A few weeks go I went to Craft + Commerce. It was put on the people behind Convert Kit to help bloggers make money. And I loved it. There were 200+ attendees. Mostly professional bloggers and people who want to sell things on their website. The only thing they have in common is that they value email lists.
Last week I wrote about my experience running an online summit. I talked about marketing tactics, money, and even the hours I put in. One thing I didn't touch on was how educational Lift Off Summit was.
I've been in eCommerce for over 5 years and I'd like to think I know a lot but when it comes to marketing I'm still learning. A lot in fact.
There were three things I learned while recording the interviews for Lift Off Summit which were so powerful I immediately implemented them. And I want to share them with you.
1️⃣ Maximize Your Welcome Email
I absolutely loved my chat with Paul Jarvis. He talked about lots of great stuff like how the best skill you need as a marketer is empathy. <- That kinda blew my mind.
Before this interview my welcome email was super basic. It basically just said hello. Immediately after Paul's interview I set about making the welcome email more useful. I mentioned the All-Access Pass for the summit. Not a hard sell but a mention so it's on people's minds. And actually 28 people clicked on it.
And I also wanted to inject my personality in the event. I want people to know me. They're not just signing up for some corporate event. There's a real life person running this event. So I worked with Bob to create a bit of personality to the email.
And we actually got compliments on that gif! People were laughing. What a great way to start a new relationship. 🙂
— Tonya Mork (@hellofromTonya) June 14, 2017
By adding a bit of personality and mentioning my product I made my welcome email so much more effective.
2️⃣Tell People Why They Did Something
I have to admit I wasn't sure how the Building Trust session would go. I know Chris Lema is an amazing speaker. But maybe it would just be a boring topic and even a great speaker couldn't make it interesting.
But I was totally wrong. Chris did an amazing job with that topic. He talked about his experience selling software to large companies. And one of the really interesting things he talked about was how people buy things.
People buy things with emotion. Almost every decision we make in life is an emotional decision. And then after making the decision we justify it with logic. That's why Chris suggests giving people those logical reasons after they purchase.
So after someone buys a product tell them the 5 benefits they'll get out of it. And they'll internalize it.
I did something similar with my Thank You For Subscribing page. It used to just say “Thanks!” and that's about it. But after talking with Chris I put logical reasons in there.
You're just helping people understand why they made a decision. This way they feel better when someone asks why they attended. You gave them a logical reason and they'll use that when talking with other people.
Just like with the welcome email this was an area of the eCommerce process which I was basically ignoring. And I wouldn't have thought about it unless I talked to Chris.
I loved talking with Nathan Barry about how you can keep customers around. I assumed he had a million different newsletter campaigns setup. But he actually just has one main campaign at any one point and he personalizes it based on what products you've bought.
I always assumed you should send entire emails to different segments but that's so much more work. When you can write one email and add an extra paragraph for a certain type of user that's so much easier.
I immediately started doing that. And it's not that hard with MailChimp. Here's one of the emails I sent out in the middle of the summit:
Notice how anyone who isn't a VIP (someone who hasn't purchased) get's a message to purchase. Someone who has already purchased doesn't need to see that and I don't want to drown them in messaging that's not useful for them.
Even as someone who thinks they know quite a bit about eCommerce I learned a lot. Three of the lessons I learned were immediately useful. They took less than two hours to implement and they helped out a lot.
So even if you think you know everything (cough like me) make sure you're constantly learning. eCommerce is a huge and complex field. There's countless areas to optimize and make better and you need to be constantly learning to take advantage of it.
Two weeks ago I launched my first online summit, Lift Off Summit, along with BobWP. And I'm writing this recap primarily for me so I learn something from this experience and can make future projects better.
Let me start with some goals I wrote a few weeks before the summit. I thought it would be a good idea to have some benchmarks to shoot for. And as I look at them now it's hilarious how far off we were.
We were way off in traffic. This is the number we got most wrong. And it's ironic (and embarrassing) that in a summit about getting traffic the biggest weak point was traffic.
Having said that I don't think we did anything wrong strategy wise. We had lots of traffic from social, affiliates, and guest posts. We just completely botched how long it would take it to come in.
Why did I think it would be good to announce the summit and launch it 2.5 weeks later?? Who was possessing me at that moment?
That was a big learning lesson. We could have announced much earlier. I think we could have gotten twice the traffic with exactly the same strategies if we just announced 3-6 months earlier.
Impact is hard to measure. We can talk about vanity metrics like page views & email subscribers but ultimately I did this project for impact. I did it to help people.
Getting a technically functioning store up and running (as in making sales) was the biggest issue I saw when I was WooCommerce Product Manager. It's heart breaking to hear someone invested thousands of dollars for their dream store and no one visits.
And while it's hard to set goals around impact. Just in the last few days I heard from a couple of the attendees:
— Brian Richards (@rzen) June 28, 2017
So I consider the impact a complete success.
Before we launched I was most worried about this area so I spent a good deal of time developing an on-boarding sequence of emails so they knew what they would see.
Conversion rate was pretty good at 7%. Between the emails, the marketing, the speakers, and a few other things people trusted us. I'm really happy that we put in the effort to make this work.
Bob and I were able to keep the whole operation quite lean which meant we kept almost all of the money we made. So even though we only made a little bit of money we got to keep basically all of it.
Pre-selling was definitely a good idea. In fact almost all of the sales came before each price bump.
- 23 sales pre-summit
- 8 sales mid-summit
Note: we've only been “post summit” for a week and in that time we've redone our website and just finished a new welcome email sequence. So there is definitely an opportunity to make some sales post-summit.
Now if I just whipped Lift Off Summit together in a few hours then 1K sounds like awesome money. But it took quite a bit more than that.
- Finding, approaching, & managing speakers: 10 hours
- 21 interviews at 2 hours each: 42 hours
- Writing pre-summit emails: 4 hours
- Writing daily (mid-summit) emails: 6 hours
- Writing 4 guest posts: 16 hours
- 4 podcast appearances: 4 hours
- Wrote marketing copy: 10 hours
- Created & scheduled the timed content: 4 hours
- Sent welcome videos to attendees: 9 hours
Total: 105 hours.
My hourly wage: $12.52.
Considering I could charge $100 an hour for coaching or eCommerce development it's not a great money maker.
If I want this event to continue I have to work on profitability.
I'm thinking about doing this event again next year and since getting traffic was my biggest issue I want to look heavily into the marketing we used and what worked and what didn't.
I've always been a bit skeptical when it comes to promoting your own event. You can't just deluge people in your posts. And with certain channels like Twitter you have to constantly tweet out the message or it gets missed. So I didn't have high hopes.
I did want to give Twitter a try though. So I came up with some nice looking graphics like these:
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) June 5, 2017
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) June 16, 2017
Social was our biggest traffic channel (after direct) and it was mostly driven by Twitter & Facebook. So I'm pleasantly surprised by how effective it was.
Both blogging & guest blogging took a lot of time but were incredibly valuable.
- I put up a single post on my site & Bob made a podcast episode. It drove 267 visits and 46 signups.
- I wrote 4 guest posts which drove 96 visits & 24 signups.
You could make an argument that blogging wasn't impressive. But unlike social this is much longer lasting. Anytime someone is looking through my posts, or reading through the Printful or they WooCommerce blog they could stumble onto Lift Off Summit. They could purchase the All-Access Pass or get on the newsletter for next year.
I also think the social proof that other people are talking about us is incredibly valuable.
Referrals were our #2 channel (excluding direct again). Between guest posts, our posts, and other people writing about us 161 people signed up.
Affiliates were the #3 channel and I'm happy about that. But I relied way too heavily on affiliates. I assumed they'd bring in 75% of my sales. Instead it was closer to 13%. That was a huge assumption on my part.
Since they drove biggest driver of traffic I'm definitely keeping the channel. But unlike this year I'm not going to count on traffic from affiliates. I'm going to make sure I can get all the traffic I need with my own marketing strategies and look at affiliate sales as bonuses and not plan for them.
Bonjoro let me send personal video messages which were great.
I used Chatra for live chat. I had 23 chats and solved all sorts of issues. A few email deliverability issues which I would have never known about if I didn't have some other way for users to contact me.
It also means I didn't have to build a contact page. 😛
Gumroad for an Online Summit
I love trying new toys which is why I wanted to break Gumroad in and see how it works for an online event.
Let me start with why I picked Gumroad. It's great for affiliates. You create a link for your affiliates and Gumroad saves that money in a separate account and pays them automatically. It's awesome.
Gumroad is good for certain things like the affiliate program. But there are some key pieces of functionality that it lacked (at least for me).
The tracking was disappointing. You can enter your Google Analytics code into Gumroad and it does send an eCommerce event to your account. Unfortunately, it's a separate session. So I see the transaction coming from someone with no history. That means I have a lot less data about what marketing channels are actually working.
And I couldn't figure out how to send eCommerce data to MailChimp. That means that I had to manually mark customers as VIP in MailChimp after they purchased so I could segment the list.
Those two features combined means I'll be playing with a new toy for the next event. It could very well be a membership system since that's what some of our viewers asked for. It means a bit more maintenance on my side but I will get better results.
It's easy to get carried away with automation. One of the best ways to connect with your audience is to create & send personal video messages.
When people talk about automation in the marketing world I sometimes get a bad taste in my mouth. Because it seems like they want to automate everything. And that's not something I believe in.
I want to be empathetic and I want to help people. And for me that means talking with people and not at them. Automation is powerful but you need to know when to use it. I believe you should automate systems not relationships.
So when I was talking with Nathan Barry at Lift Off Summit and he mentioned a service called Bonjoro that lets him send personal video messages I had to explore. I signed up for the service and within a few minutes was able to send a video welcome my friend joe to the summit.
Pretty awesome right?
It's your own personal way to say hello. To tell people about yourself. To be an individual and to be you. And I love that.
That was my first video welcome. I later refined my welcome and gave people personal recommendations.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Now in an ideal world there'd be a positive connection between the personal welcome videos and someone purchasing a product. And I was curious if this would help. So I actually ran a little experiment.
I sent 1/2 of the people a personal welcome video + welcome email. And the other half just got the welcome email.
And from the data here's what I found:
- Lift Off Summit had 448 viewers (at the time of this writing)
- I sent 209 personal video welcomes.
- 159 videos were opened
- 84 videos were watched
- And 54% of the sales came from people who had a Bonjoro sent to them
But with the number of sales I had. That number is not enough to be statistically significant. So take the above with a grain of salt.
In terms of what it cost me. Bonjoro is free (with some nice features under their premium plan). The real cost was the amount of time. My typical welcome video was 2.5 minutes.
And sending 209 welcome videos at ~2.5 minutes a piece that's 8.7 hours!
So based on the ROI this wasn't a good investment. In fact if you're just looking to make money off of people online do not do this. It's not a good use of your time.
Luckily – that's not the best thing about Bonjoro. At least that's not where I found value.
Deep Customer Learning
Bonjoro is great at building authentic connections. People don't respond to welcome emails. Those are automated and companies rarely respond. If someone takes time to send you a personal welcome message you might actually respond to them.
I sent 209 videos. And I received 21 email responses to the Bonjoro welcome alone.
I learned so much about my viewers. I learned about their businesses, the products they're selling, how they found me & what they wanted out of my live event.
Ellen sells fragrances:
Thanks for checking it out! Everything is still in its incipient stages, so a lot of it is word-of-mouth based right now. Marketing and self-promotion have always been some of my biggest challenges, so I'm looking forward to the Summit and hoping I can learn a lot!
Carla sells furniture:
I’ve been doing my own websites for years, but this e-commerce stuff is fairly new. Even with some professional help, I’m amazed at how much extra time this takes! I just wanna get on to the fun stuff – making videos, blogging and connecting with people – so any shortcuts, or tips for managing inventory, customers & reporting would be helpful.
Looking forward to the summit – I’ll let you know when I come up with any more questions.
And Cara runs a small agency that wants to build more eCommerce sites:
I own a small web agency with one small WooCommerce e-commerce client. I noticed that Rebecca Gil and Chris Lema will be speaking at Summit and the schedule has such valuable content — just could not afford not to take part! So much to gain and to give back to my client base. Plus, I would like to take on more e-commerce sites and this will jump start my process.
This is just a paragraph or two from 3 of the 21 responses I got. I found this information extremely valuable.
Different Than an Email Auto Responder
I made jokes with people. When I accidentally pronounced their name wrong I asked them how to properly say it. And I shared a little bit about myself.
In some videos I was walking around down town and I talked about that, in some I was walking through the art district and I talked about that, for some I was on the patio outside my favorite coffee shop, and for others I was at my parents house in DC and was getting rained on.
Automation doesn't impress us. People taking time out of their day to make our lives better impresses us.
And I think there's another reason. When you give people personalized advice you're actually providing value.
Every time I prepared to send a personal video message I looked at the persons email address and if they had their own domain I would check it out. I found a pastry shop, and author, and all sorts of physical good stores. And based on what I found in their site recommended specific sessions at my summit.
So if you're looking to increase revenue don't sent personal welcome videos. If you're looking to be authentic, to connect with your audience, and to help people then use these videos. They're a great way connect.
Note: if you want me to send you a personal welcome email sign up for Lift Off Summit and I'll send you one. 🙂
PS: If you want to know how Lift Off Summit went I'll do a full write up next week.
My link to Bonjoro is a discount link. I get a discount on my plan if you upgrade to the premium plan. As you can see from this post I clearly enjoy the service and would recommend it even if there wasn't a discount available.
I remember my first sale.
I was doing a lot of WordPress development at the time. During the day I worked for an advertising agency and we built high-end WordPress sites. In the evenings and on the weekends I was building smaller websites for friends. And it was exhilarating. Every day it felt like I learned something amazing and new. And that fueled the next days work.
I built a plugin and launched it on WordPress.org which was fun. I happened to see a blog post from Pippin about Ninja Forms. I turned some custom code into a Ninja Forms plugin and they started selling it on their site. And in the summer of 2013 I got my first sale.
I think I earned something like $13. Not much. But enough to feel valued. Gradually over a year or two I developed a few more plugins and was generating a nice little income on the side.
I realize now that I was lucky because I partnered with a company that was doing all of the marketing. I was a developer for hire and they sold my plugin and took a cut.
But most people aren't that lucky.
I spent the past couple years talking to eCommerce entrepreneurs. And time after time I'd hear about a store owner who spent hundreds or thousands on their store and they have no traffic.
They didn't know they should think about traffic. They thought if they built their website they'd automatically get traffic.
I don't blame them. It's an unknown unknown.
But when it happens – all that unrealized potential can be quite painful.
So when I left WooCommerce last year I started thinking about what I can add to the world. Curing cancer would be great but I have no idea how to do that.
Helping eCommerce entrepreneurs on the other hand is in my wheelhouse. I can do that. So I spent a few months playing with a few different ideas. And I figured I'd start at the beginning.
How do you get that first sale? How do you get the same feeling of exhileration that I got when I sold a tiny little plugin?
You have your logo, you have a product, you have quality product photos, and you even figured out how to setup an autoresponder in MailChimp. Now you just need your first customer.
Lift Off Summit
That's exactly what Lift Off Summit is about – getting your first customers.
I teamed up with BobWP and I interviewed ~20 marketing & eCommerce experts on how to get traffic to your site. We cover every major marketing channel and we compare the costs, the time to implement, the skills needed, and what type of products and industries work best with those channels.
We go over:
- Content marketing
- Newsletter marketing
- Affiliate marketing
- Local events
- and more
And to wrap up the event we go into how you can measure your progress and keep those first customers. We go into:
- Google Analytics
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
- Customer retention
- & Postcard marketing (for realsies)
When & Where?
We already covered what. The event is a virtual summit. That means you can be naked and learn at the same time. It's like naked cooking without the cooking.
The event is June 19th through the 23rd. That's a full week. Each day we'll release 4-5 new interviews which you can watch. The interviews will be live all week and you can watch them as soon as they come out.
What I'm really happy about with this event is that we're making it free. Anyone can tune in & learn about whatever marketing channel they're interested in for free while the summit is live.
Yup. All of those interviews above ^ are going to be available for free during the week of the summit.
What's the Catch?
My goal is to make such great content that you want to get the All-Access Pass ($97 before the event) so you can download the content and keep it forever.
But if you watch it live. It's free. 🙂
I've spent the last couple of months putting this together. I hope you get something out of it. Even if no-one buys the All-Access Pass as long as people get valuable content and launch their store I consider that a win. So grab your free ticket and I'll see you at the summit! 🚀
There's a recent article on Business Insider on how retail stores are closing and they predict it could affect 6 to 7 million workers.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
In 1979 the first spreadsheet software was created. It was called VisiCalc and it worked on the Apple II.
Now spreadsheets existed; they were just created manually (read: by hand). So when the owner of the company asks you a question like: “What happens to our profit if we increase production by 5%?” you would have to take the spreadsheet back into your office. Erase all of the existing data. And rewrite all of the affected cells. This could take the whole day. Or if the spreadsheet was especially big it could take multiple days.
After VisiCalc came out it took seconds. You would think this meant the end of accountants right? But it didn't.
Since 1980 (a year after the software came out) 400,000 bookkeeping and accounting clerk jobs disappeared. But 600,000 accounting jobs (different than accounting clerks) appeared (source).
So even though the costs of accounting dropped dramatically the jobs didn't disappear as they should have. That's because as the price fell people wanted more of that product. They wanted to ask more questions:
- What if we decrease production by 5%?
- What if we give everyone a 5% raise? What about 6%?
- What if we could increase the efficiency of our production staff by 10%?
- What if the whole company took off the week of Christmas?
Now it took just seconds. So businesses were able to ask more questions and make better decisions.
Old jobs were eliminated. And new jobs (where people had to use computers) were created.
Back to the Present
So new technology doesn't mean jobs die. It means some jobs die and new ones get created.
As Americans continue to buy more online it will mean the end of some retail jobs. But as we lose those jobs new jobs are created.
Lowe's has this robot they're testing in stores. And while it will eliminate a few retail jobs it could mean more jobs in manufacturing (robots) and in software (for robots).
And there are new jobs in logistics to handle all of the online purchases.
Higher Skilled Jobs
As we eliminate retail jobs which are low skill jobs and replace them with robot manufacturer & software developers which are high skill jobs. It becomes pretty clear that we need to keep growing and educating ourselves.
For the average retail worker (read: minimum wage) this can be expensive. And I worry about the growing inequality between classes. Those who can afford to learn new skills will succeed and those without will likely desperately look for those last retail jobs.
These are societal issues that we'll have to figure out. But for right now as retail jobs are lost start looking to learn new skills. Learn skills that let you create. Things like:
- Software development
- Product development
These are skills we'll need for a long time. They might be automated (or partially automated) someday. But in the meantime they let you create things and earn a solid income. The key is see the changing landscape, educate yourself, and move into a higher skill profession.
LinkedIn published their list of the top 50 companies that people want to work at. And there's a few things that most of them have in common.
- They're almost all technology companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc)
- They are aggressive finding the best employees. They have very competitive wages, they have perks like Amazon's Leave Share program for spousal paternity/maternity leave, and they usually have a bit of fun at work.
About a month ago my dog died. And I'm not going to lie – it was pretty rough.
I've been in the eCommerce world for a while. And generally speaking I'm a fan of open-source platforms because you can customize anything and there are no restrictions.
I learned quite a bit. And I got to know the company a little better. If you're thinking about using Shopify for an upcoming project keep reading.
Invest In Your Partners
The conference starts with the CEO Tobi Lütke. He talked a lot about how entrepreneurship is getting harder. There are fewer and fewer of them. And since the costs of running a business are going down what could be causing this?
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 20, 2017
Lütke thinks that the issue is education, that the learning curve is too steep. ECommerce is admittedly very complex. There's SEO, pay-per-click advertising, managing inventory, QA, fulfillment, customer support, and a whole lot more.
To solve this Shopify is focusing on making that learning curve less steep.
— springbot (@springbot) April 20, 2017
Their ultimate goal to help more people build businesses on Shopify.
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 20, 2017
— dan fricker (@le_frick) April 20, 2017
Harley Finkelstein, the COO for Shopify, talked about the economy around Shopify. And how they've built Shopify and the market place around it in such a way that their partners make more than they do.
- Shopify: 389M
- Partners: ~400M+
- Merchants GMV: 15.4B
These numbers only include payments directly from Shopify. So app sales, theme sales, affiliate income, etc. Actually building websites for clients isn't included. So it's much bigger than the numbers they shared.
It's clear that Shopify is investing in their partnerships. If you want to build Shopify stores for clients you can expect to make good money. And you can expect more & better tools as they continue to grow.
Shopify has had an app for their merchants for a while. It's great to see new orders and how much money you've made that day. But it's never been as powerful as the Shopify website. You can't add apps, customize your theme, or do other administrative tasks.
But something happened last Christmas.
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 20, 2017
Shopify merchants used the app more than the website. Shopify has always focused on mobile. And their checkout experience is phenomenal on mobile. Now they're putting the same effort into their app for merchants.
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 20, 2017
And they've redesigned them all so the website, the mobile app, and the point of sale (POS) solution have a cohesive design.
Shopify knows how valuable mobile is. They continue to make the power of Shopify more and more available on mobile devices. You don't need an IT team. You can already run most of your store from your phone. And soon you'll be able to run even more.
Shopify is the biggest hosted eCommerce platform. They have an insane number of merchants on their service. And because of that they have a lot of data.
They've started to use that data to make it easier for merchants to make decisions (going back to that learning curve). So if you open a shoe store they'll recommend apps that successful shoe stores in your area already use.
But they're also using this data to make the consumer's life better. Many websites let you save credit card information for faster checkout. Which is great for repeat business. But it doesn't help the customer get through the cart the first time they visit you.
Shopify is fixing this with ShopifyPay. If I've ever checked out on a Shopify site before. As soon as I enter my email address. I'll be prompted to get an SMS confirmation code. As soon as I enter that code all of the rest of the checkout fields are filled out for me.
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 20, 2017
This is huge for merchants. It will drastically lower the abandoned cart rate. And it will make everything more secure.
Just to clear. Shopify doesn't share your actual credit card information with a merchant. They pass along something called a credit card token to the payment gateway. Merchants can't access your credit card number or anything like that. It's very safe.
Bonus – Be Flexible
I want to share one more thing. I've helped put on several tech conferences. And it is hard work. You have to find speakers, a venue, affordable ticket price, the right dates, etc. It's a lot of work.
And Shopify did all of this. AND they also had to deal with a city-wide power outage Friday morning.
Right before the sessions were supposed to start the venue lost power. And they handled it like bosses.
I have to give #ShopifyUnite props on handling a city wide power outage. Chairs, drinks, lunch, one panel, and one AMA.
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 21, 2017
Color Me Impressed
I'm very impressed with Shopify and the Unite conference. They put on this event to inspire, educate, and grow their partners.
They're incredibly user focused. When they noticed that mobile was a big deal they invested in it. They're continuing that investment from the merchant stand point.
When they see a problem they attack it and do things no competitor has done (ShopifyPay).
I'm pumped about Shopify. I already have a Learn Shopify: The Basics course and I can't wait to look into Shopify theme & app development courses.
If you're thinking about using Shopify for an upcoming project. It's a solid platform trusted by hundred of thousands of merchants and thousands of partners. And I was very impressed by their conference. I'll be attending again next year.
Last week Jake Goldman, founder of 10up, sent out this tweet:
Very high volume of @10up job applicants suggests trends; starting ~2012, it's very uncommon to see job tenures >2 years; most ~1. 😕
— Jake Goldman (@jakemgold) April 5, 2017
Basically wondering why 10up's applicants only seem to stay at their previous job for 1 or 2 years. I weighed in on how employees need to feel in control & they need to be committed.
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) April 5, 2017
Which turned into issues in management which turned into issues in employee expectations. And all of these are valid. They all impact how long someone stays at a job. But as I thought about it some more. I think there's another issue.