Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Proven Tips For Being Successful With Network Marketing

Think again if you are one of those that feel marketing with email days are behind you. Email solicitation is one of the earliest marketing techniques used on the Internet, but it is no where near finished. Email marketing is always advancing through the development of new strategies and techniques that keep emails interesting and effective. Read on for tips on how e-mail marketing can work for you.

Email only those you know. Mailing recipients who are unfamiliar with you or your product may come across as spam. They’ll be wondering if they know of you from somewhere and whether they care about what you’re attempting to sell to them. Your emails will not even be opened. Do not waste your time emailing people you do not know.

Construct your email so that it sounds personal. If you send emails which the reader identifies with, they will be more apt to buy from your company. You can use their name, mention items they might like based on past purchases, or show them items in their favorite color.

TIP! You should endeavor to make your emails seem as personal as you can. As with many other types of marketing, people are more likely to respond if they feel a personal connection with you.

If you plan on starting a marketing campaign via email, it is vital that you get permission from every single person you plan on contacting. If people do not willingly sign up for your emails, you could reported for spam.

You should generate one crystal-clear message for every email that you send. Don’t overwhelm your reader with a ton of text! Create the specific message using brevity and conciseness. Customers will be more likely to read, visit your site and buy, if they don’t have to sift through a lot of extra information.

Be sure you proofread your emails before you send them. The content of your emails, from subject to footer, must be typo-free and properly written. Before sending out your email, test the layout in a few different email clients to be sure it can be read the way you would like it to be read. Click on every link in the email to make sure each functions as expected.

Make sure that everything you mail out has been proofread. The content of your emails, from subject to footer, must be typo-free and properly written. Double check how the layout will look on all platforms, from your browser to your cell phone. Also, check any links you include in the email to ensure they work.

TIP! Before sending any emails, be sure to proofread them thoroughly. You need to make sure all emails and newsletters are correct.

Keep the graphics to a minimum in your emails. Graphics can take a long time to load which may discourage some users from viewing the e-mail. In addition, email programs are more likely to send your emails to the junk mail folder if you overuse graphics.

Make sure you get permission from all customers whom you send correspondence to via email. If you choose not to, you can cause customers not to trust you and it could give your business a bad name. Excessive complaints of spamming may also cause some internet service providers to ban all of your messages.

As you now know, marketing with email is a strategy that still works. Follow this advice while staying alert for new ways to use email to market your products. You can periodically adjust your strategy to keep it fresh every time.

One great way to get people to read your direct email marketing messages and newsletters is to include special offers available only to the recipients. These types of emails will provide your customers real value and encourage them to tell their friends about your company. As a matter of fact, referral programs are great ways to grow your email base at the same time you are growing your customer base.

Blue widgets is a complex topic, which is why you should take the time to research it some more. Thankfully, this article contains excellent tips to help you move ahead. Now put what you have read in this article to use.

E-mail Marketing Tips The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

When you want to market your business, you might wonder which techniques are the best to use. E-mail marketing has long been one of the successful and smart ways to interact with your customers and clients. Here are just a few techniques to use to make your marketing with email effective.

Do your best to create emails that are personal. Just like any other marketing, those who get them will buy more from you if they feel like they know you. As an example, you can recall why a customer signed up within your email.

Send emails to people who are familiar with you and request your notifications. Sending messages to those who do not have any prior relationship with the company or your offerings may give the appearance of spam. The recipients will be hesitant to accept your mail if they don’t know you, and they may not care about your companies product. They may just delete your message; what a waste of time!

TIP! Only send emails to individuals you know. If someone receives unsolicited email, it feels like spam.

Identify and appeal to your audience. Think of a way to entice them to have their friends join. Be sure to consistently include a link to subscribe in any email you send; hopefully, recipients will forward it to their friends that may be interested in the things that you offer. This way your base will grow organically.

Avoid bombarding your recipients with the “Buy now!” approach. ” strategy. When you send out too many emails, customers will regard them as spam, and will be less likely to make a purchase from you. Trust me, all of them know you are trying to sell a product or service; however, you will realize greater success if you first build a relationship with them and then promote both yourself and what you are offering, professionally. They will like this and will likely purchase from you.

Test different formats for your email. The top of the emails should always contain the most interesting and important information. You must try different types of formats in order to determine which gives you lots of response. Once you realize what is successful, stick with it. Your customers will appreciate being given the time to learn where the various elements of the email are so they know what will come next week.

Keep your style and format the same for each email you send out. Always use the same company logo and colors in your email. Be sure that you’re using a font that people can read. After you send out a few emails, people will recognize it and will start to pay attention. A recognizable brand is an important marketing factor, especially with email marketing.

TIP! Practice consistency. Always make use of the same company color and logo in your email.

Be consistent. Be consistent in your emails, using the same colors, and always including the company logo. Use easy-to-read fonts for text-based information. After a few messages, people will start to recognize when you send an email, and will pay attention. In marketing via email, familiarity is a key aspect.

Make sure you have permission from the subscriber before you send them emails. When you send out spam, your emails won’t be effective. Most people will not only delete the email, but also resolve to never do business with you in the future.

Keep in mind that the goal of e-mail marketing should be to promote and sell your goods. Every email should be a way to get clients to make a purchase. This can be done by writing emails that give information on new products or promotions on old ones.

Having an unsubscribe link where it can be clearly seen is a great idea. Don’t fail to provide an unsubscribe link and don’t bury it so deep in the text that it cannot be found. The goal is to give your customers the freedom to choose what they receive, not to force them into something they may not want.

TIP! Add a link that allows people to unsubscribe from your list. Never fail to give your customers this unsubscribe link, and you should never bury this link within the text that makes it difficult to be located.

Limit your e-mail marketing messages to one per week. Your customers, like you, have busy lives and probably receive many emails each day. If your emails arrive more than once weekly, subscribers are more likely to trash them without ever reading the content that you put so much time into.

Always include an unsubscribe link in your emails. Put your link to unsubscribe in a place that is easily visible and be sure it is a part of every email. You never want your readers to feel as if they don’t have a choice in receiving your emails.

Email marketing is a cost effective way of promoting your company. Apply the advice given in the above article in order to cause your marketing with email campaign to stick out from the rest of the competition. Continue searching for new methods of making your emails relevant to your customers.

Remember that in each passing day, your readers are likely to read your emails using a mobile device or even a smartphone. The lower resolution of those devices means that there’s less space on the screen to display your messages. Find out more about the limitations that come with these devices, and be sure that the emails will be able to be read on all screens.

Many people wish to become more knowledgeable about email marketing

emails, but they may not know how to do that. This article can help jump start your learning experience. Just put all this advice to good use.

Local_Search_Engine_Marketing_For_Your_Business

Local Search Engine Marketing For Your Business

The days of merely adding, a Free Business Listing in your local, Google.com is over. Where this can be an effective marketing strategy for local business, as well as aid you in ranking well within Google Maps, you still have the option of adding Google Coupons which appear within your Business Listing within Google Maps and YouTube video as well as images.

The internet has many advantages for your Local Search marketing strategy:

Ensure that you explore as well as implement a more broad Local Search Marketing strategy even if you only have one business website ranking upon Google for your business. Take advantage of the internet while applying Local Search Marketing strategies.

Take advantage of the free tools offered by search engines to advertise your business:

No matter if you utilize a Local Search Marketing Expert or you perform these strategies yourself for your business, you will find that you can build upon a Business Listing. There are numerous free tools, which you can utilize while expanding your products and services. This will generate more leads while proving to be not only effective but cost efficient. You will find this measure is far more effective as compared to the Yellow Pages or other online directories.

Integration is the key:

You must understand that the Local Search does not replace your business website. You can however integrate your website with the Local Search while ensuring that any questions potential customers might have will be answered.

Customers have many questions about your business:

More times to none, customers will ask if your business is trustworthy. They will also request information pertaining to prices, which your business offers on your products and services; which you provide. Customers will also ask for recommendations of what will be most beneficial for their particular needs.

Bringing in new customers:

You will want to bring in new customers for your business. If you are successful in your Local Search Marketing strategy, you will find that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to accomplish this; or does it? On the other hand, you will find that constructing a Local Search Marketing strategy does however require time as well as commitment. If you are finding yourself stretched too thin or you are confused on some of these tactics, you might want to consider hiring a Local Search Marketing Expert to aid you with your project.

Stay ahead of the game

Can you believe that the majority of small businesses do not have their own business website? Even though this is hard to believe it is a reality. Most local small businesses owners don’t have the knowledge or time for accomplishing this task; this is where you will be one-step ahead of your local competitors, with a Local Search Marketing campaign.

In utilizing a Local Search Marketing strategy, you will solve one of the largest challenges for most small businesses, who are needing to get ahead of their local competition.

Expect Success With These E-Mail Marketing Tips

A lot of people aren’t really interested in learning about marketing via email. Knowing how to take advantage of email marketing strategies can make it much easier to realize how it can give you a big advantage as you grow your business.

Do your best to keep your email message personal. It has been shown that when customers feel a personal connection with a business, they are more likely to continue their relationship. Use your customer’s names in the emails that you send them, and thank them in a personal way. This will give them the impression that your business cares and can go a long way toward increasing sales.

If you plan on starting a marketing campaign via email, it is vital that you get permission from every single person you plan on contacting. If you do not, people will complain of spam and you may lose customers.

TIP! When developing an email marketing plan, make sure that every customer on your email list has voluntarily “opted in” to be on that list and provided you with an email address for that specific reason. This reduces the chances of your emails being marked as spam.

Before getting involved in an e-mail marketing effort, you must obtain permission to email each person on your list. If not, you will be looking at many spam complaints and loss of customers.

Double and triple proof your emails before you hit the “send” button. You have to make sure all your newsletters and emails are letter perfect. Double check how the layout will look on all platforms, from your browser to your cell phone. Additionally, test all hyperlinks in your email and double-check that they point to the right place.

Experiment with different formats for your email newsletters. Always place new offers and the most vital information at the top of the emails you send. But keep trying new formats and ideas until you discover the one or ones that provide you with the greatest number of responses. Once you determine the format that works for your customers, stick with it. This helps your customers form expectations about future emails and lets them easily find the information they’re looking for.

Make your customers anticipate the arrival of your newsletter in their email by using it to offer them exclusive specials and markdowns. This form of email marketing not only gives your readers a real value for their participation, but also encourages them to refer friends. Consider giving even greater discounts to those readers who do refer new customers.

TIP! Make sure you include limited promotions and special offers in your newsletters; this will keep your customers interested and always on the lookout for future emails. Email marketing makes your readers feel more valued, as well as encourages them to invite friends.

Keep your style and format the same for each email you send out. Make sure to be consistent with your colors and branding in your emails. The font you select should be easy to read. Once they have received a couple of messages, your customers will recognize your emails, and be happy to open them. A recognizable brand is an important marketing factor, especially with marketing with email.

This article should have shown you some ways to ensure that your marketing via email strategy helps you achieve all of your business goals. Go on and use these tips and you will soon see increased traffic to your site.

Many people want to find out more about email marketing

emails, but they don’t know where to start. Luckily, this piece includes all you require to move forward successfully. You can use the information you have learned here!

Learning from Target’s Ability to Create Rabid Fans and Emotional Connections

If loving Target is wrong, then Laura and Carrie don’t want to be right. Today we tackle a topic very near and dear to many a millennial woman’s heart: shopping at Target. We talk about why they continue to be able to compete with Amazon, how building sub brands has been crucial to their success and tips you can bring to your own business from the famous bullseye.

You’ll learn:

Why discounts matter – even if they’re small
How a seamless checkout is crucial in person and online
How Target has got Walmart beat at the in-store experience

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

(With your host Andrew Youderian and Laura Serino of eCommerceFuel.com, and Carrie McAleer of D.a. Davidson & Company)

Andrew: Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, guys, it’s Andrew here. And welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast.” Thanks so much for joining me on the show today. And today, I wanna talk about Target versus Wal-Mart, and how two retailers that both are in massive boxes, both are in, you know, cities across the United States, North America and the world, can be perceived so differently.

It’s a little more macro than topics I tend not to use for this podcast focused on seven-figure plus store owners, but I think there are some lessons that we can potentially take away from the comparison.

So, I mean if you look at Wal-Mart and Target, they’re both fighting Amazon. Both of them are kind of stalled out in terms of sales and growth, and Wal-Mart is much, much bigger. They’re about six times as big. And yet Target is the more profitable of the two. If you look at Target, they have a four percent net margin, which is improved from 2.8% in 2013.

And that’s a pretty impressive time to improve your net profit margin, you know, up more than, you know, 33% in one of the hardest, if not the hardest five years in retail ever. Wal-Mart has about two percent net margin, so Target’s twice as profitable. What are they doing right? How are they able to do that with less scale?

Meet The Target Fan Girls

So, joining me to talk about that is Carrie McAleer, who is a certified wealth strategist at DA Davidson and Company here in Boston, Montana, and also happens to be my sister. So, really fun to have her on the show today, and she was kind enough to put all of the terrible things I did as an older brother, a teenager older brother growing up, behind us for this episode and still agreed to come on, so, thank you, Carrie.

And then Laura Serino, copy writer extraordinaire, and of course many of you will recognize as the community and content manager for eCommerceFuel.

Thanks, Sponsors!

But before we dive into that discussion, I wanna thank our two amazing sponsors first, Liquid Web, who offers the absolute best environment to host your WooCommerce store online. If you’re on Woo or you’re thinking about getting on to WooCommerce, it’s a rock solid scalable platform, engineered from the ground up for WooCommerce, and has like a lot of cool features, one for example, they have 25 built-in cart tests to stress test your store.

You can run scenarios where you’ve got dozens or hundreds of people browsing, placing orders, doing cart look ups, to make sure your store is prepared when you get hit with that massive traffic spike on Black Friday or whenever it is. So, that’s just one of many features. You can learn more about their offering and get started at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And then secondly, a big “Thank you” to Klaviyo, who makes email marketing for eCommerce stores incredibly easy, profitable and automated. And one cool feature I want to mention from them if you don’t know about is their Shopify back-in-stock feature. So, it makes a ton of sense, right? You have something out of stock, visitors come, they can’t buy it, you should allow them to be able to enter their email and get notified when it’s back in stock, which you’re doing on your store, right?

Of course, right? No, of course you’re not, because it’s a hassle. You’ve gotta custom coded up in Liquid, or you’ve got to go sign up for a plugin. If you’re with Klaviyo, you can do that all automatically. It’s a very seamless integration. So, if you’re using Klaviyo, set that up, and Shopify of course. If not, you can get started with Klaviyo for free and learn about that and a bunch of other cool features at ecommercefuel.com/klaviyo.

All right, so let’s learn how Target can help us build more profitable, better ecommerce stores. So, Carrie and Laura, how often do you guys shop at Target? Carrie, maybe we can start with you and then go to Laura.

Target Makes Habitual Shoppers

Carrie: Sure, I probably shop at Target on average, every two to three weeks, I would say.

Laura: I have a monthly pilgrimage to Target, but I am probably constantly like cyber window shopping on Target on their app and stuff, so I feel like I’m constantly adding to cart, but my in-store is every month.

Andrew: So, how often do you shop online on Target, you said?

Laura: I mean, I’m not purchasing all the time, but I’m almost using it as my new Google now. So, like, anything I need, I’m on Target now and I’m adding to my cart. I’ve got my app, saving it to my Target list. So I don’t know, it’s not necessarily shopping all the time on Target, but I’m just on the website, creating my list every day.

Andrew: With this list, do you create and then you go, you’ll place a pick-up order and then you go and you’ll, when you go to Target in your monthly pilgrimage you’ll buy it, or you use it as like stuff to check out when you’re in the store?

Laura: Yeah, so they have like a “My-list” section on their app, so I’ll like be on their website, or on their mobile app, and I’ll just click, “Add to my shopping list,” and then I when I’m in store, I’ve actually got kind of like a list of things that I’m either meaning to pick up or to check out, and it’s kind of my own curated list that’s very handily on my Target app that I’m shopping with when I go in.

Andrew: Wow, do you do this too, Carrie?

Carrie: I don’t do that.

Laura: You aren’t hard core.

Carrie: You are hard core.

Andrew: You guys hear so much about, like oh, multi-device and, you know, omni-channeling all this stuff and they use there, right it off, and I’m like, “Yeah, right how much do it happen?” but it is actually happening with the way you do it, which is just cool.

Laura: I’m very multichannel, yeah, for sure.

Why Target Has Loyal Shoppers

Andrew: So, I’m gonna throw this out there, kind of just to give you guys a softball for your love for Target, but why do you shop there versus other stores? Carrie, I mean, we can start with you.

Carrie: I think I shop at Target versus other stores for a couple of reasons. I think first of all, they have a bright, clean environment. And it’s a little hard to put into words, but when you enter a Target, it’s bright, it’s cheerful, you have things that are relevant to the seasons, that are very in-style.

I know they work with designers to have certain fashion lines come into Target that are maybe an offshoot and a less expensive line than they would have maybe at the mall, or Macy’s, or Nordstrom.

I know it sounds silly, but I just get kind of excited and giddy when I walk into Target, and it’s bright and, you know, the employees are, you know, they tend to be, in my observation, they tend to be younger than Wal-Mart or other competitors. So, I feel like their employees are happier to be at work, this may not be a career job for them but they’re cheerful. And I think that translates a little bit into my experience when I enter the door.

Our Love of Target Is Deep

Laura: I completely feel the same way, and I almost enter like a blissed-out state. It’s like white and shiny, and clean, and my…

Andrew: Sorry to interrupt, Laura, are you sure they’re not…are they’re handing out pills at the front door that you guys take as you walk in?

Laura: They do have a Starbucks counter, which I think is a real thing. You can get your latte, you can grab your cart. There’s, you know, at least at our Target, there’s a Starbucks right when you walk in.

Carrie: Yes.

Laura: A hundred percent. That is my routine.

Carrie: Your cart has a little cup holder, so that if you are, you know, shopping and you need to put down your cup, you have some more convenience. It’s just, I feel like they get me.

Shopping for Target-only Brands

Laura: They completely get me. Carrie, I 100% agree. I do that, that’s my first stop. I go to the Starbucks, I get my fancy Starbucks, a little treat for myself, and then I start my walk, my Target walk.

And yeah, Andrew, I mean, for me, it’s all about like the Target brands that are only available at Target, they’ve done such a good job at curating their brand, so like even their, just their Target, kind of like the generic Target brand, which is the up-and-up brand, you know, there’s like, it feels just better than a generic brand you’d pick up in a grocery store or at another big box store. I don’t know why. It’s like the packaging or the branding, whatever it is about it.

So, even at like their base brand level, they do a good job. And then they have all these great sub-brands that I like to shop. Like Carrie mentioned, they do really great kind of like fashion pieces for women that are actually affordable, they do great kids’ clothes, they do great, they’ve got great, like their beauty products are great. I mean…

Carrie: Their shoes are awesome.

Laura: Their shoes are so good too. I mean, they just…I think they just…

Carrie: They have it dialed.

Laura: They’ve got it dialed, totally.

An Emotional Reaction to Target (That Is Very Normal)

Andrew: So, you guys, it sounds like you have a very visual, emotional reaction when you walk in the door, is that fair?

Carrie: Yes.

Laura: Yes.

Target Vs. Amazon

Andrew: How do you compare Target to Amazon? Like, how much do you shop at Target versus Amazon? And do you guys have a preference between the two? Like, if there’s something you can get both places, would you prefer to go and get at Target, or do you kinda agnostic, or do you like…where does it fall in the Amazon spectrum of convenience and enjoyment, and just wanting to shop there versus Target?

Carrie: I think I prefer Amazon for the big ticket items that there’s gonna be a larger price difference. But in terms of smaller items, toiletries, clothes, small grocery items, small home goods, Target absolutely, as long as I have the time.

I think Amazon comes into play for me when either I’m incredibly short on time, the item isn’t needed immediately, like I’m not out of my face wash that day, or, you know, if it’s not an immediate need and I can wait two days.

But the bigger ticket items, I am more prone to check Amazon first and go with Amazon if the price difference is larger.

The Red Card Rules

Laura: Yeah, I would agree with Amazon is kind of like a price check place for me now, but in terms of shopping from Amazon now, I’ve almost completely cut it out. And that’s saying a lot for me because I live on an island, so convenience is super key. But, you know, for Target for example, I have the Target red card, okay?

So, if you’ve got a red card I use it as like a debit card, and you always get free shipping on anything, so that’s, you know, okay, so that gets rid of my need for prime.

And two-days shipping doesn’t really work for me anyways, because I live on an island. So, the whole prime thing never really worked that great for me anyways, so I’ve just kind of completely cut Amazon off at this point. I’ve had a bunch of bad experiences with not getting what I really ordered, dealing with like maybe a third party seller someone that has been really hard to deal with getting a refund. I’ve had a lot of bad Amazon incidents lately that have caused me to kind of decide to really cut the Amazon cord completely.

The End Caps! The Dreaded End Caps!

Andrew: Laura, we were talking about this the other day, and you mentioned that Target does a really good job of getting you to buy more than you planned on when you came in, and I was joking that like I’m very “Search and Destroy,” like when I go shopping, I go in, I get it, and I come out.

And you had said that like when you went to Target, there’s a…and even just online, there’s a bunch of meme of people going in to buy, you know, like a stick of deodorant and coming out with like a lot more, and then TV, and of $200 worth of other stuff. How do you feel like Target gets you to buy more stuff than you were planning on, on such a big scale?

Laura: Well, you know, they definitely are good at tapping into consumerism a little bit. I mean, a lot of the things that I do end up buying I think are those impulse buys, you know. They just do a really good job at, you know, that everyone knows when they walk on the interior rows at Target, those end caps are all of the little clearance items. And they know exactly where to put those things and you end up getting suckered into, you know, a three dollar…

Andrew: Carrie is vigorously shaking her head over here.

Laura: Yeah. You know, they do this great job. They have the big red signs that say “Clearance,” or like bright orange tags it’s like, “Clearance Tags”. And if you’re a regular Target shopper, you’re like…you kind it can’t help but be drawn to things like that, you know.

Because I think the Target shopper is someone that looks for deals anyways, and then I just like their brand, so I inevitably don’t really need something for Austin, my son, but then I kind of start looking at the clothes and I’m like, “All right, he can get these five-dollar baby leggings,” because they’re five dollars, and why not add another five dollars to this cart. So, they’re good at it.

But Is The Quality Better?

Andrew: You have both touched on kind of the private brands and the quality, but how much do you think Target has just done a good job of building what appears to be perceived quality, based on the fact that it’s clean, they appeal to like nice colors, there’s like an emotional aspect?

How much do you think is actually better products versus just the fact that you feel good when you go into the store, the store looks nice and so you assume? Like, you actually think you’re getting better quality stuff than you would at another store, Carrie?

Carrie: I think that’s an interesting point. I think it’s probably a little bit of both. I think part of it is the feeling that we touched on earlier about how Target makes you feel when you enter those doors. I think another big thing that Target does to help enhance that is the lighting. I think the lighting is very different in Target and Wal-Mart.

I think the colors, the time they put into the displays, even if the quality of the item within those displays is not significantly different, I think a lot of it they really tap into the visual cues and what motivates consumers visually.

Laura: Yeah, I mean, I know that the five-dollar baby leggings are not $30 baby legging quality, you know? Like, I know that I’m shopping for things that I really like to look up. I like the designs, I like the styles, but I know that these are not…I know that when I buy clothes from Target, these are not going to be hand-me-down heirloom pieces. They’re very much seasonal, you know, a little bit more disposable, which is not always the best saying.

So, for me, it’s not the same as buying from maybe a small business or a brand that really pays attention to quality. But I’m not really going into Target looking for that. I’m going into Target to look for like the things I really need for my house, and then I’m checking out these kind of more impulse things with their sub-brands. So, I think I’m aware that the quality isn’t superior, but maybe it doesn’t really matter as much to me with Target.

Carrie: Especially because the price point we’re shopping at.

Laura: Exactly.

Carrie: We’re buying these flats or these sandals to last one summer, or to match that dress that we have for a wedding, right? So…

Laura & Carrie Are Not Wal-Mart Shoppers

Andrew: I mean, you can’t talk about Target in retail and not compare them to Wal-Mart, and they have obviously, slightly different strategies and approaches, but why don’t you, and this conversation is for the both of you guys. You guys did not like shopping at Wal-Mart, almost the point where, you know, Laura, I think you said once…well, we’ll get to this in the last round, but you’ll go out of your way, you know, very much to inconvenience yourself not to shop at Wal-Mart and to shop at Target.

Why? Like, what is about Wal-Mart that makes you so hesitant to go shop there?

Laura: They don’t have anything I really want. And it’s funny, I was thinking about brands and like the brands of Target that I like are very of the moment. I think they’re hip. I think they’re cute, and I think the only two brands I could think of for Wal-Mart were “Better Homes and Gardens,” you know, like the garden magazine, and I think “The Pioneer Woman,” has a brand there, or something.

Carrie: They do.

Laura: Yeah, so I actually…right there, those two brands, I think of someone much older than me and maybe a little more old fashioned, like doesn’t necessarily…like the Better Homes and Garden thing, maybe she’s buying like big floral cushions for her work or furniture, that shopper, whereas I might be trying to get like a cooler striped cushion for my wooden outdoor furniture. It’s almost like a different kind of, you know, it’s like a different style, almost.

Like, someone that would maybe buy clothes from Old Navy wouldn’t buy clothes from Zara, or whatever the kind of comparison you wanna make.

And then it’s just, yeah, it feels like a gross kind of industrial building. It’s very gray. Every Wal-Mart I’ve gone to feels like dark, there’s no like bright lights. And I’m just kinda like, I wanna get in and get out if I ever get forced into going there.

Their Carts Don’t Have Cup Holders

Carrie: I think also, and maybe this is just due to our Wal-Mart, but I feel like cleanliness. I feel like, you know, when I have gone into WalMart, I feel like I need to take a Clorox wipe and like wipe down my cart, you know, it’s just your cart, but it’s a stark contrast to the Target cart, which is, you know, a little more reinforced and has my cup holder.

Andrew: And these cup holders are a big deal.

Laura: They’re very important when we shop.

Carrie: They are very important. And I also think, you know, when you look at the Wal-Mart shelving, it’s either completely disorganized, a lot of times there are stuff everywhere. And I think Wal-Mart has more of that warehouse feel where they’re trying to fit more goods into Wal-Mart, and I think that open the more open space and less clutter is also an advantage of Target.

Andrew: I mean, the other two that I noticed was Carrie, you mentioned, just like the attitude of the sales associates and people working there, you know, thinking through just the importance of upbeat quality customer service. We’ve all had, you know, you call places and you get someone on the phone who you know is at the end of their shift and not happy to be there, right, versus someone who is like, “Hey, how is it going?” Just even the tone in your voice, or thinking through that it’s little bit, it makes a big difference.

And then finally, the up-sales and the discounts on the Target’s side, those kind of, you know, the things at the end the aisles that you mention, versus, you know, if you’re an online store owner, being able to maybe highlight some of those things in a way that you’re not always discounting and totally killing your margin, but on a regular basis, maybe giving opportunities for people to buy stuff on the cheap that doesn’t, not cross your whole catalog, but select items that can keep people engaged.

So, any other thoughts you guys have on lessons that sellers could take from Target on to their own seven-figure businesses?

Shoppers Love a Discount, Even a Small One

Carrie: I think the one thing that you had said about that, the up-sales and discounts is, I don’t necessarily think it has to be a large discount. I think most of the clearance Target things I buy are 10% or 15% off. But I think there is something that hits you when you see that red sticker, you know, “I’m getting a good deal.”

So the fact that I’m getting a good deal is, you know, if I’m on the edge about a product, that kind of justifies it. Even if it’s really not that much more on sale, it’s a justification that I am happy to use, so I think that’s powerful.

The Importance of a Seamless Checkout

Laura: Yeah, and it’s funny actually, as I’m thinking about the associates at Wal-Mart versus Target. I’m thinking about how the checkout process is so much better at Target. Wal-Mart has people greeting you as soon as you walk in, which for me is kind of annoying. Not that like I dislike it, but it’s kind of like, “Okay, yes, hello, hello.” But you can never get…I’ve never had a good checkout experience at Wal-Mart.

Target always has associates waiting to direct you to the fastest line so that you can check out quickly, and, you know, how important is that to someone, to not get bogged down during checkout?

And so I think that obviously, easily can be incorporated into, you know, eCommerce as well, like just making sure that that process is as easy as possible for customers and really taking the time to see like are there any roadblocks when I have people on my site to get to that checkout point, and how much easier can I make it? I think that’s pretty important.

Target Lightning Round!

Andrew: Yeah, that’s a great takeaway on the ecommerce online world. I wanna do one thing before we wrap this up. Normally, we have a traditional lightning round I do, but given that kind of unique topic, I thought I’d customize it for the Target versus Wal-Mart discussion that we’re having. So, if you guys are up for it, I’ll just do this lighting around super-fast answers, and we’ll see what you think.

All right, so the first question is how many miles would you drive out of your way to shop at Target versus Wal-Mart, if you needed something and Wal-Mart was the closer? So, the options are five, 10, 25 miles, 100 miles, 250 miles, 500 miles or more?

Laura: I have an actual answer to this. I go 50 miles out of my way to go to Target. I have a Wal-Mart two miles away from me and a Target 50 miles away, and I go to Target every time.

Andrew: That’s great. What if the Target was 100 miles away, would you still go?

Laura: If the prices of gas are good, yes.

Carrie: I’m not sure I’m quite that extreme, I think 25 would be my cap. I think if it was 50 miles like you, Laura, I might just have to consolidate my trips down to once a month.

Andrew: Okay, so assume there’s a lawn chair that was $25 at Wal-Mart and a similar lawn chair was at Target, how much would you spend for the same or similar lawn chair at Target versus Walmart? Would you spend $30 for the $25 lawn chair, $40, $50, $100, or $150?

Laura: I’m gonna say $40.

Carrie: I’m gonna say $30.

Andrew: Thirty dollars? Okay, so anywhere from like a 20%, what was that, five, 125, so 60% premium.

Carrie: The hard thing is Wal-Mart is such a process to go in and out of, especially if I had other items that I was gonna get at Target, I don’t know. I think there is definitely a premium, but it’s worth its band.

Andrew: Let’s do the same thing for a TV that was $400 at Wal-Mart, and this assumes that you have to go in Wal-Mart and buy it. So, $400 TV at Wal-Mart, same TV at Target, how much would you spend to buy it from Target versus Wal-Mart, $425, $455, $500, $600, $750? I feel like I’m on the prices right here, $750, or more? What would you spend up to, to buy at Target versus Wal-Mart?

Carrie: TV, we’re talking like $400 price range, I wouldn’t pay more. I’d go to Wal-Mart.

Laura: That’s hard.

Andrew: We broke you, Laura.

Laura: You broke me.

Andrew: I thought your love had no bounds.

Laura: You know what? If it’s a TV, I have a feeling that my husband, Alex, is gonna go in, so I still don’t have to go in to Wal-Mart.

Andrew: I think that’s cheating. You have to be the one that goes in.

Laura: Okay, no. I’m gonna stick at the $425.

Andrew: Four twenty five, okay. What’s the last thing you bought at Target?

Carrie: Night cream.

Andrew: Night cream?

Carrie: Night facial cream.

Andrew: Okay.

Laura: Cleaning products, Mrs. Myers cleaning products.

Andrew: And last question, what’s the last thing you bought at Wal-Mart?

Carrie: My parents use their pharmacy and they don’t live in town, so when they come to town I have to go in and pick up all their prescriptions, so probably two months ago the last time they were here I had to go in and stand in the prescription line.

Laura: I think mine was half-priced Easter candy, and only because my husband had to buy something and I was waiting by the checkout, and bought candy.

Andrew: Is this the candy that falls on the floor and then they pick it up and they’re sold at half price? Is that the stuff?

Laura: I think it was like a few days after Easter, so it was all discounted so I stuck it out.

Andrew: Laura, Carrie thanks for coming on. This has been fun to do. And just for someone who don’t have quite the perspective you guys do, so it’s really interesting to hear how Target does so well but also just the emotional connections they make, and how they’re more profit because they provide obviously a way better experience for people. So, that has been fun. Thanks everyone for sharing and coming on to talk.

Carrie: Thanks for having us.

Laura: Thanks for letting us talk about how much we love Target.

Andrew: Yeah, and we need to get this. Target PR, if you’re listening, it’s be a good idea to me, I don’t know, do you guys wanna list your home addresses for us where they can send some free swag.

Laura: I’m willing to be a brand a messenger for Target, yes.

Andrew: That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode, but if you enjoyed what you heard and are interested in getting plugged into a dynamic community of experienced store owners, check us out at ecommercefuel.com. eCommerceFuel is the private vetted community for eCommerce entrepreneurs, and what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that is a member to make sure that there are great fit, that they can add value to a broader community.

Everyone that joins has to be doing at least a quarter million dollars in sales via their store, and our average member does over seven figures in sales annually.

So, if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

And also, I have to thank our two sponsors that make this show possible, Liquid Web, if you are on WooCommerce or you’re thinking about getting on to WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have host your store, particularly with their managed WooCommerce hosting. It’s highly elastic and scalable, it’s got built-in tools to performance test your store so you can be confident it’s gonna work well, and it’s built from the ground up for WooCommerce.

And you can learn more about their offering at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And finally, Klaviyo for email marketing. They make email segmentation easy and powerful. They integrate with just about every cart out there, and help you build incredibly automated powerful segments that make you money on auto pilot. You can check them out and get started for free at klaviyo.com. Thanks so much for listening, and looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven e-commerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com. Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

What Was Mentioned

Andrew Youderian: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
Carrie McAleer: Website
Laura Serino: LinkedIn | Twitter

Flickr: Better Business Bureau of MN&ND

The post Learning from Target’s Ability to Create Rabid Fans and Emotional Connections appeared first on eCommerceFuel.

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Are You Embarrassed by Your Video Marketing Efforts? Don’t Miss This Virtual Conference

How to Create Professional Video Ads with Zero Knowhow

If you are using video as part of your marketing strategy, #CouchCon wants you to pull up a chair and join the virtual conference on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.

You will learn how to optimize video marketing with experts from Wistia, HubSpot, LinkedIn, Unbounce, Buffer and others.

The conversation will include Wistia CEO Chris Savage, who will discuss new ways you should think about video, the marketing funnel and opportunities you might be missing out on.

The virtual conference will also cover conversion optimization, email marketing, social media, content strategy and more.

So make sure to click the register button and get your favorite couch, desk or lounge chair ready.

Register Now

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

CouchCon by Wistia: The Free Virtual Deep-Dive into MarketingCouchCon by Wistia: The Free Virtual Deep-Dive into Marketing
August 14, 2018, Online

Save your seat for CouchCon – a virtual conference on all things video marketing. Wistia’s lined up 13 industry leaders who’ve used video to solve some of their biggest marketing challenges and are eager to share how you can do the same. From creating successful video campaigns to engaging with your audience, each session is designed to help provide marketers like you with advanced techniques to take your video marketing game to the next level. Whether you’re watching CouchCon from your living room, the local coffee shop, or the office, it’s all completely free. That means you can get access to all sorts of awesome video marketing content without spending a penny or leaving your couch! Join thousands of other marketers and register today.

WEBINAR August 15, 2PM ET (11AM PT): How Mobile Ate the Web - and 7 Ways Small Businesses Can Capitalize WEBINAR August 15, 2PM ET (11AM PT): How Mobile Ate the Web – and 7 Ways Small Businesses Can Capitalize
August 15, 2018, Online

Browsing via mobile devices has overtaken and now exceeds desktop computer browsing. Sadly, most marketers and business owners still look at their company web presence using desktop devices – but that’s not what most of their visitors are seeing! Visitors are seeing it through mobile devices. In this webinar we’ll explore how users find and get to businesses using mobile devices. We’ll look at the latest trends, and whether your business needs them or should ignore them, including:
AMP (accelerated mobile pages), progressive Web apps vs true mobile apps, mobile templates vs responsive websites, the search engine “knowledge panel” for your business, the mobile-first Google index, leveraging third party reviews and their impact on mobile visitors, and much more. Join us on August 15, 2PM ET (11AM PT) by registering today!

Growth & Success ConGrowth & Success Con
September 17, 2018, Online

This small business virtual conference is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs at all stages who are stuck in the daily grind of building their businesses and struggle to get solid advice and guidance. An amazing panel of experts in various disciplines and business coaches will share tips & tricks on topics including Growth, Marketing, Management & Business Building for Success. Register today!

More Events

NEW YORK FINTECH WEEK 2018
July 31, 2018, New York, United States
Online Small Business Skills Summit
August 06, 2018, Online
2018 #FlipMyFunnel B2B Marketing and Sales Conference
August 08, 2018, Online
Small Business Expo 2018 – SAN FRANCISCO
August 09, 2018, San Mateo, United States
CapCon 2018
August 11, 2018, Newport News, Virginia
SILICON VALLEY FINTECH WEEK 2018
August 13, 2018, Online
Nashville Lifestyles Women in Business
August 14, 2018, Nashville, Tennessee
IoT Forum on Logistics
August 16, 2018, East Palo Alto, CA
TECHSPO Singapore 2018
August 19, 2018, Singapore, Singapore
National Ergonomics Conference and ErgoExpo – August 2018 – Paris Las Vegas
August 21, 2018, Las Vegas, USA
TECHSPO Sydney 2018
August 22, 2018, Sydney, Sydney
DigiMarCon New Zealand 2018 – Digital Marketing Conference
August 22, 2018, Sydney, NSW
DigiMarCon Australia 2018 – Digital Marketing Conference
August 22, 2018, Sydney, Australia
Culture Talk: Culture and Cultural Identity
August 23, 2018, Online
The Sales Development Conference San Francisco August 30th 2018 Tenbound
August 30, 2018, San Francisco, California
TECHSPO London 2018
September 05, 2018, London, NSW
DigiMarCon Europe 2018 – Digital Marketing Conference
September 05, 2018, London, United Kingdom
DigiMarCon UK 2018 – Digital Marketing Conference
September 05, 2018, London, London
HR Technology Conference and Exposition
September 11, 2018, Online
DigiMarCon India 2018 – Digital Marketing Conference
September 19, 2018, Online

More Contests

Public Vote to Crown America’s Most Unique Small Business Underway
November 08, 2018,

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends.

You can see a full list of events, contest and award listings or post your own events by visiting the Small Business Events Calendar.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “Are You Embarrassed by Your Video Marketing Efforts? Don’t Miss This Virtual Conference” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Expert Tips for Communicating with Current and New Customers

Anne Ackroyd

Communicating with customers is a key part of any marketing strategy. But it’s not just about marketing to new customers. Your strategy should also focus on retaining current customers and turning them into enthusiastic brand advocates. Here are some expert tips from members of the online small business community to help you shape your strategy.

Structure Your Email Program to Retain Customers

Email marketing is often more about cultivating repeat business than about gaining new customers. So your messages should be tailored toward retaining customers. In this Marketing Land post, Sam Welch offers some tips for structuring an email program to achieve this goal.

Increase Profits by Focusing on Customer Retention Strategies

Many businesses focus on acquiring new customers in order to grow. While new customers are important, you do need to be careful of not neglecting the ones you’ve already cultivated. Here are some tips for increasing profits by focusing on customer retention from Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Develop an Effective Product Launch Strategy

When you launch a new product, you need an effective communication strategy to get the word out to your current customers and potential new ones. Here are some insights from Chris London on the Pixel Productions blog on the subject. Then check out the BizSugar community to see what members are saying.

Find the Missing Link in Your Lead Generation Strategy

If you’re working to increase sales by generating new leads, it’s important to cover every step of the process. But there’s one area where some marketers tend to overlook or make mistakes. You can learn more in this DIY Marketers post by Ivana Taylor.

Learn How to Change Your Paid Social Media Activities

If you’re investing actual dollars into your social media campaigns, you want to be extra sure that your investment is making an impact. So it can help to keep up with trends and changes as they happen. Read this Prepare 1 post by Blair Evan Ball to learn more about this concept and what other businesses are doing.

Send the Right Message with Your Data

Lots of businesses are using data to personalize their marketing messages. However, sometimes making decisions or automating things based purely on cold data can send the wrong message to consumers. Jill Kourtis shares an example and discusses further in this Target Marketing post.

Perform Better in Personalized Search

Search engines are delivering results that are more personalized than ever. So as a business, this gives you an opportunity to show up with the most relevant possible consumers. But you might need to make some changes in order to achieve this goal. Here are some tips for performing better in personalized searches from Aleh Barysevich of Search Engine Journal.

Turn Fans into Brand Champions

It’s not enough to just get people to like your brand. If you want to succeed, you need to actually get people to be enthusiastic about purchasing from you and sharing your message. In this Social Media Examiner post, Anne Ackroyd details how you can do just that.

Don’t Limit Your Competitive Efforts with These Myths

The things you believe can make a major impact on how you run your business. So if you fall for certain myths or falsehoods, it could harm your business in a completely unnecessary way. In this Startup Professionals Musings post, Martin Zwilling explains some of the myths you shouldn’t fall for. And BizSugar members shared thoughts on the post here.

Save Your Small Business with Technology

Technology can make an impact on seemingly every facet of your business. But some companies still tend to overlook some of its uses. In this post on the Smallbiztechnology.com blog, Megan Totka details a few of the ways that new tech can really save your business.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: [email protected]

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Expert Tips for Communicating with Current and New Customers” was first published on Small Business Trends

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HubSpot Launches Small Business Marketing Tool for Beginners

HubSpot Marketing Hub Starter is a Small Business Marketing Tool for Beginners

Small business marketing is not as simple as used to be, and the constantly shifting technological landscape may be partly to blame.

HubSpot’s new Marketing Hub Starter has been created to simplify the process for small business owners.

According to HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS), the Marketing Hub Starter platform was specifically designed with small businesses in mind. With this new solution, businesses will have access to all of their marketing tools in one platform. At the same time, HubSpot is going to be offering comprehensive marketing solutions that are more affordable.

Kipp Bodnar, CMO of HubSpot, explained the challenges small businesses face when it comes to deploying their marketing strategy.

In a recent release, Bodnar said, “Historically, small businesses looking for an economical way to get started with marketing have had to cobble together disparate point solutions to perform tasks like sending emails and targeting ads. Unfortunately, what they save in dollars they often lose in time spent trying to connect and manage all of those systems.”

HubSpot Marketing Hub Starter Features

Powered by HubSpot’s free CRM, Marketing Hub Starter removes the need to manage disconnected tools and data on different platforms. This means you will have more time to actually market your business.

You can now convert traffic into leads with ads and forms while engaging with your audience with personalized email marketing.

The email marketing includes drag-and-drop email editor and post-send analytics. And according to HubSpot, the reporting goes beyond email opens and clicks. It tracks returning contacts, top personas, engagement over time, ad performance, and more.

The integrated tools include forms, lead ads, email marketing, list segmentation, HubSpot CRM, and reports.

Marketing Hub Starter comes with all these tools and it is now available starting at $50 per month for 1,000 contacts. There are additional tiers for companies with more contacts.

What is HubSpot?

HubSpot offers inbound marketing and sales software to help organizations attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. HubSpot provides a comprehensive marketing solution for today’s digital and ecommerce businesses.

In addition to tools for email, websites, SEO, marketing automation, landing pages, analytics, social media and blogging, it also provides free education in its academy.

You can take the new academy lesson for Marketing Hub Starter here.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “HubSpot Launches Small Business Marketing Tool for Beginners” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Growing Through Fanatical Customer Engagement

There are some people in this world that are nuts about pens. We’re not just talking about the classic boxes of Bics, but pens that are worthy of being held in their own mahogany box and destined to sign an important document. Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens is one of those guys. He understands that engaging customers about something they’re passionate about is crucial to the success of his business.

Brian shares his tips for an engaged Facebook group, talks about why listening to customers is crucial and also weighs in on why handwritten notes are still a good idea.

You’ll learn:

How to use educational guides to grow your business
The future of organic traffic
Smart ways to grow a team successfully

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Brian Goulet of GouletPens.com)

Andrew: Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies, and incredible lives. I’m your host, and fellow ecommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, guys, Andrew here. Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” and thanks so much for tuning in, joining me on the mic today. Today, I’m excited to talk with Brian Goulet, from gouletpens.com.

Brian is a community member, our private forum member who joined us last year, and just really stood out to me and other members of the community for a lot of his impressive contributions, experience, and I just wanted to really with no agenda, get him on the podcast to learn more about him, get to know him, hear his story, yeah, because he’s got a lot of cool things to share, a cool company he has built.

In researching for this, kind of the theme that came out that we’ll talk about is just the value and the power of exceptional customer engagement. I mean, so many of us hustle early on in the business, but Brian really did that with his company, of course.

And really, the whole foundation was built on engaging with customers, reaching out to them in forums, building rapport with them. It wasn’t paid traffic, it was really hustle and kind of a lot of one-on-one hustling. He doesn’t do quite as much of that one-on-one today because he’s got a large team, as you’ll hear, but that still is very much at the root of what powered his business.

So, we talk about that. We talk about why he’s never been on Amazon in 8-plus years, why doesn’t plan to be on Amazon even though it could drive a lot of short-term, or maybe even long-term revenue for him. Fun discussion with him, so I hope you enjoy that.

Before we do that, I wanna thank our sponsors who make the show possible. I love our sponsors, they’re both companies I can…The only sponsors I would have on are ones that I can authentically get behind, and I can really do that for both of these.

First one is Klaviyo. If you listen to the show, you most certainly know them, but if you don’t, they make email automation easy, and powerful. Five quick reasons why you should be using Klaviyo if you’re not, for your e-commerce email marketing. First, segmentation. That is what they just kill it at.

They let you break out your email list, your customer list. You can pull in from Shopify, WooCommerce, pretty much any shopping cart, and send targeted automated email flows to them based on their behavior.

They’ve got a really great Facebook integration so that you can market and retarget to people on Facebook based on your email list. They just rolled out a fantastic visual flow builder that makes it much more intuitive to build out some of your complex flows.

They’ve got a really nice email design template editor that makes your mobile emails and your desktop emails, they’re like way…they look sharp without having to have a designer, and they’ve got very powerful analytics and reporting to show you what’s working, and what’s not. So, check them out. If you’re not using them, you can get started for free at ecommercefuel.com/klaviyo.

And then secondly, a big thank you to Liquid Web, who offers world-class web hosting for your WooCommerce store. So, recently, this last, you know, within the last six months, I moved all of my…all of my infrastructure is at Liquid Web: VPSs, WooCoommerce, WordPress, everything.

And I actually chatted with Chris, my tech guy who moved it over, and I said, “Chris, what was your experience like moving it all over to Liquid Web?” and the four things he said was he loves how the WordPress and the WooCommerce sites get automatically updated, so I don’t have to worry about that from a security standpoint, with screen shots to check to make sure things look properly, because they do a pre and post screen shot to make sure everything looks properly. It’s all automated.

The VPSs we use handle all the security certificates automatically. Our performance, we host the eCommerceFuel directories on Liquid Web, and the performance there has increased dramatically. And it’s incredibly easy to create sites and manage them, at least that’s what he said.

So, if you don’t trust me, which I wouldn’t, I’m kind of sketchy, trust my tech guy, Chris, because is a pretty legit dude. And you can learn more about them, especially if you’re in WooCommerce, that’s what they really know and specialize in. You can learn more about them at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

All right, thank you, guys, for making this all possible. And with that, let’s jump into my discussion today with Brian Goulet.

Background into Brian’s Business

Brian, when did you start the business? And where are you today, in terms of your team size, your facility, you know, things like that?

Brian: So, I have kind of two versions of my business. It took me a long while to kind of figure out exactly what it was that I needed to do to succeed. I was a woodworker, and I was making wooden pens kind of as a hobby. I did that for a couple of years, never really made any money from it. I just kind of, anything I would make, I would invest back in tools, or wood, or whatever.

But it wasn’t really until 2009 that I started getting into selling fountain pen products. It was originally just my wife and I that started out in our dining room, you know, kind of classic American Dream kind of story. We had an idea we started, you know, just selling on our own little website.

We had a little blog and just, you know, started out just doing this stuff kind of on the side. And then we’re at the point now where we have, my wife and I, are 2 out of the 42 people that we have work in our company. We have a facility that’s about 24,000 square feet that includes both office and warehouse, because we do our own fulfillment. It’s quite an operation these days.

Brian Has Always Been a Pen Guy

Andrew: That’s cool. Congrats on the growth and the success you’ve had. And you have, I mean, you started…I mean, you’re making these pens by hand so guessing this was a, you know, a product of love early on. It was an interest of yours.

Brian: Oh, for sure. Yeah. I mean, it completely was not driven by setting a business plan, or anything like that. I mean, I was itching to make stuff with my hands, because I’m a very kind of tactile person, so I somehow convinced her that it would be a good idea for me to buy a small pen lathe. And what ended up happening is the first day that I made pens, I made like four pens in a couple of hours. I was like, “This is amazing. I love this.”

And then I looked around, I was like, “Oh, my Gosh, I have more pens than I’m going to use for like the next five years, how am I gonna keep doing this hobby? I’m gonna fill my house with pens.” So I was like, “I need to figure out a way to sell pens so that I can keep doing this hobby.”

So, I started looking online, so I googled it and looked on some forums and stuff like that, and I was like, “How do you use a fountain pen? What is a fountain pen? How does it work?” and that’s when I found there’s a forum called The Fountain Pen Network, that was kind of the prevailing forum of the time where people were going to kind of hang out and talk about pens.

I completely fell down the rabbit hole personally, and I saw it as an amazing opportunity from a business standpoint, to serve the community.

Philosophies from Gary Vee

Andrew: You’re a big Gary Vee fan, and I think most people are familiar with him. What is it that you think that he gets right, and what philosophies have you stolen from him, or not stolen, but embraced, of his philosophies?

Brian: I call it “Inspired by.”

Andrew: Inspired by, let me get out…You know, I said that and I was like, beautiful, very eloquent answer. You build rapport, your get started off…

Brian: No, no. No. It’s all good. Like, I’ll give Gary Vee a ton of credit because he wrote his book, “Crush It,” back in 2009. He’s on his fifth book now, but he wrote his first business book back in 2009 called “Crush It.” It was after reading that book that I was just like, “Holy crap, this guy has done exactly in the wine world, what needs to be done in the fountain pen world.”

And I pretty much just took exactly what he did, and said, “I’m gonna go do that. You know, I’m gonna start a video blog, I’m gonna do a written blog. I’m gonna go heavy on education. I’m gonna be super engaged with my community, and I’m gonna respond to every comment, and I’m gonna just learn from them and respond back to them, and be super generous.” And that has worked phenomenally for me.

How Education Has Helped The Business

Andrew: You talked about, you know, the things that he…being really engaged, a video blog, education. Those are kind of the core pillars of what you’re doing. The blogging makes sense. Give me a sense on the engagement, like what do you do to engage with your customers in a way that other e-commerce stores aren’t, and what kind of advantage that you think it gives you. Because I think that’s kind of part of the secret sauce of what’s made your business successful.

Brian: I mean, I’ve kind of done all the hard stuff first. You know, it’s like I started out, I had no money, so I like having a marketing budget was laughable, you know, because I mean, literally, when Rachel I started…Rachel’s my wife.

When I started doing the content marketing, as the term has come to be known, I didn’t know that that’s what I was doing at the time. I just was doing what was practical. You know, YouTube was there and you could comment, and you could respond to people’s comments on You Tube. Twitter was there. Facebook was there. Instagram wasn’t, at the time, which is crazy to think about.

But, you know, social media at the time was somewhat new, but really it was just a matter of there were forums, there were blogs, there were places where people could comment, and you could comment back. And I was like, “You can have a conversation with people about, you know, things.” So, I would ask and be like, “Hey, what paper do you guys use, and why do you like it?” they’d say, “Oh, I like Clairefontaine,” or whatever they would say. “I like Rodeo.”

“I like this brand.” And I’d be like, “Okay, so where do you buy?” and they’d be like, “Oh, there’s this place but they’re out of stock a lot, and there was this other place, but they don’t even have a checkout, you have to mail a check in.” And I’m like, “That’s insane.” I was like, “What if I carried this and sold it like this?” they’d be like, “That’d be amazing.” I’d be like, “All right.”

So, I would go and carry it, and then I would go back, and I would tell them, “Hey, I carry this now.” And they’d be like, “Oh my Gosh, that’s amazing. I’m gonna buy it.” And I was like, “Well, this is kind of a no-brainer, you know and it cost me nothing except for time.”

So, I was literally kind of researching, finding out exactly what the community wanted, then I would offer it. And as soon as people saw that I was engaging with them, and asking their feedback, and offering what they wanted, they came and just told me more, and more, and more.

And I was like, “Well, this is about the easiest thing I think I’ve ever done,” because after grinding for like two and a half years making pens, and trying to hit corporate people up and, you know, running into dead ends, and it was not a passion-driven thing for most people, it was very easy for me to engage with people that were excited about the hobby that they were invested in.

And I, as a retailer/influencer, if you will, before the term came to be, that’s exactly what I was doing. And so I didn’t pay any ads for anything, I had no pay-per-click. I had no banner ads. I had none of that kind of early, you know, Web 1.0 stuff that was going on. I was just engaging with people, and building an audience and a following, and building a rapport, you know, in the community.

Brian’s Personal Involvement in Customer Interaction

Andrew: For the market research, that makes a lot of sense. And when you’re, you know, when you’re one or two people, it’s easy to have that passion. Something that’s new, it’s early, and you’re hustling. You’ve got 40 people now, it’s eight years down the road, is that something that you still maintain? Like, do you or your team still personally reply to every single YouTube comment, every single Twitter comment, all that kind of stuff?

I guess it’s a two-part question, are you doing that personally? I’m guessing, no. And if it’s not you, like, is that a core part of what you’re still doing to interact personally with every single customer?

Brian: It’s definitely a core part. When I say like we started the hard stuff first, like that’s the stuff I started doing first, like spending eight hours learning a product, and shooting a video, and publishing it, and then spending the next four hours engaging on comments, following up on it. I would do that, but I know very little, honestly.

I know very little about running ads, and doing, you know, the kind of stuff that I hear in the ECF about people that are like syncing up Shopify with Klaviyo, and then hooking it up to Facebook messenger, where I’m like, “That sounds amazing, but I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about.”

Like, I would sit down in front of a video and I can talk to you till you’re blue in the face about pens, and be super-engaging in the community about like, you know, you were talking about retargeting and list off, and I’m like, I’m starting to learn that stuff now because everything that I’ve built so far has been on content and engagement.

So, as my company’s grown, you know, I’ve got 42 people, but myself and my wife, to a degree, we do, you know, some of the content stuff, but I have a team of seven people that are, you know, involved in social media, content production, that kind of stuff. So, you know, think about that just in terms of how much of the business is devoted to that. It’s like a quarter of my business is engaged in content, and social media stuff.

Trust Is The Currency

Andrew: So, Brian, there’s a quote that I just, you know, I saw it when I was researching for this. It was that, you said, “I sell fountain pens, for crying out loud, which is all based on community, passion, and connecting with other people. Trust is my currency. And I always find it credible payoff when I do stuff like responding to people individually, because people know that I actually care, and Amazon won’t do this.” We’ll talk about Amazon in a minute, but initially, this was kind of your pricing compared to your competitors.

I’m guessing based on just the approach that you’ve taken, the love, and care, and TLC you’ve put into the business, the fact that you’re trustworthy, that you’re, you know, very engaged with people, not that you want to by any means, you know, take your consumers for a ride, or your customers for a ride and gouge them, but I’m guessing you guys are probably on the, at least…definitely on the lower end, if not on the higher end of the pricing scale, because people know that you care, and, you know, you’re engaged.

So, am I fair in guessing that allows you to charge a premium over a lot of your competitors?

Brian: I mean, I try not to view it as like charging a premium. I try to charge a price that creates a lot of value, so I don’t even look at it so much as like price is the determining factor. I’m very aware of prices, but for so many people…and I’m in a niche industry. It’s not a highly commoditized industry. You know, obviously, the more competition you have, the more tendency there is to just drive the price down.

I really love a quote from Seth Godin that says, “The problem with the race to the bottom is you just might win.” I never wanted to view it as, I want price as my differentiator. Amazon, ultimately, is going to beat you on price. You just gotta realize that’s what’s going to happen. So you will never be a differentiator purely on price.

So, I charge what I need to charge to be able to do what I need to do, so if that happens to be more expensive then so be it. I’ll be rewarded for the other things that I do that had value if people find it of value.

Deciding Not To Sell on Amazon

Andrew: Talk a little about…before we started recording, we were talking about Amazon, and I cut us off because I wanted to save it for the actual on-air recording. But you mentioned for your competitors, you’ve seen…you don’t sell on Amazon right now, despite how large your business has grown, zero sales on Amazon.

A very deliberate choice, and one you have kind of, offered you repression, in some regards. You haven’t sold, I mean, you guys started selling 5, 6, 7 years ago when, obviously, Amazon wasn’t as mature, but you made the intentional decision not to.

You kind of referred to Amazon as the “Kiss of death,” for some of your competitors. Talk a little bit about why you decided not to go that route, what’s happened your competitors who have sold, and, you know, why you think you’ve been able to thrive so much despite completely going cold turkey on Amazon.

Brian: For sure. I mean, yeah, Amazon does a lot of things right, obviously. That’s why they’re so huge. You know, there’s a ton of people that love buying through Amazon, and they’ve done so many things right. Very early on, in 2009, as somebody who wasn’t shopping on Amazon, and I very rarely buy from them.

I’m not a prime number anything like that. You know, I’m not like, “Amazon’s evil,” but at the same time I’m like, “I know what they’re up to.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how they’re working things.

I’ve been doing the business probably six months, and believe me six months in, we were not selling a lot. We were still in our garage, it was just me and Rachel. Their fulfillment services reached out to us about doing Fulfillment by Amazon, and I, you know, got the numbers and I was like, “Oh, you’re how much of a percent? I don’t have that kind of margin to just give up. I’m shipping out of my garage, I can fulfill it just fine,” you know.

And then they kept hitting me up harder, and harder, and harder, and I was like, “Why are they coming after me so hard?” and I just put two and two together I was like, “Wait, they want me to send my product direct from my supplier to them, they wanna sell it. What am I doing? Like, why am I getting paid anything? What value am I adding here? Why wouldn’t they just go direct to the manufacturer?” and I was like, “Oh, that’s what they’re doing.”

And then I did a little research, and I kind of found other industries, you know, smaller niche kind of industries where that’s exactly what was happening. They would get people that have a huge marketplace, you know, with lots of traffic and eyeballs, that people, you know, buying on Amazon.

So they would get small retailers who couldn’t handle the fulfillment side to do the Fulfillment through Amazon, and it’s really appealing, and you build this nice, pretty business model, and then they would find out your supplier, and then they would start buying direct from the supplier, and then they put pressure on the supplier to drive down prices. I was like, “Wow, this is not a super healthy scenario for a niche industry.”

Like, the fountain pen industry, it’s a very passion-driven industry. A lot of the suppliers that I have, they’re small companies. Like, I’m talking…one of my product lines is one guy working out of his house. Like, he can’t supply Amazon.

You know, he can’t drive down price. Like, it’s just not…it’s not beneficial to the fountain pen industry to play it that way. I just looked at that and I said, “This is not for me.” Like, other people may be able to figure out how to make this work, but this is not gonna work.

On Growing a Team

Andrew: You then, of course, started…yourself and Rachel, two people. You’ve now got a team of over 40 people. Which stage of the process have you enjoyed the most, and which stage in the, kind of the evolution to 40 people was the hardest from a managerial or team size standpoint?

Brian: I think for both of those, I wanna say all of it. For me, it’s an interesting…so, my personal story is like, my wife was seven months pregnant with our first child when we started selling fountain pen products. And I started my first video 10 days before my son was born. So, there’s a really strong correlation between like when I started my family, and when I started this business.

So, the two have really gone in parallel. I actually probably worried more about the early days of the business as I did with like, my son, because I had a super easy kid, the first one. I would stay up until like 2 o’clock in the morning, working in the business, and shipping out orders, and blogging, and stuff like that, and my son to sleep like eight hours a night. The two are really strong and parallel, so that was definitely a hard phase.

My wife was on maternity leave. She works for, you know, a Fortune 500 company. She decided, at the end of her maternity leave, that she couldn’t go back. She couldn’t leave our son. She wanted to stay home. And I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s something that we haven’t talked about, yet.” So here I was like, “I don’t have a salary.

I have not been working for any corporation or anything, for the last three years.” At this point, I was 25. You know, I was like, “I’m not a very marketable individual.” So it’s like, if we can’t get this business really working well in the next few months, I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I was doing all the product photography. I was shooting videos.

I was doing all the order fulfillment, you name it. I don’t even remember much of that phase because it was working 18 to 20 hours a day, every single day, and that’s just what it took to get it off the ground.

Finally, you know, after the first year, it was about a year after we started the fountain pen thing, that we were able to actually pay ourselves a salary. And I was like, “Oh, dang. I can’t get sick because I’m gonna get a week behind in work, and never catch up.” Like, “What do I do now?” you know.

And so that’s when I started thinking about, “Oh my Gosh, we really need to start thinking about hiring people.” It was either, “We need to hire people,” or, “I need to stop providing good service.” Like, I didn’t know what the alternative was. Like, how do I get people to stop wanting what we’re doing?

Andrew: So, with a team of 40, do you have a COO, or a Director of e-Commerce?

Brian: You’re looking at him, my friend. So, the things look very weird in our company, just because my wife and I started it together. We’ve worked on it full time together for nine years, we’re still in it full-time together. So, she kind of is more of the COO role on the operational side.

I do all the leadership stuff. I’m heavy in like the content marketing production. I’m like the pen expert, if you will, the face of the company, and the ra, ra company meeting kind of stuff. And both of us are involved in like picking new products, and vendor relations, and stuff like that. So, it looks a little funky in our company that it only works because her and I are married, and so in sync, and so driven together.

Not Your Typical CEO

Andrew: It seems to be, increasingly, for, can I just say four members that are kind of getting up there in that mid-seven, or a low eight, like that seems to be the lynchpin hire, I think, that seems to be from, just with people, just the hardest one to make, because it’s…you can get to that level as the owner fulfilling that role, but to get past that, you’ve gotta find someone who’s experienced enough, who cares enough, who’s a good cultural fit and can handle all of the balls that are up in the air.

That seems like probably lynchpin higher for people to look at and get past that stage.

Brian: I think, especially in like the e-commerce space, it’s kind of a unique thing. I think this role itself…I have a media team, so, I have two photographers, a videographer, and three people managing the different social media channels, because we trying to be everywhere. And I have one manager for that team, but I’m really looking for kind of a director, if you will, who will help to like manage the ads, be involved in strategy, help in like products, maybe oversee like some of the customer service side of things.

I’m a little deeper involved in that than your typical CEO would be, but part of that’s because I grew up in that, and that’s where I came from, so I know it really well. But still, it just requires more time than I really have to give it full-time, and I’m start to feel some pain from being pulled in different directions.

I would definitely say that that could be a game changer for anybody that’s looking for that. I’ll be in line with everybody else, sharing the same labor pool that seems to be very small out there.

Andrew: We’re trying a little pitch for you, to see how, the problem we’re trying to solve because we’re seeing it more and more, and by the time it’s aired, we should have launched the ECF, the eCommerceFuel job board, it’s a public job board.

So, if you are at director level, they’re really gonna be focused on, or they are focused rather, on e-Commerce Director VP, you know, kind of manager positions, marketing positions for e-Commerce, and also world-class customer support for your business. So, if that sounds like you, like if you’re thinking, you know, Brian’s talking to you, like, “That sounds like me,” you can put your resume on file, people like Brian can search for you. And if you’re a store owner like Brian, you can post jobs there too.

So, that’s a problem we’re gonna be trying to solve over there in the next, you know, year, year or two, three years. Because it seems like the one that’s coming up a lot with store owners, so.

Brian: That is pretty awesome. And, you know, if you don’t get your act together, Andrew, and don’t have that up on the forum yet, you can just reach out to me directly, because I’ll probably have a position up on my site for this very thing by the time this podcast will be live.

Andrew: Beautiful. Yeah. I mean, of course, reach out to Brian directly. And we can get you, of course, that posting up there for free, Brian, but yeah, we can definitely…if you’ve got it up. I kind of mentioned it because it gives me the incentive to make sure the job board’s up and running, which kind of like an accountability thing, but on your site too, if you get it up, like why don’t we do both? We’ll make sure the job board’s live, and we’ll get your posting in the show notes for this.

Brian: There you go. There you go. I need to finalize some stuff before I get it live. It’s not on my site yet, but it will be by the time this publishes, for sure.

Andrew: Perfect. This is going out tomorrow, is that all right?

Brian: Very funny. Very funny.

How To Get Good at Blogging

Andrew: So, a couple of things before we wrap up. You have talked, and I’ve noticed a lot just, just getting to know you in the community, but also kind of just throughout the threads of our conversations. Media education is so huge, blogging, and video.

Tackle blogging first, I’ll link up to an article I did with a couple of other people: Anastasia, and also Andy, on building out a successful e-commerce blog. But for you, how crucial has it been to your growth, and how focused are you on keyword, you know, very, like really rich keyword optimized content, versus just trying to organically write stuff that you think your audience is gonna really like?

Brian: You know, kind of like I said earlier, I’ve done everything the hard way, so even as far as like keyword optimization, and SEO, and all those kind of stuff, like that all sounds great. I don’t really know what I’m doing there. It has been way more focused on organic content.

You know, that’s why the engagement side of things is so important for me, because if I put out content and I get comments, and I get feedback, and, you know, the amount of time that people spend reading my stuff, if that stuff is really solid, and I’m getting good engagement with customers, then like that’s great. Like, that tells me what I need to know.

So, I’ve never been like a super metric-driven, you know, business guy. You know, I maybe look at that to kind of validate a little bit just kind of how things are going, but I care way more what people are deciding to do, and how much value they’re getting out of the attention that they’re giving me. I view that as my number one kind of North Star.

So, if I’m posting something and it gets very few comments, I don’t care how keyword-rich it is, it tells me that people aren’t really getting a lot out of that.

But if I post off, like we just created a Facebook group, you know, in the last two weeks. So, I waited way too long to create a Facebook group. We were kind of sitting on it. We had the idea, and we sat on it forever. We finally did it. We finally got it together, and in the last two weeks we’ve had 2,700 people join this group.

And like, I think we’re averaging somewhere around 1,000 posts a week in this group that our community is posting, and it’s like I can hardly even keep up with what is being posted in this thing because it’s so active.

So, I look at that and I’m like, “Okay, that’s like the only metrics I need right there.” People are freaking loving it. I’m seeing the enthusiasm people are having. They’re engaging. They’re asking questions. Like, I’m good there.

So, it’s somewhat subjective, but I care about that way more than I care about some metric about my keyword stuff. And I’m probably missing out on a lot of opportunities with the optimization side of things because I don’t really know what I’m doing there.

But on the same token, that, to me, is a like a lot easier to kind of clean up, and a lot easier to do now that I got more reputation, and I’m kind of more solid in the pen community. There’s tons of people out there that know about SEO, and keywords, that I can go, and find, and get some help there and cleans some things up, and boom, you know, it’s just like a fuel injector in what I’ve already built.

But I can’t go and just hire a pen expert to build an entire community of thousands of people. That doesn’t happen overnight. That only happens with work.

Organic Traffic in the Future

Andrew: Are you seeing on the, in terms of organic traffic from your blog, getting mixed reviews, and hearing from some people they’re seeing organic, not perceptibly taper off, but start to dip a little bit, and not from enough people that I’m, you know, I’m wondering how systemic it is, kind of in e-commerce partners in general. Are you seeing organic traffic as strong as ever, or are you seeing it weaken or soften a little bit?

Brian: You know, because I put out so much content, organic is still the dominant referral for me to my site, organic and direct traffic. It’s like 70% of my traffic comes from those two channels. I’ve seen some effects of it, for sure, and certain social media platforms, at different times, you know, like Facebook has, you know, changed some stuff in the last couple of years, to where organic has changed a lot.

The Facebook group, the reason it’s so vibrant is there’s no, you know, there’s, I shouldn’t say there’s no algorithm rhythm, that kind of messes with that. But, you know, anybody who’s in the group can kind of see whatever’s posted in there, so it’s super vibrant.

I used to be super prideful about the fact that I paid zero for advertising and marketing, because I did. I mean, I paid my team and I did the content, like I paid for it in labor and time, but I paid nothing in terms of Google ads, or PPC, or any of that kind of stuff. There was no free option. You had to pay to be in it at all. And I was like, “Okay, I now have to pay.” And that’s how they’re all gonna move, right? Like, they’re free for a while. They become, you know, kind of a thing, and then you have to pay to play.

That’s just kind of the way that every social media platform eventually goes. So, if you think about it a little bit differently and don’t just like, “Oh, I’m running organic stuff,” okay, but you have amazingly targeted tool, and if you put, just change your own mentality a little bit and think about what it is that’s available to you, and not even so much of like, “Oh, I’m gonna go target this group,” but like you can say, “Okay, I have a Facebook…” like for me, for example, we’ve got about 40,000 in our Facebook group, which is like good, it’s not amazing.

But it’s a solid group, right? And they’re very engaged.

I can take, you know, a, they call it a lookalike audience, so based on the interests of the people that are in my group, I can run an ad, you know, which sounds…the word “Ad,” I don’t like that word, really. But I can run a post that takes a really good piece of content that I’ve created, you know, “How to use a fountain pen,” like a Fountain Pen 101 type of thing. I can take, and I can put that in people’s feed who are a lookalike audience to the people that I know are already following me.

There’s a much greater likelihood that they’re gonna be super engaged in that, and I’m gonna find people that have never seen me, never heard about me, but I know are a great likelihood of being interested in me. That’s the power of these ads, and stuff. It’s kind of the same thing on Instagram, kind of same thing on YouTube. Facebook is really the king of that super like targeted ad stuff.

Okay. Now Who Wants a Fountain Pen?

Andrew: I love. It’s a great point on the mind shift. Brian, one thing I wanna ask you, kind of starting to wrap up here if we’re gonna let you around is, you know, so for people who are interested in maybe getting into the product line, it’s a cool product line. I think we’ll have a good number of people listening to this say, “Hey, that would be awesome to have some of that stuff.”

For someone who’s buying their very first, you know, really getting in for the first time into the, kind of the fountain pen industry, what one pen, ink, and wax stamp kit would you recommend for them? We’ll link up to this in the show notes.

Brian: You know, this answer is gonna be a little bit different for everybody. I have put videos out on much of this. You know, I have my Top 5 Favorite Inks in one video. I have my Top 5 Favorite Fountain Pens For Newbies, which is, you know, one of my top videos of all time.

Personally, I think a great pen to get started out with is one that’s called “The Pilot Metropolitan.” It’s a great performing pen, very affordable. It’s under $20, which for this type of pen, is really solid. High quality, made in Japan. That’s a really good one. Lots of fun colors, and stuff like that.

For ink, it’s really all over the place. Fountain pen ink, just pick a color that you like. You know, there are so many good ones out there. Diamine is a brand in the UK that’s really good, that has a ton of different colors. Really, ink is kind of pick a color that you like. We have 600 different colors of ink, so you can pick whatever the heck you want.

Wax seal stuff, that’s not gonna be for everybody. That’s like a super kind of deep going way into it. Wax seal stuff is a lot of fun, but it’s definitely not for everybody. But J Herbin is one company out of France that makes a flexible sealing wax, so you can actually get different symbols on the wax seal, or you can get, you know, like a letter that represents your first, or your last name, or whatever, and you melt this flexible wax, and you can actually send it through the mail system.

It’s funny, because wax seals used to be like a security measure. You’d have a brittle wax, and they would hand deliver the letter, and they knew it was tampered with if the wax seal was broken. So that was originally the reason why wax seals were a thing, but that’s clearly not really that much of the reason why people do it now. Now, it’s for like wedding invitations, and more of a kind of aesthetic thing.

The Lightning Round!

Andrew: I will link up to those views you mentioned in the products for show notes. I’m gonna dive deep into the, get good on the rabbit hole here. Brian, I wanna do a couple of let me around questions, so feel free to…I’m just gonna throw these, lob these in, you know, feel free to just answer quickly, these are rapid fire.

If you had to identify the number one thing you’re trying to optimize your life for right now, what would it be?

Brian: Oh, gosh. My health. You know, I’ve had some health issues. I’m seeing a nutritionist, and I’m trying to get some of that stuff under control.

Andrew: Who’s the last person that you sent a handwritten note to?

Brian: I actually don’t know, because I do handwritten “Thank You” notes that go into the orders that we sent here, and I wrote five of them today that are gonna go in orders. So, I don’t actually know who it’s gonna go to, but it’s gonna go to a customer of mine.

Andrew: Who’s someone you strongly disagree with?

Brian: Strongly disagree with? Oh, gosh, you know there’s all kinds of political stuff going on these days, I would say I pretty much disagree with everybody about something, so. But I’m a pretty agreeable guy. I really don’t get too upset about anything from anybody, so I think I’ll screw this question.

Andrew: Fair enough. How much money is enough? What would be your number of, you know, money in the bank where obviously, you could you keep working if you wanted to, but where you’d feel like, “This is enough money for me,” the number in the bank account balance?

Brian: Honestly, I hit that number as soon as my wife and I started drawing a paycheck in this business. So, my needs are super, super low. I would say as long as I have like $50 grand a year, I’m good.

Like, yeah, obviously, I’m running this larger business, and like we’re beyond that, but it’s not about the money, man. It’s about doing something that you love, and providing value to people that are really passionate. Like, that means so much more than money.

Andrew: What’s the worst investment you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Brian: Worst investment in the last 10 years? You know, the current website platform that we’re on right now was pretty expensive to get into, and we’ve had some bumps and…

We were an early adopter on our current platform, and we experienced some pain for that. I mean, in the end, it’s worked out okay, but in terms of time and stress, I would say that one probably ranks up there pretty good.

Andrew: And apart from your business, what’s been the best investment you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Brian: Oh, Gosh, apart from my business? You know, I’m gonna go with a non-financial answer on this one. My parents, they raised me with…they ran a business out of the house. It was never a wildly successful business, but the time that I was able to spend with them as a kid in the family business, meant everything to me.

Being that my wife and I run a business together, and we can, you know, work in it with our kids, and our kids are school age now, and they’re starting to get involved in certain parts of it, the time that I’ve been able to spend with my family has been the best investment I’ve ever had.

Andrew: Totally, cool. And finally, what was the first CD you ever owned?

Brian: The first CD? You know, this will date me a little bit. I actually bought 12 CDs at once when I started Columbia House, if you remember Columbia House subscriptions.

Andrew: 02, I remember. I was a BMG guy, but absolutely, I remember.

Brian: Yeah, so I don’t remember…I bought 12 CDs at one time, so my…I honestly don’t remember all of it. I remember Everclear was one of them. Eagle-Eye Cherry, you know, so many like one-hit-wonder. I mean, I was probably sixth grade, so it wasn’t really solid musical choices, but, you know, just like typical like, mid 90s bands that had like one hit, and I bought their CD, and like never listened to it again.

Andrew: I love it. I had totally forgotten about those, you know, either the get six CDs for a penny, or the buy 1 get 12. Oh, those were good days.

Brian: Exactly. Exactly. I paid like $15 bucks and got 12 CDs, and then I like never bought anymore. And the subscription was up and they were like, “Well, you gotta buy like 12 more CDs, because that was the contract,” and I was like, “Crap,” you know, and that was it. So, I bought like 12 at the beginning, and like 12 at the end, or whatever the heck it was. So I never really put loads of thought into it.

Andrew: Brian, it’s been awesome. Thank you, so much. Again, if this is something that, especially on the pen side, we’ll link up to all the products we talked about. Check out his company, The Goulet Pen Co at gouletpens.com. Brian, thanks so much for coming, and talking, it’s been fun.

Brian: Thanks, Andrew, it’s been a pleasure. I’ll give you a shameless plug here. ECF has been…I’ve been in a lot of different forums, a lot of different groups over my years in business here, and especially if you’re in e-commerce, this has been the most vibrant, most exciting, most relevant group that I’ve ever been a part of.

Don’t even give it a second thought. Like, I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on coaching and other various things to try to help my business, and all that was wasted, compared to the essentially measly amount you have to pay to be in the forum.

So, if you don’t get wait-listed because it’s maxed out like I did at the beginning, Andrew, because it’s such a solid group, like, seriously, don’t give a second thought. Look into it.

Andrew: I appreciate the kind words, man. That’s really nice of you. And it’s been awesome having you in the community, in the forums, and also, you know, hanging out with you at ECF live for the first time this year. And, you know, hopefully, we get to do it again.

Brian: Heck, yeah. I’ll be there in a second.

Andrew: Awesome. Hey, thanks buddy. We’ll talk soon.

Brian: Thanks, appreciate it.

Andrew: That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode. But if you enjoyed what you heard, check us out at ecommercefuel.com, where you’ll find the private vetted community for online store owners.

And what makes us different from other online communities or forums, is that we heavily vet everyone who joins to make sure that they have meaningful experience to contribute to the broader conversation. Everyone who we accept has to be doing at least a quarter a million dollars in annual sales on their store. And our average member does seven figures plus in sales via their business.

So if that sounds interesting to you, if you wanna get, you know, connected with a group of experience store owners online, check us out at ecommercefuel.com, where you can learn more about membership, as well as apply.

And I have to, again, thank our sponsors who help make the show possible. Klaviyo, who makes email segmentation easy and powerful. The cool thing about Klaviyo is they plan your entire catalog customer and sales history to help you build out incredibly powerful automated segments that make you money on autopilot. If you’re not using them, check them out, and try them for free at klaviyo.com.

And finally, Liquid Web. If you’re on WooCommerce, if you’re thinking about getting on WooCommerce, Liquid Web is the absolute best hosting platform for three reasons: one, it’s built from the ground up for WooCommerce, and optimized by some of the best industry professionals in the WooCommerce space that really know the stuff, and it’s highly elastic and scalable, as well as comes with a whole suite of tools and performance tests to optimize your store.

You can check them out and learn more about their hosted WooCommerce offering at ecommercefuel.com/Liquid Web.

Thanks so much for listening, really appreciate you tuning in, and looking forward to talking to you again next time.

Want to connect with, and learn from other proven ecommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in “The eCommerce Fuel,” private community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

 

What Was Mentioned

Andrew Youderian: BlogTwitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
Brian Goulet: Website | LinkedIn |Twitter
Brian Goulet’s COO Role on the eCommerceFuel Job Board
How to Grow a Successful eCommerce Blog
Pilot Metropolitan Pens
Diamine Bottled Ink
Noodler’s Bottled Ink
J. Herbin Sealing Wax
Brian’s Top 5 Favorite Fountain Pens for Newbies
Brian Goulet’s 5 Favorite Fountain Pen Inks
Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk

The post Growing Through Fanatical Customer Engagement appeared first on eCommerceFuel.

Read more: ecommercefuel.com

Accounting for Amazon Sellers

On today’s episode we want to help you save a ton of money if you’re an Amazon seller. If you’re currently a seller on the platform, that lump sum deposit from Amazon sends you contains all of your revenue, your fees, and doesn’t tell you much else. So how do we make sense of it?

Ashley Schroder of A2X Accounting is here to help us out.

You’ll learn:

The right way to pay for Amazon advertising
Fees that could be costing you more than you think
Clear explanation of the Washington sales tax debacle

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Ashley Schroder of A2XAccounting.com)

Andrew: Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey guys, Andrew here, and welcome to The eCommerceFuel Podcast. Thanks so much, for tuning in to the show today. On today’s program, we are talking about accounting. Don’t leave, especially if you’re an Amazon seller, because while this may not be the most riveting topic in the world, there’s a good chance that it can save you a lot of money, especially if you, on Amazon, are really kind of ignoring the fact that you get a lump sum deposit from Amazon that contains all of your revenue, net all of your fees, and doesn’t tell you anything apart from the number that you probably post your income statement.

So if that sounds like you, if you know you’re not doing your accounting on Amazon as well as you should, stick around. I’m talking with Ashley Schroder from a2xaccounting.com. He’s the founder of that tool that makes it a lot easier to understand what that number is to break out the deposits, and all the different line items in there, and account for them. We talk about just the implications of not doing Amazon accounting correctly, how to think about doing it better and with more transparency. We get into sales tax on Amazon, which is a whole can of worms.

Anyway, hopefully, it’ll be insightful, and if nothing else, give you the push you need to get your Amazon accounting in order, because I would venture to guess most merchants probably are not doing it justice.

So, before we dive into that though, I wanna quickly thank our two fantastic sponsors. First, Liquid Web, who offers world-class web hosting for your WooCommerce store. Four reasons you should seriously think about these guys, so who I use for, not just my WooCommerce store, but all of my hosting. Incredibly highly elastic platform. If you get hit with a massive traffic spike, you’re gonna stay online, but it also of course, pairs with Woo, which you can customize to your needs. It’s a rare blend.

Secondly, they have a really cool suite of tools to performance test your store to make sure that when you need to be online and working well, that you’re not gonna run any problems. If you’re going “Shark Tank,” if you’re on new features, things like that.

Third, they understand WooCommerce incredibly well, not only from their team, but from their toolset. From automatic WooCommerce and WordPress upgrades, to backups, they understand the ecosystem. And their customer service is second to none, it’s incredible. Phone-based, U.S.-based customer service. They know their stuff. So, you can learn more about them and check them out at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

Secondly, a big thank you to Klaviyo, who makes email automation easy and powerful. They’ve got a very cool tool that came out recently, and that is a visual flow builder. So, drag and drop, you know, a lot of times you go in, when you build these floods, you go through multiple screens, and especially if you’re creating email flows that only happen in case A, or case B, they’ve got, you know, logic-based things that can get really confusing to visualize.

Klaviyo had built out a super cool “drag and drop” builder to make it much less complex, much less confusing.

There’s analytics built right in to all the different kind of sections on the visual flow builder so that you can see, at a glance, which segments of your flows are working well, and which ones need work. Very cool.

So, if you’re not on them, and you’re doing email marketing for e-commerce, at a minimum, check them out their free trial. You can learn more about them at ecommercefuel.com/klaviyo.

All right, thank you, sponsors. And with that being said, let’s go ahead and do a deep dive on geeking out on Amazon accounting, with Ashley.

Ashley Will Be Safe If There’s A Nuclear War

Andrew:So, Ashley, I can’t help but ask right out of the gates, do you realize that New Zealand is the place that all of these Silicon Valley tech billionaires are starting to create their end of the world compounds? Because New Zealand is supposedly, the perfect place if stuff hits the fan on a global scale, to be able to isolate yourself and live comfortably, and away from all the pandemics and nuclear war. Have you heard of all this?

Ashley: Yes. In fact, it’s been a little controversial down here because Peter Thiel is one of those billionaires, and he, under some dubious circumstances, got granted citizenship and has been kind of an investigator for a reporter down here who has been patrolling through the records trying to figure it all out. It’s one of those things where like normally, you know, you have to live in New Zealand for years and years before you can become a citizen, and like Peter Thiel came down here for, I don’t know, a few days or something, and then he managed to become a citizen, and sort of bring a big question mark of how this happened.

Yes, it’s been making headlines on and off for the last probably 12 months, the story of how that all came about.

The eCommerce Scene in NZ

Andrew: Man, well, congrats on being set up. You’re in a prime location, of course. You’re in Auckland. And what about the eCommerce scene in New Zealand? I believe Australia, Amazon just kind of opened up full tilt in Australia this last year or late 2017 or early 2018. What’s the eCommerce scene look like in New Zealand? Is Amazon even in New Zealand? Did that roll over with the Amazon launch? Is there a pretty vibrant eCommerce scene?

Are there a lot of sellers selling locally? Is the market not big enough to make it sell, to make it work, or do you have many niche sellers online? I have no idea.

I’d love to hear what, kind of what stage you guys are at in the eCommerce maturity.

Ashley: So, we don’t have Amazon here. And we are a relatively small market, so I think the recent launch of Amazon in Australia will impact on New Zealand. I’m sure a lot of people will start shopping on amazon.com.au from here. The kind of independent store scene is, again, because the market is small, it’s not huge eCommerce stores.

I was for a long time kind of involved in the Magento meet-up here in Oakland and you see, you know, successful stores, but not by the standards of the U.S. successful ecommerce store.

So, I think, you know, I think just because of our market size, we’re not gonna ever create the, you know, the next, I don’t know, like any of these really large eCommerce businesses, just certainly there’s not a market for it. But there is a, you know, there is a pretty good ecosystem of developers down here. The meet up was always, you know, pretty well attended by developers, agencies, store owners.

So, yeah, I think it’s gonna be interesting over the next couple of years to see how the introduction of Amazon in the region changes things, but at this stage, you know, it’s mostly smaller stores selling locally.

The Black Box of Amazon Accounting

Andrew: Very cool. So, let’s move a little bit to Amazon, Amazon accounting, of course that’s kind of one of your areas of expertise with A2X. You really understand that world. I have to make a disclaimer out of the gates. I’m not an Amazon power seller by any means. I have an Amazon account, I sell on Amazon, but it’s a relatively small amount of product. But with my experience, my kind of Amazon experience, hopefully, I would be a little more sophisticated maybe if I was selling more.

But I think this is maybe something, an experience that even medium, to even some large sellers have, as I see money coming from Amazon and I get a deposit in my bank account, and I have no idea what it’s for. It’s kind of like a black box, you know. Is that the reason you guys started A2X? And if so, like can you give us a sense of maybe by default, without going into customizing things, how Amazon treats deposits and accounting, just at a high level?

Ashley: Yeah. So, pretty much, that is exactly why we exist. So, that black box, that kind of unknown payment, is what a lot of sellers really struggle with. And so we kind of unpack all of the transactions that go into their payment and figure out what they all are and when they happened, and we send that into your accounting system in a way that lets you kinda track all the different, you know, sales, and revenue, expenses, fees, everything that kind of goes in there.

So, pre-A2X, or typically pre having an accountant involved, a lot of sellers do really struggle with that. I mean, you can do the kind of number crunching yourself in a spreadsheet, but it’s pretty painful, kind of horrible. It’s so, you know, pivoting and knocking around in spreadsheets, really. And you have to do it for every time they pay you, which can be every two weeks. So if you’re doing several channels, yeah, it can be a dozen times a month that you’re having to do this, you know, really horrible menial process.

But, you know, to answer your question, I think a lot of sellers are in that exact position where they don’t necessarily know exactly how much Amazon is charging them, or how much their sales are, or their margins, or anything. They’re really just getting a neat pay out, and they’re calling it profit and putting it in the bank.

So, that’s, you know, that’s sort of one of the big things that A2X helps solve, is figuring out how much you’re actually making on Amazon and how much they’re charging you in fees and those various other things, so that you can kind of track it more closely.

The Default Amazon Lump Payment

Andrew: Is there anything that Amazon does not? So, you think about Amazon, there’s so many things, you could have, you know, FBA storage fees, long term storage fees, of course, the commission you pay to the sales commission, FBA shipping costs. You’ve got may be, you know, return credits. Maybe you have, you know, all these different things that you’re advertising that you get charged for, or that you’re running on Amazon.

Is the default for Amazon to just give one deposit per, you know, every two-week period and include everything in that one deposit? Is that their default? And if it is, can you go in, and how much ability do they give you to break that into multiple deposits?

For example, I know that like in my Amazon advertising console, there is the ability to be able to charge my advertising fees to a credit card versus net them out of my revenue, which makes my accounting easier. So that’s just one thing, but is everything by default lumped into one? And how much can you go in and change the configuration to be able, hopefully, give you a little bit more transparency with the deposits and charges that they do?

Ashley: You know, the advertising one is the only one I know of where you get to choose, that, you know, you can choose to not have it go into your settlement and have it on a credit card. So, in general, the default is definitely two weeks, everything lumped into one, including like, I don’t know if you’ve ever used Amazon Capital, like their lending services, but all of that comes in through settlements as well.

So, I mean, that’s another huge source of confusion, is if you draw a loan down on Amazon and your settlement for that period looks amazing because you suddenly get this big lump sum of cash but it’s not a profit obviously, right? It’s a loan. So yeah, it’s another example where it’s really important to kind of understand what the numbers are. But yeah, certainly the default is every two weeks, everything lumped together.

And the option around advertising is relatively new, like being able to include in the settlement. I think sometime last year they introduced that. I was actually, can I ask you, do you do the including settlement or pay on credit card?

Andrew: In terms of the advertising I do on Amazon?

Ashley: Yeah.

Nuances With Paying for Amazon Ads

Andrew: Yeah, right now I do it on a credit card, just primarily so that I have a clear picture of the expenses and I can put them on the right line items on my P&L, but I mean, also because it’s nice to get some of those miles. But mostly because just transparency on the accounting.

Ashley: Yeah, so I think that’s the right way to do it, because they don’t charge you more for the advertising, so you’re basically just getting free miles. And, you know, sometimes it can be five or six figures, right? Like, you could be getting a lot of cash back rewards or MI rewards, whatever your credit card gives you, but you get longer to pay for it, and you get rewards. It seems like a no-brainer to me to put it through credit card.

So, I’m always a little bit confused why people would have it come out of the settlement instead when they’re having to pay for the two weeks instead of the next month.

Andrew: I didn’t even know it was an option until I happened to stumble across it and said, “Wow, I feel like an idiot. I should have done this months ago.”

Ashley: So you’ve probably encountered someone and like are you sure you wanna be doing this out of your settlement deposit? You could be racking up some serious miles, go to Bahamas or something, once a year.

How Amazon Determines What Goes Into Your Account

Andrew: Yeah. How does Amazon treat the revenue? Obviously, you know, there’s that lump sum, but when they’re thinking through that, if you make a sale on Amazon and you get that revenue generated, is it always a two-week ruling period? Do they take, let’s say your sales, or the net sales after fees that you generate from let’s say, the 1st the 15th through the month, and then pay those out on the 30th? What is the schedule that Amazon…how does that internally work, in terms of how they calculate what they actually put in your bank account?

Ashley: Yeah. It’s almost always two weeks. So, some early sellers on the platform have different cycles, and some European sellers can have their payments on demand, so they can have shorter settlement periods. But the settlement periods are basically always all of the orders and revenue during that period when the settlement’s open, minus all of the fees and expenses, and other charges in that period. That gets you your net total, and that net total is what gets paid to you at the end of that period, and it’s typically, two weeks.

So, paying for things about Amazon as far as accounting goes, is they don’t pay any attention to month ends, so you can end up with that two-week period running, you know, 10 days of January, four days of February, and so then if you booked the payment in February, like February looked really good, right? Very profitable, and it makes January look really bad, but in actual fact, if you break the transactions out and put them in the right amounts when they happened, you end up with a much more even smooth distribution of your revenue and expenses.

The Default for Deductions

Andrew: Yeah. Amazon, how do they do that? Do they have a, so when you make a sale, let’s say I make a sale of a product on Monday, is Amazon going to credit that sale in their reporting form that…I’m guessing they would credit for Monday, for the actual inventory when you’re trying to figure out your cost of goods sold, in that reporting, does it default to when you sell the item when they deduct the inventory, or does it default to when the item actually ships? Because sometimes it’s same day, a lot of times, it’s different days.

And like you mentioned, on different months, that can mess up. So, how do they, especially on the inventory side, when is the default for deducting it?

Ashley: So, it varies a lot. There’s sort of several phases through an order, so they sort of recognize an order early in the process when a customer places it, and then the next steps can be almost instant or quite quickly afterwards, or they can take sometimes, days or I’ve even seen situations where it can take weeks.

So, you know, the order places, some time later that gets confirmed, I guess the payment clears, and then sometime after that, it ships. And so those three things don’t always happen exactly at the same time, and so deciding when to recognize an order can be slightly tricky. I think in general when you talk to accountants, it’s mostly that you choose one and you just stick with it. So, you know, if you’re gonna use order dates, then you just use order dates all the time.

So, on A2X, because everything’s settlement-based, we’re looking at the date when the order posts into the settlement, which is I think pretty much when it gets. So, that period between the order getting placed and paid is normally pretty quick, but there are different examples where it can be days. And I think without knowing for sure what’s going on in that period, I think sometimes it can be things like fraud checks on the credit card.

Sometimes I guess if you place a high risk order, or the credit card gets flagged as high risk, maybe the call center is gonna call you and, you know, get you to send a photocopy of driver’s license or something. You know, those kind of processes start to kick in.

So, yeah, the kind of recognition of an order can vary, depending on which timing you use. I think as long as you choose one and stick with it, it’s gonna be fine. So, understanding that it’s not always gonna be all on the exact same day is really important.

Fees To Watch Out For

Andrew: Yeah. You mentioned stuff like fraud check fees. Some of the things we’re talking about are really obvious, you know, like your cost of goods sold on your inventory side, your FBA fees, etc. What are some of the fees or charges, that if you didn’t take the time to really dive into those the settlement reports and break out, what are some of the fees that you wouldn’t notice as much and you might let slip by for months or years and really add up going unnoticed, that you wouldn’t think about, that aren’t quite as obvious? What kind of fees have you seen in there that people wish for that bill?

Ashley: So, some of the ones that people often will forget about, especially in the kinda pricing models or deciding what to sell for, like return fees. So, you know, you sell the product, you should pay to ship it out, and then if the customer returns it to FBA, you get charged the return handling fee. And so I think during that, understanding what your return rights are for different products, and then knowing that those are gonna have a return handling costs and allowing for that in your pricing and your margins is pretty important.

And I think a lot of people don’t notice that happening, so that’s probably why one.

The long term storage fees are a really big number for a lot of sellers, and so, you know, having those out on a separate line in your profit and loss statement is a pretty good way to make sure you’re keeping an eye on it. I mean, you get the email warnings from Amazon, and it’s no secret that they’re coming, but I think in terms of profitability, being able to see how those fees have impacted your bottom line at the end of the year is really important.

There’s a lot of other fees that seem to be different, based on different categories. Obviously, commissions are different, but certain categories have other fees, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen fiscal variable closing fees. I think it mainly applies to books, and music, and DVDs. But basically, just like variable commission rights at the end of, once you make a sale.

So, yeah, there’s a few, depending on the different categories and things, there are a few fees that are worth keeping an eye on. I’m trying to think what other ones would be worth, you know, pulling out separately. Obviously, taxes that come through the settlement. You know, that’s a whole separate discussion, but pulling those out and treating them separately in your accounting is always a pretty good idea as well.

Andrew: Yeah. So, you’re taking about sales tax, right?

The Botched Sales Tax Issue

Ashley: Yeah. So, in the U.S. you’ve got sales tax, in U.K. and Europe you’re got like VAT, and so varying sort of scenarios as far as Amazon and sales tax. It’s actually, it’s an extremely messy area of life for an Amazon seller, and I think it’s probably gonna get a lot messier of an experience as well as all the states are sort of tracking down or getting more aware of what’s going on with FBA and nexus and things.

Andrew: Yeah. There was something else I was gonna ask you, but is the tax situation in places, you know, like Australia, probably Europe, somewhere established because it’s been there much longer, is the tax situation in, you know, outside the U.S. as much of a mess as it is inside the U.S., or are we unique here in the States for having totally botched the sales tax issue on Amazon?

Ashley: No, I have to say your tax system is kinda nuts, but it really is at a knots. So, in New Zealand, we just have one tax rate, and everybody pays. It’s called Goods and Services Tax. So, if you’re a consumer and you go buy, I don’t know, a book for $10, it’s actually gonna be extra 15%, so it’s gonna be $11.50. That $11.50 gets paid by the seller to the government as GST, and that’s pretty much how it works.

The only slight difference to that is if you’re a business and you go and buy like a wheelbarrow because you need it for your business, then at the end of the year when you’re paying your GST, you get to claim back the GST that you paid, you know, from business expenses.

So, that one paragraph is pretty much the tax code. I mean, there’s a few things that are different, but that’s pretty much it. So, the situation in the U.S. is just kind of always boggles my mind. I mean, we…so, we don’t claim at all to be kinda tax advisors, or when it comes to kind of tax questions, we typically say you need to talk to an accountant, or tax advisor, or an expert at sales tax, because it’s so complicated.

But whenever I hear about what kind of things sellers in the U.S. have to deal with, it always just kind of amazes me that, I guess that you’re as entrepreneurial as you are over there. It’s kind of an amazing, it amazes me that despite all of that extra bureaucracy in compliance, you manage to be, you know, so entrepreneurial.

How To Know If You’re Collecting Sales Tax

Andrew: Fortunately, I’d say the Amazon tax situation is probably on the extreme end of the dysfunction with some of our tax code issues and regulation, thankfully. But it’s, yeah, it’s a mess. Thinking through that for an Amazon merchant, obviously, I think, you know, the biggest risk for somebody would be not breaking out the sales tax. Because, Amazon, correct me if I’m wrong, but Amazon will collect the sales tax for you in some cases and then submit it to you as part of that deposit.

So you could potentially, if you’re not paying attention to look at that, see that deposit, not realize you’re collecting sales tax and then at the end of a year period, not have accounted for that, but then realize you have the sales tax payable due that you’ve already had but you just haven’t accounted for it or planned for. Is that a situation that…Am I thinking about that right, the way Amazon deals with that in the states?

Ashley: Yeah, pretty much. So, you can tell Amazon what states you want to collect or charge tax in, and then they will, you know, when a buyer comes along that’s trying to ship to that state, they’ll figure out the right tax rate based on the city or zip code, or whatever, and charge that and then they will pay that to you as part of your settlement.

So, you’re right. If you’re not aware of the amounts, if you’re not kind of tracking them, you can end up with a situation where you might think that payment coming to you each, you know, every two weeks is your money, but actually, it’s, you know, a decent part of it can actually be not, strictly speaking, your money. You know, it’s kind of, it’s money that’s been paid you, but you’ve got to turn around and pay it to, I don’t know, the state of California, or the state of Texas, wherever you’ve collected it for.

I think that catches people out definitely, not accounting for that properly. And then also, you know, the more recent thing of where to register, like which states you have Nexus on, and should actually be charging tax in. I won’t claim to have any sort of expert advice on that, but I know it’s an area that seems to be, you know, I was at a cross fit show last year and I’d seen Michael Fleming from Poster Johnson talking about all the various kind of edge cases around, you know, where FBA creates and doesn’t create a nexus.

It seems to me like a real minefield for sellers.

Things To Be Aware Of As A Seller

Andrew: Any other final thoughts in terms of, you know, we covered a lot of things we should be breaking out the way Amazon does things, some of the problems if you’re not breaking out that lump settlement once or twice a month. Any other things Amazon sellers should really be thinking about on an accounting-wise basis that either can trip them up, or a lot of people don’t do that they should be doing?

Ashley: One thing on the tax thing, and this is new as of January this year, you would have probably seen headlines around how Amazon is now are collecting Washington State sales tax for everybody, whether they’ve registered there or not. Have you seen headlines about that?

Andrew: Yeah, I have, yes.

Ashley: So, I think there’s a sort of almost a misunderstanding, or some misinformation, that I’m hearing from sellers, that because Amazon’s collecting it and paying it on their behalf, they can kind of wash their hands of Washington. They don’t have to worry about it anymore. And so, talking to, I had a call with Poster Johnson last week, and talking to them about, our questions were more about, you know, how should sellers be accounting for these transactions?

And what we got from the call was I think a bit of a shock, because there’s a lot more to it than, you know, Amazon collects and Amazon pays it, I don’t need to do anything. There’s actually a lot. You know, you actually still have to register and file in Washington. You have to then claim credits for the amount that Amazon paid on your behalf.

There’s another tax, which I have never even heard of. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of, it’s called B&O, Business and Occupation tax in the state of Washington, which apparently is super to sales tax payable on your revenues in certain situation. And Amazon is not collecting a payment for you, so you actually need to still track your sales in Washington and pay this extra tax, potentially, when you file your return.

The whole thing kind of just seemed actually a lot more complicated. So, I think a lot of sellers are under the impression that it’s actually made life easy for them, because Amazon is collecting and paying it now, and they don’t need to worry. But the impression I got after talking with the tax expert was quite the opposite. It’s actually made it possibly more complicated, and certainly, you need to be paying closer attention to it, not, you know, not forgetting about it or ignoring about it entirely.

So, I would say if there’s one thing that…We’re working on some articles around this at the moment, just because I think it’s a big deal. But I would say, if you’ve got considerable sales volume into Washington, it would absolutely be worth talking to an expert to make sure you’re, you know, complying with all the required tax laws now that Amazon’s doing what they’re doing, and that you’re filing your returns properly.

How A2X Accounting Helps

Andrew: Ashley, I kind of alluded and mention A2X Accounting, which is the software that you’ve created to help with this. I mentioned a couple things that it does, but can you give people who aren’t familiar with it an overview of what it does and how it can help sellers avoid a lot of the mistakes that we’ve, or potential pitfalls we’ve been discussing?

Ashley: Yeah, I sure can. So, kind of our pitch is A2X makes Amazon accounting easy. And so what we do is every day, we automatically check your Amazon account for a new settlement. As soon as a new one comes through, we import all of the transactions, we crunch all the numbers, and figure out what revenue, sales, fees, expenses, you head, and then we seam those sort of to your accounting system so that you can reconcile those amounts to the money when it arrives in your bank account.

So that lets you make sure you got paid the right amount, make sure you account for all of the different types of transactions that you are paid, or paid Amazon. And it lets you make sure that the transactions are being put in the right month, or the right period. That way, you can compare month-on-month, year-on-year, and really try to tell if your business is growing, or, you know, how much more profitable or less profitable you are each month.

That’s what we do, basically.

A Detailed Look At Amazon Costs from A2X

Andrew: You reckon. So, you can sync that with like zero, for example, pull it into that one settlement when we broken out where all the fees, you know, all the different aspects that you wanna configure, you can see them line by line on the P&L to get a much better, much more transparency, but also ties into your accounting.

Ashley: Exactly, yeah. So, that’s pretty much the two benefits that you get out of that. One is you see all of the detail, which you would otherwise miss if you’re just accounting for the lump sum. But you get the benefit of tying all of those individual amounts and reconciling them back to the deposit that actually arrived in your bank account.

So, you’re getting that kind of check point that you know you got paid the right amount, you know you captured all of the right sales, but at the same time, you’re also getting that visibility into what all those different transactions were.

She’s Also a Magento Expert!

Andrew: Yeah. And totally unrelated to Amazon’s sales tax, but you’re also a blogger for it at ashroder.com. I remember back in the day when I was on Magento, I pulled up, I used a lot of your articles when I was kinda learning how to be the world’s worst Magento hack, in terms of getting under the hood and change things.

So, first off, thank you, for those. Those were super helpful. Also, I’d love to get your thoughts, like you’re still very involved, or at least from talking before we hopped on, somewhat involved in the Magento space, what are your thoughts? I just ended up doing a Magento kind of, you know, State of Magento 2008 discussion earlier this year, and would love to hear your thoughts, like where do you see Magento right now? Do you see it kinda static, on the rise, declining?

Is it getting better, or worse? I would be curious just to hear your quick take on it.

Ashley: Yeah, I have to say I’m probably not really qualified these days to give a good kind of pulse of the community. I still have a couple of extensions, and I still kind of, you know, keep an eye on the news, but I’m not really actively involved anymore. I have some good friends that are, and it sounds like the move to Magento towards, you know, the community is moving slowly, not maybe as quick as everybody would have liked. But they are moving.

You know, it seems like Magento, the company is doing really well. They keep signing new, big clients. So, yeah, I don’t know if I would have an opinion on whether it’s going well or not. We still run a few Magento stores, but not anywhere near like we used to. If I was doing a new store for somebody now, I would think pretty hard about doing Magento. I think it’s quite a complicated base for all, but the, you know, biggest and most advanced stores.

Andrew: Love to, before we wrap up here, do a quick lightning round with you Ashley. So, rapid fire questions. I’m gonna just lob, and feel free to just give me quick replies back if you’re up for it.

Ashley: Okay, I’ll try.

The Lightning Round!

Ashley: Awesome. If you had to identify the number one thing you’re trying to optimize your life for right now, what would it be?

Ashley: I’m experimenting at the moment, with getting up early and fitting in a training run before the kids wake up. So, I’m trying to optimize like getting in time for exercise before they wake up, before work starts, that kind of thing.

Andrew: Nice. Who’s someone you strongly disagree with?

Ashley: Oh, my Gosh, I’ve pretty much stopped reading Twitter because I so strongly disagree with most of the U.S. Republican politics that seems to resonate so much there at the moment. So, I would just probably say, U.S. right wing politics is probably, I strongly disagree with most of what I see coming out of there at the moment.

Andrew: How much money is enough? So, what would be the number in your bank account where, obviously, you can work more if you wanted to in the future, but where you could say no, if you didn’t…you would feel like you wouldn’t have to work unless you wanted to? It would be enough money.

Ashley: I’m kind of a Mr. Money Mustache reader, casual reader. So, I would say freehold house, and, you know, like high six or seven figures, and some sort of passive income equities and investments, and just keep your overheads really low. So, I’m gonna say kind of low seven figures is probably my number.

Andrew: Nice, two million? Three million?

Ashley: Yeah, probably in that ballpark. You know, as long as you keep your overheads low, that’s more than enough.

Andrew: Nice, I like it. And I think I know the answer to this, but I’m gonna ask it any way. It’ll be a soft ball lightning round question, given Xero is based in New Zealand, but, Xero or a Quickbooks online for your accounting for your ecommerce business?

Ashley: Yeah, I am a little biased because of the whole and, you know, we’ve been using Xero for a long time, long, long time, so I personally, and for our own business accounting, we use Xero. But now we’ve worked really closely and deeply with both platforms.

There’s a huge amount of overlap with what they can do, so it’s a, you know, people ask us that all the time, actually, straight away, and I typically say, you know, you should probably talk to your accountant and use what they’re comfortable with, because they’re gonna be the one working in there most of the time. It’s better to choose what they’re good at than choosing what you necessarily like to look over something.

So, yeah. It’s a tricky one, but if you’re hunting, gotta go with Xero on that one.

Andrew: Nice, nice. That’s very good. The worst investment you’ve me in the last 10 years.

Ashley: Worst, or stupidest?

Andrew: Your choice. Your choice.

Ashley: So, my wife and I got married in Las Vegas, and then, you could call this an investment or a waste of money, but we brought a Corbett and we did a big road trip around the kind of southwestern part of the U.S. And then we put the car in a container, and we shipped it back to New Zealand. We still have it today, and so every day I look out the window and I’m like, “That was the stupidest thing. Why did we do that?”

We now have kids and it has no back seats, so it’s more like an art piece, really. So that was probably the stupidest thing that we wasted money on when we were kinda young and foolish.

Andrew: That’s a great story. I’ll let you, you know, hopefully, help you redeem yourself here. What’s the best investment outside of your business that you’ve made in the last 10 years?

Ashley: I would probably have to say, so I invested in a few of the kind of New Zealand software companies like Xero and Push Play, and funnily enough,  so a few of those. A couple of those have done really well over time. Somewhat ironically, one of them has actually gone under entirely, so that kind of cancels out some of the benefits, but, yeah.

So, some of the New Zealand tech companies have done very well.

Andrew: And then finally, what was the first CD you ever owned?

Ashley: It would be, and I’m kind of a little embarrassed by this, but…

Andrew: Oh, that’s why I asked the question. Most people are pretty embarrassed.

Ashley: I think it was “Celebrity Skin,” by Hole. and I was like a teenager. Yeah, “Celebrity Skin” by Hole, I think was it. Or maybe, if not that, it would have been an album around the same time by Placebo called, I think it was called “Without You I’m Nothing.” It was the one with the “Every You and Every Me” song on it. So, I was kind of into that. I guess it would have been like the mid to late 90s grungy alternative thing in my early teenage years. So, embarrassingly, that’s what I ended up getting, I think.

Andrew: I love it. Ashley, right here. Hey man, I appreciate you coming and talking about this stuff. If you’ve been listening, of course his website and his SAS company that helps streamline the process of Amazon accounting for your eCommerce store, a2xaccounting.com. That’s a2xaccounting.com.

He also runs a, kind of a business to help people in Australia, and New Zealand, and other countries export their goods abroad to larger markets. That’s export-x.com. And if you want to geek out on his Magento articles like I did, and other kind of thoughts on web development, aschroder.com. We’ll link up to all those in the show notes.

Ashley, so good connecting with you, and thanks so much for talking shop with me.

Ashley: Awesome. Thanks for having me on the show, Andrew, it’s been awesome to share.

Andrew: That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode, but if you enjoyed what you heard and are interested in getting plugged into a dynamic community of experienced store owners, check us out at ecommercefuel.com. eCommerceFuel is the private vetted community for eCommerce entrepreneurs. And what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that is a member to make sure that they’re a great fit, that they can add value to a broader community.

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So, if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

And also have to think our two sponsors that make the show possible, Liquid Web. If you are on WooCommerce, or you’re thinking about getting on to WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have host your store, particularly, with their managed WooCommerce hosting. It’s highly elastic and scalable, it’s got built-in tools to performance test your store so you can be confident it’s gonna work well.

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Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

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What Was Mentioned

Andrew Youderian: BlogTwitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
Ashley Schroder: Website | LinkedIn
www.ASchroder.com
Magento Review: Has Complexity Killed Its Appeal?
www.Export-X.com

Flickr: bm_adverts

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