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228: The Things We Hate Episode

Posted by Austin Brawner on December 3, 2019


Today we’re taking a break from our normal programming to go on a short rant about things we hate in the ecommerce industry.

We want to shed light on some of the frustrating things we’ve come across over the years to help you keep your sanity as you’re growing your business.

We believe in the importance of truth and transparency, and that every single business is different. I hope our little rant today will help you avoid frustration and see through the B.S.


Episode Highlights

  • 5:32 Thing we hate #1: When people take advantage of business owners by making things seem more complicated than they really are.
  • 9:18 Just because it’s a big, well-recognized company, doesn’t mean it’s actually doing well, so don’t compare yourself.
  • 11:11 Warning signs to watch out for with bogus business information.
  • 11:47 Thing we hate #2: When entrepreneurs are told they have to be running ads on every single possible channel.
  • 15:07 Thing we hate #3: Example sharing without context.
  • 18:11 Thing we hate #4: Not having enough information about why people are building their businesses a certain way and the lifestyles they’re hoping to achieve.
  • 21:19 Why context is so important, and why there’s no simple success blueprint for every business to follow.
  • 23:17 An example of how to think about the bigger thematic approach when you’re trying to decide if a certain tactic is going to work for you.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up? Welcome to another episode of the e-commerce influence podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell, and here we're coming to you live with another episode from the Chicago sessions, which is pretty awesome, and I will say it has been a real highlight.

Austin Brawner: You know one of the highlights here is our setup for recording podcasts. We're in our hotel room. We have moved up side tables onto the bed.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, this is on Twitter by the way.

Austin Brawner: It's on Twitter.

Andrew Foxwell: I already blew it up.

Austin Brawner: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew Foxwell: Super viral.

Austin Brawner: Because both of us like recording at home standing. And then when you're in the hotel room you're just not going to get that standing desk environment. So we're adapting the hotel room to our style.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. And I think what's important to mention is we did get a suite, I'm just kidding. We didn't, so not a ton of room. Also, the best part of this hotel room in my opinion is what you said five minutes ago, which is, "Did you look in the mini bar?" And I said, "No." And you said, "There's enough alcohol in this room to kill somebody."

Austin Brawner: Oh no question. It's the most outrageous minibar I've ever seen in my life. There's bottles of scotch, Freixenet, Pinot. You could literally just go to town there.

Andrew Foxwell: You can do one a day. Well, which is a good entre to talk about sometimes you want to drink, and sometimes you feel driven to drink.

Austin Brawner: Compelled.

Andrew Foxwell: Because of things that drive you crazy. And that's really what we're talking about today based off of The Brain Audit book that you read, on talking about find the things that you're critical of, and that can actually spark a lot of interesting conversation.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. So we walked around Chicago for a day kind of talking about things, and one of the things that came up was just things that we've noticed about our industry that are... they're really frustrating, and that we've both been in this industry for a while now and have, have kind of seen things come and go, and there are a few things that we wish would just go right now. We're ready. Ready for them to go.

They haven't yet gone, and they may never go away, but there are things that after being here for a while that really frustrate us. So we're going to go into a few of those and would love to hear your feedback as well, as you guys listen to this. Hit us up on Twitter, let us know what your thoughts are on things that you're critical in the industry and I'll kick it off.

I think that there's a big movement, it's not a movement, just it's frustrating to see people taking advantage of early business owners by creating a lot of confusion around the process of building a business, an e-commerce business, or a direct to consumer e-commerce business. Pretending like this is something unique, new, and cool and different and, and it's unique, cool and different, but it's not complicated.

And that's what really, really frustrates me is a narrative that everything now is different, new and that you're going to have to, this is all uncharted territory, and that you need direct to consumer guidance.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Well, okay, so let me say a few things here. One is, this is potentially the first pilot episode of a podcast I've always wanted to start called CriticAll. Okay. I think it'd be fun, but I think that's one thing. The second thing on this topic in total seriousness in terms of where people try to go on this I think is, one of the reasons we wanted to record this particular episode is also for your sanity.

Because when I meet with business owners and advertisers, inevitably one of the fourth or fifth questions they'll ask is what do you think about X? And it's mostly people that they're reading, and the content that they're reading and what my take is on it. And so I think this is kind of a throwing it out there to be transparent, honest about it.

In terms of your specific point, to people that are confusing others, this is just the worst. And if you have, there's been plenty of days where I have actually had a great day, and I've gone from feeling fine to reading Twitter or something, Facebook, and feeling bad because of people that are out there, or confused, that are trying to make things much more complicated or make them seem much more complicated than they actually are.

Now inevitably, there are many complications of starting in D2C business and there's a ton of different pieces of it, but what is the worst is when people are starting by just using complex language. They're using what they believe are complex, proprietary strategies to confuse, and are making people from the outset feel inferior and behind and that they need them. And I hope that we never come across that way because man, that's stuff it's terrible and all it does is make people feel inferior and that they're never going to be able to, I don't know.

Austin Brawner: I understand it, to understand it or succeed in that, you know, what people are doing in New York is so much more advanced than what people are doing in Indiana, Austin, Texas, Georgia. And that's just not my experience. Right?

So I've worked with clients all around the country, all around the world, and some of the people who are innovating the most are in smaller cities and they have a unique perspective and they're doing really interesting, cool things and they focus on their customer. So that pisses me off a lot.

And I think a lot of these companies that are hiring engineers to reverse engineer their retention rate because they're trying to figure out all this stuff. There's a lot of companies that are in large cities in the US that have raised money that are going to go out of business. And in the meantime, they are celebrating how much money they've raised, how fast they're growing, all this stuff that they are doing.

But at the end of the day, the question that you got to ask yourself is, are you profitable? Are you going to be around? And, yeah. And then the people around that industry that are confusing it, piss me off. So I think we can move on from that. But it is something that to be aware of.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. It's something to be cautious of. And I think you're, you raise a couple of good points. One is on specifically a company like Peloton for example, right? Peloton is a big company, and it's got a lot of name recognition and everything else. But the reality is they haven't made a dime.

Austin Brawner: And they've lost $1 billion or something like that.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. And I was actually, I said this to a client the other day, I said, do you know that you're running a better business than Peloton? And they're going to make like $800,000 a year this year or something in gross revenue. And so that was interesting.

I think the other, the good thing that you raised is just to know that if you felt like that reading Twitter, reading other industry information, if you felt like you were led down a rabbit hole, know that that's normal. And know that that's okay. And there are places that you can go, this podcast, the Coalition, consultants that are there for real information. Places like our Facebook group, the Facebook and Instagram pro ad buyers group. It's been insane, the number one piece of feedback we've had from that is, this isn't information that's anywhere else, and literally all we're doing is just telling the truth.

Austin Brawner: Yeah.

Andrew Foxwell: And it's not confusing people.

Austin Brawner: That should be a warning sign, if you can't understand what someone is saying, they're either incompetent or deliberately trying to confuse you.

That's something that I feel because I've been there on the other side trying to get into this industry. I felt that I didn't know very much, when ultimately trusting my gut and learning, I came around and realized a lot of these people are full of BS.

But yeah, so that's definitely one thing that I think we can both agree on that's really, really frustrating.

I think the next thing that really pisses me off, and I don't think it's deliberate, but I was at a conference a week ago, and I'm going up there speaking, I was speaking to a bunch of other speakers. I got there maybe two hours before I was supposed to go up, and someone hops up there and they're from an enterprise software company. And they're talking about... Basically they're telling everybody that all... If you're not running this channel, this channel, this channel and this channel, Facebook messenger, Twitter ads, if you're not doing TikTok, running all these Facebook ads, Google, you're just leaving so much money on the table and you should get on this today.

And not really considering that the audience of people there, one are businesses that are trying to grow brands and that the correct thing to tell people is that none of this stuff really matters until you have the infrastructure to be able to actually double down on a specific channel and grow it.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I think there's, I mean I think there's a lot that you could say there. Well, one of the ways that actually advice is structured in the industry is there is a relationship between the bigger you are and the more well known you are that the advice is more legitimate.

And I think that's been like that for, I mean any industry you can look across and say that be the case. But I think where you get led astray is you look at something like enterprise sales or you look at something like... Let me just give you an example on this, one ad agency that is out there, it gives a lot of advice. I learned recently that a lot of their businesses centers on supplements and supplement sales. Okay. And they're out there giving advice on stuff.

Well supplement sales and selling whey powder is a completely different business than selling t-shirts. And I think that people see that. I think we see the separation that of that. But I think what you're saying rings really true, which is it's a dismissal of all of the effort that has to go into testing, getting a new channel going and just, and just making you feel behind, which is, it's totally unnecessary as well.

Austin Brawner: And it's to sell something, right? Or just going up there and being like, "Oh yeah, I definitely do all these things and definitely test everything, right?" Okay, so you have no concept of how long it will take to run a marketing test for a brand doing $800,000 in revenue.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah.

Austin Brawner: It's a long, long time. You have to be very judicious with your tests. And there's no context there, and that's frustrating.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think that's true. And I think really what both of the two first examples of lead into is example sharing without context, which is a related but separate one that also really drives me nuts, which is people saying, "Oh, I had this, at this ROAS." And they're showing a screenshot, but they're not giving any context.

And I think that let's all be better about that. I mean, let's all be better that when we're sharing information, and when we're telling even our clients, if we're an agency or the buyer side or the client saying, here's where we're at on things. Sharing the context.

I was talking to an agency this week and one of the things that they said was, well, things were going well, but then the client just emailed me that they were completely sold out of our top three bestselling products and they weren't going to even have them in for Q4.

Well, I mean, one that's sharing information, but also like contextually, that's something that I think is important for them to understand that they purposefully ran out, clearly, because they didn't reorder. So I think that sharing more context around the why, and what you're thinking and the reasoning behind that is helpful.

Austin Brawner: 100% and then I think what my last rant is going to be on one related to what you just said, which is sharing screenshots of revenue numbers. Revenue numbers, return on ad spend numbers, all these things that mean absolutely nothing, and you've got this group of people that are out there just promoting like, "Oh, I went from zero to a million in one year." But who knows how much they spend on advertising to get there, right? Did they actually at the end of the day, make any money?

And the people that I find to be the most compelling after doing this and working with literally hundreds of clients in different industries are the ones that have defined what they want. They've built a business that provides enough profit to allow them to live comfortably and not stressed out, so can sleep at night. They can go on trips if they want to. They can spend their time working on the business because they're not stressed out about continually doubling, doubling, doubling every single year or tripling or whatever artificial metric they've decided they want to hit.

Those are the people that are really, really interesting and there's just so much noise around revenue in our industry because you can take, it's so easy to take a screenshot of Shopify, but it does not include all the advertising, all the money you've spent to get customers to your website.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, I think that's true. And absolutely, that drives me nuts and I'm sure a bunch of other people nuts. And I think what my brain goes through hearing that piece of advice is, I think that there's also not enough information.

Something that that does drive me a little crazy is there's not enough information around actually just the reason behind the why of what you're doing, and building the life that you actually want. And so I think that if somebody like Patrick Coddou at Supply razor company, there's an episode we did with him. I think somebody like Patrick has been a different voice in the industry because he has gone out and said, this is what we're trying to do. He and his wife run the business together. They have a young daughter and he's been transparent about why they're doing what they're doing and what the growth really means.

And there's just not enough of that. That stands out on its own. And I think what we can all do a better job of is explaining, and knowing it's okay to not just share revenue numbers, but to share really the story of what you're trying to do and why, and why you even started this business in the first place.

Because the more that that's out there, the more that people are going to feel comfortable being transparent and being honest, and it's not all about grow, grow, grow. Even though we hear that it's more, I think, more important for us to understand just the context of what we're trying to do, why, and how the business is helping us achieve the life that we want.

And also time freedom being equal sometimes to financial freedom in a lot of ways. So I think that we can all do a better job of that. And something that you don't see enough of

Austin Brawner: I don't think there's enough transparency around. So there's a lot of hype around the, honestly, very few brands who've had large exits within our industry, right? If you look at like companies like Native Deodorant, MVMT Watches, Pura Vida bracelets, right? I've heard at one of my workshops, what is the difference between... How do you build a MVMT Watches or Pura Vida bracelets?

Andrew Foxwell: Sure. Yeah. Oh yeah.

Austin Brawner: And it's one of those things that everyone looks at now like well those guys crushed it and had a lot of success, which is 100% true. But we have to always look at what were some of the factors that led to those companies having the type of exit that they have.

And you have to look at the first-mover advantage that those companies both had. And it's easy to be like, "Let's run the same playbook that they ran without thinking of the full context of when they started running Facebook ads, nobody else was doing it. It was brand new. We were learning it on the fly, right? And that's something that has to be kind of thrown out when you look at these companies that have had successful exits, those examples and factored into modern day. And that's not, it doesn't happen too much.

Andrew Foxwell: No, I completely agree with you and I think it's important to... It's just context, like we said. It's considering the entire context of where their business is at and what the real goal of what they were trying to do is, and it goes back to the first point that we made, which is, I've been asked this question several times about what do you think, as I started the episode saying of, you know, X, Y, Z, who's giving advice?

And then my biggest complaint is that they're just, it's never one way or another, it's never 100% one way or another. It's never completely in one camp or another. And to oversimplify it is actually to do a disservice to the entire industry.

And I think there are key components to any part of marketing that you're doing as a D2C company. I think we could talk about gross margin, we could talk about understanding your operations, we could talk about understanding you probably need to use lookalike audiences, or you need to have a welcome series in your email.

There's components to it, and those parts we can explain simply, but it's not all going to apply 100% to every business the same way. And in order to be successful, you have to know that. You have to go in with the change mindset and with an adaptation mindset and know that I am going to adapt this to the way that it makes sense for me. And that's what, to me, is the biggest thing that's missing out there right now, is the context and understanding around that.

Austin Brawner: I think, you know, that's one of the things I didn't understand when I started the Coalition and started doing a lot of like private coaching through a private coaching thread. I thought initially it'd be helping people implement certain strategies, but when it comes down to it, most of the time it's helping people decide what to focus on. That is where it becomes, that's where a lot of my time is spent because it's like somebody asks the question, well, should I implement Facebook Messenger?

Well, the answer is it depends. How do you market your business currently? Facebook Messenger is different than email marketing. It's different than text messaging, and it works well for a specific type of business. We've had Mark Arruda on the podcast a couple of times talking about his success with Facebook Messenger marketing, but it's very product business dependent.

The way that he runs his company lends itself to successfully marketing on Facebook messenger. Doesn't mean it's going to work for everyone. And in fact, most people it doesn't work.

Andrew Foxwell: Right, and I completely agree. I've, you know, same question several times. And I think that weirdly, what, when you hear that to me, one thing that I've done try been better at is I hear that, okay, Facebook Messenger is doing well, okay. Or SMS. Klaviyo's integrating SMS or something, right?

What to me that says thematically is not necessarily around the specific tactic, and I think there's ways that it could be successful if you implemented it. But what it says to me is we're clearly, this isn't a surprise to anybody, we're clearly in an age where you put a live chat on your website and that helps, and it's conversational commerce and you're having a conversation.

So really what it comes down to is if you want to be in business in two years or a year or six months, what is the way that you're going to integrate conversational commerce into your business? How are you going to make sure that you're having a conversation with your customer or with your potential customers? And so it's taking a lot of those specific things and thinking thematically about it.

Austin Brawner: Yes. And then judging what type of a conversation does your prospect want to have about your product, because it's going to be different than the conversation than if they're buying a bed, or buying socks. Very different.

And the level of sophistication you're going to need is totally product dependent. So probably going to wrap it up here, and hopefully that was helpful for us just going on rants about some of the stuff that we've noticed. I think you might've noticed the exact same thing in our industry.

Andrew Foxwell: Little sanity check.

Austin Brawner: Exactly. But yeah, I'd love to hear from you guys. Hit us up on Twitter if you have thoughts, things that grind your gears out there and would love to, if you enjoyed this podcast, then listen to us for a while. The best way to help us grow. Head over to iTunes, leave us a review. That's the way we get more exposure, and keep this thing growing.

Hey there, it's Austin again and I have a quick message for you. If you enjoyed this podcast, I have something really exciting for you. For the last year and a half, I've been coaching e-commerce business owners and marketers inside a group called The Coalition. You might've even heard me talking about it on this podcast, we have a lot of members who come on and actually share their story.

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Again, head over to to learn more. Everything we talk about on this podcast, we go into way more depth with actionable training. You can get actually one on one help from me to help you grow your business. Hope to see you guys inside.

Austin Brawner: What's up? Welcome to another episode of the e-commerce influence podcast. My name's Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell, and here we're coming to you live with another episode from the Chicago sessions, which is pretty awesome, and I will say it has been a real highlig...

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