Crowdfunding lowers the barrier to entry for budding entrepreneurs by solving the problem of startup capital.
With Kickstarter being the leading platform, however, have you ever wondered what else is out there?
On this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who successfully launched the same product on Kickstarter, then Indiegogo, then other crowdfunding sites, to gain international exposure and maximize their efforts.
Jay Neyer and Ross Oltorik are the founders of BodyBoss: the world’s first home gym you can take anywhere.
Keep that momentum rolling...go straight from Kickstarter to Indiegogo. So if someone saw an old Facebook post they could still have a way to buy the product even if the Kickstarter ended.
Tune in to learn
- How to transition from a product-based business to a service to increase your customer lifetime value
- How to launch on multiple crowdfunding platforms
- How to sell your product through international distributors
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
- Store: BodyBoss
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: The Lean Startup (book), Refersion (app)
Felix: Hey, my name is Felix and I’m the host of Shopify Masters. Each and every week you learn the keys to success from e-commerce experts and entrepreneurs like you. In this episode you’ll learn how to transition from a product based business to a service, how to launch on multiple crowdfunding platforms and how to sell your product through international distributors.
Today I’m joined by Jay and Ross from BodyBoss. BodyBoss is the world’s first home gym you can take anywhere and was started in 2014 and was based out of Cincinnati, Ohio with teams all over the world. Welcome Jay and Ross.
Jay: Hey, how’s it going?
Ross: Hey, how’s it going?
Felix: Good, good. Glad to have the both of you on. So, yeah can you tell us a little bit more about the product that you sell?
Jay: So, it’s a mix of things really. It’s both a product and a service. Our concept is portable strength training. So, it is a home gym that you can easily pack up, slide and put under your bed and pull out. Get an effective workout from home, or anywhere you go and follow live recorded workouts with trainers and various programs.
So, really what we do is we bring the gym to you.
Felix: Very cool. So you mentioned that this is a product and a service. Did you guys start with the intention of having both launching at the same time, the product and the service?
Jay: It was part of the vision. The product definitely came first. The vision was something that we’ve always wanted to incorporate and was part of the original idea but the product was really the catalyst in bringing that to life.
Felix: Got it. Yeah, it’s hard already start one or the other, right? Starting a product or starting a service, they’re almost to some degree, two separate businesses and two separate business lines that you’re launching.
Felix: How were you able to decide when you should, not necessarily switch focus but, go from running this product based business to introducing a service?
Ross: To answer your question there, I’ll kind of take this Jay, if you don’t mind.
Ross: Yeah, basically for us, when we decided to kind of go from a product business to service, was really when we started to focus on two things really. Using the product as much as we possibly could, ’cause we felt like, obviously with any entrepreneur you’re going to go through hard times. It wasn’t until we started using the product that we started understanding all the possibilities. Because everything else was kind of a guess, until you actually use the product that you’re selling.
From there, really, we immediately saw the possibilities of the user experience. And we started realizing that for us to be able to get good reviews, for us to be able to really live the life that we want, or like I guess the reason we set out to do this was to give people the opportunity, who might not be able to go to the gym, fitness for the masses, we thought we would be able to really devote ourselves to the users and in turn they would tell their friends, we would sell more product. So I hope that answers your question.
Felix: Yeah. Can you get into a little more details about how you launched the service side of the business?
Ross: We really focused on user experience, so how we launched it was we started to really understand what the users wanted and we started realizing that if we could focus on making sure that their experience is undoubtedly a good experience and they will use the product then we knew that we could sell more product. So, Jay could probably add to that. But for me it was just really the user experience and understanding what they’re doing and then from there we could realistically launch the service through email, through automated journeys and stuff like that.
Jay: The service is comprised of a couple different things. On one hand, we have recorded videos on YouTube. So, that’s an easy access point and for some people that’s just their preferred method. They’d rather just have something on a platform they’re familiar with, really easy for them to follow. I mean, we have service in the form of just written workouts. We are in the process of scaling that more so towards an interactive environment. So kind of like we’re doing a live [inaudible 00:05:13], you can almost imagine like a Skype workout between you and a trainer. And even in a group sense.
So, there’s kind of multi facet level to that. Some people just like the recorded aspects, some people want to follow a broadcast, some people want that more personalization, one on one.
Felix: Got it. That makes sense. So it sounds like you launched a product, but you wanted to help your customers get more value out of that product and you did that by offering this kind of content, this service side of the business.
Felix: Got it. Now how did you figure out what was that first piece of content, what was that first piece of guide or video that you should launch? I think other folks are in the same shoes where they have a product and they know there’s value in it, they know that if customers, if people out there used their product to it’s full extent it’ll improve their lives but there’s only so much you can do once you give away a product or once you sell a product. There needs to be that kind of next level follow-up and in your case it was the service layer where there were videos and guides and coaching involved.
How did you know what was that first layer that you should apply on top of your products?
Jay: Really just talking to the customers. Hearing what they wanted. Hearing about their difficulties. Understanding the pain points that they go through. Giving them an experience that felt perfectly just for them, so we actually had one of our first clients with someone Ross was training, this woman named Michelle, and she was someone who hadn’t worked out in years, really needed that personalization of one on one.
So, it started off with that in particular as a very personal direct one on one virtual training. That really helped validate our concept. To answer your question, really just talking to the customers and hearing what they wanted.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And once you learned what they wanted, what did you have to change about your business to be able to offer and support this level of service?
Jay: It’s important to just note that they’re very different production cycles between service and product. So everything’s just kind of an opportunity cost. We only have so many hours of time and attention of what we can focus on, so just seeing the opportunity cost of really enhancing, improving on the product versus service, ultimately they’re tied together so we do both. But that’s kind of the thing we evaluate when we’re looking at our decisions is that trade off.
Felix: I see. So, I’m assuming that this service of course adds to the lifetime value of the customer. How’s it monetized? How’s the service aspect of it monetized?
Ross: Right now, for us to be able to sell the service, what we did is … See we were in a tough situation and this is why I keep going back to whatever business you’re in, be assertive and trust. Trust your instinct with how you want to set up the service. So, for instance I tried looking, and I know Jay and I we tried looking at other businesses and how they did their service, but for us literally, when we started using the product over and over again, all these ideas started coming.
Then we started getting customers and we started realizing that we have customers. We’re in a tough spot. This e-commerce world is amazing. If you could build the trust, you don’t even have to drive around to meetings to get a sale. So what I would say to answer your question, how we started monetizing the service is we put ourselves in very tough situations and we trusted our gut with how we wanted to do this. We were always trying to stay a step ahead of the customer.
So one of the things we learned was, is that we kept getting messages from people saying, “I don’t know how to use this,” or “I don’t want this anymore.” And most of the time people that could potentially really hurt you, but you gotta figure out the root of the problem and we found the root of the problem is everyone in the world is going to make excuses not to work out. So that was unique for our businesses is that we’re targeting a market or I guess the market that came to us early on is people who don’t go to the gym.
So, you gotta figure, they don’t go to the gym. They’re going to make every excuse they possibly can to not work out. So we got to provide a service that solves those problems for them and trust our instinct and know that at the end of the day, we’re doing what’s best for them.
So, we started realizing, to monetize the service, we could actually act like a gym. Why do we need to have a gym where you have to drive there? Why not just make a virtual gym? So, that’s what we started saying was we’re going to provide you the ability to come to our virtual gym and get workouts. We’re going to actually give you different levels of service depending on who you are and where you’re at in your journey with our product.
So, we started doing live streaming and we started realizing that people actually wanted a set time. So I would say, for us to get to the point where we monetized it is like, don’t rush it, have patience but take your user experience over the top and force yourself to be unique with each and every customer and don’t view the customers as numbers. Early on, we made the mistake or at least I did, I know emotionally Jay’s very grounded, but I feel like when we treat them like numbers early on, we missed out on so much opportunity because it wasn’t until we actually like one by one said we’re going to change their life as best as we can if they want us to.
So to monetize it I would say we just literally tried to stay a step ahead of the customers and force ourselves to understand their experience.
Felix: Got it.
Ross: So, we were referred to the book by one of our mentors, [inaudible 00:11:44], Lean Startup Method and it talks about that and he was having trouble with referral rates, so we just focused on referrals and user experience for the first three months as best as we could, one person at a time.
Felix: Can you say a little more about that? What is a referral rate and what did you do to focus on it?
Ross: Yeah, so we focused on how can we service … We didn’t try and expand to quickly. What we did was we said if we get one customer, we’re going to service that customer so good that that customer will then tell their friend. So, what we did was with Michelle, is we actually didn’t even have inventory so we were forced to service Michelle and really stay alive. So we made money off of training her and she would pay us a monthly payment actually of 500 dollars. Then we serviced her for two months. And we said we’re not going to try to get new customers until we service her so well, that she tells her friends.
So, we serviced her. We took her through the experience with our product. We learned so much on the journey and then we started realizing that she asked, “Hey, can my friends come and workout with us on this Google Hangout?” And then the next day, she had friends that came to the workout and we went from there. That’s kind of how … And we focused on the method of referrals, the referral rate.
Felix: Got it. And is there a way that you measure that today? I think in the very beginning when you had one customer your goal was just to blow them away with such great customer service that they would want to tell other people and ask or basically like you’re saying refer your product and your service to their friends. But today is there a way to measure that at scale?
Jay: So, we have a referral program where users can actually get cashback so that is one method. From just general word of mouth marketing, we don’t really have an exact metric. We’re trying to create incentive structures around that so consumers can actually benefit and I know a lot of companies have seen success like that with like Dropbox offering invite friends to get additional space and I think that whole referral process we’ve seen a lot of companies do really successfully. We had something in place so that’s on one level of baseline metric but there’s a lot of word of mouth marketing that we’re not really able to capture in terms of data.
Felix: Yeah, it’s one of the ones that’s much harder to capture because you can’t track what someones saying to someone else about your product. But when it comes to the referral program, are you using a specific app or technology for that? How is it all set up?
Jay: Yeah, it actually plugs directly into Shopify. We use something called Refersion and it creates a nice … We got initial exposure to this in crowdfunding and just seeing how successful it was to just turn your customers into your sales force, essentially. When people just love your product and they vouch for it, they tell their friends then we want to incentivize and encourage them to do that.
So, we use a Shopify plug in called Refersion.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And when does the customer get introduced to this referral program? If I am to go on your site right now and purchase this product, when do I first get exposure to this opportunity to essentially be rewarded for sharing your product with my friends?
Jay: Yeah, so we included some of our campaign messaging so when you make a purchase just letting you know that this is something you have an option to, we have a referral program where you can actually make cashback. We have direct links on our site as well but we include that in some of the initial on boarding.
Felix: Got it. And have there been experiments that you’ve run around what works best in terms of getting someone to essentially … Or to motivate someone to refer your … Or to be a part of the referral program or to refer somebody?
Jay: Really building awareness. That’s step one. Sometimes you have to communicate things multiple times for it to really resonate. You never know if someone is just reading an email in passing on their phone while they’re at a stoplight or watching TV, it’s really just being consistent with your communication. Reminding people and showing them where they can access that.
Felix: Got it. And is it just straight up cash that they get or what is the incentive?
Jay: Yeah, so they get a referral code and they get a ten percent cashback program from that. So any sort of payments that come through from their link they automatically get paid out.
Felix: And you find that that is the most effective incentive for customers?
Jay: What we’ve seen so far, we want to experiment a little bit more in the future but just from what we’ve seen be really successful with crowdfunding like on Kickstarter, we got countless sales from people referring other people. For us to have a dashboard to display that and so they can see exactly how many people are clicking on their links, what their current referral rate is, it was very successful.
Felix: I see. So you were using this referral program even before you had the site. This is back when you were just doing the crowdfunding?
Jay: It started there. That’s when we got exposed to it and then we really took it into gear on the website itself.
Felix: Got it. Yeah, so let’s talk about the crowdfunding. So you actually launched on the two major platforms both on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. On Kickstarter you raised over half a million dollars from 2,600 backers and on Indiegogo did even better with 1.3 million dollars by 3,450 backers. Can you talk about … Were you launching the same product on both of these platforms?
Jay: Correct. So, we did Kickstarter first and then we carried over to Indiegogo after.
Felix: Got it. Can you talk a little bit about the idea behind this? ’Cause I think most of the time people will sit down and decide, “Which platform should I launch on,” they just end up sticking with one. And you took advantage by going on both. Can you talk a little about the thinking behind that?
Jay: Yeah, we used a lot of different platforms. I viewed these as different sales verticals. We used Amazon, Walmart, Newegg, eBay. We have a lot of different silos. Our mentality and philosophy is, “What are the different ways we can make revenue, where can we push this out?” Kickstarter was more of a logical first step just because it’s the number one crowdfunding platform. We actually used something on Indiegogo called On Demand where it’s ongoing sales. So we don’t have a campaign life like we did on Kickstarter, so that really made sense to carry forward afterwards. After we finished our Kickstarter.
So, we really launched our Indiegogo the very hour really that Kickstarter ended. We just kept that momentum going.
Felix: Yeah, it’s interesting. I went to the Kickstarter and I think most of the time when a Kickstarter campaign ends there’s a button that you can essentially drive traffic to. Most of the time people will drive that traffic to their website. But I think in your case, it drives to the Indiegogo On Demand sales campaign, is that correct?
Jay: I’ll have to double-check it but I believe that’s correct.
Felix: Yeah, that’s very cool. And there was obviously no issue with that the traffic from Kickstarter is going to Indiegogo I’m assuming since they allow that. I’m assuming you planned to schedule this out right? Where you knew that Kickstarter’s where we’re going to launch first and then because Kickstarter has to end eventually, you wanted to carry that momentum, that buzz, over to another platform?
Jay: Exactly. And that’s why we did a lot of that forwarding is because we had links everywhere. Ross and I were just blasting different Facebook pages, getting things out there and you want to have a little bit of shelf life, right? Like something someone might not see that same day but if I see a link that was maybe passed around four days ago, that’s really why we want to just keep that momentum rolling. To just go straight from Kickstarter to Indiegogo. So if someone saw an old Facebook post they could still have a way to buy the product even if the Kickstarter ended.
Felix: Got it. And what have you learned about being on these two different platforms? I think my very first question, because you have been on both, is how are the customer bases different between Kickstarter and Indiegogo?
Jay: I’d say they’re pretty similar. Ross, I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that. To me there’s a lot of parallels. I’d say there’s more in common than there is different. They’ve been great customers. They’re the early adopters, the first believers. People who can put up with an idea take some risk on that. These are some of my favorite backers, favorite customers, really. ’Cause they’re the initial believers.
Ross: Yeah, I have noticed that between Kickstarter and Indiegogo there’s really a strong community that understands I guess for what it’s like to buy on Kickstarter. It’s not considered buying, but they’re still getting what the companies that launch on there want to reward them. For instance, we gave them lower prices, but we also gave them more benefits and tried to connect them to us so that we could learn as we’re building out or Shopify site and our main site that’s going to last forever.
So, really I feel like the difference between the buyers that we see and face everyday on Shopify, it’s going to be much more fast paced. It’s day in and day out. You gotta set up a system that lasts and make minor tweaks. But the nice thing about going on Kickstarter and Indiegogo is the fact that these people are basically willing to give you a payment without even having any inventory or proven record unless you lay it out for them.
So, it was really cool for us because we took it as they’re going to provide us the feedback that we need to set up our Shopify site, hook up our warehouse, where we should store product for inventory, what type of shipping information is important to them. What type of triggers are important to them in the buying process.
For instance, we learned that some of our assumptions before we launched were much different than what people actually wanted. We had a lot of people that asked us for add-ons on our product. For instance, they wanted a bench, and they wanted an ab wheel. And they also wanted pocket guides that they could just hang on their wall and follow. So these are the things we could learn, and we could do that on Shopify. I know there’s different templates that provide you the ability to do a pre-launch and pre-order but the nice thing about Kickstarter is it’s a short 30 to 60 day 15 to 60 day, whatever you decide campaign that gives you the opportunity to learn really and get your inventory started to roll.
It’s really helped us as we’ve transitioned into Shopify ’cause we can gauge what type of success we’re going to have. So, I would say the difference between the buyers who purchase every day and are willing to do that and the actual Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers, is the Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers actually want to see your company succeed. We carried a lot of the company activities that we did on Kickstarter, we’ve carried that over to Shopify and it’s really laid some good principles for our business as we move forward.
So, for instance, we do company updates every Monday and Friday for our Kickstarter and Indiegogo community and we’ve actually included our Shopify customers in on that as well. And it’s a cool aspect that people can see ’cause we’re being transparent that we are a new company, we’re transitioning into being a big time company. We’re real just like you. We’re a part of this just like you. But we’re having a lot of successes.
Walmart’s backing us. We’re the number twelve home gym on Amazon right now. Different things like that occur and it just provides us that engagement that we’ve learned from Kickstarter. They’ve taught us some things as well, they’re very engaged.
Felix: I think it’s clear that what you’re saying is that there’s a community of customers that are on these crowdfunding platforms that are typically more invested in the company success and the founder’s story, more so than maybe someone that’s just coming to your site. Now when you’re able to drive this community of backers to your other platforms, whether that be on your website, on to your services, maybe on to your YouTube channel, on to your social media, on to all these other platforms, do you find that they go to these other platforms? Do you find that they interact with those communities?
Ross: Yeah, so that’s actually one of the first things Jay and I realized is we were kind of nervous having a separate site as we were in tandem with our crowdfunding but these people actually want you to have a professional Shopify type site where they can go and they can see your growth. They can refer their friends outside of the 30 days of your campaign. They can read about different forums and they can read about different updates and some of the things as your company progresses.
So, we learned that they still understand and they still expect you to be a company and a company has a website. They understand that it’s just a pre-launch before you get on your website, so we had a lot of people that were requesting a website and that was actually the first thing that everyone was asking us, “When are you going to launch your site? Can we get a forum? Can we have a place where we can comment, where we can review?”
That’s another thing that it’s amazing for. If you can really service these people, your first customers, is they’ll actually write reviews on Shopify for you when you launch your Shopify store. And that really helped us to build the trust as we launched.
Felix: I see. So these were people that were maybe buyers or backers on these crowdfunding sites that got the product and now that you have a site they were willing to write a review on the product even though they didn’t necessarily buy directly from the website.
Felix: Cool. Jay, you mentioned that you are on multiple platforms. Can you talk a little bit about the different ones that are maybe your top, or your main platforms that you are selling on right now?
Jay: Yeah, I’d say Amazon has really been picking up a ton of steam. We’ve had a lot of success there. Shopify is definitely up there. Walmart more recently. We are just on boarding them and have really big expectations for that. Indiegogo’s been consistent, really for this whole year. So those have been our BSC channels. We also do about half our sales to distributors. That’s not necessarily a channel per se but I like for the listeners to know that that’s a large part of our revenue as well.
And that’s a kind of different approach to being able to build out that process.
Felix: Can you say a little bit more about that? What is the experience been like there?
Jay: Oh, man. These are anywhere from 10 to 100k account values. It’s a much longer, more in depth sales cycle obviously. You’re really holding their hand walking them through, getting them set up, really trying to empower them to be able to sell successfully and continue that forward. Our best contracts are from people who order from us consistently. And ultimately they’re able to make a profit from it and us and we’re okay with that because we want to empower different countries, different distributors around the globe to really represent our brand. And really get our brand name out there.
So, that’s been a growing part of our business and something I’ve been working a lot on in particular.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, how does it work? You have these international distributors, you work with them and they are going out there to sell to different brick and mortar stores in these, around the world, is that how it works? Or how’s it play out?
Jay: Not exactly always brick and mortar. So we even had one of our most recent successful distributors did a crowdfunding campaign in Japan. Neither Ross nor I speak Japanese or really understand that market fully enough, so they’re able to take the content that we have, that we use for our crowdfunding, put Japanese language behind it, repurpose it a little bit and be able to communicate that effectively to their market.
And it really helps us out because I don’t know, Ross could probably comment on the number of pounds we’ve shipped but it’s a ton of product and a lot of weight. And just dealing with so much of the logistics it’s sometimes just such a relief when we can just have one single person that they can just manage that process from start to finish.
Ross: Yeah, Jay to answer your question the freight forwarder told us this, and we thought it was cool ’cause we’re close with them, we’ve imported about 675,000 pounds worth of product to date.
Felix: That’s funny that you’re moving so much product that they can put a weight value on how much you’re shipping.
Ross: Yeah, and the thing is I’m sure there’s going to be listeners out there that are just getting started but I’ll let Jay continue to answer your question Felix, but just know that that is, I mean every single person that told Jay or not looked at our product at first just like, “You should not do this. You should go get a job that pays you.” ’Cause when you first start your business it’s going to be irrational online but then once you figure it out and stuff you just have to sacrifice and don’t listen to the people because they’re going to all tell you to quit, like us.
Everyone’s going to say to quit, but if you just stick it out and keep trying and have passion and keep going and keep going and keep going, then eventually you’ll make it. And we are so far from making it, but we’ve had a ton of success in 2017, at the end of 2016 too when we 2.0’d our product and we learned and we went to your service and eventually this year we’re going to add even more products. We’re going to add technology to our products and we’re going to start to … There’s been a lot of people asking us to be a part of our brand with their product because they have trouble selling online and we have a passion for it.
But, just never quit. Don’t listen to them. That’s something that could be easy to do ’cause I promise you, you have entrepreneur friends around and I think I had about, maybe four or five in a group and three out of the five were right there. I felt like they had almost, at the time, better products than us. They were getting meetings with gas station. It was, I forget the exact product. It was like a bamboo type to clean your teeth and he was getting great meetings. He was right there. Right there. But then he quit. And the other two quit too.
And the two people who just waited three years, Jay and I and then Casey, Casey’s now in Costco, he actually uses Shopify too. He’s a stud. And he has his aunts cookies that he makes. He’s now in every single Costco in the whole U.S. and it took him a year to have that account. And he’s selling cookies that weren’t selling for three years. Just stick it out and keep trying and keep trying. I don’t know that is some advice that I’ve kind of just seen.
Felix: Yeah, I think that’s great advice especially for anyone that’s in there right now and not seeing success right away and are thinking that it’s not for them or they’re never going to be successful. So, I think that’s important to note that sometimes the winner is the person that can just stick it out the longest and make the sacrifices and make these … Adapt to what they need to do to stay in the game essentially.
So, these distributors that you work with, I thought that was really funny that they aren’t just selling to brick and mortars that you guys are saying that they’re also selling online and in the one case there’s a Japanese seller that’s selling on a crowdfunding site. So this is not like a Kickstarter, Indiegogo. It’s like a Japanese specific crowdfunding site?
Jay: Correct. It’s something called Green Funding. I was surprised about this too ’cause it wasn’t what I was expecting but the success of crowdfunding is just really taking off and Kickstarter really led the way of this but we’re seeing other companies, other countries around the world even implement their own form of crowdfunding.
Felix: That’s cool. So, when you were working with this … Are you working with just one distributor or what’s your involvement in getting your product into the international market?
Jay: Correct, so in this, we’ve sold to 62 different countries or so. With Japan in particular, we partnered up with a company who just essentially managed that whole campaign and then they just placed a large purchase order with us at the mid point and at the end of it.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And in these situations, these deals, do they keep the branding and the messaging? Do they rebrand it themselves to fit the demographic that they’re going after? How does it usually work?
Jay: The branding is consistent. That’s where we’re really looking to get our name out there, our branding. The branding itself was the same, the messaging tweaks a little bit but overall the concept is the same of bringing the gym to you. But they’ll obviously use their own language and wording that might be more appealing to different masses.
Felix: Right. Now, would you ever take a deal, or have you taken a deal where it’s a white labeled product where you’re just selling the product and they’re slapping their own branding on it? What are your thoughts on that?
Jay: We’ve discussed it. We haven’t done that before, it’s not something that we’re currently interested in. The brand is definitely a big part of us. This is our first product but we don’t see it being our last one. So it’s really important for us to build that brand name and recognition. So, we haven’t done any white labeling yet.
Felix: Well, what do you weigh in that situation? How do you decide if it’s a right move or not for you or what are your thoughts on it, if you had to give advice to someone that’s in that situation where somebody approaches them and just wants to buy the products and slap their own branding on it? What kinds of things would you tell them to consider?
Jay: I think consider how that fits into your overall strategy. Thinking not just short term but long term where you want to really position yourself in the market. And it’s completely fine if you just want to be in the U.S. or your respective country and just be focused on that market. But we’ve always viewed ourself as a global brand.
Felix: Got it. And when you worked with this international distributor, I think it certainly attracted a lot of entrepreneurs that might be listening is that you open up, you grow your market much, much larger without having to do that groundwork that you had to do so much with building the business from the beginning the first time around. How did you get introduced to the distributor? How do you work with them?
Jay: It’s been a mix of inbound and outbound so we’ve got a lot of people contacting us, really even from crowdfunding and just seeing our success there and reach out to us directly saying they want to get involved. We’ve also done some outbound messaging to bring on some accounts that way. But really, there’s a lot of vetting so the example I was just giving you for a Japanese contact, we had a variety of handful of companies contact us really. So there’s a lot of vetting and finding out who your partner is, who really understands the vision. And not really just looking for a one time transaction. Someone you can really partner up with.
Felix: Can you say a little bit more about that? About how you vet which distributors you should partner with?
Jay: Yeah, so it was basically our process for doing that is really just looking at their track record. Ideally what we look for is someone who principally has experience in fitness and distribution of fitness products or are in that health space, health and wellness. So, that’s our ideal. I think a key part is having a very clear picture of who would be your ideal partner and being able to write that out and describe that.
So, our ideal partner is someone who has deep industry expertise in their respective market with fitness. That’s not always the case. And so we’ve had plenty of partners who didn’t have expertise in that, per se, and so then what we would look for is experience selling to the consumer or consumer products. And really just looking at their track record to verify.
Felix: Have your best partnerships come from distributors that were inbound or outbound?
Jay: We’ve had a lot of success from inbound, I would say. People discovering us from crowdfunding. We have all of our marketing materials there so, it’s really easy for us to pass off and get these distributors equipped and set up to sell. We try to really hold their hand and provide them the content and equip them with the tools they need and really respond to their needs and just be available, be accessible to get them equipped to sell.
Felix: Got it. What do you think that attracted them to reach out to you?
Jay: Seeing the success. I think people can pick up on excitement. It really builds up on itself. We have a lot of social proof, obviously just seeing other people purchase and transact well. I think just seeing that establishment of success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, really verifies, this isn’t people selling to their mom and best friends, these are actual consumers who find value and ultimately want the product.
Felix: Got it. So this is not necessarily a viable approach for someone that’s looking for their first win or for success, it’s almost for like a big multiplier that you can apply onto your business after you already have sales and a track record.
Jay: Its different approaches like Ross mentioned his buddy that he does almost exclusively B to B. It varies by markets. I would say B to B is probably a lot harder to get your footing into but it really comes from just understanding what your product and offering is and what makes the most sense.
Felix: Got it. I’m going to jump back a little bit to the platforms that you are on because you are on multiple platforms, how did you decide which one you should move into next? Or how do you evaluate which platforms to launch in to? What platforms you should be focusing on next?
Jay: At the beginning of the year, we do a forecasting of what we expect to do in a variety of different channels, and we kind of [inaudible 00:40:32] these numbers by just looking at the [inaudible 00:40:34] market as a whole. Seeing how popular is home gym category on Amazon, like how many units on there, how are they transacting, what part of that market share can we expect to capture?
So that’s part of it, is just looking at just from the market whole of these different platforms. What really makes the most sense. Somethings like Walmart are by invite, so we didn’t really have much control there. But by looking at the overall market is how we would evaluate something like that.
Felix: So, are you looking for a platform that has a lot of demand, a lot of competition or do you look for a platform that is weak in the category that you’re in so you can come in and such and be a big fish?
Jay: I’d say, the channel we’ve had the most success in have been already established pretty well in track platforms with their proper footing. So, generally something with a proven track record and that already has buyers on their platform.
Felix: Got it.
Ross: Yeah, and just to add to that, I feel that everything we’re doing is working towards eventually having just a total brand-type empire on Shopify. I don’t know how Jay feels about this but when we sit down at the beginning of the year, we ask ourselves on an excel sheet and we understand our business and we say, “All right, how much does our product cost right now? What is our core values of our business?” And for us we’re a product business.
So, the way that we make money is if we transact a product. So then we ask ourselves, “How can we make money off this product? Who is going to come at us this year and where do we want to spend our time?” So we actually make, not guesses but we actually will sit there and list every channel of how we can make money possible. So we say, “For business to consumer how can someone purchase our product and where can they purchase it?” And we’ll actually list that out.
And we’ll say, “How many views do we want to get on this channel?” We don’t stress out about how many sales can we call, we don’t stress out about that. We just say, “If we have a product that we make on a page, we do our collateral work and we make it beautiful, then how many people can we get to that page?” And everything is based off that. We try to keep it very simple with that.
And then every morning we’ll meet because it’s fun. And we’ll say, “Okay, so yesterday on Shopify how many views did we generate and what was our conversion like?” And we know that if we’re driving views, everything’s based off of that. And we actually put a metric and we found that you gotta know your business and what you feel inside is best. ’Cause a lot of this is going to be judgment up first but you know your product well, ’cause you live and breathe it every single day.
But me and Jay realized that holy crap on our last Kickstarter … ’Cause we were novices just like anyone else beginning two years ago, but it’s like on our last Kickstarter we realized that if people watch the video then our conversion went skyrocketing. For whatever reason if people can see it with our product then they’ll actually transact.
So, everything we did early on and still to this day is, we have to get people to watch our video. If we can get them to watch our video then they’ll convert. So, we actually just focus on that on our Shopify page. But early on you gotta ask yourself, “How can I make money?” So when we gauge on what channels we want to go to, we actually kind of already laid that out at the beginning of the year, and we know our business and we understand that one day we want to get to Shopify, because there’s minimal charges.
I mean, if you’re on Amazon, they’re going to take 15 to 21 percent from you. Some of these B to B’s they’re going to eat up your margins but don’t be greedy early on. If you have confidence, you got to use that to fund and learn so that you can get on Shopify and build your brand that’ll last forever because if you can get to your own website, that’s where it really is incredible.
So, I feel like everything we’re doing is working towards that.
Felix: That makes sense. You have to really know … And what you’re getting at to is you have to really know your numbers so that in any situation, any platform, any channel, you know what’s possible based on the conversion rates. Or based on what’s going to lead to better conversion rate and your example, people watching videos and to be able to see how the product works increases conversion rates. So you know, the kind of leverage it can pull and how much of a difference it makes and then you apply that, layer that on top of the different channels and platforms you can be on and then that helps you make a decision on where there is the best opportunity?
Ross: Yeah. And as you’re learning this you’re starting to optimize and maximize your own Shopify space. ’Cause that’s your entity. ’Cause one day people may be coming on your site. Like people do on Amazon. You never know. So, every single time you’re using this as a learning opportunity you’re checking how many people viewed, you’re checking if it converted, ’cause if it doesn’t convert, you better change something up.
Ross: Because that’s a bad business, if it doesn’t convert. So you know if it doesn’t convert you better change something as quickly as you possibly can because if your product doesn’t sell you better get out of that business or do something different. But often times, the thing is that it might just be one mistake you made when you were setting up your Shopify. It might just be a simple thing that you can adjust, but move fast and adjust and keep looking at analytics. I can’t tell you how much Jay and I … And it’s fun after a while.
You’re hooking up your analytics and you’re literally just studying the data, and you’re adding as much … When in doubt, I would say like Jay kills it on B to B and I don’t, it’s nuts. And he kills it on B to C, too, with marketing. But I do a lot of the backend conversion stuff and I keep this phrase in the back of our mind every time, “If you can’t enrich someone else, enrichment’s won’t come to you.” So give as much value as you possibly can. Think value.
Jay told me this when we did our first Kickstarter and it stuck with me forever and literally, give as much value as you possibly can and enrich that person because no man can get rich himself unless he enriches others. And if you can provide consumers [inaudible 00:47:38], I promise you it wasn’t until we actually dropped our price too and we wanted to be as less greedy as we possibly can with the consumer and always err on the consumer. Do everything for them.
Felix: All right, that makes sense. So, bodybossportablegym.com is the website. It’s the beginning of the year now, what do you guys focus on for this year? What are some of the big goals that you guys want to hit?
Jay: Basically vamping up all our existing channels. We also have a new version of the product coming out that’ll turn it more into a smart gym. So you can think of almost the analogy I like to give is just a Fitbit added on top of the gym so it can track and record your workouts. Provide data integration, tell you how much pounds and resistance you’re pulling. So, we’re going to be launching another crowdfunding campaign, sometime shortly this year, but outside of that I think we’ll be [inaudible 00:48:34] our existing sales from 2017 and really laying that framework for 2018.
Felix: Very cool. So, again bodybossportablegym.com, to follow along. Thank you so much for your time, Jay and Ross.
Jay: All right, thank you.
Ross: Thank you.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peek for what’s in store the next Shopify Master’s episode.
Speaker 4: When we are coming up with a kit, it’s to keep it as almost as general as possible, to target as wide of an audience as possible.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the e-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial. Also, for this episode show note, head over to Shopify.com/blog.