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Experts in the Room Podcast – Episode 6

The Experts in the Room podcast explores the evolving worlds of customer experience, retention and data with some of the leading minds in some of the fastest-growing and most competitive industries in the world.

 

To listen to episode six, eCommerce, the Hard Truth, featuring Isaiah Bollinger, CEO of Trellis, click here. Alternatively, you can read the full transcript below.

 

00:00:04:24 – 00:00:30:12

Will

I’m Will Hansen and welcome to the Experts in the Room podcast brought to you by Xtremepush. In this series, we chat with some of the leading minds working in the customer experience, retention and data space in some of the most competitive and fastest-growing industries in the world. In this episode, eCommerce The Hard Truth, I spoke with Isaiah Bollinger, founder of Trellis Agency and Growth Spark and one of the leading lights in B2B eCommerce in the U.S.

 

00:00:30:22 – 00:00:51:13

Will

Isaiah is a veteran podcaster, and we chat about everything from building partnerships and running an agency to the dos and don’ts for prospective brands entering both the direct-to-consumer space as well as the B2B space. If you’re anyway interested in eCommerce, this is the episode for you.

 

00:00:51:13 – 00:01:15:02

Will

Isaiah Ballinger, co-founder and CEO of Trellis Full Service Marketing Agency, one of the best going in the eCommerce business in the states. Also hugely important to have you on our podcast today as a co-host of a podcast, The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce. Great to have you here today with us on Experts in the Room, Isaiah. So yeah, really excited to chat to you today.

 

00:01:15:11 – 00:01:22:14

Isaiah

Yeah, thank you for inviting me. It’s nice to be on a podcast and not have to worry about like recording and publishing and all I have to do is just show up, you know?

 

00:01:23:10 – 00:01:32:22

Will

Yeah, exactly. It’s a different hat. It’s perfect for you today. It’s the full relaxation mode. You get to spout your wisdom without having to interrupt or anything.

 

00:01:33:05 – 00:01:39:06

Isaiah

Yeah. The dream is that I get invited to enough of these. That’s all our marketing and all I have to do is just, like, show up and that, you know.

 

00:01:40:02 – 00:02:05:06

Will

Yeah, who knows? It could be the day job soon enough. You could be the new Rogan or something getting around. That’s how I’ve pitched it internally, to be able to run the show. So maybe not down that route but yeah. Great to have you here with us. Really. It’d be awesome to get a bit of background about you for everyone that’s listening to the show today, definitely get on it.

 

00:02:05:06 – 00:02:36:16

Will

You’re one of the best people that I follow on LinkedIn, for all the tidbits that you throw up in and around eCommerce and retail and everything to do with digital and online marketing. So it’d be cool to just get an understanding of your agency and what you’re doing at the moment. And then and then I guess we’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of best practices in and around what brands should be doing and what they should be thinking about heading into 2023 in the online world for digital marketing and eCommerce.

 

00:02:36:24 – 00:02:58:19

Isaiah

So yeah, I mean, I didn’t work very long after school. I kind of just knew I want to do my own thing. People always ask me like, Oh, how did you like, you know, as if I had like some grand plan and genius strategy to start. But it was just kind of like knowing I wanted to do my own thing and working for some other people kind of made me realise what I felt like they were doing wrong.

 

00:02:58:19 – 00:03:24:11

Isaiah

And I saw an opportunity to try something and do something a little different on my own that I thought could be could be better. It was harder than I thought getting yeah. Getting going and I didn’t have a lot of experience is just kind of like I kind of bet on myself to learn. I’m kind of a fast learner and one of the reasons I was never a fan of schools, I always felt that kind of like it went at one pace and I would go up my own pace in the real world.

 

00:03:24:11 – 00:03:42:16

Isaiah

So that was like, Well, this is my chance to kind of go up my own pace, right? When I’m allowed anyone to tell me what to do, right? I can just do what I think is the best way forward. So it was a lot of trial and error and kind of felt like I didn’t even actually start in eCommerce, I started in SEO, so I started in marketing kind of broadly digital marketing.

 

00:03:42:16 – 00:04:02:12

Isaiah

And keep in mind, back in 2011, 2012, it was like, you know, most of the small businesses that I was talking to, they had like barely anything, right? Like, you know, maybe some of them would have an eCommerce site, but that was pretty rare. And if they did, it was very minimal. So you’re talking like very minimal stuff that people had.

 

00:04:03:11 – 00:04:22:14

Isaiah

So I kind of realised quickly that what they needed was more infrastructure because you can’t do SEO without some sort of content infrastructure. And I realised eCommerce is a good way to do that. And so yeah, long story short, we kind of, you know, realised that eCommerce was a better focus and more of a broad focus.

 

00:04:23:02 – 00:04:44:10

Isaiah

And we built up around Magento. We still do Magento today. It’s now owned by Adobe for people that are more in the weeds. For a while, it was kind of the leading platform, especially in those early days and like 2011, 2012, 2013. And then, you know, over time we saw Shopify gain traction. So we picked that up as an offering.

 

00:04:44:17 – 00:05:06:02

Isaiah

But we merged with/acquired a small Shopify agency, so their owner became one of our owners, which kind of helped us accelerate the Shopify positioning. And then we picked up Big Commerce, which I’m happy to talk about. We’re bullish on them and we felt like they were kind of filling in a gap as Magento got acquired by Adobe, they became- it felt

 

00:05:06:03 – 00:05:23:12

Isaiah

like there was this kind of this opening and big commerce sort of kind of felt filled out a little bit, kind of almost like what Magento used to be. And we do what we call headless commerce. We have a kind of headless practice. It’s I don’t know if you saw some of my posts there are a lot of buzzwords and confusing terminology,

 

00:05:23:17 – 00:05:24:03

Will

Yeah.

 

00:05:24:03 – 00:05:24:23

Isaiah

I’m not a fan of buzzwords.

 

00:05:25:08 – 00:05:29:10

Will

It’s I think one of them was compostable posts.

 

00:05:29:21 – 00:05:52:08

Isaiah

Whether it’s headless, composable, that whole kind of like newer technology way of doing eCommerce. We do that as well. So those are kind of the four buckets. We are kind of exploring a couple of other platforms, but there’s only so much we can do. It’s already a lot to do. Those four, there’s some overlap between the four and we work as well as we can to kind of like leverage the advantages of overlap.

 

00:05:52:08 – 00:06:15:09

Isaiah

But we also have to have expertise in each different area. And then yeah, the biggest thing that we’ve been doing in the last few years and probably one of the most challenging things is to become more full-service. So one of the things we realised is trying to do everything well was, was hard. So in the beginning we were we doubled down on just being the technical experts and focusing on that over time.

 

00:06:15:09 – 00:06:37:02

Isaiah

We kind of got better at the creative. And even creative is this whole world that you kind of uncover over time where there’s like there’s user experience, there’s branding, there’s copywriting. Creative can start to get really broad, right? Like ad creative for Facebook is very different than designing a website, right? And the skill sets, they’re not exactly one-for-one.

 

00:06:37:15 – 00:06:57:09

Isaiah

And there are learnings that we had to go through there. And then the marketing, you know, I had that SEO background, I had some marketing background but building out the marketing organization around paid ads, you know, Google ads, Facebook, all that kind of stuff took, took a while to kind of like bring all this stuff together and become more full service.

 

00:06:57:09 – 00:07:02:07

Isaiah

So it’s still ongoing, you know, challenge to be good at all things, right?

 

00:07:03:20 – 00:07:29:21

Will

Yeah, I can imagine. And then so, so where I’d like to drill down today is talking about the market as it’s gone from 2022 and as we head into 2023, I think as you’ve talked about like it’s so weird to think back to the fact that 2011 and 2010 like you talking to brands that, you know, have no eCommerce, no online capability at all and how much it’s evolved in ten years and we forget that.

 

00:07:29:21 – 00:07:53:13

Isaiah

Yeah, people especially like manufacturers, they were scared to sell on their websites. Right, because they didn’t want to upset their, you know, their retailers and it was still so new. People just didn’t understand it that well, you know, that’s why SEO became kind of like a buzzword, like, oh yeah, get on Google. Right. And you had this kind of like simple buzzwords that would kind of move the needle.

 

00:07:53:13 – 00:08:05:08

Isaiah

So sometimes you have to talk to people about something like SEO, but then by thinking about it, it’s like, well, really an eCommerce site is a good way to do so because you get product data on the website and then Google finds all that it’s better than just having a static page, you know?

 

00:08:05:19 – 00:08:31:12

Will

So yeah, and it’s just amazing how much it’s like you’re talking about it. It’s like the Stone Age back then. It’s only ten years ago and you see the acceleration we’ve ever had in two or three years. I found it interesting that it’s still only most retailers are still only doing about 20% online, as sales, as their core thing.

 

00:08:32:03 – 00:08:42:18

Isaiah

Yeah like 5-10%, especially when you get into distribution and manufacturing. And yeah, we deal with a lot of B2B. So some of those companies are at 0% still.

 

00:08:43:21 – 00:09:05:01

Will

And how do you go about, as an agency and you, in particular, being an expert in the field, like if you’re talking to brands that are, you know, either entering a 0%, whether they’re mature or their start-up. Like what are the tips that you guys are giving them?

 

00:09:05:03 – 00:09:26:17

Isaiah

Yeah. Another challenge that we ran into and this is partly our problem, not necessarily like the client’s problem, but I think it, definitely will help you understand the dichotomy of that level. So as we start to do bigger projects, you know, the process became more and more mature because, you know, when we’re doing these bigger projects, you need more people, you need more process.

 

00:09:26:17 – 00:09:49:20

Isaiah

Things can go off the rails very quickly on a larger project. And what we realized is that all of a sudden that process wasn’t a good fit for people that were newer to eCommerce or more early stage, right? If they had a smaller Shopify website, they didn’t need all that. Yeah. So we have created two different companies within our company.

 

00:09:50:19 – 00:10:13:20

Isaiah

One of the companies we acquired was called Growth Spark and we kept the name, we kind of like the name and we’ve been using that name to describe and brand our small business offering and what we’re realizing with the and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a small business – what we’re realizing for the people that fit into the growth spark model, which I guess you could describe as people that are newer to eCommerce.

 

00:10:14:06 – 00:10:39:04

Isaiah

So this could be, you know, a huge company that maybe just doesn’t do eCommerce or could just be a small company. Maybe they do a few million bucks on eCommerce. They just don’t need the trellis enterprise process that works for them. You know, these big three or four or 500 K projects that we do. And so what we’re seeing resonate a lot with them is really like keeping some of the foundational elements very simple.

 

00:10:39:12 – 00:10:56:16

Isaiah

Like we honestly don’t do that much development for these clients. So a lot of it is just configuring like almost convincing them to stay within the box of Shopify. Like, Yeah, look, you don’t need to like build this custom website, you know, Shopify, it’s mainly Shopify, right? But we’re starting to do more with big commerce in the space.

 

00:10:57:02 – 00:11:15:09

Isaiah

Let’s call it Shopify and BigCommerce. But those two platforms between the two can cover a pretty wide range of use cases and it’s like look fit into those, fit into the apps, even if they need an integration, let’s find an app for the integrations. We’re not custom integrating basically like trying to remove as much custom work as possible.

 

00:11:15:19 – 00:11:42:09

Isaiah

And it ends up being mostly about creative and marketing because when you’re early stage, that’s what you need, right? You need content, you need marketing, you need, you know, awareness. And a lot of the core technology is good enough where if you can just kind of live with it maybe, simplify certain things that you’re doing, not trying to overcomplicate, because until you’re getting to a few million bucks, you that’s where you have to build some sort of awareness.

 

00:11:42:09 – 00:11:43:14

Isaiah

No one knows who you are, you know?

 

00:11:43:15 – 00:11:58:20

Will

Yeah, it’s probably a good segue way into a post that you put up not long ago about Shopify Rising, raising their prices at the moment and people complaining about it should maybe have it have a little think about whether they’re in the right game or not.

 

00:11:59:11 – 00:12:13:12

Isaiah

Yeah, I think people just really underestimate. It’s like, okay, $40 a month is your problem. It’s like, that’s not your problem. The problem is going to be shipping costs. Marketing, like the manpower just to do marketing is pretty extraordinary that people underestimate, you know.

 

00:12:13:13 – 00:12:32:04

Will

And how do you say how much do you think that these platforms of big, big commerce and Shopify like that, they’ve opened this market up to, you know, small businesses, and even to enterprise businesses to do things simply that they hadn’t thought about online. Like, it seems like that.

 

00:12:32:07 – 00:12:44:15

Isaiah

Yeah, I think it’s great. I mean, yeah, first of all, I think, you know, people complaining about these 40, $50 a month subscriptions like I think it’s ridiculous, right? I mean, try opening a store, right?

 

00:12:44:15 – 00:12:46:18

Will

Like, yeah, bricks and mortar store.

 

00:12:47:13 – 00:13:07:04

Isaiah

Yeah, yeah. Tens of thousands of dollars just say, like, even have a reasonable store, rent and all the things that go into opening up a store. So I think they’ve opened up the door for people. But the problem is, I think that’s not the hard part. Right? You can set up a Shopify site or a big commerce site very easily.

 

00:13:07:04 – 00:13:24:06

Isaiah

The hard part is having good content building brand awareness, building a brand that resonates, you know, figuring out what your products are. Do you make the product? Do you? You know, I think a lot of people just think, oh, like, you know, I’ll just drop ship. It’s like, okay, well, what is your value prop if you’re just dropshipping?

 

00:13:24:06 – 00:13:46:20

Isaiah

Like, if anyone can do that, it’s that easy. Like, and you don’t own the products. Are you, is it cheaper? Do they trust you? Why should I buy from you is going to get there quickly. You don’t even control the shipping and the logistics. What happens if something goes wrong? I don’t get my order. You know, I don’t think people think enough about the value prop and why they would buy from you versus the bajillion other options.

 

00:13:46:20 – 00:13:58:23

Isaiah

So I think a lot of people, they’re probably better off just selling on Amazon. You know, like if you can’t sell it on Amazon, then how are you? Like obviously it’s like if you can’t sell it on Amazon, how are you going to sell it on your website? You know what I mean?

 

00:13:59:16 – 00:14:21:12

Will

Yeah, that’s a really good point. And I think that it’s funny across the whole industry about the winners and losers as we, particularly as you’re potentially heading into tougher financial times on about what’s happening and particularly against the growth of online during COVID and everything. So obviously a bit of balancing there within the market.

 

00:14:21:12 – 00:14:30:02

Will

I think for obviously the brands that are operating in the market that the tech guys that are providing into the market too that we’re seeing so yeah it’s an interesting piece.

 

00:14:30:19 – 00:14:49:04

Isaiah

But I do love that the technology is I do think if you’re savvy and you’re smart and you take the time to get good at this stuff, you can do a lot with very little technology costs, but the costs eventually add up in general. But usually what is not going to be the problem is the software, the licensing cost of Shopify.

 

00:14:49:04 – 00:14:50:04

Isaiah

That’s not gonna be your problem.

 

00:14:50:21 – 00:14:52:06

Will

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

 

00:14:53:04 – 00:14:54:13

Isaiah

With eCommerce that’s going to be the least of your problems.

 

00:14:54:18 – 00:15:29:19

Will

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, so talk to me about maybe a bit of 2022 in review for you guys. I’d love to hear about some of the particularly good things that you think either you guys did at Trellis or things that you’ve seen in the eCommerce world that were successful from probably like that branding point of market fit the idea of getting across that brand and then really nailing it from a technology perspective and that experience that the users, what the users or the customers at the end are getting like do you have any good examples of things where you’ve gone, Geez, we did a really good job with that because it’s

worked.

 

00:15:29:19 – 00:15:33:23

Will

It’s the perfect market, the perfect product?

 

00:15:33:23 – 00:15:52:09

Isaiah

Perhaps some very specific. I mean, some things are complicated, right? Because it depends on the brand and its positioning. And so there are some, some sites that went live and had like a pretty good, good lift just from our work. And I think one thing, we launched 40 sites last year, a brand new project. So that’s a lot.

 

00:15:52:09 – 00:16:10:15

Isaiah

That was our record by far. Might have been 39 but it was close to 40 and then we manage, you know, hundreds of other sites that- to be clear though that we have some clients that have 100 sites, right? So it’s not like we manage hundreds of clients at the same time, we typically have about 60 to 70 active clients.

 

00:16:10:23 – 00:16:39:22

Isaiah

There are only so many our project managers can handle. Like it becomes kind of unwieldy if a project manager has like 50 accounts. But technically we manage hundreds of sites. We launched 40 brand new sites. Some of those were relatively small Shopify sites. Some of those were huge, you know, much larger projects that are well into the seven or six figures, almost in the seven figures, but I think it’s all over the place in terms of results.

 

00:16:39:22 – 00:17:03:23

Isaiah

So I think one thing that’s learned is that it’s not like launching good code and a better user experience isn’t enough on its own, right? So in some cases, we saw a major lift in sales. In some cases, they had a downward trend for the last three years or two years and we might have seen improvements from our work, but it’s not enough to offset other market forces.

 

00:17:04:07 – 00:17:23:07

Isaiah

So I think the biggest thing that 2022 taught me is like between them, like the down, like I almost consider it recession. Like whether it got official government numbers, it doesn’t feel like we’re in the reality of whatever they’re saying. Like I was like, yeah, 3% like everyone I talked to doesn’t feel like we’re in like normal growth mode?

 

00:17:23:21 – 00:17:39:24

Isaiah

So a lot of people, I think, are feeling the negative effects of the economy and especially also with eCommerce because you saw like a huge 2020 bump and then it’s like things are kind of back to normal and you can’t just like so some of those companies like they didn’t do anything and they just saw a bump in them.

 

00:17:39:24 – 00:18:09:06

Isaiah

It’s like you can’t just think that little things will have those same effects right? So I think if anything, what 2022 taught me is that a lot of the digital tactics are effective, but only if you have a good business model to begin with. So what I mean by that is like the companies that had strong products, strong pricing, strong brands, things like email had a huge impact.

 

00:18:09:06 – 00:18:38:13

Isaiah

So we’d come in and within 90 days we can improve their email, abandon cards, like do better segmentation, you know, really just like kind of fine-tuned their email programs are mostly around automation. So a lot of companies, most companies you look at, they’ve barely done anything for email automation. Yeah, they set up some basic add-to-cart flow, like a couple of basic automation, but that’s not very well thought through and they’re missing out on email potential.

 

00:18:39:18 – 00:19:13:20

Isaiah

So we saw huge lifts in that. But it’s an example of that lift was only as strong as the brand was, right? So I guess to the point I’m making is that we could do everything well, right? Fixed our digital ads, you know, fix that. But there comes a certain point where like if all the tactics aren’t worked out, like are still not bringing up results, you have a fundamental like brand strategy issue that like you need to go down to the ground floor and be like, okay, like, why am I buying from this company?

 

00:19:13:20 – 00:19:25:18

Isaiah

Yeah. And is that story strong enough? Because there are just so many options in the market for pretty much almost everything you can imagine. Right? Unless you’re some amazing new product, which is pretty rare, you know.

 

00:19:26:14 – 00:19:52:11

Will

And that this is a complete shift away because in my day job, I sit with it as a sales function at a technology platform when you when you’re understanding and learning these brand concepts and this is me talking to you as a CEO here of an agency, how are you guys going about making sure that your clients are a match to what you’re going to be able to achieve for them?

 

00:19:53:00 – 00:20:00:01

Will

That’s it. And doing that and then looking at partnerships moving forward and stuff like that, I just think that that might be a nice little shift in there.

 

00:20:00:15 – 00:20:21:23

Isaiah

Yeah, I mean, that almost kind of tags onto this question, right? Because a lot of people, we talk to a lot of people we don’t work with, everyone we talk to, we probably only work with maybe one in ten or one in eight, seven, maybe 15% of the people we talk to we work with. And so one thing that I always try to make sure is like are we going to get results for this person, right?

 

00:20:22:05 – 00:20:40:12

Isaiah

And to your point sometimes it’s about expectations, right? If we feel like they have some major fundamental, you know, brand and business issues are we even going to be able to solve that, right? Like because there’s a certain point where like, you can’t just like outsource all your problems, right? Like, yeah, we can make your logo look nicer.

 

00:20:40:21 – 00:21:05:02

Isaiah

We can do some brand strategy work, but sometimes also people are resistant to that. They don’t think they have a brand strategy issue. And when we think they do, and that’s when I usually try to tread very cautiously, because if I think they have a brand strategy, brand issue, and just like product-market fit issue and they don’t and they’re just thinking, oh, we’re going to put some paint on the website to make it look nicer and that’s going to fix our problems.

 

00:21:05:17 – 00:21:22:14

Isaiah

Then we’re probably not going to get them results right, and then we’re just going to get fired eventually. So why like we don’t want to take on a short-term project that we know like isn’t going to get resolved, so we’re just going to inevitably get fired after three, six months. Like we’re trying to keep customers. Our goal is to keep customers forever.

 

00:21:23:04 – 00:21:53:10

Isaiah

But that’s not you know, it’s not going to always be the case. So I usually look for two things. Either they have good product market fit and they’re like, there’s some foundation. And I find that honestly, the B2B companies are the best because generally the B2B companies, their their competition is, is very weak, like the branding and the marketing and B2B is so bad honestly that just like doing the basics generally has a massive impact.

 

00:21:53:19 – 00:22:15:14

Isaiah

So, when we do Google ads accounts for some of our B2B customers, we’ll get 10 to 15 times returns so for every dollar they spend on Google, they might get $15 in revenue. Like that’ll never happen for like our skincare clients. Like, not never, but they rarely write. Like with skincare, it’s like the competition is just insane, right?

 

00:22:15:14 – 00:22:19:04

Isaiah

Like you got, like, Kylie Jenner, and like, every celebrity in the world, they’re.

 

00:22:19:14 – 00:22:21:09

Will

Selling skin care.

 

00:22:21:09 – 00:22:40:11

Isaiah

The ads are so saturated with, like, you know, I’m trying to talk to this company where they sell dehumidifiers like humidifiers. Right? Like I bet I can get a higher return if. But so that’s B2B is like an example where the foundation is usually really strong, but the marketing is in and that’s where we can fit. We can facelift the mark, I call it.

 

00:22:41:02 – 00:23:01:04

Isaiah

I think a facelift is a good analogy because they already have the foundation. I mean, we’re just like kind of everything else. Or if they don’t have all of that, they’re just willing to be to listen and like be open to ideas. And they’re, they’re not, like, headstrong about thinking. They know what the problem is when they need it more, a deeper explanation or exploration.

 

00:23:02:19 – 00:23:08:11

Isaiah

So those are kind of the two things like basically have to be very open. Yeah. Or or.

 

00:23:08:19 – 00:23:09:20

Will

Yeah.

 

00:23:09:20 – 00:23:10:05

Isaiah

You know.

 

00:23:11:00 – 00:23:28:12

Will

I think that’s massively relevant and I think it’s hugely relevant when you look at it from the other side. And if you sit as a marketing manager or CRM manager or whatever it might be, you might be, you know, owning a function or a product within, within your business and you’ve been tasked with going and finding partners.

 

00:23:28:12 – 00:23:50:06

Will

It works that way, too, and understanding what partners are out there. So it could be your back-end eCommerce platform. What are you going to get in as far as support? What are you going to get from the technology as well and start to dig down into that? I find that for brands that do that due diligence as well, there will be someone out there that’s the right partner for them.

 

00:23:50:13 – 00:24:04:13

Will

So it works on that fit as well to be able to pick partners. And I’m sure you guys are the same when you’re looking at the technology partners that you want to work with as an agency that is going to help advance your offering to your clients as well.

 

00:24:04:13 – 00:24:18:11

Isaiah

Yeah, I want to get into the tech partnerships a little bit before. I just want to give one more story as an example. So just to drive that point home, just so people can understand when I say open-mindedness, I’ll give you an example. I’ll give you a very specific example. 

 

00:24:18:15 – 00:24:38:10

Isaiah

We’re deep into the process with a company that normally like if the conversation went differently, I would have just been like, look like, let’s move on, let’s not waste our time because I don’t think this is going to work out. But the guy was, was willing to listen. So she came to us specifically with his ideas, which were more like, oh, conversion rate optimization SEO.

 

00:24:39:00 – 00:25:01:11

Isaiah

He had his idea of what he thought he needed. But when I start asking questions, I find out the business does about, you know, $5 million total, but only about $500,000 online. So going back to your point, only 10% online, not 20%. And he’s in an industry that should be at least 20% if not 30%. And but he’s been around for a long enough time.

 

00:25:02:18 – 00:25:26:07

Isaiah

And when you’re someone that when you’re still that small conversion rate optimization is usually not going to be that effective because you just don’t have that much volume. Right? So I started digging in and it was very clear to me that email and SMS are going to have the biggest impact. So his email and SMS revenue is almost zero, but he has, you know, a ton of historical customers.

 

00:25:26:07 – 00:25:41:18

Isaiah

Right? So I’m like, what if we just try and, you know, sell to those historical customers? We can get some pretty fast results. And he was open to that. He was like, All right, I hear what you’re saying. As we talked about all the options, all the things we could do, and then we brought it back to the things that we thought made the most sense.

 

00:25:41:18 – 00:25:59:22

Isaiah

It was different than what he came to us for, but he was open to that because he saw that we were trying to actually help him and get his results relatively quickly versus doing what maybe he asked us to do, which might not have gotten him results right. And so I was like, okay, he’s open. I think we can work with this guy and get results.

 

00:25:59:22 – 00:26:07:09

Isaiah

Whereas he’s like, No, no, no, I just want this one thing and we know it’s going to get results. It’s like, why even take on that account? Do you know?

 

00:26:07:23 – 00:26:40:19

Will

And I think that speaks to your experience in and around the data that sits behind your results, right? We talk about results and driving certainty to clients and customers in this space, being data-driven and being able to show that is the most important thing. Like, sure, some things might not work out as you’ve exactly mapped out against the spreadsheet, but when you’ve got proof in the pudding in the number of clients that you guys have, well, I imagine that data set for you guys is so valuable to be able to go in and say, No, no, you don’t have an optimization problem.

 

00:26:40:19 – 00:26:42:12

Will

He’s got an email problem. We can see that.

 

00:26:42:20 – 00:26:59:13

Isaiah

You can fix everyone who has an optimization problem to some extent, right? Which is the bigger problem. That’s what people don’t realize is that you have 100 problems. I have a hundred problems, but you need to figure out what is the biggest problem you can solve right now. And that’s what I think. People just don’t they don’t know what they don’t know.

 

00:26:59:13 – 00:27:21:01

Isaiah

Right. Well, but yeah, I want to I think the tech partnerships are important because I think a lot of our value prop is our tech partnerships. And a lot of people just don’t understand that. They don’t share how much thought and effort goes into that. I mean, we’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of tech partnerships. We get, you know, people constantly reach out to us.

 

00:27:21:01 – 00:27:38:13

Isaiah

Right. And we have to be honestly fairly conservative with our time because if we just don’t have time to deal with all of them, like we just it wouldn’t be possible, right? We would never get anything done. So the things that we’ve looked for are just like, are they unique in the market enough where they matter, right?

 

00:27:38:13 – 00:27:56:13

Isaiah

Like we’re just too many options in the market. So like, if they’re not the market leader, they need to be unique. So there either needs to be a market leader, like Shopify or BigCommerce. So, you know, in the Ecom industry you have certain market leaders that we gravitate towards. And I think those are all in some ways somewhat obvious.

 

00:27:56:22 – 00:28:16:01

Isaiah

But there’s a downside to those because the problem with the market leaders is they get saturated with partners. So we’ve realized that if you can’t be high enough up in their partner program and it’s not necessarily good to partner with a market leader because you’re not going to get any attention and there’s not a real partnership.

 

00:28:16:01 – 00:28:34:07

Isaiah

Like I think a lot of people don’t realize that, like if you’re not high up in some of these partner programmes, you’re barely even a partner. Like, yeah, technically you’re a partner on paper, but like there’s not much of a real partnership going on. There’s very little like, yeah, yeah. Sorry. I think, you know, you know what I’m saying?

 

00:28:34:07 – 00:28:34:24

Isaiah

By the price.

 

00:28:35:05 – 00:29:02:01

Will

Yeah, I do, I do. It’s funny and it’s not necessarily driven by revenue either. It’s about the openness of both partners. To be willing to work with each other openly too, I think is important and understanding that and how much of it can be done without too much heavy lifting as well. And having open dialogues open applies from a technical perspective as well to be able to kind of integrate and have the heavy lifting on either side of the partnership that it matters for.

 

00:29:02:01 – 00:29:14:20

Will

I think that’s important to see so many closed systems that are deliberately set up, not to talk to other systems, which I think is, is not the approach heading into the next decade, I don’t think.

 

00:29:14:22 – 00:29:34:20

Isaiah

No, definitely not. I mean, I think that the only companies really getting away with that, to be honest, are just the legacy big companies. And I think they know that that’s not the way at this point, but they just have so much legacy baggage and they move so slow in some ways that I don’t think it’s simple for them to just kind of like completely modernize everything that they’re doing.

 

00:29:35:06 – 00:29:54:18

Isaiah

So I think, though, folks like Microsoft are doing a fairly good job of that. If you look at some of the stuff of their APIs and their tech like you can, you can tell that it’s way more open than it used to be. You know, five, ten years ago. But going back to the tech partnerships, like, I think that there are a few approaches we look at, right?

 

00:29:54:18 – 00:30:11:12

Isaiah

Like if it’s a market leader, of course, it’s great to be a partner of a market leader because in theor, they have tons of business. But what people don’t realize is they’re probably giving that business to 100 other partners. Yeah. So yeah, you’re not one of those hundred partners who are top 50 or top and it’s like, is it worth the attention?

 

00:30:11:12 – 00:30:28:23

Isaiah

So we want to make sure we can fit into the partner program in a meaningful way. And then we also look for people that are maybe not market leaders today, but we think they might be market leaders tomorrow. So one of those BigCommerce, we took a bet on big commerce for a while. Honestly, we just didn’t see the light.

 

00:30:28:23 – 00:30:48:23

Isaiah

We’re like, you know, we couldn’t figure out where they fit in. But I think once we realized that Adobe was going upmarket, there are a lot of problems, a lot of these enterprise platforms to your point going back to that, they just have a lot of legacy issues, right? Open whatever it is. And they were kind of like abandoning a lot of the market.

 

00:30:48:23 – 00:31:07:06

Isaiah

We just saw so much unhappiness within the partner program and customers. And then you have Shopify, right? Who’s crushing it, great company. But they have their challenges when it came to enterprise and scalability. And we felt like BigCommerce was doing a lot of smart things to like kind of fit in the middle there. So we made a bet with them.

 

00:31:07:14 – 00:31:29:10

Isaiah

And part of that was that they didn’t have as saturated of a partner program. So we felt like we could become their number one partner much faster than the other partnerships that have many more partners. Right. And then in some cases, I’ll get like I’ll give you smaller examples. You know, there’s no apps like you’ll have like, you know, the reviews app, right?

 

00:31:29:10 – 00:31:47:24

Isaiah

I’m sure you’ve heard of the reviews and there’s a ton of those reviews companies. So there’s a couple that are market leaders, but you can start to see fairly quickly in our space that like some of the newer ones are gaining ground on the older ones. And then you start to realize like, hey, maybe we make a bet on the one that we think is going to overtake the older one.

 

00:31:48:06 – 00:31:55:01

Isaiah

Plus, they’re not as saturated as a partner market. So another good example is Gorgeous. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Gorgeous. I think there are.

 

00:31:55:05 – 00:31:55:22

Will

No, I don’t know.

 

00:31:55:22 – 00:32:17:20

Isaiah

Those have done an amazing job in customer support. And Zendesk was the leader. I think most people have heard of Zendesk. But Zendesk once again, is a good example of like kind of a saturated partner program, you know, but gorgeous, you know. So we just saw an opportunity with them to kind of like move up the ladder and they’re starting to be Zendesk.

 

00:32:17:20 – 00:32:48:00

Isaiah

And in eCommerce now, they’re probably still smaller and total support, but specifically eCommerce, they’re like actually I think beating Z now. So we’ve seen the l I would say from the perspective that that tech partnership shifts take about 3 to 5 years from what we’ve seen. So like in that five years, you could go from a kind of like a little bit of a fledgling, you know, barely competitor to literally like almost overtaking a leader.

 

00:32:48:00 – 00:32:52:24

Isaiah

That’s how fast that can happen. That’s maybe on the aggressive side, but it can happen in 3 to 5 years.

 

00:32:54:00 – 00:33:13:02

Will

Now I think that’s probably spot on like it as we say it moves so quickly like you think about the technology four or five years ago that was dominating in whatever part of the part online that you want to look at whether it’s top of the funnel, you know, or back end, whatever, then things change so quickly.

 

00:33:13:02 – 00:33:33:17

Isaiah

A lot of people don’t realize that when we’re making these tech partnerships, we’re doing the due diligence to be like, what are the bets that we think are going to be the right bets and 3 to 5 years, not right now. So that that investment we make with the partners isn’t just like about now, it’s like it’s going to grow over time and hopefully together we both grow and be in a better spot.

 

00:33:33:22 – 00:34:09:06

Will

Yeah, that’s probably a good segue way there as I into having a look at what’s coming down the pipe in 2023. I think I would have been doing this from two perspectives obviously from your perspective as an agency and, what you think is going to be coming. But maybe from a broader industry perspective on trends within eCommerce and what you think are the big areas the brands might need to be thinking about or need to be investing in, whether it’s from their marketing side, whether it’s from their back ends or, you know, the supply side, whatever it might be.

 

00:34:09:14 – 00:34:13:12

Will

Like some of the key ones. I put you on the spot here, that’s all you can do or a piece of string and.

 

00:34:13:12 – 00:34:38:15

Isaiah

Say different whatever. But on the marketing side, I think people just need to get back to the basics, right? I think like you’re in the 0% interest environment, you can almost do anything and grow revenue and people just got really lucky because that’s all they’ve done in their careers. So they’ve never had to like do anything other than just like throwing money at things and it kind of works, right?

 

00:34:38:23 – 00:34:56:22

Isaiah

And I think now when it comes to marketing, the need to get back to the basics of like unit economics and be like, okay, let’s look at our assets. Let’s look at all of our different marketing channels and like what’s profitable, what’s working. But I think that you need to mix it with a bit of data, but also common sense, right?

 

00:34:56:22 – 00:35:16:22

Isaiah

Because I think some people get too data-driven. So what they’ll do is they’ll be like, oh, the ROAS or the, you know, they’re looking at these like 30-day windows and it’s like but that’s only telling you the story of what that platform is telling you. And that’s good, right? Like taking the data and analyse it, but always realise that there’s a bias.

 

00:35:16:22 – 00:35:35:19

Isaiah

That data is because not everyone buys within 30 days. Like I have a brand that I buy ads from a lot now and I feel like I saw their ads for like five years. Like some people sometimes you could see like so there’s a, there’s an additional fact that comes with some of the marketing that you need to think about in terms of like just building your brand.

 

00:35:36:06 – 00:35:48:11

Isaiah

So I think some of the brand building from the marketing perspective is honestly just common sense. Where do people spend their time? It’s social media, it’s video, it’s YouTube, it’s word of mouth. You know, it’s there’s.

 

00:35:48:11 – 00:35:51:06

Will

A test, test, test, I imagine, to in that space.

 

00:35:51:06 – 00:36:11:11

Isaiah

Yet I think you just need to build a smart kind of repeatable mechanism to launch consistent content relatively quickly and relatively affordable. Like this right now, like it is the perfect example. It’s not very dense to launch a podcast. Like people don’t realise, that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars to launch a podcast. We record some content and edit it and you know what I mean?

 

00:36:11:11 – 00:36:17:18

Will

It’s like you’ve just got to have you just got to have talented speakers like these two co-hosts having a chat with each other.

 

00:36:18:08 – 00:36:38:03

Isaiah

Exactly. So come up with a kind of a repeatable model of the launch content and it’s going to be different for product business. I don’t maybe it’s getting a different, you know, micro-influencer every week that you send them a free product and do a quick little story and make it interesting, right? Like I don’t care what it is, but it’s that ongoing kind of like repeatable.

 

00:36:38:03 – 00:36:57:09

Isaiah

It’s honestly it’s a Gary Vaynerchuk model. Like take the thing, rip, you’re just doing a lot of repetition, but you got to make it creative so it’s not too boring and then just get back to the basics, right? You know, email, automation, just really auditing all your channels and making sure they’re, they’re thoughtful and profitable and cutting out the waste.

 

00:36:57:09 – 00:37:14:24

Isaiah

There’s just so much wasteful spending, right? A lot of times we go into Google ads and it’s like the first thing we do is increase spending, actually cut spending. So when we look at Google ads and Facebook, usually what we do is cut spending until we optimize it and the return seems good. And then it grows, right?

 

00:37:15:00 – 00:37:36:24

Isaiah

Because usually there’s just so much bloat and waste because people are just going in, doing too much stuff and not cutting back. And then on the flip side, you can kind of apply that same principle to the logistics and the operations in the back office. I think it’s important to like talk to people like myself and get a kind of holistic consultant perspective.

 

00:37:37:14 – 00:38:01:22

Isaiah

Very few people put effort into like, okay, what happens after the orders place like what the email follow-ups, what are the shipping notifications, how expensive for me to get the order out the door, and what’s the cost of the manual labour. So literally like put it in the package and like what’s the return rate? I mean we had a customer that we talked to not a customer sorry, prospect the return rate was 25% and it had a huge volume.

 

00:38:02:08 – 00:38:18:06

Isaiah

So imagine if you got that return rate down like 15%. You’re talking about literally millions of dollars like it would have made. And they didn’t, unfortunately, go with us, which I think was stupid, but they paid us 300 grand. I’m just making that number up to get the return rate down like that would have made money for them.

 

00:38:18:07 – 00:38:20:04

Isaiah

That’s how like, you know.

 

00:38:21:04 – 00:38:44:19

Will

I think that I agree with you. I think eCommerce brands have missed a trick or are slowly learning that people want a personal touch in and around post delivery and post product to follow on. And like, I just think of a local brand that I used here in Ireland not long ago to buy a wetsuit and literally like a wetsuit.

 

00:38:44:19 – 00:39:07:02

Will

What’s the lifetime value of me as a wetsuit customer? I would hope that I never have to buy another one again unless I get, you know unless I put on £400 or whatever it might be. But the brilliance of having a handwritten note within their order now obviously this is working at a different market scale to go, hey, by the way, we have lots of people that mess their sizing up with a wet suit.

 

00:39:07:11 – 00:39:28:22

Will

Here’s a printout of something that you should be looking at, and if it’s wrong, give us a shout. We’ll send another one, etc. Like just a brilliant touch from a business guy like that. And it’s, it’s those little simple things and you go, Okay, well, how do, how do I scale that? And there are so many start-ups that are looking at that space at the moment on being able to do that at a scale where you’re putting in something and that’s just a packaging example.

 

00:39:28:22 – 00:39:30:19

Will

But you know, I think brands.

 

00:39:30:24 – 00:39:40:03

Isaiah

Because now you remember those guys and they can exactly like, hey, we have this new gadget, right? I don’t know, maybe it’s the whatever doesn’t have to be the wetsuit, right? They can start selling all those under.

 

00:39:40:05 – 00:39:41:06

Will

The hood or whatever.

 

00:39:41:06 – 00:39:55:04

Isaiah

All the things that come with the same things you’re doing. Right. I have friends that do like spearfishing and that’s an extreme example. But theoretically, it’s not like spear fishes spearfishing equipment to go with the wetsuit. Right? 

 

00:39:55:04 – 00:40:01:09

Will

All based on a good experience. That’s not a measurable marketing experience for them, other than the fact that you hope that you got some.

 

00:40:01:18 – 00:40:15:24

Isaiah

Is that that we are in this world where the data and the measurement are good and that’s important. One, I find people don’t even know how it works, so they have it wrong so they don’t even know what the data looking at is right or wrong. We sometimes go in and say, Your track, you’ve doubled, we’ve seen double tracking.

 

00:40:16:08 – 00:40:32:07

Isaiah

So a lot of time they’ll go in and see that whatever their data says, it’s double tracking it. So it looks like the numbers are twice as good. So how does that people don’t even know if the data is right or wrong, but then they rely on the data too religiously like they lose all common sense? Right?

 

00:40:32:07 – 00:40:38:22

Isaiah

Like there’s a there’s a common sense element to like a business that people have just kind of lost with this like data-driven world, you know?

 

00:40:40:01 – 00:41:01:18

Will

Yeah, I think that’s a huge takeaway from this chat today is that going back to that, that like a lot of it is common sense and there’s a reason that humans have common sense, right? Like it’s, it’s there for a reason. So being able to tie that with, modern technology and, and a digital-first world and then being able to use that with your data and understand things like incrementality.

 

00:41:01:18 – 00:41:09:03

Will

And if you panel at the end of the day to make sure that you’re lifting orders and you’re selling more stuff, they’ll put that back.

 

00:41:09:03 – 00:41:30:05

Isaiah

I kind of hate some of these buzzwords because I think what we do is we like almost over. Well, sometimes we try and simplify with the buzzwords or compound- We’re just confusing people, I feel like. And sometimes it’s like we need to use better analogies in some of these things because, you know, at the end of the day, I think people kind of get confused when it’s like some of these concepts that are not rocket science, right?

 

00:41:30:05 – 00:41:32:12

Isaiah

We’re not building Space X as so.

 

00:41:33:09 – 00:42:08:09

Will

So good to have you on the podcast today. Experts in the room, you’re an expert when it comes to eCommerce. I have to say to everyone, if you don’t follow him on LinkedIn, do yourself a favour and do follow it. It’s worth its weight of gold, worth its weight in admission. What’s the saying? It’s worth your comments on LinkedIn and some of the banter that gets thrown around them as we would say in Ireland and Australia is worth the admission for us to see some of the topics that you bring up and some of the responses you get, at least in part covered a huge range of topics today.

 

00:42:08:09 – 00:42:18:13

Will

I really appreciate you coming on the call. And, if you’re looking for the best agency to be working with, if you’re eCommerce based, you need to be talking to the guys at Trellis, that’s for sure.

 

00:42:18:13 – 00:42:36:08

Isaiah

Thank you. Yeah. I appreciate you having me on and am happy to come back. And, you know, like I said, I feel like there’s always more to talk about, right? We could go deep. Yeah. So many topics. And yeah, it’s funny you mention that on LinkedIn. I’m trying to get better at social media and I’m trying to figure out what to post, but like, sometimes you got to post things that you know people don’t like.

 

00:42:36:09 – 00:42:55:11

Isaiah

So I’m trying to figure out like, what’s the balance there? Not, you know, not to cancel it or piss off too many people, especially if they’re like, yeah, you know, we have a lot of different partners and some of our partners are competing differently. The problems, right? So it’s like hard to please everyone at the same time. So I think you just have to accept that someone’s not going to be happy with the thing.

 

00:42:55:11 – 00:43:01:02

Will

Yeah, I’ve enjoyed following. It’s great, but yeah. Thanks. Thanks for coming on board and we will chat soon.

 

00:43:01:08 – 00:43:10:23

Isaiah

Thank you.




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