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248: The 5 Myths of Ecommerce Entrepreneurship

Posted by Austin Brawner on April 21, 2020

 

Have you ever felt that in order to grow your business, you just need to work harder?

We’re here to tell you that you’re wrong.

In today’s episode, we’re busting the five myths of ecommerce. From diversifying traffic to always doing the next big thing, we’ll share the realities that will actually help you scale profitably, without burning yourself out.

If you own an ecommerce business or you’re intimately involved with one, this episode’s for you.

Enjoy!

Episode Highlights

  • 4:54 Myth #1: All I need to do to grow is work harder.
  • 6:06 Reality: Do less, but do it better.
  • 7:45 Myth #2: To grow you need to diversify traffic.
  • 8:03 Reality: Be an expert on one channel, and don’t diversify until you have to.
  • 11:59 Myth #3: You need to always be doing what’s new.
  • 13:12 Reality: Do the right things at the right time (even if it’s just one thing).
  • 17:19 Myth #4: If I follow big brands, I’ll learn what works.
  • 20:58 Reality: Here’s what actually works, no matter your size.
  • 22:15 Myth #5: Top founders have a clear vision and know what they’re doing from the beginning.
  • 23:19 Reality: Find a mentor you can rely on and build your strategy as you grow.

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Transcript

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Austin Brawner: What's going on everybody, welcome to another episode of The Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I am Andrew Foxwell and it is always good to be with you my friend. Discussing today the five myths of ecommerce entrepreneurship. I wonder what sparked this episode for you? Where did this come from?

Austin Brawner: This episode came from just thinking about things that I hear, things that kind of pop up that I'm like, Oh, this doesn't sound right to me or just being in the industry for a while, they're ideas that I have that aren't necessarily matched up with the popular dialogue that's happening right now.

But first, before we go into that, I want to do a little check on the 0 to 100%, how dead are you right now? From exhaustion?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I'm a little tired. Percentage-wise, hard to say. I would say I'm running at probably about 30% right now in terms of energy. But it's okay. I mean it is sort of like what it is. There's a meditation book I have that's called Wherever You Go, There You Are, which is basically, that's where we're at. Like this is where we're at right now.

Austin Brawner: I feel like that's a great metaphor for our life right now.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. It's like, okay, well, you're stuck in quarantine. That's where you are. Yeah. No, it helps that she's super cute, she's crying and fussing and it's like you want her to sleep. For her to be feeling a little better, but she's fine. She's doing good. She's doing good. We're going to get there, we're going to get over the hump and it's just kind of a challenging climb right now but yeah, it's all good.

Austin Brawner: And you know, right now during the quarantine, no haircuts so you've got the Green Bay Packers hat.

Andrew Foxwell: Wearing a lot of hats. My hair looks really weird.

Austin Brawner: We're all looking weird.

Andrew Foxwell: I don't think anybody cares but I've been trying to wear my sports hats because sports are obviously non-existent currently. I'm trying to be like sports. Like, Hey, this sports are great. Yeah. It feels weird to go through Spring and not watch The Masters and all that. It's an odd feeling.

Austin Brawner: That's the question I ask, you know?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. A cancellation on like any other, it is what I said about The Masters.

Austin Brawner: We'll dive in today, like Andrew said, we're going to be talking about the five myths of e-commerce entrepreneurship. These include some hot takes about crushing it and "crush it" culture, scaling, traffic, diversification, VC backed brands and more.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think we're going to talk about it and we kind of went through the notes of going through this episode because I think that we get sick of this stuff being propagated in our space, right? It's just this like super myths that we all hear and there's very rarely content that talks about the myths and calls them out so we're going to give you some practical tips today.

This is for anyone who makes your living growing an eCommerce business, agency owner, consultants, marketers, business owners, obviously. If you own an eCommerce business or you're intimately involved with one, this episode's for you.

Austin Brawner: Yep. And I can kick it off with myth number one.

Andrew Foxwell:
Let's do it.

Austin Brawner: To grow, all I need to do is just work harder and keep crushing it. Now, that is something I hear a lot. If I keep crushing it, keep working harder, we're going to continue to grow.

The reality that I've seen is that the top founders that I know, yes they work hard but number one, they protect themselves from burnout and if you're listening to this podcast right now and you feel stuck and you're not growing, chances are it's because you're doing too much, not too little.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I mean this is really interesting. We all want to try to do ... we all are, let's say on social media, we're all talking to colleagues and we feel like they're always doing more and I think that this is something we've thematically brought up a lot in this podcast but it is truly the differentiator I think for a lot of businesses. I remember Andrew Youderian polled over 400 store, 7 figure store owners and the consensus was that time management was the number struggle that everyone had and we all feel that and you always feel like you need to do more.

It's sort of like going back to the interview we had with Greg McKeown of it's not more, it's less but better. And that's really what we want to be focusing on. If you're not focusing on time as you grow or as you run your business, I think that you truly are just sort of always going to be feeling like you're grinding the gears and a little bit behind, which is a tough place to be.

Austin Brawner: And everyone's going to feel a little bit behind. Everyone's going to feel like there's too much to do. What I think it's important to really key in on is that the defining factor for success and growth is not working hard. That is not the defining factor. It is coming up and really focusing on what you are doing and nailing in on your focus on the most important thing and something that actually moves the needle.

My fastest growing clients, they're not doing all the channels. They're doing one channel really, really, really well and one marketing message really, really, really well. As they grow and get bigger, massively bigger, they're going to have to evolve a little bit but it actually doing less has allowed them to move much, much faster.

Andrew Foxwell: It's really interesting. I mean you say that and we'll go into the second one because it ties into it but for me it's really fascinating when you take and you ask business owners, whenever we start working with a new partner, we're always like, what's the number one thing that you want to accomplish?

A lot of the times it's actually time. Answers is like one of it like selling more but a lot of it is if I had more focused time on X so a lot of it is like schedule and how do we help you grow your business with Facebook and Instagram ads to give you more of your time back, which goes into the second myth. To grow, you need to diversify your traffic.

Everyone's like, well, you're starting to grow. You need to be everywhere and the reality, you only really need like two channels to scale in my opinion and your opinion. Why don't you go into this a little bit and why we think that's the case.

Austin Brawner: My fastest growing clients, they don't typically diversify their traffic until they have to. The top founders that I now have picked a channel and become an expert in that channel.

Let's give some examples here. MVMT Watches, Jake Kassan became an expert in Facebook ads, was running them himself, initially learned everything about it then outsourced it. You look at like Tuft & Needle, they killed it in ad words, Dr. Axe SEO and content marketing. For a long time, Away marketing was Away suitcases, which they get killed right now but they were crushing it with affiliates. They were just everywhere. You could not search without finding some affiliate talking about Away.

They find a channel and they really dominate that channel because that's what matters right now. Being the best is the only thing that matters on these channels. The top 1% gets so many more results than everybody else and so it makes a lot more sense to be the best at one thing than okay at a bunch of different things.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I completely agree. It's focusing on that. You go back to the episode where we interviewed Matt from Shelley Cove, which is from maybe six months ago and Matt, I've got to know him because he became an expert at Facebook advertising. I mean at Facebook, Instagram advertising, he became obsessed with it.

Someone like Helen from Cereal School and Dylan and her husband and business partner. They became experts on Facebook and Instagram ads and obviously there's the other examples you're talking about here, like Four Sigmatic with podcasts and et cetera but that is something that it requires and if you can do that, you will be so much farther ahead.

I mean, is it Nat Eliason that talks about that the top 1% get all the results in the space so the top result and Google gets 10 times the traffic than the results further down the page. It's like if you focus on that one thing that's like a major differentiator and so if you're not an expert, become one.

Austin Brawner: Again, I always say that but it's easier said than done but it is possible, and it's almost a requirement. You're going to learn, I don't care, if you own a business and you own a brand and you came up with a product, even if you're a product developer and that's what you love to do, you're going to have to learn how to drive traffic. You're going to have to do it.

It's freaking hard if that's not your mindset but you're going to have to do it because it's going to have incredible benefits for you.

The questions I ask myself is like, is the business demand capture or demand generation? And if it's demand capture, meaning like the best example is like auto parts. You're not going to buy an auto part unless you need it. Then become an expert in demand capture.

If it's a new, wildly cool product, no one's ever seen before, you got to become an expert in demand generation like Facebook and Instagram ads and that's listening to episodes with Andrew going deep into it, taking courses, it's reaching out, getting into mastermind groups. It's all the stuff that you can do to become an expert, you got to do it because it's going to pay off massively down the road.

Andrew Foxwell: The other interesting thing to say about that is that you and I, because of this podcast, are lucky enough to serve as like air traffic controllers for a lot of people that are new into this space. They're like "Hey, landing in this airstrip, whatever." I'm doing a lot of hand movement.

Because people come to us and say, "Hey, I'm trying to figure out this channel and where do I start?" And I think you and I pride ourselves on having a landscape of like, okay, here's a genuine person who you can contact that's going to really help you understand this and so again, going back to our second myth, you don't need to diversify necessarily in many cases.

Let's get to myth number three, which is one of my personal favorites that you need to be "up on the new stuff." I love doing air quotes, and the reality is like marketing tactics are the nitty-gritty of it. It's not the answer.

Austin Brawner: No, it's not. You don't need more marketing tactics. If you're listening to this podcast, you already have too many in your mind. You know what? If you're somebody who goes out and is proactive about learning and you're somebody who's going to be out finding information, bringing it in and transferring it to your business, the biggest thing I see businesses trying to do is just more than they're capable of.

I'm guilty of it. It's very, very hard because it's alluring to put more on your plate then to put less on your plate. It's like at a buffet, people load up on all this stuff but if you have like three people in your company, going to a marketing conference can be very, very dangerous because you can come back with all these ideas and overload yourself and not do any of them.

As a great quote, it's "Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things." When it comes to marketing tactics, all that matters is you do the right things at the right time and that can be hard to figure out but most of the time, doing more isn't the answer like what we said earlier.

I'll tell this story, I told this story before but I thought it was a really interesting example of how to use a marketing conference well. There's this guy named Carl White I met like years ago, just briefly and he was at this marketing conference at Traffic & Conversion, which is like the ultimate shiny object syndrome conference. A million shiny objects, all these marketers trying to attract you with all these ideas and things that are killing it for them.

He would go to this, listen and then once he found his one idea is going to implement, he just pack up his bag and leave the conference and that's it. It was done.

Andrew Foxwell: That's it. One idea that's always looking for.

Austin Brawner: All it is one idea. He's like, once I get my one idea, I'm out because I don't want to confuse myself. The guy lives a crazy life, I think he does 10 days of Harley riding, 10 days of work, 10 days of Harley riding, 10 days of work. It's like, that's freaking awesome.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think what's fascinating about that to me is something that I have thought a lot about and certainly, marketers fall or those of us in the eCommerce space fall victim to is even when you hear about tactics or hear about these things like, "Oh, you should try this or you should try that."

Whenever I've like really gone into it, I'll look into their case studies or I'll talk to the companies that I've worked with them or I'll try it myself. It's almost never what it's sold as and it's almost always harder and it's almost like always more of a waste of time.

An example, let's just take SMS marketing for example. Okay. I think SMS marketing has a lot of validity and I think there's options there but the reality is SMS marketing is just like email.

It's just like anything else really but it's more similar to email where you get out of it, what you put into it and you can't just like deploy an SMS strategy in a weekend. This requires multiple week, month planning in my opinion, even for a smaller company because of the nuance of doing it right.

And so that's one of the things of like, is it impactful? Yes. And I think that's a high example. I mean, that's not like a worthless example. SMS marketing can be helpful to you but it requires so much and so being up on all of this, if you take SMS marketing and take that example out into other places, that one project is going to take you a lot of time because you're probably not running a massive company. Maybe you are running a massive company. Even if you are, that's going to be one person's job for a long time. One FTE.

My point is, you don't need to be always up on the new stuff as we've said, try to focus on only one thing if you can and as Austin said, leadership is doing the right things, not feeling obligated that you have to do everything.

Austin Brawner: I want to jump on that one because I had an interesting experience this week. I had a former client from like years ago, they've reached back out and they were like, Hey, they're killing it right now. Their business is booming and they're like, we wanted to figure out what you would do to kind of move into some of this opportunity that we have right now.

I was like, okay. Well, I think after talking to them, I was like, what I would do was I would take an entire day and sit down and create a strategy to dive into this opportunity. A longterm strategy and they're like, "No, no, no, we can't do that. We don't have time to do that. We just want to know quick wins we can do right now."

Andrew Foxwell: Oh yeah, sure. I mean it's logical. It makes sense.

Austin Brawner: And they're like, so what would you do with your quick wins right now? And I was like, "the quick win I would do right now would be to hire me for one day so we could sit in a room and map out what the quick wins are." It doesn't happen in 15 minutes. You don't have success on Facebook ads from just trying Facebook ads. It doesn't work like that.

Andrew Foxwell: Right. Well, let's get to the fourth myth of if I follow big brands, I'll learn what works and the idea that the bigger the company is, the more sophisticated that their tactics are and the reality is context is more important than content. I think Austin said it perfectly when he said most of the stories you hear about fast-growing eCommerce brands don't apply to you and I think that that is so true.

I mean, how many times have we sat down with someone and maybe you sat down yourself and you say, "I tried to apply a tactic I've heard about from a big company to what I am doing and it just didn't work." You talk about Austin multi-touch video, Facebook ads funnel. You have them watch one video and then they complete that video and then you have them watch another video because they watched that video.

Austin Brawner: Well, let's dive into that. When I say big brands, what I'm talking about is like the large brands out there that are like have a lot of press and then also success stories from conferences. Even if something works from like a famous store in our space, that doesn't mean it's going to work for you. I've tried multi-touch video Facebook ads, have never had success. I've actually rarely heard, there's only a few companies have ever heard of had success with it and I made this same mistake with referral marketing for a couple of clients right at the beginning in my career, worked really well for the first client and I was like, "Oh this is going to work for everybody." Didn't work for everybody and more than anything it's like trying to figure out what is going to work for you.

Often I see people spending like really good money chasing bad money. They are chasing marketing case studies and they make all their profits from one channel and they spend all their profits on other channels that don't work and that just sucks and also you have to remember that every time you go to a conference, you're listening often to people from agencies who have a very vested interest in selling you their services and so these case studies are just slivers. They're slices of how things actually work and they don't go into the fact that it might have taken a year and a half to get to the success that they're at of working on it every single day.

Andrew Foxwell: I think the biggest thing is what you said. Context is more important than content. I mean context is so huge as it relates to all this and I think that you look at VC-backed brands, which a lot of us ... you take a page out of their book and you look at what they're doing but I found out there's a veggie delivery service that's well known in the United States. Random, I know. That I had heard it was doing really well. Well, I find out that they're paying on a CPA basis saying they're doing really well. They're paying $310.

Yes, you can take what they're doing and they're talking about from a tactical standpoint, they were talking about consolidated ad structure, ad set structure, which again, there's an opportunity there but you just have to actually think about and then just said, agencies have a vested interest in selling you their services and making you feel sometimes the good ones will make you understand, "we're going to try this and if it doesn't work, we're going to pull it off of the retainer."

If an agency tries to do, in my opinion, out of the gates for you more than like three things or even two things, be careful because it's almost where it's a shiny object thing with them as well and they're trying to distract you but if they say, look, we're going to do Facebook and Instagram and email, that's a huge one or ad words and email, that's a big one.

If the trends don't work, what does work? And I think Austin, you said drive more traffic. Just get more people to the site, increasing your average order value works, that's a tactic that works. Increasing your lifetime value works and growing your email list works, launching new product and pulling new ideas from other industries and then using a dashboard to track all of that relentlessly. Those are things that if you look thematically across what actually works, we can say, "Hey, this is good stuff and actually will move the needle for your business."

Austin Brawner: Yes. That's what I focus on with clients and that's what I find evergreen and durable, if that makes sense. Because yeah, most of it's not going to be right for your business. It just because it's worked for somebody else does not mean it's going to translate and we're seeing as a lot of these companies go public, these VC-backed companies go public and they file their S-1's and you look at their marketing spend versus revenue, it's like, okay, no wonder I've been seeing them everywhere. I've read some headline, it was, like" Casper would have been better if they just cut a hole in their mattress, put $200 in it and like left it on the street. That would be like a better use of dev marketing." I think it was a ridiculous headline but yeah, it was basically the amount that they spent.

We'll move on to myth number five though. Myth number five is that top founders have a clear vision and know what they're doing from the beginning. The reality that I see is that the best founders I know, they ask for a lot of help and they invest in themselves.

I think that most people have a really terrible idea of what a mentor looks like and I think back to my myself and you can speak to your experience, but every breakthrough I've ever made has been kind of tracked back to conversations with people who were just a little bit ahead of me. The right amount ahead of me. That's what's helped me.

It's like getting these conversations and I don't know, how do you feel about that? When you think about breakthroughs, where do they come from for you?

Andrew Foxwell: Clear vision from the beginning, is just impossible. I think to me, what Gracie and I do well I think as we trust in ourselves that we understand the current landscape as of current meaning like today. Because you know in Facebook and Instagram it's really what is. And to me the mentors that we have that have helped us to invest in ourselves and ask for help and sort of refine our vision.

One is a guy that built an agency in the 90s and sold it in early 2000s and another guy is an angel private equity guy who had bought and sold about 20 companies with his partner in Chicago and they're mostly in manufacturing auto parts space. Those are my two mentors and I think like from a business standpoint, that's what they have taught me is the lessons of communication, etc. I mean the stuff that we all know.

I think what we looked at is we look to the loudest people in the industry sometimes or in our specific niche and you're going to say, okay well they must know what's going on when in reality to me personally, I feel like it's more of getting out of the house, sitting down, having a quality relationship that's a friendship first that then is over time a text message or an email and it's more we're checking in like that versus going to people that are big celebrities in the industry. I just feel like getting out of your own head and getting out of the industry is helpful too because it gives you a better vision.

Yeah. No one has a vision from the beginning and I think people that tell you that, Oh this is what we intended to do. It might be true to some degree but I think it's fairly rare if what you have five years after you've launched is what you started with.

Austin Brawner: Well, I think that vision, when I say clear vision, I think that oftentimes I have an idea of the end goal but not all the stuff that needs to be done on the way there. I don't find that people that have had a lot of success are like that much. They're like, Oh they're geniuses. They just have figured this thing out and they knew how to get there from the beginning, no. There's an end goal in mind but like no idea how to get there and that's where the asking for help and investing in themselves is super important.

I look at like inspiration for just like different projects that I've done and they've always come from mastermind groups or from a business coach, idea for the Coalition came from my business coach and sitting around a mastermind for a weekend, I got an idea for running the Intensives.

For me what I see is investing in your education is like the best thing you can do. Join the Coalition. Andrew's courses, are great places that you can get help and then you make sure that you're reaching out to people and build your network and that can be through Twitter, through email. All these types of things are just like great ways to start connecting with people.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I agree. I appreciate your clarification there and clear vision.

Let's summarize. I think stop grinding and hustling is number one. Number two is don't feel that you need to diversify your traffic too early, avoid the shiny objects. Number four, ignore the gurus and sort of unicorn. And number five, invest in the coaching and truly build relationships.

Austin, I've really enjoyed this episode, man. Thank you very much.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. If you guys liked this episode, I go way more in-depth on these five myths of eCommerce entrepreneurship in a monthly training in the Coalition where we talk about the path to seven figures, how to build, grow and scale your business and we go deep into this and talk about some specific examples.

We do a monthly of training every month so you can go check that at brandgrowthexperts.com and go to the coalition or just jointhecoalition.com. We'll talk to you guys soon.

Let us know how you think about this video episode, if we should keep doing them. We're going to be posting it on YouTube. Give us a comment.

Andrew Foxwell: We'd love to know.

Austin Brawner: Smash that like button.

Andrew Foxwell: Smash that like button, slide into our DMs. All right, thank you.

Austin Brawner: Hey guys, it's Austin and if you been loving the podcast, you got to go check out brandgrowthexperts.com. 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 are 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, brandgrowthexperts.com. See you there.

Austin Brawner: What's going on everybody, welcome to another episode of The Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I am Andrew Foxwell and it is always good to be with you my friend. Discussing today the five myths of ecommerce entrepreneurship. I wonder what sparked...

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