Context is everything in marketing, and you should always keep yours in mind when you think about the best ways to grow your business.
Just because a marketing channel or tactic is hot right now, doesn't mean it should be a priority for your business.
Our guests on this episode of Shopify Masters are Wilson Hung and Jack Meredith, who focus on growth at Kettle & Fire: the first (& only) grass-fed, non-frozen bone broth company.
They share how they think about marketing and why they chose to do PPC, influencer marketing, content marketing, and then Facebook ads—in that order.
For paid search, what are the search volumes? What’s your average order values? What are the margins on your product? Depending on that, maybe paid search isn’t the best option. Maybe you need to go for lower customer acquisition cost channels.
Tune in to learn
- Why they started with PPC first
- Why you want to find influencers who are willing to work for commission
- Why every piece of content you create needs to live and die by an SEO opportunity
- Store: Kettle & Fire
- Social Profiles: Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: ClickFunnels, GrowthMachine (agency)
Felix: Today, I’m joined by Wilson Hung and Jack Meredith from Kettle & Fire. Kettle & Fire is the first and only grass-fed non-frozen bone broth company. It was started in 2013. Welcome guys.
Wilson: Hey. Happy to be here.
Felix: Okay. You guys were not, like I said, originally a part of the founding team. Is that right?
Wilson: That’s correct. Jack was the first hire and then we came on when they started the KettleandFire.com, so before they were selling it on Thrive Market, which is a wholesaler. Once they decided to create their own website, KettleandFire.com, that’s when we joined. Jack was the first hire and then I joined about three months afterwards. Then, yeah, that goes back in 2016.
Felix: Got it. I’d love to hear from both of you what made you guys attracted to working at Kettle & Fire.
Jack: Pretty, I guess, interesting timeline of events. I came from the ticketing industry. Selling software and marketing that. How I got connected with Kettle & Fire is through Justin, our CEO. He has an online marketing background and has built a bunch of courses and everything. I actually found one of his online marketing courses. Got connected to him through there. We stayed in touch on an infrequent basis. Then out of the blue, two and a half years ago, he pinged me and said, “Hey. Would you be interested in freelancing for this bone broth company that I’m starting?” My first reaction was, “What is bone broth? I have no idea what that is.” But I was interested in working with him because I looked up to him. I thought he did a lot of cool stuff.
Took the leap and very quickly started really falling in love with eCommerce and the company and what we were all about and just the high quality products that we were sipping. That got me excited and led me to join full-time.
Wilson: Yeah. My story’s pretty much exact same. Took the same course as Jack. At the time, it was called Programming for Marketers. That’s how I first knew of Justin. He also has a book called Traction, which I read. I already knew of Justin. At the time, I was working at a company called SumoMe. They did pop ups. I was doing content marketing back then. I wrote an article and Justin also pinged, talked about bone broth, and then same story as Jack. That’s ultimately how we started working with Justin.
Felix: Yeah. That must’ve been an amazing experience working with these obviously experienced, entrepreneurs experienced online marketers, and you get to come in at the very beginning to help kick things off. What was the early days? What were you guys focused on at the very beginning?
Wilson: Maybe I can just give you a quick high level of our trajectories in terms of channels. Basically outside of Thrive Market, which is the wholesaler, basically Justin wanted to start owning his own KettleandFire.com. First one was paid search. Basically the purpose of paid search was just the highest probability of success. We use that to optimize pretty much the fails in traffic to have an optimized funnel. Once we actually proved our funnel could actually convert, Jack started up the affiliate channel and that’s where influencers started coming on board. Basically we would just give them a percent commission. For example, Paleo Hacks, Wellness Mama, all these big bloggers with big email lists.
Then once our affiliate channel was up and running, we were able to reinvest the profit and do content marketing and SEO just because at that time, we saw a pretty big opportunity. Then basically after content marketing, SEO, that led to Facebook Ads just because there’s a larger retargeting audience. Then from Facebook Ads, it just opened up to all the other channels that we’re working on now.
Felix: Is this a progression that you recommend others take? It sounded like you started with PPC, the influencer market thing, SEO/content marketing, and then Facebook Ads.
Wilson: I’d like to hear Jack’s thoughts on this as well, but I wouldn’t just recommend it because we did it. I mean it’s the common mistake everyone does. They’ll read how we do it or to hear from podcast episodes or reading on content. That’s why you see people just start doing Facebook Messenger bots even though they don’t have the context. It really depends on your business.
For example, for paid search, it’s like, what’s the search volumes? What’s your average order values? What’s the margins on your product? Depending on that, maybe paid search isn’t the best option and maybe you need to go for a lower customer acquisition cost channels and maybe, I don’t know, maybe some other channel. For us, it worked for us, but I wouldn’t just blindly approach it the same approach we did. You got to apply it through the same systemic process, prioritize what to work on, and then test it from there.
Felix: Got it. Why would you say paid search made the most sense for you guys to start with?
Wilson: It’s the way Justin validated the business as well because if you looked at the keyword volumes, anything Google trends. At the time, it was 100,000 searches per month and then there’s pretty much no products at that time three months ago. Even from a cost per click standpoint, it’s really low. Then people searching bone broth, that alone is such high purchase intent. You can even segment it down to where to buy bone broth. That alone was getting three to five thousand searches per month. Right away, that’s your first opportunity to get purchases. Then just because you’re getting purchases, you can start optimizing your funnel.
Felix: Got it. Using paid search first to draw traffic, like directly to the product page or where was the traffic going to?
Wilson: When we started, we actually used Click Funnels. It’s just a Click Funnels page just mainly because we could do a lot of the upsells and whatnot. Then ultimately we switched to Shopify. By the time we switched to Shopify, we were pretty mature. Before, it was just using Click Funnels.
Felix: I would love to hear more about it. The funnel then. So people were landing on this Click Funnels page and what was the offer and what were the upsells?
Wilson: It’s evolved quite a bit, but specifically to Click Funnels, the most classic one we’ve been trying is a 20% off. We usually do three tiers, so it’s like a low tier, which was six cartons, high tier was everything from … Mid tier was nine cartons, 12 cartons was 18 cartons. Then from the Click Funnels, when you go into the checkout, there’s something called an order form bump, so just on the checkout page people can do a buy four, get two. Then after that, the upsell was essentially just a cross sell. If they bought beef, then they get upsell chicken. Then if they bought chicken, they got upsell on beef. Then that was pretty much the main one. Then the down sell was pretty much a variety pack.
Felix: Do you remember the conversion rates back then for, I guess, every step in that process from getting the very first discount, then at the bump?
Wilson: The bump was massive. I don’t remember the specific conversion rates, but at the time just because the audience and there was not as much competitors. For example, the order form bump had I think about 30%, 40% off in. Our average order values were really high back then.
Felix: Right. Just to explain to the audience that might not know, the bump is basically just a checkbox that says, “Add this to my order.”?
Wilson: Exactly that. The whole point of the bump is it’s not a post purchase. It’s just on the checkout. While you’re putting in your credit card information, it’s like right next to the credit card information. It’s just a buy four, get two.
Felix: Got it. Makes sense. Okay. Now there’s traffic that was going through the funnel. Then you guys were able to validate the business. You mentioned optimize the funnel from there. What does that mean? What’s the next step once you can see that, okay, we’re at least breaking even, if not making more money by sending our prospects through this funnel so far? What steps did you guys take next to optimize it?
Wilson: I’ll quickly just go over this one and then Jack probably has thoughts on this. It depends how far you think a funnel starts. For example, with affiliates. An affiliate would be like your prospecting, qualifying, and then basically how many people end up wanting to do a promotion. Then once the people do a promotion, you got the open rates for the influencer. You got the click rates. Then finally once they’re on your funnel, it’s basically the percentage of people that make it to the cart page, to the checkout page, to the purchase page. Then once you start at least tracking those type of metrics, you can find out where the bottlenecks are and where the highest impact opportunities are.
Then typically for us, if you optimize for the top of the funnel first, so basically making sure more people get to your website, then that allows you to start optimizing to increase checkout conversions. But if you don’t have the traffic initially, then that’s going to be your bottleneck. Once you get enough traffic, so getting enough influencers, then you can start doing proper funnel optimization. But other than that, that’s what Jack was responsible for, onboarding influencers.
Felix: Got it. You’re basically saying that the Click Funnels landing page is not going to be the start of funnel. You can optimize even earlier than that, going all the way back to the affiliates or influencers and their open rates and their click through rates.
Wilson: Yeah, for sure. For example, I could have an amazing Click Funnels and I got 20 visitors and maybe I get three purchases. You’d be like, “That’s amazing conversion rates.” But you scale that to 100 people or a thousand people, you just can’t do any funnel optimization until you get enough traffic.
Felix: Got it. Makes sense.
Jack: I’ll add to that. Early on, our landing pages were absolutely hideous. I remember the first big affiliate promotion that we did, I think, was with Paleo Hacks, which is a pretty popular blog. That landing page was just terrible. Didn’t do a good job describing the benefits, value prop, all that. Pictures were just embarrassing. That still performed well. We still got conversions on that, so to Willy’s point, I do think a big part of it is really identifying those traffic sources and the channels that are going to work. Then getting your funnel to the point where it’s good enough and that it can convert new customers. Then over time, continue to optimize that and play around with all the different pages, upsells, flexibility on the different pricing options. But to Willy’s point, I think the big starting point is identifying the big channels that are going to get you a lot of traffic, targeted traffic in particular.
Felix: Got it. You guys were … Once it’s proven that with paid search, moved on to focusing on affiliates and influencers. How do you determine what kind of influencer, what kind of affiliate will drive the quality traffic that you’re looking for?
Jack: Yeah. I can take this one. Early on when we started, it was really a little bit of trial and error. I came from a marketing background that had nothing to do with affiliates. I was coming at it with a clean slate. One thing I noticed early on was that a lot of affiliate programs for eCommerce and food companies, they weren’t very hands on. It was pretty much like they had a page set up on their site, an affiliate could find it buried in the footer, apply, and then they were maybe sent an email that said, “Hey. Do these five things and figure it out.”
What we wanted to do was take a very white glove approach to it and really deliver value to our affiliates beyond just making them money, right? Even though that’s a big driver. A key thing for us, going back to your question, was that we wanted to identify affiliates that we knew would really be able to stand behind our product and would actually use it. This is something that still stands to this day. If an affiliate or an influencer doesn’t actively use and like our product, we’re probably just going to tell them, “Just don’t even worry about promoting it because you’re not going to be able to really stand behind it and explain the benefits.”
With bone broth, just because it’s such a versatile health food, where we see a lot of value in terms of the quality of affiliates is finding large influencers in the health and fitness space, specifically if they have very large email lists, just because that is our main driver in terms of revenue through affiliate. We do like the occasional social sponsorships, but I would consider that more of a brand awareness initiative because it is hard to track performance based on just someone maybe sharing a Facebook post or an Instagram story or whatever though we’re always actively testing it.
Really, what we’re looking at to qualify an affiliate is, what does their monthly traffic look like? What’s their list size look like? What’s the quality of their list? Again, more importantly, qualitatively, are they a good fit for our program? Is this someone that’s going to be a super fan of our product and be willing to promote it?
Felix: Do you work with them to build out the email marketing, the automation, or is that just left up to them?
Jack: I think this is a key point. We learned early on that trying to go broad in terms of prospecting and finding affiliates was not the right way to go about it because we ended up wasting a lot of time working with people with smaller audiences, which it’s totally fine if you have a smaller audience because the idea is that you’re going to grow into a bigger one. But in terms of affiliates, because it’s so performance heavy, it’s key to really zero in on the people with larger list sizes and larger media properties that you know they’re getting thousands of visits a month. Typically, with those people they are very [inaudible] from a marketing standpoint so they’re already doing a lot of stuff with their email list. A big part of how they make money every month is typically through affiliate commissions through a bunch of other products.
While we don’t help them set that up, we do try to make it as easy as possible for them to promote. So doing everything from building out email copy swipe that’s relevant to their audience. Like Wilson said, building out custom landing pages that we know will convert well for the audience. Basically anything that we can do to make it easier for them to press send to their email list just because these guys, especially as you look at more popular influencers, they’re very busy. They have 10000 things going on. They don’t have a lot of time to put together a campaign all by themselves. More, I guess, assets that we can provide them, the easier it’s going to be.
Felix: Did you find that a lot of them use your swipe files and the copy that you guys suggested?
Jack: Oh, yes. Yeah. It’s important to frame it to them like, “Hey. Don’t just copy and paste this because it might be not be good for your audience, but use this as inspiration and then tailor it to your audience.” That seems to work the best.
Felix: Got it. So you’re not trying to teach these people how to market. You’re looking for who already know how market because they have large lists. They’re already spending their time working as an affiliate for other programs. You’re looking for people that are already experienced. What is your ideal email, I guess, campaign? Is it usually most with emails? How is it usually set? If you had an idea of an affiliate, how would they be promoting your products through email?
Jack: Yeah. Ideally it would be a multi pronged approach. Typically our campaigns last about a week for an affiliate. What we’d like to see is for them to send at least two or three emails throughout that week. Usually the first email is like a dedicated email that indoctrinates their audience to our products and usually ties in a personal story that the affiliate has in terms of their experience with the product. Then the last email is usually like a last call. We’ll usually have timed offers that maybe expire after the campaign ends. That last email’s a way to, again, reapply with all the information about the offer, why you should use it, and make sure to give them a little nudge to make that purchase.
Ideally, the more touchpoints that we can get our affiliates to make, whether it’s email or even promoting through their social channels, the more revenue they stand to make and same for us. I think with bone broth in particular, just because it’s not your commoditized CPG product, like we’re not selling toothbrushes. We’re selling a product that a lot of people aren’t aware of. The more touchpoints and content that an affiliate can provide during their campaign, I think the more successful it’s going to be in selling our products to their audience.
Felix: When you look at their metrics, look at their numbers, what’s the threshold for the email list size, open rates, or CTR that you’re looking for?
Jack: Yeah. Broadly speaking, anyone with a list over 50000, we’re definitely going to want to get involved with in some type of way. That’s not saying anyone under 50000 we’re just going to completely ignore. In the beginning it’s building out a brand ambassador program to where, in return for them promoting us to more of their smaller audience, we’ll give them samples every month or something like that. But going back to your question, 50,000 plus email list. And the list quality, that’s always a fun one to work through because you don’t really know how a campaign’s gonna perform until they send the email out. You can infer things just based on what they tell you, but really, I guess part of the challenge is staying on top [inaudible] and getting their email metrics from them.
So honestly, the answer to the email metrics part is it just depends. It’s dependent on the list size and just the quality of their list because I’ve seen campaigns where we might run a campaign with an affiliate where they have a half million list, but the list quality is pretty crappy. And so, the click through rate might be good, but no one purchases.
It’s really just easy to do an eye test and see the results on the backend, and it’ll be pretty easy tell who’s someone that can perform for us over and over again.
Felix: Is it reasonable to ask [inaudible] of the smaller campaign and say “Let’s just send it to 10% of your list” for some smaller budget if you’re just testing this out?
Jack: Oh, I totally think so. Yeah, we do that a lot, especially with paid sponsorships as well, to where if we’re not totally sure that an affiliate’s a really good match for us, we’ll ask if they can do like a segment test to maybe like half or a quarter of their list and then that will give us a good insight into what performance would look like.
Felix: Got it, So for anyone that wants to follow in the footsteps and started working with influencers through email, can you always work on a commission with them or will influencers want some kind of base that goes along with it?
Jack: Again, it just depends. We’ve done a variety of different deals. We’ve done straight commission. We’ve done like a hybrid mix of upfront payment plus commission. And then we’ve done upfront payment.
For us, and I think for the affiliates long term, the best scenario is commissions. If you’re a company that has a really good product and a really good funnel, then you can get really good performance from the affiliate side. And thinking long term, like affiliates if they have a list of quality and a very engaged audience, they’ll stand to make more money on the commission side than any flat rate. I think one thing that we have found, and this isn’t something that’s true across every influencer, but a lot of influencers from my experience that are at least willing to do some type of hybrid deal, that signals to me that their audience might not be super-engaged if they’re just asking for an upfront payment. So I think that’s something to watch out for if you’re trying to get into this channel.
Felix: Got it. So the ones that perform the best are probably incentivized to say just give me a cut of whatever I push through and sell.
Jack: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Wilson: Just one quick thing to add. One thing to be mindful of is like the major influencers, if you think about how many sales emails they can send in a year, they have limited inventory. So if you’re brand new company with no historical data, or like no previous partnerships, you might have to lean more towards maybe starting out with maybe sponsoring someone that’s well known, just to get some sort of case study that you can show to future affiliates that you want bring on. Being like “Hey, this well known person just did a promotion with us. This is kinda like the numbers. Here’s our funnel metrics.”
So then once you gain the credibility that once they send you traffic that you’ll actually convert, then that’s opens up affiliate commissions [crosstalk] makes it easier.
Felix: So just to be super clear, you’re saying that for someone that starting out, it might make more sense to just pay not through a commission or … You’re paying them upfront to promote your product through a campaign. Then you have data to work with, then you have a case study to present to other influencers.
Wilson: Yeah, something to consider, which is why I like the paid search was a big part of it, too. Being like “Hey, here’s how much traffic …” you can just do a screenshot Google Analytics. “Here’s our conversion rates for paid search” just to show that you can funnel converts. The worst thing you can do is do a pure affiliate commission to a major and then they send you traffic and your funnel is just like you just have to figure that out yet. And then they’ll never work with you again.
Felix: I see what you’re saying because now that if you are using paid search or … Basically, you need to have some kind of data to optimize your funnel, then also to present that data to an influencer that you think you might want to work with.
Wilson: Unless until you’re like relatively well known. Just have some sort of like data that shows your funnel works.
Felix: Makes sense. How often do you guys revisit running a campaign with the same influencer?
Jack: Typically, we try to set up a campaign at least once a quarter. Some influencers or affiliates are super busy. So that’s what we [inaudible] for. But others that are very tied to like our product and really stand behind it, we will see them promote us once a month, if not even more frequently.
So again, it really depends, but I think generally speaking, if we can get them to promote once a quarter, that allows us to refresh the creatives, whatever the offer is, because a big thing that you gotta watch out for is not burning out their audience by just sending the same offer over and over and over again, which is a challenge that we faced early on when we only had two SKUs to work with. So we had to do a lot of creative thinking in terms of how to engage their audiences in new ways.
But yeah, I think that’s a big thing is like anytime you’re approaching affiliate to do like another promotion, make sure it’s something fresh and a little bit different and if you can customize it to whatever their audience is because I think they’ll be definitely more open to working with you when they can get that feedback.
Felix: In your experience, is it better to find multiple influencers that likely have the same audience or do you want to go broad and try to find influencers that have completely different audiences?
Jack: So for us, and Willie, please feel free to chime in here. I think what we’ve done is we’ve tried to double down on sub-niches. So like when we first started, our goal was to really just blanket anyone that is related to Paleo, just because all of our products are Paleo-friendly. And so, I think that paid off for us just because we were able to focus in not only on the types of people we’re going after, but also what our funnels would look like and what copy would go into that we would hit on.
And I think when you drill down into like a sub niche like that, just because these communities are pretty close knit, they’ll be talking to their friends, especially if performance looks really good. And you’ll start seeing kind of a snowball effect to where you’ll get like your first couple of big influencers or affiliates to promote. And if it does really well, they’ll typically refer you to their friends that are also in the Paleo space. So that’s how we did the most part. But Wilson, feel free to add anything else.
Wilson: No, pretty much said everything. Like it becomes focus, right? Like if you tried to Paleo in a different category, let’s say like cross fitters. One, you don’t have the funnels or you don’t have the creatives all figured out. Like you just spread your resources, whereas you can just focus on like one category. In our case, it was like Paleo at the start. Like we haven’t even saturated the entire Paleo influencer space just yet, but just by focusing on Paleo and just because we’re so focused, you know who the good influences are, you know all the big names and you can work your way up to like bigger and bigger influencers and your creative just keeps getting better and better. Your funnel keeps getting better and better.
So then like there’s network effects. So even now, like it ties into the other channels whether it’s our email marketing or our Facebook ads. It’s all focused on Paleo. But then by the time we want to enter a new segment, let’s say keto or if we ever wanted to whole 30 or cross fitters, then it’s like a concerted effort, where it’s like the resources you branch out to different segment is actually relatively high.
Felix: I see your style. I like that you focus so that you can reuse essentially a lot of assets, rather than having to go through the cycle of credit everything brand new each time you pick a new category. And so, speaking of customization, how personalized are the landing pages that you’re driving the influencers traffic to?
Jack: Yeah. So typically, we’ll try to co-brand them and through that what we’ll do is we’ll try to get a testimonial from the affiliate. Sometimes we’ll you can get like a video testimonial to add to the page. Anything that can signal to their audience that like hey, this person actually loves Kettle and Fire, really stands behind the product.
And then beyond that, we’ll try our best to get an understanding of what generally speaking who their audiences is and if we have like a specific funnel for that niche, then we’ll typically try to do that. You have to find a happy medium, right? Because if you do all this customization for every single affiliate, it just doesn’t scale well. So that’s how kind of our approach is, generally speaking. But if there’s an opportunity to work with like a big player in a certain space and they want something custom made, then we’re definitely going to do it, right? Because it just makes sense for us. But that’s how we kind of approach it.
Felix: Do you have a good team that you work with, too? Do you have a team internally that helps build out these these custom pages?
Jack: Wilson, do you want to take this one?
Wilson: Yeah. They’re mostly so like 40 personalized pages. It’s just like in a way it’s kind of like templates. So like the core template is the same, it’s just like elements like, okay if there’s a video, we put it here. Here’s where the custom testimonial would go. Here’s where we put a picture of them. That’s the scope of the personalization, but then as far as the execution, yeah, we have a team of like virtual assistants. So a lot of them are in the Philippines. We have a designer from Up Work and then it’s just this whole workflow where we just like get the assets, we send it over to them, they create all the pages that they need. So then all we need to do is just provide the assets and who the influencer is and what the URL should be. And then they just like [inaudible] these pages en mass.
Felix: I love that. That there’s a system that just runs when you feed it these assets. So how many influencers or affiliates do you guys try to work with any given time? It seems like something that there’s a certain point where it’s just unmanageable. So is there like a limit that you guys like to keep it under?
Jack: Yeah. I feel like we are definitely hitting that soon right now. So our team really is just myself, who oversees the affiliate and obviously Willy is helping out with that. And then we have a partnerships manager that’s managing all of our ongoing relationships and doing our out-reach. But I think in terms of like our total affiliate list, I think we’re probably close to breaking 1,000 now and then and from that, and I think this is pretty common across affiliate programs, like the top 10% make up like 90% of the revenue. So a lot of our time is focused on engaging those relationships, but if you have your campaign stuff all dialed in, and you have all the assets pipeline created like we do, in terms of running the number of campaigns, it’s not that tough to do on like an automated basis.
But in terms of finding more affiliates and exploring more niches, there’s definitely assuming to that just because it does require just more manpower and more people to be in a position to build relationships with these affiliates.
Felix: Got it. So we only cover really PPC and influencer marketing and affiliate marketing so far. And then I think, well, you mentioned that you guys moved over to SEO and content marketing after that. So what made you guys decide to shift focus or at least expand the marketing into that direction whereas around more of a content-SEO play?
Wilson: The content SEO was mainly Jack, but just my short answer is just we realized the keyword volume, a lot of the keywords that our audience would be interested in and then the competition is really low. So then, that serve the business case to re-invest quite a bit of the profits into building out the content marketing, SEO strategy, even though it’s not like specifically performance based.
Felix: So what’s the … I’m assuming you guys have a system around this too, to create a lot of content. What does that look like? Can you describe that to me?
Jack: We have this pretty dialled in as well. So we’re actually now working with an agency to help with content production. So I work directly with them to really build out our strategy in terms of what topics we’re going to take on and what SEO opportunities exist. And then they pretty much totally own the content creation and editorial process. So they have their own network of freelance writers that have a lot of background in like nutrition and health. And so, they will write long form content and then they’ll edit and then we’ll publish it up on our blog. So that’s kind of our workflow now. We actually did have a really awesome head of content marketing. She moved out of country. And so, we did have it all in-house, which I think is something that we could potentially move back towards in the future just because you have more control over [inaudible].
But right now, with our current setup, it works. I think just the critical pieces if you if you are outsourcing your content, you have to find a really, really quality agency because it’s very easy for you to go down that path of working with an agency that talks a big talk. And then you get a lot of crappy content. And especially in the health space, just because we want to make sure our information is of value and factually correct, which is very important. And so, yeah. My recommendation there is if you’re going agency route, basically with anything really, it’s to make sure that you can vet out these agencies to know that they do quality work, and they’re going to be a great long term partner.
Felix: Are you able to say who the agency is that you guys work with?
Jack: Oh, totally. I will give them a shout out. The agency is called Growth Machine. And Nat Eliason runs it. He’s a super sharp guy. And the website is yourgrowthmachine.com. You are welcome Nat.
Felix: So, what is the input that you give them? If you work with an agency, a high quality agency, what is your involvement that they need from you to be able to do their part?
Jack: So this is just generally speaking, involving management agencies, I think Wilson has a lot of good stuff to say on that.
Wilson: Just in general with managing agencies, depends on the type of agencies. Like how you manage to get development agency versus like a paid agency is different. But just in general, is just like setting the guardrails of what the reporting will look like. So just having a good trend of since before and after the agency started. And then kind of some sort of success metric, and then you’re just working with them closely in terms of just setting the high level goals and kind of the overall direction.
What you’ll typically see with agencies is there’ll be really good tactically, but they’ll miss kinda like how to integrate it with the overall company. So for example, if you go for like a paid acquisition agency, they might not see the potential network effects with other channels. So it’s your job to kind of connect it and then connect them with the relevant stakeholders within your company so they can work together to make it more impactful.
But just in general, picking the right agencies, you gotta go referrals. Just go referral base to find the right agencies, talk to people that hire agencies and are a successful brand to find the right agencies. But I don’t know. That’s pretty much it.
Felix: Now when you have your outsourcing content creation, whether it’s a big agency or just like a freelancer or something, are you guys the one that’s responsible for determine the keywords or determine what kind of content you want written and then they do the actual writing portion? Like who’s responsible for the, I guess, the topic?
Jack: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think early on just because agencies work with a bunch of different companies and different industries, you really have to get on the same page with them on what you’re trying to do and what your overarching strategy is. So that typically requires a deep dive phone call or in person conversation to really talk through like “Okay, what’s happened to this point? Where we at? Where do we want to go in? How do we want this content to be expressed in terms of like tone and style?” And then from there, early on there might be a couple kinks just because you know you’re working with agency for the first time. But over time if they’re worth their salt, you’ll learn that they’re pretty intelligent and can really pick up on what you’re going for.
And at this point, like in our work with Growth Machine for content, like they pretty much handle everything from identifying keyword opportunities-
Jack: From identifying keyword opportunities, analyzing our growth, where we might be slipping a bit and so they’re pretty hands on in terms of just handling that whole content fly wheel to where, in my role, I’m just overseeing it, and I’ll have the final look on editorial just to make sure everything looks okay. And we’ll have reoccurring meetings just to talk strategy, but I think that’s where the power of an agency can come in if they’re really, really solid, then they should be able to pick up what you’re doing pretty quickly and really run with it and deliver results.
Felix: Where’s the content that you guys are producing? Where’s that going?
Jack: So, in our work with our agency, all that content is on the blog. So they’re primary focused on creating the long-form SEO, targeted content in the general health and fitness space. But beyond that, we also use a creative team that Willy can talk more about to tackle all of our main site assets and ad copy.
Wilson: As far as where this content is, is blog.kettleandfire.com. So just a quick note on just content marketing SEO, the way we view it is every content we create for the blog, it has to be backed because of some SEO opportunity. Otherwise, it’s really tough to make content marketing work because when you think about the cost per article, the whole point of SEO is once you get it ranking, the cost per click just starts to trend towards zero because you just pay for that one up front cost. And then, once you start ranking, one, it’s hard to dethrone. It’s hard for anyone else to kind of dethrone you if you’re doing it properly, but then that’s the true value of content marketing, but you need the SEO backing it.
So I see a lot of bloggers or a lot of beginners, they just hear about content marketing because it’s the hot craze right now, but then, they’re not going about it with a SEO purpose, so then it’s just not sustainable, whereas if you go para content marketing specifically to attack the SEO opportunities, that’s how you make the economics work out, because now it can tie in with your other channels.
Felix: Got it, so the mistake you see other brands, especially the smaller ones, make is that they just write about whatever they want on their blog. You’re saying that if you want to actually make content marketing a viable channel in the long term, it has to be backed by data that you find through SEO research.
Wilson: Exactly, and then just beyond the value of content marketing SEO, once you have … kind of like you’re building your own audience, it ties into all the other channels you own. So, for example, influencer and affiliate, if there’s an influencer that we want to reach out to … so, instead of just being like, “hey, how about you promote us?” It’s more like sometimes we’ll include them in an expert round up. We can be like, “hey, how about we promote you to our blog that gets 600,000 monthly visits? How about we promote you to our email list?” So now you’re providing value up front and then it’s also ties in with paid acquisition whether it’s Facebook retargeting ties in with email marketing really well. Lead Gen ties in with just the creation of funnels because all the content is there. Anytime we want to branch out to new content, I can just go within a blog and just copy/paste a lot of the content that’s already written.
There’s a lot more than just content marketing SEO. There’s loops that ties in with the remaining strategy as all the other channels.
Felix: Got it, so the content marketing can be the step that leads the conversion but then you could also reuse it as to bolster your other marketing channels.
Felix: Got it. Now, you mentioned that you can do things like retargeting. I’m assuming you mean someone lands on the blog and then you catch them later somewhere else. Do you guys do any paid promotion of the content to push it initially?
Wilson: Not really because the name of the game with SEO … so then, there’s you get a little bit of traffic, but if we were to do paid promotion it’s because there’s some sort of performance aspect whether it’s because we want leads or because we want sales. But then, if that’s the purpose, we have better opportunities to achieve that same objective.
Felix: Is that almost always true in any situation or do you think it still depends on the company? It depends on the industry?
Wilson: Again, it’s always contextual. It depends. I’m just trying to think when it’d be valuable to do a boost or promote a specific piece of content. Probably if you’re more of a enterprise, high-cost software, where now, marketing is more just to establish leads and thought leadership, then maybe that’s the whole purpose. So, it depends on the context.
Felix: Makes sense. So, once you guys start focusing on the SEO and content marketing … so you mentioned that the retargeting and I guess when can jump into now, the last stage that you mentioned that is around Facebook ads, what’s your strategy there? What’s the strategy with Facebook advertising?
Wilson: First of all, for most people, I wouldn’t … Everyone talks about Facebook ads, it’s getting tough to work, which is why for us, it’s really our third or fourth channel, whereas I see a lot of brands, they start it with its first channel. So the first thing with Facebook ads, the strategy, I’ll frame it in terms of how to get to where we were now because if I talk about the strategy we’re at now, it’s not relatable I think to all your listeners.
So I think the first step, that it’s kind of common sense, but I don’t see people do, is understand what your contribution to margin is, understand what your COGS. Ultimately, you really want to understand what your break even, return on ad-spend target is. So once you know that, that’s your target. So then you can at least have a rough idea if Facebook ads is even a viable strategy for you. Because for example, if you’re average order value or your margins are just out of whack, then you gotta figure some way to bundle your product to make the economics of Facebook ads work.
But just in general, just high level, that’s why Facebook ads is generally better once you have existing traffic sources, because you can start off with retargeting. Again, your retargeting audience of people that already land on your website, that’s gonna be your highest probability of success. But what you leverage that with is you use that high probability of success to figure out your creatives. Figure out your funnel. So typically you’re creative testing them at least have four proven ads. So there’s a process to figure out the proven ads. Everything from just doing variant testing on your visuals, to find out what visuals work best, then your copy, then eventually your headline. Eventually, once you have about three or four proven ads, the whole point is you’re trying to bring the cost per click as low as possible because if you try to do funnel optimization and your ads aren’t performing well, you’re just paying for a lot of that traffic that’s required to do to fund optimization.
So in terms of the order of operation, just start with the targeting first, which is your retargeting. Then after retargeting, you focus on the creatives to bring down your cost per click. Once your cost per click’s low enough, you can start optimizing for the funnel, whether it’s increasing our average order value, conversion rates, revenue per visitor. Then once you kind of get that where it’s actually profitable, then depending on where the other profits from your company is coming from, you can reinvest the profits to start doing an RND to figure out the cold audiences. Because to get your cold audiences profitable on day zero, it’s gonna be extremely difficult and it’s gonna take time and then the money to run the ads to figure out how to get your look-alike audiences working, how to get your interests working, your cold audiences. But hopefully, by then you at least have some sort of creatives that you know work well for your retargeting audiences, then you have a funnel that kind of works. But if you just start with Facebook ads, unless you have a big pool of funds to start with, it’s really gonna be tough to get it to work.
Felix: Right, yeah, I think a lot of people will start with Facebook ads to get that cold traffics in. There’s so many things that could be causing you to have really terrible return on your ad-spend that you don’t know which one to configure, but the process you’re given kind of allows you to isolate each point, one at a time.
Wilson: Yeah, exactly. We start from prospecting, you better know what you’re doing on Facebook ads and you better have a decent pool of money where you’re fine with being ROI negative until you can figure it out; otherwise you’re just gonna run empty too quick.
Felix: Got it. So let’s say that [inaudible] that once they get started in Facebook ads and they already have traffic coming in so they can start retargeting, what is your setup doing? How do you determine what the kind of message should be when it comes to retargeting?
Wilson: It depends, so first, for retargeting just set up the targeting first. So just do your … There’s two ways to kind of improve your targeting, for retargeting, one is by page depth, so people that land on your landing page versus cart page, versus check out page. Obviously, the people who don’t buy but they abandon on check out, if you re-target those people, they have the highest probability of success. So you can kind of cater to creative too, it’d be more like doing the DPA ads or just more of just cart check out reminders.
So that’s one way, and then the other is based on recency, so now you segment it by zero to seven days, eight to 30 days, 31 to 60, etc. Your zero to seven days are gonna be your highest probability of success conversions, your best customers. Then you can start combining based on recency and page depth to really identify basically your best leads in a way. And then from that, it’s just going through the creative testing process. So in terms of how to find the creatives that work best for your audiences, again, go for the highest impact area right away. The highest impact area is just visuals.
So test your visuals. So the way we do it, again, just takes money. But, for example, if there’s one ad-set we do ten ads. Of those tens, each one will have the same copy, each one will have the same headlines, the only difference is the visuals. Then we’re just trying to find out which visuals get the best relevancy scores, the best click through rates, the best conversions. Then once you find two or three nice visuals, you just repeat that same process but now you control for … You just keep the same visual and you just bury the copywriting.
And then once you have the visual and copywriting, that will be pretty much the 80/20 in terms of your creative. And then just through that process you’ll find out what you’re positioning, what type of visuals work best. Maybe a lifestyle product versus a picture of your product, through that process you’ll figure out what works best for your audience.
Felix: Got it, so if you’re talking about the most profitable, the most valuable audience to retarget is someone that just recently left or abandoned the cart, what is the messaging if that’s the case? I guess that’s the lowest hanging fruit that someone that’s getting started with Facebook ads and retargeting specifically can go after?
Wilson: I can say at [Tactics], for us, we do a lot of testimonial ads, like the video ads of our influencers talking about a product, so just a lot of social proof. But again, sometimes just other ads that might work best. Maybe just like, hey, you left some products in your checkout or just like your normal ads, just test it and you’ll find out what messaging works. There’s no [Keet’s] tactic that would work, or there’s no [Heed] messaging where social proof will work all the time for people that have abandoned on checkout. Now, test it, put it through that process and you’ll figure out the messaging that works best.
Felix: Awesome, so kettleandfire.com is a website, what goals do you guys each have for the business? What do you guys want to focus on in terms of the marketing and the growth that you guys are going after?
Wilson: I’ll quickly take the one, at least for my personal ones, overall direct to consumer like Kettle and Fire, it starts off of a big revenue, like an overall revenue target, and then it breaks down between new and repeat revenues. So my main focus right now is on a repeat revenues and then if you break down repeat revenues, our specific goals in terms of the non-subscription repeat revenues, and then subscription revenues. And then if you break down those a bit further down, then there’s specific metrics. Everything from subscription to retention from the first two billing cycles. And then also average revenue.
There’s a lot, but ultimately, it boils down to the overall revenue and then, mine is just the repeat revenues.
Jack: Yep, and I’ll just add, I think it’s beyond looking at our revenue goals and all of our quantitative KPIs that’s we’re going after. I think what’s more important for us, even now, going into 2019 is really building out the category and making bone broth more of a mainstream food just because while bone broth has been trendy and popular already, I think the average consumer still isn’t too familiar with it. So I think going into next year, not only are we gonna push the pedal on all the performance marketing channels that we’re already working on, but I think we’re also gonna be expanding more into investing and brand awareness related channels.
That will hopefully help build the brand and we’re fine with not maybe seeing an immediate ROI on that. So I think that’s something in our rear view mirror as well as we continue to expand and scale.
Felix: Very cool. So speaking of expanding and scaling, you guys mentioned that there’s a great opportunity to work with you guys, which is awesome because now you guys obviously know what you’re doing and lots of experimentation, so lots of learning. Can you talk a little bit more about those opportunities?
Jack: Sure. First, just go to kettleandfire.com/pages/careers, you’ll see the job openings there. I think the main thing is even if you don’t see a job opening, there’s a section if you scroll down for if you think you’re gonna be a good fit. Click on that link, tell us more about yourself, and if the application looks good, we’ll chat. So the main positions that we have in the horizon, it’s going be other junior intermediate growth marketer, that’s one. We’re look for a social media marketer. Potentially paid search, paid PPCs so AdWords being Pinterest ads even and also Amazon PPC. And then brand marketer and then [inaudible] operations as well and retail sales, but just in general, I think just check out the careers page. And my only advice is try to be a bit more creative. We’re not big fans of just looking at resumes and cover letter. Just try to be a bit more creative and find out how you can offer value up front, and then that’s how you can get our attention.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time, guys.
Jack: Thank you.
Felix: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Shopify Masters, the e-commerce podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs powered by Shopify. To get your exclusive 30 day extended trial, visit Shopify.com/masters.
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