I’ve been tackling a couple of interesting niches in our last few Under the Hoods. The business we’ll be talking about in this episode is no different.
For this episode, I’ve taken on Colin Grice and his aquarium fertilizer and supply business. Colin has a background in Biology and Chemistry, which enabled him to manufacture his own liquid fertilizers.
Colin’s business had an impressive net profit margin of over $250K derived from a variety of sources. His website ranks on page one for a number of search terms and organic visits and connections to his website and on being an active participant in many Facebook groups. However, he wants to reach more customers through reliable marketing efforts.
Listen in as I give Colin my two cents on getting started in his ecommerce marketing efforts. Some of the strategies we cover include Google Adwords and upping his SEO game by publishing long-form and informative content on his main domain.
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!
We’re opening registration to EcomCrew Premium one last time this year. You can join the waitlist here. Follow our Facebook page for all the latest updates. We’re bringing the rates up for both the Monthly and Annual plans in 2019 so sign up asap.
As always, thanks for listening to this episode! If you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.’s
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 198 of the EcomCrew Podcast. Today we're back with another Under the Hood segment. I love doing these things talking to podcast listeners out there. If you want to be on your very own Under the Hood, go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood. What we do here is give an opportunity for our podcast listeners to submit the request to be on the EcomCrew Podcast, get a free hour of coaching. We record that phone call and in return, we turn it into one of these podcast episodes. Not all the phone calls end up being podcast.
So even if you don't become a podcast, you still get a free hour of coaching. And for a lot of people, we’re getting results back now because it's been six to nine months or something like that since we started doing these. And some of the results we've been able to do for people in just one hour had been pretty cool. So go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood to sign up. Don't be scared. Don't be shy. We love talking to all of our podcast listeners. Just real quick reminder, I've been talking about this the last few episodes, if you go to EcomCrew.com/premium, you can sign up to be on the waitlist. We're going to be opening it up for one last time in 2018 with a special offer and after that prices go up in 2019 pretty substantially.
So, if you've been on the fence of joining EcomCrew Premium, go check that out at EcomCrew.com/premium to review what you get in EcomCrew Premium. It's full length classes that you can take at your own pace whenever you want. We've been adding to those, about once a quarter every four months or so we add a new course to that. We also have twice monthly webinars. One of the webinars is an open Q&A where you can ask any questions you might have.
The other one is behind the scenes of our brands where we bring in a special guest. Those have been proven to be quite valuable. You also get access to our private Facebook community. And if that wasn't all enough, you get unlimited access to Dave and I. We respond to all emails within one to two business days with any question you have about ecommerce or anything else. We’ll try to respond to anything we can. So, head over to EcomCrew.com/premium to get on that waitlist, there's no obligation if you're on the list to buy anything. All right, let's get into this Under the Hood podcast with Colin. I hope you guys enjoy.
Mike: Hey Colin, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast, man.
Colin: Hey, how's the going?
Mike: Very good. Thank you so much for coming on today. Before we get started, let me just tell everybody what's going on here. I like to do that for every Under the Hood segment. And if you want to be on your own Under the Hood segment, you can go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood. And what we do here is interview podcast listeners that are struggling with something in their business and hopefully I can help them with whatever that is. And in return, we record that conversation and make it a podcast, which is what you're listening to today, so excited to dig into that column. But if you've listened to a few of these, the first thing I always ask, because I'm just always so curious is how did you get involved in ecommerce?
Colin: I've always kind of been involved in selling, buying selling stuff on eBay and Craigslist when I was younger, and then this whole thing just kind of started as a hobby, because I had a planet fish tank and just thought it was kind of a fun thing to do myself, and just kind of evolved from there.
Mike: Got you. And that kind of alludes into what you actually got into which is, it sounds like selling aquarium fertilizer and supplies, according to the notes that Abby had sent me over here.
Colin: Yeah, so mostly, it's aquarium fertilizer. I sold some other random things associated with that kind of niche. But yeah, I mean predominantly I manufacture aquarium fertilizer for planted aquariums.
Mike: Okay, so you're actually making the stuff.
Colin: Yeah, yeah, right. I mean, I buy the bulk. I do sell some dry stuff, which basically, I just kind of repackage but for the most part; my primary thing is that yeah, I manage the — or a manufacturer of the liquid fertilizer.
Mike: Okay. And I mean, you said it was kind of a hobby for you. I mean, how did you discover actually, I mean, did you have like a chemistry background or any type of background that help you with that or is it just simply taking stuff out of a 50 gallon drum and putting it in a eight ounce bottle kind of thing?
Colin: Yeah, I mean, I graduated from college with a biology and chemistry degree, but for the most part, it's just I had kind of forgotten about a lot of that stuff by the time I started this and just kind of teaching myself how to do it and come from there.
Mike: Got you. So it sounds like maybe your college degree didn't really end up being what you ended up doing in real life when you got to be an adult or?
Colin: Well, I mean, I still use the degree. I'm in the medical field. And it's eventually I'd like to do the online stuff or ecommerce stuff full time. Currently I'm about — I just cut back to about half time at my day job and then spend the other time on the ecommerce business.
Mike: Okay, perfect. So it's cool that you have a job that you can do that which is neat. So, you're working basically, is it like two or three days a week or do you go in four hours a day? How's that working for you?
Colin: Yeah, I work two and a half days a week.
Mike: Okay very cool. So what do you spend your other two and a half days and if I know like most entrepreneurs that you probably end up spending more than 40 hours a week or 20 hours a week on your own personal project here this aquarium stuff, like how much time are you actually spending on it right now?
Colin: So I recently hired my first part time person to take over a lot of the bottling and that kind of stuff.
Colin: And so that's Kind of freed me up. And now it's trying to manage my time better and actually be productive versus sitting around doing nothing trying to figure out what I should be doing. But yeah, for the most part, I spend time packaging stuff, bottling stuff and then I still — and shipping out orders, even though I know you're going to tell me that I shouldn't be doing that. But that's what I'm doing at this point.
Mike: Yeah, well, you already know what's coming, probably. But I might not say that because if it's fertilizer and stuff, it might be hard to put in FBA. I'm not really sure what kind of dangerous goods category that would be under and things like that but we’ll kind of dig into that when that time comes. So I’m just trying to get some more understanding of your business before we get into the, you asking questions so I can get a better a formal understanding.
So it sounds like you're working half time at a regular job where you can have time doing this. You probably want to get to the point where if you've already made that leap to be able to do this full time. So that's in the back of my mind that'll be the goal for this call is how to get you there. So what's been your revenue and profits and stuff so far to be able to get you to the point where you've been able to get this far?
Colin: So, last year my gross revenue was just over 250,000 and net — gross profit is around 50% and net profit once I get done right now for everything, it was around I want to say 30%.
Mike: Okay so 75k.
Colin: Yeah, yeah.
Mike: Okay well, I mean I can tell you just from all the different people I talked to that that's a really high net profit, so congratulations on having a great margin business. And part of that might just be because you're probably still in the solopreneur realm. So if you were to take a salary and put that on there, you might be more in a typical net profit range.
Colin: Yeah, so that's I mean, honestly, I have just since I backed out to just working my day job two and a half days a week, I think I've taken one or two paychecks ever. So yeah, that doesn't count. It's kind of a skewed number because of that. But once I start actually paying myself and all that, I'm sure it'll be a little bit lower.
Mike: Got you. Okay. Well, I mean, even still, I mean, like major kudos and graduations getting to the point where you're at, because I mean, you bootstrapped something from absolute scratch. And it isn't, I mean, not to take away from private label sellers. And I'm throwing myself under the bus here too, because we're a private label. So but you've been able to create a product yourself from scratch, which is really darn neat and be able to sell a quarter million dollars over the years so congrats.
Colin: Yeah, yeah. And so it's been quite a ride.
Mike: Yeah, very cool. Okay, so let's just one last question I have here is going to be on the breakdown of that 250K. So in percentage terms, what percentage sales is coming from your own site and if your own site is a big part of that, how much of it is organic versus PPC and then Amazon, eBay, those types of channels?
Colin: Okay, so last year I did 82,000 through my website. And Amazon was just — I don't have that in front of me but it was just over 100,000, and the rest was inconsequential amount from eBay. I really haven't focused on that at all. And the rest is wholesale stuff.
Mike: Okay, well, wholesale is good to have as well. And you definitely have the margins to support that. So doing the rough math on the fly, which you should never do on a podcast, it's about what, 70k on wholesale, I guess.
Colin: Yeah, yeah.
Mike: Okay, very cool. And then the one thing that you didn't mention there, on the 82k from the website, is all that like organic, or do you have PPC as a part of that mix?
Colin: I mean, honestly, I've done a few Facebook advertisements. I mean, I probably spent 100, maybe $200 over that entire year. I may have done it two or three times. And it just never seemed to be – I don’t know, I just kind of gave up on it because I didn't really think that it was worth it at the time and or that it was just not, I wasn't getting the reach that I was hoping to for what I was paying for.
Mike: Got you. Okay and then what about like Google PPC or Google Shopping?
Colin: No, I don't think that I'm set up on Google Shopping which is something I really — all that's kind of where I'm headed and kind of why we're doing this call now because I really am not knowledgeable whatsoever in any of that kind of stuff. It's all overwhelming every time I look at it.
Mike: Yeah, Google Shopping is not — it's like kind of clear as mud on how to set it up. I actually just — we have one of our marketing guys here who's like our entry level marketing guy do it and he was just like, he had a lot of questions but we just turn them on for Wild Baby because we're just kind of getting that site to a point where it made sense. And I guess surprisingly, and not surprisingly, if you can have both of those things happen at the same time, it did really well. Like, I mean, right out of the gates, we're making sales for stuff through Google Shopping at a profitable spend. It's still one of the few things left out there that seems to work, that isn't completely arbitrage to death. Certainly, Google AdWords is. But the shopping side of it seems to still be a good place to be.
Colin: Okay. Yeah, and I think my website, I use a BigCommerce, I think my website is set up to be eligible for, I've got that part turned on. But I'm assuming I've got to actually make an account, which I haven't done.
Mike: Yeah. So let me just run through quickly at a high level. And we'll get back into the other questions here just to kind of answer this while we're talking about it. But very high level, what you're going to do is you're going to make a — you're going to sync your product catalog to something called Google Merchant Center. So you're going to make a Google Merchant Center account. It's actually quite simple. There's an app or a plug-in, I think maybe even BigCommerce does it natively now.
It's been a while since we switched over from BigCommerce and then those products will sync over to the Merchant Center. And basically like there's a status of either they're approved or not approved. It's very simple and there's only a few settings in Merchant Center to set up which is basically your tax rates and your shipping. It's like incredibly simple. It seems a little bit complicated and daunting at first, but it really is like that simple. And then you'll go into Google AdWords and start running Google Shopping ads based on that Merchant Center data and that's all there is to it.
Colin: Okay yeah it’s not so bad.
Mike: So I definitely recommend that. So yeah, so that was kind of the first question. I guess we kind of segued into that like kind of the first piece of advice there at you. But the one thing I still didn't fully get my head around yet because doing 82k on your website is awesome. It's not PPC, it's not Facebook ads. So is it just SEO rankings, I mean, do you rank for a bunch of keywords or?
Colin: Yeah, I mean, I'm on the first page for a lot of them, three or four I mean, I don't know much about SEO honestly at all. I mean, I’ve been around for a while but there's still other companies that kind of do similar stuff that have been around a lot longer and are bigger. So I'm on the first page for most, but most of it I think comes from Facebook. I'm on a lot of the groups and just kind of being present there I think is where the biggest part of it. So I don't know if that's technically organic, but…
Mike: I mean it kind of is I think, I mean, in some ways. It's not organic search traffic, but it's organic visits I guess you could say. Okay, and then I promised us the last question I'm going to ask, I promise I'll let you get to your questions.
Colin: Oh you could ask some questions.
Mike: I just want to make sure I have a good feel for your business so I can give you the best advice. On the Amazon 100k that you did, is that FBA or is it fulfilled by merchant?
Colin: Almost all FBA. And I really kind of got serious about or I’m just kind of serious about the Amazon stuff about mid to early last year and for 2016 I had done, I sold $1,000 a month or less. And it's really kind of an afterthought just like well, I might as well — and it was all FBM and just figured well, I might as well have it on there right, I mean why not? But I think it was around March of last year that I really got everything into FBA and did all that, and since then that's really taken off.
Mike: Awesome, yeah 10k a month or more in Amazon sales is no longer an afterthought now, right?
Colin: Yeah no, no, and right now I think most of this year I've been about 20 a month.
Mike: Awesome, cool so you're on pace to do a lot more than 250k this year though?
Colin: Yeah, so I've done — so I've already done more this year on Amazon that I did last year.
Colin: And website isn't nearly as much of a jump.
Mike: Right. Yeah, that’s the frustrating thing that we deal with, it's the same thing. I mean Amazon keeps growing quicker and quicker and we can't grow our website nearly as fast. And as somebody that has been in business for a long time, I'm always cognizant of like having too many eggs in one basket, and Amazon gives me that creepy feel at this stage. And when you're at the size that you are at, I don't think it's like as big of a concern because like it's a big part of your business, but the numbers just don't seem the same. Because when I was at that level, it just didn't bother me, but now it's like it there's six zeros on the number on just the Amazon component and that number is like a life changing amount of money. And there's like a big risk that's attached with that, which is all the inventory to support the sales.
Colin: Oh yeah, I mean, it was last year sometime, but I got my best seller and it does about a quarter or better of overall sales on Amazon. And it got completely removed because somebody said it was fake. And you can't tell Amazon I make it; it can't be fake, right? I mean, and they want receipts from where you buy it from, and trying to come up with a receipt for myself. And it just was a nightmare.
Mike: I wish I couldn't relate to it. We're dealing with it on an almost daily basis now. So, all right, well, I am going to step aside and let you take the floor and start pinging me with questions and I'm looking forward to helping out as much as I can here.
Colin: Yeah, so first thing with just kind of the where to start with advertising, it’s like I'm just kind of kind of start with one thing and I think we already went over the Google Merchant AdWords. But where would you start, would you start on Google or would you start on Facebook, or would you just tackle both of them?
Mike: Yeah, so I'm always trying to be like aware of the situation the other person on the end of the film which is you're basically a solopreneur with one part time guy, right? So you only have — and you're working still.
Mike: And I try to tell people this all the time because we get a lot of this through especially through EcomCrew Premium now that we're doing that just people like they want to do everything that we're doing. And I'm like, look guys, we have 19 people here, and we're heading towards eight figures this year. So it's a different world and not to get sucked into that trap because it's very easy to do. So, I want to take it from a perspective of like when I was at your size and I was also just again the same thing, I was a solopreneur, I had Dan at the time, it was just me and one guy. What's going to be like the lowest hanging fruit to give you like returning your time, so you can hire that next employee and continue to grow your business?
So that's what I'm going to approach it from. And Google Shopping is definitely the first thing I would go do. And the reason is that again, just from a time yield, it's probably five to 10 hours, being a neophyte, just trying to fumble through getting it set up and everything. But once it's up and running, it's like, you might want to go check on it, like an hour a month, and just kind of keep tabs on is everything still running? Should I adjust my bids a little bit? You'll maybe get better at breaking up; you can break up the types of products and the different bids. So you might want to bid more for like aquariums versus fertilizer just as a complete aside. So I would say that would be one thing.
Another thing that I would be investing in is SEO, but the problem in SEO is that you don't see the results immediately, right? So, like you need things that are going to give you instant results. But it's also one of these things that time is the biggest enemy to SEO. You can't ever – a year from now if you start writing good content, it's going to take you 6, 12, 18 months from then to start seeing results. So one thing I would like kind of think about the same way that you would approach your own retirement like you probably hopefully are putting money in an IRA every year or a 401k or whatever.
And this is a similar thing. I think if you can find the time to write even just one article a month because I think that unlike a lot of industries, I know a decent amount about aquariums. My dad was really into it when I was growing up, and people like really no doubt this stuff. And it's just, it's actually, there's just a lot of amazing content that you can write in this space. And you can write content that will eventually convert to sales for you as well, so…
Colin: Yeah, I'm actually started — sorry I just have been working on that actually and I am hiring a guy just as kind of a freelance thing to start. He's far more knowledgeable about the kind of the chemistry stuff behind it and the general plan to take information and we're going to start doing between one a month and one every two weeks and start writing articles. So that's actually I’ll be releasing my first one here pretty soon.
Mike: Awesome, yeah so I mean my tips here with SEO when you hire someone like this to help, let me give you a few a few stats, that the average article on page one on Google now is 2,600 words. So, long form stuff is really winning out over the old style of like, I'm just going to write 300 words and stick them on the page. Your goal like if you want to think about like what your objective is for your content, and this is what I tell my guys, the same speech, when someone makes a search. So let's just say like how to balance the fertilizer in my saltwater aquarium or I'm talking like an idiot now, I apologize.
I know a little bit, but not enough to talk intelligently. But let's just say that that's the search. And let's say you rank six, and someone reads the first article, and they click back and then they go read the second one, when they get to your article, you don't want them hitting back and then looking at the next result. Because the goal is that whatever they're searching for, like you've answered their question. And if you approach it from that point of view, everything else, that's like the SEO for dummies approach, right? Because there's a lot of technical things that go behind it like time on site, the bounce rate, dwell time and things of this nature.
But if you're answering the question fundamentally like answering the question and have the best article on that topic on Google, you will percolate to the top naturally, even without doing a lot of back linking and other stuff that you're going to eventually learn how to do later. But right now all you got to do is focus on writing the best piece of content on the internet for that subject. And if you can't hit that bar, then don't write the article. And this typically will include pictures, and if you can get video to be included with that that really helps as well.
So if you browse through tactical.com as a for instance and look at some of the stuff that we're doing there, you'll see like a lot of video content either from us or around the web interwoven into it. And that's really important because it helps keep your time on site, your dwell time on the article to be really high. So encourage who you're having write for you to also include like other YouTube videos from around the web about the subject that help with that topic and or record your own video, throw it on your own YouTube channel and have that as a part of the article.
Colin: Okay, and so is it best to put that in under — so I've got a blog on BigCommerce, but I've also have, I've had a WordPress site just under a related web address. Is it optimal to put them in both places or just on my website, or just on WordPress? Does it really matter?
Mike: Yeah, so the one thing you definitely don't want to do is put it in “both places.” You don't want what's called duplicate content, that's really bad. So you want it to be in one place or the other. This has been like studied and argued in whatever to death. The consensus by a few points is basically almost always it's better to have it on your main domain versus like a WordPress site on BigCommerce means that's a sub domain, it would be like blog.mystore.com. This is mystore.com slash the article.
But the problem is BigCommerce like also kind of sucks as a blogging platform. So you're giving up on one side of the venture giving something up to have an SEO gain. And you're also giving up an SEO gain in the fact that it won't look as good, which means that people might bounce more. But in general, if you'd weigh all that stuff together, it's better to have it on your main domain.
Mike: Yep. So you had just the – you’re still asking about advertising. So if you don't mind, I'm going to dig in a little bit more on that for you. So what I found is Google AdWords is very arbitrage, meaning there's people looking for aquarium fertilizer as a for instance, this has been around for 15 plus years, everyone's kind of figured out exactly to the penny kind of what they can afford to pay for those searches. A lot of people don't fully understand all the math and dynamics so they end up overpaying. And the only one that really ends up winning for the most part is Google.
There's some rare exceptions like a business like yours might very well be one of those things where you probably have a really good lifetime value of a customer. I mean I would imagine someone that gets kind of hooked on your aquarium fertilizer is going to — they would be like scared to change because the balance of the chemicals in the water you could like end up with like a whole aquarium full of dead fish. You're probably terrified to change anything. At least like I remember my dad from 30 years ago or 35 years ago like kind of seemingly having that, and I could even sense that as a kid.
So there might be an exception here because of that. So you might want to test something as specific as the bid for just one keyword like aquarium fertilizer and just kind of get your feet wet. Only bid like exact match on something like that and see how it goes, because I think you might find that on searches like that you might be able to win out on. But if there are things that — because you have one here on my notes here, fertilizer and supplies, I don't know if the supplies part of it is more commoditized where people have like…
Colin: Yeah it is, that's all just stuff I kind of resell. I mean, really my primary focus is fertilizer and then if they like what I sell, then they might come back and buy the other stuff, but it's really not at this point, anything that I push at all.
Mike: Okay. Yeah. So I think I’d do what I was kind of sensing there, which is just bid on just like aquarium fertilizer or the searches around it and see how that goes. Because I think on a search like that, it might be a little bit more forgiving. And if you can't do well with that, then you're not going to do well with any of the other stuff, that's like guaranteed. You're not going to — the other stuff because like you said, you're just reselling it, that means lower margin. I mean, I know like all the other things that kind of goes along with this. So I would focus on that, so there'll be my AdWords part of it.
And then you mentioned Facebook. So I'll talk about that specifically. The one Facebook ad that you do want to run, no matter what, would be a remarketing, retargeting ad. So if you aren't doing that that would be something that I would definitely – these are kind of like basic building blocks, the things that always work kind of stuff, I would work on that. And Facebook remarketing retargeting ads whatever you want to call them are definitely in that bucket. We're using — we were doing it all manually ourselves because third party programs didn't exist but we switched to using Shoelace because it automates it and it's easier for me to train my staff on how to do this stuff, and they also have a functionality where they automatically resize your images which is actually pretty important for Facebook ads and the carousel ads.
Colin: Yeah, that was one issue I had is the pictures are always cut off and just…
Mike: Yeah, that someone like really — so for like 50 bucks a month or whatever they charge, to me it's like a no brainer to just pay them that even though I know I could save the money and go through and manually add the right image to the open graph thing, then we have to remember to do that for every single product we're doing. And again, at scale for me it's just easier to just tell them to install Shoelace. So we're doing that, but it's definitely something that you want to have. I mean we're getting like 500 or 600% return on ad spend from those ads just like no brainer world for me.
Colin: Is that where you're uploading email list from your store?
Mike: So it's actually all automatic. So you have the Facebook pixel on your store and basically what you're doing behind the scenes if I were to like explain it in English is I want to advertise to all people who came to my store in the last week that did not purchase is basically what's happening. And then you can also because again Shoelace does this automatically basically, you're also doing is — and you can add to this. And if they’ve looked at a specific product and not just come to my store, but they've actually been on a specific product page, I want to show them that product and every other product they looked at, or if they only looked at one product, that product and the related products in like a carousel ad.
And that's what you'll see in those remarketing ads that you get yourself when you go visit stores. So if they came and looked at a specific fertilizer, that's the ad that they're going to get, and then attach like a 10% off coupon to that for a couple of reasons. Number one, if they didn't buy, they were probably price sensitive, like a good chance of that. And number two, what's a great way to track your performance. So, we use a code FBRM10 which I came up with three years ago, which is Facebook remarketing 10% off, and I know when that code gets used that the only way they could see it is if they came through one of those ads. And I know that it's really effective because I see it getting used all the time.
Colin: Okay. Is that the only way you can really track how that's working?
Mike: Well, you can — I mean the Facebook pixel and ads reporting are supposed to report that as well. And it's pretty accurate, but I do find discrepancies. So being able to use a coupon code like that is definitive. Like the only way they're going to get ahold of it, unless they share the code with somebody, which doesn't can't happen.
Colin: One can do it.
Mike: Say that one more time, sorry.
Colin: Which is fine as well.
Mike: Which is fine too yeah, exactly. You want that to happen. So yeah, and just another way to kind of cross reference your — especially when you first get started, it's a good way to cross reference your data. So like I've had seven coupon uses but Facebook is reporting that I've had 30 sales on this ad and you can be like, wait a second now, that's not possible. So this helps reconcile that because I've definitely seen times where some bogus data has come through and I've had to diagnose why that's been.
A lot of times it's because, there's a couple, the number one thing is because you have the wrong view. Like you'll be looking at with Facebook calls like an action or whatever they call that versus looking at the actual thing you want to be looking at, I forget the exact way it's worded but when you go under columns you can customize the column and under website you can look at website purchases, specifically that action, and that's what you want to be looking at.
As far as other Facebook ads, I’d be intrigued if I were in your shoes as to if I – I don’t know enough about this market, but again I know a little bit I'm thinking if your fertilizer really is like that much better than anything else out there and you can convince people of that with an ad, I think you'd be on to something.
Colin: Okay, like a video ad?
Mike: Like a video ad for sure yeah and we've been using Animoto to do all this. I've talked a lot about it before, but one of the things that we’re really struggling with here as a company especially as we get bigger, I've talked about on the podcast before a couple times, but just being able to like to crank out stuff at scale. It takes so much time and money. Like if I needed to get a video produced by a third party, it could cost five or 10,000 bucks and this is ecommerce. We just don't have that kind of money. And then there's also the time factor.
If we like doing it internally with our own staff, we can get it done cheaper but then it could take a week of multiple people's time. So we've been experimenting with Animoto and trying to get this done in a day. So I've actually been doing it myself right now and I've been successful, so I've been using a site called VoiceBunny and you just basically upload this, you write the script, you upload it, you find a voice talent that you like, and then I use something called audio blocks which is like 20 bucks. You get music files and then you just lay over the voice over the music band and upload that up to Animoto, and then take still photos and video that we're even shooting like on our iPhone and just stitch these clips together. And next thing you have a video.
Colin: Hmm, that's pretty cool.
Mike: Yeah. And it's just a cheap, like hacky kind of way to do it. And it's like 90 or 95% as good as the $10,000 version that you would get from a pro.
Colin: Yeah, video just sounds overwhelming. And I'm not really a front person or the face of the brand type of person. So that sounds like something I need to look into.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, we've had the same exact problem here of trying to get individuals to be the face or be the voice and they all kind of shy away from that. So this way, it sidesteps all those problems. We use this VoiceBunny thing. It's like 100 bucks, 150 bucks at the most to get the thing recorded. You write the script, you upload it like I said, just the text version of it and they within a day return you back the audio file. It's really cool. And then you can get — the other thing we've been doing is getting stock video photo footage from like an iStock photo.
So you can actually use like three quarters of the video can be like just other video that people have taken that's out there of just aquariums. It doesn't have to be your bottle of fertilizer going into it for a lot of it as long as you're communicating the right message and showing like this really clear water and happy fish, then you're getting your point across. It's actually pretty amazing how much you can get done by hacking things.
Colin: Yeah, that's great.
Mike: So I would definitely give that a try. I think that the reason I'd be intrigued and the reason I would do it, and I think that it is worth it for you to do it is because almost certainly, like, I don't know this for a fact, I’d have to look it up. But I would say I’m 99% confident that there's going to be an interest of aquariums on Facebook, there has to be an interest group for that. And in fact, as we're talking, I'll look it up and I'll get you the numbers later on, on this call. But there has to be. It might even be like ultra specific, like salt water aquariums or…
Colin: Yeah, so it's mostly is I do fresh water.
Mike: Fresh water. Okay. So I mean, like, you might even be able to find an interest group of freshwater aquariums. And like I said, we'll come back to that and all because it's hard to talk and type and do all this at the same time, but I'll get that before the end of this call.
Colin: Okay, so the next question, are you done with the advertising stuff?
Mike: I am yeah go ahead.
Colin: Next one, so on your suggestion, I’ve purchase Klaviyo, I've started Klaviyo subscription or is it Klaviyo or Klaviyo, however you say it.
Mike: As I say call me anything you want, just don't call me late for dinner. Yeah I actually don't know, I keep on hearing different versions of that.
Colin: All right, either way, you know what I'm talking about.
Colin: So I use that to send out emails once a while and I plan on using that, and that's one thing I should ask. When I get the blog stuff going, should I also be sending that out as emails to my list?
Mike: Absolutely yeah.
Colin: Should I send it in the body or should I send a link to the blog?
Mike: I would do both. I mean I would not put the entire article on email. I would have like an intro to the article and like a little excerpt from it, and then read the rest of the article here. Kind of get people read didn't because you want them to come to your site. And that's like the really important thing. You don't want them to just consume the content and like, just open up your email, because that stuff is important. But you want them to click through and end up on your site, which means that they might buy something, which is kind of important.
Colin: And it shows that they're more interested than just they opened it.
Mike: Exactly, yeah, you want to see the click rate continue to go up yeah.
Colin: Good. And then for the flows part, is that something that you do, you use, like the win back flows and the…
Colin: Ad in cart flows?
Mike: Yeah, it's actually interesting that you brought up Klaviyo and actually I had already written down email, and I didn't realize you were already on Klaviyo. But something like fertilizer, that's consumable, that people probably are buying on a pretty set and regular basis is really right for Klaviyo success. So you can make a segment of people who have purchased this particular fertilizer, you know that they're going to use that in 60 days and then, basically 50 days later reminder you're about to run out of fertilizer, and that stuff does really, really well.
Colin: Okay. And that's something I haven't really looked into. But it does have that information of what they bought, and where do I find that?
Mike: Yeah, good question. So first of all, you need to have BigCommerce or Klaviyo hooked up to BigCommerce. So you make sure…
Colin: Yeah I did this.
Mike: Okay, so what you'll do is you'll go in and you can either just take notes or follow along yourself in Klaviyo. I've done it so many times that I can do it off top of my head, but you're going to make a segment within Klaviyo and you're going to say, I want all people who have purchased an item and you can put in skew equals whatever that skew is, and then you'll have a segment of all those people and then you could then create a flow that is triggered off of people that enter in that segment and you can set a delay of 50 days or whatever to send it out.
Colin: Okay, awesome. I thought that I had read something about that you could do that. But I had no idea because I had looked at the segments that I have already just from where I've imported different things and I've got the churn list and the VIP customers and that kind of stuff that I guess is just automatic in Klaviyo, but I couldn't figure out how to create one of them.
Mike: That's how you would do it. And then you would trigger a flow off of that. And that would be like two or three emails reminder, you're about to run out of fertilizer. I'm not kidding, you’re really about to run out of fertilizer, and then you could do 10% off for some if they haven't bought. And basically, you would inject them from the flow once they repurchase. So you would just have a series of emails that are going out, but it wouldn't continue if they make another purchase.
Colin: Yeah, yeah. Okay. And then just in general, do you do the abandoned cart sequence, or do you use the one through your website?
Mike: We use Klaviyo abandoned cart sequence. It's way better than the one through the website, you can make it look prettier. And yeah, it's definitely way, way better. Now, one other thing that Klaviyo really excels at, if you really want to get the true value out Klaviyo is it actually has the synchronization feature where you can synchronize segments over to Facebook. And the way that that works is when you create the segment, I forgot the exact tab on the segment, I think it's set up or something along those lines, you will synchronize your segment to a Facebook audience.
So, let's say you've had 1,000 people or whatever it is, buy this particular fertilizer in XYZ time period, you know again; it's consumable, so like after 50 days, you want to start running Facebook ads to them to buy more fertilizer. It's incredibly effective because we get 30% open rates on our emails, which is like three times the industry average on ecommerce, which means that 70% of people are never looking at our emails, which is obviously really frustrating. But they might be on Facebook. And in fact, a lot of them are. And when you're running a Facebook ad to somebody, and they've already purchased from you, the chances of them buying again are quite high.
And you can do this with a lot of things where it's not only a reminder to buy, but what I call bought this but haven't bought that. So in our world that's someone that’s bought gel pens but hasn't bought colored pencils, or someone that's bought gel pens or pencils that hasn't bought markers, or whatever it might be. It also could be another example that's more linear is they bought Mandalas version one, but they haven't bought volume two. So if you have things like that, that makes sense where let's say you've bought fertilizer, but you haven't bought a test kit, or whatever it might be. Those types of things can work incredibly well as well.
And one of the things I talk about a lot, I mean, this is just like the ecommerce and entrepreneur dilemma is it's always more fun and interesting to get more new customers. And oftentimes we forget about the ones we already have. And especially in a business like this where you have the opportunity to continue to nurture existing customers, I would definitely be taking advantage of that through these synchronized email and Facebook ad campaigns.
Colin: Is that the integration to Facebook on Facebook advertising?
Mike: Yeah, so that's, you're probably in like the integrations tab right now. So you need to do that first and get to have that setup and then once that's done, when you go under segments, and you click on the actual segment, and again, I forget, I think it's under like the set. Once you're in the segment it’s like setup or configure, I'll go look for that as well real quick in this other tab. I already have some other news to report to you about the aquariums which is that there's a 3 million person group of people who like aquariums in the United States which is a big group. It's three times the size of our coloring audience.
So you have I think a pretty good and real opportunity to advertise a quiz. It's 27 million people worldwide, but in the United States alone which I assume is your target market is 3,000,000 people which is just massive. And I don't know if there's like — let me just type then like fresh water, let me see if there's anything for fresh, yeah fresh water aquarium specifically as an interest group as well. It's much smaller, it's only 40,000 people, but you could use that as a probably a softball kind of test just to see, get some initial ads and stuff done, otherwise there's a lot you can do with that. So definitely, check that out.
And then if I go under listing segments here in our own Klaviyo account, and I click on a segment, it is under settings. So, you go to settings for that segment and then you can do Facebook advertising. And it's like this list right now when I'm looking at. So this list is currently not synching with a Facebook custom audience, choose a custom audience to sync with. You'll click on that, and then you'll create your custom audience. And now what it will do is however many people are in your segments will be, those exact same people will be the ones that will be in the audience for Facebook, minus the ones that it can't match, because it's not 100% match rate, but it's pretty damn good.
And then you can then run an ad to them. So like with Facebook, it's more private, right. I mean, on email, you know exactly by the individual who exactly you're emailing. There's no secrets about that. On Facebook, it's like I want to run this ad to a poll of people and I don't know exactly who they are, and who's opening the ad or clicking on it on an individual basis but you can look at that on a cumulative basis. And I can promise you that these ads will be the most effective ones you'll ever run.
Colin: Okay, and so you're sending that to a look like audience or just purely those people that…
Mike: Purely those people. Now what we will do is create a lookalike audience as well, but that's a separate thing and a separate type of ad. So the ads I'm speaking of are like people that bought this specific fertilizer product and you want them to buy more of that. So you're going to run an ad saying like, buy more, like you've already bought it like no…
Colin: You’re about to run out.
Mike: You're about ready to run out, buy more. Or Mr. Customer, you haven't bought from us for 90 days or 180 days like win back campaign type thing. Here’s 10% off anything in our store, come back, we miss you. Now the lookalike audience would be making a segment in Klaviyo, and this is also really important, something else you're going to want to do for sure. You're going to want to make a segment in Klaviyo that's purely people who have purchased. So like, I want to make a segment of someone who's placed an order at least once, done. I'm going to call that purchasers. And then what I'm going to do is go synchronize that over to Facebook. And then I'm going to create a lookalike audience based on that segment.
So, the lookalike audience would be people who look like my purchasers, most likely to buy from me, whatever you want to call the lookalike audience at that point. And then what you'll do is you'll run a different type of ad like, come check out my fish shop or whatever your store is called, get 10% off, we're running a sale today, whatever the ad is. Or maybe it's this video about your awesome fertilizer, you got to upgrade the fertilizer in your fish tank and talk about whatever benefits it is, and that's the ad that runs to cold traffic. Yeah, and that's going to be the trickier thing.
So I would start again, with the lower hanging fruit. I would start with getting your abandoned cart sequence done properly, getting your win back sequence in place, emailing people reminders to repurchase products that you know are consumable and get used on a pretty fixed basis, emailing them about bought this but haven't bought that, and synchronizing some of those audiences with Facebook. So some of the stuff I just talked about, actually all those things I just talked about happen in conjunction with Facebook ads knowing that only so many people are going to actually ever receive the email, and you want to try to replicate those efforts on Facebook.
Colin: Catch them all.
Mike: Yeah, and start there. That's like this is already a couple of months worth of work for one man team. But they're going to produce your results. These are things that you're going to — the thing that's really cool about this is that you're going to do this stuff and you're going to wake up the next morning and see results.
Colin: Yeah, and that's where I've known that for a long time, I’ve needed to start not that maxed out the organic stuff by any means, but I mean, I think I'm missing out on a large portion of revenue because I don't do any of this.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, the other thing that's like that I can promise you just from an entrepreneurial journey is you're always going to feel this way. There's always going to be something else next that's like, I know I need to be doing this, but I haven't done it yet. So that's all completely fine. We all have those things.
Colin: What is the standard organic versus paid revenue or visits or whatever? How does that normally break down?
Mike: Say that one more time, I want to make sure I fully understand the question.
Colin: Is there a normal like okay, well, if you have this many organic orders or whatever it is that you should then adding in paid advertising should bring this, or is there a target for that or is it just…
Mike: Yeah, there's definitely — this is like an impossible thing to answer because every niche is different. And some niches only exist on paid advertising. Some businesses I should say aren’t necessarily even just a niche, but they only exist, like the only way they get traffic is through paid advertising. Some businesses rely on search and stuff. I mean a good example is my buddy Ezra Firestone. He spends seven figures a year on paid ads and doesn't care about SEO. We talk about this all the time, and I'm just like, it doesn't make sense to me but he's an SEO guy, but I'm also not as deep in the paid ads.
So everyone's business is different, and I wouldn't look at it as a ratio or anything like that. I mean, the way that I would look at it well, this is the way that I look at it at least is that I want a return on my ad spend, I want my ads to be profitable. I want that to be a profitable sub center of my business. And if it is, I'm going to spend every dollar I can possibly get my hands on. There is no budget, as long as I keep under that target, I will find the money, I've got credit cards. I can go take a home equity loan, whatever I got to do, if I can play a game of I give Facebook a $1, and they give me back five, I will play that game as much as they allow me to put a quarter in a machine, I'll play that game. And that would be the way that I would look at.
The thing that we run into is we just can't scale it. Most of it costs like — a lot of our audiences are becoming saturated. So we can't ramp up to like $1,000 a day or $10,000 a day on adds to that. It seems like it performs better when we spend a little bit less and that's kind of the spot that we're at. And we've been playing around with this. We actually found a couple of new interest groups and some stuff that we're doing that are — this is for ColorIt specifically that are kind of helping with that. But yeah, I mean, my viewpoint is as long as I can play the game of like I said, I give you one and you give me two or you give me five or whatever that number is, I'm in.
Colin: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. And then, I think that’s — so I recently started, I had been using seller labs and I'm drawing a blank on what the Amazon PPC…
Mike: Yeah. It's called Ignite.
Colin: Ignite. Yeah. And I had been using that. And then I kind of dropped off on that. And I’ve kind of just been doing it through Amazon. And then again on your suggestion, I switched over to Sellics, their full suite a few weeks ago. And so, I'm just kind of going through that right now. And so my ACOS is definitely about double what it had been. Is that kind of normal when you set it up, because I'm doing kind of what you suggested starting with the automatic and moving keywords over to — because I had previous information of better performing keywords, I started with some exact match and broad match. But is that kind of expected when we start this or?
Mike: Yes, like 100% for sure. And so my philosophy with this again, I'm building this for scale and I know the episode I did, this episode I did about this buzzed a lot of interesting questions. So I mean, I'm doing it for scale. So, it's about efficiency, like, how can I have one person that's managing this for me in the Philippines deal with this for multiple marketplaces and all the new products are launching, etc. It's a lot of work when you’re talking about that rate. And for me, I want to be a little bit more aggressive. I'm not worried about the amount of money I make on something like this today, I'm worried about the max efficiency as far as sales, let's say three to six months from now.
So the way that I mentioned it there that you're doing where you are setting up the automatic campaign and you're letting it run a little bit higher bid. Yeah, you're overspending in the short run, but you're going to get more data. And that's the thing that was important to me as I was looking through it. Do I want to take an approach of do I spend more on this, I know I'm wasting some money but I also know that I'm getting more data. And it's actually more like a lot more accurate data. And it's better to bid down, than try to bid up because if you're trying to bid up from a much lower number, you're going to miss a bunch of keywords that you would never have bid on, which was — when we were doing some testing with this.
And to me, that was really important. I wanted to be able to get all the keywords to make sure that we were capturing all that which is really important. So now, like over time, I think I just did an update about this. It was either on the podcast or on one of our webinars, we're down to like 22% ACOS now, which from last year is down almost 10 full points, and it's five figures in spend per month down. But our sales have stayed exactly the same like within $1,000, it's 106,000 or something like that a month off of just PPC sales.
So the method is definitely working very well like on a longer term. And like I said, we're bidding on like a lot more keywords. I find things that I never would have thought to bid on. Like I look through the stuff myself sometimes and it's quite interesting. So if you can stick with it for a little bit, I would just let it kind of run out and Sellics will adjust those bids down for you automatically over time and get them where they need to be.
Colin: Okay yeah. So I figured I just wanted to kind of make sure that's what we're looking at. So I've always kind of taken the opposite trying to work the other way and it makes sense starting high and moving down.
Mike: So like if you think about it like this, let's just say like let's use the aquarium fertilizer again as a keyword search or the product let's say and you have all your keywords in the back end, large aquarium, small aquarium, freshwater aquarium, like all these different keywords you have in your back end, but there's going to be ones that you don't think to bid on as well. And if you start like an automatic campaign up with a bid of let's say two bucks, you'll catch all the broad keywords that are possible for your listing. And what I've seen happen is because automatic campaigns are also your suggested sponsored products underneath the listing, when people click through from those other products, whatever keyword they search for competitors’ products and found you will then also start to become automatic bid keywords for you as well. Does that make sense?
Mike: Let me explain, make sure that what I'm saying.
Colin: You mean the ASIN or whatever that shows up in there, is that what you’re talking about?
Mike: Yeah, so like if someone were to search for like charcoal black aquarium fertilizer, something that you would never think to bid on, they find a competitor's product, they look at the competitor's product and down below in the competitor's product is sponsored products related to this product and you show up there, when they click through that, Amazon because of the automatic bidding is going to now associate that keyword to your product. And it'll start bidding on that charcoal black thing whatever thing that you never thought of to bid on, and that will become like one of your keywords that it'll continue to try to bid on for you.
This is something that doesn't happen when you're bidding significantly lower. And so I found that like again, there's some short term pain for like the long term gain kind of thing. And even though your ACOS is up, you're probably still turning a profit.
Colin: Oh yeah, no that's not a worry at all. And I had for the past year or more, I haven't done any auto campaigns, so all the all ASINS showing up definitely shows that there's some value to that.
Mike: Yeah, I mean having those auto campaigns is like really, really important. You'll be shocked, like once you start doing them if you follow what I was talking about step by step and you look at — when you go into the automatic campaign in Sellics and you look at the keywords and you see how many ASIN show up there and how many sales you’re getting off of that, it'll be a real aha moment of like, oh my god, like what was I doing this whole time because I had the same thing happen at one point. It was like, oh god, like we really missed the boat here.
And what what's happened now for like the ones that we've been doing this now for like six plus months, we've stripped off every single keyword at like we never really have any keywords anymore show up at all in our automatic campaigns. So the only thing that we're showing up for is like some random new outlier keyword here and there, and most of it now is all ASIN stuff showing up in there. And because Sellics automatically adjust that bid, it's constantly lowering the bid down for us and we're spending less and less money because we're only need to show up there. So like, over time, it's been like, highly effective.
Colin: Yeah, no, it's I mean, just in mind, I've got three pages of search terms, and easily half of them are ASINs.
Mike: Yeah, so it's like kind of what I'm talking about. And those are sales that you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. And even worse, in the Amazon world what's even worse for you is that it's one of your competitors would have gotten that sale, which is actually like really bad, because that helps their conversion rate and helps their bestseller ranking and helps their like that whole flywheel effect on Amazon and pushes them above you, or pushes you below them whatever way you want to look at it. So, it's even more important from that perspective.
Colin: Yeah, I agree completely. Oh, yeah. I mean, that's all of my questions that I have for you.
Mike: Awesome. Well, I hope that some of this stuff helps you get to your goal of being able to go full time on this and quit the day job. And like I said, congrats, and kudos for the success you've had so far. It's definitely an awesome story. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Colin: Yeah. Hey, I really want to thank you for taking time out of your day to do this for me, and I really appreciate it.
Mike: Of course and like I always say to everybody that comes and does this, please follow up with us in 3, 6, 9, 12 months whenever you think you have something interesting to share with how this stuff has worked out for you or even if it worked out badly, then tell me like I gave you bad advice and I owe you a beer or something. Either way, I'd love to hear from you and see how things are going.
Colin: All right, I appreciate it very much.
Mike: Awesome Colin, have a good one.
And that's a wrap folks. I hope you guys enjoyed the 198th episode of the EcomCrew Podcast. You can go to EcomCrew.com/198 to get to the show notes for this episode. Let us know what you think about Colin’s business or anything that we talked about. We love to hear from you as always. And this is the last full length episode before Thanksgiving. We will have a special Thanksgiving episode coming up which will be our 199th episode which is pretty cool. So, I want to wish everyone that's in the United States a happy Thanksgiving.
I know that most of our listeners, we've actually pretty much been able to determine that we actually have most of our listeners not even in the US states which is cool that we're such a global podcast. But for those of you, who aren't familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, it's probably the second biggest holiday, I would say after Christmas in the United States and I’m going to be going and seeing some friends this year. Looking forward to that, but taking a few days off. And if you are in the United States again, happy Thanksgiving, and look forward to that special 199th episode of the EcomCrew Podcast that will be coming out on Thanksgiving Day. All right guys, until the next episode, happy selling, and we'll talk to you soon.