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238: Zero to Launch: The Scaling Series, Part 1

Posted by Austin Brawner on February 11, 2020


Andrew and I have worked with hundreds of different companies at various stages of growth, from pre-launch to multi-million dollar acquisition.

Today we’re kicking off our scaling series, where we’ll talk about each stage of growth and the challenges you’re going to face as you scale up your business from zero to 8-figures.

We’re starting off with a “zero to launch” episode where we’ll address some of the questions you’ll face when you’re determining how to launch and going from an idea for a product to actually getting sales.

We’ll be sharing core lessons through each of these episodes that will give you value whether you’re at the beginning, already making 7-figures, or somewhere in the middle.


Episode Highlights

  • 4:30 Why we decided to do a scaling series.
  • 9:07 The most important thing when you’re just starting out? Feedback.
  • 10:24 Knowing what your community looks like is critical for scaling.
  • 13:40 Once you know your community, identify their buying power and your market potential.
  • 15:38 A zero to launch case study.
  • 18:16 Common missteps at this stage.
  • 19:40 Creating a “talk trigger” product.

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. once again, so lovely to be sitting here with you in Madison, Wisconsin this time, not in Chicago.

Austin Brawner: Absolutely, man. I'm very, very excited. We decided to bring back some more... do some more episodes together, hop on a plane, make it happen. It's one of the highlights of my year, so I am very, very excited today.

We have been thinking for a while about how we want to evolve the podcast. If you've been listening for a long time, you've probably heard our flash episodes, our interview episodes where we bring in business owners and marketers and talk to them. And one of the things we came up with when we were evaluating where we wanted to go with the podcast, is we wanted to really dive into the questions we get consistently and talk about the different challenges that business owners face as they're growing and scaling up a business in the ecommerce space.

So, that inspired us to do a little series here for you guys that we're going to be calling The Scaling Series.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think we heard about this from another podcast or maybe we heard about it from somewhere else in terms of a series of episodes, but what we are trying to do here is making sure that we, one, when we assess it, are always bringing value, right? We've heard from so many people that it's been fundamental in this podcast for you and your careers or you and your business, and we, first and foremost as a cornerstone, want you to know that we're here for you. So, that's important thing to mention out of the gates.

I think the scaling series is really an attempt to try to string together coherent thoughts of things that we get asked about a lot. So, what we're going to go through in this series is we're going to go through different sizes of growth and the challenges that you're going to face at those sites in those sizes.

And I think even if you are a bigger company or you're somewhere in the middle, each of these episodes you're going to get value from, because it's going to pull out a lot of core lessons that maybe you could reevaluate in your business or think about. So, we're pretty excited about it.

Austin Brawner: And just to give a little context, one of the reasons we wanted to do this episode is because both Andrew and I have a very unique perspective on this. We have both spent a lot of time working with, literally, hundreds of different companies in different areas of growth, areas where people are just launching, all the way up to where people are getting acquired and selling their businesses, and worked with them and been involved in that process at different levels in different industries all the way through.

And so, it provides us with a unique perspective on why some companies are able to, seemingly, come out of nowhere and sell for $100 million and other ones are not. And what's funny is, we're going to dive into, the idea of overnight growth and overnight success because you see a lot in our industry, these companies that grow and get acquired for, let's say, $100 million, and it seems like there's overnight success there.

But we've been sometimes working with those companies or advising them or talking to them over a long period of time and know the reality that there's a lot of different challenges that they went through to reach that point of, seeming, overnight success.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, absolutely. It's always one of those things of reading the book by its cover and not understanding, really, the full story that comes with it. So, I think it's important to mention, as Austin said, that we have seen this, and it's a difference because a lot of the people in our space, to be transparent, to give advice, are people that haven't necessarily seen it firsthand or they've only seen it firsthand in a couple of their businesses or in a couple of specific niches. And that's not to call these people out, it's just a reality of the situation.

I mean, I know this year, Foxwell Digital, we interacted with and helped consult on easily over 150 companies in different parts of the world, too, that are all direct response ecomm businesses. And so, I know with you it's probably even double that. I mean, it's a lot more. So, that's important because we've seen it a number of times. And one of the things that, as we talk about themes, these are themes that we've seen. So, this episode is the "going to market" or "zero to launch" episode that we're really talking about today.

Austin Brawner: And so, yeah, in this episode what we're going to try to address is some of the questions that you face when you are determining how to launch and how to go from an idea that you have and a product that you're creating to actually getting sales. Right?

This actually was inspired by many of the Twitter DMs or messages that we get from companies being like, "Hey, I'm about to launch. I need help. I'm trying to hire a CMO. Are you interested in being the CMO of this company that we're launching right now?"

So, this episode is inspired, like talk about what some of the problems you face at that level are and how you can approach this really confusing space, which is how do you get going? How do you actually sell? And when do you actually have a business?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, let's just dive right into that. So, common thing... We'll go through them individually. The first most common thing, I think, that we hear when someone is in that zero to launch area is, many of them don't, and this isn't anything against anybody, but they don't know what they don't know.

They take a track that they think they should take. For example, thinking about hiring a CMO, as you just said, whereas, in reality, what they should be thinking about is, what are you even going to sell? What makes it different? And the things along those lines, which we'll get into.

Austin Brawner: And most importantly, when you're at the stage where you're trying to figure out how to launch your business and what this is going to become, the most important thing at this stage is sales and feedback, customer feedback. Figure out a way to consistently sell your product in any space. This could be farmer's markets, this could be direct to other people, this could be running tests online to sell your product, and then get feedback to specifically figure out why people are buying your product, because that is the most important thing.

You're going to come in with some idea of why people are buying your product and why your product is so unique and interesting, because you wouldn't be doing it and dedicating your life to it if you didn't think it was unique and interesting, but this is your opportunity to actually learn why people are actually buying it. Because what you expect is probably very different than why people are buying something.

Andrew Foxwell: Right. I think that's true, and if you do that, which is tying it directly into customer feedback immediately, a lot of it comes down... And multichannel strategy, too, of offline/online, however you're trying to figure it out. It goes directly into what I would say is arguably one of the most important things, too, at this point, which is, people launch and they say, "Well, I don't know. I don't feel like people are connecting with it."

The question I always ask back is, what's the community? And so, if you sell into different places and you start to build a community of supporters, you start to understand, this is what people look like that buy this, these are the people that like this particular product that I'm selling or these products that I'm selling. This is what's motivating to them. And that, ultimately, is going to be something that helps you scale, which is really the core of what we're talking about.

You have to, in today's world, scale is dependent upon having some community and understanding that community and what you're selling into each of those communities. I think it's easy to look at a big company, recent acquisition, and talk about Blenders Eyewear, and we'll get into that example going forward, but you look at something like Blenders and say, "Well, anybody needs sunglasses."

That's true, but you have to remember that Blenders is selling actually into five, six, 10 communities. That's what they're selling it to. They're selling into the surfing community. They're selling into the beach community. They're selling into the vacation community. You see what I'm saying?

Austin Brawner: And they started with one community, which was very different, which was a clear value proposition of, we can tell that sunglasses are overpriced, and we want to create a sunglass that is mid-range, that is still cool, but you're not bummed out if you step on it or sit on it. Right?

And that was a very clear value proposition that aligned with their community at the time, which was they were trying to sell to college kids who didn't want a junk gas station pair of sunglasses, but they also didn't have a lot of money to buy like a $200 pair and if they went boating and went wakeboarding and fell off a boat and you lost your sunglasses, they'd be bummed out. So, that was the initial idea.

And that's the same sort of thing we interviewed Helen from the Cereal school, and she talks, too, a lot about initially getting traction with selling their product in keto cereal. It was going to groups of people who were eating keto and posting and talking about what their challenges were and finding out what they were looking for in a cereal, creating that, gathering an email list, and then selling to those exact same people in the terms that they understood versus what they thought they were creating and what they thought people cared about.

Andrew Foxwell: Right. I think one thing you and I have talked about, too, in relation to this is really the comparison of having a community that there is scale within that community, but then seeing, one, community extensions off of the original community. Right? So, the first one is beach culture, being one community, and then you could go into snow goggles and that's another community that you could get into.

So, that's one strategy. Another strategy is looking at communities that feel niche but are actually really big. For example, women that are expecting, right? That is a niche community. There's a lot of advice about it, right? But it applies to an incredible amount of people, and it has a lot of scale and buying power.

So, I think that we can't go through this episode of talking about zero to launch and not talk about what's the buying power, as well, of that particular niche or community you're trying to sell into, and also, what are the problems that they're dealing with. I think a lot of the times we start to build products or people build products are things that they were particularly looking for, and sometimes that can work, but more often than not, it's more consistent if you understand of a particular community. What are the main questions they're asking, first, and then develop something off of that.

Austin Brawner: Totally agree. And I think that one question you should be asking yourself at this stage is, how big is the potential of my business based on the market that I'm looking at? Because like Andrew mentioned, a lot of people start their businesses by scratching their own itch.

They wanted a product for something that they're currently having a problem with, and that may be a massive $100 million, $200 million, billion-dollar company or it could be a really incredible $5 million market. And a $5 million market can create an incredible business for you, right? But it may not be $100 billion acquisition.

And so, getting real with what you're creating and how large that market is, is a great thing to do at this point because you will have better expectations and you'll start thinking about things in terms of where you want to take it versus the shiny object syndrome that can come by looking at all these other... the comparison trap of looking at the other businesses, what they're doing, and how they're doing it.

That's something that you can really fall into at this early stage when, really, it comes back to, sell the product any way you can, get customer feedback, and focus on some niche that you can really identify with and get information from this niche and figure out if they actually want it.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Let me pose to you a case study of this that I recently saw and how you would have particularly handled this. There was a gentleman that I spoke to about two months ago, and he sells Hawaiian themed cowboy shirts. Okay? And he is in this phase, that's where he's at.

My first take on it was, it was actually doing decently well at a low spend, and he was using lookalike audiences on Facebook and things. And my take initially was, "What other products are you going to introduce?" And he said, "I can do anything."

So, when you're handed a situation like that, what's your reaction upon something like that? Because I think that's where a lot of people are, right? They develop something for a specific community. This guy lives on the big island in Hawaii. Right? How do you talk about scale and growth to him, and what are the things that you would ask him?

Austin Brawner: Well, I think, in that case what's interesting about it is, if you could do anything, doing anything is not necessarily a bonus. It can be a downside because the ideal is just to serve the community's needs. Whatever they want, that's what you should be doing. Right?

You should be figuring out, what is the person who is buying a Hawaiian cowboy shirt actually need? What are the other problems that they have in their life? Because you've already got those customers, and that's how I would approach it would be thinking like adding on to that.

And that's something, I think, in the next episodes when were talking about opportunities to actually grow the business after you have traction, we'll dive into how do you approach the next level of growth?

But that's, I think, our take on if you are in this position, don't overthink it. You don't need to hire a massive team at this point. Your whole goal is just to get feedback, start selling, and don't be afraid to try something crazy and unique just to get the product out in front of people and get their true feedback.

Ask your friends, but also be very wary that your friends are going to give you probably really positive feedback, unless your friends are buying your product from you. Really, the only thing that matters is will they buy it from you? Not, will they tell you it's a good idea?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I mean, I think about friends that I have worked really closely with, too, even close personal friends that have grown their business from zero to launch. And in this stage, the things that they did, that they said were missteps, and I think a lot of them we've talked about, one of them that stands out is, going into the wrong places to sell initially.

So, a friend had a kombucha brewing kit, and she took it to sell at a specialty cheese shop, actually. And that was the first place she went. Now, not totally wrong, but there's not a lot of scale there. There's not a lot of test and iteration there. And so, I think, online obviously does a lot with that, but that's big in terms of going to market in terms of where else you want to test.

I think if you think about and become involved in those communities or research, rather, and become involved in those communities that are already existing, that is a great way to formulaically go about beginning to scale, because you're going to understand it uniquely. Right?

I think there's a reason that Austin's community is growing. I think there's a reason that our courses are growing. It's because we're part of the community. I mean, we've been part of it for a long time and we understand what you're concerned about and what our customers are concerned about, and so that's why it continues to do well. So, that's where we would start, is thinking about that.

The final thing I do want to mention is product quality or product, as you think about that. Not just what do people like about it, what do they not like about it? But also, in the long term, what's going to create, really, a talk trigger? And that's a term that Jay Baer created. But that's a big part of it. What's going to cause people to talk? What's going to cause people to be like, "Hey, did you see this thing? I got this new Rubik's Cube that's also a key chain. I mean, isn't that cool?"

Austin Brawner: It's also a blowtorch.

Andrew Foxwell: Also a blowtorch. I think that that's something that isn't thought about a lot, and there's some companies that's their entire marketing strategy is the fact that people are going to talk. But I think if you consider that as part of it from the beginning, you will have more scale.

Austin Brawner: Well, so I think that that's an interesting point. I think some people can get stuck in this point focus and obsessing on product quality, and it doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be something that people want to buy and you get good feedback on, or decent feedback on. And you can always improve. There's a minimum level of quality. It really depends on the product, right?

That's one of those challenging things where, if it's a supplement and it's designed to do something specific for your body, then you probably want a high quality. If it's something that's a little bit in between and you can't perfectly master it at this point, that's fine. It's finding the balance between feeling comfortable selling the product and not obsessing about product quality. It'll hold you back. In my mind. That's been my experience. I see both those things.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think it's important to mention. I think, the reason I say it is not... Product quality is one part of it but more of it is, what's the part of the product, or what are the unique value propositions around the product, that are going to cause people to talk, to tell their friends about it?

Austin Brawner: And to be able to explain it easy.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, exactly. Because that is, actually, a very big piece of it, in my opinion. Right? I mean, you think about somebody like Jeff from Ugmonk, right? I mean, his products are designed so beautifully, they offer a talk trigger off of the design. I mean, that's a unique value proposition that they're beautiful and they're differentiated, and it really goes into that 'fewer is better' model that a lot of brands continue to push it and have seen a lot success in.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. Cool. Well, hopefully this is helpful, episode one of The Scale Series. And in the next episode we are going to be diving into launch to traction, what that looks like. Anywhere from zero to 100K a year, that range, and that range is going to be changed a little bit based on the product, but that's what we're going to be diving into. Like, what happens once you start selling?

Andrew Foxwell: Let's do it.

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. once again, so lovely to be sitting here with you in Madison, Wisconsin this time, not in Chicago.

Austin Brawner:

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