EcomCrew Podcast

E240: How to Market a Sub-Niche Product: Should You Sell on Amazon?

This Under the Hood guest is someone our Premium members would know. Fabio Molle was on one of our private webinars last month to talk about strategies he used to grow his brand’s Instagram following to more than 200k followers.

Fabio is the owner of Functional Tennis, a company that sells match journals to aspiring athletes and enthusiasts alike. While the brand is taking off on this particular social media platform, that success hasn’t necessarily translated to a profit boost.

The match journal is a good consumable product. Unfortunately, tennis is what you’d call “a niche within a niche” so marketing using conventional channels is out of the question.

I brainstormed with Fabio on possible routes he could take to generate more interest in this product. Here are some takeaways.

  • Instead of going the Amazon route, go to the grassroots level.
  • Capitalize on social media channels by adding more content.
  • A free course can be a great lead magnet because it adds value and can create relationships with people. If those people want to learn more, you can then offer paid content.
  • Google Shopping is an asset you’d want to build long term.

Under the Hood is a segment where we do an hour-long coaching call with one of our listeners. We take a look at their businesses, provide honest feedback, offer our best business advice, and answer whatever questions they have. In exchange for the free coaching, we will turn the call into a podcast episode so that our community can benefit as well. It’s a win-win!

Need onsite and personalized advice for your struggling ecommerce business? Sign up for the EcomCrew Roadshow. Read more about it here.

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Tune in to the 5 Minute Pitch. New episodes published weekly until the final round in May at the Sellers Summit 2019.

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If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!


Full Audio Transcript

Intro: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 240 of the EcomCrew Podcast. Today we have another Under the Hood segment for you. I love doing these. If you want to be on Under the Hood, go over to If you're wondering what the heck Under the Hood is and this is something that's new to you, the EcomCrew Podcast is new to you, what we do is a free hour of coaching over Skype with a listener or someone that's been referred to us through EcomCrew and try to do as much as we can to get them actionable advice for their business over that one hour time period. It's 100% free. We just ask that we can record it and turn it into a podcast episode.

So if you're interested in doing that, the Hood is where you'll find that. And don't forget to also check out which is basically taking the Under the Hood segments and turbo charging them where I'm going to come in person and spend a half a day with you interviewing you about your business and then come back the next day spend another half day giving you actionable advice. That's going to be somewhere before been eight to 10 hours for each road show victim — I'm sorry, each person that comes in and does the EcomCrew roadshow, success story will call them.

Each one of those guys will get four to five hours of actionable advice and hopefully be able to double or triple their business as a result of us coming over there and doing that. At least that's our grandiose plans. Obviously not all results would be the same. But regardless, the time is free to come over there and do that. We're going to take that down and edit it down to one 30 to 60 minute episode. So the idea is to produce much higher quality content. So that's what we get out of it as content for the community. You get out a couple days of coaching from us 100% for free, All right guys, let's hop into today's episode and do an Under the Hood.

Mike: Hey Fabio, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast.

Fabio: Hi Michael. Mike, it's a pleasure to be on the EcomCrew Podcast and thanks for having me.

Mike: Of course, it's great to have you and it sounds like you might be hailing in from Dublin maybe or over somewhere in Ireland.

Fabio: Yeah. I'm in Dublin Ireland. Yeah, nice in the misspoke cold weather over here, so yeah, tucked up in my office here.

Mike: I won't brag and talk about what it's like in San Diego right now then. So just real quick before we dive into it. For those of you who are new to the EcomCrew Podcast, we have this segment called Under the Hood. And it's become one of like my favorite things to do, which is cool when it aligns with our audience’s favorite thing to consume because these episodes seem to do really well. And the idea here is to give back to the community, interview podcast listeners, give them an hour or so coaching call that we record and turn into a podcast episode.

I think that this is great for a number of reasons. First of all, I can give specific advice for people that are listening, possibly struggling with something. But also even if you never want to come on this segment or you're just getting in e-commerce, you can hear the wide variety of struggles that other entrepreneurs have because it's often podcast and people that are in marketing love to talk about the straight right up, which is certainly most not, it never works out that way. So if you're interested in being on this segment Under the Hood, you can go to And Fabio I'm sure you're familiar with the segment and you know my first question is going to be how did you get involved in e-commerce?

Fabio: I got involved about 10 years ago now. Some friends of ours used to have Christmas sweaters and they used to go out and have a great time, and we could never get our hands on any. So myself and a good friend of mine decided to get our own made back in 2007, early 2008 and we started selling them in this Christmas time 2008. We had no idea what we were doing. And we sort of came from a software background but we didn't know much about setting up websites and marketing and all those sorts of things. So that's when we started back in 2008 so for the sweater website, it's our 10 year anniversary this year.

Mike: Well, so you guys were like oh gee, I'm sure that Shopify didn't even exist at that point.

Fabio: No, no we bid, we customed, we used PayPal, we hacked together a web, it was a one page website back then. We only had three products and we hacked to get a little PayPal cart and it did the job. And I think we did a couple of years, maybe three years PayPal and then we moved into BigCommerce, and then because we were selling internationally with currencies, we thought the best thing was to move to Magenta then. It was still early Shopify days and we just thought Magenta gave us more control and we've been stuck on Magenta ever seen.

Mike: Yeah. And I love the way you say stuck on because there's very few people that I talk to that are on Magenta that are like this is my favorite thing part of my business.

Fabio: Yeah, no it's definitely — I wish I run the — with tennis Johns [ph] I run due to website I have had orders on Shopify, it's just a much better experience. I can manage everything myself there. And with Magenta, every little change and you get a developer and it's just it's old. I think it's old and broken for modern day e-commerce company. So yeah, I just can't get off at with between — for the SEO reasons, so much more traffic with the jumpers is SEO, I feel if I changed to Shopify, I’d break something along the way, and I'd hurt myself even more.

Mike: Yeah, makes perfect sense. And we've done a BigCommerce to Shopify transitioning, I have a lot of experience with SEO and it was a big failure. So I can definitely understand why that would be a concern. And it sounds like and what you just said that you have another business as well. So let's hear about that one as well.

Fabio: So the main one is the jumper one but it's a fad. We've done well keyword search, we’ve done well keeping and gone for 10 years now. But I've been told many times I just got to move on from it and move on to something else and just get rid of it really, but it’s hard to sell a business, e-commerce business, especially seasonal business. So I did have a pillowcase business called Lelini. So pillowcase which started well but openly I wasn't too interested in pillowcases. So I managed to sell that on Shopify exchange, which was great. But my real passion is for tennis.

And a couple years ago, I set up an Instagram account just by chance. And since then we've grown to over 200,000 followers. So about a year, I decided to set up a Shopify website and tried to figure out a way to start selling some sort of a product. And initially I was giving away free download of a match journal, sorry match sheet where a tennis player would play their match — sorry before the match, they would fill out their goals, their game plans. And then after the match they could review it. So then they can base their training off of these match sheets. And I decided to develop a match journal.

So last March, we lost — sorry we launched match journal. It's like an A5 hardback journal. And so that's been my main product on the site since but I've noticed your experience really, I just thought I can hack stuff together, I can get initial sales. But now I'm at the stage where apart from my Instagram traffic, I need to figure out order traffic sources. And I know Amazon at the moment is nonexistent for us. So that's why I want to reach out to you and see if you think Amazon is a possible avenue for the product. And also what are the products we can add to the range?

Mike: Okay cool. So it sounds like you just got started in March, so you’re like 10 months into this. What have your sales been to this point?

Fabio: Sales have been quite low, but $18,000 — 18,000 euro sorry, roughly about $20,000 and then another few thousand dollars on just bespoke sales for the product, so a bit of more bulk orders.

Mike: Okay. And so let's go through just so I have the whole funnel kind of here. You have 20,000 Instagram followers?

Fabio: Yes.

Mike: You've set up a download for this journal. So a downloadable version of what you made as a hardback, how many people took you up on that offer or took advantage of the download?

Fabio: Yeah. Initially, let's say we had about 1200 initially, but I don't push them. I haven't been pushing down that angle since as a flow, let's say.

Mike: Okay, so I mean, I'm very passionate about tennis as well. I used to — I talk about this on the podcast all the time, I used to play in a league. It's one thing that I really miss right now about my life. I have not played tennis a lot the last several years; there isn't a good tennis community where I happen to live on like in this weird pocket of San Diego where there just isn't a good tennis community. And like San Diego in general is a great tennis community but I'd have to drive about 30 minutes to get to those parts, because we just happened to pick the one spot that doesn't work. So I know a decent amount about this.

And what concerns me is that this is like a niche of a niche because as passionate as I was about tennis, I never actually documented my — this is more of I think of like a collegiate thing of people that are really like a semi pro or a pro or something where you're really competitive.

Fabio: Yeah, I think you've nailed it on the head there. Let's say, more I figured out that kids between 12 and 18 will be the biggest cohort of customers. So they're the biggest users, most of the customers, a lot of them their parents would buy for them.

Mike: Yeah, I agree with that. I think that that's dead on because I could definitely see it being used there. And also at the college level as well where it's…

Fabio: Yeah, definitely, we've sold to a couple of colleges in the states where they got their logo on the journal. So you definitely have there the two biggest angles.

Mike: So here is the thing that I see being an issue with your biggest target market that you're going to struggle with a little bit. You say that your target market is 12 to 18 year olds; the parents are buying it for the kids. So when you're trying to do targeting, you can't target the people with the money that are actually making the purchasing decision. You target 12 to 18 year olds on Facebook with this journal, and they're going to have to — if they're interested in it, they're going to have to ask their parents, but the problem is that the parents are probably more interested than the kids because the parents are usually the ones cracking the whip and trying to turn their kids into something like superstar that's going to make millions of dollars down the road.

So it's a really, it's a tough one. I mean, this is a tough one. I think it's a great product, I think that — because I've been to the US Open and Indian Wells and a bunch of other big tennis tournaments. And I've actually gone to practice rounds and stuff. And I see players doing this or their coaches are doing it, someone is keeping track of all of this. And surprisingly, they're not doing it with electronics, whatever reason there is an app for that but people aren't using the app, they're still using a traditional pen and paper.

Fabio: No pen and paper is still key. And I think the feedback I've gotten and sort of put an angle I’ve trying to push is that kids are on the phones all the time these days. And people feel — the feedback was like it's great that it gets them off the phone for like in five minutes. They can sit down and concentrate with the journal and get their focus on it rather than messages coming in under phone and they get distracted. So that is one of the advantages of just having a separate journal rather than having an app on your phone.

Mike: Yeah, I completely agree with that wholeheartedly. So the question here is like, all right, first of all, have you done the research? Because it's hard to do this on the fly as we're recording the podcast. Have you done the research of what's the keyword volume for something like tennis journal? Is that something that people are searching for? Is that something that you could rank for?

Fabio: No, it wouldn't be huge keyword volume at all?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, this is where like another challenge comes in. I actually have a little app on my Google search bar here so I actually can type this in on the fly and find out. So tennis journal is actually 140 searches a month. So it's pretty insignificant. And it turns out, you actually rank number one for that, which is pretty cool. You should be happy about that at least.

Fabio: But there's not much competition out there. And yeah, but you're right, the volume is low. And I want to know, is there — if we were to push down heavily on an Amazon route, is the volume that is the small bit of volume worth the effort?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I would say no. So here's the situation with Amazon. Amazon is like 50 something percent now of all e-commerce searches and business. But it's something people are looking for, like they have to be typing in tennis racket, tennis shoes, tennis balls, and then they go buy those things, and they're there. It's a high intent search, like they're looking to buy something, most likely right then and there. But they're not typing in tennis journal. And unless there's like another keyword, like you can put yourself on Amazon, but you're never going to be found because unless someone actually types in those words, it's literally impossible to show up unless you like go aggressive with PPC, on terms like tennis racket, or tennis shoes, which I would highly recommend not doing because again, it's a niche of a niche.

So I mean, the bulk of people searching for tennis racket, or tennis shoes, or whatever other tenants terms there are aren't going to be interested in your product, and it's just not going to convert.

Fabio: Okay, yeah, that was one of the big question I had for you. So sometimes you're sort of you think you sort of — I'm leaning towards that, but it's great to get your opinion on it and solidify it.

Mike: I mean, there's nothing wrong with putting it on Amazon. I mean, it doesn't really cost anything to put it there, right? I mean, you can create an Amazon account, put it up there either fulfilled by merchant or send 10 of them in there. But I guess the real point I'm trying to make is like, I wouldn't get overly excited about it or I don't want you to be thinking that this is the thing that's going to make me forget about my Christmas sweater business and move on to that because again, if it's Amazon and there isn't search volume, it's not going to happen. You can't create a market on Amazon, there has to be intent. And it's hard to do off Amazon as well. Like, I'm worried about the off Amazon portion as well, because there's only 140 people that are looking for it.

Fabio: True. No, yeah, it's true. I can look at — the sales reflect that to be honest with you. As you can see, we are as you say, we're number one there and I send traffic, like I can send plenty of traffic to the site. And then so yeah, I just thought it was maybe I'm missing something or that's really where I'm coming from.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think that if you want — if this is like a passion project for you, or like you really want to do something with this, I think the angles that I would be going after would be like grassroots. I'd be going to or emailing tennis academies or colleges and trying to convince them to buy it or something along those lines or have it in a newsletter or workout something like that. But just as much as I know about tennis, I think that this one is going to be a tough road to hoe in terms of making a living off of this product because I just don't see it being something that enough people are going to use. You would never be able to convince me, this is how I look at it from this perspective.

I was obsessed with tennis especially the year that I lived in Cayman. I mean I played four days a week. I was obsessed with like getting better. I went to coaching every week; I played in the league every week. I lived and breathed that. I changed my diet; I was going to the gym. I was always like all in on tennis but I would never fill out this journal because I wasn't that serious. I wasn't playing to like to put something on my resume or become a college champion. I wasn't playing at a semi pro level or something where it mattered that much because at the end of the day, when I got back home, I had another business to run and most wreck players are — even if they're really serious, they still have other things in their lives that are probably more important at the end of the day.

And I would have rather spent the time, the 10 or 15, 20, 30 minutes I would use to fill up the journal talking to my coach or doing something else that would probably have had more of a move the needle effect because this type of thing is a move the needle effect at the upper echelon of tennis. I know people that were doing this actually that were — actually your target market what you're saying the 12 to 18 was exactly who it was. It was the kids that were like trying to play for the Cayman community and team that were down there at the club playing and they were like really serious about all this stuff because they had a squeeze the last like drop of lemon the lemon to make it to that level.

But for me it was just like it's tough. So I just think it's going to like — I think I'd keep this product. I mean it sounds like even selling 20k is not insignificant.

Fabio: No, no, it's not and yeah my goal is to try and figure out, order products also along the way. Yeah so the goal is to get through Christmas with the sweaters as — we call them jumpers over here but sweaters there — to get to there and then I was yeah just I was still wary just to get back here and get straight into it.

Mike: I'm curious more about the sweater business. I know you want to talk about the tennis stuff but…

Fabio: No I'm happy — no I think sweater is a big part like I said we've been gone 10 years and we shipped out our biggest, we probably pulled in above 450,000 euros a couple of years in a row.

Mike: That's awesome, that's like in a probably a 10 week period too right?

Fabio: That's a 10 week period. We did have a retail pop up store also, we did have a pop up store also which greatly helped but then it was these things are fad so it started the downturn and like our sales have dipped to about roughly in about 120k a year now.

Mike: Got you.

Fabio: A dip in business and what stage we are buying stock minimum quantities are going up. We're struggling to get new designs a little bit and also I don't want to hang around the dying business.

Mike: Yeah. I think that's smart too.

Fabio: [Overlapping 00:20:14] in a business that wants to grow and I've done it too long now. So the cord has to be pulled at some stage.

Mike: It sounds like you've lost the passion for it too, so that's always a problem.

Fabio: Yeah, I know around Christmas time, it's great. But just this time of year, there's not a lot to be going on really and it can be quite — depressing probably isn't the right word but you want to get stuck in the sand and see it grow, take it to the next level. And it just doesn't seem to be this way with the jumper business.

Mike: What's the name of that company?

Fabio: Funky Christmas Jumpers.

Mike: Funky Christmas. Okay, so it's like you're kind of pigeon — I was going to say like if you could do something else with it, but if you have the word Christmas in the name it makes it tough.

Fabio: We’ve been pigeonholed. Yeah, for SEO reasons, putting your product name as your URL has not turned out to be a good strategy long term. Yeah. Initially I was thinking it's a great idea but it backfires then once you do not get any traction.

Mike: I agree. I mean, I was like just talking to someone about this yesterday with Ice Wraps, which was a name that we purchased as a business, but what happens when you want to do hot packs which is the next logical extension to ice wraps? How do you sell a hot pack that's named an ice wrap? It doesn't make any sense. So it's a struggle.

Fabio: So yeah, so that's what's happened there. And yeah it’s true that we have a good sort of cut down on the email list but we just see we have these eager people who like buying a product from us, we give them a great service and feedback has always been great. We just struggle to launch another product off the bucket or use that email list to launch another product, that routine work. So yeah, so I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen next year regarding the jumpers. We probably, we’ve about a year in it with our current stock level and then hopefully, there's something else cooking up a storm that I can focus my attention on.

Mike: So what's the next thing in terms of on the tennis thing? And I liked the tennis name, because it doesn't have journal in it. So you can do other things with it. I mean, it's the kind of business, I don't know if you want to share the URL or not.

Fabio: Yeah, it's just

Mike: Yeah, and I love that name because it kind of like, it almost kind of says like we're like the serious tennis player right, which I think is probably going to be your longer term niche. So you could come up with enough – if you had like, think about this, if you had like five or 10 products that were geared towards this target market, you're looking for this collegiate athlete, or semi pro or pro and there's thousands of them out there. And the thing I love about the journal is it's consumable, which is really important. I mean, once people play 100 matches or whatever, they're going to need another one. So that part is great.

What are some other ideas that you have maybe to expand that brand and really become the guy that that talks about this space? If you became the — you already got 200,000 followers, if you started putting out more content, not just on Instagram, but YouTube, and maybe even on a blog — I'm sorry, go ahead.

Fabio: Which we don't do at the moment. It's very just heavily based on Instagram, which is not a good strategy by the way because too many eggs in one basket there.

Mike: Yeah. YouTube could be like a really good resource for you for sure.

Fabio: Yeah, but my biggest issue is I'm not a coach. So that's a bit of a – because a possibility here could have been launching — we did launch a course about just over a year ago, I tested a 12 week fitness course, which initial sales were good, but there was three people involved in it. I thought to do this right I should be the coach driving forward the course, all my content. And so we got, I think we pulled in about 6,000 euros in sales over when we launched the course, which was quite good.

But I decided that maybe wasn't — I just cut the cord on it and said I’ll revisit again at some stage maybe if I ever got qualifications myself. But I just felt right now I'm not in the position myself to talk about tennis even though I've been in the game for over 20 years. I've trained in national academies and I'm surrounded by the players but I don't have the qualifications. I was always a bit nervous launching my own course.

Mike: Yeah, but I love the course idea. I mean, now that you brought it up, and we just talked about this in our newest leads to sales thing. So you could have a course that could be free as a lead magnet into just developing relationship with you, getting more emails and then also having a paid course that's following. We do this exact same thing with EcomCrew, there's, we have all this free content. And the idea with that is to develop a relationship with people that we help them with something and they appreciate that and they want to learn more then we have Premium.

There's obviously no pressure or anything to go do that. But it's all math, like a certain percentage of those people are going to trickle through and the better your sales, your free or whatever your sales funnel is, the better, more people will jump through it. So I mean, our goal was to provide an immense amount of value with the free stuff, and I could see you doing that, and I understand your hang up of not being a coach. So here's my way around this. And it sounds like maybe you already did this. But the thing that I know about tennis coaches, there's more coaches than there is people to coach; they're all struggling or most of them.

There's obviously successful ones, but I'm talking about like the club coach, and these guys are brilliant. I mean, the coaches I've had, they're really freaking good. I've had a lot like over the years in different clubs and different things. And sometimes when I was really passionate about it, even when I traveled, I'd hire coaches for one lesson, just to keep in shape and whatever. And they're like, they they're just, they're good. They're so brilliant, they're just brilliant tennis minds about court positioning and just not over hitting and warm up exercises and just things to be thinking about in your head space and all these like, I mean, things that are just so consumable and especially for a tennis maniac like me.

So what about just like paying them by the hour, you become the camera guy, instead of being the coach. If you don't feel like you're the certified coach, you're the camera guy. So you’re the guy behind the lens, learn how to film this stuff and then interview the coach on particular lessons and things and that way you own the material. So you're not having to, like, have this complicated partnership with the coach and all this other crap and just pay them their — they typically want like 50 bucks an hour.

Fabio: I hadn't thought of that, it was always partnership brutes and then me. I hadn't actually thought of just going and paying the coach. Thank you very much for your service and then moving on.

Mike: Right. And you can probably get a deal. Like you call him and say, look, I want 40 hours of coaching time. I'm going to pay you all up front, or half and half or something so they don't run away. But I'm guaranteeing you a block of time. Again, these guys are typically struggling. They're struggling to get court time to actually get paid. So if you give them a bunch of hours up front, I know when I was doing coaching, it was always like, buy 10 lessons, get two free or something a long those lines.

Fabio: Yeah, they still upgrade like that.

Mike: Yeah, so I mean, if you did that, and you just go to him and say, look, I want to film this, like I'm putting together – someone is going to probably say yes. There will be some they'll be like, I'm not comfortable on camera or whatever or whatever it might be, but you could become the camera guy. And it's pretty easy to learn how to operate the camera. And you can even probably get someone that's willing to — in this relationship that needs lessons that could be on the other side of the court that's like the student that's getting a free lesson and you're paying for it. So they'd be happy to be your person on the other side of the court and then you go, now you got your course.

And you could start with a free course, which is what I would do, like pick some niche of how to warm up for tennis, or how to stretch after tennis or whatever course you have that's like your free course and then see how many people you can get into that and the feedback that you're getting and the free content won't be as good as the paid content that you'll film the second because you'll be better at it by then. And then you can have a paid course, which is all profit, there's no inventory to carry. But now you’re even better as you have a whole library of students and customers that you can then sell physical products to.

Fabio: Yeah, no, that's a good angle. It's just when you come from a product background, that's from selling the sweaters, always came from product background. So the mind always went what’s the product that I can sell? What's the product? And that's the reason why I stuck away from the courses.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I can tell you after — and I don't have a product background, but I actually came to the product thing last. My background was affiliate marketing or just being a marketer. And now I feel like I put my 10,000 hours into SEO, content marketing, video, YouTube and stuff, podcasting, and products. And I can tell you that the next business that we get into will be a business that can take advantage of all these disciplines. I think it's really important. And you happen to be lucky enough to be in one that matches perfectly with that, and you have a personal interest and passion in it, which I think will help make it interesting and something that you're going to be excited to be on court and doing this stuff because you enjoy it rather than selling sweaters, which has just been a business.

And so you can become that guy, right? And there's still, it's not a crowded space. If you happen to kind of pick something that isn't really crowded, because like the bubble lots and then Nike's and whatever the worlds are have like such a corner on the bulk of the tennis products. But you're not going to sell those products, you're going to sell these niche products and courses and be that guy, and I think that you're in a great position to do that.

Fabio: It sounds good. That sounds good. I’m just going to double down and focus. So book together a couple of free courses and seeing how they go and trying to take it from there.

Mike: Yeah, and I think that's really easy to market. I mean, this is something that we've been teaching and talking a lot about. You have a free course, if it's good, not only will it be easy to convert people from an ad, which is really easy to target tennis players, or recreational tennis players on Facebook. You can then have them in your flow, then you develop a relationship with them. If you're helping improve their game, they will be in debt to you for life.

Fabio: Trust.

Mike: Whenever anybody taught me something — yeah you develop trust, exactly.

Fabio: Yeah, I know that sounds exciting from this side. It's funny when somebody else tells you something, you're like you just can't believe it. Not that I didn't think of it but sometimes somebody needs to tell you before you act on it.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it's a lot of work, I don't want to diminish the work that goes into it. It's an asset that no one can ever take away from you. And that's what I'm working on in business. The next like I said, the next things that we're working on, I want an asset that no one can take away from me. What we built with EcomCrew, this is an asset no one can ever, ever take away. I mean, it's our assets, same thing with like ColorIt, the brand that we’ve built there. I mean, that's an asset that just can't be taken away. Versus something we do with like Ice Wraps, we have no defensibility there.

It's a great business. It makes us money for now, but it's not something that I can say that no one can ever take away from me. And in fact, Amazon has launched their own brand against our products. So I think that the clock has started now with that brand. But what we're talking about here, no one will ever, ever be able to take it away from you. It's like it is a highly defensible business.

Fabio: You're building a moat.

Mike: Exactly, exactly. Seriously, that's a great way to put it; you’re building a moat with alligators in the damn pond right?

Fabio: Yeah, that's it. So that sounds really good. It's just a matter of, as you say, execute. And I know, it's not easy, because we did have the — we did build a 12 week course before. I didn't film and I wasn't the guy, but I was part of the plan. And so I know there's quite a bit involved in putting it together. But I'm hoping a free course could be put together a bit quicker and it can be tested pretty quick.

Mike: Yeah I mean, I'm going to give you another shot of rocket fuel here. I mean, you said you sold $6,000 worth of the courses, it sounds like you didn't even really try. And you still sold $6,000 worth of the courses. I mean, that's a pretty big number for just the first go around. I mean, we struggled with that with EcomCrew when we first launched, and we had a pretty big following at that point. I mean, if you were able to as a first go around sell $6,000 of stuff, and that's more profit than you'll get on selling 20k worth the journals. If you put things in perspective, the numbers don’t sound sexy, but the profit is way better. And at the end of the day, that's what's important for business. So, I think that it's highly encouraging that you were able to sell $6,000 of the courses on your first go around.

Fabio: Yeah no, we sold about 60. It was 150 reduced to 100 euros, and we sold a bit, maybe just over 60 of them. So yeah, that was just one push, I just maybe I just thought it was going to be more towards as much interaction as talking to people who subscribed to the course and went through with the course. And maybe that's just sort of the data and excite. I thought I would have been excited more by doing more interaction but maybe that was my fault. I didn't put out the right questions; maybe the core content wasn't as good as it could have been.

So yeah, I just have to relook at that again. I do have some ideas in my head for a simpler course, like something that you can download, or a course you can sign up to that's free that you can get going pretty quick. So not a lot of thinking is involved regarding what courses, but then a bit of things involved how you set it up and get it up and running.

Mike: Yeah. And as someone who sells courses, I can tell you that there's going to be a certain percentage of people that buy it, and they don't interact with it much. And for me from a business perspective, that's awesome. That's like the best case scenario ever. Like they give you money and they don't ever do anything with it. But for me, just the way that I'm wired, it drives me crazy. We actually reach out and do our best to try to pull them in and be like, look man, you paid this money, we want you to — because I just don't like that feeling. I like to get them to take value out of it. But not everyone is going to do that.

Fabio: I completely agree with you. And that's what maybe upset me a little bit that these guys I thought it'd be a lot more back and forth with them interacting. And there was a few who were heavily interacting, but I thought it would be a lot more. So maybe I just thought look, this isn't the right thing and that's it. I just moved on from it then.

Mike: I mean, it's probably the 80/20 rule, 20% of the people are going to ask 80% of the questions. That's certainly the way that it's been for EcomCrew. And again, people are buying an online course and a lot of what happens at the moment. They're excited, they have the best of intentions, they buy it and then they just like life happens and then they just forget about it. This happens a lot with like New Year's resolutions, I'm going to lose a bunch of weight, people go into it really excited. They might buy a course on how to build meal prep and all this other stuff. And by January 15…

Fabio: I know it happens too so you try too many things on the plate.

Mike: Yeah. I'm not immune to this. I'm not saying that everyone else is weak and I'm strong. I'm definitely — this has happened to me over into my life.

Fabio: Okay, at least that gives me more a clear plan just moving forward.

Mike: I'm curious, like the $6,000 in courses you sold, how did you market that? What was your funnel?

Fabio: What did we do? I'm just trying to think back now exactly. But basically, we just put out a few teaser videos on our Instagram account and then we did a pre-launch list. So we probably ran a pre-launch. So sign up to join the course. And that was basically, there wasn't much more involved. I think I reached out to similar accounts, smaller accounts at the time and we just paid them to promote, to advertise the course. And that was it really. Every mail — I sent that weekly emails also, always at the footer was a sign up to check out our course. And honestly, there was no paid work at all. It was all through our Instagram account or through our emails.

Mike: Yeah, I love it man, I think you're on a good path here that's really encouraging and I think that you have a legitimate business here with us.

Fabio: We did have, I did have some flow setup with part of match sheet that I was telling you about initially, we did have 10 of the match sheet, and there was a couple of emails, and then it always end with check out our course. So we did a few flows, but I don't know how well they converted, most of the sales came directly from Instagram.

Mike: I just thought of another idea as you were talking here, like ways you can help promote the course more, it's like sign up for our course and get a free journal. You could always have this physical product bleed over to the course. So the journal that cost you probably just a couple of bucks or whatever plus shipping and you're selling the course 150 bucks. When you get something physical in their hands and it's a free gift that has a high perceived value of $25, so the person – they get a free $25 our journal. So it's like sign up today and get this free journal. That's another way to intermingle a physical product. And if you end up coming up with more physical products in the future, you could offer all of them for free to someone who signs up for the course, get this journal and this stretchy band and this hat or whatever the heck you come up with and do that.

Fabio: I think that makes sense. It is like so many courses where you just get — you just download the material or you get it offline. But it I do like the idea of being able to send out a physical product with an online course. I just think it's a bit more defensible as well if you can do that, that's a pretty sweet idea. Thank you. Yeah. So one of my goals looking at this probably may tie in with this would be to launch let's say, a product that wasn’t there before. I thought it was a physical product, I didn't think was a digital product. So maybe I can give myself these goals where I would plan to launch sort of a digital product every month. And then all of them can add up to make sort of a decent sized business. Is that makes sense?

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. And I would — if you have the financial wherewithal to the way that I say is like to do it in the most economical way, as far as like beginning with the end in mind. I would spend the first three months or whatever, if you're going to launch a digital product a month. So the first three things would just be things I give away for free. I’d lock myself in a room or go out, lock myself in a tennis court and come up with like three really great free courses and pieces of content to have that out there because your funnel is going to start with that.

So you start with that piece of the funnel and start accumulating as many people on your email list and in your courses as possible. Make sure that your courses drip out; the free ones drip out so you're not giving them all of it at once. They're having to watch one video at a time so you can put together like a really long email flow with them and communicate with them as they're going through that course. And if they sign up for one course, the next follow up to the email will be like here's the other course, here's another free course and just keep on interacting and communicating with them until you then have your paid version ready maybe four or five months down the road.

Fabio: Okay, that's a good plan. And tell me, regarding let's say flows, I know you talk a lot about Klaviyo. Would you push Klaviyo a lot more over MailChimp for courses?

Mike: Yeah, this is tough because Klaviyo has not been really — it's more for physical products. It excels for physical products. We use Kajabi for our courses and we use their email platform. What ends up happening here, the really unfortunate thing with technology is there is no perfect all-encompassing technology component. So, we use Kajabi because it's like the best in breed training platform. I mean, it's just we've tried them all, we've tried Teachable, we’ve tried a WordPress site, we had another one, I forgot what the name of it was, Kajabi is the best that at the teaching deliverability part of it.

Fabio: That's what we used funny enough when we did the course the first time.

Mike: The downside is that the email component of it sucks. It's like just god awful. And that's what we're using. I think eventually we’ll switch to Drip. Drip is a really good email platform for non-physical product stuff where you can have logic to go with it. But we're just not quite there yet. We actually did sign up for Drip originally. But it doesn't integrate really seamlessly with Kajabi. It was just like an extra tech stack on top of all the other things that we have going on. So we just haven't done it yet. So unfortunately, we don't have that component built in EcomCrew yet, so we're just using Kajabi completely for landing pages, for actually delivering the content for our Premium area everything and it does work pretty darn well.

Fabio: Okay, that's good to know because I was unsure. I use let's say Klaviyo for the jumpers, MailChimp for tennis know. I like things that are [inaudible 00:43:42].

Mike: Yeah exactly.

Fabio: I just think moving forward, what will be the right thing to use? And then you do sell physical products, then you sell a digital product so you don't want to split up your list. I like Klaviyo because I think it's easier to stay on top of everybody.

Mike: Yeah, it just doesn't integrate well with Kajabi so you end up in this, then you end up with a Zapier integration, and then I mean, it gets complicated and even for a tech person like me, it gets complicated. And it just — we're trying to keep things simple, because we have a lot of things going on in all facets of our business. So we've elected for simplicity versus like trying to squeeze a little bit more out of that lumen. I think as we get more and more people on our list, we’ll worry about it then. But we just haven't gotten to a point where I think it's worth it for us to deal with that.

Fabio: Okay, that's good to know. I'll check out Kajabi again. It wasn't me actually looking after before but I'll be hands completely hands on with it myself moving forward.

Mike: Awesome.

Fabio: And yeah, that's introduced, while we were just talking, I noticed the search volume isn't huge under journal, but the likes of Google Shopping, do you recommend even trying that just so somebody else may spot it. It's not a huge amount of sales but they did just add up bit by bit or just say, don't bother go straight to digital, leave the journal as it is at the moment.

Mike: I mean, I think that being a solopreneur; you only have so much time. I would just start working on the digital stuff like the Google Shopping thing will be profitable because it's always profitable. Google Shopping is like still like one of the last things out there that is profitable. But you're probably looking at getting 10 more journal sales a month or something that's going to be pretty insignificant at the end of the day. And I think that if you can build this funnel and get these people into this into this funnel; this is the asset that you want to build long term. And you have a path for that right now. That would be the way that I would approach it.

Fabio: Interesting. Yeah, no, interesting. I agree with you. It is, when you are a solo entrepreneur, you're trying to do everything. You got to be a bit smart and maybe I haven't been so smart in the past. So I just got to get a bit smarter and get the focus on what's really important and how we're going to ramp up sales.

Mike: Yeah.

Fabio: Okay. Yeah, no I appreciate all the information.

Mike: Of course, man. That's what we're here for. I'm excited for you. I think that you have a good little niche, good little business here that you can build for yourself.

Fabio: I'm hoping you can benefit yourself from checking that Instagram account and maybe some tips on there for you. You may even; get you signed up to get that slicer.

Mike: Yeah. What's some — if you want to help our audience, what are a couple of things that you did to get 200,000 Instagram followers? That's pretty impressive.

Fabio: Well, first of all, there's a lot of — I've actually been working on at least the top 12 things I've done to get the list to where it is because it's taken – my plan wasn't when I set it up to do it. But some of the biggest tips obviously are like with any business consistency is the key thing. We've posted for just over two years, we've posted every single day. So decency for this sort of account works — has been a key. We've seen people come and go. And obviously videos over images or videos over images are really important. Hashtags, fine, don't over use them but use the correct hashtags for the video. Don't just use generic hashtags for your niche. Use ones that relate to your video.

And if you mention, try and match as many people as you can in the video, whoever is in the video, use locations, use all those tools. If you're doing videos, make sure they're good quality. We all have good phones now and so no pixelated video. So try and get the best quality video as possible, and also depend on what — so we're filming a lot of tennis space stuff. So try get to the best angle possible. Make sure sunlight, it's not dark. So little tip, the better the video, the better the reach of the video we've seen. Sometimes the courts don't look great and that reflects in how well a video does.

What else, just when you reply to people, I have some friends of mine who are pro tennis players. And they always give out; they say like other audience, do not build their audience. And they say, look, why don't you apply to people who comment on your post? And they always say, I don't have enough time. But I know tennis players, they spend half — they spend most of the time traveling, they've planted their time…

Mike: Yeah, no doubt.

Fabio: I think they'll reply to the famous people who send them a message but they never reply to the people like me. So I think if they took time and reply to as many people as possible now, there's never that many, it could be 10 or 20 comments. And you're making little, you're making super followers there, you're building a tribe. So I think try and interact as much as you can. Like, I did build – I have another tab, which is not as the functional tennis one. And the only difference is I didn't interact with one. I didn't interact with any fans followers. I didn't reply to messages. And interaction is key in the long term building your account and you're building a real community there.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, awesome stuff. I mean, that's a great list. I have to get you to come and be a guest on one of our EcomCrew Premium Under the Hood things and talk to our community about this, it's awesome.

Fabio: Definitely like I'm just trying to get some concise points and I’m going to actually release. I'm going to put on the Functional Tennis website in the next week, just like 12 points. It is based on tennis coaches and tennis players to improve their account but it relates to everybody. So I'll send you a link once it’s out and then we can tailor it to other niches as well.

Mike: Very cool, very cool.

Fabio: Okay, so that's the — Instagram requires a lot of time. I think I haven't matured the social accounts. I haven't grown on Facebook or Twitter, because I spent so much time on Instagram, and yes it requires quite a bit of time to grow the fan base.

Mike: Awesome. Well, that's a great list of tips. I was taking notes myself; I got about five of them written down. It was definitely — I'm going to go back and listen to this again. It's definitely — it's impressive to be able to go from zero to 200,000 in such a short amount of time. And obviously, you can see the fruits of that when you — because basically it sounds like when you launched your course, you just made a couple of posts on Instagram and didn't do any other marketing and sold $6,000 with the courses, which is basically $6,000 in profit.

Fabio: True. Yeah, it is. And also like our retraction is quite good and we've actually worked with a few of the Wilsons out there, the bigger brands, because they like or interaction. So I think we've done a good job with building the community and making sure that our videos and posts and our stories and our behind the scenes and all that sort of stuff is heavily interacted, which the brands can see, which allows us to pick up a bit of extra income also.

Mike: Yeah, very cool. So we have a few minutes left here. I'm curious; did you have any other questions? Did we cover everything or how do you feel about all this stuff?

Fabio: I’m feeling excited to be honest with you just being able to double down and focus on courses. I just take some courses and get some content together and get into system like a shabby, like that sort of stuff excites me which is I don't know, you probably — it's probably normal. But for most people, that's probably strange. So yeah, I'm really excited to get stuck in and to get going.

Mike: Cool.

Fabio: And then also, there is a whole I think there's a whole section of the paid route, which I haven't even looked at yet. I know, I'll have to go down there in the future of how we can maximize from a paid route on social, which would not be my experience. But I think I'll come back — I think I'll build the content first, get the email addresses, and set them up on some sort of a drip, and then I’ll worry about the paid stuff.

Mike: Yeah, I think that makes the most sense. I do I mean, just from our experience of doing this over all these years, it's worked so well. And if you think about it, sometimes you just kind of like got to boil down to logic, it makes sense that it works, right? If you're working on developing just like anything you do in your personal life, if you walk up to someone in the street and say, give me 100 bucks, they're going to just like either punchy or just ignore you. But if I asked one of my best friends for 100 bucks, they probably wouldn't even ask why I need it, they would just hand me the money. And you think about that developing a relationship with a stranger, giving them value and they enjoy what you've done for them to that point, when you have something that's even more value, they're going to want to do it rather than you convincing them of it.

Fabio: True, I think that's always the goal, building the tribe and establishing good relationships. And then hopefully then and making a making a profit, making the business from that. So that is the goal. Just a question, apart from EcomCrew which I absolutely love the podcast, by the way and that's obviously I hear it from Under the Hood to listen to all the podcasts. So it's fun, I congratulate you on a great job there, is there any other resources which I should be checking out?

Mike: Yeah, I always joke about Steve Chou being my frenemy or whatever, because we do the same thing. But he's got great stuff over at He's been doing this stuff for a long time. He's like, kind of like one of the OGs. He code his own shopping cart with his handkerchief site and he also has a course as well, which is great. Scott Volker, who — he's more Amazon focused, so it's probably not as targeted to you, but I think that he also has a really good content. He's a good motivational guy, if anything else. Whenever I'm around the guy, I just get lots and lots of energy. So we all kind of do the same thing. Ezra Firestone as well is another guy that has really great content out there.

I love these guys because they're all doing this stuff. Unlike a lot of the other crap that you'll see in like Facebook feeds where they're like people are selling dreams and all that crap that aren't realistic. So most of — the guys I just mentioned are pretty honest about how difficult the road can be in e-commerce and they are also in the trenches actually doing it and understand that while it might be one of the more difficult things you'll do in your life, it’s also one of the more rewarding. I really have loved my ecommerce journey.

Fabio: Great, I will make sure to check them out and give them a follow and hopefully I can pick up some bits of information from them.

Mike: Digital Marketer has some good stuff as well that might be useful for you. Their stuff is like a little bit more generic. We've actually put one of our employees through their courses. And they're good when you're bringing in people that have like zero background. We want them to go through that stuff so when I talk about a lead magnet or a funnel, or top of funnel or whatever it might be, they don't look at me like I'm crazy. They at least know basic terminology. So it's good for that. Like I mean, if you go through that, it's good for basic terminology and things of that nature.

Fabio: Okay, it sounds good. Yeah, no, that's it. I just want to thank you for your time.

Mike: Of course. Yeah, let's definitely get you back on in six months. I'll be your accountability partner; we can do a follow up and see how things are going from there.

Fabio: Great. No, that sounds good Mike definitely. Hopefully I'll have some good news for you.

Mike: That's what I want to hear.

Fabio: Great. Okay. Thank you very much.

Mike: Thanks Fabio.

Fabio: Have a great day.

Mike: You too.

All right guys, that's going to do it for this episode. I hope you guys enjoyed this interview as much as I did doing it. Again, if you're interested in being on your very own Under the Hood,, go apply today. It's 100% free to do so. And while you're at it, if you have a chance, go over to iTunes, leave us a review. We really, really appreciate those reviews. We read every single one of them and they really help get the EcomCrew Podcast noticed. Keep us motivated to keep putting out this free content for you. If you want to get to the show notes for this episode, will get you to that. And until the next episode everybody, happy selling and we'll talk to you soon.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.

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