Prototyping is an inevitable part of the product development process that can have you going back and forth several times with manufacturers.
But by working with the best prototyping tools and leveraging 3D printing, you can significantly decrease the number of iterations it takes to bring your product idea to life by giving your manufacturer more to work with.
In this episode, you’ll hear from Chris Little, an entrepreneur who reduced his cost and time to market by 3D printing his prototypes before approaching manufacturers.
His company, Wintersmiths, designs and develops premium barware products for home and commercial use.
For a lot of folks, you can create a plastic prototype for under a couple hundred dollars.
Tune in to learn
- How much time and budget it takes to get a prototype 3D printed
- Why they chose to use Google Ads instead of Facebook Ads
- How an educational content page can be one of your highest converting pages
Listen to the podcast below (or download it for later):
- Store: Wintersmiths
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Quickparts, Now Back In Stock (Shopify app), Covet.pics (Shopify app), Mailchimp, LessAccounting, TryCelery (pre-order platform)
Felix: Today, we’re joined by Chris Little from Wintersmiths. Wintersmiths is designed to develop premium barware products for home and commercial use and started in 2012 and based out of Moretown, Vermont.
Chris: Thanks for having me, Felix, [inaudible 00:01:02] on your show.
Felix: Thank you so much. Yeah, tell us a little bit more about the products that you sell and the kind of customers that you have.
Chris: Absolutely, so, as you said, we create clear ice-making tools both for home bartenders and for the professional bartenders as well, and I think we, like a lot of entrepreneurs, started the business by trying to solve a problem that we were experiencing personally, and, in particular, it was how do you create clear ice for cocktails for the most part, and it really started with my previous job. I was working in the software space, product marketing, corporate development in Boston, and I was traveling a lot to Japan and Korea, and I remember one particular trip. I was actually in Tokyo and I went to a whisky bar which served this large crystal-clear ice ball with my whisky, and I think there’s something really remarkable about that at the time, and this was back in probably 2011, 2012.
It was really the beginning of this trend in craft cocktails and clear ice, and you really weren’t getting a lot of clear ice at bars and restaurants and you certainly weren’t getting ice balls, so I returned home and I looked into purchasing one of the devices that actually makes ice balls and, at the time, they were incredibly expensive. You would end up paying several hundred dollars, even over a thousand dollars for, essentially, an aluminum press that would meld down a block of ice into a ball, and you actually had to create the clear ice beforehand to even use that product, so that’s what sparked this idea, that we could maybe engineer a better product that would do this faster and more reliably and at a better price.
Felix: Got it, so you looked at the competition out there and you saw that there were some established players already. They were much more expensive though. What made you think that you could introduce a better product at a better price point?
Chris: Yeah. It’s funny, I didn’t actually set out to create a business. Like I said, I was in the software space, so I didn’t have a lot of experience in E-commerce and/or product development for that matter, and it took a lot of testing I would say, a lot of trips to Home Depot and building prototypes and taking up the freezer space that my girlfriend-now-wife was pretty pleased with, and until we got to the solution, it wasn’t clear to me that we could create a better option, and it seemed like something that a lot of folks had tried. If you look online, there’s a lot of discussions or other places we can see people talking about creating this homegrown DIY clear ice solution, so it took a lot of R&D I’d say to get to the point we’re at.
Felix: Got it, so walk us through some of these iterations, and what are some of the milestones along the way that made you realize that this could become a reality?
Chris: Sure, so, ultimately, what we figured out is that you make clear ice essentially by controlling the freezing process, so, if you can control the way that the water freezes top to bottom, layer by layer and provide a way for air bubbles and impurities to leave the water, you can create clear ice. Once we figured that out, it really became how do we make this into a consumer product that’s easy to use for the home, but also in bars and restaurants, and so our first product back in 2013 was the ice baller, which created a single ice ball at a time. It took about 24 hours to make. The iterations I guess were purchasing a lot of different insulated containers and doing a lot of 3D printing work.
The one thing I’d recommend to anybody listening is really to leverage how easy it is to create prototypes these days. With 3D printing, you can make stuff that is rubber-like. There’s a process called cast urethane, if you’re familiar with it, where you can actually create very similar to a silicone rubber-like product for a lot less than going into full scale manufacturing, so we did a lot of that, a lot of 3D printing to get something that functioned the way that we wanted it to and that consistently produced clear ice.
Felix: This 3D printing that you’re doing to create these prototypes, can you walk someone … Walk us through this. For someone who doesn’t have any experience at all with 3D printing, what are the initial steps to go down this path of creating prototypes with 3D printers?
Chris: Sure. Yeah. I mean, the hardest part is certainly the 3D model, so creating, using CAD software to create a 3D model that you can then upload to a 3D printing company. We used Quickparts a lot, which is a division of 3D Systems, and, once you have that 3D file, you can print in a variety of different finishes and materials, and if you’re really just trying to get something in your hands and see what it feels like and see how it works for relatively … relatively inexpensively, you can get that made in a plastic material that … To explain 3D printing, if you’re not familiar, it’s layer by layer additive manufacturing that’s creating a 3D model using just melted plastic in layers. That’s just the best way to describe it.
Felix: Yeah, it’s pretty cool to take a look at how it’s being done as the layers get built on top of each other like you’re explaining. How long does it usually take between the time that you have a CAD drawing already and then sending it out to a 3D printer? How long does it take before they turn it around?
Chris: It’s usually a few days. It can be a few days to a week. They have really quick turnaround, so I’d say that’s key. That was key to our early success, and it’s something that we still spend a lot of time and money on these days is making those models and getting things just right.
Felix: For the initial prototypes that you created, what kind of budget are we talking about? You mentioned that it was relatively inexpensive. Is that like hundreds or thousands of dollars?
Chris: For us, it’s a little more expensive to make something that’s rubber-like, and when you’re freezing it, you’re putting it under a lot of pressure, a lot of stress, so the plastic 3D printing wouldn’t really work for our application, but for a lot of folks, you can create a plastic prototype I’d say for under a couple of $100, depending on the size of it and complexity.
Felix: Got it, and I’m assuming that the first one that you get back is not going to be the [inaudible 00:08:15] iteration. Do you remember how many times you had to go through the 3D printing prototyping process?
Chris: It’s a good question. I’d say, for the first product, certainly three or four times probably, in addition to the more DIY prototyping that we were doing on our own, and then for our subsequent products, probably a similar amount of time, so maybe a little bit more for our most recent product.
Felix: When you do get back one of the prototypes, what kind of evaluation or criteria are you looking at to make tweaks for the next iteration?
Chris: Yeah, so, for us, we have to make sure that whatever we’re manufacturing fits with the other components, so, for a lot of new products, there might … It might be mating with another part. In our most recent product, that’s a stainless steel container. In our first product, that was also the smaller stainless steel container, so making sure the fit is right and then also testing to make sure that you can extract clear ice in a relatively easy way.
Felix: Got it. Before all of this happened, you mentioned the … using CAD software to create, I guess, the digital prototype first. Is that something that’s hard to figure out for someone that hasn’t used it before, or should you hire someone to help with this?
Chris: Yeah. I would say it’s pretty challenging to do on your own if you’re not familiar with it. My brother and co-founder is actually an aeronautical engineer. He went to college for engineering and he’s got a lot of experience with CAD, so he does those models for us, so I’d probably recommend, if somebody is not familiar with it, to hire someone. It’s a pretty big learning curve if you want to take it on yourself.
Felix: Is there a specific title or a specific, I guess, job title that you’re looking for when you’re hiring someone to help with this?
Chris: You’d probably be looking for a product engineer, some 3D-design-type profession.
Felix: Yeah, that makes sense. Now, when you were going through these iteration, what made you guys realize that you had a version, a prototype that was ready to move forward to the next stage?
Chris: Really, just the testing. Like I said, I think, eventually, you get to a point where it works consistently and you can go out and actually get pricing to manufacture a certain number of units, and I think that was probably one of the more challenging things for us was trying to find the right partners in the supply chain, trying to find a silicone manufacturer both in the United States or abroad, a stainless steel manufacturer, plastics manufacturers along the way.
We’ve sent a lot of contact-us emails or forms on different websites, and some you hear back from and it’s not quite a good fit or they won’t do the low volume you might need to get started, so that’s a bit of a challenge to figure out who your suppliers are going to be, but once you actually piece that together, you can grow some great relationships there.
Felix: What resources did you use to find these manufacturers? Did you just like Google around or are there particular directories that you recommend people check out if they are interested in trying to find a manufacturer?
Chris: Mostly just Googling. It’s really challenging to find somebody at a low volume and get them to take you seriously especially if it’s your first product. Now that we’ve got a few products in the market and we have a website, it’s definitely much easier to get somebody to respond to your phone call, so I’d say just don’t give up hope and keep trying because you will get through to somebody that will help you, and a lot of times those people are what guides your next iterations, too.
You might have a conversation with somebody that is willing to take the time to explain different types of rubber durometer, which is the squishiness of the rubber. They might explain to you different plastics and their properties and stuff like that, so find people along the way that’ll really help you grow as well.
Felix: Now that you’ve been through this experience of finding a manufacturer, are there any certain characteristics or types of manufacturers that would be willing to work … that you can … that will be more receptive to working with someone that’s printing or … sorry, someone that’s producing at a lower volume?
Chris: It’s hard to say. Sometimes, they’ll be open about it on their website, that they’re open to take on some smaller volume products, so you look for that first. Sometimes, they’ll get excited about an idea and be willing to take it on in the hopes that they’ll see larger orders in the future, so it depends. I’d say, if you find somebody that looks like a good fit, it doesn’t hurt to reach out and see if they’re open to it, but they might actually say on their website they’ll do some small runs and help you prototype something new.
Felix: Now, when you are working or, I guess, reaching out to these manufacturers, what are you sending to them? Are you sending them the CAD drawings, the actual, I guess, physical prototype?
Chris: Yes. Usually, they will need that in order to give you an accurate quote, so you have to get to that point to actually see what is this going to cost, and, really, that informs what your Kickstarter campaign looks like. We’ve been successful in three Kickstarter campaigns and have obviously amazing backers. We wouldn’t be here without them for sure, but along that process, you’re going to get those quotes. You’re figuring out what the pricing is on your Kickstarter campaign or if you’re just launching the product on your website, you’re figuring out how to price it, you’re figuring out how much money you need to raise to actually get an initial order placed.
Felix: Got it, so let’s talk about that next step then, so, once you have identified the manufacturer, was that when you started going down the route of trying to find or starting a crowdfunding campaign, or was this done in parallel?
Chris: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think some people actually do launch a crowdfunding campaign before they do that. I think that’s a bit of a mistake because you really don’t … You need to understand all the costs involved, to understand how much money you should raise to be successful, and I think that’s why you see, if some Kickstarter campaigns don’t quite make it to the finish line even after they raised the funds because they haven’t really adequately looked at how much it’s all going to cost to put it together and actually fulfill it, so we lined up manufacturing ahead of time in all of our campaigns, a very firm agreed-upon pricing with the partners and, even though we might change some things before we go into full scale production, we might make some final tweaks where we feel pretty close to where it’s going to end up.
Felix: Do you find that the backers, the crowdfunding backers, are more likely to fund a campaign if it looks like it’s further along, or does that not come up as much as you would think?
Chris: I think it does help a lot. Ultimately, they’re investing in you as a creator or investing in the story, but the more you can tell them about the product and where it is along the way, the better. It’s a little tricky because, at that stage in developing a new product, you’re also a little wary of people ripping it off, so you have to be careful about how much you share and that you already have intellectual property covered. It’s a little bit of a balancing act in terms of how much you need to provide to get people on board and how much you need to hold back until you’re ready.
Felix: Got it, so let’s talk about that first campaign for the ice baller, and you had a goal of $20,000, which you blew past, raised $173,000 from over 1,700 backers. Let’s talk about that goal. Was that goal strictly for manufacturing? How did you guys figure out how much to set as a goal?
Chris: Yeah, exactly, that was just for creating the initial tools, the steel molds to create the product. It didn’t account for a lot of production I’d say, but it would cover some of those initial large capital costs to get those tools made, so this was a really great validation for us that there was this community of people that had been looking for a solution to this problem, and it definitely kick-started us into really thinking about this becoming a real company.
Felix: Got it. You said the 20,000 covered that initial tooling, and it sounds like basically set up for or preparation for larger scale production, but it didn’t actually cover the production itself. How were you able to, I guess, cover that part now that you had to essentially provide, I’m assuming, over 1,700 versions of this product?
Chris: Yeah, so by raising the initial funds, we’re covering a larger production run that provides us with enough product to fulfill the orders through the Kickstarter campaign, but also had some additional inventory to keep things running and keep developing new products or building a website or making sure we have enough to ship all around the world and all that kind of stuff.
Obviously, as you scale up on Kickstarter and as you raise more money, the costs go up as well, so it’s a linear function. It gets better when you raise more money, but it can also be more challenging because, all of a sudden, you’ve got … Your costs are going through the roof, and you have to find the right partners that can fulfill much larger volume of orders than you might have anticipated.
Felix: Got it, so the 20,000 goal, because you blew past it, you were able to use some of those funds to actually cover the production run. Did you have a plan in place if you were only going to hit 20,000 and now you had to pay for … or basically pay for the additional production run without having the … I guess without selling it all yet?
Chris: Yeah. I’d say we had a rough plan. I mean, we ultimately thought that we would ship the units ourselves. We are anticipating we get, yeah, a reasonably small response. Folks like us, we’d be able to create a product that we could use, that we would be happy about and put in the hands of some other connoisseurs of scotch and whisky, but blowing past it, we ended up having to revisit that plan and find a fulfillment partner that could do this at a scale that we couldn’t do out of our apartment at the time.
Felix: Got it. Now, what kind of marketing did you do to help get to blasting past your goal?
Chris: That campaign was entirely organic. I think part of it was probably the timing, coming out right around the time that this craft, the cocktail trend was taking off and folks were starting to think more about clear ice and different types of cocktails. I think that helped us, but we didn’t do any marketing other than using Kickstarter as our marketing platform.
Felix: You’ve launched future products since then, or future projects since then, and they’ve all done almost double each time in terms of funding raised. What have you learned along the way? What are some must-haves now that you are experienced here? What are some of the must-haves in terms of the actual listing on Kickstarter, the video or the photos? What have you learned there?
Chris: Yeah. I think what’s most important is finding a really active community that will follow your products throughout and that will continue to support you. We find that even with these three different campaigns all being in a similar category or products, we have a lot of backers who come to support us each time. They want the next version or they want to continue to support our company, so finding that really active niche and investing in customer service and support and making sure that you’re making these folks feel like part of the growth, it has been a big part of our success for sure.
I think, beyond that is certainly the basics of content, photography, making sure your Kickstarter page looks really professional. I’d say our first Kickstarter campaign didn’t look great, and we’ve improved upon the quality of the content and the photography each time we’ve done it, and I think that really helps as well, just making people feel like you’re putting a professional face forward, you’re really investing in the products and the experience, and you’re going to follow through and make sure that they have a good experience as well.
Felix: It sounds like the biggest boon to your success on Kickstarter is around having repeat backers that are part of the community and they want to keep on supporting you, and you mentioned that you want to include them as a part of the story, you want to build a community around your brand, around the products. What does this mean to you on a day-to-day basis? What are some things that you and your team consider must-dos to continually improve and build the community?
Chris: Having great customer service is certainly the most important thing, responding quickly to questions or concerns, listening to your customers and coming up with new products that fulfill their needs, to keep them interested and engaged, and also not … at the same time, not annoying them with too many emails and communications that are superfluous. That’s been our approach, and our customers I think have thanked us for that.
It’s interesting when you go launch your company on Kickstarter and you grow it the way we did, you’re biggest ally really is word of mouth, and these folks are going to be out there talking about the projects that they backed on Kickstarter, talking about how great it is to their friends and family, and so making sure you help foster that community and putting those people in a position where they want to talk about you is something that really helps you grow.
Felix: Now, beyond Kickstarter, now that you have a business and you’ve launched these products, what are the kinds of marketing that work well for you?
Chris: We definitely use Google AdWords, so we drive traffic through Google by folks looking for clear ice and keywords related to it. That’s been a big avenue. I’d say we also do a lot with bars and restaurants and hotels around the world, and that exposure tends to drive sales for us as well, so word of mouth through industry professionals. We also do it a lot on our Instagram. We have a lot of influencers we work with on Instagram who will post giveaways and features of our ice and our products. Those are probably the two main things we do to drive traffic.
Felix: Yes. You mentioned I think three though. You mentioned the Google AdWords, the bars, restaurants and hotels, and Instagram. Out of those three, which one do you think is the most important, or which one of these channels do you think is the most important for you?
Chris: I’d say word of mouth is the most important, so both, these bars, restaurants, hotels are spreading the word about us. That’s where a lot of folks are learning about different types of cocktails, different types of bar tools, and so they’re finding out about how to make clear ice through the bartenders that they know and they respect. Then also word of mouth just from customers who are early adopters of the product, and then probably second to that would be Google AdWords. We tend to see a pretty good return on that investment as well.
Felix: Got it. These bars and restaurants and hotels, the bartenders that are working there, are they just coming across your product themselves or are you doing some kind of active outreach directly towards them to get them to … or are you walking into these places and talking to them? How are you getting them involved?
Chris: It’s a little bit of both. I’d say the majority of them are coming to us organically, and they’re either replacing an in-house ice program or they purchase large cubes or spheres from a local ice distributor and they want to do it in-house, so they’ll find us online that way.
We do reach out to some of the top cocktail bars and restaurants around the world to get them involved, and we offer some bulk pricing discounts for folks that are in the industry, so it’s a little bit of both, but I’d say the majority are sort of just finding us through Google and through some of our … either through our ads or through the fact that we come up pretty highly in searches for clear ice because of how early we started the content on our site.
Felix: Got it. I definitely want to get to the organic traffic and Google AdWords in a second. Now, when you are doing essentially what sounds like outbound sales towards these establishments, do you have like an in-house team doing that or do you have to hire someone to help with that? What’s the process like?
Chris: Yes, so we run a pretty small team here. It’s just my brother and I, so most of that effort is done me, and it’s a lot of cold emails, cold calls, trying to understand what their ice program looks like, what are their challenges and finding an area that we can help improve.
Felix: Got it. How does that conversation usually begin? For someone out there that doesn’t have any experience in sales and just wants to … thinks that best avenue is to start reaching out and just making cold emails or cold phone calls, how do you begin the conversation?
Chris: Yeah. I think it’s really trying to get their attention first off. A lot of these folks are very busy. It might be their full-time job. It might be something that they do in addition to something else, but they have a lot of moving parts in their work life, so you have to get their attention either … In our case, we’re saving them money. If they’re using a local ice distributor, sometimes they’re paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to get ice in for their customers, so hitting on some of the key benefits of saving them some money, but also targeting how great clear ice is and how this will help improve how customers see the end product, the cocktails that they get from that place, and so if you show them some photography, if you hit on some of those key points, you tend to be able to get their attention pretty quickly, and they’ll be willing to at least hear you out.
Felix: Got it, so let’s move on to the Google AdWords. Is that also done in-house, or have you hired someone for that?
Chris: Yeah, that’s also done in-house as well. Yep.
Felix: Got it. For someone that’s getting started for the first time with AdWords, any tips on how to create your first campaign? Like what are some rule of thumb that you follow?
Chris: I’d say start off pretty, pretty small and keep an eye on it. I think it makes sense to always be testing and tweaking your campaigns, making small changes here and there, and then you’ll get to a point where you don’t need to spend as much time maintaining it and it’s providing a good stream of traffic for you on a day-to-day basis, but start off with a small budget. Think about the terms that would get somebody to your site, somebody that’s far enough down the funnel and close to actually making a purchase decision.
For us, we probably wouldn’t want somebody that’s looking for an ice tray because they’re probably just looking for an inexpensive solution. They might not care about clear ice. They might not be even into making cocktails, but if somebody searches for clear ice balls for cocktails or a clear ice maker, that’s something where we would expect them to be further along the funnel and closer to actually making a purchase.
Felix: Got it. That makes sense, so things like Facebook Ads are like the hot topic right now. What made you choose to go with PPC through AdWords rather than on, I guess, a social media platform like Facebook?
Chris: Yeah, we’ve done some Facebook. I’d say my experience, I have a little more experience with AdWords, so I felt more comfortable doing it there. We’ve done some advertising through Instagram, where it’s also part of Facebook. We haven’t had a ton of success on Facebook. I think we could. I think there’s opportunity there. It’s more of management of our time where we put our effort.
Felix: Makes sense. Let’s talk about the website a bit, and I would love to have you walk us through your website design. What are some of your favorite parts about your current website?
Chris: Sure. I love the photography on our website. I think it really gets across what we do pretty quickly, and we try not to be overly verbose and talking too much about what actually the product does. I think it becomes pretty clear right off the bat, so I think keeping it simple to the point of having really strong photography, high resolution is key, and I think Shopify helps us be very streamlined in how we do it.
I also love that we can offer a lot of different payment options like Amazon Pay, it’s becoming really popular, or PayPal, et cetera, so it’s really removing a lot of the barriers I think for folks to figure out who we are, what we do and to easily make a purchase.
Felix: Yeah. The photography where you mentioned that it’s very clear what the product does, I think that’s so key for … Can you say a little more about that? How do you make sure that you are demonstrating the value of the product and what it’s meant to be … how it’s meant to be used?
Chris: Yeah. I mean, I guess, for us, it’s pretty simple because we’re so targeted in terms of what we do. It gets harder if your store has lot of different types of products. For us, we do one thing, so making sure that we talk about that one thing and show it in photography is the main thing we focus on.
I’d like to add more video over time. I think that’s certainly a really good way to get people understand how it works and why it’s something they might want, so I think that’s one area that we could certainly improve, but I just focus on making sure you’re making the best photography available on your site that you can. It’s probably advantageous to hire a photographer or somebody that professionally takes product photos to really increase the professionalism of your site. [inaudible 00:32:25] people when you go to a site that doesn’t have high res photos or has photos that were edited in Photoshop that people might take that a little less seriously.
Felix: What do you think is the most engaging page on your website?
Chris: I’d say it’s probably our Clear Ice 101 page. This is a page that we get a lot of search engine traffic to organically. It really describes the science behind clear ice and how to make it and how our products do that. It also talks about why that’s important and how shape matters in terms of dilution rates, and it also just walks through all the benefits, some of the myths around folks that have maybe tried to make clear ice at home and failed, and so I think it’s really informative and helps guide people into understanding why we’re doing what we do.
Felix: Yeah. I like that you have a content, an educational content page, one of your top engaging sites that people are coming to or discovering through organic search. Once they land on that page, other than them just clicking around your [inaudible 00:33:35] bar and finding about your product, are there ways that you introduce your product or try to convert a sale through that educational page?
Chris: No, we don’t do anything other than guiding them into the understanding of what our products do. I think there is a lot of confusion as to how to make clear ice. On Instagram, you would see somebody post a picture of a drink with a cloudy ice ball and people will chime in, “You need to use distilled water. You need to double boil it,” or, “You need to do something different,” and none of that really works, and I think it’s just one of those areas that people are very engaged on the topic, but they’re not really entirely sure how it works, so we try to be as transparent as we can on the process and the science.
Felix: Was the site designed in-house or did you hire a designer for this?
Chris: Yeah, this was all in-house. We used a lot of standard Shopify theme. I think, over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time just learning the liquid code in Shopify, which has been a really quick way to modify our website to get it to looking and feeling the way want.
Felix: Do you know what theme you chose?
Chris: We used the Shopify narrative theme out of the box and then we made some modifications to that.
Felix: Sorry. You got cut out there. Other than the design on the site, what do you think is required to have a high converting E-commerce site based on your experience so far?
Chris: I think the biggest thing is to have, like I said, great photography, great content. That helps people understand what you do. I think also just listing some of your more important benefits like how long it takes you to ship an order, if you offer free shipping, what’s your return policy, things like that, that helps just get people comfortable with shopping on your site, and then having a very frictionless checkout process, which I think Shopify does a great job with and, like I said earlier, there’s a lot of different theme options and it’s pretty easy to move through that process without a lot of friction.
Felix: Yeah. I like that. On the top of your site, it does list those three promises that you talked about, which is that order is shipped in one to two day worldwide, free US shipping over $75, and 30-day money-back guarantee. How did you come across or how did you know to choose those three, I guess, statements to show on the top of your website?
Chris: I think it’s something you come up after you do customer service for a while. I mean, I’m lucky enough to … for us to have a small company where I do a lot of the customer service, so I understand what people’s concerns are. If somebody emails me once a week, a different person is asking about the return policy or if somebody needs an order quickly, you see those trends through customer service and you can get ahead of them and make sure you’re not … If you think about it, if somebody is spending the time to send you an email, there’s probably at least a dozen other people that aren’t sending you an email, but could have potentially been customers.
Felix: Got it, so you basically pay attention to what people are concerned about. It’s almost the three most frequently asked questions before the conversion that you’re putting up there, like what are the three things that are blocking them potentially from making a purchase. What kind of applications do you use on the website either through Shopify or any other tools that you use to help run the business?
Chris: Yeah, so the actual apps that we use are … We use now Back in Stock, which is just if we have a short period of time or we might be out of stock of an item, we can collect the email addresses and send a note when it’s back in stock. We do a business tools called covet.pics, which is an app that we can show Instagram photos on the product pages. A lot of our customers are … Essentially, their reviews is them posting on Instagram and tagging us and saying, “Look what I made. How great is this?”
Being able to show those images on the site is helpful as well, and then we use a lot of tools that are outside of Shopify as well. MailChimp is important for us, Less Accounting for Accounting. We use Celery. We try Celery for pre-orders as well, so we’ve got a couple of products that are available for pre-order right now, and we want to capture those sales before we actually get to shipping.
Felix: Got it. How do you think about and plan out the next six to 12 months for your business?
Chris: Yeah, so, I mean, we’re still trying to create new products and find new partners that can drive the business forward. Our passion is on the product development side of entrepreneurship, so you can see on the site we’ve got a couple of new products [inaudible 00:38:53] from our Kickstarter campaign in October and another we just launched about a month ago, and that takes up a lot of our time is focusing on getting those products out the door.
In addition to that, we, as a small team, we have to prioritize what else are we going to do, are we going to work on some partnerships with spirits brands? Are we going to get into some new wholesale outlets, what does that look like and really just picking the handful of things that we can actually get done in the year.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time, Chris. Wintersmiths.com is the website. Again, I really appreciate your coming on.
Chris: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Felix.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peek for what’s in store in the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 3: It opens doors. You have association with major brands, whether it’s going to be Star Wars or Disney or Marvel, whether it’s the NFL or NBA.
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 an extended 30-day free trial. Also, for this episode’s shown notes, head over to shopify.com/blog.