Steve: Hey, how’s it going, Andrew?
Andrew: I’m listening to you in the background here.
Steve: Are you? What are you listening to?
Andrew: Your latest episode.
Steve: With my student? The Live in a Story?
Andrew: This is “Creating a Profitable Business Selling Your Art?”
Steve: Yeah. That’s one of my students in my class.
Andrew: The thing that stood out for me about that is you used the word “orthogonal” in a podcast. You’re not like other bloggers.
Steve: What do you mean?
Andrew: What I mean is that other bloggers are pretty stupid. And their audiences are pretty stupid. And they’re trying to sell a dream to idiots. What I mean is they are trying to sell this dream that you can work from anywhere as an entrepreneur. They are trying to sell this dream that you have no boss. What they’re really doing is they’re speaking to people who are pissed off about their jobs, right?
Steve: I guess so. Yeah.
Andrew: Don’t you hate it? Why are you doing that? I know you must hate that.
Steve: I don’t really… I just cater to people who just want to start ecommerce stores, really. I don’t know. The language that I’ve used has just come across via experimentation and trying different things.
Andrew: I see.
Steve: It does annoy me for the people who are posers, but it really comes out real quick.
Andrew: What do you mean? What kind of testing leads you to use a word “orthogonal?”
Steve: Orthogonal? I didn’t even know I used that word, to be honest with you, Andrew.
Andrew: It’s not so much that you’re thinking about the stuff. I feel like you as an engineer are a little bit disgusted by the, “Quit your job. Start your business,” blogs. You’re above it. You don’t want to be associated with that.
Steve: Yeah. That’s probably true.
Andrew: And at the same time, you’re kind of running that business.
Steve: I am to a certain extent. Yeah.
Andrew: How does that make you feel? Does it feel like a scummy way to live, that you can’t wait to be done with it?
Steve: Yeah. I don’t feel bad about it at all because I provide the content to back it up. So, I try everything I teach. I’ve got real numbers. I’ve got a laboratory with my online store to back everything up. So, I don’t feel bad about anything that I teach at all.
Andrew: You’re working from home today?
Steve: I am. Yes. I took some time off for this interview.
Andrew: I see. You know what? Why don’t we just continue this as the interview? I’ll introduce myself. My name is Andrew Warner.
Steve: What’s up, Andrew?
Andrew: Can we keep everything that we had?
Steve: Are you recording already? I don’t know. I can’t tell.
Andrew: I’m not introducing myself to you. I’m introducing myself to the audience. I usually do the, “Hey, freedom fighters,” and so on. Steve, I forgot how to pronounce your last time and you don’t introduce yourself in your interviews.
Steve: That’s true. Yeah. It’s Steve Chou.
Andrew: Chou. All right. Thanks. And Steve, you run a site called My Wife Quit Her Job and at the same time–and My Wife Quit Her Job is where you talk about the entrepreneurial story you’ve gone through, how you’ve built an ecommerce business that allowed your wife to quit her job and focus on your kids. At the same time, actually before that, you started BumblebeeLinens.com, a site where people can buy handkerchiefs for weddings.
Steve: That’s correct.
Andrew: I guess even for this jacket, right? That’s the ecommerce business that you started with, you made your first money with, that allowed your wife to quit her job and then you started blogging about it on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. So, here’s the thing I was getting at. You came here to the office a few weeks ago–let’s get pro here.
Steve: We’ve got the same mic, right? Yeah.
Andrew: You came to the office a few weeks ago for a Mastermind that Jeremy Weisz, Mixergy’s producer, put together. And you were the most anxious person at the conference table. Do you remember feeling anxious?
Steve: Anxious… I don’t consider myself–I knew a bunch of the guys there already. So, I don’t feel like I was anxious. What do you mean by that?
Andrew: Maybe anxious isn’t the right word. I need an SAT word like orthogonal. You took a day off of work to be there in the conference room with everyone and I believe there was a sense in you that said, “This better be worth it. I can’t believe I took off a day of work. This better really be worth it,” where everyone else, it’s just another day for them.
Steve: No. I wouldn’t go so far. I take days off all the time. I actually only work four days out of the week now. If I wanted to take a day off, I just switch that day with whatever day is appropriate. I think that event wasn’t that expensive to begin with. And I wanted to meet a bunch of the guys that were there. I hadn’t met you at the time. There were a couple of other guys that I had never heard of. I know that [inaudible 00:04:50] always brings like high quality folks to these events. So, it was just like a networking event for me. I didn’t actually expect to learn anything, to be honest with you.
Andrew: Did you get anything of value out of that meeting? I looked at my notes in preparation for today’s call. You hardly said anything.
Steve: Oh, is that right?
Andrew: Yeah. Am I being too critical right off the bat?
Steve: Yeah. Go for it.
Andrew: Am I being too critical? I want to get a sense of your feelings on it.
Steve: I don’t know. It’s just your observation, right?
Steve: Did I not say anything? I don’t remember, to be honest with you. I don’t really pay attention to those things. But what did I get out of it–I’m on Mixergy right now, aren’t I?
Andrew: I see. Okay. So, the reason I was bringing up this sense of anxiety that you did take off a day of work, I’m wondering–it’s MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. Why haven’t you quit your job yet? If this linen store is doing well and now you’re teaching people and making money and I want to learn about MyWifeQuitHerJob.com because I think the work you’re doing there is fantastic. But why isn’t it My Wife and I Quit Our Jobs?
Steve: That’s a question I commonly get asked, Andrew. I designed microprocessors for a living. I’m a hardware engineering. I studied microprocessor design practically all my life throughout school. Right now I feel like tech is where it’s at. So, even though the money is good from the ecommerce store and the blog, I feel like I have to keep my foothold in tech because eventually I do want to create some sort of device that involves both hardware and software. And if you quit tech, you go obsolete really quickly.
Andrew: I see. All right. That makes sense. How much revenue are you making from the store now and how much revenue are you doing from MyWifeQuitHerJob.com?
Steve: I don’t reveal the store numbers. But I can tell you this–so, the blog is going to hit $500k this year. And the store does more than that.
Andrew: How much did the blog do last year?
Steve: Last year it did $350,000, a little more than $350,000.
Andrew: $350,000. So, I know what BumblebeeLinens.com sells. It sells, like I said, those handkerchiefs for weddings. I’m looking at a lace umbrella and parasol that you sell.
Steve: You like that, huh, Andrew?
Andrew: You know what? I don’t necessarily like it for myself. But as a business, I freaking love it. Who is thinking about selling linens online? Who are you competing with? I feel like everyone in the world seems to be thinking exactly the same way and here you come with linens. I like the uniqueness of it a lot.
Steve: Yeah. Are you asking how we came up with the idea?
Andrew: No. I’m talking about what are you selling on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. I’m trying to get a sense of where you are and then we’ll talk about how you got here.
Steve: Yeah. So, on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, I primarily sell an online course that teaches people how to start their own online stores. I also have affiliate offers, which are basically just tools I use every day. I do a little bit of advertising there as well. But most of it is affiliate and course related.
Andrew: Ads within the podcast that you do.
Steve: The podcast just started generating some income. But no, that’s a very small portion of it.
Andrew: Okay. All right. I do see the list of affiliate programs here on online store, product, services and tools that I recommend. Cool. All right. Let’s talk about how this whole thing happened. Did it happen when my wife told you that she was pregnant, that you were going to be a da?
Steve: Did it all start? So, we were kind of dabbling on eBay before that even happened because we were planning to have kid. The kid wasn’t an accident, right?
Andrew: You and your wife?
Steve: Yeah. My wife and I. Yeah. It wasn’t an accident or anything. We were planning on having kids. So, we kind of had some time to think about it beforehand. So, we have been dabbling on eBay with products, the handkerchiefs primarily. Our eBay store kind of plateaued pretty early. So, we thought the next logical step was to start an ecommerce store with that.
Andrew: Okay. And your idea was to say, “People are buying from us on eBay. Let’s see we if we can take them to the store for their follow-up purchases.” Is that right?
Steve: That’s correct. Yes. That was the initial plan to get customers in. Yeah.
Andrew: What was working for you on eBay? It seems like you did well enough that it was a promising way out of a job for your wife.
Steve: What was working on eBay? You know, there’s not much to eBay, to be honest with you. It’s just a matter of taking great photos, writing a great product description, getting some feedback under your belt. That’s really all there is to it. Whereas with an ecommerce store, there’s a lot that you can try because there’s a real business that you can market yourself. So, where did you want to go with that?
Andrew: I just wanted to get a sense of the background and I see where it was. How did that work out for you to start your own store?
Steve: In the beginning it was bad. My wife and I had never started any business or anything like that. I didn’t know anything about websites. There are a bunch of fortuitous events that happened around that time as well. I don’t know–do you want me to go there?
Andrew: Sure. Go for it.
Steve: Okay. So, one of my buddies–
Andrew: By the way, it feels a little weird for you to tell a story that you’ve already told before. But I know a lot of people haven’t heard it and it’s a good way to setup. So, we won’t pretend it isn’t–
Steve: I’ll try to be brief. I don’t want to ramble or anything like that. One thing that happened during that time was one of my best friends actually started an online store selling his photography. At the time, he wasn’t really a web guy. He hadn’t designed that many websites. So, I saw his site that he put out and it looked really good.
So, I asked him, “How did you put this together? It must have taken you a long time?” So, keep in mind, this is back in 2006-2007. He was like, “Hey, all the source code was written for you.” There are these open source shopping carts out there. All you’ve got to do is throw it up, make it look the way you want it to and then you’re off and running.”
So, that’s when I got the idea. I was like, “Okay, I can go ahead and create a store.” That’s not the hurdle now. I don’t have to code anything. I was physically capable of coding it, but the fact that it was already written and everything kind of gave me a little boost to try this.
Steve: So, when we launched, I wasn’t sure how to get visitors to the site. So, in the beginning, I was doing exactly what you alluded to. I was bringing eBay people over. We were giving them coupons so that follow along purchases were being purchased on the site. The problem is we’re in the wedding industry, right? People don’t get married more than once. The divorce rate is high, but chances are they’re not going to be coming back. So, we needed another way of bringing people to the site.
So, my brother in law just happened to be working in the AdWords group at Google. A couple of random things happened. So, this brother in law was having a lot of success using AdWords to drive traffic to his site. He was selling something completely different. So, he pointed me to AdWords and I gave it a try. We started generating instant sales. At the time, traffic was really cheap.
Andrew: Yeah. What year is this?
Steve: This is 2007.
Andrew: By the way, I know some of this story you’ve told before. That’s frank, to be honest with you, maybe a challenge we can talk a bit about here on Mixergy. My goal had always been the same one that you have for your podcast but with a different kind of audience and a different kind of entrepreneur. I want to just get into the stories of how people built their businesses. That’s why I had the founders of Airbnb on in the early days, to see where they came up with their idea, why their idea took off when somebody people thought it wouldn’t and so on.
The challenge is that with interviewing you–and you’re not the only one, but there aren’t a lot of people out there who are similar–you’ve said so much of your story online and I don’t want to repeat what you’ve said online. I want to find a way to dig deeper and draw things out that people hadn’t said but at the same time, stick with my mission of getting your story. As a fellow podcaster–and I can tell because you’ve got the mic and because I’ve been listening to your podcast–how do you address that? How do you not repeat?
Steve: How do I not repeat? Well, I’m relying on you, Andrew, to go deep because you’re good at that. I call you the Howard Stern of interviewers.
Andrew: Because I go deep on the stuff.
Steve: Because you go deep. So, feel free. I’m an open book. Let’s see where this goes.
Andrew: All right. Let’s continue then. So, you have your store. You’re up and running. You’re starting to sell your stuff. Was it just AdWords that got you to take off?
Steve: So, we had a multi-prong attack, I would say. So, on one end, we were getting business on AdWords. But AdWords is kind of limited to just search traffic, right? You top out after a while. We also, my wife is an avid crafter. She likes to do a lot of DIY stuff. So, she started putting out all these craft tutorials using the items that we sell in our store just as content, right?
The third prong to that attack was we also started noticing that wedding planners and event planners started contact us wanting to buy our stuff in bulk. So, we were like, “Okay, maybe we should start reaching out to these people, get more of them.” And it turns out once we started doing that, we got a lot of consistent business. It gave us the courage to try different things. It was the combination of those three things that allowed us to make a lot of money in our first year of business.
Andrew: The reason you knew that wedding planners were a good market for you was you contacted anyone who bought in bulk. Is that right?
Steve: We did, pretty much.
Andrew: What did you do? Did you just pick up the phone?
Steve: Yeah, just picked up the phone, cold calling them. And then we got these directories of planners and we just started cold calling these people.
Andrew: You know what? I tried to do that for Mixergy, to try to call up my customers and they just don’t answer the phone. I guess wedding planners must be a little bit different. They will actually take a call, right?
Steve: So, here’s the trick. What you do–and often times I’m not sure how this works in general–but a lot of times the event planners, they take a little cut off of whatever they’re buying for their clients. That’s how they make their profit. What you can do is you can offer them a coupon code. They just kind of keep that profit to themselves. I’m just making these assumptions. But by giving them a coupon code, I assume they’re going to be recommending their clients certain products and then they skim off the coupon, if that makes any sense.
Andrew: How did you get your customers to pick up the phone at first? I know what I could do. Let me see… Was it just calling up people who bought from you?
Steve: We started by doing that.
Steve: And we started asking for referrals to other planners in different areas.
Andrew: I see.
Steve: And then after–
Andrew: The reason I’m hitting on this so hard is while you’re talking, I’m seeing–can I get one of my customers on a call right now? I want to see if there’s anything that we can do that will help me understand who my best customers are the way that you did.
Steve: Okay. Keep in mind, though, Andrew, that in the beginning, we didn’t have that many of these customers.
Andrew: I see.
Steve: So, it was really easy, once we got one of them and they were happy–that’s the key. If they’re happy, they’re probably going to be willing to talk to you further. It’s quite unusual for someone–we’d been selling one off handkerchiefs and that sort of thing–it’s highly unusual for someone to come in, for example, and start buying like 500 napkins or 1,000 napkins or handkerchiefs, right? So, we always took extra special care of those bulk customers so that they were happy and then they were more receptive to talking to us.
Andrew: Did you do that too with My Wife Quit Her Job? Did you call up certain customers to help you understand what to create for them?
Steve: I did not call them. No. With My Wife Quit Her Job it was different. I did surveys.
Andrew: And what were you surveying for?
Steve: So, the main thing I was surveying–and we can kind of get into this a little bit more–but back when I was selling my class, my Create a Profitable Online Store course, I wanted to know why people weren’t buying. At the time, my conversion rate was really low. It was, I think, on the order of like half a percent or something like that. Someone had told me that was low.
Andrew: Half a percent of people who were on your mailing list bought.
Steve: Who signed up to my mailing list. That’s correct. I don’t know if that was true or not, but it made me think. So, I started emailing my people on the list and wondering why they weren’t signing up. What were some of the common questions that were preventing them from even considering my class?
Steve: Yeah. So, I’m sure you’re curious what the answers were.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m also curious about the process. What did you ask them that got them to tell you what you needed to know?
Steve: I’m trying to remember that first survey. It was something on the order of, “What am I not covering with these free tutorials that I’m giving out?” What is your main hurdle for not signing up? What would you like to learn more?” basically.
Andrew: Okay. And what did you learn from that?
Steve: The most startling statistic from that survey was that most people were curious whether the stuff I was teaching would apply worldwide. I had been focusing on the US primarily. All the tutorials actually are kind of US-centric because I’m writing based on my experiences, right? So, once I discovered that, I kind of looked at my analytics and I discovered that, “Hey, there’s actually significant percentage of people that read my blog who are outside the US.” I’m sure it’s the same case for you, right?
Steve: So, after doing that, I kind of tailored the material. I put together a fact page that specifically answered this question. Outside of the modules that I have on how to make your business legal, like all the incorporation, all that stuff, everything else applies to online businesses in general.
Andrew: To anyone anywhere in the world.
Steve: To anyone anywhere in the world. Yeah.
Andrew: I see. So, how did you go about creating your first course or the one course that you have?
Steve: Yeah, the one course. So, a couple of years after I had launched my blog, it had gotten a lot of traffic and I was getting a lot of people asking me questions. I remember this one dude who came up to me and said, “Hey, do you have a class?” I said, “No. I don’t have a class. I’m not really interested in creating a class.” He said, “If you create this class, I’ll pay you for it.”
Steve: So, I thought about it for months. And then I was like, “Okay. What the hell?” I launched a webinar. And that guy wasn’t the only one. It turns out a bunch of other people were interested in the class. I launched this webinar. A hundred people showed up. I gave a little overview about what I was going to cover in the class. People bought it just right then and there without anything. After that happened, I was actually forced to create the course kind of on the fly.
Andrew: How did you know what to put in to the course?
Steve: I had, at that point, probably 250 blog posts.
Steve: And everything that I had encountered while starting my own online store, so I had plenty of material.
Andrew: I’m looking at the first version of your site. Did it come out in late 2008?
Steve: Which one? My Wife Quit Her Job?
Andrew: My Wife Quit Her Job. There it is.
Steve: Yeah, late 2008. That’s correct.
Andrew: “Building Wealth and Entrepreneurship on a Single Income” is one of the blog posts you had up there. You had categories about starting out, teaching kids about money, running your store, reviews, establishing your website. I’m wondering why you did this. None of this seems to lead towards you selling a course on how to build an online store.
Steve: Yeah. You know, Andrew, with blogging in general, a lot of times in the very beginning, which is what you’re kind of looking at right now, you’re kind of trying to figure out what people are interested in reading about.
So, you’ll notice that teaching kids about money is one of the topics there. We had just had our child at that point. I was already thinking about dating. I was thinking about finances and all that stuff. So, I started writing about it. That stuff, ironically, actually got a lot of traction early on, but I wasn’t sure how to take that further. A lot of my friends were asking me about my online store. So, that was kind of a big portion of it as well.
One thing that you didn’t see probably there was I had an initial section on investing, which I thought was an interesting topic as well, but that never went anywhere.
Andrew: I see. So, it was just you feeling out, “What do people care about? What do I care about? What’s so exciting that I could take it somewhere?”
Steve: That’s correct. Yeah.
Andrew: I see. You even reviewed “The Rise to the Top” with David Siteman Garland.
Steve: Yeah. So, that was my outreach program, actually. So now I do it with podcasting. I get to know people by asking to interview them. But back then, I used to do that by reviewing people’s books or what not, offering out of the blue to do that.
Andrew: That’s your way of having David get to know that you’re out there.
Steve: That’s correct. Yeah.
Andrew: Why didn’t you invite me back then?
Steve: I didn’t know you, Andrew, and you’re intimidating, man.
Andrew: Am I?
Steve: I wasn’t sure what you were going to ask me.
Steve: Were you around back in 2008?
Andrew: Yeah. I remember showing David how to record using Ecamm Call Recorder and then later on how to edit.
Steve: Is that right?
Steve: Weren’t those the Bradford & Reed days for you?
Andrew: No. This was after Bradford & Reed. Braford & Reed was years before you started My Wife Quit Her Job.
Steve: Ah, okay.
Andrew: Oh, but you know what? “The Rise to the Top,” I think at the time David’s thing wasn’t online.
Steve: It was a TV show.
Andrew: It was a TV show.
Steve: Yes. I was on that TV show, actually.
Andrew: You were?
Andrew: Where he would do that segment where he would interview you or something?
Steve: He had this segment where he was going over like up and coming bloggers or something. So, I made that section. He took that video down, eventually.
Andrew: I wonder why he would take it down. Yeah. He used to wear suits and go on ABC.
Steve: Yeah. Exactly. It was hilarious. I used to make fun of him about that.
Andrew: All right. So, you’re trying to find a voice, but did you think that this would be a business at all when you started blogging?
Steve: Yeah. So, that was my retirement plan. So, the online store is my wife’s retirement plan. I wanted my blog to be my retirement plan. I actually got inspired to start that because of this one post I read on StevePavlina.com. It was “How to Make Your First Love Dollar.” I don’t know if you’ve ever read that post. Amazing. Changed my life. And at the time, I think he was making like $4,000 a day on AdSense.
Andrew: Was he?
Steve: Something crazy like that. I was like, “Okay, if I can just make a fraction of that and if it pays my mortgage and some living expenses, I could deal with that.” So, my initial plan was just AdSense in the beginning.
Andrew: I wonder what happened to Steve Pavlina. He used to be the guy in blogging for self-improvement. And then he disappeared. I think it was somewhere around the time that he and his wife broke up and he started having these open relationships and blogging about things that people couldn’t fully connect with.
Steve: Yeah. It got really weird. Yeah. He’s actually–I still follow the guy. He’s actually back on his normal track.
Andrew: Is he?
Steve: Yeah. He had this weird thing where he was doing like different sleep patterns and then multiple partners and what not.
Andrew: The multiple partner part I think was still interesting. But I feel like he lost a lot of people. When people weren’t talking about him, I was less excited about him. But the sleep stuff, I used to read all the time. The part where he would do a series on giving up cooked food and he would eat raw vegetables out in Nevada was fascinating to me.
Steve: I wasn’t really interested in that stuff. But yeah, you know what’s hilarious is he still hasn’t updated his site. His site is still the ugly-looking website that it’s been.
Andrew: Yeah, with that free theme that I think used to come with WordPress. I think that what he’s using.
Steve: What’s ironic is I kind of modeled my site off of his site in the very beginning. I don’t know if it’s in the Wayback Machine. But it was really ugly, my first incarnation.
Andrew: I think you guys had the same text. But you put more design into it.
Steve: A little bit more. Yeah. I had a picture of my kid.
Andrew: Right. All right. So, I see you trying to figure it out. I see that you were making money selling linen. At what point did you make enough money that your wife could quit her job?
Steve: it took about a year.
Andrew: Okay. Wow. A year. How much money did you make after the first year in profit?
Steve: About $100k.
Andrew: $100,000 profit?
Andrew: Just from AdSense? At that point it was AdSense and content creation.
Steve: No, no, no. We’re talking about the ecommerce store, right?
Andrew: No. Sorry. The traffic was coming from AdSense and content creation and that’s it.
Steve: The blog did not. The blog took a very long time.
Andrew: No, I’m talking about Bumblebee Linens.
Steve: Yeah. Bumblebee Linens hit $100k in the first year, a combination of pay per click advertising, SEO and these people who buy in bulk, like the event planners and the wedding planners.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment to do a sponsorship message.
Andrew: My sponsor is HostGator. We’ve been talking a lot about guys like Steve Pavlina who had a very simple site. Steve started out with a very simple site. Still WordPress, right?
Andrew: Where you’re writing content, teaching people and so on. If you want to do this for yourself, all you have to do is go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. I bet you can copy Steve’s website in a heartbeat.
Steve: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: I’ve seen people actually copy Mixergy fairly easily. I’m not encouraging you to copy people’s sites. I’m just showing you that what we’ve got built up from a technical point of view is not that hard. To sit and experiment by going to HostGator, installing WordPress or installing one of their shopping cart plugins or their shopping cart software and just getting going is not that hard. You can figure it out as you go along by playing with it, by installing it and hearing guys like Steve and me picking up a couple of ideas and adding them to your sites.
Steve, I’ve actually been asking guests if they could start over with nothing but a HostGator account, what would they start? Let me ask you. Let’s take it all the way back to when you were thinking about having a child, before you even found out you were going to be a dad and said, “I want to start a new business.” And all I hand you is a HostGator account. No connections, no relationships with other podcasters and it’s time for you to do something. What would you do?
Steve: Hey, Andrew, incidentally I’m going to help your HostGator plug here. I actually started my blog on HostGator.
Andrew: You did?
Steve: A long time ago. Yes.
Andrew: Wow. Why did you like HostGator?
Steve: It was cheap and it was easy.
Andrew: You know what? I have actually interviewed several people who started their businesses on HostGator probably for the same reason. It was easy. It was cheap.
Steve: Well, I started my online store on Bluehost and then my blog on HostGator. I wasn’t sure whether my blog was going to go anywhere, to be honest with you, in the beginning. So, HostGator was actually like $2, I think, per month. That’s what swayed me.
Andrew: And they do make it so freaking easy. One-click to install WordPress. You could probably install WordPress even if they didn’t have the one-click install, Steve. But most people can’t. Frankly, I don’t think I could install WordPress without the one-click install. They make it easy.
One click, you have WordPress, you have everything you need to start your business. And if you decide to add a shopping cart to it, they’ve got that there too. If you decide that you want to add a membership to it, they’ve got membership scripts on there. If you decide that you’ve got a lot of traffic and you don’t want to pay extra for it, they have unlimited bandwidth. Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy.
And oh, here’s one of the cool things about them–24/7, 365 days a year technical support. If you’re not with HostGator, go to your hosting company’s website and see if they have a technical contact number. I’m not talking sales. I know they have a phone number on there and you think, “Oh yeah, it’s sales, but I can get through to tech support.”
Try it. If all they have is sales, try it. Call them up and say, “I need to talk to someone about my site being down.” You’ll see that sales people will tell you, “Go and file some kind of a ticket.” Not HostGator. They’ll take your call within a minute and a half I was able to do it when I tested it on a past interview. HostGator.com/Mixergy.
What software did you use to create your ecommerce store, the first one?
Steve: Yeah, osCommerce. Open source shopping cart.
Andrew: You’re not on them anymore, are you?
Steve: I still am, believe it or not.
Andrew: You are? Is it painful?
Steve: But it is a shell of its former self. So, I’ve hand-coded almost everything.
Andrew: You personally?
Steve: Yes, me personally.
Andrew: I can’t believe you could do that. I’m so impressed that you can do that.
Steve: It’s actually not that impressive and if you looked at the code, you’d notice that it’s really messy. But coding and hardware, it’s kind of my background. And what’s nice about that shopping cart–I actually don’t recommend anyone use it today–but it’s actually written in a very easy to understand manner so that it was very easy for me to add stuff onto it. And in reality, your website, all it needs to be able to do is take orders, right? All the aesthetic stuff is just design anyways, you know what I’m saying?
Andrew: I do. Actually, I don’t think your design has changed that much over the years.
Steve: It hasn’t, actually. It’s gone through three redesigns. The most recent one was, I think, 2013, where I made all the photos larger and I kind of rearranged some stuff. Large photos really matters when it comes to ecommerce.
Andrew: I see that, actually. But the first version just had the same look as today, right?
Steve: It’s a similar look. Yeah. But behind the scenes, there are some subtle changes that I made when I was doing conversion testing, which you might not notice because the color scheme and everything is very similar, but some of the layout of some of the buttons and that sort of thing are going to be different. If you open a product page, for example, you might be able to notice.
Andrew: Oh, yeah. I see what you mean. Completely. Okay. All right. Why did you start with a webinar? Why not start by emailing people?
Steve: I started by emailing people to join me on the webinar. I’m trying to think of why I did the webinar. I think it was just one of my buddies and I’m trying to remember who was like, “Hey, if you want to convert on something that’s going to be pricey”–at the time, the course was only $299. I thought it was really expensive because I wasn’t giving anything away, right? I wanted the best chances of conversion. So, that’s kind of why I did it that way. I actually had a buddy help me on that first webinar, I remember. He was fielding all the questions for me and I was terrified.
Andrew: And how much money did you make? Do you remember?
Steve: Yeah. Of course. I sold 35 seats. So, just about $10,000.
Andrew: I’ve actually heard that, that if you’re looking to sell a high-ticket item, do a webinar. In fact, whenever I’ve hired a team to help me launch something, they’ve always pushed for a webinar–webinar, webinar, webinar. I just feel like putting all that pressure on a one-time event seems like too much as opposed to email where you can adjust it.
Steve: So, incidentally I transitioned to a very long email auto-responder sequence. So, that’s how I sell my class today. Incidentally, Andrew, I sat in on your webinar. I think it was like two hours long for your last product.
Andrew: I couldn’t stop. Yes.
Steve: Yeah. I just wanted to see how you ran it.
Andrew: What did you think?
Steve: I thought it was pretty good. I don’t know how your sales were. But I thought the Q&A was particularly valuable. I think that’s what sets a webinar apart from any sort of canned email sequence.
Andrew: The Q&A, the part that I thought maybe I shouldn’t spend too much time on because I was answering individual people’s questions.
Steve: Yeah. But what’s ironic about that is I think it’s the Q&A that sells someone, right? They feel like they’re getting personalized responses and they’re like, “Hey, this guy’s willing to answer my questions. I should probably sign up.”
Andrew: I see. Yeah. That does make sense. Yeah. I’m very much an amateur when it comes to doing webinars. I don’t do much selling in it because I don’t know at what point I should be doing selling. All I want to do is just teach people. This was the one where I was teaching people how to do interviews. And all I wanted was everybody was listening to do a freaking interview.
Andrew: All right. So, yours worked. I am very curious about your email sequence. That’s where your sales are generated today. So, the first one, how did you put it together?
Steve: Okay. I’ll tell you the evolution. So, it started out as a free set of lessons that teach people how to start an ecommerce store. I put that into an eBook. My original plan with that was just to get affiliate clicks and sell the services that I mentioned on there. One thing I noticed was that people just weren’t clicking on the links inside that eBook. I’m sure that some people weren’t even opening the book. That’s just my guess. There’s no way to tell, I guess.
What I decided to do after that was I broke apart that eBook into different emails. When I did that, I found that I was getting a lot more affiliate clicks. At that point, I could actually track opens and clicks. So, I knew the engagement was a lot higher at that point.
Andrew: I see. That’s so interesting. So, the book was already put together as a process for creating an online business. So, you knew each step built on the previous one. By spreading it out over email, you made it easier for people to read it, but you also created one of those open loops within each email, am I right?
Steve: That’s correct. Yeah. That’s correct.
Andrew: How intentional was the open loop part of it?
Steve: I think it was accidental. I would just say, “Hey, here’s the next step. It will come the next day.” So, at the time, I was trying to build up my email list. That’s the whole reason why I completed that eBook in the first place, to attract signups. What was funny about that–there’s quite a backstory behind it. I wasn’t sure what to do after I gave away the eBook either. I gave away the eBook, I gave away my best stuff, now what do I do? I just send out blog posts?
So, by breaking it apart, I think at the time I broke it apart into nine steps. And I was making good money off of just affiliate revenue at that time. But the course itself was not selling that great. Like I mentioned before, the conversion rate was at like half a percent or something like that, from that sequence.
Right around that time, I started my podcast. I interviewed this one dude. His name is Dan Faggella. And he does this for a living. And so, I was like, “Hey, Dan, you got any tips for me? I’ve got this sequence. It’s doing all right from an affiliate perspective, but I’m not really selling as many courses as I would like.” So, he took a look at it. And within the first five seconds, he was like, “Dude, this sequence is too short. There’s no personality. All you’re doing is teaching, teaching, teaching.”
At that point I was like, “Isn’t that why people sign up for classes? So, they can learn, learn, learn?” So, it turns out that my first nine emails were literally just straight lessons–how to do this, step by step stuff, right?
Andrew: Yeah. I would think that would work best.
Steve: It’s logical from an engineering mind, right? That’s how it would work. But it turns out, like he was telling me, “Dude, you’ve got to like insert your personality in a lot more of these sequences so people know who you are, what your backstory is and that sort of thing.” So, the first thing I did was in the first sequence, I told my backstory. I created a podcast and a video that kind of introduced myself, my background and all this stuff.
Andrew: Before you even got to the teaching?
Steve: Before I even got to the teaching. So, actually, that first video, half of it is just my story and then the last half is the teaching part, like the start of the teaching, like the teaser part. And then after that, I started created videos for each step. Remember before, it was just an eBook book broken apart. After that, it was just videos describing each step. I would kind of incorporate my story into each one of those tutorial videos.
After the nine steps, Dan was like, “Hey, you need more steps.” I think at the time, my product was $700 or something. And he was like, “Dude, you can’t just hit them up once.” And this could be due to my engineering mind again. I hate selling. I hate the hard sell. In that first set of sequences, I only had one email where I said, “Hey, if you’re interested in more, buy my class.” And that was it, never mentioned it again. So, he was like, “You’ve got to hit them again.”
One thing that I learned–after that, I started reading more sales books and that sort of thing. It turns out–and this was quite a surprise to me–a lot of sales is about getting the customer to like you as a person as opposed to–what you’re teaching is important, of course, but they have to like you.
Steve: That’s when my email auto-responder sequence kind of exploded. I started revealing different facts about myself, trying to appeal to different personalities and different things. I can give you a couple examples of that.
Andrew: Yeah, please.
Andrew: I’m actually redoing mine now. I interviewed Brad from Sixth Division. And I was so fed up that day because I was doing too much of figuring stuff out. I said, “You know what? Let’s just pay him whatever it was,” I think he said it was $12,000. “I’ll pay him $12,000 to go to his office for a couple of days and have him and his people train me and my people and tell us what to write.”
I know that I feel exactly like you. Let’s just give everybody the facts and move on. I don’t have time for relaxed conversation to find out about you. If I’m going to find out about someone, it’s going to be like my wife. It’s going to be, I don’t know, my friends over here, I guess. People do want to find out about us.
Steve: It sounds like you’ve got an engineering mind as well, Andrew.
Andrew: I really very much do. In the early interviews, I wouldn’t say anything about myself. Now I’m trying to be more relaxed. I’m not even wearing a collar. This is my first time wearing a t-shirt. I’m trying a whole new look too to be more relaxed. Look, I didn’t even take the tags off because I’m not sure I should be this relaxed.
Steve: That’s hilarious.
Andrew: When I was trying it out I said, “You know what? The store is right down the street on Market. I can take it back.”
Steve: Well, I’m not wearing pants right now. You can’t see.
Andrew: Are you? Show me.
Steve: No. I’m just kidding.
Steve: I’m just joking.
Andrew: How about at the Mastermind? Jeremy said that he always wears basketball shorts under his pants. I said, “Take your pants off. Let me see.” And he showed us.
Steve: Yes. That was hilarious.
Andrew: And sure enough, he did have it. All right. So, show me. What are some of the personality emails that you put in to your sequence?
Steve: So, I had a “25 Random Things About Me” sort of email where I kind of revealed really quirky facts about myself. A couple of things that might stand out to some people–I used to not play with my toys early on. Like Transformers, I was really into Transformers, but I never opened the box because I knew they’d be worth something someday.
Andrew: This is from your “25 Random Things About Me.”
Steve: That’s correct.
Andrew: I’ve got that post up here in front of me.
Andrew: So, you just sent them this list of 25 things about you?
Steve: I said, “If you’re interested in knowing more about the person teaching, here are just some random facts about me.”
Andrew: I see.
Steve: A couple of ones that really resonated with people–a lot of my students are females wanting to start a family. There was this one in that 25 that I got a lot of feedback on, how I proposed to my wife. I went through this whole thing where I wrote her a book. And I created this hardbound book where on the last page it was like a ring holder that had like an engagement ring. So, when I proposed, I read the whole story to her and on the last page was the ring. So, that’s something that really resonated with my female audience.
Andrew: I’m such a jerky, “Get me down to facts and avoid the emotional side”–I have this up on my screen and even as you said it, I was moved by it. So, what else beyond the 25? I see how that would be one email that you sent out. What else did you send out that showed your personality?
Steve: I had my first podcast episode. I don’t know if you got a chance to listen to it, but it basically described everything that was going on through my mind when we were starting the businesses and that sort of thing and why my wife was so unhappy with her job, why she needed to quit and kind of our philosophy on the importance of having a family member at home to take care of a child.
Andrew: I see.
Steve: So, things like that, things I believe in, basically.
Andrew: I had Daniel Faggella on. One of the things he taught me was to split up the list based on people’s interests. Did you do any of that?
Steve: I don’t do that. And I thought about doing that for the longest time because what’s all the rage right now are these content-specific giveaways, like if you have a certain post on something, you create a specific piece of content related to that post.
Andrew: Yeah. Bryan Harris calls it content upgrade. So, you like this one post. If you give me your email address, I’ll give you tons of other information related to this post.
Steve: Right. So, what you end up with is a segmented list of what people are interested in. But for me, I only sell one thing. And I only want to sell one thing. So, if they’re not interested in starting an ecommerce store, what am I going to do with these segments? I suppose in the future if I were to create a different course that would change. But for now, I just sell one thing. There’s no real reason to segment very heavily.
Andrew: He would say differently. My writer April Dykman is really into his idea. We’ve been trying it to various degrees over the years. But he would say even if someone wants to start a business to not quit their–even if someone is not married and is just starting out, you should address them differently than if someone is married and is trying to get a spouse out of a job. So, you may have one product, but a different way of addressing those two different people, the single guy versus the mom who wants her husband to stay home or something.
Steve: That’s probably true. But for me, I only have about eight to ten hours to spend on this stuff right now since I still work full time, as you alluded to in the beginning. So, perhaps in the ideal case, that’s probably true. You want individualized emails depending on the person, which incidentally, this is kind of what we do for our ecommerce store. Depending on what people buy, we send out different sorts of emails. That kind of makes a little more logical sense. We’ve got over 400 SKUs on that site. So, it makes more sense to do things that way.
Andrew: I see. The other thing that seems to work for you on that site is Pinterest.
Steve: Yes. Pinterest works well because it’s just the nature of our business. It’s weddings, photos and that sort of thing.
Andrew: I don’t see a Pinterest button.
Steve: They’re on the products. You’ll notice on the products, there’s a Pinterest pin.
Andrew: Oh, it’s not on the image the way that it is on My Wife Quit Her Job.
Steve: That’s correct.
Andrew: It’s on the left next to like, etc.
Steve: You’ll notice all the content pages on there all have Pinterest pins as well.
Andrew: That makes sense. All right so, coming back to it. You created this webinar. You had this book that you turned into an email series. Daniel comes around and shows you to add more personality to it. So, you start adding more personality to it. Sales start to go up, right?
Steve: Yes. They tripled, actually. What’s that?
Andrew: Sorry. What was the conversion rate at that point?
Steve: It was almost two percent.
Andrew: Two percent?
Andrew: So, a 4 time increase.
Steve: The conversion rate was a 4 time increase. Revenues only increased 3x. I’m trying to figure out, maybe it was due to returns or something like that. But yeah.
Steve: 3x revenues.
Andrew: And you went from I think it was like a 6-email sequence to 30.
Steve: It was a 9-email sequence to 30.
Andrew: 9 to 30. Wow.
Steve: Which kind of leads you to believe that the more emails you got, the higher your conversion rate. So, I don’t know.
Andrew: That’s surprising. The hard part about that is that you don’t know how well you’re doing until way late in the sequence.
Steve: That’s correct. So, even still today, what’s funny about this is a good portion of people sign up within like the first 10 or 12, I would say, and then they just kind of trickle in gradually over the rest of the sequence. I haven’t looked at it closely enough to see if there’s any pattern. But it seems like just different emails strike different people. It’s often times a matter of luck on what their mood is. It’s hard to track.
Andrew: What do you use to track which email is effective and how…?
Steve: I just add standard Google Analytics UTM parameters.
Andrew: To each email that you send out?
Steve: Every link and every email has its own individual UTM parameter.
Andrew: I see. What do you use? Wow. This is just keeping it very basic. What do you use to send your email out?
Steve: Just Aweber.
Steve: Yeah. It’s very basic.
Andrew: One of the problems with Aweber is you can’t easily pull someone out of your sequence after they buy.
Steve: You can.
Steve: So, I can’t remember which menu item it is. But if they sign up for a new list, I use the API to automatically sign them up to a new list and you can have them removed off the old list.
Andrew: I see. So, when they buy, you add them to a new mailing list and you have an automation technique or automation something on that that removes them from the other list. All right. That makes sense.
Steve: What’s bad about Aweber is you can’t just do that via a tag. You actually have to physically move them to a different list.
Andrew: I know. That is so frustrating with them. And you might even have to have them confirm again on the second list.
Steve: You don’t. You just have to ask permission through the API do add them to a list without confirmation.
Andrew: Okay. I’m trying to see where else you’re getting traffic on My Wife Quit Her Job. I see Smart Passive Income because he featured you, right? Medium.com, what are you doing on Medium that’s sending you traffic?
Steve: I’m not doing anything. I actually have no idea where that’s coming from.
Andrew: That’s so strange.
Steve: Did someone mention me by accident?
Andrew: Are you doing anything with Modest Money? They seem to be sending you traffic.
Steve: I don’t know. Actually a lot of the traffic is from Google, which worries me a little bit. But you know, the email list kind of counteracts that. So, I would say the majority of my traffic is from Google and then I have these random referrals coming in. Ever since I started my podcast, I’ve noticed that direct traffic has increased substantially. Maybe it’s just people typing in stuff. Did you notice that with Mixergy?
Andrew: That direct traffic increases with the podcast?
Andrew: I’ve never not done a podcast.
Steve: Well, you didn’t have your stuff on iTunes before, right?
Andrew: I did. I never really promoted it. But it was there.
Andrew: I never really cared about promoting until about maybe last year about letting people know that it was on iTunes. Now I end every episode with it. I see you start every episode with it.
Steve: I do. Yeah.
Andrew: And you’ve got a contest to help you grow your podcast audience. What are you doing there?
Steve: Basically just giving away one on one consults in return for a subscribe and review?
Andrew: How do you verify that people have actually reviewed?
Steve: I have them sign up from my list and then tell me what their iTunes ID is. So, whenever I go to choose the pool of people, I just verify that that ID actually exists on one of the reviews. If not, I just choose a different person.
Andrew: I should be doing that. Actually Sachit Gupta, who works here with me at Mixergy on some projects, contacted a bunch of podcasters to find out what they did that worked for them. They said, “All right, Andrew, now you care about growing your podcast list. Here’s what people are doing.” One of the things that they were doing is doing a contest just like you did where you review and you sign up and review and we’ll pick one person and give you some prize.
Steve: Here’s something I’m going to start doing more that’s kind of worked too. Now on my email list when I broadcast one of the podcast episodes, I actually ask the person I’ve consulted with for a testimonial and then I’ll outline that testimonial in the email. So, that encourages other people to enter.
Andrew: And it’s a whole other Aweber list for you.
Steve: Yeah. Exactly.
Andrew: What else did you do to help improve your email sequence? I know you spent a lot of time on that.
Steve: I did. So, I just tried telling different stories. The hardest part for me was scarcity.
Andrew: Because it’s an evergreen drip campaign.
Steve: It’s an evergreen sequence, right? And a lot of people who launch classes, they close it off, right? So, that immediately has scarcity. I’ve done scarcity through that sequence mainly by storytelling. So, I’ll give you a quick example. I tell this story about how I almost did not get married to my wife. The reason was is I couldn’t get the guts to actually ask her out for the longest time.
So, it actually took my six months to ask her out because I was such a chicken. In the beginning, the first time we met, we actually hung out for a whole night in a group and I didn’t have the guts. I saw her again several months later at an engagement party and I was chatting with her for a large portion of the night and I asked her for a business card, I remember and she didn’t have any on her and I gave up then.
I just remember finally I decided to just bite the bullet and ask her. I asked her sister for her email and just asked her out right then and there. It turns out that she had a bunch of dates lined up like in the next couple weeks. So, fortunately, we hit it off on that first date and she cancelled those other dates.
But that was just my way of demonstrating that if you wait too long, you could be missing out on something. So, that’s one of the stories that I tell.
Andrew: That makes so much sense. What else? Give me one more like that if you remember.
Steve: So, the other ones I have are less about scarcity but more about does the course work and, “Why do I need to sign up for your class when I can just look online and learn it myself?” So, I actually have two emails to address that. One is for women and one is for men.
So, for the women, I kind of talk about when we had our first kid, I used to go out and I bought every single book on parenting. I don’t know if you were the same way, Andrew. I bought every single book on parenting, ready everything cover to cover. So, I knew or I thought I knew everything there was to expect when the kid came out, right?
So, what ended up happening was our child was born and none of the stuff worked at all. In fact, I remember in the beginning, we were trying to put our baby down and my wife was just bouncing her doing the stuff that she thought was right to get her down. I was just sitting there really cocky, right? I was like, “Dude, I’m going to use the technique to put her down. Once you’re done trying, why don’t you hand her over to me and I’ll put her down,” right?
Andrew: I was like that.
Steve: Were you like that too? I was doing that too and then I was like, “I’m going to use the tactic that I learned in this book, ‘Happiest Baby on the Block.'” I don’t know if you saw that.
Andrew: That’s a good one.
Steve: You turn it over and then–it worked for about a minute. The baby was calm for about a minute and started bawling again. Have you tried Dunstan Baby Language? That one’s hilarious.
Andrew: No. I never heard of that one.
Steve: That one is where you interpret what the baby is saying. They’re trying to communicate and you can try and interpret what they’re saying to see what they wanted. So, I sat there with my kid looking at her face and trying to interpret exactly what she wanted. That didn’t work as well at all.
Andrew: No kidding.
Steve: So, what ended up happening is I just ran to Babies “R” Us and I bought every single bouncer, rocker and everything and everything went out the window, basically. So, just because you learn something from online or a book doesn’t mean that you can do it. There are always going to be cases where you need specific instruction that’s specifically tailored to your business.
Andrew: I see. So, the course will tailor itself to you is your point there.
Steve: Yeah. So, I offer these weekly office hours, kind of like little mini webinars where I answer questions specifically about your business. That was the point, right?
Andrew: Yeah. I get that. I see how you’re also using personal stories to communicate that point, which I’m relating to completely. I just went through this about a year ago. “Happiest Baby on the Block” is good but it’s not 100 percent. Swaddling is really helpful. I did the same thing where we went and we bought swings and stuff. But I had a requirement that I didn’t want this stuff to take over my living room. But the swing helped. We found one that was small enough to fit and just rocked him a lot and allowed him to go to sleep.
Andrew: Those are painful days.
Steve: Those days are over for me, thankfully.
Andrew: I think we’re going to go for one more child. I shouldn’t probably be announcing this here publicly. I should have talked to my wife about it. We’re not yet trying even. But I think we’re going to go for one more, which means that if like mid-2016 we’re not pregnant, it means that there’s a problem. I shouldn’t even say we’re pregnant. She’s pregnant. I’m not getting pregnant.
Steve, I’ve been looking at the notes as we’ve been talking. There’s one thing that I don’t know how to bring up because I don’t understand what Jeremy wrote here. In his conversation with you, he wrote down, “We figured out how to disarm a frantic bribe.” Do you know what that means? Oh, here we go. Let me read the whole section.
Steve: Oh, yeah. I think I know.
Andrew: Tell me.
Steve: This is how we run customer service.
Steve: So, we deal with a lot of brides and you know weddings are stressful.
Andrew: Oh, so it’s a bride, not bribe.
Andrew: I see. Typo. Okay.
Steve: So, the nature of our business is we get a lot of people who are angry because they just wait until the last minute and they don’t get their stuff or what not or something is wrong with it or whatever. So, I think what I was telling Jeremy is our customer service policy is if someone calls really angry, we’re just giving them the product for free and that immediately disarms them.
Andrew: That makes sense, but then you end up having to give up a bunch of stuff for free.
Steve: We give them stuff for free, but what’s hilarious about that is they like turn around and then start telling all their friends about our business. It’s really hilarious. They do like a complete 180 at that point.
Andrew: You know what? I’ve tried that. I continue to do stuff like that. I don’t get enough attention for it. Nobody compliments me for it. Like one time, I had Grasshopper.com as a sponsor. One guy ripped into me about how bad Grasshopper’s service was and how he paid I think it was like $8. He was so pissed. I didn’t want him to even have to go to Grasshopper. I wrote him a check for the $8 and I personally mailed it out to him. I said, “If you’re not happy with my sponsor, I want to stand by them and take good care of you because I care about you.” I wrote out a check. I thought, “This is so going to go viral or be on Twitter or something.” Never heard from the guy. Just moved on. I’m such a good guy with people too.
Steve: That is amazing. That’s like above and beyond right there. But that’s not even your business, right?
Andrew: But if Grasshopper is my sponsor, they’re my business. If people are upset that HostGator is not treating them well, I am furious. It means they must have pissed off other people. I can’t handle that.
Steve: So, the only difference is between your story and mine, Andrew, is a lot of the times, people don’t want the refund. They actually just want it redone to their specifications.
Andrew: I see.
Steve: So, well go ahead and redo the entire order for them.
Andrew: I see. I think also my customer service people are too quick–if someone is upset, they’ll just push a refund. Sometimes people email me back and say, “I didn’t even ask for a freaking refund. All I was trying to do was help you out by telling you this part stinks. You should improve it.”
Steve: Are you talking about for your class or just the Mixergy?
Andrew: Mixergy Premium.
Andrew: But for everything, they jump on stuff way too fast. People just feel insulted that they’re not being heard because we have a refund to someone.
Steve: That’s interesting. Okay. So, for my info product, when someone asks for a refund, I actually try to get to the root of the problem and ask why. I’ll even go to the extent of just scheduling a one on one chat with them.
Andrew: I’ve done that. So, in past interviews, I’ve asked people what have you done to learn to improve? And they say, “Talk to your customers who cancel.” So, again, I started calling people up who cancelled. I got nowhere with it. So, finally my team started calling people up and saying, “Look, I know you weren’t happy with Mixergy. Andrew still wants you to have the results that you signed up for. He’s offering a free coaching call. You don’t have to buy anything. In fact, he’s got nothing to sell you. Do you want to do it?”
And people would schedule it and I got to understand their issues. It was tremendously helpful. If I say, “Could you help me by giving me some feedback?” no one returns the call. No one wants anything. But if I say, “Can I give you a coaching call?” Then people will talk.
Steve: You know what I also started doing for my class is I have this auto-responder sequence, like a post-purchase auto-responder sequence that kind of just gives an overview. But in one of those emails, I actually asked, “What do you think could be improved?” And people actually respond to that. I have that sequence go after the first 30 days. I’ve actually drastically increased the return rate because of that sequence.
Andrew: Because you’re checking in with them and fixing the things for the next person before they even–
Steve: Not necessarily just fixing everything because a lot of what their asking is sometimes a little nitpicky and not high on my priority list, for example, but just the fact that I’m checking in on them on a regular basis–sometimes it’s every day for a while and then every other day. That’s what reduced my return rate. I don’t know if you do something similar with your class.
Andrew: I do. But I like the way that you did that. You know what I’d like to do? Do nothing but have conversations like this where I show you my email. You show me your email. The audience gets to watch both of us and here how we think about it and then we maybe take a look at other people’s emails or we take a look at other people’s processes for selling. I think I want to do that for a while.
Steve: Hey, I’m happy to share.
Andrew: Right? Wouldn’t that be cool?
Steve: It would be cool.
Andrew: You show yours. I show mine. Maybe we take a couple of email suggestions from people that are in the community and we give them feedback and we do the whole thing in public.
Steve: Yeah. In fact, I would even pay for that, Andrew. Sorry. Go on.
Andrew: No. I like that you said that. I’ve been surveying the audience to see if they’re into that. In my calls to people who cancelled, one of the things I learned is that they were looking for a community. I’m trying to figure out what kind of community to put together. I don’t just want to have people come together because they happen to be entrepreneurs. I don’t think that’s interesting enough. I want us to be working on something together.
Steve: Yeah. I want to chat with you about that at some point too. I have a little community for my class and there are just a lot of tradeoffs.
Andrew: I think I’ve got to put one together. They’re demanding it. But it sounds like you’re warning me away.
Steve: No. It’s just–so, one of the decisions that was really difficult for me was whether to create a Facebook group or host my own forum.
Andrew: Me too. Yes.
Steve: Okay. You had the same. I ultimately chose to do my own forum because I wanted to own all the content and I wanted complete control over the entire platform. But what’s nice about Facebook is everyone is always checking it anyway. So, there tends to be more engagement that way.
Andrew: So, do you regret doing it on your own?
Steve: I don’t regret it but I wish that people would check in more often in the forum. I’ve got a lot of cool stuff on there that are very specific and very useful to ecommerce people.
Andrew: Like what?
Steve: So, for example, I have this giveaway forum where people can giveaway their product on Amazon, for example, for reviews to basically jumpstart any listing. I have like social media help where people can post certain sites. For example, I want this site pinned or this image pinned, right? A lot of times it’s just about getting critical mass. So, little things like that.
Andrew: And you know what? The problem with hosting your own forum is people may not even know that it’s there because they have to dig into a category and then look through the sub–right?
Steve: The way forums are structured are kind of not ideal, at least not the ones I looked at. I don’t know if you had any better solutions.
Andrew: Even Discourse, which is what people are recommending I use, is not ideal for that. It’s really hard to have things surface.
Andrew: All right. What software do you use?
Steve: For which?
Andrew: For your forum? Sorry.
Steve: I use Simple:Press.
Andrew: Okay. So, before every interview, I do a search of my inbox to see if I’ve talked to the person before and what has happened. In your case, as far as I could tell, we didn’t talk before we met here at the office. But I did hear from you from a past guest who said he was putting together a Mastermind. Did you go into that Mastermind? Who was he? Are you in a Mastermind now while I look for his name?
Steve: I’m in a couple. Yeah.
Andrew: Are they helpful?
Steve: They are.
Andrew: What makes it helpful?
Steve: Well, I have one for different disciplines, right? I have one for general blogging, one for ecommerce and one for kind of like digital classes.
Andrew: I see.
Steve: It’s helpful in that I get to see how other people are doing things. So, I take bits and pieces of what I like and don’t do what I don’t.
Andrew: I see. So, you’re with four or five other people and you’re talking to them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis?
Steve: One of them is like on a monthly and the other two are weekly.
Andrew: Okay. And how do you chat between sessions?
Steve: We have a Facebook group actually.
Andrew: Of course. Billy Murphy, that’s who invited me.
Steve: Ah, Billy Murphy. No, I’m not in a Mastermind with him.
Andrew: Oh, look at that. Even Andrew from eCommerceFuel was invited to that one. Huh.
Steve: Yeah. Andrew is my buddy.
Andrew: I like that guy a lot too. Is he in your ecommerce Mastermind?
Steve: He is. That’s the one that meets monthly. We kind of just get together and chat.
Andrew: Yeah. I like that guy a lot. I just learned so much from him. I interviewed him recently. All right. I think I got about 70 percent of what was in the notes here but I like that we took it in a different direction because I think that we kept it from being a repeat of what you’ve talked about online. Did I miss anything that you think I should have included?
Steve: Not that I know of.
Andrew: I didn’t ask you about how much sex you’re having with your wife. Are you having enough now that you’ve had kids?
Steve: You know, once you get two kids… You’ll experience it once you have two. I’m just busy shuttling the kids around everywhere and I’m exhausted by the end of the night.
Andrew: I have to tell you. I know this stuff is coming my way. I’m not ready to accept it. Part of the problem with accepting it is I live in San Francisco and no one seems to accept anything. Everyone just does their own thing, right? I don’t just mean like in the, “Let’s get into leather and have sex with our neighbors,” type of thing, which I’m sure goes on–I know goes on, actually. I’m talking about like they will find their own way.
This one guy came over to my house for scotch. We had a conversation. We both are dads. He’s suddenly telling me that even though he has a son around the same age as mine, he’s just taking off and going halfway around the world to like Bali or something with his kid. I go, “What about your job?” He goes, “I’ll find another one when I get back. Something will work out.” He’s refusing to just accept that because he has a kid, he should stick with his job and stick with the city that he’s raising his kid in.
Steve: How old the kid?
Andrew: He’s a year.
Steve: Okay. It’s easy to travel with a kid when they’re only a year.
Andrew: Is it?
Steve: It’s once they’re in school and they’ve got all these activities. That’s when it gets tough, actually.
Andrew: But who knows? Then these people will end up discovering something brand new again. They’ll have some kind of governess come over. But it’s in a weird way, right? You can’t pay someone from England to come over and be a governess like Mary Poppins but they’ll find someone who wants to travel, who’s also really literate and they found her on some website and they’re going to travel with her.
Steve: I’ve got buddies like that too with older kids. They just happen to have a lot of money and they can pay for nannies to shuttle their kids around and do stuff. They travel plenty still.
Andrew: Oh, I see and the nannies just go off. I can’t do that, like as a human being I can’t do that.
Steve: Or you just fly your nanny and take them along with you.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s the thing I refuse to accept. But sometimes I just want to relax and not fight for what I refuse to accept. But what I’m saying, short answer is you’re right. Long answer is I wonder if there’s a way for me to fight against that? Who knows? We’ll find out. Tune in to Mixergy in five years.
Steve: 2016, right?
Steve: You said 2016 is when you’re going to have another one.
Andrew: Yeah. We’ll find out. Then five years from now you’ll see did I settle into a really boring life or am I traveling to Bali with two kids and a governess that happens to be I don’t know what?
Steve: You’re going to have to figure out what to do with your school situation too. SF schools are messed up, right? The way they–the lottery system.
Andrew: I signed my son up for school before–now we’re just chatting. Anyone can just tune out if they want to. But I’ll tell you–I signed my son up for kindergarten before he was even born to lock in the place. Now, people have done that. I was paying for the months that he was in the womb. They said, “You’ve got to lock it up.”
And then we hired a nanny who came in who said, “Do you ever see anyone from that school across the street going for walks with the kids?” And we said, “No.” “Do you think that they could pay attention to their kid if they’re in a room full of other kids?” I said, “Well, I guess not.” “Well, if you get a nanny, the nanny will take them out for walks and do all that stuff.” So, I was paying still for months for this school in preparation for my child. And she convinced me. So, we had a nanny. I was paying for a while for both the nanny and the school until I decided which way I wanted to go.
Steve: That’s crazy.
Andrew: That is freaking nuts.
Steve: It’s not normal. It’s just in the area that we live in. That’s the way it is.
Andrew: Oh yeah, right. You’re in San Francisco too. You’re in South Bay.
Steve: Well, I’m not in SF. I’m in the Peninsula.
Andrew: Peninsula is South Bay, right? Just south of San Francisco.
Andrew: Makes sense. We’re all in the same financial hell together.
Steve: That’s correct.
Andrew: We’re all competing against the billionaires from Uber for housing and sending our kids to school. All right. But its’ worth the fight. If anyone wants to follow up with you, the best place to go is MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. If they want to connect with you, I suggest that they give up that hope. They’re never going to get to talk to you. You’re doing this on eight hours a day. What they should probably do if they want to talk to you is sign up for something and be a customer and then they get to talk to you. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Steve: That’s a little harsh there, Andrew.
Andrew: I’m trying to protect you.
Steve: Yeah. You know, what’s funny is I actually enjoy–I guess it just depends on the way the person approaches the correspondence. But I actually enjoy corresponding with people.
Andrew: You do?
Steve: I do, for the most part.
Andrew: I’m trying to protect you. You’re a guy who’s working a full time job–well now four days a week–plus you have kids, plus you’re doing this for eight hours, plus I don’t know what else you’ve got going on.
Steve: I don’t know. We’re talking here right now, aren’t we?
Andrew: All right. Everyone call him up or email him. Steve, what’s a good email address for you?
Andrew: I know why I thought that. Because you told the room, “I don’t really check my email,” at the Mastermind here.
Steve: I actually read all of my emails. What I said was I don’t respond to all my emails.
Andrew: I see. All right. So, what is your email address? Can I give it out?
Steve: No. I’m not going to give it out because I want you to sign up for my email list and hit reply to one of those emails and then I’ll reply to that.
Andrew: All right. How do I sign up for the email list, just go to your site and it’s on the right margin, get the book and you’re joined?
Steve: Yeah. There are signup forms everywhere.
Andrew: All right.
Steve: And if you’re getting married, I’ll hook you up with some hankies, BumblebeeLinens.com.
Andrew: All right. I like that too. Cool, everyone. I, unlike Steve, do the plug for the podcast at the end of the interview. Maybe I should move it up to the beginning of the conversation. I will tell you if you like this interview, thank you. You should email me at Andrew@Mixergy. Let me know. I do like hearing that.
But more importantly, please tell the world by posting a comment on iTunes. There’s an easy way to do that. I also learned this from the Mastermind here at the office. Omar happened to be in podcasting too. He said you can put into the interview notes into the podcast notes a link for people to rate your podcast. So, I’ve done it. So, if you guys just click my nose or drag up on my face, depending on your podcast app, whatever it is, interact with my cover art and you’ll see some information about Steve and a way to link over to leave–wait, I’m worn out here–to leave a compliment or to leave your review on iTunes.
Steve, thanks so much for doing this.
Steve: Thanks for having me.
Andrew: What do you say? Do I keep the jacket? Let’s see.
Steve: I can’t even see the jacket to be honest with you. Let me…
Andrew: Yeah. Have a look.
Steve: Just the way the camera is, I can’t even tell. The color blends in with your shirt, to be honest with you.
Andrew: I think so too. It looks much, much better in person and I think I might be showing a little more chest hair than I should in an interview.
Steve: That’s an impressive amount of chest hair, actually.
Andrew: I’ve got so much of it. This is why I didn’t want to take up gym in high school. I didn’t want all the other kids to laugh at this. They were all black and white, which didn’t have–there were no Middle Eastern people there, no Indian people there, no one with hair. I knew they would laugh at me the way you’re laughing at me right now. This is high school right back again.
Steve: I’ve got nothing.
Andrew: They were Asian too. My Asian friends didn’t have anything. So, I knew they would laugh at me. So, that’s why I didn’t take up anything.
Steve: But it’s all good now.
Andrew: Yeah. I sat around and I read books. I’d much rather do that. Everybody should be so cursed that they have a lot of hair and don’t waste their time on nonsense like that. Read books instead. All right, Steve, before I continue with this, I’m just going to say thank you for doing this interview. Everybody else, thank you for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.