Operation Ecommerce Ninja: Week 1.
It’s been 5 days since I’ve publicly proclaimed myself the one-woman growth team at PerfectBurpee.com. Since then I’ve been hustling my little buns off trying to shorten the learning curve of my foray into e-commerce.
I’m five parts thrilled, three parts daunted by my vast self-imposed goal of $25,000 of monthly revenue, and ALL parts bursting with curiosity and energy.
But I wouldn’t have taken this project on if I thought there wasn’t at least a chance I could do it. I sincerely believe this is a website selling a great product that I believe in that happens to be vastly underperforming.
Why do I believe in Perfect Burpee?
- It’s a high quality product. The mat fulfills its promise: it’s the perfect size for a wild and high-intensity workout, it's non-slip, and totally made of natural rubber, among the key benefits.
- It solves a real problem. One that I believe the right people are willing to pay for (if its successful Kickstarter campaign is any indication). Only the sales will tell, of course, but a surprising number of new ventures seem to miss this minor detail but my money’s on the real demand for our solution.
- It’s sellable. It’s got the added advantage of a sexy soundbite value prop, as evidenced by its solid press from launch. "Introducing: the world’s greatest workout mat. Extra large, non-slip, thick and durable. It’ll be your best investment in your fitness. Try it for 30 days or your money back.” I like being able to say something that makes fitness equipment sound that sexy.
- It’s premium. It’s price point provides high margins and an interesting branding opportunity while still being competitive; its competitors charge more or equivalent for similar products.
Why do I personally enjoy taking on this project?
- I’ve always wanted to work on a single-SKU business (a SKU meaning a stock-keeping unit). An online-only or online-first business promoting one product has to sink or swim, since it’s throwing its whole weight behind the appeal of a single item. It’s the ultimate test of how well you can craft copy, understand buying psychology, build a story around a solution. With a one-SKU business like Perfect Burpee, you get to go deep to understand how people think and feel about one purchase in an intimate way. And I love that idea.
- I am enamored by the idea of selling a physical product. The tangibility of e-commerce is an appealing constraint to me; you can’t just modify the product immediately like with a digital product. You can’t iterate as fast, and the benefits are a bit more concrete by definition. There’s something so compelling about the art of taking a real object and sharing its value with the world.
- It’s in an industry with real learning opportunity for me. I know just enough about how people find and consume fitness and health products online to be able to hit the ground running, but I also can stand to learn a lot about the target audience and their interests (in this case, namely topics like HIIT, P90X, bodyweight exercises, home fitness, etc.). I dig the idea of learning more as I go about something I’ve always wanted to develop deep expertise in.
- Health & fitness is a space I want to become known for. I don’t just want to be a growth hacker, startup marketer, [insert trendy buzzword for “marketing” here]—I want to know how to build great health and fitness brands. If you ask me what my dream job in 5-10 years would be, it would be to be the go-to expert that a brand like Equinox or SoulCycle would hire as a consultant when they’re considering how to expand their engagement and presence online through content and social media, for example. (Equinox has a new online magazine that I would love to have been part of creative & marketing team for, for example.)
For these reasons and more, I feel like I’ve found a jackpot of a project.
So now there’s just the minor detail of how to grow a business with trickling revenue into the full potential I believe it has. For all my bravado, this could totally crash and burn. But let’s survey our plan.
(Warning: nerdy marketing speak ahead. Read on only if you delight—and don’t recoil—at jargon like “conversion rates” and “email segmentation.”)
So how do I plan to do that? Glad you asked, fellow marketing enthusiast!
At a high level, here’s the Perfect Burpee Growth Playbook:
- Run the numbers. Calculate the monthly and daily traffic and conversion rates I’ll need to hit $25K monthly sales to reverse engineer the milestones I’ll need to hit.
- Know my product. Research the niche online: what other products are there? How do people buy fitness mats? What are their questions & concerns? What workouts & fitness habits do these people typically have? What delights them?
- Do keyword research. Conduct keyword research to find SEO whitespace I can realistically become competitive for within a year, an ambitious but (theoretically) doable task.
- Find the big fish. Identify the top influencers, blogs, brands, and articles/content that has performed well in that niche to understand what content performs well.
- Make epic content. Develop a content plan to take the best of the well-performing content out there and produce something at a 10x epic-ness score on the Epic-o-Meter.
- Optimize for conversions. Refine the website, product page copy, Amazon listing, and conversion funnel on the website for both conversion rate optimization and list-building purposes.
- Build email marketing campaigns. Create segmented email lists via epic content articles/pieces that are “upgradable” and offer free email courses of great, exclusive content through drip campaigns to build truly meaningful, trusting relationships with the audience.
- Leverage social media channels. Test social media channels with branded content using distinct voice + graphic design templates to determine 1-2 channels of highest ROI (or what I’ll call EFT—engagement for time). Begin with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and …Reddit?! (Note to self: learn how to use Reddit.)
Okay. I guess that’s not so high level…. but you get it. The idea is basically to figure out who my audience is, what delights them (that not ten thousand other blogs are writing about), rank for that topic through amazing content to drive traffic, and capture the incoming visitors through email lists to start building meaningful trust-based relationships with said audience.
Niching down, building brand, and cultivating trust—that’s the name of the game.
Only then shall I start making the hard sell. I’m a disciple of the Gary Vaynerchuk school of thought, which decrees that thou shalt jab, jab, jab—and then right hook. Or give, give, give—and then make your ask, whatever it is that you’re selling.
This is mainstream best practice now, #tbh, but there’s a whole underbelly of online marketing out there that I try to avoid that focuses mostly on “hacking” traffic and sales through so-called black hat techniques that focus on quick shortcut wins vs. long-term hustle & providing value.
I’m not about that. First, my conscience is too loud and second? I have an idealistic drive to prove that a gift-giving mindset in business can bring win-win results. This will be possibly more work but worth it to know I’m actually giving people products and knowledge they find truly useful.
Empire-buildin' ain’t easy, but gotta do it with love to make the journey worthwhile (amirite!?).
A few things I need to have in place to accurately follow the above playbook:
- Solid Analytics tracking. (Check. Thank you, Google, for the skills.) This includes: conversion tracking, micro-conversions, filtered views (sans my own IP address or bot/spam traffic), Enhanced Ecommerce, and search query reporting set up. (If anyone wants to learn what these mean, why they matter, and how to set them up, message me! I am happy to help.)
- On-site SEO optimization, which is not my strong suit, as I’m more familiar with what’s called off-site SEO. SEO is basically the art & wonky, ever-shifting science of how to drive organic traffic. And it involves messing with stuff ON your site and building links back TO your site. The latter is about outreach and relationship-building with key influencers, to grossly simplify what’s a pretty complex algorithm. The former is a more technical pursuit that I’ll be studying with reference to what I like to call my “advisory board” of SEO ninja friends and a few handy online resources.
- CRO/LPO in place. For the non-nerds, this means conversion rate optimization and landing page optimization. In this case, they overlap: they both fulfill the function of making it as easy, frictionless and tempting as possible for the visitor to come to perfectburpee.com and make that purchase, with as much drooling and as little headache from that first visit to the last confirmation page as possible.
- Excellent copywriting. This is something I’m REALLY excited about. I’ve tried my hand at all types of copywriting, content marketing and biz dev proposal drafting… but the challenge of figuring out exactly what the true use of a great fitness mat is in the life of a customer is, I think, a matter of deep psychological insight coupled with skillful wordsmithing that entices me. Great copywriters leave me in awe, and I’d love to someday join their ranks in proven ability.
- A mentor or mentors who are e-commerce wizards. A friend who grew a successful business online over the last 2 years recently told me that when she was starting out, she often felt like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, who goes around chanting an obsessive mantra of revenge—but in her case, she was always asking everyone she came across whether they knew someone who could help her with something or other for her business. That’s what I feel like now, a broken record on a quest to find people who can help fill in the gaps in my knowledge towards this reach goal. Apprenticeship under someone with mad traffic-building, sales-growing chops is going to be pivotal in shortening my learning curve, so I’m hell-bent on finding the right advisors to reduce my trial & error iterations. (…so if you know anyone who wants to impart their hard-earned wisdom, send them my way!)
Even at the beginning of my official business growth blitzkrieg, this process has been filled with interesting questions. Decisions abound, and not easy ones at that. For an eternal pontificator like myself, exhibiting consistent action bias—implying decisiveness—to produce results is devilishly hard. But, I’m convinced, absolutely necessary if I’m going to have any shot at reaching my $25K B.H.A.G. (“big, hairy, audacious goal”). So I’m erring on the side of ready, fire, aim instead of my usual ready, aim, aim, aim….. fire.
Some strategic decisions I’m making right now:
- Lead with SEO or content? In other words, try to make sales from pure search traffic—or build relationships? There’s, of course, a spectrum, and I’m leaning towards building relationships (meaning broader range of topics in the content, more email marketing, more social media presence to provide value rather than optimizing purely for links & conversions). This is the difference between hacking traffic and building an online brand, so the choice for a brand-fanatic like me is clear here.
- Product-first or brand-first? Do I want to lead with all the appeal of a problem-solving product, or do I want to build a website that offers valuable, well-written and -researched content in a specific fitness category—and offer the product as a complement to the workouts in question? Still up in the air on this one. The benefit of the second seems to be easier conversion rates *once* the relationships are built. BUT it’ll be harder and more time-consuming to amass the authoritative, high value content required, since I’m not an expert nor do I have experts advising me (yet). The pro of being product-led is the learning opportunity involved in figuring out how to sell an expensive product. If I nail the pitch and distribution/marketing channels, the conversions should be easier, with less need for supplementary content around the brand. But then again, it’s pretty pricey, and I’ll have to do a lot more to convince the prospect it’s a worthwhile purchase.
- Which niche to focus on? There’s a whole slew of ever-changing trends in fitness out there, and the online landscape is absolutely saturated. This is both a negative (a LOT of competition and a high noise-to-signal ratio online) and positive (demonstrated consumer demand; there’s always a sub-niche in any given high-traffic niche that could use an authority). Being far from an expert in fitness beyond Vinyasa/power yoga and SoulCycle (I love you, #Soul), it’s tough to know off the bat where the whitespace is. The term “bodyweight”? Fusion workouts? HIIT? Tabata? P90X? Plyometrics? Who knows. That’s what keyword research tools are there for.
- Focus on a niche with opportunity or a niche I love? Obviously, they’re not mutually exclusive… but if I were to write only about the health and fitness topics I dearly love, you’d only hear about power yoga and adaptogenic superfoods from me (and SoulCycle…duh). But the interesting challenge of having to fit the content to my target customer, the person most likely to buy and love the Perfect Burpee mat, means I have to venture beyond my own intellectual comfort zone. But how far do I venture? Do I prioritize the business opportunity? Or account for burnout possibility by picking a niche I love and can sustain interest in writing about for months on end? Where on the spectrum should I fall? Questions, questions. TBD.
I won’t bore you by diving too deep into the numbers. But suffice it to say I’ve done my math in a massive spreadsheet (that I will share next week once completely filled out) of goals, metrics, and marketing channels I’ve put together. It looks like to make 200 sales, which is how many mats must be sold to hit $25K in monthly revenue, I’ll need to hit roughly between 800-1000 daily visitors with a conversion rate of .75%, assuming sales are just of the $125 mat for simplification (versus the supplementary sweat guard or the combination of both).
Why 0.75%? Because 1% is a realistic e-commerce conversion rate (conservative, even, for some industries) and since this is a particularly expensive product people may conduct a lot of price-shopping for, I’m being conservative with my estimate. Then again, the actual conversion rate may prove to be even lower. Only time will tell—and current Analytics data is skewed too much towards PR and Kickstarter-generated traffic for the conversion rates to reflect what they may be with social/organic/referral traffic moving forward.
Yes, 800-1000 daily visitors is a huge number to aim for in 6 months for someone just starting out with real-world experience.
There’s absolutely a strong chance I will *not* reach my goal. But like I said, I don’t think it’s impossible. And reaching for nearly impossible is, IMHO, the most exciting way to live.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of…. Can she pull it off? Where I lead you through the spreadsheet above, the keyword research, and my content strategy.
Now off to continue my #WeekendHustle. Peace out!