[02:57] It is my pleasure, Brendan, to have you on the show. Thank you so much for being here.
- Thanks for having me, Trent. It’s a pleasure to connect with you and everybody that’s watching and listening to this.
[03:07] So tell me about this company that you helped grow from a million dollars in revenue to a $100 million in revenue in just two years.
- Yes, so there’s actually two companies that I’ve done it. One took about two years, one took about three. The one that took two years is they were already a pre-established company. So, it’s not like they were starting from scratch or starting from zero. But there was a line of business, a digital line of business in online eCommerce that was only at a million a year. And I was brought in by the president of the company to do an analysis of all their key players, their team members, and really dissect where their strengths and weaknesses are and where their real opportunities for growth were. That’s typically where I get brought in is people want to scale, they want to scale at a very quick and cost-efficient rate.
So it was really a two-day journey of going through all of that. And there was one meeting that I had with an Amazon ad buyer, in there. And he was a young kid basically stuck in the basement, essentially almost literally like stuck in the corner, and nobody was paying attention to him. And I just had a conversation with him, and I could tell right away, he knew his stuff. Because I had many years of media buying experience. I’ve been media buying for—got over ten years. So I’ve kind of seen it all.
And in speaking with him, I could see that there was a tremendous opportunity on a few different fronts. One of which he had certain methodologies of how the auction and the algorithm works specifically for Amazon. And two, I can see the writing on the wall that consumer behavior was shifting dramatically because of Amazon, because of Instacart, and all these other platforms and this business was primarily driven by retail and mass sales.
So when I started diving in and looking at the numbers looking, as you know, like the term ACoS, which is really they’re kind of cost per acquisition term for Amazon, I could see there was tremendous scale and growth there. And I asked, point-blank I was like, “Well, why aren’t you scaling this?” And he said, “Well, because I only have a set budget. And they don’t want me to go over that budget.” And as soon as I heard that, I grabbed the guy and walked into the president’s office, and I said, “Listen, you need to give him as much budget as he can spend into these products, because that’s where your quickest growth at scale is.” And that’s where we set off on this path of taking it from a million to about 100 million a year, and it’s a short period of time.
So it was a—few contributing factors. It was one, recognizing that there was this internal resource that was being ignored because team is everything in success and scale. Two, breaking the mold of what a budget is. Because I’m sure Trent, you’ve seen it with businesses, everybody gets stuck in this budget mindset. And then three, there was definitely strategy, intellectual experience, and property in terms of the media buying capabilities, it afforded that level of scale in a short period of time.
[06:24] So this company, if memory serves correctly, they’re in the supplements space, right?
[06:30] Okay. So I know firsthand because my company sells into that space, that it’s a hyper-competitive space, particularly on the Amazon sales channel and getting to grow sales through advertising is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. So, how did—when you convince the president to say, “Give this guy more budget.” How did he go out and actually use the budget without having these campaigns that—with the ACoS was through the roof? And they were wildly unprofitable and so forth. Or did that happen in the beginning? Or like, what did it look like, as he began to scale the ads?
- Well, we saw that there was room and growth in the sector. And in this specific market that we’re going after, with the supplement. In addition to the fact that we do a lot of testing. It was not like we had one single skew, and we put everything behind one single skew, so there’s hundreds of skews. So we would test those skews, in addition to the creative, what type of creative do we use, what type of text do we do, what type of imagery and all of that, that plays into that ability to scale that.
So, if I had to kind of just say, at a very high level, there’s a lot of testing in the auction, testing in the media buying from pulling levers, and testing the creative because all those have to play in together. It’s not just one thing. People misconstrue that—and it was interesting because I was responding to a direct message of somebody that reached out to me about their ads not converting from Facebook and Instagram.
And the explanation I gave it. There’s many contributing factors that have built—it creates your ability to create a conversion and to do it at scale. One, you obviously have the media buying techniques, the levers that you pull and how you pull those levers, which does help but it only get you so far. The second part is the actual creative, that you’re running. The creative has to resonate and speak to the specific pain points or challenges, or the things that people are searching for. And then three, what is that conversion mechanism?
Amazon, luckily, he’s already done all the AP testing for you in terms of the conversion flow and the checkout process and everything like that. The trends as you know, from a—when you’re driving to a website, you need the ability to optimize that conversion, funnel and flow to maximize the value of people going in. And then there’s also the retargeting aspect of it as well as to make sure that you are increasing your overall lifetime value of the customers that you acquire.
You essentially maximize revenue with each person because you don’t want to have to—from scaling from one to 100 million, you don’t want to have to create new clients every time. A big contributing factor is how do you turn your current customers and clients into lifetime value clients that yield a high result. And as you know, with Amazon, one of the beautiful elements that they’ve integrated over the past few years to Subscribe & Save. And some of our clients have upwards of 10s of 1000s of people to opt-in for that Subscribe & Save. That just makes your ability to scale into that revenue much easier as well.
[09:47] So there was a lot there that you said, and I want to unpack a bit of it if we can. So let’s go back to the testing. Do you have a methodology for testing? And if you do, can you explain kind of what that looks like when you’re going to run a test?
- So the methodology that I have is three simple steps. It’s hypothesis test and pivot. And it’s meant to be simple, but I’m not going to say it’s necessarily easy. So with the hypothesis is, what is that message? What is that content format? What is the theme and structure that we believe it’s going to generate the correlative action that we’re looking at? So how do we develop that hypothesis?
Well, we look at the competitive landscape. We do as much due diligence of the industry that we’re in, and we’ll even go outside of the industry to see what type of ads people are running and how are they structuring them. And we don’t just look at the ones we think are good or positive, we look at the ones that are negative as well, because we can learn just as much for the ones that are failing as the ones that are succeeding.
So with Amazon, we’ll do our keyword search terms. We’ll see these running sponsored ads. We’ll see what that correlative response rate out of sponsored ads are in terms of reviews. And we’ll dive into the content that they have. What does the text look like? What are the keywords? Do they have videos? Do they have images? Do they have testimonials? All of those things.
Facebook ad libraries, another tool that most people don’t use. It’s a free tool, it’s a type of Facebook ad library and Google, then you could search any channel, any page, and if they’re running after that, you can see how they’re structured. So that helps us set the hypothesis of the creative that we’re going to generate and then we quickly test it. And those testing are very short. At max, they are a few days.
And we measure what the correlative result is; it generates the response that we were looking for. If it didn’t, then we pivot, and we do it again. If it did, then we see if it failed because Trent, as you mentioned, what we start scaling and into something, oftentimes it breaks the performance. So, you got to see if it holds. And if it holds, there’s going to be a ceiling, and you’ve got to figure out what that ceiling is. And once you figure out what that ceiling is, then you just stop that creative, or that campaign. In terms of scale, you keep it running, and then you create the next one. And you see if you can max out that scale and find out what those ceiling is.
So really, our successful campaigns typically look like we’ll have anywhere between 5 to 50 creatives that we’re pushing to hit the ceiling, and then we leave them running, once we hit that ceiling.
[12:27] And are these campaigns that you’re creating within the Amazon platform itself? Or are you driving external traffic by way of these campaigns to the Amazon platform?
- So we’ve typically found with Amazon, it’s got to be internal. I mean, we use external sources to drive brand awareness. So, for example, like our book sales, we cannot scale that level on its own. Like typically we can only spend only like 3 or 4,000 a month on ads in Amazon. But what we see is, on Facebook and Instagram, we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, pushing to our own funnels, maximizing that lead opportunity, making as much money back as possible to try and even break even on the front end, so that we can increase the lifetime value on the back-end. What we see is because we’re spending so much money on social ads, that awareness will drive transactions to retail, will drive transactions to Amazon.
[13:27] Oh, yes, absolutely.
- Yes. But when we’re trying specifically with Amazon, we do as much as possible within that ecosystem and platform as possible.
[13:37] So I was talking with someone recently, who is in the business of acquiring brands that are already on Amazon. And we were looking at some of their procedures to generate growth. And the one thing that stood out for me is, was this bell curve of keywords. And essentially, there was the center of the bell curve, which was accounted for about 68% and I wish I could remember whether it was of keywords or of spend. But the vast majority of the competitors are really focused on the center area of the bell curve where the keywords are obvious and really expensive to target. And then there was the longer tail aspect of it. I would assume, as I hear you talk about this, that your ads must have been focused from a keyword perspective on the longer tail, but maybe I’m wrong in that assumption.
- It’s both, but each product is obviously different. I would agree 100% with that assessment that there’s a huge opportunity if you can target those long term keywords that are still relevant to the buyers mentality and the psychology of the person that is in shopping mode. So like for one of our clients, we’ve seen that with a supplement company even just going after, like, beauty and general health they convert. Because our products are tied to that part of beauty and helping your skin better or whatever it may be.
But again, there’s no hard rule that “Oh, if you go after the long term, longtail, you’re going to be successful.” You have to do it intelligently. You have to choose the right keyword, choose the right creative, and meet the consumer where they’re at, and the mentality and the behavior that they’re currently in within when they’re in Amazon, or Instacart, or one of these other marketplaces that they’re purchasing from.
[15:32] And as you’re developing these campaigns, do you have phases where you say, like, “Hey, in the first two weeks, or three weeks or a month, we know we’re just buying data, we don’t expect conversions to be anywhere near where they need to be. But we need this data in order to make really great decisions.”
And also, are you starting off with automatic campaigns and sponsored products, and then using the data that comes from those auto campaigns to then create manual campaigns? I’m just trying to dive a little deeper, so that the audience can—I can make good on my promise that they’ll have some actionable things they can implement in their business today. So can you go any deeper at all into how those campaigns get created? Because it’s not easy to do. And on Amazon and supplements, I mean, it’s wildly competitive. And I just want to make sure that we try and get as much worth for the audience as we can.
- Yes, obviously, there’s certain things I just can’t share because of the proprietary nature of that company and kind of the model that was built for that. But to me, when I’m looking at any type of paid media campaigns, I want to see results right away. Because if something—if you spend two weeks doing it and doesn’t convert to anything, or the ACoS is way off, or your CPA is way off, typically it’s gonna be hard to dial that in. I probably give myself like a 30% rule is like, I could probably optimize it for a 30% performance standpoint, but not really beyond there.
We’re looking at like Facebook and Instagram ads, for example, the ads of giving it 24 to 48 hours. And from that, I can really determine what my effective CPA is and how far we can optimize it.
[17:12] Okay, so I just want to jump in. So your 30% rule. Let’s say that your initial CPA in the first 24 hours is 30% higher than you were where you really need it to be, you’re saying you’re confident you can get it down. Whereas if it was 70%, higher, you’re like, “No, this is never going to be in the range I need it to be.”
- I have confidence that we have a shot to bring it down. I don’t say that it’s a guarantee. But typically we can. But if it’s like 70 or 100% above what we’re looking to spend, I typically don’t see being able to get it out we’ve got something in that. Obviously, as you mentioned, the more data you collect, the smarter you get, the smarter the pixels get and retargeting and all that which will effectively bring down your overall cost.
[17:56] What are some of the low hanging fruit strategies, Brendan for trying to reduce CPA in a shorter period of time as possible? So you’ve run this campaign, you’ve got some data, you want to be at a buck, but you’re at a buck 30, what are you gonna do?
- So first and foremost, is creative. It’s like what is happening in the creative that you can change the dynamic of the conversation that you’re having. So there’s a few different ways to look at that. One is, what is the overall pinpoint that you’re solving? And this catches people off lot, is there’s a big difference between what people need and what people want.
And especially when you’re talking about supplements, and the people that develop them, or even people that have worked around a supplement for a few years is, you know it’s so well, and you know the need you’re solving, but the consumer may not be there yet. They may not know that they need this. So, you’ve got to really start with what is it? What does the consumer want? Do they want clear skin? Do they want more energy? Do they want happiness or whatever that is? And then start your messaging there and then take them to what were—what they actually need.
“Oh, if you want more energy, will you need XYZ supplement, because it does this to your heart and increasing your overall blood circulation and thus, you’re going to get more energy” versus starting with “Hey, do you want to improve your blood circulation?” which most people are probably not searching for, and that’s where they go wrong. So it’s really understanding that.
Another aspect of and I covered this in my new book Hook Point, where I interviewed a friend of mine who sold over a billion dollars worth of health products just off of social media ads. And he says that the minute that you can articulate somebody’s pain point or the challenge they’re experiencing better than they can articulate it themselves, you will win that consumer. And I think oftentimes when we’re creating copy or creating listings on Amazon, we get lazy. And we just post, “Oh, this is the product. This is what it does,” instead of really diving deep into what is driving this decision. Why are they making this decision on a subconscious and unconscious level? And how do we articulate that in such a way that is going to grab their attention and make them understand that we know who they are, that they can trust and believe in us.
Now, another tactic that we use that is a little bit harder for Amazon, but for social platforms is really strong is pattern interruption. You’ve got to understand that the market that we live in today, there’s over 60 billion messages in social digital platforms every day. And what that means is you’re no longer competing, just against your direct competition, you’re competing against every piece of content published. You’re competing against Netflix. You’re competing with Whole Foods. You’re competing against Walmart, Kevin Hart, The Rock, all these people.
So you’ve got to look for ways to interrupt that pattern of the endless scrolling or the endless shopping or whatever they are doing to get them to stop. Because you win that first part of a conversation, you get them into the story; you get them into your product, you get them into your service.
[21:25] So how do you do that? Not easy to do.
- Yes, so there’s a few different ways that you can look at it. And one of the tools that we use is subverting expectations or flipping things on its head. So, for example, let’s say that we have a meditation product. Now meditation has been talked about for thousands of years. If you type it into Google, they probably have a billion results. So, if I were to approach a meditation product, in the standpoint of pattern interruption, I may use subverting expectations and flipping it on its head.
But what does that look like? It could look like, if it’s a video ad, the name card or headline on top of it says, “meditation is a scam.” And then I would start off the video by saying, “Hey, have you ever just really felt like meditation hasn’t worked for you? or meditation is almost like a scam? Well, if that’s you, I completely feel your pain. Because when I tried meditation at work, people told me I’d sit down and clear my head. And every time I sat down, my mind would just frantically race. And I thought to myself, ‘Is this thing real? Am I doing this wrong? Am I making a mistake?’ If you find yourself in that position, and I want to share three strategies with you that worked for me as a non-meditator to somebody that’s meditated every day for 10 years. Will you click the link below to learn more?”
So what did I do is I did a few different things. First off, I flipped it on its head, of subverting expectations. But then also, I’m speaking into that inner voice of most people that resist meditation, are most people that have tried meditation and failed at it, of speaking to them, and speaking to the problem that they experienced that most people don’t talk about. So through that, I’m hopefully putting that personal connection with them and earning that trust and credibility to take the next step on the journey.
[23:21] Yes, I love that. Love how you were able to do that one off the top of your head. That was fantastic. So let’s talk—before we finish up today. I’m just looking at my notes. Amazon is continually iterating the tools in their ad platform. They’ve got more different ad types now than they’ve had before. Sponsored video, I think, being one of the most recent. Where are you seeing the best results?
- We’ve just started testing video. We’re seeing some early data and results not from typically using a video ad, but actually making sure that we have video on all of our product pages. So that’s where we’ve seen success in just terms of increasing the overall conversion rate. We’re also playing around with influencers as well, and how we can use video testimonials from influencers and also having influencers drive traffic to the Amazon platform.
The way that I treat any new feature is I will test it, but I’m not going to spend a ton of money until it’s proven its worth in terms of attribution. So I always recommend not spending a ton of money in any direction or any new feature until it’s proven to drive some type of results for us.
[24:42] So for anyone who would like to know more about Amazon sponsored video, I recently did record an episode with a fellow by the name of Brett Curry who’s had a lot of success for his clients. That’s episode number 334. You can get to that at brightideas.co/334, and we talked extensively about sponsored video in that particular episode. So Brendan, once you’ve got a client’s Amazon campaigns working well, what’s the next step?
- Diversifying in other platforms. Because once you hit that ceiling, what are the other marketplaces? What are the other platforms that you can syndicate your product on? We always believe that you need to master one channel first. But once you’ve mastered that channel, and you hit that ceiling, then you got to move to the next one and the next one. I’m not a big believer in being everywhere, immediately because we typically find you stretch yourself too thin and really maximize your overall results.
But once you’ve got Amazon dialed in, then what’s the next channel? Is it Instacart? Is it walmart.com? Is it target.com? Is it an Instagram ads? Wherever it may be next, that we want to move to that next channel, hit that ceiling, get that going, and then go to the next one and go to the next one that’s where the real scale comes from.
[26:01] And when you diversify to those second channels, there’s a lot more that you can do. For example, Amazon, you’re not to—as far as I know, you’re not able to pixel. Maybe you can retarget now, but you’re not building an email list like there’s a lot of limitations. When you start to move outside of the Amazon platform, the world is your oyster, there’s a lot more things that you can do. How does that impact your top of funnel strategy for your campaigns? If you’re still selling the same thing that you’re trying to sell on Amazon instead of going for the sale right away, which I assume that’s the approach you’re taking on Amazon, does it alter? Do you try and do something else? Or are you trying to just pixel them so you can spend more on retargeting because the costs are a lot lower? Or is it the strategy the same?
- It depends on the platform. And it’s a great point is if I’m looking at going from Amazon to Instacart, same principles apply. It’s just it’s very DR focused, what is our clear attribution? What is our ACoS coming at? Versus once I’ve maxed out every attribution channel that I have, then I will focus on “Okay, what is our top of funnel awareness strategy?” Which then comes into like, “Okay, maybe we’re gonna go on Facebook and Instagram or less worried about CPA or we’re less worried about the initial ROI. We’re going after mass awareness to drive traffic to a website, build lookalike audiences or retargeting audiences, both on platform and off-platform to then reach that scale.”
But I’m a huge believer is top of funnel, top of funnel awareness specifically, and brand building is the last thing that I will do. I want to focus on that every attribution channel first, drive as much scale and revenue. And then once you have that profit coming in off that revenue, then you can focus on brand building, whether it’s awareness based campaign in media and PR, things of that nature.
[27:58] Yes. Okay. It’s been a pleasure to have you here, Brendan. For people who would like to know more about you, they can go to Amazon and search for your book. Obviously, if they search for your name on Amazon, they’re going to find your book or books, I believe now.
[28:12] Beyond that, if there’s anyone listening to this show who would like to get in touch to work directly with your organization, what’s the single easiest way for them to do that?
[28:27] All right. Wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you very much for making time. Folks, if you’d like to get to the show notes for today’s episode, you can go to brightideas.co/349. If this is your first time listening to the show, and you’ve enjoyed this episode, I would be really grateful if you would take your favorite podcast listening app and like, rate, and review the show. And that’s it for today. Look back. Look forward to seeing you back in another episode soon. Take care. Bye