Words of Unconventional Wisdom From Shopify Masters in 2018

best of shopify masters in 2018

Shopify Masters is a weekly podcast where the entrepreneurs and marketers behind successful Shopify stores share their experience with our community of merchants.

In each episode, guests discuss their top-performing marketing strategies, favorite Shopify apps, product tips, and the exact steps they took to grow their business. Many of these guests have grown 6- or 7-figure businesses and bring their own nuanced perspectives to the podcast.

As such, the show is a frequent source of unconventional wisdom: firsthand insight that sometimes flies in the face of generalized best practices.

So in case you missed any of it, we’ve curated our favorite nuggets of knowledge from Shopify Masters in 2018 that we think are worth another listen.

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1. “Popular" tactics can distract you from your own context

Episode: The Most Important Factor When Choosing Your Marketing Channels

It’s easy to get distracted by what works for other brands: trending channels and the “next big thing” in an ever-changing world of business. But all ideas need to be rigorously filtered and prioritized based on your current context.

In an episode featuring Kettle & Fire, two Growth Marketers shared their thoughts on prioritization in marketing on the podcast.

“It’s the common mistake everyone makes. They read how we do it or hear it from podcasts or from reading content. That’s why you see people start doing Facebook Messenger bots even though they don’t have the same context. It really depends on your business.

“For example, for paid search, what’s the opportunity in search volume? What’s your average order value? What are the margins on your product? Depending on that, maybe paid search isn’t the best option and maybe you need to go for a channel with lower customer acquisition costs. For us, it worked. But I wouldn’t just blindly approach it the same way we did. You’ve got to apply the same systematic process to each channel to prioritize what to work on, and then test it from there.”

—Wilson Hung and Jack Meredith, Growth at Kettle & Fire

Listen to the full episode below!

2. Traditional media is more accessible than you think

Episode: Why This Startup Spent $50k Building an Email List (Spoiler: They Had a 5x Return)

The price of admission and the absence of precise tracking in offline marketing might deter you from experimenting with these channels. But according to Gaurav Agarwal from Molekule, there are plenty of lower-cost methods of testing out these tactics once you’re comfortable with your digital marketing efforts.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily more expensive than online ads because the CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) on some of these offline channels can be lower, but it is definitely a higher commitment. And the way to do that, perhaps, is to buy remnant ads. Any sort of traditional media—TV, radio, print—they also offer remnant media purchases. Remnant meaning that it’s not primetime or it’s not something that’s been already paid for.

“We ran a lot of remnant media ads through print to first see if it’s going to work for us or not, and it worked. And, because it worked, we were able to then scale it because remnant media’s available at a steeply discounted price. Now, you don’t get to control which page of the newspaper your ad is going to come in, but you are still able to get a directional readout if this channel is going to do anything for you or not.”

“For example, direct mailers, shared mailers, those can be done in low-budget ways because your experiment’s gonna be small. The only problem is you may not get enough data to get an accurate readout, which I think is a challenge. So the way you look at that is: was the channel performing really, really well? If it did really, really well, then you would see that in the data.”

—Gaurav Agarwal, VP of Growth at Molekule

Listen to the full episode below!

3. Upselling in the wrong context can cost you the sale

Episode: When and Where Upselling Can Hurt Your Sales

Upselling is generally an effective way to increase your average order value—except when it doesn’t. LIV Watches came on the show to explain why they don’t upsell straps for their watches at checkout, even though, on paper, it seems like a no-brainer.

“I don’t want to say that upsells cheapen our product, but what I do think that it does is that it sets in a little bit of confusion. There’s a little bit of, ‘Oh, I have to make a choice now.’ I feel like if somebody needs a particular product—like protein powder or another supplement that, if they ran out of it, they would need to buy it—then I think upsells make sense.

“Nobody needs a watch. Well, a lot of our fans need our watches today, but for the most part, you don’t need the watch to survive. I think upsells, in our category at least, create this distraction and it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m not sure if I need that upsell. You know what? Let me save this page and I’ll come back.’ I don’t want that to be the barrier. I want to keep it as simple, as clean as possible. We sell a watch and we offer different straps. After you buy, we’ll do the upsells, but right now, check out and buy the watch.”

—Sholom Chazanow, Founder of LIV Watches

Listen to the full episode below!

4. What customers say they want isn’t always what they want

Episode: The Unintended Value Proposition that Sold OVer 35 Million PopSockets 

You’d think that no one would know your customers better than themselves, but there can be a disconnect between what they say they want and what they actually think and feel. Eric Rosner used his class as a focus group to get product feedback on the wildly popular PopSocket, and experienced that disconnect firsthand.

“I gave PopSockets to all of my students. I had some friends give them to their class. After a few weeks, maybe I’d ask them, ‘Raise your hand if you’re still using it.’ Or, ‘Raise your hand if you’ve talked to anybody about it, or sent anybody to the website.’ Questions like that. But as far as questions about how they were using it every day, I found it more informative to watch them when they’re walking into the room. What are they doing with it when they’re walking out? Are they fidgeting with it during class?

“Sure, sometimes I’d ask them, “What’s your favorite feature?” But it’s more important to watch the people use your product if you can. If you don’t have that opportunity, just be clever in how you’re asking your questions. You know, ‘How much time do you spend fidgeting with it?’ ‘How much time do you spend doing this?’ Instead of, ‘What do you like the most?’ That might not yield an accurate answer. It might not be in line with what they’re actually doing with your product.”

—Eric Rosner, Founder of PopSockets

Listen to the full episode below!

5. Higher quality videos don't necessarily yield better results on social media

Episode: Why Low-Budget Videos Beat TV Quality Ads on Facebook

High-quality videos reflect positively on your brand, but it turns out they’re not always your best bet. When you’re marketing on Facebook, and looking for early results, content that appears more “organic” to the platform can actually be cheaper to promote and even outperform a video that is good enough for TV.

There’s a reason for that, says Chad Kauffman.

“If you think 20 years back, if you were going to watch a video most people would think of ‘video’ as anything that they see on TV. So there’s this TV quality expectation, right? Then all of a sudden we get into YouTube and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, and people start producing their own videos and putting them up. The level of quality acceptance went way, way down.

“It went from consumers probably expecting TV grade quality because that’s all they had—if they watched a screen it was pretty much TV—to now you can catch videos everywhere and most of them are all self-produced.

“Interestingly enough, I believe it’s something like 85% of Facebook users scroll through their news feed with no audio capabilities on. If you have a Facebook ad that has a voiceover that somebody has to hear, you will lose out because most people don’t have their sound on. It’s very important on Facebook ads that, if you have a voiceover that has to be heard, you have captions on so that people can read it. I do this often. I sit on my couch and I could have my audio on but I don’t and I’ll read captions on ads that I watch.”

—Chad Kauffman, Co-founder of Kitty Poo Club

Listen to the full episode below!

6. The perfect product-market fit doesn't exist

Episode: The Key to Product-Market Fit? Start with the Market First

Product-market fit isn’t a final destination so much as it is an ongoing effort based on feedback from your target market. You can always improve your product and the story you tell around it to achieve a better fit, according to Paperwallet.

“You mold your product to fit a market by listening to the market. Take your product to the customer, try to sell it to them. Understand what’s important to them, what’s not important to them. And mold your product around that. If there are features in your product that the customer doesn’t care about, get rid of them. There’s no reason for you to invest in them.

“There’s no reason to have perfect product-market fit at launch. Most products don’t. If you’re not sure if your product’s ready, Kickstarter is the best place to put it up and see how the market responds. If you only get a few backers and your project ends up failing, that’s fine. Take those few backers, and now those people passionately care about your product. Ask them questions, see what they say. Create surveys for them. Pick up the phone, call them. Have a conversation. You’ll learn a lot about what’s wrong with your product. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with your product, but you’re just not marketing it right. By doing that, you slowly mold your product to get better product-market fit.”

—Elad Burko, CEO of Paperwallet

Listen to the full episode below!

7. You can use multiple crowdfunding platforms for the same product

Episode: Crowdfunding on Multiple Platforms: Why You Don't Have to Choose Just One

Should you crowdfund your product idea on Kickstarter or Indiegogo? What about both? On this episode of Shopify Masters, Jay Neyer and Ross Oltorik of BodyBoss share how they chained together a crowdfunding campaign across different platforms to keep their momentum going.

“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. But we actually used something after on Indiegogo called InDemand that’s made for ongoing sales. We didn’t have a campaign life like we did on Kickstarter, so that really made sense to carry forward after we finished our Kickstarter. We literally launched our Indiegogo campaign the very hour really that Kickstarter ended. We just kept that momentum going.”

—Jay Neyer and Ross Oltorik, Founders of BodyBoss

Listen to the full episode below!

8. It can pay to outsource your content

Episode: A Proven Process for Outsourcing Content as Part of Your SEO Strategy

Between the cost of hiring quality writers and putting your brand in someone else’s hands, it’s no wonder why many entrepreneurs opt out of content marketing or choose to write their own content. But according to Sebastian Bryers of Ora Organic, outsourcing your content creation can not only help you source the right credibility and expertise, it can provide the backbone of a profitable SEO strategy too.

“Generally it is a bit more expensive, for sure. But I mean, it’s still not, I don’t think it’s unreasonable considering how much traffic you can drive. And then you think about once you have driven that traffic to your site, you think about the number of touchpoints you create with that person once they read that content and the opportunities once they’re in the funnel to go and re-sell and up-sell and re-market and do all that, it just ends up being worth it. You only need two or three people to purchase and then the lifetime value of that customer far exceeds what you paid for the article.

“It can vary all the way up to 250 dollars. We’ve definitely paid for some more expensive ones, too, when it’s been particularly important to have an extremely qualified person. I think if you can hit between 50 and 100, you’re in a good place.

“[Writers will] get the list of questions and related questions and keywords that come from us, that we find in our research. And we’ll prioritize those for them, so it’ll be like, 'This is a top-tier keyword that you need to get into your article.' One of the things that we’ve been experimenting with as well is TL;DRs—”too long, didn’t read”—and having them either at the start or the end of the article and getting the writer to write really good summaries, as well.”

—Sebastian Bryers, Founder of Ora Organic

Listen to the full episode below!

9. Not all “influencers” are influential

Episode: Which YouTube Influencers Will Actually Make You Money (And Which Ones Won't) 

There’s no denying the potential of influencer marketing. But where many brands go wrong is that they focus on reach and audience size rather than what actually makes it work: influence.

Ben Wieder of Chassis shared his process for vetting influencers and why YouTube is his platform of choice for influencer marketing.

“We will not do a video with anybody until they try our product. We really want this to be authentic because if they don’t believe that we are the best product, specifically the best powder for guys, then we don’t want them doing it for us because otherwise, it’s not authentic. It’s just a terrible infomercial at that point.

"And so, anybody who works with us, even before they do, they’re going to get the samples and they’re going to tell us you know what they think. What they like, what they don’t like. Is this something that they would use? And, I’ll be honest, there are a few times where we didn’t like what we heard. Or, we didn’t believe them. It wasn’t believable and we said, “We’re gonna pass on this opportunity.”

"What I love about [YouTube] the most is that it’s always working for us. Yes, you’re going to see the most impact the day that a video launches because that’s the day that most of the views are gonna happen, but every day every one of these videos that we’ve developed is capturing more and more views.

“And, it just feels good to know that even though we may not have launched a video this week, or even this month potentially, there are still views happening every single day across the world. And, more and more people are finding out about Chassis.”

—Ben Wieder, Founder of Chassis

Listen to the full episode below!

10. Grow your fanbase, not your follower count

Episode: Pulling off a $10k Instagram Launch (Without Any Automation or Ad Spend)

“How do I get more followers?” is the first question many ask about social media marketing. While it’s important to post great content and grow your audience, you can’t neglect the potential relationships you can build within your existing following, according to Katherine Gaskin, founder of The Content Planner.

“I knew exactly how to target my customers so you don’t necessarily need 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 Instagram followers to prove that your product can sell. I think I had a few hundred at the time I got my first sale.

"I personally don’t believe in scheduling your Instagram posts because as much as I would like to automate Instagram, I really like posting and being there for my customers so that if they do leave a comment right within the time that I post, I make sure that I automatically respond back for two reasons. One, because that’s really good for the algorithm and because responding back to comments also shows that you’re there for your business and that you show up every day for your business.

“What a lot of brands do wrong is they just post and they leave their community hanging. They don’t interact back with them and they don’t respond back to their comments.”

—Katherine Gaskin, Founder of The Content Planner

Listen to the full episode below!

What would you like to hear on the podcast in 2019?

One of my favorite aspects of Shopify Masters is that for about 45 minutes per episode, you can absorb the experience of seasoned practitioners as they discuss the intricacies of running a business on Shopify.

If you’ve been a regular listener of the show, we’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you enjoy? What could we improve? Is there anyone in the Shopify community you’d love to see on the show? Any specific topics you’d like us to cover?

Let us know in the comments!