is to lean into the seasons and the other one is to fight seasonality.

How do you guys approach it and what have you... I mean, you guys have been doing this a long time. So how do you guys approach it? That's really the big question.

Andrew Rosch: Yeah. So seasonality for Trek, is because most of our markets are Northern hemisphere, and so it's very broadly speaking, March through peaking in July and that kind of tapers off August, September. Then when it starts to get cold in North America, that's when it quiets down.

And there's this amazing trend curve with sessions to our website year on year. No matter when we have a massive product launch or like huge success with driving traffic, it is the same. It's been that way for half a decade.

And we treat that challenge you talked about, do you lean into it? Do you fight it? We treat that trend curve as times of potential or times of opportunity. And so when there's really high opportunity, like in July, July is the only time that Americans pay attention to bicycle racing because that's when the Tour de France is going on. Huge potential when the weather's nice. And so we want to lean into it then.

In the off-season, like right now in January, there are some things that we can do and there are some customers who we can talk to. If you're really into cycling, January is still a relevant time. It's just for a very small subset of people. And so we look at the trends in terms of web traffic, we look at the types of people that we're talking to in those off-season times, and we also treat those times as high value for planning and getting ready for when the season does hit.

Andrew Foxwell: I think it's one thing Austin was asking, before this interview, yesterday was asking tell me more about Andrew from Trek. And the first thing that came to my mind is that the way that you think about I think eCommerce and really marketing generally is it strikes me as an academic. You have an academic lens that you look through things through, in terms of you take a lot of information in, you read a lot of different sources. And you don't come to a quick conclusion necessarily because you're wanting to make sure that you're thinking about it in that way.

One of the things that I think is evidence of this is the way that you think about measurement in terms of eCommerce because I know that there's a billion different ways people measure. What's your philosophy on this? How do you tie measurement and eCommerce, and where are the breaks that you see happening commonly in this with digital marketing?

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, absolutely. So because most of our business happens at brick and mortar, if you get consumers that are going through your eComm funnels and then they all disappear as soon as they go to your retail location section of your website, that can feel like you just have a blind spot.

But what you can flip that to is understanding all of the directional signals that you can optimize people for. Very 10,000 foot view, I think there are marketers who look at digital as trying to get the customer to do something and there are marketers who look at digital as tools for removing barriers. And if we're really just removing the barriers for consumers, digital is the way that you can get a really strong feedback loop on every step that they take, wherever they end up converting.

In terms of the metrics that we keep track of what, we measure and we really care about. I'm a big advocate for a few key metrics, very small number. I think there's only like five really big KPIs that all of our global digital marketers have to chase and take, for example, web sessions. Yes, you want to grow web sessions, and it's very easy for us to say, "Well, shouldn't we have a quality metric attached to that? Like bounce rate or something like that?"

And what I've found is that if you hire good digital marketers and you give them three to five really specific things that they're trying to chase, they will be responsible with the quality metrics. Any of the guys in here, anybody you've interviewed on this podcast, they're going to be responsible because they have a lot of pride in the work that they do.

So I try to keep metrics pretty simple. From there, yeah, we can drive it or dive into the secondary metrics because those will help us figure out the little steps that we can take.

Austin Brawner: I think that's a good thing to remember, especially if you're running a smaller business, you're listening and you're running a business doing three million. They have five metrics and you guys are massive and you've been around for a long, long time. I think simplicity is really, really key and it's something that, like you mentioned, you want to have those secondary things because it's easy to second guess and be like, "Well, we need to have this to make sure that it's qualified and that, that sort of thing." And it's interesting, your thought process.

Could you describe for us your team and how that looks? What does the organization look like at this point?

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, absolutely. So I love the team that we have right now. They're better than Trek has ever been. We have such a fun team to work with. Very diverse backgrounds. So my team, the channel marketing team is about one-third of overall digital at Trek. My colleague Steve Novoselac and his team own our website and digital products. So we work hand in hand. I mean we sit next to them and all that sort of stuff. And then we have a team of developers as well that serve all different parts of the business. And so those are sort of the three main pillars in our US headquarters.

And my team isn't just responsible for the digital channels in the US but we create the infrastructure and set the overall strategy for about two dozen digital specialists in our international subsidiary offices. And that's the part that has really evolved over the last five years or so that has helped Trek make the bigger steps that we've had in digital lately because each one of those digital marketers is responsible, in those international offices, they're responsible for the individual market goals and challenges that are going on as well as implementing some of the global goals that we have.

But because each one of those marketers has a really different background professionally, they bring so many interesting ideas that now if one market test something out and it works really well, they can share it with the team. Everybody's game goes up. If one market is having a challenge with something, they can present the challenge to the group. And so my team is both the people that report to me and who I'm responsible for in our US office, but it's also two dozen super sharp marketers around the globe and that's really who I love working with.

Andrew Foxwell: I think it's the global marketing piece is really interesting. A lot of it's always centralized and you're kind of decentralized and a lot of transferring information. I think people on our pod... Listeners on our podcast are always interested in education of like how they can sort of keep their game going.

As you train those offices and those teams, I know that consistent communication about what we're seeing, what we're doing is big and always testing and learning is helpful for them. How else do you empower those people to be as helpful as to them as possible?

Andrew Rosch: So when a new member of the team comes on... Like we had a new teammate who joined us in our Korea office this year, they go through a pretty standard onboarding where they'll meet, for example, the social media specialist in the US office, Haley. Haley's responsible for social globally and so she needs to have that deep knowledge. She'll get the new person on the team up to speed with what we are doing right now.

Then we try to create regular opportunities for each member of the team to share what they are doing. So we have these global metrics and we have monthly reporting that shows how is each market doing in each of the channels on each of the key metrics. When that reporting goes out, it's not just to the marketing organization. It goes to sales, and we celebrate the wins that individual marketers have in their office. And then really one of the things that we try to incentivize is if someone discovers something really impactful, we make that our new standard.

Andrew Foxwell: Right. Sure. So you raise it to the level so that everybody could see it and talk about it.

Let's talk about tactics. Shift to that for a second. In terms of like eCommerce tactics, what works in your opinion? What is on the horizon? I mean, obviously you're using email. Transparently, I'm involved in the Facebook and Instagram side of it. What else are you seeing that you're excited about or that you're seeing that's really been impactful for your business in terms of eCommerce?

Andrew Rosch: So one of my favorite channels just always because it's sort of what I started out when I first got to Trek is email because email is, we call it "the unsexy channel that gets the work done." Because email is such a powerful place for building relationships with your customers. If they want to get email from you that that's a lot of trust. You get access to their inbox.

It's also a place where you can create a lot of context about what your conversation is about so you can deliver hyper-relevant information. And in eComm specifically, email is a great mid-term and long-term play because you're just building this momentum with it. This constant momentum. It's a great place for testing. It's a great place for customization. It's a great place for always learning how to optimize it.

And so I think email is probably in terms of more the feeling less, not just the facts, but a lot of feeling, email is really where we're seeing a ton of growth lately because we've been able to sustain that momentum as compared to some other digital channels where you need to pivot a lot more often. Email keeps that momentum up.

Austin Brawner: How do you guys think about segmentation in your email list? And also like tech stack, what are you guys using at that scale? And obviously re-platforming at your guys' level of... It'd just be a nightmare.

So where are you guys at as far as tech stack? How do you guys think about segmentation, and how many people are actually involved in the email process at this larger level?

Andrew Rosch: So we use Bronto from Oracle for email, and we've used it for quite a while because it has continued to meet our needs. Being global and a lot of those challenges there, it's got a lot of tools like workflows and automation built into it. We're able to plug in our products to it so it meets those needs.

I think the other big tool that we use is Justuno. That works really well for us with like popups and banners and that sort of thing. It's pretty simple in that regard. I think our design team also uses Litmus for email design.

And so we have a global email marketing manager, Casey Kohner, super sharp dude. He's been doing email for a really long time, worked in a lot of areas. I've learned a ton from Casey. And then we have designers, we have like an email production designer who's in on it. Our copy team actually is part of the conversation with AB testing on subject lines and AB testing with content.

So I would say that we get a part of maybe half a dozen people's time in terms of creating an individual email. And that doesn't even touch on translation, localization, getting those emails if it's going to get used in another, getting it distributed there.

Austin Brawner: One thing that I've been thinking about and talking about a lot with some of my clients that are growing, getting larger is the systematization of email and actually just marketing in general.

And I think it's one of those things that when you're a fast-growing company ad you're just throwing things at the wall, trying to see what's going to stick and then some things stick and you grow really quickly and you start hiring people. You're in this space where you just sometimes continue to experiment, experiment, experiment. When you get bigger, it can kind of sometimes limit that. But at the same time there's opportunities, like you mentioned, to lean into things and do things consistently over time.

How do you guys balance experimentation with rigid systems that allow you to get things done? How do you think about experimentation at your guys' level?

Andrew Rosch: With our team and any channel, we try to set a couple quarters out some things that we want to test if they are going to be big scale tests. 

Austin Brawner: What would be a big scale task, like what's an example?

Andrew Rosch: Overhauling our post-purchase email series. So if we're taking it from not being segmented, which it is right now, to being segmented by road bikes, mountain bikes, city bikes, that sort of thing.

So first doing a test with say one subset of consumers just to make sure that we kind of get the pieces in place. We would set that up well ahead of time and that gives us a lot of time to talk about how we're going to run the test, set up what our expectations are for KPIs, what we're going to report on, and then set the definition ahead of time about what success or failure looks like, what is going to tell us what. And that means one that our tests are never scrambling, and it helps us stay focused on the core things. And that we take it one step at a time.

There's also, especially with email, there's some smaller-scale tests that we can run that are just ongoing, like every ad hoc email delivery that we do has a variety of subject lines because that's not just testing for long term learning in terms of the kinds of language that consumers are receptive to. That's basically getting to roll the dice multiple times with that individual email delivery.

Austin Brawner: Sure. How well do you have any advice for listeners who are in a role similar to you? So they are in a marketing leadership role at a mid to large size company. What are some things that you've learned in your career that have helped you be successful?

Andrew Rosch: I think I've got three things that over the last couple of years I've kept coming back to. One of them is, demystifying digital is all about how you tell the story internally. Part of what has helped digital grow at Trek is explaining to non-digital marketers, more traditional marketers, non-marketers in other parts of the business, like forecasting, sales, that sort of thing. So having a really clear story to tell that simplifies it enough that it's accessible and it shows the value in how marketing relates to the business. But it doesn't oversimplify it to the point of being misleading.

Telling a really clear story is a big one, and a big part of that in my current role with leading a team is making sure that my team can do the deep dives that they need to do. They can get really into the complex, really messy stuff that's going on, but they are constantly learning how to tell a clear story with what they do. Haley on my team, just as an amazing job with organizing information and telling a clear story with it. That's been super, super valuable.

And then the third thing to kind of continue to build on that is when you're looking at hiring, I hire for attitude and an individual's interest in really actively pursuing whatever it is that they're going to be doing.

There's a lot of stuff in digital that we can teach. The very specific hands-on things we can teach that. And I know that we like to think that it's like this magical innate, special talent that people have. And there are people who are talented. I also tend to look for the people that just have a lot of drive. And when you do that, you can get a really good team built. And that's really more what it's about.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I agree and I've seen it firsthand in that as well. I do want to comment on the translation thing is huge. I mean I think in anywhere agencies can take from this even if you run the business with your spouse communicating what works is huge. And just in terms of actually being able to tell a story is big.

And I've been asking other clients that and trying to coach more of that as well in terms of like we, as a Facebook advertiser and an Instagram advertiser, I am in one place a lot of times. And I'm telling one part of it. But really what we need to do is like how does the person come through a lot of this and what touchpoints do we have?

And I think it's when you're looking at something like a bike purchase that has a longer lead time and there's going to be a lot of touchpoints within that. I think it's just also making the case for trying to get in front of them not as much as we can but in the best way we can, in the most consistent... That's quality and most consistently with the brand.

I think a lot of other companies I've that are bigger have done. They equate volume with being better. So the more that that person hears from them, the better off it's going to be. But that's not necessarily the case obviously. And it's like it's better to make it fewer better type of thing in terms of email or Facebook ads or touchpoints that you're going to you're going to see them on.

So as a person that, that has gone through this, you consistently do a lot of learning in all these different channels and eComm as well. I've always wanted to ask you this, so I'm glad I'm asking you on an interview. What are the things that really bother you, that message about the eCommerce industry or about eComm in general that are like misconceptions that you feel like are out there that you want to kind of like blow up a little bit or comment on?

Andrew Rosch: So I try to remind myself constantly so that I don't lose it over this, that everyone, whether you work in marketing or not, you experience digital and you experience eComm things and you experience very specifically social media. And you interact with social media.

And one of the things that I get hung up on a lot is that the way that we experience marketing is never the way that it is on the backend. Marketing is so opaque. And I think one of the challenges specifically with eComm is that it's super opaque. You can't look at a competitor at what they're doing on the front end and really have much of a sense of what's going on on the backend or what sort of results they're seeing.

And so the way that this manifests with digital marketers is there are a lot of people who say, "This group now has X number of followers, therefore they are doing something right."

And I think there was a great example of some Instagram influencer who had tons and tons of followers, but when they launched their own clothing line, it totally bombed because the thing that we didn't see behind the scenes is that they didn't actually have inventory. The product wasn't that great. They had no distribution. There were all these other things that we couldn't see. And so it's very easy to take what you see very literally at face value. And that's pretty superficial.

And so what Andrew Foxwell, you've probably noticed, is I scrutinize things really deeply because it's getting to the core of what is going on or what motivates things is never what I would assume. There's all kinds of stuff going on.

How's their business doing otherwise? What do their inventory levels look like? David Herman tweeted this morning, or just a reminder that it doesn't matter how good your marketing is, you're not going to sell anything if you don't have product.

So I think creating context, in general, is really challenging for digital marketers. And another thing that I... Over the Christmas holiday, I was receiving tons and tons and tons of ads that were totally irrelevant to me. Or I had no idea whether they were relevant specifically on Instagram where I get a post in my feed, and I just didn't know who it was from or what it was about. Really cool picture.

But I think that's another challenge that because there's a lot of consumer skepticism about how to interact in the digital space, whether as consumers or just as individuals, we can create more trust by being very clear and understanding the context within which we communicate.

And if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, we could talk about how contexts totally fall apart in a lot of digital spaces. That's kind of my nerd side.

Austin Brawner: No, yeah, very much so. I think it's interesting. One thing I've spent a lot of time thinking about recently is how almost always my initial impression of something is wrong.

Andrew Rosch: Absolutely, yeah.

Austin Brawner: And I think part of it is because the way that our media is working right now and the way that our filter bubbles are kind of created, it's that we're constantly assaulted by headlines and information designed to influence the way that we feel about something immediately. So when you see a headline, it's designed to get you to feel a specific way.

And very few people actually do the research and go down the rabbit hole to figure out what actually is signal versus noise from a headline or a post on Twitter or whatever it is.

And back to the example of the influencer launch, something didn't work. I heard the exact same thing. It was funny. It was like basically Instagram influencer who had two million followers, and she was always posting bikini photos. She started a bikini brand and sold like five because 98% of her followers were men. And she was like, "Oh, this totally flopped because I have a bunch of horny guys following me." That was the realization there.

Andrew Foxwell: That's fact.

Austin Brawner: It's a fact. That's a fact. But it wasn't thought about in any instance. So what you're saying about whether or not somebody doing something right, I think it's just important to remember that whatever your initial take is, it's most likely wrong. And to spend the time to go down the rabbit hole and figure out what actually matters.

Andrew Rosch: I think it's about we have to try to remember that we don't have very much context to what we're looking at. And the more context that we have, the more it makes sense.

Like when anyone asks any of us here today, what should I do for my social media? You have to answer it with like 10 questions in order to give them a somewhat relevant answer because you need to have that narrative and it has to follow that thread of, "Okay, what is your business? What are your goals and needs right now? What do you already know is relevant? What do you already know is not relevant?" Because you just can't see those things.

Andrew Foxwell: I totally agree with you about you never really know. I think that followers have been a proxy for success for a long time, and we've pushed back against that I think enough where it's people accept that that's... Some people accept that's not necessarily the case anymore.

The challenge I think is because digital marketing has been explained poorly in eCommerce marketing to C-level executives in a lot of cases, or to your spouse if they're your business partner again. Like because that's been explained poorly, those people will ask and see the vanity metrics as the success.

And they'll say, "Why do you think they have 100,000 YouTube subscribers? We need a YouTube strategy." And you're like, "Okay, well that's fine." I think that there's a lot that goes along with that.

And then commenting on your context, following up on that, I totally agree and that's one thing I have seen and talked about, trying to talk about it more, is seeing ads on Facebook and Instagram. And I'm like, "I have no idea what this is even for." My favorite one was a black image and the ad was just all black and in the middle it had a diamond and then the copy was biggest sale ever. And I was like, "I don't even know what... Like of what?"

Austin Brawner: So you bought, immediately.

Andrew Foxwell: Well obviously I've converted. Yeah, 100% conversion rate. Yeah. But like that is so true.

Also like in Trek's context, people understand that you're a bike company maybe. But like also context of like what does having a bike enable in your life? That's the context that you're trying to sell. There's a t-shirt company that Austin and I both know, and I've worked with. Great people but one of the things that I have a challenge with in their marketing and why I have never purchased actually. There's nothing to me that sets it apart. There's no context of like what actually makes it different or what actually makes it more special or I'm not... It doesn't have anything on it. I'm like, "Is it better quality? What is it?" It just seems more expensive to me. Even as a person that I've been introduced to the brand, I don't have the context of what makes it interesting.

Andrew Rosch: It's really hard, especially with social. Haley who handles social on our team, she and I were talking about this recently, that when you're creating one post, just one individual post, you can't assume that whoever is seeing that post has ever seen anything from your brand. You can't necessarily assume that.

And so you need to do everything that you can with the image to create contacts because images are going to speak a lot more than words. And if you have something that's like a niche idea, like a lot of the cycling themes that we have, you have to sort of build into it, and you've only got a little bit of copy to use.

And so that's sort of the place where we're at right now with that challenge of just how do you build enough context in one interaction that people will actually pay attention and that you're not wasting their time.

Austin Brawner: Sure. I love some of the stuff you brought up. I mean even a very simple takeaway of scrolling your organic feeds and thinking, "Is this going to turn off the people that are actual buyers here?"

That's where I feel like also it could be challenging to balance performance metrics versus the actual feel. Because sometimes you get positive reinforcement from social media on extremes. Actually you almost always get positive reinforcement on extremes. But people aren't necessarily buying, from your guys' perspective, because you post somebody hucking a 50-foot cliff and landing it, but also like spitting blood, which is like an in some... There's a sub-niche that's going to find that incredibly inspiring. But that's not going to sell the family of four who's going to by bikes. That's not really the one.

And that it's interesting to balance to think about that and be a little bit more nuance and balance. Like are we getting the performance metrics? The more likes, the comments, and shares, does that match up with the actual audience that's buying our bikes or am I just hitting the edges where we get the most feedback?

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, there's two things that makes me think of. One is that sometimes metrics are a yes/no, really clear cut story. And sometimes they're just kind of directional. So in general, we know that a certain composition of a bicycle portrait photo is always going to perform better than other compositions.

And so yeah, we're just getting more likes on that post. But if we tell the photography team, "Hey, we want to make sure that you always get at least one portrait shot that is composed this way," in the long term, things will tend to perform better. So that's just one directional thing that you can do.

Another part of it, and you guys actually talked about it I think on the last episode of this podcast with Susan.

Andrew Foxwell: Susan Wenograd.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. When this comes out, it'll have been a previous episode.

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what Susan had brought up that I loved was that you have all these digital things, especially with eComm, where you're just grinding down to optimize those funnels, you need to have a brand. The brand is a really long term thing, and it's so easy with digital metrics to get caught up in right now and what gets clicks and what gets likes, and some of those checks that we try to do of just like looking at whether you're turning people off to what you're talking about, that's also about the brand in the long term thing.

One of the things that I think Trek does a really good job of is trying to have a company culture of playing the long game. So it's very nice to work in a place that it's accepted and expected of people that when you're deciding, "Okay, am I chasing clicks or my chasing longterm value," you're going to longterm value route.

Austin Brawner: So big question did you bike here?

Andrew Rosch: No, no. I biked outdoors year-round when I lived in Minnesota. And there are times when I'm just not doing it.

Austin Brawner: For context, it was 14 degrees yesterday, I think. Maybe 15. Something like that.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, it wasn't too bad.

Austin Brawner: I saw a guy biking. We're in Madison, Wisconsin. I saw a guy biking this morning, and I was like... He had a full mask on and also the gloves that stick to the handles.

Andrew Foxwell: Handlebar mitts.

Austin Brawner: Handlebar mitts. Basically it looks like oven mitts stuck to the handles. I guess that's the guy you're marketing to right now.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, you're marketing to planners. You're marketing to people planning trips. I'm already on an email chain about a trip up North for mountain biking, like some point this summer. That's a big part of it.

I think that, just to comment on Trek specifically too, one thing that's interesting is so many people in this space of outdoors, the messaging goes or feels like it goes immediately to extreme sports. Like you said, to climbing a mountain. 

Austin Brawner: That's because it's easy. Well, it's not easy, it's just,

Andrew Foxwell: But that's where they started so there's market in a lot of cases, like I think about GoPro or something where a lot of it... Most people are like walking around their farmer's market with like a GoPro on their head. It's like a lot of what they're selling GoPros for.

Andrew Rosch: It is and it's a lot of enthusiasts. So you want to keep the stoke level high.

Austin Brawner: Have you guys thought about... I mean I don't know if as an organization sponsoring Andrew Foxwell?

Andrew Foxwell: Right.

Andrew Rosch: As an athlete.

Austin Brawner: As a featured athlete. He's been into mountain biking this last year.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, they do that a lot. They sponsor people that are amateurs, really low, low level. Actually let me tell you, the breadth and depth of athletes that Trek sponsors and has begun to sponsor in the last, let's say four to five years, has been absolutely incredible.

And if you have never watched any sort of cycling, going to an event is wild. I mean, I'd never really done that and I'd never seen... I'd only seen road races, which is a cool experience in itself, but it's amazing. Like cross racing is wild.

People are in the mud, they're carrying their bikes. It's wild. And so like I think that cycling is so much of what we do is like we want experiences and they're more important to us than things. I think in a lot of cases. And so Trek is well-positioned in that regard.

Andrew Rosch: We're trying to be and you know, and we love the racing, we love the competition. We love the guys hucking a bike off of a 50-foot cliff. But there's a lot of meaning and value that we can provide for people who want to ride half a mile to get ice cream with their kid.

Andrew Foxwell: Absolutely.

Austin Brawner: Listen, Andrew Foxwell could be the face of that.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, right. That's me.

Andrew Rosch: That is you.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I know.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. Really what we're looking for is it public sponsor Andrew Foxwell.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, on the record.

Austin Brawner: On the record.

Andrew Rosch: Neighborhood rides to get ice cream with maybe with your dog.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Right. Andrew, I appreciate you coming in and joining us. If people have questions they want to follow up, what's a good way to get ahold of you? Is it Twitter? Is that the best place?

Andrew Rosch: Yeah, Twitter, @AndrewRosch, R-O-S-C-H, that's my user handle and that's really where I like to talk about a lot of marketing things.

Andrew Foxwell: Awesome.

Austin Brawner: Send him a DM just say, "Hey." That's it.

Andrew Foxwell: Just, "Hey." Just slide right in there. Yeah, thank you.

Austin Brawner: Thank you.

Andrew Rosch: Thanks a lot you guys.

Austin Brawner: Hey guys, it's Austin. And if you've been loving the podcast, you got to go check out That's where I work one on one with my clients to help them build faster-growing, more profitable online stores. I've got coaching programs and workshops that we host all over the world. Would love to have you come check it out.

If you're a fast-growing eCommerce business or you want to be a fast-growing eCommerce business, you got to check it out. That's the spot for you. We go more in-depth than we do in the podcast with comprehensive trainings and coaching to help you scale up.

Check it out See you there.

Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell, and I'm excited to be here.

Austin Brawner: Like usual, we're both excited to be here and excited to chat. A...

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