Andrew Warner: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, yada, yada. You know all that. What you don’t know is my guest today is Andrew Youderian. Andrew, welcome.
Andrew Youderian: Thanks. I appreciate you having me on.
Andrew Warner: I usually have a really well-prepared intro. But as I was telling you before we started recording, I’m a little troubled by this interview and I’ll tell you why. You’re such a freaking good writer. You’re very open about your revenue. You’re very open about your story. I’m concerned that I won’t be able to find anything new here. Even our pre-interview notes here, frankly, have a lot of information that you’ve already put online before.
Andrew Youderian: Everyone’s got secrets, right? And if anyone’s going to get them, you can probably get them, Andrew. So, I’m sure you’ll do a good job of digging something up.
Andrew Warner: Have you ever had any funky sex with animals?
Andrew Youderian: I can definitively say no to that.
Andrew Warner: All right. Here’s what I am curious about. I always stop myself before interviews and say, “Forget the format. Forget everything else. Forget audience expectations. What am I, Andrew Warner, curious about with today’s guest?”
When I look at you, you’re the founder of a couple of eCommerce sites. But the part that really interests me is what you did on eCommerceFuel. That’s a website where you write about eCommerce, where you have a forum of people who are all in eCommerce, verifiably in eCommerce. You do your meet ups. You’ve got a really strong focus and a really strong community there. To me, the way you built that is really interesting.
Andrew Youderian: It’s probably one of the most gratifying parts of being business the last seven years, bringing people together. And as we’ll get into probably, community building, if you’re trying to make money quickly, trying to make a fast buck, probably one of the worst models out there. You know. You’re doing it, right? It takes a lot of time. It takes making tons and tons of personal connections.
But over time, it’s not only rewarding, but in today’s age, at least at eCommerce–I look at everything through this eCommerce model–it’s one of the most defensible businesses, I think, you can create if you’re willing to stick with it over time and you genuinely care about it.
Andrew Warner: What do you mean? I used to grow up listening to Howard Stern who would say, “If you guys found a better radio host you would all leave me in a heartbeat just like I stole you from someone else because I was a better host.” I don’t feel like creating a community and creating content is that defensible. I do walk into every single interview, Andrew, thinking, “If I suck, the person who’s listening to me is just going to turn off this podcast and go find another one or turn off my site and go find another site.”
Andrew Youderian: IN the model I’ve crated at least with eCommerceFuel, one of the great things about it is it’s not about me, or at least I try to make it about me as little as possible. I’m sure I fail a lot of times. But obviously I have a podcast that I do to bring people in. I have a blog where I write myself and Laura, our content and community manager.
But ultimately the value of the community isn’t that, “Hey, I’m giving out information,” because there are so many store owners and members we have that are so much more knowledgeable than I am. Really the value that I bring is just bringing those people together. So, if it’s about me, it’s going to flame out pretty quickly. I’m not that interesting of a guy. But by bringing that many people together, you get 500, 600 people with a very unique experience all in one place. That’s hard to rip off. That’s hard to duplicate.
So, for me, that’s what I see. Not only that, but once you bring people together and you have those personal connections, again, that’s even harder–you can’t rip that off. You can’t rip off your friends and family. Ultimately, if you’re doing a good job building a community, you’re one delivering value. But you’re also building real relationships. Amazon can’t steal that.
Andrew Warner: That makes sense, that as much as I might hate Facebook one week or the next or be excited about Instagram or Snapchat or something else or Slack, if all of my friends still happen to be on Facebook, I’m on Facebook. And you’re saying the same thing. You could have an off week. But as long as the right community is still there, it’s hard to go and duplicate it and find it somewhere else.
All right. Let me just put it into context though. You’ve got eCommerceFuel. You’ve got Right Channel Radios and you’ve got–what’s the trolling site?
Andrew Youderian: It’s TrollingMotors.net.
Andrew Warner: TrollingMotors.
Andrew Youderian: We sold that about a little over a year ago.
Andrew Warner: In a reverse merger. But can you give me a sense of the revenues of all three? Those are the three big ones, right?
Andrew Youderian: Yes. Those are the threes.
Andrew Warner: I shouldn’t have shouted you over as you were saying, “I sold TrollingMotors,” I just wanted you to know I did my research. To me, to be a know-it-all is not a good answer to doing a good interview. But of the three of them–actually, give me the revenues of the three of them for whatever years they were relevant, 2014 I’m imagining?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. I’m trying to think back here. 2014 before we sold, it would have been–I’m trying to think–2014 was right about $1.7 million I think. 2014 we sold TrollingMotors. That had about $600k in revenue. That dropped us down to a little over $1 million, probably a little under $1 million.
Andrew Warner: $600,000 in revenue for TrollingMotors in the last year that it was in business?
Andrew Youderian: Before I sold it. Yes.
Andrew Warner: Before you sold it, excuse me, not last year in business. What was the profit on that? I know you are very open about all this info.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. So, one of the reasons we did sell it was the margins were really thin. I think the gross profit was like 12 percent-ish. So, yeah, pretty low.
Andrew Warner: All right. And it’s harder to calculate and have profits on an individual site if its’ part of a family of sites because when you hire someone, it’s hard to say, “Hey you know what? Today you worked on this site, let’s make sure that we deduct his expenses from that site.” But if you were to ballpark bottom line how much profits you were making for TrollingMotors knowing that you’re going to be off, what would that be?
Andrew Youderian: It was probably about $65k, slightly north of 10 percent net margin.
Andrew Warner: All right. And then CB radio business, which is Right Channel Radios, the one that got it all started?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. So, last year was our worst year ever. We wrote that on the blog. We were down about 30 percent. This year we’ll do roughly about $1 million in sales at Right Channel.
Andrew Warner: And again, if you were to go to profit, where would you be?
Andrew Youderian: I haven’t publicly talked about the margins on that business. I will say it’s definitely better than the TrollingMotors business. That said, it’s still in the range of drop shipping businesses, which is between that five percent on the real low side and 25-30 percent, which if you’re up there, you’re doing great.
Andrew Warner: So, $1 million, 25 percent means the most you were saying if you were really doing great, you’d be doing about a quarter-million dollars net profit?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah, probably gross. So, 25 percent would be your gross. You get margins.
Andrew Warner: I see. So, bottom line, maybe it’s bringing in about, I’m going to guess, $125,000 in profit. Am I off a lot?
Andrew Youderian: You’re pretty close. It’s about $150k.
Andrew Warner: $150k. There we go. First secret. Why don’t you write about that on the site?
Andrew Youderian: I wanted to leave something fro you, Andrew. I didn’t want you to have nothing to work with here.
Andrew Warner: All right. Take that, all the other interviewers. Now, coming back to eCommerceFuel–actually, what are the numbers there?
Andrew Youderian: So, it would depend. I’d have to think through that. For the forum, I’ll say it’s low six figures for revenue there. Our margins are very good.
Andrew Warner: When you say low six figures, are you talking about close to–for a lot of people, low six figures means hovering around $100,000. For others, it means anything below $500,000.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. Definitely closer to $100k than $500k.
Andrew Warner: I’ll tell you why I ask it. It’s not for like numbers porn and expose you and have you just tell me every detail of your life. I’m trying to think am I overly concerned with eCommerceFuel because it’s more of a content and community play and I’m in the content and community business and I’m more interested in it or is there significant revenue here and it makes sense for me to dive in there beyond my own personal interest? It seems like it’s the newest of the other businesses and the one that is doing more money than the TrollingMotors business in profit and somewhere around the CB radio business, right?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. That’s fair to say.
Andrew Warner: Okay. By the way, the CB radio business–one of the things that I love about your writing–we started this interview ten minutes later because I couldn’t freaking stop reading. I got sucked into it. It’s little touches like on Right Channel Radios, you say what you do and you say, “If you have a Prius and need a CB radio, we’re not the right site for you,” and then you go into how you’re about rugged CB radios for 4x4s, Jeeps, etc.
Even in that little bit of copy, there’s a personality there. So, that’s one of the things that I like about your writing. The other thing I like is you’re really good about having one blog post tied to another piece of content that you’ve written that is actually relevant.
So, for example, if you are telling me about trailing motors and you’re giving me the numbers, you might say, “By the way, I’m going to leave out completely how I came up with the business idea. But that’s in my eBook,” and then you link over to the eBook. So, I click over to link over to the eBook. I get the eBook and the confirmation page that delivers the eBook has a gift that moves and a little description of what’s about to happen.
You say, “Here’s the eBook that I promised you’d get if you gave me your email address. But I also want you to know what’s coming up via email afterward.” I wonder if this is a little too much inside baseball. But I think it reveals something about your personality.
Andrew Youderian: Well, thanks, I appreciate that, Andrew. I’m definitely a huge jokester. I have a really light personality. And I think with business, people don’t bring that in enough. Sometimes people will be funny and crazy and then they turn into business mode and they get all serious and stern. Who likes that? I think you can be fun and lighthearted and humorous and still be professional. I don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.
For the email thank you page, I’ve got to credit Greg from over at Help Scout–no, not Greg. It was Greg from over at, yeah, Help Scout. I stole that idea just verbatim from him. He had a great one. So, I’ve got to give him props for that.
But especially like in eCommerce, eCommerce is getting so much more competitive these days than it was three, four, five, six years ago. I think humor is one of the huge ways you can differentiate yourself. Laura, our content manager, she’s a great copywriter. She writes a lot of funny stuff, one of the fantastic parts about having her on our team is she’s just written some really great product descriptions and kind of taking a cue from Derek Sivers with his CD Baby email confirmation. Have you ever seen that?
Andrew Warner: I heard him describe it. That’s the one where he says after you buy a CD he’ll send you an email that says, “Right now angels are pulling your CD off of our shelves and laying them on a pillow and so on and he tells you the story of how the CD is going to come to you in a fun way.”
Andrew Youderian: Exactly. We did something similar for Right Channel. We just redesigned the site the last six months. Branding across the whole thing making it more humorous, but specifically with that confirmation email, we get on our Trustpilot reviews, we hear about that all the item from people. People love that kind of stuff. I think doing that is going to be an absolutely essential part of being a distinguished–being able to break through had get attention in the coming years.
Andrew Warner: So, here’s the part that you’ve talked about in the past. You said you were in investment banking and it was killer hours. Your girlfriend one time came into town. You would see here only every four to six weeks for about 48 hours. For some of those hours, you had to actually work the weekend that she was there and you said, “This is ridiculous. I’m going to go online and I’m going to build an eCommerce store.” That’s what led to the CB radio business.
Then I imagine what happened was–I don’t remember reading this–you started one business and you said, “This is going well. Let me start another business, something similar,” that went well. What I’m curious about is what got you into eCommerceFuel. Why not just build your business, focus on your customers in the CB business, in the TrollingMotors business? Why did you decide that you were going to write about your experience in eCommerce?
Andrew Youderian: I think three reasons. One, at the time there was a huge gap in the market, I felt. I started about three years ago and we’ve had a lot of great people pop up in the industry since then. But there were lots of people writing about SaaS. There were people writing about affiliate marketing, all these different channels. And people were writing about ecommerce, but they were writing about it from kind of an S&P 500 kind of huge conglomerate, you’ve got billions in revenue kind of viewpoint. Nobody was writing about eCommerce from an independent merchant six and a seven-figure standpoint.
So, I saw a need for it or a gap at least, something I could leverage my own experience with. I had been doing it for or five years and hoped I had something of value to say. Thirdly, I think, I saw it as potentially in a long-term kind of play, another revenue stream too. If I did it right and brought value, it would be another way to grow a business. All those three things contributed to it.
Andrew Warner: One of your earlier posts, November 14th, 2013, is titled “The Open Book Sale of My $600,000 Store with Complete Financials.” What I’m wondering is why go so open with your stats? This is the one where you were selling TrollingMotors.net. Why be so open with your stats there? Why be so open throughout? What’s the benefit to you?
Andrew Youderian: The benefit was kind of two-fold. It was, on one hand, a great way to get some marketing for the store that I was going to sell. Not only did it with the content–if it was unique enough, more people would hear about it. But also I think it engendered a sense of trust, “If somebody’s going to be this open about everything and publish it, then I think we can probably trust him a little bit more.” So that was one aspect.
The other aspect was I thought it would just make a fantastic content piece of eCommerceFuel in terms of content marketing. We had decided to sell the business anyway, so it just seemed like a win/win on both of those sides.
Andrew Warner: What I meant to actually ask was the opposite. What about he dangers of doing it? What about the fact that the more you reveal about your store, the more you open yourself up to competition that’s going to understand what’s going on, the more you make it harder for someone else to buy it because they may not be open to your level of transparency.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. It was a huge risk. It was a little bit of a gamble. I remember hitting the publish button on that and thinking, “Is this going to be a huge backfire.” I thought about that. In terms of the business side, if I was selling a proprietary mix of some kind of supplement that was incredible. The costs were super low. It was a proprietary formula and all of the value was in the IP, doing a sale like this, telling the recipe–terrible idea. Someone could just go rip it off. But a drop shipping site like this, it’s not something that’s easy to rip off. The margins are lower, so you can’t scale it up with traffic.
You really have to hustle and build links, build up good content. Your value is completely in adding value to the customer and building a great website. Those things are hard. I don’t know if somebody could have–it would have been really expensive to rip it off like that. So, that gave me a little bit of confidence and also I thought I was worth the risk in terms of the potential reward.
So, it was risky, but I still decided to pull the trigger on it. And it ended up paying off. It could have totally backfired on me. I ended up with a great buyer who we worked out well and got a deal closed. But yeah, I could have ended up with two or three strings of awful buyers, people that were turned off by it, but it worked out in the end.
Andrew Warner: I’m going through Internet Archive of photos and blog posts on eCommerceFuel.com. Is the very first one that you wrote “A Corporate Escape Story: How eCommerce Changed My Life?”
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. That was the first post I put up.
Andrew Warner: I’m looking to see at what point you decided that you were going to sell content on your site. It seems like it’s right from the very start. There was a tab at the top that says training.
Andrew Youderian: There was–I’m trying to remember–almost all the first year I dedicated to just blogging and building an audience. I think there may have been something maybe four or five months in. I don’t know if you ever heard of the guys at StartupPlays.com.
Andrew Warner: StartupPlays. Yeah, of course.
Andrew Youderian: I can’t remember how that worked out. But we did a quick little Startup Play maybe four or five or six months in. But the first 12 months I really was dedicating just to trying to do my best to connect with people to build up an audience to really just grow the brand without trying to sell things. And then it was about a year later I published the Insider’s Guide, which is the training course and the shortly thereafter launched the forum.
Andrew Warner: The Insider’s Guide was paid?
Andrew Youderian: It is. It’s a paid video training course for launching a store.
Andrew Warner: I see. How did you figure out how to put that together?
Andrew Youderian: Really it was just sitting down and thinking through, “What are all the steps that I had to go through to learn? What are all the steps required for getting a business up and running from corporations to niche selection?” Niche selection is probably the hardest, all the way through store setup, marketing and optimization. I just created an outline and set a schedule for myself and hammered out two or three or four videos per day and just kind of charged ahead. I didn’t really have a template per se, but just thought what would be useful to me and tried to create that.
Andrew Warner: Was there anything you miss–I’ll tell you why I’m asking. I started teaching interview skills to people because I just love how by doing interviews I’ve gotten to meet people like you and over 1,000 interviews now have gotten me really close connections to people I admire. I love how whenever we do this interview, your audience is suddenly going to discover your site and some of them are going to end up being fans of my work just like some of mine are going to be fans of your work. It’s an easier way of growing a business. So, I started teaching it.
To me, I thought the harder questions would be about, “How do you get someone to open up? How do you write an intro? How do you get someone who’s reluctant to do an interview so start being open about things they consider a secret or proprietary but they’re actually interesting?” Anyway, I did all that. Then I looked at the forums that we put together and I saw that people were stuck on building a website. It’s not that they don’t know how to build a WordPress website or Squarespace or any other platform, it’s that they knew too much.
So, they were spending too much time looking for the perfect theme for WordPress, making sure that it worked just right with the elements. I need to find a way to just unstick them. But that’s unexpected. It’s not until you actually put it out there that you realize you missed these basic elements. Did you find any of that?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. I think you definitely find–I think it’s a characteristic of just everybody starting out. I think you tend to focus on the things that you don’t need to focus on because they’re easy–setting up the business, getting a business card, naming your LLC, the non-important things. They’re much easier than the important things, which are hard. Yeah. I definitely find that though.
I think it’s tough. I think the people that do–as an entrepreneur, any business, eCommerce or otherwise, you do have to be a little bit jack of all trades, especially early on. I think teaching yourself skills and troubleshooting is somewhat if not the most valuable thing to have as an entrepreneur. You can do that. You can have a step-by-step guide for setting up a Shopify store or a WordPress plug like you’re going to do.
But I think if somebody doesn’t have the drive or the ability to learn how to do that on their own, it’s going to be really difficult for the rest of the steps to make sense. I definitely did see that. But I kind of tend to focus on some of the higher level things just because I felt like even if I did the step-by-step stuff, that wouldn’t necessarily lead to that many successes. That was the kind of philosophy I took on. Is that what you took as well? What did you end up doing?
Andrew Warner: I just help out people directly when it comes to that by saying, “Get over it. It doesn’t matter. Go with something ugly and simple because it’s the first version. What you need to care about is the interview.” I realize fi it’s not for that, then it would be something else. If I gave them the perfect website, there would be something else that they would be worrying about, like their lighting and then they would spend too much time for that.
This year, I got on a call with Brian Harris of Videofruit every week and we were just going over what we were working on. One of the things I saw as he was building his course on how to od an email list is he started out by doing this coaching calls.
Everything that was in the early part of his course at least, he would tell people on a coaching call and then follow up with them the next week and that’s how we understood what would work and where people would get stuck and he applied what we learned to the course as he created it. I was curious to see if you had anything like that in what you’ve done. It seems like what you said, “I know the steps to building it. I’m going to build it. It will work out.” And it did.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. I had a group of beta testers going. I had the course come in and gave a brief set to my email list and I think brought 20 or so people on. To make sure they took it seriously, I made them pay me $50 and then once the thing was done and they gave me feedback, I refunded their money.
So, I did that. I did do some tweaks, but I did that after the fact. I did tweak a few things, changed a few things here and there. But that was as much about troubleshooting, rounding out the edges and getting some testimonials as it was about really laying the groundwork about what confused people most. I think that’s probably a better way to go about it. If I was going to really invest heavily in training in the future, I’m probably not going to, but that would probably be the ideal way to move forward on it.
It’s funny. You mentioned the blog post or people getting so caught up on the right design and everything. The TrollingMotors site–I wrote a post about this–but when we launched that, coming out of my first business, I thought, “We should just start with a flashy, awesome design. We should start with SEO. I’ll just pay someone to do this.”
Long story short–it totally backfired. The design was awful. It didn’t meet the needs of our customers. Eighteen months later we had to rip down this $5,000 design which isn’t crazy expensive but isn’t super cheap. We started from scratch with a free template and it performed better.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. You started eCommerceFuel with–where is it? The eleven40 theme on the Genesis framework. Genesis is very popular. The 2040 theme is not that unique. But it worked. I think I see why I thought that the course initially was free.
Right from the start, what you did was you said, “I’m currently in the process of creating a detailed step-by-step video training series that will teach you how to create a profitable eCommerce business,” and you had a list of the video modules that you were expecting to create, “Is eCommerce Right for You?” “Picking a Niche,” “Creating Your Website,” etc. And you said, “Enter your name here to join the mailing list so you can find out when this video series is available.
So, it seems like what you were doing was not offering the whole thing for free. You were just using it as a way or gauging whether the modules made sense and collecting email addresses of future potential customers.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. And Andrew, I can’t even remember where that page is anymore on the blog. I think we did do something like that. I do give away a lot of the modules in kind of a drip series over time so people can get a sense of the quality and the content and then go ahead and sell after–pitch them on that after 30 days or something. But it’s funny you mentioned that. It’s been so long since I even thought about that.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. That page was created 2012. Tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like it’s not the video training that really is the exciting part of eCommerceFuel. It’s not even the adverting, though you do have a good sponsor. It’s the private forum. That’s why people join.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s funny, Andrew. Starting eCommerceFuel, I didn’t know what direction it was going to take, where the focus was going to be. I feel like that’s the case with any business that I’ve started. It takes a while to figure out who your customer is and where you want to focus.
It’s funny. Right before we hopped on this call I was wire framing the new blog design which si going to be completely around focusing and positioning eCommerceFuel as the web’s best private community for six and seven-figure merchants. That’s going to be completely what we focus on. There’s a good chance we’ll even drop off on the training.
That’s what excites me the most. It’s where I feel like I can add the most vale. It’s where I feel like I can connect with people and I can connect people and they can give each other the most value. It’s where I think we can be unique and really be differentiated in the market. So, that’s what I love to do and that’s where we’re going with the brand.
Andrew Warner: It’s $29 a month and for that, people get access to this community of people who are all vetted. Every one of them has a store. Let’s talk in a moment about that, but I’ve got to get to my sponsor I just realized, which is HostGator.
Before we started I said to you that I’ve been asking guests if they had to start over without their connections to friends, without any money, without any reputation, all they have is a HostGator account and they had to start a new business, what would they do? I’ll ask you the same thing.
I should say on HostGator you can do things like install WordPress with one click. You can install a membership site script. You can install forums. You can install shopping carts. You can do all that for, what is it, a couple bucks a month. I’ll look for the exact price in a second. So, if you had nothing but a HostGator account, what would you do?
Andrew Youderian: I have to do what I do with eCommerceFuel and just do the one-click install for WordPress, pick a niche, build up a library of five or six minimum articles in a certain topic and then try to reach out to people to help them. I think that’s a long-term play, but writing and trying to show your authority in that way is not some way to build a business.
Andrew Warner: So, if you had nothing else, what you would do is create a WordPress blog, take a simple theme–actually, HostGator has 4,500 website templates that are part of the package of joining with them–and just teach. But here’s the thing though, Andrew–you already had so much success in eCommerce.
So, you had the credibility to teach with that. What happens if someone is listening to this interview and taking our advice to do this and they don’t have that kind of experience. They’re just getting started. What do you write about or what do they write about that would allow them to build this content that would draw people in and a community that would get people so excited that they would want to pay on a monthly basis to join it?
Andrew Youderian: I think doing things in the past is going to be the best way to do it. It’s hard to top that. But I think if you’re really willing to dive deep and become a huge subject expert on a certain area and your writing is good and your thought process is good and you can glean insights from a lot of independent sources, you can still build a great blog, like FeverBee.com is a blog I read a lot.
Andrew Warner: FeverBee.com?
Andrew Youderian: FeverBee.com. I have no idea why it’s called FeverBee?
Andrew Warner: Bee as in B-E-E?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. FeverBee.com.
Andrew Warner: I see it. Oh, I see why. The online community guide–how to thriving online communities.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah.
Andrew Warner: I should be reading this.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. It’s great stuff. The founder there, Richard, great guy, has a lot of great stuff and he’s done a lot of consulting, but I’m not currently aware of what community he’s built apart from the one for FeverBee. That being said, I still read his stuff regularly. I’m part of the community there and enjoy it. A lot of, times, you don’t necessarily have to have that expertise if your writing is good or your content is good and if you know what you’re talking about–past experience, rather.
Andrew Warner: One of the things that I remember with my interview with Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz, now Moz.com is that he didn’t know much about SEO. He just wanted to do a lot of research and put blog posts up about what he learned. The same thing with Eric and Beat the GMAT. He was studying for the GMAT and he said, “Well, as long as I’m studying, why don’t I put my content online so other people can see what I’m studying. It will hold me accountable and maybe it will build an audience.”
What they both ended up doing was building an audience of people who were learning along with them and then they created a community online. And Moz today has outside funding and is a tremendous business. Beat the GMAT is a company that Eric sold and has moved on and is doing really well for them as a result. So, good point, you don’t have to learn it yourself.
If you want to build a site like that, all you have to do is go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. When you do, you’ll get 30 percent off. It’s a limited time promotion hat they’re giving my audience because they’re testing to see how effective Mixergy is, might as well take advantage of it.
If you have an idea, don’t just let it sit in your head. Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and get it started. With one click you can be up and running. They have a 45-day money back guarantee. So, even if you sit on your hands for 30 days, which you won’t because you’re a Mixergy fan. You’ll actually do something. But even if stuff comes up for 30 days, you still have 15 days to get this thing up and running and done and started.
Frankly, I think one nice overnight or one nice evening of work with a cup of coffee will get your site launched and will allow you to get started building your business. And if you’re happy with them you can stay with them and they’ll give you a great rate and terrific support. If you’re not, they use open source software. You can say, “Sayonara. I’m going somewhere else.” And take your site over to another hosting company. It’s really good that way. I don’t think you’ll want to leave. I think you’ll be really happy with HostGator.com/Mixergy.
All right. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. The reason I say that at the end is to let everyone know their sponsorship message is now officially over.
Andrew Youderian: Quick aside here–do you listen to StartUp at all?
Andrew Warner: Yeah. They play music while they do it.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. They get the funky music going on. That’s kind of a cool little way to do it.
Andrew Warner: I kind of like what they were doing in the very beginning where they were just going into an office and riffing with their employees.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. They’d have a spot for MailChimp or something and talk about something completely unrelated to MailChimp. But it was good. It made you pay attention. You didn’t tune it out. It was cool.
Andrew Warner: Hey, Joe, the editor, please edit out reference to a competing podcast.
Andrew Youderian: Oh, sorry about that.
Andrew Warner: I’m messing with you. I don’t give a rat’s ass.
Andrew Youderian: Oh.
Andrew Warner: Joe, edit out “rat’s ass.” I think that’s bad for my reputation. I’m the clean cut guy. Actually, all kidding aside, Andrew, the community was built on what platform originally?
Andrew Youderian: In terms of forums? The forum?
Andrew Warner: Yeah.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. So, we were on the Vanilla Forums, the hosted version of Vanilla.
Andrew Warner: I feel like for a while there Vanilla was going to be the thing. And then it was neglected and something else was going to be the thing. And then all other stuff was going to move away because everyone should be on Facebook. How do you feel about being on Vanilla?
Andrew Youderian: I have mixed feelings about it. We went with them originally because there are a couple of key features that we wanted, one of those being the ability to tag people to bring people into discussions. When we started, that was hugely important because pretty much I was starting most of the discussions and bringing people in.
Today, if I was going to start a community, I would start it on Discourse. It’s run by Jeff Atwood. I believe he’s the guy behind Stack Exchange. It’s just phenomenal software. It’s not perfect. But it’s really impressive. There’s a good chance we’ll migrate there in the next 12 months. So, I have mixed feelings about it. I have mixed feelings about it.
Andrew Warner: I get it. I kind of feel that a lot of people in my community are asking for Discourse, that we should create a Discourse forum. But at the same time, today Discourse is great. Who knows what’s going to be the next one and are we now marrying ourselves to one platform that’s going to be hard to move away from?
Andrew Youderian: But you’ve got to pick one. You’ve got to pick one to go to. The reason I like Discourse is they’ve got a great team, a fantastic tech, very tech-savvy team. I can’t remember where it was that Jeff said something to the extent of, “We are on a ten-year mission to reinvent the forums.”
To me, I love the fact that one, he has a very specific purpose in mind and secondly, he’s committed for the long term. And granted, yes, something could pop up. He could take off five years from now. I’m betting he’s not going to. He’s committed for the long term there and you can see that, the tech and the evolution. The work they’re going to be doing on it is going to be long term.
Plus right now there are a few quirky kind of things that are quirky with Discourse with the layout. I like the way we have Vanilla setup. I think it seems a little more forum-like. Discourse has got some things that from a UI perspective are a little funky. But in terms of functionality, it’s just unbelievable.
Andrew Warner: How many people did you have on your community when you first launched?
Andrew Youderian: So, I started with an email list of people that I had been saving over the past nine months or so. Probably abut 150-ish people.
Andrew Warner: 150-ish paying people who are all in the community.
Andrew Youderian: No. So, I didn’t start it paying. It’s kind of the chicken and the egg problem. How do you ask people to pay something that has no members in it? The way I started it was it was all free for the first 200 people, 250 people or so, 200-ish. So, I got that core group of 150 and then over the course of 30-45 days, slowly brought in five people a day here, a day there. Then they introduced themselves. I introduced them to other people, started discussions. Once we hit a point where we actually had something of value, then I started charging.
Andrew Warner: With 150 people you could have enough of a conversation, huh?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. It wasn’t nearly as active as it is today, of course, but yeah, you could. And especially the caliber of those people–they were all handpicked to start the forum. Yeah. It worked out. In those early days there was a ton of my going in, starting discussions, asking people things, writing case studies, bringing people in. So, there’s a lot of that that was manufactured, but yeah, it worked out.
Andrew Warner: I’m in a place where my people, my members are saying, “Andrew, we need a community. You’re charging us money for this content but what we keep expecting–every one of them says that they expect it that when they join, they would also find a way to meet other people who are subscribed to Mixergy. So, I’ve been thinking, “How do I do that?” That’s why I’m especially curious about how you built your community.
I feel like 150, we should be able to do way more than that when we start out. The problem that I have that you don’t have is its’ a very general interest audience that I have on Mixergy. They’re all startups. They’re not all eCommerce startups, right? For you, it wasn’t just eCommerce startups. You wanted them to have an actual business up and running, right?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah.
Andrew Warner: It had to be producing revenue.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah, a revenue producing business. We used to be $50k per year and now we just bumped it up to $100k per year minimum or some kind of meaningful professional experience in the eCommerce space. So, more just vetting for skills more than anything else.
Andrew Warner: And how did you vet people to make sure that they had the right revenue?
Andrew Youderian: That’s a good question. It’s a judgement call. Let’s say we had a store come in and Laura reviews all of our applications. You can kind of get a sense based on the design, based on the page rank or the domain authority. If one comes across that’s got a PR 5, 10,000 people like them and they’ve got a pretty professional looking site pretty safe bet they’re doing $100k per year.
If they’re not sure, if their web design is a little bit iffy, they’ve got five fans on Facebook and there’s no domain authority and the application that they wrote, there are some misspellings, things like that. We’ll get back and say, “Hey, thanks for applying. Can you send us some revenue screenshots? Send us some proof that you have this revenue.” So, if we feel good about it, we don’t make them prove it. If we’re a little on the fence, we ask for documentation.
Andrew Warner: You know what? I’m smiling because I don’t know how to say this without being jerky but it’s true. If I were looking at TrollingMotors.net, I wouldn’t know that you guys are doing that well.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. There’s a lot of eCommerce niches out there that just kind of look like they just got thrown up, but they’re doing great.
Andrew Warner: That’s what makes you into an interesting interviewee. The site doesn’t have a bunch of flashy design and just is so simple that you were able to launch it yourself without outside funding, but at the same time, I wouldn’t know if I came in from the outside. What is GeoTrust? I see this on a lot of sites.
Andrew Youderian: Oh, GeoTrust, really all it is saying, “You have an SSL certificate with GeoTrust.” People will put it like we did, we put up in the top right corner as like a security. We actually did some testing. MacAfee–I don’t’ know if they’re still around but they used to be a super popular one. They charged like $2,000 a year or something. We did some A/B testing and realized that at least in our case, it wasn’t so much the fact that you had the MacAfee security seal or the Authorize.net or whoever it is, but just the fact that there were seals up there that helped the customers.
Andrew Warner: I see. By the way, I clicked on it and the new owner did not update it . When you click it, it says, “Website identity not confirmed” in red.
Andrew Youderian: Ooh, I’ll ping him about that.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. Do it. The other thing I noticed is the other trust seal at the top of TrollingMotors.net is Authorize.net. That just means that you guys are accepting payment through Authorize.net.
Andrew Youderian: Exactly.
Andrew Warner: it’s amazing what people will accept as a trust seal. That one is actually verified. But of course it’s verified. The fact that you’re collecting payment, it’s not that big a deal, but it’s interesting. I’ve talked about this before on Mixergy. On our homepage where we ask for an email address of new users, we tested just a lock that said “secure” or “no spam guarantee” or something like that. No, it was a shield and we said, “No spam.” And that increased conversations. It was nothing but our own shield that we created in Photoshop and put up on the site.
Andrew Youderian: It’s crazy. A lot of people don’t’ know, for one, the difference between Authorize.net and McAffee and all these guys. Secondly, there are a lot of subconscious things in UX design that people don’t even know maybe influences them. That’s crazy.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. We’ve got to learn that that’s one of the reasons why a community is very helpful. Beyond the fact that they were all eCommerce owners, what else was it that was bonding these people in the community?
Andrew Youderian: One thing we noticed is when we had our first event last year and last August we had our first get together, eCommerce Live. And after the event, we noticed a huge uptick in the people who were there posting, talking, discussing, really connecting. You make connections in the real world and that translates through and strengthens the bonds online. That was part of it.
Another thing we tried to do–I’m not sure how this contributed to people bonding there–it’s really have a very civil discussion in there. We have people if they come in, if they’re jerky, if they’re condescending, we warn them once. If they continue to do it, we throw them out. We don’t care how smart they are. If they’re poisoning the well, so to speak, we give them the boot.
Andrew Warner: What’s an example of somebody poisoning the well?
Andrew Youderian: Somebody coming in and just being snarky or asking for advice and then when people give them advice, getting all uppity and upset and kind of lashing back because they felt like they were criticized. Some people just are very overly sensitive and take things really personally and they lash out. And some people are really spammy. We don’t get this a ton because we vet most of our members pretty well.
But every now and then, the one time I was hiking around Bozeman out for a day for the whole day on the hike that had call coverage logged in. Some guy had joined the forum and posted like ten spammy links all throughout the forum to his own stuff. And they stuck around all day because I was the only moderator at the time. But things like that. For us, one of our core values is just quality.
So, in some cases we might be even a little bit anal to the point of maybe needing to back off a bit. But removing people who aren’t considerate and who are rude is something–you have so many forums that that’s just kind of common and you expect it. To have something where you have a really civil discussion and friendly discussion at that I think also happens.
Andrew Warner: How many people on the forums now?
Andrew Youderian: We’ve got 600-ish.
Andrew Warner: And I’m guessing it’s like 400 of them who are paying, the other 200 came in for free.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah.
Andrew Warner: Wow. So, if they started, they got it for free forever.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. They did.
Andrew Warner: Wow. And everyone else $29 a month and if they stop paying, they lose access to the community.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. You got it.
Andrew Warner: You mentioned going for a hike and that reminded me that a couple years after you started your business, you left with your wife around the world trip. How many countries did you guys go on?
Andrew Youderian: We hit about 20, I believe.
Andrew Warner: And what businesses were you running?
Andrew Youderian: That was before eCommerceFuel. So, that was TrollingMotors.net and Right Channel Radios.
Andrew Warner: In many ways it feels like that’s harder to do to run those businesses when you’re travelling.
Andrew Youderian: I’ve got a great team. I’ve got a guy here in Bozeman stateside that runs ops for Right Channel Radios and a couple VAs that help out. So, I couldn’t have done that without them. That made it a ton easier. Actually when we were in Buenos Aires, I don’t know if I told you this at the top, but I’ve been a long time listener of Mixergy and listened to stuff and I thought of you because we visited there. I was like, “Hey, this is the place where Andrew was. Kind of cool.”
Andrew Warner: I did love working from Argentina. I love the culture there. I love the country. I would have stayed there. We planned to just be there for three months. We ended up staying for a year and I would have stayed there so much long. But you’re always going to be a foreigner in Argentina unless you were really born there and I didn’t want to be that.
I found that going into an office every day there and having the whole formality of the Argentine office culture was really helpful for me in getting stuff done. I have trouble if I’m traveling with a computer working. Everyone acts like if you run your own business you can travel. As long as you have a laptop, you can work from anywhere. But here are difficulties in doing that. I see you’re nodding. What are some that you’ve seen?
Andrew Youderian: It can probably be done. I’m sure you have Tim Ferriss on here and he can argue with me. But I think it’s really hard to build something while you’re on the road. You can maybe maintain something fi you’ve got a great team on the road, but to build something from scratch while you’re moving every week or two weeks, I think it’s really tough. For me the difficulties have been you’re just moving around a lot.
To get stuff done, I’ve got an office where–I don’t know about you, Andrew, but I work really well in a quiet, isolated environment. On the road you don’t have that. You wake up. You’re traveling with people. It’s hard to find a quiet place to work. The Wi-Fi is spotty all of the time. You’ve got all these fun things you want to do. It’s really difficult.
I think one that seven-month trip, I got about a month’s worth of work done. It’s only because we rented a house in Spain for an entire month that was like a 20-minute walk from the nearest place to do anything. It was 100 degrees outside during the day and I just hunkered down and got work done. The rest of the time there was no way that much got done at all. I think it’s tough to do. What about you? What’s been your biggest challenge when you’ve been working remotely.
Andrew Warner: You’re right about finding internet. Everyone acts like it’s so easy. There’s internet everywhere. You know what? I’ve been even to coffee shops in San Francisco in the heart of the tech industry where yes, there’s internet and yes, it’s free. But there are five other people on there. They’re all watching or downloading movies and that just kills your connection and it kills your flow and your momentum.
What I like doing is I like to go to a place and kind of live there for a couple of months, kind of like what you did with Spain, or a couple of weeks at least where I do what the locals do. The locals don’t get up and go to a museum for a day. The locals get up. They go to work and then they come back home at the end of the day and they go out. That kind of like get into the rhythm of the country really suits me.
My ideal would be 30 days in a foreign country where I know I have an office that I’m going to work in, work out of that office. And even if I take more days off in the middle of week than I ordinarily would, it still feels like I’m in a rhythm that allows me to work but also lets me disconnect a bit.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah, 100 percent. There’s a great book. Have you read “Essentialism?” I just finished that.
Andrew Warner: Oh no. I didn’t.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. Really good book. It talks about focusing your efforts on one thing. But one cool takeaway I found–maybe everyone knows this. I didn’t. Almost all the great writers, the great thinkers, people that produce great stuff, almost all of them have a routine that they go through. And it sounds kind of boring, like, “Why would you think a routine would allow and enable creativity?” But it prevents you from having to worry about all the other stuff in your life and lets you focus on creativity. When you’re traveling too, there’s not routine you can get into unless you pick a home base for a while and hunker down. For me, that was huge.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. There really isn’t. So, what’s your routine now?
Andrew Youderian: Routine? Probably waking up–I tend to be either in work mode or fun mode. So, if I’m fun mode, it’s all over the board. Btu if I’m in work mode, wake up 7:00, 7:30-ish, have some breakfast, hanging with my girls, my wife and my two girls at home, and then either bike–today I biked into the office–or drive.
And then usually I get into the office about 9:00 with some coffee. Usually I’ll spend the morning–the morning is my most productive time. So, I’ll spend three, three and a half hours really cranking away on things that are moving the business forward. Things that aren’t just maintenance but proactive growth things.
Andrew Warner: Like what? What did you do yesterday that was moving the company forward?
Andrew Youderian: Yesterday I was sitting down and really after reading through that “Essentialism” book, thinking through like, “What do I want to focus on?”
Andrew Warner: You mean with your business.
Andrew Youderian: Exactly, with business, with life, all these kinds of things. What do I want to focus on? And what do I want to focus on not just in business but in terms of skills within that business to move it forward? And then also spent a lot of time wireframing the new blog that we’re going to rolling out, the new site for eCommerceFuel. We’ll break for lunch around–sorry, go ahead.
Andrew Warner: What did you do today?
Andrew Youderian: Today? Came in, biked into the office around 9:00-ish and worked on the wireframe for the blog for two and a half, three hours and hopped on the call with you.
Andrew Warner: I had a rough morning this morning. It was good that I ran in .Then I had a meeting schedule just before this interview. I was ready for the meeting and the guy asked if we could talk later it he day. I said, “Great, I have this extra time.” And I ended up doing jack with it. I hate that.
Andrew Youderian: So, he cancelled the meeting?
Andrew Warner: It was maybe a misunderstanding. It was for later in the day. He’s someone in our community. He went on the Facebook group that I put together for people I’m helping interview. He said, “Hey, the weekly call is not at a good time. I would like you guys to talk to me at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.
So, in the middle of the night I realized I didn’t respond to him. I went back and I messaged him on Facebook and I said, “All right. Done. I’ll talk to you at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time.” And I didn’t get the confirmation and just went to sleep and assumed he asked for the time, I gave him the time, we’ll talk. But he said no.
Andrew Youderian: That’s so hard because you think through how many valuable hours you have to get stuff done. Unbroken blocks are, for me, huge. When you have an appointment that you setup and then it falls through, you kind of intentionally start winding down to get ready for it. Then it comes. Then if they don’t show up, you’re waiting like five or ten minutes in case they come. It’s tough because if you’re the person who’s cancelling, you don’t really realize it. But if you’re the person getting cancelled on, you just shot 30-45 minutes of productivity for the day and it’s one of my pet peeves too.
Andrew Warner: That’s also why I hate doing coffee meetings that everyone seems to love. There’s the ramp down of work before you leave. Then there’s the waste of time of walking over to the place. Then you have to sit down with the person. Well, first you have to go and get coffee. Do I pay? Do you pay? Can I get you this? Can we do that? How about we go to another place? All that and then you have to come back and get back in the groove.
What about with the community. How much time or what time do you jump in to respond?
Andrew Youderian: So, do you mean in terms of like engaging with the community?
Andrew Warner: Yeah.
Andrew Youderian: Early on it was a lot. It was the priority for eCommerceFuel. So, I’d be on there every day even hourly. Now, I’d say I definitely try to be in there at least every couple days and spend half an hour to an hour. I’m not that good, especially those last three weeks. I try get a couple of solid hours of really engaging with people per week at a bare minimum, hopefully more in there. So, it has really varied based on early days that weren’t a lot and now we’ve got enough momentum where a lot of the discussions can be self-sustaining.
That being said, to get to this point where I can spend a couple of hours per day on, we brought Laura in who’s our content community manager and spend like two or three months training her on how to moderate the forums. We go in, we will edit titles of people’s post to make sure that they’re one, that they’re what they talked about, but also that they’re kind of engaging but also like kind of a copywriting standpoint to bring people in.
We’ll tie people in that if somebody asks a question and we know people have expertise, we’ll bring them in. Laura does a fantastic job of that. It really varies. It’s helped a lot having the increased activity and having Laura on board.
Andrew Warner: That’s brilliant actually. That makes a lot of sense. I noticed that you said that you would put it on Discourse. Do you regret not putting ti on Facebook?
Andrew Youderian: No.
Andrew Warner: No? That’s where people live anyway. Why not put the community where they are, especially if you’ve got one topic that you’re all talking about?
Andrew Youderian: I think for the initial barrier to come in, yeah, Facebook is a little bit easier. But I think once you start growing and you get 100, 200, 300 people on there, there’s so much that a dedicated forum can do more cleanly for discussion that Facebook can’t. You’ve got much better search in a dedicated forum.
You have member profiles that everyone can see. Some people might be able to–we can customize it. We’ve got on our member profiles a list of three or four skills that are all eCommerce. Your top three skills, what are they? And they’re all eCommerce related. They’re not like marketing. They’re like SEO, ERP systems, shipping and handling–all these things that are ecommerce specific, you couldn’t do that with Facebook.
So if you really want to build something that caters to the needs of your audience and it’s the best platform long-term, I think it makes sense to go with a forum.
Andrew Warner: I’ve been hearing that a lot. Do you recommend that someone that’s listening to us and is in the content space that they focus on forums as opposed to training. It feels like training you build it once and you keep growing your funnel and growing your business and you’re doing great.
Andrew Youderian: I think it depends. I think it depends on your personality. I think it depends on the niche. For me the reason why I decide to do a forum versus content–we did both, but where our focus is going to be is because in the ecommerce space, that’s where I can add the most value. There are like four or five other guys out there that do eCommerce training and a lot of them are great. Sometimes I even recommend those trainings to people because they’re my friends that do them and I know they do a really good job and they have a level of personal help that I don’t offer with my training.
Training also, some training can be static, do once and charge forever. Maybe if you’re teaching someone how to speak Spanish, it doesn’t change that much week to week or month to month, year to year. But eCommerce and SEO, that stuff changes pretty rapidly. The course we have is a couple years old. It’s not quit there, but its’ getting to the point where I either need to decide to spend a lot more time investing in it or probably shut it down because it’s getting close to the end of its lifespan.
Andrew Warner: Let me see here, anything else in my notes that we missed… It’s interesting, actually. You did the pre-interview with April, right?
Andrew Youderian: Uh-huh.
Andrew Warner: She likes to ask people, “If you could teach a class on anything, what would it be?” And you said community building, which is the topic that I just happen to be curious about right now. What is it about community building that you would teach someone like me?
Andrew Youderian: What is it about it that I would teach or why is it that I like it?
Andrew Warner: I was changing the question midway through. That’s why it came across a little weird. I was going to ask what was it that you like about community building and then I said, “No, that’s not what people care about. It’s what you would teach that’s more important than what you like about it.” What would you teach if you were to sit with someone who’s brand new?
Andrew Youderian: I think a lot of these things come, again, from FeverBee.com, crediting there. So, I think starting small is really important. You build a community based on connections. A lot of big companies–Apple or IBM–maybe they have a huge mailing list and they open up a community and a rush of people come in, those people don’t stick around. They don’t connect. Starting out, making the relationships yourself, doing that bootlegging and introducing people ad getting most of the session going is super, super, important.
Secondly, I think figuring out what sets your community apart and how are people going to be able to identify it. Almost a more important question than who can come in is who can’t come into your community because that sense of belonging sometimes comes from your unique attributes. That’s really important. You need to have those shared attributes, rather.
Another thing I teach is I think a lot of times you don’t necessarily need to be super–you want to be focused on something, but a lot of times the best bonding that comes through a community comes through completely off-topic things. So, people come in because they want to learn about eCommerce, right? They want to learn about how to grow their store and make more money. But a lot of times what brings them back to the community–people can learn how to do SEO in lots of different places. They can learn about pay traffic in a lots of places, maybe not with some of the transparency that some of our members talk about, but they can still learn.
What brings people back every day and hitting the forum are threads like–some of the business ones–but threads like, “Post some pictures of your kids.” People post pictures of their kids. They love talking about their kids. “What are you doing this summer?” We had one thread this week that popped up that was totally unrelated to eCommerce. People were posting pictures of what they were doing in their camping trips and stuff. That’s just as important, I think, for the long-term retention of the community as the real on-topic stuff.
The final one, this will be my last one, Andrew, and then I’ll stop talking. I’m trying to think about the incentives of why people would pay over time to be part of a community. I struggled a lot early on thinking, “Do I want to do a community for everyone? Do I want a community for beginners or for advanced people?”
One of the reasons why I wanted to do it for advanced people is they have a business and it makes sense for them to pay with, time over time over time, with people that are new to eCommerce, it’s a lot more work to support am unless they take off and do well, which just to be frank, the majority of people who are going to sign up for it are probably not going to build a business full time because it’s hard to do and that revenue is going to die off. That revenue stream isn’t going to be there to support you making the community as great as it can be.
Andrew Warner: That makes sense. The people who are more advanced have a harder time finding each other. The people who are new and are just starting out, they’ve got a lot of people in their lives who are all trying to do something or curious. Let me see what else is in my notes that I wanted to get to. Here’s one.
This is a non-sequitur, but I was really fascinated about this in April’s note about you. You said that you were very emotionally attached to the business early on. You were so wrapped up in your success that your girlfriend, now wife, would know how well you did for the day based on how you were feeling about yourself. Did you break free of that?
Andrew Youderian: I think a little bit more than I was early on. In the first three to six months of the business–I’m sure you’ve felt this. I think all entrepreneurs have felt this.
Andrew Warner: The first few years of it. For the first few years it was all self-evaluation based on it. If no one was listening to the interviews and no one cared about my work and maybe I was an idiot for even putting it out there.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. Another thing you’ll do is a lot of times you’ll project a day’s outcome way out into the future. And maybe I don’t know who the equivalent would be on the podcasting side, but if you get one podcast that gets 1,000 shares, 1,000 likes. You project that out and you’re like, “This is unbelievable. This is going to work.”
The next one that comes out, even maybe it’s as good in interviews. You don’t’ know. Maybe it’s an SEO issue, maybe somebody just tweeted out the other one. It tanks. Nobody tweets it and show it. Then you project that out for the next two years. I think that for me was what we so hard was every day I looked at those results and I projected those out two years. It was just the crazy rollercoaster of up and down.
Andrew Warner: So, how did you get out of that?
Andrew Youderian: I think it helps growing the business and getting a little more stability to your business, getting to the point where you can live on your business and you’ve got a couple of years of track record. It’s funny. We had a discussion about this on the forum. People said, “Are you still worried that your business is going to collapse in on itself?” To some extent, I still do a little bit. I think everyone has that fear. A lot of the members in the forum said–even guys that were doing it ten years or so, they still have that fear. It goes away over time, but I don’t think it ever totally disappears.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. I imagine. I wonder if Rupert Murdoch is going to bed every night saying, “What if those guys at CNN get their act together? What if Warner Brothers movies end up doing better than mine?”
Andrew Youderian: What about you?
Andrew Warner: I think about it all the time. I first think nobody cared. And then things were going well and then I started thinking, “Well, maybe I’m too comfortable. What’s next? If there’s nothing next then I’m stuck and it’s going to go downhill.”
Frankly, one of my big challenges is I didn’t start doing interviews for the sake of interviews. I did it because I wanted to get somewhere to figure out what I was learning from all these interviews and put it together in a way that made more sense so you wouldn’t have to listen to 1,000 interviews. You would just get the thing that shows you what I learned from all 1,000 interviews.
My challenge is because I’ve got this community of people who are all paying, they don’t necessarily want to go in that direction. They just want more of what I’ve got. If I were to put together a community for them the way they’ve been asking, I don’t want to put one together that’s just a general interest community. I want to put one together on one topic based on what I’ve learned from all these interviews. They don’t’ care about that topic necessarily. Some of them are just not at that stage. They care about something else.
Andrew Youderian: Is there something that you can identify that is general to all entrepreneurs, whether it’s a mindset thing, whether it’s something early on that you can really focus on? It’s very specific, but it’s going to apply to most of your guys. Yeah, once you set it up, it’s not going to be as broad and it might only apply to a subset of your listeners. But you could still leverage the incredible audience you’ve already built.
Andrew Warner: Right. One thing that applies to everyone at every level. That’s really hard. I’m sure I could. But I like the focus of what you’ve got. That’s what drew me into this part of the conversation. You really are so good at excluding the wrong people, which makes it pure for the people who are right. Anyone who is doing eCommerce at that scale–not at the Amazon scale, not even at the Meh sale or the Woot scale–but at the scale of six figures to how much? Seven figures you say?
Andrew Youderian: Yeah, six to seven figures.
Andrew Warner: It just feels like the perfect home. But what you’re saying is, “Andrew, see if you can find one topic that fits with all of them but is unique to this community and go with that.”
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. That’s a lot easier said than done though.
Andrew Warner: Well, I’m in this process now of sending out surveys this week to just get some feedback. The feedback has been so-so, actually. There are some people who are incredibly helpful. The survey questions that I’ve written I don’t think have been that helpful.
So, when someone goes beyond the questions and shoots me an email and says, “Here’s what I would have said, that’s been good.” So, I just keep adjusting until I figure it out. It’s not that easy. I’m surprised that you’re excited about it. Most people who do forums, most people who do communities at every level say, “Don’t do it. It’s too much of a pain.”
Andrew Youderian: Like I said, it’s a lot of work. If you’re looking to make money quickly–terrible idea. But I’ve really enjoyed it. My whole life I’ve been somebody who’s liked to get people together. When I moved to a town for investment banking, it was town where the average age was 55 years old. I was starved for people my age for the first six months and got an ultimate Frisbee game going of people I barely knew within a year, year and a half. I’ve loved getting people together, bringing them together and connecting them. I think it’s partly in my blood. I think if you get the right people and it’s something you intrinsically enjoy doing, it can be a lot of fun and really rewarding.
Andrew Warner: All right. The website is eCommerceFuel.com. How has this interview been for you? You didn’t know where I was going with this at all.
Andrew Youderian: It’s been great. It’s been good. It’s been a lot fo fun talking to you. You’ve got me to spill a few beans on the revenue side, which you’re kind of famous for. But it’s been fun talking.
Andrew Warner: Yeah. I think of all the different sites and all the different things I can send people to, just sending them over to eCommerceFuel is the best place. And then once they’re there, I like the eBook that you’ve put together for new people and the forum for more advanced people.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. Thank you.
Andrew Warner: The eBook, is it called “Profitable eCommerce?” Yeah.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah. That’s the book especially for picking a niche for online.
Andrew Warner: Your forms for collecting email addresses are not that great.
Andrew Youderian: They’re terrible.
Andrew Warner: They’re pretty bad.
Andrew Youderian: Yeah.
Andrew Warner: Just as a landing page, it’s awful. It’s a standard blog post with no comments or a WordPress page with no comments. You still have all the other stuff on the right side, so some people are not going to know what they need to do. I’m surprised you’re collecting any email addresses with this. Is this one of the things you’re going to change?
Andrew Youderian: It will be. To be honest, that eBook will probably phase that out with the blog redesign because that’s more of a beginner eBook and we’re going to be focusing everything on the forum and the private community. It’s funny. It’s awful. I agree with you, Andrew. We still get a decent number of emails from it. But it hasn’t been a focus–driving that aspect of the business hasn’t been a focus. It’s pretty ghetto. I agree.
Andrew Warner: I imagine you must be really excited about the new version of the site. You really care about design. I can see it. For example, underneath every post, you have the, “Enjoy my eBook,” pitch and that’s well-designed. That makes sense. You also, when you do transcripts of your interviews with eCommerce people, you lay it out really beautifully. Who does that for you?
Andrew Youderian: Thank you. Laura, our community content manager.
Andrew Warner: Laura sits through the transcript and makes sure that everything is identified clearly, that it’s your name and then the person’s name and that it’s underlined?
Andrew Youderian: So, we use Speechpad like you do, I believe. She’ll go through and then she’ll get that. She doesn’t edit it verbatim to make sure everything is grammatically perfect. But she will go through, she’ll layout the section heading. So, whenever I interview somebody, I’ve got an outline of like five or six sections. She’ll go through and label those. Any links, she’ll go through and link up and I have a list of links in the notes. So, she definitely goes through and formats them and makes sure there aren’t any glaring crazy typos.
Andrew Warner: She does good work. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. If you like this interview–we’re trying something that I’ve learned from another podcaster–in the notes of this podcast, if you’re listening to it in a podcast player, just slide my face up or click it. It’s different depending on the podcast app that you’re using. But what you’ll find is some notes on Andrew, the person I just interviewed.
And you’ll also find a way to click over and rate this interview. When you do, it helps me and I really appreciate it. If you’re not a subscriber, go to Mixergy.com/Podcast to subscribe and see all the stuff that I’m talking about in the notes. And of course, you’ll get every new episode directly sent to your phone for free.
Andrew, thanks so much for doing this interview.
Andrew Youderian: Oh, it was a blast. Thanks for having me on, Andrew.
Andrew Warner: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.