Effective content marketing isn't merely about churning out blog posts, YouTube videos, or podcasts—it's about creating value independent of your products or services and giving it away to your ideal customers.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from an entrepreneur who did just that with free digital products, growing an email list of over of 200,000 parents and teachers.
Alexandra Eidens is our guest today and the founder of Big Life Journal: the world’s first growth mindset journals for kids, tweens, and teens.
We always think of ourselves as a TV channel and I think that’s a good way to think of yourself as a brand nowadays.
Tune in to learn
- How to find freelancers to create your "lead magnets"
- How they captured 200,000 subscribers using free printables
- How to run a 60,000 member Facebook group without losing control
- Store: Big Life Journal
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Upwork, Slack, Trello, Asana, Canva
Felix: Today we’re joined my Alexandra Eidens from Big Life Journal. Big Life Journal’s the world’s first growth mindset journal for kids, tweens, and teens, and was started in 2017, and based out of New York.
You got the idea when you were first expecting I think your very first child. Tell us about how that happened.
Alexandra: The idea for Big Life Journal was born in 2016. So two years ago. That’s when I was pregnant with our child. Well, my husband is my co-founder, so I’m gonna talk about him and I doing this together. We were expecting our first child, and we were sitting down and having conversations about how we wanted to raise our children, and what kind of skills, and attitude, and mindset we wanted to instill in them, in our son specifically. That’s the time when we discovered growth mindset, and importance of mindset, and positive mindset, and how we important it is to start early. And, we were looking for different tools that would be helpful for parents to help raise kids with this type of mindset, and at that point, there was nothing available that would be helpful. So we decided, okay, we’re gonna create something. and that’s how it all started.
Felix: Got it. Did either of you have experience starting businesses in the past?
Alexandra: At that moment, I was working corporate and my husband was too. But, I was doing a lot of things on the side. I was starting lots of different businesses in different industries, and all of them were failing one after another. But for me it was just about the experience, I was gonna try new things, and trying to find what I would be interested in doing. I never took those failures as something personal, they never crushed me. It was more about, “Oh that’s interesting. That didn’t work. Let’s try something else.”
Felix: That’s a great attitude, and I think it’s important that you look at it that way where you don’t see your failures as failures. You’re actually learning lessons from it. Can you talk a little bit about some of those? What are some of the lessons you learned through the “failed” business ventures in the past?
Alexandra: Well I was learning all of the things. I was learning all about social media, and I was learning about how to talk to customers because I was directly contacting … cold-calling, and it was the worst thing in the world, but I wanted to try this, and I wanted to try to cold-call and try to sell what I was selling. I was learning through that a lot by talking to customers, and realizing that the best thing, what you can do is to actually ask the customers what they want first, and then go and create it, versus the opposite, what I was doing. I had an idea, and I was creating something, and then going and looking for customers.
Alexandra: This time around when we were doing Big Life Journal, we did the right way. We did a lot of research before we made the journal.
Felix: Got it. And this approach of asking them what they want first, how do you do this? Are you just coming to them, calling them up and asking them, “What do you want”? I’m sure it’s a little more involved than this. Can you talk to us about that process of getting that kind of valuable information out of them?
Alexandra: What we did was, okay, we had an idea for the journal, right. We had a basic idea what we would like to include in there and what’s gonna be the purpose of it. So the first step we did was we talked to the friends and family, and a lot of parents, all the parents that we knew, we talked to. And my husband’s family, they’re a lot of teachers in his family, so we talked to them. They had so much experience working with kids, so they were giving us a lot of feedback. And then we created a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter was a very good indication of the … it was a great validation of our idea.
Felix: Got it. I think the important thing here, it sounds like you didn’t start with a completely blank canvas, you had an idea for a product, but you wanted to validate it and then smooth out the rough edges and figure out exactly what features, what’s important to people, but you didn’t start off with no idea at all, and then just going out there and asking questions, right?
Alexandra: That’s right. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, but we changed it based on the feedback. We had a spreadsheet of where we were recording what people were saying, their specific comments, and discussing those comments afterward, after the calls. We really took it seriously, and we did adjust. Our idea really transformed based on the feedback.
Felix: Got it. I wanna jump back a little bit to the other businesses that you started in the past that didn’t take off to the extent that Big Life Journal took off. What do you think it was about this particular business? Was it the lessons you learned? Was it the product? Was it the market? What do you think was the most important piece that allowed this one to finally lead you down the right path?
Alexandra: It’s the product that people actually wanted. And, there was no guarantee that this one will actually be successful because when we had this idea, of course, it was just two people sitting on the couch and talking about this. But then we said, “Okay, well let’s just take it and validate it like we did everything else before.” This time it turned out that there was a need, and it was helpful that both my husband, Scott, and I, we were coming from … we were about to become parents. It was our own need, and we were just trying to understand if other parents are looking for the same thing, and they were looking for the same thing. It was just a good idea that we executed on.
Felix: Yeah, it’s funny, before we hit record, I was just telling you that I also have an eight-and-a-half-month-old, and this product really resonates with me because especially for people that are in this … are entrepreneurs, or really involved in business, and involved in personal growth. A lot of listeners on here fit that mold, it’s almost like you want to translate that to your child that you’re bringing up. So I think you really did find a niche that needed to be fulfilled.
Felix: When you were going through this process of validation, with this business, with the other past products for your previous business ideas, did you use the same framework for validation each time? Tell us about how you built the, I guess the framework for validating your ideas?
Alexandra: This time is was much more robust, and we had a Kickstarter campaign, so we had to prepare for the Kickstarter, and that took a lot of our effort and time. We thought that “Okay, if friends and family think that’s a good idea, then let’s take it further and let’s ask the broader community and people that don’t know us, would they invest or not.” That’s what we were looking for. Looking for people that are not friends and family. They don’t know us, but they just know about the idea, would they be interested in this journal? And the Kickstarter campaign, that really showed us that it was a good idea.
Felix: Got it. You put together this Kickstarter campaign, but before that, the only kind of validation you were getting was just talking to friends and family. What were you looking for in terms of the campaign to validate it? Was it just hitting your funding goal? Was it particular things people were saying? What were some things that you looked for to validate that you were on the right path?
Alexandra: For me personally, it was just, even if it was one person that pledged to our campaign, and the person who didn’t know us, right. Even if it was one stranger who thought it was good, that for me personally, that would have been enough. And actually, the first campaign that we had wasn’t successful, for this product, for Big Life Journal. The first one that we ran, we didn’t raise enough money. We didn’t raise to meet the goal, and the campaign basically was canceled. But, the second one right after that, so we took a break, and I had a baby. During that time, between the first campaign, the second campaign, I was taking care of a newborn, and finishing the journal, preparing for the second Kickstarter, and then we had the second Kickstarter seven months later, and that campaign was 300% funded. It was very successful, and that, of course, gave us a lot of hope.
Felix: Right, just to put some numbers behind the first campaign though it was not a success, raised a little bit over $6,000 out of $15,000 goal, and then the second one, which was a success, also had the $15,000 goal, but then raised three times you said, of almost $45,000. And then you also had a third on, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
Felix: What’s the difference then between that first one and that second one that allowed you to not only surpass your goal, or to not only to meet your goal but surpass it by so much?
Alexandra: Well, when we entered the first campaign, we knew very little. What we knew was … We did research on other campaigns and we saw how successful they were, and that gave us a lot of inspiration, and we kind of thought, “You just have to have an idea, and you’re basically all set on Kickstarter,” which was completely wrong. We did not know what it takes to have a successful Kickstarter campaign. Once it failed, we said, “Okay, well you know what, it just means that we just didn’t know. Now let’s take some time to research and to study how to actually put the successful campaign together.”
Alexandra: You have to have a good idea. That’s a prerequisite number one. But that’s not enough for Kickstarter. You also have to have people who are interested in your idea, and you have to build a community before you launch. That’s what we did the second time around. We took a couple months to build a community around our idea, people who are interested basically, and got them very excited, and launched the second campaign.
Felix: Got it, so the first campaign I think met at least one of your goals, which is to validate it. People you didn’t know were willing to give their hard-earned dollars to purchase a product of yours that wasn’t completely built yet. So the validation was there, so I’m assuming that gave you the confidence to say, “Okay, let’s invest our time and invest more energy into doing this ‘the right way’ the second time around.” Which you mentioned was to build a community.
Felix: Talk about that. Once you realized, okay we didn’t reach our goal, but a lot of people want this product, what were the next steps that you decided to take to ensure that the next launch would be better? How did you start building a community?
Alexandra: We did a lot of research. I mean, went to a course about Kickstarter, we read everything that was available on forums, and different Facebook groups where people actually were running Kickstarter campaigns, what they were suggesting. That was step number one is just to learn as much as we can and what it takes. And then basically, I know it’s not a secret for anyone is, the email list is number one asset in anyone’s business, and in Kickstarter, it’s not an exception. You gotta start building your email list of people who are interested in your product. And, you can do it in many different ways.
Alexandra: I mean, how we did it, we started creating resources, and giving them away for free in exchange for an email address. And those resources were directly related to this product. We were giving away a Parent’s Guide to Growth Mindset, and people who were signing up, they were interested in the topic enough to download the guide, and then when the campaign launched, we invited them to take a look at it.
Felix: Okay. Got it. You mentioned that you were doing a lot of research and taking courses, are there any off the top of your head that you recommend? Are there courses or specific websites you recommend listeners going to check out if they wanna learn more about crowdfunding or Kickstarter?
Alexandra: That’s a good question. There are several Kickstarter podcasts that I was listening as I was walking my newborn, I remember. That’s all I did actually, I was just consuming so much information from all the podcasts about Kickstarter. And, there are Kickstarter podcasts that you can look up, and then I recommend to just Google search, and to see any forums. There’s a huge gaming community of people who create games and launch them on Kickstarter’s because that’s just very popular. And they are very open to kind of recommend different strategies. And even though you might not be creating a game, the strategies are all the same. So you could just borrow what’s out there available.
Felix: Got it. You build this email list, which is the most invaluable asset that you were able to create, like you mentioned, by first creating these resources, essentially these lead magnets that you asked people to opt into the email list to get access to the resource. You said something really important which was that the resources were directly related to your product. Can you say a little bit more about this?
Alexandra: Of course you want to create email lists of people who would be interested in your product, and that’s why the resource that you’ve given away should be as closely related to that topic as possible to get quality email lists, right, so quality emails. And, for us, our journal was about the growth mindset, about teaching children how to become positive, and resilient, and confident. And that’s why created a resource for parents, a guide of introduction to the growth mindset, how to do that on one page, and we hired an artwork freelance person to design it, and then we just give it away.
Felix: Got it. Now did you just sit down with you and your husband, just brainstorm constant ideas, or is there a way to research to find out specifically what kind of free content to just spend your time making?
Alexandra: For me, I was coming from my own perspective. As a parent, the growth mindset as a concept was … well two years ago, it was quite new, and then not a lot of parents heard about it. As a parent, you would be interested to learn about it, and how to actually you can implement it at home. I was coming from my own perspectives, like what would I want to see as a resource. And then, of course, it needs to be one page, because no parent has time to read more than one page, and it has to be very graphic and illustrated well so they can put it on their fridge. We were looking from a typical parent perspective, like who doesn’t have any time, but they just can, before they open their fridge, can just glance at it and remind themselves.
Felix: Got it. And you mentioned that you went to Upwork to hire a designer. Talk a little bit more about this. If someone out there wants to follow the same path of creating free content, and they don’t have a designer background, they don’t know what to design, but they want to make it look good. What should they be looking for? What kind of person? What kind of skills should you be looking for Upwork or any freelancing site if you wanna hire someone to help you create some of these very valuable free content?
Alexandra: We work with a lot of Upwork freelancers, even today. And, we have tried so many people, and my own advice is to try different people because you can give them small tasks, that’s what you can do. You don’t have to give them the entire project to design. You can just give them, okay, well just one page or half-a-page, or whatever, just to see their style and how dedicated they are to the work. We have tried numerous people, and even today we’re still … that’s our strategy. If we need a new person, we just find 10 people who look suitable, and then we just give all of them a small task, and then see the results.
Felix: What do you look for? How do you determine what makes a good freelancer?
Alexandra: First of all, for us the actual, if we’re talking about design specifically, the design has to be very high quality, and what we’re looking for. It has to be the specific style related to your brand. Let’s say in our brand we use a lot of watercolor illustrations, and then we use hand-lettering, so that has to be that specific style.
Alexandra: And then we give them, before you send a request to a new designer, you can provide examples. If you have a previously designed work, you can just give them your brand pages, or whatever you have, or even your website. If you don’t have anything, you can create a mood board, or just put different images together on PowerPoint slide, and then something that reflect your vision, and send it to them, and see if they can translate that into a design. Of course they have to be on time, they have to be responsive, and they have to be willing to make changes after the initial draft.
Felix: Got it. So for someone that’s just starting out, you don’t have any examples yet, create that mood board, but once you have a collection of designs of other pieces of content that you put out there that you do like, give that as the way to give direction to these freelance designers to help them understand what you want right from the get-go.
Alexandra: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.
Felix: Got it. Approximately how much can it cost, or what’s the budget that someone should have in mind if they want to create a one-pager essentially design with a freelancer?
Alexandra: It really depends. The beauty of Upwork, and the websites like Upwork, is that you can connect to designers around the world. You can request specifically if you want to work with a U.S. based designer, you can request that, and you can just look at their U.S. based designers. If you want to look at other countries, you basically look up their hourly rate and have an assessment, and you had how much it would take for them to create your design. Or you can simply hire them by the hour, and say, “Okay, well let’s agree it’s gonna be maximum three hours,” and just let them work on it.
Felix: Got it. So are we talking like hundreds of dollars, thousands? What’s the range?
Alexandra: For one-page, I mean, for one-page it can be anything between $20 and $80.
Felix: Okay, definitely reasonable then. You mentioned that these are printable resources. I think a lot of times we think about eBooks and things that are digital that we give away. You’re specifically designing things that are to be printed out. How do you have to approach these kinds of lead magnets, these kinds of resources differently when they are meant to be printed out versus just something that you’re reading on a computer or your phone?
Alexandra: I think it’s the same. I don’t know if it’s any different because everything that we do, all the resources that we provide, and we can talk about this a little bit, to our community for free, we still do that, those are printable resources that parents, that teachers have to print. I feel like in the teacher community, that’s definitely a very common thing to do, to share their resources, and print, and lesson plans, and they share lesson plans among each other. There’s this famous website, Teachers Pay Teachers, where they buy lesson plans from each other, and print them later. For us it’s the same. It’s no different. And people nowadays are very used to printing out resources.
Felix: Got it. You were creating these resources. Especially in the early days, how many we talking about, once a week? How often were you creating an $80 resource?
Alexandra: Okay, so our Kickstarter campaign was April 2017, and-
Felix: Sorry, that was the first one or the second one?
Alexandra: That’s the second one. Right, the one that was actually the successful one. And after that, we started actually running the actual business because we had the product already, and we had customers, and everything was going well. That summer 2017, I start thinking about, okay how do we continue building our email list and building our community, and actually encourage people to open our emails. That’s when I had a thought of creating a free resource every week, similar to how we had a lead magnet to encourage people to sign up for your Kickstarter campaign, we started creating the same style resources weekly.
Alexandra: At that point, early on I wasn’t hiring designers all the time. Sometimes I was creating them myself using tools like Canva, for example. And, just sending out free resources every Friday, and to this day, we still do it, and that’s one of our biggest competitive advantages.
Felix: Got it. Okay, so before doing it consistently, you had a few that you were making prior to that second Kickstarter campaign so that you could build up an email list that you could launch your second Kickstarter campaign, which was the successful one to the email list. Was that correct? Was that the strategy that you took to create these free resources and build the email list, and then to launch that second campaign?
Felix: Okay. I wanna talk about that phase, when you’re starting out, and just creating the resources to start. How are you getting traffic to check out these free resources, or to even see that they could opt in to get this lead magnet, this free resource?
Alexandra: Through Facebook ads. We were running paid marketing directly to the opt-in page. [inaudible 00:24:14], I think at that time I actually was trying something, which was called lead campaigns. I don’t know if they still have those on Facebook, but when people see that, they don’t even have to leave Facebook, they just enter their email address and they get subscribed to email, and they download the resource directly from Facebook. We didn’t even have to technically have a landing page. It was all done on Facebook. So, that’s what we were doing. We were investing dollars to drive traffic.
Felix: Yeah, anytime that you can keep a user on Facebook, Facebook will reward you for that basically by charging you much less for that. These lead campaigns were helping you collect these emails. Do you remember how quickly or how large you’re able to grow that email list using this strategy prior to the Kickstarter campaign?
Alexandra: Yeah. Our email list was 7,000 people before we launched the second campaign.
Felix: Got it. And would you attribute most of the about $45,000 in funding came from that email list?
Alexandra: Well, I mean initially, yes. The first days it’s usually your email list, but then we had a different strategy that we were using. We were communicating with different bloggers, and doing affiliate campaigns. Basically giving them a share of our revenue in exchange for them sharing on their social media. This time, this day and age, it doesn’t work very well because now Facebook doesn’t welcome promotional posts, and doesn’t show them organically. When you start working with affiliates nowadays, it’s a completely different result, but back in 2017, it was still the thing. We could still get a lot of traffic from organic posts posted by our affiliates, and that was probably 30% of the entire funding.
Alexandra: Then we had very minor spent on Facebook ads, but it wasn’t anything significant.
Felix: Got it. Do you remember what kind of threshold or metrics you were looking at when you were running these lead campaigns? How do you know if it’s gonna be profitable or not to get a lead for $0.10 or $1.00, or how do you back into those numbers?
Alexandra: I had a spreadsheet. My background is finance, so I have a spreadsheet for everything.
Alexandra: I had a spreadsheet where I basically calculated what would be my preferred cost per lead, so to say. And based on the average price of the product, our product was $20, and how many people we needed to sign up. The important number that you need to know, to find out, is actually the conversion rate. So let’s say you have 7,000 people sign up to your email the list, but the question is, how many will actually buy. How many will actually convert? How many will open your email? And then how many out of the open ones will click? What I was doing, I just was Googling, “What is the average conversion rate on Kickstarter for the newsletter?” And their numbers like, believe it or not, everything’s available, and their numbers like this are available so that some people were reporting their numbers. Let’s say some people said, “Okay, well 10% converted.” Another person said, “Well, 5% converted.” And you read all these different numbers, and just make an assumption. I mean, you have your worst case scenario, best case scenario, average case scenario, and you put the cell numbers together.
Alexandra: I highly recommend to spend some to make this type of spreadsheet, and if you’re not very financially savvy, find a person that could help you, because you could spend a lot of money very fast. Especially today, and because Facebook actually got even more competitive. So do your math before you spend a lot of money.
Felix: Got it. I think the keys that you mentioned is your cost per lead, the lead to purchase conversion rate, and then how much is the average order value. For Kickstarter, I guess you can look at the different rewards that you’re putting out there. You mentioned that getting these leads this way through providing free content, and then sending then similar content, free resources, things that people would potentially even pay for, is the best way that you’ve been able to find to have high open rates. Can you talk about what those are? What is considered a high open rate with email? What are some numbers that people can keep in the back of their head as they are trying to do something similar?
Alexandra: Our open rates are consistently about 30%, and that maybe doesn’t sound high, but it’s actually not bad. And our email list is very large nowadays, I think it’s over 250,000 people. Then we have click rate, click surveys, and it really depends on email-by-email, but it could be around 10% out of 30% who opens. You have 10% who clicked through. I don’t necessarily check those metrics every month or every week. What I know is that people are extremely interested in receiving our emails. And even if they don’t open our emails, sometimes it just means they can’t find them, or unfortunately email providers they filter them, and they put them in different folders. We always have the advice to follow certain steps to make sure that they can see our emails.
Alexandra: But we do receive, almost weekly we have people asking us a couple things. First, people asking us, “Where’s my email?” They’re looking for it. And, the second type of question we receive very frequently is people asking us if they’ve been charged for what they’ve received. And we always say, “No, no, no. It’s all free.” That’s just an indication that how valuable this is, and people just so not used to this, they can’t believe that we’re giving this away.
Alexandra: And, we do this every week. It’s one of the strategies which I think made us very successful.
Felix: Yeah, so you do this every week, and you’ve trained essentially your customers, or prospective customers or your existing customers to expect is every week. Are you sending it to them on the exact same day and time each time? How important is that?
Alexandra: Yes, well I don’t know how important the time is, but we do send it every single Friday, rain or shine at the same time. One thing I want to mention is that if you want to implement this strategy, you need to have zero expectation for purchase. Approach this not as a selling strategy. You’re not trying to sell them in the long-term on anything. You’re just giving away. That’s the attitude that you should have in this particular strategy, without zero expectation. If you could have people who consume everything give out and buy nothing from you, and you should be totally okay with that, because if you’re not okay with that, you will have a different kind of attitude, and it will show. You need to prepare yourself for that situation that you will get a lot of people who are just getting it all free, and not purchasing anything, which is completely fine.
Felix: Got. Nowadays you are able to get these leads. Are you still running these Facebook ads, or are there new ways for you to drive the traffic to see the lead magnet?
Alexandra: Not currently, but we will in 2019 because right now we are in November. November, December Facebook ads are very expensive. So we’re not wasting, so to say, our money on just getting leads. But we will do so January, February when the ads will be a little bit cheaper. But, we have word of mouth, that’s what helped us a lot. When people get something for free, which is very high quality, they forward it to everyone they know. We have people saying to us all the time, email us to say, “Thank you so much. I told all the parents in the school. I told all my teachers.” That’s the thing. That’s what you want. You want the word of mouth and recommendation from other people because that’s the number one trusted source. When you get recommended something … When a friend recommends you something, you listen, right. And it’s a completely different situation versus you seeing an ad on Facebook from a company you’ve never heard of. The word of mouth is very big with this strategy.
Felix: Got it. Out of the 200,000+ subscribers you have, would you be able to breakdown what percentage of it is driven through Facebook ads versus what’s word of mouth and people’s forwarding the opt-in page to each other?
Alexandra: I have no idea. I don’t even know how to detect those numbers.
Felix: Sure. Got it. We’ll move on to, I want to talk about your Facebook group because that’s also grown. It’s grown to 60,000 members, and that took one year, which is very fast. What led to the growthness? How did you implement this into your entire marketing process?
Alexandra: Facebook group, yes, it has grown to 60,000 members, and we have a person dedicated to this Facebook group, who’s entire job is to manage it, and we take it very seriously. We have specific topics that we discuss in this group, and nothing else, which means that we sometimes decline the questions from our members just because we want to stay very focused. We’re not a general parenting group, we’re very specific. We’re about the mindset, the growth mindset.
Alexandra: We have Facebook live weekly, sometimes more than once a week. We invite experts to speak to our group members and ask questions. We have a guest coach, who’s a parenting coach, who does weekly lives in the group. And then we actually had a book club in the group. We paused for the holiday’s a little because people are so busy. Nobody has time to read books nowadays, during October, November, December, but we had a book club. We take this group as an investment. We invest in it, our time, effort, and money, and we make it very high quality, and people love it.
Felix: I think that basically, your moderation is important where you are it sounds like you have the set-up where you require each question, each post to be reviewed and approved before it gets posted. Did you always do it this way? If someone’s just starting out a Facebook group for the first time, is that a good approach, or do you recommend just letting anyone, everyone just post whatever they want to start?
Alexandra: Yes, I highly recommend to make this group a private group. And that automatically requires people to go this screening process of their questions. We have a few admins who screen the questions, and then we have moderators who are professionals, so let’s say … They’re all volunteers, but they would be parenting coaches or therapists who volunteer to moderate the group. Meaning that they want to make sure … we make sure that everybody’s question is answered, and they facilitate positive discussion.
Alexandra: I highly recommend to make sure that your questions are actually on topic because the variety of questions that we get is very large, on people talking about kids not being able to fall asleep, or picky eaters. Like nothing related to what we’re talking about. So, you need to make sure if you’re creating a group, which is very specific about your specific product or topic, you need to make sure that that focus always remains.
Felix: Got it. One thing that I’ve seen in groups is that sometimes in some groups it’s very centered around the “leader,” the “admin,” and their personality, but you said that you have a bunch of different people coming in to contribute, you have experts, and coaches, and everything. How do you make sure that the branding is cohesive when you have different members of the team hopping in and essentially getting the spotlight in the group?
Alexandra: It is a good question, we do have our team members that actually are part of Big Life Journal team, doing different lives, or not only even Facebook group, but also on Instagram, which we’re all very active on our Instagram as well. So we do have different members going live on different various times of the week, and doing different, we call them segments. We always think of ourselves of a TV channel, and I think that that’s a very good way to think of yourself as a brand, nowadays if you want to … when you create content, you almost have to think of yourself that way. So you are a TV channel, you are a production company that you producing a lot of content. For you to produce a lot of content usually takes more than one person.
Alexandra: What we did is, for example, we have one team member who does Mindset Monday’s. That’s her task, and our community is used to seeing her on Monday’s when she goes live. And she posts some stories on Instagram, talking about one specific tip for parents to help raise their kids with the right mindset. We call in Mindset Monday’s.
Alexandra: We have another team member who comes out on Wednesday’s, and her TV program is called Challenged Wednesday’s. And again, our community’s used to seeing her on Wednesday’s, and she does her little show when she gives parents one challenge that week.
Alexandra: Then we have, every Sunday, we actually have consistently behind the scenes, where every single team member, we rotate and we show behind the scenes of our lives, so the community is used to seeing all the team members, and getting used to all the faces.
Alexandra: I feel like today when you have to create so much content, and you as a person who is running the business, you probably don’t have that much time to do it all yourself. If you’re lucky to have a team or a couple people who will help you, I encourage you to engage them in that as well.
Felix: Got it. The Facebook group, it seems like it requires a lot more investment than the email channel. And you’ll probably hate this question, but I wanna ask anyway, if you had to choose just one, especially for entrepreneurs that are out there that are just getting started for the first time, which one should the focus on? Should they focus on building a group, or building out an email list?
Alexandra: Well, an email list is everything for business, because of Facebook… email list is something that you own, and you have control of email list, whereas, the Facebook can change their policy tomorrow as they did in 2018 where they decided not to share business posts organically anymore. Anytime they do something, maybe they will tomorrow decide that Facebook groups are no longer, right, so and you would just completely, if you depend on that, you will devastated. I recommend focusing on the email list if that’s the only thing you can do because you own that list.
Felix: Got it. We talked about the first two Kickstarter’s and the third one is the one that’s most impressive, which has raised over $200,000, over 5,200 backers for that one. What was the reason for this one to essentially five times your past Kickstarter campaign? Why was this so much more successful?
Alexandra: It was very successful for many reasons. The first reason is that when we created the journal for children that was our first major product. From day one, people started asking us for the same thing, but for teens. I never had an idea of creating a journal for teens, never thought I would. But, there were so many requests, and people continuously asking us to create something for older children. What we did was said, “Okay, well we’re gonna create a sign-up page on our website where we can just say, ‘For Teens’.” And we can say, “The journal for teens is coming, sign up if you’re interested.” We didn’t run any ads to that page, no lead magnet, it was literally just that people who come to our website, they see that tab which says, “For Teens,” and then they sign-up their interested.
Alexandra: That’s how we building our email list over the course of a year, kind of started very early. And then we started … once we have the email list, and when we already had a very large community. Our Facebook group was already pretty large, and the Instagram community was pretty large, we started the process of getting people excited. We started sharing the process of creating a journal, asking people for feedback, we had numerous polls, we were asking for people to vote on the cover, we were asking people to ask their teen’s to give us feedback. It was a lot of interaction with our community, so people knew that we were working on it. They were excited, and we’re asking us, “When, when, when is it coming?” Then of course when we launched, we were funded in 45 minutes.
Alexandra: Yes, it was just unbelievable. And the entire campaign we ran zero Facebook ads. Maybe like, I don’t know, $100 Facebook ads, something very little, and everything else was just organic.
Felix: Yeah, once it starts taking off on Kickstarter, they will just start promoting it more for you because of the traction that you got, especially funding in 45 minutes.
Alexandra: Yeah, but I wouldn’t count on Kickstarter that much, because we were chosen by Kickstarter’s Project We Love and they did put us in a couple newsletters. People who run Kickstarter campaigns think that if they get chosen by Kickstarter their campaign will be successful, that is not true, because the very first campaign that we created, we failed, we were also chosen by Kickstarter’s Project We Love, and we still failed it. It gives you a little bit of kind of boost, but actually not that much.
Felix: Well it’s good to know that Kickstarter at least doesn’t only promote you one time, even if you weren’t successful the first time, they’re still willing to do a second time. That’s great to hear. I’m looking at the site and looking at the different products you’re offering. So the journal we talked about. One thing that’s interesting is that you also sell some printable kits. Talk to us about that. What are the printable kits, and how are they different than the free printables?
Alexandra: They are the same. Basically what we do is we share one printable each week, and then over the course of a few months when we collect enough, we just put them together in a kit and put them in our store. When people sign up to our newsletter, a very frequent question that we get is, how can I get a hold of the past printables, and we direct them to our shop.
Felix: I like that. That’s a great approach. And usually before, you were just sending them, or not able to provide them the past emails or something, but now you present them all together, grouped together for them as a part of a kit.
Felix: Makes sense. Once you guys were able to launch your Kickstarter, get over $200,000 in the last campaign, the one before that $45,000. Can you talk to us a little bit about the growth outside of that? Can you share any figures, any numbers on how you’ve been able to grow the business outside of Kickstarter?
Alexandra: Yeah. I mean, so the first year, our very first year, which was not even 12 months, we made $1,000,000 in revenue, and that was last year. And this year we’re gonna grow over 300%.
Felix: That’s amazing. What do you think is the reason for that inflection point, where you’re going from a million to now 300% growth for there? What do you think is the reason for that kind of growth?
Alexandra: I mean, so many things. It’s just the sheer amount of work that we put in, and that we produced. I mean, in 2017, we had a journal, one journal and then we had one printable kit, one poster. And then in 2018, I don’t even know how many products we have now. We have two journals, and then we have six posters, we have numerous printable kits. I mean just the amount of products itself, it just drives revenue.
Alexandra: And then our focus on providing value, and building, like you were saying before, we’re considering ourselves as the media production company, and producing as much content as we can, and growing our social media channels. All of this together that’s all … You have to do many different things to grow your business, not just one.
Felix: Definitely. When it comes to running a business, can you talk a little bit about the apps or tools that you or your team relies on to help run the business?
Alexandra: We use several different tools. We use Slack, that’s a very popular tool. It just allows our team to communicate, to chat. It’s basically just an internal chat.
Alexandra: We use Trello. Trello is a project management tool. It’s free, and you can use it for different purposes. You can use it as project management, or you can use it as [inaudible 00:46:54], we just store our ideas. Let’s say we’re searching ideas for printables because we have to produce every week. So we definitely need a lot of [inaudible] and ideas. So we have all team members, taking pictures of postcards, and saving things from Pinterest, and something they saw on Instagram and putting all our ideas in Trello.
Alexandra: We have Asana. Asana is a project management tool that we have a calendar, tasks, and what people are working on.
Alexandra: We use Canva. Canva is also a very popular tool that’s for design. Even though we don’t necessarily produce our final designs in Canva anymore because we upgraded from Canva a little bit, but when we sketch the printables, we have ideas of how … if it’s a poster, like what’s supposed to be on this poster, what kind of words, what kind of images, we use Canva. It’s very simple, it’s convenient. You don’t have to install anything on your computer, and all the team members have access to that image right away at the same time, so they … you can share it easily, and get feedback from each other.
Alexandra: Yeah, so those are the tools we’re using.
Felix: Awesome, thank you so much for your time Alexandra, BigLifeJournal.com is the website. Where do you wanna see the business grow over the next year? What are some of the things that you guys are focused on as a team?
Alexandra: 2019 is gonna be very different from us. We’re gonna start a podcast, and this is another thing which we’re … it’s way overdue. Podcast for kids and parents, and we want to make it very good. A serious production. Especially the podcast for kids. To make it interesting and engaging. And, we want to invest more into content creation. As I mentioned, that we just produce as much as we can today. We invite all these different experts, and we have guest coaches that produce content for us, but I think that we’re still not doing enough. I feel like that’s the way that you stand out today is you actually just … it’s an investment right. You might not see the return today or tomorrow, but it’s the way to build your brand, and that’s our 2019 focus.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much again for your time.
Alexandra: No problem. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Felix: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Shopify Masters, the eCommerce podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs powered by Shopify. To get your exclusive 30-day extended trial, visit Shopify.com/Masters.