Ten Things I Wish I Knew When Starting My eCommerce Business

Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Ten Things I Wish I Knew When Starting My eCommerce Business
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In late November of 2020, I came across a threaded tweet from Eric Bandholz that someone had shared. I will admit up front, I had no idea who he was. After sharing the ten tips, which started with Ten things I wish I knew when starting my Ecommerce business, I noticed comments from a couple of people I knew in the WooCommerce space.

An idea was born. What if I asked them to come on the podcast and give their own perspective on each tip? Well, Christine Chirinos from Nexcess/Liquid Web and Dave Rodenbaugh from Recapture.io jumped at the opportunity and it ended up being a fun-filled episode filled with numerous knowledge bombs.

Whether you have started your own eCommerce site selling products or services for WooCommerce, you are a veteran at it, or you’re looking for some inspiration to send to your clients or customers, you have come to the right place.

Here are the ten things Eric shared.

  1. Focus on the products that are easiest to sell and most profitable. Don’t get distracted building a portfolio of products that don’t perform. 
  2. Don’t go international until you’ve saturated your local market.
  3. Never sign a long-term contract unless you’ve been working with the vendor for years. 
  4. As early as you can, build out automated email flows. It’s the gift that keeps giving. 
  5. The best way to collect email addresses is by selling products.
  6. Paid acquisition should exclude current customers with rare exceptions. Email is for retention. 
  7. To be successful in paid acquisition, you need to know how to create compelling ads. It’s probably best to create ads in-house. Use an agency to manage those ads.
  8. Speaking of doing things in-house, make sure you read Rockefeller Habits and Traction, which helps with hiring people and leading them. (I did this three years too late) 
  9. Trade conferences are worth their weight in gold. Don’t hesitate to go to one. And stay in the hotel.
  10. If you’re super profitable, pull the money out of the business and force yourself to operate lean. Bad decisions are made when you feel rich. 

Bonus tip: enjoy the journey rather than building for an end point.

The threaded tweet

Connect with Christie and Dave

Meet Eric Bandholz


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Hey everybody BobWP Episode 93 of Do the Woo. This is Woo Perspectives. This is where I invite a lot smarter people than me to come in and give their perspective on something I just thought of. So it's always fun. It's always different.

And before I start, let me give a quick shout out to my two community sponsor, woocommerce.com. You know them. I would just suggest to check out dothewoo.io and look over on the job listings. They have some great positions if you're looking to get in a career and use your woo skills.

Paypal.com, check out their for in, or actually pay in for, I should say payments. If you're using PayPal or if your clients are using PayPal great way to get them to maybe make a few more conversions by allowing people to break up their payments or their purchase into four payments.

I wanna get into this and I'm excited about this but I'm gonna first let my two extremely wonderful guests introduce themselves. I'm gonna start with Christie. Welcome Christie, and who the heck is Christie?

Hey, it's nice to be back and Thank you for having me. Yeah, I'll give you a quick intro to myself. My name is Christie Chirinos. I am the Product Manager for Managed WooCommerce Hosting at Nexcess by Liquid Web. It's a ton of fun, we create a hosted managed WooCommerce offering. It's managed WordPress, which you're familiar with, with an additional layer of WooCommerce and close to up to $5,000 of additional products, themes, plugins and services that help you have a one stop shop for a successful WooCommerce store. I find my job very fun. It's different every day and I'm happy to be here.

Excellent. And Christie is a return guest, and for the very first time, Dave is a guest. He's long overdue but I had to get him in here. I squeezed him in somewhere, hey Dave welcome to the show and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, Bob and Christie. And Thanks for having me on. I'm excited to be here as well. So I am the Founder of Recapture.io, which is an abandoned cart, email marketing service for a wide variety of platforms, including WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and Restrict Content Pro. With some other exciting new stuff coming in 2021 for WordPress. But I can't talk about it yet. We've been around since 2015 and we've recovered over 150 million for merchants of all different sizes. And I guess we know a little bit about e-commerce as a result of that. So I'm happy to be here and I'm certainly very happy to be talking with both of you.

Cool. What happened? End of November last year? Just one of these random thoughts, I saw this tweet, and it, somebody had, I gotta admit I don't know this person at all. His name was Eric Bandholz, and seems like he does a few different things. I'll put a link and share the tweet. But he had written this thread that basically was "10 things I wish I knew when I started "my e-commerce business."

And I saw a few people commenting on it and I saw a couple of names I recognized and I thought now wouldn't it be fun if I had some, you know, somebody on a couple of people, and we went through these 10 things and they gave me their perspective. Some people think these are very straightforward things, you know, like no-brainers, but really for the audience listen to this podcast, although a lot of you aren't merchant store owners. You're builders, so you may be building your own site for the first time, you're working with clients. You know, if one of these slipped by you, you can press them now and say, "Hey." You know. I know this because not only did I learned it from the tweet but Christie and Dave gave me incredible knowledge so now I'm even smarter and I can show off to my clients.

So there's a lot of, I think there's gonna be a lot of interesting stuff to go through this. And I'm just gonna go through these and have them each give from their experience, their perspective, and yeah, let's just see where this goes because like I said, they're very generic but I think they will have an opinion, you know. And I guess you'll probably wanna look at his profile from the tweet just to see where he's coming from, because, you know, there's always gonna be use cases that is different. But I'm gonna start no more delays. We'll start with Christie. So the first one was: Focus on products that are easiest to sell and most profitable. Don't get distracted, building a portfolio of products that don't perform.

Yes. First of all, I love this, sitting around with my friends talking about things that I saw on the internet. It's truly one of my favorite activities. I probably spend several hours a day doing that. So this is a lot of fun. And that first one makes sense. Here's why that one makes sense to me, you're most likely one person maybe a group of people, and you all have limited bandwidth. And we got to pick what is immediately available to us and run having a ton of half finished projects or having a ton of things that create lots of support requests, having a ton of things that create lots of complication and not having a team to boost all of those things up to a level of product quality. That's gonna get people talking about what you're doing and telling their friends is probably not a great idea.

So Christie, let me ask you a quick question. Do you know Eric at all? Have you been following his account?

I don't.

So I had been following Eric a Little prior to this tweet. So when Bob actually tweeted I had already seen Eric's tweet and then Bob's follow up stuff to that. So Eric, for those that might not be aware he runs a place called Beardbrand and they do like DTC beard oil, beard combs, all kinds of stuff like that. And he's been doing this for, I kinda gather a while now. And of course you can tell that I, you know, use these products religiously here with a clean-shaven face.

But I have, I followed him long enough to know that he seems to be a really smart guy in the DTC space. And it's interesting that his observation that he put out there, it seemed like hindsight observation in the sense that, of course you don't wanna, you know, focus on unprofitable or, you know, products that are not your best sellers but how do you get there was my question. I looked at that and I'm like, "You have to throw some stuff out there "in order to figure that out." And so this was definitely a later stage observation in a DTC business, I would say. Where you're gonna have to throw some stuff out there. So I wouldn't take Eric at a literal sense. Like you just have to know in advance what's gonna be profitable and what everybody's gonna like.

You know, you have to do some experimentation but once you do that experimentation I think the takeaway that I get from Eric's tweet here is that, you wanna gather data quickly, you want to make decisions based on that data. Don't just randomly guess and say, "Yeah, you know if I have mint centered beard oil "instead of eucalyptus scented beard oil "that's gonna be a better seller. "Cause I happen to personally like it." Your customers may hate it. But you know, for Eric he's gonna take that data and then look at that and say, "All right, here are my best sellers. "I really need to double down and focus on those. "These things are wasting my time. "They're ancillary. "I don't think that they're really driving my business "the way that they should."

And so therefore just get rid of them. But I think that the tendency would be, "Oh, well I've got this whole suite of products here "and these are selling okay. "But these are selling really well. "So I'll just keep them all, cause you know, I don't wanna lose any sales. I think that's what I took from Eric's tweet about get rid of the ones that aren't, you know, making your money, that are taken away from your time, your bandwidth and focus on the stuff that's really killing it for you.

Yeah. I think I would agree with that, right? I would definitely add that I don't think he means don't ever grow a multi-product catalog. I think he means don't do it at the beginning. That's totally on point. Because at the beginning your job is to build a base. As a consumer and then also just looking at the source on our platform now. I know that it seems to be a common, not the only, right? There's never really one but a common recipe for success to say, "Hey, we're selling this one unique thing."

And once you've got people raving about that thing now you come up with all sorts of related things because the people that are already your customers are going to repeat buy. You already have their information, they've already shown up willingness to purchase. I buy all kinds of weird stuff that I see on the internet, right? I'm not just sitting here selling online stores, I also often patronize small online stores and I've definitely seen a good number of sort of companies that will sell, you know, kits to make your own almond milk at home is something that I bought. And at first I only bought the base and then they offered me a jug for the milk. And then they offered me cashew milk instead of almond milk. And then they offered me all and I was like, "Yes, send it all to my house." You know, so.

Yup. Yup. Start with something successful and build out from there and stay focused on that. Yeah. Totally agree. I've seen that same pattern with Recapture as well.

On the second one, I like this because I think a lot of people maybe not so much these days but go into it, thinking I'm getting online the world is at my doorstep. You know, all pounding, waiting. He said,

"Don't go international "until you saturated your local market."

Dave.

When I read this, my first question was how do you know you've saturated your local market? How do you know you saturated any market? The only metric I could possibly think of was your sales have plateaued. But there are so many reasons your sales could plateau. It could be your channels that you're using are worn out, and you know, your CAC has gotten too high. Or, you know, you really have actually saturated that market or your list is stale or you're not reaching the right people.

So I'm not sure that I actually agree with this sentiment of Eric's here. I think you need to find a market that works. And I don't think it matters where that market is anymore. You know, international, local. It doesn't, you know, there are definitely reasons to go local because you might understand that market better but if you're selling something and they love it in Sweden sell the heck out of it to the Swedish. I mean, don't stop. You know, maybe then you can start doing adjacent Scandinavian countries after that. And maybe all of a sudden they love it down in, you know, Italy who knows.

You know, that to me isn't important, I think it's more important to know your market understand your customer, and then find out where they hang out and, you know, make sure you're focused on that channel more than anything. And you know, I still have no idea how to determine saturation of any kind.

Yeah, I would agree with that too. I didn't know, Eric, the most that I have learned about Eric is what you've told us now Dave and with that perspective, I could see why a DTC guy like this who is selling physical products would suggest this, right? Because when you're doing something like a subscription box, when you're doing something like custom manufactured, physical products, I've seen a handful of those stores like that. The international shipping could add a layer of complication that you're not ready to tackle yet. Right? But ultimately you're gonna have to tackle it.

The thing about e-commerce is that we are living in a global world and more and more places in the world are getting the ability to shop online and receive things by mail. And if people love your beard oil in Sweden, yes, right? There's no choice but to sell them the beard oil. And so I think that maybe that is what you have to think about. I don't know. I don't know what he might've been thinking about with that one. But that would be my speculation. And there's lots of resources out there that will help you figure it out. Right?

But when it comes to something like a digital product I didn't mention this in my intro, but before I worked at Liquid Web, I was working on Caldera Forms as general manager helped that form plugin get from the 30,000 active install level in the WordPress ecosystem to 200,000. And I think it's even higher than that now. And we weren't gonna saturate our local market of form plugins. Right? It was just going out wherever. It was like that, you know. And it was like people in South Africa love plugin let's figure out how to put a targeted campaign over to South Africa. I was You know? So I do think it's industry dependent. I see situations in which it might make sense to grow from the center and expand as you go. But overall, I think that we're living in a global world.

Yeah. Yeah.

Good.

I would like to double down on that logistics question or that comment. Because I think you're absolutely spot on there that Eric is probably looking at it from the logistics perspective. Cause mailing expenses are huge if you had to go international and I don't, I think you're right. And most people are not prepared to deal with that because it significantly adds to the cost of the product and that may turn people off.

But these are things you have to solve if you're doing that. But maybe you can say, look I just don't have the bandwidth to solve that and get my target market nailed at first. So if it's physical products, yeah. But digital stuff, you know, I also have done plugin sales not anywhere near the scale of Caldera Forums but I used to do business directory plugin and AWPCP, worldwide sales, heavily popular in Europe and South Africa as well. It would have been crazy for me not to support those markets.

So if you're doing courses online, digital, you know, digital products of any kinds like books or, you know, software, all of this stuff, international markets are super easy to hit. And you know, obviously you can do all of those things in WooCommerce. So it very much depends.

Yeah, it does depend. that's it so. Okay, a little bit on the business side of things.

Never sign a long-term contract unless you've been working with the vendor for years.

Christie is smiling. So I'm going to have Christie tackle that one.

I think that the trend that we're seeing is that we're saying that really makes sense at the beginning and starts to morph as you grow. And so at the beginning that makes sense to me because of the balance of power. If you're cutting deals and starting to build your partnerships and starting to figure out how to work with other people in your space, you wanna make sure that you're getting into things that you're gonna be able to handle. Because especially business partnerships are kind of like marriages in this weird way that you're really gonna have to work with this person, and nowadays after exiting in Caldera Forms, I do get a good number of requests about like, "Hey, you know, how did you meet your business partner? "How did you work with your business partner?"

And the reality of that was that we had known each other for a year plus and we were like, "Okay this is gonna be a big deal "So let's make sure that we're treating it "like a big deal and being really careful." And I would add that even if you've known the vendor as your balance of power grows and changes but even at the beginning, get a lawyer. You're going to want to have a lawyer take a couple of hundred dollars from you and review contracts that you're cutting with vendors because you can't possibly think of all the stuff that's coming down the road especially when you're starting out and you're dealing with that balance of power and they will help.

Yup. I a hundred percent agree with that. I would also add that there's some important learning that goes on when you've been working with a vendor for a little while, maybe they're not the right supplier of everything that you need upfront. Maybe they have some delivery issues and they're showing up late and you don't want that long-term contract to lock you in even if they had the terms that you thought were favorable, even if they had a pricing that was favorable if they can't deliver on what it is you are actually needing for your business you're in a lot of trouble with that.

And if you've been locked in with that long-term contract getting out of that could be expensive, it could harm your business materially, physically, legally, all of those things. You know, I'm just trying to think from a perspective of like, if you're looking at even digital services, you know, like for example, I used to use Drip for email marketing when I was doing the plugins. And you know, I was using the month to month for a long time, and then I realized, okay, they are gonna meet my needs, they're gonna grow with me to the point that I need to grow, and I'm comfortable signing a long-term contract now with them because their support is okay, their infrastructure is solid, delivery rates are what I want. And now I'm gonna sign a long-term contract so I can save 20% a year which now materially impacts my business in a positive way.

But that was only after I used them for a long time. You know, we don't lock anybody into long-term contracts at Recapture cause a lot of people are very nervous about that sort of stuff. And you don't wanna say, "You have to sign a year long contract with us. "You can't use us." And that's, that's just not a reality of this day and age. There are people that wanna do that upfront but they are definitely the exception not the rule.

Yeah. I mean, and the thing about Recapture having that pricing model is what I have found especially when it comes to WooCommerce plugin services is that any product worth its salt won't have that kind of commitment, and instead of we'll have a generous way for you to trial and test that relationship and then we'll offer you a discount or we'll offer you something upfront like that for that long order commitment. Partnerships are hard, vendor management is hard but ultimately you never wanna find yourself in that position where they're getting more out of you than you're getting out of them.

Totally agree.

Well, we're opening a can of worms at these next three questions cause they all talk about email and you know.

Yeah.

I have a feeling I'm gonna have to, that'll pretty much wrap up the show. We won't even get through them all with Dave all excited.

Yeah, this Dave all the question directed to Dave. Yeah.

I'm gonna combine the first two just and then the third one I'm gonna kinda read separately. Even though the first two are totally different but you can maybe touch on both of them. And now I'll start with Dave and hopefully you'll leave some room for Christie because I know he's excited about this one.

Okay.

So the first one is…

As early as you can build out automated emails, it's a gift that keeps giving.

And the second one…

The best way to collect email addresses is by selling products.

Shoot Dave.

Yes and yes. Christie. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I have more to say on it than that. Yes. So automated emails. A hundred percent agree that you can't build those out too soon. And I'll add a corollary to that. I think that there is a general fear amongst e-commerce merchants about sending too many emails that they think I'm just annoying my customers and I'm bothering them. I can't send so much. I gotta be really careful. I'm gonna send a broadcast once every six months. It's like, no, no, no, no, no, no. If you want to have that with your customers, if you want something that they're gonna, you know, when they think to themselves, "Gosh, you know, I need some beard oil."

You know, Christie is thinking to herself, "Gosh, you know, I need some beard oil right now." And you know who she gonna talk to her? She's gonna talk to Eric, right? She's gonna go to Beardbrand. But the only way she's gonna do that is if Eric has been sending those emails, you know, about how to use the product and what are the best products? Maybe there's different products that you use in the winter versus the summer. I don't know.

But that's the kinda stuff that you wanna be sending to your customers to develop that relationship with them. And if they don't like it they're gonna unsubscribe and that's okay. That's totally fine. Don't, you know, don't force people to stay on a list and have emails that they don't care about. But the people that stay on the list they care and those are the ones you wanna engage anyway. And just having every automated sequence you can out there as soon as possible.

Abandoned carts. Perfect example. So with abandoned carts if you are sending like three emails after somebody leaves their purchase on a WooCommerce store you're going have an increased chance of bringing them back to your store. If you don't do anything, you have zero chance. You know, it's the Wayne Gretzky quote. You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take. No automation, no shots, no recovery possible. But you know, if you can get 10% of that revenue back from those abandoned carts that's a win for your store. Like why would you not do that? There's just no reason.

And there's many, many different kinds of automations and you can go as crazy on this as you absolutely like but there's some definite, very basic ones like, you know, abandoned carts are up there, a welcome sequence, orders shipping and fulfillment review reminders. You know, those things feed back to your store in a very positive way. And customers need that kind of reassurance After they've ordered, they wanna know, "Oh, the orders being prepped and now it's gonna be shipped. "And now it's about to be received by me." Like they don't wanna have to guess where all these things are. You should just be sending them automatically.

And then the other ones since you put these together about email addresses, I'm actually gonna be a little contrary and say the best way is whatever you find resonates with your audience. Like just because you're selling products that's very broad. And if you're giving away something of high value, that's the best way to collect emails. And it doesn't necessarily mean you have to sell it. It just means you have to deliver something that the customers really want.

So that could be an autoresponder on your website that teaches them something about your product or about your service or about your plugin or anything. And that starts a relationship and it begins to engage them. It moves them from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel. And it's only at the bottom of the funnel that they're gonna convert into a paying customer and you got to help them through that customer journey. And that's the way to do it.

Dave covered all of that with such enthusiasm that I don't have anything else to add. Next question. No just kidding. I'll add a little bit more too. I was stealing Dave's joke. You nailed it with the last one. That's exactly what I was thinking the moment Bob read those. Products can be free.

Yup.

So that's correct because product to be free. And I really agree with everything Dave said. I think I might take sort of a step back and look at it in a big picture way. All of these have a recurring theme which is you got to get the basics right. There's no building upon a foundation that isn't good at the basic foundation level.

I spent a lot of my childhood and teen years studying music and particularly classical piano. And I actually really loved it but I got to a point where I was like, "Why am I doing this? "This is terrible." I don't wanna tilt to my hands like this. You know? And I was thought that you have to get the foundations. You wanna write pop music. You wanna do this. You wanna do that. You wanna play with computers and keyboards. You have to know the foundations and this stuff is how you learn foundations. And once you have that base then you can do whatever crazy stuff you want. You can order this crazy product catalog and collect emails and like weirdo ways. Right? But you gotta get those foundations in there.

Yep. I'll state another way you can't break the rules until you know them well.

Yes. I was taught that while I was in piano classes.

Yup. Yup.

Okay. The third one that was about email I think is a little interesting though. I'd like to hear what you say about this. And let's see. I'm gonna have Christie start with it.

Paid acquisition should exclude current customers with rare exceptions. Email is for retention.

Yes. I don't know what else to say to that. Why are you paying money to gain new sales inorganically from your existing customers?

It is kind of weird, right?

Yeah. Do people do that?

Yeah.

Well, I mean, I don't think that they intentionally do that. So I think--

Oh, okay.

Yeah, I think what I took from this was there is this tendency especially if you're doing paid advertising to, you know, take your Facebook pixel, slap it on the site, everybody that visits your site including your paid customers show up in that pixel. So then you use that pixel to re target ads on audiences. And you're basically throwing money away because you're sending it to people that have already bought your product.

So you know, there's a lot of products that are out there that allow you to do segmentation and customization so that you're not wasting your money trying to acquire new customers from the existing audience on customers that you already have. They've already paid. You like don't do that. That makes no sense to me. That's the spirit of what I took away from his thing there. And I think there's also a secondary piece to this which is there are tools that exist out there to help you customize your website so that it doesn't look the same for paid customers versus new customers.

So you gotta think tools like RightMessage. And you can even do this stuff yourself. If you wanna write all the Java script on your site and make your WordPress theme change content and stuff like that it's a lot of work. But RightMessage kinda does this all for you to where you can find out is this person on my email list. Great. Then this page should read a little differently than what it shows to somebody who's never been to my site before. And if there's a CTA where it says, "Hey, you know, join our online course." If somebody has already bought they don't need that online course they need something different.

So put a different CTA up there for them. So that's what I'm taking from this question but you know, a hundred percent agree. Don't advertise to your existing customers. Use email to make them come back. You know, your existing customers are five times more likely to buy from you than regular random, you know, Joe and Jane person on the internet. So use your email list to get them to come back with the right kinda message. But don't waste your advertising dollars upfront like that.

Okay. Thank you for explaining that to me because I was totally confused. You see the thing, the other thing I want you to learn about me is that I am cheap. So when I started running my ad campaigns I was like exclude my social media followers and people like them and exclude people from this and I think a lot of people maybe don't realize that that's the benefit of social media, right? Everybody's like I'm building my social media following and I'm putting out all this content and we're making sure that people follow us so they learn about us.

When I was selling plug-ins are conversing from social media was like nothing. The reason that my social media was helpful, was things like that. Okay, these people know about me, exclude these people from this. These people know about me, resell them, something. These people know about me, send something that's helped four the people that are already there. And especially with ads were paid inorganic traffic it's sole reason for being is to take people that don't know about you, but are in your addressable market so don't target the people that already know about you. And also don't target the people that are likely to learn about you from the people that already know about you. Target the people that are even outside of that, right?

So for people that are selling stuff for WooCommerce or selling WooCommerce extensions, plugins, things like that you're not selling to your existing customers and you're also not selling to the people who are gonna hear about you through your existing customers. You're selling to those people that maybe don't even think about how much they're related to WooCommerce. You're buying ads that are gonna get you the people that are thinking about, I don't know, SEO. The people that are thinking about passive income, the people that are thinking about whatever, all of those trends that have a tangental relationship to WooCommerce.

And I think both of those, what you both said is great because I think a lot of people especially entering starting their first store or starting selling the first thing do think, they do focus so much on their current customers and, you know, especially social. I love that Christie. How you compared it to social and talking to people that, you know, kinda already know a lot of this stuff. And if you're, yeah, if you're selling a plugin, you know, who's following you? Probably people that buy your plugin. So it's like, you could keep trying to sell them the same plugin or something. So there's a lot of, yeah. There's a lot of interesting things there.

And the next one kind of falls up on ads, but more again on the business sides of things.

To be successful in paid acquisition you need to know how to create a lot of compelling ads which is pretty much a no brainer. It's probably best to create ads in-house using agency to manage those ads.

Now I know this is like really depends. This is, yeah. It depends. Do have the money? Do you have the staff? Do you have all this different stuff? But like your thoughts on that, Dave, why don't we start with you?

Sure. Yeah. You know, I'm definitely gonna give an it depends answer. But I would say that fundamental to any advertising, two things have to be true upfront. One you really have to have your product nailed in terms of do you have product market fit? And if you don't understand your audience well enough that you can sell your product and that, you know what the customer persona looks like, you're not gonna be successful with any advertising campaign at that point. Paid acquisition is only when you truly understand your market, the product, how to promote it, who you're promoting it to. So if you don't understand that, forget paid acquisition, forget paid advertising altogether. Learn about that and then come to this step two.

So I think that's implicit in what Eric says. I don't think he's suggesting otherwise. But it's definitely one of those, you have to know where you have to get to in order to do this in the first place. Secondly, I think that depending on your skillset, depending on your size of your business and your budget, managing it in-house might make all the sense in the world if you have somebody maybe yourself who is comfortable with creatives can build, the graphics, can write the copy, can make it really compelling, and you know, do the AB testing of all of that stuff. To figure out which of these things is gonna perform the best. So now I think that's where the agency comes in. And if you're gonna go with an agency I think you're probably making above 10K a month in revenue to be able to afford that on a long-term basis.

I think you might be able to get them for a little one-off stuff below that. But if you wanna really engage them and have them do a full on management you can't really do that until you get past a certain point within your paid acquisition. And that just requires a lot of time and effort and understanding on your part.

Yeah. Dave really nailed that. I mean, it's a noise thing, right? If you don't pay attention to those ads, first of all, I am cheap. I don't wanna pay per view and per click and have those not be effective, that's like my worst nightmare. I don't like wasting money. And so you're gonna know your product best and you wanna craft those messages and you wanna be able to iterate those messages fast at the beginning. And a lot of the time you see generic ads out there, how many people out there have seen a generic ad and you were like, wow, that's a generic ad. You don't wanna have that effect. And you especially don't wanna throw your money at that effect.

The next one is really specific. So I'm gonna put it a little bit differently.

He's talking about doing things in-house and he suggested a couple of books to read. So I'm going to and these books are to help you with hiring people and leading them. One was "Rockefeller Habits" the other was "Traction". So how I'm gonna phrase this to you and I'll start with Christie is have you read either one of these and do you agree, and if you haven't read either one of these, do you know of some resource that would be good for, you know, doing things in-house that he kind of referred to?

I feel very self-conscious because I haven't read either one of those books.

I haven't neither. I haven't neither.

Yeah. So I'm a little bit at a loss as to how to respond to that one, Because all I have to go off of is your context, but it sure sounds to me like he's talking about making sure that your in-house processes are systems, not people doing the same stuff over and over and over by hand.

Yeah.

And you have a team of high performers that are constantly thinking about how to make things more efficient. That's my in the dark shot on that one.

Yeah. How about you, Dave? Have you read either one of those.

I have actually read "Traction". In fact, I have a copy sitting about four feet away from me here to the left.

I was gonna say, "You should've have had it and held it up, "we could have done some real visual here."

Oh, well, okay. I can do that. Yeah. So here, let me pull that up. Yeah. So I've got actually both of the books right there. So Gino Wickman is the author of "Traction". And then he has a follow on for basically it's kind of a fictional company where he basically takes his, you know, decade of experience of doing this thing called the entrepreneur's operating system and then writes a fictional story about what a company typically would look like going through this whole process.

And having read "Traction" back in like October, it's still pretty fresh in my mind. So I have some definite thoughts. I don't know anything about "Habits". I've never read Rockefeller's book. It's gotten my list now and I'll check it out eventually on Kindle. But for "Traction", I would say, there is stuff that can be taken away, and it will work very well. Christie was absolutely dead on with the it's about processes. It's yes. Way to go. It's absolutely about processes. It's about reproducibility and scale and just understanding your business from front to back so that you can find the right person and make sure that they're in the right seat and that they know exactly what it is that they should be doing. And that you should, you know, as a whole business, know what you should be doing.

So there's this whole thing about defining your values and then defining, you know, where do you see your business in 10 years, three years, one year and the next quarter. And then you set goals based on all of that there. And then you have to sort of say, "All right, well who do I have in the company? "Do they really fit with the values that I defined up here?" Because if you don't know what it is you value you can't determine whether you have the right person employed for a particular job. And then you have to say, "All right, well what is it that they're doing? "What part of my overall process do they fit into? "And is that the person that I should have in that process?"

So "Traction "is really good for all of that but I would also say that as a small founder so, you know, I was trying to apply this to Recapture and I use probably about 60% of "Traction" from the whole thing. There are definitely pieces of it. Like they had this thing called the level 10 meeting. I don't need a level one meeting for myself let alone a level 10 meeting. You know, I'm the only person in the org except for a developer. So some of that stuff just doesn't apply. But, you know, I did the values definition and I did the goal setting and the, you know, they call them quarterly rocks and stuff like that. But all of that applies when your business reaches a certain scale. So I'd say once you get past about three to five people there's an organizational breakdown that starts to happen. Where communication gets a little jumbled from time to time, and people don't quite aren't on the same page.

You know, your developers might be doing something different than the marketers and you might have your logistics people and shipping not quite in line with what the sales is happening on the site or the fulfillment or customer support whatever those roles are. There comes a point when you need some organizational structure. And "Traction", I think helps you define that. And I think it helps give you some ways to move forward. And I would agree that if you've passed that point and you've tried to just fake it until you make it it can be three years too late.

Like Eric said, for "Traction". It can also be three years too early. You know, the stuff I'm reading on "Traction". I don't need all this stuff there. Eventually I'm hoping I will need it. And I'm glad that I read it so that I have some basis to think about like, "Oh if I'm getting to this level of hiring, "then I really need to start looking "at these other things in EOS." I think it's still a highly valuable book to read. Just understand that based on where you're at in your scale of the company it might not be a hundred percent applicable.

Y'all I swear, I had never heard of this book. It's like, we played a word association game. I heard you say in-house, and I heard you say "Traction". And I was like, "I don't know what any of this is "but systems." And that has to do with, you know, to be completely transparent. I learned that lesson the hard way probably because I didn't read this book. And I got to a point with Caldera Forms where I was so overwhelmed. I was like, "Oh my God, we have way too much to do "and don't have people to do it." And by that point we had an advisory board and they brought that up, and it was, "Okay, well, what are you doing?" And I list some of the stuff that I was doing, and they were just like, Why are you wasting your time with this stuff?" Design all of this stuff away. Off your plate.

Design all of this stuff away. Your job has changed. You were doing all this stuff because you were trying to go from a thousand dollars a month to $10,000 a month. Okay. Like, or it was even before that honestly. It was like, we were much smaller than that. And I got so overwhelmed because I hadn't been thinking in a systems way. And once I started to shift my thinking that's how we got from, you know, I think we were probably like 4000 or whatever, like up into the 10, up into the 16, up into the, right? Like yeah.

Yeah.

When you don't have processes in place it'll kill you at some point.

Yeah.

I have to admit that over the years I think I have had level 10 meetings with myself and I just advise nobody to do that. Or go that route. You'll end up like me and yeah, just don't do it. So we are on the second to the last. Now this is in another world because right now we're not really having trade conferences in person but they will come around. We can be rest assured I think we're on the right path now. So I just had to throw that in, but he said,

"Trade conferences are worth their weight in gold "don't hesitate to going to one and stay in the hotel."

I thought that was good. Well then yeah, you should probably stay in a hotel, instead of sleeping outside the conference building but I understand what he was saying but--

Sleeping bags outside of the conference venue are definitely discouraged.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I've tried that word camping all that. That's another story in itself.

Yeah.

But let's just from your experience, well, we'll make this a quick one cause I kinda liked the last one to maybe elaborate best on it. Has trade, you know, trade conferences treated you well?

We'll let Christie start.

Okay. Yes. I totally agree with that. Back when we had trade conference. We definitely got a ton of value out of a tree conferences. I will also say that I have not stayed at the conference hotel before and I have stayed at the conference hotel and staying at the conference hotel makes a huge difference. It is totally worth the investment because it sounds so obvious. And I know that a lot of people out there are more on the introverted side.

So you might hear the stuff and you may think, "Well that's not gonna be me." But you're gonna have the most valuable conversations in the hallway, in the elevator, in the lobby. And even those of us who shy away from that situation. Look, you're gonna be in an elevator with someone else that's wearing that same lanyard. And they're gonna be like, "Oh cool. "But session did you go to today?" And that may be the last time you talked to a person or they might become your next vendor a year down the road. It's such solid advice.

Yeah. I a hundred percent agree. That trade conferences have been probably the number one way that I have built relationships with other friends people that have been in mastermind groups with me, people that I just wanna hang out with and regularly interact with online. I've learned so much by just engaging in these relationships over the years, that there's literally no downside to it. Whatever that money that the cost to stay in the hotel, it creates opportunities that you would not have if you're staying somewhere else. And I've tried to stay somewhere else. And I did not have those same opportunities.

And in fact, you're just spending more time going back and forth between the venue and you waste a lot of that, you know, downtime that you would normally get those hallway conversations. The hallway track is by far the most valuable thing of almost any conference.

I will say that, you know, for e-commerce, I'm kinda disappointed in WooCommerce. Like they do not have a world-class conference like Magento does, Shopify does. You know, Shopify Unite, Magento Imagine, don't have an analog in the WooCommerce world. We used to have WooCommerce Dev WooConf but that stopped in 2017. And now there's nothing. And you got Woo Session. I don't wanna diss on Woo Session at all. Cause Patrick and those guys do a great job but it had to be virtual this year. And we need something of that caliber because the stuff that happens at the, you know,

I've been to Shopify Unite, and I've been to other things like PressNomics, and you know, WordCamps and the things that happen there but WooCommerce focused would be amazing. So, you know, this is a call to the entire community out there. If you are looking to do something big in WordPress and you're like, "I don't know what I should do." And not, you know, everything's been done that hasn't been done. Do it. You. I'm calling you out, come do it.

Yeah. And I think that, and, you know, I wouldn't, yeah, I wouldn't say never. But they'll do it. Because there could be something on the horizon. I think what they have to kinda decide is who's a conference for? Is it for the developers or is it for the merchant owner? Cause you know, to you have merchants come and mix them with developers could... It works with WordCamps but I don't know if it would work so much with that. It could. But we could get into that whole discussion.

But I think, yeah, I think there's potential, and you know, the way things have kind of notched up incredibly I wouldn't be surprised if we see something happening in person when we can be in person again.

I wanna get to this last question here because you two have given us so much I'm sure people are listening are basically their heads are hurting it by this point cause they have so much in their brain that they've absorbed. But this last one is very interesting.

If you're super profitable pull the money out of the business and force yourself to operate lean, bad decisions are made when you feel rich.

Let's start with you, Dave.

I know exactly where Eric is coming from in this one because I can say that I've been one of those people that's made those bad decisions. And when you feel like you've got extra money laying around then I think that tends to make you a little sloppier because you'll do things like, "Oh, I'll just hire an agency to do that." "I'll outsource that to the content marketing people "and they'll take care of it." And it's okay that it costs $3,000 a month. Cause I'm in the five figures of revenue now and it's not a big deal. But if you're not paying very close attention to what you get for that money then you can make some really bad decisions with that.

So I think the mentality that I heard from what Eric is saying there is try to keep things lean and make tight decisions based on small budgets to try to do the best you can with limited resources by actually forcing yourself to think like that. I think you can make some really interesting creative decisions a result. Now with that said I will say that that can bite you later down the road. And if you do that forever and ever and ever when you're still growing and growing and growing you are gonna get to a point where you become a bottleneck or people are like, "We need to spend more on this. "Why aren't you letting me spend more in this?" And you have to know when to let that go. But I wouldn't say that that's right away.

I totally agree. One of the really cool adults that I knew growing up was this family friend, Mr. Harry. And he was an attorney. And I remember like one time I said something and he was like, "I have an article for you." And this man like had like a stack of this article printed out and was just like, "This is for you." I was like. "Does he just like hand out this article, "like what is going on?"

And I read this article that was this photocopy of an article from, I think "The Economist". And it talked about the virtues of difficulty. And it started out with these examples like Jack White intentionally plays on crappy guitars. Because if he figures that he can make a crappy guitar sound good then he can make a fantastic guitar sound amazing. And it talks about how putting intentional constraints on yourself in all areas of life helps you achieve more. Because if you just expand and expand and expand and things are easy, it's less easy to make do with what you have, so that when you are in the position where you have a ton you can make do with a ton, right? We'll kind of get used to whatever level of spending is going on. And it's a really cool article.

I'll find the link again, and send it to you, Bob, so you can include it with this episode but it kinda talks about that. And I think that's what he's alluding to, right? That you don't want to get into a space where you're making all of these wasteful decisions because wastefulness prevents growth. With that side I totally agree with you. Right? I was joking around about being cheap. Sometimes it's really good because it helps you not make wasteful decisions but sometimes it holds you back. I waited way too long to cheaply buy those ads. And I had to learn to, you know, say, yeah, like, "Here's the calculation. "We're gonna throw more money at this "that makes me comfortable." But you don't develop that gut sense until you have figured out how to exist within a constraint.

Yeah. And your answer there made me think of one other thing. There is a massive advantage in working with constraints because what happens when you get a sales slump and you still need to keep growing. And all of a sudden that 50% profit margin shrinks down to 20%, can you still operate in that? Cause if you were using all of that budget and all of a sudden you've lost that now what happens? You know, you're in a tighter spot. But if you can operate in that smaller margin, you have an advantage over everybody else that is basically, you know, spending outside of their means.

Well this has been amazing, you know. I knew it. I knew it would be. That's why I invited you two. But that's my own personal preference. I'm gonna just throw out the bonus tip. We're not gonna talk about it, but he did add a bonus tip, enjoy the journey rather than building for an end point. I'll let everybody discuss amongst themselves on that one and cogitate over that. And that can be done later when you're sitting in the home sipping on a cocktail or a glass of water or whatever.

So again, this has been amazing. I'm gonna Thank our sponsors real quick woocommerce.com and paypal.com. I'd like for you to share where people can connect with you because after they listened to the show, if they haven't connected with you, they'll want to. And if they've already connected with you, if they haven't gotten something out of this show, I'm thinking, I don't think there's a human being out there that exists. That can't say, "Aha." There was one aha moment at least. Even if they've had an e-commerce site for years and years and years. So Christie, where can people find you?

You can find me on the internet. Christiechirinos.com is my personal website. You can also find me on Twitter. If you like Twitter, it's @xtiechirinos, C-H-I-R-I-N-O-S. And you can find me at Managed WooCommerce at Nexcess by Liquid Web. We are there at nexcess.net/woocommerce and you can buy the cheapest plan and then immediately demand to talk to the product lead.

Wow.

Just do it. Don't even buy it, just buy the free trial and then send an email to support being like, "I would like to talk to product development now." I promise you it'll work.

Cool. That is it, you know. Everybody has a mission now. So do it. How about you, Dave? Where can people find you?

You can find Recapture @recapture.io and there's a variety of links on the homepage there to install for your favorite platform. You can also find me on Twitter @recapture. or @recaptureio for the business, and at Dave Rodenbaugh which is spelled R-O-D-E-N-B-A-U-G-H for random thoughts and lots of nerd jokes.

Excellent. And I just wanna give a quick Thank you to Eric for his tweet.

Yeah.

It was the inspiration behind this. If you're listening Eric, if you've made it through the entire show which I hope you have and you've heard some reflections and perspectives on what you suggested, I wanna Thank you. You can follow Eric on Twitter @bandholz. That's B-A-N-D-H-O-L-Z. And then his brand Twitter account is at @beardbrand. So if you got a beard, you might wanna check it out. And if you're thinking about growing one you might wanna check it out. So Thank you, Eric. And Thank you everyone for joining me and especially Thank you two for filling us with all this great knowledge.

Hey, Dave.

Yeah.

Should we start a conference? I don't know.

I called everybody out and you're part of everybody. So yeah, I guess we have to start a conference now.

Okay. Well next up.

Okay. Well, there'll be another show on the horizon for that announcement and I'll hold you to it. I'll just, monthly, you know, it's that recurring, you know, you got to keep with your customers, keep being in at them. So I'm just gonna, I've got these two in the Rolodex now. The virtual Rolodex. And it's like, when's that conference happening? When is that conference happening? So, you know.

What have I done.

Oh Christie.

Here we go. All right, everybody. Thanks for joining us. This was a blast and until next time, Do the Woo.