If you seek answers about growth hacking, Jeremy Parker is the man you want to ask. A trip downtown and negotiating a great deal on a great domain were all it took for Jeremy to growth hack his way into the world of entrepreneurship. His little company took the virtual world by storm — Swag.com ranked 218 on the Inc. 5000 and changed eCommerce platforms way of doing things.
Jeremy Parker is the CEO and founder of Swag.com, a top eCommerce platform for creating and distributing custom promotional products. During its formative years, Swag.com earned $365,000. At present, it is making 10 million.
Many believe that because of the pandemic, businesses are at their all-time low. In this episode, Jeremy proves otherwise. He narrates how they thrived and rose above the ranks of business despite COVID and other problems. He shares the different obstacles he faced in starting up his company and reveals his strategies to overcome them. It may seem complicated, but nothing is impossible for startup businesses today.
Tune in to this episode and discover the secrets of success from Jeremy Parker himself.
Click here to read transcript
[03:59] So Jeremy, welcome to the show, my friend. Those are some pretty impressive numbers. Are you ready to share how you did it?
- Thanks so much for having me, Trent. Yeah, I’m glad to be here.
[04:08] Terrific. So when did you—started the company, what, four years ago? Is that right?
- Yeah, early 2016 right around January. And, we’ve had this idea for a while. I’ve been in the promotional product space for some time. About 12 years ago, I used to run a promotional division under this company called MV Sport—really large player in the promotional product space. And I learned the ins and the outs of production manufacturing fulfillments how big the issue was, and frankly how fragmented it was. It was really run broken you know, catalogs, presentation decks—very old school, and I realized that the buyer has changed, the buyers known as millennial buyers, and how do they want to buy swag is very different than how buyers bought swag in the past. So we really want to streamline the entire experience, make it really easy for customers to find what they’re looking for. Design it, buy it in a matter of seconds, only buy products that are super high quality that they’ll actually want to keep, and we said, “This is the idea. Let’s see how we could do it.”
[05:09] So do you think that your differentiator was the products? Or was it the tech platform that you built that made the ordering and fulfillment more effective than maybe what the incumbents were doing?
- I think it is a combination. I think when we started, it was those—specifically those two things. So it was the products, you know, I would go to tons of trade shows, and I would receive my fair share of swag. And I found that a lot of the stuff I was receiving from other companies was throwaway, and you don’t really want to buy throwaway swag, because it not only tarnishes your brand, it costs your company money. It just ends up in the trash, like, what’s the point of that. So from the get-go is always let’s just offer products that people actually want to keep. People will be very proud to show off. And then the second part of the thing was, Well, now that we have the really curated experience of the best products, how can we make it really easy for people to buy it? So they kind of go hand in hand, we didn’t want to have to deal with sales reps making phone calls, or presentation decks or catalogs. We want to make it really easy for customers to be able to find it, upload their logo, mark up the products, price it out in real time, check it out in a matter of seconds. And what’s happened is, the business has really grown and shifted over the last couple of years. And right now the biggest thing that’s allowing us to grow, frankly, in this crazy period is our swag distribution platform. It’s more than just the products. It’s more just than just buying the products and making the buying experience easy. It’s about the actual distribution of the experience. So how do you get products in the hands of your recipients? How do you get in the hands of your best customers? How do you actually ship it globally all over the world to get in people’s hands, especially when everyone’s working remote now.
[06:47] Interesting. So when you first had the idea, which I’m assuming you got because you were in the industry, and you saw, you know, the things that you didn’t think were particularly efficient, or the problems that you thought that you could create a better mousetrap to solve. When you decided to launch the company, what were some of the things that you had to do to get it off the ground and to get that traction? Because it’s a big deal for an entrepreneur, especially a new one to have their idea. But it’s an even bigger deal to actually put that idea and bring it to life.
- Ya know, so a lot of things have to be done. Obviously, as founders, we didn’t, we weren’t raising money. We didn’t have a lot of money to invest in this business. We knew that we really needed to own a really good brand in the space. You know all the millennials that were talking to, all the current buyers that we were talking to, we’re calling it swag. And it’s interesting, you know, that whole industry is about helping brands stand out. Right? Facebook goes to a platform, and they want to put their logo on something, and they want to really let their brand shine. But there’s no go-to platform or go-to company in our space that sells promotional products that frankly cares as much about their brand that the companies do. So when we said there’s no go-to brand, there’s no really kind of sexy platform that really appeals to these buyers. We need to own a name or brand around this. So we said swag.com is the perfect name. It’s memorable. It’s cool sounding. It explains exactly when you hear swag.com you know exactly what we do without having to say anything. Well we sell promotional swag promotional products, or we sell swag, as we like to say. So we spent about nine negotiating-
[8:22] How much do you need to pay for the URL?
- I bought it for 200,000. The name itself was well, it’s actually kind of a little more interesting than that. We didn’t have $200,000 to spend to buy the name. So what we did was we worked out a deal with the owner of the domain for exclusive license. And we were able to use the name for a period of time. Give him a little bit equity in the business. But then we had the option to buy the domain within the two year period. So we, from day one, we had the swag.com domain name without any resources without any funding. And within six months, we’re able to acquire the domain from the owner at a significant discount from what he was initially wanting to charge. It was about 1.2 million was the asking price, we negotiated down. And we felt like it was a great deal because if the business didn’t work out, then you know what. It’s—we gave a little bit of equity away from business, it didn’t work out. If it worked out great, we’re able to have a really an own the really go to brand and present prominent brand in the space that we can really, you know, jump on and people can really connect with.
[9:24] Yeah, I mean, it’s a hell of a great domain. It’s easy to say easy to spell. I mean, it’s beautiful. I love it. So.
- So then what happens after the domain? Yeah, after we got the domain, we said, well, we need customers, right? We didn’t have a platform at that point. It took me about a year to launch the first version of the e-commerce site. So we started to do is—instead of going the strategy of bottom up, which a lot of entrepreneurs do, where they say, you know what, I’m not gonna be able to get Facebook so let me try to get all these different surrounding startups prove that we could do it. Our strategy was very different. We started, let’s try to get Facebook from day one. Let’s try to get, WeWork from day one. So we reached out to all of our contacts at LinkedIn and all the people that we knew throughout like our past histories and working. And we had a friend at Facebook, who got us in the office. Basically, we visited him for lunch and a new face because he’s amazing lunches. And we show up at the office. And we said to him, “I would just love to walk around your office, and talk to all of your coworkers. See if anyone needs to buy swag.” It was like I was a traveling salesman within the Facebook’s office. And I knew that-
[10:27] Do you live in the same town as Facebook? Or did you make a trip specifically for this?
- I lived in New York City. So they had Facebook office downtown, I was uptown. So it wasn’t that big of a travel. We went there and met with about nine people not planned, they had no idea who I was. I was just chatting with them trying to make conversation be friendly. We ultimately found somebody who wanted T-shirts and had the budget of like $3,000 to buy a couple hundred T-shirts for our team. So we sold to Facebook. Now I didn’t make any real money, I probably made 5% margin. But it didn’t really matter to me, I didn’t care about making money. Having the Facebook logo on my site was more than I needed. And then the next day, I did the same thing with WeWork. And when they asked us who else we’ve worked with, we said Facebook, and they probably still work with thousands of other people. But it was really just Facebook. And then we got WeWork and there was.
[11:13] Wait a minute by selling to nine employees at Facebook, you got to put a logo on your website that said that you work with Facebook.
- Exactly right. And now, by the way, we’ve done many, many, many orders with Facebook and multiple divisions, not having to make sales calls. I haven’t made the sales calls in four years, all of our traffic is inbound, all automated. But you have to start from somewhere. And I figured, swag.com is a really powerful name. But people are not people come to a site that’s just a landing page, we have no actual platform at this point. They need to feel confident with us. So we got those blue chip logos. And once we got this first five that showed like all the startups have, here’s who’s worked with us, we felt like very confident that we can go and build the right platform. And now we have over 5000 customers. So it started from one place. But now it’s you know, we just had our best month ever last month doing over 1.4 million in sales. In September and October, we’re gonna break that already. We already broke that at 1.5 million. So, and this is completely inbound, no sales team, no outbound strategy whatsoever. But it always goes back to trying to build like its MVP, right? Build what can I do actually, right now, to get in the door. It might be unscalable. It might be difficult. It might be challenging. You have to do all those things. Learn as much as you can build up your reputation. And ultimately, you can scale it.
[12:36] So let’s talk about the target audience for a minute. I’m assuming that you’re not out there trying to be every or maybe in the beginning, particularly weren’t trying to be everything for everyone? Did you pick a specific niche? What does your target customer look like?
- Yeah, in the very beginning, it was very focused on tech companies. It was focused on not even just even the company, it was focused on really the buyer within the company, because there’s the office manager, there’s the marketing team, there’s the HR manager, there’s all these different divisions within the company to buy swag. And our strategy from the very beginning was, let’s pick one of them. And let’s pick the one that’s the least friction to get in the door. Because like, it’s like a Trojan horse strategy, try to get in the door. And once you’re in, you could start expanding. And our feeling was office managers is the right target for us. They don’t have the biggest budget, right, the marketing team clearly has a bigger budget than the office manager. But they have a pretty big budget, relatively big budget. They’re usually much younger, it might be their first or second job out of college. They don’t have relationships with other suppliers yet. So let’s show them how easy this platform is. Let’s really work with them. Let’s give them an amazing experience. Because once we do it for the office manager, what’s going to happen is, imagine an office manager buys a thousand t-shirts for their internal office. Every single t-shirt’s going to say swag.com on the inner label. That means all these other divisions. They’ll see the quality, they have social proof instantly that, “Listen, Facebook uses them, swag.com made it, we should use swag.com also.” So all the products in itself did the marketing for us. You know, you think about, like buying a pair of jeans like high quality jeans. Jeans look cooler, the more you wear, right, you don’t need to buy jeans every single year. I mean, some people could but you’ll need to, with swag the entire purpose is to be given away. So all of our sales, all of our customers are really just doing the marketing for us, whether they go to events, whether they give out to internal employees. Everything that they give out, as long as it’s high quality is going to be the best business card that we could possibly do. And we’ve seen a lot of our traffic, super organic, because…
[14:31] So in the beginning, you were very outbound direct sales approach to get traction and get social proof and be the Trojan horse. These days, you don’t have to do that. So where does all the traffic come from now? And what are the strategies that you’re using to generate the traffic?
- Yeah, that’s exactly the point. And I think this is for most entrepreneurs, there’s never going to be one answer. That’s going to say this is the way you get customers over the cycle and the timeline of your business things are going to change. So the first six months, it was 100% outbound strategy because we had no money, we had no platform, this is what we had to do. So we knocked on doors, we used to walk up and down, the WeWork hallways, and knocking on doors and talking to people and making some sales. That was the way we had to get business early on, then it really transitioned to a Google strategy. Because Facebook ads don’t really work for us, because we’re strictly B2B on prospecting. So Google, he could get somebody really far along in the process, like, “Hey, I’m looking for swag for a specific event.” So you get them really at the end of their search journey. So you could get the conversions relatively quickly. But the problem with Google is that it’s just very expensive. So after we kind of got more, like the second wave of customers with Google, we then transitioned more to a content strategy, SEO organic traffic. Bring perspective, we did about 3000 organic visitors last January. Last month, we did over 50,000 organic visitors. So in the period of a year, it’s like it’s gone crazy, and just consistently putting out content. So our strategy is this. And from the very beginning, we knew that we had amazing brand with swag.com that will be super memorable. So how can we get customers without having to pay for customers or pay very little for customers. And our idea was, let’s write tons of content. Just keep everyday, let’s post more and more and more content. And the content could be about swag. Or it could be about how to launch a holiday party. Or it could be about things to do with your team in the office. It doesn’t even have to be about swag. But go after the office manager in all these different kinds of ways. Once the office manager finds a piece of content, it’s really good. No, we really take time to write this great content. Then they go to Facebook, and they go to Google, and they go to Business Insider, and they go all over the internet. Then we start retargeting them with our ads because we’ve had—because they’ve already visited our site. Instead of them needing to click on those retargeting ads, because our brand is so different than every other promotional product site, because it’s colorful, because it’s swag.com, they type directly into the browser swag.com. And they don’t need to click on those retargeting ads. So we’re able to bypass [16:57 unintelligible] without having to pay for it.
[17:00] I love it. So let’s, I want to unpack the content marketing just a little bit more, because it’s something that I’m paying particularly close attention to, for my software company Flowster at this point in time. So you mentioned to me, you’re pumping out a lot of blog posts, it sounds like that are all targeting probably very longtail keywords. And it’s working for you, have you looked in your analytics to see in your traffic and sources or source medium report to find out? Is the traffic actually coming from organic search results, because this content is ranking for these ultra longtail keywords, or is it because people are maybe sharing these posts on social and then people are seeing them on social? And they’re clicking through because it’s a very, I mean, the net result is obviously you’re getting traffic. But from an SEO perspective, those are two entirely different strategies.
- Yeah, for us, it’s been more of the longtail it hasn’t been, we’re not necessarily writing viral posts or posts that need to be shared. They’re very specific for the person who’s looking for it. So it’s literally somebody typing in “Best ways to keep fit while sitting at your desk all day”. It’s like a very longtail type of thing that some, not that many people are looking for. But the people are looking for it. We know that their office managers relatively I mean, that’s just an example I came up with on the spot, but they’re their office managers. And the idea is to target that person, whether it’s one person who’s visiting that day, or 50. If we have tons, I mean, we have over 700 blog posts at this point. And we just started this about a year and a half ago. It works for us. And our focus is really office managers . So then any topic that office manager could get value out of, we have to make sure that the content we’re writing is coming up for everything. That’s really the main thing. And eventually that strategy will shift to the HR manager, it will shift to the marketing team, it will shift to the sales team, all these other divisions. But for us, we had to pick one customer and our initial customer’s the office manager, because we felt like that was the easiest way to the company.
[19:07] Yeah, and it makes I mean, it’s brilliant. I think it makes a lot of sense. So the blog posts, are you publishing multiple posts per week, like how long are these posts? 400 words, 800 words, on average, do you know?
- Yeah, it’s about 800 words. Exactly. And we have engineers, and sometimes we do longer ones. You know, we have a whole resource section that could be 2000 words. We try to do as much stuff and we’re trying to come out with some videos, and we’re doing affiliate marketing. And by the way, this is just the main thing that’s working. But I’ve always realized with any startup that I’ve done in the past, is you got to try several traction channels. And there might be there’s probably always gonna be the one that’s your main traction channel that you can rely on. These to put the most energy into because you can’t be spread too thin. But we’re trying, constantly trying a lot of other type of traction channels. And one of the big ones for us has been really working is partnerships. You know, there’s a lot of different partners that are not going after the same buyers. Going after same buyer, but not the same product that they’re selling. And there’s ways that we could piggyback off for them, and they could piggyback off of us. And we could figure out ways to get in touch with their customer. It has to make sense, but if you get a real great partnership that seems organic, that is organic, that’s useful for their customers, and our customers, and vice versa, you could really grow fast.
[20:21] So in just a minute, we’re going to be right back. And I want to ask Jeremy more about how they’re forming these partnerships. I also want to ask him about some of his best conversion hacks, and if they’ve raised money, and a few other key questions. So we’re going to have another word from a sponsor, and we will be right back. If you’re looking to start your own e-commerce business on the Amazon platform, which is definitely where I recommend. I’d like to invite you to an upcoming free training session where I’ll be sharing the three specific tactics that I used in my own business to achieve a rank of number 254 on the Inc 5000. Register today at brightideas.ceo/masterclass. All right, Jeremy, let’s talk partnerships. You just mentioned to me that they’ve been fairly good for you, what are some of, how are you identifying the partners? How are you starting the conversations and kind of what does a partnership look like?
- Right, so we have many different ones, we have one, I mean, I don’t find a lot to say the names of them. But we have one that’s really, really big in the business card space. And what we realized with them is that obviously, with this COVID the business cards are, it’s a very hard industry, to say the least. You know, people are not going to trade shows and meetings and all the reasons why you’d want to have business cards, we have this entire swag distribution platform that allows people to distribute things to remote addresses, which is very powerful in this remote world that we’re living in. And so this business card company has other products that they sell as well like notebooks and other kind of paper goods. So what we did is buy through that company and distribute through swag. And the idea for us is even if we don’t make money on their sales, and we’re giving them a tool for free to offer to their customers. If your customers are buying a notebook or whatever, a postcard on their site, and they’re using our service to actually distribute their postcards and notebooks to their best customers, they’re then going to be living on our site. And then they could see all products that we have on our site and become customers. And that’s driven tons of different customers. And large customers like Amazon, like huge global companies, who knew about them, work with them for many years didn’t know about us, but now they do. And they’re using our platform
[22:23] How do you get the door of Amazon?
- All inbound. 100%. We have about 10 different buyers than Amazon all buying different products, you know, some buying a hundred T-shirts here or somebody you know, thousands..
[22:35] You have Amazon buyers who are buying your products?
- Yes, Amazon employees buying from swag.com. Yeah, so like an Amazon that has a trade show or an event or they want to engage with their best customers or leads, they would buy all their swag through us, we will warehouse their swag for them, and give them the tools to distribute that swag all over the world. But we do this with, you know, 5000 plus companies at this point, before the pandemic, you know, a subset of our customers were using the distribution platform. And it was mostly because they wanted to send swag to the best customers. That was the initial idea for our platform, we’ve been building this distribution platform for over two years at this point. And then initial idea was, you have all these marketing teams and they want to engage with their best leads, you have sales teams that want to engage with best leads to close sales. How do you give them the tools to distribute swag easily, because what they’ve historically had to do is buy the swag, send it to their office pack it up themselves, take it to the local UPS, ship it, it’s a nightmare. It’s not costly, it’s expensive. They have a huge swag closet in their office that’s taking up space, what do they do with that at all times. So our idea was let’s streamline that entire experience. Now, a lot of our marketing customers were using this platform before the pandemic, but when the pandemic hit basically turned everybody needing to work remotely. So office managers, how do you engage with your remote audience? How do you engage with your own employees and keep the company culture going even when no one’s in the office? So our swag distribution platform really became super valuable and needed during this pandemic. And that’s the reason why the whole industry is really down. And we’ve been able to consistently grow and grow really fast, because the use case has changed. And there needs to be a solution for it and we have that solution.
[24:16] So in terms of conversion hacks, that was something that we talked about in the pre interview and I don’t know whether we’ve covered this already, but you we talked about me asking you this question, what are some of your best conversion hacks away? If we haven’t covered that yet? Please go.
- Yeah, that means there’s a couple of things. So our best conversion hack from day one was labeling all of our T-shirts swag.com on the inner label with our tagline which is “We made this,” it’s kind of funny because like we make the products but we also we want to tell the person who’s feeling that T-shirt and seeing that quality and seeing the printing getting the social proof that we work Facebook, Google, they’re all using swag.com. Let’s check out swag.com. It’s a very memorable name. So that was our number one best conversion hack from day one. But that’s expanded as our platform has expanded. So now when you do the swag distribution platform, and let’s say somebody sends a thousand mugs to a thousand different addresses through a platform, every mug and every package that comes in has a shipping label that says powered by swag.com. So this company is shipping out to a thousand of their best customers. And now their customers should get it. See “Wow, this product is powered by swag.com in the shipping label. Let’s check out swag.com.” Check it out. Or we have this other feature we call the Swag Giveaway. So oftentimes you don’t necessarily know your recipients address, right? Everyone’s working remotely or imagine have a trade show or an event or you have a virtual conference or whatever you have all these people email address. You don’t know where they live, you don’t have the T-shirt size they are etc. We built a tool that you could create a recipient branded landing page, upload your logo, your colors. Say I want to offer this T-shirt, this notebook is water bottle, send them a link to all your recipients where they could select which product they want. They select the T-shirts to select what size T-shirt, input their address, it all speaks to our system and we distribute it. Now those landing pages that would be sent to thousands and multiple tens of thousands of recipients all in the footer say powered by swag.com. And then the top The link is actually swag.com backslash Facebook giveaway, backslash Amazon, like so every single link and every single recipient page is promoting swag and what we do.
[26:20] So I’m gonna go a little bit deeper on that one, because I want to make sure I understand that. So in one of my companies, it’s a B2B company, we form relationships with manufacturers, and we’re always trying to, you know, form new relationships and get their attention. This landing page thing that you just described, would that somehow help us to solve that problem? Like we do a lot of cold email. And as the open rates are low and response rates are low, so we send tons of it. But we’re always looking for more effective ways to essentially get the attention of our target audience so that we can have a conversation with them.
- 100% we see a lot of sales teams do this. They might do the first couple of cold outbound emails, and when the person goes cold, or whether they want or let’s say the person fills out a form to book a demo. Automatically, you could send them a link in the mail that says, “Hey, Trent, thanks so much for signing up for a demo,” or “Hey, Trent, I wanted to show you these cool products that we offer, I would love to work with you.” Send them the link, they click on the link, it opens up, they’re able to select which product they want, what T-shirt size, their address submitted, it all speaks to our system. And now we’re able to distribute that swag for your customer. And we’ve seen sending swag to somebody or sending gifts to somebody increases the likelihood that they’re going to act by 10 times.
[27:32] So it’s the law of reciprocity. As soon as you give something to someone they feel indebted to you. So are you saying that so let’s say, I’ve got this guy named Dave. I don’t have, Dave does not know who I am. I want to do business with Dave. So you’re telling me that I’m going to? I can send a few cold emails, maybe Dave gives me a response, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe in email number three, I’m going to include a link to your landing page, which is this custom landing page for Dave. And I’ve yet pre-selected three or four or five products that are on that page. And Dave can just say, “Oh, cool, I want the coffee mug or whatever.” And it’s going to get shipped to him. He’s now going to feel a little indebted to me if he takes me up on the coffee mug. I’m assuming. And then if I email him again, after that, he’s going to be more inclined to take my call, take the meeting, reply to my email, whatever, pay some attention to me. If I got it right, is that basically how this is?
- Exactly right. You could customize the email obviously it’s up to you, right? You could say, “Hey, free for a 15-minute virtual coffee.” And they say “Yes, fill the thing.” You send me a coffee mug, you get a virtual meeting once you get the deal. And now he’s using the coffee mug that you sent them in the mail. It’s all fully cool. Yeah.
[28:42] You need to send me whatever info I need to get signed up to give that a test. Alright. Let’s talk about raising money. Have you raised any? And if you have, how much did you raise? And when did you raise it?
- Yeah, we’ve been raising a little bit here a little here. We’ve never done like a massive raise. We never really wanted to do a huge amount of funding. But we’ve raised about 3.8 million over the last five years. And it’s been like in tranches of like 400,000 really just when we felt like we reached an inflection point that we need to make some hires. We need to invest a little bit more technology. And at this point, you know, we’re having profitable months. But obviously, as a fast growing startup. You don’t really want to be super profitable, you want to kind of hover around that breakeven point. So that’s what our goal right now is to keep growing. Hit to that 20 to 25 million in sales next year. I’m at that part an edge show, hopefully by next year, a profit if we wanted to. You know, in the last couple of months, we’ve been profitable, and we feel like we don’t really need money to help us grow. We have more than what we need.
[29:45] Did you raise money from angels or crowdsourcing or institutional VCs, family offices where did it come from?
- All of the above, not necessarily like an institutional VC or big VC but more of like a micro VC. You know, family offices, friends, people that we’ve met from friends, you know.
[30:07] How did you source the investors? Was it you know, you knew somebody who was wealthy? They invested in word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth, or was there a more proactive campaign to identify these investors and get in touch?
- It’s a combination, early on, we didn’t have a big network of investors. So it was a lot of just friends of mine who trust me who’ve seen me work for the last couple of years and what I’ve done, more of angel, personal money, also put into it. And then it became, you know, we’ve written up by TechCrunch 2017. So we got some institutional micro VCs reading that and reaching out to us, and then we got other press that has written about us and more people, so it’s been really driven by press. And also, we haven’t really been doing this circuit of reaching out to investors, we never really needed to at this point.
[30:55] What’s your number one goal for the year ahead?
- I really want to keep pushing really hard on swag distribution platform. You know, for me, before the pandemic started, I was about 30% there, I never envisioned our business, you know, being 70% swag distribution, and needing it because obviously, no one could have predicted the pandemic. And the ultimate goal is to learn from customers. Grow slowly. But we’ve had to go from 0 to 100, within three months, super, really quick. We’re now about a place that we’re 70%, where I want to be in terms of the distribution platform. So I think by the middle to end, the next year, the platform is going to be unbelievable. We have so many great amazing features on the horizon that we’re trying to automate. And then what happens is once you start building the distribution platform is getting to a really good place, then and Trent, this could be useful for you how to automate the distribution of swag. So imagine any use case that you would want, just like you said. If somebody didn’t respond to you in three, no outbound outreach emails, instead of having to upload the CSV file into our system, what if you could programmatically set it on the third email, it automatically generates a giveaway link and incorporates it into your email through Salesforce, or an integration into Marketo, or HubSpot. Or what if you can integrate with like an HR solution, like Justworks and on somebody’s birthday, they automatically get a swag thing sent to them, or their five year anniversary or somebody’s birthday present, like all these different kinds of platforms, where people need swag, and there needs to be a reason for swag, kind of set it and forget it. And the only way that’s really going to happen in a real way is if the distribution platform is really, really good. So making it easy to find what you’re looking for. We already have that making it easy to buy swag. We’ve already did that, allowing people to hold their swag and inventory and distribute it. We’re on our way to really get into a great place for that. But the next phase is kind of. Well, now that you have all these people swag in your inventory. How do you allow them to automate that distribution?
[32:45] So the company is swag.com. My guest has been Jeremy Parker. Jeremy, thank you so much for coming on the Bright Ideas podcast and sharing what you have done to achieve some pretty darn incredible results. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the show.
- Thanks so much Trent, really appreciate it. Great being here.
Jeremy Parker’s Bright Ideas
- Personalize Your Products
- Buy and Sell Efficiently
- Use Outbound Strategy
- Transition into Content Strategy
- Apply Conversion Growth Hacks
- Deal With Cold Outbound Emails
Personalize Your Products
Jeremy says, “I learned the ins and outs of production manufacturing fulfillments, how big the issue was, and frankly how fragmented it was.” He says that distribution using things like catalogs is old school. The buyers — and their wants — have changed.
Jeremy’s solution was to streamline the entire distribution process to enable buyers to look for, design, and buy the products they want “in just a matter of seconds.” When offering products to buyers, they must have the freedom to personalize the same.
Buy and Sell Efficiently
Jeremy highlights the essential things to catapulting a startup business:
- A worthwhile product
- An efficient and effective platform
Even before buying and selling, Jeremy reminds everyone to improve product quality. He says that the products must be something people would want to keep. They shouldn’t be things people would eventually throw away. “You don’t really want to buy throwaway swag because it not only tarnishes your brand, it costs your company money.”
After planning the product, he discusses the importance of making it easy for a buyer to buy it. The Law of Reciprocity also helps facilitate selling.
These two strategies will lessen the drag of sales talk with and lobbying multiple individuals. In Jeremy’s words, “They kind of go hand in hand, we didn’t want to have to deal with sales reps or making phone calls, or presentation decks or catalogs. We want to make it really easy for customers to be able to find it, upload their logo, mock-up the products, price it out in real-time, and check it in a matter of seconds.”
Use Outbound Strategy
Jeremy mentioned that to get business early on, they needed outbound strategies because they started with no money and no platform. His advice for startup entrepreneurs is instead of going small and starting small, go big.
He encourages going outbound or talking to big companies you want to work with. It may be a shot in the dark, but the possibility of success is still there. Going big is one method of growth hacking. The real goal is to make people confident with your business.
Picking a specific niche is also a must under an outbound strategy. Jeremy believes that it is more effective to target the buyers of the clients than the clients themselves. The trick is to “pick the one with less friction.”
This concept is where the Trojan horse strategy kicks in: “Try to get in the door, and once you’re in, you could start expanding.” Jeremy considers this as a way of gaining traction through growth hacking.
There is no such thing as unscalable for him. He says, “Learn as much as you can. Build up your reputation, and ultimately, you can scale it.”
Transition into Content Strategy
After pursuing an outbound strategy, Jeremy says it is best to transition into focusing on content creation to maintain business traction. According to him, this will make growth hacking easier by allowing your business to gain thousands of organic followers.
Posting high-quality content with longtail keywords is the best way to target the audience and catch their attention. This tactic is especially useful in controlling the traffic that comes in after the outbound strategy.
Jeremy discusses the idea that content strategy is all about SEO writing. Traction channels and partnerships will also help in content milling.
Conversion Growth Hacks
Jeremy gives us a list of hacks to try for growing your company, like:
- SEO organic traffic
- Proliferating your logo
Although Google has a broader reach, using Google is quite expensive. So the trick is, he says, “After we kind of got more like the second wave of customers with Google, we then transitioned more into a content strategy: SEO organic traffic.”
Jeremy mentions that the first steps to growth hacking are using a memorable name for a memorable experience, and having that experience well distributed. According to him, more than having the product and an easy buying experience, you need to get your product in the hands of your recipients.
He says that once you have expanded and your product is moving, you need to make sure everyone knows it´s yours. For Jeremy, what really matters is that the brand is present at every step of the experience, even when it comes to shipping the goods.
Jeremy finally adds that the last step of growth hacking may be giveaways. After emailing subscribers or other potential customers, providing them with a link leading to the company’s landing page should expand its growth even further.
Deal With Cold Outbound Emails
As mentioned earlier, the outbound strategy is simply a form of sales talk, and it usually entails using email. Growth hacking inevitably results in sending cold outbound emails.
Jeremy’s solution to this is to bait potential consumers through reciprocity: giving customers gifts. This strategy makes the potential buyer indebted to the company and subconsciously compels them to subscribe to its email service and support its business.
What Did We Learn From This Episode?
- Starting from bottom to top is not always the best business strategy.
- Office managers are the easiest targets of sales talk in growth hacking.
- Content strategy is a long-term strategy, but it is the best.
- Conversion hacks lay out the foundation for growth hacking.
- Sales talk and lobbying for investors are not always required in business expansion.
- Receiving cold outbound emails will not inevitably result in business stagnancy.
[04:13] – Jeremy gives a background of his business
- Jeremy started a product distribution company online called Swag.com in 2016.
- He discovered a problem with antiquated catalog presentations.
- His solution was to streamline the entire experience allowing buyers to personalize their products.
[05:20] – What is so special about Swag.com?
- Swag.com is different because of the product personalization and distribution platform.
- What is being distributed is an experience.
- Sales talk is not always required to sell products.
[07:21] – How Swag.com gained traction
- Initially, they targeted big brands to build strong client portofolio.
- A catchy name was essential. For Jeremy, Swag.com says everything about the business without having to say anything explicitly.
- With consistent content creation, they built a strong SEO strategy to increase their organic visitors. Their main focus is not on making viral posts but on getting to their target customers.
[8:25] – Getting the domain and starting up the business
- Jeremy got the domain from day one with no funds thanks to a deal they made with the owner; they eventually paid $200,000 for it.
- An outbound strategy works in the initial stages of startup businesses.
- Starting from top to bottom is not disadvantageous contrary to what other entrepreneurs believe.
- Rise above the challenges, get in the door and do everything you need to do.
[14:48] – Strategies to control traffic
- Using Google is too expensive to focus all your strategy based on it.
- One content strategy is creating consistent content to catch the attention of potential customers.
- From an SEO perspective, using longtail keywords in blog posts is effective when it´s focused to a specific target audience.
- Using traction channels or joining partnerships is a strategy in growth hacking.
[24:29] – Best conversion hacks
- The first conversion hack is to label products with Swag’s tagline “we made this”.
- After expansion, they started adding shipping labels saying “powered by swag.com” to every package.
- To gain more organic buyers, conducting giveaways is useful.
- Reciprocity helps solve the problem of cold outbound emails.
- The best way to raise money is through the press.
[30:58] – Jeremy’s number one goal for the year ahead
- Jeremy intends to push hard on the Swag distribution platform.
- The platform will have unbelievably new features by then.
- The next phase is for the platform to allow people to automate Swag distribution by themselves.
Jeremy Parker is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and serial entrepreneur. He is the Co-founder and CEO of Swag.com, the best place for companies to buy and distribute quality promotional products that you’ll actually want to keep. They work with 5,000+ companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify and Tik Tok. They are #218 on the 2020 Inc 500 (fastest-growing companies in the US). Jeremy was also named by CrainsNY as one of the 40Under40″.