How Steve Chou Perfected his Work & Life Balance while running two, 6-Figure Companies

By |2018-05-23T15:57:29+00:00December 22nd, 2015|Digital Marketing, eCommerce Best Practices, Webinar|

For many of us,  finding that beautiful balance between work and life is so unattainable. Either we’re working too hard, or not working hard enough — but for Steve Chou, he found that perfect balance where his family keeps him grounded, while running two strong businesses. In today’s Skubana Mastery Series, Steve Chou shares his insight on this balance, and the ways he automates his business to free up the time he spends on his business to be with his family.

In the Fourteenth episode of Skubana’s E-Commerce Mastery Series where we invite experts of their respected fields to share their best practices for success, our host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz of InspiredInsider.com interviews Steve Chou of BumbleBee Linens and My Wife Quit Her Job.

Essential Lessons Learned:

  • Tools for automating your emails
  • Establishing your email voice to enhance customer retention
  • How to maintain family and work balance by having your family keep you grounded
  • The importance of product selection and finding your niche
  • How Google PLAs can advance your business

Raw Transcript: Steve Chou of BumbleBee Linens / MyWifeQuitHerJob.com

Dr. Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here. I’m founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders like the founders of P90X, Baby Einstein, Atari and many more. How they overcome big challenges in life and business. This is part of the Skubana E-Commerce Mastery Series, where top sellers and experts teach you what really works to boost your e-commerce business. We have the perfect person today for that. Skubana is a software platform to manage your entire e-commerce operation. Today, we have Steve Chou, he’s founder of Bumblebee Linens and mywifequitherjob.com.Now, Steve’s a smart dude. How do I know that? He’s got a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Top that. He not only runs multiple six figures businesses, but he is a hardware engineer by day, entrepreneur by night. In addition being a husband and dad of two kids. We met at Mastermind meeting that John Corcoran and I put together in San Francisco. Steve, good to see you again.

Steve: Good to see you man. I just want to note, see, I used that hardware engineering degree very wisely in selling handkerchiefs at my store.

Dr. Weisz: That background comes in handy.

Steve: All that education, comes in handy, right?

Dr. Weisz: I have a lot to talk to you, and a lot of questions about running several multiple six figure businesses, your hardware business. What’s the hardest part about balancing two kids, multiple businesses, and full time job for you?

Steve: The hardest part for me, actually, is making sure that my business ambitions don’t eat into my primary objective, which is hanging out with the kids and more time with family. There’s this tendency to just want to grow your businesses faster and faster, putting in more time. And just recently actually I’ve had to take step back and go, “Hey, is this extra money really going to improve my life or should I just be volunteering at the school more often?” I don’t know if you get that too Jeremy.

Dr. Weisz: How do you fight that? Because you do have conversations with high-level entrepreneurs every day, I read your webinar post. You’re talking to an entrepreneur, he’s like, “These webinars Steve, they’re just doing amazing.” You’re like, “Maybe I should do webinars.” How do you fight that urge to just keep growing and spending more time?

Steve: Yeah, so in regards to that webinar, my buddies kept sending me their stats so I ended up trying it and it did crazy. It did $60,000 for one and a half hour of work, and I was like, “Okay, I can do another one.” And so I ended up doing two more with similar results, I did them within two weeks apart and I decided that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do that often. Maybe occasionally. Here’s the long term plan with that.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah, go ahead.

Steve: I was thinking just maybe doing a couple of these at the beginning of the year. Get that influx of cash and then just chill and work on some other stuff casually for the rest of the year.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: That’s what I was thinking about doing in regards to the webinars. In regards to how I keep…

Dr. Weisz: Hold on. After you do that, like that’s what you’re thinking, but it sounds like it’s a little bit addicting for you when you do a few that are successful to keep doing them. You still going to stick to that?

Steve: It is. The thing is I don’t particularly enjoy doing them.

Dr. Weisz: Why not?

Steve: I don’t know. It’s maybe because I can’t see the audience. If it was a live thing I would have no problems doing this more often. I’m talking to you and I can see your facial expressions, but when I’m giving one of these webinars I have no idea what people are…

Dr. Weisz: It’s just you talking.

Steve: Yeah, it’s just me talking. And that’s just not appealing to me. The aftermath is very appealing to me.

Dr. Weisz: Someone’s thinking, “Steve, you’re an idiot. An hour of work, you can do these once a week.” So go back onto what you were talking about, how do you fight that urge to…?

Steve: Fighting the urge, usually my wife keeps me grounded a little bit.

Dr. Weisz: Yes.

Steve: She’ll say something like, “Hey, I notice you’re spending a lot more time. We’re not hanging out as much.” Recently I’ll tell you what happened earlier this year, and you know this Jeremy, I went down to four days a week at my job and that Friday has been reserved pretty much for doing my business in the morning and then I hang out with my wife in the afternoon. Little things like that, as the businesses have grown, I’ve kind of taken a few concessions here and there, just to make sure that the work-life balance is still maintained. It’s really hard to just not get caught up in stuff that works. When you have something that works with your business, the tendency is to just press harder and harder.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: I have a pretty good gauge based on my kids also, because they want their time.

Dr. Weisz: They’ll say things to you like, “Daddy, where were you?”

Steve: Something like that or, “Are you going to be coming to my event, my performance at night?” I never miss performances. I try never to miss performances. Last time I actually accidentally scheduled a webinar on top of one of their performances and three days before the webinar I decided to just change the date of the webinar. Probably resulted in some lost attendance, but it’s a matter of keeping the priorities straight.

Dr. Weisz: Right, right. And how do you create space for obviously all the different businesses and full time job and everything?

Steve: I run an e-commerce store, a blog, a podcast and a course that teaches that stuff. In terms of the e-commerce store, my wife pretty much runs that day to day. We got a warehouse, we got employees that are fulfilling orders and so she’s pretty much on top of that. The only time I intervene with that is when there is tech issues involved, so if the website needs a little revamping or whatnot, that’s when I get involved. I also handle all the paper click marketing and all that stuff for the store.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: Which kind of is all intertwined with my blog. On my blog, for the people who aren’t familiar with it, I use the blog to talk about how I run the business. Whenever I try something new at the store, I write about it on the blog, so it’s all kind of related.

Dr. Weisz: For sure, yeah. That’s mywifequitherjob.com. And there’s some really extensive blog posts which I’m going to ask about. Really interesting information. But I want to talk a little bit about the e-commerce portion of things, Steve, and maybe I should have your wife on at some point. Does she go on any podcasts?

Steve: She does not. She’s actually very shy, she doesn’t like going on…

Dr. Weisz: So am I. That’s okay. What’s a must for sellers to boost sales? Obviously, you started the Bumblebee Linens in 2007, how long ago was it?

Steve: That’s correct, yeah, 2007.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah, 2007. What has worked throughout the years? I know, obviously, in the beginning certain things worked and now take me through the evolution of what worked then and through today about boosting sales.

Steve: Just in terms of finding something that’s going to sell, I think the most important aspect is finding something that’s unique about your business. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the e-commerce landscape right now, but what a lot of people are doing right now is taking stuff they’re getting from China and just throwing it up on Amazon. And it’s doing well for a lot of people, but my opinion for that long term is, unless you’re kind of adding value or if you’re selling unique products, or doing something or adding value, you’re probably not going to be around in the long haul.

Dr. Weisz: You think it’s a short term play. When people are doing that short term, it’s not a long term sustainable business.

Steve: Short term meaning probably under three years-ish before everyone just starts doing the same thing and the margins start eroding. What we try to do with our business is we try to add value, and we try to do stuff that’s hard to do.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: I’ll just give you an example. We actually custom personalize all of our stuff and that actually involves spending money on capital. We need to get the machines that do it. Someone needs to run these machines. Someone needs to press the final product before it’s shipped out. That’s something that Amazon can’t really take away from us, because it’s much harder to do.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. There’s a barrier of entry there.

Steve: There’s a barrier of entry there. And we also try to pick one thing with our shop and just do it very well. For our shop, our one thing is handkerchiefs. We carry the largest selection of handkerchiefs. Very niche product, very niche product. Not a lot of stores sell them and we just do it better than anyone else.

Dr. Weisz: Talk about that. You have that now. You’re in 2007. What’s working? Obviously, you’ve come to all these lessons and realizations now, what’s some of the evolution of what worked to actually sell these handkerchiefs?

Steve: I can tell you this. When we first started out we were just a shop. Just a listing of products. We had our value propositions in every page, that we specialize in handkerchiefs, we’re personalize everything for you. But what I’ve come to learn over the years is that getting the customer, getting them to be emotionally invested in your company has really helped in terms of word of mouth and in terms of getting repeat customers in the first place. I’ll just give you a couple of examples. When we started a blog and an email list, when someone signs up we actually tell them the story about how we started our store. We actually give them craft ideas.

Most of our people are wedding people and a lot of these people, they’re DIY wedding people, they want to make some of their own stuff to make it more meaningful. And so for those people we actually offer craft tutorials. We teach them how to personalize their wedding using our products, and a lot of our customers like that. And so even though they might find a product somewhere else that’s similar to ours, they’ll come back to us because they learned how to do these tutorials. My wife actually wrote a bunch of these emails and she writes in a very personal tone. It’s like a conversational tone, not like we’re some big business or something like that. Which we’re not, of course. Just a very Mom-and-Pop personalized email to engage the customer.

Dr. Weisz: Obviously, you have ways of having them come back with email, but it sounds like early on and today you still use paid traffic sources, right?

Steve: Yeah, we do. Again, this ties into my blog, but I try every single payed service out there. I don’t know where you want to go with this, like what’s working the best?

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. What’s working the best? What you’ve tried that people should maybe think about or steer clear of?

Steve: If you’re first starting out with your shop, I highly recommend the PLAs, like Google Shopping, shopping.com. Amazon product ads is not going to be around much longer, they cancelled that. Basically ads where you get to see the picture and the price, so that when someone sees that ad they already know what the product is, they already know the price, so when they click on it they’re much more likely to buy. Because they already know what to expect. We also run AdWords ads, which have been around forever. The ones that when someone’s trying to search for something your ad pops up and since they’re search intent for whatever they’re looking for, they’re much more likely to convert as well. We can talk about Facebook a little bit, which is something that we’ve been doing more and more of over the years. The problem with Google Shopping ads and Google AdWords ads is that…

Dr. Weisz: When you say Google Shopping, the product listing ads?

Steve: The product listing ads, yeah.

Dr. Weisz: Okay.

Steve: The problem with those is that the audience that you can reach is just limited by the number of searches, if you know what I mean. For example, if wedding handkerchiefs, which is what we sell, get 1,000 searches per month, we’re never going to reach more than 1,000 people a month.

Dr. Weisz: It’s hard to scale it.

Steve: It’s hard to scale that. And so what’s nice about other ad platforms like Facebook is, it allows you to target your specific audience and potentially reach millions of people. Hundreds of thousands or millions of people, all potentially looking at your stuff.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t know how much depth you want to go into this.

Dr. Weisz: Keep going. Go ahead. Go.

Steve: Facebook, I’ll just run down one of our typical campaigns, maybe that’ll help.

Dr. Weisz: For people actually running a business this is like the most exciting thing of all time.

Steve: One of the benefits of Facebook is that you can really hone in on your target audience. We have a target customer in mind. We have someone who’s engaged, pretty much in their 20’s or maybe early 30’s, who are either from California, New York or certain parts of the South, because that’s where our main customers are.

Dr. Weisz: Really? Interesting.

Steve: We also target people who are wealthier, because people who have more disposable income to throw at weddings or on personalized stuff… None of the stuff that we sell is really essential to a wedding, right?

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: We target people who make more than $50,000 and we also target people who drive luxury cars.

Dr. Weisz: How did you figure this all out? Obviously the regional thing is just… Is it an observation or did you one day just say, “Why are we getting so many people from California?” and actually looking into the data? Or is it more qualitative or quantitative?

Steve: All that stuff related to the states to target is all quantitative data, just based on our customer database. It was just natural to target those people.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: Those have been converting really well. In terms of other targeting methods, we also target people who have just been to the website.

Dr. Weisz: So you re-target them?

Steve: Re-target them, yeah. What’s cool about Facebook now is that you can set a pixel and you can actually show a potential customer the exact products they looked at in the ad.

Dr. Weisz: That’s really cool.

Steve: Let’s say they looked at product A, B and C. They’re going to see an ad with product A, B and C on it. They’re much more likely to click on it, much more likely to convert. Another feature of Facebook that’s really cool also is “lookalike” audiences. You can upload your entire customer list. Facebook will give you a demographic that’s within 1% of the people that you’ve uploaded and then you can run ads on them as well.

Dr. Weisz: What do you use for re-targeting?

Steve: I just use Power Editor.

Dr. Weisz: Anything interesting, Steve, that you can think of with the profile that surprised you? Like on Facebook, obviously luxury cars is one. But that’s not so surprising because you’re looking for a wealthier client. Anything like a certain career or certain TV show that someone likes or movie that correlates to your target audience that you find it was interesting with your demographic?

Steve: No. I can give you one thing. We have also targeted people that read Brides magazine. The wedding industry, it’s pretty obvious. Based on what they’re liking, so Brides Magazine, Modern Bride, all those things as well. Not so much some of the parameters that you were talking about.

Dr. Weisz: That’s interesting though, because with a wedding you have a certain time frame and if you don’t get it within a time frame, it’s like they don’t need you anymore. If it’s for a wedding obviously.

Steve: That’s correct. There’s other classes of customers also, which if you want we can talk about as well.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah, go ahead.

Steve: One of the benefits of having your own shop also is that you have this opportunity to target B2B customers as well.

Dr. Weisz: Talk about that, because I think people are thinking B to C and I know you have a bigger vision of getting more sales at once, so talk about that.

Steve: Totally. What’s nice about B2B customers is, they’re always coming back and they’re always buying in bulk, and you pretty much don’t have to go out and seek these people. They’re loyal to you. It’s not like they’re out price shopping because they’re coming to you because you provide a service for them and you’re reliable. For our store, we also target event planners, wedding planners and we’ve actually gotten a decent amount of traction within hotels and airliners, of all places.

Dr. Weisz: Really?

Steve: Yeah. One of our customers buys napkins from us for their jets, for their private jet service.

Dr. Weisz: Nice.

Steve: We also have a bunch of hotels and bed and breakfasts that use our stuff as well. And then of course, the event planners and whatnot, they buy the handkerchiefs and whatnot. The way we find these people is, whenever someone places a large order, they get flagged in our system and we set them aside. Whenever people buy more than once, which as you mentioned, is a little unusual unless they’re getting divorced real quick and getting married.

Dr. Weisz: Horrible situation.

Steve: Highly unlikely. Those people who buy more than once, that tells you something. Especially since you’re in the wedding industry.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: Maybe they’re doing this as their own business and they’re buying supplies or they run some sort of larger business that requires our products. So we single out those people and we contact them directly, offer them coupons, try to establish a conversation on the phone or whatnot.

Dr. Weisz: And you’re good about this, because I know that you talk to your customers, actually. You guys talk to your customers on the phone. What have you discovered that’s interesting from some of these conversations that shifted, whether it’s a product or something you do on the side?

Steve: Yeah, I can tell you a good example. What we found is that brides, they always wait to the last minute to do stuff, always. They want something personalized, which takes time to get done, they want it last minute. So one of the things we changed on our website is one of our value propositions now is extremely fast turnaround times. If you need something really quick you just contact us on the phone. We’ll make sure it happens. That’s one of our value propositions.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: That came about because of all these phone conversations that we had.

Dr. Weisz: Right. They want it right away.

Steve: Yeah.

Dr. Weisz: So talk about the platforms. I know that you, on your site, talk about Amazon, you talk about eBay, your site. What platforms are you on and what do you recommend others test out?

Steve: Right now we’re on our own open source site and we’re also selling on Amazon. The reason we sell on Amazon is because the marketplace is just so huge and it’s really actually quite easy to make sales on there. It’s almost like you can throw stuff on there and just by the sheer volume of people on there you’re going to make sales. And of course, the reason why we have our own site is so that we can have access to our customers, our customer lists so that we can remarket to them and that sort of thing. I think it’s very important to have both.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: Was your question in regards to the actual platform?

Dr. Weisz: Yeah, like Amazon, your own site, do you use eBay or do you recommend people try it or any other shopping platform out there?

Steve: It’s a trade-off. What’s nice about Amazon is they can fulfill all your orders for you, which makes inventory management a little bit easier. You just set aside some product, you ship to Amazon, they take care of everything. And so you can make additional money outside of your shop without much effort. Problem is when you go into eBay then you have start worrying about inventory across different channels. You have to worry about fulfillment to a new platform and eBay generally tends to have lower class customers, so to speak, or higher maintenance customers. It’s really a trade-off.

Dr. Weisz: They’re more bargain shoppers, maybe.

Steve: Bargain shoppers, yeah. That sort of thing. We made the choice just to go with Amazon in addition to our own shop just for our personal sanity.

Dr. Weisz: Tell me about, do you do a lot of, then, FBA? Because it sounds like you have your own warehouse, you wouldn’t utilize that as much.

Steve: Yeah, no. We definitely do everything FBA and the reason is because when you’re FBA you get Prime. And most people when they shop on Amazon, they just filter out all the non-Prime listings and go straight to Prime. There’s people that have measured this and the conversion rate is up to 3X the amount when you are Prime versus non-Prime.

Dr. Weisz: Prime.

Steve: Yeah.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. You’re so methodical and that’s what I love about you. It’s probably your engineer mind. I want you to walk me through the process of… Someone hits the site, right? How do you optimize the product listing on the site, the checkout and then what materials you may put in the box or follow up sequence with them, from A to Z?

Steve: Let me give you the high level, because most of the shopping carts these days, in terms of the checkout flow and all that stuff, is pretty good at this point.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: I’ll just give you the high level on how we bring customers in and bring them back. What we typically do is we buy ads and I’ll just use Facebook as an example here. It’s all about getting an initial contact and getting them “pixeled,” so to speak, for re-targeting.

Dr. Weisz: Talk dirty to me Steve. When you say “pixel.”

Steve: So that re-target pixel that we’re talking about. We want to engage the customer initially through some piece of content. For example, we’ll run an ad to a landing page that gives a decent amount of informational content. Just to give you an example we had this post called “Nine Unique Ways to Make Your Wedding Extra Special” from a DIY perspective.

Dr. Weisz: Love it. [inaudible 00:22:26] copyrighting. I love it. Go on.

Steve: We do a lot of copyrighting. Selling is not just listing your products on a site, there’s a lot of copy and stuff involved. In that article we talk about our products, we put some of the good ideas from our crafts that my wife has put together, and we basically flood that page with email sign up forms, and we also pixel them so we can run ads to them later on. In the event that they don’t sign up for our email list or anything, we still can show ads very subtly in the background re-targeting. In the event though that they do sign up for our email list, we offer a freebie, which is a book of crafts, and then we have an email auto responder sequence that right now is 20 emails long, going out once a week that talks about our company. We provide more crafts and then interspersed in there are links back to our shop, where they’re incentivized to make a purchase. It’s really sprinkled in with the content. Most of it’s content.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: Those people that actually end up clicking on a product or looking at a product, as I mentioned before we have Facebook ads that show them exactly what product they were looking at and entice them to get back. We also have Google re-targeting ads and, I don’t know how sophisticated your listenership is, but on all these blogs they have AdSense boxes, AdSense ads and Google pretty much has reach over the majority of websites on the internet and so same thing. Once you’ve pixeled those people, you can actually show the exact same products that they were looking at on practically every single website out there on the internet.

Dr. Weisz: Across the web. Right.

Steve: It’s like a war of attrition. People might not be ready to buy something right away but if you keep hitting them with emails, you keep hitting them with very subtle ads, eventually when it comes time they’re interested in your product, they’ll come and buy.

Dr. Weisz: Right. Yeah. So now they buy, right?

Steve: So now they buy and there’s a number of things that you can do after as well. You can run a win back campaign. Let’s say they haven’t ordered in 30 to 60 days, you can hit them up with another offer just to try to get them back in the store. There’s a lot of email programs out there that automate this for you, we use Klaviyo. Klaviyo what it does is it compiles all of your orders, all of your customers, everything, so that you can just hit them up. I can say, “Hey. Someone who hasn’t ordered in two months, ordered handkerchiefs, ordered more than 50 bucks.” It’ll compile a nice little list, and then I can just fire off an offer. A very specific offer just to that subset of people.

Dr. Weisz: Does it do cart abandonment too? Or do you use anything for that?

Steve: It does cart abandonment also, so that’s a different thing. If they started checkout and I have their email, what’ll happen is two hours later I’ll show them an email with the exact contents of their shopping cart and a one-time link, where if they click on it, it just takes them right back to check out with everything that was in their shopping cart. We also have another email that goes out, I think a day later if they still haven’t checked out. Another friendly reminder email.

Dr. Weisz: Let’s say they purchase. You send them something else, another offer. What about anything in the actual box that you send off?

Steve: We actually don’t do anything special within the box. Just a standard invoice with our contact information. We’re not really big on coupons. I know a lot of people like to put in coupons, but what we try to avoid there is people depending on the coupons.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: So that’s why in the abandoned cart sequence one of the best practices that a lot of people say they do is, in that last abandoned email, include some sort of coupon or offer just to close the deal. We chose not to do that because we don’t want to train people to just wait for that email once it becomes well known. People talk.

Dr. Weisz: What’s the biggest challenge within that process for you? What seems to be sticking points? Not just for you, but I’m sure for most people.

Steve: I would say the biggest challenge in terms of putting together the copy is deciding who you want to target. Meaning, what tone do you write the emails to extract the most feedback. I’ll give you an example. My wife usually writes the emails and then occasionally I’ll write one. And I remember there was this one email that I wrote, I think it was for Father’s Day or something. It just did not strike a chord with…

Dr. Weisz: It’s your tone and language.

Steve: it’s my tone and language, yeah. And if you’ve gotten emails from me, it uses humor. It’s a little off-beat and that did not go well. A lot of people marked that email as spam.

Dr. Weisz: What did you say in it?

Steve: Have you had Neville Medhora on your show?

Dr. Weisz: I’ve interviewed him, yes.

Steve: Okay, so I followed his AIDA formula, which is attention, Interest…

Dr. Weisz: Desire, Action.

Steve: Desire, Action, yeah. I came up with something funny to get their attention. I talked about the product. And in the end I just had an offer, essentially. It just didn’t go well. Maybe it’s because my wife had been writing all the other autoresponder sequences and all of a sudden there was this email that was just completely in a different tone, but it just did not work out.

Dr. Weisz: I think that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should, as far as when we have an e-commerce conversation, about how important the content and the stories are. And I know that you do a lot of that with Bumblebee Linens and also the mywifequitherjob as well. I have a big star here that I want to make sure I don’t miss, because you mentioned Klaviyo, you mention a few others. I want to know what software you use to run your business, and if you were starting over, if any of those things would change today.

Steve: Yeah, for sure.

Dr. Weisz: What do you use first?

Steve: For our shopping cart, we use a very heavily modified version of OS Commerce and I do not advise to anyone…

Dr. Weisz: Only Stanford engineers can you do that?

Steve: I don’t advise anyone to go with that platform. Just over the years I’ve added so many features on to it, it’s not even like the original platform anymore. For me personally, I like to have all the source code so I can do whatever I want to it, but today if I were to tell someone who has very little technical experience, I would tell them to go with a Shopify or Bigcommerce. Basically they take care of the server, the shopping cart, everything for you and you just focus on the selling.

Dr. Weisz: Right. I want to stick on that for a second. I know you have other software you use. If someone’s debating between the two, what do you think? Shopify or Bigcommerce?

Steve: I have my own personal…

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. This is all about you Steve.

Steve: Is it? Okay, okay. Thought it’s all about your listener.

Dr. Weisz: Well yeah, but they want to hear from you. You’re the expert.

Steve: I think Shopify is better from an aesthetic perspective and I think they have a larger third party ecosystem, so to speak.

Dr. Weisz: So people need modifications type of thing. Okay.

Steve: Yes. Chances are they’ll be able to find a plug-in for it. What I don’t like about them is that you get nickel and dimed. You get a base cart and then you end up having to buy all these plug-ins that all have monthly fees and it just slowly adds up. Whereas Bigcommerce, they don’t have as many third party developers. But just out of the box, it has almost every feature that you would need, out of the box.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: But just from an aesthetic perspective, it isn’t as good in my opinion.

Dr. Weisz: You like Shopify.

Steve: I like Shopify just for the sheer number of people developing themes and plug-ins for it. I just don’t like getting nickel and dimed.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. So you’ve convinced me about Bigcommerce, whether you meant to or not on that end. That’s the shopping cart. What else? What other software do you use to run the e-commerce?

Steve: We use a shipping program called ShippingEasy. Basically it allows you to just ship FedEx, UPS, and USPS all from a single interface. It also gives you discounts on USPS.

Dr. Weisz: And you still use that today? Obviously, you use that now…

Steve: Yeah. We use that today.

Dr. Weisz: You use that today. Okay.

Steve: For sure. Email, Klaviyo, is actually something I recently changed to. We used to be on AWeber, but Klaviyo is designed to…

Dr. Weisz: So you switched everything to Klaviyo?

Steve: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Because Klaviyo handles everything. it’s a little pricey, but just the fact that it has a database of every single transaction and it was designed for e-commerce, so it has a push button abandoned cart sequence that you can use, push button win back campaigns, everything.

Dr. Weisz: Cool. Was that a hard switch to make? From AWeber to Klaviyo?

Steve: It was a pain in the butt. I had to spend an entire weekend doing the implementation, moving everything over. It’s not trivial. I don’t know if they’ll do it for you.

Dr. Weisz: For a layperson, not engineer who codes out [inaudible 00:32:17] shopping it will probably take longer than a weekend.

Steve: It’s really easy for a layperson if they use the right shopping cart.

Dr. Weisz: Is it? Okay.

Steve: If they chose Shopify or Bigcommerce, just use the plug-in.

Dr. Weisz: I see. I see.

Steve: But because we were on something custom, and again, this is why I would not advise anyone in doing what I do, because it was a custom cart, I had to do everything manually.

Dr. Weisz: Right. And then what about for the info for the mywifequitherjob did you use? Do you use AWeber still, or did you switch to Klaviyo also?

Steve: No. Klaviyo is meant for e-commerce. My needs for the blog are a lot less. I only sell one product and I have a newsletter, so AWeber is still working for me there. But should I decide later on that I want to sell 5 or 10 different products, then it would probably be time to switch to something where I can track everything more easily.

Dr. Weisz: What’s that?

Steve: What do you use?

Dr. Weisz: For?

Steve: For your email.

Dr. Weisz: AWeber.

Steve: AWeber, okay.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. There’s certain list I have actually on MailChimp, just because they’ve been there for a long time, but most of my lists are on A Webber.

Steve: Interesting.

Dr. Weisz: I know a lot of people use Infusionsoft or AWeber or ONTRAPORT. I’m like you, mentality is like I want to keep it as simple as possible. And AWeber, for me, it’s so simple to use.

Steve: I’m thinking about moving to ConvertKit. Just want to give Nathan Berry a shout out.

Dr. Weisz: ConvertKit. Why are you thinking, tell me about that.

Steve: A lot of people who blog at least, they want something in between AWeber and Infusionsoft. There’s this fear with Infusionsoft that it’s just really complicated. That you actually need to hire somebody to help you get set up right.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah, for sure.

Steve: The biggest weakness of AWeber is that you can’t tag the people that you want.

Dr. Weisz: You can’t select and narrow so you’re sending like you were saying with Klaviyo, you can send out really pointed email to a certain population.

Steve: Right. The other disadvantage, it’s a pain in the ass for me right now, whenever I run a webinar, I create a new list for that webinar but I could have duplicates from other lists going in that webinar. I’m paying for both, which just should not happen.

Dr. Weisz: That makes sense, yeah. The question is what would Dan Faggella say about this?

Steve: Dan Faggella uses Infusionsoft.

Dr. Weisz: He does. That’s what I thought. Yeah.

Steve: I’ve had these conversations with Nathan. I’m not affiliated with it in any way but it’s basically AWeber where you can tag people. There’s no shopping cart or whatever that Infusionsoft has. It’s basically a step above AWeber and it’s priced similarly.

Dr. Weisz: So it’s worth testing out for sure.

Steve: Yeah.

Dr. Weisz: That’s email, shipping, shopping cart, what else?

Steve: Shipping, shopping cart, all of the different paperclip platforms. So we got Bing, we got Google, we got Facebook, we got Pinterest. I don’t know if those are tools…

Dr. Weisz: Pinterest is huge for you, right?

Steve: Pinterest has been doing well for us, yeah. We’ve actually started running Pinterest ads within the last three or four months and they’ve been converting pretty well.

Dr. Weisz: Really?

Steve: I haven’t written the blog post yet for it because I’m still collecting data. It seems to be kind of hit or miss. I’ll have a pin that just does really well, and then I’ll have another one just zero conversions.

Dr. Weisz: It’s like the stock market. It all evens out to a plus, but there’s some big winners and some big losers type of thing.

Steve: There are, but the difference is, when I do AdWords, I can usually check the searches and gradually refine everything until it makes money. But with Pinterest for some reason right now, it’s like black or white.

Dr. Weisz: It’s either good or not good.

Steve: Yeah, and I don’t know how to tweak everything just yet. But when I figure it out there will be a blog post coming.

Dr. Weisz: Do you think it’s because it’s a newer platform? Or why do you think?

Steve: The platform itself actually is not great right now.

Dr. Weisz: For ads, you mean?

Steve: I’m positive that it’s getting better over time. Even the tracking is a little bit clunky for orders, so I end up just double tracking, using their tracking mechanism as well as my own on analytics. I’m still doing experiments. I don’t have anything conclusive to share yet.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. So I want to stick on the ads for a second, Steve. So, optimizing, okay. It’s not like you have a $500 product here. Your product someone may buy, what’s an average order? $30?

Steve: It’s between 50 and 60 bucks.

Dr. Weisz: Fifty and sixty dollars. Some of the items are $15. How hard is it to optimize to get it so it’s profitable and what do you look at to actually get it to that point?

Steve: Some of the advantages of the products that we sell are they don’t have huge search volume. As a result, the bids for these clicks aren’t that high. Just to give you an example, for some of our handkerchiefs and whatnot, for the stuff that’s 15 or 20 bucks, we end up paying between $0.30 and $0.40 a click. And our conversion rate is really high because we’re the best at that particular product. Likewise, with services like Google Shopping, conversion rate’s super high, so you can get away with paying more per click there. When it comes to the content-based advertising platforms, though, you really have to do a lot of the stuff on the back end and bring them back in order to make it worth it.

Dr. Weisz: Give me an example with the content-based. What would that look like?

Steve: Like the one I’ve already said in this interview. Where you have a nice piece of content, you pixel them, you convince them to click on your product, and if they don’t buy right away you bring them back to your site. Whether it be by email or re-marketing. And that’s just the way it’s got to work for content, because a lot of times you’re surfing on Facebook, you might not necessarily be ready to buy anything. You’re there to check out cats or whatever you’re into Jeremy.

Dr. Weisz: Not cats, but yes.

Steve: So you got to catch them at the right time and so that’s why you have to keep them on for a long period. That’s just the nature of the game. Where was I going with this? For something high-ticket item like my course, which sells for 1000 bucks, I can afford to just spend a lot of money and break even.

Dr. Weisz: That’s why it’s interesting about the e-commerce, because they’re lower ticket items. If you’re optimizing that, it must be a piece of cake to optimize $1000 info product.

Steve: Yeah, it’s much easier. For your store, that’s why you’ve got to play all these back end games. Another thing also is just, through your content you’re building an audience at the same time. There’s a lot of benefits. You’re going to be getting page likes to your fan page, you’re going to be just generating some good will with the content you’re giving out. So when you do give that offer, the conversion rate’s just going to be a lot higher, because they feel like they know you as a business.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. Is it your brother-in-law who is, at the time that you first started, was working for Google? Or Google AdWords?

Steve: Yeah, yeah. He’s actually still there.

Dr. Weisz: What did you learn from him that we should know?

Steve: He just taught me about AdWords in general. When we first launched our store, this is back in 2007, I had no idea. My strategy for getting customers in the door was I was going to pretend to be a female, go on the wedding forums and bring people back that way. That was my first strategy. It actually worked.

Dr. Weisz: I just picture you in a wig and a dress or something.

Steve: I had an alias, I’m sure my posts are still on there. But I would pretend to be a bride and I’d be like, “Where can I get these handkerchiefs for our wedding?” And people would give me advice and later on I would come back and chime in, “Hey, I ended up getting it from this place, it turned out pretty good. What do you think?” I’d post a picture and that sort of thing. Then I talked to my brother-in-law and he was like, “Hey, AdWords. Have you tried it?” And I was like, “No. I’ve been just trying to rank naturally in search.” And then he showed me a couple of things and I just ran with it, and that ended up being a pretty big driver for sales early on for our business.

Dr. Weisz: You talked about establishing a name and getting content out there. Talk to me. How did you come up with Bumblebee Linens and then what’s your take on getting your name out there?

Steve: The way we came up with that name was my wife. She got laser eye surgery and she ended up having to wear these big, bug eye things over her eyes. And so I used to just make fun of her and call her “bumblebee” during that week long recovery period.

Dr. Weisz: That’s not what I was expecting at all.

Steve: Yeah. It’s completely random.

Dr. Weisz: Do you have pictures of that? That would be a great email post. “Here’s Why We Call Bumblebee Linens” with a picture of your wife.

Steve: That’s actually a pretty good idea, yeah.

Dr. Weisz: Your wife would probably never let you get away with that, but I’d read that post.

Steve: I’m pretty sure I could dig up a couple photos. But yeah, that’s how we came up with the name. Nothing special. It had a good ring to it I think.

Dr. Weisz: I do. I think it is good. Talk about establishing a name, getting the word out, because I’ve heard you say over and over you don’t love telling your story. You just love getting to business and the process, but not the stories.

Steve: You’re talking about just getting the name about the e-commerce store, or are we talking about the blog?

Dr. Weisz: Yeah, the blog, the store, whatever fits.

Steve: For the store, our strategy mainly was to get everyone on board via word of mouth by just offering incredible customer service. We have people who don’t like our products and they complain, and we just let them keep it and we give them a full refund. Stuff like that. We’ve gone out of our way to make sure stuff has arrived on time. I can tell you a quick story here where one time a bride who was in our local neighborhood, maybe a half hour away by car, she ordered Friday and she needed something personalized and shipped to her by Saturday morning, which was pretty much impossible. We ended up driving it over. I’m sure she talked about us after that. We did a lot of those things early on to just get the word of mouth going.

In terms of telling our story, I’ve kind of reserved those stories for the blog mywifequitherjob because that blog it just chronicles our story really. And so I don’t put as much of that on the e-commerce store, I focus more of that on the personal blog.

Dr. Weisz: Any other software, things, tools you use to run the e-commerce business that people should know about?

Steve: Yeah, I’m trying to think. We use this phone app that keeps track of our business expenses, that comes in real handy. We can talk about sourcing I guess. We use a tool called Panjiva, which allows you to peer into where other people are getting this stuff from. We occasionally use Alibaba, we go to the Canton Fair, which is in China every other year, or every second year, which is a place where all these Chinese vendors get together. They have all their samples all together and you can visit hundreds all at once. It really saves a whole lot of time.

Dr. Weisz: So what do you get out of that? Talk about the Canton Fair for a second, because obviously you’re selling handkerchiefs. How much does it change from year to year? Why do you find it to be valuable to go every other year? Why?

Steve: Two reasons. One, we want to hang out with our vendors a little bit more. What we’ve found over the years is that you get a lot better service from your Chinese vendors if you have that face to face contact, if you’ve already established a rapport. In the beginning, we were getting sent kind of marginal product, and once we started visiting them on a regular basis, they now come to us when they have bargains or some new product, they show us first. And they end up sending us better quality product.

The second reason we go is because the only way to expand your store once you’ve saturated your market, so to speak, is to sell new products.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: And so we’re constantly on the lookout for new stuff that we can carry in our store. This past year, we launched a personalized apron line. Like Mommy and Me Aprons. You can purchase a matching apron for the mom and the daughter, and then you can personalize their names on it and that’s been doing pretty well for us. Stuff like that.

Dr. Weisz: What are some challenges with sourcing that people should look out for when they’re first sourcing, or even now?

Steve: That’s an interview in itself. To summarize, there’s a lot of cultural differences.

Dr. Weisz: What’s a cultural difference? What would be an example?

Steve: You don’t want to be like, American, so to speak.

Dr. Weisz: Like you want me to look like you? I don’t get it.

Steve: You don’t want to be too direct, to the point. You want to be very professional and you don’t haggle on price in the very beginning. It’s all about the relationship. Contracts mean nothing. Instead of haggling and stuff what I usually do is I try to get multiple quotes from a bunch of different vendors and then just piece together what the price is going to be there. I’m not really pushy on certain things. Here’s another thing that’s very important. You have to specify everything to the detail. For example, we sell napkins in our store. Now, you would think it’s just a piece of square fabric but you have to specify the color, you got to specify the fabric, the thickness, how it’s going to be delivered, the packaging, everything. Because if you don’t specify everything they will just gloss over the details and ship it to you however they want.

Dr. Weisz: Right, right.

Steve: Whereas I feel like the people in the US that we’ve worked with usually they ask you the details. Some that you might not even have thought of.

Dr. Weisz: They’re walking you through it more than just, “What do you want?” and sending it to you.

Steve: Right. The difference is, and of course, I’m generalizing here, not all Asian vendors are like this, but if you don’t end up specifying everything they’ll try to cut corners and give you what you want because you didn’t specify something.

Dr. Weisz: Is there any intermediary that people can use to have someone on site there? Obviously you go over there, but if someone maybe, they don’t want to go over there, they can’t, is there something like that?

Steve: It all starts with having this checklist of stuff that you want in your product that you convey to your vendor. Then once the product is manufactured and ready, you can pay a small amount of money and have an inspector sent over to the warehouse and just take a look. What they’ll do is, if you have a huge shipment, they’ll spot check everything.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. Because you’re making a huge investment.

Steve: You are, for sure. So you have this list that you’ve already prepared on what your product should look like. You get that over to the inspector, they spot check stuff and if there’s a problem you can track it down before it gets shipped over to the US. Once it makes it to the US, there’s not that much you can do at that point.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah. You mention expanding the store. That’s big. What are best sellers? And what has surprised you with what’s actually sold or not sold that you thought would?

Steve: I’m not going to answer that question exactly, but I’ll give you an example of something that was unexpected. Initially when we first launched our store, we were not actually targeting wedding people. We were actually targeting embroideries and people who would use our products to make stuff. Same exact product, positioned at different way, was not making sales. It was only after we positioned it toward weddings and other special occasions did the sales actually start rolling in. What’s funny about that is, in our store, we sell the exact same products across different categories, but we change the verbiage a little bit so that it applies to different people that might be interested in it.

Dr. Weisz: That’s great. I love that. It goes in that you’re a copyrighting master over there.

Steve: I’m not a copyrighting master, but I have learned to choose a target customer and then tailor a certain page for that.

Dr. Weisz: So what’s next? Obviously expanding the store. What products do you see that you’re going to test out and how much do you go to test out? Because obviously it’s capital that you could be spending at something else.

Steve: In terms of the store, we usually always start out with a small test order just to see if things are going to sell. We’ll throw some ads at it and see if it sells. And only after that initial order sells do we actually place that bulk order. It’s pretty safe the way we proceed there. In terms of future expansion, typically my wife’s in charge of all the product selection because it’s not my…

Dr. Weisz: I wouldn’t want you choosing any linens, actually.

Steve: Exactly. You don’t want me writing you emails either, right?

Dr. Weisz: Don’t write emails, don’t choose linens, just optimize Steve. Go in the corner and optimize the ads. As we talk it makes me think of one thing and most people talking about this stuff aren’t as open as you. And especially someone who teaches a course on it, they’re not as open as you. Because they’re worried about whatever it is. Someone knocking them off or doing what they’re doing. Why are you so open about all this?

Steve: That’s an interesting question. I’m open about it for a couple reasons I guess. One is I just want to document this stuff on the blog. And then two, I found that being open has had a positive effect on sales. People see what you’re talking about and you go into extreme detail and then they start wondering, “Wow. This full-blown course probably has a lot of the same stuff. That’s awesome if this is just a small tidbit of it.” It’s counterintuitive actually.

Dr. Weisz: It is, yeah.

Steve: It’s counterintuitive but it seems like the more detail I give, the more sign ups I get. This goes back to the webinar that we were talking about. A lot of people came up to me and said, “Hey Steve, this webinar was ridiculous. You added so much detail and so much content that I knew that if I signed up for the class there would be a whole lot more of that [inaudible 00:51:50].”

Dr. Weisz: What else could he possibly share? This is so detailed type of thing.

Steve: Yeah. I didn’t intentionally do that either, to be honest with you. I had conversations with my friends about how much to give as opposed to how much to keep secret, but ultimately I decided if I’m going to bring all these people in to sit with me for 90 minutes I better put together a pretty decent performance.

Dr. Weisz: Do you find that people going through your course try and copy you? Do the same type of products. Because obviously they know your store, they know what you sell, they know you’ve been doing it for a while.

Steve: It’s actually not that easy to knock off a store. It’s not like knocking off a blog or a podcast or whatnot. With a store, you have your vendor relationships, you have special pricing and then there’s all these search rankings that you’ve gone through to get stuff to search for. You’ve got your content, you’ve got your customer list and your email list. You’ve got your B2B customers that are loyal to you. The chances of knocking something off completely is going to be tough, I think.

Dr. Weisz: I asked that too because several people I know teach e-commerce courses and they don’t share what they sell at all. So I’m always curious.

Steve: I’ll tell you why that is. When you’re selling on Amazon you cannot tell someone what you’re selling. Because someone will just go to a factory, produce that same thing, slap their own brand on it and then they’ll sell it, because Amazon doesn’t give you access to customers or whatnot. When you’re selling on Amazon, you’re just like another commodity. Unless you have patents and whatnot and you’re selling something truly unique. A lot of these Amazon sellers today, all they’re doing is they’re just importing some stuff, slapping their own brand on it and then selling it. The exact same product. That is not defensible in my opinion in the long run.

Dr. Weisz: So you’re saying because you guys do a lot of custom stuff and people are coming through your website.

Steve: We do a lot of custom stuff, we have a customer base already, we have email addresses, we have search engine rankings. Those are things that are harder to replicate.

Dr. Weisz: Now, what are the biggest mistakes you see people making? Especially because you not only do it yourself, but you have students that you teach.

Steve: Number one mistake is spending too much time during the niche research part, like figuring out what to sell.

Dr. Weisz: Really?

Steve: It’s much easier since you can get product really cheaply in low quantities it’s better just to start with a variety of products. Buy a certain quantity. Throw them up on a marketplace and just see what sells. Second problem I see is that people don’t really think about how they’re going to stand out in the crowd. They’ll all come in and they all want to us sell t-shirts or baby products or something like that without even thinking about the fact that there’s thousands of other stores.

Dr. Weisz: There are a millions other ones.

Steve: Yeah. It’s fine, it’s cool to do that as long as they have something where they can stand out and put together some sort of value proposition for it. Those are the two major mistakes.

Dr. Weisz: I want to talk a little about the blog. We talked a lot about the e-commerce in great detail, I love that. And mywifequitherjob, talk about the course that you put together. How did you put it together and just a little bit about what people are getting most out of it now.

Steve: What’s funny about the course is I didn’t wanted to develop it when I developed it. I was just getting so many people that were emailing me saying, “Hey Steve, you put together a course and I’m there.” I was like, “Okay.”

Dr. Weisz: Is this because you were just chronicling on the blog what you were going through?

Steve: Pretty much, yeah. I ended up just doing a webinar and I said, “Hey, I got no content, but if you pay me I’ll promise to put out content on a regular basis.” That’s kind of how it got started. And I ended up selling 35 people on a course, which I didn’t have and at that point I was forced to create the material. In creating the material I pretty much walked through everything that we did to start our store and basically modeled the course after something that I would want to take.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: When you start a business, everyone’s business is completely unique. Even if we sell the exact same items, you are going to have your own set of problems and I’m going to have my own set of problems. I knew that there would have to be some sort of live component to it in order to insure that people succeed. So I put down the commitment to hold weekly, live sessions.

Dr. Weisz: That’s a big commitment.

Steve: Yeah. To answer questions. That’s probably the most valuable part. The other valuable part of course, are the forums, where people get a chance to interact with other people doing the same thing. I know when my wife and I first started out we didn’t have anyone to talk to. All my friends are doctors, engineers or lawyers. They have no interest in selling stuff online. It’s just nice to have other people to talk to about the same things.

Dr. Weisz: That initial group, Steve, obviously learned a lot from them and you improved it. What did you modify or add into the course because of the feedback you were getting from the first group?

Steve: I didn’t have the forum at all in the beginning. Also, once people started launching their stores, they wanted to promote it. They were having problems promoting it as well, so that also made me put together this special area where you can actually share your content and have other people help promote it for you. The other thing that I changed also is remember that I was just talking about having other like-minded entrepreneurs to work with. So I started encouraging people to get together in little focus groups. Their own little Master Mind so to speak, where they get together on a weekly basis and help each other through the process. Those are the main additions.

Dr. Weisz: It seems like everything is going awesome for you on multiple facets. What keeps you up at night now?

Steve: That’s a good question. We’ve talked about this a little bit in the past, but all of this stuff, e-commerce, blogging, and teaching, it’s all fine and good but in terms of true mental stimulation it just doesn’t quite do it for me. That’s one of the reasons why I still work my day job. I design microprocessors for a living and it’s something that I’ve studied all my life. It involves a lot of brainpower to put together these designs.

Dr. Weisz: Give people an idea, before you say that. So where do these microprocessors go and what do they do? Just so people visualize that.

Steve: If you look at your phone, for example, the stuff that I help design does the audio processing for the phone. Some of it does the video processing or the cellular data crunching functions. The stuff that I help design goes also into digital cameras, printers. Basically every device these days requires some amount of processing power.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: I guess it’s pretty much unknown to a lot of people who just use their phones and it just works.

Dr. Weisz: We just assume. We turn it on and it works, yeah. That’s Steve toiling for hours a day, making that work out. So what keeps you up at night? You’re saying the mental stimulation.

Steve: Mainly the balance between stimulating myself mentally as well as not sacrificing all of my time and allowing some time for kids and family essentially. It is kind of a delicate balance because every now and then I’ll get carried away with something with the business and I’ll spend too much time and then I got to cut back. And then I cut back too much and I realize the business is falling behind. it’s like a seesaw thing.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: It’s tough.

Dr. Weisz: What’s your ultimate goal? I know you have big goals for hardware. If you could just, be in a lab, with a lab coat and just create whatever, hardware wise. Because eventually you want to create something really cool hardware wise.

Steve: My dream would be to be able to just create something cool, without any pressure of it ever having to make money, at all. Just put something out there that’s cool and not having to raise money and have someone making me do stuff.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: Just doing it for fun.

Dr. Weisz: What would it look like? Do you have a vision of, “I want to create this type of hardware?” Or is that like top secret in your mind?

Steve: I don’t have anything yet. And what’s funny is I was just talking with Maneesh last week, Maneesh Sethi Pavlok. The Pavlok.

Dr. Weisz: Right. Yes, yes, yes. If no one knows what that is, it shocks you if you don’t do something right that you should be doing.

Steve: Right, right. I was chatting with him about just how cool and how fun it is to just make something. Whether it be a wearable or something tangible. That’s just something that I know I want to do eventually, yeah.

Dr. Weisz: Nothing hits you yet is what you’re saying? When you have that urge to have that itch to do it that, you’ll do it, but nothing as of now?

Steve: I know how I would proceed with developing something, but the actual functionality of what I want to do has not [inaudible 01:01:51] yet.

Dr. Weisz: I’m just wondering if you’re like a mad scientist. You have these papers like I have. You jot all these ideas down. Do you have any idea pads when things come to you?

Steve: I have Trello.

Dr. Weisz: Okay. What are some things on there that maybe you’re not doing that…?

Steve: Related to hardware/software?

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: Nothing right now.

Dr. Weisz: Nothing?

Steve: No. Because mainly right now work consumes my mind for that stuff.

Dr. Weisz: Everything consumes your mind.

Steve: I have different Trello boards for everything. I’ve got one for the e-commerce store, the podcast, the blog, what needs to get done.

Dr. Weisz: This has been hugely valuable. I really appreciate your time, obviously people can see you’re a busy man. My last question, before I ask it, just point people, where should we send people online to check out more of what’s going on with you?

Steve: You can go to mywifequitherjob.com. If you want to know more about what I’m about, right on that front page there’s a sign up form and I will send you a free six day mini course on how you can start your own e-commerce business. Kind of walks you through the very basics. You can check out my podcasts, where I interview a lot of different people. Not necessarily on e-commerce. I interview just people across all different online business models.

Dr. Weisz: Yeah.

Steve: And Jeremy, you were just commenting that I have a style that’s kind of like Andrew, where I get to the point.

Dr. Weisz: You do.

Steve: And try to extract information basically on how people got started with their businesses and every step that they took. And if you’re engaged, I don’t know how likely your listeners are going to be engaged, I’ll hook you up with some hankies if you check out my store bumblebeelinens.com. Yeah, check it out.

Dr. Weisz: I love it. Steve, so my last question. Since it’s Skubana E-Commerce Mastery Series, what should we leave people with? What are some of the best actual tips to take action on right now to increase their e-commerce business?

Steve: Here’s the thing. Here’s the shift that I’m seeing. Because Amazon is kind of commoditizing product sales, I think it’s more important than ever to actually go out and establish your own presence or your own brand, so to speak. I think it’s important to put out content. And for a blogger that’s easy to do, but for some reason a lot of e-commerce stores don’t think that way. They don’t put out content. By putting out content on a regular basis, you’re kind of establishing mind share and once you have that mind share and that email list it makes selling a lot easier. Let’s say you want to start and sell a completely different product.

Dr. Weisz: Give a few examples, yeah.

Steve: For example, we sell hankies. And by getting their mind share and an email list, whenever I want to launch a new product and I want to just get instant sales, I can just send out an email and they might just buy from me just because they like me or my story. It becomes a little bit less about the product and more about who they’re buying from.

Dr. Weisz: Right.

Steve: And I think in order to stay relevant in the long haul, you have to establish that mind share.

Dr. Weisz: That relationship, yeah. Great advice Steve, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Steve: Yeah, thanks for having me. Take care.

 

Interview Highlights:

“I have a pretty good gauge based on my kids also, because they want their time…’Are you going to be coming to my event, my performance at night?’ I never miss performances. I try never to miss performances. Last time I actually accidentally scheduled a webinar on top of one of their performances and three days before the webinar I decided to just change the date of the webinar. Probably resulted in some lost attendance, but it’s a matter of keeping the priorities straight.” (00:05:03)

 

“Just in terms of finding something that’s going to sell, I think the most important aspect is finding something that’s unique about your business. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the e-commerce landscape right now, but what a lot of people are doing right now is taking stuff they’re getting from China and just throwing it up on Amazon. And it’s doing well for a lot of people, but my opinion for that long term is, unless you’re kind of adding value or if you’re selling unique products, or doing something or adding value, you’re probably not going to be around in the long haul”. (00:07:18)

 

“If you’re first starting out with your shop, I highly recommend the PLAs, like Google Shopping, shopping.com. Amazon product ads is not going to be around much longer, they cancelled that. Basically ads where you get to see the picture and the price, so that when someone sees that ad they already know what the product is, they already know the price, so when they click on it they’re much more likely to buy. Because they already know what to expect. We also run AdWords ads, which have been around forever. The ones that when someone’s trying to search for something your ad pops up and since they’re search intent for whatever they’re looking for, they’re much more likely to convert as well. We can talk about Facebook a little bit, which is something that we’ve been doing more and more of over the years… The problem with those is that the audience that you can reach is just limited by the number of searches, if you know what I mean. For example, if wedding handkerchiefs, which is what we sell, get 1,000 searches per month, we’re never going to reach more than 1,000 people a month.” (00:11:04)

 

“We do a lot of copyrighting. Selling is not just listing your products on a site, there’s a lot of copy and stuff involved. In that article we talk about our products, we put some of the good ideas from our crafts that my wife has put together, and we basically flood that page with email sign up forms, and we also pixel them so we can run ads to them later on. In the event that they don’t sign up for our email list or anything, we still can show ads very subtly in the background re-targeting. In the event though that they do sign up for our email list, we offer a freebie, which is a book of crafts, and then we have an email auto responder sequence that right now is 20 emails long, going out once a week that talks about our company. We provide more crafts and then interspersed in there are links back to our shop, where they’re incentivized to make a purchase. It’s really sprinkled in with the content. Most of it’s content.” (00:22:29)

 

“Here’s the thing. Here’s the shift that I’m seeing. Because Amazon is kind of commoditizing product sales, I think it’s more important than ever to actually go out and establish your own presence or your own brand, so to speak. I think it’s important to put out content. And for a blogger that’s easy to do, but for some reason a lot of e-commerce stores don’t think that way. They don’t put out content. By putting out content on a regular basis, you’re kind of establishing mind share and once you have that mind share and that email list it makes selling a lot easier.” (01:03:49)

 

Conclusion

Be sure to utilize this real insight from a real marketing expert to help your e-commerce business grow and succeed. Stay tuned – this will be an ongoing weekly series featuring a variety of e-commerce experts looking to provide you with hard-won knowledge free of charge.

Checkout out our previous E-Commerce Mastery Series episode featuring Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo, as he discusses how to source your products efficiently without endangering your capital.

Work Smart. Sell More.
www.Skubana.com

3 Comments

  1. […] Checkout out our previous E-Commerce Mastery Series episode featuring Steve Chou of My Wife Quit Her Job / BumbleBee Linens as he discusses how he balances work & life while running two six-figure businesses. […]

  2. Dr. Jeremy Weisz January 15, 2016 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Great stuff Steve! great post Skubana team!

  3. furtdso linopv January 27, 2016 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    You could definitely see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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