Facebook is one of the best paid marketing channels for getting niche products in front of the right people, since you can show ads to users based on their interests.
Kwaku Nornoo is the owner of The Passionate Pug, a store that sells awesome pug merchandise.
On this episode of Shopify Masters you’ll learn the step by step process this entrepreneur took to test and launch their business through Facebook ads, a business that's now on track to make 6 figures.
Some of these people have never even seen these products before. That’s our 1st golden nugget—showing them these products before they can search on Amazon, Ebay, or AliExpress.
Tune in to learn
- How to test if a market is passionate before you enter it.
- What to do when your Facebook ad has high engagement but no sales.
- Facebook ads targeting tips to find more passionate customers.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
Download Shopify Masters on Google Play and iTunes!
- Store: The Passionate Pug
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Instagram
- Recommended: Sweet Tooth (Shopify app), Teelaunch
Felix: Today I’m joined by Kwaku Nornoo from The Passionate Pug dot com. That’s t-h-e p-a-s-s-i-o-n-a-t-e p-u-g dot com. As you can guess the passionate pug sells awesome pug merchandise, what started last year in 2016 and based out of Washington DC. Welcome Kwaku.
Kwaku: Hey, how you doing man?
Felix: Good, good so tell us a little bit more about the store. What was like the idea behind starting a business like this?
Kwaku: Awesome, I first started off in Tee Spring about late 2015. I was told about Tee Spring and how people are just making designs on their own and listing it and also selling on Facebook and at that point I was dabbling in a little bit of design work and so I listed a few items and they didn’t sell very well. I was trying different niches and I saw a pug and I went wow this dog is pretty popular on the internet, everybody was sharing it, the post and so I went and found a cool scarf that I was browsing around on Ali Express and I found a cool scarf and I went and listed it. I didn’t really think much of it, I’m like oh who wears a pug scarf, whatever. I put it on there and about 12 days after I had listed it, I had sold about 400 scarfs and after that I was like wow, people really love this dog so after that, having a design background, I started doing some basic pug designs and they just started taking off. And after that I was like why not go ahead and continue with this and just focus on just selling nothing but pug merchandise.
Felix: Cool so you saw that there was a lot of passion, I guess, funny that’s the name of your store. You saw that there’s lot of passion for this type of dog breed all over Facebook so you went Ali Express and you found a scarf. And were you selling on your own Shopify site at that time or were you selling it to a marketplace, how were you getting the actual sales?
Kwaku: So at that time, right before that, me and a friend had started a store together but he lost focus and we were just testing random items and I just wanted to test the scarf cause it was on of those things we had listed but we had never tested and before that we were testing things in different dog breeds and they weren’t really as viral going as this pug scarf.
Felix: Okay so one of the reasons why I wanted to bring you on this podcast, actually had reached out to the Shopify community at large, was I wanted to understand the process that a store owners go through when they are trying to test out products so exactly what you went through. So I’m assuming this wasn’t the first product that you ever picked. Did you have to go through a lot of failures, failed products, along the way?
Kwaku: Oh man I won’t begin to tell you how many failures I had. I had so many failures. I think one of my biggest failures was I was trying to advertise a t-shirt to guys that go off-road and it was such a terrible design and I put it on Facebook and I got no response, a lot of hate and at that point I kinda felt like is this even what I want to do. Do I actually continue going because at that point it was just kind of overbearing, I had lost a money just testing out different designs.
Felix: Why do you think those previous products that ended up failing failed in this niche of pug merchandise became such a success for you so quickly?
Kwaku: I think mostly it became attributed to just passion behind the product. I didn’t really put too much effort into the designs I was putting out there. I was just kind of going based off a gut feeling and you know gut feelings really never dictate a good market value. So when I started to look for passion products and products I could see people wearing every day and actually trying to put out their passion to the world. It’s a lot easier to sell products that way. So products basically that allows see people directly what the person is interested in.
Felix: So but these off roading shirts, wouldn’t there be a community of people who are into off roading just as passionately as their dogs or did you find that it wasn’t as passionate?
Kwaku: There was passion but that particular brand that I was going after, I was going after Toyota Four Runner off roaders cause at that time I had a Toyota Four Runner and I thought it was a community for them with the shirts but the shirt design just did not resonate with them at all and after the first design failure I just, I kind of felt bummed out and I was like you know let me go look for a different niche.
Felix: Okay so there might have been passion in that particular niche it’s just that maybe the designs weren’t good enough to catch the attention or get those sales. Do you find that is the, not necessarily the case, but like how do you differentiate between a failure because of design versus a failure because of a just not enough passion in that particular niche?
Kwaku: Okay so even now I still have a lot of failures with my t-shirts and my pug t-shirts, it’s just a lot of testing. You never know what people would like. Just testing a lot of different designs and trying to hit different markets so one that I was doing is that … One thing I saw a lot of failures is like when you try to go after broad market you don’t have a lot of passion behind it somebody saying passionate pug mom that lives in Oklahoma. Some people can really get behind that and really say wow, that’s really targeted towards me rather than saying just a passionate pug mom. Designs like that I found that are really beneficial and really target the audience I’m looking for and those people are very passionate.
Felix: Yeah, cause you’re not just going after pug lovers I’m looking at your site and you’re going after … You have this called pugs doing yoga so you’re looking at people who are into yoga I’m assuming or into some kind of fitness and also into pugs. So you’re layering on all of these different passions on top of each other to get really narrow. I think one of the concerns that especially a new store owner might have is they want to be as broad as possible because in a lot of peoples minds the broader you are the more potential customers there are, more potential customers the more likelihood for success or more likelihood for more sales and revenue but you’re saying that that approach just didn’t work for you at all. Can you talk about that, like why go more narrow versus trying to hit as many potential customers as possible?
Kwaku: Yeah so what I saw with the going broad is that one you don’t really have stability in the market or have a brand name in the market it’s very hard for people to trust you right away, especially if you’re a newcomer. What I seen a lot of Facebook ads, especially when I first started was hey has anybody ordered from this site? Has anybody purchased? Is this a reliable company to purchase from? And people are very skeptical but once you really hit on that passion on what they love some people are willing to take a leap of faith and those are the people that you really need to bring to your company to really jumpstart because they become brand ambassadors and they really speak about your brand especially online.
Felix: So does that mean that you, the goal, the game plan is to just start with a very narrow niche and then as you build that credibility, build that customer base, build that brand advocates that you’re talking about and then once you have that kind of place in the marketplace then expand from there. Is that the game plan?
Kwaku: Yeah, that’s exactly what the game plan is and I found that that works a lot for me because once … With Facebook nowadays it’s pretty simple, I wouldn’t say simple but it’s a lot easier to target multiple layers and multiple passions in one targeting, especially if you have a design that resonates people are really really, get excited.
Felix: Okay so this is probably a, not a broad, I mean ignorant approach but let’s just say you’re doing this pugs doing yoga hoodie that you have for sale you’re probably looking at targeting people that are into pugs but also that do yoga and that particular match you’re able to start generating some customers that way and then that’s how build … they’re your very first brand advocates. Is that like the idea behind the approach?
Felix: Okay cool. Now you mentioned that you had a lot of testing going on, right? You had to test the product, you had to test the marketplace, I think where a lot of people might stumble is that there’s just so many variables involved, so many things you can test, so many things that if you did a certain way it would be success, did a certain way it would be a failure. How do you manage all of that and make sure that you’re approaching it in a way that gets you the right results from the test and not just screw up the variables that are involved in a test, when you’re trying to test not just a product but also the market.
Kwaku: Exactly so you have to think about what type of marketing channel you’re using. I mostly use Facebook right now and Facebook has been a huge revenue driver for me. You have to understand that people on Facebook aren’t necessarily there to shop, they’re there to see things that they like and things that they enjoy. So my goal when I’m testing is to try to make the product go as viral as possible and a little amount of spend as possible.
Felix: Okay so it goes as viral as possible, give us some ideas on how you do that. Is it just the content that you’re putting out there, what are you doing to make sure that you are getting as much exposure as possible?
Kwaku: So what I like to do is, especially if it’s a product testing a new niche or something like that, I test with finding a meme that’s pretty funny, that’s already going viral and just recreating that with my own words and within that meme I like to send it to the target audience I’m looking for and see how many shares I can get. And based on the amount of shares you can tell that the niches are pretty viral niche or the niche … the people within that niche are very social. And with that I recreate a design based on similar to that meme so let’s say I did a pug doing the yoga. What happened was, I had found a video of a pug stretching and doing yoga and people found it hilarious and when I did that I was like wow, you know, this actually can have some kind of traction so me and my designer came up with an idea of pugs doing various yoga poses. And when I did that I put various yoga poses on a design and I sent it to the same audience that I had tested with before I had launched the product itself and I sent it to the exact same audience and it just started spreading like wildfire and people just loved it.
Felix: Okay so you first tested if the market was passionate enough, that was viral, that was social first, you didn’t have a product at all yet or at least for this particular design. You didn’t have the design at all yet, you just wanted to see if the market was viral, was social. You established that because of the engagement on that particular post. Can you give us a idea of the numbers behind that? What was the threshold that you’re looking for to determine that this was a good market to enter?
Kwaku: Awesome, so on Facebook you have what you call a page post engagement ad or page post engagement and that’s when you just post a picture, it’s a large square picture, 1200 by 1200 and you post it and it’s a very big picture, it shows up really clearly on the news feeds and what I look for within the first 25 or 30 dollars of ad spend if I can get at least 200 to 300 shares because the more people that share the post, the more free traffic and free engagement that you get.
Felix: Okay so when you have these shares are you, in this post, are you driving the traffic anywhere or are you just keeping all the engagement on the post and it’s just strictly to understand if there’s a market or not or are you trying to drive those engagement, those people who are looking at that post to a landing page?
Kwaku: So in the first 20 to 30 dollars, like I said I don’t put any links because Facebook limits the reach of links when you put it in the post, when you first start off so I don’t put any links and just try to make it spread, just like a regular picture, some pictures aren’t on Facebook, they spread very virally and they don’t have any links or any call to actions at all. So then when I see that it starts to spread I’ll go in the comment and when you’re the page admin your comment usually shows up first if you post it in the comment section. And people will post, hey where can I get this and within that post itself I would put it in a link like hey, get it here and I would like it so it shows up at the top of all the comments. And after that I will see if I can continue to get the engagement I was getting before and after that goes on for like two to three days, which is about, I usually spend anywhere between 20 to 30 dollars a day just for that post and after 2 to 3 days, which is about 60 bucks I’ll go back into the original post and edit it and put the actual link to the store.
Felix: I see so you’re first posting this engagement focused post and targeting the particular demographic that you’re going after, you spend about 60 dollars after a few days and then you go back in and put the link to the landing page. Now at that time did you have a … In this example, did you have a pugs doing yoga hoodie already designed within those few days or are you just driving them to your main site that had other products that we’re related to pugs but no specifically pugs doing yoga?
Kwaku: I just had it with the products itself, not necessarily pugs doing yoga but I just had a sample design so what I put in the description like hey do you find this funny? Tag and share with people that would find this funny and that was just the call to action in the description of the post before I put the link and after a few days have passed by I went back, edited and then I sent them to the passionate pug website.
Felix: Okay, one thing that I’ve been seeing a lot on Facebook with, especially with the new entrepreneurs that are taking a very similar approach to you by measuring the engagement of a community and measuring the engagement of a demographic that they’re targeting through Facebook is that, they would get a lot of engagement, a lot of likes, a lot of shares but then when they launched the product they maybe even target that same audience or maybe do what they’re saying, add it as a comment a link to that landing page, a link to the product page itself, they just don’t generate the same kind of sales that you would expect based on the engagement. Have you experienced this, have you seen this happen? What’s your, I guess, your thoughts on why that does happen?
Kwaku: Okay, so I have seen that actually and sometimes my thought process is like hmm, this got a whole bunch of engagement, got a whole bunch of comments, positive comments, why it’s not selling? So then what I like to do is like I like to go within the comments itself and just message some of the people that say, I want this or I would wear this and I’ll ask them because you know Facebook is a social place. I talk to them as a friend and I go, I’m like hey you commented on our post, you seem to love it is there any reason that you wouldn’t want to wear this or purchase this today? And from there I would get a response or maybe the price is too high or maybe they would like it in a different color and I use those comments and feedback and I go and tweak the store or tweak the product and I give them a 25 to 30 percent discount code and usually that converts into them into a customer.
Felix: Oh wow so can you give an example of this happening or does this happen with any of the products that … Or I guess you are telling me about a product that this happened for. Can you give us an example of some feedback that you got from private messaging Facebook users and that actually impacted the design or impacted the sales price?
Kwaku: So yeah, I had launched the mug that had a fawn colored pug on it, if you’re familiar with pugs the fawn colored pug is the brown one and when I first launched it, it had got a huge amount of response but then in some of the comments people were saying hey is there one for black pugs and I was like hey, I don’t have a black pug design at all so I messaged them, I was like would you be interested in buying this mug if it had a black pug on it and she was like absolutely, I have a black pug and it’s very hard to find black pug products. So that turned on a light bulb in my head and I was wow, there’s a huge market within a market of passionate pug fans that would love products based on, around the black pug so I went to my designer and we quickly came up with a mock up for a black pug and that’s been one of our top sellers so far.
Felix: Oh wow, okay awesome so when you are sending, I guess, once you have measured this engagement, measured that it’s a passionate audience are you creating a brand new ad after that as well that is, once you have the product design, are you creating a brand new ad after that as well once you have the product design, are you creating a brand new ad after that and then targeting that same demographic again or are you only editing the initial engagement post.
Kwaku: So what I like to do is like after I find a good engagement especially with photos I like to create a video either a video slideshow or if I can get the product itself just create a short five second to thirty second video just showcasing the product, nothing to fancy, people really don’t like fancy, when you get all fancy with the products they like to have that kind of friend feeling of when you show off a product. So I like to hit people from all different angles so after I see the photo going viral I’ll just make a quick slideshow showing different angles of the mug, targeting the exact same audience and with the link in the description this time because I know that this has potential to actually build a lot of sales.
Felix: Okay so this secondary ad that you create, are you doing some kind of retargeting based on people that engage with the initial post or are you just layering on the same exact targeting that you used. Do you care that they … To go after people that engaged with it originally?
Kwaku: Oh I love retargeting, retargeting is one of our strongest sales drivers so what I like to do is re-target people who have visited the page itself, our brand page and I also like to re-target people that have visited a certain collection so let’s say I’m coming out with a new collection of mugs designs, what I like to do is re-target those people that have went on the mug collection page or a mug page itself and not necessarily people that have purchased, just people that visited and view the content and I just put them into an audience itself and I will throw in a discount like hey, you checked out our mugs before I’m sure you found something that you love here’s another mug design that I think you would also love and just throw a call to action with a discount link in there.
Felix: Okay do you do any, I guess, that makes sense for people that visited your page that makes total sense to re-market to them. Are you re-marketing to people that engage with the initial post as well. Is there a way to do that?
Kwaku: Yeah, so what I like to do is, I like to go in there myself and actually message some of the people that cause some people just say, they will just tag a friend or they would just say, I need this now or I love this and I’ll just send them a private message and say hey, we would love to have you as a brand ambassador or as a customer and here’s how you can get started and I’ll just send them a link to our store with the product.
Felix: Cool okay now so when you are actually running ads to a product that you already validated that there’s a lot of passion in the industry, you already determined that it’s going to be a very popular product because it’s already been successful through virality, are you … I’m just trying to get a better understanding of how do you set up your targeting inside the ads itself when it’s, when no one really has visited your store yet, maybe when you first started out, no ones visited you store much yet at all because you didn’t have a product yet, now you have the product in your hands and you’re ready to start advertising these people, can’t really re-market yet because no one’s visited the product page yet, are you just going with the same targeting settings that you had previously with the initial engagement focused ad.
Kwaku: No, so that’s a great question so I like to do that as well but I also like to think outside the box. When I’m first targeting I really don’t have a clue, I like to plug in the niche onto Google and type in the word association or forums or magazines behind that keyword so for example I’ll plug in pug magazines, or pug forums, or pug websites and Google will just return me a list of things that … Or a list of destinations where I think the audience will hang out and I’ll see if I can plug that in, into audience insights, which is a Facebook tool, it’s a free tool on Facebook that lets you see if those pages are targetable.
Felix: Okay so if they’re targetable then you target those people, those people that have expressed interest in those associations, forums, magazines, websites and that works pretty well for you I’m assuming?
Kwaku: Exactly and also very popular within the dog niche is like a golden tip is rescue networks, the rescue interest work very well because people that are interested in dog rescues are very very passionate.
Felix: So now I think when someone starts off with a Facebook advertising for the first time, let’s say that they are also selling pug merchandise, they might just go in say why target these associations where they’re kind of obviously it’s related to, to that particular passion that they have with dogs or with pugs but why not just target pug lovers for example, just go direct to the source like what’s the issue with doing that?
Kwaku: Because you don’t really know how some of these pages are built, you might not know if the marketer that built, let’s just say a pug lovers page, it might just have a bunch of pictures of cute pugs and the audience might be younger women or younger kids that really don’t have the money or the desire to purchase the products but once you target somebody’s associations and these magazines these are buyers of the product, these are buyers of the niche.
Felix: I see cause it’s easy to like a page that says pug lovers but you have to be much more deeper, much more passionate about that particular niche to actually like or be interested in an association or a magazine around it.
Felix: Okay, it expresses a lot more intent, interest too. That makes sense. Now when you’re testing all these, I think it sounds like the name of the game for you is to be able to integrate through a lot of testing, testing through products and you know you landed on a winner here with the passionate pug, talk to us about your setup, like how do you get if someone doesn’t have an idea yet for a product or a niche to go after how can they setup, I guess, what’s your system. How do you set it up in a way that allows you to go through the cycles of testing as quickly as possible?
Kwaku: Got you, so I usually have my designer go on Pinterest and just take a look at some of the stuff that’s trending around the niche, pictures are very very great for niche research, you just plug in the niche name in the search bar and you can plug in the niche name plus clothing or apparel or gifts and a bunch of different ideas show up in the Pinterest feed and you can get a lot of different ideas on what to test and see what’s hot because Pinterest has that re-pin tool and just based on the amount of re-pins you can kind of tell if this is something that people who are within that niche are really interested in. And from there I get my designer to recreate something that he believes would be similar to what that image or what that is and after he designs that he puts it in a folder, we use Dropbox a lot, and what he does I give him a weeks worth of images that I go through and find and I’m like hey, can you redesign some of these images with our flair, with our own brand name and brand voice.
And from there I literally just go in, grab the image after he’s done uploading it to our store with the mockup’s and I go on Facebook and I literally use the same target I’ve been using since the beginning to just test over and over again because I know that that audience is really resonates with our brand and it’s not as cold as we were before when we first got into the market so people are more familiar with the brand.
Felix: Makes sense, now what about … It sounds like it’s working well for this passionate pug assumption because you already this built in brand familiarity from people that are seeing it over and over again. You already have the targeting pretty narrowed down, you already have an idea of what’s popular in this space. What about the process that you were going through prior to landing on the passionate pug when you were trying to go after different niches trying to match with different products, what was your system like then to go through the testing to make sure you had a market that was viable.
Kwaku: Got cha’, even to this day, I’m exploring some new niches to go ahead a build my e-com empire with small niches and we do the same thing. We go in, we go through, we use various sources like Ali Express, Ebay, Amazon and we just kind of see what type of review certain parts are getting within niches were interested in getting into so some of the newest niches I’m exploring is the hunting and fishing niche and I just go on Amazon or Ebay and just type in hunting or fishing and see what types of parts are getting a lot of reviews. What I like to see is if a product is getting a lot of reviews that means that there’s a market for and people are interested in or want the product. So I always go head and click into the reviews and see what are some of the pain points people are coming up with and see if some of the words that they are using within the niche like the niche language can be targeted on Facebook and I like to go after new niches like that.
Felix: Okay cool, now do you set up a brand new Shopify site each time you go after a niche, you set up a brand new Facebook page, like what’s the actual, I guess, logistics of getting a product or a site or brand up?
Kwaku: Got cha’ so what I do I just create new Facebook pages because setting up a new Shopify site is kind of intensive especially if you want people to trust you right off the bat when they land on your page and creating a Facebook page takes just a few minutes. I create a new Facebook page and I literally find the product that I’m interested in promoting or selling and I’ll just post it up to a page. It would be an empty fan page and I’ll just post a picture of the product with a small call of action saying hey would you be interested in buying this product, share, and tag a friend and I’ll just go ahead and run a PPE engagement ad with that and see what type of comments or what type of feedback I get.
Felix: So it’s okay in your experience that the Facebook page is brand new doesn’t have any followers right off the bat, doesn’t have that much content on it, do people care about that?
Kwaku: So what I’ve noticed about Facebook, especially nowadays is that most people don’t leave their news feed, they kind of just keep scrolling through their news feed until something catches their eye and then they stop and most people I’ve talked to, even close friends, they rarely click on the page unless their super interested in seeing what the page has to offer and even then they’re really not skeptical because new pages come up all the time and what I like to do sometimes is if I really want to dive into that niche is I’ll post a few memes and other content articles within that page just to get some population and give it a little more trustworthiness.
Felix: I think that’s a great observation that people don’t really leave their news feed and this is just anecdotally, anecdotal but I’m the same way, I’ll scroll through I see interesting products but I never click through to see what’s going on in that page. For the longest time a lot of people were saying that you need to build a social media presence because you need to build trust through there. I find for myself that I barely ever go to social media anymore to quote, unquote make sure this particular store is legitimate just by looking at their follower numbers. That makes a lot of sense that you don’t need to focus on that cause if someone does click on your page they’re probably very interested in the product they’re not then likely not clicking to validate because they’re skeptical, they probably see if this a legitimate company they’re probably clicking through because they want to hear more, they want to learn more, they want to see more of that particular content. Those people are already probably going to buy regardless of what they se eon your page anyway.
Felix: Cool, so what’s been the turn around time for this process for you when you go through, kind of go through all this again, you go on these different marketplaces, Ali Express on Ebay, you look at reviews, see what’s being talked, being reviewed a lot to see what’s popular on those markets. Now I think I guess the skeptic would say if it’s already well on these sites on these marketplaces why would they buy from you? Why would they buy from someone that bought from this supplier and sell it through their own Shopify. What would you say to someone that says something like that?
Kwaku: So what I kind of deal with that, cause I do get that a lot from people that I help out on the side and people that are starting off is that one thing that we do have an advantage of all these market places that we’re first to market, some of these products people aren’t necessarily going to Ebay to search for a niche product unless it’s a gift or you know they’re really intent on finding this product. So usually, we’re usually the first ones to even get to the market by showing this in the newsfeed. Some people have never even seen some of these products before and that’s usually our first golden nugget right there is that, showing these products first before they actually search on Amazon or Ebay or Ali Express, it gives us a head start to the market.
Felix: Okay, makes sense um, when you’ve … I think one of the cool things I’ve seen about your site is that you mentioned this earlier about reaching out to people that have liked or have tagged their friends into it to ask if they want to be brand ambassador, tell us a little bit about this, what is your brand ambassador program like in, well we’re start there, what is your brand ambassador program like?
Kwaku: Okay, so we’re still building that out and we’re just vetting different things right now but what really works that we’ve seen so far is using Instagram pages. Instagram pages have a lot of, especially now, they have a lot of more reach than Facebook pages and people on Instagram love love love to share pictures of their dog, love to share pictures of different products they purchased, especially with hashtags so what we do is we reached out to Instagram pages that have at least 50 to 100 thousand followers and what we do is we just give them a link to our product and say hey, this is a new product that we’re selling, we’re selling about 15 to 20 units a day and I’d be an awesome fit for your audience, would you be interested in promoting this product to your audience for a small commission fee and some people are happily love to do that because some people are running these pages, aren’t necessarily monetizing them so for any opportunity for them to monetize they would gladly jump on.
Felix: I see, okay so you’re reaching out to you’re looking for people that have Instagram profiles that fit the 50,000 to 100,000 followers?
Kwaku: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Felix: So when you reached out to them what’s the, you know because I’ve seen a lot of influencer marketing strategies when people are reaching out and they say hey can I send you a free product but don’t really stipulate that they I guess have a promotion behind it, what are your thoughts on that approach, kind of, a very soft sell into an influencer brand ambassador program versus yours where it’s like right off the back there’s some kind of commission, something in it for them monetarily, have you tried both, I guess, approaches?
Kwaku: Yeah I have and the thing about Instagram is that sometimes these pages are being run by little kids that really, don’t really care about monetizing it, they just want to share their passion for whatever it is and it gets kind of tricky with that because I don’t really like to do business with kids under a certain age cause I don’t think that’s legal even in certain areas to promote like that. I like to vet them out and ask them if they’ve done promotions before and some of these larger pages a lot of people are actually reaching out to them to do promotions so their familiar with the promotion structure and the schedule and it kind of works out sometimes for us.
Felix: All right cool, so what’s usually, I guess the deal behind that. Do you have some kind of stipulation that they post, include a link in their bio or post X number of post about your product like what’s usually the structure of the deal.
Kwaku: Got cha’ I actually have a funny story about that. So a while ago I actually reached out to a influencer who had a good amount of followers. I said hey, I’m going to send you a free mug to promote to your followers so I sent her all the information, including the bitly link, but what she had done was that she had actually clicked the bitly link and grabbed the full URL and posted it to her bio and I took a look at it, I was like wow this is a mess, nobody would click this, and that influencer did not pan out for me at all but what I like to try to get them to do is post one or two pictures on their timeline and also change their bio for up to 48 hours and some people actually agree to those stipulations.
Felix: And do you find that the cost of … Are you giving them some kind of flat rate plus a commission usually or what’s the financials behind … You don’t have to go in to too much details if you don’t want to but what’s usually, how much do you, I guess, expect to spend if you’re looking to target an influencer that’s 50,000 to 100,000 followers?
Kwaku: Okay, so it depends on their engagement. If I see that a post has a lot of, if the page has a lot of engagement I like to just stick with just a commission base like 15 to 20 percent of sales because at that point I’m more interested in capturing the customer and talking to them after the sale via email marketing so with that I’ll just give them 15, 20 percent on the front end and just let them generate sales how they feel comfortable with, usually they come back after their motion [inaudible 00:35:10], they tell me like hey I’d like to continue to work with you could I just keep the link up and I’m like yeah that’s fine with me the link is cookie for 30 days and they can generate sales even long after they have posted the picture. But if they have low engagement I like to start with them between 20 to 50 bucks and people are usually really receptive to that.
Felix: Oh wow so it’s a very economical approach to reaching a lot of people. You don’t have to spend too much money at all. I think a lot of time you blow through that kind of budget in a day on Facebook and get maybe just a couple of sales so I think your approach makes a lot of sense. I like that you’re also saying that you’re not trying to make a killing, you’re not trying to make a crazy profit on these influencers right off that bat, you’re trying to just get them into your database, you’re trying to get them into your funnel and then you’ll continue to follow up with them through email marketing because you have so many, so you’re not just selling one product you’re selling multiple hoodies, mugs, phone cases, bags. You’re selling a lot of different things so tell us a little bit more about what happens in your funnel. You mentioned email marketing is there anything else that happens once someone is, becomes a customer for the first time?
Kwaku: Yeah after someone becomes a customer for the first time, we actually try a promotion where if you were to share our page or share a product, or share a review you actually start to earn points and they’re called passionate pug points and people love that, they … I use an app called Sweet Tooth and they basically track all the points for me after you create an account and based on their various activities you do on the site such as liking a post or sharing a link or purchasing a certain amount of products you actually accumulate points that you can spend on other products and what I found about really niche stores is that your amount of customers that you have available to purchase from you is very limited so you have to give them a wide selection for them to come back.
Felix: Okay so what are you sending to them in email, are you just promoting new products, are you running other kind of content for them?
Kwaku: Okay so our first email is a welcome email and that’s right after an order has been placed. You get an email saying oh hey thanks for joining our community, we have a private Facebook group and a private Facebook page that you can come and interact with other pug owners and share pictures and talk about other pug things that you might be so inclined to talk about in our private Facebook group and I give them a link to that. I also give them a link to our main Facebook page as well as our Instagram page and also give them a small blurb about how long the shipping times are going to be for certain products and when they can expect their product and then after that email has been sent out I have a review email that goes out about 14 days after they have ordered, I ask them to leave a review about their experience from ordering with us and that has really helped us tremendously with sales in the future.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative), now the private Facebook group I like this because now you’re not just communicating one on one with these customers you are creating a community and you’re letting them communicate with each other and that just builds value on top of it without you having to be the sole provider of the value, you’re letting the community provide as well. What has that been like, how’s the process of … What’s it like to run a private Facebook group?
Kwaku: It’s pretty awesome, this group actually, I don’t really moderate that bunch the only time I moderate is when I see people posting links to their own products and I like to have people respect the group and not post too many product links because people actually get turned off cause they don’t want to get sold there in a private Facebook group, they just want to share information about, you know, their pug and maybe if there pug is having a, they had an injury or they had a surgery and they want to share a picture or share their experience with other pug owners about how it’s going for them and it’s kind of self-moderate I don’t do too much work in the private Facebook group. Everybody kind of respects each other and it’s kind of new content each hour. It’s kind of crazy, when I first started it I didn’t really know what I was doing I just kind of put it together and I ran two to five dollars worth of traffic to it just to get some traction, I also posted it in our main Facebook page and we had gotten about 100 members within the first week but now, I guess, based on people just sharing it with their friends and virality it’s almost at 3,000 members and that happened within a span of about 2 to 3 months.
Felix: Very cool, so you don’t even have to provide much content like these are just the community has pretty much taken on a life of its own?
Kwaku: Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly.
Felix: That’s awesome. So you mentioned earlier about the initial introduction email to your customers you’ll talk about expected shipping times so is that because you are, is it mostly all print on demand and proprietary or do you hold any inventory yourself.
Kwaku: So most of the items, especially the merchandise like the mugs, the clocks, and the bags, those are all print on demand and people are expecting three to five day shipping especially because Amazon has fooled everybody so I have to give them a forecast like hey this t-shirt is made when you place an order and that allows us to give you the pricing that’s economical to us and very economical to you and I also do hold some inventory for specialty products like I still browse Ali Express and Ebay and I’ve found some really cool products that I add to my store and I kind of test demand by drop shipping them for the first week to see if I can sell five to ten units and after that I just buy in bulk. And also Etsy is a great great marketplace to connect with artist and people who are very crafty and you can find some really unique items on Etsy.
Felix: I see so you are going on Etsy to find people who are creating these awesome products and you’re sourcing from these Etsy sellers directly?
Kwaku: Exactly and also I’ll just talk to them, I’ll just send a message like hey you know this scarf is really cute, it’s really awesome for my audience people are already talking about it and I have about 5 to 10 already pre-sold, what could you do in terms of price that can be very economical for both of us and I’ll like to purchase X amount of units.
Felix: So I see a distinct look to a lot of these products, the kind of pugs that are on there so when you’re sourcing from other manufacturers like on Etsy for example sourcing from other producers or sourcing from Ali Express does it, do you find that the logo or the imagery or I guess the brand is different than what you’ve created with the passionate pug, does that have an impact on your sales or the customer’s experience?
Kwaku: I haven’t had any really retaliate in terms of that, nobody had really complained about the brand imagery on the site they’re just so in love with the product and the fact that they’re able to find super unique items that resonate with their niche and resonate with what they love they actually kind of look past that. I had a really good seller this past holiday season with the pug lamps and those were, they sold so much during the holidays season and if you look at that imagery it looks completely different from what everything else on our site because the print on demand items have a white background and this one had, kind of, a brick background and it just looked completely different but people still loved it.
Felix: Yeah, I didn’t even look out for what might be a source outside what you designed until you mentioned it so I mean it didn’t jump out to me at all so I’m assuming these people that don’t, most people are just passionate about the niche and they don’t care about is this brand, is this product on brand on not so then that makes a lot of sense. Now you mentioned earlier too about how you’re sending email to get people to write these reviews, do you have to incentive them in any way to get them to write a review because whenever I get an email for example maybe I’m an edge case, whenever I get an email from someone asking for a review I just, I don’t necessarily don’t want to do it but I put it aside, I’ll do this later or something but I never get around to it. Do you find there’s a way to incentive people to take the time out to get you an honest review?
Kwaku: So the review in the email it actually has a 40 percent discount on everything in the store if you leave a review. It’s funny now that you mention it people leave their review without actually using the discount, very few people have actually used the 40 percent discount even after they leave a review so I guess after you leave a review they kind of forget about it but other than that I haven’t really had that much trouble getting reviews because people just love their product and love sharing. It’s one of those social niches that people will just go and post on their Facebook page and after that it would just kind of do what it does on itself.
Felix: Yeah, I think that’s one of the benefits of targeting a niche that’s so passionate that a lot of the customers do the marketing for you because they’re just so excited to share it. And you mentioned, I think at the very beginning, Tee Spring was the manufacturer for you to start, are you still with Tee Spring, like did you try all the other print on demand services like what are your thoughts on all of them?
Kwaku: Oh it’s awesome now cause most of the print on demand services integrate with Shopify now so you can control the customer sequence and the customer database as before you really didn’t have access to the customers they were Tee Spring or Viral Star customers and right now I’m integrated with like three print on demand companies because they offer different print on demand items that are just so cool to offer to your niche like Viral Star has wall clocks, they also have flip flops that you can print on and Tee Launch also has yoga mats that was really awesome cause I got to put the pugs doing yoga design on a yoga mat and that was really cool and people loved it.
Felix: That’s cool, do you find it difficult to manage all these sources are is it pretty easy to integrate?
Kwaku: With Shopify it’s pretty, the integration is very streamlined, the only issue like I said is that some of this manufacturers, everybody has different shipping times so within that welcome email I kind of mention that you might be receiving your items at different times because we are sourcing from different suppliers and they have different shipping times. So I’m really transparent with the customers up front.
Felix: And you don’t get any kind of backlash like people are like I want a refund because I didn’t expect that I’d take this long, did you ever have any issues with that?
Kwaku: I did run into issues with that during the holiday as I had forecasted that how much a certain product wasn’t going to make as many sales as it did and I didn’t order enough so when it got to around Christmas time I had a handful of angry customers that were pretty upset that they weren’t going to get their item in time for Christmas but I kind of just gave them an incentivized, an incentive of like 40 percent off future products and I also gave the option for them to get a refund and them still get their item just to keep the customer happy for the future.
Felix: Yeah, that’s awesome and when you launched the passionate pug did you have all of these products or did you have a majority of these products already listed like what did you start with? How many products did you start with?
Kwaku: Actually started off with like five products. I started off with the scarf that sold like 400 within the first month and then I started off with like 3 or 4 designs on the t-shirt and those designs actually kind of flopped so the scarfs actually kept me afloat when I first started from there me and my designer went on a frenzy like I literally gave him 5 to 10 designs to do a day and we just tried to launch as many different designs as possible and the store kept growing.
Felix: So did you, I guess, groom that list because five different designs a day there’s a lot of products on here but definitely doesn’t add up, did you remove certain products after you determined they weren’t successful?
Kwaku: Yeah so there’s a lot of products that I actually have hidden that are not showing on the dashboard because they were just flops, they were just taking up space and they just did not look good with the overall brand and I understood that based on the amount of sales that they did not deliver so after the product is on the store for about a month or two and it doesn’t generate organic sales after I have launched it and advertised it, I just remove it.
Felix: That’s smart so when you work with this designer are you working on a like per design basis, if someone wants to take the same approach as you and create 5 to 10 different designs every day for a couple of weeks just to try everything out, it can get expensive if you’re paying them per design. What’s your, you don’t have to tell me about your particular arrangement but, what’s a typical setup for someone that wants to work with a designer?
Kwaku: Got cha, so initially I had found a few designers on Facebook, through the Facebook groups I had just reached out and asked if anybody could do some designs but then what I did after that was that I actually hired a designer full time and I paid him a salary and he was based out of the Philippines so I gave him a weekly salary of about $250 so that came out to a pretty economical design per design.
Felix: Very cool, now when you first started talking you told me that since you launched this store, a year from around this time January 2016 so a year later give us an idea of how successful the business is, how much has it grown to?
Kwaku: Oh it’s awesome so this past year we generated just right under six figures of revenue. There was a lot of struggle with that, with refunds and just trying to figure out the processes that worked and sometimes I wouldn’t sell anything but my designer was still working so I still had to pay them and it’s been going great so far this year like I actually kind of understood about e-commerce is not just slapping products up and hoping it sales actually building a loyal customer base and using a lot of your past customers as feedback and sending them surveys, asking them what they like to see for the future.
Felix: Yeah sounds like a huge learning year for you but also made money along the way so definitely doesn’t hurt. So when you think about what you want to do for this year 2017 like what you want to focus on cause I know you mentioned launching other niches, like do you want to continue to expand the catalog with the passionate pug or where do you want to put your focus in this year?
Kwaku: So what my kind of vision for the passionate pug at this point is to kept using Facebook but also add in two to three new traffic sources so we’re starting to heavily focus on Google and also heavily focus on Pinterest. Instagram is something that I want to focus on but because the way the influencers work it’s actually very manual so we’re just looking for more hands off approaches to advertising so we’re going to use Google and Pinterest and also reach out to some blogs. Blogs are a very underrated traffic source that people don’t really look at, they actually have a very passionate audience and people that subscribe to blog post and look at blogs all the time will love to see what we have to offer.
Felix: And speaking of Instagram do you do any of your paid advertising that you set up in Facebook to target Instagram or is it all through the influencers?
Kwaku: So what I’ve noticed is that on Instagram when I directly try to sell on Instagram my demographic, the majority buying demographic from my store actually does not hang out on Instagram so our Instagram paid efforts using the Facebook platform has not panned out to what we like to see. It’s usually a lot of younger audiences so on Instagram our marketing strategy for that is to have a lot of low pricing products to get people in the door. We try to sell a products that’s like 60 dollars on Instagram for us personally we’ve seen that it did not pan out but if we were to sell a mug for like 15 bucks we would see that that pans out a lot more.
Felix: Do you find that this is the case with all the other industries and niches that you’ve gone after or is it the specific to the passionate pug?
Kwaku: Mostly specific to the passionate pug I’ve noticed that our, not even noticed its just based on data our audience is usually women over the age of 45 is our biggest buying audience, which would be funny because when I first started out I’m like I though it would be younger people, you know, people under the age of 30 that found pugs funny or found pug apparel and merchandise funny that would be wearing it but-
Felix: Yeah people that wear t-shirt and hoodies are usually, you’d imagine, are younger too.
Kwaku: Exactly so when it started turning out to be a lot older audience I was very baffled.
Felix: Yeah that’s cool that you’re able to determine that through the data though because so much of the time we have these preconceptions in our mind about what our customers like but there’s no better correction than to look at it through the actual sales from your demographics. Yeah so thank you so much for your time Kwaku so the passionate pug dot com is the website, the store that we just talked about. Anywhere else you recommend listeners check out or follow along with you, they want to learn more about what you’re up to, learn more about your approach to launching these kind of businesses.
Kwaku: You can follow me on Facebook at Kwaku Nornoo that’s my Facebook profile name and also very active in a lot of the Shopify groups on Facebook and various groups so you can reach out to me via private message on Facebook or just reach out to me through the groups.
Felix: Cool and just so that people know how to find you, your name is spelled K-w-a-k-u, last name’s N-o-r-n-o-o, and again the passionate pug dot com is the website. Again, thanks so much for your time Kwaku.
Kwaku: Awesome Felix, I really appreciate you having me on the podcast.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store for the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 3: You’re competing for attention of people in general so it’s not that, I mean it’s a noisy world and it’s no longer just like hey I’m competing with my direct competitor you’re just competing to capture the attention of someone long enough to tell them what you’re doing so if it’s not exciting enough and I mean people have a million things to do and now they’re tied to their phones and they’re connecting with their friends so it’s gotta be something that grabs them so I always suggest in terms of length of video to keep it short and sweet, high energy and extremely great visuals, something that can pull them in very quickly right from the start.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the e-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today visit Shopify dot com slash masters to claim your extended 30 day free trail.
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